Can Blogging Make You Happier? [Research]

http://psychcentral.com/b…ke-you-happier/

I can’t say any of this comes as a surprise — some recent (2009) research has found that blogging can result in greater feelings of connectedness and social bonding which can improve one’s sense of well-being.

Yeah, that sounds about right to me (See my post on the power of blogging).

The researchers found support for deeper self-disclosure from bloggers resulting in a range of better social connections. These included things such as a sense of greater social integration, which is how connected we feel to society and our own community of friends and others; an increase in social bonding (our tightly knit, intimate relationships); and social bridging — increasing our connectedness with people who might be from outside of our typical social network.

They also hypothesized and found support from their data that when these kinds of social connections increase or grow deeper through blogging, a person will also feel a greater subjective sense of well-being or happiness.

H/T to Seth Roberts.

Yves Smith “On Traders Behaving Badly and Cognitive Bias”

http://www.nakedcapitalis…-cognitive.html

Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism is doing “the Lord’s work” and asking for traders who have specifics on the various market manipulations shady trading behaviors perpetrated by Wall St. funds, banks, etc. to come forward and blow the whistle. The timing of her request is somewhat an effect of Jon Stewart’s recent battle with Cramer (See the more recent appearance and discussion from Jon Stewart vs Jim Cramer or the original Stewart spat against CNBC that started it all), which made very public an interview Cramer had done back in 2007 where he talks frankly (and yet not specifically enough as Smith points out below) about how funds would manipulate markets for profit.

Very interesting stuff, and since we’ve seen no successful persecution of this behavior, I have little reason to believe that future regulations will stop it. What does that mean? It means that investing in the markets is an incredibly risky business for laypeople as you are unavoidably swimming with the sharks.

The Jim Cramer chatter precipitated by his Daily Show appearance included some links to an infamous interview Cramer gave in 2007, where he discussed how he would, as a hedge fund manager, push the prices of stocks he was short down via the futures market. It was arguably a public admission of market manipulation.

What was most striking about this incident was how quickly it was forgotten.

Now, of course, one can cynically say, that’s what traders do. And there have been times when I’ve had the vast misfortune to be watching the ticks (I hate trading, I put on very few trades, and I sweat them all and second guess myself hugely) and have seen more than once some end of day action that was clearly tape painting (and my pro investor buddies saw it the same way).

But nobody seems offended at the notion that the markets aren’t safe for mere mortals, just the sharks, even the whole US investing mythology touts how transparent, open, and well policed US securities markets are.

That’s one level of heinousness.

As long as banks are playing with other people’s money, and the higher ups have plausible deniability, they have no incentive to rein this stuff in, save maybe a token case here and there so they can pretend they really were on top of things. And I’m being charitable and assuming the higher ups were not actively enabling it.

So why isn’t there more understanding of and outrage about this? After all, this is the heart of the looting that went on. If firms will tolerate (or even encourage) overly aggressive behavior that appears to generate profit, it isn’t just the nominal miscreants that are at fault, but the whole chain of command all the way to the top (after all, just as in the Jett case, they profited and therefore had reason not to probe too hard).

So here is my theory: the details are not specific enough for the public to see it as real. And if they can’t formulate a picture, they can’t believe it happens all that often (after all, if it did, surely it would be in the Wall Street Journal).

That is an example of a cognitive bias called the availability heuristic. If we can have examples, the more concrete the better, the more likely we are to believe that a phenomenon is valid (that is why anecdotal evidence is more persuasive than it ought to be).

Go back and look at the Cramer tape. It’s actually brilliant. He is not very specific! There is no “when I was short X stock in 2004, I did F, T, and H and the price fell by $Z and I made $100,000 in two days.” It’s all murky, to the point where Henry Blodgett, in parsing the transcript, had to insert words at quite a few junctures to make what Cramer say make sense to him (and note I in reading the transcript would have inserted different words). That’s why this incident never really stuck to Cramer. It all came off like knowing innuendo, but he didn’t present a smoking gun.

So unless we have a Pecora commission, or a lot of ex-traders and trading managers coming forth with particulars, the great unwashed public is not going to know enough of what happened to know where to direct its diffuse but well warranted anger over having been had.

Are we consuming too much Vitamin C?

http://mangans.blogspot.c…ce-traning.html

Via a Google Reader shared item from Patri Friedman titled Vitamin C Abolishes Endurance Training Effects. The post is just a synopsis of a study that demonstrated that Vitamin C has a negative impact on training for endurance. That we should be training for endurance at all is a topic often derided by various paleo gurus, but the somewhat tangential snippet below is what really caught my eye. It immediately makes me wonder, how much Vitamin C should we be consuming in our diets? Fruits and vegetables are frequently touted as the end-all be-all of nutrition, but most all of those foods have a lot of Vitamin C, which is an antioxident we arguably don’t need much of.

A mere cup of chopped broccoli has 135% of the daily recommendation, which is 90 mg, so 120 mg (Vit C rec. info). And who eats just a cup of broccoli? Further, what about all the other sources we’d get C from in a day?

Who would have thought maybe the colorful fruits and veggies are actually harming our health? Maybe Peter at Hyperlipid has it right. It’s worth further investigation.

Here’s the bit from the Mangans blog:

As noted before on this blog, glutathione is by far the most important antioxidant, and it’s made internally from amino acids. Other antioxidants, as can be seen here, can hamper its production.

Our paleolithic ancestors would probably have been ingesting only small amounts of vitamin C, so any dose larger than say, 100 mg, must be considered quite unnatural. That is not to say that megadoses of vitamin C may not be useful in certain medical conditions, but overall it seems best to avoid that. Many holistic practitioners recommend doses of several grams a day, which could be positively harmful to health. At the least, we can say that athletes should take small doses if any.

Thoughts on Explaining Twitter (vs. Facebook)

(12:31:51 PM) Shannon: how do you explain what twitter is to people who don’t know?
(12:32:44 PM) Shannon: whenever i do it, they end up asking me “so, it’s like the status message thing for facebook?” and in a way it is, but it seems like it’s more than that. only i can’t describe it well.
(12:34:26 PM) Justin: yeah … I’d say its a way to stay in touch with friends and acquaintances
(12:35:30 PM) Justin: that allows you to share cool stuff you find, follow people who seem interesting — even celebrities
(12:37:03 PM) Justin: it’s more about communicating dynamically with others whereever you happen to be or about whatever is on your mind whereas facebook is more about keeping in touch with people generally and giving everyone some sort of internet presence no matter their tech savviness

Cross-posted to tumblr.

Jon Stewart vs. Jim Cramer

http://www.thedailyshow.c…pisodeId=220533

Just watched the showdown between Jim Cramer and Jon Stewart from The Daily Show on Comedy Central last night. It’s worth watching if you’ve kept up with the back and forth and the original CNBC takedown by Stewart (See Jon Stewart Throttles CNBC).

I enjoy Stewart’s ongoing crusade against network television. He has similarly gone after CNN (Crossfire) for being more about entertainment than about reporting. Stewart is clearly in a better position to throw stones as he can pull apart the mistakes (and there are many) of the mainstream media; however, he is doing hard reporting. That it gets the networks up in arms is a testament to Stewart’s progress.

Having said that, I think there is a bigger picture that is widely being overlooked. That is that media outlets usurp individual authority on a very subtle and sinister level. Many Americans outsource their own analysis and thinking to these talking heads on tv. Ultimately, it is the Americans who put their trust in Cramer, who go to Fox News for “facts” and come away with more opinions, and who fail to take responsibility for their own behaviors and perpetuate their own victimized demise.

So even as I like how Stewart is going after the networks, I think the fingers should be pointed elsewhere — at the American people.

It is for that reason that the below clip, which is from around the 17 / 18 minute mark of the Hulu/Yahoo TV 21 minute snippet from last night, is fantastic.

Secondarily, I think Cramer’s explanation of how they were essentially duped into thinking 35:1 leverage ratios were okay is spot-on — at least, it fits extremely well with the business cycle argument that excess credit leads to seemingly prosperous or booming times. These booms more-or-less trick investors/businessmen/entrepreneurs into believing that things are fundamentally sound and returns will continue going up in perpetuity. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and beyond the infomercials that try and tell you otherwise, we human beings should realize when someone is trying to sell us snake oil!

So here we have some actually solid television programming — on a tv station that is centered around laughs.

JON STEWART: Honest or not, in what world is a 35 to 1 leverage position sane?

CRAMER: The world that made you 30% year after year after year from 1999 to 2007 . . .

STEWART: But isn’t that part of the problem. Selling this idea that you don’t have to do anything. Any time you sell people the idea that, “Sit back and you’ll get 20% on your money,” don’t you always know that that’s going to be a lie? When are we going to realize in this country that our wealth is work? That we’re workers. And by selling this idea that, “Hey man I’ll teach you how to be rich!” How is that different than an infomercial?

President Chuck Norris, of Sovereign Texas?

http://www.worldnetdaily….ew&pageId=91103

chuck
Creative Commons License photo credit: cloune

Now this is just all sorts of awesomeness not because it is likely to happen (I’m skeptical), but because it puts pressure on the Feds to behave. Apparently, Chuck “When I do a push-up I push the world down” Norris quipped recently on The Glenn Beck show that he may run for President of Texas. Even said in jest, something like this has to have been contemplated or at least joked about by Chuck Norris before in order for it to just sorta come out on national television. And based on Chuck’s recent write-up (the link), he’s clearly thought a great deal about the notion of Texas reasserting itself as a sovereign nation.

Time to move to Texas? I hear Austin is a great place to live.

Chuck is far too religiously minded for comfort, but then again, so is Ron Paul (and mind you it gave me similar pause there, as well). I’m far more worried about acolytes of the State than conservative Christians these days though. It’s also encouraging to hear someone mainstream (As Patri noted) seriously discuss the notion of secession. As I see it, it’d only take one state to break the Union before others would follow. The “United” States is so overrated — why don’t more people see that?

Here’s would-be President Norris:

When I appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio show, he told me that someone had asked him, “Do you really believe that there is going to be trouble in the future?” And he answered, “If this country starts to spiral out of control and Mexico melts down or whatever, if it really starts to spiral out of control, before America allows a country to become a totalitarian country (which it would have under I think the Republicans as well in this situation; they were taking us to the same place, just slower), Americans won’t stand for it. There will be parts of the country that will rise up.” Then Glenn asked me and his listening audience, “And where’s that going to come from?” He answered his own question, “Texas, it’s going to come from Texas. Do you agree with that Chuck?” I replied, “Oh yeah!” Definitely.

It was these types of thoughts that led me to utter the tongue-n-cheek frustration on Glenn Beck’s radio show, “I may run for president of Texas!”

I’m not saying that other states won’t muster the gumption to stand and secede, but Texas has the history to prove it. As most know, Texas was its own country before it joined the Union as its 28th state. From 1836 to 1846, Texas was its own Republic. Washington-on-the-Brazos (river) served as our Philadelphia, Pa. It was there, on March 2, 1836, where a band of patriots forged the Texas Declaration of Independence. (We just celebrated these dates last week.)

On March 1, 1845, then-President John Tyler signed a congressional bill annexing the Republic of Texas. Though the annexation resolution never explicitly granted Texas the right to secede from the Union (as is often reported), many (including me) hold that it is implied by its unique autonomy and history, as well as the unusual provision in the resolution that gave Texas the right to divide into as many as five states. Both the original (1836) and the current (1876) Texas Constitutions also declare that “All political power is inherent in the people. … they have at all times the inalienable right to alter their government in such manner as they might think proper.”

Anyone who has been around Texas for any length of time knows exactly what we’d do if the going got rough in America. Let there be no doubt about that. As Sam Houston once said, “Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may.”

By the way, I actually didn’t know the Texas Republic history. I probably learned it in some social studies class but subsequently forgot all about it. Neat.

Bacteria, saliva, and overall health

http://www.cnn.com/2009/H…ref=mpstoryview

First, Seth Roberts blogs on Oral Health, Heart Disease, and Fermented Foods here:

http://www.blog.sethroberts.net/2009/03/12/oral-health-heart-disease-and-fermented-foods/

A relevant snippet:

Epidemiologic data have shown a statistical association between periodontal disease and coronary heart disease and stroke. In a meta-analysis, the odds ratio increase for CVD in persons with periodontal disease was almost 20%. Poor oral health also seems to be associated with all-cause mortality.

Emphasis added. As I blogged earlier, during my last trip to the dentist I was told my gums were in great shape, better than the previous visit — and the only intentional change since the previous visit was a huge increase (a factor of 50?) in how much fermented food I eat. So perhaps fermented foods improve oral health. A reason to suspect that fermented foods reduce heart disease is that Eskimos, with very low rates of heart disease, eat lots of fermented food. If both these ideas are true — fermented foods improve gum health and reduce heart disease — it would explain the observed correlation between gum disease and heart disease. …

The shift to a diet high in sugar and refined flours has usually happened at the same time as a shift away from traditional diets. In other words, the increase in sugar and flour wasn’t the only change. I suspect there was usually a great reduction in fermented foods at the same time. Maybe the reduction in fermented foods caused the trouble rather than the increase in sugar and flour. The reduction in fermented foods is almost always ignored – for example, by Weston Price and John Yudkin (author of Sweet and Dangerous).

Cross-posting here a comment I made on Seth Robert’s blog post:

I saw a potentially relevant article on saliva and bacteria in CNN recently:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/03/03/saliva.spit.survey/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

A quote:

Since people have different eating habits in different places, you might think an American’s saliva might look a lot different from, say, a South African’s. But a new study published in the journal Genome Research finds that bacteria in saliva may not be as related to environment and diet as you might think.

In fact, researchers found that the human salivary microbiome — that is, the community of bacteria in saliva — does not vary greatly between different geographic locations. That means your saliva is just as different from your neighbor’s as someone’s on the other side of the planet.

Americans in particular have a lot of amylase in their saliva because their diets are full of starch: chips, rice and baked potatoes. But the Pygmies of central Africa, for example, eat mostly game animals, honey and fruit. They have relatively little amylase in their saliva.

Dominy and colleagues found these differences at the genetic level, meaning natural selection has favored large quantities of amylase in populations with starchy diets.

But there is also evidence that amylase levels can rise and fall within an individual’s lifetime. A study on college students in Ghana, who typically eat a lot of meat at the university, found that students who had grown up eating traditional starchy Ghanaian home-cooked meals had lower levels of amylase after attending the school.

Finally, trying to get Stephan of WholeHealthSource hooked up with Seth Roberts as I’m willing to bet there might be some synergies in their research and experimentation on fermentation (particularly as examining the changing diets a la Weston Price’s research).

(H/T Nathan)

Cory Doctorow: Writing in the Age of Distraction

http://rebecca-ryan.blogs…-in-age-of.html

Originally furl’ed here

Some great advice on avoiding distractions while writing. The quoted bit is just one of Doctorow’s gems (One I find particularly apt), but the rest is worth reading, as well.

Realtime communications tools are deadly The biggest impediment to concentration is your computer’s ecosystem of interruption technologies: IM, email alerts, RSS alerts, Skype rings, etc. Anything that requires you to wait for a response, even subconsciously, occupies your attention. Anything that leaps up on your screen to announce something new, occupies your attention. The more you can train your friends and family to use email, message boards, and similar technologies that allow you to save up your conversation for planned sessions instead of demanding your attention right now helps you carve out your 20 minutes. By all means, schedule a chat — voice, text, or video — when it’s needed, but leaving your IM running is like sitting down to work after hanging a giant “DISTRACT ME” sign over your desk, one that shines brightly enough to be seen by the entire world.

Seth Godin’s Advice on Writing a Book (Part 2)

http://sethgodin.typepad….e_for_auth.html

Below is Part 2 of Seth Godin’s advice on writing a book and publicizing your ideas, originally blogged in 2006, below are the bits of advice I found most insightful (Go here to see Part 1 of Seth Godin’s advice on authoring a book). The numbers may skip as I’m not quoting all 19 tips. Finally, tip 19 clearly has wider implications than merely writing a book. Expect a post on why you should blog soon!

2. The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you’ll need later. …

4. Understand that a non-fiction book is a souvenir, just a vessel for the ideas themselves. You don’t want the ideas to get stuck in the book… you want them to spread. Which means that you shouldn’t hoard the idea! The more you give away, the better you will do. …

12. Blog mentions . . . matter a lot. …

14. Consider the free PDF alternative. Some have gotten millions of downloads. No hassles, no time wasted, no trying to make a living on it. All the joy, in other words, without debating whether you should quit your day job (you shouldn’t!) …

19. Writing a book is a tremendous experience. It pays off intellectually. It clarifies your thinking. It builds credibility. It is a living engine of marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority. You should write one.

(H/T Patri)

Seth Godin’s Advice on Writing a Book (Part 1)

http://sethgodin.typepad….e_for_auth.html

Seth Godin is a marketing guru who’s released a number of books — none of which I’ve had a chance to read. Regardless, Godin seems to have some good ideas upon which I continue to stumble, like two blog posts he wrote in 2005 and 2006 prescribing advice on authoring a book. Below are selected snippets from the 2005 post. I’ve also linked down my favorite parts of the 2006 advice.

1. Please understand that book publishing is an organized hobby, not a business.

The return on equity and return on time for authors and for publishers is horrendous. If you’re doing it for the money, you’re going to be disappointed. . . .

3. There is no such thing as effective book promotion by a book publisher. . . .

Here’s the thing: publishing a book is really nothing but a socially acceptable opportunity to promote yourself and your ideas far and wide and often.

If you don’t promote it, no one will. . . .

4. Books cost money and require the user to read them for the idea to spread.

Obvious, sure, but real problems. Real problems because the cost of a book introduces friction to your idea. It makes the idea spread much much more slowly than an online meme because in order for it to spread, someone has to buy it. Add to that the growing (and sad) fact that people hate to read. . . .

So, what’s my best advice?

Build an asset. Large numbers of influential people who read your blog or read your emails or watch your TV show or love your restaurant or or or…

Then, put your idea into a format where it will spread fast. That could be an ebook (a free one) or a pamphlet . . .

Then, if your idea catches on, you can sell the souvenir edition. The book. The thing people keep on their shelf or lend out or get from the library. Books are wonderful (I own too many!) but they’re not necessarily the best vessel for spreading your idea.

(H/T Patri)

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