Monthly Archives: November 2013

Going Dark

photo boothI’ll go dark for this week and the next while I’m in the US for the holidays. I won’t be traveling with a computer and will hope fully be returning with a new computer.

The iPad I’ve been using for the past two months since my computer stopped working Isn’t what I’d hoped it would be – a small replacement computer. An iPad is good for many things, but for writing I’m sticking with a regular computer.

Safer Sex

cloverBuilding the next generation condom, easier to use and more sensitive, will hopefully lead to safer sex.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took a step in that direction by setting up a design competition hopefully leading to a better condom that “significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use.”

The 11 winners of the competition’s first round, recently chosen from 812 applicants, will get $100,000 each to further develop their ideas. And, the final winner could get $1,000,000.

The 11 winners’ designs ranged from incorporating pull-on tabs or origami-like folds (vs rolled up) for speedier applications to using new materials that’re stronger and more sensitive than the traditional latex  for “reducing the loving distance between partners.”

It’s strange how little attention is given to overpopulation which is the source of many of our current problems. Maybe a new generation of condoms will encourage more widespread use of the humble condom to prevent disease and unplanned pregnancies which might chip away at the big problem of overpopulation.

MJ’s Reflection

on the benchThere’s a bigger boneyard of missed shots and lost games than most people are aware of. This is what Michael Jordan said about his success and failure, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

That’s not MJ sitting on a bench by a basketball court smoking a cigarette, in case you were wondering.

Future Expectations

not seeing the big pictureI have expectations for changes that’ll happen in the next couple of decades based on my feelings about the direction things are headed. They’re not based on one particular trend that’s going on now. Like those long skinny balloons clowns use, when one area is squished another area expands.

The declining interest in owning a car will continue, and bike commuting will increase – along with public transportation. One of the biggest steps toward a happier life turns out to be reducing your commute time, and as more people catch on to this it’ll speed up changes in transportation. Plus people will stop seeing a bike as something for recreation needing special clothes, gloves, and shoes. They’ll be able to use a bike like they use a train, without specialized gear.

If people start living closer to work they’ll pay more attention to where they’re spending their time, which might translate into more trees being planted in cities. This’ll create a visually more pleasant place to live in, and bring a bit of nature into city living.

Not something that’s a big deal, but I think people’s interest in diamond jewelry will decline. People will still buy jewelry and some diamonds but interest in  diamonds will decrease as people care less about displays of wealth and they’ll see there’s actually nothing special about a diamond except the marketing.

Harsh sentences and cruel punishments in the penal system will be addressed, maybe only due to the costs involved but probably out of moral concerns too.

Education will get cheaper and better via the internet, computers, and more productive interactions between teachers and student. As education improves the population will drop when people decide to have fewer kids to increase their standard of life and also realizing that most of the problems humans cause stem from there being too many of us.

Also related to increasing levels of education, will be the acceptance of the idea that having a good society to live in is more important to happiness than your place in that society. The result will be taxing extreme wealth. Wealth acquisition and competition will continue, and be encouraged, but extremes at the bottom and the top of society will be discouraged.

Twenty years ago, the sex advice columnist, Dan Savage was giving advice and discussing things that sounded  edgy. Today he’s still giving the same sort of advice but it’s no longer edgy, not because he changed, but because most of the country has caught up to him. So I’ll have to check back in twenty years with what I’m saying now and see how it holds up.

Value

marriedI think some things should be valued more than some of the things that we might value in their place. Here’re some that come to mind:

Our society used to value character, but now it values personality.

Not life, but a good life, should be chiefly valued.

When doing strength exercises, forget heavy and value effort.

Value good questions over bad answers.

The quality of a society is more valuable than your place in that society.

Being kinder is more valuable than being right.

Reframing failures as feedback creates value.

Value what you’re enthusiastic about, instead of pursuing comfort and luxury.

Trying to be consistently not stupid is more valuable than trying to always be intelligent.

Value curiosity about life in all of its aspects.

 

 

Why’s dessert last?

icecream - purpleIt’s  traditional, expected, and assumed that dessert comes after dinner.

Dessert is commonly the last thing we eat at night. If dessert is withheld, it’s thought of as a punishment.

No one I know routinely has dessert after breakfast or lunch.

Breakfast, lunch,  and dinner followed by dessert is the pattern our eating has taken on. But why?

The question came up after people found that taking a spoonful of honey just before going to bed resulted in a much better night’s sleep. They sleep through the night and awake feeling more rested. This effect happened only if sugar intake during the day was low and the spoonful of honey was taken on an empty stomach.

It is strange that we really like sugar even though it can destroy our health. Rice and  other starches provide us with carbs too but we don’t seek them out in the same way we do sugar. Sugars affect us differently than other carbs.

So why is dessert eaten separately and closest to when we go to sleep? Maybe because sleep is so important to maintaining good health. Our brains run on sugars that can’t be replenished for many hours while we’re asleep. So eating sweets as the last thing at night helps fuel the brain, which helps us to sleep better, which makes us healthier.

There’re other possibilities. Honey has other compounds other than the sugars and maybe those come into play.

In preagricultural times dessert would have been more likely to be fruit and only  available sometimes during the year. But in our time of plenty a spoonful of honey (on an empty stomach after not eating too many sweets during the day) seems to be a good thing and it might help explain why we eat dessert last.

Clippings

saying behave betterHere’re some clippings I’ve accumulated lately. I’ve altered some of the wording to make them more readable. I think they stand alone on their own merit without needing an attribute. But the second to last one is from Kurt Vonnegut, who was 84 years old.

– The confidence people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence but of the coherence of the story that their mind has managed to construct.

– Gossiping makes you untrustworthy.

– It’s not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it.

– It’s said that every mental disorder impairs your sense of humor, so maybe a sense of humor is a good marker for overall brain function. But what’s the evolutionary reason that humor exists? Maybe it helps in companion choice (spouse, lover, business partner, friend, student, teacher, etc.). We select people in many ways, maybe a sense of humor is a general signal of health.

– Thanks very much for your compliments on my [writing/illustration/whatever thing you do]. I’m flattered by your invitation to [do whatever it is they want you to do for nothing]. But [thing you do] is work, it takes time, it’s how I make my living, and in this economy I can’t afford to do it for free. I’m sorry to decline, but thanks again, sincerely, for your kind words about my work. – Tim Kreider’s template for responding to requests respectfully, but resolutely.

– Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience BECOMING, to find out what’s inside you.

– New York is a great place to visit. But if you live there full-time, it  turns your skull into a cage, your brain into a rat, and the city is just a stick poking the rat all day.

 

 

 

 

Some thoughts on cancer

The war on cancer was declared 42 years ago. By President Nixon.

When I  look around, the war is still underway. Three people in our town have recently died or will shortly. A family member of mine recently opted for a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

There has been progress but the war is still on, mostly focused on finding a cure.

As someone who’s not in the field of cancer research I’m left wondering about a few things.

Why isn’t more effort put into prevention? I can think of a few reasons that prevention research is less pursued.

Most Americans don’t want to alter their lifestyle. It’d be a hard sell suggesting less alcohol, eating less industrially produced food, maintaining a healthy weight and so on. People don’t want to have skin in the game, they’d rather dump their problems in the lap of their doctor.

Plus, people are a little wary because the recommendations for what’s healthy gets reversed sometimes, like eating low-fat, undermining  the public’s faith in what they’re told.

Prevention is low-tech. Most of the money, prestige, and awards go to researchers at medical centers where the focus is high-tech. Alcohol consumption, smoking, diet, chemical exposure are low-tech and low profit too – not much research interest.

But think about this. The US tops the rest of the world in (age-adjusted) breast cancer rates with incidences of around 120 per 100,000 women. Compare this to just 20-30 per 100,000 in poorer countries. It implies to me that lifestyle and/or environment probably deserve some more attention.

Women who’ve done shift work for thirty years have a correlation with breast cancer. Is it the disruption to sleep that’s a problem? Profoundly blind women have half as much breast cancer as sighted women. There’ve been suggestions that modern life with more light at night and exposure to computer light too at night might interfere with hormones like melatonin or resetting others.

Poorer women have more pregnancies and breast feed for longer meaning they have fewer menstrual cycles during their lives. So generally women in the US have more periods during their lives exposing them to more hormones than women in less developed countries are exposed to.

I don’t know what the answer is, but there’s room for improvement and it seems like, as unsexy as it is, preventing cancer is important too.