Sunday, December 31, 2023

How putting purpose into your New Year’s resolutions can bring meaning and results

  People worldwide make New Year’s resolutions every year in an attempt to improve their lives. Common resolutions are to exercise more, eat healthier, save money, lose weight, and reduce stress.

  Yet, 80% of people agree that most people won’t stick to their resolutions. This pessimism is somewhat justified. Only 4% of people report following through on all of the resolutions they personally set.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

A neuroscientist’s tips for a new year tuneup for your brain

  Unlike the effervescent bubbles that stream to the top of champagne flutes on New Year’s Eve, what I call brain bubbles are far from celebratory. These bubbles are metaphorical rather than physical, and they distort the stream of reality processed by our brains. Like a real estate bubble that reflects an inflated perception of home values, a brain bubble twists your perception of the world around you. And when either of these bubbles bursts, the results can be devastating.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Kids like to win; Adults need to win

  Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you have to acknowledge the powerful cultural influence that sports have on our culture. The values of millions of participants and spectators are shaped by the values conveyed in sports, including our views of what is permissible and proper in the competitive pursuit of personal goals.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Learn time management to make those New Year’s resolutions stick

  Does this sound familiar? You make a New Year’s resolution, like learning a new language, reading more books, or playing an instrument. You’re really excited at the beginning. You even go out and buy books or sign up for lessons. But then life happens.

  You get busy at work, you have to take care of your kids or elderly parents, and before you know it, the month is over and you’ve barely made a dent.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Why 14th Amendment bars Trump from office: A constitutional law scholar explains principle behind Colorado Supreme Court ruling

  In 2024, former President Donald Trump will face some of his greatest challenges: criminal court cases, primary opponents, and constitutional challenges to his eligibility to hold the office of president again. The Colorado Supreme Court has pushed that latter piece to the forefront, ruling on Dec. 19, 2023 that Trump cannot appear on Colorado’s 2024 presidential ballot because of his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

To have better disagreements, change your words – here are 4 ways to make your counterpart feel heard and keep the conversation going

  Your 18-year-old daughter announces she’s in love, dropping out of college, and moving to Argentina. Your yoga-teaching brother refuses to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and is confident that fresh air is the best medicine. Your boss is hiring another white man for a leadership team already made up entirely of white men.

  At home, at work, and in civic spaces, it’s not uncommon to have conversations that make you question the intelligence and benevolence of your fellow human beings.  

Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas around the world

  Christmas is both a religious holiday and increasingly a secular holiday heavily influenced by local culture. As a result, Christmas traditions are as diverse as the world itself.

  In the United States, for example, Christmas traditions are a literal potpourri of the Christmas traditions brought by immigrants, mostly European. For example, Yule log (English), Christmas tree (German), carols or noels (France), Santa Claus (Dutch). In more recent times, newer Christmas traditions have arrived with the most recent immigrants such as luminaries (Mexico) and the "Feliz Navidad!" greeting (Latin America generally).

Sunday, December 24, 2023

How the American Civil War cemented modern Christmas tradition

  Shortly before Christmas Day 1864, Abraham Lincoln received an extraordinary Christmas present – Savannah, Georgia. Union General William Sherman presented the captured city to the president via telegram, noting his gift included guns, ammunition, and several thousand bales of cotton.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Five ways Christmas affects your brain

  Christmas is a time of year like no other; gifts are exchanged, little-spoken-to relatives are contacted, and appetizing treats are consumed with great gusto. Christmas can be both a time of stress and a time of relaxation. But whether you love or hate Christmas, it’s pretty difficult to avoid – and so your brain may be altered by the experience one way or another. Here are some of the main facets of the Christmas experience and how they might affect your brain.

Friday, December 22, 2023

What is a good Christmas?

  Will this be a good Christmas?

  How will you measure it?

  For lots of kids, the answer may be embedded in the response to the question, “What did ya get?”

  On the other hand, retailers and Wall Street investors will look to sales and profits.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Retail - why I hate Christmas

  I work in retail, therefore, I hate Christmas. Yes, that's what I said: I HATE CHRISTMAS. People often cluck their tongues and shake their heads in appalled disbelief when I tell them this, and then they often follow up the shaking of their heads with the same response: "I love Christmas because people are nicer to each other."

  Obviously, these people do not and have never worked in a grocery store during the holiday season. Wherever these kinder, gentler folk are, they definitely aren't anywhere near my place of employment. Of course, I work at the customer service desk, which on any given day, is overcrowded with pissed-off patrons demanding refunds and making general threats in order to get free food. During the holidays, this volatile behavior inevitably increases twofold, only to be compounded by the insane repetition of the Muzak in the background playing the 975th version of "White Christmas."

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Winter brings more than just ugly sweaters – here’s how the season can affect your mind and behavior

  What comes to mind when you think about winter? Snowflakes? Mittens? Reindeer? In much of the Northern Hemisphere, winter means colder temperatures, shorter days, and year-end holidays.

  Along with these changes, a growing body of research in psychology and related fields suggests that winter also brings some profound changes in how people think, feel, and behave.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Big-box retail chains were never a solution for America’s downtowns − and now they’re fleeing back to suburbia

  Holiday shopping is in full swing, but city dwellers may have fewer options for buying in person than they did a few years ago. That’s because many large chain stores are pulling out of central cities.

  This trend has been building for several years. Target made national headlines in 2018 when it closed its store in a predominantly Black Baltimore neighborhood after just 10 years of operation. COVID-19 sped things up by cutting foot traffic in city centers and boosting online commerce.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Find the spirit of Christmas that you once had

  Every year, the Christmas season comes earlier. It used to be that we put up our outside Christmas lights on the last weekend of November. Shortly after, we gradually transformed the inside of our house with Christmas decorations. This culminated with the purchase of a real pine tree, which we decorated shortly before Christmas, at times as late as Christmas Eve. The earliest that we went to get our tree was a couple of weeks before Christmas.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

In face of threats, election workers vow: ‘You are not disrupting the democratic process’

  Hundreds of election workers in Washington state’s second-largest county were busy opening mail-in ballots earlier this month when one of them came across a plain white envelope. As she cut it open, white powder leaked out.

  She carefully took off her gloves, put them down, backed away, and called her supervisor. Workers evacuated the building and waited for the Tacoma Fire Department to arrive. While first responders tested the substance, Democratic and Republican observers gathered at the emergency management center looking at security feeds of the election office to ensure there wasn’t any ballot tampering.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Hate Christmas? A psychologist’s survival guide for Grinches

  Two years ago, I came into work on December 1 to find a bag on my desk labeled “Karen’s Christmas Intervention”. It contained many Christmas-themed gifts and challenges – such as watching a Christmas DVD and going to a carol service. These were all designed to help me find something to like about Christmas. I tried everything – after all, someone had made a big effort. But while I enjoyed completing each challenge, it didn’t change my values. I remain a Grinch.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Health misinformation is rampant on social media – here’s what it does, why it spreads and what people can do about it

  The global anti-vaccine movement and vaccine hesitancy that accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic show no signs of abating.

  According to a survey of U.S. adults, Americans in October 2023 were less likely to view approved vaccines as safe than they were in April 2021. As vaccine confidence falls, health misinformation continues to spread like wildfire on social media and in real life.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Toforest Johnson shows who Alabama’s death penalty serves

  Toforest Johnson should not be on death row.

  I’m not the first person to think that. I doubt I’ll be the last.

  A jury convicted Johnson in 1998 of the murder of William Hardy, an off-duty Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed in a parking lot on the morning of July 19, 1995. Police arrested Johnson a few hours later.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Online ‘likes’ for toxic social media posts prompt more − and more hateful − messages

  The rampant increase of hate messages on social media is a scourge in today’s technology-infused society. Racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and even personal attacks on people who have the audacity to disagree with someone else’s political opinion – these and other forms of online hate present an ugly side of humanity.

  The derision on social media appears in vile and profane terms for all to see. Obviously, the sole purpose of posting online hate is to harass and harm one’s victims, right?

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Alabama’s low workforce participation rate is real. Legislators may not like the solutions.

  Alabama politicians chase so many imaginary problems that it’s worth noting when they dialogue with reality.

  For example, the recent creation by Gov. Kay Ivey and state legislators of a commission to study the state’s chronically low workforce participation rate.

  It’s a real problem.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Christmas food around the world

   The following provides just a taste of favorite festive foods from around the world:


  Austrians celebrate Christmas in grand style with a Christmas Eve supper of carp simmered in a ginger and beer-flavored sauce and seasonal vegetables, followed by Topfenpalatschinken (sweet cheese crepes topped with an apricot caramel sauce) for dessert. The traditional fare on Christmas Day is roast goose with all the trimmings.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

If Alabama wants to support crime victims, it should start by listening to us

  My little brother Arthur Sturdivant, Jr. died by homicide on June 8, 2021. I was there when he went, lying in the street in Selma. Police arrested the man who shot him, but the ambulance arrived too late. Arthur was 21 years old. I was 25.

  Arthur left behind a family who loved him, including a sweet son who I am now helping to raise.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Growing threat of political violence looms over 2024, former members of Congress warn

  Former members of Congress are deeply concerned about political violence ahead of the 2024 presidential election, former Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama and former Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia said at a Thursday joint appearance sponsored by the liberal Center for American Progress and the nonpartisan McCain Institute.

  Jones, a moderate Democrat who lost reelection in 2020, and Comstock, a moderate Republican who was defeated in 2018, said increased acceptance of political violence is seen across the political spectrum. But they laid much of the blame on former President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Steep physical decline with age is not inevitable – here’s how strength training can change the trajectory

  Raise your hand if you regularly find yourself walking up a flight of stairs. What about carrying heavy bags of groceries? How about picking up your child or grandchild? Most of us would raise our hands to doing at least one of those weekly or even daily.

  As people age, it can become more and more difficult to perform some physical tasks, even those that are normal activities of daily living. However, prioritizing physical fitness and health as you get older can help you go through your normal day-to-day routine without feeling physically exhausted at the end of the day.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Hanukkah celebrations have changed dramatically − but the same is true of Christmas

  Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas. Articles and op-eds in newspapers remind readers of that fact every year, lamenting that the Jewish Festival of Lights has almost become an imitation of the Christian holiday.

  These pieces exist for a reason. Hanukkah is a minor festival in the Jewish liturgical year, whose major holidays come in the fall and spring – the High Holidays and Passover, respectively. Because of its proximity to Christmas, however, Hanukkah has been culturally elevated into a major celebration.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Jingle Bell blocked: 10 holiday songs that have been censored

  A viral story once claimed that playing holiday music before Thanksgiving was a federal crime. But it was a joke. That couldn't happen thanks to the First Amendment.

  The First Amendment protects freedom of expression. That includes music. It also protects freedom of religion. That includes celebrating religious holidays with song.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

ChatGPT turns 1: AI chatbot’s success says as much about humans as technology

  ChatGPT was launched on Nov. 30, 2022, ushering in what many have called artificial intelligence’s breakout year. Within days of its release, ChatGPT went viral. Screenshots of conversations snowballed across social media, and the use of ChatGPT skyrocketed to an extent that seems to have surprised even its maker, OpenAI. By January, ChatGPT was seeing 13 million unique visitors each day, setting a record for the fastest-growing user base of a consumer application.

  Throughout this breakout year, ChatGPT has revealed the power of a good interface and the perils of hype, and it has sown the seeds of a new set of human behaviors. As a researcher who studies technology and human information behavior, I find that ChatGPT’s influence in society comes as much from how people view and use it as the technology itself.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Pollution from coal power plants contributes to far more deaths than scientists realized, study shows

  Air pollution particles from coal-fired power plants are more harmful to human health than many experts realized, and it’s more than twice as likely to contribute to premature deaths as air pollution particles from other sources, new research demonstrates.

  In the study, published in the journal Science, colleagues and I mapped how U.S. coal power plant emissions traveled through the atmosphere, then linked each power plant’s emissions with death records of Americans over 65 years old on Medicare.

  Our results suggest that air pollutants released from coal power plants were associated with nearly half a million premature deaths of elderly Americans from 1999 to 2020.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Airlines are frustrating travelers by changing frequent flyer program rules – here’s why they keep doing it

  As the U.S. holiday travel season picks up, many people are noticing that their frequent flyer benefits aren’t going as far as they used to.

  In September 2023, Delta Air Lines revamped its frequent flyer program to make it tougher to earn status — a tiered system offering travel privileges based on the reward points earned — only to partially reverse course a month later and make it easier. American Airlines also made big changes to its loyalty scheme in 2022 and minor changes in spring 2023. And British Airways recently announced that it is adjusting the way it awards points for travel.

Friday, December 1, 2023

A tortured and deadly legacy: Kissinger and realpolitik in US foreign policy

  Henry Kissinger, who died on Nov. 29, 2023, at age 100, exercised more than 50 years of influence on American foreign policy.

  I am a scholar of American foreign policy who has written on Kissinger’s service from 1969 to 1977 as national security adviser and secretary of state under the Nixon and Ford administrations. I have seen how his foreign policy views and actions played out for good and, mostly, for ill.