Friday, May 5, 2017

How to Stop Smoking Easily

There is an easy way to stop smoking, but you have to be lucky to get it. This is because patients accidentally lost the urge to smoke. Doctors have yet to find out how to make this happen intentionally.
According to a New York Times Article, patients who were observed to have had damage to the insula, a part of the brain so small you can carry it in one hand, instantly lost the craving to smoke. The challenge now is to learn how to modify the insula without damaging it. 
Neuroscientists say the insula was a part of the brain that was neglected for a long time, for two reasons:
1. It is folded up and resides deep in the brain, so much so that scientists cannot reach it with electrodes (scientists used electrodes to study the brain before the invention of the fMRI or functional magnetic resonance imaging). With the fMRI, doctors could watch the insula in action. 
2. The insula was considered in the past to be part of the primitive portion of the brain, which resulted in neglect of further study of it.

Dr. Martin Paulus, psychiatrist, UC San Diego, California, said the insula lights up in brain scans when people crave drugs, empathize with others, anticipates pain, listens to jokes, or are shunned in social gatherings, among others. It is the part of the brain that responds to music, shopping, eating chocolate, deciding to report someone who has committed a crime.
Dr. Paulus says the insula has provided tremendous insight into the study of human emotions. It is also the place where the mind and body integrate. If it is damaged,  a patient may experience apathy, and the inability to discern fresh from rotten food. Because of these many functions, it will not be easy to learn how to tap off that part of the insula that pertains to the urge to smoke.
If there were a way, would you be amenable to having your insula tweaked so that you can immediately lose the urge to smoke?
For more information, go to

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How to Understand The Great Gatsby

You begin reading this book for the first time when you are in high school, and you feel it is the most romantic book you've ever read. Perhaps you will read this book over and over again, as I did, with age. Each time you notice new things, such as subtle but deep cruelties.
This is the story of a poor boy, Gatsby, who falls in love with a rich girl, Daisy. Gatsby decides that he must build his fortune to be worthy of her, and he asks her to wait, but she doesn't. One day, upon learning that Daisy is married, Gatsby builds the most magnificent house in the neighborhood, with the back of the house situated directly across Daisy's house, separated only by the sea. He builds a long jetty in his backyard, and every night at the exact same hour, he walks toward the end of the jetty so that he can watch the lights of Daisy's house turn on, every single night.

Gatsby wants to reconnect with Daisy. One way he tries to do so is to throw lavish parties every Saturday. Everybody can come, no invitations are needed. Gatsby hopes that one day Daisy will wander into one of his parties, and they will meet and fall in love again.
Gatsby describes Daisy's voice as "full of money". In three words he describes not only her economic status, but the culture of her family and breed, their ways, what they value, what separates them from everybody else, including Gatsby. Still, Gatsby hopes that money will bridge the gap. He forgets that this breed values old families and sniff at the new rich. Daisy is married to Tom Buchanan and being the rich people they are, they do very little with their lives aside from seeking entertainment. and a trail of blood that can result from a life of overindulgence and too much play and too little accountability. As the story unravels, Tom, an unfaithful husband, sometimes hurts Daisy. But he is even more abusive to his mistress, a common woman named Myrtle. Tom likes "men's clubs" but knows these clubs are common. He is embarrassed and upset when Gatsby sees him in one.

Gatsby meanwhile restarts his love affair with Daisy. One day they all go to a hotel -- Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, Nick (a writer and cousin of Daisy) and Jordan (a wealthy professional golfer, and friend of Tom and Daisy). At one point Gatsby tells Tom that he and Daisy are in love. Tom makes Daisy choose. When she hesitates, Tom, in a show of bravado, forces Daisy to go home in the  car with Gatsby. As they are driving, Myrtle recognizes the car. Thinking it's Tom, she runs to the middle of the road. The car runs over her and doesn't pause or stop. It simply keeps on going. We later learn that Daisy was driving the car. However, Gatsby chooses to take the blame for Myrtle's death.

Knowing this, Nick nonetheless tells Myrtle's husband that Gatsby was driving the car. Meanwhile, Gatsby waits outside Daisy's house and later, when he goes home, he stays on the jetty to watch the lights in her house go on. Daisy's cousin, Nick Carroway, tells Gatsby, "They are careless people." He may as well said they are self absorbed and insensitive and thoughtless of others, even those they have killed. 
Gatsby waits for days, believing that Daisy will call him, but she doesn't. One day Myrtle's husband enters Gatsby's house and shoots and kills him.
It is implied that with Myrtle and Gatsby dead, Daisy and Tom can start afresh. And they do, living life as they always have, creating messes and leaving others to take the blame, knowing they can count on still others to clean up the messes caused by their indiscretions. They also have the money to "run away" from their messes by traveling through Europe living as they do. They feel entitled, rather than have a sense of obligation to others.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How to Find a First-Class Hospital For the Poor: Tzu Chi Hospital

When I first entered the Tzu Chi Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan, I felt as though I were entering a hotel. The entrance is wide, spacious and immaculately clean. There is no smell of medicine, no indication that this is a place for people who are ill. It is far more expensive looking than our own Asian Hospital.
Filipinos have a strong link to Tzu Chi’s hospitals (they have six in Taiwan), who twice separated conjoined twins in the Philippines as charity cases. The first twins, Lea and Rachel Awel, were born from aboriginal tenant farmers, Marieta and Andy Awel of Kalinga province, who earned P50 daily. The Awel income dove south as the twins required extra care.

Tzu Chi gave the twins first-class treatment, including a 60-member team of medical experts who studied the case details. The twins and their mother were then flown to Tzu Chi’s Hualien hospital for the operation.
The hospital purchased a state-of-the-art, ultrasonic wave knife for the operation to minimize blood loss, eliminating the need for blood transfusion. The operation took six hours. Today, the twins are young, adolescent girls living normal lives.
The second conjoined twins that Tzu Chi sponsored were Rose Carmel and Rose Carmelette Molit (Born October 2009). They were joined in the spine and shared 2.5 centimeters of entangled nerves. Their mother, Emile, is a high school teacher and their father, Salomeo, is a factory worker.
The operation required a team of 20 people and lasted seven hours. They remained in the hospital for three more months afterwards before they were deemed healthy enough to return to the Philippines.

Resembles a Five Star Hotel

All Tzu Chi hospitals are built according to the vision of its leader, Dharma Master Cheng Yen. She believes that people in hospitals shouldn’t feel like they’re sick, which is why it resembles a first class hotel more than a hospital.
As we walked through their Taipei hospital branch, we were told that everything is environmentally friendly. The air conditioner is continuously kept at a level that ensures the least carbon footprint. The building is designed so that no matter what floor you are in, you can hear the music of a grand piano, and even look over the rail to see who is playing the piano.

The ground floor also has a spacious prayer area and if there are chants, they are heard up to the highest floor of the hospital. It’s the same if there is a special speaker during services. Patients who wish to hear need only go to the lobby of the floor they are in, and they can enjoy the music or the teaching.
All eight floors of the hospital also has its own roof deck garden with trees, a pond, koi fish, rocks for turtles to climb on, benches, and areas of shade and others with sunshine. In this way, patients can get fresh air without having to go to the ground floor.

No one is turned away

Every hospital room also has a balcony to enable air conditioner savings and to facilitate safety when the windows are cleaned. Robin, a volunteer, said the patient’s comfort is primary until he or she is healthy and healed and ready to move on.
He added that Tzu Chi’s hospital had set a standard for other hospitals in Taipei to follow. The hospital also has a museum, the only vegetarian Starbucks in the world (because it uses soy instead of milk), and the largest vegetarian food court in Asia.

The Taipei branch is important for Tzu Chi’s local hospitals, since Taipei is an information center, enriching their health program and passing new studies to regional hospitals, so that they’re constantly updated on medical developments.
It is amazing to think that such a building caters to those who have less in life. Volunteer Robin said no one is turned away here, it’s for everybody regardless of creed, color and financial status.
Robin added that everyone in Taiwan has health insurance, but some hospitals don’t accept them because they know they will lose money. Tzu Chi is the hospital for people like these. Robin says the hospital is operating at a loss and is funded through donations.
Regularly the Taipei branch treats 4,000 outpatients and 1,000 admitted patients. They have a medical staff of 1,800 and average 200 volunteers daily. Tzu Chi has volunteers all over the world through TIMA (Tzu Chi International Association).

First Hospital

Tzu Chi built its first hospital in the late 70s in Hualien, where Dharma Cheng Yen lives. At the time, there were only clinics which turned away the poor. The Dharma envisioned a 500 bed hospital for the poor.
It was a risky venture, since they had no money and doctors preferred to work in the city. But funds were raised, and by the early 80s the hospital was built. In due time doctors joined the facility.

Organ and body donations

The hospital also focuses on organ and body donations. Robin said, “In a Buddhist country it’s hard to get body and organ donations, because they believe that when they die, their body should be whole for their next life.”
Dharma Cheng Yen teaches differently. She says that a body donation makes you a silent teacher. The students of Tzu Chi’s medical university are allowed to use the body for purposes of study.

The parents are present when their child’s body is donated in the presence of the medical students. This helps the students to acknowledge the life that once flowed within. They are told the name of the body and there are photos of the person displayed on the wall.
After the body has been studied, all organs are sewn back together, and the body is made whole again. All donated bodies are given a proper burial ceremony after the students have finished working on these “silent teachers”.

Monday, July 13, 2015

How to See Human Relationships Grow With Animals Through Movies

Mankind has come a long way from the days that we thought that animals were inferior to people, and could not see the ecological role that they play that in nature that is imminent to our survival.

Below is a list of 10 old movies that, in sequence show how we grew in our understanding and knowledge of animals; and how we used to treat them before.

1.     Turner and Hooch: There is no one quite like Tom Hanks, and his movie, Turner and Hooch, was, for me, far more funny than Marley and me. However, as in the case of the TV show Lassie (that made me first fall in love with dogs as a child), there were scenes that were unrealistic about dog intelligence. Also, there were some scenes that wouldn't be acceptable today, for instance, scenes when Hooch was drinking beer. Today that would be considered dog abuse. But Cesar Milan wasn't famous yet, so we can forgive this movie. Altogether, it was extremely entertaining and touching, such as the scene where Hooch mourns his master's death. Dogs really do get attached to their human alpha. If you want to buy the movie, you can get it here: 

Turner and Hooch

Turner and  Hooch trailer 

2.     Red Dog: This Australian film is based on a true story. Red Dog is a traveling dog who settled among a group of miners working in an ore excavation site, becoming the community pet. Soon, the miners started to tell the dog their secrets and their problems. All goes well until an American, John Grant, joints the group. Red Dog decides that Grant will be his human, and the two form a strong bond. One day Grant goes out and tells Red Dog to wait for him at home. However, Grant dies and never returns. The miners mourned Grant’s death and forgot about Red Dog, who stayed at Grant's home and waited for three days. Then he decided to search for his master. Truly, some dogs are only good for one human. Hachiko, the famous dog in Japan waited for 14 years for his master. The book, The Hardscrabble Chronicles, also talks of a dog that kept returning to the abandoned home of his dead master. Red Dog is a tearjerker, but the afterlife scenes were very nice. If you want to buy Red Dog you can get it here:

Red Dog

     3. Born Free: We’ve heard many stories of people who raised lion cubs and eventually set them free into the wild. But this 1966 movie is the first film that brought to the fore the idea that wild animals aren’t meant for captivity, and that zoos are cruel. Born Free is the true story of Joy and George Adamson who lived in Kenya and raised Elsa, a lion cub. One day Elsa caused an elephant stampede. This angered neighbors who demanded that she be sent to a zoo. Joy insisted that Elsa should instead be rehabilitated to return to the wild. They were given three months to train Elsa to find her wild side. They did this by slowly acclimatizing her to a wild lion reserve. They would leave her alone in the reserve, lessening her food, and lengthening her stay at the reserve each time. As days turned to weeks Elsa would wait sadly for her people to get her. She had a hard time learning how to hunt. The actual photo of Elsa before she mastered survival in the wild is heartbreaking, as you can literally see her ribcage. But more important, Elsa learned how to live independently in the wild. the Adamsons return to England, but visit one year later, returned to africa to visit Elsa. She was doing fine, and she introduced them to her new family. If you want to buy the movie, click below.

Tribute to George and Joy Adamson, Elsa the Lioness and Born Free!

4. Jane Goodall: Beauty and the Beasts: This is a documentary about Jane Goodall’s pioneer studies of chimpanzees in the wild. She was supported by  Louis Leaky through a grant. Leakey preferred women who were not scientists. (The last scientist he sent observed chimpanzees from the window). Goodall climbed to the mountaintop and stayed there all day, taking notes for three months. By the third month, the chimpanzees approached her.  Goodall’s studies pioneered tremendous information to help mankind understand a great deal about the nature of chimpanzees in the wild. If you would like to know more about Goodall's work with chimpanzees, here's a link:

5. Kes: We wanted to include a movie about birds, but didn’t expect to find this beautiful British film. Billy Casper, 15, is bullied at home and at school (by his teachers). Casper’s friends are rough guys. One day Casper discovers a nest of Kestrels (European falcons) on top of a wall. He asks the homeowner if he can climb the wall to take a look. The homeowner agrees, and Casper takes one kestrel home. He then steals a library book on falconry, names his bird Kes, and trains it. When his teachers learn of Kes, Casper gains new respect at school. His teacher visits him to see Kes, and they talk of how Kes will always be wild, is extremely beautiful and deserves respect.  Downside: Casper kills little birds to feed Kes. But then, that’s the nature of the world. Some animals are carnivores, and they kill smaller animals for nutrition. 

 6. Born to Be Wild: We watched this documentary because Birute Galdikas is the second of the triumvirate of Louis Leakey’s “angels” that he sent into the wild to study apes in their habitat. (The third “angel” is Dianne Fossey who studied gorillas). Galdikas worked in Indonesian Borneo with orphaned orangutans that she raised and sent back to forest. Interestingly, orangutans are uncomplicated and sweet. Each has a distinct personality. Even when they returned to the wild, they would visit Galdikas, sometimes with a baby chimp in tow, and share a bowl of noodles with her. The documentary also features Dame Daphne Marjorie Sheldrick of Kenya, who raises orphaned elephants and returns them to the wild. Unlike orangutans, baby elephants are complicated, deeply emotional, easily traumatized and can never be left alone. Their mahout (keeper) sleeps with them, like a surrogate mother. What’s more, the elephants chose their own mahouts, sensing who would be the right fit. The first batch of orphaned elephants were eventually released to the wild. Sheldrick then raised a second batch of orphaned elephants. She transported miles away to a new nursery. When they got there, the first batch, now fully grown, came to visit. They taught the orphan elephants how to bathe in the sand, embraced them with their trunks and essentially seemed to say that they would be accepted when they are ready for the wild.  

7.     Gorillas in the Mist: This is a movie about Dianne Fossey, who is Louis Leakey’s third “angel”. She was also untrained in the work that she was told to do. But Fossey, like Goodall, followed her instincts. For months she climbed the mountains every day, until she found a group of gorillas. She gained their trust by following their movements – pretending to eat a leaf, scratching her hair, and even learning how to make their sounds. However, Fossey came to love the gorillas so much that she had to combat poachers, and did so by playing on their superstitions and pretending to be a witch. This is an interesting film because Fossey in the end seems to identify so closely to the gorillas that she almost felt more like one of them than a human. It is believed that Fossey was murdered by poacher because she took away a sachet of his that he believed held all of his courage.

8. Buddy: Buddy is the true story of a sickly gorilla that was adopted by Trudy Lutz, a millionaire (married to a doctor) who filled their mansion with four chimpanzees, a kitten, a horse, a raccoon, geese, and six award-winning Briard dogs. The chimpanzees were bathed and dressed like children, taught to eat at the dining table using cutlery, and slept in individual large cages with a bed, sofa, and work table. Buddy, the gorilla, however, was particularly clingy to Lutz and didn’t know his own strength. Buddy, like the chimps, bathed, wore clothes, ate at the dining table, put his own plate back in the kitchen and was given dessert. Gertrude Lutz did all this at a time when there was not much information about apes in the wild. In the end, she realized that Buddy needed to be set free. She brought Buddy to a gorilla sanctuary where he lived in an enormous space with other gorillas, and with trees that had his favorite fruits and nuts.

  Buddy (1997) - Trailer

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Avengers, The Age of Ultron Movie Review

By Mona Sabalones Gonalez

Time continues to pass, and like a fool I still believe there is time for a review of the movie The Avengers, the Age of Ultron.

Action movies are not my favorite genre, and this one starts right into the middle of one very confusing big huge fight. You see, the Avengers are raiding Baron Wolfgang von Strucker’s outpost where he has the scepter which can create super beings. Strucker has so far created two dodgy characters, Pietro who is fast as the Flash, and Wanda Maximoff, who can manipulate your mind.

Amid all the action, you may likely fail to tie in all this detail, so, you’re welcome. For me, all that mattered was this is an action scene, and in the middle of it comes a gentle scene, when Natasha Romanoff calms down the Hulk and brings Bruce Banner back. 

Love scenes are good, forget the fact that in a later scene, she pushes Bruce down a 
cliff because she wants the Hulk to fight. That’s when love resembles marriage, I guess… Because in the middle of those two scenes you wonder if in a forthcoming film they would have kids, and perhaps they may realize it’s easy to be green.

The chemistry between the ultra-conservative Captain America, the ancient god Thor, and the billionaire scientific genius Ray Stark, ergo Iron Man is always on target. The unspoken “contest” for the “most conservative” award between Captain America and the legendary god Thor is an ingenious situation, tied in well with the skills of Robert Downey Jr., -- not Iron Man, not Ray Stark -- Robert Downey Jr. whose genius for drama and humor can hold anything seemingly impossible together and anchor it for the audience. His one-liners are epic. For example:

Maria Hill: [from trailer] All set up boss.
Tony Stark: Actually he's the boss. [points to Captain America]
Tony Stark: I just pay for everything and design everything, make everyone look cooler.

From the scene of the fight, there follows a party scene, and Iron Man fails to make everyone cooler. Amid the glam they don’t fit. They don’t get the jokes. They need training from Kim Kardashian. That’s not gonna happen to these nerds. But when the party’s over, they’re at ease, competing to see who can lift Thor’s hammer. Thor insists it can only be done if you’re worthy. At some point Rogers wonders;

Steve Rogers: But if you put the hammer in an elevator?
Tony Stark: It'll still go up.
Steve Rogers: Elevator's not worthy.

Stark pulls Bruce Banner aside and brings him to another room where he shows him Jarvis (his invention of his ‘maxi me’) and then shows him Ultron. The scientists in both men take over. Stark suggests they combine Ultron with Jarvis to make the perfect protection for the world.

Irom Man: What if the next time aliens roll up to the club, and they will, they couldn’t get past the bouncer?
Hulk: The only people who threaten the planet would be people.
Iron Man: I see a suit of armor around the world.
Hulk: Sounds like a cold world, Tony.
Iron Man: I’ve seen colder. This one is very vulnerable. It needs Ultron. Peace in our time. Imagine that.
Hulk: The only thing hurting man is man.

But Banner gets on board, and the two try to combine Jarvis and Ultron to produce the ultimate protection for the world, without letting the rest of the Avengers know what they’re doing.

When they leave the two creatures alone, Ultron takes over Jarvis. With his new, tremendous power, Ultron sees that the best way to protect the earth is to kill all humanity so they can start again.

Hulk gets mad at Iron Man when he realizes that Ultron has gotten free and starts fighting him. Captain America says, “Nobody tells me anything.” Everybody blames Iron Man for creating artificial intelligence.

Finally, things settle down. The Hulk becomes Bruce again, and Stark apprises him of the situation: When Ultron attached to Jarvis, the latter “went underground” and scattered himself in the ultrons. Stark put Jarvis’ pieces together, and asked Bruce to put him in the scepter.

Stark: We’re out of my field here. You know bio organics better than anyone.
Bruce: And you just assume that Jarvis’ operational matrix can beat Ultron.
Stark: Jarvis has been beating him from inside that belly. This is the opportunity. We can create Ultron’s perfect self without the homicidal glitches he thinks are his perfect personality. We have to.
Bruce: I’m in a loop. This is exactly where it’s gone wrong.
Stark: We’re mad scientists. We’re monsters. We’ve got to make a stand.

A recurring theme that I found interesting was how everyone felt like a monster. Such as this conversation between Banner and Natasha:

Bruce Banner: [looks at Barton's home] I can't have this, any of this. There is no place on Earth I can go where I'm not a monster.
Natasha Romanoff: You know what my final test was in the Red Room? They sterilized me, said it was one less thing to worry about. You think you're the only loner on the team?

The superheroes felt like monsters. The monsters felt like monsters. The beautiful Natasha Romanoff felt like a monster. It was only the strongest monster who didn’t see people as monsters. 

Consider Ultron’s expectations of himself as he speaks to Wanda:  
Ultron: "I wasn’t sure you’d wake up. I hoped you would. I wanted to show you. I… don’t have anyone else. … I was meant to be new. I was meant to be beautiful. The world would have looked to the sky and seen hope.”

And the conversation Ultron has with Vision, who is the perfect blend of Jarvis and Ultron.

The Vision: Humans are odd. They think order and chaos are somehow opposites and try to control what won't, but there is grace in their faith. I think you missed that.
Ultron: They're doomed!
The Vision: Yes... but a thing isn't beautiful because it lasts. It is a privilege to be among them.
Ultron: You're unbelievably naïve.
The Vision: Well, I was born yesterday.
Then he kills Ultron.

If you want to see the movie, you can get a copy