August 25, 2011

We must be the adults…

Posted in Between Us column, Politics at 6:49 pm by dinaheng

When I was in junior high school, I had a secret desire to be Student Council president. Being an Asian-American female in a majority white school, however, I knew I’d never get elected. So I ran for Student Council Treasurer (or was it Secretary?) and won.

It was fun having the illusion of being in a powerful position, even though we knew that the adults really ran the school and could veto anything we did before we thought to do it. While we could debate any issue we liked, the adults kept us aware that we weren’t really the ones in charge.

In many ways, we’ve failed as adults to do this with our elected officials. We send lots of mixed messages about what we want, and then we get mad when we don’t get everything we want.

It’s time for rational people to tell Congress that their job is to make the kind of decisions that will fix the economy and build bridges between a divided electorate, not just posture and pontificate over their differences. Taking back our country is not a matter of fighting political battles — it’s a matter of working together to solve common problems.

An interesting chain letter floating through cyberspace hit my in-box this week. I don’t know who originally wrote it, but like most political proposals, it has both valid points and ideas that not based on fact. I’ve tucked some observations in parentheses after some of the  points.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever worked…

The 26th Amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months and 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971… before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven took one year or less to become the law of the land… all because of public pressure. This is one idea that really should be passed around.

Congressional Reform Act of 2011

1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

2. Congress — past, present and future — participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

(Members of Congress are already required to participate in Social Security. They receive retirement and health benefits under the same plans available to other federal employees, and pay a percentage of their salary into the Federal Employees’ Retirement System and in Social Security taxes. Those elected prior to 1984 were covered by the Civil Service Retirement System. I could see moving Congressional members out of the FERS, but would keep the fund itself intact for federal employees until Social Security as a whole is examined and resolved.)

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3 percent.

(In actuality, pay raises in Congress are automatic under the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990, so Congress must act in order to prevent cost-of-living raises from taking effect. Members froze their pay at 2009 levels for 2010, and President Obama signed a bill preventing cost-of-living adjustments from taking effect during fiscal year 2011.)

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

(Congressional members are allowed to purchase private health insurance offered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which covers other federal employees, retirees and their families. It’s not a government-run program and it’s not free. Like many large companies, however, the government pays a large share of the cost of coverage, and many members don’t want to disclose that they participate in these plans while they campaign against similar health care options for the rest of us.)

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.”

I totally agree that serving in Congress is an honor. Whether it’s a career anyone could  succeed at is another matter.

Leadership roles are assumed in many ways. Some people are elected to political office. Others are appointed to positions because of their political savvy. Some take charge when no one else will.

Clearly, the nation is getting fed up with a dysfunctional legislature. If we are to hold Congress accountable for its actions, then we must be the adults and remind the politicians — and each other — of this reality…

To solve any problem, we must all work together.

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August 18, 2011

Neurac aids in physical therapy

Posted in Between Us column, Health at 6:51 pm by dinaheng

After several months of ignoring an ache in my left arm, I finally gave in and went to see the doctor. An MRI showed bursitis and a possible tear in the rotary cuff of my left shoulder, so the prescribed treatment was physical therapy.

My physical therapist, Megan Bishop, used traditional methods like strengthening exercises, manual muscle therapy and massage, and also introduced me to a new treatment that’s just beginning to be recognized in the United States.

Neuromuscular activation (Neurac for short) is a therapeutic exercise developed in Norway that uses Redcord equipment — a collection of red-colored cords, loops and slings — to put the patient in positions that concentrate on the weak muscles that need strengthening. The exercises are pain-free because the cord-and-sling setup supports you as you work.

“We were exposed to Neurac about three years ago,” says Gabrielle Shrier, a physical therapist and one of the owners of Core Conditioning, which has two locations in the Los Angeles area. “It was different than anything else we’d ever used, and we’ve seen some amazing things with it. It’s a state-of-the-art technique that’s gotten good results with patients.”

Shrier says on the evaluation level, the Neurac method helps the physical therapist to easily find the muscles that are not working correctly.

“In treatment, you’re able to off-load some of the body weight so that you can train the muscle to function at the level it can, then slowly add body weight to get the muscle strength back, “ she adds. “It takes away the compensatory pattern you develop when you’ve had an injury.”

Each time Bishop put me in the Redcord setup, I could feel muscles working that I’d never been aware of before. I also smiled inside at the bright red cords themselves. The color red is thought to be the color of good luck, or vibrant life, in Chinese feng shui, an energy vibration that the Norwegians must have been in synch with when they designed the equipment.

It’s not easy for new treatments to gain acceptance in any medical community. Michael Leonardi, who runs the distributorship for Redcord in the United States, says while the Neurac method has been widely used in more than 30 countries for decades, it’s just  starting to gain a foothold in America.

According to Leonardi, the new treatment system is used in hospitals such as Beaumont Hospital in Detroit and the University of Michigan Hospital System in Ann Arbor, as well as at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center.

“Neurac has value in both the rehabilitation and fitness industries,” Leonardi says. “It’s a way for rehabilitation professionals to create wellness programs through functional exercise. It’s a continuum of care, and a great conduit between rehabilitation and fitness.”

I’ll be happy when my arm no longer bothers me, but it would be nice to keep working on Redcord. It’s not often that you look forward to exercising on equipment that just makes  you smile.

 

August 9, 2011

‘Honeymoon’ leads to love

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Movies, Relationships, Television, Women at 10:06 pm by dinaheng

There’s nothing like a little heartache to make you stop in your tracks… or run away on a “Honeymoon for One.”

In a new Hallmark Channel movie, airing Saturday, Aug. 13 at 9 p.m. Eastern, Eve Parker, a high-powered advertising executive played by Nicollette Sheridan, discovers that her fiancé Greg (Patrick Baladi) is a cheating cad. Heartbroken, Eve cancels the wedding, and on an impulse, decides to go on their planned honeymoon to Ireland without him.

What she discovers, of course, challenges her sense of self, and brings her face to face with the kind of man she never dreamed she’d fall in love with.

“I like that Eve Parker was a straightforward character, all about business, and in need of broadening her horizons,” says Sheridan, a Golden Globe nominee for her role of Edie Britt  on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.” “It’s important to have movies that everyone can see. I was attracted to doing something that was good, clean, charming fun.”

“Honeymoon for One” is a sweet romantic comedy that shows what can happen when we’re brave enough to step outside our comfort zones. Sheridan’s character, who has been caught up in the business world for years, travels to the Emerald Isle in heels meant more for city sidewalks than the countryside, and promptly has a run-in with the hotel estate’s manager Sean, played by Greg Wise.

The Irish outdoorsman has no patience for city folk like the American businesswoman, who begins to understand the importance of family life and conserving the environment around us.

“I grew up in England, but never made it to Ireland,” Sheridan says. “The English countryside is very different from the wild Irish countryside. I fell in love with the horse I was riding in the film. His name was Star. I’ve been riding since I was three years old, but in the movie, my character doesn’t know how to ride.”

In real life, Sheridan owns four horses and has built a home in the mountains outside Los Angeles, designing a house that’s a cross between an English manor and French chateau.

“If you’re always putting your career first, every now and then, you need to stop and take a deep breath,” Sheridan says. “You need to see if you’re paying attention to your relationship or your children. For me, it’s about going into the mountains with my dog. You need to stop and take a good look at yourself throughout your life. Running away is never the answer. For as far as you can run, when you stop, it’s still you.”

Sheridan’s character Eve may be the stereotypical ugly American when she arrives in Ireland, but by the time her singular honeymoon ends, she becomes a passionate advocate for preserving the land and cultural heritage that Sean has taught her to love.

“In the end, Eve is so brave,” Sheridan says. “She gets on a white horse, finds Sean, and speaks the truth.”

So why do many of us hesitate to declare love so openly?

“It’s fear that the same sentiment won’t be returned, or that you’re putting yourself in a vulnerable position,” Sheridan says. “But life is about confronting your fears, and there’s nothing more empowering than confronting a fear, and walking through it.”

For a little inspiration on how that’s done, catch Hallmark Channel’s “Honeymoon for One.”

 

 

August 4, 2011

Dinosaurs rock the hall

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment at 2:48 am by dinaheng

Incredible creatures roamed the Earth millions of years ago, dominating life on the planet in ways that fascinate us to this day. What were these animals like? What was their world like, and what happened to them?

Amazing skeletons of these prehistoric creatures can now be seen in the newly renovated and expanded Dinosaur Hall of the Natural History  Museum of Los Angeles County, which features more than 300 fossils and 20 mounts of dinosaurs and sea creatures.

Justin Hall, a paleontologist working on a doctorate in integrative and evolutionary biology at the University of Southern California, has been working with the museum on the exhibits for more than a year and will be going on an excavation to Utah soon with Dr. Luis Chiappe, the exhibition’s lead curator, to collect the rest of a dinosaur’s vertebrae that the museum has on display now.

Hall, who teaches human anatomy in the USC Keck School of Medicine, did CT scanning and data reconstruction for all the displays that feature CT work, and helped to to design, build, and modify digital models of parts of the dinosaurs.

His interest is in the evolution of dinosaurs to flight, and while he’s a paleontologist, his  knowledge makes him an expert on human anatomy as well.

“Muscles, nerves and arteries all interact the same way,” Hall says, walking through the galleries designed to explore the lives of dinosaurs, moving from field work to conservation. “There aren’t a lot of research jobs in paleontology, and my research will be on dinosaurs and dinosaur anatomy. So I can give an evolutionary perspective to medical students.”

Hall grew up in Montana, an area where many dinosaur fossils have been discovered.

“Dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago,” Hall explains. “One of the lineages evolved into birds, so technically, birds are considered to be dinosaurs. I want to figure out how they moved, and what they ate. Did flight start by jumping out of trees, or by hopping on the ground and flapping wings?”

The questions are cool to consider and have practical applications as well. Learning about how flight evolved may one day yield potential answers for technical problems with human flight and machinery.

“Why did birds survive, and dinosaurs go extinct?” Hall asks. “It’s thought that 65 million years ago, when an asteroid or comet hit the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, the rapid climate change killed the plants, which killed off a food supply for dinosaurs. There’s a pretty clear correlation between the asteroid and the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. Maybe because birds could fly, the birds could go farther distances to get food and survived.”

Hall’s words made me think of the recent end of the space shuttle program, which now makes U.S. astronauts dependent on the Russians for transportation to the International Space Station. I have no doubt that in the not too distant future, as we deplete our planet’s resources, Mankind’s survival will depend on our ability to take flight beyond this planet. If we are to avoid the fate of the dinosaurs, we must continue to spread our wings in space.

Walking through Dinosaur Hall, it was fascinating to see the huge prehistoric skeleton of a Triceratops, the armor-backed Stegosaurus, the giant marine reptiles, one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex specimens in the world, and the only baby T. rex in the world on display. While bones from several specimens might be required to construct one skeleton, the finished models are spectacular replicas of life that once walked the Earth.

“For 150 million years, the dinosaur was the dominant animal on the planet, and its bones have been found on every continent,” Hall says. “It’s basic human instinct to want to know more about them. No one’s ever seen them, but if you watch birds, you can see similarities in the movements.”

For the next closest experience, a visit to Dinosaur Hall is a must.

For more information, check out http://www.nhm.org/site/explore-exhibits/permanent-exhibits/dinosaur-hall.