Sunday, January 26, 2014

Abortions and Smoking Pot

A few days ago I saw an interview of a pot activist in Colorado.  He made a very compelling case for the decriminalization of marijuana in the U.S.  The interviewer made the case that pot is harmful and dangerous.  The activist agreed with this point, but said criminalizing pot is more harmful and dangerous and by decriminalizing it allows the government to regulate stupid behavior.

I also heard that Americans are shifting their support away from abortion.  The debate on abortion similarly pits two opposing sides to the issue and involve laws attempting to limit harmful behavior.

I would like to propose a thought experiment inspired by Jean Valjean who stole a loaf of bread to feed his sister's child and then served 19 years in prison.  Imagine that millions of people started stealing bread. Debating the morality of stealing bread seems irrelevant and passing stricter laws would be nonsense.  What needs to be addressed is "what has happened in our society where so many turn to stealing bread?"  Is it a lack of food?   Is it a lack of regard for other people's property?

Applying these questions to smoking pot and abortion.  "What is happening in our society that so many turn to the harmful behavior of smoking pot?"  and "What is happening in our society where mothers and fathers are deciding to destroy the seeds of human life that they created?"  I think that the answers to these questions are an indictment.

Thought experiment over, you can resume your usual activities.

P.S. Not sure if using the word "pot" makes me sound outdated like my parents sounded when they used the word "dope".  Feel free to substitute "weed" or whatever name makes you feel more comfortable.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A caveman and a vegan walk into a bar...

Whenever I have what I think is a clever idea, I search it in Google and find that someone has usually done it better.  You can see what I mean here "a-caveman-and-a-vegan-walk-into-a-bar".  This is part 2 from a previous post on the subject of healthy eating (Orthorexia)


A good friend tried to convert me to living on a plant based diet.  I don't use the word vegan, since it carries a political/religious-like connotation.  My friend is an engineer and presented an abundance of scientific evidence for his diet.  The main conclusion: we are not carnivores nor omnivores; we are instead herbivores.  Something about the length of my intestines and something about the physiology of pigs; I don't remember all of the details.  The enemy for him was cholesterol and he managed to get his cholesterol levels to negative 100 (I know there is no negative, but it seemed unhealthy to me, especially since he looked unhealthy).

Paleo Diet

I recently watched the documentary "The Perfect Human Diet".  They had a paleo-archeo-anthropological-dietary-geneticist person who did spectroscopic analysis of the stuff in caveman bones and said we resembled prehistoric carnivores (wolves, etc) more than prehistoric herbivores (deer, etc).  They did a distracting comparison with a football field where they said the last 1/2 inch represents modern history, and the previous 100 yards represents 2 million years.  The conclusion: we should eat like cavemen, or at least what the producers say that cavemen eat.

"Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food"

In the book Omnivore's Dilema, the author (Michael Pollan) makes an interesting point (before he totally freaked me out about the food industry).  Herbivores and carnivores don't think "Should I have Pizza, Mexican, Chinese food?"  Instead they eat what they are meant to eat.  Panda's eat bamboo and lions eat other animals.  The problem is that if they run out their usual diet, they starve.  Being an omnivore is much better since we are flexible and can eat almost anything [1].  The challenge isn't so much finding food, it's deciding if eating it will kill us.  Apparently we evolved our big brains to help us make this decision.  

It seems our "food rejection circuitry" is still active in-spite of an abundance of edible stuff.  The result is that just about all food gets a bad grade from someone: 
  • Vegans say all animal protein is bad (meat, eggs, dairy)
  • Paleo diet people say grains, beans are bad
  • Dietitians say to avoid processed foods
  • Scientists say that fresh produce grown with pesticides is bad.
There's not much left over to eat.  Fruit and nuts, I think.

Michael Pollan also wrote "In Defense of Food".   It's a much more balanced, reasonable approach to healthy eating for us omnivores.  Personally, I like the title.

Until science figures it all out, I guess I'll just stick with "The Word Of Wisdom" written 180 years ago.

Friday, January 3, 2014

True Californian

Years ago, I drove an airport shuttle at the Los Angeles airport while putting myself through college.  I met interesting people from all over the country.  One of my passengers was from Ohio.  He had long, wavy, bleach blond hair.  He had a Hawaiian shirt on, baggy shorts and flip flops.  I seem to remember a guitar swung over his shoulder, but I think he was just carrying a guitar case.  He was so excited to be in Southern California.

He took a look at me and asked where I was from.  I was wearing long pants and a dark blue polo shirt with the "Super Shuttle" logo.  My hair was cut short in a conservative style and I wore glasses.  I said I was from California.  He had a look of shock on his face.  I was an enigma in his California fantasy.  His reply "No way!".

I was born in Redondo Beach, the same place the Beach Boys sang about in the song "Surfin' U.S.A."  I grew up 1.5 miles from the beach.  My mother was born in Southern California.  "Yes way! I'm Californian".

So let's address a couple of myths:

1. Surfing.  Not all Californians surf.  I like the beach, swimming in the waves, body surfing.  I didn't even try to surf until I was 40 years old.  I'm no good at it and don't have a desire to spend the time learning.

2. Partying.  I'm talking about drinking-until-you're-stupid partying.  I enjoy hanging out, having fun, socializing.  I've never had a drink in my life.  I know a lot of people (other Californians) in the same boat.

3. Hollywood.  I always rolled my eyes when the naive tourist would get in my van and say "Take me to Hollywood!".  You don't want to stay in Hollywood.  It's not very nice.  All the images of Southern California are usually, Santa Monica, Venice, or Malibu.

4. Liberals. Yes there are liberals in California.  My history teacher when I was a freshman in high school wouldn't say the pledge of allegiance.  But, there are also many conservatives.  There are a lot of great, conservative families with good fathers (absent in most of all TV shows and movies), loving mothers, and normal kids.

5. California is about to suffer a financial collapse.  A couple years ago I met a guy on vacation from Louisiana.  He was shocked to see so many expensive cars and homes.  All he heard on the news was how messed up California was.  The truth is that there is A LOT OF WEALTH in California.  There is also a lot of successful companies.

6. Everyone is rich.  On the other end of the spectrum, is the assumption that everyone is wealthy.  That's not true either.  I've known many people who have been out of work for over a year at one time or another.  There are a lot of people struggling to get by in California.

Conclusion: There's more to California than meets the eye.