Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The WarehouseThe Warehouse by Rob Hart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a disturbing book. A dystopian nightmare combining today's behemoth retail companies (Amazon being the main example) with a century+ ago company town where you were a worker who never went home, because home was right there where you worked, did your shopping, found your relaxation, and all with your money going right back to your employer.

Told from the points of view of a new employee, a corporate spy, and the dying CEO who founded the company, The Warehouse paints a picture of a badly damaged world dominated by pure capitalists willing to use people as nothing more than drones. Take the worst article you've read about working conditions in one of the giant corporations of today, then imagine another 50 years of lobbyists buying favorable regulations, those companies skewing things to crush out every little bit of competition, and employees becoming desperate beyond measure for any way to survive, and there you have the world of "Cloud," the beyond-measure behemoth dominating warehouse-based, online retail sales and crushing the soul out of the world.

I don't want to say too much here, for fear of giving away something I shouldn't. But this novel has elements that should be very recognizable to anyone staying on top of the current state of our world, particularly in comparable business models. It wouldn't be hard to see things heading this way, and that's very disturbing!

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Thinking, Fast and SlowThinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thinking, Fast and Slow is an interesting book that explores the way our brains work and the way we make decisions. The information shared in its pages is worth knowing and considering. With that said, this is a book in desperate need of a strong editor. Any number of times, as the examples went on and on, I felt like begging the author to stop. The book could have been half its length and conveyed the concepts with sufficient examples to makes it points.

I went to an excellent university, and I had classes taught by people at the very top of their fields, including Nobel laureates like this author. A number weren't the best at conveying information in interesting ways. I'm afraid that's this author's affliction as well. A solid editor might have cleaned this up and made it a better book. As it is, Thinking, Fast and Slow has worthwhile information, but prepare for a long slog to get through it.

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Thursday, March 05, 2020

Artificial sweeteners are poison

Yes, I know. That headline is so shrill. I'm not a fan of people who make such pronouncements and think they have better knowledge than what many have told us (i.e., artificial sweeteners are safe). Bear with me!

First, I acknowledge that artificial sweeteners probably don't affect everyone the same way. Granted.

Now some background. Over 20 years ago, my doctor noted that, among my annual bloodwork, two liver enzymes were high. Not dangerously high, but still high. He ran tests, and we eliminated the various, scary possibilities, but we never nailed down a cause. Maybe it was because of my obesity, but it never really was nailed down. Still, I didn't worry because he--and subsequent doctors--said it wasn't a big deal. It just happens that way for some people.

Recently, I went to an endocrinologist, and I like her a lot. She's smart, clearly skillful, and she makes sense and respects what I have to say. (Some doctors are a bit condescending.) When we came to this issue, she had a different point of view. Yes, the numbers aren't very high, but having them a bit high for so long can start to do liver damage. In the end, I could wind up with cirrhosis in old age. Okay, so now she had my attention.

We talked about things that could cause this. Being heavy can be a problem, but, even though most people probably haven't noticed it because it's happened slowly, I've lost a lot of weight over the past several years. No change. So we talked about a lot of possible liver irritants, and nothing seemed to match up. Then I thought of something and asked, "Could artificial sweeteners be bothering my liver?"

She then said she wasn't sure, but it was possible. She added that, even if that isn't the cause, she would rather I stop using them, if I can manage it, or at least reduce the amount I use. But now I needed to know. Could 20+ years of my liver complaining be because of little packets of sweetener in my morning coffee and the stuff in soda?

So a couple of months ago, I stopped using them. No diet soda, no Sweet & Low, Equal or Splenda (the name of this blog notwithstanding), and I checked some of the products I consume (like FairLife protein drinks) and cut out those as well if they had artificial sweeteners.

Today, I went for follow-up blood tests. The one enzyme was down markedly and almost to the official "normal" range, while the other was fully down in the normal range. Neither number has looked this good in a very long time. Of course, that's just one round of tests. Hopefully this continues, but I'm convinced already--because nothing else changed (and the area of my liver that had been firm is now softer... yes, you can feel these things yourself), and suddenly a multi-decade problem has receded.

Please, if you can't completely cut out artificial sweeteners, cut back on them. I'm going to be one of those annoying people, because I'm convinced, they're poison!