Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Species Diet

I came up with a diet called the Species diet.  With all the diets out there, why did I invent a new diet? It's because my whole life I've been a victim... of second hand dieting. From fake meat made with soy to brownies made with apple sauce.

What is a diet? The definition is "The kinds of food that a person eats". Our, in three words, "food people eat".

Why do we eat food? Imagine if your automobile used gasoline to create spare parts and put tread back on your tires. Besides providing raw energy, the gasoline would also need to provide raw materials.  It's the same with our bodies. We are continually regenerating cells, on average replacing our parts about every 7 years. We need food to do this. 

What if we could avoid the food provides the raw materials for the scars of life: wrinkles, gray hair, etc.?  Of course, that's a ridiculous idea.  However, that's what other diets are based on: the mistaken idea that you can be healthier by eliminating certain foods.

For example;
The paleo diet, don't eat grains, beans, peanuts
Atkins and South Beach - don't eat certain carbs
Vegan - don't eat meat or any animal protein
Jenny Craig - don't eat anything that Jenny Craig isn't selling.
Slimfast - don't eat anything that isn't a shake
Metafast - don't eat anything that resembles real food.

I say, forget all these restricting diets.

Remember the definition of diet: food people eat. There's a entirely different word for food you don't eat.  It's called Fasting. The definition of fasting is "To abstain from all or some kinds of food".  At least Slim-"fast" and Meta-"fast" got that right.

How do we make sure we get the raw materials we need?  In the early 19th century, William Prout, an English doctor and chemist identified the three principal constituents of food - pizza, diet coke, ... I mean protein, fat and carbohydrates.  Then Justus von Liebig, a German scientist added a couple of minerals and concocted the first baby formula. Babies fed exclusively on this first baby formula failed to thrive.

This is called the reductionist view of nutrition:  break food down into the chemical parts.  And it doesn't work.

To illustrate this problem, let's consider the menu with two choices:

Choice #1
Filet of beef/chicken/fish with
A side of Asparagus spears sauteed with roasted pecan nuts
Garlic mashed potatoes
A fresh bowl of cut strawberries, pineapple and mango.

Choice #2
Filet of protein with omega 3 fatty acids and essential amino acids
A side of carbohydrates high in fiber with folate, antioxidants sauteed with roasted betacarotenes and lutein
A fresh bowl of carbohydrates with magnesium, niacin, potassium.

Choice #1 is obviously more appetizing because it's food that comes from an animal or plant species. Each species is highly evolved. Plants collect nutrients with their roots and animals graze and forage. The result is tasty food.  The more species from which you get food, the greater the variety of nutrients. Thus the Species Diet.

What are the rules?
  1. You get a point for each species that you eat.  You decide when to reset your points. For me it's every day.
  2. If it's not a species, then it's zero points.  You decide what qualifies. For me, the species must be recognizable without reading a label.  You can still eat it, you just don't get points.
The goal is to get as many points as possible.

Example:
Breakfast: Bacon, eggs, orange (3 points)
Lunch: Apple, ham. Only 1 point since you have bacon (the same species) as ham.  

Does the species diet make any sense?
The focus is on eating unprocessed foods and the most points are available from eating fruits and vegetables since there aren't as many choices for meat. Makes sense to me.

In conclusion,
I may not be the most qualified person to invent a diet, but hopefully I convinced you that there it is a fun, healthy, non restricting way to eat. You can do it however you want. Just don't go crazy. Like the guy that tried to get points by eating a bald eagle. Of course, he got arrested and was convicted. At his sentencing, the judge said "I'm curious. What does a bald eagle taste like?" The man replied "a cross between a spotted owl and a California condor"


Saturday, May 16, 2015

When the Free Market Fails Us: The Story of Toenail Fungus and Windshield Wiper Blades

I'm all about capitalism.  It's got its problems but has proven itself to be the best system at providing the goods and services we need to maintain the best quality of life possible.  One of the problems (and the inspiration for this post) is revealed in a recent experience.  I have an embarrassing condition (apparently not too embarrassing since I announced it in the title of this post).  So here's the story:

Toenail fungus makes your toenails thick, powdery white and sometimes brittle.  So I went to the doctor (who turned out to be a PA, NOT an MD) and he said he could give me a pill that I have to take for a year and that will damage my liver.  Oh, and it only has about a 50/50 chance of working.  Or, he found the most effective thing is to rip the toenails off.  He didn't actually say "rip".  Instead he made it sound like it was simple enough that I could play soccer the next day.  So I said "rip them all off".  He wisely had me do only one foot.  If I were a woman and had given birth, I could compare the pain to having a baby.  Since I'm not a woman, I guess for now on I'll just have to say "it hurts as bad as having your toenails ripped off".

While I was limping around work in recovery, someone asked what happened.  After my reply, they asked why I didn't get laser treatment.  Apparently it takes 5 minutes and is painless.  I really don't know how to explain my emotional reaction to this news.  After about 6 months of waiting for my toenails to grow back, only my pinky toe was better.  The others seemed worse than before.

Time to try the laser treatment.  I found a Groupon deal for $360.  They did two treatments.  In this treatment, the doctor shines a laser on the toenail till it heats up, then moves it over a tiny amount and repeats until he's done the entire toenail.  I learned after the first spot that you have to tell the doctor when its hot enough. He told me this after I yelled "Ow!".  Two treatments, I waited 6 months.  NO BENEFIT.

Then I spent about $20 in over-the-counter treatments.  An oil you brush onto the nail.  I was diligent doing it every morning and night for 6 months.  The nails looked good, but were not 100%.  So I quit.  And they started looking bad again.

At this point (if you made it this far), you're probably asking "What does this have to do with the Free Market?" (Be patient and thanks for hanging in there)

This is the point that I decided to cast my search far and wide.  The consensus was that there is no cure yet I found a website that compared several products.  The top product claimed a 94% success rate.  On Amazon.com, it had a high user rating.  I always read the 1-star ratings when reviewing products.  They confirmed my suspicion.  The product was a scam with a bunch of fake user ratings and fake websites reviewing the product.

Instead, I decided to try and discover my own treatment.  We have a bottle of Castor Oil that we purchased for $2  It's about 5 times the size of the $20 bottle of special toenail fungus treating oil.  I drenched my toes in Castor Oil and put plastic bags over my feet (for about an hour).  I also do the daily application.  After about a week, my toes look better than they have with any of the other treatments.  They aren't cured yet, but this is where I make my point about the Free Market.

Getting information to the public is expensive.  Google and Facebook are mega billion dollar companies because of all the money other companies spend trying to connect to the public.  No one is going to get rich selling $2 bottles of Castor Oil to treat toenail fungus.  I'm sure there are many other cheap alternatives to our everyday needs, but companies aren't interested in providing cheap alternatives unless they can make good money.  Selling expensive lasers to podiatrists and selling tiny bottles for $20-$30 at Target or online is what makes money.

Years ago I bought a set of silicon rubber windshield wiper blades.  Best windshield wiper blades I ever owned.  They worked great for years.  The only reason I no longer have them is that I sold the car they were on.  The company that sold them is out of business.  You don't stay in business by selling something that lasts forever.  You stay in business by selling lousy windshield wiper blades that last for a year or two and then need to be replaced.

Conclusion

Skip the cures with the painful side effects, sexy technology, scamming self-promoters.  Just give me the simple pleasures.  I wish our Free Market system had a way to promote the truly economical solutions to life's needs, but instead I'm worried that these ideas are the endangered species in our competitive society.




Friday, May 1, 2015

Social Jenga

I was thinking about recent news events and the image of a Jenga game popped in my head.  If you already understand Jenga, you can skip to the next paragraph.  In the game, a tower is made of alternating layers of tiles stacked on each other.  The players then take turns taking tiles from the lower portion of the tower and placing them on the top of the tower.  At first, the "easy" tiles are selected: tiles that don't seem to be supporting the tower and can easily be slid out.  As the tower gets taller, it gets less stable and there are fewer "easy"tiles.  But the game must continue until the last tile is removed that causes the entire stack to collapse.

This reminds me of the social engineering that is taking place in politics.  At first we admire the stable tower built on hard work, discipline, and time proven principles.  The benefits are comfort and stability.  "What about the people that aren't included in the tower?  Wouldn't it be nice if they had some of these same benefits?"  So we take from the bottom of the stack to make the tower taller (i.e., add more people to the middle class).  Other voices warn that doing this makes the tower less stable.  "Non-sense!  We're just taking the excess and redistributing it so more people can benefit."

Specifically:

  • More people should be homeowners.  So we put allow for risky lending practices putting our financial institution at risk.
  • More people should have college educations.  So we use debt to pay for it, to the tune of over $1.2 trillion. [12
  • The government should provide more for more people.  So we borrow $18 trillion dollars from what used to be a stable system to make the tower taller.  [See debt clock
  • More people should have healthcare.  So we mandate that everyone pay for healthcare, including the young and healthy, hardworking people just trying to start out.  We fine them 2% of their income if they don't.[See Individual Mandate]
  • The joys of sex shouldn't be limited to marriage.  So we make it easy and acceptable to have cheap sex.  We provide financial support for unwed mothers.  There are record numbers of single parent families and we take the lives of over a million fetuses a year in the U.S.  These "benefits" no longer demand the commitment of marriage, so a stable "tile" is removed and added to the top.
  • This last Tuesday, the Supreme Court was arguing about removing another marriage "tile" so the stack could be larger.  
Is it possible to go in reverse and put the pieces back to restore stability?  or Do we continue playing the game until the stack collapses?  


Thursday, April 16, 2015

3-D Printers on Mars and Your Faith in God

Scientists are investigating using 3-D printers in space.  The idea is to use raw materials found on the moon or Mars to build shelter and other structures needed to sustain life [see article here] .  The 3-D printers can stuff or they can make other 3-D printers that can make more stuff.

3-D printers can already self-replicate, sort of.  They can make many of the parts, just not the electronics and other key elements [see article here].  These would have to be supplied from Earth.

But there are already self-replicating machines that are microscopically small, called nanobots (Nano for "very small" and bot for "robot").  These nanobots create a variety of tiny structures that can be assembled into larger machines that can perform almost any task.  For example, these machines can search for the raw materials they need by:

  • Digging in the ground
  • Autonomously roaming around on the ground
  • Self-propelling in water
  • Flying in the air
They use the raw materials they collect for energy or to make other machines (via the nanobots).  It's amazing that these nanobots already exist and scientists have absolutely no idea where they came from.  What are they?  They're called "DNA".  DNA is a microscopically small "machine" that makes cells (tiny structures) that together form various living things (plants, animals and us).  The living things can dig, walk, swim, fly.  And they can make copies of themselves with no extra spare parts required.

Once again, scientists have no idea where DNA came from, but many do know one thing for sure: there is no God.  I'm not sure how they know that when they have no idea where something as amazing as DNA came from.  But they do.

  


Friday, April 10, 2015

The Flight (A parable)

Steve and Karen lived in a remote trading post in the Alaskan wilderness. Steve was taking his last trip into town to get supplies for the coming winter. By trip into town, I mean a flight in his plane over two mountain ranges separated by a desolate valley. As he prepared to leave, Karen said "Steve, do you have the list?". Yes he replied. "You need to stick to the list". Steve ignored her. "Did you hear me? you need to stick to the list". Steve turned, looked Karen in the eyes and said "I have the list, don't worry". With the engine roaring, the plane zipped down the runway and jumped into the air. Gravity disappeared and Steve felt renewed freedom. Steve reminisced about his flying adventures. As he climbed altitude to the first mountain range, Steve could hear the words of his flight instructor saying "The Minimum Safe Altitude is 1000 feet above the ground. That means if there is a mountain, you need to be 1000' ABOVE the highest peak". Steve ignored this advice as he flew as close as possible to the mountain ridge. The snow capped jagged ridge was spectacular up close. He passed into the quiet valley. He thought again about Karen. She had given him an envelop with their meager savings and THE LIST. "I'm giving you more than you need, in case prices have gone up. We need everything on that list." He wondered why he never got to put stuff on the list. "Just the necessities" he could hear Karen's voice in his head. "What about my necessities?", he thought in reply. He felt his blood pressure rise so he dropped into the valley and buzzed a herd of caribou. He felt in control again and climbed again to the next range. He soon was on decent and landing at the small airport. Time to go shopping. Steve was surprised to find prices the lowest he'd ever seen. He purchased everything on Karen's list way under budget. He mulled over buying some extra "necessities" Karen left off the list. He heard her voice in his head "Stick to the list". He rationalized that what she was really saying was "make sure you get everything on the list", which he had done with money to spare. He bought what he wanted and still had money left over. He looked at the cash in his hand and thought "This cold cash will do me no good on the long winter nights. I need something to keep me warm". So he purchased more "necessities". Back at his plane, with his cargo loaded, he prepared for takeoff. The plane barely responded to the throttle. It slowly increased speed and was weight off wheels just barely before the runway ended. The ascent was slow. Steve soon calculated that he was climbing too slowly, so he went to maximum throttle. The engine strained and the only thing that climbed was the needle on the temperature gauge. Steve sweated as he realized he had to do the unthinkable. With the plane in autopilot, Steve wiggled to the cargo hold, took out a bottle, opened it, took a drink, then opened the door and threw the bottle out. Then he started pushing boxes out until the engine quit straining. Half of his extra cargo was now gone. Back in the cockpit, Steve again pushed the throttle and the plane climbed slowly. He barely cleared the mountain ridge and wished it was a safer 1000 feet clearance. As he entered the valley, he kept a steady altitude. No buzzing caribou this time. He saw ugly black clouds in the distance but new he could beat them. About half way across the valley, the cross winds from the storm buffeted the small plane. Each bout of turbulence pushed the plane downward. Once again he pushed the plane to the limit with the same results. Steve practically cried as he realized what he needed to do. Once again he wiggled back, opened the door, and started pushing out boxes until the engine purred again. Once again, he narrowly cleared the second ridge. The weather was now calm and it was an easy decent to his home. Relieved, Steve regained his composure and thought what he'd tell Karen. The first part of the trip was entirely his fault. He had too much cargo. He couldn't tell Karen about that. The second part was not his fault, but couldn't tell Karen about unloading the supplies he wasn't supposed to buy. Had he done anything right? He still had everything on the list. That's the story he would tell Karen. As he landed and taxied towards the house, Karen ran out to greet him. Her face was white and she looked worried. "I heard on the radio that a storm was coming. Steve, I was so worried". Steve, grinned, said "I'm fine. And better than that, I got everything on your list". They unloaded the supplies and the color returned to Karen's face. "I'm so glad your okay". Steve repeated "I'm fine, and I got everything on your list". Then Steve let slip that he "also got a good deal". Karen looked pleased and said, "Oh good! So where's the change?"

Sunday, January 11, 2015

An Antidote For Racism

I just finished reading "Up From Slavery" by Booker T. Washington, published in 1901.  I think every American regardless of race should read this book.  Why?

"I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed."

If any American thinks they didn't get a fair start or think they deserve more, compare your life to Booker T. Washington's life.  Born a slave in the humblest of circumstances.  He didn't know his father (believed to be a white man from a neighboring plantation).  He lived in a primitive shack with little protection from the elements and a dirt floor,  They ate the coarsest of foods cooked over an open fire.  He sees some girls eating ginger cakes and that would be his highest ambition, to eat ginger cakes.

"Nothing ever comes to me, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work."

If any American thinks they are entitled, compare Booker's journey from Slavery to visiting the White House.  After freedom comes to the slaves, he struggled to survive.  He works in the mines with his stepfather, and learns to read the number "8".  His ambition to learn ends up taking him to Hampton University and he ends up running the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

"Every persecuted individual and race should get much consolation out of the great human law, which is universal and eternal, that merit, no matter under what skin found, is in the long run, recognized and rewarded."

If any American is blinded by race, they should instead focus on merit.

"The older I grow, the more I am convinced that there is no education which one can get from books and costly apparatus that is equal to that which can be gotten from contact with great men and women."

Every American should strive to know great men and women (by reading their biographies) and more importantly, strive to be great men and women.

"At that institution I got my first taste of what it meant to live a life of unselfishness, my first knowledge of the fact that the happiest individuals are those who do the most to make others useful and happy."

If any American wants to be happy, well...


Friday, November 14, 2014

Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking

Inspired by the book "Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking" by Susan Cain

Steve was a quiet guy.  To get out of talking, he became a monk and took a vow of silence.  At his monastery, monks had an annual review where they were allowed to say two words.  After his first year, he was asked "What would you like to say using your two words?"  Steve replied "Food Cold".   
At his second annual review, once again he was asked "What would you like to say using your two words?"  Steve replied "Bed hard"
His 3rd year passed and again the abbot asked him "What would you like to say using your two words?"
Steve said "I quit."  The abbot replied, "I'm not surprised.  Ever since you got here, you've done nothing but complain"

What is an introvert?
Why is it hard being an introvert?
How can we help introverts?

What is an Introvert

Introverts don't have a social disorder.  They just respond differently to social stimulation.  Instead of being energized by intense social interaction, they prefer a trickle charge; which they get from alone time or maybe with a close, trusted friend.

1/3 to 1/2 of the population are introverts.  There's a good chance there many of us are introverts.

How can you tell if you might be a redneck...er...introvert?
  • You might be an introvert if you enjoyed timeout as a child.
  • You might be an introvert if one of your favorite games is solitaire.
  • You might be an introvert if you can’t understand what’s so bad about solitary confinement.
  • You might be an introvert if you like it when the librarian shushes people in the library.
Introverts are just one type of person.  As you know, there are two types of people in the world: Those that divide people into two types and those that don't.

Actually, the two types are introverts and extroverts, but in reality, we all have a little bit of introvert and extrovert in us and each of us lies somewhere on the spectrum.

Introverts may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas.  They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues and family.  They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation.  They tend to dislike conflict.  Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.

Why is it hard to be an introvert?

Society identifies two types of people: extroverts and people that aren't extroverts.

It wasn't always this way.  When our communities were smaller and tighter knit, it was your reputation and character that mattered.  With the industrial age, our cities got larger.  It was hard to establish a reputation, so the outspoken extrovert got the job.

In our extroverted world, the extroverts typically end up being in charge.  But there's a problem with this.  While we are most likely to agree with the most outspoken person in the group, research shows that we tend to agree with them even when they are wrong.  Besides being wrong, we tend to ignore the introvert.

This is unfortunate since introverts tend to be more intelligent and creative.  Research shows that introverts make better leaders because they allow their employees to run with their ideas instead of suppressing creativity.

How to help an introvert

Nurture the introvert inside of you.  Embrace quiet solitude, let your mind wander and dream so that you can have amazing thoughts.  Amazing things happen when the noise of the world is shut out and the mind is given a chance to work.

But, remember:
How many introverts does it take to change a light bulb?  Only one, but 3 others show up with a light bulb; they forgot to tell anyone their plans.

Introverts are awesome, they just keep it to themselves.

Don't be like Steve the monk, taking a vow of silence and then sound like a complainer when you say your two words.

How many extroverts does it take to change a light bulb?  Only one, but they only change it if the light is going to shine on them.

For your extroverted side, remember to resist the temptation to hog the spotlight.  Identify the introverts around you.  Listen to them, and let them be creative.

Summary

Steve discovered he was an introvert.  He just didn't need much social interaction.  He found it hard to make it in our society that emphasizes and rewards extroversion.  Steve joined Toastmasters to improve his extroverted side.  His club members found him clever, smart and funny.  At first, they weren't sure if Steve liked them because he avoided small talk after the meetings.  They discovered that he did like them.  How did they know?  Instead of looking at his own shoes, Steve looked at their shoes.