The following post is first and foremost probably a little too long, and even worse it may come off as overly self-indulgent. My apologies either way.
It was sparked by a quote I read recently from Calvin & Hobbes creator, Bill Watterson. The quote is at the bottom of this blog, so feel free to skip reading everything I wrote just to get to the good part. I don't blame you, but just know that I consider it cheating...
Let’s all take a break from the insanity that our world has devolved into following Trump’s election victory. In the meantime, I’ll sum up everything you’re gonna see on social media for the next few years:
Now that we’re good to go, I’d like to talk about being happy.
“Woah! Hold up! Wait a minute! Not so fast!”
“What the hell do you know about being happy? And why should I listen to some pseudo-intellectual, mystic guru, ‘be one with yourself’ bullshit?”
You shouldn’t. And you won’t have to… I think. The goal of this blog is to layout some observations and possibly a few scientific facts, maybe piece them together a bit and leave the rest of the interpretation up to you. What I want to talk about is finding happiness in your adult life, after the college parties have faded into the distance, you're no longer a kid, and you’ve been handed a few responsibilities.
The truth is, I don’t have some earth-shaking insight on how to be happy, and I’m certainly not the poster child of unmitigated contentment. But I’ve read some things and watched some things and noticed some things around me that I’d like to share. Feel free to say, “screw this” and stop reading or feel free to say “screw you” after reading, if that’s what makes you happy...
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I spend my time, day-to-day and hour-by-hour. Because like almost everyone my age, I have ambitions and aspirations and other synonyms for goals. But like everything worth doing in life, I know that it will take a massive amount of work and many failures to reach those goals.
And that means sacrifice.
Sacrifice of time, sacrifice of energy, and in many cases, a sacrifice of temporary happiness. Too often I’ve found myself faced with the dilemma of temporary happiness versus the potential for long-term happiness.
My dilemma is that I’m 1930s depression-era poor and in the midst of a career change. Due to this situation, I’m living in this weird limbo where I work my current job while spending what would be my free time doing work for my future job… which is generally unpaid. I’m also blasting through my savings account at supersonic speed in my attempt to still live a decent lifestyle while making the annual salary of an outlet mall Santa.
So I guess the question for me is, do I continue on my current career path (aka the safe route), which almost guarantees I’ll at least live a comfortable life… or do I attempt to make the leap and sacrifice money, comfort, and current happiness for a small chance at much greater fulfillment in the distant future?
I think in some way we all face a question similar to this. For some people it’s a dilemma of “do I work my required 40 hours a week, collect my paycheck, and have more time to enjoy life outside of work” versus “should I come in early and stay late for the possibility that my boss notices and in two or three years I can get that promotion, make more money, and live a better life?”
It seems like a lot of people from my generation face this problem and are unsure of how to respond to it. Many of us don’t want to wallow in an entry-level job for years just to climb some corporate ladder that will help fill our retirement fund. We’re 22 to 28 years old and could really give a damn about an IRA or 401k. I can’t speak for everybody, but I think many of us either want fulfillment in our careers or enough money that we don’t care whether or not our work makes us happy.
So when we’re stuck in a low-level, low-paying position doing menial work, we feel incredibly unsatisfied. In these situations, we don’t experience any gratifying successes while we work a job that leaves us with little in our bank account to distract us from this fact.
WE NOW BREAK FOR A TIGER ATTACK
Back to our regularly scheduled programing...
Speaking of facts...according to USA Today, millennials have higher depression rates and suffer from more frequent stress compared to older generations. About 20 percent of millennials experience on-the-job depression, compared to just 16 percent of Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers. So what could possibly be the reason for this difference?
Let’s begin with how we were raised. I believe our generation has had a greater freedom growing up than any generation before it. Not necessarily freedom from rules, restrictions, or helicopter-parents, as those things have only grown more prominent in kids' lives. Rather, freedom of expression, freedom of choice, and the freedom that comes from many of our parents telling us we truly can be whatever we want in life.
We’re convinced any career or lifestyle is possible. We’ve seen the lives of internet billionaires, we’ve read about entrepreneurs who chased their dreams and made millions, and we have lived vicariously through their experiences and successes in a way that was previously impossible.
It was easier to convince a kid who grew up in Iowa in the 1960s that a decently paying, white-collar, desk job was the only requirement to live “The American Dream.” You make enough money to provide your future wife and kids with a 3-bedroom house in the suburbs. It comes with a freshly mowed lawn and a short commute in your wood-paneled station wagon to the nearest city. You work 40 hours a week, make a decent salary, have good benefits… and you’re happy.
But sometimes that’s because you knew almost nothing else. Sure there were movie stars and pro-athletes to aspire to, but in many ways that lifestyle seemed so unattainable. Hollywood and Yankee Stadium felt like they existed on an entirely different planet.
Most of all, it wasn’t a common notion that you could find happiness and excitement in seemingly normal, practical jobs.
Let’s blame it on technology! Research has found that the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds back in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2015. Luckily, given the number of famous people who died in 2016, attention span most likely increased as we’ve all spent significant time contemplating our own inevitable extinction (this is not supported by scientific facts).
Many people believe this reduction in attention span is due to how accessible information is these days. Immediate gratification has become more achievable than ever, especially given the rise of smart phones, fast-internet, and loose women (just kidding).
I think the problem is that we can almost guarantee immediate gratification. Watching Netflix will make me happy. Eating this bowl of ice cream will make me happy. Anonymously calling someone a loser online will make me happy.
But for anything that takes time and effort to bring us a sense of fulfillment, there will always be the risk that in the end you’re left with nothing. Ultimately, you’ve sacrificed immediate gratification for further disappointment and unhappiness. Not a great trade off.
But success takes sacrifice. It takes fully acknowledging the risks, knowing you could end up back at square one, but now with less time and energy. In this world where we see so many people skyrocketing to success overnight, it’s like many of us are afraid to make the leap unless we’re guaranteed a soft landing. Instead, we sit at our entry level jobs making entry level money, gazing into filtered Instagram photos of lives better than ours… and we feel unfulfilled.
I think that it takes a special type of person to recognize this and actually do something about it – I’m only sitting here recognizing it, not actually doing anything, so trust me I’m not saying that I’m special. Every one of your friends is showing off the highlight reel of their lives across all forms of social media. And that’s fine. But if that lifestyle makes you feel like something’s missing… what do you do?
I'll leave you with the quote from Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson that ignited these 1500 words, which I am immensely grateful you were able to get through without quitting:
“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.
You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.
To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”
I’m going to start by saying that I’m not a psychologist. Despite being a science major, I didn’t even take a Psych 101 course while in college (also psychology isn’t a real science). So while that qualifies me to not be an annoying know-it-all who thinks he understands the human condition, it also unqualifies me to make any real analytical analyses of psychological importance.
But I’m going to anyways. Yeah, you heard me right. Despite being underqualified at best to talk about human psychology, I’m gonna put my thoughts out there because this is America goddamnit, and if a man can’t put his opinion on blast for the world to see regardless of his intellect or experience, then this is a country I no longer want to live in.
“Is today’s youth the most narcissistic generation ever?” – Older Generation of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and now.
That question has been asked in newspapers, magazines, and now blogs for the last half-century. In 1976, the cover story of New York Magazine was “The Me Decade.” About 37 years later in 2013, the cover of Time was “The Me Me Me Generation.” Essentially the members of the “Me Decade” were now calling today’s youth the “Me Generation,” although I must concede that Tom Wolfe’s article from 1976 is much better written.
In all honestly, I think the most self-absorbed people are the one’s looking at the younger generations and attempting to label them as “more narcissistic than I ever was,” while seeming to forget that moving past self-obsession is one of the major parts of growing up.
Narcissism and youth were shown to be directly correlated when, in 2010, psychology researchers at the University of Illinois compared narcissism rates with age and life stages. They found that narcissistic behavior was not related to generation, but to age-related developmental stages. In their summation, they stated that, “every generation is Generation ME, as every generation of younger people are more narcissistic than their elders.”
There are studies out there that have published data indicating this particular “Millenial” generation is the most narcissistic generation ever. But independent reviews have found most of the data to be suspect at best, many relying on personality tests that aren’t easily interpretable.
Narcissism is an extreme. It’s a mental disorder that is characterized by severe selfishness, an overriding need for admiration, and a complete lack of empathy coupled with a terribly fragile self-esteem. But like most buzzwords in our culture, it’s overused and misunderstood.
We see a celebrity post an obviously set up “candid” photo on Instagram and scoff at them saying, “wow, how much more attention do you need?” But the next day we’ll spend 20 minutes picking out the best filter and adjusting the brightness and saturation and highlights on our own picture, only to post it and obsessively check to make sure it gets enough likes so that we won’t be embarrassed by our clear lack of friends and have to take it down. Like almost every other standard we have, we hold others to a higher one while holding ourselves to much lower expectations.
The word narcissism has been thrown around a lot during this election year, with supporters from each side calling the other candidate a narcissist. But there’s a problem with armchair psychologists implying that narcissism is a negative for our presidential hopefuls. And the problem is that for a large portion of the American population, a narcissist is what they want to vote for. Narcissists tend to display traits that we find desirable in a political leader. They’re supremely confident, believe that they know best, and are willing to thrust their lives and the lives of their families into the spotlight of political theater.
Can you think of any sane, rational person you know that would be willing to work 90-hour weeks, give speeches to hundreds of thousands of people, and have all of their dirty laundry aired out on CNN just for the opportunity to work 168-hour weeks in a job where if you screw up, your name will be remembered forever? I can’t.
For over 200 years, we’ve been ruled mainly by narcissists. Now that their lives are so public, it’s really starting to show. Rutherford B. Hayes didn’t have personal emails to hack and display across all forms of media. Millard Fillmore never said “grab them by the pussy” on a hot mic before an interview with Billy Bush. For godsakes, Marilyn Monroe basically waltzed through the White House on her way to fornicate with a sitting U.S. President (more like “laying” U.S. President, am I right? High five!).
I’m going to abandon my typical scientific perspective here for a moment, so bear with me as I go a little rogue here: Would it really be that surprising if the Millenial generation was truly the most narcissistic generation to date? We’ve had almost four decades now of 24-hour news coverage, exposing us to the depravity of many of our political leaders. We see news anchors, political pundits, and even our parents explain away selfish, egotistical, borderline sociopathic behavior because “at least he/she is not a democrat/republican!”
I know that I said previously that there isn’t much solid, scientific evidence showing that this generation is more narcissistic than any before it. But I do see an unhealthy amount of self-absorption on social media every day, especially with how contentious this election has been. While we may not be any more narcissistic than those before us, I do believe we are more vocal in our narcissism. We have so many social media platforms where we can express our thoughts and unleash blind rage, often anonymously, I think that’s what gives us our narcissistic reputation.
Ultimately, I think the world needs more people who are deliberately thoughtful, selfless, intelligent, and kind. I think the world needs more people like me.
I was walking through the Boston Commons the other week, headed home from a long day of sitting at my desk in Mass General waiting on results from an experiment that I probably screwed up, when I noticed a large group of people gathered around a fountain. As I got closer I could see they were all relatively normal looking, many of them wearing casual business attire, but all of them had a green sticker on their lapels.
I then noticed the sign propped up in front of the fountain, with large letters it spelled out: “Anti-GMO Awareness Rally.” For a moment I considered walking over to these people and asking them why they’re rallying against GMOs (aka Genetically Modified Organisms), but instead I figured my time would be better spent traveling home while squished ass cheek to ass cheek with a thousand people on the T.
But now I kind of regret not asking them about their thoughts on GMOs, because at this point I’ve read multiple articles in somewhat reputable news sources and seen a dozen Facebook posts by somewhat less reputable high school dropouts and soccer moms that take this same stance. Given my strict “no posting on Facebook ever” policy, I have yet to ask these people what evidence they have that supports their stance. So here’s the evidence I’ve found that supports my stance, which by the way is pro-GMO:
Actually, first let’s start by discussing what GMO means. A genetically modified organism is one that has been modified using recombinant DNA methods. Without getting too technical, “recombinant DNA methods” are essentially refined laboratory processes that mimic what happens in nature all the time by taking a gene or genes from one organism and implanting them into the genome of a different organism to give it the same trait or traits.
The technical science behind this process is complicated, but the general idea is not. Let’s say we want to make corn that requires less water to grow, thereby saving farmers money on watering their crops and making it possible to grow corn in more arid environments. Scientists can identify a gene in a plant strain that has these characteristics, isolate it, and implant it into a new strain of corn that now requires less water to survive.
The scientific advancement of being able to create crops such as this has lowered the price of food, increased farmer safety by allowing them to use less pesticide, and raised output of major crops like corn, cotton, and soy by 20-30 percent. Yet many people and even entire countries rail against GM crops due to perceived safety concerns.
I honestly see this belief as a much larger and more dangerous extension of the gluten-free craze we’re currently seeing in America.
Medical Professional: “Gluten can make you sick if you have Celiac’s-“
Random White Woman: “OMG. Gluten makes you sick??”
Medical Professional: “No, only if you have Celiac’s Disea-“
Random White Woman: “That’s it. I’m done eating gluten.”
Medical Professional: “But you don’t have Celiac’s Disease.”
Random White Woman: “Waiter! WAITER! Yes, took you long enough, I’ll have the gluten free pasta.”
Waiter: “We don’t have gluten free pasta.”
Random White Woman: “Well then just pick the gluten out, god, do I have to do your job for you?”
Waiter: “I hate you and everyone like you.”
The above interaction is a microcosm of the anti-GMO movement. As Robert Goldberg, a plant molecular biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles said, “In spite of hundreds of millions of genetic experiments involving every type of organism on earth and people eating billions of meals without a problem, we’ve gone back to being ignorant.”
Many of the food disasters that have occurred in the last century have been attributed to non-GM crops, such as the E. coli infected organic bean sprouts that killed 53 people in Europe in 2011.
Opponents of genetically modified foods point to a handful of studies that found possible health issues. But reviewers have debunked nearly all of these reports. At this point, the belief that GMO crops cause health problems has the same amount of scientific support as the “global warming is a hoax” crowd; in fact it might even have less.
Most anti-GMO groups also claim that almost all the studies done saying GM crops are perfectly fine have been funded by large multinational corporations that control the food supply. Yet, they somehow neglect to mention the 130 research projects funded by the European commission, the administrative body of the E.U., which were carried out by more than 500 independent teams. Guess how many of these studies found problems with GMO crops? Zero. And despite that, only two GM crops – Monsanto’s MON810 maize and BASF’s Amflora potato – are accepted in the European Union, while 8 EU countries still outright ban all GMOs.
I just don’t get it sometimes. I really don’t. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last 6 years thinking scientifically and critically about issues like this. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last 2 years in medical research, where every statement must be supported by facts in order to be accepted as evidence. Maybe it’s because I’m the stupid one and I’m just so stupid that I can’t even see how stupid I really am. No. No… it can’t be. Did you see how many big words I used in this blog? That must mean that I’m smart.
I’m going to do my best to adequately and succinctly (two big words!) sum this up. The world is going to have to grow 70% more food by 2050 just to keep up with population growth. Climate change (yes it’s real) is going to make much of the world’s arable land more difficult to farm. GM crops can produce higher yields, grow in dry and salty land, withstand more extreme temperatures, and tolerate insects, disease, and herbicides.
It’s easy to sit up in our lofty tower here in the U.S. of A and thumb our noses at non-organic, genetically modified, gluten-filled food just because we read a blog article on a yoga website about how these things are bad for us.
But what does the science say?
Science says that millions more will starve in the future if we don’t start accepting the facts and growing more GM crops while also importing GM foods into the nations that need them most. Science says give me the thousands of studies that have shown GM crops to be safe rather than the few studies that have mainly used faulty data and poor practices to come to their anti-GMO conclusion.
But most of all, science says screw you and your chai-latte-ugg-boot-wearing-whole-food-shopping-chipotle-burrito-eating-ass and think about something other than yourself for once.
Forget about Clinton vs. Trump for a second. This November, five states will be voting on marijuana legalization (Maine, Massachusetts, Arizona, California, and Nevada) while four more will be voting on allowing medical marijuana (Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota). How these referendums turn out should be an indication of the path that this country will be taking in the coming years regarding the war on drugs as well as the war on common sense.
As a current resident of the unofficial capital of Dunkin’ Donuts and poorly designed city streets (Boston), I’m going to do my best to tackle how marijuana legalization – aka referendum 4 – is being presented in Massachusetts. Most current polls show support for marijuana legalization to be slightly ahead of opposition, but it’s pretty close. Let’s breakdown the arguments for both sides:
Not surprisingly, supporters and detractors of referendum 4 seem to contradict each other on a couple key points. So who’s right? Let’s look at both sides using real facts and actual data to see who comes out on top:
Reduce Crime (Proponents) vs. Increase Crime (Opponents)
In studies done on crime statistics in states that have already legalized marijuana, there has been no significant change in crime rates. The cities of Denver and Seattle saw no increase in either the crime rate or violent crime rate after legalization was passed. So statistically, proponents of pot legalization have the edge. And objectively, how would legalizing an illegal commodity lead to more crime? That argument is so perplexing to me, a rational human with a working brain. Are they assuming that potheads given access to legal weed will be roaming the streets in a pot-induced stupor stabbing tourists willy-nilly? Someone please explain to me how any person would feel comfortable committing a crime after a few bong hits of Purple People Eater.
Improve Public Health (Proponents) vs. Increase Alcohol/Drug Use (Opponents)
In the same studies that found states that legalized marijuana had no increase in crime, they also came to the conclusion that marijuana and alcohol use had no change after legalization. In fact, admissions to emergency rooms in Colorado and Washington for treatment of alcohol or marijuana declined slightly after it was made legal, in other words, the opposite of what opponents of referendum 4 here in Massachusetts are saying will happen.
Are they assuming that residents of this state lack the self-control of our West coast friends, and given legal pot dispensaries we’ll all go out to smoke and drink until we’re hospitalized?
So the supporters of referendum 4 seem to have statistics on their side so far. But what about the other claims they make in support of legalization? Will it really raise tax revenue? In a short: absolutely. Marijuana sales in Massachusetts will be taxed similar to those in Colorado and Washington, who anticipate $140 million and $270 million in marijuana tax revenue this year respectively.
I imagine at this point you’re thinking something like: “if legalizing pot is going to help the state’s economy without increasing crime or hurting public health, then why are so many people opposed to it?” It’s a good question, one made even more puzzling by the fact that both Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh are part of the opposition.
What I’ve come to understand after much reading on both Baker and Walsh’s collective stance is that sometimes people are morons. I think that this is best exemplified by Gov. Baker’s comments in which he said that marijuana legalization “would put our children at risk and threaten to reverse our progress in combating the growing opioid epidemic.” Uhhh… hey Chuck, research has found that states where medical marijuana is legal have actually experienced a drop in prescribed opioid use, you know... the opposite of what you’re saying is gonna happen. For a governor who has been so active combating the opioid epidemic in his state, it’s very odd to me that Baker would use this as a talking point to rail against pot legalization.
Besides decreasing the risk of prescription pain pills leading to opioid addiction, the decrease in prescriptions in states where medical marijuana is legal also saved state spending on Medicare about $165 million in 2013. So legalizing pot leads to a decrease in prescribed opioids, thus lowering the risks of opioid addiction while also putting money back in the state’s pocket. Just keep drawing that imaginary line connecting marijuana and opioid addiction, Governor Baker. I’m sure no one will actually fact check you and wonder why you’re using one of Massachusetts most harrowing public health problems as false propaganda for your misguided anti-legalization campaign, you pompous dickhead.
Can we as a nation please join hands together and all agree to stop this ridiculous allegation? I need the Federal government to make a recommendation that everyone involved in the national conversation on pot legalization be forced to take a class on correlation and causation. Also take a class on how to appreciate my fire flow cuz those rhymes could be on Kendrick Lamar’s next album.
In all seriousness, the same studies that compare marijuana use to harder drug use later in life also found a similar correlation for nicotine and alcohol leading to future drug use. So unless the anti-legalization movement wants to ban alcohol and tobacco for the same specious reasoning, I suggest they put the gateway argument to rest.
No studies on humans have found pharmacological or biological connections between smoking pot and an increased likelihood of future drug abuse. So until there is actual scientific evidence of that being the case, let’s all try to sound less like Homer Simpson buying a tiger-proof rock.
In summation, if you’re a resident of Massachusetts as well as a fan of facts, statistics, and increased tax revenue, you should be voting yes on referendum 4 this November. During this historical and horrible election, five states will have the chance to vote for something that we can actually be proud of. If the short legalization history of Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon are any indication, we’ll likely see massive increased tax revenue and decreased opioid usage once marijuana legalization begins. So our state will make money while combating one of the worst public health issues we’ve experienced to date. It’s a win-win, and don’t let old, out of touch politicians tell you otherwise. Watch the "No on 4" propaganda video below to see the type of critical thinking we're up against, it'd almost be funny if it wasn't so sad.
If you’ve opened your eyes at all in the last few years, you’ve probably noticed a new trend gaining some steam with the youth of America. I’m not talking about skinny jeans on guys or winter hats in the summer, but I am talking about something that is directly related to both of those perplexing fashion trends: e-cigarettes.
But besides the occasional e-cigarette turned hand grenade, are there other negative health effects linked to these vaporizers? To find some answers, I dove into current research articles about their health effects, and even did some research of my own back in 2014 on the effects of nicotine on zebrafish embryos.
The results of my study, in which e-cigarette concentrate fluid was compared to known levels of nicotine, were inconclusive. Which is to say that all the fish died and I had to bullshit a 15-page research paper on how they were killed by nicotine and not by my total incompetence.
However, these inconclusive findings joined hundreds of other studies that ultimately end with the researchers saying “I dunno.” It’s one of the many problems with scientific research, unless the effects are shown to be extremely significant or are at least supported by multiple peer-reviewed studies, it’s tough to come to any sort of conclusion.
With traditional tobacco, there has been decades of research done and the findings have been incredibly clear. Cigarette smoking is still the leading preventable cause of mortality in America, with over 400,000 deaths each year. We know that it causes cancer and heart disease, but these effects have only been linked with the chemical byproducts of tobacco smoke, and not nicotine itself. Not to say that nicotine exposure doesn’t have detrimental health implications, as it has been shown to be highly addictive and responsible for birth defects. But in full-grown, healthy adults there has been no link between nicotine and major health issues.
The main problem with attempting to determine the consequences of e-cigarette vapor on individual health is that there just hasn’t been enough time to figure out if there are actual long-term health implications. The most current and comprehensive research out there is the Cochrane Review, which shows that studies haven’t found any significant health effects for up to two years of e-cigarette use.
We do, however, know the short term negative effects of smoking e-cigs: you’ll look like a douchebag, you’ll walk around with an undeserved air of self-importance, and your band is most likely not gonna make it. But unless these things lead to you getting your ass kicked, which they very well might, there are no known effects on your health.
So keep vaping away, dickheads! And understand that while you may not be giving yourself cancer, you can rest easy knowing that you’re still a cancer to society.
There has been a lot of talk about Hillary Clinton’s alleged health issues recently, given that she fainted in public and was said to have been suffering from pneumonia. Republicans are using this against her, asking how would she handle the day-to-day rigor of the presidency if she can’t even do a decade-long campaign without getting sick? Fair question.
Although it’s also fair to assume that her health issues have most likely been caused by the fact that she’s 68 years old and spending 20 hours a day on the campaign trail shaking hands, kissing babies, and slapping Bill’s dick out of the hands of every whore he meets along the way.
I don’t want to take sides. Both of them are just plain awful in their own special way, so I consider myself an unbiased juror in this trial of America’s Self Respect vs. Oh God We Actually Have to Pick One of Them.
That being said, I’m going to bring in my expert witness (yeah yeah I know jurors don’t do that, lawyers do. But in my court there are no rules, much like Judge Judy’s court and the court of public opinion). Your honor, I now call my expert witness to the stand… Mr. Web MD.
Doc Hog: Mr. Web MD, thanks for giving us some of your valuable time here today. Is it okay if I call you Web?
Web MD: I don’t give a shit.
Judge: Sustained. Watch yourself Mr. MD.
Web MD: My b.
Doc Hog: We appreciate the apology. Now Web, I’m wondering if you can help me identify the possible causes of some of the symptoms Mrs. Clinton has been experiencing. Do you think you can do that?
Web MD: It’s literally the only thing people use me for.
Doc Hog: Wonderful! The Clinton campaign issued a statement on September 11th – never forget – saying that Mrs. Clinton’s fainting spell was caused by pneumonia and dehydration. In your opinion, could either pneumonia or dehydration cause someone to faint?
Web MD: Well, yes. In fact, pneumonia can cause dehydration due to high fever and decreased thirst. Combined, they can lead to the individual passing out. But, I’d say even most non-experts know that if you’re sick you should be drinking fluids in order to avoid dehydration.
Doc Hog: So you’re saying it’s unlikely Mrs. Clinton was consuming the proper amount of fluids, despite knowing she was sick, leading to her dehydration and resulting in her fainting on camera.
Web MD: Most likely.
Doc Hog: And you’re also saying that even non-experts would know the importance of hydrating while sick, especially if you’re going to be at a 9/11 Memorial event, on camera, with millions of eyes watching you for an extended period of time.
Web MD: Yes. I’m essentially saying that you’d have to be a moron surrounded by a team of morons not to be drinking the appropriate amount of water when you know you’re sick and under those circumstances.
Doc Hog: Hmmmm… I’d say it might have something to do with the fact that one of her staff was quoted as saying “she won’t drink water, and you try telling Hillary Clinton she has to drink water.”
Web MD: What a moron.
Judge: Overruled. She refused to drink water despite being sick and water being one of life’s sustaining forces. I’d say that calling her a moron is based in fact. Now Mr. Doc Hog, any further questions for the witness?
Doc Hog: No further questions, Your Honor.
So what did we learn from the testimony of the expert witness, Web MD? I think the most important thing we learned is that if you’re a living human being, it’s pretty important that you drink water. Furthermore, if you’re a living human being who is also sick with pneumonia, it’s doubly important that you drink water so that you don’t become dehydrated, faint on camera, and severely hurt your chances of becoming president.
Just one last thing to consider before we leave here today: what if there is a legitimate reason that Hillary Clinton doesn’t consume water? What if water actually hurts her more than helps her? Maybe it would cause her to rust, or fry her circuit board, or… wait. Does this mean that Hillary Rodham Clinton could be a robot??? Just something to think about…
In 2015, the National Football League made over $13 billion. Which was more than the GDP of 75 different countries that same year. If the NFL were an independent nation, it would be in the top 2/3rds of richest countries by GDP, according to the CIA’s World Factbook.
But does all of that money and attention come at a cost? Absolutely. Although it’s not a cost that the owners, fans, or front office execs have to pay. Rather, it’s a cost that the players and their families pay when the game is over, the hits add up, and a man who was once a physical specimen is now diminished to a shell of his former self. The cost is called CTE, and it’s something Roger Goodell and the NFL would rather you didn’t know about.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease in the brain that occurs due to repetitive brain trauma. This trauma can be caused by both symptomatic concussions and asymptomatic subconcussive blows to the head.
Now almost 90 years after CTE was first discovered, Roger Goodell and many NFL owners still believe that hits like this:
Aren’t responsible for the degeneration of brain tissue later in life. Mind-boggling, myopic… another word that begins with M. But before we delve into the systematic evil of the NFL’s front office, let’s get a little sciencey.
How do hits to the head lead to CTE? Well, it’s believed that repetitive trauma to brain tissue causes an abnormal build-up of the tau protein. This protein normally serves to stabilize cellular structure in neurons, but in larger quantities it becomes defective and can cause major interference with the function of these neurons.
Changes to the brain can begin years or even decades after the last brain injury occurred. The resulting symptoms include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impaired impulse control, aggression, depression, and dementia. The symptoms are similar to other conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, so they can often be misdiagnosed.
Doctors at the Brain Injury Research Institute were the first to diagnose CTE in a pro football player back in 2002. Unfortunately, the condition can only be properly diagnosed in post-mortem examination of the brain, although researchers at UCLA believe they’ve found a way to diagnose living patients through identifying tau protein concentration in the brain. The NFL thanked the Brain Injury Research Institute by publicly attacking their claims that playing professional football can cause CTE, further solidifying their role as the evil American corporation in the next Michael Moore documentary.
Luckily, most Americans with any semblance of common sense were able to look at hits like this:
And think “hmmm… getting concussed a dozen times in a 20-year career might have negative health effects later in life.” The public was exposed to a perfect yet tragic example of this when, in 2012, Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide, shooting himself in the chest in order to preserve his brain for scientific study. Amidst the shock and sadness of his death, most of us started to realize that there might be a terrible consequence to the violence of this game we all love.
With all of the raw emotion and sense of loss that followed his death, the NFL stuck to their guns and in a heartless, robotically rule-oriented move, the Hall of Fame refused to let his daughter present for him when he was inducted. Citing a 5-year rule that "no one is allowed to present posthumously for a deceased inductee." Many critics of the NFL believe that no exception was made in Seau's case because the league had reason to believe his daughter would rail against the NFL and their lack of concern for player health. Their cold, calculated decision was all too appropriate for a league that fines players for wearing small, “unapproved,” tributes to parents who died of cancer, simply because it doesn’t fit their uniform policy, which apparently is what really matters.
At this point, I’m almost positive the PR team for the NFL is just a broken magic 8 ball that is stuck between “reply hazy, try again” and “don’t count on it.” It boggles my mind that an organization as successful as the National Football League is so short-sighted when it comes to their image, but maybe as long as they’re making money they just don’t care.
This year, NFL executive Jeff Miller became the first person from the NFL to admit that there is a connection between playing football and CTE. He did so in front of a congressional committee. Despite this, two weeks later the NFL attempted to reel back his statements and muddy the waters between professional football and progressive brain degeneration. If you ask me (you didn’t), all the NFL execs have to do is look in the mirror and they’ll see a perfect example of diminishing brain activity (BOOM. ROASTED).
But it goes beyond just straight up denial. It wouldn’t be quite as evil if the NFL just decided to blindfold themselves, cover their ears, and refuse to listen to outsiders yelling at them about CTE. Instead, the NFL conducted their own “all-encompassing study” of concussions from 1996 to 2001, in which they did not find a connection between pro football players and CTE.
The problem is that they omitted 100 diagnosed concussions from this study, more than 10% of the total. They chalked this up to the fact that “the clubs were not required to submit their data and not every club did.” No shit, the Dallas Cowboys did not submit any concussions for all 6 seasons, even though Troy Aikman sustained 4 concussions in that time-span that were listed on official NFL injury reports. In fact, Cowboy’s owner and lover of prostitutes, Jerry Jones, adamantly denies any connection between football and CTE. He’s joined in that sentiment by Colt’s owner Jim Irsay, whose drug-addled brain should be part of its own scientific study into how a man so moronic is able to own and operate a professional football team.
So the NFL admitted that some data was left out due to certain teams not submitting to the study. At least they were honest about it, right? Wrong. According to the New York Times, in confidential peer-reviewed documents, the committee wrote that “all NFL teams participated” and that “all players were therefore part of this study.” Peer reviewers were not convinced, as some teams did not report any concussions over multiple years, which one reviewer called “an unmistakable red flag.”
Over a dozen pages of back-and-forth between the NFL’s committee and the reviewers shows that some reviewers were clearly trying to stop the publication of this study. Despite this, the NFL brushed aside the criticism and went on to publish it anyways. This resulted in an even bigger wave of criticism once the paper went out to the public. Physicians brought in later to continue the research found that the study had “relied on faulty analysis.”
Despite sending out their A-team legal squad, in 2013 the NFL agreed to a $765 million settlement in a lawsuit where retired players accused league officials of covering up the risks of concussions. On a somewhat brighter note, in recent years the NFL’s on-field concussion protocol and commitment to player safety has increased dramatically, mostly thanks to this lawsuit and public pressure asking the NFL to remove their heads from their collective asses.
But if we’re being honest it just seems like too little too late. I’m not going to stop watching the NFL, and I'm not saying you should either, but we should all at least be aware of where our money is going and how it’s being used. Just as you support your favorite team and players while they’re on the field, you should be supporting increases to their health benefits and player pensions once they hang up the cleats. Don’t forget the guys that put their health on the line for your entertainment, and don’t let the NFL forget them either.
In 2014, the Green Bay Packers began the season 1-2, which included a 19-7 loss at Detroit where the Packer's offense only crossed midfield three times. After this inexcusable loss to the eventually bottom-dwelling Lions, Rodgers famously told the Green Bay faithful to "R-E-L-A-X." They went on to go 11-2 the rest of the way before losing in soul-destroying fashion at Seattle in the NFC Championship.
Although he didn't spell out another calming 5-letter word to the media after Sunday night's game, he essentially echoed the same sentiment from that post-game press conference almost a year ago. However, if the Packers don't immediately begin a similar turn around, they're going to be hearing a lot of 4-letter words from their fan base. Now let's dive into the major issues from this game:
Stagnant. Predictable. Uninspired. Basically the 3 key words you can use to describe any offense where Mike McCarthy is calling the plays. There was the sole exception to the "predictable" part of McCarthy's game plan, which was when he decided to go for it on 4th and 2 from the Viking's 14 yard line. Now it's easy to have hindsight on these types of decisions and say that because it resulted in a turnover on downs, it was a dumb decision. Whereas if it had resulted in a 1st down and an eventual Packer's touchdown, we would've welcomed this new and improved ballsy Mike McCarthy. But the main issue I have with that playcall is that a field goal would've tied the game at a point where our offense had been struggling to put together drives, plus he handed the ball to James Starks when I would've much preferred to see Eddie Lacey on those types of short yardage situations. You can see in the time-stamped video below that Lacey would've had the power to get the extra few feet needed to convert, but hindsight is 20/20.
Regardless, a lot of other things went wrong for this game to end in a Green Bay loss, so let's shift focus.
The Positives: The offensive line looked good, Lane Taylor isn't making me miss Josh Sitton (yet). Aaaannnddddd... that's about it.
The Negatives: Pretty much everything else. Lacey looked slow and indecisive, despite the fact that the O-line was giving him plenty of room to run. Jordy clearly isn't at 100%, he lacked explosiveness to the point where Minnesota didn't feel the need to send safety help over the top, which led to the middle of the field being jammed so that Cobb and Richard Rodgers were essentially ineffective. Aaron Rodgers looked fine, he moved well in the pocket and made good throws when given the opportunity, but he also fumbled three times and threw a pick on what should've been the game winning/tying drive.
So how does all of this get fixed? I think it starts with the play calling. It's almost as if McCarthy refuses to budge from his formula he had back in 2011 when Cobb was young and explosive and Jordy had all his original ligaments attached to his knees. Neither of them are winning 1-on-1 match ups on a consistent basis. Davante Adams is slow and drops 20% of the balls thrown his way (not actually, but it feels like it), and no one else on the field is much of a threat.
Despite these clear problems, McCarthy still has the receivers almost always running isolated routes and rarely utilizes tactics that minimize these issues, such as pick routes, pre-snap motion plays, and bunch formations. It's bananas. The only reason he gets away with doing this is because Rodgers can use his legs to extend plays and give receivers time to eventually get open. If McCarthy had a pure pocket passer at QB, the offense would find it hard to even cross mid-field and the quarterback would find it hard to walk after getting sacked 15 times a game. Someone needs to sit McCarthy down and hit him over the head with Bill Belichick's playbook.
Not too bad overall. Holding a team to 17 points in today's NFL is pretty commendable, even with Sammy Sleeves at QB. But there are still pretty obvious issues that need addressing.
The Positives: The run defense looked really good, which is possibly the first time I've ever said that as a Packers fan. The D-line generally got a really good push upfront and I'm impressed with how the rookie Blake Martinez and AJ Hawk 2.0 (Jake Ryan) have been playing. They fill the gaps, play well in coverage, and rarely miss tackles (unlike AJ Hawk 1.0). Matthews and Peppers were terrorizing the offensive tackles and causing the pocket to collapse pretty quickly on Bradford. Now that I've complimented our D-line and linebackers, let's move onto our secondary.
The Negatives: The secondary. With Sam Shields out and thus our best cover corner missing, we turned to Damarious Randall to cover the explosive Stefan Diggs, and explosive he was. Randall gave up 9 catches for over 180 yards and a touchdown. Safety help over the top should've corrected this, but a lot of Diggs' receiving yards came after the catch as he juked our entire secondary out of their collective jockstraps and left me wondering if I'd been feeling a little overconfident about HaHa Clinton-Dix. We can hope that Shields will be back next week, but given his history of slow recoveries from concussions I wouldn't be too optimistic.
Luckily we're facing the Lions next week and that's never gone badly for us in a slow-starting season on week 3. Let's hope we can maybe score more than just once this time.
How many times have you woken up after a crazy dream thinking, “what the fuck was that?” If you’re like me, the answer to that question is a thousand times. And as much as I’m sure you’d love to read about the intricacies of my nighttime escapades, we won’t be delving that deep, that’s what dream journals are for. Instead, we’re going to explore the science of dreaming. Yay!
It all starts with DMT, or dimethyltryptamine (let’s stick with calling it DMT). What is DMT? Short answer, it’s a molecule that some researchers believe is produced by our pineal gland and induces out of body experiences and intense hallucinations. The theory is that DMT is released during moments of “altered consciousness,” like birth, death, and during dreaming. It may even be the reason why people who are brought back to life sometimes recall experiencing vivid hallucinations upon death.
Our most intense dreams occur during the REM stage of sleep, which is where we achieve our deepest sleep and also where it is believed that DMT is released. Researchers at UC Berkley found that reduction in REM sleep leads to less dreaming and also affects our ability to interpret complex emotions while awake. So if you’re not getting much REM sleep, you may find it more difficult to decipher if your girlfriend really means it when she says “I’m fine,” or if she’s actually legitimately pissed at you.
Researchers have also found that severe REM sleep-deprivation is correlated with development of mental disorders, such as saying “I’m fine” when what you really mean is “how dare you snapchat your ex on the day of our 2-week anniversary.”
Famous neurologists and psychologists such as Sigmund Freud have come up with theories on why we dream. Let’s go over a couple of them:
The activation-synthesis hypothesis:
This theory states that dreams don’t actually mean anything, as they are merely electrical brain impulses designed to take random thoughts and images from our memories and present them while we’re asleep. In a natural attempt to make sense of these thoughts and images, we construct dream stories once we’re awake. Which kind of makes sense given that if you’ve ever had a friend try to describe his dream to you, it sounds an awful lot like a drunken mad-lib and you end up staring at him like an idiot until he’s through.
“So what do you think it means?”
“What… the part where your algebra teacher chases you through sea of peanut butter until you arrive at Gary Coleman’s pool party?”
“I think it means you’re retarded.”
The threat simulation theory:
The idea that dreaming is actually an ancient biological defense mechanism with the ability to repeatedly simulate potential life-threatening events. This provides us with an evolutionary advantage as we enhance our neuro-cognitive mechanisms that can quickly perceive threats in real life.
The problem with this theory is that we are no longer monkeys swinging from tree to tree trying to avoid monkey-eating jaguars. It’d be interesting to see a dream that is meant to help us with 21st century/first world threats. Maybe I’d have a dream about being on the subway seeing a homeless person walk the length of the train asking people for money. Would the dream properly prepare me to put on my headphones and assume a thousand-yard stare in order to avoid confrontation? I sure hope so, the real world is a jungle and homeless people are my monkey-eating jaguars.
There are a few other theories out there, but I’m tired of researching them and they can all be boiled down to the same point, which is “whoa dude, dreams be trippin” which I think we can all relate to.
The Yellowstone Super Volcano and the End of the World (A Scientific Exploration of Why Life is Meaningless and How We'll All Be Dead Soon)
Did that title scare you? Good. That means I’ve already done half of my job as someone who posts blogs on the internet.
Now for the other half, which is sidestepping the fact that this title is complete hyperbole and explaining why you actually have no legitimate reason to be worried. Are you still kinda scared? Don’t worry, we’re all in this together* so let’s hold hands and absorb some cold hard facts.**
But what does “overdue” really mean? Technically I’m overdue for a physical with my doctor by roughly 2.5 years, but that doesn’t mean my appendix is gonna explode at any moment. Besides, my appendix really could explode at any moment regardless of whether or not I’ve had a physical, so what’s the point? This scintillating analogy is a perfect parallel to the Yellowstone Supervolcano (you’re welcome). There’s nothing we can do to stop its inevitable eruption, so why bother talking about it at all?
I’ll tell you why, because knowing that a super volcano could erupt at any moment and render all other aspects of our lives meaningless makes you live in the moment. The grass looks greener, the birds sing sweeter, and that essay you were supposed to write for you 8am on Monday seems a little less important now, doesn’t it?
But technically things wouldn’t be over in an instant. The world wouldn’t end, it would just get a lot shittier. If the Yellowstone Supervolcano were to erupt, the problem wouldn’t necessarily be the magma or just the force of the explosion. Rather, the most destructive aspect of an eruption would be the resulting gigantic ash cloud that would cover a 500 mile radius of the eruption site with 4+ inches of ash.
The good news is that scientists believe they’d be able to detect an eruption weeks or even years in advance. So there’d be plenty of time for you to loot and riot to your heart’s content. And I do think there’s a silver lining in all of this. I believe America needs a good ash and sulfur bath, something to bring us back to reality.
In a world where 99% of our news coverage is either about two awful presidential candidates or about a backup QB sitting during the national anthem, it might be refreshing to have an actual “end of days” news cycle. All those “I’m moving to Canada if so-and-so gets elected” tweets would turn into “I’m moving to Canada because my house is covered in ash and now it’s really fucking cold here in California.”
If this scenario doesn’t at least interest you, I need you to check your pulse. On a post week 1 of NFL Monday morning, the thought of complete anarchy and riots in the street may be the only thing getting me through the day. I’m not sure if that’s a sign of an unhealthy mental state and precursor to complete breakdown, so maybe I do need to see a doctor.
*Credit: “High School Musical,” 2006
**Credit: Coors Light, as cold as the RockiesTM