October 30, 2011

"The Dead Zone at the Core of American Life"

In Foreign Affairs, The Broken Contract by George Packer

This inequality is the ill that underlies all the others. Like an odorless gas, it pervades every corner of the United States and saps the strength of the country's democracy. But it seems impossible to find the source and shut it off.
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Some argue that this inequality was an unavoidable result of deeper shifts: global competition, cheap goods made in China, technological changes. Although those factors played a part, they have not been decisive. In Europe, where the same changes took place, inequality has remained much lower than in the United States. The decisive factor has been politics and public policy: tax rates, spending choices, labor laws, regulations, campaign finance rules. Book after book by economists and other scholars over the past few years has presented an airtight case: over the past three decades, the government has consistently favored the rich. This is the source of the problem: our leaders, our institutions.

But even more fundamental than public policy is the long-term transformation of the manners and morals of American elites -- what they became willing to do that they would not have done, or even thought about doing, before. Political changes precipitated, and in turn were aided by, deeper changes in norms of responsibility and self-restraint. In 1978, it might have been economically feasible and perfectly legal for an executive to award himself a multimillion-dollar bonus while shedding 40 percent of his work force and requiring the survivors to take annual furloughs without pay. But no executive would have wanted the shame and outrage that would have followed -- any more than an executive today would want to be quoted using a racial slur or photographed with a paid escort.

Let's take a look at Rajat K. Gupta, a former director of Goldman Sachs who was charged by federal prosectors last week with inside trading in what the New Times calls A stunning fall from grace for a star executive 

“Here he sees an opportunity to make a hundred million dollars over the next five years, or 10 years, without doing a lot of work,”

Walter Russell Mead writes, The Boomer Establishment Sinks Deeper Into Failure and Shame.

The American corporate establishment is reeling today at the news that the government is bringing criminal charges against Rajat K. Gupta, for many years the head of the most trusted name in corporate consulting.  According to the government, Gupta passed insider secrets to the systematically dishonest Raj Rajaratnam, the disgraced and convicted former head of a major hedge fund.  McKinsey, the consulting firm Gupta led, is privy to the most sensitive information in American corporate life, and its reputation for discretion and integrity is the core of its business.  It is hard to imagine a more damaging development to the reputation of the firm.  It is not just that its head may have committed crimes that undermine everything the firm stands for; it is that those around him were so blind, so naive and so easily fooled that the self described master strategists of business look like gullible nitwits.
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The problem goes well beyond McKinsey.  If the government proves its case, it will demonstrate that the American establishment has lost its ability to discern character and demand integrity. Gupta not only rose to the head of a firm that depends on reliability and discretion; he advised the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and served on the boards of directors of some of the biggest names in American business.

That a criminal could win the trust of so many of the ‘best and the brightest’ in philanthropy and business chillingly demonstrates the moral and intellectual vacuum in the corporate world.  Years of excessive payment for executives, okayed by go along to get along boards of directors, a culture of entitlement and a lack of personal character and strong moral codes have created a dead zone at the core of American life.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 PM | Permalink

Life reports for those lost in transition

David Brooks is asking people over 70 to send him their Life Reports.

I’d like you to write a brief report on your life so far, an evaluation of what you did well, of what you did not so well and what you learned along the way. You can write this as a brief essay or divide your life into categories — career, family, faith, community, and self-knowledge — and give yourself a grade in each area.

--  First, we have few formal moments of self-appraisal in our culture. Occasionally, on a big birthday people will take a step back and try to form a complete picture of their lives, but we have no regular rite of passage prompting them to do so.

More important, these essays will be useful to the young. Young people are educated in many ways, but they are given relatively little help in understanding how a life develops, how careers and families evolve, what are the common mistakes and the common blessings of modern adulthood. These essays will help them benefit from your experience.

I'll be very interested in the series of essays he plans to write around Thanksgiving about the life reports he gets.  Life reports are very much the sort of thing I have envisioned that people would leave in their personal legacy archives.
 
This may be the most important way you can pass on what you've learned about life.  In A Generation Detached, Naomi Schaefer Riley reviews Lost in Transition by Christian Smith

According to sociologists, what we used to think of as adolescence has been extended now through one’s twenties, thanks to higher rates of college attendance, greater job insecurity, a longer period of financial dependence on parents, reliable contraception, and (relatedly) delayed marriage. Perhaps the delayed age of marriage (now a median of twenty-six for women and twenty-eight for men) is the most symbolic of these elements. This postponement of marriage is a sign, we say colloquially, that men and women are afraid of commitment. And according to Lost in Transition these young people are unwilling or unable to commit to anything at all.
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Lost in Transition provides a detailed cultural profile of a generation that is completely disengaged.  In addition to being detached from their romantic (or simply sexual) partners, most of these young adults are also detached from their churches, their local communities, and their country.

According to the authors,
  they are not only not engaged in politics, they are also not big on volunteering and voluntary financial giving. . . . They are so focused on their own personal lives, especially on trying to stand on their own two feet, that they seem incapable of thinking more broadly about community involvement, good citizenship, or even very modest levels of charitable giving. -- Despite their lack of understanding and interest in the world around them, these emerging adults, Smith and his collaborators insist, are not unintelligent. Rather, the authors argue, no one has taught them to ask questions about morality or to think about what is important in life. Smith and his coauthors blame, at least in part, “the tolerance-promoting, multiculturalist educational project” for some of these problems.
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It’s not surprising that emerging adults have been so taken with materialism. As the authors explain, “Having freed people from the formative influences and obligations of town, church, extended family, and conventional morality, American individualism has exposed those people to the more powerful influences and manipulations of mass consumer capitalism.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:34 PM | Permalink

How the left uses environmentalism to gain power

One of the more useful quotations I know by heart is one by G.K. Chesterton,

“When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing,
they then become capable of believing in anything."

Useful because it applies in so many circumstances, like this article by Daniel Greenfield,  The Materialism of Environmentalism

There is no understanding environmentalism without also understanding the function of religion as a means of infusing spirituality into the material. The politicization of consumerism is an attempt to mimic the religious dimension of life without a guiding deity.
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The fusion of science and politics gave the left what it had always been lacking. An apocalypse. ..Human apocalypses, wars and revolutions, had been the left's stock in trade. It predicted them and than rallied its followers to come to power so it could ward them off. Environmentalism gave it its own apocalypse.  Its old arguments against capitalism depended on the oppressed rising up. Its new argument was that capitalism would destroy the world...

The old left had borrowed social justice from religion, while discarding everything but the moral imperative. The new left combined it with the grandiose spectacle of apocalypses while replacing the deity with the mechanics of consumerism as a vehicle of climate change. What the left created was an irreligious religion with a moral imperative encompassing every aspect of life.
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What the left understood was that a society without religious conviction could be convinced of religious ideas if they were passed off as irreligious ones. A secular priesthood could rise to power by acting as shamans of social justice and protectors of the planet.

One more quote from Chesterton,

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 PM | Permalink

Booming anti-aging industry

The first boomers are now in their sixties, some of them already collecting social security, and, as they have all through their lives, are having an outsized impact on the market.  The anti-aging industry in the U.S. has grown from virtually nothing to one worth $88 billion in the past 10 years .

In the Telegraph, Julia Llewellyn-Smith examines the people hoping to cure old age.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:46 PM | Permalink

Remarkable story of redemption

The white supremacist gang leader who turned back time: Remarkable results after heavily tattooed criminal went through 16 months of agonizing laser surgery

The tattoos that covered a man's face show the hate that was once in his heart.

Bryon Widner was one of America's most violent and well known white supremacists, and his heavily-tattooed face displayed it proudly.

After shunning his racist beliefs, he was still unable to hold work because of his facial scarring, and went through a long and complicated journey to have the tattoos removed, in hopes of truly starting his life anew.

 Widner Tattoo Redemption

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 PM | Permalink

"Compassion, unlike charity, is not a virtue acquired by self-discipline and habitual practice. It is only a feeling,"

No Fooling with the Republic is a  fascinating interview by Kathryn Jean Lopez of Mary Ann Glendon, professor of law at Harvard and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican about her new book, How Scholars and Politicians Have Imagined the World from Plato to Eleanor Roosevelt.

GLENDON: Aristotle held that politics and philosophy were the most choiceworthy vocations for certain kinds of persons — those who are capable of pursuing them, and “most ambitious with respect to virtue.” I take the more capacious view that a person can have more than one vocation, and that all honest vocations can be paths to a virtuous life. Think of parenthood, for example! The challenge is to discern one’s own path toward the perfection of one’s nature, and to follow through on that discernment. Some of the persons profiled in my book (Plato, Locke, Tocqueville, Weber) were surprisingly slow to figure out where their own talents lay.
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LOPEZ: What’s wrong with Rousseau’s legacy of the “politics of compassion”? 

GLENDON: In his effort to ground morality in something other than religion, Rousseau hit upon what he considered to be a natural feeling of empathy for the suffering of others that makes us unwilling to harm others, unless our own self-preservation is at stake. But compassion, unlike charity, is not a virtue acquired by self-discipline and habitual practice. It is only a feeling, and a fleeting one at that. It yields not only to self-preservation, but to self-interest. It’s too shaky to serve as the foundation for a just society. --
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LOPEZ: “Just because one does not see the results of one’s best efforts in one’s own lifetime does not mean those efforts were in vain.” Is there anyone in particular you’d point that out to today?

GLENDON: That’s a lesson for all of us, perhaps especially for people who are raising children!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:14 PM | Permalink

"The sexual revolution has left a trail of destruction in its wake"

Mona Charen writing on the infamous Kate Bolick piece in The Atlantic, What Me Marry? says Blame the Sexual Revolution, Not Men.

But these trends, however interesting, shed only an oblique light on the problem of the decline in marriageable males. Bolick edges closer to the truth in her discussion of sex.

“The early 1990s,” she writes, “witnessed the dawn of the ‘hookup culture’ at universities, as colleges stopped acting in loco parentis [actually they relinquished that role in the 1970s] and undergraduates . . . started throwing themselves into a frenzy of one-night-stands.” Some young women, she notes, felt “forced into a promiscuity they didn’t ask for,” whereas young men “couldn’t be happier.”

According to economist Robert H. Frank, “when available women significantly outnumber men . . . courtship behavior changes in the direction of what men want.” And vice versa. If there’s a shortage of women, the females have more power to demand what they want — which tends to be (surprise!) monogamy. On college campuses, women outnumber men by 57 to 43 percent.

But economic analysis can take you only so far. Men’s capacity to insist upon promiscuity rests completely on female cooperation. And women have been foolishly compliant for decades.

They’ve conspired in their own disempowerment not because they love their sexual freedom (though a few may), but because people like Gloria Steinem and Ms. Bolick’s mother convinced them that the old sexual mores, along with marriage and children, were oppressive to women.

The resulting decline of marriage has been a disaster for children, a deep disappointment to reluctantly single women, and unhealthy for single men, who are less happy, shorter-lived, and less wealthy than married men. The sexual revolution has left a trail of destruction in its wake, even when its victims don’t recognize the perpetrato
r.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:50 PM | Permalink

October 28, 2011

Green shoots in Detroit

The Economist finds Detroit So cheap, there's hope

IT IS hardly news that the city of Detroit has been in long-term decline, a victim of everything from the problems of the “big three” carmakers to family breakdown, crime and middle-class flight, both black and white. But the scale of the recent collapse has caught even hardened Detroiters by surprise. When the results from the most recent decennial census appeared earlier this year, they showed that in the decade from 2000 to 2010 Detroit lost an astonishing 25% of its population, a demographic catastrophe (New Orleans apart) without parallel in the developed world.
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Yet despite all the gloom, there is a bit of a sense that things might just be starting to turn, and the reason is simple: Detroit is now incredibly cheap. And that has drawn some admittedly rather pioneering types back into town.    The most remarkable of these is Dan Gilbert. A 49-year-old native of Detroit whose motto is “We can do well by doing good”, Mr Gilbert is reshaping Detroit’s centre. Last year he moved his main business, Quicken Loans, the largest internet mortgage company in America, from the quiet suburbs into a building on Campus Martius park, the heart of downtown. His 1,700 staff there were joined, earlier this month, by another 2,000 people whom he moved into a second building nearby. From his window Mr Gilbert points to some of his other acquisitions, including one, of 800,000 square feet, that he bought for just $8m and intends to let out. It is hard to beat $10 a square foot for downtown office space.
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And besides all this, a quiet revolution is taking place in Detroit’s schools, which have done so much to drive people away. Thanks in large part to the generosity of Detroit’s philanthropic phalanx, especially the Skillman Foundation, they are gradually getting better. Half of Detroit’s children now escape the poorly run and poorly funded public schools, because of an explosion in the number of independent charter schools, religious foundations and rules that let pupils attend schools in neighbouring suburbs. The new Republican governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, is pushing for a lot more school choice throughout the state; in May he appointed a businessman as the emergency manager for Detroit’s public schools. Early days; but for the first time in decades, there are a few green shoots in Detroit’s grim streets.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:57 AM | Permalink

"A class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists"

Peggy Noonan likes Paul Ryan as much as I do and writes much better, The Divider vs. The Thinker.

Mr. Ryan receives much praise, but I don't think his role in the current moment has been fully recognized. He is doing something unique in national politics. He thinks. He studies. He reads. Then he comes forward to speak, calmly and at some length, about what he believes to be true. He defines a problem and offers solutions, often providing the intellectual and philosophical rationale behind them. Conservatives naturally like him—they agree with him—but liberals and journalists inclined to disagree with him take him seriously and treat him with respect.

This week in a major speech entitled Saving the American Idea: Rejecting Fear, Envy and the Politics of Division  , he attacked corporate welfare and crony capitalism

"Why have we extended an endless supply of taxpayer credit to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, instead of demanding that their government guarantee be wound down and their taxpayer subsidies ended?" Why are tax dollars being wasted on bankrupt, politically connected solar energy firms like Solyndra? "Why is Washington wasting your money on entrenched agribusiness?"

Rather than raise taxes on individuals, we should "lower the amount of government spending the wealthy now receive." The "true sources of inequity in this country," he continued, are policies "that enriches the powerful, and empty promises that betray the powerless." The real class warfare that threatens us is "a class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us, call the shots, rig the rules, and preserve their place atop society."

Most of the country knows this.  Angelo Codevilla in his  essay last year,  America's Ruling Class and the Perils of Revolution was prophetic. 

Who are these rulers, and by what right do they rule? How did America change from a place where people could expect to live without bowing to privileged classes to one in which, at best, they might have the chance to climb into them? What sets our ruling class apart from the rest of us?
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Its attitude is key to understanding our bipartisan ruling class. Its first tenet is that "we" are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained. How did this replace the Founding generation's paradigm that "all men are created equal"?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:31 AM | Permalink

October 27, 2011

A baby aspirin every day

That baby aspirin you've been taking every day because your doctor it's good for your heart  may also be cutting your risk of cancer by 60%

Aspirin every day can cut cancer risk by 60%: British scientists find first proof of preventative effect

Increasing numbers of doctors are taking painkiller for insurance against the disease

Taking aspirin regularly can cut the long-term risk of cancer, according to the first major study of its kind.

British researchers found it can reduce the risk by 60 per cent in people with a family history of the disease.

The landmark research covering 16 countries is the first proof that the painkiller has a preventive action that is likely to benefit anyone using it every day.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:41 PM | Permalink

October 25, 2011

"The Temptation of the Lonely" - Pornography under examination

Psychology Today reports Porn numbs body’s response to sexual pleasure

Robinson explains that the brain can become desensitized to dopamine, the neurotransmitter that activates the body’s reaction to sexual pleasure, through the kind of over-stimulation readily available via the internet’s porn culture.
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The article cites one recovered porn addict who lays down three facts that other addicts should be aware of: “1. This is 100% fixable; 2. It will likely be one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done; 3. If you ever want a normal sex life again, you kinda don’t have another choice.”

Simcha Fisher in Pornography Addiction, Documented,  points to the award-winning documentary, Out of Darkness, by Sean Finnegan that features stories of people who escaped from the prison-like world of pornography. 

Judith Reisman, a world-renowned authority on the fraudulent world of popular sex science, gives her testimony, which is both academic and personal. Her own daughter was raped at the age of 10. She searched frantically for guidance, but got the same advice from everyone. They told her, “Well, children are sexual beings from birth” and “Your daughter was probably sending out vibes that she wanted it.”
Horrified, she searched for the source of these ideas. “I know a party line when I hear it,” she says cannily, in the film. Her research led her to Alfred Kinsey as the impetus for the sexual revolution, and she now works to expose what she sees as both his shoddy and perverse research and the damage done by his influence.\

Another expert, psychiatrist Richard Fitzgibbons, also offers insight which is both professional and personal. An experienced family therapist, he was baffled at the increase in young patients who were narcissistic and desperately lonely, suffering great emotional pain. Fitzgibbons found a common thread: His patients all sought “a temporary lift of spirits” through pornography. “It’s the temptation of the lonely,” he says in the documentary, but these young people “have no idea how to have a friendship.” 

You can see a trailer at Anteroom Pictures.    On the same page are links to the The Pink Cross Foundation,  a 501(c)(3) organization that reaches out to adult industry workers to offer healing from porn  and The Porn Effect.

established to expose the reality of porn for what it is; a weak and whimpering counterfeit of love which is emasculating men, degrading women and destroying marriages.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

Vatican Calls for Central World Bank - UPDATED

You know that Drudge headline, "Vatican Calls for 'Central World Bank'."?  A category error and
"Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish" says George Weigel

The truth of the matter is that “the Vatican” — whether that phrase is intended to mean the Pope, the Holy See, the Church’s teaching authority, or the Church’s central structures of governance — called for precisely nothing in this document. The document is a “Note” from a rather small office in the Roman Curia. The document’s specific recommendations do not necessarily reflect the settled views of the senior authorities of the Holy See; indeed, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the press spokesman for the Vatican, was noticeably circumspect in his comments on the document and its weight. As indeed he ought to have been. The document doesn’t speak for the Pope, it doesn’t speak for “the Vatican,” and it doesn’t speak for the Catholic Church.
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To suggest, as most of the immediate reporting and commentary did, that the Catholic Church was endorsing one or another set of proposals for re-ordering international finance, and was doing so as a matter of exercising its doctrinal authority, was a very bad category mistake, reflecting either the pitfalls of instant analysis in the 24/7 news cycle, progressivist-Catholic spin, or both.\

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Bottom line (so to speak): This brief document from the lower echelons of the Roman Curia no more aligns “the Vatican,” the Pope, or the Catholic Church with Occupy Wall Street than does the Nicene Creed. Those who suggest it does are either grossly ill-informed or tendentious to a point of irresponsibility.

The document is from the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace with explanation here.

After an exchange of views on a private forum Rod Dreher writes

Global public and private debt exceeds a staggering 300 percent of global GDP. We are now living under conditions in which giant financial entities — investment banks, in particular — undertake operations that pose a direct and grave threat to the common good. This is what “too big to fail” means: that failure of the institutions in question poses such a catastrophic risk to the wider economy that the community is held hostage to their fortunes.

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I think it’s incumbent on us to admit that the Church’s analysts are substantially correct in their diagnosis of the situation. The power of global financial entities has outstripped the power of nation-states to subordinate their activity to the common good, even as the commons cannot be protected from the irresponsibility of these entities. The solution proposed by the Pontifical Council is a form of global political and economic common governance in which nation-states relinquish sovereignty to a significant degree in exchange for gaining a measure of accountability and control over global capital.  It is fairly clear why an American would find this dangerous and unacceptable (less so why a Bolivian or a Ghanian would), and why it would never fly. Yet the problem still remains. If not global government, what? This is a huge and complex problem. The Vaticanistas may have the wrong solution, but at least they’re facing it. We’re not.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 AM | Permalink

Loops for better hearing

Great news for the hearing impaired, A Hearing Aid That Cuts Out All the Clatter

And it all has to do with a hearing loop.

The technology, which has been widely adopted in Northern Europe, has the potential to transform the lives of tens of millions of Americans, according to national advocacy groups. As loops are installed in stores, banks, museums, subway stations and other public spaces, people who have felt excluded are suddenly back in the conversation.

A hearing loop, typically installed on the floor around the periphery of a room, is a thin strand of copper wire radiating electromagnetic signals that can be picked up by a tiny receiver already built into most hearing aids and cochlear implants. When the receiver is turned on, the hearing aid receives only the sounds coming directly from a microphone, not the background cacophony.

The response of one composer, Richard Einhorn, who had lost much of his hearing.

“There I was at ‘Wicked’ weeping uncontrollably — and I don’t even like musicals,” he said. “For the first time since I lost most of my hearing,  live music was perfectly clear, perfectly clean and incredibly rich.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:00 AM | Permalink

October 24, 2011

Believers are nicer

Best known for his book, Bowling Alone, the book that made "social capital" a key indicator of society, Robert Putnam, professor of public policy at Harvard a non-believer, He has co-authored a book with David Campbell, a Mormon, called, American Grace: How Religion Unites and Divides Us.    

Simon Smart  summarizes the book in  God's truth, believers are nicer people

Their most conspicuously controversial finding is that religious people make better citizens and neighbours. Putnam and Campbell write that ''for the most part, the evidence we review suggests that religiously observant Americans are more civic, and in some respects simply 'nicer' ''.

On every measurable scale, religious Americans are more generous, more altruistic and more involved in civic life than their secular counterparts.

They are more likely to give blood, money to a homeless person, financial aid to family or friends, a seat to a stranger and to spend time with someone who is ''a bit down''.

A sobering note for believers is that this study reveals that the content of a person's belief isn't what matters so much as their level of involvement in a religious community.  An atheist who comes to church to support her partner will rate as well as any believer on these scores.

What can't be denied, according to Putnam and Campbell, is that there is something unique about a religious community, that has an impact on people for good.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 PM | Permalink

Doing good versus doing nothing

The opportunities to make grand heroic gestures are rare while we can, if we choose, do simple acts of kindness everyday.

A good rule of life.  Always Go to the Funeral

By the time I was 16, I had been to five or six funerals. I remember two things from the funeral circuit: bottomless dishes of free mints and my father saying on the ride home, “You can’t come in without going out, kids. Always go to the funeral.”

Sounds simple — when someone dies, get in your car and go to calling hours or the funeral. That, I can do. But I think a personal philosophy of going to funerals means more than that.

Always go to the funeral” means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don’t feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don’t really have to and I definitely don’t want to. I’m talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The Shiva call for one of my ex’s uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:15 PM | Permalink

October 21, 2011

Alzheimer's and cellphones

Good news for everyone.  Blood pressure drugs can lower Alzheimer's risk by up to 50 per cent

Taking newer blood pressure drugs cuts the risk of Alzheimer's by up to 50 per cent, British scientists say.

Patients on these new drugs are also less likely to develop vascular dementia – a condition caused by problems in blood supply to the brain – than those on older medication.

The first study of its kind opens the door for a treatment that might delay, slow or even prevent dementia.

Details at the link.

Largest study on cellphones, cancer finds no link

Danish researchers can offer some reassurance if you're concerned about your cellphone: Don't worry. Your device is probably safe.

The biggest study ever to examine the possible connection between cellphones and cancer found no evidence of any link, suggesting that billions of people who are rarely more than a few inches from their phones have no special health concerns.

The Danish study of more than 350,000 people concluded there was no difference in cancer rates between people who had used a cellphone for about a decade and those who did not.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 AM | Permalink

October 20, 2011

"We can choose to overcome bad news by living better lives"

This is the best retirement advice I've even read.    Walter Russell Mead writes And Now For The Really Bad News.

The bad news is that corporate and public pension plans are horribly and perhaps irredeemably underfunded. ,,,That’s the bad news.  The really bad news is worse.  According to the same issue of the Economist, returns on all classes of assets — stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities — could be depressed for years.
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So your pension is in jeopardy, your portfolio has taken some big hits, and no matter how much you (or your employer) socks away, you won’t get much return on your savings.
What to do?
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The best and perhaps only real choices that most of us have involve two changes.  First, save more and make realistic assumptions about your future rate of return.  There is no way around it; if you want to be financially secure or even sort of secure in the future, you must sock more money away now.  Nobody cares as much about your retirement as you do; if you don’t save for yourself you can’t count on the government or a benevolent employer to do it for you.  Save, save, save.  This is true whether you are twenty or whether you are seventy; Americans have let themselves get out of the habit of saving, and we need to get back to it.  Whether your income is large or small, you need to look for ways to cut expenses.  That will help you save now; it will also mean you will know how to retire more cheaply.  We need less Martha Stuart and more Ben Franklin in our national character these days.  Thrift, friends.  It’s a virtue.
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Second, and perhaps even more important, adopt reasonable goalsStop thinking that the goal of your working life is to get rich enough to quit at 65 and have fifteen years of active leisure. The goal of a working life is to find ways of contributing to the common welfare that sustain you and your family, that fulfill you and help you to grow.  As you go on in life, you should be looking to keep contributing. The goal isn’t to play golf at Palm Beach or veg out in front of the tube.  Retirement is a time to change careers: work part time, or work at something you love that pays less — but that still contributes something to your income.

You want a working life that pays the bills but keeps you connected to the world in interesting and useful ways. These don’t have to be big earth shaking jobs; it can be healthier, more satisfying and morally better to work a few hours a week as a crossing guard keeping in touch with the kids in your neighborhood than to sit around watching daytime TV.  A partial retirement where you work part time and at more user-friendly jobs can be better and more rewarding than total idleness and empty leisure.  Many people with fully funded pensions and ample savings volunteer or go back to work because the boredom and feeling of uselessness become unbearable.

Think of your goal as a long period of partial retirement involving part time and/or community focused work followed by a short period in much older age of living entirely off your savings.  This is a goal that many of us can achieve more easily than the old style of retirement — and makes for a richer, more interesting and quite possibly longer and healthier life.
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Slow, gradual retirement isn’t just more affordable; it is a better way to live and a more noble goal.  We can choose to overcome bad news by living better lives.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 PM | Permalink

Beware of online discount drugs

The Cheap Generic Medication You Bought Online Is Probably Fake

the World Health Organization estimates that half of all online discount drug websites sell counterfeit or fake drugs.  These medications are not checked for quality, and they may contain a lower dosage than required by the actual prescription. 
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Coincidentally this past week The National Post published an article titled Drug Scams: A Billion Dollar Industry for Russian Gangs.
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The Russian Drug scam has reached 79 countries and has sold over 2.5 million doses of counterfeit drugs
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 PM | Permalink

31% of OWS crowd would support violence to advance their agenda

On the one hand, most everyone in the country feels some level of frustration at Wall St and the federal government.  On the other hand, a survey of the people who are the Occupy Wall St movement show there are quite different.  One nationally known pollster Douglas Schoen who polled for Bill Clinton polled the Occupy Wall St Crowd

Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.

The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%)..
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What binds a large majority of the protesters together—regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education—is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:35 PM | Permalink

The dark side of happiness

New study sheds light on ‘dark side of happiness’

In a review paper published last week in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, researchers define what they call the “dark side of happiness’’: feeling happy all the time can destroy relationships and careers, while avidly pursuing happiness is bound to lead to disappointment.
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While some of us may envy those manic folks at the extreme end of the cheerful spectrum, they often have the same level of dysfunction as a person who’s too sad, some recent studies suggest. They may completely tune out sad events around them like, say, their spouse being laid off or a parent dying.

“It’s happiness turned inward,’’ says June Gruber, a professor of psychology at Yale University who is studying mania. “They’re attuned only to their own happiness’’ and completely oblivious to what loved ones are feeling around them. It’s the flip side of depression, where individuals can only focus on their own suffering.

Happiness is a byproduct of what you are doing or where you are  in life.  You can't aim for it directly. 

Iris Mauss, a psychologist and researcher at the University of Denver...discovered that those who value happiness the most have a lower state of well-being, less satisfaction with life, and are more likely to be depressed. She also found that teaching people to adopt happiness as a value caused them to feel more lonely and socially disconnected.

“People may be happiest when they’re not monitoring their own happiness,’’ Mauss contends. That doesn’t mean we should completely abandon the pursuit of happiness and resign ourselves to leading unhappy lives. But rather, we should pursue happiness the right way — defining it as leading a meaningful life, rather than partaking in hedonic pleasures.

Gareth Cook continues

In situations that demand careful attention to novel information, happy people do not perform as well. When you are a little bit sad, you are more ready for trouble, scanning around you for signs that something has gone awry. When you are happy, you are more oblivious.

“You don’t want to be too happy if you are monitoring a nuclear power plant,”
says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside and author of “The How of Happiness.”
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All of this suggests that the big-picture, positive thinking that comes with happiness brings with it a necessary weakness: a lack of attention to detail, a downplaying of potential threats and problems.
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When people value happiness, they strive to achieve it, Mauss explains, but that also becomes the standard by which they judge themselves. The disappointment is toxic.
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However, well before the modern study of happiness, that very American thinker Henry David Thoreau understood the matter perfectly: “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:00 PM | Permalink

Crowdsourcing and connecting for caregivers and the chronically ill

Coming to market are a number of products aimed at the chronically ill and their caregivers.

First off, A Shoe for Wanderers, GPS tracking devices embedded in shoes for seniors suffering Alzheimers or dementia.  A boon for adult children who want to know where their parents are.

Springwise looks at A dedicated social network and web portal for the chronically ill that plans to rollout in 2012 after its trial and service to patients with congestive heart failure

The web portal is called Wellaho

By using the Wellaho web portal, patients can connect with a community of people who suffer from conditions similar to theirs, to share stories, thoughts and advice. Meanwhile, a dashboard allows patients to monitor their progress against key statistics given by their physician, as well as enabling them to set goals and note symptoms which can be viewed by their doctor and support network. The software also enables patients to set up emails, texts and phone calls as reminders for medical appointments, or to remind about the correct dosages and times for medications...... Additionally, online resources containing the latest news and information on clinical trials, research, and treatments specific to the patient’s condition are available through the service.

Two other sites noted by Springwise.  The first a web app to tap medical crowds for personalized cancer treatment  The app is Cancer commons.  The second is a medical site that helps patients find the most promising new treatments.   The site is Medify

For caregivers there is Caregiver Village and if you register they will donate $1 to the organization of your choice that supports caregivers.  It's a virtual village where you can play a game and solve a mystery and in so doing learn valuable self care techniques.  There are tip sheets, online training courses and my favorite, book clubs, where you can connect and share with other caregivers.  There are even apps for your iPhone and iPad.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 PM | Permalink

Caregiver Gain

We have heard so much about the burdens of caregiving, that this news about the Caregiving's Hidden Benefits is most welcome 

The finding that caregiving brings measurable benefits to your health and brain is so counter-intuitive that

when Lisa Fredman, a Boston University epidemiologist, first saw such results emerging from her study of elderly women, “I thought, what on earth is going on here?” she recalled. “I blamed myself. I thought something was wrong with my data.”

But over several years of studying the differences between caregivers and non-caregivers in four locations (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and Portland, Ore.), Dr. Fredman and her colleagues found that while caregivers were indeed more stressed, they still had lower mortality rates than non-caregivers over eight years of follow-up.

And greater physical strength.  And significantly better performance on memory tests.

gerontologists and psychologists use the phrase “caregiver gain” to reflect the fact that this role, which often exacts such high costs, can bring rewards. But they’ve typically described those rewards in psychological, emotional and even spiritual terms: growing confidence in one’s abilities, feelings of personal satisfaction, increased family closeness. That caregivers can walk faster or recall more words on a memory test — that’s news.

You can't underestimate the intangibles at play.  Caregivers have a greater sense of purpose.   Caregivers experience greater love in the innumerable acts of service they do every day for another.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

October 19, 2011

Decanting wine with a blender

Imagine this, Decanting Wine with a Blender

Wine lovers have known for centuries that decanting wine before serving it often improves its flavor. Whatever the dominant process, the traditional decanter is a rather pathetic tool to accomplish it. A few years ago, I found I could get much better results by using an ordinary kitchen blender. I just pour the wine in, frappé away at the highest power setting for 30 to 60 seconds, and then allow the froth to subside (which happens quickly) before serving. I call it “hyperdecanting.”

Although torturing an expensive wine in this way may cause sensitive oenophiles to avert their eyes, it almost invariably improves red wines—particularly younger ones, but even a 1982 Château Margaux. Don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself.

 Hyperdecant-Wine
Image source

Nathan Myhrvoid tells you how to do a test of hyperdecanted wine with your friends in Businessweek. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:51 PM | Permalink

Another benefit of Omega 3

Most older women are well nourished and don't need vitamins yet they take them anyway.

Now with researchers finding a link between vitamin use and higher death rates among older women, they should just skip them.  Except for vitamin D.

And, most likely, Omega-3-fatty acids. 

 Omega-3-Fish-Oil

But then, I've always been a fan of Splendid Salmon.  Growing up, I and my brothers and sisters had to take a spoonful of cod liver oil every day during the winter and we never got colds or got sick.

Now, I mainly get my Omega-3-fatty acids with MegaRed 'made from pure Antarctic krill' because the pills are very small and don't taste fishy.    I am convinced that's why I have no aches or pains to complain of.

Just about all menopausal women develop osteopenia, a decrease in bone density and a normal sign of aging.  That's quite different from osteoarthritis, a degenerative arthritis or a degenerative joint disease which you want to do everything to avoid.

Omega-3 fatty acids shown to prevent or slow progression of osteoarthritis

According to the University of Bristol study, funded by Arthritis Research UK and published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, omega-3-rich diets fed to guinea pigs, which naturally develop osteoarthritis, reduced disease by 50 per cent compared to a standard diet.

The research is a major step forward in showing that omega-3 fatty acids, either sourced from fish oil or flax oil, may help to slow down the progression of osteoarthritis, or even prevent it occurring, confirming anecdotal reports and "old wives' tales" about the benefits of fish oil for joint health.

Lead researcher Dr John Tarlton, from the Matrix Biology Research group at the University of Bristol's School of Veterinary Sciences, said classic early signs of the condition, such as the degradation of collagen in cartilage and the loss of molecules that give it shock-absorbing properties, were both reduced with omega-3.

"Furthermore, there was strong evidence that omega-3 influences the biochemistry of the disease, and therefore not only helps prevent disease, but also slows its progression, potentially controlling established osteoarthritis," he said.
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On the back of the results of his study, Dr Tarlton said that following government guidelines on dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids could be effective in reducing the burden of osteoarthritis. Fish oil is far more effective than the flax oil based supplement, but for vegetarians flax oil remains a viable alternative.

"Most diets in the developed world are lacking in omega-3, with modern diets having up to 30 times too much omega-6 and too little omega-3. Taking omega-3 will help redress this imbalance and may positively contribute to a range of other health problems such as heart disease and colitis."


In Fish Oil: Known Benefits, Little Risk. I admit to being a bit of a nut on the benefits of coffee, tea, beer, chocolate, Vitamin D and Omega 3.  I  link to a series of posts on the value of Omega 3 before and after heart attacks, to lessen the risk of cancers of the breast, colon and prostate, to fight asthma, to lose weight faster, to treat depression, to feed the human brain and to lower the murder rate.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:40 PM | Permalink

Too grand to care

I have occasion to visit a local hospital every other week or so to see patients for 2 or 3 hours.  Most of the time, the nurses are sitting in front of computers.  Although I ask the patients if they are being well cared for, they never complain but say they are treated well.  It may be that I visit at a time when the nurses are catching up with paperwork which is no longer on paper but on the computer.  I've never heard stories like the ones Melanie Phillips writes about, but then, in England, it's government-run health care.  Though I have no doubt, there are horror stories in American nursing homes as well which is why no one ever wants to be in one.    When I visit my sister who has been in an extremely well-run nursing home for the past 20 years because of her multiple sclerosis and loss of short-term memory as a result of a bout of encephalitis 25 years ago, she is happy and well cared for by Haitian aides who far outnumber the nurses.  They carry bedpans, wash the patients, put on their clothing, life them into their wheelchairs.  If a patient can't feed himself, an aide will sit next to him and feed them. 

Still, I post this piece because caring for the old and the sick and the disabled is so little valued when, in truth, it's the highest form of service.    Very hard to do for any length of time if you are not religious.

Melanie Phillips asks Did Feminism Kill Nursing by Making Nurses "Too Grand" To Care?

Last week, a devastating report detailing what can only be described as the widespread collapse of the ethic of nursing was produced by the Care Quality Commission.

This revealed that more than half of all hospitals in England do not meet standards for the dignity and nutrition of elderly people. One in five hospitals were found to be failing the elderly so badly that they were breaking the law.
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These horrifying revelations do not signify merely incompetence nor — that perennial excuse — the effect of ‘the cuts’.  No, they illustrate instead something infinitely grimmer: the replacement of altruism by indifference, and compassion by cruelty.
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We’re looking here at nothing less than the crumbling of a sense of common humanity. And that is because nursing has been all but engulfed by a fundamental moral crisis.

Nursing is not a job but a vocation. That means it is governed by a sense of duty to the patient, rather than any self-interest.  Of course, it must be said there are still many dedicated nurses caring magnificently for their patients. But, in general, the presumption of care has been systematically eroded — by modern feminism.
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Nursing was effectively created by that 19th-century feminist pioneer, Florence Nightingale. To her, nursing was in essence a moral act. In her book Notes On Nursing, published in 1860, she wrote that ‘the greater part of nursing consists in preserving cleanliness’.  That wasn’t just because hygiene was essential for recovery and health. It was because keeping both hospital and patients clean meant the nurse needed to be motivated by the most high-minded concern for the care and dignity of the patient.

Accordingly, lowly functions such as washing, dressing and administering bedpans were functions that were invested with the highest possible significance. If a nurse declined to perform them because she was concerned about her own status, then nursing was not her calling, wrote Nightingale. That great soul must now be turning in her grave.

...during the Eighties, nursing underwent a revolution. Under the influence of feminist thinking, its leaders decided that ‘caring’ was demeaning because it meant that nurses — who were overwhelmingly women — were treated like skivvies by doctors, who were mostly men.

To achieve equality, therefore, nursing had to gain the same status as medicine.
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Student nurses now studied sociology, politics, psychology, microbiology and management, and were assessed for their communication, management and analytical skills. ‘Specific clinical nursing skills were not mentioned,’  In short, nursing ditched its core vocation to care. Bedbaths and feeding those who are helpless are tasks vital to the care of patients — but are now considered beneath the dignity of too many nurses.
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Dame Joan was much nearer the mark when she observed that the decline in kindness and sympathy was linked to the decline in religious observance. In other words, the crisis in nursing is part of a far broader and deeper spiritual malaise.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:02 PM | Permalink

New advances against cancer

Who would have thought that Up to 40% of cancers 'are caused by viruses': Discovery offers hope of vaccines and new therapies

It has been known for decades that viruses cause some types of cancer but it was thought to be only 10 to 20 per cent of cases.

The best known are the hepatitis B and C bugs, which can cause liver cancer, and the human papilloma virus (HPV) which can cause cervical cancer.

Last week scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found a viral link with medulloblastoma, the most common form of childhood brain tumour

It follows the discovery two years ago that Merkel cell carcinoma, an aggressive skin cancer, often follows infection by the polyomavirus which is common among animals and can spread to humans.

It is also claimed that prostate cancers could be caused by viruses.

News this week is that Two Cancer Studies Find Bacterial Clue in Colon

The new tools of genomic analysis offered an opportunity to look for a connection. What Dr. Holt and another group of researchers, working independently, have found is completely unexpected and puzzling. One particular species of bacterium never particularly prevalent in the colon seems to have a disturbing affinity for colon cancers.

The two research groups discovered the link by analyzing genetic material in tumor samples. They then subtracted human genes from the mix. What remained were microbe genes.

An analysis of these microbial genes showed that a type of bacterium, Fusobacterium, was abundant in the tumors although it normally is not among the more prominent species in the gut. Not only were the bacteria lurking around the cancer cells, but Dr. Holt found in subsequent experiments that they actually were burrowing into tumor cells — “which is kind of creepy,” he said. An ability to invade cells, he said, is often what distinguishes a disease-causing microbe from one that is harmless.

Of course, that doesn’t prove that Fusobacteria are causing tumors. They might just find the cancer cells a good place to live.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

October 14, 2011

Girl with a Pearl in a Spiral

Watch artist Chan Hwee Chong draw Girl with a Pearl Earring with a single spiral line!  Amazing.

See more here

 Girl Pearl Earring Fabercastell

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:16 AM | Permalink

The Empty Cradle

Low birth rates a threat to economy, study shows

Throughout the developed world, lowered birth rates and family breakdown will have a devastating effect on the global economy and the welfare state’s viability, says an international study released Oct 3.

“On current trends, we face a world of rapidly aging and declining populations, of few children — many of them without the benefit of siblings and a stable, two-parent home — of lonely seniors living on meagre public support, of cultural and economic stagnation,” says the study, entitled “The Empty Cradle: How Contemporary Trends Undermine the Global Economy.”

Co-sponsored by the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC) and pro-family groups in the United States, the Philippines, Spain and Colombia, the study shows even developing countries such as Iran, Lebanon, Chile, Thailand and South Korea have seen their lifetime births per woman shrink to fewer than two from averages as high as six. Canada’s birth rate is only 1.5 children per woman.
 Empty-Cradle

The study also examines the role of culture and religion.

“Today there remains in the individual countries of Europe, and of the West generally, a strong and growing correlation between conservative religious values and larger-than-average family size.”

In France and Spain, for example, practising Catholic women have “significantly more children” than non-religious women.

“Much the same story can be found throughout the globe, where the religiously observant typically have markedly higher birth rates than does the rest of the population.”

Recognizing that none of their suggestions are adequate, the authors of the study

indicate a philosophical approach is needed, “one that emphasizes the critical role of the intact, nurturing and financially secure family in sustaining and renewing the human, social and financial capital of aging societies around the globe.”

One uncomfortable fact is that if the 40 million children aborted since 1973 were alive, we would not be facing a social security problem.  About 25 million more people would be paying into the system and creating demand in the economy.

But it was Mark Steyn who put it best in It's the Demography, Stupid

The design flaw of the secular social-democratic state is that it requires a religious-society birth rate to sustain it.
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Europe by the end of this century will be a continent after the neutron bomb; the grand buildings will still be standing, but the people who built them will be gone. We are living through a remarkable period: the self-extinction of the race who, for good or ill, shaped the modern world."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:48 AM | Permalink

October 13, 2011

Single ladies growing old

What is it like for All the Single Ladies?    Reflections and  lessons learned by Kate Bolick in The Atlantic

We took for granted that we’d spend our 20s finding ourselves, whatever that meant, and save marriage for after we’d finished graduate school and launched our careers, which of course would happen at the magical age of 30.

That we would marry, and that there would always be men we wanted to marry, we took on faith. How could we not?
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For thousands of years, marriage had been a primarily economic and political contract between two people, negotiated and policed by their families, church, and community. It took more than one person to make a farm or business thrive, and so a potential mate’s skills, resources, thrift, and industriousness were valued as highly as personality and attractiveness. This held true for all classes. In the American colonies, wealthy merchants entrusted business matters to their landlocked wives while off at sea, just as sailors, vulnerable to the unpredictability of seasonal employment, relied on their wives’ steady income as domestics in elite households. Two-income families were the norm.
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“We are without a doubt in the midst of an extraordinary sea change,” she told me. “The transformation is momentous—immensely liberating and immensely scary. When it comes to what people actually want and expect from marriage and relationships, and how they organize their sexual and romantic lives, all the old ways have broken down.”
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But the non-committers are out there in growing force. If dating and mating is in fact a marketplace—and of course it is—today we’re contending with a new “dating gap,” where marriage-minded women are increasingly confronted with either deadbeats or players. For evidence, we don’t need to look to the past, or abroad—we have two examples right in front of us: the African American community, and the college campus.
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This erosion of traditional marriage and family structure has played out most dramatically among low-income groups, both black and white.

She concludes rather more hopefully for single women.

the cultural fixation on the couple blinds us to the full web of relationships that sustain us on a daily basis. We are far more than whom we are (or aren’t) married to: we are also friends, grandparents, colleagues, cousins, and so on. To ignore the depth and complexities of these networks is to limit the full range of our emotional experiences.

And then ends with a lyrical description of the Begijnhof  in Amsterdam which was founded in the 12th century, part of a movement that has always fascinated me, the Beguines.  For sometime, I've thought the model of the Beguines could offer an attractive way of living for older women.  They take no vows but live in community and devote themselves to prayer and good works like caring for the poor and the old.

Living in community counters the Long loneliness in America that Rod Dreher writes about

Some told me stories about how isolated they are, even living in big cities, and how lonely they are for community. Others have talked about how much they envy me having a St. Francisville to go back to; their families moved around so much that there’s no anchorage for them to find harbor in. Still others expressed sorrow at how much they want what the people in St. Francisville have, but how very far they are from being able to get it. When one friend said that in all his social network, he can’t think of a single person he’d trust enough to authorize them to pick his kid up from day care in the event of an emergency, I thought about how I haven’t lived in St. Francisville in almost 28 years, but I can think of at least a dozen people there — family and friends — off the top of my head that I could trust unreservedly with my children in a moment of crisis.

That is remarkable. What kind of country do we live in, where this is so uncommon? What has happened to us? If I’d only heard this privately from a couple of people, it would be one thing. But I’m getting it from more than a few, and from all over the country.

One friend got in touch with me and spoke with disarming bluntness about loneliness and helplessness, saying: “Everything I’ve done has been for career advancement. Go for the money, the good jobs. And we have done well. But we are alone in the world. Almost everybody we know is like that. My family is all over the country. My kids only call if they want something. People like us, when we get old, our kids can’t move back to care for us if they wanted to, because we all go off to some golf resort to retire. It’s hell. This is the world we have made for ourselves. I envy you that you get to escape it.”

One cry from the heart of Christine Odone, I'm scared of growing old and ending up in hospital, neglected and humiliated.  If she lived in a community like the Bequines, she would have no anxiety.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:51 PM | Permalink

Substituting Things for Love

The Anchoress on Madison Avenue's Vision of Love

If the recent barrage of ham-handed television commercials peopled with foolish men, churlish women and hectoring, know-it-all children are any indication, Madison Avenue has no idea what love has to do with relationships or families, or natural desire. Even worse, it believes the rest of us don’t, either, and that things—lots and lots of things—can suffice, can provide reasonable facsimiles of love. We will love our new shoes or our new iSomething, we are told; we will love, love, love this new air freshener. These things will make us happy. As long as we are not looking to be loved back.

An astonishing percentage of our economy is dependent upon our willingness to substitute things for love, and to just keep buying. Is it any wonder, then, that our culture is consumed with loneliness and broken dreams, or that all of our empty bubbles—technology, housing, tuition for “good” colleges that will keep the love coming—are bursting one after another?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:41 PM | Permalink

Greed is at the heart

Peter Wallison on Wall Street's Gullible Occupiers

There is no mystery where the Occupy Wall Street movement came from: It is an offspring of the same false narrative about the causes of the financial crisis that exculpated the government and brought us the Dodd-Frank Act. According to this story, the financial crisis and ensuing deep recession was caused by a reckless private sector driven by greed and insufficiently regulated. It is no wonder that people who hear this tale repeated endlessly in the media turn on Wall Street to express their frustration with the current conditions in the economy.

Their anger should be directed at those who developed and supported the federal government's housing policies that were responsible for the financial crisis.....Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac...The Federal Housing Administration....
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rules adopted in 1995 under the Community Reinvestment Act, regulated banks as well as savings and loan associations had to make a certain number of loans to borrowers who were at or below 80% of the median income in the areas they served.

Research by Edward Pinto, a former chief credit officer of Fannie Mae (now a colleague of mine at the American Enterprise Institute) has shown that 27 million loans—half of all mortgages in the U.S.—were subprime or otherwise weak by 2008. That is, the loans were made to borrowers with blemished credit, or were loans with no or low down payments, no documentation, or required only interest payments.

Of these, over 70% were held or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie or some other government agency or government-regulated institution.

After the government, I do blame the greed of unscrupulous bankers and agents in the mortgage industry and last, the greedy investors themselves.  There's enough blame to go around and it all goes back to greed.  Greed is at the heart of all our financial troubles.  No wonder Greed is one of the seven deadly sins

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:31 PM | Permalink

A Thousand Siblings

We are now reaping the consequences of an unregulated fertility industry.  I shudder when I write the word "industry" when it involves the creation of new human beings.  Yet that's precisely what it has become  - without any rules or regulations, unlike say, the sale of used cars.  There is no concern whatsoever that can see about the best interests of the child and that makes it both inhuman and immoral.   

Last month was the appalling story of the Boston attorney who confessed on camera to his fiancee that he had 70 biological children.  Now, Barry Stevens, a Canadian documentary filmmaker says he has ONE THOUSAND siblings through one donor who worked with sperm banks for three decades.

Among the concerns over sperm banks is the practice of trying to create a 'designer' baby by choosing a donor from a catalog, based on eye colour, physique or IQ level.

That practice has meant some of these donors, like Mr Stevens, have now left a huge legacy.
Fertility experts are now warning that the over-reliance on one donor increases the risk of the transmission of genetic diseases and malformations.

There are also concerns about the dangers of inadvertent incest between half-siblings.

Mr Stevens, who has made films about his search for his real father and his half-siblings, said: 'We can't exclude the possibility that children of one donor can meet and have sex, and children, and indeed the possibility that the donor himself could have sex with his daughter.'

Imagine being a child of a sperm donor and struggling with a  unique anxiety: What if I fall in love with my half sibling?

One child of a sperm donor speaks out.  Anonymous No More

In a 2010 report, “My Daddy’s Name Is Donor,” from the Institute for American Values, Elizabeth Marquardt, Norval Glenn and Karen Clark note that “an estimated 30,000-60,000 children are born each year through sperm donation, but this number is only an educated guess. Neither the industry nor any other entity in the U.S. is required to report on these vital statistics.” A Sept. 5 article in The New York Times, “1 Sperm Donor, 150 Offspring,” profiled a family that realized their donor-conceived son had at least 149 half-siblings and this number would likely be growing.

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The fertility industry in the United States is a vast enterprise, grossing more than $3.3 billion each year. Despite its size and influence, there is little regulation. Sperm donors are not required to register their donations, and few donor or patient records are kept. As the 2010 report observed, “The fertility industry is increasingly a cross-border phenomenon. No one knows how many children are being conceived in one country and born in another.” In fact, 46% of donor offspring agree with the statement When I’m romantically attracted to someone, I have worried that we could be unknowingly related.
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“The idea that one can become a parent without an encounter with a person is changing the way women think about marriage and family,” Roback Morse explains. “This is an attempt at entanglement-free familyhood.” Additionally, such a method sets up and supports a system where fathers have no responsibility to care for their children, as in the case of Alana, who regularly asks herself and her readers, “In what world is it okay to abandon your child for $75? In what world is it rewarded?”

At minimum, there should be a donor registry and a cap on sperm donations.  I side with Roback Morse who said, “No one dies from infertility. While it can be devastating, this is not a life-threatening illness. No one is entitled to these services.  Shut them down."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:20 PM | Permalink

October 10, 2011

Small Wonders

Do you know what this is?

 Sand Bigpicture Nikon Photomicrography.

It's a photo of sand!  From The Big Picture, the Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.

“Among the many thousands of things that I have never been able to understand, one in particular stands out. That is the question of who was the first person who stood by a pile of sand and said, "You know, I bet if we took some of this and mixed it with a little potash and heated it, we could make a material that would be solid and yet transparent. We could call it glass." Call me obtuse, but you could stand me on a beach till the end of time and never would it occur to me to try to make it into windows.”

Bill Bryson

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:17 PM | Permalink

Green bankruptcies

Deroy Murdock gives a good summary of all the green bankruptcies to date and the promise of many more to come. 

Green Jobs Are a National Scandal

Citing Energy’s data, Investor’s Business Daily reports that subsidies for all energy sources averaged $1.65 per megawatt-hour in 2007. Wind and solar: $24. Similarly, while Obama “invests” up to $48.1 million per job, private employers hire the average individual for $58,510 annually, the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates.

This entire fiasco helps illustrate what 19th-century French political economist Frederic Bastiat called “that which is seen, and that which is not seen.” While politicians cut ribbons at ceremonies outside green-energy facilities, none will appear at a politically incorrect coal, natural-gas, or petroleum plant that got no loan guarantees — even to create more jobs more cheaply. Far worse, no one sees the companies, products, and jobs that never emerged because Washington politicians vacuumed the pockets of entrepreneurs who might have deployed private capital more productively and innovatively.

....While most free-marketeers would convert these funds to tax relief or debt reduction, only blind liberals cannot see that this extravagance impoverishes their favorite causes.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:26 PM | Permalink

What can tear apart your DNA?

When you fly, you are better off if you go through the humiliating pat-down by the TSA rather than go through their body scanners writes The Advice Goddess even though the TSA says the scanners are safe for all travelers.   

But the fact is that no one actually knows how this relatively new technology affects human flesh. Preliminary findings indicate that terahertz waves, which are similar to millimeter ones, may "unravel" DNA, "creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication. That's a jaw dropping conclusion." Which is jaw-dropping passion given that this article, "How Terahertz Waves Tear Apart DNA," appeared in MIT's Technology Review.

Note that the FDA has sidestepped safety concerns over TSA body scanners.

You would think there would have been more testing before millions of passengers were scanned by these machines.  John Sedat, professor emeritus in biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF wrote

“There’s no real data on these machines, and in fact, the best guess of the dose is much, much higher than certainly what the public thinks,”

He's one of many scientists who doubt the veracity of the TSA body scanner tests.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:10 PM | Permalink

"Learn to Love the Gridlock"

Justice Scalia reminds us what makes the United States different from other countries

Why do you think America is such a free country? What is it in our Constitution that makes us what we are?” And I guarantee you that the response I will get — and you will get this from almost any American *** the answer would be: freedom of speech; freedom of the press; no unreasonable searches and seizures; no quartering of troops in homes… those marvelous provisions of the Bill of Rights.
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the real key to the distinctiveness of America is the structure of our government.  One part of it, of course, is the independence of the judiciary, but there’s a lot more.
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There are very few countries in the world, for example, that have a bicameral legislature...very few countries have two separate bodies in the legislature equally powerful.  That’s a lot of trouble, as you gentlemen doubtless know, to get the same language through two different bodies elected in a different fashion.

Very few countries in the world have a separately elected chief executive.
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“Ach, it is gridlock.”  I hear Americans saying this nowadays, and there’s a lot of it going around.  They talk about a disfunctional government because there’s disagreement… and the Framers would have said, “Yes! That’s exactly the way we set it up. We wanted this to be power contradicting power because the main ill besetting us — as Hamilton said in The Federalist when he talked about a separate Senate: “Yes, it seems inconvenient, inasmuch as the main ill that besets us is an excess of legislation, it won’t be so bad.”  This is 1787; he didn’t know what an excess of legislation was.
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Unless Americans can appreciate that and learn to love the separation of powers, which means learning to love the gridlock which the Framers believed would be the main protector of minorities, [we lose] the main protection.  If a bill is about to pass that really comes down hard on some minority [and] they think it’s terribly unfair, it doesn’t take much to throw a monkey wrench into this complex system.  Americans should appreciate that; they should learn to love the gridlock.  It’s there so the legislation that does get out is good legislation.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

Our most confused national holiday

Listen to Walter Russell Mead

Happy Columbus Day (Observed)

The usual grumblings attend the day on which we commemorate the most famous illegal immigrant in the history of the Americas, an undocumented wanderer from Spain who brought plagues, fire and the sword from the Old World to the New.

Columbus Day is our most confused holiday celebration, one in which the public understanding of the day has shifted the farthest from the intent of those who instituted the observance. Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World on October 12, 1492 only became a federal holiday in the US in 1934
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The day was made a holiday after years of lobbying as a way of recognizing the contribution of Roman Catholics and immigrants generally to American life.  It is a holiday to celebrate diversity....
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Columbus Day is not an imperialistic holiday.  It is a celebration of American diversity, a long overdue recognition of the importance of Catholics and immigrants in American life.  It is a celebration we share with our Hispanic neighbors in the New World and it is a day that testifies to our growing understanding that religious and ethnic pluralism aren’t problems for our American heritage; pluralism is central to our identity as a people.

That American Indian activists want to use the day to make a point is OK with me; they have a point to make.  But Columbus Day is a holiday that was created to celebrate the dignity and equality of Americans regardless of origin or creed, and that in my view is an excellent reason for the country to take the day off.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:32 PM | Permalink

Elephant in the Room

I believe that all women, particularly young ones,  should be aware of all  the risks for breast cancer, even if it runs counter to the prevailing beliefs.

In the pink

The pink awareness campaign is packaged, quite profitably, as an expression of genuine concern about women’s health. So surely it is reasonable to expect that such concern be matched by an accurate presentation of all the known risk factors, and by an insistence upon the very best corresponding prevention recommendations, right? After all, early detection measures such as screening are not nearly the same thing as solid prevention.

Indefensibly, however, most awareness efforts fail to feature some factors known to reduce breast cancer risk: having children, avoiding induced abortions, and refraining from oral contraceptives (OC). True, there is no guaranteed way for anyone to dodge or develop breast cancer, but that does not mean there are not risk factors. Women today are delaying childbirth as never before, and having fewer children. Younger women are using OC for longer periods of time. And well over a fifth of all pregnancies in America end in abortion – hardly the rarity its “safe, legal and rare” advocates say it should be. If you suspect that these reproductive risk factors might have something to do with the 40 percent increase in the incidence of breast cancer over the last 30 years, you have spotted the elephant in the room.
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The steroids taken by more than 100 million women around the world to prevent pregnancy -- oral contraceptives – are known human carcinogens, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. In 2006, the Mayo Clinic concluded that a woman who takes OC before her first full-term pregnancy stands a 44 percent greater chance of contracting breast cancer prior to menopause, compared with those who don’t take OC before giving birth. Using OC for four of more years prior to first full-term pregnancy is even more risky.
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Induced abortion is also a major risk factor. A recent (2007) multi-country study found that having had an abortion was the greatest predictor of subsequent breast cancer. Going back decades, study after study (with only a few exceptions) has demonstrated the connection; a methodologically sound review of the available evidence determined that it raises the risk of breast cancer by approximately 30 percent.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:28 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs the Genius

 Smsteve-Jobs-Apple-Products

Wired

From at least the time he was a teenager, Jobs had a freakish chutzpah. At age 13, he called up the head of HP and cajoled him into giving Jobs free computer chips. It was part of a lifelong pattern of setting and fulfilling astronomical standards.

People who can claim credit for game-changing products — iconic inventions that become embedded in the culture and answers to Jeopardy questions decades later — are few and far between. But Jobs has had not one, not two, but six of these breakthroughs, any one of which would have made for a magnificent career. In order: the Apple II, the Macintosh, the movie studio Pixar, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. (This doesn’t even include the consistent, brilliant improvements to the Macintosh operating system, or the Apple retail store juggernaut.)

The turmoil in those sixties was also part of his make-up. “We wanted to more richly experience why were we were alive,” he said of his generation,

--every so often he’d drop a clue to what made him tick. Once he recalled for me some of the long summers of his youth. I’m a big believer in boredom,” he told me. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity, he explained, and “out of curiosity comes everything.”

his dad, Paul — a machinist who had never completed high school — had set aside a section of his workbench for Steve, and taught him how to build things, disassemble them, and put them together.
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I asked Jobs for an explanation on why he sometimes gave harsh, even rude assessments of his employee’s work...My best contribution is not settling for anything but really good stuff, in all the details. That’s my job — to make sure everything is great.”
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the iPOd ...Because it combines Apple’s incredible technology base with Apple’s legendary ease of use with Apple’s awesome design… it’s like, this is what we do. So if anybody was ever wondering why is Apple on the earth, I would hold this up as a good example.”
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Jobs was a proud, proud father of four children, three from his marriage to Laurene Powell. He was protective of them — whenever he shared a story about one of his children in an interview, he cautioned that the remark was to be off the record.

Kevin Williamson

The late Mr. Jobs stood for something considerably better than politics. He stood for the model of the world that works.

Mr. Jobs’s contribution to the world is Apple and its products, along with Pixar and his other enterprises, his 338 patented inventions — his work — not some Steve Jobs Memorial Foundation for Giving Stuff to Poor People in Exotic Lands and Making Me Feel Good About Myself. Because he already did that: He gave them better computers, better telephones, better music players, etc. In a lot of cases, he gave them better jobs, too. Did he do it because he was a nice guy, or because he was greedy, or because he was a maniacally single-minded competitor who got up every morning possessed by an unspeakable rage to strangle his rivals? The beauty of capitalism — the beauty of the iPhone world as opposed to the world of politics — is that that question does not matter one little bit. Whatever drove Jobs, it drove him to create superior products, better stuff at better prices. ...t markets are very democratic — everybody gets to decide for himself what he values.

How did he do it?

What was it about Steve Jobs that meant he managed to transform four industries? The personal computer (Mac), music (iPod), mobile phones (iPhone) and computing as lifestyle (iPad) will never be the same again – and that's before we mention his creation of another $7bn company in Pixar, which has won more than 20 Academy Awards. If he’d achieved just one of those feats, he would be one of the greatest business people of this era. To have achieved all of them is more than just talent and luck – it’s doing things differently.
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Steve Jobs didn’t delegate. He had the vision in his head and got other people to execute it for him. He cared about the details. He cared about the typeface, the iconography. He had a belligerent commitment to things being simple to use.

Because he had a holistic vision, and he made sure everything was done the way he wanted it, everything worked with everything else. iTunes works with your iPod.  Addresses synched between the Mail on your Mac and your iPhone. You plug a camera into your MacBook at iPhoto automatically launches and sucks in the photos. These weren’t five products in Steve’s mind, they were one product. That only happened because there was one man with a vision of the whole, who got people to do it his way.

Steve Jobs has left this world a better place. He has created businesses that employ tens of thousands of people. He has made frustrating, unintelligible tasks simple. He has given us new services that we enjoy and which bring us closer together. And he has entertained us.

 Apple-Steve-Jobs-Different

Joe Nocera

Steve Jobs  knew what consumers would want before the consumers themselves did.

Why he didn't allow flash on his iPhone

Jobs said it was to make the downloading of pornography next to impossible, indicating that nothing can destroy a family and marriage faster than a husband addicted to porn.

Peter Robinson who knew Jobs personally

You can almost grasp how became as important as Edison or Carnegie or Stanford or Rockefeller or Ford.....Yet one characteristic distinguished Steve Jobs from the others.  ...Only Steve insisted on beauty.

 Stevejobs Ipad

Bill Walsh

Jobs has always struck me as a Renaissance man, not in the conversational sense of the word, but in a more literal understanding of what the geniuses of the Italian Renaissance were about. They were about exploring the world as a view into the mind of God and illuminating it with beauty. Jobs was no sort of Christian, I don't think, but something in his Zen æsthetic saw something of the ideal, the Platonic, behind the world's veil, and I think in this he realized something of the humanitas that the Renaissance geniuses were about: helping people lead better lives. Jobs's view wasn't directly moral, as theirs was, but in his relentless, monomaniacal quest to make technology beautiful—to make it human, the opposite of say, Italian interwar Futurism—and to force it to absent itself from the space between thought and action, I think he was on the same page as the geniuses who perfected perspective to make the wall and paint irrelevant to the viewer’s reception of the image.

Rob Long

I am one of those irritating Apple fanatics..the machines are better designed, better made, with better software and easier to use.  The MacBook Pro has revolutionized all media.  The iPad is saving the newspaper business.  The iPhone has liberated the world.
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The story of Steve Jobs, from his hardscrabble upbringing to his second and third acts in American business, is a classic American story, one we should celebrate and teach in schools: a person with vision and drive and creative passion and an unwillingness to accept anything less than amazing, astonishing, and near-perfect

Walt Mossberg on The Steve Jobs I Knew

Sometimes, not always, he’d invite me in to see certain big products before he unveiled them to the world. He may have done the same with other journalists. We’d meet in a giant boardroom, with just a few of his aides present, and he’d insist — even in private — on covering the new gadgets with cloths and then uncovering them like the showman he was, a gleam in his eye and passion in his voice. We’d then often sit down for a long, long discussion of the present, the future, and general industry gossip.

I still remember the day he showed me the first iPod. I was amazed that a computer company would branch off into music players, but he explained, without giving any specifics away, that he saw Apple as a digital products company, not a computer company. It was the same with the iPhone, the iTunes music store, and later the iPad, which he asked me to his home to see, because he was too ill at the time to go to the office.
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In my many conversations with him, the dominant tone he struck was optimism and certainty, both for Apple and for the digital revolution as a whole. Even when he was telling me about his struggles to get the music industry to let him sell digital songs, or griping about competitors, at least in my presence, his tone was always marked by patience and a long-term view...it was striking.

Holman Jenkins on The Amazing Steve Jobs Story

His story isn't just the story of a person, but the combination of time, place and person, spawning a career in industrial design of awesome proportions. Mr. Jobs founded two pivotal companies in American history. Both happened to be named Apple. One was the Apple of the Macintosh, the other was the Apple of the iPhone.

From the beginning, he saw the human possibility in the extraordinarily complex hardware and software engineering of digital devices. The Macintosh should work in a way that's intuitive, that doesn't require an owner's manual. And today you only need to survey the blogosphere or friends with toddlers to hear stories of 3-year-olds picking up an iPad and quickly sussing out what it's for.

But let's also acknowledge that coupled with vision and the pursuit of excellence was hard-headed business strategizing. The triumph of iTunes, the App Store and the incipient Apple Cloud ushered in the era at Apple of network-esque complexity as well as the possibility of network-esque revenues. It made Mr. Jobs, despite himself, an empire builder.
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Mr. Jobs's determination to make superb products was, one likes to think, an expression of love for the world, life and possibility.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:40 PM | Permalink

October 5, 2011

Astonishingly beautiful

Dustin Farrell has made astonishingly beautiful time-lapse videos of the American West that you must see.  I can not embed them.

You can see Landscapes Volume Two on Vimeo here  and  learn how he did them.

I found out about him from this article in the Daily Mail  Astonishing photographs in time-lapse video which capture the American landscapes as you've never seen them before

His Twitter followers described the photographs as 'breathtaking', 'spectacular' and 'stunning'. One wrote: 'Name your superlative. Just brilliant.'

 Dustin Farrell Amer West

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:34 PM | Permalink

Blushing

If you are embarrassed by how often you turn red-faced, consider this: Don't be bashful about blushing

it seems, we should be proud of our red faces. A new study has found people who blush easily are more generous, trustworthy and virtuous than those who don’t.
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The author of the study, Matthew Feinberg, says: ‘Moderate levels of embarrassment are signs of virtue. You want to affiliate with embarrassed people more. You feel comfortable trusting them.’

Not only are blushing people viewed as more trustworthy, they actually are more trustworthy, according to this study, because of what the researchers call their ‘pro-sociability’ or positive behaviour towards others. What’s more, researchers found that blushers make better romantic partners, because those who were easily embarrassed reported higher levels of monogamy, according to the study.
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But this new research might finally give us the answer: blushing, while uncomfortable for those of us who do it, is simply there as ‘part of the social glue that fosters trust and cooperation in every day life’.
Women have a greater tendency to blush, which scientists suspect evolved as a way to prove to men that they were virtuous — ergo the phrase ‘the blushing bride’ which refers to the belief that young women who flush easily are the picture of virginal innocence.
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Blushing still shows endearing vulnerability — so much so that, even today, researchers say blushing can help us when we are dating, or even trying to do a business deal.

They’ve also concluded that when we blush after doing something socially embarrassing — such as accidentally standing on someone’s toe — it’s like an non-verbal apology and therefore diffuses any aggression.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:10 AM | Permalink

Just cooling my brain

 Yawning

The Claim:  Yawning  Cools the Brain

The brain operates best within a narrow range of temperatures, and like a car engine, it sometimes needs a way to cool down. To lower the brain’s thermostat, researchers say, the body takes in cooler air from its surroundings — prompting deep inhalation.

Yawning is contagious too.  Tip: If you absolutely can not been seen yawning and someone nearby is doing exactly that,  Breath deeply through your nose which will cool off your brain just as well as a yawn.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 AM | Permalink

God in Madrid

James Schall on Vargas Llosa with “God in Madrid”

About World Youth Day, Robert Royal wrote that the secular press was uninterested in the million and a half young Catholics there with Benedict XVI. This indifference, he thought, was not a bad thing. The real forces that move the world are usually under the radar screen of the media and often of the universities.

L’Osservatore Romano (English, September 21) reprinted an essay, “God in Madrid,” by the Peruvian novelist and Nobel Prize winner, Mario Vargas Llosa, from the Spanish paper El País about the meaning of the papal visit.

Vargas Llosa’s remarks are of considerable import. To establish his credentials, he writes that he is an “agnostic,” though he reads like a “pseudo-agnostic.” As Benedict often hints, the world gets nervous when atheists and agnostics realize that Christianity provides a better explanation of reality than they do.

This event saw the largest gathering of Catholics in Spain ever. It was peaceful. It was young. Was it just a show or was it a sign of an unperceived Church vitality? The Church is declining in numbers in Spain and elsewhere. The World Youth Days, however, under John Paul II and Benedict, reveal liveliness in the Church not her “inevitable decline and extinction.” The secularist mind has a vested interest in explaining this phenomenon away, in not grasping what is occurring.
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What happened in Madrid was remarkable. Vargas Llosa is right. In those days, “God seemed to exist and Catholicism seemed to be the one true religion.” No wonder much of the world’s press and media did not want to report on “God in Madrid.” They thought God was dead.

God in Madrid  by Mario Vargas Llosa

The present Pope is a man of ideas, an intellectual, whose natural setting is in the library, the university lecture hall and the conference room. His shyness in the face of the multitudes is apparent in the way he addresses the masses, as though he were justifying himself, almost as if he were ashamed of himself. But this frailty is misleading since he is probably the most cultured and intelligent Pope the Church has had for a long time, one of the rare pontiffs whose encyclicals and books can be read without yawning even by agnostics like me (his brief autobiography is enchanting and his two books on Jesus are more than fascinating).
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in our day culture has ceased to be a serious and deep response to the great human questions about life, death, destiny and history as it sought to be in the past. On the one hand it has become an inconsequential light entertainment and on the other, a cabal of incomprehensible and arrogant experts, who have taken refuge in unintelligible jargon...

The majority of human beings finds answers — or at least the feeling that a higher order exists, of which they are a part and which gives meaning and tranquillity to their existence — solely through a transcendence that neither philosophy, nor literature nor science have managed to justify rationally. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 AM | Permalink

October 3, 2011

Bush's Fault

"In God We Trust" is Out; "What, Me Worry?" Is In.    Walter Russell Mead observes that the significant damage to the Washington Monument (closed indefinitely) and to the National Cathedral, two unique symbols of national identity, in the nation's capital in the August 23rd earthquake would in ancient times would have been "highly noteworthy".

We would be rending our garments, consulting the Sibylline books and repenting in sackcloth and ashes after so a clear a demonstration of divine wrath.

These days we do nothing at all.  No doubt this is much more progressive and intelligent.  After all, there is absolutely nothing going on in Washington or the country at large that could cause anyone or anything to warn us to mend our ways.....

"In God we trust” is so eighteenth century; we seem to have moved on to something more contemporary.  “What, Me Worry?” has none of that superstitious claptrap that so annoys the ACLU.

I laughed when I read one commentator who said,

Since this was a previously unknown fault which caused the earthquake the President was given the privilege of naming it. It will now be known as Bush’s Fault.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink

Educational theft, another overreach by the state

Public schools today are a modern day plantation.  Under penalty of law, parents must send their children to the school assigned.  Most parents favor school choice, say by using a voucher system; however the teachers unions oppose such choice wherever it is proposed.  Parents have little control over what their children are taught and if that means teaching about sexuality and homosexuality to children grade school, even if it directly contravenes what the parents believe, so be it.  The state knows best.

But making it a felony and jailing parents who want to send their children to a better school and try to do so using the father's or the grandparents' address is horrifying.  Taxpayers money is being used to spy on parents to verify their true residences.

Latest Crime Wave - Sending Your Child to a Better School

In case you needed further proof of the American education system's failings, especially in poor and minority communities, consider the latest crime to spread across the country: educational theft. That's the charge that has landed several parents, such as Ohio's Kelley Williams-Bolar, in jail this year.  An African-American mother of two, Ms. Williams-Bolar last year used her father's address to enroll her two daughters in a better public school outside of their neighborhood. After spending nine days behind bars charged with grand theft, the single mother was convicted of two felony counts. Not only did this stain her spotless record, but it threatened her ability to earn the teacher's license she had been working on.
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 Mother Jailed For Wanting Better Education For Children


These arrests represent two major forms of exasperation. First is that of parents whose children are zoned into failing public schools—they can't afford private schooling, they can't access school vouchers, and they haven't won or haven't even been able to enter a lottery for a better charter school. Then there's the exasperation of school officials finding it more and more difficult to deal with these boundary-hopping parents.

From California to Massachusetts, districts are hiring special investigators to follow children from school to their homes to determine their true residences and decide if they "belong" at high-achieving public schools. School districts in Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey all boasted recently about new address-verification programs designed to pull up their drawbridges and keep "illegal students" from entering their gates.
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Only in a world where irony is dead could people not marvel at concerned parents being prosecuted for stealing a free public education for their children.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:16 PM | Permalink

Let's focus on 'Brown Energy' where the money is and the jobs are

How North Dakota Became Saudi Arabia

Harold Hamm, the Oklahoma-based founder and CEO of Continental Resources, the 14th-largest oil company in America, is a man who thinks big. He came to Washington last month to spread a needed message of economic optimism: With the right set of national energy policies, the United States could be "completely energy independent by the end of the decade. We can be the Saudi Arabia of oil and natural gas in the 21st century."

"President Obama is riding the wrong horse on energy," he adds. We can't come anywhere near the scale of energy production to achieve energy independence by pouring tax dollars into "green energy" sources like wind and solar, he argues. It has to come from oil and gas.
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"We expect our reserves and production to triple over the next five years." And for those who think this oil find is only making Mr. Hamm rich, he notes that today in America "there are 10 million royalty owners across the country" who receive payments for the oil drilled on their land. "The wealth is being widely shared."
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The White House proposal to raise $40 billion of taxes on oil and gas—by excluding those industries from credits that go to all domestic manufacturers—is also a major hindrance to exploration and drilling. "That just stops the drilling," Mr. Hamm believes.
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It's hard to disagree with Mr. Hamm's assessment that Barack Obama has the energy story in America wrong. The government floods green energy—a niche market that supplies 2.5% of our energy needs—with billions of dollars of subsidies a year. "Wind isn't commercially feasible with natural gas prices below $6" per thousand cubic feet, notes Mr. Hamm. Right now its price is below $4. This may explain the administration's hostility to the fossil-fuel renaissance.

Mr. Hamm calculates that if Washington would allow more drilling permits for oil and natural gas on federal lands and federal waters, "I truly believe the federal government could over time raise $18 trillion in royalties." That's more than the U.S. national debt, I say. He smiles.

A Brown Jobs Bonanza Reshaping America

While the government has been spending billions of dollars to produce a handful of sickly green jobs without much staying power, a veritable gusher of ‘brown’ jobs in traditional mining and energy extractive industries is on the brink of rejuvenating the American economy
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The much despised brown jobs sector grew by 58% in the years after 2006 when economic growth as a whole slowed, Kotkin finds, creating more than half a million new jobs, and this is one of the best paying sectors in the economy, with average annual wages of more than $100,000 a year.

Why doesn't the Administration embrace brown energy?  I don't understand it. Why were seven North Dakota oil companies charged with the death of 28 migratory birds while wind companies get away with killing 400,000+ every year?   The Wall St Journal called it "bird-brained" and even the American Bird Conservancy called the selective enforcement hypocritical.

American Bird Conservancy President George Fenwick. “Every year wind turbines kill hundreds of thousands of birds, including eagles, hawks, and songbirds, but the operators are being allowed to get away with it. It looks like a double standard.”

The build-out of wind power is anticipated to increase 12-fold in the next 20 years and bird mortality will dramatically increase.  After years and untold millions spent in saving eagles, one wind farm in California is estimated to have killed more than 2000 eagles!  In Salon, Michael Lind writes

The environmental movement since the 1970s has been fixated religiously on a few "soft energy" panaceas -- wind, solar, and biofuels -- and can be counted on to exaggerate or invent problems caused by alternatives. Many of the same Greens who oppose fracking because it might contaminate some underground aquifers favor wind turbines and high-voltage power lines that slaughter eagles and other birds and support blanketing huge desert areas with solar panels, at the cost of exterminating much of the local wildlife and vegetation. Wilderness preservation, the original goal of environmentalism, has been sacrificed to the giant metallic idols of the sun and the wind.

In Massachusetts, with the construction of 120 wind-powered turbines off the cost of Cape Cod for Cape Wind, consumers will end up paying at least four and half times the going rate.

Once the subsidies go, it makes no economic sense for utility companies to invest in wind power.  The Wind Farm Scam

In 2007 (the last year for which verified data is currently available) the Department of Energy reported that there were 389 wind-farms producing electricity in the United States, with a net generation capacity of 16,596 megawatts.  If all of those windmills were churning out electrons at capacity all of the time, they would have produced a little over 145 million megawatt hours of electricity in 2007. How much did they in fact produce? A little less than 27 million megawatt hours, or less than twenty percent of capacity (also called “capacity factor” in the business).

At least one wind farm project was scuttled  Wind farm project was a billion dollar boondoogle

When the New York Power Authority formally pulled the plug Tuesday on the offshore wind farm project, NYPA officials said it wasn’t “fiscally prudent” because even a 150-megawatt project – on the small side of the agency’s guidelines–would require subsidies of $60 million to $100 million a year. That was two to four times the subsidy a similarly sized land-based wind farm would require to be economically feasible.

In England, Christopher Booker calls the £250bn wind power industry the greatest scam of our age -

The megawatts supplied by our 3,500 turbines is derisory: no more than the output of a single, medium-sized conventional power station...The second great lie about wind power is the pretence that it is not a preposterously expensive way to produce electricity. No one would dream of building wind turbines unless they were guaranteed a huge government subsidy.

No wonder, Green Energy Industry Staggers

As the Energy Department hustled to get another $4.7 billion in loan guarantees for green tech companies out the door before time ran out and the program ended last week, yet another solar panel manufacturer was wilting in the sun, and the green jobs scam was looking more threadbare than ever.
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Perhaps even worse from the green point of view, a cascade of discoveries and technological advances has dramatically increased the supplies of oil and gas in the western hemisphere — including huge new domestic energy supplies in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and upstate New York.  These discoveries are devastating to the politics of the environmental movement.

Mark Steyn wrote about Obama's magical thinking on green jobs

The Obama administration’s $38.6 billion “clean technology” program was supposed to “create or save” 65,000 jobs. Half the money has been spent – $17.2 billion – and we have 3,545 jobs to show for it. That works out to an impressive $4,851,904.09 per “green job.” A world record! Take that, you loser Spaniards! USA! USA!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:47 AM | Permalink

October 2, 2011

"Everywhere you turn you see Americans sacrifice their long-term interests for short-term rewards."

The only writer in America who can make even municipal bonds fascinating is Michael Lewis.  Here he is  in Vanity Fair with  California and Bust .

And as he talked about the bankrupting of Vallejo, I realized that I had heard this story before, or a private-sector version of it. The people who had power in the society, and were charged with saving it from itself, had instead bled the society to death. The problem with police officers and firefighters isn’t a public-sector problem; it isn’t a problem with government; it’s a problem with the entire society. It’s what happened on Wall Street in the run-up to the subprime crisis. It’s a problem of people taking what they can, just because they can, without regard to the larger social consequences. Its not just a coincidence that the debts of cities and states spun out of control at the same time as the debts of individual Americans. Alone in a dark room with a pile of money, Americans knew exactly what they wanted to do, from the top of the society to the bottom. They’d been conditioned to grab as much as they could, without thinking about the long-term consequences. Afterward, the people on Wall Street would privately bemoan the low morals of the American people who walked away from their subprime loans, and the American people would express outrage at the Wall Street people who paid themselves a fortune to design the bad loans.

The beleaguered mayor of the city of Vallejo which has declared bankruptcy says 

“My approach has been I don’t care who is to blame,” Batchelor said. “We needed to change.”....
He didn’t view the city’s main problem as financial: the financial problems were the symptom. The disease was the culture.

Neuroscientist Peter Whybrow

thinks the dysfunction in America’s society is a by-product of America’s success....“We’ve created physiological dysfunction. We have lost the ability to self-regulate, at all levels of the society. "
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the fantastic rise in rates of obesity ... The boom in trading activity in individual stock portfolios; the spread of legalized gambling; the rise of drug and alcohol addiction—it is all of a piece. Everywhere you turn you see Americans sacrifice their long-term interests for short-term rewards.
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