RSSCategory: Addictions

New graphic cigarette warns might discourage smokers

June 29, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
New graphic cigarette warns might discourage smokers

And then again, according to this article in Discover, they might not. Check the comments to see the counter-research, as well as ever-more skirmishes in the ongoing American culture-wars.

To the extent that graphic warnings don’t discourage smokers, I’ll rack this up as one of the many many many counter-intuitive things scientists have discovered about human beings.

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Fantasy world

February 28, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More
Fantasy world

I just watched an hour of the Academy Awards tonight, and I was impressed with the snippets of movies that were shown (though I haven’t seen any of the featured movies yet). I love movies. I’ve seen hundreds of movies in my life, I’d bet I’ve watched two or three movies per month over my 54 years of life. Many of them have inspired me. I’m glad we have the opportunity to watch well-crafted movies. I should add that I watch almost no live television.

I’m increasingly disturbed about the great number of Americans who know far more about the movies and television they watch than they know about the real world. They know more because they watch dozens of movies every month. They can talk for endless hours about movies, movie stars and even the gossip regarding movie stars. Most people I know have a far greater grasp about movies than they do about any of the big issues facing this country. Movies are as real to them as the world they actually live in.

The following statistics are from the Kaiser Foundation:

Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.

The Academy promotes movies as opportunities to escape, and movies function too well in that regard.

[More . . . ]

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Happiness as overrated

January 12, 2011 | By | Reply More
Happiness as overrated

I recently stumbled upon a book called The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It, by David Niven, PhD (2000). The book offers quite a bit of solid commonsense advice. For instance:

– Cultivate friendships,
– Turn off the TV (“TV reduces personal contentment “by about 5% for every hour a day we watch”),
– Get a good nights sleep, and
– Money does not buy happiness.

Fair enough. Interspersed with the good advice, however, is quite a bit of advice with which I am not impressed. For instance,

Chapter 8: Accept yourself-unconditionally.
Chapter 12: Have realistic expectations.
Chapter 16: Believe in yourself.
Chapter 23: Belong to a religion.
Chapter 26: Root for a home team (a sports team).
Chapter 34 It’s not what happened; it’s how you think about what happened.

[More . . . ]

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Maddening Blather on Hold with AT&T

December 30, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More
Maddening Blather on Hold with AT&T

We lost our Roku internet connection this evening. Also the laptop connection, and the main computer. Basically, my internet was down.

So I went through all the usual things to find the problem. Computer was talking to the router that was in turn talking to the modem. So far so good. I managed to tell the router to tell the modem to change my IP address. Everything was working.

But I could not reach any web sites, email, or ftp servers. I finally figured out that the DNS must be down. Domain Name Service is the internet utility that converts name addresses (like DangerousIntersection.org) to numerical route addresses (like 206.225.8.91) so your packets (requests, pages, images, etc) can find their way through the web.

So I called AT&T and answered a series of questions, like “Can you get online?” (No) and “Did you try rebooting and turning the modem off and back on?” (Yes). Finally, I landed in the service hold queue.

What to my wondering ear did appear in the cannot-get-online and did-reboot queue? An annoying loop of messages telling me all the wonderful support I can get online! This, plus the repeated suggestion that I try rebooting.

ga-ah!GAA-AH!ga-ah!

I sat on hold for 35 minutes before I decided to vent on this forum. Well, at least to write about it. I have to wait till either they fix the problem, or I get through and can ask for a numerical address for the address server to bypass the broken automatic one.

After 73 minutes (1:13) of this, I reached an actual person. I started with asking if she knew how long the DNS would be down, largely to jump past all the AnyKey suggestions. No, but similar problems typically are resolved in 4 hours. Then I asked if she had a bypass DNS address that I could use until theirs was working. No she didn’t have this information. I suggested that she pass upstream my frustration with the “just go online” message piped in to people who were calling because they cannot get online. She had no mechanism for this. Oh, well. I stayed polite. Tech support folks are in a miserable position when they have no way to fix anything, and the problem is real.

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Sting: The war on drugs is a failure

April 4, 2010 | By | Reply More
Sting: The war on drugs is a failure

Sting has written a Huffpo article declaring the “war on drugs” to be a failure:

Everyone knows the War on Drugs has failed. It’s time to step out of our comfort zones, acknowledge the truth — and challenge our leaders … and ourselves … to change.

How is this “war” a failure? Sting refers to an opinion piece by the Drug Policy Alliance that sets forth the following facts:

Consider the consequences of drug prohibition today: 500,000 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions of taxpayer dollars expended annually to fund a drug war that 76% of Americans say has failed; millions now marked for life as former drug felons; many thousands dying each year from drug overdoses that have more to do with prohibitionist policies than the drugs themselves, and tens of thousands more needlessly infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C because those same policies undermine and block responsible public-health policies.

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Thich Nhat Hanh in 2003

December 17, 2009 | By | 2 Replies More
Thich Nhat Hanh in 2003

Here’s a video sketch of Thich Nhat Hanh from 2003 that I enjoyed and decided to share. A sample quote:

THICH NHAT HANH: Using violence to suppress violence is not the correct way. America has to wake up to that reality.

[Interviewer]: That’s not a sentiment you hear everyday at the Capitol. Nor is Nhat Hanh’s recommendation to this bitterly divided Congress that its members practice what he calls deep listening (to each other) and gentle speech.

At the persistent urging of Lisa Rokusek (an author at this website), I’ve been reading some of the works of Thich Nhat Hanh lately, and enjoying their elegant wisdom. Here are a few of his quotes:

Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos – the trees, the clouds, everything.

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.

The practice of peace and reconciliation is one of the most vital and artistic of human actions.

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air,but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.

Many of us are not capable of releasing the past, of releasing the suffering of the past. We want to cling to our own suffering. But the Buddha said very clearly, do not cling to the past, the past is already gone. Do not wait for future, the future is not yet there. The wise people establish themselves in the present moment and they practice living deeply in the present moment. That is our practice. By living deeply in the present moment we can understand the past better and we can prepare for a better future.

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Fans, Freedom, and Frustration

November 3, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More
Fans, Freedom, and Frustration

Over on her blog, Kelley Eskridge has a video of a “Bono Moment” in which you see two distinct types of fans interacting with U2’s lead singer. Check it out and come back here.

Okay, the guy in the t-shirt obviously is carrying on a conversation. he may be being a fan, but he hasn’t lost his mind. The female is being…a groupie, I guess. Though the groupies I’ve met in my time have been a bit more specific about what they wanted and had a better plan on how to get it. In any event, the questions Kelley raises are interesting and relate on so many levels to so many different things. The fan reaction—mindless adulation bordering on deification—looks to me, has always looked to me, like exactly the same kind of nonsense people put into religion. Mindless, utterly uncritical adoration of an image and the set of emotions with which that image is connected in the mind of the adulant. You can see the same thing in politics. To a lesser degree with less public personalities—writers, painters, photographers (I never knew anyone who elevated a photographer to the level of sex god, but I have known people who got off on sleeping with painters, and of course there’s a kind of Nabokovian/Bellow/DeLillo-esque subculture of writer groupies…) and other creative types—but actors and musicians seem to get all the dedicated obsessives.

I’ve never had this happen to me. I’m not sure if I’m grateful or resentful—having somebody want to associate themselves with you in a mindless swoon because your work has made them, I don’t know, climax maybe is on a certain level appealing. But it’s appealing the same way porn is—something most people, if they’re at all sane and grounded, kind of grow out of and get over. I know I would not find it very attractive now. When I was twenty-five? You betcha. Bring ’em on.

But if I’d had that then I think I’m fairly sure I would have wearied of it very quickly. I long ago realized that sex, to me, involved the other person—emphasis on Person—and the best sex I ever had included the good conversations before and, especially, after. (There is a point, of course, where you realize that sex is a conversation, of a very particular sort, and takes on a whole new dimension, which one-night-stands, no matter how good they might be, just can’t provide.)

But the real problem with all this is that art is more than just any one thing and the artist is not the art. The two are inextricably linked. Here is a video discussing the question of artist-in-relation-to-muse which I find illuminating. The notion that the talent “arrives” and you act as conduit through which creativity happens is not, as the speaker suggests, a new one, and it’s not one I’m particularly in sympathy with—it all happens in my brain, it’s definitely mine—but I certainly find her analysis of the psychology of following through intriguing and true. Once the muse is finished with you on a given project, you do not continue to exist as though in the grip of the work. There is a person there that pre-figures the work and who will be there after it’s done that has all the needs and wants and sensibilities of a normal human being. To be treated as some kind of transcendence generating machine by people is in some ways disenfranchising. For a writer, if the well from which inspiration and material are drawn is the honesty of human interaction, then the gushing idiot fan robs the writer, for a few minutes at least, of exactly that.

But it also sets the artist up to become a prisoner. A prisoner of other people’s expectations. Those expectations always play a part in anyone’s life, but certain aspects—the most artificial ones—get exaggerated in the instance of fan adoration.

Watch Bono shift from one stance to another when he finally acknowledges the female. No, he doesn’t stop being Bono, but it’s almost as if he says “Oh, it’s time to do this sort of thing now” as he first recognizes her presence and then automatically poses for the camera, with this not-quite-disingenuous smirk. Because he also recognizes that, however silly this person is being, what she’s feeling right then is her’s and to claim it is artificial is wrong. Maybe an artificial set of expectations led her to this point, but now that she’s In The Moment, the emotions are real. If he’d ignored her or told her something snarky in an attempt to snap her out of it, all that would have resulted would have been an ugly moment, a bit of cruelty, and a lot of confusion on the fan’s part.

[more . . . ]

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Police officers have epiphany: time to legalize and regulate street drugs

August 17, 2009 | By | 2 Replies More
Police officers have epiphany: time to legalize and regulate street drugs

In the Washington Post, two police officers make the case that it’s time to legalize and regulate street drugs. Why? To quit squandering tax dollars, to quit filling prisons with people who don’t belong there and to protect neighborhoods and police officers.

Only after years of witnessing the ineffectiveness of drug policies — and the disproportionate impact the drug war has on young black men — have we and other police officers begun to question the system . . . Drug manufacturing and distribution is too dangerous to remain in the hands of unregulated criminals. Drug distribution needs to be the combined responsibility of doctors, the government, and a legal and regulated free market. This simple step would quickly eliminate the greatest threat of violence: street-corner drug dealing.

Here’s the “money” quote:

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that ending the drug war would save $44 billion annually, with taxes bringing in an additional $33 billion.

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Our insane drug war, revisited

July 20, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More
Our insane drug war, revisited

Mother Jones has hammered our drug war with undeniable facts . . . well, undeniable unless you are a government official in charge of the “drug war.” In fact, as authors Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery advise us, the entire history of the U.S. “war on drugs” is actually a governmental war on truth.

[T]he drug war has never been about facts—about, dare we say, soberly weighing which policies might alleviate suffering, save taxpayers money, rob the cartels of revenue. Instead, we’ve been stuck in a cycle of prohibition, failure, and counterfactual claims of success. (To wit: Since 1998, the ONDCP has spent $1.4 billion on youth anti-pot ads. It also spent $43 million to study their effectiveness. When the study found that kids who’ve seen the ads are more likely to smoke pot, the ONDCP buried the evidence, choosing to spend hundreds of millions more on the counterproductive ads.) What would a fact-based drug policy look like? It would put considerably more money into treatment, the method proven to best reduce use. It would likely leave in place the prohibition on “hard” drugs, but make enforcement fair . . . And it would likely decriminalize but tightly regulate marijuana, which study after study shows is less dangerous or addictive than cigarettes or alcohol, has undeniable medicinal properties, and isn’t a gateway drug to anything harder than Doritos.

If you want to see a bunch of demoralized people wasting time, park yourself at your local drug court and watch a judge slapping faux sentences on marijuana users and small-time peddlers. Everyone involved knows that the system is a joke–a money sucking time-wasting absurd joke that ruins lives, because every so often someone gets ripped from his or her family, thrown into prison for years. The crime (just to remind you) is that these users wanted to feel pleasure. And sometimes its more absurd: the criminal wanted to escape stress or anxiety and he didn’t have a fancy health insurance policy that would allow a doctor to hand him legal pills that do the same thing. And maybe he didn’t want to legally rot out his liver with alcohol, which is the other way of getting a similar high.

As I’ve made clear many times, I am not promoting drug use of any kind. I just had serious surgery and I could have loaded up on narcotics that were made available to me, but I didn’t because I don’t want that or need that. I’m a lucky person in that regard. I am not interested in altering my mind through chemicals. I am trying to convince my daughters that they should strive for clean drug-free living. But I am aware that many people want or need relief from stressful lives (or from their own misfiring brains) or maybe they want the option to simply chill out. I certainly don’t want to stand in their way any more than I would tell a patient to not take those pills prescribed by her doctor.

It’s time to stop spending billions of tax dollars on a drug war that doesn’t stop drug use and only ramps up violence, destabilizes governments and steals critical services from taxpayers. The drug war is highly immoral, but we won’t be able to fix the situation until we have the courage to have an honest conversation.

Related posts:

The most harmful thing about marijuana is jail (reporting on the opinion of a conservative judge).

The Economist’s argument to stop the war on drugs. (includes the mind-scrambling statistic that the U.S. spend $40 B each year trying to stop the use of illegal drugs).

Johann Hari’s argument that It’s time to stop the drug war. (more shocking statistics)

It isn’t dangerous to use marijuana. (Really, no more dangerous than Doritos)

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