A few years ago, I was your typical office-worker: stressed out, uneven energy, overweight, and inconsistent complexion. Now I'm just your typical 28-year old urban hunter-gatherer on a quest to be healthy, and having a few adventures along the way. See my full bio.
Writing a book is an excellent, time-worn way to be unhealthy. I'm probably at my least healthy I've been over the last few years.
First of all, I've taken up smoking. What a wonderful example I'm setting. I'm now on my third pack. Smoking is a perfect break to long stretches of writing -- it takes a few minutes, it's relaxing, and is actually a pretty good time to walk and think. And get some fresh air (???). And it gives you lung cancer. (But remember, correlation isn't causation...most of the smoking studies are just epidemiological studies, not randomly controlled trials!)
Second, my sleep habits got completely screwed up over the last few months. I was regularly going to sleep from 5-7AM. I have black-out shades, so I'd be able to get seven or so hours of sleep. But it's totally disconcerting to wake up at noon (or later). You feel behind on the day, and by the time everyone else is winding down, you still have lots of work to do. Luckily, I broke out of that pattern a couple weeks ago. I dropped the caffeine for a day, worked out super hard, took some over-the-counter sleeping aids that night, set four alarm clocks, then immediately exercised when I woke up.
Third, I'm drinking way more caffeine than I should. I wonder if this was contributing to the sleep problems.
My eating has remained good, with a slightly higher incidence of dark chocolate rewards. Anyhow, things are coming along and there's light at the end of the tunnel. And trust me, if this were a diet book, it would have been out long ago.
From the WSJ, this is an excerpt from the memoir of 23-year-old Shin Dong-hyuk, the only known person to have been born into a North Korean prison camp and escaped.
Many of his classmates were assigned to coal mines, where accidental death from cave-ins, explosions and gas poisonings was common. Shin was lucky—he was assigned to a pig farm, where 200 men and women raised about 800 pigs, along with goats, rabbits, chickens and a few cows. As a prisoner, Shin was not allowed to eat the meat of any livestock on the farm. But he and other prisoners could sometimes steal. The smell of roasting pork on the farm would alert guards, leading to beatings and weeks of half-rations, so they ate purloined pork raw.
In the garment factory, the superintendent wanted Shin to inform on an important new prisoner. Park Yong Chul, short and stout, with a shock of white hair, had lived abroad....
Much of what Park talked about, especially at the beginning, was difficult for Shin to understand or care about. What delighted him—what he kept begging Park for—were stories about food and eating. These were the stories that kept Shin up at night fantasizing about a better life. Freedom, in Shin's mind, was just another word for grilled meat.
When most people think about human history, they tend to lump all men together and all women together. As in:
Men oppressed women
Men could vote and women couldn't
Men rigged everything in their favor
This is historically inaccurate.
For example, there are huge differences between the lives of high status males and and low status males. If you are a low status male throughout most of human history, then you get to enjoy the following privileges:
You are conscripted into military service
If you flee battle, you are killed by your superiors
You get to slowly die of scurvy on a boat
You end up in prison
If your people is conquered, men are the most likely to be wholesale slaughtered
You are not allowed to vote (an often forgotten fact -- it's historically rare for low status men to have the vote)
You are less likely to reproduce (or if you do, then you leave fewer offspring)
You do hard labor for long hours nearly your entire life
You have a miserable life expectancy
During the Agricultural Age, the best option was being a high status male. But the next best option was probably being a woman. The worst option was being a low status male.
Incidentally, this pattern holds true in just about any sexually-reproducing species. Males are the high-risk sex, and thus you have some big winners, but many more losers. Females are the low-risk sex, and thus you have a more equitable range of evolutionary outcomes.
If you look back at history and look up, it looks like men run the show. But if you look back at history and look down, you see that a lot of men received little to no benefit simply by virtue of being a man. In fact, low status men have generally been viewed as the most disposable and worthless people in society.
"LAST spring, Bob Ripka decided the time had come for drastic change. His once-robust income from his job at a printing company was dwindling. His family lost its house in the real estate crash. And employment prospects around his home in Pine City, Minn., more than an hour north of Minneapolis, appeared scant.
He heard talk around town about plentiful work in North Dakota, where new drilling technologies are driving an oil boom. “And I decided, ‘Well, I’m going to go make some money,’ ” he recalled in an interview. So on Memorial Day weekend, Mr. Ripka, 48, removed the rear seats from his 2003 Dodge minivan and replaced them with a mattress. He threw some clothes in a bag, said goodbye to his family and drove 10 hours west to Williston — ground zero in the North Dakota petroleum explosion.
After filling out a round of applications and sleeping in his car for several nights, Mr. Ripka was offered a job driving heavy trucks for an oil services company, helping to pour cement to secure casings for new wells."
It's really just an article about men, who have been hardest hit by the Great Recession. The article gave me the same feeling as looking at these old photos from the Depression. The dignity of work. It kind of makes me fall in love with my country all over again.
The one thing I don't like about the article is that the Times refers to it as "Man Camp". I realize that it's short and catchy, and I'm not going to read too much into it. But these days, the word "camp" sounds trivial, and associated with summer camp, a carefree childhood, or camping in the woods. Or it sounds like some lame-ass retreat for emasculated push-overs to learn "how to be a man". Leaving your family for weeks or months at a time is not fun. There is nothing carefree about it.
At the same time, I'm pretty sure that Williston, North Dakota is a far cry from the "Man Camps" of the American West, building the transcontinental railroad, or a Civil War military campaign -- or basically, any significant construction project, military installation, or frontier town throughout all of human history. Because that's what men do. Build stuff and take risks. (And fight.)
The real story is that the Times can make it through this article without once mentioning the Keystone Pipeline. These energy and construction projects are perfect jobs for men. And they disproportionately benefit low status men, the forgotten people of history.
A fascinating article in Wired documents the search for a broad-based attack against viruses.
Virologists, in other words, are still waiting for their Penicillin Moment. But they might not have to wait forever. Buoyed by advances in molecular biology, a handful of researchers in labs around the US and Canada are homing in on strategies that could eliminate not just individual viruses but any virus, wiping out viral infections with the same wide-spectrum efficiency that penicillin and Cipro bring to the fight against bacteria. If these scientists succeed, future generations may struggle to imagine a time when we were at the mercy of viruses, just as we struggle to imagine a time before antibiotics.
But will there be drawbacks to success? Just like antibiotics killed bacteria indiscriminately -- good and bad bacteria both -- might we be killing off beneficial viruses too?
Our bodies are rife not just with bacteria but with viruses too. Even when we’re perfectly healthy, we have trillions of viruses inside of us. Scientists are only beginning to survey this viral ecology, but some suspect that it may actually be essential to our health. Many animals depend on viruses. Aphids, for example, need a virus that makes a toxin that prevents wasps from laying eggs inside their bodies. Scientists have found that infecting mice with lymphotrophic viruses protects them from developing diabetes. Other viruses attack cancer cells.
We may have such beneficial viruses inside our own bodies as well, waiting to be discovered. These viruses may not even infect our own cells but could instead be inside the bacteria that colonize us. Some species might keep the populations of their microbial hosts in check, like predators thinning a herd. Some viruses merge with bacteria rather than killing them, providing their hosts with useful genes for feeding or fighting off competitors. All of these microbe-infecting viruses may ultimately help us stay healthy.
It’s conceivable that a broad-spectrum antiviral could devastate this complex, poorly understood biological jungle. As beneficial viruses disappeared, we might pay the price, developing diseases that the viruses used to keep at bay. Even Lingappa concedes that virus-killing could potentially go too far. “I don’t think we want to kill all viruses,” he says. “You only know about a virus when it does something bad. We’ve evolved with them. There’s probably some virus out there doing something good.”
Ten years from now, will we be referring to good viruses and bad viruses? Probably.
File this under "very poorly understood aspects of health". Here's the full article.
Mr. Wade also started running on the beach this summer. "Running on the sand strengthens your quads and calf muscles," he says. He adds that he used to avoid running because it gave him shin splints, but running barefoot in the sand has helped him avoid that.
His diet appears to avoid some industrial foods, but seems to adhere to low-fat diet dogma.
Mr. Wade says he always avoided vegetables until he turned 30. "I hated all of them," he says. But "I knew it would help me in the long run both mentally and physically" to start eating them. His solution was to have his personal chef turn them into juice.
He now starts the day with a juice that might include celery, carrots and beets. His chef sticks to healthy, low-fat, high-protein meals that often include grilled chicken and rice. He doesn't splurge often, but when he does he has a burger, fries and a Coke. "That is heaven to me. I have a favorite burger spot in nearly every city. Sometimes I might even order two."
Full article here, including the addition of yoga and pilates to his workout regimen.
"It’s always interesting to read the quotations of people who knew a mass murderer before he killed. They usually express complete bafflement that a person who seemed so kind and normal could do something so horrific."
But we all have the capacity for violence.
"David Buss of the University of Texas asked his students if they had ever thought seriously about killing someone, and if so, to write out their homicidal fantasies in an essay. He was astonished to find that 91 percent of the men and 84 percent of the women had detailed, vivid homicidal fantasies.
These thoughts do not arise from playing violent video games, Buss argues. They occur because we are descended from creatures who killed to thrive and survive. We’re natural-born killers and the real question is not what makes people kill but what prevents them from doing so."
That's one reason why many ancient philosophers and religions viewed humans as innately sinful or depraved.
"According to this older worldview, Robert Bales, like all of us, is a mixture of virtue and depravity. His job is to struggle daily to strengthen the good and resist the evil, policing small transgressions to prevent larger ones. If he didn’t do that, and if he was swept up in a whirlwind, then even a formerly good man is capable of monstrous acts that shock the soul and sear the brain."
People prefer leaders with deep voices. I recently linked to these findings:
"Research that looked at US presidential candidates between 1960 and 2000 found that in all eight elections, the candidate with the lower voice had won the popular vote."
Experimental results confirmed this observed preference. This is not particularly surprising. A deep voice is a sign of high testosterone, and High T people tend to be assertive, confrontational, and socially dominant. In a world with competing groups (hunter-gatherer tribes, city-states, corporations), you want your leader to stand up for the in-group and defend it.
Anyone who saw the recent film, The Iron Lady, knows that Margaret Thatcher underwent voice coaching during her political ascent. Here is a comparison of her earlier, higher-pitched, more feminine voice and her later, lower-pitched, more masculine voice.
To the extent that people -- note: both men AND women -- prefer high testosterone leaders of their in-group, then we'd expect the women to be under-represented in politics, particularly in executive roles. But the women that do succeed will be high testosterone and "tough as nails": Margaret Thatcher ("The Iron Lady"), Hillary Clinton (hawkish foreign policy), Nancy Pelosi (the death stare), Sarah "Barracuda" Palin. They will come from high testosterone professions (lawyers are High T), and have reputations for being competitive and confrontational. Not exactly shrinking violets.
Despite women as a whole facing this disadvantage, the High T female politicians who break through can flip the script on men. Women are insulated from charges of sexism, and thus dominant women can explicitly emasculate men by telling them to "man up", like Palin did. (Can you imagine a male politician telling a woman to "woman up", or "act like a lady"?)
Or more subtly, consider this brilliant moment in the history of oratory and rhetoric courtesy of the Iron Lady. Watch until the end.
By saying "The Lady's not for turning", it was a swipe at political critics and rivals, mostly men, who wanted to reverse the liberalization of the British economy. The implication was that these so-called men were less resolute and more cowardly than a lady. Talk about sexist! Thatcher reveled in this tactic, embracing certain feminine qualities -- like wearing pearls or offering tea -- while dominating the men around her.
No matter your political persuasion, it's hard not to admire what she accomplished. She was a true pioneer.
So the CrossFit Open is underway. It's a series of workouts that thousands of CrossFitters are doing in the lead up to the Games. And the second workout is a bunch of snatches (I hate snatches). Here's the workout:
Proceed through the sequence below completing as many reps as possible in 10 minutes of:
30 Snatch (M 75 / F 45 lbs)
30 Snatch (M 135 / F 75 lbs)
30 Snatch (M 165 / F 100 lbs)
Max Rep Snatch (M 210 / F 120 lbs)
Most people hit the wall at the first 30, good athletes are getting 31-60, top athletes are getting 61-90, and only a few are getting above 90.
So a bunch of the guys decide to do the workout out on 26th St. This was for a practical reason. They were going to be dropping a lot of weights, and the tenants beneath CrossFit NYC keep having pieces of their ceiling falling on them. We've been charged for thousands of dollars of repairs -- one of the reasons we've started to move into an awesome new space.
Anyhow, it's about 9pm, and we're out on the sidewalk in front of what appears to be a shuttered building, and one of our guys is cranking through his 10 minute workout. Yeah, it's a little loud, but it's also totally awesome. It's like an East Coast Venice Beach, but awesomer in every way. Cars are slowing down as they drive by, snapping photos -- a lot of rubbernecking.
Well, it turns out that above the shuttered storefront is an apartment building. And a few tenants come out and ask what's going on. We politely explain that it's a competition and he only has a few minutes left. That mollifies them -- and they don't seem too keen on interfering with this red-faced jacked guy doing snatches.
Then, with about 45 seconds left, this dude with a bulldog storms out of the building. First, he tells us, with righteous indignation, "This is a residential neighborhood." Really, dude? Of all the places in the country that I might describe as residential, midtown Manhattan ain't one of them. There are ten ton trucks roaring down the street as this is going.
Then he sticks his bulldog in the face of our athlete, who has 15 seconds left and is hitting his 64th rep (or so). The bulldog's face is literally one inch away from his face as he's attempting his final snatch. Talk about fight or flight. I joke a lot about sprinting like you're running away from a lion, but this was the next closest thing. Concentrating with a growling bulldog in your face.
Anyhow, we finished, then moved to the other side of the street and just did it in the street itself. It was awesome.
I somewhat regularly get emails intended for people at Hunter-Gatherer.com.au, an Australian creative agency that does a lot of fashion modeling. So I get to hear which fashion models they want for their shoots. It's kind of hilarious when I reply and inform them they have the wrong hunter-gatherer.