Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

“Multitasking Isn’t Progress—It’s What Wild Animals Do for Survival”

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Ted Gioia writes:

I plan to write a series of posts outlining some unconventional or dissident conceptual frameworks I’ve found useful in understanding contemporary society.

These aren’t the usual tired ideas or dead metaphors already familiar to us. I won’t even mention those stale truisms, because you already know every one of them—in fact, we would all probably be better off forgetting them.

Fewer things are more destructive than a dead-end concept. They are much like dead-end roads—they take you on a trip to nowhere. They provide an illusion of motion, but actually bring you further away from any useful destination.

The concepts I’m sharing are less familiar, and all the more valuable for that reason. They have forced me to look at everyday situations in new ways, requiring me to challenge some of my own preconceptions and attitudes. Even when they fail to encompass all of a particular reality, they still add value by disrupting the labels and assumptions that I use—and all of us use—to navigate through day-to-day life.

In this installment, I want to focus on Byung-Chul Han’s concept of the Burnout Society.

Han is one of the most significant German philosophers of our time, but his background is unusual. He was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1959, and studied metallurgy before moving to Germany to immerse himself in philosophy, theology, and literature. He received his doctorate in 1994, writing his dissertation on Martin Heidegger. His philosophy career didn’t start in earnest until his forties, yet he has now published at least twenty books.

Until recently, Han gave no interviews. In a celebrity-driven culture, he refuses to play the game, remaining stubbornly reluctant to discuss his own life and personal background. But that hasn’t prevented him from gaining a large audience, much broader than you might imagine a German philosopher attracting in the current day.  His lectures draw a capacity audience, and his ideas are now crossing over into other disciplines. In particular, a number of people in the art and culture world have started to pay close attention to his concepts and opinions.

Those who have read my book Music; A Subversive History may recall my use of Han’s aesthetic concepts—notably his view that the cult of smoothness is the defining quality of contemporary art. He applies this concept to everything from the design of the iPhone, with its comforting smooth contours, to the Brazilian bikini wax, which aims at a similar endpoint on our bodies.

In this instance, I want to focus on a different concept, namely Han’s notion that we are living in a “Burnout Society” that causes a wide range of characteristic dysfunctions and ailments. These are difficult for society to address because the assumptions built into our inquiries are actually causing these problems.

What follows below is mostly from Han, but reframed and focused by some of my own ideas.


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THE BURNOUT SOCIETY

Everywhere around us we see the signs: depression, burnout, hyperactivity, anxiety, self-harm. Sometimes the disorders get classified as medical syndromes with impressive acronyms, such as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) or BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder).

In other cases—a suicide or fatal breakdown, for example—things have gone too far for even medical intervention. All the acronyms in the world won’t help you then. But in every instance, something similar can be seen: the victims are at war with themselves.

That’s misleading, Han would say. They only seem to be the instigators of their problems, which are coming from . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

This reminds of something I’ve come to realize in recent years. FOMO (fear of missing out) is pointless because you (and I and any individual) will miss out — inevitably. There is too much in the world — and even too much in human culture or even just in our own particular culture — to absorb. You (and I) will miss out on many more things than we don’t miss out on.

I blogged recently about two brief videos about areas of knowledge and activity on which I’ve totally miss out in the sense of having concrete and specific knowledge, experience, and skill: making movies and making small airplanes. I watched those two videos with fascination because they showed me how much i’ve missed out on in just those two specific areas.

I’ve made my peace with that, and I focus on enjoying (and doing as well as I can, which is generally far short of expertise) things I do encounter and like. Rather than being frustrated by all that I’m missing, I luxuriate in all that I have. That seems the sensible choice, given the ineluctable realities of life. I leap joyously into those things I am not missing out on, and I continue to pay attention to what I encounter, and occasionally seize onto something new (fermenting vegetables, for example).

I believe it’s a big mistake to miss what you actually encounter because your attention is focused on worry about things you’re missing. We taste but a tiny sliver of what life has to offer, so it’s important to enjoy the slice we get.

Written by Leisureguy

24 January 2022 at 12:13 pm

An exchange on Quora

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This morning I responded to a comment on my answer to the question “What is the best way to disagree with someone?” My answer, shown at the link, was

[Originally Answered: What is the classiest way to disagree with someone?]

I like H.L. Mencken’s approach. Mencken was a reporter and writer in Baltimore who did not suffer fools gladly (and who considered much of the public fools). Outraged readers who wrote to H. L. Mencken would receive in reply a preprinted card:

Dear Sir or Madam:

You may be right.

Yours sincerely,

H. L. Mencken

More here: “You may be right”

I’ve received a variety of comments on my answer, including one thanking for the link (which does take one to an interesting article). The comment this morning was:

More seriously, be respectful of their opinion. Just because they don’t agree with you doesn’t mean they’re idiots. Try to understand their viewpoint.

My response to his comment:

I absolutely agree. One of the 7 habits of highly effective people that Stephen Covey discusses in his book of that name is Habit 5: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” the idea being that unless you show a willingness to listen, to display what some call “cognitive empathy,” in which you are able to view the issue from their perspective, most people will not listen to you or make an effort to understand your perspective. If you don’t seek to understand, most will feel that you just don’t get what they’re saying, and instead of listening to you, they will try again to explain their view.

So it’s helpful to listen to them and ask clarifying questions until you can state their position even better than they can.

I do confess, though, that if their opinion, clearly stated, is that they refuse to be vaccinated because the CIA has worked with Bill Gates to create tiny 5G nanochips that are mixed with the vaccine, then I fall back on “You may be right” and get away as quickly as I can. Experience has taught me that people so far gone into a fantasy require more help than a conversation can deliver.

Nowadays I am often reminded of Don Quixote, who read so many novels of knight-errantry and was so steeped in those fantasies that he no longer viewed the world as others perceive it: instead of windmills, he saw giants, instead of flocks of sheep, he say armies, instead of a discarded barber’s basin, he saw Mambrino’s Helmet, disguised by an enchantment.

His delusions, which certainly made his life more interesting and were comical, had also a tragic aspect. I was told of a high-placed Spanish official who said, back in Franco’s day, that so long as people read Don Quixote and laughed, all was well, but if they read it and cried, then trouble was coming.

Looking about the world today, I believe that reading Don Quixote would be an interesting exercise. (FWIW, in my blog I have written both about Covey’s book — Covey’s 7 habits — and a fair number of posts about Don Quixote — for example, Reading Don Quixote and crying. Searching the blog on “don quixote” will find more.)

Written by Leisureguy

23 January 2022 at 11:32 am

How a New Hampshire libertarian utopia was foiled by bears

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This Vox report by Sean Illing is from just over a year ago — published in December, 2020 — but it deserves some recognition and reading:

Every ideology produces its own brand of fanatics, but there’s something special about libertarianism.

I don’t mean that as an insult, either. I love libertarians! For the most part, they’re fun and interesting people. But they also tend to be cocksure about core principles in a way most people aren’t. If you’ve ever encountered a freshly minted Ayn Rand enthusiast, you know what I mean.

And yet one of the things that makes political philosophy so amusing is that it’s mostly abstract. You can’t really prove anything — it’s just a never-ending argument about values. Every now and again, though, reality intervenes in a way that illustrates the absurdity of particular ideas.

Something like this happened in the mid-2000s in a small New Hampshire town called Grafton. Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling, author of a new book titled A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear, says it’s the “boldest social experiment in modern American history.” I don’t know if it’s the “boldest,” but it’s definitely one of the strangest.

The experiment was called the “Free Town Project” (it later became the “Free State Project”), and the goal was simple: take over Grafton’s local government and turn it into a libertarian utopia. The movement was cooked up by a small group of ragtag libertarian activists who saw in Grafton a unique opportunity to realize their dreams of a perfectly logical and perfectly market-based community. Needless to say, utopia never arrived, but the bears did! (I promise I’ll explain below.)

I reached out to Hongoltz-Hetling to talk about his book. I wanted to know what happened in New Hampshire, why the experiment failed, and what the whole saga can teach us not just about libertarianism but about the dangers of loving theory more than reality.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Sean Illing

How would you describe the “Free Town Project” to someone who doesn’t know anything about it?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

I’d put it like this: There’s a national community of libertarians that has developed over the last 40 or 50 years, and they’ve never really had a place to call their own. They’ve never been in charge of a nation, or a state, or even a city. And they’ve always really wanted to create a community that would showcase what would happen if they implemented their principles on a broad scale.

So in 2004, a group of them decided that they wanted to take some action on this deficiency, and they decided to launch what they called the Free Town Project. They sent out a call to a bunch of loosely affiliated national libertarians and told everyone to move to this one spot and found this utopian community that would then serve as a shining jewel for the world to see that libertarian philosophies worked not only in theory but in practice. And they chose a town in rural New Hampshire called Grafton that already had fewer than 1,000 people in it. And they just showed up and started working to take over the town government and get rid of every rule and regulation and tax expense that they could.

Sean Illing

Of all the towns in all the world, why Grafton?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

They didn’t choose it in a vacuum. They actually conducted a very careful and thorough search. They zeroed in on the state of New Hampshire fairly quickly because that’s the “Live Free or Die” state. They knew that it would align well with their philosophy of individualism and personal responsibility. But once they decided on New Hampshire, they actually visited dozens of small towns, looking for that perfect mix of factors that would enable them to take over.

What they needed was a town that was small enough that they could come up and elbow the existing citizenry, someplace where land was cheap, where they could come in and buy up a bunch of land and kind of host their incoming colonists. And they wanted a place that had no zoning, because they wanted to be able to live in nontraditional housing situations and not have to go through the rigamarole of building or buying expensive homes or preexisting homes.

Sean Illing

Wait, what do you mean by “nontraditional housing”?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

As the people of Grafton soon found out, a nontraditional housing situation meant a camp in the woods or a bunch of shipping containers or whatever. They brought in yurts and mobile homes and formed little clusters of cabins and tents. There was one location called “Tent City,” where a bunch of people just lived in tents from day to day. They all united under this broad umbrella principle of “personal freedom,” but as you’d expect, there was a lot of variation in how they exercised it.

Sean Illing

What did the demographics of the group look like? Are we talking mostly about white guys or Ayn Rand bros who found each other on the internet?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

Well, we’re talking about hundreds of people, though the numbers aren’t all that clear. They definitely skewed male. They definitely skewed white. Some of them had a lot of money, which gave them the freedom to be able to pick up roots and move to a small town in New Hampshire. A lot of them had very little money and nothing keeping them in their places. So they were able to pick up and come in. But most of them just didn’t have those family situations or those 9-to-5 jobs, and that was really what characterized them more than anything else.

Sean Illing

And how did they take over the local government? Did they meet much resistance?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

When they first showed up, they hadn’t told anyone that they were doing this, with the exception of a couple of sympathetic libertarians within the community. And so all of a sudden the people in Grafton woke up to the fact that their town was in the process of being invaded by a bunch of idealistic libertarians. And they were pissed. They had a big town meeting. It was a very shouty, very angry town meeting, during which they told the Free Towners who dared to come that they didn’t want them there and they didn’t appreciate being treated as if their community was an experimental playpen for libertarians to come in and try to prove something.

But the libertarians, even though they never outnumbered the existing Grafton residents, what they found was that they could come in, and they could find like-minded people, traditional conservatives or just very liberty-oriented individuals, who agreed with them on enough issues that, despite that angry opposition, they were able to start to work their will on the levers of government.

They couldn’t pass some of the initiatives they wanted. They tried unsuccessfully to withdraw from the school district and to completely discontinue paying for road repairs, or to declare Grafton a United Nations free zone, some of the outlandish things like that. But they did find that a lot of existing Grafton residents would be happy to cut town services to the bone. And so they successfully put a stranglehold on things like police services, things like road services and fire services and even the public library. All of these things were cut to the bone.

Sean Illing

Then what happened over the next few years or so?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

By pretty much any measure you can look at to gauge a town’s success, Grafton got worse. Recycling rates went . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more — and indeed, there’s the book.

It strongly reminds me of Don Quixote, who spend so much time and study in reading his books of knights-errant that those became his reality, so that when he encountered things in the real world, he could see them only through the warped lens of his reading, so he attacked the windmills as though they were giants and the flock of sheep as though they were an army. He could no longer see things as they were, but only as his books and readings told him they should be.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2022 at 4:44 pm

Study: Green MedDiet Can Slow Brain Atrophy Among Over-50s

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Paolo DeAndreis writes in Olive Oil Times:

A common aging process known as brain atrophy has been effectively limited by the adoption of a Mediterranean diet significantly high in polyphenols and low in processed and red meat, known as Green-Med.

A team of researchers from Ben Gurion University in Israel has found significant beneficial effects of Green-Med adoption on a large group of overweight employees at the Dimona Nuclear Research Center. Two hundred twenty-seven participants completed the 18-month trial during which several brain parameters were analyzed.

The employees were divided into three groups. The first was asked to follow a healthy diet, the second one was instructed to adopt a traditional Mediterranean diet and the third one was asked to follow Green-Med. All of them were also asked to carry out specific physical activities and all were given a free gym membership.

To enhance the high-polyphenol profile of Green-Med, the researchers introduced walnuts and green tea into the diet.

In a note, researchers explained that the polyphenols in walnuts decrease the risk for dementia and reduce brain inflammation. Green tea’s polyphenols are also known for their favorable effects on cognitive function and reduced inflammation in the brain. [FWIW, I eat 1/4 cup of walnuts daily, and I drink green tea (and hibiscus tea) daily. – LG]

While walnuts were also given to the MedDiet group, scientists administered a specific strain of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2022 at 3:13 pm

How Predator Priests Avoid Jail

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The previous post contains a detailed example of how a large and strongly hierarchical organization failed its expressed ideals, and this video describes another large and strongly hierarchical organizations failure in ts expressed ideals. It seems to me the source of the problem is not the size — even small organizations, as small as a family, sometimes provide glaring examples — but the strong hierarchy. The families that fail — for example, Amish families that conduct and conceal the rape of their children — are also typically strongly hierarchical. 

Something about a strong hierarchy corrupts those to whom the hierarchy delivers power — perhaps it’s as simply as Lord Acton’s dictum that power corrupts, perhaps because those near the top see themselves as free from rules that apply to the lower ranks, granting themselves privileges by virtue of their position. The lesson is clear: beware strong hierarchies.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2022 at 3:07 pm

Textual Healing: The Novel World of Bibliotherapy

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I can totally understand this. For one thing, when you are really immersed in a book, your consciousness enters a world far from the chair in which you sit and the room around you. This happens often in reading a work of fiction, but also with some nonfiction (e.g., The Great Influenza, or The Horse, the Wheel, and Language, or No Contest, or Which Side Are You On? or The Kings Depart or. … oops — got lost there for a minute; see this list for links and comments on those titles).

Katrya Bolger writes in The Walrus:

WHEN THE PANDEMIC STRUCK, in March 2020, Anne Boulton was already feeling overwhelmed. She was pursuing a PhD at Laurentian University, which meant teaching in the English department and spending her days at home reviewing readings on literature and psychoanalysis for her thesis. But personal issues were bubbling just below the surface. “When COVID happened,” she says, “suddenly you were faced with your own isolation.” She wanted to better address the strain she was dealing with.

Boulton contacted Hoi Cheu, her supervisor at Laurentian. Besides teaching literary theory, Cheu is a trained marriage and family therapist: he has drawn on his experience in both areas to offer therapeutic support, on and off, for about thirty years. He also trained in bibliotherapy, using his dual background in psychology and literary studies to recommend specific texts for people coping with life challenges from loneliness to mental illness.

Bibliotherapy is premised on the idea that books can be healing tools. It can occur in individual or group settings, though the main distinction is between clinical bibliotherapy, where texts, including fiction and nonfiction, are recommended by a clinical therapist, and nonclinical bibliotherapy, as practised by a facilitator such as a librarian. Though not a stand-alone clinical practice in Canada, clinical bibliotherapy is a method used by professionals who already have certification in counselling, therapy, and clinical therapy and want to help patients seeking an additional outlet. Nonclinical bibliotherapy can’t replace professional help for patients with mental illnesses; instead, it is often used in conjunction with other forms of clinical therapy.

Cheu, based in Sudbury, Ontario, first learned of bibliotherapy during his undergraduate degree, when he came across English professor Joseph Gold’s Read For Your Life, which outlines the benefits of bibliotherapy. In fact, the British-born Gold is widely credited with bringing bibliotherapy to Canada. Cheu began working under Gold during his master’s at the University of Waterloo and later wrote his PhD thesis on James Joyce and the art of Zen, applying principles of Buddhism to his analysis of the Irish writer’s works. He eventually became Gold’s assistant, joining him in sessions with clients in his private practice. Books, Cheu says, provide a safely cocooned space inside which people can unearth painful and sometimes repressed feelings.

When Cheu and Boulton logged on to their first virtual session, Cheu started taking notes on Boulton’s needs. “What literary character do you most identify with?” he asked her. She responded with Anna Karenina. She related to the Leo Tolstoy heroine’s strength of spirit. Like the Russian socialite, Boulton was comfortable asking for what she wanted even when she had repeatedly been discouraged by those around her. From this first session, Cheu started to build out her reading list. There was Kaye Gibbons’s Ellen Foster, a novel about a young heroine’s tumultuous childhood in the American South. And there was Nikolai Leskov’s “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,” a short story about a young woman seeking to escape a stifling marriage to an older man. Being a good student of English literature, Boulton dove into the texts with vigour.

THOUGH THE FIRST known use of the term bibliotherapy appeared in a satirical essay published in a 1916 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, the idea of offering reading material to those in mental distress dates back to eighteenth-century asylums. By the early twentieth century, librarians in US hospitals were even considered therapists. American military libraries also prescribed books to soldiers suffering from trauma after the First World War. These programs were eventually expanded to other hospitals and libraries.

The growing interest in the field of psychotherapy in the 1930s led to research on bibliotherapy. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, several books were published on the subject. And, as mental health treatment expanded, bibliotherapy gained broader appeal, according to Bibliotherapy: A Critical History.

Proponents of bibliotherapy firmly believe . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 January 2022 at 4:26 pm

How coal holds on in America

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Cultural forces, conventions, pressures, and loyalty can result in what appears, to someone who is not a part of the culture, something that seems senseless if not outright stupid. The practice, thankfully abandoned, of footbinding in order to deform the feet, or (still practiced) female genital mutilation come to mind. Coal in North Dakota seems to be an example. Joshua Partlow reports in the Washington Post (and that’s a gift link, so no paywall):

David Saggau, the chief executive of an energy cooperative, tried to explain the losing economics of running a coal-fired power plant to a North Dakota industry group more than a year ago.

Coal Creek Station had lost $170 million in 2019 as abundant natural gas and proliferating wind projects had cut revenue far below what it cost to run the plant. After four decades sending electricity over the border to Minnesota, Coal Creek would be closing in 2022, Saggau said, and nobody was clamoring to buy it.

“We made folks aware that the plant was for sale for a dollar,” Saggau, of Great River Energy, told the Lignite Energy Council during an October 2020 virtual meeting. “We’re basically giving it away.”

A renewable future was at hand. Winds come howling over the Missouri River in the heart of North Dakota — at the site where Lewis and Clark spent their first frigid winter — and Great River Energy planned to supply wind power over Coal Creek’s valuable transmission line. NextEra Energy, EDF Renewables and other powerhouse firms were racing to lock landowners into leases to harvest some of the most powerful and sustained winds in the country.

But that new clean-energy future never materialized in this part of coal country, with a landscape that has been mined for more than a century and has the scars and sinkholes to prove it. And the sale of Coal Creek Station, which received its last major permit approval earlier this month, illuminates the United States’ halting transition to renewables. Even in places such as North Dakota, where supply and demand align with clean energy, culture and politics pose major obstacles.

In these rural North Dakota counties, local officials passed ordinances that blocked wind and solar projects. State officials rallied to save Coal Creek, and a politically connected North Dakota energy firm stepped in to prolong its life, promising someday to capture its carbon emissions and store them underground.

“I’m not just looking to prop up coal,” Stacy Tschider, the president of Rainbow Energy Marketing Corp., said in July when his company announced it was buying the plant. “I’m looking to take coal to the next level.”

During the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow in the fall, conference head Alok Sharma declared that “the end of coal is in sight.” More than 40 countries pledged to phase out coal, the single-biggest source of atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide emissions. The United States did not join them. Despite its rapid decline, coal still generates about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity and has strong political backing in pockets of the country.

Charles Stroup, a local banker and land agent who supports wind power in North Dakota’s Mercer County, compared the coal industry here to a dying relative that the community is desperate to save, no matter how grim the prognosis.

“Mother doesn’t die in 10 minutes,” Stroup said. “She takes a while.”

For many here, the loss of coal remains unthinkable, and new sources of energy — no matter how promising for local residents and governments — represent a serious threat.

“If we get the word that [Coal Creek Station] is gone for sure, the best business and economic play for the lignite counties and the State is to ban any more renewables,” McLean County state’s attorney Ladd Erickson wrote in an email in 2020 to aides to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), part of a batch of documents obtained through a state public records request.

Otherwise, Erickson, an elected official who serves as prosecutor and legal adviser to the county commissioners, warned that “there will be no more coal mining because new mine areas will be all wind turbines, solar panels, and power lines.”

Homages to coal

The prospect of Coal Creek’s closing landed hard in Underwood, a city of about 800 people. The antiques shop on its . . .

Continue reading.(Gift link: no paywall)

The fate of human civilization is small potatoes compared to local politics and cultural allegiance. You can see now why the residents of Easter Island were able to chop down every palm on the island and thus destroy the forests that were the basis of the environment on which they depended. North Dakota proudly continues that tradition.

Written by Leisureguy

18 January 2022 at 2:54 pm

Fox News makes money from poisoning society

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Is it a good thing that Fox News profits from creating a toxic political environment? Not for the public, nor for the functioning of our society and government, but quite good for Rupert Murdoch and his family and shareholders. 

Read this post by Kevin Drum.

A hospital might profit from contaminating a town’s water supply. I don’t think we would want that, nor would we allow it. I do know about freedom of the press, but the press for which that freedom was guaranteed is not at all like the “press” we experience today.

I’m not sure what the right remedy would be, but doing nothing risks the breakdown of social trust and productive amity. 

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2022 at 1:35 pm

Judge Tosses Teen Rape Conviction, Says 148 Days in Jail Is ‘Plenty of Punishment’

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Just to be clear: the judge reversed his own decision because he decided that raping someone was not that big a deal. (The rape was of a minor (16 years old) and done by an adult (18 years old).) Zoe Richards reports in Yahoo! News:

An Illinois judge had a shocking outburst in court Wednesday, kicking a prosecutor out with minimal explanation as outrage grows over the judge’s decision to reverse his own ruling on a teen accused of rape.

“Mr. Jones, get out,” Adams County Judge Robert Adrian fumed as he ordered Josh Jones of the Adams County State’s Attorney’s Office to leave the courtroom. The Muddy River News, whose journalist was in court, reported that Jones was set to appear in an unrelated case but had apparently “liked” a Facebook post supporting domestic violence survivors in the wake of Adrian’s extraordinary ruling in the rape case .

“I’m not on social media, but my wife is,” Adrian said. “She saw the thumbs up you gave to people attacking me.”

He added: “I can’t be fair with you today. Get out.”

Adrian declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment about the outburst on Wednesday, citing a Supreme Court rule that urges judges to abstain from public comment about pending or impending proceedings.

The move comes as critics slam Adrian for tossing out a sexual assault conviction for 18-year-old Drew Clinton, who allegedly stuffed a pillow in a girl’s face as he raped her at a graduation party in May last year.

Clinton’s accuser, 16-year-old Cameron Vaughan, broke her silence Tuesday days after Adams’ reversal on Jan. 3.

“I woke up at my friend’s place with a pillow over my face so I couldn’t be heard and Drew Clinton inside of me,” Vaughan said, according to WGEM. “I asked him to stop multiple times and he wouldn’t.”

After finally pushing him off, Vaughan said, Clinton jumped up to play video games “as if nothing had happened.”

During a bench trial in October, Clinton was found guilty of one count of criminal sexual assault. But last week, Adrian changed his mind and sensationally declared the teen “not guilty” during a sentencing hearing.

According to a copy of last week’s hearing transcript, the judge insisted that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2022 at 4:28 pm

“Restaurant of Mistaken Orders”

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Written by Leisureguy

12 January 2022 at 1:16 pm

The war on library books

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Judd Legum in Popular Information points out another sign of America’s downfall. From the post at the link:

. . . In Oklahoma, State Senator Rob Standridge (R) recently introduced legislation that would prohibit public school libraries from carrying “books that address the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, gender identity, or books that contain content of a sexual nature that a reasonable parent or legal guardian would want to know about or approve of before their child is exposed to it.”

Under Standridge’s legislation, parents are the sole arbiter of what books violate this standard. The bill would require schools to remove any book within 30 days of a parent’s request. If the book is not removed, “the employee tasked with removing the book is to be dismissed…  and he or she cannot be employed by a public school district or public charter school for 2 years.” Parents could also sue the school for “monetary damages” which “shall include a minimum of $10,000.00 per day the book requested for removal is not removed.” . . .

There’s much more. Read the whole thing.

Fahrenheit 451, here we come.

Written by Leisureguy

5 January 2022 at 10:33 pm

Manufacturing grievances for profit at an industrial scale

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Kevin Drum has an excellent post that begins:

Julian Sanchez says:

Some products satisfy preexisting needs; some need to manufacture a perceived deficiency to move units. Modern politics generates demand by manufacturing grievances.

This is pretty much the Fox News raison d’être. Like the makers of many useless cosmetic products, they can exist only if they create problems their buyers never knew existed and then convince them that only using their product will solve these previously unrecognized problems.

Masks? An invasion of your freedom! CRT? They’re brainwashing white kids! The 2020 election? It wasn’t lost, it was stolen! Some judge had to take down his Ten Commandments plaque? Your Bible is next!

There was a time when this kind of thing was restricted to mimeographed newsletters mailed to maybe hundreds or thousands of people. But Fox News is the Henry Ford of outrage: the first to truly industrialize and then mass produce feverish outrage.

Their secret? Better . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 3:40 pm

How Food May Improve Your Mood

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Anahad O’Connor has a very interesting article in the NY Times. (Gift link: no paywall). The article begins:

As people across the globe grappled with higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety this past year, many turned to their favorite comfort foods: ice cream, pastries, pizza, hamburgers. But studies in recent years suggest that the sugar-laden and high-fat foods we often crave when we are stressed or depressed, as comforting as they may seem, are the least likely to benefit our mental health. Instead, whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and fermented foods like yogurt may be a better bet.

The findings stem from an emerging field of research known as nutritional psychiatry, which looks at the relationship between diet and mental wellness. The idea that eating certain foods could promote brain health, much the way it can promote heart health, might seem like common sense. But historically, nutrition research has focused largely on how the foods we eat affect our physical health, rather than our mental health. For a long time, the potential influence of food on happiness and mental well-being, as one team of researchers recently put it, was “virtually ignored.”

But over the years, a growing body of research has provided intriguing hints about the ways in which foods may affect our moods. A healthy diet promotes a healthy gut, which communicates with the brain through what is known as the gut-brain axis. Microbes in the gut produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which regulate our mood and emotions, and the gut microbiome has been implicated in mental health outcomes. “A growing body of literature shows that the gut microbiome plays a shaping role in a variety of psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder,” a team of scientists wrote in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry last year.

Large population studies, too, have found that people who eat a lot of nutrient-dense foods report less depression and greater levels of happiness and mental well-beingOne such study, from 2016, that followed 12,400 people for about seven years found that those who increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables during the study period rated themselves substantially higher on questionnaires about their general levels of happiness and life satisfaction.

Large observational studies, however, can show only correlations, not causation, which raises the question: Which comes first? Do anxiety and depression drive people to choose unhealthy foods, or vice versa? Are people who are happy and optimistic more motivated to consume nutritious foods? Or does a healthy diet directly brighten their moods?

The first major trial to shed light on the food-mood connection was published in 2017. A team of researchers wanted to know whether dietary changes would help alleviate depression, so they recruited 67 people who were clinically depressed and split them into groups. One group went to meetings with a dietitian who taught them to follow a traditional Mediterranean-style diet. The other group, serving as the control, met regularly with a research assistant who provided social support but no dietary advice.

At the start of the study, both groups consumed a lot of sugary foods, processed meats and salty snacks, and very little fiber, lean proteins or fruits and vegetables. But the diet group made big changes. They replaced candy, fast food and pastries with whole foods such as nuts, beans, fruits and legumes. They switched from white bread to whole grain and sourdough bread. They gave up sugary cereals and ate muesli and oatmeal. Instead of pizza, they ate vegetable stir-fries. And they replaced highly processed meats like ham, sausages and bacon with seafood and small amounts of lean red meats.

Importantly, both groups were counseled to continue taking any antidepressants or other medications they were prescribed. The goal of the study was not to see if a healthier diet could replace medication, but whether it could provide additional benefits like exercise, good sleep and other lifestyle behaviors.

After 12 weeks, average depression scores improved in both groups, which might be expected for anyone entering a clinical trial that provided additional support, regardless of which group you were in. But depression scores improved to a far greater extent in the group that followed the healthy diet: roughly a third of those people were no longer classified as depressed, compared to 8 percent of people in the control group.

The results were striking for a number of reasons. The diet benefited mental health even though the participants did not lose any weight. People also saved money by eating the more nutritious foods, demonstrating that a healthy diet can be economical. Before the study, the participants spent on average $138 per week on food. Those who switched to the healthy diet lowered their food costs to $112 per week.

The recommended foods were relatively inexpensive and available at most grocery stores. They included things like canned beans and lentils, canned salmon, tuna and sardines, and frozen and conventional produce, said Felice Jacka, the lead author of the study.

“Mental health is complex,” said Dr. Jacka, the director of the Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University in Australia and the president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research. “Eating a salad is not going to cure depression. But there’s a lot you can do to lift your mood and improve your mental health, and it can be as simple as increasing your intake of plants and healthy foods.”

A number of randomized trials have reported similar findingsIn one study of 150 adults with depression that was published last year, researchers found that people assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet supplemented with fish oil for three months had greater reductions in symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety after three months compared to a control group.

Still, not every study has had positive results. A large, yearlong trial published in JAMA in 2019, for example, found that a Mediterranean diet reduced anxiety but did not prevent depression in a group of people at high risk. Taking supplements such as vitamin D, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids had no impact on either depression or anxiety.

Most psychiatric professional groups have not adopted dietary recommendations, in part because experts say that more research is needed before they can prescribe a specific diet for mental health. But public health experts in countries around the world have started encouraging people to adopt lifestyle behaviors like exercisesound sleep, a heart-healthy diet and avoiding smoking that may reduce inflammation and have benefits for the brain. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists issued clinical practice guidelines encouraging clinicians to address diet, exercise and smoking before starting patients on medication or psychotherapy.

Individual clinicians, too, are already

Read the whole thing. (Gift link: no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 2:01 pm

Shaken by the Jan. 6 attack, Capitol workers quit jobs that once made them proud

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Paul Schwartzman and Peter Jamison have an interesting report in the Washington Post of an ominous trend in public service: justifiable fear of the public. (Link is a gift link that bypasses the paywall). Their report begins:

The House staffer quit after awakening one night and imagining a pack of Proud Boys amassing outside his apartment door. Another left after questioning whether strangers he encountered had helped plot the insurrection. A police officer resigned, still agitated by the frantic voices of co-workers she recalled hearing on her radio scanner that day.

“What’s the plan?” one had asked.

“I’ve got an officer down!” another had shouted.

A year ago, they all worked at the U.S. Capitol, a citadel of American democracy they believed was as impervious to attack as any center of Washington power. But Jan. 6, 2021, upended all that. An invading mob of Donald Trump’s followers destroyed that sense of security — not only on that day but in the long year that followed.

“There’s a dark cloud over Capitol Hill,” said Jodi Breiterman, a Capitol Police officer who submitted retirement papers in November after almost 21 years on the force, and will officially leave the agency in mid-January. “I look at officers’ faces, and they’ve changed. They’ve lost weight and they don’t know why.”

In the months since the insurrection, senators and representatives have chronicled the trauma of Jan. 6, recalling how they cowered behind seats in the House chamber and barricaded themselves in offices as Trump acolytes pounded on doors and shouted threats of violence.

Yet alongside the political leaders, there were hundreds of Capitol workers who suffered their own trauma that day. They are the supporting cast on the edges of Washington’s biggest stage: the legislative aides, police officers, custodians and cafeteria workers who keep the business of government moving and ensure that the Capitol is safe, clean and well-functioning.

In many cases, they soldiered on after the insurrection, entrenched in positions that can be high-pressure and demanding even on routine days. But for other Capitol workers, Jan. 6 became a psychic tipping point, a reason to leave jobs that had made them targets for threats and potential danger.

“The idea that you’re in a place where your life is at risk was just — on top of everything else — the clinching factor for me,” said Rich Luchette, 35, a former senior adviser to Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.). “It becomes overwhelming at some point.”

A sign of the enduring trauma, Luchette said, occurred a week or so after the insurrection, when the sounds of partying neighbors woke him up in his Navy Yard apartment. As he opened his eyes, his first thought was: “Are there Proud Boys out in the hallway?”

Luchette had considered looking for a new job before Jan. 6. By July, he had found one.

In any given year, staff turnover at the Capitol is constant, making it difficult to quantify the number of employees who quit or retired because of the insurrection. More than 100 U.S. Capitol Police officers had departed as of early December, a figure that was a sharp increase over the previous year.

On a typical day, the 290-acre Capitol complex is a veritable city unto itself, spread out over multiple blocks, with its own subway system, an array of cafeterias and a workforce approaching 30,000 people.

Jan. 6 was anything but typical, with the coronavirus having kept many employees at home. Yet, no matter where they were as the insurrection unfolded, Capitol employees could not help but feel violated as they saw rioters invade and vandalize their workplace.

Another former House staffer, a Democrat who quit months after Jan. 6, said the toll of that day grew as time passed.

“I got to the point where my mental health just took an absolute nose dive because I was still trying to process all this stuff,” said the former aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she fears retribution from Trump supporters.

Death threats continued to arrive daily by phone from constituents who were convinced that Democrats had stolen the election. “It absolutely broke me to know that people would be fine if my boss was dead, if I was dead, if my co-workers were dead,” she said. “The American people stopped believing in the institution. And if they don’t believe in it, what the hell are any of us doing working for it?” . . .

Continue reading. (Again: this is a gift link that bypasses the paywall.)

The effort to destroy the US government and bring down US democracy is serious and on-going.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2022 at 7:03 am

The Opposite of Toxic Positivity

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Scot Barry Kaufman wrote in the Atlantic back in August 2021:

Countless books have been written on the “power of gratitude” and the importance of counting your blessings, but that sentiment may feel like cold comfort during the coronavirus pandemic, when blessings have often seemed scant. Refusing to look at life’s darkness and avoiding uncomfortable experiences can be detrimental to mental health. This “toxic positivity” is ultimately a denial of reality. Telling someone to “stay positive” in the middle of a global crisis is missing out on an opportunity for growth, not to mention likely to backfire and only make them feel worse. As the gratitude researcher Robert Emmons of UC Davis writes, “To deny that life has its share of disappointments, frustrations, losses, hurts, setbacks, and sadness would be unrealistic and untenable. Life is suffering. No amount of positive thinking exercises will change this truth.”

The antidote to toxic positivity is “tragic optimism,” a phrase coined by the existential-humanistic psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. Tragic optimism involves the search for meaning amid the inevitable tragedies of human existence, something far more practical and realistic during these trying times. Researchers who study “post-traumatic growth” have found that people can grow in many ways from difficult times—including having a greater appreciation of one’s life and relationships, as well as increased compassion, altruism, purpose, utilization of personal strengths, spiritual development, and creativity. Importantly, it’s not the traumatic event itself that leads to growth (no one is thankful for COVID-19), but rather how the event is processed, the changes in worldview that result from the event, and the active search for meaning that people undertake during and after it.

In recent years, scientists have begun to recognize that the practice of gratitude can be a key driver of post-traumatic growth after an adverse event, and that gratitude can be a healing force. Indeed, a number of positive mental-health outcomes are linked to a regular gratitude practice, such as reduced lifetime risk for depression, anxiety, and substance-abuse disorders.

The human capacity for resiliency is quite remarkable and underrated. A recent study surveyed more than 500 people from March to May 2020. It found that even during those terrifying early months of the pandemic, more than 56 percent of people reported feeling grateful, which was 17 percent higher than any other positive emotion. Those who reported feeling more grateful also reported being happier. What’s more, even more people—69 percent of respondents—reported expecting to feel grateful two to three months in the future.

I believe that an overlooked route to gratitude is exposure to difficult circumstances. There are many basic advantages of life itself that we too often take for granted. After all, humans have a natural tendency to adapt and become used to situations that are relatively stable. When individuals become aware that their advantages are not guaranteed, many then come to appreciate them more. As the writer G. K. Chesterton put it, “Until we realize that things might not be, we cannot realize that things are.”

Indeed, several studies have found that people who have confronted difficult circumstances report that their appreciation for life itself has increased, and some of the most grateful people have gone through some of the hardest experiences. Kristi Nelson, the executive director of A Network for Grateful Living, faced her own mortality at the age of 33, when she received a cancer diagnosis and had to undergo multiple surgeries, chemo, and radiation. Nevertheless, she writes that she was constantly on the lookout for opportunities to cultivate gratefulness:

I was in the hospital, separated from all my friends and family and tethered to all kinds of IVs and dealing with pain. And yet,  . . .

Continue reading.

Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning is one of the books I find myself repeatedly recommending.

Written by Leisureguy

1 January 2022 at 11:23 am

God’s Tech Support

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18 December 2021 at 10:58 am

‘It Saved My Life’: Depression Treatment Is Turning Lives Around in Five Days

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discrimination. Studies show untreated depression can lead to suicidal ideation.Lesley McClurg reports at KQED:

After 40 years of fighting debilitating depression, Emma was on the brink.

“I was suicidal,” said Emma, a 59-year-old Bay Area resident. KQED is not using her full name because of the stigma of mental illness. “I was going to die.”

Over the years, Emma sat through hours of talk therapy and tried countless anti-depression medications “to have a semblance of normalcy.” And yet she was consumed by relentless fatigue, insomnia and chronic nausea.

Depression is the world’s leading cause of disability, partly because treatment options often result in numerous side effects or patients do not respond at all. And there are many people who never seek treatment because mental illness can carry heavy stigma and discrimination. Studies show untreated depression can lead to suicidal ideation.

Three years ago, Emma’s psychiatrist urged her to enroll in a study at Stanford University School of Medicine designed for people who had run out of options. When she arrived, scientists took an MRI scan to determine the best possible location to deliver electrical pulses to her brain. Then for 10 hours a day for five consecutive days, Emma sat in a chair while a magnetic field stimulated her brain.

At the end of the first day, an unfamiliar calm settled over Emma. Even when her partner picked her up to drive home, she stayed relaxed. “I’m usually hysterical,” she said. “All the time I’m grabbing things. I’m yelling, you know, ‘Did you see those lights?’ And while I rode home that first night I just looked out the window and I enjoyed the ride.”

The remedy was a new type of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) called “Stanford neuromodulation therapy.” By adding imaging technology to the treatment and upping the dose of rTMS, scientists have developed an approach that’s more effective and works more than eight times faster than the current approved treatment.

A coil on top of Emma’s head created a magnetic field that sent electric pulses through her skull to tickle the surface of her brain. She says it felt like a woodpecker tapped on her skull every 15 seconds. The electrical current is directed at the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that plans, dreams and controls our emotions.

“It’s an area thought to be underactive in depression,” said Nolan Williams, a psychiatrist and rTMS researcher at Stanford. “We send a signal for the system to not only turn on, but to stay on and remember to stay on.”

Nolan says pumping up the prefrontal cortex helps turn down other areas of the brain that stimulate fear and anxiety. That’s the basic premise of rTMS: Electrical  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2021 at 1:35 pm

Stanford Professor Garry Nolan Is Analyzing Anomalous Materials From UFO Crashes

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As it happens, I’m reading a Douglas E. Richards sci-fi novel, Unidentified, on this same issue. In Vice, Thobey Campion interviews Garry Nolan, Professor of Pathology at Stanford University.

Dr. Garry Nolan is a Professor of Pathology at Stanford University. His research ranges from cancer to systems immunology. Dr. Nolan has also spent the last ten years working with a number of individual analyzing materials from alleged Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon.

His robust resume—300 research articles, 40 US patents, founding of eight biotech companies, and honored as one of Stanford’s top 25 inventors—makes him, easily, one of the most accomplished scientists publicly studying UAPs.

Motherboard sat down with Garry to discuss his work. It has been edited for length and clarity.

[For more with Dr. Garry Nolan, watch this interview with Jesse Michels on American Alchemy.]

MOTHERBOARD: How long have you had an interest in UAPs?
Dr. Garry Nolan: 
I’ve always been an avid reader of science fiction, so it was natural at some point that when YouTube videos about UFOs began to make the rounds I might watch a few. I noticed that this guy at the time, Steven Greer, had claimed that a little skeleton might be an alien. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, I can prove or disprove that.’ And so I reached out to him. I eventually showed that it wasn’t an alien, it was human. We explain a fair amount about why it looked the way it did. It had a number of mutations in skeletal genes that could potentially explain the biology. The UFO community didn’t like me saying that. But you know, the truth is in the science. So, I had no problem just stating the facts. We published a paper and it ended up going worldwide. It was on the front page of just about every major newspaper. What’s more appealing or clickbait than ‘Stanford professor sequences alien baby’?

That ended up bringing me to the attention of some people associated with the CIA and some aeronautics corporations. At the time, they had been investigating a number of cases of pilots who’d gotten close to supposed UAPs and the fields generated by them, as was claimed by the people who showed up at my office unannounced one day. There was enough drama around the Atacama skeleton that I had basically decided to forswear all continued involvement in this area. Then these guys showed up and said, ‘We need you to help us with this because we want to do blood analysis and everybody says that you’ve got the best blood analysis instrumentation on the planet.’ Then they started showing the MRIs of some of these pilots and ground personnel and intelligence agents who had been damaged. The MRIs were clear. You didn’t even have to be an MD to see that there was a problem. Some of their brains were horribly, horribly damaged. And so that’s what kind of got me involved.

Does the Department of Pathology at Stanford have a track record of pulling practical jokes on you?
I thought it was a practical joke at the beginning. But no, nobody was pulling a practical joke. And just as an aside, the school is completely supportive, and always has been of the work that I’ve been doing. When the Atacama thing hit the fan, they stepped in and helped me deal with the public relations issues around it.

Are you able to mention which folks from which governmental departments other than aeronautics approached you?
No, I’m not.

Can you describe the more anomalous effects on the brains you observed with the MRIs?
If you’ve ever looked at an MRI of somebody with multiple sclerosis, there’s something called white matter disease. It’s scarring. It’s a big white blob, or multiple white blobs, scattered throughout the MRI. It’s essentially dead tissue where the immune system has attacked the brain. That’s probably the closest thing that you could come to if you wanted to look at a snapshot from one of these individuals. You can pretty quickly see that there’s something wrong. [There are photos in the article. – LG]

How many patients did you take a look at in that first phase?
It was around 100 patients. They were almost all defense or governmental personnel or people working in the aerospace industry; people doing government-level work. Here’s how it works: Let’s say that a Department of Defense personnel gets damaged or hurt. Odd cases go up the chain of command, at least within the medical branch. If nobody knows what to do with it, it goes over to what’s called the weird desk, where things get thrown in a bucket. Then somebody eventually says, ‘Oh, there’s enough interesting things in this bucket worth following up on that all look reasonably similar.’ Science works by comparing things that are similar and dissimilar to other things. Enough people were having very similar kinds of bad things happen to them, that it came to the attention of a guy by the name of Dr. Kit Green. He was in charge of studying some of these individuals. You have a smorgasbord of patients, some of whom had heard weird noises buzzing in their head, got sick, etc. A reasonable subset of them had claimed to have seen UAPs and some claimed to be close to things that got them sick. Let me show you the MRIs of the brains of some of these people. [More photos. – LG]

We started to notice that there were similarities in what we thought was the damage across multiple individuals. As we looked more closely, though, we realized, well, that can’t be damaged, because that’s right in the middle of the basal ganglia [a group of nuclei responsible for motor control and other core brain functions]. If those structures were severely damaged, these people would be dead. That was when we realized that these people were not damaged, but had an over-connection of neurons between the head of the caudate and the putamen [The caudate nucleus plays a critical role in various higher neurological functions; the putamen influences motor planning, learning, and execution]. If you looked at 100 average people, you wouldn’t see this kind of density. But these individuals had it. An open question is: did coming in contact with whatever it was cause it or not?

For a couple of these individuals we had MRIs from prior years. They had it before they had these incidents. It was pretty obvious, then, that this was something that people were born with. It’s a goal sub-goal setting planning device, it’s called the brain within the brain. It’s an extraordinary thing. This area of the brain is involved (partly) in what we call intuition. For instance, Japanese chess players were measured as they made what would be construed as a brilliant decision that is not obvious for anybody to have made that kind of leap of intuition, this area of the brain lights up. We had found people who had this in spades. These are all so called high-functioning people. They’re pilots who are making split second decisions, intelligence officers in the field, etc.

Everybody has this connectivity region in general, but let’s say for the average person that the density level is 1x. Most of the people in the study had 5x to 10x and up to 15x, the normal density in this region. In this case we are speculating that density implies some sort of neuronal function. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it gets even more interesting.

FWIW, I bet those “Japanese chess players” were playing Go, not Shogi (Japanese chess).

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2021 at 3:34 pm

The therapists using AI to make therapy better

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Charlotte Jee and Will Douglas Heaven write in MIT Technology Review:

Kevin Cowley remembers many things about April 15, 1989. He had taken the bus to the Hillsborough soccer stadium in Sheffield, England, to watch the semifinal championship game between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool. He was 17. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon. The fans filled the stands.

He remembers being pressed between people so tightly that he couldn’t get his hands out of his pockets. He remembers the crash of the safety barrier collapsing behind him when his team nearly scored and the crowd surged.

Hundreds of people fell, toppled like dominoes by those pinned in next to them. Cowley was pulled under. He remembers waking up among the dead and dying, crushed beneath the weight of bodies. He remembers the smell of urine and sweat, the sound of men crying. He remembers locking eyes with the man struggling next to him, then standing on him to save himself. He still wonders if that man was one of the 94 people who died that day.

These memories have tormented Cowley his whole adult life. For 30 years he suffered from flashbacks and insomnia. He had trouble working but was too ashamed to talk to his wife. He blocked out the worst of it by drinking. In 2004 one doctor referred him to a trainee therapist, but it didn’t help, and he dropped out after a couple of sessions.

But two years ago he spotted a poster advertising therapy over the internet, and he decided to give it another go. After dozens of regular sessions in which he and his therapist talked via text message, Cowley, now 49, is at last recovering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. “It’s amazing how a few words can change a life,” says Andrew Blackwell, chief scientific officer at Ieso, the UK-based mental health clinic treating Cowley.

What’s crucial is delivering the right words at the right time. Blackwell and his colleagues at Ieso are pioneering a new approach to mental-health care in which the language used in therapy sessions is analyzed by an AI. The idea is to use natural-language processing (NLP) to identify which parts of a conversation between therapist and client—which types of utterance and exchange—seem to be most effective at treating different disorders.

The aim is to give therapists better insight into what they do, helping experienced therapists maintain a high standard of care and helping trainees improve. Amid a global shortfall in care, an automated form of quality control could be essential in helping clinics meet demand.

Ultimately, the approach may reveal exactly how psychotherapy works in the first place, something that clinicians and researchers are still largely in the dark about. A new understanding of therapy’s active ingredients could open the door to personalized mental-health care, allowing doctors to tailor psychiatric treatments to particular clients much as they do when prescribing drugs.

A way with words

The success of therapy and counseling ultimately hinges on the words spoken between two people. Despite the fact that therapy has existed in its modern form for decades, there’s a surprising amount we still don’t know about how it works. It’s generally deemed crucial for therapist and client to have a good rapport, but it can be tough to predict whether a particular technique, applied to a particular illness, will yield results or not. Compared with treatment for physical conditions, the quality of care for mental health is poor. Recovery rates have stagnated and in some cases worsened since treatments were developed.

Researchers have tried to study talking therapy for years to unlock the secrets of why some therapists get better results than others. It can be as much art as science, based on the experience and gut instinct of qualified therapists. It’s been virtually impossible to fully quantify what works and why—until now. Zac Imel, who is a psychotherapy researcher at the University of Utah, remembers trying to analyze transcripts from therapy sessions by hand. “It takes forever, and the sample sizes are embarrassing,” he says. “And so we didn’t learn very much even over the decades we’ve been doing it.”

AI is changing that equation. The type of . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s fascinating.

Written by Leisureguy

8 December 2021 at 12:06 pm

One way to take the daily chocolate

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After posting about the memory/mental-acuity foods recommended by a Harvard nutritional psychiatrist, I decided that I really should start eating chocolate more regularly. However, 100% cacao bars are not that easy to find (and anything below 90% has a good amount of refined sugar, something I want to avoid — and anyway, I want 100%), and when I can find it, it is expensive.

Then it occurred to me: Unsweetened baking chocolate is 100% cacao, readily available, and not too dear, even the better brands like Scharffen-Berger and Ghiradelli. But Baker’s is fine with me: I am eating it for the nutritional value. 

The Eldest pointed out that, over the years and decades, one’s microplane grater grows gradually duller, and after working on my knives to sharpen them after only using them for a year or so, I saw immediately that she was right. So I ordered replacement microplanes (I’m not going to attempt to sharpen them), and the fine grater is already here.

Today I grated a small piece of Baker’s unsweetened baking chocolate on the berries after adding about 1 tsp maple syrup and 1 tsp Grand Marnier. The Eldest suggested that instead of those two I use 1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar, an excellent idea. 

Here’s today’s berries, which were delicious — a great way to have one’s daily berries and chocolate.

Baies avec chocolat y Grand Marnier

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2021 at 2:38 pm

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