A Number of Hobbies Interrupted

From the, "You know, animals can be pretty smart", files.

Scientists have trained rats to drive tiny cars to collect food
22 October 2019
By Alice Klein

Rats have mastered the art of driving a tiny car, suggesting that their brains are more flexible than we thought. The finding could be used to understand how learning new skills relieves stress and how neurological and psychiatric conditions affect mental capabilities.

We know that rodents can learn to recognise objects, press bars and find their way around mazes. These tests are often used to study how brain conditions affect cognitive function, but they only capture a narrow window of animal cognition, says Kelly Lambert at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

Lambert and her colleagues wondered if rats could learn the more sophisticated task of operating a moving vehicle.


Learning to drive seemed to relax the rats. The researchers assessed this by measuring levels of two hormones: corticosterone, a marker of stress, and dehydroepiandrosterone, which counteracts stress. The ratio of dehydroepiandrosterone to corticosterone in the rats’ faeces increased over the course of their driving training.

This finding echoes Lambert’s previous work showing that rats become less stressed after they master difficult tasks like digging up buried food. They may get the same kind of satisfaction as we get when we perfect a new skill, she says. “In humans, we call this self-efficacy or agency.”

In support of this idea, the team found that rats that drove themselves had higher dehydroepiandrosterone levels and were less stressed than rats that were driven around as passengers in remote-controlled cars.

The ability of rats to drive these cars demonstrates the “neuroplasticity” of their brains, says Lambert. This refers to their ability to respond flexibly to novel challenges. “I do believe that rats are smarter than most people perceive them to be, and that most animals are smarter in unique ways than we think,” she says.

That bit is quite interesting,
"... showing that rats become less stressed after they master difficult tasks like digging up buried food. They may get the same kind of satisfaction as we get when we perfect a new skill, she says."

Hmm, I wonder if that transfers to humans riding in self driving cars?
"... the team found that rats that drove themselves had higher dehydroepiandrosterone levels and were less stressed than rats that were driven around as passengers in remote-controlled cars."
Am unsure what exactly made the change, but late last night I went from from having a fibromyalgia flare to being able to do a bit of midnight boxcar building on a 1950s, 1960s, HO scale kit a friend gave me some time ago.

It is of a rather different size than the little G scale locomotive, and of course, a G scale boxcar.

As to what made the improvement in my body, I don't know.

Unless it was the eggnog flavor Walmart brand ice cream I got a couple days ago.
I had some of that yesterday evening.
Comfort food.
Yes, I know, I'm lactose intolerant.
But it sounded sooooooo gooooooood.
And I've not had ice cream for aaaaaaages!
Indeed it is good.
And quite nutmeggy too.

(who knows, it really could have been the ice cream, there have been a few not exactly expected, even apparently irrational, causes and effects in my life and health, sprinkled in amongst the perfectly rational cause and effect relationships)

Oh, and a bit about the real locomotives built by Mack Trucks can be found here, https://www.bigmacktrucks.com/topic/33657-mack-rail-–-the-locomotives/

IMG_904440.jpg IMG_909340.jpg IMG_909540.jpg IMG_909640.jpg
Just came across someone on Tumblr posting link to this
Why the Cochrane review on exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome is still misleading
ME/CFS skeptic 20 oktober 2019 Laat een reactie achterop

On Wednesday, October 2, Cochrane published a long-awaited amendment to its review of exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) [1] following a formal complaint to Cochrane’s Editor in Chief. Unfortunately, the published amendment does not address the main flaws of the review and continues to overestimate the evidence for exercise therapy in CFS.

In this blog post, I will argue that treatment effects found in the review are (1) small and lower than some estimates of the minimal clinically important difference (2) no longer statistically significant at follow-up and (3) contradicted by objective measurements. I will argue that there is currently no plausible mechanism for the effectiveness of exercise therapy in CFS and that the treatment effects found are better explained as bias due to a lack of blinding. Finally, I will explain how patient surveys suggest that some CFS patients deteriorate following exercise therapy.


A major flaw of the Cochrane review is that it did not report on objective outcomes (the sole exception is service use). Given that none of the trials were blinded, one would expect that reviewers focus on objective outcomes as these are less influenced by the hopes and expectations of trial participants. The largest study to date on bias in randomized trials, the BRANDO project, gave the following recommendation:

“Our results suggest that, as far as possible, clinical and policy decisions should not be based on trials in which blinding is not feasible and outcome measures are subjectively assessed. Therefore, trials in which blinding is not feasible should focus as far as possible on objectively measured outcomes, and should aim to blind outcome assessors.” [8]​
Unfortunately, the authors of the Cochrane review did just the opposite: they focused on the subjective outcomes and ignored the objective outcomes. The 8 randomized trials had data on employment [9], disability benefits [10], activity levels [11] and fitness tests [12-13] that were not presented in the Cochrane review. These showed no significant difference between the exercise group and the passive control group. [14]

No plausible mechanism
The lack of improvement on objective measures of fitness is puzzling given that the rationale for exercise therapy was to recondition CFS patients. [15] Nonetheless, the results are clear and consistent: the four trials [12-13, 16-17] that conducted a mediation analysis all found that self-reported improvements in fatigue or physical function are not mediated by objective measures of fitness. In CFS, exercise therapy does not work by increasing physical fitness, which is contrary to the offered treatment rationale. [15] This means that exercise therapy currently lacks a plausible mechanism for improvement.

Seen just now in an autistic blogger's post over on Tumblr, https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/magazine/328/feature/working-our-terms-not-yours
Working on our terms - not yours
Jon Adams explains how a Portsmouth-based project aims to become a national hub of excellence led by and for neurodivergent artists.

In early 2015 I set up Flow Observatorium, a national project initially granted funding from Arts Council England and now a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. The aim was to become a hub for neurodivergent artists, providing peer support and campaigning for recognition, parity of opportunity and funding. We wanted to become a go-to organisation, with expertise tailored from lived experience.
As an artist, I’m not separate from society. In the conversations we have had with other artists, it seems the biggest barrier to engaging with the arts, whether as a creative or an audience member, is mental health. Many autistic creatives suffer from poor mental health due to the way society treats them. This is something Flow hopes to illuminate and change with the help of universities researching autism and mental health.
Neurodivergent cultures, I feel, need space and respect to evolve, experiment and grow. It’s not that we wish to silo ourselves, but historically, outsiders have hijacked narratives and spoken for us.
As an autistic person, I’ve often been hurt by people’s good intentions and imposition of what they believe they would want if they were in my position. This is a fundamental problem we need to change: a non-neurodivergent person cannot see the world as a neurodivergent person does.
Well, it was more progress than it would have been had it been less progress than it was.

Even though it is a grey rainy afternoon I made progress today :)
10 minutes of progress.

And I'm a happy camper.

Sunny morning today and I made it out to creative writers group weekly meeting.
A few dollars spent later at hardware store for machine screws, hex nuts, eye screws, and a Dr Pepper for some more caffeine, got some of what was needed to make at least some progress on this locomotive and some ore tipper train cars for it.
That's a thing about the large scale, garden scale, trains, parts come from the hardware store as much as the hobby shop.

The machine screws and nuts will go through what was the headlight holes on cab ends and will hold bracket, yet to be made, for air horn.
The eye screws are more for appearance than function & will be used for attaching safety chains used on some railroad cars through the centuries. (Yes - railways are about 200 years old now!) :wide-eyed:
The chain comes from beading and jewelry supplies.

The guy is a resin casting and I bought and painted him several years ago.
If he was standing he would be about 3.25 inches, 80mm, tall.

Milwaukee Road logo on his hat is a decal for N-scale trains, no way I was going to even attempt to hand paint that when a decal would do the job in the twenty seconds it took to place it!
Textured fleece on his collar is made from white acrylic paint sprinkled when wet with snow flocking scenery material.
I want to try to make like he is holding a pair of leather work gloves in hand on thigh.
Not sure yet what to make gloves out of, well, at least the ends extending past where they were scrunched up in his hand. Paper?

Second photo shows what the ore tipper cars look like. Am slowly collecting a train of 18 of them.
They come as simple kits, here's the manufacturer's page, http://www.h-l-w.com/mini-ore-cars.html

The likelihood that I'll ever have my own garden railway, outdoor model railway, to run them on keeps looking slimmer and slimmer, but I'm not yet ready to abandon all hope.
Abandon some hope, yes, I've already done that.
Abandon all hope, I'm not yet ready to do that.

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The subject of creative writing from a select assortment of words arose earlier tonight as a bit of a tangential topic in a thread about using last two letters of the previous word to form a new word.

The local creative writing group I'm in meets Saturdays and we usually do a 15 to 20 minute timed writing exercise to some manner of prompt.
Prompts can be concepts, questions, words, groups of words, phrases, and so forth.

Varying levels of adherence apply; sometimes a sentence must be used as is, some nouns and verb tenses have to be used as is or can change singular/plural and/or verb tense.

Here's one of mine from earlier this year.
As best I can remember the prompt was to use one entry, or two, from each of 4 or 5 short lists.
The ones I chose and used were; red, flower stenciled chair, corrugated metal roofing, back room of an oceanfront bar.
Salvage may or may not have been on a list.
And of course, curveball!

Okay, here we go:
"Well pup, what are we going to do today?"

Curveball looked up from where he had been snoozing in the old flower stenciled chair. Its overall coat of red paint had long been worn off the seat and parts of the back, the thing must have been at least seventy years old when it had been salvaged from the back room of an oceanfront bar.

His mother had been my long time companion when we salvaged interesting and useful things from the building before it was knocked down to make room for a new amusement center. The garage workshop we were presently seated in was in fact roofed with some of the salvaged corrugated metal roofing.

Curveball got his name from the curveball his now deceased mother threw us: we'd had no idea, zero idea, she was pregnant or when she'd had the chance to get that way. Also unknown without some genetic testing which wasn't really in the budget was what breed he'd inherited his rough red coat from. Well, whatever his ancestry he was clearly a purebred mongrel just like Brandy his golden haired mom.

Back to his name, even at this young age he did in fact excel at predicting where to run to catch curve balls. Also noteworthy was that his run was more like a gallop, low on ballet-level grace but overflowing with enthusiasm.
Ahh, some days ... :headslap::rofl:

Creative writers group meets at Taylor's Bake Shop 10:00 am every Saturday.
Support group for grief and a few other things meets at Taylor's Bake Shop 1:00 pm first and third Wednesdays.

Guess who arrived at 10am the third Wednesday ...

Blame it on the brain fog.


But ...

Didn't want to go back the 2 miles home so went and hung out at our little library.
Found in their book sale to raise money for furniture for new building soon being renovated and moved in to, a collectors edition copyright 1950 of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe.

The paper this thing is printed on ...
Man, they sure don't make 'em like that any more ...

And C&R Grocery had the new issue of Model Railroader magazine.

So, today's dorkiness wasn't a total waste!
I can live with that.

Also went back to bake shop before group and got lunch.
Chicken salad sandwich, soda pop, not the superest bestest dietary choices with this disease, but oh lunch looked and tasted good!

And I can live with that, too.

Hey Y'all;
Excuse me for about an hour while I do some space geeking with this presentation from NASA about their new spacesuits;
https://images.nasa.gov/details-NHQ_2019_1015_Introducing Artemis Generation Spacesuits
Introducing Artemis Generation Spacesuits
Media was invited to NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to get an up-close look at the next generation spacesuits the first woman and next man to explore the Moon will wear as part of the agency’s Artemis program. NASA is preparing to send astronauts to the Moon by 2024 and is moving forward with design and development of the suits astronauts will wear on the lunar surface and other destinations, including Mars. The public event took place on Tuesday, Oct. 15 and featured NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who hosted a demonstration with spacesuit engineers.
And the 54 minute video can even be downloaded with captioning! :)
NASA spacesuits.jpg

If you are in to books, this from the Smithsonian in 1994 is quite good;
About the author:
Lillian Dzmura Kozloski
Ms. Kozloski worked for the Museum in the Space History Department from 1977 through 1995. She began as a secretary and through promotions became a museum specialist with chief duties of caring for the space suit collection.
She researched and produced a book, published by the Smithsonian Press, about the history and development of space suits, and sorted the collection into a preservation, loan and exhibit group. It was her responsibility as well as honor, to care for this collection of icons from the space program.
Oh dear ...... I sure didn't see that coming at Sunday school.

At the beginning of it we do a thing of everybody takes a turn, if desired, for a minute or two to tell about happy happenings, seek support for less than happy happenings, or just generally say hey here's current news from my life.

I let out how I was really truly actually feeling deep inside with the frustrations of getting safe and accurate health care for this stuff and though I have had some good care here and there the whole several decades of disappointment and frustration and a misdiagnosis or two came tumbling out.

And how it is impacting my spiritual life.

And my emotions began to run high.

And then a couple of the men in class did what we men all too often do.
Instead of recognizing the deep frustration and hurt at the root of the thing they started chastising me for having wrong attitudes and wrong feelings and wrong thoughts; I "SHOULD" be feeling this and thinking this because the Bible says ....

You know how autism meltdowns are pretty much guaranteed to happen as a result of an overload of physical sensations, or mental stimulus, or emotions?


Oh yeah.

Very much so.

I guess it was a "fight, freeze, or flight" thing, or a mix of some.
I told them off, got up and left.
Not quite running out the door.

Went home, a whole 2.1 miles away.
Hugged my two feline rescue fellows my then Psychologist gave me a decade ago.
Loitered a bit.
Then sat down on the floor to finish the LEGO Mars research shuttle.
Set has 2 instruction booklets for the shuttle and 1 for the rover and drones.
I had done 1st part of shuttle a day or two previously.
It is now done.
And I want to buy a few parts to modify it a bit.
Still need to do book and parts bag 1 which has the rover and 2 drones.

Then I took a short nap.
Went to Taco Bell for lunch.
Came home and took a longer nap.

And along the way was on and off the internet.
Apparently the LEGO shuttle also has internet access.
LEGO stuff is so cool.
And a great way to zone out and unwind for a bit.

Edit: oh! Almost forgot! When I walked across to Walmart a little bit ago, there as a customer at the Service Desk where I went to get a money order was a gal from Sunday school, who is recently widowed after having been married to a fellow who got a broken neck and became quadriplegic. We visited a bit and she gave me a hug, she gets it, all too well.

This caught my interest this morning,
Meet California’s Nerds of Neon
These photo-taking, model-making obsessives are documenting the state’s vintage signs before they vanish.

by Jody Amable October 4, 2019

... And Raley isn’t interested in doing what everyone else is doing.

His workshop—a spare room in his tan, two-story Fresno home that’s painted yellow and filled with thrift-store finds—attests to this fact. Standing atop a table are several unique acrylic models of commercial signs, most less than 18 inches tall, that you won’t find in Vegas gift shops—signs advertising the Safari Inn, Western Appliance, the Sun N’ Sand Motel, and more.

Raley, an affable, soft-spoken 48-year-old who favors a T-shirt and jeans, has been building these miniature signs for the past two years. He belongs to a loose fraternity of Californians who are obsessed with vintage signage. Sometimes referred to online as #signhunters or #signspotters, these sign geeks congregate around photo-sharing sites like Instagram (and in the earlier days of the Internet, Flickr) and bond over their love of the big, bold, over-the-top signs of the mid-20th century—the glory days of roadside advertising.

But that was then. These days there aren’t many neon beacons beckoning to drivers on California thoroughfares. As the state’s population swells, and its once-funky places gentrify, a small community of signhunters (the sign geeks who visit vintage placards in person) are racing to document the signs they love—taking and sharing photos, rendering skillful sketches, making miniature scale models—before they get knocked down to make way for condos and Walmarts.

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