Linkdump for May 28th through June 15th

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between May 28th and June 15th.

Sometime between May 28th and June 15th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • Why is English so weirdly different from other languages?: No, English isn’t uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language.
  • PureText: Have you ever copied some text from a web page, a word document, help, etc., and wanted to paste it as simple text into another application without getting all the formatting from the original source? PureText makes this simple.
  • Let’s Be Real: Americans Are Walking Around With Dirty Anuses: “I find it rather baffling that millions of people are walking around with dirty anuses while thinking they are clean. Toilet paper moves shit, but it doesn’t remove it. You wouldn’t shower with a dry towel; why do you think that dry toilet paper cleans you?”
  • The Racist History of Portland, the Whitest City in America – The Atlantic: All in all, historians and residents say, Oregon has never been particularly welcoming to minorities. Perhaps that’s why there have never been very many. Portland is the whitest big city in America, with a population that is 72.2 percent white and only 6.3 percent African American.
  • No more ‘product of its time,’ please:I don’t think that we should hide texts with troubling elements. They are part of the literary canon and they have influenced us, for both good and ill. We should definitely be reading them, and we should also be talking about them. A lot.

Linkdump for April 8th through April 10th

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between April 8th and April 10th.

Sometime between April 8th and April 10th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

Linkdump for March 30th from 11:01 to 11:37

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between 11:01 and 11:37 on March 30th.

Sometime between , I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

This Year’s Health Efforts

After letting my exercise regimen fall apart in November, it’s time to get going again. For my own accountability, this is some rambling about my current status and what goals I have moving into the new year.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve started trying to pay more attention to my general health. Part of that process last year was starting to track my exercise and eating habits–and in the case of exercise, forming some habits to be tracked. Historically, I tended to think of myself as someone who didn’t really exercise much, but when I think back on how I used to spend my time–clubbing around three nights a week (which, for me, involves much more actual dancing than sitting/standing around and drinking), walking a lot (I didn’t have a car while living in Seattle, and walked up and down hill between downtown and Capitol Hill daily), and working for print shops (which, while not strictly “physical labor” jobs, did involve a lot of moving cases of paper around and being on my feet most of my time)–it’s pretty obvious that I was getting a fair amount of regular exercise just through my normal routine. Certainly much more than I tend to now, when my daily routine involves driving back and forth to work and spending my day sitting at a desk.

While tracking my eating habits didn’t carry on terribly long, I was better about keeping up a semi-regular mild exercise routine for most of the year. Unfortunately, that ended up falling apart mid-November, right about midway through my first quarter pulling double duty as a full-time employee and full-time master’s student.

Last January, I weighed a little above 170 lbs., and set an arbitrary goal of just dropping down to 165. This was more to just have something to put into the app I was using than an actual goal, as I didn’t really feel I needed to lose weight, I just wanted to start paying more attention to actively exercising and taking care of myself (and hey, if I ended up toning up a bit in the process, so much the better). Over the course of the year, I actually ended up dropping down to 158 before starting to come back up again (which I believe is a combination of putting on some muscle mass and having to switch to a new scale which seems to read a bit higher than the last one did…too bad the last one broke when I got on it one morning).

Right now, I’m right about back where I was at the beginning of last year, sitting at 172.2. So as I get the process going again, I’m keeping that “goal” of 165, but once again, that’s more just to have a value in that field in the app. My only real plan is to get back into the habit of exercising regularly.

To that end, I’m using three apps to help track my stats (and as is pretty normal in these days of social everything, two of them allow me to connect with friends, so I suppose, if I know you and you want to be a long-distance, social-media pseudo-exercise buddy, feel free to add me as a friend). I’m set up with LoseIt! to track food and weight, RunKeeper to track my exercise (walking, riding, elliptical, etc.–in the words of Chris Knight, I only run when chased), and I’m using the Gorilla Workout app as a simple home-based exercise regimen. I actually started the Gorilla workouts in October, but didn’t quite make it through all of Level 1 before my mid-November slump hit, so I’ve just started that over from the beginning again.

So, that’s it for now. Just tossing this out there to give myself a little more accountability as I get going on this project again. As I’m about to start another quarter of school, I’m hoping I’ll be able to get through to spring break without letting the exercise fall by the wayside again.

This Far, No Further

I don’t mind disagreeing with people, I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, and in the right circumstances, calm, rational discussions of disagreements can be quite good. However, the line has to be drawn somewhere, and I’ve now found two places where I’m quite comfortable drawing that line.

I do my best to be open-minded about just about everything, and accepting of outlooks and beliefs other than mine. I may not understand why someone might believe the things they do (republicans, for instance)…but if that’s what they believe, that’s what they believe.

A few months ago, I hit the first time when I decided to “un-friend” a Facebook contact (the ultimate arbiter of relationships in today’s world) because of their beliefs. I could deal with this person being a gun nut, I could deal with them being an uncomfortably far-right Republican. What I couldn’t deal with was when they outed themselves as a Birther. At that point, it was obvious to me that there was simply no way I was ever going to connect to this person on any rational level. If someone’s at a point where they can take that level of over-the-top racism-poorly-disguised-as-conspiracy-theories seriously, then they’re not at a point where I can even pretend to be able to relate to them. So, off the friend list they went.

Just this week, I found a second, similar line, when I discovered that another contact was a vaccine denier. This I find even more offensive than the Birther nonsense. Birthers are crazy and probably racist, but at least their paranoid fantasies aren’t likely to hurt anyone. Anti-vaccine people, though…that can be harmful, and not just to the person, but to others, as they could potentially end up helping to spread an otherwise preventable disease. The “research” that the anti-vaccine crowd relies on has been debunked so thoroughly that it’s mind-boggling to me that anyone can continue to try to believe it, and when you factor in the very real chance that by not vaccinating themselves or their children, they could spread diseases that we at one point came very close to having essentially eradicated…. Enough is enough, and off they went.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen terribly often. I don’t mind disagreeing with people, I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, and in the right circumstances, calm, rational discussions of disagreements can be quite good. However, the line has to be drawn somewhere, and I’ve now found two places where I’m quite comfortable drawing that line.

ADD, Hyperactivity, and Ritalin

I have serious issues with the current obsession with ADD and the associated pharmaceutical treatments. My personal belief is that it’s an incredibly overblown and overmedicated issue.

[Jacqueline is curious][1] about using drugs to offset the effects of [ADD][2]:

[1]: http://jacquelinepassey.blogs.com/blog/2004/11/should_i_take_d.html “Should I take drugs?”
[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention-deficit_hyperactivity_disorder “Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder”

> It’s been 13 years since I’ve taken anything for my attention deficit disorder — my childhood experience with Ritalin was awful. But things haven’t been going so well in school lately and I may have to relax my “no drugs, no way” position if I want to get it together and actually do the grad school thing.

Now, before I go any further, I need to put a big disclaimer on what follows: I am not a doctor — I don’t even play one on TV. I don’t have children. I don’t have ADD. I have never been on any prescription medication for anything other than antibiotics. I did go through a period of time when I was playing with recreational drug use, but that was confined to three drugs: a few instances of getting stoned (boring), three attempts at ‘shrooming (two of which times I went to sleep before they kicked in), and about two years of dropping acid on a fairly regular basis (fun for a while, then it was time to stop).

In other words, the following is opinion, and opinion only. Take it as such.

Now.

I have _serious_ issues with the current obsession with ADD and the associated pharmaceutical treatments. My personal belief is that it’s an incredibly overblown and overmedicated issue. This does _not_ mean that I don’t “believe” in ADD, or that I don’t believe that there are people who are affected by it and can benefit from treatment. What it means is that I believe that it’s often diagnosed too quickly, and that the current trend is too quick to depend on chemical treatments that are likely more detrimental in the long run.

My little brother Kevin was an unusually active baby. He had problems paying attention for more than a few minutes at a time, and was rarely still — even in his sleep, he was so constantly wired that he would bruise himself in his sleep thrashing around in his crib. Eventually, it got to the point where my parents were concerned enough that they decided to take him to a doctor and see if there was any medical explanation.

Now, this was back in the late 70’s, long before [ADD/ADHD][3] became the catchphrase of the decade. My brother was diagnosed with hyperactivity — an overabundance of energy and inability to focus, brought on by a chemical imbalance within his system. My parents were given a few choices on how to combat this. I don’t know if there were more options given than the two I’m about to mention, but I believe these were the primary options.

[3]: http://www.add-adhd.org/ADHD_attention-deficit.html “What is Attention-Deficit Disorder?”

The first was [Ritalin][4], a drug that is actually a central nervous system stimulant that has a calming effect on hyperactive individuals because of their unusual body chemistry.

[4]: http://www.nida.nih.gov/Infofax/ritalin.html “InfoFacts – Methylphenidate (Ritalin)”

The second was a more natural remedy — dealing with the hyperactivity by monitoring and adjusting Kevin’s diet. The chemical imbalance that triggered Kevin’s hyperactivity was brought on by excessive amounts of certain types of sugars in his system. The hyperactivity was believed to be an allergic reaction to [sucrose][5] and a few other compounds: essentially, he was allergic to cane sugar (sucrose), artificial flavors and colors, and honey. It was thought that by eliminating those elements as much as possible from his diet, it should be possible to regulate the imbalance and allow Kevin to lead a calmer, more normal life.

[5]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sucrose “sucrose”

A little bit of Googling has turned up a few pages on the subject of [hyperactivity and diet][6], leading me to [this Q and A page][7] that pinpoints this approach to treating hyperactivity as the Feingold Diet (further searching for “[finegold diet][8]” returned that same page as the top result). It’s apparently a somewhat controversial approach, as testing Dr. Finegold’s theories resulted in “mixed and inconsistent results” — see [paragraph eight of the “20th Century History” section of Wikipedia’s ADD page][9] for more information.

[6]: http://www.google.com/search?q=hyperactivity+and+diet&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 “‘hyperactivity and diet'”
[7]: http://www.dietitian.com/hyperactive.html “Hyperactivity & ADHD – Ask the Dietician”
[8]: http://www.google.com/search?q=%22finegold+diet%22&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 “‘finegold diet'”
[9]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention-deficit_hyperactivity_disorder#20th_century_history “Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: 20th Century History”

I don’t know how much was known about the Finegold Diet at the time that my parents were investigating Kevin’s unusual behavior, or how it was viewed at the time. Whatever the situation was, my parents decided that it was at least worth trying before resorting to drugs, and so Kevin’s diet was changed (along with the rest of us, of course — something that I’ve always half-believed is responsible for why I have such a sweet tooth: until the age of about four or five, I had a normal little-kid diet high in sugars; suddenly, nearly all sugars and sweets were removed from the house, and I _missed them_ — but I digress…). We found that he could process [fructose][10] (fruit sugars) normally, and so that became the sweetener of choice in our family.

[10]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructose “fructose”

And it worked. It worked quite well, in fact. Suddenly, Kevin was manageable — at least, no more hyper than any other young child. And, in case there were ever any doubts as to whether it was the diet making the difference, the changes in his behavior when he did manage to get ahold of anything with high amounts of sugar were staggering (I remember one instance where after getting into a stash of Oreos I had hidden in my room he got to the point of physically attacking our dad — a rather scary situation for all of us). When his sugar levels did start to get a little high, all it took was a couple cups of coffee to calm him down, as the caffeine worked with his body chemistry in a similar way to how the Ritalin works: what’s a stimulant to a normal person acts as a depressant to a hyperactive person.

Now, obviously, no two people are going to have the same body chemistry, and a solution for one person isn’t necessarily a solution for all. Even when one solution does present itself, something as simple as time can make a huge difference — as my brother aged, he became less and less adversely affected by the sugars that sent him into fits as a child, and to my knowledge, he hasn’t had to worry about any medical dietary restrictions for quite a few years now. According to the above referenced Wikipedia article, testing on Dr. Finegold’s methods resulted in wildly inconclusive results, with success rates reported as anywhere from as much as 60% to as little as 5% of the test subjects.

So no, it’s not a catch-all, and I harbor no wild beliefs that because it worked for my brother, it will work for everyone else. However, I _know_ it helped my brother, and even working with the low end of the reported success rate — five percent — if [four million children][11] are diagnosed with ADHD each year, then that’s around 200,000 that could see a substantial difference simply by experimenting with their diet (and I’d bet that choosing your foods wisely is a _lot_ cheaper than filling a Ritalin prescription for years).

[11]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention-deficit_hyperactivity_disorder#Incidence “Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Incidence”

It just seems to me that if there’s a possibility of being able to help someone with something as simple as a little attention to their diet, than shouldn’t that be one of the _first_ things investigated? It may not work — there may even be a 95% chance that it won’t — but if it does, than it’s easier, healthier, cheaper, and it would probably take no more than a few weeks or a few months to be certain as to whether a different diet is making the difference. Why start with the howitzer when a slingshot might be all you need?

What concerns me are two things: firstly, that I rarely (if ever) hear of people who know about the potential benefits of the dietary approach; and secondly (and more importantly), I really wonder sometimes if people these days are overly quick to assign their children the label of ADHD.

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Quite simply, children are _supposed_ to be hyper! Yes, if it’s excessive, get it checked — but please don’t jump to the conclusion that a child is hyperactive simply because you’re having troubles controlling them. Children need to be active and interested in everything around them, it’s how they learn. They’re plopped down in the middle of this huge world, with all sorts of stuff to explore and investigate and taste and pound on and break and put together and figure out _how it all works_ — and it really worries me when it seems to me that some parents are in far too much of a hurry to drug their children into insensibility because it would make _their_ life easier.

Okay, I think I’m done.

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