Saturday, October 24, 2009

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ISN'T THERE SOMETHING WE CAN DO? Moranda Hearn and Kaylei Deakin are 2 California sixteen-year-olds who have experienced tough times because their fathers are in the military. Instead of complaining, they’re planning a conference for daughters of California troops who have gone to war. They have booked a conference center, proposed using military transportation, prepared a list of speakers and are contacting corporations for sponsorships. They have also presented their plan to the National Guard’s Brig. Gen. Mary Knight and received her full support. However, because Knight would like the 2010 conference to be coed, it might not be called “The Sisterhood of the Traveling BDU’s” (Battle Dress Uniform). Shawn Saylor is a farmer/science buff with 600 cows outside Pittsburgh. Since 2006 he’s been using manure to make electricity. In a process called “anaerobic digestion” a mechanical scraper drops manure into a tank. From there it moves into a digester. There it’s heated for about 16 days, while bacteria break down the organic matter, producing methane gas. The gas is then burned in generators to make electricity. This electricity powers the farm and 12 neighboring houses - with electricity left over to sell to the grid and an annual savings of $200,000. Thankfully, cows don’t cower about providing energy. Japan’s Keihin Express Railway Co. offers an optional service to employees – a computer program that rates smiles. In response to a grim face, “Smile 0” pops up on the computer screen; but a broad grin can earn 70 points. The company has installed this software at the 15 busiest of its 72 stations to help employees prepare themselves before facing customers. Considering 250,000 rushed and possibly agitated customers pass through Shinagawa Station each day, a smiling face can go along way. In fact, smile-rating software is underrated just being used in train stations. Two public interest groups used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration’s 7-year-old recommendation against all cell phone use while driving. Seven years ago more than half the population had cell phones and highway safety researchers estimated driver/cell-phone-related accidents caused 955 fatalities and 240,000 injuries. In 2009 87% of the population has cell phones. According to research, drivers on phones are 4 times more likely to crash; and they are as likely to cause an accident as someone with 0.08 blood alcohol content. Isn’t it time for a call – to stop cell phone use while driving?
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WHO THINKS UP THE SUBJECTS FOR STUDIES? A study done by the National Institutes of Health shows that capuchin monkeys prefer humans who act like them. A capuchin monkey was given a wiffle ball before interacting with two researchers. One researcher had a ball and imitated the monkey’s actions. The other researcher acted differently. Repeatedly the monkeys spent more time with the imitator. The monkeys were also more willing to accept food and trinkets from the imitator - even when the non-imitator offered the same rewards. Supposedly, these findings indicate an evolutionary link to the way humans form friendships and social connections – monkey see, monkey do. Research published in “Psychological Science” found that touching money can reduce feelings of social rejection and dull physical pain. In one experiment 42 volunteers counted eighty $100 bills and 42 volunteers counted paper. Then all 84 volunteers played a computer game that was rigged against them. Those who’d counted money rated their social distress lower. In a second experiment – again with half of the volunteers counting money and half counting paper – the volunteers’ fingers were dipped in 122 degrees Fahrenheit water. On average those who had counted money reported less pain. Unfortunately, neither experiment showed touching money could make you happy. Two Vermont scientists created software to measure happiness. The software collected sentences from blogs to identify the happiest days of the past few years. They started at the Web site wefeelfine, which goes through 2.3 million blogs looking for sentences that start with “I feel” or “I am feeling”. The words coming next were ranked on a happiness scale from 1-9, with 1,034 words being ranked. As a result of the study, November 4, 2008 and January 20, 2009 – Obama’s election and inauguration – were found to be the happiest days of the past few years – except for Republicans. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind-Body Center surveyed 1.399 people who had been recruited for studies on breast cancer, cardiovascular disease and other conditions and asked them how much time they had spent the previous month doing things they enjoyed. The people who had more leisure activities - including vacations – had lower blood pressure, lower levels of stress hormones and smaller waists. Then there’s the 9-year Framingham Heart Study of approximately 12,000 men at risk of heart disease. The more frequently the men took vacations, the longer they lived. Obviously, even in a down economy we have to live it up.

Knight Pierce Hirst

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