Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

#YOLO, FOMO, and the License to Chill

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

I dunno, but I’m sure they’d be UNCOMFORTABLY ENERGETIC.

For those of you anticipating a bad joke about refrigerators: you are about to be disappointed.

It never ceases to amaze me how the fast-paced Stanford life has changed my perception of free time.  At the beginning of my freshman year, I was quite honestly astounded by the sheer amount of free time a college student could* enjoy.  Joining Stanford from a competitive prep school, the typical daily schedule for me had been a weighty sandwich of 8 straight classes followed by sports practice(s), music lessons, homework, and then, at some ungodly hour, sleep.  Rinse and repeat, injecting standardized testing and college apps as necessary.  Frankly, I’m not sure how I pulled it off, and if I could bottle Kristi Work-Ethic ’08 and sell it as an energy drink, believe me, I would.  (“Your babies will find partial derivatives as fast as KENYANS!!”)

What changed?  Suddenly 2-3 generously spaced courses per day became the norm.  We became the masters of our own schedules.  What freedom, what bliss!  What… perfectly sized holes into which to insert extracurriculars!

Optimizers that we Stanford students are, we felt compelled to fill the voids.  Brimming, bursting, busting at the seams, with our color-coded Google calendars representing a neon patchwork of schedule conflicts.  (If the time-turner actually existed, Stanford would be its target market.)   This attitude, this lifestyle, has commoditized our free time.  Both I and my peers have used the phrase “maximize the fun” non-ironically.  Every spare moment stands on trial for its life as we nervously check the time on our iPhones.  Optimize the relaxation!  Attend ALL THE PARTIES! (more…)

Are the French Better Parents Than Americans?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

According to a 2009 study by economists at Princeton, American moms considered it more than twice as unpleasant to deal with their kids as French moms.

Few things about the French are more irksome than their national superiority complex. Although I met a number of amicable Frenchmen and women while studying in Spain, their favorite topic was unfailingly how much they missed their native land, and they made no bones about telling me so.

However, in an essay published in the WSJ on Saturday, an American mom shows that the French may have some bragging rights when it comes to effective parenting, complete with an ex-Stanford professor to back up her claims.

The author, Pamela Druckerman, claims that French parents have figured out some parenting tricks that make their children much more peaceful and obedient than Americans, specifically by teaching their kids how to wait. One of her sources is Walter Mischel, who as a professor at Stanford in 1972 devised the famous “marshmallow test” to examine a child’s capacity for deferred gratification. According to Mischel, in the U.S., “certainly the impression one has is that self-control has gotten increasingly difficult for kids.”

Mischel would know. His marshmallow test offered 4- and 5-year-olds a marshmallow and said that they could have another if they waited for the experimenter to come back before eating the first. Only one in three resisted for the full 15 minutes that the experimenter was gone. The key, the researchers found, was that the good delayers were able to distract themselves. What is more, Mischel found in a follow-up study that these good delayers as adolescents were better at concentrating and reasoning, and they did not “tend to go to pieces under stress.”

So how do French parents make their kids more patient? One method is enforcing a tight eating schedule, instead of providing snacks all day. Another is teaching children to play by themselves so that they require less supervision and maintenance. These observations sound like cultural generalizations, but they are backed up by data. For example, as part of her supporting evidence, Druckerman cites a 2004 study on the parenting beliefs of college-educated mothers in the U.S. and France. The American moms said that encouraging one’s child to play alone was of average importance, whereas the French moms said it was very important.

As a Stanford student, parenting is not the first thing on my mind (or the second, or the third!). However, this article inevitably invited me to compare how I was raised with the French parenting model. I found that I was unwittingly raised in a rather French style, with a bit of American disciplining. Even though my brother and I fought almost non-stop as kids, my mom has told me that she loved being with us and valued raising us herself very highly. My brother and I also ate on a consistent schedule, and we spent a lot of time playing outside by ourselves. However, if I misbehaved, privileges or prized possessions were taken away. The worst part about being punished was that it was often in front of other people, which made it humiliating and more memorable. As a result, the fear of being disciplined became as powerful a motivator to behave well as the forces of habit.

Granted, French society provides some big advantages to which this article only pays lip service, including significantly better social services and child care than in the U.S. Also, Druckerman probably did not get a very big sample size for her observations on France, meaning that her conclusions would only apply to a set of well-educated, well-to-do families that do not explain the behavior of the entire French population. She may want to look into a movie called The 400 Blows, which is about a French boy who becomes a juvenile delinquent thanks to bad parenting, before calling it a day.

That said, rightly or wrongly, American children are notorious amongst foreigners for being spoiled and lazy. With big budget cuts going into effect in areas like education, the U.S. government is unlikely to improve the situation in the short term. That leaves the bulk of the job with American parents.

Perhaps they could take a few cues from the French, even if the advice comes with a big dose of hauteur.

Top 13 Things to Make You Feel Productive When You Are Actually Procrastinating

Monday, December 5th, 2011

#1. Do your laundry. You can only turn your socks inside out for so long.

#2. Vacuum your room. Thoroughly enjoy the sound of all the little grainy particles getting sucked up through the tube.

#3. Download all of the updates your computer keeps reminding you about. Resist the reflex to hit “Remind Me Later”.

#4. Make/Confirm/Reconfirm your travel arrangements for Winter break. And Spring Break. And Summer break…

#5. Refill any prescriptions you might have.

#6. Create the perfect holiday playlist. Nothing rings in the holiday season like hearing “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” or “The Night Santa Went Crazy“.

#7. Find the perfect gift for that person who is impossible to buy gifts for.

#8. Figure out an exit strategy for when you run into that awkward ex over break.

No, you don't need a third glass of eggnog...

#9. Go to the gym/go for a run/do an ab workout. Armies of  gingerbread people are marching out of ovens as I write this. Here is my motivation.

#10. Buy/make stationary and/or thank-you notes. You’ll be needing them shortly.

#11. Call your parents/grandparents/other extended family. They love hearing from you and it has been a while…

#12. Download apps like Concentrate and/or SelfControl. Use them.

#13. Make a list of everything you have to do during dead week/finals and create a schedule for when you’ll get it all done. Starting… eventually.

Bonus! #14. Write a post for The Unofficial Stanford Blog. It works. Trust me.

Nine Lessons For Freshmen

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

This summer, I’ve been training sled dogs in Alaska—and getting paid $12 an hour! My coworkers are older than me; most of them finished college several years ago. It’s been great to spend the summer hanging out with people in their twenties, because they constantly remind me of an important fact: college will be over soon.

That having been said, you might assume that I’m a regretful senior looking back on my misspent college years. Not so; I’ll be a sophomore in September. I took a gap year before coming to Stanford, and I grew so much during that year. Still, I found freshman year challenging. I’ve reflected a lot this summer on what I learned from the first year of college. Here are my nine biggest lessons:

1. Work Stanford to extract the benefits you want.

A recent Stanford grad pointed out to me the distinction between “working” and “being worked.” When you get overwhelmed by academics, you’re no longer working; you’re being worked. On a similar note, you should view the Stanford campus, with all its resources, as the raw material which you must shape and knead to meet your specific needs. The important point is to actively design your college experience, instead of passively expecting this place to hand you happiness. That shiny Stanford brand is nothing more than a name until you “work” Stanford to extract the benefits you want.

2. Mold the Stanford campus to fit you, instead of trying to change yourself to fit Stanford.

There are many “Stanfords,” not just one. You might even say that each student attends a slightly different university. So don’t feel pressured to drastically change yourself in order to fit in. Chances are you can find at least one person like you here; there really are many different types of students on campus. Focus on fitting Stanford to you, not fitting yourself to Stanford. Go ahead and change yourself all you want, but do it for the right reasons—not because you feel like you have to.

3. If at first you don’t succeed, find another way.

My dad is a musician, so I grew up surrounded by art. But as a freshman, I didn’t get into any of the performance groups I auditioned for. I should have tried harder to find some way to participate in the arts, but those auditions discouraged me. So I spent much of the year feeling like no one at Stanford cared about what I love—that if I wasn’t an engineer or computer scientist or entrepreneur, then I was at the wrong place.

I can’t tell you how wrong that conclusion was. Remember, even if you can’t get involved directly in something you love, there’s always a need for people to work behind the scenes. The bottom line is, you need to be proactive. Don’t wait for the opportunities to find you.

4. Apply, apply, apply.

If cars run on gas, then Stanford runs on applications. There are a lot of interesting opportunities at Stanford and elsewhere, but most will require you to put together some sort of application. Get in the habit of applying to every program, position, or opportunity that intrigues you. It might seem like a lot of work, but taking this step will help you get the most out of college. Even if you don’t think you’ll get accepted, apply anyway. Never sell yourself short.

Think about this way: college is simply a dense concentration of resources. It’s a pipeline of money and opportunities, and you’re hooked up to it for the next four years. Lucky you! Just be sure to extract as much as you can.

5. Explore possible careers.

I just finished the book “What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers.” But I really should have read it sooner. It’s natural to feel some anxiety about what kind of job you’ll get  after college, but don’t let this feeling overwhelm you. If you find yourself wishing that you liked computers (so you could major in Computer Science) or business (so you could major in Economics), or convincing yourself that you need to go to law school (since you’re not interested in medicine or business), fight back. Take the time to do some thorough self-reflection, and figure out what’s really important to you. Recognize that there are always alternatives—you are never obligated to follow the well-marked path. A great resource during your search is a article about career guides.

6. You can’t overprepare for college…

…so read some advice books on college before you start. There are a lot of general guides to college life, while other books focus on the larger goal of getting an education. Also be sure to check out Cal Newport’s books and his blog, Study Hacks.

7. Don’t let setbacks blow your confidence.

The truth is that it’s very hard to be the best at Stanford. In my case, I found my confidence a little dented after a few months on campus. You’ll probably encounter some setbacks of your own, but don’t let them bring you down. Never underestimate your own intelligence or ability, and don’t overestimate the intelligence or ability of the people around you.

On the bright side, there’s not a lot of cut-throat competition at Stanford. If you do feel any competitive pressure, chances are that it’s self-imposed. I can honestly say that high school was much more competitive than college.

8. Every morning, think of three things for which you’re grateful.

A friend of mine got this tip from a fitness elective called “Happiness.” Give it a try—it will definitely help you get out of bed on rough days.

9. Don’t listen to all the advice people give you.

Sometimes people give you bad advice; sometimes their advice just doesn’t apply to you. Take what fits your unique situation and discard the rest.

What have you learned about succeeding at Stanford? Leave a comment and share your wisdom with the incoming freshmen.

Failure: An Option

Monday, March 7th, 2011

With midterms (mostly) over, and finals looming over the horizon, I thought it would be an appropriate time to address a topic that , as a science major, is very familiar ro me: failure.

In Drama 103, with the always entertaining and immeasureably talented Dan Klein, we learned to embrace failure; failing on stage is the first step to good improvisation. fIntro to Improvisation has taught us to embrace failure. WIthout failure, there is no chance to be natural, to be human. And embracing failure, not ft fearing it, is the first step to succeding, not only in improv, but in life.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve been writing this post without Spell Check, editing, or even backspacing. (more…)

You’re Doing It Wrong: Dating and the Fairy Tale Phenomenon at Stanford

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Constant weddings on campus = no pressure, right?

At Stanford, as at many elite universities, there tends to be a predominant view that dating here is somehow flawed.  We’re working too hard, we claim, we don’t have time to develop meaningful relationships.  There’s no middle ground, others complain, where’s the route between frat party flings and near-obsessive-already-planning-the-wedding-in-Mem-Chu couplings?

And sure, there are more people who want to be in relationships than actually are.  Depending on your metrics, that might be sufficient data to prove the there’s-no-dating-at-Stanford hypothesis.

But I don’t think that dating at Stanford is fundamentally flawed.  I think that many of us are just going  about it the wrong way.

Like… only a little?

Artificial dating constructs don't work... but those purple boots sure do! I think I need a pair.

We Stanford students like for things to be effortless.  High school valedictorians, sports stars, musical prodigies – you name it, we’re used to things coming easily.  We focus on our academics and extracurricular activities and often assume that the rest will fall into place without any additional work on our part.

Cue, the very definition of half-hearted, lazy pursuit of meaningful relationships.  Oh, sure, it’s much easier to confess that crush under the guise of anonymity of the Internet.  But that post took you, what, 30 seconds to write?  With relationships, as with any other meaningful pursuits, you receive according to the effort you put into something.  So if your admiration for someone is really only worth a 30-second post, go for it.  And watch absolutely nothing happen.  Don’t accuse flirting of failing you – pin the blame on the sad excuse for a flirt medium in which you engaged.

In real life, there are no fairy godmothers to make your wishes come true.  If you want something to work out, TALK to the object of your affections.  Yeah, it’s difficult and potentially awkward, but we’re all too busy to assess the intricacies of chance meetings.  If you’re actually interested in someone, you really “need to be bold, need to jump in the cold water” and put yourself out there.  If you don’t put forth at least that much effort and interest, why should they?  And for the hesitant out there: honestly, what’s the worst that could happen?  The math is in your favor.  If it doesn’t work out with crush #1 or #2, there are over 15,000 other Stanford students to choose from.  There are plenty of fish in the sea.


Weather Win.

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

To quote Forrest Gump:  “and that’s all I have to say about that.”

Paved with Good Intentions

Friday, December 10th, 2010

You may have noticed some odd and pervasive behavior on the part of some of your Facebook friends this year.  January brought forth a sudden winter flurry of color statuses.  October launched a startlingly sexual series of “So-and-So likes it on the ________” statuses that made it look like many a good girl had gone bad.  Finally, this month the trend seems to be profile pictures consisting of favorite childhood cartoon characters.

The rationale for these trends is that they raise awareness for issues of health and social concern through Facebook’s powerful social media.  The first two ostensibly supported breast cancer awareness, while the latter supposedly promotes awareness for and support of child abuse survivors.  At first glance, these fads seem well-intentioned and, at worst, harmless.  However, it was upon waking up to the following status in my Facebook newsfeed that I took a closer look at these Facebook crazes:

[name omitted] does not understand how putting cartoon photos up has ANYTHING to do with violent abuse against children.  As a child abuse survivor, I don’t think that I ‘only see [happy] memories’ from these images; instead, they’re part and parcel of the pleasure and pain that was growing up with an abusive parent.”  Later on in the involved comment stream, another poignant phrase from this child abuse victim stuck out to me: “the point of the current meme is ostensibly ‘against’ child abuse, and as an abuse survivor, I find it isolating.”

Facebook users: you’re actually hurting the people you’re trying to support.

This isn’t to say that I have anything personally against the participants in these memes.  I’m sure that you all mean well.  But please reconsider your purported “activism” for the following reasons.

1.  Anonymity is confusing and counterproductive.

More often than not, Facebook “awareness” fads do little but to obfuscate the actual issues at hand.  I’m sure it’s very easy for the uninterested observer to dismiss these awareness efforts as merely another Facebook trend akin to the Doppelgänger phenomenon last year without recognizing their meaning.  Sure, the bra color thing tangentially related to breast cancer.  As an astute male friend of mine remarked, “at least with the bra color thing the average guy only took about 10^-13 seconds to get from bras to breasts.”  But remember, first guys had to sift through and interpret the dozens of random colors to even realize what the colors referred to.

Not-so-obvious awareness tactic

The purse thing directly counters common sense.  If anything, this particular fad intended to conceal the issues.  The Huffington Post cited the trend as a direct effort “to leave men in the dark,” and the Washington Post said “men are not supposed to know what it means.”  So we’re raising awareness by intentionally excluding half of the global population?  Great idea!  One commenter captured the awareness divide perfectly: “Yeah, that’s a great way to get men on board with breast cancer awareness month…alienate them.”  It additionally dilutes the importance of the awareness message: while breast cancer among men is significantly less frequent, men have much poorer survival rates and outcomes due to misdiagnosis.  All the more reason for men to be aware.


Stanford goes to Court….

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Future site of the IP smackdown

…and not just any court.  The Supreme Court.

Just this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review an intellectual property case between Stanford University and Roche, a company that focuses on diagnostics and drugs for infectious diseases.

The case, entitled “Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University v. Roche Molecular Systems, Inc.,” will profoundly influence the way America assesses patent rights with regard to university and government funding.

Holodniy's work on PCR for HIV testing are the root of the controversy

The controversy stems from developments in HIV testing using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology conducted by Stanford fellow Mark Holodniy in the late 1980s.  Holodniy’s team relied substantially upon generous research grants provided by Stanford University and the National Institutes of Health, a federal agency.  When Holodniy joined Stanford as a Research Fellow in the Department of Infectious Disease in 1988, he signed a “Copyright and Patent Agreement” (“CPA”) that obligated him to assign his inventions to the university.  The next year, Holodniy began collaborations with local biotech company Cetus Corp.


The Search Virus: What Your Online Activity May Say About Your Viral Load

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Solve this riddle: Student A sits in Humbio 151: Introduction to Epidemiology (i.e. the study of disease outbreaks), listening to a representative from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) discuss how his organization conducts epidemic surveillance.  Student A’s eyes are drooping slightly due to sleep deprivation, a consequence of her participation in the hallowed “Full Moon on the Quad” celebrations the night before.  Between bleary-eyed blinks, Student A decides to Google “flu shots” and “become effective.”

The question: does this student have the flu?

Okay, let’s be real.  If I didn’t already lose you back at Intro to Epidemiology, you are probably thinking “WTF? That makes no sense” right about now.  You probably think you don’t have enough information to answer that question.  And that’s where Google comes in.

That’s right, it’s the G-word.  The giant Mecca of search engine has the answers again.

Let’s break it down.  Here’s what we sans Google know: Last night at Full Moon, Student A was likely exposed to massive quantities of bacteria, viruses, and a variety of scarring mental images.  Her Google search terms suggest that she only recently received a flu shot (I’ll give you a hint: it was yesterday) and she wants to find out if she is successfully vaccinated yet.  For those of you who might care to know, the flu vaccine takes approximately 2 weeks to kick in (it isn’t lookin’ good for Student A).

But here’s the missing link that the average blog reader doesn’t know but Google does: what is everybody ELSE searching online?

Allow me to introduce you to Google Flu Trends (also known as the hypochondriac’s newest enabler).  The brainchild of Google Insights (which tracks how the volume of specific search terms is distributed geographically, seasonally, etc), Google Flu Trends tracks certain flu-related search terms to estimate when and where flu outbreaks are likely to occur.  So, to solve our riddle, all you need to do is pull up Flu Trends in your browser, zoom in on California, then on San Jose (sorry Palo Alto, you don’t qualify with your puny population) and look at the predicted flu levels based on search terms.

BAM.  The reult?  LOW.  Seeing this, Student A does a victory dance in her chair, much to the displeasure of the CDC representative who is still talking to the class about lime disease outbreaks.

Blissfully ignoring her professor’s warning about applying statistical generalities to the individual, Student A breathes a sigh of relief.  Her poor planning and free-spirited promiscuity are unlikely to result in the flu any time soon (I’m aware all you statistics peeps are groaning in agony as this flawed logic, but roll with me here).


What is CCARE???

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

CCAREI was also among the crowd that gathered at Maples Pavilion this morning to hear the Dalai Lama speak about “The Centrality of Compassion and Human Life in Society”. It was mentioned that His Holiness had previously donated to Stanford’s “Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education” (CCARE) . His generous donation ($150,000 generated from book sales) was one of the largest he’s ever made to a non-Tibetan cause. Dr. James Doty, director of CCARE, comically told the audience that his first thought at the time was “Who am I to take the Dalai Lama’s money?”.

Not knowing anything about CCARE, I was curious about that same thing. (more…)


Thursday, September 30th, 2010

I know I’ve personally had a long week 2 of the quarter. Here’s a short list of things to get into around campus on Friday:

11Am-1PM The Fall Into Health launch party is going down tomorrow in White Plaza. Brought to you by Be Well Stanford, activities include free Jamba Juice, healthy snacks, and giveaways for the first 300 students.

Tony Foster

4PM Tony Foster, an artist who has experienced many extremes to create some beautiful work, will be at the bookstore tomorrow. He’s doing a reading/signing session for his book Painting at the Edge of the World: The Watercolours of Tony Foster.

The Art of Dislocation

5-7PM A reception is being held for Faisal Abdu’Allah’s exhibition “The Art of Dislocation” tomorrow evening at the Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery. His works will be on display at the gallery until November 14th. This is Abdu’Allah’s first major exhibition in the United States.

7-8pM You can learn some Indian recipes at “The Science of Ayurvedic Cooking”, a class that will run every Friday until December 3rd in the Bogota Room of the Graduate Community Center (750 Escondido Road). Explore “the connection between food, consciousness and happiness”. Don’t let the location deceive you; it’s free and open to everyone.

10PM-1AM After these wholesome activities, you can do all kinds of unhealthy things at Phi Psi’s Pajama Party, or merely observe the various ways PJs can be skankified. If I make an appearance, I’ll be in some nice footy pajamas.

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Last quarter, members of Dr. William C. Dement’s famous Sleep and Dreams class put a lot of work into a new website chock full of information about sleep. Getting a full, restful night’s sleep can be a lot to ask for on a college campus. The site offers information about the consequences of sleep deprivation and how to be healthier. There’s some cool information about sleep disorders and dreaming too. Some informative Outreach Projects are on there as well. Take a look, dispel some sleep myths, and learn how to be happier, healthier and less sleep deprived. Drowsiness is Red Alert!

Stanford Lit Up by Afroman

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

embedded by Embedded Video

Joseph Foreman, better known as Afroman, set the stage for 4/20 with a lecture on drug abuse in the Oak Lounge of Tressider Union. He discussed in his lecture two legendary anthems to contemporary counterculture, “Crazy Rap (Colt 45)” and “Because I Got High,” along with a host of other songs that explored similar themes. His symposium was originally supposed to take place outside of EBF but was moved to Tressider to accommodate the weather. The move at first raised fears that the expected crowd would not materialize. Nevertheless, the lounge was packed with eager participants by the end of the symposium, allowing Afroman’s words of wisdom to reach many keen Stanford minds.

The Perils of American Air

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

IMG_0168.jpg IMG_0170.jpg Students eating at Stern Dining received a mild shock this afternoon when several members of a large Japanese school group arrived for lunch in face masks. The group of about 50 students, visiting from Osaka, had been advised to wear the masks as a precaution against H1N1 influenza.
The swine flu epidemic has already hit Japan hard, causing at least 100 deaths (as of December 2009). Stanford, meanwhile, has experienced a number of reported cases but thankfully no fatalities; Vaden Health Center now has vaccines for people who need them. These circumstances seem to call into question why face masks would be necessary or desirable.
Perhaps the students couldn’t handle the fresh California air and sunshine after two weeks of rain….

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