Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Medical marijuana proposal draws fire

Patients authorized to possess or grow marijuana for medical reasons under Washington law would be limited to 24 ounces of cultivated marijuana, six mature plants and 18 immature plants, according to a proposal filed by the state Department of Health Tuesday.

By Carol M. Ostrom

A proposal by state health officials to limit medical-marijuana patients to a pound and a half of pot plus a scattering of plants drew heat from both advocates and law enforcement — but for different reasons.

Advocates had argued for more than 70 ounces of harvested marijuana and a 100-square-foot growing area; law-enforcement officials pushed for a limit of three ounces of harvested pot, three mature plants and six immature plants.

The official draft rule was released Tuesday by the state Department of Health. The department was directed by the Legislature last year to use medical and scientific information to define how much marijuana patients with certain chronic, fatal or debilitating diseases can possess under Washington's medical-marijuana law.

The rule would limit patients to 24 ounces of harvested marijuana, six mature plants and 18 immature plants for the "60-day supply" allowed in the law.

An earlier Health Department recommendation called for a limit of 35 harvested ounces and a 100-square-foot growing area. But it was headed off by Gov. Christine Gregoire, who thought the amount was too large and wanted more input from law enforcement and medical providers.

Although Tuesday's filing starts a public-comment period, the Health Department, which already has gotten an earful from angry activists and worried law-enforcement officials, is hoping this draft will be the last.

The current proposal for a pound and a half of pot plus plants mimics a 2006 amendment to Oregon's medical-marijuana law, also passed in 1998. That amendment raised the amount of marijuana patients could possess from three harvested ounces and seven total plants, including no more than three mature plants.

The Washington rule, like the long, difficult process used to produce it, was immediately controversial.

"Why did they spend all that time and money and energy if we were just going to do the same as Oregon?" asked Joanna McKee of Green Cross Patient Co-op, a medical-marijuana patient-advocacy group. "If we wanted to be a part of Oregon, we wouldn't be a separate state."

And, she added: "What happened to the science?"

Steve Sarich, director of CannaCare, which provides legal assistance and starter plants to patients, said the low plant limits would force patients to obtain marijuana on the "black market" or to grow an illegal number of plants to get enough marijuana.

"This will create more patient felons in the state of Washington, because no one will ever be able to grow their own medicine and stay within those limits," he said.

Cowlitz County Sheriff Bill Mahoney's response to the proposed limits was terse: "Oh my." Asked to elaborate, he said: "Well, obviously, I think it's way too much." But it's a complex compromise, he added. "From an enforcement standpoint, some number is better than no number."

Law-enforcement officials earlier said their main concern is being able to distinguish legitimate patients from those hiding behind the law to grow and sell large amounts of pot.

Don Pierce, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, said the proposed rule's plant limits would be helpful for law enforcement. "They are easy to understand and those individuals who have large grow operations and try to hide behind this law will no longer be successful."

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, who sponsored the bill to set the 60-day amount, said she was concerned the proposed limits are "more restrictive than what had been previously discussed." She noted the "values of compassion and empathy that are at the basis of this law," and urged all stakeholders to express their views to the Health Department.

Washington's law, passed by voters in 1998, allows patients with certain diseases to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana with a doctor's authorization. But the amount was never spelled out, leading to confusion and conflict between law enforcement and patients.

Karen Jensen, an assistant secretary for the Department of Health, said the task was "very difficult and challenging" because there was no definitive "FDA study" spelling out dosing amounts.

The draft filed Tuesday reduced amounts earlier considered by the Health Department and revealed to Gregoire's office in February. At that time, health officials said they planned to recommend 35 ounces of cultivated marijuana plus 100 square feet of plant-growing area.

Staffers for Gregoire, a former state attorney general who is up for re-election this fall, told Health Department officials the amount appeared to be on the high side, and that law enforcement and medical providers should be consulted.

Last month, the Health Department convened an advisory panel that included law-enforcement officials, advocates and only one doctor — a public-health HIV/AIDS expert who does not care for patients directly.

Department of Health spokesman Donn Moyer said other medical providers did not respond to requests to take part. "It wasn't for lack of trying" to engage them, he said.

The filing of the draft rule starts a rule-making process and a public-comment period. A hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 25 in Tumwater.

Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249

Original here

A Quandary on Blood Drops in the Brain


On Dec. 18, 2005, Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s prime minister, was taken to a Jerusalem hospital with symptoms of a stroke, unable to speak or understand what others were saying.

Dr. Steven Greenberg

An M.R.I. scan shows microbleeds, the small black dots.

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Nir Elias/Reuters

Ariel Sharon in 2002. Microbleeds were later detected in his brain.

Over the next 36 hours, his doctors found themselves in a quandary. Mr. Sharon had two conditions that might lead to a new and devastating stroke. And treating one condition could make the other one worse.

First, he was susceptible to blood clots that could be swept from his heart to his brain, causing a major stroke. Anticlotting drugs might protect him.

But his brain scans showed microbleeds, pinpoint drops of blood that leaked from blood vessels in the brain. The fear was that an anticlotting drug might turn a new microbleed into a life-threatening, incapacitating hemorrhagic stroke.

Until recently, microbleeds were all but unknown. Now, with improved scans, they are turning up constantly; one recent study found them in the brains of 1 out of 5 people age 60 and older. And they are leading to a classic conundrum of modern medicine: Just because something turns up on an M.R.I. scan, is it significant? And if it may or may not be significant, what to do about it?

With strokes, the stakes can be life or death. Or, as happened with Mr. Sharon, somewhere in between.

His doctors decided that blood clots were his biggest risk, so they gave him heparin, an anticlotting drug. Two weeks later, he had a major bleeding stroke. Mr. Sharon remains in a persistent vegetative state to this day, awake but not aware, unable to respond, unable to communicate, able to breathe but unable to think.

It can never be proved that an anticlotting drug caused a stroke in an individual case. But it is known that when patients taking such drugs have hemorrhagic strokes, the strokes are much worse, with double the normal fatality rate.

The microbleed story began when neurologists, using newer magnetic resonance imaging techniques, began seeing them in patients who had symptoms of a stroke or, in some cases, signs of an electrical disturbance in the brain. A patient might have numbness or tingling in part of the face that then migrated to a hand and went away.

On scans, neurologists would see a few drops of blood in the patient’s brain, smaller than the tip of a pen. Or they would see tiny drops in routine scans in patients with dementia, or in patients who had had a serious stroke.

Now, neurologists are seeing microbleeds even in some patients who seemed free of neurological problems — people who were given a scan because of a blow to the head, or memory problems, or headaches.

“They clearly are being picked up more often,” said Dr. Steven M. Greenberg, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who studies microbleeds. “That’s one reason why we all get nervous about getting scans on people who don’t necessarily need them. You have to be able to deal with the consequences.”

With microbleeds, that can be difficult. At a loss as to what to do, doctors call specialists like Dr. Greenberg, asking for advice.

“I get a lot of calls I didn’t used to get,” Dr. Greenberg says. “And they mostly involve questions I can’t answer.”

When the bleeds are on the outer surface of the brain, they often seem associated with a condition in which blood vessels are damaged by the protein amyloid. This is the same protein that piles up in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease; microbleeds from amyloid can be associated with dementia.

Other times, the microbleeds are deep in the brain and may be linked to high blood pressure, a leading cause of strokes. But it is not clear whether microbleeds, especially those deep in the brain, are of any real consequence. Until recently, no one asked how often they turn up in healthy people, nor whether they predict strokes or other serious brain damage.

That changed when Dr. Monique M. B. Breteler, a neuroepidemiologist at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, decided to look for microbleeds among residents of her city.

“If there were more than we knew of in the general population, that might — and I want to stress might — have important consequences,” Dr. Breteler said. “That is why we started to look for them.”

For more than a decade, Dr. Breteler and her colleagues have followed a group of Rotterdam residents age 45 and older. The goal is to do repeated brain scans on 8,000 people; so far they have scanned nearly 4,000 and are analyzing those data.

“What we found came as a big surprise,” Dr. Breteler said. Previous estimates were that 5 to 7 percent of healthy older people had microbleeds. The Rotterdam study found them in more than 20 percent. And the older the person, the more likely the microbleeds. They were present in 18 percent of 60-year-olds and nearly 40 percent of those over 80.

“We now know that these changes are there and that they are frequent,” Dr. Breteler said. “But we don’t know yet what their clinical impact is, what their prognosis is.”

Still, she and other experts say, there is reason for concern.

Dr. Greenberg has found that if the microbleed is near the brain’s surface, where it might be associated with amyloid, then anticlotting drugs are more likely to precipitate a brain hemorrhage. But sometimes a patient is at such grave risk of a stroke that the balance tips in favor of an anticlotting drug anyway, he says.

If the microbleed is deep in the brain, it is not clear whether anticlotting drugs are dangerous.

Even patients who come in with symptoms that might be caused by microbleeds can pose a problem.

Edward Reynolds, 74, of Beverly, Mass., was referred to Dr. Greenberg after an episode in which part of his face went numb, then his hand, and then the numbness faded and he felt fine. He had an abnormal heart rhythm, which meant that anticlotting drugs might help him avoid a stroke caused by blood clots in his heart.

But an M.R.I. scan found microbleeds on the surface of his brain, which meant they were probably associated with amyloid. And that meant powerful anticlotting drugs like warfarin could be dangerous for him.

“Here’s a guy on a knife edge of being anticoagulated or not,” Dr. Greenberg said. “There really are major risks on both sides. You can see bad things happening either way.”

Dr. Greenberg decided in the end that the risk from drug like warfarin was not justified. He advised Mr. Reynolds to take baby aspirin, with its mild anticlotting properties.

“It’s only one decision, but it’s a big one,” Dr. Greenberg said.

So far, Mr. Reynolds has done well, with no recurrence of the numbness and no signs of a stroke.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said.

Original here

Can your company force you to be healthy?

By Maya Dollarhide
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(LifeWire) -- Three years ago, Danilo Reyes, a test engineer for Intel, received a $50 gift card from his employer to take a health-assessment test. Reyes figured that he'd pass the test with flying colors -- he doesn't smoke or drink -- and Intel made it easy by offering the free test at his office in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Rising health care costs are prompting firms to offer wellness programs for employees.

Rising health care costs are prompting firms to offer wellness programs for employees.

But when Reyes received the results, the diagnosis was a complete shock: His cholesterol and blood-sugar levels were abnormally high.

"It turned out I was a borderline diabetic and at high risk for a heart attack," says Reyes, 41. "I was terrified."

Motivated by his diagnosis, Reyes consulted his family doctor, who put him on medicine to lower his cholesterol. A health coach at Intel, part of the company's wellness program, helped by advising Reyes on joining a gym and eating better. Over time, Reyes says, he's seen tangible benefits and shed some excess pounds.

"Getting healthy even inspired me to start up a hobby," he says. "I take karate now, as well as going to the gym. I'm happy and healthy."

Steps toward wellness

Almost a third of companies offering health insurance benefits to their employees also provide a wellness program of some sort. Fitness, smoking cessation and weight-loss programs are provided most frequently, according to 2006 employer health benefits survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The telephone survey contacted 2,122 randomly selected public and private employers.

While most companies say they have a genuine concern for their employees' well being, the rising cost of health care is obviously part of the equation. Obesity-related health issues, for example, cost American companies approximately $13 billion dollars per year, according to the Washington D.C.-based National Business Group on Health, a non-profit organization representing large employers on health policy issues.

"Health and wellness programs at work are a win/win situation for everybody," says Richard Taylor, vice president of human resources at Intel. "We keep our insurance costs down, and the employees are offered free health and wellness opportunities."

Alfred Sanchez, the CEO of the YMCA of Greater Miami, agrees. He started a free health and fitness program in March for his staff and their families that include weigh-ins, meetings with health counselors, nutritional guidance and exercise plans. Out of a staff of 170, all but 40 employees signed up.

"Our business is all about health and fitness," says Sanchez. "Losing weight is nice, so is lowering your cost of health insurance, but the real pay-off is helping your staff lower their cholesterol and stay healthy."

Invasion of privacy?

Some people, however, bristle at what they perceive as having lifestyle choices dictated by an employer.

This May, for example, the University of Massachusetts Medical School banned all tobacco use from their campus and hospital, including parking lots. If an employee is caught smoking, they risk being fired.

"They won't even allow people to smoke in their cars," says James LeBlanc, 45, an employee at the university and himself an ex-smoker who kicked the habit prior to the ban. "We all know smoking is bad for you, but last time I checked it was still legal in this country."

Some companies forbid their employees to light up at all -- even at home. There are at least 20 states that allow for this type of work policy, including Ohio, where the state's second-largest employer, the Cleveland Clinic, stopped hiring smokers in September.

In Massachusetts, Scott Rodrigues, was fired from Scotts Miracle-Gro Company -- which bans its workers from smoking at all -- after testing positive for nicotine. Rodrigues has sued the multibillion dollar corporation for an invasion of his privacy and civil rights. The case is still being decided in the Massachusetts courts. A spokesperson for Scotts Miracle-Gro said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

"We're really seeing a provocative attitude, like Scotts, towards smokers in the workplace, but there is concern about where employers might draw the line," says Glenn Patton, a partner in Alston & Bird's Labor & Employment Group in Atlanta, Georgia, and an authority on legal issues in the workplace.

Where companies draw that line is a particular concern for Chicago resident Paul McAleer. He runs the Web site, which focuses on weight-related issues in the media and serves as a forum for its 2,600 members to write about and discuss "fat acceptance." He says members of his site fear companies may one day treat losing weight like they do quitting smoking, as something workers should be encouraged -- or required -- to do.

"[The term] 'health and wellness' has become a euphemism for 'not fat'," says McAleer, 30, whose site grew out of research he conducted on size-discrimination issues in the media and society while enrolled at Morton College in the mid-1990s. "When employers set up these programs, they shouldn't penalize people for not losing weight. Your weight shouldn't be anyone's business but your own."

Some commitment required

Of course, just having a wellness program in place is no guarantee that employees will become healthier -- or even that the program will succeed. When the Austin, Texas-based brokerage firm, Resource Financial Group initially offered their employees a program, it was a flop.

"No one really knew about it. It was just an online program," says Shannon Scott, 42, an account manager.

As it turns out, maintaining a successful wellness program can require the same sort of commitment from a company as working to stay healthy does from an employee.

"Now we have a program that offers us incentives like a gym pass when we sign up for the company health program online. We even have a subcommittee that organizes trips to hear nutritionists or guest lecturers," Scott says. "What we learned is that it's not enough to offer a program, you have to promote it to get people involved."

Original here

20 Ways to Attack Shyness

Photo by Jordan Fraker. See more of his work here.

Can you remember the last time you stepped into a room full of strangers and felt that self-conscious and awkward feeling rush over you? Or that heart thumping moment when you wanted to ask someone on a date, but were too shy to do so? Or wanting to approach someone for business, but was too hesitant to actually do it? That anxiety in the pit of your stomach in social situations? Does it always feel like something is holding you back?

Regardless of whether you are introverted or extraverted, we can all relate to that feeling of shyness at some point in our lives. Socially, we tend to have the misconception that only introverts experience shyness, but that is not true. Shyness has more to do with being uncomfortable with one’s self, especially around other people.

This article is the result of collaboration between Amanda Linehan, an introvert, and Tina Su, an extravert. Together, we wanted to shed some light on the topic of shyness in a collective perspective from both extremes. We will also share the ways that we used to turn shyness into personal empowerment.

The Three Components of Shyness

According to Dr. Bernardo J. Carducci of the Shyness Research Institute, shyness has three components:

  • Excessive Self-Consciousness - you are overly aware of yourself, particularly in social situations.
  • Excessive Negative Self-Evaluation - you tend to see yourself negatively.
  • Excessive Negative Self-Preoccupation - you tend to pay too much attention to all the things you are doing wrong when you are around other people.

Can you relate? When you are experiencing shyness, can you fit your state of mind into one or more of the above categories? We sure can.

Why Do We Experience Shyness?

We all experience shyness differently and on varying degrees. However, root cause can be boiled down to one of the following reasons:

  • Weak Self Image - This is especially true to our experiences in high school. We would believe in the fallacy that our unique qualities were not interesting, cool or worthy of anyone’s admiration.We would try to fit in with everyone else, resulting in us not feeling like ourselves.
    • Amanda: Looking back I’m not even sure I knew what my unique abilities were, I just knew that everybody else seemed to be a cooler, more interesting person than I was, so I tried to imitate them…poorly.:)
    • Tina: I thought of myself as cool, because I was loud, and worked very hard at keeping that image. It was of course, a false image that I worked hard to keep. It was exhausting and I was exceedingly self conscious. Even though people didn’t view me as shy, but I felt shy most of the time with a lot of built up anxiety. Turns out, the ‘cool’ kids themselves have weak self images and wanted to fit in with everyone else.
  • Pre-occupation with Self - When we’re around other people, we become extremely sensitive to what we’re doing, as if we’ve been put on center stage. This creates anxiety and makes us question our every move. Our focus centers around ourselves and particularly on “what I was doing wrong”. This can cause a downward spiral.
    • Amanda: Coupled with a weak self image,I didn’t thinkIwas doing anything right! And this would start a cycle that I couldn’t get out of. What I understand now is that is that most people are not looking at me with the detail thatI was looking at myself.
    • Tina: I too was very sensitive to my every move around other people. My senses were heightened to the way I talked, walked, laughed, etc. My focus was on how to not screw up in front of other people, and this made me very nervous. What I understand now is that everyone is so caught up with their own insecurities that they hardly notice yours.
  • Labeling - When we label ourselves as a shy person, we psychologically feel inclined to live up to those expectations. We may say to ourselves, “I am a shy person, than it must be true that I am shy. This is how I am, and this is the way things are.” When we label something, that thing has the perception of being fixed and therefore we must live up to the expectations of the labeling.
    • Amanda: I was known by others as a shy person, or a quiet person, and this perception held me captive at times. People expected me to be a certain way and so I was. And knowing that other people regarded me as shy, in addition to my not wanting to be shy, resulted in great anxiety when I was with people. I really wanted to show myself to others when I was around them, but it was easy to simply go along with what others expected from me.
    • Tina: Deep down, I felt the anxieties from shyness often, yet, when I’m around people, I had to live up to the expectations that I wasn’t shy. My experiences with shyness would manifest in unusual ways, like when I’m ordering food, when I call someone on the phone, or speak to strangers. I would never let that side of myself show, but I do experience it. In those moments, I can hear myself say, ‘I am shy.’

How to Overcome Shyness

We’ve both experienced different variations of shyness, and through practice and increased awareness we have both overcome this. The following are tips that have helped us overcome this uncomfortable feeling.

Photo by Lauren

1. Understand Your Shyness - Seek to understand your unique brand of shyness and how that manifests in your life. Understand what situation triggers this feeling? And what are you concerned with at that point?

2. Turning Self Consciousness into Self Awareness - Recognize that the world is not looking at you. Besides, most people are too busy looking at themselves. Instead of watching yourself as if you are other people, bring your awareness inwards. Armed with your understanding of what makes you shy, seek within yourself and become the observing presence of your thoughts. Self awareness is the first step towards any change or life improvement.

3. Find Your Strengths - We all have unique qualities and different ways of expressing ourselves. It’s important to know and fully accept the things we do well, even if they differ from the norm. If everyone was the same, the world would be a pretty boring place.

  • Find something you are good at and focus on doing it. An identifiable strength will boost your natural self esteem and your ego, helping you better identify with yourself. It is a short term fix, but will give you the confidence you need to break your self-imposed barrier of fear.
  • See how your unique strength gives you an advantage. For example, Amanda is a naturally quiet person who prefers to spend time alone. She learned that she listens better than others and notices things that others miss in conversations. She also discovered that her alone time has given her a better understanding of herself.

4. Learn to Like Yourself - Practice appreciating yourself and liking the unique expression that is you. Write a love letter to yourself, do things you enjoy, give gratitude for your body and its effortless functions, spend quality time getting to know yourself, go on a self-date.

5. Not Conforming - Trying to fit in like everyone else is exhausting and not very much fun. Understand that it is okay to be different. In fact, underlying popular kid’s public displays of coolness, they too are experiencing insecurities, self-consciousness, and awkwardness. Accept that you may not be perceived as the most popular social butterfly, and you may not want to be either. At the end of the day, being popular will not make you happy. Accepting your unique qualities can set you free.

6. Focus on Other People - Rather than focusing on your awkwardness in social situations, focus on other people and what they have to say. Become interested in learning about others, and probe them to talk about themselves. You can try pondering the question while interacting: What is it about this person that I like?

7. Releasing Anxiety through Breath - Anxiety and fear can feel overwhelming if you are practicing to become more assertive in order to overcome this fear.

  • One simple technique to calm this anxiety into manageable bites is taking deep breaths with your eyes closed, while concentrating on just your breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly while clearing out all thoughts.
  • Another technique is from yoga: counting as you inhale and then as you exhale. Slowly leveling out your inhale and exhale duration. Example, 4 count for in and 4 for out. Once your breaths are leveled, add an extra count during your exhale. This means slowing down your exhale by just a tad as compared to your inhale. Continue for a few minutes until you are comfortable, than add another count to your exhale. You can easily do this in the bathroom, or in a spare room of when you need it.

8. Releasing Anxiety through Movement - One way of viewing anxiety is that it is blocked energy that needs to be released. We can release this energy through physical movement.

  • Exercises like jogging or walking will help to re-channel some of the blocked energies, but also helps by pulling you out of the situation and shifts your state of mind. This refreshed state of mind will help by adding perspectives to things.
  • Another effective technique is a simple muscle meditation/exercise. Sit down or lie down. Bring awareness to every part of your body, starting from your toes and moving up your body to the top of your head. At every part of your body, tighten the muscles at the center of awareness for 3-5 seconds, and then relax. Repeat this until you get to the top of your head. Remember to breathe.

9. Visualization - Visualizing yourself in the situation as a confident and happy person helps to shape your perception of yourself when you are actually in the situation. Close your eyes, sit back somewhere relaxing, listen to some relaxing music, imagine yourself in a scene or situation and see yourself the way you would like to be. In this scene, how do you feel? What do you hear? Do you smell anything? Are you moving? What do you see? Get all your senses involved to make it real.

10. Affirmation - Words can carry incredible energy. What we repeatedly tell ourselves, gets heard by our unconscious mind, and it acts accordingly. If we repeatedly tell ourselves that we are incapable, and too shy to do anything, we will become increasingly aware of evidence to back up this ‘fact’, and our actions will always match what we tell ourselves. Similarly, if we repeatedly tell ourselves that we are capable, confident, and wonderful human beings, our unconscious mind will likely surface the awareness that gives evidence to this new ‘fact’. While, we can’t lie to ourselves, positive visualization and affirmation are helpful in placing us along the road of positive thought patterns.

11. Do Not Leave an Uncomfortable Situation - When we leave shy situations, what we are really doing is reinforcing our shyness. Instead, face the situation square in the face. Turn the fearful situation into a place of introspection and personal growth. Become the observer and dig into yourself, answer the questions: why do I feel this way? What caused me to feel this way? Can there be an alternative explanation to what is happening?

12. Accept Rejection - Accept the possibility that we can be rejected and learning to not take it personally. Remember, you are not alone and we all experience rejections. It is part of life and part of the learning process. The key lies in how you handle rejections when they come. It helps to be mentally prepared before they happen:

  • Never take it personally. It was not your fault. It just wasn’t meant to be. The scenario was not the best fit for you.
  • Find the lesson - what did you learn? There is a lesson ingrained in every situation. And through these life lessons lies the potential for you to become a better person, a stronger person. Nothing is lost if you can find the lesson. See these as the blessings in disguise.
  • Move on. Recognize that when you fall into self-pity, you are not moving forward. Nothing will be changed from your self-pity. When you start to recognize this, it becomes clear that only energy is wasted while we feed to our problem-seeking ego. Pick yourself up, dust off the dirt and move on to the next thing. Try again, try again, try again. It will pay off!

13. Relinquish Perfectionism - When we compare ourselves, we tend to compare ourselves with the most popular person in the room or we compare ourselves with celebrities we see on TV. We set excessive expectations by comparing ourselves unreasonably to people unlike ourselves and wonder “why can’t I be that?” We carry with us a vision of another’s perfection and expect ourselves to fit that exact mold. And when we don’t fit, we beat ourselves up for it, wondering why we are such failures. You see, the problem lies in our emphasis on fitting into a vision we have created in our minds, which is not us. Let go of this perfect image, create visions of yourself out of the Being from who you are, naturally; and let that expression flow, naturally.

Photo via g2slp

14. Stop Labeling Yourself - Stop labeling yourself as a shy person. You are you, you are unique, and you are beautiful. Can’t we just leave it at that?

15. Practice Social Skills - Like any other skill, social skills can be cultivated through practice and experience. The more you put yourself out there, the easier it becomes next time. If you have a hard time knowing what to say, you can practice what to say ahead of time.

16. Practice Being in Uncomfortable Situations - Sometimes, it is not the social skills we lack, but rather the lack of self confidence that we may succeed, and a heightened fear that we will fail. Placing yourself in these uncomfortable situations will help to desensitize your fear towards the situation. The more you force yourself to face it, and to experience it completely, you will realize that it is not that bad after all. It may be hard for your ego to accept at first, but quickly you will find that you can just laugh and enjoy it.

17. The Three Questions - During social settings where you may experience nervousness, periodically ask yourself the following three questions. Doing so will distract yourself from more self-destructive thoughts. Make it your mantra:

  1. Am I breathing?
  2. Am I relaxed?
  3. Am I moving with grace?

18. What is Comfortable for You? - Going to bars and clubs isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Understand what feels comfortable for you, and find people, communities and activities which bring out the best in you. You can be just as equally social in settings that you connect with on a personal level, than the popular social settings. You don’t have to be doing what “everyone” else is doing. Besides, everyone else isn’t necessarily happy, despite your perception as such.

19. Focus on the Moment - Becoming mindful of what you’re doing, regardless of what you’re doing, will take focus away from the self. When you are having a conversation, forget about how you look, focus on the words, fall into the words, become absorbed in the words. The tones. The expression. Appreciate it and give gratitude for it.

20. Seek and Record Your Successes - As you overcome this condition we’ve been labeling as shyness, you will have many wins and realizations about yourself. You will gain insights into the truth behind social scenarios. You will start to view yourself differently and come to recognize that you can become comfortable and confident. When these wins and realizations happen, make sure to keep a notebook and write them down. Keeping a journal of your successes will not only boost self confidence, but also shift your focus towards something that can benefit you.

Original here

Mother's junk food 'harms child'

Junk food
Junk food may leave a lasting health legacy

Eating a poor diet when pregnant or breastfeeding may cause long-lasting health damage to the child, animal studies suggest.

The offspring of rats fed fatty, processed food had high levels of fat in their bloodstream and around major organs even after adolescence.

The animals had a raised diabetes risk - even if they ate healthily.

The study, by the Royal Veterinary College and London's Wellcome Trust, features in The Journal of Physiology.

We always say: 'You are what you eat', but in fact it may also be true that you are what your mother ate
Dr Stephanie Bayol
Royal Veterinary College

Studies by the same team have already shown that rats whose mothers were fed junk food during pregnancy and breastfeeding were more likely to crave similar snacks themselves.

However, the new twist is that even when weaned off this diet themselves, the damage may already have been done, they suggest.

Dr Stephanie Bayol, one of the researchers, said: "It seems that a mother's diet whilst pregnant and breastfeeding is very important for the long-term health of her child.

"We always say: 'You are what you eat', but in fact it may also be true that you are what your mother ate."

Of particular concern was fat gathering around the major organs, which has been implicated in the development of type II diabetes.

The rats with unhealthy mothers were more likely to have this, even if they were weaned off the junk food diet.

However, there were interesting differences between the sexes, with the male offspring of unhealthy mothers having higher levels of insulin and normal blood sugar, while the reverse was true of females, who also tended to be fatter.

Professor Neil Stickland, another of the researchers, said that there was no reason why the same principles should not apply to humans.

"Humans share a number of fundamental biological systems with rats, so there is good reason to assume the effects we see in rats may be repeated in humans."

He said that studies in humans had found links between the weight of parents and the weight of their children.

Early influence

Dr Pat Goodwin, from the Wellcome Trust, said that the study supported the growing evidence that there were many different risk factors which could contribute to someone becoming overweight.

She said: "Pregnancy can be a difficult time for many mothers, but it is important that they are aware that what they eat may affect their offspring."

However, Dr Simon Langley-Evans, a nutrition researcher from the University of Nottingham, said that the study did not prove that a mother's diet could affect the health of offspring beyond the effect on cravings and appetite.

He said: "I'm not convinced they have shown this - everything you are seeing here could be the result of obesity caused by increased appetite. "What it does show is that this early influence from the mother is very important."

Dr Iain Frame, of the charity Diabetes UK, warned against drawing firm conclusions from animal studies.

However, he said: "This study does lend some weight to the established argument that children of mothers who have poor diets during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing diabetes and heart disease later in life."

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It's great to be a hungry man in America

It's great to be a hungry man in America
If these dishes haven't yet crossed your lips as you've crossed the country, you've got some miles to cover and some joys to behold

By Matt Goulding

map3.gif From the lobster pounds of Maine to the burrito barrios of San Francisco, our country serves up regional chow that rivals the food of any nation on this planet.

We're not talking about hushed temples of gastronomy, but the loud, exciting, quirky food that channels a culture, defines a region, and delights any man who sinks his teeth into it: the spareribs of St. Louis, the ancient étouffées of Cajun country, the crushed Frito pies of the Southwest.

We've eaten our way from sea to shining sea, leaving no cheeseburger or smoked pig part untasted. We've returned with 64 compelling arguments for patriotism, right up there with the Bill of Rights and Wrigley Field. Grab a fork.

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How To Turn A Hot Chick Into A Geek

Written by Lukas Kaiser

Getting a hot chick to go out with you is a difficult thing and countless books, websites and TV shows have covered the topic. So let's say you follow the advice to the letter and, shockingly, it works. Now you're a geek going out with a super hot chick and the two of you have absolutely zero in common. Let's change that; let's turn a Hot Chick Into a Geek.

The key to flipping any hot "square" into an uberhot geek is the Bridge Theory. When two land masses are separated (by water, by a canyon, whatever), the easiest way to bring them together is a bridge. Bridge Theory for flipping a hot square works the same way; most hot chicks CAN be turned geek if you know the proper "bridge."

For each geeky category, there are several bridges. Use the bridges and you will be able to increase the geek factor notch by notch. Forget the bridges and your hot chick will never, ever be interested in that subgenre of geekdom again. So don't have her sit through an all day marathon of "Red Dwarf" unprepared or she will never want to watch anything remotely Britcom or sci fi again.

Be careful, take your time and you'll have a model quoting "They Live" in no time.

Hot chicks normally like mainstream, multiplex flicks. This should be obvious; they contain good looking stars, which are people they can relate to. I'm not suggesting all hot chicks are shallow. Not at all. But just like how you enjoyed "Superbad" so much because you related to the fat and nerdy protagonists, hot chicks enjoy movies like "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" because they contain people like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

The key, then, to a cinematic bridge is to find a middle ground between geekiness and hot. The perfect "bridge" filmmaker, when it comes to genre flicks, is Quentin Tarantino. Every one of his flicks from "Pulp Fiction" onward have had the perfect balance of hot chicks and celebrities on one side and geeky genre film worship on the other. It's an added bonus that he writes so well for women, making his two part "Kill Bill" flick and his half of "Grindhouse" ("Death Proof") the perfect bridges between your hot chick and genres of cinema as diverse as martial arts flicks, slasher flicks and road movies.

Once your hot chick has seen good looking, intelligent female characters having fun in films that not only hint at other, older genre flicks but also out and out reference them, you're set. After checking out "Kill Bill," for example, you might as well show her "Shogun Assassins;" that 1980 film was the one the Bride's daughter as watching, after all. You could throw in some "Enter The Dragon," "Drunken Master" and any anime of your choosing for good measure. If you use the "bridge" and time it well, you'll have a super sexy Asian cinema fanatic in no time.

"Death Proof" is a shorter film than "Kill Bill" but it's possibly more potent with its genre film connections. If your lady digs Tarantino's "car slasher" flick starring Kurt Russell, she'll probably take a liking to flicks like "Escape from New York" and "Big Trouble in Little China." If she was able to handle the "thrills and chills," she might enjoy some legitimate slasher flicks, like "Halloween," "Last House on the Left" and "Friday the 13th." And in the probable scenario that your lady is turned on by the car's in the film, you're fuckin' in. You can not only parlay that into her interest in speed flicks (like "Vanishing Point," the original "Gone in 60 Seconds" and "The French Connection,") but you might be able to get her into racing video games too.

Don't push your luck TOO hard with this bridge, however. Just because she's starting to enjoy Asian movies doesn't mean she won't run away in terror if you put on the hentai porn (though if she sticks around, you and your tentacle monster are safe). Same goes for slasher flicks; she might enjoy "Halloween" but that doesn't mean she's ready for "Cannibal Holocaust." If you had the patience it takes to cultivate a hot chick, though, you should be fine.

Die Hard gaming girls do exist. Thanks to G4TV and Morgan Webb, we know this is true. Now, hot die hard gaming girls? Ones who ACTUALLY play video games (we're looking at YOU Olivia Munn)? That is a rare breed.

And while you might not be able to convert your hottie into a "true" die hard gamer, you should be able to get her pretty interested in video games. And for that, you can thank Nintendo and their its flagship title: the Wii.

Now, I am not suggesting it's time for you to ditch your PS3 and XBox 360 (and their superior graphics and, in many cases, gameplay) and dedicate your life to the Wii. That'd be pretty retarded. But the Wii is a perfect bridge system for hot chicks.

Now, the reason why hot chicks have been excluding themselves from the gamer demographic for so long is because of the public perception that video games are anti social. While us dudes might find that concept one of the more appealing aspects of video games, the same does not fly for hot chicks. Hot chicks, by their very nature, are social. The fastest way for a hot chick to gain validation is to appear in a social situation and appear insanely hot. This is why girls wear hot dresses (it has nothing to do with us, fellas).

Wii Sports and Wii Fit, then, are perfect games to lure in the girls because they're both social and they have the added dubious benefit of being exercise (which hot chicks enjoy). Once they've either mastered or grown tired of both games, it's time for step two: get her Guitar Hero. Yes, I know Guitar Hero for Wii is shitty. Far shittier than its counterparts on other systems. But it will serve as the perfect buffer between your hottie and the purchase of an XBox 360 and/or PS3.

Once your significant(ly hotter) other has realized the limitations of the system, she'll start dropping hints she wants Rock Band and an XBox. Trust me, I'm there now. I actually have to ask my (hot) girlfriend to stop playing video games every so often; when she gets in her zone, there's no stopping that crazy, crazy girl.

Now there are some games that, no matter how hard you try, you will not be able to nor would you want to convincer her she likes. Chief among those games is "World of Warcraft." Hot chicks don't like totally immersive games where you bury yourself into a character; they don't need to escape reality so they choose not to. Also, any game that requires you give it more attention than your girlfriend HAS to be bad for your relationship.

Be careful and game in caution.

Comic Books and graphic novels (especially) have gained much prominence in the last 10 years. What started out as mere colored ink on pulp is now an industry that pumps out awesome stories and new and ever exciting properties by the week.

A suitable bridge for hot chicks to get into comics is the work of James Kochalka. James does these autobiographical anthologies where he documents his somewhat mundane life and, as luck would have it, depicts himself as an elf. For anyone who hasn't seen his work, it sounds pretty, well, gay. And it sort of is, but at the same time it's pretty funny and, more importantly, thanks to the cutesy drawing style, the kind of stuff your hot girlfriend will like (she'd been in good company; Frank Miller likes Kochalka's stuff as well).

After she's checked out Kochalka, you can slowly introduce her to Brian K. Vaughn. The easiest "in" at this point would be "Runaways." Even though it's an awesomely written and drawn comic that's both hilarious and action packed, "Runaways" still remains, in its core, what it was commissioned as: a comic for girls.

From "Runaways," you can quickly and painlessly move on to more Vaughn stuff (especially the girl-friendly "Y: The Last Man"). You can also easily move her onto some manga (if that's your scene).

Go slowly moving into straight super hero stuff, though. Just because she digs the skrull in "Runaways" doesn't mean she'll want to read every back issue of John Byrne's run on "Fantastic 4."

Here's a toughie. There's no true bridge from a hot chick to science fiction. The work of Richard Kelly and Joss Whedon is probably the closest we've got and "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Donnie Darko" both seem like perfect bridges on the surface level. But both examples are, upon deeper inspection, far too nerdy for a simple dabbler.

There's something off putting about science fiction to hot chicks. I haven't quite put my finger on it, but I think it has something to do with the fact that, in sci fi, any truly hot chick is either an alien or a member of the Borg.

Future filmmakers out there, there's an opening: make the sci fi equivalent to "Kill Bill" and you will be a hero to millions of geeks everywhere. Good luck with that.

General Note

These methods have all worked for me. I'm fairly certain the girl I go out with is a "hot chick" as well. I have no idea how I bagged her, seeing as I'm an idiotic boob. But somehow, through sheer force of will, my girl now IMs me tidbits about "The Dark Knight" presales figures. She is adorable. I better not fuck this up.

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