Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chronic Sleep Deprivation and Fat

From Psychology Today:

Sleep the Fat Off
There may be a connection between the amount you sleep and your appetite.
By: Carlin Flora

Imagine… shedding pounds simply by spending more time in never-neverland. Sounds like something out of a late-night infomercial.
But two studies show a striking connection between amount of sleep and levels of appetite-regulating hormones in the body. The findings suggest that chronic sleep deprivation could be making you fat.
American adults have cut their average nightly sleep time by nearly two hours in the last 40 years. And while we've lost sleep, we've gained weight: In 1960, only one out of four adults was overweight, and one out of nine was considered obese. Now, two out of three adults are overweight, and nearly one out of three is obese.
Previous research had shown an association between shorter sleep time and higher body mass index, but no one knew why, says Dr. Shahrad Teheri, an endocrinologist at Bristol University, and lead author of one of the two studies.
He and his colleagues used data from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort, which has tracked the sleep habits of over 1,000 volunteers for 17 years. They found that those people who slumbered (on average) five compared to eight hours each night had a higher body mass index.
And when the researchers collected blood samples from the volunteers, they discovered that the sleep-deprived had higher levels of ghrelin in their blood. Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the stomach that sends out hunger signals to the brain, which then commands you to be interested in food.
At the same time the sleep-deprived had high levels of hunger-stimulating ghrelin, they had lower levels of leptin. Leptin is another appetite-regulating hormone; it's produced by fat cells and delivers satiation signals to the brain. The particular hormonal ratio of high ghrelin/low leptin was likely encouraging the group to load up on unnecessary calories.
"Before this, people thought obesity was the result of sitting on your butt and stuffing your face," Teheri says. "But it turns out sleep has an influence. It makes sense to me personally, because when I was a sleep-deprived resident, I always had the munchies."
The second study hails from the University of Chicago's sleep laboratory. It shows that sleep loss has an immediate effect on the body's levels of ghrelin and leptin. A few nights of insomnia could thus trick your brain into thinking your body needs more food.
In the sleep lab, a small group of young men were forced to function on four hours of sleep a night for six days. The next year, they returned to the lab, but were allowed a full night's rest for six nights, so that researchers could directly compare their hormone levels and appetite.
During their sleep-deprived week, the men not only showed lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin, but they also reported stronger cravings for sweet, fatty and salty foods. Sound familiar?
"While there is a lot of attention on diet and exercise [for weight loss], these two studies underscore the importance of adequate sleep," says Terry Young, co-author of Teheri's study and professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin.
"Unfortunately, people think of sleep as an irresponsible activity. It's as if they are being macho, and want to prove how busy and important their lives are. I predict someday that attitude will be as socially unacceptable as smoking."

Friday, September 26, 2008

The 2008 Presidential Debates, RoundOne

Tonight, the foreign policy debate that was set up to be John McCain's best debate opportunity finally came off. As a result of the financial crisis and McCain's own decisions to suspend his campaign and return to Washington, there was some question whether the debate would actually occur. It did. How did it strike me?

Well, to be honest, I think I should tell you that I am reluctantly leaning McCain this time. For a coupe of reasons, maybe more. First, I just don't have a comfort level that I know Obama or what he will be as President. That is not to say I don't like him, or believe him per se. It is more that he strikes me as someone of good sense and wonderful communication ability stepping into a very deep pool indeed. Does he understand high context? In every administrationI am worried more about the uninteded consequences or the new President's policies. These usually are of greater impact than the actual policies themselves. Having brunch with Ahminjiad seems one of those times where the consequncs migh be very surprsing to Obama. Second, I am trounled by the beliefs of his church. How can a bright, articulate man, listen to seermons like those? Take his daughters to hear that the US government invented Aids to kill black people? I don't feel the I know him as a result of his 20 years in that church. That level of sterotyping and paranoia is just whacked even issuing ffrom a peole who have know great eveil to be done to them. I am uncomfortable with his celebrity status, with hi soft-polling, with his presidential replica seal and concert venue speeches to a lighter-flicking crowd. I don't know that any of these things are real issues, but they make me feel that I don't know the man or what he'd do as President.

In the debate, McCain was sharper, I thought. He repeatedly seemed taken aback, and said to Obama "you just don't understand'. The most direct example came during an argumentative exchange about the wisdom of meeting with the Iranian president. “So let me get this right,” McCain said, exasperated. “We sit down with Ahmadinejad, and he says, "We're going to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth," and we say, "No, you're not"? Oh, please.”

Obama occassionally hinted at compassion for ordinary people -but he wasn’t always successful in that either. Kicking off the debate with a question about the financial crisis, Obama allowed that voters are wondering, “how’s it going to affect me?” He never answered the question, instead launching into a litany of economic principles, then building to his main negative of the night: lecturing, talking at the audience like a professor to a slightly dim class.

Obama seemed to be on defense, parrying McCain's jabs. Often, he seemed to want to jump in and educte us all about that issue - along the way making sure I knew how smart he was. In the end, McCainhad done some damage wth his remrks indicating that Obama is not ready. Obama was able to counter enough remarks that really, I came away with a better feel for McCain, and nothing new for Obama. I wish I could tell him JUST TELL US WHO YOU ARE! Come on , Barack, just tell us. I bet we'll like you. We want to like you. But that reserve that everyone talks is killing me. I just don't think I can vote for ou without knowing much more about you. You were defensive tonight. Why? McCain was on the offensive most of the night, and it seemed to me that Obama's cheif accomplshment was to keep his voice low and steady, smile now an then, and let the comments just run off his back. It was a patrician stance (admired by me, I must say), but my reading tells me that many saw it as lack of confidence, deep knowlage and even a theatrical device designed to reassure. We've heard a lot of words from Sen. Obama over the course of this campaign, but maybe just this once he could spare us the lectures. McCain came acoss as a smart, experienced man. Obama came across as a self-mae celebrity. A smart, well-spoken man, no doubt. But I left the debae wth the same vague feeling with which I began it: Whos is this guy, really? And I know I'll not vote for a feller I can't get a clear picture of. His aloofness and minor grandiosity give me pause as well. Still, much as I hate the candidate pool we have (and want new unknowns) electe, there's just nothing to be done for it. In boxing terms, I'd score this debate 11-8 McCain.

Question Everything

The National Pastime: Horse Potatoes.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reagan on Freedom

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."
Ronald Reagan

The Man in the Arena

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again because there is not effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

The Roots of Violence

The Roots of Violence:

Wealth without work,

Pleasure without conscience,

Knowledge without character,

Commerce without morality,

Science without humanity,

Worship without sacrifice,

Politics without principles.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Anyone Read Craigslist Rants and Raves?

Okay, so the idea is to rave about something you love and rant about something that gets your goat. Here are mine:

RAVE: the plumber who came right away, was courteous and professional, did good work at a reasonable price. The man down the street who saw my wife struggling with a large yard waste container and helped get it to the curb for pickup. The nurse that helped me recover from surgery. The rave is for all the people I come into contact with that are kind, generous, humble, service-oriented and...human!

RANT: The bulk of the postings on Rants and Raves, the advertising and talk shows on television and radio, the vitriol and self-importance, the people that judge others harshly and continually. The people who say things to and about others that used to be so unusual that you'd get punched if you said it to another person, and the people who feel that they are near god-like in their prescience. We are losing all civility, and I can't help but thinking that if this trend continues the policies, beliefs and values that we are all shouting and insulting each other over will be lost in the shuffle of rudeness, judgement and self-righteousness.

To treat others as we would like to be treated is referred to as the Golden Rule. This emerging anger, hat-drop insults, judgement and ire is going to change the color and value of the rule, and we'll be living under the Brown Rule - treating ourselves and everyone else like crap.

Is that how the rants and raves section works?

Looking into our own mirrors

I cannot quite believe how deeply I feel about this.  I don't like the way I feel.  I try to argue with myself, debate; sometimes I immerse myself in the stories and strategies and data just because I am so very uncomfortable with my feelings.  But none of these things seems to be changing my feelings.

Isn't it strange that we have a rational mind, and yet at the most basic levels we can hardly control ourselves with it.  Our feelings, whether informed or ignorant, urgent or lingering, encouraged or repressed and hidden away, simply are.  Our feelings come unbidden - sometimes we welcome them.  Often we fight them, hide them, run from them. If we are disciplined and honest and introspective enough, we may be able to master them and place them in a manageable context for ourselves, but this is fairly uncommon for human beings.  Mostly, we simply feel our feelings and try to adjust our word and behavior to present ourselves in a way we can live with.  I don't like heights.  Standing on the edge of a tall building makes the back of my knees tingle.  I don't like it, don't want it, and no matter how many times I tell myself that I am not going to fall, that tingling fear insists on being felt.  Our feelings can be tested.  We can have new experiences that change them.  But we cannot just will ourselves to feel differently, no matter how hard we try.

And so, here I sit in the weeks leading up to another election, unhappy with my feelings.  But they are my feelings, and if following my feelings is not the best course, it is at least an honest course.  I have been thinking about these particular feelings for at least the last eight years, without much of any resolution or insight.  Once I was excited about politics and candidates and winning elections.  I was a young man who felt it was my duty to choose.  But is it?  I recall George Carlin saying that it is "Bullshit" when people say not voting is a cop-out.  Why?  Because, he said, if we are like him, the act of not voting has become a bigger vote - one that says "I don't want any of these guys."  That may be part of it, but for me I believe that the feelings are coming from a place even harder to resolve.  I realize that I am just tired of the endless cycle of overpromising to get elected, digging and dishing dirt on anyone and everyone who might stand between a candidate and a the office she desires.  I am tired of the spin, and the bad manners and the oversimplified solutions that everyone knows are not solutions at all.  The whole process of government has become a parody, a sort of metaphor within a metaphor for the Emperor's New Clothes.  Much ado about nothing.  To get elected a candidate must vilify others and canonize himself.  He must hang on to his 'base' voters, and therefor may not take positions of conscience on many issues.  When she does take positions, the opposition will claim she lies, or is stupid and doesn't know her plan won't work.  Of course it won't.  None of them will because there is a fundamental breakdown in the system.  I thought my duty was to vote. but I am beginning to think that the real duty of a citizen is much more basic:

1. Be courteous to those who hold different points of view.

2. Be gracious when voters choose differently than we would.

3. Vote on more than one issue, and look past the (D) or (R) on the ballot by a candidates name.

4. Accept that the very nature of leading is to cause anxiety in many people, since most of us fear or resist change.  When problems must be solved, change is required to solve them.  We must  accept that there is risk in every endeavor; live with the risk because it is the price tag for seeking to improve our way of life.

But wait.  We live in a society with so much anger and vitriol for one another that we've given good government a death sentence.  How can anyone represent a people who either get their way or call the opponent every name that can be thought up?  How can we compromise to get anything done in this environment?  Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George Bush campaigned as outsiders who would change Washington.  Did they?  How could they when it is US who makes Washington what it is?  If we hang any politician who disagrees with us on any issue, how can we blame them for listening to polls, and interest groups, and lobbyists? 

So, when I hear the advertisements, and the cocksure statements of 'facts' by campaign surrogates and candidates. when I see ads accusing this one of wanting to starve children or that one of wanting to bankrupt the future, I realize that we are getting what we deserve.  What we created with our intolerance and animus.  Life is complicated.  Governing is damn near impossible.  And governing a people split so forcefully, so vituperatively, so nearly in equal parts, is in fact impossible.  I'm not so much saying what Carlin did, that he didn't want any of these guys...I'm realizing that it doesn't matter which one of these people we get.  Until we the electorate lift ourselves out of the political muck, and accept the concepts that sacrifice, grace in defeat and humility in victory are essential to any government's ability to govern, we will get the government we deserve.  The government we create with our anger and intolerance.

I know that there are real differences in the various candidates.  I know that in many ways they (and we) can make a difference in our community, society and the world. It does matter who is elected and what policies they pursue.  But still, there is a lingering feeling in me that can best be summed up as aversion.    The whole political arena - despite what I think or want - leaves me cold, a kind of combination of 'ick' and 'meh'. 

Sunshine on Discovery Bay

Sunshine on Discovery Bay
As always, the photos we use are either my own, or in the public domain. Please let me know if there are any errors and I'll correct them immediately.