Category Archives: health

Lessons From Japan’s (Deadly) Work Culture

Karoshi: Why Do So Many Japanese Die From Overworking?

In general, being a hard worker is a respectable trait to have. Regardless of your background, culture, or political affiliations, we tend to value and celebrate those who are willing to put in the extra effort into whatever they do for a living. It’s not easy. It can be incredibly stressful at times. Then again, most things worth doing are.

I certainly remember plenty of times when I worked hard. Going all the way back to high school, I can recall days in which I spent nearly every waking hour grinding away at something or another, be it schoolwork, chores, or a part-time job. I remember being drained when all was said and done, but I was ultimately stronger because of it.

That being said, there is a certain threshold in which hard work ceases to be about productivity and just becomes downright damaging. I suspect many people have approached or cross that threshold at some point in their lives, whether it’s with school or a career. However, I don’t think enough people appreciate just how damaging excessive work can be.

This brings me to Japan and their legendary, albeit infamous, work culture. Think back to the longest, hardest day you had at school or your job. In Japan, that’s basically Tuesday. Work for them is not just some 9-to-5 gig you do for a paycheck. It’s a sizable chunk of their lives, more so than American or European workers.

Working overtime, sleeping at the office, and sacrificing for the company aren’t seen as above and beyond. That’s the standard. Yes, it’s a very high standard, but let’s not forget these are real people pushing themselves in extreme ways to meet that standard.

While this high emphasis on work has helped Japan become one of the best economies in the world, it does have a dark side. It’s so prevalent and common, in fact, that the Japanese even have a word for it. It’s called Karoshi, which translates to “overwork death.”

It’s exactly what it sounds like, but it’s actually more complex than that.

It’s a serious ongoing issue in Japan. You don’t have to look far for horror stories about what happens to people who succumb to Karoshi. There are real cases of otherwise healthy 31-year-old men dying of heart failure after regularly working 14-hour days for 7 years straight.

Take a step back and appreciate that kind of strain.

You work so long and so hard that your heart gives out.

It’s one thing to work until you’re tired and sore, but it takes a special kind of strain for your heart to just give out.

As bad as that is, this isn’t the only way Karoshi manifests. Beyond the long hours at the office and the constant stress that comes with it, you can see other signs throughout Japan. It’s not that uncommon to see people asleep on the streets or on park benches. It’s as normal as seeing someone taking selfies.

For a more in depth look on how this unfolds in Japan, check out this video. It’s what got me interested in this topic and inspired me to bring it up.

Now, I’m not looking to denigrate or demean another country’s work culture. I understand that not every society sees work the same way or approaches it in a way people from my part of the world would recognize. At the same time, it’s hard to overlook the issues that result in people dying of heart attacks before they’re 40.

It’s something the Japan is trying to address, but changing ingrained culture isn’t easy. Changing peoples work habits isn’t easy, either. People are set in their ways. I say that as someone who regularly struggled with Spanish quizzes in high school, but never though to adjust study habits.

It’s also an issue I think highlights and important lesson for any society that emphasizes hard work. Yes, it’s generally good, but there are limits. There comes a point where the work is more valued than the person doing it and when you reach that point, the well-being of the person becomes an afterthought.

Those who claim that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life may beg to differ. To them, I would remind them that the human body doesn’t recognize whether or not you’re doing something you love or something you hate. It just knows when it’s being strained to the point where it starts failing.

I feel like this will become more relevant in the coming years. The events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have already significantly affected the workplace and I’m not just referring to the rise of telework. If anything, these events have accelerated the pace of automation. The jobs that used to require all that grinding are becoming less and less necessary.

What will that mean for workers in general?

What will that mean for work culture like that of Japan?

Will it make Karoshi better or worse as certain jobs become more scarce or unnecessary?

These are difficult questions to answer right now, but I suspect that these trends won’t change peoples’ inclination for hard work. It’s just a matter of where that effort will be directed and how we’ll balance it out with the health of the individual. That’s a balance that we still need to strike, no matter how many jobs get automated.

Work/life balance isn’t just a popular buzzword. It’s critical to those who want to both be productive and live fulfilling lives. If you’re life is all work, then is it really living in the grand scheme of things? If anything, the Japanese phenomenon of Karoshi offers insight into what happens when there is no balance. The line between working hard and working yourself to death can get blurred at times, but it’s worth making that line just a little bit clearer, if only to navigate it more effectively.

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John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” Brilliant Breakdown On Sex Work

I know it’s been a while since I’ve discussed topics like sex work on this site. It’s something I’ve touched on regularly, from why our current laws about it badly need reform to why it’s wrongly conflated with the evils of human trafficking. It’s also an issue I think is still subject to many taboos, plenty of which bring out the worst on both ends of the political spectrum. It’s one of the few issues you’ll find radical feminists being on the same page as right wing religious conservatives.

I get that talking about it isn’t easy. I’m certainly not qualified to do so and I doubt I’ve changed anyone’s opinion on the issue with the arguments that I’ve made, which is disappointing since so few pundits or news media talk about it. Thankfully, that changed recently with John Oliver on his show “Last Week Tonight.” He actually dedicated an entire segment of his show to discussing the issue, why it should be decriminalized, and why our current approach is so flawed.

Now, I have my share of criticisms of John Oliver. I’ve even referenced them a few times before. In general, though, he does a pretty good job of breaking down complicated issues in a way that makes sense for everyone, regardless of their political persuasion. If you’re at all curious or in need of greater understanding on the issue, I highly recommend you watch this clip.

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Filed under health, human nature, politics, prostitution, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality, television

How To Tell If You’re In A Cult With The B.I.T.E. Model

5 Cult Leaders With Murderous Intentions – AmongMen

Like it or not, religion is a big part of many peoples’ lives. Whether you’re an ardent atheist or an impassioned believer, there’s no getting around it. There are still millions of religious people all over the world, living their lives and practicing their faith. Even though religion, in general, has been in decline in recent decades, it’s still a powerful force in many communities.

By and large, most religious people are every bit as ordinary and decent as non-religious people. They live their lives, love their families, and generally go about their business. For some, their religion generally enriches their lives and that’s a good thing. I know plenty of people like that.

However, this is not about them.

This is about those who take religious ideology to a dangerous and damaging extreme.

I’ve talked about this kind of extremism before. It has led to some legitimately harmful trends. In some cases, it has the potential to be an existential threat to the world at large. While any ideology can be taken to a harmful extreme, religion can be uniquely damaging because it deals in abstracts, beliefs, and spirituality.

There are things you can’t touch, measure, or quantify. As a result, they’re incredibly difficult to contest and argue against. You can give someone all the irrefutable evidence in the world. If their preferred holy book or cult leader says the world is made of cheese, that’s what they’ll believe and they’ll cling to that belief with all their might.

This sort of thing manifests most prominently in cults. Now, not every cult is religious in nature, but religion is often a powerful driving force in many. Most of the cults that make the news for all the wrong reasons were religious in nature.

How people end up in these cults varies. You can listen to former cult members from all walks of life and get a different perspective for how they fell into it, how they got out, and why they became so captivated. These stories are quite harrowing and I encourage everyone to seek them out. They have many lessons to offer.

Following these stories may also make you wonder what sets a cult apart from a traditional religion. Like I said before, most religious people don’t conduct themselves in the way cult members do. On top of that, those who are in a cult probably don’t think they are. To them, this is their normal, skewed as it might be.

Given how diverse cults can be, it’s not easy to determine when a certain religion or ideology has crosses that threshold. Some argue that certain Christian denominations and political movements are cults, but usually as a means of insult or denigration.

Thankfully, people far smarter than me have given this subject much more thought and study. There’s one particular model out there that I find to be quite useful in discerning cults from ordinary religious activity.

It’s called the B.I.T.E model. Developed by Steven Hassan, a mental health professional who has studied behavioral control tactics, it’s a handy tool for assessing the cult-like structure of both religious and political ideologies.

The model and the name are an acronym for four general patterns of behavior that tend to manifest in cults. They are as follows:

Behavior Control: Involves regulation and micromanagement of peoples’ behavior from how they dress, how they eat, and what they do with their time.

Information Control: Involves organized efforts to withhold, distort, or manage the information people see in terms of knowledge, news, and education.

Thought Control: Involves organized efforts to shape opinions and worldviews of everything from their moral code to the language they use. The ultimate goal is to instill a warped view of reality.

Emotion Control: Involves manipulating and channeling a wide range of feelings, both positive and negative. The result is often involves instilling fear of outsiders and any differing opinions, as well as a sense of worthlessness that only the organization can help them resolve.

It’s not a perfect model, but it’s one of the simplest and most comprehensive to date. The model is structured in a way to include both religious and non-religious ideologies. If you were to apply this model to organizations like NXVIM or basic personality cults, it would check the same boxes as any religious cult.

At the same time, it also helps highlight how certain religious and political ideologies do not count as cults. Some may fit certain parts of the model, but not all. For something to really be a full-fledged cult, it needs to check all four bases and in a meaningful way. That also helps sift through instances where someone tries to call something a cult as an insult.

With this model in mind, I encourage everyone to use it to evaluate their own religious or political affiliation. That may not be easy. Like I said, people in cults usually don’t think they’re in a cult. Many don’t even realize how deep they were into it until they leave.

That makes self-assessment of your beliefs and affiliations that much more critical. The B.I.T.E model might not be perfect, but it is both useful and insightful. We all need to be critical of our beliefs. Given how dangerous certain cults can be, it’s important we know the signs before it’s too late.

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Why You Should Get A Yearly Flu Shot (And My Worst Experience With The Flu)

Should you get a flu shot this year? | India News,The Indian Express

For the past year, I’ve gone out of my way to urge people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 while also pointing out why anti-vaxx arguments are ridiculously stupid. Honestly, I’m sick of doing that and I’m sick of talking about this. I wish getting a vaccine didn’t have to be a point of contention, but that’s just the state of the world we live in.

Again, get vaccinated people. You’ll end this pandemic and save lives in the process.

That being said, I’d like to add another layer to this effort. It’s not quite as dire as the current situation with COVID-19, but it’s still relevant, given that it involves our health and ways we can improve it. It has to do flu shots.

Now, let me start by making clear that the flu is not as serious as COVID-19. Despite the claims of certain misinformed pundits, the typical flu is less likely to kill you than COVID-19. You still don’t want to get either because even if it doesn’t kill you, having the flu is an awful experience.

You feel like crap for almost an entire week.

You can barely eat anything and even when you do, it’s hard to keep down.

Your face is flushed all the time, your nose is stuffy, your throat is sore, and your head won’t stop pounding from the inside.

It’s just an all-around bad time for you and your body. If you’re older or happen to be in poor health, it can be even more serious. People do die because of the flu and it’s not a trivial figure, either.

That’s why I encourage everyone to get a yearly flu shot, especially this year. Last year was bad enough, but this year is even more critical. Now that lockdowns are over and people are trying to live life as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, the flu is likely to make a comeback.

As such, if you can get a flu shot, do what you have to do in order to get it. Do it for yourself and your family. I certainly plan on doing so. If you need information on doing so, the CDC has an entire section of their website dedicated to it.

It’s not a conspiracy.

It’s not an agenda.

It’s just a shot that’ll protect you from another disease you don’t want to get.

To further reinforce that point, I’d like to share a quick story about the worst flu I ever got and how it affected my attitudes towards flu shots. It’s not a very pleasant story, but I hope it gets the point across as to why flu shots are critical.

To set the stage and context, this occurred back when I was in the seventh grade. At this point in my life, I wasn’t in great shape overall. However, aside from bad allergies and acne, I was in generally good health. I hadn’t been seriously sick beyond a common cold in years. As a result, I saw little need for flu shots.

Then, one evening, I started feeling a little ill. I can remember exactly when it happened. It was around 7:00 p.m. one evening. I’d finished dinner and my folks were watching TV. It started with a sore throat and a cough, but it was nothing I hadn’t dealt with before. I thought I’d feel fine after I slept it off.

I was very wrong.

When I woke up the next morning, I felt terrible. My joints hurt, my head hurt, my sinuses were stuffed up, and I was so weak you could knock me over with a feather. I don’t remember looking in the mirror that morning, but I’m pretty sure I looked like hell.

Despite all that, I still thought I could make it to school that day. I thought it was just something that would wear off after I got going. I made an effort to get dressed, get some breakfast, and walk to school. My mother kept encouraging me not to, but I didn’t listen.

In hindsight, this was a terrible decision.

I managed to make it to school. But just as my first class began, my body just gave out. I couldn’t keep my head up and I couldn’t focus. My teacher naturally sent me to the school clinic. Once there, the nurse said I had a 101-degree fever. That’s pretty bad, even for a seventh grader.

My mom had to come and pick me up. To her credit, she didn’t say, “I told you so.” She just took me home, laid me down on the couch, gave me some medicine, and let me sleep.

The next few days sucked, but they weren’t nearly s bad as the first. I was so weak, tired, and sickly that I couldn’t do much aside from watch TV. At one point, I ran out of favorite movies to watch. I tried playing video games, but my head was in such a fog that I didn’t have much fun.

It was just such a terrible experience overall. Even after I got better, I made it a point to take the flu serious from that day forward. I always got a flu shot when it was available. I also took my health a bit more seriously, even though I wouldn’t get in shape until years later. I think that experience helped inform future health habits that have stuck with me to this day.

I still wish I didn’t have to go through that to learn the value of good health and flu shots. I certainly don’t want anyone to have to learn those hard lessons like I did. Even if the flu is not life-threatening, it’s just not an experience you want to have.

So please, if you can, get a flu shot this year.

Get one every year if you can. Take it from someone who learned the hard way. Having the flu sucks. A vaccine can help protect you from it and after living through a pandemic, we should all make the effort.

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A Quick Personal Story About Driving Through Snow (And Energy Drinks)

How to Drive in the Snow: All the Equipment and Tips You Need | WIRED

We all have certain stories from our lives that stand out for no particular reason. They aren’t life defining moments like graduating school, falling in love, or eating your first Krispy Kreme donut. For reasons that are just completely unknowable, you remember them so vividly.

I’ve shared a few personal stories in the past. Some are more dramatic than others. Some were just funny and worth sharing. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how to classify the one I’m about to share. I just think it’s worth sharing because it’s just one of those stories that really sticks out. Hopefully, you’ll see why when I tell it.

Like all my personal stories, I need to establish a little context. This story takes place just a few years after I got out of college. I’m at an interesting point of transition in my adult life. I’m still living at home, but I have a stable, well-paying job that has allowed me to amass some regular income.

I also have my first car, which is a big deal for anyone in their mid-20s. I’m still getting used to the idea of being able to just go out on my own at any time I want. Before then, I was at the mercy of bus schedules and whether my parents would let me borrow one of their cars.

Then, one day, I met up with one of my cousins. She and her boyfriend at the time were living about an hour-and-a-half away from where I was at the time. This is someone who has known me my entire life. She also knew how socially awkward I was and how hard I was struggling to come out of my shell.

Being the wonderful cousin she was, she invited me to hang out with her and her husband one night. Unlike other meetings, I wouldn’t be with other friends or relatives. It was just us, sharing a night on the town, enjoying ourselves on our own terms. It was a bit daunting at first, but she convinced me to try it.

Now, what we did on that outing is another story altogether. The most I’ll say is that we had a great time. She took me to this cool restaurant where we met up with her friends. She then took me to this nightclub where we just danced and hung out. In terms of a night out, it was probably the most fun I’d had since I graduated college.

The real story begins when it gets really late and I’m wondering whether I should drive home. As it just so happened, this was early March and it was still fairly cold out. On top of that, there was some snow in the forecast. It even started snowing lightly while we were on our way back to my cousin’s apartment.

At one point, I’m debating if I should stay the night. They had offered me a chance to stay on the couch and that had been my original plan. However, the forecast kept getting worse as the night went on. I was concerned I might be snowed in and their apartment wasn’t exactly built for guests.

After some back-and-forth, I decide to try and drive home before the storm rolls in. Keep in mind, this is about 2:30 in the morning. It’s the latest I’ve ever driven anywhere, let alone an hour-and-a-half away from home.

Again, it was pretty daunting. Then again, driving on a snowy road in the morning is just as daunting.

Since it’s so late, I’m concerned about staying alert and so is my cousin. That’s when she offers me a couple of Monster Energy Drinks. I’m not talking about the small, discount size, either. These are full-sized cans. Typically, you only need to drink one. Me being so concerned, I decided to have two.

At this point, I’d like to offer a bit of advice to everyone. Do not drink two oversized energy drinks. Just don’t. They’re not good for you.

This is something I had to learn for myself. With flurries still coming down and the roads getting worse, I say goodbye to my cousin. I then get in my car, which is still very new to me, and start making the trip back home at nearly 3:00 in the morning.

Of all the experiences I had that night, this might have been the most jarring. It was genuinely strange, being on the road so late. I wasn’t used to seeing so few cars. There were times when I would drive down large stretches of highway and only see a couple cars pass by. Some of that might have been because of the weather, but it was still a strange feeling.

I grew up outside of major metropolitan areas. I’m used to traffic and traffic jams at all hours. I had never been out at a time when there was so little traffic. It was kind of nice on some levels, but given the late hour and the weather, it was also kind of spooky.

Then, the energy drinks kicked in. Remember, I had two of them, so the effects were definitely noticeable.

On some levels, they did exactly what I wanted. They kept me alert. The problem is, they kept me really alert. I was so alert during that drive that I felt like I was performing brain surgery on the President. I didn’t relax, even during long stretches on the highway. I physically couldn’t. That’s how wired I was.

The weather didn’t get much better, either. The closer I got to home, the worse the storm got. By the time I was on familiar streets, the roads were pretty slick. I drove slower than usual, despite being so alert. I was almost paranoid to go too fast.

Eventually, I do make it home. By then, it’s about 4:30 in the morning. The snow is still coming down and the streets are covered in ice. It’s quite a sight, but what I remember most is just parking my car and feeling like I finished a harrowing adventure. I was both relieved and elated, although some of that might have been because of the energy drinks.

I’m still a bit too wired to sleep at this point, but I ultimately crash after just a half-hour. However, this is no ordinary crash. Coming down from two Monster Energy Drinks is not like coming down from a few two many sugar cookies. I crashed hard.

I remember getting really dazed and drowsy. Then, my ears start burning and my face gets flushed. I then collapse on my bed and go to sleep. When I wake up a few hours later, I have a pounding headache, which I basically spend the rest of the day sleeping off. My whole internal clock gets messed up, as a result. I need the rest of the weekend, just to re-balance myself.

As stressful and harrowing as that night was, I’m still glad I did it. I’m grateful that my cousin went out of her way for me like that. Now, in hindsight, I would not have chugged two full energy drinks. That would’ve spared me the pounding headache later.

Even so, the experience was worth the discomfort. I still don’t entirely know why this story stands out as much as it does for me. I just thought it was worth sharing. If nothing else, I hope it dissuades anyone from chugging too many energy drinks at 2:30 in the morning.

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A New COVID-19 Variant Is Emerging (So Get Vaccinated!)

White House imposes travel restrictions for Africa amid new COVID-19 variant  - Kansas Reflector

I’m so sick of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I don’t think that’s a controversial opinion at this point. It’s been almost two years of lockdowns, protocols, testing, and panic. In that time, millions have gotten sick and thousands have died. It’s hard to wrap our heads around that kind of loss. We can’t hope to understand what it’s like for those suffering this terrible illness or the pain their families feel when they lose someone.

It doesn’t matter what you’re politics are or how much you hate mask requirements. This pandemic has been a disaster wrapped with multiple layers of tragedy. Even though we have better treatments and multiple vaccines, it’s still raging. It’s unavoidable that more people will suffer and die.

To make matters worse, we were on the path to ending this pandemic. There was a brief period during the summer when it looked like it was over. We had beaten this virus and everything could go back to normal. Then, a variant emerged and the disease came roaring back. It certainly didn’t help that assholes, frauds, grifters, and liars got people killed by convincing one too many people to not get the vaccine.

We’re all getting a painful lesson in biology and evolution. Sadly, some of the idiots and assholes who are behind the denialism and conspiracy theories don’t even believe in evolution. That’s a problem because it’s still very real, especially in viruses.

From an evolutionary perspective, the old saying of what kills you makes you stronger is bullshit, at least with respect to viruses. It would be more accurate to say that what doesn’t kill you mutates, adapts, and tris again. Give it one too many opportunities and it will succeed. Viruses don’t care about your politics, your beliefs, or your nationality. They’re just microscopic terminators whose sole purpose is to infect and propagate.

Now, thanks to all the hesitancy and the undermining of public health, the COVID-19 virus is getting way more opportunities than it should’ve. It mutated once before to become more infectious. Recently, we learned that it has mutated again into a new variant. It’s called the Omicron Variant. It’s no a Transformer. It’s potentially a very dangerous turn for this disease that has already caused so much suffering.

While a part of me is tempted to panic, I think it’s important to maintain a balanced perspective. It’s not helpful to assume the worst or the best. Hell, that’s a big part of what made this pandemic so devastating in the first place. At most, we should be concerned about this new variant.

I’m certainly no expert and I have no business predicting how bad this new variant will be. I’m also aware that there are many mixed messages coming from various media outlets, many of which are not reliable. So, in the interest of offering some information with as little bias as possible, here is a brief piece about what we currently know about this variant from NPR.

NPR: What to know about omicron, the new COVID variant

The World Health Organization announced Friday that it deems this strain, B.1.1.529, a variant of concern, and has named it omicron. It’s the first new variant of concern since delta.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday night that no cases of omicron have been identified to date in the U.S., but that the agency has surveillance systems in place and it expects the variant will be identified quickly if it emerges in the U.S.

Here’s what we know so far about the new variant — and what we don’t.

The omicron variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges have been, suggesting it may have advantages over other variants.

The WHO says that the detection of the variant in South Africa coincided with a steep increase in cases there and that its prevalence is increasing in almost all provinces of the country. The variant has caused a particularly sharp rise in cases in the city of Pretoria, where it went from being essentially undetectable several weeks ago to now dominating the outbreak in a major city. Cases have also cropped up in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel during a relatively short period of time.

Why is it spreading so fast?

Scientists don’t know yet, but they believe it has to do with the variant’s mutations. “This variant has a large number of mutations. And those mutations have some worrying characteristics,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove with the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, in a video statement. Scientists say the variant has a number of mutations that are known to boost transmissibility and others that can help the virus infect cells more easily.

Still, scientists caution that there isn’t enough data yet to know for sure whether that’s the case.

What about the vaccines? Are there any signs the vaccine will be less effective against this variant?

There are hints in the virus’s genes that vaccines could be less effective against it and that there there could be a higher risk of reinfections.

But in an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said: “Let me be clear, there is no data at the present time to indicate that the current vaccines would not work.”

The concern here is based on the fact that some of omicron’s mutations are ones that are already known to help the virus evade the immune system — to resist antibodies and avoid detection by some of the body’s front-line defenders.

But again, scientists don’t have enough data to say for sure.

I bolded that last sentence. That’s an important detail to remember. We just don’t know all the facts yet about this variant. As a result, people are going to make assumptions and asshole grifters will try to fill in those gaps with their agenda. I know it’s tempting to latch onto whatever information feels right, but that’s exactly why you should make the effort.

Don’t make too many assumptions.

Don’t get sucked into conspiracies, hashtags, and social media trends.

Wait for people who actually study viruses for a living to provide accurate information. Then, you can decide for yourself how much or how little you should worry.

In the meantime, and I’ll keep belaboring this for as long as I have to, get vaccinated! It’s because not enough people have gotten vaccinated that we’re in this situation. The longer we hesitate, the more opportunities we’ll give to this virus. Eventually, it’ll evolve to a point where we can’t fight it and we’ll be right back at square one or worse.

I don’t want that.

You don’t want that.

Nobody wants that.

This world has suffered enough from this pandemic. The best thing you can do is not make crazy assumptions before we know more about this variant and get vaccinated if you haven’t already. We can still end this pandemic, but only if we’re willing to adapt.

If we don’t, then the virus will. That is the only assumption we can safely make.

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I Got My COVID-19 Booster Shot (And Why You Should Get One Too)

COVID Booster Shot: Do I Need It?

I know it’s been a while since I talked about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In general, I’ve avoided it, but not because I think it’s over or that it isn’t a problem. It definitely is. If anyone out there claims the pandemic is over, they’re lying to you. It’s still happening. It’s still killing people and it’ll likely kill a lot more people in the coming years, thanks largely to idiots who refuse to follow basic medical science.

Now, I’m as sick of this plague as everyone else. I’m sick of having to wear masks in public places and freaking out every time someone starts coughing near me. However, I understand that we’re not going to get out of this by fuming about it. We actually have to make an effort.

To that end, I recently got myself a COVID-19 booster shot.

This is something I encourage everyone else to do if they’re eligible. You may not think you need it. If you’re young and relatively healthy, chances are you don’t need it as much as someone who has other health issues. They should definitely get it first. However, if you get a chance to get one, as I did, I encourage you to take it.

In a sense, I’m very lucky. One of the vaccination sites near my home really ramped up their operations after the vaccines were authorized for children. That same site was already doing boosters, but they didn’t have enough supply for anyone outside individuals who fit a certain criteria, namely health care workers and the elderly.

Once they got a fresh supply in, they opened up appointments for a lot more people. I decided to make one, largely at the advice of my parents and my doctor. It was a bit tricky, but I managed to get one and it went as smoothly as I could’ve hoped.

Since I got the two-shot vaccine from Pfizer earlier this year, that’s the same shot I got this time. Just like last time, the side-effects were mild. My arm hurt for a while. I had a bit of a headache, as well. It was nothing I couldn’t handle. I even went to the gym the same day I got the shot.

It was also refreshing to see so many kids getting their shots, as well. Most were really brave about it. I even saw a couple of kids playing catch with a tennis ball after they got their shots. They’re tougher than any anti-vaxx conspiracy theorist will ever be.

I know vaccines are still a politically charged issue and for all the wrong reasons. I could spend hours on end talking about the sheer absurdity of those politics, but I’ll save that for another time.

For now, I just want to encourage everyone out there to get their booster shot if they can. If you’re as sick of this pandemic as I am, then this is what you have to do to help end it. Get out there, get your shot, and help end this stubborn disease. I got it and I feel great. Please do your part and the world, as we know it, can keep healing.

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Whistleblower Confirms That Facebook Is Harmful: So What Do We Do About It?

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There are certain products in this world that we know are harmful, but use them anyway. Cars kill thousands every year through traffic accidents. Thousands die every year by overdosing on drugs that were legally prescribed to them. However, we still use these products because they are essential for our way of life.

With that in mind, I think most people already know that certain social media platforms, such as Facebook, can be harmful. You don’t need to look that hard to find harmful or damaging misinformation on Facebook. Having been in college at the time Facebook really took off, I think most people understood to some extent that this product could be used for immense harm.

So, was it really that surprising when a whistleblower came out and revealed just how much Facebook was aware of the damage they were doing? Just like tobacco companies before them, they could see that harm unfolding in real time. They just weren’t willing to take the kinds of steps that would hinder their profits.

They’re a multi-billion dollar business. They want to keep making billions for years to come. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. That’s the nature/flaw of capitalism.

In case you haven’t been following this story, the fallout from this whistleblower’s revelations are still unfolding. If you want details on the story, here is what NPR reported:

NPR: Whistleblower to Congress: Facebook products harm children and weaken democracy

Facebook’s products “harm children, stoke division, weaken our democracy and much more,” Frances Haugen, the former Facebook employee who leaked tens of thousands of pages of internal documents, will tell lawmakers on Tuesday.

“When we realized tobacco companies were hiding the harms [they] caused, the government took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seat belts, the government took action,” she will say, according to her prepared testimony. “I implore you to do the same here.”

Haugen will urge lawmakers to take action to rein in Facebook, because, she says, it won’t do so on its own. “The company’s leadership knows ways to make Facebook and Instagram safer and won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their immense profits before people,” she will say.

There’s much more to the article, but I singled out this excerpt because it effectively sums up the situation. Again, most reasonable people probably suspected that a platform like Facebook was doing real harm to public discourse and the psychology of teenagers, especially girls. It’s still nice to have confirmation.

As someone who uses Facebook, I can attest to its harms. There is some pretty toxic crap throughout the site, as well as some equally toxic people. Sadly, some of that toxicity comes from friends and relatives sharing content, often of a political nature, that gets people upset and outraged. That’s not a bug, either. According to the whistleblower, that’s entirely on purpose.

Now, in the interest of maintaining some kind of perspective, I’m inclined to remind everyone where that content on Facebook comes from. Remember, they’re not the one’s producing it. They’re just the platform. It’s the users and the people who are creating that. It’s people willing to lie, denigrate, demean, and troll who create the content that makes Facebook and social media so toxic.

To blame Facebook entirely for these harms is like blaming car manufacturers for traffic fatalities. At the end of the day, the car itself doesn’t cause the harm. It’s the person using it.

That being said, Facebook is not a car, nor should we treat it like one. It’s also not a tobacco company and we shouldn’t treat it like that, either. Facebook doesn’t create a tangible product that we can hold in our hands to harm ourselves, nor is it a chemical we willingly put in our bodies. It’s a digital service that we engage with and, in turn, it engages with us.

From that exchange, real harm is possible. This whistleblower confirms that and, based on the available information, I think the data presented is valid. That still leaves one question to ponder.

What do we do about Facebook and other companies like it?

That’s still an unresolved question and one that too many people try to answer bluntly. Shortly after this story came out, the ever-popular #DeleteFacebook hashtag started trending. However, I doubt anything will come of that. I’ve seen that hashtag trend on multiple occasions and it has done little to affect Facebook’s growth.

These revelations are bad, but I doubt they’ll be enough to bring Facebook down completely. They may lose subscribers and revenue in the short-term, but they’ll adapt and grow in the long run. You don’t become a multi-billion dollar company without being able to adapt in lieu of bad press.

At the same time, I think we should take some action to mitigate the impact of Facebook and social media. What could that entail? I’m not smart enough to offer a comprehensive answer, but I do know the extremes people are throwing around just won’t work.

For one, Facebook can’t be banned or shuttered. It makes too much money and it would set a dangerous precedent for every business, online or otherwise. It’s also probably grossly unconstitutional, at least in western democracies like the United States and Britain.

Even if it were banned, people would find a way to get around it. Just look at the countries that have tried to ban porn. People still find a way to get it.

Others have thrown around ideas like splitting up Facebook, just like America once did with oil companies and phone companies. That would certainly be extreme and there are precedents for doing so. However, would that really change how Facebook and social media are utilized by real people? Would those not satisfied with the newly broken up Facebook simply create something similar under a different name?

The most logical recourse might just involve demanding that Facebook make the changes they refused to make, according to the whistleblower. They could also be subject to major fines and taxes, as we’ve done before with tobacco. Will those measures be effective? I don’t know, but I’m skeptical, to say the least.

I honestly don’t think there’s an easy answer to the question. I also think that, even if governments did implement new measures on social media companies to combat their harms, both the companies and the users would find a way around it. Both sides are just too motivated at this point.

I still believe there’s a better solution. I just don’t know what it is and if anyone has one to offer, please share it in the comments. In the meantime, I guess the best recourse we can all do is to just be careful about what we place on Facebook and be more mindful of the content we consume.

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Rethinking Jobs And Business: How Pandemics And Relief Benefits May Change Both

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The world is always changing. That’s the only constant.

Sometimes, it changes more rapidly and chaotically than usual. That tends to happen a lot when major events transpire, such as a once-in-a-generation pandemic that infected millions and shut down entire countries. I hope I don’t have to belabor that to anyone with a news feed for the past year.

At the same time, these kinds of rapid upheavals can get us thinking harder about things we tend not to question. I’m not just talking about how much we take our health, our infrastructure, and our essential workers for granted. I’m referring to bigger concepts about how we approach life, society, and how we structure our lives.

One area that seems to be getting more scrutiny lately is how we approach jobs, work, and careers. I’ve certainly given it more thought, mostly in terms of the impacts of telework and how I used my stimulus check. I suspect many others have contemplated these topics in new ways in wake of recent events.

Now, as the pandemic nears its end, some of those concepts are already manifesting in the real world. One effect, in particular, has been especially jarring in America, mostly for reasons that other industrialized countries may find laughable. It has to do with people not wanting to work for a lousy, unlivable wage.

I know that shouldn’t be such a radical concept, but it is and as a proud American, I find it infuriating. There’s no getting around it. The ages for the average, non-CEO American have been stagnant for decades. It’s an issue that has been festering since long before the pandemic and even before I was born.

Before the pandemic swept in, there was an ongoing debate on whether the minimum wage should be increased to $15 nationally. I won’t get too heavily into the politics and talking points behind it, mostly because it ultimately descends into cycle of speculation and fallacies. I’ll just say that the pandemic has complicated that debate in unexpected ways.

During the height of the pandemic, the economy was basically shut down. Suddenly, millions were out of work and businesses had to shut down. Many still haven’t fully recovered. A big reason why many didn’t starve to death or end up on the streets was because of government relief packages, which included extended unemployment benefits.

While America’s relief package wasn’t nearly as generous as other countries, it was certainly better than nothing. I know plenty of people who genuinely needed that relief to stay afloat in terms of paying bills and feeding their families. It’s also not unreasonable to say that this was a critical measure in terms of preventing the pandemic from getting even worse.

However, this effort revealed something remarkable. According to a study done last year, the unemployment benefits that many workers received was actually better than their previous wages. It wasn’t an insignificant chunk of the work force, either. The benefits were greater for approximately 68 percent of American workers.

What does that say about the wages we’re paying our workers?

Moreover, what does that say about the system in general that workers can make more by not working than they would if they were?

Something about that doesn’t add up, literally and conceptually. I get that this was an unprecedented situation. At the same time, it reveal something about how we see work and workers. It’s something businesses are starting to realize too.

As the country and the world opens up, new job opportunities are arising. That’s good news for those who have been out of work. Unfortunately, those same businesses are having a hard time filling those positions.

The jobs are there.

The workers are there.

They just aren’t gravitating towards one another.

Here’s a brief rundown of the situation, courtesy of NPR. If you haven’t been working or are lucky enough to have kept your job during the pandemic, it should offer some insight and perspective.

NPR: Millions Are Out Of A Job. Yet Some Employers Wonder: Why Can’t I Find Workers?

At a time when millions of Americans are unemployed, businessman Bill Martin has a head-scratching problem: He’s got plenty of jobs but few people willing to take them.

“I keep hearing about all the unemployed people,” Martin says. “I certainly can’t find any of those folks.”

Martin helps run M.A. Industries, a plastics manufacturing company in Peachtree City, Ga. The company makes products used in the medical industry — specifically, in things like coronavirus tests and vaccine manufacturing and development.

But as he struggles to keep up with demand, Martin is finding it almost impossible to find new workers.

As someone who has worked his share of lousy, low-paying jobs, I can’t say I’m surprised by this. Don’t get me wrong. I still feel for the business owners who need workers to keep things going. I just can’t forget how arduous it was, working hard at a job that paid so little and left me so exhausted at the end of the day.

If the alternative is staying home and collecting unemployment, which ultimately pays more, then the choice is easy. That’s especially true for those who have kids or relatives they need to take care of. It’s not that they’re lazy, as some overpaid pundits love pointing out. It’s just that the nature of these jobs aren’t that appealing, especially when the pay is so low.

If anything, this situation has inspired us all to take a step back and look at how we approach work, jobs, careers, and business. When you think about it, it’s a little distressing that we build so much of our lives around work. It’s not just something we do out of obligation and responsibility. Many literally have to work in order to survive.

Is that right?

Is that just?

Is that healthy for society as a whole?

I say this as someone who has been lucky enough to have jobs that I’ve both loved and hated. I know what it’s like to work for a business that you hate. I also know what it’s like to have a job you find genuinely fulfilling. Not everyone is that lucky. In fact, I suspect the vast majority of the population, even in America, never experience that luck.

I get that there are economic reasons why some businesses can’t pay their employees high wages. I’ve worked in fast food restaurants. I know the profit margins aren’t exactly large. I also know that, even when I could make more than minimum wage, it was rarely enough to live on. That’s not even factoring the physical toll some of this work takes.

Despite that toll, there was still an undeniable stigma to those who didn’t work or those who simply avoided low paying jobs. In America, it’s a direct extension of that old protestant work ethic that equates moral worth with a willingness to do backbreaking labor for minimal pay. I’m not saying that work ethic is wrong, but I do think it needs to be re-evaluated.

The pandemic suddenly gave people an option on whether or not they wanted to do these kinds of low-paying jobs. Many understandably opt to just collect unemployment. They may not live luxuriously, but they will live. In some cases, they’re even better off.

It may be a sign of things to come. I already speculated on how the pandemic relief bills could be a precursor to a universal basic income. Now that people have experienced life in which their survival isn’t directly tied to having a low-paying job, I think it’ll be difficult to back.

I also think that’s a good thing. Regardless of how you feel about minimum wages, work ethic, or running a business, I think it’s generally a positive trend that we’re starting to decouple work with the right to survive. I think it’s a trend that has to happen, especially as automation does more and more of the low-skilled labor traditionally done by human workers.

It’s true. Some people are lazy and don’t like to work. Some people are just so driven and incapable of not working. Both still deserve to live without needed a job to keep them from starving to death or losing their home. As bad as this pandemic has been, I sincerely hopes it inspires us to rethink how we structure our society. There is a better way of doing things. We should always strive to do things better. Sometimes, that means rethinking everything we’ve come to believe about work, business, and life in general.

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Gray Hairs, Getting Older, And (Evolving) Perspectives

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I’m not a young man anymore. I’ve long since accepted that. It took me a while, but it was necessary. You can’t think, act, and conduct yourself as a young person forever. Neither the human body nor the flow of time works that way.

However, as we get older, our perspectives and outlook changes. I know mine has since I was a teenager. Given how miserable I was, I kind of had to. I expect it to continue changing as I get older. I don’t know what or how much that change will entail, but I know it’s coming.

Very recently, I already saw some of those signs. About a month ago, I finally had my annual physical, which is something I encourage everyone to do, regardless of their age. A part of getting older is understanding that youth won’t keep you healthy anymore. You have to be proactive. You have to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

For the most part, I’ve put in the work. I try hard to say in shape as best I can, especially after I was so unhealthy in my youth. I won’t say I’m in perfect health. My annual physical did raise some issues, some of which have less to do with my exercise routine and more to do with my family history of illness. However, it’s what happened shortly afterwards that really stood out.

I noticed a notable increase in gray hairs.

I won’t say this freaked me out, but it was a bit jarring. I understand I’m not young anymore. Getting gray hair is an unavoidable part of getting older. I’ve seen it happen with my father, my uncles, and pretty much every older male friend. It was bound to happen to me at some point. I just didn’t expect to notice until after I turned 40.

Now, some of that might be a result of how stressful last year was. Other parts of it might have to do with a series of other big changes in my family that are too numerous to list. Whatever the cause, it’s getting more noticeable. You might not see it from afar, but trust me. I can see it every morning when I look in a bathroom mirror.

At some point, others will see it too. I won’t be able to hide my age. Nobody will ever mistake me for a guy in his 20s anymore. Honestly, I’m fine with that. The guy I was in my 20s was still a work-in-progress. That progress is far from complete, but I’m much further along now compared to where I was 10 years ago.

In that sense, gray hair almost seems like a marker of sorts. It’s a sign of how far I’ve gone in life and how strenuous it has been. I don’t doubt that I’ve had it easier than some and harder than others, but I’ve endured and learned every step of the way.

I haven’t gone as far as I could’ve. Hindsight has a tendency to reveal all the missed opportunities and avoidable mistakes we’ve made. In that respect, graying hair reminds us that we don’t have unlimited time. Moving forward, every second becomes a bit more precious. Past mistakes become bigger in some ways and smaller than others.

I’m at a point in my life where I still have the time and energy to succeed in new ways. I still want to become a successful writer. I still want to meet a beautiful woman who I can spend the rest of my life with. I still want to experience new things and cherish the activities I’ve come to love.

I just have to do those things with the knowledge that I’m not young anymore. Youthful energy will not carry me as it once did. Achieving what I hope to achieve will still take effort. However, what I lack in youthful energy, I make up for with experience, wisdom, and perspective.

The more I notice these gray hairs, the more incentive I have to keep enduring. That’s my perspective and I hope others in my position come to share it.

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