Posted by: Stephan Muller | November 12, 2010

Change a Life

Arguments have been made that schools destroy creativity, I beg to differ. Two weeks ago, my anthropology teacher Kyra Gaunt had introduced the class to a remarkable individual via Skype. Renu Bagaria, based in Nepal, explained her passion to us at 2am Nepal time. It was 4:15pm for us. Along with others, she takes children of the lowest strata of society, off the streets, and into the Koseli center. Koseli, meaning gift in English,  provides these unfortunate children with food, clothing, education and even fulfill their medical needs.

Before this class, professor Gaunt asked us what $200 buys us in our respective countries. One student said it would buy him a pair of jeans, another said you would be able to hire a maid for a month. What no one mentioned or was aware of, is that practically the same amount of money, $275, would allow for a child in Koseli to be supplied with all that the center has, for an entire year. Once again, $275 gets a Koseli child food, clothing, education, and medical needs for an ENTIRE year. This made me think about the next pair of jeans I was going to buy. I realized how unaware I was about the lives of these Nepalese children. I was so moved by what Renu does for them that I wanted to get involved. I want to make a difference and so do many people in my anthropology class in NYC.

I want to make people aware of Koseli, and show YOU how you can change lives. Renu currently has 75 children under her arm. Do you think this is enough? I think not. After researching poverty in Nepal, I came across the following statistics. 39% of the Nepalese children under the age of 5 face malnutrition. Another 43% are illiterate (15 years and above). Renu is trying to improve these statistics, and we can be that difference.

With a healthy number of small donations from students and others, we can educate a child in Nepal, and with a viral campaign assisting us we can assist many children get a year of education. Besides money, supplies are needed. From toiletries, stationary and clothing, to desks, and even laptops. We all know how important education is, yet we often take it for granted. These children have embraced it.

Check out Kosali’s website to read all about these kids and Renu’s project. Make sure you check out the picture gallery as well. http://renubagaria.blogspot.com/

If you want to make a difference in the life of a child that desperately needs your help  – email me at stephan_muller@hotmail.com. The smallest contributions are welcome. 

Posted by: Stephan Muller | October 25, 2010

Stress

Stress is caused when a situation overwhelms a person’s perceived ability to meet the demands of a situation, an emotion we have all experienced. Stressors are the cause, events that trigger a stress response. In the late 1960’s researchers had created an instrument in order to measure stress levels on a scale of 1-100. The top 5 in descending order were, death of a spouse, divorce, marital separation, jail term, and death of a close family member. All these stressors are unexpected events that do not occur with any consistency. Every day hassles, however, are the stressors that are quite consistent in our lives. For college students these include getting homework done, living on a budget, dealing with roommates, etc. Research has shown that the famous “Freshmen 15” (when college students gain 15 pounds in their first year) is strongly related to stress. This theory, in my eyes, expresses a great amount of truth. The workload increases significantly compared to high school, and most find it quite overwhelming especially since parents and even teachers might not be there to guide us. We experience social stress, getting used to a knew environment, making new friends, and hoping we fit in. Other stressors also affect our college life; we tend to stay up late and become sleep deprived which causes are mood to change and our health to deteriorate. We might miss home, we have to choose a major, or a “direction in life”, we have to start doing our own laundry, etc. Even though college students experience most of these stressors, they do not seem to change their lifestyle in order to lessen or eliminate them.

There are several ways to reduce stress in every day life. The one that works best for me is exercise. Whether you choose to take a 10 minute walk or lift weights, exercise will help you focus your mind on something else. It has also been proven that exercising 3-4 times a week on average can extend life by 3-4 years. It reduces the chances of heart disease, stroke and cancer as well as it helps improve your memory.

Another stress relieving method that has been shown to be successful is meditation. Clearing your mind for a minimum of 10 minutes a day will bring great results. Meditating efficiently lowers your heart rate and your breathing slows down. Regular meditating also makes it easier to give up life damaging habits, those that some consider stress relieving, such as drugs and cigarettes.

There are psychological ways of coping with stress as well. Social support is most popular and arguably the most effective. This occurs when we seek out for help from our family and friends, and speak about our problems. Writing about a stressful experience, also called emotional disclosure, is another way of working yourself through the negative emotions you are experiencing. You could also use positive blame. Every day hassles are mostly caused because you got yourself into them. You must therefore recognize that you got yourself into the situation and must do everything you can to get yourself out of it.

There are ways to escape stress, but one must do so through the sensible methods mentioned previously. Some turn to harmful options such as cigarettes, alcohol, food or drugs.
– Cigarettes, firstly, contains nicotine which is a stimulant which increases blood pressure and heart rate. The reason why cigarettes are thought of as a relaxant is because it relaxes the skeletal muscles.
– Alcohol, a depressant, could cause liver damage, and an increase risk of liver cancer. Excessive drinking, which occurs often among university students could cause sleep deprivation, another stressor that college students have a problem with.
– Food is another way that people tend to deal with stress. Sugary foods, especially, are known to have a calming effect on the consumer. Stress increases eating, and eating reduces stress. However, excessive food, as we all know, leads to an increase of fat – a major problem in America. It increases the risk of cancer and heart disease, as well as negative emotional effects.
– Drugs have been a common college stress reliever as well. Marijuana being most popular. The hallucinogenic drug alters consciousness and creates a mood of euphoria. It is a harmful way to escape the stress you are facing.

Living a healthy life can help you get rid of stress. Exercise, meditate, eat healthy, and socialize, and maybe even get a massage. Physical and psychological wellbeing is the key to living is a non-stressful life.

Posted by: Stephan Muller | October 11, 2010

Save the Hair Cells

After watching a video on TED (if you haven’t hear about TED, check it out at www.ted.com) I found it quite necessary to speak about yet another problem that many of us face: damaged hearing. I am not talking about the fact that hearing worsens over the years. Rather, ways in which teenagers in the United States damage their hearing every day by the use of Mp3 players. I have found myself guilty of playing music excessively loud at times, but realized that I must end this unnecessary activity if I want to keep my hearing relatively sharp in the near future.

Noise induced hearing loss is the result of every day exposure to sounds that are abnormally loud. Examples could be the television, music, traffic, or even household appliances. We are all victims of it, whether you blast your iPod on full volume, or you are watching the subway trains go by, your hair cells are being damaged. Hair cells are small sensory cells that convert sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once these cells are damaged, they do not grow back. 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-69 suffer from NIHL, and 5.2 million children/teenagers between the ages of 9-16 are victims of NIHL as well.

The ways to avoid further damage to the hair cells is by practicing the following at all times.

1. Consider which noises are too loud
2. Stay as far away as possible from the loud noises (do not stand next to the speakers at a nightclub)
3. Wear some sort of protection against these sounds – besides earplugs, most sport stores carry ear warmers that also protect the ears from loud noises
4. In the house, consider buying reduced-sound appliances, such as vacuum cleaners and blenders
5. As for the “MP3 Generation” – turn it down

Next time you are sitting next to someone listening to music in the subway and you can hear the words of the song, tell them. Even though most of these people (especially in NYC) will tell you to mind your own business, make them aware of the fact that they will not be able to hear the words they’re listening to in as little as 2o years. 

Posted by: Stephan Muller | October 6, 2010

The Text can Wait

I apologize for not blogging in the past couple of weeks. My school work has been getting the better of me. However, in all that time, I stumbled upon several topics that I want to include in this blog, and they will be posted in the near future.

The subject that caught my attention most was the issue of texting and calling while driving. To blow your mind immediately, here are some disturbing facts. at ANY point throughout the day, at ANY GIVEN MOMENT, over 800,000 Americans are either texting or calling while driving (2008).

– 56% of teenagers admit they have talked on the phone while driving.
-48% of teenagers between 12-17 admit they have been in a car where the driver was busy using their phone while they were in the car.
-Texting or calling while driving is equivalent to consuming 4 alcoholic beverages (or shots).
-The reaction time  of a teenager texting or calling while driving becomes that of a 75 year old.

The consequences?

28% of all automobile accidents are caused by cellphone use while driving. 88% of ALL car accidents are the result of a distracted driver, whether that be changing the radio station, consuming alcohol or taking care of your crying baby in the back seat. 6,000 people lost their lives last year because of people who felt the need to use their cellphones in their car. And an astonishing 330,000 people got injured.

When calling or texting while driving, you are 3 times more likely to be in an accident than a non-distracted driver. Think about the people in your car, or the car in front, behind or to your side. You put their lives at risk simply because you felt the need to text or call someone. The text can wait.

I would like to share an example that will hopefully persuade you to put your phone down. No need for an explanation, because this video speaks for itself.

http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/A-Mothers-Message-About-Driving-and-Cell-Phone-No-Phone-Zone-Video

Posted by: Stephan Muller | September 16, 2010

Time for a Change

“Our world is not only composed of human beings – but of other beings too” – Jane Goodall. She has been studying chimpanzees in Tanzania since 1960 (she was 26 at the time). Goodall has made clear that the technological inventions over the past 4 decades have allowed her to make advances in her studies. Samples have allowed to find the DNA, video cameras have made it easy to observe, and technological testing on the animals have made it possible to judge their intelligence. A 28 year old chimp that resides in Japan is able to play a video game on a computer. Now if that doesn’t sound very impressive, this will – If the chimp does not get the score that she wants to achieve, she would go up to the black window (where the experimenters are watching her) and tap it, making it clear she wants to try again. Goodall is challenging the thought that humans are so different from apes, monkeys, gorillas, etc. These animals are able to use technology, able to use tools, can live up to 60 years in the wild, and they have close family relations. They also use “human” emotions and gestures such as: compassion, happiness, anger, sadness, fear, and then kissing, hugging, fighting, etc. But the chimps are disappearing fast because of human actions, human wants, and human expansion. We are harming ourselves when we harm nature. The toxic gasses, the oil spills, the polluted water – these are all reasons that we are currently dealing with diseases that did not exist 20-30 years ago. What can we do about it? Goodall says that schools are not doing enough to raise awareness about nature. Teachers must take students out into nature more often. They must learn the beauty and the importance of it. All natures problems started started when money became the number one objective for human beings. People want to become as rich as possible – but some affect nature by doing so. We need money to live, but we shouldn’t live for money. Jane Goodall admits that her generation (she is 76) is largely responsible for the situation the world finds itself in. When college students tell her they are angered by what the previous generations have started, she feels nothing but shame. Countless amounts of species are endangered – on land as well as in the water. One thinks that a person cannot help the wellbeing of this planet by themselves. That person must realize that if he/she sets an appropriate example, people will follow, and we will be able to clean up this world together. I didn’t realize the state of our planet until I researched. In all honesty, I didn’t take the future of this world into consideration. But now I am aware. Roots and Shoots is an organization that was started by Jane Goodall, and tries to improve the current situation of our communities, the animals in and around them, and the environment as a whole. If you care about the future of your children, grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren, then please take a look at this website and spread the word.

http://www.rootsandshoots.org/

At 76, she is still striving for the wellbeing of "her chimps"

Posted by: Stephan Muller | September 13, 2010

The War on Drugs

The Mexican Government vs. the Drug Cartel. Or is it? Yet another controversial subject that raises questions that cannot be answered. Is part of the police force involved in the cartel? Is corruption expanding within the country? Will tourism within the Mexican border be as it once was? Let me give you some facts and you decide for yourself.

and you thought the war in Iraq was costly

28,000 people have died in drug-related incidents since the current president (Calderon) assumed office in 2006. Mothers, fathers, daughters and sons have all been victim to the relentless drug organization that terrorizes Mexico. The reason the the industry is so popular (yet so devastating) is because the market in the United States is able and willing to buy the product the cartel is selling: drugs. The U.S. has given over a billion dollars to help Mexico conquer this never ending fight. Yet how does a billion dollars compare to the estimated $40 billion the cartel makes every year. The borders aren’t an issue, they smuggle their drugs without any hassle. Underground tunnels have been their main way of transportation, but they explore different options. The cartel has found  a way to store cocaine in hollow missiles (attached to boats, ships, etc.) and have their respective connections receive the drugs at the docks of the American coast and deliver the goods where they need to go.

The cartel is smart, efficient, and will always find ways to deliver. They have taken over villages, towns and cities, where they pay the population a higher wage than the country’s factories do. Why work if the money comes in effortlessly? All that these citizens have to do is keep quiet about the activities that are going on around them. Of course the Mexican government is doing all they can to ease the problem – it’s not enough. The demand for drugs is not going to decrease any time soon. Recent data shows 8% of the U.S. population, 12 and above, have used to drugs in the past year. The cartel has expanded southwards into Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as well. Corruption already rules these countries, so it is an easy target for the cartel to recruit new members and train them in this safe haven. Money truly rules this part of the world and a solution is yet to be found to re-establish Mexico to the country it was before drugs came into play. All I know is that Mexico cannot fight this problem by themselves – any help?

Posted by: Stephan Muller | September 11, 2010

Never Forget 9/11

After 9 years, the world still remembers what happened on that dark Tuesday.  2,977 people lost their lives because of a direct attack on humanity. The world was silent, stunned and sympathetic. 27 Hijackers entered the U.S. to participate in the attack, even though only 19 ended up doing so – 17 died. A victory for terrorists, a tragedy for human kind. One must never forget those who lost their lives, and those who risked their lives to save their fellow men/women. The FDNY (Fire Department New York) immediately sent 200 units to the disaster area, brave men who gave their everything to find survivors – 343 died that day.

I was 12 when a friend of mine called and told me to switch on the TV; there was smoke coming off the Twin Towers, and people were jumping off. A terrifying sight, especially when I had visited the towers a year before. I will never forget what happened as I am sure no one else will. May the victims rest in peace, and may their loved ones remain strong. REMEMBER at http://www.911-remember.com/

Posted by: Stephan Muller | September 11, 2010

The Spanish Domination

Pick up the sports section of the New York Times, The Guardian, or (especially) El Mundo, and you will find a Spanish team or individual praised for their athletic performance. Most recently of course, the football/soccer World Cup in South Africa. The same team that had won the European Championships two years ago in Vienna. On club level, the main teams dominate locally and internationally. Real Madrid and Barcelona have made their mark with their impressive squads and their significant amount financial resources that have been made available to them. Then onto my favorite sport, tennis. Rafael Nadal currently dominates at number 1 in the world. He has won this year’s French Open and Wimbledon and is currently preparing to play his semi final right here in NY at the U.S. Open.

What else are the Spaniards good at? Well, Contador won the Tour de France, beating 7-time winner Lance Armstrong. Jorge Lorenzo stands at number 1 in the Grand Prix standings in Motorbike racing. Finally, Paul Gasol was part of the Lakers N.B.A title win this year as well.

What makes Spain such a dominant force in sports? As a tennis player, I know dedication is a must. Blood, sweat, and tears day in, day out. Rafael Nadal is the perfect example of ultimate dedication. During the Wimbledon tournament last June, Rafa had cancelled a meet with Queen Elizabeth II because he needed to get enough practice in before his next match. If that doesn’t portray an immense sense of commitment, then nothing does. As for Contador, the bike-aholic, he needed infusion after every race. Roughly 220 km (135 miles) was the distance each participant had to complete to reach the finish line. Alberto (Contador) burned so many calories each day, that food by itself was not enough to recover from his daily loss. He therefor needed infusion to regain enough (food) liquids to be able to compete the next day. Commitment is what stands out when looking at the elite Spanish athletes. They set an example for all young aspiring athletes in football, tennis, basketball, etc. Even though my country of origin (Holland) had to take a bow to the Spanish giants in the World Cup Final, I have nothing but respect for the men who have raised the bar in sports. Amazing.

Posted by: Stephan Muller | September 10, 2010

Tum-mo Meditation

For those of you who are familiar with this story, or this meditation technique, this post might not be of much value. If not, the following will absolutely amaze you.

My psychology teacher introduced us to Tum-mo (inner heat) meditation last week. A practice that will relieve stress, anxiety,  depression and help lower blood pressure. A form of meditation that alters how the body functions.

You must be wondering, what is so amazing about that? Herbert Benson, an American cardiologist, ran experiments on practicing monks in Tibet. He was curious to find out what Tum-mo meditation did to the bodies of these people. His results were absolutely astonishing. In near freezing temperatures, the monks would dip a sheet in cold water and wrap it around themselves. You and I should mustn’t  try this at home – the chance of us not surviving would be too high. However, these monks would go into a deep trance, focussing on their breathing, and clearing their minds. Their body heat would increase so drastically, that the wet sheet they had wrapped around 15 minutes before, had completely dried up. Benson took their practices to the West, and used them as a treatment for those suffering of stress, high blood pressure or cardiac irregular activity.

Don’t believe me? You might some need some reassurance, so check out this link.

Posted by: Stephan Muller | September 10, 2010

Never a Dull Day

Florida pastor says he is rethinking canceled Quran burning – CNN
What is your view on the controversy of building an Islamic center near New York’s Ground Zero?
I completely understand that those affected by the 9/11 tragedy are rejecting the idea of this center. However, I find that other New Yorkers, its figures of authority, and the rest of America, must accept that this event might actually take place. Accept it not only out of respect for the religion of their fellow human beings, but also for the sake of satisfying those in the Middle Eastern countries who see the rejection of this idea as an act of ignorance. Think broader than regarding a terrorist attack as a representation of an entire religion. Stop generalizing and realize that America is a free country, and Americans are now contradicting that notion. Most certainly, feelings of fear are present, but fear that should not be related to what occured 9 years ago. Building this center should be seen as a step in the right direction. Instead, it attracts people such as the pastor from Florida who takes it as far as saying that he might burn the (holy) Quran. This is on the other hand, IS a sign of significant disrespect and ignorance. Attached below is a link to CNN’s website titled: “Vatican: Quaran burning ‘outrageous’ ” – directly related to this post. My heart goes out to all who have lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/US/09/08/florida.quran.reaction/?iref=obinsite#fbid=7Xalbt2Mq2o&wom=false

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