Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Who Needs Maslow, Anyway?

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

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“The HAPPY LAMP has arrived!”
General hullabaloo ensued.
This was the enthusiastic arm-waving excitement generated by the arrival of the HappyLight Deluxe Sunshine Supplement Light System (as seen on the Martha Stewart Show). In that moment, all the gnawing predicaments of mundane daily life seemed to melt into the ethereal glow of therapeutic glow generated by 19-inch-by-13-inch frosted lamp pane.
No more hiccupy sleep disruptions, no more sluggish lethargy… No more sudden flares of unexplained annoyance… (No more awkward conversation starters and no more harrowing personal insecurities. No more being side-splashed by cyclists riding through puddles! Hell, why not shoot for the stars: no more IHUM readings! No more lines at the Axe and Palm! No more clumps in the dining hall breakfast oatmeal!)
SAD no more!
All hyperbole aside, however, I do sincerely believe that Seasonal Affective Disorder is an issue worth addressing. It’s not just a slightly pathetic, ironically amusing acronym. Campus culture at Stanford is notoriously chirpy and fast-paced. Thus, a lot of persisting concerns are submerged under choppy schedules that make students too busy to introspect. It’s ridiculously easy to feel guilty about operating on an emotional level even slightly less peppy than that of a pre-teen riding a sugar high.
What of the reports that peg U.S. undergraduate depression diagnosis rates at 14.9%? The 2005 Harvard Crimson revelation that 80% of its students were experiencing mental health problems?
A lot of the ways in which mood disorders/mental health issues are addressed appear ineffectual and gimmicky, it’s true. Bright yellow vitamin D pills and free-form doodling with crayons can hardly be described otherwise. But just as few academic resources are allowed to remain stagnant and underutilized (burgeoning ranks of residential tutors, the recent freshman inundation of the CDC’s Open House), campus well-being resources such as The BRIDGE and Vaden’s CAPS program should not be dismissed as irrelevant in times of dire need. But before I start to sound overly bland and blase (it’s really probably too late to remedy that), there’s always the kernel of real pleasure to found in taking a short walk in the bracing air between bouts of rain. Allow your brain to unclench from academic and extracurricular stressors at least a few moments each day.
It’s really incredibly difficult to give this kind of advice without sounding like a caricature of some peroxide-bleached shrink figure, I realize. But don’t worry… I’m just slightly dazed from the residual glare of the omniscient HappyLight deity, that’s all.

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Milky, Fizzy Water Comes to Stanford

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Back at home, I never had to worry about things such as water quality or scarcity. Living near one of the planet’s largest bodies of freshwater (Lake Michigan), I’ve never had much to complain about… at all.
So you can imagine my reaction to filling up my cup of water and seeing this (photo on right).
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This photo does not really do it justice. The water, as it comes out of the fountain, is almost entirely opaque. And it fizzes. Yes, like a crisp bottle of carbonated beverage. Researching a bit, I found a section in the Winter Housing Newsletter that said the following:
“The Stanford Utilities Division has alerted us to expect a change in the drinking water quality between December 28th, 2009 and February 19th, 2010, due to a change in water source during this period (from Hetch Hetchy reservoir to local drinking water storage reservoirs). Because of this change in source of water supply and treatment process, you may notice a different taste and milky appearance to the water. The water meets all State and Federal Standards.”
Hearing other people in my dorm grumble, and thinking a bit more about this, I ask myself, can we really complain? This change in water quality may be a bit disconcerting (a rudimentary Google search could probably put you a bit at ease). Water today, after all, is scarce. We should probably consider ourselves lucky to have unrestricted access to drink clean (albeit milky) water. I guess it’s not so bad.

TUSGraph: Is joy a bacteria or a virus?

Monday, January 4th, 2010

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I love being back at school, but I swear in class today all four people around me were coughing simultaneously. Stanford dorm life after a break is like some sick medical experiment. I appreciate how many different countries Stanford students come from, but it means we’re exposed to the worst diseases from all over the world.
As you might have inferred, I’m suggesting a one week quarantine period, where classes and all social events are conducted via Skype. Until then, if you worked with diseased cattle in Kazakhstan or something, do me a favor and STAY AWAY FROM ME.

REUSE.stanford.edu and REFUSEpact.org

Monday, October 5th, 2009

We have a disposable society. We love using things once or twice and then throwing them into pits in the ground. Cups, plates, gloves, hats…you name it. Perhaps this tendency towards the disposable is a reflection of our transient, liminal, earthly nature. Everything dies – everything, even our species, will be eventually “disposed of.” But more likely our love of the single serving is a sign of our inability to grasp the scale of our disposable lifestyle.
We are producing sterile, unusable trash outputs faster than we are receiving inputs from our planet. The scales are off. Units are wrong. We’re headed for trouble.
Luckily, a few simple changes in lifestyle can change our trajectory.
Try reuse.stanford.edu the next time you need something for your dorm room. Welcome to the craigslist of Stanford! Bulletin boards, desks, chairs and refrigerators abound. A sweet resource. And let’s face it, used stuff is super trendy right now.
Furthermore, if you’re feeling really saucy consider refusepact.org. This Stanford-produced idea is simple: refuse to use disposables. Bring your own plate/containers/silverware to those wonderful info session lunches. I know I go to them for the free food and am always dismayed by the predominance of flimsy disposable plates/forks/knives that are bound straight for the landfill with my saliva still on them. Join me in refusing disposables and bring your own! Feel nerdy or awkward bringing your own supplies? GET OVER YOURSELF. You are on the cutting edge of a snowballing trend. Be a role model and suck it up.
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Buy Your Own Drinks: A Warning of the Mindset of Justification

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

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This summer I read a book that shocked me. It made me realize that I, an intelligent female, had put myself in situations where I could have been date-raped. And before I read the book, I never even realized how close I could have been. Now perhaps I’m slightly naive- but honestly, until it happens to you or your friend, who isn’t?
I was lucky- I wasn’t one of the unfortunate women who said no and were ignored. But I want to share with everyone “The mindset of justification” that can lead some men into date-rape. Without remorse. Without regret. Without recognizing that they did anything wrong.
The following are sections of the book I read- How Dangerous Men Think. This is from the date rape chapter. (Note- the book was written in Australia, so some of the words are a bit foreign- like lift instead of elevator)
“I remember interviewing a young guy under arrest for the rape of a young woman he had met at a nightclub earlier in the evening. To my surprise he was quite happy to talk about the events of the evening, even to the point of admitting that he had had intercourse with the young woman in question when it was quite clear that she didn’t want him to. In an attempt to defend his actions he told me he had been invited back to the woman’s place, that he had been buying her drinks during the night and had even paid for the taxi. He added that they had already had sex once that evening and that about an hour later he wanted to do it again, but she wasn’t so keen. He told me she “wasn’t so keen” because she was yelling and screaming at him to stop and trying to push him off. I asked him what he did at this stage, to which he replied, that he held her down and had sex with her. When I asked if he could see the problem with that he said “mate, I’d been buying her drinks all night; I paid for the bloody taxi; we’d already done it once. Yeah she was saying “no”, come on mate, they all say “no” what’s the problem?” The “problem” was he had just admitted to committing sexual assault. The “problem” was he ended up going to prison for it. The “problem” was that he didn’t think he had done anything wrong”

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The Axe & Palm’s Hidden Calories

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Last year, Stanford Dining began publishing the menus and nutritional information of their dining halls on its website. Since I ate in Branner and Wilbur dining halls exclusively, reading the nutritional information of the foods Stanford Dining requires all dorm dwellers to purchase made me rather queasy. Each entree offered often approached 600 calories, and sometimes more. After totaling the calories and fat consumed during my average dining hall meal, I started substituting salads and cereal, resenting the fact that I was required to pay $10 each dinner to eat Raisin Bran.
I moved into a co-op this year and I thought my connection to Stanford Dining would be minimal, limited only to eating occasionally at Tressider, the Axe & Palm and Olives. After reading the Daily article about the Axe & Palm’s plans to renovate their menu with fresher alternatives, I wanted to look and see how healthy their menu truly is. After all, apart from the lack of vegetarian options, many of their salads, sandwiches, and breakfast items sound reasonably healthy and “Californian”.

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Looking at the nutritional chart was surprising. The Turkey Pesto Melt is deceptively over 750 calories and provides all of the protein you need in a day. A California Cobb Salad is 905 calories. Even not-completely-healthy menu items seem exorbitantly caloric. The Chicken Quesadillas are over 700 calories as well. The 50-50 Onion Rings and Fries Combo is reported to be over 1300 calories.
These food items, teamed with the many sweet offerings in the 400-800 calorie range, make a chain like Subway much more appealing. It’s possible that the caloric analysis of the Axe & Palm may not be completely accurate, but if this is the case, how can we be sure what truly is healthy?
What implications does this have for the students required to eat central to the Quad for classes? Is Stanford Dining irresponsible for offering such unhealthy food in the first place? Could this have implications for those with restrictive eating, or provoke this behavior in others by providing a sense that there is no such thing as a healthy meal at Stanford?

The War Against Bottled Water

Monday, October 15th, 2007

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Bottled Water- often considered a “healthy alternative” in very popular in the States- we currently drink about 8 million gallons of it each year. And while this bottled water is indeed healthier than drinking coke or pepsi, bottled water is incredibly bad for the health of our planet. And it turns out it may be bad for us as well. Several environmental organizations have declared war on bottled water, and are trying to show its ill effects on not only the planet, but also on us. The following is a recap of some of these problems.
Problem #1: it takes 3-5 times more water to create the plastic water bottle than will actually fit in the bottle. Considering each bottle should only be used once (to prevent the leeching of phthalates)- that is a lot of water that is wasted for each bottle we drink.

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Michael Moore Bitch Slaps CNN

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Before a live interview with Michael Moore on CNN, Wolf Blitzer runs a short video segment claiming that Michael Moore “plays loose with the facts” in his new documentary, Sicko. Boy did that make him angry. Check it out:

For Moore’s online rebuttal of CNN’s claims that he fudges the facts, see here. It’s quite well-cited and shows that CNN isn’t being very honest, either.
By the way, I saw Sicko and loved it — if not for its balanced treatment of the issue, then for being a reality check on the downsides of our system. And as an artistic piece, it’s priceless. I relished the absurdity of the scene where he sails to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with three ailing 9/11 rescue workers on a little dingy, demanding that the 9/11 heros get “some medical attention, the same kind that Al Qaeda is getting.”
“They don’t want any more than you’re giving the evildoers, just the same.”
Guantanamo Bay being, of course, the only place on American soil that provides free, universal health care.

Eco-Friendly Cleaning Part I (or how I was reducing to using vinegar and baking soda to clean)

Monday, May 21st, 2007

Every so often I’m going to review an eco-friendly cleaning technique for those of us who live in apartments and do have to clean them occasionally.
But first, how I was literally reduced to an eco-friendly method –
When you get married, inevitably the issue of a just division of chores arises, especially when one of you has a lower tolerance for dirt than the other. In my case, I’m the one who grew up with the belief that the bathroom sink should be routinely wiped down. In a trade-off for laundry (which I despise), vacuuming, and putting the dishes away my job is to clean the bathroom and the kitchen.
The problem – I live in married couples housing, in apartments in which some designer, in a fit of brilliance, decided that the bathrooms didn’t need ventilation. Lack of ventilation in the bathroom, especially when combined with the cheap vinyl shower curtain housing provides, is the perfect growing place for mold.
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Being Fat is Inherited

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

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This article in the New York Times really makes you rethink obesity. Researchers found that fat people who lost weight looked like skinny people, but were metabolically more like starving people. They also found that people who were adopted had fat levels closer to their biological parents than their adopted ones, disproving that environment is the main factor in obesity. The reverse was true too: they had skinny people stuff themselves to gain weight, and it took months to gain 20 lbs. And as soon as they were off the fat diet, they quickly lost weight.
Makes you think twice about muttering under your breath when you see an overweight person eating at McDonalds. They can’t really help it.