Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Medical’ Category

A meme to be stopped

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Stop that meme! Seriously. This quirk costs us all. And it can easily be interrupted because performance appraisals can be vetted and people retrained—“yes, this was the old way we did things here, but now we do things this way.” It will catch on because it can be monitored and reinforced. But that cultural shift is within the boundaries of the organization—it doesn’t transfer readily to other organizations. It’s not contagious, it seems.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2014 at 1:23 pm

The Honor Culture Creates the Violence Culture

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Interesting article. And the Old South’s cultural weaknesses, from colonial times to the present day, includes inflated notions of “honor” (honor, in that cultural view, being perfectly compatible with owning slaves: the rise of the double standards of the Southern outlook). This folly has long been noted: Mark Twain clearly identified Southern culture and its weaknesses and put the blame on the novels of Sir Walter Scott for creating a kind of romantic fantasy, one that the Old South attempted to emulate. (See below fro quotation from Life on the Mississippi.)

From the article at the link above:

In Albion’s Seed, historian David Hackett Fischer argues that honor culture arose among the herding societies that populated the border region between England and Scotland. The region’s frequent wars led to political instability and the lack of a strong criminal justice system, and the result was strong norms in favor of private vengeance and self-protection. Furthermore, as Nisbett and Cohen emphasize in their work, poor farming conditions led these regions to be dominated by herders, and the mobile nature of a herder’s property—a flock rather than a field—often required more forceful protection and a reputation for retaliation. Ultimately, colonists from these “borderlands” settled in what would become the Southern states, and they brought their cultural norms with them. [The article includes other theories about the origins of the cultural value of "honor." - LG]

It occurs to me that the Old South has (duh) two distinct cultures regarding honor, because quite obviously the honor culture of the Southern whites was not an option for their slaves: a slave quick to take offense at any perceived slight or insult would not last long, I imagine. So two distinct cultures (at least) emerge: that of the slaves and that of the slave-owners.

When I was a very young boy my grandmother read and told me lots of Uncle Remus stories, and I suddenly realized that these stories are all about avoiding direct conflict, which Brer Rabbit (or a slave) would be sure to lose. Instead, Brer Rabbit, clever and alert, outwits Brer Bear (brute power and a slow intellect, possibly how plantation owners were viewed by their slaves) and Brer Fox (smarter and more dangerous, but also to be outwitted rather than outfought). And it should be noted that on one occasion Brer Rabbit did indeed show the kind of sensitivity to slights that is an earmark of honor culture, he got into serious trouble. That’s the story of the Tar Baby, which refused to respond to Brer Rabbit’s friendly greetings and so at first enraged and then trapped him. Having fallen in the clutches of his enemies by showing aspects of honor culture, Brer Rabbit is able to escape only by falling back on his wits, using practical psychology: “Brer Fox, do anything with me you like, but please don’t fling me into that briar patch. Please don’t do that.” etc.

Stories like this define and teach the cultural values of the storytellers. Such stories are children’s stories, because cultural values must be taught to children at an early age. (And I just realized that “Brer” is not pronounced to rhyme with “there,” as I’ve always read it, but is pronounced “BRUH-er,” eliding the “th” in “Brother.” That’s why it’s sometimes spelled with an apostrophe to mark the elision: “Br’er.”)

AND, it just occurs to me, Uncle Remus is a former slave telling these stories to a young white boy, son of the plantation owner, thus teaching the boy values subversive of the honor culture. A battle of memes, for sure. And the battle goes both directions: certainly there are black populations that now have embraced the honor culture. UPDATE: I just found this interesting post on this view of Uncle Remus, which notes:

Uncle Remus, a former slave, tells stories involving Brer Rabbit and the other critters to a little white boy after the Civil War. The Brer Rabbit stories are, for the most part, versions of African-American folk tales that Harris collected. Harris created the characters Uncle Remus and the little boy to serve as a narrative frame.

Also still UPDATE: I just discovered that Amazon has several Uncle Remus collections by Joel Chandler Harris free for the Kindle.

But I imagine there are libraries full of volumes about black culture and how it developed. So I’m very late to this party. But it’s clear that the culture Fischer describes is a white culture. (And, BTW, I cannot recommend highly enough his book Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought. Anyone who reads history should read that.)

Update: Of course, the very best study of honor culture is Don Quixote. Don Quixote himself personifies the devotion to honor, the sensitivity to slights, the readiness to fight physically to defend abstract notions, that bedevil honor culture.

UPDATE: Mark Twain writes in Life on the Mississippi: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2014 at 10:47 am

Is medical marijuana the answer to America’s prescription painkiller epidemic?

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Interesting question, eh? More and more one becomes aware that ll decisions involve tradeoffs, and figuring those out seems to be where managers (for example) spend a lot of time. Certainly legalizing marijuana cannot be an unalloyed good, but the tradeoffs: billions saved through ending the (futile, brutal, costly, life-wrecking) War on Drugs. a drastic decline in prescription painkiller addiction (and some increase in the number addicted to marijuana, but the addiction rate for marijuana is quite low), help for many in pain or with ills such as epilepsy, which marijuana can relieve—those tradeoffs look damn good. Not to mention additional tax revenue. (Most drug dealers cheat on their income tax, it turns out.)

Jason Millman writes in the Washington Post of a very interesting study. Although conclusions were not clear-cut the findings are encouraging enough to suggest more studies, especially in states like Colorado and Washington, where marijuana is (relatively) freely available to adults.


Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2014 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Health, Medical

Why the lies dropped off

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2014 at 12:45 pm

Posted in GOP, Government, Healthcare

Tear gas is banned in international warfare — and in use in Ferguson, MO

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Sarah Kliff has an interesting report at

Tear gas is a chemical weapon that the Geneva Convention bans from use in international warfare. In the Ferguson, Missouri protests, police have used it repeatedly to disperse crowds.

“I’m very concerned about the increased use, and the much laxer attitude we’ve developed towards the potential health effects,” says Sven-Eric Jordt, a scientist at Duke University who researches tear gas.

Jordt says we know a decent amount about how tear gas effects the body in the short-term: it activates pain receptors, especially in the eyes, forcing the eyelids to squeeze shut and tear uncontrollably. Jordt, who himself was tear-gassed during a protest in Germany in the 1980s, describes the sensation as “like cutting an onion but about 100 times more severe.”

There is little known, however, about whether the main chemical in modern tear gas — a compound called 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile — can have longer lasting effects on the body. That’s something Jordt and his colleagues are currently researching.

Jordt and I spoke Thursday morning about the history of tear gas, how the compound effects the body and what we still don’t know about how tear gas works.

Sarah Kliff: Can you start by walking me through the history of tear gas. How was it developed, and why does it exist in the first place?

Sven-Eric Jordt: The first tear gas agents were developed during the First World War as warfare agents. These were highly aggressive, organic compounds used in trench warfare and other situations alongside other, more lethal war gases like mustard gas.

The tear gas that’s used by law enforcement now is typically CS gas. It’s a compound that was developed because its less toxic. It’s used for clearing wider areas. It was used in the Middle East and Turkey recently to a scale that was unprecedented. Use has increased tremendously over the last few years; its also been used in the US more and more. I think it’s what’s being used in Ferguson.

SK: How do these gases work?

SEJ: The way these gases work, and this is what we do research on, is that they activate pain receptors — the pain sensing nerves in our body. The cornea is densely covered with these receptors. When tear gas activates these pain receptors, that leads to body reflexes like profuse tear secretion and a muscle cramp in the eyelid that causes them to close. These are all protective responses that the body has to pain, and with the gas they become extremely exaggerated.

There are situations where this can be very dangerous or lethal. If somebody has asthma, for example, or a hypersensitivity or an airwave disease that can be very dangerous. It’s not very frequent, but it has been a problem in the Middle East and other places.

Tear gas can also lead to profuse mucus production, and that can lead to the feeling of suffocation. That’s especially true if it’s used in closed environments, like what you saw in Cairo. That’s not the case here in Ferguson.SK: Can you explain what it feels like to be tear-gassed? I understand that you’ve experienced it yourself once. . .

Continue reading.

Illegal to use in warfare, perfectly okay to use on your own civlians—civilians, it should be noted, that were doing nothing wrong, simply gathered to protest peacefully. And of course some tear gas was deliberately directed at TV crews.

These are the actions of a police state. The citizens of Missouri apparently accept living under an authoritarian police presence that seems to be able to do what it wants with no accountability.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2014 at 12:39 pm

The power of depression and the impulsiveness of suicide

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I have seen quite a bit of harsh condemnation of Robin Williams for committing suicide. I don’t understand how those condemning him can be so full-throated in calling him a “coward,” “selfish,” and so on, but I would guess that they are projecting onto him things they hate and/or fear in themselves—that is, the condemnation is much more about those expressing it than about Robin Williams (whom, oddly, none of those making the judgments seem to be in fact closely acquainted with—indeed, many have never even met the man).

I thought this brief article by Lenny Bernstein, Lena H. Sun and Sandhya Somashekhar in the Washington Post offers a good look at how suicide happens—and also documents the increasing number of suicides in the US. The graphs in the article are sobering.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 August 2014 at 9:28 am

This, I think, helps account for the callous brutality of Israel toward the Palestinians

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Read the article.

Ripples in the psychological/social continuum. Physicality and memes interacting once more: physical changes but also cultural changes (i.e., meme changes, including one’s self, composed of memes).

Written by LeisureGuy

12 August 2014 at 7:53 pm


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