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Current Topic: Health and Wellness

Determinants of Survival in a Life and Death Situation
Topic: Health and Wellness 6:55 am EDT, Oct 23, 2008

This paper explored the determinants of survival in a life and death situation created by an external and unpredictable shock. We are interested to see whether pro-social behaviour matters in such extreme situations. We therefore focus on the sinking of the RMS Titanic as a quasi-natural experiment do provide behavioural evidence which is rare in such a controlled and life threatening event. The empirical results support that social norm such as "women and children first" survive in such an environment. We also observe that women of reproductive age have a higher probability of surviving among women. On the other hand, we observe that crew members used their information advantage and their better access to resources (e.g. lifeboats) to generate a higher probability of surviving. The paper also finds that passenger class, fitness, group size, and cultural background matter.

From the archive:

It is not because of the few thousand francs which would have to be spent to put a roof over the third-class carriage or to upholster the third-class seats that some company or other has open carriages with wooden benches ... What the company is trying to do is prevent the passengers who can pay the second-class fare from traveling third class; it hits the poor, not because it wants to hurt them, but to frighten the rich ... And it is again for the same reason that the companies, having proved almost cruel to the third-class passengers and mean to the second-class ones, become lavish in dealing with first-class customers. Having refused the poor what is necessary, they give the rich what is superfluous.

Determinants of Survival in a Life and Death Situation

My Airline
Topic: Health and Wellness 7:28 am EDT, Aug 26, 2008

Shouts & Murmurs:

Staring blankly at the seat back in front of you for the entire flight is no longer permitted on my airline. If you have brought nothing to read, a book will be provided for your use, at a charge of fifty dollars.

Laughing out loud at anything in any movie, whether it is playing on the cabin system or on your own DVD player, is fifty dollars per incident. Asking me to turn off my reading light so that you can see the screen better: also fifty dollars.

I realize that you have a choice of airlines, and I encourage you to exercise it.

My Airline

Downhill Skateboarding
Topic: Health and Wellness 7:28 am EDT, Aug 26, 2008

Downhill skating is like surfing; carving back and forth on long downhills. Note: you guys who skated as kids and have quit. The technology is way advanced these days. Decks, trucks, wheels, designs. It's a different skating world. If you've ever skated, you've got the motor skills (due to "muscle memory"), and you'll be surprised at how much fun you can have skating downhill with today's boards. Here are three unique skateboards meant for downhill, as opposed to acrobatic street and ramp skating.

Downhill Skateboarding

The Book of Calamities: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning
Topic: Health and Wellness 7:55 am EDT, Aug 21, 2008

Publishers Weekly Starred Review:

Peter Trachtenberg wryly observes: Everybody suffers, but Americans have the peculiar delusion that they're exempt from suffering. He shared in this denial until a friend died of cancer, and then he began to ask questions. Most of these are unanswerable, he admits. Why me? How do I endure? What is just? What does my suffering say about me? about God? And what do I owe those who suffer? This book is a layman's response to unimaginable anguish, a collection of powerful stories rather than a philosophical treatise. Writing movingly about victims and survivors of natural disasters, war, genocide, domestic violence, addiction, illness, suicide and injustice, he deftly intermingles their stories with observations from religion, philosophy and literature. Not everyone will want to face this much misery, and Trachtenberg offers no easy solutions. His book, however, succeeds because it asks the right questions, calls on the experience of articulate witnesses and—through skillful narrative and trenchant observation—beguiles the reader into facing heartbreaking reality.

From the archive:

In all his speeches, John McCain urges Americans to make sacrifices for a country that is both “an idea and a cause”.

He is not asking them to suffer anything he would not suffer himself.

But many voters would rather not suffer at all.

From 2005, Tom Friedman:

Are Americans suffering from an undue sense of entitlement?

Somebody said to me the other day that the entitlement we need to get rid of is our sense of entitlement.

From 2004, a letter in the NYT Sunday Magazine:

It is sad but common evidence of our sense of entitlement that we in the West consider whatever we get our hands on to be ours.

From 2006, Decius:

I think many Americans feel a sense of entitlement to the greatness of America. They wrap up our country's accomplishments, sprinkle on a bunch of stuff we didn't accomplish, pin it on their chest, and claim personal responsibility for it. They believe that they are personally great because they are Americans and America is great.

From 2004, David Brooks:

Most students today are overprotected, uninterested and filled with a sense of entitlement.

The Book of Calamities: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning

Life in the Fast Lane
Topic: Health and Wellness 7:55 am EDT, Aug 21, 2008

The amphetamine-assisted, physician-abetted social adjustment of yore is back as a mass phenomenon.

How did a dangerous drug, all but banned for very good reasons, become a pharmaceutical best seller once again? To get a handle on America's enduring attraction to speed, we must step back and explore how amphetamines became part of the fabric of American life.


When Allen Ginsberg helped open the counterculture's own anti-amphetamine campaign in 1965 under the slogan "speed kills," he wasn't referring just to the drug that so many Americans relied on to keep up. He was also thinking of the demand that amphetamine satisfies. It might be time to think again about heeding his call.

From the archive:

"People have less time. So their garden projects have changed over time. Convenience, time-saving factors, less mess," he said.

To be sure, time marches on.

Yet for many Californians, the looming demise of the "time lady," as she's come to be known, marks the end of a more genteel era, when we all had time to share.

Life in the Fast Lane

A Small Empire Built on Cuddly and Fuzzy Branches Out From the Web
Topic: Health and Wellness 7:55 am EDT, Aug 21, 2008

BoingBoing linked to Cute Overload, saying that viewing the site “is like taking a happy pill.”

And in that warm feeling lies the reason for its popularity. Given all the nastiness on the Internet — blog trolls, flame wars, vicious gossip, pornography, snark and spam — what better antidote is there than looking at pictures of tiny ducklings waddling in a line or kittens splayed on their backs, paw pads in the air?

Click through for the kitten.

From the archive:

In all his speeches, John McCain urges Americans to make sacrifices for a country that is both “an idea and a cause”.

He is not asking them to suffer anything he would not suffer himself.

But many voters would rather not suffer at all.

A Small Empire Built on Cuddly and Fuzzy Branches Out From the Web

How to Work Better
Topic: Health and Wellness 7:24 am EDT, Aug 19, 2008

1. Do one thing at a time.
2. Know the problem.
3. Learn to listen.
4. Learn to ask questions.
5. Distinguish sense from nonsense.
6. Accept change as inevitable.
7. Admit mistakes.
8. Say it simple.
9. Be calm.
10. Smile.

From the archive:

Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues:

It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.

For this purpose I therefore contrived the following method.

Powell's Rules:

Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.

Rumsfeld's Rules, including this one, from H.L. Mencken:

For every human problem there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong.

How to Work Better

unusual gas masks
Topic: Health and Wellness 7:12 am EDT, Aug 11, 2008

The essential fashion item if you are going to the Beijing Olympics to watch people compete in air made of Jello - a gas mask.

Gas masks are all more or less terrifying to look at, which is why some people get a kick out of them, creating artsy fetish masks, or artists create ironically cute masks such as Bill Barminsky’s Mickey Mouse mask.

The irony is on the artists, however, since genuine Mickey Mouse inspired gas masks were given to children in both the UK and the US, during wartime, to appear less scary.

From the archive:

On January 7th, 1942, one month after Pearl Harbor, T.W. Smith, Jr., the owner of the Sun Rubber Company, and his designer, Dietrich Rempel, with Walt Disney’s approval introduced a protective mask for children. This design of the Mickey Mouse Gas Mask for children was presented to Major General William N. Porter, Chief of the Chemical Warfare Service. After approval of the CWS, Sun Rubber Products Company produced sample masks for review. Other comic book character designs were to follow, depending on the success of the Mickey Mouse mask.

People say to me, "Whatever it takes."

I tell them, It's going to take everything.

And still I see a woman in row four, cutting an apple. With a four-inch knife.

Between the 5% tint on the windows, the gas masks and wires blocking my front view, the highly questionable steering, and the 35 pounds of liquid propane on the roof, I pretty much have my bases covered in the "constant rolling threat to all things living" department. The IV drip bag is real, although the blood is actually Mountain Dew and cherry pie filling.

... Here are the controls for Alexi. A lot of people ask what all the backlit switches do. "Well, most of them turn on other switches, which are also backlit" I tell them.

"You mean they don't actually DO anything?" They always ask me.

The truth is that I like how light up toggle switches look. So most of them just sit there, glowing away, looking cool, doing nothing.

unusual gas masks

Hannah Montana Wake-Up Calls
Topic: Health and Wellness 7:45 am EDT, Aug  7, 2008

VoIP is fun!

Jump-start your kid’s school routine with a special greeting from Hannah Montana™.

It’s back-to-school time. You know what that means—new clothes, new school supplies and a whole new school year. That’s why Wal-Mart wants to help you bring a smile to your young superstar with a surprise pre-recorded greeting from Hannah Montana™.


Opening a web-to-phone system to the public without authentication or constraints may be fun — but it’s also ripe for abuse. Without authentication of the sender, users are free to enter any source phone number they want, making it look like the calls are coming from someone else. There’s no opt-out mechanism or audit trail. Even attempts to constrain the system can be circumvented: You can change the recipient’s time zone and wake them up in the middle of the night, or back-date the wake-up call to have it placed immediately.

Now, remember Paul Graham:

Don't just not be evil. Be good.

Hannah Montana Wake-Up Calls

Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China
Topic: Health and Wellness 7:45 am EDT, Aug  7, 2008

Publishers Weekly Starred Review:

Alford and Duguid, authors of the acclaimed Mangoes & Curry Leaves, explore the food and peoples of the outlaying regions of present-day China, historically home to those not ethnically Chinese. Part travel guide and part cookbook, this collection looks at the cultural survival and preservation of food in smaller societies including that of the Tibetan, Mongol, Tuvan and Kirghiz peoples, among others. The authors include vivid color photographs of food, people and places of cultural significance. Recipes are tantalizing and mostly simple, and ingredients are surprisingly easy to find. The book is sectioned by food type rather than ethnicity, covering everything from condiments and seasonings to fish and meats to drinks and sweets. Dishes have the hint of the familiar, such as Oasis Chicken Kebabs, Tibetan Pork and Spinach Stir-Fry, and Market Stall Fresh Tomato Salsa, while others are less common but equally tempting, including Kazakh Pulao, Steamed Tibetan Momos, and Home-style Tajik Nan. Peppered throughout are the authors' personal stories, which provide insight into each culture. A handsome and engaging collection suitable for travelers and cooks alike, this book will delight anyone with an interest in this part of the world.

From the Slate review:

The yogurt-based, covered-pot-baked Kazakh bread smells exactly like good dinner rolls from a Midwestern supper club, but the moist, absorbent texture seems closer to an underwater sea sponge.

(h/t TC)

Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China

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