All posts by Stocker Cary

Whitehouse woes

Have you heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? It’s the phenomenon in which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence. Looking at the situation in the Whitehouse from the outside and without all the data, President Trump looks like the poster boy for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

So is Trump the orange tapeworm of American politics or a victim of an enormous witch hunt?  It seems like we’re getting ready to find out.

If he is a problem, I hope the medicine required to expel him isn’t too disruptive to the system. Maybe he’ll step down to save face, which will be the least disruptive medicine.

A generational shift

How many people under 30 use a wristwatch? Not many. They grew up using a cellphone for a time piece. These snippets of info about US golf courses shutting down might be another interesting generational shift:

”Playing golf was once a celebrated pastime. But today, many of the country’s golf courses are on the brink of shutting down or have already closed. Over 800 golf courses have shuttered across the US in the past decade, and data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association has shown that millennials between the ages of 18 and 30 lack interest in playing the game.”

Do the closures reflect changing preferences for leisure activities? Since 2003, participation in golf is down 20% according to the National Golf Foundation. Plus, Nike and Adidas have stopped making golf clubs. I haven’t met many young people who play golf, most golfer I know are well past fifty.

What happens to the real estate occupied by those shuttered 800 golf courses? Maybe there’s a higher or better use for land than as golf courses. Some have donated golf course land to nature trusts and local parks, taking a tax break in return for preserving the open space. That also alleviates the fertilizers and pesticides that are needed to maintain a golf course.

The golf industry went through a building boom in the 1990s and early 2000s, driven by developers using the golf courses to help sell homes. Many shuttered courses were built on land that’s protected from redevelopment either by local zoning codes seeking to preserve open space, or by deed restrictions intended to protect homeowners who paid a premium to live near a golf course. What will they do?

I’m not for or against playing golf, but I’m curious to see how this will unfold.

Plants reaching out

We can’t perceive changes in plants because any position changes they make are too slow to be notable in realtime.

By using time-lapsed photography, some plant “movement” can be sped up. I don’t know the best descriptive word to use, but there seems to be some intention, plan, or drive behind some plant movements.

Check out Michael Pollan discussing how time-lapse photography reveals the hidden life of plants, pretty interesting.

 

Squatting article

After leaving childhood, our ability to get into a deep squat gradually disappears, at least for most of us in the Western world. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here’re a couple of points, and a workout, from a New Yorker article by Jamie Lauren Keiles that will help reclaim your squat.

Trainer and author Mark Rippetoe writes, “A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong. This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence.”

The (workout) app was designed by the Belgian fitness expert Mehdi Hadim, based on a classic five-by-five routine—five sets of five reps for each of the lifts, increasing the weight with each successive workout.

On Workout A days, I row, bench press, and squat. On Workout B days, I deadlift, do overhead presses, and squat again.

Tyler Cowen and reading

Here’re a couple of observations from Ryan Holiday about Tyler Cowen the bestselling author, economist and thinker. Tyler has a blog called Marginal Revolution that I check daily.

Read However You Want — People are amazed at how much Tyler reads (it’s a lot) but they miss that he has his own set of rules for doing it. He skips around. He quits books he doesn’t like. He might read a novel from only the perspective of one of the characters. He’ll ruin the ending. He just does whatever—and so should you. This isn’t for a test. It’s for your own enjoyment (he does the same with movies apparently).

Knowledge Compounds — I think what he’s also saying there is that the value of reading compounds over time. Reading more makes you a better and faster reader, learning about stuff makes it easier and faster for you to learn more.

I read a lot, but I haven’t found that I’m reading faster as time goes by.

Meat at a wedding

Developing stone tools along with  controlling fire initiated a nutritional revolution for our ancestors. Until blades chipped from stone were employed in East Africa some 3.4 million years ago,  our hominid forebears couldn’t slash through an animal’s hide to access nutrient dense meat and organs.

Partly due to the fat and protein rich food available after stone tools came along, our ancestors’ brain and body size increased rapidly, culminating in the emergence of anatomically modern humans about 200,000 years ago.

More recently… About a week ago, I went to a family wedding. This meant I knew many of the people there. It was great catching up with folks I hadn’t seen in many years and meeting their kids for the first time.

Out of all the people there, my vegetarian and vegan relatives seemed to be the least hardy. I wasn’t quizzing people about their diets, I found out they didn’t eat meat because of the special considerations the party givers made.

To go back in time again, the Americas were likely populated during an ice age when sea levels were much lower resulting a pretty big stretch of land between Siberia and Alaska allowing humans and animals to simply walk from Asia to North America.

We forget that 95% of human history happened before the rise of agriculture when we spent most of our history wandering over both land and water.

Why did our ancestors wander so far and wide? Hard to know really, but part of my guess is that they were following and looking for animals to eat.

Our culture and concepts have outpaced our biology, meaning  just believing that you shouldn’t eat meat (no matter the reason) is probably sub optimal for your health. I appreciate not eating meat, but I don’t think it’s ideal for health.

Bananas

You need the right key to open a lock, and can’t be sure you have the right one unless you can try the key in the lock. So psychiatrists usually won’t make a diagnosis from afar. But sometimes a person’s behavior is unusual and problematic enough that a professional feels compelled to say something. Earlier this month, two prestigious psychiatrists sent this opinion piece into the NYT:

 ‘Protect Us From This Dangerous President,’ 2 Psychiatrists Say
March 8, 2017

To the Editor:

Soon after the election, one of us raised concerns about Donald Trump’s fitness for office, based on the alarming symptoms of mental instability he had shown during his campaign. Since then, this concern has grown. Even within the space of a few weeks, the demands of the presidency have magnified his erratic patterns of behavior.

In particular, we are struck by his repeated failure to distinguish between reality and fantasy, and his outbursts of rage when his fantasies are contradicted. Without any demonstrable evidence, he repeatedly resorts to paranoid claims of conspiracy.

Most recently, in response to suggestions of contact between his campaign and agents of the Russian government, he has issued tirades against the press as an “enemy of the people” and accusations without proof that his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, engaged in partisan surveillance against him.

We are in no way offering a psychiatric diagnosis, which would be unwise to attempt from a distance. Nevertheless, as psychiatrists we feel obliged to express our alarm. We fear that when faced with a crisis, President Trump will lack the judgment to respond rationally.

The military powers entrusted to him endanger us all. We urge our elected representatives to take the necessary steps to protect us from this dangerous president.

JUDITH L. HERMAN
ROBERT JAY LIFTON, NEW YORK

Dr. Herman is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Lifton is a lecturer in psychiatry at Columbia University and professor emeritus at CUNY.

I’ve often wondered how mental health professionals evaluate their patients and arrive at the treatment options for them. What is taught in four years of residency, for example, that gives that young person deep insights into the mental state of another person? It seems like a short time to get (some) people tuned into what’s happening at a profound level in someone else. Anyway, in general that training is recognized as effective and these two high level practitioners sound very concerned about President Trump’s inner world and its possible negative effects on the rest of us.

Good bike locks

The Ultimate Guide to Ensuring That Your Bike Never Gets Stolen Again in Outside magazine explores the best bike lock options for finding your bike right where you left it. Here’re what I thought were the highlights.

The FBI claims 205,000 bicycles, worth maybe $80 million new, were stolen in 2015. Some say those numbers are conservative because bike theft is widely underreported.

In terms of packaging and strength, reputable U-locks are still the best single bike lock to purchase. They’re less fallible than virtually any other bike lock available. Bike theft is largely Darwinian: the strongest locks frequently survive.

Kryptonite’s New York Fahgettaboudit Mini is a U-lock that resembles a bank safe. Its hardened-steel shackle measures 18 millimeters in diameter, and its crossbar is as thick as a bratwurst. The shackle locks at both ends making it more resistant to prying/leveraged destruction and forces a thief to cut through both arms of the shackle to free a bike.But it’s heavy, nearly five pounds, as much as three full water bottles.

For everyday use, what I wanted something reassuringly sturdy but lighter, more versatile, and less expensive. Enter the Abus Granit Plus 640 ($100). The Abus locks also twice at each end of its 12-millimeter-diameter specially hardened shackle and has its locking mechanism set in the middle of the crossbar. The lockable area approximates the New York Mini’s, meaning a tight fit in terms of proper locking so there’s less room to slide in a prying tool. The Granit’s best quality: it weighs a slim 1.75 pounds.

In terms of value and convenience, the Kryptonite Messenger Mini+ is my top pick. It features an ingenious but unobtrusive second locking loop that makes the lock more versatile. The locking area of the main shackle is slightly more generous than those of the others I tried, your best parking option has a fatter anchoring point. The second locking loop provides the real magic. The main shackle threads through the second locking loop’s two rings. Use the second loop to secure a  chunky rear wheel. Or it can secure your (removed) front wheel. You can also leave the extra loop at home if it’s unnecessary for the day’s two-wheel journey.

The Knog Frankie is an outlier. The rubbery, lime-colored, cartoonish-looking cable lock is only about 28 inches long. But for only $27, you get a 14-ounce package with an incorporated (and thus unsnappable) lock that a thief, with only bolt cutters, will hate. I did. It took several minutes of my grunting effort to sever the thick and gummy silicone sheath, along with a six-millimeter braided-steel cable over a fiber core. Don’t ask the Frankie to fly solo, but as a minimalist second lock for running errands, the Knog felt reassuring.

The best balance of function, portability, versatility, and value came from combining the Kryptonite Messenger Mini+ with the Knog Frankie. In general, I’d feel secure employing that pair of locks anywhere, from errands to a lingering breakfast to a music festival.

The return of a classic

Before the smartphone came along there were phones like the Nokia 3310.

Since 2000 Nokia has sold 126 million of the original version. Today sometimes smartphone owners pine for a simpler, cheaper, and less intrusive cell phone.

Later this year, Nokia is bringing back an updated version of the 3310, keeping the name the same.

It’ll be fairly basic by modern phone standards. But for around $50 you’ll get a smaller, thinner, and lighter Nokia 3310 with a bigger screen, and a better camera.

The battery life is 31 days on standby and 22 hours of talk time. So what, if you forget to charge it.