A broader view of well-being

Relationships and health matter a lot more to happiness than money.

We know it.

Do we care?

There’s the 30 year old Easterlin paradox: that average happiness levels do not increase as countries grow wealthier.

Results clearly show that an increase in the level of social involvements is often worth many tens of thousands a year extra in terms of life satisfaction,” said Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee, from the University of London’s Institute of Education.

  • Friends can make you happier than $169,000.
  • Each year of marriage can lift you more than $100,000.
  • Neighborliness adds $75,000 per year to your well being.

Meeting with friends and relatives at least once or twice a month is worth as much happiness as a pay raise of $114,000.

Comparison of GDP Growth and HappinessThe findings, published in the Journal of Socio-Economics, revealed that, on average, someone earning only $20,000 a year who had face to face time with friends and loved ones every day felt as happy as a person earning $189,000 a year who hardly ever saw their friends and relatives. [story]

Peers Rule

Popular culture, friends, or street gangs, have a much greater influence on children than parents, family life or even genetic make-up.

Zero Parental Influence by Judith Rich Harris. [wiki]

A panel of experts take issue with an American academic who claims a child’s peers are more powerful than the parents. Don’t write off parental influence just yet

Too few at the top

Simon Coulter, a politics blogger of The Telegraph, criticizes the 13 year Tony Blair government as weak because it’s top heavy.

There really are no shining examples just below the top rank with heavyweight experience.

…dearth of talent

…frenzied horse-trading

…behind the veneer of a united front

If anything, there are too many over-promoted has-beens and never-weres.

Seems similar.

Outsourcing teachers

TutorVista is using the internet to provide affordable, one-on-one tutoring, connecting educated but relatively low-paid teachers in India to US and European students. [story]

Slide to a surveillance society

surveillance cameraFuture generations will neither enjoy nor understand the concept of privacy.

More importantly, says the chief official in charge of managing public information in Britain,

“The increasing use of electronic surveillance to track everything from a person’s sexuality to their spent criminal convictions is eroding trust in society.”

The Guardian reports that Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, has warned of the increasing risks associated with a 24/7 surveillance society in which more and more institutions hold personal data comes amid concerns about the way people’s electronic records are being used. He is suggesting that the use of ‘unseen and uncontrolled’ surveillance is threatening to erode the public’s confidence in many of society’s institutions.

“Britain must not ‘sleepwalk’ into a surveillance society.”

The state have fundamentally altered the way it relates to its citizens. The House of Lords Constitution Committee is to launch an inquiry into the impact of government surveillance and data collection.

Another worried Telegraph blogger reminds us that zeal to chase threats can damage the fabric of our world.

There is a memorable piece of dialogue in which Thomas More’s son-in-law Roper declares that he’d cut down every law in England to pursue the Devil.

“And when the last law was down,” More replies, “and the Devil turned on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted with laws from coast to coast, man’s laws, not God’s, and if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the wind that would blow then?”

Henry Porter, a columnist at the Guardian is dragging political hyprocrisy into the limelight.

Jack Straw, [until recently a senior leader in the British government], has made what is described as a rallying call for the story of freedom in Britain. He says we should imitate America by telling stories of how the country came to be what it is today. Writing in the Chatham House Journal, The World Today, he says we should stress that freedom lies at the heart of the story. “That means freedom through the narrative of the Magna Carta, the civil war, the bill of rights, the Scottish enlightenment, the fight for votes. And the emancipation of Catholics, non-conformists, woman and the black community.”

In the decade-long attack on liberty and rights by this government, there has never been a more astonishing nor more hypocritical statement made by any member of Blair’s team.

Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, continues to warn Parliament and the British people:

Microphones that can eavesdrop on conversations in the street are the next step in the march towards a “Big Brother” society.

Tiny cameras, hidden in lamp posts, will replace more obvious monitors.

He also quoted Benjamin Franklin who said: “Those who lightly give up their liberties in the name of safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Reduce lawn size

wiki on lawns “Approximately 50-70 percent of U.S. residential water is used for landscaping, most of it to water lawns.”

Lawn Alternatives

Who Owns the Water?
Seventy percent of all fresh water used is used for agriculture: irrigation alone represents ten times the direct water use of all the households in the world.

Skin should be appreciated

Large brains are what made it possible for us to evolve from ape to human. But those big brains could never have developed if we didn’t have exceptionally sweaty skin. [story]

On an evolutionary level, there are three remarkable facts about skin. It comes in colors, of course. Compared to other mammals, our skin is relatively hairless. And it’s sweaty. In the last few million years, humans became the sweatiest of mammals.

Unless we’re having the sort of problem that brings us to a dermatologist, we take our skin for granted. We never think of it as working very hard for our body or doing valuable things for us socially.

But when you really start thinking about it, it’s a factory that produces vitamin D, sweat, hormones, oils, wax, pigments — substances we need. Skin is a raincoat in that it protects us from water, bugs and noxious chemicals. It’s also a billboard which we adorn with powder, tattoos, piercing and scars to give off instant messages about our history, health, values and availability for mating.

We’re not the cause

Hurricane forecaster William Gray said that global ocean currents, not human-produced carbon dioxide, are responsible for global warming, and the Earth may begin to cool on its own in five to 10 years. [story]

Lack of Vitamin D top cause of disease

A bombshell about vitamin D is about to go off.

A shortage of vitamin D may be the major cause of cancer and other serious illnesses.

Toronto’s Globe & Mail reports,
In June, U.S. researchers will announce the first direct link between cancer prevention and vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin.

A four-year clinical trial found that taking vitamin D reduced cancer by 60 per cent, a drop so large — twice the impact on cancer attributed to smoking — it almost looks like a typographical error.

Their results are nothing short of astounding – a five-alarm blaze on the health front.

Vitamin D deficiency is showing up in so many illnesses that nearly all disease figures in Canada and the U.S. will need to be re-evaluated. As well as cancer, low vitamin D status is linked to a host of other serious ailments, including multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes, influenza, osteoporosis and bone fractures among the elderly.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, for example, suggested in the March 2007 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that taking 2,000 international units of vitamin D daily along with 10 to 15 minutes in the sun and a healthy diet could reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer by two-thirds.

The same authors found that breast cancer rates were 50 per cent lower in people with high levels of vitamin D in their blood, and suggested that the average person could maintain those levels by taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily and spending 10 to 15 minutes in the sun.

Vitamin-D absorption in WinterThe main way humans achieve healthy levels of vitamin D isn’t through diet but through sun exposure.

People make vitamin D whenever naked skin is exposed to bright sunshine but in northern latitudes most vitamin D may be depleted by mid-winter.

Warned that strong sunshine causes sunburn and skin cancer most people spend little time outdoors or cover their skin with sunscreen.

Modern humans may have only about one-quarter to one-third of the vitamin that humans would have in the wild.

Anyone practising sun avoidance has traded the benefit of a reduced risk of skin cancer — which is easy to detect and treat and seldom fatal — for an increased risk of the scary, high-body-count cancers, such as breast, prostate and colon, that appear linked to vitamin D shortages.

The sun advice has been misguided information “of just breathtaking proportions,” said John Cannell, head of the Vitamin D Council, a non-profit, California-based organization.

“Fifteen hundred Americans die every year from [skin cancers]. Fifteen hundred Americans die every day from the serious cancers.”

Those with very dark skins, whose ancestors originated in tropical, light-rich environments, have pigmentation that filters out more of the sunshine responsible for vitamin D; in northern latitudes, they need more sun exposure — often 10 times as much — to produce the same amount of the vitamin as whites.

Smoking and some pollutants, such as benzene and asbestos, irrefutably cause many cancers. But it may be that cancers and other disorders in rich countries aren’t caused mainly by pollutants but by a vitamin deficiency known to be less acute or even non-existent in poor nations.

Vitamin D is a hot topic lately. Medical journals and newspapers are overflowing with the latest news on vitamin D, specifically vitamin D3 cholecalciferol, and the many ways it protects one’s health.

The American Cancer Society warns that more than 2,000 units vitamin D may be potentially dangerous. Current recommendations are from 200 to 600 units depending on a person’s age. New research and recent recommendations from are encouraging an increase to 1,000 units.

Forbes consolidates several reports here.

National Survey on Doctors, Drug firms

Relationships between physicians and industry are common.

  • 94 per cent of doctors reported some type of relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.

  • 83 per cent said these relationships involved receiving food in the workplace.
  • 78 per cent said they involved receiving drug samples.
  • 35 per cent received reimbursement for costs of going to professional meetings or continuing medical education.
  • 28 per cent received payments for consulting, giving lectures, or enrolling patients in trials.
  • Cardiologists were more than twice as likely to receive payments as family doctors.
  • Family doctors met with industry reps more often than did doctors in other specialties.
  • Doctors who practised on their own or in group practices met with reps more often than those working in hospitals and clinics.


Profit swarming

We think we have free will when we walk into a store and decide whether to purchase something. But en masse, we have very predictable responses to prices.

We’re likely to notice price decreases more than price increases.

Price-optimization software analyses the probability of a sale and is changing what we are paying for products.

Although usually small increases, one vendor’s software has recommended raising prices about 80 percent of the time. [story]

There’s no guarantee-th

70 percent of all dental procedures involve replacements to existing repairs, at a cost of $5 billion per year in the United States alone. [snipped]

Our honor requires our diligence.

There might be too much profit in war.

The privatization of military services is a worldwide business worth $200 billion a year.

Perhaps the free market should end at the bullet and a strict regulatory system should be developed.

Wars cost money and wars provide profits. Making money off the back of misery is a critical ethical issue. We should be watchful.

Why does major media fail to report the money trail of war?

War activity in Iraq circulates more than $250 million per day. We should always know about the money.

It’s easy to blame the players and to categorize deals and money flow in military operations as ‘evil’. Subjective judgment is the percolation of politics, but because war always requires restraint, information is always necessary.

“We have genuine enemies out there that have to be hunted down, networks have to be dismantled. There is no contradiction between us intelligently using our military and, in some cases, lethal force to take out terrorists.” – Barack Obama

There is nothing new about military-centered services and manufacturers encouraging wars and profiteering from them. While Americans understand that making money motivates McDonald’s or Wal-Mart, and some are concerned about businesses donating large sums to influence politicians, most are unaware of how the profit motive helps shape U.S. foreign policy. This is caused in part by our leaders draping decisions, especially wars, in patriotism.

For most decent, caring Americans it is almost unthinkable that the profit motive played a significant role in putting our soldiers in harm’s way.

President Franklin Roosevelt was highly concerned about the influence of profit takers on U.S. foreign policy, saying in his 1934 message to Congress that “the uncontrolled activities of the manufacturers, and merchants of engines of destruction,” were a menace to world peace.

President Eisenhower called for “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” to pay attention to the military industrial complex.

CorpWatch has a site dedicated to War Profiteers.

Lockheed Martin remains the king among war profiteers, raking in $21.9 billion in Pentagon contracts in 2003 alone.

Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers is a film about what happens to everyday Americans when corporations go to war – inside the lives of soldiers, truck drivers, widows and children who have been changed forever as a result of profiteering in the reconstruction of Iraq.

War historian Stuart Brandes has suggested each new war is infected with new forms of war profiteering. Iraq is no exception.

Many think tanks and countless anti-war sites try to catalog the money flow of war. The Center for Corporate Policy has a 2004 Top Ten list.

BetterWorld has a link collection here including a short list of private military companies. There’s a War Profiteers Card Deck to download.

Major media covered Vice President Cheney when he said, “…since I left Halliburton to become George Bush’s vice president, I’ve severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interests. I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind….”

But major media fails to let us know Cheney retained stock options which have risen more than 3,281%.

America is the brunt of much criticism. Our best intentions sometimes fail in the field. But the gains of war are not merely an American Issue. The NYTimes reveals that opportunists in Somalia are now considered one of the main reasons for the continuing conflict.

Christopher Locke has a way of honing in on the evolution of these issues,

“…we are concerned …here… with the military-industrial-academic complex that evolved during the Cold War of the 1940s and -50s, entailing highly unnatural selection by very undisinterested institutions.”

Don’t Eat Poop

Food Safety Network Don't Eat Poop Wash Your HandsThe Food Safety Network has been featured in hundreds of media stories, advocating safe food from farm to fork.

There’s new staff and students and a bunch of new ideas — blogs, wikipedia, you-tube music videos, podcasts, facebook, myspace, infosheets,

and the don’t – eat – poop – wash – your – hands campaign.

Join the Don’t Eat Poop-a-thon

Don’t eat poop T-shirts are now available.
For a donation of $20 to the International Food Safety Network
care of the Kansas State University Foundation,
we’ll send you a T-shirt in the language and size of your choice.
For more information or to place your order, please contact:
Michelle Conrad
Alumni/Development Office
College of Veterinary Medicine
Kansas State University

Voice of Valenti

Jack Valenti uttered these amazing words:

  1. “I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.”

  2. …copyright lasts “forever less one day”.


“Experts” Lift Gates

What can the richest man in the world do with his money?

  1. Let Microsoft seem to be failing.
  2. Let experts criticize Vista.
  3. Let public be led astray.
  4. Let profits soar.

While experts scorn Vista,
dribble Web 2.0,
tax Bandwidth,
scour China,
fear Google,
raid homes,
Microsoft profits soared to a record high in the first three months of 2007 due to Vista and Office.

Recent press:

Reports abound of security problems with the new Windows Vista operating system. The new operating system is too pricey, requires too many hardware upgrades and doesn’t work. Revenue forecasts [link] for the coming year are below most analysts’ estimates.

Current press:

While most reports beforehand were about problems with Microsoft and Vista, Microsoft’s profit jumped 65 percent, 50 cents per share [link].

Better press:

Microsoft’s latest gains are based on deferred revenue from upgrade coupons during Christmas

While misleading stories remain in our brain, money escapes our pockets. Not Einstein nor Bill Moyers have saved us.

In 10 Stunning Facts About Microsoft’s Profits, RawFeed reveals that Microsoft is collecting a profit of $55 million per day.

Measuring elections

An old Cherokee told his grandson about a debate.

My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

Wolves nuzzle nosesOne is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

The grandson thought and then asked, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Requiring Old Coins

what is at stake is our very capacity to reason

Each word in Webster’s is,
when you think about it,
like an old coin handled by millions;

each, with its various meanings,
is a tissue of experiences
and interpretations of our predecessors
crystallized into word.

Charles Johnson

A new grouchy essay:

There is overwhelming evidence that we have fewer and fewer truly literate, to say nothing of truly learned, people today.

Among those who have expressed alarm at the decline of literacy and literary culture is Michael Gorman, president of the American Library Association and a librarian at California State University in Fresno. “It’s appalling — it’s really astounding,” he said.

“There is a failure in the core values of education,” he said. “They’re told to go to college in order to get a better job, and that’s OK. But the real task is to produce educated people.”

In a grouchy essay in the Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley despairingly wrote. “We have virtually institutionalized ‘minimal competence’ and mediocrity in our schools, our books, even in our thought about education and literature.

what is at stake
is our very capacity to reason

Each word in Webster’s is,
when you think about it,
like an old coin handled by millions;

each, with its various meanings,
is a tissue of experiences
and interpretations of our predecessors
crystallized into word.

Each sentence
is a basic unit of logic or reasoning.

Technique is vision.
Style is sense.

And once you move to larger units of expression — the novel or story — you see beyond all doubt that fiction is not simply about “entertainment” or escapism, but is one of the most important means at our disposal for the ongoing chore of making sense of the world of consciousness and culture.

Nobel laureate Saul Bellow, in his 1970s essay, “Culture Now,” reminded us that,

“No community altogether knows its own heart, and by failing in this knowledge a community deceives itself on the one subject concerning which ignorance means death. The remedy is art itself. Art is the community’s medicine for the worst disease of mind, the corruption of consciousness.”

A new grouchy essay:
Charles Johnson, a National Book Award and MacArthur Fellowship winner, has taught literature at the University of Washington for 31 years. Maybe you can’t rant to the illiterate, yet his rhythmic rant continues

Better baby bath

Tummy Tub baby bathInfant comfort:
New design offers comfort and safety acknowledged in maternity hospitals and homes throughout Europe.

Babies adopt a natural position and “it is amazing to see how quickly they calm and relax.”

Lightweight when filled with water… strong… similar to being in a tummy.

Tummy Tub

Our greater honor in honesty

Pvt. Jessica Lynch“American people don’t need to be told elaborate tales…”, said Jessica Lynch speaking at a congressional hearing on the use of misleading information.

Ms Lynch criticised the Pentagon, saying: “I’m still confused why they lied and tried to make me into a legend.”

Ms Lynch said the real heroes were those who died in the attack and those who rescued her.

Initial reports also suggested that Ms Lynch had been abused after she came round in the hospital.

She said the reports were lies: she had been treated well and the Iraqis had tried to return her to US forces.

“The nurses tried to soothe me and return me,” she told the hearing, adding that she objected to the way in which the US military had portrayed her.

Twain and maybe a little Einstein

Kurt Vonnegut: 'I'm an atheist who preaches'Mark Leiren-Young interviewed Kurt Vonnegut.

None of these quotes have been published before.

But first, Mark comments about achieving his 1990 interview while nervously but thoroughly preparing:

“He said, ‘Hello.’ He may have apologized for the delay. I can’t be sure because that was when he shook my hand and smiled at me. His hand was warm. His grip was friendly, not too tight.

“I realized I should probably call the whole thing off, that I didn’t want to interview him after all. What if he wasn’t the person I wanted him to be? What if he hated me? What if I said something stupid? I wanted to go home and take that warm handshake with me. But it was too late.

“I’d never been better prepared for an interview before and I’ve never been better prepared since.

“When he’d finish speaking, I’d stare blankly, then look down at my list of prepared questions, decide they were stupid and try to come up with something else.”

Vonnegut on easy street

“I had a good job at General Electric as a public relations man. And just writing on weekends I was suddenly making so much more than General Electric was willing to pay me for a whole year. I had a wife and two kids. I didn’t hate General Electric. I admired them back then, I don’t think much of them now. But, anyway, I quit and moved to Cape Cod. That was in 1951. And the magazines were knocked out of business finally by TV, about 1960. The magazines finally died and so I was without a means of supporting my family, but we had been on easy street.”

Vonnegut where the money was

TV. “When TV was just starting out, it was possible for an outsider like me to send in a script and they might produce it. And the industry was very briefly in New York City and so I did sell some TV scripts, three or four of them. One of them was the first dramatic part that Sammy Davis Junior ever had.

Vonnegut on Vonnegut

He barely paused before continuing. “See, I was born in 1922. So was Norman Mailer. And so — roughly speaking — were Gore Vidal, Irwin Shaw and Truman Capote. And we’re the last generation of American writers or Canadian writers whose brains were marinated in books….

Then Mark asked, “one of the only questions I was actually proud of, a question he had to take a beat to think about.”


Vonnegut also said,

“With a liar for president, what is a novelist by comparison?”

Another insight of Vonnegut outside of mainstream tributes and obits, published at the Hartford Advocate.

“One thing I noticed about Vonnegut was his capacity to listen to a person without condescension or impatience. He was game for any conversational subject, from the weather to Bush.

“I got the impression that Vonnegut stayed alive these last four years simply in hopes that he’d live long enough to see Bush and Cheney hang. His anger burned at the thought of these “power-drunk chimpanzees” who treat soldiers “like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.”

For the spirit to wrench itself free

Scott Mutter, 'Column'Here’s serious and unusual photography by Scott Mutter where he builds “A More Perfect World”.

This example is as if the corporate high rise is fused as the cap of our civilization…

For me, this photo might summarize our age…

Scott Mutter calls his collection of photomontage Surrational Images.

“Sometimes I spend weeks in the darkroom working on a picture, changing it, adjusting it… and when it finally comes together exactly right, I feel a rush going through my body… a signal that it’s finished, and somehow complete and ready to take on an existence of its own.”

Stress becomes physiological

whiteboard trianglesRemember when you were in math class at school? You may be reluctant to admit it, but perhaps you enjoyed it at least occasionally while you accidentally learned stuff.

But for too many young people, the process of learning can be damaged by excessive stress that accumulates to reduce ability.

Family turmoil and other problems cause physical changes in the brain that make learning more difficult – especially math.

Adolescents who are chronically exposed to family turmoil, violence, noise, poor housing or other chronic risk factors show more stress-induced physiological strain on their organs and tissues than other young people. The cardiovascular systems of youths who are exposed to chronic and multiple risk factors are compromised. When stressed by a mental arithmetic problem, the cardiovascular systems of adolescents who had been exposed to chronic risk factors responded less actively.

In Developmental Psychology, psychologist Gary Evans published the first study to look at how maternal responsiveness may protect against the build-up of stress, as well as the first to look at cardiovascular recovery from stress in children or youths. [story]

When a person’s under stress or injured, the adrenal gland releases cortisol to help restore the body’s functions to normal. But the hormone’s effects are many and varied, lowering the activity of the immune system, helping create memories with short-term exposure, while impairing learning if there’s too much for too long. [new research]