September 9, 2013

Some good advice for college students

Walter Russell Mead gives some good advice for those college students heading Back to School

1.  The real world does not work like school.
Life in school is life in bureaucracy.  You follow the rules, do what you are told, and rewards follow.
….  You have to fight the tendency of the educational system to turn you into a timeserving baby bureaucrat, following the rules and waiting for the inevitable promotion.  As you go through college, think about ways you can fight the pressures of institutionalization.  Work or volunteer — not just for money, but to keep your hand in the real world.  Live off campus.  Start a business.  Shake things up.

2.  Most of your elders know very little about the world into which you are headed.
  In the old days, you got the right degree from the right school, got a job with a good employer and rose steadily through the ranks through a long and increasingly distinguished career.  At the end you had a safe pension.
Almost certainly, this is not going to happen to you.  At times, your career is going to feel like Eliza’s run for freedom across the half-frozen Ohio river — jumping from ice floe to ice floe with the hounds of hell behind you.  It won’t be all bad; there are rewards to this kind of life as well as risks, but you are going to need a different outlook on life and a different set of skills to cope.

3.  You are going to have to work much, much harder than you probably expect.
I’m sorry to bring you bad news, but your generation faces the toughest competition any American generation has ever known.
Your competition isn’t sitting in the next library carrel.  Your competition is in China and India – and your competition isn’t hanging out at frat parties or sitting around watching sitcoms with dorm-mates.  It isn’t getting stoned and it isn’t putting its energy into chasing the opposite (or apposite) sex.  Your competition isn’t taking lots of courses on gender studies; it isn’t majoring in ethnic studies, or (unless it is planning to go into movie making) the history of film.
Your competition is working hard, damned hard, and is deadly serious about learning.  There’s nothing written in the stars that guarantees Americans a higher standard of living than other people.  Those of you who spend your college years goofing off in the traditional American way are going to pay a much higher price for this than you think….

4. Choosing the right courses is more important than choosing the right college.
Your generation is going to have to scramble and you need every edge you can get.  Your generation can’t afford to throw these four years away; choose your courses carefully and seriously. Everybody has different needs; aspiring movie makers and aspiring physicists aren’t going to take all that many classes together, but there are some basic concepts that make sense….

5.  Get a traditional liberal education; it is the only thing that will do you any good.
In times of rapid change, it is paradoxically more useful to immerse yourself in the basics and the classics than to try to keep up with the latest developments and hottest trends.  You can be almost 100% sure that the hot theories making waves in academia today will be forgotten or superseded in twenty years — but fifty years from now people will still be reading and thinking about the classic texts that have shaped our world.  Use your college years to ground yourself in the basic great books and key ideas and values that will last.

For the same reason, don’t worry too much about getting specific skills at this stage.  You are going to keep learning new skills all your life and you are going to find many of your skills obsolete as time goes on (when I was a kid I was very good at operating something called a mimeograph machine).  What you want to do now is to develop your ability to learn…..First, getting a liberal education means you have to achieve literacy in math and at least in one science – and come to grips with the scientific method.  ……Second, study the basic ideas, debates, books, people and events of the western world – with special attention to the Anglo-American subset of the western tradition.  You can’t understand other people’s cultures and traditions until you understand the one that surrounds you.  Art, literature and music are part of this.  Don’t neglect them.
Third, study the United States: its history, regions, culture, politics, literature and economy.  You would be surprised how many highly educated people have never seriously studied (or traveled much in) their own country.  Don’t make that mistake – and study the parts of the US you don’t know.

Fourth, study at least one language and at least one culture that is alien to you.  Pick a language that opens the door to a big world: Mandarin, Hindi, Arabic, German, the Romance languages (if you get really good in one of these last you will have a surprisingly easy time dealing with others).  …

Fifth, learn to write well.  This paradoxically is going to be more important than ever for the next generation.  I can’t tell you how many editors at how many famous magazines have told me over the years that most professors and academics simply cannot write, and bemoan the immense amount of time they must devote to impose some kind of intellectual structure and comprehensible prose on the crabbed drafts they get from, often, fairly well known people.

Finally, unless you are following up on an interest that is already a deep and passionate one, try to take courses taught by great teachers.  The main purpose of an undergraduate education isn’t to polish up your knowledge and finish your learning.  It is to launch you on a lifetime quest for wisdom and understanding.  You want professors who can help you fall in love with new subjects, new ideas, new ways of investigating the world.  The courses that end up mattering the most to you will be the ones that start you on a lifetime of reading and reflection.

6.  Character counts; so do good habits.
One of the weaknesses in contemporary college education is that many teachers and administrators don’t think enough about the need that students have for moral education: reflection on right and wrong, the development of good habits that make good decisions easier to make and easier to stick with, a healthy spiritual grounding that can see you through the storms of life, and the kind of self knowledge that can only come from a life of serious moral engagement and thoughtful reflection.

Character and spiritual grounding are going to count much more in the tumultuous, uncertain environment that is approaching than in the more stable and bureaucratic world of the past.  ……There may be chaplains at your school who can help you with this side of life.  There may be courses on personal ethics; there may be faculty who you feel have something to teach as mentors and role models.  There are other students who have qualities that you wish you had — and there are student groups who read, pray, meditate and act together to help their members grow.  Seek out the people, the communities, the experiences that can help you grow.  College should be a time of spiritual as well as intellectual and career development and growth and you will be missing an essential element of your education if you do not engage with the world of faith and religion during your college years.

7.  Relax.
If you take this advice, you may still come out of school with too much debt — and the fields that interest you may be hard to break into, and the financial rewards less than you may have expected.  But you will be able to cope: you will have the education, the habits and the character traits that will enable to you find new opportunities and new careers even as old ones fade away.  And whatever happens to your bank account, your journey through life will be a rich and rewarding one if you come out of college with a good liberal education and a lifelong love of learning.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

September 5, 2013

Health Roundup: Missing Link that triggers Alzheimer's found, Greek diet, testosterone, sleep deprivation, well-dressed women

Scientists discover the 'missing link' that triggers Alzheimer’s - and hope findings could lead to drugs that restore memory

Researchers have discovered a protein that they claim is the missing link to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
They found that blocking this protein with an existing drug can restore memory in mice with brain damage that mimics the disease.
The findings could offer hope of developing drugs to slow the degenerative illness.

'What is very exciting is that of all the links in this molecular chain, this is the protein that may be most easily targeted by drugs,' said the study’s senior author Stephen Strittmatter at Yale School of Medicine. The study offers hope of developing drugs to slow the degenerative illness

'This gives us strong hope that we can find a drug that will work to lessen the burden of Alzheimer’s.'

Eat like the Greeks to stay sharp in old age: Mediterranean diet found to lower risk of developing dementia

Eating a Mediterranean diet is good for the mind, research has concluded.  Scientists say people who eat large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish and olive oil have a lower risk of age-related diseases such as dementia.

The research, by the University of Exeter’s Medical School, is the first systematic review of previous studies into the diet’s benefits to the brain. It comes after research last month showed the same diet could help counteract a genetic risk of strokes.  The team, supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care in the South West Peninsula, analyzed 12 eligible pieces of research, 11 observational studies and one randomized control trial.

In nine of the 12 studies, a higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with better cognitive function, lower rates of cognitive decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

How 'misleading' food labels are 'worsening the obesity crisis'

Fat-free yogurt may cause greater weight gain that the full-fat kind, according to researchers behind a new $40million dollar nutrition project.  Gary Taubes and Dr Peter Attia of Nutrition Science Initiative, contend that the sugars and additives added to replace missing fats, drive insulin resistance - an underlying cause of obesity.  They say this trend applies to all low-fat food options, from breakfast cereals to salad dressings, which many people 'wrongly' assume are healthier than the 'classic' versions.

Daily dose of testosterone wards off dementia in women

New research shows women who rubbed testosterone gel on their skin every day for six months performed better in brain function tests than those who were given a dummy gel.  Researchers tested the treatment on a group of 96 healthy post-menopausal women.  The hormone group performed significantly better at verbal learning, where they listened to dozens of different words and had to recall as many as they could.  They also scored higher in tests designed to assess the efficiency of their short-term memory.  Boosting brain function is thought to be one of the most effective ways of warding off dementia, as it helps strengthen connections between brain cells.

Why you really SHOULD get your beauty sleep: Sleep deprived people 'look sad, unhealthy and unattractive'

Thousands of 'well-dressed' women dying from strokes as doctors think they look healthy

Cardiologists said too many doctors are missing crucial signs of heart problems in women because many of those at risk were well-groomed and looked healthy.  The study of more than 15,000 people found that female patients were half as likely as men to be treated for one of the leading causes of heart problems.

Researchers said that GPs and specialists were slow to diagnose the most common form of abnormal cardiac rhythm in women, increasing their risk of stroke and death.  Dr Pierre Sabouret, lead researcher and cardiologist from Heart Institute-Pitie Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, said he believed many doctors did not realize how common the condition was among women, and failed to carry out tests to establish the likelihood of a problem.  He said: "I think doctors - GPs and cardiologists - often do not realize the risk for women. Too often they will think if a female patient looks healthy, and dresses smartly, and looks after herself, she is probably okay."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

September 4, 2013

When sunlight filters through the trees, call it 'komorebi'

11 Untranslatable Words From Other Cultures

Japanese: Komorebi

This is the word the Japanese have for when sunlight filters through the trees - the interplay between the light and the leaves.

 Japanese Korembi
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:10 PM | Permalink

He claims no miracle

19-year-old boy beats stage-four cancer after being blessed by pope during Make-A-Wish trip to Rome

 Pope Blesses Peter Srsich-1

When Make-A-Wish Foundation approached Peter Srsich, a stage-four cancer patient, the 17-year-old boy had an unusual request: he wanted to meet the pope.  Two years later, the Colorado teen is in remission - and he has credited his encounter with the Benedict XVI with helping him beat the cancer.

Srsich, a devout Catholic who is now studying for priesthood, knows that his cancer was cured thanks to decades of medical research and his doctors' extensive training - but he believes that meeting the pontiff in Rome has restored his faith and gave him strength to fight for his life.

For Peter, the harrowing ordeal started in 2011 with a simple cough. When the lanky 6-foot-6 lacrosse player returned from a canoe trip in July of that year, he felt overwhelmed with the kind of fatigue that he had never experienced before, ABC News reported.

The family suspected that the boy came down with pneumonia, but the reality was much more terrifying: doctors discovered a softball-sized mass in his left lung that was pressing on his heart. The tumor was diagnosed as a stage-four cancer.

Luckily for Peter, he was young, strong and very athletic, giving him a good chance for survival.What followed was six months of grueling cancer treatment, which included seven rounds of chemotherapy that left the teenager completely bald.

Srsich's diagnosis and treatment had another impact on the boy: it plunged him into depression and made him question why all this was happening to him.
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Finally, his turn was up to meet the pope. Towering over the diminutive pontiff, Peter told him that he had cancer and asked him for a blessing. And then something unexpected happened.

‘He looked at me and said, “Oh, you speak English?” and put his hand on my chest right where the tumor had been, even though I had not mentioned it to him,’ Peter recalled. ‘The blessing is usually on the head.’
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‘Chemo helped me fight the cancer. Make-A-Wish helped me fight the chemo,’ he told ABC. ‘Knowing the pope was in my future helped me get through that, and in a small, non-miraculous way, helped cure my cancer.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:08 AM | Permalink

Astonishing story of a man who survived slavery, imprisonment, amputation and 30 years of exile who returned to Sudan to help his people

After a wonderful vacation - almost internet free, I'm back to posting, starting with this astonishing story. 

"Still, God Helps You"  by Melissa Pritchard

Snatched from a marketplace in Sudan and sold into slavery at the age of six, William Mawwin became one of millions of people in the world enduring some form of involuntary servitude. This is his extraordinary story.
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I wore black every day to show I was dead but still walking around. I started dressing like this in Africa, after I got out of captivity. Wearing white meant a peaceful day, a better day for me. If I wore black and white, mixed, that meant anything could happen, good or bad. I dressed almost always in black, until the day I became a father.

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Today, more human beings suffer enslavement than during the three and a half centuries of the transatlantic slave trade. The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency focused on labor rights, recently—and some would say conservatively—raised its worldwide estimate of the number of slaves from 12 million to nearly 21 million human beings, individuals unable to escape conditions of forced labor, bonded labor, slavery, and trafficking. Africa and the Asia-Pacific region together account for the largest number, close to 15 million people, but slavery is epidemic around the world and increasing.

In Sudan, slavery is not a new phenomenon. Intertribal slave raids, Sudanese Arabs enslaving southern tribal peoples for personal use and export, and the lucrative 19th-century European slave trade all played tragic parts in Sudanese history. But in the 20th century, during Sudan’s two scarcely interrupted civil wars, slave raids by northern Arab militia became an especially brutal strategy of the north. Murahaleen, white-robed Arabs armed with Kalashnikovs, swept down from the north on horseback, raiding and burning Dinka and Nuer villages, seizing thousands of women and children, decimating southern Sudanese tribes defenseless against modern weaponry and government-supported rape, slavery, and genocide.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 AM | Permalink