Sugar Conspiracy

sugar conspiracyI’m in my fourth month of time-restricted intermittent fasting – primarily eating in a six-hour window between 2 and 8 p.m. Along the way, I’ve been getting my cholesterol tested (results forthcoming). In addition to intermittent fasting, I’ve instituted three different diet phases. After the initial whatever/whenever diet (not so good for my cholesterol or weight), I began with a month and a half of intermittent fasting without any restrictions on what I ate: the whatever/not whenever diet. Then I did about a month where I kept my carbohydrate intake to about 200g per day. And I’m currently in the final phase, wherein I’m limiting my carbs to an average of 100g per day.

I’ve briefly discussed the benefits of fasting and intermittent fasting, and there is growing evidence that intermittent fasting could have a number of positive health benefits. I’ll delve into this more deeply once my study of one is done. I’ve also discussed the benefits of eating fewer carbs. Thus far on the intermittent fasting diet, I’ve lost over ten pounds, and my genetically shitty cholesterol numbers have been moving in a positive direction.

Obesity is up there with tobacco as one of the predominant killers in the United States (obesity and tobacco laugh in the face of those puny, ineffectual terrorists). These scourges kill hundreds of thousands of people a year. And, just as with tobacco, it turns out there were people pulling the trigger of the big fat obesity gun. Way back in the 60s, the sugar lobby (then the Sugar Research Foundation, now the Sugar Association) paid some Harvard scientists to promote the idea that saturated fats were the primary culprit in heart disease, and to downplay the role of sugar. These ideas were published in no less than the New England Journal of Medicine. One of the shills (er, scientists), D. Mark Hegsted, went on to become the head of nutrition at the USDA, and helped draft what would become the U.S. dietary guidelines, which, surprise, promoted the low-fat diet (i.e. high carb, high sugar, highly processed).

This information was recently brought to light in JAMA Internal Medicine, another well-respected medical journal. The researchers found evidence that the sugar industry had conspired with scientists to get sugar off the hook for its role in heart disease. There is a lot of smoke coming from this gun, but presumably that gun was fired numerous times before and after. In fact, as recently as last year, Coca Cola was hitting us with a nuclear blast of bullshit about how we don’t really need to worry about what we eat, just about how much exercise we get. Poor health, obesity, heart disease, early death: Coke Is It!

The good news is that we are finally starting to realize that sugars (simple carbs, high glycemic foods) are much more pernicious than we were led to believe. Those scientists who would sell their souls for a few bucks (Hegsted and two others received the equivalent of about $50,000 for that one incident) do a huge disservice for truth and science.

But, of course there will always be people willing to sell out, and as long as big money is allowed to infiltrate research, the outcomes will be questionable. There may be more transparency when it comes to disclosing research funding than there was in the 60s, but, because public funding for research has waned, industry funding has filled that gap with a vengeance. Journals like the New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA publish research that has largely been funded by big pharma, big ag, and big medical. And our health guidelines continue to be written by many folks who are on the boards of these giant special-interest corporations. Which isn’t to say that all the science is bad, only that it’s less good than it could or should be.

In the case of the promotion of the low-fat diet, the result has been devastating: hundreds of millions of people have had their health compromised, and millions of people have died prematurely.

Me, I’m slightly hangry at the moment, given that it’s 11 a.m. and I still have three hours before breakfast. I won’t be eating much in the way of sugars, but I will have a teaspoon of honey in my decaf. I do loves me some sugar, though, so as soon as this intermittent fasting dealio is done, I’ll permit myself a few instances of excess. Ultimately, though, all of my wacky dieting and monitoring has taught me that I would do best to moderate my excess when it comes to sugars.

I’ll leave you with this little tidbit; after all, sugar’s really only bad for our teeth, right?


More Reading On This Subject
“How the sugar industry shifted blame to fat” by Anahad O’Connor. The New York Times article that precipitated this post.

Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine by John Abramson, M.D. A highly informative book about how American medicine has been compromised by big business.

“The shady history of Big Sugar” by David Singerman. Another Times article that exposes a long history of the sugar industry working against our well-being.


Donald Trump is a Narcissist… and a Psychopath… and a Fascist… and a Liar

trump narcissusI spent the morning channeling Donald Trump. I feel for the guy – he just doesn’t get much media play. So I figured, via the huge readership of this blog, maybe we can garner some much-needed attention for The Donald.

Donald Trump has been variously described as a narcissist, a fascist, and a psychopath. Of course, it’s easy to see some of these qualities in ourselves and in all people. But there’s a difference between having some qualities of a narcissist and being a diagnosable narcissist.

So I channeled Trump and took a few tests: to wit, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory test, the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale, and the Fascism Test (I also looked at Dr. Lawrence Britt’s Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism and asked myself (as Trump) whether I had those characteristics). One issue I have with these tests is that they’re easy to manipulate, and guess who’s good at manipulation? So rather than answering how I thought Trump might answer, I answered how I thought Trump truly feels.

One thing that struck me about the Narcissistic Personality Inventory is that is seems like it was written as a description of Donald Trump, almost as if Trump were the platonic ideal of narcissism. Based on my findings, Trump is highly narcissistic (39 out of 40), probably psychopathic (higher than 93% of people in both primary and secondary psychopathy), and crypto-fascist (57%). I may be slightly biased, though, so I encourage you to channel your inner Trump (or Hillary), take the tests, and let me know what you come up with in the comments below? (Just be sure to check the box that says that your answers are not true and cannot be used in their research, lest the researchers start to think that everyone has suddenly become a narcissist.)

What Hath We Wrought?
So we have a possible psychopathic cryptofascist narcissist running for president. That may be par for the course when it comes to the Libertarians, but this is (was?) one of the major parties. How is The Donald garnering over 40% of the vote in some polls? The world is shaking its head in bemusement.

There’s a tendency among the media and many on the left to jump on our high horses and dismiss all Trump supporters as batshit crazy. Undoubtedly, like the fringe element of the Tea Party, there is some batshittitude among Trump supporters. There is racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and a disdain for science….* And there’s a whole hell of a lot of ignorance, but that’s not something Trump supporters have a monopoly on – there’s plenty of that on the left as well, and along the whole political spectrum. How many of us could intelligently discuss the difference between Trump’s and Hillary’s economic plans? How many of us know what Article I of the U.S. Constitution outlines, or even how many articles are in the Constitution (Trump didn’t)?

We are emotional beings, and sometimes these emotions are easily manipulated. We want strong, forceful leaders, sometimes regardless of what they believe.** Research shows that charisma is more about demeanor than substance. One of the foremost experts on income inequality, Branko Milanovic, states in his 2016 book Global Inequality that in a plutocracy, the plutocrats have two primary strategies to maintain their hegemony: suppress the votes of the poor, and create a false consciousness among the lower middle class and the poor. In other words, if you can’t dissuade people from voting, dupe them into voting against their own self-interest. And this has been a conscious strategy, especially of the Republican Party, over the past 50-60 years.***

Reminds me of a political cartoon I drew when GWB was president. If you hammer the bush, black is whitesame point home long enough, people start to believe it. Trump supporters like that he says it like it is – or is it more that he just keeps saying black is white over and over, or maybe it’s just what certain people want to hear?**** Why do some people see this as charisma and authority, while others see it as bombast, buffoonery, and bluster?

Rather than trying to vilify the millions of Trump supporters out there, maybe we should be trying to understand their grievances. Ultimately, most of these folks are among those who have been left behind as the U.S. pushes toward plutocracy. Given what Trump says his economic policies are, he will only exacerbate their grievances. But is Hillary really the champion of the poor and middle class? Our catch-22 is to find politicians who will enact campaign finance reform, so we can get money out of politics.

Sound the Trumpets
Meanwhile, our narcissistic nominee could still become President, although current polling suggests it’s unlikely.***** Many, including a growing number of Republicans, say Trump will endanger our country if he becomes President. The Washington Post took the unprecedented step of denouncing Trump as a “unique threat to American democracy.” Trump is obviously full of a lot of bile and bullshit. He may usher in a new era of McCarthyist witch-hunting. His would undoubtedly be a disastrous presidency. But is it correct to say he represents a “unique threat”? We aren’t even sure what Trump believes in, and if he tries to put some of his more extreme rhetoric into action, even the least sane representatives and senators will have to oppose him. If nothing else, Trump is the lone loony shooter in the clock tower – he has no semblance of the backing and organization of presidents past.

The regime of George W. Bush ushered in a group of hawks who had been determined to intervene in the Middle East for decades. 9/11 gave them an opening, and they embarked on a truly disastrous war that left thousands of Americans dead, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead and displaced, cost trillions of dollars, and whose repercussions are still being felt today in continuing conflicts. Deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy under Bush contributed to the Great Recession, from which many are still reeling (and among whom, strangely, many see Trump as the savior). Is Trump more of a threat than that?

Going back a little further, Harry Truman conducted two of the most devastating attacks on civilians in modern history when he dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly killing perhaps 200,000 innocent people. Would Trump top that?

Make America Great Again
When was America so Great? In the 1800s, during slavery? In 1910, when women couldn’t vote? In the 1920s, when we couldn’t (God forbid) drink alcohol? In the 1930s, during the Great Depression? On August 6th and 9th, 1945? In the 1950s, during segregation? In the 1960s, when we fought in Vietnam? Maybe Trump thinks America was Great under Jimmy Carter, in the ’70s. Oh, of course, the ’80s, under Reagan, when Reagan was busy gutting the middle class, and when crime rates peaked at about twice what they are now.

There are great things about America, some things that might even be exceptionally great. But there are also terrible and shameful things in our history. As an unrelenting (naïve?) optimist, I think America is mostly moving in a positive direction. There is potential for America to be Great, but it involves continued vigilance and action from those of us who don’t want the dystopian nightmare that Trump envisions.


As an aside, almost every NY Times headline I get in my email subscription these days is about Trump. The media will be sad to see him go. Another group whose stock price will tumble should Trump lose the election is comedians – poor folks. I even had to purchase a Donald wig and try my hand at it – check out the vid page for some examples. I am a sucky impersonator, but we sure had a lot of fun making the vids.


*Y’know, “family values.”

**And Trump has apparently believed a lot of things, like he probably leans more Democratic, and that Hillary would be a good person to negotiate with the Iranians because she surrounds herself with good people.

***Which isn’t to absolve the Democrats, who are also largely beholden to economic elites.

****According to Politifact, 71% of Trump’s statements are Mostly False (15%), False (37%), or Pants on Fire (19%). Is that telling it like it is? For comparison, Hillary Clinton is at 27%: 14% Mostly False, 11% False, 2% Pants on Fire. So she’s a liar, too, just not as compulsively.

*****Then again, watch as George Stephanopoulos and other pundits laugh down Representative Keith Ellison as he suggests that Trump could win the nomination.

Poppa’s Internet Fuckwad Theory

There’s a popular equation about internet trolling called the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (GIFT):

general internet fuckwad theory


I like the sentiment of this theory, but I think it’s missing a wee little detail. You see, before Al Gore invented the internet* there were these things called bathroom stalls, and that’s where trolls used to find release (sometimes literally) before the internet. I conducted an informal study of bathroom stall walls for a few years in the 1990s. One of my findings was that swastikas and KKK scratchings were rampant, not to mention a scourge of other racist and misogynist and homophobic drivel (along with pictures of penises). Now, if we go back to the Fuckwad Theory, it posits that the spewers of this fuckwaddery are otherwise normal people. Really? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had the urge to bust out the Sharpie and draw a swastika while my cheeks are a-flexin’.

Of course, swastikas and KKKs are pretty extreme and hateful examples but, in a way, that’s the point. Trolls can be incredibly hateful, urging people to kill themselves, laughing at people who have killed themselves, telling people they deserved to be raped. There is no “normal” there – there is something quite abnormal about someone who posts “She wasn’t bullied for being a rape victim, she was bullied for being a slut, which she was” on the Facebook memorial page of a girl who hanged herself after a picture of her being gang raped was posted online.**

As with many things, there’s a trolling continuum. The above example is at one extreme. At the other end, trolling may even be mildly funny at times. But mostly it just detracts from what could be meaningful discussion and information on the internet.

I would guess that the vast majority of internet users are interested in having a civilized discussion about topics,*** but a small minority of trolls can quickly disrupt that. So here’s Poppa’s Internet Fuckwad Theory:

poppas internet fuckwad theory

Now I’m going to delve into some wild speculation to complete my thesis. Most, but not all, of these Fuckwads are dudes. As with our theory of assholery, men are the worst perpetrators of antagonism toward other humans. Humans are products of evolution, and men are particularly predisposed to aggressive competition for mates. My cousin once laughed at me when he noticed that I lowered my voice while speaking with a Blockbuster employee (Blockbuster was a store where you could rent these things called DVDs to watch movies). Why did I do that? Was the skinny pimply kid at the Blockbuster counter a threat to my manhood, a competitor in the primeval desire for a cavewoman? Maybe all our testosterone predisposes us dudes to more aggressive behavior, including writing “Fucking gay!!!” in the YouTube comments section.

But we are not just products of evolution; we’re also products of our environment. There aren’t a lot of great data on trolls, but many speculate that trolls are often products of fairly shitty environments. In general they may be more lonely, depressed, angry, wary, repressed, and have lower self-esteem. Which isn’t to excuse their behavior. If they had read Climbing the Totem Pole of Magnanimity, they would realize that sowing hatred does not actually make one feel better, and that, no matter your circumstance, you can always try not to be a dick (Wheaton’s Law).

In a societal sense, a society that fosters creativity, critical thinking, and civil discussion will harbor less trolls under its collective bridge. A society that builds community, broadens equality, and promotes a sense of civic duty will be riddled with fewer fuckwads.

But until that utopia unfolds, what are some practical means to curb internet hate and drivel? I think it comes down to the owners of sites (from the big players like YouTube to the news outlets to individual bloggers) to come up with policies that work for their users. Some people recommend getting rid of anonymity for commenters.

Personally, I like the idea of having a moderator for comments, separating the wheat from the chaff. That may not be practical for sites and videos that receive thousands of comments, but the New York Times seems to do a decent job. Moderating comments can also be crowdsourced. If enough people mark a comment as bullshit, it gets removed. If a particular fuckwad keeps trying to spread his bullshit on a particular site, he gets banned from commenting. Having a good commenting policy also helps.

YouTube is particularly debased when it comes to the comments section. Imagine if the Harper’s magazine letters section were like YouTube. Instead of “As Cockburn demonstrates, fundraising takes up an enormous amount of a candidate’s time…” you might have “Cockmonster!!!”

But as an owner of a blog and a YouTube channel, I have the option to moderate the comments that are displayed, and I do. Most of the comments (after weeding out spam, which YouTube does automatically) are constructive or encouraging, but some are just useless, so they go in the trash bin. One guy, after watching my concrete sink video, said that if he were in my house, he would have to bite his tongue to avoid saying how crappy my sink looks. Well, you are in my house when you’re on my channel, so bite your tongue. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t publish any kind of criticism, but it has to be constructive.

My buddy Mr. Money Mustache, who has a blog with millions of followers, put it this way to a rude commenter:

You’re right that I did ban you from future commenting, and here’s why. The blog is not a public space, it’s my living room. People are there to be entertained, and if I’m lucky, occasionally learn something. But in this case, you barged into my living room and started being a big fucking asshole.

I recently posted on the site of another blogger friend, Mr. 1500 Days, and his commenters must be some of the pleasantest people on the planet. But even Mr. 1500 gets occasional dipshit comments (“U R COCKMASTER!”), which he promptly flushes down the toilet.

Ultimately, there are companies or institutions or individuals who run websites, and it’s up to them how they want those sites to be perceived. Troll-filled sites take on the taint that their trolls tarnish them with. A little vigilance from the people who run websites will go a long way toward vanquishing trolls and providing a better service for all internet users.

And, lest you get the feeling that the world is full of bad guys, I’ll leave you with a take from John Oliver, one of the best guys in the world (if nothing else, forward to the parody of a 1995 AOL ad at about 14:40):


*Poor Gore got excoriated for this nonexistent claim, when in fact he was largely responsible for facilitating the unveiling of the internet.

**And women seem to be especially targeted by (mostly) male fuckwads, as is poignantly brought home in this YouTube vid about what some female ESPN reporters have experienced. Scrolling through the comments of the video, you can see that the fuckwads are out in full force.

***Which isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be a place for humorous irreverence (see every post on this blog).

Changing Evolution

mothsIt’s well known that humans have had a huge impact on the world’s biodiversity, with some suggesting that we have precipitated the sixth major extinction event in the Earth’s history. This may also be the worst sin perpetrated in Earth’s history. And it will only be accelerated and perpetuated via climate change. Shitty job, us.

A lesser known phenomenon occurring via humans is that we have changed the path of evolution for countless critters. There is the textbook example of the peppered moth, which evolved darker strains after the industrial revolution, resulting in better camouflage on polluted surfaces. Newer studies have found that swallows that spend more time around highways have evolved shorter wings, the better to dodge and dart around traffic. A new study, also with moths, finds that city variants of ermine moths are less attracted to light than their bumpkin cousins – thus avoiding the pitfalls of porch lights.

A few dozen millennia ago, wolves that capitalized on leftovers from human camps started developing traits that endeared them to humans – and bingo bango, we got chihuahuas.* After the hunter-gatherers and their dogs started planting stuff and settling down, we started to manipulate plant and animal life to an even greater degree. Did you know that cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts are the same species, Brassica oleracea? Or, rather, they were all cultivated from that wild plant. Carrots used to be mostly purple. Corn cobs used to look a lot more like grass stalks before humans got their hands on them.

Way before Darwin and Mendel figured out what the hell was going on, humans were intentionally changing evolution. And by changing our environment, as in the moth and swallow examples above, we’ve also made unintentional alterations to the fabric of our world. Unlike the moth and swallow examples, some of these alterations will have lasting negative repercussions.

As a small example, I was in my yard yesterday ostensibly destroying some dandelions (sans chemicals), and it occurred to me that these little em-effers are probably evolving adaptations to work around human attempts to eradicate them. I noticed that some of the dandelion flowers grow very close to the ground – is this an adaptation brought about by the dreaded lawnmower? What other ways have they evolved to continue to blight our attempts at perfect green carpets of grass?

On a larger scale (and with more than just aesthetic implications), pesticides are leading to resistant pests, which leads to increased pesticide use and new chemicals – great for Monsanto, shitty for the rest of us.

On a microscale, antibiotic overuse results in super bacteria evolving resistance, which leads to an arms race – great for big pharmaceutical companies, shitty for us. Antibiotics have also, in a sense, changed human evolution in that they have changed our microbiomes, which is partly responsible for a number of modern ailments.

Speaking of which, modern medicine has changed the course of human evolution in other ways. One side effect of the amazing advances of modern medicine is allowing many genes that used to be weeded out through natural selection to remain in the gene pool. Eventually, this problem may be solved via gene therapy, which will ultimately be a form of human-directed evolution (but that’s a story for another post).

In a sense, we are GMO’ing (GM’ing is probably more accurate) ourselves and the world – or the world is GM’ing itself, in an adapt-to-human-changes-or-die scenario. This has, of course, been part of the game since the incipient primordial soup, when microorganisms reacted and evolved to adapt to changes wrought by other microorganisms. The relationship between flowering plants and insects is one of the most fascinating examples of this. Consider the bee orchid, which, in what could be considered trans-species sexual selection, mimics a female solitary bee, inducing male bees to pseudocopulate** with the flower, thus transferring pollen (if they’d stop fucking flowers, maybe they wouldn’t be such solitary bees).

But never has the course of evolution been so affected by one species: humans. Human-caused extinction has to be up as one of our worst irredeemable acts, but we shouldn’t overlook the other ways in which we’re altering our big blue marble.


*One of my favorite disses on the creationist dupes was in the movie “Jesus Camp,” when the mom says “Creationism… it’s the only possible answer to all the questions” and the camera briefly pans to her chihuahua-ish wolf (1:51 in this clip):

**I admit it, this whole post was just an excuse for me to use the word “pseudocopulate.”

Cretaceous Copulation and Primate Promiscuity

Ah, it has been a long time since I’ve had occasion to write a post. I’m still plugging away on the fun but time-consuming 125-year-old house remodel – almost done with the interior, and it’s rented beginning in March. We’re already well into 2016, yet I feel like the year has barely begun. There are so many projects piling up that I want to get to. One is getting back to the blog. So many serious and important matters to attend to. But first there’s this:

Jason Dunlop/MfN Berlin

Jason Dunlop/MfN Berlin

Coitus Interruptus on Cretaceous Copulation
Harvestmen, colloquially called daddy longlegs, normally keep their penises tucked inside, a bane for arachnologists, who use penises to help identify harvestmen species. But 99 million years ago, some harvestmen were about to do the nasty when a dollop of sap produced a permanent cockblock, perfectly preserving the perpetrator’s penis in perpetuity. Based partially on this dude’s junk, researchers have placed these harvestmen in a new, extinct family. And now we have a dual meaning for the term daddy longlegs.

Primate Promiscuity
Modern humans evolved about 200,000 years ago and occasionally got busy doing it with other hominins, who were busy doing it with other hominins. Which makes our whole human lineage fairly complicated. Europeans and Asians have about 1-3% neanderthal genes, from hooking up about 50,000-65,000 years ago. Some Neanderthals, though, had also hooked up with a group of modern humans that left Africa 100,000 years ago and later died out. To complicate matters further, another group of archaic humans, the Denisovans, were hooking up with modern humans, Neanderthals, and even Homo erectus. With newer, faster DNA-sequencing techniques, the muddy, braided stream that is modern human evolution will become clearer and clearer.

Primate Proficiency
I used to be a decent dart player. In the early days of dating my now-wife, we would hit the bars on State Street in Madison and occasionally destroy some overconfident frat boys at cricket. When I was in the zone, I could aim for the individual hole at the center of the double bullseye – not that I would always hit it, but I did manage to pull out a six-bull round every so often. When I was focused, the bullseye became a bigger target. As it turns out, I was probably perceiving the bullseye as bigger than it was. A series of studies has shown that how we perceive the world is affected by our physical traits and abilities. So a softball seems bigger to a good hitter, a field goal seems smaller to a crappy kicker, wearing a heavy backpack makes hills seem steeper, and distances seem farther to obese people. Evolutionarily, you can see why seeing a bigger target would be a good trait. Now, if I could only make that golf hole look like the size of a dinner plate.


Gut Reaction

bariatricBariatric surgery often helps people lose weight – just ask Al Roker. But it turns out the weight loss associated with bariatric surgery may have less to do with having a smaller stomach and more to do with how the surgery permanently changes one’s gut microbiota. A new study found that people who have undergone bariatric surgery have different gut microbiota from obese people who haven’t undergone the surgery. When these microbiota were introduced to germ-free mice, the mice that received microbiota from people who had had bariatric surgery gained less weight than mice who had received microbiota from people who hadn’t had the surgery.

As we’ve mentioned here before, once they start figuring out which microbes promote healthier weights and which don’t, it will revolutionize how we approach weight loss. What the current study portends is that risky bariatric procedures may soon be unnecessary for helping people lose weight.

Or, if you’re really desperate, you can undergo some extreme stress to lose weight. Another recent study has shown that extreme stress can induce white fat cells to turn into higher-energy-burning brown fat cells. Um, don’t try this – wait until they figure out the gut microbiota thing.

Intentional Encumbrance

scottish bridgeThe last time I wrote a post, I was getting ready to embark on an 11-day trip to Scotland to film a movie with my brother and a friend. As it turns out, shooting a feature-length film in 11 days in a foreign land is challenging. But it was also an incredible experience, which I’ll document in greater detail in a future post. Now we can look forward to months of post-production – hopefully we’ll have a viewable film sometime in 2016.

Meanwhile, back in Longmont, the casket and painting businesses, along with a plethora of other projects and ventures, have kept me busy. At the moment, I feel like I’ve got a few too many plates spinning, on top of all those irons that are overheating in the fire – maybe I can’t see because of the various hats adorning my noggin.

Here’s a synopsis of some of the projects and endeavors I’ve been involved with:

  • I sold a rental condo in Fort Collins in July. To complete a 1031 exchange, I had to have a new property picked out by mid-August. A week before the deadline, I found this place:
    atwoodAfter years of neglect, this old house (built in 1890) needs a fair amount of work. The original plan was to do a bit of cosmetic fixing up, but that quickly evolved into rewiring the whole house, replacing the furnace and adding new ducting,* redoing the bathrooms and kitchen, and ripping out a few walls – and that’s just the inside. So it looks like I’ll be busy with this for a few months. I love the place, and I hope to document some of the changes we’re making in a future post.
  • Along with a couple high school friends, I started a t-shirt biz, Cheesy or Die. We’re still in the throes of working on designs, tightening up the website, finding the correct platform for selling our schwag, marketing, and hopefully ensuring we don’t get sued or end up in jail for copyright infringement or slander or counterfeiting.**
  • A year ago, I wrote a post about practicing unhygiene, in which I posited the idea that I might spend some time taking dirt showers. Well, I did just that for a week in September, much to my wife’s chagrin.*** dirt showerAnd, to stamp some officialdom on this project, I took DNA samples of the microbiota of my pits before and after the dirt showers, as well as of the dirt I used – results will be forthcoming in the next year or so (they’re a bit backed up at the gut microbiota lab – speaking of which, my gut microbiota results are in (future post)). Preliminary results: I didn’t stink too much, my hair didn’t get greasy, I didn’t die of some strange amoebic infection or leishmaniasis.
  • In addition to those fun projects and the painting and casket businesses, my old knees are well enough that I’ve begun playing indoor soccer again, as well as helping to coach my son’s team. I’m also working to keep my cricket and mealworm farms alive in the basement for future consumption, and I’m still selling occasional Simple Brew Kits (in fact, I have to get one shipped this morning). Even the old greeting card business brought in an order for 500 cards this week.
  • In addition to this blog and post-production work on the film, I’ve had to move a few other projects to the back burner. I was hoping to get my golf game closer to bogey golf by the end of the year. Well, I haven’t been able to get out very much, and it showed when I busted out something around the mid-100s at Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin last weekend (I did a little better at a much easier course in Green Bay). So next year is the year I shoot for bogey golf. I had also hoped to achieve the fairly modest goal of benching 225 by the end of the year. I’m still going to give it a rip, but considering that I haven’t lifted since pre-Scotland, it could be a dicey proposition. Maybe I need to bring the weight bench to the remodel project.

To a certain degree, I’ve fallen victim to one of the pitfalls of eclecticism: the triage protocol is in effect, and this blog was one of the casualties (but maybe a few pounds on the chest can get its heart ticking again).**** I like being busy, but when one suddenly realizes one has forgotten to breathe for a while, one may need to slow it down a bit. Eclectics have a tendency to intentionally encumber ourselves, but it’s important to find some balance in how many projects we take on. Yes, this is absolutely a Rich Person Problem – I’m grateful that I have all these opportunities available to me.

Still, I’d like to have less plates spinning next year. I’d like 2016 to be the year of the rose, where I’ll have enough time to smell those proverbial flowers. Of course, too much time among the flowers can have an opiate effect; there’s still shit to be done, hopefully just less of it. Maybe 2016 can be the year of the rose, and some shit. In 2016, I can tie up some loose ends on the homefront, smell the roses, finish the film project, smell some more roses, write more posts, roses, focus on a few art projects, roses, think a little more globally, and of course spend more time with my family.*****


*None of the bedrooms have heat – apparently back in the old days, people shivered themselves to sleep.

**Part of our marketing strategy involved getting a group of Madison East Class of 90 brothers to join us at Lambeau to watch the Packers take on the Rams – we enlisted our fellow Purgolders (yes, I know, it was a pretty lame mascot) to wear our shirts and make it rain by passing out Packer Bucks:
Packer Buck




***I think I’m going to make a post category called “Much To My Wife’s Chagrin.” Then again, pretty much every post would be in it.

****In fact, the blog has been in an induced coma. I’ve still been feeding it new info for future posts – it just hasn’t had any outward signs of life.

*****Speaking of family, it turns out my daughter is a burgeoning eclectic herself. She has projects scattered about the house. And she even wanted to build a playhouse the other day – I told her she couldn’t even put the damn tent together (she left it strewn across the basement for me to clean up), so she’s got some work to do before she’s ready to start building a playhouse. I did teach her how to use the dremel, though, and she’s been busy carving things in wood. She is currently clandestinely filming me writing this post.

Fast and Endurious

fountain of youthA few years ago I embarked on a three-day fast after reading a Harper’s article by Steve Hendricks, Starving your way to vigor (sorry, you have to subscribe to Harper’s to read it), about the many potential health benefits of fasting. I wrote about my experience on the Mr. Money Mustache blog. It was a fun challenge; enough so that I thought I might make it a semi-annual or annual event. Alas, almost three years later, my longest fasts have resulted from skipping breakfast.

Some of the most exciting research cited in Hendricks’s article centered on how fasting affects cancer: cancer may be less likely to develop in fasting individuals, and if one does get cancer, fasting can intensify the positive effects of chemotherapy while reducing the negative effects. This chemo/fasting synergy occurs because, at a certain point during fasting, healthy cells go into a more quiescent, maintenance mode, whereas cancer cells keep on happily trying to reproduce. Thus chemo more effectively targets those rambunctious cancer cells and has less of an impact on healthy cells, resulting in less side effects.

Fasting may also help reduce seizures. Hendricks tells a compelling story about a young child who was having multiple seizures per day. The child’s parents had exhausted most medical options, to no avail, when their research led them to a century-old practice of fasting to alleviate seizures. Under their doctor’s guidance, they tried this, and it had immediate and enduring effects in reducing their child’s seizures, allowing him to lead a normal life.

Some studies have shown that fasting can protect the brain and slow aging in mice. Many people promote the idea of caloric restriction as a means to increase lifespan. For me, though, ongoing caloric restriction would feel like an unnecessary deprivation – who cares if I live a few more months if I have to endure a somewhat shittier existence for the next 40 years to achieve it? Likewise, outright fasting can be onerous, and not many people are going to adopt it as part of their lifestyle.

Enter intermittent fasting. A new study has shown that many of the benefits of fasting or caloric restriction may also accrue when one practices caloric restriction for just a few days a month. Mice fed a low-calorie, low-protein diet for two periods of four days per month lived an average of three months longer than mice on a regular diet (three months is a big deal when your lifespan is only 2-3 years – that’s like adding 5-8 years to a human life). The study also looked at humans, and found that just a few months of intermittent calorie restriction (five days per month of eating 725-1090 calories) resulted in reduced blood glucose, less abdominal fat, and lower levels of a protein associated with cardiovascular disease. Additionally, there were higher levels of some stem cells in the blood, suggesting that intermittent calorie restriction may produce some rejuvenating effects.

So is the long search for the Fountain of Youth over? Probably not, but there’s a lot of promising stuff. There’s a followup study underway with more people, and there are a lot of questions to answer. Meanwhile, there’s always the opportunity to do a study of one.*

As an eclectic, intermittency is a pretty appealing thing to me; it’s fun to mix things up. So I like the idea of incorporating some occasional, not very structured, caloric restriction into my regimen. In fact, I might give it a rip for a few days starting today – I could stand to lose a few pounds anyway.


*I haven’t read this book, but it looks like The Fast Diet could have some good info on how to set up an intermittent fasting regimen.


A Quarter a Day

Food is a problem for a good chunk of the planet. There are over 800 million undernourished people in the world, and millions more that have other forms of malnutrition. According to Mark Bittman, the problem is more one of poverty than of a lack of food. Maybe this is true, but almost all of the potential agricultural land on the planet is currently in use (with an enormous toll on the environment), and with a growing population and complications from climate change, it will be harder to produce enough food to meet the world’s needs.

National Geographic currently has an ongoing series called The Future of Food, and in the November 2014 issue, there’s a blurb with some interesting facts. They mention bug eating as part of the solution to hunger.* Additionally, it only costs a quarter a day to give a child a school meal with enough for leftovers. So that would be about 0.002% of the annual U.S. budget to end hunger in the world? Seems worth it.

The good news is that, largely thanks to the UN Millennium Development Goals, hunger is dropping quickly worldwide. And, with the follow-up to the MDG, Sustainable Development Goals, the plan is to effectively end extreme poverty and hunger by 2030. There is some skepticism about these goals, but that shouldn’t deter us from trying. Imagine what an incredible human accomplishment this would be.


*I’ve had some involvement with the idea of entomophagy. My colleagues and I calculated the amount of land potentially required to meet the caloric needs of the world’s undernourished via insects, and it’s astonishingly small. Our paper was published in the Ecology of Food and Nutrition journal, and I’ll have more details on it in a future post.


Rat Love

rat empathyWe’ve spent a fair amount of time (too much?) discussing the plight of lab mice, so it’s time to give the lab rat its due. Rats are amazing little critters, and they have a lot to tell us about ourselves, especially if we subject them to torturous trials and tribulations. In a recent study, rats were put in the perilous situation of having to tread water for up to five minutes. A rat on an adjoining (dry) platform could free the “drowning” rat by opening a door to the platform, which they regularly did. Even when offered the choice between chocolate and freeing their wet companion, the rats chose to first help their pals 50-80% of the time.

This is a good indication that there’s a genetic basis for empathy and altruism. Whether the humans in the lab acquired these genes is up for debate.