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Showing posts from July, 2014


In January, Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for California, which has seen many a dry day for three years running. He asked residents to cut water consumption by 20 percent.

Six months after the government mandate, a survey was released that showed the Golden State had actually used 1 percent MORE water in the month of May, than the previous three-year average for the same month. So much for heeding the governor's bidding. And thus California remains stuck in a historic shortage.

How bad is it? Reservoirs are dwindling and the Sierra Nevada is melting. Time magazine reports that the drought will cost the state more than $2 billion this year. What else do officials have up their sleeve to awaken in Californians the pressing urge to act? Curbs on lawn watering and other outdoor uses carry fines of up to $500 per day. Of course the fines' real value is less enforcement than awareness. And officials recognize that what is required is for people to have a change…


The ancients say that you cannot look directly at the sun. It is only through a veil that the sun's rays can be glimpsed, dimmed as it were, through the shadows it casts. The real world, what we take for real, is the product of the veil of Maya (a Sanskrit term meaning illusion) which sweeps over the one true reality, which cannot be glimpsed but only felt, like the sun's rays, like my friend's dream, because we are it. We are the light, God.

The dreams we have while asleep are of the same level of reality as waking life. One is a night dream, the other a day dream. The only real difference being the length. Day dreams last longer and have the appearance of continuity, while night dreams are disconnected, but the internal logic and seemingly real quality is the same, as is the unreality. Think of a blank movie screen. That is the reality (God). The images that flit and flash upon the screen? Waking (or dreaming) life.

Which raises the question why dream at all? Why this e…


Philosophers and spiritualists alike have debated the concept of free-will since time immemorial. So much so that the debate has even been given its own name: the free-will problem. Rationalists believe in it, determinists do not.

According to the philosophy heavy-weight William James, free-will is a positive principle, a virtue whereby man's dignity is increased. Man's power too, for free-will is the power to choose. Determinists deny free-will. They say an individual originates nothing, but merely transmits to the future the whole push of the past cosmos of which he is so small an expression. The determinist, stripping man of his creative principle, can be said to diminish man to the level of automaton or impotent beast conditioned by education and upbringing, imprisoned by ignorance, and buffeted by fate.

But philosophers of many schools agree that our philosophical views define us as individuals and direct the course of our life (determined or free as it is). Which way do…


Sadness. At some point or other nearly everyone suffers its symptoms. Fatigue, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, appetite changes, listlessness, restlessness, hopelessness, even thoughts of death.

Mental disorders have reached epidemic proportions, affecting some 60 million Americans in any given year. Chief among them, depression is a major cause of "lost years of healthy life" worldwide. Two-thirds of people suffering from depression do not seek necessary treatment. And those who do are often consigned to the psychiatric ward or clinician’s couch, loaded with psychotropic medication whose side effects are worse than the symptoms they treat, and branded for life with a condition for which the medical establishment says there is no cure.
But this is untrue.
Sadness is a symptom of a spiritual crisis afflicting humanity as a whole. It is not a sign that something is wrong with you, but that something could be profoundly right!
Overcoming depression - not with drugs or talk …


In his allegory of the cave, which appears in Plato's Republic and gets mentioned in August's issue of Scientific American, the Greek philosopher tells of prisoners who have spent their entire lives chained to the wall of a dark cavern. Behind the prisoners a flame burns, and between the flame and the prisoners parade objects that cast shadows onto a wall in the prisoners' field of view.
These two-dimensional shadows are the only things that the prisoners have ever seen - their only reality. Chained as they are to the wall they cannot perceive the true world, a realm with one additional dimension to the world that they know, a dimension rich with complexity and - although they don't know it - capable of explaining all that they see. The source. Plato was on to something.

According to scientists at the University of Waterloo who have propounded what is known as the theory of the holographic universe, we are the prisoners.

We may all be living in a giant cosmic cave cr…


Within a few decades even the winter years will be warm by historical standards, and the "new abnormal" will start across the tropics, where species are least able to adapt to even small variations because they are so used to a constant climate.

Since many biodiversity hotspots - the places richest in species - lie near the Equator, the temperature rise could threaten a large number of land and sea animals as soon as the late 2020s, sharply curtailing species diversity with sweeping ramifications. And yet some scientists still dismiss as unproved the many and frequent climate effects caused by warmer weather, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. But global warming is real. Scientists may disagree about how severe future weather changes will become, but one thing is pretty clear: to a great degree it's man-made, much of it caused by carbon produced by fossil fuels.
Between the middle of the 18th century and 2012 more than 365 billion metric tons of carbon was released into th…


Conventionally, inheritance has been defined as the phenomenon by which an offspring inherits genes encoded in DNA, half from its father, half from its mother. Now it appears that environmental influences can permanently alter which genes are turned on without changing the code itself. Such "epigenetic" changes can even be passed down to future generations. Some of these environmental factors include pollutants, stress and diet. It may be true that the health of your offspring can be affected by what you and even your ancestors as far back to your great grandmother were exposed to during your reproductive years.
Epigenes are outside the DNA but exert effects on how genes are expressed, particularly by influencing which proteins get made. Epigenetic marks include methyl, acetyl and other chemical modifications, as well as how tightly DNA loops around structures called histones. Scientists have known this for quite some time. Fogging with the insecticide DDT, a common mosquito…


For quite some time science has recognized the existence of two distinct types of body fat.

White fat, the kind that makes your buns jiggle, is tough to get rid of. Too much of it increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Each white fat cell stores energy in the form of a single large, oily droplet but is otherwise basically inert. Because the metabolic rate of white fat is slow, the more of it you have, the fewer calories you burn.

Brown fat, in contrast, contains many smaller droplets, as well as chestnut-hued metabolic machines called mitochondria, the cellular powerhouse that burns up brown fat to generate heat. Until recently it was believed that brown fat was found exclusively in babies. Babies, who have not developed the ability to shiver to maintain body temperature, rely on thermogenic deposits of brown fat to stay warm. These deposits typically accumulate in the neck and around the shoulders.
Investigators assumed that all brown fat disappears by adulthood, but new …


Rain Man, the movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, brought to popular attention the existence of savant syndrome, in which people with autism display exceptional intellectual or artistic gifts from birth.
Acquired savantism is an alternative form of the condition in which a person spontaneously develops nearly-genius levels of artistic or intellectual skills - such as ability to paint, play music or do complex mental calculations - after experiencing some form of brain injury. For example, Jason Padgett was mugged and sustained a severe concussion. A college dropout who before the injury described himself as "math-averse," he later developed astounding abilities in math and physics and now draws fractals and takes upper level science courses just for fun. Tony Cicoria, an orthopedic surgeon, was struck by lightning in 1994, after which he became obsessed with a desire to play classical music, hearing symphonic strains in dreams. With no formal training, he went on t…


Meet Alexander Imich, the world's oldest validated male supercentenarian. He turned 111 on Feb. 4 (a fellow Aquarian, thank you very much). Born in Poland in 1903, he currently resides in an Upper West Side apartment in New York. He became the world's oldest living man a short while ago when the previous record-holder, Arturo Licata, died just days before his 112th birthday. “Not like it’s the Nobel Prize," Imich remarked after being pronounced oldest man alive by the Gerontology Research Group. “I never thought I’d be that old.” So what's the supercentenarian's secret? Here's what he told the New York Times in a recent interview: • Not drinking alcohol. • Quitting smoking. • Playing multiple sports, including running and swimming. • A diet "inspired by Eastern mystics who disdain food," the Times said. (This is not exactly true: Eastern mystics were known to subsist on roots, tubers and other plant matter in minimal quantities while Imich's die…


Recently a close high school friend delivered some pretty heavy news. Having experienced several bouts of chest pain while mountain biking, he went in to see the doctor at the urging of his wife. A series of tests revealed that his left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) was 100% occluded (blocked). The LAD artery supplies blood to the walls of both theleft and right ventricles, the heart chambers responsible for pumping blood to the body, including the lungs, brain, muscles and other organs. This phenomenon - a totally blocked main artery - is called a widow maker, since most don't live to tell about it. The reason why our friend wasn't dead was that the occlusion had developed slowly over the course of several years, which gave his body the chance to adapt. By adapt we mean develop corollary circulation, little blood vessels that grow out of a blocked artery to circumvent the blockage and maintain adequate perfusion of the heart. Our friend - we'll call him Pedro…


Despite recent fitness and plant-based trends, globally people are exercising less and eating more fattier, saltier, calorically-dense, sugary food. This type of diet is a recipe for several diseases. Obesity rates in wealthy nations are plateauing, but developing countries are now getting fatter and sicker due to the influx of cheap calories from overseas (America). Indeed obesity has doubled in the last three decades. As it stands nearly 1.5 billion adults are overweight, and 500 million are obese. One fifth of kids aged five to 17 are overweight, most of them living in developing countries. Obese kids become obese adults, and this excess weight contributes to diabetes and heart disease. Astoundingly, over half the world's population lives in countries where obesity kills more people than undernutrition and starvation combined. This is frustrating given that obesity is avoidable. But in a cruel twist the cheapest foods (vending machine fair, fast foods) are often the most calor…


If you follow sports you have probably heard of Brock Lesnar, a behemoth of a man (6'3'', 290 lbs) who has dominated everything from world wrestling to pro football to mixed martial arts and I'm sure will some day make it to the big screen, maybe in Expendables 13.

Lesnar has pounded into submission many a meaty man, but an intestinal disease recently left him begging for mercy. Diverticulitis is the name of the condition characterized by outpouching of the colon. These pouches can get inflamed and infected and as in the case of Lesnar lead to abscess formation, which causes high fever, weight loss, unbearable pain and is a surgical emergency. Lesnar lost some 40 pounds during his convalescence. The culprit? In Lesnar's words:

“What got me here was a total protein diet, not enough fiber, and that’s where I was,” Lesnar said.
“I’m a carnivore. I’m not a big fan of PETA. I’m a member of the NRA, and whatever I kill, I eat. Basically, I was just for years surviving…


Bodybuilders have some of the most muscular bodies in sports, with slabs of muscle for arms, shoulders and thighs, washboards for stomachs, narrow waists, tight glutes, and heart-shaped calves. Of course they spend a great deal of time sculpting their granite frames in the gym, mostly with heavy sets of barbell and dumbbell movements but also with some machines and cardio thrown in. But what serious muscle heads are most known for is their clean and simple diet. Clean in that it involves few added ingredients and fats. Simple in that the typical meal includes only three ingredients - protein, starch, and green vegetable.

And this is the trick to their shredded physiques. Sure, many cycle steroids into the mix, but without a clean diet consisting of meals shaped by protein source, starch source, and green vegetable, all the hormones in the world won't cut you up.

And while the bodybuilder's fare of choice includes copious quantities of flesh foods and staple grains like rice,…


The sages say that life is a game, that our true nature is bliss (joy). And indeed play is part of our fundamental makeup. We all come into this world loving to have fun. In fact, children will amuse themselves whether they live in a suburb or a war zone. The urge is so strong that kids even made up games in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Sadly, once a person achieves adulthood, the impulse to frolic and laugh has largely been conditioned out. In fact, researchers believe that diminishing classroom playtime could be responsible for the recent rise of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And the recent surge in apps and video games to stimulate the brain - which are usually played while sitting or lying down - doesn't address the real issue: we are not meant to be so sedentary, and the best games should involve movement as well as intellectual engagement.

Indeed play stimulates the cerebellum, which is involved in balance and dexterity, and influences higher cente…


Many people seek out foods or supplements purported to “speed up metabolism” or “burn fat.” Maybe you're one of them. If you are, we've got news for you.

While it is true that many vegetables - including cucumber, celery, onions and leafy greens - are so low in calories that digesting them requires more energy than they supply, not even these negative calorie foods can match the impact on metabolism achieved with regular exercise.
Consider that you burn, at rest, 60 calories in one hour, and that you burn 100 calories by covering 1 mile on foot. It follows that if instead of sitting and watching your favorite sitcom, you were to go outside and walk/jog/run for this same length of time, even at the relatively slow pace of 10 minutes per mile, you would cover six miles and expend 600 calories by the time the show is over.
In other words, when you run, your metabolic rate is 10 times as fast as at rest, and possibly more, as energy expenditure increases progressively at higher speed…


It's that time of year. Summer is here. And if recent temps are any indication, it's going to be a hot 3 months. Which may require you to cut down on your training - that is, if you are like us and prefer training outdoors but don't much enjoy the sweltering heat. Of course you can always just drink more water, but even the pros have off seasons, and what better time than summer to reduce your training volume in favor of other pleasurable past-times (margaritas at the beach, anyone?). In other words, to beat the heat, brevity is best. And with a little wisdom and judiciousness, you can cut back on the sweat-producing activities without gaining pounds, losing fitness or being racked with guilt. If you follow this simple routine, you may even make gains that translate to improved performance in your exercise(s) of choice. We call it the 4321 rule. 4321 equals summer fun.

Four runs. There's no escaping the jog, even in recovery months, since running forms the basis o…


When looking for grain-less desserts, you'll find beans are a common ingredient, indeed they occupy the centerpiece in gluten-free chocolate puddings, brownies and other dainties. But all too often other ingredients like eggs and butter feature prominently in these dishes, making them calorie bombs that sit in your gut like leaden weights and sap you of all your energy. Not exactly summer fun. And even vegan varieties of bean desserts can go heavy on the added sugar, oils, and nuts. So let's make it real simple, shall we? Even the strictest diet could use a little variety, and a hearty chickpea pudding makes a nifty addition to a dinner, eaten as a side or afterwards as a dessert. Chickpeas? Yes chickpeas. AKA garbanzos, they are a savory source of many nutrients. While chickpeas are commonly eaten with a dash of salt, say in hummus, they pair nicely with sweets making them perfect for dessert. Here's the recipe:

1 large can (22 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and strained
6 tbsp. c…