Later On

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

Archive for June 19th, 2022

Origin of the Cyclops

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A Facebook post from History Cool Kids:

The fossil skulls of Pleistocene dwarf elephants scattered throughout the coastal caves in Italy and the Greek islands, most likely inspired the one-eyed Cyclopes in ancient Greek mythology.

During the Pleistocene ice age (2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago), land bridges emerged that allowed ancient elephants to move to emerging islands to escape predators and/or find new food sources. As sea levels began to rise around the Mediterranean, these ancient elephants became trapped and had to compete for limited amounts of food. According to the island rule, mammals tend to shrink or grow depending on the availability of resources in their environment.

The isolated ancient elephants evolved into different species depending on the island they found themselves on. The ones that were found on Cyprus were approximately 6 feet tall, nearly double the size than the ones found on Sicily and Malta. The ancient elephants lived in relative peace until humans found their way to the islands approximately 11,000 years ago. Within a century, they were over-hunted and became extinct.

By the time the Romans and Greeks came to occupy the Mediterranean islands, all that remained were skulls that were twice the size of those belonging to humans. These massive skulls also had a single hole right in the center that the Greeks and Romans mistakenly believed was an eye socket. It was in fact, a socket that was connected to the trunk of an ancient elephant.


Written by Leisureguy

19 June 2022 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Books, Evolution, Science

Habits change your life. Here’s how to change your habits.

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In Big Think Elizabeth Gilbert in association with the Templeton Foundation has an extremely interesting article on the central role that habit plays in shaping our lives, which implies that a change in habits results in a change in one’s life (exactly the thrust of this earlier (and still popular) post.

Gilbert’s article (which you can listen to at the link, if you prefer that to reading) offers a handy list of “key takeaways” (though the third in the list is not what I would call a “takeaway” — the takeaway would be the research findings discussed in the article.

  • The habits people build end up structuring their everyday lives, often without them noticing.  
  • When people recognize a bad habit, they often try to change it through willpower alone — but that rarely works. 
  • Here’s what research says are the most effective ways to replace bad habits with good ones.

She writes:

So you want to make a change in your everyday life — say, exercise more, meet all your deadlines, or develop a new skill. You make a plan, conjure your willpower, and commit. Yet, like the vast majority of people, you eventually fail. 

What happened? Perhaps getting to the gym was more of a hassle than you realized, or you found yourself too tired at night to study that new programming language.

It’s easy to blame yourself for lacking self-control or dedication. But behavioral change rarely occurs through willpower alone, as Dr. Wendy Wood, a behavioral scientist at the University of Southern California, told Big Think. 

Instead, the people most likely to make lasting changes engage their willpower less often than the rest of us. They know how to form helpful habits.

Habits shape our lives

The habits we build end up structuring our everyday lives, often without us even noticing. 

“In research we’re able to show that people act on habits much more than we’re aware of,” Dr. Wood told Big Think.

Sure, humans have advanced brains capable of creativity, problem-solving, and making plans. But it’s our daily habits — the small, everyday behaviors we do without thinking about it — that account for so much of how we spend our time and energy. 

Dr. Wood’s research finds that around 40% of our daily behaviors are habits. That’s why it’s worth taking a close look at what habits are, and whether they’re having a negative or positive effect on our lives.

What are habits, exactly?

Habits are automatic behaviors. Instead of requiring intention, they occur in response to environmental cues like time of day or location. Essentially, your brain forms an association between a specific context and a specific behavior. You then execute that behavior — the ritual or habit — in that context without even thinking about it.

Habits might be things like checking your email as soon as you get to work in the morning, walking a certain route home every evening, chewing your fingernails when nervous, or scrolling through your social media newsfeed when you hop in bed at night. 


Habits form when you receive a reward for a behavior. And like Pavlov’s dogs, you might not even realize that you’re learning something new.

How do habits form? . . .

Continue reading

The article includes this video:

Full disclosure: In my undergraduate years, I was enormously impressed by William James’s Psychology: A Briefer Course, and in particular by the chapter titled “Habit.” I can still recite portions of that chapter from memory, such as his dictum that we learn to [ice]skate in the summer and to ride a bike during the winter — that is, the integration and consolidation of a skill requires not only practice but rest, and it is during rest that our internal systems adjust themselves to incorporate the new skill into our patterns of behavior. 

Indeed, now that I think of it, my openness to Stephen Covey’s ideas (described in this post) doubtless derive from that earlier reading.

I include this in the category “Education” because (to my mind) education is the acquisition of habits more than it is of information.

Written by Leisureguy

19 June 2022 at 1:41 pm

Keep sweet: Drawbacks of anger denial

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I am not an Evangelical, as readers doubtless know, but I found this account by an Evangelical woman quite intriguing. It’s subtitled “An airport outburst and failing to become a 1 Peter 3 woman,” and it begins:

D and I have been watching Keep Sweet: Pray & Obey on Netflix. The instruction given to Short Creek’s FLDS women—“keep sweet”—immediately reminded me of a teaching I also received as a girl:

Have a gentle and quiet spirit.

I don’t remember the first time I heard this message from the pulpit, nor the first time I memorized 1 Peter 3. What I do remember is how, in my college youth group, the boys—not yet in their 20s—were taught to pray for a wife who had achieved this disposition. A soft and agreeable spirit was, above all else, the most desirable trait a woman could have. Never mind the assumption from our leaders that most of us would be married, ideally to one another, in only a few years.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (NIV)

By the time I was 19, my girlfriends and I had learned to mimic the cadences of our college pastors’ wives. We were surrounded by women in their late 20s/early 30s who looked and sounded like carbon copies of Kari Jobe. They had the “gentle and quiet” spirit thing down, like it was an accessory picked out at Target alongside suede booties and skinny jeans. We looked up to these women—for guidance in modest fashion, for help navigating physical boundaries with our boyfriends, and for how to achieve the desired gentle and quiet spirit disposition.

Part of this was measuring all feelings against the gentle woman barometer before allowing oneself to express them. If the feelings didn’t measure up, it was best to surrender them to God rather than give yourself space to feel them. Emotions like anger and rage didn’t fit into this gentle woman mold— vengeance is mine, says the Lord was the memorized canned scripture response from our leaders. And so I learned to push anger down early on for fear it would harden my heart or separate me from Jesus. Eventually, I got so good at ignoring anger and praying it away that I stopped recognizing the feeling. Anger simply became a low hum, hardly there. Or so I thought. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 June 2022 at 1:16 pm

Sick and struggling to pay, 100 million people in the U.S. live with medical debt

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Two words: Indentured servitude.

Noam Levey reports at NPR on Morning Edition (and you can listen to the report at the link, though the article itself includes some useful and informative charts, such as this one:

Levey’s report begins:

Elizabeth Woodruff drained her retirement account and took on three jobs after she and her husband were sued for nearly $10,000 by the New York hospital where his infected leg was amputated.

Ariane Buck, a young father in Arizona who sells health insurance, couldn’t make an appointment with his doctor for a dangerous intestinal infection because the office said he had outstanding bills.

Allyson Ward and her husband loaded up credit cards, borrowed from relatives, and delayed repaying student loans after the premature birth of their twins left them with $80,000 in debt. Ward, a nurse practitioner, took on extra nursing shifts, working days and nights.

“I wanted to be a mom,” she said. “But we had to have the money.”

The three are among more than 100 million people in America ― including 41% of adults ― beset by a health care system that is systematically pushing patients into debt on a mass scale, an investigation by KHN and NPR shows.

The investigation reveals a problem that, despite new attention from the White House and Congress, is far more pervasive than previously reported. That is because much of the debt that patients accrue is hidden as credit card balances, loans from family, or payment plans to hospitals and other medical providers.

To calculate the true extent and burden of this debt, the KHN-NPR investigation draws on a nationwide poll conducted by KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) for this project. The poll was designed to capture not just bills patients couldn’t afford, but other borrowing used to pay for health care as well. New analyses of credit bureau, hospital billing, and credit card data by the Urban Institute and other research partners also inform the project. And KHN and NPR reporters conducted hundreds of interviews with patients, physicians, health industry leaders, consumer advocates, and researchers.

The picture is bleak.

In the past five years, more than half of U.S. adults report they’ve gone into debt because of medical or dental bills, the KFF poll found.

A quarter of adults with health care debt owe more than $5,000. And about 1 in 5 with any amount of debt said they don’t expect to ever pay it off.

“Debt is no longer just a bug in our system. It is one of the main products,” said . . .

Continue reading.

I feel quite certain that my own pacemaker surgery last week would have put me among those in medical debt.

Written by Leisureguy

19 June 2022 at 12:45 pm

The tea this morning

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I’m drinking a mug of Murchie’s Vanilla Jasmine: “A balanced blend of black, green and oolong teas, with an enticing aroma of vanilla, jasmine and magnolia.””

Written by Leisureguy

19 June 2022 at 9:37 am

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

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