From a certain point of view...

>> Monday, August 22, 2016

The world's biggest single problem is the failure of people or groups to look at things from the point of view of other people or groups--i.e. to put themselves in the shoes of "the other." I'm not talking about empathy in the sense of literally sharing people's emotions--feeling their pain, etc. I'm just talking about the ability to comprehend and appreciate the perspective of the other. So, for Americans, that might mean grasping that if you lived in a country occupied by American troops, or visited by American drone strikes, you might not share the assumption of many Americans that these deployments of force are well-intentioned and for the greater good. You might even get bitterly resentful. You might even start hating America.
~Robert Wright, 2013.

Just came across this a few moments ago before I deleted a bunch of links I had saved to articles I hadn't looked at in many years. Seems totally relevant given that earlier today someone on the internet wrote me back like this: Sorry you do not understand!! I am so many years older then you!!! You better start looking at different charts missy!! Um, yeah. You're totally older and more mature than me. Uh huh. Right... So glad I bothered to take the time to just share something that I'm pretty slam-dunk certain on based on certain things that I can't bend to fit your point of view. Ugh.



>> Saturday, May 28, 2016

An example that’s more in mainstream culture is Sheryl Sandberg and the whole Lean In movement and the idea that there’s this very individualized embrace of feminism as being about your own personal success, your own personal self-actualization, your own potential, but is not really about feminism as action and feminism as being about liberating all women.
~Andi Zeisler, author of We Were Feminists Once


The New Prophets of Capital

>> Sunday, May 15, 2016

Came across this when I was reading an article of Thomas Frank's in Harper's. And then I read an article by the author. Since it was so close to the end of the semester, I requested it through the interlibrary loan program since I knew that it wouldn't come in until the end of the semester. Granted, it actually came in earlier, but for once, I was able to restrain myself from cracking it open.

This isn't a very long book, only 140+ pages. I find it interesting how she categorized this with four, very well-known, public figures. The only one I haven't read much about is John Mackey. I'm not sure how well known he truly is outside of certain circles anyway. If you asked me who the originator of Whole Foods was I know I wouldn't be able to name him off-hand even thought I've shopped there quite a bit.

After I finished reading this, I feel more convinced than ever that the U.S. is going to have to embrace forms of democratic socialism that other countries already have in order for capitalism to continue. I can't see the increasing levels of pissed-off-ness continue their current trend. (I do think Bernie Sanders will be elected the next POTUS, which probably puts me in the crazy bin, but I am 99% sure that it will happen.)

Probably because I'm not as familiar with John Mackey, not much of what the author said stuck in my mind. I do remember that he's against his workforce unionizing, which doesn't surprise me since he's a capitalist, but not much else. Her critique of Sheryl Sandberg is very solid and echoes other critiques of her I've read before.
The goal of feminism is justice and equality for all women, not simply equal opportunity for women or equal participation by women. By aligning the goals of feminism with the goals of capitalism, Sandberg's model of emancipation functions as ideology, accepting and undergirding the dominant structures of power in society. Her critique of gender inequality in elite jobs, while accurate and thoughtful, glorifies the capitalist work ethic by pushing women to seek self-actualization through self-exploitation. Women who follow her action plan may achieve more success in their careers, and perhaps even reach the heights that Sandberg herself has gained. But her plan will help only a small number of women--the women who can find a place within the limited number of power positions in the corporate hierarchy. Everyone else--the domestic workers, retail staff, caregivers--will remain excluded, their efforts undermined by the strengthening of capital and the women who burnish its meritocratic facade. (p. 39-40)
Oprah...I've never been big on the Mighty Opes, which is probably due to the fact that I've never watched much daytime television. (It's the devil! Seriously. When I was stuck at home with my parents, it was full-time cable news plus Dr. Phil in the afternoon. My word. I don't know what circle of Dante's Inferno those should be slotted in. Ugh.) But back to Oprah, there is something so materialistic that I've always found in her background. Perhaps "materialistic" isn't the right word. "Shopaholic" maybe?

But if I had to single-out the greatest source of my ire while reading this, it would be Bill Gates & the Gates Foundation. I tabbed the most pages in that section.
The Gates Foundation is at the forefront of a new form of philanthropy called "philanthrocapitalism." Unlike the traditional foundations (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford), philanthrocapitalists don't believe in old-fashioned charity. They have greater ambitions. Philanthrocapitalists want to harness the forces of capitalism that made them fabulously wealthy to help out the rest of the planet. As Bill Gates said in his Harvard commencement speech in 2007, "If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world." Philanthrocapitalists think profitable solutions to social problems are superior to unprofitable ones because they give private capital an incentive to care. (p. 108)
Or, in other words, me, me, me, me, and me. It's all about getting his way with things. Can't admit that the poor might be poor due to the behavior of the rich. It's just too obvious since other people have said it and explained that fact for more than a century.
The Gateses certainly have the ear of power. Their vaccine initiatives are changing global health systems, and their US education projects are shaping federal education policy. But there are two central problems with the Gates model. First, it assumes that the key to solving thorny social problems is to deepen the reach of capitalist markets, despite the inequalities generated and reinforced by these markets. Second, the foundation's model to solve society's problems is profoundly undemocratic. (p. 125)
Um, yeah, I'll admit that I was taken in on their take on education a few years ago back when I saw Waiting for Superman. What I wrote then is certainly what I thought a month or so later after I read and saw very detailed critiques of that film. What angers me most at the Gates Foundation education programs is that some of their work, such as Common Core, is beginning to push out good teachers that like teaching and have stuck with it. I have a friend, who is a teacher, that can just tell horror stories of little kids having to take those Common Core computer tests. It's all so dumb. Yet, because someone has too much money, they get to force their opinions on how education should be on the rest of us regardless of the small fact that they've never taught kids long-term in schools successfully.


Whip Smart

>> Saturday, May 7, 2016

Added this to my book list a long time ago after I heard an interview with the author on Fresh Air. Don't remember much of the interview now really except for her mentioning that she was on drugs most of the time. Or was it part of the time? I don't really remember. It was probably 6 years since I actually heard the interview.

I had a lull in part of my past semester when I finally became motivated to check something out of the library again. I don't remember what caused me to check it out since I have like 100 books ahead of it on my reading list but whatever. I think I only got 20-40 pages in before I had to put it down due to my school work. Was able to finish it last week since I'm now on break.

The drug use--I have to admit I'm always surprised when I read about someone and their drug habits. Like...heroin? Really? Why? Granted, I just finished reading a book that said exactly why. I think she even mentioned a few times--or told stories--where she injected speedballs without a clean needle. Ew!! I remember growing up when there was no cure for AIDS and if you got it you died. And for me...reading about someone who didn't use a clean needle to inject...I automatically associate it with getting HIV or god knows what kind of disease.

But when I was reading this, I often thought of Fifty Shades of Grey. Haven't seen the move or read any of the books. I have no desire too. But at every mention of pissing on someone or golden showers, part of me thought, "Yeah, I bet that's not in Fifty Shades." And after reading this I have no real desire to read about BDSM. After the author mentioned the phrase "brown showers," I was like, ugh, GROSS. But then she wrote about giving a guy one of those. GROSS! I couldn't move through that page--or maybe it was a page & a half--fast enough. The guy went so far as to smear it all on himself. Yuck! And also...BIOHAZARD! ("Biohazard" is a key word that kept popping into my brain while reading this.

I've read/seen comments where some readers didn't like how she talked about her drug addiction. They only wanted story upon story from the dungeon. I can understand that to a point. It is what makes her story interesting. If she was just a college kid with a drug problem, it's highly unlikely that this would have been a widely published book. But I think it's fairly obvious to say that. I also think that a collection of stories from the dungeon would get boring after a while. My gag reflex doesn't need a workout with a book I've checked out from the library.

The last section of the book included stuff from her therapist sessions, which concludes with getting her to admit she was attracted to being a dominatrix. (She could always admit that she was interested in the money.) The amateur astrologer in me wanted to take a look at her horoscope. I'm curious what she has in her 12th house and where her Mars & Venus are. The other part of me wants to see her tongue and feel her pulse before & after she shot up speedballs. Guess I'll just have to use my imagination on those.


...and Medicine

>> Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sifting and sorting through my junk--because hey, let's be honest, I have a LOT of it--I came across the take-home, midterm exam for my "Psychology and Medicine" class that I took all the way back in January of 1998. I actually came across it this past summer (2015), and thought it was notable given the references to the health care system under President Bill Clinton. Several months later--after reviewing it again--I find it notable for how much more difficult it was than my Public Health class last semester. For instance, if we had essay questions like the ones in this exam, the entire class probably would have flunked.

Psychology and Medicine J Term 98 Exam 1

Choose Five of the seven items. Answer each question accurately and in such a way that it is clear you know and can apply the information from the readings. Be specific in your answers and do not waste time by rewriting the question or offering rambling platitudes. Your answer should be no longer than three pages, single spaced print.
Yeah, you read that right. Pick 5 items and write a maximum of 3 pages, single spaced, which means your entire exam could reach a maximum of 15 pages, single-spaced print. If I remember correctly, I could only get up to 10 pages of regurgitation. And, oh yeah, we had a little less than 48 hours to write these.
1. Martin Seligman, President of the American Psychological Association, calls you on the phone and says, “I understand you have studied what research in clinical health psychology needs to do more of or differently in order for psychologists to play a part, and get paid for that part, in the changing health care financial and decision making environment. What, specifically do clinical psychologists need to do in their research and treatment practice if they want to be included in health care as it is currently changing?
Didn't answer this one, but it's still interesting thinking about the question. Kind of. Actually, I take that back. This phrase--"the changing health care financial and decision making environment"--is just more proof that we need a single-payer health care system. How much time should health care providers be spending on things like that rather than spending time with their patients/clients? Less than what it is now no doubt.
2. No sooner have you finished your report for Dr. Seligman, than the phone rings again. President Clinton’s chief of staff and asks if you would be willing to talk to the President. You cordially agree and then are placed on hold for a few moments while the president finishes playing with his dog and practicing the saxophone. After you listen to a few strains of “Hail to the Chief” while you wait on hold, the President himself comes on the line and in his friendly Arkansas voice says, “Hey. I hear you are a student of my friend Brian Baird and you know something about health care issues. As you know, the last time I tried to do something about national health care it backfired. You’ve had half a semester of Psychology and Medicine now, so I was wondering, based on the articles and class discussion thus far, what specific steps would you take and why if you were designing a health care system and determining how financial resources should be allocated for the country. Please be specific now and let me know what articles you got your information from because remember I have to run this past Congress to get their approval. Oh, By the way. I need this in two weeks for the State of the Union address.”
Yup. I answered this one. And to think that health care is still a HUGE issue. It hasn't gone away since 2008. I would much rather have some sort of single-payer system than having to fork over almost $200 a month for health care that I rarely--hopefully and never want or need--to use.
3. After two weeks of arduous work, you have just completed your response to President Clinton. You settle back for a moment, impressed by how a lowly psychology student can actually make an impact on the political scene. Then, the phone rings again. You think it might be a close friend asking you to go out, but you are surprised to hear a foreign voice. Turns out its the UN Secretary General, who says, “Good morning, I just heard about your great work for President Clinton. We were wondering how decisions about health care expenditures would be different if the population under consideration were the entire world, not just the US? Again, be as specific and refer to particular articles because I have to run this past the General Assembly.”

4. You have just completed your work for the Secretary General when who should call but Bill Gates Jr., who says “Hey, I just heard about the great work you did for the UN and for President Clinton. We have been considering whether or not to implement a health promotion program for Microsoft employees. I have two questions for you. Based on you understanding of the literature and issues, and considering all of the costs and benefits (which I hope you will discuss) do you think we should do it or not? If we do proceed with a program, what should it include and what steps should we take.
#4 is almost ironic, isn't it? This exam was written in January 1998, and the Gates Foundation was formed in 2000. If this exam was written today, I'm pretty sure that #3 would be about the Gates Foundation interacting globally. I'm not sure if #4 would be still written the way it is above. Microsoft could still be used as an example because my alma mater is in the Pacific Northwest.
5. Wow, all that work has sure been stressful hasn’t it? Based on your understanding of the literature on stress and illness, what effects do you think that stress might have had on your health and just how might we measure how much stress you have experienced? Be specific about the processes involved and the data that lead to your judgements.

6. It turns out that in fact, your stressful lifestyle has cause some problems. Indeed, in response to advertising that promised you would feel better and look sexier if you smoked, and in order to biochemically cope with the stress of producing all those high profile reports for those high profile people you took up smoking. Now it’s time to try and quit. From your understanding of the literature, how did smoking help you feel better about stress, how might it actually have increased the adverse physiological effects of stress, and how the heck are you going to stop?

7. Oh great! So you decided to quit smoking and start exercising as a way to get healthy. Trouble was that all the time you spent sitting at the keyboard typing all those reports made your back ache. Then, when you tried to carry the ten thousand page tomes to the printer you threw your back out. Now you are receiving compensation for your injury and you can’t even help out around the house anymore. Fortunately, however, you have read a number of articles about pain and pain behaviors so you can describe a model of what is happening and propose a couple of ways that you might better be able to deal with the situation.
These last three could have almost been used on my Public Health final. We covered back pain a little bit at the beginning, and smoking got a special focus on the end. I'm still surprised how in-depth these questions are asking me to write as opposed to what I had on my Public Health exam. God, I cannot describe in detail how much that class took what should have been a very interesting subject and turned it into such dull matter. Death and disease should ALWAYS be interesting!


Sonnet from the past

>> Sunday, January 10, 2016

So this little thing is something I wrote all the way back in my freshman English class. For some reason, I feel compelled to document it electronically before I toss this paper in the shredder. I still have no idea what I was writing about, but, hey, I was a freshman!

Roses have thorns, and purple mountains mud
But praise the deep vermillion of its shade
And drops of dew, which come of like wet blood
And through the years of time the scarlet will fade
The roses will continue with their thorns
That stain their precious scarlet ornaments
Lilies, with their own hearts, are shaped like horns
And scent of gold that makes the air so dense
Nor do I wonder at the lily's white
Whose base is so green that it seems like jade
The two are brighter than a summer night
Which never seem to finish by the blade
One red of fame, another pure of joy
But neither one is anything but coy
Iambic pentameter, I don't miss it.


Technologic medicine

>> Saturday, January 2, 2016

No one who's seen the decline of pneumonia and a thousand other infectious diseases, or has seen the eyes of a dying patient who's just been given another decade by a new heart valve, will deny the benefits of technology. But, as most advances do, this one has cost us something irreplaceable: medicine's humanity. There's no room in technological medicine for any presumed sanctity or uniqueness of life. There's no need for the patient's own self-healing force nor any strategy for enhancing it. Treating a life as a chemical automaton means that it makes no difference whether the doctor cares about--or even knows--the patient, or whether the patient likes or trusts the doctor.

Because of what medicine left behind, we now find ourselves in a real technological fix. The promise to humanity of a future of golden health and extended life has turned out to be empty. Degenerative diseases--heart attacks, arteriosclerosis, cancer, stroke, arthritis, hypertension, ulcers, and all the rest--have replaced infectious diseases as the major enemies of life and destroyers of its quality. Modern medicine's incredible cost has put it farther than ever out of reach of the poor and now threatens to sink the Western economies themselves. Our cures too often have turned out to be double-edged swords, later producing a secondary disease; then we search desperately for another cure. And the dehumanized treatment of symptoms rather than patients has alienated many of those who can afford to pay. The result has been a sort of medical schizophrenia in which many have forsaken establishment medicine in favor of a holistic, prescientific type that too often neglects technology's real advantages but at least stresses the doctor-patient relationship, preventative care, and nature's innate recuperative power.

The failure of technological medicine is due, paradoxically, to its success, which at first seemed so overwhelming that it swept away all aspects of medicine as an art. No longer a compassionate healer working at the bedside and using heart and hands as well as mind, the physician has become an impersonal white-gowned ministrant who works in an office or laboratory. Too many physicians no longer learn from their patients, only from their professors. The breakthroughs against infections convinced the profession of its own infallibility and quickly ossified its beliefs into dogma. Life processes that were inexplicable according to current biochemistry have been either ignored or misinterpreted. In effect, scientific medicine abandoned the central rule of science--revision in light of new data. As a result, the constant widening of horizons that has kept physics so vital hasn't occurred in medicine. The mechanistic assumptions behind today's medicine are left over from the turn of the century, when science was forcing dogmatic religion to see the evidence of evolution. (The reeruption of this same conflict today shows that the battle against frozen thinking is never finally won.) Advances in cybernetics, ecological and nutritional chemistry, and solid-state physics haven't been integrated into biology. Some fields, such as parapsychology, have been closed out of mainstream scientific inquiry altogether. Even the genetic technology that now commands such breathless admiration is based on principles unchallenged for decades and unconnected to a broader concept of life. Medical research, which has limited itself almost exclusively to drug therapy, might as well have been wearing blinders for the last thirty years.

It's no wonder, then, that medical biology is afflicted with a kind of tunnel vision. We know a great deal about certain processes, such as the genetic code, the function of the nervous system in vision, muscle movement, blood clotting, and respiration on both the somatic and the cellular levels. These complex but superficial processes, however, are only the tools life uses for its survival. Most biochemists and doctors aren't much closer to the "truth" about life than we were three decades ago. As Albert Szent-Györgyi, the discoverer of vitamin C, has written, "We know life only by its symptoms." We understand virtually nothing about such basic life functions as pain, sleep, and the control of cell differentiation, growth, and healing. We know little about the way every organism regulates its metabolic activity in cycles attuned to the fluctuations of earth, moon, and sun. We are ignorant about nearly every aspect of consciousness, which may be broadly defined as the self-interested integrity that lets each living thing marshal its responses to eat, thrive, reproduce, and avoid danger by patterns that range from the tropisms of single cells to instinct, choice, memory, learning, individuality, and creativity in more complex life-forms. The problem of when to "pull the plug" shows that we don't even know for sure how to diagnose death. Mechanistic chemistry isn't adequate to understand these enigmas of life, and it now acts as a barrier to studying them. Erwin Chargaff, the biochemist who discovered base pairing in DNA and thus opened the way for understanding gene structure, phrased our dilemma precisely when he wrote of biology, "No other science deals in its very name with a subject that it cannot define."
~Robert O. Becker, M.D., The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life, p. 19-21.


How to Become a Straight-A Student

Yeah, I read this shit. That's the one nice thing about being on winter break. You can finally catch up on the things you planned on reading before you started grad school. I totally planned on reading this summer before I started but wasn't able to pull my head out of my ass to get it done before I moved.


Technically, I did get straight As in my first semester, which did include two A-minuses. But, I know part of that was sheer luck since my first semester classes are easier than what's going to be coming down the pike. Well, there's that, and the fact that I want to do well learning this grad school shit. I didn't spend years thinking about it to just not engage with this stuff.

And that's what I really like about Cal Newport's stuff. It's so simple, easy, and efficient to understand. He's full of good ideas that I know will work on implementation if I just follow through and do it, which is why I took five pages of notes on all the tips and tricks in this book. I particularly like the work progress journal idea since having an electronic task list just didn't work as well as I thought it would.

It also reminds me that I should start taking a look at his blog on a regular basis again. The first post I came across a few days ago was him writing about The Feynman Notebook Method. I have no idea who Richard Feynman is, but this strategy of having a notebook where you document the things you don't know or understand is brilliant. Like, I could understand things well enough to pass my exams on the day I took them--even better than other people in my class--but I couldn't describe things to level I really want when I think back on it in retrospect. Since we're not allowed to keep our exams, one professor would allow us to keep our exam essays. I was never interested in taking the first two. I thought briefly about taking the one from the final, but then I thought to myself I will never touch that thing if I take it home. But now--after reading about the Feynman thing--I'm thinking that perhaps I should have taken it home and punched it up. I guess I will have to get myself another notebook and deconstruct everything from memory, so I can remember what I've learned and what I still don't know jack shit about.



This is just to say...

>> Wednesday, December 23, 2015

This is Just to Say
I have taken
The Rocky Horror Picture video
that was in
the bag

and which
you were probably
for tonight

Forgive me
it was hilarious
so morbid
and so kinky
Again with the high school shit...

Which should be obvious since I used the word "video" (aka circa 1993)...


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