My Blog Week: September 1 to September 7
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A Word on the Week
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A study was released this week that puts a dire onus on drinkers of Diet Cokes. A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how, if we want to understand jobs in America, we have real-life data available, and it makes great sense to use it. Instead of generalized numbers, go (virtually) to any town and put yourself in the shoes of a job hunter there. You can see true job-by-job availability, and see for yourself whether a person who can’t afford to pick up stakes would qualify for anything with a bright future attached.
Health stories are the clickiest of click-bait, and so they get wide distribution in social media and online news-sites. But all these ten percent, twelve percent, twenty-five percent, etc., greater chances of death, or cancer, or Alzheimer’s, aside from being reported without the qualifier a percentage demands: what is the 10% more than?, are also divorced from everyday risk.
The threats’ alleged magnitude goes against intuitive knowledge. Consider that most people who go riding on top of a car survive the experiment. Most people who leave the path in a national park to take a cliffside selfie, survive the experiment. Most people who don’t prepare their chicken and vegetables on a separate cutting boards, survive the experiment, too.
From the 1890s, when people drank soda pop with abandon, (and when the ingredients and sanitary conditions of bottling plants were less safe than today), through the 1990s, when the internet came along to tell you that everything you like to eat will kill you, millions and millions of actual people have downed millions and millions of soft drinks.
It’s also true that no doctor is going to chide someone for causing his own cancer via Dr. Pepper, or too much golden-brown crispiness on his fried potatoes. The medical establishment, which is not a monolith in any case, doesn’t hold some authoritative role of arbitration over internet health advice, and can’t control the way studies are reported.
But the impression forms…
All this health news amounts to a sort of “body”, one telling you what to do. You the consumer feel much of what you read is bunk, the thing bad for you today being good for you tomorrow, and then bad for you again later on. But you can’t get the taint of rebuke out of your mind, when you sit down to a cheeseburger…all you can do is tell yourself it’s not worth paying attention to. Like so many internet-driven things, health hectoring is divisive, and leads to disaffection.
When these stories are reported, it would help, therefore, if they were framed as one risk among many daily risks. And why focus on the small percentage? Fifteen is also eighty-five.
And then of course, 85% percent of what?
Once when I visited my grandparents in Illinois, my grandmother gave me an out-from-underfoot task. A soda pop company was giving away prizes, amounts like 5 cents, 10 cents, etc., and if I found one stamped under a bottle cap, she would give me whatever it said. I looked through all the ones she kept in a big coffee can, and after a while I went up to the kitchen. I asked my grandmother if she had a pen. I came back out and marked 50 cents on the rubber lining of a blank cap.
Possibly, she was able to put two and two together. She did give me the money, but I had the impression I hadn’t really pulled this off.
One theory about the U.S. president’s behavior we can float, is that emotional states are a matter of brain chemistry. Which is true…rewards and punishments feel the way they do because of our brain and nervous system’s neuro-chemical response to perceptions of success and failure.
Pleasure and fear, one might say.
A person who has no moderating impulses may feel driven to get the calming effect of “success”, no matter how strange and petty the course, and may be unable to settle down if he can’t tell himself he’s won.
Another theory is that this was a calculated distraction from properties needing propped by self-dealing at the taxpayers’ expense; from military budget depredations for the wall project; and from an odd initiative to make a treaty with the Taliban (how about fixing the mistake made backing out of the one with Iran?)
Well, pretending to be crazy, doing the sort of thing an adult mind wouldn’t think of, isn’t (outside an Oscar Wilde play) the means a clever practitioner would likely choose. If, using the simple example, I had marked one cap 50 cents and another 25 cents, and when the 50 cent cap was rejected, I bargained for the 25 cent one, having introduced an acceptance of negotiating…
But of course, as to my deceit, I had the cute little kid card. And even that, I couldn’t have known myself to be playing at that age. The strong-arming of some NOAA appointees puts the agency in something of a crisis. Someone who has a name will have to issue a protocol now, or no branch of the National Weather Service will know what information it can legitimately release to advise the public.
Monday, Battle Stations, some prophecies issued to the Spiritual Fellowship by the Contessa di Barucchi. Tuesday’s Impresario, episode five, had a confrontation between Pierre and Boniface. Wednesday, another of the Eight series of poems, “Withholding”, a riff on information control. Thursday’s Catastrophe featured listings and descriptions of the city from the city directory. Friday, a poem from Mystery Plays, “A Fall Song”, and Saturday, the last of the last chapter of Hammersmith (first polished draft). There will be a roundup of characters’ fates in epilogue form.
Images on my posts often have a link to related information (click first image), sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical, sometimes in answer to a direct reference. Since people can be leery about links, I include them here: what they are, what sites they point to.
My Blog Week: September 1 to September 7
The Epistles: Fifth Battle Stations
Poetry Foundation: T. S. Eliot, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night”
(Fun, if you didn’t know it, this poem inspired the lyrics to “Memory” from Cats.)
The Impresario (part five)
YouTube: Jars of Clay, “There Is a River”
Poetry Foundation: James Galvin, “You Know What People Say”
La Catastrophe de la Martinique: seventy-two
A Fall Song (poem)
Hammersmith: Reckoning Up (conclusion)