Saturday, May 31, 2008
Sex-selective abortion is a fact of life in India, where the gender ratio has declined to 1,000 boys to 900 girls nationally, and as low as 1,000 boys to 300 girls in some Punjabi cities. In China, the state-enforced "one child" policy has brought about the most gender-distorted demographic cohort in global history, the so-called guang gun– "bare branches." If you can only have one kid, parents choose to abort girls and wait for a boy, to the point where in the first generation to grow to adulthood under this policy there are 119 boys for every 100 girls. In practice, a "woman's right to choose" turns out to mean the right to choose not to have any women.We're rapidly approaching the moment when these nations find themselves with millions of young men with raging testosterone and no place to go. Of course we could always import them here to our college campuses, which are now trending 60% female. Too many American boys seem to be too interested in video games, extreme sports and online porn to actually pursue adult responsibilities and relationships.
Smaller families may mean just a boy or a girl for liberal Democrats, but in other societies it means just a boy. The Indian writer Gita Aravamudan calls this the "female feticide." Colleen Carroll Campbell writes that abortion, "touted as the key to liberating future generations of women," has become instead "the preferred means of eradicating them." And, while it won't eradicate all of them, Philip Longman, a demographer of impeccably liberal credentials, put the future in a nutshell in the title of his essay: "The Return of Patriarchy."
I'm an optimist by nature so every once in awhile, just to remain grounded in reality, I need to remind myself that there's plenty of stuff not to be not optimistic about.
Friday, May 30, 2008
She said (paraphrase): Too often people mention a prayer need and they or others immediately begin praying for a specific outcome. We need to first ask God what He is doing and what He wants to do in this situation and then wait on Him to guide the content of our requests.
Amen! I've often thought that this is the key to Jesus' promise that He will answer all of our prayers. Obviously He wasn't promising to do anything we asked, no matter how selfish or absurd, no matter how foolish it looked to Omniscience. But He was saying SOMETHING profound.
I believe He was promising to guide the very content of our praying if we will let Him. When the Spirit prompts us in how to pray, we can be confident of the outcome.
This insight can revitalize your prayer life if it has become tired and wearisome.
Instead of praying every day, "God bless A and B and C and ..." as you go down your list of people who you care about with brief or cliche-ish requests; give each of those people some time, say once a week, where you pray, "Lord, what is going on in A's life this week and how do you want me to pray for him?" Think about the person while you wait on the Lord and then pray accordingly.
There is always the danger that the Lord may respond: "B needs encouragement and I want you to be the one (or one of the ones) to provide it. How about writing her a note or offering to..."
But then again: maybe your prayer life could use a little more danger?
Pray especially that he finds peace with God through Jesus.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
For reasons likely to puzzle baby name experts around the world, American parents have become infatuated by names, particularly for their sons, that rhyme with the word “maiden.” These names for boys include: Jayden (No. 18); Aiden (No. 27); Aidan (No. 54); Jaden (No. 76); Caden (No. 92); Kaden (No. 98); Ayden (No.102); Braden (No.156); Cayden (No.175); Jaiden (No.191); Kaiden (No. 220); Aden (No. 264); Caiden (No. 286); Braeden (No. 325); Braydon (No. 361); Jaydon (No. 415); Jadon (No. 423); Braiden (No. 529); Zayden (No. 588); Jaeden (No. 593); Aydan (No. 598); Bradyn (No. 629); Kadin (No. 657); Jadyn (No. 696); Kaeden (No. 701); Jaydin (No. 757); Braedon (No. 805); Aidyn (No. 818); Haiden (No. 820); Jaidyn (No. 841); Kadyn (No. 878); Jaydan (No. 887); Raiden (No. 931); and Adin (No. 983).Exception: If your last name is "Japan", "China" or any other nation, you have my permission to name your son (or daughter), "Mayden".
(Personal note: When I was in high school about 90% of us were named "Mark". We'd pass each other in the halls between classes and sound like a bunch of lisping dogs as we greeted each other, guy-style: "Hi Mark" "Mark" "Mark!" "Hey, Mark" "Mark". One of my three best friends was actually named "Marc Swanson" so everyone called him "Blondie" and me "Blacky". Good thing he's not still nearby or I'd have to put up with folks greeting me, "Hey, Salt-And-Peppery!")
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
When I wasn't pitching I played shortstop where I was known as "the human vacuum cleaner". I made the all-star team every other year and dreamed of playing in the majors someday as I listened to the White Sox or Cubs on the radio.
One of my high school classmates, Dan Schatzeder, who lived two blocks away, did go on to pitch for the Minnesota Twins in the World Series, but I never got big enough or strong enough even though back in those days there were a lot of major league second basemen who would have looked tiny next to today's big league hulks.
All of that is to explain why this video brought tears to my eyes...
And while we're on the topic, I didn't think this next one could possibly live up to its title, "The Best Pitch Ever", but I was wrong...
Hat Tip: The Evangelical Outpost
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Late yesterday, Ted and I explored the new BLM trails on Swasey Road, then over the pass to Whiskeytown NRA and ran a little on the mountain bike trails by Horse Camp and back again. Only 16 miles but we started on the edge of Redding (pop: 90K) and were quickly over the ridge to the uninhabited ("nobody here but us ultrarunners") wilds of bear country.
It was a beautiful day and I felt great the whole way. Ted ("Shouldn't We Be Turning Around Soon?") seemed to have a good time too.
Fathers sleep a lot, and they snore loudly. When they're awake, they like to fish or golf, but they're comically bad at both. They drink so much beer they're practically alcoholics, and they're complete couch potatoes, always watching television and hogging the remote.So what's going on here?
Part of it is that a lot of men aren't good at expressing affection so it's hard to know how to express it back. Dad's tease, so tease back.
Part of it is that this sad shoe fits way too many dads. They probably enjoy these cards because they imply: "You don't have to change, we love you anyway." It's like a "Go ahead and refuse to grow up for another year" pass.
Part of it is simply unfair. The stores are full of these cards so lots of folks buy them by default when they really should be showing their dads the appreciation they deserve.
Dads: Be the card you want to receive.
Children (young or adult): Give your dads a card that honors him for his attempts. If he isn't quite as perfect as the card implies, it'll give him something to aspire to.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Weary Zimbabweans are facing a new wave of price increases that will put many basic goods even further out of their reach: A loaf of bread now costs what 12 new cars did a decade ago.
Independent finance houses said in an assessment Tuesday that annual inflation rose this month to 1,063,572 percent based on prices of a basket of basic foodstuffs. Economic analysts say unless the rate of inflation is slowed, annual inflation will likely reach about 5 million percent by October.
As stores opened for business Wednesday, a small pack of locally produced coffee beans cost just short of 1 billion Zimbabwe dollars. A decade ago, that sum would have bought 60 new cars.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I've got some running friends who swear that shoes are bad for you and I even ran part of the Leona Divide 50 mile race with "Barefoot Ted" who has run ultras barefoot, though he's taken to wearing Vibram FiveFingers (with whom he apparently has some sort of deal). Every once a while I wander out barefoot, but mostly it seems like a violation of the prayer, "Lead us not into temptation," since it generally leads to numerous strong temptations to cuss. Being a reverend and all that I usually manage to limit myself to exclamatories (Yow! Yikes! Ouch!) rather than expletives (#@^*!).
Anyway, this highly persuasive article ("You Walk Wrong") convinced me to try out a pair of FiveFingers so I ordered them today (free shipping and 10% off= $72). We'll see if I can handle them for running or just use them to toughen up my feet a little around the yard.
It's not quite "walking like a bear foot," but it's close.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Racewalking requires you to keep one foot in contact with the ground at all times (otherwise you'd be running) and ends up looking really dorky, but the top racewalkers really are amazing athletes. Denis Nizhegorodov looks like a racewalker (dorky!) but is a real stud, he just set a world record for walking 50K (31 miles) in 3:34.
That's more than 30 minutes faster than I could run 50K in ideal circumstances. And the fastest I can walk is 12 minute miles.
The other problem with racewalking (besides the dork factor) is that you need judges to make sure you follow the rules for proper legal form and the fact of the matter is, practically no one actually does so for the whole race. Some get caught and some don't.
Follow any of them around with a movie camera for the whole course and you're bound to get lots of pictures like this one, of third place finisher Alex Schwazer (with both feet simultaneously off the ground).
But what do I know? I also saw Evan Almighty this weekend (which got HORRIBLE reviews) and found it to be cute and enjoyable. Maybe it's just a matter of expectations.
OTOH: FM-G thought that the LOTR movie trilogy was better than the print version, so what does SHE know?!
"...in countries where women have the most freedom to choose their careers, the gender divide is the most pronounced."The thing about most gender stereotypes: none of them are true for 100% of the population; but most of them express real tendencies. Guys prefer working with stuff and women prefer working with people? That's hardly a put-down of women!
"Different but equal" shouldn't be a hard concept to grasp. Hopefully, with more data like this coming out all the time, our society (and especially our government) will quit trying to make women act like men because of a warped concept of what equality really means.
Besides, it would be a lot healthier if men acted more like women instead.
Monday, May 19, 2008
If you get to thinking about it your own self, remember that it IS a risky play. Could go way way up like I think it will (give it 5-10 years) or it could all turn to pig poop by the time Obama runs for re-election.
I bbq them and they ALWAYS come out juicy and tender and we could eat them every night since all you have to do is add a different sauce or marinade to change the flavor. We eat a lot of seafood and chicken thighs and a little of everything else. (Well, not everything everything).
It's all been very negative, but necessary. If we wish to find real security, we first have to let go of any sense of false security. Or, as Twain put it:
"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."(For real security, note the introduction (1:16-17) and conclusion (3:21ff).
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Medium answer: Many forms of success bring financial reward (and financial reward itself creates feelings of success) and a perception of being successful correlates closely with happiness. (Implication: Unless they are destitute, just giving someone money, without letting them do something to earn it, usually will not increase their happiness).
Long answer (WELL worth reading!): Link
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Jorge Espinal, 44, was drinking beer and playing poker around 3 a.m. Sunday morning in his home in the 3500 block of Montague Street, when he got up from the table and walked into another room, said Fort Worth police Lt. Kenneth Dean.
“He told officers he had an itch on his back and grabbed the first thing he could get a hold of, which was a revolver,” Lt. Dean said. “The gun went off."
Espinal was taken to an area hospital where he was treated and released with non-life-threatening injuries.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I'm always looking for ways to motivate people to exercise, I remember how long it took me to get motivated. This week's TIME has an article on memory and dementia and what scientists know now. Here's the key excerpt:
So why should memory fade at all? The answer may come from the gym.I'm still no good at remembering names though.
A decade ago, when neuroscientist Fred Gage of the Salk Institute made the discovery that the adult brain continues to regenerate, the brains in question belonged to mice. Some of the mice had been sedentary, others had been exercising, and the ones that logged the most miles on their wheels produced many more new neurons than did the sedentary ones.
Now it turns out that the same appears to be true for humans. In a paper published last spring, a team led by Gage, Small and Richard Sloan, a psychologist at Columbia University, revealed that after pounding the treadmill four times a week for an hour for 12 weeks, a group of previously inactive men and women, ages 21 to 45, showed substantial increases in cerebral blood volume (CBV)--a proxy for neurogenesis because where there are more cells, there are more blood vessels.
Not only did the CBV profile of the human exercisers mirror that of the mice, but the people who exercised more did better on a slew of memory tests. Other evidence backs this up. In a study of "previously sedentary" older subjects by psychologist Arthur Kramer at the University of Illinois and others at Israel's Bar-Ilan University, investigators found that those who engaged in aerobic exercise did better cognitively than those who stretched and toned but never got their heart rates pumping. What's more, subsequent imaging showed that aerobic exercise "increased brain volume in regions associated with age-related decline in both structure and cognition."
Cerebral blood volume is not the only thing responsible for this brain-boosting. Also at work is the fact that exercise increases what's known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that stimulates the birth of new brain cells and then helps them differentiate and connect. BDNF also enhances neural plasticity, the process by which the brain changes in response to learning. In diseases like Alzheimer's, depression, Parkinson's and dementia, BDNF levels are low. In people who exercise, BDNF levels rise.
Monday, May 12, 2008
You just knew it was coming: At the request of the Swiss government, an ethics panel has weighed in on the "dignity" of plants and opined that the arbitrary killing of flora is morally wrong. This is no hoax. The concept of what could be called "plant rights" is being seriously debated.
A few years ago the Swiss added to their national constitution a provision requiring "account to be taken of the dignity of creation when handling animals, plants and other organisms." No one knew exactly what it meant, so they asked the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology to figure it out. The resulting report, "The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants," is enough to short circuit the brain.
A "clear majority" of the panel adopted what it called a "biocentric" moral view, meaning that "living organisms should be considered morally for their own sake because they are alive." Thus, the panel determined that we cannot claim "absolute ownership" over plants and, moreover, that "individual plants have an inherent worth." This means that "we may not use them just as we please, even if the plant community is not in danger, or if our actions do not endanger the species, or if we are not acting arbitrarily."
The committee offered this illustration: A farmer mows his field (apparently an acceptable action, perhaps because the hay is intended to feed the farmer's herd--the report doesn't say). But then, while walking home, he casually "decapitates" some wildflowers with his scythe. The panel decries this act as immoral, though its members can't agree why. The report states, opaquely:
At this point it remains unclear whether this action is condemned because it expresses a particular moral stance of the farmer toward other organisms or because something bad is being done to the flowers themselves.
And today I read that England is considering allowing Genetically Modified Children, though they are still opposed to Genetically Modified Plants. Go figure.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
The various forms of feminism have tried to teach us that our "real self" exists somehow independently of our gender. According to some feminists, gender differentiation is a cosmic injustice, that demands correction or compensation. More modest forms of feminism hold that gender differentiation is insignificant, or irrelevant to anything important. And the social changes that feminism has inspired have attempted to minimize anything distinctively feminine. The proper goal for a woman, especially an intelligent, promising woman, is to behave exactly as a man her age would.Hat tip: Evangelical Outpost
My daughter came down with me (we had been at my dad's home in San Diego and drove to Sacramento Friday, unloaded a bunch of dad's old furniture at my other daughter's second floor apartment, then drove 2.5 hours to SJ) and we slept in the Almaden Neighborhood Church (same denomination as I belong to) Friday night. Tried to sleep anyway. We got in late and folks started moving about and making noise around 4.
We showed up at the start at 5:30, and Mikaela helped out with the start-finish area. I realized I hadn't really prepared much for this race; guess I sort of took it for granted after HURT and Diablo. I'd only been averaging about 25 miles a week since April 1 (plus Diablo) and didn't know anything about the course (I was thinking it was something like 6000' elevation gain, actually 8500). The prior years' finish times looked fairly fast (though a higher than average dnf rate) so it can't be too bad, right?
I talked to Suzanna Bon (who would win the women's race in about 7:45) and Jim Winne and Rick Gaston (who would finish 10th) and a few others as we awaited the moment.
I was going to start out at an 11mpm pace, but it felt a little fast and I wanted to be sure I could finish so I dropped back to 12. On the one single-track section I caught my foot on a root while running fast downhill and could have ended my race (and maybe my face!) right there but caught myself barely. As I continued I noticed that the temp was pleasant (but it was early) and the poison oak was lush and thick- I'll find out in a couple days if it got me.
The first half of the course felt easy enough, the climbs weren't that tough and most of the course was on well-maintained fire roads and the views were consistently panoramic. I didn't start to feel any tiredness or stiffness until a little on the big climb at the middle of the race, noted I was on pace for a 9:44 finish, a little slower than I hoped but probably as good as I could expect on my meager training. But since I was at the top of the course, meaning more downhill than uphill ahead, and based on my thinking that there was only 6000' climbing I figured the second half must be pretty easy, so I thought I'd see if I could pick it up and go for a sub 9. Not much chance in my current shape, but there's only one way to find out.
The "downhill" run to the start-finish at mile 31.5 was tougher than expected, steeper than what we'd seen previously, and with some very steep uphill sections thrown in for variety, but at the bottom I told my daughter I was feeling good, and I was. That lasted about a half mile further.
Climbing back up I found myself slowing way down and by the time I got to the Wood Road section I was barely functional. This is an 8 mile out and back, 4 each way, the flattest segment of the course, and going out all I could do was 15 minute miles. Though the uphill sections were only a very slight grade, my leg muscles had seemingly reached the point of muscle failure and my overall energy was near-zilch. Too little training, not enough sleep for a couple days, and I seemed to have outrun my ability for the day. A section that should have taken 45 minutes took a full hour. I'd been going slow, now I was glacial. At this rate even a sub-10 was now a pipe dream.
And it was getting hot. One of the veteran aid station captains said this was the first year she'd been hot, rather than chilly. As the old song says, "Summertime... and the stomach gets queasy". I hear there were a lot of drops. At the Wood Road turnaround I let myself fly down the hill (I can do downhills with no energy and both legs tied behind my back) and to my surprise the downhill kept going and going and going.
And when I got to the uphills and flats I found my energy was back. I did the last 8.5 miles (about 6 downhill and 2.5 uphill) in 85 minutes. I know about highs and lows that comes and goes, but this was probably my best resurrection ever in a race. I finished in 9:33 and even took third in my age group ("geezers"), an achievement that only occurs quadrennially or so. In fact, I think this was only the second race I've been in where everyone who finished faster than me was younger than I am (is that good or bad?)
A most excellent event, I wish it wasn't so far away!
Chihping Fu took a bunch of pics, here's one of them:
Friday, May 9, 2008
Supermodel Cindy Crawford appeared on Good Morning America to plug her new answer to global warming: you can buy her new invention- a reusable water bottle! Only $20! She began the interview by talking about how she used to be a chemical engineering major at Northwestern and went on to explain how upset she was to learn that Americans use 50 billion water bottles a year and...
“Fifty billion in America and only 50 percent are recycled,” Crawford said. “So that’s like 38 billion that aren’t recycled.”
Lots of related laughs here.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
"Teen survives near fatal alcohol poisoning"
I was going to make fun of this until I realized how bad I'd feel if I later found out that Sonoma County has had a recent rash of teens dying from near fatal alcohol poisonings.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
The first time a rattler rattled at me was last month when I was tying a flag to a rock while marking the Tehama 50K course. It sounded just like a rattle and I spotted the small (foot long) rattler a few feet away in a pile of rocks. He bared his fangs and then turned and crawled into his hole. No biggie.
Then. This past weekend. Runnin' along, singing my song, paying no particular attention to anything other than my deeply profound thoughts, not looking at the ground, enjoying my run, and...
Somewhere in my mind's background I became aware of a strange sound, sort of like a cross between a high power line buzzing, water running and an osprey calling out a warning- but not quite like any of those. It didn't sink in at first as I was quite lost in thought, but it got louder and after a few strides I stopped to look at the treetops to see if some strange bird might be upset at me.
As I turned my head to the left I realized the sound was still coming from my left (directly behind where me) and from the ground. There, about 4' away, was a very angry 3 foot rattler, vibrating his tail so fast that it didn't rattle, it hummed. And hissing. And no wonder he was ticked; I had probably almost stepped on him, even though he had seen me coming and tried to warn me away. Thank God I didn't, and thank God I didn't happen to stop, cluelessly, while I was standing right next to him. This was a close call.
My dog, Teddi, was right by him now, and Teddi tends to go after anything that moves, but I called him and he came while the rattler, unsure of who was the bigger threat, Teddi or I, hesitated. We backed up and watched him from about 8' away while he continued to vibrate and hiss and eventually made his way into a wood pile.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Ms. Vosper does not believe in the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the miracles and the sacrament of baptism. Nor does she believe in the creeds, the presence of Christ in communion or that Jesus was the Son of God.Ms. Vosper is an ordained minister. It appears that she hopes to replace Christianity with Nothing-Ianity or perhaps just Ianity or how 'bout Inanity.
In With or Without God, her book that was formally launched this week, she writes that Jesus was a "Middle Eastern peasant with a few charismatic gifts and a great posthumous marketing team."
Saturday, May 3, 2008
When I was in grade school, my mom tended to be overprotective and I was somewhat wimpy but I was allowed to spend enough hours in unsupervised play (softball but also lots of pretend shooting games: cowboys and indians, war, etc; and lots of snowball fights) to partially offset it.
Beginning with jr high I was less supervised and spent most my free time in "unorganized" sports- baseball, football and basketball with kids who were bigger and faster than me. And occasionally, beginning in 5th or 6th grade, I would hop on my bike and see how far from home I could get before it was absolutely, positively time to turn around and get back by dark.
With H.S. came the spelunking trips, week-long bike journeys with friends, and Outward Bound. Even today I still love to head out into the woods at night and run through the creeks and the mud. Sadly, many boys today, like many of my age-group peers, don't have a life.
I have written often about the protective roles of exercise. It can lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, dementia, osteoporosis, gallstones, diverticulitis, falls, erectile dysfunction, peripheral vascular disease and 12 kinds of cancer.
But what if you already have one of these conditions? Or an ailment like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, congestive heart failure or osteoarthritis? How can you exercise if you’re always tired or in pain or have trouble breathing? Can exercise really help?
You bet it can.
“The data show that regular moderate exercise increases your ability to battle the effects of disease,” Dr. Moffat said in an interview. “It has a positive effect on both physical and mental well-being. The goal is to do as much physical activity as your body lets you do, and rest when you need to rest.”
The core of cardiac rehab is a progressive exercise program to increase the ability of the heart to pump oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood more effectively throughout the body. The outcome is better endurance, greater ability to enjoy life and decreased mortality.
The same goes for patients with congestive heart failure. “Heart failure patients as old as 91 can increase their oxygen consumption significantly,” Dr. Moffat said.
Aerobic exercise lowers blood pressure in people with hypertension, and it improves peripheral circulation in people who develop cramping leg pains when they walk — a condition called intermittent claudication. The treatment for it, in fact, is to walk a little farther each day.
In people who have had transient ischemic attacks, or ministrokes, “gradually increasing exercise improves blood flow to the brain and may diminish the risk of a full-blown stroke,” Dr. Moffat said. And aerobic and strength exercises have been shown to improve endurance, walking speed and the ability to perform tasks of daily living up to six years after a stroke.
As Randi knows, moderate exercise cuts the risk of developing diabetes. And for those with diabetes, exercise improves glucose tolerance — less medication is needed to control blood sugar — and reduces the risk of life-threatening complications.
Perhaps the most immediate benefits are reaped by people with joint and neuromuscular disorders. Without exercise, those at risk of osteoarthritis become crippled by stiff, deteriorated joints. But exercise that increases strength and aerobic capacity can reduce pain, depression and anxiety and improve function, balance and quality of life.
Likewise for people with rheumatoid arthritis. “The less they do, the worse things get,” Dr. Moffat said. “The more their joints move, the better.”
Exercise that builds gradually and protects inflamed joints can diminish pain, fatigue, morning stiffness, depression and anxiety, she said, and improve strength, walking speed and activity.
Natalie Digate Muth, a registered dietitian and personal trainer, emphasized the value of a good workout for people suffering from depression. Mastering a new skill increases their sense of worth, social contact improves mood, and the endorphins released during exercise improve well-being. “Exercise is an important adjunct to pharmacological therapy, and it does not matter how severe the depression — exercise works equally well for people with moderate or severe depression.”
Healthy people may have difficulty appreciating the burdens faced by those with chronic ailments, Dr. Nancey Trevanian Tsai noted in the same issue of ACE Certified News. “Oftentimes, disease-ridden statements — like ‘I’m a diabetic’ — become barricades that keep clients from seeing themselves getting better,” she said, and many feel “enslaved by their diseases and treatments.”
But the feel-good hormones released through exercise can help sustain activity.
“With regular exercise, the body seeks to continue staying active,” ... Over time, a sense of accomplishment, better sleep, less pain and enhanced satisfaction with life can become further reasons to pursue physical activity.
“Even if exercise is tough to schedule,” Dr. Moffat said, “you feel so much better, it’s crazy not to do it.”