Internet Addiction Shares a Gene with Nicotine Addiction

There are some things that seem to be too hard to completely understand by those who aren’t a part of whatever that “thing” is.  Take for example addiction.  For those who do not suffer from any kind of addiction, they cannot comprehend how those who do suffer from it cannot stop doing, or using, whatever they are addicted too.  I mean it seems reasonable, and logical enough — leave whatever it is alone, and walk away.  Unfortunately though, that belies the nature of addiction.  Those who are addicted to something are powered through compulsion, that may seem unnatural to someone who isn’t addicted, but to those who are addicted, to whatever it is, that compulsion probably feels more natural than they would even like to admit.

Well, as it turns out science is beginning to discover that many addictions are in fact “natural” to those who suffer from them, because those who are addicts of/to something are in fact genetically predisposed to their addiction.  They are then “naturally” programed to being more susceptible of falling into an addiction, which doesn’t mean that everyone who has this genetic predisposition automatically becomes an addict.

One of the most current research results released comes out of Germany, where scientists have discovered a common genetic mutation among people who suffer from an addiction to the internet.  I know, I know, that doesn’t sound like a real addiction, but that is because those of us who are saying it are not the ones who are addicted (see the first paragraph).  As it turns out that same mutated gene is also found in those who are addicted to nicotine; which I think many people will acknowledge that substance’s addictive properties.  It doesn’t just stop there though.  The next step for these researches is to explore why several studies have shown that men are more susceptible to internet addiction than women.

Deaf Preschooler Banned from “Signing” His Own Name

So, when does nanny statism go too far?  Well, I guess that all depends on your political leanings, and ideologies.  Some might argue that government knows best, while others might argue that the individual knows best, and still others would argue that there should, or needs to be a happy medium between those two opposing views.  However, I would like to think that there are instances when even the most ardent statist would have to agree that the state’s reaction to something is just a little too over the top.

Take for example the recent stories of Health Department officials shutting down children’s lemonade stands; or how about the same department shutting down a kid’s hamburger sale to raise money for charity?  Those have been some of the higher profile cases, but the federal government has harassed the Amish for not pasteurizing their milk, Gibson guitars for really nothing after the government seizure of that company’s materials, and then the subsequent investigation (talk about shoot first and ask questions later) into those materials revealed no wrong doing, and this list goes on and on, these instances should make most people cringe at the “know it all-ness” (or lack thereof) of the government.

If those don’t make you cringe, then maybe this story will.  In Grand Island Nebraska the School Board there is asking that a deaf preschool student, of the ripe old age of 3, change the way he signs his name in sign language.  Why?  Because his name in sign language bares too much resemblance to a gun……..  Yes, you heard that right, because this child’s name, which is Hunter Spanjer, requires that when he identifies himself, using sign language, the sign(s) that he uses resembles a gun — not an actual gun mind you, but a figurative gun — and that is in violation of that school board’s policy which bans, “any instrument…that looks like a weapon…”  So, basically the school board is telling a 3 years old, and his parents that they have to basically change his name, so that he will be in compliance to that board’s rules and regulations.  Hooray for Government!

Red Wine Antioxidant Could Prevent Falls – Eventually

For several years now we have been told about the many good qualities that are in red wine.  Things like antioxidants and resveratrol can improve heart health, of course as those studies conclude, that is only if the wine is consumed in moderation.  The antioxidants are said to raise the “good” cholesterol and protecting your arteries from damage — again, in moderation.  Too much alcohol, even if it is red wine, can and does have a very negative affect on your health.

Well, researchers at Duquesne University have been studying the effects of that other scientific word, “resveratrol’s” effects on lab mice, and have found some interesting results.  Suspecting that this antioxidant might have other benefits, such as protecting nerves from damage caused by so called “free radicles” the scientists wanted to know how treating elderly lab mice with it (resveratrol) might affect their abilities.

Well, upon they discovered that the elderly mice that were treated with this antioxidant showed dexterity that was about on par with their younger peers.  The treated mice were able to walk across narrow beams without stumbling, while the elderly mice that weren’t treated had a harder time at completing the same task.

The implications are pretty clear.  Resveratrol can help prevent the falls in elderly humans; but before you go out and buy yourself a bottle of red wine, there is a catch — there is always a catch, isn’t there?  The thing about those lab mice is that the amount of resveratrol they were given would equate to a human having to consume 108 bottles of red wine; which would more than likely cause you to not just fall down drunk, but more than likely cause you to fall down dead.  However, I can only imagine that there will be a day when the pharmaceutical industry will figure out a way to put this antioxidant in pill form, so that we human’s might one day not have to worry so much about falling down in our old age.


Neil Armstrong, the Quiet Hero

Yesterday we lost an American hero in Astronaut and first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong.  I happened to be born at the tail end of the Apollo Moon missions, and as such that program, the astronauts, and NASA played a not so small part in my childhood.  The afterglow of those moon missions was still fresh in America at that time, and with it came the feeling and spirit that we, as a country, and even the human race, are capable of such tremendous endeavors that when one really thinks about it are still remarkable to this very day.  I think the fact that following the Apollo moon missions manned spaceflight has never been further than orbiting around Earth is testament to the remarkability of those lunar landings; and Neil Armstrong was the first.

With his famous quote, “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  You would think that anyone who could utter such a cleverly subtle way to encapsulate such a momentous occasion might be one to seek and stay in the spotlight.  Neil Armstrong wasn’t one of those people.  Mr. Armstrong was a quiet man, who described himself as a nerdy engineer.  Upon splash down of the tiny capsule called Columbia, Neil Armstrong could have seized upon his immediate popularity for power, money, and though he already earned prestige by walking on the moon, he could have gotten more, but he didn’t.  Instead Neil Armstrong accepted a teaching position at the University of Cincinnati, after serving briefly (1 year) in ARPA.  He never once sought accolades, nor attention for, his unique position in the history of mankind, and that is a rare and noble trait to have, one that makes someone even more of a hero in my mind, because it was never about him, and he knew it.  So today, I would like to say, Good Luck and God Speed Neil Armstrong, you will be missed.

Billionaire Pays for Kidney Patient’s Treatments

Most of us hope to one day be rich, at least most of us used to, but that is neither here nor there.  I know I wouldn’t mind a little taste of wealth in my life, hell, I’d settle just for a sense of financial security.  I think most everyone knows what I mean about that; you know not sitting there thinking that if I buy “this,” then I will have to do without “that.”  Or if something breaks and needs to be repaired, or replaced, then you have to sit there and figure out what all you are going to have to do without, in order to fix or replace whatever that “thing” was.  Ah, but at least we have our health right?  Well, what if we didn’t?

Jennifer Vasilakos is one of us who isn’t broke, but isn’t wealthy either, and her kidneys are failing.  The doctors don’t know why, but they are, and she doesn’t have the money to pay for an experimental procedure that could save her life; well at least she didn’t.  Why no kidney transplant?  Because she is ineligible due to having melanoma.  So, the only real hope for her is stem cell treatments, which of course are not allowed here in the US, so she has to travel to and pay for these treatments out of pocket.  I don’t think I need to tell anyone that that is going to be quite expensive.  Well, she set up a fund raising site and started literally raising money to save her life.

One day while fund raising at a Santa Barbara festival a car just happened to pull up in front of Jennifer’s fund raising booth, the driver rolled down his window and said he was lost and needed directions.  Being a good Samaritan, and not missing an opportunity, Jennifer gave the stranger directions and handed him a brochure explaining her cause.  The driver gave Jennifer a $50 cash donation on the spot, thanked her and drove away — and that was that; but it wasn’t.

About an hour later the driver returned.  He said that he had read the brochure that Jennifer had given him, and that he was going to help her financially.  He introduced himself as Ty Warner, creator of the Beanie Babies, and said that when he gets back to his office he will have a check sent to her so that she can go and get the stem cell treatments she needs to stay alive.

True to his word, Mr. Warner sent Jennifer a check, and she received it about 2 weeks after the initial meeting.  Oh, how much was the check made out for?  How about $20,000.  It is enough to cover Jennifer’s travel, lodging, AND treatments.

On August 19th Jennifer left the United States to get the treatments that could save her life, and this was in no small part due to a chance encounter with a billionaire, a billionaire with a heart (read more here).  Kind of begs the question, would we have responded in a similar fashion, if we were the billionaire?  I would like to think that most of us would.

Sanitation Worker Digs Through Garbage to Help a Stranger

Today’s feel good story I think shows the inherent kindness all of us are bless with.  Sure, this does not mean that all of us act on that kindness, but I believe that deep down inside each of us it is there, waiting, and wanting, to come out.  For anyone who has ever done a deed of kindness knows that the feeling of doing good is infectious.  Doing good for another makes you as the do-gooder feel good too.  The thing is about doing good is that there really is no size of good gesture that isn’t capable of making someone’s day, if not life, a little better.  Sometimes all it takes is a smile or holding open a door for a stranger, other times we are presented with something that may be more of a challenge, and thus making it a little tougher for us to do that good deed, Gary Gaddist was faced with just such a challenge.

Danielle Hatherley Carroll had thought she lost her wedding ring; she looked everywhere for it, but to no avail.  She soon remembered that she had gone to Battery Park earlier, and thought that she might have accidentally thrown it away.  So, she and her husband head back down to the park to root through the garbage can(s).  When they got there, they noticed that the cans had already been emptied, they were out of luck — or were they.  They noticed a garbage truck nearby and thought that it must have the ring somewhere in its bowels; however when they got to the truck no one was inside it to speak to, so they left a note on the windshield explaining their situation.

Gary Gaddist, a 12 year city employee found the note, and contacted Mrs. Carroll, who then explained everything to him.  It would have been easy for him, or anyone to simply express condolences and move on with their lives, but Mr. Gaddist decided to take the plunge (almost literally) into all of the garbage in the back of his truck, to try and find a stranger’s wedding ring.  Well, his intent to do good by a fellow human was not fruitless, because Gary Gaddist found Danielle’s wedding ring in about 1 hour; and quickly called her to let her know.  When asked why he would help a perfect stranger in such a fashion, he said, “It was a love thing.”  Yes, Gary, it is a love thing, and thank you for showing us there is still some of that love in this world.


No “Fish Story” for this Honest Angler

Honesty — there are times, I am sure, that any one of us feels that word is as dead as the dinosaurs.  It isn’t hard to understand why many of us lament the apparent lack of honesty in this world, what with all of the myriad and sundry news stories out there of people, if not stretching the truth, then outright lying.  Our collective lack of belief that there is any honesty any more is only magnified by the fact that this is also an election year, so are getting pelted by barely truths, mistruths, and utter untruths multiple times a day.  It gets exhausting trying to weed through all of it, hoping to find the smallest kernel of truth out there.  Then, there is our own personal dilemma’s, when many of us have lied too, myself included.  So, with all of this lack of “truthiness,” to quote Stephen Colbert, it is then far too easy to declare the word, “truth,” dead on arrival.

Then we read, or hear a story that gives us hope, and restores our belief in that lonely word “truth,” if even only temporarily.  This is just one of those stories.

28 years old Molly Palmer reeled in a 12 ft. long, 1,022.5 pound marlin, while participating in The Big Island Invitational Marlin Tournament, and that fish would have been big enough to win the $129,000 grand prize for the tourney, and land Ms. Palmer in the record books, for largest marlin caught by a woman.  Yes, it would have been, if she and the rest of the crew on the boat had only lied.

Molly Palmer and the crew admitted to tournament officials that she did not solely reel in this monster fish, she had help from the crew, and that is a no, no, according to the tournament rules, and the requirements to breaking the world record.

I wonder how many other people would have been so honest…


Toddlers Know a Whiner When They See One

Anyone ever been around young children?  I’m talking about toddlers here, where these little tikes are fully mobile, and talking.  Of course if you are a parent of one of these toddlers, then you are probably sighing right now and asking for Calgon® to take you away.  Yeah, we’ve all heard about those “terrible twos,” and though I do not have any children of my own yet, I have spent plenty of time around my siblings children when they were at this age, and…umm…yeah, toddlers can be a little trying at times — sorry sis, and bro, I still love them though.

All that being said though, there is something about our little ones that are amazing, at least to me.  I think it is their as yet untarnished innocence.  They have yet to become jaded and cynical to the world, and that is refreshing to someone like me who tends to be way past jaded, and at times all too cynical.  There also seems to be an innate ability of toddlers to sense “things,” and scientists in Germany have recently studied this trait and come have found something more interesting about toddlers.

The Max Planck institute recently studied 24 girls and 24 boys, right around the age of 3 years old to see how they interact with adults.  The thing about the adults is that they were tasked with acting upset.  The researchers wanted to see if these 3 years old could tell the difference between a person who is justifiably hurt, or simply whining.  The adults in this study were asked to simulate events like getting their hand caught in the lid of a toy box, thus being justifiably hurt and having a reason to cry, while another adult would simply get their shirt sleeve caught in the same toy box and crying about that too.  The toddlers tended to show more serious concern for the adult who was actually hurt, over the adult who was not.  There were other tests the researchers conducted and the results were similar.  Toddlers, as it turns out, have little sympathy for people who whine; and they have more sympathy for those who are justifiably hurt in some fashion or another.

Are You Ready For Some Football!

We are merely weeks away from the start of what has become America’s favorite sport and by default, its favorite season; and that is football.  We love our football, and we love our favorite football teams, so much so that rather heated debates can and do erupt because of it.  College football in particular leads to some rather contentious rivalries, both on and off the field.  If you have ever lived in a city or state that is big on college football, like most of the southeastern United States, Texas, Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan, and Oklahoma, then I am sure you have seen those “House Divided” bumper stickers, t-shirts and license plates, where one member in the relationship went to one school, and the other went to that school’s rival?  Well, I can tell you for a fact that I know married couples who are fans of rivals schools and they have agree to simply not talk about football during the season, as a means of preserving their marriages.  Yeah, there are people who get that passionate about this sport.

However, when does being true to your school go too far?  Apparently in the state of Oklahoma, the same state which has denied a valedictorian her diploma, you have crossed that line if you are wearing any schools apparel that isn’t Oklahoma University or Oklahoma State University.  If you are a student in the Oklahoma public school system, you are prohibited to wear any college related apparel of any college that isn’t in the state of Oklahoma, sounds down right democratic doesn’t it?  Oh, and they are serious about this rule too.

A 5 years old student was told to turn his University of Michigan t-shirt inside out, because it was in violation of the state’s dress code…  Umm, okay then, can we all say ludicrous?  The reason for this downright silly rule to exist was that state’s glorious attempt and completely irrational attempt to curtail the spread of gang colors in its public schools.  I guess they felt that gangs only wear the collegiate apparel of every university but Oklahoma — huh?

Valedictorian Denied Diploma Over “Hell”

How many of you remember your high school graduation, let alone the speeches given by the principal, valedictorian, and any guest speakers if you high school had one?  Go ahead, take some time and think about it…  Okay, times up, odds are that unless you are one of those few who actually gave these speeches then you don’t remember either who the speakers were, what they said, and maybe you don’t even remember the date your graduation was held; and that’s okay.  No one from your high school is going to come and revoke your diploma because of your not remembering, at least I hope not.  However, a word of warning to all of those hard working high school students out there who will have earned the right to speak at their future commencement ceremonies as valedictorian, you might want to watch what you say, because it could very well cost you your diploma.

Welcome to Prague Oklahoma, a tiny little town in central Oklahoma, with a population a shade over 2,000 and whose theme for 2012 is “Moving Forward Together, Taking Nothing for Granted.”  Having lived in small towns before there is a definite charm and friendliness that does kind of conjure a bit of Norman Rockwell like imagery; and I am sure Prague is no different.  However this tiny little town has made the news, and it isn’t for any idyllic small town festival, it is for something a little less than idyllic.  Prague Highs School has decided that it is going to withhold there 2012 valedictorian’s diploma.

Wow, what did this student do to warrant such a stern reaction?  While I may not remember the details of my high school graduation, I do remember that high schoolers are prone to bouts of prankish and sophomoric behavior, which could lead to a denial of one’s diploma, so I guess this valedictorian must have gotten caught trying to paint the rival high school’s mascot, or some other thing, right?  Well, no, it wasn’t anything like that at all.

Kaitlin Nootbaar spent her four years of high school studying hard and never earned any grade but an A, earning her a 4.0 GPA and the honor of being her alma mater’s 2012 valedictorian.  Being valedictorian she was also granted the privilege to speak to her class at the commencement ceremony.  That is where/when she also was denied her diploma, because of what she said.

Again, you might be thinking that this straight A student must have went of some sort of political, or religious diatribe to force the school to deny her the diploma she earned, and again you would be wrong.  Her diploma is being denied because of one little word, and it isn’t one of the seven words you can’t say on television that George Carlin made (in)famous.  Kaitlin said the word “hell.”  Oops, I guess we now know where the city of Prague stands on its views of hell now, don’t we?

So, what is it exactly that Ms. Nootbaar said to deserve the denial of her earned diploma?  Well, here it is, “When she first started school she wanted to be a nurse, then a veterinarian and now that she was getting closer to graduation, people would ask her, what do you want to do and she said how the hell do I know?  I’ve changed my mind so many times.”  To be fair to the school the copy of her speech that she gave to the school for approval she did have the word “heck” in place of the word “hell,” but Kaitlin says that when giving the speech “hell” just came out of her mouth; it wasn’t intentional.  Upon saying what she said the audience is said to have laughed and gave her a warm applause when she finished speaking.  None-the-less, later when she and her father went to the school to pick up her diploma that is when the school principal told her that she cannot have her diploma; unless she writes an apology — I guess for her outlandish behavior, and crude remarks.  Kaitlin is refusing to write such an apology, believing that one is not warranted, and her father is standing by her decision.

So, what is a non-diploma having valedictorian student to do with themselves?  Well, for Kaitlin she will be attending college on an academic scholarship as a reward for her hard work, earning that 4.0 GPA at Prague High School.