Does This Mean I Can Sleep In Some Days?

I am a big believer that there are multiple benefits associated with exercise, for the body, mind, and soul. To me, it’s the closest thing we have to a magic pill to keep us healthy.

That’s why I was concerned when I read the results of the latest exercise study, this one conducted by the Mayo Clinic.

According to the new research, white men who worked out 450 minutes per week (or more) have double the risk of suffering from heart disease than white men who exercised less than two-and-a-half hours each week.

The recommended level of exercise is 150 minutes per week, and up until recently I was much closer to the 450 minutes per week than the 150 minutes guideline.

But this new study is causing me to rethink my approach to exercise.

If I decide to cut back on the time I spend exercising, it will be hard for me to also then readjust the fitness goals I set for myself. The goals are based on a fairly rigorous exercise plan, and I know I won’t be able to hit those goals with a less ambitious exercise plan.

I guess it’s all part of not wanting to admit that I am getting older, and that I can’t do the things I used to be able to do.

So maybe in the long run it will be good for me to cut back on my exercise, since doing may increase the odds that I make it to the long run.

And who knows, maybe at some point I won’t have to exercise at all.

Another research study I read about this week tells the story of one researcher’s quest to develop a pill that would enhance a person’s fat-burning and muscle-growing capability, all with little to no exercise.

The benefits of such a pill could obviously be life-changing.

But even if such a pill does exist someday, I don’t think I could stop exercising.

I like the discipline of it, the meditative aspect of it, and perhaps best of all, the shower afterwards, since something is much more enjoyable if you feel like you’ve earned it…

 

Good, Clean Fun. Yes, It Is Possible.

Last year I wrote a blog post, “Must Comedians Use the “F” Word to Get a Laugh?” that explored the prevalence of the f-word not only in comedy, but in everyday life. The post noted that while many comedians make ample use of the f-word, there are many successful comedians who do not.

Well today the Wall Street Journal featured a story about one of the most successful comedy sketch groups performing today has that achieved sizable popularity on the internet (more than 1 billion views on YouTube), despite—or perhaps because of—its super-scrubbed brand of clean humor.

The troupe is Studio C, and its cast members are current or former Brigham Young students who must adhere to BYU’s honor code.

Writers at Studio C, which launched in 2012, must avoid innuendo, flatulence jokes, cursing, politics—even the word “gosh,” because it sounds too much like “God.” Male cast members must obtain university permission to grow facial hair—dubbed a “beard card” by students.

Some believe that Studio C’s popularity has validated the idea that “the absolute sharpest comedy is clean comedy.”

As Studio C’s popularity has grown, cast members are routinely besieged by fans. While they don’t mind getting the Hollywood treatment and like appealing to a wide audience, some of the cast members have attempted to go in disguise around Provo, home of BYU.

So add Studio C to the list of comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan, and Bill Engvall who have achieved success without resorting to cheap theatrics like cursing and farting.

I wish them continued success. As someone who has avoided cussin’ and swearin’ for the past 35 years, it’s nice to see proof that you don’t need to drop an f-bomb to be funny.

If you are interested in watching their comedic bits, here is their YouTube channel. I’ve also included a few of their more popular clips below. Enjoy!

 

“Your data suggest a strong automatic association for Male with Career and Female with Family.”

That was my result after taking the Implicit Association Test (IAT) for Gender and Career.

The IAT measures the strength of associations between concepts (e.g., Female/Male and Career/Family). The main idea is that making a response is easier when closely related items share the same response key. One has an implicit association between Male and ‘Career’ relative to Female and ‘Career’ if they are faster to categorize words when Male and ‘Career’ share a response key relative to when Female and ‘Career’ share a response key.

Implicit preferences can predict behavior. Implicit preferences are related to discrimination in hiring and promotion, medical treatment, and decisions related to criminal justice.

There is not yet enough research to say for sure that implicit biases can be reduced, let alone eliminated. Packaged “diversity trainings” generally do not use evidence-based methods of reducing implicit biases. Therefore, people are encouraged to instead focus on strategies that deny implicit biases the chance to operate, such as blind auditions and well-designed “structured” decision processes.

There are currently 14 IATs that a person can take; earlier today I took the Sexuality test at Villanova as part of “Check Your Blind Spots” campus tour event as part of the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion. This event will allow the Villanova community to learn more about the nuances of unconscious bias, CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion and which companies are committed to affecting change toward a more inclusive society.

Other IATs include age, weight, race, and religion, to name a few..

The IAT was created by Project Implicit, a non-profit organization and international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition – thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data on the Internet.

 When I saw the results regarding my strong gender bias associating men with career and women with family I was both surprised and concerned. It’s hard to tell exactly what sort of responses I gave would lead to such a result. There were some questions in the IAT asking about my upbringing. I came from a pretty traditional family where my dad worked full-time and my mom worked part-time. There’s not much I can do about that, but perhaps that created some deep biases that I am not aware of. Perhaps that’s why they are often referred to as hidden biases.

I was surprised by the results because as a business school teacher I am surrounded by young women who want to have a successful career. I don’t think (well at least I hope) I’ve shown any bias against women pursuing a career in the world of business, but maybe I need to pay closer attention to my words and actions.

The concern comes into play when the researchers note that there is “not yet enough research to say for sure that implicit biases can be reduced, let alone eliminated.”

It should be noted that the developers of the IAT make no claim for the validity of the suggested interpretations. The site warns people that if you are unprepared to encounter interpretations that you might find objectionable, then you should probably skip the test.

I find it hard to imagine that once you have an implicit bias that you can’t work to outgrow it.

But if such a bias can’t be eliminated, hopefully a person can at least become aware of what his or her biases are, and then develop a personal plan of action to lessen the likelihood that such a bias would affect their decision making.

If you are interested in taking any or all of the tests (it takes less than 10 minutes per test), here is the link.

 You can read more about Project Implicit here.

The Guilt Is Written All Over Her Face (and Her Paws)

As usually happens when we get home, our dog Nellie came running to the front door to greet us when we got back from pizza at my Aunt’s on Friday night. But this time, as you can see from the picture above, something was different.

At first, I couldn’t tell what I was seeing, thinking maybe it was just the lights playing a trick on my eyes. But on closer inspection, it was exactly what it looked like. Somehow Nellie had managed to turn her mouth and her front paws to a shade of pink.

My next thought was that maybe she had gotten into a fight with an animal, and that it was blood all over her (not sure how an animal would have gotten in our house, but I wasn’t thinking clearly.)

As we proceeded into the house, here is what we discovered:

nelliemess2

What is that you wonder?

My wife had a bag filled with old plastic apples which she used for one of her school lessons. For some reason, which we’ll never know, Nellie decided to just destroy all of those plastic apples. We’re not sure if she thought they were real, or if she was venting her frustration for not being invited to join us for pizza.

Here is what one of the apples looked like, before Nellie destroyed most of them:

nellieapple

After we cleaned up the apples, the rug looked like it was part of a murder scene. My wife has spent a good deal of time scrubbing the rug to get it back to a condition that we can live with, but since we had already planned to get hardwood floors in that room next summer, we weren’t overly concerned with the slight shade of pink that remains on the rug).

As to Nellie, we tried to wash it off of her, but she didn’t like that, plus it wasn’t working that well anyway. We did succeed in getting most of the pink off her face, but her paws are still a bright shade of pink.

As you might imagine, Nellie could care less. In fact, as I noted at the top, it seems as if she didn’t think she had done anything wrong, running to the door to greet as if nothing had happened. Perhaps she was excited to show off her new look.

And who knows, maybe coloring a dog’s fur will become a thing.

Just remember that you saw it here first.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Seth Godin had a post the other day about a word I had never heard of, “sonder”.

My guess is that most people have not heard of the word either. Here is the definition:

Sonder is the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

There’s even a video to go along with the word:

Sonder reminds us that each of us has a story, a story worth sharing. And just as importantly, sonder reminds us that we’re all in this together.

It’s a great word; the problem is, it’s not quite a real word.

Sonder is one of many words that can be found at The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrowsa compendium of invented words written by John Koenig.

According to its web site, each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language—to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for. All words in this dictionary are new. They were not necessarily intended to be used in conversation, but to exist for their own sake; to give a semblance of order to a dark continent, so you can settle it yourself on your own terms, without feeling too lost—safe in the knowledge that we’re all lost.

I love the idea behind this web site, and spent some time checking out a few of the other “invented” words, and thought I’d share a few.

kudoclasm: sometimes it feels like your life is flashing before your eyes, but it’s actually the opposite: you’re thinking forward, to all the things you haven’t done, the places you intend to visit, the goals you’ll get around to…

nodus tollensthe realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore—that although you thought you were following the arc of the story, you keep finding yourself immersed in passages you don’t understand, that don’t even seem to belong in the same genre—which requires you to go back and reread the chapters you had originally skimmed to get to the good parts, only to learn that all along you were supposed to choose your own adventure.

vellichor: the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago, a hidden annex littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured.

Rückkehrunruhe: the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness—to the extent you have to keep reminding yourself that it happened at all, even though it felt so vivid just days ago—which makes you wish you could smoothly cross-dissolve back into everyday life, or just hold the shutter open indefinitely and let one scene become superimposed on the next, so all your days would run together and you’d never have to call cut.

nighthawk: a recurring thought that only seems to strike you late at night—an overdue task, a nagging guilt, a looming and shapeless future—that circles high overhead during the day, that pecks at the back of your mind while you try to sleep, that you can successfully ignore for weeks, only to feel its presence hovering outside the window, waiting for you to finish your coffee, passing the time by quietly building a nest.

How great would it be if every dictionary offered such beautiful and vivid and thought provoking definitions. Maybe in the old days when dictionaries had to be printed there was a constraint on how long a definition could be. That constraint is now gone, and the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is taking full advantage of the new medium by including photos and videos to enhance the meaning of these invented words.

(Ironically, though, there is apparently a printed version of this dictionary to be published soon.)

I haven’t had the chance to go through the entire dictionary, but I do plan to work my way through over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I’d also recommend that you look at Seth’s take on the word sonder. As always, he’s got a way with words, and a way of making you think.

*image courtesy of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

The Tradition Continues

One of the great things about our neighborhood is the annual end-of-summer block party. It’s a chance to catch up with old friends, as well as an opportunity to meet some new neighbors.

Today’s was one of the best I can remember, thanks to the efforts of our next door neighbors who went above and beyond the call of duty in organizing the event.

From making their own giant-sized jenga and kerplunk games, to ordering the bulk of the food, and perhaps best of all, arranging for a live band, they single-handedly did everything to ensure the success of the party.

Other neighbors pitched in with a cotton candy machine, a pumpkin decorating station, cornhole, as well as lots of appetizers, side dishes, and dessert. I also want to give a special shout-out to our one neighbor who did the bulk of the grilling and started the fire pits.

We’ve lived in our neighborhood for 31 years now, and it’s a great family neighborhood. There are always lots of young kids running around, and today they seemed to be having a great time at the block party. It brought back wonderful memories of when our kids were the ones running around.

I’m not sure if I was the oldest person at the party, but I was certainly one of the oldest. It’s nice to see that the next generation of neighbors seems committed to keeping the spirit of Conestoga Village alive, and that makes me happy.

Thank you to everyone involved for such a great day, I’m already looking forward to next years.

My First, and Hopefully Last, Experience with a Diva

I know this will sound strange coming from a 60-year old man, but I was so looking forward to the Katy Perry concert last night.

Like many pop culture thingies, I was quite late to the Katy Perry bandwagon. I wasn’t really familiar with Katy’s music until seeing her half-time show during 2015 Super Bowl. The show was spectacular, and I became an instant fan.

I loved the song Firework, and the inspirational message it offered. After that, I discovered her song Roar and its message of empowerment. But it wasn’t just the positive messages that made the songs great, the music videos were wonderful as well. (videos at end of blog)

I also liked that Katy was willing to express her opinion about the last Presidential election, something not all celebrities are willing to do.

So when I heard that she was going to be on tour, I thought it would be a nice change of pace from the kind of concert I usually go to (i.e., Bruce Springsteen). The tickets were about $110 each, and there would be three of us going – my wife, my youngest son, and myself.

The original concert date was September 18, but because of production delays, was rescheduled to October 12. The delay just added to the anticipation.

Finally, the big day arrived. The day before the concert, I had received an email that contained the following info:

kptour

startsatseven2

So when I see an email like that, the day before a concert, I’m going to take it somewhat at face value.

So the three of us made our plans, rushing to make sure we got out the door so that we could arrive at the Wells Fargo Center by 6:45. I thought that would give us enough time to find a parking spot ($25) and be in our seats by 7:00.

Well we were in our seats by 6:50, but there weren’t many others. My son said the show probably wouldn’t start until 9:00, and I said no way. I showed him the email again, and I also noted that since it was a school night, and there were going to be so many young kids at the show, she would start the show at a reasonable hour.

Obviously, I had never dealt with a diva before.

I thought the show might begin at 7:30, allowing for a little bit of delay, and at 7:40 the opening act came on. Noah Cyrus, Miley Cyrus’s little sister, did a nice job, and she was finished a couple minutes after 8:00.

It seemed as if the stage crew had everything ready by about 8:20, and I started thinking “any moment now”.

At 8:45 I tweeted the following:

At that point, I was just so angry that someone could keep a crowd of 15,000 people just sitting there. Didn’t she have all day to get ready for this show? Didn’t she know what time it was supposed to start? Didn’t she know about all the little kids (and old people like me) that were in the audience?

I’ve walked out of doctor’s appointments if I have to wait more than an hour, so this behavior was totally unacceptable to me.

By the time she finally graced us with her presence, it was 9:15, and I had lost all interest in the show and lost all my respect for Katy Perry.

My opinion of the show may have been affected by the foul mood I was in, but it just seemed way too gimmicky. When I go to a concert, I’m going for the music. I don’t need 20 foot flamingos or land sharks or a giant pair of lips to entertain me.

We had decided that we would leave as soon as we heard Roar and Firework, which of course, were the final two songs she played. I’m sure if they had been played two hours earlier, I would have loved them, but at this point, listening to them felt like an obligation.

The one good thing that did come out of the concert was that it made me appreciate Bruce even more. He starts on time – and plays for 4 hours. As soon as I got home, I had to listen to Thunder Road to help me get the bad taste out of my mouth.

By the way, everything would have been fine if Katy had just started the show by saying five simple words: “I’m sorry for the delay.” That would have put me back in a positive state of mind, and she would have earned her respect back.

Alas, such words were never uttered, making the $350 we spent for the evening a complete waste of money.

P.S. I just re-read this post, and uh-oh, I think I may have just become that grumpy guy…

 

Sadly, One Person’s Misfortune Is Another’s Ticket to Wealth

You’ve hit rock bottom, perhaps because of choices you’ve made, or perhaps because of some bad luck.

You need money, and you need it now.

Some of us are fortunate enough to have family or friends we can turn to in such situations, some of us are not.

But one of the great things about capitalism is that if there is a demand for something, there’s usually someone willing to meet that demand. It’s also one of the weaknesses of capitalism, since it can potentially create a desire for wealth at all costs.

And that’s where payday lending comes in, a multibillion-dollar industry.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently had a story about a local entrepreneur who owns more than 25 loan companies, many of which (if not all) were involved in payday lending.

The basic idea behind payday lending is that a person will take out such a loan for short term financial needs, with the hope of paying it off with his or her next paycheck.

Unfortunately, for many people taking out such loans, it doesn’t quite work out that way.

These individuals struggle to pay back such loans, and when they struggle, the lending companies show no mercy. In fact, these types of customers are the most profitable, since interest starts to accumulate.

The article tells the story of one person, a high school science teacher, who needed to take out such a loan, and the interest rate on the loan was 350%. That’s right – three hundred fifty percent. The borrower ended up having to take out more payday loans  to cover the payments on previous loans.

Talk about a vicious cycle. And in fact, the payday lending company in this article has charged as much as 800 percent interest on some loans – 133 times higher than the cap for unlicensed lenders in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, the lender in this story lives in a $2.3 million dollar home and drives a Bentley. Nothing wrong with that per se, as long as such wealth was earned honestly and by not harming anyone along the way.

Federal prosectors have brought racketeering charges against this individual.

One trick some of these lenders employ is to set up shop on Native American land. By taking advantage of internet advertising and the tribal sovereignty granted to federally recognized Native American groups, payday lenders who set up shop on tribal lands can effectively “export” whatever interest rate they want into states across the country.

Prosecutors have described this strategy — known in the industry as “rent-a-tribe” — as a sham with tribal leaders having little involvement in the businesses other than to collect monthly payoffs. Lawyers for the defendant maintain the practice is legal.

I learned as a teenager, just because something is legal, it doesn’t make it right. I guess not everyone learned that lesson.

To me, there’s some strong evidence against the defendant, particularly his own words:

In this environment today, you’ve got to run afoul of the regulators. You can’t [survive] if you don’t lend in California or Colorado or New York or Florida.” (These are states with some of the tightest restrictions on payday lending.)

Let me tell you what my thoughts are on tribes and payday loans,” he said while discussing a rival’s business. “I believe that [regulators are] going to prove that it’s a sham. …  I think they’re going to prove that they’re farces. And, let’s face it, they are.”

I couldn’t agree more. These payday lenders are a farce, but unfortunately, they are laughing all the way to the bank.

P.S. Here’s a PBS segment on payday loans, showing the kinds of individuals who might take out such a loan and some of the effects that it has on them and on society as a whole.

*photo from Law Street Media

Reconnecting, Thanks to Facebook

My wife and I went out to dinner last night with two other couples, one of which we had not seen in probably 20 years. It was a wonderful evening, filled with lots of reminiscing, catching up, and laughter (not to mention good food and wine as well).

I’m not really sure how we had all drifted apart, but I do know what brought us back together – Facebook.

Somehow I started to see some of our old friend’s posts on Facebook, realized we seemed to share a lot of the same beliefs, and we reconnected.

We would like each other’s posts and offer the occasional comment on those posts as well. After a year or so of this, we finally decided it would be fun if we all got together, and so last night it finally happened.

We were at the restaurant for close to two and a half hours, and it felt like we could have sat there for another two and a half hours, but it was just about closing time.

We went our separate ways, but with plans to get together for a game night in the near future.

Who knows if last night would have ever happened without Facebook, so I have to give credit where credit is due. The Facebook platform makes it easy for such reunions to take place, and for that I am grateful.

But I’m even more grateful for having such good friends.

How Can Something So Smart Make Us So Dumb?

To me, it is the greatest product of all time. It’s a telephone, a music and video player, a movie making device, a banking device, a communications device, a gaming device, an information retrieval device, a GPS, a home automation control device.

Do I need to keep going? I could list dozens more things this product can do, but I think you know what I am referring to.

It’s a smartphone, of course.

It’s amazing to look at one of these devices, which fit in the palm of your hand, and think that it has more processing power and storage space than the early mainframes, which were the size of rooms.

But like most things in life, nothing is perfect (well except for a 300 in bowling).

A growing body of research suggests that just by having a smartphone with us, it diminishes our intelligence.

  • A 2015 Journal of Experimental Psychology study, involving 166 subjects, found that when people’s phones beep or buzz while they’re in the middle of a challenging task, their focus wavers, and their work gets sloppier—whether they check the phone or not.
  • Another 2015 study, which involved 41 iPhone users and appeared in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, showed that when people hear their phone ring but are unable to answer it, their blood pressure spikes, their pulse quickens, and their problem-solving skills decline.
  • Another study looked at the impact of having a phone close by while taking tests of intellectual acuity. The results were striking; subjects whose phones were in view posted the worst scores, while those who left their phones in a different room did the best. Conclusion:  as the phone’s proximity increased, brainpower decreased. Students who didn’t bring their phones to the classroom scored a full letter-grade higher on a test of the material presented than those who brought their phones,”
  • And finally, a study of 91 secondary schools in the U.K., published last year in the journal Labour Economics, found that when schools ban smartphones, students’ examination scores go up substantially, with the weakest students benefiting the most.”In other words, smartphones are making us dumb.

And for those of who use a smartphone, you know there a ring of truth to such a statement.

Who hasn’t become increasingly dependent on their smartphone, or oblivious to the environment around theme?

But I’m not jumping off the smartphone bandwagon.

As I stated at the beginning of the blog, I consider smartphones to be the best product ever developed. But it needs to be used in moderation so that you don’t become addicted to it.

Easier said than done, but doing so may be worth a a point or two on an IQ test.

Speaking of IQ tests, did you see that President Trump … never mind, it’s not even worth going there…