Category Archives: culture

Huntington Beach's Oil Rush from 1919 to 2010

"Oranges and Oil - a Combination That is Hard to Beat," Circa 1921

“March 11, 1919 put Orange County in the black in more ways than one. On that day Fullerton area citrus grower Charles C. Chapman watched as his gusher came in. Thousands of gallons of crude oil flew into the sky at Chapman No. 1, his Placentia-Ritchfield District well leased to the Union Oil Co. This well began producing 8,000 barrels of oil a day and quickly became the most productive single well in California.

Representatives of Rockefeller family-controlled Standard Oil were impressed, too, and scouted the surrounding countryside. Standard quickly leased the Samuel Kraemer property across the street and drilled six wells including the deepest “Kraemer Zone” well. All were productive in 1919.

The county’s single most productive “soil product,” crude oil, accounted for nearly on fourth of 1912′s $26 million countywide take. After Chapman No. 1 came in in 1919, estimates put the county’s production at 1,475,000 barrels a month, which equated to $22.15 million a year.

Standard Oil was quick to exploit the newfound oil potential of Orange County and quickly leased 500 acres in the northwestern of Huntington Beach. By 1920, the first well, A-1, was bringing in 91 barrels a day. The town’s sleepy population of about 2,400 in the late teens nearly quadrupled by 1922, changing forever the face of the coast as derrick forests spread to the beach.”

- From Orange County 2000, The Millenium Book, pg 54, Chapmans Gusher

Huntington Beach Pier, circa 1930s

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Amy’s Amygdala: the emotional brain that controls fight-or-flight

The brain evolved from the bottom up and one of its first structures was the Amygdala. An almond-shaped set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe.

It plays a key role in the processing of emotions and is linked to both fear responses and pleasure. For this reason it is often known as the “emotional brain”.

While a lot of research concentrates on the rational brain in the frontal cortex, not much is said about the Amygdala even though it plays a central role in so many current problems, including alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and anxiety disorders.

Here is an in-depth look at the Amygdala.

Emotional learning

The Amygdalae perform the primary roles in the brain of the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events. The most important of which are the memories that elicit fear behavior.

For dangerous situations this behavior can save our life but in today’s modern world it often acts in a role of paralysis, where the central nuclei is the genesis of many fear responses, including freezing (immobility), tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), increased respiration, and stress-hormone release.

Memory modulation

The Amygdala is also involved in the modulation of memory consolidation. Following any learning event, the long-term memory for the event is not formed instantaneously. Rather, information regarding the event is slowly assimilated into long-term (potentially life-long) storage over time, possibly forming permanent neural pathways.

The formation of those permanent pathways, called long-term potentiation, can become vital for behavior. Creating pathways for anxiety, fear conditioning, can be hard to overcome. Whereas, starting with pathways for positive behavior can improve behavior and help during stressful events.

This kind of positive conditioning can be done as an adult. A study performed on Buddhist monks who do compassion meditation have shown that they can modulate their Amygdala during their practice. When tested they showed a calmer reaction to stress than other people.

The Amygdala is most active when emotional. Greater emotional arousal following an event can enhance a person’s retention of that event. Which makes it interesting because it controls both emotion and memory. The full extent of this “bias” is not fully understood.

The obvious studies on fear and anger show positive correlations, where increased fear (emotion) then increase memory of that fear. Not much study has been completed on the opposite, for example, do positive emotions stimulate the Amygdala to create memory as much as negative ones do.

In nature there is certainly a desire to learn quickly from bad experiences, but is there a similarly strong desire to learn from positive outcomes?

Neuropsychological correlates (behavior and disorders)

As early as 1888, rhesus monkeys with a lesioned temporal cortex (including the amygdala) were observed to have significant social and emotional deficits. Heinrich Klüver and Paul Bucy later expanded upon this same observation by showing that large lesions to the anterior temporal lobe produced noticeable changes, including overreaction to all objects, hypoemotionality, loss of fear, hypersexuality, and hyperorality, a condition in which inappropriate objects are placed in the mouth.

These studies and many more discussed below show that the Amygdala plays a substantial role in mental states, and is related to many psychological disorders.

Of particular focus is the left Amygdala and it’s size.

Some studies have shown that children with anxiety disorders tend to have a smaller left Amygdala which increased in size with the use of antidepressant medication.

The Amygdala exists on both sides of the brain.

Other studies found the left side to be linked to social anxiety, obsessive and compulsive disorders, and post traumatic stress, as well as more broadly to separation and general anxiety.

Similarly, depressed patients showed exaggerated left side activity when interpreting emotions for all faces, and especially for fearful faces. This hyperactivity was normalized when patients went on antidepressants. 

Alcoholism and binge drinking also affects the Amygdala by dampening its activation, reducing its ability for emotional processing. This is thought to happen by inhibiting the protein kinase C-epsilon which is important in regulating drug addiction, drinking, and anxiety.

Amygdala Hijack

In 1996, Daniel Goleman wrote the book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. In it he described a biological response we sometimes exhibit, naming it the Amygdala Hijack:

“Some emotional reactions and emotional responses can be formed without any conscious, cognitive participation…because the shortcut from thalamus to Amygdala completely bypasses the neocortex (the rational brain)”.

In scientific terms, the Thalamus bypasses the Cortex and routes the signal directly to the Amygdala, which is the trigger point for the primitive fight-or-flight response, and in our modern settings can often result in irrational or destructive behavior.

“Emotions make us pay attention right now – this is urgent – and give us an immediate action plan without having to think twice. The emotional component evolved very early: Do I eat it, or does it eat me?”.

Here is Mr. Goleman explaining it himself:

The emotional response “can take over the rest of the brain in a millisecond if threatened” and exhibits three signs: strong emotional reaction, sudden onset, and post-episode realization that the reaction was inappropriate.

In these cases self-control is crucial so as to avoid a complementary hijacking. For example ‘one key marital competence is for partners to learn to soothe their own distressed feelings…nothing gets resolved positively when husband or wife is in the midst of an emotional hijacking’. 

The danger is that ‘when our partner becomes, in effect, our enemy, we are in the grip of an “Amygdala hijack” in which our emotional memory, lodged in the limbic center of our brain, rules our reactions without the benefit of logic or reason…which causes our bodies to go into a “flight or fight” response’.

On the Upside

Finding ways to enlarge your Amygdala can have multiple obvious benefits beyond emotional stability. One study “suggests that Amygdalar enlargement in the normal population might be related to creative mental activity”. Another found positive correlations with both the size (the number of contacts a person has) and the complexity (the number of different groups to which a person belongs) of social networks.

What was left unsaid was how to increase the size of your Amygdala without the use of antidepressants, or maintain the size after terminating use.

One can infer that for those experiencing anxiety or overcome by fear or other emotions, the size of the Amygdala is small. That smaller size leads one to destructive behaviors, flight-or-flight responses, and limited growth.

The recommendations by nearly every study may provide an insight into how one can increase the size of there Amygdala. The reoccurring suggestion was practice, or regular repetition that allows the neurons in the brain to form new pathways and then strengthen those until they form the dominant behavior.

A method I often practice, although I recommend doing it with a trusted friend or therapist involved. Remember, improvement can always be had and nothing about you is set in stone.

Sources

Wikipedia, Scholarpedia, Science DailyMemory Loss Online (photo)

 

Amy's Amygdala: the emotional brain that controls fight-or-flight

The brain evolved from the bottom up and one of its first structures was the Amygdala. An almond-shaped set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe.

It plays a key role in the processing of emotions and is linked to both fear responses and pleasure. For this reason it is often known as the “emotional brain”.

While a lot of research concentrates on the rational brain in the frontal cortex, not much is said about the Amygdala even though it plays a central role in so many current problems, including alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and anxiety disorders.

Here is an in-depth look at the Amygdala.

Emotional learning

The Amygdalae perform the primary roles in the brain of the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events. The most important of which are the memories that elicit fear behavior.

For dangerous situations this behavior can save our life but in today’s modern world it often acts in a role of paralysis, where the central nuclei is the genesis of many fear responses, including freezing (immobility), tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), increased respiration, and stress-hormone release.

Memory modulation

The Amygdala is also involved in the modulation of memory consolidation. Following any learning event, the long-term memory for the event is not formed instantaneously. Rather, information regarding the event is slowly assimilated into long-term (potentially life-long) storage over time, possibly forming permanent neural pathways.

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How to win the zombie apocalypse

Zombie man costume

The zombie apocalypse has arrived. Your neighbors are creeping after you and the world is facing its most terrifying disease. Everything is coming to an end. Here is how to not only survive but win.

First thing first, this is a war, it’s the zombies vs the living. We must act appropriately. I’m talking daily training with push-ups, discipline, and combat practice. The good news is that we have all the advantages, we are faster, smarter, and stronger. Plus, we can form groups that multiply our abilities.

Step 1 – Join Steve’s Army

I like to think of myself as a master tactician and solid leader. I will be leading this force and we will not hide from the zombies. Every day we will kill several of them. All are welcome to join the army, men, women, and children. With the condition that you accept my command and discipline.

Step 2 – Killing the Zombies

The two most important elements of a zombie war are intelligence and weapons.

For intelligence, I’m not talking about IQ but knowledge of the zombies. How many are they, where are they, what are the best locations to attack from. We want to be offensive as well as defensive and will win through superior tactics.

This is especially important because unlike most wars losing a soldier is a double loss. Our fighter joins the enemy as zombie.

We will spend a majority of our time patrolling, creating maps, working out communication channels, and more. Like Sun Tzu said, “every battle is won before it is ever fought.

Ideally we will have a doctor, scientist, or researcher among us who can help us understand the zombie. Like this fellow:

For weapons, we need to consider our enemy. In the show, The Walking Dead, firing a gun makes a loud noise and attracts more zombies. This makes firearms only ideal for certain situations. Used only as a last resort or when you want to attract the zombies for a killfest.

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Frozen Yogurt: how healthy is it?

The frozen yogurt craze is upon us and competing with all those cupcake shops (see Paris Hilton). While most stores are serving up liquid sugar a few of them are differentiating by promoting their health value. Things like calcium, vitamin C, and the chemistry sounding ‘live and active cultures’, also known as probiotic.

“At Red Mango, we know a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet go hand in hand. That’s why we’re proud to tell you about all the good things we’re made of. Starting with the most important part of any self-respecting yogurt: live and active cultures.”

While I do enjoy Red Mango as my favorite yogurt joint, I couldn’t take their bold claim on face value. A little research reveals a strange list of health benefits. Here is what the live and active cultures may help:

  • Treat diarrhea
  • Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
  • Treat irritable bowel syndrome
  • Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
  • Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
  • Prevent and treat eczema in children
  • Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu

Much of this is based on a growing number of studies that support these claims, though, there are many more that prove nothing. I was also surprised by the amount of studies trying to prove basic things like, can bacteria survive the stomach.

When it comes to the more important health claims like:

  • Lowering cholesterol
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Preventing cavities
  • Strengthening the immune system

The evidence is much more sparse. This New York Times has an article looking into the health claims of probiotics and WebMD has one discussing a lawsuit involving false health claims by Dannon.

It is interesting to note that all yogurt has live and active cultures at some point. Most are killed in the creation of the consumer product, either through warming or just plain not caring if they survive. The companies making the claim about live and active are the ones pioneering methods that allow them to survive freezing, shipping, and all that.

Next, is the nutritional elements of FroYo, which include varying amounts of:

  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Calcium
  • Riboflavin
  • Vitamins C, B6, &  B12

The amount of each depends on the original quality of the milk used and the amount of sugar added. Per serving, frozen yogurt contains as much sugar, or more, as a can of soda. You can bet that a lot of the health benefits are wiped away with too much sugar, though I was not able to find a study proving that.

Sugar loaded frozen yogurt

Here is the nutritional information for the original flavor from my two favorite companies, RedMango and PinkBerry:

Click to view full size.

Conclusion, if you take away the spoonfuls of sugar then frozen yogurt appears to confer several benefits. This includes a grouping of vitamins and calcium, both of which are often lacking in our diet. The extra intestinal benefits also show promise, especially if you are having trouble staying regular.

The quality of the ingredients is the dark horse. It is easy to compare general research studies and nutritional information, but without knowing a company’s commitment to quality we are rolling the dice. The profit margins in this business are tough and many companies may be buying the cheapest milk they can find and then adding in sugar to cover the difference.

So far RedMango is the only company marketing themselves with a claim in this general direction, “all natural”, but that is still a far cry from local, humane, and antibiotic-free.

In the end, it may just be best to make your own frozen yogurt with quality ingredients and an ice cream maker, like the picture below.

[photos: pressroom-paris hilton // boingr-swirl // thebittenword.com-strawberry]

Create a Facebook Page for your pet (like Mark Zuckerberg)

At the last big Facebook conference Mark Zuckerberg and SNL comedian Andy Samberg kept talking about Beast, Mark’s new dog. They would show a Facebook Page with all these photos, comments, and fans.

Which got me thinking that if Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, can have a page for his dog…then so can I!

I have been hoping for a way to bring my puppy into the social network, after all, my parents and friends from birth are on it. Why not our pets?

In four easy steps we can set-up a Facebook Page for your pet and have it look professional, just like Mark Zuckerberg’s. All you will need is some basic information and a few pictures. Let’s get started.

Step 1 – Create a Page

Choose what type of page you want. For your pet, start with “Artist, Band, or Public Figure,” then for your category choose ‘public figure’ and add the name of your pet.

Step 2 – Edit Info

After creating your page there will be a wizard but I suggest skipping it. After that you will be on your main page, click on “Info” on the left side menu. Then click “Edit Info,” located towards the top/middle.

From here you have a wide range of options, but if you want to follow Mark Zuckerberg then only fill out these:

  • Location
  • Affiliation
  • Birthday
  • Biography
  • Gender
  • Personal Interests
  • Website

*Note: you will need to wait a while or get 25 fans to choose a username. This is important because it also becomes your website URL (facebook.com/beast.the.dog). So start thinking of the username you want (I chose facebook.com/fuzzy.the.dog).

Once completed, hit “Save Changes,” (located at bottom) and then “View Page” (located at top right).

Step 3 – Add Photos

Mark has over 60 photos of Beast. I have twelve. You will need six to get started. Five of them for the photo bar at the top of your page and one for a profile picture.

Get your photos on your computer and then click “Photos” on the left menu, and then click “Upload Photos”.

You can select multiple photos at a time. Try to upload all six at once. While they are uploading add a name for this “album” like profile pics or getting started.

Once they are uploaded you can add descriptions and names to each photo. Hit “Save” and then “Publish” to finish the process.

Now, you are looking at all your photos in your album. Click on the photo you want as your profile picture for your pet. Scroll down towards the right and click on “Make Profile Picture for Page”.

Adjust the cropping and hit “Done Cropping”.

Good job! Now your page should be nearly complete and looking good:

Step 4 – Add Owners

From main view of your page go to the right menu where it says “Admins” and click “See All”. You will already be listed but you can add your partner, spouse, children, etc.

Once you add in the admins and verify everything, go to the menu on the left side and click “Featured”. Click on the box that says “Add Featured Page Owners”. Check all the boxes, hit save, and then on the top right-click “View Page”.

On the left menu you will now see the “Page Owners”, a great way to bring the whole family onto the page.

Done!

Voilà!

You now have a page for your pet. Let all your friends know so they can become a fan/like. Keep adding photos, share some stories, and enjoy having your pet on Facebook.

For more help and info check out the one I created: Fuzzy.the.Dog

Go local: an explanation of foodsheds

With all this talk about eating local and counting miles I thought it would be good to explain what it really means. The foundation for local eating starts with a foodshed.

Foodshed: a region or area from which a population draws its food.

The typical limit on these regions is 100 miles. Draw a 100-mile circle around where you live and that is your foodshed.

In economic terms this is ideal distance a farmer, or her goods, can travel to reach a market. That way it arrives on your plate as fresh, ripe, and nutritious as it can be.

Go outside of this limit and there is an increasing reliance on fossil fuels and a decreasing quality of the food.

For those concerned about pollution, global warming, or oil-addiction these “food miles” are a cause for concern. Farmers face similar concerns, albeit from the other side, with a rising cost of gas and oil-based fertilizers that narrow their profits.

Still for others the “go local” movement represents a desire to get the very best food they can find, and that is the fundamental reason for foodsheds.

I’ve tried to document what happens to our health with the advent of low quality foodour acceptance of it, and the difference in nutritional content.

These rings of farmland surrounding our communities represent the ideal of sustainable living. Where the countryside is not poverty-stricken, but instead a vibrant economic sector known as much for its wineries and ‘farm-days’ as it is for fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

Even more these areas are often recession proof as evidenced by their continual rapid growth during the past half-decade.

It is for all these reasons that the locavore movement is popular and gaining momentum, there is something in it for everyone. Even the beefiest of meat eaters.

For further reference I’ve pulled together several maps of America’s foodsheds. Take a look.

san francisco california foodshed map 100 mile local locavore
Click for a larger image.

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Sex In The Cloud: An Interview with Sex Blogger & Professor, Stef Woods

With websites like exRATED (http://exrated.com) popping up, allowing people to review their exes and aiming to be the ultimate Yelp for those looking for insights on potential romantic partners, and Facebook algorithms that can determine your sexual orientation without you indicating what it is, and increasingly more of our personal and private information being posted online, leading to sometimes embarrassing, if not life-altering consequences, a historically behind-closed-doors activity is now evolving to a more “out there” experience and forever changing how we view and approach sex.

I caught up with my friend Stef Woods, attorney, sex and relationships blogger, and professor of ‘Activism and Social Media‘ at American University to discuss the topic.

When I asked her what trends she’s noticing online with regard to sex and sexuality, here’s what she had to say:

 Interesting question. The huge growth in social media has led to a new sexual revolution of sorts. People now obtain much of their sex education from the Internet. The majority of sexual health and entertainment purchases are done online. And, the more that women and men write about sexuality, sexual health and sex toys online, the more that sex is normalized. Women can learn about sex during menopause or how to achieve their first vaginal orgasm. A gay teen can see a video, encouraging him to stay strong because it does get better. A couple can shop for their first toy together. Planned Parenthood has even implemented pilot programs that allow people to text and IM staff for answers regarding STIs, pregnancy, contraception and AIDS.

However, the combination of social media and sex can also lead to public scandal and private crisis. Would Weiner have lost his position without Twitter? Would the world have known the extent of Tiger Woods‘ indiscretions without social media? Would Phoebe Prince and Tyler Clementi still be alive if they hadn’t been subjected to cyber-bullying? Has social media increased the opportunities for people to engage in emotional and sexual affairs?

I personally believe that “sex in the cloud” is forcing us to deal and address sex in a more open and transparent manner, and that this can only be a good thing. I don’t believe AIDS would have declined as sharply as it did in the United States without the education and awareness the internet and email provides.

On the flip side, change can be uncomfortable for a lot of people, especially around a topic as sensitive as sex. I can’t even tweet about tampons without eliciting vehement commentary from a handful of men.

Which is why people like Stef, who is trailblazing a path to a more accepting, compassionate and informed sexual society, are so necessary — and impressive. It’s tough enough to talk about and sometimes even have sex in the comfort of your own home.  But doing it for all the world to hear and see, and having it captured in the cloud indefinitely — it’s a whole new ballgame.

*Stef Woods is a professor at American University, attorney, sexuality educator, writer, and women’s health advocate. She writes about relationships, sexual health, breast cancer, and dating on her blog, City Girl’s Blog. Next semester she will be teaching ‘Sexuality and Social Media.’

Sex In The Cloud: An Interview with Sex Blogger & Professor, Stef Woods

With websites like exRATED (http://exrated.com) popping up, allowing people to review their exes and aiming to be the ultimate Yelp for those looking for insights on potential romantic partners, and Facebook algorithms that can determine your sexual orientation without you indicating what it is, and increasingly more of our personal and private information being posted online, leading to sometimes embarrassing, if not life-altering consequences, a historically behind-closed-doors activity is now evolving to a more “out there” experience and forever changing how we view and approach sex.

I caught up with my friend Stef Woods, attorney, sex and relationships blogger, and professor of ‘Activism and Social Media‘ at American University to discuss the topic.

When I asked her what trends she’s noticing online with regard to sex and sexuality, here’s what she had to say:

 Interesting question. The huge growth in social media has led to a new sexual revolution of sorts. People now obtain much of their sex education from the Internet. The majority of sexual health and entertainment purchases are done online. And, the more that women and men write about sexuality, sexual health and sex toys online, the more that sex is normalized. Women can learn about sex during menopause or how to achieve their first vaginal orgasm. A gay teen can see a video, encouraging him to stay strong because it does get better. A couple can shop for their first toy together. Planned Parenthood has even implemented pilot programs that allow people to text and IM staff for answers regarding STIs, pregnancy, contraception and AIDS.

However, the combination of social media and sex can also lead to public scandal and private crisis. Would Weiner have lost his position without Twitter? Would the world have known the extent of Tiger Woods‘ indiscretions without social media? Would Phoebe Prince and Tyler Clementi still be alive if they hadn’t been subjected to cyber-bullying? Has social media increased the opportunities for people to engage in emotional and sexual affairs?

I personally believe that “sex in the cloud” is forcing us to deal and address sex in a more open and transparent manner, and that this can only be a good thing. I don’t believe AIDS would have declined as sharply as it did in the United States without the education and awareness the internet and email provides.

On the flip side, change can be uncomfortable for a lot of people, especially around a topic as sensitive as sex. I can’t even tweet about tampons without eliciting vehement commentary from a handful of men.

Which is why people like Stef, who is trailblazing a path to a more accepting, compassionate and informed sexual society, are so necessary — and impressive. It’s tough enough to talk about and sometimes even have sex in the comfort of your own home.  But doing it for all the world to hear and see, and having it captured in the cloud indefinitely — it’s a whole new ballgame.

*Stef Woods is a professor at American University, attorney, sexuality educator, writer, and women’s health advocate. She writes about relationships, sexual health, breast cancer, and dating on her blog, City Girl’s Blog. Next semester she will be teaching ‘Sexuality and Social Media.’

My initiation into the African way of life

The Peace Corps Chronicles, Part 2

My Initiation

With the quest for vision underway, it was now time to make action speak louder than words. So, I visited the nearest optometrist which is 70 kilometers from my village. He is a Botswana doctor, currently working abroad, and after discussing my needs, the arrangements were made.

There would be an initial screening free-of-charge and a follow-up examination for those with vision issues. Then we would pull together a plan to fund the glasses they would need. I had good impressions from the doctor and was proud of my bold steps towards solving this problem.

Working as a volunteer in Africa, my mindset and expectations have changed since leaving the States. My days here can be life-affirming and welcoming but then there is always another side. This is the part where work doesn’t get done how you want it or the pace of progress slowly drips. This is neither an accusation nor a complaint but rather it’s a way of describing life in another country.

Foreigners coming to work abroad often have to readjust their mentalities coming from a fast-paced, insanely competitive homeland. But as Namibia, and let me say Africa, can attest to, life isn’t always about success but resilience.

This is one of many things I’ve learned in that Africa can teach you lessons you thought you already knew. Lessons that make you realize what can be important in life.

Now, back to the story, I left the doctor, who was seemingly reliable and trustworthy, and I proceeded to arrange with the school for the upcoming visits. You can probably sense my foreboding as the path to your destination always has curves, bump, and obstacles.

Otherwise, things will be too easy and few lessons learned. Unbeknownst to me, the future plans will need a slight adjustment…

The Peace Corps Chronicles are written by Spencer Mandzik who joined the Corps in Feb 2010 as a volunteer in Namibia, Africa. He is living with a local family and learning to speak the language of Oshiwambo. These are his stories as he follow’s John F. Kennedy’s dream to serve our country “in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries.”

Read Part 1 – A quest for vision in Namibia

That's Namibia in red.