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Dr. Lydia T. Black

Dr Lydia T. Black, at Kenai Fjord, July, 2002 by grandson, Andrew McEvoy

Dr. Black survived Stalin, forced labor under the Nazis, refugee status, and never suffered fools, the pompous, the bully, nor laziness or sloppy scholarship. She was fond of cats, dogs, children, and those needing a friend in a strange land.

The following is summarized from documents at Lydia T. Black 1925 to 2007 and from the Kodiak Daily Mirror

Widowed with young children at 44, she went to college and finished her BA and MA in two years and her Ph.D. in another two years.

She studied at Northeastern University and Brandeis University in the Boston area before receiving her doctorate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She joined the faculty of anthropology in 1973 at Providence College in Rhode Island. She moved to Alaska in 1984 as Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks, whence she “retired” in 1998.

She continued her work in Kodiak, where she helped translate and catalogue Russian archives of St. Herman’s Seminary. The Orthodox Church in Alaska recognized her contribution by awarding her the Cross of St. Herman.

She wrote at least 66 more books and articles appearing in publications as diverse as Natural History, Arctic Anthropology and Studies in Soviet Thought and was a contributor to various exhibits and conferences on the Arctic, including the Library of Congress’ Meeting of the Frontiers, the New York Museum of Natural History’s Jesup Centenary Congress and the Smithsonian Institution’s Crossroads of the Continents.

One of her best-known books, “Aleut art — Unangam aguqaadangin” is a collection of beautifully photographed and carefully documented art made by Alaska Natives of the Aleutian Islands. Another, “Russians in Alaska, 1732 to 1867,” was published in 2004, the year Lydia turned 79.

In 2001, Russia awarded her the Order of Friendship, honoring her contribution to promoting cross-cultural understanding between Russia and America. She received the Alaska Anthropological Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and the Alaska Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for the Humanities in 2005.

Lydia was born in Kiev, where her grandmother came to live with the family. Her grandmother instituted an educational regimen for her which included two days per week of speaking Russian, two days per week of speaking French and two days per week of speaking German. On Sundays, the family could relax and speak Ukrainian. It was decreed that Lydia would study English in school. Lydia’s grandmother would take her to the ‘secret church’, hosted by three elderly women – the KGB eventually did arrive to arrest them.

Lydia’s father was executed when she was eight years old. At 16 (1941) her mother died of TB. Lydia was picked up into forced labor for Germany. At war’s end, Lydia was in Munich and got a job scrubbing toilets in American officers’ quarters. They realized Lydia could speak six languages (she had learned Polish during the war) so she became a translator at the UNRRA’s displaced children’s camp.

Lydia met and married Igor A. Black. They then emigrated to the U.S. in 1950. Igor became a thermodynamics engineer whose work on the Apollo Mission was officially commemorated by NASA. Lydia was a full-time wife and mother. Suddenly Igor died in 1969, leaving Lydia alone with three teen-aged daughters and a toddler. With her older daughters’ consent, Lydia returned to school as a full-time college student.

Dr Black died in Kodiak, AK, with family, friends, Orthodox services, and the feline sibling companions Masia and Vasia present. Masia, brother Vasia, and companion human Lydia Black
Masia, faithful guardian during Lydia’s illness would wake Lydia in the middle of the night, to great complaint. However, Masia seemed to be sensing something physically awry in Lydia’s breathing while asleep and was waking her to “reset” her. Masia would reach over and: Slap-slap-slap, at which point Lydia would sputter and tell the cat to stop it. [Click on small picture to enlarge.]

Anthropologist Lydia Black Dead at 81
Casey Kelly, KMXT

KODIAK, AK (2007-03-13) Anthropologist Lydia Black, author of many books on Alaska Native culture and Alaska history, died Monday morning of liver failure at her home in Kodiak. She was 81. © Copyright 2007, apti

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Feline Alzheimer’s disease

I knew that older dogs can get a type of dementia, but wasn’t aware that cats may, also (never had a cat before to age with). A couple of points the researchers raise–

  • longer life increases the chances of age-related changes (in anything) and
  • good diet, mental stimulation, and companionship improve quality of life
    IVQ friends
  • while obvious are well worth remembering (for feline and hominid; oh, and the dog, too.

    see also

    This is a press release, so I am reprinting it in its entirety.

    Study shows cats can succumb to feline Alzheimer’s disease

    Ageing cats can develop a feline form of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study reveals. Scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews, Bristol and California have identified a key protein which can build up in the nerve cells of a cat’s brain and cause mental deterioration.

    In humans with Alzheimer’s disease, this protein creates ‘tangles’ inside the nerve cells which inhibit messages being processed by the brain. The team says that the presence of this protein in cats is proof that they too can develop this type of disease.

    By carrying out post-mortem examination of cats which have succumbed naturally to the disease, scientists may now be able to uncover vital clues about how the condition develops. This may eventually help scientists to come up with possible treatments.

    Scientists already thought cats were susceptible to dementia because previous research had identified thick, gritty plaques on the outside of elderly cats’ brain cells which are similar to those found in humans. But, by pinpointing this second key marker, the Edinburgh-led team says we can be sure that cats can suffer from a feline form of Alzheimer’s.

    Dr Danielle Gunn-Moore, at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, said: “This newly discovered protein is crucial to our understanding of the ageing process in cats. We’ve known for a long time that cats develop dementia, but this study tells us that the cat’s neural system is being compromised in a similar fashion to that we see in human Alzheimer’s sufferers. The gritty plaques had only hinted that might be the case – now we know.

    “The shorter life-span of a cat, compared to humans, allows researchers to more rapidly assess the effects of diet, high blood pressure, and prescribed drugs on the course of the disease. However, we also need to understand more about our geriatric cats for their own benefit, so we can slow down the degeneration the disease brings and keep them as happy cats for as long as possible.”

    “As with humans, the life expectancy of cats is increasing and with this longer life runs the greater chance of developing dementia. Recent studies suggest that 28% of pet cats aged 11-14 years develop at least one old-age related behaviour problem and this increases to more than 50% for cats over the age of 15.”

    Experts suggest that good diet, mental stimulation and companionship can reduce the risk of dementia in both humans and cats. Dr Gunn Moore explained: “If humans and their cats live in a poor environment with little company and stimulation, they are both at higher risk of dementia. However, if the owner plays with the cat, it is good for both human and cat. A good diet enriched with antioxidants is also helpful in warding off dementia, so a cat owner sharing healthy meals like chicken and fish with their pet will benefit them both.”

    Dr Frank Gunn-Moore, at the School of Biology, University of St Andrews, said: “This work relied on a team effort with the different skills and expertise from our different institutions. It has given us an insight into the molecular changes that are occurring in the degenerating brain. From this knowledge we are now currently trying to develop new and novel treatments which will be able to help both cats and humans”.
    ###

    The findings of the study are published in a recent edition of the Journal of Feline Medicine.

    Public release date: 5-Dec-2006
    Contact: Linda Menzies, Linda.Menzies AT ed.ac.uk
    44-131-650-6382
    University of Edinburgh


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    Alaska Planning Checklist

    The checklists aren’t well-presented but do offer some good ideas. Even though the web address (URL) is a dot com, this is a state of Alaska website. Here’s some ideas for pet preparedness.

    http://www.ak-prepared.com/plans/mitigation/dogs_cats.html

    [see previous Older people in disasters and humanitarian crises: Guidelines for best practice]


    O’Folks (off their rocker)

    Old age isn't a disease.

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