October 31, 2008

What have we learned since the Depression?

FDR's policies prolonged Depression by 7 years, UCLA economists calculate

Two UCLA economists say they have figured out why the Great Depression dragged on for almost 15 years, and they blame a suspect previously thought to be beyond reproach: President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

After scrutinizing Roosevelt's record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a new study that
New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.

"Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump," said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA's Department of Economics. "We found that a relapse isn't likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies."

In an article in the August issue of the Journal of Political Economy,
Ohanian and Cole blame specific anti-competition and pro-labor measures that Roosevelt promoted and signed into law June 16, 1933.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 PM | Permalink

Happy Halloween Jokes

Surprise: Halloween's Not a Pagan Festival After All

The holiday and its customs are completely Christian and uniquely American.

 Halloween Hidden Bassets

Here are some riddles for the older trick or treaters.

Q: How do you make a witch stew?
A: Keep her waiting for hours.

Q: What do you call a person who puts rat poison in a person's Corn Flakes?
A: A cereal killer

Q: What happened to the guy who couldn't keep up payments to his exorcist?
A: He was repossessed.

Q: What is a vampires favourite mode of transportation?
A: A blood vessel.

Q: Why don't witches like to ride their brooms when they're angry?
A: They're afraid of flying off the handle.

Q: What do you call a wicked witch who lives by the sea?
A: A Sand-witch

Q: What happens when a ghost gets lost in a fog?
A: He's mist.

Q: How do ghosts begin their letters?
A: "Tomb it may concern..."

Q: What do you call a ghost with a broken leg?
A: Hoblin Goblin.

Q: What kind of street does a ghost like best?
A: A dead end.

Q: How do you know if a ghost is lying?
A: You can see right through him.

Q: Where do ghosts go on vacation?
A: Lake Erie.

Q: Why are there fences around cemeteries?
A: Because people are dying to get in.

Q: How is a werewolf like a computer?
A: They both have megabytes.

Q: Why didn't the skeleton dance at the Halloween party?
A: It had no body to dance with.

Q: When does a skeleton laugh?
A: When something tickles his funny bone.

Q: Who does a ghoul fall in love with?
A: His ghoul friend.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

Cut off from their genetic history

I'm only surprised that this hasn't happened before.

Suit seeks identities of sperm, egg donors.

A B. C. woman conceived through artificial insemination is fighting for the right to know the identity of her biological father, asking the court to make the identities of anonymous donors available.

The legal battle pits the confidentiality promised to those who donated sperm and eggs used for artificial insemination against the rights of children born from such procedures to know their genetic history.

The rights of the children took a step forward this week when a B. C. court ordered doctors to not destroy any related medical records until the end of the case.

In a class-action lawsuit filed last week on behalf of B. C. residents conceived through the use of anonymous sperm, egg and embryo donations -- known as gamete donation -- journalist Olivia Pratten, who is seeking the identity of her biological father, said learning his identity would "alleviate the psychological distress" of not knowing her origins.

"The child is the one who lives with choices that were made for them before they were born and who bears the consequences of these adult decisions," she said yesterday from her home in New York. "How many times have I spoken about this and doctors tell me to be happy or be grateful --it infuriates me."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 AM | Permalink

Beer to fight cancer

If the researchers at Rice University are successful in concocting a genetically engineered beer to fight heart disease and cancers, then thanks and praise are surely warranted. 

What better place than this Buddhist temple built from beer bottles.

 Combo Buddhist Beer Temple

It took a million bottles - green Heineken and brown local Chang beer - to build this Buddhist temple.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 AM | Permalink

Yoga on the Cancer Ward

Most philanthropists are happy to their names embossed on a plaque on a hospital wing.  Not Donna Karan, the fashion designer, who is bringing yoga teachers onto the cancer ward.

In One Section of Beth Israel Hospital, Some Patients Are Saying 'Om', not 'Ah'

While other hospitals in New York and across the country have dabbled in yoga, the new Beth Israel project is broader, better financed and more integrated into the medical protocol, and because of Ms. Karan’s concern that it might be dismissed as touchy-feely nonsense, it includes a research component. Ms. Karan hopes to prove that the Urban Zen regime can reduce classic symptoms of cancer and its treatment, like pain, nausea and anxiety (thereby cutting hospital stays and costs) and serve as a model for replication elsewhere.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 AM | Permalink

October 29, 2008

Two years, six months and 25 days

The length of time it takes before romance is dead

Beyond this point romance, if not dead, is definitely on its sickbed, as husbands give up trying to be tidy, while wives no longer make an effort to look nice for their other half.
By the third wedding anniversary, 83 per cent of those surveyed said they couldn't even be bothered to continue celebrating the date they tied the knot.

The poll of 5,000 couples who had been married for over a decade revealed that more than half felt undervalued.

The infamous battle for control of the TV was another sticking point, with 75 per cent of men and women saying they wouldn't relinquish the remote control to their other half, even if they asked nicely.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:07 PM | Permalink

October 28, 2008

Don't Go to the Hospital Alone

Not news, but important to remember.  Don't go to the hospital alone if you can possibly avoid it.

Bedside Manner: Advocating for a Relative in the Hospital

Having someone with you in a hospital who is alert and asking questions can help stave off all kinds of potential problems, from mistaken identity to medication mixups to MRSA infections. An estimated 100,000 hospital patients die every year in the U.S. because of preventable errors. Many hospitals are under financial pressures to keep nursing staffs lean. A personal advocate can be a valuable resource. It doesn't have to be a relative -- and it can be more than one person -- as long as they know you and are willing to speak up.

"If we could make only one change in health care, it should be to change the notion that families are visitors. Families are allies and partners for safety and quality," says Beverly Johnson, president of the nonprofit Institute for Family-Centered Care, which is leading a movement to involve families more.

A growing number of hospitals are doing just that -- including unlimited visiting hours, letting family members accompany patients to procedures and even stay during emergencies. "We're drawing on the strength of the family. They're not out in the waiting room, wondering what's going on," says Pat Sodomka, senior vice president for Patient and Family-Centered Care at MCG Health Inc., which runs a 630-bed hospital in Augusta, Ga.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:38 AM | Permalink

The Main Lesson? Save your money.

Ben Stein You Don't Always Know When the Sky Will Fall

closer to home, a talented makeup artist who works with me almost daily in my TV appearances asked what happened to people in a recession. (She is young.) I said that fear and insomnia happened to most people but that a few million would actually lose their jobs and millions more would lose income.

“What do they do?” she asked, looking worried.

“They find other work or live off their savings,” I said. “They certainly cut back on their spending.”

“What if they don’t have any savings?” she asked. “I don’t have any savings,” she said. “No one I know except you has any savings.” She looked extremely worried.

This is perhaps the main lesson of this whole experience. It is basic but still unlearned: human beings must have savings. This is not just a good idea. It’s the difference between life and death, terror and calm. So start saving right now, and don’t stop until you die.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 AM | Permalink

October 27, 2008

False Courage

Why would people of note and accomplishment - lawyers, doctors, clergymen, CEOs, teachers, elected officials among others - claim medals of valor they never earned?

The Chicago Tribune found that of the 333 people in the online edition of Who's Who who claim to have earned one of the nation's most esteemed medals, fully a third can not support their claims with military records.

False Courage

They then asked why.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 AM | Permalink

Aggressive and Angry Drivers

Why you don't want anyone who has bumper stickers on your jury. 

The Secret Message in Every Bumper Sticker

Writing in the June issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Colorado State University researchers suggest that people with bumper stickers are more likely to be aggressive and angry people, or at least aggressive and angry drivers.

The amazing thing is that the aggression didn't change with the sticker's message.  Drivers who chose peaceful messages like "Visualize World Peace" were just as obnoxious on the road as those who slapped "My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student" on their bumpers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 AM | Permalink

Is Addiction a False Spiritual Quest?

Is the medical approach to addiction fundamentally flawed?

Mindful Hack reviews Theodore Dalrymple's book Romancing Opiates.

... to conceive of opiate addiction as a disease seems, after my experience with thousands of drug addicts, to me to miss the fundamental point about it: that it is a moral or spiritual condition that will never yield to medical treatment, so called.

This is a very literate way of explaining a situation often explained - as Dalrymple says - by recovered addicts in a much simpler way: "I just didn't want to live that way any more." In my view, that is a form of spiritual experience - to discover that one need not live "that way" any more.

Dalrymple worked for 14 years as a doctor in a larger general hospital and prison in a poor area of Britain.  Here he writes Heroin addiction isn't an illness --and we should stop spending millions 'treating it'.

I had briefly run a drug-addiction clinic in a famous university town, at a time when I accepted what I now know to be myths about heroin addiction.

But as more addicts came to my attention -  I see up to 20 new cases a day in prison -  I began to think about it more. The medical perspective, that these people were ill and in need of treatment, seemed less and less convincing.

I discovered that most addicted prisoners stopped taking heroin in jail, even when it was available. They came into the prison starving and miserable, and went out relatively healthy.

There is a strenuous, almost outraged, rejection of the idea that addiction is, at bottom, a moral problem, or even that it raises any moral questions at all.

To conceive of heroin addiction as such seems to me to miss the fundamental point: it is a moral or spiritual condition that will never yield to medical treatment.
Having started with a vague supposition that the medical approach to addiction must be right, I came to a different conclusion: that such an approach, having started no doubt as an honest attempt to help addicts, now represented a combination of moral cowardice, displacement activity and employment opportunity.

The therapeutic juggernaut rolls on. It is easier, after all, to give people a dose of medicine than a reason for living. That is something the patient must minister to himself.

In coming to these conclusions, I felt I was living in a world in which the plainest of truths could neither be said out loud nor acknowledged.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 AM | Permalink

Jog to the Beat

Carefully selected music can significantly increase a person's physical endurance and improve the 'feeling' state of exercisers, helping them enjoy working at high intensity.

Music Increases Exercise Endurance

Sure helped on the chain gang.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:05 AM | Permalink

The Man with the Biblioburro

Acclaimed Columbian Institution has 4800 books and 10 legs.

He began as a schoolteacher who believed in the transformative power of reading and who ventured on his donkey into the hills of Columbia with a few reading textbooks and novels from his personal library.


“I started out with 70 books, and now I have a collection of more than 4,800,” said Mr. Soriano, 36, a primary school teacher who lives in a small house here with his wife and three children, with books piled to the ceilings.

“This began as a necessity; then it became an obligation; and after that a custom,” he explained, squinting at the hills undulating into the horizon. “Now,” he said, “it is an institution.”

A whimsical riff on the bookmobile, Mr. Soriano’s Biblioburro is a small institution: one man and two donkeys. He created it out of the simple belief that the act of taking books to people who do not have them can somehow improve this impoverished region, and perhaps Colombia.
His project has won acclaim from the nation’s literacy specialists and is the subject of a new documentary by a Colombian filmmaker.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 AM | Permalink

Purple Tomato with Snapdragon Gene to Fight Cancer

By inserting two genes from a snapdragon into a tomato, British researchers breed purple tomatoes to fight cancer.

The snapdragon genes caused the fruit to produce high levels of anthocyanins, plant chemicals that give blackberries and blueberries their deep purple colour.

Research suggests that the compounds protect against certain cancers, as well as heart disease and age-related degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's.

They may also combat inflammation, improve vision and hinder obesity and diabetes.
Both the skins and the flesh of the tomatoes are an intense deep purple colour.


It worked on mice, trials with human volunteers are next.  Purple tomatoes could be on sale within three years but not in Britain or the EU which has far more rigorous safety tests for genetically modified food.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 AM | Permalink

October 26, 2008

The Secret of Emily Post

A disastrous marriage drove her to etiquette and more startling accomplishment

along with her best-selling guide, Etiquette (1922), she wrote six novels, scads of journalism, and a 500-page book on architecture; had a long career in radio; designed her own high-fashion clothes; endorsed everything from cigarettes to gingerbread; and built a 15-story apartment house that still stands at the corner of Madison Avenue and 79th Street in Manhattan. She lived in 9B, and her friends filled the rest of the building.

Laura Claridge's Life of Emily Post a review by Laura Shapiro

"Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners" (Laura Claridge)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:35 AM | Permalink

October 25, 2008

"Everything's amazing, nobody's happy."

How easy it is to forget that we live in a world of wonders.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 PM | Permalink

Placebos and Nocebos

Half of U.S. doctors say they use placebo treatments.

About half of American doctors in a new survey say they regularly give patients placebo treatments – usually drugs or vitamins that won't really help their condition.

And many of these doctors are not honest with their patients about what they are doing, the survey found.

That contradicts advice from the American Medical Association, which recommends doctors use treatments with the full knowledge of their patients.

“It's a disturbing finding,” said Franklin G. Miller, director of the research ethics program at the U.S. National Institutes Health and one of the study authors. “There is an element of deception here which is contrary to the principle of informed consent.”

Most doctors used actual medicines as a placebo treatment: 41 per cent used painkillers, 38 per cent used vitamins, 13 per cent used antibiotics, 13 per cent used sedatives, 3 per cent used saline injections, and 2 per cent used sugar pills.

Placebo from the Latin I will please. A doctor pleases the patient by prescribing a placebo,  a treatment that the doctor knows is ineffectual but the patient is led to believe is effective.

A placebo won't work if the patient knows it's a placebo.  So what to do about the ethical challenges? 

Well to start, doctors shouldn't be prescribing antibiotics or sedatives. 

Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, one of the study’s authors, said doctors should not prescribe antibiotics or sedatives as placebos, given those drugs’ risks. Use of less active placebos is understandable, he said, since risks are low.

“Everyone comes out happy: the doctor is happy, the patient is happy,” said Dr. Emanuel, chairman of the bioethics department at the health institutes. “But ethical challenges remain.”

Mindful Hack writes about placebos and nocebos.

Doctors use the placebo effect automatically in their work. For example, they behave confidently and reassuringly even when completely stumped by the patient's symptoms or faced suddenly with a life-threatening disorder. They are right to behave this way. A doctor's anxiety would trigger the placebo effect's evil twin, the nocebo effect. "Nocebo" means "I will harm," and nocebos really do harm. Patients may be ill for longer periods and suffer worse symptoms if nocebo effects convince them that they are doomed.

Some consider the placebo effect a mystery. In March 2005, British science magazine New Scientist listed thirteen "Things That Don't Make Sense", and the placebo effect was number one on their list. Of course, the placebo effect doesn't "make sense" if you assume, as they do, that the mind either does not exist or is powerless. The traditional Christian view is that the mind is grounded in the brain so long as we live in this world. Therefore, what the patient's mind perceives expresses itself in the brain and body. Both the placebo and nocebo effects are strong support for the traditional view.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 23, 2008

Contaminated by Evil

After Heath Ledger's death, Jack Nicholson was quoted as saying "I warned him."
Ledger recently told reporters he "slept an average of two hours a night" while playing "a psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy ...
"I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.

I wondered what happens to any actor with great talent who can pour himself so completely into the persona of a sociopath.  Does the permeability of his psyche leave him especially vulnerable?

Can a person become contaminated by a preoccupation with evil? 

Maria Hsia Chang explores that question in Peering into the Abyss in the New Oxford Review.

"I think the Joker killed Heath Ledger." So writes licensed attorney and former public defender Jay Gaskill in his review of The Dark Knight. Gaskill is not being melodramatic; he is simply stating what other reviewers only hint at.
Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." This famous but cryptic quote by Friedrich Nietzsche is understood to be a warning against too close a contact with evil. As one interpretation has it, if a person gazes too long at evil, it will become a part of him. Did Ledger fall prey to this mysterious phenomenon?

To begin with, who are the potential victims? It appears that "looking into the abyss" refers to anyone whose work or interests brings him into a close proximity with evil. It can be an actor, such as Heath Ledger, who immerses himself too deeply into portraying evil and, in so doing, invites malefic forces into himself. It can be a writer, such as Iris Chang, whose subject is a historical account of man's inhumanity toward man. It can be FBI agents, soldiers, and policemen who enter the arena to directly confront and fight evildoers.

But how exactly does evil exert its nefarious influence on a person? Evil's baneful effects may be likened to the invisible, odorless, and deadly radiation emitted by uranium. While it is wholly conceivable that writers such as Iris Chang would become disheartened by their research, why should it trigger such an acute depression that life becomes unbearable and relief is sought only in suicide? All of which leads one to wonder just what is this evil that lurks in the abyss.

It is oft said that the greatest achievement of the Devil is to convince us that he does not exist. Catholic priest and scholar Malachi Martin called this "the ultimate camouflage." As he explained, "If your will does not accept the existence of evil, you are rendered incapable of resisting evil. Those with no capacity of resistance become prime targets for Possession."

The clergy's reluctance to speak of the Devil and of Hell is all the more ironic because available evidence points to the laity's belief in both. Gallup polls of American adults found that in 2001, 71 percent believed in Hell. Increasing numbers also believed in a personal entity of evil called the Devil, from 55 percent of U.S. adults in 1990 to 70 percent in 2004.

via Chronicles of Atlantis

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:40 PM | Permalink

October 21, 2008

Stayin' Alive

The Bee Gees song Stayin' Alive has almost the perfect rhythm to help jump-start a stopped heart.  

The Seventies disco anthem contains 103 beats per minute, just three beats more than the 100 chest compressions per minute recommdended by the American Heart Association.

Keeping time with the song helped a small group of doctors at the University of Illinois medical school maintained close to the ideal number of chest compressions during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

“It’s a song everyone seems to know, whether they want to or not,” said Dr. David Matlock, the resident and researcher who led the study. He hopes further research will confirm its use in lay people trained in CPR as well.

What surprised me most in watching the great beginning to the movie Saturday Night Fever was that no one wore sports or running shoes.  No Nike or Reeboks to be seen.  John Travolta wears leather shoes to work in the paint store.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 AM | Permalink

Calling all plumbers

Forget climate change, the most good can be done by installing toilets and ensuring safe water supplies

Installing toilets and ensuring safe water supplies where needed throughout the world would do more to end poverty and improve world health than any other possible measure, according to a new UN study

Almost 900 million people around the world lack access to safe water supplies, and 2.5 billion people live without access to improved sanitation, according to UN figures.

Says Abe Greenwald

Governments worldwide spend 6 to 16 percent of GDP on healthcare, while a solid showing of plumbers in the private sector could prevent millions of yearly deaths around the globe. It turns out plumbers can save more lives than spread-the-wealth politicians

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 AM | Permalink

The Soul must be disciplined

I found Brain Science and the Soul by R.R. Reno most interesting.

These days, cognitive scientists are doing experiments that use MRI technology to visualize the brain while subjects undergo experiences, solve problems, and make decisions. This approach allows scientists to see and theorize about the significance and sources of patterns in our brains, patterns that shape the way we respond to the world. We are learning about the highway system of neurological movement, which turns out to be decisive for the way our minds work.

The new emphasis on patterns of neural activity suggests an important support for the traditional Christian understanding of the soul.
St. Thomas drew on Aristotle’s philosophy to define the soul as the form of the body. The soul is the pattern or highway system that organizes our bodies, including, of course, our brains.
Princeton brain scientist Jonathan D. Cohen has looked at patterns of brain activity while subjects respond to moral dilemmas and make moral decisions. It turns out that the brain patterns related to moral decisions need to be trained. The soul must be disciplined.
Now, contemporary brain science and Cohen’s picture of the vulcanized brain lead pretty much to the same, Aristotelian vision of the soul shaped by virtues—or vices.
Precisely because a human soul is unstable, and subject to influence, and hardening over time, the Christian tradition has put a great deal of weight on moral and spiritual discipline in order to “vulcanize” the networks that lead to properly ordered emotions, thoughts, and decisions. Now it seems that brain science is showing that the traditional emphasis on moral and spiritual discipline was exactly right.
The neural patterns between the frontal lobe and the brain stem do not know nice distinctions between the private morality and public morality. It’s a distinction much insisted upon by modern liberal antinomians who want to reassure us that the liberated id will not threaten the public good.

Maybe the intense moral pressure of traditional morality is necessary in order to achieve the stable neural patterns that prevent our instinctual responses from overwhelming our reasoned responses. Perhaps the common good depends on the presence of virtuous, disciplined citizens who have been habituated to deny themselves immediate, instinctual satisfactions.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 AM | Permalink

Increase in suicides by middle-aged women

What is driving middle-aged white women to kill themselves?

U.S. suicide rates appear to be on the rise, driven mostly by middle-aged white women, researchers reported on Tuesday.

They found a disturbing increase in suicides between 1999 and 2005 and said the pattern had changed in an unmistakable way -- although the reasons behind the change are not clear.

The overall suicide rate rose 0.7 percent during this time, but the rate for white men aged 40 to 64 rose 2.7 percent and for middle-aged women 3.9 percent, the team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found.
"The results underscore a change in the epidemiology of suicide, with middle-aged whites emerging as a new high-risk group," Baker said in a statement.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

Menu for a Long and Active Life

 20 Functional Foods

Revealed.  The 20 'functional foods' you should be eating for a long and active life. 

Gary Williamson, professor at Leeds University calls them 'lifespanessential 'since they all contain polyphenols known for their anti-oxidant properties, helping to prevent cancer and heart disease.

Mainly fruits and vegetables, but chocolate, tea and coffee made the list

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:25 AM | Permalink

Pampers rule

Because the report was so embarrassing, the government tried to hide the results. This time it's diapers. 

But as any parent knows, Pampers rule

Blow to image of 'green' reusable nappy.

When the  government doesn't like the results of a study

A government report that found old-fashioned reusable nappies damage the environment more than disposables has been hushed up because ministers are embarrassed by its findings.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has instructed civil servants not to publicise the conclusions of the £50,000 nappy research project and to adopt a “defensive” stance towards its conclusions.

The report found that using washable nappies, hailed by councils throughout Britain as a key way of saving the planet, have a higher carbon footprint than their disposable equivalents unless parents adopt an extreme approach to laundering them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:13 AM | Permalink

October 18, 2008

Late Bloomers

Malcolm Gladwell on Late Bloomers.  Why do we equate genius with precocity?

The freshness, exuberance, and energy of youth did little for Cézanne. He was a late bloomer—and for some reason in our accounting of genius and creativity we have forgotten to make sense of the Cézannes of the world.
Late bloomers, Galenson says, tend to work the other way around. Their approach is experimental. “Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental.
Mark Twain was the same way. Galenson quotes the literary critic Franklin Rogers on Twain’s trial-and-error method: “His routine procedure seems to have been to start a novel with some structural plan which ordinarily soon proved defective, whereupon he would cast about for a new plot which would overcome the difficulty, rewrite what he had already written, and then push on until some new defect forced him to repeat the process once again.” Twain fiddled and despaired and revised and gave up on “Huckleberry Finn” so many times that the book took him nearly a decade to complete. The Cézannes of the world bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.
On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all. Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 AM | Permalink

People who are obese enjoy eating less than lean people do

People who are obese enjoy eating less than lean people do.  That's the problem according to one group of researchers.

New Evidence of the Brain's Role in Obesity

In order to compensate for the missing pleasure, obese people eat more high-calorie food. In turn, overeating further dulls the enjoyment and begins a vicious cycle.
“The research reveals obese people may have fewer dopamine receptors, so they overeat to compensate for this reward deficit,” said Dr. Stice, who has studied eating disorders and obesity for almost twenty years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

"We have not yet reached our maximum ignorance"

Kevin Kelly says the fastest growing entity today is information, growing at a rate of 66% a year in The Expansion of Ignorance.

Yet the paradox of science is that every answer breeds at least two new questions. More answers, more questions. Telescopes and microscopes expanded not only what we knew, but what we didn’t know. They allowed us to spy into our ignorance.
Thus even though our knowledge is expanding exponentially, our questions are expanding exponentially faster. And as mathematicians will tell you, the widening gap between two exponential curves is itself an exponential curve. That gap between questions and answers is our ignorance, and it is growing exponentialy.  In other words, science is a method that chiefly expands our ignorance rather than our knowledge.

We have no reason to expect this to reverse in the future. The more disruptive a technology and tool is, the more disruptive the questions it will breed. We can expect future technologies such as artificial intelligence, controlled fusion, and quantum computing (to name a few on the near horizon) to unleash a barrage of thousands of new huge questions – questions we could have never even thought to ask before. In fact, it’s a safe bet that we have not asked our biggest questions yet.

Or, to put it another way, we have not yet reached our maximum ignorance.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 AM | Permalink

October 16, 2008

Purple Finger

No matter what your politics or candidate, no one wants the integrity of the electoral process itself violated with voter fraud.

That's why the actions of ACORN are so pernicious.    One person using fraudulent voter registrations could vote over a hundred times on November 4th.

So I am all in favor of the simple, low-tech solution suggested by Mark Steyn, proposed by Jim Geraghty and seconded by Miss Kelly:  Purple Finger Legislation.

         Purple Finger

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:53 PM | Permalink

Why Not Your Best?

How a high school history and psychology teacher passed on his most important life lesson.

Why Not Your Best?

The concept of always giving your best was obviously new to my students. They found it hard to believe that there were millions of people, including me, who always gave their best. Most of them equated giving your best with struggle, superhuman effort, stress, exhaustion, and being too serious all the time.

I explained that life is far more rewarding when we do the best we can, no matter where we are, whom we're with, or what we're doing -- even if we're resting or having fun. It's a matter of being in the moment and making the most out of it. An example I always used was teaching. It requires very hard work, but it can be fun at the same time. In fact, the harder I worked at it, the more fun I had and the more rewarding it was.

I asked them if they wanted me to give my best every time they came to my class. The answer was always yes, along with this lit le addition: "You're supposed to give your best because you're getting paid."

That always brought a smile to my face. I responded that I was paid to teach, not to give my best. There's a big difference. I chose to give my best because it made my teaching so much more enjoyable and fulfilling. They were starting to get it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

Clicking on the web a workout for the brain

Good news for middle-aged and older people.  Internet use 'good for brain'. 

A University of California Los Angeles team found searching the web stimulates centres in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning.

The researchers say this might even help to counter-act the age-related physiological changes that cause the brain to slow down.

The study features in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Searching on the web stimulates more areas of the brain than reading a book.  and may keep it active and healthy.

Well I certainly plan to be a 'silver surfer'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:25 PM | Permalink

Women in Marriage

The general consensus of sociologists is that, whereas a woman's marital satisfaction is dependent on a combination of economic, emotional and psychological realities, a man's marital satisfaction is most determined by one factor: how happy his wife is. When she is happy, he is.

Who Wears the Pants

A Pew Research Center study released a couple of weeks ago found that when it comes to decision making in the home, wives in a majority of cases either rule the roost or share power equally with their husbands, regardless of how much money the women earn.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:14 PM | Permalink

October 10, 2008

Making it easy for thieves

They are losing their minds in Britain.

No barbed wire...it might hurt the thieves, allotment holders told
So you can't protect the food you've grown or the tools you use.

In fact, Council advises homeowners to leave sheds open for thieves!
Tenants have been warned that padlocks can lead to thieves forcing their way through doors and windows of the council-owned sheds to steal garden equipment.

Bristol City Council claims its 'Don't Use a Padlock' initiative will save taxpayers' money because fewer sheds will have to be repaired or replaced.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

"An Unfolding Chaotic System"

He sees what we are witnessing as "as unfolding chaotic system" with our institutions "firing into the dark". 

Richard Fernandez on Taleb's Warning. 

There was a time when people explicitly understood their ignorance. And they defended against uncertainty by relying on simpler, less interdependent systems for survival.  In case snow blocked the roads they had hams, canned goods, dried beans and sacks of flour in the storeroom. In the event 911 didn’t answer they had a shotgun in back.  Family was the insurance against unforeseen crisis. Nation was the refuge against enemies. Culture provided a standard operating procedure which everyone was expected to know.

We have abolished much of that because in our foolish pride, it became an article of faith that we no longer needed them.  Canned food is now shunned for the preservatives that it contains. Bacon is bad because it has salt. Allah forbid that there’s a gun in the house. And who could be less ‘with it’ than a woman with five children and a husband who drives a snowmobile. Sarah Palin is hated by sophisticates because she is almost a cliched example of this kind of simplicity. Ha ha ha. Today really cool people live in big cities, dependent on power grids, power circles and power lunches. They imagine there’s no heaven, no countries, nothing to kill or die for and no religion too. Today the truly cultured person is expected to know nothing of his own culture and smattering of everyone else’s. Because they’re certain in their epistemological arrogance they’ll never need any of the things they’ve safely abandoned. Who needs a family when you’ve got a retirement fund?

Lenin once described Communism as “socialism plus electricity”. The modern version of Nirvana is “socialism plus Google”. When will we learn? Never, I fear, while pride and the desire for power rule the human breast

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 AM | Permalink

October 9, 2008

Nikon's Small World

Art and science collide in microscopic pictures of nature. 

 Wing-Scales Moth

These are the wing scales of a moth

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 PM | Permalink

New mergers on the horizon

Gallows humor it is, but that's when you need it most.

With all the turmoil in the market today and the collapse of Lehman Bros and acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America many more mergers and takeovers can be expected:

1.) Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W R. Grace Co. Will merge and become: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.

2.) Polygram Records, Warner Bros., and Zesta Crackers join forces and become: Poly, Warner Cracker.

3.) 3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMMGood.

4. Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa .

5. FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.

6. Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.

7. Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: PouponPants.

8. Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!

And finally...

9. Victoria 's Secret and Smith &Wesson will merge under the new name: TittyTittyBangBang

From Bussorah

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2008

What is Good Character?

A question of character.  The idea of 'good character' sounds old-fashioned and patronizing, but it may be the answer to some of our most entrenched social problems writes Richard Reeves.

The first headmaster of Stowe school, JF Roxburgh, declared his goal to be turning out young men who would be "acceptable at a dance and invaluable in a shipwreck." A mixture of courtesy and courage used to be essential to the idea of a British citizen's character. Brits were the sort of people who knew both how to survive a Blitz and queue politely. Similarly, Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the scout movement, aimed to induce in his young charges "some of the spirit of self-negation, self-discipline, sense of humour, responsibility, helpfulness to others, loyalty and patriotism which go to make 'character.'" He described his movement as nothing less than a "character factory."

But in the postwar shift towards a less constrained and judgemental society—"character-talk" in Stefan Collini's phrase—dropped out of public discourse, except when considering someone's suitability for high office. The idea of good character came to sound old-fashioned and patronising.

The three key ingredients of a good character are: a sense of personal agency or self-direction; an acceptance of personal responsibility; and effective regulation of one's own emotions, in particular the ability to resist temptation or at least defer gratification.
inequality of character may now be as important as inequality of economic resources.

The Research Digest of the British Psychological Society hails The return of 'good character' and its importance for a successful society while our fave Sissy Willis writes It's the character, stupid.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 AM | Permalink

ACORN "Uniquely militant organization... reinforced by contentious action"

ACORN. First they intimidated banks, then they went after Congress with a combination of bullying, smooth talking lobbyists and campaign contributions to change the regulations at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,

Stanley Kurtz outlines how ACORN planted the seeds of disaster.

Swarts, a strong supporter of ACORN, has no qualms about stating that its members think of themselves as “militants unafraid to confront the powers that be.” “This identity as a uniquely militant organization,” says Swarts, “is reinforced by contentious action.” ACORN protesters will break into private offices, show up at a banker’s home to intimidate his family, or pour protesters into bank lobbies to scare away customers, all in an effort to force a lowering of credit standards for poor and minority customers. According to Swarts, long-term ACORN organizers “tend to see the organization as a solitary vanguard of principled leftists...the only truly radical community organization.”

This sweeping debasement of credit standards was touted by Fannie Mae’s chairman, chief executive officer, and now prominent Obama adviser James A. Johnson. This is also the period when Fannie Mae ramped up its pilot programs and local partnerships with ACORN, all of which became precedents and models for the pattern of risky subprime mortgages at the root of today’s crisis. During these years, Obama’s Chicago ACORN ally, Madeline Talbott, was at the forefront of participation in those pilot programs, and her activities were consistently supported by Obama through both foundation funding and personal leadership training for her top organizers.

Up to now, conventional wisdom on the financial meltdown has relegated ACORN and the CRA to bit parts. The real problem, we’ve been told, lay with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In fact, however, ACORN is at the base of the whole mess. ACORN used CRA and Democratic sympathizers to entangle Fannie and Freddie and the entire financial system in a disastrous disregard of the most basic financial standards. And Barack Obama cut his teeth as an organizer and politician backing up ACORN’s economic madness every step of the way.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink | TrackBack


In 'Sweetie' and 'Dear',  a Hurt for the Elderly

Professionals call it elderspeak, the sweetly belittling form of address that has always rankled older people: the doctor who talks to their child rather than to them about their health; the store clerk who assumes that an older person does not know how to work a computer, or needs to be addressed slowly or in a loud voice. Then there are those who address any elderly person as “dear.”
Those little insults can lead to more negative images of aging,” Dr. Levy said. “And those who have more negative images of aging have worse functional health over time, including lower rates of survival.”

In a long-term survey of 660 people over age 50 in a small Ohio town, published in 2002, Dr. Levy and her fellow researchers found that those who had positive perceptions of aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer, a bigger increase than that associated with exercising or not smoking. The findings held up even when the researchers controlled for differences in the participants’ health conditions.

The worst offenders are often health care workers. 

Some seniors get livid, some think it bullying.  The smartest shrug it off.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 AM | Permalink

October 6, 2008

Personality Predictors of Longevity

Activity, Emotional Stability and Conscientiousness are the personality predictors of longevity
according to a study conducted by the National Institute on Aging as reported in the July/August Psychosomatic Medicine

Those who stay active physically, are emotionally stable, and conscientious live about 2 or 3 years longer and no one knows why.

Personality counts says AARP

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:09 PM | Permalink

"Built on sand"

Pope says world financial system 'built on sand

''He who builds only on visible and tangible things like success, career and money builds the house of his life on sand''.

We are now seeing, in the collapse of major banks, that money vanishes, it is nothing. All these things that appear to be real are in fact secondary. Only God's words are a solid reality''.

The Anchoress notes in The Pope, the Word & the World that a greater battle is being played out just as the Pope began a week-long televised reading of all 73 books of the bible.  You can see the live stream here. 

The Word being breathed into the air, unabridged, and the Holy Spirit rides on the breath. This is very cool.

And then today, the whole world financial picture runs precarious, and Benedict steps up and says, essentially, “it is better to take refuge in the Lord, than to trust in princes…” (Psalm 118;9)

Prayer may be all we can do right now

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:27 PM | Permalink

"Who Lost Europe?"

From the Dutch politician Geert Wilders who producted the film Fitna on Wisdom and Courage

I come to America with a mission. All is not well in the old world. There is a tremendous danger looming, and it is very difficult to be optimistic. We might be in the final stages of the Islamization of Europe. This not only is a clear and present danger to the future of Europe itself, it is a threat to America and the sheer survival of the West. The danger I see looming is the scenario of America as the last man standing. The United States as the last bastion of Western civilization, facing an Islamic Europe. In a generation or two, the US will ask itself: who lost Europe? Patriots from around Europe risk their lives every day to prevent precisely this scenario form becoming a reality.
Dear friends, liberty is the most precious of gifts. My generation never had to fight for this freedom, it was offered to us on a silver platter, by people who fought for it with their lives. All throughout Europe American cemeteries remind us of the young boys who never made it home, and whose memory we cherish. My generation does not own this freedom; we are merely its custodians. We can only hand over this hard won liberty to Europe’s children in the same state in which it was offered to us. We cannot strike a deal with mullahs and imams. Future generations would never forgive us. We cannot squander our liberties. We simply do not have the right to do so.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 AM | Permalink

October 2, 2008

Acedia -the sin you never heard of and probably are guilty of

Understood properly, the Christian doctrine of sin is a vision of wholeness, and Dante represents this tradition at its best.  He does not label people as evil because they've fallen short of some ill-conceived perfectionist goal.  Dante's understanding of sin is far more subtle than that, and more humane. 

These days, we are likely to say to people struggling with addition or mental illness that their hope lies in a perpetual state of recovery.  Imagine for a moment that this is much more severe than anything Dante, or the desert monks for that matter, had in mind.

Their ultimate concern was how, as we deepen our relationship with God, we become to free to love, and more free to choose the good.

The idea that one would be defined forever by one's sin or sickness would have seemed to them excessively cruel, more likely to engender hopelessness than hope.

Kathleen Norris in her new book,  Acedia and Me.

The "noble power" of a free will partakes of something even greater than hope, and that is grace.  The kingdom of God within us is not something we gain through training, wit or skill.  It comes to us as pure gift, and we are free now, as in Dante's time, to curb it or ignore it.   

Given the power and resilience of this grace, it is a terrible irony that the despairing
so often feel rejected by a distant and uncaring God.  We are convinced that we are beyond the reach of grace, acedia has don its work.  John Cassian states that acedia's whole purpose is to "sever us from thoughts of God"...Thomas Acquinas describes acedia as a "wanton, willful, self-distressing that numbs all love and zeal for love" and makes us unable "to rest in God."  Even worse, it divides us against ourselves and our better instincts...When so fierce an alienation has me its grip, I need something more powerful than affirmation and self-esteeem.  I need that outcast word, sin.

"Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life" (Kathleen Norris)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:07 PM | Permalink

The Giant Cosmic Bubble of Space-Time

Earth may be trapped in an abnormal bubble of space-time that is particularly void of matter. Scientists say this condition could account for the apparent acceleration of the universe's expansion, for which dark energy currently is the leading explanation.

 Cosmic Space Bubble

The image is from NASA, a Chandra X-ray photograph showing Cassiopeia A, the youngest supernova remnant in the Milky Way.

Dark energy is the name given to the hypothetical force that could be drawing all the stuff in the universe outward at an ever-increasing rate. Current thinking is that 74% of the universe could be made up of this exotic dark energy, with another 21% being dark matter, and normal matter comprising the remaining 5%.

Until now, there has been no good way to choose between dark energy or the void explanation, but a new study outlines a potential test of the bubble scenario.

If we were in an unusually sparse area of the universe, then things could look farther away than they really are and there would be no need to rely on dark energy as an explanation for certain astronomical observations.

But there's a problem with this void idea. It means we live in a special place.

it negates a principle that has reigned in astronomy for more than 450 years: namely, that our place in the universe isn't special.
"This idea that we live in a void would really be a statement that we live in a special place," Clifton told SPACE.com. "The regular cosmological model is based on the idea that where we live is a typical place in the universe. This would be a contradiction to the Copernican principle."

Kevin Kelly, co-founder and Editor-at-Large of Wired,  takes a look at the Narrow Gates of Inevitability

I am a child of science fiction, so I have not come to these heretical notions easily. But I changed my mind looking at our results so fare. The more we investigate the conditions for life --- any life – to spontaneously organize itself, the more remarkably narrow those conditions appear. Life requires a goldilocks’ touch – not too hot not too cold; not too ordered, not too chaotic; not too strong, not too weak. Up and down the scale of reality, from cosmic constants like force of gravity, to the exact size of our planet, to the temperature that ice molecules melt – all these values and hundreds more turn out to hover around sweet spots that permit the dynamic balance of life as we know it to thrive. In fact the dynamic balance of life, persistently hovering between order and disorder requires sweet spots.

Outside of this very thin corridor of parameters, life-as-we-know-it is denied. The more science investigates extropic systems via models and simulations, the more sweet spots it discovers life depends on. When all these alignments are exposed and listed, the confinement of life becomes quite clear.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:11 PM | Permalink