February 28, 2011

"Children are a far better form of entertainment that electrical gadgets"

Dale Ahlquist on The Basis of Civilization

An economy based on the family is self-sustaining. Its focus is on the nurturing and training of children and not on the mere acquisition of goods. The family ideal as defended by Chesterton is something quite different than the industrialized consumer family, where the family members leave the house each morning by the clock and on a strict schedule to pursue work and recreation and the majority of life outside the home. Chesterton’s ideal was the productive home with its creative kitchen, its busy workshop, its fruitful garden, and its central role in entertainment, education, and livelihood. Unlike the industrial home, life in a productive household is not amenable to scheduling and anything but predictable.

The only thing surprising about this ideal is that it was once shared by almost everyone. Children used to be considered an asset; at some point they began to be seen as a liability.

Chesterton saw the beginning of this problem when he noticed people preferring to buy amusements for themselves rather than to have children. He pointed out prophetically that children are a far better form of entertainment than electrical gadgets.

The definitive proof of this last statement can be seen in this video of a baby laughing hysterically as his father rips up a job rejection letter.    If this doesn't make you feel good, you're a lost cause.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Unintended consequences

Low-flow toilets causing a stink in San Francisco

San Francisco's big push for low-flow toilets has turned into a multimillion-dollar plumbing stink.

Skimping on toilet water has resulted in more sludge backing up inside the sewer pipes, said Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the city Public Utilities Commission. That has created a rotten-egg stench near AT&T Park and elsewhere, especially during the dry summer months.

The city has already spent $100 million over the past five years to upgrade its sewer system and sewage plants, in part to combat the odor problem.

Now officials are stocking up on a $14 million, three-year supply of highly concentrated sodium hypochlorite - better known as bleach - to act as an odor eater and to disinfect the city's treated water before it's dumped into the bay. It will also be used to sanitize drinking water.

That translates into 8.5 million pounds of bleach either being poured down city drains or into the drinking water supply every year.

I say let everyone replace their low-flow toilets instead.  Most everyone wants to anyway and they will do it if they can and it won't cost the city a dime. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:55 PM | Permalink

February 26, 2011

The Killer Apps of Western Civilization

A most interesting interview with Niall Ferguson in the Guardian on the occasion of his soon-to-be published  book Civilization.


'Westerners don't understand how vulnerable freedom is'

Civilization sets out to answer a question that Ferguson identifies as the "most interesting" facing historians of the modern era: "Why, beginning around 1500, did a few small polities on the western end of the Eurasian landmass come to dominate the rest of the world?" In other words, the book attempts to explain the roots of something – western power – that has long fascinated its author.

The killer 'apps' are the ideas that propelled the West to world domination:

1. Competition
2. Science
3. Property
4. Modern science
5. Consumption
6. Work ethic

His personal relationship with Ayaan Hirsi Ali to whom the book is dedicated has clearly influenced him.

"Ayaan comes from a completely different civilisation," he says, explaining what he meant by saying she knows what western civilisation "really means". "She grew up in the Muslim world, was born in Somalia, spent time in Saudi Arabia, was a fundamentalist as a teenager. Her journey from the world of her childhood and family to where she is today is an odyssey that's extremely hard for you or I to imagine. To see and hear how she understands western philosophy, how she understands the great thinkers of the Enlightenment, of the 19th-century liberal era, is a great privilege, because she sees it with a clarity and freshness of perspective that's really hard for us to match. So much of liberalism in its classical sense is taken for granted in the west today and even disrespected. We take freedom for granted, and because of this we don't understand how incredibly vulnerable it is."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

"Many patients can find happiness in ways that we simply cannot imagine"

The human ability to adjust and be happy even with extreme disability is extraordinary and reassuring.

Many locked-in syndrome patients happy

You are awake, aware and probably unable to move or talk — but you are not necessarily unhappy, says the largest study of locked-in syndrome ever conducted.

A surprising number of patients with the condition say they are happy, despite being paralyzed and having to communicate mainly by moving their eyes. Most cases are caused by major brain damage, often sustained in traumatic accidents.

Sixty-five patients used a scale to indicate their sense of well-being, with 47 saying they were happy and 18 unhappy. They were also asked a variety of questions about their lives, including their ability to get around or participate in social functions, or if they had ever considered euthanasia.

Only a handful of patients said they often had suicidal thoughts. The patients responded to questions largely by blinking.

Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, said of the results: "We cannot and should not presume to know what it must be like to be in one of these conditions."

"Many patients can find happiness in ways that we simply cannot imagine," he said via e-mail. He was not linked to the study.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

February 23, 2011

Radical suits race to the bottom

Chris Cantrell on Radical Suits and Their Suckers

A better name for "community organizer" is "radical suit," because community organizers are really the lefty version of the corporate suits that fly in to the plant in their executive jets, issue just enough ridiculous orders to prove that they haven't a clue, and then head back to the FBO and the next gig.

Not to get too Marxist about this, but we are talking about the inevitability of a law of history.  The productive forces are changing, and the social superstructure is going to have to change too.  The liberal and the radical suits can help their Big Unit followers through the change or they can drive them into the ditch.  It's their choice.

Via Instapundit, natch.

What a great and fitting term is "radical suit".    And, yes,  I do think we are undergoing a radical restructuring of our social infrastructure  as Walter Russell Mead so persuasively argues in Race to the Bottom?

Is America in a race to the bottom, or are we going through what the Austrian born economist Joseph Schumpeter would call a process of “creative destruction”?
For many Americans, the changes in our society — stagnant or falling real wages for non-supervisory employees, cutbacks in public services, rising costs of medical care, an affordability crisis in higher education and on and on — look like the consequences of what is often called “the race to the bottom.” 
Blue collar workers have been getting the shaft since 1973; white collar workers are starting to get the same treatment now.  Two of the same forces that drove down blue collar wages are starting to hit professionals: competition from overseas and the use of technology to raise productivity so that fewer workers are needed to do the same amount of work.
Tens of millions of Americans aren’t just reading about American decline; they are living American decline.  Access to middle class jobs is getting harder — and the jobs still around are less stable.  Public services are slowly declining; cash strapped states and towns can’t provide the kind of education that could open more doors.  Roads and bridges aren’t being maintained.  Retirements are less secure.  Health care is more problematic than ever as insurance prices rise — and fewer jobs offer decent plans.  College tuition has exploded; we have a generation of college students carrying mortgage-sized student loans even as they scramble for elusive jobs in a snakebit economy.
And there’s more.  The wealthiest in our society have gradually been pulling away from the rest of us — not just because so many of them are getting so rich, but because more of them are focused on the global economy and the health of the global system than on the prosperity of the United States of America. 
I wrote in my first post on Madison that
I don’t think that restructuring state government is about the race to the bottom: it’s the way to avoid a race to the bottom. 
The key to success is obvious: we need to continue to raise productivity throughout the economy.  If productivity goes up quickly enough, wages can rise here even if they are falling elsewhere.  This is getting harder; productivity is both easier to measure and to raise in manufacturing than in services.
In particular we are going to have to look at health, government, education and the legal industry.
What we’ve got to do here is to deploy technology and aggressive, creative reform and restructuring to health, education and government. 
Staffs are going to have to shrink in ways that are simply unimaginable to present day government workers and their union leaders. Outsourcing government functions to private business will be a growth industry; in some cases the work will be outsourced overseas but in many others, the necessary expenses of all levels of government can and should be used to promote the growth of entrepreneurial small business rather than the maintenance of large bureaucracies.
The educational system is also going to change in ways the unions and the guilds can’t imagine — and will fight to the death.  Going forward, students need to be evaluated and credentialed on the basis of what they know, not on the basis of time served. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 PM | Permalink

"Sneer at faith all you like. Just don’t assume science is on your side."

Tom Knox in the Daily Mail, The tantilising proof that belief in God makes you happier and healthier

I am not a religious zealot. On the contrary, I was a teenage atheist. And although in adulthood I have had a vague and fuzzy feeling that ‘there must be something out there’, I was never a regular church-goer. But what I have discovered, on my voyage through the science of faith, has astonished me.

From Britain, he traveled to Salt Lake City.

Why did I feel safe? Because I was in a largely Mormon city, and Mormons are never going to mug you. They might bore or annoy you when they come knocking on your door, touting their faith, but they are not going to attack you.

The Mormons’ wholesome religiousness, their endless and charitable kindliness, made their  city a better place. And that made me think:  Why was I so supercilious about such happy, hospitable people? What gave me the right to sneer at their religion?

From that moment I took a deeper, more rigorous interest in the possible benefits of religious faith. Not one particular creed, but all creeds. And I was startled by what I found.

For a growing yet largely unnoticed body of scientific work, amassed over the past 30 years, shows religious belief is medically, socially and psychologically beneficial.

He reviewed many recent studies and found that  believers have

  • lower blood pressure
  • better mental and emotional health
  • longer life - about 7 years
  • less depression
  • faster recovery from illness, broken hips, cancer, heart disease etc etc
  • greater happiness

These results appear  not just among Americans, but among Europeans as well. 

In 2008, Professor Andrew Clark of the Paris School of Economics and Doctor Orsolya Lelkes of the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research conducted a vast survey of Europeans. They found that religious believers, compared to non-believers, record less stress, are better able to cope with losing jobs and divorce, are less prone to suicide, report higher levels of self-esteem, enjoy greater ‘life purpose’ and report being more happy overall.
What is stunning about this research is that the team didn’t go looking for this effect — it came to them unexpectedly.

Why might we be hard-wired to be religious? Precisely because religion makes us happier and healthier, and thus makes us have more children.

In the purest of Darwinian terms, God isn’t just good for you, He’s good for your genes, too.

All of which means that, contrary to expectation, it is the atheists who are eccentric, flawed and maladaptive, and it’s the devout who are healthy, well-adjusted and normal.
Sneer at faith all you like. Just don’t assume science is on your side. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:38 PM | Permalink

February 22, 2011

Six-legged meat

From the Wall Street Journal, The Six-Legged Meat of the Future by two Dutch professors of entomology.

Insects are nutritious and easy to raise without harming the environment. They also have a nice nutty taste

    Image: Miroslaw Swietek via Daily Mail, Hi res photos of sleeping insects covered with morning dew

Not long ago, foods like kiwis and sushi weren't widely known or available. It is quite likely that in 2020 we will look back in surprise at the era when our menus didn't include locusts, beetle larvae, dragonfly larvae, crickets and other insect delights.

Not me,  it creeps me out.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:11 PM | Permalink

February 21, 2011

Showdown in Wisconsin

Showdown in Wisconsin.

James Taranto on what's going on: The Means of Coercion.

the Wisconsin dispute has nothing to do with corporations. The unions' antagonist is the state government. "Industrial unions are organized against the might and greed of ownership," writes Time's Joe Klein, a liberal who understands the crucial distinction. "Public employees unions are organized against the might and greed . . . of the public?"
There is a fundamental difference between private- and public-sector workers. A private-sector labor dispute is a clear clash of competing interests, with management representing shareholders and unions representing workers. In the public sector, as George Will notes, taxpayers--whose position is analogous to that of shareholders--are usually denied a seat at the table:

Such unions are government organized as an interest group to lobby itself to do what it always wants to do anyway - grow. These unions use dues extracted from members to elect their members' employers. And governments, not disciplined by the need to make a profit, extract government employees' salaries from taxpayers. Government sits on both sides of the table in cozy "negotiations" with unions.

It's quite striking the way almost every lie the left ever told about the Tea Party has turned out to be true of the government unionists in Wisconsin and their supporters:

In the private market, if you bought something and it's defective or doesn't work, you can return it.  But you can't return poor teaching or get your money back if your eighth-grader still can't read the back of a cereal box.

Two-thirds of Wisconsin Public School 8th Graders Can't Read Proficiently - Despite the Highest Pupil Spending in Midwest, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Walter Russell Mead on The Madison Blues and the death throes of what he terms "The Blue Social Model".

Despite the terrible impression created by irresponsible teachers in Madison fraudulently calling in sick and hauling children down to protests they do not understand, and despite tactics that have further damaged the already poor image of public sector unions, these working people and their families are not wrongdoers or parasites.  But they have allowed themselves to be deceived by the false promises of demagogic and irresponsible politicians and they now stand in the way of inevitable, necessary and ultimately benign changes in the way our society works.
Technological change, global competition, and the rise of a more dynamic economy have wrecked the old social model, but old institutions, old habits of mind and old interest groups don’t disappear overnight.  In many ways, public sector unions and government employees are the last great citadel of the Blue Social Model and what we see in Madison (as well as Ohio and Tennessee) is a way of life fighting for survival in the last ditch.  We should not be surprised that the battle is fierce, the tactics ruthless, the polarization intense: this is not just a struggle between interest groups, it is a conflict over basic ideas about how the world does or should work.
To put it in a nutshell, the only way forward for the United States is to unleash the full transformational power of information technology in the knowledge and service industries even if this entails (as it surely will) the destruction of the current institutional, bureaucratic and guild-based systems on which we currently rely.

It will amount to a large scale cultural and social revolution in this country and many of the adjustments will hurt.  But overall, this is the only way to allow the overwhelming majority of Americans to enjoy the rising living standards that have characterized life in this country for the past 300 years.  It is the only way to make the American economy dynamic enough to support the economic and security policies necessary to keep us safe in the turbulent century ahead.
the struggle in Madison this week is important.  The United States must reform or decline; failure is not an option.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:12 PM | Permalink

February 17, 2011

The Devolution of Coherent Speech

Undergraduates, I said, seemed to be shifting the burden of communication from speaker to listener. Ambiguity, evasion, and body language, such as air quotes—using fingers as quotation marks to indicate clichés—were transforming college English into a coded sign language in which speakers worked hard to avoid saying anything definite. I called it Vagueness.

What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness by Clark Whelton in City Journal.

I recently watched a television program in which a woman described a baby squirrel that she had found in her yard. “And he was like, you know, ‘Helloooo, what are you looking at?’ and stuff, and I’m like, you know, ‘Can I, like, pick you up?,’ and he goes, like, ‘Brrrp brrrp brrrp,’ and I’m like, you know, ‘Whoa, that is so wow!’ ” She rambled on, speaking in self-quotations, sound effects, and other vocabulary substitutes, punctuating her sentences with facial tics and lateral eye shifts. All the while, however, she never said anything specific about her encounter with the squirrel.

Uh-oh. It was a classic case of Vagueness, the linguistic virus that infected spoken language in the late twentieth century. Squirrel Woman sounded like a high school junior, but she appeared to be in her mid-forties
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 AM | Permalink

Wall of Debt

The Washington Post, Obama budget plan shows interest owed on national debt quadrupling in next decade

Starting in 2014, net interest payments will surpass the amount spent on education, transportation, energy and all other discretionary programs outside defense. In 2018, they will outstrip Medicare spending. Only the amounts spent on defense and Social Security would remain bigger under the president's plan.

The soaring bill for interest payments is one of the biggest obstacles to balancing the federal budget, pushing the White House and Congress to come up with cuts deeper than previously imagined...

The phenomenon is a bit like running up the down escalator. Without interest payments, the president's plan would balance the budget by 2017. But net interest payments that year are expected to reach $627 billion, up from $207 billion in the current fiscal year.
He said that combined federal, state and municipal debt in the United States is at a record high, beyond the famous post-World War II levels. Unlike interest payments made then, however, a
huge portion of interest payments are flowing to investors in other countries, draining funds out of the U.S. economy.

Which is why Chris Christie has become such a consequential governor and national figure.  Yesterday, in Washington, he gave a speech It's Time to Do the Big Things which is well worth listening to, if only to hear a politician tell the truth.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:41 AM | Permalink

February 16, 2011

More than all the money in the world

If the United States were a family household, this is what its budget would look like.  Just how broke are we?

• The Federal government would earn $50,000 a year in tax revenue (the same as the average US household).

• It would be $325,000 in debt.

• It would pay almost $10,000 a year in interest on that debt.

• Last year, it would have spent $79,000.

• This year, it is hoping to spend $86,000.

• The $100 billion in spending cuts (that some politicians view as draconian) would be equivalent to the household cutting its $86,000 in planned spending down to a mere $83,700. Not a bad start, but the household has another $33,700 to go before it balances its budget.

If you had all the money in the world, what couldn't you do?

Well, according to  Exchequer , you still wouldn't be able to pay off our debt.

The optimistic view is that our outstanding obligations amount to more than all of the money in the world.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:54 PM | Permalink

"Next time maybe it could be somebody smaller than me"

Eagles over wolves in a rout

A 13-year-old boy named Nadin Khoury told about how he'd been attacked by seven bigger schoolmates, kicked, beaten, dragged through the snow, stuffed into a tree, and hung on a 7-foot spiked fence, all while adults watched.

The boy was only 5-foot-2, but he'd made up his mind to stand tall no matter how much of his pride bled out. As the brutal video played on a screen behind him, his collar stayed buttoned, his spine straight, but his bottom lip quivered.

"Next time maybe it could be somebody smaller than me," he said, loud and clear, like the Marine he wants to be someday. "Maybe next time, somebody could really get hurt."

      -Nadin Khoury

That's when host Elisabeth Hasselbeck said, "There are some guys here who want to tell you just how brave you are."

Khoury seemed at once shocked, overwhelmed and redeemed. Where once his chin stuck out as best it could, it now fell open in wonder.

From behind the curtain came three Philadelphia Eagles -- All-World receiver DeSean Jackson, center Jamaal Jackson and guard Todd Herremans.

Khoury seemed at once shocked, overwhelmed and redeemed. Where once his chin stuck out as best it could, it now fell open in wonder. He looked like a kid who'd forgotten it was Christmas morning. He wept without wiping his tears. Jackson sat as close to him as possible, as if to make the two one. He praised the boy for his bravery and added, "Anytime ever you need us, I got two linemen right here."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

February 15, 2011

Convincing stories of divine intervention told by victims of torture

Shoshana Garfield has worked for 20 years to help people recover from torture.

She writes about Faith in the darkest of moments in The Guardian

My clients tell me that their darkest moments have been when they felt deeply alone, bereft of even God. They despaired and were completely hopeless because of the thought that God was allowing the torture to continue, which in effect is either God's powerlessness or implicit permission, either of which is devastating. And yet I have also been told many, many times by clients (often the same ones with these moments of shattering despair) that at other times they knew, deeply knew, that God was with them.

I have heard reports of angels singing comfort, of Mary and/or Jesus whispering to them, of feeling the formless touch of the Divine, of a dream of a prophet or a saint that was real. I have even had multiple reports of literal, physical divine intervention at intense moments of need, in one case dramatically saving the life of my client.
beyond displaying typical impacts of deep trauma, 100% of the clients who reported such miraculous interventions in my clinic room were perfectly sane. I can therefore only come to the professional conclusion that these reports are, to the best of our knowledge, generally true.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Convincing stories of divine intervention told by victims of torture

Shoshana Garfield has worked for 20 years to help people recover from torture.

She writes about Faith in the darkest of moments in The Guardian

My clients tell me that their darkest moments have been when they felt deeply alone, bereft of even God. They despaired and were completely hopeless because of the thought that God was allowing the torture to continue, which in effect is either God's powerlessness or implicit permission, either of which is devastating. And yet I have also been told many, many times by clients (often the same ones with these moments of shattering despair) that at other times they knew, deeply knew, that God was with them.

I have heard reports of angels singing comfort, of Mary and/or Jesus whispering to them, of feeling the formless touch of the Divine, of a dream of a prophet or a saint that was real. I have even had multiple reports of literal, physical divine intervention at intense moments of need, in one case dramatically saving the life of my client.
beyond displaying typical impacts of deep trauma, 100% of the clients who reported such miraculous interventions in my clinic room were perfectly sane. I can therefore only come to the professional conclusion that these reports are, to the best of our knowledge, generally true.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:09 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

The importance of cleaning up

Mark Krikorian notes an important cultural moment about the Egyptian protests: they cleaned up after themselves.

“I came to clean but could barely find anything to clean,” said Jehan Agha, 32, of the upscale Mohandseen neighborhood, who was pulled into duty checking bags and doing body searches at one entrance to the square. “I’ve never seen people care about Egypt like this – people from all walks of life, ages and religions. It’s a new beginning and I hope it doesn’t end today or the next day.”
Anyone who’s been to the third world has seen trash strewn everywhere. This isn’t because less-developed countries produce more trash; in fact, they produce less. And it’s also not just because of lack of money for a proper waste-disposal infrastructure. Rather, it’s the product of a lack of civic consciousness and responsibility, without which ordered liberty is impossible.

Bill Walsh remarks

An Egyptian professor I heard speak the other day related three observations from her sister who participated in the protests (how long, I don't know). First was the fact that, although everyone was packed into the place, she wasn't groped once, which surprised her, given the endemic problem Egypt has had in that regard. Second was the protestors' emphatic cross-religious solidarity. Muslims would surround Christians at prayer, and vice versa. (This was both symbolic and to give people a second or two more to get off their knees if the skull-cracking brigade showed up.)

Last was the fact that young men with their pants rolled up were periodically going by with buckets and bottles of water and cleaning the ground of the square. She tried to explain the import of this for non-Egyptians. She said that everyone (herself included) who goes go Egypt notes the squalor of the public spaces, despite the fact Egyptians generally keep their homes very clean. She blamed it on the lack of civic-mindedness that Krikorian cites, but rooted that in egyptians' alienation from public life, dominated as it was by unaccountable thugs like Mubarak. She said (I paraphrase)
"You may not be able to understand what a big deal this is for Egyptians to reclaim public space like this—not only is it spontaneous civil order, but they're (consciously or not) saying 'This is our home.'"

Just hearing that story, a 70-something Egyptian professor concurred in its import, expressing his joyful surprise and saying, "I don't know if you could see it, but I was tearing up just hearing that. Egyptians know what this means."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 AM | Permalink

February 14, 2011

Happy St Valentine's Day

I've been opening up my valentines  - this one came from Google.

             Google Valentines

It's romantic and cheap: How to write a love letter and salvage Valentine's Day.

Data mining or data research  from OKCupid brings us The Best Questions for a First Date that statistically align with the questions you really want the answers to but can't ask.  Go see what "Do you like the taste of beer" and "Do spelling and grammar mistakes annoy you" align with.

From the Advice Goddess, Valentine's Day is Our National Day of Insincerity

Lionel Tiger looks at the anthropological aspects of Valentine's Day 

The biological bottom line is that it is the woman's responsibility to secure an acceptable long-term partner. Her stakes could not be higher. Marriage as an institution has largely been a means of protecting her (and often restricting her, too). And while marriage is by no means a romantic walk on the beach, it gets children raised and life goes on.

So who was St Valentine,  anyway?

         St. Valentine

Paul McHugh wites of  Matters of the Heart. in reviewing The Sublime Engine.

At some point, Love Outgrows Gifts on Valentine's Day

Long-term relationships do not survive without gifts, to be sure. But they are not the gifts you may think.
Many gifts are of the psychological and intangible sort. They range from simple empathy, affection and a catch-all category called “understanding,” to complex actions like sacrificing your career so your family can move to a city where a spouse or partner has a new and better job.
“Romance and passion is all about using the elements of surprise and the elements of newness,” That’s what couples say, and that’s what I’ve found in the research.” said Professor Terri Orbuch who's been doing a continuing study on married couples since the 80s.
It is very sweet and nice when you are 20 or 25,” said Ms. Mosher, 92. “But we are so safe and secure in our love for each other, there is no need for that kind of thing.”


It's never too late. When the ice king married the snow queen.

“We don’t always necessarily find love where we think we will. Sometimes it finds us,” said their friend Mrs. Naughton. “Love found them.”

Human love, divine love and the skeptic.

One man who spent much time and thought considering the why and how of love was Pope John Paul II. "Man cannot live without love," he wrote in Redemptor Hominis, his first encyclical. "He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it" (10).

That is a statement both St. Paul and John Lennon could agree with, for it states something that is evident to the thoughtful person, whether Christian or otherwise: I need love. I want to love. I am made for love.

Little kids answer the question What is Love ?

                    Playground Love Girl Vert

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth."
Billy - age 4

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other. " Karl - age 5

"There are two kinds of love. Our love. God's love. But God makes both kinds of them." Jenny - age 8

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen," Bobby - age 7

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you." Karen - age 7
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 AM | Permalink

February 8, 2011

The Power of Napping

As a long time proponent of napping, I relished this post from the Art of Manliness. For all my jobs, I always kept a straw basket that held a mat, a blanket and a small down pillow so that I could nap under the desk when I had to.

Unleash the Power of the Nap

But in reality, the nap stigma is incredibly misplaced. Naps can be one of the most powerful tools for self-improvement; they can increase not only our health and well-being but our intelligence and productivity as well. This is something great men have known all along. Famous thinkers and leaders like Edison, JFK, Churchill, and Napoleon were all ardent nappers. We’ll cover the specific napping habits of famous men in a future post.


While the pace of modern life may keep us from being the biphasic sleepers we were meant to be, the urge for a daytime snooze is still hardwired into our biology. Studies have shown that when people are put into an environment that lacks any indication of time, they will fall into the long sleep at night/shorter nap during the day pattern. Thus most of us are daily fighting tooth and nail against our body’s natural circadian rhythm, and this is wreaking havoc on our well-being, turning us into a horde of zombies that crave espresso instead of brains.

The authors list the benefits of napping

  • Increases alertness
  • Improves learning and working memory
  • Prevents burnout and reverses information overload
  • Heightens your senses and creativity
  • Improves health
  • Improves mood
And then show you how to tailor your nap to your needs.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:13 PM | Permalink

"A stastistically impossible lack of diversity"

When psychologists get together at a conference, their favorite subject for discussion is the discrimination all around them.

Last week at the conference for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Jonathan Haidt pointed out to them the enormous discrimination they were blind to:

He polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.

“This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal. In his speech and in an interview, Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.

“Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations.”


Can social scientists open up to outsiders’ ideas? Dr. Haidt was optimistic enough to title his speech “The Bright Future of Post-Partisan Social Psychology,” urging his colleagues to focus on shared science rather than shared moral values. To overcome taboos, he advised them to subscribe to National Review and to read Thomas Sowell’s “A Conflict of Visions.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:02 PM | Permalink

"This is not a 15-minute conversation, and it should not happen in the back of the ambulance on the way to the ICU at 3 in the morning."

More candor urged in care of dying cancer patients

WASHINGTON – Patients don't want to hear that they're dying and doctors don't want to tell them. But new guidance for the nation's cancer specialists says they should be upfront and do it far sooner.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology says too often, patients aren't told about options like comfort care or even that their chemo has become futile until the bitter end.

To help families broach the topic, too, the group developed an easy-to-read booklet about those choices, from standard care to symptom relief, and advice about what to ask to maximize remaining time.

"This is not a 15-minute conversation, and it should not happen in the back of the ambulance on the way to the ICU at 3 in the morning," says ASCO chief executive Dr. Allen Lichter. "When everyone is well and has their wits about them, it's time to start the process."

The guidance and booklet — available at http://www.cancer.net — mark an unusually strong push for planning end-of-life care, in a profession that earns more from attacking tumors than from lengthy, emotional discussions about when it's time to stop.

"This is a clarion call for oncologists . to take the lead in curtailing the use of ineffective therapy and ensuring a focus on palliative care and relief of symptoms throughout the course of illness," the guidance stresses.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 AM | Permalink

Not everyone needs a college education

When even a Harvard study says not everyone needs a college education, a major shift has occurred.

A new report released by Harvard Wednesday states in some of the strongest terms yet that such a “college for all” emphasis may actually harm many American students – keeping them from having a smooth transition from adolescence to adulthood and a viable career. “The American system for preparing young people to lead productive and prosperous lives as adults is clearly badly broken,” concludes the report, “Pathways to Prosperity” (pdf).


The United States can learn from other countries, particularly in northern Europe, Professor Schwartz says. In Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland, for instance, between 40 and 70 percent of high-schoolers opt for programs that combine classroom and workplace learning, many of them involving apprenticeships. These pathways result in a “qualification” that has real currency in the labor market.


A Georgetown University study projected 14 million job openings between 2008 and 2018 in the “middle-skill occupations,” such as electricians and paralegals, in which workers need an associate’s degree or occupational certificate.

The college-for-all rhetoric should be broadened, the Harvard report concludes, to become “post-high-school credential for all.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink

"Why was almost everyone fooled?"

Robert Samuleson in The Wilson Quarterly on Rethinking the Great Recession

In a more honest telling of the story, avaricious Wall Street types, fumbling government regulators, and clueless economists become supporting players in a larger tragedy that is not mainly of their making. If you ask who did make it, the most honest answer is: We all did. Put differently, the widely shared quest for ever-improving prosperity contributed to the conditions that led to the financial and economic collapse. Our economic technocrats as well as our politicians and the general public constantly strive for expansions that last longer, unemployment that falls lower, economic growth that increases faster. Americans crave booms, which bring on busts. That is the unspoken contradiction.


The central question about the crisis that must be answered is, Why was almost everyone fooled? “Almost everyone” includes most economists (starting with Fed chairmen Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke), most investors, most traders, most bankers, the rating agencies, most government regulators, most corporate executives, and most ordinary Americans..

....People are conditioned by their experiences. The most obvious explanation of why so many people did not see what was coming is that they’d lived through several decades of good economic times that made them optimistic. Prolonged prosperity seemed to signal that the economic world had become less risky.

...So, paradoxically, the reduction of risk prompted Americans to take on more risk.

...If this explanation of the crisis is correct, it raises momentous questions. Since World War II, American democracy has been largely premised on its ability to create ever greater economic benefits—higher living standards, more social protections, greater job and income security—for most of its citizens. The promise has largely succeeded and, in turn, rests heavily on the belief, shared unconsciously by leaders in both parties, that we retain basic control over the economy.

... What looms as the most significant legacy of the crisis is a loss of economic control.

.. In the years after World War II, the prevailing assumption among economists, embraced by much of the public, was that we had conquered the classic problem of booms and busts. Grave economic crises afflicted only developing countries or developed countries that had grossly mismanaged their affairs. This common view is no longer tenable. It has been refuted by events.

;;the widespread faith—and the sense of security it imparted—that economic management would forever spare us devastating disruptions has been shattered. Just as there has never been a war to end all wars, there has yet to be an economic theory that can end all serious instability.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

When Steve Jobs dropped out of college

Steve Jobs says one of the best decisions of his life was dropping out of college. He just followed his curiosity and stumbled into a calligraphy class.

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.

From Notable and Quotable.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 AM | Permalink

"All it takes is a traumatic brain injury"

I never knew this about the homeless

David Bornstein in the Opinionator on the nature of homelessness.

One of the jolting realizations that I had while researching this column is that anybody could become like a homeless person — all it takes is a traumatic brain injury. A bicycle fall, a car accident, a slip on the ice, or if you’re a soldier, a head wound — and your life could become unrecognizable. James O’Connell, a doctor who has been treating the most vulnerable homeless people on the streets of Boston for 25 years, estimates that 40 percent of the long-term homeless people he’s met had such a brain injury. “For many it was a head injury prior to the time they became homeless,” he said. “They became erratic. They’d have mood swings, bouts of explosive behavior. They couldn’t hold onto their jobs. Drinking made them feel better. They’d end up on the streets.”

But he finds real hope
When I asked Rosanne Haggerty, the founder of Common Ground, which currently operates 2,310 units of supportive housing (with 552 more under construction), what had been her biggest surprise in this work, she replied: “Fifteen years ago, I would not have believed that people who had been so broken and entrenched in homelessness could thrive to the degree that they do in our buildings.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:21 AM | Permalink

February 4, 2011


Destined to be a classic is this photo of a lioness chewing out her mate by amateur photographer Jennifer Lockridge at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:35 PM | Permalink

Spilled milk

Unbelievable. EPA now to regulate spilled milk -- really

In a classic example of this process, the EPA has decided that, since milk contains oil, it has the authority to force farmers to comply with new regulations to file "emergency management" plans to show how they will cope with spilled milk, how farmers will train "first responders" and build "containment facilities" if there is a flood of spilled milk.

Since there is no free lunch, all of this is going to cost the farmers both money and time that could be going into farming-- and is likely to end up costing consumers higher prices for farm products.


It is going to cost the taxpayers money as well, since the EPA is going to have to hire people to inspect farms, inspect farmers' reports and prosecute farmers who don't jump through all the right hoops in the right order. All of this will be "creating jobs," even if the tax money removed from the private sector correspondingly reduces the jobs that can be created there.

It makes me want to cry. Next thing you know they will want to regulate the very air we breathe out.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:34 PM | Permalink

The Skin Cell Gun

How many horribly suffering burn victims will find healing almost instantly because of this fabulous achievement.

Kudos to Jorg Gerlach of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and his team who have been working on this for a long time.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:26 PM | Permalink

Why I still read the New York Times

I read the New York Times for stories like these.

Chicken Vanishes, Heartbreak Ensues in Bed-Stuy, New York

Either no one knew or no one was talking. But one of the corner guys promised to “put the word out” and, if he found out who did it, to “put the hurt on him.” Which was comforting. Kind of.

About a week after Gertrude’s disappearance, after we’d all but given up hope, a young man stood at the gate and shouted that he had “information about the chicken.”

A growing number of designers are specializing in retro looks Vintage styles reborn as new designs which is very good news.

“I sell to women who say they go to the mall and can’t find anything that isn’t either flimsy and trendy or dowdy and frumpy,” said Theresa Campbell McKee, 55, owner of Blue Velvet Vintage, an online store that sells reproductions. “They want something classic and distinctive that makes them feel pretty.”

Since ‘Mad Men,’ it’s been crazy busy,” said Letty Tennant, 30, owner and chief designer of Queen of Heartz in Anaheim, Calif. “And you can’t say it’s just a fad because these clothes are timeless classics, not ‘in’ one year and ‘you wouldn’t be caught dead in it’ next year.”

--Men treat me differently when I wear vintage or something that looks vintage,” she said. “I’ve noticed that they open doors and even apologize when they swear, which is so not the case when I’m wearing regular clothes like pants and a sweater.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

A view of retirement at 107

He never made more than $10,000 a year in his life and now at 107, after living in retirement for 41 years, he's still getting by on his own resources which are savings, social security and a lifetime annuity he purchased before he retired.

He tells us how he did it by following basic principles

Thrift, real estate investments, using debt well, working even when jobs were hard to find, saving and investing conservatively, and staying healthy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

Political correctness kills

String of failures' cited in Fort Hood attack - warning signs unheeded

The report says evidence of Mr. Hasan‘s radicalization to violent Islamist extremism was on “full display to his superiors and colleagues during his military medical training” and that an instructor and a colleague each referred to him as a “ticking time bomb.” Not only was no action taken to discipline or discharge him, the report says, but also his officer evaluation reports sanitized his obsession with violent Islamist extremism into praiseworthy research on counterterrorism.

The Senate Investigation just adds details to what we already knew. Political correctness kills.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:43 AM | Permalink

Mission Impossible Squirrel

This little critter is great, but just how do you train a squirrel?

via Boing Boing

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 AM | Permalink

February 3, 2011

The Immateriality of Wealth

The most crucial elements of a successful culture and a prosperous society are "intangible, immaterial, spiritual" argues Jay Richards, in The American,

His Top Ten Ways to Alleviate Poverty show The Immateriality of Wealth.

1) Establish and maintain the rule of law.

2) Focus the jurisdiction of government primarily on maintaining the rule of law, and limit its jurisdiction over the economy and the institutions of civil society.

3) Implement a formal property system with consistent and accessible means for securing a clear title to property one owns.

4) Encourage economic freedom.

5) Encourage stable families and other important private institutions which mediate between the individual and the state.

6) Encourage belief in the truth that the universe is purposeful and makes sense.

7) Encourage the right cultural mores.

8) Instill a proper understanding of the nature of wealth creation and poverty.

9) Focus on cultivating your comparative advantage rather than protecting what used to be your comparative advantage.

10) Work hard.

There is a striking correlation between societies that exhibit these traits, or some subset of them, and the large-scale wealth creation. But notice that only one of them describes a material good. All the others are intangible, immaterial, spiritual. You can’t find economic freedom or cultural mores on a map or put them in a safe. You can’t bottle diligence or weigh the ingredients for stable families and voluntary institutions on a scale. These goods involve beliefs, social conventions, institutions, commitments, virtues, and creativity.

In 2006, the World Bank released a study - Where is the Wealth of Nations? - highlighting the importance of "intangible wealth" as distinct from "natural capital" and "produced capital" with a snapshot of wealth for 120 countries at the turn of the millennium.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:00 PM | Permalink

February 1, 2011

Marriage remains the key to a better life for all concerned

Marriage, the key to a better life.

Marriage cheers you up, improves your diet and helps you live longer, researchers say.

It brings better mental and physical health, reducing the chance of premature death by 15 per cent, according to major studies in seven European countries.

And the longer a marriage lasts the more the rewards accumulate – the only catch being that the relationship has to be loving and supportive.

And what's the One Simple Secret to a Good Marriage?

“It’s simple, but it’s not easy… “It’s what’s in your heart. You’ve got to LOVE each other. We’re happy because I do things for him and he does things for me. That’s what love means… I do things for him and he does things for me.”

---As she talked, it became clear that the “things” they’ve done for one another were way beyond the “pick-up-his-socks” and “surprise-her-by doing-the dishes” things suggested in typical marriage columns. Their mutual “doing” carried them across parched deserts and through tumultuous rapids—past the dangerous places where marriages die. It was no easy feat.

But as Gerry Garibaldi, a teacher at an inner-city school in Connecticut, writes, "Nobody Gets Married Any More, Mister"

Thanks to the feds, urban schools like mine—already entitled to substantial federal largesse under Title I, which provides funds to public schools with large low-income populations—are swimming in money.

----Within my lifetime, single parenthood has been transformed from shame to saintliness. In our society, perversely, we celebrate the unwed mother as a heroic figure, like a fireman or a police officer. During the last presidential election, much was made of Obama’s mother, who was a single parent. Movie stars and pop singers flaunt their daddy-less babies like fishing trophies.

None of this is lost on my students. In today’s urban high school, there is no shame or social ostracism when girls become pregnant. . . .

Connecticut is among the most generous of the states to out-of-wedlock mothers. Teenage girls like Nicole qualify for a vast array of welfare benefits from the state and federal governments: medical coverage when they become pregnant (called “Healthy Start”); later, medical insurance for the family (“Husky”); child care (“Care 4 Kids”); Section 8 housing subsidies; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; cash assistance. If you need to get to an appointment, state-sponsored dial-a-ride is available. . . .

In theory, this provision of services is humane and defensible, an essential safety net for the most vulnerable—children who have children. What it amounts to in practice is a monolithic public endorsement of single motherhood—one that has turned our urban high schools into puppy mills. The safety net has become a hammock.

There is no doubt that intact families are far better for society as a whole and for the people involved, especially the children.   
With the best of intentions, we are creating a dismal future of poor, fatherless families and rootless, purposeless men.
What has happened to marriage? Why don't you guys study like the kids from Africa? Adults' Rights to Children vs Children's Needs.

"You would not be able to print enough money in a thousand years to pay for the government you would need if the traditional family continues to collapse," Representative Michael Pence.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:24 PM | Permalink

Twenty four hours of sky

Photographer Chris Kotsiopoulos captured in one photograph 24 hours of sky over Athens, Greece.


He tells you how he did it here. Via Neatorama

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 PM | Permalink

"So solid a comfort, so durable a satisfaction"

In a review of the new book Never Say Die, Joseph Epstein at first credits the author Susan Jacoby for her role as "reality instructor".

--as a contributor on old-age health matters to the AARP bulletin and other magazines and newspapers, she feels that in the past she often idealized aging. "One of the reasons I am writing this book," she avers, "is that I came to feel, especially as I saw the real, not-for-prime-time struggles of much older friends, that I was presenting a half-truth that amounted to a lie."

...A longtime feminist, Ms. Jacoby expresses anger at her sisters for ignoring the plight of aging for women, especially women living alone. A majority of women will outlive their husbands—two-thirds of those over 85 in America today are women—with diminished finances and in terrible loneliness. "Old age," she writes, "is primarily a women's issue." She also underscores—no surprise here—that aging is even more difficult for the poor, of either gender.

But he wearies at her constant tirade

So complete is her attack that she is not prepared to allow the one possible reward of old age, which is the potential for acquiring wisdom through experience. Depression rather than wisdom, she holds, is more likely to be the lot of the old.

He turns to Cicero who, as Montaigne wrote, "gives one an appetite for old age".

Of course old age, bringing with it diminished strength and desires, cannot do some of things youth can; of course old age makes one more prone to illness and disease—parts, after all, do wear out; of course old age puts one closer to death. But weighed beside these serious detractions, Cicero contended, are the opportunities old age brings for "the study and practice of decent, enlightened living," accompanied by a calm that youth, and even middle age, do not allow.

----As for the attribution of such faults among the old as being morose, ill-tempered, avaricious and difficult to please, Cicero claimed, rightly, that "these are faults of character, not of age."

For Susan Jacoby, the answer to the increasing numbers of old, poor, sick, lonely women lies in benevolent care by the government and doctor assisted suicide when one has lived too long.

For me, that is more fanciful and pernicious than belief in God.

Ms. Jacoby makes no effort to hide or even subdue her politics, which, as you will have already gathered, are liberal, standard left-wing. Brought up a Catholic, she long ago shed any belief in God or the supernatural..

And so, she utterly fails to comprehend the consolations that a strong belief in God can bring. For those who have grown in their faith, aging becomes a natural monastery where one detaches from the things of the world to focus increasingly on God and eternity.

Compare what a blind monk has to say. in the gorgeous movie, ."Into Great Silence (Two-Disc Set)"

“The closer one brings oneself to God, the happier one is. The faster one hurries to meet him. One should have no fear of death. On the contrary! For us, it is a great joy to find a Father once again. … The past, the present, these are human. In God there is no past. Solely the present prevails. And when God sees us, he always sees our entire life. And because He is an infinitely good being, He eternally seeks our well-being. Therefore, there is no cause for worry in any of the things which happen to us. I often thank God that he let me be blinded. I am sure that he let this happen for the good of my soul… It is a pity that the world has lost all sense of God. It is a pity…They have no reason to live anymore. When you abolish the thought of God, why should you go on living on this earth? … One must (never) part from the principle that God is infinitely good, and that all of his actions are in our best interest. Because of this a Christian should always be happy, never unhappy. Because everything that happens is God’s will, and it only happens for the well-being of our soul. Well, this is the most important. God is infinitely good, almighty, and he helps us. This is all one must do, and then one is happy.”

Here's what Cicero has to say On the Immortality of Souls in his Discourse on Old Age which I believe should be required reading for anyone afraid of aging and of death.

" Cicero's Cato major, or discourse on old age. Addressed to Titus Pomponius Atticus. With explanatory notes. By Benj. Franklin, LL.D."

For nature appears to me to have ordained this station here for us, as a place of sojournment, a transitory abode only, and not as a fixed settlement or permanent habitation.

But oh the glorious day, when freed from this troublesome rout, this heap of confusion and corruption below, I shall repair to that divine Assembly, the heavenly Congregation of Souls!
Now these, my friends, are the means (since it was these you wanted to know) by which I make my old age sit easy and light upon me; and thus I not only disarm it of every uneasiness, but render it even sweet and delightful.

But if I should be mistaken in this belief, that our souls are immortal, I am however pleased and happy in my mistake; nor while I live, shall it ever be in the power of man, to beat me out of an opinion, that yields me so solid a comfort and so durable a satisfaction.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:09 PM | Permalink

Miracle Milkweed

I love it when a common weed is found to have surprising benefits, especially for people with fair skin like me who are especially prone to sun damage and all that entails as one grows older.

Common garden weed 'cures skin cancer' say scientists

The sap from a plant known as petty spurge or milkweed - found by roadsides and in woodland - can 'kill' certain types of cancer cells when applied to the skin. It works on non-melanoma skin cancers, which affect hundreds of thousands of Britons each year.   They are triggered by sun damage and, although not usually fatal, can be disfiguring without treatment .

...a team of scientists in Australia has carried out a clinical study of sap from Euphorbia peplus, which is related to Euphorbia plants grown in gardens in the UK. The study of 36 patients with a total of 48 non-melanoma lesions included basal cell carcinomas (BCC), squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) and intraepidermal carcinomas (IEC), a growth of cancerous cells confined to the outer layer of the skin. Patients had failed to respond to conventional treatment including surgery, or they refused or were unsuitable for surgery because of their age.

The patients were treated once a day for three consecutive days by an oncologist using a cotton bud to apply enough of the E.peplus sap to cover the surface of each lesion. The initial results were impressive, says findings to be released this week in the British Journal of Dermatology. After only one month 41 of the 48 cancers had completely gone.Patients who had some of the lesions remaining were offered a second course of treatment. After an average of 15 months following treatment, two thirds of the 48 skin cancer lesions were still showing a complete response.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:05 PM | Permalink