Thursday, June 27, 2013

NIH: "Only Half of U.S. Youth Meet Physical Standards"

And those standards aren't so high.

What ever happend to the President' Council on Youth Fitness?  Ike introduced that program in the mid-1950s.  I clearly remember our phys ed teachers talking about it.  It had a very important impact.

Well, it's morphed into something else.  And our phys ed programs in the public schools are being cut.

If, however, we fight our wars with drones from an easy chair and a joy stick, what difference does it really make?  Right?

We will become like the dreaded Kaldanes in Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Chessmen of Mars:

[T]the Kaldanes are almost all head, but for six arachnoid legs and a pair of chelae. Their racial goal is to evolve further towards pure intellect and away from bodily existence:
It is only your brain that makes you superior to the banth, but your brain is bound by the limitations of your body. Not so, ours. With us brain is everything. Ninety per centum of our volume is brain. We have only the simplest of vital organs and they are very small for they do not have to assist in the support of a complicated system of nerves, muscles, flesh and bone. We have no lungs, for we do not require air. Far below the levels to which we can take the rykors is a vast network of burrows where the real life of the kaldane is lived. There the air-breathing rykor would perish as you would perish. There we have stored vast quantities of food in hermetically sealed chambers. It will last forever. Far beneath the surface is water that will flow for countless ages after the surface water is exhausted. We are preparing for the time we know must come -- the time when the last vestige of the Barsoomian atmosphere is spent -- when the waters and food are gone. For this purpose were we created, that there might not perish from the planet Nature's divinest creation -- the perfect brain. 
Except, somehow, I don't think the rest of the world is going to sit back and let us evolve that way.  You see, we have this nice lunch set before us every day, and the rest of the world wants to eat it.

Besides, John Carter made short work of the Kaldanes.  He had a terrific body and knew how to use it.  (His girlfriends weren't half bad either.)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Women More Vulnerable to Alcohol

Women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol's toxic effects. Their bodies have more fat, which retains alcohol, and less water, which dilutes it, so women drinking the same amount as men their size and weight become intoxicated more quickly. Males also have more of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream. This may be one reason why alcohol-related liver and brain damage appear more quickly in heavy-drinking women than men.

*    *   *

[Is there a  female] drinking problem? Doctors around the world differ. The National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Department of Health and Human Services say that for American women, anything more than a drink a day is risky. In countries such as France, Italy and Spain, where life expectancy for women is longer, authorities set the safe threshold at double that—and sometimes higher.

-from the "Saturday Essay" in yesterday's Wall Street Journal by Gabrielle Glaser, entitled "Why She Drinks: Women and Alcohol Abuse."

It was hands off alcohol in my life until I went to college.  I cannot remember my parents telling me not to drink.  But they would not drink themselves.  We were Southern Baptists, and my dad told funny stories about how Baptists drank only behind closed doors with the shades pulled down.  In that way, I knew early on that drinking was something Baptists were not to do, if not for themselves personally but as an example to others who might have a sort of fatal propensity about liquor - we were to look out for our brother and be careful for ourselves.  I learned that Baptists sometimes would drink anyway - I learned about hypocrisy, alcohol, and the power of alcohol.

My dad told stories about men who had ruined their lives with alcohol, men whose intellect and drive he admired.  Stories were the way he made his points - he never preached at me.  And I didn't feel manipulated.  I could tell that he absolutely feared what could happen to himself and, then, to his family if he failed in this way (or any other way).   (He warned me about the  risks of sex outside of marriage this way: one example was a story he told me several times, about one of his friends in the Navy, who contracted what we now call an STD while they were stationed in Brazil during WWII.  And died of it.  He talked about what a fine man this fellow was, from a good Midwestern family.)

As to women and alcohol, I remember during Freshman Rush at Duke attending a frat party the ATO's threw.  It was the first time I had ever seen drunk women.  Furthermore, the women I saw were my age, and I was shocked.  They were so pretty and fresh, and so loose with "the brothers" in their conduct.  It simply depressed me, Baptist boy.  It still depresses me to see an inebriated woman.  Why is that?  I think I fear for them. They are defenseless and unprotected.

Years later, Carol and I attended a big party at the Indian Creek Country Club, a very exclusive place.  People were all dressed up.  It was something out of a movie.  The alcohol flowed.  Toward midnight, as the party was breaking up, Carol and I saw two women trying to make their way from the tables toward the exit.  They were stumbling drunk, and we were embarrassed for them.  We still talk about it now and then.      

Friday, June 21, 2013

Miami Heading Under Water

“It may be another century before the city is completely underwater (though some more pessimistic scientists predict it could be much sooner),” writes [Rolling Stone] contributing editor Jeff Goodell in the [Rolling Stone] piece, to run in the July 4 issue. “But life in the vibrant metropolis of 5.5 million people will begin to dissolve much quicker, most likely within a few decades. The rising waters will destroy Miami slowly, by seeping into wiring, roads, building foundations and drinking-water supplies — and quickly, by increasing the destructive power of hurricanes.”

Concerns of sea-level rise are not new, nor is the threat news to many South Floridians. But Goodell’s warnings of a watery Armageddon enabled by political ineptitude at the state and federal level generated a buzz Thursday — both supportive and cynical.

-from this morning's Miami Herald, reporting on the Rolling Stone article.

Somehow Venice still rocks along.  Furthermore, I think we have more to fear from "political ineptitude at the state and federal level" than the current meme about climate change.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Retirement Kills

New research presented in this paper indicates that being retired decreases physical, mental and self-assessed health. The adverse effects increase as the number of years spent in retirement increases.

The results vary somewhat depending on the model and research strategy employed. By way of example, the following results were obtained:
  • Retirement decreases the likelihood of being in ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ self-assessed health by about 40 per cent
  • Retirement increases the probability of suffering from clinical depression by about 40 per cent
  • Retirement increases the probability of having at least one diagnosed physical condition by about 60 per cent
  • Retirement increases the probability of taking a drug for such a condition by about 60 per cent.
Higher state pension ages are not only possible (given longer life expectancy) and desirable (given the fiscal costs of state pensions) but later retirement should, in fact, lead to better average health in retirement. As such the government should remove impediments to later retirement that are to be found in state pension systems, disability benefit provision and employment protection legislation.

-Gabriel Sahlgren for the Institute of Economic Affairs, London, in his article "Work Longer, Live Healthier: The relationship between economic activity, health and government policy," describing the results of his research on data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE).  Thanks to the American Association of Individual Investors, in its June 2013 issue of the AAII Journal, for reporting on the Sahlgren research.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Shuckers Restaurant Deck Collapse: Thinking Inside the Box

The piling-supported deck of a waterfront North Miami Beach restaurant, under the weight of 100 or so patrons, collapsed recently.  The municipality in question had recently completed a building inspection that is mandatory for structures 40 years and older.  The restaurant passed the inspection.

“We took it for granted that the whole thing was in there,” said [Building Official Raul] Rodriguez, who signed off on the completed inspection in January.
*   *   *
The concrete blocks covering reinforced steel supporting the deck had deteriorated and  .   .   . much of the steel itself was eaten away, he said Monday in a press conference, four days after the deck of the popular spot collapsed, injuring 24 people as fans cheered on the Miami Heat.
Rodriguez also said Monday that after closely studying a required 40-year inspection for the restaurant and bar, he did not find any mention of an inspection of the deck.

Still, he said, the 40-year inspection determined all buildings and structures and electrical outlets on the property were in good working order – which village officials thought included the deck.
*   *   *

[Engineer Steven] Jawitz, who wrote the January report, responded that Miami-Dade County building code does not require the deck to be inspected. He said he only cleared the building and its electrical system. He refused to say why the deck wasn’t inspected, or whether that decision was his or the restaurant’s owners.

Another example of bureaucratic thinking that hurts people.  If it's not on my checklist, then it's not my job.  Never mind that the point of the exercise is the safety of the citizens who pay the taxes that support the bureaucrat.

And we want to entrust just everything to these people so we can do what, exactly?

Addendum:  Ultimately, the responsibility belongs to the owner.  I haven't verified this, but a friend told me that the owner had pulled a permit to repair the deck in 2011, but had not done anything further. 

"The Young Won't Buy Obamacare"

 [Supreme Court Justice Samuel] Alito pointed out that young, healthy adults today spend an average of $854 a year on health care. ObamaCare would require them to buy insurance policies expected to cost roughly $5,800. The law, then, isn't just asking them to pay for "the services that they are going to consume," he added. "The mandate is forcing these people to provide a huge subsidy to the insurance companies . . . to subsidize services that will be received by somebody else."

Since he puts it that way, why would they sign up for ObamaCare, especially since the alleged penalties will be negligible and likely unenforced?

-Holman Jenkins in today's WSJ.

A very sizable portion of the "somebody else" will be the Yuppie parents of the young people.  Pile this on top of the subsidy the young people are/will be paying to Social Security and other "entitlements".

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my children and their friends.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Men, Women, and Gender, the Incidental, the Essential

Is the essential about being a man or a woman different or is it the same?  I am referring to something beyond being a human being.  Is the way that a man is human essentially different from the way that a woman is human?   Or is there no difference?

This question has come up several times in the last couple of weeks.  It came up as Carol and I listened to some DVD talks by Richard Rohr, who seems to talk as if there is an essential difference between men and women but hedges so carefully about the issue - especially when he has younger women in his audience - that I begin to think that gender is cultural with him.

In my direct experience lately, the question has come up as I observe my wife and my daughter together preparing Mary's apartment for the residency journey, and myself, as I deal with too many "management" issues that seem without end, without a sort of "accomplishment" point or coda, when I can rest, that is, where I can reach a place where I am left alone for awhile, feel pretty good about what I accomplished up to that point, look around, and then decide what I want to do next.  I identify the former  - building, managing, and administering a living place, that is a family economy or village economy or a larger, community economy that will be comfortable and useful over time - with femaleness.  I identify getting to a successful finish, then resting, and then moving on to the next, essentially new task (not just another task or an old task that comes up cyclically) with maleness. 

Two brothers (I'm not referring to my sons) I knew were very successfully in business together, the one the "outside" person - the salesman, the personality, the one coming bck in with the new ideas, and the other the "inside," managing the processes, the employees, the architecture, so firm and sure. Is it more male to be the outside partner?  (But we have two males!)

Does it matter whether gender is essential or cultural?  I think it does, because cultural is changable, although sometimes at a great cost.  Essential, on the other hand, is not changeable.  Spending time challenging the essential is a waste of time, at best, and destructive, at worst.

I am not saying that the essence of being a man is being a husband and father or of being a woman being a wife and mother.  But I will say that the the race depends on this being the case often enough and it is because of the essential differences when it is the case, but it is not necessarily always the case and it does not need to be.  There is a way of being a doctor, I think, that will at some "essential" level  be a male way for men and a female way for women.  And that will be a very good thing.  It would be wrong, however, to deal with men and woman doctors by denying that the differences one sees belong to the essential.  At least so it seems to me.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Urban Farming with Micro-Greens in the Heart of a Miami Warehouse District

The three-acre Miami Green Railway Organic Workshop, or GROW.  Crazy.

Christian Gnosticism showing up: Showing up on unhealthy bodies.

A 2006 Purdue University study first broke the news that religious people tended to be heavier than nonreligious, with "fundamental Christians" weighing in as the heaviest of all religious groups.  Lead researcher Ken Ferraro minced no words: "America is becoming a nation of gluttony and obesity, and churches are a feeding ground for this problem."

-from an excellent article in the June 2013 issue of Christianity Today, entitled "The Fitness Driven Church."

More from the article, written by the very gifted Leslie Leyland Fields:

"We've been teaching very little about 'body,' and when we do, it's primarily negative: don't get drunk, don't smoke or take drugs, and don't have sex outside of marriage," Gary Thomas, author of Every Body Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul, tells me. "Until recently, we've not known where to go from there."

After years of being a consumer of MSEM ("Mainstream Evangelical Media,") whether directly from the pulpit, in Sunday School classes, at conferences, magazines, etc., it has only been in the last several years that I awakened to what I describe as an aspect of Christian Gnosticism, an aspect that ignores the importance of what we put into our bodies and taking care of them.  Ms. Fields refers to the problem as "dualism".  Her article quotes 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, and that's one of many appropriate Biblical references:

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

My kids will remind me that, years ago, when I taught a high school Sunday School class that each of them attended, I would bring to each class meeting a box of a dozen freshly baked donuts from Dunkin'.  Mea culpa.  On the subject of churches feeding children and young people bad food (not to mention adults), Ms. Fields reports:

An 18-year Northwestern University study released in 2011 found those who attended youth group as teenagers were 50 percent more likely to be obese by the time they were 50 than those who didn't.

(Two years I posted on a fine article in CT written by Leslie Leyland Fields on the matter of what church-goers eat.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Locked, Loaded, and Ready to Go!"

[A]ccording to a handful of quarterback tutors, including Trent Dilfer and Chris Weinke, among others who have recently praised Tebow’s changed throwing motion, he won’t be throwing his signature lame-duck passes for much longer, either.

“Like I told Tim when I found out (Monday) that he signed, ‘You’re locked and loaded, ready to go,’” Weinke told USA Today on Tuesday.

The most recent praise came from former IFL (Intense Football League) All-Star Dennis Gile, who worked extensively with Tebow on his throwing mechanics for more than three months in Scottsdale, Ariz., after last season. Gile, who was himself once signed by the Patriots as a undrafted free agent in 2003 but was subsequently released during training camp, told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that Tebow’s throwing motion has become “100 times better.”

-from today's New York Dailey News.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

All Things Do Not Automatically Work Themselves into a Pattern of Good.

Growing up at Central Baptist Church in the Fifties meant a lot of Scripture memorization.  It was not drudgery for a child.  In fact, because the adults took Scripture so seriously, a child quoting Scripture would become the center of admiring attention.  My mind filled up with Bible verses and even chapters, all King James Version.  The Scripture in that translation still inhabits me.  One fragment from Romans 8 is verse 28:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

All things work together for good?

John Stott writes that

the familiar AV [KJV] rendering 'all things work together for good' is surely to be rejected, since all things do not automatically work themselves into a pattern of good.  The AV statement would be acceptable only if  'it is the sovereign guidance of God that is presumed as the undergirding and directing force behind all the events of life' [citation omitted].   An early copyist evidently felt the need to make this explicit by making 'God' as the subject of the verb.  But the manuscript for this reading, although 'both ancient and noteworthy' [citation omitted] is insufficient to secure its acceptance.  The addition is also unnecessary, for the order of the words permits the translation 'we know that for those who love God he is working .  .  . '.  He is ceaselessly, energetically, and purposefully working on their behalf.  Stott, The Message of Romans, p. 247.

The Revised English Bible (1989) gets it right:

[A]nd in everything, as we know, he [God] co-operates for good with those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

The NIV (1983) somewhat similar:

And we know in all things [even sad and desperate things] God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

When things work out, absent God's cooperation they tend not to work out.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Better Late than Never for Wal-Mart and its Groceries

 Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which is working to keep its produce aisles fresh, announced steps to improve the quality of its fresh fruits and vegetables.

The nation's largest grocer and retailer said Monday it is making more changes in its operations, training and sourcing as it looks to increase sales of bananas, lettuce and other produce and instill more confidence among shoppers looking for healthier choices.

-from an AP report in today's Herald.

Here's more:

But analysts say that despite Wal-Mart's pledge to make its food healthier, its produce often looks tired and well below the quality of rivals like Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Costco and Kroger. C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, says that at Wal-Mart, some of the "produce is fresh, some isn't."

"It's not consistent," he says, describing some of the fresh fruit as "wilted."

Burt Flickinger III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group says it's key for grocers to make sure they offer the freshest strawberries, cabbage and the like since produce carries 50 percent higher profit margins than canned fruits and vegetables. It also adds a halo to the store brand and fosters shopper loyalty.

"Consumers don't have confidence in Wal-Mart's fresh produce the way they have confidence in Whole Foods, Costco and other competitors," says Flickinger. He and others say that a big factor is that Wal-Mart has cut so much store staff that it doesn't have as many workers to stock the shelves in a timely manner.

Look at those profit margins on produce.  One can do well by doing good in the retail food business.  What a concept.

The comment about Wal-Mart cutting its staff is very telling.  I remember a successful businessman in my church years ago telling me that "You've got to have good people working for you, Paul." 

Later, a successful business consultant, my older son's father in law, told me that he had never met a lawyer yet who had enough help.  What he was referring to is the tendancy of "good" lawyers not to let things go, that is, not to delegate and to develop people who are competent to receive delegation.  (You can't bill for teaching, and we worship the billable hour.)  He made that observation just as I was leaving the big firm and opening the small one.

It was the best practice advice I have ever received, and it came at just the right time.  At the old firm, I had a paralegal, a half a secretary, and one half of an associate.  (Plus a gigantic staff for 300- 400 lawyers, a staff with its own inertia and inefficiency.) The firm would not allow me to hire anyone else.  (Their advice was to work harder, if I had more work than I could presently handle.)

Now we are six lawyers, three paralegals, one secretary, and a lot of technology - all growing from the same practice.  (Plus a staff of five, some part time, who are extremely efficient and nimble.)

Meeting Steve Peifer

Carol and I had the honor of meeting Steve Peifer Saturday night.  We drove up to Boca Raton for dinner with Steve at P.F. Chang's, and Mary was with us.  She had gotten to know Steve and his wife well when Mary was at RVA.  I'm still thinking about that occasion with Steve, having never met anyone like him.  Ever. 

As evident in his recent book A Dream so Big,  he is a natural story teller.  He doesn't take several pages to tell the story.  He can grab you and finish you off in a paragraph on the written page and in a few sentences over a meal.  Grab you and finish with you unforgettably.  What a gift!

And there are gifts onto gifts with Steve, because his stories are about his interactions with people.  That gift on the gift of story telling is the way he creates a story.  He has a natural willingness to engage people in situations in which people like me would not engage (would not engage as my brothers the priest and the Levite in Luke 10 would not engage).  I would, for example, have ignored the young woman who walked up to Steve early one morning in a 24 hour grocery store in the States to  tell him in a challenging way about her very recent coke-fueled debauchery.  Steve said he looked at her and asked her what she was doing with her life.  She broke down in tears and followed him to his car in the parking lot, where they prayed and she gave her life to Christ.  And that wasn't it.  That story goes on about God's restorative Grace in this young woman's life.  Steve's right in the middle of it.  Good grief!  Wake up, Stokes!  What is going on around you into which God would call you if you just got out of and over yourself?

The Huffington Post has an excerpt of his book.