S J Seymour

Everyone is unique, but we are all infinitely more alike than we are different.

My site is meant to introduce you to my novels,
my opinions on current events, investment advice, 
and my genuine gemstone jewelry page at Etsy.
Enjoy!

 

In La La Land, Los Angeles Springs To Life

Today I went to see La La Land following seven wins at the Golden Globes, for Best Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay, Score, original Song. I had

 wanted to know why they had won so many awards and dominated the 2017 evening in a year (2016) of stiff competition. So as well as curiosity being my motivation, I realized the Director, who at only 31 has already won for Whiplash, is the son of friends. Had to see what all the excitement at the Globes was about.

Anyway, I expected to see, if nothing else, lots of pictures of the city of Los Angeles, sunny days and balmy nights while we are freezing on the East Coast in January, as it was supposedly set there, and it certainly delivered.  La La Land is a sweet, sweet movie depicting the rocky romance of a young couple in the big city. It's also a lot more than that.

The reason why it won the attention and so many Globes might have been for the way it made me feel; like crying after the movie was done, for all those missed opportunities: Who we could have loved, where we could have lived, what our lives might have been like if we'd taken different paths at forks in the roads. 

It was this constant insistence on making the situations of the two adorable stars pictured above, 'Mia' (Emma Stone) and 'Sebastian' (Ryan Gosling), real, immediate, and understandable, similar to what we have all been through: Feeling alone in the city, or at a party among a group, feeling as if life is getting ahead of us and others are doing so much better than we are as we struggle to catch up in so many ways. Who hasn't wanted to stop being in a traffic jam, and take the next off-ramp off the highway, less traveled and less popular just to explore new terrain?

Even so, it's kind of surprising La La Land left the megabudget Inferno and Rogue One in the dust as far as the Golden Globe awards are concerned, as it's not the sort of huge budgeted movie that usually takes away those awards. It did have major stars in Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and they really showed unexpected talents. They didn't appear, if appearances can be believed in part, to be faking all that singing, dancing, and piano playing (on Gosling's part), so that was interesting and had a genuineness, a reality close to home somehow, that's been lacking in the megabudget movies. 

The starry blue backdrops of the dancing sets reminded me of Life of Pi somehow, and showed inventiveness and creativity of imagination, as did all the musical set scenes. Then again, the musical score (that music, sometimes haunting) was very new and creative while reflecting influences of The Sound of Music and many old movies and musical traditions, and all that dancing to the music in vintage or classic LA real estate were rather timeless. 

In conclusion, why it won the awards was perhaps for the way it makes the audience feel, and showed that the old-fashioned romantic musical is an art form that can be revived. 

When I saw the thrillers Inferno, in contrast, I liked it a lot although it had lots of difficult, gory scenes, and Rogue One was unforgiving to follow as I hadn't seen all the previous Star Wars movies. But they were huge blockbusters and had impressive special effects. If you need a gentle escapist movie this could be it. The ending was a surprise and could have been written many ways and perhaps the urgent editing could have been tightened more in the middle, but it's a nice new/old style and worth seeing and encouraging.

Is Trump guilty of murder?

File:White House - Washington DC (7645096066).jpg




Why would a young girl go to court to accuse two billionaires that they had abused her if it weren't true? What good could come of it for her? Her lawsuit could potentially follow her around; her job coworkers and marriage prospects might be aware of the lawsuit, and she would undoubtedly go over the event and its aftermath in her mind her entire life. No, a girl doesn't ever, ever do that without excellent reasons to back up her accusations. It's only lately this formerly rarely acknowledged topic is seeing the light of day over and over again. And a lawsuit conference on this case against a Presidential candidate for rape and possibly murder, if accusations are discovered true, is scheduled on December 16, 2016.

So, there is a lawsuit that a woman has filed and it's against two very well-known American billionaires outlined here in U.S.1 Magazine, a free Princeton newspaper (Oct. 12, 2016). These billionaires are tarnishing the reputations of women helter-skelter and with impunity and they invite men in foreign countries to assume American women are as easy as they say they are. It's not true American women are unusually easy to seduce. Odd that I have to even assert such an obvious idea. It's actually true world-wide that women should not be thought easy by men; the entire notion is extremely dangerous for American women living abroad and puts them in peril thanks to the Donald. Remember the adage from India: "Don't tell your daughter not to go out. Tell your son to behave properly."

These billionaires should, however, pay dearly for her accusations as it truly, likely did happen. A girl doesn't want to get famous because of a rape case. Really? No, categorically untrue; doesn't happen. That's a totally unreasonable stance and accusation for anyone to make.

In the case against the Donald from a girl from Princeton, New Jersey, the official wording says, with my quips italicised, and it's graphic:

"On the fourth and final sexual encounter with Defendant trump, Defendant Trump tied the 13-year-old Plaintiff to a bed [Wow, that he would do such a despicable thing], exposed himself to Plaintiff, and then proceeded to forcibly rape Plaintiff [a campainer for U.S. President committed the crime of rape!!!]. During the course of this savage sexual attack [in the words of the lawsuit], Plaintiff loudly pleaded with Defendant Trump to stop with no effect [Ouch!]. Defendant Trump responded to Plaintiff's pleas by violently striking Plaintiff in the face with his open hand [that had to hurt a lot, and it's probably not something he would do to his own daughters] and screaming that he WOULD DO WHATEVER HE WANTED" [words that oddly recall and echo the television bus tape]. 

In addition, in the suit the Plaintiff says Epstein (the other billionaire) and Drumpf (the Donald's genealogical ancestral family name) "told her afterwards that they could have her whole family killed and that she could be "disappeared" like a 12-year-old girl from another incident" (Wow! What's that about? So not only is Drumpf a rapist, he bragged to her of commiting murder!!!).

Of course, Drumpf denies the accusation (as if he's not going to do so). As Presidential Republican nominee, he would surely want this lawsuit to go away, probably like many of the other thousands he has. Leave it to him to say it's true, though, and I wouldn't put it past him after hearing the bus tape. Is he up for the Best Rapist and Best Murderer Cup in the U.S. as well? (Can almost hear him saying he murders really, really well, better than anyone, the best....) One thing I do know is that his Scottish relatives must be really, really ashamed of him. He must not be voted into office, any office.

Veterans Coalition for Common Sense--Hallelujah!

Today after the massacre last night in Orlando, Florida a new announcement of leaders interested in promoting responsibility around gun control with a new organization called Veterans Coalition for Common Sense. 

As the great Maya Angelou once said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. 
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

One of the leaders of the group will be Mark Kelly, the retired NASA astronaut/husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (who was shot but not killed during a senseless attack on her life in a shopping mall). He is also co-founder of a group that advocates for tougher gun laws called Americans for Responsible Solutions, but this new group teams him with another leader, retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus, who has "long resisted calls to run for political office."

Many of my posts have been written with pleas urging American lawmakers to take more stringent control and action on gun violence. I have been trying hard to understand why Americans resist efforts to retire firearms in the twin interests of public and personal safety. 

Really, this new organization might be helping people save themselves, if Americans could only see it that way. A Veterans Health Administration report said that nearly 70% of suicides among male veterans were committed with a firearm between 2001 and 2011. 

Some people from my native Canada feel sorry that I live in America, where it is so very unsafe from guns, and where guns proliferate with the encouragement of the NRA. This is an especially nasty and vocal, yet effective, terroristic set of curious American carnival barkers in favor of pushing guns on everyone. 

I do applaud in my own place the actions of these individuals. Now if only the government as a unit would get behind them with actions, instead of relying on police. If anyone is going to stop gun violence, it has to begin at home. Destroy all guns you may have at home.

I wish all towns would specify how to do so. I found this video that shows how to take it apart. Then it just simply like that, gets tossed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiMlClw6g0I

As far as I'm concerned, that and actively giving blood to survivors are appropriate actions you can personally take on behalf of the innocent Orlando shooting victims in the worst act of domestic terrorism since 2001.

THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY: a review

First a couple of official reviews, and then mine:

Google Reviews:

Dev Patel is maths genius Srinivasa Ramunujan and Jeremy Irons his Cambridge mentor in this well-intentioned movie.

Peter Bradshaw

·

The Guardian

This is the very definition of the kind of movie people complain that “they” don’t make anymore, a modestly budgeted, character-driven drama for adults that doesn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence.

Katie Rife

·

A.V. Club

Recently, I went to see a movie called The Man Who Knew Infinity at the Garden Theater in Princeton because an esteemed and respected Princeton University mathematics professor, Manjul Bhargava, held a Q&A (question & answer) session on making the movie following the showing, and I knew the topic would be very interesting. The movie followed the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan, and is currently being shown in selected theaters. 

It certainly deserves wide approval and is about a formerly mysterious mathematician from India who gained approval in England for his work, but had died an untimely death from an ailment. The movie has masterfully brought to life the work of Ramanjuan, played by Dev Patel; G.H. Hardy played by Jeremy Irons with great skill; and the mathematical world of the troubled period in World War II.

Somehow Bhargava and and Kenneth Ohno, mathematicians who were consulting directors of the movie, have unexpectedly produced an engaging movie that I really enjoyed. Before I went, I just wanted to know more about this mathematician and knew that Ramanujan had stirred up the establishment of Cambridge University back in World War II, and the movie really delivers. 

Sprinkled throughout, a little distracting romance is beneficially provided in the form of Ramanujan's long-suffering and beautiful wife back in India. She has to get along with his family and moves to live with her brother after her in-laws withhold his letters to her during his five year English period. This romance and marriage created a minor, nebulous psychological distinction between Ramanjuan and the unmarried G.H. Hardy.

The movie is supposedly set mostly in Madras, India and Cambridge, England although credits show it was filmed partly in my beloved Oxford. Anyway, it's well-worth seeing. Go see it!

Fresh Air: the Numbers


                                                    My old New Jersey home

When you typically stand outside your home do you smell spring flowers, maybe mulch? Does it smell fresh? Maybe you live near the ocean, and feel a lift in your soul from the fresh breezes off the ocean? Maybe you like hiking in the mountains where the air is fresh and fills your soul with lightness and joy?

Wherever you call home, you might be interested to see definite numbers regarding air quality showing where the air is fresh. Each year the American Lung Association compiles wonderful lists of the so-called Cleanest Cities, divided into ozone and particle criteria. It's an amazing site where you can actually "compare your air" if you live in the United States with that of other cities in America.

Not surprisingly, the seaboard states of the East Coast didn't pass many tests on the list, although there are many, many places in my home state of New Jersey, either on the Jersey Shore or in the bucolic western area of the state that would have. New Jersey itself was divided in half and combined with huge populations in New York/New Jersey and New Jersey/Camden/Reading in another, and contributes to the sense of New Jersey as an area with generally poor air quality. A close search of specific municipalities within New Jersey would likely prove to show very different results because, as we all know, industrial sites in New Jersey are generally centered around historic cities.

California, too, didn't pass many levels on the list either, despite the long ocean coastline and mountains in the east of the state. The northern part of the state had passable air readings in general, but the pockets of industry around cities generally correspond with failing ozone and particle pollution.

It's only common sense. If you want better air quality, better stay away from heavy industry of any kind.

Fruits Of The Soul: My Arivale Sleep Experiment

"Be at War with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better person." - Benjamin Franklin 
Callery Pear trees in bloom on Witherspoon St. in Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.A. March, 2016

So true when it comes to personal habits. Somehow fighting your own demons, your shortcomings and vices, seem to be your hardest, most intractable and private challenges in life, ones that no one else but you can fight and win.

Since last August, I've been participating in a personalized gene sequencing project with Arivale, involving blood draws, and microbiome, saliva tests, physical activity and diet. Yes, I've been traveling across the United States to Seattle from New Jersey three times a year for the tests (although my health is fine) to participate as an Arivale Pioneer in Dr. Leroy Hood's 4Ps of medicine Arivale program: Predictive, Preventive, Personalized, and Participatory, and I can now recommend joining this excellent new program if possible. Some results from the program seem to distill down to everyday actionable habits that improve general health, longevity, and well-being.

These habits are concerned with the pillars of optimal health for longevity and long term wellness. Your genes support you when you do this, almost as if your ancestors are reminding you to do it, because that's what makes people healthy and strong in the long run: healthy food, sound sleep, lots of motion and exercise, not smoking, living at a healthy weight, keeping an active mind, avoiding stress by meditating or praying for spiritual and emotional health. Just common sense, really, and how common is that?

One of these pillars is sleep. It's very important not to be sleep-deprived, and so there is one excellent habit I've tried at the suggestion of my Arivale coach to improve my sleep. The main idea is to sleep the minimum while keeping efficient sleeping hours. This is a sleep experiment I've been doing lately, and it seems to work better than expected. Even being able to fall asleep on an empty stomach seems to happen, a useful skill. Maybe people with regular hours are already good at this, but my sleep hours tend to go haywire if I'm not vigilant.

Here's how this special experiment works. The idea is to avoid screens--all screens, televisions, phones, iPads, computers, etc.--between 10 and 11 p.m. at night, having low lights around the house, and then resting by reading anywhere but the bedroom for an hour. Then sleep in bed for seven hours and awaken with an alarm. This schedule has to be followed seven days a week to be effective and it really works. Lately, I've taken to snoozing for an extra ten minutes after six, and sometimes going to sleep half an hour earlier, and it seems to be working extremely well. I've been extending the "experiment" because it's so efficient. 

In addition, I've been cutting back on my food intake to maintain a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and increasing my exercise to improve muscle tone to achieve my personal goal of 10,000 steps a day on my FitBit synced with my Arivale coach (often after two hours of Jazzercise, Latin or belly dancing). The Chinese have long taken to exercising in the morning for better health, so daily exercise is not exactly a new idea. 

For the first time in years, surprisingly, I haven't caught the flu this spring despite not doing anything special to avoid germs, traveling, and spending a lot of time around other people in gyms every day (and after a good flu shot last fall). Touch wood. My health is good enough that I didn't need to see a doctor all last year, except for a yearly eye exam and my twice yearly dental appointments. In addition, I've been keeping my weight around my high school and college level, which helps me feel better by looking better. Do join Arivale if you are able. It's a fine program.

In conclusion, as I look around the world, for all of us, I hope for more of the healthy fruits of the soul: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galations 5:22)

Eminent Canadian Women Arise from Obscurity To Figure on Bank Note


Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau has just announced that:

"Today, on International Women's Day, the Bank of Canada is taking the first step by launching public consultations to select an iconic Canadian woman to be featured on this new bill" in the next series of bills expected in 2018.

The nominees can be any Canadian woman, either by birth or naturalization who has demonstrated leadership, achievement or distinction in any field, according to a release from the Bank of Canada, but they can't be fictional and must have died prior to April 15, 1991. 

Canadians are invited to make nominations until April 15, 2016 here.

So I had fun going through this timeline list of Canadian women and found a long list of names from widely disparate fields: Doctors and lawyers, scientists, politicians, activists, athletes, entertainers, publishers, writers, even flyers.

Here's a short list of perhaps the most famous, and only a few could be considered possibilities. There are many more to choose from since 1991 (and why stop that year?).

Laura Secord (1775-1868) had iconic Canadian chocolates named after her so she became famous. Looks like she overheard American troops plotting at attack against the British. On June 22, 1812 (not the middle of winter), she walked 30 kilometers to sound a warning to a British colonel.

Elizabeth Bruyere (1818-1876) was founder of Grey Sisters of Ottawa, founder of schools, orphanage, and hospitals in Montreal and Ottawa.

Sister authors Catherine Parr Traill (1802-1899) and Susanna Moodie (1803-1885) published Canadian Wild Flowers and many other books to earn money to live on.

Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) was the author of Anne of Green Gables and many other novels.

Florence Nightingale Graham (1878-1966), better known as Elizabeth Arden, borrowed $6,000.00 and opened the first beauty salon on New York's Fifth Avenue (that's hard to verify) in 1909.

Mary Pickford (1892-1979) by 1915 was receiving 500 fan mail letters each week. She was reportedly the highest paid woman in the world at the time.

Emily Carr (1871-1945) published Klee Wyck which won the Governor General's Award in literature and has become celebrated as perhaps the most historically significant female Canadian artist.

Mary Elizabeth Kinnear (1898-1991) was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1967 (although the first female senator was Cairine Wilson (1895-1962) appointed in 1930), and retired from the Senate in 1973 and was the first woman appointed to be King's Counsel, the first female lawyer in Canada to appear as counsel before the Supreme Court of Canada.

With such a plethora of women to choose from, perhaps the old oxymoron of "famous" + "Canadian women" will become outdated, as I do hope. 

Time To Get Your Genes Sequenced

An article in The Wall Street Journal called "More Medical Researchers Engage in Self-Experimentation" explores the value of self-experimentation for researchers, particularly regarding personal genome sequencing. 

There are soon going to be new apps for exome and genome sequencing, where you can download the results onto apps on the cellphone, just as you can now on your iPad and desk computer. This development will aid patients in doctors offices without strong internet access or wifi, and then allow patients to show their genetic test results to doctors. Doctors will therefore make more accurate diagnoses, have better results with patients who will work harder if they know they have certain predispositions, and better personalize healthcare with genetic results. Incidentally, patients who have been through this process have much more respect for doctors who have done this simple and easy homework, as the comments at the 23andMe website can attest. Doctors will give better service to patients if they've had their own genetic tests done, while patients who have had genetic tests might get better care than those who don't have them.

Sharing the results helps us understand ourselves and our families in more detail. The results have always been our own, from the inception of genetic research with the Personal Genome Project. More programs like Arivale and the Understand Your Genome project highlighted here at CNBC, some being offered through employement, should also give the genomic results to patients, following the principle that cells and genes are our own. Gene sequencing helps fundamental medical and biological research because the more people who participate numerically and share results, the better the research that can be done to find, for example, the correlations between non-invasive genetic results and invasive medical procedures and operations, for cancers, childbirth, heart disease, and immune system diseases. 

Cooperation in the medical field in the United States isn't what it could and should be, and all medical doctors who meet the general public should have their genomes tested. No one's genome is perfect, and we are all more alike than we are different. The perfect time to sequence your genome is now because a lot is already going on and there is so much to learn. Waiting for the perfect car, computer, or cellphone wouldn't make sense, and neither does waiting for perfect genetic results. Biologists who work in the field can help further research if they have a broader picture of their own health through genetic sequencing, and understand the consequences of their research.

I've had my genes sequenced at 23andMe, third-party programs, such as Promethease, Genetic Genie, Livewello, and Nutrahacker, and most recently have joined a program in Seattle called Arivale for further testing. Nearly everyone can and should get their genomes sequenced, particularly those in the fields of biology and medicine. There's not a valid excuse not to do so, except for the costs, which are falling rapidly for the average consumer (and the five dollars that Promethease charges won't hurt anyone's budget). It's an investment in your health and future. 

I did this as an activity, like flying somewhere (not an accomplishment), and enjoyed it very much not because I'm unwell, but because I'm interested in wellness and how to live a long, healthy life. Doing it became life-changing over a period of years, almost an obsession, and reinforced in me the importance of lessons gained from medical literature that medical doctors have long coached in patients, such as the importance of exercise, a healthy diet and weight (which can sometimes be related), and sufficient sleep, among other biggies. Incidentally, I get along better with my daughter who's had it done because when she acts a way I don't understand, but is like her father, I know she really can't help it; her genes are different in that way than mine and I can relax and accept these differences, not find fault or worse, correct her. Think of your genome as a future resource for your children. Get your genome sequenced for them.

The Importance of Daily Exercise for Children

Here's an anecdote that should interest all parents of young children!

Child.


The Mail Online is reporting on:

"...the 'daily mile' completed for the past three years by pupils at St Ninian's primary school in Stirling. Every day, the children walk or run a mile - it takes them about 15 minutes. The benefits have been seen in their improved concentration as well as fitness. None of the children at St Ninian's is overweight."


If only this option had been available to my children when they were young. It wasn't offered but I can wish it for other schools to adopt in the future...Obesity is a global epidemic and yet teachers could help parents do this simple task that would benefit so many children worldwide. 

Children have such a lot of energy and, like adults, are energized by exercise. Often exercise is taken in the form of competitive sports in schools, but these aren't suitable or attractive to all children. Yet most children would apparently benefit from some form of exercise, and simply walking or running should be a regular part of their schooldays. Recess is important for recharging children's batteries, but maybe giving them goals to achieve such as this would help take some of the chaos and discomfort from the process for teachers and students alike.

This really should be a part of primary schoolteacher's everyday school agendas. In fact, I think more dancing should be more regularly offered and available year-round as a part of physical education routines as well. I know this because I've used dance routines to lose almost half my weight in the past couple of years. Such great comfort can be derived from familiar dance routines, as these high school students have found in this popular video of a Canadian high school teacher and her students at her retirement.





Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3376753/ASK-DOCTOR-sweet-tooth-ruined-liver.html#ixzz3wKryUuDb

Information is Power to the British Royal Family




Courtesy:  The Wall Street Journal

Some people, especially many in America it seems, have told me they think the Queen of England currently has a purely ornamental role and is not at all involved in political issues.

An answer to that delicate question is in an article in Daily Beast today, however, called "The Power Games of Prince Charles and Prince William." It very cogently explains how this is not so and concerns the royals' access to information.

Turns out the royal family, including the Queen, Prince Charles, and Prince William, and who knows how many others of them, have access to information otherwise shared only with the highest elected level of officials.

Is it likely the royals do nothing with their knowledge?

I don't suppose so. The monarchy wouldn't ignore a challenge because it's not expected of them. Britain isn't a democracy; it's a monarchy. Anyone who thinks it's a democracy is only speaking of certain specific issues.

Interestingly, the article claims a law passed in 2010 gave total exemptions to the royal family from freedom of information rules. It's surprising when you think about it that it hadn't been done earlier than five years ago. Not that I, for one, am at all in the least surprised. Britain hasn't ever been a true democracy.

These exemptions are just worth noting to those who stubbornly insist the Queen does nothing but dress up in fancy dresses for her dinners (and there are a surprising number of Americans who believe that of her) and for anyone who believes Britain is a democracy. But then, we saw Helen Mirren in "The Queen" ply the Prime Minister for information once a week. All that royal effort sounds to me so exhausting.

Queen Elizabeth II's reign has been remarkably peaceful for the country, just as it was for her long-lived female predecessor Queen Victoria, whom she has outlived. One has to wonder whether the winds of time will blow as charitably on her son and grandson as they did for her.

Gun Violence: A Peculiarly American Obsession

An article in Daily Beast called "Yes, They Want To Take Your Guns Away" has an intriguing title, and is a lengthy explanation of how Americans will not ever accept a government order to take away the guns of citizens.

My wish is that at some point Americans (and it's mostly a national problem) could be persuaded that guns are a national quandary to solve, and impediments by themselves to a higher quality or standard of living, just as auto pollution and hate speech, as exemplified by the KKK are, as the writer, James Kirchick explains.

In a nutshell, Kirchick doesn't want to live with any more guns in America. But, he despairs, "If federal agents came to round up firearms, many gun owners would be prepared to shoot back."

Well, my view to that obstacle is: Maybe or maybe not. Why should Americans fear themselves so much? Isn't it even worth a try to combat guns with peaceful programs and the approval of federal officials who've been all too weak about mandating stricter gun control? Where's the courage and the conviction of Americans that they deserve to live safer and more secure lives and that this will only, ONLY, happen without guns?

America has a long way to go when it comes to safety and security for the populace, however, and it should be clear, although it oddly isn't to some extremist Americans, that guns come with a cost. That cost is alienating those who would otherwise be friends of America. I wish the government would just do what Australia did to achieve a safer country for all, and ask citizens to turn in their arms.

The truth is many foreigners wouldn't want their children to go to anyone's house in their own country if they owned a single gun. There are too many accidents where a gun has killed the wrong person by accident. This is also true for them in America. Many foreigners prefer not to socialize with gun owners, and generally don't have to.

A harmful and incorrect new argument I've recently heard circulating in favor of owning guns is that foreigners in foreign countries own guns, so why shouldn't Americans have them?

But this is grossly untrue of foreign countries. Guns are illegal in most countries. Probably there are pockets of gun owners in foreign countries, most likely those specifically at war. The point is that America hasn't ever aspired to mirror the very worst, most unattractive qualities of other countries. Shouldn't it aim for peace at home? America has supposedly been a land that tries to be better than other countries and have a higher standard of living.

Some Americans would be surprised to know that some foreigners won't visit America with its glut of guns (currently approximately one for every citizen according to the article) and lack of affordable healthcare, both of which decrease its attractiveness. Yet Americans don't have to worry about these dual concerns in other countries when they travel away themselves.

America may be the land of the free and home of the brave, but it should also ideally be an open nation abundant with peace and trust for all.



Portland's Newest Landmark: P.N.C.A.

It is internationally well accepted that college students of both sexes can be the energetic forces of economic revitalization. Through education, ideally, students learn to harness their powers of creativity, become problem solvers, and gain enough confidence to reinvent the world.


Exterior of P.N.C.A.

Pacific Northwest College of Art, P.N.C.A., is superbly well-located in the beautiful Pearl District of Portland, one of the most unique and creative cities in the world. First of all, I would like to stress that I love P.N.C.A. and think it is the very best College of Art in the Pacific Northwest in state of Oregon.

View of Mount Hood

According to the website of the President Tom Manley, a leading force behind the expansion of the college, along with financial support from, among others, the ubiquitous Schnitzer real estate family, PNCA is the oldest full-time art school in the Pacific Northwest. It was also notably the first college of art and design in the region to launch graduate programs after receiving an endowment from the Ford lumber estate. 

This welcoming art college in Portland, Oregon, where students can major in Studio Arts, Media Arts, Design Arts, or Liberal Arts, has moved a few blocks towards the east side of the Pearl District started its first classes in a spectacular new building this term in February, 2015. It is an historic Federal Building gutted and refigured by award-winning architect Brad Cloepfil (CLOP'-fil) to work with modern technology, while preserving the desirable, original artistically carved marble and metal and stonework features in the impressive stone structure that has an awesome location and setting in prime Portland real estate.

 View from P.N.C.A.

The tall landmark main building of the College used to be the main Portland U.S. Post Office and the artists at P.N.C.A. can surely appreciate the effort that went into the beautiful building. In this era of obsolescence, it's heartening to find that an antique building can be revitalized with new life. It's a fine old building filled to the ceiling with marble walls and stairwells and a beautiful ceiling within the main front hallway.

P.N.C.A. has doubled the student body in the last seven years, tripled the faculty, preserved the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Craft, added seven new academic programs, and quadrupled the endowment. Each one of these is an achievement in an of itself. But these landmark changes serve to highlight this desirable college's growing and respected reputation in the northwest and the nation.

P.N.C.A. graduates are influential artists, entrepreneurs, entertainers, urban designers, and global citizens dedicated to exploring innovative ways of thinking, finding creative solutions and launching new businesses. PNCA has certainly made a difference to me.

Image result for interior of pnca
Interior Atrium of P.N.C.A.


Pacific Northwest College of Art (P.N.C.A.) currently offers Baccalaureate degree courses in Design Arts, Communcation Design, Illustration, Media Arts, Animated Arts, Studio Arts, Intermedia, Photography, Video & Sound, Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture, Liberal Arts, writing and others.

At the Graduate level, P.N.C.A. offers Master degrees (M.F.A.s) in Applied Craft & Design, Collaborative Design, Visual Studies, Critical Theory & Creative Research and has opportunities for Post-Baccalaureate Residencies.

The new main building of PNCA is called the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design and is located in a chic area at 511 Northwest Broadway, a short walk away from the bus and train stations. Here's a video by architect Brad Cloepfil of the firm Allied Works explaining that the college was not meant to be pristine (although it is at the current time) but a catalyst for creativity. The impressive first floor and marble staircases make this college a compelling winner of a college for students from everywhere.

Another video here shows an early pre-construction phase and the gutted interior, but I believe the promise of the architect has been realized and the space is as beautiful as envisioned from all the reports I have heard.


Portland's Rose Garden

PNCA has certainly made an enormous difference to me and members of my family. Many gifted students and educators I've met there on my visits have impressed me with their vitality and creativity. Check out this college. Better yet, sign up for Continuing Education courses.

Near Bend in the Beautiful State of Oregon

The American Healthcare System is Broken

You have skills, you have money and pay your bills on time, you have a history of being covered with health insurance in America. It couldn't happen to you that would ever NOT be covered for health insurance, correct?

WRONG.

It could, if you were in my situation. It has happened to me. I'm not covered for the month of June. I can't seem to make a payment for health insurance this month and can't find out how to, despite having spent over six hours on the phone since the beginning of the month.

How could this happen to a person who can afford to make the payments?

I have been covered through the Princeton University health insurance program since 1996 and through Paul's previous employer's insurance company up until now since 1979, a very long time, (decades, in fact).

When my divorce was finalized in March, I was able to make a payment for April and May, and the payments were debited from my bank account from United Healthcare at $679.85 each month. I have proof of this, which I would need (and is the least I deserve to have), and which I have in pdf. file form.

But I didn't get a medical card as proof of my payments, and luckily didn't need to have one, as I haven't been to any doctor in the last two months.

I applied for healthcare through the so-called Healthcare Exchange Marketplace (a.k.a. Obamacare) at Healthcare.gov. I applied more than once. I've made several phone calls. Most of the time, I've been hung up on. No one has ever returned my calls, although I did get a call from healthgapdirect.com (which may be a scam). There isn't any record of my payments, and no way that I can find to pay for another month.

The Trustees of Princeton Unversity finally sent me information on how to get healthcare through the COBRA program for divorced people (yes, COBRA is a horrible name, isn't it, unless you're one of the rare people who likes snakes). Kind of ironic, how after making dinners as an academic's wife for decades, I'm considered suitable for something that is another word for a snake. It's hideous. But the long letter from the Trustees was several months late (meaning that I had no choice but to try to join Obamacare), and I've been told by the company related to COBRA, called PayFlex, to pay double the premiums retroactively and then have the premia I deserve returned from United Healthcare (in the over two-thousand dollar range!). That sounds like pie-in-the-sky thinking. Who on earth would do that, pay double the premia retroactively? Yet, that's supposedly the solution to how to get covered for the next two years, and then I'll just get caught in this nightmare again.

I may get coverage for next month, July, through the Healthcare Exchange, but can't seem to get it for this month. A caseworker will decide whether or not I deserve coverage with insurance, and I know I won't qualify for Obamacare.

A friend said to apply through my insurance agent. But, that office when I called says to "apply to Obamacare"...

What a circle, and not a virtuous one at all. I've had trouble communicating on weak telephone lines to people around the world that I can barely hear and who can barely understand my English. It's making me sick. I have the advantage of speaking English, but what about those who don't speak it, or for whom it's a second language? I have enough to make payments, but what about someone for whom that is an issue and needs health coverage immediately? Good luck.


TEN DISTINGUISHING FEATURES

Of a High Performing Doctor
and Medical Practice

1. Accessibility: same day appointments and walk-ins, evening and weekend hours.

2. Care is individualized to suit the needs of patients. Tests are completed and accomplished.

3. Patient feedback is important and acted upon.

4. Certain procedures and tests are done in house e.g. insulin initiation and stabilization, suturing.

5. Doctors stay connected with patients to assure that treatment plans respect patient preferences.

6. Patients are seen rapidly after hospital discharges; medications are sometimes prescribed or specialists referred. It's called closing the loop.

7. Staff members provide support that enables doctors to work harder, i.e. take care of more patients.

8. Staff work together without regard to hierarchy.

9. Compensation is balanced by concerns about patient care and experience, and improvements to practice-wide activities and resource utilization.

10. They rent modest offices and don't need to order expensive tests to generate more income.

This dream list should be in the offices of every practicing primary physician, and many specialists.

This information is taken from an article about primary care sites that Stanford University identified in a summary along with shared characteristic features. 

These points about patient care appear common sense, but at the same time, are idealistic and often ignored to some extent in America. In my own experience, patient feedback is rarely requested, nor are patients seen rapidly after hospital discharge or by request. Staff working together and cooperating is not just important but essential in this computer age. Doctors will have work hard to achieve all the points on this list.

Learning About Your Genealogy Can Help You Live Better Now

Genealogy is the most popular hobby in the world, or so I read last week. Why? If true, maybe it's because we all want to know where we came from, what chain of life we belong to, how we connect to the past, how to divine our future from the actions of our ancestors. Who knows? What I do know is that learning about ancestors is satisfying and fun. 

Finding Your Roots, now showing on PBS once a week here in the United States, must easily be the best ever produced about genealogy. Incredibly impressive efforts and extravagant expenses have gone into the creation of each segment. 

Tracing ancestors can be a fascinating hobby that can extend to the far reaches of the world. Getting names, dates, and locations where they lived can be extremely fascinating and unexpectedly time-consuming and expensive. 

The television show used the latest genetic technology to extend what could be found hounding paper evidence and graveyards for clues. Taking the time to make lengthy searches used to be the only method for finding our ancestors, but now we can each discover much more lengthy family histories, whatever our personal circumstances. In other words, even if we know nothing even about our parents, or beyond our grandparents, whatever we know, we can find out more than we could dream about our ethnic histories by sending spit (incredibly for only $99) to genealogy websites, my favorite of which is 23andMe as I written about herehere and here. Fascinating and geeky sites, such as my personal favorites, Promethease which I wrote about here, and Livewello, are coming online where (for as little as $5) dozens of pages of genealogy and health advice can appear in your email, protected for privacy. 

Improving current health and anticipating future health challenges can be a motivation for finding out more about ancestors. Some of these sites cross the line between health and genealogy to help us connect the dots between the recessive and dominant genes our ancestors had that we share with them. Being conscious and aware of health issues can help when visiting the doctor if the doctor has a better idea of the individual health risks we might have and it's on a personal printout that we can make and keep to ourselves. Our bodies are our own responsibilities and we should know everything we can about our own health before we have medical emergencies.

Being worried negatively (to the point of being paralyzed into inaction) about an identity being stolen is counterproductive and unrealistic. Being anonymously cloned for commercial purposes is impossible scientifically for humans. Such negativity is unhelpful because scientists aren't interested in putting together clones of any particular one of us any more than one particular peanut is interesting to a scientist when the overwhelming popular demand is for more peanut butter. And at this point we're all peanuts and probably will be forever. None of us knows if our particular skeleton will become the most important find of the century for a future archeologist. 

Scientists of many disciplines need to have aggregate collected information that will help all of us. Researchers have made new discoveries, based on saliva samples, donated by thousands of people around the world for the purpose of understanding historical migration and advancing medical research and the area is exploding from the possibilities created by combining information from the precious samples of thousands of people. 

Learning about your own personal history can be an entryway increasing understanding of the histories of people around the world, and that is the value of Finding Your Roots that is extremely helpful. Genealogy is helping motivate a better understanding of history because as always, if the commercial is served, the recreational will be improved as well.


Bachata Fever


Music therapists recommend creating a relaxation playlist because healing music helps fight stress, find comfort, and manage pain as does exercise. On a deep level, music can make us feel understood and provide us with a release that allows us to move on. Counterintuitively, sad music has been shown in a study to have numerous positive health benefits according to a recently popular study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. Music preferences can show how social we are, remind us of the people we would most like to be with, and are influenced by how we've been treated by other people, said the study author Chan Jean Lee, PhD of KAIST Business School in Seoul, South Korea. 

Bachata is urban Latin music for dancing, very sensual and loving, originally from the Dominican Republic, a bit slower than Merengue, and a cousin of Salsa, Mango, Cha-cha, and Tango. It's grown on me lately so I've decided to share with you, my precious reader, the names of a few of my favorite dance tunes.

Try playing this music while you read or when you're with friends as it makes excellent background music:

La Amo a Morir https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FynPQvVgro0

Bachata is danced with a partner, but not necessarily always. I've been enjoying learning it in a gym class (partnerless and in front of mirrors in rows) from a Uruguyan Zumba teacher who is passionate about Latin dance, and especially Bachata. Little wonder it's enormously popular. It's stretching credibility for this little Canadian girl (me) to learn this form of dance, but the music is beautiful when listened to over and over again. I'm trying to imagine myself sashaying around tropical cafes to this music. Okay, dreaming of that now that our New Jersey weather is chilling.

Here are a few more tunes. Just to give you fair warning: they will seep into your subconscious the more you listen to them, and can make them slow down (if you know how to do that):

If only more people around the world would listen to music and dance more for business and recreation instead of fighting useless, harmful political power struggles. Enjoy listening to this wonderful form of dance, and as hippies in the 60s used to say: make love not war.

Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences

A theory of seven multiple intelligences described by Howard Gardner of Harvard University in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

Here are the seven summarized:

1) Visual-spatial architects and interior designers are aware of their environments and think in terms of physical space and learn well with images and imagery.
2) Bodily kinesthetic dancers and surgeons have a keen sense of body awareness and language, learn hands on, acting out, role playing. 
3) Musicians show sensitivity to rhythm and sound in their environments, might learn better with music in the background. 
4) Interpersonal students learn through interaction, have many friends, empathy for others, street smarts, and have been shown to learn well with time and attention from instructors and audio conferencing, group activities, seminars, and dialogues.
5) Intrapersonal students tend to shy away from others, are in tune with their inner feelings, have wisdom, intuition and motivation, a strong will, confidence, and opinions, are best taught through independent study, appreciate privacy, and are the most independent of learners. 
6) Verbal-linguistic students use words effectively, like playing word games, and using computers for word games, listen well to lectures and multimedia presentations.
7) Logical-mathematical thinkers think conceptually, abstractly, and see patterns, solve puzzles, ask cosmic questions, learn through investigations and mysteries, and need to learn and form concepts before they can deal with details.

Also suggested as alternative intelligences are: Naturalistic tendencies (sensitivity to nature), "Existential" or spiritual intelligence, and Moral intelligence (having to do with ethics of right and wrong).

Isn't it likely we are mixes of many of these? Gardner believes we're each a unique mixture of these intelligences. 

However many intelligences there are, schools should allow students to study in a way that works best, whether it's allowing stuents to research independent studies with minimal supervision, or enjoying a lecture, physical education class or coffee break with classmates, or a mix of both. I believe test results would probably improve substantially, even if students pick and choose how they learn, and teachers allow space for that to change for various tasks or over time. Teachers and students would feel less frustrated with each other, if only each could play to the strength of the other.

There is value and truth in the idea that intelligence isn't etched in stone, and shouldn't be believed from a single test if one bad day can make or break a test-taker. Being late, hungry, tired, or feeling ambushed by life's demands can hijack some hapless test-taker's attention, and thus ruin intelligence test results with disastrous long-term consequences.

Here is a quiz you can take to find out your area of intellectual strength.

Myself, I think I'm a mix of musical intrapersonal linguist. Choosing one I'd say intrapersonal, and that was how I tested. I've always liked personal instruction the most and group instruction least. If asking an instructor a question in a group setting isn't possible, I feel frustrated. Yet often, questions aren't permitted and my questions must go unanswered forever. Isn't it frustrating to be in a lecture auditorium and have the lecturer take questions that can't be generally heard and not repeat them? It's usually impossible to guess a question, and extremely frustrating for listeners. I also think it's necessary for someone in that position to repeat a question that not everyone in a room can hear. It's good manners not to waste anyone's time. Try the quiz.

Promethease and SNPedia: Sites Worthy of Honor, Respect, and Support

As I've remarked in earlier posts, my genes have been sequenced through various companies and the results have been analyzed through a very interesting organization and website called Promethease and the wiki site SNPedia, founded in 2006 by Greg Lennon. It would be a good idea to support their work. My results have been amazing and life-changing. 

The name Promethease itself could derive from legends surrounding Prometheus which typically have to do with honor and support.

PROMETHEUS Statue Courtesy: Buchhandler
Promethease is a fascinating site and company where you can directly send your genome data from another site such as 23andMe or most other sources and receive reports on your gene SNPs (or "snips), the so-called snips of your genes that make you who you are, and that make you different from your family. It's useful for everyone: members of large families who will learn more about their individual genetic predispositions and traits, orphans who could learn more personal family names or disease risks, and anyone can learn more about family lineages going back hundreds of years. For each person, genetic results are different. Certainly the healthcare field of doctors can use it as a research resource, genealogists searching for quirky character traits, maybe police forces searching forensically for an individual's DNA data. The uses for genetic information is in its infancy. Genetic data can be another useful and time-saving device and it's limited only by imagination.

A connected compendium of SNP results is organized into a wiki called SNPedia, founded by Greg Lennon and Mike Cariaso, both also of Promethease. Mike has made many informational videos explaining how to use the site.  SNPedia is a resource that can be used by the medical field around the world. It's meant to be updated like Wikipedia by doctors and medical students and provide  a database useful for biomedical research and discovery. SNPedia lists medical papers related to diseases connected to genes and SNPs, and much that is currently known about the current field of DNA interpretation.

Incoming Stanford and Harvard medical students will have their genes sequenced and will learn how to analyze genetic results to help patients in the future. That's how important this field is. As well as medics, anyone searching for medical information can broaden their understanding of disease and personality characteristics. Genealogists can find clues when paper trails have run their course and evolutionary biologists and anthropologists can use it as a resource. Many professionals now have another avenue to use for investigations, and have been finding that DNA can answer longstanding mysteries.

It's possible to look at a website about SNPs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but that website, unlike Promethease, doesn't give you a definition of each one of your SNPs, tell you whether your particular allele is in "good" or "bad" repute, how your personal risk compares in percentage size to the world population of your ethnicity. The NIH gives chromosomal raw numbers but without interpretation such as that found on Promethease, all that data is useless. The search mechanism of Promethease makes use of NIH's ClinVar (Clinical Variants) information from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which also aggregates and archives information, but doesn't yield popularly-useful interpretations. Promethease, in contrast, goes much further and describes what each SNP is and what diseases and traits it determines.

 At the related SNPedia site, it's possible to find papers to research for more information, and papers are continually updated into the site every day. For that reason, downloading your gene data into the site will yield updated information as the site forgets information after 45 days. The data is only searchable on Promethease when it's fresh, but can be kept in your files. Whether the service is free or not depends on whether you'd like to wait hours for the report or have it in a few minutes, and that cost is only five dollars, for results that were unavailable until now in any medium and will quickly become priceless to you. It's an easy to do and easy to understand. Recommend putting this on your to-do list. Everyone should try this at home.


"That's Just The Way It Is" Internationally In American Education

America has had trouble coming out in first place internationally in the field of education recently. 

The losing streak was beginning to show hope of fading after a report came out that supposedly highlighted how well America had done with problem solving skills. The idea, reported in the media, was asserting that American students were better at problem-solving and flexibility skills than students in other countries. 

Then I saw an article  in The New York Times called "American Students Test Well in Problem Solving, but Trail Foreign Counterparts." Note that even a subordinate clause in the title says that it really trails other nations. Yet NPR radio in reports had made it sound as if this result was a shining achievement of American education, when in reality, America trailed even here Singapore, South Korea, Japan, several provinces of China, Canada, Australia, Finland and Britain. And this was hailed by an American politician as a relatively "strong suit." It was hoped that the value of flexible thinking would redeem the weakness of American education, but it turns out the improvement was decided as only minor. Excuses were given to explain the higher standing of foreign countries, such as the emphasis on rote learning of facts and formulas in Asian countries. 

The topic fascinated me and I decided to look further into the 2012 scores of the Program of International Student Assessment (P.I.S.A.) published in December 2013 and only now being reported in the popular press. America's losing streak appears to be continuing however the press wants to spin it.

In this article in the Washington Post article mathematics:
"The U.S. percentage was lower than 27 education systems, higher than 22 education systems, and not measurably different than 13 education systems."

In science literacy, a similar story:
"The U.S. percentage was lower than 17 education systems, higher than 27 education systems, and not measurably different than 15 education systems."

Even reading literacy wasn't exceptional:
"The U.S. percentage was lower than 14 education systems, higher than 33 education systems, and not measurably different than 12 education systems."

Where, besides Sarah Palin, do Americans get the idea of American exceptionalism, or of America as the hub where people must be seen and live to become "known"?  Exceptionalism doesn't appear to have any basis in reality if these test results are any guide. If any American students go to university primarily to play sports instead of to learn academic studies, then I don't suppose anything will ever change and their standings will never improve except in the unreal world of American propaganda. 

According to this article in The Atlantic magazine:
"The U.S. ranks fifth in spending per student. Only Austria, Luxembourg, Norway, and Switzerland spend more per student. To put this in context: the Slovak Republic, which scores similarly to the U.S. spends $53,000 per student. The U.S. spends $115,000."

Worse, even the advanced state of Massachusetts lags two years behind Singapore at the high school level, so that foreign students fall behind if they attend American high schools, and have a huge advantage if they attend American universities. This education failure sadly is an old refrain, and I hope to have a more optimistic tone, as I usually do have, in my next post.