Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s animal photos of the week.  Too cute!

Valentina has been raised by hand by staff at the zoo after her mother mauled the cub and refused to accept her

Valentina has been raised by hand by staff at the zoo after her mother mauled the cub and refused to accept herPicture: EuroPIcs

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Touch me!

Great Maria Konnikova post on the power of touch.  Lots of really interesting research, but this was struck me as particularly compelling:

In fact, though, researchers have discovered that touch need not be social to be effective. In her more than thirty years of research on touch, Tiffany Field, the head of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, has sought repeatedly to disentangle the two. In one series of studies, one group of elderly participants received regular, conversation-filled social visits while another received social visits that also included massage; the second group saw emotional and cognitive benefits over and above those of the first. Field has found similar gains in both premature and full-term infants, pregnant women, children and adults with chronic pain conditions or emotional problems, and healthy adults. Even short bursts of touch—as little as fifteen minutes in the evening, in one of her studies—not only enhance growth and weight gain in children but also lead to emotional, physical, and cognitive improvements in adults. Touch itself appears to stimulate our bodies to react in very specific ways. The right kind can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels, stimulate the hippocampus (an area of the brain that is central to memory), and drive the release of a host of hormones and neuropeptides that have been linked to positive and uplifting emotions. The physical effects of touch are far-reaching.  [emphasis mine]

Lots more interesting stuff in the piece.  As for me, I should be healthy as can be.  All my kids are what is referred to as “sensory-seeking” and always wanting hugs, sitting on laps, wrestling on the bed, etc.  In fact, my poor wife who can only take so much touch, gets burned out from it (in fairness, I love touch, but there’s only so much I can take of Sarah squirming all over me).  I’m sure I’m going to miss it when all the kiddos leave the house some day.

I also remember how when I first got to college, I pretty much touched nobody except for the occassional handshake. 18-year old guys just don’t do a lot of casual touching of each other.  I was fortunate, though, to have a friend who recognized the power of a good hug, societal conceptions of masculinity be damned.

Anyway, go get some touch.

Freedom!

Sorry to be such a bad blogger lately.  Really, really busy week.  I’ll be better next week.  Anyway…

Really enjoyed this post from Bill Ayers on how people losing a political argument (in this case, the anti-vaxxers) like to change the subject to freedom, i.e., their “freedom” not to vaccinate their children.  Bill makes some great points about freedom in a democratic society:

But all of that is neither here nor there – what really interests me is the “I am pro-freedom” part of the argument. This is indeed the “go-to” for folks on the losing end of a public debate. Recently we’ve seen certain segments of our society opposed to gay marriage making the same claim on behalf of small businesses that don’t want to serve gays – just as two generations ago, similar folks claimed “freedom” as a justification to turn away interracial couples. “Freedom” was the cry of George Wallace on the steps of the Alabama schoolhouse when he railed against “the oppression of the rights, privilege, and sovereignty” of his state in the face of integrationist pressure.

The fact is that we all give up a measure of freedom as the price of living in a civilized, advanced society. [emphases mine] We agree not to drive through a red light. We agree to wear our seat belts – 49 out of 50 states in the US have some form of mandatory seat belt laws on the books. We agree to file certain kinds of information with the government at various levels. We agree to pay our taxes. We agree not to discriminate against fellow citizens when engaging in public commerce or service. Failure to do these things comes with the penalty of government sanction.

We suffer these infringements on our freedom because there are some collective goods that cannot be had otherwise. Because of our traffic laws – actually quite draconian by the standards of much of the world – we enjoy some of the safest highways and streets in the world, vastly safer than they were 80 or 100 years ago. Because of our attention to civil rights, populations once voiceless and enslaved are now freer and much better off and we are closer to realizing our ideals as a republic of equals.

Those who hold up the “pro-freedom” banner are trying to escape this reality.

“Freedom” might not be the last refuge of the scoundrel, but it is certainly well worth considering just what is being argued for in the name of freedom and the consequences of all this freedom for our society.

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