January 14th, 2020


Habit Reflection

This study explored many different ways to reinforce a new habit, and found habit reflection the most successful

I looked at it and ... meh.  Writing out an analysis just seems like extra work.  What I learn from past experiences just naturally goes into setting up new ones: my current goal list looks a lot different from the early ones I made.  I know that short-term rewards work well for me: I'll finish this task, then go read something fun.  I know that having a lot of goals helps me accomplish more things.  I'm a lot more comfortable failing to complete a big list, but meeting half of it, than I am failing at just one goal.  And I definitely do better when I set reminders for myself to keep doing things.

Study notwithstanding, my observations indicate that different things work for different people, and if your current methods haven't worked then try new ones.  If you haven't tried habit reflection, its robust performance seems worthy of consideration.

Priority vs. Environment

In a large study, people overwhelmingly rated caring for family as their top priority.  It spanned 27 countries, so hopefully some of them fared better than here.

Because in America?  If your priority if caring for your family, you are fucked.  Nothing in this country facilitates that.  It's the only allegedly civilized nation that doesn't even require paid maternity leave.  Participating in society requires money, for most people that requires working for someone else, and jobs now demand all of a person's reliability.  How easy is it for you to take time off if a relative is sick?  Or attend family events?  Or make a date with someone to do things together?  Or take someone to an appointment?  It's not.  It's a nightmare. 

So much of society undermines our ability to take care of the people we love -- or even find time to form such deep relationships in the first place.  Plus, ties have fragmented from clan to nuclear family and now down to ones and twos.  Fewer families stick together long term, instead fraying over a mess of unwed couples breaking up, married couples divorcing, people remarrying several times, and so on.  Fewer young people are marrying at all.  They're having fewer children, which not only means fewer siblings now but also fewer aunts and uncles and cousins in the future.

Many people are anxious, depressed, lonely, and just generally miserable.  Because we've built a society that does a really shitty job of meeting our needs.

Here's the thing: if caring for family is a priority, not merely a wish, that means you have to put it above everything else, somehow.  That weird thing the Amish do with rejecting technology?  The motivation behind it is community ties.  They simply won't tolerate anything that breaks up families or communities.  They've given up one hell of a lot to pursue that priority ... but they absolutely have the thing they want the most.  Which rather puts them ahead of most other subcultures in America today.

If we want to fix the problems America faces, we need to look at meeting people's needs better.  Family is a big part of that.  I'll add that it doesn't have to be defined by blood or marriage or whatever, just the people who mean a lot to each other.

Magpie Monday

[personal profile] dialecticdreamer is hosting Magpie Monday with a theme of healthy people in tight spots. Leave prompts, get ficlets!

If I reach $75 in tips, I’ll post a bonus story of 7500-8000 words. Right now, that’s all I can say about the surprise story, except that it’s still making me giggle. Surprises like this are good ones!

Maternal Stress

 ... damages infant brains.  Well, duh.  It also runs up the rate of miscarriage, complications of pregnancy/childbirth, and maternal death.

Doctors are all flibbering about how to fix this.  I imagine their efforts will amount to pestering women who are already stressed to be less stressed.  I sincerely doubt they will do anything concrete to fix it like:

* Oh, you can't afford to move from your studio apartment to a 2-bedroom one so the baby can have a nursery?  No problem, here is free public housing to fix that.

* You're too exhausted to keep working?  Okay, here's a year of paid maternity leave you can start at any time.

* Yes, it's sad that your baby has a health problem, but all the care will be covered.

* I see that you don't have any relatives or close friends to help you take care of the baby.  Don't worry, we have volunteers to help you with that.

It isn't a medical problem, and it's usually not an individual one either.  It's a social problem in that America doesn't give a flying fuck about women in general or pregnant women in particular.  There's little left of the social safety net.  Of course women are stressed; they know they're on their own, and that's stressful.  So if you want them to make happy little baby brains, maybe you should make life suck less.  Otherwise, you don't get what you don't pay for.

Poem: "Creep Over the Rise"

This poem came out of the January 7, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by Shirley Barrette.

"Creep Over the Rise"
-- serpentine verse

Snake through the grass, each snake
Read as a shadow though they cannot read.

Shed the old skin behind the shed;
Dust off the past and leave it in the dust.

Rise up anew and creep over the rise;
Be as destiny says one of the Powers That Be.

Serpentine coils curl, colored like serpentine.
Mouth bites tail as tail tucks into mouth.

* * *


Serpentine verse begins and ends with the same word, referencing the image of a snake with its tail in its mouth. 


Poem: "The Nature of a Cat"

This poem came out of the January 7, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by Shirley Barrette.

"The Nature of a Cat"
-- a sonnet

A cat is like a liquid in its form,
Forever flowing over couch and chair,
Its purr a river's gurgle, always warm --
Except the nose that pushes through your hair.

A cat's a very master of the night,
A shadow soft of paw and sharp of ear.
The eyes are two-mooned lanterns filled with light
That pierce the veil of twilight cool and clear.

A cat is velvet death to bird and mouse,
A shade unseen until it is too late,
But to the people living in the house,
The ease of every sorrow, small or great.

All true, yet only guesses, none too pat --
For who can know the nature of a cat?

* * *


The sonnet is a form of 14 lines, customarily written in iambic pentameter, with any one of several popular rhyme schemes. Learn how to write one.


Isolation Harms Children

Well, duh.

You can tell it's being done for adult convenience, not safety, because the children are forced into oubliettes and then ignored.  When parents lock a child in a closet, it's recognized as abuse; when teachers or doctors do it, that's condoned.  

If it were really about safety, the child would be put in a separate room with a teacher to continue the lesson or a school counselor to go over coping skills or at least model civil behavior, through a picture window or a viewscreen.  Safety may require separation but in no way requires isolation.  So when it does include isolation, you know that adults simply want nothing to do with the child -- or think they can get their way by means of torture.  Require adults to provide interaction during separation and watch them drop the technique like a hot rock.

Extinction Math

It's time for some citizen science!  Using your own preferred resources, calculate the number of species threatened with extinction by the Australian bushfires.  This involves counting the number of well-known species devastated, and applying the multiplier for the larger number of insect species, or other less-known types of wildlife.  Consider why some estimates or multipliers are larger or smaller than others.

This page lists organizations helping the surviving animals, in case you want to make donations.

Poetry Fishbowl Themes for Early 2020

Based on an audience poll plus backchannel votes, these are the Poetry Fishbowl themes for early 2020:

February 4 -- "If the devil's nicer than the church folks, then we've got a problem."

March 3 -- Broken Angels

April 7 -- Interspecies Cooperation

May 5 -- "How did I end up in charge?"

June 2 -- Quiet Revolutions

July 7 -- "Yeah, we have those too."