Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Cheat Sheet for Keeping Resolutions

People Who Have Stuck to Their Vows Share the Secrets of Their Success; the Limits of Willpower.

It is no secret that the odds against keeping a New Year's resolution are steep. Only about 19% of people who make them actually stick to their vows for two years, according to research led by John Norcross, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
But those discouraging statistics mask an important truth: The simple act of making a New Year's resolution sharply improves your chances of accomplishing a positive change—by a factor of 10. Among those people who make resolutions in a typical year, 46% keep them for at least six months. That compares with only 4% of a comparable group of people who wanted to make specific changes and thought about doing so, but stopped short of making an actual resolution, says a 2002 study of 282 people, led by Dr. Norcross and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.
To explore what separates the winners from the losers, I tracked down several people who have kept their resolutions for a while...

Their stories illustrate several rules for success. Contrary to popular belief, the secret isn't willpower, Dr. Norcross says; people who rely on hopes, wishes or desire actually fail at a higher rate than others. Instead, the successful resolution-keepers made specific, concrete action plans to change their daily behavior.

Good News in the Daily Grind

A good review of the relative health benefits of coffee consumption in the WSJ here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Doing Good by Paying Forward

This fall, Kiva, one of the leading organizations in a niche that includes others like DonorsChoose and the eBay-owned MicroPlace, came under fire in a blog post by a microfinance researcher named David Roodman. He took Kiva to task for inaccurate information on its Web site about how the loans, made to entrepreneurs in the developing world by its users, actually worked.
Many of those business owners, it turned out, had received their money already; they weren’t left waiting to, say, repair their motorcycle taxis until enough Americans pitched in with $20 loans.
Kiva has since changed its site to reflect this reality more accurately. But the incident poses a question about other organizations that try to provide a direct connection between you and the beneficiaries of your donations or investments: can any of them truly deliver on the promise that many of them imply — that your dollars will go to the particular people or project leader you’ve picked out?
This week, I put that question to some of the leading organizations in this niche.

Here’s what they had to say.

Ami Vitale Movie of India

Check out this link to see what happens when one combines incredible photographic talent with the newer DSLRs, which can also do video...

Bono and Glen Hansard "Stand By Me"

Would have liked to have been at Grafton street yesterday, where Hansard and Bono were busking for a charity for homeless and people with AIDS, Dublin Simon Community.


New Inherited Eye Disease Discovered

ScienceDaily (Dec. 25, 2009) — University of Iowa researchers have found the existence of a new, rare inherited retinal disease. Now the search is on to find the genetic cause, which investigators hope will increase understanding of more common retinal diseases.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Most Meaningful Gift Idea

Nicholas Kristof Recommendations for charity in the areas of international development and health organization here.

I would of course highly recommend Orbis as well..

This time of year I’m always barraged with inquiries about well-run charitable groups doing effective work. So let me tell you about some of the organizations that I’ve encountered that tackle global poverty in innovative ways.
So here’s my quirky holiday list of nifty, unknown charities:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Disease Risk Depends on Which Parent a DNA Variant Is Inherited From

Icelandic biologists have discovered that the genetic risk of several common diseases, like Type 2 diabetes and cancer, can depend on which parent a DNA variant is inherited from.
Another explanation is that the missing heritability lies in aspects of cell biology that are not yet understood.

Decode scientists have found one such instance. They report in Friday’s Nature that a DNA variant increases a person’s risk of Type 2 diabetes by 30 percent if inherited from the father, but reduces the risk by 10 percent if comes from the mother.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In Surgery, a Tangled Tumor Meets Its Match

Here is a description of a 43 hour liver surgery...

He had come to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center to be treated by Dr. Tomoaki Kato, one of the few surgeons willing to take on such difficult, risky cases. Dr. Kato is an expert in ex vivo resection — taking out organs and operating on them outside the body to remove tumors that cannot be treated in any other way, and then sewing the organs back in. The procedures are grueling surgical marathons that can easily last 30 hours or more, involve a dozen surgeons and anesthesiologists and cost more than $300,000.

“If you don’t do it, the patient will have no chance to live,” Dr. Kato said.

CT Scans Linked to Cancer

The risk of cancer associated with popular CT scans appears to be greater than previously believed, according to two new studies published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The findings support caution against the overuse of CT scans and other medical technologies that use radiation. The studies also bolstered the rationale behind controversial new breast-cancer screening guidelines, which pushed back the recommended age for annual mammograms to 50 from 40. Mammograms also use radiation, but in smaller doses.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Dublin, Ireland (December 12, 2009) – Niall Sherlock (25), a teacher and runner from Dublin 15 became the first European to finish the Great Ethiopian Run all the while helping raise 3,000 euros for Orbis Ireland’s eye-care projects in the country.

With close to 40,000 participants, the race was the largest ever race on the African continent.

The Castleknock local completed the 10k race in aid of charity, Orbis Ireland, in a respectable time of 34 minutes and 50 seconds given the challenging conditions.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lessons From the War Zone

This is a great article, which deserves to be read in its entirety. It speaks generally to the wisdom acquired by expanding one's experiences outside of one's immediate environment, and specifically to the impact on physicians of time spent caring for patients in the "War Zone." Although I have not spent time in such a situation, I am certain that my prior years overseas and now frequent short-term mission trips have tangibly and intangibly helped me become a better physician. Tangibly, I have had the opportunity to manage medically and surgically much more complex disease (and in much higher volume) than seen in the States. Intangibly, the benefit has been along the lines of ingraining the incredible privilege of being a physician--having a "job" in which I can help others quite directly. These experiences have also given me a different perspective on health care than many of my colleagues. Helping others at the edges of survival in marginal governments with minimal infrastructure and government has also led to a jaundiced view of the entities who have insinuated themselves into health care here for selfish interests--the usual suspects--greedy insurance executives, ambulance chasers and other entities who act to erode basic physician-patient trust and care in our society.

Not long ago I saw my former chairman again for the first time in nearly 20 years. He was older and slightly grayer, and still possessed of the stunning carriage that made him stand out in a room. But as I stood before him, what I remembered was not his having served in Vietnam nor even his remarkable skill, but his profound respect for the humanity of those he cared for, whoever they might have been.

For what he had taught me, first as a doctor-in-training and later as a fully trained surgeon and teacher, and what I recalled were the moments he urged us not to be tardy with our patients, to change out of our surgical scrubs into neat street clothes when leaving the operating rooms to see patients, and to be mindful, always, of even the smallest details of our patients’ experiences.

War, we are now learning, can have wide-ranging, complex and not always positive effects on doctors who serve. But one thing is certain: seeing the casualties of combat does more than produce war doctors capable of caring for any injury. It has the paradoxical power to create doctors with an extraordinary appreciation for all humanity.

Here is another link to discussions on the above article.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The truth about grit

A great article which seems to resonate with what I have seen in life...

Modern science builds the case for an old-fashioned virtue - and uncovers new secrets to success

In recent years, psychologists have come up with a term to describe this mental trait: grit. Although the idea itself isn’t new - “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” Thomas Edison famously remarked - the researchers are quick to point out that grit isn’t simply about the willingness to work hard. Instead, it’s about setting a specific long-term goal and doing whatever it takes until the goal has been reached. It’s always much easier to give up, but people with grit can keep going.

The hope among scientists is that a better understanding of grit will allow educators to teach the skill in schools and lead to a generation of grittier children. Parents, of course, have a big role to play as well, since there’s evidence that even offhand comments - such as how a child is praised - can significantly influence the manner in which kids respond to challenges. And it’s not just educators and parents who are interested in grit: the United States Army has supported much of the research, as it searches for new methods of identifying who is best suited for the stress of the battlefield.
After developing a survey to measure this narrowly defined trait - you can take the survey at www.gritstudy.com - Duckworth set out to test the relevance of grit. The initial evidence suggests that measurements of grit can often be just as predictive of success, if not more, than measurements of intelligence. For instance, in a 2007 study of 175 finalists in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Duckworth found that her simple grit survey was better at predicting whether or not a child would make the final round than an IQ score.
“I first got interested in grit after watching how my friends fared after college,” Duckworth says. She noticed that the most successful people in her Harvard class chose a goal and stuck with it, while others just flitted from pursuit to pursuit. “Those who were less successful were often just as smart and talented,” Duckworth notes, “but they were constantly changing plans and trying something new. They never stuck with anything long enough to get really good at it.”

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Millions in U.S. Drink Dirty Water, Records Show

More than 20 percent of the nation’s water treatment systems have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the last five years, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.

That law requires communities to deliver safe tap water to local residents. But since 2004, the water provided to more than 49 million people has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage.

The Happiness Project

One of my must read blogs over the past several years has been the  "The Happiness Project." The author of this blog, Gretchen Rubin, has a very lively and engaging writing style, characterized by a very personal  authenticity, which sets her blog apart from every other self-improvement type blog I have come across. She now has a new book out as well!

Requiem for the Dollar

James Grant, the mentor of my main source of financial advice, Bill Fleckenstein, has an excellent editorial in the WSJ...

Ben S. Bernanke doesn't know how lucky he is. Tongue-lashings from Bernie Sanders, the populist senator from Vermont, are one thing. The hangman's noose is another. Section 19 of this country's founding monetary legislation, the Coinage Act of 1792, prescribed the death penalty for any official who fraudulently debased the people's money. Was the massive printing of dollar bills to lift Wall Street (and the rest of us, too) off the rocks last year a kind of fraud? If the U.S. Senate so determines, it may send Mr. Bernanke back home to Princeton. But not even Ron Paul, the Texas Republican sponsor of a bill to subject the Fed to periodic congressional audits, is calling for the Federal Reserve chairman's head.
The Fed's M.O. is price control. It fixes the basic money market interest rate, known as the federal funds rate. To arrive at the proper rate, the monetary mandarins conduct their research, prepare their forecast—and take a wild guess, just like the rest of us. Since December 2008, the Fed has imposed a funds rate of 0% to 0.25%. Since March of 2009, it has bought just over $1 trillion of mortgage-backed securities and $300 billion of Treasurys. It has acquired these assets in the customary central-bank manner, i.e., by conjuring into existence the money to pay for them. Yet—a measure of the nation's lingering problems—the broadly defined money supply isn't growing but dwindling.
The Fed's miniature interest rates find favor with debtors, disfavor with savers (that doughty band). All may agree, however, that the bond market has lost such credibility it once had as a monetary-policy voting machine. Whether or not the Fed is cranking too hard on the dollar printing press is, for professional dealers and investors, a moot point. With the cost of borrowing close to zero, they are happy as clams (that is, they can finance their inventories of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities at virtually no cost). The U.S. government securities market has been conscripted into the economic-stimulus program.
On the matter of comparative monetary policies, the most expressive market is the one that the Fed isn't overtly manipulating. Though Treasury yields might as well be frozen, the gold price is soaring (it lost altitude on Friday). Why has it taken flight? Not on account of an inflation problem. Gold is appreciating in terms of all paper currencies—or, alternatively, paper currencies are depreciating in terms of gold—because the world is losing faith in the tenets of modern central banking. Correctly, the dollar's vast non-American constituency understands that it counts for nothing in the councils of the Fed and the Treasury. If 0% interest rates suit the U.S. economy, 0% will be the rate imposed. Then, too, gold is hard to find and costly to produce. You can materialize dollars with the tap of a computer key.
A proper gold standard promotes balance in the financial and commercial affairs of participating nations. The pure paper system promotes and perpetuates imbalances. Not since 1976 has this country consumed less than it produced (as measured by the international trade balance): a deficit of 32 years and counting. Why has the shortfall persisted for so long? Because the U.S., uniquely, is allowed to pay its bills in the currency that only it may lawfully print. We send it west, to the central banks of our Asian creditors. And they, obligingly, turn right around and invest the dollars in America's own securities. It's as if the money never left home. Stop to ask yourself, American reader: Is any other nation on earth so blessed as we?
There is, however, a rub. The Asian central banks do not acquire their dollars with nothing. Rather, they buy them with the currency that they themselves print. Some of this money they manage to sweep under the rug, or "sterilize," but a good bit of it enters the local payment stream, where it finances today's rowdy Asian bull markets.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Aid Gives Alternative to African Orphanages

This is a good article, however, I believe that financial aid should also be extended to native Africans who adopt people outside of their family as well..like my friend, Mirriam Magada...

In a country as desperately poor as Malawi, children placed in institutions are often seen as the lucky ones. But even as orphanages have sprung up across Africa with donations from Western churches and charities, the families who care for the vast majority of the continent’s orphans have gotten no help at all, household surveys show. Researchers now say a far better way to assist these bereft children is with simple allocations of cash — $4 to $20 a month in an experimental program under way here in Malawi — given directly to the destitute extended families who take them in. That program could provide grants to eight families looking after some two dozen children for the $1,500 a year it costs to sponsor one child at the Home of Hope, estimated Candace M. Miller, a Boston University professor and a lead researcher in the project.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Time management: How an MIT postdoc writes 3 books, a PhD defense, and 6+ peer-reviewed papers — and finishes by 5:30pm

Great post which echoes much of how I try to organize my time as well uvealbues..

Cal Newport - MIT postdoc, author, and founder of Study Hacks...
Below, you’ll learn:
  • How to use fixed-schedule productivity — similar to the Think, Want, Do Technique — to consciously choose what you want to work on and ignore worthless busywork
  • When to say no — and how to do it
  • How a $60,000-a-speech professional manages his time
  • Case study: How to use email for maximum time productivity
Read on.
I call this approach fixed-scheduled productivity, and it’s something I’ve been following and preaching since early 2008. The idea is simple:
  • Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit — ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way.

'Comfort food' relieves stress: Australian study

SYDNEY (AFP) – A high-fat, high-sugar diet could have the same effect on brain chemistry as mood-altering drugs, giving scientific support to the craving for "comfort food", Australian researchers said on Tuesday.

I know more a few who could have sent this in...

From Postsecret

Organizing the Chaos of Online Travel Tips

Then I remembered Gliider, a browser tool that saves and organizes travel research. I downloaded the free add-on for Firefox, which deposited a small arrow icon on my browser navigation bar that, when clicked, opened a sort of file box. There I created a “trip” to Panama City, and began selecting, dragging and dropping text and photos from the Web into handy folders with labels like flights, hotels, see and do.

I could share the stash with friends and e-mail myself PDF dossiers of smartly organized information, ready to print out as a bespoke travel guide. (In January, iPhone users will be able to carry their Gliider content via an app.)

Gliider, I learned, is just one of a growing number of new online tools to help travelers plan where to go and what to do when they get there.

Knowing What’s Worth Paying for in Vitamins

Yet, when it comes to vitamins — which I take only when I feel run down — I turn to name brands like Centrum or Nature Made. My thinking has been: Why mess around with quality when it comes to the essential ABCs?

But now that I’ve done some research, I might soon change my vitamin-buying ways.
Read on to find out why.


Americans love vitamins. About half of adults take a daily multivitamin, according to industry data. And according to some theories, the economic downturn has inspired them to fortify themselves by swallowing more.

Sales over the last decade had been growing by about 4 percent annually. But this year, as more people are taking their health into their own hands, perhaps hoping to stave off doctor bills, vitamin sales are expected to grow by 8 percent to a total of $9.2 billion, according to Nutrition Business Journal, a market researcher and publisher.

About 42 percent of shoppers purchase their vitamins at natural and specialty retail outlets, like GNC and Whole Foods, according to the journal, while only 23 percent take the discount approach and buy their bottles at supermarkets and club stores. The other 35 percent buy through mail order or from a health care provider.

Of course, it’s controversial whether we should be taking vitamins at all. Recent studies have indicated that taking a multivitamin won’t protect you from heart disease or cancer. And experts maintain that if you eat well, you don’t need vitamin supplements.

“The evidence shows that a healthy diet and exercise are the best way to ward off disease; a vitamin cannot replace those benefits,” says Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

PRICE MAY NOT MEAN QUALITY While the Food and Drug Administration regulates vitamins as part of the nutritional supplement industry, it does not test them before they are put on the shelves. The F.D.A. places the responsibility on the manufacturer to ensure that its dietary supplement products are safe before they are marketed. All of which means that no matter what the price, quality is not assured.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Orbis program on World Sight Day

Medical Director, Hunter Cherwek, in an Orbis from Chittagong..

Uganda: Out of the Wild

Uganda's "Impenetrable Forest," home to half the world's population of Mountain Gorillas, is also a hotbed for a number of deadly diseases that cross the species barrier from animals to humans. READ MORE
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