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Nationalism vs. capitalism Mon, Mar 31, 2014
It seems that nationalism inherently conflicts with capitalism.  Capitalism is sort of about making and selling things for maximum profit, independent of location and people groups.  Nationalism says, "Buy American."  But it's fairly obvious either through rational thought or personal experience that any one country can't possibly make all the best products.  For example, America might've been the best at making cars at one time, but their status has been pretty much replaced by other countries.  By being a nationalist, you're not being a capitalist.  And when the crowning achievement of your country is its economic system which it tries to export to the world, it's kind of ironic to be nationalistic. #business

Uncomfortable products Thu, Mar 27, 2014
A Greek designer redesigned a bunch of useful everyday objects to be more uncomfortable and annoying to use.  Examples include a concrete umbrella and open-toed rain boots.  (via kottke.org) #products

Naturalism and chemophobia Thu, Mar 27, 2014
Naturalism, or an appeal to nature, is the fallacy that things that are natural or found in nature are better than things that are artificial or created in a lab.  This sounds good on the outside but is of course false.  Hemlock and poison mushrooms come from nature.  Boom, argument over.  But when used in the justification of diet and medicine, naturalism always sounds reasonable to me.  I need to get over that. 

Chemophobia is the related idea that things that have complicated chemical names are inherently bad.  This is essentially an argument from ignorance.  Everything is made of chemicals, and certainly not all chemicals are bad.  Eggs contain hexadecenoic acid, and blueberries have methylbutyrate.  And these foods come from nature, so they can't be bad.  We've come full circle. #psychology

Keto diet experience Wed, Mar 26, 2014
I've been on a "diet" for the past few months.  I say "diet" because most diets include cutting calories, which mine didn't.  It was basically some version of the ketogenic diet, which consisted of replacing almost all carbohydrates with fat and protein.  As with any diet, it took a little getting used to.  And it was sometimes inconvenient.  But it didn't take long to figure out what I could eat: 
  • Meat
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Vegetables
The goal was to reduce carbohydrate intake as much as possible, so some things on the above list were avoided (cashews are relatively high in carbs, as are carrots and a few other vegetables).  But essentially my food choices were fairly simple and fairly good.  Bacon and eggs in the morning.  Heavy cream in my coffee instead of milk.  Cheese and nuts throughout the day.  Meat and vegetables for lunch and dinner.  Not too complicated, and not too extreme. 

I think it's important to understand why a person would want to change their diet.  Usually it's about losing weight.  Other times, it's about changing blood chemistry (cholesterol, triglycerides, sugar, etc.).  I started my diet for a few reasons: 
  1. It's "the right human diet".  This is certainly debatable.  But that whole paleo idea sounds reasonable to me:  Humans used to be hunters and gatherers; maybe our current diet should reflect that.
  2. I wanted to see if I could do it.  I dabbled with the South Beach Diet a few years ago, but it felt like I was substituting a lot of fake foods for real foods.  Fake sugar, fake snacks, etc.  Keto is real food, which doesn't automatically make it good, but it helps.
  3. Muscle growth; fat loss.  The science behind ketosis sounds good, so if I could get my body to burn fat, that would be cool.  And since I do some weight training, it would be nice if the added protein helped my frail body build muscle.
  4. Blood chemistry.  This was at the bottom of the list for a reason.  I've already determined dieting doesn't lower my cholesterol, not to mention the fact that I started a new cholesterol medication on the same day I started this diet.  But hey, if it helped, all the better.
Overall, the results have been mediocre and hard to quantify.  I lost 8 lbs right away, but that's because I had been eating crap.  Really any change in diet would've resulted in a loss of weight.  I might've gained some muscle, but it's hard to say one way or the other.  I feel like I look more muscular, but I'm biased.  Plus I changed some of the exercises I was doing, so that could be it.  I haven't gotten my blood tested, so I can't comment on that. 

As far as other effects, there weren't many.  I didn't feel like I had any more or less energy, though it was interesting to learn that my body doesn't require carbs to do physical activity.  I didn't sleep any better or worse.  My skin and hair didn't become smooth and luscious (also I'm mostly bald).  One major side effect was my apparent inability to absorb water.  I was constantly drinking water, and it instantly went through me.  I started taking electrolyte pills and they seem to have helped. 

One additional thing to note is that eating copious quantities of bacon, cheese, and stuff like that doesn't feel healthy.  Maybe that's a psychological thing caused by the debate about good fats and bad fats.  It certainly tastes good, but it feels like it might catch up with you in the future. #health

Altering consciousness Tue, Mar 25, 2014
Humans tend to do a variety of different things to alter their state of consciousness.  Sure, there are illegal drugs.  But even legal drugs are taken to speed up (caffeine) or slow down (alcohol) our perception of things.  Certain activities like meditation and yoga aim to relax and focus, which is often different from our normal operating state.  Reading a book, watching a movie, or playing a video game often include a sense of escaping reality, or at least temporarily substituting a fake one for the real one.  Listening to music and possibly admiring art (not my thing) have the ability to energize us or shift our focus from the small to the big. #psychology

Diameter vs. mass Sun, Mar 23, 2014
I was collecting firewood yesterday, and naturally I was thinking about math.  Specifically, how much more does a log with a larger diameter weigh than a log with a smaller diameter?  Assuming a log is a perfect cylinder, its mass = density*volume = density*(pi/4)*diameter2*length.  For two logs that have the same density and the same length, the change in mass is the following: 
Δm = (ρ*(π/4)*d22*ℓ - ρ*(π/4)*d12*ℓ)/(ρ*(π/4)*d12*ℓ) = (d22/d12) - 1
It's actually the same result as pizza math.  What this means in reality is that a log that's 15 inches in diameter compared to a log that's 7 inches in diameter (114% increase, or 2.1 times) is (152/72)-1 = 359% (4.6 times) heavier.  More generally, a log with x times the diameter will weigh x2 times as much.  And that's why my back hurts today. #math

Florida trip recap Fri, Mar 21, 2014
Several months ago, the wife and I traveled to Florida and I forgot to write about it.  This is me fixing that.  We went to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, snorkeled with manatees in Crystal River, spent time on the beach in Venice, and visited Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. 

Harry Potter World was fairly amazing.  I wasn't into the movies at first, but reading the books really got me hooked.  The theme park was essentially a re-creation of several of the movie sets, complete with rides involving broomsticks and dragons.  By far the best aspect of the park was the level of detail.  Everything from the food choices to the bathroom to the ATM were all themed to mimic the movies.  And the butterbeer was good, though it was just a variation on a root beer float. 

Snorkeling with manatees was a cool experience.  We booked a little private tour boat which brought us to several snorkeling locations.  Manatees are pretty big up close, but they reminded me of cows just going about their grazing business, albeit underwater.  We got to touch a few, which we were told is ok if done in a controlled manner. 

Venice is where my grandparents lived for many years, and it's where our family used to go on vacation when I was growing up.  Seeing it again as an adult was a little surreal, yet good.  I had my first Bait Bucket Margarita at the local restaurant Sharky's, which is an experience I always watched the adults engage in and which I was now finally able to enjoy.  My parents visited at the same time and stayed in the same hotel as us, though their trip extended both before and after our stay.  Ah, retirement. 

Big Cat Rescue gained internet fame recently by posting a bunch of videos on YouTube, mostly of giant jungle cats acting like small house cats.  It was essentially a zoo for rescued exotic cats.  Our tour group happened to include my childhood neighbor, which was totally out of the blue. 

All in all, this was a fun trip, but with too little relaxation.  Most of our drives were under two hours, but the multiple locations didn't leave a lot of down time.  Plus Florida weather in October can be a little tricky.  One of our beach days got turned into a miscellaneous day because it was cold and cloudy.  I wouldn't mind going back to Venice on a regular basis to invest in some quality beach time. #travel

Reverse smoking Fri, Mar 21, 2014
People in rural villages in India have a high incidence of oral palate cancer because of their practice of reverse smoking, which involves smoking with the lit end of the cigarette inside the mouth.  So at least I don't do that. #health

Drunk walking Thu, Mar 20, 2014
One of the downsides of growing up and living in a rural area is that social drinking can be difficult.  You typically have to drive somewhere to do it, and unless you enjoy losing your driver's license, you should probably plan ahead.  That means either (a) you don't go, (b) you don't drink as much as you want, (c) you elect a designated driver who resents you the whole night, or (d) you sleep where you drink. 

A major upside of visiting or living in a city is the prospect of drunk walking.  Instead of having to curtail your own drinking or depending on the driving abilities of someone who tried to curtail theirs, you can just walk home drunk.  Sure, that presents its own challenges, such as remembering how to get home and avoiding cops looking for public intoxication.  But in general, I would probably drink socially a lot more often if I could walk there and back. #lifestyle

Intentional inconvenience Wed, Mar 19, 2014
My employer tends to take security pretty seriously, and one of their security measures is a gated entrance with a guard.  In order to go through said gate, one must zig-zag through a series of concrete barriers that physically can't be achieved without traveling below 10 mph.  It's a simple and effective means of forcing people to drive slowly by making it inconvenient (or in this case impossible) to drive fast.  I kind of like it. 

Another thing my employer did in the name of security was disable all USB storage devices.  We can still use USB mice and keyboards, but any kind of USB device that stores information is not just prohibited, but impossible to use with our computers.  The intention was to inhibit simple file transfers in order to cut down on viruses and whatnot.  It didn't prohibit transferring files; most people have CD burners or eSATA external hard drives.  It just made a common aspect of our jobs inconvenient and difficult.  I don't like it.

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