Psychological Health Challenge, Day 1

The challenge is here! This is very exciting!

The challenge will be based on introducing small, very easy to do practices into your daily life. The idea is to turn them into a habit, so each new one should be added to the rest of them.

For the challenge, I recommend doing a Mediterranean diet or some other low-carb, no-processed-foods eating plan. I can quote studies showing the connection between that and mental health, if needed.

Make sure you start every day with making your bed. Really, it’s important.

Day 1 Activity (for 10/17).

Whenever you experience some sort of a sensory sensation, note when it ends. Let’s say you hear an ambulance sound. Take note of when it stops and say “over” to yourself. Or say you touch a cold doorknob. Take note of when the cold sensation subsides and say “over” in your head. Or aloud if you are alone. There’s no need to freak anybody out.

The goal of the exercise is to train the capacity to deal with painful situations. It’s something that people use, for instance, to do unmedicated pain management, both for physical and intense emotional pain. But that’s a skill you need to train. It doesn’t just surface when you need it.

I’ve done unmedicated pain management my whole life. There’s absolutely nothing that works better than the knowledge pain will end.

Welcome to the challenge and remember that the goal is to feel better.

Evaluation Methods

The Diversity office sent out a survey to evaluate the Diversity Day they held this week. The only available ratings are Excellent, Good and Fair.

Students, professors and administration, on the other hand, always get an option for an Unsatisfactory rating of our performance.

Challenge Update

I considered all the suggestions but decided to go with the psychological health challenge first because I’m in urgent need of a boost. I got a boost in San Sebastián but it’s wearing down. Things have gotten so dire that this morning I delegated two meetings and instead stayed home and made fish kotlety.

This is the most time-consuming and complicated recipe I can think of. Just the ingredients alone are a bother. Nobody sells fresh fish hash around here. Nobody sells fresh fish period at 7:30 am in Southern Illinois.

I made the kotlety and now I feel better. But I can’t dedicate my life to cooking. I need to avoid taking urgent measures every day.

So I’m going to do a psychological health challenge and maybe throw in some productivity exercises. We’ll start tomorrow, so get ready. The conditions for the challenge will be posted later today.

Don’t Switch

Back in the USSR there were only two TV channels. Then a third was added and it was a big deal.

So there was this joke where a guy turns on the TV and sees Brezhnev delivering one of those endless Soviet speeches. He switches the channel and sees Brezhnev again. He switches to the third channel, and Brezhnev sticks a finger in his face, saying, “Yeah, keep switching channels if you want to get into real trouble.”

Why Zuboff Was Wrong

Remember how Zuboff insisted that surveillance capitalism wasn’t ideological?

She was completely wrong.

An author I’m reading (full review will be available once I finish the book) conducted a curious experiment.

He entered the words “European art” into Google images. And a strange thing happened. The search returned a large number of paintings depicting black people. European art depicting black people did exist historically. But it was nowhere near half of all European paintings, like the search shows.

Then he entered the words “white couples.” Most of the images showed interracial or black couples. Try it yourself. It’s definitely an experience.

Then he searched for “straight couples.” The author is gay, so he was curious. You can guess what came up. Hint: not only or even mostly straight couples.

He decided to try this experiment in different languages. And a curious thing happened. The answers were the most skewed in English-language searches. They were better in Western European languages. But when he tried the same searches in Turkish, the results were suddenly normal. White couples were white. Straight people were straight. European art was exactly what we think it is. I tried the experiment in Russian, and European art came up as not nearly as… erm, diverse as in the English search. Actually, it wasn’t diverse at all. The Spanish search returned more diversity than the Russian but a lot LOT less than the English search.

It’s very obvious that the search results are manipulated before you can see them. Or maybe there’s a totally benign explanation for why these searches look like a fantasy of the Chief Diversity officer at Reed College. It might be a total coincidence that “the political atmosphere in Silicon Valley is several degrees to the left of a liberal arts college. Social justice activism is assumed – correctly – to be the default setting for all employees in the major companies and most of them, including Google, put applicants through tests to weed out anyone with the wrong ideological inclinations. Those who have gone through these tests recount that there are multiple questions on issues to do with diversity – sexual, racial and cultural – and that answering these questions ‘correctly’ is a prerequisite for getting a job.”

There might be no connection at all and it’s all an innocent glitch.

Or maybe it isn’t.