Monthly Archives: January 2012

Suicide and the 2012 Prophecy

Is there reason for concern as December 21, 2012 rapidly approaches?  I’m not talking about the end of the world as we know it, or even the Mayan calendar that is said to end on that date (although how a round calendar can end is beyond me).  It’s the perception of eminent world destruction that has me worried.  I’m concerned that with all the predictions, the sensationalism, the bad Hollywood movies, and the not knowing will cause some people to panic.

When Harold Camping predicted the rapture, it didn’t surprise me that there wasn’t a huge increase in suicides around the predicted date.  After all, his warnings had a Christian lean to them, no matter how twisted.  Of course people weren’t going to want to commit suicide right before the big date; it would have been breaking a huge Christian taboo right before the final exams, so to speak.  There was, however, one suicide by a young girl who feared being left behind.  She killed herself on the predicted day of destruction.  Camping should be ashamed of himself.

When Y2K rolled around (you do remember that little bit of panic, right?), it was predicted that there would be mass suicides on New Year’s Eve 1999.  In fact, there was talk of suicide parties with Jim Jones’ punch recipe, or murder/suicides as the new year was rung in.  Not surprising, none of this happened.

Now, with 2012 looming up and everyone offering an opinion about what’s going to happen, from new age gurus to NASA scientist, the warnings about suicides have once again started to surface.

It is doubtful that there is any validity to the fear of increased suicides as we approach 12/21/2012, certainly not mass suicides, but there is still the possibility that on a person-to-person basis, the fear of 2012 could be the tipping point.

The difference here is the predictors of mass suicides are talking about otherwise rational people – people who are not depressed – killing themselves because of a calendar that is thousands of years old.  I’m talking about people who are already depressed or mentally ill being pushed over the edge.

Either way, it’s important to keep an eye out on at-risk folks and learn to recognize the signs:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness.
  • Talking about suicide.
  • Planning suicide (i.e. buying a gun or researching poisons).
  • Setting one’s affairs in order (giving away personal items).
  • A sudden reversal of depression (many times, when a person has made the decision to die, he becomes happier, his mood lighter, because in his mind there is an end in sight).
  • Loss of interest in things that once brought happiness or joy.
  • Saying good-bye (visiting relatives and friends one last time).
  • Withdrawing (wanting to make the “break” easier).
  • Becoming reckless or careless with one’s own life.
  • Increase in substance abuse.

If you see these signs in a loved one, please do not hesitate to call a professional to take him or her in to the emergency room.  Trained mental health professionals are available to help assess and diffuse the danger.

If you are having feelings of suicide, please talk to someone you can trust or take yourself in to the emergency room.  Most likely the cause of these suicidal feelings (a change in brain chemistry, a change in living situations or other personal issues, the loss of a loved one, or even the fear of a doomsday prophecy) are temporary, and help is available to get you through the rough patch.  There’s no sense in taking a permanent step for a temporary problem.  The last thing I want is for your family to have to call my company in to clean up.

Take care of yourselves and one another.  I predict I’ll be seeing all of you in 2013!

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I most certainly have . . . all the time, in fact.

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TO GRAY OR NOT TO GRAY

 

I spend a lot of time around men who work very hard to keep their bodies looking good, looking much younger than their counterparts.  They say they do this for their health, for their strength, so they can be the ultimate machines; not for aesthetics. 

 

Let’s quit kidding ourselves, shall we?  Every last one of them stand in front of the mirror after a good pump, looking at biceps, searching for that gun, lamenting their lack of gluts or chicken ankles.  This is all secret, of course.  But we all know they do it.  Hell, we ALL do it.

 


Recently a friend posted a picture of an elderly man with a slamming body (seriously; rock hard abs, the whole deal), but an old man’s face.  The caption of this picture, or course, had nothing to do with the fact that it just didn’t look right, the old man’s face with the 20-year-old pool boy body; it had everything to do with “it’s never too late to get in shape”.   Fair enough.

 


The picture couldn’t keep me from wondering, though, what nursing homes are going to look like in 30 years.  People talk about the geriatric wards in the upcoming years being filled with elderly women with sagging faces, wrinkles, hunched backs . . . and still perky implants.  What, I say, about these men with Jack LaLanne bodies and Wilfred Brimley faces?  A little nip and tuck can take care of the wrinkles, and I suppose Miss Clairol can take care of the gray hair.  Let’s face it, though, these are men who work long and hard to achieve those beautiful bodies.  They actually work out to get that way (as opposed to injecting themselves with steroids to give the appearance of large muscle), watch what they eat (often eating tasteless, rubbery food because seasoning has “too many calories”), take supplements at exactly the right time, drink protein shakes after their workout to replenish the muscles, and watch their BMI carefully.  They’re not going to want to put those chemicals in their hair.  Plus, men can be so vain at times; they would NEVER want to admit they colored their hair.


I decided to research the subject.  What causes gray hair in the first place?  I thought it was just that the hair follicles get old, “tired”, and stop producing the melanin that gives color to our hair.  This seemed to make sense, since all your hair doesn’t go gray at once.  It seems that follicles fade away one at a time, in their own good time.  Sort of like people.

 

Well, I don’t say this often, but I was wrong.  Apparently, there is an enzyme produced in the body called catalase.   Catalase breaks down the buildup of hydrogen peroxide that occurs naturally in our bodies.  As we age, our body slows its production of catalase.  Now, catalase is some really cool stuff.  It changes the hydrogen peroxide in our bodies into water and oxygen.  This shift from water/oxygen-rich components in our bodies to hydrogen peroxide might explain a lot more than graying hair as we age; it might explain our skin drying out and wrinkling, the texture change of our hair, how well our organs function; anyone who’s spent any time at all bodybuilding or trying to lose weight knows the importance of water in how well we function, and anyone who has every smoked can attest to how precious oxygen is to our wellbeing.  And never mind the implications of catalase production in premature aging diseases such as progeria.   That’s just mind-boggling.

 

But I digress.  We were talking about graying hair, and how to avoid it without resorting to hair dyes.  What?  Impossible?  Nope.  Believe it or not, science has found a “cure” for gray hair, and it has already been bottled and exploited.  You see, when catalase production decreases, hydrogen peroxide builds up and essentially “bleaches” the hair as it grows.  This is why we gray.

 


Say hello to “Go Away Gray”, a product that claims to have catalase, and therefore should keep the peroxide from bleaching out hair as it grows out.  I know, crazy, right?  Essentially, this company has taken the enzyme that is naturally produced in the body, bottled it, and has sold it successfully to the public.  Reviews are mixed, but most lean towards the “save your money” take on the product.  Many people have reported some reversal of graying, but have to continue taking the pills to keep up the catalase levels.  Others say it’s a great supplement for making hair thicker and stronger, regardless of the color.   Some say not to bother with it at all.

 

On a more scientific front, L’Oreal has developed a pill, which is due to be released in 2015, that will stop hair from graying ever.  The catch is you have to take it every day for 10 years before you start graying, and continue to take it for the rest of your life.  Little too late for me, I’m afraid.

 

For every manmade remedy, there’s a natural counterpart.  There must be a food out there that has catalase, tastes yummy, and has the same benefits, right?  Good news!  There are foods that contain catalase and break down the peroxide in our bodies!  The bad news is these foods are on most body builders/health nuts’ no-no lists:  Beef liver (filled with toxins), potatoes (not paleo), and carrots (carbs).  There is, however, catalase in dark fruits, like blueberries, plums, and black grapes, and all these fruits are rich in antioxidants, but eating them in the quantity needed could result in a different problem; diarrhea.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be in the room when someone on this new anti-aging diet of blueberries decides to power lift . . . .

 

Onward and upward.  Next!

 


Since there’s nothing new under the sun, there must be some herb or fungus, or something, with catalase.  And there is!  Picrorhiza Kurroa is an herb that grows in the Himalayas.  It looks like a weed, something you’d pluck out of your garden to keep from choking your tomatoes, but apparently it’s well known in the Ayurvedic circles as being quite the antioxidant/cholesterol-lowering/hair-fortifying/anti-constipation herb.  Hmm.  Might be worth a try.  Too much, though, and it too can cause diarrhea:  Again, not a condition conducive to lifting heavy weights or grappling, and power squats would just be downright embarrassing.

 

I don’t give up easily, though.  A few minor setbacks never deterred me.  My research finally brought me to a wonderful herb with an even better story behind it, Fo Ti.

 

Fo Ti is a root that is used in Chinese medicine.  The other name for it is He Shou Wu, which translates to “black-haired Mr. He”.   Apparently, poor Mr. He wanted children very badly, but at the ripe old age of 58, he had yet to father a child.  An herbalist recommended he take Fo Ti to help his fertility.  Not only did he father many children after starting the herb, but his hair reversed its natural gray color and became black.  His body became more youthful, and he went on to live another 102 years!  One of his children, while not living as long as his father, still managed to celebrate 130 birthdays. 

 

Some of the benefits of this herb, besides longevity and reversal of graying, are said to be increased fertility and vitality, decrease in joint pain and cholesterol levels, and reduction in arterial plaque.  In other words, it reverses most problems associated with aging, including erectile dysfunction and impotence.  Sounds too good to be true. 

 

It is.  It seems it, too, can cause diarrhea.  There’s just no way around it.

 

My conclusions are that guys basically have 2 choices (3 if you count hair dye):  You men can either walk around with a Brad-Pitt-in-Troy body and a James Whitmore face, or you can take the herbs and pills, eat the liver and potatoes, and have a youthful face, but the Jared-before-Subway body, and really, really cleaned out bowels.

 

But then again, given the perkiness of the next generation of women in nursing homes, the body that won’t quit might come in handy a little more so than the hair that won’t grow gray.

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WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN YOUR NEXT DOJO

Choosing a martial arts school can be a daunting task.  There are so many factors to consider, and asking friends will just get you a mishmash of different responses.  Everyone is loyal to his or her own school, or should be, and of course will recommend it to anyone who will listen.

If you do a quick search on line, you’ll find a million blogs on how to choose a dojo, and most of them say the same thing.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to add an aspect or two not already addressed in other articles.

So, at the risk of repeating what has been said many times before, let’s begin:

  • Let’s start with the obvious:  Ask friends and family which schools they would recommend.  Watch for falling mishmash.  Still, you never know where you might find a gem of advice.  Your coworker may appear dull and clumsy, but in reality could be a red belt in Kung Fuand you just never knew it, so ask around.  More important, once you get a firm, “You really need to try Acme School of Martial Arts”, ask why.  Insist Wiley Coyote tell you specifics on why Acme is better than all the others; is it the instructors’ charm, the specific style, location, ease of parking?  What you think of as important may not be what others think of as important, so if easy parking is an issue for you and it’s not brought up in the list of school attributes, ask.
  • Do a web search and see if there have been any complaints about the school you’re considering.  There are a lot of fly-by-night schools out there, so do your research.  Check with the Better Business Bureau, as well as general martial arts forums and webazines.
  • Decide what style you want to study, and if undecided, visit a variety of schools.  Most schools will offer a free class or two, so take full advantage of those offers and see what catches your interest.  Keep in mind the differences between schools and styles, and even between schools teaching the same style.   Remember that some schools really aren’t teaching what they advertise.  For instance, a kick-box fit class is not kickboxing; but rather a fitness class that incorporates some kickboxing moves into their routine.
  • What are you after in a martial art?  There are so many possibilities:   Fitness, versus self-defense, versus discipline, versus breaking boredom:  Are you looking for the discipline of a traditional martial art, or the real-life application of a combat form of fighting?  Maybe your goal is to participate in martial arts exhibits and competitions.  If so, there are many forms, such as HaganaH and Krav Maga, which would not be the ideal style for you to learn.  Perhaps you’re more interested in entering the Octagon; then you’ll need a good MMA school.   In fact, a good way to find a worthwhile MMA school is to go to cage fights and find out where the winners study.
  • This is often overlooked, but is extremely important when choosing a martial arts school:  Determine your fitness level!  If you’re older or in obviously poor shape, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to bring in a medical release before you can attend classes.  Everyone, regardless of fitness level, will be asked to sign a waiver so the school won’t be responsible if you get injured.  Don’t let this deter you; it’s standard operating procedure.   If you have injuries, old or new, make sure the form of martial arts you choose is one you are physically capable of performing.  Talk to the instructor and make sure he or she knows about your restrictions.  A lot of instructors like to push their students to their limits, which is a good thing, but if you are physically incapable of performing a move, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for an alternate exercise.  If the form you were hoping to participate in proves to be too difficult with your limitation, then you may have no choice but to find something else until you are able to do more vigorous activity.  Tai Chi might be a good starting form (and please, by no means consider this a statement that Tai Chi is “soft” or “wimpy”, it’s just easier on the joints).
  • Find out if the school you are interested in is affiliated with a larger organization and is accredited.  I can’t tell you how many ninjitsu schools I’ve seen that have no official affiliations whatsoever.  Anyone can open a school and call themselves a ninja!
  • Check the school’s turnaround rate.  If they have a lot of students rotating through, there might be a problem.  Of course, all schools will have some sort of turnover rate to some degree or another.  A lot of people are testing the waters.  Some people are determined to take a martial art, but once started, decide to give up.  Some schools teach in cooperation with local colleges and universities, so what appears to be a large turnaround rate is actually the end of the school semester.
  • Talk to the students at  your proposed new school.  How fast did they level up through the ranks?  If a student goes in a white belt and 6 months later comes out a green belt, then you’re probably looking at a belt mill; a place not worth your time.  They basically sell their belts.  I once watched a competition, semi-full contact, between brown belts in Karate.  One of these brown belts was self-promoted.  It wasn’t pretty.  Suffice it to say he was conscious when he left the competition, but he was also crying.  My point is while it might be fun to say you’re such-and-such belt, if you haven’t earned it, then the knowledge behind that belt isn’t there.  You’re nothing but a white belt with the money to buy his way to a higher rank.  It’s meaningless.
  • Observe several schools and styles, as long as it’s okay with the instructor.  Observe quietly and respectfully from the sidelines.  Follow school etiquette.  In most dojos it would be expected you take off your shoes when entering the school.  If, for whatever reason, you’re asked to step up onto the mat, bow as you step onto the mat and as you leave, as well.  That particular school may not hold to those customs, but it won’t hurt and will show the proper respect for the school.
  • Watch carefully how the instructor addresses his students.  Is he respectful to his class?  Does he belittle the students when they are having trouble performing a move?  Is he the chief instructor or a student instructor?  If he’s a student, how often does the chief instructor participate or oversee the school?
  • Location, location, location:  If classes are 3 times a week, then traveling 50 miles each way would probably not be the ideal situation for you.  Of course, if you’re dead set on a particular style, and it’s taught in only one location near you, then you take what you can get; however, this doesn’t guarantee that the schools is worth the drive.  If you can’t find a nearby school teaching your chosen style, consider cross-training until a school opens in a more convenient location for you.  If you’re interested in Krav Maga, for instance, but can’t find a school nearby, perhaps you can train in BJJ while you’re waiting for a school to open.  Considering MMA?  While you’re waiting, Muay Thai might be just the thing, or even traditional boxing.  In fact, whether you find your ideal school or not, cross-training is always a good idea.  Some styles are very strong in punches and kicks, but weak on ground work, or the other way around.
  • Does the school you’re considering conduct seminars and workshops that include other schools and welcome everyone?  Do they participate in events sponsored by other schools in the area?  You don’t want a school that is elitist, but rather one that participates in the martial arts community overall.
  • Do the students at the school you’re considering appear happy?  Remember Karate Kid?  It can be helpful to watch a children’s class and see how the instructor interacts with the students.  Are the kids enthusiastic and eager about attending class?  Are the instructors teaching appropriate material for the age group?  This can tell you a lot about the school itself.
  • Be sure to check full costs of attending, not just the price of the class itself.  Most schools require a uniform, which you will have to buy.  You might need to purchase personal equipment like a mouth guard, groin cup, and even gloves or wraps.  You might be charged the monthly fee, plus an additional fee for testing or a yearly fee on top of the monthly.  Get all the details in writing before you sign any long-term contracts.
  • Finally, if you can’t find what you’re looking for locally by way of a school, you might want to consider private lessons.  Check the newspaper or your local Craigslist.  While private lessons are more expensive, the advantage is that you get one-on-one training.  Be very careful about who you train with, though.  Make sure this person is certified to teach your particular form of martial arts, and check around to make sure the fee is reasonable for your area.

There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding to study martial arts.  Between choosing a style, finding the school, interview instructors, and buying equipment, it’ll seem that the details are getting in the way of the work, but trust that taking these steps will help insure that you have a good experience with the school you ultimately settle on, and continue to study the arts for as long as you can.

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