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Is Running Good for Your Heart?

It is needless to say that running, as well as any other regular endurance exercise, changes the heart. Being a muscular organ, the heart, like all muscles in the body, adapts to the stress of exercise. The question is whether these adaptations are good for the heart or not.

The WHO recommends adults to moderately exercise for 150 minutes or intensely for 75 minutes weekly. They say running can help prevent obesity, high blood pressure, heart conditions, diabetes and stroke, and improve the quality of emotional and mental wellbeing. It also helps to live longer.

Of course, running regularly cannot make us immortal, but it is effective at extending life expectancy. Several studies found that a mere 5 to 10 minutes of running a day, reduces the risk of heart disease and premature mortality from all causes.

A routine of regular running is highly effective in prevention of many chronic conditions, cardiovascular diseases, and improves heart health. However, long-term excessive endurance exercise, such as running in marathons, can cause pathologic structural remodeling of the heart and large arteries.

Since human body is not meant for running long distances, excessive running can be dangerous for the heart. Instead of steady state movement, our bodies are made to do physical activity in bursts of exertion followed by recovery. In fact, almost most sports are based on stop-and-go movements, and statistics suggests that physical variability is one of the most important things to consider in running.

Physical variability is also important from the point of view of internal effects on the body. Excessive steady state endurance exercises increase the production of free radicals in the body, reduce immune function, degenerate joints, cause muscle wasting and pro-inflammatory response in the body that can result in heart attack and chronic diseases. Besides damage to all the organs in the body, free radicals damage the skin and make us look older.

Running is like a coin which has two sides, and if done improperly, it can have severe consequences. If you overdo high intensity exercise, engaging in prolonged sessions daily and over-working your body, you put yourself at risk of lowering immunity response and injuries. On the other hand, when we run, the heart beats faster as the activity strengthens it. With regular running, the resting heart rate gets lower, which extends the heart’s life.

So, how much running is good for the heart? Aim at daily exercise, performing different activities to maintain challenge and to dodge overuse injuries. Run several miles a week and aim at 9 minute per mile pace. Introduce running slowly, building up your muscles and speed gradually. Mind signals from your body. If you have any discomfort, back off and search medical evaluation.

Beauty as a Sexual Object

To fall in love — considered by some as the ultimate quest in life, and prepared by others with a constant and unending flow of fantasies, dreams, and enchanting ideas. And what we find sometimes to be so uniquely freakish of a fetish of our own, so personally vaulted and denied at every conscious inquiry — we find, in fact, that it is a secrecy of our own sexuality and our own fantasies, that disallows us from discovering that, what we find to be deviant is actually commonplace in the minds of all individuals. There is no person whose sexual ideas are unique, no fantasy of anyone that is not based on the same roots of the fantasies of others. This is sexuality, a social and emotional facet of every human. So, it must be granted as truth, that it is the repression of sexuality in our society, that convinces us that our own sexuality is a freak, a deviancy, an intolerably disgusting and improper attitude. Despite the fact that sexuality has been an intrinsic part of the lives of the hundreds and hundreds of millions of people, or the hundreds of billions of animals, there are still some puritanical ideas of people to oppose it. And, even if sexuality weren’t commonplace, one would think that the argument of “so long as none are harmed, let it be,” would be enough to justify it. I think that it was not a matter of argument, but one of shame and repression, that granted the puritan-minded people to believe and preach as they do.

If, in fact, those of the puritanical ideas had no conception of sexuality, I do not believe they could have the will to rally against sex. If it is just a fact of life, nothing that personally effected them, then it would not be something they could muster so much unforgiving hate for. Alas, I do not think these puritanical ideas have done much of anything to uplift the personality of goodness or the character of charity. The idea that sex is an evil is not a friend of the ideals of kindness, intelligence, or truth. These puritanical soldiers have done nothing but bog down the structure of civilization, waging a war against our own animal nature. By seeing their own feelings of sexuality, experiencing the desires and urges, the thoughts and inhibitions, puritans find themselves villified with their own character, ashamed and mortified. I think that people manage to put anger, passion, and strong, powerful emotions into vengeance, when it is their own personal nature that they are attacking. The puritans have allowed themselves to be cruel, brutal, and absolutely cold blooded in their war against sex. As the blood running through civilization warmed, the extent to which they were allowed to fight has been limited and limited. Tortures and murders were an intrinsic part of the original Puritan culture, when it came to their attitude about punishing sex.

It is a rather popular statement, that beaty is in the eye of the beholder. Yet everyone seems to interpret this statement differently. The fact that someone or something is beuatiful is only true because there is a critic to call it that. No artwork exemplified beauty without an onlooker, no song brought forward melody without a listener, no poem created peacefulness or rage without a reader. There can be no argument to this. We find, also, that just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is ugliness in the eye of the beholder. The same artwork that was called beautiful by one may be called ugly, disgusting, or otherwise unappealing by another. It is here that the true meaning of the phrase may be captured. The only reason why something is appealing or unappealing, attractive or unattractive, is because there is a mind in the sensory organs there to judge. The ideas of what is or is not gorgeous, enchanting, homely, or wretched are all dependent upon the viewer. Then we apply these ideas to a person. One’s voice is seen as glorious in tone or rancid in quality. The face and body become a considerable work of art or a defaced panting, or something in between or to a more extreme. Judging a body and a face, though, as beautiful or ugly, is a much different action than judging a painting as either beautiful or ugly.

A person, unlike a painting or a poem, is conscious, capable of emotion and happiness. All of a sudden, their physical attributes become subject to criticism and judgment. What is the purpose, though, of finding someone attractive or unattractive? The simple and obvious answer is for thepurpose of mating and procreation. Now that the reason for appeal or unappeal, in a person’s beauty anyway, has been uncovered, another question remains open. If a person’s outter shell can be judged as ugly or beautiful, by one person or another, and since this judgment does not help us to determine their character, should we disregard beauty and ugliness as a deterent to a person’s true self?

Of those individuals who call themselves Freethinkers, artists, independent minds, lovers of intelligence and friends of liberty, it is the typical attitude that a person’s emotions and way of thinking is in fact a part of their intrinsic self. There can be no greater proof of this than experience: beautiful people may be cruel and heartless, as the ugly people can be intelligent and meaningful, and vice versa. A person’s beauty does not determine the way they think. It does not make them more kind or charitable, nor does it instill in them attributes of vice or cruelty. This fact, I imagine will meet with no argument from those whom have experienced the world. The Freethinkers, though, have further advanced this position, by incorporating this philosophy int their personal lives. They do not judge people on their image, and accept friendship and affection from someone regardless of their looks, and they are not less scornful of a brutal person no matter their beauty. They have taken a rational position and they must be commended for that. In another way, some of them have incorporated their philosophy into their sexuality, either consciously or unconsciously. For example, they find someone attractive based on their ideas, their character, their way of thinking and personality. One’s physical body becomes esxually arrousing once they are identified with ideas of justice and goodness. They have not warded off human sexuality, so they have much more mindfulness and personal awareness than the puritans. In some cases, a Freethinker who fell in love with someone for their ideas, after the berakup, individuals they see resembling their initial love, even if socially considered unattractive, are considered attractive by the Freethinker.

So it happens, that the phrase comes to us, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and we find that beautiful and ugly are relative terms, subjective in that they are exsiting only in the mind. Our natural response to this is that a person cannot wholly be judged by their physical, since they are conscious. they are capable of thoughts, ideas, emotions. Thus we find every Freethinker and independent individual falling in love with a personality of a person, irregardless of physical appeal.

There is one fact that must be treated, though. An individual cannot have sex with a personality. As much as the idea is desired, physical affection cannot be given to a thought, an idea, or a character. It is necessary that a body is there. Admiration of an individual and their thoughts is never so pure or heart-warming as when there is a face for that individual, by which emotions and even ideas can be expressed. The look of ease, of a person laying down at the end of a long day, or a look of interest and intrigue, fascinated by the current occurrences, or a look of boldness and strength, defending what we believe in and what we fight for. The analytical expression, unsatisfied with what we know, delving through thoughts, facts, memories, to develop a more just theory — the expression of deep thought, it allows us a a greater admiration of the deep thought itself. Nothing can greater express sadness than a story one wished to levie by retelling, accompanied by tears.

This is just the face alone: eyes compliment diw th brows, a mouth given a tongue, and a nose, the rest covered with skin enveloping ten thousand muscle strands, all of which can combine to tell us thoughts and emotions. Anger and aggression, sadness and solemnness, pleasure and euphoria, exhaustion and rest — all feelings by which we can purely communicate to another by the contraction or relaxation of our face muscles. The blessing of the voice adds to whatever feeling we are comunicating, even if we are not speaking actual words. In fact, the emotion or facial expression delivers is dramatically heightened and empathically understood those vocal sounds which transcend all human language, particularly when we express a sudden pain, joy, or understanding.

Then, we are to consider the rest of the body. There are few words so reassuring, as a gentle, affectionate, and understanding touch. The idea of love can be written in a million poems and a thousand essays, which help us understand it in a reflective manner, but few things are so realistically understood as love when through the physical act of it; it is so logical to believe that experience is necessary to knowledge in this situation, just as it is impossible to know the true nature of terror without going through war, or other experiences. Lips, eyelashes, and other facial features, gently caressing, touching, or nuzzling the intimate or even common parts of the body: love-making, never so real or pure as can be demonstrated through experience. Those gentle parts, the neck, the stomach, the inner arms, find themselves also to be the most intimately felt. Perhaps it is the nature of evolution: ourselves becoming most protective of our most vulnerable parts, that they can also be the most intimate parts, because we feel that we want our lovers to feel those parts which we are most aware of. The other parts, the spinal column, the inner fore arms, the hands, though we are not only protective of them, we regard them during sex as gentle and intimate.

Understand, though, that up to this point, of the necessity of a body for physical expression and physcial love, I have said nothing of beauty, spoken no words on one’s complection as it is concerned to sex. I have only demonstrated the purity of expression when physical, when either in body and through the face. Yet there may be something rather unsettling, or otherwise seemingly contradictory about these thoughts. Those who have based their opinion on Freethought and independence, have argued that the physical complection, of beautiful or ugly, is not accurately indicative of a person’s inner character. But, on the other hand, the body allows us the most pure and affectionate method of expressing our desires.

I suppose that it must be admitted that one’s body and face is an important part of love and sexuality. Whether we find one’s body to be beautiful or not, the existence of such a body is important. But, beauty can even play a positive role in this. A body may in fact be considered indefferent, perhaps somewhat ugly or holmely. But, once that body has a personality, an opinion, an ideal, a character, these things alone may be enough for us to find them attractive physically. The same can be said of a body we initially find attractive, but then we hear a rather unintelligent, thoughtless mind speak, a rather cocky personality, and an otherwise unattractive character, and we find them ugly physically. It is not always the case, but it happens to be true often. Thus, beauty, no matter what it comes from, a physical complection, is necessary to a meaningful relationship.

Before ending this dissertation, there are still some thoughts on beauty that will not rest in my heart until I have fully explained them. As I stated before, there are many people who would find it immature or thoughtless to love or deeply care about someone just by their physical complection. But, it is almost a thing of serenity, when a young boy’s passions are enveloped around just the image of a girl. Granted, he may not be thoughtful in his quest, but he is listening to his desires. The thoughts and ideas that are spurning in his mind may be misguided, but they are gorgeous, wonderful, and even comforting. Fantasies may be pplayed out where just a kindly personality is placed in the boy’s fictionaly apparition of her. He will feel joy when he imagines her impressed with every aspect of him, and very loving and caring of him. The same can be said of a girl and her affection for any handsome man.

A Visit to Italy

With World Mission Sunday celebrated across the catholic churches around the globe, and fall season just on the horizons, I took time out to visit Italy this year as part of my vacation. My friend from Brescia invited me to stay with his family during the course of my sojourn in Italy. I was so happy to be welcomed to their home and be treated like a member of their own family. Their warm hospitality was indeed molded with a heart to love, a story to tell, and a home to share that highlights clusters of greatness centering around friendship and good interpersonal relationship.

I came to Brescia on the cusp of excitement to touch base with the family and friends, along with my plan to visit Venice, Piacenza, Milan, and Bassano del Grappa. This year’s attempt to explore Veneto came out as a window to profoundly high relative time of reconnecting with friends and confreres. It reminded me of an ancient maxim, quoted by Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, to guide a new pontiff: “Unity in essentials, liberty in doubtful matters, and in all things charity.” I saw some shades of connections in dialogue with my everyday schedule with them.

It was both satisfying and literally suffused with good memories to hold close to my heart. I felt how the world was linked in my circle of gratitude like a powerful bridge between family and friendship. Like learning how to care for others and keep personal ties with faith and sincerity, my experience with them was indeed shared with Christ’s presence in our hearts. That was one of my favorite moments living with them at this point in time. As the Bk of Proverb says, “the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (15:3).

Brescia

My friend Dave and I drove to the city of Brescia and visited some major sights like Piazza della Loggia, the Old (Duomo Vecchio) and New Cathedral (Duomo Nuovo). We also visited the remains of the Roman Capitolium which is the Romaneque-Gothic church of St. Francis, with a Gothic façade and cloisters, the archbishop’s residence, the Biblioteca Queriniana (containing rare early manuscripts, including a 14th-century manuscript of Dante, and some rare incunabula), the Broletto (formerly the Province Hall which is a massive building of the 12th and 13th centuries with a lofty tower), and the Piazza del Foro which is the most important array of Roman remains in Lombardy. These include the Capitoline Temple, built by Vespasianus in 73 AD.

According to history, there were different mythological versions of the foundation of Brescia. It says that one was attributed to Hercules and the other was to Altilia (“the other Ilium”) by a fugitive from the siege of Troy. Another version was the king of the Ligures Cidnus who invaded the Padan Plain the late Bronze Age. However, many scholars attributed its foundation to the Etruscans.

The city of Brescia became Roman in 225 BC when the Cenomani gave in to Virginia. It was during the Carthaginian Wars when ‘Brixia’ was usually allied with the Romans. In 202 BC it was partly under the Celtic confederation that was changed later and was thus conquered. In 89 BC Brixia received its official title as civitas (“city”) and in 41 BC its inhabitants got their Roman citizenship. Augustus and Tiberius were instruments in founding the civil colony and constructing an aqueduct to supply it.

In 312 Constantine advanced against Maxentius and they were compelled to move out as far as Verona. Then in 402 the Visigoths of Alaric I destroyed the city and again was besieged in 452 by the Gothic general Theoderic the Great against Odoacer.

Brescia was made capital by the Lombards in 568 (569) as one of their semi-independent duchies. Dukes were Alachis, the future king Rotharis and Rodoald, Alachis II, a fervent anti-Catholic who was killed in the battle of Cornate d’Adda (688). Desiderius became the last king of the Lombard. Then in 774 Charlemagne captured the city and conquered the Lombard kingdom in northern Italy.

Under Louis II the Younger, Brescia became de facto as capital of the Roman Empire. Bishop’s power in those times was described imperial but gradually lessened by the local citizens and nobles. It became a free comune around the arly 12th century. Through the years Brescia expanded in the nearby countryside like Bergamo and Cremona. Then another battle broke off at Pontoglio and Grumore towards the mid-12th century.

Sporadic battles continued to arise between the Lombard cities and the emperors. One of them was the Battle of Legnano. Then followed by the Battle of Cortenova (27 November 1237). Some of the leagues from Cremona, Bergamo, and Mantua fought against Brescia by the emperor Frederick II in 1238. In 1311 Emperor Henry VII attacked Brescia for six months. Then the Scaliger of Verona with the help of the exiled Ghibellines, the battle of Maclodio (1427), Francesco Sforza, captain of the Venetians, and feuds with powerful families such as the Maggi and the Brussati, Brescia was again assaulted. Brescia this time acknowledged the authority of Venice and between 1512 and 1520, the French armies occupied Brescia. Subsequently, it shared the fortunes of the Venetian republic until 1796 when the Austrian army took over. It was followed by devastation when the Church of San nazaro was struck by lightning in 1769. It created a huge fire that caused a massive explosion and destroyed one sixth of the city.

Brescia revolted against the Austrian puppet state called Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. It was at this time that the poet Giosuè called it “Leonessa d’Italia” (“Italian Lioness”), being the only Lombard town to stage a rally against the King of Pierdmont. In 1859 Brescia got its inclusion to the newly-founded Kingdom of Italy.

It was interesting to know the history and people’s background as I tried to discover more some important historical landmarks of Brescia. It came to my mind, too, the historical car race Mille Miglia that takes place in the region. I even went with my friend and his father to see the car race in Castrezzato.

I remembered here some native Brescians who chalked up in their chosen career such as Giovanni Paoli who brought the printing press to the new world in Mexico City under the viceroyalty of Antonio de Mendoza from Spain in 1935; St Angela Merici, who founded the Order of Ursulines in Brescia in 1535; Bartolomeo Beretta, gunsmith and founder of the Beretta arms firm; Giulio Alenio (1582-1649) a missionary called “Confucius from the West”; Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, a pianist of the 20th century, Pope Paul VI, and Giacomo Agostini, world famous Grand Prix motorcycle racers between 1964-1977.

Venice

It was a must for me to visit Venice. My friend and I took the early train from Rovato, Brescia heading for Venice. Passengers in drove mostly young people were equipped with gadgets and backpacks. They were all coming from different regions. It took us roughly two hours and a half to get there. Then a cup of cappuccino convinced us to stop by the coffee shop with matching croissant bread as part of our morning breakfast.

Venice is a beautiful capital city of Veneto in northern Italy. As of 2007, there were 268,993 people residing in Venice, of whom 47.5% were male and 52.5% were female. The largest immigrant group so far comes from other European nations (Romanians, the largest group: 3.26%, South Asia: 1.26%, and East Asia: 0.9%). It is predominantly Roman Catholic but with a heavy accent on Orthodox presence due to long-held relationship with Constantinople. Historically, it has been known as the “La Dominante”, “Serenissima”, “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Water”. There was a writer in the New York Times who described Venice as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man.” It stretched across 118 small islands in the Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea in the northeast Italy, formed by 177 canals in a shallow lagoon. Its population estimate of 272,000 inhabitants includes the population of the whole Comune of Venezia.

The Republic of Venice was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It was the place where the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto took place. As a center of commerce, Venice was mainly known for silk, grain and spice trade. It was also known for classical music, history, and its renowned prodigy in this field was Antonio Vivaldi.

According to history, the original population of Venice comprised refugees from Roman cities such as Padua, Aquileia, Altino and Concordia (now the modern Portugruaro) who were fleeing successive waves of Germanic invasions and Huns. Early settlers here were known as lagoon dwellers and they increased in number especially when the Lombards conquered the Byzantine territories which had their local governor based in Malamocco.

In 775-776, the ecclesiastical seat of Olivolo (Helipolis) was established. Duke Agnello Particiaco (811-827) took his ducal seat in Rialto (Rivoalto, “High Shore”) island, the current location of Venice. This time the monastery of St. Zachary, the first ducal palace, and the basilica of St. Mark were built.

Venice had always had connections with the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim world in many ways. The governmental system was in some ways similar to what the ancient Rome had with an elected chief executive (the Doge or Duke), a senate-like assembly of nobles, and a mass of citizens with limited political power.

Relics of St. Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria were placed in the new basilica around 828. The patriarchal seat continued to develop and this led to achieve their autonomy and freedom.

We took scores of photographs in Piazza San Marco, the Basilica di San Marco, St Lucia Church, Santa Maria della Salute, La Torre dell’Orologio (St Mark’s Clock), La Fenice Opera House, and the Rialto Bridge. I loved watching those pigeons crowding through the center while tourists enjoyed feeding them.

History says that from the ninth to the twelfth century Venice developed into a city state (an Italian thalassocracy or Repubblica Marinara, the other three being Genoa, Pisa, and Amalfi). It became a flourishing trade center between Europe and the rest of the world (especially the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world).

Venice came to grips with countless invaders like Turks (1453) and Normans in those days but remained closely associated with Constantinople. Known as orthodox Roman Catholic, people of Venice wrestled for religious heresy during the Counter-Reformation. Plagues brought devastation in Venice around 1348 and1630, respectively. Its decline started in the 15th century during the time of unsuccessful attempt to hold Thessalonica against the Ottomans (1423-1430). It began to lose its position as a center of international trade during the later part of the Renaissance as Portugal became Europe’s principal intermediary in the trade with the East. While France and Spain fought for hegemony over Italy, Venice remained a major exporter of agricultural products until the mid-18th century and by the end of the 15th century, it had become the European capital of printing being one of the first cities in Italy (after Subiaco and Rome) to have a printing press after those established in Germany.

During the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Venice became an imperial power. The Byzantine Empire was greatly weakened and great multitudes of stuffs were brought back to Venice which included the gilt bronze horse which we now see above the entrance to St Mark Cathedral.

Situated on the Adriatic Sea, we took the view of San Giorgio Maggiore and eventually rode the motorised waterbus (vaporetto) which brought us to this place. We saw many gondolas with crushed velvet seats and Persian rugs. I heard that gondoliers usually charge 80 and 100 euros for half an hour excursion around some canals. I did not bother myself to ride in one of them but just took a picture. That gave me a difference.

I took some snapshots of other churches and bought some post cards. While sightseeing the whole panorama from St Giorgio’s belfry, I thought of the high water following certain tides in Venice. I thought of flood tides which were evidently a threat to residents here. Some experts said that the best way to protect Venice is to physically lift the city of Venice to a greater height above sea level, by pumping water into the soil underneath the city. The lifting system as they claimed would be permanent. At least it would protect Venice for many years.

I really enjoyed seeing these historical landmarks with majestic architectural designs; their antiquated history and origin. Those palaces such as the Palazzo di Doge, Foscari, Grassi, Labia, and Maliperio reminded me of the emperial reigns of the rich and famous in this city. I saw in many shops different types of masks which reminded me of that musical play ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’ These are worn during the Carnival of Venice known for Venetian masks. It is held annually two weeks before Ash Wednesday and then it ends on Shrove Tuesday. It was something cultural and it could be traced back to centuries, in the 14th century when Venetian men would wear tight-fitting multicolored hose known as Compagnie della Calza (“Trouser Club”).

We took a long walk back to the train station following the labyrinthine road which made us wonder if we were in the right direction. We asked some those we met and inquired about the way back to the station. We got there quarter before 5 p.m. and the train departed at exactly 5. We arrived back to Rovato, Brescia at 7 pm and by the time we reached home it was half past seven in the evening.

Piacenza

Two days after we visted Venice, we drove to Piacenza. It is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region and the capital of the province of Piacenza. Geographically, it is at a major crossroads at the intersection of Route E35/A1 between Bologna (known as the gateway to eastern Italy) and Milan (gateway to the Alps), and Route E70/A21 between Brescia at the foot of the Alps and Tortona, where branches lead to Torino in the north, a major industrial city, and Genova, a major coastal port.

Long before the Roman foundation shaped the area of Piacenza, the Etruscans, Gauls took the entire Po valley. The Etruscans were famous for the practice of divining by the entrails of sheep. A bronze sculpture of a liver called the “Liver of Piacenza” was found in 1877 at Gossolengo just to the south of Piacenza complete with the name of regions. It has been connected to the practice of haruspicy, which was adopted by the Romans. Thus far, the liver can be attributed to the middle Roman settlement.

According to history, Piacenza and Cremona were founded as a Roman military colonies in May of 218 BC. There was a battle with the Gauls and Ligurians and cities were besieged with cruelty and violence. Devastations occurred several times but the city was always recovered and by the 6th century Procopius was calling it “the principal city in the country of Aemilia.”

Diocletian had a long reign during the era of Late Antiquity in Piacenza (4th/9th centuries AD) and remained anti-Christian. Christians being killed and massacred were rampant in those days and one of them was Antoninus in 303 AD who was beheaded (as had been St. Moritz) at Travo in Val Trebbia. The first Bishop of Piacenza (322-357), San Vittorio, declared Antoninus the patron saint of Piacenza and had the first Basilica di S. Antonio constructed in his honor in 324 in downtown Piacenza. It was restored and rebuilt in 1101. Actually, the remains of the bishop and soldier-saint are in urns under the altar.

During the Middle Ages Piacenza underwent a number of conquests by the Byzantines, Lombards, and Franks (9th century). It was followed by a gradual transition of powers from the feudal lords to a new enterprising class of the countryside.

In 1126 Piacenza was a free commune and became a member of the Lombard League. It took part in a war against the emperor Frederick Barbarossa and in the subsequent battle of Legnano in 1176. In the 13th century, Piacenza was able to gain its strongholds on the Lombardy shore of the Po River. Struggles for control were a common practice in the second half of the 13th century. Rich and powerful families such as Scotti, Pallavicino and Scoto (1290-1313) held power and leadership during this regime and Piacenza became a Sforza possession until 1499.

Piacenza was ruled by France until 1521 and under Pope Leo X, it became part of the Papal States. In 1545, it became part of the newly established Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, which was under the duress of the Farnese family.

The city underwent a series of transitions especially when it became a capital city of the duchy until Ottavio Farnese (1547-1586) moved it to Parma. Between 1732 and 1859, Piacenza and Parma were ruled by the House of Bourbon. In the 18th century, a number of edifices were built which belonged to noble families such as Scotti, Landi and Fogliani.

In 1882 Napoleon’s army annexed Piacenza to the French Empire. The city was plundered of a huge number of artworks and were also ravaged by bandits and French soldiers.

In 1848 Austrian and Croatian troops occupied Piacenza until a plebiscite marked the beginning of the city in the Kingdom of Sardinia. Then bombardment of the city occurred during World War II by the Allies. Roads and bridges across Trebbia and the Po Rivers, along with the railways yards were devastated. Piacenza was severely damaged by the bombing.

In spite of all the World War II bombings and devastations by the allied medium bombers from Corsica, Piacenza remained as one of the famous cities in Italy for the arts. Their historical palaces and edifices are often surrounded by lovely gardens.

Due to our limited time to visit some major sights of the city, nevertheless, I had the opportunity to see Piazza Cavalli and the façade of Il Gotico where my friend and I took some pictures. We passed by the Church of Sant’Antonino, patron of Piacenza and the Palazzo Comunale, also known as il Gotico. Then we also saw the Duomo di Piacenza. We wanted to go inside to pray but it was closed. So we decided to just a take a picture of its façade.

We also passed by other churches like Santa Maria in Campagna, a Renaissance church, faces Piazzale delle Crociate (“Crusades Square”), so called because Pope Urban II summoned the First Crusade here in 1095. It was built in 1522-1528 to house a miraculous wooden sculpture of the Madonna. The interior side of the church was originally on the Greek cross plan, but was later changed into a Latin cross one.

We were not able to visit the churches of St Sixtus, a Renaissance church with a precious choir, designed by Alessio Tramello in the 15th century. Another church designed by Tramello is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It has the most famous relic of the region’s pre-Roman civilization known as the Bronze Liver of Piacenza. It is very significant because it is an Etruscan bronze model of a sheep’s liver that dates back from the end of the second century to the start of the first century BC.

I remember when I lived here for a year, the common specialties which were typical Piacentini are panceta (rolled seasoned pork belly, salted and spiced), coppa (seasoned pork neck) and salame (chopped pork meat flavored with spices and wine, and made into sausages). Others eat them with Gorgonzola cheese and Robiola.

As it was already getting dark, we decided to drive back home in Brescia and be on time for dinner with my friend’s uncle. It was a lovely time we spent in the city sightseeing and window shopping. Both convinced us to combine our visit with spending for clothes or other souvenirs. That really wrapped up our day amid the stillness and welcome contrast from other bustling cities like Milan, Venice, Vicenza, Brescia or Padova. Piacenza remained like a serene image of body and soul steeped in classic speaking gifts. Oh, Piacenza! You’re still replete with serenity and precious antiquity.

Vicenza

This was my last leg as regards my itinerary here in northern Italy. I really made an effort to maximize my time visiting these places. Though at times exhaustion would knock me down and lead me to stay home, still the inner engine would draw me out and emerge on the road. I felt the twinge of being privileged to be here. The beauty of the place, its richness in history and culture; and the people themselves reminded me of what Elizabeth Kübler-Ross once wrote: “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” And I found its verisimilitude in dealing with people across cultures.

According to history, Vicenza is the capital of the eponymous province in the Veneto region, at the northern base of the Monte Berico, straddling the Bacchiglione. It is approximately 60 kn west of Venice and 200 km east of Milan.

It is a cosmopolitan city with many museums, art galleries, piazzas, villas, churches and beautiful Renaissance palaces. The famous Palladian Villas of the Veneto and the Teatro Olimpico can be found here. Other historical landmarks are: the Basilica Palladiana, Palazzo Thiene by Palladio, Villa Almerico Capra, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Annunciata, Palazzo Chiericati, Palazzo Porto, Palazzo del Barbaran da Porto, etc. The inventor of silicon, Federico Faggin, was born here. It is the third-largest Italian industrial center in terms of exports, engineering/computer components industry.

The Romans conquered this region when the Gauls were inhabitants here in 157 BC. They gave the name Vicentia or Vincentia, meaning “victorious.” When the Western Roman Empire fell, the Heruls, Vandals, Huns, Alaric and his Visigoths laid waste to the area. At the beginning of the sixth century a number of Benedictine monasteries were built here.

In 899, Vicenza was destroyed by Magyar raiders. A League was formed with Verona and Lombard to go against Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa compelling Padua and Treviso to join. There were some inner rivalries with Padua, Bassano del Grappa and other cities. In 1230 the Second Lombard League went against Emperor Frederick II that brought to the fore the restoration of the old oligarchic republic political structure.

Vicenza came under rule of Venice in 1404. But it was besieged by the Emperor Sigismund, and Maximilian I in 1509 and 1516. The period of Reformation saw the growing inclination in art especially at the time of Andrea Palladio who left many outstanding examples of art with palaces and villas in the city’s territory.

At the time of Napoleon Bonaparte in the 18th century, Vicenza was made a duché grand-fief (not a grand duchy, but a hereditary, nominal duchy, a rare honor reserved for French officials). Then after 1814, Vicenza was under the Austrian Empire. Italy was still divided at that time but as part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, it was tied up with Italy after the third war of Italian independence.

Vicenza was heavily damaged by World War I and World War II. But after World War II, economy began to bloom slowly. And now Vicenza is home to the U.S. Army post Caserma Ederle, also known as the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza.

Some famous people from this area are: Flavio Albanese, architect; Roberto Baggio, football player; Giuseppina M. Bakhita, saint, Valerio Belli, sculptor and engraver; Maria Bertilla Boscardin, saint; and many others.

a. Bassano del Grappa

Following this, I really made an effort to visit Bassano del Grappa. It is a place where we have a seminary. And now it is housed by our elderly and sick.confreres in the congregation. For me it was like another episode of reconnecting so meaningful that I almost shed in tears when I saw them.

It is a city and comune in the province of Vicenza, region Veneto. Its neighboring communes are Cassola, Marostica, Solagna, Pove del Grappa, Romano d’Ezzelino, Campolongo sul Brenta, Conco, Rosà, Cartigliano and Nove.

The city was founded in the second century by a Roman called Bassianus. It was under the family of the Ezzelinos in the 13th century. But it was acquired by the Visconti of Milan in 1368. It became famous in all parts of Europe because of the Remondini printers.

During the French Revolutionary Wars Bassano was the seat of the battle. It was part of the unified Kingdom of Italy in 1866. Napoleon Bonaparte stayed here in Bassano del Grappa for many months.

The original name of this place was Bassano Veneto. Because of so many casualties during World War I, the name was changed to Bassano del Grappa, meaning Bassano of Mount Grappa. This was made to honor those soldiers who were killed during the war.

My friend and I went to the Bridge of the Alpini which was designed by the architect Andrea Palladio in 1569. This bridge was destroyed many times. The Alpine soldiers, or Alpini have always revered the wooden bridge and Bassano del Grappa. It was a memorial marker for them, so significant that they would remember songs from their days as alpine soldiers.

We took a number of pictures around this area. It was so meaningful that I could not help but associate it also with our seminary. It was like a connecting bridge to sacred forces – bringing life and hope to the local church.

There were also other sights to see such as: the Cathedral (Duomo) built around the year 1000 but renovated in 1417, The Castello Superiore (Upper Castle), the Church of St John the Baptist which was built in the 14th century and restored in the 18th century.

The many facets of these places made me reflect the different set of values for defining beauty and truth, achievements judged according to popular standards like wealth of the nation, power, prestige and on the other side of the coin, achievements judged according to divine standards like service or compassion. The immense beauty and historicity of Italy have enormous wealth to share with people of all ages. As a pilgrim on the road, I will hold ever dear in my heart those works of art, people’s inner beauty, faith, and solidarity as life and memory go on through time and space.

Thinking – How Do Dog’s Do It? Part One

If you are like me, you really do not spend much time wondering about how your dog thinks or if it thinks at all. You are aware that certain things get your dog’s attention and other things make it behave in a certain way, but in all honesty, we rarely give much thought to the “thinking our dogs do.”

During a slow period of thinking on my own, I decided to do some research on dogs and their brainpower and discovered some interesting things that I would like to share with you.

Did you have any idea that a dog’s brain and spinal cord start to develop a few days after the sperm and egg meet? This development continues through the fetal stage and through the first year after birth. In the beginning the brain makes many more cells than it initially needs and will remodel itself during the first year, according to the environment the puppy is involved in.

The brain requires stimulation in order to develop and this is why “puppy socialization” is so important. If a puppy is exposed to people, new environments and other dogs in a positive manner the chances are, it will be smarter, more adaptable and develop a more sociable attitude toward people.

When a puppy is born its brain resembles a smaller version of an adult brain. But, as it is going through that first year of development outside the womb, it continues to change and refine itself according to the puppy’s experiences, and will continue to some extent, throughout the dog’s life.

There are many interesting parts that make up a dog’s brain, which is similar to ours. The cerebral cortex which is comprised of many hills and valleys, acts like the hard drive of a computer. Memories, associations and instincts are stored in the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is divided into five sections or lobes, which are:

  • The olfactory lobe, located near the dog’s nose, this receives the scent and relays it to other parts of the brain.
  • The frontal lobe sits behind the olfactory lobe and controls the dog’s emotions, reasoning, movement and vocalization. The frontal lobe makes the dog’s tail wag and is in charge of most of the things your dog does.
  • The parietal lobe is found sitting behind the frontal lobe and responsible for such senses as touch, pain, taste, pressure and temperature. This particular function reminds your dog to run to the kitchen when it smells dinner cooking and practice looking very hungry.
  • The temporal lobe is on the other side of the cerebral cortex and is in charge of hearing, memory, learning and meaning.
  • The occipital lobe processes vision and allows your dog to recognize things. This lobe allows your dog to see the leash, so it will know it is going out for a walk.

Now this is not enough to get our dog up and running there is more to a dog’s brain, and so we will continue to learn what makes our dog work.

There is a cauliflower-shaped object that lies behind the cerebrum called the cerebellum this coordinates the dog’s movements and balance. A dog with an injured cerebellum will walk with jerky steps and its feet will be far apart in order to keep its balance.

Beneath the cerebrum is the brain’s relay center, this is where the messages from all the other sensory organs and the rest of the body come, before being sent to the appropriate part of the cerebral cortex. The basal ganglia and thalamus are what form this memory center, sort of like the random access memory (RAM) of a computer. A dog’s reaction to a circumstance can be transmitted to these to sites within a few thousandths of a second and be sent to the proper place and result in the correct reaction for the dog.

Next we find the parts that have the on/off switch in your dog’s brain the midbrain and the brain stem, these are like a computer’s central processing system. They determine whether or not your dog is awake or asleep and take care of all the bodily functions such as breathing, blood circulation and the beating of the heart.

Now there has to be a way for all this information to travel to all the parts of the brain and to do it quickly and there is. Neurons do the job and there are about 100 billion neurons in a dog’s brain. They are so small that 30,000 of them can fit on a head of a pin.

Neurons are polar, which means they have to ends each with a different function. One end is called the dendrite, this end gathers all the messages from the other neurons. These dendrites are attached to a neuronal body, where the cell’s life functions are taken care of. Protruding from the cell body is a thing called the axon, which transmits the signal to the next cell.

Neuron communicate with each other through neurotransmitters, a small molecule, that is secreted by the axon called a synapse, which in turn binds it to the dendrite of another neuron. Once it binds to the recipient neuron an electrical charge is developed and causes the signal to travel down the axon to cause the secretion of another neurotransmitter.

The nervous system uses a mixture of electrical and chemical signals that makes it incredibly fast, so fast your dog can feel the touch of a nail clipper and withdraw its paw, while you stand there wondering about the action.

Recent studies have shown that the neurons are not staid cells, but can actually shrink and disappear. This is how you can teach an old dog a new trick by reinforcing a new behavior, the old one will eventually disappear and the new behavior will take over.

For instance, if your dog has a bad habit of barking at the mailman, it is possible to teach your dog to go to specific location to get a treat every time the mailman comes. After a few times, the dog will automatically go to the location for a treat, when it sees the mailman. The neuron that saw the mailman and triggered the barking will eventually shrink and disappear.

This is called synaptic plasticity; it is the ability of the connection between two neurons to change in strength. The neurons are constantly signaling each other and through this exchange can remodel themselves, this is how learning occurs. It is the method in which old dogs learn new tricks and/or behaviors.

In case you did not know it, dogs are extremely smart and they have the ability to communicate not only with us, but also with other species. No other species is better at understanding human facial expressions and communicating to us through body language, than our canine friends are.

Scientists are just beginning to understand the extent, in which dogs can understand the human language. Some dogs understand and display knowledge of up to 200 words and have the ability to go directly to a toy or object when directed by a single word even after weeks of not hearing it.

A dog’s brain is a wondrous organ. It is the most active organ in the dog’s body and consumes over 20 percent of the oxygen in the blood. A dog’s brain is so soft you could cut it with a butter knife and yet, it works faster and is more complex, than the world’s most powerful computer.

In another article, I am going to venture into the world of canine emotions, it is said that dog’s do not have emotions, however, I beg to differ, so please join me in part two of “Thinking – How Do Dogs Do it.”

Storytelling For Leaders – Ten Steps to Inspire Action

Do you remember watching the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing? It was compelling television – I found myself staying up later then I normally would to watch swimming, a sport that I typically wouldn’t have much interest in. NBC said that its broadcast, featuring Michael Phelps’s eighth gold medal win, was its most-viewed Saturday program in 18 years. From 11 to 11:30 p.m., when the Americans swam in their medal-winning medley relay, 39.9 million viewers were watching, according to Nielsen Media Research.

What keeps us engaged is the drama of the competition. A drama that is skillfully created by the media, through the use of stories that build a more personal connection to the athletes, and the athlete’s families. Beyond national pride, its the drama that make us care who wins and loses.

We don’t just watch Michael Phelps win gold medals, we see the emotion of his mother as she wills him on to victory. We hear about the hardships of being a single mother. His achievement is truly amazing but it is made more compelling and memorable by the stories that are told around the competition.

Why is this relevant to leadership?

Because skilled leaders also know how to use drama or stories to connect with people in the same way. If you want an employee or colleague to change a behavior you need to do more then just instruct them to act differently. Telling them just doesn’t work. Even logical persuasive arguments that clarify the benefits are often not enough.

Personal stories capture attention in a way that instructions, or logical arguments, do not. People relate to stories at an emotional level, lowering their resistance and connecting with the storyteller.

The top ten tips below will help you build storytelling into your leadership repertoire, to inspire others to action.

1. Engage your audience. To influence your audience you need to demonstrate that you understand their concerns and interests, while giving them reason to listen to you. One way of capturing their attention is to begin with a provocative question. Provocative, because the topic is of real interest to them and the answer is not obvious.

2. Use a story early. A story will have maximum impact at the beginning of your message. A good story builds connections with your audience at an emotional level, allowing you to engage their hearts as well as their minds.

3. Keep a log of stories. Your life experiences provide a rich tapestry of stories. Everyone has the right stories, but you need to capture them and use them. Keep a written log of experiences that created “aha” moments for you, either your own, or the experiences of others. Refer back to your notes when you are planning your next presentation.

4. Select a story for each audience. Pick a topic that your audience can identify with and is of interest to them. ie don’t use a baseball story with a group of European business women. The ideal story should capture a struggle or predicament that parallels the situation that your audience faces. Remember your goal is to get them thinking and collaborating with you.

5. Be specific but don’t ramble. Provide just enough detail to engage your listener. Details make a story interesting and allow a person to relate to what you are saying. Too much detail can cause a person to tune out.

6. Be authentic. You need to be believable. The real world is messy and unpredictable and people will learn as much from adversity and failure, potentially even more from failure then success. Don’t restrict yourself to stories with happy endings. The truth is better than a made up story that makes your point but sounds canned and artificial.

7. Deliver your message with emotion. Deliver your message with candor. Revealing your own emotion will help build connections with others. Emotion is conveyed through your words but also with gestures, expressions and in the pitch, volume, tone and speed of your words. Think about your presentation style as well as the content of your message.

8. Engage all the senses. People think and learn differently. Some people will benefit from you painting a picture with the words or diagrams. Others can learn by listening to someone talk or by reading. Some need to experience a practical demonstration of the concept.

9. Use visual aids with care. Often people rely on a slide deck of small font text to tell their story. While visual aids do focus attention, use them sparingly. Less is more when it comes to PowerPoint slides. Remember a picture is worth a thousand words.

10. Practice and test your stories. Storytelling is a skill that takes time to develop. Practice, practice, practice. Make sure you test your story on a friendly crowd before you take it out for prime-time coverage.

By Doris Kovic, Business and Executive Coach of Leading Insight.

Leading Insight is a management consulting company, based in San Clemente, California. Its purpose is to provide services that help companies increase the effectiveness of their people, resulting in greater productivity and revenues. We provide a range of services from leadership coaching and team development, to visioning, business planning, and a variety of workshops on leadership and management.

 

Stop Smoking Now!

My wife just walked by and said, “What are you doing?”

I said, “I’m writing an article on smoking. I’m against it!”

Smoking is a habit that is hard to break. Some years ago I stood by with a man’s son and watched his father gasp for air as he passed on to the great beyond. He had quit smoking, but too late. His vital capacity was too far gone.

Vital Capacity is determined by measuring the amount of air you take in with each breath. In the test you take a deep breath and then blow it out into a device that tells your doctor the volume of air dispelled. The more you smoke, the lower your vital capacity. This limits your activity when your lungs no longer expand enough to take in sufficient vital oxygen from the air that has only about 19% to begin with. That’s why my friend’s father was breathing pure oxygen in the hospital. Still, he could not get enough oxygen to save his life. We had said our goodbyes to a good father and a good friend.

Cigarette smokers double their risk of heart attack. They are at even more risk from sudden cardiac death. Stroke kills more young smokers than nonsmokers.

The American Cancer Society said some years back that when you stop smoking:

Within 15 minutes: Blood pressure, pulse rate, and body temperature of hands and feet return to normal.

Within 8 hours: Carbon monoxide level drop to normal and oxygen level increase to normal. (Carbon monoxide is a deadly poison.)

Within 24 hours: Heart attack risk decreases. Now isn’t that good to know? You will be able to say, “I quit smoking yesterday and I’m probably not going to have a heart attack today.”

Within 48 hours: Nerve endings start regrowing and your ability to smell and taste increases. Did you know that cigarette smoking stops nerve growth? Neither did I.

Within 2 weeks to 3 months : Circulation improves, walking is easier and LUNG FUNCTION increases up to 30%. Now, that is a great benefit, isn’t it?

Within 1 to 9 months: Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath decrease. Cilia regrow in the lungs with increased ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce infection. It takes a while if you’ve been smoking a long time, but the relief must be wonderful. My friends that have quit say it certainly is.

Within 1 year: Excess risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker. That’s good.

Within 5 years: Lung cancer death rate of a FORMER one-pack-a-day smoker decreases almost one-half. (Stoke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker after 5-15 years.) Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, and esophagus is half that of smokers. I’ve had friends that had to speak with a device or from their stomach after cancer surgery on their throat and esophagus. It’s very sad to see that in light of that it could have been prevented. Some comunities have stopped chewing tobacco companies from giving chewing tobacco away at rodeos where it easily can get into the hands of children. Can you think of anything worse than mouth cancer?

Within 10 years: The lung cancer death rate is the same as nonsmokers. Precancerous cells are replaced. Risk of death from cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas decrease. Did you get that? Precancerous cells are replaced. With good cells, I presume.

Within 15 years: Risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker. So now you are back to normal.

The other night I saw a young woman on television who said that she stopped smoking for financial reasons.

Think about it.

If you put $600 dollars each year into a stock mutual fund, annuity, or other financial instrument that generates 5% annually, you will have over TWENTY GRAND after 20 years. That’s if you add it in one chunk each year. The $600 figure assumes that you are spending $50 each month on cigarettes. I know that many are spending a lot more.You will have more if you invest $50 monthly rather than saving until you get $600 at the end of the year.

Okay! I know human nature. You won’t save the money.

YOU WILL SAVE YOUR NECK!

I read on the internet that Phillip Morris® has licensed two Chinese companies to make their cigarette brands. The Third World Market is what the cigarette companies are after.

Don’t be taken in by the Phillip Morris® television ads that tell you to go to their site to learn how to quit smoking. Television ads are used for two purposes. They either sale product or they enhance brand name recognition. It is illegal for Phillip Morris® to sale product. So what are they doing with their ads? You guessed it!

(Okay, so go to the Phillip Morris® site. Maybe you will learn something. They have links to health organizations that will help you to quit. [http://www.philipmorrisusa.com/en/health_issues/quitting_smoking.asp])

Well, it looks like I got sucked into the Phillip Morris® ad after all.

Stop Smoking! It takes guts.

It pays off big!

 

Verona – A City To Discover – Loved From The Tourists Of All The World

Yield famous and popular all over the world from the famous tragedy of William Shakespeare ” The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet” , it is a coveted destination from the tourists of every corner of the world.
Indeed, the capital of Veneto, offers a lot of opportunities starting from the cultural point of view, to the culinary and the entertainment.

In particolar, who wants to visit Verona for a short time (also of 2-3 days), cannot miss some fundamental appointments that characterise this laughing city in the heart of the Veneto region. In these terms, we can list what the tourist/visitor of the weekend must absolutely see and try for really living the spirit of the city:

o Arena di Verona: “small” masterpiece of the roman architecture, it is still in good conditions and is used for concerts and other manifestations

o Piazza delle Erbe(Square of the Grass): it rises where the ancient Roman Forum resided, is the heart of the city

o Palazzo del comune (Palace of the Municipality): with a nice romantic garden

o Palazzo della prefettura (Palace of the Prefecture): ancient residence of Scaligeri

o Santa Anastasia: ghotic church erected from the Dominicans

o Duomo (Dome): elegant construction dedicated to Santa Maria Matricolare

o Balcony of Giulietta: small, but somewhat evocative where also is found the famous statue of Giulietta

o Arc of the Giovi: another direct evidence of the Roman domination

o In the pauses, to be based calmly in a tavern and to savour a Recioto di Soave (typical white wine of Verona) with cold cuts and the typical polenta of Veneto region.

Where to sleep in Verona

Of course, there are many touristic structures that allow to sleep in Verona or near the city.
To such purpose, the Gardenia Hotel is situated in San Michele area, ideal for passing days or vacations around Veneto, above all for visiting Verona without having to spend the night in a hotel of the city center.

This 3 stars hotel, offers refined services like cable TV, safe in each room and air conditioning, a part from the prestigious inner restaurant.

The Gardenia Hotel has a comfortable private parking and offers cordiality and hospitality to all its customers, both to businessmen and families on vacation. Moreover, the hotel website offers the chance to the Internet customers to reserve on-line directly their own rooms for the night’s passing also at the Hotel San Michele (at Verona periphery, near to the historical city center).