Later On

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

Archive for May 27th, 2021

Why hatred should be considered a contagious disease

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Izzeldin Abuelaish, Professor of Global Health, University of Toronto, writes in The Conversation:

A significant portion of violence in the world is based on hatred. People find so many reasons to hate one another: their class, gender, authority, religion, skin colour, ethnicity, sexual orientation, creed, customs, nationality, political opinions, physical attributes or imagined attributes. And many of those who are targets of hatred in turn hate their haters and return the violence.

Hatred and violence are threats to human health and global stability. As a medical doctor who researches public health as a tool for peace, I consider hatred a contagious disease and a health emergency of international concern.

Hatred and violence have considerable costs in terms of human health and life. Hatred should be acknowledged as a contagious disease, a public health issue and a determinant of health because prevention is needed — and because of the limited health-care resources available to fight it.

In a 2002 report, the World Health Organization called violence a “leading worldwide public health problem” and estimated that 1.6 million lose their lives to violence every year. The report is almost 20 years old now. How many more have died as a result of violence since then?

A long history of hatred

The world has recently seen the latest example of hatred-inspired violence playing out between Palestinians and Israelis.

A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was announced after 11 days of violence that killed more than 250 people, including 66 children and 39 women, and wounded 2,000 in Gaza. Beyond the deaths is the destruction to infrastructure from the Israeli attacks — called a war crime by some international organizations — that has displaced thousands of Palestinians.

What do we expect from all those who are exposed to different varying aspects of harm from discrimination, racism, violence, intimidation, humiliation, oppression, occupation, hate crime, hate speech, incitement and violence?

The WHO defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development, or deprivation.”

Fueled by hate

Health, freedom, justice, education, well-being, violence and war depend on who you are and where you live. Many of the current violent civil or civil-military conflicts across the globe are either based on, or fuelled by, hatred.

In an academic paper I co-authored in 2017 with Dr. Neil Arya, entitled The Palestinian–Israeli conflict: a disease for which root causes must be acknowledged and treated, we noted that hatred goes side by side with violence. Hatred self-perpetuates, usually through cycles of hatred and counter-hatred, violence and counter-violence — sometimes manifested as revenge.

Hatred has been studied for centuries by philosophers and theologians, and more recently by social psychologists, anthropologists and evolutionary scientists.

There is no consensus on a definition of hatred that is scientific, comprehensive and holistic.

Hatred is more than just . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2021 at 9:11 pm

Noah Smith offers a few thoughts on depression

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Noah Smith writes:

In 2013 I wrote a post about clinical depression on my old blog. To this day, people still write to me to tell me that this post was helpful for them. One time, pretty recently, someone even told me that in a grocery store line. So of all the posts I’ve ever written, this is the only one that I’m reasonably sure did some net good for the world. In any case, if you suffer from depression, or if you know someone who does, I hope this helps in some way.

Like everyone else, I’m very sad to hear about the suicide of Aaron Swartz, the gifted programmer and activist. I had heard of him a few times, but never really knew all the things he did. I wish I could have known him. Really, that’s the worst thing about people dying…all the living people who will never get to benefit from their continued existence.

What do I have to say about Swartz’ death? Well, maybe a little bit, since Swartz is said to have suffered from clinical depression. I do know a little bit about this topic, since I myself have struggled with depression for over a decade. Mine was first triggered by the sudden death of my mother in 1999, although I also have a family history of depression on my mom’s side (the Swartz side, ironically, though I don’t think Aaron and I were related).

Obviously, everyone’s experience of depression is different, so I don’t intend these thoughts to be a universal guide or general theory. Also, bipolar disorder, or “manic depression”, is another thing entirely. But that said, here are my thoughts on depression.

1. Depression is not sadness. During the most intense part of a major-depressive episode, what I’ve felt is nothing at all like sadness. Mostly, it’s a kind of numbness, and utter lack of desire and will. Underneath that numbness, there’s the sense that something awful is happening – there’s a very small voice screaming in the back of your mind, but you hear it only faintly. There’s an uncomfortable wrongness to everything, like the world is twisted and broken in some terrible but unidentifiable way. You feel numb, but it’s an incredibly bad sort of numbness. This is accompanied by a strange lack of volition – if a genie popped out and offered me three wishes at the depth of my depression, my first wish would be for him to go away and not bother me about the other two. Looking back on this experience, I’ve conjectured that part of depression might be like some kind of mental “fire sprinkler system” – the brain just floods the building completely to keep it from burning down.

Depressed people often remark that it’s impossible to remember what depression is like after it’s over, and impossible to imagine feeling any other way when you’re in the middle of it. Therefore, most of what I’m saying here comes from things I wrote when I was in the middle of major depressive episodes. I think my most colorful description was that depression was like “being staked out in the middle of a burning desert with a spear through your chest pinning you to the ground, with your eyelids cut off, staring up at the burning sun…forever.”

2. Coming out of depression is the most dangerous time. Coming out of depression, I’ve found, is like having your emotional system turned back on. But when it’s turning back on, it sputters and backfires. You feel incredibly raw. You have days where you feel elated, like you’re walking on air. And you have days when you feel black despair, rage, hysterical sadness. These latter are the only times that I’ve seriously thought about harming myself. And I’ve done a few…unwise things during these periods.

One of the most common negative episodes, for me, is what I’ve heard people call the “spiral” – a flood of negative emotions makes you feel like you’re bringing down the people around you, which triggers more negative emotions, etc. I often experience this when coming out of depression. It comes on very rapidly. If you see this happening to a depressed person, get them away from large groups of people and high-energy social situations, as fast as possible.

3. Depressed people don’t need good listeners, a sympathetic ear, or a shoulder to cry on. Most of the time, when our friends are having life problems, what they need is a sympathetic ear. They need someone to listen to their problems, to understand and accept the validity of their feelings, and to empathize. So when our friends have depression, the natural urge is to sit there and listen, and ask “What’s it like?”, and “Why do you feel that way?”, and to nod, and make a concerned face, and tell them you understand (even though you don’t), and to give them a hug. This is a good impulse, but when the person is depressed rather than sad, it’s a completely misplaced impulse. This is not what depressed people need, and although it doesn’t hurt them, in my experience it doesn’t do them any good at all. One reason is that depressed people tend not to think that anyone can really understand what they’re going through (and in fact it’s very hard for a non-depressed person to understand, thank God). Another is that, while for a normal sad person, getting negative thoughts out in the open helps expunge them, for depressed people airing the negative thoughts just forces them to think their negative thoughts, without expunging them. Another is that the emotional disconnection that I mentioned in point 1 tends to short-circuit the warm, good feeling that usually comes from someone being sympathetic and friendly toward you.

4. Depressed people do need human company. [And it’s interesting to me that in his commencement address today at Johns Hopkins, Michael Bloomberg talked at length about the importance of human relationships for happiness, for creativity, for productivity, and for getting the most out of life. – LG] For some reason, human company helps. In fact, it is the single thing that helps the most. But not the kind of company a sad person needs. What a depressed person needs is simply to talk to people, not about their problems or their negative thoughts or their depression, but about anything else – music, animals, science. The most helpful topic of conversation, I’ve found, is absurdity – just talking about utterly ridiculous things, gross things, vulgar offensive things, bizarre things. Shared activities, like going on a hike or playing sports, are OK, but talking is much, much more important. I really have never figured out why this works, but it does.

And of course,

relationships are very, very important. Friends, I think, are the most important, because friends offer opportunity for understanding and positive interaction without much feeling of obligation or shame (see point 6). Family and lovers are important, but really, the friendship component of these relationships has to dominate, so the depressed person doesn’t constantly think negative thoughts about how they’ve let you down. Essentially, to help a depressed person, friends need to become a bit more like family, and family a bit more like friends. Also, you should realize that just because your depressed friend or family member is unresponsive, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t doing him or her a lot of good.

5. Cognitive behavioral therapy really works. I’ve taken one antidepressant drug (Lexapro), but it did nothing perceptible for me. (This is not to say that antidepressants in general don’t work; for that, ask PubMed. This is just about my personal experience.) What has worked for me is cognitive behavioral therapy. The “cognitive part” is the most important. Basically, depressed people have negative thoughts that they can’t get out of their head; cognitive therapy teaches you to habitually identify, examine, and correct these negative thoughts. That really helps; once those negative thoughts aren’t always racing unnoticed through the back of your mind, your brain has a much easier time repairing the damage done by a depressive episode. Also, “behavioral” therapies can be important for improving your lifestyle.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is best done by a counseling therapist, and there are many good therapists, but also many crappy ones. It is easy to see who is good and who is crappy, but since depressed people have low volition, sometimes they need a push to ditch a bad therapist and keep looking for a good one.

6. . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2021 at 9:00 pm

The Oldest Grandson is graduating from college today.

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A side-effect of the pandemic event is that much experience has been gained in the live-streaming of ceremonial events, so I am in (remote) attendance as he receives his degree from Johns Hopkins University.

Postscript: The ceremony was terrific, and not just the technology. It moved along at a good pace, interesting photos and videos were intermixed with speeches, and Michael Bloomberg gave an excellent commencement address. He emphasized the importance of personal relationships sustained and nourished by in-person (not merely online) encounters. I agree with him. He pointed out that being together in person promotes creativity and productivity, as well as one’s own emotional well-being and happiness.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2021 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

The long-delayed tempeh incubator completed

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I update this post from time to time as I learn more from experience. Most recent update June 13, 2021.

Let me say out that outset that a tempeh incubator is not needed if your oven has a “proofing” setting (used to incubate yeast in bread dough), since that works as well for tempeh (and probably for yogurt as well).  But I found that my tempeh incubator v. 1.0 helped a lot in getting a good batch of tempeh, but because it was made of cardboard, it fared ill in the humid environment it enclosed as the tempeh guys did their job. The heating mat and thermostat worked well, but I needed a better box. (I don’t put the tempeh directly on a mat, but on this raised rack after bagging it in Ziploc fresh-produce bags.)

The photo shows the tempeh incubator v. 2.0, but from what I’ve learned, I will describe v 3.0, also made of rigid 1″ foam insulation, but purchased as 24″ squares. From those, you can cut all pieces pieces required. Dimensions given here are v. 3.0 dimensions, to better accommodate a heating mat 20.75″ long by making the internal space 22″ long, which also provides the side benefit of eliminating the need for some cuts.

Base: 24″ x 12″ — ends are glued to the top of the base, sides glued to the side of the base, as shown in photo
2 Ends: 12″ x 8″ — a small hole cut in the bottom of one end for the electrical plug from the heat mat
2 Sides: 24″ x 9″
Lid: 24″ x 14″ — the lid covers the top, but it can be slanted so the incubator is partially open if the tempeh starts getting too hot as it matures — for a 3-cup batch, I had to remove the lid altogether because the tempeh was generating so much heat. I usually place a heavy book on the lid when the incubator is working.

The interior dimensions are thus 22″ long, 12″ wide, 8″ high, the exterior dimensions 24″ long, 14″ wide, 10″ high.

With those dimensions only three 24″ squares are needed:

Square 1, from which the base and ends are cut 
Square 2, from which the sides are cut
Square 3, from which the top is cut

Important: When cutting, make sure the knife stays perpendicular to the surface of the board so that the cut edges are square and don’t slant.

Use galvanized 2″ nails around the edges of the sides (going through the side and into the base and ends) and across the ends of the base (going up into the end pieces of the box) as reinforcement. I left the weight on the box overnight to give time for the glue to fully set. Some nails are placed during glue-up, others added later. See assembly steps below.

Once the glue has set, push the nails through the edge of the side that’s on top into the base and end pieces. Then turn the box to put the other side on top and repeat. You can push the nails in with your hand, though in a few places (where the nail encounters glue) you may need to tap the nail with a hammer. After the nails are in place, tap them gently with a hammer to seat the nails. They seem to be securely held.

I used Clear Gorilla Glue, though the original Gorilla Glue will work as well. Detailed assembly directions are below. The books stacked on top serve to clamp the pieces together until the glue is fully set. I left it overnight.

I now see in the photo that the glue dripped. So it goes. This project is not headed for the county fair or anything like that — it’s purely utilitarian, and it will work as well with or without glue drips.

Optional reinforcement: You can reinforce the box more by getting small right-angle braces and gluing them to sides/ends and base and to ends and sides. I didn’t do this because it didn’t seem necessary. I can always do it later if needed.

Step-by-step assembly instructions

In thinking about my experience in assembling the box and the missteps I made, I realized exactly how I should have assembled it. This recommended assembly sequence will avoid the problems I encountered. First, cut the pieces to the sizes listed above. Then follow these steps:

  1. Cut the mousehole for the power cord in the center of the bottom edge of one end (the bottom edge being the one that will rest on the base).
  2. Secure the bottom of the ends to the base. Each end will sit atop the base, flush with the edges of the base. Put an end in place and then fix the end piece in place with two of the 2″ galvanized nails. Push each nail through the bottom of the base into the bottom of the end piece, placing the nail 1/2″ from the end of the base, and 1″ from each side of the end of the base — thus 4 nails are used, 2 for each end. This is not a particularly strong join, but it will keep the ends from slipping out of position as you do the next step. If you want, you can also glue the bottom of the ends to the base, but I don’t think it is actually required.
  3. The result of step 1 is a U-shaped thing, the base with the two upright ends attached by the nails. Place that on its side so that a side piece will go on top, flush with the outer edges of the U. Take one of the side pieces and run a bead of glue 1/2″ from the edge along the length of the side and across each end of the side. This will glue the side to the base and the end pieces. Place the side on the assembled portion, and push a nail through each corner of the side 1/2″ in from each edge. Two nails will go into the end pieces (at the top) and two into the base piece (at the bottom of the box). This will keep the side in place as the glue dries. Look for any glue drips and wipe them off. Put some weight (heavy books, cast-iron skillet, whatever) on the side and leave it for a couple of hours until the glue has set reasonably well.
  4. Remove the weight and turn the structure over, so that the second side piece can also be placed on top of the assembly so far. Again run the bead of glue, put the side in place, and push a nail through each corner of the side piece into the end pieces and base. Again, put weights on top, and this time leave it overnight.
  5. Now push or tap a series of nails around three edges of the side, into the ends and the base, spacing the nails 2-3 inches apart. This will reinforce the structure. You could also push a series of nails through the bottom into the end pieces, but I don’t see that as necessary.

First batch in new incubator

Success! This is the first trial batch after about 40 hours. I’m going to let it go a little longer, but already it’s pretty solid. (The tempeh mold welds the beans together into a solid mass.) The dark spot is not a problem but rather a place where the mold is sporing — it’s perfectly edible. (I finally figured out that sporing is triggered by too high a temperature after the tempeh mold has taken hold. If I remove the batch from the incubator once the mold has started and let it finish at room temperature, I don’t get the dark patches. See this post for more information on the incubation.)

I’m delighted with the success and that the (sturdy) box worked so well. 

I made just a small test batch (1 cup dried beans). My usual batch is larger (2 or 3 cups dried beans, or 2 cups dried beans and 1 cup intact whole grain). I get tempeh starter culture  from Cultures for Health.

I think I’ll use some for tempeh breakfast sausage. The recipe at the link works well and produces tasty sausage. Tempeh bacon is also tasty. Mostly, though, I dice tempeh and use it in stews, stir-fries, curries, and chili.

My basic post on how I make tempeh reflects the learning curve, and it begins with a summary of what I learned in the process. I highly recommend making your own tempeh — it’s considerably better than the store-bought I’ve had. Update: Basic steps for homemade tempeh summarizes succinctly the method I use; also, see my article in Medium.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2021 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Non-animal diet, Techie toys

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Why It’s Almost Impossible to Do a Quintuple Cork in Tricking

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Like so many things, many I have yet to discover, tricking is new to me. This brief video gives a little history before diving into the details of a particular trick.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2021 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games, Science, Video

One Man’s Amazing Journey to the Center of the Bowling Ball

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Brendan I. Koerner has in Wired a profile of a bowling ball designer, which includes a deep dive in the physics of the bowling ball’s core: a dense asymmetrical weight. The article begins:

THE SWEET CLANG of scattering pins echoed through Western Bowl, a cavernous 68-lane bowling alley on the edge of Cincinnati. It was day one of the 1993 Super Hoinke, a Thanksgiving weekend tournament that drew hundreds of the nation’s top amateurs—teachers, accountants, and truck drivers who excelled at the art of scoring strikes. They came to the Super Hoinke (“HOING-key”) to vie for a $100,000 grand prize and bowling-world fame.

Between games, many bowlers drifted to the alley’s pro shop to soak in the wisdom of Maurice “Mo” Pinel, a star ball designer for the sporting-goods giant AMF. Pinel had come to Cincinnati to promote his latest creation, the Sumo. The bowling ball had launched the year before, backed by a TV commercial featuring a ginormous Japanese wrestler bellyflopping down a lane, with the tagline “Flat out, more power than you’ve ever seen in a bowling center.” The ball had quickly become a sensation, hailed for the way it naturally darted sideways across the lane—a quality known as flare. To congratulate Pinel on the sale of the 100,000th Sumo, AMF had given him a chunky medallion embossed with writing in kanji, a bauble that dangled from his neck as he held court at the Super Hoinke.

The paunchy, shaggy-haired Pinel spent hours regaling the pro-shop crowd with his opinions on the Sumo and all things ball-related. His blunt commentary, delivered in the thick Brooklynese of his youth, ranged from the correct technique for drilling finger holes to his rival designers’ failure to appreciate Newton’s second law. The audience lapped up his acerbic takes on how to improve the sport’s most essential piece of equipment.

Fifteen-year-old Ronald Hickland Jr. was among the enthralled. A gifted math and science student who was falling in love with bowling, Hickland was captivated by Pinel’s zest for breaking down the technical minutiae of why balls roll the way they do. He was equally impressed by the flashiness of Pinel’s jewelry: In addition to the gaudy kanji necklace, Pinel sported a top-of-the-line Movado wristwatch—a luxury he was able to afford thanks to the $3-per-ball royalty he was getting from AMF.

Hickland had traveled from Indiana to cheer on his dad at the Super Hoinke. Listening to Pinel, he found his calling in life. “It was like lightning,” he recalls. “And I was like, well, how do I get your job when I grow up?”

Pinel cautioned the teenager that the road ahead would be difficult. He would first have to earn a degree in mechanical or chemical engineering, after which he’d need vast amounts of persistence and luck: The number of full-time bowling ball designers in the world could be counted on two hands.

Hickland took that advice to heart, and he would eventually become one of the fortunate few to carve out a long career in ball design. He knows many would dismiss his chosen profession as frivolous. Bowling is easy to shrug off as a mere leisure pursuit—a boozy weekend pastime in which anyone with decent hand-eye coordination can perform well enough. But hardcore bowlers have a very different take on the sport: To them it’s a physics puzzle so elaborate that it can never be mastered, no matter how many thousands of hours they spend pondering the variables that can ruin a ball’s 60-foot journey to the pins. The athletes who obsess over this complexity also understand the debt they owe to Pinel, whose career as a ball designer was just beginning when he attended the Super Hoinke in 1993. Notorious as a bit of a colorful crank, he is also the figure most responsible for transforming how bowlers think about the scientific limits of their sport.

IN THE EARLY days of the pandemic, when ambulance sirens wailed nonstop in my hard-hit Queens, New York, neighborhood, I often soothed myself by bingeing YouTube clips of bowling. I can’t remember how I first plunged down that rabbit hole, though it might have involved clicking a “Recommended for You” video in the sidebar next to the Jesus Quintana scene from The Big Lebowski. My personal experience with bowling amounted to little more than a few madcap nights with friends, yet I devoured hours’ worth of highlights from professional matches, marveling at the athletes’ ability to arc their shots with such precision. Flair atop flare. There was something hypnotic about the physics of the balls’ movement, how those sleek orbs danced along the gutters before gracefully breaking toward the pins as if nudged by unseen hands.

Gorging on this content piqued my curiosity about the role a ball’s physical properties play in determining the outcome of each shot. A bowler’s prowess is clearly what matters most, but I assumed the composition of the balls must factor into the equation—arguably more so than in any other sport, given bowling’s simplicity. I became keen to learn how bowling balls are constructed and how much of an edge a bowler can glean by using a ball that’s been tailored to enhance their skills.

Grasping the basics of ball design turned out to be more complicated than I’d imagined. When I waded into the archives of Bowling This Month to study the magazine’s ball reviews, I was overwhelmed by . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. And there’s also a video on the virtual impossibility of converting a 7-10 split. (Though the Greek Church is converted less frequently, the reason for that is psychological: choosing a sure thing over a risky bet.)

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2021 at 1:19 pm

Depression and its treatment

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Depression is the most common mental illness in the US, so it’s a good idea to know more about it. Astral Codex 10 has a lengthy post describing depression and various treatments, along with a lengthy collection of comments following the post. The post begins:

I’m trying to build up a database of mental health resources on my other website, Lorien Psychiatry. Every time I post something, people here have made good comments, so I want to try using you all as peer review.

This is a rough draft of my page on depression. I’m interested in any feedback you can give, including:

1. Typos

2. Places where you disagree with my recommendations / assessment of the evidence

3. Extra things you think I should add

4. Your personal stories about what things have or haven’t helped, or any extra insight that your experience with depression has given you

5. Comments on the organization of the piece. I don’t know how to balance wanting this to be accessible and easy-to-read with having it be thorough and convincing. Right now I’ve gone for a kind of FAQ format where you can only read the parts you want, but I’m doubtful about this choice.

6. Comments on the level of scientific formality. I tried to get somewhere in between “so evidence-based that I won’t admit parachutes prevent injury without an RCT” and “here’s some random stuff that came to me in a dream”, and signal which part was which, but tell me if I fell too far to one side or the other.

Ignore the minor formatting issues inevitable in trying to copy-paste things into Substack, including the headings being too small and the spacing between words and before paragraphs being weird. In the real page, the table of contents will link to the subsections; I don’t know how to do that here so it might be harder to read.

Here’s the page:


Depression

The short version: Depression has a combination of biological, psychological, and social causes. You can address the social causes by changing your life circumstances (and research suggests people underestimate the potential benefits of making major life changes). You can address the psychological causes with therapy; possible therapies are diverse and complicated but I especially recommend “behavioral activation” therapy (where you try to keep a schedule and also do new, interesting things) and David Burns’ book Feeling Good. You can address the biological causes with a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and supplements. Consider exercising more and adapting a modified Mediterranean diet. Consider taking antidepressants like escitalopram and bupropion, and supplements like l-methylfolate. Other non-chemical biological options include light therapy (safe and easy), transcranial magnetic stimulation (more complicated), and electroconvulsive therapy (difficult but extremely effective last-ditch solution). If something treats your depression, continue it for some length of time depending on the type of intervention, then consider withdrawing it to see if you can maintain your mood without it.

The long version:

1. What is depression?
1.1: Is depression caused by biochemistry or life events?
1.2. How can I tell if I have depression?
1.2.1. How do I know if I have depression vs. something else?
2. How do you treat depression?
2.1. What kind of lifestyle changes help with depression?
2.1.1: What do you mean by getting away from the depressing thing?
2.1.2: What kind of diet helps with depression?
2.1.2.1: What if I have special dietary needs (vegetarian/vegan/paleo/gluten-free/etc)?
2.1.3: What kind of exercise helps with depression?
2.1.4: What’s the role of sunlight in treating depression?
2.1.5: What’s the role of hygiene, routine, and behavioral activation in treating depression?
2.2. What kind of therapies help with depression?
2.2.1. How can I get a therapist?
2.2.2. How can I get therapy without a therapist?
2.3. What kind of medications help with depression?
2.4. What kind of supplements help with depression?
2.5. What else treats depression?
2.6. What should I try to treat my depression?
2.7. If something helps treat my depression, how long do I have to do it for?

1. What is depression?

Depression is a condition marked by low mood, low motivation, persistent negative self-talk, and countless similar and related issues.

Although it’s fair to call it a “mental illness” as a heuristic, it isn’t “just” “in your head”. Severe depression sometimes affects the psychomotor system as well, producing unusually slow movements and decreased muscle strength. Some depressed people feel like their limbs “have lead weights tied to them”, and this feeling is “real” – it’s the extra work it takes to maintain a posture despite decreased ability to exert muscle force. It’s linked to decreased efficiency in almost every part of the body, including the immune system, the cardiovascular system, and (especially) the gastrointestinal system. Chronically depressed people live almost a decade less than non-depressed people, and there’s increasing evidence that this isn’t just because they’re too depressed to eat right and exercise, it’s also because the same neurological processes affecting their emotional system are affecting the nerves that regulate the heart, lungs, stomach, etc. The emotional / psychological symptoms of depression are so striking that they trick us into thinking depression is “just” an emotion – but even if you could eliminate every emotional symptom tomorrow, depression would still be a serious disease of dysregulated bodily systems.

We don’t understand exactly what depression is, but we have clues about how it works on a neurological, biochemical, and cognitive levels. The following is extremely speculative but (I think) the best picture we can draw from the evidence so far.

On the neurological level,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much, much more.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2021 at 12:44 pm

Russia is truly a hostile power

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Liz Alderman reports in the NY Times:

The mysterious London public relations agency sent its pitch simultaneously to social media influencers in France and Germany: Claim that Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is deadly and that regulators and the mainstream media are covering it up, the message read, and earn thousands of euros in easy money in exchange.

The claim is false. The purported agency, Fazze, has a website and describes itself as an “influencer marketing platform” connecting bloggers and advertisers. But when some of the influencers tried to find out who was running Fazze, the ephemeral trail appeared to lead to Russia.

“Unbelievable. The address of the London agency that contacted me is bogus,” Léo Grasset, a popular French health and science YouTuber with more than one million followerswrote on Twitter Monday. “All the employees have weird LinkedIn profiles … which have been missing since this morning. Everyone has worked in Russia before.”

Mirko Drotschmann, a German health commentator with 1.5 million YouTube subscribers, said in a tweet that the P.R. agency had asked if he wanted to be part of an “information campaign” about Pfizer deaths in exchange for money. After doing some research, he concluded: “Agency headquarters: London. Residence of the CEO: Moscow.”

Their responses prompted two other social media influencers to come forward and say they, too, were approached last week with the offer of a “partnership” to criticize the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. One was offered 2,000 euros. It’s uncertain how many influencers received the solicitations, or if any acted on them.

And it’s not at all clear that there ever was a Fazze agency. Within hours of the questions on social media, the employee profiles on the agency’s LinkedIn account had disappeared, and someone scrubbed its Facebook page blank. Its Instagram account was made private. Its website offers no way to contact the company.

The French health minister, Olivier Véran, denounced the operation on Tuesday, calling it “pathetic and dangerous.” He did not elaborate on whether the government was investigating the matter.

While France is trying to speed efforts to achieve so-called herd immunity from Covid-19 before summer with faster vaccine rollouts, it remains one of Europe’s largest vaccine-sceptic countries, with nearly a third of its people saying they don’t want a jab. Since spring, many residents have refused to take the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports that it may cause blood clots, prompting the government to switch largely to Pfizer, which more people have been willing to accept. About 15 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. . .

The messages from the so-called Fazze agency, in broken English, urged the social media influencers to create posts and videos on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram to “explain” that “the death rate among the vaccinated with Pfizer is almost 3x higher than the vaccinated by AstraZeneca.”

In Mr. Grasset’s case, a message from a person who identified himself as Anton boasted that the agency had a “quite considerable” budget for an “information campaign” about “Covid-19 and the vaccines offered to the European population, notably AstraZeneca and Pfizer.”

Mr. Grasset, who posted screenshots of the messages he received, said Anton had been willing to pay for 45- to 60-second videos on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube warning that the Pfizer vaccine was deadly. Anton also asked him to “act like you have the passion and interest in this topic,” while avoiding the terms “advertising” and “sponsored” in posts. “The material should be presented as your own independent view,” the pitch said.

“Encourage viewers to draw their own conclusions, take care of themselves and their loved ones,” the instructions continued.

The influencers described being urged to question why governments were buying the Pfizer vaccine, and to portray the European Union, which signed a deal last month for 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as a monopoly that was causing harm to public health. They were also asked to tell their followers that “the mainstream media ignores this theme.”

Before the coronavirus broke out, Russian trolls were already using vaccine debates to sow discord, according to a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Twitter accounts that Russian agents used to meddle in . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2021 at 11:49 am

Flowers of the front-yard palm

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I don’t actually know whether these are flowers or the flower phase is over and we’re onto fruit — though it does strike me as flowers. From this post:

Palm trees have separate male and female flowers. Sometimes they’re on the same plant, and sometimes, as in the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), the male and female flowers are on separate trees.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2021 at 10:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

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Leviathan rules

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Leviathan shaving soap from Barrister and Mann is perfectly satisfying in fragrance and lather, the latter this morning brought to me by the Aerolite Amber from Phoenix Artisan. I chose of the razors up for today (I take out on Sunday the next six razors in rotation and use those during the week) The Holy Black’s SR-71 slant, which is a bit of a leviathan itself: the handle feels stubby but very hefty, like a little whale. (In fact, the handle is the same length as the Merkur 37C, from whose head the SR-71 is cloned.) The heft is because the handle is solid brass.

It was a fine shave, though this time the amount of edge feel surprised me. No nicks, but it felt possible. But  all’s well that ends well, and in this case the end was a splash of Leviathan aftershave, a very good ending indeed.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2021 at 9:26 am

Posted in Shaving

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