Thursday, December 30, 2010

Making 2011 the Year of Great Relationships


WSJ writer Elizabeth Bernstein:

"Increasingly, experts have been telling us how important social bonds are to well-being, affecting everything from how our brains process information to how our bodies respond to stress. People with strong connections to others may live longer. The quality of our relationships is the single biggest predictor of our happiness..."

Billy Taylor. R.I.P.

12/30/10. Jazz pianist.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Denis Dutton. R.I.P.


December 28, 2010, 11:14 am

"Denis Dutton, founder and editor of Arts & Letters Daily and a professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, has died. Born in California, Mr. Dutton received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He created Arts & Letters Daily in 1998. The Chronicle of Higher Education purchased the widely praised site in 2002."

Chronicle of Higher Higher Education

The New Yorker

The New York Times

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

So Young and So Many Pills

12/28/10. So many children and adolescents benefit from accurate diagnoses of medical and psychiatric disorders --- and sometimes medications offer life-saving benefits.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Quotations


"I have no race prejudices, and I think I have no
color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed
prejudices. Indeed, I know it. I can stand any society.
All that I care to know is that a man is a human being --- that is enough for me; he can't be any worse."

---Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

"He who would do good to another must do it
in minute particulars;
General good is the plea of the scoundrel,
hypocrite, and flatterer:
For art and science cannot exist but in
minutely organized particulars.

---William Blake (1757 - 1827)

"Liberty is the hardest test that one can inflict
on a people. To know how to be free is not
given equally to all men and all nations."

--- Paul Valery (1871 - 1945)

The Original Birth of Freedom

12/27/10. Starting in Athens.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Book Review: "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life"


Eric Felten introduces the author Karen Armstrong:

"...A couple of years ago the TED Conference awarded a prize to popular religious historian Karen Armstrong. In addition to giving her a handsome cash award, the TED people offered to fulfill a wish of hers for a better world. And so they helped her to organize a "Charter for Compassion." Suggestions were solicited across the Internet for how we can restore compassion to the center of moral life. This trove of deep thoughts was culled "by leading thinkers from a variety of major faiths" and condensed into a manifesto in favor of empathy, the golden rule and 'a principled determination to transcend selfishness...' "

The Rational Optimist

12/24/10. Three views on Matt Ridley, including Matt Ridley.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Arduous Community


David Brooks on Erica Brown:

"...Then I invited her to coffee, and it all became clear. Brown has what many people are looking for these days. In the first place, she has conviction. For her, Judaism isn’t a punch line or a source of neuroticism; it’s a path to self-confident and superior living. She didn’t seem hostile to the things that make up most coffee-table chatter — status, celebrity, policy, pop culture — she just didn’t show much interest. As one of her students e-mailed me: “Erica embodies Judaism’s stand against idol worship. It is actually true that she worships nothing other than God, which is particularly unusual in Washington..."

Tracing the Spark of Creative Puzzle-Solving


"...In a just completed study, researchers at Northwestern University found that people were more likely to solve word puzzles with sudden insight when they were amused, having just seen a short comedy routine..."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Joseph Epstein: "The long, unhappy life of Saul Bellow"

12/20/10. Who knew? Joseph Epstein, and others.

NewScientist: Best Books of 2010

12/20/10. Scientists and authors pick their favorite books of the year.

Monday Quotations


“I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other.”

--- Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926)

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the one I used to know,
Where the tree-tops glisten
And children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.”

--- Irving Berlin (1888 – 1989)

“In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking
Now, heaven knows,
Anything goes.”

--- Cole Porter (1891 – 1964)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to Cope with Adult Temper Tantrums


WSJ writer Elizabeth Bernstein on relationships and anger:

How do you keep a loved one's tantrums from ruining your relationship? Here are some tips from the experts:
Don't be silent. Ignoring the bad behavior enables it. And withdrawal makes the angry person feel judged, says Joe James, a psychologist and anger-management specialist.

Validate the feelings, not the behavior. 'Say, "Honey, I understand that you are really upset," ' says Karen McMahon, a divorce and separation coach from Oceanside, N.Y. 'You are not validating their reaction; you are validating their emotion. And it is the quickest way to disarm them.'

Explain later why the behavior upsets you. Were you embarrassed? Irritated that an evening out was ruined? Frustrated that the situation caused delays? Say, 'I love you but it's hard for me to be supportive of you when you handle a situation like that.'

Ask open-ended questions. How does the person feel about her behavior? Is she under stress? Try to understand what's going on.

Change your own behavior. Stop upholding your end of the relationship—refuse to cook, say—until the bad behavior stops. 'As soon as one person begins to change, the dance has to change,' Ms. McMahon says. 'The shift always happens when you change yourself, not the other person.'

"Anger helps straighten out a problem like a fan helps straighten out a pile of papers."

---Susan Mancotte

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Stephen Hawking's Radical Philosophy of Science

12/12/10. Psychologist and editor of Skeptic Magazine, Michael Shermer outlines this radical view of science.

Michael Shermer writes:

"Do you think that there is a computer screen sitting in front of you right now?

It would certainly seem so if you are reading these words online, but in fact you are not actually “seeing” the computer screen in front of you. What you see are photons of light bouncing off the screen (and generated by the internal electronics of the screen itself), which pass through the hole in the iris of your eye, through the liquid medium inside your eye, wending their way through the bipolar and ganglion cells to strike the rods and cones at the back of your retina. These photons of light carry just enough energy to bend the molecules inside the rods and cones to change the electrochemical balance inside these cells, causing them to fire, or have what neuroscientists call an “action potential.” ...’s-radical-philosophy-of-science

A Roomful of Yearning and Regret


Wendy Plump writes from personal experience in her marriage --- how affairs damage trust and wreck lives.

Human Nature and Capitalism

12/12/10. Arthur C. Brooks and Peter Wehner:

"The model of human nature one embraces will guide and shape everything else, from the economic system one prefers to the political system one supports."

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: "What is Mental Illness?"


Richard J. McNally, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, is the author of just published (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011) "what is mental illness?"

In his first chapter, Professor McNally reviews recent research indicating that mental illness is a public health crises, affecting nearly 50% of Americans, according to a study from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a study involving psychiatric interviews with a sample of more than nine thousand adults.

Not everybody agrees with these staggering results suggesting that the world is an outpatient psychiatric clinic. Paul McHugh, a former chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University, remarked, "Fifty percent of Americans mentally impaired--are you kidding me? Pretty soon we'll have a syndrome for short, fat Irish guys with a Boston accent, and I'll be mentally ill."

Professor McNally's book consists of eight chapters, each chapter asks a question:

1.  An Epidemic of Madness?

2.  Are We Pathologizing Everyday Life?

3.  Can Evolutionary Psychology Make Sense of Mental Disorder?

4.  Psychopathology as Adaptation?

5.  Does Society Create (Some) Mental Disorders?

6,  Is It in Our Genes?

7.  Do Mental Disorders Differ by Kind or Degree?

8.  So What is Mental Illness Anyway?

Professor McNally offers some hope to reduce the confusion over the nature of psychiatric disorders and improve our understanding of the mind and caring for patients.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Do You Remember the Future?


Matt Ridley writes:

...There is a growing conviction within neuroscience that one of the human mind's chief preoccupations is prediction. Jeff Hawkins, the founder of Palm Computing who is now a full-time neuroscientist, argued in his 2004 book "On Intelligence" that the mind does this by detecting a familiar pattern in its input, then anticipating from past experience what usually follows. The more unexpected something is, the more conscious we are of it...
...This explains a lot about awareness. When I push my foot down on the brake pedal, I expect to feel deceleration. If I do, I am barely conscious of the fact: My mind continues to concentrate on the radio or my conversation with my passenger. If I don't, I am immediately so aware of the car skidding on the ice or the brakes failing that my mind is fully occupied with the failed prediction...

Neurologist Oliver Sacks on Face Blindness Q & A


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"The Truth Wears Off"

12/8/10. The following is a quote from science writer Jonah Lehrer's article in the current issue of "The New Yorker" (12/13/10):

..."We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us. But that's often not the case. Just because an idea is true doesn't mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn't mean it's true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe."

Jonah Lehrer's blog:  "The Frontal Cortex"

How Primary Care Doctors Try to Spot Depression

12/7/10.  Four core components of depression:
  • Impairment of mood.
  • Often sad, irritability often missed as symptom of depression.
  • Loss of previously enjoyed activities and pleasures.
  • Amotivation and withdrawal from activities.
  • Stress intolerance --- no bounce to the tires.
Ask two questions:
  • How's your mood?
  • Still doing the things you like to do, and enjoying life?
Must rule out four things:
  • Suicidal Ideation.
    • come right out and ask the question about ideas about self-harm - the question won't make things worse, Do you plan to kill yourself? What are you planning to do?
  • Psychosis.
    • ask about hearing voices or seeing things.
  • Substance Abuse.
  • Bipolar Disorder.
    • Have you ever had time in the past when you've gone a few days or more the opposite of depressed, not just normal, but so full of energy that other people couldn't keep up with you, your thoughts were racing, you couldn't sleep, you did impulsive things like buy a car on the spur of the moment, or start a love affair with a stranger, or have grand schemes to start a new business?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Destiny of Cities


Victor Davis Hanson writes:

"Throughout history, forces both natural and human have made cities rise and fall.

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius obliterated Pompeii and Herculaneum.As the world steadily grows more urbanized, with 50 percent of its population no longer rural, it is more important than ever to ask how cities either perish or manage to survive. The question can be hard to answer. Why, following centuries of periodic depopulation and neglect, are Rome and Athens once again capitals, while Leptis Magna and Ephesus—once-thriving imperial powerhouses on the coasts of Libya and Turkey, respectively—are long deserted? Was it climate, or location, or a larger cultural tradition of resilience that eventually brought Rome and Athens back in a way that didn’t happen with the other two cities?"...

Social Science Palooza

12/7/10. David Brooks discusses some recent findings about human behavior.

What's Really Wrong With WikiLeaks?

12/7/10. A psychiatrist examines WikiLeaks.

"...But WikiLeaks goes far beyond the need to expose wrongdoing, or supposed wrongdoing: it is unwittingly doing the work of totalitarianism...
...The idea behind WikiLeaks is that life should be an open book, that everything that is said and done should be immediately revealed to everybody, that there should be no secret agreements, deeds, or conversations. In the fanatically puritanical view of WikiLeaks, no one and no organization should have anything to hide. It is scarcely worth arguing against such a childish view of life...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Quotations


"Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of a style."

--- Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745)

"I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society, but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education."

--- Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

"We are so made, that we can only derive intense enjoyment from a contrast, and only very little from a state of things."

--- Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010