Sunday, July 26, 2015

Botany blog post on Defining heterogeneity as a second level of variation:

On the 19th of June 2015, Web Ecology published a research paper by B. B. Hanberry titled Defining heterogeneity as a second level of variation. The paper evaluates the use of the word heterogeneity in modern literature for the purpose of scientific research. While currently it appears heterogeneity is generally seen as a superior description to homogeneity in many situations, the paper attempts to initiate a discussion on a few logical fallacies which exist in this methodology. Initially this is addressed on terms of grounds of terminology and from a logical perspective the author draws an important distinction in the actual hierarchy of terminology: that in fact heterogeneity is not, as frequently claimed, an existential quantifier, but actually closer to a universal quantifier. While I did not find it clear that heterogeneity was therefore claimed as a definite universal quantifier, use of challenging the grounds of actual use was quite helpful in discovering what this actually meant: because many botanical papers use heterogeneity synonymously with variability, this can create confusion because in fact variability is only one part of multiple different aspects upon which the inclusive term heterogeneity must touch upon. To illustrate this point, a forest fire is used as an example. While heterogeneity is a spatial measurement, abiotic conditions tend to represent variability within the context of the premises provided in the example, that is variation independent of other variables, with a few exceptions such as soil or water. For conditions to be described as homogenous or heterogenous, it follows, the variability or lack thereof must be accessible across spatial, time, or other physical description (which can be extrapolated through a reduction of a given paradigm, as is done in the article with a forest fire).

Hanberry, B. B. "Defining heterogeneity as a second level of variation." Web Ecology 15.1 (2015): 25-28.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Lead exposure, weight gain, hypertension, and early mortality: case study and review

As increased lead exposure from contaminated marijuana use in the USA and Germany has been confirmed, the potential impacts of severe or light lead exposure are being drawn once again into the public light. The mean adult lead exposure in the USA dropped by 41% from the 1990s to the 2000s from 2.76 μg/dL to 1.64 μg/dL, which has been causally shown to prevent the nearly triple the rate of kidney death and double the rate of peripheral artery disease, which includes cardiovascular death which was present before (Muntner). These low levels of increased lead exposure have been shown to result in a 1.55 increased odds ratio for mortality in all cardio-vascular mortality, after adjusting for all other factors (Menke). This translates into over 7 years of lost life expectancy (Tsai), simply from the cardio-vascular effects of lead toxicity. 
The mean for previous mean lead exposure is now still extant in the higher quartile of adults now that lead exposure has dropped significantly, which makes what was formerly believed to be a safe level of lead exposure very dangerous for those who are still exposed to elevated levels of lead. The expected drop in hypertension from removal of lead from the environment within these boundaries is estimated at 17.5% (Pirkle). Hypertension is a condition which induces an increased hazard ratio of about 1.30 of at least one annual kilogram of weight gain (Stevens), or around 80 kilograms in a lifetime. These weight changes as well as lead exposure have been associated or identified causally with neurological changes, most notably brain lesions (Stewart), which brain imaging and cardiovascular data in this case study have confirmed.
Fortunately for this study and for those who are exposed to lead-infused marijuana or environmental hazards, a study from Veterans affairs has found that increased mortality and negative health effects from lead exposure is only significant with long-term cumulative exposure (Weisskopf). Because the trials were conducted over a period of multiple years, it is likely that there will not be long term or lasting effects once lesions are allowed to heal and with natural expiration of the toxin from the body.
Case study and Results:
Unfortunately, in the case study of a responsible adult marijuana user (5-10 grams at 10% mean THC content per week) in the Northeast of the USA, these sorts of statistical analyses were not useful. In the first run, diastolic blood pressure was over 95 directly after the trial though lead was not initially considered as a factor, with considerations of light alcohol use and high nicotine intake believed to be causally tied to this negative symptom. Re-trial, without regular use of nicotine (substitution of pipe tobacco, with virtually no absorbed nicotine for cigarette tobacco which has between 5 and 13 times the amount of absorbed nicotine) and no use of alcohol, determined lead levels of around 3.5 μg/dL, or levels qualifying as occupational hazard and outside of the range of environmental exposure. With levels taken only one month after the trial had ended and a half-life of lead in the human body of around one month, it can be assumed that these levels at a maximum were at least 7 μg/dL (Barbosa). The increases in blood pressure associated with occupational exposure to lead, which this level still falls into the highest decibel among, are around 10 mm Hg in blood pressure, though due to the young age and good health of the subject and lower expected peak exposure level symptoms may not be as exacerbated as noted in long-term occupational exposure ratios (Glenn).
Physical or cardio-vascular side effects aside, the exposure to lead also has multiple symptoms of neurodegeneration which present themselves and confound earlier attempts to pinpoint neurological effects of THC on the brain, though increased functional connectivity was still noted and remains a confirmed positive effect of marijuana on the brain. The impact of lead on the brain in any amounts on adults or children has been shown to be increased brain lesions and negative on all brain structures as proven using MRI technology (Stewart). This is consistent with the single photon emission computed tomography scan performed which showed increased functional connectivity, but altered blood-flow throughout the brain (Fischer), believed at the time to be the result of specific toxins, though now shown to be an undocumented variable: the environmental toxin lead.

Works Cited:
Barbosa Jr, Fernando, et al. "A critical review of biomarkers used for monitoring human exposure to lead: advantages, limitations, and future needs."Environmental health perspectives (2005): 1669-1674.
Fischer, Paul Andreas. "Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography - Alcohol and Marijuana light use, case study." (2014).
Glenn, Barbara S., et al. "The longitudinal association of lead with blood pressure." Epidemiology 14.1 (2003): 30-36.
Menke, Andy, et al. "Blood lead below 0.48 μmol/L (10 μg/dL) and mortality among US adults." Circulation 114.13 (2006): 1388-1394.
Muntner, Paul, et al. "Continued decline in blood lead levels among adults in the United States: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys."Archives of Internal Medicine 165.18 (2005): 2155-2161.
Pirkle, James L., et al. "The relationship between blood lead levels and blood pressure and its cardiovascular risk implications." American journal of epidemiology 121.2 (1985): 246-258.
Stevens, J., et al. "Associations between weight gain and incident hypertension in a bi-ethnic cohort: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study."International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders: journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity 26.1 (2002): 58-64.
Stewart, W. F., et al. "Past adult lead exposure is linked to neurodegeneration measured by brain MRI." Neurology 66.10 (2006): 1476-1484.
Tsai, Shan P., Robert J. Hardy, and C. P. Wen. "The standardized mortality ratio and life expectancy." American journal of epidemiology 135.7 (1992): 824-831.
Weisskopf, Marc G., et al. "A prospective study of bone lead concentration and death from all causes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer in the Department of Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study." Circulation 120.12 (2009): 1056-1064.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sylvia by AR Gurney Character Bios

Greg is an introverted upwardly mobile older man who rejects success in both life and relationships to pursue personal hobbies or goals without supervision. This reflects negatively on his ability to interact with others, both peers and superiors. He is clearly college educated, yet he missed on some of the more important facets of mandatory socialization both before university and afterwards; this was doubtless lost on children who are now substituted by his obsession with a dog and not his wife, who also displays serious breaks from psychological norms in her hatred of the imposition on their new life as well as her obsession with her own success.
While Greg is pleased with his wife’s success and capabilities, he is also dismally unable to show this or put her before his own neurotic needs. In conversation with others he combines the unfavorable traits of both being a showboat as well as one completely without connection or compliance to the interests and needs of those around him. Fortunately, this creates an insular sort of charm in his behavior: he is unabashed in his pathological behavior and it is clear that he does so without malevolent intent. 
He is able without manipulation or tricks to resolve his conflict with his wife, though he displays a chronic absentmindedness and abstention from consideration of other’s wants or desires, even in the setting of professional counseling. This is compounded to such a level that the counselor advises Greg’s wife to shoot his dog and divorce him for every penny he has. Ultimately the trial and tribulation he introduces the family to proves to have a stabilizing effect and his wife finds her love for him stronger than the transient needs of her career or social circles.

Tom is a classic New York City dog owner. He has a story and a book to read for just about any subject, all of which reflect on his obsession with the canine variety. He comes off as a bit friendly, and makes it clear that his friendship has come at the expense of his own marriage, and he highly expects the same to occur with his social circle.
He is not one who lets another person get a word in. Much time spent conversing with dogs has turned his desire for human socialization off. Yet he still has the incentive to reach out to another dog-lover. He has a certain Ancient Mariner behavior which appears to be the result of severe opposition to his personal choices. By reaching out to Greg with his miserable tales of domestic addiction, he finds himself passing the curse, one he does not himself recognize, on.

Phyllis is a dominant, sarcastic Southerner who has moved to New York City and settled in well. She travels in powerful circles and harbors a powerful addiction to alcohol. She has no love for animals or people who behave like animals, yet her social life has become a bit endemic to boredom for her. She weaves intricacies of humor and occasionally demeaning statements, though it is clear her Southern and well-off upbringing restrain her from making directly rude or mean statements.

She is a member of a secret society which prohibits the use of alcohol, but is still easily triggered into substance use. Her liver is shot and she becomes wasted quickly and on demand; it is probable that she was a light-weight from a young age. Her husband sneaks off to the aquarium and takes baths with his goldfish, her utter abhorrence aside. It cannot be sure if this anecdote is one provided for the purpose of secretly making fun of her college friend’s predicament or is a true cry for help.

Objectivism in Desire: a Reaction to Direction in Acting

Paul Fischer

Objectivism in Desire: a Reaction to Direction in Acting

There is a break in the analysis of acting as the specificity of acting is brought into question. This is an indication of three primary objectives in obtaining “the golden key” or fundamental necessity towards social discovery by a player of the character they must develop or is necessitated in reproducing a specific set of qualities which buy, in capitalistic terminology, belief. A subdivision of the golden key, defined as wants, is created with the addition of the direction of this want to amplification and dependency on external response.
An objective is the system of wants experienced by a character; this is mentioned as a deference to Stanislavski, the famous professor of acting in the middle of the century. Different objectives in a scene are referred to as beats which are influenced in turn by individual characters, their wants. Somehow this reinforces the realism of a scene.
The focus must then move to that of the director from the actor. The director has two roles in rehearsal: persistence and persuasion. Both of these roles play into the director’s own duties, in which the objectives must be effectively painted and then execution elicited from actors or actresses by a variety of means. This is described as a quest.
The quest is predicated on a natural resistance on the behalf of the player towards assumption of a role which must be imposed upon them. Because the “actor tends to postpone choices that would cause him pain” and any departure from his normal stasis in personality is also painful, there must be a recognition that the process is by definition painful. The role of the director in persuasion is thus brought into full view. Rather than indicating or giving a representation of the character assigned, a player must be persuaded to experience the passion and inner life of their character.

Finally, duplicity in methods is tackled. There are lists of emotions, motivations, and experiences which are provided, but these are dismissed as irrelevant. By breaking these lists down to a simple necessity to fully immerse oneself in performance, the desires of the character, the duty of a director or an actor is both exposed as quite simple, and daunting. This single golden key to acting which is described as the character’s wants can be a duty which is frightening in nature.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Within You, Without You: Honest Pursuit of Realistic Acting Techniques

Paul Fischer

Within You, Without You: Honest Pursuit of Realistic Acting Techniques

The aspects of acting necessary to creating a realistic performance are critical to effective communication and life. This can be seen in two primary components of an acting career. These are internal belief and external technique. By taking a subjective approach the actor’s viewpoint is used to direct the consciousness into a “real instrument” that can be used in the real world. Dissection of the methodology will be performed by evaluation of honesty and cognitive dissonance in acting.
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term which at the time of the reading was relatively newly explored by modern psychological scientific experiments. By proving that once a person lied, it became a new reality for them. With time, repeating the innocuous mistruth would indeed prove to be the subject’s reality. It would be curious to see this repeated with modern, cheap, and readily available lie detectors, though some level of accuracy must be assumed from the statistical analysis of volunteer responses. This helps provide a demonstration of the proof: “separate acting from reality, therefore, is to diminish both.”
Yet more is necessary in the construction of such a proof. The glue that holds the pairing of reality and communication together is the function of the audience. The “apparently artificial presence of an audience” is described as perplexing for the paradoxes presented. This demonstrates the importance of honesty in the player; failure to create such a performance strikes them as deceptive. The definition which is critical here is that “interaction-for-an-audience we can simply call a performance.”
By integration of the facets described of acting a certain recipe is prepared in the reading: “success is achieved through study, struggle, preparation, infinite trial and error, training, discipline, experience and work.” The instrument which described acting earlier now manifests itself in acting power, described as an ultimate instrument of communication. While there are no consequences explicitly described for failure to adhere to integration of acting principles, the incentive to realize a characters role for actor and for audience can be described as a grail of sorts.
This works in conjunction with the psychological and scientific basis of what is asserted in the discourse. While the methodology is in necessity of replication with modern scientific means, the logical basis of the theses asserted have been shown to be reproducible and effective in both stage and film when used. For this work to be confounded would require an exceptional redefinition of both success and represent a drastic critique of academic integrity in the decades past. Replicating the research with modern science, however, will doubtless provide a unique and positive fine tuning of results which have already been acquired. What was available and dealt with here represents ability to change trends in audience and personal reaction; imagine being able to manipulate the amplitude of these trends.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Emotion and Acting Theory Response

Paul Andreas Fischer
Intro to Acting

With the domination Hollywood and Broadway on discourse about acting it is easy to forget historic recordings of acting methodology and study have existed for millennia. Even the staple of Shakespeare in high school curricula bras the ancient history of acting. Luckily at Patton High School I was able to perform a soliloquy as Agamemnon, a Greek king. At Burlington High School we read the Odyssey in English class, and this lesson highlights such poetic fusion of bard and actor.
This fusion as an inception or flashpoint at the issue of representation. In the lesson this is identified as typical of Diderot and “Renaissance Idealism”, which present a “strong rebellion against the ‘objective’ rationalism of Enlightenment thinking.” Does this show an evolution or devolution of the actor, the move from representation to playing? To resolve this fundamental question further evaluation of characterization will be necessary.
The characterization incorporates rational control into the methods necessitated for effective acting. This means a total control of the character, beyond simple emotion. From speech to movement, all become integrated into acting as espoused by Stanislavsky, who influenced no nation so greatly as the USA. He was cursed by contradiction, however, and the discovery of physical precision was marred by extensive early emphasis on emotion in acting.
The lesson provides, however, I believe a succinct and clear defense of Stanislavsky. By tracing the development of method acting, or living the life of the characters, from Stanislavsky and later Strasberg in New York to ancient debates over 2,000 years old of the role of emotion in acting, the method is spared from accusations of a break in academic integrity or logical rationale. The perpetrators of this train of thought are quite clearly guilty of a break or at least late communication with their archeological, philosophical, or historical academic departments; the paradox Stanislavsky had spent his career elaborating had already been precisely identified in discourse between Socrates and Ion.
After exposing this duplicity in academic procedures, what is left to be made of the “apparently inexhaustible combat between technique and inspiration in performance theory” is a question of considerable heft. In conclusion the lesson refers to the work of the head and the heart. The extension naturally would be the hands. To quote Metropolis, “the heart is the mediator between the head and the hands.” In sum, the next critical acting components are the social and political implications of the acting. The impact of the actor not just on self and the audience, but upon the society which receives the values and beliefs, sarcasm and earnest of the play.