The good news is, we’re all gonna die

::cue Whitey Ford::

Nothing makes you appreciate your financial mortality like a wade through the waters of your health-insurance benefits.

Ironically, this is doubly true because these are the best benefits I've ever had, and I'm currently making some of the best money I've ever made — certainly more than enough to be comfortable by most standards; my salary is higher than the average 2-income salary in some cities…and yet, it doesn't take much calculating to realize that any *real* medical issue would bury me completely.  There'd be nothing I could do, especially if the issue interfered with my ability to make my salary.

But even if I could continue working, these numbers are just, well, sick.  I'm "only" going to pay about $6,000 out of pocket per year before my benefits kick in — that's $500 a month.  Do you have that in extra income?  Because I don't, and like I said, I do pretty well.  Any more than a month or two of an extra $500 in expenses would have me bleeding my savings out, which I'm sure is true for many people.  And that's just the base pay — I'm also responsible for between 20-80% of the cost of everything from hospitalization to chemotherapy, plus all of the cost of any of the zillion things that aren't covered which are incidental to care, healing and recovery.  What's 20% of chemo?  I've got to imagine it's pretty awful.  I was hospitalized for an accidental injury years ago and the bill came to over $80,000 for a week-long stay and emergency surgery…20% of that is $16,000, or $1333 per month if I get lucky and land on a payment plan.  Almost double my rent payment.  HA.

And this isn't even getting into the good bits, like how there are certain "preferred" brands of drugs that are more covered than others, forcing me to give money to companies that my health-insurance (and likely also doctor and hospital) corporations get a kickback for.  I'm sure that, like the other strange little requirements sprinkled all over this policy, is totally there because it's giving me the best care and the best opportunity to heal.  And oh, if I don't heal, if one of these profit-motivated medical decisions keeps or makes me sick, then guess what?  More rent-payment-level bills in my lap.

Once again, what really bothers me is that we allow corporations to do all this (at all, but also) while claiming that their primary goal is the health of citizens.  If only there were regulations requiring them to disclose that their profit margin was their main concern, I could sleep easier.  I'm not sure why, but… Better the devil you know, I guess.

But I suppose the upside is, when you're this screwed, it's hard to really give a shit.  I can feel a little better able to accept the reality now that I know that the deal is:  I eat the $75/mo cost of health insurance (and count myself lucky that my employer pays for the rest, which is substantial — again, rent-level), and I use it for everything I can, but I don't let it make me think for a second that I'm not going utterly broke if I ever get sick or hurt.  If that happens, I'm going to give up hard and quick on ever paying those bills, because screw it, it's not possible; there's nothing to gain there morally by trying my best; instead I'll just try to keep my health and my life as long as possible, and accept that it will destroy my financial life to do so.

I live in a country that has no problem letting corporations take our life savings in exchange for medicine — to the point where our government spends tons MORE on health-care than countries which provide it for free, just to support this system —  and if I need lots of medicine, my country is going to let companies take everything I have or threaten to kill me if I can't pay.

Noted.  Thanks, USofA.  

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Light Exercise FTW

This post by almost-polyphaser Marco Calvo Cruz (I know, somebody won the name lottery, right?) has a bit of information in it that I feel kind of Duh for having never focused on before (at least, I don’t think I have) — and this excellent post over on Minding Your Way fits right into it, too.

The lesson is “light exercise”.

Exercise Lite

Yes, I do mean “light” exercise in the sense of “gentle / not intense” — I feel I should clarify that, because I rarely do anything “light”, at least not on purpose; and I certainly mostly don’t like my exercise that way. But it occurs to me after reading both of those blog-posts that I do get a lot of exercise that way, and it has surprising benefits.

(I’ll never spell it “lite” again — I did that to make a point, but I fucking hate that misspelling, thank you corporate brandvertising, ew.)

(Bill Hicks break to feel better about that for a second…aaaaaah. Okay, moving on.)

What is “light exercise” anyway?

I, at least, hadn’t pondered this much. But upon doing so:

Light exercise is when you’re moving, but not panting or sweating.
Light exercise is getting a thing done, or practicing a thing, or traveling under your own power.

It’s taking a long walk, or playing ping-pong, or slow-dancing, or balancing on a thing, or re-shelving all your books. It’s doing the stuff that it’s easy to overlook the physical component of (unless or until, gods forbid, something happens that makes doing that physical part difficult — dancing or shelving books is a whole different ball of wax with, say, a broken leg).

But it’s sooooper useful, for many reasons.

Staying awake!

…is a huge reason light exercise is handy. Heavy exercise wears you out and makes you tired, whereas light exercise just keeps your blood moving, your breath bellowsing; light work is moving at cruising speed, and it helps keep you aware and functioning smoothly even when you’re tired. That makes it an awesome way to stay awake when you’re sleep-deprived but don’t want to sleep right now — either because you’re changing sleep-schedules, or simply sleepy at an inconvenient time (hopefully not because you’re on the wrong sleep-schedule for you, because if you are, you’re better off being sleepy because you’re changing schedules!).

For polyphasers developing lists of things to do to stave off tiredness during schedule-adjustments (BFLs as I call them), I’ve been recommending loading those lists with light exercise for years, without quite seeing or calling out the pattern. Some of the best BFL items are things like:

Cleaning the house (mopping, sweeping, sorting, scrubbing, etc)
Doing all the laundry
Re-organizing things like books and tools
Taking long walks, or shorter walks that are difficult in some way (balancing, “silly walking”, etc.)

Health & Fitness

Light exercise is why we need about half of the calories we consume — it may not burn as much per hour as heavy exercise, but most of us do it nearly all day.

Or rather, we should, because our bodies are meant to work that way. Health experts have been saying for some time that being sedentary — being at rest for extended periods, instead of in a state of light exercise — is one of the most damaging possible things for our systems. Healthy people are those who move around in some way pretty much constantly.

A total or near-total lack of light exercise is also a failure to burn 500 or more calories a day, so basically if you’re sitting around instead of moving, you might as well be eating an extra fast-food meal every day, fat-gain-wise. In all seriousness, if most sedentary people got 3 hours more of sustained light exercise per day, and cut out the one junkiest food from their diets (for most people I know, it’s soda), they’d be svelte as deer.

Psychological reprogramming

And let’s not forget that second link I put up above: I adore the point that article is making, that we have this fucked-up tendency to view our lives as being periods of unpleasant work done for the goal-purpose of being able to eventually laze around and do nothing. It’s sick, right? But look at our big life-goals to see this writ large: Take vacations, retire in old age, die and go to a place where everybody just sits around on clouds sipping tea. And we break up our days like this, too, habitually: We pine for “getting enough done” that we can “finally” sit down and put our feet up and watch TV, surf, or play video games until we have to sleep. The goal of all that work was to stop moving.

Except that it isn’t: Work, moving, doing things, IS the goal; it’s the healthy way to be. We intersperse moving with rest as our bodies and minds need it — sleep, sitting down for a minute, reading a book — but this is all part of our natural state of moving with periods of rest. We aren’t being dragged into moving and if things were perfect or “all done”, we’d just lay around — at least, we sure shouldn’t.

Light exercise, seeing it and valuing it, is a great way to re-program this thinking, to, as the article puts it, recognize that “the ground state is in motion”, that being alive should involve being in motion most of the time. Consciously making light exercise the majority of your day — or just realizing that it is, and that that’s awesome and good for you — is reminding yourself that you’re alive and moving, that the work you’re doing is not just some terrible thing you’re getting over-with so that you can lay around, retire, or die; it IS life; it is itself the goal. And that point of view brings with it more present-mindedness, more respect for the task at hand, and more recognition that if you hate what you’re doing right now, you probably ought to change it. Hell yes.

Now go do a thing! I’m gonna. :D

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One million one

There are a million things I could be writing instead,

but today I had to remind every facet of myself

that judgment is bullshit.  Every measuring-device

we invent and hold up to ourselves is wildly flawed,

and every decision we make based on "I'm not good enough"

will never lead to better.

Accept what is.

Be gentle with yourself.

Be strong on the inside and vulnerable on the outside.

And when your mind hardens and declares something a failure,

remind yourself — and me! — that that is not its place;

that what we're here to do is the best we can with an ever-changing

(read that again!  ever-changing)

set of traits and circumstances.  Sick or healthy, ugly or beautiful, popular or

hated and hunted and hurt,

our job is the same:  Be here now.  Accept this.  Play your best with this hand.

In this we'll find endless gratitude, for each other,

and for sunny days and nice drinks and every little thing that helps,

and also the strength to turn away from our detractors

and walk to the end, like we're meant to.

Posted in better thinking | 1 Comment

Give me back that word, you aren’t ready to use it yet: “Community”

There are some words I just want to yank away from people and put on a high shelf until they're big enough to know better.

"Community" is one of them.  There've been some particularly egregious violations of this word in my world lately, which is why I'm throwing it in the spotlight (and up on the high shelf), but it's hardly a new problem.  Rather than rail against the specific social groups and corporations I've seen rolling this word in the mud, though, I'm going to focus on what they're missing, and why it's important.

When we say "community", we are specifically referring to humanity's:

C1) need to BE SOCIAL — which is not just to co-exist, but to live intertwined with, and rely on, each other;


C2) desire to ACT RATIONALLY, consciously, and with better long-term self-interest than our animal urges would have us do.

I can't stress how important BOTH of those are in order to have a community.  If you have social without rational, you just have an animal pack or a mob.  If you have rational without social, you have a business or a military or similar, but it's got none of the benefits of working together and mutual support that we look for in communities.  There can be many types of communal structure and communal actions, of course, but they all have those two things in common, or they're not "a community" (or "community-oriented", or what have you).  

Here are a few things that are NOT COMMUNITY:

1.  top-down organization systems where one or a few people are explicitly in charge of everyone else (violates C1: we're not being social and relying on each other just by all obeying the same, epecially the same faceless or distant, authority)

2.  "cliques" and social groups where, no matter what rational policies and procedures claim to be used or valued, the reality of inclusion and participation is that you'd better be liked by the handful of people with power, or they will be able to successfully punish or ostracize you (violates C2: this is straight-up pack-animal behavior, driven by fear, greed and isolationism rather than any desire to work together)

3.  corporate organizations where the sole reason people are together is to make (or spend) money, and/or where the only thing holding the group together is money (violates C1: if money is the sole thing holding a group together, it's a business, not a community.  In a business, the values of social cooperation and gain-for-everyone are often shoved aside in the interest of increasing and protecting money, because without the money there would be no business.  In a community, however, if we lose money, we lose it together, and then we work together to help each other get what we need without it.)

4.  groups and situations ruled by a "mob mentality", where people who are different or intimidating, or have unpopular habits or opinions, can be turned on and punished / excluded because there's no functioning mechanism to protect them from fear-based reactions (violates C2: rationally, we know that diversity is a strength, and that without fringey people who may make us uncomfortable at times, we'll never make progress…but as animals, violations of the status quo scare us, and we want to respond to perceived threats by pushing people down or out.  In a real community though, there are clear rules for what constitutes unacceptable behavior, and — and this is important — clear, preferably multiple, paths for people whose behavior doesn't mesh well to re-integrate.  Without those rules and those paths — which cannot be overseen by one or a few people, or you have a case of #1 — every group will inevitably exclude (or kill — no accident that that's how the animals do it; it's efficient) its mentally-ill, its geniuses, its differently-abled, and those in the group who come from different cultures.)

SO, to condense that a bit, the next time someone tries to sell you on their thing by talking about what a great "community" it is, ask yourself:

  • Is this a top-down organization where all the rules are coming from one or a few people (especially if those people are not subject to the same rules, or can choose to enforce them or not)?  –> NOT A COMMUNITY
  • Is this a group where you can be punished or kicked out simply for "getting on the wrong side" of the person or people in charge, and the group as a whole (or its rules and procedures) can't save you if you do?  –> NOT A COMMUNITY
  • Is this a group that exists mainly for the purpose of making money? –> NOT A COMMUNITY
  • Is this a group without rules and procedures in place to protect people who induce a fear-reaction in others, by being different or having uncomfortable ideas?  –> NOT A COMMUNITY

I LOVE communities, if you can't tell.  I think working together in social groups that use our talents for rational thought, planning, and self-awareness gives humanity a huge force-multiplier, and lets us make amazing leaps forward.  But I lament the day that someone figured out how to sell people on investing in groups by calling them "communities", becuase it was a tricky word to begin with, and has now been ridiculously watered-down and appropriated by everyone from office-managers to forum-moderators to event-planners and more.  And it makes me seethe with rage, pretty much equally whether the intent was to lure and fake people into participating, or to try and create a community and not have two neurons to rub together to bother figuring out what that actually is, or sticking by it when it gets hard (like when you need to tell your favorite leaders "no", or stand up for people that not everyone likes).  I don't see either of those failures as better than the other.

So give me that word back, assholes.  I'm putting everyone who misuses the term "community" in the same circle of logical hell, and may they abuse and ostracize each other there for all eternity, and leave the rest of us alone; and until then, you lose your right to say "community" without getting at least metaphorically slapped in the face.  (That's right.  I've learned how to backhand people with metaphors.  Or I will soon enough.  :D)

Posted in better thinking | 4 Comments

Words, Numbers, Lives, and Law: Things that Matter

Okay.  I haven't had a lot of time for blogging lately, but this is important. 

I'm not a journalist.  But I *am* a type of logician, and this one logical fail going on seemingly everywhere in my country is causing insane levels of harm.  Here it is:  It is not the same to say,

  • Police shot and killed a man on Storrow Drive today.  

    • He was suspected of a crime and carrying a knife.
    • The trooper who shot him was following protocol, and ordered the man to put down his knife before killing him.


  • Police shot and killed roughly their 400th American citizen in 2015 today, based on an estimated count by the Washington Post.  [1]

    • Estimated counts by the press are necessary because the reporting of police killings in the US is entirely voluntary.
    • The number of fatal shootings by cops in England last year was ZERO.  In Australia, where the police do carry guns, the number was SIX.  [2]

I keep running over article after article like the former, and yet I hardly read ANY like the latter.  What a different point it makes!  What an entirely different world when you look at these police killings through the lens of how it is in other western countries.  By focusing so extremely tightly on "whether the victim deserved it" and "whether the cop was 'justified'" (more on that in a minute), American media is completely glossing over the UNBELIEVABLY HUGE PROBLEM this country has:  Our police are, as an organization, mad serial killers whom we hold almost completely unaccountable for their actions.  [3]

Even when it comes to light that they're abusing their power to further our awful racism problem, or to kill children and harmless old people in weapon-soaked and crazily mis-handled "drug raids" that read like something out of a KGB bedtime story, we keep that flashlight firmly focused on the individual incidents, on the victims and the details that may have contributed their own fault to their death; on the cop with the nice family and the details that may contribute to his innocence.  

Seriously, go read the news, go turn on your local stuff.  This is what 90+% of our media coverage about police shootings consists of:  Here's a(nother!) victim.  Here's what they did wrong.  Here's why we should maybe forgive this cop.  Roll credits.

It's getting too Orwellian for me by far.  Not that I could really stomach the news-o-tainment beforehand, but come on, people; this is positively end-of-the-world shit right here.  We as a country have cancer, and you're bringing us technically-accurate test results on our itchy toenail fungus.  And the problem isn't that your facts are wrong; it's that you're reporting the wrong facts.  This is what we in the logic world like to call a "framing problem", and here's how you fix it:

  1. THE LAW MATTERS.  And because of the law, it never, ever, ever matters whether the victim was suspected of a crime, so stop talking about it.  If the victim had been convicted of a crime which carried the death sentence, then their criminal record would be relevant here.  But in this (and every other civilized) country, we do NOT punish the vast majority of crimes by executing people in the street without a trial.  That is the law and IT MATTERS.

    1. If you doubt that this law matters, consider what it would be like to live in a place where it wasn't the law:  Where the cops could, in fact, legally shoot you if they wanted to.  …I believe those are ISIS and the Taliban's laws.‚Äč
    2. Therefore, being shot by the police is NEVER "justified" unless such extraordinary circumstances apply that we would, as a democracy, actually be ok with applying a summary death-sentence without a trial.  (Such circumstances could happen:  Take the two sniper-murderers from a few years ago, who were caught red-handed shooting innocent people and ran away, firing guns and obviously intending to kill more — that probably justified a murder for the sake of protecting other citizens.  Um, except that the police managed to take them alive.  ::cough::theywerewhite::cough::)

      1. STOP USING THE WORD "JUSTIFIED" unless the above applies.
      2. As a reminder, aiming a gun at a police officer is ALSO NOT a crime that is punishable by summary execution in the streets without a trial.  Neither is refusing to obey an order, wielding a knife, running away, or having a criminal record.  STOP USING THE WORD "JUSTIFIED".
  2. IT MATTERS that this is NOT a problem other countries share.  This isn't human nature or unfortunate coincidence — this is a sickness, and it's killing people who are NOT supposed to die, and ruining lives, and now causing civil unrest across the country.  Can we please take it seriously as a national crisis already?

    1. The international statistics are not invisible or hard to find.  They're actually easier to find than ours, since in most other countries, reporting an incident like a police shooting is mandatory — whereas for some unbelievable reason no-one seems to be able to articulate, in the US, police departments can choose to report the incidents or not, as they like.  More evidence of just how serious and systemic this problem is.  
    2. The fact that the numbers are SO UNBELIEVABLY DIFFERENT — basically they're under ten deaths a year for every country except America, who reported (reported) 400 in 2012 [4] — is NOT a reason to ignore them.  Seriously, you guys are always looking for shock-value — why not admit and treat these numbers as the jaw-dropping WTF they are?  

      1. We spend a TON of taxpayer money on our police departments, and we have every right to expect them to do at least as good a job as other developed countries. 
      2. The police work for us, and we did not hire them to kill us — but how do we hold them accountable, especially when things have gotten so corrupt that they don't even have to report murdering someone when they do it?  In the seven years ending in 2011, only 41 officers were even charged with a crime relating to killing someone — not convicted; charged. [5]  The answer is that we MUST TALK ABOUT IT:  We MUST keep the frequency and unacceptability of these incidents in the light.  This weird silence we keep about the shocking difference between US and other countries' death-tolls by police is one of the major things allowing it to continue happening.

        1. And it's also one of the major causes of the civil unrest, too.  People's family-members are dying and nobody's even getting in trouble for it.  When we aren't talking about it in the media, when looking around it's obvious that nobody cares this is happening, what do you expect them to do?  Nothing?
  3. IT MATTERS that the murders are racist.  The media's treatment of the blindingly obvious racial elements of police murders is almost comically see-no-evil … but that approach is causing a lot more evil, and it's stupid and preventable.  By acknowledging that police forces overall are clearly racist, and part of the greater racism problem in America, the media could make it possible for us to start fixing those problems.  Continuing to hide them is only letting them get worse.

    1. It's uncomfortable as a white person to acknowledge that you have the privilege of being somewhat less likely to be murdered by the police; I get it.  Do some reading on how to acknowledge your privilege without being a jerk — it exists; it's not that difficult — and get over it.  If you can't talk about uncomfortable things, you prooooobably shouldn't be in journalism.  And it doesn't take much perspective to realize what the result of weighing your discomfort against other people's murders ought to be.
    2. If you don't actually agree that BLACK LIVES MATTER, stop typing that article right now and get the fuck out of this country, because equality is one of our most fundamental founding principles.  Seriously, GTFO.  I'll wait.
    3. Stop being so damn flinchy about bringing up race, as though as soon as you do, everything else goes out the window.  In case you never noticed this before, dark-skinned people are people, and have many of the same concerns as light-skinned people.  You can, in fact, say "Well it's obvious that there's a racist element here, since 75% of the deaths due to police shootings in this area last year were of black people.  Also, we should talk about the number of deaths this year compared to European countries, and whether there will be charges brought, and the fact that this victim is a child," and most people will follow you just fine.  You do not in fact need to teach a college course on racism in order to acknowledge that it clearly exists, so quit using that excuse to avoid it.

…I'll stop there, because I'm mentally exhausted, and also completely disgusted with blogging platforms lately — seriously, I have a ton of writing to do; I can NOT deal with how revoltingly awful WordPress' interface is, and the fact that I can't even just copy/paste standard markdown and have it work like it does in a zillion less-complex platforms…I'm tearing my hair out trying to write this and properly format a simple ordered list, because even though I can see the HTML it's sloppy as fuck and I *know* it won't display correctly…ugh.  Ugh ugh ugh.  Anyway, hopefully I'll find a fix to that problem (maybe I'll just start writing in markdown and posting it as plain text, since unformatted md is often easier to read that the crap WP formats), and other problems besides; but for now, at least I got some air on this topic before I turn into a shooter myself.  (Don't worry, I'd get my police-badge first, to make sure I wouldn't be punished for it.  AMERICAN POLIZE POSSE UNPROSECUTED KILLAZ 4EVA YEAAAAH!)



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Blanket Distrust

(no no, not distrust of blankets. we like blankets. they’re like towels, but they mean business. the fully-automatic not-effing-around of douglasadamsian towels.)

(but I digress, before I’ve begun. BECAUSE THAT’S HOW I ROLL, obviously.)

It’s hard to know what thoughts to trust when your brain lies all the time. Even more so when you’re obsessed with logical consistency (or allergic to cognitive dissonance, to look at it another way), and can’t be comfortable with making faith-based declarations or sweeping inductive-reasonings that are somehow expected to hold up for decades.

Today I thought of something that I can always distrust, which is a huge win. It’s a bit less treadmill-cogitating I have to do when I’m already stressed; something I can lean on and actually be comfortable leaning on, because it’s logically sound, and will continue to be. Here it is:

WHENEVER SOME THOUGHT-PROCESS DETERMINES THAT YOU MUST BE A FAILURE, it is wrong; or at least has no standing as viable evidence of jackshit, and can be thrown away.

Why? Because to claim that you “are” “a failure” — a verb of being, an adjective of permanence — requires the completely unacceptable assumption that things are finished in some sense. And to look back (especially to look back on a single segment or point of view, which these thoughts often do) and then interpret from that that what you’ve decided you see now IS THIS THING PERIOD FOREVERMORE UNH YEAH BABY…is the sloppiest thinking imaginable.

If someone pointed to a foot-high sprout and claimed that that’s what an oak tree is, you’d think they were daft. If they pointed at a child with dirt on its face and declared that person forevermore a filthy mess, we’d give them the Worst Judgmental Asshole Ever award without thinking twice.

Yet why is it different, to call yourself a failure? So you lost your job — in a decade, you’ll be in a completely different place professionally anyway. So you’re single and would rather not be — a condition you’re likely to look back on with gratitude from the beginning of your next relationship. By saying that you’ve failed at anything, you’re saying “I’m done”, and EVEN if you’re on death’s door, that’s the kind of sweeping, arrogant intellectual assumption that makes me physically ill.

So no more. From now on whenever my brain says “You’re a failure,” I’m going to say back, “Who the hell do you think you are; Father Time? How, by all that’s holy, do you think you can judge me as a totality, when I’m still in the middle of this ride and you, you’re a plastic statue stuck on my dashboard, with anything but a bird’s-eye view?!

“Shut. Up. Forever.”

Posted in 3D, better thinking, philosophy | 5 Comments

Sleepdex, come on down! You’re the next contestant on Wrong About Polyphasic Sleep!

Oh look, another source of almost completely wrong information on polyphasic sleep! Thanks to Chantel for turning that one up. Apparently polysleep (which is misdefined as equalling Dymaxion, but not Uberman, what) doesn’t occur in the wild, except later in the article when it does, but with an implicit assumption that the tribes doing it must be attempting to do it for some reason — more free time? — and probably failing because that’s how it works. (Sort of. The logic here isn’t exactly easy to follow.)

Maybe the huge portion of the world that’s biphasic (and unmentioned), as well as the polyphasic sleepers in tribal and nomadic societies and oh yeah basically all of the primates anywhere, are trying to be polyphasic because, as the author speculates is true of all of us, they’re men in their 20s who want to think of themselves as geniuses. Citation needed, dude. >,<

Posted in polyphasic sleep | 3 Comments