Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quote of the Day: T.S. Eliot on Exploration and Knowing

In my meanderings on the web I came across this quote, from T.S. Eliot's poem (or collection of poems), "The Four Quartets".

"The Four Quartets" by T.S. Eliot

Here are the lines from the poem, very near the end, that caught my eye.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Fascinating. At this point I have read the poem. But I think I need to read it again, perhaps several times. If only I can someday reach the place where I started and truly know the place. Seriously.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Song of the Day: Polica - Amongster

So much talent out there, stuff you never hear on the radio. Here's a great band from Minneapolis that I just heard about. Just my kind of music--even though I didn't know that until I listened to it! :)

"POLICA - Amongster (Official Music Video)"

Not many videos hotter than that one. Yowsers.


amongst the trees amongst my freedom
my hands are red, i have been bleeding
what will happen, what will happen when i seduce you teacher
yes to greyhound rides, no to you by my side
i don’t need you, i don't need anyone
come back
come back

fire burning down at monastery road
why'd you do it lover throwing matches in my home
how i begged him to take other women on
but he don't know where to turn
he don't know who to call on
is that all? is that all?

apologies like the birds in the sky
and even they are falling like the tears in my eyes
everyone's asking, everyone's asking

apologies like the birds in the sky
and even they are falling like the tears in my eyes
everyone's asking where's your child in this plan
why you gonna ask me if i'd cut off my own hand
is that all? is that all?

sly, you’re still a liar
your words are not enough
sly, you’re still a liar
your words are not enough
sly, you’re still a liar
i need you to be rough

And here's another great song from Polica:
"POLICA - Lay Your Cards Out (Official Music Video)"

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How Doctors Die

Fascinating article for today's post. If you had a terminal illness, what would you do? Fight at all costs to extend your life as long as possible? Or live the remainder of your life to the fullest, even if not as long? There are also some implications here for public policy (maybe not everything should be covered).

From the Wall Street Journal:
"Why Doctors Die Differently" by Ken Murray

"What's unusual about doctors is not how much treatment they get compared with most Americans, but how little."

The opening two paragraphs of the article set the tone:

"Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. It was diagnosed as pancreatic cancer by one of the best surgeons in the country, who had developed a procedure that could triple a patient's five-year-survival odds—from 5% to 15%—albeit with a poor quality of life.

"Charlie, 68 years old, was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with his family. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation or surgical treatment. Medicare didn't spend much on him."

"The result is that more people receive futile 'lifesaving' care, and fewer people die at home than did, say, 60 years ago. Nursing professor Karen Kehl, in an article called 'Moving Toward Peace: An Analysis of the Concept of a Good Death,' ranked the attributes of a graceful death, among them: being comfortable and in control, having a sense of closure, making the most of relationships and having family involved in care. Hospitals today provide few of these qualities."

Another story from the article:
"Several years ago, at age 60, my older cousin Torch (born at home by the light of a flashlight, or torch) had a seizure. It turned out to be the result of lung cancer that had gone to his brain. We learned that with aggressive treatment, including three to five hospital visits a week for chemotherapy, he would live perhaps four months.

"Torch was no doctor, but he knew that he wanted a life of quality, not just quantity. Ultimately, he decided against any treatment and simply took pills for brain swelling. He moved in with me.

"We spent the next eight months having fun together like we hadn't had in decades. We went to Disneyland, his first time, and we hung out at home. Torch was a sports nut, and he was very happy to watch sports and eat my cooking. He had no serious pain, and he remained high-spirited.

"One day, he didn't wake up. He spent the next three days in a coma-like sleep and then died. The cost of his medical care for those eight months, for the one drug he was taking, was about $20."

I think I agree with the doctors on this one. And with Torch! :)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

This is Your Brain on a Motorcycle

I'm biased, but I really like this article. :)

From Motorcycle Insurance:
"This Is Your Brain on a Motorcycle" by Todd Halterman

Before I begin, let me tell a little story. I don't drink coffee. Never have, and at this late (!) stage of my life I don't think I'll start. People used to ask me why, and I'd say that I had no need. My morning motorcycle ride (which I don't do often enough lately) wakes me up better than any cup of coffee ever will.

I also believe that a motorcycle ride, where I must remain mentally alert, helps my brain to focus on what's important. It certainly helps push the extraneous stuff off to the side and helps clear my head, which is very helpful sometimes.

I didn't realize the full extent of it, however. Which brings us back to the article...

"Riding a motorcycle every day might actually keep your brain functioning at peak condition, or so says a study conducted by the University of Tokyo. The study demonstrated that riders between the age of 40 and 50 were shown to improve their levels of cognitive functioning, compared to a control group, after riding their motorcycles daily to their workplace for a mere two months."

"Scientists believe that the extra concentration needed to successfully operate a motorcycle can contribute to higher general levels of brain function, and it’s that increase in activity that’s surely a contributing factor to the appeal of the motorcycles as transportation. It’s the way a ride on a bike turns the simplest journey into a challenge to the senses that sets the motorcyclist apart from the everyday commuter. While the typical car-owning motorist is just transporting him or her self from point A to point B, the motorcyclist is actually transported into an entirely different state of consciousness."

I completely agree with that last sentence. That is exactly how I feel when riding a bike! I'm not in a cage, I am part of my surroundings. Interacting with what's around me. It's a great feeling.

"...Kawashima found that the current riders and ex-riders used their brain in radically different ways. When the current riders rode motorcycles, specific segments of their brains (the right hemisphere of the prefrontal lobe) was activated and riders demonstrated a higher level of concentration."

This is also VERY consistent with what I feel. When I ride for the first time after a couple of weeks without riding I feel awkward. I feel like I'm overthinking things, things are not coming naturally. It takes a little while to get in the right frame of mind. Literally, according to the article!

"An added benefit? Participants revealed on questionnaires they filled out at the end of the study that their stress levels had been reduced and their mental state changed for the better."

Broken record alert: I completely agree with that part, too! And that's why I ride motorcycles.

"So why motorcycles? Shouldn’t driving a car should have the same effect as riding a motorcycle?
'There were many studies done on driving cars in the past,' Kawashima said. 'A car is a comfortable machine which does not activate our brains.'."

Exactly right. A car simply does not activate our brains like a motorcycle does. Not to say that there aren't some cars that activate our brains, of course, but most cars don't. Whereas I've yet to find a motorcycle that doesn't "activate my brain," so to speak!

Which brings up another point. When I buy a car, I specifically choose a smaller car, with a manual transmission. Where I feel the road more, and I have to be more actively involved in the control of the car. Basically, my car is somewhat like a motorcycle.

But it's not a motorcycle. On a bike my whole body is involved. And the motorcycle demands my full attention much more than a car does--because my life depends on it.

Let me illustrate this with an example. You know how if you drive when you're really tired you are at risk of falling asleep at the wheel? Not so on a motorcycle. No matter how tired I've been when I've ridden motorcycles, I have NEVER felt close to falling asleep. And I've been just as tired on a bike as when I've driven a car. The bike just demands your attention--and gets it!

The article goes on to mention a second study.

"The second research project was divided into two time periods throughout 2009 and 2010 compared differences in the conditions of brain stimulation as they related to the type of vehicle and driving conditions. A second set of tests measuring the changes in brain stimulation over time involved a larger subject group."

"What the study revealed is that what you’re thinking about while you’re riding – and your experience on the bike - changes the physical structure of your brain."

"Along with the obvious benefits of riding motorcycles; like saving money (motorcycle insurance is relatively inexpensive), motorcycles take the edge off the grind of the daily commute, and that appears to make your brain a better place to be..."

You'll be shocked to know that I agree with this. Most of it, anyway. It turns out that motorcycles, unless you get something like a scooter, really aren't more economical to operate than a small car.

I need to ride more...