If you’ve been lying awake in bed for longer than 30 minutes, trying to go to sleep: stop lying there and go do something calming. (Day 14)

Lying there for too long not sleeping makes it more likely you’ll do the same in the future.

Do something relatively calming, but that will also get your mind off of wherever it was when you weren’t falling asleep. Reading, meditating, a brief walk, a light stack, even a not-intense tv show is fine (the blue-light filter on many tablets, or an app like f.lux is a good idea if you’re watching something). Just get out of your bed, and do something to facilitate thinking about anything else (or nothing at all).

lots of lists of “good” and “bad” foods out there for snacking: they’re a good starting point, but find out what works for you.
Milk is good for me. Too much water makes it more likely you’ll wake up in the middle of sleep, as well as making it harder to fall asleep, but being hydrated is important.

The break doesn’t have to be long, 15-30 minutes is a good lower bound, with an hour or a bit longer being the longest.

Just be comfortable, fairly calm, and give your head and body a chance to reset for another try.

Attaching a very big mental red flag to the word “should”. (Day 13, Feelings Friday!)

One of the best things i’ve done to improve my mental health was completely eliminating the use of the word “should” in my internal dialogue. It took nearly a year to get it effectively fully gone, and still is far from effortless, but I’m very happy with where I am, and the results.

Should is a shortcut for an ethical, utilitarian, or preference decision. Frequently, it was emotionally inspired: “There’s no food in the house, I should go to the grocery store.” The problem I ran into was “should” doesn’t show its work, and doesn’t give any options.

So I frequently felt emotionally trapped between “I should do X” and not *wanting* to do X, without really having a framework or perspective to resolve the conflict. As I’m sure anyone who’s been in that situation knows: it sucks, its draining, you often feel crappy no matter what you do, and you frequently pick one out of frustration or duty instead of what would’ve been best.

What worked was simply not permitting myself to use the word should at all: if it ever came up as an urge or thought, I require myself to re-word it without should. “I should go to the grocery store.” became “I am hungry and don’t want to eat anything I have here right now.” While similar problems, there is lots of space for autonomy, choice, planning, and creativity in solutions to the second, where as the should only has ‘go to grocery store’ or ‘fail’ as options.

The better framing facilitates planning: I can order pizza now, have leftovers for tomorrow lunch, and then go to the grocery store after work before dinner, which is far more convenient than going now.

It also facilitates not feeling bad about not being perfect at something you feel you should be better at, or choosing to not do something you “should” do.

Shortcuts are useful at times, but I found its *really* easy to fall back on using the “should” shortcut if you’re too worried about doing the wrong thing, or too uncertain even after reframing. And I was very surprised at how easy and efficient reframing has become after fairly moderate amounts of practice.

So give it a try the next time you feel yourself dreading something you “should” do! And if you’re struggling, message or call a friend and ask them to help you with it! (I assure you many will love to help, instead of “being bothered” by your request)

Percents in data are deceptively meaningless without good context. (Day 12, Fighting fake news)

A good habit is whenever you hear a percentage or “50 times greater” given, be skeptical. If the number sounds huge or fantastic, that should raise even more flags.

This is particularly important in our “fake news” world: recognizing likely false or misleading data isn’t easy, but is a trainable skill, and percents are very easy ways to spin data.

They’re always comparisons, so what number you’re comparing to matters a tremendous amount. “Grue-related deaths increased by 7000% this year”: did they go from 2->140, or from 10,000->700,000? Both are 7000%, but one is a concern and one is a health and safety nightmare that must be solved right now.

Is 20% a good success rate? If baseball batting average it’s bad, if it’s your annual likelihood of getting hit by a truck it’s awful. If it’s your out of hospital chance of surviving a heart attack you’re way ahead, and if it’s your chance of winning the Powerball this week you should actually buy a ticket. Context is everything!

A very important technical distinction: percentage point change vs percent change. Going from 20% voter participation to 30% is a *50%* increase, not 10%; it’s a 10 percentage point increase. Going from 70% to 80% is still 10 percentage points, but only a 14% increase. It’s absurd how often top tier, well edited media get this wrong, intentionally or otherwise.

I appreciate if this wasn’t the most exciting topic, but misrepresenting data is *how* bad news propagates, and technical knowledge is necessary to fight.

Getting good at recognizing quickly something that seems wrong, and digging/investigating a tiny bit before linking/sharing is a skill I know we can all get better at; and getting better at it will make the world a better place.

I’ve benefited greatly from leaving 10 minutes early for whatever I’m doing (Day 11)

I’m an efficiency nut. I have a stopwatch in my car, and I enjoy taking different routes and figuring out how long it takes to get various places. Little things like average and max stoplight cycle times, and how much faster or slower it is getting on a highway for 1 exit and going a longer distance, but faster.

So the natural result was me pushing preparation and travel times far to close; combined with human nature to take the most optimistic estimate (instead of the most likely), I ended up being late far more often than I would have liked.

Much of this can be solved with being more prepared and brutally honest with oneself about how long things actually take; being data driven and inhuman tools like GPS helps a ton as well.

However, giving myself ~10minutes padding for most things has been very positive. Less russ and stress means I can be a bit more relaxed and mindful about what I’m doing, and I forget or miss things less. Having the time to stop to fill up with gas before an appointment, instead of having to remember after, is nice. And being able to take an extra minute and have a proper in-passing conversation with someone you know is great as well.

But the best part, by far, is being able to sit in the car and finish listening to a song on the radio, and maybe the one after it (or the NPR piece). I’ve been continually impressed with how much the ability to do that very simple thing has improved my calmness and mood.

I believe basic firearm safety education should be taught in all schools. (Day 10)

If that sentence elicited strong negative emotions, please read all the way through before reaching final judgment.

America’s accidental firearm death and injury rate is much higher than other “industrialized” nations, and independent of any international comparisons, programs with low cost and a good chance of reducing those rates seem like an extremely worthwhile investment.

One hour a year would be sufficient: firearm safety is not particularly complicated nor time-intensive to learn. It is a skill, and all skills improve significantly with practice, but knowing the basics would be more than sufficient for the portion of the population with no intent on owning or using firearms.

For people on the “ban firearms” spectrum: no matter your current desire, we need to address issues within our current reality. And present-day America has a *lot* of firearms, and constitutional rulings as well as political will make it extremely unlikely that firearms will be going away anytime soon.

And while there are a variety of measures that can be taken to increase safety around firearms, education is a great way to get people to reduce accidents.

Not only will it help children and other individuals to know how to not harm someone when they encounter a firearm, but it will also help cultivate a level of public awareness about firearm safety, and hopefully a more honest and open culture regarding safe handling of firearms.

This isn’t a panacea which is going to make firearm accidents go away. But I’m confident its a reasonable step to reducing injuries and fatalities without ending up mired in discussions about rights, utility, militias, and that whole rabbit hole.

(On that topic: please refrain from all 2nd amendment/firearm prohibition discussions. I don’t have the energy to moderate them, and I don’t want them distracting from the discussion of this issue. I will be heavy-handed; I also promise that we’ll get to that topic, but when I have time, energy, and extremely well sourced and written pieces on it)

Feedback, direction, standards (day 9…meta mondays?)

To everyone who’s commented or sent me a message about my posts: thank you! Positive feedback, even a short “I’m enjoying what you’re writing”, really does mean a lot. And the well crafted thoughts and suggestions have been great.

Especially considering I started this endeavor not realizing I wasn’t going to be home until today due to work, which has made it a bit more difficult, and narrowed the scope of what I was willing to write about.

Which leads into the next topic: I plan on writing about far more specific political/social/science/policy issues, but care enough about providing and linking quality support and evidence that I wasn’t going to attempt that on a phone with no spare time.

As I care deeply about the content being useful and interesting, I’d love to hear people’s opinions and preferences about topics and areas they enjoy, ones they enjoy less. I obviously haven’t written very much, so this is as much a future request as a now request. And for the people who’ve already brought up topics they’re interested in, you are not forgotten!

On standards: I want these posts to continue to be a functional place for freely and safely discussing difficult topics.

So explicitly: *don’t be a dick*. Everyone’s been mostly great so far, but I want to be very clear.

Attacking people will *not* be tolerated. Ideas and specific behaviors are fair game, but be specific and factual about addressing said ideas/behaviors only. (“Cutting that guy off was unnecessarily dangerous” is okay, “You drive like a jackass” is not.)

Live well.

Engagement sword? (Day 8)

I was musing about various things a while back, and stumbled upon a fairly strange thought: i will almost certainly never be bought/given a diamond ring.

It inspired a variety of emotions, but i was impressed at the amount of sadness. It’s not like I’d been brought up to expect one in any way, but it still was surprising powerful. A part of me *really wants* the expensive bauble representing that someone thinks I’m awesome enough to spend the rest of their life with.

There’s a variety of social and gender-role related stuff there, as well, and there’s no possible way to disentangle it all here. But i do have a suggestion for an awesome patch fix:

Engagement swords! In conventional gender roles, you accept the engagement by presenting a sword in return! Can be fake/plastic/whatever, but it seems fitting, and then the guy has a symbol to wear around as well. (You can sword first, 2 swords, 2 rings, and so on for semi-conforming, or do whatever you want, obviously)

Science is hard, grindy, time consuming, and often fruitless and frustrating; we need to glorify the process and struggle, not just the idea and beneficial results. (Day 7)

It makes me happy to see so many marching for science today, but I worry that it’s like so many other things in life: investment and passion wanes quickly, actual long-term effective support difficult to secure.

Science is dropping a billion dollars and several decades of planning and effort to finally directly observe something theorized to exist nearly a century ago.

It’s sitting at a set of equipment for weeks recording measurements (and hoping your equipment is set up right and you’re not wasting your time)

It’s painstakingly cleaning and documenting said data set so other people can use it.

It’s hard work, and even more difficult, it’s uncertain work. One needs to be open to, be okay with being wrong. (Otherwise you’re doing advocacy, not science)

So please: support the search for Truth about our world as much as you can! But value and embody the underlying principles: well structured questions, the grindy process, and honest acceptance of answers.

(Please correct me if I’m wrong, or provide additional useful data if the issue is more complicated! For all posts, but explicitly practicing what one preaches is particularly pertinent presently)

Coming to terms with still loving a [harmful] ex. (Day 6… Feeling Fridays?)

I’ve stayed with some horrendously abusive and destructive people…Its been bad enough that my therapist made fun of me for having a “bad picker”. I’ve been working hard on figuring out how to not end up in another relationship with a Very Bad Person, with a decent amount of progress.

One of my biggest hang ups was dealing with still emotionally wanting to be with previous people, despite *knowing* how awful they were for and to me.

What finally cracked that open for me was framing love: “i love what has improved my life”. The one I was hung up on *had* improved parts of my life, greatly, and it *made sense* to love and want those things back.

But the overall effect she had was very net negative.

Allowing myself to really immerse myself in the parts i loved and missed helped me get a handle on those emotions. They changed from overwhelming anything else when thinking about relationships, to just a useful lens of what i enjoy, a library of happy and sad memories.

And most important, they let me align my emotions with my conscious knowledge, to hold both the awful and the amazing at the same time, and emotionally understand what i rationally already knew: on balance, it was terrible, and i deserve better.

It’s absurd that marijuana is a schedule 1 drug, and it’s possible the Controlled Substances Act has done more harm to society than any other law. (Day 5)

Even if you’re against marijuana legalization, you should be for moving it from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 under the Controlled Substances Act. The only difference between the two is Schedule 1 drugs “have no medical purpose”. Functionally, you can’t write prescriptions for Schedule 1 drugs. (Note: this is all federal law, state’s rights issues are another topic)

I’m not going to link you all the data, science, and powerful anecdotes out there proving there’s medical uses for pot. I assure you it exists; If after searching you still aren’t 100% sure it medically helps people, message me. I promise you no negativity or attacks.

I’m for legalization because prohibitions seldom work well and are always costly (won’t delve heavily into libertarian stuff due to length, it will come up in the future). I’ve talked to many who aren’t, and although i usually disagree i understand their reasons.

But keeping it Schedule 1 is the most reality denying thing I know of. And it harms everyone: perscription painkillers (all Schedule 2 or lower) are now more deadly and abuse more costly than illegal drugs.

This is a straightforward “slam dunk” that can be fixed administratively or via legislation, and would massively benefit everyone, from tax revenue, reduced load on criminal justice, and increased, legal access to an effective medication.