December 30, 2011

Eucastrophe, An Explosion of Good

It's the sixth or seventh day of Christmas, so we're only halfway through Christmastide

Party On! It's Biblical

Postmodern man– and postmodern woman– doesn’t know how to give a good party. It’s up to us Catholics to reclaim this lost art and share it with the world.  Why? Because good parties are intrinsic to our Catholic faith.

Seven 2011 events that will change the Chuch's Story in America

the best example of the new Catholic excellence in media is Father Robert Barron’s Catholicism series. This DVD review of the beauty, truth and goodness of our faith is itself a model of beauty, truth and goodness. And it is not just a great achievement of its own. It is a sign that our talk of the New Evangelization is bearing real fruit.

A Christmas Meditation on how the Word Must Become Flesh in Us  by Msgr Charles Pope

True faith is “incarnational,” in that it takes on flesh in my very “body-person.” Remember, we human beings are not pure spirit, we are not intellect and will only, we are also flesh and blood. Therefore our faith cannot remain merely immaterial. What we most are, must be reflected in our bodies, in what we actually, physically do as well.

Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

In Forbes, Christmas, Kurtosis, Fat Tails, Black Swans and Risk Management by Jerry Bowyer

Which brings us to Christmas. What is more barren than a virgin’s womb? (Perhaps only the tomb, but that is a topic for a column in April.) The late Christopher Hitchens quipped more than once that if civilization suddenly collapsed, would we really need to remind ourselves that Christ was born of a virgin?

The obvious implication is that the Christmas story (Fact? Myth?Both?)is useless for the rebuilding of civilization. That is a very odd observation from a man who prided himself on his knowledge of history, because, in fact, that is exactly what civilization did remind itself of after it collapsed. What Civilization?

Why Christopher Hitchens’ civilization and yours and mine: Western civilization.

When Rome fell and barbarian hordes raped and murdered their way across the dark ages, civilization was rebuilt on the Christmas story. Mary, a woman, was the Chris-bearer (in Greek, Christopheros) after whom Mr. Hitchens was named. She assented to that role willingly. If an all-powerful God does not rape, then neither should you. If God prized human life enough to bind himself to it through incarnation, then you, barbarian warrior, should not murder. If God comes as a child through a woman, then women and children are fully human, endowed with no less dignity than men.
Christmas is a good time for us to recognize that though the world generates catastrophes, but it also has been given what JRR Tolkien called eucastrophes. Eucatastrophes are sudden, unexpected, but perfectly logical-in-hindsight explosions of good. Tolkien coined the word first to describe the incarnation which Christians are currently celebrating.

What Literature Owes the Bible by Marilynne Robinson

Biblical allusions can suggest a degree of seriousness or significance their context in a modern fiction does not always support. This is no cause for alarm. Every fiction is a leap in the dark, and a failed grasp at seriousness is to be respected for what it attempts. In any case, these references demonstrate that in the culture there is a well of special meaning to be drawn upon that can make an obscure death a martyrdom and a gesture of forgiveness an act of grace. Whatever the state of belief of a writer or reader, such resonances have meaning that is more than ornamental, since they acknowledge complexity of experience of a kind that is the substance of fiction.

History shows contributions of Catholic Church to Western Civilization

modern historians of science freely acknowledge the church's contributions — both theoretical and material — to the Scientific Revolution. It was the church's worldview that insisted the universe was orderly and operated according to certain fixed laws. Only buoyed with that confidence would it have made sense to bother investigating the physical world in the first place, or even to develop the scientific method (which can work only in an orderly world). It's likewise a little tricky to claim the church has been an implacable foe of the sciences when so many priests were accomplished scientists.
The early church also institutionalized the care of widows, orphans, the sick and the poor in ways unseen in classical Greece or Rome. Even her harshest critics, from the fourth-century emperor Julian the Apostate all the way to Martin Luther and Voltaire, conceded the church's enormous contributions to the relief of human misery.

The spirit of Catholic charity — that we help those in need not out of any expectation of reciprocity, but as a pure gift, and that we even help those who might not like us — finds no analogue in classical Greece and Rome, but it is this idea of charity that we continue to embrace today.

The university was an utterly new phenomenon in European history. Nothing like it had existed in ancient Greece or Rome. The institution that we recognize today, with its faculties, courses of study, examinations and degrees, as well as the familiar distinction between undergraduate and graduate study, come to us directly from the medieval world.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:48 PM | Permalink


Pico Iyer on The Joy of Quiet

In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight.
We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say. Partly because we’re so busy communicating. And — as he might also have said — we’re rushing to meet so many deadlines that we hardly register that what we need most are lifelines.

The urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context. “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,” the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, “and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.

-Aurora And Trees

The central paradox of the machines that have made our lives so much brighter, quicker, longer and healthier is that they cannot teach us how to make best use of them; the information revolution came without an instruction manual. All the data in the world cannot teach us how to sift through data; images don’t show us how to process images. The only way to do justice to our onscreen lives is by summoning exactly the emotional and moral clarity that can’t be found on any screen.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:46 PM | Permalink

Fish Oil, Leukemia and Alzheimer's

Fish Oil May Cure Leukemia

Fish oil has long been touted for its heart, neurological, and cancer risk-lowering health benefits. Now, an ingredient that can be extracted from fish oil may lead to a cure for leukemia.

According to Penn State researchers, a compound called delta-12-protaglandin J3 (D12-PGJ3) appears to target leukemia stem cells. The compound killed the stem cells of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) in mice, said Sandeep Prabhu, Penn State associate professor of immunology and molecular toxicology in the Department of Veterinary and Medical Sciences.

The potentially curing compound comes from Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and in fish oil.
The researchers have applied for a patent and are also preparing to test the compound on humans.

I've been touting the benefits of fish oil for a long time.    Its wonders keep growing.


A fish-rich eating plan 'could help prevent Alzheimer's disease' by stopping brain from shrinking

Study reveals those with diets high in omega-3 fatty acids are less likely to lose brain capacity later in life

U.S. researchers found that elderly people with high levels of omega 3 found in oily fish and vitamins common in fruit and vegetables did better in memory tests than those with a less healthy diet.

Brain scans confirmed those with the highest levels of vitamin D and omega 3 and vitamins B, C and E, also had a significantly larger brain volume. Conversely people whose blood had higher levels of trans fats - found in cakes and fried foods, as well as red meat - had the worst scores and less brain tissue.

This is thought to be the first study to investigate nutrient levels through blood tests rather than looking at food diaries or questionnaires.
The scientists, from Oregon Health & Science University, say this gives a more accurate picture because it does not rely on memory or honesty, and because in old age some people’s blood absorbs more of the nutrients they eat than others.

Diet to Beat Alzheimers

Study author Dr Gene Bowman said: “It is very exciting to think that people could potentially stop their brains from shrinking and keep them sharp by adjusting their diet.”

The discovery could save millions from the misery of the illness, which robs sufferers of their memories and their ability to care for themselves, with everyday tasks from eating to washing becoming almost impossible.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:55 PM | Permalink

Proactive Genomics

A landmark project by the Mayo Clinic.

Doctors store patients' genetic code in revolutionary step towards personalising care

U.S. doctors will start working out what drug or therapy works best for a patient using their genetic code, it emerged today.

The revolutionary step of personalising their care will be taken by mapping a patient's entire genetic code in advance to make prescriptions more effective.

It is hoped thousands will take part in the landmark project run by the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Volunteers will have all 23,000 genes in their genetic code sequenced and stored with their medical records from early next year.

It is part of an ambitious move towards an era of 'proactive genomics' that puts modern genetics at the centre of patient care.

The Mayo Clinic's director of the Centre for Individualised Medicine, Dr Gianrico Farrugia, said the cost of sequencing a person's whole genome – some 23,000 genes – has fallen so rapidly that it was now comparable to the price of a single gene test.

The project will help managers at the clinic decide whether it makes sense to read and store a patient's whole genome early on, instead of ordering single genetic tests as and when the need arises.

He told the Guardian: 'We are convinced that whole genome sequencing is going to radically change the way we practice medicine.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

Wall Street and Crony Capitalism

What strikes me most as I look back at 2011 is the pervasiveness of corruption among America's ruling class, the insider trading by the permanent politicians and the connected crony capitalists who rig the rules.

Michael Thomas on The Big Lie

As 2011 slithers to its end, none of the major problems that led to the crisis point three years ago have really been solved. Bank balance sheets still reek. Europe day by day becomes a financial black hole, with matter from the periphery being sucked toward the center until the vortex itself collapses. The Street and its ministries of propaganda have fallen back on a Big Lie as old as capitalism itself: that all that has gone wrong has been government’s fault. This time, however, I don’t think the argument that “Washington ate my homework” is going to work. This time, a firestorm is going to explode about the Street’s head—and about time, too.
I have lived what now, at 75, is starting to feel like a long life. If anyone asks me what has been the great American story of my lifetime, I have a ready answer. It is the corruption, money-based, that has settled like some all-enveloping excremental mist on the landscape of our hopes, that has permeated every nook of any institution or being that has real influence on the way we live now. Sixty years ago, if you had asked me, on the basis of all that I had been taught, whether I thought this condition of general rot was possible in this country, I would have told you that you were nuts. And I would have been very wrong. What has happened in this country has made a lie of my boyhood

Gonzalo Lira says Nine weeks after its bankruptcy, the general public still hasn’t quite realized the implications of the MF Global scandal.

Now there are several extremely serious aspects to the MF Global case: Specifically, how their customers were shut out of their brokerage accounts for over a week following the bankruptcy, which made it impossible for those customers to sell out of their positions, and thus caused them to lose serious money; and of course how MF Global was more adept than Mandrake the Magician at making money disappear—about $1 billion, in fact, which still hasn’t turned up. These are quite serious issues which merit prolonged discussion, investigation, prosecution, and ultimately jailtime.

But for now, I want to discuss one narrow aspect of the MF Global bankruptcy: How authorities (mis)handled the bankruptcy—either willfully or out of incompetence—which allowed customer’s money to be stolen so as to make JPMorgan whole.
Thus these 40,000 MF Global customers had their money stolen—there’s no polite way to characterize what happened. And this theft was not carried out by MF Global—it was carried out by the authorities who were charged with handling the firm’s bankruptcy.

These 40,000 customers were not Big Money types—they were farmers who had accounts to hedge their crops, individuals owning gold
.....—in short, ordinary investors. Ordinary people—and they got screwed by the regulators, for the sake of protecting JPMorgan and other big fry who had exposure to MF Global.

Repo Men by Kevin Williamson

What’s worse is that much of official Washington is looking at Wall Street and asking the same question. The answer: Easy. If Wall Street has done pretty well by investing in Washington, the more despair-inducingly germane fact is that Washington has done pretty well by investing in Wall Street. A catalogue of recent congressional insider-trading, self-dealing, IPO shenanigans, and inexplicably good investment luck would fill an entire volume, and in fact it has: The book has the Tea Party–bait title Throw Them All Out: How Politicians and Their Friends Get Rich Off Insider Stock Tips, Land Deals, and Cronyism That Would Send the Rest of Us to Prison, by Peter Schweizer of the Hoover Institution. That’s a lot of title for a fairly slim book (176 pages of reportage, plus end notes), but, despite its relatively slender dimensions, it cost me an entire night’s sleep: I spent half the night reading it in a single sitting and the other half having nightmares about it. It’s the most offensive and disturbing thing I’ve read since sampling the oeuvre of the Marquis de Sade as an undergraduate.

At the risk of oversimplifying it,” one Wall Street insider explains, “imagine a bank went bankrupt. Then the regulators came in and cracked open all the customers’ safe-deposit boxes, even though they knew for certain that none of the contents belonged to the bank. Then they tossed those assets into the pile for the creditors to pick through and told the box holders to get in line as well. That’s what folks are saying is happening here. And in a situation like that, who wants a safe-deposit box?”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 AM | Permalink

December 28, 2011

"“Elderly patients often are embarrassed by their feet"

What magic does touch create
that we crave it so. That babies
do not thrive without it. That
the nurse who cuts tough nails
and sands calluses on the elderly
tells me sometimes men weep
as she rubs lotion on their feet.

The Tao of Touch by Marge Piercy

I never knew of this poem until yesterday when I read a feature on a foot care nurse, The Clipper Makes Her Rounds.

“Elderly patients often are embarrassed by their feet, Ms. Merrill has found. “They’re ashamed,” she said. “They worry their feet are stinky or weird-looking.”

And so they put off foot care until the problem becomes pressing. “People come to me with ingrown toenails or corns so painful they can’t walk any more,” she said.

Handling people’s feet — cutting and filing nails, inspecting and healing every bump and rough patch, rubbing on lotion and massaging them — certainly sounds like one of caregiving’s less pleasant tasks. But the foot care ritual can also bring deep connections.

“It’s sort of like being at the hairdresser for them – it’s amazing what will come out,” Ms. Merrill said. “Men will tell me their war stories and say, ‘Gee, I haven’t talked to anybody about this in years.’”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:26 AM | Permalink

December 27, 2011

Every sixty seconds

Astonishing infographic on the Incredible Things That Happen Every 60 Seconds On The Internet

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:12 AM | Permalink

December 25, 2011

Christmas Round-up

Christmas day marks the end of the American celebration of Christmas and the beginning of the religious celebration.

First, the American celebration.
From Vanderluen's American Digest , The Gift of the WalMagi

It’s a manufacturing, wholesale, supply chain, retail miracle on such a staggering scale that we can’t even begin to perceive it up close. We just walk into any one of the thousands of Wal-Mart stores and buy a winter coat for what it would take a homeless beggar about thirty minutes to cadge out of passing people on a downtown street on an average afternoon. It’s more than amazing. It’s a magical gift of modern American corporate capitalism.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was invented by a department store ad writer.

Curious to know more about how Rudolph really went down in history? It's all in the pages of a long-overlooked scrapbook compiled by the story's author, Robert L. May, and housed at his alma mater, Dartmouth College.

This first edition of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, bottom, and original layout, top, are from the estate of Robert May, who wrote the famous story in 1939 as part of a Montgomery Ward marketing campaign.

May donated his handwritten first draft and illustrated mock-up to Dartmouth before his death at age 71 in 1976, and his family later added to what has become a large collection of Rudolph-related documents and merchandise, including a life-sized papier-mache reindeer that now stands among the stacks at the Rauner Special Collections Library.

26 of the Best of the Worst Family Holiday Cards

Anonymous "layaway angels" are rescuing Christmas for needy families across the nation.

Santa Pulls Man Out from Burning Car, video

"Nobody could ever give me a better Christmas present than this -- ever, ever, ever," said his mother, Susan Regan

Creche by the side of the road
Miles from any sign of human habitation, there to be seen only from the road and at a high speed, some anonymous person had placed this endangered sign of an endangered season.

Grieving at Christmas, Arlington National Cemetery

Sugar Plum Fairy on the Glass Harp beautiful

The Anchoress gives us A Brother's Lesson on Christmas

My brother S is 41 years old and he will never be 42. He has something to say, and he would like to say it to you . . . and to those like you who sneer at Christmas Carolers, and goofy Mice Christmas Villages, and who need a stiff dose of brandy in order to contemplate angels. He wants to say it to everyone who believes they are too smart, too cool, too clever and too enlightened to fall for any of that claptrap.
Christmas, they will tell you, keeps people alive – even terribly, horrifically ill people alive – because it brings wonder, and it brings love, and love always brings hope. They will remind you that beyond Santa Claus and Frosty and going to the right parties, Christmas is a gathering of angels on a clear starry night; it is a proclamation, and an affirmation: God condescends to join flawed, terrified, confused, sickened humanity – to confirm that life is worth living. He comes to lie in a manger – food for the animals? No, food for the world. He comes to say “love is worth dying for. It is worth living for, too, because the more you give away, the more you seem to get to keep.”

Turning to the religious

What if there were no Christmas and we celebrated Sol Invictus instead?

Taylor Marshall gives a convincing Biblical Argument for the Birth of Christ in Late December

"The un-contemplated Christmas is hardly worth celebrating.”  Rev Robert Sirico

The Scandal of the Babe-God  It’s no wonder that the Incarnation is a scandal to many.

Love Came Down

“God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him and love him.”
So said Pope Benedict at Midnight Mass for Christmas 2006.

Pope Benedict Midnight Mass 2011. Christmas is an epiphany.  God has revealed himself

He has emerged from the inaccessible light in which he dwells. He himself has come into our midst. This was the great joy of Christmas for the early Church: God has appeared. No longer is he merely an idea, no longer do we have to form a picture of him on the basis of mere words. He has “appeared”. But now we ask: how has he appeared? Who is he in reality? The reading at the Dawn Mass goes on to say: “the kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed” (Tit 3:4). For the people of pre-Christian times, whose response to the terrors and contradictions of the world was to fear that God himself might not be good either, that he too might well be cruel and arbitrary, this was a real “epiphany”, the great light that has appeared to us: God is pure goodness.
Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God’s humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity. Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.

The Pope's Urbi et Orbi speech on Christmas Day

This is how Christ is invoked in an ancient liturgical antiphon: “O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, hope and salvation of the peoples: come to save us, O Lord our God”. Veni ad salvandum nos! Come to save us! This is the cry raised by men and women in every age, who sense that by themselves they cannot prevail over difficulties and dangers. They need to put their hands in a greater and stronger hand, a hand which reaches out to them from on high. Dear brothers and sisters, this hand is Christ, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary. He is the hand that God extends to humanity, to draw us out of the mire of sin and to set us firmly on rock, the secure rock of his Truth and his Love

Father Barron on Christmas

And with that, a Merry Christmas to all.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 PM | Permalink

Good news of great joy

Luke 8-14
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord )appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For )unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"

 Domenichino Adoration Shepherds

Domenichino's The Adoration of the Shepherds is reviewed as the Masterpiece of the Month, Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:41 AM | Permalink

December 24, 2011

Persecution and murder of Christians a vastly underreported story UPFATED

Too few people realize how dreadful and dangerous the situation is for million of Christians around the world because they are Christian.  The media underreports the violence.  Human Rights NGOs have a Giant Blind Spot.  Western governments don't seem to care.

On this Christmas Eve,  take some time to learn about, remember and pray for all those persecuted Christians for whom these are the worst times.    Persecution Map

Midnight mass cancelled

Chaldean Catholic officials have canceled traditional Christmas Eve midnight Masses because of security risks.

Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk in northern Iraq told the agency Aid to the Church in Need that Christians will spend Christmas in "great fear" because of the risk of new attacks.

All services and Masses have been scheduled for daylight hours, he said in an interview with Rome-based AsiaNews.

"Midnight Christmas Mass has been canceled in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk as a consequence of the never-ending assassinations of Christians," he said, citing the Oct. 31, 2010, attack on the Syrian Catholic cathedral that left 57 people dead in the Iraqi capital.

Christianity May Be Eradicated in Iraq and Afghanistan says Chair of U.S. Religious Freedom Commission

Silent Night For Christians In Afghanistan And Iraq

As our nation celebrates Christmas, Christians in the nations we shed blood and treasure for to establish democracy face extinction. For Christians in Iraq and Afghanistan, it may be the last Christmas ever.

 Persecution. Remember Then

John Allen reports

According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular NGO based in Germany, fully 80 percent of all acts of religious intolerance in the world are directed at Christians. A recent symposium organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe asserted that 200 million Christians are currently the victims of violence, oppression or harassment.

Just in the last few days:
• A well-known Christian catechist was killed in the Indian state of Orissa, site of a ferocious anti-Christian pogrom in 2008 that left roughly a hundred dead, hundreds more wounded, and thousands homeless.
• A Sister of Charity of Jesus and Mary was killed in the Indian state of Jharkhand, allegedly by mining interests threatened by her activism among poor tribals.
• Catholics in Kirkuk, Iraq, erected a monument to 36 Christian martyrs since 2003, a reminder of the decimation of Iraq’s once-sizeable Christian community.
• In Pakistan, a 38-year-old Christian mother of two is facing a death sentence under the country’s blasphemy law, allegedly for challenging the treatment of women in Islam during a 2010 discussion about religion in her village.

In Egypt, Christians endure their ‘Kristallnacht’

Recently Jews in synagogues around the world heard an ancient prophesy about a time of tribulation for the Christians. In the haftarah, the Prophet Obadiah hears G-d warning the Edomites (traditionally a Jewish term for the people who eventually made up the Christian world): “Behold on that day… Your mighty ones to the South will be broken… every man will be cut off by the slaughter…”

How eerily reflective of the moment: Within just the last couple of weeks, the Washington-based Christian Solidarity International (CSI) issued a “Genocide Warning” for Christians and other religious minorities across the Middle East, and launched a petition urging President Barack Obama to speak up.
Gordon College is a Christian school between Salem and Rockport. A few weeks ago I spoke there at a commemoration of Kristallnacht, Germany’s night of broken glass, the first mass assault on Europe’s Jews and the harbinger of the Shoah. I told the Christian audience how good it was to feel Christian support for Jews in these times, and that even some of the most stubborn of my people were now appreciating Evangelical support for Israel.

I asked how many in the audience of 250 knew of Anne Frank. Almost every hand shot up. Then I asked how many had heard of Ayman Labib. I got a mass blank stare. Ayman was a 17-year-old Egyptian Christian who just weeks ago was beaten to death by his Muslim classmates as teachers watched because he refused their demand to remove his cross necklace.

I asked how many knew about the Maspero massacre, which had left at least 24 Copts dead and 270 injured. And whether they knew that since January, there had been more than 70 attacks on Christian churches or institutions in Egypt.

While tonight you commemorate a Jewish pogrom, I told them, Christianity has just suffered its own “Kristallnacht” … and I have yet to see much of a Christian response.

The Christian martyrs among us

Amariah Masih was 18 years old when she was murdered for refusing to give in to a Muslim man’s advances. A Catholic girl from a small village near Faisalabad in the Punjab province of Pakistan, she was on a motorbike fetching drinking water, not available within the village, for her family.

Typically, a rape victim in Pakistan will be imprisoned for unlawful sex and released on the condition that she marry the rapist, explains Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute. And since a Christian cannot be married to a Muslim under sharia law, the woman would be forced to convert to Islam.
The homilist at Amariah’s funeral called her “a martyr.”

How can we remain silent while Christians are being persecuted?

Mark Steyn bemoans the Silent Night  where the "the “Arab Spring” is going so swimmingly that Copts are already fleeing Egypt."

Not merely the media but Christian leaders in the west seem to be embarrassed by behavior that doesn’t conform to their dimwitted sappiness about “Facebook Revolutions”.

David Warren writes A prayer for our brothers and sisters and in it, he quotes Lord Sacks, chief rabbi in England, who when he

rose in the House of Lords to speak about the persecution of Christians, he quoted Martin Luther King. "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

UPDATE: Christmas Day Bombings in Nigeria

Islamist militants set off bombs across Nigeria on Christmas Day - three targeting churches including one that killed at least 27 people - raising fears that they are trying to ignite sectarian civil war.

The Boko Haram Islamist sect, which aims to impose sharia law across the country, claimed responsibility for the three church bombs, the second Christmas in a row the group has caused mass carnage with deadly bombings of churches. Security forces also blamed the sect for two other blasts in the north.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:41 PM | Permalink

"In the Bleak Mid-Winter"

By now all the shopping is done, cookies made, gifts wrapped, cards sent  and the final preparations for Christmas dinner underway.  Now is the time to enter into the spirit of Christmas through religious services and beautiful Christmas carols, like the one below

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:03 PM | Permalink

December 22, 2011

"Nonsense can and does go by default"

Theodore Dalrymple examines his own reactions to some politically correct educational theories. The Triumph of Reason?

Halfway through my own reply, however, I suddenly became bored. Why do I spend so much time arguing against such obvious rubbish, which should be both self-refuting and auto-satirizing the moment someone utters it? Why not just go and read a good book?

The problem is that nonsense can and does go by default. It wins the argument by sheer persistence, by inexhaustible re-iteration, by staying at the meeting when everyone else has gone home, by monomania, by boring people into submission and indifference. And the reward of monomania? Power.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:52 PM | Permalink

Pretty vs Hot

Pat Archbold bemoans The Death of Pretty

This post is intended as a lament of sorts, a lament for something in the culture that is dying and may never been seen again.
Pretty, pretty is dying.

People will define pretty differently.  For the purposes of this piece, I define pretty as a mutually enriching balanced combination of beauty and projected innocence.
By nature, generally when men see this combination in women it brings out their better qualities, their best in fact.  That special combination of beauty and innocence, the pretty inspires men to protect and defend it.

Young women today do not seem to aspire to pretty, they prefer to be regarded as hot. Hotness is something altogether different.  When women want to be hot instead of pretty, they must view themselves in a certain way and consequently men view them differently as well
Most girls don’t want to be pretty anymore even if they understand what it is.  It is ironic that 40 years of women’s liberation has succeeded only in turning women into a commodity.  Something to be used up and thrown out.

How true and how telling.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:23 PM | Permalink

Beautiful Christmas tree from tiny plankton

Wonderful. wonderful.

'Single cells, single cells, plankton all the way'... Christmas card made from tiny sea creatures

A marine scientist has produced this incredible Christmas card made from his own pictures of plankton.  Dr Richard Kirby has created a festive scene including a decorated Christmas tree, bells, angels and even the Star of Bethlehem.

 Christmas Cells

'Starting with the phytoplankton, plant-like cells mostly smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and the tiny animals that eat them called the zooplankton, these creatures underpin the whole marine food chain.

'Without the plankton food web there would be no fish in the sea or seabirds in the skies above.  'The largest mammals on earth, the baleen whales, even rely upon these smallest of sea creatures for their food.  Most people are unaware of their presence, but if you have been swimming in the sea you will have almost certainly have swallowed them.

'It is also the plankton that give the sea its distinctive smell referred to as the 'sea air' because certain phytoplankton give off aromatic chemicals when they die.

'And they are even responsible for forming clouds because the same chemicals when in the atmosphere cause water droplets to form around them.

'Your car is also fuelled by their remains and over millions of years they created some of the most enigmatic features of our coastline.When you turn on the oven to cook the Christmas turkey, the gas comes from plankton that sank to the seafloor over hundreds of millions of years of earth's history.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:00 AM | Permalink

December 21, 2011

Dessert Stomach

 Dessert Stomach

Why You Always Have Room for Dessert.

No matter how stuffed you are after the main course you always have room for a little dessert. Here’s a scientific explanation for the phenomenon some people call the “dessert stomach”.
The sugar in sweet foods stimulates a reflex that expands your stomach, writes senior researcher Arnold Berstad and assistant doctor Jørgen Valeur from Lovisenberg Diakonale Hospital in the latest issue  of The Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association.

Via Instapundit,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 PM | Permalink

Explaining the God particle

Michael Gerson writes  The search for the God particle goes beyond mere physicsT

The God particle — really the Higgs boson — still resists confirmation, though scientists at the Large Hadron Collider recently reported “tantalizing hints” of its existence. They also reject the notion that their search has anything to do with God, which is only technically true.

Modern physics can explain just about everything, except why anything has mass. The Standard Model of physics, which emerged four decades ago, employs an elegant mathematical formula to account for most of the elemental forces in the universe. It correctly predicted the discovery of various leptons and quarks in the laboratory.

But the equation doesn’t explain gravity. So the Standard Model requires the existence of some other force that seized the massless particles produced by the Big Bang and sucked them into physicality. The detection of Higgs bosons would confirm this theory — which is why scientists are smashing protons into one another in a 17-mile round particle accelerator and picking through the subatomic wreckage.

 Cern Inside
The Large Hadron Collider at CERN

Not only does the universe unexpectedly correspond to mathematical theories, it is self-organizing — from biology to astrophysics — in unlikely ways. The physical constants of the universe seem finely tuned for the emergence of complexity and life. Slightly modify the strength of gravity, or the chemistry of carbon, or the ratio of the mass of protons and electrons, and biological systems become impossible. The universe-ending Big Crunch comes too soon, or carbon isn’t produced, or suns explode.
One reasonable alternative — the one advocated by Louis — is theism. It explains a universe finely tuned for life and accessible to human reason. It accounts for the cosmic coincidences. And a theistic universe, unlike the alternatives, also makes sense of free will and moral responsibility.

This is not proof for the existence of God. But the conflict here is not between faith and science; it is between the competing faiths of theism and materialism, neither of which can claim to be proved by science. Modern physics has accelerated smack into the limits of the scientific method. It raises questions it cannot answer but that human beings cannot avoid — matters of meaning and purpose. This is not a failure of science, just a recognition that measurement is not the only source of meaning.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:19 PM | Permalink

Winter stroll

It's a small study granted, but it seems to show that walking clears fatty foods from the bloodstream. 

That Christmas afternoon stroll really does work.

Working off Christmas dinner with a festive family walk might be healthy advice, according to new research.

Scientists believe exercise helps to clear harmful fatty food molecules from the bloodstream.
Experts who studied 12 overweight and obese men on treadmills found that activity appeared to alter the structure of lipid blood fats.

Winter Stroll in Westmount Park by Ingrid Harrison

Study leader Dr Jason Gill, from the University of Glasgow, said: 'We can think of the level of lipids in our blood as being like the level of water in a bath.

'To reduce the water level you can either turn off the tap, or increase the size of the plughole to let it drain out.

'For blood lipids this is equivalent to producing less, or breaking them down more.  'Our research suggests that exercise works at the 'plughole' end of the process, increasing the body's ability to break down the fats faster. We think this might occur through structural changes to the lipid particles making them more amenable to clearance from the blood.'

The research is published today in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:26 PM | Permalink

December 19, 2011

"Family structure is a new dividing line in American society”

Ruth Marcus writes The marriage gap presents a real cost.

If current trends hold, within a few years, less than half the U.S. adult population will be married. This precipitous decline isn’t just a social problem. It’s also an economic problem.

Specifically, it’s an income-inequality and economic-mobility problem. The steadily dropping marriage rate both contributes to income inequality and further entrenches it.

The latest numbers, from the Pew Research Center, are startling and disturbing. In 1960, nearly three-fourths of those 18 and older were married. By 2010, that number had plummeted to a bare majority, 51 percent. Four in 10 births were to unmarried women.

In 1960, the most- and least-educated adults were equally likely to be married. Now, nearly two-thirds of college graduates are married, compared with less than half of those with a high school diploma or less. Those with less education are less likely to ever marry and more likely to divorce if they do.

“Family structure is a new dividing line in American society,” Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution told me.

As marriage increasingly becomes a phenomenon of the better-off and better-educated, the incomes of two-earner married couples diverge more and more from those of struggling single adults. There is a chicken-and-egg conundrum at work here: Did lack of financial stability contribute to the decision not to marry, or did the decision not to marry contribute to financial instability? Either way, the phenomenon is self-reinforcing.

Of even more concern is the generational impact of this increased inequality. Being raised in a stable, two-parent household is a strong determinant of educational achievement. In turn, educational achievement is a strong — and growing stronger — determinant of lifetime income. As a result, the marriage gap becomes a grimly self-perpetuating process.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:14 PM | Permalink

December 16, 2011

Crony capitalism vs. market capitalism

What exactly is crony capitalism?

All capitalism is driven by greed - the desire to not only achieve economic security, but to amass pools of capital beyond one's basic needs. This capital can fuel the kind of conspicuous consumption that offends egalitarians. But it also finances investments in new products and businesses, without which the economy cannot grow. More on that later.

What makes Crony Capitalists different is their willingness to use the coercive powers of government to gain an advantage they could not earn in the market. This can come in the form of regulations that favor them while hindering competitors, laws that restrict entry into their markets, and government-sponsored cartels that fix prices, grant monopolies, or both.

Crony Capitalists are also more than happy to help themselves to money from the public treasury. This can come from wasteful or unnecessary spending programs that turn government into a captive customer, subsidies that flow directly into their coffers, or mandates that force consumers to buy their products.

Examples abound. Heavily regulated industries attract and breed Crony Capitalists, who are highly skilled at capturing the agencies intended to regulate them.

Health Care
Military-Industrial complex

Market Capitalists do not go to Washington. They strive to please customers, not politicians. They put their own money at risk to earn their own rewards, never foisting losses on others. Because they are risking their own hard earned dollars, they are careful to invest where it makes the most economic sense, not where it curries political favor. They meet their rivals in open competition, may the best products win. They have no reason to be ashamed of their honestly earned wealth. Many are famous for their public spirit and generosity, whether it's in funding the arts or providing for those truly in need.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 PM | Permalink

December 15, 2011

The normal boy with his heart outside his chest cavity

The Pennsylvania Miracle Boy Defies All Odds and lives with his heart outside his chest cavity and covered only by a thin layer of skin.

From the moment they detected abnormalities during Leighann Marquiss' 12-week sonogram, they told her and her husband, Henry, the baby had no chance. Ryan's deformed heart was growing outside his body, they said. The baby would suffer heart failure and die in the womb within weeks.

No baby with Ryan's combination of defects had survived, they said.

They told the couple not to expect a miracle, and urged them to abort. No, said Leighann and Henry, if the baby is going to die, we'll let it die naturally.

 Ryan Marquiss Heart Outside

"He's just a normal boy," Leighann said, watching the morning scene in her kitchen nearly three years later. "He falls down and scrapes his knees. He says, `Mommy, mommy, mommy.' He plays with his sisters.

"Of course, sometimes I tell them to stop touching his heart. What other mom says that?"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

December 14, 2011

Secrets of Good Marriages

Generosity could be the biggest key to a happy marriage

The flowers a man gives to his wife and the back rubs she doles out in return could be the key to a happy marriage.

Couples with above-average generosity in their marriages reported that they were five times more likely to be 'very happy' in their relationship, according to a new study.

A fulfilling sex life ranked as the single biggest indicator of whether married couples were happy, but high levels of generosity also contributed to good times in the bedroom. This means generosity could be a key to sexual satisfaction and general happiness.

 Coffee In Bed

Being generous in small ways every day is also a key to general well-being.

Tara Parker-Pope looks at the study behind the story of  The Generous Marriage

Researchers from the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project recently studied the role of generosity in the marriages of 2,870 men and women. Generosity was defined as “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly” — like simply making them coffee in the morning — and researchers quizzed men and women on how often they behaved generously toward their partners. How often did they express affection? How willing were they to forgive?

The responses went right to the core of their unions. Men and women with the highest scores on the generosity scale were far more likely to report that they were “very happy” in their marriages. The benefits of generosity were particularly pronounced among couples with children. Among the parents who posted above-average scores for marital generosity, about 50 percent reported being “very happy” together. Among those with lower generosity scores, only about 14 percent claimed to be “very happy,” according to the latest “State of Our Unions” report from the National Marriage Project.
“In marriage we are expected to do our fair share when it comes to housework, child care and being faithful, but generosity is going above and beyond the ordinary expectations with small acts of service and making an extra effort to be affectionate,” explains the University of Virginia’s W. Bradford Wilcox, who led the research. “Living that spirit of generosity in a marriage does foster a virtuous cycle that leads to both spouses on average being happier in the marriage.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:41 PM | Permalink

December 13, 2011

Who Goes Nazi?

More proof that human nature doesn't change.  You could play the same game today to speculate on the public scene and who would gladly give up the guarantee of human rights our forefathers bequeathed us if they could gain personal advantage in wealth, in power or in glory.

The famous American journalist Dorothy Thompson, in Harper's Magazine, August,  1941.

Who Goes Nazi

It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times–in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis.
Kind, good, happy, gentlemanly, secure people never go Nazi. They may be the gentle philosopher whose name is in the Blue Book, or Bill from City College to whom democracy gave a chance to design airplanes–you’ll never make Nazis out of them. But the frustrated and humiliated intellectual, the rich and scared speculator, the spoiled son, the labor tyrant, the fellow who has achieved success by smelling out the wind of success–they would all go Nazi in a crisis.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:23 PM | Permalink

"Has Europe Lost its Soul?"

In London, a magnificent speech well worth reading in its entirety,  Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks asks, "Has Europe Lost its Soul?"

For the task ahead of us is not between Jews and Catholics, or even Jews and Christians in general, but between Jews and Christians on the one hand, and the increasingly, even aggressively secularising forces at work in Europe today on the other, challenging and even ridiculing our faith.

If Europe loses the Judaeo-Christian heritage that gave it its historic identity and its greatest achievements in literature, art, music, education, politics, and as we will see, economics, it will lose its identity and its greatness, not immediately, but before this century reaches its end.

When a civilisation loses its faith, it loses its future. When it recovers its faith, it recovers its future. For the sake of our children, and their children not yet born, we – Jews and Christians, side-by-side – must renew our faith and its prophetic voice. We must help Europe recover its soul.

 Jonathan Sacks Eu

He then cites a quote, I've repeated often in various blog posts.

the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences was given the task of discovering how the West, having lagged behind China for centuries, eventually overtook it and established itself in a position of world pre-eminence. At first, said the scholar, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we concluded it was because you had the best political system. Then we realised it was your economic system. "But in the past 20 years, we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don't have any doubt about this.”

What happens when a trust economy turns into a risk economy.

George Soros writes of how in his early years as an investment manager he had to spend immense time and energy proving his credentials, his character and integrity, before people would do business with him. Nowadays, he says, deals are transactional rather than personal. Instead of placing your faith in a person, you get lawyers to write safeguards into the contract. This is an historic shift from a trust economy to a risk economy. But trust is not a dispensable luxury. It is the very basis of our social life. Many scholars believe that capitalism had religious roots because people could trust other people who, feeling that they were answerable to God, could be relied on to be honest in business. A world without trust is a lonely and dangerous place.

It was precisely the breakdown of trust that caused the banking crisis in the first place. We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that the market is a shrine to materialism, forgetting that its keywords are deeply spiritual. “Credit” comes from the Latin “credo” meaning “I believe.” “Confidence” comes from the Latin meaning “shared faith.” “Trust” is a word that has deeply religious resonance. Try running a bank, a business or an economy in the absence of confidence and trust and you will know it can’t be done. In the end we do not put our faith in systems but in the people responsible for those systems, and without morality, responsibility, transparency, accountability, honesty and integrity, the system will fail. And as it happens, the system did fail.

What lasts.

Economic superpowers have a short shelf-life: Spain in the fifteenth century, Venice in the sixteenth, Holland in the seventeenth, France in the eighteenth, Britain in the nineteenth, America in the twentieth. Meanwhile Christianity has survived for two thousand years, and Judaism for twice as long as that. The Judeo-Christian heritage is the only system known to me capable of defeating the law of entropy that says all systems lose energy over time.

Stabilising the Euro is one thing, healing the culture that surrounds it is another. A world in which material values are everything and spiritual values nothing is neither a stable state nor a good society. The time has come for us to recover the Judeo-Christian ethic of human dignity in the image of God. When Europe recovers its soul, it will recover its wealth-creating energies. But first it must remember: humanity was not created to serve markets. Markets were created to serve humankind.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:21 PM | Permalink

Cancer vaccine closer than ever

A new wonder vaccine against cancer using our immune system to fight against "rogue" sugars in tumors.  It could be on the market by 2020

 Doctor Giving Shot

New super vaccine could tackle 70% of lethal cancers and is better than 'wonder drug' Herceptin

A vaccine that could deal a serious blow to seven in ten lethal cancers has been developed by scientists.

In tests, it shrunk breast tumours by 80 per cent, and researchers believe it could also tackle prostate, pancreatic, bowel and ovarian cancers.  Even tumours that resist treatment with the best medicines on the market, including the ‘wonder drug’ Herceptin, may be susceptible to the vaccine

The experiments done so far have been on mice, but researchers hope to pilot  the drug on people within two years.

If all goes well, the vaccine – one of the first to combat cancer – could be on the market by 2020.
More than 300,000 cases of cancer are diagnosed in Britain each year and the disease kills around half this number annually.

Rather than attacking cancer cells, like many drugs, the new treatment harnesses the power of the immune system to fight tumours. The search for cancer vaccines has until now been hampered by fears that healthy tissue would be destroyed with tumours.

To get round this, researchers from the University of Georgia and the Mayo Clinic in the United States focused on a protein called MUC1 that is made in bigger amounts in cancerous cells than in healthy ones.  Not only is there more of it, but a sugar that it is ‘decorated’ with has a  distinctive shape.  The vaccine ‘trains’ the immune system to recognise the rogue sugar and turn its arsenal against the cancer.

‘It activates all three components of the immune system to reduce tumour size by an average of 80 per cent.’

The misshaped MUC1 sugar is found in 90 per cent of breast and pancreatic cancers and around 60 per cent of prostate cancers, as well as many other tumours.The researchers believe more than 70 per cent of all cancers that kill may be susceptible to the vaccine.  Despite their excitement, the work is still only at an early stage.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

A wonder of the universe every day of Advent

If you haven't already, check out the 2011 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar in the Atlantic.  A new photo every day manifesting the glories of the universe.

 Butterfuly Nebula

Butterfly Nebula, Dec 6

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:34 AM | Permalink

"Clinging as never before to the familiar in matters of style and culture"

Interesting article In Vanity Fair by Kurt Andersen who looks from fashion to housewares and asks Are We in a Decades Long Design Rut?

Since 1992, as the technological miracles and wonders have propagated and the political economy has transformed, the world has become radically and profoundly new. (And then there’s the miraculous drop in violent crime in the United States, by half.) Here is what’s odd: during these same 20 years, the appearance of the world (computers, TVs, telephones, and music players aside) has changed hardly at all, less than it did during any 20-year period for at least a century. The past is a foreign country, but the recent past—the 00s, the 90s, even a lot of the 80s—looks almost identical to the present. This is the First Great Paradox of Contemporary Cultural History.
Why is this happening? In some large measure, I think, it’s an unconscious collective reaction to all the profound nonstop newness we’re experiencing on the tech and geopolitical and economic fronts. People have a limited capacity to embrace flux and strangeness and dissatisfaction, and right now we’re maxed out. So as the Web and artificially intelligent smartphones and the rise of China and 9/11 and the winners-take-all American economy and the Great Recession disrupt and transform our lives and hopes and dreams, we are clinging as never before to the familiar in matters of style and culture.

It's true that everything new is happening in technology and economics whileclothes, fashion, music and movies are the same as they were 20 years ago.  Are you comforted by the same-old, same-old? 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 AM | Permalink

December 12, 2011

White Rainbow over North Pole

-White Rainbow

Rare white rainbow lights up the North Pole

This is the amazing moment a white rainbow streaks across the Arctic sky.

The rare phenomena, named a fog bow, was spotted by Sam Dobson during a recent expedition to the North Pole.  As their ice breaking ship cruised through the chilly waters, Sam clocked the arching rainbow but was stunned to see it was completely white.  He quickly grabbed his camera, and despite freezing temperatures, captured the unique sight.  The 51-year-old, from Russia, said:

'It was around midnight, but because of the time of year it was still fairly light.

'At first it just looked like a cloud, but as we got closer it was a solid rainbow, but white.

'We were so impressed with it we all got off onto a floating slab of ice to take a closer look.It is actually closer than it looks in the pictures.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2011

Bad Faith and Climate Fraud

Christopher Booker writes the scare over man-made global warming is not only the scientific scandal of our generation, but a suicidal flight from reality.

On one hand there is the utterly lamentable state of the science which underpins it all, illuminated yet again by “Climategate 2.0”, the latest release of emails between the leading scientists who for years have been at the heart of the warming scare (which I return to below). On the other hand, we see the damage done by the political consequences of this scare, which will directly impinge, in various ways, on all our lives.

While our Government remains trapped in its green dreamworld, similar horror stories pile up on every side, from that UBS report on the astronomically costly fiasco of the EU’s carbon-trading scheme, to our own Government’s “carbon floor price”, in effect a tax on CO2 emissions rising yearly from 2013. This alone will eventually be enough to double the cost of our electricity, and drive a further swathe of what remains of UK industry abroad, because we are the only country in the world to have devised something so idiotic.

The Latest Climategate Emails: BBC 'In Cahoots With Climategate Scientists'

... The emails – part of a trove of more than 5,200 messages that appear to have been stolen from computers at the University of East Anglia – shed light for the first time on an incestuous web of interlocking relationships between BBC journalists and the university’s scientists, which goes back more than a decade.

They show that University staff vetted BBC scripts, used their contacts at the Corporation to stop sceptics being interviewed and were consulted about how the broadcaster should alter its programme output.
But although there is now more scientific debate than ever about influences on climate other than CO2, prompted by the fact that the world has not warmed for 15 years, a report from the BBC Trust this year compared climate change sceptics to the conspiracy theorists who blame America for 9/11, and said Britain’s main sceptic think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, should be given no air time.

Booker really lets into the BBC for three separate betrayals

By making its coverage so flagrantly one-sided on the environment issue, it has betrayed its statutory duty to report on world events impartially.

Second, it has betrayed the basic principles of science by giving such unquestioning support to a theory which the evidence has increasingly called into doubt.

Above all, however, the BBC has betrayed the trust of its audience, by failing to give a fair and balanced picture.

A Climate of Fraud

The  latest release of 5,000 emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) reconfirms what the 2009’s “Climategate” files established: Global warming is more fiction than science.
None of this would matter outside the halls of academia except that this field’s activists have spent years lobbying governments to reorganize whole economies based on the sketchy results of their highly debatable models.
Collectively, the emails provide evidence of various crimes against the scientific method, such as concealed or destroyed source data, selective measurement, predetermined conclusions, hidden funding sources and bowing to government influence. They knew they were doing wrong and sought to hide the evidence.

In Daily Tech, Climatatologists trade tips on destroying evidence, evangelizing warming.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:35 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2011

Becoming a cyborg

Just in case you thought an artificial heart was as good as the real thing, Peter Houghton tells the truth about what it does to a person as a person,  The Cold Reality of an Artificial Heart 

Houghton is the first permanent lifetime recipient of a Jarvik 2000 left ventricular-assist device. Seven years ago, it took over for the heart he was born with. Since then, he has walked long distances, traveled internationally and kept a daunting work schedule.

At the same time, he reports, he's become more "coldhearted" and "less sympathetic in some ways."

He doesn't feel like he can connect with those close to him. He wishes he could bond with his twin grandsons, for example. "They're 8, and I don't want to be bothered to have a reasonable relationship with them and I don't know why," he says.

He can only feel enough to regret that he doesn't feel enough.

It's a fascinating read.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 AM | Permalink

Things Every 18-Year-Old Should Know but Doesn't

50 Things every 18-year-old should know.

18) Lefty loosey, righty tighty. Turn it to the left to loosen it and to the right to tighten it.

20) Here are 3 keys to keeping a reasonably clean house: don't leave any dishes in the sink overnight; every time you have a full load of clothes, wash 'em, and take out the trash every time the can is full. You do those things, wipe up your messes, and vacuum when the floor gets filthy, and you'll keep things reasonably neat.

48) You beat 50% of the people by just showing up. You beat another 40% by working hard. The last 10% is a dogfight in the free enterprise system.

And 40 more

6) Write an advance medical directive, a will, and plan for your funeral. Your family will be eternally grateful if something happens.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:05 AM | Permalink

December 3, 2011

“I don’t even let my kids out of the house”

Welcome to the Age of Overparenting How I learned to let my kids be kids.

IN THE ARLINGTON middle school cafeteria, Michael Thompson asks if anyone wants to share their sweetest memory from childhood. I raise my hand and tell the group how, when I was eight, my friends and I discovered a frozen pond way back in the woods. We raced home to get our ice skates and laced them up in the hollowed-out trunk of a towering tree. And then, accompanied only by the sounds of our voices, laughter, and the scratching of our blades, we skimmed the ice, unsupervised, for hours.

“Why,” Thompson asks me in front of all the parents, “is that memory so sweet?”

Without thinking, I say, “Because my parents didn’t know where I was.”  “

Your parents didn’t know where you were. So that experience was wholly your own,” he says.

Then: “Would you let your own children do that?”

“I don’t even let my kids out of the house,” I blurt.

Everyone laughs, including me. (I do let them out of the house, by the way.) It’s a funny line, but the truth is our kids have but a shred of the freedom we enjoyed growing up.


what calling up my sweetest memory made me realize is that while today’s middle- and upper-middle-class children have an unprecedented array of opportunities, their experiences are often manufactured by us. For them, ice skating takes the form of 30-minute lessons at a city rink. Playing with friends involves checking calendars and pre-set finish times. Nearly everything they do is orchestrated, if not by their parents, then by some other adult — a teacher, camp counselor, or coach. But their experiences aren’t very rich in the messier way — in those moments of unfettered abandon when part of the thrill is the risk of harm, hurt feelings, or struggle. In our attempt to manage and support every moment of our children’s lives, they become something that belongs to us, not them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:03 PM | Permalink

Death panels

Catching up on the news after almost three weeks away from the Internet, politics was less interesting than ever, but other stories were more shocking than ever.  In particular, this story about the brain surgeon who went to Washington to be briefed on how Obamacare would effect advanced neurosurgery for people over 70.

Full Transcript: Neurosurgeon Briefed by HHS Reveals Obamacare's Death Panels (Hint: Patients Are Called 'Units')

I just returned from Washington, DC, where we were reading over what the Obama health care plan would be for advanced neurosurgery for patients over 70, which we all found quite disturbing. As our population gets older, the majority of our patients are getting over 70. They'll require stroke therapy, aneurysm therapy, and basically what the document stated is that if you're over 70 and you come into an emergency room... if you're on government-supported health care, you'll get "comfort care".

ML: Wait a minute... what’s the source for this?

Jeff: This is Obama’s new health care plan for advanced neurosurgical care.

ML: And who issued this? HHS?

Jeff: Yes. And basically they don’t call them patients, they call them units. And instead of, they call it “ethics panels” or “ethics committees”, would get together and meet and decide where the money would go for hospitals, and basically for patients over 70 years of age, that advanced neurosurgical care was not generally indicated.

ML: So it’s generally going to be denied?

Jeff: Yes, absolutely... If someone comes in at 70 years of age with a bleed in their brain, I can promise you I’m not going to get a bunch of administrators together on an ethics panel at 2 in the morning to decide that I’m OK to do surgery.

ML: Is this published somewhere where the general public could get a hold of it?

Jeff: Not yet.

I assume that government-supported health care includes Medicare that everyone over 65 must join.
The conclusion I draw is that if you have a stroke and you're 70 or older, you're out of luck.

Over In the U.K., in the National Health Service, doctors are failing to inform up to half of families that their loved ones have been put on a scheme to help end their lives, the Royal College of Physicians has found.

In addition to the withdrawal of fluid and medication, patients can be placed on sedation until they pass away. This can mean they are not fed and provided with water and has led to accusations that it hastens death.

The Liverpool Care Pathway was intended for use in hospices but was given approval by the Department of Health in 2006 leading to widespread use in hospitals. Concerns about the pathway were raised first in The Daily Telegraph in 2009 when experts warned that in some cases patients have been put on the pathway only to recover when their families intervened, leading to questions over how people are judged to be in their “last hours and days”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:46 PM | Permalink

School Portrait

This is just wonderful.

School Portrait (2011) from Michael Berliner on Vimeo.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:00 PM | Permalink

Why the obsession with sex and death?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin in Captivated by Death

Entertainment was always obsessed with sex and death, but while sex is easy to depict and always titillating, waiting around for people to age and die is neither easy to depict nor titillating
Ironically, people reject the best avenue for grasping spiritual reality when they reject religious faith. They are making a choice to remain in the grip of materialism. This simply means that they experience little or nothing in their daily lives that is not constrained by the natural limitations of physical matter. They have chosen not to relate to anything they cannot see, touch, eat, or wear. Their life is, well, limited.

Thus their only glimpses into a transcendent eternity are the transforming moments into and out of physical life. Conception is the magical moment that brings matter into existence, and death is the moment that bids it farewell. People are captivated by sex and violence because their souls yearn for contact with the infinite.

Hollywood manufactures sex and violence, legitimately in my opinion, because that is what the market wants. People want it for the same reason that folks outside Seattle use instant coffee. It is what you do when you cannot obtain the real thing. The real thing is regular contact with the infinite through the wonderful world of religious faith.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 PM | Permalink

Old Age or low B12

Jane Brody says  It Could Be Old Age, or It Could Be Low B12

It is an important question. As we age, our ability to absorb B12 from food declines, and often so does our consumption of foods rich in this vitamin. A B12 deficiency can creep up without warning and cause a host of confusing symptoms that are likely to be misdiagnosed or ascribed to aging.
A severe B12 deficiency results in anemia, which can be picked up by an ordinary blood test. But the less dramatic symptoms of a B12 deficiency may include muscle weakness, fatigue, shakiness, unsteady gait, incontinence, low blood pressure, depression and other mood disorders, and cognitive problems like poor memory.
In its natural form, B12 is present in significant amounts only in animal foods, most prominently in liver (83 micrograms in a 3.5-ounce serving). Good food sources include other red meats, turkey, fish and shellfish. Lesser amounts of the vitamin are present in dairy products, eggs and chicken.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:20 PM | Permalink

The unknown health risks that are shutting down music in the EU

David Pryce-Jones reveals unknown health risks that is shutting down music in the EU

At which timely moment, the Daily Mail reports a special contribution of the Brussels bureaucracy: Musicians may no longer be allowed to play instruments whose strings are made of the traditional cow gut. The prohibition was apparently brought in a decade ago; there were dispensations, but these are not being renewed.

Oh, how they care for our well-being! They’ve spotted a health risk. Nobody has ever caught mad-cow disease from a stringed instrument, but you never know, they just might. Not long ago, these bureaucrats put a similar ban on organ pipes. Nobody in a thousand years has been ill from the lead content of organ pipes, but again they might have been. Never mind that we shall never be able to hear the music of Bach as he heard it.

Here's what the Daily Mail said:  Bach-ing mad: EU could ban orchestras from using cow gut for strings

They are lauded as some of  the greatest works of European culture.

But even compositions by the likes of Bach, Vivaldi and Purcell aren’t safe from the Brussels busybodies.

Performers warn it may soon be impossible to play such music as the composers intended it to be heard because of EU rules restricting the manufacture of traditional cow gut instrument strings.
Campaigners say that to catch mad cow disease, or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, from strings from an infected animal, you would need to swallow several yards of them.

Carolyn Clarke, of manufacturer Bow Brand, of King’s Lynn, Norfolk, said: ‘The gut is bleached and varnished in string making so it poses no risk to humans.

‘And why would anyone chew on a harp string?’  

Violinist Viktoria Mullova, who has a 1750 Guadagnini violin with gut strings, said banning such strings ‘would be like telling pop stars they couldn’t use microphones’.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:16 PM | Permalink

" If Christianity goes, the lot goes"

Peter Mullen brings a sigh of relief after learning that the calvary in the form of the US Federal Reserve rode to the rescue of the European financial institutions, but not for long.

If Christianity goes, so does Europe

Whatever the future holds, we need to understand that the economic collapse is not the main crisis which engulfs Europe. More significantly, we see the EU developing into the ever-tighter totalitarianism which was envisaged from its inception. The founding fathers of the EU never foresaw a democratic union.
But this creeping totalitarianism is not the root of our problem. Our crisis is a spiritual crisis, a crisis of identity.
all references to Europe’s Christian character have been expunged by the EU bureaucrats. Europe is now officially secular.  Pope Benedict XVI identified our real crisis with terrifying clarity:

“The EU is godless. But then it is unthinkable that the EU could build a common European house while ignoring Europe’s identity. Europe is a historical, cultural and moral identity before it is a geographic, economic or political reality. It is an identity built on a set of values which Christianity played a part in moulding.”
The mistake of the secularists and the bien pensants who now control every aspect of our lives is to imagine that we can throw off our Christian identity and yet all the political liberties and other good social consequences we derive from that identity will remain in place.

They won’t and already they haven’t. If Christianity goes, the lot goes.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink