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Gender: Male
Hometown: New Hampshire
Home country: USA
Member since: Sun Oct 3, 2004, 04:16 PM
Number of posts: 14,324

Journal Archives

I realize that high infant mortality played a part...

...in those shorter average lifespans, but even those who lived to adulthood still often died young by modern standards.

From https://www.sciencenews.org/article/living-longer-comes-easier:

Despite what the fashion magazines tell you, 40 isnít the new 30. Seventy is.

A new study finds that humans are living so much longer today compared with the rest of human history that the probability of dying at 72 is similar to the death odds our ancestors likely faced at 30.

A few people in our "all natural" past did indeed live into their sixties, seventies, occasionally beyond, but even from a standard of mortality as measured during adulthood (rather than from birth) this was a far more rare thing.

And yes, the better sanitation that comes along with understanding the germ theory of disease, and other medical advances, are a big part of where we get our current lifespans. Further, also as you mention, there's the modern availability of food that makes starvation and large calorie deficits (at least in wealthier countries) much less common.

Yet still, even given all of that, how large an advantage could an "all natural" diet be, and how truly terrible could today's processed food and preservatives and artificial flavors be, if such great increases in lifespan came along at the same time those things came along?

Is there solid evidence that we'd be living on average into our late nineties if we ate like a well-supplied non-starving cave man ate? Is there any evidence that if cavemen ate at McDonald's they'd have had average lifespans only in the teens instead of the twenties?

Don't get me wrong. I think there's a lot to be gained by being more careful about what we eat, not just in longevity but in quality of life. All I object to is taking far too seriously grand oversimplifications like "Natural GOOD! Artificial BAD!". A long, healthy life as a commonplace phenomenin is itself one of the most unnatural things there can be, and I'm all for it.

Hiking up Pack Monadnock after the snowstorm

This is my first mountain hike with substantial snow on the ground, three days after a Thanksgiving Eve snowstorm dropped 12 inches or so around here (southern New Hampshire). This was the kind of snow that clung to tree branches, brought down a lot of limbs and a few whole trees, knocking out power to many people in the area.

This is Route 101, about half way from home to Pack Monadnock. I was surprised to see so much snow still up in the trees three days after most of it fell.

Obviously several people have been up the Marion-Davis Trail ahead of me since the storm, making my passage a good bit easier.

The auto road to the summit doesn't get plowed, so everyone up here has either climbed or (going by some of the tracks I see) ridden up on a snowmobile. Fortunately no roaring snowmobiles ruined the peaceful quiet at the summit for me.

A snow-topped Monadnock in the distance.

Full panorama here: http://www.dermandar.com/p/adpDzK/pack-monadnock-2014-11-29 (click the 2048p option for best results)

Not anywhere near as much foot traffic out this way.

There are no footprints in the snow leading out to this outlook, so it looks like I'll be the first one out here since the storm.

Full panorama here: http://www.dermandar.com/p/dKwvUB/pack-monadnock-2014-11-29-jbb-outlook (click the 2048p option for best results)

The trail I left behind me coming down from the outlook.

On my return to the summit of Pack, I'm now all alone up here. It's very quiet and calm. I break out my new thermos and have some nice hot green tea, along with a protein bar that's as hard and chewy as if it had been stored in a freezer.

The temperature up here is in the low to mid 20's (įF).

Moon above the tree.

Coming back down from the summit, I took the auto road. This is the only place I ran into other hikers hiking. Even though the Marion-Davis Trail had been moderately traversed the past few days, it's clear that the auto road has been the most popular route going both up and down.

My fear: Because huge numbers of Americans don't even know who's in charge of Congress...

either the House or the Senate, don't understand a thing about how the filibuster has blocked things in Senate up until now, but the one thing they are dimly aware of is that Obama is a Democrat, all of the gridlock, brinksmanship with shutdowns and the debt ceiling, all of the horrible compromises when the gridlock occasionally breaks, the continuing languishing economy because no substantial stimulus or jobs program has been possible, or will be anytime soon -- all of that has been, and will continue to be for next two even worse years -- considered the fault of Democrats in the uniformed/Fox News misinformed minds of way too many voters.

This is just what the Republicans have counted on and are counting on, and so far, it has largely paid off for them. It didn't work to get Romney elected, but that's only because Romney was such a terrible candidate. Apart from not winning the presidency in 2012, the Republicans have found a winning strategy, not caring one bit how destructive for the American people this strategy has been.

As far as I'm concerned, the biggest hope for a Democratic win in 2016 is that the Republican primary process will once again produce a horrible candidate for the general election, and only the huge spotlight of being in the presidential race will highlight that candidate's flaws, perhaps for a brief moment reminding voters with terrible memories how bad Republican policies and proposals are for the 99%.

The next Democratic presidential candidate, if he or she wins, will probably do so with some gains in the Senate and the House, but while regaining the Senate is probable in combination with a Democratic presidential victory, the House will still be badly gerrymandered and very tough to regain.

The mess that the country will be in by 2016 will take a long time to fix, even with full Democratic control of Congress. Things will be even worse with a Senate that's still unlikely to be safe from filibuster and a Republican House.

So, rinse and repeat in 2018 -- the dimly aware/deliberately misled populace punishes Democrats for not fixing the mess in two short years, paying little or no attention to Republican obstructionism, and once again hands the Republicans the power to obstruct even more.

Hiking Mt. Washington, NH

In a General Discussion thread that I'd started...

A year and a half after "70 lbs. down. Now I can rant about obnoxious fitness fanatics"...

...I'd posted some pictures, and ended up getting a few requests for more. So here are several shots from my two times hiking Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, last fall and this past summer.

September 2013

This is the Cog Railway. I didn't use it to go up the mountain, but I did use it for the return trip, as the weather turned cold, foggy, and very windy soon after I reached the summit.

I got called a noob for doing this hike wearing jeans. Well, I was noob, so fair call! The problem with jeans is you don't want to get caught in damp cotton if the weather turns cold and wet. Mt. Washington's famously unpredictable weather means you should be prepared no matter how nice the weather seems to be.

June 2014

This was the first time I could officially (by AMC rules) claim to have climbed Mt. Washington, because I went both up and down, not just up, under my own power. I still think of it as my second climb, however.

This is outside the hotel where I stayed overnight to get an early start for my climb.

No jeans this time! My backpack contained a fleece jacket, a hooded shell jacket, and pullover hiking pants in case the weather took a turn for the worse.

A year and a half after "70 lbs. down. Now I can rant about obnoxious fitness fanatics"...

...time for a less ranty rant.

Back in February of last year, I posted this:


About six months after that post, I was down 85 lbs, and I've been holding steady at that weight ever since, while building more strength and endurance.

One positive thing I can add to what I said before: I've finally found something to do for exercise that I really enjoy doing, and something that for the first time has let me occasionally experience the "runner's high" that long eluded me.

Hiking mountain trails.

Hiking is not, however, by itself, enough to be all the exercise I need. Not by far. It's a weekend/vacation activity when the weather's good for it. I still have to keep up with the stuff I consider drudgery most the time to give myself the fitness and endurance I need to do well at the hiking.

But it's fun to be 51 years old and to be leaving the teens and twenty-somethings in the dust. I can reach the top of NH's Mount Monadnock in just a hair under 50 minutes, when most people take one and a half to two hours for the same hike, and then I can listen to people half my age groaning about how they'll never, ever put themselves through that climb again -- the same one I've done five times this past summer and several times last year. I've also climbed NH's Mount Washington twice now, once last year and once this year. If you subtract the time I took to eat lunch at the summit, I did my last Mount Washington climb in better than an hour under "book time".

There's a down side to trying to do this for speed, however -- risk of injury. These aren't technical trails I'm climbing -- no need for ropes or pitons or any of that stuff -- good sturdy hiking boots and very optionally some trek poles will do. But the footing can be tricky enough in some places that slipping, tripping, and falling are easy if you aren't careful, and the jagged, rocky terrain doesn't provide a soft landing.

Without going into the details, I've suffered a few injuries, and have had to learn to be a bit more careful -- no more trying to go back down Monadnock, for example, even faster than I went up, not after spraining my ankle badly last summer while going back down in under 40 minutes.

I hope I don't have to get so careful, however, that it takes all the fun and exhilaration out of my hikes. I'll always, of course, love the scenery and the views and the feeling of being out among the trees and the rocks and wildlife -- you can enjoy all that without speed. But the "runner's high" feeling comes from really pushing myself, keeping moving at a steady pace with little or no rest.

I miss the feeling of heedlessly bounding downhill like a mountain goat, but at least uphill is still good for me for speed. (It's much, much easier to remain stable while ascending rather than descending.) I have to remind myself even then, however, that uphill isn't 100% safe either, and if I screw up badly it won't be just the mountain trails, but 90% of everything else I do for burning calories that will be tabled for weeks or months.

I do wonder how long I'll be able to keep up my current level of fitness. I think I've developed good habits of both eating and exercise that will keep me from getting way out of control again, but I'm currently spending an hour and a half to two hours each day, six days a week, on exercise. I usually burn at least 1000 calories/day, often more. My continuing short commute, flexible schedule, and gym at work help make that level of activity possible, but I realize that for most people that's a thoroughly impractical amount of time to devote to exercise. Maybe at some point it will no longer be practical for me.

I've gotten used to eating 3000-3500 calories a day. I actually had to make myself snack more because I started losing more weight than I wanted to lose. Now I've gotten used to grazing all evening (on yogurt, fruit, peanut butter, jerky, air-popped popcorn, dark chocolate, etc.). If I ever have to cut back on my exercise, and thus cut back on the eating that balances out that exercise, it'll be tough to go back to eating more like I did when I was actively trying to lose weight.

At any rate, this last weekend was one of those hikes that really gave me a great high, a high that lingered right on into today. Here's a panorama taken from the Cliff Trail on North Pack Monadnock.


wikiHow: How to Persuade an Atheist to Become Christian


I find this article an odd mix of genuine concern, tired old rhetoric, and confusing twists. There's more understanding and sympathy for opposing viewpoints than one normally sees from a Fundamentalist, but then it almost can't help but fall back on the expected stereotypes and bad arguments that you pretty much have to expect.


Conversion to Christianity is a beautiful thing that requires that the person believes in God and in Jesus as the way to salvation. As a Christian, you are probably concerned about atheist friends who have not invited Christ into their hearts. Here is an approach to persuade an Atheist to become a Christian.

There are a few jarring inconsistencies where, if I were to be charitable, I have to think some text editing went awry, like this:

If you don't know the answer to something, simply say that God is responsible for it. "I don't know" is many more times preferable than crediting the creator.

If the first sentence had been in a list clearly labeled "Things not to do", with the second sentence being the reason not to do it, it makes sense. Otherwise it's a glaring self-contradiction, and leaves me wondering what the author really meant, or if he/she is so conflicted that contradictions like the above can leak out unnoticed.

Another similarly odd bit is below, where it sounds like the author acknowledges the "God of the gaps" argument, but makes it sound as if he/she thinks it's a good thing, that you'll impress people by filling in the gaps in knowledge and understanding with "God did it!".

Realize that scientific theories are not evidence whether God exists or not. This includes arguments that require the person to accept your beliefs of how life came about, how "ideal" the Earth is, or how the Big Bang happened. They have already decided. The fact that we don't know everything about the origins of life demonstrates to the unbeliever that God did it (God of the gaps argument).

Bits like this next section are refreshing, since I've known many fundies to take the approach (my own right-wing sister included) that "deep down" there really aren't any atheists, just people who are angry with, or "rebelling" against, the God they say they don't believe in. (There's another one of those weird twists that could be bad editing, however. I'm pretty sure the word "intrigue" below was really meant to be, or would have to have been meant to be, if there's any sense to be made of the text, something like "incense" or "annoy".)

Do not assume that your friend actually believes in God. You have probably been told that atheists are angry at God or do not believe in him because they are disgusted by the things that are done in His name. Atheists are people who have concluded that Gods do not exist. Assuming you know what, why or how they think or believe will intrigue your friend.

Even though I've been obese, I'm not sure what counts as "fat shaming"...

...when other people talk about that.

I'm no stranger to shaming and humiliation in general. I was nerdy, non-athletic, and socially awkward as a boy. My peers made my life hell for that. I was taunted and bullied. I was picked last, often dead last, for teams in gym. My friends were few, and I never dated until after high school. My childhood and teen years are not fond memories to say the least.

But weight at least wasn't an issue in my youth. I was called "faggot" a lot, but never "fatso".

Weight crept up on me in my twenties, until I hit around 245 lbs on my 6' frame. I started eating better and exercising, kept fit and trim for a bit over seven years during my thirties, then fell off the wagon, slowly building up to a new high of 263 about two and a half years ago, when I once again attacked the problem. Now I've been under 200 for over a year and a half, and at or near 178 for over a year.

Suffice to say I've spent a fair number of my adult years being overweight or obese even though I'm currently slim.

Of course, I'm sure adult males get the least flack for excess weight of any group. I was harder on myself for letting myself go than anyone else ever was. Probably the most shaming thing I recall experiencing about my weight wasn't from anyone being personally insulting to me: I'd gotten a ticket for indoor skydiving for my birthday. When I went to try it out, it turned out there was a weight limit of 250 lbs, and they made me get on a scale which, to my surprise and embarrassment, showed that at the time I'd gone just a bit over their limit. Since I was only a couple of pounds over they let me continue anyway, but the reason for the limit became clear when I found it was hard for the vertical wind tunnel to get me more than a few feet above the ground.

On the more personally directed side of things, the only thing that stands out in my mind were a few unsolicited comments from my father, which he made from the perspective of someone who'd battled weight himself, in the manner of offering friendly advice. On other issues my father could be incredibly nagging, but on this he was pretty low key.

So for other people, what is it that hits your as shaming? Except for those few on DU who still might be young enough to be in high school, I don't imagine many of you who are overweight deal with flat-out open bullying and taunting -- although perhaps you'll surprise me in that regard, having a very different adult experience than mine.

Perhaps you experience "fat shaming" in the form of comments from friends and family, people offering unsolicited advice or criticism? Either thinking they're genuinely being helpful, but failing, or perhaps only putting on a mask of helpfulness while just being insulting or condescending?

Maybe it's comments and/or reactions from strangers, perhaps not made directly to you, but you notice them anyway?

Is some of what's being called "shaming" general cultural attitudes toward excess weight, how being fat is depicted in movies and TV, how it's talked about on talk shows, etc? Attitudes of people in clothing stores maybe, or just the attitude indirectly expressed by the available sizes of preferred clothing?

Perhaps part of it is the way that weight issues are discussed right here on DU? If so, what particular types of comments?

Would you count my own being hard on myself for being fat as "fat shaming", considering that an internalization of societal prejudices that I should have rejected?

You can't separate concepts like "benefit" or "purpose" from your human perspective.

There are so many different preconceptions to try to cut through here, it's hard to know where to start. One thing I might as well get out of the way is this: I'd love to see the Galapagos preserved. I want polar bears to stop losing habitat, and to regain what they've lost. I'd like for the vast islands of plastic garbage to disappear from the oceans, for the excess carbon dioxide to be cleared from the atmosphere.

As far as we know, however, we humans are the only ones who give a damn about any of that. We're ironically both the perpetrators of great ecological damage and the only ones with a "big picture" perspective to care about the damage we're doing. The other species on this planet aren't worrying about how their grand-descendants will live, they aren't conscientiously performing vital functions and nobly refraining from damaging behavior. They're just doing what they do.

Do you know why it's hard to find examples, apart from humans, of organisms that destroy the environment they depend on, kill themselves off, and take plenty of other species down with them? It's not because that doesn't happen. It's not because there's some "natural law" that other organisms are scrupulously obeying that humans have uniquely decided to break.

It's because nature has "let" it happen, has let all of the bad side-effects befall all of the other species as a destructive species kills itself off, and then natural selection puts and end to that particular species, or the ecosystem adapts to the new species and it's no longer obviously destructive in the newly adjusted environment.

The first cyanobacteria are a perfect example of this. Before photosynthesis came along, the world was nearly devoid of "free" oxygen (that is molecular oxygen, pure O₂). Oxygen was a poison to most life on earth. That didn't trouble the non-conscience of the cyanobacteria, however. Blithely emitting oxygen without hesitation or remorse, they went on to radically alter the chemistry of the atmosphere and the oceans, to plunge the world into an ice age, and to kill off most other life on the planet (and plenty of their own kind too) until a new equilibrium was reached over millions of years where life eventually not only adapted to, but came to depend upon, abundant oxygen. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Oxygenation_Event)

If you think of "nature" not just as living organisms, but inclusive of the Earth itself, this planet has indiscriminately killed organisms and species in vast numbers many times, as the result of major seismic, volcanic, and tectonic disruptions. Only by unprovable faith can you imagine that the physical planet is somehow guided by concern for some ultimate "benefit" to all life when it goes about causing so much death.

Expand the idea of "nature" to the universe as a whole, or at least our cosmic neighborhood, and then you have asteroids and comets causing death and extinction without a plan, without consideration of purpose or benefit. Only luck has saved us from total extinction of all life. There's no reason at all to imagine that nature somehow chooses the timing and the size of major impacts with a mind toward creating specific planned results, or that nature is even slightly constrained by any rough guiding principle to create some sort of "balance". If large enough an asteroid comes along, the impact will boil the oceans and turn the surface of the Earth into lava. If the melting is deep enough, every last living creature down to the hardiest subterranean bacteria will die.

If you do want to believe that there's some plan, some intelligence, some guiding principle, then humans would be part of that plan. How could you dismiss the purpose or benefit of humans if we're part of such a plan? Either the Planner or the Intelligence isn't that smart, or some mind much better than ours has its reasons for putting us here.

If you don't believe in such things (as I personally don't), then humans aren't apart from nature, we are nature. We're just one of those random things that nature churns out. "Artificial" is not the opposite of natural, it's a subset of natural. Only in the context of our own human thinking can we regret our impact on other life, possibly change course and prevent things from getting worse. Outside of that kind of human self-reflection, the destruction we cause is merely a different form of natural disaster (albeit a particularly elaborate form), among others that nature produces from time to time without any moral "right" or "wrong" about it, without purpose, without consideration of benefit to other living organisms.

Not one thing I'm saying here, or that I've seen anyone else say in this thread, is remotely equivalent to saying "Fuck the Galapagos!", no matter how strong your urge to repeat such an outcry out of exasperation or petulance, simply because others aren't willing to go along with your notions of "purpose" or "benefit".

Purpose is contextual. Without a defined context, defined goals, desired outcomes, "purpose" makes no sense. In the absence of humans, who or what would the context be? What would the goals be? "Benefit" doesn't mean anything without a context is which "the good" has been defined.

Is life itself a goal? If so, is more life better than less life? Should "more" be measured in bulk quantity, in metric tons of biomass? Is diversity what's supposed to be important about life, and if so, is having a billion species intrinsically better than a million? Is complexity of life a value, making alligators more valuable than lichen? Are intelligence and self-awareness important, making whales more valuable to preserve than yet another species of beetle? If you value whales for their intelligence, why not humans then?

You're utterly and completely applying your own human standards if you propose a system of value for life that tempers valuing intelligence and self-awareness with a moral judgment about perceived destructiveness. It's contradictory to wish away humans in order to preserve a world whose value is defined by humans. You might protest that there are "intrinsic" values that exist without us humans, but if you dig deeper than your surface emotional responses you'll find those supposed intrinsic values are elusive, and you'll see that nature shows no signs of itself promoting or maintaining those values.

And by the way, unless you're actively planning, like some action movie supervillian, to plot the destruction of the entire human race, isn't bitching about humans having no purpose, moaning about how the Earth would be better off without us, just a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing?

If you want to define a possible purpose for humans, consider this: Life on this planet is doomed without us anyway. It's just a matter of time. If a giant collision doesn't kill us all first, or a massive gamma burst, then the sun is slowly heating up and in a few hundred million years will boil and burn away all life on this planet. In a few billion years the sun will expand into a red giant, likely expanding far enough to swallow up the entire planet.

For all of our human potential for destruction, we're currently also the best bet for preserving life on this planet and spreading it out among the stars, allowing life to go on without dependence on a single, fragile world.

I hate that stupid, reflexive response that any pollster bearing bad news...

...must be "shilling" for the other side.

Nate Silver has a pretty sound methodology with a good track record, about which you have failed to point out any specific flaws. You're the only here just "saying shit".

Apart from that, calling the odds 60/40 in favor of Republicans wouldn't be very effective shilling even if Silver were a shill. For anyone who has any smarts, and was ever motivated enough to go out and work for Democratic victory in the first place, these results are in the useful kick-in-the-pants department, not the instilling hopeless despondency department.

There are roughly 800,000 cops in the United States...

...according to the stats found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of_police_officers

Now, before continuing from that, here are some annoyingly necessary disclaimers to hopefully reduce knee-jerk reactions to the inevitable straw men likely to be evoked by where this post is going:

1) I certainly believe that our police departments have many problems, especially in the way they've become increasingly militarized.

2) No, I don't hang out at "cop lovers dot com", I'm not involved in law enforcement myself, nor is anyone close to me involved.

3) I'm not trying to excuse any police officers terrible, especially murderous behavior.

4) I certainly don't like the way many cops "protect their own", when loyalty to the public should be higher than loyalty to each other when there's wrongdoing to cover up.

With that out of the way, I'd like to ask: What's the big picture on police brutality, on policing abusing their power?

What are the statistics behind the anecdotal evidence? How much do the horror stories we often hear characterize the behavior of cops on the whole?

Let us suppose there's one new horrible story of abusive police behavior every day of the year. Let's further suppose each one involves four different cops. If you post each and every one of those stories you'll definitely create a strong impression that cops are "out of control", that we're "living in a police state", etc.

If the above hypothetical case represents reality (and I'm not saying it does -- just go with me for a moment) that would mean roughly 1500 cops badly abuse their power every year. That would only be about 0.2% of all police officers per year.

OK, suppose you consider the reported stories only the "tip of the iceberg". If it's ten times worse than what we hear about (and I don't think we hear as many as 366 brand new horror stories per year, even if it seems like that on DU sometimes), we'd get up to around 2% of cops per year.

Is calling that "a few bad apples" way too dismissive? (Perhaps if it really were that much, one out of fifty, but I think we're rounding up a lot at this point.) Or is equating what's going on to living in a police state a greater exaggeration?

Does advocacy for victims of police brutality require ignoring whatever the actual percentage of bad cops is? Does it require being angry that I'd even write a post like this, because, as you see it, anyone's suggestion of putting things in some perspective can be nothing other than (queue the straw men) cop worship, dismissing all suffering of victims, and total obsequious submission to authority?

Oh, and does every bad cop thread require someone to reply "Yay, cops!" to that thread?
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