Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ukulele Orchestras and Spinet Parts

Have I mentioned the return of live music to our lives?

Years ago, nothing much kept Fred from his collection of guitars, his fascination with high-end speaker design, and exciting evenings spent with Audio Societies of various girths, talents, and overdressed, bitchy audio widows.

Then, the music died.

I don't know exactly why, although I suppose the move to Tête de Hergé and Fred's immersion, literal and figurative, into the cold, murky waters of Marlinspike Hall's moat may have caused the arthritis in his thumbs to flare.

Plus, he has shared some choice adjectives to describe the acoustics of The Manor and the heritage of tin ears that must trouble the Haddock lineage.

Sometime last year, I had the many layers of priceless carpets of silk and wool removed from our private quarters, mostly due to runny eyes and sneezes that always seemed to occur at just the wrong moment, if you get my drift, and I think you do.  We're not sure, so don't spread it around, but we think we may have unearthed a companion piece to the famous Pazyryk Carpet -- Cyrus the Great was truly a carpet hound.  How the Haddocks got their entrepreneurial hands on the weave is something we can only wonder, and any anonymous tips to Bob Woodward certainly did not originate with us.

In lieu of museum quality floor coverings, I consulted with the Sole Home Depot West of the Lone Alp, and had quality fake wood flooring installed.

And the music was reborn, no longer muted, no longer sucked into the ancient fibers of long gone days.  No more breezy sneezes and hooty honking to undermine the beauty of quadrilles, pasodobles, and the odd fandango.

No... Fred brought out his guitar collection, then a ukulele appeared, and, most recently, a spinet piano.   The spinet was a surprise.  I am still surprised everytime I see it and most especially surprised when I run into it, which happens with disturbing frequency.  The dear, polite woman piano tuner who came Tuesday to work on the only impulse buy I've ever known Fred to make... Well, the pools of sorrow in her eyes could only have been a reflection of my own.  She gently told him things about the spinet that he did not hear.  She stayed for tea, and tried again, a warm chesnut cardigan finished with fine ruffles framing the heart shape of her freckled face, a vintage maxi-dress covering her tiny feet.

She sported quite a different expression after tea, as she hauled away the spinet's entire action, after removing all the keys, and reassuring Fred that the task was nigh unto impossible and receiving an enthusiastic nod, with a hearty thumbs up, in return.

The ukulele has been, on the other hand, a veritable hoot.  Though the Wednesday night group still flounders, in large part due to the Merlot which emboldens them, Fred has opened for me a whole new world of ukulele richness and divcrsity.  One of these Wednesday nights, he will wisely replace the Merlot with tequila, and the ukuleles will sing.

You may already know what the ukulele can do but I marvel at performances like these, by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.  Among the "Frequently Asked Questions" listed on their website is this one:

How did the members of the orchestra meet? 
Some say it was at Bobby's Club in Hastings, some that they were all moonlighting BBC radio announcers. The truth is that when two or three ukulele players are gathered together the gravitational force means that other ukulele players start to come into the orbit. Very soon you are awash with pluckers.

I can attest to the veracity of this observation.

Anyway, enjoy these performances and maybe you'll go running through the night, credit card in hand, to acquire your own ukulele, amplified or acoustic, soprano to baritone, koa or mahogany, vintage or new.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

Teenage Dirtbag - The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - BBC Proms

winter solstice

winter solstice on mars, photo credit

Thursday, December 20, 2012

i miss the monks singing lullabies

Jackson Browne's "The Barricades of Heaven"

Uploaded to YouTube by Hanswuerstle88

Running down around the towns along the shore
When I was sixteen and on my own
No, I couldn't tell you what the hell those brakes were for
I was just trying to hear my song

Jimmy found his own sweet sound and won that free guitar
We'd all get in the van and play
Life became the Paradox, the Bear, the Rouge et Noir
And the stretch of road running to L.A.

Pages turning
Pages we were years from learning
Straight into the night our hearts were flung
Better bring your own redemption when you come
To the barricades of Heaven where I'm from

All the world was shining from those hills
The stars above and the lights below
Among those there to test their fortunes and their wills
I lost track of the score long ago

Pages turning
Pages we were years from learning
Straight into the night our hearts were flung
Better bring your own redemption when you come
To the barricades of Heaven where I'm from

Childhood comes for me at night
Voices of my friends
Your face bathing me in light
Hope that never ends

Pages turning
Pages torn and pages burning
Faded pages, open in the sun
Better bring your own redemption when you come
To the barricades of Heaven where I'm from.
Better bring your own redemption when you come
To the barricades of Heaven where I'm from.


Da Pacem by John Muehleisen performed by Vox Reflexa

Uploaded on Apr 12, 2011 by Benjamin Geier
The following is Da Pacem written by John Muehleisen (b. 1955). This performance was part of Vox Reflexa's "Lenten" program performed for the Saint Louis Abbey Church in the Sping of 2011. The vocal ensemble Vox Reflexa meaning "Echo", strives to present at the highest level, contemporary polyphony rooted in western medieval tradition. The ensemble has been heralded as "[a] balanced group of beautiful voices that brought the audience to its feet several times. The concert was a rousing success for all concerned. (Journal and Courier, 2010)" The members of Vox Reflexa are young professionals and alumni of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University who hold advanced degrees from the finest institutions from the USA, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. The ensemble was founded in 2009 by Benjamin L. Geier and is based in Bloomington, Indiana, USA.
Shannon Love, soprano

Da Pacem

Da pacem, Domine, in diebus nostris
Quia non est alius
Qui pugnet pro nobis
Nisi tu Deus noster.

Da Pacem

Give peace, o Lord, in our time
Because there is no one else
Who will fight for us
If not You, our God.

Dona Nobis Pacem
Uploaded to YouTube by backwatermusic·
Finley and Pagdon

Traditional song of peace, used for centuries in the Catholic Church in Latin... 
translation: Give Us Peace. This is a canon commonly sung by vocal choirs.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

CRPS: Spatial Perception (Where are my hand?)

Spatially defined modulation of skin temperature and hand ownership of both hands in patients with unilateral complex regional pain syndrome

  1. Gian Domenico Iannetti4
+Author Affiliations
  1. 1 The Sansom Institute for Health Research, University of South Australia, Adelaide 5000, Australia
  2. 2 Neuroscience Research Australia, Sydney, Australia
  3. 3 Faculty of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan 20126, Italy
  4. 4 Department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
  1. Correspondence to: Lorimer Moseley, Sansom Institute for Health Research, University of South Australia, GPO Box 2471, Adelaide 5001, Australia E-mail:

Received March 21, 2012.
Revision received August 16, 2012.
Accepted September 19, 2012.


Numerous clinical conditions, including complex regional pain syndrome, are characterized by autonomic dysfunctions (e.g. altered thermoregulation, sometimes confined to a single limb), and disrupted cortical representation of the body and the surrounding space. The presence, in patients with complex regional pain syndrome, of a disruption in spatial perception, bodily ownership and thermoregulation led us to hypothesize that impaired spatial perception might result in a spatial-dependent modulation of thermoregulation and bodily ownership over the affected limb. In five experiments involving a total of 23 patients with complex regional pain syndrome of one arm and 10 healthy control subjects, we measured skin temperature of the hand with infrared thermal imaging, before and after experimental periods of either 9 or 10 min each, during which the hand was held on one or the other side of the body midline. Tactile processing was assessed by temporal order judgements of pairs of vibrotactile stimuli, delivered one to each hand. Pain and sense of ownership over the hand were assessed by self-report scales. Across experiments, when kept on its usual side of the body midline, the affected hand was 0.5 ± 0.3°C cooler than the healthy hand (P < 0.02 for all, a common finding in cold-type complex regional pain syndrome), and tactile stimuli delivered to the healthy hand were prioritized over those delivered to the affected hand. Simply crossing both hands over the midline resulted in (i) warming of the affected hand (the affected hand became 0.4 ± 0.3°C warmer than when it was in the uncrossed position; P = 0.01); (ii) cooling of the healthy hand (by 0.3 ± 0.3°C; P = 0.02); and (iii) reversal of the prioritization of tactile processing. When only the affected hand was crossed over the midline, it became warmer (by 0.5 ± 0.3°C; P = 0.01). When only the healthy hand was crossed over the midline, it became cooler (by 0.3 ± 0.3°C; P = 0.01). The temperature change of either hand was positively related to its distance from the body midline (pooled data: r = 0.76, P < 0.001). Crossing the affected hand over the body midline had small but significant effects on both spontaneous pain (which was reduced) and the sense of ownership over the hand (which was increased) (P < 0.04 for both). We conclude that impaired spatial perception modulated temperature of the limbs, tactile processing, spontaneous pain and the sense of ownership over the hands. These results show that complex regional pain syndrome involves more complex neurological dysfunction than has previously been considered.*

*over-used punchline!

Graphic from CRPS UK


Useful adjunct article published in same journal, September 14, 2009, available in entirety (pdf)

Space-based, but not arm-based, shift in tactile
processing in complex regional pain syndrome
and its relationship to cooling of the affected limb

G. Lorimer Moseley [1]

Alberto Gallace [2,3]

and Charles Spence [3]

1 PaiN Group & Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics, University of Oxford, UK and Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute &
School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
2 Department of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca, P.zza dell’Ateneo Nuovo 1, 20126 Milano, Italy
3 Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3UD, UK

Correspondence to: G. Lorimer Moseley,
Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute,
Cnr Easy & Barker Streets,
Randwick, 2031,

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) occurs after stroke, but most cases develop after peripheral trauma and without evidence of brain trauma. However, CRPS is associated with symptoms that appear similar to those observed in patients suffering from hemispatial neglect. Ten participants (four males) with CRPS of one arm performed temporal order judgements
of pairs of vibrotactile stimuli, one delivered to each hand, at one of 10 possible stimulus onset asynchronies, under two conditions: arms held each side of the midline and arms crossed over the midline. Participants released a foot switch to indicate which hand had been stimulated first. The order of conditions was randomized and the foot under which the switch was
positioned was counterbalanced. There were two blocks of 150 trials in each condition. The stimulus onset asynchronicity at which the participants were equally likely to select either hand, the point of subjective simultaneity (PSS), was compared between conditions and between those with left or right-sided symptoms. When arms were not crossed, the participants prioritized stimuli from the unaffected limb over those from the affected limb (mean SD PSS = 25 7.5 ms) and the magnitude of the PSS strongly related to the degree to which the affected hand was cooler than the unaffected hand (r = 0.942, P50.001). When the arms were crossed, the effect was reversed: the participants prioritized stimuli from the affected limb over those from the unaffected limb [PSS = –18 13 ms; main effect of condition F (1, 9) = 98.6, P50.001]. There was no effect of the side of
symptoms. These results show that CRPS is associated with a deficit in tactile processing that is defined by the space in which the affected limb normally resides, not by the affected limb itself, and which relates to the relative cooling of the affected limb. This pattern is consistent with data from those with hemispatial neglect after stroke and raises the possibility that chronic CRPS
involves a type of spatial neglect.

Abbreviations: CRPS = complex regional pain syndrome; JND = just noticeable difference; PSS = point of subjective simultan

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CRPS: Neuropeptide deficient mice

thank you, brave and selfless mice of the research world.

Neuropeptide deficient mice have attenuated nociceptive, vascular, and inflammatory changes in a tibia fracture model of complex regional pain syndrome

Tian-Zhi Guo (

Tzuping Wei (
Xiaoyou Shi (
Wen-Wu Li (
Saiyun Hou (
Liping Wang (
Kazutake Tsujikawa (
Kenner C Rice (
Kejun Cheng (
David J Clark (
Wade S Kingery (

Molecular Pain 2012, 8:85 doi:10.1186/1744-8069-8-85
Published: 28 November 2012

Abstract (provisional)

Distal limb fracture in man can induce a complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) with pain, warmth, edema, and cutaneous inflammation. In the present study substance P (SP, Tac1-/-) and CGRP receptor (RAMP1-/-) deficient mice were used to investigate the contribution of neuropeptide signaling to CRPS-like changes in a tibia fracture mouse model. Wildtype, Tac1-/-, and RAMP1-/- mice underwent tibia fracture and casting for 3 weeks, then the cast was removed and hindpaw mechanical allodynia, unweighting, warmth, and edema were tested over time. Hindpaw skin was collected at 3 weeks post-fracture for immunoassay and femurs were collected for micro-CT analysis.

Wildtype mice developed hindpaw allodynia, unweighting, warmth, and edema at 3 weeks post-fracture, but in the Tac1-/- fracture mice allodynia and unweighting were attenuated and there was no warmth and edema. RAMP1-/- fracture mice had a similar presentation, except there was no reduction in hindpaw edema. Hindpaw skin TNFalpha, IL-1beta, IL-6 and NGF levels were up-regulated in wildtype fracture mice at 3 weeks post-fracture, but in the Tac1-/- and RAMP1-/- fracture mice only IL-6 was increased. The epidermal keratinocytes were the cellular source for these inflammatory mediators. An IL-6 receptor antagonist partially reversed post-fracture pain behaviors in wildtype mice.

In conclusion, both SP and CGRP are critical neuropeptide mediators for the pain behaviors, vascular abnormalities, and up-regulated innate immune responses observed in the fracture hindlimb. We postulate that the residual pain behaviors observed in the Tac1-/- and RAMP1-/- fracture mice are attributable to the increased IL-6 levels observed in the hindpaw skin after fracture.

Some related articles on PubMed:

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