Category Archives: Happiness

Keep it simple

Try to keep things simple. For example, find out what you aren’t good at and don’t do that. Or, from Warren Buffett, “Rule #1: Never lose money. Rule #2: Never forget rule #1.”

It boils down to trying to see the situation clearly and not making mistakes.

Believing that people use reasoning when making important decisions sometimes leads to disappointment. Here’s situation I read somewhere:

“If you play a slot machine long enough, eventually you’ll…what?” The whole group yelled out “WIN!” Well actually, everyone’s a loser in the long run, except for the casino.

They confused the benefits of persistence with the actual odds of succeeding.

It’s the same thing for folks playing the lottery, it’s a loser’s game made for people who’re bad at math.

Try to figure out if the game is rigged, and if you’re good, or not, at playing that game.

Sleeping

Here’s some highlights on the importance of sleep from an article in The Guardian.

  • After being awake for 19 hours, you’re as cognitively impaired as someone who is drunk.
  • Two-thirds of adults in developed nations fail to obtain eight hours of sleep.
  • If you drive having had only four hours of sleep, you’re 11.5 times more likely to be involved in an accident.
  • To successfully initiate sleep, your core temperature needs to drop about 1C.
  • A hot bath aids sleep because your dilated blood vessels radiate inner heat, and your core body temperature drops.
  • The time taken to reach physical exhaustion by athletes who obtain less than eight hours of sleep, and especially less than six hours, drops by 10-30%.
  • It’s a myth that older adults need less sleep.
  • Morning types, who prefer to awake around dawn, make up about 40% of the population. Evening types, who prefer to go to bed late and wake up late, account for about 30%. The remaining 30% lie somewhere in between.

Matthew Walker is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at UC, Berkeley and was formerly a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Walker has written “Why We Sleep,”  examining the powerful links between sleep loss and Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health. “No aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation,” he says.

“First, we electrified the night,” Walker says. “Second, our work: not only the porous borders between start and finish, but longer commuter times, too. No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead. And anxiety plays a part. We’re a lonelier, more depressed society.”

But Walker also says that in the developed world, sleep is strongly associated with weakness, even shame, “We have stigmatised sleep with the label of laziness.”

More than 20 large scale epidemiological studies all report the clear relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. To take just one example, adults aged 45 years or older who sleep less than six hours a night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime.

By looking at the brainwave patterns of people with different forms of dementia, sleep could be a new early diagnostic litmus test for different subtypes of dementia.

A lack of sleep also appears to hijack the body’s effective control of blood sugar, the cells become less responsive to insulin causing a prediabetic state of hyperglycaemia. When your sleep becomes short you’re susceptible to weight gain. Among the reasons for this are the fact that inadequate sleep decreases levels of the satiety-signalling hormone, leptin, and increases levels of the hunger-signalling hormone, ghrelin. “I’m not going to say that the obesity crisis is caused by the sleep-loss epidemic alone. It’s not. However, processed food and sedentary lifestyles don’t adequately explain its rise. Something’s missing. It’s now clear that sleep is that third ingredient.”

Getting too little sleep across the adult lifespan will significantly raise your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In essence it has to do with amyloid deposits (a toxin protein) accumulating in the brains of those suffering from the disease, killing the surrounding cells. During deep sleep, such deposits are effectively cleaned from the brain. Without sufficient sleep, these plaques build up, especially in the brain’s deep-sleep-generating regions, attacking and degrading them. The loss of deep sleep caused by this assault therefore lessens our ability to remove them from the brain at night. More amyloid, less deep sleep; less deep sleep, more amyloid, and so on.

Sleep aids our ability to make new memories, and restores our capacity for learning.

A lack of sleep also affects our mood more generally. Brain scans carried out by Walker revealed a 60% amplification in the reactivity of the amygdala – a key spot for triggering anger and rage – in those who were sleep-deprived.

We sleep in 90-minute cycles, and it’s only towards the end of each one of these that we go into deep sleep. Each cycle comprises two kinds of sleep. First, there is NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement sleep); this is then followed by REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

“During NREM sleep, your brain goes into this incredible synchronised pattern of rhythmic chanting,” he says. “There’s a remarkable unity across the surface of the brain, like a deep, slow mantra. Vast amounts of memory processing is going on. To produce these brainwaves, hundreds of thousands of cells all sing together, and then go silent, and on and on. Meanwhile, your body settles into this lovely low state of energy, the best blood-pressure medicine you could ever hope for. REM sleep, on the other hand, is sometimes known as paradoxical sleep, because the brain patterns are identical to when you’re awake. It’s an incredibly active brain state. Your heart and nervous system go through spurts of activity: we’re still not exactly sure why.”

Does the 90-minute cycle mean that so-called power naps are worthless? “They can take the edge off basic sleepiness. But you need 90 minutes to get to deep sleep, and one cycle isn’t enough to do all the work. You need four or five cycles to get all the benefit.”

Walker says, “I give myself a non-negotiable eight-hour sleep opportunity every night, and I keep very regular hours. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. I take my sleep incredibly seriously because I have seen the evidence.”

How is it possible to tell if a person is sleep-deprived? Walker thinks we should trust our instincts. Those who would sleep on if their alarm clock was turned off are simply not getting enough. Ditto those who need caffeine in the afternoon to stay awake. “I see it all the time,” he says. “I get on a flight at 10am when people should be at peak alert, and I look around, and half of the plane has immediately fallen asleep.”

Assholery

Whatever differences you might have had with President Obama, one thing you couldn’t say about him was that he was an asshole. The same thing goes for the presidents before him.

Now we have President Trump who many,even in his own party, feel is an asshole. Not too presidential unfortunately.

Here’s my shortened version of an interview with a Stanford psychologist about his book on dealing with assholes. It seems timely.

An asshole is someone who leaves us feeling demeaned, de-energized, disrespected, and/or oppressed. In other words, someone who makes you feel like dirt.

An asshole needs someone in their life to tell them they’re being an asshole.

There’s a distinction between temporary and certified assholes. Anyone, under certain conditions, can be a temporary asshole.  It’s more complicated than saying a certified asshole is someone who doesn’t care about other people. Certifiable assholes actually want to make you feel hurt and upset, and take pleasure in that.

Assuming you’re not the CEO and can’t simply fire an asshole, you have to do two things in terms of strategy.

First, you’ve got to build your case and a coalition. A important distinction is that some people are clueless assholes and don’t realize they’re jerks, but maybe they mean well. In that situation, you can have backstage conversations, gently informing them that they’ve crossed a line.

But if it’s one of those Machiavellian assholes who’s treating you badly because they believe that’s how to get ahead,  then you’ve got to get out of there if you can.

Say you have an asshole boss, there’s a power asymmetry, so it’s not as simple as telling him he’s an asshole. What’s your advice?

First, can you quit or transfer? If you’re stuck under a asshole, that means you’re suffering and you should get out – it’s that simple.

The second question is, if you must endure, are you going to fight or are you just going to take it? If you’re going to fight, you need a plan and a posse, you need to collect your evidence, and then you have to take your chances.

Try to have as little contact as possible with assholes.

One of the simplest, but admittedly hardest, things is learning not to give a shit – which takes the wind out of an asshole’s sails. When an asshole’s being nasty to you, ignore him.

Think about how a year from now he won’t be in your life, but he’ll still be the asshole he always was.

What if you’ve got an asshole as a peer or a colleague? Your chances of getting rid of them are higher because you have more power.

I’m in academia, which means there’re lots of assholes we can’t fire. But we can absolutely freeze them out. Don’t  invite them to events or gatherings. We can shun them politely and smile at them as necessary, but other than that we just ignore them. That’s how we deal with assholes.

But there’re some situations in which you may have to be an asshole to survive because you’ve got no choice but to push back against them. This isn’t ideal, but if that’s what you have to do, then that’s what you do.

If somebody has a history of hurting you, and they have a Machiavellian personality, the only thing they’ll understand is a display of force. The best way to protect yourself is firing back with everything you’ve got.

Some people deserve and need to be treated badly. Sometimes you have to speak in the only language they understand, and that means  getting your hands dirty.

We know that assholes have a corrosive effect on the people around them. There’re studies demonstrating that people working for assholes for many years end up being more depressed, more anxious, and less healthy. So there’s compelling evidence that assholes are terrible humans doing harm to other people.

What else is there to say? If you’re an asshole, you’re a failure as a human because you promote unnecessary suffering.

The giving pledge

Jeff Bezos is a clever guy with unique approaches in business. Now he’s reached out through Twitter for philanthropy ideas to address problems “here and now,” it could be a new direction for philanthropy.

Some people feel like alleviating  misery better use of their money than promoting joys – like orchestras, university programs, and the like. Both are doing good and sharing wealth with society at large.

Lots of the very wealthiest people join Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, promising to give away most of their wealth during their lifetime.

As part of their pledge, they write letters describing their giving philosophies. For example, George B. Kaiser, an Oklahoma oil and finance guy purportedly worth about $8 billion wrote this

“I recognized early on that my good fortune was not due to superior personal character or initiative so much as it was to dumb luck. I was blessed to be born in an advanced society with caring parents. So, I had the advantage of both genetics … and upbringing.”

He feels “morally bound to help those left behind by the accident of birth. Though almost all of us grew up believing in the concept of equal opportunity, most of us simultaneously carried the unspoken and inconsistent ‘dirty little secret’ that genetics drove much of accomplishment so that equality was not achievable.”

By channeling a lot of his giving to early childhood education he hopes to promote kids’ genetic endowments.

As Bezos’s wealth climbs, it’s around billion and growing, it’ll be interesting to see what impact his philanthropy has.

The extra cookie

I ran across this interesting metaphorical story on Kottke.org that uses a cookie to illustrate the connection between luck and privilege. I’ve shortened it a little:

In 2012, Michael Lewis gave the commencement speech at Princeton, his alma mater. Near the end of his speech, Lewis, who wrote Moneyball and The Big Short, addressed luck’s role in rationalizing success. He told the graduates, who’re already winners in so many of life’s lotteries, that they “owe a debt to the unlucky.” 

A few years ago, a psychology department staged an experiment using students. They broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams into a room, arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader and gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.

Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there.

It should’ve been awkward. But it wasn’t. With incredible consistency the arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it. Not only ate it, but ate it with gusto: lips smacking, mouth open, drool at the corners of their mouths.

This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He’d been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.

This experiment helps to explain Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay, and I’m sure lots of other human behavior. But it also is relevant to new graduates of Princeton. In a general sort of way you have been appointed the leader of the group.

Your appointment may not be entirely arbitrary. But you must sense its arbitrary aspect: you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything.

All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.

Silos and stockpiling

 

An article in the New Yorker described how some wealthy Wall Street and Silicon Valley folks are preparing for big catastrophes by buying luxury condos in decommissioned US missile silos, or creating large stockpiles of food and other necessities.

If there is a complete collapse of civilization, I don’t think they’ll last very long hunkered down. Stronger, tougher people will find them and take what they need from them.

Consider the highly trained US soldiers who’ve been discharged into the general population or the many highly skilled hunters and outdoors people. Do you think those types are going out without a fight?

One of the wealthy interviewees said the super rich will be better off spending to make our society stronger not trying to create a stronghold for themselves.

Anyway, if there’s a calamity, knowing about hedge funds won’t be as useful as just having a down jacket and a positive attitude.

What’s the best way to survive a rocky ride? Start with how you perceive the world. Like a hummingbird’s beating wings, your brain is constantly putting out 300 to 1000 words every minute. Feelings (anger, shame, delight) appear almost instantly. Left alone they don’t last very long. But when you invent negative narratives around events, feelings can go for a very long time.

You can feel impulses, think, and experience situations without becoming hampered by mental narratives about how things should or shouldn’t  be. Navy SEALs deal with stressful situations and work to keep the chatter in their heads positive by shifting how they frame  situations.

They view setbacks like this: View bad things are temporary, tell yourself, “That happens occasionally, it’s no big deal.” Understand that bad things have a specific cause and aren’t universal, by reminding yourself, “When the weather’s better that won’t be a problem.” And realize it’s not your fault and say, “I’m good at this but today was just an unlucky day.”

They use goal setting too. When your mind says, “I need X to be happy,” SEALs are taught to set goals properly by setting goals for very short chunks of time, like making it to lunch, then dinner. But it’s enough to keep them going when their body is screaming for them to quit.

And what happened when they achieve those goals? They set new ones. The focus is on always improving because nothing motivates you better than seeing progress. The first time I ran in a marathon, instead of thinking about needing to cover 26 miles, I’d pick someone just ahead of me to catch, then pick another runner a little bit ahead as that person slowed. It worked really well.

Don’t wait until you’re in a grave situation to implement using positive framing and small goal setting. Practice during low stress situations so they become habits. Make positive deals with yourself all the time.

In the military they say, “Train like you fight,” not, “O.K., when it’s for real then we’ll really ramp up.”  Because that’s not what happens. You need to train as hard and as realistically as possible. Otherwise, you won’t rise to the occasion, you’ll likely sink to the lowest level of your training.

Good luck in that missile silo!

Reasons that 2016 was a good year

To all my regular readers, starting today, on Fridays I’ll post something interesting I’ve run across on the internet. Here the first one:

Despite all the grim news we read and hear about, there is good news too. Future Crunch collected 99 of them from 2016 and here they are:

1.British Columbia protected 85% of one of the world’s largest temperate rainforests. Reuters

2. In February, Peru and Bolivia signed a $500 million deal to preserve Lake Titicaca. HNGN

3. In March, the US government abandoned its plan for oil and gas drilling in Atlantic waters, reversing its decision from a year ago. Guardian

4. After nearly 13 years of difficult negotiations, Malaysia established a 1 million hectare marine park that pioneers a mixed-use approach to marine conservation. Guardian

5. In 2016, more than 20 countries pledged more than $5.3 billion for ocean conservation and created 40 new marine sanctuaries covering an area of 3.4 million square km. Reuters

6. That included a new record holder for the world’s biggest marine reserve, off the coast of Antarctica. National Geographic

7. New research showed that acid pollution in the atmosphere is now almost back to the level that it was before it started with industrialisation in the 1930s. Science Bulletin

8. In 2012, the US and Mexico embarked on an unprecedented binational project to revive the Colorado River. By 2016, the results had astonished everyone. Audubon

9. In December, the United States and Canada announced a joint permanent ban on all offshore oil and gas activity in the Arctic. CBC News

10. The World Health Organisation released a report showing that, since the year 2000, global malaria deaths have declined by 60%. WHO

11. In 2016, some of the world’s biggest diseases, like colon cancer, dementia and heart disease, started declining in wealthy countries. New York Times

12. A new study from the world’s leading health journal reported that the number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth has almost halved since 1990. Guardian

13. Fresh evidence showed that public smoking bans have improved health in 21 nations. Wiley Blackwell

14. Uruguay won a major case against Philip Morris in a World Bank ruling, setting a precedent for other small countries that want to deter tobacco use. CS Monitor

15. Malawi achieved a 67% reduction in the number of children acquiring HIV, the biggest success story across all sub-Saharan nations. Since 2006, they’ve saved 260,000 lives. Al Jazeera

16. Child mortality rates came down by 12% in Russia. Article

17. Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since 2000, thanks to improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control and expanded access to ARVs. Quartz

18. Mobile phones made significant inroads in the fight against rabies, a disease which kills more people annually than all terrorists combined. Ars Technica

19. Thailand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. World Health Organisation

20. Harvard scientists created a new platform for antibiotic discovery that may help solve the crisis of antibiotic resistance. GEN

21. Liberia was officially cleared of Ebola, meaning there are now no known cases of the deadly tropical virus left in West Africa. Vanguard

22. The WHO announced that measles have been eradicated in all of the Americas, from Canada to Chile. It’s the first time the disease has been eliminated from an entire world region. NBC

23. The proportion of older US adults with dementia, including Alzheimer’s declined from 11.6% in 2000 to 8.8% in 2012, a decrease of about a million people. Scientific American

24. The number of cigarette smokers in the US dropped by 8.6 million since 2005. That fall will be accelerated by a tobacco tax just passed in California. NPR

25. 93% of kids around the world learned to read and write this year. That’s the highest proportion in human history. And the gender gap between girls and boys in school narrowed in 2016 too. Medium

26. In 2016, for the first time ever, the amount of money it would take to end poverty dropped below the amount of money spent on foreign aid. Vox

27. World hunger reached its lowest point in 25 years. New York Times

28. In February, Ontario announced a $100 million initiative to curb violence against indigenous women. The Star

29. Myanmar swore in its first elected civilian leader in more than 50 years. BBC

30. Black incarceration rates fell in the United States. Not fast enough, but certainly something worth celebrating. Washington Post

31. In 1990, more than 60% of people in East Asia lived in extreme poverty. As of 2016, that proportion has dropped to 3.5%. Vox

32. Homelessness in the United States declined by 35% since 2007, and Los Angeles committed to $1.2 billion to help get more people off the street. CS Monitor

33. Taiwan is on the verge of becoming the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. New York Times

34. Gambia and Tanzania banned child marriage, following sustained lobbying by civil society groups. Independent

35. In June, after years of wrangling, the drive to end female genital mutilation in Africa made a major breakthrough, when the Pan African Parliament endorsed a continent-wide ban. The Wire

36. Germany took on rape culture, introducing a law to broaden the definition of sex crimes by zoning in on the issue of consent. Catalogue

37. Two weeks before Brexit, the African Union announced a new single African passport that permits holders to enter any of the 54 AU member states without a visa. Washington Post

38. The United States now feeds healthy lunches to more than 30 million children, is about to ban trans fats, and has enacted one of the biggest overhauls of nutrition labels in decades. Vox

39. Italy became the last large Western country to recognise same-sex unions in 2016, following a long-running battle by campaigners. Independent

40. Denmark became the first country to no longer define being transgender as a mental illness, and Canada announced a ban on transgender discrimination. Telegraph.

41. 2016 marked the 24th year in a row that teenage pregnancy rates declined in the United Kingdom and the United States.

42. The Paris Agreement became the fastest (and largest) United Nations treaty to go from agreement to international law in modern history. CBS

43. Global carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels did not grow at all in 2016. It’s the third year in a row emissions have flatlined. Scientific American

44. Thanks to rapid technological innovation and political support from around the world, renewables now account for more newly installed capacity than any other form of electricity in the world, including coal.. Gizmodo

45. The Chinese government placed a ban on new coal mines, created new rules for grid access and doubled its renewables targets for 2020. WRI

46. India announced it won’t need any new coal plants for the next three years because it’s flush with generation capacity. Times of India

47. In April, the UK’s Chatham House released a report saying “Big Oil is screwed.” Chatham House

48. In the same month, 25% of European countries announced that they had quit coal. EcoWatch

49. The BRICS New Development Bank approved $1 billion in renewables investments in China, Brazil, South Africa and India. RT

50. In 2016 Costa Rica ran solely on renewable energy for over 100 days. Now it’s aiming for an entire year with no fossil fuels. The Independent

51. In July, the USA, Mexico and Canada committed to getting 50 per cent of their electricity from renewables by 2025. Their leaders also nailed the awkward handshake thing. Time

52. A new report showed that China reached peak coal in 2014. A landmark moment in the fight against climate change that was reported by every media outlet on the planet. Right? Guardian

53. China installed 20GW of solar in the first half of 2016, three times as much as during the same period a year ago. Reuters

54. In October, the International Energy Agency reported that half a million solar panels were installed each day around the world in 2015. It also drastically increased its five year growth forecast for renewables. IEA

55. In the same month, 197 countries agreed to drastically reduce their use of HFCs, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation agreed to measures to combat the impact of flying on greenhouse gas emissions. Scientific American

56. The world’s biggest offshore wind farm received the go ahead for its second phase. Guardian

57. Mexico announced $6 billion in renewables investments, Argentina $2.7 billion, Scotland connected underwater turbines to its grid for the first time, and solar energy generated more power than coal in the United Kingdom. Independent UK

58. In November, India unveiled the world’s largest solar power plant, and revealed that it is now on track to be the world’s third biggest solar market in 2017. Al Jazeera

59. And in the same month, the United Kingdom agreed to phase out coal by 2025, France said it would get there by 2023, and Germany promised to reduce emissions by 95% by 2050. Guardian

60. Following the end of conflict in Colombia in 2016, all of the war in the world is now limited to an arc that contains less than a sixth of the world’s population. Associated Press

61. ISIS quietly started preparing its followers for the eventual collapse of the caliphate it proclaimed with great fanfare two years ago. New Yorker

62. In April, a new report revealed that for the first time ever, the death penalty has become illegal in more than half of the world’s countries. Article

63. Juarez, in Mexico, used to be the world’s most dangerous city. In 2016, crime came down and residents started losing their fear. National Geographic

64. Crime rates in the Netherlands plummeted, with total recorded crime shrinking by 25% in the last eight years. One third of the country’s prison cells are now empty. Dutch News

65. Three years ago Honduras was the most dangerous place on earth. Since then community crime programs have achieved a remarkable reduction in violence. New York Times

66. According to US mayors, 2016 celebrated years of positive gains in US cities. Politico

67. Good science and simple economics have started a reversal in overfishing in the United States. New York Times

68. Norway became the first country in the world to commit to zero deforestation. The Independent

69. In June, a new survey showed that the ozone hole has shrunk by more than 3.9 million square kilometres since 2006. Scientists now think it will now be fully healed by 2050. Sydney Morning Herald

70. In July, more than 800,000 volunteers in India planted 50 million trees in one day. The country is planning on reforesting 12% of its land. National Geographic

71. Later that month, Israel revealed that it now makes 55% of its freshwater. That means that one of the driest countries on earth now has more water than it needs. Ensia

72. McDonalds announced it would be removing corn syrup from its hamburger buns and removed antibiotics from its chicken months ahead of schedule. CNBC

73. By August, every major grocery and fast-food chain in the US had pledged to use only cage-free eggs by 2025. Washington Post

74. The average number of large oil spills around the world has been drastically reduced, from an average of 24.5 per year in the 1970s, to just 1.8 a year in 2015. ITOPF

75. The citizens of Mumbai conducted the largest beach clean-up in human history, removing more than 4000 tonnes of rubbish. Washington Post

76. Plastic bag use plummeted in England thanks to the introduction of a 5p charge in 2015. BBC

77. The Italian government overwhelmingly backed a new set of laws aimed at cutting down the vast amounts of food wasted in the country each year. Independent

78. In December, four of the world’s biggest cities, Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City, agreed to ban diesel cars from their centres. Guardian

79. At this year’s CITES conference, 183 countries agreed to the strongest protections ever for endangered animals, with big wins for parrots, rhinos, porpoises, rays and elephants. Washington Post

80. In February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the global manatee population is no longer endangered. Scientific American

81. Wild wolves started coming back to Europe, and for the first time since the American Revolution, wild salmon began spawning in the Connecticut River. Al Jazeera

82. In March, Yellowstone’s grizzly bears passed a major milestone, completing one of the greatest wildlife comeback stories in history. National Geographic

83. Fifty years ago, the Columbian white-tailed deer population was 450 animals. This year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service took it off the endangered list. CS Monitor

84. Green sea turtles in Florida and Mexico were taken off the endangered list. Huffington Post

85. Sea World agreed to stop breeding captive killer whales. NPR

86. Humpback whales were removed from the endangered species list, having fully recovered in the last 46 years. Science Mag

87. The US finalized new regulations to shut down commercial elephant ivory trade within its borders and stop wildlife crime overseas. WWF

88. Mongolia created one of the world’s largest protected areas for snow leopards. Snow Leopard Trust

89. In September, giant pandas became the latest species to be taken off the endangered list. Guardian

90. And in 2016, for the first time, we heard that the number of tigers in the wild rose for the first time in 100 yearsNational Geographic

91. At the beginning of the year, we heard that global spending on aid and development increased by 7%, and spending on refugees has doubled. OECD

92. In April, Pony Ma Huateng, the chief executive of the Chinese internet giant Tencent, donated $2 billion to charity. South China Morning Post

93. 2015 was America’s most generous year ever, with charitable donations from individuals, estates, foundations and corporations reaching record highs. 2016 is on track to be even bigger. Associated Press

94. In 2016, charitable giving in China rose to $15 billion, a 10 fold increase from just a decade ago Bloomberg

95. Online crowdfunding raised almost $1 million for the kids of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile to go to college.

96. Warren Buffett gave $2.9 billion to charity, again. And his son, a farmer and environmentalist, quietly continued to spend his billion dollar inheritance on sustainable agriculture and hunger eradication. The Atlantic

97. The Gates Foundation announced another $5 billion in charity for Africa.

98. Germany took in an additional 300,000 refugees in 2016, despite growing concerns about integration and a backlash from populists. Guardian

99. In Canada, hockey moms, poker buddies and neighbors took in Syrian refugees, one family at a time. New York Times

It’s mostly pretty good

get-paranoidSeth Godin writes one of the few blogs I’ve followed for years. He has a huge tribe of fans and I’m one of them. When you see him on stage in a video presentation, Seth is a skinny bald guy rocking baggy shirts and suits that are too big on him and his voice is kinda nasal, so it must be substance over style that’s propelled him.

Another blog I follow is Marginal Revolution by the economist Tyler Cowen. He’s another case of substance trumping nerdy professor style. He posts so many ideas it’s hard to believe.

I think there’s never been a better time to be alive and living in a modern economy even with its real and often imagined ups and downs.

Here’re two quick posts from Seth followed by one from Tyler:

 

Making a new decision based on new information by Seth Godin

This is more difficult than it sounds. To some people, it means admitting you were wrong.(But of course, you weren’t wrong. You made a decision based on one set of facts, but now you’re aware of something new.)

To some people, sunk costs are a real emotional hot button, and walking away from investments of time, of money, and mostly, of commitment, is difficult. (But of course, ignoring sunk costs is a key to smart decision making).

And, to some people, the peer pressure of sticking with the group that you joined when you first made a decision is enough to overwhelm your desire to make a better decision. “What will I tell my friends?”

 

Differences by Seth Godin

For as long as we’ve been keeping records, human beings have been on alert for the differences that divide us. Then we fixate on those differences, amplifying them, ascribing all sorts of irrelevant behaviors to them. Until, the next thing you know, we start referring to, “those people.”

It seems as though it’s a lot more productive to look for something in common. Attitudes and expectations. Beliefs in the common good and forward motion. A desire to make something that matters… Because there’s always more in common than different.

 

Ford fact of the day by Tyler Cowen from Bill Vlasic’s NYT article

Mr. Trump and others have criticized Ford for creating jobs in Mexico rather than in the United States. Seldom mentioned by Ford’s critics, though, is an essential fact. The Wayne factory will remain fully staffed, with 3,700 workers, to build what Ford really needs now: more trucks and S.U.V.s.

There’s no doubt that Nafta has played a role in the migration of many American manufacturing jobs to Mexico. Before that, US automakers barely had a presence in Mexico. Now, Mexico’s car-making work force is about 675,000 strong.

But many factors determine the number of auto-making jobs in the United States — a figure that according to federal labor statistics has actually grown by 200,000 jobs, to around 900,000, since the recession gave way to economic recovery in 2009.

The Risk Takers

cayote shadowActually what I meant was illegal risk takers operating in the shadows. Terrorists and Wall Street “insider” traders come to mind. Do they have similarities? Maybe.

They’re generally men, younger, willing to take big risks, seeking  large paybacks (paradise or great wealth), often with criminal records, and favor associating with acquaintances from their youth.

The concepts of religion and money are belief systems allowing humans to interact in large numbers. As long as you and many others, share a belief that there’s an invisible super powerful deity, or that colored pieces of paper have value, there’re situations in which some might be willing to risk everything.

Here’re some interesting observations from a Bloomberg column about insider traders based on the research of Kenneth R. Ahern at USC:

Some aspects come pretty close to what we see in the movies. The average insider trader is 43 years old, and nine out of 10 are male. The practice also seems correlated with some features of recklessness: Insider traders are younger than their associates, less likely to own real estate, and have fewer family members on average. More than half have criminal records, with almost all charges stemming from traffic violations.

To my eye, the most striking data involve personal connections: Insider traders appear to be pretty careful in choosing their accomplices. Of the known pairs of people who provide and act upon private information (“tipper and tippee”), 64 percent met before college, and 16 percent met in college or graduate school. Another 23 percent are family relations — more siblings and parents than aunts and uncles, despite the added capital that the latter might have provided. Tips are also commonly shared among people with ethnically similar surnames: Of 24 tips coming from people with Celtic surnames, for example, 14 went to individuals who also had Celtic surnames.

The choice of accomplices demonstrates how hard it is to trust people you haven’t known very long, especially if you’re not all that trustworthy yourself.

This implies that maybe modern corporations are, in some ways, more honest places than one might think. Not that people are always so law-abiding; rather, many workplace relationships may be too superficial and too transient to develop the trust and cooperation typically required for villainy and law-breaking.

Iboga

old morphineIboga is derived from the bark of a Central African shrub’s roots (ibogaine is the purified and measurable form of iboga).

Some Africans in the iboga habitat area chew the root for the psychoactive effects. It’s used in high doses in ritualistic settings and at low doses it can maintain alertness while hunting.

Iboga has gotten traction in the West for supposedly reversing addiction to recreational drugs, especially opiates. It’s illegal in the US because it’s a psychoactive compound and hasn’t been researched enough.

It’s not illegal in Mexico. There’re at least two independent “clinics” in my town of around 2,500. Addicts travel here to be treated. The treatment involves an ibogaine induced nightlong experience of insightful self-reflection and coming out of the experience with no cravings for the addictive substance.

I’ve talked to a few people who’ve been treated.

They all said it worked. But I wouldn’t say the ones I spoke to, or saw hanging around after treatment, were drug-free, because they still drank alcohol, smoked pot, or maybe other more secretive indulgences.

Maybe I’m just more familiar with the abstinence model, so my perspective is off. There still seems to be a hole that these former users were trying to fill with pretty heavy partying.

From what I could tell, there isn’t much follow-up after a couple of weeks. And as far as statistics were concerned it just seemed like word-of-mouth. The big addiction was addressed but the underlying issues that led to the addiction didn’t get much attention.

The whole iboga subculture always seemed incomplete. My ideas are only from talking to a few people. Other clinics may be much more thorough with follow-up and addressing underlying and unresolved psychological needs.

Here’re some ideas that I took away from an article in the Atlantic magazine  that shed a little light on the iboga treatment:

Physical dependence is only part of addiction. Above all, it’s a psychiatric problem. Drug addiction is defined as the compulsive use of drugs despite negative consequences. 

After an ibogaine trip, a user’s insights may figure prominently in the recovery story, but  about 10 percent of addicts are basically ready to quit at any given time and will respond to whatever they try.

Addiction can be framed as a developmental disorder. Fewer than 10 percent of addicts develop their habits after their early 20s, when the cortex finishes developing and introduces an adult aversion to risk.

…addicts are usually dealing with some other mental health problem or trauma that makes them vulnerable. And contrary to popular belief, most opiate addictions are not lifelong. They are resolved within five years, a little longer for heroin. The real task is mostly a matter of keeping addicts alive and otherwise healthy until they can age out of addiction.

The best way to do that is well established. Methadone and other long-term maintenance treatments cut mortality in half. They create physical dependence but not addiction, and they form a foundation for a stable life.

Ibogaine has its appeal among drug users, who often gravitate to underground culture anyway.

There’re other reasons an addict might shy away from mainstream programs, though. Eighty percent of treatment programs, including court-ordered treatments, are based on the 12-step process requiring surrender to a higher power.

The official policy is that addiction is a ‘biopsychosocial-spiritual’ disorder. How are they going to convince people it’s a health problem when you throw ‘spiritual’ into it? They’d never use the word ‘spiritual’ for something like depression.

A disease with prayer as an answer is a contradiction

It’s no wonder addicts are turning to other sorts of unearthly experiences that are less infantilizing.

History shows that for the most part, adults don’t want to be addicted to things. At the turn of the century, heroin was an ingredient in many over-the-counter products. When FDA labeling came into effect, consumption of those products plummeted.  

If ibogaine is the only treatment someone will accept, it may be a useful option to keep on the table, but maintenance treatments are by far the better and safer course.