Random Thoughts – From Pleasure Centers to (Wannabe) Presidents

OK, I know I promised that I wouldn’t post more than once a week.  I’m far too polite to say “Bite me.”  I had these thoughts rattling around in my head, and they had to go somewhere.

Harvard on pleasure centers

Every week, I get an email newsletter called HBS Working Knowledge from my graduate alma mater, the Harvard Business School.  It’s mostly a summary of emerging faculty research.  Recently, it arrived with an article that began like this (italics added):

“In the early 1950s, two scientists at McGill University inadvertently discovered an area of the rodent brain dubbed “the pleasure center,” located deep in the nucleus accumbens. When a group of lab rats had the opportunity to stimulate their own pleasure centers via a lever-activated electrical current, they pressed the lever over and over again, hundreds of times per hour, foregoing food or sleep, until many of them dropped dead from exhaustion. Further research found pleasure centers exist in human brains, too.”

Yes, this is from the Harvard Business School.  I sure don’t remember a sex-ed class when I was there.  I’m certainly grateful to know that the pleasure center is “deep in the nucleus accumbens”  I always thought it was elsewhere.  And although electricity sounds decidedly unpleasant to me, based on what my parents told me, I would have thought those poor rats might be in danger of going blind, but not dying.

Who’s really in charge at Penn State?

Of all the ugly revelations about Penn State over the past year, the one I find most surprising is that the university is not, as I had always thought, a state school.  Turns out that it’s run by the Catholic church.

A remarkable kid with a heart for others

Here’s a terrific Chicago Tribune article about a remarkable child.  He’s the son of one of the musicians killed in the Rhode Island night club fire nearly a decade ago.  That event preceded his birth.  What he’s doing as the result of an experience he didn’t even have is exceptional.  He’s nine years old.  How do children get such perspective and wisdom at such a young age?

Regarding my last post (too many guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. . .)

When I went to the Tribune website to find a link to the article mentioned above, I found this on the home page:

Those are the headlines from one day in one American city.

I was going to point you to a Time Magazine opinion piece on this subject by Fareed Zakaria until I discovered that he has been suspended by Time and CNN for plagiarizing most of it.  The article from which he ‘borrowed’ (shamefully and shamelessly) appeared in The New Yorker last April, and you can read it here.

It’s not a quick read, but if the issue is important to you, whatever side of it you may be on, I encourage you set aside the time to read it, especially for its enlightening history of the debate over gun rights in America.

Romney chooses Ryan

The addition of Paul Ryan to the presidential campaign certainly will liven things up.  Whatever you may think of Ryan’s principles, at least he has some.  This is now another race in which the vice presidential nominees are much more interesting (or, in Biden’s case, at least entertaining) than the guys who picked them. . .shades of Cheney vs. Lieberman.  Ryan is polarizing, and my guess is that he will wind up hurting Romney more than helping him.  But his presence will ensure that there is some actual content in the campaign, and I’m glad for that.

Ryan’s most controversial proposal is that Medicare should be turned into a voucher system.  I’ve said many times that I believe we will inevitably wind up with a single-payer system and that efforts to make what is inherently not a market behave like it is a market are a waste of both time and money.  That puts me squarely on the opposite side of the issue from Ryan.  I would love to be proven wrong about this.

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