Thursday, October 25, 2012

National Alzheimer's Project Act NAPAA

If you've watched women's college basketball you have seen the University of Tennessee's legendary coach, Pat Summitt. In 2011 she confirmed she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. She later told news media that her grandmother had suffered the disease.

On January 4, 2011 President Obama signed into law the National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPAA). This legislative action passed unanimously by both Houses of Congress. NAPAA establishes an Advisory Council on Alzheimer's research, care and services.

The Advisory Council will develop a national strategic plan to respond to the Alzheimer's crisis and coordinate Alzheimer's disease efforts across the federal government. NAPA will ensure the coordination and evaluation of all national efforts in Alzheimer's research, clinical care, institutional, and home and community-based programs.

One of the most important components of NAPA is that it allows participation in the evaluation and strategic planning process by specialists outside of the federal government including patient advocates, health care providers, state health departments, Alzheimer's researchers and health associations.


The Alzheimer's Association was the leading voice in urging Congress and the White House to pass the National Alzheimer's Project Act. With a disease that is already impacting so many Americans, the Association recognized the need for a national, coordinated effort that pools the skills of all those working on the problem. The Alzheimer's Association states the need clearly in its literature:

For too many individuals with Alzheimer's and their families, the system has failed them, and today we are unnecessarily losing the battle against this devastating disease. Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent, cure or even slow it's progression.

Making her announcement, Coach Summitt said she had the company of her son, Tyler, during her time at the Mayo Clinic. He explained his mother's feelings after being diagnosed.  "Nobody accepts this," Tyler said. "And there was anger. 'Why me?' was a question she asked more than once. But then, once she came to terms with it, she treated it like every other challenge she ever had and is going to do everything she possibly can to keep her mind right and stay the course."

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Monday, October 22, 2012


Symmetry is not simple. Before beginning your study, you must choose between reflection symmetry, rotational symmetry, translational, rotoreflection, or helical symmetries, point reflection and other involutive isometries. After which you may study nonisometric, scale symmetry and fractals. At which point my eyes are spinning and definitely not symmetrical.

Random lines and shapes have no place in symmetry. Symmetry is not self-similar like fractals but a near mirror reflection.  It is correspondence in size, shape, and relative position of parts on opposite sides of a dividing line. The bell grading curve is an example. Symmetry is a desirable quality in tree pruning, butterflies, slinky toys, drilling augers and kaleidoscopes.

If you look in your bathroom mirror and draw a line down the middle of the reflection of your face, you will witness lack of symmetry however slight. Eyebrows situate at slightly different positions above eyes that fit into sockets at slightly different angles. While your nose is singular as is your nasal base and your nostrils are two, plastic surgeons can point out multiple opportunities for symmetry or lack thereof. As you transition from age six to sixty you will witness further erosion of your facial symmetry, and further evidence that we naturally lack perfection. As if we needed any proof.

All of which I found intriguing but unnecessary to appreciate the symmetry used in kaleidoscopes. A kaleidoscope utilizes reflection symmetry which is a point of intersection of two or more lines. This symmetry does not change or rotate. It is typically made of three rectangular lengthwise mirrors set at a 45-degree angle in a tube. The tube is then filled with bits of colored glass that tumble and display a symmetrical pattern as the tube is rotated. 

Our fascination with a kaleidoscope begins with the material composition of the tube and bits of color tumbling inside.  You can spend a few dollars or hundreds of dollars depending whether the tube is cardboard, wood or brass. The tube shape may vary in length and circumference thus also affecting the pattern and price.  Perfectly intriguing.

If you would like to hang a kaleidoscope image on the wall, check out Dawn La Grave’s website for a unique, artistic mathematical equation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Jackson Pollock knew how to paint realistically. Hollywood had a problem putting realism in motion. How do you show the fire and ice cascading apocalypse around futuristic characters bravely pushing ahead into unknown space, land, under the land, back to Atlantis or wherever futuristic folk must go? Fractals of course.

In 1968 at Boeing Aircraft in Seattle engineers designing experimental planes wanted to picture mountains behind the plane. A computer scientist, Lauren Carpenter took Benoit Mandlebrot’s fractals and built the same shape over and over, endless repetition until mountains and rugged structures took their place providing realistic landscape to show off the airplanes.

 “The history of fractals traces a path from chiefly theoretical studies to modern applications in computer graphics, with several notable people contributing canonical fractal forms along the way.” Wikipedia

George Lucas experienced a challenge. How to create the effect of incoming fire waves, volcanic eruptions threatening Luke Skywalker as he battled a white-encased, faceless enemy? Computer generated fractals supplied the answer and films have never been the same since.

The similarity of pattern colored shades of yellow to red to blue and our mind sees the volcano we never mastered for eighth grade science.  Today Kinect Star Wars game brings you into “iconic settings, characters and action, puts you in the Star Wars you know and love, and lets you unleash your inner Jedi.” All without measuring or rethinking a single dimension. The computer accomplishes the reiteration that has been lying in wait for us.

Here’s my point. Fractals have been in existence for millions of years without our knowledge.  Now we use them in antennae production, art, games, cancer research, map making, computer generation, and philosophy when discussing the idea of chaos. Take a look at to see the Grand Canyon replicated in full fractal color and design.

Human beings did not create fractals, mountains, coastlines, Niagara Falls, geometry, and the list goes on. (Perhaps global warming and freezing in Iceland and Utah's Great Salt Lake could slide in here next to the Rocky Mountains.) Yet the temptation to take dictatorial ownership as if we played a causitive part is overwhelming as we discover what someone else put in motion.  And I believe that someone played around with the tools of his trade for millions of years with great enjoyment and will continue to do so for as long as he chooses.

So what else don’t we know yet?

Monday, October 8, 2012


Jackson Pollock knew how to paint realistic figures and landscapes. He studied with Thomas Hart Benton who taught at the Kansas City Art Institute from 1935 to 1941. Like Picasso who created his own view of the world, Pollock rebelled against Benton’s traditional teaching and created the abstract expressionist movement.

What may look to us as random splatters from a self-indulgent painter takes a different perspective when we study fractals. Pollack’s reward was international fame and having his art compared to zoo productions by elephants and primates.

In reality his work represents nature’s principle of self-similarity, the whole looks like the part, or a fractal. In a fractal pattern each smaller structure replicates the larger form, perhaps not identically but enough that the repetition is visible and mathematically measurable. For example, the branching of a tree repeats from the trunk to the end of the branch. (Strike the tree with lightening and all bets are off.) Or the lacy repetition within a single snowflake. Or the ferns in my garden that are turning a lovely autumn red while exhibiting the self same design.

For years we thought the patterns in nature were outside math. A straight horizon could be measured and quantified. But a coastline or the rocky up-thrusts and crevices of a mountain could not except by measuring a baseline and height, thus forming a right triangle. We then need to butt the right triangle to a right triangle to another and so on. Rather ineffective and frustrating.

Fractals allow us to rethink dimension, reconsider the natural order around us. Is it random? Or is there a logical order we can’t appreciate without reconsidering our basic assumptions?

Researchers discovered that Pollock’s paint flinging and swirls followed patterns, shapes that repeated themselves on different scales. Furthermore, when the researchers experimented with a lawn sprinkler-type set up, the single color of the moment imitated Pollock’s patterns. And the patterns were fractals.

Physicist Richard P. Taylor of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia has taken a mathematical look at Pollock’s work.

“The unique thing about Jackson Pollock was that he abandoned using the brush on canvas and actually dripped the paint. That produced trajectories of paint on the canvas that were like a (two-dimensional) map or fingerprint of his (three-dimensional) motions around the canvas.”

A creator moving around his creation drawing patterns, colors, dimensions only he could see. Interesting thought.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Welcome to our favorite senior care blogger, Alice Kalso. The following was posted on her blog, A Boomer's Guide to Eldercare. Her title question, How Can I Help My Aging Parent Build a Legacy? is appropriate for all of us Boomers while we have the time and energy to consider and choose. You can comment to Alice at
Alice writes:
My short baseball career began--and ended--in second grade. A fly ball smacked me in the face. Specifically in the nose. Years later, though, I found myself editing a book on teaching baseball techniques to children. How did that happen? My husband's elderly uncle decided to build a legacy. And I wanted to help.

Your aging parent is also involved in building legacy, says author David Solie of "How To Say It to Seniors." It's his or her developmental task. "Every day, every hour, whether they mention it or not, the seventy-plus age group is reviewing their lives," Solie says. Consciously and unconsciously, they ponder how and by whom they would like to remembered.

For Uncle Dale, the legacy idea was simple. He wanted to publish a book that would help children master the fundamentals of baseball. He also wanted to honor his own grandchildren's accomplishments in the sport. So he gathered together a team that would help him with the task: sportswriters, baseball players, a graphic artist and more. Like all seniors creating a legacy, Uncle Dale is doing this in his time and in his way. When the product is finished, it will have his indelible stamp on it.

Unfortunately, we adult children can miss the signs when our aging parents are trying to build a legacy. I know. My dad was a minister. After retirement he would "hint" from time to time that parishioners had suggested he publish his sermons. He suffered from Parkinsons and depression, though, and his inner voice was weak enough that we kids didn't get the message. His disparaging comments, "Probably no one will read them," didn't help the project to gather steam. Unfortunately, the sermons never were published.

As I grow older, I'm trying to listen for the sounds of legacy. For example, my friend Don, in his mid 80s, has been writing letters to his grandchildren for years. "I write about what is important in life, and I encourage them to make good decisions," he says. Another friend, Tillman, builds legacy by reviewing slides of his years as a missionary to Zimbabwe, and telling stories of God's work in that land.

When seniors create legacy, they repeat the same stories again and again in great detail, not so much for the facts as the inherent values. Solie urges us as their children to listen, really listen, and help, if we can. Even if we know more about commas than baseball.

Have you picked up on your aging parent's desire to create a legacy? How have you been able to help?