Category Archives: health

The Human Population Has Reached 8 Billion: Thoughts, Feelings, Hopes, And (Dirty) Jokes

Recently, the human race achieved a major milestone.

According to the United Nations, the human population of this planet exceeded 8 billion for the first time.

It became official on November 15, 2022. That’s not to say the measure was precise. We are talking about global population here on a chaotic world. The best we can ever do is reasonable, educated guesses. And using that standard and the limited tools available to us, we can confidently determine that we’ve crossed that special 8 billion threshold.

We’ll probably never know who was the 8 billionth human.

We’ll probably never know where they were born, what their circumstances were, or whether they were aware of their importance.

But whoever they are, they got us to that milestone and beyond. What it means for us, as a species, is hard to quantify, even for exceptionally smart people. I don’t consider myself exceptionally smart, but I’m still going to try.

Now, it’s easy for the cynical crowd to see this milestone and say to themselves, “Just what we need. More humans on this overpopulated planet to suck more dwindling resources.” Believe me, I get that mentality. I’ve certainly shared my own growing cynicism from time to time. I think it’s largely a byproduct of getting older and being more aware of just how complicated and messy people can be.

However, as cynical as I often feel at times, I have not completely abandoned hope for humanity or our collective future. I’ve come close a few times. The events of 2020 certainly tested me. But for the moment, that hope is still intact and I think this milestone offers perspective, as well as encouragement.

For one, it definitively shows that, as bad as the COVID-19 pandemic has been these past two years, it hasn’t been apocalyptic. It did disrupt our society, our world, and our lives. But it didn’t send our entire population into a death spiral in the same mold as the plagues of the past. In another time and another era, it might have really hit our species harder, so much so that we might be in far greater danger.

But we endured. We adapted, innovated, and survived. While there are still some who insist on dragging their feet with respect to progress and modern medicine, that hasn’t completely dragged down the whole of humanity. More than anything else, it reveals just how complicated, erratic, and diverse we can be.

It’s easy to focus on the worst of humanity and get lost in the horror. I know I have. Anyone who has picked up a history book probably feels that way, too. But that just makes this milestone all the more impressive. The fact that we’ve lasted as long as we have on this planet and grown our population to this level definitely counts as an accomplishment.

On top of that, much of that growth is actually quite recent. The human species, in their most modern form, is only about 200,000 years old. And for much of that history, our population never exceeded more than a few hundred million. We didn’t cross the billion threshold until around 1800. Just 200 years later, we’ve increased that eightfold. Numerically speaking, that’s incredible growth.

If that weren’t impressive enough, consider one other factor. For the vast majority of human history, women endured the rigors of pregnancy and childbirth without the aid of modern pain killers and medicine. That’s right. We were humping and birthing millions of humans in dirty, unsanitary conditions for centuries on end. If you’re a woman who has given birth, take a moment to think about how our ancestors endured. Also take a moment to consider how many women and children died because of those challenges.

It says a lot about humanity, especially women, that we made it to this point. You need only look at some of the natural disasters this planet is capable of to appreciate what we’ve been up against during our reign on this planet. We managed to survive, thrive, and birth our way towards 8 billion people through it all.

And if you’ve got an exceptionally dirty mind, it might also belabor just how horny the human species can be. Now, I’ll try not to get too explicit.

If I had a truly dirty mind, I could joke about how the orgasm has single-handedly endured the survival of our species.

I could joke about how great sex has to be for women to endure the rigors of pregnancy and childbirth before the advent of modern medicine.

I could joke about how nature’s wrath and constant disasters hasn’t kept people from getting horny, hooking up, and birthing more equally horny humans.

I could even joke about just how much sex we, as a species, had to have in order to get to 8 billion people.

But I’m not going to. I have as dirty mind as any straight guy who writes sexy stories, but not that dirty. Instead, I’d like to offer one simple message to this mass of humanity that we’ve created.

Congratulations!

We made it. We’ve succeeded on a planet on which 99 percent of all the species that have ever existed are now extinct. We may not have been on this planet for very long, relatively speaking. But we’ve certainly left our mark, literally and figuratively.

We’ve achieved great things.

We’ve done things no species has ever done before.

We’ve literally made islands within the sea, traveled into space, and reshaped entire landscapes to our whim.

Yes, we have been irresponsible and reckless, at times.

And yes, we still have much to learn. Being a fairly young species, we’re still maturing. We’re still charting our own path. We will encounter more obstacles. We’ll also endure plenty of setbacks, some of which will leave future generations distraught and distressed.

But we are still in position to achieve so much more. We may very well be capable of succeeding in ways no previous species on this planet has ever succeeded. We may take control of our own evolution, transcend the limits of biology, and build greater wonders than we can possibly imagine.

Those reading this may not live to see it, but you will still have played a role in helping this vast species we call humanity succeed. That’s something to be proud of. But it should also grant us perspective.

We are still very vulnerable to so many dangers, some of which we create ourselves and some of which are inherent to the universe we live in. But let’s not shy away from these dangers or the challenges they bring. Let’s also not dwell incessantly on the morbid past, but let’s not forget it either.

Every individual is so complex in their own sense of being. Add 8 billion of those individuals to the mix and the complexities become exponentially greater.

But through it all, we’re still here. We still made it this far.

There’s so much more ahead of us. Let’s make our way towards it. While one human alone can only ever achieve so much. The possibilities for 8 billion humans and counting promises to be so much greater.

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My Post-Pandemic Workout Routine (And How It Came About)

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of things for a lot of people. I think that qualifies as a gross understatement. I know I’ve talked about it, lamented on it, and repeatedly insulted those who refuse to get vaccinated (which I refuse to apologize for).

Believe me, I’m sick of talking about it, too.

There are so many terrible aspects to this pandemic and it will have plenty of terrible side-effects that’ll last long after it becomes a distant memory and/or an inconvenience nuisance. It has certainly changed major aspects of my life. It has also affected so many of my friends and family, both directly and indirectly.

But rather than dwell on the drama and hardship of those stories, I’d like to share one positive effect that has persisted since the pandemic began. It has to do with how I work out and stay in shape. I’ve noted before that getting into shape was quite a journey for me, personally. I also can’t overstate how poor my health habits were for my teen years and most of my 20s. I say that because if a guy like me can get into shape, then I’m confident anyone can do the same.

For years now, I’ve been working out on a regular basis. The structure and regiment of that workout has varied over that time. It used to be that I only went to the gym once a week, but I did a half-hour run every at least three times a week.

Then, once I got better at that, I started running six days a week while going to the gym at least twice.

Then, as I continued to improve, I started going to the gym three times a week while running a half-hour to 45 minutes six times a week.

Up until the pandemic hit, that was my main regiment. And I think it worked well for me. I probably would’ve continue that routine had nothing really disrupted anything.

Then, the pandemic came along and everything got disrupted, including my workout. But because this disease was so scary and everyone became so paranoid about their health, I suddenly had even more incentive to stay in shape. Moreover, I felt motivated to push myself even more.

That ended up being a real challenge because in March 2020, the gym I always went to closed. Even the secondary gym I frequented closed. For a while, I didn’t have anywhere to work out. All I could do was go running around my neighborhood, do body weight exercises in my living room, and use some old free weights I still had lying around.

It was better than nothing, but it wasn’t ideal. I also didn’t get the same feeling I usually got when I finished my workout at the gym. That told me it just wasn’t enough.

Finally, when the gym did open on a limited basis, I was determined to catch up. So, I decided to overcompensate by going even more often than I went before the pandemic. I committed to going to the gym at least six times a week for at least an hour at each visit. I thought if I could do that for a month or so, I would be back on track.

But after that month passed, I just kept doing it. Once I got into a rhythm, I didn’t feel inclined at all to stop. Going six days a week with one rest day in the middle of the week felt great. I even felt better results. It showed in how some of my shirts started feeling tighter and how some relatives began commenting on my appearance.

It’s a good feeling. I feel stronger, healthier, and more energetic than I have at any point in my adult life. I also credit this workout routine with helping me navigate COVID-19. A great many friends and relatives have tested positive and have gotten sick. I’ve even been in close proximity to them while they were positive.

But despite that, I always tested negative. I’ve never shown any symptoms. I’m nearly certain I’ve been exposed multiple times. But I’ve never gotten sick. I think my workout regiment is as much to thank as the vaccine I took.

So, in addition to sharing my experience, I’d also like to share my routine with everyone. Please note I’m not a personal trainer or fitness guru. This is just what I do and it works for me. If you can do the same or better, then more power to you.

Pre-Workout: Stretch my arms and do lunges to stretch my quads and calves. Then, drink a cup of black coffee or an 8 ounce bottle of water.

Workout Phase 1: Do 30 minutes of cardio by either going 30 minutes on an elliptical or by running at least 30 minutes outdoors.

Workout Phase 2: Do another 30 minutes of circuit training that include the following

  • Five sets of bicep curls (5 to 8 reps a set)
  • Five sets of tricep extensions (5 to 8 reps a set)
  • Five sets of butterfly chest press (8-12 reps a set)
  • Five sets of reverse butterfly chest press (8-12 reps a set)
  • Five sets of shoulder press (8-12 reps a set)
  • Five sets of lat pulldowns (8-12 reps a set)
  • Two sets of 10 to 20 pull-ups
  • Two sets of 10 to 20 dips
  • Walk around the block (about a half-mile) to cool down

Post-workout: Drink one protein shake and another 8 ounces of water

This is my current routine. There’s a chance it might change and evolve as my health continues to evolve. I don’t deny it’s a little intense. More than one person has commented that it’s quite strenuous. I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s something I had to work towards. It took me years to get to this level where I feel comfortable and not totally drained after exercising. But again, if I can do it, then anyone can do it.

The health benefits are remarkable. In wake of a global pandemic, we all have more reasons than ever to take our health seriously. Just taking the right medicine is only part of the process. Working on your body, your mind, and everything in between is a much bigger part of that process. And I encourage everyone to begin that process if you haven’t already.

You’ll feel better.

You’ll feel stronger.

You’ll even feel sexier, but that’s just a nice bonus.

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How Dental Surgery Changed My View Of Drugs (And The Drug War)

Drugs are bad. You shouldn’t do drugs.

That was the mantra I heard every other day in school as a kid. Others my age heard it too. There were entire assemblies about drugs at least twice a year. There were regular PSA’s after some of my favorite kids shows. Every health and PE class, it seemed, took time out of their schedule to talk about the dangers of drugs.

For the most part, I listened to these message and took them seriously to some extent. However, I could never truly buy in. I’ve mentioned before how certain anti-drug programs I went through in school sent mixed messages. These days, I’ve come to see those programs and most of those anti-drug efforts to be either a waste of time, misguided, or outright deceitful.

I’ll go so far as to say that the drug war is a complete and utter failure and should be ended right now.

I’m not trying to make a political statement. I’m just trying to put my attitude towards drugs and the drug war in context. A lot factors went into this current overview. However, there was one particular experience that really re-shaped how I saw this issue. It wasn’t something I experienced in school or some life-changing PSA. It was actually a result of dental surgery.

That, in and of itself, is saying a lot because, as I’ve noted before, I despise going to the dentist.

A big part of that aversion to going has to do with some of my less-than-stellar dental health over the years. I’m not just talking about having a cavity or two. Most people deal with that. I’ve actually had a number of major dental procedures over the years. I’ve had fillings in my molars, gum grafts for my lower lip, and a whitening procedure that made my teeth hurt for days on end.

In short, I haven’t had many pleasant experiences at the dentist. In fact, most of my major medical procedures thus far have been of the oral health variety.

However, it was when I had my wisdom teeth removed that really changed my outlook on drugs. It also happened to be the most significant medical procedure I had done at that point. It marked the first procedure that required general anesthesia and recovery process. Naturally, I was nervous, but it had to be done.

For a lot of people, getting wisdom teeth removed is entirely necessary. I was among those who had to get it done as early as possible. The longer I waited, the more it would damage my teeth, my mouth, and my overall well-being. Those were my dentist’s exact words.

The experience, itself, was fairly standard. Even if I was nervous, I knew it had to be done. My mother even took time off work to take me because she knew I would be out of it for a while. However, I don’t think she knew just how much the drugs used in the procedure would effect me.

Again, this was my first major surgery and my first encounter with the powerful drugs used in said surgery. I had little experience and no tolerance, whatsoever. Naturally, I was going to react. I just didn’t know how colorful my reaction would be.

It went like this.

I sat down in a dental chair, the nurse put something over my nose, and then told me she was delivering some nitrous oxide.

I distinctly remember her putting this tiny rubber mask over my nose. I don’t remember anything three seconds after that.

The next thing I knew, it was over. I woke up, my mouth was full of gauze, and the dentist said we were done. He might have said something more, but I honestly don’t remember because I was laughing so had.

This is when I learned why nitrous oxide was also known as laughing gas. I definitely got the laughing part down.

However, I wasn’t juts laughing. I was light-headed, loopy, and just giggling like the happiest guy in the world. I don’t remember a whole lot about what I did or said, but I felt so good, despite my mouth being bloodied and sore. I’m also pretty sure I told the nurse I loved her and I might have even proposed to her. I don’t know. I’m genuinely worried that I made that nurse uncomfortable.

Also, remember that my mother is there. She has never seen me this doped up before. She had hard time not laughing. If she’s reading this right now, she might start laughing at the memory because I really was that out of it. I was so drugged up that my mother actually got my dad on the phone so he could hear me. I don’t remember what I said, but I’m pretty sure he laughed too.

Eventually, the effects did wear off. When they did, my mouth hurt. It het a lot. It was at that point when drugs stopped being funny and I realized something important.

Sometimes, you really do need drugs in order to get through something.

For me, it was serious dental surgery.

For others, it might be something else and it doesn’t always have to with medical procedures.

On top of that, these drugs work. Seriously, I do not know how I could’ve possibly endured getting my wisdom teeth removed without anesthesia. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have laughed nearly as much or flirted with the nurse.

Beyond the actual procedure, I was also prescribed some prescription strength pain killers to help with the pain afterwards. I won’t say what type of pills the were. I’ll just confirm that they were a form of opioids. Yes, they were those kinds of opioids.

I’ll also confirm that those pills worked. They were very effective at making my jaw hurt less as I recovered from the procedure. Sometimes, they worked a little too well. That was why I was generally very reluctant to take them. However, they did get the job done. Were it not for those pills, my recovery from that surgery would’ve been a lot more painful.

That’s really what it all came back to, pain and comfort. These drugs were necessary for me. They also made me feel really good while I was enduring something very distressing. That put a very different context around drugs, the drug war, and why people do drugs. Suddenly, all those anti-drug messages I got from school seemed woefully shallow.

Yes, drugs can be very dangerous and harmful. The number of people who die from overdoses is proof enough of that. However, people don’t just take drugs to overdose from them. There’s generally another reason behind it and that reason doesn’t always revolve around getting high.

While that does happen, it’s not nearly as damaging as many of those anti-drug messages claim. My experience with dental surgery gave me a taste of how pleasant it could be. I wouldn’t blame anyone at all for wanting to pursue that feeling, even if doing so came with serious risks.

More than anything else, my dental surgery experience complicated the whole issue of drugs, drug abuse, and why we wage war on drugs. The feelings I experienced, especially with the benefit of hindsight, convinced me that waging a war on drugs just isn’t winnable. These drugs work too well and people generally like to feel good. Like it or not, that’s exactly what these drugs do.

As time goes on, I’m also convinced that the drug war and the overly simplistic “drugs are bad” message is a gross oversimplification, as well as a misguided crusade. Why people do drugs varies, but let’s not avoid the truth. These drugs have potent effects and so long as people desire these effects, there will be those who seek drugs and abuse them.

To those who have only a limited understanding of drugs and drug abuse, I hope this experience helps change your perspective a bit.

Also, to that nurse who was there after I had my dental surgery, I sincerely apologize if I said anything inappropriate. It turns out nitrous oxide just has that effect on me.

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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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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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