Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blog Action Day - So Many People In The Same Device

I am by no means the oldest blogger in the world, but, being in my 50's, I think I have a different perspective than the typical poster. For instance, I'm actually old enough to remember an era when music recordings were stored in analogue form, on vinyl discs [okay, most of you probably know about vinyl. The progressives among you may even own an example or two]!

I remember 1975's release of the self-titled debut from Ambrosia. One of its tracks featured the group putting music to lyrics Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. wrote for his book Cat's Cradle. The song was "Nice Nice Very Nice" [lyrics here]; its theme, the interconnectedness of life.

Of course, interconnection can be good, bad, or, as frequently happens, both. Take India's Kasmir glaciers. They serve as water sources for millions of people who live in the region. Unfortunately, because of the planetary warming caused by climate change, the glaciers are melting too quickly. The anti-poverty group ActionAid has noted that most of the glaciers in the area [the waters shared by India and Pakistan] have shrunk dramatically. The group adds that rain and snow fall have been affected in many areas worldwide by climate change; the changes have reduced food production in many regions of the world. Thus, the Kasmir crisis is being repeated many times over, frequently in areas that were having trouble feeding their populations even before climate change.

We live on a planet that is virally interconnected; the latest Michael Jackson news, reported in Los Angeles, becomes headline fodder for London, Caracas, or Sydney in seconds. While it's certainly good to have multi-national communications, there are downsides. People in underdeveloped countries get glimpses of the industrialized world, and aspire to be a part. Consumerism drives countries to demolish their precious eco-structures, to free up more land for industry and resources. In the world of the "haves", consumption and pollution run rampant. It makes me think that the bravest person ever has yet to make an appearance. We'll know who it is when the first prominent politician in the developed world suggests the possibility that people may need to do with less - less electricity to power fewer "toys", less petroleum to fuel cars, less opportunity to waste the finite resources of Planet Earth.

This is the part where some clever person stands, delivers a brilliant idea, then lets his or her suggestion become the basis of a plan that saves the world. Sorry. If you picked this blog for Inspired Wisdom, you're obviously not a regular reader. All I can do on this Blog Action Day is what many of my colleagues are trying to do; open up the discussion, ask what we hope are the right questions, and sincerely ask Who- or What-Ever It Is We Worship for someone with the right answers.
Hopefully, this isn't the only Blog Action Day-themed post you encounter today. Read as many of them as you can; if nothing else, be aware of the breadth of the problem of climate change. Comment, if you're so moved. A healthy conversation among the peoples of the world is the first step to a solution. If you want to learn more, do some research [you do have Google on that computer, don't you?]. More to the point, don't let your interest end today. Keep your political leaders' "feet to the fire" on this one - it really is a matter of life and death.
-Mike Riley

Monday, October 5, 2009

Is there something to "The Twinkie Defense" after all?

First of all, I'm assuming we all know what's meant by "The Twinkie Defense" [if unaware, please click on the hyperlink; it not only explains the term, it debunks the myth that it was successfully used in the case that first brought the term to national attention].

Anyway, the Twinkie Defense [hereafter TD] is based on the theory that too much processed foods, especially sugar, can cloud your mind, rendering it incapable of rational thought. Although thoroughly discredited in the Dan White prosecution, Science may have just jumped the gun on its conclusions.

A study in Britain has thrown out the proposition that giving children too many treats may turn them into violent adults. We're not talking about the children being violently ill from a less-than-nutritious diet; this is the kind of acting-out violence most demonstrated in the UK by their beloved soccer hooligans. Well, at least most of them can sing...

Actually, this theorem seems to have a healthy dose of evidence behind it. Senior lecturer Simon Moore discovered, while doing research on violent British children, that kids who were most likely to committ violent crimes as adults had the worst diets in childhood.

Moore took his research a step further, using the results of a massive study of English people born during a certain week in 1970. By chance, the survey asked the subjects at the age of ten if they ate candy daily; at age 34, they were asked if had ever been convicted of a crime. A stunning 69 percent of regular candy-eaters had at least one conviction by age 34, versus 42% results from those who weren't. Next, Moore eliminated various factors: parenting styles, financial levels, even location [urban/rural]. The numbers remained steady.
Simon Moore says there are several possible reasons for his results, and that all should be looked into:
- are there certain compounds in sweets that cause this behavior? Well, perhaps. A further question would be "were candy manufacturers aware of this, and hid the information?" If so, shouldn't someone sieze Willy Wonka's passport, post haste? [If there's a bigger flight risk than him, I'd like to meet 'em]

- is excessive candy eating an indicator of possible future problems? For what it's worth, Moore leans towards this theorem; he believes that kids who got daily treats may not develop the patience needed to delay gratification [see A Clockwork Orange. But not on a full stomach]. This, the theory goes, leads to impulsiveness [a key factor in violent acts, according to Moore]. Another possibility suggested by this, says Moore, is that evil children get more candy, just to keep them calm. And are you keeping your porch light on this Halloween? They can't all move out of state...

- were British children born that week just more toxic than the usual run?

Always a possibility. Never eliminate random chance from the Human Equation.

- is this true only in England? Combine the American obesity epidemic with the increase in violent acts. Then do the math...

-are there any solutions? Four words: A Generation Of Supernannies [in whatever language is required]!

- Mike Riley