The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Is Technology Harming Our Brains?

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brain rott

In our digital heavy lives today - a cocktail of TickTock, Facebook, Instagram and Google are destroying us mentally by the minute. In the past, we were were forced to use our brains extensively. From memorizing how to get to anywhere, problem solve and retain knowledge and socialize with our friends and family. With social media, everything is being replaced by a post, a text, or a Google search.

Natalie Worth makes an excellent point:

Dopamine also causes us to spend a lot of time in the limbic area of our brain, which is responsible for our emotions, instead of the pre-frontal cortex, which helps us plan for the future and problem-solve — not an ideal mix. And even worse, when we do get the chance to solve a problem, we’re offloading it to Google.


Traditionally, we learn by committing information to memory, but because we can look up any information at any time, we don’t need to retain things in our own memory. We’re offloading our retention and memory to Google. In 2011, Harvard researchers coined the term ‘The Google Effect’ when they found that when we’re faced with a difficult question or problem, instead of knowing how to answer it ourselves, we’re instead really good at knowing where to find the answer — our trusty searching tool, Google.

So what to do about this? The solution is to force yourself into using your brain for 1-2 hours a day. Solving puzzles, art, language learning, playing games or musical instruments, reading, or writing.

Basically everything we used to do before social media.

Should You Be Getting Botox?

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Botox injection sites

Inaugural edition of Jessica DeFino’s column Ask Ugly:

To self-soothe, I went home and wrote a detailed account of exactly how much time, money and effort it takes to maintain the ageless, expressionless “Instagram face” look for – roughly 16 cosmetic treatments and $17,000 a year. And that’s without 2023 inflation.

Still, understanding that the youth-centric beauty ideal is an algorithmic black hole designed to absorb my brain space didn’t make me feel better. For a long while after, I felt bad.

Who could blame me? The false equivalence “beauty = good” is everywhere: anti-ageing products are laden with religious significance – “holy grail” moisturizers, “miracle” ingredients. Anne Hathaway’s youthful appearance is credited to her “unproblematic” behavior. “You look good for your age” is a common compliment, with good meaning young – a construct designed to keep people consuming, and consumed by, a need to prove their worth.

Of course, Indigo Girl, you know this! Lots of people know this! It’s why so many are set on rebranding conventionally bad, ugly or negative traits as good, beautiful or positive traits. Stretch marks are now “warrior marks” or “earned stripes”. Wrinkles are now “signs of wisdom”. I saw an influencer refer to her forehead line as “a hard-earned mark of enduring and carrying on” the other day, and I’m sorry to her and the Indigo Girls, but I hate it so much! This “reclaiming” is not better than the original fallacy. It still frames the physical body as a marker of worth and assigns a moral value to a slab of flesh that intrinsically has none.


To answer your question, Indigo Girl, no, I don’t think you should be more proactive about anti-ageing. Not because your crow’s feet are good or beautiful or representative of some deeper wisdom, but because they come with the territory of having a body.

Taylor Swift Website 2002

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Taylor Swift

The Web Design Museum has Taylor Swift’s website from 2002 - including “dialup” and “broadband” download links to her music.

I can’t say I am a fan of her music, but I can’t deny her talent or her technical marketing savvy. Even at a young age, Swift was way beyond in marketing her music than just about anyone in the music business. I am not a bit surprised that she has surpassed 1 billion dollar net worth in jut 16 years since her debut album.

Charlie Munger Dies at 99

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Chales Munger

Andrew Ross Sorkin and Robert D. Hershey Jr., reporting for The New York Times:

Charles T. Munger, who quit a well-established law career to be Warren E. Buffett’s partner and maxim-spouting alter-ego as they transformed a foundering New England textile company into the spectacularly successful investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, died on Tuesday in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 99.

His death, at a hospital, was announced by Berkshire Hathaway. He had a home in Los Angeles.

Although overshadowed by Mr. Buffett, who relished the spotlight, Mr. Munger, a billionaire in his own right — Forbes listed his fortune as $2.6 billion this year — had far more influence at Berkshire than his title of vice chairman suggested.

Mr. Buffett has described him as the originator of Berkshire Hathaway’s investing approach. “The blueprint he gave me was simple: Forget what you know about buying fair businesses at wonderful prices; instead, buy wonderful businesses at fair prices,” Mr. Buffett once wrote in an annual report. […]

A $1,000 investment in Berkshire made in 1964 is worth more than $10 million today.

Mr. Munger was often viewed as the moral compass of Berkshire Hathaway, advising Mr. Buffett on personnel issues as well as investments. His hiring policy: “Trust first, ability second.”

EVs Are Better for the Enivronment

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tesla charging

Today most people are hesitant on EV cars for three reasons: initial upfront costs and worry about running out of battery power far from a charging station. In regard to upfront costs, EV vehicles will come down in price as competition increases and range anxiety will diminish as money from the Inflation Reduction Act flows into building more charging stations and making discounts for electric vehicles available right at the dealership.

The third is the campaign by the existing car companies sowing doubt about that such vehicles aren’t really all that much better for the environment than hybrid vehicles that have both gas and electric motors, and might even be worse, because of everything required to manufacture batteries and mine the materials that go into them.

Dr. Stephen Porder in a guest essay for the New York Times:

If you look under the hood, so to speak, these concerns share two fundamental misunderstandings: They assume that the electric vehicle industry is locked in to today’s technology, and they discount the huge environmental drawbacks of gas-powered alternatives. Electric vehicles are like digital cameras in their early iterations. They are already better than the alternative for almost everyone, and improving at a breathtakingly fast clip. And while there are environmental concerns with them, they are dwarfed by the benefit they provide regarding climate change — the biggest environmental threat to human well-being in the 21st century.

But let’s do the math as I’ve done for my family’s two E.V.s. We got the first to replace our 10-year-old, gas-powered Subaru, and after only two years of driving, the E.V. has created fewer emissions over its lifetime than if we had kept the old car. It will take our second E.V. only four years to create fewer emissions over its lifetime than the 2005 hybrid Prius it replaced. That’s counting the production of the batteries and the emissions from charging the E.V.s, and the emissions payback time will only continue to drop as more emissions-free wind and solar power comes onto the grid and battery technology improves.

Amsterdam Centraal Bicycle Garage

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An amazing new bicycle park in Amsterdam Centraal. Spaces for 7,000 bicycles - cost is free for 24 hours and then 1.25 euro per 24 hours after that.

As a New Jersey commuter that takes the NJTransit into NYC Port Authority - it is embarrassing that a bicycle parking garage is more sophisticated and human friendly than the largest bus terminal in the United States. To people living in the US, something like this is unimaginable.

We Americans loath any from of personal powered transportation - and our waistlines are evidence of that. American cities are not designed for pedestrians or bicycle riders. They are designed for cars. Walking / bicycling in US cities is like playing a Hunger Games inspired version of Frogger - may the odds be ever in your favor.

Biden Administration to Ban Termination Fees

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Cancellation Fees

The FCC under the Biden administration directive will move to outlaw early termination fees on cable and satellite service contracts.

Chelsey Cox reporting for CNBC:

The proposed rule is part of the White House’s larger focus on eliminating surplus fees under President Joe Biden’s July 2021 executive order to promote competition in the U.S. economy.

According to that order, cable television is one sector where fees can stifle competition, due to costs associated with canceling services or switching service providers.

“Companies shouldn’t lock you into services you don’t want with large fees,” President Joe Biden said via X on Tuesday. “It’s unfair, raises costs, and stifles competition. We’re doing something about it.”

Another win for the US consumer and a huge step in breaking the existing abusive cable, cellular and satellite monopolies.

This is in stark contrast to what the Trump administration FCC chairmen Ajit Pai who advocated not only strengthening the existing monopoly infrastructure, but ending net neutrality. Under Pai’s plan, cable and infrastructure operaters would be free to not only have surplus and termination fees, but would be abe to charge different rates depending on what services you used on the internet. For example, accessing websites would be billed at a different rate then say streaming video content. This would have effectively ended the internet as we know it today.

Another meaningful law passed that will benefit the ‘average american’. Elections have consequences.

SUV Adverts Banned in UK on Environmental Grounds

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Born to Roam

UK’s Advertising Standard Authority has banned two Toyota adverts for advertising that disregards its environmental impact. Clea Skopeliti writing for The Gaurdian:

The ASA ruled that the adverts “condoned the use of vehicles in a manner that disregarded their impact on nature and the environment … they had not been prepared with a sense of responsibility to society”.

Veronica Wignall, a co-director at Adfree Cities, said: “These adverts epitomise Toyota’s total disregard for nature and the climate, by featuring enormous, highly polluting vehicles driving at speed through rivers and wild grasslands.”

Wignall said there was a disconnect between the way SUVs were advertised – with campaigns often depicting them in rugged environments – and the reality of where they were largely driven. Research has shown that three-quarters of new SUVs in the UK are registered to people in urban areas. “It’s a cynical use of nature to promote something incredibly nature-damaging.”

SUVs are pure f*ck you I got mine individualism. They make the road more dangerous for pedestrians and even other drivers due to their size. And the reasons people give for owning them are usually bullshit. They’re not even more spacious than a van. And the pickup trucks keep getting shorter in the back and longer in the front so the utility is getting worse every year. Unfortunately it has now become an arms race whereby people are almost forced to get a big vehicle.

Here is an excellent video on the ridiculousness of SUV culture.

Why We Did It

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In his new book, “Why We Did It,” Tim Miller details his involvement with the GOP and how political staffers were able to justify the new brand of politics, as he explains to Walter Isaacson in this excellent article.

To put it simply - Trump supporters are in a cult fueled by racism, xenophobia, cruelty, wealth and power.

Tipping Cultrure in America

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add a tip

From a recent Pew Research report:

A majority of Americans say they would tip 15% or less for an average meal at a sit-down restaurant. 2% say they tip nothing. Quality of service is a major factor in most Americans’ tipping practices.

It is important to understand the history of tipping in the United States. Wendy Pollack writing for the Shriver Center on Poverty Law:

Tipping proliferated in the United States after the Civil War, when the restaurant and hospitality industries hired newly emancipated Black women and men but offered them no wage–leaving them to rely on patrons’ gratuities for their pay instead. Simply put, tipping was introduced as a way to exploit the labor of former slaves.

While we don’t have slavery today,the restaurant and hospitality industries have created an exploited economic class of people - effectively asking workers to take a financial risk without the benefits of economic profits of the business.

Tipping should be abolished - pay workers a living wage and transfer the risk of the business back to those who benefit most from the success of the business - the owners.

Trump Is a Fascist. Call Him One.

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fascist Trump

Tom Nichols defining Fascism in The Atlantic:

Fascism is not mere oppression. It is a more holistic ideology that elevates the state over the individual (except for a sole leader, around whom there is a cult of personality), glorifies hypernationalism and racism, worships military power, hates liberal democracy, and wallows in nostalgia and historical grievances. It asserts that all public activity should serve the regime, and that all power must be gathered in the fist of the leader and exercised only by his party.


Trump and his allies have threatened to enact once he’s back in office—establishing massive detention camps for undocumented people, using the Justice Department against anyone who dares to run against him, purging government institutions, singling out Christianity as the state’s preferred religion, and many other actions—and it’s hard to describe it all as generic “authoritarianism.” Trump no longer aims to be some garden-variety supremo; he is now promising to be a threat to every American he identifies as an enemy—and that’s a lot of Americans.

In his Claremont, New Hampshire campaign rally - which you can get the full transcript for here, Trump promises to:

… out the globalists, we will cast out the communists, Marxists, fascists. We will throw off the sick political class that hates our country … On Veterans Day, we pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country, that lie and steal and cheat on elections and will do anything possible … legally or illegally to destroy America and to destroy the American dream.

Trump is a fascist and a danger to the US Constitution and rule of law. The media should address him as one.

Trump Will End American Democracy

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Trump hail

What would a 2024 presidency look like? You don’t have to guess - Trump is telling us loud and clear.

Jamelle Bouie in an opinion piece for the New York Times enumerates them:

  • would purge the federal government of as many civil servants as possible.
  • would install an army of political and ideological loyalists whose fealty to Trump’s interests would stand far and above their commitment to either the rule of law or the Constitution
  • plans to turn the Department of Justice against his political opponents, prosecuting his critics and rivals
  • pledges to root out the Communists, Marxists, Fascists, and Radical Left Thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country, lie, steal, and cheat on Elections, and will do anything possible, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America, and the American dream
  • institute a program of mass detainment and deportation of undocumented immigrants
  • “remove” homeless Americans and put them in tents on “large parcels of inexpensive land in the outer reaches of the cities"
  • rid the United States of as many immigrants as possible, including a proposal to target people here legally — like green-card holders or people on student visas

Jamelle Bouie concludes:

Americans are obsessed with hidden meanings and secret revelations. This is why many of us are taken with the tell-all memoirs of political operatives or historical materials like the Nixon tapes. We often pay the most attention to those things that have been hidden from view. But the mundane truth of American politics is that much of what we want to know is in plain view. You don’t have to search hard or seek it out; you just have to listen.

And Donald Trump is telling us, loud and clear, that he wants to end American democracy as we know it.

Brexit - 3 Years On

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Three years into Brexit - many of the voters are now realizing how they were duped.

My plans for me and my wife, was not to retire, but spend winters in Spain. It’s changed because I can still spend the winter in Spain, but its the amount of money I’m made to spend to have that. That luxury. Before I didn’t have to think about that luxury. It was already made for me.

Unfortunately the bubble has burst. There is so many people selling up in Spain, pensioners who just can’t afford to live there. Because the insurance alone, got me to travel 90 days and back, 90 days and back, with my health 2,300 [pounds] for insurance. On top of the 6,000 pounds for rent.

When asked - would you vote for Brexit again?

I wouldn’t even consider voting to come out with Brexit. I would not consider doing it. The simple reason is we was promised. Lets get it right - It was all about stopping people from coming into England. Forget the trimmings around the edges, it was just stopping people. Our Prime Ministers and others telling us all these pretty things, which like a fool, we fell for it. It’s as simple as that.

And here is an other pensioner on the situation:

I don' think Spanish will turn English away. Because they are a big part of the economy here.

What did you think would happen? We are in an interdependent world now. The EU members understand that and are willing to work together to bring about better outcomes for their citizens.

More importantly - why would the Spanish pay for services that do not benefit them? You can’t join a club and then not pay the dues because ‘they are so important’ and still be expected to remain a member.

The amount of ignorance, arrogance and lack of self awareness is mind numbing. Maybe the MAGA Trumpers here in the US should look at Brexit and learn a valuable lesson.

But then again – MAGA takes ignorance, arrogance and lack of self awareness to an all new level.

Homeschooling in the USA

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According to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), there were 3.7 million homeschooled students in the USA during the 2020/2021 school year. The institute’s data also shows that from late March to early May of 2022, 5.22% of all school-age children were homeschooled.

An entire industry has sprung up around servicing those who are homeschooling their children. Heather Stark writes about this industry as an insider:

Before the pandemic, we partnered with schools to deliver our curriculum. When the shutdown occurred, we lost those partnerships, but we found the homeschool crowd. This community accepted us wholeheartedly.

For the past three years, we’ve traveled to more than 20 homeschool conferences. Our company has a lot of supportive and excited customers. We even get return customers whom we love reconnecting with at these events.

However, there is a faction that prickles at our presence. B and I try to brush it off, but even the smallest splinter, when not addressed, can cause an infection.


We’re in Florida. I walk down an aisle and notice a red glare, a tinge that no other aisle has. It takes me a moment, and then it hits me: This whole aisle is political organizations. None of it has to do with education — just politics — and every booth has some red in it.

I pass some signs that read “Ron DeSantis World.” B says it looks like they’re mimicking the Disney font. Several booths are conducting podcast interviews. I look up the podcasts on my phone and see that each one spreads conspiracy theories.

I pass another booth where a man and a woman are talking about gun rights… at a homeschool conference. Then I pass a Moms for Liberty booth. My stomach drops.

GM CEO Defends Her $30 Million Compensation

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The corporate class is so emboldened they aren’t even hiding it. General Motors CEO Mary Barra is the highest-paid of the Big Three CEOs, making about $29 million a year. She has received a 34% increase over the last four years. The United Auto Workers union is demanding a 40% hourly salary increase over four years. So far, hey have only been offered a 20% increase. At the very least, the auto worker should get a 34% increase over the next four years, just like the CEO received over the last four years. In a CNN interview, Barra defended her high earnings:

CNN’s Venessa Yurkevich:

They are asking for that in part because they say CEOs like yourself, leading the Big Three are making those kind of pay increases over the course of the last four years. You’ve seen a 34% pay increase in your salary. You make almost $30 million dollars. Why should your workers not get the same type of increases that you are getting leading the company?

Marry Barra:

Well if you look at compensation, my compensation 92% of it is based on the performance of the company.

So what she is saying is:

My compensation depends on how hard our employees work. I deserve it.

We need stronger unions leading to real wage increases and prosperity in the labor market.