Monday, October 31, 2005

Panic over Pandemics

Last year, the US ran out of the Flu shots that ended up doing little more than nothing because the flu had mutated.

Now, everyone is beating the drum of Avian flu which is still in animals and is passed to humans. Human to human transfer has yet to occur--that mutation must happen in the future. This could be it everyone--we are all GOING TO DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The relentless news reports stoke fear and pump up pharmaceutical prices and that's about it.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Peggy Noonan Provokes Thought

It may have seemed from my last post that I dismiss Ms. Noonan's morose outlook on the future of America and all that is good and decent as overwrought angst unworthy of consideration. Not true. In fact, since reading it yesterday, her piece has stuck with me like bad barbeque--my stomach hurts so much I couldn't ignore it if I wanted to.

Evidently I wasn't the only one distressed by her latest offering. Instapundit thinks she should "cheer up". The Anchoress via Gateway Pundit thinks that there is a "Painless Coup" going on and that the sleeping masses are being shepherded into the gateways of hell by the "elites" and that the answer to all of this is prayer and lots of it.

Prayer definitely is a great place to start, but certainly only a start. The good Samaritan was good because he acted when others ignored and passed by. Hand-wringing rationalization have no place in a Christian's life.

My problem with both Noonan and the Anchoresses fine writings is that they are making the simple complicated. And the problem in America is simple--we are not going down the tubes because of bloated buerocratic policies (Medicare Drug Benefits), plagues (Avian Flu, AIDs), natural disasters, Terrorism, and overwhelmed Presidents. All these things exist, yes, but tough times have always existed (Reveolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, The Great Depression,etc.)

The problem in America can be simplified to this: The God Gap.

Two philosophical groups inhabit our land and a house thus divided cannot long stand. The first group believes that God-believers founded our country, that the Constitution's framers meant what they said just like God meant what He said when He wrote the Good Book, that families are the foundation of society (husband, wife, kids), that self-reliance means making a living to support yourself and you family, that Freedom must be defended and fought for continually and to take that fight whereever Freedom is imperiled, that Freedom is a God-given right, that power is dangerous and to be viewed with guarded skepticism but can be a force for good, that we will have to answer in the next life for what we do in this life.

The second group believes that the Colonist's zealotry wrongly justified their exploitation of the land and the inhabitants thus undermining their whole mission, that the Constitution like the Bible shouldn't be taken literally--and only simpletons do this, that "good people" are the foundation of society--good meaning anyone trying to be good because we all know no one is really very good so who are you to say one way is better, that not all people have the skills, intelligence or good fortune to rely on themselves so those who are more sophisticated, smarter and fortunate are obligated to take care of the "others", that Freedom really means freedom from condemnation which means freedom from absolutes--I am free to decide what is right or wrong, that power can and should be cultivated and used as a force for "good"--government in it's perfect incarnation can be the father, the mother, the benign loving force that our parents never were, that if we screw up this life, we'll have an opportunity to do better next time. And God, the Universe, she is everywhere all the time and loving if only we could tune in and let go of our restrictive past.

With all this, you'd think we'd have another Civil War right now, but we don't. Between these poles we have people who float back and forth. Many more people simply don't pay attention and show up and vote on election day for who their family member or friend or the TV says they should vote for.

On the other hand, people haven't been so motivated and involved in a long time. When Bush put up a milk-toast nomination for the Supreme Court, his voters pushed back. When his underlying message was, "trust me", I paused and so did a lot of other people. Let the Germans trust, let the Maoists trust, let Communists trust, but please don't ask me to trust you just because you are privy to some super-secret information.

When the Supreme Court decided that it was okay for developers to take Mr. Average Joe's house to put up super condos and this was decided by Liberal justices supposedly championing the rights of the "common man", more people sat up. The implications of this law, the implications of a few dudes in black robes changing so many lives with one ELITE sweep--breathtaking.

When the MSM embodied by Dan Rather "reported", a little too gleefully I might add, "new facts" regarding a presidential candidate's past and was found to be knowingly or unknowinly duped by a partisan hack, people took note. Some people participated in the unmasking of the fraud by this little thing called webblogging on a very free Internet.

Howard Dean and his Deaniacs, helped to transform grassroots efforts also via the Internet. Passionate young people came to the fore.

Meanwhile, the MSM and cultural elites in Hollywood, along with the Good Old Boys and Gals in the hallowed halls of government and justice push back after taking some time to scratch their colletive pointy head disbelieving. How dare they? Who do they think they are? Well, time will tell what kind of people "they" are.

Ultimately, because of the God Gap, it really comes down to what exactly a person views as immoral.

One group views killing animals as immoral. The other views killing unborn children as immoral.
One group views a burdened woman while the guy goes off scott-free immoral. The other views sex outside of marriage immoral.
One group views fossel fuel use immoral. The other views drug use immoral.
And on and on it goes.

But under this, is a foundational belief. One group views The Bible to be God's written word and that Christianity and the Freedom that America embodied as a Christian country with God-given rights to be the best protection to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The other group believes that only a Simpleton puts his faith in a God who may or may not exist and that the moral authority to freedom comes from the Individual, not God. Liberty rests in men and women fighting for their rights and those rights are defined by the individual. Men, in their essence, can come together for the common good and through this coming together benefit all.

In this secular world, which philosophy sounds more fun? Which philosophy gets reinforced daily by our popular media? Which philosophy seems more expansive and inclusive?

When wrapped up in working, taking care of kids, paying bills, etc. the underlying messages of most media we take in while unwinding in front of the tube and at the movies don't always cross the radar screen. In fact, most God-fearing Americans, those mindless-dimwits the Elites love to dismiss, possess a live and let live attitude.

Most God-fearers have friends or family who they love who are gay. Most God-fearers also believe that being a good steward of the environment is important--they just may believe that the path to conservation comes through individual rather than governmental ownership. Most God-fearers find animal cruelty horrible. Most God-fearers give very generously when tragedy strikes.

Why? The popular idea is that a God-fearing individual is a mindless robot programmed for world-destruction through domination. Again, a Christian can have a nuanced view because Christianity allows for it:

Hate the sin, love the sinner. Dress and keep the earth. Show love to the least of these. Jesus, Himself, is dressed and fed when those in need are dressed and fed.

Christianity allows for diversity of thought because a fundamental belief is that each person must answer to his Creator. It is not for one person to condemn another--but that doesn't mean that there is no sin.

America is rich beyond measure. Who gets credit for that? God or ingenuity (the common man)?

America helped plant Democracy around the globe. Why? Benevolent belief that God endows freedom or selfish colonialism (though we have no colonies)?

America is flawed. Why? Because people are flawed or the system is flawed?

Do we really want a secular, individual as god, state as savior, society? Do we really want society where the only agreement we have is that we all have equally valid opinions?

Where are we on the slippery slope? Ms. Noonan believes the Elites have given up and the train is careening off the tracks. I disagree. The Elites are fighting tooth and nail to grab the controls and wrest it from the common person who puts God above man. The Elites believe the future depends on Man--really important men, like them.

I don't see apathy when I see Senators bloviating, I see antipathy. I don't see apathy when I see that Hollywood puts out a T.V. show where "America is ready for a woman President" (which, by the way, we are, but must it be the Annointed--Hilary?), I see contempt. I don't see apathy when I see the NYT refusing to write a correction or retraction, I see arrogance.

Antipathy, contempt and arrogance require huge sums of energy--energy spent propping up and protecting power. Far from giving up, the Elites fight as if conceding that a Higher Power than them exists, means the destruction of civilization. In fact, for them it does--a civilized man is of a different and better class, a chosen class. Elite.

If America is going off-track, it is because it is being driven there willfully and with purpose. The path, as it always is, is the path of least resistence--also known as "good intentions." The drivers intend to end up in a man-made haven called Utopia where their rules reign supreme and everyone is equal.

If the Elites believed in Hell, that's where they'd end up--if they succeed. The jury is still out.

Gimme Some Smashmouth Football

Sunday afternoon's breezes blow through trees whose leaves are leaving as I sit at my computer reading apocolyptic rhetoric from Peggy Noonan. Oh Peggy, where do I start? Mr. Dr. asked,"Do you think she is pre-Alzheimers?" No, but she did sound like old Aunt Chicken Little, "The kids these days. GRUMPH.... The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

Ms. Noonan may be right, of course. Those acorns dropping on my head could be the beginning of something ominous. In fact, I don't have to look far to find evidence of all things and especially people who are nefarious, mendacious and pusilanimous. This among other reasons is why we don't have TV in our household.

Oh, we own televisions, we just don't buy Satellite TV or TiVO or Cable or any other channel delivery system for Ms. Noonan's very reason--things are bad. Do we need to hear it and see it and ruminate on it and pontificate about it over and over and over? NO!

TV, though, does possess a tonic for the bad news buggies: Football.

Football resolves things in ways politics never gets resolved. Two teams plan and practice ways to smash their opponent into oblivion. Strategy and surprise create tension and excitement. At the end of it all, one side wins. The other loses.

It is bad form for the losers to blame the other team, the refs, the fans, the red states or blue states. No, the players pull themselves together, get back in practice and have a go of it again next week. When will Washington losers get this message? Political losers spend more time crying foul than they spend on game plans and it shows.

Athletes, especially in basketball, get reputations if they "fall" too much feigning injury: floppers. The big cry babies annoy almost everyone and receive justifiable scorn. For all the money they make and all the elite training they receive we expect more than a soupy puddle under stress.

Since I have little hope that Washington insiders will ever get over themselves and since I depend on them gleefully pointing out infractions rather than actually playing the game they were elected to play (governence), my satisfaction will have to come from a more concrete and infinitely more enjoyable endeavor: football.

If only I had TV channels that worked.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Scooter Did What?

While the rest of America went to work, helped kids with homework and took dogs for walks, Washington D.C.-ers waited breathlessly for a political genius to fall. Alas, Karl Rove still lurks next to W and a guy named Scooter, who by all accounts is as harmless as his name suggests, sits somewhere indicted of the same kind of ticky-tack stuff that landed Martha in the clink for six months and tethered to her house for a few more.

The only thing that these cases illustrate to me is that even powerful people are subjected to the torture only a zealous prosecuter can conjure up. For all the doctors, business people and other average Joes who unknowingly run amok of some federal, state or local statute and pay a huge financial, time and reputational price for essentially nothing, perhaps Scooter will get good representation and shove back. We can hope.

I tried to explain to a dear relative of mine (she knows who she is) that every one of us is guilty of something--America has so many laws now that none of us is immune. She balked. Ha! Let's hope the IRS never combs through her records for a start.

The problem with all this "investigation"? An indictment is not conviction of a crime, but it might as well be. For all intents and purposes, Scooter's reputation is toast no matter the outcome of the hugely expensive trial that he will have to pay whether he is found innocent or not. Toast.

The weird thing? People actually salivate and feel good about this. What is wrong with them? Don't they realize that they could be next?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Search Dr. M--It's Easy!

Scroll down a bit and you'll notice right above the Abe Lincoln quote and you can search by topic. It's easy! And now I don't have to do the programming to catagorize everything. Have fun!

Technorati fuels that technology.

I Believe in Magic

Do you believe in magic? I didn't, really, either, but it grew on me (not like a fungus, stop being so cynical!).

My friends love everything Disney like most people love their children or prized pets and it all seemed a tad excessive to me. I reserved judgement, though--I am the girl who has a 6' tall card board Legolas in my closet, afterall. What is the big deal about a Mouse-Eared Theme Park? I learned. Anyway, you can see my friends dedication at their website Laughing Place.

There is something magical about people being kind when you're dealing with three "energetic" children. There is something magical about the attention to perfectionistic detail. There is something magical about someone being prohibited from saying "I don't know" and then finding an answer for you. There is something magical about fireworks on a good day, but then team them up with lasers and music on a 30 acre surround-sound system and imagine a world at peace. That first night at Epcot, I felt magic through my tears, but I still didn't get it.

Meandering past people from all cultures getting along was definitely magical. Seeing the delight and anticipation in my son and daughter's faces as Cinderella and Jasmine hugged them was more than magical. Seeing my husband's face light up seeing Jasmine and wishing he could be hugged too was closer to hysterical than magical, but did prove entertaining. But, I still didn't get it.

And then, on day two, we had breakfast with Pooh. My kids marched along with Pooh and Piglet and Eeyore and Tigger in a clamorous indoor parade utterly unselfconscious and totally believing. They knew that "real people are in there mama", but for a moment they chose to forget and lose themselves in a world that was sweet and loving and friendly and forgiving.

I got it. A few days into Disney, my concern about Iraq and Avian Flu and Wilma waned. For ten days I got to lose myself in a world that was sweet and loving and friendly and forgiving. It is a longing that everyone, every single person in the whole wide civlized world has--that some day there will be peace on earth and perfection and answers to questions and kindness.

Now, I too believe in Magic. If only real life were as easy as Wishing Upon A Star. In the meantime, I have Disney and I can't wait to go back.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Back in the Saddle Again

Hidey ho neighbors! Hope all is well in cyber-land. Although it feels like months since I've been gone, bumbling around the blogosphere makes me feel like no time has passed at all. I don't think that is a good thing.

Our trip exceeded my every expectation. The family togetherness and shared experiences will last a lifetime. I have a two lifetimes of picture management of work, unfortunately. I'll load some up for everyone part way through this one (lifetime, that is).

You know you've had a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious vacation when at least one member of the family gets sick. Yup, we've had one (vacation, that is). I haven't slept for a good 72 hours for more than two hours at a time. So this post will be short.

Got LOTS of topics to write about. It will be good, YOU'LL see. (I love invoking Pooh Bear.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wonderful World of Disney

Going to be taking the family to Disneyworld. You may never hear from me again.

My only question: How is it possible to have no clothes and this negative thing, this black hole of style, weighs five thousand pounds? That's what I want to know. It's a mystery. Stephen Hawking needs to get right on that.

While I'm at the House of Mouse, Harriet Miers will be flagalated. Louis Farrakhan will wax elephant on explosives and dikes (not dykes, dikes). Burmese pythons will try to eat alligators. Iraq will attempt a democracy and for that many innocent people will get incinerated by nutjobs. The Astros will get their collective asses handed to them by the Braves.....again. Hey, wait a minute, the Astros won and are playing the Cardinals!

All in all, it will be a normal week and a half, which is to say completely nuts, but it will all go on anyway.

So, if Playhouse Disney or Rolie Polie Olie or a bunch of pre-feminist, needy princesses lock me in a room somewhere to rot, please know that I'll die fulfilled--my kids will have met Winnie-the-Pooh in person. What could be better than that? That's right! Nothin'!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Value of Apology: A Path to Reconciliation

What are the two hardest words to hear? Maybe "You're dying" or "You lose" or "You're wrong".

What are the two hardest words to say? That's easy. "I'm sorry."

In fact, some people would rather hear "You're dying" than say, "I'm sorry."

Apologizing for hurting someone or something that someone holds dear can be very difficult. Who wants to admit that he failed? Nearly nobody.

But a wise person admits his error and corrects it. A wiser person, and a humble one, admits it not just to himself, but also to the person affected by the error. The wisest person, does everything in his power to make the situation right--mending what can be mended.

Not admitting faults is stupid. Not apologizing is arrogant. Allowing the mistake to stay uncorrected reveals a serious character flaw. Ignorant arrogance: what a deadly combination.

Pop psychology focuses on forgiveness. Little time is spent on learning to take responsibility for mistakes and making them right. Both bitterness (a lack of forgiveness) and contempt (scornful towards those you've wronged) eat away at the fabric of the person.

This is the perfect time of year to take personal stock. Stop carrying the burden of bad behavior. Ask for forgiveness (not to dump your emotional baggage--note to those who have "cheated" on a spouse and want to "unload", for this I recommend your conversation be between you and God) and make it right, to the extent that you can. Some things can never be undone, but that doesn't mean a new start can't happen today.

If a person comes to you and asks for forgiveness and does everything in his power to make the situation right, give the blessing of forgiveness. It is a gift to the wrong-doer and to yourself. We've all been the person who messed up. It's good to remember that when contemplating forgiveness.

For those of you not versed in apology here's an example:

"Mr. ________, I am sorry that I _____________________. It was wrong and hurt you in this way: _________________________________. Please forgive me. To make up for what I did/said, I will ________________________________. Is that okay with you?"

In these days of "spinning" and "denial" and then absolute brutality when someone does finally apologize (instead of kind forgiveness), is it any wonder people don't want to own up to their mis-deeds? Well, the answer is to apologize and do right anyway.

Our own health, physical, spiritual and mental, depends on apologizing. It's an art that can be learned and practiced.

Reconciling ourselves to our friends, family, co-workers and customers. What could be a better way to start the day?

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Better Life

While still in school, the dh and I visited my childhood chiropractic mentor. Funny, smart, intuitive and solid, he made his patients (including me) feel like the center of the universe when with him.

A particularily difficult patient (not the case, but the person herself) came in during our visiting time. Even the ever-unperturbed Dr. R seemed exasperated.

The woman, a semi-professional mountain-biker, had hit a stump going downhill about 35 miles per hour and landed square on her head--the full compressive force jarring through her spinal column and mashing her cervicals all the way up to her atlas (the bone the cranium rests on). She had waited six months for it to "get better" as if that would happen by magic and then wanted the good doctor to "fix me up" in one visit.


"Why don't people want to get well?" I asked. By that meaning--not just patched up but really well. This woman could be an even better athlete with a little body-maintenance afterall.

"All people want to get well, Melissa," he corrected, "not all know how."

His words stuck with me, but it has taken years to figure it out. My experience hadn't been that everyone wanted to get well. Quite the contrary, in fact. Some people seemed to relish being sick--talking about "my arthritis" or "my surgery" or "my cancer" as a badge of honor that defined them. These people seemed, to my view, to actively try to stay un-well.

If you asked the un-well people though, they would vociferously defend their actions, saying they desired to get better BUT the chemo didn't work, or the doctors removed the wrong organ (I kid you not) or the medication needed to be at a higher dose.

Did you notice that not one of those actions was pro-active? The underlying belief was "if someone else did their jobs better, I'd be well."

Dr. R was right, though. People do want to be well, very often, the pay-offs of change to be well don't outweigh the risks of being sick.

Often the choices necessary to get better scare the tar out of us and we either paralyze deer in the headlights style, or "run from the pain" like some thoroughbred horses do when sick.

Lifestyle changes can mean many frightening things: confronting wife about her mean mouth so home is a place of peace where peace and healing is possible, irritating the kids by changing everyone's diets to healthier food, taking time from a demanding boss by going for a walk at lunch or upsetting hubby about finances when he sees your actions as self-indulgent quackery.

You see? Getting healthy means a lot more than "self-control" and "discipline". It often means upsetting some pretty heavy-laden applecarts.

Longterm health gains won't happen keeping the system that produced the illness the same. A person embarking on a journey to health needs the loving support of friends and family. That might mean letting some relationships go and building others.

Everyone wants to get healthy. Getting healthy means healthy ideas, beliefs, relationships and the traditional diet and exercise.

Scary? Maybe. Worth it? Absolutely.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Internet Control: Understand the Ramifications

Here's more. Thanks Instapundit.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Good News

What have Houstonians coveted lo this long summer? Cool weather.

We got it yesterday. The temps dropped from 100 degrees (you know you're numb when 94 degrees feels perceptably different than 98) to 65 in one day. Not great for the respiratory system, but awesome in every single other way.

Tonight, the windows open to blue skies fading into a pink sunset. The cool air making the homemade chicken nuggets (you ain't a Texan if you don't got a deep fryer) and spaghetti dinner taste all that more yummy.

Ahhh, autumn has finally arrived in Houston. Hallalujuah!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Harriet Humor

Ok. This is funny. Thanks, Andrew Sullivan.

Health Needed For Wealth

You may have noticed fewer posts of recent. Well, kidney infections tend to sideline even the most stout-hearted. And this blogger was sidelined or rather, clothes-lined linebacker-style in bed.

During this painful time, I managed to read a few articles regarding "work-life balance" and "the networked family". The bottom line? Yes, you're overworked, but with proper technology and if corporations get out of a "industrialized" mind-set it will be okay.

What a bunch of hooey.

With everyone working, no one sees the kids (but we text message all the time.) With everyone working, good food is out of the question so fast food is de rigeur (who has the time to cook?). With everyone working, we march through life like good soldiers (who has time to worship, enjoy peace and just think?).

All this work is to feed the beast, keep in mind. These are upper-income wager-earners who work for the BMW (too good for a Chevy), the McMansion (must live at the right address even if you only sleep there on the off times you're not out of town on business), and the right private schools and day care (appease the guilt of being away).

But I digress.

My real point in talking about this issue: without health all this goes down the drain. While on the phone with a potential client her to-do list poured out like a stricken lament. With all this to do, how do I fit time in to clarify my life and take care of my health?

My answer was simple: How can you afford not to?

Performance coaches, alternative health doctors, team builders and anything "preventative" often receive much derision by those who are "results oriented". Eating well, exercising, and the corporate equivalent of planning for the future, spending time creatively and for both the individual and corporation--resting, seem wasteful.

Here is my list of wasteful: painful surgeries and down-sizings, stupid marriages and mergers, and generally running around putting out fires instead of building individual and corporate health.

We need less Sun-Tzu and more Lao-tse.

Most health woes whether individual or corporate can be prevented. A tired, but useful example is a car: would you expect the engine to keep working if you never change the oil? No, but people and businesses do it all the time and with infinitely more to lose.

It is unsurprising that the number one way people end up in bankruptcy is health woes. How long would you survive financially a long-term health trauma?

I thought so. An ounce of know the drill. (hint: is worth a pound of cure)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Internet Control

We are in trouble. Are you familiar with that little organization called the United Nations? Do you want these American haters controlling information in the future?

One gets the impression that the E.U. is so concerned about reclaiming world domination back from the Yankees back that they will destry themselves to do it.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has more.

HERE'S MORE on efforts by the UN and EU to take over the Internet. You can bet that they'll do their best to quash criticism of corrupt international bureaucracies if that happens.

UPDATE: Reader Julian Morrison emails:

It's like I posted to Slashdot: why would the EU and the UN want to grab control, when that control right now is only being used for laissez faire? Because they want to /stop/ the laissez faire!

China wants to take down Tibetan and Falun Gong sites. Germany wants to ban neonazis from the internet. The arab nations would want to kick off Israel until it "fulfils its international obligations". Etc etc. This is nothing less than an attempt to stuff the information genie back into its bottle.

At all costs, they must be prevented from claiming the spurious moral high ground! Confront them with the question: what would you change? And, why not go through process at ICANN? What would you want to do,
that they would refuse? And why?

Spanish Flu Recreated

Scientists have recreated the flu that killed over 50 million people and are making it available to other researchers worldwide.

Studying it to prevent it? I can maybe see the logic. Although the same virus scientists have yet to create a vaccine for the common cold or HIV or even a really effective Flu vaccine. How exactly do doctors plan to prevent the virus they just recreated that was a slate-wiper--kills everyone who catches it?

Sharing it? The logic seems flawed. Any vengeful or morally bankrupt scientist could sell the virus to evil people and reek more havoc than a neutron bomb ever could.

Is it just me or does the world get more dangerous every day--mostly by unintended consequences?

Drug Problems

Fruits and veggies interact with drugs. Who would have thought?

The topic of the above linked article is grapefruit juice (a very nice digestive aid because it is so acidic so you absorb what you eat) and how it reduces the recommended dose of a drug because you absorb more.

For a long time, the medical profession has had it both ways--medicine changes your body-mind chemistry but food just feeds you and, even more wrong, it doesn't matter what you eat.

Alternative doctors, like Mr. Dr. and me, have long used food as medicine. Guess what? Organic food and food based supplements don't cause side effects and reactions because your body recognizes them and knows how best to use them. That doesn't mean they don't change your body chemistry, because they do. Just because there is no pain (side-effects) doesn't mean there is no gain.

Medicines are unnatural and the body views them as invaders and tries to excrete them any way possible. That is why liver and kidney problems follow prolonged drug use--it doesn't matter what drug, either. From the Pill to Penicillin, the body gets forced and manipulated and doesn't like it.

So, yes food and medicine interact. Some foods are acidic, some alkaline. That one factor alone will significantly change your chemistry. Some foods contain salicylates (the compound that makes up aspirin) and so are natural pain killers and blood thinners--apples, for example.

It is not shocking to me that drugs and food interact. What is shocking is that researchers are finally looking into the topic because it is so obvious to health doctors who receive nutrition education. (Medical doctors don't. They learn about pharmacology to the almost complete exclusion of nutrition.)

Here's the funny part: the recommendations coming out of this research won't include avoiding the drug. Oh no! The recommendation won't be eat more apples and lay off the aspirin. Oh no! The recommendations will be: don't eat apples (or drink grapefruit juice or whatever) while taking aspirin. This advice implies that the synthetic foreign substance (medication) belongs in the body while the natural, health-building food with no side-effects does not.

Could there be a more screwy perspective?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Ms. Meirs Supreme Court Justice

I voted for President Bush for one reason: the Supreme Court. It's not that I don't care about Iraq or budgets or social services or road building. I do.

But all that stuff (except war) will happen with or without the President--the Congress legislates and the Pres accepts it or vetoes it. Supreme Court Judges ultimately have infinitely more power than the folks in the other branches of government.

Shouldn't we at least know where this person comes from? It disturbs me that we have a Chief Justice who is essentially like the Saturday Night Live character Pat. Is he a he or a she? We can't tell. We can't tell anything about him. We know even less about Ms. Meir. We voted. Bush won. We all, whether Democrat or Republican, should know--even if we don't like what we find out.

I want a constitutional judge on the Supreme Court. No, the Constitution is not a "living breathing document". The framers had an intent for every word written. That intent must be what governs decisions not a few guys in black robes who believe their person opinions matter more than the guiding principles within the Constitution.

Peggy Noonan says it better than I could.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Toilet Trained: A Lesson in Operant Conditioning

While sitting on the toilet the other day, I had an epiphany: my new house's toilets managed to change my whole family's behavior.

B.F. Skinner a well-known psychologist (to psychologists--he doesn't have the same name recognition as Pavlov) was the father to Behavioral Therapy.

One way to encourage behavior is to reward it. A way to extinguish (get rid of) unhelpful behavior is to make the consequences of the behavior so repugnant, disgusting, frustrating that the behavior gets extinguished. This can be done by negative reinforcement, extinction or punishment.

My toilets chose negative reinforcement.

At my old house, after going #2 a person could essentially wad up a whole roll of toilet paper and the toilets would flush. Rarely would it plug up unless someone had week-long constipation or something (but I digress).

At my new house, the toilets have set the limit of toilet paper at four squares. Period.

Now ladies (and men too, but they care less) we all know that four squares are not enough--except for meals. So, like you, I used more. My kids used more. My husband used more. Guests used more.

During the first week at the house, one of my first purchases were two shiny new plungers. One for each bathroom.

How much do I hate plungers? Words fail me. It is impossible to adequately describe how despicable clogged toilets can be day in, day out, day in, day out. And with Daddy at work all day and into the night guess who gets to (to the tune of Whistle While You Work from Snow White) plunge, plunge, plunge, plunge, plunge, plunge, plunge, plunge, all the whole day long?

That's right ME!

Somewhere along week two, I freaked out. I became the TP Police (kinda like an MP but meaner). My kids freaked. They started throwing used toilet paper into the trash because mom might lose it if the toilet plugs again. We all went back to Freud's anal stage for a while. It wasn't pretty.

Slowly, subtly we changed. Against our collective will, we became raging environmentalists. "Only four pieces of toilet paper. Do ya hear me? FOUR!"

We traded off TP for tread marks and upped our Bleach usage (the only thing that kills bacteria is very hot water and bleach, word to the wise.)

What's my point? I do have one, actually. If a toilet can change our behavior, we can shape behavior, too.

Dr. Phil of psychobabble fame always says "we teach others how to treat us." And he's right.

A group of sociology students thinking they were funny conditioned their teacher. Every time he hit a topic they liked they made eye-contact, leaned forward and feigned rapt attention. Every time he diverted into a boring topic, they yawned, looked away and acted disinterested. It worked. They counted the time, and the professor slowly, but surely taught the information that was reinforced and stayed away from the yuck topic. Operant conditioning at work.

We do this every day. Why do we keep getting certain people in our life? Because we are still in our own life and our words, beliefs, and mostly actions (communication is about 90% NON-verbal) reinforce certain behaviors.

So here's the deal: be like the toilet. Decide how you want to be treated and then reinforce behavior you like and extinguish behavior that bugs you.

Don't like your kid's whiney voice? Don't yell back (or worse whine, "Johnny don't doooooo that" wah, wah, wah). Ignore him. He get's nothing, not one thing until he uses the tone you want.

Sick of your husband dropping his clothes all over the house? Don't pick them up. Don't wash them. Leave them to rot. Ditto the dishes. When he asks what's going on--tell him that you clean the clothes that make it to the laundry basket. (And say it happily and sweetly--this will reinforce his communication with you. A snide tone will kill your progress.)

Want your wife to show more appreciation? Show appreciation to her (modelling). Then when she throws you even the tiniest of bones, reinforce it. Say something like, "thanks for noticing and saying something it means a lot to me." Be enthusiastic and encouraging in your tone and action.

If this all seems like too much effort, consider how your past behavior has worked. Maybe some change, on your part, is in order.

A word on punishment: this is the easiest form of behavior modification but is the equivalent of winning the battle but losing the war. Except in extremely unique circumstances, it should be avoided at all costs. Why?

Punishment usually works only as long as the punisher is around. The punishments breed resentment which causes other more undesirable behavior.

For example, an age-old standard punishment is "withholding". You married people know what I mean. Rather than solve the problem, it breeds hostility. The situation spirals.

Another example is yelling "no!" over and over to kids. Until a child approaches three, negatives are difficult to understand in the abstract anyway. Better to reinforce positive behavior and use positive language "hold the cup with two hands", "nice job putting the cup on the table!" rather than "don't spill the milk!" No behavior is specifically requested and the message sent is "spill the milk" because the negative, the word "don't", is not processed. If the child does spill, make her wipe it up. This might be called a negative reinforcement. (Oops, I have to clean when I spill.)

Don't argue with me on this one, these are actually very simple psychological principles.

Like the toilet, be clear on the behavior you want. (Few paper products please.) When the desired behavior is performed, reward it. (Nice, easy flush.) When the undesired behavior is performed ignore it or negatively reinforce it. (Overflowing toilets with objectionable contents.)

We can change our behavior and so can other people. We don't have to play victim. Grabbing hold of destiny includes teaching people how to treat us.

Toilet training takes on a whole new meaning, doesn't it?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Doctors Drop Patients

Doctors don't like to be questioned. Vaccine refusal is especially contentious says a new study. Vaccines, the holy grail of medicine right after the discovery of penicillin (and the related germ theory), must be enjoyed by all...or else.

Of 302 pediatricians questioned, 256 said they had encountered a parent who refused to let a child receive at least one vaccination in the previous 12 months, and 162 -- 39 percent of the group -- who had a parent refuse all vaccinations.

The refusals were most commonly based on safety concerns, worries about children getting multiple vaccines at once, philosophical reasons and religious beliefs, said the report from Chicago's Rush Medical College.

"In the case of parents refusing specific vaccines, 82 (28 percent of the doctors) said that they would ask the family to seek care elsewhere; for refusal of all vaccines, 116 (39 percent) of pediatricians said they would refer the family" to another doctor, said the report.

The reason physicians cite most often for wanting to drop such patients were lack of shared goals and lack of trust, added the study published in the October issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Houston Astros: Emotional Blocks

Oy. The Astros are at it again. Squeaking into the post-season. Losing in the first round, if the script stays the same. Which good money says it will.

"That's the Astros' way," Craig Biggio said, "The only way we know how to get it done." Indeed.

The team reminds me of some people (me included) who keep finding themselves in the same situation. These people make life difficult for themselves for no apparent reason except that it keeps life exciting--or excruciating depending upon your emotional health.

Individuals, teams, families and businesses all fall into the repeated unhealthy emotional script routine. No less than Albert Einstein himself said that the definition of insanity was "to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results."

The Astros are insane.

Here's an exercise for you today: what chronic, persistent grief exists in your life? Having the same argument with your spouse? Still fighting an in-law? Wondering why you find yourself working under a lunatic male boss who reminds you eerily of daddy dearest? Haggling with a co-worker and it is reminiscent of battles with big sister? I could go on and on....

Work through the grief on paper. What triggers the script? What factors aggravate the script? Most important: what do you get out of keeping the script alive?

Then, work out a way to change the script. Challenge your long held beliefs, emotions and actions. Do you really believe that you'll get fired if you create that boundery? Must you get angry every time someone questions your intelligence regarding your area of expertise? Is it necessary to go play a round of golf in spite, when you're frustrated rather than talking about it?

My guess about the Astros? The Killer B's thrive on being heros. So much so in fact, that they will create a crisis in order to "save the day". Thus, they find themselves in danger at the end of every season, but like a good comic book, da-de-da! all works out.

But this script consumes huge amounts of emotional energy that could be spent preparing for the next round of battles. Other teams who clinch their play-off berths much earlier, have the emotional space to enjoy their winning seasons and prepare mentally for the next round. The Astros are deprived of this needed time.

The Astros meet the post-season physically and emotionally wasted. Then they lose. The team simply runs out of steam.

This script obviously pays more dividends for them than winning handily and going strong into the post season would. In fact, my guess without working with their team (oh, would I love to work on 'em), is that playing out this script is more satisfying than winning the Pennent.

No way, critics would say. "You just don't know how hard it is to make it in the pros into the post-season." "You just don't understand how long a season can be."

Individual clients say, "You just don't know my boss, my husband/wife, my mother-in-law or father-in-law, my sad history...."

True. But I do know what I see in front of me. And past behavior on the client's part is the best predictor of future behavior. The thing is, while following the script offers temporary pay-offs (martyred myrtle, win-the-argument willie, hero hal) , ultimately we feel like big losers--again.

Mindlessly following a script gets you in the same place. Unconscious emotional barriers often exist in these scripts--and to remove those barriers you need the help of a trained Neuroemotional Technique doctor. But there is much work that you can do to explore these "life themes" yourself.

The Astros need some serious help. They are a fascinating case study in "stuck scripts". I would offer my team-building program to them free today if they would take it. Maybe then Houston's hometown heroes could remove their unconscious barriers to winning it all instead of just "saving the day."

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Good News Saturday

Writing from New Jersey (thus the fewer posts), the location of my continuing ed for 2005. Learning a lot.

The weather turned cool upon arrival with temps in the 70s during the day and 40s at night. Perfect Autumn weather. The crisp night breezes and the crickets rhythmically chirping sends waves of nostalgia rushing over me.

I love Texas. My friends don't understand it, but I do. It's not the most beautiful state. It's not the most refined state. But it is big and generous and full of opportunity. The possibilities seem as endless as the long stretches of highway under the black expanse of sky.

But my love for Texas will never dim fond memories of the north--the fall belongs to the "Yankee" states. (Springtime in Paris, Christmas in New York and Autumn in the north and mid-west.) Trees full of apples, jugs of apple cider from those apples and apple-cider donuts that satisfy the lusty hunger that a chill in the air brings--that's Autumn.

Oh, this I miss.

Today, with the sun mellowing the air, we drove the New Jersey countryside. Zipping over the hills and around the bends of old roads lined with huge ancient trees and rolled hay bales. We watched horses in the pasture and sheep chewing--my sister mourned the loss of two woolly black sheep who met their demise recently. She counted this pair as her personal pets and slowed down and greeted them on her drive to and from work each day.

A Texas hayride in October, when the temperature still hits 90 feels stickily stifling compared to wearing flannel shirts and jeans and boots and snuggling under a heavy blanket on a frosty cold Michigan night while rambling over some farmer's field. My kids don't know the difference and have a great time. I have a great time too, but I know the difference. I remember.

So yesterday, today and tomorrow morning, I've been inhaling the scents and scouring the sights, not wanting to miss a thing. Storing more away, reawakening memories and making them richer in the remembering.

Another thing about Autumn in the north: The air carries sound differently. Wafting through the windows, a baseball game clearly transmits from the neighbor's yard, who are planting fat yellow mums. On Friday nights, cheers from a football game echo against hills. Excitement shivers down my spine hearing distant voices rise and fall.

This I miss.

Memory is a funny thing. Sadness and loss can distort pictures in our mind and make us forget things altogether.

Some memories are so perfect, such reflections of God Himself, that when we experience them again, they are precisely, exactly, comfortingly the same. These blessed memories crowd out the bleak and bad, thankfully. Good memories remain clear and sure.

I love Autumn in the North. The beauty and loveliness will linger in my mind and heart--ripe, sweet memories as satisfying as fresh-pressed apple cider and warm home-made donuts.

I will remember and oh, how I will miss it.
More blogs about the woodlands rita.