AotM #15: Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day

Yes, everyone, that’s right, Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day is a thing. Enjoy some chocolate and almonds for breakfast, lunch, & dinner today, since they are an incredibly healthy and delicious snack.


  1. ‘O’ [Yawn!]
    …Did that work? Did you yawn through sheer peer pressure? Well hopefully so, since yawning is AWESOME! It oxygenates the brain, increases alertness, and moves you closer to a meditative state. So never be ashamed of yawning. I love articles like this that explore that fuzzy nexus of science and spirituality.
  2. Everyone should keep as many houseplants as you can handle. We spend more time indoors than ever before in human history, surrounded by more toxic chemicals than ever before, in more tightly sealed and insulated domiciles than ever before—those old drafty houses on the prairie were actually good for you. So do yourself a favor and invest in some all-natural, sunlight-powered, green air-filters. (Or spend more time outdoors…Either way).
  3. Books are great, and reading improves your language ability, but you can’t trust most books out there when it comes to grammar…Even that supposed “classic” Elements of Style by Strunk & White is full of horrendous and ill-informed advice. Grammar isn’t nearly as boring or stuffy as lots of codgy old books, misinformed teachers, and snobby editors would have you think. And incidentally, I absolutely love the Language Log blog, as it brings language and grammar to life.
  4. Your new car runs more lines of code than the Joint Strike Fighter (no wonder car costs haven’t gone down much over the decades). Might this cause some problems, maybe with brakes…? It’s unfortunate that it’s becoming more difficult to find and learn the pleasures of a no-frills manual transmission these days.

AotM #14: King Tut Day

Happy Tutankhamen Day! Go to a museum!


  1. But before some serious stuff, let’s start it off with BEARS!!! Despite what Stephen Colbert may say, Bears are OK in my book—after all, they’re part of the international coalition fighting the war on terror! But that’s not too surprising, since bears have been fighting for us since at least WWII. And who doesn’t want beer-swilling, cigarette-smoking, artillery-carrying, Nazi-fighting large clawed mammals on their side?
  2. Another area where new studies are only confirming folk wisdom and old knowledge—TV makes kids more aggressive. I mean, it’s been ignored by the media and politicians for a decade, but we’ve known for a long time that violent imagery does indeed condition and desensitize people to violence (I highly recommend reading On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society for some fascinating research and discussion on the topic). And yet, it’s still a social faux pas to condemn violence in media, even while we’re still vehemently puritanical about love & sex. Time to grow up, America.
  3. Parental control and restriction is psychologically damaging anywhere, but here’s an interesting study that shows the differences between Eastern & Western parenting.
  4. Not only are over-the-counter pain meds the most widely used pharmaceuticals in the world, but turns out they can degrade your flu shot and depress your immune system. Pain is a wonderful thing, since it tells us when something is out of whack, so embrace it and work on the core problem—there’s not much to be gained from masking it, at least for most minor things.
  5. Retrospectives, books, and movies about our men and women in the military all too often focus on standout cases of elite heroes. But the story of an average recruit who spends time in Iraq or Afghanistan is equally important to share, as it reveals more of the realities of military life and war. So enjoy this fascinating and wonderfully open photoessay that follows the life of a young Army enlistee, from recruitment, through training, to Iraq, and back. Bad decisions, warts, & all.

AotM #13: Mischief Night

I never knew this before, but it certainly makes perfect sense that it was those hooliganish Brits who invented Mischief Night.


  1. No matter how often studies like these that promote the benefits of exercise come along, I’ll never stop sharing them, since getting sweaty really does make everything better. Today, Tai Chi reduces depression and joint pain in the elderly, and moderate exercise can lessen or even prevent flu.
  2. Although it’s certainly nothing new, here’s yet more research showing that even just beginning to study and play music improves brain function and memory. Get out and play something now!
  3. Where does dust come from? Surprisingly, we didn’t quite know where until now.
  4. While it’s about 90% true that you always get what you pay for, Monster Cables are one solid example of the remaining 10% of utter scams. Never trust marketing or commissioned “experts” (cough cough RadioShack).
  5. Here is an excellent proposal describing why English should NOT ever be legally made our official language. The fact that this topic is even an issue really does only go to show how discombobulated and disconnected we have become as One Nation, Indivisible, with Liberty & Justice for All (I have omitted the “Under God” since it’s a relatively recent addition to the Pledge). If we felt more unified as a nation, it wouldn’t matter what languages people spoke.
  6. Finally, here’s a fascinating study showing how our unconscious biases effect the “results” of torture. Combined with the uselessness of most lie detection methodologies, we as a nation should most definitely forbid torture for anything related to our national interests. It just doesn’t work, and only serves to reduce our standing in the world.

AotM #12: United Nations Day

If you’ve never visited UN Headquarters in NYC before, it’s well worth the trip. Their gift shop is (exorbitantly) fun too. Happy UN Day!


  1. Writing with a pen and paper is actually faster and more accurate than typing, at least for kids. Let’s bring back the dying artform! Also, just out of curiosity, when was the last time you wrote someone a letter, essay, or report longhand? What about in cursive?
  2. Our sense of vision is amazingly protean, and we can learn to see and perceive new things. This ability reminds me of the Marine instructor I met at Quantico who was an award-winning shot, who was describing how he actually become able to see the bullets he fired as they arced toward the target. Pretty cool stuff.
  3. Clean smelling spaces make people behave better. So, warn your kids that in a few years all public schools will smell like Windex.
  4. And actually, something else that leads to better behavior (and health) is spending time surrounded by nature. Nature is good for you, simple as that…So put down the phone or mouse and go outside!
  5. What is this, like the third study in just the last few weeks telling us to eat our veggies? It’s obvious, of course. But, since only about 20% of adults in the US eat an appreciable amount of vegetables, and since we still don’t even really know how much nutrition is even in processed fruit and vegetable foods (both facts from previous AotM articles), further “obvious” news like this is a good thing.
  6. Finally, here’s are two hilariously accurate descriptions as to why one should take even science news with a large handful of salt: “How Science Reporting Works” and “The Science News Cycle“.

 

AotM #11: National Nut Day

Yes, that’s right, National Nut Day. So, barring any allergies, go nuts with some healthy snacks!


  1. In honor of National Nut Day, extremists are more likely to be vocal than the moderate majority. This certainly explains the reporting tendencies of the MainStream Media, the silliness of the Dems and the GOP, and many other arguments in life. Maybe we Moderate Majority people need to start speaking up as early and often as the whackjobs, ignoramuses, jerks, and idiots out there, and thereby do our part to bring balance to society.
  2. Here’s the full text of a book about exercise and health by one of the fittest amateur athletes in the world in the late 1800’s. Muller’s ideas about cross-training, stretching, diet, etc, were all way ahead of his time, and his exercises are still well worth doing. [EDIT: In fact, here’s a 2011 article about how the Muller System is still going strong.]
  3. Are you one of the millions of people who consider ketchup to be their favorite condiment? Are you one of the tens of people who’s wondered what the origin of the word “ketchup” is? Well wonder no more, and read on to learn how ketchup was originally fish sauce from Southeast Asia.
    The linked blog has a number of fascinating posts about the Language of Food, including this amazingly well-researched essay that goes into great depth on what “entree” actually means, and how American meals differ from French or Italian meals, etc. Anyone who loves food, loves eating at nice restaurants, or loves arguing with European gourmands would all love this article.

AotM #10: National Dessert Day

I’ve decided that from now on I’m going to dedicate each Articles of the Moment post to whatever random and strange holiday happens to fall on that day. Because why not?

So…Today happens to be National Dessert Day. Treat yourself to some delicious pastries.


  1. There’s a lot of fearmongering going on lately about all the chemicals and “toxins” we’re potentially exposed to all the time, and how many of them are untested and have unknown biological effects. Well, those are actually some good points. I don’t have much hope that companies will start voluntarily testing all of their products and additives extensively before release, but I do have hope that blood and DNA testing will become cheap and easy enough for individuals to self-examine. Eventually, this will lead to greater awareness in the public, which will put economic pressure on companies, which will ultimately lead to better ground-up testing and a safer environment for us all. But then, I’m an optimist.
    Of course, another way of looking at it is that cancer rates haven’t really risen that much despite all of these new chemicals around us, so maybe we should embrace our exposure and breed future generations of super-immune cockroach kids!
  2. You should always be healthily skeptical of any images you see, as they’ve always been doctorable, but with further changes in technology like this algorithmic image builder, you have even more reason to be wary.
  3. Here’s a long and in-depth, but very well-written & researched article about just how short-sightedly fearful and greedy Big Content as been over the last hundred years. It’s nothing terribly surprising, other than the fact that Big Content has been so dense and slow to adjust to the Internet Age.
  4. Continuing the environmental and technological thread of the other articles today, I present a very long but highly engrossing exploration of Earth’s fiber networks, which happens to be by my favorite author, Neal Stephenson. If you’re interested in networking, communications, technology, or geography, you won’t regret spending the time to read it. Enjoy!

AotM #9: Babies!

It’s been a long time since the last Articles of the Moment (there’s a reason I call these Articles of the “Moment” instead of Day, Week, or Month). So to start things back up, what could be more appropriate than a Babies theme?


  1. Infant pain can have a number of repercussions on adults. And here’s some additional, older research in the same vein. Kinda puts an additional twist to the circumcision “debate” (which, FYI, I don’t see as a debate at all—circumcision is a version of male genital mutilation that’s completely unnecessary in any modern culture that has access to running water and education).
  2. Children who are spanked have a lower IQ. It makes perfect sense that additional stress hormones in youth can impact our long-term health. Thankfully physical punishment of children is down, worldwide.
  3. Breast milk should be drunk fresh, not stored for later use, since compounds in it are tailor made for the moment. It’s especially useful for regulating infant sleep cycles.
  4. Another reason why children’s imaginations need to be encouraged and developed, not smothered with modern media: imagination (through guided visualization) has a significant impact on perception of pain.
  5. Even just a sip of water can help to reduce pain response and anxiety in children and adults. Chocolate and sweets work too, but not as well as simple water. It’s because we evolved to take advantage of the resources in front of us while we can (like drinking water or calories). Unfortunately this response probably also contributes to our obesity problem.

AotM #8

  1. If you click this link (although I’m not saying you should click this link), you might, possibly, find out that, if you want, uncertainty is more stressful than negative feedback. Makes perfect sense—when we don’t know where others stand, our minds make up all manner of extreme explanations, but if we know the players and the situation, even if it’s not ideal, we can make informed decisions and move forward. Tell it like it is, folks.
  2. The grass is always greener…White med students are more likely to be interested in alternative medicine and therapies, while their non-white classmates seem to reject their own cultures’ cures. This is not good, since a lot of medical wisdom from Asia, Africa, and India that could use thorough additional research might be lost before Western doctors can collect it.
  3. It seems to be a universal human trait that facial scars increase male attractiveness, at least in the short term (in other words, at least for making babies and spreading genes, but not for long term childrearing).
  4. Another reason not to worry so much about China—even in Asia, the US is the preferred security partner over China. This is probably largely because the US Navy is still (and will remain) the world’s largest and capable by far, no matter what China develops, and because the US still has a much more global outlook than China, which is a more regional power.
  5. Although I usually only include articles that confirm my personal anti-religious/pro-spiritual beliefs, this one is interesting and significant enough to share nonetheless—”attending religious services sharply cuts risk of death“. As the researchers in the article state, more study is needed to find out why this happens, but it’s certainly food for thought.
  6. As yet another reminder of how little we actually do know (i.e. too many people believe that our current level of scientific and medical knowledge are infallible and all-knowing), we only just now found out how bleach kills bacteria. Also interesting—our bodies produce the active ingredient in bleach as bacterial defense.
  7. You may have already noticed this, but food prices are rising a lot more than you may realize, since many companies are “secretly” reducing the volume of their packaging, so you get less for the same (or more) money. If only more people read packaging (ingredients, nutrition info, volume…) more diligently, everyone would benefit.
  8. And finally, for some fun and comedy…Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch is actually a couple millennia old. It’s kind of comforting to know that our ancient ancestors shared our sense of humor so closely.

AotM #7

  1. As dogs have known for millennia, people’s natural body odors are as unique as a fingerprint. It’s nice to know that science eventually catches up with obviousness.
  2. Women are more likely to experience sexual harassment in gender-balanced groups than as the lone woman in a group of men, contrary to “common sense.” Another reason why trying to force the makeup of various groups does far more harm than good. Let groups and communities come to their own natural balances.
  3. Always keep learning, people! Further links between education and protection from Alzheimers.

AotM #6

  1. Idealistic female sexual & physical representations are unhealthy for both women AND men. Enjoy being You, right here right now, and don’t try to be anyone else!
  2. There is but one correct way to hang a roll of toilet paper. End of story. It still boggles my mind that anyone (aside from rambunctious cat owners) would ever even consider hanging toilet paper any other way. Please spread the word!
  3. A new “deep field” image was released, this one in ultraviolet light, from the Southern hemisphere. Almost every point of light in the image is a galaxy, not a star. It’s breathtaking how much there is to our Universe!