My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)

by Dorothy Bryant
Tuesday October 11, 2011 - 01:04:00 PM

The advantage of the melting pot is that it undermines tribalism. One gains a distance from one’s own national folly. Fashionable present-day multiculturalism, with its naïve call for ethnic pride, sounds to me like an attempt to restore me to precisely that state of mind my parents ran away from in Europe. The American culture is a strange concoction prepared and cooked by each individual in his own kitchen. It ought not to come in a package with a label and a fake list of wholesome, all-natural ingredients.

—Charles Simic, poet, NY Times Book Review, 12/20/03 -more-

It’s the Water, Stupid: The Perils of Clearcutting

By Bob Burnett
Friday October 07, 2011 - 08:47:00 AM

When you fly to the west coast, you usually pass over the Sierra Nevada mountain range. On a clear day you’ll notice the surrounding forests are irregular; they’ve been “checkerboarded.” Millions of acres have been logged and ”clearcut.” While problematic on many levels, clearcutting imperils the drinking water for 45 million Americans. -more-

On Mental Illness: Smoking, Obesity and Type II Diabetes

By Jack Bragen
Sunday October 09, 2011 - 01:19:00 PM

Far too many persons with mental illness literally “drop dead” at too young an age. In many instances, our deaths are the result of preventable health issues that most un-afflicted people address by middle age. The mental health treatment system is failing to provide preventative maintenance to a population which is very vulnerable to premature illness and death through heart disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and emphysema. If the assumption is that persons with mental illness have less competence compared to the mainstream population, then it becomes the responsibility of mental health caregivers to help regulate the diet, smoking and exercise level of their clientele. -more-

Senior Power: The older the fiddler, the sweeter the tune. English proverb.

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday October 06, 2011 - 10:04:00 AM

Elderly musicians hear better than elderly non-musicians. Age-related hearing loss is a significant detriment to quality of life in the aged although it is poorly understood. Oxidative stress causing loss of hearing cells is one theory. Chronic exposure to loud noises in the environment is another. It would seem that listening and playing music throughout one’s life could damage the ear. However, a new study comparing aged musicians to non-musicians suggests that decline in cortical auditory processing may be reduced in musicians whereas decline in cochlear function is similar to non-musicians. According to lead researcher Benjamin Rich Zendel, being a musician may contribute to better hearing in old age by delaying some of the age-related changes in central auditory processing. This advantage widens considerably for musicians as they get older when compared to similar-aged non-musicians. -more-

American Pie: A Cautionary Tale About Three Sixth Grade Misfits

By Ruth Rosen
Thursday October 06, 2011 - 09:37:00 AM

We were bad. Incorrigible, they said. We had curious minds, awkward bodies and awakening hearts. When we disrupted the class with our chattering and chaotic behavior, the teacher asked us to leave the room and stand in the hall until we behaved properly. On our report cards we received "unsatisfactory" for our social behavior.

The year was 1957. Our teacher viewed us as difficult, inattentive, and troublesome, but no one ever suggested to our parents that we had a medical problem or learning disability that required medication.

But that was then, when we were 11 years old and the great waves of hyperactivity/ADHD diagnoses and stimulant medications were still a thing of the future. Now we wonder what would happen if we were misfits in 2007. Would we be referred for medical diagnosis? Would we be among the nearly 10% of children currently treated with psychoactive drugs? -more-

Dispatches From The Edge: Why The Drone Wars Threaten Us All

By Conn Hallinan
Tuesday October 04, 2011 - 08:25:00 PM

Lost in debate over whether the Obama administration had the right to carry out the extra-legal execution of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Yemini cleric and al-Qaeda member, is who pulled the trigger? It is not a minor question, and it lies at the heart of the 1907 Hague Convention, the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and the 1977 additions to the ‘49 agreement: civilians cannot engage in war.

In the main, laws of war focus on the protection of civilians. For instance, Article 48, the “Basic Rule” of Part IV of the 1977 Geneva Conventions, states, “In order to ensure respect for and protection of civilian populations and civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between civilian populations and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.” -more-