Everything You Thought You Knew About Creativity Is Wrong


Everything You Thought You Knew About Creativity Is Wrong

We tend to think that creativity is innate — you’ve either got it or you don’t. Our “creative type” friends are artsy, full of wonder and always wanting to dig into something deeper. The rest? They’re investment bankers.

Contrary to popular belief, no one is born without a creative bone in his or her body, and not all creative types are starving artists. In other words, we’ve all got it, but our personalities play a role in the kind of creative we are, and how we best feed into it.


Caffeinated Death



Study Says Excess Coffee May Be Linked To Early Death. Should We Believe It?


Steel yourself for the results of a new studythat’s making headlines: Those of us under 55 who drink a lot of coffee – more than four cups per day – may be at greater risk of an early death. And not death from heart problems, but death from all causes. The study, from Mayo Clinic Proceedings, followed people for almost two decades, and found that in both sexes, younger people were more likely to die of anything than people who drank less. Though it may sound bleak, the study really just adds to the mishmosh of coffee studies all pointing at different outcomes. And good news remains – many earlier studies have found that heavy coffee consumption is linked to reduced mortality. So the logical advice is still to enjoy your daily ritual if it seems to work for you.

But here’s what the new study found. The team tracked almost 44,000 participants for 17 years, noting how many people died, and of what cause. Lifestyle factors like coffee consumption, diet, exercise, smoking, and weight were taken noted and potential confounders controlled for. It turned out that 2,500 people died during the study period, with men making up over 87% of those deaths.

The headline-worthy results: People under 55 who drank more than 28 cups per week were more like to die of almost any cause than people who drank less. Women were twice as likely to die from any cause and men were 56% more likely, compared to people who drank less. Even controlling for cigarette smoking, which is generally the big confounder in coffee studies, did not totally eliminate the link.

Before you panic and switch to tea, keep in mind some drawbacks of the study. One problem is that no one really knows what mechanism/s could explain the coffee-death link. Some are candidates, however: There’s coffee’s ability to boost epinephrine (adrenalin) levels in the body, its inhibition of insulin function (though this is controversial), and the fact that it may raise blood pressure and homocysteine levels, which are both known to increase heart risk (though since heart disease was not increased in the study, these seem less likely).

Another big caveat is the age issue – the coffee-death relationship was only true for people under 55 – and the reason behind this is somewhat of a mystery. It could be that people who are dying this young are already predisposed to fatal health problems in various ways, although this is somewhat speculative. Study author Chip Lavie points out that heavy coffee drinkers differ in a number of ways from less avid consumers, so there may be other, as-yet-undiscovered things going on. The authors suggest that since heart disease wasn’t increased among heavy coffee drinkers, but rather death from all causes, cancer may be a culprit. “Certainly, one would think that the main non-CV cause of death would be cancer, but we did not specifically assess this. And with cancer, one would really want to know cause-specific as opposed to cancer in general – we will probably try to assess this, although this is not quite as easy as one may think.”

If you’re wondering about how decaf might affect things, that answer too is unclear. The study controlled for decaf (although most people didn’t drink it anyway), meaning that only caffeinated coffee was included in the correlation with mortality. However, Lavie points out that since heart disease deaths were not raised among the heavy coffee drinkers, one might expect the same link to be true for decaf as well. “When this questionnaire was administered 25-30 years ago,” he says, “there was not much use of decaf coffee, so whether this relates with regular vs. all coffees would be guessing. If the mortality was due to cardiovascular, we would speculate that it may not apply to decaf, but we saw no increase in cardiovascular mortality in any of the groups at any of the doses.”

Also keep in mind, the current study only points to a correlation, not cause-and-effect. And it only measured coffee consumption at one time-point, not many throughout the years. There could be a lot of other things at play. “It is impossible to know if this association is causal or just an association,” says Lavie, “so one does not want to over-state or over-hype the dangers of drinking more than 28 cups per week, although I personally will make an effort to keep my cups at 3 or less most of the time.”

But perhaps most uplifting of all is to remember that findings from a number of earlierstudies contradict the new one and suggest that coffee is actually, at least on average, good for us. In fact, one recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine,following some 400,000 people, suggested that drinking up to six cups per day is actually linked to reduced mortality from all causes – 10% for men and 15% for women. The results were true whether the people drank caffeinated coffee or decaf. Given the high levels of antioxidants in coffee, there may be some logical explanations for its connection to enhanced health and longer lifespan. The authors of that study write, “Our results provide reassurance with respect to the concern that coffee drinking might adversely affect health.”

Because of individual differences, genetics, and the myriad lifestyle choices we make every day, there are sure to be interactions going on that make the connection much more complicated than “coffee=death” or “coffee=longevity.” Depending on all these factors, for some, coffee may be good, for others not so. So while we’re waiting for the research to give us a clearer picture, talk to your doc, or go with your gut and do what you feel works best for you.

Bitchy the hawk

This hilarious headline got my attention this morning.  Check the story out at the Toronto Star


Bitchy the hawk: The most famous working bird in the GTA

 The Harris hawk’s fearsome reputation in seagull circles intimidates the junk-food scavengers enough to keep them away from Molson Amphitheatre and BMO Field.

From her perch high atop the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre on a summer evening, Bitchy the hawk surveys the scene.

It’s a concert day at the outdoor music venue, a prime chance for the packs of seagulls roaming the blue skies above Toronto to score an easy meal.

Bitchy is all that stands between these white-winged thieves and their unwitting targets — throngs of John Mayer fans, happily munching on pizza and French fries on the grassy knoll below.

Despite her razor-sharp talons and eaglelike eyesight, the 13-year-old bird of prey is not a real threat. A short leash, attached to her legs, keeps her close to her perch near the edge of the roof.

But the gulls don’t know Bitchy’s secret. With one glimpse of the black-and-brown Harris hawk, they abruptly change course. A few circle back for another look, but none dare descend below her position.

In this metropolis by the lake, where daring gulls and other nuisance birds compete for ever-shrinking space, Bitchy is part of a little-known battalion of falcons, eagles and hawks that keeps the peace, everywhere from office tower rooftops to Pearson International Airport.

Arguably the most famous working bird in the GTA, Bitchy began wielding her statuesque might at the Amphitheatre last year.

But the hawk named for her cantankerous demeanour is best-known at nearby BMO Field, where she has been a fixture on the roof during Toronto Football Club (TFC) games since 2007, when it became apparent that the newly minted soccer club was a magnet for fans — and gulls.

“They were everywhere, and just brazen,” said Paul Beirne, TFC’s vice-president of business operations. “People were complaining that birds were literally dive-bombing, and taking French fries out of their containers.”

Beirne called Steritech, a Charlotte, N.C.-based pest-control company that counts Bitchy among its charges. The results, he said, were immediate.

“She’s a very elegant solution because … you can see all these gulls circling, but they’re circling above her height,” he said. “They know that she’s a predator, and they don’t mess with her.”

Unlike the falcons that soar over the runway at Pearson, actively frightening and sometimes eating unwanted guests, Bitchy wields her power through stony intimidation.

Gulls are instinctively aware that a hawk is a predator that is dangerous when it has a height advantage.

“The gulls are leery to come below, so it’s really just the hawk’s presence and position that resolves the issue,” said Mike Givlin, vice-president of the North American bird program at Steritech. “We exploit the predator-prey relationship.”

(For competitive reasons, Givlin would not disclose Bitchy’s rate, but he said most professional services charge more than $100 per hour.)

Captive-bred in the rural environs of Delhi, Ont., Bitchy was reared by her parents for about two months before Givlin started training her.

Most Harris hawks, native to the Southwestern U.S., are even-tempered. But from the outset, she was prone to moodiness, sometimes digging her talons into Givlin’s glove and emitting a low-pitched, guttural growl.

Using food-based rewards (raw baby chicks and quail are big hits), Givlin taught Bitchy to get used wearing leashes on her legs and sitting on his arm.

For the past four years, the 1-kilogram hawk has lived with her current handler, Rob Wernaart, on a large acreage near Milton, where she was recently joined by a young Harris hawk called Xena.

After she started at BMO Field, the soccer club was concerned her moniker was not exactly family-friendly and held a naming contest. But fans chose to stick with Bitchy. She is now featured in the opening show at games, as well as the TFC Academy logo.

“She really is a bit of a mascot for the club,” Beirne said. “We’ve fallen in love with Bitchy.”

At the Amphitheatre on Wednesday, Wernaart carried Bitchy in a ventilated cardboard box through a back entrance and up a series of ladders to the roof, where dozens of little white splatters and a few chicken bones offered evidence of the gulls known to roost there. But while she held court, the roof, food stalls, grass and seated areas remained gull-free.

Just after 8:30 p.m., Wernaart returned to the roof to retrieve her. Even amid the urban bustle of Toronto, darkened skies could make Bitchy vulnerable to a great-horned owl, or some other, bigger predator, he said.

Although Bitchy’s silhouette was clearly visible from the grass below, few concertgoers seemed to notice until Wernaart untied her tether and mounted her on his arm, soliciting a few cheers.

“If we do our jobs right,” Givlin said, “most people don’t even know we’re here.”