Project 313 – Post No. 023

The gym is one place where there’s a 99.99% probability I’ll be listening to a podcast. For one, it keeps most people from engaging me in conversation (a big plus because most people are not worth talking to) and for another, it makes the time exercising pass a little faster (a big plus because exercising is boring). The other 0.01% comprise the times when I either forgot the player, or forgot to recharge the player, or my headset runs out of juice and I’m too lazy to get the wired headphones from my locker.   

I listen to a number of podcasts but they can be broken down thus: science and critical thinking, religion and critical thinking, politics and critical thinking, sociology and critical thinking, philosophy and critical thinking.

I used to listen to a couple of entertainment podcasts but one — Slice of SciFi (I used to do occasional writing for them) — ran into financial and other (personality) problems and the other just got annoying as the “news” drifted more into celebrity cults than informative stuff (I don’t even remember the name). 

Actually, the science category is also sparsely populated. By “science” I mean podcasts that report on science, and not necessarily podcasts about science (I used to listen to those, but they are difficult to execute because they walk the line between not talking way above the heads of the casual listener and not talking way below the heads of more informed listeners).  

Notice that critical thinking is a part of each podcast. That would be critical thinking on my part, although I appreciate it when practiced by the hosts. 

What constitutes critical thinking? At the most basic level, it’s listening to what is being said and stopping long enough to ask yourself if it makes sense. That question is even more important if the information you’re receiving is not immediately supported by data or a logical argument but just presented as fact. 

It sounds straightforward but there are instances that trip up even the most aware listener . . . it’s when you hear something in support of what you already believe or that you want to believe. And yet, that is the time when you should be most attentive.  

For instance:
“Spam is the cornerstone of a healthy diet and is shown to significantly increase lifespans.”

Well, duh! . . . of course it is and does! I eat it, I’m healthy, and I’m still alive! What more proof could anyone want? 

But, I’ve never really checked it out . . . From Wikipedia: “According to its label, Spam’s basic ingredients are pork, with ham meat added, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, sugar, and sodium nitrite as a preservative.”

Well, none of that sounds all that bad. But, wait . . . a majority of people who read my blog seem pretty down on Spam. 

Let me check a few sources . . . How Stuff Works seems to think it’s pretty bad: “A single serving holds 16 grams of fat, including six grams of saturated fat. One serving also holds 33 percent of your daily recommended allowance of sodium and a pretty hefty dose of cholesterol.”

Holy crap! It’s pure blind luck I’m not in the throes of a terminal heart attack as I type this.

Wait; is it happening now? . . . no, it’s OK; just gas.

But, I don’t stop there . . . supposedly, saturated fat is bad, sodium is bad, and cholesterol is bad . . . except, Gary Taubes, Nina Teicholz, and others don’t agree that all those are bad. Sugar is the Big Baddie. Sugar and carbohydrates in general.  

Who to believe? Well, we could turn to scientific studies, but here too there are controversies and claims of bias and flawed studies. Plus, you’re now getting into personal anecdotes. Lots of people “suffered” all their lives until they “discovered” this or that thing and now they’re doing great and for a mere $19.99 a month they’ll tell you how you too can feel great by eating or not eating vegetables, meat, bread, pasta, cookies, and — yes — even Spam

When it comes to personal anecdotes, you can find stuff in support of whatever floats your boat. You often find it without even trying. They’re practically shoved down your throat. Why, I have many of my own.

My father-in-law is 93 and he’s been a long-time drinker of Half&Half and eater of doughnuts and other sweets and untold amounts of fried food. A neighbor of ours is 94 and thoroughly enjoys food like fries and fried fish and ice cream and chocolates. I know skinny people on healthy diets with high cholesterol (and on medication for it) and people who eat pretty much what they want (including lots of bacon) and have great cholesterol numbers. 

What’s one to do? As a critical thinker, I look at things like the increase in obesity and diabetes despite the explosion of low-fat food availability and the medical establishment pushing low-fat and sugar substitutes. I’m given unexplained statistics about the success of reducing cardiovascular deaths even while diabetes and obesity are exploding and being told both are a leading cause of cardiovascular disease and mortality. 

I don’t know the effect of reduced smoking (assuming there’s been a reduction) affects the numbers or even how the cleaning up of smog (that has been tremendously improved since the 70s) affects the numbers. How about the explosion of sedentary jobs? How about the effect of Television, Cable, and the Internet? I hear sitting is very bad for me, but the greater part of my life has been (and is) spent sitting down. What’s the effect of better healthcare? What effect do financial resources play? What about hereditary factors?

. . . it’s not easy being a critical thinker. It requires a lot of time and effort and information and cross-checking stuff and all the while being objective and honest about your goals. 

Diet and food are difficult but nothing compared to immigration politics, the gun debate politics, religion politics, politics politics, and a slew of new and old social issues politics.

The environment is another big one, but here I have a clear view of things . . . while I know climate change is one of the greatest threats we’re facing, until and unless we start controlling the human reproductive rate I really don’t care and don’t want to hear about conservation and danger to the environment because no amount of even aggressive measures make up for the ground we’re losing each year because of the needs of the increasing human population. 

And guess what? Increased human population touches on all those other social, religious, economic, health, political, natural resources, energy, and you-name-it issues. 

And, no one is talking about it, at least not seriously. 

So, bottom line, I’ll eat my Spam, sit at my computer, snack on cookies, exercise, eat pasta, keep away from kale and broccoli, and try to live my life unobserved and armed. 

. . . it’s a good life, I tell you, despite what people say . . . 

And now, the photo:

Project 313 023

Well, that turned out better than I would have imagined. Interesting how the real-life stuff (the lava and plants and even the plastic conduit) seem to be an extension of the mural.

I really need to do another post about murals . . . 

The other day I mentioned “little lies” . . . I try very hard to avoid even little lies. It’s gotten a little easier as I age because lying is too much effort given the dubious benefits; based on an ever-decreasing amount of time before I die, the cost-benefit analysis consistently comes down on the side of “just tell the damn truth”. One could argue that was always the case but — again — there are conflicting opinions.

Sometimes, telling the truth shocks people because it’s “just not done” or at least not done often. I remember one of the cruises we were on. We met these people who were nice enough and we struck a conversation. At the end of it, they suggested spending more time together . . . and I told them we would prefer to enjoy the experience of the cruise on our own. 

It was the truth, and they probably were taken aback, and for a very brief time, I felt bad about it . . . but, I was telling the truth. We were on a cruise and wanted to experience it our own way. Now, some people go on cruises to meet other people . . . that’s not me, Bob. 

I don’t even want to meet people when I’m not on vacation, and even less so when I’m spending money to do something unusual. Besides, had we agreed, I might have come to resent them and then I would say something and we’d have a big fight with lots of yelling and I’d have to take out a restraining order against them and possibly move and change my name. 

Lies are seldom worth it and even little lies can come back at you.

Case in point. Of course, it’s easy for Willy . . . he suffers no worries about paying a social penalty for doing what he wants. Then again, he is a fictional character. Anything can happen in fiction.

That’s one of the things that I don’t like about a lot of fiction; stuff happens that is just not realistic. I mean, I could almost buy a regular 175-pounds guy transforming into a 600-pounds Hulk, but no way those pants would survive. Heck, mine didn’t survive me going from 155 to 175 pounds. 

. . . I like those pants, too . . . they had one of them carpenters hooks for hammers. I mean, I never used them for that, but I always thought I could hang an umbrella from them . . . and then they started making umbrellas with straight handles. But, it’s OK . . . those pants will never fit me again. Well, maybe if I hit 90 . . . I could then hang a can of Spam from them in case I get hungry. 

Spiraling Into a Black Hole — Twice

And . . . that’s it

Some of these posts will likely be longer as the mood hits me, but most will be thus; short, uninteresting, bland, and relentless.

You can read about Project 313 HERE.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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