Monday, March 31, 2008

Semiotics- a note

Semiotics-Cognitive Science
The term, which was spelled semeiotics (Greek: σημειωτικός, semeiotikos, an interpreter of signs), was first used in English by Henry Stubbes (1670, p. 75) in a very precise sense to denote the branch of medical science relating to the interpretation of signs. John Locke used the terms semeiotike and semeiotics in Book 4, Chapter 21 of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Here he explains how science can be divided into three parts:

Semiotics, semiotic studies, or semiology is the study of sign processes (semiosis), or signification and communication, signs and symbols, both individually and grouped into sign systems. It includes the study of how meaning is constructed and understood.

The field was most notably formalized by the Vienna Circle and presented in their International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, in which the authors agreed on breaking out the field, which they called "semiotic", into three branches:

  • Semantics: Relation between signs and the things they refer to, their denotata.
  • Syntactics: Relation of signs to each other in formal structures.
  • Pragmatics: Relation of signs to their impacts on those who use them. (Also known as General Semantics)

This discipline is frequently seen as having important anthropological dimensions. However, some semioticians focus on the logical dimensions of the science. They examine areas belonging also to the natural sciences - such as how organisms make predictions about, and adapt to, their semiotic niche in the world (see semiosis). In general, semiotic theories take signs or sign systems as their object of study: the communication of information in living organisms is covered in biosemiotics or zoosemiosis.

Syntactics is the branch of semiotics that deals with the formal properties of signs and symbols.[1] More precisely, syntactics deals with the "rules that govern how words are combined to form phrases and sentences."[2]

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Brain and Cell Phones: Back to Future and The AVM


Mobile phones"more dangerous than smoking"
Mobile phones are convenient and frequently invaluable, yet exposure to their electromagnetic radiation is invisible. Therefore, any danger this exposure poses may be easily dismissed.
* Exposure is long-term and its effects on the body, particularly its electrical organ, the brain, are compounded by numerous other simultaneous long-term exposures including continuous waves from radio and TV transmitter towers, cordless phone base stations, power lines, and wireless/WiFi computing devices.
* A malignant brain tumour represents a life-ending diagnosis in the vast majority of those diagnosed. There is a significant and increasing body of evidence, to date at least 8 comprehensive clinical studies internationally and one long-term meta-analysis, for a link between mobile phone usage and certain brain tumours.
* Taken together, the data presented below compellingly suggest that the link between mobile phones and brain tumours should no longer be regarded as a myth. Individual and class action lawsuits have been filed in the USA, and at least one has already been successfully prosecuted, regarding the cell phone-brain tumour link.
* The "incubation time" or "latency" (i.e., the time from commencement of regular mobile phone usage to the diagnosis of a malignant solid brain tumour in a susceptible individual) may be in the order of 10-20 years. In the years 2008-2012, we will have reached the appropriate length of follow-up time to begin to definitively observe the impact of this global technology on brain tumour incidence rates.
* There is currently enough evidence and technology available to warrant Industry and Governments alike in taking immediate steps to reduce exposure of consumers to mobile phone-related electromagnetic radiation and to make consumers clearly aware of potential dangers and how to use this technology sensibly and safely.
* It is anticipated that this danger has far broader public health ramifications than asbestos and smoking, and directly concerns all of us, particularly the younger generation, including very young children.
* Scientists and physicians from some academic centres worldwide came together in mid-2007 to propose safer standards regarding public exposure to electromagnetic fields (Click the link for details).

1. What is an arteriovenous malformation (AVM)?

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a site of abnormal connectivity between arteries and veins. It is basically like a tangle of worms, where the greatest concentration of worms in the central portion of the AVM (this part is the "nidus") is made up of abnormal blood vessels that are hybrids between true arteries and veins. AVMs are fed by one or several arteries, and are drained by one or more major draining veins; these feeding and draining vessels may be unusually tortuous (winding like rivers), and unusually large. They can occur in the brain (brain AVMs) or along the spinal cord (spinal AVMs).

The vessels of an AVM are abnormal and so may leak or rupture (hemorrhage; that's the main problem; see 5. below). The blood flow and pressure in especially the larger vessels of an AVM are unusually high and may lead to significant shunting of blood to and from the lesion. Higher flow-pressures in addition to abnormal AVM vessel wall structure can lead to the formation of aneurysms on arteries feeding the AVM (i.e., "parent artery" or "pedicle" aneurysms) or within the AVM itself (i.e., "intranidal" aneurysms). These can also rupture. Somewhere around 6-7% of brain AVMs have aneurysms associated with them, and when AVMs rupture, some think it may be these aneurysms which have ruptured (although the abnormal nonaneurysmal components of the AVM can rupture too). About 75% of the aneurysms associated with AVMs are found on arteries feeding the AVM (pedicle aneurysms), while 25% of aneurysms associated with AVMs are found within the core (nidus) of the AVM (intranidal aneurysms). Interestingly, with good treatment of the AVM, pedicle aneurysms can fade away or disappear entirely.

Brain Arteriovenous Malformation:

Figure 1 shows the the surface of the brain with an AVM originating there. Note the large and tortuous (bendy) feeding arteries (red) and draining veins (blue), which may also be deeper in the substance of the AVM. The nidus of the AVM is deeper, and the AVM usually forms a cone-shaped mass that extends from the (pial/cortical) surface of the brain down towards one of the fluid-filled cavities of the brain (ventricle).

Note that an AVM is not the same thing as a dural arteriovenous fistula (DAVF), even though people and literature sometimes fail to make the distinction between these two very different entities. DAVFs can occur in the brain (intracranial DAVF) or in the spinal canal (spinal DAVF), or at the junction between the skull and spinal column (craniocervical junction DAVF). A DAVF is an abnormal connection between an artery (usually one, but sometimes multiple) and a vein (frequently one big arterialized draining vein, but may be multiple), with the key differences between the two types of entities ("lesions" or "anomalies") being that the DAVF: (i) is intimately associated with the leathery covering (dura) of the brain or spinal cord/spinal nerve root; (ii) has no nidus and therefore pathologically is not made up of a tangle of hybrid vessels (despite possibly having abnormal structure/architecture to some of the vessels of the DAVF); (iii) has a small web of capillaries interposed between the arterial supply and venous drainage sides; and (iv) is (in the brain) frequently associated with a blockage to a major draining venous pathway (i.e., a venous sinus occlusion/stenosis) and therefore (in the brain) is typically an abnormality that is acquired rather than the person being born with it (congenital). Spinal DAVF are thought to be congenital, and not typically associated with neighboring blocked veins. A ruptured DAVF is worth treating early to prevent further neurological impairment from a rehemorrhage.

2. How common is an arteriovenous malformation?

AVMs are relatively rare lesions, much rarer than brain aneurysms. Depending on what you read, the population prevalence of AVMs [i.e., what percentage are present (in 100% of) the population at any one timepoint] is probably somewhere around 0.2% (i.e., 1 in 500 persons), i.e., 5-25 times less than the prevalence of brain aneurysms (which is somewhere between 1-5% by most reports). DAVFs are extremely rare lesions, much rarer than AVMs.

3. Why does an arteriovenous malformation develop?

Unlike brain aneurysms, there are no well established risk factors for AVM formation, growth and rupture. They are regarded as "developmental" or "congenital" vascular anomalies, i.e. you're born with them and they typically increase in size as the brain enlarges. There are rare instances of persons with multiple AVMs (Wyburn-Mason syndrome, which involves multiple central nervous system AVMs, including in the eye's retina) said to be nonhereditary, but probably due to some yet-unknown genetic event).

4. What are the symptoms of an arteriovenous malformation?

Most brain AVMs present with a brain hemorrhage (abrupt onset of severe headache, nausea, vomiting, collapse/loss of consciousness). Note that instant death rate (instant mortality) is believed to be about 10% for first-time hemorrhages from a brain AVM, and this is about the same as the instant mortality rate for first-time brain aneurysm ruptures. Many AVMs present with seizures, and some present with neurological symptoms (some sort of motor (paralysis) or sensory disturbance) due to the mass of the blood vessel tangle causing direct compression of neighboring brain or cranial nerve tissue (mass effect). In rare instances, severe face/head pain (trigeminal neuralgia or some atypical facial pain) can be due to arteriovenous malformations near the trigeminal nerve complex. Some brain AVMs present with a stroke-like event(s) due to "stealing" blood flow from neighboring brain territory. Rarely, an unruptured AVM can present with persistent headaches, with or without nausea and vomiting (i.e., raised intracranial pressure).

Very rarely, in some very young kids, a particular type of vascular malformation known as a "Vein of Galen" malformation (VOGM) (incorrectly termed "Vein of Galen Aneurysm") is due to an arteriovenous fistula (Type I VOGM) or arteriovenous malformation (Type II VOGM) near the deep brain structures (midbrain and/or thalamus), and can present with hemorrhage, seizures, and associated neurological impairment. The Type I VOGM (this a fistula, but it's not a dural arteriovenous fistula) frquently presents in a newborn, with congestive heart failure, hydrocephalus (raised pressure in the brain due to impaired drainage of the brain's cerebrospinal fluid or CSF; "water on the brain") and an enlarged head diameter (macrocephaly due to hydrocephalus).

As mentioned above, some AVMs (about 6%) have one or more aneurysm(s) associated with them, and these aneurysms may rupture, i.e., a brain surface (subarachnoid) hemorrhage or brain tissue (intraparenchymal) hemorrhage. This can lead to the same type of presentation as described elsewhere in this Site ( take me to the Brain Aneurysm section now).

5. More about brain arteriovenous malformation hemorrhage and rehemorrhage.

The peak age for hemorrhage from an AVM is somewhere in the late teens (age 15-20 yrs). There is a 10% instant mortality associated with the first hemorrhage, and up to 30% mortality associated with each rebleed (rehemorrhage). The first hemorrhage has a 30-50% chance of causing some neurological impairment (deficit). The hemorrhage itself is usually within the substance of the brain (intraparenychmal hemorrhage), but also may be subarachnoid (outer or under surfaces of the brain), or within the fluid filled spaces of the brain (intraventricular), or just under the leather covering of the brain (subdural).

Some tendencies regarding hemorrhage are the following (subject to debate): the hemorrhage rate may be higher in the following: (i) kids; (ii) AVMs located in the back portion of the brain (hindbrain, posterior fossa); (iii) smaller AVMs (?higher pressure in these); (iv) pregnancy.

Hemorrhage rates: The average (annual) rate of hemorrhage for a newly diagnosed AVM that has not bled before is somewhere between 2-4% per year. The mean time between diagnosis of an AVM and first hemorrhage is somewhere around 7-8 years, but this obviously varies from person to person. The chance of death with a newly diagnosed AVM is approximately 1% per year, much higher after hemorrhage as mentioned above.

The risk of hemorrhage from the AVM itself after treatment with radiation (e.g., stereotactic radiosurgery such as GammaKnife or LINAC) is not reduced, in fact may be slightly higher than normal AVM hemorrhage rates, till the AVM is completely obliterated by such treatment (which can take 2-3 years).

Rehemorrhage rates: Depending on what you read, the (annual) rehemorrhage rate from an AVM (i.e., the chance of second bleed) is somewhere between 6-18% in the first year following diagnosis. Over the next few years, this rate decreases to somewhere around 3-4% per year. As mentioned above, rehemorrhage carries a very high rate of death and permanent disability.

As described in the Brain Aneurysm section ( take me to the Brain Aneurysm section now), the American Heart Association (AHA) and its Stroke Council coined the term "brain attack" ( take me to the Brain Attack section) to describe the brain equivalent of the common "heart attack". This term is an important one, aimed at increasing community awareness of this important and potentially life-threatening brain condition. The term encompasses the symptoms of a stroke (many of which were mentioned above), although the stroke itself may arise from blood vessel blockage (which is the most common cause), or from the rupture of an arteriovenous malformation blood vessel (or an aneurysm associated with an AVM).

6. What are the complications of an arteriovenous malformation?

For any AVM, the biggest problem or most dangerous consequence (i.e., "complication") is that it may rupture. However, many unrupturd AVMs present with seizures too, and the development of a seizure disorder (epilepsy) can certainly occur after rupture of an AVM. So, seizure disorder is regarded a second major problem associated with AVMs, be they unruptured or ruptured. In fact, the younger the patient at the time of AVM diagnosis, the higher the risk of developing a seizure disorder. Overall, this the seizure risk lies somewhere between 1-2%/yr following diagnosis, but varies according to age and whether or not the AVM has ruptured.

If an AVM (or an aneurysm associated with it) ruptures, the main complications are death and serious disability from the initial rupture itself (see above) or due to events occurring after the initial rupture. Of these events, the most important one is "rebleeding" of the AVM (i.e., it, or an aneurysm associated with it, re-ruptures and bleeds again), resulting in further permanent brain tissue injury (i.e., "infarction"). Occasionally, "cerebral vasospasm" (i.e., where, following hemorrhage, brain arteries go into severe spasm; i.e., they shut down, depriving the nearby brain tissue of oxygen and other nutrients) can occur after AVM hemorrhage (especially if the hemorrhage involves the subarachnoid space; take me to the section on Cerebral Vasospasm now). In persons surviving these complications, other complications may arise. For example, there may be some degree of obstruction (or blockage) of normal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow in the brain (i.e., resulting in high-pressure build up in the brain referred to as "hydrocephalus"). This is caused by the blood clot or blood products clogging up the CSF drainage system following rupture, and it can lead to progressive, permanent brain injury. Also, following AVM rupture, parts of the brain can become electrically irritated, resulting in seizures.

Another complication that can occur after surgery for AVMs is hemorrhage not from the AVM itself (which should have been removed by surgery), but rather from abormal leakiness from the vessels surrounding the recently removed AVM, particlularly if the blood pressure of the patient is running relatively on the high side. This phenomenon is known as Normal Perfusion Pressure Breakthrough (NPPB). The chance of it occurring (approximately 10%) can generally be reduced by tight control of the blood pressure in the few days surrounding surgery (most of these hemorrhages occur within the first week after surgery).

7. How is an arteriovenous malformation detected?

Sadly, many AVMs are detected only after they have ruptured.

The gold-standard for detection of an AVM is cerebral angiography. Here, a contrast dye is first injected through a catheter device inserted usually in a thigh (femoral) artery. From here, the dye eventually enters one or more of the main brain arteries, where it is X-ray imaged. An AVM often appears early during the injection as an abnormal number of expanded and tortuous (windy) vessels. There maybe one or more aneurysms associated with the AVM as mentioned above, and these can appear as sacs or balloons (variable size and number) coming off the parent arteries or within the tight coil of the AVM nidus itself.

Other X-ray based advanced imaging methods for detecting AVMs are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and its associated methods referred to as magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) and magnetic resonance venography (MRV). The advantages of these methods are that they are less invasive than cerebral angiography, in that they do not involve femoral (thigh) artery puncture and insertion and navigation of a long catheter through the arteries. They also provide excellent information regarding where exactly the AVM is located (i.e., which part of the brain, which importance brain functions may be involved, what critical structurs lie nearby, and how best to approach the AVM when considering a treatment option). However, MRI/A/V may not detect the smallest of aneurysms associated with AVMs as well as cerebral angiography can, and (due to problems with magnetic attraction and interference; ferromagnetism) MRI/A/V may not able to be used in certain patients in whom metallic hardware has been placed. Of course, some patients with certain metallic (nonferromagnetic, e.g., titanium) hardware can still be safely and effectively imaged by this method. Check with your physicians first.

Ordinary computer-assisted tomographic (CAT or CT) scanning is another way to detect AVMs. This method is not as sensitive (i.e., can't quite pick up the smallest AVMs or aneurysms associated with them) or as specific (i.e., can't really be sure it's an AVM that's been detected) compared with cerebral angiography. Ultrasound (e.g., Duplex-Doppler) plays no real role in the detection of AVMs in clinical practice. Common X-rays are not used for aneurysm detection, although highly calcified AVMs may show up as curvilinear lesions on a plain skull x-ray (and in neurosurgery resident examinations!).

A combination of CT scanning and angiography (referred to as CT-angiography, CTA; where an intravenous dye is introduced into the patient at the time of CT scanning) is currently gaining popularity as a good alternative for studying AVMs, and may one day replace conventional cerebral angiography (with the obvious advantages that CT-angiography is so much quicker, cheaper, and less invasive compared with conventional angiography). The ability to create high-resolution and color 3-dimensional images with CTA is very useful for surgeons planning to operate these lesions.

At present there is no single blood test that can reliably predict brain AVM formation or rupture by genetic means.

8. How is an arteriovenous malformation treated?

There are three basic ways of treating a brain AVM after it is diagnosed. The bottom line is that each case of AVM should be treated on an individualized basis, taking into consideration the age of the patient, copresence of significant medical conditions, the site (especially the "eloquence" of brain involved by the AVM; see below) and size of the AVM, whether there is a history of previous AVM hemorrhage in that patient, the skill and experience of the treating physician or surgeon, and the type and risk(s) of treatment option most suitable for that AVM and person.

To neurosurgeons, the Spetzler-Martin AVM Grading System is a very intuitive and useful tool for predicting the risks of surgical intervention associated with AVMs. This System gives an AVM score of 1 to 5, with the surgical risks increasing as the score increases. The grading system is based three things: the size of the core (nidus) of the AVM (scores 1, 2 or 3 as the nidus size increases); the "eloquence" (i.e., degree of functional importance) of the brain tissue/region the AVM is found in (scores 0 for noneloquent, or 1 for eloquent brain); and the pattern of venous drainage [i.e., whether the AVM draining veins drain deep in the brain (scores 1) or just superficially - on the brain surface only (scores 0)].

For AVMs, the options are either surgical or nonsurgical. Of the nonsurgical options, the main therapeutic option is a radiation-based intervention (basically, focussed radiotherapy also known as steretactic radiosurgery or SRS). The second nonsurgical option does not strictly cure the AVM, but helps to reduce it's arterial supply, and this option is neuroradiological or "endovascular".

1. Surgery: The goal of surgery is the complete removal (resection) of the AVM in one operation. It can be carried out before rupture of an AVM, and is recommended especially after rupture of an AVM, particlularly if the AVM is more amenable (suitable) to safe and effective surgery (Spetlzer Martin Grades 1-3). It is my (personal) opinion that, whenever possible, surgery should be carried out by an experienced neurosurgeon, especially one with advanced Cerebrovascular Fellowship training. The advantages of surgery are the immediate elimination of the hemorrhage and rehemorrhage risk of an AVM, and improvement in seizure control if the AVM itself is generating the seizures. The basic method is to carry out a bony opening in the skull (craniotomy), followed by meticulous identification, isolation and disconnection of the arterial branches feeding the AVM, followed by meticulous identification, isolation and disconnection of the main veins draining the AVM. This way, the AVM is carefully shelled out in one piece. Postoperative care involves many things of course, but particular attention to tight blood pressure regulation is paramount to avoide secondary hemorrhage from NPPB (see above). In the best hands, surgery for Spetzler-Martin Grades 1-3 AVMs carries a 1-10% chance (respectively) of significant neurological complications.

2. Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS): SRS, either in the form of GammaKnife or Linear Accelerator (Linac), involves delivery of a focused beam of radiation to the nidus of the AVM. It may involve one or a few treatments. It is painless and generally well tolerated by patients. In some patients, it can cause secondary tumors (rare), impairment of brain function (especially important in kids whose brains are more rapidly developing), and delayed swelling (brain edema) or cystic radiation necrosis (not common, but a problem when it occurs). SRS is certainly a good option for treating AVMs when those AVMs are located in very deep regions of the brain (e.g., brainstem, thalamus), or those which are Spetzler-Martin grades 3 or higher. Of course, SRS can be used to treat any AVM, but it is my bias that AVMs that can be safely and readily accessed surgically, should be removed by an appropriately trained neurosurgeon. This is because such lesions are readily curable via surgery, and the AVM-rebleeding risk is immediately eliminated by successful surgery. Note that SRS does not immediately eliminate the AVM-bleeding risk, because it takes on average 2-3 years (following the first radiation treatment) for the AVM to be cured (and not all AVMs are curable with SRS). The rebleeding risk in these first 2-3 years following SRS is possibly lower than the usual rebleeding risk for untreated ruptured AVMs (see above). However, there still remains a significantly higher rate of rebleeding among AVMs treated with SRS compared with AVMs treated surgically.

3. Endovascular Therapy: This generally involves placement of metallic (e.g., titanium) microcoil or "glue" (or a similar composite) in the lumen of arteries feeding the AVM in order to slow the flow of blood in the feeder artery lumen, encouraging AVM feeder arteries to clot off. These therapies can also be used to treat aneurysms associated with the AVM, especially those on parent (feeder) arteries (pedicle aneurysms). Endovascular therapy itself rarely cures an AVM, it is best thought of as a helpful adjunct (supportive measure) for subsequent open surgery or SRS. Endovascular therapy is very helpful in high-flow/high-shunt AVMs, and also in AVMs whose feeder arteries may be difficult to reach surgically (because they are on the deep/underside of the AVM compared with the surgical approach). Endovascular therapy ("pre-operative" or "pre-radiosurgical" embolization) carries its own set of risks, just like any other treatment option. Overall, the risk of death or significant neurological disablilty associated with this option is about 4-5% in total. Disability may be from parent vessel rupture or blockage (by the embolic material - microcoil or glue) or tearing (dissection).

In the ideal circumstance, the decision as to how to best treat an AVM is made in joint consultation between the patient, a neurosurgeon and a neuroradiologist, taking into careful consideration the specific circumstances of the patient and aneurysm.

9. Some radiological images of an arteriovenous malformation (AVM).

The image to the left is a CAT scan image that shows hemorrhage into the brain (arrow heads). The cause of the hemorrhage was not known at the time that this image was obtained. Because of the patient's neurological deterioration, surgery was immediately carried out to remove the blood clot. At the time of surgery, an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) was found. The patient was then taken to the angiogram suite where formal cerebral angiography showed the roadmap representing the AVM (see below). This valuable information was then used by the surgeons to safely and effectively remove (resect) the AVM.
The image to the left is from a cerebral angiogram showing the arteriovenous malformation (AVM) described earlier. The internal carotid artery (ICA) gives rise to the middle cerebral artery (MCA) deep at the base of the brain. This image shows MCA (arterial) branches feeding the AVM, whose nidus is marked by the arrow heads. Note the large draining vein (DV). The two arrows show direction of blood flow to and from the AVM. Owing to the risk of rehemorrhage, this AVM was successfully removed by surgeons.

“El que se sienta totalmente feliz es un cretino”


Umberto Eco es un hombre casi feliz. Un profesor que disfruta de sus alumnos y que ahora, jubilado a los 76 años de sus múltiples ocupaciones académicas, sigue trabajando “aún más que antes”, impartiendo clases doctorales, escribiendo libros (“¡ni media palabra sobre el que hago ahora!”, exclama, poniéndose el dedo sobre los labios), asistiendo a congresos (cuando le vimos, estaba a punto, de ir a uno en el que tenía que hablar de las matemáticas locas, y ahora vendrá a Granada, a principios de abril, al Mapfre Hay Festival), leyendo tebeos (“ahora son demasiado intelectuales”) y riendo como un chiquillo. Serio cuando habla de Italia, cuyas elecciones se le vienen encima con la amenaza cierta de que las gane Berlusconi, y optimista cuando habla de España. “¡Ustedes tienen la suerte de Zapatero!”. Cuando Jordi Socías le pidió que posara con un borsalino, el tipo de sombrero que ha hecho mundialmente conocido a su pueblo, Alessandria, se divirtió como si volviera al patio de su familia, en ese lugar que cada vez está más cerca de su memoria, como si la edad le hiciera recuperar los sabores perdidos de la adolescencia.

A Conversation on Information

Patrick Coppock
February 1995

Umberto Eco is professor of semiotics, philosophy of literature at the University of Bologna in Italy. In addition to his prolific academic publication activity he is a frequent contributor to the popular press. Eco is also a highly successful novelist and essayist on the international arena. Some of his most important academic works are Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, The Role of the Reader, A Theory of Semiotics and Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages. Amongst his collections of essays are Travels in Hyperreality, Misreadings and the recently published The Limits of Interpretation. He has also written two childrens' books.

His two most well-known novels are The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum. The Name of the Rose alone has sold 26 million copies and has been translated to a huge number of foreign languages. Recently he has published a collection of six lectures in literature theory which he gave in 1993 at Harvard university: Six Walks in the Forest of Adventure. His most recent novel, published in 1994, L'Isola del giorno prima (The Island from the day before) is at present being translated into several languages. The English version is to be published this Spring and the Norwegian version will appear later this year.

Eco is also a renowned historian and media critic, and he is lively engaged in the debate on how modern media and computer technology are affecting literary science, culture and society. In 1994 he organized a large international seminar at The International Center for Semiotic and Cognitive Science in San Marino entitled The Future of the Book. A publication with the papers presented at this seminar is expected appear towards the end of this year. International experts on hypertekst and hypermedia such as Jay Bolter, George Landow and Michael Joyce will among the contributors to this publication. In collaboration with the Bologna-based multimedia group Horizons Unlimited, and the Milano publishing company Opera Multimedia he has recently launched a hypermedia history of philosophy on CD-ROM: Encyclomedia.
In this exclusive interview for Multimedia World made in Bologna, mdia iconi Umberto Eco reveals some of his more spontaneous, wash-and-wear thoughts, and some deeper reflections on the Internet, information overload and filtering, hypertext , hypermedia and virtual reality. In the course of the conversation it emerges that Eco is enthusiastic, but at the same time sober and critical to the functionality and value of new technology and media, both in relation to his own field of academic research and his other publishing activities.

Eco interview Semiotics page

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Deus e Brasileiro: A economia vai bem.,apesar de tudo.

Le Brésil espère échapper à la crise financière grâce à des réserves record et à la diversification de l'économie

Face à la crise financière internationale, le Brésil affiche une belle sérénité. Surtout, le pays se juge aujourd'hui capable de résister aux dangers venus d'ailleurs. La 10e économie du monde - entre celle du Canada et celle de la Russie - vit une période faste qui inspire confiance à ses partenaires autant qu'à elle-même. Et sa croissance, robuste et équilibrée, est entrée dans un cercle vertueux.

Le produit intérieur brut (PIB) a progressé de 5,4 % en 2007, contre 3,7 % en 2006. C'est la seconde bonne nouvelle de l'année après l'annonce, fin février, que le Brésil était devenu créditeur. C'est le pays émergent qui a le plus augmenté ses avoirs de change en 2007. Le niveau de ses réserves - désormais supérieures à sa dette extérieure publique et privée - lui assure un confortable coussin de devises qui le protège des secousses du marché.

Le commerce extérieur tire cette croissance. Le marché mondial, avec en tête la Chine, est très demandeur en produits agricoles et matières premières dont le Brésil regorge et qui lui assurent les deux tiers de ses revenus : viande de boeuf, soja, minerai de fer, éthanol, entre autres.

A l'inverse du Venezuela, dont la richesse provient presque exclusivement du pétrole, le Brésil a pu diversifier ses exportations. Il a aussi élargi le cercle de ses clients. Les Etats-Unis n'absorbent que 15 % de ses ventes - seulement un peu plus de 2 % de son PIB. Par comparaison, le Mexique vend 80 % de ses produits à son voisin du Nord. La Chine achète 10 % des exportations du Brésil - soit cinq fois plus qu'il y a deux ans, et plus que l'Argentine voisine.

Sous l'égide de la Banque centrale, agissant de manière autonome et transparente, l'instauration en 1999 d'un taux de change flottant entre la monnaie locale, le real, et le dollar a facilité la maîtrise de l'inflation, réduite à 4,5 % en 2007. Le real a doublé de valeur en cinq ans par rapport au billet vert. Quant à la Bourse de Sao Paulo, elle a décuplé la sienne depuis 2002, avec une hausse de 60 % en 2007.


Le Brésil possède désormais un dynamisme interne basé sur une forte hausse de la demande des ménages et des entreprises. En 1999, les taux d'intérêt avaient atteint un record de 45 %. Ils sont aujourd'hui de 11,25 %, soit 7 % en termes réels. Ce serait encore énorme pour beaucoup de pays, mais pas ici. Cette baisse drastique a fait fleurir le crédit et dopé la consommation (+ 6,5%), dans la construction, l'automobile ou l'informatique.

La confiance du gouvernement dans l'avenir de l'économie va de pair avec une prudence légitime. Car deux dangers se rapprochent. D'abord, la balance des comptes courants a enregistré en 2007 un léger déficit dû à l'écart - du simple au double - entre les exportations et les importations. Pour satisfaire la demande interne, les entreprises ont beaucoup importé à des prix compétitifs, grâce à l'appréciation du real, et moins vendu à l'étranger, où leurs marges sont pénalisées par cette monnaie forte. Brasilia vient de prendre des mesures financières pour relancer les exportations et rendre le pays moins attractif pour les capitaux spéculatifs qui poussent le real à la hausse.

L'inflation est le second danger. Le président Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva la tient pour la pire ennemie des Brésiliens les plus pauvres, dont il dit défendre la cause. Sa maîtrise a contribué à sa réélection en 2006 et lui a permis de redistribuer de la richesse à des millions de familles par l'entremise de programmes sociaux. Le chef de l'Etat préfère la poursuite d'une croissance plus modeste ne portant pas en germe le retour de l'inflation. Cette menace sera contenue tant que la hausse de l'investissement l'emportera sur celle de la demande, ce qui a été le cas en 2007. Mais avec 18 % du PIB, l'investissement reste nettement inférieur à celui de la Chine (40 %) ou de l'Inde (35 %).

Pour rendre sa croissance durable, le Brésil devra s'attaquer à des problèmes de fond dont la solution est autant politique qu'économique. Il lui faudra réduire la dette interne de l'Etat en resserrant les dépenses publiques. Il lui faudra développer ses infrastructures, alléger sa fiscalité et simplifier sa bureaucratie. Bref, diminuer ce que les investisseurs appellent ici "le coût Brésil".

Jean-Pierre Langellier- Le Monde
Article paru dans l'édition du 25.03.08.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bush: Iraq is a death and loss.

I grew up watching my two parents, the only family I had,who were both Holocaust survivors.They were beautiful souls,who after witnessing and suffering what Man is about,were able to continue with the belief in mankind.I was always reminded to see colors and beauty of living and focus my mind away from sadness and death.We endured great hardship.Their spirit never gave up.
My art, though was always in black and white.

Nevertheless, I must remember, that I was not to turn away from observing social injustice, destructive and negative attitude and try to avert, through my art and my standing.
I had a hard time in using colors,despite their stimulus to have a sense of humor and go light.
I was seventeen years old, at the time of my father's death.
Looking at him in the morgue,the silent face,mute and unresponsive,I made a commitment to myself.
From then on, in his memory I will only create images that inspire laughter and influence the mind to see beyond darkness.
So as much as I do not want to record the unjust ongoing massacre of lives,I do react daily to any news of death.I a stop and cringe.
I hurt, I feel paralyzed and a pain that crosses through me,
reacting to the information as the dead would be someone I knew.

Selected writings of Staff Sgt. Juan Campos, 27, who was riding in a Humvee on May 14, 2007, when it hit an IED. Severely burned over 80 percent of his body, he died June 1.

Hey beautiful well we were on blackout again, we lost yet some more soldiers. I cant wait to get out of this place and return to you where i belong. I dont know how much more of this place i can take. i try to be hard and brave for my guys but i dont know how long i can keep that up you know. its like everytime we go out, any little bump or sounds freaks me out. maybe im jus stressin is all. hopefully ill get over it....

you know, you never think that anything is or can happen to you, at first you feel invincible, but then little by little things start to wear on you...

well im sure well be able to save a couple of bucks if you stay with your mom....and at the same time you can help her with some of the bills for the time being. it doesnt bother me. as long as you guys are content is all that matters. I love and miss you guys like crazy. I know i miss both of you too. at times id like to even just spend 1 minute out of this nightmare just to hold and kiss you guys to make it seem a little bit easier. im sure he will like whatever you get him for xmas, and i know that as he gets older he’ll understand how things work. well things here always seem to be......uhm whats the word.....interesting i guess you can say. you never know whats gonna happen and thats the worst part. do me a favor though, when you go to my sisters or moms or wherever you see my family let them know that i love them very much..ok? well i better get going, i have a lot of stuff to do. but hopefully ill get to hear from you pretty soon.*muah* and hugs. tell mijo im proud of him too!

love always,
your other half
Juan Campos, e-mail message to his wife, Dec. 12, 2006.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Jacob,my son gave me a flower

photo by marguerita

Spitzer's ego,meaning ......

Well, Eliot,you could get some nicer ties and sexy underwear for Silda......

Friday, March 21, 2008

Carla Bruni on the attack :Halte à la calomnie !

Désormais l'affaire du faux SMS est close; mon mari vient de retirer sa plainte contre Le Nouvel Observateur après réception de la lettre d'excuses qu'Airy Routier m'a adressée. Qu'on me permette néanmoins quelques observations.

Le texte de la charte signée en avril 2004 entre Claude Perdriel, PDG du Nouvel Observateur, et les représentants de la Société des rédacteurs prévoit que "l'objectif des articles est de présenter les faits aux lecteurs avec la plus grande rigueur et la plus grande honnêteté. Toute information doit être recoupée et vérifiée. La rumeur doit être bannie, la citation anonyme évitée et la source indiquée aussi précisément que possible", et il ajoute : "L'usage du conditionnel de précaution est proscrit sauf exception visée par la direction de la rédaction. Ne sont publiées que des informations dont l'origine est connue. La vie privée des personnes est respectée."

Or tous ces principes ont été bafoués par Airy Routier, pourtant signataire de cette charte, dans l'article qu'il a commis sur le site du Nouvel Obs à propos du SMS présumé que le président aurait adressé à son ex-épouse juste avant notre propre mariage. Voici ce qu'écrivait Airy Routier : "Huit jours avant son mariage, le président de la République a adressé un SMS à son ex-épouse, en forme d'ultimatum : Si tu reviens, lui a-t-il écrit, j'annule tout. Il n'a pas eu de réponse." Qu'on ne s'y trompe pas : l'enjeu, dans cette affaire, n'est pas le respect de la vie privée. Je peux concevoir, puisque l'époque le réclame, que, comme dit Airy Routier, "la vie privée d'un président, élu par les Français, qui a tous les pouvoirs, notamment celui du feu nucléaire, ne relève pas du même ordre que celle d'un quidam". Pourquoi pas ? Le débat est ouvert et le problème n'est pas là.

Le problème n'est pas non plus l'existence elle-même du SMS en question, car si le SMS avait existé, si la rumeur avait été avérée, c'eût été par hasard, au terme d'une vague indiscrétion, d'un "quelqu'un m'a dit", et non d'une investigation rigoureuse… Voilà bien le problème : quand on est indiscret, il faut être sûr de ce qu'on raconte. Ce qui est malhonnête et inquiétant dans cet épisode, c'est qu'à aucun moment l'"information" n'a été vérifiée, recoupée, validée. De son propre aveu, Airy Routier n'avait pas vu (et pour cause !) le SMS, qu'il a pourtant présenté comme un fait.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Snail : The Quintessencial Self

The world is full of human beings who have no confidence, who feel no joy in being who they are. People can spend their entire lives trying to “fix” themselves, to remake themselves in the image of what popular culture dictates as “perfect”. There are billion dollar industries that prey on this mistaken sense of what is “right”, what is “acceptable”. For some people it does not matter how much they own or how much they accomplish. It is never enough; they can never enjoy it because they need to erase that snail.

What more can the snail tell us?

So what do we have? Someone who feels comfortable in her body, someone who has worked hard and can now enjoy the fruits of her labour. Someone who is self sufficient and proud of the person she has become. At the same time, she knows that all things must pass. Life is a never ending cycle of birth, growth, deterioration and death. Knowing this, she can enjoy what she has made, both in the outside world and in her soul. She can enjoy but not be bound by it. She is not afraid of the loss of her power or position because she knows that what she so meticulously built up can be taken away at any moment. And this is okay. She can build again. She is not her possessions.
No true garden is free of insects, dirt and debris. Each and every garden has a snail just as every human has some habit or characteristic that makes them seem less than perfect. The woman in this card is at ease in her body and in her surroundings. She sees the snail in her garden but loves and enjoys what she has made anyway. She knows that perhaps in the eyes of others she is too short or too fat or too poor, but deep inside that star in the middle of the pentacle she is perfect unto herself. She not only accepts the snail in her garden, she welcomes it.

Why do we waste our precious time and resources denying the snail in our garden? Take a close look at the face of the woman in the card. Do you see her serenity? Does she look apologetic for being successful, well dressed, and self sufficient? No. She is happy and confident and at home with herself and with her life.
The world has slowed down to a crawl and we can now take the time to enjoy what we have created, what we have become. Ultimately time moves forward and nothing lasts forever. But in the world of the Nine of Pentacles, the snail reminds us to find peace within our being and to be proud of who we are; warts, snails and all.


Main Entry:
quin·tes·sence Listen to the pronunciation of quintessence
Middle English, from Middle French quinte essence, from Medieval Latin quinta essentia, literally, fifth essence
15th century

1 : the fifth and highest element in ancient and medieval philosophy that permeates all nature and is the substance composing the celestial bodies
2 : the essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form 3 : the most typical example or representative

— quin·tes·sen·tial Listen to the pronunciation of quintessential \ˌkwin-tə-ˈsen(t)-shəl\ adjective
— quin·tes·sen·tial·ly adverb

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Food for Thought : Of Butterflies ,Magnolias and Tears

The common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) is under threat in Germany.,1518,541323,00.html

LE MONDE | 13.03.08 | 16h12 • Mis à jour le 13.03.08 | 16h12

A Paris et dans les villes à l'entour, les magnolias sont en fleur, comme ils le sont sans aucun doute sur les côtes normandes, atlantiques et méditerranéennes depuis plusieurs jours. Ce petit arbre, issu du croisement de plusieurs plantes botaniques originaires de l'hémisphère Nord, des Amériques autant que d'Asie, est devenu presque aussi banal que le lilas. Il s'agit bien sûr du magnolia à feuilles caduques, le Magnolia soulangeana qui est différent du Magnolia grandiflora aux grandes feuilles persistantes, qui est originaire de Louisiane et fleurit l'été.

Notre magnolia printanier n'est pas seul du genre : il en est un autre, beaucoup plus petit, dont les fleurs blanches ou roses sont largement ouvertes, en forme d'étoile quand elles s'ouvrent et un peu échevelées juste avant de faner. On l'appelle Magnolia stellata, ou beaucoup plus grand encore, le Magnolia kobus qui, dit-on, est un arbre qui couvre des forêts en Corée et au Japon.

C'est dire que ces magnolias caducs n'ont pas peur du froid... sauf quand ils fleurissent et c'est bien là le seul défaut qu'on leur trouvera. Pour le reste, ils poussent dans les terres humides, argileuses, comme dans la bonne terre à blé des plaines. Quand ils sont adultes, ils supportent la sécheresse pour peu qu'elle ne soit pas trop persistante, car leur enracinement aussi solide que profond sait trouver l'eau là où elle se trouve. Ils craignent juste l'excès de calcaire conjugué à la sécheresse, mais aucune maladie ne semble les affecter et aucun insecte ne vient abîmer leur feuillage magnifique.
Souvent, leur couleur varie, aussi il est grand temps d'aller en acheter un pour le planter au jardin. Au moins sera-t-on certain de sa couleur, qui va du blanc au violet. Il lui faut un peu de place pour qu'il se développe car il a tendance à adopter une forme arrondie. Cinq mètres sur cinq mètres suffiront au soulangeana tandis que deux sur deux iront au stellata.

The plight of the butterfly
Natural history broadcaster Sir David Attenborough yesterday launched a new £25m conservation project aimed at reversing has been described as the "silent natural disaster" that is threatening butterfly species in the UK.

En Passant : Looking for The Soul Mate

photo by marguerita

Que sera, sera.....

Doris Day
Que Sera Sera

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich
Here's what she said to me.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

When I was young, I fell in love
I asked my sweetheart what lies ahead
Will we have rainbows, day after day
Here's what my sweetheart said.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother, what will I be
Will I be handsome, will I be rich
I tell them tenderly.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Summum Jus,Summa Injuria

Lust, gluttony, greed and the rest of the seven deadly sins gathered in the 6th century will have to get used to a modern companion. A Vatican official has articulated seven new categories of sin “due to the phenomenon of globalization.”

“While sin used to concern mostly the individual, today it has mainly a social resonance,” Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti told L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican City’s local paper. Bloomberg News parsed his remarks into a clip-n-savable list:

1. “Bioethical” violations such as birth control

2. “Morally dubious” experiments such as stem cell research

3. Drug abuse

4. Polluting the environment

5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor

6. Excessive wealth

7. Creating poverty

Saturday, March 8, 2008

German Humor : Man kann Essen,Man Kann Fressen

Germany has a string of cities that take one through the entire digestive tract: Essen (eat), Darmstadt (intestine city), and Pforzheim (which is close enough to the German word for "fart" to make it a punch line). But are you familiar with the weirdest town names in Germany and Europe? more...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Search: Perpetuating the Pilfering vis a vis the Holocaust

The visual style of "The Search" is clear, simple, pastel-colored, in a classic Belgian-Franco comic tradition. "Less is more," Heuvel, the artist, said in a recent telephone conversation, acknowledging that he pilfered liberally from Tintin's inventor, Hergé. "We spent endless hours making sure that the Nazi costumes were kept to a minimum because boys can glorify these things."
On Mon, Mar 3, 2008 at 4:44 AM, Hendrik Berends <> wrote:
Dear Marguerita

Thank you for the presentation of your work. The article from the New York Times was a bit misleading though as REPRODUKT is not the publisher of the comic "The Search", but the Anne Frank-Center here in Berlin. This center is based in the same house where our spokeswoman Jutta Harms is additionally working for an independet gallery. However, similar topics are covered by Elke Steiner at our own publishing program.

"We are always looking for personal stories and artists that have mastered their craft and are able to tell them in a thought-out way. But unfortunately, I have to tell you that your style doesn't match with our current line of publishings and is not what we expect to see about such a serious theme. Especially the very bright coloration deters us from publishing your work."
Maybe this episode is of interest ???????

The Fragebogen


And Yes,the trees in Auschwitz are still green : Apropos:
Thomas Heppener, director of the Anne Frank Center in Berlin, said, "There was also a lot of discussion about color." Black-and-white, he noted, is now a cliché of art and movies about the Holocaust. Color is less melodramatic. "And you know the trees were still green at Auschwitz," he added.

Saturday, March 1, 2008