Monday, December 29, 2008

Rudolph over Manhattan

This card is from friends who live on Roosevelt Island. Card designed by Martin Atkins.

Click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What You Can Do

What You Can Do

From The Baseline Scenario

...Recessions cause enormous hardship and misery to real families. I know most of us have less wealth than we did a year ago, since two major sources of household wealth - stocks and housing - have fallen steeply in value this year. But even if you don’t feel like you can afford to donate as much as usual to charities, there is still something you can do.

Most middle- and upper-income American households have lots of stuff. Many of us, particularly adults, have lots of clothes and other things we rarely or no longer use. You can think of this either as a behavioral phenomenon (people don’t like to get rid of things, even if they cause more disutility by taking up closet space than any utility they will ever provide) or as a market failure (it’s too much of a hassle to get rid of things, so we keep them). But if you just take a day, identify the things you will never use again, put them in bags, and drive them to a local shelter, you can help allocate those goods to the people who value them most. Or, as non-economists put it, you can help people. And, of course, you can get a tax deduction (the shelter in my town recommends using the Salvation Army valuation guidelines), which is itself probably worth more to you than those clothes you will never wear again.

Written by James Kwak

December 24, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snow in Portland

Portland, the City of Rain, is wonderstruck by something white that fell from the sky.

Click on image to enlarge.

(Photo courtesy of a friend in the West Hills.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nothing says HO HO HO like an email attachment

unless it's a Ho-Ho-Hoax.

E-Cards May Be a Ho-Ho-Hoax

FBI warns people against phony electronic greeting cards


E-mail scams are nothing new, but the FBI wants to remind people to keep a watchful eye on their inboxes during this holiday season.

Fake notifications for electronic greeting cards allow scam artists to steal personal information from computer users who aren't careful.

During this time of year, nearly everyone receives e-mails announcing that a friend or relative has sent them an "e-card" that they can view by clicking on a link.

However, some links can be dangerous, leading to websites set up by scammers. The sites allow criminals to view the victim's Internet activity, giving them access to passwords and credit card numbers.

FBI officials recommend not clicking on any links in e-mails from people or businesses you don't already know and trust. Also, check for more information.

Copyright NBC Local Media / NBC Chicago

How to Drive in the Snow

Monday, December 22, 2008


'Falling For Science': Obeying All The Signs

by Robert Krulwich

From Morning Edition

To listen to the story Click Here and then click on Listen Now.

Me? I fall for stories. Tell me a tale about some guy climbing Mount Everest, and in my head, I'm with him — grabbing at the ice, slipping, breathing the thin air. I'm there. I've always hitchhiked by reading or listening to other people's yarns. But that's only one way to fall in love with the world. Another way, says Sherry Turkle, the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT (whew!) is to play with things.

Turkle thinks that when you get your first microscope, or your first set of Legos, or take apart your first broken radio, you become an explorer. She says that for some kids, the thrill of touching, fastening, examining, rebuilding and unbuilding is life changing, mind changing and never goes away.

She recently published a book, Falling For Science, that collects essays written by senior scientists (artificial intelligence pioneer Seymour Papert, MIT president and neuroanatomist Susan Hockfield, and architect Moshe Safdie, for example) and by students who passed through her classes at MIT over the past 25 years. They were all asked the same question: "Was there an object you met during childhood or adolescence that had an influence on your path into science?"

And after a tidal wave of Legos (7 different essays), computer games and broken radios, I found a few wonderful surprises. One MIT student reported how she couldn't stop braiding her My Little Pony's tail, weaving the hairs into endlessly repeating patterns (a clue, perhaps, to her fascination with mathematics). But this one … this one is a gem.

It tells the story of a little boy (now a software designer) and a stop sign.
Excerpt: 'Falling For Science': 'Stop Signs'

by Joseph Calzaretta (1992), December 3, 2008 · By the age of two, I could recognize certain shapes as letters and identify them by name. Not long after I read the letters on the red sign at the end of my block: STOP. When I asked my parents about the sign, they told me it was a stop sign and that people had to stop for it. They pointed to a moving car and told me to watch the car's actions. The car came to the sign, slowed to a halt, and then turned the corner. My parents had told the truth.

I fell in love with the stop sign. Every time we passed one on foot I would stop for a few seconds. I would point them out in the car and was delighted when we stopped, respecting the sign's wishes. I owned a picture book and I would always turn to the page with the stop sign and cry, "Stop!" Noticing my fascination with the sign, my parents bought me a stop sign piggy bank. My aunt knitted me a stop sign rug and my father eventually gave me a real stop sign that had fallen off its pole after a car accident.

After the stop sign taught me to read, I discovered letters and words everywhere. But signs had words that commanded people.

I couldn't understand why anyone would ever purposely disobey signs, although I saw that my fellow children sometimes pretended to fool signs by pretending not to see them. As for me, for a while I was obsessed with following the rules. Once when my family went to a local restaurant I noticed a sign in an ominous red font: OCCUPANCY OF THIS ESTABLISHMENT BY MORE THAN 232 PERSONS IS DANGEROUS AND UNLAWFUL.

"Mommy," I asked, "what's 'occupancy'?" She told me, and I immediately began to count all the people in the restaurant. I was plagued by the thought that my family's arrival would doom us all to an awful punishment.

Now I hardly think of stop signs, but something about my childhood fascination has stayed with me. In signs I saw the natural laws of my environment. A world of fixed and simple principles appealed to me. When the rules of the stop sign and its cousins lost their infallible status, others took their place. My favorite subjects are physics and mathematics. I still feel satisfaction when I behold the universe obeying its own "signs," such as: Speed Limit—671 Million MPH, Entropy—One Way, and Quantum Leaps—Exact Change Only. These universal signs give commands that cannot be broken by careless children or reckless drivers; they are unwavering principles. I tend to see our existence governed by some simple rules written on signs posted in the very fabric of space.

When I encounter a confusing situation or a seemingly impossible task I break it down and make a mental sign with instructions for its completion. I know my method has its drawbacks. It lets me enjoy physics because of rules, but I quickly became intolerant of biology, which starts with the final products of unknown rules. I view the world in narrow pieces—a way of thinking that I know can be arbitrary and inaccurate. In the real world, everything is firmly attached to everything else. My method of rules would tell me now that I need to go beyond it to have the fullest appreciation of the world. I should probably throw away the big red sign hanging in my dorm room. Life isn't that simple.

Joseph Calzaretta received an SB and SM from MIT in Mechanical Engineering and now works in Information Services and Technology at MIT as a software developer.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

You must listen to this interview

Ethan Bortnick: Accomplished Pianist At Seven

Weekend Edition Saturday, December 20, 2008

To listen to this interview Click Here and then click on Listen Now.

Pianist, composer and world-class entertainer Ethan Bortnick has appeared on Oprah, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Good Morning America, and Martha Stewart. He's shared a stage with Beyonce, Josh Groban, Santana, Natalie Cole, Nelly Furtado, Wyclef Jean, Smokey Robinson, Gloria Gaynor, Patti LaBelle, and The Pointer Sisters. He can play more than 200 songs from memory, has composed more than 30 pieces of music that are being published, and has raised record amounts for children's charities.

His accomplishments are comparable to those of well-known established musicians and entertainers, and he's only 7 years old.

When he was 3, Ethan asked his parents for piano lessons. "They're like, 'You know what, I don't think you can have piano lessons, because you're still in diapers.' So I listened to every note of Mozart's 'Alla Turca,' and I started playing, and they're like, 'Wait, the audio's not on, so who is it? Oh man.' They thought it was a ghost or something playing." When they found out who was really playing, Ethan was allowed to take piano lessons.

At 7, Ethan has already started writing his own pieces. One song he wrote, "Arctic Jazz," is about, "a manatee who went all the way from Florida to Antarctica to play a jazz party."

Despite his early accomplishments, Ethan doesn't plan on being a professional pianist as an adult. "I'm going to be a zookeeper," he says. "I love animals. That's why I write every song about animals."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fire Rainbow

This photo has begun circulating again as having "occurred last week."

Photo in the News: Rare "Rainbow" Spotted Over Idaho

National Geographic

June 19, 2006—It looks like a rainbow that's been set on fire, but this phenomenon is as cold as ice.

Known in the weather world as a circumhorizontal arc, this rare sight was caught on film on June 3 as it hung over northern Idaho near the Washington State border (map of Idaho).

The arc isn't a rainbow in the traditional sense—it is caused by light passing through wispy, high-altitude cirrus clouds. The sight occurs only when the sun is very high in the sky (more than 58° above the horizon). What's more, the hexagonal ice crystals that make up cirrus clouds must be shaped like thick plates with their faces parallel to the ground.

When light enters through a vertical side face of such an ice crystal and leaves from the bottom face, it refracts, or bends, in the same way that light passes through a prism. If a cirrus's crystals are aligned just right, the whole cloud lights up in a spectrum of colors.

This particular arc spanned several hundred square miles of sky and lasted for about an hour, according to the London Daily Mail.

—Victoria Gilman


By Neal Peirce

It’s time to celebrate happiness. The chemistry of positive, joyful human interaction. Physical spaces that help lighten lives.

Seriously? What’s to be celebrated in a Christmas week that finds Americans wincing in the face of corporate collapses and the deep job losses of a roaring recession?

My answer: check some pretty amazing countervailing positives.

For example, election night in Chicago’s Grant Park. The jumbo screen suddenly confirms Barack Obama’s election as president. The surge of jubilation, of shared cheers and tears and wonderment of the thousands gathered, marks more than a simple political victory. It signals a rekindling of hope in the American nation, and what it might again be. The elation ricochets in seconds across a nation–and the world.

Another shift in 2008 could have lasting consequences for a happier society. Put briefly, it’s a new premium on quality spaces. It’s the death of our decades-old notion that all a city needs to do is offer developers and businesses cheap land and a complacent labor force, and that fresh investments and “success” will follow.

Today there’s palpable hunger for more liveliness and connectedness than isolated shopping malls, subdivisions or office parks typically offer. It’s for upbeat gathering spots, coffee shops, people-filled parks, in-town concert halls, outdoor art exhibits, farmers’ and Christmas markets. It’s the spark of a shared civic realm that such non-profits as Partners for Livable Communities and the Project for Public Spaces have been advocating for years–their message newly popular as an entertainment-jaded nation starts to wake up what links us, not what separates us.

All that was underway 2008. But the year delivered two developments that should doom the old order. First, last spring and summer’s soaring oil prices and the unfolding national mortgage foreclosure mess. Suddenly the unsustainability of America’s suburban growth model came into focus. “Drive ’til you qualify” became a dangerous way to pick a house. And now, even as the recession has pushed oil prices back down sharply, surging public transit use isn’t tapering off–it’s actually intensifying. And the latest Brookings Institution report shows the country’s total vehicle miles traveled, which actually began to start decline in 2007, are continuing a downward course.

Some of us may even be modifying our lifestyles–deliberately reducing local auto trips, making fewer vacation flights, for example–because we take seriously global climate and the shadow it throws over our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ lives. Just maybe, we’re starting to grasp the stakes of a global citizenship.

With hard-squeezed municipal budgets, this won’t be an easy time for towns and cities. But the “winners” among them will be those that raise the money (and/or volunteer help) to offer attractive city streets, well-kept parks, convenient libraries, events and festivals celebrating their diverse local cultures.

We’ll need, in short, to improve our shared space–our local “commons” –the theme of a new website, “Happiness itself is a commons to which everyone should have equal access,” writer Jay Walljasper contends there.

The most prominent global spokesperson for the theme of happiness in urban spaces is Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogota, Colombia. For the first 5,500 years of recognizable cities on earth, Penalosa notes, the streets were built chiefly for pedestrians. People of all classes accessed roadways essentially as equals.

That changed in the 20th century, as automobiles and trucks preempted public space, forcing pedestrians to street edges and in some developments eliminating sidewalks altogether. The problem is even more egregious in developing countries. The carnage is appalling: globally, roadway accidents kill roughly 1.2 million people each year, and millions more are grievously wounded.

Penalosa would have the urban space for automobiles strictly restrained. He’d place buses on exclusive lanes–like the TransMilenio system he created in Bogota–so that cities can be “the protective, beautiful, inclusive, stimulating places” they ought to be. His goal is a far call from classic civic boosterism; instead he talks of sharing the public realm as issues of safety, dignity, and respect, so that “more people around the world can live happier lives.”

In 2008 I heard more U.S. urban planners headed in the same direction, considering return of high-speed one-way city streets to calmer two-way traffic, or creating boulevards that include exclusive, safe lanes for pedestrians and bicycles.

Now the happiness cause has academic champions–James Fowler of the University of California-San Diego and Nicholas Christakis of the Harvard Medical School. Using data from a 20-year study of 4,739 people, they identified a contagious power of happiness in social networks. And they found distance matters–the closer people live together, the more the happiness of some spreads to others.

“Happiness,” Fowler claims, “spreads more robustly than unhappiness.” Happy people tend to be more creative, productive, and healthier. And, Fowler adds, happiness seems to have a greater effect than money.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Three Rules for Writers

William Safire's Rules for Writers.

Remember to never split an infinitive.
The passive voice should never be used.
Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.

From the Writer's Almanac

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Spare some change? Put it in the right hands

Spare some change? Put it in the right hands

by Anna Griffin, The Oregonian

Friday December 12, 2008, 9:44 PM

Police, social workers and anti-poverty activists disagree on a lot when it comes to the city's battle to end homelessness. But they form a hallelujah chorus on one matter:

Do not, do not, do not give to panhandlers.

At least, don't give them cash.

» Listen to Anna Griffin discuss panhandling at the Today in Oregon podcast.

This is the season when downtown Portland teems with commuters, Tuba Christmas-loving tourists and shoppers who may or may not have gotten lost on their way to Bridgeport Village. Like poor moths to an affluent flame, the increased population draws beggars to crowded corners near such shopping hot spots as Powell's, Macy's and Pioneer Place. Some of them are clever, such as the kid with the "Will work for verbal abuse" sign near Pioneer Courthouse Square. Some are heart-wrenching, such as the grandmotherly type spotted this week outside the Benson Hotel.

Please note, however: Many of them are not homeless. And most who are will not be using your hard-earned cash to get indoors.

"They're using it for alcohol and drugs," says Portland police Cmdr. Mike Reese, whose Central Precinct officers are quite familiar with most panhandlers. "I don't like to generalize, but ..."

It is in our nature here in Oregon to want to help. A charitable spirit, you might call it. Or maybe just liberal guilt.

We don't like to see people in need. We believe the world's problems really can be solved.

But the struggles that force people onto the streets -- poverty, addiction and mental illness -- aren't going to get fixed by a dime or a dollar tossed at somebody on a street corner.

The people who truly need our assistance are the ones who cannot muster the mental health or the energy to ask for cash, the ones who spend their days recoiling from passers-by, not soliciting them. Many panhandlers, police and social workers agree, approach collecting change as full-time work. They have regular spots and finely honed sales pitches.

That "Need money for food" sign? False advertising, given that there are several dozen agencies offering warm, free meals on a regular basis.

"There is no excuse for anyone to go hungry in this town," says Bill Miller, a Portland Rescue Mission spokesman. "Shelter is the real issue, and change can't buy that."

There are ways to help that go deeper than your own immediate emotional gratification.

Sisters of the Road, the Old Town cafeteria and community center, sells meal vouchers you can hand out instead of coins. Portland Rescue Mission workers recommend giving granola bars, preferably along with a copy of their free-on-the-Internet resource guide for people in need.

Or you might start collecting that spare change in a coffee can or a shoe box to donate to a nonprofit. Get the kids involved in decorating a charity box -- known as a Tzedakah box in Jewish homes, where they're common -- and you've done a good deed and taught the next generation a lesson about giving.

Here's something else you shouldn't do: Ignore panhandlers.

Oregonians are almost as conflict-averse as they are compassionate. Many of us don't like saying no, so we cross to the other side of the street or, at least, refuse eye contact.

But police say very few of the people you encounter downtown pose a danger. And anti-poverty advocates say treating homeless people like fellow human beings can help them find the self-esteem to start rebuilding their life.

So feel free to say a firm but polite "no." Then go home and, if you can afford it, find a way to really help.

-- Anna Griffin

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Email from St. Louis: "We have had an epidemic of birds flying into our windows in the last two weeks. This photo of our bedroom window shows a full splat including wings, body and head. We found no dead or injured bird below so we assume the bird just had a bad day. "

Click to Enlarge

Sunday, December 7, 2008

World War II Valor in Pacific National Monument

About 10 years ago we went with my sister-in-law and her husband to Tulelake, CA just south of Klamath Falls, OR where she had been interned soon after Pearl Harbor. She was born in Portland. She and her family and other Japanese families in the NW were sent to Tule Lake. About all we could find of the camp was the landscape shown in the photo below and a small plaque along the roadside.

Today I heard the following story on OPB news.

World War II Valor in Pacific National Monument

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush on Friday established a World War II monument dedicated to those who fought in the Pacific.

The World War II Valor in Pacific National Monument will encompass nine sites, five in Hawaii, three in Alaska and one in California at the Tule Lake Segregation Center, where thousands of Japanese-Americans were detained after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"The purpose of the monument is to remind generations of Americans of the sacrifices that Americans made to protect our country. But there's a broader purpose as well and that is to remind generations of Americans about the transformative effect of freedom," Bush said in brief remarks in the Oval Office.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tracking the Bailout: The Government's Commitments

From the NY Times: Tracking the Bailout: The Government's Commitments

As the financial crisis has spread, the goverment'c commitments have grown and it has assumed different roles, acting as an insurer, an investor or a banker. So far, the government has spent almost $1.4 trillion, although it has guaranteed almost 8 trillion in investments, deposits and loans. That figure does not include $755 billion in currency swaps with central banks in other countries, nor does it include some lending programs for financial institutions whose cost is not quantified.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Gas Rationing in US

It was on November 26, 1942 that President Roosevelt announced that the United States would begin a national gas rationing campaign on December 1st. All Americans had to display a sticker in their car window saying what category of gas ration they had. Everyone started out at “A,” which got people about four gallons a week. Local rationing boards were set up to assign a “B” or “C” ration to people who needed more gas if they could prove it was necessary for their work.

The campaign made propaganda posters that asked, “Is This Trip Necessary?” or said, “When you ride ALONE you ride with Hitler! Join a Car-Sharing Club TODAY!” Along with the gas rations, the national speed limit was set at 35 mph.

The gas rationing wasn’t a result of a gas shortage. The United States was self-sufficient in oil and was actually a major exporter of petroleum. But the Japanese had taken over the rubber plantations in the Dutch East Indies that produced 90 percent of America’s raw rubber, and there was no synthetic rubber. The government was afraid that if everyone kept driving, they would wear out tires that couldn’t be replaced. The factories and the entire war effort would come to a halt. So the United States' first national gas rationing campaign was a roundabout way to conserve rubber.

The gas ration continued until August of 1945.

To read more on WWII rationing in the US Click Here.

From The Writer's Almanac

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Story Corps National Day of Listening is the Day after Thanksgiving

StoryCorps is declaring November 28, 2008 the first annual National Day of Listening.

Join StoryCorps in the National Day of Listening

This holiday season, ask the people around you about their lives — it could be your grandmother, a teacher, or someone from the neighborhood. By listening to their stories, you will be telling them that they matter and they won’t ever be forgotten. It may be the most meaningful time you spend this year.

Everyone has a story, and every life counts. Help your family, friends, and community members get involved in the National Day of Listening and use the following resources to spread the word that listening is an act of love.

Do-It-Yourself Guides have everything you need to record your conversation, including simple step-by-step instructions, advice on choosing equipment, and a list of favorite StoryCorps questions.

To get started, download [the] free Do-It-Yourself Guide.

Email Story Corps about your experience.

Email a friend about the National Day of Listening.

To listen to NPR's Renee Montagne do a Story Corps interview click on her photo.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Living in America

Living in America
by Anne Stevenson

'Living in America,'
the intelligent people at Harvard say,
'is the price you pay for living in New England.'

Californians think
living in America is a reward
for managing not to live anywhere else.

The rest of the country?
Could it be sagging between two poles,
tastelessly decorated, dangerously overweight?

No. Look closely.
Under cover of light and noise
both shores are hurrying towards each other.

San Francisco
is already half way to Omaha.
Boston is nervously losing its way in Detroit.

Desperately the inhabitants
hope to be saved in the middle.
Pray to the mountains and deserts to keep them apart.

"Living in America" by Anne Stevenson, from Anne Stevenson: Selected Poems. © American Poets Project, 2008.

Thoughts on Democracy

In his 1941 State of the Union Address, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed four freedoms that should serve as a foundation not only for the U.S. but for the world: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. Two years later, in 1943, the weekly Saturday Evening Post magazine published, in four consecutive issues during February and March, the four famous posters created by Norman Rockwell that visualized — in his unmatched depiction of everyday American life — Roosevelt's Four Freedoms. Now, 65 years after they were first published, The Wolfsonian museum in Miami Beach has asked 60 designers from around the world to design a poster or series of posters based on Rockwell's Four Freedoms. The exhibition, Thoughts on Democracy, [opened 7/5/08].

Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms

In the best spirit of transparency (and democracy!) the team at The Wolfsonian has been updating a wonderful blog that showcases all the submitted posters and shares the process of mounting the exhibition. Not all 60 contributions are good, or not all 60 contributions I get, but here are some of my favorite posters (click on each image to go the appropriate entry on the blog):

ToD posters, Chip Kidd

Chip Kidd
While most designers submitted a single poster that captured the essence of Rockwell's four posters, Kidd did a blow-by-blow of each poster and created this series that deals with what happens when those four freedoms are eschewed to the wrong extremes: "Thus Freedom from Want leads to rampant obesity; Freedom of Worship leads to using God to hate; Freedom of Speech leads to destruction of property; and Freedom from Fear leads to the proliferation and deadly use of guns." [To read the rest of this article Click Here.].

Holiday Shopping Links

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Musée des Beaux-Arts

Musée des Beaux-Arts

by W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Snowboarding in the Pearl

Portland-Vancouver, OR-WA
November 15, 2008 -

Portland, OR - Not enough snow on the mountain to get out to shred? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered and are bringing snowboarding action to the city – literally right to our backyard. The 2nd Annual Backyard Bang rolls up fierce competition, local riders, live music, up-close snowboarding action, and creative expression and education into a perfectly packed snowball that will land in the Pearl district on Saturday, November 22, 2008, from noon to 4 pm.

The Art Institute of Portland, known for fresh design and uninhibited creativity, collides with Salomon Snowboards and Bonfire clothing to bring downtown Portland live snowboarding action and tricks, as well as the scene and style that makes a trip to Hood worthwhile. We’re bringing the creativity of the mountain to the streets of the Pearl in this professional rail jam competition.

The snowboarding rail jam will consist of a preliminary qualifying round where local kids compete for a chance to go head-to-head with the invited pros in the finals. Riders at the 1st Annual Backyard Bang included Jed Anderson, Lucas Magoon, Chad Otterstrom, Leanne Pelosi, Nick Dirks, Ryan Thomspon, Jarad Hadi, Jamie Anderson, Colin Langlois, and Desiree Melancoln among others.

Vitamin D

The Vitamin D Dilemma: What’s the Safest Way to Get It?

By Nissa Simon - November 14, 2008 - AARP Bulletin Today

Here’s a solar paradox: Excessive exposure to sunlight is known to cause skin cancer. But in following the much-advised mantra to wear sunscreen when outdoors, many Americans may face a greater risk of other types of cancer—as well as conditions from diabetes to depression, heart disease to hip fractures and multiple sclerosis to muscle pain.

That’s because sunlight is the body’s main supply of protective vitamin D, an essential nutrient that may be best known for keeping bones and teeth strong. But its benefits hardly end there.

“The body uses vitamin D in virtually every tissue,” says Robert P. Heaney, M.D., an expert on calcium and vitamin D at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. “When we talk about adequate vitamin D, we’re talking about total body health.”

Unfortunately, at least half of older men and women have low levels of vitamin D, which is present in very few foods. In August, researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine reported in Archives of Internal Medicine that after adjusting for smoking, body weight and other known risk factors in 13,000 people, they found those with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D were 26 percent more likely to die during a six-year study than those with higher amounts. That study followed previous research by Austrian scientists on more than 3,200 men and women, with an average age of 62, who were scheduled for coronary angioplasty. Seven years after that procedure, those with low D levels were more likely to die—of heart disease as well as other causes.

How does vitamin D—or more specifically, a lack of it—affect age-related conditions?

• Cancer: Without enough vitamin D, cells can multiply too quickly and promote malignant tumors. A deficiency has been linked to increased risk of cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, ovaries, esophagus and lymphatic system and may explain why studies have suggested that people living in southern climates, where sunshine is more plentiful, are less likely than their northern neighbors to die from those cancers. In fact, one study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in June notes that men and women diagnosed with colon cancer who had the highest blood levels of vitamin D were one-third less likely to die from the disease than those with the lowest levels.

• Diabetes: Vitamin D deficiency interferes with insulin secretion and may be linked to a higher risk of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The most recent evidence: A study by Finnish researchers published in Epidemiology in September indicates that men with the highest D levels were 72 percent less likely to have developed type 2 diabetes two decades later than those with the lowest levels.

• Heart disease: This nutrient also helps reduce inflammation, which may explain why it helps keep hearts healthy. In a review published in Circulation of more than 1,700 offspring of the original participants in the Framingham Heart Study, now middle-age and older, researchers found that those with the lowest levels were twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years as those with higher vitamin D levels. More recent research, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in June, compared vitamin D levels in more than 450 men who had heart attacks with 900 men with no history of heart disease. Again, low levels were associated with higher risk.

• Depression: In a study of 1,300 folks age 65 and older, reported in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, scientists from the Netherlands reported that those who were D-deficient face a greater risk of depression. Reason: Without enough D, tiny parathyroid glands located behind the thyroid become overactive, producing excessive amounts of a specific hormone. Overactive parathyroid glands are frequently accompanied by symptoms of depression that disappear after treatment, reports the American Medical Association. Meanwhile, the so-called seasonal affective disorder that causes wintertime blues has long been thought to be caused by a lack of sunshine.

• Parkinson’s: In the latest of several studies suggesting a link with this condition, Emory University researchers report that more than half of Parkinson’s patients they evaluated were vitamin D-deficient—compared with only one in three “healthy” elderly people. In addition, Parkinson’s patients were more than twice as likely to have the very lowest blood levels of D as those without this condition. This new finding, reported in the October issue of Archives of Neurology, follows a 2007 report by another research team suggesting that vitamin D deficiency might even cause this ailment.

• Bone health: Vitamin D is essential to the absorption of calcium to maintain bone density and possibly slow bone loss. In one recent study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine in August, when researchers compared the vitamin D levels of 400 postmenopausal women who suffered hip fractures with levels of 400 others who didn’t, the risk for fracture rose steadily as vitamin D concentrations fell. In addition to helping keep bones strong, D may also boost balance and muscle strength, thus preventing falls, the primary cause of hip fractures.

It doesn’t end there. A lack of vitamin D is believed to play a role in MS, muscle pain and possibly even some forms of kidney disease. And as you age, you need higher amounts: To prevent a deficiency, the recommended daily allowance is 400 international units (IUs) for men and women between ages 50 and 70; after age 71, it jumps to 600 IUs.

So how can you ensure you’re getting enough, while still reducing your risk for skin cancer?

• Get limited sun exposure of 15 to 20 minutes on unprotected skin, at least twice a week. “That amount won’t increase your risk of developing skin cancer,” says Marianne Berwick, head of the Epidemiology and Cancer Prevention Program at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

• Measure your blood. “Men and women concerned about their overall health should have their blood levels of vitamin D monitored to make sure they have enough,” says Erin Michos, M.D., a researcher in a Johns Hopkins study on longevity and vitamin D. This test, called a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, can be performed during routine screenings for cholesterol and blood sugar, and is covered by Medicare if your doctor prescribes it. If you’re not in Medicare, ask your health plan if it covers the cost.

• Mind your meals. Even though few foods contain vitamin D, the best sources include heart-healthy fish such as salmon and mackerel, eggs, cod liver oil, and fortified milk and other dairy foods. But when choosing dairy, make it low-fat: When researchers looked at the diets of nearly 30,000 women age 45 and older, they found that low-fat dairy products high in vitamin D and calcium lowered the risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease, but higher-fat versions did not.

• Consider supplements. Many multivitamins contain 400 IUs of vitamin D. But some experts, including Michael Holick, M.D., director of the Bone Healthcare Clinic and the Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory at Boston Medical Center, suggest taking an additional daily D-specific supplement of 400 IUs.

Nissa Simon, who lives in New Haven, Conn., writes about nutrition and medical issues.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oregon Christmas Trees Shipped Far And Wide For The Holidays

Oregon Christmas Trees Shipped Far And Wide For The Holidays


Mollala, OR November 21, 2008 5:56 a.m.

Thanksgiving is still nearly a week away but some Oregon tree farmers have been preparing for Christmas for some time.

More Christmas trees are grown in Oregon than in any other state in the country. Oregon growers will harvest about eight million Christmas trees this year.

Most of those trees will go to California where they can sell for $80 to $100 a tree in places like San Diego.

Pete Springer visited a Christmas tree farm in Mollala.

Click on Image to listen to Audio.

Audio: Dogs barking/panting in the field

Gayla Hansen: “Knock it off!”

Pete Springer: “So will they do that all day?”

Gayla Hansen: “You know, they’ll get pretty tired here in a little bit.”

For Buddy and Jake--two very happy Jack Russell Terriers-- harvest time is all about fun.

For the tree harvesting crew though, it’s a living.

Gayla Hansen oversees a crew cutting down trees on her 40-acre farm outside Mollala.

Gayla Hansen: “Yeah, these will get put into slings, which they’re doing up here and then a helicopter will come and fly them out of the field for bailing and loading.”

Hansen and her husband started growing Christmas trees in the early 90’s. This year, they’ll harvest about three thousand trees.

It’s a year round job-- it's not just planting trees and waiting for them to grow.

Gayla Hansen: “Every year you have to go through and kind of trim them up—we side shear them and the top sometimes it has pretty amazing growth, and obviously you have to do something with that long leader at the top of the tree to hold growth back and make the tree fill in a little bit.”

There’s also weed and pest control to deal with, and the occasional deer or elk that decides to eat the tops off trees.

But it’s harvest time when everything comes together and crews put in the most hours. Cut trees are hauled by helicopter to a landing. That's where they get a good shaking by a device mounted on the back of a tractor.

Gayla Hansen: “It shakes out any loose needles, yellow jackets, spiders—you know, anything that had been living in the tree out in the field.”

The next step is to wrap the tree limbs up with a mechanical baler before loading them onto a truck.

Gayla Hansen: “When we get done loading it, we’ll take it down to the ice plant in Molalla and make sure they stay fresh and cold and hydrated.”

These trees are headed for Mexico, where about 13-percent of Oregon Christmas trees will be shipped this year. But most Oregon trees end up in California. They’re shipped in refrigerated trucks to keep them fresh.

Bryan Ostlund is with the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association.

He says during the peak of tree harvesting, there will be more than 10,000 people working in Oregon to get the trees to market.

Ostlund says the Christmas tree industry actually benefits from the soft economy.

Bryan Ostlund “Christmas trees, when the economy is down, generally sell very well because people are staying home, they’re not traveling as much, kind of an importance of family and friends in holiday celebrations.”

Despite popular belief, the idea of Christmas trees did not come from Pagan rituals. In fact, the first Christmas trees are believed to have originated in 17th century Germany.

It took two centuries for the idea to catch on in the U.S.

The first White House Christmas tree was put up in the 1850’s, but the nation’s first Christmas tree farm wasn’t started until 1901 -- in New Jersey.

Now close to 30 million Christmas tress are sold each year in the U.S.

Bryan Ostlund with Tree Association says Oregon even sells trees to Canada.

Bryan Ostlund “I think it’s part of that process that we go through in the holiday season, getting ready for Christmas. And there’s kind of almost a ritual for how things happen and it’s different with each family but Christmas trees have played a very central role in all of that and that’s just something that survived time.”

Back on Gayla Hansen’s tree farm, it’s no surprise she agrees with that statement.

Gayla Hansen: “It’s a family activity I think is precious, it’s priceless.”

In fact, Hansen usually has three Christmas trees in her house for the holidays.

Gayla Hansen “I’ve been known to keep up my Christmas tree sometimes even until the first of February. I just hate to get rid of it!”

© 2008 OPB

The Lighter Side of the Supreme Court

The Lighter Side of the Supreme Court

Her husband bakes, Scalia sings: Ginsburg describes the lighter side of the Supreme Court

By Jennifer Greenstein Altmann

Posted October 23, 2008; 08:30 p.m.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg provided a rare inside look at the human side of the venerable institution in an appearance Thursday at Princeton University, giving the audience a peek at the personal interactions of the justices and how they maintain friendships despite disagreeing on issues.

Ginsburg, who has been a justice since 1993, also spoke about the tension at the court while it considered Bush v. Gore, the decision that settled the 2000 presidential election, and offered her view that the court may have overstepped in its ruling on Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision regarding abortion.

Her talk was titled "On the Lighter Side of the U.S. Supreme Court: Customs and Habits That Promote Collegiality Among the Justices." After her speech, held at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, she participated in a conversation with Princeton Provost Christopher Eisgruber.

Gatherings of the justices "begin with handshakes," Ginsburg said. "Thirty-six of them, to be exact. Before each day that court begins and before each conference discussion, as we enter the robing room or the conference room, we shake hands, each justice with every other. It's a way of saying, 'Even though you circulated that nasty dissent yesterday, we're in this together and we better get along with each other.'"

The justices have lunch together every day when they are hearing arguments or meeting to discuss cases, "not because it's an obligation but by choice. Usually there are seven or eight of us, and not infrequently all nine." Invited guests have included National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor often stops in as well when she's in town.

Birthdays are celebrated with a pre-lunch toast and singing, which is led by Justice Antonin Scalia "because between us he is the only one who can carry a tune," Ginsburg said. The cake is often baked by her husband, Martin Ginsburg, a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center and a master chef. Conversation sometimes turns to the performance of the lawyers who have appeared before them, or to the latest exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

"As you no doubt have noticed, we have sharp differences on certain issues …," she said. "But through it all, despite our sometimes strong differences, we remain good friends and people who respect each other and genuinely enjoy each others' company."

Ginsburg is the second woman to serve on the court. Prior to her appointment, she was a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for 13 years. In 1971, she was instrumental in launching the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. Ginsburg has been a professor of law at Rutgers University School of Law and Columbia Law School.

In her discussion with [Princeton Professor Christopher] Eisgruber, who has written several books on the Constitution and the Supreme Court, Ginsburg talked about the Bush v. Gore decision, on which she dissented. "It's never been cited by the court (since 2000)," she said, "and I don’t think it ever will be." She agreed with Eisgruber when he mentioned that he had told his students he thought the court would not take up the case. "I would have made the same prediction: The court won't touch this with a 10-foot pole," she said.

Recalling those high-pressured days, Ginsburg remarked, "You can imagine how tense things were. ... Everyone was exhausted." One night at 9 p.m. she got a call from Scalia. "He said, 'Ruth, what are you doing still at the court? Go home and take a bath.' I treasure the relationship we have, though we disagree on many issues."

As she examined a small booklet with the text of the Constitution, she described her "favorite provision:" the end of section one of the 14th Amendment. She read aloud from it. "... (N)or shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

On Roe v. Wade, which was decided in 1973, Ginsburg reiterated her previous criticism of the ruling. A strong supporter of abortion rights, Ginsburg nevertheless said the court "bit off more than it could chew." A more incremental decision "would have been an opportunity for a dialogue with the state legislators" and a chance for states to take the lead on the issue.

Asked about the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justices, Ginsburg said she was disturbed by their partisanship. "The practical truth ... is the hearings nowadays are more a show for the members of the (Senate) Judiciary Committee than they are testing for the nominee. They come with a brilliant question, but they have no follow-up questions."

Ginsburg recalled how much less rancorous her own nomination process was. Before putting forth her name, she said, President Clinton, a Democrat, "called Sen. (Orrin) Hatch and said, 'Orrin, I am thinking about nominating Ginsburg,'" she said. As a result, Hatch, a Republican, was "almost my cheerleader at my hearing."

Looking back on 15 years on the court, Ginsburg described the experience as "ever challenging, enormously time-consuming and enormously satisfying." She later added, "I have gotten tremendous satisfaction helping make things a little better for a person or a community."

Students who attended the event said that hearing from Ginsburg gave them a view of the court they had not found in textbooks.

"It really humanized the court," said sophomore Abby Bowman. "It paints a much more complete picture."

"I got a feel for the institution as a group of people, rather than just scholars," said sophomore Vishal Chanani.

"What stood out was the importance of precedent -- the ramifications of what you do now for the future," said senior Mike Wang.

The event was sponsored by the Program in Law and Public Affairs and the University Public Lectures Series. Ginsburg's appearance was this year's John Marshall Harlan '20 Lecture in Constitutional Adjudication, which celebrates the legacy of Harlan, one of nine Supreme Court justices to graduate from Princeton. The event also was supported by the Walter E. Edge Lecture Fund, which brings American and international public leaders to speak on campus.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

President-elect Obama Will Give Weekly Radio/Video Address

To check out Neil Peirce's take on this Click Here.

From the Office of the President-elect: Click Here.