Protect Yourself from Mind Control

Mar 212012

In a comment on this post, Jason Gibson pointed to this Amazon e-book: Protect Yourself from Mind Control. And dammit, it’s hysterical!

Here’s the description:

Complete instructions for the proper construction and wear of the protective tin foil hat, including materials, the best brands and types of foils, a size chart, proper construction, safety considerations, even fashion tips! A must-have for any conspiratorial theorist, and absolutely hilarious if you’re not. Originally published as a hard-copy pamphlet-sized chapbook.

And here’s my favorite review: “This is a life saver!” by Tickleberries (5 stars):

For the last 20 years I have been making my aluminum hats wrong! All those unnessisary invasions of my mental privacy! I can not tell you how this book has helped me! All this time, I had not realized how much information was leaking out of my ears. The hat must have a way of covering the holes in your head that is closest to the brain bladder where all the words and whatnot are stored. If you have had the problem of information leakage, I suggest you read this short tutorial on how to make a “tin” hat. I’m thinking you could probably decorate it with glitter and such to make it more stylish. Gosh don’t miss this opportunity!

But, there’s a catch, as another reviewer observes:

We all know people who could use a good handbook on construction of foil hat liners. On the other hand, the people who need and want the knowledge are smart enough not to use a Kindle. It’s electronic. It even admits it transmits and receives radio waves. You might as well hire a crack addict to guard the pile of money in your apartment. No self-respecting member of the tinfoil brigade would consider owning a Kindle, even if you gave him one so he could read this book.

I’m almost tempted to buy the book, I must admit!

Two Cookbooks: Well Fed and The Healthy Gluten-Free Life

Mar 172012

I’ve had a few books in my pile to review for the past few weeks — okay… maybe a bit longer than that. I’m super-busy right now with SnowCon 2012, so I don’t have time to write as much as I’d like, but I thought that posting these two reviews would be better than nothing! (Disclosure mandated by the turds at the FTC: These books were given to me for free as review copies.)

Well Fed by Melissa “Melicious” Joulwan of The Clothes Make The Girl

Well Fed is a fabulous addition my growing collection of paleo cookbooks. Its recipes are “made with zero grains, legumes, soy, sugar, dairy, or alcohol” — which I think makes it compliant with the strict demands of the Whole 30. (Oh look, I was right! The web page for the book says: “Melissa and Dallas Hartwig of Whole9 wrote the foreword for Well Fed. And even better, they’ve given all of the Well Fed recipes (except for one dessert) their stamp of approval for happy eating during participation in the Whole30 program.”)

Also, it’s just beautifully done, with lucious pictures and sassy, easy-to-navigate design. It’s chock-full of useful tidbits like prep and cook time, good companion recipes, and more. Its tone is friendly and approachable: you feel like you’ve got a friend in the kitchen.

Mostly, I’m impressed that the recipes are not standard paleo fare: they’re a bit exotic and off-the-beaten path — and wow, they look amazingly delicious and not difficult to make. Alas, I’ve not yet had time to make any, but I will soon!

This cookbook would be particularly suitable for two kinds of people, I think: (1) anyone who has been cooking paleo for a while and wants some variety and adventure and (2) a foodie interested in eating paleo. It’s not that others won’t enjoy it — far from that — but this cookbook is definitely a must-have for the paleo foodie.

You can buy a PDF of this book for $14.99 or buy a softcover from Amazon. (If you buy the softcover, you get a coupon for the PDF for just $1.)

The Healthy Gluten-Free Life by Tammy Credicott

For me, this cookbook isn’t a great fit. Lots of its recipes use foods that I avoid, particularly gluten-free flours and sweeteners. Moreover, I’m just not interested in smoking candy cigarettes: I really enjoy full-blown paleo foods, and I don’t feel any need to make pancakes, muffins, and other baked goods. That’s mostly a problem in the breakfasts and desserts; the entrées and sides look far more appealing to me.

However, I imagine that some parents might find the recipes in this book really helpful when cooking for a family without a well-tuned paleo palate. Also, the recipes are not merely gluten-free: they’re also dairy-free, soy-free, and egg-free. If you have an egg allergy or intolerance, this cookbook might be just what you need!

This cookbook is by the same publisher as Paleo Comfort Foods and Make it Paleo. So it’s quite beautiful, with huge mouth-watering pictures. Alas, the cookbook lacks a proper table of contents, which is a huge negative. I’d love the author to post a table of contents to the web, as Paleo Comfort Foods did.

I have two other books that I’d like to review… but first, I need to find the time to read them! They are:

If you’ve read them, feel free to post your thoughts on them in the comments.

Two Book Reviews: Kids and Paleo

Mar 102012

Not too long ago, I received two books aimed at paleo kids and their parents to review. (Disclosure mandated by the turds at the FTC: These books were given to me for free as review copies.)

Alas, I disliked Paleo Pals: Jimmy and the Carrot Rocket Ship. However, I loved Eat Like a Dinosaur. Let me explain why.

Paleo Pals: Jimmy and the Carrot Rocket Ship by Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo

As you’ve probably gathered from the name, this book is a children’s story on eating paleo. I wanted to like it, but I don’t think that it does much to explain to kids what’s good about eating paleo or bad about eating the Standard American Diet. Also, I didn’t find the story compelling in itself: too much came across as propaganda, and I didn’t like that.

The two basic claims of the book about paleo are (1) that industrial food production is scarybad and farm-produced foods are goodygood and (2) that eating paleo makes you feel better, mentally and physically.

I strongly disagree with the first claim against industrial foods, and frankly, that’s not what paleo is (or should be) about. Farms can and do produce unhealthy SAD foods, and factories can produce healthy paleo foods. Similarly, “processed” foods are not inherently bad, as some people seem to think. All fermented foods — like kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut — are “processed” foods. Anything cooked is “processed.” That some food is processed — or even processed in large batches under strict conditions (i.e. industrially) — reveals little about its nutritional value. Instead, what matters is the original quality of the ingredients, and then whether the processing enhances or degrades the nutritional value of the food.

While I’m not a fan of many foods sold in America today, the fact is that industrial production is huge benefit to everyone, particularly in terms of safety and cost. Every paleo-eater depends on the industrial food system in order to eat paleo. As much as I want to see changes — including the end of all government meddling — that doesn’t justify condemning industry. I’ll just vote with my wallet.

The second major argument for paleo in the book is that eating paleo makes you feel better, mentally and physically. I agree with that, but again, the book was mostly just asserting that, rather than allowing it to emerge from the story. So it seemed like propaganda.

If you’re a paleo-eating parent, I’d recommend reading how Kelly Elmore and her daughter eat, as described in this post: My Paleo Kid. And if you have any problems or challenges, ask on the PaleoParents e-mail list.

Personally, I’d not be willing to read a child this book, purely due to to its explicit anti-industry message and seeming propagandizing.

Addendum: I’m a person with strong opinions and a blunt style, and I like that about me.  However, I tend to err in the direction of “bull in a china shop,” and that can be misunderstood by more gentle people.  Here, I don’t want my review to be taken as any kind of personal attack or global criticism of Sarah Fragoso.  I didn’t like this book, and I stand by that judgment.  Nonetheless, I respect Sarah Fragoso and her work with Everyday Paleo. I’ve never met Sarah, but her blog is awesome, and I’m more than happy to recommend it to everyone, particularly parents.  And if you found value in this book — if it helps you explain paleo to your kids and grandkids — that’s fine by me… and you’re welcome to say so in the comments.

Eat Like a Dinosaur by The Paleo Parents

I love this book! It’s a kid-friendly paleo cookbook, with over 100 gluten-free, dairy-free, legume-free recipes for kids and adults to enjoy. Every recipe has a good picture, simple instructions, and a handy icon for what kids can do. (Obviously, what kids can do will depend on their age and skills.)

Kids could easily review the recipes to decide what to cook, review and assemble the ingredients, and then do much of the cooking. It would be a great first cookbook for kids to work through, and after much cooking from it, they could easily graduate into regular adult cookbooks.

I loved the cooking that I did as a child. I only wish that I’d done more nuts-and-bolts cooking of meat and vegetables, rather than so much baking and desserts. I’d strongly encourage paleo parents to teach their children to cook… and then let the kids do the cooking!

Reading Update

Jun 062010

Here’s the latest installment of my Reading Update.

Completed Reads

  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Simon Armitage. I listened to the audiobook. I’d highly recommend the audiobook: it was an easy listen, but likely a hard read. After a helpful introduction to set the context, the audiobook contained the alliterative translation by Simon Armitage, plus the original text in Middle English. I didn’t listen to the whole reading of the original text, but it was fascinating to hear a portion of it.
  • Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter Bernstein. The first half of this book on the development of probability theory was far more interesting than the murky second half on the modern theorizing about risk in finance.

Ongoing Reads

Upcoming Reads

  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by by Stieg Larsson. I’ll be totally engrossed by this book, I know, so I don’t dare start it right now. I’m too busy!
  • I’ve downloaded more short stories and a novel by Jack London from I’ll likely listen to those between now and OCON.
  • The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. I still haven’t started this book! It might have to wait until after OCON.

Reading Update

May 302010

I didn’t read a ton while Paul and I were in New York City this past week. It was just too busy busy fun busy fun busy fun. Nonetheless, I made some headway, and here’s the latest installment of my Reading Update.

Completed Reads

  • The E-Myth Revisitedby Michael Gerber. Now I just need to implement the advice in this book, not just for my business projects but also for my activism projects too.
  • Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo, on audiobook. Wow, what an ending! It desperately needed to be cut by about a third, however.

Ongoing Reads

Upcoming Reads

  • The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. I wasn’t able to start this yet, but I hope to do so this week.

Reading Update

May 232010

Here’s my next installment of my Reading Update.

Completed Reads

  • The Luck Factor by Richard Weisman. A book by a psychologist on how to make yourself more “lucky.” The conceptual framework is completely wrong, but the advice is good. I read it in preparation for my OCON course on luck.

Current Reads

  • The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. This book is a fascinating primer on the reasons why most small businesses fail — and the meta-level approach that success requires. It’s made clear and explicit the direction in which I’ve been fumbling with my various projects over the past two years. I’ll definitely be implementing its advice, and that’s going to enable me to be so much more productive. So… watch out!
  • Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter Bernstein. It’s another book for my OCON course. So far, it’s a fascinating tour through the history of the development of probability theory. It’s not as philosophically deep as I would like, nor as well written. Still… it’s darn good.
  • Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo, on audiobook. I’ve been a bit bored with this novel, but happily, the action seems to be picking up again. I sense epic clashes in the works!
  • Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff. I just started that for 3FROG. I’ve not read it since 2003, and I’m really enjoying it so far.

Current Reads, Nothing New

Upcoming Reads

  • The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. I’m going to New York City in a few days, and I’m going to bring this book with me.

Choosing Life

Mar 192002

I recently re-listened to one of my favorite lectures, David Kelley’s Choosing Life, which delves into both the theoretical and practical implications of the choice to live within the Objectivist ethics. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the lecture is DK’s connection between serious depression, meaning in life, and the choice between life and death. But more suggestive philosophically is his distinction between achievement and experience. (Both, he argues, are necessary for a meaningful life.) The distinction paves the way for an excellent response to simple hedonism, but I wonder where else it might be of use. Unfortunately, my love of this lecture does not extend to the Q&A section, which I found to be confusing. But that is a minor flaw in an otherwise excellent lecture.

Mar 132002

Since starting work on my various projects on the virtue of honesty, I have been voraciously reading anything and everything on the subject. So I was pleased to find Paul Ekman’s book Why Kids Lie in a used bookstore recently. The book proved to be an easy read. The writing style was clear, engaging, and even friendly. But like many psychology books written in such a breezy tone, Eckman’s book fell a bit short in the substance department.

However, the book was certainly not entirely lacking. Eckman summarizes some psychological studies that I have not seen elsewhere, such as those that investigating the factors influencing children’s choices to cheat and lie. Of particular use to parents is his discussion of the evolution of children’s attitudes towards lying throughout childhood. Most children start off with the view that lying is always wrong, then slowly allow more exceptions until dishonesty is pretty much okay whenever as a teenager. And he does offer practical advice to parents of lying children.

But two failings did stand out:

First, Eckman’s understanding of the justification for honesty as a virtue is entirely limited to the argument that dishonesty destroys trust in relationships. No other reasons for honesty are given explicit attention. However, since so many lies go undetected, this argument from trust is one of the weakest arguments for honesty available. Additionally, trust works in strange and muted ways in family relationships, because the option of scaling back or terminating a relationship is simply not available as in adult relationships. Members of a family are, for the most part, stuck with each other for better or worse for many, many years. If a child betrays a parent’s trust, that parent cannot trade in their child for a new and better one. But the (limited) power of the appeal to trust comes from exactly this possibility: that our relationships might be severely hampered or even destroyed by the discovery of a lie. As a result, where children are concerned, the argument from trust really boils down to the fact that kids avoid lying for fear of being caught and punished. This sad fact certainly highlights the need for a more complete view of why honesty is a virtue.

Second, Eckman hops, skips, and jumps through important moral arguments concerning the scope of honesty as a virtue. He asserts (without much argument) that certain types of lies are acceptable, such as those told to be polite or to protect oneself from danger. Unfortunately, Eckman’s moral distinctions are fuzzy and unclear, and thus prone to expansion. We see such expansion in his teenage son Tom’s views on morally acceptable lies, as laid out rather well in Chapter Four by Tom himself. Tom argues that any lie “told for good purpose” is acceptable, including lies to “avoid getting in trouble” (109). We also see the failure of altruism to establish honesty as a virtue in his question: “As long as [a lie] doesn’t hurt anybody, what is so wrong about it?” (109). Unlike Eckman, parents need to demarcate clear moral lines with clear reasons if they wish their kids to adhere to moral principles.

For any parent trying to cope with a deceitful child, Why Kids Lie may prove useful. But don’t get your hopes up.

Mar 122002

A few days ago, I finished David Nyberg’s book The Varnished Truth. I’m going to offer a brief review here, as well as a few offhand comments.

In recent years, defending dishonesty has become rather fashionable in the philosophical and psychological literature. Within the crowd of these defenders of dishonesty, The Varnished Truth stands out as perhaps the most interesting, savvy, and sophisticated work. Nyberg’s goal is to challenge the assumption that dishonesty is always wrong and to show how deception is often a critical aspect of moral decency. In making his case, Nyberg clearly demonstrates a grasp of much of the subtlety and complexity of honesty in daily life. His style of writing is also clear and engaging, with plenty of examples. And he often lays bare his philosophical presumptions for all his readers to see, if they care to notice.

The book also presents some interesting challenges to the conventional view of honesty, such as that honesty goes hand in hand with trust in relationships (140-6). Altruism is certainly no good foundation for the virtue of honesty, as Nyberg so successfully demonstrates.

The most frustrating aspect of the book is Nyberg’s cavalier attitude, his utter lack of appreciation for the seriousness demanded by the subject. He claims that his book is “serious but not scholarly,” but the book is not nearly serious enough. Mere footnotes do not make a book serious.

In many places, it seemed as if Nyberg’s intent was to create confusion in the minds of his readers. Generating such confusion by highlighting the complexity of an ethical issue is all well and good, so long as the goal is to present a theory which helps make sense of all of that complexity. But Nyberg offers no such theory; he even seems to think it foolish to attempt one. This focus on complexity was not all bad, for it motivated me to develop my basic theory that we ought to be telling the contextually relevant truth rather than the whole truth or the technical truth. (I’ll have to write about that later.)

Those familiar with the Objectivist theory of evasion ought to be particularly interested in the chapter on self-deception. Nyberg clearly understands self-deception as evasion in the Objectivist sense. But his metaphysical subjectivism and malevolent universe premise lead him to the conclusion that such self-deception is both necessary and proper. If I ever write a mainstream academic paper on the Objectivist theory of evasion, that chapter will certainly provide many quotes.

For those of you interested in the virtue of honesty, I would recommend The Varnished Truth as part of a “know thy enemy” and “understand the complexity” strategy. But be sure to also read the discussion of honesty in Tara Smith’s Viable Values (164-174). It’s absolutely the best analysis of the virtue of honesty from an egoistic perspective available.

Thoughts on “A Life of One’s Own”

Mar 052002

I’m in the middle of David Kelley’s short book on welfare rights, A Life of One’s Own. For some silly reason, I haven’t ever read it before. It is sheer delight. For example:

In the opening pages, DK contrasts our personal to our public sense of each person’s responsibility for his own life. In our private lives, we see supporting ourselves as our own responsibility. We have to find a job, show up on time, pay our bills, feed our children, and so forth. In contrast, as a matter of public policy, we expect the government to provide these good and services for everyone. The world does not owe us a living, but the world does owe everyone a living. DK then goes on to show that similar contradictions crop up in our personal versus public views about helping those in need.

(Sadly, that summary does not come close to doing the introduction justice. The point is that the introduction lays bare a very interesting and common contradiction between what we expect of ourselves and what we expect of others.)

In general, the book exhibits the same patience and fairness found in most of DK’s work. He clearly separates his discussion of the content of the opposing ideas from his evaluation. He presents those opposing views in their most plausible form. His analysis is slow and painstaking, but crystal-clear in the end. It was this patient and fair method that first caught my attention in reading Truth and Toleration (now The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand). As I said: sheer delight!

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