Archive for September, 2019

Ouch: Employer health plans now cost over $20,000 per family.

September 30, 2019

How long until employers jump on the Medicare-for-All bandwagon?

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According to a Kaiser Foundation survey reported in the WSJ, annual health insurance premiums rose 5% in 2019 to hit $20,576 for an employer-provided family plan.

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Drilling down on the increase….

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Millennials going suburban?

September 27, 2019

That’s what the WSJ concludes based on recently released census data.

Specifically …

“Large U.S. cities lost tens of thousands of millennial and younger Gen X residents last year.

The sustained declines signal a sharp reversal from the beginning of the decade, when young adults flooded into cities and helped lead an urban revival.

New York, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Washington and Portland, Ore., were among those losing large numbers of residents in the 25 to 39 age group.”

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So, what’s going on?

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Do brain training games work?

September 26, 2019

These days many online games and apps claim to improve memory, brain processing speed, and overall problem-solving skills … and to postpone the onset of age-related memory loss.

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So, do these games work?

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Does music make you smarter … longer?

September 25, 2019

More from my summer reading on brains …

There seems to be scientific evidence that music can, in fact, make you smarter and keep your brain sharp longer as you age.

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“Basically, findings on how music affects the brain indicate that musical training—and perhaps even habitual engagement with listening to and appreciating music—can help the brain enhance its natural neuroplasticity (i.e. build “neural networks”) and improve countless abilities and cognitive skills.” Source

More specifically…

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Is your GPS dulling your brain?

September 24, 2019

Last week, we posted Digital amnesia: Is Google dulling your memory?

We argued that persistent reliance on Google searching for routine information foregoes opportunities to strengthen your brain’s memory muscles … and,  minimizes the amount of memory “dots” that you have stored — lowering the likelihood of your being able to mentally connect-the-dots to draw insights.

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Today. let’s consider another technological advance — our indispensable GPS navigation devices — and their impact on our mental dexterity.

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Is Wile E. Coyote is alive and well … and working for the Dems?

September 23, 2019

Russiagate, the Mueller fail … and now the Ukrainian whistleblower fiasco bring back memories of legendary cartoon character Wile E. Coyote.

First, some background for younger readers.

Back in the olden days, there was a cartoon series called Looney Tunes.  One of the main characters was a clever, ground-running bird named Road Runner.

Road Runner’s nemesis was a wannabe clever coyote named Wile E. Coyote (get it?).

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Wile E. spent every waking hour crafting devious plots to “get” and eat the Road Runner.

Invariably, the plots failed … and often boomeranged … inflicting deserved pain and anguish on Wile E. Coyote.

For 3 minutes of flashback entertainment, see “Wile E. Coyotes Top 10 Fails”

Looks to me like Wile E. is on the Dems payroll these days.

Evidence: the unraveling of the Ukrainian “bombshell”…

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Using Federal whistleblower statute for cover, an “intelligence officer” files a workplace complaint that President Trump threatened to cut off foreign aid to the Ukraine if the Uke Prez didn’t restart an investigation into corrupt activities by Hunter Biden — Sleepy Joe’s son.

It’s alleged that Hunter’s firm rallied some dough from the Chinese, laundered it, and plopped it into Uke energy companies.

When the Ukes started poking around, then VP Biden stepped in and threatened to pull the plug on a billion dollar loan guarantee for the Ukes unless they called off the investigative dogs who were nipping at Hunter’s heels.  They did.

Want evidence?

In a classic video appearance:

Joe Biden brags about how he threatened to pull $1 billion in loan guarantees from Ukraine if it didn’t immediately fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.

The prosecutor, who was fired, was leading a corruption investigation into a company that employed Biden’s son, Hunter.

Trump admits that he told the Uke Prez — in a top-to-top classified phone call — to re-open the probe.

The whistleblower toots to an Inspector General that Trump pulled a no-no and the impeachment lobby rallied to the cause.

But, the case seems to be unraveling.

Some reports say that the alleged incident isn’t even covered by Fed whistleblower statutes, so the process is compromised.

But, Trump offered an illegal quid pro quo … that’s a big deal and needs spotlighting, right?

Well, some folks who were listening in on the call are saying that Trump didn’t offer a quid pro quo or threaten the Uke Prez.

Did you notice the nuance?

That’s what folks who were listening in report.

Turns out that the whistleblower wasn’t even on the call.

He was simply blowing his whistle on the basis of a rumor that he heard.

Say, what?

Oh, and did I mention that the whistleblower is alleged to be a Democratic political hack?

Or, maybe it’s Wile E. Coyote.

I guess we’ll eventually find out.

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Digital amnesia: Is Google dulling your memory?

September 20, 2019

First, some background …

The tests I used to give to my students always included some questions that can reasonably be tagged “memorization”.

Some students were repulsed by them and oft-shoutdc the cultural refrain: “Don’t memorize anything that you can look up.”

The apparent thinking: You’ve only got a limited amount of space in your brain, so don’t clog it with an overload of information … only store the stuff you can’t look-up.

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What’s wrong with that argument?

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Diets: KETO vs. MIND

September 19, 2019

Earlier this week we posted that the MIND Diet is being promoted for brain-friendly nutrition.

A loyal reader asked: “I’ve been hearing a lot about the KETO diet.  How does the MIND diet compare?”

Good question.

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With the disclaimer that I’m not a nutritionist, here’s what I found…

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I do my best thinking when I sleep … another scientific rationale.

September 18, 2019

 By default, your brain “defragments” when you sleep.

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In a yesterday’s post, I reported some scientific evidence that most people really do think when they sleep.

For details, see: I do my best thinking when I’m sleeping … say, what?

Let’s take the science a step further…

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First, an analogy…

Have you ever defragmented your computer’s hard drive?

Just in case your answer is “no” – or, you’ve never heard of defragmentation – here’s a short course:

When you save a file on your computer (think: Word, Powerpoint, Excel), the file isn’t stored in one piece.

Rather, it’s automatically broken into smaller pieces … and each piece is stashed in the first place that the computer finds an open space on the hard drive.

Since the file is stored in scattered pieces, the computer has to reassemble it when you subsequently re-open the file.

That takes time … and slows the process.

There’s a process called “defragmentation” that sorts through a computer’s hard drive, eliminates “dead links” and reassembles “live” files into contiguous pieces … making the save & open processes more efficient.

Well, it turns out that your brain comes with a process analogous to defragmentation … it’s called “synaptic pruning” … and it happens automatically when you sleep.

Here’s how it works …

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I do my best thinking when I’m sleeping … say, what?

September 17, 2019

Continuing on the subject of mental health, I’ve oft noticed that I seem to do my best thinking when I’m asleep.

Specifically, I like to get on the computer as soon as I jump out of bed (literally) … and  I often find myself doing a brain dump of thoughts that weren’t top of mind before I’d gone nite-nite.

When I mention that to folks, the revelation initially gets some chuckles … then some start nodding and chiming in with “me, too” variants on the story.

Of course, some remained unconvinced.

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For the skeptics, here some science …

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Brain health: The MIND diet.

September 16, 2019

In prior posts, we’ve addressed how intermittent fasting can improve (and prolong) brain health.

See: Can fasting make you smarter? and Is breakfast over-rated?

A logical question is: “So, what to eat when not fasting?”

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The answer: The MIND Diet.

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Mental toughness: 13 things not to do!

September 13, 2019

Recent article on CNBC caught my eye.

Summarized from a book 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do

The premise: Recognizing unhealthy habits is the first step in creating positive change so you can move forward toward reaching your greatest potential.

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Gender-neutralized, here’s the author’s list of 13 things to do if you want to build constructive mental toughness…

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Can fasting make you smarter?

September 12, 2019

Let’s connect a couple of topics today…

Earlier this week, we posted how aeorobic exercise can stimulate neurogenesis — the growth of new brain cells.

And, last month, we posted that recent research suggests that intermittent fasting (e.g constrain daily eating to 8 hours – fasting for the other 16 hours) may be a better route to weight loss and improved health.

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Among the health benefits cited is lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

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More: Exercise for a stronger, sharper brain…

September 11, 2019

Yesterday we posted that you should Exercise to keep your brain alive and well…

Specifically, we reported studies demonstrating that aerobic exercise stimulates the development of new brain cells … a process called neurogenesis.

Then, yesterday afternoon, I spotted this on the wires:

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A team of German scientists concluded that improving physical fitness leads to improved cognitive ability, including elevated memory retention and superior problem solving

Specifically…

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Exercise to keep your brain alive and well…

September 10, 2019

I’ve always been interested in the brain … mostly job-related … trying to understand how students learn.

These days, my focus has become more personal: keeping my brain alive and well in retirement … dodging the dementia bullet.

Specifically, I’ve been reading up on neurogenesis (how to stimulate growth of new brain cells) and neuroplasticity (how to “rewire” your brain by building new neural pathways).

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One of my first conclusions: exercise really matters!

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Gotcha: You probably paid too much … especially if you’re bad at math.

September 9, 2019

Awhile ago, we reported a study that found when offered two deals on loose coffee beans: 33% extra free or 33% off the price, shoppers almost invariably picked  the “extra free” option.

Wrong answer.

Most shoppers considered the offers equivalent although the discount is by far the better proposition … it would take a 50% increase in the “free” quantity for the offers to be equivalent.

The researchers concluded that

Shoppers are generally bad at math … and easily succumb to the “power of free”.

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More generally, consumers are notoriously bad at spotting real values. 

According to the Atlantic ….

  • First: Consumers don’t know what the heck anything should cost, so we rely on parts of our brains that aren’t strictly quantitative.
  • Second: Although humans spend in numbered dollars, we make decisions based on clues and half-thinking that amount to innumeracy.

More specifically, here are some more ways consumers end up paying too much …

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Screen time: Seniors complain about youngsters, but…

September 6, 2019

Nielsen study upends conventional wisdom.

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Many parents and grandparents fret that  today’s youth (i.e. their kids) are screen-obsessed.

But, according to a Nielsen study channeled by The Economist, when all screens are accounted for, it’s older folk who seem most addicted.

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Let’s break down the numbers…

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Parents: Stash your cell phones !

September 5, 2019

New studies raise concerns re: “distracted parenting”.

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Lots written lately re: kids spending too much “screen time” on iPads, computers and cellphones … and too little time reading, exploring and conversing.

All true … and much concerning.

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A recent analysis in The Atlantic stipulates to the cognitive development dangers of kids spending too much time glued to screens … but concludes that “When it comes to children’s development, parents should worry less about kids’ screen time—and more about their own.”

Here’s the essence of the argument…

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For climate change zealots: More perspective on China…

September 4, 2019

As the tariff war escalates, it’s a good time to dig into the archives for some climate change perspective.

Loyal readers are familiar with the 16 Reasons why I’m lukewarm on climate change …

Note: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.

One of my reasons is particularly relevant in our current dealings with China:

Reason #10 that I’m lukewarm on climate change – Letting the perps walk

This one is pretty straightforward …

China has reached record-breaking levels of air pollution that the monitoring equipment can no longer keep track.

Unfortunately, air pollution isn’t just affecting China. Greenpeace states that India is now the world’s worst when it comes to air pollution.

The average India citizen is exposed to 5x as much air pollution as the average Chinese citizen. Source

Ouch!

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And, the revered Paris Accords won’t make things better any time soon…

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Flashback: My dumbest post ever … with a mea culpa.

September 3, 2019

Some may disagree … arguing that I’ve made some posts that were even dumber … but, in light of last week’s DOJ-IG report, I nominate my Dec. 21, 2015 post:

My nomination for President … experience, integrity, leadership.

OK, I’m ready to declare my pick for the top spot.

It’s a long-shot, especially since he’s not a declared candidate.

But I can dream, can’t I ?

I hoping that since the current field – on both sides – doesn’t have a president-ready candidate, that this guy will ride in on a white horse … or, be dragged in …. I don’t really care.

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Here’s his top line bio:

Education: William & Mary, University of Chicago Law School (doubt that he studied under Prof. Obama)

Gov’t experience: DOJ under both GOP and Dem administrations

Business experience: Worked in both the defense sector and the financial sector (not just a political hack)

Proven track record: Has been demonstrably successful in everything he has done

High Integrity: Consistently praised by both ends of the political spectrum  — not for being bi-partisan, but for being non-partisan

Apolitical: He’s clearly “in the game” for the right reasons – to serve the country and its people.

Independent: Earned enough FU-money in his real world jobs that he can’t be bought or swayed.

Orientation: “Gets it” regarding the war on terror … realistic, aggressive

Strong leadership: When the guy talks, I think he’s telling the truth and glad that he’s got a hand on the tiller (think, the polar opposite to Obama’s speech after San Bernardino.)

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Pretty solid, right?

So, who’s my pick?

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Happy Labor Day !

September 2, 2019

Time to reflect…

The unemployment rate is below 4%.

Black and Hispanic unemployment are at an all time lows

Wages have started  to creep up.

And, according to a recent Harris poll, blue collar job satisfaction is over 80%.

Thanks to all who do the heavy lifting so that I can sit back and enjoy my retirement.

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