Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Russia’s Mystic Destiny

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David Troy’s current situation report in Medium:

The Hunt for Casus Belli

What’s Happening Now

Some academic Kremlinologists tend to dismiss Dugin’s influence in the Kremlin, a message that also seems to be echoed in some Kremlin propaganda. However, as Putin’s domestic fortunes become increasingly precarious, Kremlin actions and messaging seem to be converging with Duginist themes — namely the “mystic destiny” of the Rus people represented in the reunification of Russia and Ukraine.

This piece from the Center for European Policy Analysis also cites Dugin’s recent rhetoric:

According to Dugin: “The moment has come for Moscow to announce the renaming of the CIS into the Eurasian Union, including all the political units of the post-Soviet space.”

Dugin advocates a Russian land grab in Ukraine. This would involve the occupation of so-called Left-Bank Ukraine — that is, the land between the current international border and the River Dniepr — presumably including eastern Kyiv, making the Ukrainian capital a divided city and placing much of its hinterland under Russian rule. He also argued that Russia should push right up to the borders of the Baltic states, which would likely mean sending troops through Belarus, and issue an ultimatum to the thee NATO members: neutrality or war. He was echoed by the head of the RT TV channel Margarita Simonyan, who wrote on Twitter that if Russia itself could produce the goods that it buys in the United States, it could “liberate Donbas right now, and not leave out Odesa either.”

The convergence of that rhetoric with that of Margarita Simonyan, who is very close to Putin and the Kremlin, represents a new high water mark for Dugin’s apparent grip on Putin’s imagination. Russia also has been contemplating false-flag attacks that would provide a casus belli to justify an invasion.

The next few weeks will be critical. It seems likely that if there is an invasion it will be in the next couple of weeks. If for some reason Russia loses its nerve, possibly this episode will pass, but that seems increasingly less likely.

It was a busy week in imaginary money land. One of the more insane projects to surface this week is a project called “Cryptoland,” a Disneyland-style crypto theme park island fully divorced from reality. It was unveiled in a 20 minute infomercial video that features Pixar-style animation, and an apparently pirated John Williams soundtrack. It truly must be seen to be believed.

It’s so insanely ludicrous as to stretch the imagination, and raise questions whether it might in fact be some sort of intelligence operation. But the evidence so far just points to sheer lunacy. The Financial Times has more [behind a paywall – LG].

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman has started to see the substantial ties between the MAGA and crypto worlds. :

But let’s leave market predictions aside and ask what’s with the deepening alliance between Bitcoin and MAGA?

The answer, I’d argue, is that Bitcoin was supposed to create a monetary system that functions without trust — and the modern right is all about fostering distrust. Covid is a hoax; the election was stolen; California’s forest fires had nothing to do with climate change, and they were started by Rothschild-controlled space lasers.

In this context it’s perfectly natural for MAGAesque politicians to demand an end to a monetary system that runs through banks — we know who controls them, right? — and rests on a currency that’s managed by government-appointed officials. There’s no evidence of widespread monetary abuse, but that doesn’t matter on the extreme right.

A couple of weeks ago . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2022 at 1:28 pm

Misinformation is mostly spread by chaotic evil conservatives

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Kevin Drum points out a new study:

Who spreads misinformation? A pair of researchers says it’s not liberals in general and it’s not conservatives in general. It’s a very specific subset of conservatives:

Using statistical analysis, we found that the only reliable explanation was a general desire for chaos — that is, a motivation to disregard, disrupt, and take down existing social and political institutions as a means of asserting the dominance and superiority of one’s own group. Participants indicated their appetite for chaos by using a scale to express how much they agreed with statements like, “I think society should be burned to the ground.” For LCCs, we concluded, sharing false information is a vehicle for propagating chaos.

An LCC is a “low-conscientiousness conservative,” and they were 2.5 times more likely to share misinformation than anyone else:

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2022 at 12:45 pm

Interesting letter about Boris Johnson:

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Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failure of responsibility (and surprised at the same time that he was not appointed Captain of the School for the next half). I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.

Martin Hammond, Eton College
Letter to Boris Johnson’s father
10th April 1982

The child is father to the man.

Written by Leisureguy

12 January 2022 at 11:38 am

The Police Will Never Change In America. My experience in police academy.

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Using a temporary username, a person posted the following on Reddit:

Throwaway for obvious reasons. If you feel If i’m just bitter due to my dismissal please call me out on it as I need a wake up call.

Over the fall semester I was a police recruit at a Community Colleges Police Academy in a midwestern liberal city. I have always wanted to be a police officer, and I felt like I could help kickstart a change of new wave cops. I am passionate about community oriented policing, making connections with the youth in policing, and changing lives on a individual level. I knew police academy would be mentally and physically challenging, but boy oh boy does policing need to change.

Instructors taught us to view citizens as enemy combatants, and told us we needed a warrior mindset and that we were going into battle everyday. It felt like i was joining a cult. Instructors told us supporting our fellow police officers were more important than serving citizens. Instructors told us that we were joining a big bad gang of police officers and that protecting the thin blue line was sacred. Instructors told us George Floyd wasn’t a problem and was just one bad officer. I tried to push back on some of these ideas and posed to an instructor that 4 other officers watched Chauvin pin Floyd to the ground and did nothing, and perhaps they did nothing because they were trained in academy to never speak against a senior officer. I was told to “shut my fucking face, and that i had no idea what i was talking about.”

Sadly, Instructors on several occasions, and most shockingly in the first week asked every person who supported Black Lives Matter to raise their hands. I and about a third of the class did. They told us that we should seriously consider not being police officers if we supported anti-cop organizations. They told us BLM was a terrible organization and to get out if we supported them. Instructors repeatedly made anti-LGBT comments and transphobic comments.

Admittedly I was the most progressive and put a target on my back for challenging instructor viewpoints. This got me disciplined, yelled at, and made me not want to be a cop. We had very little training on de-escalation and community policing. We had no diversity or ethics training.

Despite all this I made it to the final day. I thought if I could just get through this I could get hired and make a difference in the community as a cop and not be subject to academy paramilitary crap. The police academy dismissed me on the final day because I failed a PT test that I had passed multiple times easily in the academy leading up to this day. I asked why I failed and they said my push up form was bad and they were being more strict now it was the final. I responded saying if you counted my pushups in the entrance and midterm tests than they should count now. I was dismissed on the final day of police academy and have to take a whole academy over again. I have no plan to retake the whole academy and I feel like quality police officers are dismissed because they don’t fit the instructors’ cookie-cutter image of a warrior police officer and the instructors can get rid of them with saying their form doesn’t count on a subjective sit up or push up tests. I was beyond tears and bitterly disappointed. Maybe policing is just that fucked in America.

The warrior-mindset (vs. the guardian-mindset) training is indeed prevalent, and specifically viewing every citizen as a potential hostile threat — see, for example, this article. And it is common for those who have power in a particular organizational culture will use that power to resist changes to the culture (which, they fear, will mean a reduction in their own power).

The comments to the post are worth reading — and see also this Harvard Law Review article on the problem of the warrior mindset and this article that advocates in favor of a warrior mindset.

BTW, I believe a warrior mindset is totally appropriate in soldiers in a shooting war, and totally inappropriate in an organization that is supposed to be a guardian of the public’s safety and Constitutional rights — and even the accused have rights, something many police disapprove of (because the public is the Enemy).

Written by Leisureguy

11 January 2022 at 5:59 pm

Why does experiencing ‘flow’ feel so good? A communication scientist explains

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Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, who originated the idea of “flow,” is a favorite author (whose books appear in my list of repeatedly recommended books). In The Conversation, Richard Huskey, Assistant Professor of Communication and Cognitive Science, University of California, Davism, discusses the mental state of flow:

New years often come with new resolutions. Get back in shape. Read more. Make more time for friends and family. My list of resolutions might not look quite the same as yours, but each of our resolutions represents a plan for something new, or at least a little bit different. As you craft your 2022 resolutions, I hope that you will add one that is also on my list: feel more flow.

Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s research on flow started in the 1970s. He has called it the “secret to happiness.” Flow is a state of “optimal experience” that each of us can incorporate into our everyday lives. One characterized by immense joy that makes a life worth living.

In the years since, researchers have gained a vast store of knowledge about what it is like to be in flow and how experiencing it is important for our overall mental health and well-being. In short, we are completely absorbed in a highly rewarding activity – and not in our inner monologues – when we feel flow.

I am an assistant professor of communication and cognitive science, and I have been studying flow for the last 10 years. My research lab investigates what is happening in our brains when people experience flow. Our goal is to better understand how the experience happens and to make it easier for people to feel flow and its benefits.

What it is like to be in flow?

People often say flow is like “being in the zone.” Psychologists Jeanne Nakamura and Csíkszentmihályi describe it as something more. When people feel flow, they are in a state of intense concentration. Their thoughts are focused on an experience rather than on themselves. They lose a sense of time and feel as if there is a merging of their actions and their awareness. That they have control over the situation. That the experience is not physically or mentally taxing.

Most importantly, flow is what researchers call an autotelic experience. Autotelic derives from two Greek words: autos (self) and telos (end or goal). Autotelic experiences are things that are worth doing in and of themselves. Researchers sometimes call these intrinsically rewarding experiences. Flow experiences are intrinsically rewarding.

What causes flow?

Flow occurs when a task’s challenge is balanced with one’s skill. In fact, both the task challenge and skill level have to be high. I often tell my students that they will not feel flow when they are doing the dishes. Most people are highly skilled dishwashers, and washing dishes is not a very challenging task.

So when do people experience flow? Csíkszentmihályi’s research in the 1970s focused on people doing tasks they enjoyed. He studied swimmers, music composers, chess players, dancers, mountain climbers and other athletes. He went on to study how people can find flow in more everyday experiences. I am an avid snowboarder, and I regularly feel flow on the mountain. Other people feel it by practicing yoga – not me, unfortunately! – by riding their bike, cooking or going for a run. So long as that task’s challenge is high, and so are your skills, you should be able to achieve flow.

Researchers also know that people can experience flow by using interactive media, like playing a video game. In fact, Csíkszentmihályi said that “games are obvious flow activities, and play is the flow experience par excellence.” Video game developers are very familiar with the idea, and they think hard about how to design games so that players feel flow.

Flow occurs when a task’s challenge – and one’s skills at the task – are both high. Adapted from Nakamura/Csíkszentmihályi, CC BY-NC-ND

Why is it good to feel flow?

Earlier I said that Csíkszentmihályi called flow “the secret to happiness.” Why is that? For one thing, the experience can help people pursue their long-term goals. This is because research shows that taking a break to do something fun can help enhance one’s self-control, goal pursuit and well-being.

So next time you are feeling like a guilty couch potato for playing a video game, remind yourself that you are actually doing something that can help set you up for long-term success and well-being. Importantly, quality – and not necessarily quantity – matters. Research shows that spending a lot of time playing video games only has a very small influence on your overall well-being. Focus on finding games that help you feel flow, rather than on spending more time playing games.

A recent study also shows that flow helps . . .

Continue reading. There’s more. And Csíkszentmihályi’s books are also good.

BTW, that graph is somewhat misleading. Csíkszentmihályi notes that the difficulty of the task must not be too high, or you will experience anxiety, not flow. He suggests a task that requires about 85-90% of our capability — too little, and you become bored and eventually distracted; too much, and you become anxious and self-conscious. At the sweet spot you lose yourself in the task, like swimming in a calm pond.

Written by Leisureguy

11 January 2022 at 12:13 pm

To wake from a dream and embrace reality — if only

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In Jacobin magazine:

In an essay penned shortly before his death, David Graeber argued that post-pandemic, we can’t slip back into a reality where the way our society is organized — to serve every whim of a small handful of rich people while debasing and degrading the vast majority of us — is seen as sensible or reasonable.

And then they post this essay that David Graeber wrote:

At some point in the next few months, the crisis will be declared over, and we will be able to return to our “nonessential” jobs. For many, this will be like waking from a dream.

The media and political classes will definitely encourage us to think of it this way. This is what happened after the 2008 financial crash. There was a brief moment of questioning. (What is “finance,” anyway? Isn’t it just other people’s debts? What is money? Is it just debt, too? What’s debt? Isn’t it just a promise? a If money and debt are just a collection of promises we make to each other, then couldn’t we just as easily make different ones?) The window was almost instantly shut by those insisting we shut up, stop thinking, and get back to work, or at least start looking for it.

Last time, most of us fell for it. This time, it is critical that we do not.

Because, in reality, the crisis we just experienced was waking from a dream, a confrontation with the actual reality of human life, which is that we are a collection of fragile beings taking care of one another, and that those who do the lion’s share of this care work that keeps us alive are overtaxed, underpaid, and daily humiliated, and that a very large proportion of the population don’t do anything at all but spin fantasies, extract rents, and generally get in the way of those who are making, fixing, moving, and transporting things, or tending to the needs of other living beings. It is imperative that we not slip back into a reality where all this makes some sort of inexplicable sense, the way senseless things so often do in dreams.

How about this: Why don’t we stop treating it as entirely normal that the more obviously one’s work benefits others, the less one is likely to be paid for it; or insisting that financial markets are the best way to direct long-term investment even as they are propelling us to destroy most life on Earth?

Why not instead, once the current emergency is declared over, actually remember what we’ve learned: that if “the economy” means anything, it is the way we provide each other with what we need to be alive (in every sense of the term), that what we call “the market” is largely just a way of tabulating the aggregate desires of rich people, most of whom are at least slightly pathological, and the most powerful of whom were already completing the designs for the bunkers they plan to escape to if we continue to be foolish enough to believe their minions’ lectures that we were all, collectively, too lacking in basic common sense do anything about oncoming catastrophes.

This time around, can we please just ignore them?

Most of the work we’re currently doing is dream-work. It exists only for its own sake, or to make rich people feel good about themselves, or to make poor people feel bad about themselves. And if we simply stopped, it might be possible to make ourselves a much more reasonable set of promises: for instance, to create an “economy” that lets us actually take care of the people who are taking care of us.

And in this connection, see the next post.

Written by Leisureguy

11 January 2022 at 12:03 pm

Habits vs. Goals: A Look at the Benefits of a Systematic Approach to Life

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fs blog has an interesting entry, highly relevant to an earlier post on implementing Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The blog post begins:

Nothing will change your future trajectory like your habits.

We all have goals, big or small, things we want to achieve within a certain time frame. Maybe you want to make a million dollars by the time you turn 30. Or to lose 20 pounds before summer. Or to write a book in the next six months. When we begin to chase a vague concept (success, wealth, health, happiness), making a tangible goal is often the first step.

Habits are algorithms operating in the background that power our lives. Good habits help us reach our goals more effectively and efficiently. Bad ones makes things harder or prevent success entirely. Habits powerfully influence our automatic behavior.

First forget inspiration.
Habit is more dependable.
Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.
Habit is persistence in practice.

— Octavia Butler

The difference between habits and goals is not semantic. Each requires different forms of action. For example:

Let’s say you want to read more books. You could set the goal to read 50 books by the end of the year, or you could create a habit and decide to always carry a book with you.

The problems with goals

Let’s go over the problems with only having goals.

First off, goals have an endpoint. This is why many people revert to their previous state after achieving a certain goal. People run marathons, then stop exercising altogether. Or they make a certain amount of money, then fall into debt soon after. Others reach a goal weight, only to spoil their progress by overeating to celebrate.

Habits avoid these pitfalls because they continue indefinitely.

Second, goals rely on factors that we do not always have control over.

It’s an unavoidable fact that reaching a goal is not always possible, regardless of effort. An injury might derail a fitness goal. An unexpected expense might sabotage a financial goal. And family issues might impede a creative-output goal.

When we set a goal, we’re attempting to transform what is usually a heuristic process into an algorithmic one. Habits are better algorithms, and therefore more reliable in terms of getting us to where we want to go.

The third problem with goals is keeping a goal in mind and using it to direct our actions requires a lot of thinking and effort to evaluate different options.

Presented with a new situation, we have to figure out the course of action best suited to achieving a goal. With habits, we already know what to do by default.

During times when other parts of our lives require additional attention, it can be easy to push off attaining our goals to another day. For example, the goal of saving money requires self-discipline each time we make a purchase. Meanwhile, the habit of putting $50 in a savings account every week requires less effort as a practical action.

Habits, not goals, make otherwise difficult things easy.

Finally, goals can make us complacent or reckless.

Sometimes our brains can confuse goal setting with achievement because setting the goal feels like an end in itself. This effect is more pronounced when people inform others of their goals. Furthermore, unrealistic goals can lead to dangerous or unethical behavior because we make compromises to meet our stated objective.

Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).

— Stephen Covey

The benefits of habits

Once formed, habits

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

7 January 2022 at 8:39 pm

The Unreality of Money

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David Troy writes in Medium:

The Tenuous Relationship Between Money and Reality

What’s Happening Now

Continue reading. There’s more. The game is afoot.

Written by Leisureguy

7 January 2022 at 3:44 pm

Learning something as a language

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I have long found that the metaphor of “learning x as a language” to be useful. To me it means that you have learned so well all the essential rudiments of x and how those are used and combined, and what they mean alone and in combination, that you no longer think of them but instead focus on the thoughts you express through them. That is, in Timothy Wilson’s terms, the lessons have been learned by your adaptive unconscious.

Language: To learn a language as a language means that you have mastered vocabulary and grammar and idiom and convention and the common works of that language that those come to mind without effort when you want them, and even without coming to mind provide reliable guidance (as in grammatical rules and word choice — you don’t think of the rules but simply express the thought “naturally,” and you don’t think of the words but the ideas, and the words for those simply appear in your mind.

Fencing: To learn fencing as a language means that you have mastered stance and movement and the various guards (six in sabre fencing) and their use, strengths, and weaknesses, along with various sequences of guards and attacks, so that you simply are thinking the actions directly: you think, and your body moves to express the thought. Two skilled fencers are conversing.

Chess, cooking, playing a musical instrument — all those can be learned as a language, so that you no longer have to consciously think about the basics but instead can focus on your ideas and on expressing your ideas in that medium.

This came to mind on reading this passage which I highlighted in The Hand, by Frank R. Wilson:

While I was in San Diego in 1973 I ran into Ursula Bellugi, a psycholinguist whom I had met before. She took me to her lab, where there were some deaf people signing. While I watched, she translated into English what they were saying. It took me some time to absorb what she had shown me; Ursula explained that sign language is not a code on English—she said, “It seems to be a language. There are rules for making up words and rules for making sentences out of the words, but the rules have to do with space and shape—it’s an entirely different way of doing language.” I was really stunned. It was like being told there’s another ocean that you had never heard of. After a few days of looking into it and digesting it, I began to realize that this meant that language was not about speaking and hearing, which had always been my assumption. It meant that the brain had the capacity for language, and if you can’t put it out through the mouth, you put it out through the hands. (Location 3,555)

That highlighted passage was brought to my attention via an email from Highlights, a useful service for those who use a Kindle as an ebook reader. This is from The Ionian Mission, by Patrick O’Brian:

…his mind drifted back to the days when he too had belonged on the forecastle, when he too had danced to the fiddle and fife, his upper half grave and still, his lower flying – heel and toe, the double Harman, the cut-and-come-again, the Kentish knock, the Bob’s a-dying and its variations in quick succession and (if the weather was reasonably calm) in perfect time. To be sure there was a golden haze over those times and some of the gold was no doubt false, mere pinchbeck at the best; but even so they had an irreplaceable quality of their own – perfect, unthinking health, good company upon the whole, no responsibility apart from the immediate task in hand – and he was thinking of the rare, noisy, strenuous, good-natured fun they had had when hands were piped to mischief as he fell asleep, smiling still. (Location 2,411)

Learning something as a language means that the knowledge has become a part of the person and is used as an expression of the person, a part of the person’s identity.

Written by Leisureguy

6 January 2022 at 6:47 pm

David Troy’s blunt thoughts for 2022

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From Dave Troy’s Facebook post:

Some blunt thoughts for 2022.

1. Omicron will either mark the end of COVID by forcing everyone into immunity, OR a new set of deadly variants will be born in the process.

2. Cryptocurrency is political, and a misanthropic enterprise aiming to shove hardcore libertarianism down everyone’s throats.

3. Ukraine conflict is, at root, the aforementioned libertarian conflict. It is a test of institutions against capital and corruption. The way Americans will experience this war is through cyberattacks, economic warfare against the dollar, psychological warfare, and a final shattering of reality—especially around money.

4. Conflict over Taiwan will merge with the Ukraine conflict, and will turn into a world war against the US and NATO over the continuance of the dollar as reserve currency; also at issue is the EU and the Euro. While we will most likely encounter this conflict domestically via electronic means, kinetic, nuclear and EMP warfare is a possibility. Taiwan chip shortages may cripple global manufacturing for an indeterminate period.

5. US politics is now about only one thing: individualism (libertarianism) vs. democracy. People will try to tell you “maximizing freedom” is democratic and it’s a lie. Same thing is playing out in the UK and EU. “Communism” is the bogeyman they will use to try to fight democracy in any form. There are people on both the “left” and “right” fighting against democracy.

6. Web3 is an attempt to shame/FOMO smart people into advancing libertarianism. Fuck that, with prejudice.

7. The oil/gas industry is behind the libertarian drive, because it doesn’t want to be regulated (translated: ended) by “mob rule” (i.e. democracy).

8. The libertarian influence campaign is driving COVID disinformation because they want to maximize oil/gas/industrial profits via maximizing movement and consumption. This is being done through many layers of overt influence and covert influence (cults and intelligence ops).

9. We will never, ever address the climate disaster in time if this libertarian agenda is allowed to dominate.

10. Casual opinions are no match for expertise and study. If you have something to contribute here, slow down and be thoughtful. There is a good chance I have, through deep study of this domain, facts and perspective you may not yet; I’m sharing this here with the full knowledge that most others have not been able to do this study. Performative, reactive comments will be deleted; I’m also deprecating my use of Messenger. Going forward, please email me if you have something important to share: davetroy at gmail.

Best case scenario: COVID burns out by Spring, and no new variants emerge; Putin gets cold feet and is deterred; China takes a slow, economic approach to Taiwan absorption; Tether investigation sparks crash, unwinding the sector without harming broader recovery; anti-democratic momentum is reversed; climate investments are begun.

Worst case scenario: Omicron surge sparks multiple variants with high mortality rates among vaccinated and unvaccinated, with a slow incubation time; Putin advances in Jan or Feb; China follows suit; Thiel, Bannon et al push crypto assault to try to destabilize dollar in parallel; government is captured and unable to squelch anti-democratic forces; dollar is actually challenged as reserve currency; chip manufacturing is halted, crashing tech deliveries and stocks; people’s 401(k)s are effectively wiped out; rioting, unrest. EMP or nuclear attacks leave entire regions in 1800’s mode, with little communication or transportation, and possibly uninhabitable. A neofeudal, libertarian hellscape, if it can even qualify as a society.

Worst case is unlikely as a whole, but any one of these things is possible if we fail to understand our moment.

Best case is achievable if we get lucky and know what we are dealing with. Putin respects strength; let’s show it. Tether is a scam and needs to be taken down aggressively; the whole sector needs regulation. China won’t be emboldened if Russia is curbed. This is the year that institutions need to be strengthened and shine brightly, for if they fail to do so, they will be lost for good, along with our hopes for democracy or any sort of just world.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2022 at 7:10 am

Butterfly eggs on a leaf

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The real world, separate from humans and their works, is so amazing, rich, and varied. It’s a shame that humans seem bent on destroying it.

The effect of decades of government promises and programs

In an article in Mother Jones from two years ago, in January 2020, Kevin Drum looked at the absence of any effective response to the situation. He wrote:

I’ll take a wild guess that you don’t need any convincing about the need for action on climate change. You know that since the start of the Industrial Revolution we’ve dumped more than 500 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere and we’re adding about 10 billion more each year. You know that global temperatures have risen 1 degree Celsius over the past century and we’re on track for 2 degrees within another few decades.

And you know what this means. It means more extreme weather. More hurricanes. More droughts. More flooding. More wildfires. More heat-related deaths. There will be more infectious disease as insects move ever farther north. The Northwest Passage will be open for much of the year. Sea levels will rise by several feet as the ice shelves of Greenland and the Antarctic melt, producing bigger storm swells and more intense flooding in low-lying areas around the world.

Some of this is already baked into our future, but to avoid the worst of it, climate experts widely agree that we need to get to net-zero carbon emissions entirely by 2050 at the latest. This is the goal of the Paris Agreement, and it’s one that every Democratic candidate for president has committed to. But how to get there?

Let’s start with the good news. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2022 at 5:44 am

Disney’s FastPass: A Complicated History

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I have not been to almost no theme parks — in the mid-1950’s, I did go with my family to Knott’s Berry Farm and the first Disneyland. But even then I did not much like the walking and waiting. I’ve been to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk a few times, but that is a pale imitation (and requires less walking and less waiting and has other benefits (fewer people, quicker to enter and to leave, and in a town interesting in itself).

That being said, I found this full-length documentary fascinating, in part because it shows me an alien world — one that I have negative desire to visit, but still find interesting in terms of its operation and the kinds of problems it must solve. 

I imagine that this documentary might be even more interesting to someone who has been subjected to the systems described.

Written by Leisureguy

1 January 2022 at 6:00 pm

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,  . . .

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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

How to discuss issues with someone who will not listen

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This video is part of a series, and this one has some good tips about when to back off. If you trigger a person by exposing a cognitive dissonance, they go into a kind of panic and simply are unable to listen. If you continue to argue, you reveal yourself to be one of those who will beat their head against a brick wall because they are (a) unperceptive and (b) stubborn. Don’t be that. Back off, let the person collect himself, and perhaps respond with a harmless joke (NOT mocking the person or the position) or stating as best you can the best version of what you understand the other person is saying. (Habit 5: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” — in that order). 

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2021 at 10:50 am

6 relationship resolutions to make this year

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I’m still in year-end-wrap-up and new-beginnings-for-new-year mode, so an article in by Carol Bruess, professor emeritus at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, and resident scholar at St. Norbert College, Wisconsin, caught my eye. Her article begins:

Most of us intuitively know that having close, supportive relationships is important to our general happiness and well-being, and decades of scientific research confirm that human connection not only affects our mental health but is also a key determinant to how long we’ll live and how physically healthy we’ll be during those years.

As Robert Waldinger PhD, the director of the long-running Harvard Study of Adult Development (aka “the longest study on happiness”), says in his TED Talk, “People who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community are happier; they’re physically healthier; and they live longer than people who are less well connected.”

And we’re not just talking about your intimate, family and spousal relationships. All types of human connection — from the social to the professional, from the people you volunteer with to the man behind you in line at the grocery store — count.

The good news: Making small changes in our relationships can yield big results. Below, I’ve pinpointed six relationship resolutions to consider that could improve your bonds.

1. Change the words you’re thinking about other people  

Words matter. Not only the words we use when we speak to others, but the words we say to ourselves about others. 

Our internal narrative — especially the story we tell ourselves about other people, their decisions, behaviors, quirks and irritating habits — has a profound effect on how we interact with them. When you tell yourself “they’re so controlling” or “they never listen to me” or “they’re so self-centered” before or during a conversation with a partner, colleague or sibling sets you up to be more likely to find evidence of their controlling/non-listening/self-centered behavior because you’ve primed yourself to spot it.

There are three simple steps you can take here. The first is to recognize when one of these judgmental thoughts enters your head that reinforces a negative narrative. Next, stop yourself from telling this story. Finally, replace it with a more positive word or phrase.

No, I’m not asking you to think something that is just plain untrue — as in “they always listen to me” or “they respect that I’m my own person.” Instead, pick a word or phrase that reminds you to show some compassion (“They’re trying their best”), acknowledge the journey you’re on (“We’re all works in progress”) or capture what you want to do more of in your relationships (“Listen — really listen”).

You’ll be surprised how quickly changing your words can also change the quality of your relationships. One of my favorite phrases, which I’ll be recommitting to in 2022, is “They might just be right.” Thinking those five words reduces my need to win arguments and can even prevent me from getting into them in the first place.

Make this phrase or word your screen saver, set a daily reminder with them or leave sticky notes with the phrase or word on the bathroom mirror, your laptop or next to the kitchen sink.

2. Create tiny moments of positivity during your day 

Want to experience more connection in your day-to-day life and a healthier and more connected sense of being in the world? 

Turns out, you can do this wherever you are and wherever you go. Just take five seconds to learn the name of that nice person in the orange apron at Home Depot who helped you find the particular nail you needed and tell them they made your day. Or, look your pharmacist in the eye and thank them for showing up during this challenging time, or stop by your coworker’s office and ask how her aging parents are holding up.

Indeed, whenever you share a tiny, positive moment with another human — even if it’s just a warm smile or your eyes meeting as you acknowledge each other for existing on this planet — you unleash a cascade of positive reactions in you and them. 

And that feeling you experience when you do this? It’s love.

While it might not be the kind of love that brought together, say, Romeo and Juliet, this kind — unlike what drove that doomed pair — will help you live a longer, happier, healthier life. And it has ripple effects. By creating micro-moments of positivity with strangers, acquaintances, colleagues or your close connections, you’re starting a wave of good feelings that spreads through your life and through the lives of those you encounter.

3. When you and your partner argue, hold hands with them (really!) 

When couples are in conflict, it’s important for them to remember they’re on the same team despite their differences. One of the easiest ways to do so is to agree to hold hands while you argue. This simple gesture helps couples feel more connected and, as a result, they’ve been found to be less destructive as they fight.

If this doesn’t work for the two of you, come up with your own way to reinforce your bond.

Maybe you and your partner decide to interrupt each disagreement — at least once — with a 10-second kiss. Or, you could both agree, while fighting, to hold up three fingers at the beginning, middle and end of a tense discussion, a nonverbal symbol that means “I love you.” I once interviewed a couple with an unusual rule: Whenever they argued, they both had to be fully undressed. Unsurprisingly, they reported their conflicts never lasted long!

4. Ask an . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2021 at 3:20 pm

A walking challenge from Garage Gym Reviews

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This week between Christmas and New Year’s is traditionally a time of taking stock of where we are, thinking about where we want to be, and making plans for how to get there, and those plans generally include a genuine resolve to move in some new directions. 

Of course, it’s difficult to make a detailed plan for a year, but it’s also pointless. Just as no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, a detailed plan of things to accomplish over the course of a year will generally run aground on things that crop up day by day and week by week.

One way to finesse this difficulty is to keep the overall long-range goal in mind, but make a plan for just a week — and even in that plan include fallback options to work around interruptions and small emergencies. (I describe one method of doing that — including forms to assist — in this post.)

A perennial goal for many whose daily routine and regular job does not include much physical exertion is to get more exercise — particularly aerobic exercise, which is essential for cardiovascular health (a very good kind of health). That’s what caught my eye when this walking challenge landed in my in-box. It’s a 28-day walking challenge, and it seems like good resolution fodder: rather than attempting a half-hearted commitment for the year, resolve only to complete this 28-day challenge — and in fact, first just commit to getting out next Monday and walking for 10 minutes, rain or shine, snow or not. Then commit to finishing that week. Then, with that accomplished, commit to doing three more weeks.

Little by little, bit by bit — persistence delivers. Slow and steady wins the race. Brick by brick the wall is built. 

The full challenge page contains much more than just the schedule of walks. It also offers reasons to accept the challenge, and some tips on how to make the walk more enjoyable (on the sensible idea that it’s much easier to persist if you figure out a way to make repeated tasks enjoyable).

Take a look. And then maybe commit to doing just the first week. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a step, so take the step.


Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2021 at 11:58 am

The current Covid-19 pandemic was predicted (expected, in fact) by epidemiologist who tried to warn us

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In the Netflix satire Don’t Look Up, the public and government ignore explicit urgent warnings from scientists, in a clear case of art imitating life.

13 years ago, Michael Greger delivered this talk, which is in fact quite interesting:

And we continue to work hard to breed the next pandemic.

Written by Leisureguy

26 December 2021 at 2:08 pm

How Christmas Became an American Holiday Tradition

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Thomas Adam writes in The Conversation:

Each season, the celebration of Christmas has religious leaders and conservatives publicly complaining about the commercialization of the holiday and the growing lack of Christian sentiment. Many people seem to believe that there was once a way to celebrate the birth of Christ in a more spiritual way.

Such perceptions about Christmas celebrations have, however, little basis in history. As a scholar of transnational and global history, I have studied the emergence of Christmas celebrations in German towns around 1800 and the global spread of this holiday ritual.

While Europeans participated in church services and religious ceremonies to celebrate the birth of Jesus for centuries, they did not commemorate it as we do today. Christmas trees and gift-giving on Dec. 24 in Germany did not spread to other European Christian cultures until the end of the 18th century and did not come to North America until the 1830s.

Charles Haswell, an engineer and chronicler of everyday life in New York City, wrote in his “Reminiscences of an Octoganarian” that in the 1830s German families living in Brooklyn dressed up Christmas trees with lights and ornaments. Haswell was so curious about this novel custom that he went to Brooklyn in a very stormy and wet night just to see these Christmas trees through the windows of private homes.

The First Christmas Trees in Germany

Only in the late 1790s did the new custom of putting up a Christmas tree decorated with wax candles and ornaments and exchanging gifts emerge in Germany. This new holiday practice was completely outside and independent of Christian religious practices.

The idea of putting wax candles on an evergreen was inspired by the pagan tradition of celebrating the winter solstice with bonfires on Dec. 21. These bonfires on the darkest day of the year were intended to recall the sun and show her the way home. The lit Christmas tree was essentially a domesticated version of these bonfires.

The English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge gave the very first description of a decorated Christmas tree in a German household when he reported in 1799 about having seen such a tree in a private home in Ratzeburg in northwestern Germany. In 1816 German poet E.T.A. Hoffmann published his famous story “Nutcracker and Mouse King.” This story contains the very first literary record of a Christmas tree decorated with apples, sweets and lights.

From the onset, all family members, including children, were expected to participate in the gift-giving. Gifts were not brought by a mystical figure, but openly exchanged among family members – symbolizing the new middle-class culture of egalitarianism.

From German Roots to American Soil

American visitors to Germany in the first half of the 19th century realized the potential of this celebration for nation building. In 1835 Harvard professor George Ticknor was the first American to observe and participate in this type of Christmas celebration and to praise its usefulness for creating a national culture. That year, Ticknor and his 12-year-old daughter Anna joined the family of Count von Ungern-Sternberg in Dresden for a memorable Christmas celebration.

Other American visitors to Germany – such as Charles Loring Brace, who witnessed a Christmas celebration in Berlin nearly 20 years later – considered it a specific German festival with the potential to pull people together.

For both Ticknor and Brace, this holiday tradition provided the emotional glue that could bring families and members of a nation together. In 1843 Ticknor invited . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

25 December 2021 at 12:34 pm

The value of defining your self and following your interests

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Kurt Vonnegut:

When was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.
And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.”

And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”

And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.

Written by Leisureguy

25 December 2021 at 9:00 am

The Tabular Self: Out-sourcing memory to material objects

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I’ve long recognized that people often out-source memory to things like journals, daybooks, photographs, and even material objects — cf. “souvenir“:

1775, “a remembrance or memory,” from French souvenir (12c.), from Old French noun use of souvenir (v.) “to remember, come to mind,” from Latin subvenire “come to mind,” from sub “up from below” (see sub-) + venire “to come,” from a suffixed form of Proto-Indo-European root *gwa- “to go, come.” Meaning “token of remembrance, memento” is first recorded 1782.

Sophie Haigney writes in The Cut:

The 20th century brought with it a deluge of paper. As American businesses expanded in both number and scale in the wake of the Civil War, so did their printed material; there were graphs, memos, charts, forms, and more correspondence than ever. This “paperization” eventually spilled into the home, where a rise in personal documentation meant that houses were filling up with bills, letters, tax forms, receipts, birth certificates, recipes clipped from magazines. As these archives ballooned, a new technology rose in popularity: the filing cabinet, whose history the scholar Craig Robertson documents in The Filing Cabinet: A Vertical History of Information. One 1918 advertisement described the filing cabinet as “oracle-like” with a “great gigantic memory”: “It is only a bit o’ steel, yet no brain was ever made / That could wholly supersede it with the busy business man.” The filing cabinet, then, was better than a human brain — it could hold and organize the entire contents of one’s professional and domestic life, broken down into discrete bits of information and made retrievable at will.

Not everyone was happy with the invention. The writer Montrose J. Moses was wary of how filing cabinets externalized personal memory: What would be the consequences of trying to turn every aspect of your life into “information” to be hoarded for later? “You can’t expect yourself to say, when you give your wife the first kiss, ‘File that, my dear, for future reference,’ ” he wrote in 1930.

Nearly a century later, Moses’s anxiety has become our reality. We are constantly turning our lives into data, much of it nonphysical: photographs and screenshots and stray notes, reams of text messages and bookmarked tabs and other digital detritus. I could tell you with a glance at my iPhone exactly where I was on October 24, 2015, or how many hours of sleep I got last night. This compendium of self-knowledge seems only to expand, prompting our devices to expand along with it: The first iPhone’s maximum storage space was 16 gigabytes, while the newest release offers a terabyte. By now, we may even rely on our devices’ memories so completely that we’ve lost our ability to recall things without them. But the contents of our digital memories have themselves grown unwieldy, fractured across multiple devices and accounts, impossible to process.

Amid this flood of data, a new category of app has emerged, one that promises to collect all the digital material we generate into one single, seamless interface. They are sometimes referred to as “knowledge-management systems” or “personal-knowledge bases,” though many users refer to them as simply “second brains.” The best known is Notion, which was released in 2016 and has grown from 1 million to more than 20 million users in the past two years (and was recently valued at $10 billion). There is Roam Research, founded in 2017, and Obsidian, founded in 2020, and Mem, which is in public beta. Like the filing cabinet for the pre-digital era, these apps are designed not only to store everything that our brains can’t hold — grocery lists, passwords, meditation schedules, work tasks — but also to make us better at retrieving the information in them. Instead of tabs and folders, they allow us to sort our archives into customizable, easy-to-navigate tables — and, in the case of Mem and Obsidian, can even show us how one piece of information (say, your to-do list) is related to another (notes from a recent meeting). “Our thinking is, If a thought can’t be retrieved, then it’s not a useful thought,” said Kevin Moody, the 26-year-old former Google employee who co-founded Mem, which recently raised $5.6 million in venture capital. Srinivas Rao, an author and podcast host who uses Mem, once described the app as “the closest thing I’ve seen to being able to upload your brain to the internet.”

These platforms have fostered thriving subcultures of devotees. Enthusiastic Roam users call themselves the Roamcult, and the Obsidian Discord server has nearly 50,000 members. On massive Facebook groups, fans who identify as “Notioneers” trade templates they’ve built on the platform: customized tables like “Plants Manager” or “Pokémon Collection Tracker” that others can download. There are certified Notion consultants who work to help businesses and people organize their lives using the app. There are Notion influencers who make instructional videos. On her YouTube channel, lifestyle influencer Michelle Barnes, who works with Notion, shows how she has organized her Notion into an enormous “Life Dash” that includes her master to-do list. That to-do list is further broken down into categories, including a list of things she wants to purchase accompanied by a “ Life Impact” column, in which she assigns a number to how much the item will improve her life. (“Buy blackout curtains for bedroom” gets an eight, while “Buy silver scissors” gets only a one.) These apps can often encourage a radical level of self-documentation, especially as  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2021 at 2:40 pm

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