Friday, October 28, 2011

Understanding Unemployment

[Johnathan Clayborn]
There are some things that I read, and then later I have one of those "hey, wait a minute" moments. A few weeks ago I read an article in the Arizona Republic newspaper and then I had one of those moments. In summary the article said that in terms of job loss over a 3 year span, Phoenix was the third highest ranked city in the country.

What caused me to have the “wait a minute” moment was that I had recalled reading a different article a few weeks prior to that stating that Phoenix was one of the fastest growing cities in the country during that same time frame. This got me thinking; did we actually really lose jobs, or did we just not create enough jobs to meet the demands of the increased population? Those are two very different situations. Naturally, I decided to find out for myself.

One of the first questions that I had was about the population they were measuring. The article said that Phoenix was the 3rd highest ranked city in terms of Job loss. Did they mean Phoenix, only Phoenix and nothing but Phoenix, or did they mean the “Valley Metro Area” as it is known locally? The article wasn’t clear so I decided to investigate both.

The second question that I had was about the unemployment rate itself. The article gave no indication which unemployment rate they were going from, or where they had obtained that figure from.

First, I wanted to clarify “unemployment”. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are actually six different classifications of unemployment numbers. These are categorized as U-1 through U-6. When calculating employment and unemployment ratings they take the population and look at the people aged 16-65. This number constitutes the labor force, the total number of people who are of working age. For Arizona as a state for 2010 these numbers range from 6.3% unemployment (U1) up to 18.4% unemployment (U6).

There is a system that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has adapted to dividing and sorting people into each category. For the most part the “standard” unemployment number is the U3 category. One thing that I found very interesting between U3 and U4 is that if an employed person becomes discouraged and stops actively looking for work, then they are no longer counted as part of the U3 bracket. So, how does one qualify as a “discouraged worker” according to the BLS? They did not fill out a job application for four weeks. So, if someone is laid off, gets fired, etc. and does not fill out a job application for 4 weeks or longer, the BLS no longer includes them in their unemployment calculations.

In terms of population I decided to start with just Phoenix alone. I went back to 2000 and gathered population data until 2010. From 2000 to 2003 the population increased by at least 10,000 people every year. From 2003 to 2006 the population increased at least 20,000 people each year. In 2008 it only increased 9,000 people. 2009 saw an increase of roughly 150 people, and then in 2010 the population fell approximately 10,000 people.

There are a number of reasons why the population of Phoenix has stagnated and declined. Most experts attribute the largest bulk to the poor housing market. As so many people are finding themselves ridiculously upside down on their housing costs and owing two or three times what their home is now worth many are electing to walk away from their homes. One article in the Arizona Republic covered this very topic. As evidenced they offered the following facts; foreclosure numbers have skyrocketed, water hookups are down, trash collection has slowed, crime has dropped throughout the city, the number of calls to the police department has also declined. This is surely an indication that the people are gone, but does that mean that they have really left forever?

As any native knows, it’s not smart to do an analysis of Phoenix without also including the rest of the Valley in your figures as well. As a prime example, I work in Phoenix, but I live in El Mirage. Last year I lived in Glendale prior to moving out west. My primary motivation for moving? Economics. The housing was cheaper, and the crime rate was lower. Although Phoenix may be experiencing a slow in population, the West Valley certainly is not. A comparison of data from the 2000 census to the 2010 census shows that West Valley cities are booming. El Mirage, for example, exploded from a sleepy town of 7,600 people in 2000 to a busting town of 31,800. The population of Avondale more than doubled in that same time frame. The population of Goodyear more than tripled. The city of Peoria increased by 50%. And the small town of Surprise almost quadrupled in size. This seems to support evidence of a “reshuffling” of people in addition to general growth. Examinations of the population estimates from the Arizona Workforce Informer also seem to support that as well. Avondale showed a steady climb in population increase, but El Mirage did not. There were large spikes in 2001, 2002, and 2010. Peoria showed a spike in 2006. Surprise was another town that showed large population spikes from 2003-2007. To show that this phenomenon is not normal population expansion let us consider some of the other valley towns. During this same time frame the city if Tempe started at 158,600 in 2000 and reported 161,200 in 2010. Fountain Hills only showed a 2,000 person increase during the same time frame. Apache Junction only increased by 21 people. Cave Creek only increased by 1,287 people. The City of Glendale only reported a net growth of just shy of 8,000 people. Litchfield Park increased 1,666 people. Carefree increased only by 436 people.

Based on these numbers, clearly not every city within the valley was growing. Of towns sized between 2,500 people and 10,000 people only Buckeye, El Mirage and Queen Creek showed incredible growth. The town of Maricopa, which is officially in Pinal County, is another spot that people of Phoenix have flocked to. In 2000 that town was not even incorporated. By 2010 they had a population of 43,500. These towns are further away from the main city area and housing demand was low, so houses were inexpensive. They still are inexpensive by comparison today. Houses in my neighborhood have going rates of around $50 per square foot. Meanwhile houses in the neighbor around my work in downtown Phoenix are selling for around $120 per square foot.

Now that we understand a little more about the population situation, let’s go back to the original article again. The article says that the Phoenix area was one of the worst in a comparison of 50 metropolitan areas in terms of number of jobs from 2008 to 2010. By “Phoenix area” I can only assume that they mean the Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as that the term used by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Looking at the entire area, yes, there does seem to be a hit. According to the U3 unemployment category, numbers for this MSA have jumped from 5.3% unemployment to 9.2% unemployment. There was physical loss of about 70,000 jobs. But that’s not the whole story. From 2008 to 2009 the loss of 70,000 jobs occurred, in that one year alone. The next year, despite creating almost 9,000 jobs, our unemployment rate still continued to climb and we had an additional 5,000 more that were unemployed. To me, this speaks that the problem is two-fold. 1) Some companies that are providing jobs for the valley are leaving, closing down, or outsourcing jobs. 2) Not enough new jobs are being created to meet the demand of the increase in population.

It seems as though most of the news articles we read about unemployment are only reporting part of the problem. They throw vague numbers and figures out there that people don’t understand in an effort to get people to watch the news. It’s something I see all of the time “Is your water hazardous to your health? We tested Valley water supplies for a harmful chemical and we have the results, tonight at ten!” And then, of course, that’s the last story they show you and it turns out that there’s nothing to be afraid of after all. Do yourselves a favor, double check the facts for yourself. You don’t have to take everything you read or hear or see at face value. Too many people read something online and pass it along as “truth”. Wild conspiracies get started, outright absurd ideas (like shape-shifting aliens that have taken over the governments of the world) and just out and out lies. Not to mention those annoying “pass this email on” messages. Just because the news reports something doesn’t make it accurate.  

As always, don’t just take my word for it. Here are my sources:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween: An Unsafe Holiday?

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Over the last week or so I've heard several of my friends, coworkers and acquaintances talk about how “evil” or “dangerous” Halloween is.  I remember trick or treating as a child for many, many years and nothing bad ever happened to me. My own son is now of the age that he enjoys trick or treating as well. I keep hearing people say that the number of crimes has gone up and that Halloween is the most dangerous day of the year. With my own child partaking in the holiday festivities I had to wonder if there was any truth to these claims.

According to one study by researchers at the University of Oklahoma, Lynn University, and the Medical University of South Carolina, “There were no significant increases in sex crimes on or around Halloween, and Halloween incidents did not evidence unusual case characteristics.” The study further points out, “sex crimes against children by non- family members account for two out of every thousand Halloween crimes, calling into question the justification for diverting law enforcement resources on that day away from more prevalent public safety concerns.”

Regarding criminal activity on Halloween, theft and vandalism are particularly common. But, with so many teenagers and other people running around in the dark in costumes with their identity hidden, this is not really surprising. Almost of these are relegated to petty theft or property damage.

“On Halloween in 2008, we had a total of 59 calls,” said Sgt. Nathan O’Dell of the Blacksburg police. “In 2009 we had a total of 52 calls. Most of these were noise complaints from parties.” Noise complaints are certainly annoying, but hardly seem dangerous to me.

Officer Geof Allen, crime prevention and analysis officer for the [Virginia Tech] campus police said that in comparison to other days throughout the year, Halloween is barely different than any other day.

Several journalists and reporters have a theory about why these statistics are so scary. One journalist stated, “The concern for missing children resembles fears about other threats to children, such as child abuse, incest, molestation, Halloween sadism, and child pornography. In examining rhetorical tools used by child advocates when making claims aimed at raising public anxiety, the media’s role in transmitting these claims, and the public’s response to alarming statistics, the author contends that what is said about threats to children is subtly changed to fit the demands of journalistic and popular cultural formulas.”

But what about the satanic rituals and the killing of black cats? According to data from the ASPCA and other animal rights sources, there is a slight rise in animal abuse around Halloween. However, it should also be noted that the ASPCA says that these cases of abuse are for cats of every color, not just black. And they also say that animal abuse is a year round problem attributed to unruly and undisciplined children, not satanic cults. The myth of black cat sacrifices doesn’t have any specific origin, being attributed partly to druid priests, pagan Celts, and the early Christian church. Some sources say that the myth started more than 2,000 years ago. The long and the short of it is that this is a myth that has been long-perpetuated by stories and anecdotes with little or no empirical evidence to support it. Because the myth is so old and so well-known any suspicious animal injuries or deaths around Halloween are automatically attributed to satanic cults. Kim Hicks of the Arizona Humane Society has gone on record saying that Wiccans hold animals in higher regard than people and are not responsible for animal sacrifice. Instead she blames the teenagers. Or possibly those who dabble in the occult, but mostly teenagers. The notion that these are just wild tales told at Halloween are further supported by Dr. Leslie Sinclair, the Director of Companion Animal Care for the Humane Society of the United States. According to Dr. Sinclair, no shelter owner or operator that she has ever talked to has been able to cite solid numbers of animal sacrifices during Halloween. In 1996 she also assembled a team to scour newspapers from across the country for a period of time both before and after Halloween. They were looking for articles or cases of animal abuse, but they found nothing.

Another Halloween staple is the story of poisoned candy. Surely this has happened before. I mean, radio, TV and news agencies are encouraging people to go to malls and other social events instead of door to door, so this has to be true. In truth, this same song and dance has been played out for at least 40 years. To be fair, there were a few incidents that were initially reported as poisonings. However, upon further investigation they turned out to be something else. One of the most famous examples was the case of murder in Houston, TX in 1974. In this case the child died at 10pm on Halloween night after eating a Pixie Stick laced with Cyanide. What they didn’t tell you; he was killed by his own father who was seeking to collect the large life insurance policy. The boy’s father was convicted of the murder in May , 1975. Of course, this just shows that the legend has existed prior to 1974 or else the father wouldn’t have tried to use it to cover up his murder. There was another case in 1970 involving the death of another little boy whose candy was purportedly laced with heroin. According to the coroner’s report and the police investigation the boy found his uncle’s secret stash and poisoned himself with an accidental overdose. The family then laced the candy after the fact in an effort to protect the uncle. The list of cases goes on and on and on. All of them are unsubstantiated or falsely reported.

Now, there have been a few, and I’m talking about less than a half-dozen cases over the last 50 years, of people slipping needles and razor blades into candy. However, none of those cases resulted in any fatalities or serious injuries, with the exception of one person who needed three stitches after biting into an apple with a razor blade. After 50+ years of having millions of children trick or treat and only having 5 or 6 reported cases of this, that seems like a very low threat to me. For arguments sake let’s assume that there were 100 million trick-or-treaters across the country in the last 50 years. Having 6 reported cases is an absorbedly low amount of 0.000006%. Which means that it’s  99.999994% safe.

So why is this myth so hard to ignore? Several reasons. First, people love to tell a good story, and tragic stories are not only attention getters, but they get our adrenaline going. If not, why else would so many people frequent horror movies? Second, a lesson from educational psychology; the Law of Primacy. Basically, the principle here is that “whatever you learn first, you learn the best.” If someone tells you something, and then later someone tells you different or conflicting information, you are far more likely to remember the first stuff that you heard.

The one danger that is supported by evidence is that, according to the Center for Disease Control, “children ages 5 to 14 are four times more likely to be killed by a pedestrian/motor-vehicle accident on Halloween than on any other day of the year.” The reasons that they cite for this is due to children wearing dark-colored costumes walking at night, as well as children darting across the street in their excitement for more candy. Steps to take to make your children safer; walk with your children as they trick or treat and keep yourself between your children and the road, only cross the street at designated crosswalks and intersections, and in rural areas where there are no streetlights provide your children with flashlights and other reflective gear.

OĆ­che Shamhna Shona!

Don’t just take my word for it! My sources:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Precious Metals: Doom or Failsafe?

[Johnathan Clayborn]
There is a lot of talking going around right now. People are scared, stressed out, and unsure of their future. Individuals like Harold Camping are constantly predicating the end of the world. Others, who are somewhat less pessimistic, are heralding the complete and total collapse of the US economy.

The majority of the population, me included, is just unsure. Sure, the US economy is bad, but it can recover. Of course, our unemployment rates are at an all-time high (more on that in a later blog), so it could just burst completely. The burst of the housing bubble forced hundreds of thousands of home owners to walk away from their homes, saddling them with a debt that they cannot repay. Many of these people elect bankruptcy as an option, which prohibits the banks and other lenders from recovering their cash. As a result the economy is just taking a beating, and the hits keep on coming.

But, this particular entry isn't so much about the state of the economy in the country as it is about social psychology. For the most part the people who believe that the system will completely collapse in on itself fall into one of two major categories; the hoarder, and the spender. Both seem to think that they have a "foolproof" plan to allow them to survive any disaster situation, a possible economic collapse included.

The "hoarder" personality typically makes some pretty egregious oversights in their plan, but that's a discussion for another time. I want to really talk about the "spender". There are a number of commercials that I've seen recently on TV that are targeting this crowd. The basic concept here is "dump all of your money into Gold or Silver (or other precious metals) and you'll be guaranteed a safe investment and a secure future! I just have to shake my head when I see this, or I hear of people talking about this. It's folly.

In a stable market with good economic measures an investment in gold or silver may not be a bad idea. Buy it when it's cheap, sit in on it for a while, split your investment, watch it grow, and sell while it's high. Yes, you can come out on top financially if you are prudent. However, let's examine some of these follies.

1. Several of these "buy precious metals" programs don’t actually send you the gold. Instead you get a certificate "voucher" that says that you own the gold. If there really is some economic catastrophe, what good is it going to do to have a piece of paper that says that you own gold 5 states away?

2. Okay, so you physically have gold in your house. Now what? Let's be completely pragmatic for a moment. According to data from the USDA, many US households are "food insecure". In fact most households only have enough food on hand to last 3 weeks or less. So, hypothetically speaking, there is a total breakdown of the economic system. Money is suddenly worthless. Crowds will panic and rioting and looting will ensue. But that's okay, you have gold, you’re safe. Except, that of the 3 weeks of food you have saved up, probably at least half of that is in your freezer. And if you lose power? Okay, so you have some canned goods left. But the problem is that you can't eat gold. Data from the IRS shows that people spend between 55%-60% of their income on food. And if you don’t have any food and there is no food to go around, you can expect that food will be the valuable commodity, not gold (which is where the hoarders get into trouble). The point that I'm trying to make here is that instead of buying food, you've bought a chunk of metal.

3. Many of these "spenders" assume that they'll magically be able to buy exactly what they need with their gold and therefore, there's nothing to worry about. How wrong they are. There is no reason to believe that after a week or two Gold will still retain its value. Gold is an arbitrary thing. It only has value because we, as a society, have assigned it a value. There is no guarantee that it will continue to have value after an economic collapse. Money has not always been based on gold. In ancient Japan money was based on rice, and in ancient Mesopotamia it was based on barley. Other systems throughout the world have had money backed by; salt, tobacco, stones, steel, cigarettes, and other items. It seems likely to me, that in a metropolis area of over 3 million people facing a complete economic collapse, then the primary focus is going to be on food and water. There are not nearly enough farms nearby to feed everyone. Try to use gold to buy food when there are 3 million starving people roaming the streets, let me know how effective that is for you.

Another thing that the "spenders" fail to realize; even if gold does retain its value, what's to guarantee that you'll get to keep it or use it as intended? Suppose you find someone willing to trade goods for gold. You hand over your gold and he tells you to take a hike. Now what? Are you going to call the cops on him? Good luck with that. Are you going to take it back from him? I doubt it. These types of situations tend to evoke the worst in people. What's to stop them from just killing you and taking it from your cold, dead fingers?

These types of situation tend to bring out the worst in people. Don’t fall victim to the hype. Save your money. Many of these companies are just predators who are looking to make a quick buck by capitalizing on your fears. If you really want to survive a disaster situation make smart choices; vegetable seeds, hand tools, firearms and ammo, medical supplies, water purification tablets, etc. Basically, just gather the materials that you would gather if you were being dropped on the shore of a deserted island and you only had what you brought with you. Obviously, one would hope that it never comes to that....but if you are going to worry about the "end of the world" and the like, at least make smart choices about it.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Myths & Misinformation: Sugar

[Johnathan Clayborn]
One thing that people who know me well come to realize is that I have this incurable compulsion to state facts. I'm a very empirical person. To some people this comes across as though I'm showing off. To other people they feel like I'm correcting them. Still other people see me as a walking encyclopedia. If anything, it's more of the last one. And it's not necessarily that I'm correcting the person who stated the misinformation so much as it is that I feel the need to correct the misinformation itself. I cant help it. It's not just a habit, it's a deep rooted compulsion that I don’t think any amount "working on" will ever change. Most of my friends now either find it interesting, or they just completely ignore me. To say that this sometimes has an impact on my personal relationships would be an understatement. Yet, nevertheless, I can't stop. It's like it's an injustice to myself, to knowledge, and to all of humanity to allow the disinformation to continue to spread and I'm the only one who can stamp it out. I know, it's absurd. But at least I know I have that problem.

Why is all of this relevant you ask? Because now is one of those fact-correcting moments. I feel it welling up and I have to get it out. Halloween is less than a week away. In the last few days I have heard the same basic phrase over and over again. It's driving me crazy! For the record: there is no such thing as a sugar high. Yes, that's right. Sugar does not make people hyperactive, it doesn’t make them bounce off of the walls, and it doesn’t make them crazy. Sick to their stomach, perhaps, but it has no effect on a person's behavioral disposition.

"How can you say that?!? My mom and my grandmother both told me that! It's true!" Sorry, but no. It's not true. This myth was first dispelled (that I'm aware of) back in 1994 (more on that later). In 1999 Researchers conducted a study at Vanderbilt University involving 48 students. Those students consumed either high-sugar diets or diets with sugar-substitutes. Neither (substance) had any effect on the children's behavior.

"Okay, so you have one study that says that, big whoop." On the contrary, this has been a study that has been repeated numerous times over the last few decades. For the sake of space I'm not going to list them all here, but another notable example comes from 2002 by Dr. Richard Surwit, the Chief of Medical Psychology at Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Surwit was using sugar as a key component of a weight loss study. Not only did subjects lose equal weight on calorie-controlled high-sugar and no-sugar diets, he found no negative side effects. Dr. Surwit said, "Nobody reported any behavioral problems, any mood swings, any anxiety, any hyper-kinetic kind of behavior."

"I'm still not convinced." Okay, okay. How about this study from 2003? Researcher D. Murphy published an extensive article the Journal of Current Health (Oct., 2003). The article outlined many different types of sugars and their effects on the human body. Murphy goes on to say "Contrary to popular opinion, sugar does not cause aggressive or disruptive behavior in children. More than 400 children in 13 different studies showed no difference in their behavior when they ate a lot of sugar compared to when they ate very little sugar."

"I don't know, I still don't buy it." Okay, there was another study in 2008. This study originated at Indiana University and was published in the British Medical Journal (Dec, 2008). Dr. Aaron Carroll and Dr. Rachel Vreeman both conducted a series of studies on "holiday myths". When questioned whether or not sugar makes children hyperactive, Dr. Vreeman responded, "This is without a doubt false." Both doctors are Pediatricians at the Riley Hospital for Children. In their experiments they conducted 12 double-blinded, randomized, controlled experiments using different levels of sugar. None of these studies, not even studies looking specifically at children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, could detect any differences in behavior between the children who had sugar and those who did not." This includes sugar from candy, chocolate and natural sources. Even in studies of children who were considered "sensitive" to sugar, children did not behave differently after eating sugar-full or sugar-free diets. (This is also available in the book from St. Martin's Press: Don't Swallow Your Gum: Myths, Half-truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health.)

"But, my mom said..." Look. I get it. You've been hearing this all your life, but it's wrong. Take this other study from 2010. This report was published by the US News Service in Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. The report discusses mostly carbohydrates, however, it does go on to say "When it comes to hyperactivity, many people will point the finger at sugar. According to the American Dietetic Association, sugar is not the direct cause."

"Okay, okay. So if sugar isn't the cause of the hyperactivity, what is?" Great question. In some cases, such as the Air Force article, the researchers believe that the hyperactivity comes from children's natural hyperactivity due to the parties or festivities that are often associated with consuming a lot of candy. Murphy agrees with this assessment stating, "It may be the excitement of a birthday party or a holiday that gets kids "wired," not the sugar."

But, not all of the researchers agree. Dr. Surwit believes that hyperactivity may be attributed to Caffeine and other natural stimulants found in chocolate. To ponder Dr. Surwit's hypothesis I gathered some data on caffeine in common candies. Let's get some perspective first, a Monster Energy Drink (16oz) contains 160mg of caffeine. By comparison a cup of coffee contains between 100-150mg. A can of Coca-Cola contains around 35mg. Milky Way candy bars contain around 0.5mg per bar, while Hershey's Kisses contain 1mg each. Oreo Cookies contain 1.3mg each. One of my favorites, the Three Musketeers Bar contains about 2mg of caffeine. Reece's Peanut Butter Cups contain 4mg, Kit-Kat bars contain 5.9mg, and regular Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars contain 9mg. Each square of Ghirardelli Special Dark contains 14mg. A full bar of Hershey's Special Dark contain 18 mg of caffeine while Twix tops the list with a surprising 21.8mg.  Okay, so there may some truth to this as eating 2 Twix bars (four sticks) is about as much caffeine as a drinking a coke.

Even more surprising is that fact that there might not be any hyperactivity at all. In the original 1994 study researchers Daniel Hoover and Richard Milich conducted studies with their boys and their mothers. They fed one group of kids a drink with lots of sugar while they fed the other group drinks with no sugar. Some of the parents of the kids who had sugar were told that they had sugar, while others were not told. some of the parents from the other group were also misinformed and lead to believe that their children had consumed sugar, and the other parents were told that they had not. The results were that the objective observations by research staff resulted in no discernible changes in child behavior. The parents were also asked to rate their children's behavior. Without fail, the parents who were told that their children had consumed sugar (whether they had or not) rated their children's behavior as unruly, whereas the other group of parents rated their children as behaving normally (when in fact some of them had large amounts of sugar). In this case, at least it seems as though this s a clear-cut case of confirmation bias at work.

Also consider this study from the US Department of Justice. White sugar, a carbohydrate, contains tryptophan, a precursor on the neurotransmitter called serotonin. The more tryptophan crossing the blood/brain barrier, the more serotonin the body makes. Serotonin in turn induces sleep. Studies in the American military by Bonnie Spring showed that a breakfast or lunch high in carbohydrates reduced sustained attention as mood dropped and drowsiness ensued. Out of all the sugar studies with children, the most consistent finding was decreased activity after ingesting sugar. This contradicts the hypothesis sometimes called the “Sugar High”. This theory argues that children’s increased misbehavior in school after Halloween is due to their having eaten so much Halloween candy. Parents, therefore, act under a misconception when they restrict their children’s sugar intake in an effort to reduce hyperactivity. Causes of misbehavior and hyperactivity must be sought elsewhere than in sugar consumption.

"So, are you saying that I should just spoon feed my kid sugar?" No, not at all. There are still bad things associated with too much sugar; empty caloric intake, lack of nutritional value, and tooth decay among them. However, what I am saying is that sugar is not to blame for your child's misbehavior. In some cases it may be that you are electing to forego disciplining your child due to the social nature of the event, or it could be that the child is naturally excited, or as Dr. Surwit points out, it could be the caffeine. However, there's also the very real possibility that the misbehavior that's happening is in your mind.

And, one last interesting tid-bit as a side-note; honey is a not a good "natural substitute" for sugar. One teaspoon of honey contains six times more calories than one teaspoon of sugar.

And in case you were wondering, it seems, according to Dr. Surwit, that the myth of the Sugar High was WWII propaganda started by the US Army in order to conserve supplies for the war effort.

But, since I don't expect you take it at face value, so here's the sources that I used when writing this blog:
CARBOHYDRATES: BUSTING THE SUGAR MYTH. (2010, November 24). US Fed News Service, Retrieved October 24, 2011, from Research Library. (Document ID: 2196954981).
Ettkin, B. (2009, January 10). Indiana professors debunk health myths. Times Union (Albany, NY). Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
MEDICAL MYTHS FOR HOLIDAY SEASON: TRUE, FALSE OR UNPROVEN? (2008, December 19). US Fed News Service, Including US State News, Retrieved October 24, 2011, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1615371451).
Murphy, D. Sugar: How Sweet It Is. Current Health 2 v. 30 no. 2 (October 2003) p. 25-7
Fox, J. (1999). Myth-buster: does sugar make you hyper?. Scholastic Choices, 14(6), 4. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Vreeman, R. C., & Carroll, A. E. (2008). Seasonal medical myths that lack convincing evidence. BMJ: British Medical Journal (International Edition), 337(7684), 1442-1443. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Measurement of Success

[Johnathan Clayborn]
So, this isn't what I had in mind to talk about for my first  blog, but I'm not done researching the other topic and I felt compelled to write about this instead. The other day I read my friend Dulce's blog. She was talking about how much perception plays a role in our day to day lives, whether we realize it or not. Then, today I saw this image: 
The message here kind of struck a chord with me. My own life has certainly been more like the image on the right. I currently work in the behavioral health field and every day I see or hear of people who just have too much piled on and they have a breakdown. 

There are many ways that people measure success; wealth, health, power, respect. But I cannot help but wonder if those are truly measures of success. In the pursuit of any goal there are going to be obstacles and stumbling blocks that we will encounter. Some of these will be a mild nuisance whereas others will be far more problematic. I have seen people break down and cry simply because their car has a flat tire, and other people get laid off from their job and walk out with dignity and pride. I've always wondered what makes some people collapse under the slightest pressure while others seem almost unbreakable no matter what challenges are thrown at them. Some people fall into depression, or develop substance abuse problems in an effort to escape the problem. Other people on the other hand use the obstacles as a means of personal growth and development and rise up to meet the challenge. 

After studying psychology and behavioral health I've come to realize that this adversity is just another skill that people have. Some people have a natural ability for this and others do not. In that manner it's not too dissimilar to from playing basketball or running. I think that some people have an innate ability, and for those who do not they can learn these skills. 

Based on the trials and tribulations I have faced in my own life I think that I would qualify as one of those who is naturally suited to overcome challenges and rise above them. Some of the tricks that I employ to overcome difficult times are: 
1. Keep Calm - Bad things are going to happen whether you are ready for them or not. The trick to coming out on top is how you handle them. If you're in a panic induced state then you won't be able to think rationally or reason out what to do next. 
2. Prioritize - Make a list of things that you can do now, things will take a long time, and things that are completely beyond your control. Make a checklist of ordered events, and then focus on those events that are immediate. For example: In order to graduate with my Doctoral Degree I need to complete my dissertation, and before I can do that I need to finish my Master's and before I can do that I need to finish my Thesis, and before that I need to finish my Bachelor's degree. In order to do that I need to complete 11 more classes, including the two I'm taking right now. Each week I focus only on the assignments that are due for that class. After completing each class I review my list of objectives briefly, make any changes as needed and then zero back in on the immediate goals at hand. 
3. Manage Your Time Wisely - You will undoubtedly only have a limited time to complete some of your goals, so don't squander the time you have. Multitask, prioritize, and get help with large tasks. 
4. Know your limits - Some things you have the ability to control. Other things you do not. For example, you can't control whether or not it will rain, only what you will do when it comes down. 
5. Know your resources - Many people equate resources to money, but there are many more resources than that. Sometimes money is a resource, but so to is time, and knowledge. Friends are also a great resource to have. As people who know me have heard me say "you don't have to know the right answer off the top of your head, you just have to know where to go to find the answer". Sometimes the difference between failure and success is using the right resource. 

Some goals I've set for myself have not come to pass, and others may never come to pass. Personally I don't measure success by how much money I have, but rather by the fact that I'm still alive and drawing breath. In fact, I'm reminded of a quote by an ancient roman philosophy Pubilius; "anyone can steer the ship when the sea is calm". This is true, the true test a person is how they react when things don't go according to plan. No matter what life throws at you or how many obstacles you are faced with the only real difference between those who achieve their goals and those who do not is how determined you are keep your goals in your sights and keep working toward them regardless of what stands in your way. The tag-line of my email is in Irish, but when translated it reads "as long as I draw breath, I hope". It's my reminder to myself that although things may not have gone my way today, that wont necessarily hold true tomorrow. I can still achieve my goals and follow my dreams any time that I decide to act upon them.

Friday, October 21, 2011


[Johnathan Clayborn]
Hello everyone! I have quite a lot of ideas and topics that I want to disucss. I think that this going to be a fun little project, but right now I need to get back to work! I'll write more later.