Sleep Cycles and Illness

The clock in your brain doesn’t just take cues from light, but from the hormone melatonin as well. Every night, about two to three hours before you conk out, your brain starts to secrete melatonin in response to darkness. Taking a melatonin supplement in the evening will advance your internal clock and make it possible to fall asleep earlier; taking it in the morning will do the opposite. (You might assume this would make you even more tired during the day but it won’t; you could think of it as tricking your brain into believing you slept longer.)

Yes, Your Sleep Schedule Is Making You Sick by Richard A. Friedman

Basketball Dichotomies

After a difficult loss in 2013, the San Antonio Spurs regrouped and throttled the Miami Heat in a five game series, winning the final game by nearly twenty points.

The series was a microcosm of what we see the NBA — organizations like the Heat, Knicks, Nets and Lakers pay top dollar for elite talent pitted against  teams like San Antonio — organizations built on solid players who form an even better team As we’ve seen over the past four years, talented players win games and regularly make it to the finals. But on the other end of the spectrum, good players in a system can form great teams.

For other small market teams like the Timberwolves and Cavaliers, this series should serve as a reminder that the best talent and highest budget don’t necessarily equate to championships. Players who gel as teams, regardless of individual talent, are just as likely to win. Davids still beat Goliaths.

A Christian Response to Newtown

newtownPerhaps Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the news media are right about the Newtown tragedy. Maybe this is about gun control. Or prayer in schools. Or mental health. Or freedom to carry guns. Or something else.

But I don’t think any of this is appropriate right now.

The proper response is this:

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15

Debate the policy, but do it later. Nothing good comes while trying to take advantage of a grieving people.

Choke

At dinner in the not-too-distant past, Abby grabbed a piece of banana and shoved it in her mouth. Normally one to bite off a piece at a time, she decided that she wanted it all. She wanted a bite that mommy or daddy would take.

Shocked to discover that her mouth was now uncomfortably full, she chewed in vain, but it was no use. She choked. Mommy and daddy came to the rescue and extricated the banana from her mouth. To prevent a repeat occurrence, mommy sliced smaller pieces for her. She pushed them away. She had her fill.

Choking changes future behavior.

It’s the fourth quarter, and the Cowboys are poised to take a seemingly insurmountable lead. On the verge of a touchdown, the ball pops from quarterback Tony Romo’s hands. No score. The Cowboys make countless mistakes in the final 10 minutes. They lose by three.

Mistakes lead to more mistakes.

Travel to Flushing Meadows for the 2011 U.S. Open Men’s Semifinals. Roger Federer has taken a commanding two sets to zero lead over Novak Djokovic. One more set to win. Federer crumbles as Djokovic mounts an unrelenting comeback. Crushing victories followed in sets three and four. The final set appears to be headed for extra games, but Federer errs at the end, losing the final set 5-7.

Easing up before the finish opens doors for opponents.

In what many believe will be the last NBA finals for several years, the Miami Heat take a double digit lead into the final minutes of the game. The players jump and scream on the court, celebrating their near-certain victory. Stunningly, this display lights a fire in the Mavericks who reel off an impressive 22-5 run to steal the victory.

Celebrating victory prematurely is foolish.

America’s past-time, 2011. The historically inept Rangers are poised to take their first world series crown over the Cardinals. Two outs, two strikes. One more pitch and a victory for the nine fielders. Unless, of course, that pitch leads to a run. Hours later, players wonder how they let that game get away.

Intense pressure distorts execution.

Choking is a reflexive behavior. Abby choked because she tried to eat too much at once. The Cowboys choked because they feared making more mistakes would cost them the game. Roger Federer choked when he let up before finishing the match. The Heat choked after celebrating their victory instead of finishing the game. The Rangers choked because they let the pressure get to them.

In Abby’s case, well, she’s only one and gets a free pass for choking. For the rest of the evening, she was banana-averse–and for good reason, in her mind it was a dangerous behavior not worth trying again. As a one-year-old, she’s well suited for failure. She quickly forgets and tries again. The next morning, she returned to her normal, banana-loving self. Of course, mommy, daddy, and Abby are all more mindful to prevent this from happening again.

Well-paid athletes don’t get the same luxuries as small children. They are expected to perform under pressure and forget what happened in the past. The Cowboys have been dogged by their mental demons all year. Federer has been in steady decline after losing the edge to Nadal and Djokovic. The Heat came back, won game 3, but then lost the following three to cede the championship to the Mavericks. And so the question is: what will become of the Rangers?

Smart people choke from time to time. It’s inevitable. The foolish ones don’t learn from the past and relive it time and time again. The smart ones learn from the past and change their actions.

Here’s to the chokers.

Oprah’s Retirement: Media Great or Narcissist?

In honor of Oprah‘s retirement from her tv show, a collage of her personal magazine covers.

Click image for larger version.

Kari recently pointed out that every magazine featured her on the cover. This, to me, seems bizarre. It’s almost like a printed shrine to her greatness.

What do you think? Is this a good use of the Oprah brand or is this a little narcissistic?

Islam, Christianity, and Burned Books

As I read the overly dramatic tales of a lone pastor in Florida lead his church to burn a stack of Qur’an’s, I thought, who cares? People do crazy stuff without it captivating a nation. Not surprisingly, the news that provides advertising revenue is what we see and read. [Source]

The importance of one church in one state burning a stack of Qur’an’s is trivial, unless, it relates to a bigger trend. Perhaps that is the underlying assumption of this entire story: Americans have repressed hatred toward Islam, and this is the first of many outbreaks of anti-Islamic sentiment. I doubt it.

To the church in Florida, Dove World Outreach Center: do you think burning a stack of books is helpful? I can assure that printing presses will churn out more books than you can possibly burn. From a functional perspective, you will not win the war. Politically, you sparked a firestorm and brought media attention to your church, but what did you do with it? For an organization that focuses on outreach, how can this be helpful? (Editor’s note: how ironic that the church is named after a symbol of peace, the dove.)

I doubt that burning Qur’an’s will bring people closer to Jesus.

To the media: Why was this such a big story? And where were the editorials decrying the striking lack of fairness? In America, a group threatens to burn the Qur’an. In response, Afghans protested and burned U.S. flags. [Source 1, Source 2] They rioted. They burned U.S. flags. The irony here is that their actions were much more severe, but the U.S. ignored it. Applying their standards in return, the U.S. military would have weeded out the protesters for burning the flag. But we didn’t.

What alarms me the most is that I never read this point. America is great because you can burn books. You can protest and vote. You can say outlandish things. Our freedom of speech is great and something absent in the Islamic world. Say what you will, but our political system is better, even if crazy people get more media coverage than they deserve.