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Archive for April 1st, 2011

The Extinction Burst

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I just came across this article on the extinction burst, and I realized in the course of this weight loss I experienced several. As the article explains, the extinction burst is what happens when you try to extinguish one type of conditioning (see the article at the link).

Dieters often (as the article discusses) stay on track, extinguishing the old eating habits as fast as they can, when suddenly they are grasped by an irresistible urge to eat this, that, or the other thing, and pretty soon they’re hammering down those single-serving pints of Ben & Jerry’s and swilling Hershey’s chocolate syrup directly from the can. And that’s (for most) the end of the diet and the weight-loss effort.

I had several of these, as I say, of diminishing intensity, as though I were gradually extinguishing the extinction burst.

The first breakdown was the most overt—truly pigging out, I’m sorry to say. And I can readily see that, were I on my own—and despite hearing constantly that you just get back at it—I undoubtedly would have quit. I know that, because that has happened in the past.

The problem is not the big meal: it’s the weight gain, usually large, immediate, and enduring. Seeing the scale stuck at that same weight—and perhaps edging up—week after week (and that’s enough: 2 weeks of no progress or negative progress feels like an eternity) makes almost everyone (statistically speaking) abandon their diets. That’s why the admonition is so well known.

But this time I had just paid a honking great sum of money (at least for me) and I simply could not drop out at this point—“sunk-cost fallacy” be damned, the thought of quitting struck me strongly as throwing away money.

So the only thing to do was to pick up and continue. So I did (and all this is recorded in my food journals, so I actually can go back and find those binges, though I think in this instance my memory will prove reliable: this is about food) and within a few weeks [interesting: I actually typed “weaks”—that Freud! – LG] I experienced another extinction burst. I remember talking about that one: I had restricted myself to protein (hard-boiled eggs and string cheese). Too much, but better than a baked potato with butter, sour cream, chives, and cheese, with bacon on top. Right?

By the third or fourth one I vividly recall sitting in my chair, binging out on an enormous (truly enormous) Romaine salad with one hard-boiled egg, non-fat dressing, and Bac’Uns. And I felt almost decadent. That poor extinction burst at that point was so weak it was glad to get anything. And I realized that my perspective had really changed if eating this felt like bingeing.

I think that was the last one. Every couple of weeks I’ll get an urge to eat an extra hard-boiled egg or the like. I wonder if those are the last fading echoes of the extinction burst.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that having a name and context for the feeling will make it much easier to handle, I believe. Knowing the source and likely duration, I would think resistance would become easier. Acting with information is always better than acting in ignorance, don’t you find?

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2011 at 6:19 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Food

For people who get paid to think

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This Cool Tool looks extremely interesting—and note it’s available as an iPhone app.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2011 at 5:56 pm

Posted in Daily life

A worthwhile venture

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I read about it in BusinessWeek and now I’ve donated to it. (Donate here.) The article begins:

t didn’t take long for Minnesotan Franz Gastler to grow tired of his desk job at the Confederation of Indian Industry. He was acting as a consultant to companies interested in corporate responsibility, but “after six months of wearing a suit and tie in 120-degree weather,” he says of the Delhi climate, Gastler was ready to leave office life behind. In 2008, the Boston University graduate, now 29, took a job at Krishi Gram Vikas Kendra, a nongovernmental organization that focuses on the economic development of the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, which is considered to be a top source of human trafficking for forced labor and sexual exploitation.After starting at KGVK, Gastler was living in a farmer’s mud hut when a young girl told him she wanted to learn to play soccer. He agreed to teach her if she could gather enough girls. Teamwork, Gastler thought, could be a grass-roots way to forge gender equality, confidence, and opportunity. Soon he had a makeshift soccer league up and running. He saw so much enthusiasm that he persuaded KGVK to let him build the program and pay his salary. So in 2009, with $6,000 of his savings and his $2,000 monthly stipend, he launched Yuwa, the Hindi word for Youth. A friend matched his $6,000, allowing the team to buy uniforms and equipment and to travel for matches.

Gastler put the kids in charge from the beginning, asking them to set practice times and save for shoes and balls. The shoes cost $7.78, and Yuwa requires the players to contribute $2.22 toward the cost to teach them about saving. The girls save for the shoes as a team, with each player often able to contribute just 4 cents to 20 cents per week.

Yuwa is now an organization of 255 players among 18 teams. One of the program’s former stars even . . .

Continue reading. Given the poverty of the area, even a small donation will have a big impact.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2011 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Daily life

Jesuits to pay $166 million to abuse victims

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A disgusting though familiar storry: the Catholic church, this time the ironcially named Society of Jesus—the Jesuits—sent north those priests and other members who had been detected as active pedophiles. The thinking, pretty obviously, was that if these child rapist would focus on poor children, particularly Native American children in isolated villages, they could rape children to their heart’s conent without causing problems.

That fell apart as people gradually awakened to the fact that priests and brothers and other religious were systematically raping children and that their superiors were protecting the rapists, transferring them to fresh pastures when suspicions arose in the laity that something was amiss. (Of course, the first step was to shame the laity and blame the victims.)

Now the Jesuits make another $166 million payment to their victims, bringing the total for that order in this venue to $250 million. Needless to say, not one of the child rapists has gone to jail or even been charged, so far as I can tell.

Here’s a report by Janet Tu in the Seattle Times:

The abuses spanned decades and states, from remote Alaskan villages to boarding schools on Northwest tribal lands. Hundreds of victims, most of them Native American or Alaska Natives, were sexually or physically abused as children by Jesuit priests or people the priests supervised.

On Friday, the victims received some justice.

In one of the largest monetary payouts nationwide in the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual-abuse crisis, and the largest one by a religious order, the Jesuits in the Northwest agreed to pay $166.1 million to about 500 abuse victims as part of its bankruptcy settlement.

The order has also agreed to no longer call the victims “alleged victims,” to write apologies to them and to enforce new practices designed to prevent abuse, according to plaintiffs’ attorneys.

“It’s a day of reckoning and justice,” said Clarita Vargas, 51, of Tacoma, who was abused while a student at St. Mary’s Mission and School, a former Jesuit-run Indian boarding school on the Colville Indian Reservation near Omak.

Of the 500 victims, about 470 suffered sexual abuse. About two dozen others were physically abused.

Insurance companies will pay $118 million of the settlement, with the Jesuits paying $48.1 million.

Including this week’s settlement, the Northwest Jesuits, formally called the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, and their insurers have agreed to pay about $250 million total to some 700 victims. Victims’ lawyers say they’ve identified about 57 Jesuit priests or brothers who have abused.

Oregon Province leaders declined to comment “out of respect for the judicial process and all involved,” Provincial Superior the Very Rev. Patrick Lee said in a statement. “The province continues to work with the Creditors Committee to conclude the bankruptcy process as promptly as possible.” . .  .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2011 at 1:30 pm

GOP pushes for more government involvement in private and personal decisions

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The GOP has always loved government—big government, pushy government—so long as the focus of the government’s actions and laws were private, personal pleasures, including religion. Even now Rick Santorum is calling on the US to follow the lead of Islam and base its laws on the holy book of a religion (the Quran for Islam, the Holy Bible for Rick), though he’s careful to condemn as a horrible error the basing of civil government on religious law. Think that doesn’t make sense? Well, that’s part for the course for old Rick and the GOP in general. Take a look at this editorial in the LA Times:

Imagine you decided to have a medical procedure but state law said that, even though your doctor supported your decision, you had to be screened to see if you were mentally fit for it, and then had to go to a clinic that directly opposes doing the procedure and listen to its spiel before you could go ahead. Most of us would call that unconscionable interference in our ability to make decisions about our own health.

Now imagine you’re a pregnant woman in South Dakota.

Under a law signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard last week, women who seek an abortion will have to wait 72 hours, undergo two visits to physicians to be checked for unspecified physical and mental risk factors, and be proselytized by an antiabortion counseling center before they can have the procedure. This in a state with just one center that offers abortions, which are performed by an out-of-state doctor who flies in a couple of times a month. In other words, a few days of waiting could add up to a lot more.

The South Dakota law is among 371 pieces of legislation that have been making headway in state capitals during the last few months — none of them in California — seeking to restrict and in some cases all but remove women’s access to abortions, according to the National Abortion Rights Action League. Not only is that more than twice as many antiabortion bills as last year, but, like the South Dakota law, many of the appalling bills are making swifter and surer progress toward passage.

Measures to make abortion illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy are advancing in Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama and at least 10 other states, and Ohio is considering banning . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2011 at 10:49 am

Posted in GOP, Government, Law

Susan Vowell on the troubled history of Hawai’i

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Strangely, the name of the state is misspelled throughout the review.

Unfamiliar Fishes
by Sarah Vowell

A review by Jeff Baker

History is everywhere in Hawaii. Imagine the three sides of a triangle in Honolulu: at one point is Pearl Harbor, home of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and site of the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941, arguably the most momentous day of the 20th century. At another corner is the Iolani Palace, the only palace in the U.S. and the place where the last queen of Hawaii, Liliuokalani, was locked up after the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893.

The third point of the triangle is above the city at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as Punchbowl. It’s a stunning spot, a volcanic crater filled with the graves of more than 34,000 veterans of World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam. Many of the men and women who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor are interred at Punchbowl, and many of them are Native Hawaiians. A series of maps on the walls of the memorial charts the relentless march of the U.S. and its Allies across the Pacific in World War II.

The earlier history of Punchbowl — its Hawaiian name, Puowaina, means “hill of sacrifice,” and human sacrifices were performed in the crater — is not mentioned. Neither is the day in 1820 when Hiram Bingham, a missionary from New England, climbed the hill on his first day in Honolulu and vowed that what he saw “was now to be the scene of a bloodless conquest for Christ.”

Within 75 years of Bingham’s arrival, the U.S. had taken control of Hawaii. The missionaries’ efficient, righteous and mostly bloodless conquest of an ancient culture is recounted in “Unfamiliar Fishes,” Sarah Vowell’s new book. It’s a sad story told in a lively way by Vowell, who is developing into a more thoughtful historian in her sixth book. She’s still good for a laugh and a pop-culture reference, but now when she notes that it’s tempting to compare “the initial encounters between Hawaiians and missionaries to some sort of clunky prequel to ‘Footloose,'” she follows with the more subtle observation that both Hawaiians and missionaries were traditionalists, coming from very different cultures.

The Hawaiian culture that Bingham and Asa Thurston and their wives encountered when they got to Hawaii was (and is) fascinating, constantly evolving and contradictory. The islands had only recently been unified under Kamehameha the Great, a fierce warrior who ended the practice of human sacrifice but was a strict follower of the traditions of kapu, which prohibited all sorts of contact between men and women, most notably eating together. Incest and polygamy among royals was encouraged, and a strict class system was followed.

Foreign traders had been stopping by the islands since Capt. James Cook stumbled onto them in 1778. The arrival of the missionaries, and the conflicts between them and the traders, is colorfully described by Vowell as “representing opposing sides of America’s schizophrenic divide — Bible-thumping prudes and sailors on leave. Imagine if the Hawaii Convention Center in Waikiki hosted the Values Voters Summit and the Adult Entertainment Expo simultaneously — for forty years.”

The missionaries were incredibly industrious and developed a written Hawaiian language, an education system, printing presses and newspapers, among many other things. They and the settlers and businesses that inevitably followed them also introduced the idea of private land ownership and turned much of the islands into vast sugar plantations. Asians, mainly Chinese, were brought in to work in the fields. By the time Liliuokalani was overthrown, the strategic military importance of Hawaii to the U.S. was obvious and the monarchy’s fate was sealed. Grover Cleveland called the whole affair “a miserable business” and said he was ashamed. His successors as president, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, were delighted.

Vowell notes that Liliuokalani attended McKinley’s inauguration in 1897 and “intensely enjoyed the grand procession.”

“I wonder what she would have thought,” Vowell writes, “if she had known … that 112 years later, the first Hawaiian-born president of the United States would be inaugurated and in his parade, the marching band from Punahou School, his alma mater (and that of her enemies), would serenade the new president by playing a song she had written, ‘Aloha ‘Oe.'”

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2011 at 10:33 am

Posted in Daily life

Rough justice

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The article below appeared in the July 22, 2010, issue of The Economist. It came up recently in a discussion in the comment thread and looks interesting enough for its own post. It begins:

In 2000 four Americans were charged with importing lobster tails in plastic bags rather than cardboard boxes, in violation of a Honduran regulation that Honduras no longer enforces. They had fallen foul of the Lacey Act, which bars Americans from breaking foreign rules when hunting or fishing. The original intent was to prevent Americans from, say, poaching elephants in Kenya. But it has been interpreted to mean that they must abide by every footling wildlife regulation on Earth. The lobstermen had no idea they were breaking the law. Yet three of them got eight years apiece. Two are still in jail.

America is different from the rest of the world in lots of ways, many of them good. One of the bad ones is its willingness to lock up its citizens (see our briefing). One American adult in 100 festers behind bars (with the rate rising to one in nine for young black men). Its imprisoned population, at 2.3m, exceeds that of 15 of its states. No other rich country is nearly as punitive as the Land of the Free. The rate of incarceration is a fifth of America’s level in Britain, a ninth in Germany and a twelfth in Japan.

Some parts of America have long taken a tough, frontier attitude to justice. That tendency sharpened around four decades ago as rising crime became an emotive political issue and voters took to backing politicians who promised to stamp on it. This created a ratchet effect: lawmakers who wish to sound tough must propose laws tougher than the ones that the last chap who wanted to sound tough proposed. When the crime rate falls, tough sentences are hailed as the cause, even when demography or other factors may matter more; when the rate rises tough sentences are demanded to solve the problem. As a result, America’s incarceration rate has quadrupled since 1970.Similar things have happened elsewhere. The incarceration rate in Britain has more than doubled, and that in Japan increased by half, over the period. But the trend has been sharper in America than in most of the rich world, and the disparity has grown. It is explained neither by a difference in criminality (the English are slightly more criminal than Americans, though less murderous), nor by the success of the policy: America’s violent-crime rate is higher than it was 40 years ago.

Conservatives and liberals will always feud about the right level of punishment. Most Americans think that dangerous criminals, which statistically usually means young men, should go to prison for long periods of time, especially for violent offences. Even by that standard, the extreme toughness of American laws, especially the ever broader classes of “criminals” affected by them, seems increasingly counterproductive.

Many states have mandatory minimum sentences, which remove judges’ discretion to show mercy, even when the circumstances of a case cry out for it. “Three strikes” laws, which were at first used to put away persistently violent criminals for life, have in several states been applied to lesser offenders. The war on drugs has led to harsh sentences not just for dealing illegal drugs, but also for selling prescription drugs illegally. Peddling a handful can lead to a 15-year sentence.

Muddle plays a large role. America imprisons people for technical violations of immigration laws, environmental standards and arcane business rules. So many federal rules carry criminal penalties that experts struggle to count them. Many are incomprehensible. Few are ever repealed, though the Supreme Court recently pared back a law against depriving the public of “the intangible right of honest services”, which prosecutors loved because they could use it against almost anyone. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2011 at 10:25 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

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