Sunday, June 30, 2013

Crappy Social Contract

From yee Wiki:

In political philosophy the social contract or political contract is a theory or model, originating during the Age of Enlightenment, that typically addresses the questions of the origin of society and the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual.

Social contract arguments typically posit that individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority of the ruler or magistrate (or to the decision of a majority), in exchange for protection of their remaining rights. The question of the relation between natural and legal rights, therefore, is often an aspect of social contract theory. The Social Contract, created by Jean Jacques Rousseau was a book about government reforms and how it should change to suit the people instead of the government.

Although the antecedents of social contract theory are found in antiquity, in Greek and Stoic philosophy and Roman and Canon Law, as well as in the Biblical idea of the covenant, the heyday of the social contract was the mid-17th to early 19th centuries, when it emerged as the leading doctrine of political legitimacy.

The starting point for most social contract theories is a heuristic examination of the human condition absent from any political order that Thomas Hobbes termed the “state of nature”.

In this condition, individuals' actions are bound only by their personal power and conscience. From this shared starting point, social contract theorists seek to demonstrate, in different ways, why a rational individual would voluntarily consent to give up his or her natural freedom to obtain the benefits of political order.

Hugo Grotius (1625), Thomas Hobbes (1651), Samuel Pufendorf (1673), John Locke (1689), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762), and Immanuel Kant (1797) are among the most prominent of 17th- and 18th-century theorists of social contract and natural rights.

Each solved the problem of political authority in a different way. Grotius posited that individual human beings had natural rights; Hobbes asserted that humans consent to abdicate their rights in favor of the absolute authority of government (whether monarchial or parliamentary); Pufendorf disputed Hobbes's equation of a state of nature with war.

Locke believed that natural rights were inalienable, and that the rule of God therefore superseded government authority; and Rousseau believed that democracy (self-rule) was the best way of ensuring the general welfare while maintaining individual freedom under the rule of law.

 The Lockean concept of the social contract was invoked in the United States Declaration of Independence.

Social contract theories were eclipsed in the 19th century in favor of utilitarianism, Hegelianism, and Marxism, and were revived in the 20th, notably in the form of a thought experiment by John Rawls

Saturday, June 29, 2013

M. C. Escher: Tiling

Networks Not Hierarchies

Hierarchy of Greed: All For One

It's great to be me. Me, me, me...

Invest In Yourself First

From Investopedia:: The Top 17 Investing Quotes of All Time

When it comes to the world of investing, three words come to mind: overwhelming, intimidating, and scary. For us "regular Joes," the questions seem never-ending. On that note, let's revisit what experts have said over the years on the topic of investing. The quotes date back to Ben Franklin, and some are from modern pundits like Dave Ramsey and Warren Buffett. Though markets may change, good investing advice is timeless.

1. "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." - Benjamin Franklin
When it comes to investing, nothing will pay off more than educating yourself. Do the necessary research, study and analysis before making any investment decisions.

2. "Bottoms in the investment world don't end with four-year lows; they end with 10- or 15-year lows." - Jim Rogers
While 10-15 year lows are not common, they do happen. During these down times, don't be shy about going against the trend and investing; you could make a fortune by making a bold move - or lose your shirt. Remember quote #1 and invest in an industry you've researched thoroughly. Then, be prepared to see your investment sink lower before it turns around and starts to pay off.

3. "I will tell you how to become rich. Close the doors. Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful." - Warren Buffett
Be prepared to invest in a down market and to "get out" in a soaring market. (For more, read Think Like Warren Buffett.)

4. "The stock market is filled with individuals who know the price of everything, but the value of nothing." - Phillip Fisher
Another testament to the fact that investing without an education and research will ultimately lead to regrettable investment decisions. Research is much more than just listening to popular opinion.

5. "In investing, what is comfortable is rarely profitable." - Robert Arnott
At times, you will have to step out of your comfort zone to realize significant gains. Know the boundaries of your comfort zone and practice stepping out of it in small doses. As much as you need to know the market, you need to know yourself too. Can you handle staying in when everyone else is jumping ship? Or getting out during the biggest rally of the century? There's no room for pride in this kind of self-analysis. The best investment strategy can turn into the worst if you don't have the stomach to see it through.

6. "How many millionaires do you know who have become wealthy by investing in savings accounts? I rest my case." - Robert G. Allen
Though investing in a savings account is a sure bet, your gains will be minimal given the extremely low interest rates. But don't forgo one completely. A savings account is a reliable place for an emergency fund, whereas a market investment is not.

7. "Invest in yourself. Your career is the engine of your wealth." - Paul Clitheroe
We all want wealth, but how do we achieve it? It starts with a successful career which relies on your skills and talents. Invest in yourself through school, books, or a quality job where you can acquire a quality skill set. Identify your talents and find a way to turn them into an income-generating vehicle. In doing so, you can truly leverage your career into an "engine of your wealth."

8. "Every once in a while, the market does something so stupid it takes your breath away." - Jim Cramer
There are no sure bets in the world of investing; there is risk in everything. Be prepared for the ups and downs.

9. "The individual investor should act consistently as an investor and not as a speculator." - Ben Graham
You are an investor, not someone who can predict the future. Base your decisions on real facts and analysis rather than risky, speculative forecasts.

10. "It's not how much money you make, but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for." - Robert Kiyosaki
If you're a millionaire by the time you're 30, but blow it all by age 40, you've gained nothing. Grow and protect your investment portfolio by carefully diversifying it, and you may find yourself funding many generations to come.

11. "Know what you own, and know why you own it." - Peter Lynch
Do your homework before making a decision. And once you've made a decision, make sure to re-evaluate your portfolio on a timely basis. A wise holding today may not be a wise holding in the future.

12. "Financial peace isn't the acquisition of stuff. It's learning to live on less than you make, so you can give money back and have money to invest. You can't win until you do this." - Dave Ramsey
By being modest in your spending, you can ensure you will have enough for retirement and can give back to the community as well.

13. "Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas." - Paul Samuelson
If you think investing is gambling, you're doing it wrong. The work involved requires planning and patience. However, the gains you see over time are indeed exciting.

14. "I would not pre-pay. I would invest instead and let the investments cover it." - Dave Ramsey
A perfect answer to the question: "Should I pay off my _____(fill in the blank) or invest for retirement?" That said, a credit card balance ringing up 30% can turn into a black hole if not paid off quickly. Basically, pay off debt at high interest rates and keep debt at low ones.

15. "The four most dangerous words in investing are: 'this time it's different.'" - Sir John TempletonFollow market trends and history. Don't speculate that this particular time will be any different. For example, a major key to investing in a particular stock or bond fund is its performance over five years. Nothing shorter.

16. "Wide diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing." - Warren Buffett
In the beginning, diversification is relevant. Once you've gotten your feet wet and have confidence in your investments, you can adjust your portfolio accordingly and make bigger bets.

17. "You get recessions, you have stock market declines. If you don't understand that's going to happen, then you're not ready, you won't do well in the markets." - Peter Lynch
When hit with recessions or declines, you must stay the course. Economies are cyclical, and the markets have shown that they will recover. Make sure you are a part of those recoveries.

The Bottom Line
The world of investing can be cold and hard. But if you do thorough research and keep your head on straight, your chances of long-term success are good.

Charley Harper Networks

Friday, June 28, 2013

Icons From the Age of Anxiety: Snitch Culture

Here's my latest dollar-book score at HPB. Written in 2000, before 9-11 happeneed, and even so, a nasty "Snitch Culture" trend was already emerging...

Snitch Culture: How Citizens are Turned into the Eyes and Ears of the State by  Jim Redden

In this alarming expose, investigative journalist Jim Redden examines how snooping has become so much a part of American culture that it is practically a family value, encouraged on billboards, television, and even in classrooms. From employees hired to spy on their coworkers to doctors forced to disclose medical information, the U.S. has developed a chilling network for monitoring its citizens. Worst of all, the information gathered - and widely disseminated - is often unreliable, solicited from paid and anonymous informants. "No one is safe in the Snitch Culture. Jim Redden has written a scary, fascinating, and important examination of the pervasive use and abuse of informants and snitches in the United States." - Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love.

Amazon Reviews

Informative and enlightening by Trent Reinsmith

"Snitches get stitches." A simple message, but in a world where you word is sometimes all you have, it's pretty serious. The world that holds rats, stool pigeons, Judas's and informants in contempt has slowly collapsed in upon itself and is now almost non-existent. A world where people are encouraged to turn in family, friends, co-workers and neighbors has taken its place. Jim Redden takes a look at this world, a world that rewards the weakest of all human traits, a world that is right outside your door; maybe even in your own home.

That's right, the Big Brother that is watching may be your brother! "Tying an unpopular activity to a popular cause is good propaganda and one of the most effective tools for recruiting new informants and justifying more surveillance programs." Read that again and then ask yourself how the government accomplishes this goal. Give up?

Think about the Wars in the US; the War on Drugs, the War on Crime, the War on Terrorism, the general public buys it with a little spin from government and the press. It all tastes so sweet until you look a little deeper and realize that everyone is a casualty of these wars. Friendly fire anyone?

Welcome to the world that Jim Redden is living and working in, welcome to the world that we are all living in.

In his look at this world, Redden questions the role of the snitch, their fallibility and why their word, which should be suspect at best, is taken as gospel so often. The answer will come as no surprise; money and jail sentences.

Redden shows how the D.A.R.E program and other government policies encourage children and family members to turn on each other for the good of the nation. He also exposes how these snitches are paid big bucks and sometimes allowed to commit heinous crimes themselves with no repercussions because they are assisting the government to fry (allegedly) bigger fish.

Redden also details how almost everyone is being watched to some extent during their normal everyday life and mostly without their knowledge. The deep and every growing roots of the snitch culture in America are examined and put under a microscope in this book.

The author details how the government tries to justify its surveillance of left-wing groups and their causes, and how this surveillance has gotten heavier since the WTO and Republican and Democratic conventions of the recent past.

One key item that Redden examines is the difference between a whistleblower and a snitch. Karen Silkwood and Frank Serpico where whistleblowers, Sammy the Bull was a snitch. Redden exposes how the whistleblower, usually a person who is exposing true evil, is often left out on a limb by the government while the snitch is allowed to run roughshod.

Closing out this book are a series of case studies; case studies that range from the history of anti-crime snitching to the Black Panther party and Italian Mafia families being torn apart.

Case studies that show the questionable way in which the government fought crack as well as how they abused forfeiture laws associated with (alleged) crimes. A book like this is filled with information and is not an easy or quick read. It takes some time and thought to get through it. But in the end, if one really reads this book, they will find it an enlightening and unsettling look at the how the tendrils of the state reach out to their lives and the limit their freedom.

As with most of the Feral House titles that fall within the expose genre, this one is well footnoted and documented, making the accusations that much more difficult to refute.

In a culture where the government would like the masses to believe that "it's all for your own good", this type of documentation and footnoting is a must. With Snitch Culture, Jim Redden, Adam Parfrey and Feral House have delivered another blow to the mainstream press, the government, and how they lie and deceive the people they are supposed to be protecting. 

Do you know who's watching you? by Fantail Entertainment

If you were to be told that, at any give moment, any number of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies could break down your front door, arrest and imprison you, seize your property, and even take the lives of you and your loved ones... all because of a tip-off from an unreliable rogue informant who could have picked your name randomly out of a phone book for all anyone knew... how would you feel?

That is the key question Jim Redden poses in his alarming study of the growing "Snitch Culture" that has pervaded the American justice system since the founding of our nation.

"Snitch Culture...How Citizens are Turned into the Eyes and Ears of the State" is an in-depth look at the way various government agencies, including the FBI, CIA, District Attorney, and local police departments routinely employ the services of third-party informants to identify and prosecute those suspected of wrongdoing. The only problem is, most of these informants are they themselves criminals, volunteering information in exchange for reduced prison sentences or, sometimes, financial rewards.

The fear of jail time or the lure of riches is often enough to entice the informant to find someone, anyone, to accuse of committing an illegal act - even a complete stranger. These ulterior motives harbored by the ever-increasing population of government-sponsored snitches are enough to challenge the way we dispense criminal justice in the United States.

But it doesn't end there.

Oftentimes, private corporations and politically-oriented non-profit organizations (such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center) also employ a large number of informants to serve their internal interests.

It is common practice for companies to employ snitches to monitor the performance and conduct of their employees, sometimes outside of work hours. Organizations with strong political agendas, such as the ADL, have been known to turn to informants as sources of information on their opposition. As Redden points out, the use of snitches is nothing new in the public and private sectors of our society.

Several chapters in the book are devoted to tracing the evolution of the informant's role in our culture, from its early American roots when industrialists would employ spies to subvert the activities of local labor unions, to the anti-communist McCarthy "witch hunt" hearings of the 1950s, to the use of informants to infiltrate the counterculture movement of the 60s and 70s.

And as if all of this wasn't alarming enough, in addition to the use of snitches, the government (not to mention the private sector) has adopted a wide range of methods of keeping citizens under constant surveillance, whether they have been accused of committing a crime or not.

Most notable is the vast, multinational information-gathering network known as Echelon. Designed to address the government's concerns that the Internet is the ideal tool for conducting illegal and subversive activities,

Echelon was created to filter through virtually every piece of data crossing the Information Superhighway to find anything that might be remotely construed as "harmful" to public interest.

National "crises" that we so often see in the headlines, such as the Drug Epidemic, are manufactured by the government to justify the billions of dollars spent each year to monitor our every move. The establishment media, rather than questioning this movement, instead works hand-in-hand with the government to spread the propagandistic message that reporting the activities of our family and neighbors to the authorities is our patriotic duty.

The result is that we are living in an ever-expanding police state where nothing we say or do is shielded from the eyes, ears, and punishing hand of Big Brother. "

Snitch Culture" tackles this vital concern from all angles, examining everything from the aforementioned use of snitches and surveillance tactics, to the "Zero Tolerance" polices of public schools, to the government's handling of the WTO protests in Seattle.

Part history, part call-to-action, the book is a true eye-opener to the ways in which our civil liberties are continuously compromised by those claiming to protect us.

Although Redden clearly harbors a libertarian ideology, he manages to present the information in a factual, objective light (all of his sources are comprehensively cited in the footnotes), often portraying both right-wing and leftist groups as victims of government intrusion and persecution without due process.

 But most importantly, "Snitch Culture" supports the freedom of the individual to life his/her life and express his/her views without fear of being ratted out by the snitches that lurk in our shadows.

Great Book by Eli Dapolonia

Snitch Culture is a page-turner. Maybe the best book I've read this year. Brilliantly researched and well documented, Jim Redden digs deep into the way law enforcement works, and uncovers new insights into the way our society is changing right under our noses. Frightening and thought provoking, Snitch Culture is a must read for anyone interested in issues of corruption, privacy, and criminal justice.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Obedience to Authority

Social Psychologist Stanley Milgram

From yee Wiki:

Stanley Milgram (1933-1984) was an American social psychologist.

He conducted various studies and published articles during his lifetime, with the most notable being his controversial study on obedience to authority, conducted in the 1960s during his professorship at Yale. Milgram was influenced by the events of the Holocaust, specifically the trial of Adolf Eichmann, in developing this experiment.

His dissertation while at Harvard, small-world experiment, would later help researchers articulate the mechanics of social networks and explore the mathematical relation to the degree of connectedness, most notably the six degrees of separation concept.

Obedience to authority
In 1963, Milgram submitted the results of his Milgram experiments in the article "Behavioral Study of Obedience".

 In the ensuing controversy, the American Psychological Association held up his application for membership for a year because of questions about the ethics of his work, but eventually did grant him full membership.

Ten years later, in 1974, Milgram published Obedience to Authority. He won the AAAS Prize for Behavioral Science Research in 1964, mostly for his work on the social aspects of obedience.

Inspired in part by the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, his models were later also used to explain the 1968 My Lai Massacre (including authority training in the military, depersonalizing the "enemy" through racial and cultural differences, etc.). He produced a film depicting his experiments, which are considered classics of social psychology.

Milgram's Experiment 18: Peer Shock Administration

In this experiment, 26 out of 40 participants administered the full range of shocks up to 450 volts, the highest obedience rate Milgram found in his whole series.

Thus, according to Milgram, the subject shifts responsibility to another person and does not blame himself for what happens. This resembles real-life incidents in which people see themselves as merely cogs in a machine, just "doing their job", allowing them to avoid responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

The shocks themselves were fake; the participant who took the place as the "learner" in the experiment was in fact a paid actor who would simulate the effects of the shock depending on the voltage.

Milgram became notorious for this tactic, and his experiment was soon classed as highly unethical as it caused stress to the participants in the study. The study soon became one of the most talked about psychological experiments in recent history, making headlines across the world, and resulted in Milgram finding himself in the center of public attention. More recent tests of the experiment have found that it only works under certain conditions; in particular, when participants believe the results are necessary for the "good of science."

Small World Phenomenon: Small-World Experiment

The six degrees of separation concept originates from Milgram's "small world experiment" in 1967 that tracked chains of acquaintances in the United States.

In the experiment, Milgram sent several packages to 160 random people living in Omaha, Nebraska, asking them to forward the package to a friend or acquaintance who they thought would bring the package closer to a set final individual, a stockbroker from Boston, Massachusetts.

Each "starter" received instructions to mail a folder via the U.S. Post Office to a recipient, but with some rules. Starters could only mail the folder to someone they actually knew personally on a first-name basis. When doing so, each starter instructed their recipient to mail the folder ahead to one of the latter's first-name acquaintances with the same instructions, with the hope that their acquaintance might by some chance know the target recipient.

Given that starters knew only the target recipient's name and address, they had a seemingly impossible task. Milgram monitored the progress of each chain via returned "tracer" postcards, which allowed him to track the progression of each letter.

Surprisingly, he found that the very first folder reached the target in just four days and took only two intermediate acquaintances. Overall, Milgram reported that chains varied in length from two to ten intermediate acquaintances, with a median of five intermediate acquaintances (i.e. six degrees of separation) between the original sender and the destination recipient.

This concept became popularized by Jon Stewart's Daily Show in the mid-1990s -according to its creators, "a stupid party trick"-called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Milgram's "six degrees" theory has been severely criticized. He did not follow up on many of the sent packages, and as a result, scientists are unconvinced that there are merely "six degrees" of separation. Elizabeth DeVita–Raebu has discussed potential problems with Dr. Milgrams's experiment.

In 2008, a study by Microsoft showed that the average chain of contacts between users of its '.NET Messenger Service' (later called Microsoft Messenger service) was 6.6 people.

Lost Letter Experiment:

Milgram developed a technique for measuring how helpful people are to strangers who are not present, and their attitudes toward various groups, called the "lost letter" experiment.

Several sealed and stamped letters are planted in public places, addressed to various entities, such as individuals, favorable organizations like medical research institutes, and stigmatized organizations such as "Friends of the Nazi Party". Milgram found most of the letters addressed to individuals and favorable organizations were mailed, while most of those addressed to stigmatized organizations were not.

Anti-Social Behavior Experiment:

In 1970-71, Milgram conducted experiments which attempted to find a correlation between media consumption (in this case, watching television) and anti-social behavior. The experiment presented the opportunity to steal money, donate to charity, or neither, and tested whether the rate of each choice was influenced by watching similar actions in the ending of a specially-crafted episode of the popular series Medical Center.

YouTube video:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nick Fury Secret Agent by Mitch Breitweiser

The Irlen Revolution: Colored Lens Therapy

The Irlen Revolution: A Guide to Changing your Perception and Your Life by Helen Irlen 

After decades of revolutionizing the treatment of dyslexia through the use of colored lenses, educational pioneer Helen Irlen has turned her attention to children and adults who suffer from other learning disabilities. The Irlen Revolution examines the author s unique program for helping people with ADHD/ADD, Asperger s syndrome, autism, depth perception problems, head injuries, strokes, and a host of other conditions that affect learning.

The Irlen Revolution begins with an overview of learning disabilities and a look at standard treatments. It then examines the Irlen Method and explores the scientific basis of the program.

Finally, the author discusses the individual disorders what they are, and how the Irlen approach may be used to treat them successfully. An extensive resource section provides additional guidance for readers who want to learn more about the program.

When 60 Minutes featured a dyslexic child being cured with the Irlen Method, the world was introduced to a safe and effective tool to combat dyslexia. Now the battle lines have been expanded, and many more people can benefit from The Irlen Revolution.

Icons From the Age of Anxiety: Edward Snowden

From Wikipedia:

Edward Joseph Snowden (born June 21, 1983) is a former technical contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who leaked details of top-secret American and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.

Working primarily with Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian (London), which published a series of exposés based on Snowden's disclosures in June 2013,

Snowden revealed information about a variety of classified intelligence programs, including the interception of US and European telephone metadata and the PRISM and Tempora Internet surveillance programs. Snowden said the leaks were an effort "to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."

On June 14, 2013, US federal prosecutors filed a sealed complaint, made public on June 21, charging Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person; the latter two allegations are under the Espionage Act.

Snowden's leaks are said to rank among the most significant breaches in the history of the NSA. Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence historian in Washington, said disclosures linked to Snowden have "confirmed longstanding suspicions that NSA's surveillance in this country is far more intrusive than we knew."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Alexandra Sifferlin Blog: How You Deal With Your Emotions Can Influence Your Anxiety

When faced with a challenge, whether you deny the problems it poses or dive in to solve them in a positive way may determine how much anxiety you feel overall.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 40 million Americans ages 18 and older are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder every year.

To dig deeper into who may be at greatest risk, investigators from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign surveyed 179 healthy men and women and asked them how they dealt with their emotions and how their answers correlated with their level of anxiety in a variety of settings.

Previous studies hinted that different strategies that people use to handle emotional situations could impact how much anxiety they felt in general; those who tended to focus on positive ways of resolving difficult circumstances, for example, experienced less nervousness, tension and negative emotions compared with those who avoided challenging situations and suppressed negative and uncomfortable feelings.

The scientists in the current study, published in the journal Emotion, wanted to explore the relationship further to see whether the more positive emotional strategy could offer more resilience and protection against anxiety than the suppressive approach.

The participants all answered questionnaires designed to measure how much they were focused on achieving goals, whether they tended to control their emotions by reappraising challenges in a more positive way or whether they tried to ignore and suppress difficult feelings.

For example, they rated how closely their behavior aligned with the statements, “I control my emotions by changing the way I think about the situation I am in,” and “I keep my emotions to myself.” They also responded to questions about their anxiety level during different situations such as when giving a report to a group or going to a party.

Comparing their responses, the researchers found that the participants who regularly reframed what was happening to them to view their situation in a better light reported less severe anxiety than the participants who suppressed their emotions in trying situations.

This strategy is called reappraisal, and those who practiced the tactic were more likely to view tough situations as challenges rather than problems, and reported less overall anxiety and social anxiety compared with the participants who tried to ignore their emotions instead.

The results suggest that there may be behavior-based ways of addressing anxiety that people might be able to learn. Seeing difficult experiences as opportunities rather than setbacks requires being flexible enough to find new solutions to problems.

People who tend to take this approach, say the study authors, are goal-oriented and able to put individual situations into perspective, realizing that a single trying situation doesn’t necessarily signal doom.

Those who focus on trying to avoid negative situations, while perhaps being proactive, may open themselves up to internalizing symptoms of anxiety and stress more, which can have harmful effects on health. Suppressing emotions may not allow for a productive outlet for frustration or fear, and that could make those who adopt this approach more vulnerable to anxiety.

But the researchers say the findings don’t suggest that anxiety is an all-or-nothing state. A little anxiety can work to a person’s benefit if it enforces concentration and efficiency, like getting work done on a deadline.

There may also be situations in which different strategies for handling—and even controlling—emotions is appropriate. In some workplace or social settings, for example, having the self-control to refrain from acting out or saying something regrettable could save a job or friendship.

Not surprisingly, the researchers say it’s about being flexible enough to know how much to regulate emotions and learning to be more flexible when faced with challenging situations.

Being adaptive can come more easily to some than others, but many of the strategies for regulating emotions in this way during crises can be learned.

“This is something you can change,” said Nicole Llewellyn, the lead author of the study and a graduate student in psychology at the University of Illinois, in a statement.

“You can’t do much to affect the genetic or environmental factors that contribute to anxiety. But you can change your emotion-regulation strategies.” And those changes could translate into a more lasting resilience against stress.

Time Magazine: Mice With OCD Can Mean New Hope for Humans

Optogenetics cover scene.

A new study of mouse brains leads to new insights — and perhaps new treatments — for a common disorder

by Jeffrey Kluger ,June 07, 2013

There may be no torment quite like the sublime looniness that is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Your hands are clean, the door is locked, you didn’t insult a colleague at work or drive over someone on the way home or mishear the 17 doctors you’ve seen in the past month who told you that no, you really, truly don’t have whatever disease you think you’ve got. And yet you keep washing or locking or checking or worrying.

Most people think they understand OCD — and most people are wrong.

It’s not just tidiness, it’s not just fretfulness, and it’s not a glib adjective (“You should see how neat my desk is. I’m so OCD!”). It is, instead, a profound malfunction in various regions of the brain — principally the amygdala, which processes fear, anxiety and other primal emotions — and the mere fact that it is exceedingly treatable with cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication or both does not make it any less awful if you’ve got a real case of it.

Now, thanks to a new study just published in Science, people suffering with OCD have at least a little more hope of recovery than they did before — and people studying the disorder have a lot more insight into what causes it in the first place.

The fact that OCD can be expressed in so many different ways has always suggested that it is caused by idiosyncratic interactions among several different brain regions. The amygdala likely plays a role in all of them, but the best-known forms of OCDcontamination anxiety and the excessive washing that can follow — are thought to be governed by the orbital frontal cortex (OFC) and the ventromedial striatum (VMS). The OFC governs decisionmaking and volitional activity; the VMS governs how we experience fear and risk. It’s not hard to see how an alarm set off by the VMS can lead to a decision to wash by the OFC — even if that decision defies reason.

To explore that circuitry — and the way it goes haywire — a team of researchers led by Dr. Susanne Ahmari, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, turned to a new technology called optogenetics.

The researchers first engineered a common adenovirus — usually associated with upper-respiratory infections — to carry the genetic coding for a light-sensitive pigment known as rhodopsin. They then injected the virus into the OFC of lab mice, where it could enter brain cells carrying its rhodopsin payload with it.

That caused the otherwise normal cells to become light sensitive. Finally, the scientists inserted fiber optic strands into the mice’s brains and stimulated them with pulses of light. What they expected to see was an increase in grooming behavior, which is common among mice — and in their species-specific way is similar to hand washing in humans. But when they flicked the light on in the mice’s brains what they got was pretty much nothing — at least at first.

“When we hyperstimulated this specific circuit, we thought we were going to see an increase in abnormal behaviors,” Ahmari said in a video released along with the Science paper. “That stimulation did not lead directly to repetitive behavior, but if we repeatedly stimulated for several days in a row for just five minutes a day, what we got was the progressive evolution of grooming behavior.”

The mice, in effect, had been neurologically nudged to a full-blown case of OCD, and even when the researchers quit the stimulation, the behavior stuck around for at least a week. In some of the mice, small doses of fluoxetine — the generic form of Prozac and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitorshastened the disappearance of the behavior.

All that reveals a lot. For one thing, it may help explain why some OCD patients can go for years or decades without the disorder and then experience a single traumatic event — a near accident on a highway, a legitimate disease scare that turns out to be nothing — and shortly after, develop OCD symptoms related to the experience.

They may have been born with a predisposition to the disorder (the genetic roots of OCD are still not completely understood), but the triggering event, like the few days of light stimulation in the mice, tips them fully into it.

More important, the research maps the underlying neural wiring behind the disorder and could help in the development of better, more precisely targeted drugs.

For people with intractable cases of OCD that resist both behavioral and pharmacological therapy, other researchers have looked at deep-brain stimulation (DBS), using fine wires to activate or deactivate trouble spots. This is already being used successfully to treat the tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease. What science learns from studying mice could eventually lead to improved DBS.

None of this fully explains the mysteries of OCD, and drilling into the heads of human patients to insert wires is clearly a last therapeutic resort, especially since the large majority of cases do respond so well to less invasive treatment.

Still, for sufferers who long castigated themselves as weak-willed or otherwise responsible for their own suffering, it can be a relief to know that OCD is just a sickness like any other — and as with so many sicknesses, relief is increasingly possible.

Devices, Not Drugs: Orange Glasses

Great Sleep! Reduced Cancer!: A Scientific Approach to Great Sleep and Reduced Cancer Risk by Richard L. Hansler

In 2001 it was discovered that it is only the blue component in ordinary white light that causes melatonin suppression.

Melatonin is the hormone that promotes sleep and is a powerful cancer fighter. This book traces the story of how research with animals and humans has demonstrated the health benefits of long periods of darkness that maximize melatonin.

By blocking just the blue light a condition of “virtual darkness” allows enjoyment of normal evening activities while maximizing melatonin flow. The benefits go far beyond better sleep and reducing cancer risk. They include helping to avoid postpartum depression, improving symptoms of ADHD, and helping to stabilize mood in patients with bipolar disorder.

Amazon Customer Reviews

Light and our Lives November 25, 2008
By Rebecca E. Hutchins

As a behavioral optometrist who has long been fascinated by the non-visual portion of the optic nerve, and who recently learned about melanopsin and its implications, this book was meant for me to read. It has an incredible amount of information not readily available on the effects of light at night on our health. The author worked for 40-some years in the lighting industry, and is now concerned enough about the implications of light in insomnia and cancer that he is attempting to find a way to address some of the issues with the use of blue-blocking lenses. I did purchase two pair from the website to compare with those that we use in our office, and found the tint a little hard to handle personally, but I think the topic is a timely and important one, and it is well-handled in this book. I am beginning to believe that Light Pollution and Light at Night may be almost as big an issue to our survival as Global Warming.

Blue light, melatonin, quality of sleep and antioxidant properties April 18, 2012
By J. Duncan

Interesting info on light, the blue spectrum in particular, and how it affects (delays) the start of melatonin production, which affects the onset of sleep. Contains several ideas on how to reduce exposure to blue light, at what times you should consider this, and how even slight exposures late at night (or during the night) can still interfere. UVEX glasses are a cost-effective way to start.

Not sure how - but it works March 24, 2013
By IUS Jan

Dr. Oz promoted this on his television show. I bought the book and the glasses. I am amazed but if you remember to use them (especially if you are on the computer at night) the technologies works. I get drowsy faster and when I go to bed I fall asleep more quickly. I am a believer.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Scientific American: Do Nanoparticles in Food Pose a Health Risk?

NANO-SIZED RISK: Nanoparticles, like the one modeled here next to a mouse, are appearing in food and food packaging in a range of products
A new study reveals that nanoparticles are being used in everything from beer to baby drinks despite a lack of safety information

by David Biello

Plastic imbued with clay nanoparticles helps make Miller Brewing Co. beer bottles less likely to break as well as improves how long the brew lasts in storage. Simply H's Toddler Health nutritional drink mix includes 300-nanometer (300 billionths of a meter) iron particles. And a wide range of cooking and cleaning items now employ nanosize silver particles to kill microbes.

Yet, the Washington, D. C.–based environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) reports that none of the more than 100 food or food-related products it identified that contain nanoparticles—puny particles between 100 and one nanometers—bears a warning label or has undergone safety testing by government agencies.

For the whole article, go to:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My New Guilty Pleasure: Girl Surfer Videos on YouTube

Kowabunga -- I just watched three hours of red-blooded, male-mesmerizing Surfer Girl videos...and read me now, but believe me later, no more of my free time will be wasted watching dopey football or baseball games on commercial TV...

Bob Graettinger Scores

Musician/historian Terry Vosbein writes to remind me to give him due credit for this amazing BG tribute, and add the link to his All Things Kenton site, where I hit a netiquette sour note when I  copped his chart note-for-note. Mea Culpa. Kindly visit Terry's most excellent site at:

Graphs and Charts of Bob Graettinger

The Kenton Archives at the University of North Texas contain hundreds of handwritten and colored pages created by Bob Graettinger. Pitch names, colors, lines, dots and squiggles were all part of his pre-compositional process. Some are very tiny, on small scraps of paper. Others are quite large. Fronts and backs of pages are frequently both used. There are short handwritten notes to himself. A small sampling is presented below.

There are no notations associating any of this with particular compositions. Graettinger used these charts to plan his compositions, in a system known only to him. He then made very meticulous scores using traditional musical notation. It was these scores that were sent to Clinton Roemer, Kenton's primary copyist, who would create the individual musicians' parts.
Click on an image for a larger view.
Bob Graettinger graph
Bob Graettinger graph
Bob Graettinger graph
Bob Graettinger graph
Stacks Image 87864
Stacks Image 87874
Stacks Image 87872
Stacks Image 87882
Stacks Image 87880
Stacks Image 87878
Stacks Image 87876
A rare 1946 straight-ahead swing-era composition by Progressive Jazz's bad boy of the avant garde, Bob Graettinger. Performed by Terry Vosbein and the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra.

Friday, June 21, 2013

City of Glass

Bob Graettinger was dubbed the "bad boy" of modern jazz composers. He died far too young, at the age of 33. You can hear his compositions on YouTube.

Big Band leader and pianist Stan Kenton supported Graettingers work.

Robert Graettinger on yee Wiki:

Captain Kangol

Coming Soon to a head near you.

Sterankophile and eBidiot: Complete 1973 F.O.O.M. Memebrship Kit (Mint)

I couldn't resist this Friends Of Ol' Marvel (F.O.O.M.) membership kit created by Jim Steranko in 1973.

Price? Don't ask, don't tell!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Healing Power of My Navajo Jewelry

I have had great success treating my OCD ruminations with Navajo jewelry -- not through any mystical properties of the gemstones (BTW, Hypno-Don doesn't poo-poo that), but rather through a tried-and-true CBT technique of refocused attention/redirection.

Obsessive thoughts or ruminations are one of the most disturbing and tiresome hallmarks of the OCD/Anxiety Disorder spectrum.

There's a well-known technique to remind you not to continue ruminating, which depends on being able to reroute your thoughts. You put a rubber band around one wrist, and when you find yourself ruminating -- snap it, and redirect your thoughts. Do it often enough, the theory goes, and you'll learn to stop yourself.

Snap it!

For a time, I tried this rubber band technique, with only limited success, and  I've  since discovered a much more appealing variation on the redirection technique.

The last year or so, I've taken to wearing beautifully hand-crafted Navajo gemstone and silver jewelry on my neck, hands, and wrists.

Whenever I experience a worrisome thought that is creeping in, or even an uncomfortably idle moment, I can easily redirect myself by contemplating the sublime esthetic qualities of  wearable art.

I can focus my attention on my jewelry anytime I please, avoiding the "on-time, right now," schedule-keeping angst created by looking at a wristwatch. I can instead enjoy the timeless beauty and long-time tradition of this rock-steady artform.

I also find it a much-needed counterbalance to our quick-paced, ever-changing, disposable, techno-world with its wretched excess of  planned-obsolesence. Instead, I experience the sublime sensation of  "flow."

This looks much classier than a rubber band, right? Of course, nice things cost money...

The heavy jewelry also makes me aware of my somtosensory system, and grounds my feelings...

From Wiki:

The somatosensory system is a diverse sensory system comprising the receptors and processing centers to produce the sensory modalities such as touch, temperature, proprioception (body position), and nociception (pain). The sensory receptors cover the skin and epithelia, skeletal muscles, bones and joints, internal organs, and the cardiovascular system.

While touch (also called tactile perception or tactual perception) is considered one of the five traditional senses, the impression of touch is formed from several modalities. In medicine, the colloquial term "touch" is usually replaced with "somatic senses" to better reflect the variety of mechanisms involved.

Somatic senses are sometimes referred to as somesthetic senses, with the understanding that somesthesis includes touch, proprioception and (depending on usage) also haptic perception.

The system reacts to diverse stimuli using different receptors: thermoreceptors, nociceptors, mechanoreceptors and chemoreceptors. Transmission of information from the receptors passes via sensory nerves through tracts in the spinal cord and into the brain. Processing primarily occurs in the primary somatosensory area in the parietal lobe of the cerebral cortex.

The cortical homunculus was devised by Wilder Penfield.

At its simplest, the system works when activity in a sensory neuron is triggered by a specific stimulus such as heat; this signal eventually passes to an area in the brain uniquely attributed to that area on the body—this allows the processed stimulus to be felt at the correct location.

The point-to-point mapping of the body surfaces in the brain is called a homunculus and is essential in the creation of a body image. This brain-surface ("cortical") map is not immutable, however. Dramatic shifts can occur in response to stroke or injury.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Andrea Wachter Blog: On CBT Self-Talk

Saul Steinberg cartoon.

by Andrea Wachter
We all talk to ourselves all day long. Our minds are basically like recorders that play back everything that's been downloaded into them. The quality of our lives is drastically affected by our internal dialogue. Even more than our life situations, it's our self-talk that can make or break our day.

Our minds are naturally active. That's their job. And we need them to help us tend to many things in our lives. But sometimes our minds seem to be working overtime! Ideally, we all have some moments when our minds are quiet and we are simply present. But when our minds are active, we have various other internal soundtrack options.

The first is neutral. A neutral internal dialogue might be deciding whether to go to the store on the way to work or on the way home. Perhaps part of you wants to stop and part of you wants to head straight home. There are no strong feelings and no moral dilemmas. You can think through the pros and cons and make your decision. Nobody gets hurt!

Another internal soundtrack is positive. An example of this is when you feel good about something you did or said and you internally praise yourself. Now, that is something we do not need to change. If you do experience positive self-talk, I say keep it up. I know many of us were raised with messages about getting a "big head" or conceited but I am not talking about being arrogant here. I am simply talking about being kind to yourself and praising yourself regularly. Positive self-talk is about knowing that you are a good person, and that you deserve praise sometimes, even though you are imperfect like everyone else.

Next on the soundtrack possibilities is negative self-talk. We all have an inner dialogue that arises from all the negative and painful things we have ever heard and experienced. It's like a program in your computer. The more painful experiences you have had and/or the more sensitive you are, the louder and stronger your internal negative soundtrack is likely to be.

In large part, we all learned to speak to ourselves from the way our parents or caregivers spoke to us. As we get older, this style turns into what I call our inner "Mom-a-logue" or "Dad-a-logue."

If our parents were critical or negative, it's not that they were horrible people; they were likely just speaking to us the way they were spoken to or the way that they were left feeling from the way they were spoken to. So the negative self-talk baton gets passed down from generation to generation.

Consequently, some people have very loud, critical Mom-and-Dad-a-logues and this can cause an array of problems.

Since most of us tend to think or speak to ourselves the way we were spoken to as children or the way we felt as children, I think it's fair to say that most of us have been doing it a long time. So it is likely a habit that will take desire, awareness and practice to change. The good news is that it is possible to retrain your brain, erase negative self-talk tracks and upload new ones.

So, if negative self-talk is on one end of a spectrum and conceited narcissism is on the other, a healthy internal soundtrack is the range in the middle. This range is where you have positive regard for yourself.

You know you don't have to be perfect. You know you are a good person and that you are no better or worse than anyone else.

As a family counselor, I work with people who are struggling with a variety of issues, everything from addictions and depression to anxiety and grief. What I notice is that while the symptoms may differ, most of the people I see have a hard time being kind to themselves. I often find myself asking why.

Most everyone had some positive experiences as children. Even people from the most negative of childhoods can usually come up with a few positive memories. Why don't we focus more on those? Unfortunately, negative memories and experiences seem to stick more than the positive ones. It's just the way we are wired.

Imagine if someone massaged your back for an hour and punched you really hard for one second. It would likely be the one-second punch you would remember as opposed to the hour of comforting massage. Or say you spent a few hours with a friend and it was really pleasant and then they said one sentence that was really hurtful. You would most likely remember and be the most impacted from that one sentence as opposed to the hundreds of other sentences that were spoken in the time you were together.

As children, we did not have logical minds that knew the difference between feeling bad and being bad. When difficult things happened many of us decided we were bad, and this contributed to our internal program of self-talk. Painful events happened to all of us, in our families and in our lives, and most of us didn't know how to distinguish between feeling bad and thinking we must be bad. So we ended up with a feeling of shame that for many turned into a deep, core belief. But shame comes from the mistaken thought or judgment, "I am bad." And there is a big difference between something feeling bad and the thought that youare a bad person.

Many people have a core sense of shame and inadequacy and think that if they could just get the relationship they want or the body they like or the job they dream of, etc. they will then be deemed worthy and valuable.

But it doesn't work that way. If their deepest belief about themselves is that they are unworthy, ugly, stupid, fat, etc., nothing external will fix that. These thoughts will need an internal upgrade.

It might seem like bad news that our thoughts are constant and that they have so much power they can actually make us feel horrible.

But the good news is that if we can make ourselves feel badly with our thoughts, then we can also learn to delete and replace them, which will then change the way we speak to ourselves, treat ourselves and feel about ourselves.

Steps For Upgrading Your Self-Talk

1. Desire: The first step in making a change is having the desire. Once you have the desire to improve your self-talk, you have begun to get ready for an internal upgrade!

2. Awareness: When we have a negative inner recording that has been playing for years, it becomes a habit. Oftentimes we kick into it without even noticing. So as soon as you become aware that a negative recording is playing, you have broken the unconscious trance and are halfway there.

3. Compassion: This process is about unlearning a very ingrained habit and we are not going to do it perfectly or immediately. Being kind and compassionate is the way to progress way more than beating yourself up. Self-hate got you here, it is not going to get you out!

4. Creative Comebacks: This is where you replace and/or respond to your negative thoughts. Try responding to a negative thought the way you might respond to a friend or a young child who was saying the same mean things about themselves.

Here are a few examples of creative ways to respond to your self-criticism:
  • "Oh you again?"
  • "Says who?"
  • "And your point is?"
  • "It's not true and you're not helping."
  • "I'm not that bad, give me a break."
  • "You might be trying to help by whipping me into shape but if you were going to be helpful, I think you would have helped by now."
  • "You're just an old recording and I'm deleting you now."

Even if you don't fully believe it, keep practicing. You were not born with internal negative statements about yourself, you learned, practiced and perfected them and you can do the same with creative comebacks.

To replace the negative with something positive try some of these, or make up your own:
  • "I'm a good person even when I make a mistake."
  • "I don't have to be perfect to be loveable."
  • "I have many successes, I am not a failure."
Try picturing your thoughts as pop-up windows on a computer and imagine closing them. Pretend your thoughts are on the television or radio and imagine turning them off. It helps some people to imagine they are letting smoke out of a chimney as they let their negative thoughts go.

Others find it helpful to talk back to their internal negative statements by either disagreeing in a strong way or reacting in a compassionate, softer way. For many, it helps to consciously bring themselves back to the present moment and remember that their thoughts aren't facts, they are like movies playing in our minds.

Whether you are visual, auditory or more in your feelings, you can get creative and find ways that work for you to change, stop or replace your habitual recordings.

Your negative soundtracks have likely been playing for many years. It doesn't help that we are surrounded by a culture that supports negative self-talk so this will be an ongoing practice. The way we talk to ourselves is a habit that can be changed with awareness and willingness.

With practice and patience it can become natural to speak to yourself with kindness and upgrade your internal soundtrack for good.