Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"A Delicate Balance..."

“Capitalism tries for a delicate balance:
It attempts to work things out so that everyone gets just enough stuff
to keep them from getting violent and trying to take other people’s stuff."
- George Carlin

“Why the Government Views You As Collateral Damage”

“Why the Government Views You As Collateral Damage”
by Bill Bonner

“The illusions, mistakes and misconceptions of central planners take their toll in a great variety of ways — mostly as costly nuisances. Occasionally, when they are particularly ambitious, they make the history books. Napoleon’s march on Moscow. Mao’s great famine. The Soviet Union’s 70-year economic experiment. These fiascos are caused by well-meaning, smart public officials. They are the Hell to which the road paved with good intentions leads.

The pretension of the central planner is that he knows a better future — one that he can design and bring about. Sometimes, a mistaken public policy can be reversed or abandoned before it has done serious harm. Mostly, however, a combination of special circumstances makes correction impossible. The disastrous policies are reinforced until they finally reckon themselves out in a catastrophic way.

Large-scale planners fail because they believe three things that aren’t true. First, that they know the exact and entire present state of the community they are planning for (wants, desires, hopes, capabilities, resources); second, that they know where the community ought to go (what future would be best); third, that they are capable of creating the future they want.

None of those things is more than an illusion. Together, they constitute what F. A. Hayek called “the fatal conceit, that man is able to shape the world around him according to his wishes.” Full knowledge of current conditions would require an infinite amount of real information. As 19th century philosopher, Samuel Bailey, wrote in 1840, it would require “minute knowledge of a thousand particulars which will be learnt by nobody but him who has an interest in knowing them.” The planners have nothing like that. Instead, they rely on a body of popular theories, claptrap and statistical guesswork.

As to the second point — that they are blessed with some gift that tells them what the future should be — we pass over it without argument. No one really believes that people in the United State Congress or the French National Assembly or in the bureaucracies and think tanks of these nations have anything more to guide them than anyone else. Which is to say; all they have is their own likes and dislikes, prejudices and fears, and self-serving ambitions. Each man always does his level best to shape his world in a way that pleases him. One wants a fat wife. One wants a fortune. One wants to spend his time playing golf. Each will try to get what he wants depending upon the circumstances.

And the future will happen. The pretension of the central planner is that he knows a better future — one that he can design and bring about. The god-like vanity of this assertion is staggering. No one really knows what future is best for humankind. People only know what they want.

I presume that the best future is the one in which people get what they want… or at the very least what they deserve. A man burning in hell may want ice cream; it doesn’t mean he will get it. But the central planner presumes to know not only what he wants, but what he should have.

It is scarcely worth mentioning, additionally, that the central planner’s hands are as empty as his head. He has no ice cream to give anyone. Where individual plans and evolution will take us collectively, no one knows. Fate will have the final say. But the central planner will have his say first, disrupting the plans of millions of people in the process.

He certainly has no ‘amor fati’ … a faith in, and an affection for, Fate. It would put him out of business. Instead, he steps in to impose his own version of the future. And as soon as the smallest bit of time and resources are shanghaied for his ends rather than those of individual planners, the rate of natural, evolutionary progress slows. That is, the millions of private trials that would have otherwise taken place are postponed or canceled. The errors that might have been revealed and corrected are not discovered. The future has to wait.

Even when they are applied with ruthless thoroughness, central plans inevitably and eventually go FUBAR. No ‘workers’ paradise’ ever happens. The War on Drugs (or Poverty… or Crime… or Terror… or Cancer) ends in a defeat, not a victory. Unemployment does not go down. The ‘war to end war’ doesn’t end war. The Domino Theory falls; the dominoes don’t. Or, if any of these grand programs ‘succeeds,’ it does so by undoing previous plans often at a cost that is far out of balance with the reward. World War II is an example of central planning that seemed to work. But the Allies were merely nullifying the efforts of more ambitious central planners in Germany and Japan.

Generally, life on planet Earth is not so ‘rational’ that it lends itself to simpleminded, heavy-handed intervention by the naïve social engineer. Sure, we can design bridges. Houses too. And particle accelerators. But we cannot design economies. No more than we can invent real languages. Societies. Customs. Markets. Love. Marriages. Children. Or any of the other important things in life.

Large-scale central planning can be effective, but only by pulverizing the delicate fabric of evolved civilized life. Not to overstate the case, however, it is also true that humans can design and achieve a certain kind of future. If the planners at the Pentagon, for example, decided that a nuclear war would be a good thing, they could bring it about. The effects would be huge. And hugely effective. This extreme example reveals the only kind of alternative future that the planners are capable of delivering.

Large-scale central planning can be effective, but only by pulverizing the delicate fabric of evolved civilized life. It is a future that practically no one wants, because it means destroying the many different futures already in the works — marriages, businesses, babies, baptisms, hunting trips, shopping, investment, and all the other activities of normal life. Not all central planning produces calamities on that scale, of course. But all, to the extent they are effective, are repulsive. The more they achieve the planners’ goals, the more they interfere with private goals, and the more they retard or destroy the progress of the human race.

Still, this view I am putting forth is hardly accepted wisdom. Most people would dispute that it is wisdom at all. It is a minority view, held by such a small group that all of its members together could be soused with a single bottle of good whiskey.”

Monday, July 28, 2014

Musical Interlude: David Schombert, "A Space Journey"

David Schombert, "A Space Journey"

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Large galaxies grow by eating small ones. Even our own galaxy practices galactic cannibalism, absorbing small galaxies that get too close and are captured by the Milky Way's gravity. In fact, the practice is common in the universe and illustrated by this striking pair of interacting galaxies from the banks of the southern constellation Eridanus (The River).
 Click image for larger size.
Located over 50 million light years away, the large, distorted spiral NGC 1532 is seen locked in a gravitational struggle with dwarf galaxy NGC 1531, a struggle the smaller galaxy will eventually lose. Seen edge-on, spiral NGC 1532 spans about 100,000 light-years. Nicely detailed in this sharp image, the NGC 1532/1531 pair is thought to be similar to the well-studied system of face-on spiral and small companion known as M51.”

Chet Raymo, "The Great Silence"

"The Great Silence"
by Chet Raymo

"If there is one word that should not be uttered, it is the name of - no, I will not say it. Any name diminishes. In the face of whatever it is that is most mysterious, most holy, we are properly silent. It is appropriate, I think, to praise the creation, to make a joyful noise of thanksgiving for the sensate world. But praising the Creator is another thing altogether. When we make a big racket on His behalf we are more than likely addressing an idol in our own image. What was it that Pico Iyer said? "Silence is the tribute that we pay to holiness; we slip off words when we enter a sacred place, just as we slip off shoes." The God of the mystics whispers sweet nothings, as lover's do.

In a diary entry for "M.", near the end of his too-short life, Thomas Merton wrote: "I cannot have enough of the hours of silence when nothing happens. When the clouds go by. When the trees say nothing. When the birds sing. I am completely addicted to the realization that just being there is enough." The natural world was for Merton the primary revelation. He listened. He felt a presence in his heart, an awareness of the ineffable Mystery that permeates creation. It was this that drew him to the mystical tradition of Christianity, especially to the Celtic tradition of creation spirituality. It was this that attracted him to Zen.

There come now and then, perhaps more frequently in late life than previously, those moments of being (as Virginia Woolf called them) when creation grabs us by the shoulders and gives us such a shake that it rattles our teeth, when love for the world simply knocks us flat. At those moments everything we have learned about the world - the invaluable and reliable knowledge of science - seems a pale intimation of what is. In Virginia Woolf's novel The Waves, the elderly Bernard says: "How tired I am of stories, how tired I am of phrases that come down beautifully with all their feet on the ground! Also, how I distrust neat designs of life that are drawn upon half sheets of notepaper. I begin to long for some little language such as lovers use, broken words, inarticulate words, like the shuffling of feet on the pavement."

In moments of soul-stirring epiphany, it is reassuring to feel beneath our feet a floor of reliable knowledge, the safe and sure edifice of empirical learning so painstakingly constructed by the likes of Aristarchus, Galileo, Darwin and Schrodinger. But at the same time we are humbled by our ignorance, and more ready than ever to say "I don't know," to enter at last the great silence. Erwin Chargaff, who contributed mightily to our understanding of DNA, wrote: "It is the sense of mystery that, in my opinion, drives the true scientist; the same blind force, blindly seeing, deafly hearing, unconsciously remembering, that drives the larva into the butterfly. If the scientist has not experienced, at least a few times in his life, this cold shudder down his spine, this confrontation with an immense invisible face whose breath moves him to tears, he is not a scientist."

The whole thrust of the mystical tradition, the whole thrust of science, is toward the great silence - an awareness of our ignorance and a willingness to say "I don't know." A lifetime of learning brings one at last to the face of mystery. We live in a universe of more than 100 billion galaxies. Perhaps the number of galaxies is infinite. And the universe is silent. Achingly, terrifyingly silent. Or, rather, the universe speaks a little language such as lovers use, broken words, inarticulate words, like the shuffling of feet on the pavement.”

"The Only Question..."

“Life is an end in itself, and the only question as to whether
 it is worth living is whether you have had enough of it.”
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The Poet: Mary Oliver, “Why I Wake Early”

"Song of the Builders"

"On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God -
 a worthy pastime.

Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside
 this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.

Let us hope
it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.”

~ Mary Oliver, “Why I Wake Early”

"Lifting Pain's Veil: Bitterness"

"Lifting Pain's Veil: Bitterness"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"Bitter feelings allow us to become perfect victims in that we no longer feel obliged to work toward healing. It is natural to feel resentment or anger when life does not unfold as expected. We consciously or unconsciously anticipated one experience, and we grieve for the loss of it when the universe puts something else in our path. Most of the time, we work through these feelings and they pass. Occasionally, our anger and resentment do not fade and are instead transformed into bitterness. Bitter feelings allow us to become perfect victims in that we no longer feel obliged to work toward healing and choose instead to identify with our pain. Yet as unwholesome as bitterness can be, it is also a natural element of our emotional palette. When we acknowledge that it is okay to feel bitter, we reconnect with our hurt in a constructive way and can begin the process of working through it.

The nature of bitterness is rooted in the fact that the pain we feel provides us with a rationale. We may feel that we deserve to embrace our bitterness to its full extent. And to be bitter is, in essence, to cut ourselves off from all that is positive, hardening our hearts and vowing never to let go of our hurt. But just as bitter feelings can be self-defeating, so too can the release of bitterness be life-affirming in a way that few other emotional experiences are. When we decide that we no longer want to be bitter, we are reborn into a world filled with delight and fulfillment unlike any we knew while in the clutches of bitterness. The veil it cast over our lives is lifted, letting light and warmth touch our souls.

Divesting yourself of bitter feelings can be as simple as truly forgiving and moving on. Even when your bitterness has no concrete object, you can forgive situations too. Healing pain can be challenging but may be easier if you remind yourself that you are the only entity truly affected by your emotional state. In time, you will discover that letting go of your bitterness frees you to initiate the healing process and allows you to once again celebrate the possibility of the more wonderful life you deserve."
Related:
“Controversial Conditions: Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder”
- http://blogs.medindia.net/

The Universe

“Each blossom still blooms in its field; each child still clutches your hand; each friend still lingers in your heart. And that is where time goes. Wish your keys were as easy to find, huh?”

“Forever young,” 
    The Universe

“Thoughts become things... choose the good ones!”

The Daily "Near You?"

Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

Gaza: “The Pattern (Musically Annotated)”

“The Pattern (Musically Annotated)”
by David Rovics

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”
Philip K. Dick, “Valis”

“I’m getting older, and the pattern is now a familiar one. Israel starts committing war crimes on a daily basis in Gaza (or the West Bank, or Lebanon). “In response” to Hamas missiles. (Or Hezbollah provocations, depending. But always in response.)


The war of words heats up. Israeli and US leaders are all over the airwaves, saying Israel has a right to defend itself and that Hamas is responsible for all deaths on both sides. The news organizations feel they have to have some reporters in Gaza for a change. They keep trying to spin the news in Israel’s favor, but once they’re showing even a little bit of the reality on the ground, it all starts looking really bad for the Israelis with each new dead Palestinian child buried beneath the rubble. The US Secretary of State goes to Israel and defends the regime there.

Israelis rejoice as military bombs Gaza. Israelis sit on a hill to watch 
the Tel Aviv regime's airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip, July 2014.

A few days of Israeli atrocities later, he or she starts to make slightly less fanatically pro-Israel noises. The Israeli spokespeople stick to their guns (and their drones, helicopters, fighter jets, tanks, and destroyers). As the hours and days pass with all the nonstop news coverage, the Israeli spokesgenerals and politicians start looking rabid, even to many of their apologists in the west.


Across the globe, the ever-nascent, uncomfortably diverse movement of people in solidarity with Palestinians protests. In some places they attack synagogues, believing that Israel represents the Jews of the world, as its leaders have been claiming every day since 1948. They are denounced as anti-Semites. (With some apparent justification in this case.) In other places the occasional Israeli embassy gets overrun by angry protesters. In most places, hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of people or more gather weekly, sometimes more often, to decry Israel’s war crimes.

The Israeli spokesgenerals remind us that not only must Israel defend itself from foreign terrorist aggression, but how can Israel even think about talking to Hamas, when Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist? The term “right to exist” is never explained by them, or by the vast majority of the western media outlets, ever. No one ever asks where are the borders of this state called Israel. Such an obvious question, but you’ll rarely find it asked anywhere outside of Pacifica Radio or Al-Jazeera. How can they recognize a country that refuses to acknowledge where its own borders begin and end? It’s a non-question, that goes perpetually unanswered by anyone but the terrorists and their apologists.

I ask that question, and I’m called a terrorist sympathizer for doing so. I sing at the protests, wherever in the world I happen to be at the time of Israel’s current spate of atrocities. If I’m home in Portland, I sing for dozens, maybe hundreds, of protesters, half of them university students of Arab origin. If I’m lucky enough to be outside of the US at the time – Australia, England, Denmark, Sweden – I sing for thousands. I literally profit, in terms of CD sales and an increased fan base, every time Israel drops lots of bombs on Palestinians. (Kind of like Lockheed, if you remove the last nine zeros or so.)

I hear from old and new friends, thanking me for the latest song about the latest atrocity. I hear from other people who had been fans until they heard the last song, who tell me I’m an anti-Semite, or at the very least, “one-sided.” Social media lights up with praise and denunciations – of Israel, of Hamas, of the BDS movement, of me. To varying degrees of course, depending.

I do gigs, and I sing more songs about Palestine than I normally do. Most people respond with more enthusiasm than usual, especially outside of the US, where the media is somewhere between a little and a lot better, where they’re more likely to be tired of seeing pictures of the dead or dying victims of Israel’s latest bombing of a UN compound packed with terrified refugees who they’ve recently made homeless.

The most vocal support comes from Arabs and Jews. The most vocal opposition comes from Jews, too. The handful of people at each gig who don’t clap after I sing “Jenin” are Jews who resemble my grandparents’ neighbors in Brooklyn. One of them might walk out of the show at that point. The rest stay.

There is some debate in the media. More or less depending on which media, which country. About Israeli history, the plight of the Palestinians in the refugee camps, about UN Resolution 242 and the right of return. There is much more discussion than usual about whether artists like me are anti-Semitic terrorist supporters or brave dissenters against Zionism and empire. The web is more full than usual with racist denunciations, hostile ranting, and the occasional, eloquent defense of a principled position.

Far right Israelis in Tel Aviv and Haifa and on the settlements gather in large numbers, repeating such chants as “kill the Arabs” and “gas the Arabs.” The western media ignores these protests. Jews are holocaust survivors and they don’t believe in that sort of thing. They would never say things like that. Even though thousands of them do. On camera.

Bearded men somewhere in Gaza talk about killing the Jews. The only Jews they’ve ever met have been the ones who bomb them from the air or shoot them from inside tanks, but no one in the media explains that fact. You’ll see them chanting about killing Jews, anyway, which is the important bit. You’ll see their kids saying it, too. That’s how they raise their kids, you know.

Some people make generally sensible comparisons between Israeli policies and Nazi Germany. Mostly the people making those comparisons are Jews, but some others dare make them, too. They are all denounced at crazed anti-Semites (including the Jews).

Other people say Israeli policies are terrible, but there are other countries that do even worse things, so why do you focus so much on Israel? Perhaps this Israel focus is a veiled form of anti-Semitism, because we’re ignoring some other place. It’s a strange argument.

For some of us, this focus on Israel is partly because it’s not some other place. It’s Israel. Growing up in the Connecticut suburbs of New York City, I thought Israel was somewhere near New Jersey. Half the people I meet around there have cousins in Tel Aviv. Who are right now killing people in Gaza with American weapons, American money and American political cover. For all kinds of reasons, it’s personal. A lot of the people doing the killing have New York accents. Many of the rest are from the part of the world that us Ashkenazis came from. It’s personal.

I hear from apologists for Israel who lecture me knowingly about how Israel is “just doing to the Palestinians what you did to the Native Americans.” Which of course makes everything OK. And if that line of reasoning doesn’t seem to be working, they tell me about how they’re under attack by crazed Islamists and so they have to defend themselves with indiscriminate slaughter of the families of the Islamists, and anybody else who lives nearby. I wouldn’t understand, they say. Their line of reasoning there is a bit outdated, since 9/11, but no matter.

Israeli leaders make noises like what they really want to do is completely overrun Gaza to wipe out the “terrorist infrastructure” once and for all. Secretly, they know that the only way this would be possible would be by committing actual genocide, in the sense of actually physically bulldozing the entire place, one building at a time (like the Nazis did in the Warsaw Ghetto, or like the US did in Hue and Fallujah), and forcing the entire population to flee across Egypt’s locked borders or to die. Secretly, the Israeli government knows it’s not prepared for the fallout that would result from that kind of thing. Secretly, they want to have an excuse to call off their murderous campaign.

Hamas will run out of missiles. The US will suddenly find success in their pathetic efforts to negotiate a ceasefire because Israel secretly is in favor of one now, though they don’t want to admit it to much of their population, or to the Palestinians. Israel will publicly agree to some of Hamas’s demands. They won’t lift the siege, but they’ll partially lift it. They’ll free a few prisoners.

Almost all of the western journalists will leave Gaza. A few weeks later, Israel will go back on everything, collectively punishing the entire Palestinian population for the rogue action of some Salafist through more indiscriminate bombing of Palestinian homes and a reimposition of the embargo. They’ll also announce more settlement-building in the West Bank, for good measure.

I’ll write another song on the next chapter in the annals of Israeli occupation. This time very few people will notice. There will be the occasional small protest. The hardcore few among the perennial activists will discuss tactics, wondering how it might ever be possible to mobilize a sustained movement against Israeli apartheid. They’ll keep wondering, until the next time enough blood is spilled to warrant the attention of the world’s media. Because slow starvation isn’t interesting enough.”
David Rovics is a singer/songwriter based in Portland, Oregon.  He just put out a new album, and is currently booking a fall tour of North America.  His website is www.davidrovics.com.

"All Mad..."

“When we remember that we are all mad,
 the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.”

- Mark Twain, “Mark Twain's Notebook”

“How Changing Your Diet Can Alleviate Bipolar Disorder”

“How Changing Your Diet Can Alleviate Bipolar Disorder”
By Pamela Peeke

“If you're one of the estimated 5.7 million U.S. adults dealing with bipolar disorder, you know the potent control it can have on your moods, energy and emotions. What you may not know is how much power you have to control it. Thanks to an emerging science called epigenetics, researchers have learned that DNA is no longer destiny and that each of us has the ability to influence how our genes express themselves to the rest of the body. With healthy lifestyle choices and environmental changes, we can actually alter our own destiny.

For those with bipolar disorder, it's an empowering message: No longer are you a prisoner of your genetics, thought to play a key role in the disorder. And through healthier lifestyle choices, you may be able to decrease your reliance on medication to manage your illness, although this remains a critical part of the overall treatment equation. By taking a holistic and integrative lifestyle approach that includes the practice of mindfulness and stress reduction, using nutrition based on whole foods, and adding a more active lifestyle- what I like to call my Mind, Mouth and Muscle blueprint- you can reduce the effects of the bipolar condition and improve the quality of your life.

This isn't just theory. I work directly with those with mood disorders and have seen firsthand the benefits that can result from choosing the apple over the doughnut, meditating rather than obsessing and ruminating over a life stress, and going for a walk instead of sitting for hours watching mindless TV. With each healthy choice that's made, you're influencing the proteins that switch genes on and off and affecting the messages that are delivered throughout the body. Consistently good choices translate into a better reading of your genetic script. You're also carving neural highways that lay down a foundation for new lifestyle habits.

This attention to Mind, Mouth and Muscle can also help with a condition highly associated with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder: weight gain. A 2011 review found that 68 percent of those who seek help for bipolar disorder are overweight or obese. The medications are partly to blame for the extra pounds, but the psychobiology of the disorder itself also plays a significant role as well. Those with bipolar disorder are believed to have lower levels of the chemical messenger serotonin, which can spark a craving for carbs and sweets.

Bipolar disorder also goes hand in hand with stress, which can cause a buildup of the hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels rise, our appetite for sweetness intensifies. And top that with new research that indicates that brain circuits involved with reward are more strongly activated in people with bipolar disorder. If reward is perceived, a tsunami of the pleasure neurotransmitter, dopamine, is secreted by the brain's reward center. The good news is that this dopamine-driven push for reward helps people with bipolar disorder become high achievers. The bad news is that they can also become side-tracked by short-term, pleasurable rewards like overeating. Not surprisingly, the foods that are over-consumed are the "hyperpalatables"- sugary, fatty, salty food combinations. One result of these psychobiological interplays is that the self-soothing and rewarding behaviors can contribute to strong, addictive-like eating behaviors that may become destructive to mental and physical health and well-being.

Planning Your Menu: Here's what science says about what should be in and out of your daily nutrition in order to help control your weight and moods, as well as manage those cravings while reining in addictive-like eating behaviors. As you plan to integrate these tips, remember to practice mindfulness, being present and aware of your daily nutrition, and taking the time to savor each bite:

Omega-3 essential fatty acids: A mountain of studies confirms it: Omega-3 fats, such as those found in fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon, are not only great for general health, they can also help lower the incidence of depression. In fact, the more fish the population of any country eats, the less depression. If you need more proof of their power, consider this: At least one study has found that bipolar disorder is the No. 1 illness associated with lack of omega-3s. These are other fatty fish with high levels of omega-3 fats: arctic char, Atlantic mackerel, sardines, black cod, anchovies, oysters, rainbow trout, albacore tuna, mussels and Pacific halibut.

Refined sugar: You are already on a mood roller coaster with bipolar disorder. Refined sugar throws your ride into further chaos. Processed refined sugar sends insulin levels soaring, which in turn sparks a roaring craving for more sweet stuff. Sweet begets sweet. When you don't get your sugar fix, a crash follows. Instead, satisfy yourself with moderate servings of the natural sugars in fruits and vegetables. A warning about artificial sweeteners: Ditch the Splenda and agave; they affect insulin levels in exactly the same way as processed sugar. Instead, use stevia, an herb that provides sweetness with no effect on insulin levels.

Magnesium: Magnesium has been found to function similarly to lithium, which is often prescribed for bipolar disorder as a mood stabilizer. Adding magnesium to your diet may help to decrease the symptoms of mania or rapid cycling. Magnesium also supports good sleep, another problem spot for those with bipolar disorder. Top sources for magnesium include pumpkin seeds, spinach, swiss chard, soybeans, cashews, black beans and sunflower seeds.

Vitamins: Vitamin deficiencies, especially of vitamins C, D and the B vitamins, are common in those with bipolar disorder. Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, is especially crucial. A deficiency of vitamin B9 can increase levels of homocysteine, and higher levels of homocysteine are linked to depression. Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with mood disorders and depression. Here's another reason to make sure you get your full requirement of vitamin D: Research shows it may help prevent some cancers such as ovarian, colon and breast. Look for vitamin C in citrus and other fruits; vitamin D in fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and from sunshine; and vitamin B9 in foods such as beans, spinach, asparagus, mango and whole wheat bread.

Carbs: Carbohydrate cravings come with the territory in bipolar disorder. The goal is to ditch the processed, refined carbs, usually found in manufactured foods, and stick with whole foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains such as quinoa, barley and oats. Go for long-acting complex carbohydrates such as those found in sweet potatoes and whole grains. Try this tip for cutting carb cravings: Mix a serving of lean protein with fiber. Some examples are slices of apple and peanut butter, hummus and carrots, low-fat cottage cheese with berries, a peach and low-fat string cheese, and vegetables and salmon or chicken.

Alcohol: Drinking alcohol is a bad idea on multiple levels for those with bipolar disorder. For one, the alcohol-drug interaction can make you very sick. For another, alcohol can disrupt sleep, and so many people with bipolar disorder already have sleep problems. Finally, alcohol can affect mood swings, sending them spiraling even further out of control. If you're socializing, opt for a glass of sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime.

Caffeine: Any kind of stimulant can precipitate mania, so it's best to pass on the coffee, Red Bull or any heavily caffeinated beverage. Tea, which has about one-fourth the caffeine as coffee, is a better choice than that $20 venti-size triple shot mocha. Top of the better option charts, though, are non-caffeinated herbal teas and refreshing water. If you want to jazz up your H20, buy an inexpensive infuser and add fruits, vegetables or herbs to your water. Infused water is not only delicious, it provides plant nutrients to help you kick sugar and caffeine cravings.

Fat: Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, fish, low-fat dairy and nuts, provide vitamins and minerals and are so satisfying you won't want to overeat.

Putting It All Together: Experts agree that bipolar disorder has no cure. However, we now know that simple lifestyle choices like opting for whole food nutrition can make a significant impact on the daily management of mood, energy and sleep. Combine that with improved stress coping abilities, along with regular physical activity and the result is a more optimized, effective and long-term treatment plan. There's no need to feel helpless, hopeless and defeated as so many with bipolar disorder do. You can make a significant difference in improving the quality of your life. And it all starts with being mindful of every mouthful."
Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, is a Pew Scholar in nutrition and metabolism, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, and a fellow of the American College of Physicians. She is a New York Times bestselling author, including her latest book, "The Hunger Fix: The Three Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction." As Senior Science Adviser for Elements Behavioral Health, Dr. Peeke has created integrative nutrition and holistic lifestyle programs at Malibu Vista women's mental health center in Malibu, California, and Lucida Treatment Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.

"How It Really Is"


“An Easy Way to Avoid Pig-Headed Mistakes”

“An Easy Way to Avoid Pig-Headed Mistakes”
by Bill Bonner

“Large groups of people do extraordinarily pig-headed things from time to time. Republicans can drive a car more or less as well as Democrats or Communists. Of the millions of autos on the road, driven by Rosicrucians, Rotarians, River Keepers, and all manner of people with all manner of ideas, there are relatively few accidents.

People don’t like Fate. Fate is the bad stuff that happens when no one is in charge, when chaos reigns. Making their own decisions about their own lives, people of all sorts get along passably well — even when they are driving automobiles at high rates of speed with a Democrat headed right for them. They obey simple, general rules — keep to the right (or left)! — and decide the minor details for themselves. Usually they get where they are going. But trust these people with public affairs and there’s a good chance you’ll wind up driving tanks through Poland.

The human brain is well adapted to driving a car and to looking out for itself. Without conscious thought, it makes life and death calculations on a second-by-second basis, for the most part successfully. But it evolved while living in small groups without the abstractions of large-scale, modern public life.

The ability to do abstract thinking, or to understand the dynamics of large groups, was unnecessary. That is probably why the ability to do this kind of thinking is so rare. The typical brain is not equipped for it. Ask the human brain to coordinate the ordering of a pizza for a family of five and the results are outstanding. Put it to work on Obamacare, NSA snooping, firearms control, or public finance and the results can be astonishingly silly.

Ambitious people pretend this isn’t the case. They feel it is their responsibility to read the papers and try to understand the headlines. They identify the hero, the villain, the love interest, and the conflict. They root for the good guy, curse the guy in the well-tailored business suit, and pray their side will win. They cannot imagine a team without a captain or an army without a general or a war without a victor. They need to think someone is in charge — someone who can win this struggle against an uncertain Fate.

Few people can stomach the idea that public life is out of the conscious control of the authorities in whom they have placed so much faith. They lack what Nietzsche referred to as an ‘amor fati’… a faith in, and an affection for, Fate. People don’t like Fate. Fate is the bad stuff that happens when no one is in charge, when chaos reigns.

Instead, they believe in the ability of right-thinking experts to ‘do something’ to bring about a better outcome than Fate had in store for them. They want a leader who will slay their enemies and bring the home team to victory. They want officials to deliver up full employment, someone else’s money, the America’s Cup, and free beer on tap 24/7. They want someone in the driver’s seat who will take them where they want to go. But where do they want to go? They don’t know. And history is largely a record of fender benders, sideswipes and pile-ups on the way there — a place, it turns out, they really shouldn’t have been going in the first place.

History ignores the trillions of very good decisions made by private citizens in their private lives. We don’t see the calculation of the boatmen, bringing their barks to shore just before the tide turns. We hardly notice the bowman, who sends his arrow to a spot just a few feet in front of a racing rabbit. Nor does history spend much time on the brakeman, who carefully brings the 11:07 a.m. from New York to a halt directly in front of travelers standing on the platform at Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore. But the competence of the brakeman, boatman, and bowman make us overconfident. If we can bring a train to rest at exactly the right spot, why not an economy? If we can impose our will, by force, on a rabbit… why not on Alabama? If we can drive a car, why not a whole society?

It seems reasonable enough. And it agrees with our core intellectual bias — well-established since the time of Aristotle and re-established during the Renaissance — that we are able to see, understand, and direct our future. But if that were true, history would be a lot less colorful than it is. What actually happens is that people take on big projects. And fail miserably. For instance, the people of nation X demand cheap bread. The government assigns its finest minds to the project. Soon, people are starving.

Military history offers plenty of examples of strategic miscalculations, misunderstandings, and gross recklessness. These various buffooneries appear antiseptically in the historical record as simple ‘errors.’ But they are errors of a special sort. They are the kind made when you undertake large-scale projects in the modern world using brains evolved and adapted for much smaller problems.”

Satire: “Millions Pay for Rare Opportunity to Hear Sarah Palin Speak”

“Millions Pay for Rare Opportunity to Hear Sarah Palin Speak”
by Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) – “Sarah Palin’s online video service starring herself had a hugely successful launch on Monday, as millions of Americans paid $9.95 for the rare opportunity of hearing the former Alaska Governor speak. The Web site for The Sarah Palin Channel reportedly crashed several times during the day, as it was overwhelmed by subscribers seeking a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse of the reclusive Palin sharing her opinions.

At the corporate headquarters of the Palin Channel, the marketing director Tracy Klugian attributed the site’s mammoth success to “the simple law of supply and demand.” “The Governor is a very private person who chooses her words very, very carefully,” Klugian said. “When someone like that finally decides to speak out, millions of people will pay to hear what she has to say.”

Harland Dorrinson, aged sixty-two, of Flint, Michigan, was just one of the millions of Americans who jammed Governor Palin’s channel on Monday, only to find that the site had frozen under the weight of traffic. “I’ll keep refreshing the page until I finally get through,” he said. “Hearing Sarah Palin talk isn’t something that happens every day.”

Media experts said Monday that the stunning launch of Palin’s Web site bodes well for the upcoming video channel from another rarely seen personality, Donald Trump.”

"Exactly Why..."

Scully: "Mulder, it is such a gorgeous day outside. Have you ever entertained the idea of trying to find life on this planet?"
Mulder: "I have seen the life on this planet, Scully, and that is exactly why I am looking elsewhere."
- "The X-Files"

"We Hope To Live..."

“We do not rest satisfied with the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if in order to hasten its course; or we recall the past, to stop its too rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander in the times which are not ours and do not think of the only one which belongs to us; and so idle are we that we dream of those times which are no more and thoughtlessly overlook that which alone exists. For the present is generally painful to us. We conceal it from our sight, because it troubles us; and, if it be delightful to us, we regret to see it pass away. We try to sustain it by the future and think of arranging matters which are not in our power, for a time which we have no certainty of reaching.

Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means; the future alone is our end. So we never live, but we hope to live; and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable we should never be so.”
- Blaise Pascal

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"A Look to the Heavens"

"Over 400,000 light years across NGC 6872 is an enormous spiral galaxy, at least 4 times the size of our own very large Milky Way. About 200 million light-years distant, toward the southern constellation Pavo, the Peacock, the remarkable galaxy's stretched out shape is due to its ongoing gravitational interaction, likely leading to an eventual merger, with the nearby smaller galaxy IC 4970. IC 4970 is seen just below and right of the giant galaxy's core in this cosmic color portrait from the 8 meter Gemini South telescope in Chile. 
Click image for larger size.
The idea to image this titanic galaxy collision comes from a winning contest essay submitted last year to the Gemini Observatory by the Sydney Girls High School Astronomy Club. In addition to inspirational aspects and aesthetics, club members argued that a color image would be more than just a pretty picture. In their winning essay they noted that "If enough color data is obtained in the image it may reveal easily accessible information about the different populations of stars, star formation, relative rate of star formation due to the interaction, and the extent of dust and gas present in these galaxies."

"The Solitary Mind And Soul..."

"The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual- for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost."
- M. Scott Peck

Chet Raymo, "Cultivating Amazement"

"Cultivating Amazement"
by Chet Raymo

"There is only one question, says the poet Mary Oliver: "How to love this world." So here I am scanning a recent copy of the journal "Nature," with articles titled "Parvalbumin neurons and gamma rhythms enhance cortical circuit performance" and "F-box protein FBX031 mediates cyclin D1 degradation to induce G1 arrest after DNA damage." What is this stuff to me, and how does it help me love the world?

In her poetry, Oliver brilliantly evokes the sensate stimuli of love: the "lapped light" of pond lilies in the black pond, the goldfinch hatchlings "in the swaying branches, in the silver baskets," the dead snake in the road "as cool and gleaming as a braided whip." Who can walk in the world that Oliver describes and not be blown over by love, made stammering and speechless? And here I am wading through articles with titles like "Kinematic variables and water transport control the formation and location of arc volcanoes." What is here, among this technical language, to pluck the heartstrings?

I'll tell you. What we glimpse in these technical reports- some of which I understand and some of which I don't- is the invisible machinery of the world, the magic of the elements, the sizzling fuse that burns in every atom, every molecule, every cell- igniting, creating, animating. We glimpse what Mary Oliver calls "the white fire of a great mystery."

Yes, there is only one question: How to love this world? That's why I read poets. And why I read Science and Nature, too. When it's over, I want to say with Oliver:
    "...all my life
    I was a bride married to amazement.
    I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

The Poet: Linda Pastan, "What We Want"

"What We Want"

"What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names-
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don't remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun."

- Linda Pastan

"The Consequences You Sow: Action and Effect"

"The Consequences You Sow: 
Action and Effect"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"We should strive always to speak, think, and behave with great thoughtfulness and compassion. All motive and action affects the cosmos in some way. The principle of cause and effect is the truth that allows us to change ourselves and the world around us for the better. However, this same universal law is also at work when change is not at the forefront of our minds. Our intentions flow forever outward in the form of energy, affecting both the people closest to us and billions of individuals we will likely never meet. For this reason, we should strive always to speak, think, and behave with great thoughtfulness and compassion. The virtues we choose to embody can inspire joy and integrity in the lives of countless people, whether we touch their existence directly or not.

The influence we wield is infinite. In an effort to internalize our conscious understanding of the nature of cause and effect, we can never truly know how our thoughts, emotions, words, or actions will manifest themselves on the larger universal stage because it is likely that the furthest-reaching effects will fall outside the range of our perception. We can only look to the guidance of our conscience, which will help us determine whether each of our choices is contributing to humanity's illumination or setting the stage for unintended troubles. When we are in doubt, we need only remember that the cultivation of altruism inevitably leads to a harvest of goodwill and grace. Motivated by a sincere desire to spread goodness, we will be naturally drawn to those choices that will help us express our commitment to universal well-being.

Nothing you do, however minor or mundane, is ever exempt from the rules of cause and effect. From the moment of your birth, you have served as an agent of change, setting forces beyond your comprehension into motion across the surface of the earth and beyond. You can exert conscious control over this transformative energy simply by examining your intentions and endeavoring always to promote peace, positive energy, and passion in your ideas and actions. While you may never fully comprehend the extent of your purposefully heartfelt influence, you can rest assured that it will be universally felt.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Musical Interlude: Chuck Wild, "Liquid Mind VIII: Sleep - Adagio for Sleep"

Chuck Wild, "Liquid Mind VIII: Sleep - Adagio for Sleep"
Images courtesy of NASA and the Goddard Space Flight Center.

Paulo Coelho, “The Black Man (A True Story)”

“The Black Man (A True Story)”
by Paulo Coelho

"We are at the restaurant of a German University. A red haired student, and undeniably German, takes her tray and sits down at her table. She then realizes she has forgotten her cutlery and gets up again to pick it up. Coming back, she sees with astonishment that a black man, possibly sub-Saharan by his appearance, is sitting there and is eating from her tray. Straight away, the young woman feels lost and stressed, but immediately changes her thought and presumes that the African is not familiar with European customs concerning private property and privacy. She also takes into consideration that perhaps he does not have enough money to pay for his meal.

In any case, she decides to sit in front of the guy and to smile at him in a friendly manner. The African responds with another dazzling smile. The German girl starts to help herself, sharing the food with the black man with genuine pleasure and courtesy. And thus, he took the salad, she ate the soup, both took their share of the stew, one took care of the yoghurt and the other of the piece of fruit, all this peppered with numerous refined smiles – timid from the man and smoothly, encouraging and kind by the girl. They eat up their lunch. The German girl gets up to get a coffee. And it is then that she discovers, on the table behind the black man, her coat placed on the back of a chair and her food tray untouched.
I dedicated this charming story– furthermore an authentic one– to all who are wary of immigrants and consider them as inferior individuals, to all these people, who with the best of intentions, observe them condescendingly and with paternalism. It would be better that we free ourselves of prejudices or we run the risk to make a fool of ourselves like the poor German who thought to be at the height of civilisation whilst the African greatly educated, let her eat and share her meal and at the same time was thinking, “How mad these Europeans are.”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble - maybe Macbeth should have consulted the Witch Head Nebula. This suggestively shaped reflection nebula is associated with the bright star Rigel in the constellation Orion. More formally known as IC 2118, the Witch Head Nebula glows primarily by light reflected from bright star Rigel, located just below the lower edge of the below image. 
Click image for larger size.
Fine dust in the nebula reflects the light. The blue color is caused not only by Rigel's blue color but because the dust grains reflect blue light more efficiently than red. The same physical process causes Earth's daytime sky to appear blue, although the scatterers in Earth's atmosphere are molecules of nitrogen and oxygen. The nebula lies about 1000 light-years away.”

Rollo May, "Courage"

"Courage"
by Rollo May  
 
"We are living at a time when one age is dying and the new age is not yet born. We cannot doubt this as we look about us to see the radical changes in sexual mores, in marriage styles, in family structures, in education, in religion, technology, and almost every other aspect of modern life. And behind it all is the threat of the atom bomb, which recedes into the distance but never disappears. To live with sensitivity in this age of limbo indeed requires courage.

A choice confronts us. Shall we, as we feel our foundations shaking, withdraw in anxiety and panic? Frightened by the loss of our familiar mooring places, shall we become paralyzed and cover our inaction with apathy? If we do those things, we will have surrendered our chance to participate in the forming of the future. We will have forfeited the distinctive characteristic of human beings‚ namely, to influence our evolution through our own awareness. We will have capitulated to the blind juggernaut of history and lost the chance to mold the future into a society more equitable and humane. Or shall we seize the courage necessary to preserve our sensitivity, awareness, and responsibility in the face of radical change? Shall we consciously participate, on however small the scale, in the forming of the new society?

I hope our choice will be the latter. We are called upon to do something new, to confront a no man's land, to push into a forest where there are no well-worn paths and from which no one has returned to guide us. This is what the existentialists call the anxiety of nothingness. To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize.

This courage will not be the opposite of despair. We shall often be faced with despair, as indeed every sensitive person has been during the last several decades in this country. Hence Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and Camus and Sartre have proclaimed that courage is not the absence of despair; it is, rather, the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair. Nor is the courage required mere stubbornness. But if you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also you will have betrayed our community in failing to make your contribution to the whole.

A chief characteristic of this courage is that it requires a centeredness within our own being, without which we would feel ourselves to be a vacuum. The "emptiness" within corresponds to an apathy without; and apathy adds up, in the long run, to cowardice. That is why we must always base our commitment in the center of our own being, or else no commitment will be ultimately authentic.

Courage, furthermore, is not to be confused with rashness. What masquerades as courage may turn out to be simply a bravado used to compensate for one's unconscious fear and to prove one's machismo, like the "hot" fliers in World War II. The ultimate end of such rashness is getting one's self killed, or at least one's head battered in with a policeman's billy club‚ both of which are scarcely productive ways of exhibiting courage.

Courage is not a virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity. It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values. Without courage our love pales into mere dependency. Without courage our fidelity becomes conformism. The word courage comes from the same stem as the French word coeur, meaning "heart." Thus just as one's heart, by pumping blood to one's arms, legs, and brain enables all the other physical organs to function, so courage makes possible all the psychological virtues. Without courage other values wither away into mere facsimiles of virtue.

In human beings courage is necessary to make being and becoming possible. An assertion of the self, a commitment, is essential if the self is to have any reality. This is the distinction between human beings and the rest of nature. The acorn becomes an oak by means of automatic growth; no commitment is necessary. The kitten similarly becomes a cat on the basis of instinct. Nature and being are identical in creatures like them. But a man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day to day. These decisions require courage. This is why Paul Tillich speaks of courage as ontological; it is essential to our being.”
 
- Rollo May, "The Courage To Create"

"The Door In The Wall..."

"The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.” 
– Aldous Huxley