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I saw the following article in the NYT about “Celebrity Weight Battles”.  Now vanity is something I know about. 🙂

Important points from the article:

“Many experts counsel obese patients to lose about 10 percent of their weight rather than aim for an ideal number. For a 300-pound person, that’s 30 pounds.”

“About seven years ago, Dr.David A. Kessler, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, was watching Oprah Winfrey’s show as a woman berated herself for eating even when she wasn’t hungry, calling herself “fat” and “ugly.”

It’s no wonder she ate compulsively, Dr. Kessler said. His new book, “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite,” looks at how the brain, beginning in childhood, is stimulated by foods loaded with fat, sugar and salt.

“Celebrities perpetuate the idea that we have a handle on this, that we understand what is driving our behavior,” Dr. Kessler said. But resisting certain foods “is not an issue of willpower. This is not about shame and humiliation.”

I also read some interesting research by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, which concluded that a parents influence on their children’s eating habits was much less than thought.

“Child-parent dietary resemblance in the U.S. is relatively weak, and varies by nutrients and food groups and by the types of parent-child dyads and social demographic characteristics such as age, gender and family income,”

“Factors other than parental eating behaviors such as community and school, food environment, peer influence, television viewing, as well as individual factors such as self-image and self-esteem seem to play an important role in young people’s dietary intake,”

There many components to the issue of weight and obesity.  Health should be the focus, appearance seems to take center stage.  My guess is that this obsession with appearances is more of a cultural problem, and even when a parent tries to instill healthy eating habits in their children, outside influences are just as much a factor.

Most of my childhood I was told I was too “skinny”.  I am 5’10” and weighed 130 lbs when I went into the Army, 1965.  I stilled weighed about 135 until I was in my 40’s.  I then put on about 40 lbs over the next 15 years. 

When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes I was 175.  I had no choice but to change my eating habits.  I lost about 1 lb a week until I went down to 155, I have pretty much stayed at that weight since.  The key is while I did dramatically drop carbs from my diet, I lost weight gradually.

Our bodies do not like to be shocked, and losing 50 or 100 lbs too quickly is very bad for your health.  Yo-yo dieting is probably worse than doing nothing and staying “overweight”.

I suspect the billion dollar diet industry understands the psychology that drives this unhealthy obsession with appearance better than anyone.

As long as we listen to idiots like Oprah Winfrey, and Kristie Alley, for our health advice I doubt there will be much progress on the healthy eating front.

My hope is in our evolving a better brain.  However, as long as we continue to feed our brains all the sugar, fat, and salt, that we do, we may be in for a very bleak future.

Any suggestions as to the best way to change our diets and our unhealthy obession with appearance?

Lee Hee-ah

Lee Hee-ah

Lee Hee-ah was born with only two fingers on each hand.  She has no limbs below the knee of each foot.  She is another example of someone who use what she has, and doesn’t let what she doesn’t have stop her.  Lee learned to play the piano and became accomplished enough to perform at concerts around the world.

The next time you complain about not be able to do something, because you “only have two hands”, try it with only two fingers on each hand.

From Wikipedia:

Lee Hee-ah is a Korean pianist with only two fingers on each hand. The thumb of her left hand does not have any bones. She does not have any limbs below the knee on each foot. Her father was injured in a war and took morphine for 10 years as he was paralysed below the waist. Her mother took motion-sickness pills to deal with carsickness without realizing she was pregnant. These factors may have contributed to Lee’s birth defects. Not letting them hold her back, Lee tours the world giving concerts and moving people to tears with her ability to play pieces that would be difficult even for able-bodied pianists.”

In these difficult financial times I think the following guidance from the Bible is the kind of compassion we need to see more of.

Deuteronomy 15: 7-8 (King James Version)

“7- If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, 8- but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.”

Both my heart and my brain tell me that eliminating poverty should be our highest priority.  Yet I still don’t do enough to help the poor I see everyday.  I do work about four hours a week at a local shelter.  However I am retired and there is no reason I couldn’t work their full time.  I do give 10% of my income to charity, but I still have money left over to buy CDs, smoke salmon, and gourmet tea.

I don’t have a family to support.  I own my own condo, and receive a guaranteed income and health insurance.  I can’t see any good reason why I don’t give any excess income to the homeless, instead of putting in the bank, but I still don’t.  I can’t avoid the knowledge that I am a hypocrite to say my country doesn’t do enough for the poor, when I don’t myself.

I have spent a lot of time in New York where many of the people begging for money make more than I do.  I know this has hardened me.  I will also admit that when I was younger I sometimes even felt disgust at people who I felt were too lazy to look for work.  Having been laid-off, and looking at economic hardship myself, I have learned it can happen to anyone.

America is the land of conspicuous consumption, and the homeless in every city.  All the statistics I read say over 80% of Americans believe in God.  That is an easy thing to say.  Looking at all our homeless I know a lot less that 80% live by the words of Deuteronomy 15: 7-8.

I have asked this question before.  How do you know that what you are doing to help your neighbor is enough, or at least adequate?




If I had the ambition, a word missing from my vocabulary since I retired, to start another career it would be as a teacher.  I did get the chance to teach some training courses at work.  It was probably the best part of my working experience, although I am not sure if my “students” were as happy with my instructions.  🙂

I am very interested in hearing about anyone’s experience with teaching, or training.

From a Christian Science Monitor article, by Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, about music teacher Markku Kaikkonen, director for the Special Music Center Rasonaari, where students with learning disabilities get to express their love of music.

Helsinki, Finland – Jamming on keyboards, bass guitar, and drums, four young men fill a basement room with harmony. The only unusual items here are the colorful squares, triangles, and circles up on a magnet board. The symbols are stand-ins for conventional musical notes – the keys that have unlocked music for the students here.

The Special Music Center Resonaari has a humble, cozy setting – a converted two-story home in Finland’s capital. But for the 170 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who take music classes here each week, it’s a place where their talents, not their special needs, take center stage.

For music teacher Markku Kaikkonen, the director, it’s also the nucleus of a “cultural revolution.”

“Our pupils, many of them, have lived in the margin of society. But now, with the help of … music education, they are coming closer and closer to the center of society,” Mr. Kaikkonen says, leaning forward with excitement, his brown hair hanging loosely about his shoulders.

The effects spread far beyond the students, Kaikkonen says. They change attitudes among families, neighbors, and the audiences who see them perform.

Figurenotes, a system of notation and teaching, has been developed and tested over the past decade by Kaikkonen and codirector Kaarlo Uusitalo. Students learn to play by matching the symbols to keys on a piano or frets on a guitar. Colors indicate notes, shapes show the octave, and arrows show sharps and flats. It’s a simple way to convey all the information in traditional notation.

The Figurenotes method has spread to Japan, Estonia, and Scotland.

“What they’re teaching us is that people with learning disabilities are capable of doing so much more in terms of their musical ability than what we previously knew,” says Brian Cope, artistic director of Drake Music Scotland, a charity that uses Figurenotes in both mainstream and special education.

A link to the Special Music Centre Resonaari site, some English, but mostly Finnish:

A video of a slightly different band of “learning disabled” performers 🙂 :

Memorial Day is the one holiday that depresses me.  It’s is not a day for parades, or marching bands, or any kind of celebration.   It’s a day that should be spent in contemplation of brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country.  It should be a day spent reflecting on how we can keep from sending future generations off to die in some foreign land.

 I will spend the day putting flowers on my fathers grave.  I will pass my uncles tombstones.  They went off to fight Hitler, and Tojo, and made the world safer. 

I will also pass the graves of some fallen comrades, who lost their lives in my war, Viet Nam, where over 58,000 Americans, and over 4 million Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, sacrificed their lives because of the clueless policies, regarding the world outside our shores, of leaders like JFK, LBJ and Nixon.

It seems to me we are far to willing to send our sons, and daughters, off to fight and die, without asking why.   Our leaders wave the flag, and beat the war drums, and Johnny goes marching off.  I really do hate the idea “Your country, right or wrong.”

The only meaningful way we can honour the sacrifice these fallen patriots made is to do all we can to see that future generations won’t join them.  We won’t, at least not in my lifetime.  That prospect depresses me greatly.

I did a google search for Bible passages about faith.  I selected 2 Corinthians 12:7 – 10 because of the words “for my power is made perfect in weakness”. 

What I am trying gain from these discussions is a better understanding of words that are a source of so much inspiration for my Christian friends.  Given the many trials we face in life we can never have enough inspirational guidances.

2 Corinthians 12:7 – 10 (New Internation Version)

7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I can see that focusing on weaknesses, rather than our strengths, is how we can best reach our potential.  I can also see that for a believer God’s grace should be a sufficient source for overcoming the “thorns” in their flesh.

Hardships are the trials that test you, and will make your faith stronger, if you trust in, find strength in, God’s grace.

If you are able to “delight”, not turn away from, insults and persecutions, this can demonstrate the strength of your faith in God.

“For when I am weak, then I am strong”, just seems to me to be a play on words.

What is your interpretation of these verses, and how would you use them to help strengthen your faith?

I had to renew my photo drivers license today.  I went to the AAA office, instead of the DMV, because it is much faster.   I had my license 15 minutes after going through the doors.

I think they use special cameras that  that will make your face look as bad as possible.  I don’t like the way I  look in any pictures  to begin with. 

My photo license is good for another six years, as I hope I will be.

Do you think your driver license photo is a good picture of you?  If not why?

I looked line the Grinch in my old photo.  In the new photo I look more like Elmer Fudd.

Should older drivers be re-tested at a certain age?

In Connecticut there is not re-testing of drivers.  I could keep renewing my license if I was 100.  I think all drivers should be retested every 10 years, every 5 years once they pass 80.

The past week highlighted the gains women have made in getting elected to leadership positions.

1) Dalia Grybauskaite, was elected Sunday as the first female president of Lithuania, the Baltic nation battling a particularly deep recession.

Ms. Grybauskaite, 53, a tough-talking former finance minister with a black belt in karate, ran as an independent candidate, enhancing her popularity in contrast to the main political parties, whose standings were undermined by the economic downturn and allegations of corruption.

With 96 percent of votes counted, she secured a little more than 68 percent support. Turnout was 51 percent, just above the 50 percent needed to give her a first-round victory and avoid a runoff.

2) In India Sonia Gandhi lead her National Indian Congress Party to the most sweeping election victory in the last 25 years.

“NEW DELHI — Eleven years ago, when she took over as president of India’s oldest political party, Sonia Gandhi was seen as India’s most improbable politician: a foreigner with a shaky command of Hindi, reclusive to the point of seeming aloof, a wife who had fought to keep her husband from joining politics and who lost him to an assassination.

Today, Mrs. Gandhi, 62, is credited with having scored a stunning political coup. Her Indian National Congress party made its best performance in 25 years in the parliamentary elections completed last week, picking up 205 of 543 seats on its own, and with its coalition partners coming only 12 seats shy of an outright majority. All it needs to do now to form a government is stitch up alliances with a handful of independents and small parties.

No longer would it be beholden to the many small party bosses that it needed during the first five-year term a Congress-led coalition was in office. Most important, for the sake of foreign and economic policy, it would no longer have to rely on India’s Communist parties to stay in power, as it had for most of that time.”

3) The most surprising, almost shocking, election results was that for the first time in it’s history Kuwaitis elected four women to it’s parliament.

KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Kuwaitis elected female parliament members for the first time and rejected a number of Islamic fundamentalist candidates in a weekend vote that many hoped would bring stability to the country’s rocky political scene.

Women gained the right to vote and run for office in 2005 but failed in two previous elections to win seats in the 50-member parliament. Four women were elected in Saturday’s vote, according to official results read out by judges on state-owned TV on Sunday.

Kuwait has led the region in giving its people democratic rights. It has an elected parliament that wields considerable power, but the Cabinet is still chosen and led by a ruling family that holds ultimate power.

Radical religious politicians have fought against extending political rights to women. And at the same time, they have pushed for full implementation of Islamic law, or Sharia, in the oil-rich U.S. ally.

”This is a message that the Kuwaiti society has started to move away from such movements that are based on hatred,” said political commentator Sami al-Nisf.

One of the most postive changes that has occurred since I was growing up has been the opportunity that women have gained, fought for, to obtain positions of leadership.  In the world of the 1940’s I was born into a women’s place was in the kitchen, not the executive lounge.  The glass ceiling does still exist, but it is starting to crack.

What would you say has been the most significant change to your society in the years since you were born? 

I’ll start the week with a couple of videos.  One features individuals who have found their sense of rythem, the other is about someone who hasn’t.

“Flying Free.  Music Without Limits:

Mr. Bean

The character of Mr. Bean was first developed when Rowan Atkinson was studying for his MSc at Oxford  University. A sketch featuring the character was being performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in the early 1980s.

I wonder if when his parents saw him off to Oxford, their dreams for him included his becoming Mr. Bean.  Given that Atkinson may now be worth $100 million I don’t think they are too disappointed.

Do you dance better, or worse, than Mr. Bean?

What musical instrument would you most like to be proficient at?

Let me know what you think of the following songs.

I will kick off the weekend with some foot stompin. hand clapping, old time gospel music from the Mighty Clouds of Joy.  They were inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame in 1999.

“The Mighty Clouds of Joy were formed in 1960 and started out in a tradition-based style. Eventually they added soul, R&B, and rock flourishes into their musical mix (one of their early hits was produced by Philadelphia soul czars Gamble and Huff) without diluting the essential religious essence of their material. The long-lived group flourished throughout the rest of the 20th century, scoring numerous Grammy awards and nominations, as well as several hit albums along the way.”

“I Came To Jesus”

2) Oi Va Voi – “Refugee”

“Oi Va Voi are a British band that takes it’s name from a Yiddidsh-derived exclamation popular in Modern Hebrew meaning, approximately “Oh Dear”.  It’s a experimental band from London, England, which formed in the late 1990s.  Their sound draws on Jewish music from both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions, including both klezmer and Ladino music, as well as Eastern European, especially Hungarian folk music, as well as contemporary electronic music.”

3) Perhaps my favorite song, for obvious reasons, as a thirteen year old with a teenagers fantasy.

The Teen Queens – “Eddie My Love”

The Teen Queens were an American musical group from the 1950’s, most remembered for their hit single “Eddie My Love”, which reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in March 1956.

The group consisted of sisters Betty and Rosie Collins, sisters of Aaron Collins, a singer with the doo wop group The Cadets.  It was Aaron who wrote their debut song, and the single that became their biggest hit.

This was their only hit record and after several failed albums that quiet the music scene in 1961.

When you were a young teen was their a song that you considered “your” song?

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