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February 25, 2008

Your noise is my signal — or is it the other way around?


Michael Hirschorn is an Atlantic magazine contributing editor whose monthly column is required reading here.

His December, 2007 effort, entitled "The Pleasure Principle," was his contribution to the ever-growing pile of opinions on why newspapers in their MSM, ink-on-paper format have what we in medical circles call "the dwindles."

    From the piece:

    The Most Popular function serves as a shadow front page, highlighting what readers find interesting enough to send along to their friends or blog about, as opposed to what the editors want them to read.

    Instead, the most e-mailed lists, despite a smattering of parochial concerns, were a rich stew of global affairs, pop culture, compelling narrative, and enlightened localism. In short, they were interesting. What they were not, generally, was important, at least not in the grand tectonic geopolitical sense.

    Nevertheless, based on my very unscientific analysis, what readers think is interesting and what editors think is important tends to overlap less than one-quarter of the time.

    What unites the most e-mailed list (and, granted, it's hard to draw a single through through stories about parrots, nuns, and Dumpter-diving foodies) is uniqueness.

    The real value now lies in non-commodificable virtues like deep reporting, strong narrative, distinct point of view, and sharp analysis, which even in the blogger era (or especially in the blogger era) is available only piecemeal.

    By "pleasurable," I mean stories that are just fun to read.

    ... a high-low mix of agenda-setting reportage and analysis, strong storytelling on topics not being covered everywhere else, and saucy, knowing takeouts on people the readership actually cares about.

    The old front page assumed your interest; the new front page would earn it.

February 25, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

WeddingRingCoffin.com — 'Six feet isn't deep enough'


"Bury the past and move on to a new tomorrow."


Choose from their standard inscriptions (below)


or write your own.



[via Mark Ellwood and the New York Times]

February 25, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: 'Do you have depression — or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?


Take the free test here and find out.

Then you'll want to put things in perspective by reading Dr. Richard A. Friedman's December 18, 2007 New York Times article about seasonal depression; it follows.

    Brought on by Darkness, Disorder Needs Light

    In a few days, the winter solstice will plunge us into the longest and darkest night of the year. Is it any surprise that we humans respond with a holiday season of relentless cheer and partying?

    It doesn’t work for everyone, though. As daylight wanes, millions begin to feel depressed, sluggish and socially withdrawn. They also tend to sleep more, eat more and have less sex. By spring or summer the symptoms abate, only to return the next autumn.

    Once regarded skeptically by the experts, seasonal affective disorder, SAD for short, is now well established. Epidemiological studies estimate that its prevalence in the adult population ranges from 1.4 percent (Florida) to 9.7 percent (New Hampshire).

    Researchers have noted a similarity between SAD symptoms and seasonal changes in other mammals, particularly those that sensibly pass the dark winter hibernating in a warm hole. Animals have brain circuits that sense day length and control the timing of seasonal behavior. Do humans do the same?

    In 2001, Dr. Thomas A. Wehr and Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, psychiatrists at the National Institute of Mental Health, ran an intriguing experiment. They studied two patient groups for 24 hours in winter and summer, one group with seasonal depression and one without.

    A major biological signal tracking seasonal sunlight changes is melatonin, a brain chemical turned on by darkness and off by light. Dr. Wehr and Dr. Rosenthal found that the patients with seasonal depression had a longer duration of nocturnal melatonin secretion in the winter than in the summer, just as with other mammals with seasonal behavior.

    Why did the normal patients show no seasonal change in melatonin secretion? One possibility is exposure to industrial light, which can suppress melatonin. Perhaps by keeping artificial light constant during the year, we can suppress the “natural” variation in melatonin experienced by SAD patients.

    There might have been a survival advantage, a few hundred thousand years back, to slowing down and conserving energy — sleeping and eating more — in winter. Could people with seasonal depression be the unlucky descendants of those well-adapted hominids?

    Regardless, no one with SAD has to wait for spring and summer to feel better. “Bright light in the early morning is a powerful, fast and effective treatment for seasonal depression,” said Dr. Rosenthal, now a professor of clinical psychiatry at the Georgetown Medical School and author of “Winter Blues” (Guilford, 1998). “Light is a nutrient of sorts for these patients.”

    The timing of phototherapy is critical. “To determine the best time for light therapy, you need to know about a person’s individual circadian rhythm,” said Michael Terman, director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at the Columbia University Medical Center.

    People are most responsive to light therapy early in the morning, just when melatonin secretion begins to wane, about eight to nine hours after the nighttime surge begins.

    How can the average person figure that out without a blood test? By a simple questionnaire that assesses “morningness” or “eveningness” and that strongly correlates with plasma melatonin levels, according to Dr. Terman.

    The nonprofit Center for Environmental Therapeutics has a questionnaire on its Web site (www.cet.org).

    Once you know the optimal time, the standard course is 30 minutes of fluorescent soft-white light at 10,000 lux a day. You may discover that you are most photoresponsive very early, depending on whether you are a lark (early to bed and early to rise) or an owl.

    The effects of light therapy are fast, usually four to seven days, compared with antidepressants, which can take four to six weeks to work.

    For treatment while sleeping, there is dawn simulation. You get your own 90-minute sunrise from a light on a timer that starts with starlight intensity and ends with the equivalent of shaded sun. This is less effective than bright light.

    It may sound suspiciously close to snake oil, but the newest promising therapy for SAD is negative air ionization. Dr. Terman found it serendipitously when he used a negative ion generator as a placebo control for bright light, only to discover that high-flow negative ions had positive effects on mood.

    Heated and air-conditioned environments are low in negative ion content. Humid places, forests and the shore are loaded with them. It makes you wonder whether there is something, after all, to those tales about the mistral and all those hot dry winds, full of bad positive ions, that supposedly drive people mad.

    Of course, you might decide to drop the light and ions and head for a sunny, tropical vacation.


Richard A. Friedman is a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

February 25, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Limited Edition Painted T-Shirt


Sure, you could do that.

But you sure couldn't ask for — and get — $550 for it like Dolce & Gabbana's doing at its boutiques.

[via Karin Nelson and the New York Times]

February 25, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Shelf Life — by Adrian Tomine


February 25, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

World's first laser pocket projector — 'A handheld with a 100-inch screen'


I'll take one.

Popular Science magazine's blog posted a story by Sean Captain about this device (above) on January 2, 2008, but I didn't happen on it until yesterday when I was browsing the magazine section at Barnes & Noble.

Here's the blog post.

    Microvision Preps First Laser Pocket Projector

    Think the iPhone’s 3.5-inch screen is big? How about a handheld with a 100-inch screen? That’s the promise of Microvision’s PicoP laser projector.

    By bouncing pulses of red, green, and blue laser light off a vibrating mirror, the PicoP can paint WVGA (848x480-pixel) images measuring up to 100-inches diagonally in a dark room — or about 12 inches under bright lights — on a wall, tabletop or any other surface.

    Measuring a scant 0.26 by 0.79 by 1.57 inches, the PicoP is about the size of the original cellphone cameras, and Microvision hopes to make it just as ubiquitous in cell phones and other handhelds.

    For starters, though, Microvision will bundle the PicoP with a battery in a separate handheld device, about the size of an iPod called the SHOW, a prototype that the company debuted today. Microvision says it’s already inked deals with companies that will sell the SHOW under their own brands before year’s end. Prices aren’t set, but spokesman Matt Nichols says they could be made and sold profitably for under $500.

    Microvision appears to be leading the slow-paced race with Light Blue Optics and Texas Instruments to bring the first micro projectors to market. Like Microvision, TI did show an early prototype laser projector at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show. But TI has since decided to switch from lasers to light-emitting diodes for its Pico Projector, and it is not expected to show anything new at the 2008 CES next week.

February 25, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Treehouse Subdivision — 'Honey, I'm home'


That's different.

Above and below, a sampling of residences.


Better get a passport, though, because it's located at the base of an almost 6,000-foot-high primary rainforest mountain on the South Pacific Coast of Costa Rica — not far from the Pan American Highway.

From the website:

Living in the trees is a universal theme that many dream, but only few experience....


Now you can live with nature in all its abundance right out your front door in a unique community designed for ecologically minded, adventurous individuals.

Let the wonders of the rainforest and its inhabitants guide your daily schedule.


Imagine taking a plunge in the cool waters of Rio Bellavista after an invigorating rainforest hike... riding a zip-line to meet up with friends for an evening meal or cocktail... waking up each morning to a tropical bird symphony from a tree house nestled high in the rainforest canopy.


Live the dream at Finca Bellavista, the world's first sustainable tree house community.


More in Abigail Doan's February 21, 2008 inhabitat.com post.

[via Jerry Young]

February 25, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

February 25, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

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