Monthly Archives: November 2015

Could you hang in there for three days?

rabbit on couch
Say you get lost. If you’re found within three days, your chance of surviving and being rescued is about 97%. Could you hang in there for three days until you’re found? If you can, statically you should be ok.

I’m not a “prepper” or a survivalist, but an ability to feel and be self-secure goes a long way and it doesn’t require too much mental conditioning.

In our society we’re probably more vulnerable today than we ever have been before because our systems are too complex for any one person to master. I’m not talking about returning to primitive living which is opened-ended. I’m talking about a situation you’re expecting or hoping to be rescued from.

In other words, if you find yourself in an emergency, potentially life threatening situation. Your primary goal will be dealing with immediate conditions until you’re out of that situation.

In the wilderness, if you have a good attitude and a down jacket, you can survive for quite a while because two key areas are covered, your body’s core temperature and your mindset. Next, if you have access to water and can make a fire, Yahtzee.

Food won’t be an issue. You can go a few weeks without food, and a few days without water. Even at home we’ve become very dependent on things outside of our control, like a steady supply of electricity. If the lights go out for a long time, we’d all be in a tough spot.

You don’t have to sweat the fancy knots, building traps, or morse code. Just maintain your core temp and stay calm. Here’re three tips to remember from Lars Fält, a top survival instructor. His three suggestions for cultivating the right survival attitude are:

1. “Accept” early on that you are a person who’s going to survive.

2. Cultivate good social relationships. They’re essential to creating the will to survive and the desire to fight on.

3. Break the big task down into smaller ones. Thinking about the big picture is usually counter-productive to survival. Getting down to the business of successfully completing a series of tasks is a winning strategy.

You can hang in there for three days.

Noel Gallagher

fuck offLots of comedians refuse to work on college campuses because they’re unwilling to conform their material to the politically correct attitude of college students these days.

It was refreshing to read the interview with Noel Gallagher in Esquire magazine. Noel was the  driving force of Oasis, probably the most popular 90’s band. He was and still is definitely not PC. Here’s a sample of Noel discussing new rock stars:

“Fame’s wasted on them, with their fucking in-ear monitors and their electronic cigarettes. And their fragrances that they’re bringing out for Christmas. You fucking dicks. My fragrance? Oh it’s coming, it’s coming. Toe-Rag it’s going to be called. And the bottle’s going to be a massive toe.”

The interview is more entertaining because our world is so PC. If there were more people talking like Noel, his salt-of-the-earth take on life wouldn’t be as engaging.

Thanks twins

massai jumpingCan building muscle strengthen your mind? Fitter legs were strongly linked to fitter brains in a recent study. Because twins are so alike, comparing twins from the same pair can be useful in medical research.

Just in case my legs weaken in a few years and I forget, I’m keeping some highlights from a NYT article about stronger legs being linked to a stronger mind.

Muscular power is widely accepted as a marker of healthy aging. …scientists looked for twins who, 10 years previously, had completed extensive computerized examinations of their memory and thinking abilities, as well as assessments of their metabolic health and leg-muscle power, which measure muscles’ force and speed.

The scientists focused on the twins’ muscles rather than their exercise habits largely because the power measures were objective.

The scientists then asked the twins to visit a laboratory and repeat the cognitive tests. Twenty of the identical twin pairs also completed brain-imaging scans.Then the researchers compared leg power 10 years earlier with changes in brain function over the same time period.

They found that of the 324 twins, those who had had the sturdiest legs a decade ago showed the least fall-off in thinking skills, even when the scientists controlled for such factors as fatty diets, high blood pressure and shaky blood-sugar control.

The differences in thinking skills were particularly striking within twin pairs. If one twin had been more powerful than the other 10 years before, she tended to be a much better thinker now. In fact, on average, a muscularly powerful twin now performed about 18 percent better on memory and other cognitive tests than her weaker sister.

Similarly, in the brain imaging of the identical twins, if one genetically identical twin had had sturdier legs than the other at the start of the study, she now displayed significantly more brain volume and fewer “empty spaces in the brain” than her weaker sister.

Of course, this study involved only a single snapshot of the brain health of middle-aged female twins. Over all, among both the identical and fraternal twins, fitter legs were strongly linked, 10 years later, to fitter brains. 

…the results imply that whatever your genetic make-up, building muscles can strengthen your mind.


The endgame

you are hereI was talking to a friend the other day about how he invests his money.

There’re lots of ways to invest. There’s value in the easiest and simplest. Put your money in an S&P 500 fund with the lowest maintenance cost and leave it alone. The stock market will go up and down. Ignore the rollercoaster ride and over time you’ll come out ahead.

Don’t believe me, Warren Buffet says that’s what he’s doing with 90% of the money he’s leaving his wife.

Some “early retirement” websites tout this investment strategy. I like jlcollins, Mr. Money Mustache, or Early Retirement Extreme. Before they get to investing though, they devote a lot of ink to the preliminary stuff, like getting out of debt, reducing your expenses, and saving more of your money. Kant said, “We’re enriched not by what we possess, but by what we can do without.”

Most people don’t like working for someone else and they’d like to pursue their own agenda, so getting your finances in order means your livelihood will no longer depend on the demands of possibly irrational people. Unfortunately, most people have taken on debt, continue buying things they don’t really need, and save very little. That’s why all that has to be addressed first

Ultimately, happiness is the  underlying sense of well-being  you wish will continue indefinitely. High status and high income probably aren’t what you need for a happier life. If you think that’s true, why end up trading your precious time for things that deliver little value to you. Unless you want those things. Some people, successful or not, never label what they go through as bad, simply taking it as a given.

Circling back to investing, You’ll contribute to your happiness by not having to worry much about what your money is up to. The most basic formula requires:

figuring out what your yearly expenses are,

saving at least 25 times that amount,

all the while investing your savings in a low-cost S&P 500 index,

and then you can withdraw 4% every year for the rest of your life.

That’s the endgame in a nutshell.


bones1Eliminating blind spots feels good.

You often don’t know what you don’t know.

And sometimes you don’t know what you thought you knew.

I just realized the upper arm bone rests in a socket that’s on the shoulder blade. Maybe I never needed to think about it before, so I vaguely thought the socket for the upper arm bone was connected to the rib cage with the shoulder blade floated behind it.

Why would the structure of the shoulder be on your radar if you’re not in the medical profession? Until your get a frozen shoulder. I was diagnosed with a frozen shoulder and started googling it to see what the different treatment options are.

It took a while before I understood how our shoulders work. Not because it’s that complicated, though it’s more complicated than the model of it that was in my mind. I guess I was a little slow on the uptake because I assumed I knew how the joint worked, plus at first most of the shoulder joints presented showed the joint with muscles and other soft tissues in place.

Finally the scales lifted from my eyes and I understood that the socket for the arm is part of the shoulder blade itself.

I’m sure I’ve seen pictures like the one here before, but it never overwrote the blindspot I had of how I imagined the joint.

Is grip strength important?

petting the dogIt depends, but It turns out that your grip strength is probably more important than you’d imagine.

I heard a discussion between two guys from TV shows that strip participants of almost everything modern, forcing them to live primitively. Both participants were struck by how important strong hands were. Describing their time surviving as primitive humans might have, they said it was a constant grind. And also, that contrary to what you might think, surviving in primitive circumstances requires a lot of grabbing, holding, and twisting, but not much running or lifting heavy things.

That reminded me of a comment by Pavel Tsatsouline who has trained both Russian and US special forces. When he was asked what are the most important body parts to train, he said there were two, grip strength and abdominal strength.

Even in cultures that have specialization, sometimes grip strength is still important. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary under “dentist,” part of the definition said that “During the Middle Ages extractions were carried out by barbers and blacksmiths, or sometimes by specialist tooth-drawers, some of whom would spend hours pulling nails out of planks of wood as practice for extracting teeth with their fingers.” That’s grip strength.


party store cartoonWhen I was younger, I used to run a lot. I was a pretty good citizen runner for years.

Sometimes while running I’d chat with other runners, I realized lots of them were getting ready for this or that race.

I ran in a few races but mostly I just liked running. The people who’d be training for a race usually wouldn’t continue running after the race day.

It’s the difference between having a goal and having a system, it’s the framing you use (or need) to approach something.

The cartoonist Scott Adams put it this way, “…goals are a reach-it-and-be-done situation, whereas a system is something you do on a regular basis with a reasonable expectation that doing so will get you to a better place in your life. Systems have no deadlines, and on any given day you probably can’t tell if they’re moving you in the right direction. My proposition is that if you study people who succeed, you will see that most of them follow systems, not goals…”

For example, If you want to be healthy and are interested in running, then planning to run the NYC marathon is a goal and being active everyday is a system. The difference in how you frame of what you do probably affects how long you’ll stick with it.

Here’s another framing option. Aren’t adults more likely to say, “I can’t”, rather than, “I haven’t learned that yet” (I can’t swim, I can’t cook, I can’t use a computer). That’s how I tend to frame things. Maybe it’s too uncomfortable for adults to be seen as trying something that they might fail at.

What about this? Changing “is” to “could be,” and looking for “an answer” rather than “the answer.” This lets you think in conditionals instead of absolutes.  Everyone likes to be right, but using these different ways to frame something might make your life easier.

Unnecessary stress comes from letting the perfect get in the way of the good enough. Striving for the likely unattainable “ideal” is OK, but at the same time realize that what you’re likely to achieve is the “good enough.”

Willie’s Reserve

regular lifeStates are awakening to the opportunities from legalizing pot.

There’s the ocean of tax revenue, and the cost savings from not incarcerating pot users. That’s what’s happening in Colorado and Washington state.

Because I’m not a pothead, I don’t follow the pot issue too closely. I read an article about the fears by some that legalization will allow big corporations to take over the pot world. It appeared in the November 2, 2015 issue of New York Magazine.

Will big corporations take over? Who knows. But some will join in, there’s too much potential for profit. The article mentioned a couple of corporations positioning themselves to pounce when the time is right. One has already secured the rights to Bob Marley’s name and image for their potential product line.

Willie Nelson was profiled too because he’s trying to create a “Willie’s Reserve” brand that will select one top grower in each state who will receive Willie’s endorsement and the right to use his brand name. Not exactly a big corporate thing, more of a mid-sized corporation fighting for the small producer.

Here’re a couple of ideas from the article:

Too many pot smokers these days have gotten fussy about their weed. In the same way that modern foodies have eroded the simplicity of homegrown food, leaving behind its rustic roots for a universe of prickly, esoteric greens and incomprehensibly expensive mushrooms, turning local food into a temple for snobs and picky eaters, I have noticed a similar tendency creeping into the conversation around pot — with inflated descriptions of bud density, room-note, fruity undertones, and heritage genetics, usually proffered in the grandiose vocabulary of the dismal jerk who flips out over wine.

Some folks will always be snobby. But there’ll be a big spectrum of users.

Nelson was after something simpler. He just liked getting high. He may be one of the most famous stoners on Earth, with a tolerance to fell giants, but he is not, strictly speaking, a marijuana connoisseur.

He just knows what he likes.