Category Archives: Health

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.

Fixing healthcare

Most Americans are too distracted by work life and family life to have enough bandwidth left over for analyzing complex issues.Especially healthcare issues.

Like most things, healthcare needs to be kept simple and fair. Our brains just don’t grasp all the nuances and implications of most healthcare plans. Then, with our brains  confused, we default to our biases (usually party loyalty) or to a simple metric such as how many people are covered.

Our government has been amazingly robust for hundreds of years, but it seems to fail under some conditions. One is when an issue gets too complicated for the public to understand. And the other is when corporations distort the system for profit.

Here’s a solution that might work in America today. I heard it from an older doctor, I’m not sure if it’s his idea or not, but it’s straight forward and simple: Everyone would be responsible for the first $2000 of their medical costs and the first $500 of their prescriptions each year. After hitting those maximums, the government would pick up the tab.

Maybe those numbers should be a little different, but they seem pretty reasonable. Each citizen would have some skin in the game but also know they’d be covered if things go south.

Tick time

Summertime is tick time and ticks are found everywhere.

What to do when you find a tick with it’s mouth buried into your skin? Grab it by the head with fine pointed tweezers and pull firmly. It’ll probably hurt, If it doesn’t, you may have not extracted the head. Try again to get the little mouthpiece out, because it’s probably still in there. If you can’t, don’t worry too much about it. Just leave it alone and let your skin heal over.

Then wait. Tickborne diseases can take weeks to show symptoms. So be vigilant and look for any rashes. If you have any unusual symptoms, even if you think you’re just coming down with a summer cold, go to the doctor and take advantage of modern medicine.

By the way, this picture isn’t from information about ticks. It’s just what I imagine is going on beneath the skin after a tick bite.

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.

The OTC “pill”

Here’s this Friday’s pick. It’s an article from The Outline about how odd it is that something as safe, easy, and effective as the birth control pill can’t simply be bought without a prescription. This is my condensed version:

Many countries, including China and India, sell birth control over-the-counter. The US and many European countries require a prescription.

Doctors have been arguing since the late 1960s that it could be sold safely without a prescription, and the The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists officially endorsed doing so in 2012. The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family also agree that it is safe for over-the-counter use.

It doesn’t, after all, have a lot in common with many prescription medications: It’s not habit-forming, pretty much everyone takes the same dose, it’s preventative so nothing needs to be diagnosed to begin taking it, and it rarely interferes with other medications.

The precautions for the medication are pretty run of the mill, and overall, it’s much less dangerous than many other medicines that are currently available over-the-counter. The birth control pill is linked to very few deaths. In other words: There’s pretty much no reason we need a prescription for the pill, other than the fact that that’s the way we’ve always done it.

Are you moving around enough?

Are you moving around enough? tiredThe takeaway from a new study of modern day hunter gatherers, the Hadza, is that our bodies need and respond to the kind of physical demands that these tribespeople still engage in most days.

It’s not too surprising that they move a lot, typically more than two hours a day. The men walk briskly searching for game animals off and on most days, and the women find, dig up, heft and prepare fruits, vegetables and other foods.

But, the vast majority of their activities are moderate. The tribespeople rarely run or are otherwise vigorously active.

They remain active, well into middle age and beyond, even those in their 70s moving as much as or more than the young.

The tribespeople have enviable heart health. The Hadza typically present low blood pressure and excellent cholesterol profiles across their life spans.

Some of their cardiovascular health is no doubt a result of diet, but the data intimate that the Hadzas’ active lifestyle, consisting of plenty of walking, lifting and generally being up and doing, helps to protect their hearts against disease.

Other parts of the Hadzas’ lives remain difficult and chancy. There’re real risks for untreated infections and illnesses, accidental deaths and no access to dental care.

These are risks that people in the industrial world have mitigated. But we now have the diseases of civilization which we might also be able to mitigate by following the Hadzas’ tendency of moving for a couple of hours a day. And it doesn’t have to be necessarily intense  or hard.

I’ve excerpted the information above from a recent NYT article about recent studies of the Hadza people.

The Dutch Reach

skirt-riding-upYou never know what could be passing next to your car just before you get out. And if you nail a cyclist when you open your car door you’ll feel pretty bad.

The Dutch have a solution. Enter the “Dutch Reach.” And I’m going to start using it.

A  Dutch Reach is opening your driver’s side car door with your far hand instead of using your near hand. Using  your right hand instead of your left hand it makes your body swivel, positioning your head to look out of your car so you can easily check to see approaching bikes. Maybe a better name would be the “Dutch Twist.”

If this habit can be spread, it’ll help reduce accidents, making cycling lanes less dangerous. The Dutch Reach is already part of the driver’s eduction program in the Netherlands.

It’s simple and easy to teach making it cheaper than costly infrastructure changes to make biking safer.

Decisions

lawn dartsBear with my rambling for a minute.

When I was a kid you could buy “Lawn Darts,” large heavy darts for hurling across a lawn at a target. A potentially dangerous game, possibly deadly if you were a risk taker. They were one lonesome train whistle and drunk mom away from a sad country western song, “He killt his little brotha with a lawn dart…” but they seemed to be a popular toy despite their inherent dangers.

The other day I saw an article in Smithsonian magazine about the search for LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor of all life on Earth. LUCA is a sort of single-celled Eve at the base of the tree of life that all life has evolved from.

With advanced DNA analysis, it seems that life’s earliest ancestors lived in habitat with no oxygen, feeding on hydrogen gas. So it was likely an organism living near super-heated volcanic vents where hydrogen gas was likely produced. You’ve probably seen the pictures of the habitat, those deep sea vents surrounded by weird tube clams and crabs.

Anyway, LUCA got me wondering about decisions when organisms acquired mobility. When you can move you have options. At that point the most import decision became don’t do anything that has a strong chance of killing you. 

As creatures got smarter, two more important questions arose “Why?” and “Why not?” The trick is knowing which one to ask because most bad things happen quickly.

The positive things in our lives take time, usually a long time: learning new skills, fixing bad behaviors, building good relationships, rearing offspring making patience and determination among life’s primary virtues. Reinforced behaviors continue and behaviors that aren’t reinforced peter out.

Decisions about new things and situations can be difficult. Our families and experts are right about 98 percent of the time on the easy stuff, but only right maybe half the time on anything that’s unusually complicated, mysterious, or new. Who knows, if your gut feeling (intuition) disagrees with your family or the experts, take that seriously. Maybe you’re experiencing some pattern recognition that you can’t yet verbalize and their pessimism could be a failure of imagination.

Sometimes, you need to be selfish. Being selfish just means you’re taking the long view of things. That’s why on a plane, you’re told to put your oxygen mask on first before helping even your kid.

After personal needs are met, decisions automatically turn to how to make the world a better place. There’s an order. Humans are wired to take care of our own needs first, then family, tribe, country, and the world.

If you’re at a yard sale, don’t buy those seductive lawn darts.

Guns in America

ground droneIf this ground drone was available, some people would buy them. It might be someone with good intentions and training, or maybe not.

History is an early warning system for our public health that America keeps ignoring. Now we’re paying increasingly higher public health costs due to letting just about anyone buy any type of gun they like.

So the question is when will we update the second amendment to reflect current conditions?

A couple of hundred years ago guns were  cumbersome, time-consuming to reload, and fired only a single shot. The authors of the second amendment wrote on parchment using a feather for a pen. And, you could own another person too if you wanted to.

I’ve shot, owned, and still like guns. But just like driving a car, having and using a gun should be a privilege not a right. People should be able to have guns but they should be required to get training and certification to buy and keep one.

The difference between insanity and genius is measured only by success. The public health impact of guns on Americans is insane. America can fix this situation.

That creepy feeling

spotlight skeletonUnsure of what a person who you don’t know might do next? You might get a creepy feeling.

Being “creeped out” signals that someone or something could be dangerous.

Things we know are dangerous just scare us right away. With a shark, a rattlesnake, or a member of a motorcycle club there’s no creepiness – they’re dangerous. But if we’re unsure about  someone’s motives, that’s when things get creepy.

When it comes to people, there’re some things that trigger the creepy-ness radar. Most people think creeps are more likely to be men. Especially if they work as clowns, taxidermists, sex shop owners, or funeral directors.

Also, uncommon physical characteristics contribute to perceptions of creepiness. Things like peculiar smiles, greasy hair, long fingers and pale skin are likely to be rated as creepy by people in surveys.

So, make sure to wash your hair and get a little sun. While you’re at it, avoid working in occupations involving “threatening stimuli” like death or sex. And don’t forget to make your motives clear, but don’t stand too close to the person you’re talking too.