Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Medicalization of Ordinary Life

When something goes wrong with a car or an appliance, or even the human body, the “instructions” for repair are often clear. However my guest argues that the manual that tries to define the parameters and terms of mental illness, is without that kind of scientific basis. He says that even an auto repair manual, much less a biology textbook, has more science than the DMS 5

Yet with the fifth volume of the DSM, and the concurrent explosion in psychotropic drugs, Doctors are relying on it, more than ever. In fact, it may actually be detrimental to taking care of our mental health.

Leading the criticism of DSM 5, is Dr. Allen Francis, a man who was one of the purveyors of the previous DSM 4. Part of his criticism is that we are over diagnosing and sometimes making normal into something that needs to be treated.

His book, recently out in paperback is Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life.

My conversation, from earlier this year, with Dr. Allen Francis:

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sit right down and write myself a letter

What might our knowledge of history be like if snapchat had been around in earlier centuries?

The good news is that it wasn’t. In a time when people wrote letters, not texts or emails, those letters got saved and later curated. Letters that give us little glimpses into personalities, history and the human condition at another time, in another place.

Shawn Usher, has devoted himself to being a curator of many such letters. He is the founder of the blog, Letters of Note and now that’s been turned into the book Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What caring and service really means

What would it take for you to give up your Western lifestyle, move to Ghana, live in a mud hut and commit yourself to helping thousands of lost children?

You would think that this kind of thing only happens in the movies, or in literature. That real lives are generally not a kind of fairy tail.

Not true. Lisa Lovatt-Smith did exactly that. She traded in her glamorous life in Paris and a glamorous life at Vogue for the experience of moving with her daughter to Ghana and trying to change the world.

She’s shares her story in Who Knows Tomorrow: A Memoir of Finding Family among the Lost Children of Africa.

My conversation with Lisa Lovatt-Smith:

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Language is Culture, Culture is Language

To achieve proficiency in a new language late in life is near impossible. But suppose you didn’t just want to learn the language, you wanted total immersion. You wanted to learn the culture, the origins of the language, to become one with the language. That’s what my guest William Alexander set out to do with French.

He wanted to be French and language was simply the vessel. But even with that kind of commitment, the effort almost broke his heart. He tells of that effort in Flirting with French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me, and Nearly Broke My Heart.

My conversation with William Alexander:

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Why Learning Beats Knowing

It used to be that the classroom prepared you for a career. Today your lifetime career is a classroom, where you must be continuously learning. In doing so, the horizons open up and opportunities abound.

The traditional straightjacket of education and career have been, like most things, disrupted. In it’s place, possibility and creative destruction..

Along with this comes a whole new way of doing business. A place, not unlike sports, where the newcomer, the rookie has an important role to play. Without Joe Panik, the SF Giants don’t win a world series.

In today business world, information isn’t siloed or hidden. It’s available for all, and it gives the rookie a more level playing field in which to work, bring new ideas and new ways of looking at the world.

This is the back drop for Liz Wiseman's look at Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work.

My conversation with Liz Wiseman:

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

We may be an insignificant and fleeting moment in time...and we know it

Conventional wisdom has long held that we live in a vast and indeed expanding universe, in which we humans are but a seemingly small and insignificant part.

But in that classic view, are we not giving ourselves enough credit? Perhaps we are more unique than we think. Perhaps we are not all that ordinary, on a not so ordinary rock in the vast cosmos.

Just maybe, that classic view, needs to be reexamined? That is what Caleb Scharf has done in his new book The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities.

My conversation with Caleb Scharf:

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Why Dreamers matter!

How often does a story leap off the pages of a magazine, to become a book, a documentary and a major motion picture? Very rarely. And when it does, it’s clear that the story it tells has touched a powerful nerve among readers and viewers.

Such is the story that Wired Contributing Editor Joshua Davis tells, of four underdogs from the streets of Phoenix, who, using Spare Parts would take on the best High School and College students in the country, including MIT with the resources of Exxon/Mobil.

My conversation with Joshua Davis:

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Friday, December 12, 2014

The best places to work

We’ve recently seen year end lists of the best places to work. Free food, massage, pets, and a beautiful campus are all contributing factors. However, research, behavioral analysis and science can also tell us what make a workplace effective, productive, and more innovative.

The famed management consultant Peter Drucker said that “culture eats strategy for lunch.” Affirming a long held conviction that the culture of a company, even more than its smarts or its products, drive its success or failure.
Part of that culture, built into the DNA of every company, it the work environments it provides its people.

That where my gust Social Psychologist Ron Friedman picks up the story in The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

The healing power of our pets

While the origins of the quote are sketchy, Harry Truman, frustrated by the problems he faced in the White House, is reported to have said that “if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

Today the same might be said of our pets in general, or in the politically correct parlance of the day, our companion animals. Be they dogs, or cats.

With all the talk about the amount of money spend on our pets, it’s easy to lose sight of the real power of our relationships with them. Sometimes exalted, sometimes mocked, the fact is that in a society where alienation is common, where complexity often rules, where self absorption defines a whole generation, those human/animal connections can be transcendent.

That’s the personal story and the connection that Lissa Warren writes about in The Good Luck Cat: How a Cat Saved a Family, and a Family Saved a Cat.

My conversation with Lissa Warren:

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

If you're afraid of Genetically Modified Food, you'll really be afraid of Genetically Modified Humans

During the recent Ebola scare, we were often reminded of the dozens of science thrillers that set the stage for our fears. From Andromeda Strain, to World War Z, The Stand and Hot Zone, to name a few.

Today, the cutting edge of genetic manipulation, often provides the basis for similar fears. The brave new world of Bioengineering, plays upon our most primal instincts of what makes us human.

Jamie Metzl a former member of the National Security Council,  has added his new thriller to this long tradition. Set against the worlds of politics, finance and religion, Genesis Code, takes its place in fuelling our paranoia.

My conversation with Jamie Metzl:

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Only satire can save us now

We live in an ironic age. The speed of modern communication, juxtaposed with the traditional entrenched problems we face, provides a disconnect that only humor can bridge.

Think about it this way. How often has humor engaged us to better understand tragedy? How long after certain tragedies, do we hear the first joke? Not out of disrespect, but out of a way to get our arms around something that our brains have trouble comprehending.

When David Letterman asked, after 9/11, if we would ever laugh again, he was going to the heart of the role humor and satire play in our society.

From Mark Twain to Will Rogers, from Mort Sahl to Stephen Colbert, satire has been a translator of the American experience.

Sophia McClennen dishes it up in Is Satire Saving Our Nation?: Mockery and American Politics.

My conversation with Sophia McClennen:

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production

Even amidst the concerns about the impact of cattle on global warming, the disgrace of industrialized farming and slaughterhouses, and the increased worldwide population that has sworn off beef, it’s still very much a part of our diet.

And perhaps it should be. But is there a better, more sustainable, more humane way to process that beef and bring it to market?

In what too often seems to be world of black and white thinking, can we find a middle ground? A way in which beef is healthy, sustainable, humane and actually good for us and the environment? Nicolette Hahn Niman thinks so. Her book about what she has discovered is
Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production

My conversation with Nicolette Hahn Niman:

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