Monthly Archives: January 2013

No Place To Go

bettyI’m posting this now instead of on April 1st, because it’s such strange news that I couldn’t wait.

It seems the once often encountered common louse isn’t encountered so often anymore. Now listed as endangered, maybe the name should be changed to the uncommon louse.

The common louse’s population decline is linked to the rise in popularity, worldwide, of the Brazilian bikini wax and it’s resulting “scorched earth” skin surface with nowhere for lice to live.

A “Brazilian waxing” wipes out the native environment for the common louse. Even though only the female half of adult humans indulge in this type of waxing, that’s all it’s taken to threaten this fellow inhabitant of our natural world, despite the group of promiscuous male human carriers doing their (unintentional) best to carry these fellow travelers into the bush as it were. There’s just “no there” there most of the time nowadays.

In an attempt to act before it’s too late for the common louse, the CDC is lobbying to stop “Brazilians” from being administered to women under the age of 45 in an attempt at curbing the demise of  lice.

A public awareness campaign is also under way to compliment the restriction. The campaign stresses that copying the “Brazilian look” by shaving is just as detrimental to the once lush habitats for the common louse. The “bush is back” public campaign will target the porn industry hoping these trend-setters in this realm can have some influence on their viewers before the common louse goes the way of the carrier pigeon and other species that have been collateral damage from unfortunate human encounters.

Research is also being conducted to find other mammals that might make acceptable hosts for this annoying but not dangerous little hitchhiker.

Now I need to research for something else to write about for April 1st.

Be Clear

edwardA friend asked for some advice on getting into better shape. He’s a regular guy, not much of an athlete and was after some clear, simple advice.

Like most people, he just wants to look good naked and to be generally healthy. That means he doesn’t need to train like elite athletes do. He doesn’t have to aim low, but by definition, an elite athlete is rare, probably in the top 1% of the population, so why should he train like an elite athlete?

And he’s better off not trying to be someone else. Shoot for you, but better. A better you is something you can do.

He has to make sure he’s harvesting the low hanging fruit that produces a lot of benefits without much effort like not smoking, sleeping enough, eating more protein and fat, and getting some sunlight. Plus he should start standing more than sitting.

Next, he should find exercises he enjoys doing and he’ll be more likely to show up for workouts. And try to arrive at the minimum effective number of workouts a week. The right amount of exercise is more effective than doing as much as possible. If laying in the sun for 30 minutes produces a tan, doubling the time in the sun just burns you. Less is often more.

An another important consideration is not doing exercises which may result in harm. Getting hurt is a big setback. Some exercises might look cool but can hurt you when they’re done incorrectly or too often. For example, unless you’re fascinated with Olympic weight lifting, why bother learning those complicated high velocity techniques, when you can easily and safely do deadlifts, bench presses, and squats with moderate weight?

That was enough information to get him started. I’ll try to keep tabs on his progress. If knows he’s accountable to someone, he’ll be more likely to stick with it. We’ll see.



Staying Calm

Surfing - walking the leashI’m practicing two sports that seem very different but have something in common. Surfing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) each require being comfortable in uncomfortable situations.

BJJ is really just wrestling while trying to submit your opponent and also avoiding being submitted. The person on top is usually keeping as much weight as possible on the bottom person. Lots of uncomfortable situations arise.

But surfing? Yep, now you’re often being held down by tons of turbulent ocean water. Sometimes the feeling is more “Jaws” than “Charlie the tuna.” Surfing looks graceful on the surface of a wave but sometimes beneath the surface there’s fierce beat down taking place.

Our first instinct when being held down is to struggle mightily against whatever is crushing us. But as it turns out, staying calm, even playful,  and you’ll get out of the situation more easily and probably quicker too. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but once you get it your life gets easier.

Is Sugar Fattening?


That’s the shortest answer.

If you want the whole story read “Why We Get Fat,” by Gary Taubes. It’s the more accessible follow up book to his widely acclaimed “Good Calories, Bad Calories,” which is a good book too, but it’s a slog getting through it because it’s so information dense.

I’m not really stealing his thunder by saying it doesn’t take much easily digested sugar to bump up our insulin which in turn signals our bodies to store more fat.

Nowadays we eat like we’re in (an endless) summer preparing our bodies for a harsh winter (that we actually never encounter). Most of the information Taubes goes over was known and well understood before the seventies came along demonizing fat and embracing carbs. All of which was supposed to make us healthier.

Look around, you don’t need any stats or figures – we’re fatter and unhealthier. That trend started with the shift that really took off in the seventies.

The book explains why obesity isn’t a character flaw, and energy equation imbalance, or a call for more exercise. If “Why We Get Fat” starts to get too detailed for you, just skim over it until you get to a more interesting topic. He’s just backing up his argument and so you won’t be lost if you jump ahead sometimes.

Taubes is the real deal as a science writer with other science related books and articles, he’s a physicist without any fuzzy thinking.

If you’re still eating the standard American diet you should read this book.

More About Blogging

zzz Ring - writtenWriting a blog can serve many purposes.

In September, I wrote a blog about blogging after some friends asked for advice about how to write a blog. I didn’t really cover the “why” and the readers’ experience.

A blog lets me share ideas and entertain, either one is good, but if I do both it’s even better. Blogging lets me keep a record of ideas before they evaporate from my memory, because we’re bombarded with new stuff everyday that crowds out earlier stuff. Sometimes a blog and a cover letter might be better than a resume and a cover letter. And blogging helps hone my storytelling and communicating abilities.

The reader’s experience is important.

I think it’s better to have a clean and clear format, consistent from week to week. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so a clean blog is just as good for the writer as it is for the reader. That probably means it’s not that great for ads and affiliate junk that’s really just  distracting for readers and writers. I’m happy writing my blog, and even happier if you’re happy about it too.

If my readers are coming to my site, it’s to be informed or entertained. The same reasons I visit other sites. I don’t want to be sold to, see pop-up windows, endure”sharing” pleas, or read “like” requests. They’re all distracting. I know how to bookmark something if I like it.

A good blog needs content, a title, the writing, maybe a picture, and a clear format. I like to visit blogs that follow a schedule so I try to do it too.

So write about what you like that’s useful and enjoyable to read, while creating a good experience for your readers. That’s about it.


Seven Interesting Links

globeHere’re links to seven stories I think are interesting.

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Paul Salope is embarking on a walk retracing the migration of early humans, from Africa to the tip of South America. He’s planning on finishing this 21,000 mile trek in 2020. Along the way he’ll try slow-journalism, issuing stories every hundred miles or so, chronicling our current, changing world while he’s on his seven year walk. NPR has a seven minute report on the trip too.

Now that humans live everywhere, if you’re waiting to be born and have a say in the country, then first look at the best and worst countries to be born into today. Spoiler Alert! Shoot for Switzerland, Australia, or Norway, and stay away from Nigeria, Kenya and Ukraine. Small, peaceful, homogeneous, liberal democracies will give you the best shot at having a good life.

Leo Babauta interviews Mark Sisson about how life in our hyperconnected world doesn’t always provide what we’re hardwired to expect from our surroundings.

There’s a tribe living in Brazil who don’t, and can’t, count. Also their concept of time goes back just about two generations. This article is from 2006, but it a good one.

Jumping ahead in time, this article in Wired speculates on robots’ place in our future. It’s happening. There’s a $22,000 work robot that anyone can instruct and safely work next to, it can do the work of half million dollar work robots in the previous robot generation.

Back to South America, give this NYT profile of Jose Mujica a read. He’s the president of the “Switzerland of South America,” Uruguay. It’s a different story, with lots of unexpected twists.

Too tired to read anything else? Watch this video of a top Vegas entertainment pickpocket showing how he does a few of his picks using the writer from the New Yorker who wrote about him for the magazine.

A Simple Test

diceCan you pass this simple test?

All you need is: a floor, to wear unrestrictive clothes, and be barefoot. Then try sitting down on the floor and getting up while using as little support as possible. Crossing your legs is ok, if you need to do it.

If you can sit down and get up with only your feet and butt touching the floor you’ll get a score of 10, in other words, without assistance from hands, elbows, knees, or thighs. Sitting and rising are each evaluated separately. You get five points for going down unassisted, and five for getting up unassisted. Points are subtracted for using a supporting hand or knee and for being wobbly.

Watch this four-minute video called the Sitting-Rising Test (SRT), it’s not in English, but  has clear and easy English subtitles.

I’ve written a couple of posts before about the ability to crouch or squat and how it goes away as we age in modern societies. So it’s interesting seeing the SRT being developed as a simple test for assessing musculoskeletal function.

While the SRT isn’t a definitive predictor of longevity, it’s a good indicator of general well-being and a higher score hints at better odds for a longer life.

In Rio de Janeiro, 2,002 men and women, ranging from 51 to 80 were given the SRT and then followed for an average of six years. Of the 160 of people who died during the follow-up, only two had scores of 10. The participants with scores below 8 were twice as likely to die and those with a zero score were 5 to 6 times as likely to die.

The study didn’t prove a cause and effect relationship, but it did show capacities for performing daily activities and maintaining a higher quality of life.

The SRT is simple. There’s no equipment and it’s easy to try, score, and understand. You can even self-interpret.

The Tale of Two Maps

book buying mapThese are two maps I saw recently. The first one is from The Seattle Times and the one below it is from the Indexmundi.

The top map shows the average spending on books in major American cities in 2012.

Guns_Deaths-per-100k-populationThe bottom map, from 2007, shows gun  deaths (per 100,00) and gun ownership, by state, across America.

I know correlation doesn’t always mean causation. The Newtown school massacre was in Connecticut which has some of the lowest death and gun ownership numbers. There’re still plenty of guns there and at least one deranged guy.

There might be some crossover between these maps. Generally speaking, it looks like where there’s more book buying, there also tends to be fewer gun deaths.

The NRA would probably say that because people are spending their money on books they don’t have enough money to buy guns with.

If that’s the case, that’s ok.


New Markets?

vaporizer in a barIt’s 2013 and now that pot is legal in two states, I’m sure more states will follow their lead. And with a growing market around legalized pot there’ll be new business opportunities, large and small.

Is pot bad mainly because it was illegal? Or was pot illegal because it is bad? Probably the first choice. New pot smokers probably won’t feel guilty about inhaling for moral reasons, but they might for health reasons.

There’s a business opportunity at the ironic intersection of health conscious Americans, smoking pot, and the ban on smoking in public places. There’s a one word solution to this opportunity and that word is: vaporizers. Vaporizers let you inhale vapors instead of smoke and come in both portable and table top versions. I think the portable, rechargeable electric ones are going to really take off.

Portable vaporizers are sleek,cigar-sized, miniature ovens. They heat the leaf material  put into them to the sub-burning point releasing the sought after chemicals as a vapors, and not some of the bad ones (ashes,tars, etc), without generating smoke. You’ll be able to “smoke” in public because you won’t be producing smoke.

I’ve seen one once, on a plane I think, the passenger seated next to me had one for tobacco. They’ve been popular with semi-reformed tobacco smokers as well as enthusiastic, chronic pot smokers for some time. So they’ve had most of the bugs worked out I’d think.

The owners of bars, or whatever sort of public establishments wind up encouraging patrons to use adult beverages and pot, will need to promote using vaporizers for public consumption. Of course no one really knows how this will look when it settles down and becomes really accepted.

Maybe you’ll have first heard of the idea here first. But, I’m pretty sure if a non pothead living in another country is thinking about these business opportunities, there must be vaporizer manufacturers adding sifts in their factories.