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Oh, Please, Help Me

Posted by Ogged
on 02.20.15

What happened to Boston Strong?


 

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The Just-World Hypothesis

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.20.15

Believing that life is fair might make you a terrible person. I think we're all on board with that. There are a few beliefs that I consider unforgivable past age 25 - as in, you're old enough, you should have thought this through by now. 25 is the age of accountability. One is the belief in an actual hell where people go when they die. I'm willing to put "Life is fair!" in that category, as well.

(One time I picked up the book "Why do bad things happen to good people?" In the introduction, the author describes how his son was diagnosed with progeria, which would indeed be devastating. He uses it as a device in the introduction to say "Why me?? That was the first time it ever occurred to me that bad things happen to even good people." That's when I put the book down, because I have nothing to learn from that idiot.)

It seems like there's a slow, regular ticking of Republicans who convert on one single issue because themself or someone in their immediate family was faced with that situation - a gay child who wants to marry, someone financially wrecked by medical bills, or whatever. That's so fucking galling that they can only realize the enormity of a crisis if they have first-hand knowledge of it. Let's put this failure of imagination in the Unforgivable Beliefs Past 25 bin as well.


 

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Perspective

Posted by Ogged
on 02.19.15

Oliver Sachs, eloquent on the matter of his diagnosis.


 

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Alternate history

Posted by Ben
on 02.18.15

It's easy to imagine something like Caesar succumbing before noting Brutus among the conspirators and so never saying his famous dying words—or, perhaps more to the point, to imagine whatever historian first attributed those words to him not doing so, giving him no, or other, dying words instead.

But to imagine what the contemporary world would look like in that case: that is quite difficult.


 

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Sunk Costs

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.18.15

J, Robot taunts you: I too am surprised to find myself agreeing McMegan.

Heebie's take: I'm going to re-quote from the post last week:

So when you take a bunch of people who aren't that good at knowing what they want in a relationship, surround them with a society that tells them they have to find a life partner but that they should under-think, under-explore, and hurry up, and combine that with biology that drugs us as we try to figure it out and promises to stop producing children before too long, what do you get? A frenzy of big decisions for bad reasons and a lot of people messing up the most important decision of their life.

Oh marriage, WMYBSALB.


 

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Decluttering

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.17.15

Lurid Keyaki sends along: this reflection on decluttering mania. I don't have much of a take on it. i'm curious as to what other people say. Especially curious to hear anyone disagree. I suppose the conclusion seems obvious and kind of dimwitted to me. The "I don't get enlightenment" op-ed is an established genre, and irritation and attachment enable a certain kind of writing. You can't reap the benefits of decluttering until you've sworn off writing for the NYT! As far as quasi-practical advice goes, of course decluttering the mind is the indispensable part, and the hard part, and all joy is illusory if you think it's not transient. Now, back to my panic-inducing clutter problem (I think the trick is figuring out which boxes contain the paralyzing venom and which contain the antidote).

Heebie's take: I like my stuff! It improves my life. Until I have too much of it. I like just the right amount of stuff that I like.


 

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Guest Post - Medical weight management program

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.17.15

Minivet writes: I've now been through five weeks of this program. In the second week, I started the meal replacement formulas: there are shakes, soups, and bars. Precisely 6 a day, every 2.5-3 hours, in limited combinations. Each is 160 calories, so 960 calories a day. No non-formula food, no alcohol. Coffee, tea, and diet sodas are allowed, but no more than two servings of caffeine a day, and no milk or sugar. (I've cut out diet sodas, because of the research suggesting it messes with blood sugar mechanisms.) Also allowed are little non-nutritive garnishes like pepper and herbs/spices for the soup, and fiber supplements for the stool's sake. You have to drink 3-5 quarts of liquid a day.

So it's a pretty severe regimen, but I'm doing okay with it. It's meant to bring on ketosis, and based on outside assessments of my breath, that started for me within a few days, so I haven't felt hungry, although the body processes the food fast so it's important to stay on schedule. In the four weeks I've been taking it, I've lost 26 pounds, more than the normal rate quoted for men, but not worrisome either. We get regular blood-pressure checks, lab tests, and medical checkups, because of the potential side effects (the food is not supposed to be sold without a prescription).

The program is not just the food and checks: it comes with a Weight Watchers-style weekly group meeting, where all the members are going through the same program at the same schedule, and slowly build the habits we need to transition. I'll almost certainly still be overweight when I'm done with the total meal replacement phase, so continuing to lose by more conventional means and then maintain that long-term is crucial. The program lasts a minimum of 30 weeks, so as to transition into weight management with regular food. As an example of the kind of stuff we do, we all got cheap pedometers and are now recording our steps every week, plus we're formed into teams and post up weekly team step totals. We don't call out and celebrate weight loss figures, because that varies widely among participants and is not strictly effort-related.

Personally, I'm feeling great. I'm a distinctly different shape, my clothes are looser, and a side effect of my heightened blood sugar that had been making exercise difficult is much lighter and easier to medicate. I think when I go back to regular food, my portion expectations will be lower, and I'll savor more. Other participants seem to be having it rougher than me, for full disclosure: I'm not having much mental suffering from keeping to the meal formula, and never had brief dizziness or memory hazes, which are a known side effect. Also, most of the other participants are older and have kids and partners, and are still cooking, whereas I got all the food out of my apartment. Finally, many of the others are simply not nearly as overweight as me, so my private theory is maybe it's harder their bodies to shift into ketosis.

Before I learned this existed, I thought the only more serious option for weight loss besides the plethora of food/exercise strategies was surgery, which of course is risky and expensive and has many other downsides. This kind of program really seems like an excellent intermediate option, and I'm not sure why it isn't better known as such. Apparently some similar programs have much less support and recognition that it's about building habits for life. Maybe also the general strategy is thought of as "cheating"? Or bears sexist associations with women trying to lose weight on the easy? Not sure what perceptions are like. But it does seem to me that being very overweight is so self-reinforcing that "artificially" losing weight has the independent value of setting a new baseline.

I've been able to tell my boss and co-workers and friends, and am developing social gatherings that do not revolve around eating or drinking. If I were hiding what I was doing it would be much harder.

Finally, it's surprisingly liberating not to have to think about what I'm eating next, although I still get twinges when I walk past some restaurants. I'm thinking of adapting the experience in the next phase and not only planning out meals for the week, but also portioning them into baggies with each day's portion in advance (at least for breakfast and lunch).

Heebie's take: I find this stuff totally fascinating. Building on last week's "look at my energy!" post, my current theory is that the cutting-carbs has been the main mechanism for me. Sorry, this is the new Unfogged.


 

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There's a stupid virus?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.16.15

Apparently:

[W]hen Yolken's team screened a group of 92 healthy volunteers who were taking part in a study on cognitive function, the virus was found to be present in 43.5% of them.
According to the study, those infected with the virus performed around 10% worse on tests analysing visual processing speeds. In one test, infected volunteers were slower to draw a line connecting a sequence of numbers randomly distributed on a page than their uninfected counterparts.
The researchers found that the presence of the virus was linked to lower attention spans and decreased spatial awareness, and a "statistically significant decrease in the performance on cognitive assessments of visual processing and visual motor speed". Researchers found no connection between slower brain function and variables such as differences in sex, education level, income, race, and even cigarette smoking.

Do I have it? How long have I had it for? Can I get over it? This isn't actually a gullible virus, is it?


 

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Grade Inflation

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.16.15

I had two conversations, within days of each other. The context of the first is that I am inviting high-achieving high school seniors to apply to an honors-ish program at Heebie U:

Admissions director: who do you want to send the letters out to?
Me: Everyone with at least a 3.5 GPA is eligible.
Him: That's 90% of our applicants.
Me: What! How?!
Him: grade inflation. Some of the richest schools in Dallas and Houston will have their entire student body with GPAs upwards of 3.2.
Me: How are colleges supposed to make sense of that?
Him: First, we recalculate their GPAs and throw out all the non-academic courses. But probably 80% of our applicants are still going to be over a 3.5, recalculated. What we do is know the high schools individually, and you don't compare individuals from different types of high schools. A 3.5 from [poor school in San Antonio] means something different than a 3.5 from [rich school in Dallas]. So you have to understand each school.

Also you need to know that these kids have SAT scores that are mostly under 1200. It is not selection bias towards fantastic kids.

The second conversation was with a friend of mine who teaches high school, who was describing how, twice a year, the administration asks him to commit grade fraud. It's all thinly padded, "I understand Johnny's not doing too well in your class. How did Johnny do on that essay?" "He didn't turn it in." "Well, would you still accept it?" "No." "Well, what if he had it, and just didn't turn it in? Would that raise his grade a bit?" Etc, until they bargain Johnny up from the F he was entitled to, to a C or a B or whatever for the semester.

Obviously this is entirely restricted to those parents with the gumption to call and raise hell, but wow. At least in Texas, high school grades are pretty damn worthless.


 

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This Ski Trip I'm On

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.15.15

Seems ill conceived. It's really very cold in Vermont this week.


 

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Oz

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.15.15

We just watched The Wizard Of Oz. I haven't seen it since childhood, but since pretty much every line is a cultural touchstone, there weren't exactly any surprises. Is there any movie that has been more thoroughly absorbed into American culture?


 

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Thanks, Obama!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.15.15

This is why he's still the best president.


 

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