January 31, 2008

Toxic Calcium

That's what some Swiss scientists are saying as they purport to unlock the mystery of sleep

Mehdi Tafti, head of the research project at Lausanne University's Centre for Integrative Genomics,... an expert in sleep disorders, has spent the past 20 years trying to work out why humans spend a third of their lives in bed.

His research team recently published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science journal, identifying a gene – Homer1a – that controls levels of calcium in neurons in the brain.

Mice, like humans, need calcium to function when awake, but the longer they are up and about, the more calcium builds up, and when the levels get too high, the neurons get over-stimulated.

Sleep, therefore, is nature's way of reducing these excessive calcium levels in the brain. And Homer1a plays a key role.

"This gene regulates the levels of calcium to protect against hyperactivity of the brain," explained Tafti. "The more you stay awake, the more
it is activated."

It rings an alarm bell in your head and tries to counterbalance the build-up, warning: "Be careful, calcium is trying to get in – you have to regulate it otherwise it's going to be toxic," he added.

"In animal models, sleep deprivation is lethal...It has never been tested in humans but long-term sleep deprivation would probably lead to death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 AM | Permalink

Brain Fitness

You've probably seen or read about brain fitness software that are supposed to ward off memory loss and combat the dulling of the mind.

Most haven't done any scientific research to bolster their health claims.

Two scientists have taken a skeptical view.

Sandra Aamod, editor of the journal Nature Neuroscience, and Sam Wang, professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton University, offered a critical view of the products in a November New York Times opinion piece. A better bet, the authors argued, is physical exercise.

"So instead of spending money on computer games or puzzles to improve your brain's health, invest in a gym membership," the authors wrote. "Or just turn off the computer and go for a brisk walk."

Retraining the brain for the aging workforce

The search for the quick fix and the quick buck continues.  If software doesn't work, maybe a surgical procedure or a drug will do the trick.

The old ways are still the best even if we get bored hearing them.

good nutrition
exercise
socializing with friends
positive attitude towards aging
spirituality
mental stimulation

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

January 29, 2008

When only the Holy Grail will do

So you're the Anglican Archbishop of York and you're about to take your first trip to Rome where you will meet with the Pope, what do you bring as a gift? 

Well, like any good Bavarian, he does like his beer

        Pope With Glass Of Beer

I told the brewery I was meeting the Pope and they made a special brew for him. I heard he'd been given some Black Sheep ale and liked it. So I brought that and the Holy Grail."

Sentamu stands the Pope a beer

        Sentamu, Archbishop Of York

Sissy who tipped me to this has written about the Pope and John Sentamu  - the "Archbishop-of-Canterbury-in-waiting" before as he took on British Airways and the BBC. 

With his trademark gap-toothed grin and staccato enunciation of quaint English, the Ugandan-born archbishop is credited with having an electrifying effect on faithless, post-Christian Britain.

While in Rome, Sentamu might have learned the Beer Blessing.

Bene+dic, Domine, creaturam istam cerevisae, quam ex adipe frumenti producere dignatus es: ut sit remedium salutare humano generi: et praesta per invocationem nominis tui sancti, ut, quicumque ex ea biberint, sanitatem corporis, et animae tutelam percipiant. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen

Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, that Thou hast been pleased to bring forth from the sweetness of the grain: that it might be a salutary remedy for the human race: and grant by the invocation of Thy holy name, that, whosoever drinks of it may obtain health of body and a sure safeguard for the soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:04 PM | Permalink

"Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history"

This just knocked me out.  I was stunned.

Citing the 1993 National Adult Literacy Survey, Gatto in his book "Underground History of American Education," reports only 3.5 percent of Americans are literate enough today "to do traditional college study, a level 30 percent of all U.S. high school students reached in 1940, and which 30 percent of secondary students in other developed countries can reach today."

Locking a nation into permanent childhood by Vin Suprynowicz  via phi beta cons

When New York's Teacher of the Year resigned in 1991, John Taylor Gatto  sat down and wrote an essay for  the Wall St Journal saying he was "tired of working for an institution that crippled the ability of children to learn"

"Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history," Mr. Gatto begins. "It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents.
--
"David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal development, when both are 13, you can't tell which one learned first -- the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school I label Rachel 'learning disabled' and slow David down a bit, too. For a paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won't outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discount merchandise, 'special education' fodder. She'll be locked in her place forever.

If there any wonder why  home-schooling is so popular and effective when public schools are a "Prussian system of coercive schooling ill-suited to a free people".

"Socrates foresaw if teaching became a formal profession, something like this would happen. Professional interest is served by making what is easy to do seem hard; by subordinating the laity to the priesthood. School is too vital a jobs-project, contract giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be 're-formed.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:55 PM | Permalink

There's no place to go but up

There is a trough in middle age that is truly depressing as everyone who has lived it can tell you but reports a study in England.

Middle-age is truly depressing, study finds

In a remarkably regular way throughout the world people slide down a U-shaped level of happiness and mental health throughout their lives," Andrew Oswald at Britain's Warwick University, who co-led the study, said on Tuesday.

The researchers analyzed data on depression, anxiety levels and general mental health and well-being taken from some 2 million people in 80 countries.
--
"It happens to men and women, to single and married people, to rich and poor, and to those with and without children," Oswald said. "Nobody knows why we see this consistency."

I think it's because they are unhappy with all that they had to do because those were the rules, that's what their parents said to do, it's what they had to do for their children or their career.  Somewhere around 50, with all the intimations of mortality that brings, they begin to think for themselves,  about the unlived parts of themselves and about their legacy. 

In their fifties they begin to climb out of the trough and start to become themselves, the people they were meant to be and as they do so, they become happier each year.

The good news is that if people make it to aged 70 and are still physically fit, they are on average as happy and mentally healthy as a 20-year old.

There's no place to go but up .  In great relief, you begin to experience the pleasures of maturity.

As life goes on it becomes tiring to keep up the character you invented for yourself, and so you relapse into individuality and become more like yourself every day. This is sometimes disconcerting for those around you, but a great relief to the person concerned. -  Agatha Christie

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:54 PM | Permalink

Smell, Algorithms or China

Ah love.  Every February we are treated to scads of articles about love, romantic love, and how to find it.

Time magazine looks at The Science of Love especially the importance of smelling right.

One of the most primal of those desires is that a possible partner smells right
-
Scent not only tells males which females are primed to conceive, but it also lets both sexes narrow their choices of potential partners. Among the constellation of genes that control the immune system are those known as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), which influence tissue rejection. Conceive a child with a person whose MHC is too similar to your own, and the risk increases that the womb will expel the fetus. Find a partner with sufficiently different MHC, and you're likelier to carry a baby to term.
--
Saliva also contains the compound, a fact that Haselton believes may partly explain the custom of kissing... "Kissing," she says simply, "might be a taste test."

One thing that throws us off the scent is the birth-control pill. Women who are on the Pill--which chemically simulates pregnancy--tend to choose wrong in the T-shirt test. When they discontinue the daily hormone dose, the protective smell mechanism kicks back in. "A colleague of mine wonders if the Pill may contribute to divorce," says Wysocki. "Women pick a husband when they're on birth control, then quit to have a baby and realize they've made a mistake."

While John Tierney in The New York Times explores online match-making and competing algorithms in Hitting it off, Thanks to Algorithms of Love

As the matchmakers compete for customers — and denigrate each other’s methodology — the battle has intrigued academic researchers who study the mating game. On the one hand, they are skeptical, because the algorithms and the results have not been published for peer review. But they also realize that these online companies give scientists a remarkable opportunity to gather enormous amounts of data and test their theories in the field. EHarmony says more than 19 million people have filled out its questionnaire.

If neither of those work, you can always go to China to find a husband as Ellen Graf did in Our Joy Knows No Bounds or Lanes

At 46, I had been burned to ash by divorce and had crawled back toward life, sometimes on hands and knees. The common wisdom is that people, in seeking love, risk losing themselves, but I did not fear this loss. And I thought that not choosing for myself might work better than choosing. I didn’t wonder about what my perfect person would be like. I was way beyond that kind of amusement.
--
Somebody must be looking out for us. A few years ago, my life was roadworthy but lonely — it cried out for an intervention. Now every day feels like a wild car ride with Zhong-Hua: lurching and unpredictable, but rich with humor, determination and devotion.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink

For Colorado, an invitation to AA

Best colleges, best doctors, best places to live, I love all these lists even if I sometimes wonder at the presumption and bias of the writer.

This list seems to include more objective factors.
We looked at annual death rates due to alcoholic liver disease, as well as who's headed there by regularly downing five or more drinks in a sitting (CDC). Next, we factored in drunk-driving arrests (FBI) and the percentage of fatal accidents involving intoxicated motorists (U.S. Department of Transportation). Then, after tallying the MADD report card of state efforts to cut down on excessive drinking, we had our ranking and, for the state of Colorado, an invitation to AA.

The Drunkest Cities
The drunkest is Denver, CO.  The least dangerously drunk is Durham, NC with Miami in second place.    Go figure.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:34 AM | Permalink

Get off the couch

Leading a sedentary lifestyle may make us genetically old before our time.

Sedentary life 'speeds up ageing'.

They particularly focused on telomeres, the repeat sequences of DNA that sit on the ends of chromosomes, protecting them from damage.

As people age, their telomeres become shorter, leaving cells more susceptible to damage and death.
--
But men and women who were less physically active in their leisure time had shorter leukocyte telomeres compared to those who were more active.
--

The most active people had telomeres of a length comparable to those found in inactive people who were up to 10 years' younger, on average.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 AM | Permalink

Passionless and Apathetic

Today's single young men hang out in a hormonal limbo between adolescence and adulthood writes Kay Hymowitz in Child-Man in the Promised Land.

Not so long ago, the average mid-twentysomething had achieved most of adulthood’s milestones—high school degree, financial independence, marriage, and children. These days, he lingers—happily—in a new hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. Decades in unfolding, this limbo may not seem like news to many, but in fact it is to the early twenty-first century what adolescence was to the early twentieth: a momentous sociological development of profound economic and cultural import. Some call this new period “emerging adulthood,” others “extended adolescence”; David Brooks recently took a stab with the “Odyssey Years,” a “decade of wandering.”

But while we grapple with the name, it’s time to state what is now obvious to legions of frustrated young women: the limbo doesn’t bring out the best in young men.
--

That’s too bad. Men are “more unfinished as people,” Kunkel has neatly observed. Young men especially need a culture that can help them define worthy aspirations. Adults don’t emerge. They’re made.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:12 AM | Permalink

January 28, 2008

The Buzzer Beater

Jason, an autistic boy and the manager of his school's basketball team with responsibilities to hand out water  and lead the cheers, was tapped by the team's coach to suit up for the last game and then to play for the last few minutes. 

"If I weren't there, I wouldn't have believed it," said the coach.

\

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:44 PM | Permalink

January 27, 2008

The Widow Penalty

It's called 'the widow penalty' when the widow of a soldier not in the war zone or widow of a contractor killed in Iraq faces deportation because their husbands died before their immigration paperwork was finished. 

Bill Jempty has been stalwart in supporting those widows with a series of posts on Wizbang, focusing on their plight which is due to a quirk in the immigration law.  He died defending our country and now we're going to deport his widow.

That a woman here legally,  married a soldier or a contractor who died in Iraq, faces deportation because they were married for less then 2 years seems the height of ingratitude.

There are only a couple hundred of women, some with young children,  facing the added grief of the widow penalty.  It seems to me that we should do right by them before we debate  immigration policy for ten million who have chosen not to take the legal  path.

An organization has been set up to demand an end to the widow penalty, Surviving Spouses Against Deportation

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:43 PM | Permalink

"Don't Treat the Old and Unhealthy"

Health care is on the mind of a lot of Americans.  Will they be able to afford heath care?  What kind of country are we that we can't guarantee health care for everyone?  Should it be a guaranteed right?  Should we require every American to carry health care insurance?  Should we have a single payer system, that is should the government pay for health care for everyone or should we continue with a mixed system of public and private systems.

For the time being, generally speaking,  I'm  not going to write about the various proposals out there.  I'll just pass along some links I think you should see. 

In Britain the financial strains of government provided health care are showing when doctors say Don't treat the old and unhealthy

Among the survey of 870 family and hospital doctors, almost 60 per cent said the NHS could not provide full healthcare to everyone and that some individuals should pay for services.

One in three said that elderly patients should not be given free treatment if it were unlikely to do them good for long. Half thought that smokers should be denied a heart bypass, while a quarter believed that the obese should be denied hip replacements.
--
Gordon Brown promised this month that a new NHS constitution would set out people's "responsibilities" as well as their rights, a move interpreted as meaning restric tions on patients who bring health problems on themselves. The only sanction threatened so far, however, is to send patients to the bottom of the waiting list if they miss appointments.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:30 PM | Permalink

January 26, 2008

Lazy option is best

The custom used to be that when you got tired of waiting for a bus or train, you'd take out a cigarette and light it.    Just how this caused the bus or train to suddenly appear is one of those mysteries that have never been adequately explained.

Now so many people have given up smoking, other ways  to make the bus appeared have been tried and found wanting.  Many lose patience  and decide to walk to the next stop.  That option doesn't work as science has discovered.

Lazy option is best when waiting for the bus

Scott Kominers, a mathematician at Harvard University, and his colleagues derived a formula for the optimal time that you should wait for a tardy bus at each stop en route before giving up and walking on. "Many mathematicians probably ponder this on their way to work, but never get round to working it out," he says.

The team found that the solution was surprisingly simple. When both options seem reasonably attractive, the formula advises you to choose the "lazy" option: wait at the first stop, no matter how frustrating

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink

January 25, 2008

My Will

And you thought lawyers could never get down and funky.  Check out Bob Noone and the Well-Hung Jury singing My Will

   

via Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 AM | Permalink

January 24, 2008

Listen Up Mom

This is self-evident; still, it's always nice when scientific research proves that Kids Learn More When Mom is Listening.

The researchers found that explaining the answer to themselves and to their moms improved the children's ability to solve similar problems later, and that explaining the answer to their moms helped them solve more difficult problems.

"We saw that this simple act of listening by mom made a difference in the quality of the child's explanations and how well they could solve more difficult problems later on," Rittle-Johnson said.

The researchers also found that children experience the benefit of explaining a solution at an earlier age than previously thought..."We found that even 4-year-olds can use explanation to help them learn and to apply what they've learned to other tasks."

You don't really understand anything until you can explain it or teach it to someone else.  That's why having a mom who listens is so important to a child's development.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:11 PM | Permalink

January 23, 2008

Analog Parents, Digital Kids

A Deep Divide: Digital Kids, Analog Parents

The kid knows no boundaries. But neither does the adult. The high school senior is so lost in a hyper-public, YouTube world that he thinks nothing of forwarding a private phone call to the entire planet. The wife of the Fairfax County public school administrator the kid called at home is understandably miffed about the invasion into her private sphere, yet she returns fire with a shockingly disproportionate blast of rage.
----
It used to be you could have an inappropriate or rude conversation with someone and it would stay private," says Ron McClain, head of the Parkmont School in the District and a parent of teenagers in the Montgomery County schools. "There's a much fuzzier line between public and private now. This is a case where the technology has outpaced our ability to cope with its effects. As parents, we're way behind."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:09 PM | Permalink

Younger and more pro-life

On the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Los Angeles Times finds that the antiabortion cause stirs a new generation.

The crowds are getting younger and younger.

Pew Research Center polls dating back a decade show that 18-29 year-olds are consistently more likely than the general population to favor strict limits on abortion.

One student said, "Abortion feels more personal to us."  Another responded, " I feel like we're all survivors of abortion.  I look at my friends and I wonder, 'Where are your siblings?' "

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:01 PM | Permalink

The Tongue Sucker

Straight from Davos, via Jeff Jarvis, comes news that first aid kits, which haven't been overhauled since the First World War, are now changing in Britain with the addition of a tongue sucker.

Designed by four young students from the Royal College of Art after the 2005 London tube bombings, tongue suckers are designed to avoid blocked airways and suffocation.

"If you don't open the airway before the paramedics arrive there is no point in them arriving anyway," 
said  one of the inventors, after winning a prestigious 2007 design award.

It looks like a turkey baster, but will keep the airways open of an unconscious person and can be applied by anyone.

Video and demonstration here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 PM | Permalink

January 22, 2008

Really smart phones

Some good news for those like me who have an occasional nightmare about a radiological dirty bomb set off in an American city.

Cell phone sensors detect radiation to thwart nuclear terrorism

Researchers at Purdue University are working with the state of Indiana to develop a system that would use a network of cell phones to detect and track radiation to help prevent terrorist attacks with radiological "dirty bombs" and nuclear weapons.

Such a system could blanket the nation with millions of cell phones equipped with radiation sensors able to detect even light residues of radioactive material. Because cell phones already contain global positioning locators, the network of phones would serve as a tracking system, said physics professor Ephraim Fischbach.
--
Long before the sensors would detect significant radiation, the system would send data to a receiving center.

"The sensors don't really perform the detection task individually," Fischbach said. "The collective action of the sensors, combined with the software analysis, detects the source. The system would transmit signals to a data center, and the data center would transmit information to authorities without alerting the person carrying the phone. Say a car is transporting radioactive material for a bomb, and that car is driving down Meridian Street in Indianapolis or Fifth Avenue in New York. As the car passes people, their cell phones individually would send signals to a command center, allowing authorities to track the source."

The signal grows weaker with increasing distance from the source, and the software is able to use the data from many cell phones to pinpoint the location of the radiation source.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:43 PM | Permalink

They call it The Last Laugh

If you're wondering just what's going on in the markets and how the subprime mess is affecting you, I urge you to watch this.

Hat tip Maggie's Farm

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:23 PM | Permalink

Jay Parkinson is a WOW

Is it a gimmick or a whole new way of being a doctor?

Jay Parkinson is an easily accessible mobile doctor who makes housecalls in the Brooklyn, Park Slope area of New York, offers same or next day appointments and follow up eVisits and he's a hunk.

  Jay Parkinson Mobile Doctor

He says, "The greatest predictor of health is giving a crap about yourself"

He knows amazing doctors, healthcare prices and will help prevent illness (a preventive medicine residency at John Hopkins, a masters in public health from there too, and an MD from Penn State University).

He specializes in children and young adults, 18-40 with and without traditional health insurance.

You can contact him by phone, email, IM, text or video chat, 8 to 5 Monday through Friday, 24/7 for emergencies.

He calls himself a "New Kind of Physician" and says,
When you need more than I provide, I ensure you wisely spend your money and pay the lowest price for the highest quality in order to optimize your health.

How does his practice work?
You enroll, he contacts you, you contact him, you get what you need.

Talk about a fresh, new approach, Jay has it.  Wow.

hat tip Seth Godin

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:54 PM | Permalink

Salt - a cold killer?

Raw garlic is a natural anti-viral and honey is a natural antibiotic, it makes some sort of weird sense that salt water cures colds better than anything else. 

Salt water 'cures kids' colds'

A nasal spray made from Atlantic Ocean seawater eased wintertime cold symptoms faster and slowed cough and cold symptoms from returning among children ages 6 to 10, researchers in Europe reported on Monday.

It may be that the salt water has a simple mechanical effect of clearing mucus, or it could be that trace elements in the water play some more significant role, though the exact reason why such a solution works is not known, said Dr Ivo Slapak and colleagues at the Teaching Hospital of Brno in the Czech Republic.

I've written earlier about the amazing properties of salt water and the ameliorative effect it has on cystic fibrosis.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:01 AM | Permalink

What do you call rich?

If you have a net worth of $1.4 million, you're in the top 5% of Americans. 

But if you ask a rich person, they will $5 million, ask a richer person and they will say $25 million, ask the richest people and they will say $100 million.

A Rich Person's Definition of Rich.  Hint: It's always more than they have.  About twice what they have.

Even the rich pretend to be middle-class.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:07 AM | Permalink

January 21, 2008

A Retreat to Recharge

It was just luck that six months ago I had scheduled a retreat at St.Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. 

After two weeks of the flu, I needed some time to re-energize and get back on track before I took up again all the things I had to do.

So I looked forward to some time with the Trappist monks, to put my ordinary concerns aside, to get away from it all including the Internet and reconnect with my inner self.    I wasn't  disappointed.

 St. Joseph's Abbey Winter

"What was it like?" a friend asked when I got back yesterday.

"Like honey," I said.

It was slow.  Time expanded in a miraculous way.  I had plenty of time to read "St. Augustine Confessions (Oxford World's Classics)" , a book I always meant to read but never got around to.  Time too to take long walks and long naps.

It was sweet,  the atmosphere one of concentrated holiness and peace.  The meals delicious and taken in silence while we listened to tapes of John Shea, a gifted spiritual writer on the Gospel of St.Luke.

It was beautiful.  The monks, no matter the age, all work to make the community self-supporting.  At St. Joseph's they are most famous for their Trappist Preserves.

  Trappist Preserves

No matter what they wear as they work and some wear blue jeans,

 Making Preserves St Joseph's Abbey

when they gather for song and prayers, seven times a day, they put on their monk's robes.

 Monks Vestry St. Joseph's

And when they sing ancient psalms and antiphons,  they are as one, joining with monks around the world and in ages past in a timeless singing of praise and thanksgiving.    To hear them them is to be lifted up in a sublime experience of beauty.

It's said that monasteries are powerhouses of prayer and spiritual energy.  All I know is there is no better place to recharge.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:08 PM | Permalink

January 14, 2008

Swaddling's coming back

Swaddling's coming back as many parents learn that this is great way to sooth crying babies.  Swaddling also prolongs sleep and reduces the baby's risk for SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome and it has the added advantage of making babies very portable/

Or course, there's the wrong way to swaddle that could affect the baby's hip development and result in hip dysplasia (hint: you want to leave plenty of room for the baby's legs to move around.  And then there's The Right Way to Swaddle

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:49 PM | Permalink

"My BMW doesn't visit me in the nursing home."

Don Aucoin in the Boston Globe explores why Analyzing happiness is a growth industry.

In that  piece he quotes author and TV host John Izzo who asked 235 elderly people how and where they found happiness.

"I've always been interested in the question of why some people live well and die happy, and some people die as if they missed the party," explains Izzo. So he asked his interviewees, who ranged in age from 60 to 106, such questions as "What brought happiness to your life?", "What do you wish you'd learned sooner?", and "What do you regret?"

"Almost no one regretted something they tried in their life that didn't work out, yet almost everyone said they wished they had risked more," Izzo says. "They said the greatest fear at the end of life is not death or failure. It's that you didn't even try." The men in particular regretted not showing their wives or children how much they loved them. "What I've discovered is my BMW doesn't visit me in the nursing home," one retired businessman told Izzo.

So what were some of the secrets of happiness? In addition to living in the moment and being true to yourself, the consensus of the interviewees, Izzo says, was: "If you want to be a person who's happy, be a giver." In other words, focus not on yourself but on the needs of others. "They said when you're young you think your greatest happiness will come from what you get from life, but looking back they realized the only things that gave meaning was the fact that they gave," says Izzo.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 AM | Permalink

January 13, 2008

"The Today show, like life itself, unfolds while you’re doing other things"

It's always a treat to read Caitlin Flanagan piece and this month's piece in the Atlantic demonstrates why.

A Woman's Place,  on Katie Couric's long day's journey into evening or why the Today show is more important than any nightly news program.

I watched them faithfully—although watch, I realize, is the wrong verb where this phenomenally successful program is concerned; anyone who fails to grasp this fact will never understand why the Today show will survive the death of nightly news, the death of the newspaper, and even the collapse of television as a major player in the media world. The Today show, like life itself, unfolds while you’re doing other things.
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The Today show creates a bond with its overwhelmingly female viewers because so many of them watch it, as I did, during one of the most psychologically complex and lonely—and most emotionally fulfilling—times of their lives: their tenure as mothers to small children.
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It is the loneliness of at-home motherhood—the loneliness for other adults, for the adult way of life, for the work clothes and schedules and employment itself—that makes the hosts of the Today show crucial. When you turn on the program, there they are: your friends. You half-listen to them, the way you half-listen to your children playing on the floor in the next room, and together the two worlds make up the whole of your enterprise: theory and practice. The host discusses shoes that are supposed to help toddlers walk more steadily, and you turn to your own baby and wonder if you ought to buy him a pair. ....
When it is on, the television screen is no longer a barrier separating real life from TV land; the television screen is a window into another room of the house, the one where the grown-ups are.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:57 PM | Permalink

Regret Over Lost Futures

Benedict Carey's New Year's Day piece in the New York Times, Regret with a Dash of Bitters,  ruminates on the nature of lost possible selves, the person you might have been or could have been.

Surprisingly, or maybe not depending on how old you are, what people most regret is not what they did but what they didn't do.

In a series of studies, Laura A. King, a psychologist at the University of Missouri, has had people write down a description of their future as they imagined it before a life-altering event, like divorce. She has found that those who are able to talk or write about this lost future without sinking into despair or losing hope tend to have developed another quality, called complexity.

Complexity reflects an ability to incorporate various points of view into a recollection, to vividly describe the circumstances, context and other dimensions. It is the sort of trait that would probably get you killed instantly in a firefight; but in the mental war of attrition through middle age and after, its value only increases.
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“To elaborate on loss, to look for some insight in it, is not just what a psychologically mature person does,” Dr. King said. “It’s how a person matures.

My favorite Swiss critic, Henri Frederik Amiel was unsuccessful and unnoticed during his life.  After he died, a friend published his Intimate Diary, Journal Intime, to great acclaim because of its "scrupulous self observation" such as

You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 PM | Permalink

Postcards home

Postcards home from Roman soldiers in Britain, 

They came, they saw...and they asked for new underpants


Now known as the Vindolanda Tablets - after the fort where they were found - the more than 1,000 pieces of birch, alder and oak give an unparalleled, moving and often very funny insight into the life of the Roman soldier stuck miles from home at the end of the first century AD.
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The letters reveal how the soldiers miss their family and friends back in Gaul - that's where most of them came from...But most of all, how cold they are in the frozen north,
--
The funniest letter is a simple list of the clothes sent from the warm south to a poor frozen Roman: "Paria udonum ab Sattua solearum duo et subligariorum duo." Or - socks, two pairs of sandals and two pairs of underpants.
--

Solemnis, in another letter, wrote to his brother Paris: "Hello there. Hope all's well. I'm in top form - and I hope you are, even though you've been so bloody lazy and haven't sent me a single letter.

Human nature and human needs haven't changed at all. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:08 PM | Permalink

January 10, 2008

Reversing Alzheimer's Symptoms in Minutes

I sure hope this is true and pans out.;

Drug 'Can Reverse Alzheimer's Symptoms in Minutes

A drug used for arthritis can reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer's "in minutes".

It appears to tackle one of the main features of the disease - inflammation in the brain.

The drug, called Enbrel, is injected into the spine where it blocks a chemical responsible for damaging the brain and other organs.

A pilot study carried out by U.S. researchers found one patient had his symptoms reversed "in minutes".

Other patients have shown some improvements in symptoms such as forgetfulness and confusion after weekly injections over six months.
The study of 15 patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer's has just been published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation by online publishers Biomed Central.

The experiment showed that Enbrel can deactivate TNF (tumour necrosis factor) - a chemical in the fluid surrounding the brain that is found in Alzheimer's sufferers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

Sick and Tired

I haven't been posting because I've been sick and tired with the flu. But  I've earned something I want to pass on. 

Apart from wicked tiredness, headaches and muscle aches, what bothered me most was an extremely sore throat and a severe cough.

Cough drops, cough syrups, aspergum - nothing seemed to work until I googled and found that raw garlic fights viruses. 

Yucky as that sounds, raw garlic chopped very fine actually made me feel better, a lot better.  Especially when followed by a honey chaser, another natural antibiotic, which was the most soothing thing I could do. That and iced water.

Honey and garlic.  Garlic and Honey.  You have both in your pantry or should.  You don't need the other stuff.

So why keep lots of OTC medications in your medicine cabinet that millions of youth use to get high?

About 3.1 million people between the ages of 12 to 25 use cough and cold syrup say officials who liken the level of abuse to use of LSD, methamphetamine or ecstasy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:32 AM | Permalink

January 4, 2008

A Surge of Hope

Bill Whittle has posted another fabulous essay, Forty Second Boyd and the Big Picture. 

Part 1 Pope John and the Supersonic Monastery

John Boyd – Pope John, The High Priest of the Fighter Mafia, the Mad Major, the Ghetto Colonel – Forty Second Boyd not only wrote the revolutionary tactics manuals that gave American pilots the keys to air-to-air victory… and with it the essential and undisputed control of the battlespace. Nor was his achievement limited to the design of the phenomenally successful F-15 and F-16 fighters. Nor was it merely the codifying of physics and thermodynamics to make a science out of an art form. That John Boyd saw all of these things for the first time would have made him a legend. But this was quite the lesser of his two great achievements. For Boyd not only saw how to perfect the sword. He saw too how to perfect the swordsman.

And for that, Forty Second Boyd may turn out to be one of the most important men of the Twenty-First Century. And he has lain at rest in Arlington National Cemetery since 1997
.

Part 2  The Big Picture

A New Agility based on the theories of John Boyd and
Swordlessness using nothing but the enemy's sword against him.

General Petraeus – just perhaps – is in the process of winning such a victory in Iraq. By brilliant diplomacy, deep understanding of the culture and the judicious use of gunpowder and money, it appears he has severed most of the Sunni tribes from al Qaeda and used them as “Awakening” peacekeeping militias against their former allies. General Petraeus is not fighting the last war; he is fighting the next one. He did not arrive there and just hope for the best. He observed. He oriented. He decided. And he acted. And then he observed again to see what effect he had. And again. And again.

This is not firepower. This is not attrition. This is, rather, an intelligent, delicate, sophisticated, maneuver-based strategy. A light, but sometimes deadly touch. Fingertip control. Water flowing downhill, into the cracks which our enemy cannot fill.
----

If this continues, Gen. Petraeus will have walked into the camp of the enemy and used his own sword against him. That is a
profound species of victory.

You can not put a value on the power an idea such as the one that drives Gen. Petraeus’ “Awakening” strategy. A man’s ultimate motivation is to provide for his family. A man, when all is said and done, is powered by nothing more or less then the desire to make his family safe and proud of him.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:11 AM | Permalink

January 3, 2008

America happier, Britain not

America is a very happy place, Investor's Business Daily points out.

"Most Americans say they are generally happy, with a slim majority saying they are 'very happy,' " according to the Gallup Poll released on the final day of 2007. "More than 8 in 10 Americans say they are satisfied with their personal lives at this time, including a solid majority who say they are 'very satisfied.' "

Another extensive survey conducted in 2007 by the Pew Research Center found that 65% of Americans termed themselves "satisfied" with their lives. That compares with the four economic powerhouses of Britain, France, Germany and Italy, which averaged about 53%.
--
As economist Irwin Stelzer recently noted, "teenage drug use, pregnancies, smoking and drinking are all on the decline; welfare reform is working, bringing down child poverty, and the divorce rate is falling."

Oh, and we're having more babies than at any time since the 1970s — not something that a gloomy, depressed society does.

If Americans are happier than ever, the Brits are not.  Over the New Year, the London Ambulance Service received an emergency call every 8 seconds, the great majority related to binge drinking.

50 years ago, 50% of Brits said they were very happy.  Today, only about a third say that.

The Harvard Professor of Happiness Tal Ben Shahar gave them some advice in the Guardian on Cheering Up

1. Give yourself permission to be human and to feel the full range of human emotion including the painful ones.
2. Simplify your life.  Do less, enjoy more.
3. Exercise regularly. 
Michael Babyak and his colleagues at Duke University medical school, for example, showed that exercising three times a week for 30 minutes each time was as helpful for patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder as taking an antidepressant.
4. Focus on the positive.
The question we need to ask ourselves is: must things get worse before we recognise how wonderful life was? Do we need something negative to happen to us, a tragedy, to appreciate life? The answer is "no" if we make gratitude a way of life - because to be grateful for something is the opposite of taking it for granted

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:50 AM | Permalink

January 2, 2008

Acting "As If " Works

"I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be and I finally became that person. Or he became me. Or we met at some point.” 
Archie Leach in Becoming Cary Grant

 Cary Grant

Acting as if you were brave works.

Acting as if you weren't shy works.

Acting as if you were kind works.
Acting as if you were happy works.
Acting as if you were loving works.
Acting as if you were your best self works.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:07 PM | Permalink

Make Room for New Life

Some 1.5 million Americans are chronic hoarders who can not bear to throw away anything even if their excessive  clutter is harming their lives.

Compulsive hoarding may well be a mental disease whereby even the thought of throwing something away causes great stress.

Compulsive hoarders live in an ever shrinking area as the piles of useless stuff grow taller.  You can die suffocated under the piles as some do

Lynne Johnson, a professional organizer from Quincy, Mass., who is president of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization...
explains that some people look at a shelf stacked with coffee mugs and see only mugs. But people with serious disorganization problems might see each one as a unique item — a souvenir from Yellowstone or a treasured gift from Grandma.

Many clients have already accumulated numerous storage bins and other such items in a futile attempt to get organized. Usually the home space is adequate, she says, but the challenge is in teaching them how to group, sort, set priorities and discard
.

What is decluttering but editing - choosing the best, discarding the rest.
Editing is a skill we all have to learn is we are not to be drowned by our own stuff. 

If you don't use it or love it, lose it.
Keep the best, toss the rest.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

What to say to a carjacker

The grandmother who fought back during a carjacking.

"I said, 'Look, if you do don't stop this car and get out I am going to stab you in the eye with this ink pen and I'm serious,' 'OK.' So, he turned the corner right there at the Kangaroo and he got out."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:25 AM | Permalink

January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

I wish everyone, most especially my dear readers, a New Year filled with more of that of which we never tire - more truth, more beauty,  more goodness, more love.


Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.
Henri Frederic Amiel

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

A New Year Dawns

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
-- T.S. Eliot

  Morning Glory Cloud
A new year dawns, witness the meteorological phenomenon known as the Morning Glory cloud

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 AM | Permalink