We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Sunday, October 4. 2015
She said "I've been thinking all week about what you said about how I always focus on whether a boy likes me, and never think about whether I like the boy. I am changing this right now. What was wrong with me?"
Me: "Not worth thinking about that. You have made me a happy doctor today."
Saturday, October 3. 2015
Friday, October 2. 2015
The American lobbying and advertising Whole Grains Council has had huge success in selling their health scam. Just like Whole Foods. Food piety has two arms: the ignorant, and their commercial predators.
Enjoyment applies to OJ too. It's basically sugar with no other food value. Years ago, the Florida Citrus cabal convinced Americans that they should have it for breakfast. Tasty, but no different from a Coke. Scurvy is not a problem.
My point with my nutrition myth posts is that you should eat whatever you enjoy. If you have a weight problem or a health problem, that's another matter. Just don't pretend, for example, that an OJ is any "healthier" than a Pepsi, or brown bread is "healthier" than white bread. That is just marketing to the low-info shopper and gullibles like Michelle Obama.
We all love happy myths, do we not? The fantasy that we can control fate.
Monday, September 21. 2015
From Alva Noe's How Art Reveals the Limits of Neuroscience:
I am no skeptic about basic neuroscience. I am skeptical about its overeach, its hubris. Aesthetics can never be understood at a neuronal level of organization any more than a living cell can be understood at an atomic level.
Friday, September 18. 2015
American Citizenship: Energetic contributors, minor contributors, benign passive recipients, parasites, exploiters, and damagers
The problem with a powerful central government in the US is that it is a big place with many localities with highly-varying viewpoints on life and values. With all of our immigration and home-grown subcultures, and with divisive politics, the US has few shared values or foundational attitudes.
All we have is a bedraggled Constitution, and most Americans don't know what it says.
Thus the average American sees himself as a citizen of the US in the abstract, on national holidays, and in time of war, but lives life primarily as a citizen of a community, or communities, of some sorts.
As a New England Yankee myself of original heritage and thus with minimal respect and instinctive distrust for government, politicians, amd government power, I was led to this subject by the post about David Leff. He is a fellow who seems to be a pillar of his community.
Every community requires such people who jump in and participate in a positive way, with no personal advantage expected other than the rewards of positive involvement. It's been the American Way since de Toqueville described it so well. Other than the Founders, that Frenchie explained American Exceptionalism better than any American ever had.
I have written about the "Circles of Community" in which we all live, and their importance to a good life. Except for hermits, humans need that for pleasure and life enrichment if not for support and survival. Venn diagrams, circling around, with family circles, social circles, neighborhood circles, athletic circles, professional circles, club circles, civic circles, political circles, church circles, hobby circles, etc. Most circles end up overlapping. Much of life consists of these circles, but they do not happen by themselves. Somebody made them happen just as somebody organized the barn-raisings. Government did not do that.
However, I am just focusing on local community here. Big cities have local communities just as Mr. Leff has his little Collinsville.
JFK's famous inaugural line about "Ask not..." (who wrote that line for him?) can be better applied to one's local community and to one's circles of community than it can to this huge nation.
All localities, like all "circles," have energetic contributors, minor contributors, benign passive recipients, parasites, exploiters, and damagers of the social fabrics. It's probably a bell curve like everything else. Just paying your taxes does not count, nor does holding down an honest job or making some effort to obey the laws because those are the minimal expectations of residency anywhere.
What does count? Cub Scout Mom, Bible study, book club, Kiwanis, town meeting attendance or being on town committees, club committees, volunteering for virtuous or charitable purposes or at the library, organizing a block party or book club or softball games. It doesn't have to be big like being on the board of your local hospital or president of your country club, but if you are not engaged in positive ways without personal advantage, you are no capital "C" American Citizen in my book because you are a free-rider. A resident, not a Citizen.
We all ask ourselves daily how we wish to live, what example we wish to set, how we wish to be known, and how we wish to be remembered. Every human has a gift or gifts to offer and it is sinful to withhold them.
Tuesday, September 15. 2015
I have repeatedly insisted that a "healthy human diet" cannot be defined. As omnivores, humans can survive and thrive on many sorts of diets. Each culture has its own food biases, myths, preferences.
It is an imaginary First-world problem to obsess about food as if food were medicine, magical, or potential toxins in our civilization of revolutionary food abundance, quality, variety, safety, and flavor.
(We have discussed weight loss and physical fitness ad nauseum here, so this is not about those special nutritional areas.)
Old wive's tales, obsolete studies, superstitions, misrepresented press reports, etc. These are my own views via the literature. Do your own research if you want. This applies to otherwise relatively normal people without serious ailments:
- Coffee is bad for you. Wrong.
- You should drink X glasses of water per day. Nonsense. If you are peeing, you are hydrated.
- Beer and coffee are dehydrating. False. They are just enhanced water.
- Red meat is bad for you. Nonsense. Where did that myth come from? The Federal Chicken Board?
- Organic foods are "better for you." Zero evidence for that, but there is evidence that organic foods have fewer nutrients. Not that it matters; it is de minimus.
- You need roughage to prevent colon cancer. That is disproven. It will give you larger BMs if that is what you enjoy.
- Fruit and fruit juice is good for you. Nope, they are just flavored sugar, what I term warm popsicles. Tasty though. Fruit is just a dessert as the Italians understand, not real food. Worried about scurvy, are you? Fruits are not really healthy foods, but are good sources of sugar if you are sugar-deprived.
- Eggs are bad for you. Wrong. They are an excellent food, actually one of the few "perfect" foods (ie balances of fat, protein, and carb). A "perfect food" means you can thrive on it, alone, for a long time.
- Carbs and starches are bad. Nope. They are great foods as long as you are not dealing with a weight problem. With the egg, potato is the other "perfect" food item. Well, milk too.
- Eating fat makes you fat. Wrong. Excess carbs make people fat. Carbs, plus general gluttony.
- Three meals per day. Why? It's just a habit. For youth and manual laborers, certainly - plus snacks.
- Vegetarian diets are healthier. Utter cultish nonsense. Active humans and growing kids need plenty of good protein for normal growth and muscle maintenance and repair, which is difficult for vegetarians to obtain without extra effort and expense. Low-protein cultures generally have littler people with less strength.
- Gluten? Don't get me started.
- Salt is bad. No, it is essential for health. If you have dangerous blood pressure, take a pill.
- Vegetables and greens are "healthy." Not especially. They are just cheap, sometimes tasty, tummy-fillers. If you hate all veggies and greens (even steamed spinach with garlic), take a multivitamin once or twice a week and forget about it. Otherwise, enjoy them.
- Low cholesterol diets? There is no meaningful relation between dietary cholesterol and heart disease unless you have severe familial hypercholesterolemia in which case you take a pill and hope for the best.
- Alcohol is unhealthy. Nope, good for body, soul, and cheerful companionship if not abused.
- White vs. Brown breads, rice, and sugars? The brown thing is pure foolishness, except for flavor preferences. If you need brown rice for the microscopic protein in it, you need Food Stamps desperately. Get an EBT card and buy yourself a Big Mac.
- Fish oils are healthy. A health-food scam, same as "organic." Fatty fishes are delicious, though: shad, tuna, swordfish, trout and salmon, bluefish. Even a baked mackerel with garlic and rosemary.
- "Free range" is better. If it's a cultural, moral, or flavor thing for you, go for it if you can spare the cash. I'd like to see a blind tasting. I do hate to see animals raised in meat factories, but all animal husbandry is meat factories. Nursery schools and day care are caged meat factories too, but we don't eat the product.
Where am I in error?
Wednesday, September 9. 2015
I've always been told that the pursuit of personal "identity" with its "personality integration" and "self-realization" was a distinctly modern and Western notion. Perhaps a too-precious conceit of artistes and suchlike.
In recent years, we have even used something called "identity diffusion" as a diagnostic marker. It's a thorny topic that very few people ever think about.
When I meet a new patient (or sometimes just a new person), I never ask "Who are you?" I just ask "Tell me about yourself" or "Tell me about your life." I once met a fellow who told me that he was an "unresolved self." He was one of the most pleasant, well-put-together people I have ever met.
It is often said that psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are about inventing comprehensible, presumably explanatory narratives. Well, our narratives change with time. We evolve with time and experience; sometimes with awareness of our flaws and sometimes with awareness of God.
Some of these topics discussed here: I am not a story: Some find it comforting to think of life as a story. Others find that absurd. So are you a Narrative or a non-Narrative?
Saturday, September 5. 2015
Tuesday, September 1. 2015
In the softer "sciences," even more so: An expansive new project is able to replicate results from fewer than half of its psychology experiments in question.
Thursday, August 27. 2015
I enjoyed this subtle satire on the self-centered Western obsession with identity, self-realization, and self-actualization: How to Be Yourself When You Don't Know Who You Are - with JP Sears
Yes, it is as dangerous, or more dangerous, than drunk driving
How to Stay Awake on the Road: Tips to Combat Drowsy Driving. Those are some reasonable ideas, especially the quick nap in the car or a stop with a little walk. If it's a frequent problem that you have, and you need to drive long distances often, you might persuade your doc to prescribe some low-dose amphetamine or adderal for the purpose. That's what truck drivers do. Call it "Driving Narcolepsy."
It is odd, isn't it, that when you arrive at destination you can feel just fine?
Tuesday, August 18. 2015
A good, personal description of one form of what we put under the umbrella label of "depression":
Having anxiety & depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It's the fear of failure, but no urge to be productive. It's wanting friends, but hate socializing. It's wanting to be alone, but not wanting to be lonely. It's caring about everything, then caring about nothing. It's feeling everything at once, then feeling paralyzingly numb.
Wednesday, August 12. 2015
I have seen this plenty of times, and do not believe it automatically means that there is a marital problem (and anyway, marriages almost always have some problem or other). When it comes to light, however, it is a big problem indeed.
Friday, August 7. 2015
Tuesday, August 4. 2015
A bit from the article:
Mental health care and treatment in America is a hodge-podge of state, federal, charitable, and private programs. That is not a bad thing that there is no "system," because caring can not be a "system" and because there are no cures for the most severe ailments like autism, schizophrenia, dementia, and so forth. That's why mental health care is not a problem in America any more than it is everywhere on the planet.
There is no better place on earth for those with manageable problems under the mental health umbrella than in the US. Perfection is unobtainable, because it can not be defined, and some people will always be beyond effective help if only because they refuse it.
Because so many problems lack cures, and so many patients resist possibly positive amelioration, what people lobby for are governmental and private "services," not utopian fixes. As always with medical issues, lobbyists lobby for their fad interests and fad approaches.
There is no "mental health industry." I do not necessarily agree with the premises of the article, but I do agree with this: "Congress needs to understand that throwing money at mental health is not the same as delivering effective treatment to the seriously ill." Caring, like education, is not intrinsically expensive.
Sunday, August 2. 2015
Wednesday, July 29. 2015
Back exercises are the best things for posture, generally. Dead lifts, especially. Not a bad idea to stick a post-it on your desk saying what your Mom said at the dining room table: "Sit up straight with your shoulders back." (She also always said "Stand up straight like a soldier.")
A few links on the topic:
You probably spend hours in front of a computer every day—so make sure you’re doing it right
Working Out Isn't Enough: Advice for Desk Workers
Tuesday, July 28. 2015
Our friend Dr. Schneiderman discusses Adolescent Cutting. After many years of addressing self-mutilation with youth and some adults, I have become convinced that various sorts of self-harm entail "integrative" pain - a discomfort which helps a person feel more centered, whole, and complete. In fact, it is not unusual for somewhat shakily-constructed people to create or to be drawn to chaos and crises for their strange psychologically-integrating effects.
There might be an entire new theory of masochism in general built on that idea, but I think Freud sort of began to get there first. Perhaps he over-sexualized masochism, or over-death-wished it, but he was on the trail towards an understanding of masochism and its perverse gratifications.
Sunday, July 26. 2015
Loneliness is a painful state. Social isolation feels terrible. Most people need friends and family around for company. It's a true cliche that alone in the city can be the worst.
I agree with Schneiderman that, no matter how much of an outsider somebody is, if you get involved in things sooner or later some kindred spirits will be found: The Loneliness of the Outsider
Saturday, July 25. 2015
Friday, July 24. 2015
Wednesday, July 22. 2015
Many Americans tend to overeat.
The experience of food satiety is mediated by a variety of physiologic signals, psychological states, and cultural factors, and some of that signaling may have some genetic tendencies. However, it is my experience that the main causes of overconsumption are three simple things: the ready availability of tasty carb things (unresisted temptation), feeding+sitting as recreation, and ignoring satiety. By the latter, I mean not paying attention to when enough is enough. In our world, there is always more, and gluttony, eating until "full," makes no sense at all on a routine basis.
In other words, ignoring your body's "enough" signals instead of one's maximum stretched stomach capacity. Some people will consume whatever is put in front of them regardless of hunger, while some will only consume until they sense that they have had enough. The former two are the buffet-killers while the latter do not consume their cost of the buffet. Living in a world of food abundance has a downside but nobody would choose the alternative.
I have found that overweight people can be easily trained to identify satiety if they want to. We know a few things about this:
1. Protein seems to trigger satiety best.
2. Fast eaters tend to ignore their satiety signals far more than slower eaters. That's why it's called piggish.
3. Food impairs mental alertness and physical capacity for a while so it's best not to eat for a couple of hours before exertion. Hydration is necessary, though. If at your ideal weight or underweight, a little carbs an hour before difficult exertion is a good idea. After heavy resistance work, a little protein, or a regular meal if at target weight, is an ok idea.
Tuesday, July 21. 2015
Reposted by popular request. If the reader is strong, fit for most physical challenges in life, and in good shape, then this is all irrelevant and should be ignored.
- Weight loss is mostly a separate subject from physical fitness training. Adipose tissue (fat, the revolting yellow lard that burdens your body and heart especially, and drives surgeons nuts by makes their scalpels greasy and slippery) is very easy to accumulate and difficult to burn off. It's like the opposite of money.
- Your energy storage consists mainly of carbs stored as sugar (glycogen - the petty cash drawer of energy) and carbs converted into sugar and then into fat if the sugar isn't burned right away (the long-term investment which is more difficult to access and burn). It's been calculated that the average Western citizen has enough stored energy to walk 600-1000 miles. A gift of evolution.
- To burn fat as fuel, you have to restrict sugar (ie, carbs). The resulting condition is known as ketosis, and can make your breath smell funny. It is thought that your body can speed up its ability to mobilize fat as an energy source, when carb-limited.
- There is a myth about good carbs and bad carbs. This really only applies to diabetics. All dietary carbs are converted to sugar, even potatoes. That's why all the talk about dietary sugar itself is nonsense. We've all seen people have a Splenda in their coffee with their whole wheat bagel. Are you kidding me? A little sugar is 10 calories and the bagel is 300 calories. Many people do not understand that all carbs become sugar during digestion. Yes, even brown rice and whole wheat bread. If you need the microscopic amount of protein in them you are in real trouble.
-To attain a target weight, you have to restrict but not totally eliminate carbs from the diet. One or two slices of bread and one apple is plenty of daily carbs for a weight loss program, along with the relatively small amount of carbs in vegetables.
- As I have posted in the past, exercise, especially intense exertion, has numerous health and life benefits but is an ineffective way to try lose fat without the primary dietary component. The reason is that the body burns carbs preferentially. It's easier for it to do. The body is set up to protect its long-term investment in case of starvation conditions and it is happy to store as much as you will offer it. It's a sponge.
- In middle age, metabolism slows for both men and women. Menopause, especially. Caloric needs drop substantially regardless of activity level. Accumulating fat becomes easier, and getting rid of it becomes more difficult. Best just not to accumulate it.
- It is true that, the minute your feeling of hunger goes away, you have probably had enough to eat. Also true that, in the prosperous Western world, feeding has become a recreation, an event, or a self-soothing therapy or a cure for boredom, and a clockwork routine, and both hunger and satiety signals are thrown to the winds. For example, many sedentary people will eat a lunch simply "because it's lunchtime."
- It is also true that intense daily exercise reduces appetite in most people. It has to be intense, though.
- The less you eat, the more your stomach shrinks and thus the quicker you are satisfied. If you pay attention to it, that is.
Now to fitness, not weight loss
- As for physical conditioning (but not for weight loss), it is true that anything beyond full-day sedentary is good. Maintaining mobility and ordinary functionality is a good thing. Use it or lose it. The more activity demands you put on yourself during the day, of any sort, the better off you will be.
- To maintain good conditioning in middle age and later age requires either day-long physical labor or a more compact, more intense, daily or every other day effort and commitment for those whose lives are basically sedentary. That is most of us in our luxurious, decadent era. (Walking around counts as sedentary as does weekend sports or yard work.) Otherwise, there will be more physical deterioration than we want.
- I agree with all who say that serious weight training is the best way to do that. I agree that intense weight training and high-intensity aerobics are the most efficient ways to improve or maintain physical conditioning at any age.
- a physically-stressful weight training program requires some protein for muscle repair and construction. It doesn't require very much, but it requires some small amounts during the day. A whole steak or fish filet is not necessary, but an egg or one slice of meat 3 or 4 times daily is plenty sufficient protein for a demanding program. Adult humans do not need much protein - except for pleasure.
- It is true that light, high-rep workouts and non-intense aerobics (meaning if you can breathe relatively comfortably) have minimal benefits, but they do make people feel good, reduce anxiety, and help with sleep. That counts for something. Better than nothing.
- Being fit will likely not extend your life, but could make it more pleasant, energetic, and functional. It will make you more attractive too.
- It has become clear to me that fitness and fatness is a class- and culture-related topic. In the US, poor people tend to be fatter and less active. I don't know why that is. For what's it is worth, Pres. Obama does a tough workout for an hour each morning with a trainer before he does anything else. So did Bush. Good examples for those of us who sit on our behinds most of the day to earn a living.
- Gluttony is a sin, deadly spiritually and literally like lust. Prosperous Romans ate until over-full, puked in the vomitorium, then went at it again. For fun. Their slaves were healthier than the patricians. Adult people do not need much food to be healthy and strong. On the other hand, fitness is a secular, esthetic, and practical virtue. I have never been able to think of my body as a temple but it sure comes in handy.
- Why are Americans overweight? Cheap food, habit, hedonism, TV, internet, prosperity, machines, minimal hard work to be done. It's no mystery.
A fairly good piece on the physiology: Fat Metabolism During Exercise: New Concepts
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