Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nike, Bill O'Reilly, and race

Nike designed a shoe especially for Native Americans. Tribal communities may purchase the shoe at wholesale (Air Native N7).
Recently, Bill O'Reilly raised eyebrows by speaking about a recent experience at a restaurant in Harlem, in which he said it was a similar experience to any other restaurant, there was nothing different about it, even though it was run by blacks.
Awareness of race is not the same thing as racism, and being color-blind is not ideal. Different cultures have different values, and acknowledging that is good. I think I understand where Bill O'Reilly is coming from. If you do think black people are different from yourself, you may expect your experience at the restaurant to be different. If you think everyone is the same, then of course his statement provokes a "duh" reaction.
Do Native Americans need a specially designed shoe to encourage them to exercise? Supposedly, the "average" native foot is shaped a bit differently. So a special shoe may indeed be called for. But it is surprising that in a large group of diverse tribes, the same specially designed show will fit. And looking at it, why white? White gets so dirty. But if it enhances and promotes physical activity, good. And for people who are racist, Bill O'Reilly's statement may make them rethink their position. So overall, I think both statements are positive.
Currently, I'm thinking about race and health care. Minorities, including blacks, hispanics, and asians, on average die at higher rates, get less time with their physicians, and are referred for fewer preventative health measures such as mammograms, even when correcting for insurance, economics, and education. Not to mention, as a group hispanics are much less likely to be insured, and so receive inadequate health care. Interestingly, physicians are more likely to ask minorities about alcohol consumption. Awareness of bias is the first step to removing it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I remember as a kid watching the end of the year montage of famous people who had died, and they were mostly a bunch of old people I'd never heard of. But this summer, many people and creatures famous to me have passed the way of the dodo. Pavarotti sung his last, and these three people are also history.
Alex the parrot, who challenged our ideas on what it means to be conscious, died on September 6th (this post is a little late). This NYtimes article is exceptionally interesting and reveals Alex's personality: Alex Wanted a Cracker, but Did He Want One?
Also, a belated fairwell to Albert Ellis (died 7/25/07), the father of rational emotive behavior therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Anyone with a bad habit like drinking or self-hate should look into CBT. Here is his NYtimes article.
Madeleine L'Engle also died on september 8. I had read some of her books, the most famous of which is titled A Wrinkle in Time. The mother of the children in that series was a chemist.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I heard on public radio this morning that sunlight may help guard against Multiple Sclerosis. As you move away from the equator, rates of MS increase, peaking at northern latitudes. Also, in studies of twins, the twin who had more sun exposure was 25-75% less likely to have developed MS. And people with MS are 20% less likely to have skin cancer, possibly because they have less sun exposure. So be tan, stay mobile, and die of skin cancer, or be wrinkly and MS-free. Enough with the gross oversimplifications, but whichever dead Greek guy advocated moderation in all things, listen to him.

I've been listening to the soundtrack of Man of La Mancha, a musical based on Don Quixote. I'm not sure since I haven't read the book, but it seems that the prostitute Aldonza, whom Don Quixote calls Dulcinea, at first resents his illusioned view of her as a maiden of virtue, but with time, his idealized image of her transforms her into a lady. What had been a false image becomes the truth. Initially, Dulcinea screams, "Can't you see me for who I am?" Is it better to be loved as you really are, or is it better to be loved for the potential within? To be loved for who you are has more security, since it requires no change, and can lead to self-acceptance, which could be a good thing. To be loved for an idealized image could shatter a person's view of themselves, and help them recreate themselves as the ideal. In Man of La Mancha, Don Quixote catalyzes Aldonza's transition from a prostitute to a maiden through his belief in her. Is Don Quixote a madman, or is he seeing Aldonza's true self, the Dulcinea in her, smothered by her life of prostitution? The danger with illusion is if the holder of it is disillusioned, love may fail because the beloved cannot live up to the illusion, but maybe the illusion can lead to change.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Bee Update!

Scientists now believe the primary, but not sole, culprit in the mysterious loss of bees is due to a virus, the Israeli acute paralysis virus. Theories such as climate change, cell phone signals, and genetically-modified crops were rejected.