Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Danger! Teenagers online!

It seems social networkers are getting younger. A recent survey for BBC Newsround suggests that over three-quarters of children aged 10-12 in the UK have signed up to social media such as Facebook+, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram.

These tots now join the ever-growing number of teens already accessing the web on a regular basis. According to Pew Research Centre, 92% of US teens go online each day, while 24% are online almost constantly.

It’s not hard to understand why. With instant information at their fingertips, the ability to follow every detail of favourite celebrity lifestyles, and a whole world of (seemingly) like-minded people to befriend, no wonder so many teens spend so much time on the internet.

Which makes them extremely vulnerable to unsavoury content and manipulative people.

An article in Better Homes and Gardens explained: “The Internet is a bustling frontier where brilliant pioneers hawk the latest information; but paedophiles, scam artists, bigots, and other unsavoury characters wander cyberspace too.”

As youths like Javier* have discovered: “Some Web sites are shocking. They can pop up without warning and are trying to pull you in. They want to entice you—to get your money.” John*, another teenager, admits: “Once you start looking at improper material, it’s hard to stop—it’s so addictive.”

One major problem of the internet is that users feel free to browse at leisure in privacy. However, lack of supervision, especially for guileless teens (and younger children!), is incredibly dangerous. Not only are they prey to a sewer of morally corrupt material, but also to radical and persuasive ideologies. It’s human nature to be curious, a quality that can so easily be exploited by unscrupulous predators.

Although some websites give warning of ‘sensitive’ material, many more can seem quite innocent, drawing in vulnerable young victims before they realise what they’re viewing. Even if they close the site instantly, any offensive images are imprinted in the brain, causing anxiety and feelings of shame. Worse still, such images are designed to lure people into the site—and, once hooked, the victim may return again and again, forming a habit that’s difficult to break. Viewing pornography can soon become a pattern.
Chat rooms also present challenges. Writer Leah Rozen observed: “Techno-savvy teenagers are spending hours chatting online with anonymous strangers all over the country and even the world. Unfortunately, some of those strangers with whom teens may be talking online also happen to be adult perverts looking for sexual trysts with kids.” Even with their peers, there’s always a danger for teens from strangers who have no moral boundaries - researchers have found much of the chat room conversation focuses on sexual issues.
Popular Mechanics warned that “you have to be extremely careful” when using public chat rooms. Giving out your name or address to total strangers is just asking for trouble!
Advice for Teens: Protect yourself

Keep online devices in the living room or other well-used areas and only go online when others are at home. Maybe you feel your parents are too strict, but any boundaries they set are for YOUR protection - because they love you - so cooperate.

Beware dodgy links, blogs, sites or ‘friends’ who want to manipulate or corrupt you. If you DO stumble onto anything unwholesome or disturbing, close the site down immediately – or even get offline! Don’t allow nasty, sick images to linger in your head and NEVER let curiosity get the better of you! Pornography is highly addictive and can actually change your brain!
If you’ve already been hooked by porn, violence or other disturbing websites, speak to someone who cares about you, a mature friend or family member who will help and advise you.
DO NOT allow anyone to manipulate you, groom you, intimidate you, make you uncomfortable or mess with your head. Remember, not everyone you meet online may be the person you think they are. That cool, good-looking 18-year old may be a lot older (and uglier) than you think! Never EVER give out your address or other contact details no matter how 'nice' your chatty new friend may seem!
Browsing aimlessly can be one of life’s biggest time-wasters, so schedule the time you spend online - and stick to it—no matter how absorbed you become. This applies not only to social media and chat rooms, but also emails! Countless messages can eat into other important activities, such as homework and studies.
Never let virtual communication take the place of face to face contact with the people who matter most – family and friends.

+BBC News has reported that paedophiles are using Facebook to swap images. NEVER agree to 'meet' anyone in a secret 'room' while visiting this site. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35521068
*Names have been changed
See also https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/family/teenagers/whiteboard-animations/social-network-smart/

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Boy racers and ballistic buses

Guest post by Peter Coghlan, locked-in stroke survivor and author of "In the Blink of an Eye"* 

I really, really tried to end my blogs. I really, really wanted to leave it on a high note. But it’s not why I write. I started this whole thing – the book and blogs - to share my journey through brain-stem stroke and locked-in syndrome. And I feel recent events must be written about, as they include situations a recovering Stroke survivor may encounter. So I’ve asked my pal Jacy to ‘guest’ me on her blog, leaving the last post on my website as a cry of triumph!

Ok. I’ll attempt to bring you up to speed…Speed being the key word!!! Last week I visited a 20-year-old girl who’s learning to live alone with a one-sided stroke and adapting as well as she can, poor lass. But I don’t want to talk about that just now; that’s not the issue. 

On the way home, I was waiting at traffic lights when two cars T-boned each other at high speed. I was like OMG!! Unbelievably, one of the cars came hurtling towards me like a bat out of hell!. All I could do was the same as every other brave young bloke would do – cringe, pull a pathetic face and brace for impact! Scared the hell out of me, I can tell you, and I did shake a bit! Needless to say, my car was a right-off and, after a taxi ride home, It was very clear that I was up the creek!! I was starting my health care assistant course in three days’ time with no car, but I had to get there. 
So I turned to public transport and caught the bus. Planning routes and all that took some doing, as it involved 6 buses a day! I did find the service reliable, but discovered a pitfall I want to share with my followers…’Fall’ again being the operative word!

One day, the driver took off without waiting for me to sit down, hitting the accelerator so hard it threw me off my feet. I flew down the bus like a rag doll, landing on my back and hitting the bus floor at speed. It could have been worse, of course. Having survived a car coming at me like a bat out of hell, a massive stroke, cancer, a hotel roof collapsing in Bali and explosive devices in my army days, a simple thing like being catapulted from front to back of a bus moving at twice the speed of sound is par for the course! I've come across every scenario you can think of on my journey from hell!

Yes, it could have been much worse….I could have broken a hip or even my neck and found myself in a wheelchair again (not an experience I care to repeat!) 

Now, sitting here nursing my bruises, I have learned the hard way that when you get on a bus you must tell the driver clearly: “Please wait until I sit down!!! Thank you!”

So next time you catch the bus, don’t be caught out, as some drivers clearly are drag racers!! Tell them to drive off until you’re firmly and safely in your seat!

Just to end on a high - my health care course seems great – one that can send me in almost any direction! Meanwhile, I think I’ve earned my Tetley tea n tim tams today! 

Good job i bounce, i tell ya!!

*published by Amazon 

For more information, visit petercoghlan.com
See also: http://jacybrean.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/and-half-years-ago-i-received-phone.html

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Pantomime for Broadway?

       Strange.  I’ve always thought of pantomime as a peculiarly British tradition - as unique to our ‘green and pleasant land’ as the Union Jack, jellied eels, bacon and egg, strongly brewed tea and Marmite.
       Yet every blog I write about panto gets more views from the States than from dear old old Blighty. Maybe the Brits take this ancient mummery for granted. After all, it’s been going strong since Roman times when, along with bread and circuses, it kept the populace pliant and less likely to revolt over the dire state of the nation.
       Similarly, in our day a good pantomime provides a welcome distraction from the miserable winter weather, the endless recession and the absolute fortunes spent on Christmas presents which nobody wants. But whatever is happening in the world, there’s one thing we can count on; from November to February pantomimes will be playing at almost every UK theatre. 
       What is it that makes pantomime so special, so beloved of children of all ages? Distinguished Shakespearean actor, Sir Ian MacKellen (Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings) explains: “Pantomime has everything theatrical: song, dance, verse, slapstick, soliloquy, audience participation, spectacle, cross-dressing and a good plot, strong on morality and romance. What more could you want for a family outing? I believe there’s more pure theatre in a pantomime than you get in Shakespeare, and if it works, it’s unforgettable.”
       Audience participation is one of panto’s most endearing aspects, with the cast positively encouraging audiences to shout, sing, heckle, boo and cheer! The result may seem anarchic, yet there’s a strong discipline involved – certain rules which unite both cast and audience, creating unity from mayhem!
       Now I’m going to say something really contentious: If you’ve only ever seen a pantomime in the West End, you’ve probably never seen panto! Unfortunately, the bigger the show, the more likely it is to be a vehicle for TV reality and soap stars, retired politicians, pop singers and blue comedians (see my previous blog: http://jacybrean.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/is-panto-for-children-anymore.html) It may have plenty of glitz and glamour, but very little authenticity. 

           For pantomime in its purest form, Act One Panto, a small touring theatre which specialises in the genre, comes as close as it gets to the strolling players of old, featuring mime, songs, dance, acrobatics and comedy – all incorporated into the plot.  Artistic Director Jule Watson has studied pantomime in depth and, while adding her innovative flair into the mix with a contemporary slant, she believes firmly in keeping its traditional core intact. “Before you can break a rule, you first have to keep a rule” is Jule’s maxim.
       Creating a pantomime is all very democratic. Soon after the current season’s productions go on tour, Jule consults with her cast and crew, inviting suggestions for the following year’s offerings. Once the theme has been decided, she’ll telephone or email me to commission a script.
       I then come up with a general outline for Jule to consider, at the same time picking the brains of family, friends and colleagues for jokes or funny anecdotes. (The best, by the way, invariably come from youngsters!) These are all scribbled in my notebook, ready for inclusion where appropriate, along with ideas of my own and any snippets I pick when out and about.
     Then I think about it. And think about it. And think about it some more....until finally, I get down to the actual writing, which can be within a relatively short time, provided the ideas are forming and the dialogue flows.
       Then it’s over to Jule who’ll consider the physical aspects of the show, such as visual gags and special effects. For Alice in Pantoland, we had the comedy duo, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, ‘galloping’ Monty Python-style around the auditorium on pretend horses. For Follow the Yellow Brick Road, staged the following year, Jule was even more ambitious – incorporating pogo sticks and unicycles!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Eternal youth. Could humans stay young forever?

Forget the Botox, cancel your facelift – according to researchers at Nottingham University, the Fountain of Youth may lie with the humble flatworm.

From just one member of this innocuous species, a team led by Molecular Biologist DrAziz Aboobaker have created over 20,000 worms which, when divided, simply grow back again - i.e. the head bit grows another tail while the tail portion grows a replacement head, producing two worms for the price of one. And the more they are cut up, the more parts there are to regenerate into complete new worms, each identical to the first, with bodies and organs that never seem to deteriorate.

As a result of his research, Molecular Biologist Dr Aziz Aboobaker believes flatworms are immortal thanks to telomeres which keep their cells dividing and renewing perpetually, unlike humans.

The Myths

The Fountain of Youth by Lucas Cranach the Elder
Currently, ageing is a remorseless, unrelenting and inevitable process from which nobody (except Peter Pan and possibly Brad) seems able to escape. Yet finding a cure for this condition, maybe even for death itself, has been the ultimate goal for humans since time began. 

In ancient China, for example, Taoist priests led people to neglect their labour to search for “the elixir of life” or “fountain of youth”. Alchemists in medieval Europe and Arabia used noxious ingredients such as arsenic, sulphur and mercury to create their supposed life-preserving potions - though how long anyone actually lived after taking them is anybody’s guess!

One African legend is that God send a chameleon to deliver immortality to mankind, but it moved so slowly that another lizard got there first and persuaded people to accept a message of death instead.

As far back as the 4th century BCE, the Greek philosopher Aristotle attempted to explain just why we die, concluding that life hinged on the human body’s ability to balance heat and cold, observing: “It is always to some lack of heat that death is due.” Another philosopher, Plato, taught that man has an immortal soul that survives the death of the body.

Today, little has changed and it isn’t just women who yearn to turn back the clock, nor is it just the rich who pay handsomely to have their bodies frozen via cyronics, hoping for a revival once a cure for their terminal condition has been discovered. Every day, dubious and sometimes highly unethical therapies are being lined up as the only way to achieve that everlastingly flawless complexion and perfectly toned muscles. One stomach-churning report by a national newspaper exposed the use of desiccated foetuses in tablet form which are thought to preserve youth.

Are ageing and death natural?

For many people, the idea of living forever seems too far-fetched, even absurd. But is it? If we were only meant to live for just three score years and ten (or longer if we have exceptional genes), why do we fear death so much? Why do people undergo painful and unpleasant treatment to defeat life-threatening disease, or grieve so much when a loved one dies? And, if old age is as natural as we’re led to believe, why do so many invest heavily in creams, fillers, and cosmetic surgery to hold back the years? 

The sad fact is, even a tree can last ten times longer than we do - which seems an awful waste of our incredible brains, described by molecular biologist James Watson as “the most complex thing we have yet discovered in our universe.” Just as we learn how to use it, we're too old to care!

Superficially, looks matter too. One photographer who specialises in cosmetics and skin care products believes a model is over the hill at 17, as, by then, the complexion has lost its dewy glow!!

But were we actually meant to grow old? At one time, gerontologists believed human bodies were programmed - to grow, to reach their peak and then to rapidly decline into old age and, eventually, death. Yet some experts into ageing have now modified that view, largely due to the miraculous way the human body functions. 

Biologist Jared Diamond, for example, noted how we “replace the cells lining our intestine once every few days, those lining the urinary bladder once every two months, and our red blood cells once every four months,” adding: “Nature is taking us apart and putting us back together every day.” 

This means that our physical bodies don’t really age at all but, according to one scientist: “In a year, approximately 98% of the atoms in us now will be replaced by other atoms that we take in through our air, food and drink.” 

And, as other experts admit they don’t know why ageing should occur, we have to wonder whether we really should live forever. In his book, Conquest of Death, Alvin Silverstein wrote of his desire to “unravel the essence of life” and to understand how a person ages.” He was convinced that one day there will be no more old people, “for the knowledge that will permit the conquest of death will also bring eternal youth.”

The Telomere

Telomerase research has now become one of the hottest fields in molecular biology, boosted by results from Dr Aboobaker’s recent study.  

Every cell contains a nucleus, a complex control centre, providing instructions for all the cell’s activities. This set code is stored in the chromosomes, a mix of protein and deoxyribonucleic acid, now commonly known as DNA. Although discovered in the 1860’s, DNA’s molecular structure was not fully understood until a century later when biologists began to realise its primary role – to convey genetic information.

At the tip of each chromosome is a short snippet of DNA called a telomere - from the Greek te’los (end) and me’ros (part).  Acting as a protective shield, rather like the plastic cap at the end of a shoelace, the telomere helps to stabilise the chromosome, preventing it from fraying, breaking or sticking. Unfortunately, most telomeres shrink grow shorter with each cell division until they wear away to mere stumps and no longer prove effective. Without the telomere’s protection, the cell stops dividing and begins to die due to the Hayflick Limit, a process discovered by Dr Leonard Hayflick in the 1960’s whereby cells appear to have a finite number of divisions – around 50 during its life span.  

Because of this phenomenon, human cells eventually shrink with age, resulting in our inevitable decay. Not so with flatworms. Their telomeres remain exactly the same, so cells keep on dividing at the same rate. As a result, Dr Aboobaker and colleague Dr Thomas Tan claim to have already isolated the ‘immortality’ gene and feel confident that it may one day help scientists to grow new organs and develop treatments to keep old age at bay. The implication is that if biologists could use telomerase to stop telomeres shortening during normal cell division, perhaps ageing could be halted or at least delayed. According to Geron Corporation News experiments with telomerase have already shown that normal human cells can be modified with “an infinite replicative capacity.”

So could humans stay young forever? Time will tell! But, for now, please check out this amazing treatment: http://jacybrean.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/water-best-medicine-ever.html

Why DO we grow old and die? https://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/good-news-from-god/why-god-allows-evil-and-suffering/ 

Thursday, 31 December 2015

The significance of numbers

       Every new year it’s the same. Keenly interested in what the future holds, many people are looking to various forms of divination, causing astrologers, tarot card readers, crystal gazers, psychometrists and psychics of every persuasion to rub their palms with glee and expectation of being crossed with silver.

       One popular method is numerology, described by Wikipedia as “any belief in the divine, mystical relationship between a number and one or more coinciding events." Despite the claims of practitioners, however, numerology is devoid of scientific basis, fails to stand up when examined and, more importantly, as a form of divination conflicts with Bible teachings. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) 

       Nevertheless, the Bible does view certain numbers as significant - figuratively, symbolically or in an illustrative sense – and these can help us to unravel scripture, especially prophetic texts such as Revelation:

Symbolic Numbers 

One. Singleness, uniqueness (Deuteronomy 6:4). This number also denotes unity and agreement of purpose as shared by the Father, His Son and true followers. In an earthly sense, ‘oneness’ is demonstrated by the marriage arrangement. (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6)

Two. Symbolises a legal precedent, solidly confirming a matter through the testimony of 2 witnesses. This precedent is upheld by world judicial systems to the present day. (Deuteronomy 17:6; Revelation 11:3,4)

Three. Emphasis and intensity. If two witnesses can provide enough proof for legal action, then three makes the case even stronger.  (Revelation 4:8; 8:13; 16:13, 19)

Four. Universal number, illustrating the symmetry of the ‘four corners of the earth’. (Revelation 4:6; 7:1, 2; 9:14; 20:8; 21:16)

Six. Imperfection, something abnormal or monstrous, especially when multiplied as in Revelation 13:18 – i.e. 666, the ‘number of the beast’. (See also Samuel 21:20)

Seven. The divine number, signifying completeness of purpose as determined by God (Revelation 1:4,12,16; 4:5; 5:1,6; 10:3,4) It can also denote Satan’s purposes. (Revelation 12:3)

Ten. Earthly wholeness or completeness. Often used to illustrate the entire world’s rulers.  (Revelation 2:10; 12:3; 13:1; 17:3,1,16)

Twelve. Divinely constituted organisation in heaven or on earth. (Revelation 7:5-8; 12:1; 21:12,16; 22:2)

Twenty-Four. God’s whole organisational arrangement. (Revelation 4:4)

For more information about the Bible, visit jw.org

Monday, 5 October 2015

Water. The best medicine ever?

“You’re not sick; You’re thirsty” – Dr F Batmanghelidj

       A warm and sunny Sunday afternoon and I should be tidying the garden. Instead, I’m sitting at my desk (or at least what passes for one) trying to summon up suitably refreshing words to share an astonishing discovery with my followers and friends.
       So here it is. ….cool, clear, totally transparent and straight out of the tap.

       That’s right. Water.
       A guy called Phil put me onto it – or, at least, reminded me how beneficial H2O can be. Phil is an alternative therapist who practices bio-resonance, harnessing electro-magnetic frequencies to attack and obliterate harmful parasites, viruses and bacteria. All quite painless, I assure you, having had this treatment myself, but not this time.        
       On this occasion, it is my 80+ friend Doreen who is being scanned. She’s lying on a very comfy chair and holding a short metal rod in each hand. These are conductors, designed to hunt down any unwelcome ‘squatters’ in her body so they can then be zapped into oblivion.
       Sitting behind a desk, Phil is monitoring his electro-magnetic machine. It seems Doreen has a water infection. “You’re also badly dehydrated,” he says, “need to drink more water.”
       “Ah, water!” I exclaim. As Doreen’s designated driver, I was allowed in to take notes of anything Doreen might not remember - though, truth be told, despite being older than me, her brain’s a lot sharper. But hey, two heads are better than one.
       “Yes, water,” says Phil, warming to his theme, “It’s the best therapy you can have. You’d be amazed how many conditions it can alleviate and even cure. There was a man in here a while ago with kidney problems…..shrunken like raisins they were.  Doctors had told him he’d need dialysis but all he really needed was water. I gave him a pint to drink, then another and another and, by the time he’d finished, his kidneys were working properly. The water plumped them up.”
       “Would that work on wrinkles?” I ask.
       “Oh yes,” Phil nods. “Water plumps up the skin like nothing else does....as well as keeping you healthier. In Ireland, the word whiskey means ‘water of life’. Keeps the brain working too.” He then told us about an elderly relative who lived in a nursing home. “Alzheimers,” he explains. “When I go to see her she doesn’t recognise me at first, so I get a glass of water, stick in a straw and say, ‘Here’s the drink you asked for, Grandma’. She’ll have a few sips then push it away, and a minute later I’ll pass it back to her. ‘Here’s that drink you asked for’, and just keep giving her more.   Eventually she’ll look at me and say ‘Hello, love!’ It’s the water, you see? Without it, the brain shrinks.
       ‘Most people don’t realise how dehydrated they are. The brain doesn’t tell you when you need water, so by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dangerously dehydrated.
       ‘Do you know….” Phil leans forward earnestly. “…..more people die of drowning in the desert than from lack of water?  True! Most people found dead have water with them. And the older you are, the less thirsty you become, the less water you drink and the more the brain is impaired. Tea and coffee don’t help much…they’re diuretics and you just don’t get the same benefit. It has to be pure water to make any difference.”
       “So how much should you drink a day?” I ask.
       ‘For an adult - 3 pints per day - minimum. I have a good 8 pints myself, one before I even get out of bed and I keep drink water with every meal. It detoxes the system, sharpens your mind and helps you stay young.”
       That's convinced me! “Is there any more information on water?”
       “There’s a doctor with a strange first name….something like Doctor Batman*….anyway, he’s written a book about water and its many health benefits. Google it and you’ll find out why the Irish call it the water of life!”
       Which I do as soon as I get home. ‘Doctor Batman’ is Fereydoon Batmanghelidj (b.1931 - d.2004) an Iranian from a wealthy family who was imprisoned after the revolution in 1979. Though sentenced to death, he was spared in order to treat his fellow inmates at Evin Prison. During this incarceration he discovered the merits of water, having no other therapy available, and was so amazed by the results, he later wrote “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water” which claims that chronic dehydration is the root cause of many ailments. This controversial view has had its detractors, of course, but Dr Batmanghelidj stuck to his guns and his findings.
       In his opinion, a dry mouth is not one of the first symptoms of dehydration but one of the last. He further stated that people’s ability to recognise thirst decreases with age. As a result, they drink less and age even faster.
       Some medical conditions Dr Batmaghelidj claimed could be alleviated by water include:
Asthma, allergies, obesity, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, confusion, memory loss, depression, chronic fatigue, lack of energy, problems sleeping, addiction, osteoporosis, leukaemia, lymphoma, hot flushes, gout, kidney stones, attention deficit.
       Dr Batmanghelidj also asserted that dehydration could contribute to cancer and auto-immune disorders, including AIDS.
       How true these claims are is open to debate. For me, it makes sense that drinking more can, at the very least, cleanse and hydrate the body. At worst, it will certainly not do any harm.
       So have one on me….at least 3 times a day…..and see if it makes a difference!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Super Blood Moon. Is the End Nigh?

Much brouhaha about the latest Supermoon eclipse, with many people wondering "Could this signify the End?"

If the prospect has you choking on your coffee, it's worth bearing in mind that, according to Jesus in his great prophecy about the End Times, "no one knows the day or the hour". He did however highlight several signs which would alert us to the nearness of a 'great tribulation' culminating in Armageddon. (Matthew chapter 24)

And, using Bible chronology along with these signs and related prophecies, students have pinpointed 1914 as the beginning of these 'Last Days' which mark the end of the 'Gentile Times' and a catastrophic period in human history. (Revelation 12:9-12)

Other scriptures describing these Last Days and the 'Sign of Christ's presence' include 1 Timothy 3:1-5; Revelation 6:1-8 and Revelation 13:13-16. So if you really want to know the 'whys' and 'hows', get your Bible out or read it online.

As for the 'when'....all we can know with any certainty is that it will be very, very soon, as almost all the prophecies relating to the end have been fulfilled.  Endtime prophecies still to happen are:

 1) A gathering together of world rulers who will strengthen the UN - to give it 'teeth' as it were. (Rev 16:14; Rev 13: 14-18)

2) A notable cry of 'Peace & security'. (1 Thess 5:3)

3) World powers turning on world religion to its total destruction. (Rev 17:16,17; Rev chapter 18), followed by the outbreak of the Great Tribulation mentioned in Matthew 24:21.

Will Armageddon mean the end of the literal planet? You'll be glad to learn the answer is 'no'. (Psalm 104:5). On the contrary, Revelation 11:18 states that destruction will come to those 'ruining the earth' and that the meek will 'inherit the earth; with the prospect of living forever upon it. (Psalm 37:10,11,29)

For further information check out: