Tag Archives: news

Missed meals; missed comforts

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marshmallows.jpg

One of the many epidemics in our society is obesity.  Not just being overweight, mind you – serious, life-threatening body-mass-indexes (BMI) that are over 30.   The high level view is that the cause is a preponderance of sugar/corn syrup in our modern diet.   According to a Chris Stefanick podcast on the topic,  eating less calories is good, but unfortunately, your body catches on, and then starts to metabolically slow down.   Likewise, exercise is good, but exercise alone won’t allow you to eat whatever you want, because you’ll get hungry, and eat more.  One of Chris’s suggestions (he mentions quite a bit of research on this) is that reducing carbohydrates is a key to reducing the insulin rush (cause by carbs/simple sugars) that cause this.

But even better?  Going on a fast – voluntarily not eating.  From the podcast, he mentions people who eat 2400 calories each day, if fasting every other day, they will eat 0 calories while fasting, and 2900 calories on the days when they are “catching up”, for a net reduction of (1900/4800) 40% calories in the long haul.  It sounds a bit simple, but the science does seem sound.

What if we expanded this concept, to other areas of life?   This was touched on by a post a few years ago (Learning To Live Without).  You may have heard of a few folks who have gone on news or Internet fasts for weeks or months.   I’m currently in the middle of an experiment where I’m only checking personal email twice a day, and it’s been a boon to concentration and getting things done.

Could society use a bit of this, in general?  Jack Alpert, who founded the Stanford Knowledge Integration Lab has an extreme idea, which might be the ultimate in delayed gratification.  He recently was a guest on JHK’s podcast (the KunstlerCast; he is interviewed here).  The upshot? Almost everyone alive now is to be sterilized (!), and then lotteries for the right to have children, essentially, to lower the final population of the earth to 50 million – the “delayed gratification” of having a working (albiet small) civilization.

Questions:

  • The research on delayed gratification is extensive (check out the marshmallow experiment); how could delayed gratification be introduced into groups, instead of individuals?
  • What sort of delayed gratification would you like to see more of?
  • Could Jack Alpert’s idea ever get going?  Seems like it is a bit extreme for most.
  • Obviously, too much delayed gratification is a bit of a problem; if you don’t eat, you starve to death, so fasting does have its “upper limits.”   What is the criteria for too much delayed gratification?   Even an Internet “news fast” might not be good, in that you could miss timely news about storms, disasters that might be coming, or other things that might affect you.
  • Missing meals, missing comforts – temporarily not having these may be a bit annoying, but in the end, there is a great gain.  What have you deliberately cut out of your life, in order to make your life better in the long run?

 

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The names of things

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commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Thesauri#/media/File:Thesaurus.jpg CC-BY SA 3.0

Last weekend, the topic of naming children came up.    In theory, you should be able to name your children whatever you want to; however, there can potentially be real side effects that accompany your child’s name.   The one that was introduced to me a while ago was that the exact same resumes with only differing names that might belong to African-Americans had substantially less callbacks than ones with more common names such as John or Mary.   It’s the kind of study that is easy to replicate, and easy figure mathematically… and incredibly mind blowing.  It reminded me of an instructor (who was Jewish)  who said that names are very important; he told of us a discussion with his wife (in discussing possible baby names).   When she claimed, “it isn’t that important,” he wryly commented, and yes, completely in jest,  “What if we were to name our kid… Adolf?  One wonders if a study on more ‘revolutionary’ names like ‘Che’, ‘Fidel’, or ‘Mahatma’, more ‘preppy’ names like ‘Chip’ and ‘Ambrose’, or names like ‘Rand’ (associated with Rand Paul, or Ayn Rand, although her name was not the inspiration for his) would find.

Names are important, and it can be unfortunate that so much can be caught up in them.  Think of all the folks who were named Adolf, just before the Second World War broke out, and the impact that might have had on their lives and careers.  The name has take a nosedive, for sure, in baby namings.  A quick search on names of other infamous people from history turns up some striking statistics (who knew that there were actually people given the name Genghis?).

As noted before here, this naming problem was discussed most directly by (Saint) George Carlin, in his bit about euphemisms; most notably about soldiers and their stressful experiences in battle. In the Great War, it was called ‘shell shock’; in the Second World War, it became ‘battle fatigue’.  In Korea, ‘operational exhaustion’, and in Vietnam, ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’.   Euphemisms can dilute the meaning of really important things such as ‘shell shock.’  As Saint Carlin stated, maybe more vets would have gotten help if they had named their experience as ‘shell shock’ rather than a multi-syllable and hyphenated ‘disorder’.

Likewise, in the midst of an incredible cold snap throughout the United States, there are folks who bring up the term ‘global warming’, and simple minded jokes about how “we could sure use some more of it.”  Climate scientists have at least caught on, and begun using names like ‘climate change’ or ‘climate chaos’.  Although the long-term net effect might actually be warming, the term ‘global warming’ has stuck, and a lot of time has been spent backpedaling trying to get that term out of the ‘meme pool’ (analogous to the ‘gene pool’).

Given that we’ve got really gargantuan environmental, economic, and ecological crises on the horizon, what sort of names would be more appropriate, to alert people to their seriousness?   Terms like “irrational exuberance”, “negative outcomes”, “negative equity”, or “racially motivated” might mean the same thing as “crazy”, “bad”, “broke” or “bigoted”, but they tend to soften the edges a bit, and perhaps that isn’t a good thing.

We are faced with a lot of predicaments, not problems or ‘issues’.   How we face them depends a great deal on language, and we’ve all got to speak more directly.   It isn’t easy, since we tend to not to want to hurt people’s feelings, but speaking plainly (Dutch Uncleism!) could be a start.   It would great to find a Dutch uncle for America, but until then, we could start by being Dutch uncles and aunts more locally.     This doesn’t mean you should be cruel.  In my mind, a true Dutch uncle (or aunt) says what needs to be said out of real love and concern, and for the sake of not wasting time or resources.   A Dutch uncle or aunt should want you to succeed, or at the very least, make the most of what you’ve got.

Questions:

  • What other terms would you replace in our modern lexicon, that are destroying our ability to recognize problems?   What are some more classic ‘thoughtstopper’ or ‘gentle criticism’ (gentlecrit?) euphemisms, and their antidotes?
  • What current euphemisms are doing a great deal of damage, or hiding a lot of reality?
  • How do you change the use of a euphemism, to something more realistic?
  • There is an antonym for euphemism; it is called dysphemism, but this refers to a vulgar turn of phrase (axle grease instead of butter – I never heard of that!).  What is the in-between of euphemism and dysphemism?   Obtudoism?  Or is having such a word adding to the problem?!
  • My guess is that shorter words are generally less euphemistic, thoughts on that?

Recognition of reality

Original photo: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_House#/media/File:White_House_north_and_south_sides.jpg , ‘matrixed’ via funny.pho.to/matrix-image-generator/

It is a very rare thing, but from time to time, the occupant of the Oval Office will say something that resonates with the outlook of the Long Emergency.    The notion that the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue can actually speak without obfuscation and political smoke and mirrors is novel, but it does happen.  Most of the time when presidents speak, they give us grand gestures, promises, and pie-in-the-sky platforms that don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually solving the problems that need solving (perhaps because they are unsolvable problems (predicaments), rather than true problems).

In 2006, George W. Bush blew me away when he made the comment “we are addicted to oil.”  A stunning admission, especially coming from an oilman and a Texan.   Other presidents, from Nixon to Obama, have also mentioned oil,  as Jon Stewart (transcript) bravely/hilariously/sadly cataloged (video) years ago.

Donald Trump made a comment about recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and buried in his remarks, he stated, “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.”  Now, if he (or anyone else) could wrap his head around the reality of our energy/financial/environmental situations, and say the same thing, we’d have something.

Eisenhower’s farewell speech is probably the most haunting, and the most prescient.   In a time when America was economically on top (and still exporting oil), he had these words:

As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Questions:

  • What other realities have politicians been blatantly obvious about?
  • When are politicians more likely to mention reality and unpleasant truths?  The higher up in office they go?  Only at the end of their term in office, as per Eisenhower?
  • Are politicians in other countries any more or less blunt?

If you want to search for bon mots of presidential truth, you can do so at the Miller Center of UVA.  Try searching on the terms “reality”, “hypocrisy”, “existential” versus terms like “hope” and “freedom”.  And, if you want to bring the Matrix effect to your images, go to  funny.pho.to/matrix-image-generator/.

 

 

Education, News, and Data

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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC#/media/File:BBC.svg

Last week, George Carlin’s rant on education, with references to other folks who see the charade of modern schooling was rolled out.

Given the ongoing small disasters and tragedies of modern life (mass shootings, health care, and the specter of climate change), one has to ask – why is it so hard for people to understand what is going on?  For sure, there are disagreements, and people will argue the details of the Second Amendment, government’s role in medical insurance, and climate change data, but why are things still at a standstill?  Why is there little forward motion on any of these issues?

George Carlin’s take on education is that it is because the powers that be don’t want us to be knowledgeable and thoughtful; just smart enough to run the machinery.    But how do people break out of that worldview?  When do people start listening to the BBC vs Fox News (or NPR, for that matter)?  One the greatest things that appeals to me about the BBC is that when they do interviews, they don’t pull punches, and they tend not roll over when talking to people in power (or, in the least they seem to have some sort of a spine).  There are criticisms of the BBC, of course, but getting news about your own country from outside your own country (whether the UK, Canada, Europe, Russia or Japan) is a great way to get more objective viewpoints, or at least viewpoints that have different starting points. When do people start looking for the data themselves, and looking deeper into the current problems we have, and identifying root causes?

The recent and horrific mass shooting in a church, for example, has people focusing on easy access to guns, and mental health screening.    It still is hard for me to wrap my head around why someone would shoot people in cold blood for a bit of short-lived infamy.  What could possibly make someone think that was a good idea, by any stretch of the imagination?   Every person who does these kinds of things is vilified.  Is this the legacy anyone would want to have, or to have your family name associated with that?   If you’ve ever taken any sort of self-defense course, you should realize the seriousness and gravity of weapons of any kind (from fists to knives to firearms), and know that those things are real, deadly, and not part of any sort of video game.   Even when you learn to do something as innocuous as driving a car, it should be drilled into you that this is a potentially very dangerous thing, and you should act accordingly.

What really is going on here?   Switzerland is a place where every able-bodied man has a firearm in the house, but you don’t hear of people there going off their rocker and shooting up schools or churches.   The ‘fz‘ for Switzerland is a lot lower than that of America.    Many Americans don’t believe in climate change, and of course, America is famously (or infamously) the only major economic power that doesn’t have universal health care.  Something at the core is very different from those societies, and ours.   Passing laws to solve any particular problem can help, but we’ve got to come to grips with our own culture.

This post isn’t about solving a particular problem like gun violence; it is more about asking how we solve tough problems (ed. or predicaments) like it.  The  question of education, and how we get information in this country and data in general, is something that might be considered a root cause of these issues.   If you aren’t taught how to spot a fallacious argument, or are fed “news” which is biased and misleading, then these systemic problems aren’t going to be identified, much less solved.  Money in politics may be another “feature” of the American political system which is driving much of our debate in the wrong direction, and warping any sort of view that needs to be a lot clearer on a smörgåsbord of problems.

Questions:

  • How do you get educated on any topic?
  • Where do you go for news?  Do you seek out different viewpoints?
  • How do you filter “fake news”?
  • At the core – where do you get your data?  And why?
  • Are other countries just simply better at education and news?  Or is it something about American culture?   If America were to experience real and sustained catastrophe, that affected everyone personally, like Europe and other places, would we wake up?