Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Half of Americans struggle to stay happy

What a wonderful testimony to government by conservatives (sarcasm alert)


updated 1 hour, 23 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - Staying healthy and happy is a struggle for about half of Americans, according to a massive survey that attempts to measure the nation’s general welfare, much like the Dow Jones Industrial Average portrays the health of the stock market.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, based on interviews of more than 100,000 people so far, shows that 47 percent of Americans are struggling and 4 percent are suffering. Forty-nine percent of respondents are reported to be thriving based on a personal assessment of how they feel about their lives at the time of the survey, and where they think they’ll be in five years.
Those who are thriving tend to have higher incomes, more education and less illness. Those who are suffering have trouble meeting their basic needs, including food, shelter and medical care, said James Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist for workplace management and well-being.

Just as the U.S is not No. 1 when it comes to health measures, it also is not No. 1 in well-being, he said. For example, 83 percent of the residents of Denmark are classified as thriving versus 1 percent who are suffering.
Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that the United States invests more on health care than any country, but that its health care system ranks 37th.

DNA results free man after 27 years in prison


James Woodard is the 18th person in Dallas to have conviction vacated
updated 2:40 p.m. ET, Tues., April. 29, 2008

DALLAS - A man who spent more than 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit was freed Tuesday, after being incarcerated longer than any other wrongfully convicted U.S. inmate cleared by DNA testing.
Overall, 31 people have been formally exonerated through DNA testing in Texas, also a national high. That does not include Woodard and at least three others whose exonerations will not become official until Gov. Rick Perry grants pardons or the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals formally accepts the ruling of lower courts that have already recommended exoneration.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Wow, what timing. I found this shortly after posting my poem/song "The Stranger in the Mirror".
Of course, my poem is not about this delusion, but what a coincidence.


ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2008) — Researchers at Macquarie University have developed an original new approach to the study of delusions, using hypnosis to temporarily create typical delusional beliefs in otherwise non-delusional people.
People suffering from mirrored-self misidentification believe that the person they see when they look in the mirror is not them, but some stranger who looks similar to them.

Friendly Germs


ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2008) — Children who attend day care or play groups have about a 30% lower risk of developing the most common type of childhood leukaemia than those who do not, according to a new analysis of studies investigating the link.

Friendly Germs


ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2008) — Children who attend day care or play groups have about a 30% lower risk of developing the most common type of childhood leukaemia than those who do not, according to a new analysis of studies investigating the link.

Our Big Feet


ScienceDaily (Apr. 29, 2008) — An MIT class has estimated the carbon emissions of Americans in a wide variety of lifestyles -- from the homeless to multimillionaires, from Buddhist monks to soccer moms -- and compared them to those of other nations. The somewhat disquieting bottom line is that in the United States, even the people with the lowest usage of energy are still producing, on average, more than double the global per-capita average. Whether you live in a cardboard box or a luxurious mansion, whether you subsist on homegrown vegetables or wolf down imported steaks, whether you're a jet-setter or a sedentary retiree, anyone who lives in the U.S. contributes more than twice as much greenhouse gas to the atmosphere as the global average, an MIT class has estimated.
While it may seem surprising that even people whose lifestyles don't appear extravagant--the homeless, monks, children--are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions, one major factor is the array of government services that are available to everyone in the United States. These basic services--including police, roads, libraries, the court system and the military--were allocated equally to everyone in the country in this study. Other services that are more specific, such as education or Medicare, were allocated only to those who actually make use of them.

Team Spirit

There's hope for the world if we can learn to enlarge our definition of "our team" .


ScienceDaily (Apr. 29, 2008)
People act in their own best interests, according to traditional views of how and why we make the decisions that we do. However, psychologists at the Universities of Leicester and Exeter have recently found evidence that this assumption is not necessarily true. In fact the research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, shows that most of us will act in the best interest of our team -- often at our own expense.

The Stranger in the Mirror

The Stranger in the Mirror
copyright 2001 Patricia M. Shannon

Who is that stranger I see in the mirror?
I wonder who it can be.
That middle-aged person with gray-streaked hair,
looking out at me.

I don't have wrinkles and age spots I know,
so it is plain to see -
that person I see staring out of the mirror
simply can't be me.

I used to think life was so vast,
I could do all that I cared.
But now I find life is racing so fast,
I'm running in place, but getting nowhere.

While there's so many books I still want to read,
so many things to do,
so many places I haven't been,
so many things to learn about you.

So, who is that stranger I see in the mirror?
I wonder who it can be.
That middle-aged person with gray-streaked hair,
simply can't be me.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Injecting Sulfate Particles into Stratosphere Could Have Drastic Impact on Earth's Ozone Layer


April 24, 2008

A much-discussed idea to offset global warming by injecting sulfate particles into the stratosphere would have a drastic impact on Earth's protective ozone layer, new research concludes.

The study, led by Simone Tilmes of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., warns that such an approach would delay the recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole by decades and cause significant ozone loss over the Arctic.
The new study concluded that, over the next few decades, artificial injections of sulfates could destroy between one-fourth and three-fourths of the ozone layer above the Arctic. This could affect a large part of the Northern Hemisphere because of atmospheric circulation patterns.

The sulfates would also delay the expected recovery of the ozone hole over the Antarctic by about 30 to 70 years, or until at least the last decade of the twentieth century, the authors warn. The ozone layer is critical for life on Earth because it blocks dangerous ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.

"This study highlights another connection between global warming and ozone depletion, which had been thought of as separate problems but are now increasingly recognized to be coupled in subtle, yet profoundly important, ways," says Science Express paper co-author Ross Salawitch of the University of Maryland.

common vitamin and other micronutrient supplements reduce risks of TB recurrence


Contact: Steve Baragona
Infectious Diseases Society of America

New findings show a link between micronutrient supplementation and reduced risk of recurrence during tuberculosis chemotherapy, according to a study published in the June 1 issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases, now available online.
The study showed that micronutrient supplementation was associated with reduced rates of TB recurrence. In the study, both HIV-infected and uninfected patients with pulmonary TB who were receiving the supplements had a decreased risk of TB recurrence during the next few months after the TB culture had become negative: 45 percent overall and 63 percent in HIV-infected patients. Supplementation also reduced the incidence of peripheral neuropathy by 57 percent, irrespective of HIV status, and increased the levels of certain cells (CD3 and CD4) important in immune response in HIV-uninfected patients.

Passive Smoking Almost Doubles Risk Of Degenerative Eye Disease


ScienceDaily (Jan. 3, 2006) — Passive smoking almost doubles the risk of the progressively degenerative eye disease, age related macular degeneration, shows research in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Breathing dirty air may lower kids' IQ


Heavy pollution tied to low memory and intellegence scores, study says
updated 6:04 p.m. ET Fri., Feb. 15, 2008
Kids who live in neighborhoods with heavy traffic pollution have lower IQs and score worse on other tests of intelligence and memory than children who breathe cleaner air, a new study shows.

The effect of pollution on intelligence was similar to that seen in children whose mothers smoked 10 cigarettes a day while pregnant, or in kids who have been exposed to lead, said Dr. Shakira Franco Suglia of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, the study's lead author.

My Most-Hated Stuff

My Most Hated Stuff
copyright Patricia M. Shannon 2000
(to the tune of "My Favorite Things"
from "The Sound of Music")

Atlanta drivers, those honking tail-gaters,
who never slow down, whatever the weather,
people who turn up the sound way too much,
this are just some of my most-hated stuff.

Hot southern summers with no air-conditioning,
cold winter days without enough heating,
paychecks that run out 'cause they're not enough,
this are just some of my most-hated stuff.

Life is so short, that it is tough,
not to feel sad.
But I remember my most-hated stuff
and then I don't feel so bad!

Swimsuits cut so high I don't dare to move,
painful deformed feet from pointy-toed shoes,
pantyhose that simply will not stay up,
this are just some of my most-hated stuff.

Changing the tires, adjusting the brakes,
comp-time I'm owed that they won't let me take,
jock itch that simply will never let up,
this are just some of my most-hated stuff!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

song for Earth Day

Take Care of Our Planet
copyright 2001 Patricia M. Shannon

Walking in the early sunlight, with the calling birds,
I see the trees against the newborn sky;
listening to the breeze, I hear God's voice
saying "Take care of this planet, don't make it die!"
We must

take care of our planet,
it's the only home we have;
it will give us what we need,
if we treat it respectfully.
He did not make the earth to be just a toy,
or an enemy with which we are at war;
remember that we were just an afterthought,
stewards and not owners are what we are.

Now some say the end is coming,
so we'll need the earth no more;
He said no one will expect it,
might be 10,000 years to go.


He did not mean for us to be parasites,
always taking destruction to new heights,
killing off the species He so carefully planned,
in the interdependent web of life.

Don't depend on some angels,
or a space ship from on high
to save you from your own folly,
if you do, you're sure to die."


Friday, April 18, 2008

My feet were sore and my back was hurting one day, so as those musically inclined often do, I made up a little ditty on the spot, which turned out to be the first line of the song below. I wasn't planning on writing a whole song at that point, just playing around. Well, it started growing.

I did substitute teaching in several schools in poor neighborhoods in the early 1990's, and I told the students it was important for them to get an education.

One time at a middle school, I put some facts on the board about the average incomes of people who hadn't finished high school, those who had, and those who got a college degree.
They asked me why I was telling them that.
The boys didn't think they needed to study, because they were sure they were going to be rich, famous music or sports stars.
The girls were all sure they would get married to a man who supported them.
I asked them if they knew any women who had done that.
There was silence for several moments, then one of the girls finally said "my grandmother".

Being positive and optimistic is not enough, no matter how many people get rich by telling other people they can get rich by being positive and optimistic! The way to get rich is to write a book telling people that everybody can be rich and happy just by believing it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Aching Body and the Hungry Belly Blues

The Aching Body and the Hungry Belly Blu
copyright 2000 Patricia M. Shannon

Oh, my feet are aching and my back sure hurts,
I'm so tired of digging in this hard clay dirt.
My kids are hungry, and I've got no food,
and winter's coming. Well, I've got the blues.

The blues, I've got the blues;
the achin' body and the hungry belly blues

When I was a kid, I had such big plans,
when I was grown, I would be a rich man;
No need to study 'cause I knew that I'd be
the star quarterback on an NFL team.

When I was in high school, I was the big star,
I could outrun everybody by far;
but when I got to college, I found there to be
many more players much better than me.

I played football in college a couple of years,
but those remedial courses, they kept me tears.
When I goofed off in high school, I did not see
I could not live my life by what you see on TV.

The blues, that's why I've got the blues;
the achin' body and the hungry belly blues.

When I was a young man, I met the one
who will always be my rising sun;
when I asked her to be my wife, I said
"I will make you happy the rest of your life."

When we got married, we hadn't a clue
about being adults, or what we should do.
When we got married, we hadn't a plan,
and the children came quickly, all four of them.

I try to teach my children the way they should be
so they don't end up diggin' ditches like me;
I try to teach my children the way they should go
so they don't end up in a lifetime of woe.

The blues, they ain't going to have the blues,
the achin' body and the hungry belly blues.

Now, three of my kids, they're doing just great,
but my youngest child, he makes my heart break;
"No need to study,", said he to me,
'cause a platinum rock (or, rap) star was what he would be.

The blues, now he's got the blues,
the achin' body and the hungry belly blues.

high hopes


89% of young high-achieving women believe they can get pregnant into their 40s. In reality, only 3-5% of women in their early 40s are able to have a live birth using in vitro fertilization.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dust Mites Outlast Heroic Efforts To Help Asthma Patients


ScienceDaily (Apr. 16, 2008)
Asthma sufferers might as well stop wasting energy and money on labor-intensive or costly interventions to get rid of household dust, according to a new review of studies.

"We can conclude with confidence that there is no need to buy expensive vacuum cleaners or mattress covers or to use chemical methods against house dust mites, because these treatments do not work," said lead author Peter Gotzsche, M.D.
the 54-study review of 3,000 asthma patients finds that no chemical or physical intervention to reduce exposure to house dust mites is effective.

even little tiny fruit flies do it

(In case you didn't notice, the title I chose for this entry is a modification part of a famous song.)

Fittest Males Don't Always Get The Girl

ScienceDaily (Apr. 16, 2008)
The fittest males don't always get the girl, USC biologists report. Study tackles a paradox in species from fruit flies to humans: If warriors win the spoils, why don't males evolve towards super-aggressiveness?

There is more to mating than beating up the competition, according to a new study. Female fruit flies sometimes choose males who win fights, sometimes choose males who do not fight, and sometimes choose males for no obvious reason, say biologists from the University of Southern California; Cal State University, Sacramento; and the University of California, Davis.

The findings help explain the large variation in aggressiveness in most species, including humans.
One reason for the variation, according to the study and to previous research on lizards by other groups, may be that no fighting strategy works all the time, just as in the game rock-scissors-paper.
"There's no single way to win a fight, or win mates," he added. "Females didn't necessarily prefer aggressive males -- some males mated less when they lost fights, but some males mated more if they didn't fight. Moreover, different females preferred different males."

"Unexpected interactions between individuals can define winners and losers (so-called 'chemistry')," Foley concluded. "In order to understand why flies, and humans, and other animals, are so genetically different from each other, we need to stop imagining there's a 'best' kind of strategy."

Monday, April 14, 2008

You Don't Have To Hate Other Groups To Love Your Own

This a great article. I suggest reading the whole thing.


ScienceDaily (Aug. 19, 2007) — Shiite vs. Sunni. Red state vs. Blue state. Immigrant vs. native.

While it may appear that conflict is an inevitable part of interaction between groups, research actually suggests that fighting, hating and contempt between groups is not a necessary part of human nature, according to an Ohio State University professor of psychology.
Brewer has spent much of her career studying “ingroups” – the groups we belong to – and their relations with “outgroups” – those groups to which others belong.
Brewer said recent evidence suggests that people's attachment to their ingroups has nothing to do with conflict – or indeed any other kind of relation – to other groups.

Instead, people join groups to find a place of trust and security.

“Simply put, we prefer people of our kind, people we know we can rely on. That doesn't mean you have to hate anyone else. But you will be more likely to trust people from your own group,” Brewer said.

In one recent study, for example, Brewer found that people tended to put more trust in total strangers when they learned this stranger attended the same university they did.

“All you need is to have that shared group identity,” she said.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


This was inspired by the idea that we should believe a particular religion, just in case it is true.

copyright 1992 Patricia M. Shannon

I have an acquaintance named Sue
who believes all religions are true
because she can't tell
which will send her to hell
if she doesn't sit in its pew!

Hunger Walk song music

I finally got an mp3 of Hunger Walk song made, so people can hear how to sing it.
The lyrics were posted at fighthunger.org, and they had asked my to send an mp3, so people would know how to sing it.
Since fighthunger.org has been shut down and replaced by http://www.wfp.org/english/
which is the United Nations World Food Program, I opened a myspace page and put it there.

This recording is not something you would listen to for enjoyment, but it does let people know how to sing it. If I had been paying for it instead of using a coupon, I would have sung it in a lower key than is in the hymnbook. It still wouldn't have sounded like a professional singer, but it would have been better. Well, you get what you pay for, in general. Eventually I'll put some songs up that were recorded by professionals.

It is freely available for the support of programs to help the needy on a non-sectarian basis.
Ie., a religious group may use it, but the help must be given on a non-sectarian basis.
I hope it might be used by church choirs, groups performing at a hunger walk event, people performing at a concert or open mic, etc.

Go to

(and no, the lady at www.myspace.com/patriciashannon is not me.)

If you've seen the words posted here, you might notice that I made a slight change to make it more singable ("community food banks" --> "that our food banks")

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Growing Up or Growing Down?

That "science" article about animals remembering things from the past "proving" they don't have a conception of the past motivates this post.

Growing Up or Growing Down?
copyright 1987 Patricia M. Shannon

Most people I know are like ants in a hill,
not thinking, just acting as part of the mass.
Like half-alive puppets they walk in a daze,
when they try to converse, they just talk in cliches.

They say they worship different gods,
sometimes none at all.
But their gods are all the same,
"everybody else" and monetary gain.

Mixed feelings I get when I play with a child,
so eager to learn and so ready to grow;
such sorrow I feel when I see how we crush children's spirits
in order to make them like us.

Dumb humans

The article "Are Animals Stuck in Time" shows the desperation many humans have to prove that we are different from other animals in a qualitative way, not just a quantitative way. He finds that animals can remember if they did something in the past, then he claims that his research supports his theory that animals are stuck in time!


Animals Are 'Stuck In Time' With Little Idea Of Past Or Future, Study Suggests
ScienceDaily (Apr. 7, 2008)

William Roberts and his colleagues in Western’s Psychology Department found that rats are able to keep track of how much time has passed since they discovered a piece of cheese, be it a little or a lot, but they don’t actually form memories of when the discovery occurred. That is, the rats can’t place the memories in time.
“This research,” said Roberts, “supports the theory I introduced that animals are stuck in time, with no sense of time extending into the past or future.”

Low-carbon Living Takes Off In The US


ScienceDaily (Apr. 8, 2008) — Cohousing offers a low-carbon lifestyle, and developers are poised for a market that could soon burgeon in the US, according to a new study. Until now, cohousing has occupied a niche market in the US, but the paper by Dr Jo Williams at UCL (University College London) suggests the situation is changing. Cohousing not only helps to halve energy use, it offers health and social benefits for families and older people seeking secure and affordable homes.

Cohousing in the US typically comprises private living units (houses or flats) with shared spaces such as a gym, office space, workshops, laundry facilities and a cafe. Those living in cohousing consume nearly 60 per cent less energy in the home, and operate car-sharing and recycling schemes that greatly reduce the pollution from travel and landfill. Having facilities such as office space, workshops and gym within the community also reduces travel and associated emissions. Residents’ direct involvement in the management and maintenance of these communities has also led to the adoption of more energy-efficient systems and renewable sources of energy.

Safe 'Green' Decontamination Method Detoxifies Nerve Agents In Chemical Weapons And Pesticides

Looks like some good news on the environmental front.


ScienceDaily (Apr. 8, 2008) — Research by two Queen's University scientists has resulted in an exciting new method for rapidly and safely destroying toxic agents such as chemical weapons and pesticides.

Recently completed testing by an independent European defence corporation has shown the researchers’ method to be greater than 99 per cent effective when used on the deadly nerve agents Tabun, Soman and VX.

Prenatal Exposure To Drugs, Alcohol And Tobacco Affect The Brain Into Early Adolescence

Note this study does not mean that these drugs don't have an effect after adolescence. It's unlikely that they effects will suddenly stop at this point in time.


ScienceDaily (Apr. 8, 2008) — Although behavioral studies clearly indicate that exposure to drugs, alcohol and tobacco in utero is bad for a baby's developing brain, specific anatomic brain effects have been hard to tease out in humans. Often users don't limit themselves to one substance, and demographic factors like poverty can also influence brain development.

Now, a new study using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans, led by Children's Hospital Boston neurologist Michael Rivkin, MD, suggests that prenatal exposure to cocaine, alcohol, marijuana or tobacco (alone or in combination) may have effects on brain structure that persist into early adolescence. The findings, published in Pediatrics, are of public health significance, the researchers say, since it's estimated that more than 1 million babies born annually in the United States have been exposed to at least one of these agents in utero.

Researchers at Children's and Boston Medical Center employed volumetric MRI imaging to study the brain structure of 35 young adolescents prenatally exposed to cocaine, marijuana, alcohol or tobacco. The children, who averaged 12 years old at the time of imaging, were part of part of an historic cohort of children assembled by Deborah Frank, MD at Boston Medical Center and followed there since birth. Prenatal exposures were confirmed by a combination of maternal history, urine testing of the mother or urine or meconium (stool) testing of the infants at birth.

"We found that reductions in cortical gray matter and total brain volumes were associated with prenatal exposure to cocaine, alcohol or cigarettes," says Rivkin, who is first author on the study. "Importantly, although volume reductions were associated with each of these three prenatal exposures, they were not associated with any one of these substances alone after controlling for other exposures."

Notably, the effects were found to be additive--the more substances a child was exposed to in utero, the greater the reduction in brain volume.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Studies' message to women: Keep your cool


Public release date: 2-Apr-2008
Contact: Bill Hathaway
Yale University

New Haven, Conn.-Whether you are running for president or looking for a clerical job, you cannot afford to get angry if you are a woman, Yale University psychologist Victoria Brescoll has found.

Brescoll and Eric Uhlmann at Northwestern University recently completed three separate studies to explore a phenomenon that may be all-too-familiar to women like New York Senator Hillary Clinton: People accept and even reward men who get angry but view women who lose their temper as less competent

The studies, published in the March issue of Psychological Science, provide women with recommendations for navigating emotional hazards of the workplace. Brescoll says it pays to stay emotionally neutral and, if you can't, at least explain what ticked you off in the first place.

Clinton's presidential campaign has put a spotlight on the question of whether anger hurts a female candidate. The answer, according to the studies, appears to be an unequivocal yes - unless the anger deals with treatment of a family member.

"An angry woman loses status, no matter what her position,'' said Brescoll, who worked in Clinton's office as a Congressional Fellow in 2004 while she was preparing her doctoral thesis on gender bias. She noticed over the years that women pay a clear price for showing anger and men don't.

In all studies, both men and women were shown videos of actors portraying men and women who were ostensibly applying for a job. The participants in the studies were then asked to rate applicants on how much responsibility they should be given, their perceived competence, whether they should be hired, and how much they should get paid.

Both men and women in the reached the same conclusions: Angry men deserved more status, a higher salary, and were expected to be better at the job than angry women.

When those actor/applicants expressed sadness, however, the bias was less evident, and women applicants were ranked equally to men in status and competence, but not in salary.

Brescoll and her colleague then compared angry job applicants to ones who did not display any emotion. And this time the researchers showed study participants videos of both men and women applying for lower-status jobs. The findings were duplicated: Angry men were valued more highly than angry women no matter what level position they were applying for. However, the disparities disappeared when men and women who were emotionally neutral were ranked.

A final study showed another way bias against female anger could be mitigated. When women actors explained why they were angry, observers tended to cut them more slack. However, Brescoll noted a final gender difference: Men could actually be hurt when they explained why they were angry - perhaps, says the Yale psychologist, because observers tend to see this as a sign of weakness.

nutrient reduces risk of breast cancer


Public release date: 3-Apr-2008
Contact: Edelman Public Relations
Edelman Public Relations

Essential nutrient found in eggs reduces risk of breast cancer by 24 percent

Park Ridge, Ill. (April 3, 2008) Choline, an essential nutrient found in foods such as eggs, is associated with a 24 percent reduced risk of breast cancer, according to a study supported by a grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), to be published in The FASEB Journal’s print issue in June.(1) This study adds to the growing body of evidence that links egg consumption to a decreased risk of breast cancer.

In this new case-control study of more than 3,000 adult women, the risk of developing breast cancer was 24 percent lower among women with the highest intake of choline compared to women with the lowest intake. Women with the highest intake of choline consumed a daily average of 455 mg of choline or more, getting most of it from coffee, eggs and skim milk. Women with the lowest intake consumed a daily average of 196 milligrams or less.

“Choline is needed for the normal functioning of cells, no matter your age or gender,” says Steven H. Zeisel, MD, PhD, University of North Carolina, who is an author of the study and a leading choline researcher. “Increasing evidence shows that it may be particularly important for women, particularly those of child-bearing age.”

Only ten percent of Americans currently meet the recommended intake for choline, identifying a need to increase choline intake across the population.(2) According to the Institute of Medicine, adequate choline intake is 550 milligrams per day for men and breastfeeding women, 425 milligrams per day for women, and 450 milligrams per day for pregnant women.(3) One egg contains 125.5 milligrams of choline, or roughly a quarter the recommended daily supply, making eggs an excellent source of this essential nutrient.(4) Choline is found exclusively in the egg’s yolk. Other top food sources of choline include liver, wheat germ and cauliflower.

More on Bats


Public release date: 3-Apr-2008
Contact: Jim Erickson
University of Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---If you get a chance to sip some shade-grown Mexican organic coffee, please pause a moment to thank the bats that helped make it possible.

At Mexican organic coffee plantations, where pesticides are banned, bats and birds work night and day to control insect pests that might otherwise munch the crop.

Save the bats


Public release date: 3-Apr-2008
Contact: Beth King
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Smithsonian researchers show major role of bats in plant protectionResearchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute report that bats significantly reduce insect abundance and damage on plants. In a lowland tropical rainforest in Panama, bats can consume roughly twice as many plant-eating insects as do birds. This landmark study in the journal Science is the first to compare the ability of bats and birds to protect plants via insect predation in a natural forest ecosystem.A previous study by the authors suggested that bats were underestimated predators of plant eating insects, based on video recordings of feeding events. In the current study, Smithsonian short-term fellow Margareta Kalka, and co-authors Elisabeth Kalko, institute staff scientist and professor at the Institute of Experimental Ecology at the University of Ulm, and Smithsonian postdoctoral fellow Adam Smith, separated the insect-control effects of bats and birds by placing netting enclosures over five common tropical plant species only at night or only by day. Uncovered control plants accessed by both bats and birds lost merely 4.3 percent of their leaf area to insect herbivores. When only birds were excluded, plants lost 7.2 percent of their leaf area. When only bats were excluded, plants lost a striking 13.3 percent of their leaf area, demonstrating that in the tropical forest understory bats can be more effective pest control agents than birds.
It is clear from both studies that bats play an extremely important role in the food chain in the tropics and probably in temperate areas as well.

How much work does a husband create?


Apr. 3, 2008
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Having a husband creates an extra seven hours a week of housework for women, according to a University of Michigan study of a nationally representative sample of U.S. families.

For men, the picture is very different: A wife saves men from about an hour of housework a week.
Certainly there are all kinds of individual differences here, but in general, this is what happens after marriage. And the situation gets worse for women when they have children."

Just a Dog

Just a Dog
copyright 1996 Patricia M. Shannon

She's just a dog, so some folks say,
but she's been a loyal friend to me;
so when she makes her final journey
I hope to keep her company.

She's by my feet, all thru the night,
where she keeps them comfy warm;
when anybody comes around,
she always gives a loud alarm!

She's not ashamed to let it show
how much she depends on me;
and that she's sad when I am gone,
co-dependent she'll gladly be!

She'll risk her life to keep me safe,
something no man I know could say;
when all my beaus have gone awy,
she has always faithful stayed.

She's just a dog, so some folks say,
but she's been a loyal friend to me;
so when she makes her final journey
I hope to keep her company.

The Light of Love

This could be about various kinds of love, including but not limited to romantic love,
so it can be considered a belated Valentine's Day poem/song.
I would say that this is how most of my dogs have felt about me!
The Light of Love
copyright 1991 Patricia M. Shannon

The glow of sunset paints the sky,
I wait for you to come to me,
and bring the sunrise to my life;
I'm filled with light when you're with me.

What a miracle is love;
how it transforms our very soul.
I felt that I had lived too long;
but now my love lights up the world.

Come and lie here in my arms,
and feel the healing glow of love;
feel the strength and peace that come
from communion with the ones we love.

A little anxiety pays sometimes


Public release date: 3-Apr-2008

Contact: Catherine West
Association for Psychological Science

Anxiety gets a lot of bad press. Dwelling on the negative can lead to chronic stress and anxiety disorders and phobias, but evolutionarily speaking, anxiety holds some functional value. In humans, learning to avoid harm is necessary not only for surviving in the face of basic threats (such as predators or rotten food), but also for avoiding more complex social or economic threats (such as enemies or questionable investments).

A team of psychologists at Stanford University have identified a region of the brain, the anterior insula, which plays a key role in predicting harm and also learning to avoid it. In a new study, Gregory Samanez-Larkin and colleagues scanned the brains of healthy adults while they anticipated losing money.

Adults with greater activation of their insula while anticipating a financial loss were better at learning to avoid financial losses in a separate game several months later. Conversely, participants with low levels of insula activation had a harder time learning to avoid losses and lost more money in the game as a result.

For these subjects, higher levels of insula activation helped them to learn to avoid losses months later. However, researchers have found that excessive insula activation might prove problematic. Previous research has shown that people who are chronically fearful and anxious have abnormal patterns of insula activation. So, while people with excessive insula activity are at risk for psychological disorders like anxiety and phobias, higher levels of insula activation in the normal range may allow people to avoid potentially harmful situations.

The findings, which appear in the April issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, point toward an optimal level of anxiety. While a healthy amount of anxiety grants some survival value, too much may lead to excessive worry and clinical conditions. This may help to explain why anxious traits persist in humanity's genetic endowment, even as environmental threats vary over the ages.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

How to Make a Difference


Through rebates and incentives designed to entice customers to use less energy, California utilities were able to stabilize energy demand while its population and economy grew by 79 percent.

"Energy-efficiency improvements remain the fastest, cheapest, cleanest energy resource," says Dr. Marilyn Brown of Georgia Tech. It's the low-hanging fruit in terms of what utilities, states and consumers can pluck to achieve conservation. Along with phasing out coal-fired power plants, it's one of the recommendations made by the EIP report's authors for what states can do to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

"Energy efficiency in buildings has got to be your top priority," says Dennis Creech, executive director of Southface. He says customers can build or invest in energy-efficient homes and cut their power bills by up to 40 percent. The improvements sometimes pay for themselves in savings in as little as two years.

One approach states can use is advocated by experts such as Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute: demand-side management, a fancy term that essentially means utilities, such as Georgia Power, offer customers a financial or tax incentive to reduce energy use. Consumers would pay less for energy, and energy providers would save money because the conservation would mean less need for new power plants.

"What we don't have is the public policy for energy efficiency or solar," Creech says. "A lot of states now are offering tax credits, and a lot of utilities are offering incentives for energy efficiency – significant incentives. If you look at New York and California, their energy use has stayed flat over the last 10-20 years. And why is that? It's because they've had significant investment in efficiency, primarily by the utilities industry."