On April 10 I published the next step in my developing self-improvement program, an application of Charlie Martin’s 13 Weeks method to my problem of better organizing my research. I looked forward to diving back into a deep reading routine filled with novels and culture while blogging my results here at PJ Lifestyle so all the wiser, more enlightened souls who make it their business to fill the comments section with their manifestos could tell me what an idiot I was for not seeing the world exactly the way they did.
But then on April 15 — Patriot’s Day — bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, resulting in 3 deaths and 264 injuries. The real world had intruded on the Wonderland of Books I’d constructed for myself. As Charlie has pointed out from time to time in his 13 Weeks series, life has a way of throwing off our plans.
For days the country sat in nervous panic as police searched for the killers. Partisans of every persuasion speculated about the motives of the evil monsters who would load pressure cooker bombs with shrapnel to mutilate the bodies of innocent human beings they had never met. David Sirota of Salon longed for the murderous act to serve as fodder for his goal of demonizing his political opponents. I liked the way PJ columnist Roger Kimball put it on on the morning of April 18:
One of the curious, but also most predictable, responses to the Boston Marathon bombings from the Left has been the fervent expression — amounting nearly to a prayer — that the perpetrator or perpetrators of this act of mass murder be “homegrown,” preferably white, male, Christian, and conservative.
Why? Why does the Left prefer to have its terrorism served up by Timothy McVeigh rather than Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad? It’s an interesting question. That the Left exhibits this prejudice is, like Falstaff’s dishonesty, “gross as a mountain, open, palpable.”
David Sirota, writing at Salon, gives almost comic expression to the genre in an essay with the really special title “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.” Why does Mr. Sirota wish that the Boston murderer of 8-year-old boys be a white American? Because a spectral quality called “white male privilege” operates insidiously behind the scenes. If Timmy McVeigh blows up a government building, says Mr. Sirota, only he is blamed. If Mohammed does it, Muslims are likely to be “collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse).”
What do you think of that argument? I think it’s hooey.
But how can intellectual and cultural warriors do battle with hooey level arguments? PJ Media Legal Editor J. Christian Adams offered advice to the Benghazi whistleblowers that is just as applicable to every American striving to fight for these issues in their own way:
I know a thing or two about being a whistleblower. I appeared on the Huckabee show this weekend (see video below) and explained how simply telling the truth is the way to shield yourself from the sinister deceptions from places like the Huffington Post and the George Soros-funded Media Matters. They can try to smear you, but the truth of your testimony will rise above their smears.
All we can do is present the truth about the nature of the enemy. If that doesn’t work, then what else is left?
I grew up in a small town and went to college in the Midwest, got my first “real” job on the east coast, and moved to Washington, D.C. I’m sure the Washingtonians could smell fresh blood the moment I stepped out of the car. Although I have been here for a few years, I always find Washington, D.C. hard to describe—it isn’t a normal city and it doesn’t play by normal rules. Manners are rare and the smile exotic. If the district had a “state” song and a “district” animal… it would be “Money” by Pink Floyd and the indestructible cockroach.
Yes, Washington, D.C. is gorgeous and a lot of good people work and live here; the picturesque bridges over the Potomac river, the utopian dream that is George Washington Parkway, and constant influxes of young, bright-eyed people who want to change the world. However, despite its white, marble buildings and shining waters, D.C. is not all that it seems. Rules have been suspended within the 68.3 sq miles of The District. In fact, D.C. becomes a sort of alternative universe compared to the rest of the country.
A lot of television shows are set here, most recently, the political-thriller House of Cards (HoC). Why is D.C. a popular “show” location? Probably because any ridiculous plot line can work here—anything can happen and be believable. As a Washingtonian watching HoC, it is easy to say that its “fiction” is more similar to reality than one would like to admit. Be afraid. The following are three HoC characters you would meet in D.C.—Washingtonians know them well.
SPOILER ALERT: for those of you who have not seen all of House of Cards, season one, be warned.
I’m pretty sure they’re already on the endangered species list, but this news won’t help replenish their numbers:
After mentioning on Twitter that the newly announced Star Wars games from DICE and Visceral will be running on DICE’s powerful Frostbite 3 engine, Andersson responded to a reader concern that this will mean the games will not be available for the Wii U.
“[Frostbite 3] has never been running on WiiU,” Andersson tweeted. “We did some tests with not too promising results with [Frostbite 2] & chose not to go down that path.”
This statement follows a Eurogamer interview from March’s Game Developers Conference in which DICE’s Patrick Bach admitted DICE “could probably make a Wii U game in theory” but said the company is not currently interested in devoting “development time” to the system. “To make the most out of the Wii U, that’s a different game because of the different peripherals. We want to utilize all the power of each console… It’s about ‘where do you put your focus?’ And the Wii U is not a part of our focus right now.”
So it’s not just a question of focus but a question of performance.
“Underpowered” was cute for the original Wii, which Nintendo was able to sell at a profit from the very first unit. But the company’s ambitions were much bigger for the Wii U — which doesn’t appear to be up to the task.
There’s a reason dogs are known as “Man’s Best Friend” while cats are primarily associated with batty spinsters. It’s CALLED SCIENCE.
Here’s the proof from the book 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot:
There are many ways in which a dog can make you feel better. Scientists have conducted numerous studies that examine how you might benefit from having a four legged friend.
Some of the best-known research, run by Erika Friedmann at the University of Maryland, and outside colleagues, investigated the possible relationship between dog ownership and cardiovascular functioning. After carefully following the recovery rates of patients who had suffered a heart attack, Friedmann discovered that those who were dog owners, compared to those who were without a canine pal, were almost nine times more likely to be alive twelves months later. This remarkable result encouraged scientists to explore other possible benefits of canine companionship, resulting in studies showing that dog owners coped well with everyday stress, were relaxed about life, had high self-esteem, and were less likely to diagnosed with depression.
…Interestingly, the same cannot be said for cats. Some studies show that living with a cat may help alleviate negative moods, but is unlikely to make you feel especially good, and others suggest that cat owners may actually be more likely than others to die in the twelve months following a heart attack.
On the upside for cat fans, the failure of cats may be related to some sort of consistently horrible defect in the sort of people who prefer cats over dogs, as opposed to the general awfulness of cats as pets.
But, all kidding aside; this makes perfect sense. Dogs are loyal companions who are thrilled out of their minds every time you return home while cats are generally indifferent to your existence, but are willing to tolerate you as long as you are giving them food and they’re allowed to use you as a scratching post.
Submit your questions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!
Happy birthday, spring babies! I’ve just rounded the corner on a quarter century, and here’s a question from another Millennial, with a birthday problem…
Dear Bad Advice,
Three years ago, I had the best and worst birthday of my life. I was turning 21 and I had a spectacular party at a bar with a big group of friends the night before, and was showered with gifts and cards the next day (including a cake my mom sent me in the mail!). Sounds pretty good, right? Well, that day I also broke up with my boyfriend of three years, whom I’d been hoping to marry. It was the product of a long, painful wind-down that had taken place over the preceding months, but the final straw was when I opened up a box of flowers, and all my friends assumed it was from him…but it wasn’t. He was there when I opened it, and when one of my friends asked what he had done for my birthday, she found out he hadn’t planned anything special at all, not even a card or a nice dinner out. I know some people don’t make a big deal out of birthdays or holidays, but we had always been very thoughtful about celebrating special occasions, making each other hand-made gifts and cards and going out of our way to create a special evening for each other. So the fact that he hadn’t done anything at all had to have been a deliberate move on his part, to send me a message.
I still feel conflicted about that day, because I can’t seem to separate the great parts from the miserable ones. I had one of the most fun, memorable birthdays ever with a group of people who remain some of my closest friends — but I also ended a relationship with a man that I was utterly convinced I was going to spend the rest of my life with (how naive we are at 21). Ever since then, I sort of dread and look forward to every birthday, wondering if it’s going to be just as great, or just as bad. I’m turning 24 this year and I don’t know what to expect. How do I shake this foreboding feeling and just enjoy my day?
- Minerva K.
This sounds like bad advice, but you need a rebound.
image courtesy shutterstock / Stu Porter
You have your killer opening, you’ve polished it nicely. At least if you’re like me, you can’t help polishing a bit every time you look at it. You’re now fifty pages in, and everything seems to be going too slow, and you’ve lost track of where you were going, and you start to panic and think you’re doing it wrong.
This happens whether you are a plotter and had everything exquisitely planned in advance, or you’re flying by the seat of the pants and have clue zero what actually works.
Once you have the first few pages of the book ready, and you are aimed more or less in the direction you will go, you start feeling everything went wrong and the idea you had to begin with is completely impracticable, and… and… and…
Keep calm and carry on. Take deep breaths. The experience you’re having is uncomfortable but completely normal. It’s sort of like having a root canal. Just because it’s unpleasant doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Trust me.
What is happening at the psychological level is that you’ve now set yourself on one course to write your novel, and part of you – you know, the part that thought writing should be a really exciting adventure – is sitting back there going “What? This is all there is? This is not fun.”
It’s bad enough if you’re making it up as you go along, because you can just have the nagging feeling something has gone wrong, and not know what.
It’s worse, if you’re an outliner, you might have had that opening happening much faster. Writing an outline is much like dancing would be if there were no gravity. You can make your character do anything and – because it’s impossible to plot all those details without making the outline longer than a novel – you don’t know what the opposition is doing precisely.
Then you come to write, say a jail escape scene, and gravity hits you with a thud. Your character can’t do that unless you wish to make the opposition almost comic-opera stupid. So you have to make her escape more difficult, every step more negotiated.
The bad news is that at this point, you can’t tell. All of us professional novelists have read a third or a half of a novel we started long ago and put down unfinished and thought “How in heaven’s name did I think this made a good beginning?”
On the other hand, we’ve also all read beginnings we abandoned long ago and thought “Wow, this is really, really good. Yes, I am better now, but this has sparkle and life that pulls me right in.”
The problem here that when you’re less than a third (I’m less than a fifth) into a novel, you truly can’t judge it. Worse, the friends who normally read stuff for you also won’t be able to tell you if it’s any good or not.
As an early teen in the early ’80s, it was just about impossible not to like Michael Jackson’s music. It was certainly impossible to avoid it. With Thriller, Jackson and producer Quincy Jones set out to make the ultimate crossover album — one that would gain black and white audiences in equal measure. And equal airplay, too, back when radio stations were even more racially targeted than they are today.
And boy, did they succeed.
But Michael Jackson the person? It was pretty obvious even then that he was one strange dude. What happened though is what happens to too many child performers: The weirdness went up and up, while the quality of the performances went down and down. By the time Dangerous came out in 1991, the magic was pretty much gone. It sold in the millions, yet nobody was buying it. And by that I mean, nobody was buying Jackson’s pseudo tough/tender/ladies man act anymore. The weird was just too weird.
Then came the obligatory-yet-somehow-disappointing greatest hits collection, the horrifying-yet-believable stories about his sleepover parties with kids…
I shudder even to think about it. His last studio album, ironically named Invincible, came out after years of delays and way over budget — and to a tepid response.
It was around this time he was dangling babies off balconies and looking like a bad drag queen version of Elizabeth Taylor. Oh, and he’d somehow managed to go broke buying giraffes and rollercoasters and stuff. The music had hit bottom and the weird was at the top of the charts.
The amazingly talented and abused little boy who never had a childhood, never really had an adulthood, either. There’s so much blame to go around, you barely know where to start.
Very seldom do liberals and conservatives agree on much of anything these days, but there is one area where we should have some common cause. Over at the liberal website Alternet, Bill Berkowitz has written a piece called, “Cruel Country: Debtors Prisons Are Punishing the Poor Across America”:
In the 1990s, Jack [Dawley's] drug and alcohol addictions led to convictions for domestic violence and driving under the influence, resulting in nearly $1,500 in fines and costs in the Norwalk Municipal Court. Jack was also behind on his child support, which led to an out-of-state jail sentence.” After serving three and a half years in Wisconsin, Dawley, now sober for 14 years, is still trying to catch up with the fines he owes, and it has “continue[d] to wreak havoc on his life.”
…The jailing of people unable to pay fines and court costs is no longer a relic of the 19th century American judicial system. Debtors’ prisons are alive and well in one-third of the states in this country.
In 2011, Think Progress’ Marie Diamond wrote: “Federal imprisonment for unpaid debt has been illegal in the U.S. since 1833. It’s a practice people associate more with the age of Dickens than modern-day America. But as more Americans struggle to pay their bills in the wake of the recession, collection agencies are using harsher methods to get their money, ushering in the return of debtor’s prisons.”
…This year’s ACLU report….points out that many poor “Ohioans … convicted of a criminal or traffic offense and sentenced to pay a fine an affluent defendant may simply pay … and go on with his or her life [find the fine] unaffordable [launching] the beginning of a protracted process that may involve contempt charges, mounting fees, arrest warrants, and even jail time. The stark reality is that, in 2013, Ohioans are being repeatedly jailed simply for being too poor to pay fines.”
According to the report, Ohio courts in Huron, Cuyahoga, and Erie counties “are among the worst offenders. In the second half of 2012, over 20% of all bookings in the Huron County Jail were related to failure to pay fines.
…CBS Money Watch’s Alain Sherter recently reported that “Roughly a third of U.S. states today jail people for not paying off their debts, from court-related fines and fees to credit card and car loans, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Such practices contravene a 1983 United States Supreme Court ruling that they violate the Constitutions’ Equal Protection Clause.”
Wreaking havoc on ordinary peoples’ lives
Jack Dawley: “You’d go do your ten days, and they’d set you up a court date and give you another 90 days to pay or go back to jail… It was hard for me to obtain work, so I fell back into the cycle of going to jail every three months.”
Paying money to people you owe can’t just be an “optional” thing. The government must be allowed to force people to pay their debts or our entire system of commerce would break down. That being said, it’s immoral, unconstitutional and even counter-productive to put someone in jail for being truly unable to pay his debts. How are you going to earn enough to pay what you owe if you’re in jail?
We have a new rivalry: the Google self-driving car vs. the General Motors “Super Cruise.” The tech world is all revved up about autonomous cars; it’s like Minority Report meets Back to the Future! But before we start singing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, we need to take a step back and evaluate the feasibility of the implementation of the technology.
Cars are already available with semi-autonomous features: cruise control, automatic breaking (for objects that enter the car’s sensor fields), parallel park assist, and new features that guide cars back into their lane if they veer too much. The new Cadillac “Super Cruise” is attempting to one-up these features: it can steer the car within the lane, and will make the driver’s seat vibrate if the car veers out of bounds. It can also brake and accelerate to maintain a “selectable distance” between the car and those in front of it. Proponents of semi-autonomous, and future (fully) autonomous, cars argue that this technology will lead to safer roads, less accidents, better gas mileage, and less need for mistake-prone humans to be driving. I disagree. What about the imperfect nature of our new chauffeurs: computers?
There are fewer female musicians for me to hate, because a) there are fewer female musicians and b) I’m a chick.
It pains me to admit that I’m prone to the same irrational tribalism I denounce in others, but it’s true:
The second Sarah Palin strode onto that stage to accept the VP nomination, I turned into a six-year-old:
“A girl! A girl!! Yayyyyyy!!!”
I knew nothing about her policies. I didn’t care. I still don’t, much.
Because female performers are easier for me to identify with, they’re harder for me to dislike.
But I managed to scrape together a trio…
Above the desk I work on every day there is a Culpeper Minutemen Flag, a Dream Board, a Ronald Reagan bumper sticker autographed by Ann Coulter, and 10 slogans. I spend hours of each day with those slogans in the corner of my eye, burning into my brain.
Because we’re constantly being hit with other people’s slogans. Advertising jingles, billboards, songs, TV shows, comments from friends, orders from the boss — all of those are being inputted into our subconscious each day.
Well, it’s important for us to control some of the information that goes into our brain as well. Here are the slogans I find so essential that I want to be exposed to them daily.
1) On attitude: “When a lion wants to go somewhere, he doesn’t worry about how many hyenas are in the way.”
2) A standard: “If every day was like today, would it be enough to achieve my goals for 2013?”
3) On dedication:
“7 months straight. No stopping, no maintenance weeks, no cheat meals. Why? Because if someone beat me, I didn’t want to look back at any cheat meals and ask ‘what if.’ I did what it took every single day, and THAT is why I looked the way I did. You either want it or you don’t. Just so you know, there wasn’t a day that went by in the last 8-10 weeks of that prep where I didn’t want just ONE extra yogurt, or 5 less intervals of cardio. But, I was not going to be outworked! I was NOT going to be denied! And you know what? It was all worth it.” – Tommy Jefferson
“Peace will come,” Golda Meir once famously remarked, “when the Arabs start to love their children more than they hate us.” The obstacle to peace was not actually Arabs as such, but Muslims who had imbibed Islam’s doctrine of jihad and hatred of non-believers and primarily Jews — a hatred so intense that it drives people to prefer death (and murder) to life. And as we have seen recently with the monstrous grandstanding of Mama Tsarnaeva, this hatred is passed on in some Muslim families – and Zubeidat Tsarnaeva is by no means the only mother from hell.
Islamic supremacists avowedly and proudly love death. Jihad mass murderer Mohamed Merah said that he “loved death more than they loved life.” Nigerian jihadist Abubakar Shekau said: “I’m even longing for death, you vagabond.”
Ayman al-Zawahiri’s wife advised Muslim women: “I advise you to raise your children in the cult of jihad and martyrdom and to instil in them a love for religion and death.” And as one jihadist put it, “We love death. You love your life!” And another: “The Americans love Pepsi-Cola, we love death.” That was from Afghan jihadist Maulana Inyadullah.
Ultimately, this idea comes from the Qur’an itself:
“Say (O Muhammad): O ye who are Jews! If ye claim that ye are favoured of Allah apart from (all) mankind, then long for death if ye are truthful.” — Qur’an 62:6
This love of death is instilled in children. A Muslim child preacher recently taunted those he has been taught to hate most: “Oh Zionists, we love death for the sake of Allah, just as much as you love life for the sake of Satan.” This young man’s mother was probably much like the quintessential mother from hell, Mariam Farhat, or Umm Nidal (mother of Nidal), a Palestinian parliamentarian who died in March. No one more fully embodied the Hamas ethos — and the ethos of infanticide that permeates contemporary Palestinian culture as a whole — than Umm Nidal, a mother who willed the death of her own children and the children of others.
[There are updates at the end of this post.]
Well, look, when the left-wing media lands a punch, you got to take it, fair and square. Turns out one of the few open conservative activists in Hollywood has been hiding a past life as a Holocaust denier. He once recanted, but it was fake. He’s still mealy-mouthed on the subject. This is from the Guardian, a socialist newspaper in the UK:
To those who knew him, or thought they knew him, he was a cerebral, fun-loving gadfly who hosted boozy gatherings for Hollywood’s political conservatives. David Stein brought right-wing congressmen, celebrities, writers and entertainment industry figures together for shindigs, closed to outsiders, where they could scorn liberals and proclaim their true beliefs.
Over the past five years Stein’s organisation, Republican Party Animals, drew hundreds to regular events in and around Los Angeles, making him a darling of conservative blogs and talkshows. That he made respected documentaries on the Holocaust added intellectual cachet and Jewish support to Stein’s cocktail of politics, irreverence and rock and roll.
There was just one problem. Stein was not who he claimed. His real name can be revealed for the first time publicly – a close circle of confidants only found out the truth recently – as David Cole. And under that name he was once a reviled Holocaust revisionist who questioned the existence of Nazi gas chambers. He changed identities in January 1998.
Yuck-o. And bad for the cause of freedom too, because you know full well the media will try to tar us all with it. That’s how it works. Oliver Stone makes a documentary rationalizing a Soviet Union that slaughtered gazillions in the name of oppression; Sean Penn kisses the backsides of tyrants like Castro and Chavez — hey, no problem. They still work and win praise — and certainly no one tries to pin their foolishness on run-of-the-mill Hollywood Democrats, nor should they. But one creepoid on the right, and we’ll soon start to hear, “Well, that’s what they’re all like, deep down.” See if we don’t.
Once I made the decision to exercise my 2nd Amendment right to self-defense rather than to be a helpless victim, I began to research my options for home protection. I contacted friends who are qualified to dispense advice on the topic and I sent them emails with my requirements. I said I wanted a gun for home use (not for concealed carry at this point), one that is easy to load and shoot (and wouldn’t require me to be an expert marksman), and one for which ammo is readily available. They responded with helpful suggestions and all had a 12-gauge shotgun at the top of their lists. One said a 12-gauge pump shotgun is “ tried and true, easy to use, and ammo is plentiful.” Another said, “For home protection get a 12-gauge pump action shotgun. A Mossberg 500 or a Remington 870 are essentially the same weapon. 12-gauge 00 buckshot is still fairly cheap and plentiful. Anything you shoot at will be vaporized at close range.”
That sounded good, though the thought of “vaporized at close range” in my home was unnerving. Let’s not forget that until a few weeks ago my weapon of choice was a bug vacuum (don’t judge me, this is a process).
My friend and neighbor, Doug Deeken, who is on the board of Ohioans for Concealed Carry, sent me a detailed email with a list of handgun and long gun options. He also thought a shotgun might be a good choice for home use, but offered some cautions,
“Long guns are easier overall, and a bit safer for the user, but aren’t quite as easy to use in a hallway with that long barrel sticking out there. Personally, I have a pump-action Mossberg 500 12-gauge for my home defense gun. Unless you are familiar with the recoil of a 12-gauge you’d be well advised to look for either a 20-gauge or .410 gauge pump action shotgun. Either a Mossberg 500 or Remington 870 will work fine. Get a “Youth” or “Bantam” model, because it’ll have a shorter stock that is easier for you to hold correctly.”
When three out of three friends had shotguns at the top of their recommendation lists, I latched onto that idea and told my husband and son that I was leaning toward a shotgun. Ryan, my 21-year-old son, has many years of experience with a variety of guns (what happened at camp, stayed at camp — I didn’t want to know the scary details all those years). When I told him (via Facebook chat) about my plans to get a shotgun, he didn’t agree. Actually, “scoffed” might be a better word, but he tried to be gentle:
How Did the Theological Fight Between Protestants and Catholics Fuel the Colonization of North America?
Slate’s Dear Prudence advice column is a social barometer of sorts, so when columnist Emily Yoffe pivots on a major issue my ears twitch, because change must be afoot. This week’s chat with advice-seekers revealed a shocking reversal: Prudie is actually advising readers to cut back on the porn:
When I started writing this column I had a very laissez-faire attitude toward porn, but it’s irrefutable that excess consumption can interfere with normal sexual expectations. It’s one thing if your husband made a reasonable request. … It’s another thing if he’s withdrawn from you sexually, has refused to address this, then announces he can’t get turned on by you if you don’t look like the people on YouPorn. …you two need to talk about how hurtful his behavior has been over the past year, and that you hope he understands that putting his demands in such a demeaning way is not likely to turn you on.
What was the husband of this letter-writer requesting? That the woman shave down under or he wouldn’t get intimate with her. The bald eagle (aherm) look has grown so immensely popular this year it’s actually made headlines, and most commentators agree it was popularized by porn’s hairless superstars.
Okay. So porn is as standard (and standardized) in American males’ homes as sliced bread. Old news. What’s new news is that someone besides the ultra-feminist anti-porn crusaders and the ultra-Christian anti-porn crusaders is saying in a major public forum that maybe porn is not so healthy for relationships. Well, excess porn.
For what it’s worth, I don’t support the censorship of porn that’s performed (and consumed) by consenting adults. But I do object to the tacitly ubiquitous attitude that “porn is okay, and if you object to it you’re a prude, because everybody watches it.” It’s another form of political correctness. Let’s see a healthy dose of skepticism.
The atheist movement has always contended that reason and logic are on its side. Faith, atheists argue, is the sole domain of those who believe in God. The truth is the opposite. It is the belief that everything created itself that is irrational; not the belief in a Creator. It is belief that Bach, the Eiffel Tower, and the iPhone are the culminations of literally nothing that requires far more faith than belief in a Designer. Reason and logic are on our side, not theirs.
Image illustration courtesy shutterstock / Vitaly Korovin
PJ Lifestyle features each new video from Prager University and encourages dialogue and debate about their ideas. Check out some of the previous weeks’ discussions about religion, philosophy, and ideas:
Running from Genesis 12 to 25, the story of Abraham is, among many other things, a cliffhanger drama of Jewish continuity. It starts with God telling Abraham, when he’s still a Mesopotamian:
Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
And I will make of thee a great nation….
But even though Abraham goes to live in Israel as he’s bidden, serious complications arise. It turns out this putative father of a great nation and his wife are an infertile couple. God, miraculously, solves that problem for them only when Abraham is a hundred years old and Sarah ninety, evoking incredulous laughter from them both.
Their son Isaac is born; but some years later the troubles continue when God again comes to Abraham and says:
Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
Since Abraham — whose identity, as I discussed last week, is based on obeying God — has no choice but to comply, it appears again that the future of the “great nation” has been lost, until God again intervenes and rescinds the terrible decree.
The next major event is Sarah’s death. Abraham, who is “old, and well stricken with age,” knows that the issue of Jewish continuity has still hardly been solved, since in all of Canaan there isn’t a single “Jewish” girl whom Isaac can marry.
Instead Abraham tells the “eldest servant of his house”:
I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:
But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.
So begins one of the Bible’s loveliest tales.
Week 13 of my second 13 week season: low-carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
We’re now in the last week of my second 13-week experiment. I’m planning another 13 weeks and I want to talk about what I’m going to change and why, but first I think it might be useful to look back at when I started this, six months ago:
It struck me just a couple weeks ago. I’m 57, weigh 300 pounds, massively deconditioned, verging on type II diabetes if not actually there, and I don’t want to die.
It’d been a hard year. A year ago this week, my mother had a heart attack, and over the ensuring months failed and died, passing away on 11 January, two days before her 77th birthday. Following that, I had a succession of illnesses that put me in the hospital for a day, four times between January and August. One of those times was with pneumonia, and as my friends all insisted on reminding me, “you can die from that!”
A sense of mortality struck me on my birthday, 57 this year; arithmetic started showing up for me. My father died in 1994, at 69. That’s only 12 years older than I am now. Mom at 77, only 20 years older than I am now.
Now, my Dad weighed in the neighborhood of 450 lbs when he died, and he smoked. My Mom, around 200 lbs and she’d smoked heavily, drunk heavily, and generally been rode hard and put up wet nearly her whole life. I’ve got some advantages, since I don’t drink or smoke; on the other hand, I’ve been struggling with my weight since I was literally 6 years old. You can hear a lot of bad diet advice in 50 years.
The long and short of it is that I want to change this and need to change this, and there’s relatively new science that suggests there are better, faster, more efficient ways to change this. So I’m doing an experiment: for 13 weeks, which I plan to start a week from today, 4 November 2012, I’m going to start an experiment where I’ll be keeping a very low carb, more or less “paleo” diet, and doing “high intensity interval training” and “high intensity strength training” two sessions a week. This scheme has good reasons behind it, biochemically and otherwise.
Then I’m writing about it, and I’m going very public with it, so, frankly, it’ll be too embarrassing to quit.
And I have changed my situation. I’ve lost 30 pounds, 10 percent of my bodyweight. My blood sugar is down, way down. (As we saw a couple weeks ago, maybe a little too far down.) I have been more successful with exercise, if not astoundingly successful. And my health is definitely better, both by objective medical measures and just in the way I feel. But I’d still like to lose maybe another 50 pounds, and I’d like to get completely off diabetes meds. And I’m bored with what I had been doing.
Here’s the basics of the next 13 week experiment:
- I’m going to change over to Tim Ferris’s Slow Carb Diet as defined by his 5 rules. Now, that’s kind of the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of his full diet plan, but I like simple things. Also, his full-fledged diet cuts out dairy and I like cheese. This is still low-carb, although not quite as low, but with the episodes of hypoglycemia I’m hoping to maybe level out by blood sugar some.
- I’m going to pick out two (gasp) goals: by the end of this 13 weeks I want to do 100 pushups in a row, and I want to do at least one unassisted pull up. I’m going to continue to track my Fitocracy points and plan to get 2000 points or more a week.
- I will continue to track weight and glucose, and I’ll make a full set of body measurements at the beginning and end of the 13 weeks. Measuring body fat is going overboard; I’ll talk more about it next week, but basically I don’t think any method I’ve got easily available is turning out to be either precise or accurate.
- I’m going to concentrate more on mental, or if you will spiritual, aspects. As part of that in a way I’ll explain in a minute, I’m going to ask those of you who are inclined to try to change something in your life to join in. We’ll talk a lot more about coaching and support; I’ll also want to know what tools you feel would help you perform a 13 week experiment of your own.
The mental/spiritual idea is, I suspect, a surprise. It sure as hell was to me: Dave Swindle, who edits the Lifestyle section, suggested it to me as an addition for the next experiment and — well, I replied “Hm. I’ll think about it.” but what I meant was “Don’t like it, no.” But there was a chain of events I didn’t know was happening. Dave had put the idea in my head. I recently became enamored of the Brazilian novelist Paulo Coehlo, and was reading his book Aleph. (I recommend Coelho, by the way, even if he did get noticed because Bill Clinton was reading his book The Alchemist.) Aleph is a sort of fictionalized (I think) biography; in a powerful scene, in a ritual in a church Coehlo asks a woman he wronged in the past for forgiveness. Then she continues by spontaneously saying essentially the same words, forgiving herself for past wrongs she had done to herself.
Reading that, I had one of those moments of visceral, pleasurable electricity, and I realized that there had been an emotional theme I’d been working on during the last 26 weeks. Part of it was seeing the ways I’d been hurt by things said about my weight and appearance, general lack of athletic motivation, extreme nerdiness and the emotional distance that comes with long-term depression. I’ve devoted a column on several occasions to various kinds of baggage, including that column about the car wreck, which I found hard to write because it felt like I was admitting to failings.
Reading Aleph, I realized there was a central theme: I needed to forgive myself for sometimes being imperfect.
The Mohammed Code available here.
Does practice really make perfect? Does it even lead to improvement? One feels instinctively that it should, that the more experience a physician has, the better for the patient. Much of the skill of diagnosis is pattern-recognition rather than complex intellectual detection, and it follows that the longer a physician has been at it, the quicker he will recognize what is wrong with his patients. He has experience of more cases than younger doctors to guide him.
But the practice of medicine is more than mere diagnosis. It often requires manual dexterity as well, and the ability to assimilate new information as advances are made. These may decline rather than improve with age. Too young a doctor is inexperienced; too old a doctor is past it.
A recent paper, whose first author comes from the Orwellianly named Department of Veterans’ Affairs Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, examined the relationship between the years of an obstetrician’s experience and the rate of complications the women under his care experienced during childbirth. The authors examined the records of 6,705,311 deliveries by 5,175 obstetricians in Florida and New York. No one, I think, would criticize the authors for the smallness of their sample.
They examined the rate of serious complications such as infection, haemorrhage, thrombosis, and tear during or after delivery, divided by obstetrician according to his number of years of post-training experience. Reassuringly, and perhaps not surprisingly, experience reduced the number of such complications decade after decade. The rate of complications was 15 percent in the first ten years after residency; it declined by about 2 percent to 13 percent in the first decade thereafter, by about 1 percent in the subsequent decade to 12 percent, and by half a percent in the next. In other words, improvement continued, but less quickly as the obstetricians became more experienced; the authors appear not to have continued their study to the age at which the rate of complications started to rise again (if indeed there is such an age).
We tend to think of Hollywood as a bastion of leftism, and rightly so. Books like Ron Radosh’s Red Star Over Hollywood demonstrate the deep-seated left wing dominance of the entertainment industry. Even with the leftism prevalent in Hollywood’s Golden Age, many unabashed conservatives found success without compromising their principles, including one of the most creative minds in the business – Walt Disney.
Several biographers and writers that I’ve read have tried to declare that Walt Disney was apolitical, but I find this conclusion not to be true. Diane Disney Miller once said that her father was “kind of a strange figure” politically, and Walt admitted his own political naiveté:
A long time ago, I found out that I knew nothing whatsoever about this game of politics and since then I’ve preferred to keep silent about the entire matter rather than see my name attached to any statement that was not my own.
But plenty of people surrounding Walt Disney knew the truth: that he was conservative to his core. Ward Kimball, one of Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” said that Walt’s right-leaning politics made him uncomfortable and that politics drove a rift in their friendship in Disney’s later years. Radical writer Maurice Rapf, who worked on several Disney films, including Song of the South, said, “He was very conservative except in one particular – he was a very strong environmentalist.” However, Walt Disney’s conservatism did not manifest itself until after he had been a businessman for several years.
Walt Disney’s early exposure to politics came from his father, Elias, who was a Socialist – in particular, he followed the philosophy of J. A. Wayland. Wayland created a unique strain of Prairie Socialism in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Daniel J. Flynn, in his book A Conservative History of the American Left, tells of how Wayland “reached Americans with the message [of Socialism] that had been heretofore explained in a German, Yiddish, or Russian accent, but never with a Bible-belt twang.”