Archive for the ‘Daily life’ Category
Tom Jacobs reports at Pacific Standard:
Plenty of research has suggested immersing yourself in nature has significant mental and physical health benefits. But can it also make you a better person? New research from France suggests it just might.
In two experiments, pedestrians who had just strolled through a beautiful park were more likely to come to the aid or a stranger who had just dropped a glove. Writing in the journal Environment and Behavior, Nicolas Guéguen and Jordy Stefan of the University of Bretagne-Sud refer to this as “green altruism.”
Their first experiment featured
Another reason for traditional wet-shaving’s appeal: By requiring more effort it provides a sense of control
And a sense of control is exactly what people crave when the general situation, globally, nationally, and locally, feels out of control (cf. the three earlier posts on law enforcement, which was once a source of a sense of control). Tom Jacobs writes at Pacific Standard:
As a proposed advertising slogan, “Requires Effort” wouldn’t pass muster with Don Draper. But surprising new research finds that, under certain circumstances, people are in fact drawn to products that demand some work.
Such items become more desirable when people feel a lack of control over their lives, according to Keisha Cutright of the University of Pennsylvania and Adriana Samper of Arizona State University. These “high-effort products,” they write, enable frustrated individuals to recapture a sense of personal power.
“Beyond seeking products that merely symbolize a given trait,” Cutright and Samper write in the Journal of Consumer Research, “consumers sometimes prefer products that give them an opportunity to actually demonstrate that they possess a trait.”
The researchers describe five studies that provide evidence for their thesis. In the first, . . .
Feeling that one lacks control in his or her life puts one at serious risk for depression—or, as Martin Seligman termed it in his studies, “learned helplessness.” (His book Learned Optimism is quite interesting—inexpensive secondhand copies at the link.)
I made this recipe last night, and it was quite tasty, cooking the chicken in my large cast-iron skillet. I did spatchcock the chicken, and I follow the video (linked in the post) and remove the breastbone as well, which makes the chicken fall naturally into two halves. The ingredients:
1 (4 lb) whole chickens, giblets and liver reserved for another use
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon herbes de provence
1/2 teaspoon salt
It was extremely tasty. My own chicken took 37 minutes, not 30 minutes, so I advise you to use a meat thermometer to determine whether it’s done.
Spatchcocking a chicken is easy if you have good poultry shears.
Melanie S. posted a comment to me regarding this case:
This girl, Abby Hernandez, is sixteen and was missing from a small community in the northern part of my home state of New Hampshire since last October. I point the story out to you because now that she has been found alive and reunited with her family, who are not releasing details and who request privacy, the online commenters are skewering her as if they somehow “know” that she was “just a runaway” or was “never really in danger.” They are calling for her to be jailed or otherwise punished, or claiming that she must have been pregnant and hiding it since she was gone 9 months. I am horrified.
[It's an example of] how the uninformed public immediately reacts and blames her. I will tell you that I spoke with a state trooper last year who said (off the record) that they think she was taken by human traffickers, as there is an active problem with that in the area of Abby’s hometown. Meanwhile, the investigation is continuing and this has been an FBI case since very shortly after she disappeared.
The public can become a mob quite easily.
It will take a while to figure out best practices, and that is why we try to preserve cultural knowledge—i.e., things painfully and slowly worked out. I sound like I’m becoming a conservative.
I had a small insight yesterday, something perhaps familiar to many. I was considering a person who has a chip on his shoulder, aggressive in reaction to things he perceives as slights and insults, and was wondering why he would persist in an attitude the clearly does not result in happiness, when it occurred to me that no one chooses a negative stance.
That is, from his point of view, he does not have a chip on his shoulder at all. If you point his his response to some remark or situation, he would disagree (angrily, no doubt), and say something like, “That‘s not having a chip on my shoulder! Anyone would respond to that as I did. It was not me that was in error, it was that other person!” He doesn’t see himself as having a chip on his shoulder at all; rather, he believes he’s reacting as anyone would. He can become better adapted socially only if he gives credence to what others tell him about his behavior, and to examine his behavior from their point of view rather than relying solely on his internal ruminations—because people in their minds tend to believe that they are acting appropriately.
Another example: a controlling person may be told to back off and become less controlling, but I would say that a controlling person does not perceive their words as actions as controlling at all. They see themselves as helpful, offering useful suggestions, advice derived from their own experience, and are trying to ease your path by telling you exactly what to do. When told not to be controlling, they readily agree. But they still want to be “helpful,” because that satisfies some need for order, for making the world go the way it “should.”
On a larger scale, you see it in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Each side views it actions as completely honorable, fighting for a good life, fighting against those who wish to harm them. Thus Israel, for example, sees the shelling of the four boys on the beach from their own perspective and find nothing at all wrong in what they did. They were simply responding to Hamas, and it is Hamas that is at fault. Similarly, Hamas seems to thing that launching rockets into Israel is somehow a fight against oppression, against an occupying government that continually steals land from them and keeps them in poverty and kills their children and families by the hundreds. They each are stuck in their own point of view, and each can point to atrocities committed by the other. It’s hard to see what will break that cycle, for each side feels fully justified, and they love their justifications more than finding a good solution that involves mutual respect.
Arthur C. Brooks writes in the NY Times:
ABD AL-RAHMAN III was an emir and caliph of Córdoba in 10th-century Spain. He was an absolute ruler who lived in complete luxury. Here’s how he assessed his life:
“I have now reigned above 50 years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity.”
Fame, riches and pleasure beyond imagination. Sound great? He went on to write:
“I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: They amount to 14.”
Abd al-Rahman’s problem wasn’t happiness, as he believed — it was unhappiness. If that sounds like a distinction without a difference, you probably have the same problem as the great emir. But with a little knowledge, you can avoid the misery that befell him.
What is unhappiness? Your intuition might be that it is simply the opposite of happiness, just as darkness is the absence of light. That is not correct. Happiness and unhappiness are certainly related, but they are not actually opposites. Images of the brain show that parts of the left cerebral cortex are more active than the right when we are experiencing happiness, while the right side becomes more active when we are unhappy.
As strange as it seems, being happier than average does not mean that one can’t also be unhappier than average. One test for both happiness and unhappiness is the Positive Affectivity and Negative Affectivity Schedule test. I took the test myself. I found that, for happiness, I am at the top for people my age, sex, occupation and education group. But I get a pretty high score for unhappiness as well. I am a cheerful melancholic.
So when people say, “I am an unhappy person,” they are really doing sums, whether they realize it or not. They are saying, “My unhappiness is x, my happiness is y, and x > y.” The real questions are why, and what you can do to make y > x. . . .
Continue reading. It’s good.
Another very interesting article in Pacific Standard (and again, right now in Firefox you have to scroll past several screens of links), this one by Nicole Woo:
The Nation recently sparked a robust discussion with its incisive online conversation, “Does Feminism Have a Class Problem?” The panelists addressed the “Lean In” phenomenon, articulating how and why Sheryl Sandberg’s focus on self-improvement—rather than structural barriers and collective action to overcome them—angered quite a few feminists on the left.
While women of different economic backgrounds face many different realities, they also share similar work-life balance struggles. In that vein, the discussants argue that expanding family-friendly workplace policies—which would improve the lives of working women up and down the economic ladder—could help bridge the feminist class divide.
A growing body of research indicates that there are few other interventions that improve the economic prospects and work-life balance of women workers as much as unions do. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which I co-authored with my colleagues Janelle Jones and John Schmitt, shows just how much of a boost unions give to working women’s pay, benefits, and workplace flexibility.
For example, all else being equal, women in unions earn an average of 13 percent—that’s about $2.50 per hour—more than their non-union counterparts. In other words, unionization can raise a woman’s pay as much as a full year of college does. Unions also help move us closer to equal pay: A study by the National Women’s Law Center determined that the gender pay gap for union workers is only half of what it is for those not in unions.
Unionized careers tend to come with better health and retirement benefits, too. CEPR finds that women in unions are 36 percent more likely to have health insurance through their jobs—and a whopping 53 percent more likely to participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
Unions also support working women at those crucial times when they need time off to care for themselves or their families. Union workplaces are 16 percent more likely to allow medical leave and 21 percent more likely to offer paid sick leave. Companies with unionized employees are also 22 percent more likely to allow parental leave, 12 percent more likely to offer pregnancy leave, and 19 percent more likely to let their workers take time off to care for sick family members.
Women make up almost half of the union workforce and are on track to be in the majority by 2025. As women are overrepresented in the low-wage jobs that are being created in this precarious economy—they are 56.4 percent of low-wage workers and over half of fast food workers—unions are leading and supporting many of the campaigns to improve their situations. In an important sense, the union movement already is a women’s movement.
Education and skills can get women only so far. It’s a conundrum that women have surpassed men when it comes to formal schooling, yet women have made little progress catching up on pay. Many women who do everything right—getting more education and skills—still find themselves with low wages and no benefits. . . .
Because corporations focus totally on growing profits, they have an equally intense focus on cutting costs: every dollar cut from costs drops straight to the bottom line as pure profit. Thus corporations try to avoid clean-up costs (thus the Superfund sites: corporations put those costs on taxpayers), no longer care much about the communities around them, and have stripped training from their budgets, in effect demanding that training costs be borne by others—the taxpayers, most often, through community college training programs, but also their own employees, who must pay out of their own pockets for training. The corporation wants all the benefits, but none of the costs.
Lauren Weber writes in the Wall Street Journal:
Hu-Friedy, a manufacturer of dental instruments in Chicago, says its future hinges on four employees. So, it is paying them to leave their jobs for two years.
While their colleagues bend and grind cylinders of steel on the factory floor, the four workers since March have been mastering the fundamentals of metal composition and heat-treating, among other things. The hope, managers say, is that the two years of full-time training will help keep the 106-year-old dental-instruments maker competitive in a mature industry crowded with rivals.
What’s happening at Hu-Friedy Mfg. Co. LLC is a rare exception to decades of corporate disinvestment in skills development, and gets at the heart of the debate playing out in the hiring market over whose job it is to train workers.
Companies complain that they can’t find skilled hires, but they aren’t doing much to impart those skills, economists and workforce experts say. U.S. companies have been cutting money for training programs for decades, expecting schools and workers to pick up the slack. Economists say that reluctance to develop workers in-house has made it hard for workers to launch or sustain careers, resulting in a stalemate in the labor market: Companies won’t look at job candidates who lack a specific skill set, so openings go unfilled even as millions linger on the unemployment rolls.
The government hasn’t tracked spending on corporate training since the mid-1990s, but one rough measure, the percentage of staffers at U.S. manufacturers dedicated to training and development, has fallen by about half from 2006 to 2013, according to research group Bersin by Deloitte.
Employers’ expectations for new hires have shifted since the recessions of the early 1980s, when companies laid off masses of workers and slashed training programs. Where bosses once hired for potential, viewing workers as lumps of clay to be molded to the company’s needs, they now want hires to arrive with all or most of the skills needed for the job—another symptom of how the employer-employee relationship has become reduced to a transaction, said Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
If employers “want only people who can step in immediately because they are currently doing the job, [they] narrow the pool to almost no one,” said Mr. Cappelli. He added that today’s novices are more likely to briefly shadow an experienced worker or log a few hours of on-the-job training than participate in a weekslong learning program. . . .
I thought you would enjoy this photo. The young man in the chair, one of my grandsons, is holding for the first time one of his twin baby brothers.
As you can see, he’s excited.
He also eats well. Here’s a typical lunch that he takes to his daycare center:
Tofu wit wheat germ
Kale & turnip greens Korean style
Hard boiled egg
Whole grain & white rice balls with seaweed & sesame seeds
A growing boy. Think how much he will be eating in high school.
Check out this interesting article by Robert Pogue Harrison. From the article:
Our silicon age, which sees no glory in maintenance, but only in transformation and disruption, makes it extremely difficult for us to imagine how, in past eras, those who would change the world were viewed with suspicion and dread. If you loved the world; if you considered it your mortal home; if you were aware of how much effort and foresight it had cost your forebears to secure its foundations, build its institutions, and shape its culture; if you saw the world as the place of your secular afterlife, then you had good reasons to impute sinister tendencies to those who would tamper with its configuration or render it alien to you. Referring to all that happened during the “dark times” of the first half of the twentieth century, “with its political catastrophes, its moral disasters, and its astonishing development of the arts and sciences,” Hannah Arendt summarized the human cost of endless disruption:
The world becomes inhuman, inhospitable to human needs—which are the needs of mortals—when it is violently wrenched into a movement in which there is no longer any sort of permanence.
The twenty-first century has only aggravated the political, moral, social, and environmental concussions of the twentieth. There would be reason to applaud the would-be world-changers and start-up companies of Silicon Valley if they made it their business to resist or reverse this process of planetary upheaval, the way environmentalists seek to do with the wounds we have afflicted on nature. Sadly they have no such militancy in their souls, nor much thoughtfulness. With a few exceptions, our new tech armies rarely take the time to think through what they are doing. Or if they do, they tend to think in ways that only add to the turmoil and agitation.
By giving no thought and little effort to preserving the world—the natural world, the world of human culture and human institutions and societies and attitudes in which we live our daily lives—we are well on the way to destroying it (and ourselves).
Also gonorrhea dropped sharply. Hmm.
The Washington Post report is by Max Ehrenfreund:
For decades, few people noticed that legislators in Providence had deleted crucial language from Rhode Island state law in 1980. It wasn’t until a 2003 court case that police, to their chagrin, discovered they couldn’t prevent prostitutes and their customers from engaging in commercial exchange.
For the next six years until legislators corrected their error, the oldest profession was not a crime in Rhode Island — and public health and public safety substantially improved as a result, according to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The statewide incidence of gonorrhea among women declined by 39 percent, and the number of rapes reported to police in the state declined by 31 percent, according to the paper.
The study by Baylor University’s Scott Cunningham and Manisha Shah of the University of California, Los Angeles contributes to an impassioned, long-running debate about prostitution among advocates for women’s rights. Their work appears to be the first quantitative evidence that removing criminal penalties for prostitutes can reduce violence against women and curtail sexually transmitted infections in society generally — and dramatically so. Yet opponents argue that legal prostitution would encourage traffickers to kidnap women and girls into lives of sexual slavery. . .
Continue reading. Worries about what might happen seem misplaced. Better to focus on what does happen.
See next post on decriminalizing all drugs. (We know what happens when we make the drugs illegal, and it’s very bad indeed. Let’s see what happens when we legalize, regulate, and tax the drugs, and tread addiction as a medical problem rather than a crime.)
I was thinking of the male movie stars generally regarded as masculine and attractive in a fit, tough, man kind of way: Joel McCrae, for example, or Gary Cooper, or Randolph Scott. When they had to play some no-shirt scene, sometimes involving fisticuffs, it bears little resemblance to the current version: today the fisticuffs are martial arts production pieces, and the chiseled body we view has been shaped by weeks if not months of training and day-to-day diet control with a professional nutritionist and professional trainers. Movies are big bucks, and as little is left to chance as possible—plus there is the meme-evolution/competition factor: each new blockbuster must set a new mark, and one strand of the resulting evolution is how the hero’s physique became increasingly developed and ripped—to the point where the normal guy starts to feel that something’s going wrong here: reality is being distorted, in effect, so that the internalized cultural image a man carries and secretly measures himself against is such a god-like warrior that makes his own physique seem somewhat lacking. I bet feminism has some useful reading on this sort of thing, when cultural values/memes undermine and weaken the power of certain groups. And, of course, if you can make a person feel that there’s something wrong with him (or her), you can make a lot of money selling potions and equipment and supplements and training courses that promise to fix what’s wrong. “Power abs in 10 days!” You start to see that sort of thing—very much along the lines of “Lose 25 lbs in 7 days with …!”
Very interesting report on what the blood panel looks like, year by year, for someone who has followed a LCHF diet for 8 years. From the link (where you can also find a chart showing the results from the blood panels):
The wild rumors about how dangerous LCHF is long term, don’t get validated in my blood work. After eight years on LCHF they are excellent, just as when I started. There simply aren’t any big changes during these years.
Many things are typical and the trends are also confirmed in studies on low-carb diets:
- Low triglycerides (good)
- Excellent HDL cholesterol levels
- Nice ApoB/AI ratio
- A low fasting blood sugar and a low HbA1c (good)
- Low, but normal, insulin levels, measured as C-peptide (probably excellent)
- A normal weight and a normal waist circumference
- A low and good blood pressure
To summarize, all problems associated with the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes usually improve on LCHF. Obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high insulin levels and dangerously disturbed cholesterol numbers (high triglycerides and low HDL).
My test results also show that the inflammatory level in the body – as measured CRP – is non-detectible on all test occasions.
With these results in mind the fantasy talk about long-term risks with LCHF doesn’t seem to be valid, at least not in my case. Perhaps you’ll have to put up with me for about 50 more years.
I’ve kept my weight at a normal weight level effortlessly and without any calorie counting during these years. I’ve gone up and down a few pounds within the normal range.
During my experiment with a strict LCHF diet and ketone measuring, I lost 12 lbs/5 kg. They came back when I returned to liberal LCHF, but disappeared again when I added 16:8.
My experience is that the latter is clearly the easier alternative. At least if you’re like me, and not that sensitive to carbohydrates. So I will continue with liberal LCHF with the addition of 16:8 on weekdays.
“16:8″ is a new term for me. It means that each day you fast for 16 hours and eat only during an 8-hour period. In practical terms, it boils down to skipping breakfast. I have been doing that off and on, and I think I’ll try it more seriously. (Another number pair I just learned: 5:2, which refers to eating normally for five days and then two days eating only 1/4 the normal amount of calories—that is, on two days, a typical woman will eat 500 calories each day and a typical man 600.
Answer: nothing. It’s still as good as it was, more or less. What are they made of?
It’s a true story (with photo of 5-year-old bun and patty at the link).
An absolute perfect shave. My Rooney Style 2 Finest generated a very nice lather from the TFS shaving soap, and then Mr. Stealth wiped off the stubble easily and comfortably. A good splash of Clean Vetiver from Fine and my mug is ready for my dental appointment.
No more shaving until Monday, when I will test the efficiency of the Stealth on a 5-day stubble. There has been speculation that, since it is so comfortable, it could not possibly do an efficient job on thick stubble. We’ll see. (My own idea is that this is related to the notion that medicines must taste bad or they’re not effective.)
Perhaps I exaggerate… but perhaps not. Ted Scheinmann writes at the Pacific Standard:
If you want to gauge in earnest just how divorced education has become from the simple practice of handwriting, here is an experiment. On the first day of a college course in elementary composition, try starting the class with a “little freehand writing exercise.” From the general demeanor of the room (mere stupefaction if you’re lucky), an observer might imagine you had asked them to recite the Gettysburg Address in Aramaic. Friendly whispers will ensue, followed by the sound of respectful paper-tearing as a handful of apparent antique-enthusiasts furnish their classmates with a sheet or two. The exercise will then proceed in peaceable fashion.
This is an embellishment but not entirely an exaggeration. In my own classrooms, and to the credit of my students, I have yet to see a mutiny—even when I declare a ban on laptops for significant stretches of the semester. Like most of their peers across the nation, these young scholars are required to arrive on campus with a computer (and the university provides thousands each year for those who cannot afford one). Only a hardened neo-Victorian would bemoan this arrangement. But personal computing and Web-research and furtive meme-hunting (I understand; lectures get boring) need not be incompatible with a modest foundational fluency in taking notes in pen and ink. When we lose that fluency, we lose a great deal else besides.
The truth for many of these students is that no one ever taught them cursive (let alone something like shorthand), and note-taking is thereby all the slower, even without the comparison to typing. But the problem is of much wider ambit. Dysgraphia—genetically determined—already slows development in certain children it affects, especially the development of memory-skills; meanwhile we are speedily removing the expectation that non-dysgraphic children will receive any practical instruction in a fairly delicate motor skill. The resulting developmental deficiencies can mimic the dysgraphic symptom model, and cognitive scientists are building a consensus that this failure of conditioning will probably hold kids back.
In his 1999 book The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture, Frank R. Wilson offers an emphatic argument that our brain development depends in no small way on what we do with our hands. The New York Times‘ reviewer may have caviled a bit with Wilson’s interview methods, but recent scholarship has more or less borne out Wilson’s thrust. Nancy Darling, professor of psychology at Oberlin, summarizes the growing consensus:
Using our hands requires the development of particular areas of the brain. That’s true when we are learning to use a tool, like our ancestors wielding an axe. It’s true when we learn to play the piano. It’s true when we learn to write. It’s true when we learn to sew or play with blocks. One of the advantages of moving away from the keyboard and doing something that requires greater flexibility in how we use our hands is that it also requires greater flexibility in how we use our brains. This, in turn, requires our brains to develop in new ways.
The benefits of writing by hand, and doing so from a young age, are fundamental: improved and sustained development in social skills, hand-eye coordination, long-term memory. And when one considers “fluency” in its literal sense, it makes sense that . . .
Also, note this.