Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Information Literacy for the Disability Community

Contributing Author: Dr. Valerie Hill

“I am conscious of a soul-sense that lifts me above the narrow, cramping circumstances of my life. My physical limitations are forgotten- my world lies upward, the length and the breadth and the sweep of the heavens are mine!” ~Helen Keller

Information literacy skills are essential in virtual environments because one enters as a digital citizen. One chooses where to seek information, interaction, and engagement with immersive activities and communities. Along with the fascinating array of choices to explore comes the responsibility to choose wisely and understand the consequences of our actions. Networked culture makes boredom and isolation seem nonexistent. For individuals with various types of disabilities, this can be particularly liberating because taking an active part in a physical world community can sometimes be challenging. Traveling to a community event may be difficult, if not impossible, even in the local neighborhood. Research in 3D virtual worlds documents advantages that immersive environments can provide the disabled through rich experiences without having to leave home.

For example, a research study suggests, “Patients with different kinds of social disorders and people who have problems communicating with others for different reasons could use 3DVWs to improve their social learning and interactive behaviors. A 3D virtual experience gives patients a feeling of control over their health, improving their knowledge and confidence, since they can navigate the health care system from their own home (Ghanbarsadeh et al., 2014)”.
Online communities can provide social interaction for the disabled in ways never before possible through networked computer technology. Benefits include forming friendships, attending engaging programs, and delving into personally meaningful learning experiences. Kel Smith says, “For people with disabilities that prevent them from engaging such physical activities as walking, running, surfing, and dancing, virtual worlds present a unique opportunity for users to take part in these experiences. (Smith, 2012).”

This new frontier of global digital participatory culture is not, however, without concerns. And one of the most critical issues we now must address is digital citizenship. Distinguishing credible information from inaccurate or deceptive information requires skill. So too, how we create, curate, and share information in networked society affects our future lives. Using networked technologies inappropriately may not only be a waste of time but can be harmful to ourselves and others. For example, cyber-bullying has become a problem for teenagers in particular. Educators can help model digital citizenship for students of all ages through advocating best uses of social media, online communities, and virtual worlds.
People from early childhood through old age are actively using computer technology and mobile devices and encountering information in new ways. Sometimes a new technology tool is enticing to the point of addiction. Each of us is now personally responsible for our information intake and production of user-generated content.
This new responsibility for digital citizenship includes understanding privacy, intellectual property, and the appropriate use of technology. Mike Ribble presents the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship which address digital access, digital commerce, communication, literacy, etiquette, law, digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness, and digital security.
Once we embrace our rights and responsibilities as digital citizens, exploration of new media formats can bring new understanding, empathy, knowledge, and the freedom to explore places not possible in physical environments through virtual worlds and (in the near future) virtual reality. As we encounter others in virtual environments, our virtual identity can build a sense of trust and authenticity. Behind the data and the avatar, there is a real human being.
The concept of reality may be changing as we consider what takes place in our minds is as real as what takes place in our bodies. Those who are limited by physical world constraints, such as the inability to move freely, may find a freedom to move in virtual spaces. In a virtual world, one can teleport to new places and enjoy the ability to fly! May we find joy in new freedoms, new friendships, and new adventures, while remembering that just as the physical world requires us to be good citizens, the same is true in a virtual world.

Ghanbarzadeh, R., Ghapanchi, A. H., Blumenstein, M., & Talaei-Khoei, A. (2014). A Decade of Research on the Use of Three-Dimensional Virtual Worlds in Health Care: A Systematic Literature Review. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 16(2), e47. Retrieved from
Ribble, Mike. (2016). Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship. Retrieved from
Smith, Kel. (2012). Universal Life: the Use of Virtual Worlds Among people with Disabilities. Retrieved from

Monday, January 11, 2016

Keeping Those Resolutions

Many of us make all kinds of promises to ourselves about self-improvement, often in the form of New Years Resolutions.

But only two-thirds of people who make resolutions keep them through January.

Only one out of five will be able to maintain their resolutions to the end of the year.

How can you improve your chances of making your resolution “stick”?

  • Create an environment for success.
  • Write your resolutions down.
  • Don’t put yourself down for a brief failure.
  • Sustain your efforts.
  • And most important of all, make the right kind of resolution in the first place! Some are easier to keep than others.

Learn some techniques for ensuring your self-improvement success. Gentle Heron shares research and tips about resolution-keeping in Second Life, the Blue Orchid Cabana classroom, Virtual Ability Island.


The presentation will be held on Wednesday, January 13, 6:30am Pacific (9:30am Eastern) and repeated on Sunday, January 17, 1pm Pacific (4pm Eastern).

The presentations will be in voice and text, simultaneously. We invite you to join us.

If you are not already a member of Second Life, you can begin here:

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Depression is More Complex Than Many of Us Know

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

When a mental health practitioner is diagnosing clinical depression, she may ask questions about your feelings (“Are you sad? Feeling hopeless?”), whether you have lost interest in activities you used to enjoy, your energy level. But how often would a mental health specialist ask about headaches, digestive problems, or pain in the joints or chest?

And how often does a gastroenterologist or cardiologist question you about symptoms of depression?

Many people do not realize that depression, anxiety and other mood disorders often have physical ailments that are associated with them. The medical term for this is “comorbid condition.” All that means is that the two (or more) conditions occur together in one person.

The existence of comorbid health problems does not indicate that one condition causes the other. In fact, both could be caused by other conditions in the person’s body or life situations. However, it is important to realize that a person might not get diagnosed with clinical depression, which is treatable, if their doctor first sees one of the comorbid conditions and focuses treatment on it.

Obviously, this is important for us and for doctors to recognize. Here are the facts.

A majority of persons diagnosed with clinical depression have also consulted with their primary care physician or other specialists about pain (see reference 1 below). This pain can take many forms, and may be the primary (or only) diagnosis given.

  • People diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic condition with painful responses to particular pressure points plus widespread pain, are more than 3 times as likely to have clinical depression than do people without fibromyalgia (reference 2).
  • More than one in ten persons with migraines, a particularly disabling form of headache, have one or more comorbid mood disorders, including depression (3).
  • Persons with HIV/AIDS who have pain are also more likely to have clinical depression (4).

Three times as many persons with heart disease have depression compared to those without heart disease (5). Persons with heart failure who also are moderately or severely depressed are four times as likely to die as those without depression, and twice as likely to be hospitalized (6). Depression has been identified as a risk factor for coronary artery disease in men (7).

Gluten-sensitivity and other digestive system disorders may be another category of conditions comorbid with depression (8-11). Children with celiac disease who adhered to a gluten-free diet decreased their level of depression (12).

Osteoporosis, a condition resulting in weakened bones and loss of bone mass, is associated with depression (13).

Persons with chronic fatigue syndrome are seven times as likely to have major depression than are persons in the general population (2).

Sleep disorders may occur together with depression (14).

Persons with anxiety disorders (including PTSD, panic disorders, social phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder) often have comorbid depression (15, 16). More than 4 out of 10 persons with PTSD have depression as well, 4 months after the traumatic event (17).

Alcoholism and other types of substance abuse or dependence are often comorbid with depression (18).

Hepatitis C virus infections often occur with depression (19), independent of the severity of liver disease the virus has caused.

Increased age is a risk factor for depression. Vascular depression results from hardening of blood vessels in the brain (20). Depression is also associated with self-neglect in the elderly (21).

Being female seems to be a risk factor for depression as well. An estimated 10-15% of new mothers are diagnosed with postpartum depression following childbirth (22). The hormonal changes at the onset of menopause may also be associated with depression (23), as may the existence of hot flashes (24).

Why is this important?

Persons who have depression along with (comorbid with) another serious health condition have more severe symptoms of both depression and the other health condition. They also have more difficulty adapting to their medical condition, and are likely to incur higher healthcare costs than do persons who have the same medical conditions without accompanying depression (5).

Persons with significant depression symptoms have a higher risk of dying from a range of health issues, including respiratory illness, heart disease and stroke, and nervous system conditions (25).

Treating depression significantly improves a person’s quality of life. The good news is that treating the depression can also help improve the outcome of treating the co-occurring health condition (26). Additional good news: non-mental health doctors are starting to take notice of the possibility that their patients may have comorbid depression (27, 28)

Will more doctors screen patients for depression? Will research indicate a cause-and-effect relationship between depression and other health issues? This remains to be seen.

(“Help! Do I have to read all these references?” No, of course not. But if you want further information on a topic, this is where to find it.)


  1. Kapfhammner, H-P. (2006, June). Somatic symptoms in depression. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 8(2), 227-239.
  2. Patten, S. B., Beck, C. A., Kassam, A., Williams, J. V., Barbui, C. & Metz, L. M. (2005, March). Long-term medical conditions and major depression: strength of association for specific conditions in the general population. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 50(4), 195-202.
  3. Ratcliffe, G. E., Enns, M. W., Jacobi, E., Belik, S. L. & Sareen, J. (2009, Jan-Feb). The relationship between migraine and mental disorders in a population-based sample. General Hospital Psychiatry, 31(1), 14-19.
  4. Mwesiga, E. K., Mugenyi, L., Nakasujja, N., Moore, S., Kaddumukasa, M. & Sajatovic, M. (2015, Dec 30). Depression with pain co morbidity effect on quality of life among HIV positive patients in Uganda: A cross sectional study. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 13(1), 206.
  5. Cassano, P. & Fava, M. (2002). Depression and public health, an overview. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 53, 849–857.
  6. Chamberlain, A. M., McNallan, S. M., Dunlay, S. M., Spertus, J. A., Redfield, M. M., Moser, D. K., Kane, R. L., Weston, S. A. & Roger, V. L. (2013, July). Physical health status measures predict all-cause mortality in patients with heart failure. Circulation, Heart Failure, 6(4), 669-675.
  7. Ford, D. E., Mead, L. A., Chang, P. P., Cooper-Patrick, L., Wang, N. Y. & Klag, M. J. (1998, July). Depression is a risk factor for coronary artery disease in men: the precursors study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 158(13), 1422-1426.
  8. Casella, G., Bordo, B. M., Schalling, R., Villanacci, V., Salemme, M., Di Bella, C., Baldini, V. & Bassotti, G. (2015, Nov 30). Neurological disorders and celiac disease. Minerva gastroenterologica e dietologica. [Epub ahead of print]
  9. Ludvigsson, J. F., Reutfors, J., Osby, U., Ekbom, A. & Montgomery, S. M. (2007, April). Coeliac disease and risk of mood disorders: A general population-based cohort study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 99(1-3), 117-126.
  10. Porcelli, B., Verdino, V., Bossini, L., Terzuoli, L. & Fagiolini, A. (2014, Oct 16). Celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity: A review on the association with schizophrenia and mood disorders. Auto-Immunity Highlights, 5(2), 55-61.
  11. Zingone, F., Swift, G. L., Card, T. R., Sanders, D. S., Ludvigsson, J. F. & Bai, J. C. (2015, April). Psychological morbidity of celiac disease: A review of the literature. United European Gastroenterology Journal, 3(2), 136-145.
  12. Simsek, S., Baysoy, G., Gencoglan, S. & Uluca, U. (2015, Sept). Effects of gluten-free diet on quality of life and depression in children with celiac disease. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 61(3), 303-306.
  13. Eskandari, F., Martinez, P.E., Torvik, S., Phillips, T.M., Sternberg, E. M. & Mistry, S. et al. for the POWER Study Group. (2007, Nov 26). Low bone mass in premenopausal women with depression. Archives of Internal Medicine, 167(21), 2329–2336.
  14. Roberts, M. B. & Drummond, P. D. (2015, Dec 24). Sleep Problems are Associated with Chronic Pain Over and Above Mutual Associations with Depression and Catastrophizing. The Clinical Journal of Pain. [Epub ahead of print]
  15. Devane, C. L., Chiao, E., Franklin, M. & Kruep, E.J. (2005, Oct). Anxiety disorders in the 21st century: status, challenges, opportunities, and comorbidity with depression. American Journal of Managed Care, 11 (Suppl. 12), S344–353.
  16. Regier, D.A., Rae, D.S., Narrow, W.E., Kaebler, C.T. & Schatzberg, A.F. (1998). Prevalence of anxiety disorders and their comorbidity with mood and addictive disorders. British Journal of Psychiatry, 173 (Suppl. 34), 24–28.
  17. Shalev, A.Y., Freedman, S., Perry, T., Brandes, D., Sahar, T., Orr, S.P. & Pitman, R.K. (1998). Prospective study of posttraumatic stress disorder and depression following trauma. American Journal of Psychiatry, 155(5), 630–637.
  18. Conway, K.P., Compton, W., Stinson, F.S. & Grant, B. F. (2006, Feb). Lifetime comorbidity of DSM-IV mood and anxiety disorders and specific drug use disorders: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 67(2), 247–257.
  19. Monaco, S., Mariotto, S., Ferrari, S., Calabrese, M., Zanusso, G., Gajofatto, A., Sansonno, D. & Dammaccao, F. (2015, Nov 14). Hepatitis C virus-associated neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric disorders: Advances in 2015. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 21(42), 11974-11983.
  20. Krishnan KRR, Taylor WD, et al. (2004). Clinical characteristics of magnetic resonance imaging-defined subcortical ischemic depression. Biological Psychiatry, 55, 390–397.
  21. Hansen, M. C., Flores, D. V., Coverdale, J. & Burnett, J. (2015, Dec 30). Correlates of depression in self-neglecting older adults: A cross-sectional study examining the role of alcohol abuse and pain in increasing vulnerability. Journal of elder abuse & neglect. [Epub ahead of print]
  22. Altshuler, L.L., Hendrich, V. & Cohen, L. S. (1998). Course of mood and anxiety disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 59, 29.
  23. De Kruif, M., Molendijk, M. L., Haffmans, P. M. & Spijker, A. T. (2015). Depression during the perimenopause. Tijdschrift voor psychiatrie, 57(11), 795-804.
  24. Woods, N. F., Hohensee, C., Carpenter, J. S., Cohen, L., Ensrud, K., Freeman, E. W., Guthrie, K. A., Joffe, H., LaCroix, A. Z. & Otte, J. L. (2015, Oct 26). Symptom clusters among MsFLASH clinical trial participants. Menopause. [Epub ahead of print]
  25. Mykletun , A., Bierkeset, O., Dewey, M., Prince, M., Overland, S. & Stewart, R. (2007, May). Anxiety, depression, and cause-specific mortality: The HUNT study. Psychosomatic Medicine, 69(4), 323-331.
  26. Katon, W. & Ciechanowski, P. (2002). Impact of major depression on chronic medical illness. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 53, 859–863.
  27. Kukla, U., Labuzek, K., Chronowska, J., Krzystanek, M. & Okopien, B. (2015, May). Mental disorders in digestive system diseases: Internist's and psychiatrist's insight. Polski merkuriusz lekarski, 38(227), 245-249.
  28. Oflazoglu, K., Mellema, J. J., Menendez, M. E., Mudgal, C. S., Ring, D. & Chen, N. C. (2015, Dec 24). Prevalence of and factors associated with major depression in patients with upper extremity conditions. The Journal of Hand Surgery. [Epub ahead of print]

Friday, January 8, 2016

Three of My Favourite Authors

Contributing author: Gentle Heron

Three of my favorite authors are Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Michaels, and Barbara Mertz.

Barbara Mertz, who died in 2013 at the age of 85, was the first to be published. With a doctorate in Egyptology, she wrote nonfiction books that detailed life in ancient Egypt. I read her books when I aspired to be a docent for the Tutankhamen exhibit at the Smithsonian. Red Land, Black Land was my favorite. Mertz described daily life of Egyptians of all classes, five thousand years before our time. Being a geek even then, I particularly enjoyed her explanations of Egyptian astronomy, architecture, and mathematics. Mertz’s books are so well written that they are still available. I highly recommend them to those readers interested in ancient Egyptian culture.

Barbara Michaels was the second of these authors to hit bookstore shelves, with her first romantic suspense novel, The Master of Blacktower. Not her best work, however, but typical of the genre: a beautiful young woman is attracted to her mysterious and cruel employer, and discovers his secret past.

In my opinion, a better-written gothic suspense novel by Michaels is The Dark on the Other Side. It opens with a talking house, a bored and frightened wife, and a reporter. And what would a gothic tale be without werewolves?

Michaels wrote about 30 books in all, exploring a variety of subgenres of the suspense category, including horror along the way. Her last book is Other Worlds, a ghost story, or rather a series of such stories told and dissected by worthy psychic investigators including Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Elizabeth Peters was the most prolific of the three authors with 38 titles to her name, even though she got the latest start. She wrote three series of books with female protagonists: Vicky Bliss, Jacqueline Kirby, and Amelia Peabody. The last set is my favorite of the series.

Borrower of the Night is the first of the Vicky Bliss mystery/suspense series. Vicky is an intelligent, well-educated, snarky, independent woman. My kind of gal! Vicky is an art expert, and Peters obviously did extensive background research for the setting and the centuries-ago back-story of her book. Vicky is trying to find a missing 16th century art masterpiece in a wreck of an ancient castle, and is being both helped and hindered by various male characters who may or may not be romantic interests (past and/or future).

Jacqueline Kirby is a librarian who also writes romance novels. In Naked Once More, she’s writing a sequel to a bestseller of an author who has mysteriously disappeared. That means she’s going to have to write in the style of the other author, and she decides to write while living in that author’s home town. Complicated enough? That’s when the suspense begins, as accidents similar to those experienced by the missing writer begin to happen to Jacqueline. Throughout, she is brave and masterful, definitely a strong female to be admired.

My favorite of the three female protagonists, though, is Amelia Peabody. I think I have read all 19 of these historical mysteries. Amelia is a Victorian family-oriented explorer and Egyptologist, a female Indiana Jones if you will. The Last Camel Died at Noon is typical of this series with its energetic, complex plots. Attempting to solve the mystery of a missing archeologist, the Peabody family encounters a city in the Sudan where ancient Egyptian customs are still carried out. Amelia is brave, commonsensical, and indefatigable. Peters writes with dry humor and deep knowledge of her subject matter.

I am glad I could introduce you to three of my favorite authors. And they are all the same person, writing as three different personae! Mertz wanted to write fiction, but was unsuccessful at her first several attempts to have her stories published, so she wrote nonfiction, drawing on her academic background. When she had honed her fiction writing skills to the point her works were publishable, her novels also reflected her ability to research topics in depth. Mertz created the two noms de plume (Michaels and Peters) to maintain the distinction of the genres she was writing in, and managed to keep distinct styles for both “authors.” That takes real writing talent.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Zen and the Art of Inventory Management

Contributing Author: Jadyn Firehawk

The topic of my post is "How to manage your inventory without ever sorting it." I very much like the Taoist saying, "Do nothing, accomplish everything." I never sort or clean out my inventory. As of today, I have 96,173 items in it.

If you think that is bad, hold on a second! A couple of weeks ago, in one of my groups, the owner asked the members this:

"I have a question.... how many inventory items do you all have?"

"I have a guy on the horn who believes his 21k is a lot and I'm trying to make a point."

And some of the answers that were HIGHER than mine were:







"113,692 (been here 8 years)"

"oh geeze way too many, 142,235"

"233,709 dropped 100k in the last 2 weeks lol"

"195,900 *coughs*"

"(blushes, my inventory is well over 200K... even after deleting 15K of old merchandise from the early years... )"

Can you believe it? Over 200 thousand! There are advantages and disadvantages to having an inventory that large. The supposed disadvantage is: Loading time and resource usage. This is according to Torley Linden. Here is his link: Guide to Cleaning Your Inventory for a Happier Second Life. (You might want to bookmark that for reference.)

Yet, with over 90,000 items I have never found this to be an inconvenience. I don't necessarily recommend that you let yours get as large as mine. Builders tend to have large inventories, mainly because of textures. The main advantage, however, is: You never, EVER have to sort it. In other words, no more files and folders... and sub-folders... and more sub-folders...and hours of endless sorting... This is a HUGE advantage!

How do you manage an inventory that large? The key is this: MAKE IT SEARCHABLE. I sometimes call this "The Google Method" of inventory management. How do you make it searchable? Here's how:

  1. Rename items slightly as you get them, and
  2. Use keywords.

Renaming items (or the folder that it comes in) as you get them takes only a second, but pays off big in the long run. A fact of life about the Information Age is: Information is no good unless it's findable. KEYWORDS make your items findable.

Whenever you get, or create, a new item, if it is modifiable, add to its name a word or two (or three) that will help you to find it later. Use a word or two (or three) that you will most likely think of, to search for it again later, such as "red mesh gown." If the item is not modifiable, you won't be able to change its name. In these cases, the best thing to do is to create a New Folder to put the item into, and name the folder with your searchable keywords, in order to find it again later.

When creating and using New Folders, it's handy to use the Inventory > New Window command in your Inventory window to create a second Inventory window, to make it easier to drag-and-drop your items into your New Folder.

If a shop or creator already puts their brand name into the name of every item that they sell, then they have already done the work for you.

All you have to do is remember that you got that particular item at that store.

For example, a lot of my favorite jewelry comes from a store called EarthStones. That's the one with the people who have the gigantic inventories that I used in the examples! That creator always puts the brand name EarthStones in the folder name of every item that is sold there. My work is already done, and the job of searching for items that I bought there is very easy.

There are two main things to know about Searching. First, typing more than one keyword in Search (or the Filter Inventory line) will search for those exact words in that exact order. For example, "red mesh gown" will bring up anything with exactly the words "red mesh gown" and not "red gown mesh."

Second, to search for something with the words "red" AND "gown" anywhere in its name, you can use a "+" sign, as in: red + gown. That will bring up all items with the words "red" and "gown" in them, with any words in between. For example, it will find Kamiri Red Mesh Gown, and also Blaze Red Formal Gown, and Mesh Gown Dress Bellagio Red, and any other items or folders with Red and Gown in the name.

It's also useful to know that there's a Search By function in your Inventory window. You can use it (in the Inventory window menu) to Search By Name, or By Creator, By Description, By UUID, or BY ALL. UUID stands for Universal Unique Identifier, and it's a string of numbers assigned to every individual thing in SL, such as 32209ef3-9dad-fe83-4ae7-67354f9e8327. (That's the UUID for the Notecard that I used to write out the notes for this post.) The UUID is useful mainly to scripters.

A tip for builders: When using textures or any other thing associated with a specific project, make a copy of the item and rename it with the name of the project somewhere in the item name. This will help you find the item very easily in the future. For example, for all the textures that I used in building my Craftsman house, I made copies and renamed them with "Craftsman" in the item name. This creates more items in your inventory, of course, but has the advantage of associating all items to each of your projects and making them easily findable later.

I guess this is the message of the entire post. Your goal in using this approach to inventory management is this: Make every item in your inventory easily findable later. That is the goal of all inventory management approaches, anyway. The difference with my approach is that it's a "search based" approach, rather than a folder-within-folder based approach. And the secret to a search based approach is to use keywords. No sorting required!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Find a Good Book, Share About It!

Contributing Author: Vulcan Viper

Goodreads is a website where you can look for and share books. You start off with the standard shelves Read, Currently Reading, and Want to Read, but you can make more shelves, if you like.

You can find books by title, author, and ISBN. You can send a suggestion to selected friends to add someone as a friend, which might be nice for those who are just getting started. Lastly, you can see which books your friends have read, and what they thought of the ones they have read.

If you would like to create an account, visit

Sunday, January 3, 2016

About Change and Improving Our Lives

Contributing author: Gentle Heron

Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change. -Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

It is often said that nobody likes change except a wet baby. That may be true, but many of us, especially at this time of year, think about ways we would like to change our lives for the better. We may have created New Year’s Resolutions. Or we may just have a dream of how we would like to live differently than our present situation.

However we have named our desired life changes, it’s going to take work to accomplish them. And that’s hard!

Virtual Ability community’s focus for 2016 will be on self-improvement. Not only will we offer blog posts by experts and community members on a variety of related topics such as health and wellness, nutrition, exercise, personal skills and emergency preparedness, but we will have lessons and activities related to these topics in Second Life.

We know some factors that help us make and maintain the changes we want in our lives. One is to keep your resolution in front of you, so you are reminded of it daily until it becomes a habit. Another is to keep track of your progress toward your goal. It’s also important to learn how to accomplish your goal. And a fourth factor, perhaps the most important, is to only make plans to change things that are within your control.

How will you improve your life in 2016? Join us as the Virtual Ability community makes this journey together. Consider commenting on blog posts or submitting ideas and articles. Contact iSkye Silverweb inworld or at iskye.silverweb at gmail dot com to contribute.

Note: Original image found at

Saturday, January 2, 2016

January: National Soup Month

January is National Soup Month, and there’s a lot of nutrition to receive along with the warming comfort of a good, hot bowl of soup!

Soup has a long history, dating back perhaps as far as six centuries BCE. Older Germanic languages had a root verb sounding like “soup” that meant “to consume something liquid.” Ancient Greeks sold broth in public markets, and patrons dipped bread in the broth. In the 5th century AD, the Latin language had the word “suppa” to mean this bread eaten in broth. In England in the 11th century, the bread was known as “sop,” which eventually lead to our English word “soup.” The history of soups is fascinating!

Soups come in many varieties. Some are water-based (such as broth or consommé), while others are milk- or cream-based (such as chowders or bisques). This second kind of soups is thicker and creamier (and often therefore more calorie-laden). Then there are stews and all the variations of chili.

One common home remedy for “whatever ails you” is Chicken Soup. It is one of the most commonly used home remedies in Germany. Research has shown the effectiveness of various ingredients in Chicken Soup in dealing with colds and influenza, although digestive enzymes decrease its effectiveness. Chicken Soup is a comfort food that has positive psychological effects as well. (See references below.)

There are ways to make your soup recipe healthier. Consider using vegetable broth instead of meat-based, to cut down on fat calories. Or if using meat in soup, you can trim the fat before chopping up the meat (or rinse cooked hamburger in hot water to get rid of some of the grease). If you refrigerate soups before reheating to serve, the fat will rise to the top and congeal, where it can easily be scraped off and discarded.

If you are used to making canned soups with milk, give them a try with water or broth instead. And remember to read the label carefully; the typical can of condensed soup is intended to make over 2 servings! Many of us simply eat the whole amount for our lunch.

It is easy enough to make your own broth. Boil up the turkey carcass or ham bone, vegetable scraps and clean peels, leftover veggies (including mashed potatoes), even leftover salad (complete with dressing). Broth stores well in small containers in the freezer, ready to use whenever you make soup. Plus homemade broth is a lot healthier than purchased canned broth.

Remember the sodium load in dry bouillon cubes and prepared dry soup mixes. YIKES! The packet of dry onion soup mix in my cupboard says one serving has 24% of my recommended sodium for a day. I also see that the packet makes 4 servings, so if I ate all 4 cups that the packet makes, that’s all the sodium I should have all day!

Soups are also wonderful places to include vegetables (and sometimes fruit!) in your diet. Consider veggie-based soups, either homemade or canned. Then add even more vegetables, either bite-sized raw or steamed fresh veggies or pre-cooked leftovers.

Got some good healthy soup recipes? Please share. Contact iSkye Silverweb inworld or at iskye.silverweb at gmail dot com to contribute.

Some resources (many including yummy recipes) for National Soup Month:

Research References:

Babizhayev, M.A., Deyev, A. I. & Yegorov, Y. E. (2013). Non-hydrolyzed in digestive tract and blood natural L-carnosine peptide ("bioactivated Jewish penicillin") as a panacea of tomorrow for various flu ailments: signaling activity attenuating nitric oxide (NO) production, cytostasis, and NO-dependent inhibition of influenza virus replication in macrophages in the human body infected with the virulent swine influenza A (H1N1) virus. Journal of basic and clinical physiology and pharmacology, 24(1), 1-26.

Parisius, L. M., Stock-Schroer, B., Berger, S., Hermann, K. & Joos, S. (2014, June 11). Use of home remedies: A cross-sectional survey of patients in Germany. BMC Family Practice, 15(116).

Troisi, J. D. & Gabriel, S. (2011, June). Chicken soup really is good for the soul: “Comfort food” fulfills the need to belong. Psychological Science, 22(6), 747-753.