Thursday, January 7, 2010

We're moving! is movin' on up -- to Wordpress.

Come visit us in our new home!

Monday, January 4, 2010

South Koreans experience what it's like to "die"

For Jung Joon, the moment of truth arrives for his clients as they slip into the casket and he pounds the lid in place with a wooden hammer.

Insights arise, he says, as they are confronted with total, claustrophobic darkness, left alone to weigh their regrets and ponder eternity.

Jung, a slight 39-year-old with an undertaker's blue suit and a preacher's demeanor, is a resolute counselor on the ever-after who welcomes clients with the invitation, "OK, today let's get close to death."

Jung runs a seminar called the Coffin Academy, where, for $25 each, South Koreans can get a glimpse into the abyss. Over four hours, groups of a dozen or more tearfully write their letters of goodbye and tombstone epitaphs. Finally, they attend their own funerals and try the coffin on for size.

In a candle-lighted chapel, each climbs into one of the austere wooden caskets laid side by side on the floor. Lying face up, their arms crossed over their chests, they close their eyes. And there they rest, for 10 excruciating minutes.

"It's a way to let go of certain things," says Jung, a former insurance company lecturer. "Afterward, you feel refreshed. You're ready to start your life all over again, this time with a clean slate."

Across South Korea, a few entrepreneurs are conducting controversial forums designed to teach clients how to better appreciate life by simulating death. Equal parts Vincent Price and Dale Carnegie, they use mortality as a personal motivator for a variety of behaviors, from a healthier attitude toward work to getting along with family members.

Many firms here see the sessions as an inventive way to stimulate productivity. The Kyobo insurance company, for example, has required all 4,000 of its employees to attend fake funerals like those offered by Jung.

There's another motivation: South Korea has the highest suicide rate in the developed world.

Read more at the LA Times.

Immigrants transforming Malden anew

I almost hesitate to post this, because Malden is such a well-kept secret:

The Boston Globe says Malden, an unassuming community of 56,000 residents just minutes north of Boston, has quietly become a major destination for immigrants, second in the state only to Chelsea in its percentage of foreign-born residents.

The foreign-born population of Malden has doubled since 1990 to 37 percent, according to US Census Bureau estimates, mirroring a trend of immigrants moving to suburbs evident in communities such as Winchester, Lexington, Melrose, Revere, and others across the nation.

Immigrants have long flocked to this city on the banks of the Malden River, from the Irish and Italians who came to work in the factories at the turn of the 20th century to Jewish immigrants who fled Europe before and after World War II.

Now, immigrants from China, Haiti, India, Pakistan, and Morocco are transforming Malden anew, choosing it for many of the same reasons: affordable housing, decent schools, low crime, access to public transportation, and proximity to jobs in Boston. Chinatown is just eight subway stops away.

“It’s a little bit of history repeating itself,’’ said Mayor Richard Howard.


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Remembering a Mass. native and GW grad killed in Afghanistan

Bolton mother recalls son killed in Afghanistan terror attack

December 31, 2009 02:37 PM

The mother of a Bolton native killed in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan that claimed the lives of seven CIA agents today mourned the loss of her youngest child, but also spoke proudly of his devotion to his family and his country.
Harold Brown Jr., 37, was in the US base in Khost, Afghanistan Wednesday when a terrorist evaded security and detonated a suicide attack, killing eight Americans. Today, the CIA and President Obama acknowledged that seven of those killed were CIA agents. No one would say who employed the eighth American.

Brown's mother, Barbara Brown, said in a telephone interview today that her son told her he worked for the State Department. She said he had been deployed to Afghanistan since April, and that he was formerly an Army officer who specialized in intelligence work for the military.

"He was a wonderful, caring person that wanted to help make things good for the world,'' said Barbara Brown, whose husband, Harold Brown Sr., is the director of public works for Bolton. "I want the world to know my son was a good man.''

Her son was a graduate of Nashoba Regional Valley High School in 1990 and from George Washington University four years later. While at GW, Brown met his wife, Janet, whom he married at St. John the Evangelist Church in Clinton in 1994. Brown was the father of three children, ranging in ages 12 to two. He and his wife lived in Fairfax, Va.

After graduating from college, Brown became an officer in the US Army and spent most of his four year enlistment at the Army's top post for intelligence work in Arizona. After completing his enlistment, Brown joined the Army Reserve and was reactivated in 2003. Before that, he worked for in Maynard and then left to work for SAIC, a private defense contractor.

His mother said he was then encouraged by an acquaintance to join the State Department and was working for that agency when he was killed. A State Department spokesman today would neither confirm nor deny Brown worked for the diplomatic service.

Barbara Brown is a former reserve police officer in Bolton, is active in the town's Council on Aging and still works as a volunteer for ambulance service in the community. In addition to leading the DPW, she said, her husband is a Bolton native who was once a selectman and worked as a reserve police officer.

She said her son seemed to have absorbed the concept of helping your neighbor from his family while growing up – but chose to display it on a much larger stage, the world stage.

"I'm very proud of him and I love him dearly,'' she said."He did what he wanted to do to make a better world. How could anyone not want that? Do I wish he lived to be an old man? Of course. What mother doesn't want that for her son?''

She added, "There's a time to be born and a time to die. We don't pick when. God has the answer to that.''

Street life to dance life

Krumping credited with diverting teens from a troubled path

At 16, Daniel Grant carried a gun. When he wasn’t skipping class, he was starting fights at school. His friends were gang members from his South End neighborhood. But then a powerful force diverted him from what appeared to be a clear path to self-destruction.

The force, he says, was a dance - a frenetic form of self expression called krumping that is sweeping urban neighborhoods in Boston and beyond.

With a strict moral code against violence and philosophical demands to abandon any feelings of embarrassment, Grant says, krumping saved his life. And as the dance’s popularity rises, some community activists and police who patrol the city’s toughest neighborhoods believe it has contributed to a drop in street violence.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Introducing the 2010 PMC jersey


It's a little hippy-dippy for me with that sun, but I dig the wave and the bagpipes.

Registration for the 2010 PMC opens on January 19 -- alumni can register early on January 12, or even as early as the 5th if you're a Heavy Hitter!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lingerie for your toes?

Check it -- little lacy thingies that slip on your feet, to peep out of open-toed shoes or pumps!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What the EFF is wrong with people

‘Bait dog’ was left to die, animal rescue workers say


A severely wounded and hypothermic dog, believed to be a "bait dog" used to test other dogs' fighting instincts, was found abandoned and motionless near a busy Hyde Park road Monday night, according to the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

The dog, a female pit bull around 3 years old, was found by an animal control officer, curled in a ball and shivering with open wounds all over it, next to Smithfield Road near Turtle Park Parkway around 10:30 p.m. Monday.

A passerby who called 911 to report the dog, which rescuers named Turtle, returned to the scene to help an animal control officer search for the animal, which was found in a wooded area next to the road, said Lieutenant Alan Borgal, director of the Center for Animal Protection.

Borgal said that when he arrived on scene, he immediately knew the dog was used as a bait dog because of the type of wounds and the severity of her scars. The dog also had makeshift sutures where its owner had tried to sew old wounds, and its ears had been cropped for fighting, Borgal said.

"I've been working in this business for 35 years, and I'm just shocked that this dog was dumped to die," he said.

Members of the Animal Rescue League brought the dog to Tufts Veterinary Hospital in Walpole, where her wounds were cleaned and she was given antibiotics and fluids, Animal Rescue League spokeswoman Jennifer Wooliscroft said. The dog had a high fever and was covered in fleas, she said.

"I don't think she would have survived even a few more hours if she hadn't been found," Wooliscroft said.

Debby Vogel, of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, said the dog showed no signs of aggression when they found her and was whimpering on the car ride to the hospital.

"She was scared, sore, and cold. You could see in her eyes that she was in pain," she said.

When the dog is done with treatment at the veterinary hospital sometime this week, she will be released to the Animal Rescue League of Boston, where she will work with behavioral veterinarians and must be quarantined for around six months because of her bite wounds, Vogel said.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews Close

Abandoning some of the best known names in trade publishing, the Nielsen Company said Thursday that it would shut down Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews, and sell a stable of other publications, including Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter, to a newly formed media company.

Nielsen’s plans to sell had been reported for months, but the news that E&P and Kirkus would close at the end of the year was a surprise. The company declined to discuss their financial performance, but executives said they had fought declining advertising and circulation, much like the newspaper and book industries they cover.

For generations, Editor & Publisher, though not well known to the public, has been a leading source of newspaper industry news and job listings. It grew out of several publications, the oldest dating to 1884.

“In a world full of people pronouncing and posturing and declaring about the media, E&P just kept doing good old-fashioned reporting about what was actually happening,” said Geneva Overholser, director of the School of Journalism at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The latest edition of "Animals are Not Toys"

I find it amazing that in San Francisco, Chihuahuas are about to eclipse Pitbulls as the most-often-abandoned dog breed at area shelters.

Seriously? They can't find homes for Chihuahuas and Pitbulls? Between Somerville, Medford and Malden alone, I think we could find homes for 100% of those animals. There's two Chihuahuas in my six-condo building alone, and probably a dozen pitbulls get walked past my front door in a given week!

Says the LA Times:

"All the shelters in California are seeing an upswing in Chihuahua impounds," Deb Campbell, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco animal care and control department, said in an interview. "It's been a slow and steady climb. . . . We call it the Paris Hilton syndrome."

A third of the dogs held at San Francisco's city shelter are all or part Chihuahua. New ones have come in every day for the last year. If the trend continues, officials said, the shelter would become 50% Chihuahua within months.

There are so many Chihuahuas in Los Angeles city shelters that the animal services agency airlifted 25 last week to Nashua, N.H., where the local Humane Society found all of them homes within a day.

The dogs had been bathed, sterilized, tested for heartworms and fitted with miniature coats before their flight took off, said Kathy Davis, interim general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services. The operation was funded by actress Katherine Heigl and the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation. It was so successful that the city is preparing to fly out 40 more as soon as donations are procured and the Chihuahuas are readied.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nicholas D. Kristof: Cancer from the Kitchen?

The battle over health care focuses on access to insurance, or tempests like the one that erupted over new mammogram guidelines.

But what about broader public health challenges? What if breast cancer in the United States has less to do with insurance or mammograms and more to do with contaminants in our water or air -- or in certain plastic containers in our kitchens?

What if the surge in asthma and childhood leukemia reflect, in part, the poisons we impose upon ourselves?

This last week I attended a fascinating symposium at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, exploring whether certain common chemicals are linked to breast cancer and other ailments.

Dr. Philip Landrigan, the chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai, said that the risk that a 50-year-old white woman will develop breast cancer has soared to 12 percent today, from 1 percent in 1975. (Some of that is probably a result of better detection.) Younger people also seem to be developing breast cancer: This year a 10-year-old in California, Hannah, is fighting breast cancer and recording her struggle on a blog.

Likewise, asthma rates have tripled over the last 25 years, Dr. Landrigan said. Childhood leukemia is increasing by 1 percent per year. Obesity has surged. One factor may be lifestyle changes — like less physical exercise and more stress and fast food — but some chemicals may also play a role.

Take breast cancer. One puzzle has been that most women living in Asia have low rates of breast cancer, but ethnic Asian women born and raised in the United States don’t enjoy that benefit. At the symposium, Dr. Alisan Goldfarb, a surgeon specializing in breast cancer, pointed to a chart showing breast cancer rates by ethnicity.

“If an Asian woman moves to New York, her daughters will be in this column,” she said, pointing to “whites.” “It is something to do with the environment.”

What’s happening? One theory starts with the well-known fact that women with more lifetime menstrual cycles are at greater risk for breast cancer, because they’re exposed to more estrogen. For example, a woman who began menstruating before 12 has a 30 percent greater risk of breast cancer than one who began at 15 or later.

It’s also well established that Western women are beginning puberty earlier, and going through menopause later. Dr. Maida Galvez, a pediatrician who runs Mount Sinai’s pediatric environmental health specialty unit, told the symposium that American girls in the year 1800 had their first period, on average, at about age 17. By 1900 that had dropped to 14. Now it is 12.

A number of studies, mostly in animals, have linked early puberty to exposure to pesticides, P.C.B.’s and other chemicals. One class of chemicals that creates concern — although the evidence is not definitive — is endocrine disruptors, which are often similar to estrogen and may fool the body into setting off hormonal changes. This used to be a fringe theory, but it is now being treated with great seriousness by the Endocrine Society, the professional association of hormone specialists in the United States.

These endocrine disruptors are found in everything from certain plastics to various cosmetics. “There’s a ton of stuff around that has estrogenic material in it,” Dr. Goldfarb said. “There’s makeup that you rub into your skin for a youthful appearance that is really estrogen.”

More than 80,000 new chemicals have been developed since World War II, according to the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai. Even of the major chemicals, fewer than 20 percent have been tested for toxicity to children, the center says.

Representative Louise Slaughter, the only microbiologist in the House of Representatives, introduced legislation this month that would establish a comprehensive program to monitor endocrine disruptors. That’s an excellent idea, because as long as we’re examining our medical system, there’s a remarkable precedent for a public health effort against a toxic substance. The removal of lead from gasoline resulted in an 80 percent decline in lead levels in our blood since 1976 — along with a six-point gain in children’s I.Q.’s, Dr. Landrigan said.

I asked these doctors what they do in their own homes to reduce risks. They said that they avoid microwaving food in plastic or putting plastics in the dishwasher, because heat may cause chemicals to leach out. And the symposium handed out a reminder card listing “safer plastics” as those marked (usually at the bottom of a container) 1, 2, 4 or 5.

It suggests that the “plastics to avoid” are those numbered 3, 6 and 7 (unless they are also marked “BPA-free”). Yes, the evidence is uncertain, but my weekend project is to go through containers in our house and toss out 3’s, 6’s and 7’s.