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Jack Shepherd

Jack Shepherd

1 year ago

A Dog's Guide to Every Type of Zoom Call Participant

More on Society & Culture

Katharine Valentino

Katharine Valentino

1 year ago

A Gun-toting Teacher Is Like a Cook With Rat Poison

Pink or blue AR-15s?

A teacher teaches; a gun kills. Killing isn't teaching. Killing is opposite of teaching.

Without 27 school shootings this year, we wouldn't be talking about arming teachers. Gun makers, distributors, and the NRA cause most school shootings. Gun makers, distributors, and the NRA wouldn't be huge business if weapons weren't profitable.

Guns, ammo, body armor, holsters, concealed carriers, bore sights, cleaner kits, spare magazines and speed loaders, gun safes, and ear protection are sold. And more guns.

And lots more profit.

Guns aren't bread. You eat a loaf of bread in a week or so and then must buy more. Bread makers will make money. Winchester 94.30–30 1899 Lever Action Rifle from 1894 still kills. (For safety, I won't link to the ad.) Gun makers don't object if you collect antique weapons, but they need you to buy the latest, in-style killing machine. The youngster who killed 19 students and 2 teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, used an AR-15. Better yet, two.

Salvador Ramos, the Robb Elementary shooter, is a "killing influencer" He pushes consumers to buy items, which benefits manufacturers and distributors. Like every previous AR-15 influencer, he profits Colt, the rifle's manufacturer, and 52,779 gun dealers in the U.S. Ramos and other AR-15 influences make us fear for our safety and our children's. Fearing for our safety, we acquire 20 million firearms a year and live in a gun culture.

So now at school, we want to arm teachers.

Consider. Which of your teachers would you have preferred in body armor with a gun drawn?

Miss Summers? Remember her bringing daisies from her yard to second grade? She handed each student a beautiful flower. Miss Summers loved everyone, even those with AR-15s. She can't shoot.

Frasier? Mr. Frasier turned a youngster over down to explain "invert." Mr. Frasier's hands shook when he wasn't flipping fifth-graders and fractions. He may have shot wrong.

Mrs. Barkley barked in high school English class when anyone started an essay with "But." Mrs. Barkley dubbed Abie a "Jewboy" and gave him terrible grades. Arming Miss Barkley is like poisoning the chef.

Think back. Do you remember a teacher with a gun? No. Arming teachers so the gun industry can make more money is the craziest idea ever.

Or maybe you agree with Ted Cruz, the gun lobby-bought senator, that more guns reduce gun violence. After the next school shooting, you'll undoubtedly talk about arming teachers and pupils. Colt will likely develop a backpack-sized, lighter version of its popular killing machine in pink and blue for kids and boys. The MAR-15? (M for mini).


This post is a summary. Read the full one here.

Hector de Isidro

Hector de Isidro

1 year ago

Why can't you speak English fluently even though you understand it?

Many of us have struggled for years to master a second language (in my case, English). Because (at least in my situation) we've always used an input-based system or method.

I'll explain in detail, but briefly: We can understand some conversations or sentences (since we've trained), but we can't give sophisticated answers or speak fluently (because we have NOT trained at all).

What exactly is input-based learning?

Reading, listening, writing, and speaking are key language abilities (if you look closely at that list, it seems that people tend to order them in this way: inadvertently giving more priority to the first ones than to the last ones).

These talents fall under two learning styles:

  • Reading and listening are input-based activities (sometimes referred to as receptive skills or passive learning).

  • Writing and speaking are output-based tasks (also known as the productive skills and/or active learning).

by Anson Wong

What's the best learning style? To learn a language, we must master four interconnected skills. The difficulty is how much time and effort we give each.

According to Shion Kabasawa's books The Power of Input: How to Maximize Learning and The Power of Output: How to Change Learning to Outcome (available only in Japanese), we spend 7:3 more time on Input Based skills than Output Based skills when we should be doing the opposite, leaning more towards Output (Input: Output->3:7).

I can't tell you how he got those numbers, but I think he's not far off because, for example, think of how many people say they're learning a second language and are satisfied bragging about it by only watching TV, series, or movies in VO (and/or reading a book or whatever) their Input is: 7:0 output!

You can't be good at a sport by watching TikTok videos about it; you must play.

“being pushed to produce language puts learners in a better position to notice the ‘gaps’ in their language knowledge”, encouraging them to ‘upgrade’ their existing interlanguage system. And, as they are pushed to produce language in real time and thereby forced to automate low-level operations by incorporating them into higher-level routines, it may also contribute to the development of fluency. — Scott Thornbury (P is for Push)

How may I practice output-based learning more?

I know that listening or reading is easy and convenient because we can do it on our own in a wide range of situations, even during another activity (although, as you know, it's not ideal), writing can be tedious/boring (it's funny that we almost always excuse ourselves in the lack of ideas), and speaking requires an interlocutor. But we must leave our comfort zone and modify our thinking to go from 3:7 to 7:3. (or at least balance it better to something closer). Gradually.

“You don’t have to do a lot every day, but you have to do something. Something. Every day.” — Callie Oettinger (Do this every day)

We can practice speaking like boxers shadow box.

Speaking out loud strengthens the mind-mouth link (otherwise, you will still speak fluently in your mind but you will choke when speaking out loud). This doesn't mean we should talk to ourselves on the way to work, while strolling, or on public transportation. We should try to do it without disturbing others, such as explaining what we've heard, read, or seen (the list is endless: you can TALK about what happened yesterday, your bedtime book, stories you heard at the office, that new kitten video you saw on Instagram, an experience you had, some new fact, that new boring episode you watched on Netflix, what you ate, what you're going to do next, your upcoming vacation, what’s trending, the news of the day)

Who will correct my grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation with an imagined friend? We can't have everything, but tools and services can help [1].

Lack of bravery

Fear of speaking a language different than one's mother tongue in front of native speakers is global. It's easier said than done, because strangers, not your friends, will always make fun of your accent or faults. Accept it and try again. Karma will prevail.

Perfectionism is a trap. Stop self-sabotaging. Communication is key (and for that you have to practice the Output too ).

“Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the process.” — Ruri Ohama

[1] Grammarly, Deepl, Google Translate, etc.

DC Palter

DC Palter

1 year ago

Why Are There So Few Startups in Japan?

Japan's startup challenge: 7 reasons

Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash

Every day, another Silicon Valley business is bought for a billion dollars, making its founders rich while growing the economy and improving consumers' lives.

Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Medium dominate our daily lives. Tesla automobiles and Moderna Covid vaccinations.

The startup movement started in Silicon Valley, California, but the rest of the world is catching up. Global startup buzz is rising. Except Japan.

644 of CB Insights' 1170 unicorns—successful firms valued at over $1 billion—are US-based. China follows with 302 and India third with 108.

Japan? 6!

1% of US startups succeed. The third-largest economy is tied with small Switzerland for startup success.

Mexico (8), Indonesia (12), and Brazil (12) have more successful startups than Japan (16). South Korea has 16. Yikes! Problem?

Why Don't Startups Exist in Japan More?

Not about money. Japanese firms invest in startups. To invest in startups, big Japanese firms create Silicon Valley offices instead of Tokyo.

Startups aren't the issue either. Local governments are competing to be Japan's Shirikon Tani, providing entrepreneurs financing, office space, and founder visas.

Startup accelerators like Plug and Play in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, the Startup Hub in Kobe, and Google for Startups are many.

Most of the companies I've encountered in Japan are either local offices of foreign firms aiming to expand into the Japanese market or small businesses offering local services rather than disrupting a staid industry with new ideas.

There must be a reason Japan can develop world-beating giant corporations like Toyota, Nintendo, Shiseido, and Suntory but not inventive startups.

Culture, obviously. Japanese culture excels in teamwork, craftsmanship, and quality, but it hates moving fast, making mistakes, and breaking things.

If you have a brilliant idea in Silicon Valley, quit your job, get money from friends and family, and build a prototype. To fund the business, you approach angel investors and VCs.

Most non-startup folks don't aware that venture capitalists don't want good, profitable enterprises. That's wonderful if you're developing a solid small business to consult, open shops, or make a specialty product. However, you must pay for it or borrow money. Venture capitalists want moon rockets. Silicon Valley is big or bust. Almost 90% will explode and crash. The few successes are remarkable enough to make up for the failures.

Silicon Valley's high-risk, high-reward attitude contrasts with Japan's incrementalism. Japan makes the best automobiles and cleanrooms, but it fails to produce new items that grow the economy.

Changeable? Absolutely. But, what makes huge manufacturing enterprises successful and what makes Japan a safe and comfortable place to live are inextricably connected with the lack of startups.

Barriers to Startup Development in Japan

These are the 7 biggest obstacles to Japanese startup success.

  1. Unresponsive Employment Market

While the lifelong employment system in Japan is evolving, the average employee stays at their firm for 12 years (15 years for men at large organizations) compared to 4.3 years in the US. Seniority, not experience or aptitude, determines career routes, making it tough to quit a job to join a startup and then return to corporate work if it fails.

  1. Conservative Buyers

Even if your product is buggy and undocumented, US customers will migrate to a cheaper, superior one. Japanese corporations demand perfection from their trusted suppliers and keep with them forever. Startups need income fast, yet product evaluation takes forever.

  1. Failure intolerance

Japanese business failures harm lives. Failed forever. It hinders risk-taking. Silicon Valley embraces failure. Build another startup if your first fails. Build a third if that fails. Every setback is viewed as a learning opportunity for success.

4. No Corporate Purchases

Silicon Valley industrial giants will buy fast-growing startups for a lot of money. Many huge firms have stopped developing new goods and instead buy startups after the product is validated.

Japanese companies prefer in-house product development over startup acquisitions. No acquisitions mean no startup investment and no investor reward.

Startup investments can also be monetized through stock market listings. Public stock listings in Japan are risky because the Nikkei was stagnant for 35 years while the S&P rose 14x.

5. Social Unity Above Wealth

In Silicon Valley, everyone wants to be rich. That creates a competitive environment where everyone wants to succeed, but it also promotes fraud and societal problems.

Japan values communal harmony above individual success. Wealthy folks and overachievers are avoided. In Japan, renegades are nearly impossible.

6. Rote Learning Education System

Japanese high school graduates outperform most Americans. Nonetheless, Japanese education is known for its rote memorization. The American system, which fails too many kids, emphasizes creativity to create new products.

  1. Immigration.

Immigrants start 55% of successful Silicon Valley firms. Some come for university, some to escape poverty and war, and some are recruited by Silicon Valley startups and stay to start their own.

Japan is difficult for immigrants to start a business due to language barriers, visa restrictions, and social isolation.

How Japan Can Promote Innovation

Patchwork solutions to deep-rooted cultural issues will not work. If customers don't buy things, immigration visas won't aid startups. Startups must have a chance of being acquired for a huge sum to attract investors. If risky startups fail, employees won't join.

Will Japan never have a startup culture?

Once a consensus is reached, Japan changes rapidly. A dwindling population and standard of living may lead to such consensus.

Toyota and Sony were firms with renowned founders who used technology to transform the world. Repeatable.

Silicon Valley is flawed too. Many people struggle due to wealth disparities, job churn and layoffs, and the tremendous ups and downs of the economy caused by stock market fluctuations.

The founders of the 10% successful startups are heroes. The 90% that fail and return to good-paying jobs with benefits are never mentioned.

Silicon Valley startup culture and Japanese corporate culture are opposites. Each have pros and cons. Big Japanese corporations make the most reliable, dependable, high-quality products yet move too slowly. That's good for creating cars, not social networking apps.

Can innovation and success be encouraged without eroding social cohesion? That can motivate software firms to move fast and break things while recognizing the beauty and precision of expert craftsmen? A hybrid culture where Japan can make the world's best and most original items. Hopefully.

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Michael Hunter, MD

Michael Hunter, MD

1 year ago

5 Drugs That May Increase Your Risk of Dementia

Photo by danilo.alvesd on Unsplash

While our genes can't be changed easily, you can avoid some dementia risk factors. Today we discuss dementia and five drugs that may increase risk.

Memory loss appears to come with age, but we're not talking about forgetfulness. Sometimes losing your car keys isn't an indication of dementia. Dementia impairs the capacity to think, remember, or make judgments. Dementia hinders daily tasks.

Alzheimers is the most common dementia. Dementia is not normal aging, unlike forgetfulness. Aging increases the risk of Alzheimer's and other dementias. A family history of the illness increases your risk, according to the Mayo Clinic (USA).

Given that our genes are difficult to change (I won't get into epigenetics), what are some avoidable dementia risk factors? Certain drugs may cause cognitive deterioration.

Today we look at four drugs that may cause cognitive decline.

Dementia and benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepine sedatives increase brain GABA levels. Example benzodiazepines:

  • Diazepam (Valium) (Valium)

  • Alprazolam (Xanax) (Xanax)

  • Clonazepam (Klonopin) (Klonopin)

Addiction and overdose are benzodiazepine risks. Yes! These medications don't raise dementia risk.

USC study: Benzodiazepines don't increase dementia risk in older adults.

Benzodiazepines can produce short- and long-term amnesia. This memory loss hinders memory formation. Extreme cases can permanently impair learning and memory. Anterograde amnesia is uncommon.

2. Statins and dementia

Statins reduce cholesterol. They prevent a cholesterol-making chemical. Examples:

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor) (Lipitor)

  • Fluvastatin (Lescol XL) (Lescol XL)

  • Lovastatin (Altoprev) (Altoprev)

  • Pitavastatin (Livalo, Zypitamag) (Livalo, Zypitamag)

  • Pravastatin (Pravachol) (Pravachol)

  • Rosuvastatin (Crestor, Ezallor) (Crestor, Ezallor)

  • Simvastatin (Zocor) (Zocor)

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

This finding is contentious. Harvard's Brigham and Womens Hospital's Dr. Joann Manson says:

“I think that the relationship between statins and cognitive function remains controversial. There’s still not a clear conclusion whether they help to prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, have neutral effects, or increase risk.”

This one's off the dementia list.

3. Dementia and anticholinergic drugs

Anticholinergic drugs treat many conditions, including urine incontinence. Drugs inhibit acetylcholine (a brain chemical that helps send messages between cells). Acetylcholine blockers cause drowsiness, disorientation, and memory loss.

First-generation antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants, and overactive bladder antimuscarinics are common anticholinergics among the elderly.

Anticholinergic drugs may cause dementia. One study found that taking anticholinergics for three years or more increased the risk of dementia by 1.54 times compared to three months or less. After stopping the medicine, the danger may continue.

4. Drugs for Parkinson's disease and dementia

Cleveland Clinic (USA) on Parkinson's:

Parkinson's disease causes age-related brain degeneration. It causes delayed movements, tremors, and balance issues. Some are inherited, but most are unknown. There are various treatment options, but no cure.

Parkinson's medications can cause memory loss, confusion, delusions, and obsessive behaviors. The drug's effects on dopamine cause these issues.

A 2019 JAMA Internal Medicine study found powerful anticholinergic medications enhance dementia risk.

Those who took anticholinergics had a 1.5 times higher chance of dementia. Individuals taking antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, anti-Parkinson’s drugs, overactive bladder drugs, and anti-epileptic drugs had the greatest risk of dementia.

Anticholinergic medicines can lessen Parkinson's-related tremors, but they slow cognitive ability. Anticholinergics can cause disorientation and hallucinations in those over 70.

Photo by Wengang Zhai on Unsplash

5. Antiepileptic drugs and dementia

The risk of dementia from anti-seizure drugs varies with drugs. Levetiracetam (Keppra) improves Alzheimer's cognition.

One study linked different anti-seizure medications to dementia. Anti-epileptic medicines increased the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 1.15 times in the Finnish sample and 1.3 times in the German population. Depakote, Topamax are drugs.

Will Lockett

Will Lockett

1 year ago

Thanks to a recent development, solar energy may prove to be the best energy source.

Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash

Perovskite solar cells will revolutionize everything.

Humanity is in a climatic Armageddon. Our widespread ecological crimes of the previous century are catching up with us, and planet-scale karma threatens everyone. We must adjust to new technologies and lifestyles to avoid this fate. Even solar power, a renewable energy source, has climate problems. A recent discovery could boost solar power's eco-friendliness and affordability. Perovskite solar cells are amazing.

Perovskite is a silicon-like semiconductor. Semiconductors are used to make computer chips, LEDs, camera sensors, and solar cells. Silicon makes sturdy and long-lasting solar cells, thus it's used in most modern solar panels.

Perovskite solar cells are far better. First, they're easy to make at room temperature, unlike silicon cells, which require long, intricate baking processes. This makes perovskite cells cheaper to make and reduces their carbon footprint. Perovskite cells are efficient. Most silicon panel solar farms are 18% efficient, meaning 18% of solar radiation energy is transformed into electricity. Perovskite cells are 25% efficient, making them 38% more efficient than silicon.

However, perovskite cells are nowhere near as durable. A normal silicon panel will lose efficiency after 20 years. The first perovskite cells were ineffective since they lasted barely minutes.

Recent research from Princeton shows that perovskite cells can endure 30 years. The cells kept their efficiency, therefore no sacrifices were made.

No electrical or chemical engineer here, thus I can't explain how they did it. But strangely, the team said longevity isn't the big deal. In the next years, perovskite panels will become longer-lasting. How do you test a panel if you only have a month or two? This breakthrough technique needs a uniform method to estimate perovskite life expectancy fast. The study's key milestone was establishing a standard procedure.

Lab-based advanced aging tests are their solution. Perovskite cells decay faster at higher temperatures, so scientists can extrapolate from that. The test heated the panel to 110 degrees and waited for its output to reduce by 20%. Their panel lasted 2,100 hours (87.5 days) before a 20% decline.

They did some math to extrapolate this data and figure out how long the panel would have lasted in different climates, and were shocked to find it would last 30 years in Princeton. This made perovskite panels as durable as silicon panels. This panel could theoretically be sold today.

This technology will soon allow these brilliant panels to be released into the wild. This technology could be commercially viable in ten, maybe five years.

Solar power will be the best once it does. Solar power is cheap and low-carbon. Perovskite is the cheapest renewable energy source if we switch to it. Solar panel manufacturing's carbon footprint will also drop.

Perovskites' impact goes beyond cost and carbon. Silicon panels require harmful mining and contain toxic elements (cadmium). Perovskite panels don't require intense mining or horrible materials, making their production and expiration more eco-friendly.

Solar power destroys habitat. Massive solar farms could reduce biodiversity and disrupt local ecology by destroying vital habitats. Perovskite cells are more efficient, so they can shrink a solar farm while maintaining energy output. This reduces land requirements, making perovskite solar power cheaper, and could reduce solar's environmental impact.

Perovskite solar power is scalable and environmentally friendly. Princeton scientists will speed up the development and rollout of this energy.

Why bother with fusion, fast reactors, SMRs, or traditional nuclear power? We're close to developing a nearly perfect environmentally friendly power source, and we have the tools and systems to do so quickly. It's also affordable, so we can adopt it quickly and let the developing world use it to grow. Even I struggle to justify spending billions on fusion when a great, cheap technology outperforms it. Perovskite's eco-credentials and cost advantages could save the world and power humanity's future.

B Kean

B Kean

1 year ago

Russia's greatest fear is that no one will ever fear it again.

When everyone laughs at him, he's powerless.

Courtesy of Getty Images

1-2-3: Fold your hands and chuckle heartily. Repeat until you're really laughing.

We're laughing at Russia's modern-day shortcomings, if you hadn't guessed.

Watch Good Fellas' laughing scene on YouTube. Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, and others laugh hysterically in a movie. Laugh at that scene, then think of Putin's macho guy statement on February 24 when he invaded Ukraine. It's cathartic to laugh at his expense.

Right? It makes me feel great that he was convinced the military action will be over in a week. I love reading about Putin's morning speech. Many stupid people on Earth supported him. Many loons hailed his speech historic.

Russia preys on the weak. Strong Ukraine overcame Russia. Ukraine's right. As usual, Russia is in the wrong.

A so-called thought leader recently complained on Russian TV that the West no longer fears Russia, which is why Ukraine is kicking Russia's ass.

Let's simplify for this Russian intellectual. Except for nuclear missiles, the West has nothing to fear from Russia. Russia is a weak, morally-empty country whose DNA has degraded to the point that evolution is already working to flush it out.

The West doesn't fear Russia since he heads a prominent Russian institution. Russian universities are intellectually barren. I taught at St. Petersburg University till June (since February I was virtually teaching) and was astounded by the lack of expertise.

Russians excel in science, math, engineering, IT, and anything that doesn't demand critical thinking or personal ideas.

Reflecting on many of the high-ranking individuals from around the West, Satanovsky said: “They are not interested in us. We only think we’re ‘big politics’ for them but for those guys we’re small politics. “We’re small politics, even though we think of ourselves as the descendants of the Russian Empire, of the USSR. We are not the Soviet Union, we don’t have enough weirdos and lunatics, we practically don’t have any (U.S. Has Stopped Fearing Us).”

Professor Dmitry Evstafiev, president of the Institute of the Middle East, praised Nikita Khrushchev's fiery nature because he made the world fear him, which made the Soviet Union great. If the world believes Putin is crazy, then Russia will be great, says this man. This is crazy.

Evstafiev covered his cowardice by saluting Putin. He praised his culture and Ukraine patience. This weakling professor ingratiates himself to Putin instead of calling him a cowardly, demonic shithead.

This is why we don't fear Russia, professor. Because you're all sycophantic weaklings who sold your souls to a Leningrad narcissist. Putin's nothing. He lacks intelligence. You've tied your country's fate and youth's future to this terrible monster. Disgraceful!

How can you loathe your country's youth so much to doom them to decades or centuries of ignominy? My son is half Russian and must now live with this portion of him.

We don't fear Russia because you don't realize that it should be appreciated, not frightened. That would need lobotomizing tens of millions of people like you.

Sadman. You let a Leningrad weakling castrate you and display your testicles. He shakes the container, saying, "Your balls are mine."

Why is Russia not feared?

Your self-inflicted national catastrophe is hilarious. Sadly, it's laugh-through-tears.