Friday, December 29, 2006

Consumer Choices

Do most people in North America and other developed countries really believe that having loads of cash, and material things will make them happier and healthier? If not, then why do many people suffer needlessly in the pursuit of material goods well beyond what they need to live comfortably?
Couldn't we use purchasing power to improve our living standards, and our neighbors by buying responsibly, so that consumerism might achieve a greater good? If we consume thoughtfully wouldn't that create a ripple effect throughout the global economy allowing scarce resources to be used responsibly with less exploitation of third world countries? Should we care about these issues? Does responsible consumerism have to be at odds with free enterprise and entrepreneurship? If we promote ethical consumer decisions can we help protect the environment, stop labor abuses, alleviate animal suffering, and push corporations to be more responsible? The making of every consumable product involves ethical decisions that impact human health and the environment, so our purchase choices have the same implications.

I marvel at my own hypocrisy as a consumer, since most of my purchases are made on a whim, out of habit, and without serious regard to their consequences. I haven't been able to divorce myself from our mass media culture that worships at the altar of material gain. Perhaps this post is a step in the right direction. Do you have a consumer philosophy that you live by?

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. ~Mohandas K. Gandhi, quoted in E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful

, ,

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Edmonton Adventures 2007

Edmonton, Alberta is a great Canadian City with much to offer its citizens and tourists alike. A few of the great attractions to see in the city are listed below. If anyone would like more information on sights, attractions, and upcoming events in the Edmonton region please leave a comment with your query, and I will do my best to post an answer or respond by e-mail promptly.

  • The largest shopping mall in the world is situated in Edmonton. It boasts a huge indoor water park, casino and amusement park with the world's largest indoor roller coaster.

  • Edmonton is known as the Festival city throughout the year, but especially in the summer months with world renowned events such as the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival

  • The Edmonton Oilers rank as one of the all time best NHL Hockey franchises having won five Stanley Cup championships in their glory years with the likes of Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky. Go see one of their games in the building that started it all.

  • Edmonton has the largest urban parkland in North America stretching along the North Saskatchewan river with 22 parks and over 150 kilometres of trails to enjoy.

  • Tags:
    , , ,

    Sunday, December 17, 2006

    Global Warming: Is it too Late?

    Is it time for the silent majority to take a stand on global warming?

    Few would argue that the science of climate change is complex, but despite potential flaws in scientific methodology the evidence seems convincing that we are in a period of dangerous global warming - possibly exacerbated or even caused by human activity. We have receding glaciers, rapid melting of Greenland's ice sheets, new vast expanses of the Arctic ocean without ice, disappearing permafrost, ocean acidification, dying coral reefs, more extreme weather, and documented rises in global temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide etc. This doomsday scenario could result in loss of water supplies from glacial melt, species extinction, and unprecedented coastal flooding with submerged cities from rising sea levels, etc.

    Al Gore presents a compelling case for the facts and consequences of global warming in the movie An Inconvenient Truth even though some of the scientific evidence he describes may be taken out of context (e.g. despite his case for new, documented, profound glacial melt on the Antarctic Peninsula, the British Antarctic Survey has determined from climate modeling that for at least the next 50 years; snowfall on the continent of Antarctica should continue to exceed glacial losses from global warming).

    As in many issues there are also compelling arguments against the hypothesis of global warming. An article entitled Myths of Global Warming authored by the NCPA in 1997 attempts to debunk various global warming scenarios. Of course scientific evidenced gathered since that time could also debunk claims made by the NCPA. It is up to each one of us to educate ourselves on the issue, and decide our course of action.

    We can effect change, but is it too late?

    The movie doesn't delve into that issue. There are some potentially devastating positive feedback loops that come into play with global warming that might thwart our best efforts to reduce the trend. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Huge tracts of newly melting permafrost in Western Siberia and other regions will release many tonnes of methane, more forest fires will release more stored carbon, and the water that replaces melted sea ice will absorb more sunlight. All of these effects and others will likely increase the rapidity of global warming possibly beyond our ability to contain it. On the other hand, there may be other science yet to be discovered that debunks the worst case global warming scenarios.

    Mr. Gore I am nearly convinced (despite all of the controversy). I will attempt to reduce carbon emissions. I will exert political influence where possible. The stakes are extremely high and we have to try regardless of the final outcome. Better late than never as they say. We can only hope that human efforts and political will can change the tide - Mars won't likely be fit for human habitation until the next century.

    David Friedman of San Jose, California presents an interesting discussion on the various, confusing practical and philosophical arguments relating to the debate on global warming entitled "Global Warming: Confusing Moral and Practical Arguments".

    For the naysayers who say that global warming is a myth, and that proposals to limit greenhouse gases might actually harm the environment or the welfare of mankind please see the Petition Project signed by more than 17,100 applied scientists who agree with that sentiment.

    , , , , ,

    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    My Seasonal Affective Disorder

    Author's Note:
    Since the original publication of this post, some scientific consensus has developed regarding the link between Vitamin D deficiency, brain chemistry and mood disorders.  A combination of adequate Vitamin D intake and blue light box therapy may be the most effective means of combatting SAD in addition to other general health maintenance measures.

    It's no surprise that many people who live in Northern climes suffer from sunlight deprivation in the Winter. If you happen to work day shifts you may only catch glimpses of the sun rising and setting, or never see the sun at all depending on your latitude. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is essentially unheard of in those who live near the equator indicating its strong link to lack of daylight exposure. Unfortunately normal indoor lighting is simply not intense enough to have the desired positive physiological effects that sunlight does.

    Depression has stalked me off and on for years - negatively impacting relationships, productivity and peace of mind, but I know it has taken a much greater toll in others. I have a close friend with a severe affective disorder dominated by depression who is unable to work, relies on a subsidized income, and has become alienated from family and friends. At his worst he has suffered hospitalization, and bouts of electroconvulsive (shock) therapy to regain some grip on reality and his moods. Obviously, severe depression or SAD can have terrible consequences including suicide, and so we should take every measure to adequately treat milder forms and prevent their progression.

    It took many years to realize that my worst bouts of depression were usually in the winter, and more specifically the month of November. Of course SAD explains this pattern nicely. The onset of this SAD is so rapid that within a few days I can go from highly functional to a fairly depressed state as though the shrinking daylight in the fall suddenly triggers a switch in my brain. Fortunately my sister convinced me to start taking antidepressants during one severe November episode a few years ago, and after a few weeks I felt better than I had in years. After being on the drugs for a year or so I decided to stop them because of the side effects, and decided to try other measures to combat depression. Having said that I wouldn't hesitate to use antidepressants again if an episode of depression became too severe, or didn't respond to other measures. My depressive episodes have also been linked to a mild obsessive compulsive disorder, and that also improved with the medication, but again I sought other methods to deal with that. Through better understanding of these conditions, I can now effectively fight off the blues and OCD by getting proper rest, using cognitive behavior therapy, staying active, seeking good nutrition, and more recently by employing blue light therapy to combat SAD. If I am disciplined enough to use my light box regularly at the first signs of SAD I will experience a definite improvement in mood.

    Of course like most treatments there can be side effects to light therapy as well(Saeed and Bruce):

    Photophobia (eye sensitivity to light)
    Hypomania (a mental state characterized by excessive excitability, optimism, hyperactivity, talkativeness, heightened sexual interest, quick anger and irritability and a decreased need for sleep)
    Insomnia (if light therapy is used too late in the day)
    Possible retinal damage (though this side effect has not been proven)

    Despite these considerations I prefer to use light therapy rather than travel the road back down to taking antidepressants again. If you have free time during the day, then going for a walk of reasonable duration is a good alternative to using a light box. If you experience significant "winter blues" that might be related to SAD you should seek a medical opinion. If you are diagnosed with SAD, then your purchase of a light box to treat it might be one of the best investments you ever make. Not all light boxes are created equal though, and you should consider blue spectrum 470 nanometer LED lights as they are probably more effective while using much less light intensity than full spectrum boxes (easier on the eyes with less side effects).

    , , , ,

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    Show Me The Money!

    Captain Kirk where art thou? Bill Shatner of Star Trek fame kicks off his debut as a game show host tonight on Show Me The Money. I'm actually watching this cheesy new version of "win a million bucks" right now as I type. There's a lot of scantily clad ladies in red dresses dancing on cue in unison during the show, and Bill seems to be having a good time as host - cracking jokes and doing some goofy dancing himself. The Contestants have to correctly answer six questions while building their booty of winnable cash with each correct answer or losing sums with incorrect answers, blah, blah, blah. It's like a weird mix of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Deal Or No Deal. Beam me up Scotty! Maybe to a galaxy far, far away where they haven't invented game shows yet, or cheese. Where the hell is Spock anyway?

    , ,

    Sunday, October 08, 2006

    Too Much Anger?

    Not to state the obvious, but it seems that uncontrolled anger is often involved when we get ourselves into serious trouble. Many years ago I stupidly "flipped a bird" at a crazy driver who was dangerously tailgating me - whereupon he proceeded to chase me erratically for forty miles down a highway (no cell phone to call 911). He tried to force me to the roadside where I suppose he was going to inflict some kind of injury. When he was close enough for me to see him his head seemed to be the size of a beach ball accentuated by a broken nose, and my instincts told me that he would enjoy a fight. By using his car like a weapon, and acting psychotic I wasn't about to engage this creep who may have carried some sort of weapon. That was one of the more frightening incidents in my life, and all because I couldn't restrain myself from using a silly one finger gesture towards an ignorant driver.

    I recall playing golf one time during a frustrating round, and after chunking a ball off the tee into a water hazard I hurled my errant golf iron into said water hazard. My iron would never have reached the hazard under normal circumstances, but the extra anger adrenaline resulted in a mighty heave. After fishing around for the iron a while, and not finding it, I proceeded down the fairway. Later, I happened to look back toward the hazard to see some young hooligans pulling my iron out of the hazard, and running gleefully into the woods with it. At least that silly episode only cost me embarrassment, and the cost of replacing a golf club.

    On one occasion in an airport after returning from vacation my wife and I were confronted with a rude customs officer. I made a sarcastic, angry remark after one of his questions rubbed me the wrong way. He then proceeded to make us open all of our luggage, and go through each of our vacation purchases in painstaking detail ultimately deciding to charge us duty because by his estimation we had exceeded our exemption. My wife gave me a look that would have frightened a jedi knight as once again my anger had created an avoidable situation.

    These situations were minor compared to other life changing events that may have been compromised by my foolish anger. I am sure others can recount similar experiences in their lives, and perhaps some that resulted in dire consequences. Of course knowing this doesn't make it any easier to control rage, but who would disagree that we could all live longer, happier, and healthier lives by keeping our anger in check, and learning how to release it in a measured fashion? There is significant research evidence that being an angry or hostile person puts your heart at risk.

    There is an excellent web site that discusses anger, anger management, and strategies to keep anger at bay called Controlling Anger.

    , , , ,

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Shoot Your Television

    Too much bad television? Take the TV outside and give it a thrashing, or better yet give it the Dirty Harry treatment. Just go ahead and Kill your Television! Most of us watch too much damn TV - it's the opiate of the masses, and Big Brother couldn't be happier. Of course televisions have morphed into PC and MAC monitors in case we prefer a more interactive video stream. How many of us have the courage to unplug any of these devices for even a few days, excluding the odd Luddite amongst us?

    This video shows you what happens when a television screen is shot, and tells you how a TV works all at the same time. Is it legal to shoot a television?

    , ,

    Sunday, August 27, 2006

    Nuke Pluto

    Pluto? It's probably too far away to "nuke", but that might end the controversy. Why do we care whether it's a planet or some useless piece of asteroid floating around the edge of our solar system? Just because a few astronomers are getting all hot and sweaty over the Pluto controversy does it have to be plastered all over the net like some kind of space virus. It's not as if we don't have enough things going down on planet Earth to worry about - wars, famine, pestilence, pollution - real issues that require serious attention. How about Mars? We don't hear much about Mars these days. At least there might have been life on Mars, and a few NASA types are talking about Terraforming the planet in a few decades. That way when Earth is no longer habitable we can re-populate the Red planet, and start the whole damn thing all over again. I say more Mars less Pluto - how about you?

    , , ,

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    Tiger Roars Again!

    Tiger Woods is the best athlete so far in the Twenty First Century. As everyone in the golf world knows he won his twelfth major golf championship today after dominating the field through eighteen holes of the PGA tournament. His combination of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual focus along with immense innate talent give him a unique stature in the world of sports and golf - the most difficult, pressure packed sport to master ever devised. His late father Earl seemed to have precognition of this talent, and his future accomplishments soon after Tiger was born. Even if you know little of golf you must take the time to watch this phenom in his prime as he closes in on the supreme golf record of Jack Nicklaus who holds the most professional major victories of any golfer. My prediction is that Tiger will surpass Jack's record by the year 2011 or by Tiger's Thirty fifth birthday. After that this prodigal ambassador of sport with his multicultural background, and native intelligence could look towards becoming a dominating political figure - maybe President of the United Nations? Let there be no doubt - Tiger is above all a humanitarian, something his father Earl taught him well. He is a reluctant hero, but that is his mantle nonetheless. We will watch in awe as you shoot for the stars Tiger. Go get em.

    , , , ,

    Monday, August 14, 2006

    Speaking Soprano

    It's true, I happen to like watching the Sopranos along with a few other million fans. I'll admit that it's a guilty pleasure considering how often the show depicts the worst in human nature - portraying graphic scenes of violence and other sordid activities. Not to mention that most of us would consider organized crime a blight on society. The show seduces its fans with tremendous acting talent, clever plot lines, and great production skills. Viewers are compelled to believe that they are watching the reality of a mafia family - who seem to have the same problems and issues as the rest of us. The frustrated Joe viewer can live vicariously watching Tony take out a malcontent, or seeing him punch out his bartender for making a silly comment - behavior that would never be tolerated in most circles even though we might occasionally fantasize about acting out vengeful thoughts.

    It's difficult to speculate what kind of negative or positive spin off effects watching the Sopranos might have on viewers and society in general, but there is one influence of the show that I do suspect. Has anyone else noticed the number of F-Bombs that bombard many conversations these days? Yuppies, professionals, blue collar, white collar, men, and women all peppering their talk with the F-Word. Yes, I too am guilty of this to some extent, and I blame it on the Sopranos. For those who happen to watch it, the show gives the F-word a kind of cachet, and celebrity status - like you really mean business, and people should damn well listen to what you're saying if you sprinkle a few *ucks into the conversation. This can't be a good thing for the English language or your spirit, so from now on I am going to do my damnedest never to use an F-bomb again! Wish me luck - I don't think it'll be easy, at least not until that last Sopranos episode has aired.

    , ,

    Sunday, August 06, 2006

    Get a Diagnosis!

    How many of us go through life with undiagnosed ailments and conditions that impair our ability to achieve success, participate in activities, or enjoy life to the fullest? All of the incredible medical knowledge, and therapeutic advances are of no avail to those who are not diagnosed, and unaware of what ails them. Of course those who have more severe forms of a disease are likely to be detected, and those with severe symptoms are more likely to seek medical care.

    What we are speaking of here is the iceberg effect - a large pool of undiagnosed patients who remain that way because their symptoms are less severe, atypical, or nonspecific, and subsequently the appropriate investigations are not done, or current diagnostic methods are not sensitive, or accurate enough to detect early, mild, or atypical disease even if the person decides to seek out medical care. Even a very astute, thorough Physician will have difficulty reaching a diagnosis when someone presents with an early, or less pronounced form of many diseases. Of course as medical science progresses, and diagnostic tests improve more of these diagnostic dilemmas will be solved just as the history of medicine tells us. Full Story

    An example of this would be diagnostic advances in the diagnosis of Celiac disease - a potentially debilitating gastrointestinal disorder caused by immune sensitivity to gluten, a protein that is found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. The mucosal cells (villi or lining of the small bowel) become inflamed, damaged and dysfunctional usually causing some degree of malabsorption along with symptoms of fatigue, pain, bloating, and often diarrhea. In the middle of the last century the only definitive way to diagnose Celiac disease was a small bowel biopsy - an uncomfortable invasive procedure. In the last decade or two highly specific blood tests have been developed that can diagnose the condition - possibly followed by biopsy for confirmation. Despite a simple, ready method to make the diagnosis, Celiac disease demonstrates the classic iceberg phenomenon. Most people who have the condition remain undiagnosed because they do not present in a textbook fashion with signs of advanced celiac pathology, and the patients physician sees no reason to order the necessary blood test. Fortunately, in recent years the tide is changing as more Physicians understand this iceberg effect, and increase their vigilance while lowering their threshold for investigation of Celiac disease.

    The implications of this are enormous as there can be tremendous long term physical and psychological health improvements for a newly diagnosed Celiac patient who adopts a gluten free diet. These patients may experience significant improvements in their health within weeks or months of going gluten free. Many other undiagnosed conditions could have a similar iceberg profile, and your symptoms may be related to a pathologic state that is submerged below the surface as well.

    If you happen to fall into this category what are some options?

  • Avoid any obvious causes of poor health such as smoking, over eating, lack of sleep etc. that might obscure and adversely affect an underlying disorder.
  • Don't assume that you are a Hypochondriac. Of course a Hypochondriac may constantly seek medical care for suspected undiagnosed ailments, but at some point such individuals will usually be diagosed as such. Of course the Physician could well be dealing with a Hypochondriac who also has a diagnosable physical ailment. These considerations are beyond the scope of this post.
  • Never assume that your poor health or lack of well being is not due to a medical condition that can be diagnosed and treated.
  • Educate yourself through reliable sources as to what might be the medical significance of your complaints.
  • Make sure that any Physician or Health care expert you consult has the necessary expertise in relation to your symptoms and signs (although this determination may be difficult).
  • You may have to consult with more than one Medical Specialist for a diagnosis to be reached.
  • Maintain hope for the future - you may get a diagnosis sooner than later.
  • Tags:
    , , ,

    Monday, July 17, 2006

    Rock On Bloggers!

    Seasons under the Sun still has a pulse!

    The publishing coma is starting to reverse, and the prognosis is improving with new articles and posts to come. For those of you who have supported this site through your blog rolls, subscriptions and various links I thank you wholeheartedly. The legions of honest, helpful, and inspiring bloggers far out number the few trollers and flamers that I have encountered on this journey. At the peak of interest in this site, Seasons achieved a Technorati ranking of better than 200,000 within a few months of inception. For those of you struggling to improve your ranking, or who even care about such things, I would be happy to outline the steps I took to achieve this minor success. On the flip side, I also have some recent insight as to how you can fade away quickly as a blogger, and watch your ranking drop like a stone (i.e. don't post, don't leave comments, don't submit articles etc.). None of this speaks to the fact that blogging can be a rewarding, exciting, educational, humbling, and inspirational endeavor regardless of any preconceived notions of success. Just blog to the best of your abilities, and you will be pleasantly surprised.

    , , , ,

    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    How to Drain your Brain

  • Avoid getting sleep at all costs. Studies have shown that significant sleep deficit results in mental impairment similar to intoxication along with a decline in motor skills.
  • Eat a lot of junk food with high fat and sugar content, and avoid fruits, vegetables, fish, and other "brain" foods.
  • Never Exercise, otherwise you will experience the benefits of better blood flow to the brain along with improved Neuronal metabolism.
  • Don't try and learn a new skill or challenge yourself in anyway, or you might stimulate the growth of new neural connections.
  • Avoid difficult games, problems, and puzzles - that way your I.Q. will stay the same or decline over time.
  • Accept the status quo at work and in life to keep the creative side of your brain dormant.
  • Abuse drugs, alcohol, or other substances to keep your brain cells suppressed, and eventually damage them permanently.
  • Let your emotions run wild - especially anger. Such highly charged states are not conducive to good mental function.
  • Never look for more than one solution to a problem - that way you won't have to engage too many neurons in the task at hand.
  • If you follow this advice you will experience the down side of KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) - something smart people say when they are over thinking a problem, except in your case you will actually be stupid and simple :-).

  • Tags:

    , , ,

    Tuesday, April 18, 2006

    Smell-O-Vision Cinema Again?

    In the ever competitive world of movie making you often need realism and visceral appeal for success. Despite the present special effects wizardry, high definition images, and computer animation many movie goers are anticipating even more virtual reality effects. One of these "new" cinema sense experiences recently introduced into some Japanese movie theaters is dubbed Smell-O-Vision. "The scents will circulate through the theatre via machines filled with fragrant liquids located under the back row seats". At first whiff this seems like a novel idea. However, it was attempted a few decades ago.

    "Todd's 1960 film Scent of Mystery (1960) delivered scents to the audience throughout the film using a more advanced process called "Smell-o-vision". Problems propagating scents in synch with the film and flushing the scents out between each showing led to Smell-o-vision's early demise." -via Wikipedia

    In view of that historic failure I wouldn't be rushing out to buy shares in Smell-O-Vision companies quite yet even if the technology has improved. Full Story

    Let's see...

  • Certain odors can cause nausea and wretching in some poor souls. Will the theater supply barf bags?
  • Many of the chemicals that create odors and scents are associated with allergic reactions - hopefully nothing that requires a paramedic in the theater or a syringe of adrenalin on standby.
  • As alluded to earlier - how will the scents be cued up to match the movie scenes and then dissipate quickly enough for the next scene? There could well be a peculiar mixture of odors wafting around the theater half way through the movie.
  • Who the hell decides what romance, love, joy, fear and anger smell like anyway?
  • You might get away with scents for flowers, food, coffee, etc. even if they are mixed in with the waft of stale, buttered popcorn, but how many will leave the theatre saying - "boy smelling that coffee Brad Pitt was drinking was an academy award moment".
  • What about some of the nasty odors that life conjures up? For the sake of realism do you want to smell smog, stale urine, dead bodies, formaldehyde and other nasty nasal delicacies while you relax in the cinema?
  • There might be a small benefit for some - the local cinema could actually become the ideal public place to pass gas without embarrassment - if you time it right.

  • I'm going to go out on a limb here, and predict the early second demise of Smell-O-Vision for this decade at least.

    , , , , ,

    Saturday, April 15, 2006

    Easter Egging

    How far down the rabbit hole will you go? Hippity Hop. I see a large Pysanka in your future - and it is the World's largest Easter egg. You can go see it in Vegreville, Alberta. Make rubber eggs and paint them for Easter - they'll bounce, but they shouldn't break. Have you ever hunted for virtual Easter Eggs on your DVDs and other media? - there are lots of hidden messages and features on many DVDs. How about a fun, interactive digital Easter egg hunt -nice if you don't want to hide eggs in the yard for the kids. Remember Harvey the rabbit? He's big, but he's no Easter rabbit. Harvey was just a magical, invisible friend for James Stewart - wouldn't mind one myself actually.

    World's largest Easter egg in Vegreville, Alberta

    , , , , , ,

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    Cyborg Century

    "A human who has certain physiological processes aided or controlled by mechanical or electronic devices".

    My friend became a cyborg recently, and it happened rather quickly - he now sports an artificial hip joint made out of titanium - a kind of bullet proof replacement. My mother has been a cyborg for a few years now, ever since she had ocular lens implants after cataract removal. This procedure left her with 20/20 vision in one eye at the age of eighty. I have a few metallic tooth fillings, but I'm not sure if that qualifies me as a cyborg. Thwarting tooth decay doesn't seem to have the same cachet as replacing a joint or correcting near blindness in terms of functional utility to the human organism. In that sense I admit to some cyborg envy, but am fortunate to have my original parts for now. By definition you can become a cyborg without implants or replacing various organs. For example visual devices such as the EyeTap form a wearable computer that allows real time electronic interactions with your environment and the internet as you go about your daily activities. Thus you have both endogenous and exogenous cyborgs, and their hybrid counterparts. This century will likely witness the rise of the cyborg in ever more sophisticated forms beyond replacement of dysfunctional body parts or visual accessories. It's not difficult to foresee some future apocalyptic battlefield where genetically enhanced soldiers run amok. They might wear an exoskeleton that amplifies their strength dramatically and protects them from injury. Their nervous systems might be directly wired to weaponry for instant response and direct control of multiple weapons. There are military scientists working on this technology right now at DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency). Hopefully these super cyborgs won't rebel and form their own military elite under a new flag.

    At the moment, since most cyborgs are still essentially like the rest of us they probably aren't banding together in secret societies or plotting to take over the world. Then again, my friend with the new hip did give me an odd look the other day when I asked him if he felt like a "new man" - has the hip replacement triggered his cyborg initiation? The present disjointed, heterogeneous cyborg population may not be compelled to form alliances with others based on diverse technological enhancements many of which will not be externally visible. Will this new cyborg society require modified political, legal and ethical constructs? If the technology is expensive this could create a wealthy elite cyborg class with only a few citizens able to afford the best implants and devices. An organization called the World Transhumanist Association with members from across the globe is already formally dealing with these issues. Of course, no discussion on cyborg technology would be complete without mentioning the ingenious, eccentric inventor/engineer Steve Mann. He may be the first exogenous cyborg pop star by virtue of his wearable computer visual accessory called the EyeTap that has gained him some notoriety in public places. This device allows the user to interact with the web, receive e-mail, record video, and perform other computer functions that raise the question why life as a cyborg is better.

    , , , , ,

    Monday, March 27, 2006

    Primal Scream Therapy

    Last Saturday I woke up in a foul mood for no good reason - this probably figured into my wife's decision to go shopping and leave me alone that day. After lounging around in my bath robe for a while in dire need of a shower and shave my outlook didn't improve - downing a cup of espresso didn't help either. This was all feeding into a general state of self loathing compounded by a total lack of motivation to do anything productive. Why? Just the usual mind games and frustration with work issues tantamount to middle aged apathy and whining, or am I being too harsh? This poor state of mind did lead to an interesting outburst though. At the peak of this angst I got up and started walking around the house swearing at the top of my lungs (my apologies to anyone with Tourette's syndrome). This was my version of primal scream therapy, and it actually worked. The forceful release of negative energy followed by disgust and shame at my childish behavior snapped me out of the funk. By the time my wife got home I was showered, shaved, and literally beaming with a new resolve to take on the day. Now I don't want anyone to think that my performance really had anything to do with proper Primal Therapy as shouting or screaming isn't necessarily part of the therapy. Professional primal therapists apparently undergo significant training, and patients are treated in a protected environment. The "Self-primalling" that I tried could actually be dangerous according to the pros. Oh well, it felt damn good at the time, and no I don't need a straitjacket - just a little anger management on occasion. I was going to recommend that others give this a shot, but after some research I now realize that it would be wrong to advocate self-primalling :-). How about just pounding on a pillow?

    , , ,

    Monday, March 20, 2006

    Chess for Stress

    Are you looking for a new activity or hobby that is challenging - one that can combat daily stress in your life? Chess is an ancient, universal game that has stood the test of time as a supreme test of strategy and intellect. This is not a revelation for anyone who plays the game regularly, or aspires to become an expert, but Chess has far more to offer than just pure intellectual gamesmanship. In the process of playing chess you can achieve a form of self awareness and concentration that is unique. You can exercise your mind and reduce stress in a healthy fashion. It also has parallels with sporting contests where determination, concentration, and competitive desire are important, but without a demand for athletic prowess. The simple appeal of the game is that once you learn how the pieces move you can begin to enjoy its mysteries. Forget about your skill level, and just enjoy the process of playing a game. You can learn and improve your game constantly without concern for ratings or contests, although if you have the ability and desire superlative competition is always available. In this internet age you can join an internet Chess club for a very reasonable membership fee. The beauty of a site such as The Internet Chess Club is that you can play a game at any time (24/7) with others from across the globe, including shorter speed Chess games for those with time constraints. The comprehensive software employed by the chess site records your games, calculates your rating, and takes care of the playing rules (no one can cheat or unintentionally break the rules). There are also tremendous learning resources including game libraries, and teaching sessions. You can play in tournaments, and observe chess masters playing in online events or even receive instruction from them. All of this was unthinkable in the days of physical chess board games only, where games could be few and far between unless you belonged to a club. You can also enjoy many online chess communities and resources while interacting with many others who enjoy the game. Now is your chance to brush up against royalty with Kings and Queens awaiting your commands by learning Chess!

    There have been many movies made that include chess scenes, but there are two Chess movies that can be enjoyed by all. One is called Searching for Bobby Fisher released in 1993 that chronicles the real life struggles of chess champion Joss Waitzkin, and the Luzhin Defence released in 2000 that stars John Tuturro as an eccentric Russian chess master.

    "The oldest recovered chess piece was found in Persia, and is dated to 790 A.D." This and other odd bits relating to the Oldest in Chess can be found on this page by Bill Wall.

    , , ,

    Saturday, March 11, 2006

    Rize Up

    If you are a prosperous, white, urban professional living a pleasant life in the suburbs you probably haven't asked yourself what's happening on the streets of South Central Los Angeles these days. In fact you'd probably prefer not to think about that tough, gang infested environment at all. Fortunately, I was visually yanked onto those streets while channel surfing when I discovered the best cultural documentary you could imagine called Rize.

    In the midst of gang violence, drugs, and oppression you will see groups of young people searching for a higher meaning to their lives - dancing their hearts out in a spirited, aggressive, frenetic, athletic and passionate way that makes commercial hip hop look bland. Through their commitment to the dance group and each other they stay away from the pervasive drugs and violence. The "Clowns" and the "Krumps" are the colorful, energetic dance groups portrayed in the film, who paint their faces, and almost innately express their African American roots and heritage in the high paced dance routines. The film culminates in competitive dance scenes watched by a live audience at the Great Western Forum called "Battle Zone V" where the Clowns face off against the Krumps for dance supremacy. During the dance spectacle a contestant who founded the Clowns has his home broken into and trashed - a stark reminder of his neighborhood.

    David Lachapelle has crafted a brilliant, gritty and timeless work that will inspire and challenge those who view it. These young adults and kids are a testament to those who can find community and creativity while in the throes of adversity.

    , , , ,

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    Razor Blade Blues

    Shaving has inflicted more than a few wounds on the human species over the years - not to mention the needless blood loss, and embarrassing mini bandaids used to hide unsightly nicks. Of course, I'm referring to the use of razor blades rather than electric shavers. I gave up electric razors - in my opinion they never give you that skin close shave, and they seem to increase the risk of ingrown hairs. Unfortunately the price both men and women pay for that razor close shave are the unavoidable nicks, cuts, and lacerations despite the technical wizardry that goes into the making of the modern blade.

    The blade companies probably have armies of research scientists, engineers, and other geniuses trying to create the perfect blades - using all types of space age metals or alloys, and techniques to make the business end of a blade sharp and smooth at an extreme microscopic level - also using battery powered, vibrating blades (a hybrid electric?) - yet the blood letting goes on - Why? Well, one reason is that razor blades get dull, and lose that perfect edge - this fits nicely into ongoing revenues from blade production and sales, but is it unavoidable or could the companies create an indestructible blade? There must be some combination of iridium, gold, titanium, stainless steel, neptuno-urani-satur-jupitanium etc. that could be forged to make a blade that would last for life - wouldn't be good for razor blade sales though right? Of course you can buy two, three, four, or even five bladed razors (new from Gillette), and they might shave you a little closer, but still the bleeding continues. I've got it! They should put a thin layer of coagulant (blood clotting factor) along the edge of the blade(s), so it's right there waiting to go to work on any fresh nick. Probably too expensive - OK it's a dumb idea - they can keep using their aloe lubricating strips. It could be that nanotechnology (see recent Nanotechnology Revolution post) innovation will finally create the perfect cutting razor edge, but again that might not be in the best interest of shaving companies. Unfortunately it's not just blade quality that determines the risk of cuts. Your propensity to bleed also depends on skin thickness and smoothness, hair thickness and distribution, and so on. In addition to using relatively fresh or sharp blades shaving technique is also important. This includes wetting the hair thoroughly to decrease its tensile strength, stroking the razor along the lay of the hair, and frequent rinsing of the razor to decrease debris near the blade surface. If you would like a thorough scientific discussion of optimal shaving technique presented in the context of prep shaving for operations - the Derma-Safe company describes this in detail.

    This all raises the question, as to why most men continue to shave despite the expense, time, and hazards involved. Of course, there are alternatives besides growing a beard if we borrow examples from ancient times - the following excerpt is from the Quik Shave site shaving timeline:

    "In ROME, many men are following the grooming example of JULIUS CAESAR (101-44 B.C.), who has his facial hairs individually plucked out with tweezers every day. He also writes this same year that "the Britons shave every part of their body except their head and upper lip." In early Rome, POPPAEA, wife of the notorious EMPEROR NERO, uses depilatory creams to remove unwanted body hair on a daily basis. Depilatories are used as an alternative to the bloody mess that results from shaving with a blade. The latest available creams include some pretty wild ingredients, like resin, pitch, white vine or ivy gum extract, ass's fat, she-goat's gall, bat's blood, and powdered viper."

    Maybe shaving with a modern razor blade isn't so bad after all.

    , , ,

    Saturday, March 04, 2006

    Saturday, February 25, 2006

    Nanotechnology Revolution

    There's a revolution going on in the world of science called nanotechnology and it seems to be happening without a lot of fanfare, although you may catch the odd news snippet here and there. Perhaps it's because few of us can relate to the idea of machines or functions being controlled and operating at the molecular and atomic scale. There are also concerns and fears related to this technology, such as the potential development of nanorobots programmed for malicious acts like warfare, biological, and technological destruction. The scale is incredible when you consider that a nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter... Full Story

    Here are some definitions quoted from two sources:

    "The development and use of devices that have a size of only a few nanometers. Research has been carried out into very small components, many of which depend on quantum effects and may involve movement of a very small number of electrons in their action. Such devices would act faster than larger components. Considerable interest has been shown in the production of structures on a molecular level by suitable sequences of chemical reactions or lithographic techniques. It is also possible to manipulate individual atoms on surfaces using a variant of the atomic force microscope to make, for example, high density data storage devices."
    - About Now Physics
    "Nanotechnologies are the body of theories and techniques that allow the production and manipulation of minute objects that measure as little as one billionth of a meter (the nanometer). These technologies require tools of very high precision to maneuver atoms one by one and visualize what is occurring at such a small scale."
    -Lexicon Encyclobio

    Nanotechnology gear chain examined by a mite

    "Courtesy Sandia National Laboratories, SUMMiTTM Technologies,"

    Although I do have a science background, I am not an expert in nanotechnology. Nevertheless, after dwelling on the subject for a while I managed to come up with a few scenarios where nanotechnology could have a pivotal role. I thought they might capture the imagination of some readers, and stimulate them to come up with even better ideas. In the end, it might be better for nanotechnology product ideas to arise from the grassroots consumer first rather than be purely laboratory inventions.
    These are my own concepts for nanotechnology devices conceived from the basic concept without reference to any research studies. I don't claim them to be original (although some of them may be), and I'm sure that others with superior credentials have come up with similar ideas. One would think that the uses of nanotechnology will be virtually unlimited in the not too distant future, and so it's not much of a stretch to imagine many uses for these devices.

    • Nanorobots that remain on the enamel surface of teeth and also near the gum line designed to act as intelligent cleaning and dental health agents. This probably would require some sort of enamel and gum affinity or recognition etc. The potential for nanotechnology in the medical field is enormous and I believe the old 1966 science fiction movie "Fantastic Voyage" has been one inspiration for micro devices that could patrol the blood stream, clean blood vessels, destroy aberrant cells, enhance immune function, and perform other maintenance tasks.

    • Intelligent nanosensors in engineered load bearing structures such as bridges or skyscrapers that can act as warning devices by detecting the early microscopic features of stresses and strains that ultimately lead to structural failure. A bridge could then be repaired or reinforced long before there are any visible signs of wear or failure.

    • Nanotechnology hearing aids that won't be visible to the human eye. These devices might connect directly to the mechanical and neural anatomy of the auditory structures after a minor microscopic implantation procedure.

    • Nanocrystal arrays used in projection systems and nanoparticles used in projection screens for super high resolution video display in 2D or even 3D immersive environments. You might envision high definition visual systems that surpass reality.

    • Liquid metal that can form virtually any solid shape all controlled by programmed nanobots (like the Terminator). This one conjures up more sinister potential applications.

    • Nanomood changers with no side effects. These will be devised as the genetic receptors controlling various mood states become better understood. These mood modifiers might reside permanently in neurons, and then taking pills for mood disorders will no longer be necessary.

    • Nanomeditative state inducers that can trigger the gamma wave brain activity seen in those who are skilled in meditation techniques.

    • Near indestructible nanovehicles. Various nanotubules of various composition will be combined to create new materials that can withstand and absorb incredible impacts. Combined with nanoairbags you could survive a major MVA with no more than a few scratches and bruises.

    • Nanofuels will be invented that have incredible energy efficiency allowing machines to operate at prolonged times and speeds before refeuling.

    • Nanocleaning agents that will continually roam and scour various surfaces breaking down stains, dust and other particles - no more vacuuming etc.

    • Painless Nanoneedles - the needle tip size and injection shape could be molecularly adjusted for painless injections (temporarily create a tiny caliber tip to traverse the skin surface and then increase the needle lumen for an injection).

    I wasn't under the influence of any intoxicants, stimulants, depressants, or other mind altering substances when this list was composed, so there are no excuses if it doesn't meet exacting scientific descriptions. Again, I would emphasize that this amounts to a layman's list for nanotechnology innovations. Luddites and technophobes might create a less optimistic list with some negative scenarios. Please leave your comments and suggestions below, especially those regarding any available, present day working uses of nanotechnology that you may be aware of.

    , , , ,

    Tuesday, February 21, 2006

    You can digg it or reddit for Link Submissions!

    There is a poll included in this post, so that members of the popular "non-hierarchical" digg and reddit link submission sites, bloggers and others can give their opinions as to what the status of blogs should be on those sites.

    The poll allows for multiple answers, and when enough data is collected I will publish the results. The digg and reddit site operators might be interested in this opinion poll as well. You can also weigh in with a specific comment or remark below.

    Both digg and reddit are busy, prominent sites where members can submit links to news stories and other articles. The linked articles are read, reviewed and voted on by member readers rather than an editorial board. If you submit a good article link that gets promoted by readers it can generate more than a few visits to the host web site for that article. One site is called digg and the other is called reddit. They both allow links to blogs, and that may be of interest to some of you wanting to get wider exposure for published articles or stories. However you may not find a welcome committee for your submitted blog links at either site, especially digg, as some members have a bias against blog content. On the other hand, a good article posted by a blog can still do well in the rankings on either site... Full Story

    What is Digg?

    "Digg is a technology news website that combines social bookmarking, blogging, RSS, and non-hierarchical editorial control. With digg, users submit stories for review, but rather than allow an editor to decide which stories go on the homepage, the users do."
    -Quoted from the sites frequently asked questions page.

    Readers select or vote on story/article links they like and these "Diggs" promote them to higher prominence on the site. A popular article link can generate many hits to the site hosting that article. Although Digg has expanded its categories of links it still has a strong bias for technology related stories, and there is a tendency for blog links to be flamed by nasty comments, or not get "Dugg".

    What is Reddit?

    Reddit is a similar service, but perhaps more democratic because they don't specify categories for submitted links.
    "A source for what's new and popular on the web -- personalized for you. We want to democratize the traditional model by giving editorial control to the people who use the site, not those who run it. Your votes train a filter, so let reddit know what you liked and disliked, because you'll begin to be recommended links filtered to your tastes."
    -Quoted from the sites frequently asked questions page.

    What should digg and reddit do with blog links?
    Legitimate blogs should be allowed to post links to their articles
    Neither digg or reddit should allow links to blogs
    Both digg and reddit should have a separate blog category
    Never heard of digg or reddit
    I am registered at digg
    I am registered at reddit
    I am registered at digg and reddit
    I publish a blog

    , , ,

    Saturday, February 18, 2006

    ChoicePoint Inc. Ten Million Dollar Fine a Joke?

    Seasons Under The Sun is pleased to present a post that was provided in response to the recent Guest Author Invitation.

    David Anderson who publishes the fine web site "Italian's Insight to Travel Italy" submitted this compelling article about the recent ten million U.S. dollar fine of ChoicePoint Inc. The fine was levied by the FTC for a data security breach that compromised the financial records of more than 163,000 consumers, over 800 of whom became the victims of identity theft. While some have praised the efforts of the FTC to extract "significant" penalties in this case, David doesn't believe that the fine, and other imposed penalties on ChoicePoint go nearly far enough. Those who are concerned about the privacy of their personal information and individual civil rights should take heed... Full Story

    Choice Point fined 10 million USD
    by David Anderson

    Recently, ChoicePoint Inc., a publicly traded Credit Rating company, was fined 10 million USD. Touted by the FTC as something important I propose this fine is a joke, simply a move engineered to avoid taking on the very serious problem of rampant corporate greed sacrificing the right to privacy of individuals and politician’s compliance with corporate America for personal gain.

    Some time ago I would have suggested that a credit report has nothing to do with the qualifications of an individual for a job. I have come to understand that, while the practice is abused, most jobs have nothing to do with credit worthiness, there are some instances where credit history can signal future problems. Additionally, as our society becomes more and more superficial credit reports are an important part of our lending industry and therefore, necessary to the current economic structure.

    The indiscriminate amassment of information regarding individuals is inappropriate. No corporation should be allowed to maintain or gather information that is not strictly pertinent to a financial operation requested by an individual. Our politicians allow corporations to gather information and data mine in order to market goods and services.

    Corporations sell this information to others who perform the same operation. Then, when this information is used inappropriately and the individual concerned has no idea that this information even exists, it is the individual’s responsibility to fix the problem. Again, the individual did nothing to create this problem and most likely did not even know that the information had been gathered by some corporation.

    To further exasperate the problem, corporations do not employ sufficient security measures to guarantee the confidentiality of the information. The corporations claim that it would be too costly to continually stay ahead of the technology used to crack their systems. This argument is absurd, it is a cost of doing business and should the business model not support proper security they should not be involved with this product.

    In most European countries, where we consider them to be socialist and less of a free society, strict privacy laws exist. If information is stolen because of negligence or the company sells the information it is a criminal offense. They go to jail. Needless to say they are very conscious regarding the type of information they acquire and hold on their systems.

    We consider ourselves the bearers of freedom. We say that we protect individual rights. We want the world to have our freedom. A 10 million dollar fine for negligence where the company made 100s of millions of dollars with this information and where the cost to the individuals damaged will be significantly higher, is this a joke?

    Politicians, make yourselves useful, stop yelling at each other and do your job. Protect our individual freedoms! The free market is a marvelous thing but I grew up with the notion that “my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.
    , , , ,

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    Post your Anonymous Rant or Flame

    " A closed mind is a good thing to lose "
    - Anonymous

    Everybody online has their own opinions about being anonymous, or leaving anonymous comments. At Seasons Under The Sun the anonymous commenting option is always left on - and while that policy could encourage trolls or flamers there have been surprisingly few negative or nasty comments posted in the seven month life of this site. In fact some interesting, and down right inspiring anonymous comments have been left on some of the posts here. So far, no anonymous comments have been deleted with the exception of comment spam before word verification was instituted.

    This post is an open invitation for readers to voice a strong opinion, vent some anger, or otherwise fire off a pointed rant about current news or a pet peeve by leaving an anonymous comment here.

    Please fire off a shot or critique at Seasons Under The Sun as well if something about this site ticks you off. My only request is that your opinion is sincere, and not just a vindictive blast. Please do not leave comments that are racially motivated, or otherwise hateful of any particular group. Other than those provisos, let the barbs fly! Of course, you may prefer not to be anonymous and that's fine. The comments (remarks below post) could generate more subject interest, and lead to some interesting links or cross chat at other sites too. It's your forum Mr. and Mrs. Anonymous!

    , ,

    Saturday, February 11, 2006

    Is Vioxx still a Tempest for Merck?

    Is Merck the sinister, mega- pharmaceutical company as portrayed in the media, or is the Vioxx story just business as usual in the complex world of the drug research and approval process?

    There are still storm clouds gathering for the company, since there may be thousands more pending and potential lawsuits out there relating to Vioxx, and in recent news a former FDA official testified that Merck had plenty of time to warn about Vioxx. On the other hand, they are a giant in the pharmaceutical industry with deep pockets, and probably have new potential block buster drugs in the research pipeline. In all likelihood Merck will remain a power house in the pharmaceutical industry once the near term turmoil has subsided, and it could be that their present, somewhat depressed share price is a value buy assuming it discounts the Vioxx bad news... Full Story

    Do we know for sure that Vioxx is linked to the serious cardiovascular health risks it is accused of exacerbating such as heart attack and stroke? The answer to that question may be a statistical research nightmare. Surely there must be other drugs out there in the market that may have potentially devastating side effects, or might be linked to adverse events? There are billions of dollars at stake plus significant health implications, and so the answers to such questions have huge implications to the consumer, and the companies involved. Even with impeccable research protocols and data significant drug side effects may not show up in study results. As well, there have been accusations that pharmaceutical companies will play down or ignore valid study results that suggest adverse drug effects to sanitize their marketing and advertising campaigns because of the huge revenue implications. There is an understanding that the FDA follows fairly stringent guidelines in the drug approval process. In fact, it has been accused of being too stringent in the past (i.e. approving experimental AIDS cocktails). When Merck voluntarily withdrew Vioxx from the market in September, 2004 the FDA issued a detailed question and answer discussion about it to address concerns.

    Perhaps our society is simply over medicated, and Physicians need to scrutinize their drug prescribing habits.

    "Studies show that many simply don't heed even the sternest warnings issued by the FDA. When patients taking the diabetes drug Rezulin from the former Warner-Lambert Co. (now Pfizer (PFE )) started dying from liver failure in the late 1990s, the FDA repeatedly warned doctors to carefully test patients' liver enzyme levels to spot early signs of trouble. Yet fewer than 5% of patients got the tests, and more people died." - Lessons From The Vioxx Fiasco
    It may well be impossible to screen out every possible potential adverse event that a drug might be implicated in no matter how many expensive research studies are funded. In the real world as opposed to the laboratory other variables come into play including interactions with other medications taken, and unfortunately those variables might play around with the next pill you take. So consumers beware, and do your homework when it comes to medications prescribed or otherwise - and be just as wary and diligent when it comes to alternative, or herbal treatments as well.

    , , , , , ,

    Friday, February 10, 2006

    Get Gretzky's Gold?

    Are American judicial authorities so desperate to restore Olympic hockey gold medal pride that they would resort to smearing the name of Canada's greatest sports hero Wayne Gretzky
    on the eve of the Winter Olympics? Isn't it a cynical and transparent ploy to release wire tap documents, and other innuendo for the media feeding frenzy in a vague effort to link the Great One to an organized crime gambling ring? Could it be an attempt to create enough distraction and emotional turmoil in Gretzky's life such that his upcoming Olympic efforts as Executive director for team Canada are undermined? In that event, player morale could be sabotaged to the point of losing the gold medal or not even reaching the podium. Why couldn't the authorities have waited until soon after the Olympics to release these damaging allegations, especially those that might concern Gretzky or his wife if he likely had no direct involvement or liability as compared to his associate coach Tocchet? Perhaps there is another sinister side to the timing of these news releases that the general public will never know...

    News commentary by your paranoid Canuck hack reporter on the spot in Hockeyville Canada,

    , , ,

    Friday, February 03, 2006

    Free Memory Improvement and Mnemonic Fun

    The following describes a humorous misadventure that was caused by being absent minded. We can probably all relate to similar events in our own lives.

    "In August 1967, David Margetts played second violin in the Roth String Quartet at UCLA. He had been entrusted with the care of a valuable, vintage Stradivarius that was owned by the department of music. One day Margetts put the violin on his car's roof and drove off without removing it. UCLA made massive efforts to recover the instrument, but nonetheless it went missing for 27 years before resurfacing in 1994 when the Stradivarius was brought in for repair and a dealer recognized the instrument. After a lengthy court battle, the violin was returned to UCLA in 1998."

    -Daniel L. Schacter Ph.D.
    The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers

    Everyone wishes they could improve their memory. You can be the sharpest tool in the shed, and yet be completely befuddled by forgetting an important fact, or action at the wrong time. Youth gives you some protection against the vagaries of a poor memory assuming you are generally healthy, but absent minded deeds afflict all ages. Unfortunately, lapses in memory have also resulted in injury or death. Businesses have been ransacked because someone forgot to "lock up". Nuclear reactors have failed because someone forgot to close a valve (Three Mile Island). Examinations have been failed because because someone didn't remember the right test date. Marriages have been threatened because someone forgot an anniversary, or birthday. Sound familiar?... Full Story

    This concern with our memory has created quite a market for people in the memory aid business, but you can help your memory a lot without signing up for an expensive program or gimmick. There are good books out there on the subject, and I would recommend one by Kenneth L. Higbee, Ph.D. called YOUR MEMORY, How It Works & How To Improve it. He has an academic background, but discusses many practical exercises, and techniques to improve memory. I was blown away when I used the Loci Mnemonic system described in the book to memorize any long list of items. It dates back to 500 B.C., and was used by famous Roman orators to remember long speeches. There are two steps: First memorize a series of familiar locations in a logical order (rooms in a building etc.) You will use this set of locations each time you need to remember a series or list. Secondly, associate a visual image that identifies each list item with a location in the series as you take an imaginary walk past the locations. Use fanciful images for each item. I tried this once with a very long grocery list, and easily remembered twenty items after taking a few minutes to mentally place each item at a memorized house location (bread in the oven, cherries in a basket etc.) Try this and I guarantee you will amaze yourself with how many objects you can remember! The book discusses this in greater detail along with many other excellent methods.

    Jessica Rowlands recently reported in Medical News Today a PET imaging study that indicated improved brain efficiency after subjects under went a memory improvement plan.

    "New research released at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology's
    Annual Meeting found that older Americans may improve their memory by making
    simple lifestyle changes - including memory exercises, physical fitness, healthy
    eating and stress reduction. The study was conducted at the University of
    California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and funded by the Fran and Ray Stark Foundation
    Fund for Alzheimer's Disease Research, the Judith Olenick Elgart Fund for
    Research on Brain Aging, and the Parlow-Solomon Professorship on Aging."

    Here is the memory improvement plan that could help improve memory function at any age:

    * Memory Training - Brainteasers, crossword puzzles and memory exercises, which emphasized verbal skills, were conducted throughout the day to stimulate the brain.

    * Healthy Diet - Participants ate five meals daily, which included a balanced diet rich in omega-3 fats, low-glycemic index carbohydrates (e.g., whole grains) and antioxidants. Eating five small meals throughout the day prevents dips in blood glucose levels and glucose is the primary energy source for the brain.

    * Physical Fitness - Brisk daily walks and stretching were done daily to promote physical fitness, which has been found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's Disease.

    * Stress Reduction - Participants used stretching and relaxation exercises to manage stress. Stress causes the body to release cortisol, which plays an important role in memory preservation. Cortisol can impair memory and has been found to shrink the memory centers in the brain.

    Now where did I leave those damn car keys?

    , ,

    Monday, January 30, 2006

    Journalism and Publishing Ethics

    I realize that blogging doesn't necessarily equate to Journalism, and that the debate will rage on. However, online journalists and bloggers should at least consider the standards set out in the Society of Professional Journalists' Ethics Code. I quote from an article by J.D. Lasica in the Online Journalism Review site:

    "Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
    Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
    Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
    Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
    Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money."

    You could make an argument that Journalists should be well paid, so they might be less susceptible to bribes, but for those who would be corrupted there is usually never enough of the green stuff to deter them from taking more. If an organization, or commercial entity said they would be willing to pay for the privilege of posting content to your web site or blog on the condition that they had complete editorial control how would you respond? Would you sign the contract whether or not you agreed with their view point or philosophy? How do you protect a journalist or blogger from threats and extortion, as these actions may be more effective and more widely used than the use of favors or bribes? How many publishers would be willing to admit that they were intimidated into retracting or altering a story? For these reasons we shouldn't pass negative judgement on sites simply because they function under some degree of anonymity unless they are publishing obscene or illegal material. Anonymity can serve the important purpose of whistle blowing when the consequences of exposing an injustice within a corporation or government can be severe. Of course if you prefer anonymity, then you shouldn't abuse the right by posting silly rants and flames simply because you have no fear of repercussion. This raises the question whether anyone is truly anonymous on the web? Judging by the information collected by various search engines, and government attempts to obtain it, the answer would seem to be no unless you use one of the many services that will enable anonymous surfing through proxy servers. Web site publishers would not have similar anonymity, especially if they use registered domains, so they should be willing to stand by their content.

    Technorati Tags:
    , , , ,

    Thursday, January 12, 2006

    Socks in the City

    For this woolly story you need to "Pull your socks up", "Put a sock in it", and then let me "Knock your socks off" with some useful facts about our foot friends, and then cozy up for some ideas about what we can do with old socks. I assume pretty well everyone in North America has socks, but my apologies to anyone out there who actually does need a pair especially if you live in more Northern climes as I do... Full Story

    Now, I could recite a whole lot of factoids and amazing information about the wonderful world of socks, but Dr. Joyce Smith Ph.D. and Norma Pitts have already put together an amazing fact sheet called Selecting Socks that is very professional, thorough, and chock-full of information. They discuss fiber content, construction, finishes, new technology and performance fabrics, types, and sock care. You would be hard pressed to improve upon the information provided in that article, and it would seem that the simple sock is yet another marvel of modern technology. You can even buy socks with anti-static and anti-bacterial finishes. Apparently the durable anti-bacterial agents in the fiber reduce bacterial growth and resulting odor, while withstanding repeated launderings (might be handy for sports enthusiasts). Next time we'll talk about some creative uses for old socks including the good old "Sock Puppet".

    By the way, the origin for the expression "Put a sock in it" is said to come from the early Gramophones that had no volume control, and to play them more quietly you would put a sock into the trumpet. Who knows?

    Technorati Tags:

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    Has the Poker Craze gone too far?

    There are probably thousands if not millions of sites, and blogs devoted to poker in all its forms. God forbid we need any more discussions, web sites or spam related to poker, but in terms of the consumer we are witnessing a revolutionary change in the gaming market place. Internet gambling is now generating revenues in the billions, and yet the owners operate in geographical anonymity and limbo since their operations are deemed illegal in the United States... Full Story

    I doubt that there has ever been such a dynamic shift in the history of gambling enterprises. The impact of this is being felt now at every level of society. Why does your co-worker want to skip lunch and sit at his PC? Could he or she be betting a full house, or bluffing for the pot at their favorite poker site? The implications for gambling addiction, and treatment are staggering as well. Stay tuned folks. The World Trade Organization has already sided with Antigua against the U.S. on fair trade policies as they pertain to the legality of Internet gaming. See how many different TV programs you can find relating to poker as you surf through your cable listings. The biggest names in Poker are having a field day while most other poker players will be sheared and fleeced. It's a national obsession at the moment, and the celebrity factor is huge as well with prominent movie stars like Ben Affleck and Toby Maguire playing high stakes games. It may be just a matter of time before we have legalized Virtual Vegas accessible at any computer station. Will the games be honest then, and are they honest now? Of greater concern will be the money, and time wasted by those who might spend too many hours gambling online thereby creating heart break for themselves and their families. What do you think of this tremendous, and growing appetite for online gambling? Are criminal elements involved in these enterprises? Will gambling addiction spread like wildfire especially among internet savvy youth? No matter what the answers are to these questions it is very likely that within a few years there will be legal online gaming for both the operators and the players. See the Congressional testimony on Internet gambling by Tom W. Bell. Let Seasons Under The Sun hear your opinions on this subject.

    Technorati Tags:
    , , ,