December 31, 2006

Full of things that have never been

  Stars And Trees, Northern Light

"And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been,"    Rainer Maria Rilke

He ponders what bedevils me and many others,  Why does life have to be so hard much of the time?  Is it possible that 2007 will suck worse than 2006?    And what does Love have to do with it?

What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it. In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us. Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams: there against the depth of this background, they stand out, there for the first time we see how beautiful they are.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.
Love is at first not anything that means merging, giving over and uniting with another (for what would a union be of something unclarified and unfinished, still subordinate?),
it is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become world, to become world for himself for another's sake. It is a great exacting claim upon him, something that chooses him out and calls him to vast things.

From Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke (1960)

Forsaking any resolutions for the New Year,  I expect to ripen more and hope for a late harvest of fine vintage.

A Healthy, Happy and Prosperous New Year everyone

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Caring for Parents

More than 15 million Americans, mostly middle-aged, are caring for their parents.

“There is a myth out there that families abandon their frail elders,” said Dr. Robert L. Kane, a geriatrician at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “Instead, across the income spectrum, children are sacrificing to care for their parents to the limit of their means and sometimes beyond.”

Elder Care Costs Deplete Savings of a Generation

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December 30, 2006

The Appeal of Mystery Stories

Have you ever thought of mysteries as Christian fairy tales?

Neither did I.  But Lauren Winner in Divine Mysteries gives me pause.

.....the moral, even theological, shape of mystery novels. Christian apologist J.I. Packer once observed that mysteries "would never have existed without the Christian gospel. Culturally, they are Christian fairy tales, with savior heroes and plots that end in what Tolkien called a eucatastrophe -- whereby things come right after seeming to go irrevocably wrong....The gospel of Christ is the archetype of all such stories."

Indeed, there is something both comforting and hopeful about the morality that governs the mystery genre. Good and evil are clearly delineated. Evil is laid bare -- it is undeniably real and active. And yet mystery novels don't often leave crimes unpunished, let alone unsolved. Evil is always found out, and overcome, by goodness. In a world often beset by violence, such stories are enough to restore one's faith.

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Cool is grace made masculine

Donna Britt writes in The Washington Post

Cool is grace made masculine, the seamless melding of emotional authority with physical poise. It's so innately male that its association with black men -- whose masculinity and sexuality have for centuries inspired fear and fascination -- seems inevitable. The connection is so strong that any honest examination of cool must have black men at its center.
Or as my younger brother once put it: "Sometimes, cool is all that we have."

The Hard Core of Cool.

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December 29, 2006

Apology pinned to stolen statue

A stolen statue of Jesus returned with a note of apology to the Little Brothers of St. Francis, also known as the Sons of Levi for their denim robes.

"I'm very sorry about stealing your statue. I meant nothing personal by it. I had been drinking and made an extremely poor and out of character decision. I wanted to return it yesterday, but I woke up feeling overwhelmed by embarrassment and shame," he read.

The thief ended the letter by saying, "I am sorry for the trouble you don't deserve."
The brothers said they do not hold a grudge and invited the thief to come over for a cup of coffee.

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Housework wards off breast cancer

Who knew that keeping your house neat and tidy did more to protect against breast cancer than any other type of exercise like going to the gym?

Housework wards off breast cancer

The researchers analysed data on work, leisure and housework activity levels among 218,169 women aged 20 to 80 from nine European countries including the UK
Writing in the January edition of the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, Dr Petra Lahmann of the Medical Research Council's Human Nutrition Research unit in Cambridge, said: "Increased non-occupational physical activity and, in particular, increased household activity, were significantly associated with reduced breast cancer risk, independent of other potential risk factors.

"Our results . . . provide additional evidence that moderate forms of physical activity, such as household activity, may be more important than less frequent but more intense recreational physical activity in reducing breast cancer risk."

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My favorites of the Fifty

From Fifty Things We Know Now (That We Didn't Know This Time Last Year), these are my favorites

The part of the brain that regulates reasoning, impulse control and judgment is still under construction during puberty and doesn't shift into autopilot until about age 25.

Blue light fends off drowsiness in the middle of the night, which could be useful to people who work at night.

Scientists have discovered that certain brain chemicals in our tears are natural pain relievers.

Ancient humans from Asia may have entered the Americas following an ocean highway made of dense kelp.

Red wine contains anti-inflammatory chemicals that stave off diseases affecting the gums and bone around the teeth.

A substance called resveratrol, also found in red wine, protects mice from obesity and the effects of aging, and perhaps could do the same for humans.

Women gain weight when they move in with a boyfriend because their diet deteriorates, but men begin to eat more healthy food when they set up a home with a female partner.

DNA analysis determined the British descended from a tribe of Spanish fishermen who crossed the Bay of Biscay almost 6,000 years ago.

One of the most effective ways for athletes to recover after exercise is to drink a glass of chocolate milk.

Researchers from the University of Manchester managed to induce teeth growth in normal chickens - activating genes that have lain dormant for 80 million years.

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December 27, 2006

Designer Crutches

It may be too late for Christmas, but designer crutches are cool.  For that special someone who wants to age with grace and grit.

Adding comfort to an uncomfortable item are LemonAid Crutches.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Divorce Rings

If you're happy about your divorce, why not let everyone know with a divorce ring.

The design is simple: a thick gold band with a break in the center and three bands of white gold on one side. One band for the year you met your ex. One band for the year you married. One band for the year of the divorce.

Thompson wears his Divorced Ring on his left middle finger.

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We live in an age of medical advances with more to come

A pill that tricks you into losing weight has scientists excited after stunning test results.   

Just one of the medical advances yet to come, after so many advances that Lawrence Altman has witnessed in 37 years as a medical reporter for the New York Times.

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December 26, 2006

Gift of Organs

A real Christmas story

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong schoolboy who died in a traffic accident has brought festive hope to at least seven other patients through the rare mass donation of a large number of his vital organs.
The mother said
"Even though I'm devastated, I want to do something for society,"
"(My son) is very great. Even though he's left us ... we can still hear him breathe, and his heart beat. He's already become an angel."

Doctors hailed Miu's case as an example to others in Hong Kong where organ donorship is traditionally frowned upon given the Chinese belief in keeping bodies whole to allow the deceased to rest in heavenly peace.

"This is a very encouraging event... we're desperately in need of organs," said Dr. Choi Kin, president of the Hong Kong Medical Association.

Last year, only 4.2 of every million people in Hong Kong donated organs to science upon dying, a fraction of the rate in the U.S., according to the Apple Daily.

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Brain Gyms

Brain gyms for the elderly

If you’re worried that your mental powers will decline as you age, a new study offers hope that a relatively brief flurry of brain exercises can slow the mind’s deterioration.

The study, whose findings were published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, involved 2,800 men and women in six American cities. All were healthy, 65 and older, and living independently. Most participants were given 10 sessions of training to improve a particular mental skill. A memory group learned strategies for remembering word lists and textual material. A reasoning group learned how to find the pattern in a letter or word series. And a third group was trained to identify an object on a computer screen at increasingly brief exposures.

When tested five years later, these participants had less of a decline in the skill they were trained in than did a control group that received no cognitive training. The payoff from mental exercise seemed far greater than we are accustomed to getting for physical exercise — as if 10 workouts at the gym were enough to keep you fit five years later.

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Parasite explains a lot

Parasite makes men dumb, women sexy

About 40 per cent of the world's population is infected with Toxoplasma gondii....

Human infection generally occurs when people eat raw or undercooked meat that has cysts containing the parasite, or accidentally ingest some of the parasite's eggs excreted by an infected cat.

The parasite is known to be dangerous to pregnant women as it can cause disability or abortion of the unborn child, and can also kill people whose immune systems are weakened.

40% of the world's population can explain an awful lot of problems.

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Sneering at Country Music

Explaining Middle America's Soul in the Economist says, if you want to understand America, turn to a country music station.

They note  the sneering of the cultural elites at the genre, beloved by 45 million Americans, those "middle Americans" it calls  the world's most politically influential tribe.

Outside America, the sneering is unrestrained. When Garth Brooks, who has sold more than 115m albums, appeared on British television in 1994, one interviewer chortled: “I thought you'd come in here and twiddle your pistol around.” Another shrugged: “He's selling more records than anyone in the world, but none of us have ever heard of him.”

“Cool” people think country is hopelessly square. Country singers neither cuss like rappers nor grapple so boldly with “edgy” subjects. “Some messages are clearly not allowable [in country music], like ‘Fuck tha police’ or ‘I got 99 problems and a bitch ain't one’,” writes Chris Willman in his excellent book “Rednecks and Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music”. “But then there are messages that aren't allowable in any other popular-music genre that flourish here, such as: I wish I'd been there when my mama died. I miss my husband in Iraq. Babies and old people rule. If I die, take care of my kids for me.”

Once they pass a certain age, most Americans stop worrying about being cool. This is often when they start (or go back to) listening to country music. “It's not about sexual innuendo or bling, but the problems and experiences of ordinary people: love, loss, family life, having a good time and a sense of humour,” says Joe Galante, head of Sony BMG's country-music division.

Some say country music itself is a better balm for broken hearts. Whereas anguished Manhattanites pay hundreds of dollars an hour to lie on a couch and talk about themselves, country fans put on a Wynonna Judd CD and hear someone sing about problems that sound awfully like theirs. Say you have endured a family break-up or think you might be addicted to food: Wynonna has been there, feels your pain and articulates it far more tunefully than you ever could. As another country singer, Dierks Bentley, once put it: “Country music has always been the best shrink that 15 bucks can buy.”

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December 23, 2006

A Digital Christmas Stocking for You

Like many of you, I've been caught up in Christmas preparations, shopping, decorating, baking and cooking.  But I haven't forgotten you dear readers.    Here's a digital stocking of all sorts of links to dip into and enjoy.


Today, Bethlehem is sad, somber and dour.

In 1948, 90% of the population in Bethlehem were Christians, today it's less than 35% and they are looking to leavebefore a creeping Islamic fundamentalism.

"There is no hope for the future of the Christian community.  We don't think things are going to get better.  For us it is finished."

Bethlehem is on the West Bank under Palestinian internal rule and
controlled by Hamas..    Imagine the birthplace of Jesus controlled by Hamas!

Bethlehem has also  been the #1 launching point for suicide bombers who have killed hundreds of Israelis in the last four years.  To forestall such attacks,  Israel has built a separation barrier, cutting Bethlehem off from Jerusalem in what
one cleric called a' prison'

Christmas Greetings

Here's the
Christmas Greeting from Zawahiri.
What happens when a man gets lonely in a cave.

And a
Holiday Manifesto
Stay away from malls
Gather around a table
Re-discover family tradition
Re-live fond memories
Forget bad ones
Play with a toy
Play chess with a friend
Just play
Spike the Eggnog
Think of someone in need
Do something about it
More at
Logic and Emotion

Mediocre Films and Twentieth Century Fox brings you the 24th for all Jack Bauer fans.

The Christmas Story.

No, not Jean Shepherd's story, not
the movie great and classic as it is, but the real story, the beginning of the greatest story ever told.  For many, it's so familiar, they can't get it anymore, yet it's endured for two thousand years.

Vanderleun in
The Star ponders the three astrologers who saw something so amazing in the skies, they had to follow it no matter what.
To see something special; something beyond you. To follow it wherever it leads. To always remain prepared for miracle and amazement. That's the inner music of the story of The Star. Like all stories that survive, it is one of the heart and not of the head, and like the heart, it will endure.

C.S. Lewis wrote on the Incarnation, the great miracle of God becoming Man.
If the thing happened, it was the central event in the history of the Earth."

He also wrote that if God really did become man,
"our own composite existence is not the sheer anomaly it seems to be.... We catch sight of a new key principle --the power of the come down, the power of the greater to include the less....Everywhere the great enters the little--its power to do so is almost the test of its greatness."

The Nativity

A beautiful
Nativity  by Federico Barocci at Scribal Terror.

Jennifer Roback Morse writes on the power of the Christmas story and why she is
Proud to Follow, "You can't make this stuff up."

Jennifer Graham gives us an unsanitized Christmas in
Stable Significance.

If you think Christmas is just a warmed over pagan festival
, Mark Shea will set you straight.

Christmas Music

Terry Teachout presents his
Favorite Christmas Records and is so persuasive, I've already bought two songs - I wonder as I wander and A Difficult Season and an album, Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols.

The Second Vatican Council declared

"The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even that that of any other art."

Father Fessio calls that
a stupendous and shocking statement; the Council actually says that the Church’s music is a treasure of art greater than any other treasure of art she has. Think about that. Think about Chartres Cathedral. Think about the Pieta. Think about Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Think of all the crucifixes from Catalonia in Spain, and all the Church architecture and art and paintings and sculpture. The Council boldly says that the Church’s musical tradition is a treasure of inestimable value greater than any other art.

I'm  a long time lover of Gregorian Chant, but I didn't know until now that the Psalms were meant to be sung or that Gregorian chant has its roots in ancient Jewish hymnody.

Father Fessio  tells the story of how after much searching, he found a  "wonderful rabbi in Manhattan" and asked him "Can you give me any idea what it sounded like when Jesus and his Apostles sang the Psalms?”  The rabbi replied, "Of course, Father. It sounded like Gregorian Chant. You got it from us.”

You can listen to some of this glorious music live over the Internet at
Choral Treasure

Here's an extraordinary Bread of Angels,
Panis Angelicusin a "perfect performance" by the Boys' Choir at St. Philip's Church in Norbury, U.K.

Also at Scribal Terror is
O Holy Night With Two Aled Joneses, the grown man singing in a duet with himself as a young boy.

At YouTube some amazing performances are captured.

David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing
Little Drummer Boy.
Jose Feliciano singing Feliz Navidad
Sarah McLachlan sings
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Elvis Presley sings
Blue Christmas,
Enya sings
Silent Night in Irish
Judy Garland sings
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
The Ending to a Wonderful Life

Christmas at War

Joseph Morrison Skelly on
Bastogne, Christmas, 1944 The 101st Airborne were completely encircled and under siege at Bastogne when the German commander demanded their honorable surrender to which the American commander replied, "Nuts" and then went on to save Western civilization.

Countering the sense of a gathering storm, Michael Novak tells the tale of other dark Christmases in 1777 and 1864 in
A Lincolnian Christmas while Robert Godwin writes of The Unthinkable Goodness of America.

Often attributed to Tony Blair is the statement - Only two people ever offered to die for you, Jesus Christ and the American G.I.

I think of all those men and women in our armed forces.  How many are lying alone in lands far from home?  They are in the inestimable words of
Bill Whittle, the sheepdogs, protecting us sheep, standing guard against the wolves, for which we can be everlastingly thankful for these and all those men in the past who fought and died for their future and we are living it.

In the Washington Post, David Ignatius turns to milbloggers to tell of
Their Christmas At War.

Via BlackFive comes comes
"Merry Christmas My Friend."

Watch the

Let's remember
Christmas at Arlington and thank Morrill Worcester from Maine whose singular acts of gratitude for the past 12 years inspired  Wreaths Across America.

Christmas Eve

Stop in at least once to watch
NORAD track Santa on Christmas Eve. Here's the trailer.  Hey, Santa has GPS!

Again from Vanderleun,
Hanukkah Candles on Christmas Eve.

The world is not as we would wish,
But as we make it, day by day,
And this, the mystery and the gift.

The candles tell us of this gift.
The stars reflect them high above.
The gift is given to us again,
That we remember how to love.

That's my wish for you this Christmas.  I hope you have a happy one,  but even if it's not, I wish for you that you remember how to love.    Open yourself to the story.  When the Great, what American Indians call the Wakan Tanka, the Big Holy, entered humanity as a little, tiny baby.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:40 AM | Permalink

Claiming Victory

At first, I thought this was a joke.

From ABC News, Al Qaeda Sends A Message to Democrats

Al Qaeda has sent a message to leaders of the Democratic party that credit for the defeat of congressional Republicans belongs to the terrorists.

In a portion of the tape from al Qaeda No. 2 man, Ayman al Zawahri, made available only today, Zawahri says he has two messages for American Democrats.

"The first is that you aren't the ones who won the midterm elections, nor are the Republicans the ones who lost. Rather, the Mujahideen -- the Muslim Ummah's vanguard in Afghanistan and Iraq -- are the ones who won, and the American forces and their Crusader allies are the ones who lost," Zawahri said, according to a full transcript obtained by ABC News.

Then I wondered,  are they going to any of the parties.

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December 21, 2006

Licking a Flagpole on a Winter's Day

With so many preparations for Christmas, blogging is spotty, but I can't miss sharing this, one of the funniest stories I've read in a while. 

Lick It.  Lick It Good with the unforgettable line.

It's not gay if you're cold.

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December 20, 2006

A Boomer Reflects

I'm a big fan of Pat Conroy, having read all his books,  The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, The  Lords of Discipline, and Beach Music.

My respect for me has grown even more since I read An Honest Confession by an American Coward.

In the darkness of the sleeping Kroboth household, lying in the third-floor guest bedroom, I began to assess my role as a citizen in the '60s, when my country called my name and I shot her the bird.
I have come to a conclusion about my country that I knew then in my bones but lacked the courage to act on: America is good enough to die for even when she is wrong.
After hearing Al Kroboth's story of his walk across Vietnam and his brutal imprisonment in the North, I found myself passing harrowing, remorseless judgment on myself. I had not turned out to be the man I had once envisioned myself to be.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

December 19, 2006

More Genetic Bewilderment

Katrina Clark's story, My Father Was An Anonymous Sperm Donor, broke my heart.

...a whole other part of me was a mystery.  That part came from my father. The only thing was, I had never met him, never heard any stories about him, never seen a picture of him. I didn't know his name. My mother never talked about him -- because she didn't have a clue who he was.

I'm here to tell you that emotionally, many of us are not keeping up. We didn't ask to be born into this situation, with its limitations and confusion. It's hypocritical of parents and medical professionals to assume that biological roots won't matter to the "products" of the cryobanks' service, when the longing for a biological relationship is what brings customers to the banks in the first place.

Never did think of the children mean so much.   

When did adults' rights to have children trump the needs of the children?

We have jumped into this brave new world with little thought of the consequences.  Now, we are seeing the results.  Some women are buying sperm online and exploring made-to-order embryos.   

The donors aren't off the hook like they once thought.  Some are facing  compulsory child support for the donor,    Buffalogirl who blogs at Whosedaughter? reminds us that one person's DNA is another person's 'dad'.    Donor-conceived children demand the right to search for their biological fathers much as adopted children do.

What is sure is that such children will be genetically bewildered with a "life debt" leaving them feeling confused, alienated and 'experimental' with little understanding of what a real family is.

This is the future being created before our eyes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:43 AM | Permalink

December 15, 2006

Great news on the health front

Great news on the health front.  Breast cancer is down 7%, apparently because many women quit taking menopause hormones.

"It's a big deal ... amazing, really," said one of the researchers, Dr. Rowan Chlebowski of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. "It's better than a cure" because these are cases that never occurred, he said.

Diabetes breakthrough

In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body's nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions of Canadians.

Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.

"I couldn't believe it," said Dr. Michael Salter, a pain expert at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of the scientists. "Mice with diabetes suddenly didn't have diabetes any more."

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Mostly things are good

I loved this psalm to the common man from the Anchoress

We take each day as it comes
Sometimes I hate my life
But mostly things are good.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

December 14, 2006

More on cow flatulence

Why do I say more? 

Because I told my own story about cow flatulence in Five Things You Don't Know About Me over at Legacy Matters but no way could I ever be as funny as James Lileks even if "cow-whiffs"  - our family's term for passing gas - always struck me as hilarious.

 Cows Among Us-1

We have met the enemy and it mooos

Apparently the beasts of the field do nothing but wander around all day asking their brethren to "pull my hoof." Every time a cow feels a small sense of relief, a polar bear goes through the ice.

Or will, eventually. So livestock give off more greenhouse gases than cars. Eliminate the internal combustion problem, and you'd still have to deal with numberless tons of ruminant redolence floating into Gaia's celestial nostrils. We're off the hook: If global warming is organic, doesn't that make it OK?

That follows the UN Report from the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) calling Livestock a major threat to the environment. contributing more to greenhouse emissions than all transportation combined.

The BBC reports that

Gas emissions from flatulent cows could soon be restricted by a EU quota system as penal as that imposed on milk production, an agricultural expert has predicted.

Cows again.  It's all about the gassy bossies. 

Flatulence and belching by cows derive from a process known as enteric fermentation which leads to a build up of methane gas in the guts of these animals, pressure which is relieved by emission.

If flatulence can ground an airplane, we can all thank God that cows don't fly.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:10 PM | Permalink | TrackBack


In the Wall Street Journal, Danielle Crittenden reviews  "Unprotected" by a doctor who remains anonymous, fearing that she would be punished personally and professionally if her employer or colleagues knew what she really thought.

Hard to believe isn't it  in this day and age?  What is it that she says that's so shocking?

"My patients were hurting, they looked to me and what could I do?" So confesses an anonymous campus physician in the beginning of her startling memoir. Over the course of 200 pages, she tells story after story about suffering young women. If these women were ailing from eating disorders, or substance abuse, or almost any other medical or psychological problem, their university health departments would spring to their aid. "Cardiologists hound patients about fatty diets and insufficient exercise. Pediatricians encourage healthy snacks, helmets and discussion of drugs and alcohol. Everyone condemns smoking and tanning beds."

Unfortunately, the young women described in "Unprotected" have fallen victim to one of the few personal troubles that our caring professions refuse to treat or even acknowledge: They have been made miserable by their "sexual choices." And on that subject, few modern doctors dare express a word of judgment.

Young women are rarely told that there are physical, emotional, psychological, moral and spiritual consequences to their behavior.

Apparently, 'being judgmental" trumps everything, even common sense.

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December 13, 2006

Columella Nasi

33 names of things you never knew had names

via Jonah Goldberg who I think spends more time sniffing out  timewasters and utterly useless bits of information that anyone I know.

minimus, ophryon, rasceta and columella nasis all describe parts of the body. 

Lovely words to impress your friends and family with anytime.

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"Suddenly thinking you are French is terrifying"

"It might sound funny to others, but suddenly thinking you are French is terrifying," says Louise Clark who was recently diagnosed with a very rare brain disorder. 

Susac's Syndrome is brought on by stress and affects the brain, ears and eyes, mainly in young women.

As Miss Clarke's case shows, it can also make the sufferer think they are living in a memory of something they experienced months or years earlier.

The woman who woke up thinking she was French

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Harvesting Live Babies?

I didn't know that the Ukraine was the stem cell capital of the world, maybe even harvesting live babies to keep its top spot.

The BBC reports that healthy new-born babies may have been killed to feed a flourishing trade in stem cells.

Ukraine babies in stem cell probe
The BBC has spoken to mothers from the city of Kharkiv who say they gave birth to healthy babies, only to have them taken by maternity staff.

One campaigner was allowed into the autopsy to gather video evidence. She has given that footage to the BBC and Council of Europe.

In its report, the Council describes a general culture of trafficking of children snatched at birth, and a wall of silence from hospital staff upwards over their fate.

The pictures show organs, including brains, have been stripped - and some bodies dismembered.


Update.  Not just for stem cells, for beauty treatments as well

The babies who are murdered to order

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Struck by Grace

How do you live after an inexplicable accident becomes an unimaginable tragedy?   

The psychiatrist who blogs as Shrinkwrapped encouraged a commenter known as  "Jimmy J"  to write about his journey.  Jimmy J was deadened by grief, a human "doing" not a human "being," when he was struck by grace. 

One Man's Journey 

Part I

Part II
Part III

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December 12, 2006

Ask Not

I'm late with this and all I can say is about time. 

Tony Blair has had it with multiculturalism, ending more than three decades of Labour support for the idea.

Adopt our values or stay away.

he set out a series of requirements that were now expected from ethnic minority groups if they wished to call themselves British.

These included "equality of respect" - especially better treatment of women by Muslim men - allegiance to the rule of law and a command of English.

If outsiders wishing to settle in Britain were not prepared to conform to the virtues of tolerance then they should stay away. He added: "Conform to it; or don't come here. We don't want the hate-mongers, whatever their race, religion or creed.

"If you come here lawfully, we welcome you. If you are permitted to stay here permanently, you become an equal member of our community and become one of us. The right to be different. The duty to integrate. That is what being British means."

"The right to be in a multicultural society was always implicitly balanced by a duty to integrate, to be part of Britain, to be British and Asian, British and black, British and white," he said

"When it comes to our essential values, the belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage — then that is where we come together, it is what gives us what we hold in common; it is what givesright to call ourselves British," said Mr Blair.

"At that point no distinctive culture or religion supercedes our duty to be part of an integrated United Kingdom."

I am reminded what J.F. Kennedy said so famously in his inaugural address, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:48 PM | Permalink

Wanting To Be Seen

From La Vida Vica, You Had Me at "Goodbye"

But isn't this the thing we all want? To be noticed. To be remembered. Don't we all want to have someone in our lives who can't help but look back? Who needs to see us one last time? Don't we want someone who smiles when we enter the room? Who looks at us first when something is funny? We all want to make a connection. One that lasts and strengthens. And we all feel like we're running out of time. I know I do.

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Troubled Children

At least six million American children have serious mental disorders, according to government surveys, a number that has tripled since the early 1990s writes Zach Lynch in Brain Waves who has many links to articles describing some  the difficulties families have in sorting through conflicting advice and diagnoses.

Such a tragedy for both the children and the parents. 

I wonder how much is exacerbated by the frenetic pace of the modern world, the pressure to compete and succeed, fragmented families and an increasingly depraved mass culture. 

It's hard for anyone to find a foothold, a sure place on which to grow.

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December 11, 2006

A generation is all they need

Will we all be happily implanted with microchips in the future where our every move is monitored?

Kevin Haggerty writes in the Toronto Star that the technology exists; the only barrier is society's resistance to the loss of privacy.

Most people anticipate such a prospect with a sense of horrified disbelief, dismissing it as a science-fiction fantasy. The technology, however, already exists. For years humane societies have implanted all the pets that leave their premises with a small identifying microchip. As well, millions of consumer goods are now traced with tiny radio frequency identification chips that allow satellites to reveal their exact location.

A select group of people are already "chipped" with devices that automatically open doors, turn on lights, and perform other low-level miracles. Prominent among such individuals is researcher Kevin Warwick of Reading University in England; Warwick is a leading proponent of the almost limitless potential uses for such chips.

It will start in distant countries, criminals first, then terrorists, then carriers of contagious diseases.  How soon after that before other groups, say for example, ethnic groups.

What might Hitler, Mao or Milosevic have accomplished if their citizens were chipped, coded, and remotely monitored?

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December 8, 2006

Christmas and the Chattering Classes

There is so much to like about this piece by Jeff Randall, Christmas: crucified by do-gooders in the London Telegraph

I haven't become a weirdo fundamentalist. This is not a matter of religiosity (I flicker somewhere between an agnostic and a mild believer). My protest is about resisting those who seem hell bent on turning Christianity into a crime.

The paradox of the dreadful campaign to create a culture of resentment against conventional Christmases is that it's being led neither by ethnic minorities nor leaders from other religions. Quite the reverse. Many non-Christians seem genuinely baffled by our desire for self-abasement
No, it's not the Muslims, Jews or Hindus who are behind the drive to secularise Christmas. They are not the culprits....The demons in this horror story of crucifying Christmas are white, middle-class do-gooders whose assumption of a superior morality is as disgraceful as it is disgusting. They are busybodies, obsessed with forcing on us their vacuous "ethical" code. In the view of Dr John Sentamu, the splendid Archbishop of York, they are "the chattering classes", who see themselves as holding a flag for an atheist Britain. Actually, they are more pernicious than that. The teachings and guidance of old-fashioned Christianity offend them, so they seek to remove all traces of it from public life.

Christian voluntary groups are harassed on the grounds that being a Christian excludes "diversity". Christian Unions at universities are suspended because they insist that their members have Christian beliefs, which is interpreted as opposition to gay sex.
t is not yet illegal to be a Christian, but woe betide those who hold fast to a standard of behaviour that was once the moral norm.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2006

Viagra, Cutting through the fog to fight cancer

Viagra might help the body fight cancer.

VIAGRA and other impotence drugs help switch on the immune system to attack a range of cancers, a study has found.

The disease usually manages to avoid destruction partly because tumours produce a fog of chemicals that hide it from white blood cells.

But Viagra, a brand name for sildenafil, and other such drugs were found to reduce the amount of these chemicals, enabling the immune system to target the cancer more effectively.

Tests at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre in the United States found the drug reduced the size of colon and breast tumours in mice threefold.

The study, reported in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, was the latest to show other uses for sildenafil beyond the most common one.

It was developed as a drug to treat hypertension by dilating blood vessels and lowering blood pressure.

Subsequent research suggested it could reduce the thickness of the heart wall and have other benefits relating to cancer.

Viagra suppresses levels of nitric oxide, one component of the fog which protects tumours from the immune system, and this is a critical compound involved in a variety of "signalling pathways" used in the body.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:53 PM | Permalink

Defining Sin

Some things for reflection in my continuing search for what is true, what is right and what is best for a good life

With all the attention paid to keeping our bodies free from pesticides, toxins, free radicals, slim, trim and looking good so we can feel good, why is so little attention paid to the harmful effects of pornography?

The Bishop of the Catholic Archdioceses of Arlington, Paul Loverde, has and writes  Bought With a Price, a pastoral letter giving guidance to Christians on the grave offense that is pornography.

Via the Anchoress who cuts to the chase with A great definition of sin.

comes this excerpt  from Happy Catholic

“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.

The quoted excerpt is from a book, Carpe Jugulum,  the 23rd in a series, by Terri Pratchett, a writer I never heard of, but who has quite a following, a "juggernaut procession" according to Amazon's review.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 PM | Permalink

Helen Duncan, Convicted of Witchcraft in 1944

There may be something to this psychic stuff, or that's what British officials thought when Helen Duncan revealed the sinking of HMS Barham, a 29,000 ton battleship early in WWII with a loss of 861 lives.

Already reeling from the Blitz, the British government decided to keep the news quiet, even forging Christmas cards from the dead to their families.

So, when D-Day approached, officials ordered her arrest because they were afraid she might reveal top-secret plans.

They charged her under the 1735 Witchcraft Act! 

It was alleged she had pretended "to exercise or use human conjuration that through the agency of Helen Duncan spirits of deceased dead persons should appear to be present".

She was convicted and sentenced to nine months in London's Holloway Prison.  As she was led away,
the housewife cried out in her broad Scottish accent: "I never heard so many lies in all my life!

News of the case infuriated PM Winston Churchill. In a note to his Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, he wrote: "Give me a report. What was the cost of a trial in which the Recorder was kept busy with all this obsolete tomfoolery, to the detriment of the necessary work in the courts?"

Today, there are efforts underway to clear her name.

Britain's Last Witch Trial

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Work is your real life

Hugh MacLeod at The Gaping Void is encouraging readers to send in their brief manifestos.  He has his down to four words.

This one on Work by Pamela Slim who posts at Escape from Cubicle Nation is so good, I'm going to post it in its entirety. 

1. Work is your real life
. It is the way you translate your feelings, your thoughts, your hopes and your desires into something valuable, tangible and useful every day. You can choose to make work into a dreaded, necessary evil that you can't wait to finish so that you can get busy with your "real life." Why not just do work you love?

2. Good work will improve your sex life. Frustrated employees desperately long for excitement and release in the form of fantasy football, internet surfing, porn, and the affections of their stressed and overworked spouses. No superhero could fill the gigantic void of a passionless man or woman in a 15-minute tryst in bed. Express your passion through your work every day, all day, and find that you will be less needy, more attentive, open, giving and loving to your partner. Which makes for better sex.

3. Your secret desire holds the clue to your best work. You say that you would love to do meaningful work, but don't know how to find it. What is your secret desire? What idea are you a little embarrassed to share with someone because it is so delicate or bold or crazy or exciting? You often claim to not know what you want to do, but in fact censor yourself from what you know you want for fear of appearing ridiculous.

4. You can't fool your kids. Many of you claim passionless, dull and frustrating careers with the excuse that you must provide for your family. Providing for your family is noble; using it as an excuse to hide from your own greatness is a bad example for your kids. If you want them to grow up motivated, creative, free and enterprising, be that yourself. They are watching and emulating your every move.

5. Fear is the great inhibitor. All of the excuses that you find for not doing work you love have solutions. You do not enact them because you are afraid: of showing up too big in the world; of failing; of appearing as an imposter; of living in poverty. There is nothing wrong with fear. Feel it, talk to it, examine it and walk with it. Then step out and let yourself show up, warts and all. It will liberate you.

6. Owning is better than renting. While you may feel "safer" renting out your skills for a paycheck and benefits, you often sell all your energy this way and have nothing left at the end of the day. If you don't get what you need in this employment arrangement in terms of money, recognition, power or responsibility, you feel angry and frustrated. Own the means of production and the factory, and at least your glorious disasters will be your disasters. Accountability breeds passion and desire.

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Adults rights to children vs. children's needs

Miss Kelley has a fine discussion on Kids, Marriage, Mothers and Fathers, Wealth and Poverty wherein she quotes

First, Claudia Anderson writes at The Weekly Standard about a report produced by the Commission on Parenthood's Future, an independent, nonpartisan group of scholars and leaders.  From the report:

“The two-person mother-father model of parenthood is being changed to meet adults’ rights to children rather than children’s needs to know and be raised, whenever possible, by their mother and father,” according to the report, The Revolution in Parenthood: The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children’s Needs."

then Kal Hymowitz who has written that the marriage gap is increasingly responsible for the growing divide between economic classes.

When the mass consumer culture is so sexualized  and the chastity of young women not only devalued but derided, it's only a few wrong steps and they're trapped in the culture of poverty where having children without a husband is a rite of passage.

Last quote from Miss Kelley - 

The Brookings Institute has determined that if people 1) graduate from high school, 2) get married, 3) don't have kids until after they're married, and 4) have small families, they're virtually guaranteed to avoid poverty.  I don't know how we shift ourselves back to committing to marriage and bringing back a social stigma to single parenting, but we need to swing that pendulum back. 

A young blogger, donor-conceived, writes about the psychological and emotional anguish young adults like her experience as they try to craft their adult identities.  Whosedaughter? does not look kindly on adults who try to re-engineer the family.  In this post she quotes a Canadian ethicist Margaret Somerville

Evidence is starting to come in: “Donor conceived adults” describe powerful feelings of loss of identity through not knowing one or both biological parents and their wider biological families, and describe themselves as “genetic orphans”. They believe society was complicit in a serious wrong done to them in the way they were conceived and ask, “How could anyone think they had the right to do this to me?”

We now need to recognise in law what, traditionally, we have simply assumed: that children’s fundamental human rights include knowing who their biological parents are and if at all possible being reared by them, and being conceived with a natural biological heritage – untampered with biological origins – in particular, a right to be conceived from an untampered-with-sperm from one, living, adult, identified man and an untampered-with-ovum from one, living, adult, identified woman.

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"Heroism by Silence"

The Afghan keyholders who put love of art and country above all else and hid the country's national treasures from the Russians, the Taliban, warlords, drug lords and Islamic fundamentalists, pledged never to tell where they were hidden.

One keyholder was tortured, international art officials say. Another survived by selling potatoes in the Kabul market. Through it all, they kept their secret.
On Wednesday, the fruits of their silence went on display at the Guimet Museum in Paris.  It began exhibiting more than 220 artifacts from the Afghan National Museum, including masterpieces of gold and ivory that have never been seen in public and that a few years ago were believed lost forever.

In fact, the pieces had been delicately wrapped in toilet paper and newspaper and stashed in such places as a bombproof vault in the basement of Afghanistan's presidential palace, where keyholders finally revealed them to Afghan President Hamid Karzai about three years ago.

"It was heroism by silence. It was the Afghan curators and keyholders themselves who preserved these things and . . . made sure no one got into the storerooms," said Fredrik Hiebert, an archaeologist at the National Geographic Society who inventoried the artifacts at the request of the Afghan government. "They were safeguarding these treasures even when people couldn't eat, and when people said they would kill them if they didn't give them up. But they didn't."

On Display, The Fruits of Afghan Altruism.

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Rain, Pryor's Daughter

"He was misogynistic, mercurial, unpredictable and violent. But he was also my daddy, and sometimes, when he held me close, I looked into his big sad eyes and I knew he loved me. And that's the part I want to remember."

Richard Pryor, the comedian married seven times to five different women and had six, maybe seven children.

the money went to the hookers hanging out at his house -- "Daddy, the whores need to be paid"-- and not to paying child support to his many ex-wives raising kids far from the Hollywood Hills. So hers was a childhood of abundance and of lack, of private jets and welfare checks, of elaborate vacations in Hawaii and a gig selling hot dogs on the beach when she was 13.

Time to Laugh, Time to Cry

What's so interesting about this piece is how well daughter Rain is doing.  Good for her.

Somehow, over the years, she managed to shake off the craziness and the pain, to integrate her dual identities -- finding an outlet and mining a few laughs from it all in her new memoir, "Jokes My Father Never Taught Me: Life, Love, and Loss With Richard Pryor."

"You're either going to go down the path of self-destructiveness," Pryor says today, chic in black high-heeled boots and a cape, her riotous ringlets flatironed into submission, "or you're not. . . . Success is the best revenge; it's the ultimate ha-ha. Statistically, I should be strung out . . . but you won't see me in a hospital anytime soon."

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December 6, 2006

Diversity in Schools

I am late in reading reports of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, but I'm struck by its finding that diversity in elementary and secondary schools has little educational benefits and scant proof of any significant social benefits.

Report Scant Proof of Benefits for Groups Attributed to Diversity

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In her article in the National Review, Jennifer Roback Morse defines condomism is "the belief that all problems surrounding sexual activity could be solved with enough contraception." 

Even better than her definition is her discussion about the long-term emotional costs of non-marital sexual activity, the 'involuntary chemical commitment' created by oxytocin.

“People who have misused their sexual faculty and become bonded to multiple persons will diminish the power of oxytocin to maintain a permanent bond with an individual.”

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Organic Chicken a Waste of Money

When organic and free range chicken can cost as much as three times as much as supermarket chicken, you certainly expect it to taste better and be more nutritious.

Sorry, but it's not. 

From a report of a study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences.

organic poultry is actually less nutritious, contains more fat and tastes worse than its mass-produced equivalent, research has shown.

Tests on supermarket chicken breasts showed that organic versions contained lower levels of health-boosting omega 3 fatty acids than other varieties, including non-organic free-range poultry.

The compounds, present in high levels in oily fish, are thought to be responsible for a host of health benefits, from combating heart disease to boosting intelligence.

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Little Things Lead to Big Things.

James Q Wilson, the former Harvard professor of Government  who now teaches at Pepperdine University, has garnered honors too many to cite, save say, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He may be most famous for his "broken windows" theory of crime that so influenced Rudy Guiliani in New York City when he first became mayor.  Guiliani and Police Commission Bill Bratton adopted an aggressive enforcement strategy of zero tolerance that involved cracking down on minor offenses like graffiti, turnstile jumping, and "squeegee men".  A sharp drop in crime followed to the amazement and delight of New Yorkers.

The original article by Wilson and George Kelling was published in 1982 in the Atlantic, Broken Windows.

The theory is simple - Little things lead to big things.  A broken window if promptly taken care of does no harm  to a neighborhood.    A broken window left unrepaired is a signal that no one cares, so breaking more windows costs nothing.  When one broken window is left unrepaired, soon all the rest of the windows will be broken.

I pay attention when he  writes about the Press at War in City Journal and its "drumbeat of negativity".

When the Center for Media and Public Affairs made a nonpartisan evaluation of network news broadcasts, it found that during the active war against Saddam Hussein, 51 percent of the reports about the conflict were negative. Six months after the land battle ended, 77 percent were negative; in the 2004 general election, 89 percent were negative; by the spring of 2006, 94 percent were negative. This decline in media support was much faster than during Korea or Vietnam.

Most of what I have said here is common knowledge. But it is common knowledge about a new period in American journalistic history. Once, powerful press owners dictated what their papers would print, sometimes irresponsibly. But that era of partisan and circulation-building distortions was not replaced by a commitment to objective journalism; it was replaced by a deep suspicion of the American government. That suspicion, fueled in part by the Vietnam and Watergate controversies, means that the government, especially if it is a conservative one, is surrounded by journalists who doubt almost all it says. One obvious result is that since World War II there have been few reports of military heroes; indeed, there have been scarcely any reports of military victories.

This change in the media is not a transitory one that will give way to a return to the support of our military when it fights.
Journalism, like so much scholarship, now dwells in a postmodern age in which truth is hard to find and statements merely serve someone’s interests.

The mainstream media’s adversarial stance, both here and abroad, means that
whenever a foreign enemy challenges us, he will know that his objective will be to win the battle not on some faraway bit of land but among the people who determine what we read and watch. We won the Second World War in Europe and Japan, but we lost in Vietnam and are in danger of losing in Iraq and Lebanon in the newspapers, magazines, and television programs we enjoy.

When journalists no longer care about objective reporting,  we no longer know what the truth is.   

Little things lead to big things. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:29 AM | Permalink

December 4, 2006

Hanging On

Supposing you were stranded in the woods, having never read Surviving in the Wilderness.

Would you have a fierce will to live or would you rather die than spend one more night in the forest?

From Lost in the Amazon

George in the comments said,

When confronted with a life-threatening situation, 90% of people freeze or panic, says Gonzales in this exploration of what makes the remaining 10% stay cool, focused and alive.
Pinpointing why and how those 10% survive is another story. "They are the ones who can perceive their situation clearly; they can plan and take correct action,
Gonzales does share some rules for adventure gleaned from the survivors themselves: stay calm, be decisive and don't give up.

The book he refers to is "Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why by Laurence Gonzalez.

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