Thursday, May 02, 2019

Poetry Out Loud Winner: Isabella Callery

Ahhh, Chas. Lamb...marvelous sounds performed trippingly.

The National Champion of this year's Poetry Out Loud competition was announced Wednesday. Isabella Callery recites "Thoughtless Cruelty" by Charles Lamb.


Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Saturday, March 30, 2019

gut microbiome; +18 new citations

What's new in research with the gut microbiome? Here is my alert from PubMed if you are interested.

18 new pubmed citations were retrieved for your search. Click on the search hyperlink below to display the complete search results:

gut microbiome

These pubmed results were generated on 2019/03/30

PubMed comprises more than millions of citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.

Deadly skin-eating fungal disease wipes out 90 amphibian species in 50 years

Reading this, I worry about my spring peepers. If they grew quiet, ever, well, canary in the coal mine doesn't even approach what it would mean to me. The death of entire species of amphibians would be akin to pulling the keystone from the eco-arch. Gives new meaning to collapse. #smallstories


Study reveals extent of chytrid fungus and how devastating it has been for frog, toad and salamander species worldwide

A deadly disease that wiped out global populations of amphibians led to the decline of 500 species in the past 50 years, including 90 extinctions, scientists say.

A global research effort, led by the Australian National University, has for the first time quantified the worldwide impact of chytridiomycosis, or chytrid fungus, a fungal disease that eats away at the skin of amphibians.

Continue reading...

Scutoid: a geometric building block of life

Wow. I am helping my students write analysis papers right now. For me as a teacher, it is the most trying of all the thinking and writing skills to teach. This idea, the scutoid, is a classic analytical tool. It has been abstracted from mathematics and applied to biology. The article shows how. Lessons here for anyone who likes to "abstract and apply". BTW, this site, Chalkdust I (, is always fun. It is also a great place to visit to learn how to summarize a journal article. Anyone want to start a journal club (



Thursday, November 29, 2018

Parents Are Spending Twice as Much on Their Adult Kids as Retirement

Who knew?

There are some parents out there who have a hard time letting go of their adult children.

If only they had similar difficulty letting go of their money.

According to a new study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, parents in the U.S. spend $500 billion annually on their 18- to 34-year-old adult children. That wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t twice the amount they contribute each year to their retirement accounts ($250 billion).

Though nearly two-thirds of parents say they’ve sacrificed their own financial security for the sake of their children, more than 90 percent also say parenting is the most rewarding aspect of their lives.

“Parenting can be one of the most fulfilling and identity-shaping experiences of a person’s life – and with it comes a lifelong financial commitment,” says Lorna Sabbia, head of retirement and personal wealth solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Planning ahead for the major financial costs can limit surprises down the road and help parents safeguard their own financial goals.”

Of the 173 million parents in the United States today, just 76 million have children under 18. As a result, 89 percent agree there is “no normal” when it comes to parenting, though 52 percent say the infant and toddler stage is the most rewarding part of parenting. Middle school and high school are considered the most difficult times, thanks largely to increased financial dependence. Perhaps that’s why 73 percent of people now consider finances before becoming a parent – compared to just one-third in the 1980s.

The average cost of raising a child to age 18 is now estimated to be over $230,000. Nine in 10 parents say they’re surprised by how much money they spent after becoming a parent, and nearly two-thirds (63 percent) say they’ve had financial difficulties as a result of parenting.

Yet it appears that getting your kids to age 18 is hardly a financial finish line. Nearly four out of five (79 percent) of parents of early adults say they provide them with some kind of financial support. Roughly 31 percent of adults ages 18 to 34 live at home, which is a greater percentage than those who live with a spouse. And according to a separate survey by NerdWallet, the majority of parents (87 percent) of children 18 and older had their adult children living with them for at least some period of time.

Even if their adult children live independently, today’s parents often contribute to food and grocery bills (60 percent), cell phone service (54 percent), car expenses (47 percent), school (44 percent), vacations (44 percent), rent (36 percent), and student loans (27 percent).

And a survey released Thursday by found that nine in 10 American parents would help their grown children pay off debt. The average parent is willing to fork over $5,705 to their child for debt repayment, without any expectation of being reimbursed — and nearly $8,000 if they expect to be paid back. (The big exception being gambling debt, for which 57% of parents say they would never foot the bill.) 

In addition, according to Merrill Lynch, 59 percent expect to help pay for their children’s weddings, 26 percent expect to contribute to their children’s first homes, and one-third plan to contribute to their grandchildren’s college costs.

“In this new era of delayed financial independence of young people, financial planning is no longer a solo or coupled activity,” says Ken Dychtwald, CEO and founder of Age Wave. “It’s become an ongoing family project with longer and different social, housing, and economic interdependencies than we’ve seen before.”

Unfortunately for parents, this is putting their own retirement plans at risk. Seventy-two percent of parents tell Merrill Lynch they have put their children’s interests ahead of their own need to save for retirement, and 82 percent say they would be willing to make a major financial sacrifice for adult children, including drawing down savings (50 percent) or curtailing their lifestyles (43 percent). One-fourth would even take on debt or pull money from retirement accounts.

As the NerdWallet survey revealed, every little contribution that parents make adds up. When the average parent borrows $21,000 for their child’s tuition, and student loan payoff plans are around 10 years, it’s potentially costing these parents almost $80,000 in missed retirement savings to send their kid to college. And on average, NerdWallet estimates a parent covering a child’s living expenses for five years and borrowing money for college tuition is missing out on $227,000 — almost a quarter of a million dollars — in retirement savings.

A higher cost of living or supporting multiple adult children could drive that number even higher. For instance, if a parent gives an adult child an allowance of $200 a month for five years, that $12,000, invested in a retirement account earning 6 percent interest, would have grown to almost $40,000 by the time the parent retires.

“As parents, we tend to want to do everything we can to help our children succeed,” says Andrea Coombes, NerdWallet’s investing expert. “But sometimes we focus on the present at the expense of the future.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. Voya Financial’s head of customer solutions, James Nichols, suggests that parents should have a clear understanding of financing and their retirement savings goals, be as honest as they can with their financial situation, bring a third party in to look over the details, and then put it all in writing and check on the plan every so often. However, if a financial advisor isn’t in the budget, there are simpler options available.

Insurance: Keeping adult kids on the family insurance plan as long as possible might help them save on health care costs, but Coombes suggests asking children to reimburse you for at least some of those costs, and maybe ramp up the amount they contribute over time. “That’ll help get them ready to pay their own bills down the road, even as it keeps you on track to save for retirement — which is when you’re really going to need that money,” she says.

Student loans: Parents can always ask adult children to contribute to student loan costs, but they can also refinance loans or speed up repayment to reduce interest charges. If parents haven’t taken out loans yet, it’s best to have a child borrow first, since federal student loans tend to have better interest rates and terms than parent PLUS loans.

Living at home: It’s best for everyone if parents ask adult kids to pay some rent and their share of the bills, like utilities. It helps them learn to build a monthly budget, and helps parents get that much closer to retirement. “One way to help out with your adult children’s finances is to let them live at home and thus avoid the major monthly cost of rent,” Coombes says. “But letting them live at home doesn’t mean you have to give them a free ride.”

At the very least, parents should calculate the potential costs of retirement before committing to helping their kids. Both parents and their adult children can plan ahead without sacrificing one’s future for the other’s.

“When emotions and money become intertwined, parents risk making financial decisions that can compromise their – and their children’s – financial futures,” says Lisa Margeson, head of retirement client experience and communications at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Parents can navigate this difficult balance by setting clear boundaries about their level of support, fostering financial independence in adult children, and reconciling spending on children with long-term savings goals to avoid jeopardizing their own financial security.”

Related Articles:

The post Parents Are Spending Twice as Much on Their Adult Kids as Retirement appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

humans working socially

Automation is that jagged little pill you can't get down no matter how much water you drink.

A lot of traditional human work is getting automated, by machines or software.

I don’t know how much work will be automated or what sectors will be hit the hardest, as estimates by all experts vary widely. But I do know that people make bad computers and very unhappy robots. Therefore we should not compete with the machines for the type of work they do well, requiring — perseverance, compliance, intelligence, and diligence. There are some human attributes that machines are not very good at — intuition, empathy, creativity, and social intelligence.

As machines do more repeatable processes and even complicated work, people have to look at what we do best. Working socially, we can address barely repeatable processes for complex situations and over time make parts of them repeatable for the machines to handle. In addition, when we combine the analytical capabilities of machines, we can develop machine-assisted processes and tap into machine expertise in order to do even more complex and creative work.

In my opinion, this is the future of work. To prepare for it people have to develop social learning skills in addition to working in this machine-augmented world. We will have to play nice with other people, and play well with the machines. If a workplace is not optimized for humans working socially, it will be left behind.

Related Posts

Friday, August 10, 2018

Bunker Mentality: Start Preparing for Ecological & Economic Disaster Free Of Corporate Overlords

Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

Let’s face it: reading stories about the ongoing destruction of planet Earth, the life-sustaining blue marble that all of us – aside from maybe Elon Musk – are permanently trapped on, has got to be one of the least-favorite topics of all time. The reasons are understandable, but no longer feasible.

In the realm of politics, replete with its cast of colorful culprits, the possibility of radical change always hovers just over the horizon, which gives the subject much of its universal appeal. Stories devoted to environmental issues, on the other hand, inundate the reader with a dizzying array of mind-boggling statistics that are not only incredibly depressing, they seem impossible to do anything about.

For example, take what I consider to be the most depressing story in recent memory – the so-called ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ a swirling garbage dump trapped in a vortex between Hawaii and California, estimated to be twice the size of Texas. How is anyone expected to wrap their brain around that modern monument to our collective stupidity over their morning cup of coffee? Somehow we always expected the oceans, due to their sheer size and vastness, to remain beyond the reach of mankind’s destructive tendencies. Yet the story of the slowly dying oceans and its vibrant sea life – despite some truly fantastic schemes to reverse the trend – proves not just how wrongheaded that belief is, it belies the destructive nature of our hedonistic and materialistic lifestyles.

This leads to yet another reason so many people shy away from apocalyptic stories of environmental degradation: their own collusion in the ongoing tale of planetary destruction, which is part and parcel of our inquisitive lifestyles. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all deeply indebted consumers of the corporate cornucopia. The majority of us spend a disproportionate amount of our time earning a living just to feed the monkey of our worldly desires, which our corporate overlords happily provide in superabundance – at excessive interest rates, I might add.

In fact, when our situation is viewed critically and objectively, human beings now live like astronauts, totally cut off from the natural world, yet, at the same time, connected by a fragile umbilical cord to the corporate world. Such a scenario must give any thinking person tremendous pause, for it highlights our dangerous level of dependency on external economic forces – namely, the corporate world – to sustain us. Here is where the idea of ‘environmental destruction’ should really pique our interest.

It is not so difficult to conduct a thought experiment that involves the ramifications of a massive economic downturn, or some unexpected natural disaster (on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, for example, multiplied by 10,000) of such magnitude that corporations are no longer able or willing to provide for our most basic daily needs. It may be exceedingly difficult to imagine such a grim scenario, especially since we now take it for granted that grocery stores will always remain open for business and stocked full of goodies, but the majority of us would quickly perish in the event that some unexpected crisis brought the global economy down on our heads. Such a nightmare may be easier to imagine when it is considered that just 10 companies control the entire global food supply, while most people have no means or knowledge of tilling the land for their food supplies.

Perhaps it is on this point that the topic of ‘environmental destruction’ can become not only sexy, like the exciting world of politics, but vital for mankind’s continued existence. It’s time to stop acting like children and face an ugly truth: our current materialistic lifestyles are not sustainable in the long-term, and probably not in the short term either. Our incredible level ofwastefulness, compounded by Earth’s finite resources, guarantees that the planet’s 7 billion people are living on borrowed time. Exactly what ‘short-term’ means, however, is a question none of us can really answer. It may mean the day after tomorrow or another 500 years. Again, nobody can say. But given the upsurge of interest, for example, in “doomsday prepping” among people of average means (a topic that even the high-brow Financial Times reported on), to the construction of sprawling underground bunkers for the elite, there is a growing consensus among many people that it is time to start taking back some control of our lives.

Currently, I am living in Russia, where the difference between Russians and Americans when it comes to preparing for the ‘unknown’ could not be greater. While Americans spend untold hours per week mowing their lawns, pulling weeds and trimming the hedges, Russians are toiling at their ‘dachas’ (in Russia, it is common for people to own an apartment in the city and a piece of land in the countryside), growing fruit and vegetables in greenhouses, and collecting mushrooms in the forest (picking mushrooms is a veritable art form, where it can literally mean the difference between life and death to choose the correct variety among dozens of species). Every Russian I have met in the countryside also have their own private source of water from painstakingly dug wells on their land. This is no small consideration when it is remembered that corporations are gradually buying up, in addition to our food supplies, the rights to our water supplies as well.

The entire notion of ‘prepping’ in Russia is completely nonexistent since the knowledge of working the land, which became absolutely critical during the severe food shortages of the communist years, has been a traditional part of Russian life since the country’s inception. Although Russians, like any other people, would suffer grave hardships in the event of a severe economic downturn, many of them would still be able to feed themselves due to their time-tested ‘survival’ skills. I am not sure the same could be said of their American and European counterparts.

There is a memorable scene in the 2009 post-apocalyptic US film, The Road, where a father and son, forced to trek across a devastated American landscape following some sort of unspeakable disaster, stumble upon a discarded underground bunker that is loaded with food, allowing them to survive the next leg of their impossible journey.

It is a film I would highly recommend every person watch to get a sense of what an unexpected turn of environmental and economic events could mean for them and their loved ones.

Since corporations not only greatly control to what extent the environment will remain viable for our survival, but also the keys to the corporate cornucopia, there is no better time than the present to consider what would happen if or when, to put the matter bluntly, the shit hits the fan.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Frank Zappa’s 1980s Appearances on The David Letterman Show

Zappa. I want to be more like him than anyone.


I’ve never been a huge fan of Frank Zappa’s music and gravitated more toward the bizarre yet bluesy sonic world of his sometime collaborator and lifelong frenemy Captain Beefheart. But I get the appeal of Zappa’s wildly virtuoso catalog and his sardonic, even caustic, personality. The phrase may have devolved into cliché, but it’s still worth saying of Zappa: he was a real original, a truly independent musician who insisted on doing things his way. Most admirably, he had the talent, vision, and strength of will to do so for decades in a business that legendarily chews up and spits out artists with even the toughest of constitutions.

Zappa, notes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its profile, “was rock and roll’s sharpest musical mind and most astute social critic… the most prolific composer of his age,” who “bridged genres—rock, jazz, classical, avant-garde and even novelty music—with masterful ease.” Recording “over sixty albums’ worth of material in his fifty-two years,” he famously discovered, nurtured, and collaborated with some of the most technically proficient and accomplished of players. He was indie before indie, and “confronted the corrupt politics of the ruling class” with ferocious wit and unsparing satire, holding “the banal and decadent lifestyles of his countrymen to unforgiving scrutiny.”


Needless to say, Zappa himself was not prone to banality or decadence. He stood apart from his contemporaries with both his utter hatred of trends and his commitment to sobriety, which meant that he was never less than totally lucid, if never totally clear, in interviews and TV appearances. Unsurprisingly, David Letterman, champion of other fiercely talented musical oddballs like Warren Zevon, was a Zappa fan. Between 1982 and 83, Zappa came on Letterman three times, the first, in August of 82, with his daughter Moon (or “Moon Unit," who almost ended up with the name “Motorhead,” he says).

The younger Zappa inherited her father’s deadpan. “When I was little,” she says, “I wanted to change my name to Beauty Heart. Or Mary." But Zappa, the “musical and a sociological phenomenon,” as Letterman calls him, gets to talk about more than his kids’ weird names. In his June, 83 appearance, further up, he promotes his London Symphony Orchestra album. As he explains, the experience of working with cranky classical musicians on a very tight schedule tested his perfectionistic (some might say controlling) temperament. The album gave rise, writes Eduardo Rivadavia at Allmusic, “to his well-documented love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with symphony orchestras thereafter.”


But no matter how well or badly a project went, Zappa always moved right along to the next thing. He was never without an ambitious new album to promote. (In his final Letterman appearance, on Halloween, above, he had a musical, which turned into album, the triple-LP Thing-Fish.) Since he never stopped working for a moment, one set of ideas generating the next—he told Rolling Stone in answer to a question about how he looked back on his many records—“It’s all one album.” See a supercut below of all of Zappa’s 80s visits to the Letterman set, with slightly better video quality than the individual clips above.


Related Content:

Frank Zappa Explains the Decline of the Music Business (1987)

Hear the Musical Evolution of Frank Zappa in 401 Songs

Hunter S. Thompson’s Many Strange, Unpredictable Appearances on The David Letterman Show

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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