Sunday, September 23, 2018

Whole milk

I thought milk was simply the food that mammal mothers fed their babies.  It is that but there is much more to the story. See "Milk" by Kurlansky. The story of the human dispersion around the planet is connected with the special phenomenon of adults drinking milk.  They shouldn't be able to, since it is food for infants but some branches of humanity retain their ability to digest milk past childhood.

Milk is connected to the human understanding that there exist many forms of life on the planet that are too small for human eyes to see.  But "pasteurization" and other tools of safe food handling have changed what can be done with milk and where. About 8000 years ago, the process for making cheese from milk created a safer and more portable food.  Of course, that was early groundwork for the later rise of Wisconsin's cheese industry and that of others.

Fast forward to today's human problems with body weight and fat, the obesity problem.  It is often interesting when society or even science itself gets ideas wrong. There seems to be a growing movement toward more fat in the human diet.  From 1950 or so until lately, a popular idea has been to avoid eating fat so that arteries and veins would be less likely to get clogged. My friend advised me to read the article "Arteriosclerosis as Clogged Pipes".  I saw a reference to Dr. Sarah Hallberg's TED talk "First Ignore the Guidelines." She is cheerful, seems trustworthy and enthusiastic. She says avoid anything lo-fat or no-fat.

I was impressed yesterday to see an article in Time magazine on increasing sales of whole milk.  We have drunk skim for years but I have been drinking whole milk with full fat lately. I have read repeatedly that fat is satiating and satisfying, and after a couple of weeks on whole milk, I found that I am indeed more satisfied, even to the point of being completely uninterested in more food beyond a normal or even smallish meal.  My pants are a bit too big in the waist now.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The bot did it

I got 6-8 notices from a web site/organization saying I had unsubscribed.  I had not done so and I didn't want to. It was quick and easy to join back on again but it got old.  These guys are very sophisticated computer users. I wrote to them and asked for information about who was unsubscribing me.  

They got back with the answer.  "Bots" were doing it. Naturally, I had not considered that possibility.  Look it up. Watch YouTube videos. I found that bots, or web bots or web robots are actually scripts that some machine or other can operate. The usual term is "execute", not as in killing someone but as in carrying out a task. If you have ever tried to alphabetize a group of titles and compared the time it takes with having a spreadsheet or other computer application to the job, you have experienced the truth that computers can do it much faster.  

Much like a mailing group can enable a user to paste many email address in a message in a flash, much like a "macro" in Excel or other software can carrying out a series of steps in an instant, a bot can perform repetitive and complex tasks tirelessly and very quickly.  From what I learned, I gather that once in a while, some sort of bot goes over what I post in my blog. I guess where a message says "Unsubscribe here" with a link, the bot jumps to the task. I assume it unsubcribes me efficiently and quickly.

I am glad I learned to think of bots once in a while.  I have heard that machines, artificial intelligence and other sources of both power and frustration are advancing into my life and I think that is true.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Pocket and other recommenders

I use two browsers most days.  My computer is a very inexpensive one and has limited capacity so I try to stay aware of how many page tabs I have open at once.  Firefox is supposed to be rather independent and it is descended from Netscape, the first browser that really took me all over the web.  Chrome is Google's browser and it may be best for the many Google services and products I use, such as Calendar, Contacts, Gmail, Blogger and My Drive.  

Firefox has a new feature called Pocket.  It features rapid saving and sending web pages of interest. On the new page tab, Pocket shows recommended articles, sites and pages calculated to be of interest.  Lately, I have found that many of Pocket's recommendations are indeed of interest.

You may remember when Netflix offered a big prize to the programmer who could lift the company's accepted recommendations to a given target.  I think I read that someone succeeded. Netflix, Amazon, Kobo, and probably others I am not thinking of, offer recommendations often. They are basically ads but some attempt is made, I think, to base the recommendations on my recent choices.

I am interested in the psychology of further choices.  I am pretty sure that if I have just read an Agatha Christie novel, I am not going to choose another right away.  But if you show me a book on evolution or gravity or Stormy Daniel's grandmother's farm, I might be interested. It is hard to say what might be of interest if I only know what I am probably not interested in.  That position leaves open so many possibilities. If I am Netflix or Amazon, I will be tempted to look at the data on my recent choices.

I was charmed by Alexander McCall Smith and read many of his Botswana novels.  I haven't even checked to see if he has anything written that I want to read. Recently, we seemed to have exhausted our Roku tv choices and Lynn suggested we look at the Doc Martin series and the Foyle's War series all over again.  We watched an episode in series 3 last night of Foyle's War. We are both surprised at how little we recall from any earlier viewing. We are confident that we did see all the programs before but we rarely recall any part of the story. I don't think it is our age and memory power.  I think it is simply number and time. We watched so many shows and so long ago that it is all new.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Intentional intensification attempts

Sometimes, I don't get want I want.  I know what I want, and that is not what happens.  I am not feeling happy but I want to. I don't have enough money and I wish I had more.  I can have a great time, watch a fine show, eat a wonderful meal. They were so good, I want the next time, the next show, the next meal to be that good but they aren't.  

I am reading "Advice Not Given" by Dr. Mark Epstein.  I like his books and many other people have commented on how helpful his writing can be.  He writes here about people trying meditation:

Wanting to do it for the right amount of time, wanting to make the tension disappear, and wanting to have the next meditation be as good as the last one all represented different versions of it. My patients' wishes to "do it right" reminded me of how I felt...

Epstein, Mark. Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself (pp. 37-38). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I found a while back that physical pain could sometimes be stopped if I sat or lay still and fully concentrated on the pain.

Similarly, when I find I am hoping and wishing that things were better and more like what I want, or think I want, I can similarly notice I am wishful, or fidgety or antsy.  Many advisors warn against running away, against resistance. So, sometimes I experiment with the opposite: I try to be more wishful, more fidgety, or even antsier than I am.  When I do it right, I get a message from myself that says: "Are you nuts? You are already wishful and you want to be more so? Whatsa matter you?" Internal forces contract the wishfulness and usher it out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Developing awareness of our minds

I am giving a presentation on Thursday about developing mindfulness.  In an American environment (the only one I know), it is easy to be too enthusiastic, too vigorously committed to being the most mindful person ever.  The idea is to devote 5 to 10 minutes most days to sitting still and being quiet. During that time, meditation can be used to increase awareness of what is on the mind.  

Three different approaches to using the tool of mediation to cozy up to one's mind are often outlined.  One-point meditation tells us to focus on an anchor and notice whenever the mind drifts off the focus point.  When noticing, the act of bringing the mind back to the focus IS the moment of brain and mind training we seek.  So, in a way, drifting off into worries or hopes is a good thing since it gives a chance to train. Again, it is the moment of noticing that one is off the track that counts.

More advanced meditators can simply watch the mind's constantly shifting ideas and associations.  "Insight meditation" can be interesting and helpful but there is the danger of getting off into thinking about making dinner or some other story/distraction.  "Loving-kindness" meditation offers love and compassion and understanding and appreciation to one's self, one's loved ones and to all others.

The handout for my Thursday session is here:

The handout is entitled "Being aware of our minds with acceptance" because so many people are trying to improve this or that.  When I find that I am thinking improper or avaricious thoughts, I want to simply return to my focus without giving myself a lecture on what would be higher thoughts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

For or against?

This morning seemed to be about complexity and knowledge limits. My neighbor complained that 20% of the money he took in with his business was his, but the rest was for taxes, insurance, office upkeep and other expenses that gnawed away at his profits. I argued that the "profits" were used for his trips, his cars, his food while the 80% was to offset risks, pay his staff, pay his share for government services and other expenses that he wanted to have paid.  

Then, I went to a lecture by a professor of political science.  The idea was to help the members of his audience locate themselves politically as liberals, conservatives, libertarians, authoritarians, or centrists.  He asked us to think of our support of, or opposition to, many issues. He only had an hour and a half, and he gave us questions such as "Do you support free speech and press?"

When asked as a yes or no question, it is easy to wonder about meanings, definitions and details.  His quiz set free speech and press as opposites to anti-pornography. It didn't take long for me to feel uncomfortable with simplification of what could be, and probably is, a complex set of issues.  His aim was to help us decide where we were situated in political positions but the exercise showed me that any important political, social or government subject is quite complex. Gun control? What kind of guns?  What kind of control? Welfare or private charity? What sort of welfare, what kind of private charity? How about both?

I count myself lucky to have not been elected to represent others in local, state or national government.  I don't admire indecisiveness, but I fear I would still be researching the first subject I had to vote on long after the vote was finished and the group had decided its position.  I am glad I am not responsible for making the law as a legislator, or deciding what is best to do in particular instances, some quite snarled and odd, in court cases.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Modern twists

Yesterday, Lynn sent me a message in Facebook's Messenger about a community sign in a small Colorado community.  The sign is notable and known for its clever sayings.

Many of the sayings can be seen here:

One of them that has stuck with me is

Despite the high cost of living, it remains popular

I was struck by the fact that the sign composer, Vince Rozmiarek, has created a Facebook page for the sign.  That page has 45,000 followers.

A friend of mine has a young daughter that has 75,000 followers on her YouTube channel.  Think about that a practice of posting a single comment has attracted 45,000 followers. A young singer has 75,000.  There really are some new types of events, new types of communications, new happenings in the world today.

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