Teddy’s Three Month Update

This week’s post is much more uplifting than my last post. My son is now three months old and healthy as a horse; 12 solid pounds, vibrant energy, and a strong appetite. At this moment, I am watching him play and attempting to roll over – it’s a half roll but I imagine he’ll get it within the month. Christina and I regularly change his clothes because of spit up – sometimes we have to change our clothes because of projectile pee. If you have been following our journey, you may be wondering how the cloth diapers are going? Thanks to my in-laws I have a stockpile of disposable diapers that will keep us supplied for at least two months. The hardest point in the last three months was when Christina had to go back to work. Christina is an awesome Mom and a much better caregiver than me – my son is currently glaring at me while I write this blog. We’re trying to balance the transition but Christina is constantly missing her little sweet potato. Christina spent nine years to get her doctorate and her career is something that I wholeheartedly support; that statement may sound funny coming from a stay-at-home dad/philosopher but I believe she is at her best when helping psychiatric patients.

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Some highlights of the last month were Teddy’s vaccines and his circumcision. Both occasions left Teddy grumpy, restless, and irritable. The vaccines were a no brainer but I got some flack for the circumcision. People were worried that the procedure could be botched and Teddy’s wiener would be permanently damaged. I am happy to inform everyone that new methods of circumcision are 100% safe – when I say 100%, I mean 100%. There are no knives or sharp objects involved – all they use is a plastic ring and a string. The string goes around the foreskin while the ring protects the penis; after 7 to 14 days the foreskin and ring fall off. Teddy was in discomfort for two days and after that, he was back to his normal self. If in the future he yells at me for defiling his penis I will guide him to procedures that can regrow his foreskin – yes they actually exist. I don’t feel bad about the decision but I wanted to dispel some myths that it is a barbaric/irreversible procedure. Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that the medical benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks: – risks that include post-operation infection and minor loss of sensitivity (a debated side effect that in gold-standard studies has been entirely refuted)(source)(source). If this subject interests you, I highly recommend reading the sources provided.

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Enough about circumcision. Let’s get to the cute pictures that our photographer took. Teddy continues to grow, mature, and marvel us with his personality and ability to fart hundreds of times a day. If you know a working mom, give her a hug – it is the hardest two jobs in the world. Thank you, Christina, for all you do and thank you, everyone, for the continued words of wisdom.

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12 Rules for Life

I’m trying to get back into psychology books after my excessively long venture with the American Presidents. This blog aims to document my journey of reading Philosophy, History, Psychology, and the Classics. This week I am posting about an excellent book –  which in a way covers all those categories. The book is 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson. Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it is written in a balanced manner – both conservatives and liberals find it hard to argue against these tips. Peterson writes almost like a philosopher and these 12 rules are backed up with plenty of metaphysical pondering – a big reason you should read it for yourself. Below are the 12 rules to life.

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1. Stand up straight with your shoulders straight

Try to carry yourself in a confident manner that doesn’t allow people to take advantage of you. Life is hard as it is – feeling mentally and physically slouched makes things worse – so fake it until you make it.

2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping

Why do we take care of our loved ones but fail to take care of ourselves? Self care is not selfish.

3. Befriend people who want the best for you 

Iron sharpens iron. We need people in our lives that make us better. Stray from being a hero and don’t try to fix everyone – dysfunction many times wins over in a relationship.

4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not the useless person you are today

Don’t compare yourself to others because there will always be someone better. Instead compare your current self to your former self. Are you improving or stagnant?

5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them

Children need discipline and are born with inherent aggression. Adults need to guide children and teach them how to function in society. Don’t let your kids control you because you lack discipline – they will grow up to be terrible adults.

6. Set your house in order before you criticise the world

Before questioning the problems of the world get your own problems in order. We aren’t perfect so stop expecting life to always go your way.

7. Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient

Life is all about delayed gratification. The things that take the most sacrifice are the most meaningful.

8. Tell the truth. Or at least don’t lie

Lies lead to problems in the psyche and the soul. Don’t lie because it just causes more issues in the future. Similar to the idea of rule number 7.

9. Assume the person you are listening to knows something you don’t

Seek first to understand and remember the wisdom of Socrates – “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”

10. Be precise in your speech

Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t be vague when a problem arises. Confront issues head on and be truthful to yourself.

11. Do not bother children while they are skateboarding

Let men be men and girls be girls. There are biological differences between the sexes which should be fostered and not suppressed. Overprotecting children is not a form of love.

12. Pet a cat when you encounter one in the street

Life is tough, and we can’t explain away our suffering. If you see a cat in the street pet it and – experience for a second – the mystery of life.

Which is your favorite rule? I particularly like rule number 6. If we practiced just half of these rules daily, I’m sure we would be happier and healthier. 

Want to Join a Cult?

What does it take to start a cult? What does it take to join a cult? Both of these questions are extremely interesting because they try to get at the heart of human behavior. We are social creatures who crave acceptance – sometimes this acceptance leads people to believe in bizarre things. For example, take the Mormon cult leader Warren Jeff who controls a group of fundamentalists from prison – even after being charged with sexually assaulting children and having 70 wives.

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How about one of the most famous cult leaders of all time – Jim Jones. Jones led a group of over 900 people to Guayana, South America to start their own socialist colony. This socialist experiment in Jonestown quickly turned into a horror movie after Jones convinced everyone to commit mass suicide. I am amazed at the ability of cult leaders to have total power over their followers; I barely can keep my chihuahua from peeing on the carpet. To better understand the birth, growth, and death of Jim Jones, I read The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn. This book is exceptional and really helps the reader understand the evil of Jim Jones. Jones was a charismatic leader who never backed down and desired complete control. Unfortunately, these traits were mixed with just enough moral ambiguity that followers thought they were being led to the promised land rather than their gravesite.

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Jim Jones was born on May 31, 1931, in a small Indiana town. He was raised by an eccentric mother who defied conservative social norms with her independent attitude, beliefs in reincarnation, and prickly personality. Jones’ father was a WWI vet who could not work because of his disabilities and who had no energy to raise an energetic boy. Jones was a loner and soon began to stand out from the other boys with his religiousness. On any given Sunday, he would go to several services, not to praise God, but to understand what preaching style worked best to energize congregants. By the time he finished high school, Jones was working at a hospital where he would eventually meet his future wife, Marceline Baldwin (not pictured below).

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Jones and his wife would quickly move to Indianapolis where Jones attended some college and preached at evangelical-tent events. Jones would eventually establish the Peoples Temple in the mid-1950s – a church that trumpeted racial integration, socialism, and community action. It was at the Peoples Temple that Jones discovered the power of deception by performing false healings and false prophecy; he would many times walk around the congregation with rotted chicken offal claiming it was cancer just removed from a member. Jones quickly gained followers from all walks of life who appreciated his message of social equality and marveled at his God-like abilities. Jones would eventually move this congregation to Northern California using the tool of fear – he claimed that there would be a nuclear holocaust in the Mid-West and that they were no longer safe.

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It was in Northern California that the Peoples Temple morphed from an eccentric Christian church to a full-blown cult. Jone’s began to have his members live communally and give large portions of their paychecks to the “socialist” cause. With greater wealth, Jone’s was able to expand his ministry and garner even more membership. Jone’s quickly began to stretch himself too thin and eventually, he began to take painkillers and amphetamines. His drug use made him more erratic and power-hungry – he would gradually start asking for sex from his female congregants. This sex was supposedly meant to lift up the women, and few members resisted; he would even have sex with several male members asking some if they wanted to be “fucked in the ass” after church meetings. This “uplifting” sex gave Jones greater control which eventually expanded to increased paranoia. Staged assassination attempts led his followers to believe that the FBI, CIA, and Fascists were after their happy community.

[Jim Jones, Peoples Temple Church Services]

The Peoples Temple morphed into a military compound with several members patrolling the grounds with firearms. This paranoia and the fear of nuclear holocaust led Jones to found Jonestown in Guayana. Jonestown was meant to be a sanctuary, but it actually represented the apex of Jone’s control over his members. In 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan went to investigate Jonestown which led to him being attacked by a Temple member – Ryan escaped with 15 of Jone’s followers. Jones, in all his paranoia, told his members that the government would soon come to torture them and convert the children to fascism – to prevent this from happening everyone had to commit suicide. 909 people, including Jones and his wife, died from cyanide in the mass suicide – 304 were children.

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So how did Jone’s get 909 people to commit suicide? It began with his ability to twist the truth so that the majority of his followers believed he had special powers – all while an elite inner circle assisted with these deceptions. Why did the inner circle help him? Because they often believed in his message of social change and felt powerful being in the graces of such an influential leader. Most of the congregation was made up of poor-uneducated members who were entirely dependent on Jones for their jobs, housing, and food.

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It was hard to leave the cult because Jone’s would actively prevent dissenters and it was easy to rationalize that he was telling the truth – “If there are lawyers, teachers, and businessmen following him, then he must be the real deal.” Finally, Jones was an expert at fear which he used as a tool to further separate followers from leaving the Temple. All these things mixed to create a twisted peer pressure that propagated infidelity, drug use, bullying, harassment, corrupt morals, and eventually death. We need to study these things because there are cults today and leaders who use the same principles. Be wary of half-truths and always seek knowledge so that this particular past will never be repeated.

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A Chihuahua Haunting

Have you ever seen a ghost? Or maybe experienced something that couldn’t be explained with words? I once saw a little girl in a mirror upon waking – it still gives me the willies today. I believe certain people are more in tune with the “other” realm and they are more apt to experience ephemeral encounters. IMG_0561Children are prone to “seeing” ghosts or talking to rooms that are completely empty; maybe because of their innocence or even openness to the unknown. This logic can be extended down the tree of life to my idiotic Chihuahua – Max. There is no creature that is more innocent and open minded than Max – his outlook on life is an eternal Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Tour. I imagine him waking up to the world each morning with a complete erasure of memory; only remembering his “chocolate” surroundings when he hears me dishing out his daily allotment of tortilla chips. Hence, this complete innocence is why Max can interact with all sorts of paranormal activity. It is not uncommon that he barks to an empty room; or stares eerily at the vacuum cleaner; or evenIMG_0543 throws up nasty green stuff as if possessed by a demon. A chihuahua is the boiled down version of all our fears – everything is a potential poltergeist. Like Max, we all to a degree fear the unknown and search for answers to unexplained phenomenon. For these reasons, I read one of NPR’s great reads of 2016, Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey.

America has a myriad of supposedly haunted houses, commercial buildings, ruins, cemeteries, and even entire cities. Dickey lists several examples but there are a few that stand above all others. One is the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California that was built bImage result for winchester mystery housey Sarah Winchester – the heiress to the Winchester Gun fortune. It is over 20,000 square feet and has 160 rooms which are discombobulated to confuse spirits. There is also the Lalaurie Mansion in New Orleans, the previous host to slaves who were punished with crude experiments, starvation, prolonged chaining, and dismemberment. Head over to Pennsylvania to take a tour of the Eastern State Penitentiary with its formidable facade and even more foreboding interior to hear the cries of long dead inmates. Better yet, search around the city of Detroit for an evil-red-dwarf known as the Nain Rouge – said to be responsible for all of the city’s calamities. Go back west to the hotel that inspiredImage result for eastern state penitentiary Stephen King’s The Shining. The Stanley Hotel, located in Estes Park, Colorado is an isolated building that throughout the years has seen its fair share of ghost sightings. Suffice it to say, no matter where you are in America, you are not far from a haunted place.

 

Is there any truth to these haunted places? I believe there is an underlying mystery to these locales because of their histories but many times the stories are twisted for a specific purpose. For example, many haunted places are connected with Indian burial grounds. TheImage result for slaveryse “backstories” are usually completely erroneous and are added to give merit to the “spiritual” activity. We use ghost stories to sanitize history which goes counter to our modern idea of a “Just America.” Whether it is a black slave left to wander the plantation or a young girl who was killed in cold blood – a haunting helps us interact with a past that just doesn’t fit with our worldview. Of course, many times these haunted places are passed off to the public for the sake of money. Ghost tourism is a booming business  -especially in haunted cities like New Orleans.
Image result for nain rougeCapitalism is a strong harbinger of the dead and it does a great job of perpetuating half truths and whole lies. The modern day ghost story is a caricature mirrored after images that the public expects: from big screen movies to the Haunted Mansion ride in Disney. Humans are always in search of answers and we project our current beliefs into the past – today more than ever we are disconnected from the idea of “death.” Just like Max, the ghost stories of today can either be explained as just another mistaken bump in the night or an actual murderer lurking outside. To me these places are haunted – they are haunted by the living who can’t let go of their fear of the unknown. Do ghosts exist? Look in the mirror.

The Essence of Essentialism

Has anyone heard about or seen news concerning the Flint water crisis? My wife and I live in Flint and we have been faced with the real life scariness of not having clean water for daily usage. Water is one of those things that is 100% essential to health and happiness. Fortunately our water is now clean because we just purchased a whole house filtering system which will last for 1,000,000 gallons (a crap ton). This water scare has made me hyper aware of what is truly essential in our lives. To further explore what is essential in my life I picked up Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

Essentialism is very similar to minimalism because it seeks to rebuke excess in our lives. It is different however because it impacts all avenues of life whereas minimalism (in my opinion) focuses more on decreasing material possessions. So what does it mean to be an Essentialist?

The Essentialist…

-Pauses constantly and asks, “Am I investing in the right activities?”

-Doesn’t focus on getting more things done but rather the right things done

-Says “no” to everything except the essential

-Realizes there can only be one priority at a time

-Thinks almost all things are nonessential

-Creates time to escape and explore life

-Hears what is not being said

-Makes playing and sleeping priorities

-Makes one decision that will eliminate multiple future decisions

-Says “yes” only to the things that matter

-Is comfortable cutting losses

-Practices preparation and buffers for unexpected events

-Removes obstacles to progress

-Celebrates small acts of progress

-Keeps their thoughts in the present

-Enjoys the moment

-Asks what is important right now

The Essentialist lifestyle can be summed up by the German saying-Weniger aber besser-“Less but better”. I’m sure most people can identify with a few aforementioned attributes but the key to being an Essentialist is that all facets of life are defined by only those things that are essential. So what is essential? On a biological level, healthy food, water, sleep, exercise, and shelter are essential. On a psychological/spiritual level, autonomy, control, friendship, play, meditation, and purpose are essential. And the most essential of all…TIME. We need to construct our lives so that time is abundant. Without time we will push aside essentials and fill our lives with cheap fillers: material objects, social media, pride, vanity, power, etc. We need to remember that LESS is better and that the more we refine our priorities the more poignant our life’s purpose will become.

 

 

 

 

 

Guaranteed Happiness

Do you want to be happy for the rest of your life? Do you want to live each day as if you were a overly-positive camp counselor? Do you want to wake up Monday morning feeling like you could wrestle a bear or win an argument against a jerkhead? I do! Who wouldn’t want to best a pachyderm or better yet crap glorious poops on a regular basis? To get closer to my goals of blissful happiness, I read Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. Most of you know who Daniel Gilbert is because he is the slightly older gentleman on all those Prudential retirement commercials; “How much is in your pocket, go put it on that board so you can see how big it will get in 5000 years when you can finally stop working.” Gilbert is a frick after my own heart and I really like his style of writing. This book was not an easy read and honestly it could be a semester long course with how many research studies it cites. However, because of Gilbert’s explanations of how we think, I now understand happiness much better than before.

To truly understand what makes us happy we must first understand how we perceive the world around us. We have flawed thinking about the past, present, and future.

  1. We look into the past and only remember high points and low points which doesn’t give us an accurate history of events. For example, we remember the highlights of the vacation but forget the mundane parts like sitting in the car or eating ham sandwiches.
  2.  In the present, we naturally compare our emotional state with others seeing only the things that reaffirm our beliefs. For example, we want a new car so we note to ourselves every time we see someone who appears happy with a new car-while disregarding all the unhappy people.
  3. We imagine the future without exact detail, which fools us into thinking that our emotions will be stronger then they actually will be. For example, we imagine that our sadness would be extremely high the day after our team loses the big game but in reality we are not that sad because we didn’t include in our imagination all the other things we would do in that day like have sex or eat a big cheeseburger.

In addition to our lack of accurate past, present, and future perceptions, we have an excellent knack to defend against negativity. We have an emotional immune system which helps us rationalize negative stimuli. For example, you find your best friend in bed with your woman. You will be mad but eventually your emotional immune system will rationalize the event in your head: “She was a whore, I’m so glad I figured this out sooner then later…she wasn’t good enough for me anyways…she did always have a weird cat smell.” We also surround ourselves with people who reaffirm our beliefs and this further helps the emotional immune system do its job of keeping us positive.

So what the frick does all this crazy psychology have to do with happiness? To put simply, our perception of the world is influenced by our own world view and we will seek to reaffirm this view at all costs. Since our views of past and future are fuzzy at best we really can only reference the present for accurate indicators of happiness levels. How the heck do you reference the present if you are trying to figure out your future happiness? The best way is to look at people who are experiencing your imagined future in the present. For example, you are wondering whether having children will make you happy, or whether having a new car will make you happy, or whether getting that weird hipster haircut will make you happy. You need to find someone who currently is in that state and glean information from them regarding their state of happiness. Daniel Gilbert calls this “Reporting Live from Tomorrow.” I told you this book was a difficult read and hence a difficult subject to sum up. In addition to these tips on happiness, I want to add my own small opinion on the subject. Guaranteed happiness can only come when you appreciate your blessings that have already come to be while having the mentality that no blessing in the future is guaranteed-making every new experience an awesome surprise gift. Life-long happiness is not expecting much from life but relishing whenever you do crap glorious poops on a Monday morning.

The Word is the Bird

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The variety of birds on this earth is truly amazing with almost 10,000 unique species. My depth of bird knowledge is very limited and I honestly only know a handful: robin, blue jay, crow, parrot, cardinal, turkey, and big bird. I was interested in reading something other than Teddy Roosevelt killing birds, so I picked up The Birds of Pandemonium by Michele Raffin. This lady freaking loves birds!!! She has over 250 and runs a sanctuary/breeding operation for birds that are endangered. Parrots, as I learned, have the intelligence of a 3 year old and the subsequent personality; they love attention, can speak short phrases, dance, and have screaming tantrums. The obsession Michele has for birds is extremely respectable and I commend her mission of conserving bird species. Birds have personalities and they can feel emotions just like humans. Sadly, people buy birds as pets and they don’t understand the investment needed to care for them (certain parrot species can live up to 50 years). Life happens and bird owners die, their houses gets foreclosed, or they marry a bird hater. This creates the sad situation of the bird being transferred between many homes throughout its life. Thankfully, there are people like Michele who have the heart and patience for these neglected creatures.

A large portion of the exotic birds in the US were originally wild and taken from their habitat to fill the cage of some fat-old lady who wants a “Pretty Bird.” The mass removal of birds from their habitat reduced several species’ numbers to endangered levels. Miraculously, legislation was passed in 1993 to limit the importation of certain birds. This legislation helped, but people still purchase exotic birds in the US that are bred in unhealthy and inhumane conditions. As humans, we grow attached to animals and this is hard wired into our evolutionary make up. They become our friends and we treat them many times as if they were our children. I think this quote by Irving Townsend sums up our feelings for pets; “We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan.” Any pet, whether it is a dog, a potbelly pig, or a bird should not be purchased unless the owner can take full responsibility for the animal throughout its life. An animal should not be purchased without deep thought and time to contemplate the personal sacrifices. Before you buy that parrot, you better be prepared for it to call you “ASSHOLE” every morning until you are an old man (this is exactly what Michelle’s parrot calls her husband). The responsibility of a life, whether it is an animal or human, is the greatest responsibility a person can take on. Make sure you know the breeder, the animal’s upbringings, yourself, your family, your intentions, your realistic future dwellings, your finances, and your level of patience before buying any type of pet. If done responsibly, the bond you form with a pet will make you less selfish and more understanding of the fragility of life-allowing you to better appreciate your own existence.

To learn more about Michele and her bird sanctuary visit http://www.pandemoniumaviaries.org/ 

The Sexiness of Conspiracy

Was 9/11 a conspiracy by the US government to gain more Big Brother control and garner immense profits for a select group of politicians? Do Jews have a secret mission to take over the world by orchestrating wars and social upheavals? Was Princess Diana murdered by the royal family, the communists, the mob? These are all mainstream conspiracy theories that I read about in my most recent book Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch. Let me first preface that I was a guy who was dazzled by the 9/11 conspiracy popularized by the film Loose Change. The facts, expert opinions, and mesmerizing footage in the film all convinced me that 9/11 was a conspiracy. I did not become a 9/11 conspiracy evangelist but I did voice my opinion if it ever came up in conversations with friends or family. This was my attitude until I was introduced to Voodoo Histories and was able to read the history, psychology, and societal obsession with conspiracy theories.

There are conspiracies for each and every generation. Back in 1903, the famous Protocols of Elders of Zion was published and hugely circulated for the next 50 years; fostering antisemitism by famous people like Henry Ford and you guessed it-Adolf Hitler. Pearl Harbor was the conspiracy of the 1940’s which convinced a huge group of people that FDR was a very evil man. The JFK assassination, MLK assassination, and moon landing were all conspiracies associated with the 60’s. After that was Princess Diana, Da Vinci Code, and 9/11. I missed a lot but those are some of the big ones. As you can see, we as a society love the conspiracy theory. I did to, until I learned about how prevalent they are and how easy it is to pick apart each and everyone of them.

I learned that conspiracy theorists use a few convincing tools to give validity to their hypotheses. First they attempt to bring supposed experts to the table who agree with the conspiracy. These experts many times are not experts but rather only hold high degrees and have limited applicable experience. Second they cite a source, that cited a source, that cited a source, so there is very little truth left from the original fact (think of that game where you whisper a message down a line and it changes from person to person). Third, when authorities try to disprove a conspiracy, they are said to be naive or are in someway being controlled by the conspirators.

The other important reason why conspiracies are so common is our affinity to story telling. Conspiracies are sexy, different, out of the norm,and humans by nature like drama. Also, conspiracies come about whenever there is social or political change. These changes usually propagate conspiracies by the losing party: transfer of government control, transfer of societal morals, or transfer of group power. Losers go down kicking and screaming and many times use conspiracies as a poor-sport anthem. Also, conspiracies are very profitable for those who write about them-Google all the materials surrounding The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Lastly, conspiracies make us feel smarter, more researched, and more caring then the stupid sheep who believe in the status quo.

In the end, conspiracies are harmful because they shape a very inaccurate picture of history, create unneeded paranoia, and many times create resentment to certain groups of people. The Protocols of Elders of Zion framed Hitler’s thinking that Jews were inferior and needed to be exterminated. My advice is to critically access all information, look at the credential’s of the authors, and think of the unrealistic probability of the conspiracy hypothesis. Understanding accurate history will make you better informed to make political, social, and individual decisions that will make you wiser in the end.

Summed up Learning Sentence:

The sheer number of conspiracies out there shows that humans love a story and the arguments against each conspiracy are more convincing then those for the conspiracy.

A Sweat Band for the Brain

Can you workout your brain to make yourself smarter? Can you flex your brain and make your memory grow like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hulking biceps? These questions were indirectly answered in the book, Smarter by Dan Hurley. Intelligence is made up of two distinct components, fluid and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is your ability to reason, make decisions, and think abstractly. Crystallized intelligence is your factual knowledge and practiced abilities which are learned throughout life-1+1=2, George Washington is the first president, and your reading speed. Think street smarts for fluid and book smarts for crystallized. Another definition, working memory, is your ability to manipulate things you are trying to remember. If I asked you to add 25+27 you would most likely add 25+25=50 first and then add the remaining 2 to get 52-that requires working memory. Alright, the painful part is over and we can mull over the main concepts of Smarter. Cognitive psychologists, are currently having orgasms over the new idea that we can increase our intelligence through simple brain training games. These games incorporate some sort of working memory task and are recommended to be done 30-60 minutes a day on a regular basis-think Lumosity. Overall, studies showing a positive effect for these types of games on cognitive function number 75, while there are only 4 studies that show no effect at all. This may seem like a lopsided and resounding, “Duh this stuff works, let me get my credit card and start playing falling numbers on my Lumosity profile-SmartestManAlive2014,”…but lets take a step back. These studies show improvements on the specific games played, but the real question is whether that translates into an improved fluid intelligence and consequently an improved brain that makes life easier? In my opinion, the verdict is still technically out in the scientific community but the common-sense benefits are real and translatable to everyday life. I like to use the analogy of squatting in the gym. Squats use primarily your legs but that single movement improves your concentration, discipline, balance, and overall strength. Lumosity may make you better at specific games but that brain training can translate to improved memory in everyday tasks, concentration, and quickness in decision making.

Alright, Lumosity helps, but are there any other ways to make my brain glisten with sweat? Sure there are you frick, studies show that exercise (both aerobic and weight lifting), learning an instrument, mindfulness meditation, caffeine/coffee consumption, nicotine, and low electrical brain stimulation all have positive effects on improving markers of brain function. Nicotine, I learned, is not harmful or addictive on its own, and the brain actually has nicotinic receptors. Nicotine is only addictive in combination with chemicals found in cigarettes and is currently being researched as a drug to help those with Parkinson’s Disease (the nicotinic receptor positively effects malfunctioned dopamine receptors in Parkinson’s). The effects of brain training are most profoundly seen in those with cognitive disorders, such as, ADD, ADHD, age related cognitive decline, autism, and Down Syndrome. In healthy adults, the degree of benefit is less pronounced but still apparent and helpful in creating cognitive reserve which is shown to delay age-related cognitive decline. Most of us design our life around things we are good at so we can be comfortable and happy at all times. If we try to be comfortable in everything we do, we are going to have a weenie brain and a weenie body. Do something that challenges your brain and your body and don’t squander the gifts that God gave you. IQ is only a number, what you do with that number is what matters most. If my IQ is 150 and all I do is go home, watch TV, and check Facebook each night then my intelligence is essentially worthless. Go out use your blessings, get smarter, learn an instrument, critically think, pick up a heavy weight, run really quick, and read a book. Don’t waist that beautiful brain of yours-make it glisten like one of Arnold’s biceps.

Words that I did not know:

Incredulity: a feeling that you do not or cannot believe or accept that something is true or real
Erudite:having or showing knowledge that is gained by studying
Egregious: conspicuous
Abhorrent: not agreeable

Summed up learning sentence:

Training your brain can only improve memory/fluid intelligence if your willing to challenge yourself and the best way to train is with an activity that your most likely to stick with over the long term.