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Been a while since I did a post on health so I’m here to drop knowledge bombs on the fat topic. My first post on health is too long and cluttered so I’m going to break things down to more bite-sized portions.

Let’s start with most important fact, something that a lot of people don’t know and have health issues because of: not all fat is bad. In fact, some fats are good for you. As in, actively help your health. Here’s something to think about. In the 1960s, fats and oils supplied Americans with 46% of their calories. At this time, about 13% of adults were obese and less than 1% had type 2 diabetes. Compare that with today where Americans only get about 33% of their calories from fats and oils, yet 34% of adults are obese and 11% have diabetes (stats sourced from Harvard).

So, what’s the deal here? Well, like I said, not all fat is bad. By reducing fat intake, people have also cut out good fats, and have replaced these with simple carbs (white bread, rice, etc.) which is a bad combination. Weight loss/gain is determined by the amount of calories. Other health issues depend on where these calories come from (fat, grains, etc.); for example, cholesterol levels can rise due to an increased intake of saturated fats, but you can still lose weight while eating saturated fats if you reduce your daily calorie intake. What’s that mean? Well, if you want to look good and be healthy, you need to watch what you eat and how much you eat. If you just want to look good for the short term (because if you’re unhealthy, you’re not going to look good for long), you can just eat less and not really watch what you’re eating (although some foods are far more calorie-dense than others).

How fat works:

So, let’s take a look at how fat works; fat is actually an important nutrient. Your body runs on three fuel sources, carbohydrates, protein and fat. I won’t go into detail here, that’s for another post, but basically fat provides 9 calories per gram whereas carbs and protein only provide 4. Fat is therefore a great source and store of energy. It also influences insulin sensitivity (will go into detail about this in another post) and can address inflammations. The body also uses cholesterol as the starting point to make estrogen, testosterone, vitamin D and other vital compounds.

However, fat and cholesterol don’t dissolve in water or blood, so the body packages fat and cholesterol into protein-covered particles called lipoproteins. These can dissolve into the blood stream. There are many types but the most important ones are low-density lipoproteins, high-density lipoproteins and triglycerides.

Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs):

These carry cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body. Cells latch on to the LDLs to extract fat and cholesterol from them. However, when there is too much LDL cholesterol in the blood, they begin to form deposits on the walls of arteries (called plaque), which narrows the arteries and limits blood flow. When plaque breaks apart, it can cause a heart attack or stroke. Because of this, LDL cholesterol is often referred to as bad cholesterol.

High Density Lipoproteins (HDLs):

These scavenge cholesterol from the bloodstream, from LDL, and from artery walls and ferry them back to the liver for disposal. Obviously, that’s good for you, which is why HDL cholesterol is often referred to as good cholesterol (as you can see, it actively improves your health).

Triglycerides:

These make up most of the fat that you eat and that travel through your bloodstream. They are the body’s main method for transporting fat to cells (good thing), but an excess can cause health issues.

Types of fat:

Ok, so now you know how fat works and that there are good and bad cholesterols (HDL and LDL respectively).

Unsaturated fat:

There’s two kinds of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. These are called good fats because they can improve blood cholesterol, ease inflammation, stabilise heart rhythms and provide other health benefits. These kinds of fats are liquids at room temperature. Omega-3 is an important type of polyunsaturated fat because the body can’t make it. Most people don’t get enough of these healthy fats and the entire misled “low fat diet” only made things worse as people avoided bad and good fats, replacing them with simple carbs (which are bad). High fat diets with low carbs and healthy fats have been shown to result in weight loss and overall health improvements (such as reducing cardiovascular risks).  The American Heart Foundation recommends 8-10% of your daily calories coming from polyunsaturated fats, though around 15% can do more to lower heart disease risks. The message here is to eat more healthy fats (and obviously less unhealthy ones).

Saturated fat:

Including trans fat (the worst), these are the bad fats you should avoid. They cause excesses of LDLs and triglycerides (their negative effects can be seen above), which lead to a wide range of health issues.

Some sources of good fats:

Oils: Olive, canola , flaxseed

Nuts: Almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, peanuts

Seeds: Flax, sesame, pumpkin, chia

And fish, corn, and soybeans.

 

Conclusion:

Although the Atkins diet and other studies have shown high fat diets do not necessarily lead to worse health conditions, that is a vast oversimplification of the issue. High fat diets are high in both saturated and unsaturated fats, the latter being good for you. When compared to a typical carb-rich American diet, it may be worth the increase in saturated fat to increase unsaturated fat intake. If you look at things more precisely though, it’s because high fat diets replace carbs as fuel, and because you’re getting more unsaturated fats (which you need). It’s not because the fat itself is good for you, it’s because people have really bad diets already, so the comparison is like picking the lesser evil.

As for why carbs are bad for you – well I’ll address that in another post but the crux of it is that carbs release glycogen into your system, and excess glycogen is stored as fat. High carb diets (especially simple carbs with a low glycemic index) tend to release too much glycogen at once, causing most of it to turn into fat. Carbs also digest the fastest out of the three fuel sources and cause blood sugar and insulin levels to spike, then crash very rapidly leading to feelings of weakness, tiredness, hunger and increasing risks of heart disease and diabetes.

 

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Purple and Beige Prose:

“Brevity is the soul of wit”

– William Shakespeare.

I’ve made a post before that overlaps with this but in the interests of keeping things tidy, I thought I’d make a more extensive post specifically on this topic.

These are the two extremes of a spectrum of broad stylistic writing styles. That’s not to say your writing style is encompassed entirely as either “purple” or “beige”, but your style will definitely lean towards one of these in some aspects.

Purple prose is the most commonly known one out of the two as it is often used as a derogatory comment on the writing style (whereas not many people write with beige prose, and even if you do, it’s not entirely a bad thing). Here’s a bit of history first; the term “purple prose” originates from a quote by the Roman poet Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 BC) where he likened writing in purple prose to one sewing purple patches on to one’s clothing. The implication is that purple prose is too flowery and dazzling to fit smoothly into a narration of a story. It’s just overkill, like cutting your bread with a chainsaw. My favourite description of purple prose is “it’s as if the author made babies with a thesaurus”, but the easiest way to demonstrate what purple prose is would be an example. I’m very bad at writing purple prose because my brain rejects it, so I took an example off the internet and spruced it up.

The disembowelled mercenary crumpled lifeless from this leather saddle ornamented with brilliant red rubies, and sank to the clouded sward, sprinkling the parched ochre dust with crimson droplets of his precious escaping life fluid.

If you can’t see the problem yet, I worry for you. Let’s assume this needs explanation, for the sake of analysis. First of all, there are enough words in that sentence to make three sentences. Second of all, there are too many unnecessary adjectives and it just feels like you’re trying too hard (life fluid is hilarious). The true artist makes the difficult look easy – if you’re struggling to depict a man falling off his horse, you’re struggling as a writer. Finally, this sentence takes too long to read, destroying all sense of pace in the story. When you have a scene of someone dying so dramatically, you want as much impact and pace as possible, not a ridiculous essay about his death.

Beige prose:

At the opposite of the spectrum we have beige prose, which is really defined by a minimalistic style of writing – often with sentence fragments. It delivers short sentences with high impact, but over-use can lead to fragmented and disjointed narrative.

Beige prose? Witty when effective. Otherwise, dull. Use carefully.

Consistently writing in purple prose will allow the reader to adjust – typically the reader will just skim over your sentences for the general gist of what’s happening. Trust me, not many people will belabour every individual word. With beige prose, it’s not as easy to adjust. An entire book written in disjointed sentences will be jarring to the reader. I only use short sentences during scenes that require pace, such as action scenes.

It’s been a while since I’ve made a new post, mainly because I’ve been busy with my last semester of university starting. That may just be an excuse for laziness on my part though, but we’ll go with the former. Anyway, the blog’s gone over 1,000 views now so I thought I’d do a good article with knowledge that will really benefit people’s thinking and their overall prospects for being an academic mind. Surely, knowing about this topic is considered “classier” than knowing the names of some celebrities, and since celebrities get so many readers I hope that this will get at least a few.

It also occurs to me that I may be losing some readers with the complexity of my diction, for which I apologise. This is simply how I write when talking about academic matters. It requires some paying attention to understand, but believe me, it’s an acquired taste.

Anyway, I was actually continuing a discussion of the nature of “evil”, following on from my blog post about villains, and was requested to make a post about ethics (specifically, Aristotle’s ethics). So here we go. Just a foreword, don’t go ratting on me about how these categories are not all-encompassing. I did not invent these, I’m merely redelivering information that I learned at university by consolidating all my knowledge and focusing it towards one particular topic. Unlike my three categories for villains, what I’m posting here are internationally accepted standards. Whilst I am sure that, for the purposes of psychoanalytical profiling, there exist many more categories, I assure you that the information I am about to divulge is correct to a university level academic standard.

The two types of ethics:

I’m not going to tell you who Aristotle is (because you should have an idea and can find this out for yourself), but Aristotle’s ethics fall into the category of teleological ethics. There are two broad groups of ethics: teleological and deontological. Teleological theories stipulate that behaviours/actions are considered ethical if the result is desirable, whereas deontological theories stipulate that a behaviour/action is only ethical if it is following some kind of paradigm such as duty or the law.

Examples of teleological theories include ethical egoism, utilitarianism, ethical elitism and ethical parochialism. Of these, I’ll explain the two most interesting (in my opinion), those being utilitarianism, which is the concept of “the greater good” in which sacrifices can be made to accomplish a larger aggregate gain in utility and ethical parochialism, which maximises the utility of your group (be that sports team, fans, company, family or any other discernible group). A good example of utilitarianism can be demonstrated through the hypothetical of a sinking ship. Your lifeboat can only support the weight of five people whereas you have six people trying to occupy the lifeboat. Either one person sacrifices himself to die (or is forced to by the group) or all of them die. If nobody volunteers, a utilitarian view would justify you forcibly removing a member of the boat to their death because you are saving five other lives by doing so (whereas it would be concerned unethical to kill somebody else using a deontological viewpoint). As for ethical parochialism, that should be axiomatic – you support your own “team” more than others.

A good example for a deontological theory would be Kant’s system, which we will get into later.Basically, deontological theories are heavily rule and duty based but they produced skewed results. For example, donating out of an act of compassion is not considered ethically valid as you have no duty or rule compelling you to donate. As such, teleological theories are generally considered superior.

Aristotle’s ethics:

Aristotle’s ethics were intended to apply to everyone, regardless of cultural background or belief. He believed that ethics should be axiomatic – that is self-evident once explained – and believed the purpose of all ethics should be towards the final goal, that being the achievement of “good”. The ultimate “good” that he suggested humans should all strive for was the flourishing of human life. Aristotle categorised his ethics into two groups of virtues: moral and intellectual. Now, there are 13 moral virtues and 5 major intellectual and 3 minor intellectual virtues so you can probably guess that I’m not going to list them all for you. You can probably just Google the list if you want. I will, however, explain how his virtues worked.

Moral virtues are obtained through good habit formation and practice. Moral virtues have two extremes (known as vices), those being excess and deficiency. Every person is naturally closer to one extreme than the other (that is to say, nobody stands at the arithmetic mean between these two vices). For example for the moral virtue of courage, the unethical practice of cowardice would be courage by deficiency, whereas excess courage would be considered something akin to recklessness.

Intellectual virtues are obtained through education and training. These have only one extreme, deficiency, except for prudence which has two extremes. Excess prudence would be fraud and opportunism whereas a deficiency in prudence constitutes negligence.

Justice is a little special as it is divided into three different types.

Distributive justice ensures that common goods are distributed maintaining proper proportionality. This means that if you have two kids and one is larger, and thus has a bigger appetite, if you give them both the same amount of food you are actually violating distributive justice. The key word here is proportionality.

Remedial justice is in the realm of law; it ensures the remedy of a wrong (i.e. compensation equal to damages).

Commercial justice ensures that the value of something given should equal the value of what is given in return (where this value is determined by market forces; i.e. ripping someone off violates this).

Thomas Aquinas refined Aristotle’s virtues with a Christian influence, but I’m not going to talk about that.

Evolution of ethics and morality:

The evolution of ethics is axiomatic. Quite simply, ethics and morality evolved as a point of necessity. If they had not, we would not exist in our current state – we would probably still be hunter-gatherers or would have died out as a species. This is a fact. There is no way we would be living in civilisations if it were customary for us to kill and rob our neighbours, thus, to survive, we evolved certain ethics and morals. I reject the Christian belief that god gave us morals, because that is both a horribly pessimistic view (that humans are incapable of being good without someone giving it to us; also it doesn’t explain why evil exists), and because it is arrogant to assume that before Christianity came along a few thousand years ago, every life form on the planet was evil (remembering that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old).

To articulate this point further, let me put it this way. The very fact that you are even here to ponder how ethics came to be means that ethics were a necessary part of evolution. Without it being a part of evolution, we would only have rudimentary semblances of society. These are all facts. Now on to my own personal hypothesis.

I believe that there are two primal instincts at play here. First and foremost, the strongest human instinct is survival. For that purpose a human will do anything within their power. An extension of survival is selfishness. A human will always, within the boundaries of what is allowed, seek to gain as much for themselves as possible. Now, this begs the question why we don’t loot and pillage and rape all the time. Well, short answer is we used to. However, as social order developed into a more complex system of social paradigm and law, humans were faced with a choice between getting whatever you wanted at the cost of community (and thus the inherent benefits of community such as economies of scale and safety), or giving up certain things to establish a community.

Now, as I said, survival is the strongest instinct and that is closely followed by selfishness (as the two are strongly correlated – to have more is to survive better). In a primal state, it would not be considered wrong to kill or pillage. There would be no concept of right and wrong (as these are human fabrications). Why is it that we chose society over personal gain? Because the prospect of a large community (which would eventually become cities and countries) offered more than the prospect of fending for one’s self. First, there are the intrinsic benefits a community brings. These should be obvious. There are many things that you can accomplish as a team rather than alone. Communities also tend to prosper more and offer more chance to profit (thus appealing to the selfish side). At the same time, humans are social animals. We cannot reproduce asexually and inter-mixing genes within a family is bad. Diverse genetic breeding produces stronger children. So in a toss up between “I can take my neighbour’s stuff if I’m stronger than him” and “I can have good children, more potential mates, more potential material gain and more safety” (among other things of course), humans naturally went for the one with the highest chance of survival – community. This is axiomatic too. If any creature did not naturally choose their best option for survival, they would not exist anymore.

So there you go, the evolution of ethics and my take on why it occurred this way.

I just got back from watching The Dark Knight Rises and was quite happy with it. For a film close to three hours, it didn’t feel tedious or boring (as much as it should have) and was quite exciting throughout. I don’t intend this post to say anything other than the fact that it was an enjoyable watch, and the fact that it wasn’t as good as The Dark Knight, unfortunately. This is going to categorised under English because I’ll mention a few English related writing and film techniques.

There will be no spoilers, I’ll keep this very general so as not to ruin anything. I will hint at things though so, if that bugs you, watch the movie first.

Image

I glimpsed an interesting article a few days ago about this movie being a political message. I disagree, and think this is just another case of people reading too deeply into things to try and sound intelligent. While it is true that the creator of any story will inevitably let their personal ideologies seep into their text, I strongly doubt the movie was meant as a political message. However, I do think there was a strong intent to ground the film in reality – a quick look into the story’s plot devices will find several modern day concerns, such as identity theft, corruption, the income gap, returning power to the people (and taking it away from the wealthy), terrorism, government decisions, “structures as shackles” (you’ll understand this after watching the movie), and even the dangers of nuclear-related energy sources (which, despite the recent Japan scare, is stupid to anybody who knows anything about science – candles have killed more people than nuclear reactors, and nuclear power is the greenest power available to us right now; but that’s another rant). This isn’t a bad thing that Nolan’s done. His film was intended to be very gritty and realist in the first place, and as a writer, I know that grounding things in reality is a fast and effective way to build a connection with your audience. For a movie that was trying to say so much, it needed a fast way for us to care. Unfortunately, it missed a bit in that department.

With the introduction of Catwoman, Bane, Ra’s al Ghul’s child, Robin (you’ll find out who he is at the end), and a whole list of other characters with more minor roles, as well as the reinvention of Batman himself, it was very difficult to make a strong connection to the characters. When comparing this to The Dark Knight, we can see a huge contrast. Those of us who are writers will identify two broad categories of stories: character driven and plot driven. A character driven story depends hugely on the audience’s attachment to the characters, whereas a plot driven story relies on the twists and turns of its plot. These are by no means mutually exclusive, but it is almost always possible to identify which of the two a story most strongly identifies with. The Dark Knight was a film that was stolen by the villain (refer to my post on Villains), the Joker, and in Heath Ledger’s absence we can truly see how much of that story was driven by his amazingly played character. By contrast, The Dark Knight Rises is very plot driven. It feels as if we’re watching a series of exciting events unfurl, but there’s no connection to the characters (at least not as strongly as when the Joker was present). Batman’s character was the strongest emotional connections for the audience, with the fall and rise (hence the title) of his mental state, as well as the rise and immortalisation of the symbol of Batman, but compared to the complex love-hate relationship the audience had with the Joker, it feels weak.

The cinematics and mise-en-scenes were done very well, if a bit cheesy (torn US flag wafting in the breeze), and the visual effects really added to the excitement of the story. I’m willing to bet that watching it in the cinemas will be a completely different experience to watching it at home.

The little plot twist at the end feels a bit too sudden for my liking. They chose a good character to play the child, but as somebody who likes throwing in twists, I still think the audience deserves a bit more of a hint lest the twist feel too much like a deus ex machina (a cheap twist thrown in to “spruce things up”). There was no warning for the betrayal, it just happened. Also, the ending [b]did[/b] feel a little too nice (again, deus ex machina when that dude didn’t die – that’s all I can say without ruining it), but considering how things progressed, the chaos that occurred and the rise of Batman as an undying symbol to which future heroes would flock and take up the mantle when needed, it didn’t feel too bad. I guess I didn’t want him to die either.

Anyway, it’s hard to say more without giving away things so I’ll leave it at that. My advice is not to get too excited about the movie. Don’t expect an incredibly feat of awesomeness that would shoot rainbows through the last movie. Treat it like you would going into any other movie you hadn’t watched before and you will thoroughly enjoy it. Unfortunately, The Dark Knight eclipses its sequel, but not by a huge amount.

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