Saturday, August 29, 2015

USOpen Story in NY Times

There is a very cool story in the New York Times about the US Open and the $700 Million dollars a year it brings to the city.  My favorite things in the story are:
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1) This graphic that shows a number of things, particularly the private money raised.  Because my husband did that bond offering.  Good for him!
Granted the US Open doesn't have different cities fighting for it - so it can't play city off city for tax breaks like baseball and football.

and
2) This very cool picture of the roof on the stadium.
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That's a big freakin' roof!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Iceland

Iceland.  I was going to post something about the shootings in Virginia and the crazy ass responses.  But I got mad and madder and finally said, screw it.
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Here is a picture of Iceland from National Geographic.  About it...
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“This [was] taken at the volcanic beach at Stokksnes in southeastern Iceland in February 2015,” writes photographer Sophie Carr. “I used a two-second exposure to capture the water trails as the waves receded over rocks at the edge of the beach, just as the sun was setting behind me, illuminating the mighty Vestrahorn mountain and some peaks in the far distance.”
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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

This is funny - and sad - and true not just about "real news" but me too...

A Simple Cause and Effect Diagram

The past is not a perfect guide to the future.  But just was we should not be slavish to the results, neither should we be oblivious to the past.  It can serve as a warning and a guidepost.
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Fascism, with its gradual accumulation of governmental power, was not as scary as other revolutionary ideas - Nationals Socialism or Communism.  In the beginning of Mussolini's Italy the Fascists gained power originally through elections.  And, in Spain, Franco's early popularity was a direct result of the election of a "too liberal" government and the response by the military.
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We are probably no where near that in the US.  But we can see it from here.  And stocking the fears of ordinary people brings ratings and eyeballs even as it destroys our way of government.
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The Appeal to Anger and Fear

Donald Trump's appeal is being studied.  A lot.
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Not specifically because of or for Donald Trump, but to see what this says about Americans who support him - and how to win those voters over.  And the answer isn't great.
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The good news, the GREAT news, is that the intense Donald Trump supporters - while loud and maybe even strong enough to get him through a few Republican primaries where there are multiple candidates, don't seem to be a majority of even Republican voters.  I say this not because they are bad, or evil, or stupid people, but because they are angry and scared.
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There have been a few studies on Trump supporters.  What they have found is..
I’ve written previously about the Trumpites (or Trumpeteers, if you prefer) and how they’re defined as much by their authoritarianism as their ethno-nationalism. But while those characteristics are certainly present among the people Osnos spoke to for his report, another trait jumps out, too. And it’s one that helps explain why the Republican Party establishment is so out of touch, and so incapable of defeating Trump in a zero-sum battle for influence over the party’s activist base.The trait is a lack of belief. Not in God or country, both of which Trump supporters rather enjoy, but rather in the fundamental legitimacy of American society’s most powerful and entrenched institutions; the government, the banks, the media, the academy, etc. Because aside from one extremely notable exception (which we’ll talk about in a bit), there’s not a single major institution of American political life that these folks wouldn’t like to see Trump conquer — the Republican Party itself very much included.
This is not surprising.  The Republicans since at least Ronald Reagan have over and over stated that "the government is the problem".  Starting with Fox News launch, the TV says the same thing, over and over.
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The exception, noted above, is the Military.  This is why it is great that the fanatical faction is a small part of the population (less than 30% of those following one of the two major parties).
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It is great we keep the military out of politics.  But it is horrible when the Military is the ONLY part of government that is supported.

I Quite Like This

If you are reading this from London (or are planning to visit London in the next month) - this opens tomorrow.  It looks very cool.  I wish I could see it!
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French artist Charles P├ętillon is synonymous with his usage of white balloons, adding them to cars, golf courses and two-story houses for a humorous take on the mundane. Now, he’s installing his largest ballon-filled exhibition to date at London's historic Covent Garden, joining an impressive roster of past artists including Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Banksy. Titled “Heartbeat,” the public artwork will feature a massive 54-meter-long cloud that’s made from 100,000 his signature white balloons, and will pulsate with light, mimicking a beating heart. It will be on display for one month beginning 27 August.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

This is from Homeland Security Monies?!?!

They raided Rentboy.com today and busted it for promoting prostitution.  Which I get.  I mean, it does promote prostitution.
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Now, I don't think gay prostitution, particularly via the Web, is a horrible thing.  It isn't like female prostitution where young women and girls are forced into prostitution.  But it is illegal.
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And, I think they finally got in trouble because they were getting a little too accepted. They had just announced a college tuition scholarship program for those guys who were working to make money for college.
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So I get it, and I am fine with busting them.
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But then I heard on TV that it is Homeland Security funds being used to bust RentBoy.com.  Really?  Homeland Security!  If you are using those funds to bust gay hookers, then you have too much freaking money.

I Think the Sexualization of Rafael Nadal is Just Horrible. Look.

About 10 days ago this ad when up on the bus stop in front of our Condo.  Eddie and I were appalled, simply appalled.
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We didn't know who this was in the beginning.  We tried to figure it out "Real Naked:? 

Then, today, it was displayed as this!
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Distracting, isn't it.
So... if I buy that underwear, do I look like that?

Meanwhile... Back here on Earth(ish)

With The Donald taking up so much oxygen, we haven’t really poked around in the trunk of the clown car lately.  Don’t worry though I am here to let you know there is plenty of crazy to go around for everyone.
Today's Guests Pile Out of The Clown Car
Jeb! (still not Bush!) got stuck in the bizarre and distracting issue of “anchor babies”.  Not the issue of citizenship for children born here, exactly - everyone in the Republican Presidential Derby believes that this is terrible.  Btu they are fighting over the term “anchor babies” and is it offensive?  Jeb! first said he would not use it as it was offensive to Latinos.  Then he said he would use it, but it was primarily a function of “Asian People”.  Yep, he said that. "Asian People" are using anchor babies to get into the country.
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Jeb! did bring out the big guns and had George W Bush stump for him.  George jumped into the fray with all the gusto of cold pizza.  He was sent back to Texas quickly.
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Carley Florin is using here time in the spotlight to say that liberals in California made the drought worse by failing to regulate California’s water supply.  Wait - government regulation, isn’t that against the principals? (Answer - Not when asked if Climate Change effected the drought at all.) 
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Ben Carson has proposed using drone strikes on the border with Mexico (link).  Oookkkaayyyyy.... 
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For no reason that I can understand, Mike Huckabee weighed in on the case in Paraguay where an 10 year old child was raped by her step-father and then forced to bring it to term.  Apparently God’s plan included the rape of a child, and the requirement of an 11 year old child to give birth to her brother.  Pastor Huckabee was against an early termination of the pregnancy here that no one wanted. 
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Of course the list of candidate who have decided that rape and incest are not grounds for termination of pregnancy has grown since we last spoke to include Mark Rubio, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker.
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Speaking of Walker, he is imploding.  His lead in Iowa vanished - he is now in third.  At this point last time Tim Pawlenty had the good grace to bow out when Iowa started to really check out the neighboring governor.  He is trying to pull the spotlight back by demanding that President Obama cancel the visit of the Chinese Leader next month.  Which is really going to happen.
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Speaking of bowing out, Rick Perry looks headed for the exits.  Mr. Magoo couldn’t get traction even when attack the Trumpster.
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With the exit of Rick Perry, there might be an opening in the clown car.  Rupert Murdoch pitched Michael Bloomberg and Bill Kristol (the man that gave you Sarah Palin) pitched Sam Alito - the Supreme Court Justice.  I personally would love to see Sam step down to run.
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Bobby Jindal used the edited Planned Parenthood Tapes (discredited by everyone who has investigated them) to cut all funding to Planned Parenthood in Louisiana.  Even though Planned Parenthood in Louisiana does NOT offer pregnancy termination.  Oh Bobby.
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John Kasich is moving up the polls simply by not being an idiot.  Or at least not speaking like an idiot.  He even said that if he was invited to a friend’s gay wedding, he would go.  Which they prompted a mini-furor as all candidates where quizzed on if their friendship with a gay person would allow them to doge hellfire and lightening bolts to attend a gay wedding.  Trump was the adult in the room here (yes I hate writing that) saying that, duh, it was time to move on from that debate.
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Lindsey Graham, over compensating a little as the huge ass war-monger, said (and you have to quote this because you wouldn’t believe me otherwise, “ The whole world is a battlefield and radical Islam is everywhere,”  it isn’t clear if he actually ran around like chicken little while screeching this or not.
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Trump is yuge.  YUGE!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Star Sightings During the NYC Fringe

So, I have been reviewing different things at the New York Fringe Festival this last week.
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It has been fun, and you can check my reviews out at http://whatsonoffbroadway.com/
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But I have also seen a fair amount of Star Sightings.  the most recent two were laverne Cox and Stanley Tucci.
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Laverne is a tall drink of water.  And very nice to fans who approached her.  I played it cool.  The theater was tiny (53 people) and it was hard to miss her.

On the other hand, Stanley Tucci would have been easy to miss. He was very tan and surprisingly handsome in person.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

So 30 Rock-ness

Ed and I went to a street fair the other day on 6th Ave (Avenue of the Americas).  We ended up walking by one side of Rockefeller Center where there are always cars and it is hard to get a could view of the reliefs.
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Well, I got them this time and wanted to share.
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This is the in the middle of the reliefs on 6th.  Just south of Radio City Music Hall.
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This is the male relief to the right, riding an eagle.

Female on the left, riding a swan.
I'll have to see if I can figure out what they are support to mean later.  I mean, I know the Swan symbolizes fertility and the Eagle justice or strength.  But I don't understand the significance of the center.
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- bleh
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Never mind on the explanation.  I just found the detail on the Rockefeller Center site and it is a boring explanation.
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Pegasus and a woman with a torch symbolizing "Present" is silly.  I prefer to make up my own, thank you.

I Don't Understand the End Game for #BlackLivesMatter

Okay, I am an ally of what I assumed the #BlackLivesMatter movement was.  That is, I agree that there is a systematic and inherent racial bias in our justice system from routine enforcement to jury selection to pre-trail processing to sentencing that must change.
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#BlackLivesMatter explained in a sign
I can argue and site statistics that blacks (actually all people of color, but I am relating to the hashtag here) are harassed and stopped much more than whites.   Through the country and to an even more massive extent in the South, blacks are removed from Jury pools more than Whites.  Blacks are more likely to have bail set than whites and when that bail is set - all other things being equal - bails are much much higher than whites for a similar crime.  And when convictions happen, the rate of jailing for blacks and the sentencing times are off the charts stacked against blacks.
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This is what I thought #BlackLivesMatter was about.  Making the country safe and equal for the people of color who are now treated unfairly - even killed - and no one seems to care.
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But that isn't it.  Like the "Occupy Wall Street" movement before it, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is much more amorphous and leaderless.  The demands, particular on allies, seems incoherent.  There is honest anger, hell - justifiable rage, on the side of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and I get that.  How can I help?  Any and all responses seems to be meet with dismissal of allies as insincere.
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From my experience (which I KNOW is not the same as the experiences of #BlackLivesMatter) let me make an imperfect analogy.  I was at the age of anger and hope (mid-20s) when AIDS started killing thousands and thousands of people - hundreds of them friends and acquaintances.  And we gay men were furious at a system that legally and morally cast us out and treated us differently.  A political system that legally ostracized us and political leaders and religious leaders that called for us to be put away in camps.
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Out of that hypocrisy, movements were grown.  Some were support systems within major cities.  Allies were found with lesbians (and in the old days before LBGTBQ getting lesbians and gay men together was thought almost impossible), within the medical community, and with some politicians.  Act Up, Code Pink and groups like them were, like some #BlackLivesMatter activists, focused on disruption and visibility.
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But we did have an end-game.  We wanted money for research, legal protection as human beings and to lessen hatred against gays.  And we worked towards that.
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I would love to work towards the results #BlackLivesMatter want, but in many many cases their anger is articulated, but not their desired results.  And, as they lash out against allies and potential allies, horrible things still happen in the country.
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I watched Larry Wilmore having a discussion with two of the protesters who spoke with Hillary Clinton.  I watched to try to understand what I could do to help.  I watched it twice.  But there was no call to action or solution.  Only anger and dissatisfaction that allies aren't doing enough now.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

An Amendment to the Constitution is Constitutional - By Definition

As much as I enjoy the Trump sideshow - and I enjoy it a lot.  Sometimes, like when other politicians agree with him, you have to call bullshit.
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hummmm.. What?
This is such a moment.
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Donald Trump (along with Ted Cruz and (depending on the day) Scott Walker) want to deport children of illegal immigrants born in America.  You can't do that.  They are legal Americans.  The country has defined American citizenship. You get American Citizenship when you are born in this country - or become naturalized.  Neither Donald Trump, nor Barak Obama, nor the Tooth Fairy gets to change that.  Unless you change the Constitution.
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You may not like it.  You may think that millions of pregnant women are rushing over the border as soon as their water breaks.  But that doesn't change the truth.  I don't like being 56 - that doesn't make mean I can decide to suddenly be 28.
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And that is because we are a country of immigrants.  Other countries define nationality differently.

-The Turks that Germany brought to work in the 1950s had children.  Those children (in fact, the grandchildren of those original workers!) are Turkish not German, per their laws.
-Japanese brought Korean slaves to Japan in the 1890s.  Five generations later, in Japan, they are upstanding members of the community that speak Japanese and live Japanese.  However, they are not Japanese.  They are Korean citizens.
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America (as in the US of) doesn't define Americans geographically.  We have actually passed a law that says if you are born in this country - regardless of who your parents are, you are an American.  And, if you are the child of an American, you are an American.  See we don't have nationality based on heritage because then only Native Americans would be Native Americans.
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The laws were made so that in America, unlike Britain, which we fled, all Americans were born equal.  (Yes, not women or blacks but you know what I mean.)
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The country even, in fact, enshrined this into law INTO our Constitution with the 14th Amendment.  We did this because some people (cough-Southerners) wanted to say freed slaves were not American citizens - so deport them.  But you aren't allowed to "deport" American citizens.  So the government had to explicitly call out what made an American an American.
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Now, I know Donald Trump is the walking talking id of pissed off old white guys.  But, even the Trumpster doesn't get to make up laws.  Even as President he doesn't get to make up laws that contravene the US Constitution.  He should know better.  And so should Ted Cruz.
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Maybe not Scott Walker, he is a few tacos short of a lunch special.
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You know when that particular law changes?  Not when the Trumpster says so.  There is, in fact, a legal way to change that law.  You get 2/3s of the House of Representatives and 2/3s of the Senate to pass a Constitutional Amendment redefining citizenship some other way.  Then you get 3/4s of the states (in our present case that would be 38 states) to approve it and THEN it becomes the NEW law.
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THEN you can deport all the (newly-born) people you don't like at will.  Of course, not the millions here who are citizens now - regardless of their age or their parents status.
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Why?  Because you cannot retroactively make people illegal.  The Mormons learned that after trying to take away my marriage rights from California.  No matter how much you hate someone or what awful things you try to do to them (I'm still looking at you, Mormons, on this one) - you don't get to declare them retroactively illegal.  Icky - sure.  Illegal - not so much.
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So enjoy the buffoon.  Seriously, he is a crack up.  And the train wreck of Republicans trying to rein the Donald in, while still taking advantage of his schtick is as mesmerizing as watching an Arizona haboob coming.  But remember, in the Donald's case, it is bullshit masquerading as fine cuisine.

The Surprising Intelligence of Octopi and Why That is Important

So, the lowly octopus is quite intelligent.  And. oddly, that is important to science.  And I will explain why.
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Let's say you want to study the evolution of "intelligence".  And we are going to define intelligence as the ability to learn new tasks, identify unique objects, etc.
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Let's say an animal is confronted with food the animal can see, but can't simply reach.  Some birds can use a stick to get at bugs they can't reach.  Dogs and cats can solve a puzzle get at food.  Some apes can build towers or open jars.  Octopi can also open jars and learn.
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In the video below an octopus actually reaches behind it's prey and taps it.  Scaring the poor shrimp into it's mouth!  That's quite clever.  And the octopus remembers it.  And, apparently, UC Berkeley things it is oddly sexy (listen o the 1970s disco-porn music that accompanies the video).

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Here is why an octupus is both different and important on the scheme of things.  And octopus has no vertebra or spine.   It is an invertebrate and therefore has branched off from vertebrates (like humans) very far back in history.
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So, all of our studies on brain activity has been on vertebrates.
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Recently a group of scientists have mapped the genome of the octopus.  They found some interesting things.  First there are two lines that are identified with intelligence that are found in abundance in the octopus and vertebrates (like humans), but are not found in other invertebrates.  I am going to summarize because if you care to know more you should check out the details yourself (like in Christian Science Monitor or Nature).
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The first is a genome system that allows tissues to rapidly modify proteins to change their function.  This allows "learning".  It is found in Octopi, but not other invertebrates - and also found in vertebrates.
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Then there are the "protocadherins" which manage creation and develop of neurons.  This is important because neurons can tell the difference between each other, which allows (say) your fingers to work.  We humans know from neurons where our arm ends and our fingers start because we can tell the difference between the two.  This may seem obvious, but it isn't.  Use an example of yourself.  Have someone watch you from behind and try to twitch only the left side of your lower back only.
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Anyway, octopi have something like half a billion of these neurons - which is twice as many as say a mouse.  But they are spread out a lot more than in vertebrates.  For us, the vast vast majority or our neurons are in our brain, followed closely by the spinal cord.  Messages are sent via the spinal cord to our brain (see video below).
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But the octopus doesn't have a spine (hence the term invertebrate).  So only about 1/3 of its neurons are in the brain, and the rest spread out through the body and eight arms.  The arms can "feel" and "taste" independently only giving the heads up to the brain when something is yummy.
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This yields some amazing results of what the arms can do.  But limited communication paths (i.e. no spine) means that for many of the very complex functions, the octopus can only control the arm when it can see it.
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Weird huh?