‘Silly girl’ journalist wins age discrimination case
Are America's living dolls still living a nightmare?
Are you a compulsive shopper?
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The Cheating Culture
China's Super Kids
Dare to Dream
Demonizing Fat in the War on Weight
Depression Simmers in Japan's Culture of Stoicism
Hollywood Balks at High-Tech Sanitizers
How far would you go to save the planet?
How to be great!
Leave us cyberchondriacs alone!
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My year of living agelessly
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The Perfect Trap
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Why Reality TV Is Good for Us
As Security Cameras Sprout, Someone's Always Watching
The Honesty Virus
The Neighbor From Hell
This is the shape of things to come for mankind
Whatever happened to the future?
The Sunday Times
October 29, 2006
BOSSES beware. Already concerned about being accused of racism, sexism or ageism, managers now need to be wary of trampling on the rights of the fresh-faced new guy or girl in the office.
According to the Equality Tribunal, young people make up an increasing proportion of the 11% of age-related discrimination cases.
The tribunal has awarded Ciara O’Brien, a Dublin woman, more than €25,000 after finding that her employer discriminated against her on grounds of age and gender. Frank Quinn, the chairman of the company, called her a “silly girl”.
In 2003, O’Brien, then 23, had been working as a journalist for Quinn’s magazine PC Live! for a year when she was promoted to assistant editor. But O’Brien stayed on her starting salary of €20,300 a year. Her predecessor, an older male, had been paid €26,300.
Quinn, who made almost €10m from the sale of job finder, i.e. in 2000, said there was no increase in O’Brien’s pay because of a company pay freeze.
But Mary Rogerson, a tribunal officer, ruled that there was “no objective justification for the difference in pay” and that Quinn’s company had failed to rebut the charges of discrimination on gender and age grounds.
Rogerson also upheld a claim that O’Brien was victimized for making her complaint. This ruling was based in part on a meeting with the editor of PC Live! at which Quinn asked O’Brien’s boss to “use whatever influence he had to convince her not to proceed”. The editor’s notes of the meeting show Quinn describing O’Brien as a “silly girl”.
As well as awarding O’Brien more than €25,000 in compensation and back pay, the tribunal calls on Quinn to draft an equal opportunities policy for his staff.
Quinn said his company is appealing the verdict to the Labor Court. “We are bewildered that the tribunal found we have discriminated,” he said. “All our staff are treated fairly and some of our most senior managers are women. It is a fact of life that experience is an important factor and makes a difference to what you are paid.”
Asked if he had referred to O’Brien as a “silly girl”, Quinn replied: “I honestly don’t remember saying that. It may have been a colloquial reference that was taken out of context.”
O’Brien, who now works as a freelance technology writer, said she was delighted with the verdict. Hers was the first time the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) backed an age discrimination case in the republic.
“People might think I’m a troublemaker, but I’m not,” she said. “Part of the reason I took the case is to show that young people shouldn’t be discriminated against. Once you have the experience or the qualification you shouldn’t be treated worse because of your age or sex.”
O’Brien, who teaches kick-boxing part-time, hopes her case will highlight that other young workers face discrimination. “It should alert people that it’s not right for employers to treat people differently just because they are younger. I don’t think many know that is against the law,” said O’Brien.
Nicola Coleman, an NUJ official, expects the Labor Court to uphold the tribunal’s finding. “There was a prima- facie case of discrimination,” she said. “There was no reason why she was paid less than her older male colleague, bar the fact that she is a young female.”
While Ireland has had legislation covering age discrimination since 1999, Britain has only enacted similar laws this month.
The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) welcomed Rogerson’s ruling, saying it was important to show that ageism affected young people as well as old. “There are employers who think young people have to go through a right of passage no matter what experience or skills they have,” said spokeswoman Sarah Gahan.
NYCI are lobbying to have the Equality Act’s lower age cut-off reduced below the current 18 years. “It is ridiculous this law only protects those 18 and over,” Gahan said. “If this girl was 17 and discriminated against, she couldn’t bring a case. It is like legislating against racism but saying it doesn’t cover blacks.”
Red Bull, fake teeth and hair extensions – yes, the junior beauty pageant season is under way. And, 10 years after JonBenet Ramsey's murder, Michael Shelden discovers that little has changed in that bizarre world.
The beauty queen flashes a big smile and stares straight into the video camera like an old pro, not batting an eyelid.
Surrounded onstage by balloons, teddy bears and trophies almost twice her height, pretty Regan Licciardello accepts her cash prize of $1,000 and proudly shows it to the crowd at the Universal Royalty Pageant in Austin, Texas, fanning out the banknotes like a gambler's winnings.
"Make sure we position the money just right," the pageant director says from offstage. A moment later the display of notes across her winner's sash is in perfect alignment with Regan's smile. It is the kind of pose you'd expect of a Vegas showgirl, but this girl in a sequined dress and heavy make-up is only five years old.
It has been 10 years since the death of JonBenet Ramsey, who was a beauty queen at six, and whose unsolved murder cast a spotlight on the glitzy and fiercely competitive world of children's pageants. Almost every story about the murder carried images of JonBenet dolled up like an adult, staring vacantly into the camera or prancing onstage in a cowgirl outfit singing: "I want to be a cowboy sweetheart."
When John Mark Karr – an itinerant teacher with an obsession about young girls – was briefly held as a suspect in her murder earlier this year, people leapt to the conclusion that he had once stalked her. Old footage of her grainy videos was aired again, making it seem that the bizarre world of pre-pubescent showgirls belonged to the past.
But it never went away. Thousands of American mothers are still painting eye shadow and lip gloss on their little daughters and entering them in pageants week after week, as I discovered this month.
More than 3,000 beauty contests for children are held in America each year. One of JonBenet's titles was "Little Miss Colorado", but the epicentre of the pageants is Texas, where the competition to win a major title on the popular Universal Royalty circuit is intense.
What I found there earlier this month at the start of the pageant season in Texas is that JonBenet's old cowgirl routine wouldn't raise an eyebrow. If anything, it would be regarded as a little tame by parents whose determination to make their daughters glamorous hasn't been affected in the least by the unsolved case of the murdered queen.
The first person I met in Austin was Annette Hill, the head of Universal Royalty. She is a tall, attractive black woman in her early forties who makes no apologies for her line of work. With the help of a small staff, she holds a pageant somewhere in Texas every week and is known affectionately by her loyal following as "Miss Annette".
"I'm like everybody's aunt," she tells me during a break at the pageant that features Regan and 83 other contestants ranging in age from infants to teens. "The girls like it when they see me and I say, 'Come here, sugar. Aren't you just so pretty?' "
She speaks bluntly of her frustration at having to comment so often on the case of JonBenet, whom she didn't know, and whose death she can't explain. "We're sick and tired of hearing about her," she tells me with a dismissive shake of her head. "The media has to stop making it sound like pageants had something to do with her death. That didn't have nothing to do with nothing."
After 13 years in the business, she thinks she understands the appeal of her contests. It is simple, she says. Girls like to dress up and mothers like to show them off. She refuses to acknowledge that there is anything provocative about the way the girls look and is cheerfully prepared to punch any "pervert" trying to crash one of her events. "Ain't no child perverts going to get in here," she says, feistily. "They can't get past me. Besides, these parents would kick their butts."
There is a good reason why she wants to promote the image of her pageants as innocent fun. She makes an excellent living, charging parents an average of almost £500 for each child who enters one of her major competitions. In return, she awards about a third of the contestants with a small trophy or a modest amount of cash while a few parents actually break even by earning one of the top awards of £500 – the same amount as the entry fee. The pride of winning seems to mean as much as the cash, but Annette thinks it doesn't hurt to have the girls flash their banknotes at the end. "Believe me," she says, "the parents want to see that money."
Managing a pageant is no easy task. This one – which is held on a Saturday in the ballroom of a suburban hotel – begins at eight in the morning and goes on for more than 12 hours. The youngest contestants appear first so they can nap in the afternoon. "The babies are perkier in the morning," Annette says. And, indeed, her pageant starts with children who are only a year old. Their parents parade them across the stage, holding them up in the air wriggling like puppies for the four judges to admire.
A sound system plays dreamy tunes by the likes of Michael Bolton and Whitney Houston while a female announcer describes the baby's special qualities, working from a script provided by the parents.
"She enjoys taking long naps and playing peek-a-boo," the announcer says of one tiny girl, keeping a straight face as she adds: "Her ambition is to walk by herself."
Prizes are given within each age group, but the big interest lies with the four- to five-year-olds. Throughout the morning, 10 girls in this category appear in fancy costumes and swimsuits, some strutting confidently across the stage while a few merely shuffle forward looking lost in the bright lights.
From the outset, it is clear that Regan is the frontrunner. She has memorised the routine perfectly. One moment she is swirling effortlessly on her heels and batting her eyelashes at the judges, the next she is crossing her legs and holding her hands out beside the wide folds of her dress, smiling over her shoulder. The other girls have some similar moves, but only Regan has them all.
Her strongest competitors include a leggy, brown-skinned girl in a cheerleading outfit, and a round-faced child with a helmet of hair piled so high she seems in danger of falling over. The first child seems to be under the supervision of her father, and the announcer notes that the girl's uniform represents daddy's favourite team, the Dallas Cowboys.
Whenever the second child takes the stage, her blue jean-clad mother leaps up to signal moves to her from the aisles, making faces and waving her arms behind the backs of the judges. The child stares at her self-consciously and tries to mimic the moves, resembling a wind-up doll in slow motion.
"Win, lose or draw, we have fun," the mother tells me afterwards. Then, looking into the daughter's expressionless face, she asks, brightly: "We have lots of fun, don't we?" The child nods dutifully.
The judges seem aware of the over-active stage mothers, but don't pay their antics much attention. "The things that matter the most," the one male judge – Michael Flores – tells me, "are smiles and personality. I value them more than all the glitz and glamour."
He shows me a sample scorecard, with a list of marks like those in figure skating – 9.4, 9.5 and so on to a perfect 10. With professional pride, Michael points out that he is strictly forbidden from sharing his opinions of the contestants with his fellow judges. They mark their cards in secret and submit them to an independent tabulator who sits at the opposite end of the ballroom.
In accordance with the rules, the parents keep their distance from the judges, and are cautioned by Annette to show good sportsmanship and not to dispute the final verdicts. But some of the mothers are not above voicing complaints when asked.
A pretty blonde whose four-year-old is a newcomer tells me that she finds the polished act of Regan "scary". She has dressed her child in a long gown that lacks any touches of glitter, and says – with a sideways look in the direction of some fancier contestants – "I don't want my daughter to look like them."
She says that her daughter wanted to enter the pageant after winning a few local contests elsewhere, but that neither of them had anticipated such serious competition in Austin.
In a low voice, she tells me that she has been surprised by the conduct of some of the other mothers. She has seen one kicking a little girl's shoe to straighten her foot and another "shoving Red Bull" down her child's throat. The high-energy drink is supposed to make the girls more animated onstage.
"I overheard a mother tell her daughter to giggle-wiggle," she says, wide-eyed with disbelief. "It makes me feel sorry for them. All I've told my daughter is just to smile and be natural. That's what it should be all about." This mother and daughter probably won't be back. Later, I watch as the child walks off the stage empty-handed..
After naptime, I finally get the chance to meet the star of the show and her mother. At first, I barely recognise Regan when I find her playing outside the ballroom in ordinary clothes. Suddenly, without hair extensions and full make-up, she looks more like a five-year-old instead of a child pretending to be a miniature woman. "I can count to 100," she says gleefully and proves it while I chat with her mother.
Unlike Regan onstage, Bonnie Licciardello dresses modestly and doesn't wear much jewellery or make-up. She speaks quietly and seems every inch the proper suburban Texas housewife. But since her daughter's infancy, she has been grooming Regan for a different kind of life. She entered the girl in their first pageant on Regan's first birthday. Now the child is such a veteran of the circuit that they have accumulated over 400 trophies and 200 crowns.
"They say that mothers in these contests are living through their daughters," Bonnie remarks in a soft voice. "Well, that's not the case with Regan. She's a performer. She wants to do it. When she was only three, she would cuddle up to me in the morning and ask, "Momma, do I have a pageant today?"
Regan quickly stood out and attracted the interest of modelling agencies. This past year she has earned about £40,000 from pageants, regional television commercials and print ads. Next year her mother is taking her to Hollywood for film and television auditions. Being Regan is big business now.
Though Bonnie admits that the world of child beauty pageants is "a little odd", she doesn't think it has adversely affected her or her daughter. She can't say the same about some of the other mothers, who seem to resent Regan's success and take it out on their own children.
"The other mothers know Regan is the one to beat. They phone the pageant ahead of time and ask, 'Is Regan coming?' Some moms get snippy if their child loses. I've seen them pull a girl off the stage and yell at her. They will say to her face, 'You suck.' I hear it every pageant."
She insists she never has to point out any shortcomings to Regan. They usually watch the video of a pageant afterwards and she says that her daughter is invariably the one to spot mistakes first.
"She will tell me not only if she did something wrong, but also if she sees another girl make a mistake. 'Mamma,' she will say, 'that girl looked at the floor.' In pageants you should always keep your eyes on the judges, never on the floor."
In the pursuit of perfection, Bonnie uses hair pieces on her daughter, but says she draws the line at other artificial enhancements. "Some of the girls wear fake teeth, thin veneers to improve their smiles. They call them flippers. I will never put a flipper on my child."
By nightfall there is nothing left to do but hand out the awards. Nobody is surprised when Regan wins the top title and the highest cash prize, but there are a few sour expressions among the families of some "future winners".
Next year may fare better for them. Bonnie confides that she is thinking of "weaning" Regan away from pageants. She will soon turn six and other worlds are waiting to be conquered. "We're thinking of figure skating or movies," she says. "Who knows? When we go out to Hollywood, anything could happen. Maybe Disney will call."
I don't have the heart to say that Regan's glitzy looks will need to be toned down considerably for Disney. But if my visit to the pageant has taught me anything, it's that none of the mothers seems to understand how strange their daughters look to outsiders.
Every mother sees what she wants to see in her child, which must explain why poor Patsy Ramsey, mother of JonBenet, never understood why much of the world thought her living doll was living a nightmare.
It's no joke. It's a mental health problem. Here are a few questions to help you determine if you have compulsive buying disorder.
In June of 2006, Betty Jean Barachie of Kunkletown, Pa., was sentenced to 27 months in prison for embezzling $1.5 million over eight years from the credit union where she was a branch manager. She used the money to buy, among many, many other things, hundreds of pairs of shoes, more than 3,000 books, 58 coats, 16 chain saws and a $25,000 John Deere tractor.
A psychologist called as a witness at her trial testified that she was a compulsive shopper.
Most of the items she bought sat piled in her house unused with the price tags still on them. The psychologist said Barachie was depressed to the point of being suicidal about her inability to stop spending money.
Compulsive shopping, also known as compulsive buying disorder, can be just as addictive -- and as destructive -- as alcohol or drugs, says Dr. James Mitchell, chairman of the department of neuroscience at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences and lead author of a study on cognitive behavior therapy for compulsive buying disorder.
It is far more complex than financial disorganization or irresponsibility. Compulsive buying disorder is a little-studied addiction that consumes the person's life.
Like an alcoholic craving a drink
"What we believe and have evidence for is that people have the same kind of surge in brain chemicals when they anticipate buying something as when (an alcoholic) anticipates drinking," says April Lane Benson, a psychotherapist who specializes in compulsive shopping and the author of "I Shop, Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying and the Search for Self." "It's the anticipation of pleasure that starts the brain rolling. You can see physical symptoms. People might sweat or their heart races."
Much more common among women than men, compulsive shopping often accompanies other mental health problems, including depression, alcoholism and eating disorders, Mitchell says. Sufferers tend to target certain items. For women, it's usually clothes or shoes; for men, it's often electronics or books. And like Barachie, sufferers tend not to use the things they buy.
"They store them, take them back or give them away," Mitchell says. One of the women he treated in group therapy bought so many baskets she had to rent a storage unit to keep all of them, "but she never spent any time with them."
The reasons for the behavior are varied, Benson says, but the essence of the problem stems from low self-esteem, insecurity and inadequacy. "There are also people who do these things because they don't know how to get what they need emotionally any other way," she says.
Olivia Mellan is a psychotherapist who specializes in money conflict resolution. She also is a recovering compulsive shopper who ran up more than $10,000 in credit card debt buying clothes.
"The urge to shop overtook me like a tidal wave," she says. "I felt like I was being bowled over by waves."
Are you a compulsive shopper?
She developed this quiz to help people determine if their love of shopping has crossed the line into compulsion. Answer "often," "sometimes," "rarely" or "never."
• Do you buy things you want, whether or not you can afford them at the moment?
• Do you have trouble saving money? If you have a little extra available to save or invest, do you tend to think of something you'd rather spend it on?
• Do you buy things to cheer yourself up or to reward yourself?
• Does more than a third of your income, not including rent or mortgage payments, go to pay bills?
• Do you juggle bill paying because you always seem to be living on the edge financially?
• Do you tend to keep buying more of your favorite things even if you don't have a specific need for them?
• If you have to deny yourself or put off buying something you really want, do you feel intensely deprived, angry or upset?
If you answered "often" or "sometimes" to four or more questions, you're probably a compulsive spender, especially if you answered "often" or "sometimes" to the last question, Mellan says.
Some other questions that might help you decide if you're a compulsive shopper come from the compulsive buying scale, a measure co-developed by Ron Faber, a professor of mass communication at the University of Minnesota. Faber says there are several predictors of compulsive shoppers.
• Others may be "horrified" by your spending habits.
• You write checks when you know you don't have enough money in the bank to cover them.
• You go shopping to feel better.
• You feel bad if you don't go shopping.
• You feel like you have to spend money if you have any left over at the end of the month.
From his study of compulsive shoppers, Faber also notes that many celebrities who are known for their lavish lifestyles are probably compulsive shoppers. "There is a high likelihood that Michael Jackson is a compulsive shopper," he says.
Steps to recovery
As with any addiction, the first step is admitting there is a problem and wanting to get help for it. Mellan recommends programs such as Debtors Anonymous. Credit counseling may also be helpful in addressing the debt that most compulsive shoppers have.
One of the challenges to recovery is that alcoholics can abstain from drinking and drug addicts can swear off drugs, but people have to buy things. Mitchell's clinic has had good success with group therapy to identify situations and emotions that trigger the impulse to shop, trouble spots to avoid and alternate activities to pursue when the urge to shop hits. Some mental health professionals have had success with medication, but Mitchell says the research results are decidedly mixed.
Give up the plastic
Then there are the practical rules, Mitchell says.
"One of the first things you do in treatment with these folks is get them to give up their credit cards," he says.
Next, never buy anything spontaneously. Go shopping with a list, and don't buy anything that isn't on the list. Make a rule that if you see something you want, you have to wait 24 hours before you can buy it. And stay away from garage sales, home shopping channels on television, and online shopping sites such as eBay and Amazon.com.
Mellan calls it avoiding "slippery places" and also suggests identifying specific times of the day or week, such as payday at a job you don't like, when you could be tempted.
Then, make a list of other behaviors you can substitute for shopping, such as exercising, taking a bath, walking, doing something creative, calling a friend, volunteering or making a "community or spiritual connection."
She saw the importance of finding something else to fill the need to shop when she put together a tape of songs as a memorial to a friend who had died the previous year. She worked on it "around my birthday, which is a time of year when I always feel very needy about clothing."
"It was a wonderful process," she says. "It was very creative and made me feel very good. During that time, I had no desire to shop at all. It was a deeper need that inhabited the space where the addiction had been."
-- By Pat Curry, Bankrate.com
Ways to avoid overspending
So you're thumbing through the new catalog and suddenly you come upon the most gorgeous set of drapes you've ever seen, in just the perfect color for your living room.
You glance up and all at once your old drapes look scraggly and threadbare. AND the beautiful ones are only $489.00!
Stop right there. Put the catalog down. As a matter of fact, put it way down - in the trash. Right in there with the wet teabags and the used tissues. Then you won't be tempted to pull it out later.
Never fear, in a day or two, your old drapes will look fine again.
Temptation. Ugh. It hits us all, at one time or another. We allow ourselves to be enticed (tempted) into thinking we HAVE to have new shoes or a new recliner or a magazine or potato chips. We're tempted by an endless bombardment of advertising and commercials to think we need bigger houses, newer cars and longer vacations.
We know better if we'd just take a moment to think for ourselves. The problem is easy to see; it's the solution that's difficult.
That solution begins with staying away from anything that presents a temptation. That should be so obvious that anyone can see it, but we often don't, probably because it seems like an impossible task.
Decide for yourself what you really need and/or want.
Take a look around you. Look in your closet, in your pantry, in your living room. What is amiss? Are there things that need to be replaced? Are there additions that obviously or not so obviously need to be made?
Take notes. If you need a white, long sleeved shirt, write it down. (Don't just run out and buy it!) Keep a watch for sales on the item, or think of alternative ways of obtaining it than going down to the nearest department store and buying it. Trades, substitutions, garage sales and second hand stores are all good alternatives for most things.
If you don't see anything you need, don't go shopping - for anything. In other words, make your shopping list without any outside input.
Avoid as much advertising propaganda as is reasonably possible.
TV, magazines, radio, internet and even bus stops are filled with advertising, making it impossible to avoid all of it, but you can minimize the impact by avoiding an overdose.
Turning the TV off is a good place to start. Most of us spend more time in front of the TV than we spend talking to each other anyway. Much of that time is spent absorbing, consciously or not, advertising that makes us feel inferior if we don't buy the things they're selling.
Ignore ads when you can. Don't read them in magazines. Make a game of staring off into the sky or twiddling your thumbs or concentrating on how your feet feel inside your shoes - anything instead of absorbing the ads when you come across them in public areas. (This one really works.)
Remember that I'm talking about ads for things you don't need to begin with. If there's something you're looking for, pay attention! You'll be able to save money by keeping up with ads and sales. Besides that, they'll help you find what you really want and be more satisfied. Just use the ads to your advantage.
Be your own person.
Again, look at your surroundings, not others. If you don't watch to see what's "new and in style" chances are that you'll be content with what you already have. At the very least, you'll learn what you really like and not what someone tells you that you like. When you know that, passing fancies won't be tempting at all.
You won't have to run after fads and styles and you'll be content spending much less money in the long run, even if what you like is expensive to begin with. You won't have to replace it every time something "new and better" or more "fashionable" comes along.
For instance, if you really enjoy good original paintings, no doubt you'll keep them for a long time. If the blues and reds (or greens and browns or whatever) of your favorite painting clashes with whatever is the going color scheme in decorating, you probably won't throw out the painting to suit fashion.
If, by looking at your surroundings, you decide what you really need, if you ignore the ads that tell you what someone else wants you to need, and if you take the time to think about what you really like and want, you won't spend money over and over and over, trying to keep up with the Joneses. You'll be the one leading the pack.
17 ways to escape couch potato syndrome
From Stealth Health
Glued to the Tube
This country boasts a population of 275 million people -- and 248 million televisions, according to the 2000 Census.
Nearly every household (98.2 percent) has at least one TV and most have more, with an average of 2.4 sets per home. We spent an average of $255.18 per person for cable and satellite TV in 2004 and watch the equivalent of about 70 days of television a year (more if you're over 65), a truly scary thought when you consider the quality of most programming these days. Plus, there's the fact that TV watching has been linked to higher rates of obesity and diabetes.
Tired of wasting the equivalent of two months of your life every year glued to the tube? Spending more than an hour sitting in front of the television each evening? Like kicking any habit, half the battle of TV addiction is acknowledging the problem and making the commitment to change. Assuming you have the commitment, here are specific tips on getting the job done:
1. Give your extra TVs to charity. Allow your home one TV in a room dedicated to nothing but reading or TV watching. Donate the rest to a school or charitable organization in your community. You'll not only get the tax deduction and a feeling that you did good, but it will be that much harder to veg out in front of the tube!
2. Only turn on the TV to watch a particular show. In other words, don't just turn it on and go surfing for something worthwhile. Hours are quickly wasted, switching from one show to the next, watching all and none at the same time.
3. Then, when you sit down to watch a particular show, set a timer or an alarm clock in another room for the length of the show. When it beeps, you'll have to get out of your chair to turn it off, a signal to also turn off the tube.
4. Throw out the remote control. It's amazing how much less television you'll watch if you have to get up every time you want to change channels or adjust the volume. Plus, it eliminates all those hours you spend channel surfing.
5. Rearrange the furniture. Design your family room so that the television becomes not the focal point of the room, but an afterthought that requires twisting around or rearranging the furniture to view.
6. Hide the television. Put it behind an armoire, hang a blanket over it, or stick it inside a cabinet. Do whatever you can to ensure it fades into the background and can't be seen for what it is -- a dangerous time sucker.
7. Eat meals, especially dinner, with the television OFF.
8. Set a rule that you can't watch TV if the sun is shining. Instead, you have to go for a walk, ride a bike, or get some other kind of healthy physical activity for at least an hour before you can turn on the tube. This rule also works great for your kids or grandkids.
9. Make a TV-watching plan each week. Sit down with the viewing guide and pick out the shows you want to watch that week. Watch only those shows, and when they're over, turn the TV off.
10. Set a rule that you must read 30 pages of a book or magazine before you can turn on the TV. Depending on how fast you read, you may never watch TV again! Get Productive 1
11. Create a list of one-hour evening projects. List everything you can possibly dream of: cleaning a particularly messy cupboard, organizing recipes, touching up the paint on your bedroom walls, sharpening kitchen knives, sorting through your sewing materials. Then create an old-fashioned job jar, and try to do one each evening.
12. Switch to games. With your spouse and/or children, relearn the fun of Scrabble, backgammon, or even chess. Get out the playing cards and have a hearts or gin rummy battle. Play Ping-Pong, pool, or darts in the basement. Go outside and practice your golf swing with practice balls. All of these are more fun, healthy, and life-affirming than sitting in front of the television.
13. Develop a fast-moving news routine. Most news shows are scheduled down to the minute. So investigate the handful of shows you watch and figure out when they run the features you are most interested in. For example, the local weather is on the Weather Network at eight after the hour; the recap of the day's headlines on CNN at fifteen after; the sports scores on ESPN SportsCenter shortly after. Add it all together, and you have a total national news briefing in about 15 minutes. Sounds like the perfect evening television routine. Watch it when you get home, and then turn off the television for the rest of the night.
14. Say no to Jaws for the 15th time. Often we can be strangely drawn into watching things we've seen many times before. There's something comforting in the repetition. Well, resist it. Watching the same James Bond movie or Trading Spaces episode again and again is unhealthy for your body and your brain.
15. Get outdoors every night. Make it a point to leave your home or apartment at least once after dinner, if only for a short walk around the block. Too many people consider their day pretty much done once they've eaten dinner, when in fact, evening can be a wonderful time for getting things done and having fun.
16. Change your TV-viewing chairs. Make them somewhat hard and upright -- chairs you don't want to lounge in for hours. Move your most comfy chairs to the living room, and use them for listening to music and reading.
17. Say no to pundits and celebrity talkfests. One way to cut down on television is to rule out certain types of shows. We suggest, start with any show in which you are watching a person talk. It is rare that a television interview or conversation is deeply insightful. Other categories to consider boycotting:
Entire ball games. Why spend three hours watching a baseball or football game when the critical action can be captured in five minutes?
Any show with a laugh track. How good can it be if it requires canned laughter to tell you a scene is funny?
Shows filled with guns and violence. Who needs the mental baggage of all that killing and mayhem?
Reality shows built on a cruel premise. If it torments the participants, or causes them ridicule, or extols values contrary to yours (like all the shows glorifying plastic surgery), then don't watch.
What does that leave you with? Quality news coverage; good movies; shows you can learn from; shows that celebrate people and the good in life.
Americans now average 2.4 TVs per household and the effects are toxic.
By Sacha Zimmerman
From For America
How addicted has America become to television? The numbers are disturbing but hardly surprising.
In the typical American household, the television is on for more than 7 hours a day.
The average American child spends more time watching TV than attending school.
By age 70, the average person will have spent 7 to 10 years of his life watching television.
Just think of all the other things we could be doing to improve ourselves and the country -- bike riding, volunteering at a soup kitchen, reading, gardening, playing -- instead of sitting frozen in front of TV shows that are often violent, often cruel, and often meaningless.
How troublesome has it become? Increasingly, the television has moved from the family room into the kitchen and into children's bedrooms, often acting as a baby-sitter or substitute friend. Americans now average 2.4 TVs per household, according to the last census. And the effects are pernicious: Studies show that television can contribute to poor grades, obesity, and sleep and behavior problems in children. But that's not all: TV violence is epidemic. Before finishing grade school, the average child will witness about 8,000 murders depicted on TV. Pundits and scientists can debate whether such viewing changes how children act, but let common sense prevail here. Do we really want our children to see this much violence and hatred, especially in the name of entertainment?
Taking TV out of their bedrooms is a first step toward limiting the amount of television your children watch. Plus, in one-set home where the TV is in a central location, it's easier for parents to monitor what their kids are watching and to take note of how long they're watching. Also, keeping television out of the bedroom means that kids' rooms are sanctuaries where they can study or read without distraction. In that vein, if you have young children, read to them. Children who are read to are more likely to do better in school and to read themselves.
Besides, the time you spend reading together is the kind of quality time that watching television can never replace. Watching television is still a good way to view movies as family, keep up with breaking news, learn about nature's wonders, or laugh together at silly cartoons and sit-coms. But keep your household's viewing in check. TV should be just one among many entertainment outlets for your family.
ASEE Prism, Sep 2004 by Selingo, Jeffrey
CHEATING IS ON THE RISE, BUT MANY PROFESSORS ARE RELUCTANT TO CONFRONT DISHONEST STUDENTS BECAUSE IT'S TOO DIFFICULT TO PROSECUTE THEM.
Last spring, John K. Schneller, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Florida, learned from some seniors in his control-theory class that a few of their classmates had cheated on an exam by whispering answers and showing their papers to one another.
Schneller was surprised. After all, he had proctored the exam along with a teaching assistant and thought his presence in the room would have discouraged cheating. Now he wondered what to do about the next exam. The class had 104 students crammed into a small lecture hall, so prohibiting students from sitting next to one another was impossible.
His solution? The next test would have two versions. When Schneller graded that exam, though, he discovered that one student had answers from the other version. To Schneller, it was a clear-cut example of cheating and he decided to pursue charges through the university's judicial system, his first case in 18 years of teaching at the university. "I was told by older faculty not to waste my time," Schneller says.
Now he knows why. The student denied the charges, claiming he was a poor student who had simply arrived at the wrong answers. At a formal hearing, the student was acquitted. "Instead of getting the 'F' I wanted to give him, he got a 'D,' " Schneller says. "It was discouraging."
Cheating in college is nothing new, of course. For generations, students have scrawled crib notes on the inside of baseball caps or copied passages out of books for term papers. Now, however, surveys show that cheating among college students - including engineering majors-is getting worse. In 1964, 5 8 percent of engineering students said they had cheated at least once. By 1996, that number had jumped to 82 percent, according to research by Donald L. McCabe, a management professor at Rutgers University who conducts occasional surveys of students and faculty members on the issue. "Students now look at cheating differently," McCabe says. "Students are no longer embarrassed by it."
Schools of engineering on many campuses often rank near the top in the number of cases referred to university judicial panels. At Ohio State, for instance, the college of engineering had 19 percent of the academic misconduct cases on campus in the 200203 academic year, the most of any school on campus. The engineering school at George Washington University had 21 percent of the academic misconduct cases on campus over the same period-the most of any school on campus after arts and sciences, the university's largest. At Georgia Tech, 37 percent of the academic misconduct cases resolved in 2002-03 were from the college of engineering, the most of any school at the university.
It's also easier to cheat today, thanks to technology like the Internet and wireless messaging devices such as cell phones. Professors who turn their back on the problem also help. Unlike Schneller, many faculty members simply ignore or are unaware of the cheating that goes on in their classrooms. More often than not, they choose to handle cases quickly and quietly to avoid the laborious campus judicial process that usually ends in disappointment for them.
In a 2000 survey, McCabe found that one third of professors who said they were aware of a cheating incident in their classroom in the last two years did nothing about it. "An awful lot of faculty [members] don't take cheating as seriously as they should," says Kris Pister, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California-Berkeley. "I don't believe the people who say there is no cheating in their class. I think they are all being naïve."
Pister himself realized the pervasiveness of the problem when he found out several years ago that certain teams of students working on a final project in digital circuit design had shared information with each other. "These were not minor infractions," he says. "There was wholesale copying." He ended up failing 13 students in the class for cheating and referred them to the university's judicial-affairs office.
The situation Pister encountered is a common one. Engineering professors say that sharing homework assignments is probably the most popular form of cheating they encounter these days. One reason, they believe, is that engineers are expected to collaborate in their professional careers, but engineering students are often discouraged from working together on assignments in college. And while some professors clearly spell out in their syllabus that sharing work is prohibited, others are not as clear or actively encourage students to work together. Often, the result is confused students.
That's what Douglas Jones, electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, ran into last fall when he discovered that a quarter of the 130 students in his computer engineering course had worked in groups and copied from other people on programming assignments. Although Jones says his syllabus clearly stated that students were supposed to do their own work, some thought it was acceptable to collaborate since they were allowed to do that in other classes. "It was not an issue that I (had] faced before," says Jones, who has been teaching for 16 years. "I never even stressed that part of my syllabus at the beginning of the semester."
Because of this, Jones decided it was only fair to handle the matter himself. He gave students the option of turning themselves in for a small penalty - half of what they would have scored on the assignment. "Pretty much everybody came forward," he says. "A lot of people admitted to a lot less than I think they did."
SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
Getting students to understand what they did wrong is often difficult. Habits are formed well before students come to college. Professors say many high schools have turned a blind eye toward cheating. Although many college students still express regret when accused of academic misconduct - professors have plenty of stories about students sobbing in their offices - some are openly defiant.
"I once had a kid tell me, 'Why are you getting so upset about these types of things - you are teaching us to be problem solvers and we're solving the problem,'" recalls R. Alien Miller, professor and chairman of the industrial, welding, and systems engineering department at Ohio State University.
Julie J.C.H. Ryan, assistant professor of engineering management and systems engineering at George Washington University, chalks up the indifference to the consumer attitude that many students have adopted. "My students think that because they pay tuition that they are customers and that the customer is always right," Ryan says. "I always tell them: You are not the customer."
A graduate student Ryan once accused of plagiarism told her that he was taking the class for the second time because the previous professor also accused of him of plagiarism. "This is a generation that grew up with copy and paste," Ryan says. "And sometimes that's all they do to write a paper."
Indeed, technology has changed how students cheat. For research papers, students can plug a topic into Google and instantly gather information from hundreds of Web sites worldwide, even other term papers. For homework, computer files can be attached to e-mail messages and quickly sent to an entire class. For tests, students can send instant messages to students across the room via cell phones and other handheld devices.
Last year, at the University of Maryland-College Park, 12 students were accused of cheating on an accounting exam after friends text-messaged them the answers from a bogus key that was posted online in an effort to catch cheaters. Some students were thought to have directly accessed the key using cell phones capable of browsing the Web.
At the University of Florida, where students in the school of engineering are required to have a laptop and the campus's wireless network extends to classrooms, some professors would like students to have the ability to use their computers during exams. But that's not going to happen as long as wireless networks allow students to send each other instant messages. "Universities, in putting in their wireless structures, have not given the capacity to turn off the networking in certain rooms," Florida's Schneller says. "Universities should be designing rooms where radio waves can't come in so that examinations could be held there."
For how much technology has forced faculty members to contemplate the different ways students might cheat the system, it has also made it easier to catch them. Recently, Robert Lundquist, associate professor of industrial, welding, and systems engineering at Ohio State University, caught 50 engineering students sharing spreadsheet assignments for an economics class. He nabbed them by checking the file properties of the suspect spreadsheets and determining that they were all created by the same computer.
George Washington's Ryan keeps her Web browser open to Google when reading papers and plugs in two or three phrases from each page to see if a student plagiarized. "I check every paper, even the ones that are by very good students," Ryan says. She adds, somewhat proudly, that she is responsible "for 10 percent of the academic integrity charges at the university."
A few professors have even designed homemade computer programs to detect cheating. The computer science department at Georgia Tech University accused 187 students of cheating in December 2001 after a homemade program found similarities among their homework assignments. Students found guilty received punishments ranging from a zero on the assignment to a failing grade in the class. One student was suspended.
A SLAP ON THE HAND
Although the Georgia Tech and Ohio State cases reached scandalous proportions, many cheating cases are handled in the privacy of faculty offices, resulting in nothing more than a stern warning, or at worse, a failing grade on the assignment. Some professors prefer to avoid the attention that comes with lodging formal charges. "Cheating has associated with it a stigma," says one engineering professor at a southern private university who has cracked down on cheating in his classes, but refused to be identified because "there is nothing positive to be gained."
Other instructors complain that campus judicial systems are ineffective. Among their objections: The burden of proof falls squarely on the professor. Students usually deny the charges, and when punishments are handed out, they rarely equal the crimes. "My faculty [members] generally do not take cases to the university system," Florida's Schneller says. "In cases where my colleagues have demonstrated cheating, we have not been able to get a conviction from the student honors court."
But when professors fail to follow university procedures for academic misconduct, they may allow cheaters to slip through the cracks, Ohio State's Lundquist says. If instructors handle cases themselves, then habitual cheaters might never get the punishment they deserve. "A student could pull it off on 10 professors in different departments without anyone knowing it's a pattern," he says.
Lundquist has a unique way of discouraging cheating in his classes: On the first day he holds up a copy of the student newspaper with the article on the cheating he uncovered. "I tell them the article was about me, so if they think of cheating, I'm going to catch them."
At Berkeley, Pister spells out his tough message in his syllabus and Web site. "Some faculty members will work with students who have cheated to understand the problem and the motivation and try to find an accommodation," he writes. "I am not one of them."
Not all professors have such a tough reputation, of course. But there are strategies professors can use to reduce cheating in their classes, argues Joe Kerkvliet, associate professor of economics at Oregon State University. He co-authored an article in 1999 in The Journal of Economic Education entitled "Can We Control Cheating in the Classroom?" The tactics he discovered that worked can be applied to almost any discipline, he says, including engineering.
Kerkvliet asked more than 500 students in 12 courses with an average class size of 48 on two campuses about cheating. In some classes, as few as .002 percent of the class said they had cheated, while in others that number rose to 35 percent. The difference? The more professors paid attention to the possibility of cheating, the less it happened. Multiple versions of the same exam reduced cheating by 25 percent, for instance. Stern warnings before each test cut cheating by 12 percent.
Methods commonly believed to stymie cheating, like getting rid of multiple-choice exams or putting space between students while they take tests, are not as effective as many believe, Kerkvliet says. "No matter how creative the instructor is," he says, "the student will be more creative." And engineering students, with their knowledge of technology, are particularly creative.
Although it doesn't excuse the practice, some instructors do think engineering students are worked too hard compared with other students in other majors. And that might explain why engineering students cheat more than students in some other majors. They labor under the pressures of getting good grades and securing high-paying jobs after graduation while still wanting the life of a typical college student. "The pressure is pretty bad on students," says the University of Illinois's Jones. "Some of the blame goes on the faculty. We have tried to squeeze so much into the curriculum without taking anything out."
The rate of cheating among engineering students worries some, like Trevor S. Harding, associate professor of manufacturing engineering at Kettering University. Along with other researchers, he has investigated whether there is any relationship between cheating in high school and college and misconduct on the job later in life. The short answer: Yes.
The researchers-including Donald S. Carpenter, of the Lawrence Technological University and Cynthia J. Finelli and Honor J, Passow of the University of Michigan-surveyed 130 engineering students at two technically oriented private universities who had both workplace and academic experiences. They found that 6 in 10 students who said they frequently cheated in high school also cheated in college and later violated workplace policies against falsifying records and ignoring quality problems.
What concerns Harding and others about the findings is that the consequences of cutting corners on the job are so much greater than cheating on a test in college. "Engineering, unlike most other disciplines, involves the safety and welfare of the public," he says. If faculty fail to take a hard line against cheating, Harding adds, they are "sending students to companies who have a false sense ofthat student's abilities."
Even so, many instructors believe that no matter how much they try to prevent cheating, there will always be at least one student who tries to game the system. Perhaps the only action that can eliminate cheating is also the one that is impossible, says Michael Loui, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois: casting Harry Potter's "anti-cheating spell" on quills used for tests.
Jeffrey Selingo is a freelance writer based in Washington, D. C.
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Quick, what's 6 + 8 - 7 + 6 + 5?
If you knew instantaneously that the answer is 18, without having to pause even a second, then congratulations! You're as bright as a Shanghai kindergarten student — calculating in his or her third language.
I've met the future, and it is these kids. Americans who come to China tend to be most dazzled by glittering new skyscrapers like the 1,380-foot Jin Mao Tower, but the most awesome aspect of China's modernization is the education that children are getting in the big cities. And the long-run competitive challenge we Americans face from China will have less to do with its skylines, army or industry than with its Super Kids, like Tony Xu.
Tony's real name is Xu Jun, but all the children entering the New Century Kindergarten that he attends get English names as well. Six-year-old Tony's first languages are Mandarin Chinese and Shanghainese, but even in English he rattled off answers to equations faster than I could. It was embarrassing when I posed my own question to him, 10 + 5 - 1 - 4 + 5, and he answered 15 before I could tell if he was right. I want a refund on my college tuition.
Parents pay about $2,000, a huge sum here, to send a child to a year of such a private kindergarten. But since urban Chinese families now have only one child each, no expense is too great for one's "little emperor." Throughout China, first-rate private schools are popping up, as the Chinese saying goes, like bamboo shoots after a spring rain.
Of course Chinese education is still hobbled by rural mud-brick schools that are in a shambles, by peasants who pull their daughters out of school, by third-rate universities. But China's great strength is that in the cities, it increasingly is not a Communist country or a socialist country, but simply an education country.
When I lived in China I represented Harvard in interviewing high school students applying for admission, and it was a humbling experience. The SAT isn't offered in China, so instead the kids take the G.R.E. — meant for people applying to graduate school — and still score in the top percentiles. And while many of my Chinese friends worry that the system works children too hard and costs them their childhood, the brightest kids are not automatons; many are serious enthusiasts of art, music, poetry or, these days, the basketball plays of Yao Ming.
The other day I visited one of Shanghai's best high schools, the No. 2 Secondary School Attached to East China Normal University. American students who are proud to have earned a perfect score of twin 800's on the SAT should meet the 17-year-old student here who last year got a perfect score of three 800's on the G.R.E.
He Xiaowen, the principal, showed off 14 gold medals that students have earned in the international math and science Olympics. When I asked if she had any problems with students smoking or drinking, she looked so scandalized that I might have been sent to the principal's office, if I hadn't already been there.
One reason for Chinese educational success emerges from cross-cultural surveys. Americans say that good pupils do well because they're smarter. Chinese say that good students do well because they work harder.
A growing body of evidence suggests that Chinese students do well academically partly because their parents set very high benchmarks, which the children then absorb. Chinese parents demand a great deal, American parents somewhat less, and in each case the students meet expectations.
The result is apparent at No. 2 Secondary School. The students live in dormitories, going home only on weekends, and they're mostly studying from 6:30 a.m. until lights-out at 11 p.m. On Saturdays they attend tutoring classes from 9:40 to 5:10, and on Sundays they do what one girl, Gong Lan, described as six hours of "self-assigned homework."
She explained: "This is extra work to improve ourselves. I read outside books to improve my ability in any subject I feel weak in."
Chinese students may not have a lot of fun, and may lag in subjects in which some American students excel, such as sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. But these kids know their calculus and are driven by a work ethic and thirst for education that make them indomitable. With them in the pipeline and little kindergartners like Tony Xu behind them, China may eventually lead the world again.
What happens in your head at night, new science reveals, is more important than you think.
By Michael J. Weiss
From Reader's Digest
Why Do We Dream?
Our dreams may affect our lives (and vice versa) more than we ever realized, says groundbreaking new research. For 11 years, a 58-year-old anthropologist kept a journal of nearly 5,000 dreams. By analyzing color patterns in the dreams, Arizona-based researcher Robert Hoss could accurately predict certain things about the man's emotional state. Hoss correctly identified two separate years when the man experienced crises in his life. The anthropologist confirmed that in 1997 he had clashed with a colleague over a management issue, and in 2003 he'd had a falling out with a friend that left deep emotional scars.
How was Hoss able to gauge the dreamer's turmoil? "The clues were in the colors," he says. The anthropologist's dominant dream hues were reds and blacks, which spiked during difficult times. "Even without knowing the events in his life," Hoss observes, "we accurately determined the emotional states based on those colors in his dreams."
Hoss is among a growing group of researchers who, thanks to cutting-edge medical technology and innovative psychological research, are beginning to decipher the secrets hidden in our dreams and the role dreaming plays in our lives. A look at some of their latest discoveries can give us new insights into the language of dreams and help us make the most of our time asleep.
Dreams are a way for the subconscious to communicate with the conscious mind. Dreaming of something you're worried about, researchers say, is the brain's way of helping you rehearse for a disaster in case it occurs. Dreaming of a challenge, like giving a presentation at work or playing sports, can enhance your performance. And cognitive neuroscientists have discovered that dreams and the rapid eye movement (REM) that happens while you're dreaming are linked to our ability to learn and remember.
Dreaming is a "mood regulatory system," says Rosalind Cartwright, PhD, chairman of the psychology department at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. She's found that dreams help people work through the day's emotional quandaries. "It's like having a built-in therapist," says Cartwright. While we sleep, dreams compare new emotional experience to old memories, creating plaid-like patterns of old images laid on top of new ones. As she puts it, "You may wake up and think, What was Uncle Harry doing in my dream? I haven't seen him for 50 years. But the old and new images are emotionally related." It's the job of the conscious mind to figure out the relationship.
In fact, dream emotions can help real therapists treat patients undergoing traumatic life events. In a new study of 30 recently divorced adults, Cartwright tracked their dreams over a five-month period, measuring their feelings toward their ex-spouses. She discovered that those who were angriest at the spouse while dreaming had the best chance of successfully coping with divorce. "If their dreams were bland," Cartwright says, "they hadn't started to work through their emotions and deal with the divorce." For therapists, this finding will help determine whether divorced men or women need counseling or have already dreamed their troubles away.
One Interpretation Doesn't Fit All
No device lets researchers probe the content of dreams while we sleep, but scientists are finding new ways to interpret dreams once we've awakened. Forget Freud's notion that dreams contain images with universal meanings (e.g., cigar=penis). A new generation of psychologists insists that dream symbols differ depending on the dreamer. In a recent study, University of Ottawa psychology professor Joseph De Koninck asked 13 volunteers to make two lists: one of details recalled from recent dreams, and another of recent events in their waking lives. When analysts were asked to match which volunteer experienced which dream, they failed. De Koninck's conclusion: Each person understands his or her dreams better than anyone else -- including traditional psychoanalysts. In a dream, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar -- or almost anything else.
"There's just no evidence of universal dream symbols," says De Koninck. "My advice is to throw away your dream dictionary if you really want to interpret your dreams."
Today, psychologists are applying modern technology to probe the content of dreams. Hoss uses a computer-based approach called content analysis to interpret the colors in dreams. More than 80 percent of people dream in color, he says, though only a quarter of them recall the shades the next morning. To collect data, he analyzed nearly 24,000 dreams, catalogued in two databases at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. His study suggested that specific colors represent particular emotions (for example, red means action, excitement and desire; blue equals calmness, tranquility and harmony; black connotes fear, anxiety and intimidation).
But, as with symbols and action, one size doesn't fit all when it comes to interpretation. Every dreamer draws on a different palette to reflect personal associations. "Using color is your brain's way of painting your dreams with your emotion," says Hoss, who just published his results in Dream Language (Innersource, 2005).
Some researchers scoff at the need for computers or even therapists to interpret dreams. Psychologist Gayle Delaney, PhD, founding president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, believes that dreamers themselves are the best interpreters of their time in dreamland. She supports a "dream interview" technique, which asks people to answer a series of straightforward questions in order to gain insights into their recollections. From her office in San Francisco, Delaney uses this process to help single people analyze and better understand their romantic relationships through their dreams.
Delaney tells of one client who dreamed of her new boyfriend swimming in the ocean. Above the water, he looked like an adorable seal, but below the water he was a vicious shark. When asked about her boyfriend's personality, the woman conceded that he had a violent streak -- a fact she consciously tried to ignore. "It was clear that this woman had misgivings about a darker side to her boyfriend," says Delaney. "The dreaming mind is more insightful about the people in your life than your waking mind." The woman broke up with her boyfriend soon afterward.
What Dreams Can Do for You
Psychologists have long known that people can solve their problems at work and home by "sleeping on it." The challenge has always been to train yourself to dream up the solutions. Deirdre Barrett, PhD, an assistant psychology professor at Harvard Medical School and editor of the journal Dreaming, advises individuals to ponder questions just before falling asleep (Should I take this job? Should I marry that guy?) and then let the subconscious provide the answers. "I've known artists looking for inspiration who simply dream up a future show of their art and wake up with plenty of new painting ideas," says Barrett. "More and more people are learning these techniques to control their dreams."
Some researchers believe that you can guide your dreams while you're sleeping. In recent years, Stephen LaBerge, PhD, has pioneered a way of directing the sleeping mind through "lucid dreaming," in which a sleeping person realizes he or she is dreaming while it is happening. Lucid dreamers can experience fantasy adventures -- like flying to the moon, traveling through time or making love on a beach -- while being fully aware that they're dreaming. "It's like a poor man's Tahiti," says LaBerge, a psychophysiologist who directs the Lucidity Institute in Palo Alto, California. "Just being in a lucid dream is a turn-on for people."
According to LaBerge, lucid dreamers can use the experience for a variety of purposes: problem solving, developing creative ideas and healing. Patricia Keelin, a 55-year-old graphic cartographer from northern California, has used lucid dreaming for everything from talking to her long-dead father to gorging on sweets. "Chocolate always tastes better in a lucid dream because you don't have to worry about the calories," she says. A weak swimmer in her waking life, she often likes to go skin diving when she realizes she's having a lucid dream, diving to the bottom of the dream ocean without worrying about breathing (or her swimming skills). "It's exhilarating," she says. "Lucid dreaming is great because it's free and available to everybody."
Well, not entirely free. Although everyone has the potential to dream lucidly, it rarely happens routinely without special training or temperament. The Lucidity Institute operates instructional workshops and retreats to spread the gospel. LaBerge has even developed a $500 device -- called the NovaDreamer (novadreamer.com) -- which helps individuals become participants in their dreams. Once the sleep-mask-like device recognizes the wearer is experiencing REM sleep characteristic of dreaming, it emits a flashing red light that is designed to seep into the person's dream. "It's like being at the opera and realizing the flashing lights at intermission mean the opera is about to start again," says LaBerge. "The cue says that you're dreaming so you can open yourself up to any kind of experience you want. After all, it's your dream."
Indeed, your dreams are like private movies where you are the star, director and writer all at once. And as the latest research indicates, you are also the most insightful movie critic -- without the need of a couch. The best interpreter of your dreams is you.
By DINITIA SMITH
Published: May 1, 2004
Almost every day, it seems, there is another alarming study about the dangers of being fat or a new theory about its causes and cures. Just this week, VH1 announced a new reality show called ''Flab to Fab,'' in which overweight women get a personal staff to whip them into shape.
But a growing group of historians and cultural critics who study fat say this obsession is based less on science than on morality. Insidious attitudes about politics, sex, race or class are at the heart of the frenzy over obesity, these scholars say, a frenzy they see as comparable to the Salem witch trials, McCarthyism and even the eugenics movement.
''We are in a moral panic about obesity,'' said Sander L. Gilman, distinguished professor of liberal arts, sciences and medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago and the author of ''Fat Boys: A Slim Book,'' published last month by the University of Nebraska Press. ''People are saying, 'Fat is the doom of Western civilization.' ''
Now, says Peter Stearns, a leading historian in the field, the rising concern with obesity ''is triggering a new burst of scholarship.'' These researchers don't condone morbid obesity, but they do focus on the ways the definition of obesity and its meaning have shifted, often arbitrarily, throughout history.
Mr. Stearns, provost and professor of history at George Mason University, has written that plumpness was once associated with ''good health in a time when many of the most troubling diseases were wasting diseases like tuberculosis.'' He traces the equation of obesity and moral deficiency to the late-19th and early-20th centuries. In 1914, an article in the magazine Living Age, for example, stated, ''Fat is now regarded as an indiscretion and almost a crime.'' Mr. Stearns cites it in an essay he wrote for the aptly named ''Cultures of the Abdomen,'' a collection to be published by Palgrave Macmillan next November, edited by Christopher E. Forth, a senior lecturer at Australian National University, and Ana Carden-Coyne, a lecturer at the University of Manchester, in England. During World War I, Mr. Stearns writes, some popular magazines actually said that eating too much and gaining weight were unpatriotic, presumably because of concerns about food shortages.
In ''Fat Boys,'' Mr. Gilman describes how plumpness used to be associated with affluence and the aristocracy, while today it is associated with the poor and their supposedly bad eating habits. Louis XIV padded his body to look more imposing. During the French Revolution, obesity inspired a rallying cry, ''The People Against the Fat,'' he says. And whereas once the fat man was generally seen as hypersexual, like Falstaff, now he is seen as asexual, like Santa Claus.
The first popular modern diet book, ''Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public,'' written by William Banting, an undertaker, appeared in 1863. Banting wrote that when he was fat he was regarded as a useless parasite. He went on a diet and lost 35 pounds. ''I can honestly assert that I feel restored in health, 'bodily and mentally,' '' he wrote. Before long, Mr. Gilman points out, the word ''banting'' became a synonym for dieting.
In Mr. Stearns's view, 19th-century changes in attitudes toward obesity were a guilty reaction to the new abundance of food, the rise of the consumer culture and the growth of sedentary work habits. ''I don't think we were comfortable with it because of religious legacies and hesitations,'' he said in an interview. ''Having a target for self-control, like dieting, helped express but also reconcile moral concerns about consumer affluence,'' Mr. Stearns writes; the dieting fad become a new kind of Puritanism.
Other contemporary scholars see a more dangerous underside to the current campaign against fat. Paul Campos, a professor of law at the University of Colorado, argues that obesity is used as a tool of discrimination, citing disturbing similarities to the eugenics movement, with its emphasis on ''improving'' the species. Obesity in America is ''primarily a cultural and political issue,'' Mr. Campos writes in his new book, ''The Obesity Myth'' (Gotham), due out this month. ''The war on fat,'' he argues, ''is unique in American history in that it represents the first concerted attempt to transform the vast majority of the nation's citizens into social pariahs, to be pitied and scorned.''
In what may turn out to be his most controversial claim, Mr. Campos writes: ''Contrary to almost everything you have heard, weight is not a good predictor of health. In fact a moderately active larger person is likely to be far healthier than someone who is svelte but sedentary.'' To bolster his argument, he cites several studies, including one published by the Cooper Institute, a private research institution in Dallas.
Most medical experts warn of the dangers of fat, but Mr. Campos disagrees. ''There is no good evidence,'' he writes, ''that significant long-term weight loss is beneficial to health, and a great deal of evidence that short-term weight loss followed by weight regain (the pattern followed by almost all dieters) is medically harmful.''
He said in a recent interview: ''The current hysteria about body mass and supposedly devastating health effects is creating a stratification in the society of power and privilege based on a scientifically fallacious concept of health. What we are seeing with this moral panic over fat in many ways is comparable to what we saw with the eugenics movement in the 20's.''
Kathleen LeBesco, associate professor of communication arts at Marymount Manhattan College, also asserts that at the root of the current slimness craze is an effort to stigmatize certain groups.
In a new book, ''Revolting Bodies'' (University of Massachusetts Press), Ms. LeBesco writes that African-American and Mexican-American women are particularly targeted as obese in contemporary culture. ''All of the discourse about fatness is about pathologizing the individual,'' she said in an interview, also likening it to the eugenics movement.
She refers to a study by the Centers for Disease Control in which the highest proportions of overweight people are said to be African-American women and Mexican-American women. ''Is it coincidence that representatives of these two stigmatized racial and ethnic groups, as well as women, are most likely to be obese?'' Ms. LeBesco writes.
She also says that the diet industry is increasingly trying to concentrate on minorities. She disapprovingly cites a National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute study that concludes that full-figured African-American women have positive attitudes toward their bodies. Those self-confident feelings, the study said, ''may be a barrier in attempting to work with overweight African-American women who -- although they may want to weigh less and be healthier -- do not necessarily consider themselves unattractive or overweight, and may value cosmetic aspects of body weight less.''
Mr. Stearns has charted the way women in general gradually became the targets of obesity campaigns. The 19th-century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton was praised for her ''mature figure,'' he says. ''Feminist leaders who were more slender were reproved,'' Mr. Stearns writes, perhaps because of ''the traditional linkage between thinness and discontent.''
Then, around the 1890's, suddenly, women were being urged to diet. ''Fat began to be obsessively discussed,'' Mr. Stearns writes. The Gibson girl was rendered as slender, and the weight of Miss America in relation to her height decreased from the 1920's on.
The emphasis on slenderness in women was no accident, Mr. Stearns says. At the same time women were being urged to lose weight, the ideal of motherhood was declining and women were able for the first time to express an appetite for sex. ''Dieting was a way, again, to express virtue and self-control even in a changing sexual climate,'' he writes.
And while there are many causes for obesity -- cheaper food, more aggressive marketing, bigger portions in restaurants and, of course, increasingly sedentary habits -- Mr. Stearns says that gaining weight is still seen as a moral issue, ''a sign you were lazy, lacked self-control.''
He notes that the French have been more successful at weight loss than Americans, partly, he says, because weight loss in France is based on aesthetics, not morality.
Mr. Stearns insists he is not promoting obesity but rather arguing that making people feel guilty for being fat is a useless form of weight control. In describing the contemporary ethos, he said: ''If you fail to lose weight you are demonstrating you're a bad person. It's a big burden. Faced with this additional pressure you are even more likely to end up by saying: 'The hell with it! I'm going to get ice cream. I am such a bad person I need to solace myself.' ''
August 10, 2002
By HOWARD W. FRENCH
TOKYO — When Eiko Imai thinks back to the dim and blurry stretch of years when she silently suffered from depression, she often wonders how she survived.
"I couldn't do housework, read a newspaper or even watch television," said the part-time office worker, who is 50. "On my days off, I would just sit on a stool in the kitchen. I would often think of throwing myself in front of a train."
Ms. Imai's health took a turn for the better four years ago, when she finally saw a doctor who diagnosed her depression and began prescribing medicines.
Even then, the road was far from easy. In a society that stigmatizes any kind of mental illness, she interrupted her treatment repeatedly, buffeted by her husband's initial criticism of her medication, by the shame she felt at work, and a lacerating guilt over not being able to overcome her problems on her own.
"I went through so many cycles of taking medicine and feeling better, and stopping and getting much worse," Ms. Imai said. "I just had a terrible image in my mind about using any kind of psychological drug."
Ms. Imai stands out as something of a pioneer in Japan, where depression is thought to be widespread, but largely hidden and undiagnosed.
The contrast with the United States, where family practitioners readily prescribe antidepressant drugs like Prozac, is striking.
Japan has more suicides than the United States, yet less than half the population. Still, the use of drugs in Prozac's class has only recently begun to spread.
"Thirty thousand people commit suicide in Japan every year, but if we could diagnose them and treat them in time, that number would go down dramatically," said Tadashi Onda, a Tokyo psychiatrist, almost half of whose practice consists of depressed patients. "I've never even heard of anyone specializing in depression, though. The bigger problem in Japan is that a stigma attaches to anyone seen as treating crazy people, and the status of psychiatrists remains very low."
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, as Prozac's generation of antidepressants is known, were introduced in Japan in 1999, more than a decade after Prozac was first sold in the United States. Generic versions of Prozac are available now in the United States, but the drug will not be introduced in Japan until 2004 at the earliest, according to the manufacturer, Eli Lilly.
Experts say Japan's failure to treat depression has deep roots in the country's culture, from the oppressive weight of shame to the organization of the medical profession. The cost is measured in unnecessary misery and productivity losses.
"In Japan, we don't have family doctors," said Noritoshi Shinkai, a specialist in geriatric psychiatry, who said that 70 percent of his patients suffered clinical depression. "People choose a doctor according to the organ they think they have a problem with.
"But no one wants to think they have a mental problem," he said, "and most doctors say they just don't know anything about that area."
Many experts say the biggest barrier to treatment is the sense of shame about psychological conditions, which some liken to the way depression was whispered about darkly in the United States in the 1950's, in the era of shock therapy.
When Japanese experience depression, doctors say, they prefer to imagine something is wrong with their character rather than their heads, and a cultural impulse known as "gaman," or the will to endure, takes precedence over medical care.
"In a culture of shame, the only thing to do about illnesses of the mind is to hide them," Dr. Onda said. "They still carry a stigma here that can haunt families down through the generations. The best parallel I can imagine is the war, when tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers preferred dying in hopeless circumstances rather than surrendering — because of the power of shame."
One 45-year-old woman who is being treated for depression described the stigma this way:
"I told an old friend of mine, a very straightforward person, that I had depression, and she warned me not to tell anyone else," said the patient, who asked not to be identified. "I could see the shock in her face, and all I could think is that she doesn't want a sick person as her friend. I feel I can't let my neighbors know about my condition, and I am certain that if my company knew, I would get the tap on the shoulder."
With his office in Tokyo's Shibuya section, the center of Japan's cosmopolitan youth culture, Dr. Onda said many of his younger patients had been influenced by Western views of depression, and felt much less hesitation about getting treatment.
"Still, most of the patients who take time off from their jobs to see me ask me not to write anything about the diagnosis in the medical note they must show to their companies," Dr. Onda said. "The other day, an airline stewardess actually told me she would be fired if her company knew she was depressed, so I wrote her a note saying she had a slight hormonal imbalance."
Mental health experts say that a few large corporations are leading the way in helping break down taboos like these, through employee assistance programs, strict confidentiality and more generous health plans that cover depression and other psychological conditions.
Sony, for one, found itself hit by the costly high incidence of suicides and depression among midcareer managers and engineers. Three years ago, the company began a "preventive mental health care program" for 18,000 employees offering off-site consultations and confidentiality, and officials say the service quickly became a popular success.
"It's not that the number of serious cases of illness is increasing, it is that we are trying to lower the barriers to care," said Satoshi Ishiguro, general manager of Sony's Wellness Center.
September 19, 2002
By RICK LYMAN
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 18 — After months of watching a gradual proliferation of companies offering sanitized versions of Hollywood hits to sensitive or politically conservative consumers, movie studios and filmmakers have decided it is time to get a handle on this phenomenon.
"This is very dangerous, what's happening here," said Jay D. Roth, national executive director of the Directors Guild of America. "This is not about an artist getting upset because someone dares to tamper with their masterpiece. This is fundamentally about artistic and creative rights and whether someone has the right to take an artist's work, change it and then sell it."
The issue goes well beyond this small, growing market in cleaned-up movies, whether it's taking the violence out of "Saving Private Ryan" or the nude scenes from "Titanic." As the entertainment industry moves into the digital age, and as more movies and other entertainment forms are reduced to easily malleable electronic bits, the capability will grow for enterprising entrepreneurs to duplicate, mutate or otherwise alter them.
"We're just beginning to understand that this is part of a wider issue," said Marshall Herskovitz, the veteran writer, director and producer. "As long as something exists as digital information, it can be changed. So as a society we have to come to grips with what the meaning of intellectual property will be in the future."
To filmmakers, who point to a federal law that prohibits anyone from altering a creative work and then reselling it with the original title and artist's name attached, it is a simple question of artistic rights.
"If people can take out stuff and do what they want with it and then sell it, it just completely debases the coinage," the director Michael Apted said. "You don't know what version of a film you're buying, frankly. I think it's ridiculous." To the studios the implications concern both copyright and branding. "This is all new to us," said Alan Horn, president of Warner Brothers. "We're all trying to understand it. But it doesn't sit well with me, frankly, because these people could go the other way, too, with more sex and more violence."
To the companies involved in selling these altered versions — or software that does the altering for you — the question is one of consumer choice. "We leave it entirely up to consumers where their comfort level lies," said Breck Rice, a founder of the Utah company Trilogy Studios, whose MovieMask software can filter out potentially offensive passages. "People get to choose for themselves."
At issue is a string of companies, based largely in Utah and Colorado, that offer edited videotapes and DVD's or software that allows users to play any DVD with the offensive passages automatically blocked.
One of the earliest to enter this field, a Utah company called CleanFlicks, has a chain of rental stores that offer sanitized versions of more than 100 Hollywood films, like "The Godfather" and "Mulholland Drive." Video II offers what it calls E-rated films (cleaned up versions of box-office hits) at several dozen Albertson's retail stores in Utah.
MovieMask has a different approach. Its software can be downloaded onto home computers and will shortly be available embedded into laptops and DVD players that can be connected directly to televisions. The software allows the consumer to watch more than three dozen possible versions of a movie, including the original one shown in theaters. It works only on films, about 75 so far, that have been watched and tagged by MovieMask editors.
Both the numbers of such companies and their reach have expanded in just the last few months. One company, ClearPlay, already offers its software embedded into a $699 DVD player. Another, Family Shield Technologies, offers a set-top box for $239.99 it calls MovieShield that offers its own array of filters, including making the screen go blank during offensive moments.
Although CleanFlicks has been operating for more than two years, it was not until MovieMask executives made a series of presentations around Hollywood in March that the issue came to the fore.
"We came to show them what our technology was capable of doing, purely to grab their attention," Mr. Rice said. "It certainly did that."
The directors were not pleased by what they saw. A swordfight from "The Princess Bride" (1987) was altered so it looked like the characters were using "Star Wars" light sabers. The scene from "Titanic" (1997) of Leonardo DiCaprio sketching a nude Kate Winslet has been altered by covering her with a digital corset. These are currently available from MovieMask but were intended to show the software's potential, Mr. Rice said. What it did, however, was to mobilize the directors and their organization to find a way to put a stop to this.
Last month the owner of several CleanFlicks stores in Colorado filed suit against 16 top Hollywood directors, including Steven Spielberg, asking the court to declare that what CleanFlicks was doing was perfectly legal. The company argues that anyone who buys a work of art is free to alter it, and that CleanFlicks is only providing a service to those who have already purchased copies of the film or become members of its rental club. CleanFlicks officials did not return calls for comment today. But Jeff Aldous, a lawyer for the company, said it had no knowledge of the Colorado lawsuit before it was filed and did not support it. "We realize there's going to be an issue at some point in time that we've got to discuss," he said.
Perhaps as early as this week the Directors Guild will file a response to the lawsuit, probably including some counterclaims. And for the first time, the major Hollywood studios, which have been strangely silent on this issue, may also support the action.
Exactly why the studios have not joined the fray is not entirely clear. But several people involved in the talks between the studios and the directors and writers guilds said the problem was a difference of opinion among the studios about the whole issue. They said some felt that the proliferation of these companies showed that a market existed for sanitized products, so perhaps the studios themselves should get into that business. Others felt that the market was too small to be worth the costs, especially since some video chains had indicated they would stock only one version of a film to conserve precious shelf space. And still others were more worried about protecting their brands.
"If you're a studio that's spent a lot of money developing a 'Spider-Man' brand, do you want to dilute it by having a `Spider-Man Lite' on the market competing with it?" asked an executive involved in the talks.
Officials for the clean-movie companies point out that Hollywood already does release sanitized versions of movies to airlines and some television networks. But directors respond that those versions are made with input from the filmmakers.
"That's exactly what we're trying to do here," said Mr. Rice of Trilogy Studios. "We want them to a part of our process, too. We believe that the technology is available today where everyone can win."
And if the directors are upset about what they have seen so far, they probably will not like to hear that MovieMask just signed a contract with a product-placement company to insert products into existing films, perhaps even region by region.
"The law as it stands now is just not sophisticated enough," Mr. Herskovitz said. "I think there won't be a satisfying solution until the laws are all rewritten."
New taxes on cars, fuel, air travel and consumer electronics are aimed at making us lead less polluting lives. Ecologically-aware pioneers are already jostling to show the way to a more enlightened existence – but which shade of green is the most realistic? Tom Leonard finds out.
Whatever happened to the future?
Some might prefer to wake from it sooner rather than later, but Dick and Brigit Strawbridge have been "living the green dream" as fully as they can since moving to a large old farmhouse near Par in Cornwall a year and a half ago.
Spurred on by his desire for self-sufficiency and hers to help save the planet, the couple, both 47, and their two grown-up children swapped a more conventional home in Malvern for the sort of living conditions that might have made Captain Scott and his team wince.
It's not just the compost lavatory in the shed outdoors, or the messy-sounding conversion process they use to refine chip fat into fuel for the Land Rover. The Strawbridges go to ingenious lengths to limit their impact on the environment but they still haven't managed to break free from reliance on the electricity grid, as some even more diehard energy-savers have.
Still, they have gone a long way towards self-sufficiency on their 2.5-acre estate. The "micro-generation" project – Brigit prefers the more poetic description, "harnessing the elements" – relies on a combination of wind, rain and sun as energy sources.
An aqueduct brings water from a stream to the top of the garden, where it tumbles eight meters down a waterfall, powering a water wheel that provides just enough electricity for the farm's lights.
Brigit admits that installing the wheel is "more symbolic than anything else. A water turbine would give more power but it wouldn't look so nice."
A small wind turbine powers a battery that pumps water from a spring into a cistern, which is used for everything apart from drinking. On less windy days, power is provided by a solar panel.
A £400 system of solar thermal tubes is capable of heating water from spring to early autumn. They rely for general heating on wood-burning stoves.
A second, larger wind turbine provides up to a third of their electricity. It cost £1,500 but the Strawbridges believe that with oil and gas prices rising, its cost will seem less with the passing of time.
The family keep chickens and pigs – Dick was out slaughtering some of the latter when the Telegraph called yesterday – and grow all their own vegetables. They try to buy food locally, cutting down on their own and retailers' fuel costs.
"Apart from organic milk and bread, we've pretty much cut out supermarkets," Brigit says. "If I wanted to push one big thing, it's the importance of locally grown food."
They have two cars – a diesel VW Polo, which she says does 70 miles to the gallon – and the chip fat-powered Land Rover. A Heath Robinson-style conversion unit turns the fat – obtained locally from sources such as the local chip shop and nursing home – into bio-diesel.
Holidays are spent camping in England. "I'd have problems taking a flight," admits Brigit.
And then there's the loo, which is water- and chemical-free, and whose output takes two years to break down before being used as fertilizer.
"We haven't gone completely back to the Dark Ages," Brigit says. "We don't use it in the middle of the night or when it's pouring with rain. We have lavatories in the house. But it cuts down water use. And electricity. People forget that at our house electricity is needed to pump the water to the cistern."
Dick Strawbridge is a former lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Signals and now presents documentaries on BBC2. His family's eco-drive was the subject of a TV series last year.
Lots of viewers said, 'Oh, it's fine for you, you've got a big house and two and a half acres you can live off,' but I'd counter that it's the little things that matter," Brigit says. "Things like shopping locally and cutting down on your purchases, and all the packaging they entail." The household also needs to generate electricity to power items such as a TV, computer, washing machine and dishwasher. The dishwasher is a controversial luxury but Brigit estimates that if it is packed full and set on economy wash, it is more energy-efficient than several sinkfuls of hot water.
She believes that their green transformation has been relatively painless because it has been gradual. "My husband wants to have the trappings of 21st century technology but, apart from the heat, I'd be happy to dump them all," she says. "We're not as self-sufficient as we'd like to be in terms of energy but we're getting there."
There is little in Sue Welland's family home to make the casual observer scream "greenie", and that is exactly the point.
The co-founder of the CarbonNeutral Company – an environmental consultancy that helps organizations and individuals reduce their carbon emissions – believes that people have been bombarded with images of green lifestyles so extreme that it convinces many that they must either change everything or not bother at all.
"It's such an enormous problem that anything that you can do, no matter how small, has a benefit," Welland says.
"It's disappointing that people who live the hardcore green lives get all the attention. The public needs to be given an image of someone about whom they can say, 'Yes, I could do that.' "
The converted Victorian forge that Welland, 46, shares with her husband, a communications executive, and their three-year-old daughter in Waterloo, south London, has all mod cons. And yet she says they have cut their "carbon footprint" – the net amount of carbon emissions they create day to day – to "about zero" and it hasn't cost them anything.
She describes herself as an average person who has found that one can lead a greener life without it being any more uncomfortable, onerous or expensive. Extreme greenism has never appealed.
She applies the same principles to her domestic life as she does to her company. Carbon emissions are reduced where possible through better efficiency and using greener sources, but where this is impossible or undesirable, Welland supports the system of carbon "offsetting". This – cynics might call it a guilt tax – consists of investing in projects, such as providing low-energy lightbulbs in Jamaica or solar panels in Sri Lanka to cut carbon emissions elsewhere.
Her company has developed an online carbon "calculator" that allows people to feed in elements of their lifestyle and discover how much each is adding to their carbon footprint.
A key issue is energy in the home, she says. "Many people think climate change is caused by things outside their control but 30 per cent of CO2 emissions come from domestic heating." She advocates turning the heating down by one degree.
The Welland home has no dishwasher, but all the other modern amenities are there, including washing machine, TV and computer. They buy energy-efficient appliances and use a washing powder effective at low temperatures.
Recycling is also crucial. The lavatories and radiators were salvaged, the wood flooring comes from sustainable timber and the light fittings – with low-energy bulbs – are made from wheel hubs. There is a mulcher in the garden to turn clippings into fertiliser. Their daughter's playbox includes empty cereal packs and jars. Old clothes are given to charity shops or to a friend who makes them into bags. Welland says she recently patched a pair of jeans but, in terms of repairing clothing, "that's all".
She gets her electricity from a supplier that uses renewable sources of energy. There is no green alternative to the gas needed for heating so she "offsets" it. The forge's central heating is not on a timer but switched on when they actually need it. The two baths are little used. Welland hasn't had one for a year, she showers instead.
The family has a conventional car, a small 1.4-litre Toyota, but uses it far less than public transport or a bicycle. How you drive can be as important as what you drive. She routinely checks the tyre pressures – if they are at the optimum pressure, a kilo of CO2 per 65 miles travelled can be saved.
For the past few years they have gone on holiday by rail. Welland is reluctant to say "never fly" but, if you do, she advises offsetting the carbon emission from the journey.
A former PR executive, she ascribes her conversion to a greener life to a stroke that she suffered at 25, which paralyzed half her body. "My viewing of living may be different to that of other people. A brush with death gives you an energy and perspective of value that others may not share."
Life At Home
It's not just policies and industries that need to be more climate-friendly, each individual has an impact on his or her environment. Choices that we make in our day-to-day lives can affect the climate.
Things you can do today at no cost:
• Turn off lights when you leave a room
• Only boil the amount of water you need in your kettle
• Turn off televisions, videos, stereos and computers when they are not in use - they can use between 10 and 60% of the power they use when on
• Don't leave fridge doors open for longer than necessary, let food cool down fully before putting in the fridge or freezer, defrost regularly and keep at the right temperature
• Close curtains at dusk to keep in heat
• Let your clothes dry naturally rather than using a tumble drier
• Turning down the thermostat for your heating by 1 degree could cut your heating bill by 10%
• Set your water thermostat for 60 degrees - this is plenty warm enough for bathing and washing and will save money too
• Use economy programs on dishwashers or washing machines
• Where possible don't stand cookers and fridges/freezers next to each other
Other Ways to Help
• Don't use your car for short journeys - these are most polluting - walk or cycle
• Use public transport as much as possible
• Share car journeys with work colleagues or friends - up to a third of all car mileage is accounted for by the drive to work
• Walk your children to school or share a run with their friends - up to 20% of rush hour traffic is due to children being driven to school
• Choose a fuel-efficient / environmentally friendly car
• Turn off your engine when waiting in your car
• Make sure that your tires are inflated correctly - this can save you 5% on the cost of your petrol
• Take off your roof rack / remove heavy objects from the boot when not in use
• Avoid accelerating (or braking) sharply as this uses fuel more quickly. Use lead-free petrol
• Use the plug in your basin or sink - don't leave water running unnecessarily
• Always wash a full load in your washing machine or in your dishwasher
• Fix dripping taps and make sure that they are turned off fully - in one week a dripping tap can waste a bathful of water
• Have a shower instead of a bath - an ordinary shower uses two-fifths of the water in a bath but power showers use 4 times as much water as a normal shower
• Fit a water saving device in your toilet cistern or fit an 'eco-flush'
• Collect rainwater for watering plants
• Water plants in the early evening - less water will evaporate
• Water plants at their roots
• Avoid using sprinklers - they can use up to 1000 liters of water an hour!
• Select plants that don't need constant watering (ask at your garden centre for advice.)
• Don't use a hose pipe to wash your car - use a bucket instead
• Make a shopping list so that you only buy what you need and are going to use
• Buy recycled goods and goods with recycled packaging (e.g. milk bottles can be recycled up to 100 times)
• Buy organic products
• Buy goods with minimal packaging
• Don't buy disposable / throw away goods when it is possible to buy goods that are durable
• Reuse shopping bags or take your own
• Use freezer bags when buying frozen goods so that your freezer has less work to do
• Buy refillable products and refills where possible
• Buy environmentally friendly cleaning and washing products
• Buy in bulk if possible
• Cut down on visits to shops by shopping more efficiently when you go
• Buy recycled paper or wood from sustainable forests
• Grow your own vegetables
By: PT Staff
Summary: Describes a hero's character traits. Includes courage and strength; Honesty; Kindness and generosity; Risk-taking; Importance of hero image.
What does it take to be a hero? Start with six basic character traits.
John F. Kennedy had it, Bill Clinton doesn't. John Wayne personified it, but Sylvester Stallone comes up short. Martin Luther King Jr.? Certainly. But Colin Powell remains a question mark.
We're talking about heroism. Greatness. That special something that wins you admiration, adoration, and maybe even your face on a postage stamp.
Heroes may seem passe in a cynical era where we seem to relish tearing down icons more than we do creating new ones or cherishing the ones we already have. Some folks, moreover, find the very idea of heroes objectionable, arguing that there's something elitist about exalting individuals who, after all, are nothing more than flesh and blood, just like the rest of us.
But we sorely need heroes -- to teach us, to captivate us through their words and deeds, to inspire us to greatness. And if late 20th-century America seems in short supply of them, the good news is that the pool of potential heroes has never been greater. That's because every one of us--ourselves, our friends, even our kids--has heroic potential. And there is plenty we can do to develop that untapped greatness, to ensure that the next generation gets the heroes it needs.
Portrait of a Hero
Though our personal heroes differ, we all share a common vision of what a hero is--and isn't. Temple University psychologist Frank Farley, Ph.D., has distilled this vision into what he calls his "5-D" model of greatness. Together the five "D's" help explain what makes a hero, where they come from, and why they're so important.
The first "D" is for determinants, six character traits Farley believes define the essence of heroism. Not every hero has them all. But the more you have, the better. So if you seek greatness, either in yourself or your children, you would do well to nurture these aspects of personality:
o Courage and strength. Whatever a hero is, he isn't a coward or quitter. Heroes maintain their composure--and even thrive---under adversity, whether it be the life-threatening sort that war heroes face or the psychological and emotional strains that politicians and business leaders must endure.
o Honesty. It's no coincidence that "Honest Abe" Lincoln and George "I cannot tell a lie" Washington are among our nation's most cherished figures. Deceit and deception violate our culture's conception of heroism. "Ronald Reagan once said that Oliver North was an American hero," observes Farley. "But Ollie obviously founder on the honesty standard."
o Kind, loving, generous. Great people may fight fiercely for what they believe, but they are compassionate once the battle is over--toward friend and foe alike. General George S. Patton was a brilliant military man, but his hero status was impaired when he publicly slapped one of his soldiers in the face. "The American public was revolted by that," notes Farley. "He wasn't kind to his men." Though Patton is still regarded as a hero by many, his popularity never recovered.
o Skill, expertise, intelligence. So far, our archetypical hero is courageous, kind, honest--in other words, a lot like Forrest Gump. But Forrest falls short on one measure: A hero's success should stem from his talents and smarts, rather than from mere chance--although, for the sake of modesty, a hero might well attribute his hard-earned achievements to luck.
o Risk-taking. "Even though many people won't take risks in their own life, they admire risk-taking in someone else," notes Farley, much of whose research has focused on Type-T personalities--perpetual thrill-seekers. No matter what their calling, heroes are willing to place themselves in some sort of peril. FDR, for example, took enormous political risks by defying the rank and file of his own party; Martin Luther King Jr. laid his life on the line for his ideals.
o Objects of Affection. We might be impressed on an intellectual level by somebody's deeds. But admiration is not enough--heroes must win our hearts as well as our minds.
In addition to these six determinants, heroes also exhibit depth, the second "D" in Farley's model. Depth is that timeless, mythical, almost otherworldly quality that marks a hero. It's hard to articulate exactly what this is, admits Farley, but we all know it when we see it--it's what makes even physically diminutive heroes seem larger than life.
"I think of depth as sorting out true heroes from celebrities, or the passing hero from the timeless one," Farley says. Clint Eastwood for example, often shows up on lists of today's heroes because of his rugged individualism. But studies show that he lacks that mythical depth factor that ensures long-standing heroic status.
Heroes don't exist in a vacuum. They make specific contributions to the culture. So the third "D" is domain, the field in which a hero makes his mark. Although elected officials are currently held in roughly the same regard as, say, carjackers, politics remains the number one source of heroes. It may help, though, to be a dead politician, or at least a former one: Sitting presidents don't do very well when people are surveyed about their heroes. One reason, Farley thinks, is the intense media scrutiny to which we subject national figures.
Neck and neck for second place among the most common domains of heroes: entertainers (Barbara Streisand is big among women, Clint Eastwood among men) and family members (morn and dad, Uncle Bill who lost an arm in the war, your big sister). Religious figures rank fourth, with most of the rest coming from the military, science, sports, and the arts.
Why the low standing of athletes? The sheer number of them, for one; it was much easier for Joe DiMaggio to become a national icon when baseball and football were the only sports of any popularity. Moreover, sports have become big business, with athletes seemingly motivated as much by lucre as by love of the game. Some charge young fans to autograph a baseball. "Would Martin Luther King sell his autograph?" asks Farley, who wonders if public disillusionment with pro athletes means that most of tomorrow's sport heroes will be fictional characters like Rocky.
The fourth "D" is database, Farley's term for where we get information about heroes. The main sources are television, radio, magazines. Conspicuous by its absence is the one place where tales of heroism ought to dwell: history class.
"Schools are not dealing enough with studying the lives people who changed the world and did great things," Farley warns. "Nowadays schools deal more with abstractions, with isms--communism, feminism, racism. But if you really want to instruct young people in these ideas, embody them in the life and times of an individual."
The idea of nonviolent protest, for example, must seem quaint --if not downright irrelevant--to today's kids, who turn on the TV and see the world being changed through violence. "If you talk about nonviolent protest being a viable alternative, they're not going to understand it," Farley explains. "But if you embed it in the life of Gandhi, all of a sudden you see the lights coming on: This little man brought the British empire to its knees."
Why We Need Heroes
Heroes are more than a convenient way to get kids hooked on history. Above all, they spur us to raise our sights beyond the horizon of the mundane, to attempt the improbable or impossible. "Being inspired by people who do great things is one of the oldest, most reliable forms of motivation," notes Farley. In fact, many heroes themselves, including Winston Churchill and Patton, have cited biography as their favorite form of reading, as a source of both information and inspiration.
In this context, a recent survey reporting that nearly half of kids have no heroes at all has ominous implications. How can our children hope to transcend adversity -- such as poverty or racism -- without the example of the great men and women who came before them? "The great American story is the person starting from nothing and becoming something," Farley says. "We need more depictions of that."
Heroes are also a window into the soul of a culture. Look at a nation's top heroes, and you'll get a pretty good idea what values its citizens ascribe to, what ideals they cherish. American heroes tend to be individualists and risk-takers. But in China, heroes might be more likely to conserve tradition. That has important implications for everything from international business dealings to political and military negotiations.
Heroes at Home
The last "D" is distance, how close we are to our heroes. If the mythical quality of many great people makes them seem somewhat distant and inaccessible, that's not true of the answer people most often give when Farley asks them to name their heroes: "Mom” and "Dad."
Parents may not be heroes to the masses. But if their kingdom is small, their influence within that kingdom runs deep indeed. So it's no exaggeration to say that each of us has the potential to be a hero in our way. There are few more effective ways to make a difference than to be a hero.
GPs trying to stop the spread of online self-diagnosis have a battle on their hands, says John O'Connell
It's not very often that we hypochondriacs find much to chuckle about on the healthcare front these days - we're too busy agonising over avian flu. But the announcement last week that doctors have decided to fight the growing trend for internet self-diagnosis, or "cyberchondria", by setting up their own website, BestTreatments.co.uk, was hilarious.
It is the medical equivalent of the US Air Force declaring, after years of denials, that Area 51, its secret base where it supposedly hides any evidence of aliens, exists - and then opening it up for mass tourism. "The restaurant, sir? Certainly. First door on the right, past the alien morgue."
Now were this to happen, many people would, of course, refuse to believe the USAF. They would say that the base they had identified as Area 51 wasn't the real Area 51; that the real Area 51 was on the sea bed, near the wreck of the Titanic, whose maiden voyage the government scuppered using remote-controlled icebergs for reasons of national security.
But hypochondriacs, conspiracy theorists to a man, will apply the same logic to BestTreatments - which is informed by the doctors' textbook, Clinical Evidence - seeing it as a sinister repository of "official lines" crying out to be questioned.
Cherill Hicks, the site's British editor, has said that she expects its users to "work with their doctor, in partnership, to decide the treatment that is right for them".
The problem is that hypochondriacs - and I'm including people who don't conceive of themselves as hypochondriacs, but feel they've been branded as such by their GPs - harbour a profound mistrust of the medical profession. Many were driven on to the internet in the first place by their doctors' refusal to take their complaints seriously, so they'll have little truck with "partnerships", or the site's stated intention to dispense "independent, jargon-free advice".
Because who on earth wants jargon-free advice? I certainly didn't when, as a morbid teen, I sat quietly in a corner of Newcastle-under-Lyme public library, ploughing through its shelves of medical textbooks. I wanted to know the worst that could possibly happen. Could I get heart cancer? (Yes.) If I experienced ringing in my ears, how could I tell if it was a symptom of tinnitus, Ménière's disease, or a growth on the auditory nerve? (I couldn't.)
These are valid questions, and there's nothing freakish about wanting them answered. Except that if it's proper answers you want, well, you may have to put up with a bit of jargon along the way. Nothing wrong with jargon. As Reader's Digest likes to say: "Increase Your Word Power."
Contrary to popular belief, researching ailments is by no means a 20th-century phenomenon. The first-ever medical encyclopaedia, the seven-volume Paradise of Wisdom by Ali ibn Rabban al-Tabari, was published in the year 850AD. I like to imagine hypochondriacs in ninth-century Baghdad lugging it home through the dusty streets, grumbling: "I wish this had a better index."
In his book Hippocratic Oaths, the philosopher-consultant Raymond Tallis has a pop at what he calls "e-hypochondriacs", concluding that they are "no more sophisticated than hypochondriacs nourished on glossy magazines".
Is this fair? Not really. A 2002 report on the use of the internet by women with breast cancer reckoned that "increased income and educational level [are] significant predictors of internet use". In other words, e-hypochondriacs tend to be "information-literate" ABC1s who are quite capable of sifting mud for gold.
People often have good reasons for not making doctors their first port of call. "My doctor treats me like a total idiot," one friend told me recently. "He's rude and patronising and behaves as if I'm wasting his time - and that's before he's even examined me." Others suspect their GPs may not be up to speed on the latest diagnostic techniques, pointing out that, until recently, many believed conditions such as repetitive strain injury (RSI) to be fictitious. Patients who complained of being unable to move their right arm were often treated as malingerers. The internet became an important resource for them - especially forums where they could compare symptoms and palliative approaches.
Scientific medicine is the reason most of us are still alive. And yet, many of us are perversely dissatisfied with it. As we trudge into the local health centre, to see one of five or six time-pressured, bored-seeming GPs, who may or may not know us or anything about our medical histories beyond what is scrawled in our notes, it's easy to idealise the pre-scientific past; to hark back to the days when doctors were family friends who could be called upon at any time of the day or night.
But the old, Dr Finlay's Casebook-style doctor - with his warm, avuncular and perpetually concerned manner - no longer exists. In 2003, 86 per cent of consultations with NHS GPs took place in their surgeries; and more were conducted over the phone (10 per cent) than in the patient's home (four per cent). The number of patients visited at home has fallen by four-fifths since 1971, when 22 per cent of doctors made home visits.
Is it fanciful to suggest that the reason doctors are so resentful of the internet, and so suspicious of our ability to use it responsibly, is because it excludes them even further? Because it facilitates access to knowledge which, as little as a decade ago, was more or less their exclusive province?
When BestTreatments' most obvious precursor, NHS Direct - a 24-hour telephone helpline - was founded in 1998, pundits predicted it would be hijacked by hypochondriacs waffling on about their piles. But as anyone who uses the service knows, it offers little in the way of succour. Not because the nurses who staff its phonelines are unsympathetic, but because it's fairly obvious that they're using the same database as the NHS Direct website, which any self-respecting hypochondriac will already have spent three hours trawling.
An important thing to remember is that, whatever doctors say, internet research doesn't always lead to the knee-jerk endorsement of maverick agendas. It was the internet that convinced my wife and I that our daughter had nothing to fear from the MMR vaccine, and that my recurring headaches were being caused not by a brain tumour but by overuse of codeine-based painkillers. If this makes me a cyberchondriac, I'm happy to stand up and be counted.
Sites to speed up a cyberchondriac's pulse
By Isobel Shirlaw
If you're worried about what to worry about next, you need to get straight on to www.patient.co.uk - a gateway to some of the most reliable online health resources. The site, which is produced by former GPs, also has a comprehensive and informative directory of medicines that is sure to get the cyberchondriac's pulse racing.
www.netdoctor.co.uk, a collaboration between doctors and patients, is user-friendly and has a good section on children's health. And, for a specialist site, see www.childrenfirst.nhs.uk, which is run by Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children; in addition to information on conditions suffered by babies and teenagers alike, it's innovatively designed to appeal to bored hypochondriacs, not just children, with interactive germ-zapping games and video diaries.
www.womens-health-concern.org is a charitable trust that offers a confidential counselling scheme and sound medical advice for women, and www.malehealth.co.uk, run by the Men's Health Forum, a charity, is one of the best specialist websites for men.
Find out background information on alternative medicine from the BBC's health website, bbc.co.uk/health, or, for a more detailed source, see www.nhsdirectory.org - the NHS Directory of Complementary and Alternative Practitioners.
If you still can't find an explanation for your discomfort, you might be suffering from acute hypochondria, in which case, you should fret about where to seek help: check out local support groups at www.self-help.org.uk, or find a therapist in your area through www.counselling.co.uk.
October 17, 2006
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 — Despite the surge of women into the work force, mothers are spending at least as much time with their children today as they did 40 years ago, and the amount of child care and housework performed by fathers has sharply increased, researchers say in a new study, based on analysis of thousands of personal diaries.
“We might have expected mothers to curtail the time spent caring for their children, but they do not seem to have done so,” said one of the researchers, Suzanne M. Bianchi, chairwoman of the department of sociology at the University of Maryland. “They certainly did curtail the time they spent on housework.”
The researchers found that “women still do twice as much housework and child care as men” in two-parent families. But they said that total hours of work by mothers and fathers were roughly equal, when they counted paid and unpaid work.
Using this measure, the researchers found “remarkable gender equality in total workloads,” averaging nearly 65 hours a week.
The findings are set forth in a new book, “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life,” published by the Russell Sage Foundation and the American Sociological Association. The research builds on work that Ms. Bianchi did in 16 years as a demographer at the Census Bureau.
At first, the authors say, “it seems reasonable to expect that parental investment in child-rearing would have declined” since 1965, when 60 percent of all children lived in families with a breadwinner father and a stay-at-home mother. Only about 30 percent of children now live in such families. With more mothers in paid jobs, many policy makers have assumed that parents must have less time to interact with their children.
But, the researchers say, the conventional wisdom is not borne out by the data they collected from families asked to account for their time. The researchers found, to their surprise, that married and single parents spent more time teaching, playing with and caring for their children than parents did 40 years ago.
For married mothers, the time spent on child care activities increased to an average of 12.9 hours a week in 2000, from 10.6 hours in 1965. For married fathers, the time spent on child care more than doubled, to 6.5 hours a week, from 2.6 hours. Single mothers reported spending 11.8 hours a week on child care, up from 7.5 hours in 1965.
“As the hours of paid work went up for mothers, their hours of housework declined,” said Ms. Bianchi, a former president of the Population Association of America. “It was almost a one-for-one trade.”
Meaghan O. Perlowski, a 32-year-old mother of three in Des Moines, said in an interview, “Spending time with my kids is my highest priority, but it’s a juggling act.”
Ms. Perlowski, who is a full-time pharmaceutical sales representative, said she did grocery shopping and errands on her lunch hour and cut back on housework so she would have more time with her children.
“We don’t worry much about keeping the house spotless,” she said. “It’s sometimes a mess, cluttered with school papers, backpacks and toys, but that’s O.K.”
Fathers have picked up some of the slack. Married fathers are spending more time on housework: an average of 9.7 hours a week in 2000, up from 4.4 hours in 1965. That increase was more than offset by the decline in time devoted to housework by married mothers: 19.4 hours a week in 2000, down from 34.5 hours in 1965.
When Ms. Perlowski took a business trip on Thursday, her husband, Jim, took time from work to be home with their children, ages 1, 4 and 7.
In Miami, Ian D. Abrams, a 33-year-old marketing executive, said that since his daughter was born two years ago, he had done “a substantial amount of cooking and cleaning, to take that burden off my wife,” but he admitted that home repairs were often delayed. His wife, Yolanda, took a full-time job as a state court employee when their daughter, Marley, was 14 months old.
The researchers found that many parents juggled their work and family duties by including children in their own leisure and free-time activities. Married mothers, in particular, often combine child care with other activities.
Tammy L. Curtis, 34, a schoolteacher in Glendale, Ariz., outside Phoenix, said she typically worked from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but always made time for her 5-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter.
“I cook less,” Ms. Curtis said. “I exercise less. And I do a lot of multitasking. When my son is at soccer practice, I sit on the sidelines grading papers. I have no time for personal relaxation.”
The book’s two other co-authors, Prof. John P. Robinson and Melissa A. Milkie, are also sociologists at the University of Maryland. Rather than relying on anecdotes and images in the mass media, the researchers used “time diaries” to measure how families spent their time. Using a standard set of questions, professional interviewers asked parents to chronicle all their activities on the day before the interview.
Katharine G. Abraham, a former commissioner of labor statistics, said the new book provided “the definitive word” on how parents allocated time between paid work and family responsibilities. The most recent numbers, for 2000, are remarkably similar to time-use data in a new survey conducted annually since 2003 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau.
Gary L. Bauer, a Christian conservative who defends traditional marriage as president of the advocacy group American Values, said the research was encouraging in one respect.
“It indicates that parents, especially mothers, instinctively know that the line promoted by social scientists in the 1960’s and 70’s — that professional child care can provide all the things that maternal care can — is not correct,” Mr. Bauer said. “Mothers made adjustments in their own lives to ensure that, even with jobs outside the home, they provide what only mothers can provide.”
The authors cited several factors to help explain how parents managed to spend more time with their children, despite working longer hours:
¶ Many couples delay having children to “a point later in life when they want to spend time with those children.” People who are uninterested in raising children can “opt out of parenting altogether,” by using birth control.
¶ Families are smaller today than in 1965, and parents are more affluent, so they can invest more time and money in each child.
¶ Social norms and expectations have changed, prompting parents to make “greater and greater investments in child-rearing.” As couples have fewer children, they feel “pressure to rear a perfect child.”
¶ Many parents feel they need to keep a closer eye on their children because of concerns about crime, school violence, child abduction and abuse.
While married mothers and married fathers were approaching “gender equality,” measured by total hours of work, the researchers found stark differences among women. These disparities suggest why working mothers often feel hurried and harried.
Over all, the researchers said, employed mothers have less free time and “far greater total workloads than stay-at-home mothers.” The workweek for an employed mother averages 71 hours, almost equally divided between paid and unpaid work, compared with a workweek averaging 52 hours for mothers who are not employed outside the home.
On average, the researchers said, employed mothers get somewhat less sleep and watch less television than mothers who are not employed, and they also spend less time with their husbands.
By Sarah Womack, Social Affairs Correspondent
They are called the "mummy wars" - the intense and often bitter debates between women over whether it is right to return to full-time work after having children.
Working mothers dismiss stay-at-home mothers as idle, with nothing better to do than drive around in their Renault Espaces listening to Winnie the Pooh tapes, while non-working mothers criticise working mothers as too wrapped up in their careers to care about their children.
The conflict is reignited today by research showing that as many as one in five mothers thinks that working women equal bad mothers.
Against the background of a national debate about childhood, and who decides what makes "a good mother", a study of 2,134 women found that nearly half felt they should support their families financially as much as their husbands do.
However 21 per cent of those with children were disparaging of working mothers, saying they gave motherhood a bad name.
Some 23 per cent of women over 45, and a quarter of those over 55, thought that women who worked while raising a family "made worse mothers", and should not need to support their family financially like a man, says the survey by Vitabiotics Wellwoman.
Dr Catherine Hakim, a sociologist at the London School of Economics, said the sharpest gender conflicts were not between women and men but between different groups of women over the place of work and children in their lives.
Older women felt that working mothers were bad mothers because they had witnessed the reality of raising children.
"The poll reflects women's experience of bringing up kids. A lot of older women end up looking after their daughter's children and become aware of the damage being done to the child by the lack of one-to-one continuous care. They are much clearer about how children develop, and they can be objective because it is not their child."
She says children are a 20-year project and a career is a 20- to 40-year project, and "there is an incompatibility there". Over the past eight years, Dr Hakim has written six books. "There's no way I could have done that if I had had children."
Anna Lines, of Full-Time Mothers, a campaign group, said the "two working parents" model was having a hugely negative impact, not least because it was fuelling the housing market.
"Suddenly more money is available, and banks lend on that basis. We are the first generation to feel that we cannot afford to bring up our own children."
However Frank Furedi, of Kent University, said working mothers actually spent more time with their children than those who did not work in the 1960s. The research, said Prof Furedi, author of Paranoid Parenting, made an important distinction between a mother's "accessible" time and "engaged" time.
Accessible time is when the parent is present, but her child is playing or watching television while the mother cooks and cleans. Engaged time is direct interaction — snuggling, talking, reading books, eating together, and checking homework.
Children get more engaged time now - despite mothers working - because women sleep less and do less housework, he said.
He added: "Children's development comes through a million different experiences - the amount of money parents have, the community they live in. These are important, and to focus on one thing, say day care, and say that explains how children are is moronic."
In the US, where "mummy wars" have reached fever pitch, Linda Hirshman, a law professor and working mother, argues that choosing to stay at home is bad for educated women as individuals.
"A good life for humans includes the classical standard of using one's capacities for speech and reason in a prudent way, the liberal requirement of having enough autonomy to direct one's own life, and the utilitarian test of doing more good than harm in the world," she said.
Others argue that the enemies are employers who make women work inflexible hours, and husbands who do not do their share in the home.
Francesca Pagnaccio knocked nine years off her CV and found a new job and a new perspective on life.
Last January, amid the season for resolutions and job hunting, my conversation with a recruitment agent took a depressing turn. “So how old are you, Francesca?” she asked. “Thirty-eight,” I told her brightly. Yes, 38 and shifting career into the high-paying world of information technology. “Oh. Never mind,” she replied. “I know what it feels like to be old — I’m 28.”
It was the conversation that prompted my year of living agelessly. Thoroughly piqued after several job interviews featuring the dreaded words “You don’t sound 38”, followed by an audible drop in enthusiasm, I swapped the last two digits of my date of birth from 18/12/1967 to 18/12/1976, and lopped nine years off my age.
Anyone can make a typo on their CV, I decided, and although it wasn’t a proud moment, I wanted to see what would happen. I’m hardly unique: a 2006 survey of 3,700 CVs by the Risk Advisory Group found that one CV in five contained lies. I blithely gave no thought to how I was going to pass it off physically. But we all think we look younger than we are, don’t we?
Two weeks later I was offered a job. In the eyes of my manager I was 29. And the longer the subject stayed off the register, the more time I had to make myself indispensable. However, catastrophe loomed. It was time to update the team’s birthdays for the cake-and-card ceremonies. Lying was not the point of my exercise, merely lying low. I hadn’t, after all, tried to appear younger by adopting a baby voice or stocking up at Topshop with youthful clothes. So I said slowly: 18...December...1967. And a miracle saved me. My new colleague Jayne’s birthday is also December 18, and she screamed at the coincidence, so that I was misheard and 1977 was committed to paper. That evening I left the office one year younger still, and when I got home embarked on an exfoliation regimen that made me look like a nuclear accident.
As the months passed, I started noticing how persistently age-related comments insinuate themselves into conversations — “Never in 31 years . . . ”; “I graduated two years ago . . . ” — all of them unsolicited. Many other more subtle phrases become giveaways. “My parents have given up asking about grandchildren,” I let slip, to which Jayne asked quizzically: “How old are you?” This provoked my best spooked-deer impersonation. A possible answer was “I’m 64”, told as a joke, but I plumped for the coy “Oooh, a lady never tells”. A third option for whenever this question is asked is the plain: “None of your business,” which I tried on a guy chatting me up in a bar until he got assault-angry at me. “What’s the big deal?” he shouted. “What’s the big deal about knowing?” I thought.
The big deal is that age is a milestone that defines where others expect you to be in life’s journey. Dr Jane Prince, a psychologist at Glamorgan University, explains: “Drinking heavily in your twenties is cool, but in your forties, say, it makes you an old soak. Likewise, climbing Mount Everest at 20 is not so special but at 60 it’s remarkable.” She adds that evading those expectations can prove liberating.
As my shackles loosened, events took a peculiar turn. For eight months I had been friends with Simon, a 23-year-old man who fancied me. He knew how much younger than me he was and he knew that this meant that I wasn’t interested. But once I started thinking of myself as 29, he became irresistible and a relationship seemed workable. Being with Simon made me feel as if anything might be possible. I could become a war correspondent, a photographer. Except that I felt eroded by a niggling jealousy that he really, truly, had his whole life ahead of him, while I did not. Two months later it was over. But if we had been 50 and 65, would it have turned out differently?
By June, though, my subterfuge began to turn into a habit of avoidance. I learnt never to discuss age-related issues of any kind. Babies were the biggest no-no (tick-tock), as were significant events (such as having watched all five Björn Borg Wimbledon finals, live) and fashion nostalgia (Seventies flares, Eighties big hair).
I made a pact with myself that I must attain the nirvana of genuinely having no curiosity about age. This is difficult because people are so eager to tell all: twentysomethings are gagging to divulge how bloody young they are; thirtysomethings often think they really look 20-plus so they’re dying for you to ask; and people in their early forties want to let it all hang out. From 50 to 80 there’s a period of calm until 90-plus when you are potential material for The Guinness Book of Records. But at every stage there remains the need to hear that time-worn platitude: “But you don’t look your age.”
After nine months I had become so adept at deflecting conversations about age that people were hard-pressed to let slip their ages with me. My 29-ness dissolved and I was now without age. However, an unhappy thought lodged in my head. Had I persisted with this charade because, actually, I was the one who was obsessed by age? Ultimately, preoccupation with age is a preoccupation with youth. The more we see young celebrities becoming influential, the more teenagers’ antics are given column inches, the more we yearn for that peachy skin and infinite energy that’s slipped through our fingers.
In the end, my year of living agelessly proved to be an interesting exercise in self-discipline. This year, I will carry on observing the twin themes of disinterest in age and steering a clear path around age-related conversations, not least because there is a perversely insane pleasure to be derived from people’s irritation when you just won’t engage on that front. But when that birthday cake came round in the office on the 18th of last month, accompanied inevitably by “the question”, I was ready and willing just to say the words: “thirty” and “nine”.
As old as you feel?
• In 1993, Brian MacKinnon, then 32, claimed to be Brandon Lee, 17, so he could go back to school, retake his exams and fulfill his dream of going to medical school.
• In her early career, actress Whoopi Goldberg, 51, added up to six years to her age to seem more experienced as an actor.
• Joseph Stalin changed his date of birth from December 18, 1878, to December 21, 1879, for reasons never properly explained.
• Halle Berry knocked two years off her date of birth, but took the opportunity of an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show to correct her age. She turned 40 last year.
By Stephanie Condron
The debate over whether Christmas cards should be traditional with a religious message or secular was gaining momentum last night.
A column by The Daily Telegraph's Jeff Randall in which he said he was discarding all cards that did not mention the word "Christmas" ignited a fierce debate that provoked more than 200 responses from around the world, the majority in favour of keeping festive greetings traditional.
It was the latest development in a continuing row over attempts to turn Christmas into a "winter festival".
Gordon Brown has condemned attempts to change traditional festivities and the Archbishop of York said "illiberal atheists" and secularists were trying to undermine Christian beliefs.
John Reid, the Home Secretary, joined the debate by saying he was "sick and tired" of the sort of political correctness which has meant Christmas cannot be called "Christmas".
Mr Reid branded efforts to ban traditions such as hanging decorations as "mad" and riled against British Airways' decision — now reversed — to suspend a Heathrow check-in worker for wearing a cross.
"Like the vast majority of people, I'm sick and tired of this sort of mad political correctness that said you can't wear a crucifix on British Airways, or you can't put up decorations for Christmas, or you can't call Christmas 'Christmas'," he told GMTV's The Sunday Programme, due to be broadcast tomorrow.
Schools are ignoring nativity plays and firms would rather send cards wishing "happy holidays" then "Merry Christmas", it appears.
Jeff Randall's column touched a nerve with readers of all faiths, including the Bishop of Bolton.
The Right Rev David Gillett, chairman of the Christian Muslim Forum, said cards should say "Happy Christmas" or "Greetings at Christmas". "That's what it is," he said. "People of whatever religions or faiths are not wanting Christmas to be secularised."
Christians are unlikely to cause offence if they send their Muslim, Hindu or Jewish neighbours a card bearing the "C" word, he said.
One Daily Telegraph reader wrote in an email: "We are a Sikh family and love Christmas. My message to Christian leaders is to stop apologising and restore confidence in the Church."
John Dolton, a Daily Telegraph reader, said: "I have had a number of discussions with Muslims about the way we in Britain seem to want to denounce Christianity. I can assure you they find it crazy and also quite alarming."
Another reader wrote: "The people who are pushing the anti-Christian agenda are doing terrible damage to inter-faith relations."
However, Tom Bond, said: "The trashy stars and tinsel floss in the office environment is a nuisance and a fire hazard, especially Christmas tree lights."
A recent survey of 2,300 employers by a law firm, Peninsula, found that 74 per ent of managers were not allowing any festive decorations in their workplaces, up from 71 per cent last year.
As well as risking offence, bosses felt that Christmas trees and tinsel made offices unprofessional.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, attacked what he called the "politically correct posturing" of public bodies who avoided the term "Christmas".
"I would hope that councils, parliaments and other public bodies will no longer feel they have to contort their language to avoid mention of the word 'Christmas'," he said. "I am certain that there never was a real risk of alienating or marginalising those of other faiths, as was often claimed."
Jack Straw, the Commons Leader, wrote in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph: "I've never met a Christian who isn't delighted to recognise Yom Kippur, nor Eid, nor Diwali. Nor have I met a Muslim who denies my right to celebrate the birth of Christ."
LifeSiteNews.com reported on December 16, 2004:
The Catholic League has highlighted incidents of anti-Christmas shenanigans at businesses throughout the nation. Commenting on the hostility to the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, Catholic League president William Donohue said, "What bothers these cultural fascists is traditional morality."
"For decades, employees at Time magazine had a Christmas party and looked forward to receiving a Christmas bonus," Donohue explained. "But starting three years ago, the party was banned and so were the Christmas bonuses. This is not to say that bonuses are no longer given-they are-it's just that the dreaded 'C-word' is no longer associated with them. This is progress."
"The University of Alabama's Office of Cultural Diversity recommends that all nativity scenes should be banned because they are 'religion-centered.'" Donohue continued. "The menorah, which is a Jewish religious symbol, is 'fine' because it is really a 'secular' symbol. Employees are also instructed to 'avoid confronting others from different religions about their beliefs.' Failure to do so may result in 'unintentional oppression or hostilities.' They actually said this," reports Donohue.
Even Macy's department store -- famous for its inclusion in the Christmas movie "Miracle on 34th Street", has opted out of using "Merry Christmas" in its greetings, in favor of the meaningless "Happy Holidays" or Seasons Greetings, according to conservative columnist Pat Buchanan.
And the Salvation Army has been kicked out of Target department stores this season, nixing a potential nine million dollars in donations for the hungry and homeless. Target claims the move is because they get requests from all kinds of groups who want to solicit in front of their stores. But the real reason, Buchanan says, is because homosexual activists have petitioned Target to deny the Salvation Army because the Army teaches that homosexuality is sinful.
"If you're looking for an explanation for all this, consider what Arlene Vernon of HrxInc says: employers need to be 'sensitive to the fact that holidays don't make everyone happy,'" Donohue concludes. "If she had any guts, she'd advocate banning Christmas altogether, but that may affect her profits."
By Monica Ramirez Biasco
Summary: Perfectionism can lead to physical and emotional stress. A guide to giving up the unattainable.
If you're always worried that no matter how hard you try it is never good enough, or you're constantly disappointed in the people you live or work with, you may be caught in a sneaky snare. Here's how to break free.
Susan, an interior designer, had been working frantically for the last month trying to get her end-of-the-year books in order, keep the business running, and plan a New Year's Eve party for her friends and her clients. Susan's home is an advertisement of her talent as a designer, so she wanted to make some changes to the formal dining room before the party that would be particularly impressive. It all came together in time for the party and the evening seemed to be going well, until her assistant, Charles, asked her if Mrs. Beale, who owned a small antique shop and had referred Susan a lot of business, and Mr. Sandoval, a member of the local Chamber of Commerce and a supporter of Susan's, had arrived.
Susan felt like her head was about to explode when she realized that she had forgotten to invite them to the party. "Oh, no," she moaned. "How could I be so stupid? What am I going to do? They'll no doubt hear about it from someone and assume I omitted them on purpose. I may as well kiss the business good-bye." Though Charles suggested she might be overreacting a little, Susan spent the rest of the night agonizing over her mistake.
Susan is an inwardly focused perfectionist. Although it can help her in her work, it also hurts her when she is hard on herself and finds error completely unacceptable. Like many people, she worries about what others will think of her and her business. However, in Susan's case her errors lead to humiliation, distress, sleepless nights and withdrawal from others. She has trouble letting go and forgiving herself because, in her mind, it is OK for others to make mistakes, but it is not OK for her to make mistakes.
Tom, on the other hand, is an outwardly focused perfectionist. He feels OK about himself, but he is often disappointed in and frustrated with others who seem to always let him down. Quality control is his line of work, but he cannot always turn it off when he leaves the office.
Tom drove into his garage to find that there was still a mess on the workbench and floor that his son Tommy had left two days ago. Tom walked through door and said to his wife in an annoyed tone of voice, "I told Tommy to clean up his mess in the garage before I got home." His wife defended their son, saying, "He just got home himself a few minutes ago." "Where is he now?" Tom demanded. "He better not be on the phone." Sure enough, though, Tommy was on the phone and Tom felt himself tensing up and ordering, "Get off the phone and go clean up that mess in the garage like I told you." "Yes, sir," said Tommy, knowing that a lecture was coming.
For Tom, it seems like every day there is something new to complain about. Tommy doesn't listen, his wife doesn't take care of things on time, and there is always an excuse. And even when they do their parts it usually isn't good enough, and they don't seem to care. It is so frustrating for Tom sometimes that he does the job himself rather than ask for help, just so he doesn't have to deal with their procrastination and excuses.
Tom's type of perfectionism causes him problems in his relationships with others because he is frequently frustrated by their failure to meet his expectations. When he tries to point this out in a gentle way, it still seems to lead to tension, and sometimes to conflict. He has tried to train himself to expect nothing from others, but that strategy doesn't seem to work either.
The Personal Pain of Perfectionists
The reach for perfection can be painful because it is often driven by both a desire to do well and a fear of the consequences of not doing well. This is the double-edged sword of perfectionism.
It is a good thing to give the best effort, to go the extra mile, and to take pride in one's performance, whether it is keeping a home looking nice, writing a report, repairing a car, or doing brain surgery. But when despite great efforts you feel as though you keep falling short, never seem to get things just right, never have enough time to do your best, are self-conscious, feel criticized by others, or cannot get others to cooperate in doing the job right the first time, you end up feeling bad.
The problem is not in having high standards or in working hard. Perfectionism becomes a problem when it causes emotional wear and tear or when it keeps you from succeeding or from being happy. The emotional consequences of perfectionism include fear of making mistakes, stress from the pressure to perform, and self-consciousness from feeling both self-confidence and self-doubt. It can also include tension, frustration, disappointment, sadness, anger or fear of humiliation. These are common experiences for inwardly focused perfectionists.
The emotional stress caused by the pursuit of perfection and the failure to achieve this goal can evolve into more severe psychological difficulties. Perfectionists are more vulnerable to depression when stressful events occur, particularly those that leave them feeling as though they are not good enough. In many ways, perfectionistic beliefs set a person up to be disappointed, given that achieving perfection consistently is impossible. What's more, perfectionists who have a family history of depression and may therefore be more biologically vulnerable to developing the psychological and physical symptoms of major depression may be particularly sensitive to events that stimulate their self-doubt and their fear of rejection or humiliation.
The same seems to be true for eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Several recent studies have found that even after treatment, where weight was restored in malnourished and underweight women with anorexia, their perfectionistic beliefs persisted and likely contributed to relapse. Perfectionism also seems to be one of the strongest risk factors for developing an eating disorder.
Sometimes the pain of perfectionism is felt in relationships with others. Perfectionists can sometimes put distance between themselves and others unintentionally by being intolerant of others' mistakes or by flaunting perfect behavior or accomplishments in front of those who are aware of being merely average. Although they feel justified in their beliefs about what is right and what is wrong, they still suffer the pain of loneliness. Research suggests that people who have more outwardly focused perfectionism are less likely than inwardly focused perfectionists to suffer from depression or anxiety when they are stressed. However, interpersonal difficulties at home or on the job may be more common.
How Did I Get This Way?
There is considerable scientific evidence that many personality traits are inherited genetically. Some people are probably born more perfectionistic than others. I saw this in my own children. My oldest son could sit in his high chair, happily playing with a mound of spaghetti, his face covered with sauce. My second son did not like being covered in goo. Instead, he would wipe his face and hands with a napkin as soon as he was old enough to figure out how to do it. As he got a little older, he kept his room cleaner than his brother. When he learned to write he would erase and rewrite his homework until it was "perfect."
Parental influences can influence the direction or shape that perfectionism takes. Many perfectionists, especially inwardly focused perfectionists, grew up with parents who either directly or indirectly communicated that they were not good enough. These were often confusing messages, where praise and criticism were given simultaneously. For example, "That was nice, but I bet you could do better." "Wow, six As and one B on your report card! You need to bring that B up to an A next time." "Your choir performance was lovely, but that sound system is really poor. We could hardly hear you."
Unfortunately, with the intention of continuing to motivate their children, these parents kept holding out the emotional carrot: "Just get it right this time and I will approve of you." Some psychological theories suggest over time the child's need to please her parents becomes internalized, so that she no longer needs to please her parents; she now demands perfection from herself.
Some perfectionists tell stories of chaotic childhoods where they never seemed to have control over their lives. Marital breakups, relocations, financial crises, illnesses and other hardships created an environment of instability. One of the ways in which these people got some sense of order in their otherwise disordered lives was to try to fix things over which they had some control, such as keeping their rooms neat and tidy, working exceptionally hard on schoolwork, or attempting to control their younger brothers and sisters. As adults, however, when their lives were no longer in flux, they may have continued to work hard to maintain control.
Are You A Perfectionist?
Perfectionists share some common characteristics. They are usually neat in their appearance and are well organized. They seem to push themselves harder than most other people do. They also seem to push others as hard as they push themselves. On the outside, perfectionists usually appear to be very competent and confident individuals. They are often envied by others because they seem to "have it all together." Sometimes they seem perfect. On the inside they do not feel perfect, nor do they feel like they always have control over their own lives.
Let's look at some of these characteristics more closely and how they interfere with personal and professional life. Terry, 34, a divorced working mother of two, is a high achiever with high career ambitions. But she can sometimes get hung up on the details of her work. She is not good with figures, but does not trust her staff enough to use their figures without checking them herself. She gets frustrated with this mundane work and makes mistakes herself and then becomes angry with her subordinates for doing poor work.
Perfectionists also tend to think there is a right way and wrong way to do things. When Joe, a retired Marine Corps drill sergeant, takes his boys fishing they have a routine for preparation, for fishing and for cleanup. It is time-efficient, neat, organized. The boys think the "fishing ritual" is overdone and they resent having to comply.
Expecting people to do their best is one thing. Expecting perfection from others often means setting goals that can be impossible to achieve. Brent, 32 and single, has been looking for Ms. Right for 12 years but cannot seem to find her. He does not have a well-defined set of characteristics in mind. He just has a general impression of an angel, a sexual goddess, a confident, independent, yet thoroughly devoted partner. Blond is preferable, but he's not that picky.
Perfectionists can have trouble making decisions. They are so worried about making the wrong one that they fail to reach any conclusion. If the person is lucky, someone else will make the decision for them, thereby assuming responsibility for the outcome. More often the decision is made by default. A simple example is not being able to choose whether to file income tax forms on time or apply for an extension. If you wait long enough, the only real alternative is to file for an extension.
Along with indecision, perfectionists are sometimes plagued by great difficulty in taking risks, particularly if their personal reputations are on the line. Brent is in a type of job where creativity can be an asset. But coming up with new ideas rather than relying on the tried and true ways of business means making yourself vulnerable to the criticism of others. Brent fears looking like an idiot should an idea he advances fail. And on the occasions when he has gone out on a limb with a new concept he has been overanxious. Brent's perfectionism illustrates several aspects of the way that many perfectionists think about themselves. There can be low self-confidence, fear of humiliation and rejection, and an inability to attribute success to their own efforts.
To escape the tyranny of perfectionism, you need to understand and challenge the underlying beliefs that drive you to get things "just right."
Each of us has a set of central beliefs about ourselves, other people and the world in general and about the future. We use these beliefs or schemas to interpret the experiences in our life, and they strongly influence our emotional reactions. Schemas can also have influence on our choice of actions.
Perfectionists tend to have the beliefs listed in the accompanying box. But under every perfectionist schema is a hidden fantasy that some really good thing will come from being perfect. For example, "If I do it perfectly, then...I will finally be accepted...I can finally stop worrying...l will get what I have been working toward...I can finally relax." The flip side of this schema, also subscribed to by perfectionists, is that "If I make a mistake," there will be a catastrophic outcome ("I will be humiliated ....I am a failure...I am stupid...l am worthless").
Changing these schemas means taking notice of the experiences you have that are inconsistent with, contrary to, or otherwise do not fit with them. June, who prides herself on being a "perfect" homemaker and mother, believed with 90% certainty that "If I do it perfectly, I will be rewarded." Yet she does a number of things perfectly that others do not even notice. June would tell herself that there would be a reward from her husband or her children for taking the extra time to iron their clothes perfectly. Her son did not even realize his shirts had been ironed. When Mother's Day came, she got the usual candy and flowers. No special treats or special recognition for her extra efforts.
When June begins to notice the inaccuracy of her schema, she begins to reevaluate how she spends her time. She decides that if it makes her feel good, then she will do it. If it is just extra work that no one will notice, then she may skip it. She is certain that there are some things she does, such as iron the bed sheets, which no one really cares about. As a matter of fact, June herself doesn't really care if the sheets are ironed. However, she does like the feel of a freshly ironed pillow cover, so she will continue that chore. June has modified her schema. Now she believes that "If you want a reward, find a quicker and more direct way to get it."
If your schema centers around more existential goals, like self-acceptance, fulfillment or inner peace, then you must employ a different strategy. If you believe that getting things just right in your life will lead to acceptance, then you must not be feeling accepted right now. What are the things you would like to change about yourself? What could you do differently that would make you feel better about who you are? If you can figure out what is missing or needs changing, you can focus your energies in that direction.
Or you may be motivated to take a different, less absolute, point of view. Instead of "I must have perfection before I can have peace of mind," consider "I need to give myself credit for what I do well, even if it is not perfect." Take inventory of your accomplishments or assets. Perhaps you are withholding approval from yourself.
If your schema is that other people's opinions of you is a mirror of your self-worth, you must ask yourself if you know when you have done something well, if you are able to tell the difference between a good performance and a poor performance. If you are capable of evaluating yourself, you do not really need approval from others to feel like you are a valuable worker or a good romantic partner.
In general, you must treat your perfectionistic schemas as hypotheses rather than facts. Maybe you are right or maybe you are wrong. Perhaps they apply in some situations, but not in others (e.g., at work, but not at home), or with some people, such as your uptight boss, but not with others, such as your new boyfriend. Rather than stating your schema as a fact, restate it as a suggestion. Gather evidence from your experiences in the past, from your observations from others, or by talking to other people. Do things always happen in a way that your schemas would predict? If not, it is time to try on a new basic belief.
One of my patients described the process as taking out her old eight-track tape that played the old negative schemas about herself and replacing it with a new compact disc that played her updated self-view. This takes some practice, but it is well worth the effort.
Do You Have Perfectionistic Basic Beliefs?
Rate the intensity with which you believe each of these statements, with 100% indicating complete agreement and 0% indicating that you do not believe it at all.
--- I must be perfect or I will be rejected.
--- If I make a mistake, it will be horrible.
--- If I do it perfectly, then I will be accepted.
--- I must be perfect or I will be embarrassed.
--- If I make a mistake, I will be humiliated.
--- When I get it right, I will finally accept myself.
--- When I achieve perfection, I will find inner peace.
--- If I do it perfectly, then it will be rewarded.
--- If others do not approve of me, then I am not OK.
--- If I make a mistake, then I am worthless.
--- I'm not good enough. I must keep trying.
--- I must be perfect or others will disapprove of me.
--- If I do it perfectly, then everything will work out right.
--- I'll never be good enough.
--- If others approve of me, then I must be OK.
--- If I do it perfectly, then everyone will notice.
--- I must be perfect or I will fail.
--- Things should be done the right way.
--- There is a right way and a wrong way to do things.
--- It is possible to do things perfectly.
Dogs, horses, even rabbits - all can provide therapy for the mentally fragile, as Lucy Atkins discovers.
''Pet therapy'' used to mean sending your sad pooch to see a doggy shrink. These days, however, your pet is less likely to see a therapist than to be one.
The change is down to the growing scientific evidence demonstrating the therapeutic potential of animals.
Guide dogs, or hearing dogs, which are trained to help people with physical disabilities, are already part of our national consciousness. But now dogs, cats, horses - and even rabbits or fish - are being used to provide psychiatric assistance to humans suffering from agoraphobia, addiction, depression and schizophrenia.
In the US, where this trend began, the notion of "emotional support animals" has become so mainstream that a pet which helps you to stay sane now has the same legal rights in housing and transportation (including air travel) as a guide dog.
There is even a debate currently raging in Manhattan over the increasing numbers of people who claim their mutts are emotional support animals, then bring them along to restaurants and cafés.
This is not, apparently, as crazy as it sounds. According to Ingrid Collins, a consultant psychologist at the London Medical Centre, the idea of an emotional support dog getting these rights is completely valid.
"A pet is better than Prozac," she says. "Animals have a completely different agenda to humans, and bring things back to basics. They want comfort, feeding and love. In return, they give huge affection."
This calming, restorative doggy function means that canines in America are now commonly used as companions for people suffering depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. "Depressed people tend to be inward looking," says Collins. "To care for another soul, an uncomplicated one, is therefore extremely therapeutic."
One US pet support website summarises its philosophy thus: "A dog is better than a wife, because the later you come home, the more happy the dog is to see you."
It is not only dogs that can help people with psychiatric problems, says Collins. Even a rabbit can be beneficial.
"The simple benefit of touch, for someone who is lonely - perhaps after a divorce or bereavement - or suffering from low self-esteem, is enormous," she says.
What is more, she adds, animals, unlike spouses or bosses, can be highly tuned to a human's emotional state.
This notion lies behind an emerging form of psychotherapy that uses horses to treat people with psychiatric problems. ''Equine Assisted Psychotherapy'' (EAP) originated in the States, but is now being practised in Britain.
"Horses are a mirror to humans: a horse will pick up on someone's mental state and react to it clearly,'' says Wendy Powell, addictions therapist at the Stepps Rehabilitation Centre in Gloucestershire.
"Horses, unlike people, do not worry about hurting your feelings."
EAP therapists set their clients horsey tasks such as feeding or grooming. This helps people to face their fears and to build self-confidence. In the two years that Stepps has been using EAP, horses have helped dysfunctional families, warring couples, addicts, and people with eating disorders, anger issues and depression.
"It is a very powerful therapeutic method," says Powell. "When you are faced with a ton and a half of horse, there is no hiding your true feelings."
"There has certainly been a recent surge of interest in the relationship between companion animals and human health," says Dr Deborah Wells, a psychologist specialising in animals at Queen's University, Belfast.
Some pet benefits are physical: dogs have been known to sniff out malignant tumours or anticipate epileptic seizures in their owners and to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
A recent British study found that the presence of a dog during potentially painful medical procedures reduced chronically ill children's physiological and psychological levels of distress. Research from Israel, meanwhile, suggests that animals can help people with schizophrenia to feel calmer and more motivated.
The psychological support potential of animals is now being studied in depth too. "Studies have found that merely having a dog in the room acts as a stress buffer," says Wells. "In trials of people doing stressful tasks, such as mental arithmetic, individuals functioned better when there was a dog in the room - even better than they did with a friend for company."
The reason for this is hardly mysterious: "A dog will not have an opinion about how well you are performing. Dogs are a non-judgmental safety net."
Wells says that dogs "can genuinely alter your mood". She believes they can also act as social lubricants for people who would otherwise be entirely isolated: "They can improve self-esteem and confidence, and your ability to deal with humans."
If you suffer from agoraphobia, anxiety disorders, or are simply debilitated by low self-esteem, taking your ''emotional support pet'' with you on trips to a café or supermarket could, therefore, be a genuine psychological bonus. Indeed, if you are really debilitated, the presence of your pet could mean the difference between going out or staying home.
Britain seems likely to follow the US, where organisations such as Paws with a Cause or Pets Are Wonderful Support (Paws) are now taking pups into prisons to help rehabilitate inmates. "Studies show that if you are kind to animals, you tend to be kind to humans too," says Wells.
America has also pioneered the use of companion dogs to help autistic children, and horses to help children with cancer.
We are slowly moving beyond ''pat dogs'', where volunteers take their dogs into hospitals or old people's residential homes for petting therapy. It could, of course, be some time before the British public is prepared to let emotional support pets vie with guide dogs in legal terms. But perhaps pooch power is not something to be sniffed at.
• The Stepps Rehabilitation Centre, Minsterworth, Gloucestershire (01452 750599).
• Animal magic
• Pets are non-judgmental stress buffers: if you are doing stressful tasks, the presence of a dog is calming.
• Pets love you unconditionally: if you are lonely, bereaved or depressed, this is great for self-esteem.
• Dogs are social lubricants: great if you are isolated or anxious.
• Touch is beneficial: stroking your pet can improve your mood and lower your blood pressure and stress levels.
• Dogs get you out of the house: no matter how depressed you are, they still need walking.
• Pets can improve your ability to deal with humans: studies show that if you are kind to animals, you tend to be kind to humans too.
Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2003
By James Poniewozik
For eight single professional women gathered in Dallas, it is holy Wednesday — the night each week that they gather in one of their homes for the Traveling Bachelorette Party. Munching snacks and passing a bottle of wine, they cheer, cry and cackle as their spiritual leader, Trista Rehn, braves heartache, indecision and the occasional recitation of bad poetry to choose from among her 25 swains. Yet something is unsettling Leah Hudson's stomach, and it's not just the wine. "I hate that we've been sucked into the Hoover vac of reality TV," says Hudson, 30. "Do we not have anything better to do than to live vicariously through a bunch of 15-minute-fame seekers?"
There you have the essence of reality TV's success: it is the one mass-entertainment category that thrives because of its audience's contempt for it. It makes us feel tawdry, dirty, cheap — if it didn't, we probably wouldn't bother tuning in. And in this, for once, the audience and critics agree. Just listen to the raves for America's hottest TV genre:
"The country is gripped by misanthropy!"--New York Observer
"Ridiculous and pernicious! Many kinds of cruelty are passed off as entertainment!"--Washington Post
"So-called reality television just may be killing the medium!"--San Francisco Chronicle
O.K., we added the exclamation points, but you get the idea. Yes, viewers are tuning in to Joe Millionaire, The Bachelorette and American Idol by the tens of millions. Yet, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, never have so many watched so much TV with so little good to say about it.
Well, that ends here. It may ruin reality producers' marketing plans for a TV critic to say it, but reality TV is, in fact, the best thing to happen to television in several years. It has given the networks water-cooler buzz again; it has reminded viewers jaded by sitcoms and dramas why TV can be exciting; and at its best, it is teaching TV a new way to tell involving human stories.
A few concessions up front. First, yes, we all know that there's little reality in reality TV: those "intimate" dates, for instance, are staged in front of banks of cameras and sweltering floodlights. But it's the only phrase we've got, and I'm sticking with it. Second, I don't pretend to defend the indefensible: Are You Hot? The Search for America's Sexiest People isn't getting any help from me. And finally, I realize that comparing even a well-made reality show with, say, The Simpsons is not merely comparing apples with oranges; it's comparing onions with washing machines — no reality show can match the intelligence and layers of well-constructed fiction.
On a sheer ratings level, the latest wave of reality hits has worked a sea change for the networks. And it has put them back on the pop-cultural map after losing the buzz war to cable for years. Reality shows don't just reach tens of millions of viewers but leave them feeling part of a communal experience — what network TV does best, but sitcoms and dramas haven't done since Seinfeld and Twin Peaks. (When was the last time CSI made you call your best friend or holler back at your TV?) "Reality has proven that network television is still relevant," says Mike Fleiss, creator of the Bachelor franchise.
This has sitcom and drama writers praying for the reality bust. "The networks only have so much time and resources," says Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of Gilmore Girls. "Rather than solely focusing on convincing the Olsen twins to allow themselves to be eaten by bears in prime time, I wish they would focus on coming up with something that would really last." TV does seem to be in overkill mode, as the networks have signed up dozens of dating shows, talent searches and other voyeurfests. And like an overheated nasdaq, the reality market is bound to correct. But unlike earlier TV reality booms, this one is supported by a large, young audience that grew up on mtv's The Real World and considers reality as legitimate as dramas and sitcoms — and that, for now, prefers it.
And why not? It would be easier to bemoan reality shows' crowding out sitcoms and dramas if the latter weren't in such a rut. But the new network shows of fall 2002 were a creatively timid mass of remakes, bland family comedies and derivative cop dramas. Network executives dubbed them "comfort"--i.e., familiar and boring — TV. Whereas reality TV — call it "discomfort TV"--lives to rattle viewers' cages. It provokes. It offends. But at least it's trying to do something besides help you get to sleep. Some upcoming reality concepts are idealistic, like FX's American Candidate, which aims to field a "people's candidate" for President in 2004. Others are lowbrow, like ABC's The Will (relatives battle for an inheritance), FOX's Married by America (viewers vote to help pair up a bride and groom) and NBC's Around the World in 80 Dates (American bachelor seeks mates around the world; after all, how better to improve America's image than to send a stud to other countries to defile their women?). But all of them make you sit up and pay attention. "I like to make a show where people say, 'You can't put that on TV,'" says Fleiss. "Then I put it on TV."
By and large, reality shows aren't supplanting creative successes like 24 or Scrubs; they're filling in for duds like Presidio Med and MDs. As NBC reality chief Jeff Gaspin says, "There is a little survival-of-the-fittest thing this ends up creating." When sitcoms started cloning goofy suburban dads and quirky, pretty yuppies, we got The Osbournes. And now reality TV is becoming our source for involved stories about personal relationships. This used to be the stuff of dramas like the canceled Once and Again, until programmers began concentrating on series like CSI and Law & Order, which have characters as detailed and individuated as checkers pieces. By the time Survivor ends, you know its players better than you know Law & Order's Detective Briscoe after 11 years. Likewise, the WB's High School Reunion, which brings together classmates after 10 years, is really asking whether you're doomed to live out your high school role--"the jock," "the nerd" or whatnot — for life. Last fall two scripted shows, That Was Then and Do Over, asked the same question but with cardboard characters and silly premises involving time travel. They got canceled. High School Reunion got a second season.
In Britain, where reality has ruled Britannia's (air)waves for years, TV writers are starting to learn from reality's success. The sitcom The Office uses reality-TV techniques (jerky, handheld camera work, "confessional" interviews) to explore the petty politics of white-collar workers. Now airing on bbc America, it's the best comedy to debut here this season, because its characters are the kind of hard-to-pigeonhole folks you find in life — or on reality TV. On Survivor and The Amazing Race, the gay men don't drop Judy Garland references in every scene. mtv's Making the Band 2--a kind of hip-hop American Idol — gave center stage to inner-city kids who would be portrayed as perps or victims on a cop drama.
But aesthetics aside, the case against reality TV is mainly moral — and there's a point to it. It's hard to defend the deception of Joe Millionaire — which set up 20 women to court construction worker Evan Marriott by telling them he was a multimillionaire — as hilarious as its fool's-gold chase can be. Even the show's Potemkin Croesus contends that producers hid the show's premise from him until the last minute. "The day before I left for France, I signed confidentiality papers which said what the show was about," Marriott tells Time. "At that point, could I really back out?" Others are concerned about the message of meanness. "There's a premium on the lowest common denominator of human relationships," says James Steyer, author of The Other Parent: The Inside Story of the Media's Effect on Our Children. "It's often women degrading themselves. I don't want my 9-year-old thinking that's the way girls should behave."
So The Bachelorette is not morally instructive for grade-schoolers. But wallowing in the weaknesses and failings of humanity is a trademark of satire — people accused Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain of being misanthropes too — and much reality TV is really satire boiled down to one extreme gesture. A great reality-TV concept takes some commonplace piety of polite society and gives it a wedge. Companies value team spirit; Survivor says the team will screw you in the end. The cult of self-esteem says everybody is talented; American Idol's Simon Cowell says to sit down and shut your pie hole. Romance and feminism say a man's money shouldn't matter; Joe Millionaire wagers $50 million that they're wrong.
The social criticisms of reality TV rest on two assumptions: that millions of other people are being taken in by reality TV's deceptions (which the critic himself — or herself — is able to see through) or are being led astray by its unsavory messages (to which the critic is immune). When a reality show depicts bad behavior, it's immoral, misanthropic, sexist or sick. When The Sopranos does the same thing, it's nuanced storytelling. We assume that viewers can empathize with Tony Soprano without wanting to be him; we assume they can maintain critical distance and perceive ironies between his words and the truth. Why? Because we assume that people who like The Sopranos are smarter, more mature — better — than people who like The Bachelorette.
And aren't they? Isn't there something simply wrong with people who enjoy entertainment that depends on ordinary people getting their heart broken, being told they can't sing or getting played for fools? That's the question behind the protest of CBS's plans to make a real-life version of The Beverly Hillbillies with a poor rural family. Says Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies, "If somebody had proposed, 'Let's go into the barrio in L.A. and find a family of immigrants and put them in a mansion, and won't it be funny when they interview maids?' then people could see that's a step too far." It's hard to either defend or attack a show that doesn't exist yet, but it's also true that the original sitcom was far harder on Mr. Drysdale than the Clampetts. And on The Osbournes, Ozzy — another Beverly Hills fish out of water — was "humiliated" into becoming the most beloved dad in America.
Indeed, for all the talk about "humiliation TV," what's striking about most reality shows is how good humored and resilient most of the participants are: the American Idol rejectees stubbornly convinced of their own talent, the Fear Factor players walking away from vats of insects like Olympic champions. What finally bothers their detractors is, perhaps, not that these people are humiliated but that they are not. Embarrassment, these shows demonstrate, is survivable, even ignorable, and ignoring embarrassment is a skill we all could use. It is what you risk — like injury in a sport — in order to triumph. "What people are really responding to on these shows is people pursuing their dreams," says American Candidate producer R.J. Cutler. A reality show with all humiliation and no triumph would be boring.
And at their best, the shows offer something else entirely. One of the most arresting moments this TV season came on American Idol, when a single mom and professional boxer from Detroit flunked her audition. The show went with her backstage, with her adorable young son, as she told her life story. Her husband, a corrections officer, was murdered a few years before. She had taken up boxing — her ring name is "Lady Tiger"--because you can't raise a kid on waitress money. Her monologue went from defiance ("You'll see my album. Lady Tiger don't stop") to despair ("You ain't going nowhere in Detroit. Nowhere") to dignified resolve for her son's sake ("We're never going to quit, are we, angel?"). It was a haunting slice of life, more authentic than any ER subplot.
Was Lady Tiger setting a bad example for her son on national TV? Or setting a good example by dreaming, persevering and being proud? American Idol didn't say. It didn't nudge us to laugh at her or prod us to cry for her. In about two minutes, it just told a quintessentially American story of ambition and desperation and shrinking options, and it left the judgment to us. That's unsettling. That's heartbreaking. And the reality is, that's great TV.
With reporting by Reported by Amy Lennard Goehner/New York, Jeanne McDowell/Los Angeles and Adam Pitluk/Dallas.
September 29, 2002
By DEAN E. MURPHY
PORTERVILLE, Calif., Sept. 27 — This is the kind of place, small and out of the way, where people keep count of things taken for granted elsewhere.
Three McDonald's restaurants, including the one in the Wal-Mart. One Starbucks, new. Nine screens at the Galaxy theater. Seventy-three jobs at Mervyn's department store.
But even in this town, pushed against the parched foothills of the Sierra Nevada, where oranges and dairy cows seem as plentiful as people, at least one big-city item creates little excitement.
"Surveillance cameras?" asked Donnette Carter of the Porterville Chamber of Commerce. "Offhand, I couldn't tell you."
With the recent arrest of a woman in Indiana whom a security camera videotaped beating her daughter in a parking lot, the presence of electronic eyes across America has drawn new attention.
But what security and privacy specialists have long known might surprise people in towns like this: the surveillance equipment is everywhere, not just in big cities and at obvious places like Times Square or outside the White House, but also in Porterville and Mishawaka, Ind., and hundreds of other places.
More often than not, private rather than public hands are controlling the lenses, as was the case in Indiana.
"There is the very deep notion of private property in our culture, that if you own it, you can do what you want with it," said William G. Staples, a University of Kansas sociology professor who has written two books about surveillance. "That has contributed to the proliferation of surveillance cameras on the private side. It is only since Sept. 11 that the public side has been catching up with what the private sector has been doing for a long time."
There has been much discussion since Sept. 11 of the growing role of government as Big Brother, with law enforcement agencies turning to tools like face-recognition technology at airports and closed-circuit television systems in public buildings. But Professor Staples and other surveillance experts suggest the general debate should include "Tiny Brothers," a term he and others use to describe the many private security cameras that most people quietly tolerate or do not think about.
Tiny Brothers might be less known, but they disturb people who worry about civil liberties.
"I don't know if we want to uncover everything that goes on," Professor Staples said. "The cameras function as a net-widening effect, catching all kinds of activities they may not have been intended to catch. Those cameras in the parking lot could zoom over someone in a romantic tryst in a car. Do we really want to know all of this?"
The Security Industry Association estimates that at least two million closed-circuit television systems are in the United States. A survey of Manhattan in 1998 by the American Civil Liberties Union found 2,397 cameras fixed on places where people pass or gather, like stores and sidewalks. All but 270 were operated by private entities, the organization reported. CCS International, a company that provides security and monitoring services, calculated last year that the average person was recorded 73 to 75 times a day in New York City.
"We went out and counted every camera we could find," said Arielle Jamil, a company spokeswoman. "Some have dummy cameras, but the real one is looking at you from a different direction."
Here in Porterville, four cameras are mounted above the entrance to Wal-Mart. Mervyn's has one outside and one inside its front door. Some dangle above the tellers in banks on Olive Avenue, and others capture images of visitors and patients strolling the halls at Sierra View District Hospital. The town's biggest employer, the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, has cameras perched like pigeons on its warehouses.
The list goes on, and it is growing. For about a year, Tom Barcellos, a dairy farmer, has had them watching his employees in a milking parlor on the outskirts of town. A few months ago he turned to the videotapes to resolve a dispute that had ended in a shoving match between two employees. Pleased with the result, Mr. Barcellos is adding cameras to monitor what goes on outdoors on his farm, which has about 800 cows.
"It is more or less a precautionary thing, something to fall back on," he said. "I understand the arguments against them, but I don't worry because I am not doing anything wrong. I consider it security. The people with the biggest problem seem to have a guilty conscience and have something to hide."
This summer, the Sierra View hospital added cameras to cover a parking garage for doctors and employees. The system is connected to a computer, which a security official can use to focus the lenses to show the faces of people inside cars. Across town, school officials were so upset when the new Burton Middle School was covered with graffiti before it opened that they decided to install four surveillance cameras on the grounds.
"There is a great increase everywhere," said Ronald L. Irish, vice president of S.T.O.P. Alarm, a Porterville security company hired to install the school's cameras. "I even get calls about two or three times a month from people wanting to put cameras around their homes."
One of the nation's biggest suppliers of video security equipment, Pelco, is based just north of here in Clovis, Calif. Company officials said commercial uses for the equipment far outnumbered public uses, even with new concerns about terrorism.
Dave Smith, Pelco's vice president for marketing, said many companies were still evaluating their needs after Sept. 11, so an expected surge in sales had not yet occurred.
Even so, a market research firm in Connecticut that specializes in security, the J. P, Freeman Company, estimates that the digital video surveillance market is growing 15 percent a year, about four times as fast as the security industry as a whole, as companies seek better surveillance systems and images.
"That growth is quite remarkable against the soft economy," said Joe P. Freeman, the company's chief executive. "In the end, a picture is worth a thousand words. All other forms of security provide you with data, not pictures. People want images stored in a huge storage file so that if anything is discovered later they can go back and see what happened."
Law enforcement officials almost everywhere have encouraged the trend. Videotaped images generally strengthen criminal cases and take a big load off the investigators trying to piece together a crime.
In some cases, trade organizations have also become involved.
Michael Marsh, the chief executive of the Western United Dairymen, said his group had recommended surveillance equipment to help deter animal rights extremists and more recently to cope with threats of bioterrorism. Private security officials in gambling towns, like Reno, Nev., informally share data from cameras mounted outside casinos. Wayne Harvey, chairman of the Reno-Sparks Security Directors Association, said new cameras were constantly being added in areas not related to gambling.
"The surveillance systems are just as important in the back of the house," Mr. Harvey said. "There is talk of getting Big Brother, but it is a necessary evil in this day and time."
Mr. Staples, the Kansas professor, said public attitudes about the cameras had changed and tended to be generational. When he speaks about his research to older audiences, he said, he inevitably hears cries of outrage and complaints about the infringement of civil liberties. Younger audiences, like a high school philosophy class he addressed recently, are far more accepting, having grown up with images of Rodney King being beaten by Los Angeles officers and reality television shows, like "Big Brother," that extol camera-driven voyeurism.
The Sept. 11 attacks might also have created a sense that it is unpatriotic to oppose surveillance. In Quincy, Calif., a tiny mountain town in rural Plumas County, a three-term county supervisor is facing a recall by his constituents because of his stance on surveillance cameras. The supervisor, Robert A. Meacher, unplugged some surveillance equipment set up by the sheriff's department at a music festival last July. It was apparently intended to monitor drug sales.
Mr. Meacher has since apologized for having used some extreme language in criticizing the sheriff's department's tactics, and he said he might not have opposed the equipment if someone had told him about it in advance. Nonetheless, the recall petition accuses him of being against law enforcement, and many people in the sheriff's department are still angry with him.
"The very fact that you raise a question makes you suspect, makes you anti-American," Mr. Meacher said. "It's, `Whose side are you on?' It shouldn't be like that. I can't help but think of the Buffalo Springfield song: `Step out of line, and the man comes and takes you away.' "
March 21, 2004
By CLIVE THOMPSON
Everyone tells a little white lie now and then. But a Cornell professor recently claimed to have established the truth of a curious proposition: We fib less frequently when we're online than when we're talking in person. Jeffrey Hancock asked 30 of his undergraduates to record all of their communications -- and all of their lies -- over the course of a week. When he tallied the results, he found that the students had mishandled the truth in about one-quarter of all face-to-face conversations, and in a whopping 37 percent of phone calls. But when they went into cyberspace, they turned into Boy Scouts: only 1 in 5 instant-messaging chats contained a lie, and barely 14 percent of e-mail messages were dishonest.
Obviously, you can't make sweeping generalizations about society on the basis of college students' behavior. (And there's also something rather odd about asking people to be honest about how often they lie.) But still, Hancock's results were intriguing, not least because they upend some of our primary expectations about life on the Net.
Wasn't cyberspace supposed to be the scary zone where you couldn't trust anyone? Back when the Internet first came to Main Street, pundits worried that the digital age would open the floodgates of deception. Since anyone could hide behind an anonymous Hotmail address or chat-room moniker, Net users, we were warned, would be free to lie with impunity. Parents panicked and frantically cordoned off cyberspace from their children, under the assumption that anyone lurking out there in the ether was a creep until proved otherwise. And to a certain extent, the fear seemed justified. According to Psych 101, we're more likely to lie to people when there's distance between us -- and you can't get much more distant than a hot-chat buddy in Siberia who calls himself 0minous-1.
Why were those fears unfounded? What it is about online life that makes us more truthful? It's simple: We're worried about being busted. In ''real'' life, after all, it's actually pretty easy to get away with spin. If you tell a lie to someone at a cocktail party or on the phone, you can always backtrack later and claim you said no such thing. There's probably no one recording the conversation, unless you're talking to Linda Tripp (in which case you've clearly got other problems).
On the Internet, though, your words often come back to haunt you. The digital age is tough on its liars, as a seemingly endless parade of executives are learning to their chagrin. Today's titans of industry are laid low not by ruthless competitors but by prosecutors gleefully waving transcripts of old e-mail, filled with suggestions of subterfuge. Even Microsoft was tripped up by old e-mail messages, and you would figure its employees would know better. This isn't a problem for only corporate barons. We all read the headlines; we know that in cyberspace our words never die, because machines don't forget. ''It's a cut-and-paste culture,'' as Hancock put it (though he told me that on the phone, so who knows? There's only a 63 percent chance he really meant it).
Indeed, the axiom that machines never forget is built into the very format of e-mail -- consider that many e-mail programs automatically ''quote'' your words when someone replies to your message. Every day, my incoming e-mail reminds me of the very words I wrote yesterday, last week or even months ago. It's as if the gotcha politics of Washington were being brought to bear on our everyday lives. Every time I finish an e-mail message, I pause for a few seconds to reread it before I hit ''send'' just to make sure I haven't said something I'll later regret. It's as if I'm constantly awaiting the subpoena. And it's not only e-mail that records our deeds for future scrutiny. Before going on a first date, people Google their partners to see what they can learn. Mobile phones take photographs. The other day I saw an ad promoting the world's first ''terabyte'' hard drive for consumers' use: it can store two years' worth of continuous music, or about 200 million pieces of average-size e-mail. In a couple of years, that sort of hardware will be standard issue in even the cheapest Dell computer. We are facing an age in which virtually nothing will be forgotten.
Maybe this helps explain why television programs like ''C.S.I.'' have become so popular. They're all about revealing the sneaky things that people do. We watch with fascination and unease as scientists inspect the tiniest of clues -- a stray hair on a car seat, a latent fingerprint on a CD-ROM. After you've seen high-tech cops rake over evidence from a crime scene with ultraviolet light and luminol and genetic sequencers enough times, you get the message: Watch out, punk. We've got files on you. Forensic science has become the central drama of pop culture, and its popularity may well increase our anxieties about technology. So no wonder we're so careful to restrict our lying to low-fi environments. We have begun to behave like mobsters, keenly suspicious of places that might be bugged, conducting all of our subterfuge in loud restaurants and lonely parks, where we can meet one on one.
Still, it's not only the fear of electronic exposure that drives us to tell the truth. There's something about the Internet that encourages us to spill our guts, often in rather outrageous ways. Psychologists have noticed for years that going online seems to have a catalytic effect on people's personalities. The most quiet and reserved people may become deranged loudmouths when they sit behind the keyboard, staying up until dawn and conducting angry debates on discussion boards with total strangers. You can usually spot the newbies in any discussion group because they're the ones WRITING IN ALL CAPS -- they're tripped out on the Internet's heady combination of geographic distance and pseudo-invisibility.
One group of psychologists found that heated arguments -- so-called flame-war fights, admittedly a rather fuzzy category -- were far more common in online discussion boards than in comparable face-to-face communications. Another researcher, an Open University U.K. psychologist named Adam Joinson, conducted an experiment in which his subjects chatted online and off. He found that when people communicated online, they were more likely to offer up personal details about themselves without any prompting. Joinson also notes that the Samaritans, a British crisis-line organization, has found that 50 percent of those who write in via e-mail express suicidal feelings, compared with only 20 percent of those who call in. This isn't because Net users are more suicidally depressed than people offline. It's just that they're more comfortable talking about it -- ''disinhibited,'' as the mental-health profession would say.
Who knew? When the government created the Internet 30 years ago, it thought it was building a military tool. The Net was supposed to help the nation survive a nuclear attack. Instead, it has become a vast arena for collective therapy -- for a mass outpouring of what we're thinking and feeling. I spend about an hour every day visiting blogs, those lippy Web sites where everyone wants to be a pundit and a memoirist. (Then I spend another hour writing my own blog and adding to the cacophony.) Stripped of our bodies, it seems, we become creatures of pure opinion.
Our impulse to confess via cyberspace inverts much of what we think about honesty. It used to be that if you wanted to know someone -- to really know and trust them -- you arranged a face-to-face meeting. Our culture still fetishizes physical contact, the shaking of hands, the lubricating chitchat. Executives and politicians spend hours flying across the country merely for a five-minute meeting, on the assumption that even a few seconds of face time can cut through the prevarications of letters and legal contracts. Remember when George W. Bush first met Vladimir Putin, gazed into his eyes and said he could trust him because he'd acquired ''a sense of his soul''?
So much for that. If Bush really wanted the straight goods, he should have met the guy in an AOL chat room. And maybe, in the long run, that's the gratifying news. As more and more of our daily life moves online, we could find ourselves living in an increasingly honest world, or at least one in which lies have ever more serious consequences. Bush himself can't put old statements about W.M.D. behind him partly because so many people are forwarding his old speeches around on e-mail or posting them on Web sites. With its unforgiving machine memory, the Internet might turn out to be the unlikely conscience of the world.
Clive Thompson writes frequently for the magazine about science and technology.
What would you do if your family and your home became a target?
By Melba Newsome
From Reader's Digest
The New Neighbors
Edwardsville sits on the low north bank of the slow flowing Kansas River west of Kansas City. A small, quiet town on the outer edge of the urban sprawl with six churches and two baseball diamonds, a shopping mall a few miles down the interstate. It's about as Middle American as towns come these days, with family businesses, local political squabbles -- a place where everyone knows everyone else.
So when Donna Ozuna and her daughter Carmen moved to 94th Street, Stephanie Eickhoff, who lived across the way in an 80-year-old white A-frame house, remembers baking a batch of Valentine cupcakes in February 1999 to welcome them. Ozuna, a short, stocky woman with intense eyes and black hair streaked with gray, was neither rude nor friendly. She thanked Stephanie for the goodies but didn't invite her inside. Ozuna claimed she had moved to town to escape the noise and kids from the school near her home in Kansas City. But it didn't take long for people to get the feeling that she was different -- more guarded and easily riled than most folks in the neighborhood.
Ozuna seemed obsessive about her privacy and her property, cranky when kids played in the street, set foot in her yard or rode their bikes too close to her lawn. She guarded her brick ranch house as if it were a castle under siege. Over time, neighbors say, relationships went from cool to downright frosty, and small encounters escalated into rows. They claim she complained to authorities about their dogs, shouted obscenities when someone cut through her yard, and routinely yelled at neighborhood children.
Trouble started, Lesli Trout says, almost as soon as she and her husband, Jesse, a heavy-equipment mechanic, moved into a house nearby. One day their 13 -year-old son, Jeremy, came home looking scared and upset. He'd been out riding his bike and stopped at the edge of the Ozunas' yard. At that point, the Trouts say, Carmen stormed out of the house, told Jeremy to keep out of their yard and threatened him.
When a visibly upset Jeremy told her what happened, Lesli thought there must be some misunderstanding. "I walked over to apologize for him." Instead, she says, she encountered a still-agitated Carmen, who told her to keep Jeremy off her property or she'd set her dogs on him.
Jesse would later try to smooth things over with the Ozunas as well. "I want to be friendly with my neighbors," he said. "I met Donna halfway in the street and apologized for anything my children may have done. She never spoke to me or looked at me the whole time." Things deteriorated and recriminations flew back and forth.
At first, folks around town characterized the tension and bad feelings as "a neighborhood feud." It happens from time to time in neighborhoods every where, and usually runs its course into a silent stand off. But Lesli Trout says that's not what happened here. "It wasn't a feud. It was one-sided. Her against everyone else."
And, indeed, Ozuna's relationships with her neighbors were becoming more strained and hostile.
Fourth of July barbecues at Jim and Stephanie Eickhoff 's home are legendary in Edwardsville. The county lawman and his wife had always been active in local affairs, and had a wide circle of friends. On Independence Day, 2001, about 70 people -- family, friends, city officials -- gathered on the five-acre property for the annual celebration. Adults and kids alike swam and played games in the 26' x 14' inground pool, danced to tunes played by a local DJ, and dined on Kansas City barbecue. Just after sundown, the night lit up with sparklers, firecrackers, bottle rockets and Roman candles.
The Ozunas had not been invited this year, and perhaps that perceived slight set the stage for what happened next. When sparks from a Roman candle landed on her side of the street, party-goers say Ozuna charged out and began screaming. People tried to cool her down, but failed.
"Donna, it's the Fourth of July," Jesse Trout told her. "Can we give it a break for just one day?"
Ozuna's response, neighbors say, was to threaten to get a gun and shoot him. She then turned and headed back to her house. The police were called -- and Ozuna and her daughter were arrested for making criminal threats.
Prisoners in Their Home
Once they were released, however, the conflicts escalated. According to the Trouts, Ozuna phoned police with an endless string of complaints: The Trouts played music too loud; their children walked in her yard; they left a light on in the garage. She called animal control, the Trouts say, to come destroy a mad dog she claimed had tried to attack her. The dog turned out to be the Trouts' docile Dalmatian, which was firmly secured in their backyard.
Someone called the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) to investigate allegations that the Trouts' children were being neglected and abused.
"They claimed my kids went around begging for food and that I would leave them alone all weekend," recalls Lesli. The SRS keeps the source of complaints confidential, but the Trouts knew whom to suspect. Each time, the allegations proved false.
It took nearly five months, but in December 2001, the district attorney charged Donna and Carmen Ozuna for the Fourth of July incident.
In addition to witnesses who were at the party, people from the neighborhood where Ozuna had lived prior to moving to Edwardsville testified at the April 20 02 trial. They told the court that they, too, had endured verbal threats and baseless complaints lodged with police, animal control and code-enforcement authorities.
Two former neighbors even testified that Carmen had pulled a gun on the mother of schoolchildren who cut through her yard.
The jury deliberated for less than eight hours before reaching their verdict. Not guilty.
The neighbors on 94th Street were stunned. For the Trouts, the acquittal was the last straw. "I knew this would give her more reason to be a bully," Jesse says. They moved out of town.
Once they were gone, a conflict began with the Eickhoffs. Soon they we re on the receiving end of police visits. SRS caseworkers began knocking on their door, saying someone had reported them for beating and starving their children.
"Caseworkers went through my cabinets to see if we had food," recalls Stephanie. "Our kids had to strip and be checked for bruises. The SRS interviewed them, asking terrible questions. I was angry and humiliated."
Alvin Doty, the local police officer who took charge of the case, says of all the false charges and allegations, "It was mental warfare, and the reports were generated simply for retaliation."
For her part, Ozuna claimed she was the target of harassment.
In March 2002, when Stephanie decided to run for mayor, Ozuna put up a "Vote Eickhoff Mayor" poster in her yard. Next to it she placed two handwritten signs. One read "Now, It's My Turn." The other "U R NEXT."
Like the Trouts, the Eickhoffs and their three kids -- Arthur, 6, Lillian, 8, and Ashley, 14 -- began to feel they were prisoners in their own home. The children were no longer allowed to play in the yard or the pool -- or even go out on the school grounds during recess. Stephanie slept downstairs to keep an eye on the house across the street where Donna and her new husband, Ralph, lived.
When Stephanie Eickhoff won her race for mayor, an FBI agent turned up at her home on inauguration day. According to Stephanie, the FBI had received a civil-rights complaint alleging that the Eickhoffs were racists, intent on running Ozuna out of the neighborhood because she was Hispanic. The charge seems strange given the fact that the community is racially mixed .
After getting her side of the story, the FBI apparently dropped the case. Stephanie never heard about it again.
An hour after sunrise on April 21, 2004, Jim Eickhoff turned into his long, concrete driveway. He, Stephanie and the kids had been away for a night of fun and relaxation. They'd stayed at the Great Wolf Lodge, a hotel and spa with an indoor water park in Kansas City. Jim had dropped Ashley off at school about 15 minutes earlier.
On the front porch, he found a package wrapped in brown paper and masking tape. The parcel had been sent from Lenexa, the neighboring town, addressed to "James and Stephanie Eickhoff and Family." Inside were a box of glazed doughnuts, a Bavarian-cream coffeecake and a two-liter bottle of Vess root beer.
There was also an unsigned card congratulating Stephanie on being elected mayor. Jim immediately suspected something was wrong. Stephanie had been mayor for more than a year. Why would anyone be sending congratulations now?
Looking closer, he could see that the seal on the soda bottle had been broken and it had a slightly green tinge. He called Stephanie, who was still at the Lodge. "A strange package came in the mail," he told her. "Don't touch it. Don't even go inside the house. Call the police and have them meet you here."
An hour later, Stephanie arrived, followed by two police officers. They took one look at the contents and removed them to send to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) for testing. A couple of days later, investigating officer Alvin Doty phoned. "We have reason to believe that this was an attempt on your life," he said. "Perhaps you should leave your house until we get this straightened out."
The Eickhoffs spent the next six weeks staying with friends and relatives. They returned home in mid-June determined to stand their ground . "This is our home," says Stephanie. "Running is a bad message to send your kids."
In the meantime, the KBI determined that the doughnuts and soda contained lethal amounts of lye and antifreeze. The Edwardsville police found evidence in Ozuna's garbage linking her to the package contents. And a postal worker in Lenexa identified her as the sender.
On July 1, police arrested Ozuna and husband Ralph for attempted first degree murder. The two made bail and were released. They held a news conference on the steps of the Wyandotte County courthouse proclaiming their innocence and again accusing the Eickhoffs of racially motivated harassment. Ozuna insisted that she and her family had always minded their own business and had never bothered their neighbors.
From July until March, the couple was free on bail, living across the street from the Eickhoffs. Then on March 31, 20 0 5, someone reported to the police that Ozuna had once again threatened the Eickhoffs. A judge ordered her back to jail.
Trial was set for July 25, then postponed until September 19. Facing up to 20 years in prison, Donna Ozuna pleaded to two lesser felony counts of criminal threat. Her husband, who faced up to 16 years, pleaded to one misdemeanor count of assault. Ozuna received 18 months probation, her husband six months. They had moved from Edwardsville and were ordered to stay out of town.
Plea bargaining seems outrageous to many citizens, but often offers a means to expedite the judicial process, get quicker relief for the plaintiffs and reduced terms for the accused . Though people in their neighborhood feel Ozuna got off easy, Stephanie and Jim Eickhoff are thrilled that they got their lives back -- that their children can go outside to play and go to school without fear, that their neighborhood is peaceful and friendly once again.
Bonnie Jacobson, a clinical psychologist and adjunct professor at New York University, says that feuding behavior is common among people with fragile personalities. "They feel easily invalidated and react with rage at the smallest infraction. So if a person crosses a boundary into their 'territory,' it's not like a tap on the shoulder; it's like a punch in the back. If a family member doesn't side with them, they feel betrayed. Trying to make peace with them often doesn't work, because it makes them feel justified, and their behavior escalates. You have to be firm and tell them, 'That's over the line.' "
Sitting in her living room with the wistful sound of a freight train passing west down the Union Pacific line, Stephanie Eickhoff shudders at the prospect of what could have happened if the children had somehow come home first that day. If they had unsuspectingly opened the package and eaten the doughnuts and taken a drink.
With her family's ordeal behind her, Stephanie Eickhoff can begin to relax in her home again. And at last report, Donna Ozuna has moved on to another neighborhood in Kansas.
By Nic Fleming, Science Correspondent
Humans will grow to an average of 6ft 6in, live to the age of 120 and all have brown skin by the year 3,000, an evolutionary expert suggested yesterday.
Dr Oliver Curry, of the Darwin@LSE research centre at the London School of Economics, said our species will evolve to be taller and live longer, and that racial differences will become less and less pronounced, thanks to trends in nutrition, medicine and migration.
Further into the future, Dr Curry predicted, humans will decline physically and lose key social and interactive skills thanks to an over-dependence on technology and medical interventions.
By the year 102,000, mankind will have split into two distinct sub-species — the "genetic haves" and the "genetic have-nots".
The analysis of technological, biological and environmental trends suggests HG Wells may not have been too far off the mark in his novel The Time Machine in which mankind splits into a frail, wealthy genetic upper class and a downtrodden, ape-like worker class.
Dr Curry, who was commissioned to carry out the study of how man would evolve over the next 1,000, 10,000 and 100,000 years by the TV channel Bravo, said: "The future of man will be a story of the good, the bad and the ugly.
"While science and technology have the potential to create an ideal habitat for humanity over the next millennium, there is a possibility of a monumental genetic hangover over the subsequent millennia due to an over-reliance on technology — reducing our natural capacity to resist disease and our ability to get along with each other.
"After that, things could get ugly, with the possible emergence of genetic 'haves' and 'have-nots'."
Dr Curry believes humans will reach physical peak around the year 3,000, with improved nutrition and understanding of the human body. Men will reach average heights of between 6ft and 7ft. Physical features will evolve to emphasize features valued in the opposite sex by men and women looking for potential mates.
Men will therefore have more symmetrical facial features, squarer jaws, and deeper voices. Women will have lighter skin, large clear eyes, firmer breasts, glossy hair, more symmetrical features and smooth, hairless skin. Variations in skin colouring are expected to be smoothed out, with most humans moving towards a brown tone.
Further into the future the outlook is less rosy, Dr Curry argued, with humans declining physically thanks to excessive reliance on technology and medical interventions.
By around the year 12,000, he believes communication skills and emotional abilities such as love, sympathy, trust and respect will have diminished, eroding the abilities of humans to perform in teams. The increased eating of processed foods will mean humans do less chewing, leading to less developed jaws.
Immune systems will deteriorate due to hygiene and reliance on medicines.
Infants will be larger at birth, forcing mothers be rely on caesarian sections. Humans will be able to replace faulty stretches of DNA thanks to advances in genetic engineering — potentially leading to more genetic uniformity and vulnerability to disease.
Dr Curry predicts that 100,000 years from now mankind will be divided into two distinct sub-species with a genetic elite moving in ever more exclusive circles.
The genetic upper class will be increasingly tall, thin, clean, healthy and creative, while the genetic underclass will be short, stocky, asymmetrical, grubby, unhealthy and less intelligent.
Past seers gawped into the glitzy future to envisage a hi-tech world. But how many of them were right?
Thursday January 4, 2007
What could be more futuristic than 2007? But life in the early 21st century tells us otherwise: no flying cars, no dinners in a pill, and certainly no cool rocketing off to space cities in the required outfit of the future (shaved heads and Bacofoil jumpsuits).
We seem to have failed the expectations of the most wild-eyed seers from the past - futurologists who were for the most part in love with a supercharged, technologically sexy future where science would free us from the daily grind for holidays on the moon or underseas. But here we remain, plodding along somewhere between Orwell and Huxley in a familiar world that is neither utopia nor dystopia.
In our conservative, cost- and safety-conscious, paranoid, post-cold war world, the big ideas, the truly revolutionary concepts - space tourism, android domestic help, etc - simply haven't materialized.
What the futurologists did get right, however, were some of the more prosaic details that define us proto-21st-century-types, such as mobile phones and digital technologies.
Japan was particularly attuned to where technological development was heading 47 years ago. About 40% of the 135 advanced technologies predicted in 1960 to become reality by 2010 by Japan's Science and Technology Agency, set up by the government to help decide where R&D should go, have actually done so. And they're not all self-fulfilling prophecies either; most are non-Japanese inventions.
Mobile phones, microwave ovens, artificial insemination, permanent preservation of sperm, desalination and a voice-activated typewriter able to turn speech into text are just some of the things on the agency's list, which included 54 correct predictions.
Heavy investment in areas highlighted by the agency certainly helped their future realization, and goes some way to explain why cities like Tokyo are seen as futuristic while ours - hello, Victorian sewerage and transport systems - seem backward.
"Britain could have led the world in developing the internet and computer games if the government had listened to the advice of a former editor of New Scientist [Nigel Calder] three decades ago," wrote Mick Hamer in New Scientist in 1994.
Hamer was revisiting predictions made by New Scientist's special issue on the future in 1964, many of which came true but were ignored by Whitehall.
More forward-thinking than the British, Americans too can tally up some major hits in past predictions; but anyone reading the New York Times in 1950 might have been seriously misdirected. In "Miracles You'll See In The Next Fifty Years", its science editor stuck his neck out to predict such things as "sawdust and wood pulp converted into sugary foods". Lucky children would be treated to "discarded paper table 'linen' and rayon underwear bought by chemical factories to be converted into candy."
The New York Times's mistakes, like many wild claims of the same period, stemmed from extrapolating hot areas of research at the time. When the US got it right it was during earlier, less developed times. The prize for the best informed predictions must go to the extraordinary seer-like minds of the writers for a 1900 issue of Ladies Home Journal, who wrote: "Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electronically with screens at the opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span" and "photographs will be telegraphed from any distance". The Internet? They also predicted the rise of the car, fridges, air-conditioning, zoned traffic and x-rays used in medicine.
There's no doubt technological divination is a tricky business, says Ian Pearson, head of BT's Foresight and Futurology Unit, a BT Group think tank. He has correctly forecast the rise of SMS, the search engine and interactive digital TV. There have been some misses, too, including virtual reality, whose allure he vastly overestimated.
"We predicted video-conferencing decades ago but we didn't think it would be through PCs, but dreamt up huge mahogany affairs instead. We did think of PCs, but not printers; thinking instead that you'd put a Polaroid against the screen to take a snap."
Tricky indeed. Below, we've outlined some key areas or modern life where past fortune-tellers were sure we would or wouldn't make technological strides. Enjoy reading with perfect 20/20 hindsight; unfortunately the 3D version isn't available.
Past predictions too often make hilarious reading rather than accurate forecasts
Transport: come fly with me
In 1940, Henry Ford said: "Mark my word: a combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come." We are still smiling, Henry. The flying car stalled long ago, along with a wish list that included the commercial production of personal jets, helicopters, hovercrafts and jet cars. There are "skycars" and jet cars still knocking around laboratories but no commercial carplanes as yet. Pragmatists point to the air traffic control nightmare if should they start to fill the skies. One recent development that may take us closer to a personal flying saucer is from SPR Ltd, a small Havant-based company, which has successfully tested an experimental engine using patented microwave technology to convert solar energy directly into thrust - that is, an engine that could behave like an antigravity machine. The government has just given a grant to the company to build a prototype, according to New Scientist. Back in the same magazine in 1964 Professor Ian Fells saw things very nearly accurately when he talked of fuel cells driving electric motors. He now admits progress has been slower than he had hoped.
Communications: missed call
Alexander Graham Bell was overmodest when he predicted: "One day there would be a telephone in every American city". Some Japanese writers were way ahead of him. A 1901 edition of the Hochi Newspaper predicted, among other prescient ideas, the invention of wireless telephony (mobile phones), a technology where Japan still leads the world. The US lags in this sphere, so maybe it's not surprising to read in Laura Lee's book Bad Predictions that in 1984, US giant AT&T rejected a free opportunity to enter the mobile phone market because its forecasts "indicated only 900,000 units would be sold by 1995".
Computers: slow counting
Although widely foreseen as becoming useful tools, few came to predict what we might really use PCs for, while very few foresaw the rise of the PC. As IBM famously said in 1952: "The total market for computers would amount to around 52 units", only to raise its figures to the (in hindsight) still ludicrously low figure of 200,000 in the early 1980s. That is about the number shifted each week. Writing in New Scientist in 1964, Dr Maurice Wilkes predicted an "international network of computers" and the use of computers to crack the secrets of the genome, although like many he was a few years premature with his dates. 1984, he thought, would see this breakthrough.
Space: not the place
How retro-futuristic those Apollo moonshots seem to us now, and how soon their foregone evolution - crewed flights into deepest space - petered out, along with NASA funding for them. Around the time of the moon launches in the late 1960s, the US's Hudson Institute tried to guess what life would be like at the end of the century, and typically suggested space colonies and interstellar travel. Dr Richard van der Riet Woolley, Astronomer Royal and space adviser to the British government, said in 1956: "Space travel is utter bilge." The next year Sputnik orbited the Earth.
As it was, the moonshots went beyond anyone's expectations. Space colonization hasn't taken off mostly because, as Sir Patrick Moore puts it, "space is a very dangerous place for ordinary people".