Walking and Thinking

I don’t know why walking is so conducive to letting your brain think. Maybe it’s to do with the blood flow, or like the way sticking your tongue out helps you concentrate, the steady, regular steps allow your mind to delegate body control to some unconscious subroutine, freeing your conscious mind up to really focus.

Whatever it is, it works, and you end up feeling good physically too.

Modern Food

Industrial production of food has substantially changed what we eat. Our food has become higher quality, but in doing so it has also lost some of it’s benefits. Delilah recently sent me on a newsletter from https://www.greenearthorganics.ie/ pointing out that dirty is better – carrots covered in dirt last longer and are probably better for you (especially if they’re organic). The benefits of not being too clean are reasonably well known, but almost all food you get in a shop these days is well cleaned. I’m guessing because it lets you see what you’re buying, bruises and damaged veg can’t be hidden by mud. And I’d also say it’s to prevent short changing when goods are sold by weight – a 10Kg bag of spuds could become 8Kg of potato and 2Kg of mud and how can you tell?

So there are reasons for the cleanliness I guess, but it doesn’t detract from the benefits of the dirt, or what we’re losing through the standardisation and industrialisation of food making. So much has been changed to make food look better, last longer and be easier to prepare. Not that it’s all bad, the convenience is amazing, but it’s good to realise what we’re missing, and perhaps how we can improve things a little.

We bake our own bread when we get the time to do it, and this article (“Flour power: meet the bread heads baking a better loaf“) in the Guardian gave me some, well, food for thought, on where exactly our flour comes from and how good it is (not very).

The best thing since sliced bread turns out not to be sliced bread. Our supermarket loaf, which accounts for 80% of all the bread bought in the UK, is sweetish, soft and pappy. The ingredients listed on the plastic sleeve include added E-numbers, enzyme “improvers”, extra gluten, protein powders, fats, emulsifiers and preservatives. It is baked according to the Chorleywood process (named after the location of the lab where it was invented) developed in the 1960s for speed, from grain that has been milled between steel rollers, removing the germ where the oils and nutrients reside, and the bran husk where the fibre is, leaving only the endosperm, a pure starch so nutritionally void that by UK law vitamins must be added back into white flour.

Mechanised food factories demand ingredients that are standard, stable and easy to transport, and make products that are standard, stable and easy to transport. New wheats have been bred for high yields and high protein content that require inputs of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. To increase efficiency, hedgerows and copses have been eliminated and farmland agglomerated into increasingly larger tracts of monoculture.

We should strive for a better balance, I’m trying to incorporate better quality flours into our homemade breads for starters. The ultra industrialised flour is pretty poor in comparison, although it has the benefit of being really cheap in comparison to high-quality organic flours.

Which brings home the fact that eating quality food made at home is the province of someone with not only money but time on their hands too. There’s no easy answer to food industrialisation and monocultures – the alternatives are expensive, but perhaps there’s a third way – a mix of both surely could be achieved at less cost to the environment while not making foods overly costly?

“We are in an abusive relationship with our phones”

This is an illuminating way of looking at what the relationship really is like between us and our smartphones, and more generally with the you-are-the-product companies that provide so many of the services we use on smartphones or other devices nowadays.

What our smartphones and relationship abusers share is that they both exert power over us in a world shaped to tip the balance in their favour, and they both work really, really hard to obscure this fact and keep us confused and blaming ourselves. Here are some of the ways our unequal relationship with our smartphones is like an abusive relationship:

– They isolate us from deeper, competing relationships in favour of superficial contact — ‘user engagement’ — that keeps their hold on us strong. Working with social media, they insidiously curate our social lives, manipulating us emotionally with dark patterns to keep us scrolling.

– They tell us the onus is on us to manage their behavior. It’s our job to tiptoe around them and limit their harms. Spending too much time on a literally-designed-to-be-behaviorally-addictive phone? They send company-approved messages about our online time, but ban from their stores the apps that would really cut our use. We just need to use willpower. We just need to be good enough to deserve them.

– They betray us, leaking data / spreading secrets. What we shared privately with them is suddenly public. Sometimes this destroys lives, but hey, we only have ourselves to blame. They fight nasty and under-handed, and are so, so sorry when they get caught that we’re meant to feel bad for them. But they never truly change, and each time we take them back, we grow weaker.

– They love-bomb us when we try to break away, piling on the free data or device upgrades, making us click through page after page of dark pattern, telling us no one understands us like they do, no one else sees everything we really are, no one else will want us.

– It’s impossible to just cut them off. They’ve wormed themselves into every part of our lives, making life without them unimaginable. And anyway, the relationship is complicated. There is love in it, or there once was. Surely we can get back to that if we just manage them the way they want us to?

Nope. Our devices are basically gaslighting us. They tell us they work for and care about us, and if we just treat them right then we can learn to trust them. But all the evidence shows the opposite is true.

Maria Farrell

You need to be able to see the box you’re in before you can start thinking outside it. It doesn’t have to be this way – “to get out of an abusive relationship you first have to see it for what it is”.

via Bruce Schneier & Memex

Dalmatia’s fjaka state of mind

What a beautiful description of a state of being, languishing in the Mediterranean sun:

The Croatian poet Jakša Fiamengo said that fjaka is a specific state of mind and body. “It is like a faint unconsciousness,” he wrote, “a state beyond the self or – if you will – deeply inside the self, a special kind of general immobility, drowsiness and numbness, a weariness and indifference towards all important and ancillary needs, a lethargic stupor and general passivity on the journey to overall nothingness. The sense of time becomes lost, and its very inertness and languor give the impression of a lightweight instant. More precisely: it’s half somewhere and half nowhere, always somehow in between.”

Oh, I wish we were there : http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180118-dalmatias-fjaka-state-of-mind

Passing the Buck through Prayer

The recent Dail vote to require members to stand for the daily prayer has got me to thinking again about, well,  praying. I’ve often wondered if a strong belief in God and the power of prayer conveys a certain level of immunity from being responsible for ones’ actions. I’d often heard, and still do from time to time, that so and so is praying for this or that, or that such and such will happen, ‘God willing’. But does that belief in some way remove a little responsibility from someone to act in the here and now? 

If something doesn’t happen, then surely it was God’s will, and who are we to challenge it? If it does happen, then it too was God’s will, and isn’t he wise in his ways? 

It always felt to me like the person saying it was adding an unsaid statement that they were taking no action, God would provide. That’s just my interpretation, but the idea of deferring to some greater unaccountable authority grates on me.