• Gaslighting Checklist and Tutorial

    Is someone gaslighting you? Here's a basic definition:

    Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think.
    Here is a handy checklist.

    How can you combat gaslighting as a journalist? Mary Louise Kelly did a great job in her interview of Mike Pompeo recently. .

    In the 1950's, social psychologist Soloman Asch did some experiments that showed how powerful it is to be gaslit (or at least something that seems similar to gaslighting) even when it involved strangers with no emotional connection in a laboratory setting.

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    The Goldman Sachs Version of the Hippocratic oath

    Check out this CNBC article, "Goldman Sachs asks in biotech research report: ‘Is curing patients a sustainable business model?’ Excerpt:

    “The potential to deliver ‘one shot cures’ is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically-engineered cell therapy and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies,” analyst Salveen Richter wrote in the note to clients Tuesday.

    What Richter wrote is both true and shocking. Her analysis lays bare one of the many blatant conflicts of interest in the health care industry.

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    Exquisite nature macro photography with a cell phone

    OK. In THEORY, anyone can clip a macro lens onto their phone and take cool photos. Sasi Kumar, a 20-year old man from India has made high art using only these simple tools. Apparently, he has an uncanny ability to hold his phone still while triggering the shutter. And he has lots of patience, enabling him to get the money shot. It is a delight to look at his work.

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    Stinky Farts, Stinky Thoughts

    The impeachment hearings offer daily fodder to those who struggle to understand how the human mind works. Many people keep expressing frustration about the lies being told by the politicians. That raises the question: Did the brain evolve as a truth-seeking an? What if the brain's main function is survival, not truth? What if the brain's main function centers on the ?What if Truth is only a fragile, occasional, happenstance by-product of the brain's main evolved function?

    That brought this Scientific American article front and center: Here's an excerpt:

    One of the deepest problems in epistemology is how we know the nature of reality. Over the millennia philosophers have offered many theories, from solipsism (only one's mind is known to exist) to the theory that natural selection shaped our senses to give us an accurate, or verdical, model of the world. Now a new theory . . . is garnering attention . . . Grounded in evolutionary psychology, it is called the interface theory of perception (ITP) and argues that percepts act as a species-specific user interface that directs behavior toward survival and reproduction, not truth.

    Lindsey Graham is now taking the position that the Impeachment is improper because not actual crimes were committed. The Democrats then carted out Graham's 1999 video where he said the opposite. ?Every human being watching this drama unfold knows all of the following with a certainty:

    1. Graham meant what he said in 1999.
    2. Graham means the opposite today.
    3. Graham won't have much trouble doing some mental gymnastics to justify both positions.
    4. If a Democrat is impeached in the near future, Graham will revert to his 1999 position.

    How is it possible for Graham to justify these diametrically opposite positions? The function of the human brain is well beyond my understanding, of course. ?At this time, I would simply point out that one's own farts smell OK, whereas the farts of others are unpleasant. There's actually some science on why our own farts smell OK. I would simply extrapolate: Both our farts and our own dysfunctional thoughts get free passes. ?Why? ?Because they are our farts and our thoughts, not those of others. ?And where our entire tribe farts, that's OK too, because it's our tribe and not some other tribe. Our crappy thoughts constitute?our theories, meaning that the confirmation bias kicks in like a powerful optical illusion to help us ignore conflicting evidence.

    Hypocrisy is an ancient problem, of course. ?It goes back at least to biblical times:

    Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; ... You hypocrite! First, remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye.

    This hypocrisy continues to modern times:

    Morality is difficult. As [psychologist Johnathan] Haidt writes on his website, "It binds people together into teams that seek victory, not truth. It closes hearts and minds to opponents even as it makes cooperation and decency possible within groups. . . . Morality binds and blinds. The metaphor [Haidt] uses to describe this idea is that we are 90 percent chimp 10 percent bee. That is to say, though we are inherently selfish, human nature is also about being what he terms "groupish."

    The hypocrisy we are witnessing might be a little less distressing to the extent that we can accept the fact that the brain did not evolve for truth, but rather for assimilating resources to assist survival, utilizing the power of one's tribe whenever useful. If we can wrap our heads around this scary fact that the brain is much more geared for social power than truth, the impeachment hearings are nothing extraordinary. These hearings are merely more episodes of watching people gathered in tribes fighting for evolutionary fitness.

    That said, this is an enormous and distressing price to pay in exchange for understanding. ?But maybe it's . . . . true. ? Maybe those moments where human minds transcend daily survival pressures to seek consistent principled truth are extraordinarily precious moments that need to be noted and celebrated. ?Maybe we will never have a society based on truthful principles unless we work hard together.

    Nietzsche pointed that being able to see truthfully is a moral issue. He wrote that one is truthful only to the degree that one is courageous. Maybe those fragility of those moments where people work hard and self-critically to embrace truth should remind us to appreciate what we have when politicians show the moral courage to act on principle.

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    Small Claims Court Offers More Jurisprudential Integrity than the Proposed Impeachment Trial

    Even SMALL CLAIMS COURT Invites You to Introduce Live Testimony in a Public Hearing Decided by an Impartial Finder of Facts.

    You don't even need to go to law school to know this.? It is basic due process.? There will apparently be more jurisprudential integrity in a small claims court than in a proceeding considering the impeachment of the President of the United States.

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    Hiring Yourself to Do Your Household Chores, Tax Free

    I've been working on my house today, which is part fun, part tedious. It gets more fun when I consider what I’m saving financially by doing the work myself. I just make up a number of $40/hour, whch is less than it would probably cost me to hire many kinds of workers. I can’t in good conscience pick a higher number because I’m not as efficient as a specialist who has all the right tools ready.

    Here’s my totals from today. I earned $80 (two hours) putting up two window blinds. What the heck . . . I also cooked, cleaned, configured some software, did some bookkeeping, laundry and a few other odds and ends. All in all, it was about 4 hours of work, so I just paid myself $160. PLUS, I’m writing this post rather than hiring a writing. And I’m going to read to myself tonight – otherwise I might have had to pay someone to read to me. And just before falling asleep, I will fluff my own pillow and operate my own dream theater.

    Perhaps I’m getting too obsessed about saving money as a result of visiting the website of Mr. Money Mustache. That is a place where "Frugality is the New Fanciness."

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    My Awkward Love Letter to Plants

    This morning I pretended I lived in a world without any plants.? I pretended I was an inventor.

    My first client was someone asked me to invent something she called “plants.” She was entirely concerned with function, not aesthetics. She had some very demanding requirements. Each of these living things would be rooted to one position for their entire lives. They would not be able to move. I said, “Oh, like sponges . . . ” She corrected me: “No, sponges are animals like you!” She handed me information showing how plants differ from animals, though there are many similarities too, since all plants and all animals have common eukaryote ancestors.

    At first, I was relieved that my task was to design only plants, not animals, because this would save me a lot of work. There will be no need to design locomotion, vision, migration or hunting behaviors. There would not be a need for any sort of biologically expensive brain that would offer neural plasticity, the ability for an individual plants to learn. A bit more thinking made me realize that this was going to be incredibly difficult. How does one design the ability for anisms to survive day to day when they are stuck in one place? The more I thought about this project, the more daunting it seemed. [More . . . ]

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    On the Link Between Alcohol and Breast Cancer

    In 2018 Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones published a truly sobering article that deserves repeated attention:"Did Drinking Give Me Breast Cancer? The science on the link is clear, but the alcohol industry has worked hard to downplay it."

    The statistics would be difficult to ignore, if they weren't downplayed by those who find these numbers inconvenient to an activity they enjoy:

    Researchers estimate that alcohol accounts for 15 percent of US breast cancer cases and deaths—about 35,000 and 6,600 a year, respectively. That’s about three times more than the number of breast cancer cases caused by a mutation of the BRCA genes, which prompted Angelina Jolie, who carries one of the abnormal genes, to have both her healthy breasts removed in 2013. . . . But alcohol-related breast cancer kills more than twice as many American women as drunk drivers do. . . . [A] woman who consumes two to three drinks a day has a lifetime risk of about 15 percent—a 25 percent increase over teetotalers. By comparison, mammography reduces the death rate from breast cancer by about 25 percent. “Alcohol can undo all of that at about two drinks a day,” [Harvard Epidemiologist Walter] Willett says.

    In addition to increasing the risk of breast cancer, the CDC reports that drinking increases the risk of cancer to the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum and liver.

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    Becoming an Amateur Rock Jeweler

    Over the past few months, I've been posting on my newly ignited passion for rock hounding, sculpting rocks and rock tumbling. SE Missouri is a great place to find beautiful rocks. I find most of my rocks in creeks 1 or 2 hours south of St. Louis. After tumbling them, I've handed them to many friends and acquaintances as mementos and for no reason at all. People love smooth polished rocks--I'm tempted to call it a human universal.

    As I've created increasing numbers of tumbled rocks, I've learned that for a minimal cost, one can create necklaces and other jewelry with them. This is a photo of my first creation. I gave it to a dear friend who is moving away from St. Louis and it brought a big smile to her face. I'm late to this game--lots of people make jewelry. As with all handmade gifts, this is equal fun for giver and receiver.

    Here are two other necklaces I just put together. Nature generates some awesome patterns. I couldn't see these patterns on the raw rock. Not until it was tumbled. Some beautiful rocks look ordinary when tumbled. Some ordinary rocks look beautiful when tumbled. You never know.

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