Monday, March 30, 2009

It's Just A Game

There was a married couple. The husband played golf. When he came home from a golf game the wife knew not to ask how the game went. It went one of two ways. He would talk for hours about each great shot he took which bored the hell out of her, or he's be upset for days ranting over how this or that is unfair or wrong. One day day the husband comes home clearly upset about the game. He's not talking to her, though he's not being rude either. He's being passive aggressive. Normally the wife she would have put up with this but for some reason not today she said "honey it's just a game." And he said "it's more than a game, it's a way of life, golf is life" and she said "well then that means life is just a game" Sometimes we take things too seriously. Sometimes we need a little perspective to realize that we don't have to react to things so seriously all the time. That life has it's ups and down and that in the long run this thing that seems so important now is so insignificant.

Things aren't as important as they may seem. As I've grown older this is the one thing I've learned over and over again. The more events in your life you have to look at the more and more you realize that things you thought were life-altering were momentary disturbances. I found myself laughing and I couldn't begin to explain why, but I was reflecting on my life and I bust out laughing at how ridiculous it is. I used to fret over how hard it is to find a good person to date or even be in a relationship, and I think about how everyone wants this same thing so you would think it would be easy, but it's not. Now while this could be a source of anger, resentment, or sadness, and for many it is, the absurdity of it and how trivial it is made me laugh out loud. Age is a lot more than a number it represent the possible number of significant experiences you may have had in your life. And while a 40 may have the same number or significant experiences as a 20 year old it isn't representative of most 20 or 40-year-olds.

I'm going to be 30 in about 18 months and I think how different I will be when I'm 30 versus when I was 20. It's like I'm the same person, but at the same time I'm not. I've grown so much in that time that from the standpoint of my personality I'm unrecognizable. And when I'm 40 I hope I've lived enough to be even more myself than I am now. The game of life doesn't really have a universal scoreboard. There is to billboard in the sky there is no winners or losers but it is still a game. Some games aren't about winning. Some games are just about getting further along on the the board. Some games you focus on leveling up you character, making alliances, and exploring the world. The point of the game is to have fun and to feel a sense of accomplishment. SOme people aren't really good at those games. They get bored and give up. I hope I will never be that person. I like this game I'm having to much fun to quit now. I'm addicted to this game called life.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. - Samuel Johnson

The word 'meaningful' when used today is nearly always meaningless. - Paul Johnson

If the automobile had followed the same development cycle as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once a year, killing everyone inside. - Robert X. Cringely

Friday, March 27, 2009

Did you Know...

Human thigh bones are stronger than concrete.

India never invaded any country in her last 10000 years of history.

The only cause of death is birth.

Cats can produce over one hundred vocal sounds, while dogs can only produce about ten.

Honeybees have hair on their eyes.

About 100 people choke to death on ballpoint pens each year.

99% of the solar systems mass is concentrated in the sun.

There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Words of Wisdom

Speak the truth, but leave immediately after. - Slovenian Proverb

I know that there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that! - Tom Lehrer

The least of learning is done in the classrooms. - Thomas Merton

Charm is a way of getting the answer yes without asking a clear question. - Albert Camus

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Lottery Winner and the Paraplegic

It started off a normal conversation. It's one many of us have had. What would you do if you won the lottery? I was having this conversation with my mother. Her dream was to be able to give as much of the money away and still have enough to live comfortably. It would have pissed of a lot of people in my family, my brother and I included, because we wouldn't be getting the bulk of the money. She'd give to charities and churches and schools. My brother and I would get quite a bit, but not as much as we'd have liked. I had read about a lottery winner support group. I told my mom about it. She couldn't understand. Why would a lottery winner need a support group? As it turns out winning the lottery isn't as good as it seems. There are three reasons. The first is progress principle. The second is the adaptation principle. The last is simple, greed destroys relationships.

The progress principle states that we get more pleasure from working toward a goal than actually attaining it. Losing weight is a lot more satisfying than already being at a healthy weight. Earning money is always more satisfying that already having money, Shakespeare said it best "a goal won is done, life's joy is in the doing" This is because in our biology. The brain is a system of stimulus and response. The closer the stimulus is to the response the better the connection between the two. Long-term goals mean a large separation between the two. This is why most animals seek only sex and food and avoid dying. It's immediate reward or punishment system is how natural selection works. Both are enjoyable and so we seek them out. Dying and pain are bas so we avoid it. The longer the time from completing a task to the reward we get the less we are motivated to do it again. The joy is in the small success along the way to your goals. In the case of the lottery winner we greatly over estimate the joy or getting rich quick.

The adaptation principle states that we react more to change than steady states. That given a steady state over time we will adapt to it. In the case of the lottery winner that mean she will enjoy the winning less than she thought and then over time she will get used to the winnings. Having no way to move up any more in wealth she goes right back to wanting money just as much as before winning the lottery now instead of wanting a million collars she wants tem million dollars. It's sometimes referred to as the hedonic treadmill. We seek more a more material pleasure only to find out it doesn't make us lastingly happy. We're pulled back to our original state of happiness and we move on to a new goal. It feels like we're making progress but we're really moving in place.

And of course there is greed. I love my mother, but her giving my money away really could damage our relationship. And one of the few exceptions to the adaptation principal is a lot of loving relationships. The more socially connected we are to people who care about us the better off we are emotionally and physically. We live longer and happier lives when we have strong ties to our family and friends and to the community at large. Winning the lottery can threaten that in a large way. We often underestimate just how much it can change our life for the worse. Many lottery winner become shut ins because so many people hit them up for cash and when they say no it damages their relationships. Some resort to moving away and other form support groups.

So what's the deal with the paraplegic? Well if winning the lottery is supposed to make you happy then breaking you neck has got to be the worldly opposite. Just about the worse thing that could happen to you other than a painfully slow death. But think about it from the point of their of these facts the progress paradox suggests that going to zero means you can only up. Physical therapy slowly gives you more function the stimulus response connection couldn't be stronger. Effort and reward are almost the same. The adaptation principle suggest that we'd be sad for a long why, but we'd get used to being immobile/ And the effect to relationships usually bang people who care about you to your side truly showing you how much they really care about you. I'm not saying I don't want to win the lottery or that I want to break my neck, what I'm saying is that we have a hard time predicting what will make us happy. And that maybe we should take these things in mind the next time we set a goal. Understand where real joy comes from and do that instead.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Real Problem With Pain

There is an old philosophical conundrum known as the problem of pain. It is that with an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-benevolent god, why does evil exist? The argument is old and so many have fought it on one side or the other. God created free will because it's good and free will created evil, but God being all-knowing would have known that creating free will would create pain and couldn't he have made a world where free will wasn't necessary? I don’t mean to rehash the entire argument here because this isn’t really about the philosophical argument of the problem of pain. I discussed this problem pain in am earlier blog post some years ago soon after hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast. It was one of my most memorable posts because I got so many angry res ponces about it at the time. It’s called Devil’s advocate.

I literally was arguing the case against God. Thousands die and millions lost their homes are you telling me somehow free will caused this sort off suffering? Free will may explain why people murder babies in their cribs, but how does it explain hurricanes? Mostly what you'll get a “shit happens” response. Or the ugly but inevitable “they deserved it” The arguments of the problem of pain are nothing new. People have argued these points for centuries and no good answers seem to be found. I find it interesting and I’m sure to revisit it again but that’s not what this post is about. What this is more about in the necessity of pain. How we need pain in our everyday life in order for us to really be happy.

There was a philosopher who posed the mental experiment demonstrated in the movie The Matrix. The question was “if you could spend the rest of you life inside a machine that would give you everything you want, every pleasure imaginable and no pain ever would you choose to be hooked up to the machine?” The question cuts directly to the point. Can we truly choose a life without pain? Most people say no. Why? Because it’s not real. A life without pain is no life that we know. It would feel false and all the pleasure in the world could not make up for living a fake life in a vat of goo making you dream forever. In order for anything to have meaning it has to be real.

Pain therefore is necessary because it’s what makes us real. Pain is reality. Pain shows us that our life is real and that the choices we make have lasting consequences. How can he take full measure of our lives if there is only one state of being? The ups and downs, the horror and the beauty is what gives us perspective. What we see is the contrast of one thing against another. We cannot see joy without suffering. We cannot know love without apathy. We cannot have ecstasy without agony. And we cannot overcome evil if there is no evil to overcome. Strife above all else gives meaning to our lives. Having come though come though illness or war though makes those who do stronger happier people. They then enrich our lives with their life story. And though it’s hard to admit it we need suffering, we need evil, we need pain in order for life to have any meaning at all.

Why else do we like moves that make us cry? Isn’t the best kind of sex the kind that hurts a little? Why does absence makes the hear grow fonder. Why do we like to be scared in movies and on roller casters? We want these experiences because this is what it means to be alive. When people are about to die they say they felt more more alive then at the moment they were about to die. This is what it means to be real. Reality is gritty and uncomfortable, horrible and beautiful, sickening and enlightening. Life is more than we can ever come to understand, greater than ourselves, our knowledge, and our beliefs. After we;re dead and gone the world will still be here. We are. Nothing less will do. So this isn’t to say that we have to like pain, it’s to say that the real problem with pain is that we need it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Happiness Hypothesis

Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
by Jonathan Haidt

What makes us happy? This is the central question of The Happiness Hypothesis. We are not all the same and no one thing is going to make everyone happy, but there should be some general principals that can guide us to a better life. Is money the answer? Does a lack of pain and a comfortable life make us happy? How about the ties that bind us to friends and family? It's a pretty big question and book goes deep into these and many others trying to get a glimpse of the secret of life.

It's a good read. I've read twice already and I'm reading it again because it's so densely packed with insights that you're bound to miss a few the first time and the third time it seems like even though I remember what I read, the significance of the wisdom takes a while to sink in. This is a great book if you like to ponder deep philosophical principals but also have a respect for modern science. The book is full of studies that examine the question posed by the philosophers and spiritual leaders of the past. It's a worth a few reads because each time you read it you are a different person. And how you approach this book determines what you will take away from it.

From Publishers Weekly

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, lamented St. Paul, and this engrossing scientific interpretation of traditional lore backs him up with hard data. Citing Plato, Buddha and modern brain science, psychologist Haidt notes the mind is like an "elephant" of automatic desires and impulses atop which conscious intention is an ineffectual "rider." Haidt sifts Eastern and Western religious and philosophical traditions for other nuggets of wisdom to substantiate—and sometimes critique—with the findings of neurology and cognitive psychology. The Buddhist-Stoic injunction to cast off worldly attachments in pursuit of happiness, for example, is backed up by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's studies into pleasure. And Nietzsche's contention that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger is considered against research into post-traumatic growth. An exponent of the "positive psychology" movement, Haidt also offers practical advice on finding happiness and meaning. Riches don't matter much, he observes, but close relationships, quiet surroundings and short commutes help a lot, while meditation, cognitive psychotherapy and Prozac are equally valid remedies for constitutional unhappiness. Haidt sometimes seems reductionist, but his is an erudite, fluently written, stimulating reassessment of age-old issues. (Jan.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Using the wisdom culled from the world's greatest civilizations as a foundation, social psychologist Haidt comes to terms with 10 Great Ideas, viewing them through a contemporary filter to learn which of their lessons may still apply to modern lives. He first discusses how the mind works and then examines the Golden Rule ("Reciprocity is the most important tool for getting along with people"). Next, he addresses the issue of happiness itself--where does it come from?--before exploring the conditions that allow growth and development. He also dares to answer the question that haunts most everyone--What is the meaning of life?--by again drawing on ancient ideas and incorporating recent research findings. He concludes with the question of meaning: Why do some find it? Balancing ancient wisdom and modern science, Haidt consults great minds of the past, from Buddha to Lao Tzu and from Plato to Freud, as well as some not-so-greats: even Dr. Phil is mentioned. Fascinating stuff, accessibly expressed. June Sawyers

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Did you know...

There are two credit cards for every person in the United States.

The Eiffel Tower has 1792 steps.

Ostriches kill more people annually than sharks do.

Pogonophobia is the fear of beards.

The Ottoman Empire once had seven emperors in seven months. They died of (in order): burning, choking, drowning, stabbing, heart failure, poisoning and being thrown from a horse.

In England, the Speaker of the House is not allowed to speak.

More people are killed annually by donkeys than die in plane crashes

Friday, March 20, 2009

Shadow and Self

* * *

It's a miserable day. I just got over one of the worst illnesses I've had in my life. I had a case of food poisoning. Salmonella had contaminated millions of food products in which peanut products were used. I happened to have eaten one of those products and only later did I realize that it was recalled. I thought I was going to die. To date more than dozen people have died from the contamination. It was my first day back at work in nearly a week. I was still pretty weak and I was having breakfast with a few of my coworkers. We're talking about nothing when the topic of acting comes up. It's said that actors rarely watch their own performances even the really good actors have a hard time looking at themselves. And I got to thinking, we are all like this.

Why is it so hard to see ourselves as we are? Do we need our delusions in order to be happy? I remember reading that depressed people tend to have a more realistic view of themselves and the world. Happy people also tend to be delusional about the amount of control they have. In an experiment where the subject was given a task such as turning on a light with a switch that had no influence on the light blinking on and off, happy people tended to believe that they had an effect on the light about 40% of the time. Researchers have discovered that people who are happy tend to dismiss their own weakness and externalize failure. They blame circumstances rather than themselves. They also believe that those circumstances can be changed even when they cannot.

I tend to be a realist. I like to understand things for the way they are, but is it worth sacrificing your peace of mind? No. And so I strive for the middle ground, I am a delusional realist. I'm delusional just like other happy people, only I know and am delusional and aware of my reality though I don't fully accept it. I know I'm not as funny as I think am, or as good looking, or as smart, but when I think of myself, I think positively, because the alternative isn't worth the sadness. I too cannot look at myself in a video recording without cringing a little. The camera doesn't ten pounds our minds subtract it. As I sit looking at myself ready to turn away I linger a little just so that in the back of my mind I can store that realistic self image in a dark and safe place where it will not bother me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Beholder

* * *

There is so much beauty in this world. Sometimes I just seem to be drowning in it. I'm walking down a spiral staircase and I look and I see a pattern. It's swirling as it goes down like a giant man made nautilus. It was incredible and to think if I wasn't paying attention I would have missed it. I've come down these stairs so many times and I missed it. I start to wonder how many wonderful things I've been missing because I'm too preoccupied. It is that instinct to see what is interesting and to tell others about it that drives me to write and that draws me to other people who have an eye for the wonders of everyday life.

Beauty doesn't come in visual forms. It can be situational. I call it a life poem. It's beautiful in its own mysterious way. Situations where the irony is so thick that fiction would deem it to unrealistic. Life is filled with unbelievable plot twists, larger than life characters, people so incredibly crazy that their insanity can only make you smile with delight. People ere funny, laugh out loud funny. I remember meeting someone who had such bad conversation skills it was like he was angry at me, every question elicited a one or two word answer. At first I thought he may have been preoccupied, but the later when I asked if he was busy before the conversation started he said he wasn't and I asked several times if something was wrong. I couldn't believe he didn't see himself at all. His self image was so twisted that all I could do is laugh to myself. Life is a sitcom and God has a great sense of humor.

I call it the eye. It's a way of seeing the world with wonder. Instead of taking it all for granted, people with the eye see the beauty m the absurdity and the tragedy and the wonder of everyday existence. I have the eye. As children I think we all have it. If you look at children they stare at people and their parents scold them saying it's not polite. I walk through life filled with a reverence for existence. I'm the child who still stares. I'm drawn to other people with the eye. Artists and writers, teachers and musicians. I am the disobedient child. One of the misfits who thinks the greatest pleasure in life is life itself. Next greatest joy in life is being able to share a glimpse of what I see with other people who can appreciate it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

* * *

There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line. - Oscar Levant

The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not. - Eric Hoffer

Things are only impossible until they're not. - Jean-Luc Picard

Sunday, March 15, 2009

7 Things You May Not Know

* * *

R.S.V.P. comes from the French phrase, 'répondez, s'il vous plaît,' which means 'please reply.' According to western etiquette, you should reply promptly if you receive a formal invitation.

Mosquito repellents don't repel. They hide you. The spray blocks the mosquito's sensors so they don't know your there.

The world's youngest parents were 8 and 9 and lived in China in 1910.

Maine is the only state whose name is a single syllable

One in every 4 Americans has appeared on television.

A quarter has 119 grooves on its edge, a dime has 118.

Until 1796, there was a state in the United States called Franklin. Today it is known as Tennessee.

You Are Here

* * *
Look before you leap. Plan before you act. Think before you speak. You hear these idioms and it sounds like good advice. What could be wrong with being thoughtful and making plans? Well as it turns out, a lot. Often times what happens is that I end up making plans I never act on spending a lot of time thinking about what I'm going to do and not doing anything. I want to lose weight so I come up with a weight loss plan I never implement. I want to write a book so I write an outline and make a writing schedule and a research notes and plan to work and noting gets done. But I found something out about myself, making plans are important, but sometimes you have to just jump in. Here's why.

Planning takes a lot more energy than it seems. I didn't realize this until one day when I was recalling my struggle to lose weight. I have been trying to do this for most of my life and I would make these plans. I knew how to diet I knew how to exercise and I had made the necessary plans to do it. I would get started, then I would get frustrated and then I was back where I was before I started or even worse off. I never actually did what I planned. Now I go to the gym almost everyday. I eat right most of the time. I've lost 60 lbs already and am confident that I will get to my goal weight if I continue on the path I'm currently travelling. I don't draw up those plans anymore and I'm starting to think that is was those plans that got in the way. I used up all the energy I should have been using to get through the difficult task of implementation on planning.

Not only that sometimes the plan isn't realistic. A plan is like a map. It's a way of telling you where you are and where you want to be. But what happens when you get lost? You look on the map then you look at the world and you realize that they don't match. What do you do? You can "bend the map" to reality; try to rationalize why you're lost and basically lie to yourself. You say "the map is still right this like could have dried up, and this road my be new, or this building may have been torn down." You can try to make the map fit the world. This is a mistake bound to get you lost for good, bound to the map you're unable to see the world as it is. The better choice is to abandon the map and take look around and try to understand the way to your destination.

If the world and the map don't match, abandon the map, not the journey. I used to think that I was going to eat perfectly on my diet. I knew it was going to be hard, but I thought it was possible. But I don't eat perfectly, so why am I using a map that says I do? I look at the map then I look at the world and they don't match and I abandon the trip. What I should have done is pack the map, know the map, but when reality doesn't match the map take clues from the world and keep on the path to my destination. Not only am I going to get where I'm trying to go, I'll enjoy the tip at lot more. Now I lose weight and eat anything I want. How is that possible? Because I have no guilt when I mess up, because that's reality, I mess up and I shouldn't feel bad about it. On my very next meal I go back to my diet as planed.

I still pack the map it does come in handy, but when I notice that the world isn't matching the map I trust the world rather than the map. I take not of the mistakes on the map like eating junk and I try to avoid those pitfalls in the future. But without relying on the map I no longer say the pitfalls "shouldn't be there" when you realize that you don't get to create reality you just accept it for the way it is. The world is the way it is regardless of my opinion about it. I don't judge it anymore I take it into myself and even word er at it's complexity and contradictory elements. I don't feel lost anymore. When you think about it how can you ever be lost. When ever I ask the question "where am I?"I answer "I am here" you can never be lost.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Obama to Lift Stem Cell Restrictions

President Obama is expected today to end an 8½-year ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

President Obama is expected to sign an executive order today reversing Bush era stem cell restrictions.White House officials said Sunday that the president's order will give the National Institutes of Health 120 days to develop ethical guidelines for the research.

"Encompassed in [the executive order] will also be the requirements around guidelines that will be drafted by the NIH [National Institutes of Health] as they ... work with others around the country to make sure we're handling the issue responsibly," said Melody Barnes, the director of the president's Domestic Policy Council.

The president will also sign a memorandum that Barnes says will "restore scientific integrity in government decision making." It will help ensure public policy is "guided by sound scientific advice," she said.

The memorandum will cover all scientific research, including such areas as energy and climate change. The Bush administration was often accused of allowing politics to color its scientific decisions, something the administration denied.

Actor Michael J. Fox, a longtime advocate for embryonic stem cell research, expressed his enthusiasm for the president's plan and commended Obama for "recognizing the inherent value of research freedom and creating an environment in which it can flourish."

"Today is a new day. I'm thrilled to see President Obama has honored his commitment to get politics out of science," Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, told "Good Morning America." "The last few years have been incredibly frustrating for patients and researchers who believe that embryonic stem cell research has the potential to bring better treatment."

One of those who will be on hand for the signing at the White House is 34-year-old Roman Reed, who was paralyzed from the waist down at age 19, while playing college football.

The Fremont, Calif., resident and his parents have become tireless advocates for embryonic stem cell research. They were instrumental in getting California to fund this research, when the federal government would not.

Reed told ABC News he is convinced embryonic stem cell research holds limitless promise.
"I know one day I will get out of this chair and pick up my son and hold him right," Reed said. "I promised my family that I would walk again, and I will make that dream come true."
Reed's father and mother have accompanied him to Washington.

"The last eight years have been frustrating," said Don Reed, Reed's father. "It's hard to have the president of the United States be an obstacle. We want the president on our side."
The significance of the move has been hailed by disease advocacy organizations as a positive step toward new treatments for a variety of conditions.

"We are delighted to hear that President Obama will be signing a stem cell executive order on Monday, restoring a level of scientific freedom to this country that we believe is critical to the future," said Katie Hood, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research in a statement issued Friday. "Our foundation is optimistic about the work that will now continue toward better treatments and cures for the millions of people impacted by injury or disease."

The announcement resounded through the research community as well. Sean Morrison, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Stem Cell Biology in Ann Arbor, said he was "overjoyed" at the news.

"President Obama's executive order signals a new day in which science policy will be based on science and in which the federal government can invest in the best ideas with the greatest potential to improve public health," Morrison said. "America will once again seek to be the world's engine for biomedical discovery, leading the way toward new treatments for disease."
But the executive order that ends President Bush's 2001 ban on such research will likely bring no such end to the fierce political debate that surrounds the use of embryonic stem cells.
On Friday, ABC News' Karen Travers reported that Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del. -- co-author of the stem cell legislation that President Bush vetoed twice -- welcomed the White House decision.
"I could not be more excited to hear that President Obama will finally lift the stifling restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research -- something I have actively fought for over the last five years," Castle said in a statement. "This single action symbolizes a new day for scientific research and highlights the importance of a strong federal role in promoting potentially life-saving science."

Shortly afterward, ABC News' Jake Tapper reported outrage from another Republican in the form of a statement issued by House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

(ABC News/AP)"Advancements in science and research have moved faster than the debates among politicians in Washington, D.C., and breakthroughs announced in recent years confirm that the full potential of stem cell research can be realized without the destruction of living human embryos," Boehner's statements read. "The question is whether taxpayer dollars should be used to subsidize the destruction of precious human life. Millions of Americans strongly oppose that, and rightfully so."

David Prentice, senior fellow for life sciences for the Washington, D.C.-based Christian advocacy group Family Research Council, expressed similar disappointment.

"There are adult stem cells that are helping to improve patients' health and saving lives, and these new iPS cells that are providing basic research tools to study disease," Prentice said. "It's really a waste of resources to be moving in that direction now. It's a waste of funding, and it's a waste of lives, both in terms of the embryos and the patients waiting for these advances. ... I think it's clear that this is perhaps just fulfilling a campaign promise that was ill conceived."
Public Mostly Supportive of Embryonic Stem Cell ResearchWhat has traditionally made embryonic stem cells such a hot-button issue is the fact that, in order to obtain them, researchers must destroy human embryos -- a step that some say violates the sanctity of human life.
In August 2001, Bush signed an executive order barring federal funds for embryonic stem cell research on all but a couple dozen existing embryonic stem cell lines.

But proponents of the study of embryonic stem cells say much of this research uses discarded embryos from in-vitro fertilization procedures, which in all likelihood would have been destroyed anyway.

As the discussion over the potential promises of embryonic stem cells has evolved in the last decade, so too have public opinions of the research. Currently, most Americans appear to support the loosening of restrictions on embryonic stem cell research; according to the results of a January ABC/Post poll, 59 percent of Americans support loosening the restrictions, while 35 percent oppose doing so.

The relaxation of federal funding restrictions sits well with most Democrats, as well as with most independents. Republicans were more likely to oppose lifting such restrictions, with only 40 percent supporting such a move and 55 percent opposing it.

President Obama is expected to sign an executive order today reversing Bush era stem cell restrictions.Indeed, the president's order comes more than a month after the Jan. 23 approval by the Food and Drug Administration of the first study of a treatment based on human embryonic stem cells aimed at treating those with spinal cord injuries.

Researchers Overwhelmingly Positive"This decision is a major step forward for stem cell research in the United States," said Martin Pera, professor and founding director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC. "The move will enable NIH-funded researchers to work on valuable new embryonic stem cell lines ... to determine which cell lines are best suited to treat particular diseases."

"This is a huge step forward and typical of Barack Obama, who is an incredible breath of fresh air and exactly the president the U.S. and the world needed," said Helen Blau, director of the Baxter Laboratory in Genetic Pharmacology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "Thank goodness this senseless ban has been lifted."

Still, Dr. Allen Spiegel, dean of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and vice chair of the National Institutes of Health Stem Cell Task Force, said the years of restriction on embryonic stem cell research has been a major setback for U.S. researchers.

"In hearings before Sen. [Arlen] Specter [R-Pa.] and [Tom] Harkin [D-Iowa], I stated that banning funding for research on human embryonic stem cells was like tying one hand behind the backs of stem cell investigators," Spiegel said. "Lifting the ban cannot eliminate the effect of years of delay, but harnessing the full power of NIH to review and fund scientifically meritorious research projects will accelerate progress toward the goal of helping people suffering from diabetes, neurologic diseases, and many other conditions."

Other researchers remained cautious in their enthusiasm.

"I'm super excited, but the devil's in the details," said stem cell researcher Dr. George Daley, associate professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "I'm still worried that he might say that only some types of lines will be allowed."

"I hope he'll say the decision should be made by scientists and allow the NIH [National Institutes of Health] to decide based on the recommendations of experts and scientists outside of politics and religion," he said. "This is where the NIH [National Institutes of Health] has served us so well in other areas, and we've been missing that for the past eight years."
Reports from Sunlen Miller, Jake Tapper, Karen Travers, Gary Langer and the ABC News Medical Unit contributed to this report.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Smore more food for thought

There wasn't a single pony in the Pony Express, just horses.

Termites eat wood twice as fast when listening to heavy metal music.

The name Jeep came from the abbreviation used in the army for the "General Purpose" vehicle, G.P.

All US Presidents have worn glasses. Some just didn't like being seen wearing them in public.

The average person falls asleep in seven minutes.

In 75% of American households, women manage the money and pay the bills.

HIV/AIDS has created more than 14 million orphans — 92 percent of them live in Africa.

Butterflies taste with their feet

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Food for Thought

Twelve newborn babies are given to the wrong parents each day

Sherlock Holmes never said "Elementary, my dear Watson."

"Character is what you have left when you've lost everything you can lose."- Evan Esar

Canada has it’s name derived from an Indian word meaning "Big Village".

Today you will breath in 1 liter of other peoples' anal gases.

"Those who agree with us may not be right, but we admire their astuteness." - Cullen Hightower

A person afflicted with hexadectylism has six fingers or six toes on one or both hands and feet.

Birds do not sleep in their nests. They may occasionally nap in them, but they actually sleep in other places.

"The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided." - Casey Stengel

If you have three quarters, four dimes, and four pennies, you have $1.19. You also have the largest amount of money in coins without being able to make change for a dollar.