Friday, June 27, 2008

Well, this settles it. Not that there was any doubt....

Barack Obama is a Bruce Springsteen fan. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Obama said, "Not only do I love Bruce's music, I just love him as a person. He is a guy who has never lost track of his roots, who knows who he is, who has never put on a front." He added that, when speaking to the singer, he addressed him by his moniker the Boss. "You've got to," Obama said.

Bruce (yes, we are on a first-name basis) endorsed Obama in April.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Akino Fuku

We were hesitant to even visit the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto. Not all that into modern, really, especially after spending the previous days exploring centuries-old castles, gardens and temples. But we were very pleased with the exhibit that was going on there.

The artist was Akino Fuku. She is a Japan native who lived and studied art in Kyoto (the cultural heart of Japan) from 1929 to 2001. Many of her paintings came out of the year she spent in India as a visiting professor--Those were my favorites anyway. I wasn't able to find much of her stuff online, but here are a few, enjoy:

Names, top to bottom: Indian Woman, River Crossing, Afghanistan

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The End of Genetic Nihilism

This just in: Your genes don't determine your destiny. It has been understood for awhile now that genes can predispose you to certain diseases, but new research shows that changing your lifestyle habits can actually "turn off" bad genes and activate positive ones. Essentially, if you make the outward changes in lifestyle, your body adjusts and makes changes at the genetic level.

The study was conducted at the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute and followed 500 men diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. The men, for reasons unrelated to the study, were not receiving any other treatments at the time. They changed their eating habits to mostly plant-based foods (fruits & veggies, soy, legumes, whole wheat), walked for 30 minutes per day, did one hour of yoga-type stretching or meditation each day, and met once a week for a group support session.

"After three months, we repeated the biopsy and looked at changes in normal tissue within the prostate. We found that many disease-promoting genes (including those associated with cancer, heart disease, and inflammation) were down-regulated or "turned off," whereas protective, disease-preventing genes were up-regulated or "turned on." For example, a set of cancer-promoting oncogenes called RAS was down-regulated in these men. The Selectin E gene (which promotes inflammation and is elevated in breast cancer) was down-regulated. Another gene that suppresses tumor formation called SFRP was up-regulated, thereby reducing the risk of cancer. These genes are the target of many new drugs that are being developed. Clearly, changing lifestyle is less expensive, and the only side-effects are good ones. "

Because the study looked at the healthy tissue, not cancerous tissue, it is likely that the results can be generalized beyond just men with prostate cancer. The end of the era of genetic nihilism is upon us.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Another Reason to Love Coffee

New research using information gleaned from the Nurses Health Study (an amazing wealth of information!) has shown that people who drink coffee on a daily basis have slightly lower death rates. The affect seems to lie mainly with heart health, as coffee-drinkers are particularly less likely to die from heart disease. The benefit is more pronounced in women than in men and doesn't seem to be tied to caffeine consumption, because both regular and decaf drinkers achieved the same benefits. In the study, women who consumed several cups of coffee per day had a full 25% lower risk of death from heart disease and an 18% lower risk of death from something other than cancer or heart disease. Also, you don't have to limit your coffee drinking to get the positive effects (as you do with wine)--Drink up to six cups per day to get the benefit.

Family Vacation

Last week my family went on vacation to Olympic National Park, on Washington's Olympic Penninsula. ONP is unique in its wide variety of ecosystems, from windy beaches, to mossy rainforests, to snow-capped mountains. We had a great time! Enjoy the photos....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pop Quiz

The first person to correctly identify the following picture wins a personalized haiku!

More Hiking

Here's an informative sign we came across on a Sunday hike near Liberty Lake:

Reads: "More Hiking"

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Beat Generation

I came across some poetry from one of my favorite Beat poets recently and decided to share. The Beat Generation was a loosely connected group of writers who were writing in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their works were shockingly cavalier, personal & political, challenging and overturning all rules for literature and appropriateness at the time. The movement had some big moments in New York City, but for the most part, it was centered in San Francisco (and is probably the reason San Francisco has the reputation it has today). Probably the most famous works to come out of the movement were Alan Ginsberg's Howl (read it!), Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. Although the Beats were making their waves prior to the nationwide cultural upheaval of the late 1960s and 1970s, I don't think it's going too far to say that the Beats were the beginning of it all.

Here's Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one of my favorites:

Bird With Two Right Wings

And now our government
a bird with two right wings
flies on from zone to zone
while we go on having our little fun & games
at each election
as if it really mattered who the pilot is
of Air Force One
(They're interchangeable, stupid!)
While this bird with two right wings
flies right on with its corporate flight crew
And this year its the Great Movie Cowboy in the cockpit
And next year its the great Bush pilot
And now its the Chameleon Kid
and he keeps changing the logo on his captains cap
and now its a donkey and now an elephant
and now some kind of donkephant
And now we recognize two of the crew
who took out a contract on America
and one is a certain gringo wretch
who's busy monkeywrenching
crucial parts of the engine
and its life-support systems
and they got a big fat hose
to siphon off the fuel to privatized tanks
And all the while we just sit there
in the passenger seats
without parachutes
listening to all the news that's fit to air
over the one-way PA system
about how the contract on America
is really good for us etcetera
As all the while the plane lumbers on
into its postmodern
manifest destiny

The World Is a Beautiful Place

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't mind happiness
not always being
so very much fun
if you don't mind a touch of hell
now and then
just when everything is fine
because even in heaven
they don't sing
all the time

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't mind some people dying
all the time
or maybe only starving
some of the time
which isn't half bad
if it isn't you

Oh the world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't much mind
a few dead minds
in the higher places
or a bomb or two
now and then
in your upturned faces
or such other improprieties
as our Name Brand society
is prey to
with its men of distinction
and its men of extinction
and its priests
and other patrolmen

and its various segregations
and congressional investigations
and other constipations
that our fool flesh
is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all
for a lot of such things as making the fun scene
and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
and singing low songs and having inspirations
and walking around
looking at everything
and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
and even thinking
and kissing people and
making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
and going swimming in rivers
on picnics
in the middle of the summer
and just generally
'living it up'
but then right in the middle of it
comes the smiling


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Save the Planet: Move to the City!

A few months ago I got into an argument with my father over Sunday lunch. He was claiming that hybrid cars are actually worse for the environment because it takes more energy to produce them than a regular gas-guzzling car. I was irate. Dad couldn't cite any sources (Bad Daddy!--Haven't your daughters taught you anything?!). But when I later researched the subject, turns out he was at least partly right. Here are a few other environmental facts that may surprise you: cattle raised to organic standards produce more methane gas than regular cattle, cooling a home in Arizona produces less CO2 emissions than warming a house in New England, and Honolulu and Los Angeles are the two cities that emit the least amount of carbon dioxide per capita in the US.

Surprised by that last one? Here's writer Jonah Leher in Seed on the topic:

When most of us think about environmentally friendly places, we imagine rural landscapes and bucolic open spaces. We picture a terrain untouched by concrete. Cities, in contrast, seem like ecological nightmares. They are densities of pollution, artificial environments where nature consists of cockroaches, pigeons and florist shops. But, according to Bettencourt and West, the conventional wisdom is exactly backwards. Cities are bastions of environmentalism. People who live in densely populated places lead environmentally friendly lives. They consume fewer resources per person and take up less space. (On average, city dwellers use about half as much electricity as people living outside the city limits.) The typical Manhattanite generates 30 percent less CO2 than the typical American.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

TLaJ Book Review #4

Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants
By Robert Sullivan

I saw this book on the shelf at Aunties and picked it up out of morbid curiosity. Then I was sucked in completely and ended up buying the cursed thing. In spite of the topic, the book is fabulous. Sullivan is a great writer and researcher and the book is engrossing from start to finish.

Sullivan lives in New York City and he takes one year out of his life to study rats in one alley. He goes out to the alley every evening and stays for a few hours watching the rat activity (and human activity as well) in the alley, taking notes, and studying the habits of the rats. Sullivan is no rat-lover--he is at times completely grossed out by the work he does. But his findings are really interesting.

  • Rats are fairly large (about a foot long), so cats do not chase them,kill them, or eat them. Rats and cats completely avoid each other. Exterminators are the only enemy of the modern city rat.
  • Rats learn patterns in their environment and always follow the exact same routes, day after day. They always hug walls as they move and do not like being out in the open, away from walls. They are extremely cautious and always avoid any changes in their environment. Exterminators have learned to put out rat cages with the traps unset for a few days so that the rats get used to them.
  • The general consensus is, if you see one rat, then you can assume that there are about ten more in the immediate vicinity. Rats are nocturnal, so if you see one during the day, it means that the population in that area has exploded to a point that some rats have to venture out during the day to find food. In other words, you have a huge problem.
  • Though there has never been a major plague outbreak in the United States, a small outbreak in San Francisco in the late 1800s was so mismanaged (politicians tried to deny that there was an outbreak, newspapers weren't allowed to print any information about it, any health officials who refused to play along with the cover-up were fired.) that many rats who carried the plague escaped capture. Now there is a very large population of rodents in the American Southwest who are carriers. People rarely get the virus however, because the rodents live in sparsely populated areas. Still, there are far more cases of Plague in Tempe and Santa Fe than in New York.
  • After the World Trade Center collapse, rats were a very large concern for city health officials, though this was not reported in the news. Many blocks around the towers were closed for a couple weeks during the initial clean-up. Many buildings there were without power and spoiled food from restaurants was a huge draw for the city's rat population. Also, of course, there was the problem of the bodies left in the wreckage of the towers, which could be a food source for rats as well. Obviously, something had to be done. In keeping with the general spirit of community and solidarity after the attack, several of the largest pest control companies in New York got together and donated thousands of rat traps and bait and time and expertise, setting traps up all around Ground Zero. Thousands of rats were killed and it is believed that a huge rat infestation and possible health crisis was staved off.
This book was a fascinating read. I would highly recommend it!

Mount Hood Photos

Here are some of Gordon's photos from the Hood summit. Enjoy!