Location: Iowa, United States

61 years old (pretty old for a blogger) proud to be a grandpa

Monday, June 26, 2006

Quote for the Day

Mediocrity: It takes a lot less time and most people won't notice the difference until it's too late.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Here's something pretty funny


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Up Your Nose With....Oxytocin, Dear

Spray Away That Marital Stress, Researcher Suggests
Nasal spray of oxytocin, the 'love hormone,' can cut aggression
URL of this page: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_35102.html (*this news item will not be available after 07/20/2006)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
TUESDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- A nasal spray containing a "love hormone" may actually help defuse marital squabbles, scientists reported Tuesday.
The hormone, oxytocin, which has been linked with the ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships and healthy psychological boundaries with other people, appears to cut stress during tense social situations or conflict, the researchers told a news conference.
To determine that, the researchers used a nasal spray of oxytocin on couples who were put in a stressful situation. They found that levels of cortisol -- a hormone normally elevated in stressful situations -- could be significantly reduced in those given oxytocin.
The findings were presented Tuesday at the International Congress of Neuroendocrinology, in Pittsburgh.
"We were wondering which hormone or neural transmitter would mediate the positive effect of social bonding," said lead researcher Beate Ditzen, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, in Atlanta. "This led us to research on oxytocin."
In their study, Ditzen and colleagues from the University of Fribourg and the University of Zurich, both in Switzerland, had 50 couples engage in mock arguments about unresolved situations in their relationship.
Before the couples began arguing, half were given a nasal spray containing oxytocin, while the other couples were given a placebo. Using saliva samples, Ditzen's team monitored levels of the so-called stress hormone cortisol. The couples also completed questionnaires that evaluated the quality and social support of their relationships.
"Preliminary analysis indicates that there was no increase in cortisol increase in either group," Ditzen said. "But we had a significant cortisol decrease in the oxytocin group. This decrease was significantly different from the placebo group."
In addition, couples who received oxytocin were able to express their emotions, both negative and positive, more openly than those who received a placebo, Ditzen said. "From a psychological standpoint, this is what we are trying to do in resolving conflicts," Ditzen added.
These finding suggest that oxytocin has a positive effect, Ditzen said, but noted, "We have to be cautious, and wait until all the data is analyzed before we can draw a final conclusion."
Oxytocin, which is produced in the brain and released by the pituitary gland, has been linked in prior research to the ability of people to trust others and take care of each other. A joint Japanese-American study last fall found that female mice bred without the hormone forgot to take care of their young.
One expert thinks oxytocin may be useful in treating some psychiatric problems.
"This is quite interesting and suggests a potentially important role for oxytocin in social interactions," said Elliott Albers, director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience at Georgia State University. "There is vast animal data that suggests that oxytocin may be linked to pair bonding."
Oxytocin "may be useful for autism," he added. "It could be useful in treating some disorders, but we will have to see what kind of disorders it might be effective in,"
Another study presented at the meeting suggests that hormones such as testosterone and cortisol may contribute to the "home-field advantage" in sports. The need to defend one's territory and perform well in front of hometown fans may account for that advantage, researchers report.
In this study, Justin Carre, a doctoral candidate in the department of psychology at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, and colleagues monitored testosterone and cortisol levels in members of a Canadian ice hockey team. Hormone levels were checked before and after games.
The researchers found that when the home team won, testosterone levels were higher both before and after the game. Moreover, testosterone levels were particularly high before a home game, the researchers noted. This suggests the hormone surge may relate to defending one's territory, the scientists said.
In addition, the "increase [in cortisol levels] after the loss was significantly greater after the loss than after the win," Carre said. "One can speculate that loss of status is more stressful."
Levels of cortisol were also higher when playing at home. This may mean that playing in front of family and friends increased stress not felt on the road. However, pre-game self-confidence was also higher when the team played at home. And there was a strong correlation between pre-game self-confidence and performance, Carre's team found.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Baseball on Television

I was going to write something about the bad camera angles that are shown over and over in baseball telecasts and then I found this column by Thomas Sowell, written in 2002 that says pretty much everything. I would only add that the angle I would like to see --the entire field (or at least the entire infield) is rarely if ever shown). Maddening.

"There are people who find sports exciting and people who find sports boring. Unfortunately, the latter seem to be the ones in charge of baseball telecasts. And they seem to be trying to make those telecasts boring for the rest of us.
Somehow the people who televise baseball games have become fixated on just one viewpoint for showing a pitcher throwing to a batter. Every pitch, for inning after inning, is shown from just that one angle. It is not a bad angle but there are innumerable other angles from which the same thing could be shown for a little variety.
In years past, pitches were shown from different angles in the course of a ball game. Even today, there are cameras photographing from other angles, as we sometimes see on replays. Are the TV producers just too lazy to change the views they show the audience?

The same rigid formula is applied to other aspects of baseball telecasts. The ultra-closeup is everywhere. What makes television producers think that lo-o-ong closeups of men's faces have any special appeal to predominantly male audiences? After you have seen closeups of the same pitcher's face staring down for the catcher's sign umpteen times, inning after inning, what is there left, except to hope that he gets knocked out of the game, so you can at least see somebody new?
How often do you need to see extreme closeups of Joe Torre's furrowed brow in the dugout or Dusty Baker chewing on a toothpick or Barry Bonds looking bored at everything except hitting home runs? No other sport has such limited and rigidly stereotyped formulas for television.
Boxing takes place in a much smaller space and yet it shows more variety of viewpoints. So does tennis. Even football, which requires a similar lining up of the players for every play, shows more variety than baseball telecasts.
What makes this narrow rigidity so unnecessary is that baseball parks are large, colorful and fascinating places from so many different angles. But you almost never see the whole field with the players in action. TV producers' fixation on closeups shows infield plays as if they were taking place in a parking space.
Seldom is any play shown the way you would see it if you were at the ballpark. The things that real fans enjoy seeing are replaced by facial closeups that might appeal to a soap opera audience or audiences that like scenes in bad western movies where the characters stare long and hard at each other.
Then there are the mindless interviews asking stereotyped questions for which you already know the stereotyped answers. It is like watching old classic movies, where the audience recites the dialogue along with the characters on the screen. These pre-recorded interviews are then played during the game.
It is as if the people who produce baseball telecasts have no idea what real baseball fans want and think they have to come up with gimmicks to supply interest. Baseball is not the only sport in which those who telecast seem to think that the sport itself has little or no appeal, though baseball telecasts are the worst offenders.
In tennis, it is not uncommon for celebrities in the stands to be interviewed while play is going on. Sampras and Agassi may be in the midst of a brilliant rally but the announcer will be quiet while someone with a microphone in the stands is interviewing some Hollywood starlet on how she feels about being at Flushing Meadows.
The same idea that sports are not enough for sports fans seems to have been behind the fiasco of putting Dennis Miller's silly chatter on Monday Night Football. Fortunately, the producers of that program finally got the message that football fans want football. How long will it take producers of baseball telecasts?
The sportscasters themselves are usually much more on the ball than the people who put the TV pictures on the screen. Sportscasters sound like the fans who find the sports themselves interesting. Nor is this the fault of the camera operators, who supply good pictures from many angles. It is the producers who decide which of those pictures the television audience gets to see who are in a rut.
If they don't like sports, why don't they just say so, and leave TV sportscasts to those who do? "