Monday, August 29, 2005

Some history on beautiful Costa Rica

The Republic of Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south-southeast. Since the civil war of 1948 that brought President Jos� Figueres Ferrer to power, the country has been free of violent political conflict. Figueres also abolished the military and today, Costa Rica has only a national police force. Unlike most of its continental neighbors, Costa Rica, alongside Uruguay, is seen as an exceptional example of political stability in the region, and sometimes refered to as the "Switzerland of Central America."
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In Pre-Columbian times the Native Americans in what is now Costa Rica were part of the Intermediate Area located between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions. This has recently been redefined to include the Isthmo-Colombian area, defined by the presence of groups that spoke Chibchan languages.
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The native people of the Mayans and Aztecs were conquered by Spain in the 16th century. Costa Rica was then the Southernmost province in the Spanish territory of New Spain. The provincial capital was in Cartago.
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After briefly joining the Mexican Empire of Agust�n de Iturbide (see: History of Mexico and Mexican Empire), Costa Rica became a state in the United Provinces of Central America (see: History of Central America) from 1823 to 1839. In 1824, the capital moved to San Jos�. From the 1840s on, Costa Rica was an independent nation.
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Costa Rica has avoided much of the violence that has plagued Central America. Since the late 19th century only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development. In 1949, Jos� Figueres Ferrer abolished the army; and since then Costa Rica has been one of the few countries to operate within the democratic system without the assistance of a military.
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Costa Rica (Spanish for "Rich Coast"), although still a largely agricultural country, has achieved a relatively high standard of living. Land ownership is widespread and tourism is a rapidly expanding industry.
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Costa Rica is a democratic republic with a strong system of constitutional checks and balances. Executive responsibilities are vested in a president, who is the country's center of power. There also are two vice presidents and a 15-member cabinet that includes one of the vice presidents. The president and 57 Legislative Assembly deputies are elected for 4-year terms. A constitutional amendment approved in 1969 limited presidents and deputies to one term, although a deputy may run again for an Assembly seat after sitting out a term. An amendment to the constitution to allow second presidential terms was proposed and also the constitutionality of the prohibition against a second presidential term has been challenged in the courts. In April 2003 the prohibition was officially recognized as anti-constitutional allowing �scar Arias (Nobel Peace Prize, 1987) to run for President a second time in the upcoming 2006 elections.
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Governors appointed by the president head the country's seven provinces, but they exercise little power. There are no provincial legislatures. Autonomous state agencies enjoy considerable operational independence; they include the telecommunications and electrical power monopoly, the nationalized commercial banks, the state insurance monopoly, and the social security agency. Costa Rica has no military by constitution and maintains only domestic police and security forces for internal security.
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Costa Rica is located on the Central American isthmus, 10� North of the equator and 84� West of the Prime Meridian. It borders both the Caribbean Sea (to the east) and the North Pacific Ocean (to the west), with a total of 1,290km of coastline (212km on the Caribbean coast and 1016km on the Pacific).
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Costa Rica also borders Nicaragua to the north (309km of border) and Panama to the south-southeast (639km of border). In total, Costa Rica comprises 51,100 km,� of which 50,660 km� is land and 440 km� is water, making it slightly smaller than the U.S. state of West Virginia and about half the size of Ireland.
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The largest lake in Costa Rica is Lake Arenal.
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Costa Rica's economy is dependent on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports. The economy emerged from recession in 1997 and has since shown strong growth. Costa Rica's location in the Central American isthmus provides easy access to American markets as it has the same time zone as central US and direct ocean access to Europe and Asia.
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The economy has been booming for Costa Rica because the Government had implemented a seven year plan of expansion in the high tech industry. They have tax exemptions for those who are willing to invest in the country. With their high level of educated residents, they make an attractive investing location. Several global high tech corporations have already started developing in the area exporting goods.
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The unit of currency is the col�n (CRC), which trades around 450-500 to the US dollar; currently about 600 to the euro.
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In the central part of the country, the native Amerindians mixed with European. The pure indigenous population today numbers about 29,000, less than one percent of the population. In Guanacaste, most of the population descends from a mix of the Chorotega Indians, Bantu Africans and Spaniards. Descendants of black 19th-century Jamaican immigrant workers constitute an English-speaking minority and at three percent of the population number about 96,000. Costa Ricans of mestizo and European descent account for a combined 94 percent. Another one percent is ethnically Chinese.
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Today there is a growing number of Amerindians who migrate for seasonal work opportunities as agricultural workers mainly in the south-eastern border region with Panama. The most important group of immigrants in Costa Rica are Nicaraguans, who represent ten percent of the population. Most of them were originally refugees from civil war during the late 1970s and 1980s, but after the Esquipulas Peace Agreement an increasing number of Nicaraguans continue to migrate into Costa Rica due to economic reasons. There is also a growing number of Colombian, Panamanian and Peruvian immigrants.
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In Costa Rica, the locals refer to themselves as "Tico" (maje) or mae (sort of "man" (actually maje means "dumb") idiom in a very popular and "only with close friends" way), or "Tica" (female). The "Tico" ideal is that of a very friendly, helpful, laid back, unhurried, educated and environmentally aware people, with little worry for deadlines or the "normal" stresses of United States life. Visitors from the United States and Europe are often referred to as "Gringos," which is virtually always congenial in nature. Americans are often seen as objects of welcoming friendliness and curiosity.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A little background on railroads

Rail transport refers to the land transport of passengers and goods along railways or railroads. These consist of two parallel rails, usually of steel, generally mounted upon cross beams (termed "sleepers" or "ties") of timber, concrete or steel. The underlying support maintains the rails at a fixed distance (gauge) apart. Usually vehicles running on the rails are arranged in a train (a series of individual powered or unpowered vehicles linked together).
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Rail transport is one of the most energy efficient means of mechanised land transport. The rails provide very smooth and hard surfaces on which the wheels of the train may roll with a minimum of friction. As an example, a typical rail car can hold up to 125 tons of freight with this and the weight of the car on two four-wheel bogies. Fully loaded, the contact between each wheel and the rail is the space of about one U.S. ten-cent piece. This is more comfortable than most other forms of land transport and saves energy. Trains also have a small frontal area in relation to the load they are carrying, which cuts down on air resistance and thus energy usage. In all, under the right circumstances, a train needs 50-70% less energy to transport a given tonnage of freight (or given number of passengers), than does road transport. Furthermore, the rails and sleepers distribute the weight of the train evenly, allowing significantly greater loads per axle/wheel than in road transport.
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Rail transport is also one of the safest modes of transport, and also makes highly efficient use of space: a double-tracked rail line can carry more passengers or freight in a given amount of time than a four-laned road.
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As a result, rail transport is often the major form of public transport in many countries. In Asia, for example, many millions use trains as regular transport in India, South Korea, Japan, China, and elsewhere.
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Commercially, rail transport has had a mixed record. Most rail systems, including urban metro/subway systems, are highly subsidised and have never or rarely been profitable; however, their indirect benefits are often great. For example, despite a well-developed network consisting of four grades of trains and a widespread urban rail network in Seoul and Pusan, Korean National Rail is a nationalized organization that has never come close to having receipts equal costs (see Transportation in South Korea). Similarly, passenger rail in the US and many other countries is dependent on government subsidies. As a result levels of rail transport have in some times and places been reduced in order to save money (see Beeching Axe). Conversely, US freight railways have consolidated and become more efficient in their progress toward profitability. The East Japan Railway Company has taken an innovative and creative marketing stance and have achieved profitability as a result.
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Like other forms of public transport, many railways are having to make considerable investment in order to meet new requirements for security in the face of recent terrorism incidents, for instance the Madrid train bombings of 11 March 2004. Securing railways is often more difficult than other modes of transport because stations are designed with easy access and high capacity as their primary goals rather than security; because most trains make many stops, rendering any sort of passenger screening difficult; and because securing the tracks as they run through cities and the countryside is impractical.
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A rail transport system consists of several necessary elements, and should be viewed from a system-wide perspective when planning, constructing and maintaining it. Some locomotives may be wonderfully aesthetic constructions, but they will not work unless they are given an appropriate system on which to run. This system includes infrastructure such as tracks, railroad switches or points, signals, classification yards, etc.
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Firstly there is the geography onto which the permanent way is built. Next are the requirements of the system � what was it built for? For carrying cargo, commuters, medium or long-distance travellers? Has that requirement changed over time and left the system to adapt?
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As a result of this, what is the type of system? Is it light or urban heavy rail, high-speed or industrial rail? To what gauge is it built? In a broader sense, rail transport includes monorail, rubber-tyred metros and maglev, since the cars also run in a guided path. (The term "guideway" describes the non-traditional modes better.)
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Trains require a propulsion mechanism: horses, or steam, diesel or electric locomotives. The last of these options, the most energy-efficient, requires electrification of the system. To be electrified, a means of supplying electricity to the train is needed. This can be done with overhead wires or with a third-rail system. The former is the more common method.
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Depending on how much traffic they carry, railways can be built with a varying number of tracks. Rail lines that carry little traffic are often built with a single track used by trains in both directions; on rail lines like these, "crossovers", "passing loops" or "passing sidings", which consist of short stretches of double track, are provided along the line to allow trains to pass each other, and travel in opposite directions. Alternatively, there may be longer sections of the line that are double track - effective timetabling can allow train travel up and down a partially double-track line equivalent to travel on full double tracks. Conversely, double tram track is sometimes interlaced at narrow passages (see tram tracks). Single-track lines are cheaper to build, but can handle only a limited amount of traffic and are consequently mainly used on branch lines.
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On busier lines two or more tracks are provided, one or more for each direction of travel. On very busy lines as many as eight tracks (four tracks in each direction) are used to handle large amounts of traffic.
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With the advent of containerized freight in the 1960s, rail and ship transportation have become an integrated network that moves bulk goods very efficiently with a very low labor cost. An example is that goods from east Asia that are bound for Europe will often be shipped across the Pacific and transferred to trains to cross North America and be transferred back to a ship for the Atlantic crossing.
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Major cities often have metro and/or light rail/tram systems. For a tram on the road the terms streetcar track, tram track or tramway are used, rather than railway or railroad.
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Trains can travel at very high speed, are heavy, are unable to deviate from the track and require a great distance to stop. Possibilities for accidents include jumping the track (derailment), head-on collision with another train coming the opposite way and collision with an automobile at a level crossing. Level crossing collisions are relatively common in the United States where there are several thousand each year killing about 500 people. For information regarding major accidents, see List of rail accidents.
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The most important safety measure is railway signalling. Train whistles are used to warn others of the presence of a train.
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The Diolkos was a 6-km long railway that transported boats across the Corinth isthmus in Greece in the 6th century BC. Trucks pushed by slaves ran in grooves in a limestone track. The Diolkos ran for over 1300 years, until 900 AD.

The nature and history of hurricanes

In meteorology, a tropical cyclone (or tropical storm, typhoon, or hurricane, depending on strength and location) is a type of low pressure system which generally forms in the tropics. While they can be highly destructive, tropical cyclones are an important part of the atmospheric circulation system, which moves heat from the equatorial region toward the higher latitudes.
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Structurally, a tropical cyclone is a large, rotating system of clouds, wind and thunderstorm activity. The primary energy source of a tropical cyclone is the release of the heat of condensation from water vapor condensing at high altitudes. Because of this, a tropical cyclone can be thought of as a giant vertical heat engine.
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The ingredients for a tropical cyclone include a pre-existing weather disturbance, warm tropical oceans, moisture, and relatively light winds aloft. If the right conditions persist long enough, they can combine to produce the violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains, and floods associated with this phenomenon.
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This use of condensation as a driving force is the primary difference which distinguishes tropical cyclones from other meteorological phenomena. Mid-latitude cyclones, for example, draw their energy mostly from pre-existing temperature gradients in the atmosphere. In order to continue to drive its heat engine, a tropical cyclone must remain over warm water, which provides the atmospheric moisture needed. The evaporation of this moisture is driven by the high winds and reduced atmospheric pressure present in the storm, resulting in a sustaining cycle. As a result, when a tropical cyclone passes over land, its strength will diminish rapidly.
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Tropical cyclones can occasionally form despite not meeting these conditions. A combination of a pre-existing disturbance, upper level divergence and a monsoon-related cold spell led to the creation of Typhoon Vamei at only 1.5 degrees north of the equator in 2001. It is estimated that the factors leading to the formation of this typhoon occur only once every 400 years.
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Worldwide, tropical cyclone activity peaks in late summer when water temperatures are warmest. However, each particular basin has its own seasonal patterns.
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In the North Atlantic, a distinct hurricane season occurs from June 1 to November 30, sharply peaking from late August through September. The statistical peak of the North Atlantic hurricane season is September 10. The Northeast Pacific has a broader period of activity, but in a similar timeframe to the Atlantic. The Northwest Pacific sees tropical cyclones year-round, with a minimum in February and a peak in early September. In the North Indian basin, storms are most common from April to December, with peaks in May and November.
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In the Southern Hemisphere, tropical cyclone activity begins in late October and ends in May. Southern Hemisphere activity peaks in mid-February to early March.
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Nearly all tropical cyclones form within 30 degrees of the equator and 87% form within 20 degrees of it. However, because the Coriolis effect initiates and maintains tropical cyclone rotation, such cyclones almost never form or move within about 10 degrees of the equator [1] (where the Coriolis effect is weakest). However, it is possible for tropical cyclones to form within this boundary if another source of initial rotation is provided. These conditions are extremely rare, and such storms are believed to form at a rate of less than one a century.
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Most tropical cyclones form in a worldwide band of thunderstorm activity known as the Intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ).
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Worldwide, an average of 80 tropical cyclones form each year.
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Tropical cyclones are classified into three main groups: tropical depressions, tropical storms, and a third group whose name depends on the region.
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A tropical depression is an organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of less than 17 metres per second (33 knots, 38 mph, or 62 km/h). It has no eye, and does not typically have the spiral shape of more powerful storms. It is already becoming a low-pressure system, however, hence the name "depression".
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A tropical storm is an organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds between 17 and 33 meters per second (34�63 knots, 39�73 mph, or 62�117 km/h). At this point, the distinctive cyclonic shape starts to develop, though an eye is usually not present. Government weather services assign first names to systems that reach this intensity (thus the term named storm).
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At hurricane intensity, a tropical cyclone tends to develop an eye, an area of relative calm (and lowest atmospheric pressure) at the center of the circulation. The eye is often visible in satellite images as a small, circular, cloud-free spot. Surrounding the eye is the eyewall, an area about 10 to 50 miles (16 to 80 kilometers) wide in which the strongest thunderstorms and winds circulate around the storm's center.
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The circulation of clouds around a cyclone's center imparts a distinct spiral shape to the system. Bands or arms may extend over great distances as clouds are drawn toward the cyclone. The direction of the cyclonic circulation depends on the hemisphere; it is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Maximum sustained winds in the strongest tropical cyclones have been measured at more than 85 m/s (165 knots, 190 mph, 305 km/h). Intense, mature hurricanes can sometimes exhibit an inward curving of the eyewall top that resembles a football stadium: this amazing phenomenon is thus sometimes referred to as stadium effect.
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While the most obvious motion of clouds is toward the center, tropical cyclones also develop an outward flow of clouds. These originate from air that has released its moisture and is expelled at high altitude through a chimney effect of the storm engine. This outflow produces high, thin cirrus clouds that spiral away from the center. The high cirrus clouds may be the first signs of an approaching hurricane.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

News and journalism

News is reported by newspapers, television and radio programs, Web sites, RSS feeds and wire services. News reporting is a type of journalism, typically written or broadcast in news style. Most news is investigated and presented by journalists (or reporters) and often distributed via news agencies. If the content of news is significant enough, it eventually becomes history.
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News items and journalism can be divided in various ways, although there are gray areas. Distinctions include that between hard news (more serious and timely topics) and soft news (usually lighter topics); breaking news (most immediate); news analysis; and enterprise or investigative reporting.
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News coverage often includes the "five W's and the H" -- who, what, where, when, why, and how.
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In democracies, news organizations are often expected to aim for objectivity: Reporters cover both sides in a controversy and try to eliminate bias. This is not true of all organizations in all cultures. For instance, British television news is required to be objective, but the newspapers are expected to have a point of view. However, limits are set by the government agency Ofcom, the Office of Communications. The United Kingdom has stricter libel laws than the United States for the press. In contrast, both newspapers and broadcast news programs in the United States are generally expected to remain neutral and avoid bias except for clearly indicated editorial articles or segments.
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Many single-party countries have operated state-run news organizations, which may present the government's views. Even in those situations where objectivity is expected, it is difficult to achieve, and individual journalists may fall foul of their own personal bias, or succumb to commercial or political pressures. Individuals and organizations who are the subject of news reports may use news management techniques to try to make a favourable impression.
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Journalism is a discipline of collecting, verifying, analyzing and presenting information gathered regarding current events, including trends, issues and people. Those who practice journalism are known as journalists.
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News-oriented journalism often is described as the "first draft of history." Even though journalists often write news articles to a deadline, news media usually edit and proofread the results prior to publication.
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Journalism has as its main activity the reporting of events -- stating who, what, when, where, why and how, and explaining the significance and effect of events or trends. Journalism exists in a number of media: newspapers, television, radio, magazines and, since the end of 20th century, the Internet.
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Generally, publishers and consumers of journalism draw a distinction between reporting ("just the facts") and opinions (such as editorials, (the official opinions of the paper) and op-ed columns ("opposite the editorial page" commentary)). However, this distinction sometimes can break down. Journalists may unintentionally fall prey to propaganda or disinformation. (See News management.) Journalists may give a biased account of facts by reporting selectively, for instance, focusing on anecdote or giving partial explanation of actions. Foreign reporting may become more susceptible to bias, because the writers or editors of a newspaper in a given geographical area may find it more difficult to fact-check reports originating at a distance.
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Newspapers and periodicals often will contain features (see under heading feature style at article news style) written by journalists, many of whom specialize in this form of "in-depth" journalism.
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Journalists' interaction with sources sometimes involves confidentiality. Many Western governments guarantee the freedom of the press. By extension, these freedoms sometimes also add legal protection for journalists, allowing them to keep the identity of a source private even when demanded by police or prosecutors.
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Recently there has been some controversy as to whether blogging constitutes a form of journalism. There have been arguments on both sides of the debate further fueled by a March 2005 court ruling in a case involving Apple Computer and several Apple rumor blogs. In that ruling the judge declared that the blogs were not entitled to journalist protections with regards to preserving the anonymity of sources because they don't qualify as a form of journalism. This set a legal precedent.
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Mass media is the term used to denote, as a class, that section of the media specifically conceived and designed to reach a very large audience (typically at least as large as the whole population of a nation state). It was coined in the 1920s with the advent of nationwide radio networks and of mass-circulation newspapers and magazines. The mass-media audience has been viewed by some commentators as forming a mass society with special characteristics, notably atomization or lack of social connections, which render it especially susceptible to the influence of modern mass-media techniques such as advertising and propaganda.
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Media (the plural of medium) is a truncation of the term media of communication, referring to those organized means of dissemination of fact, opinion, entertainment, and other information, such as newspapers, magazines, cinema films, radio, television, the World Wide Web, billboards, books, Compact discs, DVDs, videocassettes, and other forms of publishing. Although writers currently change in their preference for using media in the singular ("the media is...") or the plural ("the media are..."), the former will still incur criticism in some situations. (Please see data for a similar example.) Academic programs for the study of mass media are usually referred to as mass communication programs.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The ups and downs of finance

The activity of finance is the application of a set of techniques that individuals and organizations (entities) use to manage their financial affairs, particularly the differences between income and expenditure and the risks of their investments.
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An entity whose income exceeds its expenditure can lend or invest the excess income. On the other hand, an entity whose income is less than its expenditure can raise capital by borrowing or selling equity claims, decreasing its expenses, or increasing its income. The lender can find a borrower, a financial intermediary, such as a bank or buy notes or bonds in the bond market. The lender receives interest, the borrower pays a higher interest than the lender receives, and the financial intermediary pockets the difference.
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A bank aggregates the activities of many borrowers and lenders. A bank accepts deposits from lenders, on which it pays interest. The bank then lends these deposits to borrowers. Banks allow borrowers and lenders of different sizes to coordinate their activity. Banks are thus compensators of money flows in space since they allow different lenders and borrows to meet, and in time, since every borrower will eventually pay back.
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A specific example of corporate finance is the sale of stock by a company to institutional investors like investment banks, who in turn generally sell it to the public. The stock gives whoever owns it part ownership in that company. If you buy one share of XYZ inc, and they have 100 shares available, you are 1/100 owner of that company. You own 1/100 of anything on the asset side of the balance sheet. Of course, in return for the stock, the company receives cash, which it uses to grow its business. This is called "Equity Financing". Equity financing mixed with the sale of bonds (or any other Debt Financing) is called the company's capital structure.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Human communication is a wonderful thing

Humans communicate in order to share knowledge and experiences. Common forms of human communication include sign language, speaking, writing, gestures, and broadcasting. Communication can be interactive, transactive, intentional, or unintentional; it can also be verbal or nonverbal. Communication varies considerably in form and style when considering scale. Internal communication, within oneself, is intrapersonal while communication between two individuals is interpersonal. At larger scales of communication both the system of communication and media of communication change. Small group communication takes place in settings of between three and 12 individuals creating a different set of interactions than large groups such as organizational communication in settings like companies or communities.
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At the largest scales mass communication describes communication to huge numbers of individuals through mass media. Communication also has a time component, being either synchronous or asynchronous. There are a number of theories of communication that attempt to explain human communication.
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In telecommunications, the first transatlantic two-way radio broadcast occurred on July 25th 1920.
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As the technology evolved, communication protocol also had to evolve; for example, Thomas Edison had to discover that hello was the least ambiguous greeting by voice over a distance; previous greetings such as hail tended to be lost or garbled in the transmission.
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As regards human communication these diverse fields can be divided into those which cultivate a thoughtful exchange between a small number of people (debate, talk radio, e-mail, personal letters) on the one hand; and those which disseminate broadly a simple message (Public relations, television, cinema).
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Our indebtedness to the Ancient Romans in the field of communication does not end with the Latin root "communicare". They devised what might be described as the first real mail or postal system in order to centralize control of the empire from Rome. This allowed Rome to gather knowledge about events in its many widespread provinces.
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As the Romans well knew, communication is as much about taking in towards the centre as it is about putting out towards the extremes.
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In virtual management an important issue is computer-mediated communication.
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The view people take toward communication is changing, as new technologies change the way they communicate and organize. In fact, it is the changing technology of communication that tends to make the most frequent and widespread changes in a society - take for example the rise of web cam chat and other network-based visual communications between distant parties. The latest trend in communication, decentralized personal networking, is termed smartmobbing.
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Human voice consists of sound made by a person using the vocal folds for talking, singing, laughing, screaming or crying. The vocal folds in combination with the teeth, the tongue, and the lips, are capable of producing highly intricate arrays of sound, and vast differences in meaning can often be achieved through highly subtle manipulation of the sounds produced (especially in the expression of language). These differences can be in the individual noises produced, or in the overall tone in which they are uttered.
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The tone of voice may suggest that a sentence is a question, even if it grammatically is not, and shows emotions such as anger, surprise, happiness; in a request the tone reveals much about how much one wants something, and whether it is asking a favor or more like an order; the tone of saying e.g. "I am sorry" says a lot: it may vary from begging for forgiveness to "I have the right to do this even if you do not like it". See nonverbal communication.
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Singers use the human voice as an instrument for creating music.
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The human voice is a complex instrument. Humans have vocal cords which can loosen or tighten or change their thickness and over which breath can be transferred at varying pressures. The shape of chest and neck, the position of the tongue, and the tightness of otherwise unrelated muscles can be altered. Any one of these actions results in a change in pitch, volume, timbre, or tone of the sound produced.
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One important categorisation which can be applied to the sounds singers make relates to the register; or the "voice" which we use. Singers refer to these registers according to the part of the body in which the sound most generally resonates, and which have correspondingly different tonal qualities. There are widely differing opinions and theories about what a register is, how they are produced and how many there are. The following definitions refer to the different ranges of the voice.

A little about beef...

Beef is meat obtained from a bovine.

Beef is one of the principal meats used in European cuisine and cuisine of the Americas, and is important in Africa, East Asia, and Southeast Asia as well. In the Middle East, it is very rare to have lunch without beef.

Beef can be cut into steak, pot roasts, short ribs, or ground into hamburger. Several Asian and European nationalities include the blood in their cuisine as well -- it is used in some varieties of blood sausage, and Filipinos use it to make a stew called dinuguan. Other beef variety meats include the tongue, which is usually sliced for sandwiches in Western cooking; tripe from the stomach; various glands�particularly the pancreas and thyroid�referred to as sweetbreads; the heart, the brain, the liver, the kidneys; and the tender testicles of the bull commonly known as "beef balls", "calf fries", or "Rocky Mountain oysters."

In the United States, the USDA operates a voluntary beef grading program. The meat processor pays for the presence of a highly trained USDA meat grader who grades the whole carcass prior to fabrication. The carcass grade is stamped on each primal cut (six stamps) and applied with roller stamp to each side as well. You can often see traces of the USDA grading stamp on boxed primal cuts.

The grades are based on two main criteria, the degree of marbling (intramuscular fat) in the beef rib eye and the age of the animal prior to slaughter. Some meat scientists object to the current scheme of USDA grading since it does not take tenderness into account. Most other countries beef grading systems mirror the US model. Most beef offered for sale in supermarkets is graded choice or select. Prime beef is sold to hotels and upscale restaurants. Beef that would rate as Standard or leaner is almost never offered for grading.
The better cuts are usually obtained from steers, as heifers tend to be kept for breeding. Older animals are used for beef when they are past their reproductive prime. The meat from older cows and bulls is generally tougher, so it is frequently used for ground beef. Cattle raised for beef may be allowed to roam free on grasslands, or may be confined at some stage in pens as part of a large feeding operation called a feedlot.

The United States, Brazil, the EU, China, and India, are the world's five largest producers of beef. Beef production is also important to the economy of Argentina, the Russian Federation, Australia, Mexico, and Canada.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

London, one of my favorite places!

London (see also different names) is the capital city of the United Kingdom and of England. It produces 17% of the UK's GDP and the City of London is one of the world's major financial centres. The capital of the former global empire, London is a leader in culture, communications, politics, finance, and the arts and has considerable influence worldwide. New York City, Tokyo and Paris are often listed with London as the four major global cities.
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The estimated population of Greater London on 1 January 2005 was 7,421,228, and the population includes several million more in the wider metropolitan area, making London the largest city in the UK, and one of the largest metropolitan areas in Europe (along with Moscow and Paris). London's population includes a very diverse range of peoples, cultures, and religions, making it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe, and the world.
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London is the home of many global institutions, organizations and companies, and as such retains a leading role in global affairs. It has a great number of important buildings, including world-famous museums, theatres, concert halls, airports, railway stations, palaces, and offices. It is also the location of many foreign embassies, consulates and High Commissions.
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Today, "London" usually refers to the conurbation known as Greater London, which is divided into thirty-two London Boroughs, and the City of London. Historically, "London" referred to the square mile of the City of London at the conurbation's heart, from which the city grew. Between 1889 and 1965 it referred to the former County of London which covered the area now known as Inner London.
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There are other definitions of "London" for special purposes, such as the London postal district; the area covered by the telephone area code 020; the area accessible by public transport using a Transport for London Travelcard; the area delimited by the M25 orbital motorway; the Metropolitan Police district; and the London commuter belt.
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The coordinates of the centre of London (traditionally considered to be Charing Cross, near the junction of Trafalgar Square, the Strand, Whitehall and the Mall) are approximately 51�30′ N 0�8′ W. The Romans marked the centre of Londinium with the London Stone in the City.
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Greater London covers an area of 609 square miles (1,579 km�). London is a port on the Thames, a navigable river. The river has had a major influence on the development of the city. London was founded on the north bank of the Thames and there was only a single bridge, London Bridge, for many centuries. As a result, the main focus of the city was on the north side of the Thames. When more bridges were built in the 18th century, the city expanded in all directions as the mostly flat or gently rolling countryside around the Thames floodplain presented no obstacle to growth. There are some hills in London, examples being Parliament Hill and Primrose Hill, but these provided fine prospects of the city centre without significantly affecting the directions of the spread of the city and London is therefore roughly circular.
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The Thames was once a much broader, shallower river than it is today. It has been extensively embanked, and many of its London tributaries now flow underground. The Thames is a tidal river, and London is vulnerable to flooding. The threat has increased over time due to a slow but continuous rise in high water level and the slow 'tilting' of Britain (up in the north and down in the south) caused by post-glacial rebound. The Thames Barrier was constructed across the Thames at Woolwich in the 1970s to deal with this threat, but in early 2005 it was suggested that a ten-mile-long barrier further downstream might be required to deal with the flood risk in the future.
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London has a temperate climate, with warm but seldom hot summers, cool but rarely severe winters, and regular but generally light precipitation throughout the year. Summer temperatures rarely rise much above 33�C (91.4�F), though higher temperatures have become more common recently. The highest temperature ever recorded in London was 37.9�C (100.2�F), measured at Heathrow Airport during the European heatwave of 2003. Heavy snowfalls are almost unknown. In recent winters, snow has generally only settled once or twice and it is rarely more than an inch (25 mm). London's average annual precipitation of less than 24 inches (600 mm) is lower than that of Rome or Sydney. London's large built up area creates a microclimate, with heat stored by the city's buildings: sometimes temperatures are 5�C (9�F) warmer in the city than in the surrounding areas.
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The name London comes from the Latin name Londinium, as London was founded by the Romans during their reign over the island� although there is some slight evidence of pre-Roman settlement. (The BBC History website, however, claims that the name Londinium is actually "Celtic, not Latin, and may originally have referred to a previous farmstead on the site;" this also implies that there indeed were pre-Roman settlements in the area.) This fortified Roman settlement was the capital of the province of Britannia.
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Around 61 A.D. the Iceni tribe of Celts lead by Queen Boudicca stormed London and took the city from the Romans. The Celts burnt the relatively new Roman town to the ground, and archaelogical digs have revealed a layer of red ash beneath the City of London which is believed to be the burnt remains of the old Roman town.
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After the fall of the Roman Empire, Londinium was abandoned and a Saxon town named Lundenwic was established approximately one mile to the west in what is now Aldwych, in the 7th century. The old Roman city was then re-occupied during the late 9th or early 10th century.
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Westminster was once a distinct town, and has been the seat of the English royal court and government since the medi�val era. Eventually, Westminster and London grew together and formed the basis of London, becoming England's largest � though not capital � city (Winchester was the capital city of England until the 12th century).
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London has grown steadily over centuries, surrounding and making suburbs of neighbouring villages and towns, farmland, countryside, meadows and woodlands, spreading in every direction. From the 16th to the early 20th centuries, London flourished as the capital of the British Empire.
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In 1666, the Great Fire of London swept through and destroyed a large part of the City of London. Re-building took over 10 years, but London's growth accelerated in the 18th century and by the early 19th century it was the largest city in the world.
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Saturday, August 20, 2005

The importance of caring for your teeth -

Teeth�singular tooth�are hard structures found in the jaws of many vertebrates. They have various structures to allow them to fulfill their many different purposes. The primary function of teeth is to tear and chew food and in some animals, particularly carnivores, as a weapon. The roots of the teeth are covered by gums. Teeth are covered by a protective stucture, called the enamel, that helps to prevent cavities on the teeth. Adult teeth naturally darken as the person matures, the pulp within the tooth shrinks and dentin is deposited in its place.
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The form teeth take and their mode of development in a species is called the species' dentition. Dentists sometimes refer to the inner surface of teeth as the lingual surface (meaning towards the tongue), and the outer surface as the labial surface (meaning towards the lips) or "buccal" (meaning towards the cheek). Other terms are mesial (toward the midline), distal (away from the midline), occlusal (the top surface), incisal (the cutting surface), "gingival" (toward the gumline), and "pulpal" (toward the center).
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Teeth are among the most distinctive features of different mammal species, and one that fossilizes well. Paleontologists use them to identify fossil species and, often, their relationships. The shape of the teeth is related to the animal's diet, as well as its evolutionary descent. For example, plant matter is hard to digest, so herbivores have many molars for chewing. Carnivores need canines to kill and tear and since meat is easy to digest, they can swallow without the need for molars to chew the food well.
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Humans grow two sets of teeth, though some animals grow many more: sharks grow a new set of teeth every two weeks. Some other animals grow just one set. Rodent teeth grow and wear away continually through the animal's gnawing, maintaining constant length. Milk teeth evenly distributed across the quadrants
Enlarge Milk teeth evenly distributed across the quadrants.
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In humans, the first (a.k.a. milk, primary or deciduous) set of teeth appears at about six months of age. This stage is known as teething and can be quite painful for an infant. Human children have 20 milk teeth evenly distributed across the quadrants. Each quadrant of 5 teeth consists of:
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The second, permanent set is formed between the ages of six and twelve years. The new set replaces the 20 teeth of the old set. A new tooth forms underneath the old one, pushing it out of the jaw. Apart from this another 8-12 teeth grow. This set can last for life if cared for properly through a regular program of dental hygiene, including brushing with water or toothpaste as well as periodic professional cleaning by a dentist or hygienist. If a person's teeth are susceptible to decay, for example if the molars include deep pits and fissures, then complete prevention of decay may require treatment with dental sealants.
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Plaque is a soft white layer which forms on teeth, containing large amounts of bacteria of various types, particularly Streptococcus mutans. Left unchecked for a few days plaque will harden, especially near the gums, forming tartar.
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Certain bacteria in the mouth live off the remains of foods, especially sugars. In the absence of oxygen they produce lactic acid, which dissolves the calcium and phosphorus in the enamel in a process known as demineralisation. Enamel demineralisation takes place below the critical pH of about 5.5.
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Saliva gradually neutralises the acids causing the pH of the tooth surface to rise above the critical pH. This causes 'remineralisation', the return of the dissolved minerals to the enamel. If there is sufficient time between the intake of foods (two to three hours) and the damage is limited the teeth can repair themselves.
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Dental caries (cavitation) occurs when over a period of time the process of demineralisation is greater than remineralisation. Attempts to prevent dental caries involve reducing the factors that cause demineralisation, and increasing the factors leading to remineralisation. Unchecked demineralisation leads to cavities, which may penetrate the underlying dentine to the tooth's nerve-rich pulp and lead to toothache.
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In moderation, fluoride is known to protect the teeth against caries. It toughens the teeth by replacing the hydroxyapatite and carbonated hydroxyapatite minerals of which the enamel is made with fluorapatite, which is harder to dissolve by acid. It also reduces the production of acids by bacteria in the mouth by reducing their ability to metabolize sugars. The addition of fluoride (sodium monofluorophosphate) to toothpaste is now very common, and may explain the decline in dental caries in the Western world in the past 30 years.
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Some believe that a diet rich in fluorine salts, particularly in childhood, can lead to a stronger enamel which is less susceptible to decay. Fluoridation of drinking water remains a controversial issue. However, in many parts of the world, the natural water supply may be sufficiently rich in fluorides to supply the needs of children without additional sources being required.
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Caries may be treated by filling cavities with a long-lasting material. This was, traditionally, achieved using gold or a compound of metals called amalgam, which contains mercury. For cosmetic reasons, and because it is thought mercury may seep from fillings into the circulation over time, a ceramic or other white filler may be preferred to amalgam. As a last resort, teeth affected by caries may be extracted, preferably under local or general anaesthetic.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Why we all should appreciate art more

Art, in its broadest meaning, is the expression of creativity or imagination, or both. Throughout the written history of humankind, various constrictions have been applied to the broad concept. Most individuals know what they consider to be art, and what they believe is not art. Additionally, groups, such as academia, have a vaguely shared notion of what is, or is not, art. The word art is often used to refer to the visual arts, and arts is used to refer to visual art, literature, music, dance � the fine arts. However, such distinctions are the subject of many discussions and debates. Art seems to be almost universal throughout the human race � integral to the human condition. There are no cultures that do not participate in it to some extent, and child art is created by all from about the first birthday.
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The word art derives from the Latin ars, which, loosely translated, means "arrangement" or "to arrange", though in many dictionaries the word's listing is tautologically translated as "art". This is the only universal definition of art, that whatever it is was at some point arranged in some way. A few examples where this meaning proves very broad include artifact, artificial, artifice, artillery, medical arts, and military arts. However, there are many other colloquial uses of the word, all with some relation to its etymological roots.
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The word art is also used to apply judgments of value, as in such expressions as "that meal was a work of art" (the cook is an artist), or "the art of deception," (the highly attained level of skill of the deceiver is praised). It is this use of the word as a measure of high quality and high value that gives the term its flavor of subjectivity.
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Making judgments of value requires a basis for criticism: a way to determine whether the impact of the object on the senses meets the criteria to be considered art, whether it is perceived to be ugly or beautiful. Perception is always colored by experience, so a reaction to art as 'ugly' or 'beautiful' is necessarily subjective.
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Because of its elusive nature, "good" art is not always, or even regularly, appealing. In other words, it does not have to be "nice-looking", and often depicts terrible images made for social, moral, or thought-provoking reasons. Countless schools have proposed their own ways to define quality, yet they all seem to agree in at least one point: once their aesthetic choices are accepted, the value of the work of art is determined by its capacity to transcend the limits of its chosen medium in order to strike some universal chord (which, oddly enough, tends to be the most personal one).
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Many people's opinions of what art would fall inside a relatively small range of accepted standards, or "institutional definition of art" (George Dickie 1974). This derives from education and other social factors. Most people did not consider the depiction of a Brillo Box or a store-bought urinal to be art until Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp (respectively) placed them in the context of art (i.e., the art gallery), which then provided the association of these objects with the values that define art.
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Most viewers of these objects initially rejected such associations, because the objects did not, themselves, meet the accepted criteria. The objects needed to be absorbed into the general consensus of what art is before they achieved the near-universal acceptance as art in the contemporary era. Once accepted and viewed with a fresh eye, the smooth, white surfaces of Duchamp's urinal are strikingly similar to classical marble sculptural forms, whether the artist intended it or not. This type of recontextualizing provides the same spark of connection expected from any "good" art.
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The work of painter Jackson Pollock appeared to be the result of throwing and pouring of paint on a canvas, apparently without skill, and brought into question the validity of much contemporary art (1960 to present). To most people, his work seems to be something that any three-year-old could easily do. There is often such consensus of agreement about what can be considered art. This consensus does not appear to be static over time and can be seen as being similar to evolution's doctrine of survival of the fittest, where even good ideas inevitably disappear and are ploughed under by history, while other ideas survive.
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Art is often seen as belonging to one social class and excluding others. In this context, art is seen as a high-status activity associated with wealth, the ability to purchase art, and the leisure required to enjoy it. The palaces of Versailles or the Hermitage in St. Petersburg with their vast collections of art, amassed by the fabulously wealthy royalty of Europe exemplify this a view. Collecting such art is the preserve of the rich.
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However, there is a (not always deliberate) tradition of artists bringing their vision down to earth, and inhabiting a mundane, even poverty stricken, world. The life of Vincent van Gogh is a classic example of this starving artist tradition.
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Before the 13th century in Europe, artisans were considered to belong to a lower caste, since they were essentially manual labourers. After Europe was re-exposed to classical culture during the Renaissance, particularly in the nation states of what is now Italy (Florence, Siena), artists gained an association with high status. However, arrangements of "fine" and expensive goods have always been used by institutions of power as marks of their own status. This is seen in the 20th and 21st century by the commissioning or purchasing of art by big businesses and corporations as decoration for their offices.
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There are many who ascribe to certain arts the quality of being non-utilitarian. This fits within the "art as good" system of definitions and suffers from a class prejudice against labor and utility. Opponents of this view argue that all human activity has some utilitarian function, and these objects claimed to be "non-utilitarian" actually have the rather mundane and banal utility of attempting to mystify and codify unworkable justifications for arbitrary social hierarchy.
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Art is also used by clinical psychologists as art therapy. The end product is not the principal goal in this case; rather a process of healing, through creative acts, is sought.
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The "use" of art from the artist�s standpoint is as a means of expression. When art is conceived as a device, it serves several context and perspective specific functions. From the artist�s perspective it allows one to symbolize complex ideas and emotions in an arbitrary language subject only to the interpretation of the self and peers.

Some background on medicine

Medicine is a branch of health science concerned with maintaining health and restoring it by treating disease. Medicine is both an area of knowledge (a science of body systems, diseases and their treatment), and the application of that knowledge (by the medical profession and other health professionals such as nurses, physiotherapists etc.) The various specialized branches of the science of medicine correspond to equally specialized medical professions dealing with particular organs or diseases. The medical profession refers to the social structure of the group of people formally trained to apply medical knowledge to treat disease. Many countries have legal limitations as to who may practice medicine.
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Systems of medical and healthcare practices have existed since at least the dawn of recorded history. These systems have developed differently in differing cultures and regions. The medicine practiced in the Western world has an almost exclusive Western tradition. Many other traditions of medicine and healthcare are still widely practiced throughout the world, most of which are still considered to be separate and distinct from biomedicine or Western medicine. The most highly developed systems of medicine outside the Western system (sometimes termed the Hippocratic tradition) are the Ayurvedic tradition of India and traditional Chinese medicine. Veterinary medicine is the medicine practice specialized for other animal species.
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Medicine as it is practiced now is rooted in various traditions, but developed mainly in the late 18th and early 19th century in Germany (Rudolf Virchow) and France (Jean-Martin Charcot, Claude Bernard and others). The new, "scientific" medicine replaced more traditional views based on the "four humours". The development of clinical medicine shifted to the United Kingdom and the USA during the early 1900s (Sir William Osler, Harvey Cushing).
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Evidence-based medicine is the recent movement to link the practice and the science of medicine more closely through the use of the scientific method and modern information science.
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Genomics is already having a large influence on medical practice, as most monogenic genetic disorders have now been linked to causative genes, and molecular biological techniques are influencing medical decision-making.
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The medical encounter or patient-doctor relationship is central to medicine. A person with a health problem or concern sees a doctor for help. The practice of medicine combines both science and art. Science and technology are the evidence base for many clinical problems for the general population at large. The art of medicine is the application of this medical knowledge in combination with intuition and clinical judgment to determine the proper diagnoses and treatment plan for this unique patient and to treat the patient accordingly. Other health professionals similarly establish a relationship with a patient and may perform interventions from their perspective, e.g. nurses, radiographers and therapists.
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The doctor-patient relationship and interaction is a central process in the practice of medicine. There are many perspectives from which to understand and describe it.
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An idealized physician's perspective, such as is taught in medical school, sees the core aspects of the process as the physician learning from the patient his symptoms, concerns and values; in response the physician examines the patient, interprets the symptoms, and formulates a diagnosis to explain the symptoms and their cause to the patient and to propose a treatment. In more detail, the patient presents a set of complaints or concerns about his health to the doctor, who then obtains further information about the patient's symptoms, previous state of health, living conditions, and so forth, and then formulates a diagnosis and enlists the patient's agreement to a treatment plan. Importantly, during this process the doctor educates the patient about the causes, progression, outcomes, and possible treatments of his ailments, as well as often providing advice for maintaining health. This teaching relationship is the basis of calling the physician doctor, which originally meant "teacher" in Latin. The patient-doctor relationship is additionally complicated by the patient's suffering (patient derives from the Latin patiens, "suffering") and limited ability to relieve it on his own. The doctor's expertise comes from his knowledge about, or experience with, other people who have suffered similar symptoms, and his presumed ability to relieve it with medicines or other therapies about which the patient may initially have little knowledge.
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The doctor-patient relationship can be analyzed from the perspective of ethical concerns, in terms of how well the goals of non-maleficence, beneficence, autonomy, and justice are achieved. Many other values and ethical issues can be added to these. In different societies, periods, and cultures, different values may be assigned different priorities. For example, in the last 30 years medical care in the Western World has increasingly emphasized patient autonomy in decision making.
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The relationship and process can also be analyzed in terms of social power relationships (e.g., by Michel Foucault), or economic transactions. Physicians have been accorded gradually higher status and respect over the last century, and they have been entrusted with control of access to prescription medicines as a public health measure. This represents a concentration of power and carries both advantages and disadvantages to particular kinds of patients with particular kinds of conditions. A further twist has occurred in the last 25 years as costs of medical care have risen, and a third party (an insurance company or government agency) now often insists upon a share of decision-making power for a variety of reasons, reducing freedom of choice of both doctors and patients in many ways.
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The quality of the patient-doctor relationship is important to both parties. The better the relationship in terms of mutual respect, knowledge, trust, shared values and perspectives about disease and life, and time available, the better will be the amount and quality of information about the patient's disease transferred in both directions, enhancing accuracy of diagnosis and increasing the patient's knowledge about the disease.
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In some settings, e.g. the hospital ward, the patient-doctor relationship is much more complex, and many other people are involved when somebody is ill: relatives, neighbors, rescue specialists, nurses, technical personnel, social workers and others.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Education is the backbone of our world

The education of an individual human begins at birth and continues throughout life. (Some believe that education begins even before birth, as evidenced by some parents' playing music or reading to the baby in the womb in the hope it will influence the child's development.) For some, the struggles and triumphs of daily life provide far more instruction than does formal schooling (thus Mark Twain's admonition to "never let school interfere with your education"). Family members may have a profound educational effect � often more profound than they realize � though family teaching may function very informally.
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The origins of the word "education" reveal one theory of its function: the Latin educare comes from roots suggesting a "leading out" or "leading forth", with possible implications of developing innate abilities and of expanding horizons.
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Formal education occurs when society or a group or an individual sets up a curriculum to educate people, usually the young. Formal education can become systematic and thorough, but its sponsor may seek selfish advantages when shaping impressionable young scholars.
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Life-long or adult education has become widespread. Lending libraries provide inexpensive informal access to books and other self-instructional materials. Many adults have given up the notion that only children belong "in school". Many adults enroll in post-secondary education schools, both part-time and full-time, which often classify them as "non-traditional students" in order to distinguish them administratively from young adults entering directly from high school.
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Computers have become an increasingly influential factor in education, both as a tool for online education (a type of distance education) and e-Learning. By this approach, individual students can access lessons and materials easily via the Internet and CD-ROM (for example, via a WebQuest) and participate in a range of interactive online learning activities.
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Education has been around for most of human history. To put it simply, education is the teaching of ideas, abilities, principles etc. Animals that are taught by parents also have some of their actions driven by instinct. Humans however, when they started developing tools and knowledge that had to be taught, went further than this. If we think of education as part of the cultural evolution of human beings, this means there has been always some sort of education.
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In 1994 Dieter Lenzen, president of the Freie Universit�t Berlin, said education began either millions of years ago or at the end of 1770. (The first chair of pedagogy was founded at the end of the 1770s at the University of Halle, Germany.) This quote by Lenzen includes the idea that education as a science cannot be separated from the educational traditions that existed before.
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Basic education today is considered those skills that are necessary to function in society.
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In the West, the origins of education are associated with organized religion: priests and monks realised the importance of promoting positive virtues in the young and founded, maintained, and staffed school systems. In Europe, many of the first universities have Catholic roots. During and following the Age of Enlightenment the association between religion and education became diminished.
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau fuelled an influential early-Romanticism reaction to formalised religion-based education at a time when the concept of childhood had started to develop as a distinct aspect of human development.
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The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's Commission of National Education (Polish: Komisja Edukacji Narodowej) formed in 1773 counts as the first Ministry of Education in the history of mankind.
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Conventional social history narrates how by about the beginning of the 19th century the industrial revolution promoted a demand for masses of disciplined, inter-changeable workers who possessed at least minimal literacy. In these circumstances, the new socially predominant structure, the state, began to mandate and dictate attendance at standardised schools with a state-ordained curriculum. Out of such systems the general and vocational education paths of the 20th century emerged, with increasing economic specialisation demanding increasingly specialised skills from a population which spent correspondingly longer periods in formal education before entering or while engaged in the workforce.
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The origins of education in China are tied up with the Chinese classic texts, rather than organized religion, per se. The early Chinese state depended upon literate, educated officials for operation of the empire, and an imperial examination system was established in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220) for evaluating and selecting officials. This merit-based system gave rise to schools that taught the classics and continued in use for 2,000 years, until the end the Qing Dynasty, and was abolished in 1911 in favour of Western education methods.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Just a little geography bit

Geography is the scientific study of the locational and spatial variation of both physical and human phenomena on Earth. The word derives from the Greek words γη or γεια ("Earth") and γραφειν ("to describe" and "to write,").
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Geographers not only investigate what is where on Earth but also why it is there and not somewhere else. They then find whether these "locations in space" are the result of natural or human causes and what their consequences are for people.
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Geography is much more than its branch cartography, a the study of maps, to which it is often equated and is far more than just the observation of various landforms. As William Hughes put it in an address in 1863:
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"Mere place names are not geography. To know by heart a whole gazeteer full of them would not, in itself, constitute anyone a geographer. Geography has higher aims than this: it seeks to classify phenomena (alike of the natural and of the political world insofar as it treats of the latter) to compare, to generalise, to ascend from effects to causes and in doing so to trace out the great laws of nature and to mark their influence upon man. In a word, geography is a science, a thing not of mere names, but of argument and reason, of cause and effect."
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Physical geography focuses on geography as an Earth science (and is sometimes called Earth System Science). It aims to understand the physical layout of the Earth, its weather and global flora and fauna patterns. Many areas of physical geography make use of geology, particularly in the study of weathering and sediment movement. The geology of other planets is discussed at Geological features of the Solar System.
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Human geography, also known as anthropogeography, is a branch of geography that focuses on the systematic study of patterns and processes that shape human interaction with the environment. It encompasses human, political, cultural, social, and economic aspects. While the major focus of human geography is not the physical landscape of the Earth (see Physical geography) it is hardly possible to discuss human geography without referring to the physical landscape on which human activities are being played out, and environmental geography is emerging as a link between the two.
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During the time of environmental determinism, geography was defined not as the study of spatial relationships, but as the study of how humans and the natural environment interact. Though environmental determinism has died out, there remains a strong tradition of geographers addressing the relationships between people and nature. There are two main subfields of socio-environmental geography:
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Cultural ecology grew out of the work of Carl Sauer in geography and a similar school of thought in anthropology. It examined how human societies adapt themselves to the natural environment. Sustainability science has been one important outgrowth of this tradition. Political ecology arose when some geographers used aspects of critical geography to look at relations of power and how they affect people's use of the environment. For example, an influential study by Michael Watts argued that famines in the Sahel are caused by the changes in the region's political and economic system as a result of colonialism and the spread of capitalism.
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Cartography studies the representation of the Earth's surface with abstract symbols (map making). Although other subdisciplines of geography rely on maps for presenting their analyses, the actual making of maps is abstract enough to be regarded separately. Cartography has grown from a collection of drafting techniques into an actual science. Cartographers must learn cognitive psychology and ergonomics to understand which symbols convey information about the Earth most effectively, and behavioral psychology to induce the readers of their maps to act on the information. They must learn geodesy and fairly advanced mathematics to understand how the shape of the Earth affects the distortion of map symbols projected onto a flat surface for viewing. It can be said, without much controversy, that cartography is the seed from which the larger field of Geography grew. Most geographers will cite a childhood fascination with maps as an early sign they would end up in the field.
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Geographic Information Systems deals with the storage of information about the Earth for automatic retrieval by a computer, in an accurate manner appropriate to the information's purpose. In addition to all of the other subdisciplines of geography, GIS specialists must understand computer science and database systems. GIS has so revolutionized the field of cartography that nearly all mapmaking is now done with the assistance of some form of GIS software.
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Geographic quantitative methods deal with numerical methods peculiar to (or at least most commonly found in) geography. In addition to spatial analyses, you are likely to find things like cluster analysis, discriminant analysis, and non-parametric statistical tests in geographic studies.
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In their study geographers use four interrelated approaches:
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Systematic - Groups geographical knowledge into categories that can be explored globally
Regional - Examines systematic relationships between categories for a specific region or location on the planet.
Descriptive - Simply specifies the locations of features and populations.
Analytical - Asks why we find features and populations in a specific geographic area.
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The study of mathematics is extremely rewarding!

Mathematics is the study of quantity, structure, space, and change. Historically, mathematics developed from counting, calculation, measurement, and the study of the shapes and motions of physical objects, through the use of abstraction and deductive reasoning.

Mathematics is also used to refer to the insight gained by mathematicians by doing mathematics, also known as the body of mathematical knowledge. This latter meaning of mathematics includes the mathematics used to do calculations or models and is an indispensable tool in the natural sciences, engineering and economics.
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The word "mathematics" comes from the Greek μάθημα (m�thema) meaning "science, knowledge, or learning" and μαθηματικός (mathematik�s) meaning "fond of learning". It is often abbreviated maths in Commonwealth English and math in American English.
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The evolution of mathematics can be seen to be an ever increasing series of abstractions. The first abstraction was probably that of numbers. The realization that two apples and two oranges do have something in common, namely that they fill the hands of exactly one person, was a breakthrough in human thought. In addition to recognizing how to count concrete objects, prehistoric peoples also recognized how to count abstract quantities, like time -- days, seasons, years. From counting, naturally followed arithmetic (e.g. addition, subtraction, multiplication and division).
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However, mathematics undoubtedly could not have developed out of simple counting and arithmetic without writing and a way of writing numbers. Perhaps prehistoric peoples first expressed quantity by drawing lines in the ground or scratching wood. People of the Inca empire, which lacked any other writing system, represented and stored numerical data using a complex system of knots and rope called khipu.
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Historically, the major disciplines within mathematics arose out of the need to do calculations in commerce, to measure land and to predict astronomical events. These three needs can be roughly related to the broad subdivision of mathematics into the studies of structure, space and change.
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Mathematics arises wherever there are difficult problems that merit careful mental investigation. At first these were found in commerce, land measurement and later astronomy. Nowadays, mathematics derives much inspiration from the natural sciences and it is not uncommon for new mathematics to be pioneered by physicists, although it may need to be recast into more rigorous language. Some notable examples of this happening are Newton inventing calculus and Feynman inventing his Feynman path integral, but it also happens with results from string theory.
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The mathematics arising from this immediately has relevance for the subject which inspired it and can be applied to solve problems in that subject. Mathematics which can be so used is called applied mathematics as opposed to pure mathematics. In this way applied mathematics is an indispensable tool. With the increase in our mathematical knowledge, mathematics itself has become a source of inspiration. Mathematics is inspiring to mathematicians because it has some intrinsic aesthetics or inner beauty, which is hard to explain. Mathematicians value especially simplicity and generality and when these seemingly incompatible properties combine in a piece of mathematics, as in a unifying generalization for several subfields, or in a helpful tool for common calculations, often that piece of mathematics is called beautiful.
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Since the result of mathematics inspired by mathematics is often pure mathematics and thus has no applications outside of mathematics yet, the only value it has is in its aesthetics. Surprisingly often, it has happened that pure mathematics, which was considered only of interest to mathematicians, has become applied mathematics because of some new insight, as if it anticipated later needs.
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