Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

January 2007 Archives

Yesterday, we started planning our veggie garden and started a compost bin. I'm trying to figure out what percentage of my total food intake I can grow at home. We have a relatively large yard by Japanese standards so most of this will be a matter of personal energy. I'm going to start small this year but try to increase my nutritional independence from commercial networks every year.

My goal is to be able to cover nearly all of our fertilizer needs through the composting of all of our biodegradable garbage this year.

Thinking through the various scenarios, I realized that I could significantly reduce inputs and outputs from our house by going this route. When I imagine walking over to the garden every morning, picking my veggies, then chucking the waste into the compost bin, I get a happy feeling inside. I realize this is pretty simple and not so significant, but "just add water and sunlight" is very appealing.

I think that I can also make a significant impact on my energy inputs through photovoltaics and maybe some day get off of the power grid. This requires a larger financial investment but is an area that I've already done a bit of work in this area from my time at ECD.

In my lab/office/Tokyo pad we just finished setting up (thanks to the folks at WIDE) a dark fiber connection to the WIDE box at the Japanese Internet exchange. It is currently a 1G connection. WIDE is a research project and I'm only paying for the dark fiber. WIDE is routing for me. I am not going through a single licensed telecom provider for my Internet connectivity. Consequently, going from 1G to 10G is just a matter of buying more hardware and has no impact on the running cost. More bandwidth is just about more hardware. The way it SHOULD be.

It's exciting to think about making my footprint smaller and smaller in nutrition and energy and thinking about nutrition, energy and bandwidth more and more as assets that I operate rather than services from big companies.

I was going to Twitter this as I was sitting here drinking my morning tea, but it turned into a blog post. Thanks Twitter. ;-)

It appears that I have caught a cold. I think it was the combination of not packing warm clothes and having stronger air-conditioning in India and during the flights than I anticipated.

I have been taking my traditional medley of cold medications since yesterday. They usually make me sleepy, groggy and slightly irritable. I've noticed that I don't seem to be having these side-effects and I'm relatively alert and my mood is fine. Has anyone ever noticed this?

I really wasn't sure what to expect in India with respect to my strict vegan diet. This was my third time, but my first time to visit as a vegan.

I am very sensitive to infections through the water and I ALWAYS get a bad belly, even when others don't. I've gotten a tummy ache every single time I've visited SE Asia including my two trips to India and my trips to Thailand and Bali. Because of this, I'm overly sensitive to drinking non-bottled water or things washed in non-bottled water.

This made it rather difficult for me because that ruled out salads and un-peeled fruits and veggies.

The net-net is, I ended up eating some not 100% whole wheat and rice products and consumed a bit of butter and cream as well. Also, some of the dishes were a bit oily. Having said that, I was able to find a number of dishes that seemed right on target and the fruit was great. I think my deviation was probably not that nutritionally significant.

What was the most shocking for me was how amazing everything tasted. I think this is in part because our vegan recipe repertoire is still rather limited and I tend to wolf things down with no seasoning at all when I'm busy. Every dish I ate was like an explosion of flavor in my mouth that sent me off on some sort of gastronomical journey. I don't think I ever appreciated Indian spices this much.

The menus almost always had more veggie dishes than carnivorous dishes and often 1/2 of group at any meal was vegetarian. They told me that some flights only serve vegetarian meals and some apartments don't lend to people who eat meat. Wow.

I am seriously considering whether there is some way for me to spend enough time among the microbes to build up an immunity to "enriched water" and eat in Indian with abandon.

Venkatesh was also explaining his meditation to me, which sounded great. I'm going to try to find some place to study.

Maybe I better go buy a tie-dye t-shirt and some Birkenstocks too. ;-P

CC India launch
I just returned from the CC India Launch.

This makes India the 35th country to complete the porting process of the CC licenses. Congratulations and welcome to the CC World.

India is a very interesting and significant country for us for a variety of reasons. First, it is huge and growing. Huge in terms of knowledge, economy, culture, IT companies and artists. India is also not yet nearly as "infected" with the copyright bug that comes from companies trying to protect their Read-Only Internet. Similar to Brazil in this way, it is possible that India might find CC more natural than countries that already have a culture and legal framework making sharing difficult.

The talks given during the launch were really great. One comment made by Anurag Kashyap, a well know Indian film maker stuck in my mind. He said that he grew up in a small village and didn't have access to movies. It was though pirated movies that he was able to educate and inspire himself and eventually become a major contributor to the film industry. In India, sometimes piracy is the only possible way to get software or content when distribution channels or payment systems don't exist.

Deepak Phatak talked about his work at KReSIT where he and his students are contributing vast amounts of courseware to the commons available under a CC license.

Nandu Pradhan, president of Red Hat India, Lawrence Liang, the CC India Legal Lead and iCommons Board Member, and Catharina Maracke, head of CCi (the international license porting and coordination part of CC) also spoke at the opening. All of the presentations were great and the launch was a big success.

Shishir K. Jha, the India lead organized the event and did an amazing job. Thanks a TON Shishir. Venkatesh Hariharan from Red Hat India took care of all of the press and helped me understand the VC and IT startup world in India. Thanks. I also want to thank Iti Bose and all of the student volunteers who made the whole thing work so well. Finally, thanks to everyone who showed up for the talks and the celebration.

I look forward to seeing even more great things from India.

I just completed the my six weeks of vegan detox described in a previous post. It has been an enjoyable and enlightening experience. I've lost 11 kg or so, mostly in the first two weeks. My blood levels including a high uric acid level and y-GTP have gone back to "normal". Per my previous post, my cholesterol is a bit "too low" according to my physician and I am in the process of investigating my response to this.

I'm fairly convinced that this diet is really good for me and that it is much more feasible than I anticipated. I am going to continue being a fairly strict vegan, but allow myself to have meat or fish based flavors and possibly small pieces of meat or fish when it is unavoidably integral to an otherwise vegan meal. I am going to keep my oil intake to a minimum and avoid fried foods or dressings and other sauces with lots of oils. I will minimize salt intake, which is fairly difficult in Japan. I will avoid un-whole starches like white rice and pastas. I will stay away from sugars like sodas and sweets. I will avoid dairy and eggs. I will possibly drink a glass of wine during a meal or as a toast.

In other words, I am going to experiment with a slightly flexible diet to see if cravings start or if my body rejects certain foods. If it turns out that flexibility and moderation don't work, I will reconsider and possibly try a strict diet again.

I will continue to exercise and expand my activities beyond swimming.

I'm going to India tomorrow for a few days and look forward to lots of wonderful vegan meals. ;-)

Thanks again to everyone who supported me though this process.

Our over-enthusiastic spam filtering add-on at a bunch of comments in the past week or so. I apologize to those people who tried to post comments. It should be fixed now. Let me know if you have any problems. Thanks.

I talked to a physician about my blood tests from yesterday. I will have the complete results soon, but the preliminary results are very interesting. I had 2 tests that were in or approaching the "red zone" a month ago. The levels are now well within the "healthy" range.

However, the physician was very concerned that my blood cholesterol was "too low". It was 132 mg/dL. He said that this means that I don't have enough energy and that it was dangerous. The problem with this for me is that I have more energy than I've ever had and have no signs of depression or anything like that.

In "The China Study" Campbell and Campbell explain the amazingly low rates of cancer, heart disease, liver disease and other "diseases of the affluent" in counties in China eating whole, plant-based foods. They tested the blood levels of the super-healthy Chinese. On page 106, they say:

As I mentioned earlier, the time when the China Study was begun, a blood cholesterol range of 200-300 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) was considered normal, and lower levels were suspect. In fact, some in the scientific and medical communities considered cholesterol levels lower than 150 mg/dL to be dangerous...

But when we measured the blood cholesterol levels in China, we were shocked. They ranged from 70-170 mg/dL! Their high was our low and their low was off the chart you might find in your doctor's office!

[...] We too often have come to the view that the U.S. values are "normal" because we have a tendency to believe that the Western experience is likely to be right.

So my question is... the diet that I am on has significantly improved all measurable indicators of a formerly much more unhealthy body. The one level that is "out of range" is blood cholesterol which is too low by Western standards. A quick google search shows various warnings about low cholesterol, but there appear to be a number of reports stating the opposite. Does anyone know of a resource to better understand the overall opinion of the medical community on the risks of low blood cholesterol?

I'm also going to try to talk to some of my friends in medical research about this.

I have just entered week five of the six week diet. Last night around 11PM I was humming a tune while walking up a hill to a train station in the rain. I realize that I was very happy in a situation that would have been dreadfully tiresome in the past. As I tried to understand my rather extreme change in perspective on physical activity, I decided I would share some of these thoughts.

Swimming has gone from a chore where I used to make excuses not to go to something that I enjoy so much that I "sneak off" to go swimming when I have a chance. I've also started walking to or taking trains to meetings instead of taking cabs, which used to be my primary mode of transportation. For some reason, swimming, walking and other physical activity are extremely enjoyable.

In The China Study, I remember Campbell citing a report with lab mice (or maybe it was rats) where the mice that were fed animal protein used an exercise wheel less than mice that were fed vegan diets. I don't have the book with me, but I'll update this post later with the actual citation. I also know from my own personal experience that increased activity makes you more active. As I get lighter, the lack of weight puts a bounce in my step that is also quite enjoyable. Whatever the reason, my urge to be active is at a higher level than any time in the past that I can remember. (Having said that, my memory is quite poor...)

As I've said in the past, this is not a controlled experiment. I will also concede that I am obsessive and rather caught up in thinking about health at the moment so I'm probably looking for signs of being healthy. However, I would like to point out that while I can't attribute this energy to one particular thing, I can say that being vegan hasn't reduced my energy levels or made it difficult for me to be extremely happy.

I will post a more thorough review after my six weeks are over. I'm quite sure I will stay on a version of my current diet even after the six weeks, but as the official end of the six week program, I think that would be a more appropriate time for my complete report.

One big bonus of this whole foods vegan diet that I'm on is that my kitchen is clean. No more dead animals in my trash, just left over plant parts. No more oil on my plates either so washing dishes is a snap.

I've also begun toting my food around. My knapsack is full of baggies of raw vegetables and fruit and I can easily set up a meal anywhere I go. It feels (and looks) a bit "wild" but is quite functional. I finally have a real reason to carry a pocket knife around now too. ;-)

Just a note to people who ask me for an introduction to other people or organizations in the format, "Do you happen to know someone at XYZ because I need to reach them about ABC?" The preferred method for these sorts of requests is LinkedIn. If you want to use email, please write it in a format that includes the specifics of what you want and the background in a format that I can forward or Reply-All to so I can make the introduction without having to ask, "do you mind if I forward this email?" Also, PLEASE do not ask me for introductions without telling me WHY you want the introduction. In most cases, this won't happen.

Thanks! (I do around 20 of these a week and shortening the process by one step would save me a lot of time.)

I've started getting a rhythm in my swimming and end up staying between and hour and an hour and a half in the pool. I've been going around five times a week. I just realized that this might be a good time to catch up on my music. Jeff sent me a few links to possible solutions from Kiefer Online. (Aqua Tune II / Swimmers Waterproof MP3 Player ) Has anyone tried either of these or know of something else that actually works without causing too much drag or being dangerous to other people sharing a lane?

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When I started this vegan++ ETL diet, I also started exercising as much as possible. I've tried to swim every day except when I was traveling. When I started, I was barely able to finish 100 meters without feeling really tired. I have been pushing my total swim time and distance every day. Today I swam 2.5 km in just over 1 hour. That's not very impressive for people who swim a lot, but I've been swimming like this for only a few weeks and I feel pretty good about it. (I used to swim in Jr. High School 30 years ago.)

Various people have been telling me that losing all of this weight and eating only veggies and fruit would not give me enough energy, but every single day, my stamina is increasing. I really don't think it's just some sort of calorie deprived hallucination. I've never been able to swim 2.5 km before. (Again, I realize this isn't a controlled experiment since I never tried to swim this hard since Jr. High School....)

Today was the end of the 3rd week of the 6 week program and marks the half-way point. I will write more when I'm done, but I wanted to post this since I was getting email from people worried about my health. Of course I still don't know everything that is going on, but everything that I can feel and measure seems pretty great at the moment.

John Brockman's EDGE asks a tough question every year. For 2007 the question was "What are you optimistic about?" My answer was:

Emergent Democracy and Global Voices

I am optimistic that open networks will continue to grow and become available to more and more people. I am optimistic that computers will continue to become cheaper and more available. I am optimistic that the hardware and software will become more open, transparent and free. I am optimistic that the ability to for people to create, share and remix their works will provide a voice to the vast majority of people.

I believe that the Internet, open source and a global culture of discourse and sharing will become the pillar of democracy for the 21st Century. Whereas those in power as well as terrorists who are not have used broadcast technology and the mass media of the 20th century against the free world, I am optimistic that Internet will enable the collective voice of the people and that voice will be a voice of reason and good will.

There are other answers from other people on the website.

Happy New Year.

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