18 February 2009

Grab a Book, Grab Your Knitting Needles, Grab Your Joystick?

What do reading, knitting, and computer games have in common? According to a US study, these activities are amongst the things that can keep dementia at bay. Yep, it's true. Now you'd expect reading a book to be good for your mind. That's a bit of a no-brainer (insert groan from the audience here). But quilting and knitting? Computer games? That is the message from a recent study anyway. What wasn't on the list? Watching more than seven hours of television a day. Seven hours? Wow! That seems like a lot of television. I think they need to clarify what you watch for those seven hours. Discovery Channel or the History Channel would be good for your brain, but reruns of Gilligan's Island (raises one eyebrow)?

Okay, seriously, though, more research needs to be done because the study is based partially on asking people between the ages of 70-89 what their lifestyle was like twenty to forty years ago. In other words, what kind of mental activities did they engage in from age 50 to 65? I don't know about you, but I have to wonder about the soundness of this information. This was a study involving a group of people who had already been diagnosed with mild memory loss. (Raises eyebrows) How do we know they remember what they were doing twenty to forty years ago? (Scratches head and furrows brow) Do I remember what I was doing twenty to forty years ago for mental stimulation? Hmm. And what makes them think there wouldn't be a little bit of white-washing of the old memory banks? Forget the hours in front of the telly and cast a hopeful, hyperbolic glance at the three or four books on the bookshelf that they think they might have read during that time. They look familiar, after all. You really have to question the memory of an octogenarian who recollects all those video games he played when he was fifty. What was he playing? Pong? More to the point, do you remember Pong? It was less stimulating than staring at a hospital vital signs monitor (whack to the head). Oh! That's probably what he remembers as playing computer games.*

Anyway the good news here is that doing something is better than doing nothing. Keep the body and brain alive by keeping them active. It's really just common sense. Keeping the brain active helps to keep the old synapses firing, and physical activity keeps the muscles toned and the heart in good shape. So get out there and get some mental and physical exercise. Heck, you can even use your Wii Fit games to be mentally stimulating at the same time as you're getting some exercise. Whatever you do, make sure it feels good and you don't overdo it. Check with your doctor, etc., etc., and all the other disclaimers that go along with making sweeping health statements in a public forum. AND because I care about you all, here is a link you might like to use. You might want to put it in your "favovites" or bookmark it so you don't forget where you found it. I'm just saying.



*Said octogenarian is a fictional character used to add humor (hopefully) to the article. How's he doing?

Editor of AGNADL

15 February 2009

Ripple Effect of Good News

On President Obama's Inauguration Day, I launched a new blog: http://allgoodnewsalldaylong.blogspot.com. I started it because a friend of mine was saying that it would be so great to turn on the television and get good news for a change. I had to agree. I too was tired of so much bad news everywhere. Following the advice of Mahatma Gandhi, I decided to be the change I wished to see. I don't happen to own a television station, but I am a writer. Thus the new blog, which now has nearly as many postings as this one, which was started a long time ago in comparison. The new blog operates on the spiritual principle that what you focus your attention on expands. Focus on good news, then good news expands. Focus on bad news, well... we're done with that now.

Today I learned from Seattle Times writer, Danny Westneat, that there is a radio DJ, Kevin Ebi, who is sharing only positive news on his morning news program on KJR-FM 95.7, the classic rock station in Seattle. Not only does it play very cool music, but now it has an upbeat news program to help you start your day.

So while we're all catching this good news vibration in the Puget Sound area, I hope it will become the pebble tossed into the water that creates a ripple that crosses the oceans and eventually returns to us in a tidal wave of positive energy and even better news for all of us around the world. That's my hope and wish for each of you today and for the rest of your lives. May good news follow you like a puppy in need of a home.



07 February 2009

Each One Holding Up the Light

(Reprinted from my other blog: http://allgoodnewsalldaylong.blogspot.com).

I came across an article in the Seattle Times today that brought tears to my eyes. Not because it was sad, though of course it was sad to think about where we used to be in this country in regards to racial issues. We've advanced a lot in the past couple centuries, although I'd say we still have a long way to go, and I definitely hope it won't require another couple of centuries to get there. The reason it made me want to cry was the deeply symbolic nature of the story.

The story is about the honoring of two Seattle gentleman, who are leaving tomorrow morning on an Amtrak train bound for Oakland, California. They are heading for a celebration "to honor railroad porters of yesteryear as part of Black History Month." I direct you to the full article to read for yourselves, but there are two parts that stood out in particular to me. The first was the recollection of Troy Walker, who was first hired by the railroad 65 years ago. While he really enjoyed his job, there was also a downside, which included Blacks being barred from being promoted to supervisory and steward positions on the railroad, muttered insults from passengers, and having to stay in separate hotel rooms from the rest of the railroad staff. It wasn't until 1971, when Amtrak took over the railroad where he worked, that Mr. Walker was promoted to a supervisory position. He retired in 1982, three years after he transferred to Seattle.

The second Seattle gentleman is Thomas H. Gray. He worked only summer jobs as a chair-car attendant while he was in college, so he's a little reluctant about this honor. But his late father, Thomas J. Gray, and his grandfather, Henry Jones, were members of the Pullman union. They both worked for over 35 years for the railroad. He recalls a most touching story about his grandfather. Sometimes in the summer when Gray was working, his train would pass the one his grandfather was riding on. They knew when this would happen, so they would each hold out a light to signal their presence on the train to the other. Thomas would hold up his lighted flashlight, and his grandfather would hold up his railroad lantern. The trains were traveling so fast (70 mph) that it was not possible to see the individuals, but they could each see the light, and they both knew who was holding up the light to the other.

That's the part that really made me cry because it is so powerfully symbolic. We each do our part to make this world a better place, and sometimes it may not seem like a lot and that it passes by all too quickly. But it in the end what is seen is the light, shining out into the world. During a time in American history when Blacks were not treated very well, Henry Jones held up the light to signal to his grandson, Thomas, that he was there. Gray, a 71-year-old retired Boeing engineer, will be going to Oakland this weekend, and I think Mr. Jones will be there as well even if Thomas can't see him. He'll still be holding up the light to guide his grandson's steps.


05 February 2009

Random Acts of Rugness

No, that's not a typo. It's not supposed to say kindness or ruggedness. It's rugness, and it refers to a habit that my kittens seem to enjoy. They like to rearrange the rugs in my house. A flat, straightened out rug is BORING! They don't know why I go around straightening all the rugs behind them, and I don't know why they go around messing them up behind me. But we all keep doing what we do, and it's starting to get really funny. So I decided to lay out a rug carefully in their main play area. Not that they don't play wherever they happen to land, but it's what I think of as their main play area. They probably have different ideas entirely about that.

So I laid a rug out on the carpeted floor and just left it there to see what they'd do with it. It wasn't long before the little female, Anjolie, discovered it and decided that it was altogether too tidy for her tastes. So she messed it up. I haven't straightened it up either. I'm leaving it as is. Well, that's not exactly true. When I was playing with her today, I actually messed it up a little bit more and tossed a fake mouse under it so she'd have to go find it. That was a hit with her. She found the mouse and played on the rug with it for awhile. I must say that currently this random rug is her favorite spot in the play area to sit or lay. She stretches out on the rug, rolls around on it, burrows into it, and I just let her have fun with it. It seems to make her so happy.

The male kitten, Bootsy, has not really engaged with the random rug much yet. I've seen him playing with the rugs in the kitchen, so I know he does it too. He probably just doesn't mess about in the rugs as much as Anjolie. They both like to burrow, but he seems to be growing up faster, even though they're litter mates. She's definitely growing out of some of her kittenish ways too, however, because sometimes I'll start to play with her in some way that she used to love, and she just looks at me as if to say, "Mommy, I don't do that now that I'm all grown up."

It will be interesting to see how long the random rug is interesting. I'll have to straighten it up every day, just so it will seem like a "real" rug and not some decoy, which it is, of course. I will say that the rugs in the kitchen are in the same place tonight as they were when I got up this morning and straightened one of them slightly, so perhaps it's working, and I won't have to keep undoing the damage where I need to walk most of the day. I may, of course, have to move the random rug every few days just to keep it interesting.

By the way, the top photo is of Bootsy. He's enjoying the view from atop the ladder I had out to use for painting the interior of my house. The second one is Anjolie helping me fold kitty towels her way, which is quite similar to the way she prefers her rugs. She's also a huge help when I change the bedsheets, as you can imagine. The kittens are nine and a half months old now.

01 February 2009

First Ever Openly Gay World Leader

A new day is dawning around the world. Hopefully the United States' recent surge in understanding that the color of your skin or your gender doesn't determine your ability to do the job of leading a country will continue to propel us forward to becoming a country where all of our citizens have equal rights. What? You mean you didn't realize that not all U.S. citizens have equal rights? Surely you jest. In 1954, the Supreme Court sent a message to all of its citizens in every state. That message was that "separate" rights are not "equal" rights. That message was called Brown vs. The Board of Education. So where in our country are we experiencing separate but unequal rights? In the area of same-sex marriage.

Only one state out of fifty offers same-sex couples the right to marry and enjoy the same (i.e., EQUAL) rights as heterosexual married couples. It's 2009, people, and discrimination still reigns supreme in 49 states when it comes to same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court sent a very clear message in 1954 with Brown vs. The Board of Education. It was 9-0. Now why is it that the 1954 Supreme Court got the message that separate does not mean equal, and yet the people of the United States in the year 2009 still haven't gotten that message? Sure, it's illegal now to make African-Americans sit at the back of the bus, use their "own" bathrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains. But it's perfectly legal in 49 states to bar same-sex couples from enjoying the same rights, privileges, and, yes, responsibilities as heterosexual married couples. It's legal to discriminate against same-sex couples. LEGAL to DISCRIMINATE. LEGAL to treat ONE GROUP of CITIZENS as UNEQUAL to the rest. Why? How is it that more people in this country don't understand the concept of equality? How many centuries will it take before the United States grows up and into its own principles of equality? It's not about religious beliefs. It's about equal rights for all. Period. Same-sex couples pay EQUAL taxes. They should have EQUAL tax benefits and everything else that goes hand-in-hand with marriage rights.

I've often said that I won't believe that the U.S. has achieved a true state of egalitarianism (ALL are equal) until I see an African-American lesbian in the Oval Office. Now that we have a President who is partly of African heritage, I'm revising that to a Native American, Hispanic, or Asian-American lesbian, since we've begun to crack the racial wall that has kept African-Americans in second class status for so long. Geez, it took nearly 150 years after slavery ended to get this far. In another millennium or so, we ought to be on track.

But say, what would happen if we allowed ourselves to grow at a personal/social rate at a pace that equals the rate at which our technology is expanding? What would happen if we did something really radical and just passed laws that make us ALL EQUAL? You've already read my blog about it not being possible that same-sex marriage would lead to bestiality, since animal sex is already perfectly legal in more states than same-sex marriage and all the other forms of SEPARATE but UNEQUAL civil unions are legal. If not, go back and read it and be amazed that while it's not legal for adult, human, same-sex couples to enjoy the full rights of marriage, it is legal in a dozen or more states to have sex with your pets and livestock. That is so twisted and completely contrary to logic.

The United States has a long way to go yet, I'd say. A long way to be as advanced in our way of thinking as a country such as Iceland, where they have just appointed the modern world's first openly gay government leader and Iceland's first female Prime Minister. Yeah, their country is bankrupt and needs a strong hand to lead it away from the brink of disaster (sound familiar?). So who do they call in to fix it for them? In Iceland, it's Johanna Sigurdardottir, an openly lesbian governmental leader. In the United States, a man who is both of African and American heritage, an African-American.

A new day is indeed dawning, but it hasn't arrived in the United States just yet. Because, you see, PM Sigurdardottir is married to her same-sex partner, and if she comes to the United States with her spouse... Do you see where I'm going with this? In Iceland, this woman can become Prime Minister and no one blinks an eye. I quote from the BBC article linked in the title of this blog and again at the close, "'I don't think her sexual orientation matters. Our voters are pretty liberal, they don't care about any of that,'" Skuli Helgeson, Social Democratic Alliance's general secretary, told the BBC."

Now teleport PM Sigurdardottir to the United States, and even if she became a U.S. citizen, she wouldn't have equal marital rights. In Iceland, Prime Minister, in the United States, a second class citizen at best. I may say this a lot, but I'll keep saying it until this world changes. In what universe does this make sense?