Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Peggy Noonan on Political and Social Katrina Ramifications

Read it all here. Here's the bit on looters. May they rot in hell.

There seems to be some confusion in terms of terminology on TV. People with no food and water who are walking into supermarkets and taking food and water off the shelves are not criminal, they are sane. They are not looters, they are people who are attempting to survive; they are taking the basics of survival off shelves in stores where there isn't even anyone at the cash register.

Looters are not looking to survive; they're looking to take advantage of the weakness of others. They are predators. They're taking not what they need but what they want. They are breaking into stores in New Orleans and elsewhere and stealing flat screen TVs and jewelry, guns and CD players. They are breaking into homes and taking what those who have fled trustingly left behind. In Biloxi, Miss., looters went from shop to shop. "People are just casually walking in and filling up garbage bags and walking off like they're Santa Claus," the owner of a Super 8 Motel told the London Times. On CNN, producer Kim Siegel reported in the middle of the afternoon from Canal Street in New Orleans that looters were taking "everything they can."

If this part of the story grows--if cities on the gulf come to seem like some combination of Dodge and the Barbarian invasion--it's going to be bad for our country. One of the things that keeps us together, and that lets this great lumbering nation move forward each day, is the sense that we will be decent and brave in times of crisis, that the fabric holds, that under duress it is American heroism and altruism that take hold and not base instincts born of irresponsibility, immaturity and greed.

We had a bad time in the 1960s, and in the New York blackout in the '70s, and in the Los Angeles riots in the '90s. But the whole story of our last national crisis, 9/11, was courage--among the passersby, among the firemen, among those who walked down there stairs slowly to help a less able colleague, among those who fought their way past the flames in the Pentagon to get people out. And it gave us quite a sense of who we are as a people. It gave us a lot of renewed pride.

If New Orleans damages that sense, it's going to be painful to face. It's going to be damaging to the national spirit. More damaging even than a hurricane, even than the worst in decades.

Storm After the Storm

Read David Brook's view here.

Bush Can't Win For Losin'

Oy. Rather than focus on the people on rooftops, babies being flown from hospitals, AP reporter Ron Fournier decides to contemplate his navel "Bush Has Own Challenge In Katrina": Will the hurricane help or hurt Bush? Did he react quick enough? Is his quick reaction ("returning from his extended vacation in Crawford" blah, blah, blah) just pandering?

No one cares about the answers to these questions but Washington insiders. Everyone else is pitching in and helping or busy.

Excusing Looting

An excuse for looting already? Come on. Taking food and water from a store is one thing, but the only reason to take jewelry, TVs and football jerseys, or stuff from people's homes is because you are a scum-bag thief capitalizing on someone else's misfortune. But mush-minded Reuter's author Paul Simao thinks otherwise:
Resentment at being left behind in the path of one of the fiercest hurricanes on record may have contributed to some of the looting that occurred in Biloxi and other coastal communities.
A number of private residences, including some in upscale neighborhoods, were targeted, residents said.

Katrina: What's Going On In Slidell

If you're interested in updates on Slidell, LA. (Know people from the area) Look here.

What Can We Do for Katrina Victims?

Dr. Steve and I will be holding a fundraiser next Friday, September 9 all day at our offices. I'll provide a link and more information as we put it together. Basically for a donation (we're working on a suggested one), we will treat all new patients for free and donate the entire amount to The American Red Cross. We will be making our own donation as well.

Living in Houston, we have ample opportunities to serve the many, many people who have lost everything. The Astrodome will be full of traumatized people so we are working on gathering fellow N.E.T. practitioners to go to the Dome and help those with PTSD (post-traumatic Stress Disorder). I'll keep you updated about that, too.

Finally, in response to the request by Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, I'm posting this link to the American Red Cross. There is going to be huge fund-raising effort in the Blogosphere tomorrow, Thursday. According to our Houston mayor, they will be organizing food and supplies for the people in the Dome and other people needing emergency care. Right now the Mayor is worried beause they are planning for 25,000 at the Astrodome but hundres of people are already pooring in. I suspect that thousand more will need help. Long-term housing must be a first priority. The Dome is a stop-gap measure at best.

Here are some links to what is being done now.

Texas Baptist Men and Red Cross here.
Houston Jewish Federation here.
Astrodome Shelter here.

A NOTE: I am a bit alarmed by the many companies who so willingly gave to the Asian Tsunami effort and seem to think that the Destruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast will "work out". Over a million people are homeless. The predicted epidemics in Asia never happened in large part because a Tsumai pulls salt-water out as fast it flows in. The sitting water in New Orleans and around the area though, will breed mosquitos which will result in cholera, dysentery, and other nastiness. Thousands of dead are floating in N.O. More rain will come. This will get worse before it gets better. I hope the companies will step up and help their fellow Americans--we know we won't be getting help from France anytime soon.

Workplace Innovation: Flexibility

An Human Resources Executive recently called me rather panicked. Her bosses wanted the "next new big thing" in HR, Employee Development and Training. She called the Center for Creative Leadership in Colorado. They told her that (and this is a paraphrase quoting King Solomon) "there is nothing new under the sun". I told her the same thing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

Most business innovation focuses on creativity and improving design right now, I told her. With the I-Pod revealing technology that is at once useful and beautiful more companies (FINALLY!) see the reason to design for the senses. Does it feel good? Smell good? Sound good? Look pleasing? Is it easy to use? Is it beautiful enough that I can display it? (Flat screen TVs look like pieces of art and it's no longer gauche to display them.)

Passing fads include the intense focus on streamlining processes (think Six Sigma). It has cycled through and now people are looking at the data. It's ho hum. No one argues that perfection shouldn't be the goal of manufacturing. Removing defects is a no-brainer. And being rigorous about measuring progress is now essentially standard.

Another business innovation, supply chain management, has been integrated into daily business living. If it hasn't, the sad comopany won't last long. Continued pressure remains on supply chain. As raw materials (especially oil these days) pricing pressure increases, making sure that the product travels the most efficiently will be paramount.

In the HR world, there is the Q12 from the Gallup Organization. By all accounts this is still going gangbusters. But what will unhinge this innovation like so many others, is executive row's unwillingness to stick with it and follow through. Like my HR friend, they want "the next big thing". The Q12 grassroots feedback system is not something that will reap rewards if you try and then leave behind. Learning how everyone feels is the first step, changing the environment is the second. The second is not as much fun because that's when the real work begins. Q12 will fade not because it doesn't work, but because it forces responsibility on lazy leaders. A caveat here though: A LOT of money will be spent so everyone feels better. (What percentage of people actually manage their time? Probably the same percentage of people who give a rats behind about how the "little people" feel.)

Another trend, the 360 degree feedback system, will continue, but that doesn't mean anyone will believe the results. Again, 360 degree feedback can be very good--if done well. The problem? It's rarely handled well. Employees deep-six co-workers. Bosses use it to brow-beat underlings. Confidentiality is breeched. The whole feedback process is fraught.

But I was ultimately wrong to say there isn't a trend afoot in the HR world. There is. And some companies will rebel to their own destruction. Other companies will embrace change and thrive.

People laughed at the Dot.commers penchant for the dramatic and indulgent. Stocked kitchens? Pah! Animals in the aisles? Tee Hee Hee. Yoga for the stressed? Puhleeeze. These diversions were seen as monitary black holes with no purpose other than to make the young-buck founder feel good about working his people to death on their mission to change the world.

Just like bloggers have upset the MSM (mainstream media), the dot.commers and their "crazy" business models will have the last laugh because their forward-thinking WILL CHANGE the way the old companies have operated--or else.

While the old companies struggle with equally old unions, younger companies work to keep people through offering benefits people really want. For the Baby Boomers, the last two business cycle downturns were unwelcomed wake-up calls. Used to being taken care of by GM, Ford, Chrysler, the government (if employed by them), School Systems, Kroger, etc being let go after years of dedication to "the company" was a shock. Their expectation is not flexibility--their lives were their jobs. Their expectation was predictability and reliability. The men came off the farms, came back from Vietnam or Woodstock, put on their blue suits, white shirts and ties and left their families behind to serve the corporate beast.

The next generation was not shaped by the same environment. The Gen X-ers were raised by a mom who stayed home (mostly), their dad was away doing vaguely important stuff. A seed of change was planted when Ronald Reagen fired the Air Traffic Controllers in the 80s. The crack in "group think" started. A paradigm shifted--especially for the children, like me, of this time.

Moms encouraged their daughters to get educated too and not just settle for the MRS. degree. They might have missed Betty Friedan for themselves, but they sung the message to their daughters. A lady of her generation who went to college often (and with lots of cultural support) dropped out to start a family while her hubby went to work. The economy was so good, in fact, that job recruiters were pulling men out of their junior years because the work force was growing.

For those who think this generation is all about immediate gratification, consider that my parents at the ages of 19 and 23 got married, bought a house, had a job, bought a car, bought furniture and had their first child in ONE YEAR. They were not alone.

But this has changed. Women today stay in college in greater numbers than men. Divorce leaves over 50% of children being raised by one parent--mostly women. Many men who stay married (not all) view their wives as partners and help more (though do much less than women even still and even if the woman works full time) with house work and child rearing.

Some Boomer men, view this trend as a "feminizing" of men. Perhaps. But I think it is simply a reaction by these men to try and NOT be absent like their fathers were. The caring fathers seem determined to maintain a relationship with their children throughout their growing and developing years. These fathers attend school orientations DURING THE DAY. That means they must leave work to do it--and their wives do to.

If there is a Human Resources trend it's this: Companies must (MUST!!!) take this reality into account or they will suffer serious brain-drain. The best workers will not sit around work for hours on end and sacrifice their familiies and their health at the feet of a clumsy business model.

Gen X-ers value work-life balance and will take less money to have more flexibility. They want efficiency in their job. What do I mean? Days of meetings won't satisfy if the results could be achieved with a teleconference from home. That does not mean they will work less. No, more likely they'll leave at four or five, get home, spend time with the kids and their activities and power back up around 8 p.m.--if they are at the executive level.

Is it more convenient for the higher ups to have people in the office from 7 to 7 so there can be face-to-face meetings? Sure, for THE BOSS. But it irritates the hell out of employees because it is wasteful and unneccesary.

The problem comes back to an old stand-by: leadership. Many are playing catch-up instead of planning and that results in the you-know-what rolling down hill. Managers need to have very specific about the production they need from their employees. Too few are. While some employees like to know what needs to be done and they'll do it, others like to know the details and will do it. But as long as the job is done well, on time and meets or exceed expectations, why does it matter where or when?

If pressure-cooker times are part of the job, then make an effort to counter-balance that time with relaxation. A yoga class is nice addition. And the company ultimately benefits. With all the harumphing about health care costs, businesses (MANAGERS) do prescious little to create a productive and healthy environment. Burning the candle at both ends is encouraged and exploited. Coffee and donuts are the business meeting snack. Outrageous, divisive, lazy employees should be shown the door, so the good ones can get down to business.

So, there is a new trend in HR but it really isn't fancy: Help employees live the life they want and they will pay back the corporation in devotion and production. The best and brightest want IT ALL and that includes a life. Give them permission to have it and you will have loyalty that will nicely pad your bottom line.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Gulf Coast Suffers

Years past Hurricane Andrew, acres of land where homes once were south of Miami lay desolate. All day today, I've been thinking and thinking, "How will the Gulf Coast recover?" Is it even possible? I don't see how.

Pensacola is still not right a year later. Parts of Houston destroyed by Tropical Storm Allison still sit empty--abandoned homes, abandoned lives.

Will New Orleans just become a small tourist area focused in the French Quarter? Will the businesses move out rather than rebuild on such dangerous ground?

The papers and news stories share braggadocious assertions that "it may take years but we'll come back." I'm not so sure. There will be many reasons to leave New Orleans. With everything destroyed and decimated, it will be difficult to find reasons to stay.

Drudge has awesome links. So does Instapundit--especially if you want to donate to relief efforts. I was going to make a list of donation links myself. No need. Just go there.

A Perilous Journey from Sex to Baby

Last night, I posted some links to an article in the NY Times and the resulting blogs debating the "perilous journey from delivery room to bedroom". Many men, most who are afraid to say so, no longer find their wive's attractive after seeing her nether region used for its other great purpose. Knowing is one thing, seeing? now that's another matter entirely. This topic is near and dear to my heart and my [ahem].
Like the one blogger stated, in America, husbands weren't privy to the triumphs and perils of the birthing room until Dr. Bradley invited them in the 70s. Only the modern male doctor got to control the process that was once was the domain of women: Birthing used to be done by women, with women and the whole process was totally, completely 100% about women. The rule was empahtic: NO MEN (even male doctors, horrors!) ALLOWED.

Back in the day, women expected their bodies would do the work of birthing. It wasn't a question of if she could, but when she would. The child-birth process, like a male of the group going on his first hunt or going to war, was a rite of passage into the exclusive club of motherhood. Sheila Kitzinger has lots to say about this being a social anthropologist. That is not to say birthing was some sing-songy tra-la-la experience with no pain, no discomfort and no problems. Birthing can be messy business by it's very nature. Without the difficulty it would never have taken on such mythic status with women or men in the advisor-to-birthing-woman role. Yet, for much of history woman, as mid-wives, helped women give birth.

And then the men came.

First they came as voyeurs. This produced the "lithotomy" position--aka the flat-on-your-back-so-it-is-easier for-the-doctor(or king which is how it started)-to-see what is going on position, but nearly impossible for a woman to effectively push position.

Then they came as "helpers". And as all women and men know, a man is not a helper unless he has a really good tool. In this case it was called forceps. Back in the 1600s, when more women had disproportionate pelvises due to malnutrition, forceps could be a life-saver. But the two men who created this birth aid failed to share it with the midwives who assisted births back then nor did they share it with their fellow doctors. It was a secret that was revealed to upper-middle class women at the right time. Eventually, another doctor discovered and perfected this tool--yes, that doctor, too was a man.

Then the venue of the birth changed from the home (the woman's domain) to the hospital. Men, being men, decided it was inconvenient to go to a woman's house to help her birth. No, it would be "better" (easier for me) if she came to a hospital. This is what happened: Puerperal Fever.

In his famous essay on Puerperal Fever published in 1842 Holmes emphasized that a physician attending a midwifery case should not take an active part in an autopsy on a patient dead of puerperal fever, erysipelas, or even peritonitis. He noted that if one case of puerperal fever arises in a physician's practice there is an increased risk of a second, two cases suggest that the physician should do no obstetrics for at least a month, and three prima facie evidence that he is the source of the contagion. The time has come when the existence of a private pestilence in the sphere of a single physician should be looked upon not as a misfortune, but as a crime.

Controversy was extensive, but change began to occur. The conclusive evidence was provided by Ignaz Philip Semmelweiss (1818-1862) who qualified in Vienna in 1844, and became assistant at the Vienna Lying In Hospital soon after. At that time unmarried Viennese mothers were admitted at the sixth or seventh month of pregnancy, and discharged to the Foundling Hospital. Survivors became wards of the state, the males in due course cannon fodder for the Emperor's army.

Semmelweiss with the backing of the great morbid anatomist Rokitansky began to do autopsies on women with puerperal fever and noted that a high death rate from this disease was found only in First Clinic wards attended by students, and not in Second Clinic wards attended by midwives. Women begged to go to the latter. There were various suggestions as to cause--overcrowding, unwed maternity, but Semmelweiss showed that these were more common in Second Clinic. When his colleague Kolletschka died of a dissecting wound, Semmelweiss saw the parallel, and came to the right conclusion. He instructed his students to scrub their hands in chloride of lime before having any contact with the patient. The death-rate fell: 1846--11.4%; 1847--3.8%; 1848--1.27% cf 1.33% in Second Clinic.

Semmelweiss wrote: Puerperal fever is caused by conveyance to the pregnant woman of putrid particles derived from living organisms, through the agency of the examining fingers....... Consequently must I make my confession that God only knows the number of women whom I have consigned prematurely to the grave.

Besides death, along with the hospital came medicine. Women were knocked out and drugged up, gave birth and when they woke up, presented a baby. Was it hers? She didn't know. The woman had to trust the doctor that it was her child. To say she was removed from the process was an understatement. Many women found out after all this trauma, that the "baby didn't make it". But how could she be sure? She was not allowed to see the baby.

Now, to some women, the "knocked out" part was great news. Yippee! I feel no pain. I wake up and bingo! There's a baby.

Yet to other women, the whole process added up to legalized assault. The best part? As long as the baby and mother were "healthy" (a loose term because the woman was usually shaved, catheterized, given a deep episiotomy so the forceps could be used and bruised from doctors and nurses trying to push the uterus back into shape). So what if these interventions left the woman scarred, incontinent, shaken and upset and unable to enjoy sexual intercourse again?

Birth morphed from a naturally occurring proccess to a "controlled procedure". Anyone who has given birth knows that it is an uncontrolled phenomenon. In fact, when the woman feels like she is going to "loose it", around full dialation, is usually when she in fact will loose it--the baby will be born soon.

The medical establishment, being men almost entirely until this generation, sought to "help"--remove pain, keep the woman quiet and get the baby out by any means possible and quickly using scissors and knives and forceps and needles and other equipment to measure and monitor. In fact, a typical Labor and Delivery unit differs little from a good Car Dealership service shop. Sterile and white, machines whirring and everything lined up nice and neat, with tools at the ready so the broken vehicle can be fixed.

On this backdrop, Dr. Bradley invited husbands into the delivery room to "coach" their wives. Again, a woman had no clue what to do. Why she was a delicate little flower too weak and feeble to know how to do this work--she needed a Coach!

The absurdity of this situation becomes apparent daily, even thirty years later after the "coaching" movement. A man doesn't own the parts, he doesn't know what he's talking about, he is processing his own emotions about the whole thing, and if he loves the woman, he's overwhelmed with fear watching his beloved do the necessary suffering that goes with birthing. And he is supposed to Coach her? Guess what the coaching consists of, "Doctorrrrrrrrrrr, she needs drugs NOWWWW!!!!"

He has never seen her yell and scream like this. He has never seen her grunt and moan like this. He has never seen her this primal. He is FREAKED OUT! She was so classy, demure, pulled-together, sexy, confident, fill-in-the-blank. She was not what she is when she is laboring and birthing.

And then he sees the head crown. Holy !%*@! "I will never have sex with her again," he solemnly swears to himself.

All the videos, education and breathing classes fly out the window during the harrowing birth process. With the propaganda around today, both the woman and man enter the hospital with just enough knowledge to be dangerous and enough romance to fill a busty novel. We'll have candles, soft music, an epidural and poof! the baby will come. He will be her knight in shining armor (nevermind that he's an insensitive, selfish knob the rest of the time) and she will be the personification of dignified beauty making birth look elegant (nevermind she squeals at a bug skittering across the floor). She expects him to say the exact right things, be in the exact right place, meet her subtle needs at the exact right time. He expects her to follow his lead and accept his protective advice.

And we wonder why the whole process can be infused with regret, disappointment and anger?

Let's face it, in this system, both men and women are put in an impossible situation. During one of the most physically and emotionally difficult times, both partners must perform at levels they rarely achieve on days when the stars align and perfection reigns. Neither one knows what will happen during birth. Neither one knows if he or she can handle it.

But who does know? Another woman knows, that's who. She knows that unless some rare crisis occurs, the woman can do it. She knows that if the woman gets up and moves the contractions will come faster and the baby will come faster. A woman knows that women are much stronger than they are socialized to believe they are. A woman's opinion carries weight because she owns the parts, she's been there.

No woman should every give birth without another woman. Period. Whether a midwife, doula, mother, sister, friend, a woman NEEDS a woman during this time.

The woman who mid-wives with the birthing mother (mid-wife means "with woman"), doesn't interfere. She instills. She meets the woman's eyes. Her presence is a comfort because if the mid-wife (or mom or sister or friend or doula) did it, so can I.

And here is another thing a woman helper can do for the birthing mother: She can help the husband. She can direct him to hold his wife in a way that helps her. She can tell him to go get water for his wife because she's thirsty. He can use his strength to rub her shoulders. In short, the woman helper helps the man become USEFUL. Rather than an appendage, he is part of his wife's journey to motherhood.

Even more important, if the husband realizes, as some do at the end of this ordeal, "Hey, I am not cut out for this. I don't want to see it." The birthing mother won't be left alone. She still has support. She is still emotionally cared for.

Societally, birth is so medicalized and removed from everyday living, that both men and women have distorted expectations. Men no longer farm and birth calves. If they did that messy business, being with their wife wouldn't be such a big deal. Instead, the woman's vagina exists for one purpose: to give him sexual pleasure. Seeing the birth is a gory side-effect he never wanted to know about. He's not desensitized to the process because he's seen it over and over. No, her private parts are just that--secret places to be enjoyed in the dark and should be kept that way.

Same way with breastfeeding. Ack! Breasts are for fun not for food! I know men who refused to have their wives breastfeed for a variety of nefarious reasons: her boobs will get droopy, I'm jealous because she spends more time with the baby than me, I'm jealous because it is something only she can do.

In fact, being pregnant and giving birth is the MOST FEMINIST ACT. A man simply cannot do it. I believe this helplessness, this outsider status, plays on the secret insecurities of many men which may in part explain why a woman is much more likely to be abused when pregnant by her spouse.

To mitigate these shaky feelings, men have systematically "intervened". Birthing as a medical procedure becomes one more way to dominate and control women all in the guise of "helping". (A note on the women OB/GYNs: I have had a good one. I have had a bad one. I know from experience, even as a chiropractor, that the medical school process, too is male-dominated and heirarchical lending to rely only on "reason" and "facts". To succeed in this milieu, almost like bootcamp, a depersonalization occurs. Read more about this through Dr. Christiane Northrup's experience. Women, in order to be accepted in the medical world, often give up their unique gifts as women to succeed and be part of the "fraternity".)

Women have bought into the weakness crap. Terrified by the scary stories, horrified by gruesome pictures, they willingly and eagerly submit to de-humanizing protocols and nonsensical procedures. I.V.'s "just in case", forced to work without food and drink "just in case", monitors "just in case", staying in bed so that all these wires don't get messed up, watched like a clock to "make sure you're progressing", poked and prodded and inspected by strangers and when she freaks out and the baby refuses to come, it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Oh, thank God for the forceps, the caesarean, the spinal block, and especially THE DOCTOR.

I want to be clear here: all this being said, I am not saying that these interventions are not life-saving at times. These interventions save lives in emergency cases. But with a 25-33% caesarean rate around here, you would think that women over the centuries grew babies on trees the birthing process is so fraught with doom.

Birthing needs to be returned to the woman's domain. Women will do better health-wise. Their babies will do better. More babies will be nursed which will reduce SIDs, asthma and even some cancers. The women will be emotionally supported through this primal process as only other women can do.

And if the husband is invited into this process by his wife, then he is a lucky man, indeed. Birthing a baby is one of the most magical, empowering, unbelievably life-affirming passages a woman experiences.

If he can't handle seeing what her body was made to do, if he can't see her in that complex transition from woman to mother, he belongs where the men of old belonged--outside. He can see the baby later.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Should Men See Their Babies Born?

I'll write more tomorrow when I'm lucid, but here are the links: here and here.
(Watch the language in the second's bad, but there are some interesting points.) They are in response to a NY Times article called A Perilous Journey from Delivery Room to Bedroom that you must register for here.

UPDATE: Found a link to the NY Times feed here.

Great Photos

Check out this blog--lots of colorful pictures. Catchy Colors Photoblog

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Katrina Won't Be Kind

I'm getting the same feeling watching Katrina bear down on New Orleans that I got when the planes came ripping through the Twin Towers on September 11th--unmitigated helplessness. That news brought me to my knees. The horror fresh in my memory still.

This Hurricane...words fail me. The damage to the Florida pan-handle still overwhelms many residents. I saw it myself. My husband helped a man re-build his house walking in foot-deep sludge and retrieving the neighbor-children's toys. Boats strewn hundreds of yards from water like little pieces of wood. Houses gone. Streets gone. Lines for food. People hiking five miles to get to their homes.


Happy News

Between the hurricane, Iraqi unrest over their constitution, the unbridled rage over our presence in Iraq by some, psycho serial killers, medications that kill and maim, oil prices topping $70, and the sad news of Brad and Jennifer, it seems that good news is hard to come by.

While musing on this, I searched Google news for good news. The results came up empty.

Our society seems consumed by studying pathology instead of studying what works. Happiness ceased to be hip some time ago. Contentedness confused with apathy.

Normal everyday joys and surprising joys too, get scant attention--watching your childs face beam with pride as she does "the pencil" off the diving board, hearing the baby laugh when tickled under the collar bone, sharing a nerdy joke, reading about animals coming back from extinction, hearing an inspiring sermon, talking on the phone to a long-distance friend, watching the full moon cross the sky and pour light through the windown onto your pillow, getting lost in the sound of the thunder and lightening and rain pounding on the roof, watching the trees blow, ducking so the radiant blue dragon-fly doesn't clip your head.

Every day is filled with magic and wonder that goes unnoticed and unvalued.

It seems to me that these moments don't support some side's agenda. They occur without posturing. They can't be forced. These moments come to you and you must be open to be aware of them.

I'm tired of Rush Limbaugh and Rosie O'Donnell. I'm tired of Al Sharpton (and Franken, too) and Pat Robertson. I'm tired of the shrieking on all sides. It seems that everyone is looking through their filter, seeing what they want to see, but that's not enough--everyone has to agree with them or else.

That's not to say the topics being argued aren't important--they are important. And somewhere in the mess there are right answers. But are they more important than the good news that we ignore?

My blog contributes to the cacophony, I suppose. I would love for you all to help me here. Saturdays will be from now on, dedicated to Good News alone. Email me your happy stories, funny jokes and inspirations.

We all need happy news.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Katrina Komin'

Most of the time urgent weather forecasts annoy. For example, Houston is hot. During the summer it is really, really hot. Every summer seems to surprise our intrepid weather reports. They screech by the time late August arrives and, surprise, it's still hot.

But even the boy who cried wolf eventually got eaten by the real thing. When I read about a 72 year old New Orleans lady say that she wasn't leaving because she couldn't afford a ticket and where would she go? I got shudders.

Eventually, a hurricane will blast New Orleans. Pinched between Lake Ponchatrain and the Gulf, she will drown under eight to twenty feet of water. The damage to houses in neighborhoods less than a mile from me that were under eight feet of water still are not the same after Tropical Storm Allison. They are never the same. The neighborhoods are destroyed and disgusting.

Katrina will hurt wherever it hits. People need to GET OUT NOW. Leave now before things get crazy tomorrow. And the complacent people of New Orleans need to realize that this time they just may get eaten.

Feedback: Post About Sex

Well, I got feedback. Two incisive comments, really. A dude from Newfoundland suggested "if you really want people to come, you could talk about sex. it's always been a hot topic" and a dudette suggested that " instead of bitching about peace protests why don't you go downtown and enlist."

So, sex or enlist in the army. Hmmm..... Since enlisting in the army really isn't an option for me at the moment being old, feeble, and motherly (not that I didn't feel primal rage and wished I could march down and enlist after 9/11), I guess that leaves sex as a "hot topic".

Where to start?
  • How about mating rituals of monkeys, our nearest dearest ancestors? Read more here.
  • How about the number of children from married people (used to be sex had something to do with this--now with IVF and turkey basters, well). Learn more here.
  • How about how often Europeans who drive cars who have the most sex? Turns out that those old guys who drive the red Porche--they are compensating for something. Learn more here.
  • Does frequency of intercourse correspond with sex life satisfaction? Find the answer here.
  • What happens when you have unprotected sex? Not just babies. Find out about STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) like Herpes, Warts, Chlamidia, Syphyllis, HIV and lots more fun stuff here.
  • Insecure about your sex life? Fear that everyone is having sex more than you? Confirm your fears here and here.
  • Want to know why your wife has lost interest in sex? Find out here.
  • Want to know why your husband has lost interest in sex? Find out here. Or just take it from me: HE'S HAVING AN AFFAIR!!!
So that sums up my "sex" post. Let me know if you like it or not.

Friday, August 26, 2005

1000 Hits Are Coming

Hey Ya'll! Wouldn't it be cool if the blog passed 1000 this weekend? I'm no Glenn Reynolds, but Hey! I'm working on it.

Pass the blog around people. Give me feedback. Thank you all so much!

Conservatives in Higher Ed

Won't find many for many reasons. Read more here and here. Thank you Jim Lundgren at The Volokh Conspiracy.

Topics I'm Concerned About & Time Wasters

Here are topics I care about (in no particular order):
  • Iraq, their Constitution, Democracy & Islam (is it possible), Sharia law as a basis for Democracy, etc.
  • Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Hurricanes (will people start leaving Florida? Sheesh!)
  • EU--their currency, in-fighting and course for the future
  • Neuroeconomics--studying the brain to find out what we'll buy (I believe that huge strides in emotional research are coming down the pipe due to Functional MRIs and corporate giants heavily contributing to studies to understand more about motivation.)
  • Inflationary pressure and the housing market
  • Trade pressure and the stock market
  • Dollar value and the economy
  • Illegal immigration and effects on the economy
Things I'm bored with:
  • Judge Roberts--dudes a blank piece of paper. Ho hum. MSM can't seem to wrap the collective mind around a boring guy.
  • Lance Armstrong--doping or no doping or WHO CARES it was 1999 and the French have it in for him.
  • Cindy Sheehan--angry lady cloaking her politics in her son's death. Yuck. Done.
  • Celebrities and their silly, superficial opinions.
  • Hand-wringing over box-office receipts being off. Snooze! Get used to it guys. It's called HOME THEATER.
  • Oil prices. They get high enough we'll be biking to work and walking to the grocery store (we live close enough. Isn't that nice?) It's called supply and demand. People will buy gas-saving cars. Need will drive innovation. Everyone is happy.
  • The Housing Bubble. Oy vey. Yup people will get spanked 'cuz pigs get eaten. Own fault.
I'll add to the list later.

Update: Time Waster--Pat Robertson who falls into the celebrities category just the other direction.

Airplane Food

Over the past few years (since the advent of kids), my pre-airplane-travel regimen includes stopping by the local deli and bringing a very nice lunch for me and my travel partners on the plane. Airplane food gets a bad rap for good reason. Now, British Airways is having "hygiene problems" with their food.

It was bad enough that the food made you sick in a manner of speaking--now it actually does. Read more here.

I have a BRILLIANT idea free to all airlines. (Continental, American, Northwest, Delta, United, Southwest) Since lots of us book online and pick our seats even, why not include a $10 extra fee for lunch? Let us order a known brand deli sandwich (Boars Head comes to mind--go to the site the food looks goooood), the kind of Frito-Lay chips we want, a side of fresh fruit and have it automatically linked to some sort of caterer. Have it delivered that day at the gate in a lunch box. No extra or wasted food. No food for people who won't pay. Good food for those who want it.

Logistical nightmare no doubt, but this is America for heavens sake. I know this is possible!

Fetus Pain Again

The unbiased scientists published by the American Medical Journal regarding fetal pain not existing until the 29th week of gestation failed to disclose interesting credentials. Read them here and here. Do you think a former lawyer of NARAL would have a stake in the results of the study?

Remember, too, that 30% of studies are reversed. More studies conflict. Read more here.

Between bias and ignorance (there is lots we don't know), there is considerable risk in taking almost any study at face value.

Mood and Emotions and Temperment

Believe it or not, neuropsychologists and other mind people, have yet to figure out the concept of mood. At first look, moods are simple. We say things like: "I'm in a bad mood" or "I'm in a great mood" or "Nothing can bother me today" (a subconscious challenge to all bosses, it seems), etc.

But moods are not so simple. While emotions are our inward feelings coming out (showing on our face or physiology with increased heart beat), moods seem to be the back-drop upon which emotions play out.

For example, I might wake up and end argue with my spouse about whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher. Still fuming, the drive to work does nothing to calm me. On this angry-mood back drop, my friend tells me the most exciting news. After years of trying she is now pregnant and everything is great! Under normal circumstances, I would be jumping up and down with delight, giving hugs, and offering a free lunch. This day though, it seems that I must force myself to be happy.

The opposite can happen too. Feeling great, I go to work and hear that there will be lay-offs. Ugh. I should be more worried, but I just can't muster it today. My co-workers look at me like I'm some kind of loon.

And then we have our temperment. Moms will swear a baby is born happy, a "prickly pear", quiet, shy, etc. My experience confirms this. My kids have changed little since birth. One was quiet and determined. One was shy and screamed bloody murder in strangers faces. One was active and jovial. They are still young. Science, too, confirms that people gel around 25 years old tempermentally. We change little over time and cement as we get older. This is not a bad thing. Can you imagine marrying someone who morphed from a quiet homebody into the life of the party? Big temperment changes like that might cause problems.

The bottom line? Emotions do not spontaneously occur in a vacuum. Our temperment and mood often form the stage setting for the emotional display. A bleak dark day is unlikely to produce a zippy response to teasing. More likely, the bad-mood Betty will be sarcastic or sullen.

And here is where character comes into play. We may feel bad. We may well have been wronged. Our character, though, determines how we convey our feelings. Do we transfer our irritation instead of dealing with the source? Do we justify our bad attitude when we have the ability to change it?

We may be born a certain way, we may experience irritating conflicts, we may even be angry, but we can always choose to behave in a way that honors another person.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Week 1 Past Wisdom Tooth Removal

Just an update. A week blinks by in Dr. M's super spaz world. The tooth crater has filled in some, but the stitch still hangs on. The Dentist told me it would come out around 10 days, so we'll see.

Grogginess gone. Busy-ness back. Feeling no pain. Hoping that I never have to have dental work again. Ever. I am just that big of a wimp.

Google Talk ROCKS!!!

I promise you that I am NOT being paid to say this, but YOU MUST DOWNLOAD Google Talk right now. No, don't wait. RIGHT NOW! You can talk to your list of people and hear them OR you can type. It is like being on the phone. The clarity ROCKS! Who needs a phone. As I write this, I'm yacking to Mr. Dr. M while he's at the office.

That, my friends, is called multi-tasking. No ear-plug. No echo-y speaker phone. Only problem: when my fan turns on my laptop, my hubby's ears blow out.

And it's free, free, free.

Download here.

P.S. For you techies out there you can write code for it and it will be customizable because it is OPEN. Awesome!

Plastic Surgery

Watching celebrities carve up their bodies and faces leads me to believe that plastic surgery just isn't the way to go. We get old and look old, plain and simple. Getting surgery just makes you look like an old person with surgery.

See Mia Farrow here.

She possessed natural beauty that needed little or no make-up. Plastic surgery, by definition, is unnatural and requires make-up to hide.

It probably sounds judgemental as a woman in her late 30s to say this, right? I reserve the right to change my mind, but the plastic surgeries I see don't help except in very rare occasions.

Baby Pandas

I love pandas. Isn't she cute?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Gifted & Talented or Special Needs

Thomas Sowell talks about how smart kids get shortchanged and a pioneer who was their champion here.

I've noticed in my short time as a parent and my getting longer time on this earth as an adult who was public-school educated, that the Public Education system is barely adequate for students who fall into the mean. But the kids who are outside "normal" receive what truly can be called a "soft form of bigotry."

My "special needs" son is expected to be slow, stupid and incompetent--a perspective that I challenge the teachers on almost daily (the kids have been in school four days now and I have talked to, in person or on the phone, an educator every one of those days). The sincerity and desire of these people I don't question. But I believe they get lost in the trees and fail to see the jungle. His incremental progress on handwriting, for example, obscures his gifts in reading and math. Those talents shouldn't be let go while his handwriting catches up--that could take two years and by then he could be typing!

Marcus Buckingham, formerly of the Gallup Organization, hammers away on this same problem in the corporate world. Don't just try to shore up your weaknesses. They are likely to be weaknesses forever. Build on your strengths. And I'll add one thing: hire for your weaknesses and forget it. We have done that at our office. Our assistants are total opposites to us and help us in our blind spots. I could work on my lack of detail orientation, but why do that when I have someone who is gifted at it?

On the other hand, children like my daughter, for whom every intellectual pursuit is easy, faces considerable "soft bigotry" as well. She must wait..and wait...and wait for those who must work harder to get the same information. We have tried to mediate this problem by placing her in school at the youngest possible age. She will be 17 when she graduates high school or younger. We may change her academic venue when she gets a little older. We'll see. Even the GT programs in the public school lag behind the elite prep schools but they don't come cheap at $10-12,000/year...for elementary school. In the meantime, she enthusiastically learns quickly and blows through her work. Let's hope she keeps her enthusiasm.

Anytime you put 15-30 unique kids in a classroom a communistic process occurs. Everyone ends up being a different variety of poor, but they are all poor. Schools are huge beaurocracies created to feed the beast not the children.

School privatization would change this. Send your kid to a school that suits his or her needs. Bring competition to the table. The bad teachers and schools would die out. Certain schools would have waiting lists. Get rid of tenure. Where in the world but in education are you guaranteed a job regardless of ability (besides the court system, that is, and look at that mess!)?

Every child is unique. While some flexibility must occur because of the nature of group dynamics, a child shouldn't suffer because his gifts or lack thereof fall outside the mean.

No Pain Until 29 Weeks Gestation

I'd like to note that they also say that children can't see at 24 weeks but my son popped open his still fused eyes the moment after he was born and looked straight at us. We might have been fuzzy but he saw us. He stopped crying when held (just like a full term newborn). He acted comforted. And he fought like hell to get his intubation tube out--on DAY 1 of birth--which was 24 weeks remember--so hard that they had to heavily sedate him.

But he felt no pain. He was totally comfortable.

Here's the BBC's interpretation here.

This pain argument is, of course, a red herring. There are adults who have disorders which negates pain. I guess that makes it okay to kill them, right?

Hollywood Personal Lives

Why do we care about some actress's life we have one of our own? Are actors getting "de-humanized" because they live what people perceive as rarified, elite lives completely out of touch with ordinary citizens?

The Paparazzi is especially merciless in England. I think perhaps it is because the divide between the "common man" and the "upper crust" is so vast that the common man ceases to view the crusties as people at all. Maybe that is what is happening in the U.S. as the wealthy get wealthier and pull away from Average Joe.

Just a theory. Read more here.

Granny Blog

I don't know Mona, but she "GrannyTiger" commented here, so I rooted around and dug her up. Find more opinions from her here.

Google Creates IM Software

Yahoo! (And I don't mean that Yahoo.) Everything Google touches is elegant and easy to use. Can't wait for this incarnation. Read more here.

I Can TrackBack Look AT ME! Wheeee!

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Fetuses and Pain

Okay, I wasn't going to post any more today but I read an article that has me enraged as a mother and a doctor. Read the mindless pap here.

According to researchers at University of CA, San Fran and published in JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) proports that fetuses as late as 20 weeks feel no pain. The researchers "reviewing the literature" are not fetal pain experts at all.

But let me give you some personal experience: My sons were born at 24 weeks gestation and they MOST DEFINITELY felt pain. In fact, my sense was that their experience of pain was more acute than what an adult felt but they just happened to possess a greater ability to endure it. Their nerves are still myelinating--they are literally "raw".

Even more telling, a 22 week gestation little girl was also in the hospital at the same time as the boys. She too, from all observation experienced pain.

What do you call drawing back? What do you call crying when being stuck with a needle? What do you call screams when being poked for the fifth time during a arterial draw? Only ten years ago, premature babies were given surgery without anesthesia because doctors ignored the flailing evidence in front of them until it was "proven" objectively that (OOPS!) they do feel pain.

Nevermind that some "aborted" fetuses with arms sucked off have been born crying and then LIVED! (You can't kill the baby once it leaves the mother. How's that for ironic?)

What is wrong with people? Will the morally-challenged persevere in the desire to rid women of the consequences of their behavior at all costs?

I know women pay the biggest price with an unwanted pregnancy. I know that many women who get pregnant don't want the child and become horrible mothers. I know one more fatherless kid ends up on the public dole.

But abortion--especially those beyond the 12th week--are unbelievably vile. That "fetus", that child, with volition sucks its thumb. Why would he need to comfort himself if he felt no discomfort? With volition, the child feels around with his hands the uterus he calls home--any woman who is pregnant knows this. Why touch if he can't feel?

I'm sorry ladies, but that child does feel pain. It has a heart that beats. It has a brain with brainwaves. To further this "no pain" garbage and veil it in pseudo-science to salve the consciences of men and women who want to escape or avoid the trappings of an inconvenient child well, a societal price is paid.

I've tripped over more than one woman in my practice whose sorrow, grief and shame over an abortion causes her more distress than caring for that baby ever would have. Pressured by boyfriends, encouraged by angry parents, sexually-abused by fathers, yet the woman has to live with the consequences--not with the birth but with the death of a child she wanted in her heart.

And so does the baby that feels that pain.

Organs You Don't Need

In the not so distant past doctors removed certain organs with no thought of the side effects because they believed the organs were unnecessary(some viewed as vestigal organs). Here's a list:

Tonsils: They are the first outpost in the body's immune system defense.

Appendix: Hypothesized uses include immune system defense. It seems likely considering that it often must be removed due to localized infection. It didn't used to be believed that it could become inflamed and then heal, but that very thing happens.

Gall Bladder: They concentrate bile so you can digest fat. Don't buy the hype that fat is bad, bad, bad. The wrong kinds of fats can be harmful and hard on the gall bladder, true. But the right kind of fat help you in many ways. Represented as unnecessary and even beneficial to those who have problems, gall bladder removal is associated with other problems--the scariest being colon cancer. More are sure to turn up as the number of people having them removed continues to increase.

Uterus & Ovaries: The ovaries and uterus produce hormones (not just estrogen) that support sex drive, cognitive function, etc. as a woman ages. Removal of the ovaries has no clear benefit and increases the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Keep in mind, hysterectomies are the number two surgery in women.

Look at a list of the most common medical procedures here. Now, what if these procedures were "cut" in half or more since so many end up being unnecessary? Would you be okay with your mechanic replacing or removing your airconditioning system in your car "just in case"? Then why do we submit to a medical system (often a persuasive doctor who has a financial stake in this outcome, by the way) that routinely does exactly this?

Never Get Tired Again

A new drug is being tested to keep people alert even when sleep deprived. That means they never need sleep. What if, like some drugs to temporarily impeed fertility like the pill and other hormonal contraception, the effect became permanent? By never getting any, we would finally know the benefits of sleep. Believe it or not, scientists still don't know sleeps purpose.

Read more here.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Funny Church Sayings

This was forwarded from my mom from Cheryl Richardson the life coach. Here it is:

In the spirit of summer fun, this week's newsletter comes from an email I
received from my father-in-law, Curt, who loves to send messages that make
me laugh (thanks Curt!). Here are 20 sentences that actually appeared in
church bulletins or were announced during church services. I hope you get
a chuckle out of them, too!

1. The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.

2. The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water." The sermon
tonight: Searching for Jesus.

3. Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of
those things not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your

4. The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a

5. Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.

6. Miss Mason sang "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious
pleasure to the congregation.

7. For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a
nursery downstairs.

8. Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the
help they can get.

9. Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more
transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of
Pastor Jack's sermons.

10. Irving and Jessie were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a
friendship that began in their school days.

11. A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall.
Music will follow.

12. At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What Is
Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.

13. Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased
person you want remembered.

14. Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.

15. The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They
may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.

16. This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across
from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.

17. Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies
are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.

18. Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use
the back door.

19. The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the
Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this

20. Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church.
Please use large double door at the side entrance.

21. The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign
slogan last Sunday: "I Upped My Pledge- now - Up Yours."

Is Your Boss a Psychopath? Part III

Ok, given this more thought. See my previous post below to see what I'm talking about.

Here is where I agree with Szasz:
  1. All drugs are bad and possess the potential to change body chemistry and therefore function, permanently. They should only be taken in specific and rare cases and with consent.
  2. Psychiatry has the potential to be enslaving and labels behavior "abnormal" because the behavior makes people uncomfortable, "embaressment and disagreement" Szasz calls it but could have rational explanations. (Flapping or any self-stimulation by autistic children comes to mind. He uses the example of the lazy teen who watches TV and is living off of you and is coerced to take a med to help his behavior.) The corrollary to this is: all people have a reason for doing what they do--their reason--maybe just not ours and maybe one we don't agree with.
  3. Psychiatry removes people from responsibility for action. It has changed language to the point of absurdity.
I don't agree with Szasz here:
  1. People without a moral foundation or teaching do not naturally choose a loving way. It starts as toddlers bop their friend on the head for a toy they want. He or she must be taught a "civilized" way to get what he or she wants. He can call that coercian and enslavement if he wants but it is necessary. Examples abound of people (the Menendez brothers come to mind) who have not received this training and their first consequences are in the hands of law enforcement officials. This is not an ideal way for society to develop.
  2. Moral foundations don't fall from the sky. They come from somewhere. My friend who espouses libertarian views disagreed with me about this as would Szasz. I asked him why he didn't kill his neighbor who bugged him (assuming there is no law to stop this). He said "I'm a nice guy." Yeah, but what if you decide not to be a nice guy? Who makes the rule and defines killing as bad? It isn't in the animal kingdom. Animals are not confined by "morality" per se but by natural law and survival. Our morality is informed by our Judeo-Christian background plain and simple. Otherwise why would murder be bad? There must be agreement about socially acceptable behavior. Are we to assume that without this moral law, given by God in my opinion, humans would come to this agreement by consensus?No, in the absence of belief people create their own. Liberia comes to mind as to what happens without adherence to a moral law. Superstition and ignorance abound--there is no teaching to counteract the "natural" impulses. C.S. Lewis has lots to say on this idea. Now, I do agree with him.
Basically, society has changed. With the advent of psychiatry, determining "bad" behavior has been removed from the religious and moral miliu and into the "mental illness" arena. The notion that behavior is a result of free will as opposed to funky biochemistry will get you tarred and feathered in certain places.

Look at how language has changed to make us feel better:

gluttony=eating disorder
vanity=tanning bed syndrome (I kid you not, it's in the DSM)
faithlessness=obsessive-compulsive disorder
murderous rage=insanity
talking to yourself=hallucinations
double minded=multiple personality disorder or manic-depressive disorder
prideful=narcissist personality disorder
shy=social anxiety disorder

I have clients who talk about "my depression" with the same pride they describe their BMW. They proudly show their meds to me as if to say, "See? My pain is REAL!" Something is wrong here.

We have become slaves to diagnosis which are just words that remove responsibility for states we can change (in Christianity the word repent simply means change).

Is Your Boss a Psychopath: Part II?

An issue back, Fast Company ran an article where you could take a answer a questionnaire and determine whether your boss was simply annoying or really pathological. Most people who wrote in shared their horror stories.

But the letter to the editor that got my attention was the lone voice of desent. Here is what this enraged dude said:
Being a longtime reader of the works of psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, I found your article to be the same psychobabble bulls--t that's excreted by all the other quacks (psychologists and psychiatrists) that medicalize behavior. A so-called psychopath is someone who doesn't have any morals. That's not the same as lacking an eyeball or a hand. Actually, a psychopath is omeone who has a set of moral values we abhor; he or she has no qualms about the method of getting to his or her goal. If that means people losing their josbs to an overseas vendor, that's the breaks. The Aaron Feurersteins [CEO of Malden Mills] are few and far between. The psychopathic screening tests that Hare suggested wouldn't have caught anyone.
Martin D. Kessler
Cambridge, Massachusets


Szasz believes this:
Szasz says that modern psychiatry in one case "[innocent people] are locked up; in another [guilty people] are excused." He is speaking of using "commitment" for people who have broken no law versus criminals who have broken a law but get off the hook because they are "insane". He says that "people [in the psychiatric model] are 'puppets'--find out who holds the strings and blame them." He also says, "Human suffering exists, mental illness does not exist."

Mr. Kessler does somewhat misrepresent Szasz's views. Dr. Szasz does not put volitional psychotherapy in the same category as psychiatry. Psychiatry he feels enslaves people in diagnosis and confinement (in its worst machination--he used the example of Joseph Kennedy lobotomizing his "sleazy" daughter while he was Ambassador) while psychology and psychoanalysis is endeavored under someone's own free will.

I haven't formed an opinion about this myself, but it does seem to me that more and more people are being labelled "mentally ill" to what effect? It almost becomes meaningless. Szasz also says that "madness" is actually more accurate. Those who are mad and angry and violent should be punished. But for those who just want a break from life--there is no alternative for them to survive (have "room and board") so they must either commit a crime or end up on the street.

This is an interesting view. Read more here.

What are the Limits of Free Speech?

Should a talk-show host be allowed to say Christianity is a terrorist organization? Should a talk-show host be allowed to say Islam is a terrorist organization?

We can't yell fire when there is none in a movie house. We know that. But where does speech become an infringement on another person's life?

As far as I can tell, besides everyone and not just people looking like they are of Arab descent, are being viewed as a criminals at the airport, people who practice the Islamic faith have not been singled out or abused like one might have thought would happen after 9/11.

Anyway, read this blog here about a talk-show host getting fired for equating Islam believers with terrorists. He insists his perspective was more nuanced than that.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

French Fries Gives Girls Cancer

The huge nurses study that has been going on for ages just found an interesting piece of research: girls who eat french fries as pre-schoolers are more likely, 27% more likely, to get breast cancer. I can't put my finger on it, but something just doesn't sit right with me about this research. Hot dogs? Fine. Cookies? Fine. Burgers? Fine. But French Fries alone cause this problem? Read the research for yourself here.

A note: I believe diet in early life makes a HUGE difference. That's why nursing a child is imperitive. It's like a ship on a course--a few degrees off at the beginning and you end up worlds away from the goal at the end. But why french fries? Potato chips are fried and have more fat. I guess I'm saying that this doesn't make sense to me.

Fetal Skin

Rather than use traditional autologous skin grafting (cutting some good skin, growing it and putting it on burned skin), these researchers used skin from a terminated 14 week fetus whose mother gave written permission for a bunch of kids with burns. These grafts worked even better than the traditional methods. See more here.

Can anyone see a future where women get pregnant, terminates and get paid for the use of the barely developed child for medicinal purposes? Does this freak you out like it does me? And worse, would I abstain from this technique if my child suffered disfiguring burns? I hope I'm never given the choice. Where are the medical ethicists? And what do they base their ethics on anyway?

Best Article on Geo-Political Realities in Iraq

If you have the time and want to understand what's going on politically, culturally and religiously in Iraq, read this article by Brenden O'Leary a self-described liberal and European Socialist who lives in the U.S. Go to it here.

How We Meet Our Mates

According the 2004 article "Stolen Kisses" from Psychology Today magazine over 20% of us met our spouses when they were already attached. Read this article here. A tad unnerving. There is justice, though, these people tend to not stay together long (big surprise) and tend to cheat again (another big surprise). Payback is heck.

Soldier's Angels

Read about this soldier's experience here. Thanks again to Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Sociability Gene

Wonder about those with autism. Do they have as much of the "filler genome"? Read more about sociability and genomes here.

Would Bush Meeting Sheehan Make A Difference?

No it would not make a difference even if Mike Allen at The Washington Post thinks Bush and his team made a big mistake by not meeting with the grieving mother Cindy Sheehan. Read his thoughts here. Here's why:
  • Her son won't magically come back after talking to the President.
  • The war is not ending because she thinks it should--even if she is right.
  • Even it did end, even if Bush declared, "You know what, Cindy, you're right, we are going to bring them back tomorrow", her son is still dead.
I still feel that Ms. Sheehan is being exploited by people like Mike Allen who feel that finally someone is "giving voice" to their enraged impotence. But to Mr. Allen, Ms. Sheehan isn't a person, she is a symbol. She is, as he quotes a newspaper in India "the Rosa Parks of the anti-war movement." She, and by extention, the son who she loves and wants to be remembered have ceased to become people at all. They are experiences to be used to forward a philosophy.

Some day, Ms. Sheehan will add this episode to the replaying reel of loss. The fact that her stages of grief are being publicized with her consent does not mean that she fully understands the ramifications of her decisions long-term.

The interviews and media and circus flatten Ms. Sheehan's experience, like an emotional commodity. In her desperation, she feels "use me" if that's what it takes to spare other moms this abomination. But someday, when she has time to reflect and is alone with her thoughts, she may feel that far more than used, she was abused and at a time when her grief was most acute.

Mind of Terror

Who would blow up two buildings killing himself, his friends and regular people?

I have given some thought to this question. Part of me says "a crazy person, that's who." How can you define crazy? This is one reason I think the insanity defense is insane. By definition, you are not mentally sound when you feel angry, wronged, desperate, whatever enough to snuff someone else's life force. (For the foggy-headed out there, I DO NOT put this in the same catagory as a soldier defending his life and the lives of others by ending someone elses. Two different things. Two different motives. That some soldiers like that part of the job a little too much--now that is crazy, too.)

So, the homocide bombers (if they are successful) are insane. Let's just accept that premise. But they are insane in a very methodical, diabolical way and that is what is so unnerving. Their "sacrifice" is planned days, months and sometimes years in advance. Do they know of their demise? Or are they given the game plan at the last minute to avoid the probable "what the hell was I thinking?" problem.

Let's just assume they have time to reconsider, because this prospect is more likely and more interesting. Here are my thoughts:
  1. They're young. You notice that they haven't recovered the blown-off head of a 60 year-old professor. Why? It takes a certain naivite to buy the ideology of a cult and Al Qaeda is a cult. Read the list of traits and you'll see. Most cults are made up of YOUNG idealists looking for black and white meaning and answers to their life.
  2. They're educated. This seems counter-intuitive, right? Why would terrorists be educated and have money and therefore, have something to lose? This is NOT what they believe. See, they believe that their mission is a way to gain for the whole. With their narrowed view of life as part of a cult they have little historical or sociological perspective that time on this earth and broader understanding gives you. That is not to say they are stupid, just to say that their information is NARROW. An ignorant person wastes few hours of his day pondering his existence, little less his fellow Arab's existence. But an educated, frustrated young person, has had it up to here with the impoverished, desperate state of the majority of his or her people. Something MUST BE DONE. In the cult member's idealism and inflated sense of self (mantra: you are God's special tool, you can make a difference for Allah, you alone are an Ambassador for the TRUTH and the TRUTH must be shared and Allah must be avenged--you get the picture), the individual's purpose blends with the groups and it ALL MAKES SENSE for the first time. "My life finally has meaning," he says to himself as he slides toward doom.
  3. They are angryat God. Many people attach themselves to absolutist systems in response to the age-old "life is not fair." And life is not fair, so for the Timothy McVeighs and Osamas of the world the obvious answer? Get mad at God. Since He doesn't make himself immediately available, the next best thing to destroy? The symbolic: the most powerful authority figure in the world who they feel needs to be punished. Now here is the interesting thing: these clowns do their evil business in the name of God. In fact, they believe they are doing God's work. Which brings us to...
  4. Their arrogance knows no bounds. It takes a fair amount of chutzpuh (sorry to use the Yiddish and further offend the infidel-hating among us) to believe that your hand is the hammer for God, but that doesn't stop these people. Christian scriptures like, "vengeance is mine saith the Lord" doesn't make a dent in it. The Islamofascists have more inciteful (rather than insightful) scriptures to rely on, so the terror is "justified". I'm not saying that self-proclaimed Christians haven't "twisted the word to their own destruction" as the Apostle Peter says, they have. But they have had to twist the scripture. Anyway, the unifying theme here is that to believe that you are God's paddle requires a bit of hubris and these guys possess a lot of it as only a 20 year old idealistic guy can.
The terrorists, like all cult members, feed themselves with bile, exclude themselves from society that they believe they are better than, and possess a long nihilistic streak. This wouldn't be so unusual, in fact, I don't think it is at all unusual except for this small problem: they die before they can grow up.

Lots of young people attach themselves to weird groups. PETA is made up of young, angry, idealistic, intelligent and arrogant people. Eventually, these kids will grow up, get married, have families, get jobs, and become part of the establishment while still voting for the Green Party, but what can you do?

The key is to grow up, mature and gain more of a world view. Some view that as "abandoning your ideals". Bull.

The most mature people realize that the most difficult transformation isn't cultural it's personal. You can spend copious amounts of energy trying to change the world but the most difficult conquering isn't what Napolean did or what Osama is trying to do, the most challenging state to conquer is our own.

You must be the change you want to be in the world.
Mahatma Ghandi

To distract from that messy, difficult job, why not try to save the world by destroying it? Makes sense in a completely insane kind of way.

Day 3 Post Wisdom Removed

Better today. Eating food again. Tired. Feeling a post-Darvocet cotton-mouthed grogginess. Yuck. Grossed out by the feel of my teeth near the extraction site but worried about disturbing the healing. I'm feeling a weird sense of relief that the offending molar is gone.

The Dentist, who looked creepily tan, dark-haired with foppish good looks like another friend of mine (aren't Oral Surgeons supposed to be old and distinguished--it's kinda like seeing the airline pilot coming out of his cabin and he's 25--you expect a certain maturity, deportment and not-to-mention that silky and reassuring voice, but I digress....), asked if I would like my other wisdom teeth pulled. He twitched in his seat, avoided eye-contact and fidgeted. I got the sense that this wasn't necessary but would help pay his overhead this month, if I could be so obliging.

I said, "Doc, I kinda go to the school of..."

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it right?" he finished my sentence.

"Yes, well. It's not that..."

"You don't like Dentists right? No one does (he seemed genuinely dismayed about this)." He finished my sentence again.

"It's not that I don't like Dentists," I clarified, "it's that I don't like their procedures. I have friends who are dentists. (He seemed surprised by this.) I don't like pain. I am a mom and can't afford to spend a couple weeks as a chipmunked invalid while they heal."

"Well, one is about the same as four," he said.

How can that be? I wondered. Surely four teeth out multiplies the discomfort by four.

"And," he added, "you can be sedated and relaxed and kinda put out during the procedure for that many." Well there's a plus. NOT.

Anyway, my X-rays looked great. Nary a cary to be seen. And the other wisdom teeth seemed fine. This funky tooth is a mystery to me. Why should this one tooth be more "difficult to clean"? My methods at the back of my mouth are similar bi-laterally. So I'm wondering, is there an energetic component I'm not aware of?

The wisdom teeth relate to the kidney meridian which manages the lifetime CHI. Uh oh, perhaps my life force just got cut by 25%. Or maybe by cutting the nasty problem out, my energy will rebound.

AHA! I like the second explanation. Expect even more creativity, insight and just plain verve from here on out.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Normal Looking

Doesn't it disturb you how normal looking these terrorist guys are? If it weren't for the goofy beard, he'd be just some hippy college student.

Green Neighborhood Keeps You Skinny?

Here's an article about the corrolation with less graffiti and trash and more greenness means healthiness. My thought after reading the beginning of the article is summed up by a doctor quoted at the end of the article:

"The reported differences in physical activity and overweight are quite dramatic, if the only differences across residential environments are in amounts of greenery and litter/graffiti," said Reid Ewing, a research professor at the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland.

"While the authors apparently controlled for sociodemographic of respondents, I wonder if they also controlled for differences in the physical environments of respondents beyond those measured -- differences that may confound their results," he said.

Ewing noted that access to trails and recreational facilities is known to affect physical activity.

"Could they be picking up that effect in their greenery rating?" Ewing asked. "And physical activity is known to vary with crime rates -- could that effect be soaked up by their litter/graffiti variable?"

There is also the tricky issue of people who would be active anyway selecting neighborhoods where it is easy and pleasant to be active, Ewing said. "The environment in that case doesn't shape the individual, but rather the individual selects the environment."

Stem Cells Again

I have opined extensively about staying away from Embryonic Stem Cells and using the myriad of other stem cells. One post was dedicated to stem cells from chord blood. Read the encouraging article here.

Drugs at School

A back-to-school study confirms old news: there are drugs at school and lots of them and anyone who wants to can buy them.

When I went to school, I knew the druggies and so did the administration. The school was very strict. If you tried to go to the bathroom and happened to be caught without a pass--well, pal, you were in BIG trouble. You got detention for sure. But, if you were a "Stoner" and hung out across the street smoking (illegal) and dealing drugs (definitely illegal), nothing happened because we had "open lunch" (you could go off property to eat) and these guys and gals were across the street from the school not on the property.

If you walked through someone's yard on the way to McDonalds (open lunch), irritated homeowners would call the cops and you could get in trouble. But no one seemed to mind the potheads across the street. Why?

Well, the druggies don't possess highly evolved social skills and didn't like to be trifled with. Unlike the average kid who was easily intimidated by a detention-wielding Vice Principle with a penchant for persecution, the dealers and users didn't give a poop about detention and actually kinda liked being suspended--expulsion was even better!

Today, kids possess more sophistication. Dealers look more clean-cut, use beepers and probably run businesses that would make their Enron daddy's proud. And all the other "good" kids still know who they are, but the administration and law enforcement does not have the will to deal with it all. They didn't when I was a kid either.

Drug use and dealing could be eliminated but High Schools are like one big border with Mexico. The administration knows what the problem is, they know how to solve it, but they aren't interested in the political price that would be paid for getting the job done.

Beep Beep: Beat Drudge

I just want to go on the record that I beat Matt Drudge to the urine battery story of a couple days ago. See, sister, I'm just that cutting-edge.

P.S. That beep beep was me tooting my own horn.

P.P.S. Maybe I should go back on the Davocet.


Eminem knows what I'm talkin about when it comes to narcotics. Read about his trials here.

Day 2 After Wisdom Teeth

Day two has been well uncomfortable. Trying to go it without meds since 5 a.m. Working so far. No pain, per se. Completely wiped, though.

I can see why people get hooked to narcotics. They are awesome! No pain in my mouth, no pain anywhere, no buzz just groovin'. Happy apathy. Is that possible?

You realize how you endure minor aches without knowing it once they are gone with pain meds. No tight shoulders, no muscle tension on the scalp. Magic pills. Yippeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Science & Ideology

Great post here about scientists undermining their profession by becoming more ideological and less, well logical.

This comes via Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit who is always ahead of the curve.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Scrappleface: Satire at It's Best

Want to laugh? Read Scrappleface. My favorite post is about Indian names. Indiana is going to be "renamed Caucasia."

P.S. The high school mascot in my hometown? The Highlanders. I am of Scottish-English decent and find this totally offensive!

The Conservative Doonsbury

But funnier. Find Day by Day here.

Spammed Comments

How annoying! Those enthusiastic comments with links are spam. Alas, I thought the blog was getting so interesting that people felt compelled to comment.

Anyway, now you'll have to word verify comments so as to avoid the problem.

P.S. I really enjoy REAL comments, so comment away!

Behavior Predicted by Brain Waves

Okay, this research is complicated. I'll try to simplify it, keeping in mind that I am not fully, mentally functional.

Brain waves emanate from our head like a force-field. These waves can be measured by electrodes placed on our head. These brain waves, "EVENT-RELATED POTENTIALS", corolate with behavior associated with mental tasks like solving a problem. The part of the brain that activates during this problem-solving is called the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. The more difficult the problem, the more the ACC activates.


By measuring ERPs, you can see how people learn from their mistakes. Some people learn more by positive reinforcement--make a good decision, receive a benefit. Some people learn more by making a mistake, "error", and getting punished.

Why is this important? Scientists are hoping to be able to measure how behavior develops. This looks like a good step. Perhaps some day we will know what type a learner a person is and then teach them in the way that best suits them. Or maybe we'll be able to guide the baby or child in the most efficient way to learn. Or, maybe we will help cure people with Autism or Schizophrenia by more effectively teaching them.

Exciting possibilities.

BusinessWeek: Is Heart Surgery Worth It?

Great article in Business Week about the problems with Heart Surgery. Remember one of my health care prophecies? Coming true.

Here's the interesting thing: Back surgery, knee surgery, tonsillectomies, and other "routine" surgeries failed to show benefits long-term. In fact, a lot do harm. Most are just big placebo affects and expensive ones, too. But people still keep wanting surgery and of course, surgeons oblige.

Why? Surgeries are painful, almost always result in adhesions and scar tissue that cause loss of use, etc. But this is what surgeries do for you: Your pain becomes legit, you get time off, sympathy and a break from life. Sure there are unfortunate side-effects like time wasted, difficult recoveries and painful rehab, but wow! There are benefits too.

In our crazy world, sometimes the only break we get is by getting really good and sick or hurt. It just doesn't feel right to say, "hey, I need a break for a month. I'm going to the Carribean." Yet that is often just what we need.

Update: Mr. Dr. M found this link regarding Knee Surgery.

Losing Wisdom....Teeth

Had my left lower wisdom tooth yanked today. Thank the Big Pharma gods for Darvocet. But take a look at those side effects. Holy cow!

Since I have lost 25% of my wisdom, expect an inversely proportional squared increase in verbosity. For example: if reservedness is over wisdom and blabbing is over ignorance squared, then reducing my wisdom by 25% will yield a 50% increase in stupid yacking. Or not. My mind is totatlly fuzzy. So I think the math might be wrong.

See, its happening already.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Kids Should Walk to School

Research shows (we need research for this?) that walking to school helps kids stay skinny. But why don't parents do it? I walked to school at age 5 and it was over a mile and often in snow. It was uphill both ways. Ha!

I know why I don't do it: Because I know that there are no less than 12 convicted sex offenders within a mile of the school my kids go. When I was a kid, this information wasn't known. It's known now.

So, my kids get fat or they get stolen. Guess what I chose?

Emergencies Shouldn't Happen on Weekends

If you want to live, and I know you really, really do, then don't chop off a limb, fall off a roof, or have a heart attack on the weekend or in the middle of the night. Doctors don't like coming into the hospital on weekends. The doctors on call, don't like to be bothered and have to take a shower and dis-engage from their commitments and get in the car and get gas and come in and it is SUCH A PAIN.

I like Doctors, heck, I am one. But the romance of being needed loses its luster a few years into practice. Thankfully, I'm not an emergency doc or a surgeon or cardiac specialist or anesthesiologist--they work crazy hours and rarely "have a life."

Remember the scene from Caddy Shack when Doctor Beeper gets beeped on the fairway? That's about right.
More blogs about the woodlands rita.