Photo of the day

From the Telegraph animal photos of the week.  Who knew actual lizards could be so chill?

forest dragon lizard

A chilled out forest dragon lizard was photographed in Jogja, Indonesia by its ownerPicture: Roni Hendrawan/HotSpot Media


I’m calm. And it’s in my genes

I’ve always kind of known that to a degree.  My mom was always just a super-stable, even-keeled person who was very much able to roll with whatever life had to offer.  And I’ve always pretty much been the same way.  I don’t get much anxiety at all (except when I have good cause, e.g., discovering your child has a rare genetic disorder) and I typically recover from most traumatic events pretty easily.  Rather than think this makes me better than other people, I’ve just always been grateful for what I have always taken to be my genetic inheritance.

Thus, I found this essay in the Times super-interesting as it talks about a gene variant which I am pretty damn sure I have:

For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that a genetic variation in the brain makes some people inherently less anxious, and more able to forget fearful and unpleasant experiences. This lucky genetic mutation produces higher levels of anandamide — the so-called bliss molecule and our own natural marijuana — in our brains.

In short, some people are prone to be less anxious simply because they won the genetic sweepstakes and randomly got a genetic mutation that has nothing at all to do with strength of character. About 20 percent of adult Americans have this mutation. Those who do may also be less likely to become addicted to marijuana and, possibly, other drugs — presumably because they don’t need the calming effects that marijuana provides.

That’s me alright.  I’ve also never had any interest in personally using drugs, because they always seemed to offer very little benefit for the costs (including financial).  I’ve been inebriated on a few occasions (and I might as well mention that this played a role in starting the relationship which is now my 20 year marriage), but in general, I have felt like any intoxication just didn’t really have a lot to offer me.  And now we know why– my brain has it’s own natural marijuana.  And without the cognitive dulling that comes from taking the real thing!

There’s lots more good stuff in here about the nature of anxiety as well as marijuana use and the endocannabinoid system in the brain.  You should read it.  As for me, it was kind of amazing to read this and feel like they’ve found the gene that explains so much of my personality.

Quick hits (part II)

Sorry for the lateness on part II– busy weekend.

1) Really enjoyed this Rob Christensen column on how we need to consider historical political figures in their context.  Former NC Governor Charles Aycock is getting thrown under the bus for basically the same racial positions as Abraham Lincoln.

2) Connor Friedersdorf’s take on Ferguson is terrific.  He points out that, truly, the racist emails really were the least of it:

Establishing these glaring perverse incentives—effectively compromising the city’s criminal-justice system to increase revenue—is enough to disgrace Ferguson’s leaders all on its own, whether one regards them as civic imbeciles or moral cretins…

Little wonder that black people in Ferguson took to the streets after the killing of Michael Brown. Sooner or later, some event was bound to push them over the edge into protest, and even if Officer Wilson acted totally unobjectionably in that encounter, it wouldn’t change the fact that the general lack of confidence expressed in municipal and police leadership was well-founded. A DOJ investigation was long overdue, and so are major reforms. The full DOJ report can be found here.

3) Free Range parents responsible for “unsubstantiated child neglect” (whatever that means) in Maryland.  There’s so many unfortunate, dysfunctional families out there.  Wouldn’t it be great if CPS focused there resources on them that happy families who are not paralyzed by irrational fear of their kids being kidnapped?

4) Sad, compelling story of a former UNC football player who is now homeless and sure seems to be suffering from CTE.

5) I actually don’t understand why we can’t do a lot more along the lines of this awesome Australian project that generates electricity from the tides.

6) I love the circus because of all the awesomeness from the humans, but hate that elephants have to suffer at the same time.  So pleased that Ringling is dropping the elephants from the circus.

7) Enjoyed this story on the fastest American female teenager ever and on what it takes to succeed long term as a competitive runner.

8) A Republican congressman thinks illegal immigrants are committing a murder a day.  Shockingly, he’s wrong.

9) I could totally go for Daylight Savings time year round.  Mornings I’m always hanging out inside anyway.  Give me more light in the evening.

10) John Cassidy on why the Federal Reserve needs defending.

11) A debate on Colorado on whether IUD’s are contraception or abortion.  Seriously?!  Good to know Republicans are against a method of birth control that dramatically cuts teen pregnancies and actual abortions.

12) It pains me to learn (from Krugman, no less) that my favorite food is apparently, quite Republican.  That won’t stop me!

13) An Economist friend of mine wrote this interesting Op-Ed about replacing a gas tax with a vehicle miles tax.  It will never happen, of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.

14) With the political debate about net neutrality, it’s worth being reminded that the government invented the internet.

15) Charter schools may have their place, but they are certainly no panacea for our education problems.  And their lesser accountability (by design) is clearly bringing with it a host of problems.

16) Last word– Ta-Nehisi Coates is, of course, terrific in writing about the Ferguson report.

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