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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Keeping Warm

Taking a peek behind the main news headlines that has hit our papers recently is a story of America that is unlike our vision of it in pop lyrics. America is losing blood.

A prime example are Santa Barbara's car sleepers; people made homeless within the last year as a direct consequence of America's housing market collapse.

As darkness falls on Santa Barbara, the car sleepers settle in for the night, but their stay is short. They have to be up early: they are not allowed to stay in the car parks beyond 7am. Some work, others spend their days driving from one spot to another. When evening comes around again, they return to their car park homes.

Seen as a cancer to the American dream, this new poverty brings loneliness and isolation to an ever-impoverished middle-class in the US.

And it shouldn't comes as a surprise if this news has turned us cold, as loneliness and coldness are often associated in everyday language, but psychologists have now found that social isolation does indeed make people feel cold.

The University of Toronto team found people feeling excluded said a room was colder than those feeling included.

People who felt left out also chose comforting hot soup, rather than an apple or soft drink, which might give a good reason as to why it's the British custom to offer people a hot cup of tea to make them feel better.

Finally, on the subject of tea - Lisa Jardine on Radio 4's "A Point of View" wonders why most important inventors, like John Taylor, haven't become household names along with their inventions, suggesting the need to celebrate those "good with their hands" as well as those with good with their brains.

Taylor perfected the kettle thermostat, the bimetallic strip which ensures the kettle switches off once it has boiled for a few seconds, rather than boiling dry, which will arguably help keep more than a few us warm during the winter months.

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