Food for Health

Highly processed foods are too tasty to resist, but bad for our health. 

Food is life. My first biology lesson was on food, but the ‘living’ aspect was not mentioned. Perhaps, because it is too obvious to be stated: all that we eat, our food, was once alive.  Our food was once the cells of  living creatures: animal, vegetable or fungal. What is the impact of industrial processing on these cells?

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History teaches Humans

If you want to understand humans, learn from History.  Historians help mould mental model; Dutch historian Rutger Bregman offers me Utopia as “a new lodestar, a new map of the world that once again includes a distant, uncharted continent.”

Utopia, created by Thomas More over 500 years ago, had dual meanings of  “good place” and “no place”. Bregman gives us a history of how utopian visions that have driven humanity forwards. A Guardian reviewer agreed, but questioned the feasibility of universal basic income (UBI) that Bregman argues the case for in “Utopia for Realists“.

I find the evidence presented on UBI quite compelling, if limited. Many of the fears around poor use of money  are not realised; people mostly use money to get out of poverty or meet important needs. Nevertheless, it remains  the basis of the critiques. Do the attackers identify flaws with the evidence he presents for his case? Not that I have see; instead they use false logic, basing their ‘theory’ of what will happen on an old and flawed model of ‘human nature.’ And despite the historical evidence to the contrary.

(But then what does evidence have to do with policy-making, when it is driven by specific interests rather than the collectives good. (cf. Climate Change)

Of course, the main challenge to UBI is affordability. Bregman shows how much wealthier we have got than 50 years ago, when Nixon almost implemented a UBI.  Democratic Senate held it back because they wanted a higher payment – eventually getting nothing! The UBI will remove the need for a large government bureaucracy to deliver a range of benefits, as well as potentially removing ‘bullshit’ work. It can also unleash entrepreneurial activity that then generates more wealth. But affordability is a political as much as financial  decision.

UBI could be more than just money purely financial support to the supply of the means of life: water, food, shelter, transport.   Digital systems offer new means of matching supply and demand to maximise efficiency while giving citizens choice. And we urgently need to address the food industry for the sake of our health.

Some will not agree for UBI, or prefer to spend tax dollars elsewhere, but the positive impact of public services is already well demonstrated.  If the State can provide the basic needs for all, and leave the private sector for luxuries, would we not be all better off? Can you imagine this society, this utopia?

Is more evidence needed to implement the UBI? And could it be done globally, rather than my country?  Yes, utopian visions. But is the thee time not  over-ripe for the Messiah to come (or return, depending on your view of Christ). Alternatively, we now have the science and resources to create a Utopia; or continue on the path of self-destruction.

Money solves poverty. We can afford it. Really, we can!

LifeDeath

Two words, one concept. One without the other, would be what? Either eternal life or never having existed. The former is difficult in a finite universe; and what does it mean to have never existed?

At medical school, one teacher noted that for the Victorians in the 19th century, death was common topic but sex was taboo. Today it is reversed, he said.  I am not sure if nearly 40 years later the taboo on talking about death remains.  Certainly an uncomfortable subject for some, while being an inevitable destination for us all.

Today, I celebrate my older brother’s 62nd birthday. But, also sad news of my wife’s foster brother. He died suddenly, presumably a heart attack.  So did a colleague earlier this month. He was two months younger than I, and a sad loss: a lovely man, as we brother-in-law who I met briefly.

And brevity is the message.  Carpe diem. Today may be my last; should I not savour it more?  Death brings us closer to life. It reminds that the illusion of permanence that our brain creates, that our days are numbered, and so we must act! And spread joy.

Orphaned at a late age.

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A shrine to mutti, my mother, Jutta.

A German name, tiring her in England and Mauritius as ‘Uta’ became “Jutter”, having to explain that the J was a Y sound.  She didn’t have a middle name, but three surnames: Scharfstein, Singer, and Mansoor. The road to the house they built is now called “Dr Jutta Singer-Mansoor lane”.   29 Oct 1922 to 20 Apr 2018.

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Fractal Love

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour”  Auguries of Innocence, WILLIAM BLAKE
Beautiful fractal imagery, at least to my mind. Love Blake! His pithy claim that life is woven of joy and woe. But what is fractal. Constancy over scale. Think of a coastline. The same pattern of beach and wave can be seen close up and far away. The paintings of Pollock exhibit fractal mathematics. That  may explain its emotional appeal. The fractal nature of the world is seen in the use of fractal maths for CGI improvements in depicting the natural world.
Fractals, whilst emotional appealing, are cognitively challenging.  The challenge is transferring an intuitive visual insight into complex, non-linear maths.  For the purposes of natural selection, our brains evolved to be very good at some things.  Despite evolution’s limited purposes for out brains, we have been able to develop amazing science that tells a story of our creation more wonderful, more awe-inspiring, and more morally directive than any traditional religion.  But I digress. (Except to plant the idea of a Fractal God.)
I confess that I do not understand the fractal math.  Except that it tells us a deep Truth about the world we live in.  Which by definition also includes the entire human family, and me.  (I add in the me there because I am unlike anyone else, and I have a tendency to think that rules that apply to everybody else may not apply to me; and I always deserve a special ‘pass’)
I can only experience the world through my body and brain.  Neuroscience tells me I do not experience the world through my senses, and that my gut is part of my brain. My conscious experience is a model that my brain creates.  This creation is not based entirely on the immediate sensory input, it is a ‘prediction’ of what will happen next.  When what I experience is not sufficiently different to the prediction, I do not experience the slightly different reality, but stick to the prediction.  Of course, this applies less to primary sensory inputs than derived interpretations.  However, the failure of even visual data to be ‘seen’ (~90% of the brain’s sensory input comes from the eyes) can be demonstrated.
This is a core communication challenge: different mental models, especially of the social world. Conversations are entirely at cross-purposes because of different mental models, using the same words but with different meanings, especially emotional.
Understand the limitations of the mental models that we live in; the potential for us to create new models that are more ‘fit for purpose’; and that we do not share the same ones.  Is this fractal love?  To try and understand yourself by better understanding others?

Start a Cold Shower

A good place to start: gives you a brave heart, grateful soul, clean parts. It’s a free and life-changing art.

For one minute at most; even a few seconds are fine. If willing to just step over the line.

I am lucky. Over a minute it takes our shower to warm.  I started slow, but now I can the full minute go. Still summer now, harder in the cold.

Cold shower, why do I do extol?

Many reasons can be told, but here’s the rationale for my plan. I step into discomfort, and from this learn that I can.  Each day, I still hate to do it, but still do it.

And once done, it is soon over.  Yes, I have to slowly count my breaths.  It takes me to a count of 30, if I am brave enough for the full minute.  And then, warmth, bliss and gratitude to be alive and comfortable.

Warm shower, working body, a mind cleansed of stress.

There is a hormone release that not only wakes me up. It  re-sets my stress response.

 

The day’s ablutions completed, or not.

The hormone release for flight or fight, has

As one initial action, a rapid bowel movement.

Only to the internal sphincter.

Did you know you had two?

The Next Day

After Caesar fell, they praised and buried him. The die was cast, the Republic soon gone. (SPQR, Senatus Populusque Romanus: the Senate and People of Rome.)

To be replaced by Emperors, until the death of empire. Some great, others not so much. Can we blame all the Casears for its destruction, or would it have happened anyway? And why did the Roman Republic never return? Is democracy just a transitional phase in human progress, always ending in tyranny of some form?

It was a bold new idea; even if limited to the Patricians at first: democracy. (Its birthplace, not Athens, if you believe the Roman myth of 509BC)

We, children of democracy, obscure its value, as we have always had this treasure. And the idea that lies behind it: government by, for, and of the people.

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”   Abraham Lincoln starts his speech after the battle of Gettysburg, and ends a less than 200 words later, hoping  the deaths were not in vain and the nation “shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Roman Republic did not survive, but died from the inside. Unlike the Roman Empire that was destroyed by outside forces – as well as its inner weakness.  The founders of the constitution knew their classical history well, and designed the constitution to prevent dictators – a term first established by Rome for an absolute leader but whose term is time limited.  There were many who stepped forward, saved the Republic and then stepped away from power.  Was this part of what made Rome grow form a small city state to the Empire on whose shoulders Western civilisation was founded.  We still use the same letters!  (yes, with a few additions…)