5 years, 2 months, and 29 days. Don’t be monkeys: don’t vape, use e-cigarettes, or smoke pot!

When Irfan Rahman talked to young vapers, some complained of bleeding mouths and throats. And these bloody sores seemed slow to heal. Such reports concerned this toxicologist at the University of Rochester in New York. So he decided to investigate what the vapors inhaled from electronic cigarettes might be doing to mouth cells.

Last October, his team showed those vapors inflame mouth cells in ways that could potentially promote gum disease. That gum damage can destroy the tissues that hold teeth in place. So severe gum disease could lead to tooth loss.

But that’s hardly the end of it.

Vapers inhale those same gases and particles into their lungs. Rahman wondered what effects those vapors might have on cells there. One gauge would be to test how long any lung-cell damage took to heal. And his latest data confirm that e-cigarette vapors also make it hard for lung cells to repair damage.

Students as young as 12 or 13 are now more likely to vape than to smoke. Many are under the impression that because e-cigs don’t contain tobacco, they pose little risk to health. Wrong.

Over the past few months, research has turned up evidence that vaping can pose many brand new risks. The vapors mess with immunity, some studies show. “Smoker’s cough” and bloody sores have begun showing up in teen vapers. The hotter a vaped liquid gets, the harsher its effects on human cells. And a relatively new vaping behavior called “dripping” ups the heat. This threatens to intensify a teen’s risks from those vapors.

Some new data even suggest that e-cig vapors may contain cancer-causing chemicals.

https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/concerns-explode-over-new-health-risks-vaping (emphasis added)

 

[I]t would be fallacious to conclude that because the chemicals in marijuana have been found to present fewer dangers than some very harmful substances, the medical or recreational use of marijuana is perfectly safe. In a recreational context, marijuana has been shown to affect health, brain function, and memory. And in a medical context, marijuana is like any other powerful prescription drug: it has potentially dangerous side effects, and the decision to use it to treat patients must involve the same balancing test as the one required for chemotherapy or AZT: do the therapeutic effects of the drug outweigh its harmful effects? Though there are many more studies to be done on this issue, current data shows that the answer to this question may not always be “yes.”

EFFECTS OF HABITUAL MARIJUANA USE ON THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

The most potent argument against the use of marijuana to treat medical disorders is that marijuana may cause the acceleration or aggravation of the very disorders it is being used to treat.

Smoking marijuana regularly (a joint a day) can damage the cells in the bronchial passages which protect the body against inhaled microorganisms and decrease the ability of the immune cells in the lungs to fight off fungi, bacteria, and tumor cells. For patients with already weakened immune systems, this means an increase in the possibility of dangerous pulmonary infections, including pneumonia, which often proves fatal in AIDS patients.

https://cyber.harvard.edu/evidence99/marijuana/Health_1.html (emphasis added)

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Dangers lurk around every corner.  That’s the reality of life, and we cannot insulate ourselves against every risk, known and unknown.  Examples  abound.

Authorities in Toledo, Ohio, have charged four boys with murder after a sandbag they allegedly dropped from an interstate overpass killed a passenger in a car.

https://www.ksat.com/news/national/boys-charged-with-murder-after-sandbag-thrown-from-overpass-kills-man

9. John Bowen, 1979.

Mistake number 1, attending a Jets football game at Shea Stadium. Mistake number 2, staying in his seat during the half-time show. In this case, the show was a demonstration of a remote control 40 pound flying lawn mower (we do not make this stuff up!) which was not under control after all, and struck the New Hampshire resident causing head injuries that he died of 4 days later. Should have gone to a Patriot’s game…

8. Humberto Hernandez, 2007.

Mr. Hernandez proved that walking is an unsafe form of transportation as he was walking on a sidewalk in Oakland when a car struck a fire hydrant, breaking it free. The water pressure sent the hydrant flying right into Humberto’s face, killing him.

7. Jon Desborough, 1999.

A gym teacher at Liverpool College, Jon was hustling out to retrieve a javelin stuck in the ground after a throw, tripped and fell into the (blunt) end of the javelin causing the shaft to penetrate his eye socket and skewer his brain, killing him.

https://www.historyandheadlines.com/10-fatal-freak-accidents/

However, just because risks exist, it doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind and engage in every stupid idea and fad that comes along.  One of the stupidest fads these days is the condom-snorting nonsense we discussed recently.  Others include vaping, using e-cigarettes, and smoking pot.

Smoking sucks.  It doesn’t matter if you smoke cigarette, e-cigarette, or pot.  Smoking pumps chemicals into your body, ruins your gum and teeth, destroys your lungs, etc.  Wow, smart move, right?  Kids are foolish to copy others.  They think it makes them look cool.  It doesn’t.  It makes them look like monkeys and sheep who are unable to think for themselves and who are easily persuaded by marketers and others who have no love for them.

Be of strong character.  Never allow anyone to pressure you into doing something stupid or something bad that you don’t want to do — or pressure you out of doing something smart or something good that you want to do.  Be you, but be the best you.

As Catholics, we believe our bodies are God’s temple, where His Spirit resides.  But, even if you are no longer practicing Catholics — on the Sundays where you were with me, I took you to mass, but your mom did not on weeks when you were with her — remember that you have but ONE body to last you a lifetime.  Do you really want to destroy or weaken it with chemicals and unhealthy habits?

Take care of your body, and it will take care of you when you need it.

https://kerricox.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/outrun-the-bear.jpg?w=656

Exercise daily.  Go outside and get fresh air.

Be well.  Your brain and your health are your greatest assets.  Protect them at all costs.

https://i0.wp.com/theathleticmindset.com/site2013/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/health-wealth-gandhi-quote.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/f5/fa/93/f5fa93a0b6e79e0b3eff578ce0e617c9.jpg

All my love, always,

Dad

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5 years, 2 months, and 3 days. Beware of the ignorant and arrogant. A wise man knows what he doesn’t know.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Today’s lesson is really a permutation of the last.  Emotion (in this case, pride) interferes with critical thinking and produces bad results.

We see this all the time in both the young and old.  For example, when you were a toddler, Shosh, you once said, “I know French — ‘french fries’!”  You were proud — rightfully so — of having made the connection between “French” as a language and the use of that word in “french fries”.  What you said as a two-year-old is adorable.  However, when such sentiments are expressed by adults, they only make the speakers appear foolish.  For example, a college graduate — who is a teacher no less! — once explained to me that drinking coffee will darken your skin, and drinking milk will whiten it.  Yeah, right….

Unfortunately, such foolishness is not limited to those without advanced degrees.  For example, someone who attended Tuft University’s Graduate School of International Affairs for a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy claimed she knew as much law a lawyer with a Juris Doctor.  Another, who claims to have two master’s degrees and worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative, claimed she knew as much about medicine as a Medical Doctor.  Recently, I overheard two Ph.D.’s assert that government issued driver licenses and other identification papers based on a fraudulent birth certificates (i.e., not one’s own) are valid because the papers are government issued.  Wow…

(Regarding the latter, it should go without saying that anything achieved under fraud pretense cannot be cured by a subsequent lawful act because that latter was obtained under false pretense.  For example, if someone stole my car and sold it for good money to an unsuspecting buyer on Craigslist, although the purchase may have followed all legal formalities [i.e., the seller forged my name on the car registration and the buyer successfully submitted it to the DMV to obtain a new DMV-issued registration for the car in the buyer’s name], the sale would still be invalid because the “seller” stole the car and was not its true owner.  This is not hard to understand.  See, e.g., https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-07-99-00570.pdf.)

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Remember when I said what people say tells you something about them?  What do these things tell you about the speakers?  Are they wise or are they foolish?

Don’t be like them.  Don’t let emotions, including pride and arrogance, cloud your judgement.

Likewise, don’t let cultural mores blind you and cloud your judgement.  For example, in the Asian tradition, age is respected.  As my mother always said, “70 learns from 71”.  While that may have once been true in olden times, when formal education was limited to the few and experience was the teacher for the masses, in modern age, when education is accessible to the many, it is no longer valid. A  17 year-old with the academic degree Doctor of Medicine knows significantly more about medicine than a 90 year-old layman.  http://www.kansashealthcarecareers.com/10-youngest-doctors-in-the-world/.  Out of politeness, accord your elders a modicum of respect.  However, that respect is temporary and lasts only until you have gathered sufficient information to judge on your own whether respect is appropriate.  In other words, an elder telling you to do something doesn’t not entitle you to suspend your critical thinking faculties.  Any failure resulting from your action would remain with you, not the person who told you to take that action. Thus, don’t let cultural norms, like respect for the elder, cloud your critical thinking.  Sometimes,

https://i2.wp.com/img.picturequotes.com/2/4/3209/the-arrogance-of-age-must-submit-to-be-taught-by-youth-quote-1.jpg

Remember, your mind is your greatest asset.  Money, title, fame, etc., may come and go, but if you have a sharp mind, you will always be able to rebuild.  Friends of ours lost everything to a false friends who robbed them blind, but they were able to rebuild their lives to a higher degree than it was.

Because your mind is your greatest asset, make the most of it.  Be informed.  Think critically, broadly, and clearly.

Also, protect your greatest asset.  Take good care of it.  Nourish and use your mind well.

As reported in an article in The Lancet, researchers in San Diego examined the death records of almost 30,000 Chinese-Americans and compared them to over 400,000 randomly selected white people. What they found was that Chinese-Americans, but not whites, die significantly earlier than normal (by as much as five years) if they have a combination of disease and birth year which Chinese astrology and Chinese medicine consider ill-fated.

The researchers found that the more strongly the Chinese-Americans attached to traditional Chinese superstitions, the earlier they died….

The researchers concluded that they died younger not because they have Chinese genes, but because they have Chinese beliefs. They believe they will die younger because the stars have hexed them. And their negative beliefs manifested as a shorter life span.

It’s not just Chinese Americans whose fears about their health can result in negative health outcomes. One study showed that 79% of medical students report developing symptoms suggestive of the illnesses they are studying. Because they get paranoid and think they’ll get sick, their bodies comply by getting sick.

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-9690/scientific-proof-that-negative-beliefs-harm-your-health.html#. (emphasis added)

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My dearest sons, I love you more than words can describe, and I want the best for you.  Surround yourself with good people and positive role models. Avoid, like the plague, bad elements.  They do nothing but hurt you — even if only by modeling bad examples, limiting your world view and dreams, etc.  This includes relatives on your mother’s side who have felony conviction, who have been banned from driving because of repeated substance abuse, and whose friends got into a knife fight during the wedding ceremony.  Try to spend more time with my side of the family, where most of use have college degrees, many of us have advanced degrees, and most of us hold notable positions with prestigious organizations.

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years and 6 days. Self care is critical. Make time to interact with nature and enjoy life.

 

Just looking at nature can help your brain work better, study finds

[T]he psychological benefits of green roofs to busy office workers may also be substantial, according to new research. In a study published in the journal Environmental Psychology, the University of Melbourne’s Kate Lee and a group of colleagues found that interrupting a tedious, attention-demanding task with a 40-second “microbreak” — in which one simply looks at a computerized image of a green roof — improved focus as well as subsequent performance on the task….

Other psychological benefits of nature views have also been captured in recent literature. In one study, research subjects who viewed a 12-minute nature documentary before playing a game that involved managing a fishery resource engaged in more sustainable behavior.

The new study appears to break ground by showing an effect — and a benefit — from a much smaller and shorter-lived nature exposure.

In the research, 150 students were asked to perform a cognitively demanding task called the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART). In the task, respondents view a series of individual numbers, between 1 and 9, on a computer screen. Each number flashes by very rapidly — in under a second — and the research subject has to press a particular keyboard key as rapidly as possible — unless, that is, the number is 3.

In that case, subjects have to catch themselves and not respond — which is difficult to do, given the habit built up of repeatedly and rapidly clicking the key.

This goes on for a large number of trials — 225 of them, requiring about five minutes in total to complete — making the task both difficult and also fairly taxing. No wonder, then, that it is regarded as a test of one’s ability to keep focus and attention over a period of time.

In the current study, students had to complete the SART task not once, but twice. However, they received a 40-second “microbreak” in between the two trials. During that break, their computer screens flashed either to a digital image of a city building roof covered in concrete, or one covered with grass and flowers. Then, they completed the remainder of the SART trial.


The green roof view that half of research subjects observed during their “micro-break.” (University of Melbourne)

Afterward, the students exposed to the green roof scene not only reported that it felt more “restorative,” they performed better on the task. In particular, they showed less fluctuation in response time, and made fewer errors of “omission” — failing to tap the keyboard key when they saw a number other than 3.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/05/26/viewing-nature-can-help-your-brain-work-better-study-finds/?utm_term=.e9487faa71fc

 

 

How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier, and More Creative

We are spending more time indoors and online. But recent studies suggest that nature can help our brains and bodies to stay healthy.

Here are some of the ways that science is showing how being in nature affects our brains and bodies.

1. Being in nature decreases stress

It’s clear that hiking—and any physical activity—can reduce stress and anxiety. But, there’s something about being in nature that may augment those impacts.

In one recent experiment conducted in Japan, participants were assigned to walk either in a forest or in an urban center (taking walks of equal length and difficulty) while having their heart rate variability, heart rate, and blood pressure measured. The participants also filled out questionnaires about their moods, stress levels, and other psychological measures.

Results showed that those who walked in forests had significantly lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability (indicating more relaxation and less stress), and reported better moods and less anxiety, than those who walked in urban settings. The researchers concluded that there’s something about being in nature that had a beneficial effect on stress reduction, above and beyond what exercise alone might have produced.

In another study, researchers in Finland found that urban dwellers who strolled for as little as 20 minutes through an urban park or woodland reported significantly more stress relief than those who strolled in a city center.

The reasons for this effect are unclear; but scientists believe that we evolved to be more relaxed in natural spaces. In a now-classic laboratory experiment by Roger Ulrich of Texas A&M University and colleagues, participants who first viewed a stress-inducing movie, and were then exposed to color/sound videotapes depicting natural scenes, showed much quicker, more complete recovery from stress than those who’d been exposed to videos of urban settings.

These studies and others provide evidence that being in natural spaces— or even just looking out of a window onto a natural scene—somehow soothes us and relieves stress.

2. Nature makes you happier and less brooding

I’ve always found that hiking in nature makes me feel happier, and of course decreased stress may be a big part of the reason why. But, Gregory Bratman, of Stanford University, has found evidence that nature may impact our mood in other ways, too.

In one 2015 study, he and his colleagues randomly assigned 60 participants to a 50-minute walk in either a natural setting (oak woodlands) or an urban setting (along a four-lane road). Before and after the walk, the participants were assessed on their emotional state and on cognitive measures, such as how well they could perform tasks requiring short-term memory. Results showed that those who walked in nature experienced less anxiety, rumination (focused attention on negative aspects of oneself), and negative affect, as well as more positive emotions, in comparison to the urban walkers. They also improved their performance on the memory tasks.

In another study, he and his colleagues extended these findings by zeroing in on how walking in nature affects rumination—which has been associated with the onset of depression and anxiety—while also using fMRI technology to look at brain activity. Participants who took a 90-minute walk in either a natural setting or an urban setting had their brains scanned before and after their walks and were surveyed on self-reported rumination levels (as well as other psychological markers). The researchers controlled for many potential factors that might influence rumination or brain activity—for example, physical exertion levels as measured by heart rates and pulmonary functions.

Even so, participants who walked in a natural setting versus an urban setting reported decreased rumination after the walk, and they showed increased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain whose deactivation is affiliated with depression and anxiety—a finding that suggests nature may have important impacts on mood.

Bratman believes results like these need to reach city planners and others whose policies impact our natural spaces. “Ecosystem services are being incorporated into decision making at all levels of public policy, land use planning, and urban design, and it’s very important to be sure to incorporate empirical findings from psychology into these decisions,” he says.

3. Nature relieves attention fatigue and increases creativity.

Today, we live with ubiquitous technology designed to constantly pull for our attention. But many scientists believe our brains were not made for this kind of information bombardment, and that it can lead to mental fatigue, overwhelm, and burnout, requiring “attention restoration” to get back to a normal, healthy state.

Strayer is one of those researchers. He believes that being in nature restores depleted attention circuits, which can then help us be more open to creativity and problem-solving.

“When you use your cell phone to talk, text, shoot photos, or whatever else you can do with your cell phone, you’re tapping the prefrontal cortex and causing reductions in cognitive resources,” he says.

In a 2012 study, he and his colleagues showed that hikers on a four-day backpacking trip could solve significantly more puzzles requiring creativity when compared to a control group of people waiting to take the same hike—in fact, 47 percent more. Although other factors may account for his results—for example, the exercise or the camaraderie of being out together—prior studies have suggested that nature itself may play an important role. One in Psychological Science found that the impact of nature on attention restoration is what accounted for improved scores on cognitive tests for the study participants.

This phenomenon may be due to differences in brain activation when viewing natural scenes versus more built-up scenes—even for those who normally live in an urban environment. In a recent study conducted by Peter Aspinall at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and colleagues, participants who had their brains monitored continuously using mobile electroencephalogram (EEG) while they walked through an urban green space had brain EEG readings indicating lower frustration, engagement, and arousal, and higher meditation levels while in the green area, and higher engagement levels when moving out of the green area. This lower engagement and arousal may be what allows for attention restoration, encouraging a more open, meditative mindset.

It’s this kind of brain activity—sometimes referred to as “the brain default network”—that is tied to creative thinking, says Strayer. He is currently repeating his earlier 2012 study with a new group of hikers and recording their EEG activity and salivary cortisol levels before, during, and after a three-day hike. Early analyses of EEG readings support the theory that hiking in nature seems to rest people’s attention networks and to engage their default networks.

Strayer and colleagues are also specifically looking at the effects of technology by monitoring people’s EEG readings while they walk in an arboretum, either while talking on their cell phone or not. So far, they’ve found that participants with cell phones appear to have EEG readings consistent with attention overload, and can recall only half as many details of the arboretum they just passed through, compared to those who were not on a cell phone.

Though Strayer’s findings are preliminary, they are consistent with other people’s findings on the importance of nature to attention restoration and creativity.

“If you’ve been using your brain to multitask—as most of us do most of the day—and then you set that aside and go on a walk, without all of the gadgets, you’ve let the prefrontal cortex recover,” says Strayer. “And that’s when we see these bursts in creativity, problem-solving, and feelings of well-being.”

4. Nature may help you to be kind and generous

Whenever I go to places like Yosemite or the Big Sur Coast of California, I seem to return to my home life ready to be more kind and generous to those around me—just ask my husband and kids! Now some new studies may shed light on why that is.

In a series of experiments published in 2014, Juyoung Lee, GGSC director Dacher Keltner, and other researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, studied the potential impact of nature on the willingness to be generous, trusting, and helpful toward others, while considering what factors might influence that relationship.

As part of their study, the researchers exposed participants to more or less subjectively beautiful nature scenes (whose beauty levels were rated independently) and then observed how participants behaved playing two economics games—the Dictator Game and the Trust Game—that measure generosity and trust, respectively. After being exposed to the more beautiful nature scenes, participants acted more generously and more trusting in the games than those who saw less beautiful scenes, and the effects appeared to be due to corresponding increases in positive emotion.

In another part of the study, the researchers asked people to fill out a survey about their emotions while sitting at a table where more or less beautiful plants were placed. Afterwards, the participants were told that the experiment was over and they could leave, but that if they wanted to they could volunteer to make paper cranes for a relief effort program in Japan. The number of cranes they made (or didn’t make) was used as a measure of their “prosociality” or willingness to help.

Results showed that the presence of more beautiful plants significantly increased the number of cranes made by participants, and that this increase was, again, mediated by positive emotion elicited by natural beauty. The researchers concluded that experiencing the beauty of nature increases positive emotion—perhaps by inspiring awe, a feeling akin to wonder, with the sense of being part of something bigger than oneself—which then leads to prosocial behaviors.

Support for this theory comes from an experiment conducted by Paul Piff of the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues, in which participants staring up a grove of very tall trees for as little as one minute experienced measurable increases in awe, and demonstrated more helpful behavior and approached moral dilemmas more ethically, than participants who spent the same amount of time looking up at a high building.

5. Nature makes you “feel more alive”

With all of these benefits to being out in nature, it’s probably no surprise that something about nature makes us feel more alive and vital. Being outdoors gives us energy, makes us happier, helps us to relieve the everyday stresses of our overscheduled lives, opens the door to creativity, and helps us to be kind to others.

No one knows if there is an ideal amount of nature exposure, though Strayer says that longtime backpackers suggest a minimum of three days to really unplug from our everyday lives. Nor can anyone say for sure how nature compares to other forms of stress relief or attention restoration, such as sleep or meditation. Both Strayer and Bratman say we need a lot more careful research to tease out these effects before we come to any definitive conclusions.

Still, the research does suggest there’s something about nature that keeps us psychologically healthy, and that’s good to know…especially since nature is a resource that’s free and that many of us can access by just walking outside our door. Results like these should encourage us as a society to consider more carefully how we preserve our wilderness spaces and our urban parks.

And while the research may not be conclusive, Strayer is optimistic that science will eventually catch up to what people like me have intuited all along—that there’s something about nature that renews us, allowing us to feel better, to think better, and to deepen our understanding of ourselves and others.

“You can’t have centuries of people writing about this and not have something going on,” says Strayer. “If you are constantly on a device or in front of a screen, you’re missing out on something that’s pretty spectacular: the real world.”

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Go outside.  Get some fresh air.  Wander among the grass and trees.  I cannot emphasize enough how important being connected to nature is to your mental and physical health.

Do you remember how we used to go to the park or on a walk everyday when you were with me?  Do you recall all the trips we made to the beach, even if it were just for the day?  Why do you suppose we did all that?  Did you enjoy our walks and outings?  Why do you suppose that is?  Do you recall all the games we played and made up?   Remember the draw in the sand game, where we each tried to outdo the other with our sand art creatures and story lines?  Nature is stimulating in many ways, right?

Life is hard enough as it is, my sons.  Don’t make it harder than it has to be?  Exercise self-care: do the things that lifts your spirits and improves your physical and mental health.

Yes, I know you enjoy video games.  Fine.  Play video games.  But, limit your screen time!  You know the sedentary lifestyle (where you spend a lot of time indoors and in front of electronic screens) is bad for you.  For example, Johns Hopkins Medical Center found:

What health risks are linked to physical inactivity?

Lack of physical activity has clearly been shown to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other conditions:

  • Less active and less fit people have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Physical activity can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Studies show that physically active people are less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who are inactive. This is even after researchers accounted for smoking, alcohol use, and diet.
  • Lack of physical activity can add to feelings of anxiety and depression.
  • Physical inactivity may increase the risk of certain cancers.
  • Physically active overweight or obese people significantly reduced their risk for disease with regular physical activity.
  • Older adults who are physically active can reduce their risk for falls and improve their ability to do daily activities.

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/cardiovascular_diseases/risks_of_physical_inactivity_85,P00218

After a short time on video games, turn them off.  Exercise self-control.  Go outside.

Be well, my sons.  Be happy.  Do what you need to make yourself happy.  No one can do that for you, but you.  Miserable people are miserable because they make themselves miserable.  They look for others to cheer them up, but those interactions can only momentary episodes of respite from their misery because they are ultimately miserable within their own skin.

Don’t be like them.  Find joy in every thing you do.  We did that often remember?  We had fun even doing the dishes, setting the table, or cleaning up after dinner, remember?  Why?  We enjoyed ourselves and each other’s company?  Life doesn’t have to be that hard.

Exercise self-care and make yourself feel better.  Do this everyday!

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 10 months, and 6 days. The Internet is but a tool. Use it! Don’t let it use you!

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The Movement of #MeToo

How a hashtag got its power

About 10 years ago, after I’d graduated college but when I was still waitressing full-time, I attended an empowerment seminar. It was the kind of nebulous weekend-long event sold as helping people discover their dreams and unburden themselves from past trauma through honesty exercises and the encouragement to “be present.” But there was one moment I’ve never forgotten. The group leader, a man in his 40s, asked anyone in the room of 200 or so people who’d been sexually or physically abused to raise their hands. Six or seven hands tentatively went up. The leader instructed us to close our eyes, and asked the question again. Then he told us to open our eyes. Almost every hand in the room was raised.

For a long time, most women defined their own sexual harassment and assault in this way: as something unspoken, something private, something to be ashamed of acknowledging. Silence, although understandable, has its cost. A decade ago, I couldn’t have conceived of the fact that so many women had experienced sexual coercion or intimidation; now, I’d be surprised if I could find a single one who hadn’t. On Sunday afternoon, the actress Alyssa Milano used her Twitter account to encourage women who’d been sexually harassed or assaulted to tweet the words #MeToo. In the last 24 hours, a spokesperson from Twitter confirmed, the hashtag had been tweeted nearly half a million times.

#MeToo wasn’t just mushrooming on Twitter—when I checked Facebook Monday morning, my feed was filled with friends and acquaintances acknowledging publicly that they, too, had experienced harassment or assault. Some shared their stories, some simply posted the hashtag to add their voices to the fray. And it wasn’t just women: Men also spoke up about their experiences with assault. Actors including Anna Paquin, Debra Messing, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, and Evan Rachel Wood joined in. The writer Alexis Benveniste used it to remind people that the messages they were seeing were only the tip of the iceberg. For every woman stating her own experiences out loud, there were likely just as many choosing not to do so.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/10/the-movement-of-metoo/542979/ (emphasis added)

 

 

The Most Downvoted Comment in Reddit History Is the Perfect Example of How Not to Respond to Customer Complaints

Video game company EA Sports responds to gamer complaints in an overly-corporate and disingenuous way…and its new game, Star Wars Battlefront II, pays the price.

One of the features of the soon to be released Star Wars-based video game Battlefront II is an in-game economy that allows players to earn credits to unlock items within the game.

The game is a single-person campaign that takes place after the Return of the Jedi film. The online multiplayer mode lets you battle as a soldier for either the Empire or the rebels, earning perks like better weapons or boosts along the way…

…Plus, playable characters like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

And therein lies the problem. Imagine you just spent $60 to buy the game–and then you find out that you have to spend tens of hours actually playing the game in order to earn the right to use the most popular characters.

Or if you don’t want to put in that kind of time, you have to spend even more money to unlock them.

To many gamers, that’s like buying a car and then finding out you need to pay extra to get a steering wheel. And since many will play the online version, that economy creates a pay-to-play dynamic where players who spend money can gain a greater advantage by gaining access to better weapons and perks more quickly.

According to estimates made by early users, players who aren’t willing to spend more money on a $60 game would need to spend 40 hours of grinding to unlock playable characters like Chewbacca and Palpatine, and 60 hours–each–to unlock Luke or Darth Vader.

But what if you’re a highly skilled player? Doesn’t matter: One person determined that in its current state, Battlefront II gives out credits based on time spent playing and not on skill. That means no matter how good you are…you would still have to grind. A lot.

So naturally gamers complained.

And here’s how EA responded on the gaming r/subreddit, the ninth most popular subreddit with over 17 million subscribers:

With well over 600,000 downvotes, that comment is now the most downvoted comment in Reddit history by a substantial margin….

Following the backlash, EA announced changes to how it incentivizes players to unlock key content within the game. In a statement posted on EA’s website, John Wasilczyk said the company will reduce the number of credits required to unlock classic saga heroes by 75 percent.

https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/the-most-downvoted-comment-in-reddit-history-is-perfect-example-of-how-not-to-respond-to-customer-complaints.html (emphasis added)

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

The internet is a powerful tool.  Use it wisely, and it can change the world.  For example, it is giving a voice to women who have long been preyed upon by the powerful and ugly (inside and/or out).

But, remember that it is also a tool for those with bad intentions.  These include people, on one end of the spectrum, who want you to waste time and money on whatever they are selling — this includes “free” sites and games where the site gets money from advertisers as you while away precious moments of your lives and lose your health to the sedentary lifestyle they inspire.  On the other end of the spectrum lies the nastier netizens who hack laptop cameras and microphones to get nude photos or compromising information to blackmail users, who download viruses onto laptops to steal users’ bank and credit card account information, who hack power stations and damns to endanger the lives of people, etc.

How hackers can switch on your webcam and control your computer

A malicious virus known as Remote Administration Tools (RATs) can be used by hackers to switch on your webcam and control the machine without your knowledge. Andrew McMillen reports.

http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/how-hackers-can-switch-on-your-webcam-and-control-your-computer-20130328-2gvwv.html

Bank Hackers Steal Millions via Malware

Russian Hackers Shut Down Ukraine’s Power Grid

http://www.newsweek.com/russian-hackers-shut-ukraine-power-grid-415751

As with all things in life, it is your responsibility to use the item wisely, and to take control of it and not let it take control of you.  Think.  Be purposeful in your actions.  If you need to unwind for a bit and watching YouTube or playing video games helps you unwind, then, by all means, do that.  But, control yourself and the tool.  Limit your use of it.

Don’t let it take over your lives.  Video game addiction is a problem.  In addition to all the bad physical things that results from you spending hours in front of a TV (muscle weakness, poor eyesight, poor cardio-vascular health, etc.), your social skills and life would also suffer.

Gaming ‘addict’ who played Xbox 16 hours a day sought counselling after struggling to talk to real people

James Callis sought help when he struggled to connect with real people and missed out on university

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/gaming-addict-who-played-xbox-11470536

 

Man Dies From Blood Clot After Marathon Gaming

The family of a 20-year-old British man who died as a result of a blood clot that formed after playing video games for up to 12 hours a day is speaking out about the health risks obsessive gaming can pose.

David Staniforth told The Sun that his son, Chris, spent most of his days playing the online game Halo and was accepted into a game design program at Leicester University.

“He lived for his Xbox. I never dreamed he was in any danger,” Staniforth said.

The young man died in May from a deep vein thrombosis, the coroner told The Sun. The night before he died, his father told the BBC he was probably up all night on his computer.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/extreme-gamer-dies-pulmonary-embolism/story?id=14212015

 

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Those that spend more than four hours a day looking at a screen are particularly vulnerable to mental illnesses, according to the study

Children who spend large amounts of time glued to a computer risk developing mental health problems such as loneliness, depression and anxiety, government health advisers have warned.

In a hard-hitting paper, Public Health England, which advises the NHS and government, makes a clear link between the overuse of the internet and social networking sites and lower self-esteem.

Those that spend more than four hours a day looking at a screen are particularly vulnerable to mental illnesses, the report says.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/the-internet-can-be-bad-for-children-s-mental-health-9381551.html

Learn to use technology for good, my sons.  Don’t let it use you and lead you down dark paths that don’t serve you.

As always, put away electronic devices.  Limit them to no more than two hours.  Go outside. Take a walk.  Play in the park.  Enjoy nature.  Hang out with your neighbors and friends.  Be real.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

4 years, 9 months, and 12 days. Limit your use of social media. It’s a tool, not a way of life. Get off it.

 

https://i1.wp.com/www.infoservi.it/public/2014/06/Selfie-Syndrome-negative-effect-social-media.png

https://www.tnooz.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/negative-tilt-social-media.jpg

https://i2.wp.com/image.slidesharecdn.com/bseffectsofsocialmediaonyouth-140324052506-phpapp01/95/effects-of-social-media-on-youth-8-638.jpg

Everybody is exhausted: Stress and social media are taking their toll

“Social media can run the gamut from being fabulously uplifting to being totally depressing and exhausting,” says Bratt, who is also the director of trauma and resilience studies at the Livingston-based Academy of Clinical and Applied Psychoanalysis. “And this applies to all ages.”

Bratt works with young adults who check their social media constantly — at all hours of the day and night — and they all complain about being tired.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Remember how I used to tell you that you must limit screen time to two hours per day maximum?  There are lots of reasons for restricting exposure to mainstream and social media.  Pediatricians tell us it’s bad for children’s eyesight and physical health if they spend too much of their time staring at (small) screens and not getting enough exercise or playtime outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine.  Psychologists tell us it is bad for our mental health, causes unnecessary distress and depression, and contributes to fatigue.

Get off social media.  You’re the boss of you, not some jerks paid to keep you on-line despite the fact that spending too much time on-line is bad for your mental and physical self.  Why would you want to cede control of your mental and physical self to some faceless schmuck paid to do you harm?

(Businesses which pay “stars”, talking heads, and marketers to hawk their wares care only about making money: they don’t care about your health and welfare.  If they could get away with selling you substandard goods or weaken consumer protections in order to make extra money, most would.  In fact, they often pay lobbyists and politicians tens of millions to weaken standards to protect your health and welfare — all the while lying to your face and telling you how much they care about you.

For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water.

The chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, has been linked to kidney cancer, birth defects, immune system disorders and other serious health problems.

So scientists and administrators in the E.P.A.’s Office of Water were alarmed in late May when a top Trump administration appointee insisted upon the rewriting of a rule to make it harder to track the health consequences of the chemical, and therefore regulate it.

Live real life.  Get to know your neighbors.  Make real friends with real people, not AI bots on the internet pretending to be people or fake people pretending to be someone they are not.  Read good books.  Enjoy the outdoors.  Invest in yourselves.  Exercise.

Beware of the false promises and falsehood that pervades the internet.  We have long known that anonymity brings out the worst in people.  As a medium, the Internet trades mostly on anonymity.  Although law enforcement and techies have the ability to identify the IP addresses and systems used by specific users, most of us have neither the expertise nor the wherewithal to uncover the identify of the individual posting specific information on the internet.  That anonymity encourages many to lie — to make themselves look good, to hawk wares, etc.

How Fiction Becomes Fact on Social Media

Hours after the Las Vegas massacre, Travis McKinney’s Facebook feed was hit with a scattershot of conspiracy theories. The police were lying. There were multiple shooters in the hotel, not just one. The sheriff was covering for casino owners to preserve their business.

The political rumors sprouted soon after, like digital weeds. The killer was anti-Trump, an “antifa” activist, said some; others made the opposite claim, that he was an alt-right terrorist. The two unsupported narratives ran into the usual stream of chatter, news and selfies.

“This stuff was coming in from all over my network of 300 to 400” friends and followers, said Mr. McKinney, 52, of Suffolk, Va., and some posts were from his inner circle.

But he knew there was only one shooter; a handgun instructor and defense contractor, he had been listening to the police scanner in Las Vegas with an app. “I jumped online and tried to counter some of this nonsense,” he said.

In the coming weeks, executives from Facebook and Twitter will appear before Congressional committees to answer questions about the use of their platforms by Russian hackers and others to spread misinformation and skew elections. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Facebook sold more than $100,000 worth of ads to a Kremlin-linked company, and Google sold more than $4,500 worth to accounts thought to be connected to the Russian government.

Yet the psychology behind social media platforms — the dynamics that make them such powerful vectors of misinformation in the first place — are at least as important, experts say, especially for those who think they’re immune to being duped. For all the suspicions about social media companies’ motives and ethics, it is the interaction of the technology with our common, often subconscious psychological biases that make so many of us vulnerable to misinformation, and this has largely escaped notice.

Now, you may notice that I often cite articles by the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Guardian, Wall Street Journal, etc.  Are those sources immune to falsehood?  No, nothing is.  However, unlike blogs and fly-by-night “news” sources, reputable media sources have systems in place to try to report the news as accurately as possible.  They have editors and staff whose jobs it is to vet the news for accuracy.  The journalists, who often spent years studying journalism in reputable journalism programs, strive to protect the reputation they have worked so hard to create.  Likewise, newspapers like the New York Times have worked hard over decades to win Pulitzer Prizes and other recognition by august bodies: they do not risk such reputation lightly.  These and other indicia by no mean guarantee the veracity of everything these papers publish, but decreases the likelihood that they would publish uncorroborated and odious lies.

Think.  Live.   Enjoy life.  Get off social media.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

4 years, 8 months, and 15 days. Feed the right wolf.

 

https://i1.wp.com/www.bcmperformance.net/uploads/1/0/7/2/10727066/2880771.png

Acting with intention and awareness is the larger concept – and any of us can do that at any time. In a busy, distracting world where any disturbing event anywhere races towards us in a moment, we can proactively care for ourselves. Maybe set aside an urge to stare at repetitive news coverage, take note of whatever has happened with compassion, and then allow our mind to settle before resolving on a next step forward.

As Grandfather suggests in the folk tale, remain aware and feed the wolf of your choosing. Emphasize what is going well without candy-coating the rest. Take action when you can, while firmly making choices about where to give attention in life – and in your mind. Who knows, if enough of us focus on the healthier wolves more of the time, maybe we can even influence the tone and content of tomorrow’s headlines.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/child-development-central/201507/feed-the-right-wolf.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Every day, the world pulls us in a million different directions.  Social media, friends, school, relatives, etc., are constantly telling us how they want us to be.  Wear this t-shirt or you won’t be popular.  Listen to this music and you may be accepted into the in-crowd.  Lash out at that kid who looked at you funny.

Ignore the noise.  Protect yourself if you’re in danger.  Take time to teach others how to treat you if it is necessary — “IF IT IS NECESSARY” is the operative concept.  But, otherwise, ignore the noise.

Too often, people are too busy dealing with their own insecurities to give much thought about you.  Their interactions with you are often an extension of their inner insecurities more than it is something about you.  Don’t let their problems become yours.  That is just wasted efforts.  You are not responsible for them.

You have control only over yourself.  Pay attention to what you are doing, what you are thinking, etc., and make sure the things you do will lead you down the right path towards your goals and dreams.

How you spend your moments is how you’ll spend your life.  Spend it well.

Feed the right wolf.  Only you can do that: no one can do that for you.

All my love, always,

Dad

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https://i1.wp.com/quotespictures.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/its-always-easy-to-blame-others-you-can-spend-your-entire-life-blaming-the-world-but-your-successes-and-failures-are-entirely-your-own-responsibility-paulp-coelho.jpg

https://i2.wp.com/cdn-media-1.lifehack.org/wp-content/files/2013/02/Spend-15-Minutes-to-write-down-your-achievements-for-the-day.-Review-what-you-have-achieved-every-week-or-month-to-see-how-far-you-have-come.-1024x680.jpg

 

4 years, 8 months, and 3 days. Be wary of social media. It is unhealthy.

https://shoshandjaialai.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/9a509-selfie-syndrome-negative-effect-social-media.png?w=656

https://i1.wp.com/bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/tulsaworld.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/8f/a8f9d43e-923c-11e3-b547-001a4bcf6878/52f8a784d47ed.image.jpg

I started the research for a book I am writing on how the external world affects our mental health. I wanted to acknowledge the downsides of social media, but to argue that far from being a force for ill,it offers a safe place where the insanities of life elsewhere can be processed and articulated.

But the deeper into the research I went, the harder it was to sustain this argument. Besides the Daily Mail screeching about the dangers, other people – scientists, psychologists, tech insiders and internet users themselves – were highlighting ways in which social media use was damaging health.

Even the internet activist and former Google employee Wael Ghonim – one of the initiators of the Arab spring and one-time poster boy for internet-inspired revolution – who once saw social media as a social cure – now saw it as a negative force. In his eyes it went from being a place for crowdsourcing and sharing, during the initial wave of demonstrations against the Egyptian regime, to a fractious battleground full of “echo chambers” and “hate speech”: “The same tool that united us to topple dictators eventually tore us apart.” Ghonim saw social media polarising people into angry opposing camps – army supporters and Islamists – leaving centrists such as himself stuck in the middle, powerless.

The evidence is growing that social media can be a health risk, particularly for young people who now have all the normal pressures of youth (fitting in, looking good, being popular) being exploited by the multibillion-dollar companies that own the platforms they spend much of their lives on.

Kurt Vonnegut said: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful who we pretend to be.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/06/social-media-good-evidence-platforms-insecurities-health (emphasis added).

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I have always taught you to be your own man and to think for yourselves.  Unfortunately, America is becoming a country of sheep.  Everyone is busy keeping up with the Jones.  Everyone copies the latest fads being religiously followed by everyone else.  Each is afraid to be different from the others for fear of ridicule.

How ironic.  In a country where individualism is touted as the ideal, peer pressure, marketing, and social forces run counter to that ideal, and those who are different are ostracized and rejected.

https://i1.wp.com/quotesarea.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/A-tiger-does-not-lose-sleep-over-the-opinion-of-sheep.jpg

But, remember, “a tiger doesn’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.”  Ignore the small-minded. They are insecure and feel good about themselves only by putting others down.  They are nothing.  Give them pity, and no more.  They are not worth your time.

Instead, focus on what you love and on pursuing your dreams.  You will never have to work a day in your life if you do what you love.  I have been blessed in that sense.  I have enjoyed my work and, for the most part, the people with whom I work.  I wish the same for you.

Jonas Salk said, “I have had dreams and I have had nightmares.  I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.”  Dare to chase your dreams, my boys.  The world is full of timid people who live forgetful lives.  Be not like them.  Be like Hunter Thompson.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!

Hunter S. Thompson

Get off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the other junk.  Those “friends” and “followers” aren’t really your friends.  They won’t recognize you from Adam if you should ever bump into them on the streets.  They neither know your nor care about you and will never lose sleep over your everyday struggles.  Let them be.  Leave them to their virtual worlds.

Live life.  Go outside.  Meet people.  Make friends.  Give a hand to someone in need.  Live!  You’ll be glad you did.  Your life will mean something and will be worth retelling.

All my love, always,

Dad