August 31, 2008

The funniest things from the convention

The funniest things I found from the Democratic convention.

From the Sunday Times,  AA Gill travels to Denver and writes as only a Brit can - think Monty Python with a slight sneer  - and the results are hilarious with
Barack Obama's army with epic razzamatazz .
Cumulatively, these stories sound like the Yorkshireman’s sketch from Monty Python as a 12-step share. Each silky, coiffured and polished senator, congressman and governor outdoes the other with Stygian hardship. The effect is so cloyingly sentimental, it could give cynicism diabetes. But I am again the only one who finds the parade of Little Nell revelations hideously patronising. The implication being that if you don’t wind up at least as an Ivy League lawyer, then your poverty wasn’t bad enough and your dream isn’t lavish and American enough. The only person who doesn’t tell us about growing up in a bucket under the sink is Ted Kennedy, because we already know that he was born into patrician splendour paid for by illegal whisky-running during prohibition.

Peggy Noonan brings the house down

The hilarious Jason Mattara goes undercover  with a petition to bring Cinemax, Netflix, and MSNBC to Guatanamo prisoners.  The hippies sign.  Via Hot Air

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:20 AM | Permalink

Change is already happening

I don't write about politics on this blog because so many other people do it so much better and also because I don't want to be defined by politics or my political beliefs.    It's a sad fact that too many demonize the other side and make instant decisions on a person based on their political beliefs.  Neither party has an exclusive option on truth, goodness or patriotism.  Both parties have their loons, radicals and all out crazy nuts. 

Politics is important but it's a small part of life.   

I used to think it was almost everything.  So when I graduated from college, I worked at one of the first campaign consulting firms in the country and worked on several senatorial, a gubernatorial campaign and two presidential campaigns before I went to law school.  It was fast-paced, exciting and hard work that can burn you out.   

Still, I'm a secret political junkie and when conventions roll around, I fall off the wagon.  I inhale political coverage, all the strategy and tactics, the subplots, the speeches, the commentary and the analysts. 

Beyond all the appeal to a political junkie,  this is truly an historic election.  Come November 4th, we'll either have the first African-American president or the first woman vice-president. 

The nomination of Barack Obama demonstrates just how far we have come as a nation in putting race behind us.  A great part of his appeal is his transcending the old racial divisions that beset us.  Some will still say we are an irremediably racist nation but they choose to forget a bloody civil war fought to end slavery, the Civil Rights Act  enactedin 1964  outlawing racial segregation in schools, public places and employment and two generations later the nomination the son of a black Kenyan and a white woman from Kansas to be president of the United States.  Speaking as one who appreciates political strategy and tactics,  Obama has run a brilliant well-organized  campaign and inspired countless millions with his rhetoric.

***Obama Combo

McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate is a WOW.  A beautiful mother of five, with one child headed off to Iraq and a new born baby, married to her high-school sweetheart, part-time commercial fisherman, part-time oil worker and world champion snowmobiler, Palin entered politics by way of the PTA, then was elected mayor of her home town, who fought the corruption of the Republican political establishment and won to become governor of the largest state in the union.  A self-made woman, she is the mirror image of what we have been led to believe is a feminist.  How could she be pro-life, pro-NRA, pro hunting and fishing, for drilling in ANWR, anti-Big-Oil and  pro-environment, a tax-cutter and a corruption buster?

She's fresh, real and authentic.  As spectacular as her political ascent is, she lives an ordinary Alaskan outdoor life which seems extraordinary to most in the lower 48.  She's an ordinary citizen and just as capable to run the government as any ivy-league lawyer from the political class.

I'm become weary of the political class and the professional politicians who have little life experience outside the halls of Congress or a law firm.  I like what the Anchoress wrote

I am more and more pleased that she is not another Ivy League lawyer who planned and plotted a political career, but rather a concerned and active, intelligent woman who simply followed her own interests and concerns, and walked through the doors and opportunities as they were placed before her. That’s refreshing - it is also so very “can-do American.”
We forget, sometimes, that Harry Truman was just a haberdasher,

***Combo Palin

If you're smart, willing to study and have good instincts, you can learn fast what you need to know.  Life experience is harder to come by.

Change is already happening. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 AM | Permalink

August 27, 2008

"I'm not interested in the darkness anymore"

The most amazing personal stories are always about transformation.  That's why conversion stories are so compelling.  Today for  example we have the story of Joe Eszterhas and he's written a book about it.

"Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith" (Joe Eszterhas)

He wrote dark thrillers like Basic Instinct and Jagged Edge and lived a wild life.  After moving to Cleveland with his second wife, he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic removed 80 percent of his larynx, put a tracheotomy tube in his throat, and told him he must quit drinking and smoking immediately...

"I was going crazy. I was jittery. I twitched. I trembled. I had no patience for anything. … Every single nerve ending was demanding a drink and a cigarette," he wrote.

He plopped down on a curb and cried. Sobbed, even. And for the first time since he was a child, he prayed: "Please God, help me."

Mr. Eszterhas was shocked by his own prayer.

"I couldn't believe I'd said it. I didn't know why I'd said it. I'd never said it before," he wrote.

But he felt an overwhelming peace. His heart stopped pounding. His hands stopped twitching. He saw a "shimmering, dazzling, nearly blinding brightness that made me cover my eyes with my hands."

Like Saul on the road to Damascus, Mr. Eszterhas had been blinded by God. He stood up, wiped his eyes, and walked back home a new man.

In a phone interview this week, Mr. Eszterhas said it was "an absolutely overwhelming experience."

'Basic Instinct' author writes book about faith.

But after his spiritual transformation, he said, he had had enough of death, murder, blood, and chaos.

"Frankly my life changed from the moment God entered my heart. I'm not interested in the darkness anymore," he said. "I've got four gorgeous boys, a wife I adore, I love being alive, and I love and enjoy every moment of my life. My view has brightened and I don't want to go back into that dark place."

Mr. Eszterhas' love and appreciation for life was magnified even more last year when his surgeon told him he didn't need to schedule another visit.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:06 PM | Permalink

The Pills that will Change Your Life

A drug to cure cancer. Another to halt aging. In the not-so-distant future, these six drugs—already in the works—will change how we live, and even how we die

This Pill Will Change Your Life
via Instapundit

Here are the six Pop Sci zeroes in on

cancer vaccine
male birth control pill
anti-addiction pill
exercise pill
anti-aging pill
smart pill

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:32 PM | Permalink

Survey on the Generations

Boomer narcissism, ageism debunked.

Harris Interactive surveyed  3868 adults between 21 and 83.

Between "the Greatest Generation" and "Gen Y" - five generations of Americans now populate the nation, each distinct and boasting opinions about themselves and one another that often run counter to persistent cultural myths.

Like ageism.

Americans don't hate old people. Americans love old people.

And the Boomers aren't half as fake, annoying and self-absorbed as their collective public image might indicate.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

"Rendered powerless by sheer inattention"

Orson Scott Card is The Ornery American and writing about Alexander Solzhenitsyn  in  Nobody Was Listening.

Let me quote just one passage from Solzhenitsyn's speech: "A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations.

"Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life."

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn died last week. For the last thirty years of his life he was almost unheard-of. He was dismissed by our media elite as a has-been, a grumpy old man who dared to criticize them as scathingly as he criticized the Communists. They declared him No Longer Interesting.

But he is as important as he ever was. He was mostly right about the Soviet Union; he was mostly right about us.

In the Soviet Union, he was seen as dangerous.

In America, he was rendered powerless by sheer inattention.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:16 PM | Permalink

A whiskey a day

10 cigars a day and a shot of whiskey in his morning tea is the secret to Jack Priestly's long life, now 100.

A retired baker and a widower since 1993, Jack
keeps active by going shopping, gardening and keeping chickens.

Jack stopped driving two months ago and now gets about on a motorised scooter.

He said: "I don't feel my age. I've still the mind of a young man. But if I had the company of a good woman, I'm sure I'd feel 40 years younger in a flash."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:38 PM | Permalink

Babies, Rickets and Breastfeeding

If a mother does not have enough vitamin, neither will the baby she breastfeeds.

Please check, no more babies with rickets.

Vitamin D Deficiency May Lurk in Babies

“I thought I was doing the best thing for her,” said Stephanie Remy-Marquez, of Hyde Park, Mass., after blood tests showed her daughter had no detectable vitamin D. X-ray images of the baby’s wrists and knees showed the edges of the bones and growth plates as blurry and fraying instead of crisp and sharp.

“Breast milk is supposed to be an entire meal, dessert and drinks included,” Ms. Remy-Marquez said. “I thought it was the ultimate cocktail.”
Physicians have known for more than a century that exclusive breast-feeding may be associated with vitamin D deficiency and rickets, and that the condition is easily prevented and treated with inexpensive vitamin drops or cod liver oil. But doctors are reluctant to say anything that might discourage breast-feeding.

Now some researchers are also linking vitamin D deficiency with other chronic diseases like diabetes, autoimmune disorders and even cancer, and there have been calls to include blood tests of vitamin D levels in routine checkups.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

August 25, 2008

"My parents were punks"

It's the new counter-culture.

Can Good Feminists Bake Cupcakes?

For Nikki Shail, the aesthetic of the 1950s housewife has always been attractive. "My mother was not remotely like that, so for me it's a glamorous, romantic thing," she says. "I love the way it's very feminine and I find a strength in that femininity." The events marketing manager from Kingston, Surrey, devotes her spare time to dressing up as her alter ego, Cherry Bakewell, a 50s goddess who whisks up batches of fairy cakes for the good of humanity.


Anything which is very personal and behind closed doors and pleasurable for women is subversive these days," she says wryly. When her book, The Gentle Art of Domesticity, was published last year, she was horrified to be dubbed a purveyor of "pinny porn", as if she was committing some kind of sacrilege by knitting her own tea cosies.

it is this frisson of the taboo that appeals to a new generation of young women, who seem to love the novelty of baking and dressing up in aprons. Jazz D Holly, 24, an aspiring playwright from east London, is the president of the Shoreditch Sisters, the youngest branch of the Women's Institute, which has 20 members who meet regularly to swap recipes and knitting patterns. For her, domesticity is about rebellion: "I think it is a reaction to 1990s ladette culture and the sense of androgyny around that. I don't like the idea that we are exactly the same as men. I think it is damaging to women's self-respect."
...For my generation, girls in their 20s, all my friends, it's a cultural shift, almost a movement: many people are fascinated by retro ideas. I have always been fascinated by the postwar mentality." Part of this feeds into the thrift movement. "It's coming back to something with a bit more value when everything today is so fast, and technology is so advanced."

In Holly's case it is also a personal stance. "My parents were punks," - her father was Joe Strummer of the Clash -"so I had a chaotic childhood. You try to be subversive by not doing what your parents did. It was not rebellious for me to go out drinking and taking drugs because that was what my parents did. I've always been fascinated by knowing how to knit but I had to learn it from my great-grandmother because my mother did not do anything like that and my grandmother was part of the whole 1960s women's lib thing."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 PM | Permalink

Metaphor for so many things

I laugh every time I watch this.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:03 PM | Permalink

The Termite's Moment in the Sun

Gut Reactions

The greatest mystery of all is found in the worker termite’s third gut, which is delineated by an intricately structured stomach valve, as unique from species to species as individual snowflakes are and, in its way, just as lovely. The size of a sesame seed, the third gut contains a dense mush of symbiotic microbes. Many of these microbes live nowhere else on Earth; they depend on adult termites to pass them on to the young by means of a “woodshake,” a microbial slurry.
This microbial mush may be a treasure trove for the human race. Recently, sophisticated genetic sequencing produced an inventory of more than 80,000 genes, spanning some 300 microbial species, from the guts of Costa Rican termites. These findings, published last November in the journal Nature, got a lot of attention, not for the quantity of microorganisms—after all, the human mouth contains 600 species of bacteria—but for their complexity, and in particular for the fact that among them are 500 genes for enzymes able to break down the cellulose in wood and grasses.
The little biorefineries inside each termite allow the insects to eat up $11 billion in U.S. property every year. But some scientists and policy makers believe they may also make the termite a sort of biotech Rumpelstiltskin, able to spin straw—or grass, or wood by-products—into something much more valuable. Offer a termite this page, and its microbial helpers will break it down into two liters of hydrogen, enough to drive more than six miles in a fuel-cell car. If we could turn wood waste into fuel with even a fraction of the termite’s efficiency, we could run our economy on sawdust, lawn clippings, and old magazines.
And so the termite may be poised for its moment in the sun. Speaking last year about moving toward a biofuel economy, Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman pointed to the termite-to-tank concept, asserting, “We know this can be done.” Another official called it a promising “transformational discovery.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:24 AM | Permalink

Magnetic Movie

It's quite extraordinary to see the chaos of the magnetic fields all around us.  From Magnetic Movie.

With Magnetic Movie, Semiconductor have tapped into a new and ancient aesthetic of turbulence. We can hear it in the sounds of natural radio-naturally-occurring electromagnetic signals from the earth's ionosphere and magnetosphere-that course through Magnetic Movie, at times animating the animation, a quick nervous response condensed into static. The sound itself is the product of the combined turbulences of the earth's molten core, weather systems and electrical storms, ephemeral ionization in the upper atmosphere, and the solar winds. What we hear is underscored with complex and supple orders, in fact, too complex and supple to be ordered. We already have experience of them in the tangible turbulence of water and the crazy convection of fluids combining, tongues of fire and the thermal afterthought of smoke, the ribbons of clouds stiffly blown twisted up a hill. The flux championed by Hericlitus that has awed audiences since antiquity.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:21 AM | Permalink

Global amnesia

A woman goes to bed as 32 -year-old mother of one and wakes up a 15-year-old.

The next morning, I woke into a nightmare. I was convinced I was my 15-year-old self. Distressed and confused, I wondered why I wasn't in my comfy lower bunk bed, covered in a pink Marilyn Monroe bedspread, sharing a room with my sister. ....

Yet here I was in a two-bedroom council house with a room full of books, a cat and an 11-year-old son I didn't recognise. In those first hours, I paced my bedroom convinced I was going mad. I can remember looking in the bathroom mirror and starting to scream. Through the eyes of a 15-year-old, what I saw was horrifying; who was this ageing woman with crow's-feet, spots and bags under her eyes?

I woke up in the future.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:03 AM | Permalink

Cards for Same Sex Weddings

Responding to consumer demand, Hallmark offers "coming out" cards for homosexuals and now same-sex marriage cards.

 Hallmark Gay Marriage

The language inside, "Two hearts. One promise" is neutral enough so the card can also work for commitment ceremonies.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:58 AM | Permalink

August 21, 2008

Friends across the pond

Battling the growing phenomenon of  anti-Americanism, a British group has organized a website called America in the World.    Good for them.

AmericaInTheWorld is a London-based international alliance opposed to anti-Americanism as well as American isolationism. Via our briefings, we aim to provide the number one factual resource for those who wish to hear the case against anti-Americanism. Our goal is to increase understanding of America, to debunk some of the leading myths about the United States, and to make a positive case for a continuing leading role for America in the world.

AmericaInTheWorld is launched and funded by supporters of America in London and around the world. AmericaInTheWorld receives no American government or corporate funding.

Here's a video A World Without The American Soldier


For their launch, they commissioned a poll of 2000 U.K. citizens to find that Large numbers of British citizens consistently and inaccurately think the worst of America.

The first part of our survey would suggest that large numbers of Britons think America is a land where polygamy is legal, where you don't get emergency medical care if you are poor and where there is more racism than in Europe. Britons also think that America provided Saddam Hussein with a large share of his weapons when, in reality, Russia, China and France were responsible for most of the arms exports to his Iraq.  On all of these questions Britons are wrong.

Best of all, they are associated with no party and offer fact-filled briefings that can settle many arguments.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:53 PM | Permalink

You Got to Have Hope

Science Day reports on a growing body of research that suggests 'Hope" Therapy Fights Depression.

We’re finding that hope is consistently associated with fewer symptoms of depression.  And the good news is that hope is something that can be taught, and can be developed in many of the people who need it,” said Jennifer Cheavens, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

“If you feel you know how to get what you want out of life, and you have that desire to make that happen, then you have hope,” Cheavens said.

Hope is different from optimism, which is a generalized expectancy that good things will happen, she said.  Hope involves having goals, along with the desire and plan to achieve them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:20 PM | Permalink


The new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge Device

BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It’s so easy to use, even a child can operate it.

Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere — even sitting in an armchair by the fire — yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM.
The “browse” feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an “index” feature, which pin-points the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.

An optional “BOOKmark” accessory allows you to open BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session — even if the BOOK has been closed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:11 PM | Permalink

August 20, 2008

How to Spot a Liar

They hold off blinking while telling you the lie, then blink in a flurry afterwards.

It's all to do with the 'blinking' obvious

Liars blink in different ways during and after a falsehood, researchers claim.

They blink less than normal during the lie, and then have a flurry up to eight times faster than usual afterwards.

'It is striking what different patterns in eye blinks emerged for liars and truth tellers,' said Dr Sharon Leal, co-author of the study at Portsmouth University.

'Such striking differences in behaviour between liars and truth tellers are rarely seen in deception research.'

The psychologists say that the discovery, reported in the Journal of Non-verbal Behaviour, means that blink rates could be used by professionals to catch liar

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 19, 2008

The Religious Scruples of Doctors

California has thousands upon thousands of medical practitioners. The doctors in this case were not seeking to ban in-vitro fertilization for gay couples. They were simply saying, “Don’t make me do it.”

What they want is freedom: freedom to hold their convictions just as gay couples are free to hold theirs. Freedom to depart from a secular-belief system tyrannically imposed by government — governments having been known to impose any number of beliefs deemed de rigueur at the time . . . and remembered now only for their close-minded noxiousness.

In modern America, plenty of room has been made for gay couples and their life choices. We needn’t vanquish religious believers to make those accommodations. Trying to do so, as California is, will not result in harmony and societal progress. It will add to the campaign of political correctness slowly and needlessly tearing the nation asunder.

Andrew McCarthy's  Tyranny in the Name of Progress on the decision of a California court to ban religious objections of doctors when it comes to in vitro fertilization for same-sex pregnancies.    In North Coast Women's Care v. Benitez, the California Supreme Court

runs roughshod over the First Amendment’s free-exercise clause, seeking to supplant Judeo-Christian principles with the state-imposed religion of secularism. This is a false choice under the federal Constitution, which makes room for both.

I predict that we will see many more such court decisions in a struggle to accommodate both religious freedom and laws banning discrimination against homosexuals. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:28 PM | Permalink

A Well Worn Apron

Jennifer's goal in life is to have a well-worn apron

I realized that if I ever have an apron hanging from the pantry door that is threadbare and covered in stains, I have probably lived a pretty good life. Because having a well-worn apron means:

You have food to eat
You have someone to cook for
You have someone to sit down at the table with you to share in the fruits of your efforts
You have the resources and the physical ability to make homemade meals
You have the energy and the money to wear clothes that are nice enough to be worth protecting
You care enough to do all of the above.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:56 AM | Permalink

Premature Baby "Comes Back to Life" in Morgue Cooler

Premature baby 'comes back to life 

The 26-year-old mother and her husband have a five-year-old son at home. When she gave birth after going into premature labor at the hospital, the doctor on the scene pronounced it dead and it was taken to the morgue.

The father, Ali Majdub, told Channel 2 that his wife realized the child was alive after asking to see her dead daughter one last time.

"When we unwrapped the baby to see her, she realized it was moving. I began screaming and ran with it toward the doctors," he said.

She was then rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit, where doctors are fighting for her life.
Dr. Moshe Daniel, the hospital's deputy director, said that in his 35 years as a physician, he had "never heard of such a case. It was like a medical miracle."

.... Daniel speculated that the cooling effect of the morgue slowed the infant's metabolism, causing her oxygen consumption to be very low. There have been rare cases of people who nearly froze under snow "coming back to life," but there have been no reports of babies doing so.


The little baby has since died

The survival of such an immature baby, whether she was in an incubator or a cooler in the morgue, was very unlikely, said Eidelman. "It was a borderline case," he said, adding that she almost inevitably would have suffered from severe disability if she had lived.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

The Sudden Emergence of Consciousness

Just what happened in those caves?

Alasdair Coles on The Sudden Emergence of Consciousness

The Upper Paleolithic Revolution consisted of more than just cave paintings. Visual creativity emerged in many other ways. Burial rites become more complex. And, it is speculated, the first music was made and the first words spoken. van Huyssteen argues that the key distinction between Upper Paleolithic man and homo sapiens elsewhere and earlier hominids, was the power to construct and understand symbol, of which language of course is a part. This ability to ‘code the invisible’ allowed for storage of information outside of the gene and the start of the cultural non-genetic inheritance. The ‘mental toolkit’ required to manage symbolic representation is the ‘ability to be conscious of being conscious’ and to search for meaning. The new humans wake up, discover they are naked and meet God.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 AM | Permalink

What Now?

Some 40% of Olympians have serious problems post Olympics as they transition to a new chapter of their lives.

After Glory of a Lifetime, Asking 'What Now?'

“You’re talking about people who have trained for years, almost every day, and made huge sacrifices,” in their relationships, career, all of it, said Charlie Brown, a sports psychologist at FPS Performance in Charlotte, N.C., whose clients include Olympic kayakers, swimmers and runners. “And for some of them, once they have this huge, intense experience, it’s a very fragile situation afterwards.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:39 AM | Permalink

August 18, 2008

Fat Missionary Lady

Forget James Bond, this is what British spies look like.  And yes, they had a license to kill

 British Spys

The two peers look like innocent old ladies, but in fact they were two of the Cold War's most formidable spies. They drink tea, stirred not shaken, rather than Martinis, shaken not stirred, and they wouldn't be seen dead in an Aston Martin
Lady Park, 88, ran agents in Hanoi during the Vietnam War, smuggled defectors out of the Congo in the boot of her Citroën 2CV and was posted to Moscow when the KGB was at the height of its powers. Lady Ramsay, 72, was on the MI6 Iraq desk during the Gulf War and worked in Helsinki when Finland was an intelligence crossroads. She also helped to persuade Oleg Gordievsky, a colonel in the KGB, to defect.
I always looked just like a fat missionary, which was very useful. Missionaries get around, you know,” Lady Park says.

More Miss Marple than 007: The True Face of British Espionage.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:53 AM | Permalink

Time for Maintenance

To no one's surprise women spend 3276 hours of their lives just getting ready for a night out, three times what men spend.

The biggest chunk of that time – up to half an hour – is spent showering, washing and styling their hair, followed by 20 minutes applying make-up and 15 minutes polishing finger and toe nails.
“There’s a host of waxing, exfoliating, moisturising, straightening, polishing and plucking involved

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

Where Not to be a Child

The worst place in the Western world to be a child is Britain reports UNICEF; Theodore Dalrymple calls it Childhood's End.

The British, never fond of children, have lost all knowledge or intuition about how to raise them; as a consequence, they now fear them, perhaps the most terrible augury possible for a society.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:07 AM | Permalink

August 15, 2008

Extraordinary Birth

Donnette Sanz, 33, and 7 months pregnant was crossing the street when she was hit by a runaway school bus with no children in it.

"My brakes went out as I was coming from Valentine [Avenue]," van driver Walter Walker, 72, told The Post before cops picked him up. "The light turned red, and I couldn't stop . . . I tried to miss her.

"I tried to go behind her, but she stopped and moved back, and I hit her," he said, holding his head in his hands.
Within seconds, more than two dozen strangers - from a nearby park, the busy sidewalk and a construction site - poured into the street to aid Sanz.

"Twenty of us started lifting up the bus - about 10 more came to help," said hardhat Madalina Diaz, 42, of Ardsley. "We didn't really communicate, we all just started lifting. We lifted it up and someone pulled her out.

Sanz was rushed into the St. Barnabas emergency room at 2:18 p.m. She survived the emergency delivery, and died at 4:22 p.m., a spokesman said.

Her baby was taken to the neonatal intensive-care unit and placed on a ventilator.

The baby boy was named Sean Michael

Pregnant Woman Killed by Bus

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 AM | Permalink

"Unless we will ourselves blind"

Gerald Vanderleun gives us The Frame-Up.  The mystery of the world revealed in a backyard using an empty picture frame. 

The world is made of a perceptible mystery beyond our means of measuring, but not beyond all sight unless we will ourselves blind.

 The Frame Up

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:47 AM | Permalink

August 14, 2008

Celestial Beauty and Quantum Weirdness

 100Th Hubble

This picture released on the occasion of the 100,000 orbit of the Hubble telescope shows us a dazzling image of celestial beauty and renewal,

Hubble peered into a small portion of the Tarantula nebula near the star cluster NGC 2074. The region is a firestorm of raw stellar creation, perhaps triggered by a nearby supernova explosion. It lies about 170,000 light-years away and is one of the most active star-forming regions in our local group of galaxies.

The image reveals dramatic ridges and valleys of dust, serpent-head "pillars of creation," and gaseous filaments glowing fiercely under torrential ultraviolet radiation. The region is on the edge of a dark molecular cloud that is an incubator for the birth of new stars.

The high-energy radiation blazing out from clusters of hot young stars is sculpting the wall of the nebula by slowly eroding it away. Another young cluster may be hidden beneath a circle of brilliant blue gas.

In this approximately 100-light-year-wide fantasy-like landscape, dark towers of dust rise above a glowing wall of gases on the surface of the molecular cloud. The seahorse-shaped pillar at lower, right is approximately 20 light-years long, roughly four times the distance between our sun and the nearest star, Alpha Centauri.

The region is in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite of our Milky Way galaxy. It is a fascinating laboratory for observing star-formation regions and their evolution. Dwarf galaxies like the Large Magellanic Cloud are considered to be the primitive building blocks of larger galaxies.

Quantum Weirdness is even stranger than they thought and physicists are spooked by faster-than-light information transfer.

The revelations of these scientific discoveries leave me in awe.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:07 PM | Permalink

August 13, 2008

The Russian Bear is Back

I go away for a few days and war breaks out with Russia invading its next-door neighbor the newly democratic state of Georgia.

Did the balance of power just tip?  According to Donald Sensing in Russia's the hare, the UN's the tortoise, yes.

Russia will have its way, whatever its way actually is, and the US and the West will do exactly nothing. The US will not go to war to turn Russia back (nor would the US be able to do so even if it wanted), and Europe can't go to war without the US. Absent a credible threat of force, the protestations of diplomats mean precisely zilch because there are no sanctions that are remotely possible that Vladimir Putin et. al. will think more painful than the benefits of enforcing their will against Georgia.

The balance of power just tipped, folks, and there is not one darn thing we can do about it.

Via American Digest

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:18 PM | Permalink

Certification as an Alternative to College

This makes a lot of sense, certification as an alternative to college.

For Most People, College is a Waste of Time

First, we will set up a single goal to represent educational success, which will take four years to achieve no matter what is being taught. We will attach an economic reward to it that seldom has anything to do with what has been learned. We will urge large numbers of people who do not possess adequate ability to try to achieve the goal, wait until they have spent a lot of time and money, and then deny it to them. We will stigmatize everyone who doesn't meet the goal. We will call the goal a "BA."

You would conclude that your colleague was cruel, not to say insane. But that's the system we have in place.
The incentives are right. Certification tests would provide all employers with valuable, trustworthy information about job applicants. They would benefit young people who cannot or do not want to attend a traditional four-year college. They would be welcomed by the growing post-secondary online educational industry, which cannot offer the halo effect of a BA from a traditional college, but can realistically promise their students good training for a certification test -- as good as they are likely to get at a traditional college, for a lot less money and in a lot less time.

Certification tests would disadvantage just one set of people: Students who have gotten into well-known traditional schools, but who are coasting through their years in college and would score poorly on a certification test. Disadvantaging them is an outcome devoutly to be wished.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:59 PM | Permalink

Are we a 'nation in regression' and poorly dressed to boot?

Tony Woodlief calls it Adolescent Nation.

Some time ago I saw survey evidence regarding the milestones of adulthood, which researchers defined as: 1) leaving home, 2) finishing one’s schooling, 3) getting a job, 4) getting married, and 5) having children. Whereas in 1960, 65 percent of American males had passed these milestones by age 30, in 2000 only 31 percent had done so. The data for females was little different. Here we have an immediate casualty of America’s burgeoning inability to grow up — the fact that we have to use the clinical terms “male” and “female” more frequently, because “man” and “woman” must be applied with greater selectivity.

We are, it seems, a nation in regression. At least in the past we might have had the cold comfort of shame, but now it seems that the new mood is to proclaim childishness as a virtue.

And another question, Now we can afford decent clothes, why do we not wear them?

A friend who has just returned from Vietnam, whose citizens are poor and hardly travel, told me that the locals are perplexed and shocked by the appearance of the westerners who now go on holiday there.

They do not understand the gracelessness and the self-exposure. For their own part, they are well covered, simply dressed and elegant.

I have noticed this phenomenon in Rwanda, Afghanistan, Natal, Rajasthan, Turkmenistan, and many more places. It was true, too, of the European past, as can be seen in old photographs and paintings. Only where most people are poor are most people well dressed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

The downsides of the pill

Oral Contraceptives Disrupt Ability to Choose Genetically Favorable Mate

A recent study by the University of Liverpool found that the contraceptive pill may adversely affect a woman's natural ability to choose a genetically favorable mate.

According to Craig Roberts, a Lecturer in Evolutionary Psychology and one of the researchers in this study, women taking the pill began to prefer men with more genetically similar odors.  Addressing the implications of such a disruption, he states: "Not only could [gene] similarity in couples lead to fertility problems, but it could ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships when women stop using the contraceptive pill, as odour perception plays a significant role in maintaining attraction to partners."

These claims are not the first to question the pill's impact on hormone activity and sexuality.  Dr. David Brownstein, commenting on a study linking oral contraceptives to increased arterial plaque, emphasized the precarious balance of hormones needed for good health, a balance disrupted de facto in pill users:
Increased Risk of cerebrovascular disease and cervical cancer
"Oral contraceptives totally disrupt the normal hormonal cascade. When the hormonal system is disrupted, cardiovascular disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and other serious illnesses will increase.  My clinical experience has clearly shown that it is impossible to adequately treat these illnesses if there is an imbalanced hormonal system/

Increased risks of taking the pill
A woman taking the pill is 1.9 times more likely to die from cerebrovascular disease, it reports, and 2.5 times more likely to die from cervical cancer. The 25 year follow-up study with 46,000 British women also notes that the enhanced risk of death lasts for 10 years after women have stopped taking the pill. 

American Life League President Judie Brown expressed great concern over the results of the study and the political agenda that pushes the use of the pill. "I can't imagine any other drug with these documented lethal effects that would be applauded as a positive thing," she said. "The truth is women are dying because they are using or have used birth control pills. We're not talking about increasing the risk of disease here. We're talking about death. Women are dying from the pill and no one seems to care.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:46 PM | Permalink

"For better or worse, for richer or poorer, for co-pays and deductibles.

Why some people are rushing into marriage.

Health Benefits Inspire Rush to Marry or to Divorce

Stephen L. J. Hoffman, an officiant at a wedding chapel in Covington, Ky., said he was no longer shocked that one of 10 couples cite health insurance as the reason they stand before him.

“They come in and say, ‘We were going to get married anyway, but right now we really need the insurance,’ ” said Mr. Hoffman. “There may be an unplanned pregnancy, or there is an illness, or they’ve lost their job and can’t get insurance.”

Though money and matrimony have been linked since Genesis, marrying for health coverage is a more modern convention. For today’s couples, “in sickness and in health” may seem less a lover’s troth than an actuarial contract. They marry for better or worse, for richer or poorer, for co-pays and deductibles.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:27 PM | Permalink

" You must not die/because you have been chosen/ to be a part of the day."

A quite extraordinary letter written by Sister Lucy Vertrusc, a young nun, to her mother superior, after being raped by Serbian soldiers.

Unspeakable evil overcome by heroic goodness.

A vocation in response to evil

A must-read.

I remember the time when I used to attend the university at Rome in order to get my masters in Literature, an ancient Slavic woman, the professor of Literature, used to recite to me these verses from the poet Alexej Mislovic: You must not die/because you have been chosen/ to be a part of the day.

That night, in which I was terrorized by the Serbs for hours and hours, I repeated to myself these verses, which I felt as balm for my soul, nearly mad with despair.

And now, with everything having passed and looking back, I get the impression of having been made to swallow a terrible pill.
I will go with my child. I do not know where, but God, who broke all of a sudden my greatest joy, will indicate the path I must tread in order to do His will.

I will be poor again, I will return to the old aprons and the wooden shoes that the women in the country use for working, and I will accompany my mother into the forest to collect the resin from the slits in the trees.

Someone has to begin to break the chain of hatred that has always destroyed our countries. And so, I will teach my child only one thing: love. This child, born of violence, will be a witness along with me that the only greatness that gives honor to a human being is forgiveness.

Through the Kingdom of Christ for the Glory of God."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:12 PM | Permalink

Sleep on It.

From Scientific American, How Snoozing Makes Your Smarter 

Whether deciding to go to a particular college, accept a challenging job offer or propose to a future spouse, “sleeping on it” seems to provide the clarity we need to piece together life’s puzzles. But how does slumber present us with answers?
As exciting findings such as these come in more and more rapidly, we are becoming sure of one thing: while we sleep, our brain is anything but inactive. It is now clear that sleep can consolidate memories by enhancing and stabilizing them and by finding patterns within studied material even when we do not know that patterns might be there. It is also obvious that skimping on sleep stymies these crucial cognitive processes: some aspects of memory consolidation only happen with more than six hours of sleep. Miss a night, and the day’s memories might be compromised—an unsettling thought in our fast-paced, sleep-deprived society.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:02 PM | Permalink

Makers and Takers

From the National Center for Policy Analysis

In his new book, "Makers and Takers,"  Peter Schweizer, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford University,  explores why conservatives work harder, feel happier, have closer families, take fewer drugs, give more generously, value honesty more, are less materialistic and envious, whine less and even hug their children more than liberals.

Using the latest data and research, Schweizer shows that the claims that conservatives are mean-spirited, greedy, selfish malcontents with authoritarian tendencies are a myth.  Instead, he finds that many of these claims actually apply more to liberals than to conservatives.

For example:

• Some 71 percent of conservatives say you have an obligation to care for a seriously injured spouse or parent versus less than half (46 percent) of liberals.
• Conservatives have a better work ethic and are much less likely to call in sick than their liberal counterparts.
• Liberals are two and a half times more likely to be resentful of others' success and 50 percent more likely to be jealous of other people's good luck.
• Liberals are two times more likely to say it is okay to cheat the government out of welfare money you don't deserve.
• Some 55 percent of conservatives say they get satisfaction from putting someone else's happiness ahead of their own, versus only 20 percent of liberals.
• Those who are "very liberal" are three times more likely than conservatives to throw things when they get angry.

Schweizer argues that the failure lies in modern liberal ideas, which foster a self-centered, "if it feels good do it" attitude that leads liberals to outsource their responsibilities to the government and focus instead on themselves and their own desires.

"Makers and Takers: Why conservatives work harder, feel happier, have closer families, take fewer drugs, give more generously, value honesty more, are less materialistic and" (Peter Schweizer)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:58 PM | Permalink

More on why coffee is good

The York Times sorts out Coffee's Contradictions.

Coffee does not dehydrate, doesn't hurt your heart and in fact cuts cardiovascular risk if you drink no more than three cups a day, is unlikely to increase your blood pressure, cause cancer or lead to bone loss.

The health benefits of drinking coffee are considerable.

Probably the most important effects of caffeine are its ability to enhance mood and mental and physical performance. At consumption levels up to 200 milligrams (the amount in about 16 ounces of ordinary brewed coffee), consumers report an improved sense of well-being, happiness, energy, alertness and sociability, Roland Griffiths of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine reported, although higher amounts sometimes cause anxiety and stomach upset.

Millions of sleep-deprived Americans depend on caffeine to help them make it through their day and drive safely. The drug improves alertness and reaction time. In the sleep-deprived, it improves memory and the ability to perform complex tasks.

For the active, caffeine enhances endurance in aerobic activities and performance in anaerobic ones, perhaps because it blunts the perception of pain and aids the ability to burn fat for fuel instead of its carbohydrates.

Recent disease-related findings can only add to coffee’s popularity. A review of 13 studies found that people who drank caffeinated coffee, but not decaf, had a 30 percent lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Another review found that compared with noncoffee drinkers, people who drank four to six cups of coffee a day, with or without caffeine, had a 28 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. This benefit probably comes from coffee’s antioxidants and chlorogenic acid.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:52 PM | Permalink

Back home and catching up on the Olympics

I had a wonderful time with my family on the Cape, sunny days all except for one when we all went shopping and I made dinner for all 23 of us.  In a couple of weeks, I'll post a photo of all of us taken by a professional photographer.

Time away from the computer brought back a different rhythm to daily life.  Now that I'm back, so much has happened in the world, I'm spending a lot of time just catching up on the news.

First the Olympics.  I did get to see the marvelous spectacle of the opening ceremonies and parade of nations but not without a nagging discomfort at their cost both human and economic

Simon Jenkins articulated it best in Olympic crack in China's wall.

An Olympic Games must be the most expensive public gesture, in billions of dollars a day, that any nation can undertake in peacetime, a political spectacular masquerading as sport.

The IOC was drawn to China as the one big country to which it still had a quid pro quo to offer: international respectability. The IOC knew that China might be induced to spend huge sums, not by virtue of political reform, but to cloak the absence of such reform.

The IOC seems to have found in Chinese communism a shared language and nostalgia for the drilled utopianism of the mid-20th century. A large area of old Beijing has been razed and rebuilt with stadiums, office blocks and avenues, monuments to the modernising zeal of the party. Morally emasculated western architects have lined up for work, led by the son of Albert Speer as master planner.

Above all the Chinese have proved that the Olympics are about control. Lose control, as did the world torch tour and its “1,000 jogging policemen”, and you cannot deliver concord and good publicity. Instead, control has required the Chinese to arrest untold hundreds of human rights activists. It has rendered Tibet virtually inaccessible. Anyone concerned with protest, such as the signers of a letter pleading for “an Olympic spirit” in human rights, has been thrown in jail or removed from the capital; 100,000 troops have been brought in to ring the city.

Still, the Olympics always bring stories of courage, determination, persistence, hardship and glory.  My favorite so far is the story of Lomong. 

Where Once He Was Lost, Now He is Found

For seven years, China has dreamed of orchestrating every detail, athletic and political, of its glorious Opening Ceremonies to the Olympics. Now, one lean 1,500-meter runner from the United States, chosen by his teammates in an act of open defiance, may steal the show. Lopez Lomong, one of the Sudanese "Lost Boys" and a member of the anti-genocide group Team Darfur, has been chosen by his 595 U.S. Olympic teammates to carry our flag on Friday. What, we couldn't find a Tibetan monk on the team?

What a coincidence. Just hours before U.S. team captains met to decide on the flag carrier, Chinese officials rescinded the visa of Joey Cheek, a speedskating gold medalist who carried the U.S. flag at the Closing Ceremonies at the 2006 Winter Games and later co-founded Team Darfur. After that slap at Cheek, U.S. athletes here had almost nothing to say on the topic. One even referred to the subject as "the question they warned us about."

Perhaps they didn't answer individually. But the entire U.S. team gave its answer -- as a group and in capital letters -- with Lomong's selection. You jerk Cheek's visa. We put Lomong in your face. And do it proudly.

Here's the backstory of his foster parents who took in seven lost boys from Sudan, extraordinary people, ordinary Americans.

U.S. Flagbearer found new life in New York foster home.

When he learned he was coming to America, Lomong thought he would have to get a job and support himself. He didn't expect to have such supportive parents.

"I just thought they would just keep me for a little while, but they convinced me that this is your home," he said.

Anthony, 20, is a junior political science major at State University at Buffalo, where he plays soccer. In his first six weeks in America, Anthony went to Disney World, Washington, D.C., and Boston. He surprised the Rogerses when he told them the most amazing thing he had seen in America: "parents."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:18 PM | Permalink

August 2, 2008


I'm suffering a bit of blogging burn-out, so it's a good thing I'm off for at least a week away on the Cape.  My laptop is the shop so a vacation too from the internets.

See you on my return rested, refreshed and recharged. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:20 AM | Permalink