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Helen Smith

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.
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Video: What Do Critics of GamerGate Get Wrong?

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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How Adam Smith’s Ideas Can Make You Happier

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I am reading Russ Robert’s new book How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness and it is quite informative. Roberts is an economist at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and he delved into Smith’s less famous book to gain insight into life and human nature and shares it with readers in simple, straightforward style:

Adam Smith may have become the patron saint of capitalism after he penned his most famous work, The Wealth of Nations. But few people know that when it came to the behavior of individuals—the way we perceive ourselves, the way we treat others, and the decisions we make in pursuit of happiness—the Scottish philosopher had just as much to say. He developed his ideas on human nature in an epic, sprawling work titled The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Most economists have never read it, and for most of his life, Russ Roberts was no exception. But when he finally picked up the book by the founder of his field, he realized he’d stumbled upon what might be the greatest self-help book that almost no one has read.

In How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, Roberts examines Smith’s forgotten masterpiece, and finds a treasure trove of timeless, practical wisdom. Smith’s insights into human nature are just as relevant today as they were three hundred years ago. What does it take to be truly happy? Should we pursue fame and fortune or the respect of our friends and family? How can we make the world a better place? Smith’s unexpected answers, framed within the rich context of current events, literature, history, and pop culture, are at once profound, counterintuitive, and highly entertaining.

By reinvigorating Smith’s neglected classic, Roberts provides us with an invaluable look at human behavior through the lens of one of history’s greatest minds.

I was most interested in the sections on being “loved and being lovely.” Smith says “Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely.” The author interprets this quote as “Smith means that we want people to like us, respect us, and care about us and take us seriously. We want them to want our presence, to enjoy our company.”

Smith also says that we dread being hated and hateful. Perhaps this explains why people are so afraid when it comes to politics. If you have the wrong political bent these days, you are seen as hateful and hated. Most people don’t seem to be able to tolerate being hated. Being hated is no fun, but pretending to go along with the PC crowd that is ruining our country has to be worse. Smith believes that true happiness comes when we earn the admiration of others honestly “by being respectable, honorable, blameless, generous, and kind.”

Yet how can you be those things in a society that does not value these traits? Our society rewards extroversion, hypocrisy, political correctness at all costs, and phony fads. How can one be genuine, authentic, and truly kind in today’s world? To do so is often to be hated, something Smith says that we dread. Is being hated that awful? Maybe we need people in this society who are strong enough to be hated in order to make significant positive changes in politics and society.

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Crossposted from Dr. Helen

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‘It Is Impossible to Overstate the Growing Weirdness of the College Sex Scene.’

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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Heather Mac Donald has an article at the Weekly Standard on campus sexual assault:

Sexual liberation is having a nervous breakdown on college campuses. Conservatives should be cheering on its collapse; instead they sometimes sound as if they want to administer the victim smelling salts.

It is impossible to overstate the growing weirdness of the college sex scene. Campus feminists are reimporting selective portions of a traditional sexual code that they have long scorned, in the name of ending what they preposterously call an epidemic of campus rape. They are once again making males the guardians of female safety and are portraying females as fainting, helpless victims of the untrammeled male libido. They are demanding that college administrators write highly technical rules for sex and aggressively enforce them, 50 years after the proponents of sexual liberation insisted that college adults stop policing student sexual behavior. While the campus feminists are not yet calling for an assistant dean to be present at their drunken couplings, they have created the next best thing: the opportunity to replay every grope and caress before a tribunal of voyeuristic administrators.

The ultimate result of the feminists’ crusade may be the same as if they were explicitly calling for a return to sexual modesty: a sharp decrease in casual, drunken sex. There is no downside to this development.

As I read over the article, I thought about an episode of the Fresh Prince that I was watching last night. Will Smith was at college working in the bookstore and hitting on every female student that he saw. At one point, he blocked the door to a classroom so a good-looking woman could not get in as he tried to get her to go out with him. He didn’t take no for an answer and he was relentless even once they entered the classroom until the woman’s huge boyfriend picked him up, chair and all and moved him to the back of the room.

Nowadays, the girl could easily turn Smith into the college administration for “discipline.” If he had sex with her, he could be charged with assault or worse. Of course, it’s Will Smith and he’s cute and women will give him a pass. But what about the less cute, successful guy? What will these “Victorian” laws do to him?

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen, image via here

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Are These 6 Habits Holding Men Back? From What?

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I stumbled on an article over at the site returnofkings.com and had to read what 6 habits were holding men back (via vivalamanosphere). The author of this particular post is an “engineer and personal trainer known for his bestselling books on men’s fitness and self improvement.” Okay, so what does this guy think is holding men back?

1. Watching Porn
2. Eating Shitty Food
3. Playing Video Games
4. Watching TV Shows
5. Browsing The Internet
6. Living With Your Parents

I am not sure how I feel about this list. All of us, men and women, engage in some of these habits. If these habits are making a man’s life worse, then maybe they are holding him back — but maybe some of these habits are making his life better for one reason or another. Maybe watching porn is calming for some men or entertaining. Maybe a guy is living with his parents to save for a house and have a better future. Maybe some guys are surfing Facebook to connect with old friends or visiting Reddit to find like-minded souls who understand men’s rights. Maybe a guy is playing video games to escape a society that thinks little of men who play video games. So what?

We can all make a list of things (habits or otherwise) that might be holding men back. Here are a few:

1) Shitty laws that rob men of their due process

2) A relationship with a Borderline girlfriend or wife

3) Listening to negative comments from men or women about men

What are some more things that are holding men back?

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen, image illustration via shutterstock/ Nebojsa Bobic

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Feminist Hysteria: Infantilizing or Empowering?

Friday, October 10th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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Ashe Schow has an an interesting article at the Washington Examiner: “Feminist hysteria is causing the infantilization of women”:

When did female empowerment become female infantilization?

Women once were encouraged to be strong and independent, to brush aside insensitive words and actions and to emerge stronger. But now, politicians, pundits, even celebrities are feeding an outrage machine by telling women they should be offended by anything and everything….

This shift toward telling women they need help at every stage of their lives (remember the Obama campaign’s “Life of Julia”?) might raise funds for feminist causes or gain votes for politicians, but it’s not empowering. It’s infantilizing.

People often tell me that feminist dogma often backfires and makes women look ineffective. But looking ineffective is not a problem for many women. They see it as an asset and it is a form of power. Denying personal responsibility for themselves may be infantilizing to the majority of women in this country in a moral sense (yes, people should take responsibility for themselves) but in the current political climate, it is empowering. Society helps women when they plead for help and seem/look helpless. Even white knights are rushing to help women in need for whatever reason, whether just or not. Society rarely helps those who help themselves these days.

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Australian Teacher Tries to Seduce 10 Year-Old Boy By Tattooing His Name on Her Chest. Guess Her Punishment…

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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So says the father of a 10-year-old boy who was seduced by a 47-year-old teacher:

A primary school teacher who wanted to have sex with her 10-year-old student, and had his name tattooed on her chest, has walked free from court.

County Court judge Mark Taft said he was at a complete loss to understand why mother of eight Diane Brimble, 47, had engaged in “such utterly inappropriate conduct which must dismay every parent”.

“You breached the trust reposed in you by [the boy's] parents who properly expected that a classroom teacher would care for their son in a professional manner,” Judge Taft said on Thursday when sentencing Brimble on a two-year community correction order and 200 hours of unpaid community work….

“She tried to manipulate [the boy] to think that she loved him and that his parents did not. This hurts me to the very core,” the father said.

“I feel angry that if it was a 46-year-old man and a 10-year-old girl that it would most likely be a different outcome … I feel angry and betrayed by the Education Department who did nothing to remove this evil woman from other children,” he said.

“To think a woman would get a tattoo with my child’s name as a sign of her undying love for [the boy] baffles me. I would like Brimble to endure the pain of removing name forever.”

Whatever women do sexually to boys or men is viewed as a mental health problem to treat. Note the difference when it comes to men coming on to young girls.

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cross-posted from Dr. Helen, image illustration via shutterstock / 

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Are Cell Phones the New Cigarettes?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I thought about this question as I read this CNBC article about people cutting back on food, healthcare and other items in order to afford their cell phones:

Nearly half of Americans have cut back on spending, including for travel, food and health care, in order to afford their technology.

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey found that 49 percent of the 805 respondents economize to afford technology. The nationwide survey, with margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent, found the top way to save for technology, chosen by about a third, is to cut back on traditional entertainment such as movies and restaurants. But 20 percent report cutting back on clothing, 11 percent purchase less food and 10 percent have reduced spending on health care….

When it comes to which technology is the most important, Americans clearly choose the cellphone. Asked which bills they definitely would pay if they ran into hard times, 39 percent said they would make sure to get a check in the mail for their cellphones, compared with 28 percent for Internet services and 20 percent for pay television, such as satellite or cable. But just 46 percent felt totally committed to paying their credit card bills, just five points above the response for paying for cellphone bills.

By contrast, 92 percent say the definitely would pay their mortgage or rent bill and 90 percent would make sure to pay the utility bills. Seniors were the most committed to paying the cable bill.

It used to be that people with less money were always talking about how broke they were but always seemed to have plenty of cash when it came time to buy cigarettes (or booze for that matter). Now, people have money for the iPhone 6 Plus and less for food and health care. With so many people giving up smoking, the addiction has turned to technology. And face it, the government and taxpayers might spot you on food and health care, but that new iPhone? Probably not as likely, though still somewhat of a possibility.

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen, image via shutterstock/

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The Joy of Matchmaking

Monday, October 6th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I don’t generally read fiction, I prefer non-fiction. However, Glenn received a book from Instapundit reader Suri Rosen who wrote a gem of a book called Playing With Matches that I couldn’t resist reading last night while everyone else in the country was watching football.

I worked as a matchmaker at a dating service for a while in graduate school and it was really a skill to figure out what people actually wanted and liked in a potential mate. Rosen’s book tells the story of a 16- year- old girl who has these skills in a close knit Jewish community where she anonymously matches up desperate singles from twenty to seventy and older. From the description:

When 16-year-old Raina Resnick is expelled from her Manhattan private school, she’s sent to live with her strict aunt — but Raina feels like she’s persona non grata no matter where she goes. Her sister, Leah, blames her for her broken engagement, and she’s a social pariah at her new school. In the tight-knit Jewish community, Raina finds she is good at one thing: matchmaking! As the anonymous “MatchMaven,” Raina sets up hopeless singles desperate to find the One. A cross between Jane Austen’s Emma, Dear Abby, and Yenta the matchmaker, Raina’s double life soon has her barely staying awake in class. Can she find the perfect match for her sister and get back on her good side, or will her tanking grades mean a second expulsion? In her debut novel, Suri Rosen creates a comic and heartwarming story of one girl trying to find happiness for others, and redemption for herself.

I found the idea of a matchmaker who acts as a coach to nervous singles kind of interesting. Nowadays with Match.com or other online dating services, no one gets much good advice in an old fashion way about how to deal realistically with another person. Dating and relationships have lost a lot of the human touch that this book brings to life. It’s a fun book and was a nice change from the political and financial books I generally read.

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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Is It Really a Shock So Many Americans Are On Drugs?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I read the headline at Drudge: HHS shock: 1 in 12 Americans use illegal drugs, could fill all MLB stadiums 19 times:

America is doped up — and drunk.

According to a shocking new report from the Health and Human Services Department, there were 24.6 million people aged 12 or older who used illicit drugs during just one month last year.

“That’s enough people to fill every major league baseball stadium in the U.S. 19 times,” said the report. There are 30 MLB stadiums.

Even worse: Of the 24.6 million dopers, 2.2 million were adolescents aged 12 to 17.

Actually, I’m surprised the number isn’t higher. It’s like the ’70s all over again but worse, with drugs, apathy and incompetence rewarded or at least rarely penalized and success, achievement and hard work treated with disdain and distaste. I wonder where this will lead?

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cross-posted from Dr. Helen, image illustration via shutterstock / 

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How Many People Show Up to Work Stoned?

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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According to this article, 10% of Americans go to work high:

Showing up to work high? You’re not alone.

A new report has found nearly 1 in 10 Americans are showing up to work high on marijuana. Mashable.com conducted the survey in partnership with SurveyMonkey, and found 9.7 percent of Americans fessed up to smoking cannabis before showing up to the office.

The data analyzed the marijuana and prescription drug habits of 534 Americans. What’s more, nearly 81 percent said they scored their cannabis illegally, according to the survey.

Cannabis and the workplace seem quite linked lately. Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel recently chimed in on marijuana and work. While criticizing Twitter during an appearance on CNBC Wednesday, Thiel said Twitter is a “… horribly mismanaged company—probably a lot of pot smoking going on there.”

I find it amazing that this many people would confess to smoking at work and that 81% stated that they obtained the cannabis illegally. Some businesses drug test but others don’t or can’t afford it.

Do you mind if your barista or server is high? What about your doctor? Isn’t this a problem to be taken more seriously? How are these high people getting to work? I see a lot of people in my area riding bikes on the main roads these days. Maybe they are high just trying to get to work. I guess a bike is better than driving, but it still doesn’t seem like a great idea.

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cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image illustrated via shutterstock / gabriel12

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Are Video Games Sexist?

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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What Is Your Take on Singles Now Outnumbering the Married?

Monday, September 15th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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The New York Post had this recent article on the state of marriage in America (via Newsalert):

Unmarried American adults outnumber their married counterparts for the first time since the federal government began tracking that data in 1976, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There were 124.6 million single Americans in August — accounting for 50.2 percent of the 16-and-over US population, the BLS data showed.

Eric Klinenberg, an NYU sociology professor who tracks marriage trends, predicts the unmarrieds will probably be edging their married peers by this small margin for the foreseeable future….

But while the numbers might look stark, Americans are still getting together — they’re just not racing down the aisle.

“Just because people are not getting married doesn’t mean they’re not partnering and cohabitating,” said Karen Guzzo, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University.

How much of the decrease in marriage rates is because men are on strike? How much of it is for other reasons? Whatever the reason for singles taking over in the U.S., it is important that the laws reflect equality in partnerships between men and women; or better yet, the law should stay out of personal relationships as much as is humanly possible.

However, I doubt that will happen, so men must be ever vigilant that they do not end up being responsible in traditional ways for women while the women pretend to be “empowered” as the society changes to one of a nation of singles  Given the lack of due process, the tendency to blame men for relationship problems, and unequal treatment in domestic relations, men might be better off not living too long with any one woman. This is bad for society and families, but might be a better solution for individual men.

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image illustration via shutterstock /  Thomas Reichhart

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The New America: Shopping instead of Job Hunting

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I was not surprised to read that more unemployed people are shopping rather than job hunting:

On the average day, an unemployed American is more likely to be shopping—for things other than groceries and gas—than to be looking for a new job, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Only 18.9 percent of Americans who were unemployed (in surveys conducted from 2009 through 2013) spent time in job search and interviewing activities on an average day, according to BLS. Yet 40.8 percent of the unemployed did some kind of shopping on the average day–either in a store, by telephone, or on the Internet. 22.5 percent of the unemployed, according to BLS, were shopping for items other than groceries, food and gas…..

An unemployed person—on the average day—was more likely to spend time on shopping, sports and recreation, socializing and leisure, than they were searching for and interviewing for a new job, according to BLS.

According to BLS, 96.7 percent of the unemployed spent time during the average day participating in “socializing, relaxing, and leisure” activities and spent, on average, 5.93 hours on those activities—or more than twice the number of hours they spent job searching.

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image via shutterstock / Rawpixel

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‘They Were Teenage Boys, and Their Alleged Assailants Were Female Employees Tasked With Looking Out For Their Well-Being.’

Saturday, September 6th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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Slate:

So, what has been going on at Woodland Hills? A 2010 investigation by the Tennessean found a series of allegations that had gone largely uninvestigated and unpunished by authorities. One of the facilities’ kitchen employees, the newspaper discovered, had reportedly given a 17-year-old boy chlamydia, and later lived with a different male juvenile who she had been accused of abusing while he was in the facility. The woman was cleared in four separate state investigations despite failing a lie detector test. She was ultimately convicted only after she turned herself in to police. In another case uncovered by the paper, a different female guard went on to marry a former inmate after he was released from the facility. The woman kept her job even after her marriage came to light.

Such incidents are sadly common inside our juvenile justice system. In the most recent federal survey of detained juveniles, nearly 8 percent of respondents reported being sexually victimized by a staff member at least once in the previous 12 months. For those who reported being abused, two things proved overwhelmingly true, as they were in Woodland Hills: They were teenage boys, and their alleged assailants were female employees tasked with looking out for their well-being. Nine in 10 of those who reported being victimized were males reporting incidents with female staff. Women, meanwhile, typically make up less than half of a juvenile facility’s staff….

The attitude that these boys bear some blame, however small, is dangerous in a vacuum. It’s downright reckless when we know that 90 percent of reported incidents involve male juveniles and female guards. “That minimizing of a serious crime is really contributing to the crisis,” says Stannow, “and we are talking about a crisis here.”

The common theme with most woman on boy sex seems to be that whether the teen is being abused in a juvenile facility or is a 14-year-old forced to pay child support to the grown woman who committed statutory rape against him, somehow he is always to blame.

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image via shutterstock / Gts

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‘The Prenup Is Just Another Hurdle…’

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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CNBC: How Safe is a Prenup?:

Prenups are supposed to be the ultimate divorce insurance for the wealthy. Yet like insurance, prenuptial agreements are often challenged when there’s a claim. …

The main reason prenups are so rock solid is the Uniform Prenuptial Agreement Act, which was adopted by the majority of states and makes it very difficult to toss out a prenup. The law sets out basic guidelines for drawing prenups and strengthens their enforceability, attorneys said.

Yet there are a few conditions under which prenups may be tossed out. Attorneys said the most common challenge is fraud, where a spouse undervalues or hides assets. ..

Another popular challenge is the “coercion or duress” argument. This is Anne Griffin’s main argument. She said that after she expressed unwillingness to sign the prenup, they had an argument and Ken Griffin became “so angry, violent and intimidating that he destroyed a piece of furniture in their home.” ….

“If the wealthier party wanted it to be fair, they wouldn’t enter into a prenup,” he said. “Prenuptial agreements necessarily deal with degrees of unfairness. They give leverage to one side.”

That doesn’t mean that less wealthy spouses can’t get more than the prenup offers. In the recent divorce of Wendi and Rupert Murdoch, for instance, Wendi Murdoch negotiated a larger settlement during negotiations involving their assets and children. The Griffin divorce also involves the custody of their children.

“The prenup is just another hurdle for one side to overcome,” Auerbach said.

Yes, that’s the problem, the “one side” is generally the wife and since when is it “unfair” to get a prenup and to have leverage over one’s own earnings?

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cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image illustration via shutterstock / zimmytws

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Gender Affects Types of Crashes for Young Drivers

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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A study finds that the gender of young drivers plays a role in the types of crashes they are involved in:

(HealthDay News) — The types of vehicle crashes involving young drivers often vary by gender, a new study has found.

Researchers analyzed data from 2007 to 2011 for all crashes involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 in Kansas and found a number of differences between male and female drivers.

Young women were 66 percent more likely to wear a seat belt, 28 percent more likely to drive on a restricted license and they had more crashes at intersections and with pedestrians. They were also more likely to have crashes on weekdays.

Young men, on the other hand, had more crashes at night, more off-road crashes and were more likely to have crashes on weekends, according to the study published recently in the Journal of Safety Research.

“There are often different risk factors for young male and young female drivers because their behavior and attitudes are generally different,” lead researcher Sunanda Dissanayake, a civil engineering professor at Kansas State University, said in a university news release.

The article mentions education materials being aimed at each gender to help them reduce car accidents: perhaps more instruction for girls are how to prevent driving errors at intersections and around pedestrians and instructions for guys on why wearing a seat belt is important, though this may or may not work. Any ideas on how to get guys to wear seat belts? It seems to be a big problem for them in fatal crashes.

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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College Men ‘Going on Strike’?

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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Amy Alkon:

You’ve come a long way, baby — and then gone all the way back and then some.

Ashe Schow writes in the Wash Ex about the fallout from the campus sexual assault hysteria:

Thanks to an increased focus on sexual assaults on college campuses – mostly due to an overblown statistic claiming 20 percent of college women have been sexually assaulted – young college men are starting to rethink how they talk to women.

At first glance that might seem like a good thing – men learning to be more respectful of women and not be so rapey – but that’s not what this is.

This is about men actually avoiding contact with women because they’re afraid a simple kiss or date could lead to a sexual assault accusation.

Bloomberg reporters John Lauerman and Jennifer Surane interviewed multiple men from colleges like Harvard and Stanford who expressed concern over what was once known as a “hook-up culture” but is now labeled by feminists as “rape culture.” The change in terminology ensures that all responsibility is placed on men, just because of their gender.

Take Malik Gill of Harvard University, who said he wouldn’t even give a female classmate a beer.

“I don’t want to look like a predator,” Gill told Bloomberg. “It’s a little bit of a blurred line.”….

As I’ve written before, women used to demand to be treated as equals; now they demand to be treated like eggshells.

Count me out.

Yeah, me too. We will keep hearing the question from women, “where have all the good men gone?” as they live in their cocoons, never understanding that the guys went on strike a while back and many have left for good. Are college women to blame for this? Yes, because as Martin Luther King says: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. If college women do not understand the injustices they are witnessing against men in our colleges today and strive to help, then they are part of the problem. They reap what they sow.

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

Image via shutterstock / auremar

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The Adventures of Sky Diving, Walking on Fire and Eating Out Alone

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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52 Things, 52 weeks is a blog where the author describes herself as “Entertainment attorney. IP nerd. Foodie. Coffee lover. Mac enthusiast. Yoga addict. Insomniac. Shutterbug. World traveler.” After reading my recent post, she decides this is the week she will try eating out alone:

Normally when I do something outside of my comfort zone on this blog it involves jumping out of a plane, walking on fire, or plunging into an ice-cold lake. While this week’s post seems mundane by comparison, it actually made me really uncomfortable to think about it. When I saw an article asking “Are You Ashamed to Eat Out Alone?” I decided it was time to mark this one off of the list.

Yes, I’ve grabbed a quick bite here and there by myself before. I have a favorite lunch spot back home that I sneak off to each time I visit and I’ve spent hundreds (probably thousands) of hours studying alone at coffee shops. But I have never gone to a nice restaurant and enjoyed an entire meal alone.

I set up a few ground rules:

How adventurous! Maybe next time, she should take along a copy of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking just to complete the evening.

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cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image illustration via shutterstock / CandyBox Images

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Is Suicide Genetic?

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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Some researchers say yes:

No one could have predicted that Oscar-winning comedian Robin Williams would kill himself.

Or could they?

When someone commits suicide, the reaction is often the same. It’s disbelief, mixed with a recognition that the signs were all there. Depression. Maybe talk of ending one’s life.

Now, by studying people who think about committing suicide, as well as brains of people who actually did, two groups of genome researchers in the U.S. and Europe are claiming they can use DNA tests to actually predict who will attempt suicide.

While claims for a suicide test remain preliminary, and controversial, a “suicide gene” is not as fanciful as it sounds.

The problem is that suicide samples are small and I often wonder how much gender plays a role in the lack of studies and data on suicide:

“We seem to be able to predict suicidal behavior and attempts, based on seeing these epigenetic changes in the blood,” says Kaminsky. “The caveat is that we have small sample sizes.”

Kaminsky says that following the report, his e-mail inbox was immediately flooded by people wanting the test. “They wanted to know, if my dad died from suicide, is my son at risk?” he says….

The bigger problem, says Dracheva, is that there are simply not enough brains of suicide victims to study. Unlike studies of diabetes or schizophrenia, where scientists can call on thousands or tens of thousands of patients, suicide studies remain small, and their findings much more tentative.

It’s because they don’t have DNA from enough people who committed suicide that researchers, including those at Hopkins and Max Planck, have had to try connecting the dots between DNA and whether or not people have suicidal thoughts. Yet there’s no straight line between the contemplation of suicide and actually doing it.

Of the more than 38,000 suicides in this country, over 30,000 are by men, yet the suicide studies remain small? Why?

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cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image illustration via shutterstock /  Youjin Jung

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How Does Institutional Bias Affect Men?

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I wondered about this a few weeks ago as I watched a Question and Answer session for perspective students at a large Washington D.C. Law School. The Q&A was about an hour and the admissions speaker was a lively woman who seemed very oriented to students and happy to answer questions about the LSAT, the law school and how to do one’s best in the application process. The future students were eager to ask questions and hands around the room went up quickly. There were around 50 people, about half men, half women in the room. But I noticed that the speaker mainly called on the women students, even if a man had raised his hand first. She even said “I will get to you in a minute” to a male student but then called on a couple of women instead: one woman was even called on three times! I wondered if the speaker even knew she was doing this.

I must admit that part of the problem was the way that the guys in the room were trying to ask questions. Their hand did not go up as aggressively as the girl’s hands nor were their voices as strong or as loud. They were softer and more hesitant than the women’s and I often could not hear them as well. Is this a function of men with softer voices applying to enter law school or were they more timid in this particular setting? Were they picking up that they were the underdogs in this situation and that they were not getting the same attention? If I am observing this behavior in one academic setting, how many more men are being affected by academics and administrators around the country who may be treating them differently?

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How Deadlifts and Squats Changed My Life

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Helen Smith

I have been following Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program twice a week now for a few months. I have to say it has worked really well for me.

Since having a heart attack many years ago, I was afraid to do squats and deadlifts with much weight, if at all. However, Mark gave me the confidence to feel that I could indeed, do them again, albeit with some modifications. I have been using lighter weight, mainly just the 45 pound bar for deadlifts and the same for squats. Yeah, it’s light but sometimes I add five pounds on each side if I feel like it. I do three sets of five reps of each of the exercises with rest in-between as Rippetoe suggests. At first, I thought it didn’t seem like this plan would do much but I have noticed subtle changes over the past few weeks.

My lower back rarely hurts and my legs are much stronger. I have been doing overhead presses also that help me keep my posture in line and my upper body no longer hurts from the computer as much as it did. I feel better and can easily squat down now to lift things more readily. The idea of these exercises is to give one more functional ability in his or her daily life and they definitely have done that for me. I am still doing some yoga and other exercise for variety but I think the squats and deadlifts have really been key to helping me achieve the goals that I wanted–less pain and more ability to do tasks in my daily life. Thanks Mark!

*****

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

Check out some of Mark Rippetoe’s biggest hits at PJ Lifestyle:

You Only Need These 6 Things For a World-Class Home Gym

Why You Should Not Be Running

Maybe, You Should Gain Weight

Forget What You’ve Heard: 4 Reasons Why Full Squats Save Your Knees

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Which Variables Most Influence Where You Choose to Live?

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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It seems that people pick places to live on other variables than happiness:

If New York is so unhappy, why do so many people keep living there? That’s one of the many questions at stake in a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Researchers from Harvard and the University of British Columbia used people’s self-reported life satisfaction data from the CDC to try to determine a geography of American happiness. What they found is that among the biggest metropolitan areas, the Big Apple is the unhappiest. Scranton, Pennsylvania, takes the honor of the least happy metro area of any size. Meanwhile, Richmond is the happiest large metro area, and Charlottesville, Virginia, is the happiest of any size…..

The data also carries in it an insight into how people make major life choices. If people only sought to live in happy places, cities like Richmond and Charlottesville, Virginia would be swamped with people, while New York would be desolate. Clearly, that hasn’t happened.

“One interpretation of these facts is that individuals do not aim to maximize self-reported well-being, or happiness, as measured in surveys, and they willingly endure less happiness in exchange for higher incomes or lower housing costs,” they write.

That said, places with low income growth and low population growth also tend to be particularly unhappy, both currently and historically.

“[C]ities that have declined also seem to have been unhappy in the past, which suggests that … these areas were always unhappy — and that was one reason why they declined,” write the authors.

The upshot seems to be that people make decisions based on happiness, but only on a limited basis. So at least in the economics world, there’s more to life than being happy.

It seems that people go where the money or jobs are earlier in life and then often move to places that make them happy or that have lower taxes when they retire or maybe lower taxes makes them happy as they have more time to do other things with their money. The problem is that people ruin these places such as NYC etc. with their politics and then move to the lower tax states such as the South to retire and then try to ruin these places with their politics and the cycle continues.

*****

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image illustration via shutterstock / Ollyy

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How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra)

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I have been reading Barbara Oakley’s new book A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) this week. It’s a fascinating and fun read if you want to learn math, science, or, like me, just want to improve your memory.

I was actually pretty decent at math as my father was a mathematician and I grew up learning to love numbers. However, I had no natural talent, just no fear, which is important in learning math. Oakley makes this point throughout the book as she believes most people can learn math (and science) with the right tools and mindset. She is an engineering professor who failed her way through high school math but tackled these skills as an adult. Here is more about the book:

In A Mind for Numbers, Dr. Oakley lets us in on the secrets to effectively learning math and science—secrets that even dedicated and successful students wish they’d known earlier. Contrary to popular belief, math requires creative, as well as analytical, thinking. Most people think that there’s only one way to do a problem, when in actuality, there are often a number of different solutions—you just need the creativity to see them. For example, there are more than three hundred different known proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. In short, studying a problem in a laser-focused way until you reach a solution is not an effective way to learn math. Rather, it involves taking the time to step away from a problem and allow the more relaxed and creative part of the brain to take over. A Mind for Numbers shows us that we all have what it takes to excel in math, and learning it is not as painful as some might think!

Relaxing while trying to learn math sounds counterintuitive but it works, according to the book. One of my favorite chapters is called “tools, tips, and tricks” and it gives the reader positive mental tricks to use to their advantage in learning. She tackles procrastination and gets tips from experts regarding their student, such as “No going onto the computer during their procrastination time. It’s too engrossing,” “Before procrastinating, identify the easiest homework problem,” and “Copy the equation or equations that are needed to solve the problem onto a small piece of paper and carry the paper around until they are ready to quit procrastinating and get back to work.”

All this seems to lead to being a bit more creative and perhaps a bit more relaxed. Come to think of it, the above tips would be helpful in writing a blog post except the writer has to use the computer and cannot avoid it. Anyway, the book is great and goes into more detail about how to increase your memory with metaphors and visualization. Pick it up if you want to know more about how to succeed at math and science or if you just need to improve your memory and learning ability.

*****

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

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Want to Get Rich? Buy a Walgreens

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I am reading a book by Tom Wheelwright called Tax-Free Wealth: How to Build Massive Wealth by Permanently Lowering Your Taxes (Rich Dad Advisors) and trying to figure out how to reduce taxes. Many of the strategies are a bit too complicated and risky for many people, including myself.

For example, in chapter nineteen on “The Magic of Real Estate,” the author suggests that you find a Walgreens to buy. You buy Walgreens property, they find the land, build the building, sell the land and building to the investor, and lease them back for 30 years. Okay, so now, you as the investor pay the mortgage. Then Walgreens sends you a check that you deposit in your account. “So you don’t have to do anything. You travel all over the world with the investment income for your Walgreen’s property til a ripe old age.”

The next paragraph goes into how one can use depreciation deductions to further shelter your taxes. All this “sounds” easy, right? Wrong, not to me anyway. You need accountants that are hard to get in touch with, constant documentation, and tax planning that sounds pretty complicated. In addition, I thought there was a depreciation recapture which means some of the money will have to be paid back at some point if you sell it. It sounds like a headache. And what if Walgreens goes bankrupt? What do you do then? Books like these always make it sound like nothing will go wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, the book is good, interesting and makes some good points about how to save on taxes but dealing with so many professionals, their costs and all of the accounting really sounds time consuming and if time is money, as the book mentions, aren’t you just trading one form of work for another?

If you have some simple tax saving strategies, please share them below (legal ones please!).

*****

cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

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