Two new members elected to Universal House of Justice

[BWNS: http://news.bahai.org/story/762]

20 March 2010

HAIFA, Israel — The Universal House of Justice has announced the results of a by-election for two of its nine members.

The new members are Stephen Birkland and Stephen Hall, elected in balloting in which members of national Baha’i governing bodies around the world serve as electors. The voting was done by mail, and results were conveyed today to all Baha’i National Spiritual Assemblies.

The Universal House of Justice is the head of the Baha’i Faith. Its permanent seat is at the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, and all members reside here for the duration of their service.

The regular election of the nine members of the House of Justice occurs every five years at an international convention, held in Haifa. The most recent election was in 2008.

The by-election was necessary to fill two vacancies created when the House of Justice approved the request of two members, Mr. Hooper Dunbar and Dr. Peter Khan, to relinquish their positions owing to their advanced age and the heavy burden of work involved in membership.

A note about Ladan


The Minories, Google Street View

Aware that there has not been much written about Ladan here lately I thought I should just write a note to say that there is not much to write, everything is still much as it was this time last year, we are still in The Minories nursing home in Jesmond (“we” is the appropriate term as I am typically here with Ladan between 12-17 hours each day), the home is pictured above from Google Street View, with my car in the foreground. Ladan remains stable and there have been no recent hospital visits, there is no obvious improvement or deterioration of a very significant nature from a neurological perspective.

Hopefully things will change this year, in terms of where we are if nothing else, so God willing there will be something more to write about soon. Meanwhile we ty to make the most of what we have. Below is a picture of Ladan’s bed made to look like a sofa, something I often do to make the room look more homely when Ladan is up in a chair.

Feel free to ask questions if you want to know more detail about anything. Failing that, be assured I have not forgotten that this blog is checked, when there is news I hope to place it here.

As always, I remain grateful for the many prayers I know many of you say for Ladan on a regular basis, it means a lot to me that she is not being forgotten with the time that has passed.

Jamie on the bed/sofa

Finding large files with WinDirStat

Today I realised I was running short of space on one of my drives. With larger disks and online backup services it is not such a common problem as it use to be, but when it happens Windows still doesn’t offer a simple and intuitive way to find the largest files that are causing the problem.  Step in, WinDirStat!

WinDirStat (Windows Directory Statistics)  is a free program that makes finding and removing large files an easy, almost pleasing experience. It displays the contents of your disk as a colourful chart of grouped rectangles that helps you to easily spot where all your space has gone.

WinDirStat in action

WinDirStat (Windows Directory Statistics) cam be downloaded from here.

WinDirStat is, as the name implies, for Windows only, all versions,  it is quite old now so I don’t know if it works on Windows7 (thank you Brian Jacob). WinDirStat is based upon KDirStat which is still available for Linux systems. There is also something similar called GrandPerspective for the Mac.

I have used this software several times in the past and knew I needed it again today, in looking for it I realised it is not referred to in many places so, as much for my own benefit as for yours, I thought I would make it that little bit easier to find by blogging about it here.

Once downloaded, before it can display your disk in its useful coloured box format, WinDirStat  needs to look at your disk to see how much space all the files  are taking up. When you first run the program you are offered the choice between scanning all drives or selecting an individual drive (or even just a folder), if you are only concerned with one drive it will obviously be a lot faster to view only that one.

The next screen you see is  really just telling you that the software is getting the information it requires, the display shows pacman chomping through your folders, but rest assured he is not eating any files.

Once WinDirStat has finished analyzing your hard drive you get to see what I find to be the most useful representation of your hard drive for determining which files and folders are taking up the most space on your system. As shown above, the main window is full of coloured boxes and rectangles, each one representing an individual file on your system, grouped into larger rectangles representing the folders that they are within. As you move your mouse over the colourful graph you see the file names appearing in the status bar at the bottom of the screen. Click on any box and the traditional file manager view at the top of the screen will jump to that file. If you want to see how much space the entire folder that that file sits in is taking up simply click on the folder in the top left file manager and you will see the box representing its disk usage highlighted on the main chart.

Right click on any box or rectangle representing a file in the main window and you get the option to zoom in or out of the picture, giving you more detail on those numerous smaller files on your system.

Right clicking on any file or folder in the top-left file manager view gives you the option to delete it or open an explorer window onto it. When a file is deleted using this menu the image below is automatically updated to accommodate the change.

I hope you find this program as useful as I do!

The Undiscovered Brain (revisited)

Human BrainIt has been a while since I reported and commented on progress in understanding the minimally conscious state. Over recent months some exciting news reports have appeared which I feel it is appropriate to refer to here.

Firstly this article appeared in The Guardian last November about Rom Houben, a man who laid for 23 years, assumed to be in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS), the state of being unaware of everything around you, oblivious to the world, when in fact he was hearing everything. A neurologist at the University of Liège (Dr Steven Laureys) examined him with new scanning technology and found that his brain seemed to be working quite normally. Most of the article continues to talk about an ability to communicate that was also thought to have been found, which it is now thought was a mistake, but a notable point comes toward the end of the write-up. The Guardian article quotes Dr Laureys, who is very experienced in these cases, as saying that of 44 patients he examined who were diagnosed as being in a vegetative state, 18 of them responded to communication. Furthermore, while it is not uncommon for patients with reduced levels of consciousness to have as little as one assessment by a professional which will determine their diagnosis, Steven Laureys said that such patients should be tested ten times, and that such states were like sleep, having varying stages which need to be monitored. This is an observation that I fully support from my experience with Ladan, there are times when Ladan is clearly out of it, there are times where there seems to be some very basic responsiveness to what is happening around her, often including to actual words being said, and then there are much less frequent occasions where for about 30 seconds or so she can interact with her eyes.  There is a clear difference even in Ladan’s appearance when she is in the most responsive state but it would be impossible to make a plan that would ensure  an expert examined her or scanned her during such an infrequent opportunity, even if she was tested ten times that moment would probably not be caught, but such a policy would probably suffice to catch Ladan at a time that she wasn’t at her least responsive. Luckily for Ladan she was found to have a degree of awareness on her second clinical neurological examination, but it could have taken more.   The more accredited professionals do generally maintain that there is no sure test that can prove an individual is not aware of what is happening around them, all the tools that science has can only help to make an educated guess and, more importantly, attempt to discover if somebody is suitable for a programme of rehabilitation. Unfortunately finding  some degree of awareness is not in itself sufficient for finding a rehabilitation method.

In this blog post a few years ago I referred to a study in Cambridge that, in the long term, may offer hope of rehabilitation techniques to the least able of minimally conscious patients, as well as uncover signs of consciousness in patients otherwise held to be in the persistent vegetative state.  I also looked at some of the potential dangers of misdiagnosis of PVS. That posting referred to a study by a team in Cambridge, including Dr Adrian Owen, in which a woman who was thought to be in a persistent vegetative state was asked to imagine playing tennis while she was scanned using a relatively new technique (fMRI) with an MRI scanner. The resulting changes in the  images on the scan were much the same as the changes witnessed in a fully conscious individual carrying out the same request.

At the beginning of February Channel 4 News ran a story about further research into this technique by teams led by both Dr Adrian Owen from Cambridge and Dr Steven Laureys from Liège.  Again taking a patient formerly thought to be in PVS, the same request of  imagining playing tennis was made to the patient but this time it was to be used  by the patient as a tool to indicate yes or no responses to questions.

“It works like this,” Dr Owen said, explaining the idea in this  Sunday Times article back in 2007, “Say you have a patient who responds positively, with proven volition, to the command ‘Imagine you’re playing tennis.’ You can then progress to an easy yes-no response.” […] “To coin a phrase, it’s a no-brainer. If the answer to a question is yes, the patient thinks of playing tennis; if it’s no, the patient doesn’t think of playing tennis.”

Below is a news clip from Channel 4 News adding a little more detail about the successful experiment:

Where this technique is currently going to be most important is where it will make a difference to the long term plans for the patient. Here in North-East England the policy of medical and care staff is – as I understand it – to act on the assumption that even somebody thought to be in PVS may actually be aware and understanding everything around them, obviously there is no extra harm that will come from talking to somebody who can’t hear you, but it is not kind to completely ignore somebody who is fully aware of everything you are saying. Ladan is known to have some awareness and the nursing home she is in would, as a rule, treat her on that assumption even if she had been diagnosed as being completely unaware, but still I get disheartened when occasionally a carer will come into her room and assist with her needs without saying so much as a “hello” to her. I cannot imagine how much the frustration of being unable to communicate would be made worse for an individual diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state if it was acceptable to ignore them as a matter of policy because of their misdiagnosis. But beyond the doctors and carers there are – of course – the families, and a black and white misdiagnosis of PVS may make them even more likely to just stand and stare at a relative who would actually love to hear them talk to them. Dealing with trauma in a family is difficult enough as it is, if a family are informed through a misdiagnosis that their presence cannot possibly be known to their loved one, then the chances of the patient losing the support of their family must be greatly increased. It is important that families are not given assumptions of probability as fact, they have tough decisions to make ad should know the full picture, even if that picture is full of  “probably not“s and “we don’t know“s, rather than definitive statements.

It should be noted that finding the ability to communicate with an individual formerly misdiagnosed as being in PVS is rare, even when some degree of awareness is found it is not usually a guarantee that they fully understand everything that is going on around them. It is possible that somebody who can communicate in a scanner may also not be fully aware of what condition they are in, though they may even falsely believe themselves to be, but what this offers, even at its most basic, is access to more facts upon which assumptions about a brain may be based. At its best it gives a patient a voice, though possibly not a say, in decisions over how they should be treated.

Looking into the future, these discoveries may help to provide rehabilitation techniques to those people in minimally conscious states who cannot react with the outside world in a consistent way. Current rehabilitation techniques need something to hook onto,  a consistent physical response, such as a finger that the patient will almost always move when requested. fMRI is still a relatively rare and very expensive facility, but it offers that ‘something’ to hook onto in patients who have a reaction that shows up in the scanners imaging, and that means that either by using fMRI scanning regularly as part of a rehabilitation programme, or by finding other ways to detect the responses that using fMRI scanning has uncovered, the potential exists for a greater number of individuals who fall into a minimally conscious state to embark upon a programme of rehabilitation.
 
Links:

nineteen days, book release

We are half way through the Baha’i Fast, where Baha’is abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset for 19 days in favour of spiritual nourishment such as meditation or prayer.

For the third year running a group of Baha’i photographers are posting photographs taken at the beginning and end of each fasting day, accompanied with Baha’i quotes and their own thoughts on the website nineteen days.

The site’s authors have also compiled a book to accompany the project, selling as a limited edition run of 250 copies for just US$15.99, it is available from here while stocks last.

 

Omid Djalili interview in The Independent

Below is a link to an interview with Omid Djalili , star of 9th April comedy release “The Infidel” in which he plays a Muslim who discovers he is a Jew by birth.

Omid Djalili is contemplating taking his clothes off. Well, not right now, as we’re sitting in a busy restaurant near his house in leafy East Sheen and that would be extreme behaviour, even by his standards. No, he’s talking about…” [read on:  Omid Djalili: ‘I’m cast as the Arab scumbag’ – Features, Films – The Independent.]


Omid Djalili, who had his own two-series comedy show on BBC1, can currently be seen on British television fronting adverts for moneysupermarket.com, which are reported to have brought the company great success.

Omid Djalili is also among a big line-up of comedians appearing at Channel 4’s Comedy Gala at the O2 in London on March 30th in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital.

How it is heard on YouTube

YouTube have publicly launched a captioning service that was previously only available on educational channels.

The service uses voice recognition to work out what is being said and to place captions at the bottom of the screen. Currently the service is only available in English and the quality of the captions depends on the quality of the audio track but even with high quality audio, beyond getting an idea of what a video may be about, the number of mistakes means that the service probably has more entertainment value than transcription value at the moment.

Captions of YouTube

Uploaders have the option of correcting the captions, which may be used in the future to enhance YouTube’s search capabilities.

Captioning is not yet available on all old videos, where it is available it can be accessed either via a “cc” icon or an upward pointing triangle on the video player tool bar.  Automated captioning in other languages should follow in the near future.

Time

Online clocks with a difference:
All these clocks tick away while the web page is open, depending on your web browser you can usually make  it full-screen by pressing F11.

  • humanclock.com – it isn’t very clear which hand is the big one and which one is the little one in the human analogue clock. Their digital clock consists of a series of user submitted photos which have the current time contained somewhere within them.
  • clock – all the numbers are formed by flexible people
  • industrious clock – previously featured on this blog, this shows a man writing and erasing the numbers of time.

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Soon will your swiftly-passing days be over, and the fame and riches, the comforts, the joys provided by this rubbish-heap, the world, will be gone without a trace... Be ye loving fathers to the orphan, and a refuge to the helpless, and a treasury for the poor, and a cure for the ailing. Be ye the helpers of every victim of oppression, the patrons of the disadvantaged. Think ye at all times of rendering some service to every member of the human race. Pay ye no heed to aversion and rejection, to disdain, hostility, injustice: act ye in the opposite way. Be ye sincerely kind, not in appearance only. Let each one of God’s loved ones centre his attention on this: to be the Lord’s mercy to man; to be the Lord’s grace. Let him do some good to every person whose path he crosseth, and be of some benefit to him. Let him improve the character of each and all, and reorient the minds of men. In this way, the light of divine guidance will shine forth, and the blessings of God will cradle all mankind: for love is light, no matter in what abode it dwelleth; and hate is darkness, no matter where it may make its nest. O friends of God! That the hidden Mystery may stand revealed, and the secret essence of all things may be disclosed, strive ye to banish that darkness for ever and ever. “

(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 3)

 

“The fleeting hours of man’s life on earth pass swiftly by and the little that still remaineth shall come to an end, but that which endureth and lasteth for evermore is the fruit that man reapeth from his servitude at the Divine Threshold. Behold the truth of this saying, how abundant and glorious are the proofs thereof in the world of being!”

(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 233)

personal blogging