What I’m Reading: 20 Feb: Envy, Albino-Killing, Estate Planning, Race, Shenpa, the Hourglass Figure

NYT Article Skimmer: Use this tool to skim articles in the New York Times, section by section. Handy.

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Albinos being killed in Tanzania, for their magical and lucrative body parts :

“More than 40 have been killed since 2007, sometimes right in front of their families, by gangs of men who hack off legs, heads or genitals and run away with them.

“In the last two years, rumors have spread in East Africa that potions made with albino blood, shoes made of albino skin, tendrils of albino hair woven into fishing nets and amulets with albino body parts will make people rich.”

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Best Female Shape May NOT be Hourglass.  Apparently my apple rather than pear figure may speak of my physical strength, toughness, competitiveness, resourcefulness, and ability to withstand stress.

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Pema Chödrön on The Shenpa Syndrome: Learning to Stay. I could excerpt the whole thing. Her main points:

> Shenpa, which is often translated as attachment, might be better described as being hooked or triggered, rising to the bait, and feeling a compulsion or urge to react that can be very difficult to notice and to work with, even if we don’t actually act outwardly on it. (E.g., someone who never says anything mean can have a lot of shenpa in the form of “critical mind.”)

> Part of the way we get hooked is that we imbue things with a meaning that they don’t inherently have, which gives us comfort and which can become addictive. (Judging things as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or as ‘success’ or ‘failure’ is a way of imbuing what is with meaning.)

> The first stage of shenpa is simply feeling tight, tense, less open, in reaction to what someone else says or does. From there, depending on who you are and the circumstances, comes self-blame, self-denigration, or, perhaps, blame of others, accusation.

> When we feel shenpa, it’s unpleasant, and we usually seek relief from that bad feeling by reacting habitually — instead of refraining and just experiencing the unease, which might open us to our own wisdom.

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Basic Research: Envy and the Brain. Nothing new here, but more reporting on various parts of the brain stimulated by envy and schadenfreude:

“When confronting characters that the participants admitted to envying, brain regions involved in registering physical pain were aroused: the higher the subjects rated their envy, the more vigorously flared the pain nodes in the brain’s dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and related areas.

“Conversely, the researchers said, when subjects were given a chance to imagine the golden one’s downfall, the brain’s reward circuits were activated, again in proportion to the strength of envy’s sting: the subjects who felt the greatest envy the first time around reacted to news of their rival’s misfortune with a comparatively livelier response in the dopamine-rich pleasure centers of, for example, the ventral striatum.”

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Attorney General Eric Holder calls American a nation of cowards when is comes to talking about race. Holder says that besides skirting around race issues that Americans have learned can be divisive, blacks and whites are still voluntarily racially segregated. We may work together at jobs, and at activities planned around work, “but many Americans in their free time are still segregated inside what he called ‘race-protected cocoons‘: “‘On Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago.'” That seems true to me.

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Madame X at My Open Wallet usually has interesting blog posts. The ones about her parents’ medical, legal and financial situations lately have particularly engaged me, contemplating as I am a likely similar situation for myself and my sisters with my mother before too long.

Her family health care crisis series started on 8 Sept. with Taking a Deep Breath.

The follow-ups are:

Taking Care of My Dad (9 Sept. )

Dad’s Legal Matters (10 Sept.)

Taking Care of Mom (11 Sept.)

Details on Dad’s Finances (15 Sept.)

Wrap-Up on the Health Crisis Posts (17 Sept.)

and the more recent ones:

Estate Planning Update (2 Dec.)

Questions on the Estate Planning Post (9 Dec.)

My Parents’ Medicaid Eligibility (20 Jan.)

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