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This is why online diet and fitness advice is so terrible

Online fitness advice is full of contradictions
You've probably noticed that the internet has a lot of completely contradictory advice when it comes to health, exercise, and fitness. Even if you dismiss articles written by obvious charlatans looking to make a buck, there are still seemingly sincere experts who all say different things. This contradiction among experts gets amplified by non-expert bloggers and journalists who, of course, indiscriminately publicize every theory they get their hands on. In the end, it just looks like nobody knows what they're talking about. So what's going on? I think there is a simple answer rooted in a basic psychological problem with how people approach the internet. Namely, not everything is about you.

Unicorns matter: why you shouldn’t laugh at philosophy you don’t understand

Unicorn Skeleton
What does it mean when you say something exists? Sometimes it means that something is out there in the physical universe. But it doesn't always mean that. Happiness surely exists, because some people are sometimes happy; but happiness could exist even if nobody were happy, couldn't it? Right triangles are another example: right triangles have a kind of reality, a kind of existence, that has nothing to do with whether anything in the physical universe has that shape. What about unicorns? Yes, unicorns. Well, they are another interesting case. It turns out that thinking about unicorns might teach you more than you ever thought possible.

The case for more feminine magic in politics

Feminity in politics
“Your political writing comes across as feminine,” he said. He meant it as an insult. His more specific criticism was that I spend too much time conceding points, demonstrating that I understand both sides, and trying to speak to people using a language and a tone that they sympathize with and understand. He said I should stop trying to reach people and simply allow my ideas to “stand up for themselves.” I suppose, at least in his view, that is what masculine political writing is: bold assertions, plain language, ideas that are devoid of subject or voice or context because they simply “stand up for themselves.” Who cares about “reaching people” when we are talking about IDEAS?

The economic logic of the plastic bag tax: it’s not just a “sin tax”

Kroger in my neighborhood in Dallas, Texas
Today I went to the grocery store. I didn't want to: it's New Years day, it's raining, and Jon and I have a cold. But we ran out of Nyquil, so something had to be done. While I was at the store, I picked up Nyquil, some chicken breast, some eggs, and two spring rolls from the nice Japanese man at his Sushi counter. I went to the self-checkout kiosk, and worked my way through it. When I tapped the screen to show that I was finished, there was a prompt I'd never seen before: "How many bags would you like to purchase?" it asked. I glanced over at my groceries, cuddled up in one of the store's plastic bags. Normally I bring my own canvas bags, but I was tired and in a rush and it slipped my mind. As of today, Dallas has instituted a Plastic Bag Tax, you see: and it had me thinking about free market economics and government regulation all the way home.

3 reasons people get mad when you say “I don’t see race”

test for colorblindness
If you have used the phrase "I don't see race!" on the internet, there is a good chance someone has either yelled at you or made fun of you. This might be confusing for you. Isn't it a good thing? Doesn't it mean that race doesn't matter to you, and you treat everyone equally? Here you are, explaining to people how non-racist you are, and people bitch at you. What gives? With racism being a big topic in the news lately, I've seen more people than usual online saying "I don't see race!" and then getting confused and offended when the reaction is... well, less than congratulatory. It's time to actually explain why people don't hear "I don't see race" as the sparkling attestation of open-mindedness that you intend it to be.

Boxers and flirting got my friend kicked out of school: the conundrum of sexual harassment

A friend of mine in college was accused of sexual harassment. Let's call him Mike (that's not his real name). Mike was six foot three, with a lean well-defined muscular body. Athletic and fit without being bulky, like a runner or a swimmer. He had tanned skin, shoulder-length shaggy hair, and a boyish face that radiated innocence and charm. He constantly smelled of patchouli, and wrote poetry in a little notebook. He was also hyper-sexual. He slept with a lot of women, and flirted with everyone. This is a story about how his sexuality and flirting got him into trouble, and lead to him sexually harassing a woman without even realizing it.

A personal view on celebrating Thanksgiving as an atheist

Secular Atheist Thanksgiving
I've always loved "The Holidays" in America: that period of time from Thanksgiving through New Years when people unironically listen to cliche music, eat food that is considered "seasonal" even though it's available year-round, and randomly decorate the crap out of every inanimate object in sight. Personally, I choose to celebrate Thanksgiving in the spirit that our modern culture intends it: a time to reflect on my good fortune. So this is a collection of some of my thoughts this morning about what I feel it means to be a secular atheist who enjoys celebrating Thanksgiving.

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