Book Review: Extraordinary Popular Delusions & The Madness of Crowds

I’m reading Daniel Dennet’s Intuition Pumps right now which reminds me in some ways of this classic record of human silliness, misjudgement, and chicanery.

I wrote the review in 2006 and then later sold Google for $750 bucks proving that I too misjudged investing goofiness.  It’s a great read and should humble anyone who is thinking that they finally have the secret figured out…

delusionsClick here for book review.

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It All Adds Up. Exercise for health and longevity.

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Exercise for health and longevity.

Repost from an earlier date:

Ventured out to run at 6:30 this morning and was sweating by the time I walked to the road. Weatherbug said 78 degrees but the humidity made the air feel like jello. A mile out and my shirt carried a pound of sweat. Combine that with a strain to my left femoral bicep and it was a challenging morning. I walked a little between miles and felt pretty good by the time I was done. I’ve been doing yoga to stretch my hamstrings and that’s helping.

I thought about exercise last night watching the television show Mountain Men. My favorite is an old fella named Tom who lives in Northern Montana. It’s been a cold winter in Montana and Tom’s meat stock was low. To use as much of a deer as possible he hunts with homemade bows and arrows. A rifle, he explains, destroys much of the meat while an arrow, if shot correctly, kills as quickly and makes the entire animal useable. I found his attitude refreshing compared to people who hunt elk or antelope from a mile away. On the day of the hunt he drives into the woods, loads up his pack, and walks into the woods looking for deer. There is fresh snow so he is able to follow tracks. He finally comes upon a group of does and tracks them for a mile until he spots a buck. (Just like humans – when there are fertile females around a stag won’t be far behind.) He approaches the buck, takes his shot, and then tracks the animal until he finds it dead. He ends the day at his house butchering the deer in the dark as the temperature drops to less than zero.

Evolutionary psychologists refer to the EEA: environment of evolutionary adaptedness . There is controversy about any representative environment that humans evolved in but it certainly includes much of the lifestyle Tom still lives. His day begins with splitting wood (timber that he spent the warm months gathering.) He walked miles in the snow and cold hunting a two hundred pound deer which he then drug out of the woods. Not bad for a seventy plus year old man. His waking time, just like our ancestors, is spent burning calories – it’s easy to see why the body wants to hold on to fat.

This is why I exercise. I spend my working days in an ergonomically adjusted chair at a desk with no sharp edges writing technical papers. I force myself to get up to talk to people rather than send IMs all day. I buy fattened cow at the grocery store where they give away free cookies just for coming in. We prefer clean and healthy food but our schedules often make it easiest to cook up something from a box that is laden with fat, salt, and sugar. Nothing in my history has prepared my body for this onslaught of luxury.

We are learning more that all exercise through the day adds up. Taking the stairs, walking from the other end of the parking lot, and drinking a water instead of a soda all add up to increased health. Increased health leads to a better attitude that leads to a better and longer life.

Attend to the Little Things for Health and Longevity

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Attend to Little Things

A while back I noticed an almost imperceptible rhythmic bumping sound when I pulled my car out of the drive. It was so faint that if the road was too rough I couldn’t hear it. After a week or two it got a little louder but not enough to alarm me. I took a flashlight and looked under the car and couldn’t see a thing. About a week or so after that I was driving and – BANG! – I thought a SCUD missile hit the car. A tire blew out and I don’t mean started leaking air. I mean it blew a hole large enough to shove a soccer ball through.

It’s a good reminder that big things start out as small things. Wisdom tells us to attend to those little things. Laziness tells us to ignore them. For a little sobering reading spend some time on the Center for Disease Control website and read about current concerns and outbreaks. Many stories start out with the story of someone with a scratch that they left unattended. Through that scratch crept some unknown bug that now ravishes the body. Would a wash with soap and water and application of topical ointment have kept them healthy? Maybe.

Closer to home I remember when my Father’s shoulder began to hurt him. He thought he felt a little ‘BB’ rolling around deep inside. He called a friend – a doctor who taught at a medical school – who said he had probably just pulled something. Had he attended to the small things he would have gone to see his oncologist at the first sign of something amiss  and discovered that he had treatable lymphoma. By the time he was sure he felt something abnormal in his shoulder cancer had spread through much of his body. Again: would immediate diagnoses have changed the outcome? I don’t know. What I do know is that your best chance in anything from a cold to cancer is early diagnosis.

So just like every journey starts with a step, and just like the road to better health can start with one decision,  the path to disease, illness, and injury can start with a simple scratch that goes uncared for.

A reminder: goals for the new year…

I had a Happy Birthday call yesterday from my daughter in Japan. She asked me what my goals were for the next year. Huh? She said that I always taught her that we should be trying to improve some area of our life and keep goals to track our progress. It’s good advice. Goals help us stay on track, keep us engaged in our own life, and remind us of a desired outcome. It’s common advice given for anyone wanting to be happy and healthy. They don’t have to be big. They don’t have to be grand. But they should be specific and measurable.

Here’s a few off the top of my head:

I want to ride in the Mt. Washington Hill Climb the summer of my sixtieth birthday. It’s considered the most difficult bicycle hill climb in the world and will remind me that sixty doesn’t have to mean decrepit.

I want to pass my Certified Health Physicist exam next summer and would like to join Sigma Xi and The Society for the Study of Evolution.

Mal and I had our first date-night in about two years last Friday night. We played a little tennis and had a nice time just being together. I think we should definitely ramp up the romance to at least once per year.

I have two papers I’m working of for publication, two longer projects that I want to have roughed out by next summer, and one other side writing projected to complete.

There’s talk of going to Disney World this year.

I might need a new car if my New York Rust Bucket finally snaps in half.

I am planning on running a couple 5ks this fall and would like to break 25 min for a 5k next spring. I would like to break the famous (at least for Mittons) seven minute mile barrier this fall.

There’s a start. Thanks for the reminder Rebe!

There are all kinds of sites to learn more about goal setting. I like Brian Tracy quite a bit. Don’t get too bogged down in the planning but focus on the doing. And have some fun.

Birthday thoughts on life and death.

In honor of my birthday here’s a short quote from Anne Lamont from a project I’m working on:

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65 or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written, or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools or oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy, or you were so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen to you.”

Another, much more sobering, from thinker Ray Kurzweil:

The things we can do with life – have relationships, be creative, create knowledge – are what give life  meaning. We don’t need death to give time a purpose. We rationalize this great tragedy and convince ourselves that death is a blessing, but it’s a tragedy. It’s a profound loss of knowledge and skill and humanity and relationships.  It’s a loss of the things that give life significance.

Happy Birthday!