More Plans Than Events

Jun. 26th, 2017 09:01 pm
l33tminion: (Overwork)
[personal profile] l33tminion
Last week was pretty quiet. This past weekend, too. Though we did go out for soup dumplings with Ingress friends on Sunday.

Julie's startup-founding work continues to progress.

It's the turn of the quarter, so a lot of reflection and planning at work. Things ebb and flow. First quarter was pretty great, this quarter was all right. But I'm excited about the next. For some reason, I'm at least briefly in charge of planning the quarterly goals for my group, which is an interesting opportunity (though I wish some of the related deadlines had been a little better communicated).

I want to get back to writing on my essay blog at some point, but my writing is very slow even for lighter stuff like this.

What else? My parents will be in Boston later this week, and we're going up to Sandy Island Camp next week. That should be fun. Haven't picked out which books I'll bring yet, but I certainly have a lot on my queue.
[syndicated profile] saltatiomedica_feed

Posted by Slow Blink

One of the lingering mysteries for me is where did JK Rowling get her history of medicine/history of science knowledge.  She doesn’t just get a primary or peripheral level of medical knowledge and understanding.  Harry Potter – as a series – has a ridiculous amount of history of medicine and history of science in it – that it gets absolutely correct.  Some of the concepts are quite complicated and unbelievable – and yet… there they are – accurate in a way that the masses can understand.

In 2014, I had the honor of being the invited keynote speaker on just this topic.

The National Library of Medicine’s travelling exhibit: Harry Potter: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine came to Jefferson Medical College.  At the time I happened to be working there, and was contacted on being the opening keynote speaker!

This is the exhibit:

Now, I didn’t look at the exhibit first.  How could I?  Jefferson Medical College asked me to speak months before the exhibit came.

This is the link to my presentation:

Click ‘Link to Presentation’ to get from the splash page to the presentation.  My bibliography is also located on the splash page.

For those of you who want the cliffs notes version, here’s the main idea:

  • Of the 13 core classes that a Hogwarts student would take between their first and seventh year, 6 of them were respected parts of medicine during the Renaissance: Astronomy, Charms, Divination, Herbology, Potions, and Transfigurations.
  • The world’s shortest history of medicine review of ancient medicine that had an effect on medicine of the Renaissance:

In Greece during the 5th Century BC, disease was thought to be caused by the Gods and that only the Gods could cure it, although the priesthood could act as an intermediary. It was during this time that the school of Hippocrates hypothesized that religion and medicine were not interrelated, and took the first steps towards medicine being considered a science. In addition, he presented the Hippocratic Oath, the ethical and philosophical theory by which physicians still practice.

After the decline of Greece, the medical knowledge was absorbed into the religious-based medicine of Rome. There, medicine was studied and observed in a scientific way, not unlike that of Hippocrates. It was during this time that the medical theories Galen set the course of medicine for the next thousand years. It was he who devised the humor theory – the idea that keeping the body s fluids (phlegm, blood, black bile, and yellow bile) in balance would keep the body healthy.

After the fall of Rome, medical knowledge became the property of the church. Again, like in the time of ancient Greece, it was believed that only God could cure disease and that the priests would act as intermediaries. During that time, most medical progress slowed because to disagree with the medical practices of the church was considered blasphemy and punishable by death.

And then things changed.

  • Nicholas Flamel was born at the cusp of the 14th century, to impoverished parents in France. By the time of his death, in 1418, he was considered one of the adept scholars in the country. This happened through hard work and determination, to be sure. But, it all started with a book that he came to by chance.  This book was not made of parchment or vellum like other books of the time. Rather the pages were thinner and finer, much like if a person from our time period, used a time turner to visit the 14th century and accidently left a book there.

    This book was written in what Flamel believed to be an odd combination of Greek and Latin, combined with pictures depicting stories from the Bible. Flamel devoted his life to travelling the country in order to study this peculiar book, which was believed to bethe book of Abraham the Jew, and is considered by modern scholars to have contained the Hermetic Code.

  • Flamel’s own writings spoke of his personal quest for the philosophers stone. This stone was believed also called the tincture or the powder and was believed to take the impurities out of base metals and purify them into precious ones, like gold and silver, thus beginning the study of alchemy.  The philosophers stone was also believed to be the base ingredient for the elixir of life, which many believed would bring about immortality.

    At a time when the average life expectancy was no more than 30 years old, Flamel himself became as interesting as the book he studied, having lived to be 116 years old. Due to his abnormal life span, many scholars of the time believed that he had found the secret to eternal life.

    This was the first documented case of the word elixir. By the late 16th century, the word had evolved to mean a tincture that had more than one base or a strong tonic. However, its direct tie to the legendary philosophers stone made it a prime target for quack doctors, who used the word in order to sell their fake medicines, and subsequently the word fell out of favor with respected medical practitioners.

    While the story of Flamel seems to of ended, there is an interesting side note which Rowling seemed to have picked up on in her first book, The Philosopher’s Stone. In her book, Flamel lived for 665 years, until his death in 1992. Throughout history people have reported meeting Nicholas Flamel. These reports started nearly 100 years after his alleged death and continued until the 18th century, the last of which being recorded in Paul Lucas Voyage dans la Turquie, published in 1719, which would have made him approximately 320 years old.

  • In the early 16th century, a Swiss physician – commonly known as Paracelsus – publicly denounced the effectiveness of the humors.  According to his chocolate frog card, he is a medical genius whose bold theories challenged medieval thought.(Chamber of Secrets Video Game)

    His veracious personality made him the tipping point and other notables in the medical university system, such as Nostradamus, agreed with, followed, and improved upon his philosophies. Arguably the most influential of these philosophies was the belief that the body was part of nature, and therefore the cures to disease would also be found in nature. This philosophy was built on the writings of Flamel and brought about the inclusion of minerals to the medical pharmacopeia.

    Common chemicals that started to be as medicine at this point including gold, tin, copper, sulphur, mercury, and silver. As these substances were combined with other elements, such as fire, water, alcohol, and each other, they produced chemical reactions which were neither expected nor could be explained … and was called magic.

  • Ambroise Pare served as a surgeon for the French army, had qualified as a master barber-surgeon, served as the Royal surgeon to King Charles IX, and sat on the Council of Charles successor Henri III.

    In 1573, Pare published his book Monsters and Marvels, which depicted fascinating beasts his book provided stories, entered into evidence as proof. Since few had ever seen such beasts, and many of them recorded – like the rhinoceros, giraffe, and elephant had been documented by other naturalists of the time, there was little reason to doubt the existence of the more rare of the creatures. These particular creatures played a part in the Harry Potter series.

    The Centaur

    Pare said that in 1254, in Verona, Italy, a colt was born with the body of a horse and the well-formed head of a man.  In the Harry Potter series, the centaurs aligned themselves with Harry Potter and against Voldemort.

    The Unicorn

    Though a species of unicorn, Pare documented the Pyrassoupi, or Arabian Unicorn. This species was said to have lived the island of Cademoth. Unlike the white unicorns of Harry Potters world, these were tan colored and had two horns. The horns were used as an antidote for poison.

    Quack doctors of the Renaissance claimed that horn of the white unicorn was also an antidote for poison, and would sometimes ground the horn of a goat or a shoe horn to imitate this rare ingredient.


    Pare provided stories of various types of merpeople. He claimed that they existed in the Nile during the 2nd century in the form of beautiful men and women on the top of the body and a fish from the waist down. In fact, he claimed that they stayed in view so long that the entire city saw them. He retells Rondelets story from the early 1500s, where a Monk covered in fish scales was caught in the Norwegian Sea. Rondelet also described a Bishop being covered in scales being found in Poland.

    Merpeople live in the Black Lake at Hogwarts, and were part of the aqua-challenge in the Tri-Wizard tournament.

  • In 1579, Pare created the plans for an artificial hand, arm, and leg. They were to be made of iron, with cranks, pulleys, and levers used to make them move. The arm was made strong enough to hold a sword, but he had difficulty finding a way to attach it.

    Peter Pettigrews silver hand was an important part of the Harry Potter series. Traitor and spy for Lord Voldemort, Pettigrews loyalty was again in The Deathly Hallows tested when Voldemort needed the flesh of a servant as the second potion ingredient in order to renew his life.

    Even the use of silver for the prosthetic can be traced back to medical history. Beginning in the 16th century, silver prosthetic noses started to be used to cover the lasting damage of advanced syphilis.  These devices were used as late as the early 20th century.

  • Michel de Nostradame, commonly known as Nostradamus was the embodiment of the evolution between magic and science. Known primarily for his predictions and premonition ns, he was also one of the most well-known plague doctors in France during the 16th century. His remedies incorporated both well-known and accepted herbal remedies, with the new chemically based remedies of Paracelsus.

    For example, it was commonly thought during the Renaissance that foul smelling air caused disease. Therefore, he devised a recipe of green cypress wood, Florentine violent roots, cloves, sweet flag, and wild olive wood to be used as a perfume in order to sweeten the air.

    He also devised a blemish remover cream, which combined mercury and lead with water and rose oil in order to create a fine white paste, which would be worn until it turned grey, indicating that the skin beneath it had been renewed and the cream could be removed. This is similar to the Bruise Removal paste, created by the

    Weasley brothers in The Half Blood Prince. Of course, theirs was yellow and worked in an hour rather than turning grey and working over a period of several days.

    Though one of the most modernly recognizable names of the Renaissance, Nostradamus was not the only physician to utilize astrology and astronomy in his medicine. In fact, astrology, astronomy, geomancy, astromagic, and alchemy combined with medical knowledge of the time in order to make medical decisions, and in some cases, predictions of the time.

  • In May of 1603, noted German astronomer, Johannes Kepler noticed a partial lunar eclipse just as the 1603 plague outbreak of London was picking up speed. This plague outbreak eventually killed approximately 10% of the population of London.

    He drew a connection between eclipses and plague outbreaks, having noticed that there were eclipses at the end of the plague outbreaks of 1551, 1579, 1583, and 1593. Kepler also noticed that at the end of the London plague of 1603, Saturn and Jupiter aligned in Sagittarius. The last time there had been an alignment of planets was in 1583, just as that plague outbreak was declining. These coincidences enhanced the belief that the movement of the moon and planets affected life and disease on earth.

    Kepler and the Plague

  • The story of  Harry Potter is about the literary heart – loyalty, love, bravery, and  friendship. The Renaissance was also about the quest for the heart, but the anatomical heart – specifically how the heart worked.

    A Galenic theory from the time Ancient Greece was that blood moves from one side of the heart of the other through holes in the septum. Andreas Vesalius, a contemporary of Paracelsus, Pare, and Nostradamus, was an Anatomy Professor at the University of Padua in Italy. In 1543, he realized that Galen has been mistaken– that there weren’t holes between the cavities of the heart, and so blood had to travel another way. This became a great mystery to solve, and faced several theories for its solution.

    In 1628, William Harvey published his findings on how blood moves through the heart. He proved that the heart pump ed blood, causing it to circulate around the body. Harvey’s discovery shows how theories built on one another from ancient times through the Renaissance in order to bring the physiology of the heart from mystery to science.

  • Even as physicians were discovering more about the way the body worked, the old philosophies of Galen and Hippocrates still were being taught at the university level. Educated physicians believed that the liver was the center of the blood system, that food wasn’t digested but evaporated into natural spirits and brought to the liver for distribution. They believed that natural and animal spirits ran from the brain through the nervous system, and that the heart warmed the blood, while the lungs cooled it.

    A split was happening in the scientific community. There were those who wanted things the old way, the pure way, the way things had been for thousands of years. Others wanted the new way, which allowed the inclusion of theories that had not yet proved their worth. This resembles the pureblood versus mixed blood tension which is at the very crux of the Harry Potter series.


Jun. 26th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don't they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers." -- Ray Bradbury (b. 1920-08-22, d. 2012-06-05), Dandelion Wine

Mr Simon His Chacony

Jun. 25th, 2017 10:32 pm
hudebnik: (Default)
[personal profile] hudebnik
A number of our favorite early-music recording artists (e.g. Ciaramella, Ex Umbris) have recently been slumming in the 17th century, playing ornamentation or improvisation over grounds such as Chaconne, La Folia, Passamezzo (of whatever age), etc. So after listening to some of these on CD this evening, I went to Home Depot looking for late-night cup-hooks and sand, still whistling variations on the Chaconne, and suddenly over the loudspeaker comes... "Bodyguard".

Divide and conquer

Jun. 20th, 2017 04:21 pm
christina_maria: (Default)
[personal profile] christina_maria

As most of you know, I’ve been battling the cute deer’pocalypse for a little while. They are adorable, but eat, eat , eat all my plants.

Well, I think I have slowed them down, at least temporarily.

We had some old galvanized fencing from when we tried to make the buns an outdoor playpen. It was just pilled up behind the shed, and so I scrounged that and the metal posts up and fenced off a portion of the yard. While I was doing things I moved the green house to a sunnier location and set it back up. Here’s hoping it’s secured well enough for the wind storm seasons.

I know that the makeshift fence won’t 100% keep them out. It’s only four foot tall, so they surely can jump it if they want. But if it slows them down from grazing in that area that’s still a win. in my book.

Hot, Hot Hot =D

Jun. 24th, 2017 07:07 pm
christina_maria: (Default)
[personal profile] christina_maria

It’s a hot one today.

Not as hot as it is in some area’s I am sure, but quite toasty for here:

Since last year got pretty toasty hot, but we were (and are) on the fence about getting a regular above ground pool, I improvised. When all the summer stuff went on sale I picked up a little wading pool and a floaty seat, and stored them away. XD

Oh yes, I DID go there. 😂❤ #summerpoolparty Dug it out of the laundry room this afternoon and after a long time filling it, finally got in and floated around to stay cool. Soooooooo nice!

Although. since the area is on a slight angle (to keep water from gathering at the house) I couldn’t fill it all the way. Once it needs to be cleaned up I’ll just shuffle it over to a slightly more level area though. For now it works to do what I need it for. To keep me cooler on sizzle days.

Not quite ‘Weekend at Bernie’s” level (I shudder at the thought of all that roof tar)

but it does me the trick on such a hot day.

Boo to bear

Jun. 20th, 2017 07:50 am
christina_maria: (Default)
[personal profile] christina_maria
 We had a mama bear trundle through recently. She came in through the front yard, but then decided to just break through the old fencing in the back yard to leave
Looks worse than it was. The fence is really old, so it was in poor shape over there already (as you can probably tell by the railing ‘fence’  at the bottom.

I was able to get everything back upright and tack on some spare boards, and some left over galvanized fencing bits to sturdy it up a bit. 


Jun. 25th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"Ice cream is the perfect buffer, because you can do things in a somewhat lighthearted way. Plus, people have an emotional response to ice cream; it's more than just food. So I think when you combine caring, and eating wonderful food, it's a very powerful combination." -- Jerry Greenfield

[Eid Mubarak to everyone celebrating! And unrelatedly, distant greetings to all my friends gathered in NYS for ice cream and camaraderie this weekend -- hoping next year I can manage to make it up there myself again, after too many years absence.]

really fun

Jun. 24th, 2017 07:31 pm
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[personal profile] lauradi7dw
I have been going to Tai Chi classes at Davis Square Martial Arts for at least a dozen years. I tracked them down after the instructor at the Lexington Rec department flipped out because most of us clearly didn't practice at home, and after being shouted at, everybody quit. At first I went two or three times a week, but that became too tiring after a while, so I long since settled in to just the Saturday morning class, the timing of which matches up pretty well with the ringing practice later on. I usually just say Tai Chi, without distinguishing between the Yang 24 or competition 42 step form, or the bagua spear that we do at Seven Hills park in the summer, or Tai Chi sword, or whatever. One of the sweet things about the classes is that the adult classes are on a one-room schoolhouse model. Everybody does the warm-up together, and then the class splits up into as many sections as necessary - on any given day, there could be someone whose was first class it was, and people who had been working on ever more complex routines for years would be there as well. If the instructor is working with one group, the people in another group could be helping each other out. This morning we warmed up outside and then moved indoors when the rain got harder. It turned out that all of us were working on Leung Yi Bagua. For an example see: I was the least experienced of the bunch, but there were no newbies of any sort. I'm not sure I remember a class in which *everybody* was doing the same thing, although I am probably exaggerating. I also don't remember ever seeing the instructor barefooted before. No street shoes are allowed in the studio, but quite a few people have designated shoes (including the instructors). Often by the end of the class, whatever we're doing, I am physically tired and brain-fried, but for some reason, today I was engaged the whole time, way longer than my usual attention span. Smiling.
breakinglight11: (Default)
[personal profile] breakinglight11

Pockets on dresses are pointless. Nothing that's important to carry can be carried comfortably or attractively in a pocket.


Do I want my iPhone crammed in the pocket of my skirt, making a big old bulge and banging around my legs while I walk? NO. If it even fits in there, which it never freaking does. Will my wallet fit in a pocket in a dress? And even if it does, do I want it to look like I'm growing a hip tumor? If the pockets are big, and you can actually store important shit like that, it's so heavy it just drags on your clothes and looks stupid. If they're small, nothing fits! Oh, look, I can put my change in my dress pocket! I'VE SUCCESSFULLY KEPT THIRTY-EIGHT SENSE ON ME! SO USEFUL. I sure hope it doesn't like fall out if I shift myself the wrong way. I CAN WARM MY HANDS IN THERE. On the days where it's warm enough to wear a dress, anyway! MANY USEFULS. MUCH BIG DIFFERENCE.

I guess you could give everything one of those stupid kangaroo pockets like on sweatshirts! But that's EVEN MORE FLATTERING though, right!? I mean, every woman looks better when you strap a bulge on that padded part just underneath the bellybutton. THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD MAKE THAT BETTER IS TO SHOVE STUFF INTO THE BULGE TO MAKE IT EVEN BULGIER. Or just slap one on the front like an apron! Then you can look like you're a six-year-old in a pinafore! With your shit bouncing around on your crotch as you walk, with the attractive bump leading your way!


So: pockets on dresses? POINTLESS. Bah.


Jun. 24th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"We're at a party at a Chuck e Cheese. This place is like something you'd subject a Panamanian dictator to. Why does it exist?" -- Zinnia Jones, 2017-06-03


Jun. 23rd, 2017 08:46 pm
[syndicated profile] bigquestionsrss_feed

Posted by Steve Landsburg

I have not read the Senate “health care” bill, but from the various summaries around the web, I am confident that Barack Obama is exactly correct in his pronouncement that this is not a health care bill. Republicans seem to be supporting the bill because it stems the tide of income redistribution and Democrats seem to be opposing it for the same reason.

But a health care bill that does nothing but change the distribution of income is (again in Obama’s words) not a health care bill. It’s an income redistribution bill, and a fairly stupid one at that. If you want either more or less redistribution, the way to do that is to adjust taxes on rich people and payments to poor people, not to muck around with the health care system.

On the other hand, if your goal is to make the health care system more efficient, then you’ll want a health care bill. What would it take to make the health care system more efficient? For one thing, it would require making people less reliant on insurance and more reliant on their own savings (probably in the form of Flexible Saving Accounts and Health Saving Accounts) so that their choices are constrained by an awareness of costs. This Senate bill, it seems, does absolutely nothing to address those issues. In fact, from what I’ve read, it leaves in place the tax deduction for employer-provided insurance (thereby continuing to incentivize people to buy too much insurance) and (at least according to some news articles) adds new taxes on Health Savings Accounts (thereby incentivizing people to rely even more on insurance). If we’re supposed to be marching toward more efficient health care, this sounds like a step backward, not forward.

Here’s what’s wrong with the health care system: A friend of mine recently fell, and had quite a bit of chest pain afterward. I took her to the emergency room where they examined her, declared that this was almost surely a bruise that would fade over time, and then suggested that she spend a couple of hours attached to a heart monitor “just to be sure”. We almost left, because we didn’t want to spend the couple of hours, which tells you that on balance (accounting for potential health benefits minus time) we considered the monitoring to be worth roughly zero. Nevertheless, with the encouragement of the staff, we sat there for two hours, hogging space, equipment and medical attention that would probably have been far better directed elsewhere. If we’d been asked to pay for that space, equipment and medical attention, we’d surely have done the socially responsible thing and left. Now multiply that by millions upon millions of patients demanding more and more care because their insurance is paying for it.

You can’t fix the health care system without fixing that. The Republicans control both houses of Congress, and we have a President who, for all his unpredictability, would probably sign anything he could sell as “repealing ObamaCare”. There are good detailed health care bills already written and ready to go. Here’s one for example. If we can’t get a bill like that through under these conditions, I expect we’ll never get one. In the eloquent words of the President who has done exactly nothing to prod the Congress toward true reform: “Sad!”.



Jun. 23rd, 2017 10:58 am
mermaidlady: heraldic mermaid in her vanity (Default)
[personal profile] mermaidlady
Sour cherry season draws closer.

It's also white cat fur season. We're doing our best to keep up with the harvest, but it's bountiful this year.

I'm looking for a song to fan dance to. It's has to be one of those covers in a very different style from the original, but not by PMJ. We've got too many of their songs already. Suggestions?

I know I mentioned my D20 workout before (twenty 5-10 minute workouts. The roll of the die tells me which one to do). I got a new exercise DVD and rather than take anything off the list, I grouped some similar workouts in pairs, like Go-go-robics 1 and Go-go-robics 2, and if that pair comes up, I flip a coin. Fun with randomization.

Went to the Tall Ships the other day. How could I not? Sadly, most of them were closed for private events by the time I got there, but at least Bluenose II was open. I've visited the shipyard in Nova Scotia, but not the ship itself.

I've got a busy couple of weekends. Two bachelorette parties tomorrow and two next Saturday. I'm handling them all myself because no one else is available. I don't mind, except that [personal profile] newman's sister and family is up next weekend and I'll be missing most of their visit. When you're the boss, you have to lose out sometimes... The good news is that I'll be training a new instructor that day, so hopefully we don't do this again.
elramsay: caracal kitten (Default)
[personal profile] elramsay posting in [community profile] davis_square
BIG GARDENS small spaces
BIG GARDENS, small spaces
A Self-Guided Tour of Member Gardens, 
Presented by the Somerville Garden Club 

When: Sunday June 25, 2017, 11:00 am. – 4:00 p.m.,
Rain or Shine! (Should be a sunny day!)
Where: Somerville and Cambridge
Cost: Tickets are $18. Ticket holders receive a brochure with a map to the featured gardens.

The SGC 2017 Garden Tour, Big Gardens, Small Spaces, celebrates the creativity and variety of compact gardens.

Walk through gardens of different styles, featuring shady perennials, colorful sun-loving flowers, statuary, vegetable plots, ponds, bee hives, unusual shrubs and trees, native plants, and interesting hardscaping surrounding Somerville Garden Club member homes, and three of our garden sites. Proceeds support the educational programs and public plantings of the Somerville Garden Club.

Advance Tickets are on sale at:
Pemberton Garden Center, 2225 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
Porter Square Books, Porter Square Shopping Center, Cambridge
Capone Foods, 14 Bow Street, Union Square, Somerville
Through our website:
Day of Event Tickets: Sunday June 25. 11:00a.m. - 3:00p.m., Davis Square Statue Park, opposite the MBTA Davis Square Station.

There are some amazing private gardens on this tour! (including mine)!


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