Thursday, April 30, 2015

Forty-eight thousand dollars

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

EACH YEAR the Rotary Club of Des Moines, of which I am a member, gives away six $8,000 scholarships — one each to a student selected from each of Des Moines' six high schools. 

Rob Tucker, Mark Lyons and I have had the privilege of choosing the East High recipient for the last four years. This year we interviewed four students who were prescreened for us by school counselor Jennifer Blumberg, and all were exceptionally deserving. 

Difficult as it is, however, our job is to choose one, and this year the East High recipient is Katelynn Cox

In all of her junior and senior high classes, Katelynn has only received two B's. All the rest have been A's. Besides maintaining this excellent academic record, Katelynn played varsity softball for four years and varsity golf for three. She also brought back the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to East High and served as its president. In addition, she's volunteered with Amanda the Panda, Meals from the Heartland, Reggi's Sleepover and Planned Parenthood's Book Sale, and for the last year, she's worked at least 30 hours a week at an outside-of-school job.

Because art therapy proved so helpful to Katelynn when her mother died, she plans to attend the University of Iowa to become an art therapist herself. Katelynn and I have that in common: both of our mothers died when we were six. (I just realized that in this picture, I'm wearing the necklace that was my mom's.)

Left to right: Rob Tucker, East High Scholarship recipient Katelynn Cox, me, Mark Lyons.
The scholarship winner from the other schools are:

Hoover:  Faith Gaye

Lincoln:  Amdre Flatt

North:  Esperanza Vargas Macias

Hannah Marks

Roosevelt:  Hannah Marks (Paul knows Hannah well. He's actually gigged with her; tells you what an extremely talented bass player she is to be gigging with professional musicians as her young age. Hannah has been excepted into the prestigious Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University for which all applicants must audition. Of those, the school accepts roughly only 25%.

Scavo:  Bailey Swackhammer

Congratulations to them all.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dick pic blows closet — or someone in it

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” — William Shakespeare, Hamlet

I GOTTA say, whenever someone verges on the vitriolic in ranting and raving about how dangerous, evil, immoral or (fill in the blank) homosexual people are, the likelihood increases significantly IMHO that it's fear of or a cover for the protestor's own orientation or inclination.

The most famous example of course is Roy Cohn, the vicious attorney who was Senator Joseph McCarthy's right-hand man during the infamous McCarthy Era's House Un-American Activities Committee investigations, the communist witch hunt that ruined so many people's lives in the early 1950's. HUAC's influence also incited and included the persecution and purging of gay people from government known as the Lavender Scare.

Joseph McCarthy

Here's an excerpt from an interview by the University of Chicago Press with David K. Johnson, author of The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government.

Question: How many gays and lesbian were purged from the federal government?

Johnson: We will never know for sure, but partial statistics show that at least several thousand gay men and lesbians lost government jobs. The real number is probably much higher, because most government workers who endured brutal interrogations about their sex lives chose to voluntarily resign rather than face further publicity. In addition, thousands of gay and lesbian private-sector employees whose jobs required them to have a federal security clearance also were fired or resigned. The federal government did not reveal the reason someone was denied a security clearance, so private companies generally fired such employees. As the nation's largest employer, the federal government set the tone for employment practices in many industries, and its anti-gay policies were widely copied by the private sector.

The irony was that Roy Cohn was himself gay, and in fact died of AIDS in 1986, and as it turns out, there were no small number of rumors floating around about Joe McCarthy's sexual preferences as well. Here's an excerpt from a March 2, 2005 article by Leslie Feinberg from the website Workers World:

In 1952, journalist Hank Greenspun wrote a column about the ambitious senator. It said that "Joe McCarthy is a bachelor of 43 years...He seldom dates girls and if he does he laughingly describes it as window dressing. It is common talk among homosexuals in Milwaukee who rendezvous in the White Horse Inn that Senator Joe McCarthy has often engaged in homosexual activities." (Las Vegas Sun, Oct. 25, 1952)

While McCarthy was said to have briefly threatened to sue Greenspun for libel, he later declined to do so, reportedly after lawyers told him it meant he'd have to testify about his sexuality. Less than a year later, McCarthy married his secretary, Jeannie Kerr.

So here's the latest anti-gay legislator who is . . . wait for it . . .  gay. (I have to admit, I kinda wish cell phones were around in the 40's and 50's.) And this is me almost having avoided making a pun about the pronunciation of Randy's last name.

Anti-Gay State Rep. Named Randy Boehning Caught Sending Dick Pics on Grindr

by Tina Nguyen for Mediaite
April 28th, 2015

Why are the politicians with dick pic issues nearly always named after penis slang? Seriously, why? It’s as if having a penis name as a legal name automatically sets up a male politician for a horribly embarrassing public downfall that involves a dick pic. (Note from Kelly: Think Anthony Weiner.) So North Dakota State Representative Randy Boehning (R) should have seriously thought twice before 1) being vocally anti-gay rights, and 2) sending an image of his penis to some random person on Grindr.

Randy Boehning

After Rep. Boehning had voted against a bill that would have expanded anti-discrimination rights for LGBT citizens, the Fargo Forum published a splashy front page featuring his photo, as well as the photos of every representative who also voted against the bill. 21-year-old Dustin Smith, a Bismarck resident, soon recognized Boehning as a Grindr user named “Top Man!” who’d been flirting with him for the past year and sending him many a pic, some with his face, and at least one dick pic during the time frame of the contentious discrimination bill vote.

“How can you discriminate against the person you’re trying to pick up?” Smith rhetorically asked The Forum.

When confronted with the graphic evidence, Bohening initially remained silent, but eventually admitted that yes, he was gay, and that a few people had known, including some legislators who he alleged had attempted to blackmail him. “The 1,000-pound gorilla has been lifted,” he said, apparently relieved that he’d been outed. “I have to confront it at some point.”

Despite his own personal orientation, Boehning said he’d voted against the bill because it would have gone against the will of his constituents. But what he does with his own smartphone and his own dick is another matter.

On Saturday he confirmed he was Top Man! and said he doesn’t think sending a graphic photo of himself to a stranger is a lapse in judgment, as Grindr is an adult site where users often exchange such images.

“That’s what gay guys do on gay sites, don’t they?” Boehning said. “That’s how things happen on Grindr. It’s a gay chat site. It’s not the first thing you do on that site. That’s what we do, exchange pics on the site.”

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Another station dumps Rush

“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.” — Lord Byron

EVERY NOW and then, a little unexpected ray of sunshine pierces the gloom. Here's one now courtesy of Media Matters.

Rush Limbaugh Dropped By Longtime Indianapolis Station
By Angelo Crusone
April 13, 2015

Indianapolis' WIBC has broadcast Rush Limbaugh's show for 22 years. Despite this long history, parent company Emmis Communications announced April 13 that they are dropping Limbaugh's show from WIBC's lineup.

Charlie Morgan, an executive for Emmis, indicated that the decision to drop Limbaugh was about the "long-term direction of the station," but also acknowledged that there was a "business element to the decision." Underscoring the business considerations, Morgan explained to the Indianapolis Business Journal that the absence of Limbaugh could actually help WIBC's advertiser prospects:

While Morgan expects some WIBC listeners to be "hugely disappointed" by the change, he said losing Limbaugh could open up the station to more advertising opportunities.

There are some--primarily national--advertisers that refuse to air commercials during Limbaugh's show, Morgan explained. Emmis officials began notifying its advertisers of the change Monday.

"We believe this could open us up to a new group of advertisers," he said.

Limbaugh's show has been plagued with woes ever since advertisers began fleeing in the wake of Limbaugh's multi-day attack on then-law student Sandra Fluke. Thousands of local and regional businesses refuse to advertise on Limbaugh's show and the bulk of national advertisers are now reportedly boycotting his program. The cumulative effect of Limbaugh's advertiser difficulties has created a problem so substantial that it has actually spilled over and is hurting conservative talk radio as a whole.

The Wall Street Journal recently confirmed the industry-wide damage resulting from Limbaugh's beleaguered program. According to the report, the exodus of national advertisers has played a significant part in reducing talk radio advertising rates to about half of what it costs to run ads on music stations, even though the two formats have "comparable audience metrics."

Further, the report also provides a look at the millions of dollars individual stations have lost. The chart below, which was taken from the Journal report, gives a before and after look at the advertising revenue of talker stations in some of the largest markets. Notably, three of the stations that carried Limbaugh originally (KFI, WSB, and WBAP) experienced the greatest losses:

What is happening at the stations identified in the chart is happening at other talk stations, especially those that carry Limbaugh's program. While it was already reported that major radio companies were hemorrhaging millions of dollars due to Limbaugh's toxicity, the Journal's analysis of the effect at the local station level was revealing and may offer some additional insight into WIBC's decision to drop Limbaugh.

WIBC is just the latest in a string of reminders that Rush Limbaugh is bad for business.

The Journal report also confirmed that advertisers continue to leave and stay away thanks to a dedicated group of independent organizers in the Flush Rush and #StopRush communities. Their participation matters and is having a tremendous effect.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The self-annihilation of fracking

“We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. We cannot remain looking inwards at ourselves on a small and increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet.” — Stephen Hawking

I CAN hardly talk about fracking because the insanity of it and greed behind it make me crazy, and for that reason I have to let others speak on my behalf. Below are two articles, one from The Guardian and the other from Blue Nation about fracking. 

I challenge you to do ONE thing — send one email or letter to Congress or make one donation to any of Americans Against Fracking partner organizations to help stop the suicidal practice of fracking.

The poster I made for my short participation in the
Great March for Climate Action this past August.

US government says drilling causes earthquakes – what took them so long?
By Heather Smith in San Francisco
April 24, 2015 

As the US Geological Survey confirmed on Thursday, in the last seven years, geologically staid parts of the US have seen earthquakes like they haven’t seen for millions of years. And they were triggered by drilling for oil and gas.

The drilling – or rather, the process of injecting water deep underground – has been triggering earthquakes in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

The most obvious question is: what took you so long, USGS? Over those seven years, other scientists have speculated about whether this rise in earthquakes has anything to do with the injection wells used by the fracking industry to dispose of the water used in the process.

For the most part, the report does not pin the blame on fracking itself – pumping large volumes of water, sand and chemicals into rock formations in order to free oil or gas – but rather on the associated process of injecting wastewater deep underground using injection wells.

The rise of fracking after 2005’s Energy Policy Act slightly preceded and coincided with the rise in earthquakes.

Oklahoma averaged a handful of earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater from 1975 to 2008.

Then, in 2009, it had 20. 

In 2011, the number of earthquakes in the state rose to over 60, and Oklahoma was hit by its largest earthquake in recorded history – magnitude 5.7. Immediately after the quake Katie Keranan, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Oklahoma, partnered with scientists from the USGS and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to install two dozen seismometers in Prague.

Within a year, Keranan had data that indicated that the pressure from injecting water deep beneath the earth had snapped three fault planes, one after the other.

Not long after, in 2012, an injection well was linked to quakes in Youngstown, Ohio. The state’s governor issued an executive order requiring operators to conduct seismic studies before the state would issue well permits.

In that same year, David J Hayes, deputy secretary of the US Department of the Interior, wrote a public letter stating that USGS research showed that there were no conclusive examples that wastewater injection triggered major earthquakes, even when it happened near a known fault.

The USGS report published on Thursday does provide such examples.

Not every well triggers an earthquake. In fact, a relatively small number of wells seem to have caused the majority of earthquakes, according to a report led by Keranan, which found that out of the thousands of disposal wells in the central US, just four them induced 20% of the seismicity from 2008 to 2013 in the central US.

In September of 2013, the Society of Petroleum Engineers held an unprecedented meeting on “injection-induced seismicity”, though they did not invite the press or the public. The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma reached 103 in 2013.

In November of last year, the USGS and the Oklahoma Geological Survey co-hosted a workshop that included about 150 participants from academia, industry and government – the result of that meeting is the report that was released this week. That year, 2014, the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma reached 585 in one year.

Compared to earlier statements, the USGS report is a sharp turnaround from its previous stance. But it’s still a relatively mild document – one that advises more research, rather than specific actions. The work of clarifying connections between injection wells and earthquakes has been left to people such as Keranan, who left Oklahoma shortly after the Oklahoma Geological Survey published a rejection of a study she had placed in geology, which linked the quakes to nearby disposal wells.

The Navajo Are on a 1.000 Mile March. Here’s Why.
By John Paul Brammer
April 17, 2015

In 1864, over 8,000 Navajo men, women, and children were marched at gunpoint from their homelands to the Bosque Redondo Reservation in a journey that came to be known as the Long Walk of the Navajo.

150 years later, activists in the Navajo Nation are walking again: this time to protest fracking on tribal lands and to galvanize a people who are ready to stand up and be heard, Al Jazeera reports.

The 1,000 mile walk, dubbed the “Journey for Existence,” began at the Piñon Pipeline in New Mexico last January. The journey also includes Huerfano, NM, a major site for the Navajo that is threatened by fracking.

According to the Western Environmental Law Center, the Piñon Pipeline would destroy cultural heritage and sacred sites, disturbing about 10,500 square miles of land surface.

The journey will be completed over the course of multiple months in different segments. Activists are asking for funding on the IndieGoGo page (included in the links at the bottom of the article) for media equipment and clothing for harsh weather.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A remarkable surgical technique

“The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around.” — Thomas A. Edison

I'M SHARING this story from NBC Southern California Channel 4 not because of its sensational, tabloid nature: a woman is diagnosed with a brain tumor, but it turns out to be an embryonic twin in her brain. A) I'm not making this up and B) Ewwwww!

I'm offering it to you so that you'll know about this particular clinic and doctor who performed the surgery, and most especially the revolutionary surgical technology he and this clinic pioneered. You never know if or when you or someone you love might need this specialized surgical procedure.

Yamini Karanam

Here's a link to Dr. Hrayr Shahinian and the Skullbase Institute in Los Angeles and a description of his specialty from his website. The story runs last.

Minimally Invasive Endoscopic Skull Base and Brain Surgery

The Skull Base Institute (SBI), is the first and only center devoted entirely to the art of skull base surgery. It is the first institute to perform every procedure using minimally invasive endoscopic techniques and after pioneering endoscopic pituitary surgery, the only institute doing fully endoscopic surgery to treat acoustic neuromas, meningiomas, craniopharyngiomas, pineal tumors, arachnoid cysts, trigeminal neuralgia and hemifacial spasm. 

These techniques result in fewer complications, less pain and faster recovery than "open brain" craniotomies. SBI's director, Dr. Hrayr Shahinian, is not a Neurosurgeon. He is exclusively a Skull Base Surgeon who has done a lengthier and more specialized training to include skull base, craniofacial and microvascular fellowships. These skills make SBI's team uniquely qualified to operate on the most complex area of the human anatomy and contributes to the success in treating over 5,000 skull base patients.

Embryonic Twin Discovered in Woman's Brain During Surgery in LA
By John Cádiz Klemack
April 21, 2015

An Indiana woman undergoing surgery in Los Angeles to remove a tumor experienced a twist worthy of a sci-fi plot when doctors discovered an embryonic twin in her brain.

Yamini Karanam, 26, was unaware of what was happening in her head until she underwent a procedure designed to reach deep into the brain to extract the tumor. After waking up from the surgery, Karanam was surprised to learn of the "teratoma" -- her embryonic twin, a rarity in modern medicine, complete with bone, hair and teeth.

Karanam realized last September that something wasn't registering in her mind. The Indiana University Ph.D. student was experiencing trouble comprehending things she read.

"Problems with reading comprehension, listening comprehension. If a couple people were talking in a room, I wouldn't understand what was happening," Karanam said.

What became more frustrating for Karanam was that her doctors would contradict each other regarding the source of the problem.

"The neurologist would say the neurosurgeon is not being practical in your case," Karanam said. "And the neurosurgeon would say the neurologist is not being optimistic in your case. And I'm like, could someone be educated about this?"

That's when her own research led her to Dr. Hrayr Shahinian at the Skull Base Institute in Los Angeles. Shahinian developed a minimally-invasive way of reaching deep into the brain to extract tumors.

"Unlike traditional brain surgery where you open the skull and use metal retractors and you bring a microscope to see in the depths of the brain, what we're doing is keyhole surgery," he said.

The method uses fiber-optic technology with digital imagery. A half-inch incision into the brain allows for an endoscope to reach in and slowly and very delicately chisel away at the tumor.

Karanam awoke to learn what was causing her all that trouble in Indiana. She lightheartedly called the tumor her "evil twin sister who's been torturing me for the past 26 years."

"This is my second one, and I've probably taken out 7,000 or 8,000 brain tumors,” Shahinian said.

Shahinian said his fear was that tumor may be cancerous. Pathologists, though, determined that not to be the case and Karanam is expected to make a full recovery in only three weeks.

Karanam said her biggest frustration was that so many other brain surgeons had no idea Shahinian's technique was available.

"It's really unfair that people don't know about it," she said. "This has to be mainstream. This is the first thing that they should get you. When they know you have a pineal tumor, they should tell you, ‘You know what? There's a minimally invasive approach in which they won't kill you, they won't leave you with a disability. There's a way in which you can live your life just the way you want to.’”

Shahinian said before he invented his technique, the only option to remove this type of tumor would have been surgery that included removing half of the skull. He says because the brain is such a sensitive organ, the less it's disturbed, the better.

"We want to be in and out without the brain knowing we were there, and I think that's the beauty of this technique," Shahinian said. The method uses fiber-optic technology with digital imagery. A half-inch incision into the brain allows for an endoscope to reach in and slowly and very delicately chisel away at the tumor.

Karanam awoke to learn what was causing her all that trouble in Indiana. She lightheartedly called the tumor her "evil twin sister who's been torturing me for the past 26 years."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Our new roommate

“My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.” — Erma Bombeck

LAST Friday we bought a Roomba. We named him Roombie, and we are in love. 

I'd been lobbying for one for some time. In case you don't know what a Roomba is, it's a robot vacuum — 3.5" high with a diameter of 13 inches.

I thought we needed the most expensive one (the 880) for it to work as well as we need it to. (Remember we have FOUR cats!) But Paul researched, read reviews and learned that the 655 Pet Series model that we'd seen at Costco, is specially made to work in pet households and actually has some of the features that the 880 has for half the cost: $350 versus $700.

I wasn't necessarily buying Paul's argument, but I was willing to admit that buying one was taking a bit of a flier (who knew how well it would work), so I agreed we should probably opt for making a less expensive potential mistake than a more expensive one.

We unpacked and programmed it Saturday (and by we, I mean Paul), and sent it on it's little, merry way — and there we were for a solid hour watching our new roommate buzz itself all around the our house.

I was hopeful. Paul was skeptical

He said, "Well it's never going to be able to clean under the dining room table with it's five table legs and eight chair legs." It does. 

He said, "It's never going to be able to get over the small threshold into the kitchen." It does.

He said, "It's never going to get over the big threshold into the entryway." It does.

He said, "It's going to get completely entangled in the fringe on the area rug." It doesn't.

The only place it hasn't been able to do it get into the AP room because there's a little step instead of a threshold, so we just relocate it in there every now and then to clean that room.

Paul has it programmed to come out at 3:00 PM every day and clean, and it does! When it's done, it just drives itself back to it's little docking port and climbs in.

I'm seriously so gassed!!!! Go to Costco and get one! You'll be loving your 24/7 clean floors.

Monday, April 20, 2015

For teachers

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” — Carl Jung

THIS IS such a simple, but loving and inspired idea. PS: If you can read this, you probably have a teacher to thank. 

Colorado Teacher Shares Heartbreaking Notes From Third Graders
By Nicole Pelletiere via GOOD MORNING AMERICA
April 16, 2015

Kyle Schwartz teaches third grade at Doull Elementary in Denver. 

Although she says her students are a pleasure to look after, the educator of three years adds that many of them come from underprivileged homes.

"Ninety-two percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch," Schwartz tells ABC News. "As a new teacher, I struggled to understand the reality of my students' lives and how to best support them. I just felt like there was something I didn't know about my students."

In a bid to build trust between her and her students, Schwartz thought up a lesson plan called "I Wish My Teacher Knew."

For the activity, Schwartz's third graders jot down a thought for their teacher, sharing something they'd like her to know about them.

"I let students determine if they would like to answer anonymously," she says. "I have found that most students are not only willing to include their name, but also enjoy sharing with the class. Even when what my students are sharing is sensitive in nature, most students want their classmates to know.

"Some notes are heartbreaking like the first #iwishmyteacherknew tweet which read, 'I wish my teacher knew I don't have pencils at home to do my homework.' 

I care deeply about each and every one of my students and I don't want any of them to have to suffer the consequences of living in poverty, which is my main motivation for teaching."

Blown away by her class' honesty, Schwartz shared some of the notes on Twitter using the hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew, encouraging fellow teachers to employ the same lesson with their own students.

The tweets and photos of notes from other schools came pouring in from around the world.

"I think it caught on so fast because teachers are highly collaborative and freely share and explore resources," Schwartz says. "In the end, all teachers want to support their students, and #iwishmyteacherknew is a simple and powerful way to do that.

"Building community in my classroom is a major goal of this lesson. After one student shared that she had no one to play with at recess, the rest of the class chimed in and said, 'we got your back.' The next day during recess, I noticed she was playing with a group of girls. Not only can I support my students, but my students can support each other."

Schwartz says she also hopes her lesson can help her connect students and their families with the proper resources they need to live comfortably.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Buh dut duh duh da, we're hating it

“Maybe this world is another planet's hell.” — Aldous Huxley

PAUL AND I live exactly across the street from a McDonald's. Walk down our beautiful faux brick driveway, cross four lanes of traffic, and you'll be standing in MickyD's parking lot.

That's right boys and girls, we officially live in hell.

Ask me how many times we've been there. Once, about ten years ago when I ran out of milk in the middle of baking something and dashed across the street to buy a single serving carton for the cup of milk I needed.

In honor of our cross-the-street neighbor, please enjoy this commercial.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Frank Bruni's father

“My father said there were two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better.” — Marlo Thomas

I ADMIRE many of the opinion writers at The New York Times. I enjoy Gail Collins columns, and if I had a style (which I doubt), and if I were hubristic enough to say that any NYT writer reminded me of me, it would be GailShe makes me laugh, but Frank Bruni always gets me in the heart. I'm sharing his April 15 column because it's just so lovely.

Frank Bruni
My Father’s Secret

By Frank Bruni
April 15, 2015

ATLANTIC CITY — Dad had a twinkle in his eye.

“Wait until you see this trick,” he told me. “This secret. You’re guaranteed to make money. I’ll show you when we sit down at a table.”

A blackjack table, he meant. Dad loves blackjack, especially with my three siblings and me, and we’ll circle a casino floor for an hour just to find a dealer with enough empty seats for three or four or all five of us, so that we can have our own little cabal.

He inducted us into the game decades ago, in Vegas, and we continued to play over the years, because it was another excuse and another way to spend time together: our ritual, our refuge.

Before last weekend, we hadn’t played in a long while. But for his 80th birthday, he got to choose the agenda for a weekend out of town. He picked blackjack. And he picked Atlantic City, because it was closer than Vegas and good enough.

It’s funny how modest his desires can be, given what a grand life he’s lived. He’s the American dream incarnate, all pluck and luck and ferociously hard work and sweetly savored payoff.

Click here to read the entire article.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A life saved

"Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in." — Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

THIS IS such a tender, beautiful story that I dare you to read it and not choke up. Originally published on the site, my special Facebook friend, Dale Bert, hipped me too it.

She Lay Lifeless On The Campground. Now Watch What A Stray Dog Does…

When Amanda heard about a lost, lonely dog at Evans Creek campground in Washington state, she and her friend Dylan decided to do the unthinkable. 

The two girls — now being hailed heroes — posted photos illustrating the great lengths they went to in order to rescue the frightened, emaciated dog known as “Bear,” who wouldn’t let any humans get close. 

For an hour, Amanda and Dylan tried to lure the dog with food, but it didn’t work. The next day when they went back, the dog was in the same spot. Again, they tried to coax him with food, but to no avail. That’s when they got creative. Very creative. 

Pretending she was injured and in need of help, Amanda laid down in fetal position on the gravel and started crawling backward toward the dog. In fact, she spent the next hour slowly inching closer and closer to Bear. When he voiced his discomfort, she’d start whimpering and yawning, which is a calming signal, and continued to inch closer until she rested directly on his side! 

For two hours, Amanda and Bear cuddled, until he finally let her slip a lead around his neck. Bear was finally safe. 

Bear is on the road to recovery thanks to these two incredible heroes. Because of his eventual friendliness, they think he got lost from his family. They’re trying to find the dog’s owners, but if no one claims him, a local rescue group will help find him a loving home. 

A frightened, starving dog nicknamed "Bear" was alone in a park, with no one to turn to.
When Amanda heard about him, she and her friend decided to do something about it. 
After trying to coax the dog with food to no avail, Amanda curled up on the gravel road right by Bear, but with her back to him. He growled a little bit, but eventually got close enough to smell her. She laid in the road like this for 20 minutes before Bear lost interest and wandered off.
But she didn't give up. Again, Amanda got down on the ground with her back to
the dog and slowly started crawling backwards.
For the next hour, she stay curled up in a ball, inching closer and closer to Bear.

Amanda knew how delicate the situation was. She made sure not to try to grab him
because she didn’t want to lose the trust she was beginning to build.
Finally, she got right up next to Bear. She made "comfort" sounds, and continued to slowly
get closer until she was rested right up against his body. Incredible!
Bear was emaciated -- his bones and ribs were sticking out. But Amanda and Dylan finally earned Bear's trust. They could have given up hours ago, but they acted with
patience and understanding.
Finally, Bear allowed the girls to place a lead around his neck. He's safe at last! 
That night, Amanda discovered Bear wanted to be carried everywhere, and she
happily obliged! The two snuggled together until they got to the vet, where
Bear is currently on the road to recovery.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Moral bucket list

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou, American poet, singer, memoirist and civil rights activist

THE BELOW opinion piece written by David Brooks of The New York Times may be the most inspiring thing I've ever read.

The Moral Bucket List
By David Brooks

ABOUT once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.

When I meet such a person it brightens my whole day. But I confess I often have a sadder thought: It occurs to me that I’ve achieved a decent level of career success, but I have not achieved that. I have not achieved that generosity of spirit, or that depth of character.

A few years ago I realized that I wanted to be a bit more like those people. I realized that if I wanted to do that I was going to have to work harder to save my own soul. I was going to have to have the sort of moral adventures that produce that kind of goodness. I was going to have to be better at balancing my life.

It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?

We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

But if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary. It is easy to slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity. You grade yourself on a forgiving curve. You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. But you live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys. Gradually, a humiliating gap opens between your actual self and your desired self, between you and those incandescent souls you sometimes meet.

Click here to read the entire New York Times article.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The evolution of liberals

“The reactionary is always willing to take a progressive attitude on any issue that is dead.” — Theodore Roosevelt

EVER FEEL like you're obviously a more highly-evolved human being because you're politically liberal?

Well you just might be right.

John Hibbing, Foundation Regent University Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska, and his colleagues have published a paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences containing research that leads to the "virtually inescapable" conclusion that part of the reason liberals and conservatives disagree is because "they are different people at the level of personality, psychology and even traits like physiology and genetics."

Note that we're not just talking about personality here, but also physiology and genetics!

What the authors call the "negativity bias" is a fear-based reaction which was possibly "extremely useful in the Pleistocene" (2.5 million years to 12,000 years ago) when it might have helped avoid being eaten by a saber-toothed cat, but isn't necessarily helpful now.

In other words, it my be a vestigial remnant. 

So go right ahead, all my progressively liberal friends, enjoy feeling more highly evolved.

The below article originally appeared in Mother Jones and was rerun at Moyers & Company.

Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are… Conservative
July 17, 2014
by Chris Mooney

You could be forgiven for not having browsed through the latest issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. If you care about politics, though, you’ll find a punchline therein that is pretty extraordinary.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences employs a rather unique practice called “Open Peer Commentary”: An article of major significance is published, a large number of fellow scholars comment on it and then the original author responds to all of them. The approach has many virtues, one of which being that it lets you see where a community of scholars and thinkers stand with respect to a controversial or provocative scientific idea. And in the latest issue of the journal, this process reveals the following conclusion: A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology and even traits like physiology and genetics.

That’s a big deal. It challenges everything that we thought we knew about politics — upending the idea that we get our beliefs solely from our upbringing, from our friends and families, from our personal economic interests, and calling into question the notion that in politics, we can really change (most of us, anyway).

It is a “virtually inescapable conclusion” that the “cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different.”

The occasion of this revelation is a paper by John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska and his colleagues, arguing that political conservatives have a “negativity bias,” meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments. (The paper can be read for free here.) In the process, Hibbing et al. marshal a large body of evidence, including their own experiments using eye trackers and other devices to measure the involuntary responses of political partisans to different types of images. One finding? That conservatives respond much more rapidly to threatening and aversive stimuli (for instance, images of “a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots in it,” as one of their papers put it).

In other words, the conservative ideology, and especially one of its major facets — centered on a strong military, tough law enforcement, resistance to immigration, widespread availability of guns — would seem well tailored for an underlying, threat-oriented biology.

The authors go on to speculate that this ultimately reflects an evolutionary imperative. “One possibility,” they write, “is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene,” when it would have been super-helpful in preventing you from getting killed. (The Pleistocene epoch lasted from roughly 2.5 million years ago until 12,000 years ago.) We had John Hibbing on the Inquiring Minds podcast earlier this year, and he discussed these ideas in depth; you can listen here:

Hibbing and his colleagues make an intriguing argument in their latest paper, but what’s truly fascinating is what happened next. Twenty-six different scholars or groups of scholars then got an opportunity to tee off on the paper, firing off a variety of responses. But as Hibbing and colleagues note in their final reply, out of those responses, “22 or 23 accept the general idea” of a conservative negativity bias, and simply add commentary to aid in the process of “modifying it, expanding on it, specifying where it does and does not work,” and so on. Only about three scholars or groups of scholars seem to reject the idea entirely.

That’s pretty extraordinary, when you think about it. After all, one of the teams of commenters includes New York University social psychologist John Jost, who drew considerable political ire in 2003 when he and his colleagues published a synthesis of existing psychological studies on ideology, suggesting that conservatives are characterized by traits such as a need for certainty and an intolerance of ambiguity. Now, writing in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in response to Hibbing roughly a decade later, Jost and fellow scholars note that…

“There is by now evidence from a variety of laboratories around the world using a variety of methodological techniques leading to the virtually inescapable conclusion that the cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different. This research consistently finds that conservatism is positively associated with heightened epistemic concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety.”

Back in 2003, Jost and his team were blasted by Ann Coulter, George Will and National Review for saying this; congressional Republicans began probing into their research grants and they got lots of hate mail. But what’s clear is that today, they’ve more or less triumphed. They won a field of converts to their view and sparked a wave of new research, including the work of Hibbing and his team.

Granted, there are still many issues yet to be worked out in the science of ideology. Most of the commentaries on the new Hibbing paper are focused on important but not-paradigm-shifting side issues, such as the question of how conservatives can have a higher negativity bias, and yet not have neurotic personalities. (Actually, if anything, the research suggests that liberals may be the more neurotic bunch.) Indeed, conservatives tend to have a high degree of happiness and life satisfaction. But Hibbing and colleagues find no contradiction here. Instead, they paraphrase two other scholarly commentators (Matt Motyl of the University of Virginia and Ravi Iyer of the University of Southern California), who note that “successfully monitoring and attending negative features of the environment, as conservatives tend to do, may be just the sort of tractable task…that is more likely to lead to a fulfilling and happy life than is a constant search for new experience after new experience.”

All of this matters, of course, because we still operate in politics and in media as if minds can be changed by the best honed arguments, the most compelling facts. And yet if our political opponents are simply perceiving the world differently, that idea starts to crumble. Out of the rubble just might arise a better way of acting in politics that leads to less dysfunction and less gridlock…thanks to science.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Blogs and kisses

“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.” ― Henry Ward Beecher, American clergyman, social reformer and speaker known for his support of the abolition of slavery

FOUR YEARS ago last month, I wrote my first Hey Look Something Shiny post.

You may recall that for several years Paul had tried to convince me to write a blog. He even set one up for me, but I remained unmotivated. Then three Iowa Supreme Court justices were voted out for having ruled that denying gay couples the right to marry violated the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution. 

In an effort to do something constructive with my disappointment and frustration, I joined the Southern Poverty Law Center, selecting that organization based on its long history of working against discrimination and bigotry across a broad front. 

As a new member I was given the opportunity to listen to a live telephone conversation between SPLC President Richard Cohen and Mark Potok, Director of the Intelligence Project. The topic was the sharp rise in the number of hate groups since Barack Obama was elected President.

The thought that so many people were against our freely-elected leader — not just against him, but actively hated him — because of the amount of pigmentation in his skin just made me crazy, 

And that was the tipping point. I dragged out my laptop and started typing. The fact that I've kept at it has surprised me more than anyone. 

It's been good for me in diverse ways. It's made me a clearer thinker. In order to articulate what's going on in my head, a process of organization, clarification and substantiation has to take place. It's also made me a much faster writer which, as you might suppose, is extremely useful not only in my work, but in my life overall.

Writing Hey Look has definitely been a means of self-education. I nearly always have to do some research — the biographies of, politics behind, history of, science supporting, laws governing, geography, crucial dates — and so on and so on. And since (shock and surprise registering on my face) some of you are generous enough to actually read what I write, I feel duty-bound to try to the best I can with my limited time and resources.

It's also been personally validating experience. For too many reasons to recount right now, I grew up feeling voiceless. Children who've had a lot of sad, bad things happen to them often do. Writing this blog has helped me more fully embrace who I am.

Four tangible, good things have occurred that I know of as the result of 
Hey Look: two friends reunited who'd lost touch 40 years ago, a student and a teacher reconnected after almost 50 years, and two people sought medical treatment. Modest accomplishments perhaps, but still I'm happy to have done a little good in the world.

And if I'm lucky, maybe Hey Look has been the means for someone having a laugh, learning a thing, reconsidering a position, being more tolerant, standing firm for a belief, performing a kindness, donating to a worthy cause, defending someone who needs it or being a little nicer to themselves. 

Here are a few statistics:

According to Blogspot analytics, Hey Look posts have been read just over 85,000 times. Today's post is my 758th post which would mean that on average a post is read 112 times. That seems a little high to me, considering that my most-read post was read by just 550 people, but then I'm a bit math-challenged.

The most readers by country are:
United States     47,380
Russia     19,262
Germany     2066
France     1630
Ukraine     1577
United Kingdom     1147
Canada     657
China     638
Czech Republic     599
Malaysia     427

I admit that kind of enjoy playing Pooh Sticks as I watch which country is beginning to outpace which country. (I always feel bad that my rational, intelligent neighbors to the north are so low down on the list.)

Rather than list a few of the most-read posts, I'll tell you what some of my personal favorites are and a few that have been under-read IMHO.

I hate UPS

The Dialogues of Plato (and me)

Catnip dreams, Soot

The wonderful ice cream suit

Thanking veterans


You give me fever

Cloud eight

Spiderman minus the superpowers

Erasing hate

Happy anniversary to us