Seismic Night, Holey Night….

December 25, 2011

“You could see the panic on people’s faces. That’s the end of Christmas – it’s so unfair,” Sue Joy, florist  23 Dec 2011 

On the eve of Christmas Eve, just when things seemed to be all calm and all bright, the serious jolting started again.  Not only shepherds  were once again quaking at the sight of the quakes. No seismic Christmas truce here in Christchurch in the demolition  trenches  but lots of new sink holes- and a sinking feeling. 

As I write this, at 8am on Christmas Eve, GeoNet has reported 63 earthquakes around the wider Canterbury region over the last 24 hours.* This ended six months of relative calm for the city and will further set back  recovery as insurance companies re-start their risk raters. 

Christchurch residents hoping Christmas celebrations would be a brighter end to a bleak year are instead dealing with more seismic damage to homes, infrastructure and businesses through shaking damage and liquefaction.

Two large magnitude earthquakes on Friday heralded the new activity – a Richter 5.8 and a 6.0, the latter being the 4th largest magnitude since the seismic season started here in September 2010. 

I was upstairs at home for the first 15-20 seconds roller and was out in the garden for the second shorter, but more feisty shock, talking to our Student Job Search gardener who was just describing how he’s seen our whole house jiggle at the earlier quake when we had an even jigglier encore.

Our post World War II rough hewn rimu house is obviously very elastic and goes with the flow. It probably also helps that it is sitting on a foundation of crusher dust from the old Halswell Quarry across the road which acts like base isolation. The grandfather clock downstairs and the cuckoo clock upstairs kept going through the first but were stopped dead, but ever to go again, by the second. 

Once again we were fortunate but a lot of people, especially on the east side of town, were not with power cuts and liquefaction silting up  parts of the eastern suburbs for the fifth time in 15 months.* Not the Xmas present they were expecting. There appears to have been a Mercalli migration further east. Most of the recent quakes were centred in faults below Pegasus Bay, off the coast of Christchurch, within 8-21 kilometres of the city centre, and many were less than 10km deep. 

Whatever the new physical damage from these earthquakes-and there were scores of minor injuries-  they have further set back the recovery of the city. Retailers who have struggled to survive were dealt a major blow as stores packed with Christmas shoppers were evacuated. Some face being shut on the busiest trading days of Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. 

 Essential tremor 

“Essential tremor” is an involuntary trembling that affects millions of people. In October 2008 Eddie Adcock, 70, a bluegrass maestro whose career was being hampered by a hand tremor was asked to pluck his banjo during brain surgery, so surgeons could pinpoint the right part of the brain to work on. During the procedure surgeons prodded and inserted electrodes into his brain to suppress the nerve cells causing his tremors. When the surgeons found the right part of the brain, the plucky Adcock instantly regained his ability and was able to play at full speed once again*. 

The Canterbury land mass above and below the waterline seems to have developed a chronic case of the sesmic ETs. In this case the geotechnical explorations and explanations can’t by their nature be as precise as Adcock’s half hour. Nor can they give the same instant feedback in any predictive sense, let alone bring about a cure.

For that reason the latest tremors have literally sent shock waves through the psyches of people here who were just starting to relax into the Christmas spirit and contemplate a happier and more stable New Year. For some it was the last straw:
“Had enough now   #52   17 min ago   Thats it. We cant do this any longer, the kids are upset, wife and I cant sleep, the best of the city is gone, we are going too. Sorry to those we are leaving behind to rebuild and tough it out. Family and prospects in Melbourne.*” 

But most, not so badly affected, will stay and hopefully display the spirit and dogged determination needed by new pioneers. Before this latest blitz about half the commercial buildings in the central city have either already been demolished or are about to be, including our former offices. There could well be some new candidates.

This Yuletide in this part of the world it’s just got that much harder to sleep in heavenly peace. But many of us still have a lot to celebrate so best wishes for the festive season, no matter how restive. 

*Blinks
http://www.carols.org.uk/silent_night.htm 
http://www.canterburyquakelive.co.nz/
 http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/6186421/Christchurch-continues-to-rattle
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/6185073/Residents-left-scared-and-emotional
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/6185025/Tremors-will-last-for-some-time-GNS-says 
http://www.stuff.co.nz/oddstuff/675837/Banjo-master-plays-during-brain-surgery 
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/6186421/Rattled-Cantabrians-hope-for-normal-Xmas
 

#Lyall Lukey 24 December 2011
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog

 

 

 

 

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Older Neurons: Hi-Ho Silver Lining

July 11, 2010

“Keeping active can increase your brain power.  Scientists have discovered that the human brain can improve with advancing years, dispelling the common belief that a person’s mental faculties peak in their twenties.”  Steven Swinford and Richard Kerbaj*

Even if some of us are  still not  sure what we’re going to do when we grow up, many of us more mature people are a bit apprehensive about the possible onset of the dreaded Mental Brewer’s Droop in its various manifestations, from minor short-term memory loss to the big A.  (Don’t forget that next week is Alzheimers Awareness and Appeal Week*).   

But it seems that while short-term memory may, in fact, decline with old age, long-term memory in most people remains unaffected and a person’s vocabulary, emotional intelligence and social skills may all get better.

In their recent article Brain Power Peaks In The Silver Set * Swinford and Kerbaj pulled together an interesting synthesis of recent studies which are part of a wider reappraisal of research into intelligence that began several years ago and which “has overturned the notion that intelligence peaks in the late twenties, prompting a long, slow and inevitable decline.”*

Older people are able to retain and hone an effective a range of skills. Until now some in the more mature ranks have been more concerned with dandruff than dentrites, but it appears that expert knowledge is stored in brain cells known as dendritic spines which  seem to be protected against ageing by a metaphorical silver lining.

When it comes to decision making, it also turns out that older people are more likely to be rational than young people because their brains are less susceptible to surges of dopamine, the feelgood hormone that can lead to impulsive reactions and dopey decisions. Despite slower brain speed, older people apparently solve problems more efficiently, drawing on “cognitive templates” of how they resolved similar problems in the past. The key is the process for problem solving not the content of the answer.

We know that top sports people are considered over the hill in their mid-30s but many of the most influential people in politics, business, law, literature and science are in their late fifties and sixties or older. Management gurus W. Edwards Deming and Peter Drucker were both still lecturing in their mid-90s.

Not only changing demographic patterns but also the loss of significant cognitive resources have led to demands for the retirement age to be lifted in some professions in the UK.

 New Zealand no longer has an obligatory retirement age, though age 65, when national superannuation kicks in, has become the target retirement age for many New Zealanders,  but an increasing number are staying on in the work force, not necessarily because they have to but because they want to. However, the older and more experienced often struggle to hold on to their present positions, let alone gain new ones.  

The ageist struggle starts more than two decades earlier for executive aspirants. Over the years there have been different  invisible barriers in respect to senior management jobs. First the class ceiling, which kept out those from the wrong side of the school tracks; then the glass ceiling, which kept out women. Now it’s the crass ceiling which favours the young and brash at the expense of the mature and experienced.  In the light of the findings above, this is waste management.

My view is that “retirement” should be spelt “retyrement” and it  should be about finding new ways of getting traction for one’s distilled experience and knowledge in a society which  is data and information rich but knowledge and wisdom poor.

We’ve heard a lot about Generations X and Y. Let’s now hear it for Generation S-the  65+years old silver set. Those of us in this age bracket are in our element: just as silver is precious, with the highest electrical conductivity of any metal,  the new research demonstrates that  silver-lined neurons are pretty good at conducting the impulses which are the functional units of the nervous system. With the right physical and mental exercise,  neurons can be kept in better nick at later life passages for more people than hitherto thought.

A sad minority have real problems. In 2008 about 40,000 Kiwis, or about 1% of the population, sufferered from dementia.  With demographic changes, this number is predicted to rise by 400% by mid century.

But pre-shroud every cloud  has a silver lining. Synonyms for silver include bright, lustrous, resplendent and sterling.  Most members of Generation S are capable of rendering sterling service if they keep their knowledge and skills polished.

Switched on Neuron

 Let’s go on the attack and claim back the feel good 60s song Hi-Ho Silver Lining back from English football clubs like Everton who, after England’s World Cup performance, deserve a song with a much whiter shade of pale and make it the anthem of a resplendent Silver Generation.

Hi-Ho Silver Lining*  (Scott English / Larry Weiss)
You're everywhere and nowhere, baby,
That's where you're at
Going down the bumpy hillside in your hippie hat
Flying across the country and getting fat
Saying everything is groovy
When your tires are flat     
And it's hi-ho silver lining
Anywhere you go now, baby
I see your sun is shining but I will make a fuss
Though it's obvious
Flies are in your pea soup, baby  
They're waving at me
Anything you want is yours now,
Only nothing's for free
Life's a-gonna get you someday,
Just wait and see
So put up your beach umbrella
While you're watching TV
And it's hi-ho silver lining
Anywhere you go, well, baby
I see your sun is shining but I will make a fuss
Though it's obvious

*BLINKS
Brain power peaks in the silver set Steven Swinford and Richard Kerbaj  Sunday Times  27 June 2010 www.alzheimers.org.nz   For information and to donate
http://themindperspective.files.wordpress.com     Neuron visual etc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DD7KkJopku8  Hi-Ho Silver Lining- first released as a single in March 1967 by The Attack and a few days later by Jeff Beck  Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYPoRFRhVzE&feature=related  -Everton Fans at  Wembley Singing Hi-Ho Silver Lining  Vid
Send “Hi Ho Silver Lining” Ringtone to your Cell

 #Lyall Lukey11 July 2010
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other blog


The ABs in Camera and in the Cake Tin. Will it be a photo finish?

September 20, 2009

“Smithy just wanted to try something and just get a bit of a gauge of trying to see  things I’m seeing as play unfolds.”  All Black Dan Carter   

“In a patterning system, like the human brain system, there is no stronger magic that can be used than the magic of repetition.” Michael Hewitt-Gleeson,  School of Thinking 

This is a blog of two halves. I’m starting it before the All Blacks Wooden Spoon test against Australia in Wellington tonight and finishing it after the game ends. Will the fans be baying for the blood of the All Blacks coaching troika or will the rejigged team do enough to prevent the Rugby Union’s stakeholders adopting trenchant Transylvanian tactics?

 Earlier in the week one of the coaches was in the media spotlight for trying out some new technology. According to a Press story by Richard Knowler, Dan Carter was sporting a  camera on his head gear at training in order to feed images back to a laptop for coach Wayne Smith to get a first five eight’s view as to how he reads the game of rugby. 

Apparently it is now commonpace for players to wear GPS chips on their backs to record how far they’ve travelled during training but this is a  new technological twist.

 [TV shots of the dressing rooms-the All Black huddle tight. Hope the forwards can stay this tight on the paddock, especially at scrum time. Cut to the Wallabies coming out onto the ground wearing track suits, something that ABs don’t seem to do, even in cold weather.]                                                                                                                            

 Of course there are much more sophisticated tools for investigating the central nervous system. What rugby cyborgs really need is to be hooked up to mobile neuroscanning equipment to display, in real time, their neurons firing as the brain literally lights  up to  make cranial topographic mapping possible.

 The key is not just the physical peripheral vision of key playmakers but an understanding of the central role the almond-shaped amygdala plays in determining how players respond unconsciously to emotional situations, which is what all sport is really about. Brain explosions are not something that  conventional video cameras can capture and map, though fans have seen a few of these unaided recently.

 The technology would also give interesting feedback from females as they encounter Dan’s AB abs in underwear ads. (-see Blink*)

 To paraphrase School of Thinking Founder Michael Hewitt-Gleeson: the atoms of the brain are  nerve cells or neurons. Each neuron is our fundamental intellectual unit. It is an information-processing system and the basic product of these units is messaging much more amazing than SMS-more expansive and less expensive.

Neurons are perfectly designed messaging systems. They have two ends: a receiving end and a transmitting end (or an input end and an output end). At the receiving end each of your neurons has a convenient tree-like system of dendrites – input wires – which can receive information from other neurons. is a vast network of about 100 billion neurons and each one of your neurons has up to 50,000 connecting wires (dendrites) with synapses. That’s a lot of brainpower.(-see Blink*)

[Now the Battle of Anthems—one sided as usual: All but one of the Australians sing manfully and actually look young and free as they sing in almost joyful strains. The St Patrick’s College Boys Choir sings  a stunning unadorned rendition of the NZ anthem. Several ABs have actually learnt the Maori first verse. Dan Carter does the best, actually opening his mouth and lifting his head up, but most of the others look like ventriloquists. They do come to life during the haka,  Ka mate!  ringing out so clearly you could just about hear it at Te Rauparaha’s old Kapiti Island base.]

Axons are like ‘telegraph wires’ that transmit electrical signals along their own length. At the end of its wire the axon’s electrical signal is transformed into a chemical output – a neurotransmitter.

A neurotransmitter is a package of chemical information which has an effect on the neuron that receives it in much the same way that a fax or an email is a package of information which has an effect on you when you receive it. The way this chemical package effects the neuron receiving it is by causing a change in its electro-chemical activity.

 To Send or Not To Send, That’s the decision says Hewitt-Gleeson. Indecisiveness lingers at the binary divide.

 [The All Blacks start  decisively, with menacing purpose, the ball in hand, not kicked away…but Dan uncharacteristically misses an early penalty quick from a handy possie.  The Aussies have hardly touched the ball in the first 5 minutes… then kick their first penalty opportunity after 8 minutes-and repeat the dose 3 minutes later, a little against the run of play.]

But despite all its intellectual firepower, the malleable, self-organising brain is still slow to change its perceptions of the world.  When new ideas are presented they are always appeared with pre- existing ideas, which are already embedded in the brain.

 This is why most marketing campaigns take much longer than is commonly thought, to change consumers brand perceptions. It follows that marketing campaigns-and maybe rugby strategies and tactics- should not be changed so often. It takes time to develop a new team mindset. Too much chopping and changing causes neurological confusion.

 [Cory Jane scores a brilliant try-catching his own kick and breaking free of outclutched hand, setting the game on fire but it’s  not enough to evince a reaction from the immobile visaged Steve Hansen, who, if he ever loses his day job, could coach aspiring poker players].

Cambridge-based researchers have provide new evidence that the human brain lives “on the edge of chaos”, at a critical transition point between randomness and order.(-see Blink*)

 [The scrums tonight veer more to chaos although the lineouts are more ordered, a distinct improvement on the non-linear shambles of recent games.]

 It is a natural behaviour of the brain to form patterns. Our perception is more than the receipt and processing of sensory images. Wrong thinking can start with mis-perception.  Changing the way we see our world can radically change our behaviour. 

 A  pattern is something that is repeated more often than randomness or chaos. The architecture of a pattern is repetition. That’s why in a patterning-system like the human brain system, repetition is the most powerful learning strategy you can use.

 That’s also why there is a great deal of repetition in any effective training-on the sports field or in the world of work. The critics of “rote learning” fail to understand that repetition helps to build patterns in our brains so it becomes easier for us to use the licence-free necktop software we each come equipped with.

 As Hewitt-Gleeson says: “In a patterning system, like the human brain system, there is no stronger magic that can be used than the magic of repetition….. You can choose your own repetitions…Ever since you were born advertisers and religions have used repetition to program your brain. So, you may as well use it yourself to embrace the patterns that YOU decide are most useful for your own brain. Take charge!” .(-see Blink*)

 [The All Blacks have definitely taken charge. The fulltime score is 33- 6, with 16 unanswererd points in the second half through some great back tries.   Perhaps they used the new technology to plot the GPS coordinates to find their way to the tryline. I’ll need to watch the highlights package to see the bits I missed by looking at the wrong screen.]

In the end, as you might expect,  the game was more of a triumph of teamwork than technology, with the All Blacks taking the cake at the Cake Tin and ending the  Tri Nations season on a high, with several new players earning their rations of hard tack.  Steve Hansen looks positively rapturous and relieved.

After two losses at home this season the late win doesn’t quite qualify as peaking between World Cups.  King Henry and courtiers needn’t worry about getting the chop. The block has been quietly wheeled way and the axe put into storage. Not that there were any unattached likely coaching pretenders in the wings-unless they go for a neurologist and a real psychologist.

Te Rauparaha composed Ka Mate as a celebration of life over death after his lucky escape from pursuing Ngati Maniapoto and Waikato enemies. He had hidden from them in a food-storage pit, and climbed back into the light to see a hairy friend.  

 The All Blacks, some of them also hairy men, will feel a deserved warm glow as they savour what ended up as a decisive victory when it could have been the pits.

 BLINKS:

 Neurons And Neuro-Transmitters (4:51)   Literally mind-boggling stuff from the Discovery Channel.

 http://www.schoolofthinking.org   Michael Hewitt-Gleeson  School of Thinking  Software for the Brain.

 The human brain is on the edge of chaos  The Cambridge study.

 Dan Carter in his undies   AB’s abs.

  Lyall Lukey 19 September 2009   http://www.lukey.co.nz/