MonthMarch 2015

Mindful Cyborgs: AnxietyBox, Alerts, and Attention with Paul Ford

This week on Mindful Cyborgs we talk with former Harper’s editor and hobbyist programmer Paul Ford about AnxietyBox, a tool he built to help manage his own anxiety.

Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: AnxietyBox, Alerts, and Attention with Paul Ford, Part 1

Plus, I’m behind on our releases. It turns out the second part of our interview with Eleanor Saitta, in which we do a deeper dive on Nordic Larp, has been up for a couple weeks:

Why I think the anti-almond movement is overblown: beef is the real issue

I published some research I did on the water footprint of almonds compared to other foods on Medium. I’m pretty sure I messed something up, but it’s hard not to conclude that beef, not almonds, are the real issue in California’s drought.

Update: I redid the almond numbers based on a better source, and think I underestimated the amount of water per pound of almonds by about 4x. Here’s the new version of the conclusion to this piece:

There’s a pretty strong case against beef here. While almond critics like to point out that 10 percent of California’s water goes to almond farming, they don’t tend to mention that 50 percent goes towards livestock. While there’s no silver bullet answer to the drought crisis, it seems clear that best policy interventions would be those that curb beef production.

At the personal level, unless you have some medical condition that necessitates eating lots of beef, it seems hard to justify. Just cutting beef and lamb out of your diet would be almost as good as giving up meat altogether. But, as always, consult your doctor before making any sort of dietary changes.

Based on my math, almonds aren’t as bad as dairy milk or beef, but they certainly lag behind other alternatives, such as hazelnuts (which use almost as much water, but relatively little irrigation water) and coconut milk.

Those who want to err on the side of caution, but still want plant based alternatives, might consider diversifying their sources of fat. Personally, I’ve added pumpkin seeds and Oregon hazelnuts to my snack rotation, just to mix things up a little.

Full Story: Medium: Should I Quit Eating Almonds Because of the California Drought?

Please do keep on checking my math though!

Should legalizing weed be young people’s top priority?

One thing that’s bugging me about Vice‘s interview with Obama is that how dismissive the president is is about the importance of marijuana legalization.

“I understand this is important to you, but you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace,” he said. “Maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana.”

He goes on to give an answer that’s surprisingly supportive of the idea of decriminalizing pot, and that’s been grabbing headlines all day. But is it fair to say that marijuana should be at the bottom of people’s list of political priorities?

Well, first of all, I don’t think it actually is young people’s top priority, it was just the question that got asked the most online in advance of the interview. People are interested to hear what the president has to say on the matter because he talks about it a lot less than he talks about the economy and ISIS. But even if it were their top priority, would they be wrong?

Drug policy touches almost every major issue of our time, from social justice to education to, most obviously, the economy. The benefits of legalization have been discussed to death, but we’re starting to see evidence of the effectiveness in Colorado, where tax revenues are strong and unemployment is low. I wasn’t able to easily find comparable information for Washington, but if you’re interested in creating jobs and improving tax revenues, you could sure do a lot worse than legalizing weed. Then there are the social justice benefits. As the president said in the interview, drug policies disproportionately affect people of color. Legalization could improve educational opportunities, since students who with marijuana convictions can lose their financial aid. The list goes on and on.

But most importantly, it’s a concrete and achievable policy idea. It’s low hanging fruit. If I had to pick one thing to make the world a more prosperous and just place, marijuana legalization would definitely be near the top of my list of ideas, not the bottom.

Shocked, But Not Surprised

That’s how I felt when I read about the the Chicago PD’s “black sites” last week. In fact, that seems to my perpetual state these days. From drone strikes and assassinations to the Snowden documents to the Zimmerman acquittal to the ongoing, relentless harassment of women in the public sphere.

The shocks just keep mounting. A man sentenced to life in prison for delivering $20 worth of weed. Seven police officers and prosecutors lie and say a man assaulted a prosecutor. Junk science sends man to prison for life.

The truly disturbing thing about all of these things, I think, is that the perpetrators fully expected to get away with the things they did. I mean, the NSA has had whistle blower problems for 30 years. The Chicago PD knew the people they detained in their black sites wouldn’t stay there forever. Those police and prosecutors had to have known it was possible that the incident they lied about could have been filmed. But they all did — do — these things anyway. Because they know that they won’t face any serious repercussions for it. That’s the shock that just keeps reverberating.

Data-driven Introspection and Surveillance Culture with Eleanor Saitta

Latest Mindful Cyborgs:

Eleanor Saitta works professionally as a computer security expert, but more generally she “looks at how systems break” – computer, social, infrastructural, legal, and more. She comes on the show today to share a unique perspective on surveillance / security culture that we have found ourselves enmeshed in. Don’t miss this one (or part 2!).

Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Data-driven Introspection and Surveillance Culture with Eleanor Saitta

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