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Silent3's Journal
Silent3's Journal
December 27, 2013

That's exactly the kind of thing I had in mind.

I've seldom seen anyone who responded to a disagreement with "Why are you against asking questions?" who was truly just asking questions... except perhaps of the "When did you stop beating your wife?" style of question.

To use an example not likely to raise hackles on DU, take climate change deniers as an example. When one of them asks something like, "If the earth is getting hotter, how do you explain snow falling on the pyramids in Egypt!?" (this did happen a couple of weeks ago), you could try to explain how climate change leads to wilder weather conditions, not just uniformly more heat everywhere, but you know damned well that person isn't going to listen to you. Their question is a rhetorical question, delivered with the smug assumption that you don't, and can't possibly, have a good answer -- certainly not an answer that's going to be good enough to satisfy them.

These people are pretty much always stating conclusions, and their passion belies any pretense that they're really reserving much doubt that they could be barking up the wrong tree.

December 27, 2013

How often has someone actually given you grief for *questioning* something?

And I mean just for questioning, and no more than questioning a policy, a plan, a system, an authority?

Other than a religious zealots who might get angry with you for questioning their dogma, dogma that they quite literally expect people to accept without question, and perhaps a few non-religious zealots who treat other political and philosophical issues with the same degree of fanaticism, I don't think this supposed offense of being giving grief for just asking questions really happens all that often.

What does happen more often, however, is that people pretty clearly state a point of view on a subject, have clearly reached what, for themselves, is a fairly definitive conclusion, they might even be talking about a plan of action based on that conclusion... and then, when someone disagrees with them, disagrees with their logic or their supposed facts, doubts the wisdom of their proposed tactics for achieving change, they disingenuously whine:

"What do you have against people asking questions!"?

"Why don't you want me asking questions!?"

"What do you have against questioning authority!?"

Please, people, just own it. Own what you say you stand for and believe in if you're going to speak out passionately about it. Don't pretend that something that's got you fired up to change the world, has already changed the way you live, has changed how you vote (or don't bother to vote), has changed who you trust or don't trust, is somehow "just asking questions".

December 22, 2013

You say a problem rates a 10. I say it rates a 7. You react as if I said the problem doesn't exist.

You react as if I'm all for causing the problem, that I'm part of the problem, that I don't think the problem is a problem at all, that I'm doing just what the problem-makers want us to do.

Unless I set my hair on fire and my flames reach as high as your flames, I am the problem.

It's really annoying that most of the internet, DU included, is like this.

September 17, 2013

What if Lincoln had run on immediately ending slavery, pro mixed-race marriage, pro integrated...

...military and police forces, pro integrated schools, etc.?

Those are worthy and necessary goals. Anything less is immoral. That's completely true. I understand the disgust with accepting anything less. Every moment that a slave remained a slave was a tragedy. Every moment African Americans were denied equal standing in society was a grave injustice.

Nevertheless, the only way any of that eventually happened was in slow steps. The hellfire anti-slavery Lincoln I imagine never would have come close to winning the presidency, or yielding any sort of significant political power at all. Lincoln only ran against the spread of slavery beyond where it already existed, not for it's immediate cessation. Emancipation came only as a strategic move in the war with the South. I'm pretty sure Lincoln would have been shocked by blacks marrying whites. By modern standards, Lincoln would likely be considered a bigot.

That made him the right man for the job at the time. Just ahead of the curve of the American public, and not so far ahead that no one would follow.

There are times when too much patience is wrong, when waiting for tomorrow has got to stop. What's difficult is knowing when patience is a virtue and when patience is a vice. It's always more complicated that simply knowing what's right.

July 5, 2013

You are a liar.

You have lied about something, sometime, haven't you? In fact, if we include "little white lies" in this discussion, your lying is probably a weekly, if not daily, occurrence. If we could examine the whole of your life, there are almost certainly a few whoppers in there -- lies to cover your ass, maybe even a few mean-spirited lies that hurt someone.

Technically speaking (with maybe the occasional one-out-of-a-billion exception?) every last one of us is a liar.

But you're still going to be pissed if someone calls you a liar, and in most cases rightly so, if they do it with condescension, with an accusatory tone, as if lying defines your very nature.

Consider this something to think about with many of the other labels and blanket characterizations being tossed around DU lately, about DU members, about Snowden and Greenwald, about the president and other leaders, about the nature of governments and countries. Is it enough that you have in mind one or two issues or incidents (if you're even sure you're right about those one or two things) to apply a label to a person or a situation, a label that could be technically true, but only in the same sense that you're a liar, hurling that label about in a sneering tone as if you're just defined the very nature of that person or situation?

There are even things that happen frequently in raw numbers, far more than one or two incidents, where nevertheless these frequent events are not representative events.

Take car accidents, for example. Imagine if a poster on DU started screaming about our "deadly" roads and highways. It's certainly technically quite true. That poster could have a field day posting page after page of links to stories about deadly car crashes.

What then if that poster acts like you're an absolute fool if you don't stop driving NOW, after they've shown you THE TRVTH!? What if you try to explain how automotive safety has improved over the years, and for your trouble you get shouted down as a shill for the automotive industry or an apologist for the highway department?

June 5, 2013

Is it a person's "fault" if they're fat? What does that question really mean?

I'm writing in response to various comments in another thread a few days ago where people were getting all steamed up about "fat shaming" and "taking personal responsibility" and the like.

Just to get this out of the way, I'm currently 178 lbs at 6'0", having lost 85 lbs since last April, along with 10" from my waist, taking me down to 30" waist jeans that I had to mail order since 30x34 is a hard size to find locally. (I guess it says something about the average American male that 34x30, not 30x34, is in plentiful supply.) My last physical (when I'd only lost about 50 of the 85 lbs.) showed I was very healthy in terms of cholesterol, blood sugar, and plenty of other measures. (My blood pressure, oddly enough, went up for a while, just crossing into Stage 1 hypertension, but it's back to a healthy value again. I blame the then on-going election! )

I say this not to fish for compliments (well, OK, maybe a little!) but because some people don't seem to take you seriously about diet and exercise unless you're in good shape, even if same information and opinions you might convey are shared by both fit and fat people. I would have said much the same things I'm going to say now back when I was 263 lbs.

Was it my fault I'd gotten so fat? Is it to my credit that I've become fit and trim? Does what applies to me apply very much to anyone else?

I grew up an out-of-shape geek, the kid picked last for teams in high school gym. I didn't get fit until my 30s, I let myself go during my 40s, and in just the past year I've gotten myself back on track at 50. Clearly I can make up my mind to eat better and exercise, and I get good results when I do. Just as clearly, I can also fail when a situation that makes it a lot easier for me to take the time for exercise (a work-at-home job I held for seven years) gets replaced with a less conducive situation (losing 1.5-2 hours a day to commuting, feeling more worn out from working and driving).

I don't think "fault" is always such a clear concept, even though people get very impassioned about what is and isn't a person's fault. It's more useful to consider of how easy or hard some personal choices might be. Does a choice require trivial or heroic effort, or something in between? Can 8 out of 10 people resist an extra cookie in one situation, but change circumstances a bit, and only 3 out of 10 can resist?

As a thought experiment, imagine an overweight prisoner locked in a cell. The only food he can get is what a jailer provides him through a narrow slot. Imagine further than the calories burned by the prisoner are closely monitored -- not just calories burned via exercise and general motion, but calories burned by all metabolic activity.

Human bodies follow the laws of physics. I can guarantee you (minor issues such as water retention aside) that if the jailer puts fewer calories through the slot than the prisoner burns, the prisoner will lose weight over time. He might be very unhappy about it, he might suffer from frequent and distressing hunger pangs, and if the jailer makes poor nutritional choices the prisoner might become ill or malnourished -- but he will lose weight.

I know that the phrase "calories in, calories out" infuriates some people, but when you fully account for every bit of the "in" and the "out" (which can be complicated and nuanced) you can't help but lose weight when your body is burning more calories than it is taking in. The energy your body uses has to come from somewhere, and if that energy is not in your food, your body has to start breaking down fat and/or other body tissues to provide that energy. People who struggle with weight loss, whatever their real you-don't-want-to-blame-them-for-it problems might be, do not have a magical ability to suck energy out of the aether. A "low metabolism" can only go so low if you're still alive.

If you aren't locked in a cell, if you aren't being fed by a calorie-counting jailer, it's a difficult question how much calorie-counting knowledge and discipline (or adherence to good non-calorie-counting habits which yield equivalent results) is a reasonable expectation for any given person, especially when we're not just talking about food calories ("in&quot , but knowledge of your own metabolism and activity in terms of caloric values ("out&quot .

Some people stay at a healthy weight with little effort at all. They aren't especially disciplined or conscientious, they aren't counting calories, they eat what they want, they don't go out of their way to exercise -- they're just lucky. Others have to work hard at reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, but they succeed. Some work hard and fail. Some, for good or bad reasons, don't make much effort at all.

When you look at the American population as a whole, clearly something is going wrong with our high and growing rates of obesity. A large portion of the population didn't simply transform from good, hard-working responsible people into bad, lazy, irresponsible louts. Many things about our food supply, eating habits, and physical activity have changed. You can, of course, blame the Evil Capitalists and Evil Corporations for that, and they certainly bear some of the blame, but they can't do all that they do without the public cooperating to some extent. They won't sell it if we won't buy it.

It is simultaneously dastardly yet eminently understandable that a snack food maker, given resources like focus groups and food laboratories, will be driven to figure out how to make you want to keep eating their tasty treats until your hand reaches the bottom of the supposedly six-serving bag.

Would you outlaw this kind of irresistibility in food? Would you tax it? Warning-label it? How much responsibility do you place on the consumer to resist temptation and exercise self-control?

Some people say, for example, diet soda makes you gain weight. Let's suppose this is true (might be real cause and effect, might be more a matter of mistaking correlation for causation), and the reason it's true is that diet soda increases your appetite for foods that contain the calories that the soda doesn't contain. If so, you still have to give into those cravings before the unwanted weight gain occurs. If you drink diet soda, feel those cravings, yet still manage to restrict your calorie intake, you will still be able to lose weight. It might be a more stressful, unpleasant task, more prone to eventual failure, but in the bigger picture the diet soda can only be an indirect cause of weight gain. It's an unclear value judgment whether a person's susceptibility to induced cravings and ability to battle those cravings when they occur constitute a blame-worthy failing.

I've been able to change my eating habits and even my food cravings themselves so healthier eating comes more naturally. Can I expect that will work for everyone? No. Do I think people who are eating poorly should at least give it a try? Yes.

I now do lots of exercise, several hours worth every week, cardio and weight training. But I've now got a blissfully short commute to work, and a free gym at the office. I'm quite sympathetic to people not being able to find the time to exercise as much as I do now. On the other hand, I think people should reconsider their priorities if they aren't doing what they can do to make at least some time for some exercise.

There are good medical reasons why the potential for exercise is limited for some people. On the other hand, I've seen people like my own father use every excuse he could for inactivity, not fighting to do as much as was still possible for him to do, until he essentially crippled himself for the last 10-15 years of his life.

I have no clear conclusion to present, just a mixed bag of feelings and a sense of many gray areas. I know that many individual people could improve their health if only they decide to do it. I know that's easier said than done. I know good excuses for poor health exist, I certainly don't want to go as far as the mindless "motivational" rhetoric of people who smugly shout "NO excuses!", but that many of those excuses aren't as good as many people think. I'm pretty sure that most people who claim to "eat like a bird" but can't lose weight are simply in denial about how much they eat and/or suffer badly from "portion distortion". I believe that real metabolic disorders exist, but that they aren't as common as claims to suffer from them are. I believe we've created a food environment that makes it harder to find healthy food, harder to resist overeating, but that with some effort we can all eat better. I believe a lot of improvement in diet can be made without getting fanatical about all-natural, all-organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, etc. -- you shouldn't give up on eating better just because the whole package deal of "clean eating" fanatics seems horribly restrictive and overwhelming (and perhaps, in some areas, absurdly and needlessly puritanical).

February 2, 2013

70 lbs. down. Now I can rant about obnoxious fitness fanatics.

Everything I have to say now is just as valid (or invalid) as it would have been 70 pounds ago. Before I started seriously working on my weight this past April, however, much of what I have to say would be too easily dismissed as "making excuses" or "defeatism". I had been fit for a very long span of time once before too, however, and I would have said many of the same things back then as I will say now, but when I've tried to say these things during my out-of-shape years, somehow any experience from my past, when I'd been fit and trim for eight years, didn't count.

Hear me now and believe me later, fitness fanatics, your experience of fun and exhilaration in exercise is not universal. Just because you love to "feel the burn" doesn't mean everyone else will (if only they'd give it a chance!). Not everyone who runs gets a "runner's high". Not everyone gets a big thrill out of lifting ten more pounds than they could lift last month (at least not a thrill that it exceeds the pleasure of a pint of Ben & Jerry's). Not everyone will feel like an exercise session is "my special time for myself".

For some of us, exercise and a healthy diet means unpleasant work. Worth the effort, but work. Drudgery even. For me the rewards of diet and exercise are in the results, not, by far, in the process that gets me there.

I'm all for trying to psych yourself up for a big effort, and for a sensible, non-fanatical form of positive thinking. I'm not, however, for the magical quasi-religious version of positive thinking, where people speak as if they're going to bend reality to their will by blowing sunshine out their asses, by the sheer power of determination combined with gross oversimplifications crafted into unctuous motivational slogans.

For example: I personally have to translate "Find something you love to do!" into "Find something you can tolerate". It helps for me to have something I'd rather do even less than my exercise too, so that exercise becomes a break, relatively speaking, from that other thing that's even less appealing. I've run into fitness fanatics so certain that there's a FUN! FUN! exercise option for everyone that if you don't agree there's something fun you'd like to do, then you must (in their eyes) simply be looking for an excuse not to exercise, and you must be deliberately setting yourself up for failure.

The most tolerable exercise I've found so far is walking -- fairly brisk walking, often getting up around an average speed of 4 mph for as long as two hours and change. The trade-off here is that for a given span of time, walking doesn't burn as many calories as jogging or running or many other exercises focused on calorie burning, but at least walking is the closest thing I've found to a pleasurable form of exercise. Walking certainly has its very pleasurable moments, particularly on a nice, sunny day, but it's still more on the side of hard work when you're putting up with bad weather and putting in more than 120 miles per month.

I managed 112 miles of walking in December before the weather got too bad for doing much walking in my favorite park. I've since done a little snowshoeing, but now most of my exercise is on indoor equipment, with a much lower pleasure/drudgery ratio there. I have to rely on the trick of exercise being a way of getting out of doing something I like doing even less, which is where having a gym at work comes in handy. Using the sort-of-elliptical-rider-like-thing at work counts as a break when compared to sitting at my desk. I have an elliptical rider at home, but using it seldom feels like a "break" from relaxing at home, so it's harder to motivate myself to use that conveniently located equipment.

I've wondered how widely applicable the common advice of going to the gym (or doing other exercise) with a friend might be. While I can see how some people might get something out of making exercise more social, it certainly wouldn't help me much. I can hardly be alone in that. Given many people's busy schedules, trying to coordinate exercise time with someone else sounds like a recipe for failure, an opportunity for bad excuses to pop up when your friends aren't available.

Further, I imagine a lot of the people who need to get into shape later in their lives were people like me who weren't in great shape when they were younger, who don't have strong, positive associations with exercise and team sports. Maybe for some of the enthusiastic fitness fanatics out there they find their fitness activities to be a recapturing of joyful memories from their youth. Some of us, however, are trying to get in shape without being reminded of what it was like when we were picked last for teams in gym class.

Some fitness fanatics have an obnoxious, Republican-like "we built that!" sense of their own glorious self-made achievements, one that admits little to no room for luck and fortuitous circumstance.

While I think I have a lot to be proud of in what I've accomplished over the past 9 1/2 months, I'll gladly admit to having some great advantages that certainly aren't due to any particular special virtue of mine.

One of the biggest advantages I have is that I've got a lot more free time than many other people: I work about six miles from home, so I don't use up a lot of my day commuting. I have no children, so I'm not spending time playing taxi driver or sitting through soccer practice. I've got a good paying job that nevertheless seldom keeps me in the office late or follows me home after hours.

When you add in extra time for changing, showering, going to and from the gym on top of 45 minute workouts and two hour walks, I've easily been spending 8-12 hours per week on exercise. I certainly wouldn't blame others for having a hard time trying to make that much time in their lives for getting fit. In fact, it was going from a mostly work-at-home job to a commuting job where I spent 1.5-2.5 hours/day stuck in my car, depending on traffic, that killed my first eight years span of staying fit. Over the course of a year "fuck it, I'm tired!" slowly won out over my commitment to fitness. Even once I was working close to home again, it took years (until just last year, in fact) for me to finally get sick of the weight I'd put on and get started working out again.

Now that weather has reduced my walking time, I've got a great advantage in working at a job that provides free membership to a health club in the same building, and where my boss doesn't mind me taking afternoon workout breaks when my fairly flexible schedule permits.

One dieting advantage I have: I'm not a big fan of heavy helpings of sauces, sandwich spreads and salad dressings. It's no sacrifice at all for me to say "hold the mayo". There's 100 calories or more saved right there by doing something that makes a sandwich taste better to me. I like this dish at Friday's called "Cajun Shrimp and Chicken Pasta", but I ask for 1/4 of the sauce (as well as substituting multigrain pasta and adding extra red bell pepper), and I love it that way. Big puddles of sauce at the bottom of a dish of pasta frankly disgust me. I like just enough sauce to slightly moisten pasta, and that's it.

I cringe to see the amount of salad dressing that many other people drown their salads in. I've decided not to bother with low calories dressings because I can get by with 100 calories or so of bleu cheese on a big salad and be perfectly content.

Another dieting advantage: I seem to be someone who gets a bit of an appetite suppression effect out of exercise. It's not that I'm never resisting cravings, not by far, but I'm seldom racked by hunger pangs either. (Sorry, ladies, from what I've read men are much more likely to benefit from this suppression effect than women.)

I'm doing just fine losing weight without adopting any particularly special or strict diet. No puritanical elimination of this or that, no all-organic, no low-carb, no gluten-free. I'm not spending a lot of time trying to find "superfoods" or other foods with this or that purported fat-burning, immune-boosting effect. I'm simply eating less overall, cutting out a lot of desserts I used to indulge in (but not all of them!), eating more vegetables and a little more fruit, making more of the carbs I eat whole grain, eating lean meats and a little more seafood. I certainly am not freaking out over GMOs, diet soda, or artificial additives. While I think we should all be a bit careful and wary about what goes into our food supply, I certainly do not buy into the hair-on-fire "OMG!111!1!1! TEH CORPORATIONS R FEEDING US POISON!1!!1!" histrionic freak out that's popular on DU.

I used to do the low-fat diet thing, during the first long span of fitness in my life, but this time around I've decided not to worry so much about fat, so long as I favor healthier fats. Not only have I lost a lot of weight this way, but I've got my cholesterol down to 133, with good HDL levels and low triglycerides, all while suffering much less from hunger pangs than I did on the low-fat diet.

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Gender: Male
Hometown: New Hampshire
Home country: USA
Member since: Sun Oct 3, 2004, 04:16 PM
Number of posts: 15,900
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