Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Most recently in the Health and Medicine Category

Ever since I started my vegan diet the year before last, I've been looking for a good word for what my diet is called. This search was intensified when Lawrence Lessig started a similar diet and insisted that he didn't like the word "vegan" - although that is what he currently is. The problem with "vegan" is that it has some political overtones and the vegan diet includes high-calorie-low-nutrition foods such as refined starches and oils.

The problem with this is that when you request a vegan meal on a plane, you end up with something like a pile of pasta with tomato sauce - which is really not the point. The point of our diet is to eat as much healthy whole foods as possible. One of the problems with refined starches, oils and meats is that they have much less nutrition per calorie than plant-based whole foods. So while cutting down on animal proteins and "bad fats" is part of the deal, a huge part of the deal is cutting down on "blank calories".

Anyway, I've decided that the current working name for my diet is "Plant-based whole foods". If anyone can think of a better word for this, let me know. I have yet to find one.

PS If you're a PMOG player, I made a Veganism mission. The problem with "Plant-based whole foods" is that it's a bit long to make into an "ism" - Plant-based whole foodsism... hmm

I spent the weekend at a Preventive Medicine Research Institute (PMRI) retreat. PMRI is the organization created by Dean Ornish to research and promote his work on preventive medicine.

As readers of my blog should know, I started a vegan diet in December the year before last, started exercising and meditating and became Joi 2.0 in the process. Since then, I had been trying to express on my blog and to my friends what was going on in my head and my body.

During this process I saw Dean's TED talk where he shows that a low-fat, vegan diet could not only slow down heart disease but actually reverse it. I filed Dean's name in my mind under "cool people to look up".

At the last TED, Lawrence Lessig and Dean met and scheduled to get together sometime. Larry, who has been "getting well" recently, knew that I would be interested and invited me to go see Dean with him. After our meeting, Dean invited us to attend an upcoming retreat and gave us copies of his new book, Spectrum.

Larry was unable to make it, but I did some scheduling judo and was able to attend.

After reading the book and attending the retreat, my conclusion is that Dean has a very effective program for increasing happiness and health. It tied together all of the pieces that I had been working on and anchored them with solid research. Dean's obsession with finding and conducting rigorous research to backup the effects of various components of his program make it completely different from most alternative medicine and lifestyle programs. Dean brings to the wellness movement the highest quality science which I believe is essential for all of this to go mainstream.

The program is not simply a diet. It includes a balance of four important parts: diet, exercise, relaxation and intimacy. During the retreat, we ate wonderfully healthful food the whole time, did yoga, exercise and meditation. We discussed medicine and science. We had small group sessions where we discussed our own issues in a very open and intimate setting. These sessions were much more effective than I would have imagined.

These group sessions weren't like psychotherapy or group therapy, but were small groups where we shared our feelings. They quickly became intimate and turned into a sort of fountain of compassion. The importance of intimacy in health was missing from the "formula for health" that I had been working on. Dean's research together with these sessions proved to me that it was an essential component and complimented my spiritual goals around compassion.

Dean has research that shows that intimacy, relaxation, diet and exercise all have an impact on our health. In particular, clogging of our arteries and inflammation in general are affected by these things. Dean shows that constricted arteries and inflammation are the cause of many of our modern diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and even impotence.

Most of this is described in his book. One interesting angle that the book takes is that there are a spectrum of foods ranging from the least healthy to the most healthy. If you choose the most healthy diet - my vegan super-duper-diet that I did last year - you can reverse heart disease. If you're pretty healthy and happy already, you can be a bit less hardcore. Dean suggests that you never should feel guilty about what you eat, but that you need to be aware of how healthy the food you are eating is. He has a table that rates the healthiness of various foods. You should choose the healthiness of diet that works for you and adjust it in moderation, allowing yourself to occasionally indulge. Dean tries very hard to prevent people from feeling like diet is something you should feel guilty about and is trying to design a sustainable diet that makes you happy instead of making you suffer.

I had just reached a point in my diet where I had reached my weight and health goals and was having a hard time driving myself to work harder on my health. Maintaining your weight is a much less exciting goal than reaching a target weight. Spectrum helped me think through how to make my healthiness sustainable. The retreat rejuvenated and recharged me completely and I am now committed to augmenting my diet with yoga and to start my meditation practice again. I also learned after consultation that the best way to maintain my weight is probably increasing/recovering muscle mass to increase my metabolism rather than focusing only on aerobic exercises and calorie management. (I had regained 7 of the 20 kg that I had initially lost and was trying to figure out what to do...)

Thank you Dean and the whole team who put the weekend together. Thanks also to the other participants in the retreat who shared.

I went to meet Dean Ornish the other day with Larry. We talk about various things trying to tie together free culture and health. After the meeting, Dean Ornish gave us his new book, The Spectrum. While the book isn’t focused primarily on this, Dean Ornish points out the relationship between nutrition and the environment which I found very interesting.

…according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s report Livestock’s Long Shadow, animal-based agribusiness generates more greenhouse gasses than all transportation combined. The livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as mesured in carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent than does transportatino (18 percent versus 13.5 percent). Also, it accounts for 9 percent of CO2 derived from human-related activities. It generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the global warming potential of CO2. It’s also responsible for 37 percent of all human-induced methane, which is twenty-three times more warming than CO2. Nitrous oxide and methane come mostly from manure. Imagine about 56 billion “food animals” pooping every day.

Also, livestock now use 30 percent of the earth’s land surface, mostly for permanent pasture, but also including 33 percent of global arable land to produce feed for them. Clearing forests to create new pastures is a major driver of deforestation - some 70 percent of forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing.

I’ll try to write more about the book when I finish it, but it might be the most practical nutrition book I’ve read so far. I may tune my diet a bit afterwards.

UPDATE: The report he is referring, which was published in 2006, is is online.

Eight months since I started my vegan diet, I still feel much healthier than when I started, but with more alcohol, bread, pasta, rice and salt, I've slipped off the wagon a bit. I'm meditating less, exercising less, regained about 25% of the total weight I lost and don't have the euphoria that I had at the beginning. So as of today, I'm going to do the Eat to Live six week detox plan again. Basically the same vegan diet I'm on right now, but no salt, refined grains, alcohol or oils. See you on the other side. ;-)

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I blogged a decision to become vegan on December 13, 2006 which is approximately six months ago. I'm happy to say that it was the right decision and that I've never been healthier or happier as long as I can remember and I intend to continue being a vegan.

Other than some allergies, I've gotten rid every one of half-a-dozen or so chronic conditions including obesity, fatty liver, high uric acid (gout), heartburn/ulcers/stomach acid, nervous tension, sleeping problems and rising cholesterol. I also have more energy than I've ever had.

I've lost approximately 18 kg (40 lb) or so and have been stable at this weight for about the last two months. Most of the weight fell off during the first few months and my weight loss has slowed to a basic equilibrium. Other than the slightly scrawny look I have now, I think most people think I look healthier.

The experience is not a scientific experiment. I started exercising almost every day, quit smoking and quit excessive drinking. Each of these things seems to help the other, but I don't think it's just the diet.

When I started this diet, I thought that it would be a sacrifice and that I would be trading good health for less fun. I am happy to say that I enjoy eating as much or more than when I was eating meats and fish. Since going vegan, I've really started getting into my garden and my composting. I spend hours and hours in the garden when I'm home. I dream about my garden and my compost and have really internalized the cycle of waste/compost/plants/food.

Now when I encounter a fresh tomato in a lonely airplane, I get a burst of joy as I imagine where this tomato has been, the soil that it came from and where the soil got the nutrients to allow the tomato to grow. When I eat local vegetables in my travels, I imagine what sort of local farms or hills the veggie came from and enjoy the image of the chain of events before I received it. In addition to the wonderful bursts of taste that I now appreciate much more, I also get the happy feeling of participating in this wonderful natural cycle. Mindfully eating a breakfast plate of grilled veggies and fresh fruits is really a joy.

Clearly, your milage may vary and I don't intend to proselytize or judgmental of those who aren't vegan. However, if you've thought about being a vegan for any reason, I suggest you try it. It isn't as hard as it sounds.

We're still working on getting more contributors for the Vegan Wikia if you're interested.

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I got my Neti Pot today. Neti Pot is the Himalayan Institute version of the pot used for Jala Neti, a yoga practice where you pour a saline solution in one nose and out the other to clean your nasal passages. My sister Mimi turned me onto the Neti Pot. I was complaining to her about my allergies. I though that my newfound friendship with plants had rid me of them, but they hit me hard recently as I've started to spend more and more time in the garden. Mimi told me that she and Luna haven't gotten nasal allergies since they started doing Neti Pot.

Anyway, I tried it today and it was awesome. I think I put too much salt in the first batch and it burned a bit, but after I got the balance right, it felt great. Not sure what else to say. I'll let you know if they cure my allergies. I guess the reason I'm blogging about it is that I didn't really know much about it until Mimi told me about it. I could imagine easily going through life without actually trying it - which would have sucked. So I thought I'd mention it here after reading a rather vivid blog post about it. ;-)


This used to be quite common in Japan. In Japan, if you were left handed, they would make you do everything with your right hand anyway. They would "fix" you. This happened to me. I'm pretty sure I'm a Lefty. I throw, kick and do most physical things with my left hand, but I write, cut and do other "formal" things with my right hand. I think this may be part of the reason that I have messy handwriting. As for as I can tell, while my brain may be "damaged" by this, I can, for the most part, function normally.

As part of my exploration into the "Right Brain", I've become more curious about what the effect of forcing lefties to be righties is. I've heard a number of "stories" about what this does to you, but I haven't read anything rigorous or academic. The problem is, I don't even know what to search for. It's a hard Google query to form.

Also, is there any easy way to tell if your right brain/left brain functions are reversed?

One thing I've noticed as I get more and more into my vegan diet (which I am still on) is that there isn't as that much information about it as you might imagine. Since the fairly "strict" veganism that I'm tracking right now discounts the value of supplements (some are useful like Omega 3 and B12) and since it's rather simple to do ("eat your veggies"), there isn't a "business model" for the dissemination of information about veganism - at least to the extent that there is for sophisticated and difficult "get thin quick" diets, "exercise in the comfort of your living room" devices, supplement businesses and campaigns driven by the huge advertising budgets of the snacks, meats and dairy industries.

I have a feeling people did more things in an amateur (for the love of it) way in the '60s. Having said that, this whole "social software" space is supposed to be about "amateur content" and it seems like ideas like veganism should have a larger footprint on things like wikis.

Anyway, I went to take a look and noticed that there is in fact a I've started adding a few things and am sorting out structure stuff with the existing "residents" but if you have any tips, recipes, favorite restaurants, theories, books, resources or other vegan things to share, please sign up and contribute. I have a feeling this is a perfect Wikia application.

Disclosure: I am an investor in Wikia.

Breaking the 10% rule...
Chart from Nike
Partly because I've always wanted to try a mini-Triathlon and partly because I'm beginning to get minor wear and tear on my body from exercising every day, I've started cycling, swimming and running. It's easier to follow the 10% rule that way too. (Don't increase your exercise routine more than 10% a week.)

My current exercise media of choice for the 3 are:

Running - Podrunner with Nike+ and iPod Nano (just donated to Podrunner)
Swimming - Ambient music on my SwiMP3 (taking a rest while my shoulder repairs)
Cycling (Stationary) - Lost, 24 and other TV episodes and videos on iPod Video.

I have a stupid question... Is there a risk swimming in a pool in a country where the water is not potable or does the chlorine basically "clean" the water?

Austin Hilton Pool in the morning
Austin Hilton Pool at 5:30AM

I have not been swimming for over a week because I injured my shoulder while trying to win a battle with the water. Although the stationary bike has been interesting and used muscles that were surprised by the sudden call to arms, I've missed my swimming.

When I checked into the Austin Hilton, I notice some sign saying "heated pool". I also noticed that it was open from 5:30AM. This morning, some remnant jet lag from some trip woke me up at 5AM. It looked chilly, dark and wet outside, but the idea of swimming in a heated pool in this weather appealed to me in an avantouinti sort of way. (Marko turned me on to avantouinti and now I'm a convert.)

As I sat in the whirlpool warming up and doing some stretching, Matt's voice and the Total Immersion images from the DVD that Seth sent me filled my mind. I rigged up my goggles with the Dolphin mp3 player that Pete suggested on my music in the water post. (I tried ordering the Kiefer SwiMP3, but wasn't able to get it. I just re-ordered it from someone on eBay after Austin told me on Twitter that he got one there.)

Anyway, it all came together for me today. While The Orb from Jeff's playlist set the tone with the sounds of pink fluffy clouds, I was able to make peace with the water. The flip turn that I had been struggling with seemed to come naturally - Matt's tips coming to mind as I made each turn. The "swim like a fish" images from Total Immersion helped me pace myself and swim without feeling out of breath. It felt very peaceful and it felt like I had made peace with the water.

I finished up with with a short session of my attempt at the Maha Mudra and Pranayama that Jay is teaching me. I had the steam room in the deserted locker-room all to myself.

Clearly, I have much to learn and my swimming stroke is still crap, but I felt like I had hit a milestone of sorts. As I sat down to write this post, I realized how much this journey is result of the amazing support of my friends starting with Shawn's advice to try a vegan diet. Thanks everyone.

Several people asked about what kind of meditation I am doing. I'm doing a version of Kriya Yoga. You can find an explanation of the whole thing one the download page of the Kriya Yoga site of Ennio Nimis. In particular, I am focusing mostly on Maha Mudra and Kriya Pranayama which are pages 106-108 in section 2. The diagram on page 104 shows the path that your focus should take up and down your spine. I'm also taking random teachings about meditation that I've read in the past to try to keep my focus and fade out the chatter of my loose thoughts.

I'm still quite a beginner, but I'm excited by my gradual progress. It has become a very important part of my morning ritual and only takes 20 minutes or so including the stretching.

I flew from Tokyo to San Francisco yesterday. I did a lot of work on the plane, started reading The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan that Howard recommended and arrived in San Francisco around 9AM. I checked in, took a shower and headed off for meetings. I had 7 1/2 meeting or so in Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto and San Francisco. Then I went to the CC Salon, met all of the wonderful people, listened to Jim, John and Heather make their presentations and did a short blurb myself. When I got back to the hotel, I did some more work, played some Warcraft and then went to the pool at midnight and swam. I got up at 6AM, stretched and meditated. Then, feeling like a TV shopping commercial, I worked out with my Portal Gym for 30 minutes. I ordered a salad and a blueberry, soy milk and banana smoothie from room service, packed and headed to the airport.

Now I'm sitting in the airport lounge feeling more energetic than I can remember ever feeling. I'm also euphoric and happy.

I'm not posting this to boast... although I guess it is a bit boastful. I'm posting this in response to people who have been telling me that I won't have enough energy on a Vegan, no-oil diet. I'm also posting this in response to people warning me that I'm losing weight too fast. Bullocks. I admit that there is some possibility that there is something unhealthy that is going on in my body that I can't sense, but overall, I have become more sensitive about what my body wants than I've ever been in my life.

I'm not trying to convince everyone to do this lifestyle change that I am experimenting with. However, I do urge people not to try to talk people out of it. Words of discouragement can weigh heavy on the initial motivation required to get going, and at least for me, this is the best decision I've made in a long long time.

Seth sent me a DVD of Total Immersion swimming (Wikipedia / Official Site) and I tried some of the drills in it for the first time last night. (Thanks Seth!) It appears to be a unique way of helping swimmers to learn balance, drag reduction and timing through a new approach to learning and thinking about your stroke/style. Some of the drills were difficult for me, but I could tell that it was because my balance was not "natural" yet. It was rather frustrating "starting from scratch" but I'm definitely going to give this a try and see how much my swimming improves. I have a feeling that this rather focused and peaceful style of swimming will suit some of the experiments in meditation that I want to conduct.

In my current journey pushing my limits for improving my heath, I've noticed significant changes in my mental state. I'm often euphoric, generally happy, have a much higher tolerance for stressful situations, am sleeping well and am generally extremely energetic. I have moments of strange memories like being reminded of my high school self when waiting for a train in nice weather.

I think a lot of this can be attributed to the vegan diet, regular exercise, a slight calorie deficit and the goal oriented nature of my journey feeding my obsessive nature. Whatever the cause, I am currently in a somewhat altered state of mind.

One of the things that hasn't been "cured" by my current state is some tension in my neck, shoulders, back and lower-back so I've started stretching more. This reminded me that I used to do some yoga. As I investigated possible ways to learn Yoga, I decided that the most straight forward thing I could probably do was to ask my friend and inspiration to me on many things, Dhananjaya "Jay" Dvidedi. Jay is one of the most peaceful, confident and happy people I know and I also knew that he comes from a family of well known Indian priests.

Over dinner he told me that he practiced Kriya Yoga (WP). Kryiya Yoga is a rather secret school of Yoga that has recently been fairly well documented by Ennio Nimis in his book on his web site. Jay recommended that I read Beyond the Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson, M.D., an Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. In the book Benson describes the importance of the mind in health.

His previous book, "Relaxation Response" was about the role that meditation can play in relieving backaches, chest pains, headaches, high blood pressure, cholesterol, insomnia and anxiety. He describes a basic breathing-based meditation, similar to most Indian, Chinese, Japanese and other meditation forms that focus on breathing.

In this newer book, he explores the role of belief and faith in increasing the effect of meditation. He recounts a conversation with the Dali Lama (WP) where the Dali Lama tells him that the three important points of Tibetan medicine were 1) the belief/faith of the healer, 2) the belief/faith of the patient and 3) the relationship between the two. This coincides with a lot of my experiences and anecdotal evidence that I have.

As I explored this rather spiritual path that I am about to embark upon, I remembered my mother. My mother, who died in 1995, had cancer for decades and survived several times when doctors had told us she only had months to live. My mother was rather spiritual and I believe a lot of the strength and deep confidence that she held was due to her early interactions with cancer and her ability to "beat cancer". I think that as her confidence grew, her spiritual energy grew and towards the end, it was clear that she would be the primary director of when and how she would die. Since my mother's death, I haven't really been thinking seriously about my spiritual side, but it appears that my journey is leading me this way to a certain extent.

The Benson book was very interesting. As a Western scientist, Benson starts by exploring the "Placebo Effect". We all know that there is lots of verifiable evidence of a placebo effect ranging from people's headaches and chest pains going away from placebo pills given by doctors to imagined pregnancy that is extremely physiologically real. Benson uses this as an entry into a discussion about the impact of belief and faith and the real physiological effects of one's mental state. His point is that doctors aren't really tricking people out of fake ailments. Instead, the argument is than a strong belief in yourself, your doctor or your practice can have strong physiological effects which can cure things and improve your body. The word "placebo" has a rather negative connotation in a society where we discount greatly the role that our mind plays in our health, but it is the "hook" that modern medicine has in trying to describe things like meditation.

This discussion tied into one of the funny "issues" that I've been having with my current state. The euphoria and generally happiness I've been having have been attributed by others to things like simple calorie deprivation or just "it's all in your head." After thinking a bit more about this in the context of Benson's book, I suppose it doesn't really matter what the original cause is. My current state of feeling extremely "on top of my health" has a number of positive effects including a dramatic increase in physical activity, happiness and a total recovery of all of the problems reflected in my blood tests.

I am interested in trying to improve my mental state and my ability to use my mental state to improve my health. I am going to continue to explore meditation and read more "cross-over" books like Benson's books that try to describe some of these "phenomenon" in Western terms. However, I'm also going to try to meet practitioners and try to experience things as well.

I'll keep you posted.

I just finished reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II. (Amazon)

It is a strong argument in favor of plant-based diets and focuses on the risks and the negative impact of animal-proteins on health. It is more about the science of vegan diets than Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman. For people who might be slightly turned-off by the sometimes salesy tone of Eat to Live, The China Study might be a better first book to read.

The China Study is an amazing argument with a large array of citations and references to supporting studies. The book also goes into the politics and the issues that cause the argument to continue to be called "controversial" by many. He shares war stories of meat and dairy industry interests getting in the way of an objective dialog and actively sabotaging and "spinning" the debate.

When I worked at Energy Conversion Devices, there was a similar resistance to alternative energy and I know all too well how effective this kind of active campaigning against disruptive science can be.

I am fairly convinced by the book that there is an active interest by those in power to prevent the public from consuming less meat and dairy and believe that information about nutrition and it's impact on our health is being prevented from reaching the public as well as our doctors. The book has provided additional incentive for me to look into the cited sources as well as explore how information about nutrition is reaching my friends in the medical profession.

I strongly suggest you read this book if you have any interest in health, diet and medicine.

EDIT: I should probably add, since people ask, the origin of the title. The author of the book was involved a massive "survey of diseases and lifestyle factors in rural China and Taiwan" and describes and cites this study in the book.

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 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.

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.

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.

In Eat to Live, there was a section that talked about "True Hunger".

Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
Once your body gets to a certain level of better health, you begin to feel the difference between true hunger and just eating due to desire, appetite, or withdrawal symptoms. Your body is healthier at this stage and you won't experience the withdrawal symptoms such as weakness, headaches, lightheadedness, etc., that most people associate with hunger.
(You can read more of the section here.)

Words like "true" scare me so I wanted to wait a bit before I shared my thoughts on this.

Today is the first day of the third week of this diet, so while I am by no means an authority, my experience is becoming a bit more stable.

One thing that happened, even after the first week, was that everything tasted very different. My eyes and brain told me that "that fish looks good" or "that lettuce looks bland" or "that apple's probably sour"... However, when some fish broth ended up in my soup, it tasted oily and weird. When I ate the lettuce, it tasted sweet and rich. When I ate the apple, I felt like I was eating some sort of magic fruit. Now, I've grown accustomed to the wonderful taste of vegetables and fruits and would never have believed that I would be enjoying them so much.

In addition to the change in the way things taste, my cravings and hunger have changed a lot. First of all, I don't feel hungry very much. I feel hungry when my body starts to run out of energy. Exercising accelerates my hunger. The hunger isn't so much a craving as a sort of "running out of batteries" feeling. It actually feels good because I feel like I'm cleansing my system... sort of like when you empty a glass of water. Although this may be my imagination, when I sit down to a meal after this sort of hunger, I can feel the point (about half-way through the meal) where the energy starts to flow into my system and I become more alert and energetic.

This is a complete contrast to my former "hunger". It was often between meals (probably a drop in blood sugar) or when I saw something that looked or smelled oily or sweet. I could feel my blood sugar swinging around all day and cravings for quick calories chased it around. Also, around 5 PM every night, I would get an urge to have a drink to unwind and satisfy some other sort of craving. While I still get the "mmm... yummy smell" feeling when I smell something good, I don't get the craving pang I used to get.

I am tracking my food intake and tracking various things like my calories, my protein/carbohydrate/fat intake ratio and nutrients. Interestingly, I've noticed that even though I eat until I'm full every meal, I'm coming in slightly under my daily calorie target and my ratio is relatively balanced. When I'm eating a meal, I can feel myself getting "full" on carbohydrates, wanting more protein, etc. This may be a total hallucination, but it almost feels like I can taste the protein in that piece of broccoli or spoon of beans and my body balances my ratio through my hunger.

I realize that staring at my stats and being aware of all of this doesn't make this a very controlled experiment, but the basic notion here is rather interesting and something I'd like to explore. Is it possible to "clean your mind and pallet" to the point where your body tells you what nutrients it needs and allow you to follow your instinct instead of keeping track of everything? People who are on the ETL diet all tell me, don't worry about it, just eat what you need. At first I thought it was a way to get your mind off of the fact that you were on a diet. Now, I'm considering the possibility that your body is doing the calculations for you.

I realize that it's unlikely that your body will tell you that you need B12 and make you forage for B12 bearing bacteria or your Omega-3 deficiency will send you running for Flax Oil, but the idea that healthy bodies self-regulate is an extremely novel and obvious idea and I'm very excited to test it some more.

I wrote a longish update on my diet. The one line summary is that I'm excited and enjoying it. If you are interested read the rest of this post.

I'm on my 8th day of the "Eat to Live" (ETL) diet. I'm starting with the 6 week startup plan. In summary, it is:

Eat to Live 6-Week Plan

UNLIMITED (eat as much as you want):

* all raw vegetables, including raw carrots (goal: 1 lb. daily)
* cooked green vegetables (goal 1 lb. daily)
* beans, legumes, bean sprouts, or *tofu (minimum 1 cup daily in total of these)
* fresh fruit (at least 4 daily).
* eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomato and other non-starchy vegetables, cooked and raw (unlimited)

*Beans should be eaten daily; tofu should be eaten less frequently.

LIMITED (not more than one serving):

* cooked starchy vegetables OR whole grains--Maximum 1 cup per day (butternut or acorn squash, corn, sweet potato, brown rice, cooked carrots, whole grain breads*, whole grain cereals*)
* raw nuts and seeds (1 oz. or 28.5 grams a day) or 2 ounces avocado
* ground flaxseed (1 tablespoon a day)
* soymilk, low-sugar preferred--Maximum 1 cup a day

*avoid breads and cereals as much as possible


* dairy products
* animal products
* between meal snacks
* fruit juice, dried fruits
* salt, sugar

As part of this, I've stopped drinking alcohol (again) and increased my exercise to a target of one hour every other day. I realize that since I'm changing a number of significant variables, this is not a controlled experiment.

As my friends know, I'm rather obsessive and your mileage may vary in following my path since I tend to hyper-focus on stuff I'm excited about. However, I think the general observations echo what I hear from several other people on this diet.

First of all, as someone who normally drinks every day if I allow myself, I noticed that I don't miss alcohol at all. It could be that I'm so focused on being "pure" and it could be that the shock of the diet change took me out of some habit cycle, but for now, I am having no urge to drink. Good news.

The first few days were slightly disorienting.

I had a hard time sleeping the first night, but ended up sleeping more deeply and waking more refreshed than normal. I'm sure this is a combination of the lack of alcohol and food change. Overall, I am able to go to sleep naturally and wake up naturally. I have managed to wake up for up to three middle of the night overseas phone calls and still sleep between them.

I felt "lighter" and things seems a bit "brighter". (Could have been that the weather was just nicer. ;-P I think partially because of of the "yay! New project!" effect, I felt happy and excited. I didn't experience any energy loss and in fact started gaining a sense of having more stable happy energy.

The first few days I had mini-hunger pangs, but these disappeared and were replaced by the "true hunger" sensation that is described in the book.

The first few days also involved some cramps and stomachaches as well as overall dysfunctional digestion. After about a week, my body seems to have adapted to the change.

My taste buds quickly adapted to the no salt / no oil diet and after two days, even a little fish or meat in broth made my veggies taste funny. Sitting in front of people eating fish, meat, sweets didn't make me crave, even after the first day. After a week, while I sometimes imagine eating meats, I don't crave it.

On the other hand, fruits, which I never really enjoyed, have become a joy. I've always enjoyed vegetables, but now I love them. I'm spending lots and lots of time in the market and online browsing vegetables and comparing the different tastes of the different types and origins. This has really been a blast.

The beans... I never really liked beans, but now they are the "meaty" part of my meal and I savor them. ;-)

My skin is dry (probably from the lack of oil) and my hair has a different consistency. This also seems to be balancing out compared to the first few days.

Overall, I seem to be running slightly cool and sweating less, which is fine because I tend to feel warmer than I would like. The diet composition as well as the reduction in overall calories might have something to do with this. Not sure.

When exercising, I've noticed that I can feel the energy burning and my "true hunger" increasing as my body starts to require more energy. My metabolism seems to slow down until I consume some food and it increases again. I'm sure many people are accustomed to this feeling, but I haven't had this linkage between energy levels and food since I was wrestling in High School. Recently, before this diet, my hunger seemed to have been related to cravings and not to energy available in my body, which it is now.

I've lost 5.3 kg or 6.5% of my body weight since I started, but haven't had to feel hungry to do it. I realize my calorie intake is lower than before, but I haven't been limiting it.

The hardest part has been the logistics of getting approximately 2 pounds (about 1 kg) of fresh vegetables purchased and washed every day.

Again, your mileage may vary, but so far this diet has been fun and productive. I've started reading The China Study which is referenced in Eat to Live and appears to be a slightly more research orient approach to this diet. I'm also take a DHA Omega-3 supplement and multivitamins. I've begun tracking my nutrition intake from my foods and am considering dumping the multivitamin depending the results.

I am using NutriBase 7 to track my intake, exercise and targets and it is AMAZING. I can track, chart and compare just about any nutrient or ratio I want and while I don't understand all of the meaning behind it yet, I am now logging everything. Hopefully, as I study, I will understand more and more of the data.

I am trying to figure out whether there is a good Protein-Carbohydrate-Fat Ratio (PCF) target for the ETL diet. (I will ask on the forums.) I am also trying to figure out whether to just use the US RDA for the nutrients or whether there is something better.

Anyway, you can tell I'm obsessed with this right now. We'll see how it lasts.

Does anyone know of any good nutrition tracking software on the Mac? I want to be able to enter what I'm eating and have it produce a report of nutrients including vitamins and minerals. There are references with the information as well as nifty packages that keep track of what you eat and chart calories. However, I have yet to find something on the Mac that lets you track nutrients other than calories (and breakdown of calorie type) and a few other basics like sodium. It looks like there is a package for Windows called NutriBase.

Another requirement is that it is metric friendly.

The problem I'm having is that since supplements and diets are such a big business online, online search results are cluttered with spam... *sigh*

I suppose I could run some Windows emulator on the Mac. How good are they? I've sort of stay away from them assuming they would take up too much disk space and CPU, but maybe I should try it...

Anyway, I'll post any findings here and keep looking.

UPDATE: Decided to go ahead and get the NutriBase package and start running it on my windows laptop. Looks great. I wish I had it for the Mac. Maybe this means I need to run Windows on my Mac. Gah...

Almost like clockwork, hitting 40 years old seems to have triggered a series of alarms that I need to watch my health more. Blood tests show various things that I need to watch out for and I continue to be fatter than I should. I used to do low-carb diets when I got overweight, but it seems like a fat/meat diet right now wouldn't be good for my heart and other things.

I was discussing exercise plans and being fat with a friend of mine who recommended that I check out Eat to Live by Dr. Fuhrman. I googled around looking for more information. Wikipedia provided rather bland neutral results. Some people seemed critical of him, but in the comments were blasted by others who disagreed. I couldn't find anything authoritatively negative about this book or Dr. Fuhrman. (I didn't look TOO hard though.)

His website and the book come off a bit salesy, but I tend to expect that from mass market books in the US. I've just started reading the book. I apologize for blogging before I read, but I wanted to post this while I read the book in case anyone had experience with Dr. Fuhrman, his recommendations in his book or thoughts on his assertions.

It is pretty straightforward. Eat lots of fiber. Cut down on meats, fish, oil and carbs. He has a notion of health = nutrition / calories and the importance of focusing on foods that have a high nutrition vs calorie ration. Fruits are OK.

Anyway, I think I'm going to give this a try. It starts with a 6 week aggressive "detox" and then goes into a more forgiving mode that allows you to eat most anything, but requires you to take in large amounts of vegetables and fruits.

I've blogged about Continuous Partial Attention. There is a difference between having CPA and multi-tasking. Linda Stone is the person who first turned me on to this concept and now she has a wiki about Continuous Partial Attention. Yay!

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Sean Bonner has just posted an almost "too weird to be true" story about a guy who works at SmartFilter, a web filtering company that "protects children" from dirty content. They have been the target of a lot of blogging recently after Boing Boing ended up on their filter list and have been trying to be removed. It looks like the guy that they have been interacting with at the filter company is an Adult Baby or AB. (ABs like to dress up and act like babies.) Sean cites Violet Blue, a noted sex educator who thinks it is probably a bad idea for an AB to be in the business of "protecting children".

I personally don't like digging up trash on people and generally believe that people's sexual preferences shouldn't be "outed" in public. However, I think that bad filter companies really hurt the Internet and if someone's motivation to "protect children" is possibly driven by a fetish, it should probably be noted.

UPDATE: A balanced post about this from Xeni on Boing Boing.


Just read the newly crafted elevator pitch for Benetech in a letter from Jim Fruchterman, the CEO, Chairman and Founder.

His pitch:

Benetech creates technology that serves humanity by blending social conscience with Silicon Valley expertise. We build innovative solutions that have lasting impact on critical needs around the world.
Webcams and other digital communication could give ordinary people feedback on results acheived due to donation of their money and time.

This would give the power of oversight formerly reserved for wealthy philanthropists.

Does this hint toward disruptive digital technology underming the NGO world with individualized philanthropy that cuts out the middle men?

Posted by

My minor hand operation this week highlighted to me how journalism/blogging are literally manual labor.

Also, my ability to tell many people about this injury reminds me of how repetitive strain injury/carpal tunnel syndrome only became something of broad public concern when the chattering classes (ie: white collar workers, including journalists) were hit due to their typing on computer keyboards.

Throughout the industrial revolution, however, the same problem had afflicted manual laborers who could not bring their problem to a wider audience. (Lately there seem to be fewer complaints about it here at the International Herald Tribune, perhaps because there is a greater understanding of ergonomics.)

Must be many examples of diseases that only became well known when they also became diseases of the rich. Any interesting ones?

Heres the skinny: Blizzard adds in a new instance, Zul'Gurub. Inside is the god of blood, Hakkar. Well, when you fight him he has a debuff called Corrputed Blood. It does like 250-350 damage to palyers and affects nearby players. The amazing thing is SOME PLAYERS have brought this disease (and it is a disease) back to the towns, outside of the instance. It starts spreading amongst the genral population including npcs, who can out generate the damage. Some servers have gotten so bad that you can't go into the major cities without getting the plague (and anyone less than like level 50 nearly immediately die). GM's even tried quarantining players in certain areas, but the players kept escaping the quarantine and infecting other players.
via Boris Via Wonderland

Then, I ask Jonas about this and:

It was a sight to behold. Some tell me, IF was finally usable and that the lag was gone for once, but Orgrimmar was fun nevertheless. Red blobs splashing everywhere, healing and renew/regrowth was being mass-spammed, and there were more bodies and skeletons around than I've ever seen, and I've raided IF before.

My biggest fun was screwing with those incompetent GMs. Some used their own chars to herd us, which made the plague transfer even faster, others messaged and threatened consequences if we did certain things. The idea was, to move all infected players into instances, where we could be by ourselves, so we hooked up into large raid groups, rezzed instead of corpse walked, and re-infected ourselves before hearthstoning back into Org. Bog Troopers, a huge horde guild in Org, raided Stormwind, which was almost empty, and killed the child king (no HK, there, you have to kill the Guardian) before walking into the Stockades, farming gold. The GMs congregated up on Honor's Stand, so we had a handful of players up there, stealthed, and infecting them. It was more fun than any other world event EVAR!.

Not much to add. Just hilarious.

Posted by Thomas Crampton

A friend is heading to Southeast Asia and asked advice on food.

I find that travellers are often obsessive about the wrong things. They are very aggressive about - for example - making sure that the water has actually boiled in their soup, but then order a salad as a starter.

Basically, I never eat anything that has been washed in tapwater (like lettuce) and avoid anything that has milk products (pies with cream or other milk products that can go bad in tropical heat) but you can eat almost anything that has been peeled (fruit) grilled (meat) boiled (soup, noodles, curries, etc). Always wash hands before eating and get in the habit of carrying purell in your pocket. Be wary of cutlery in the sense that you should rub it down with a napkin before using it.

One of the greatest pleasures for me in travel is sampling the local cuisine in street stalls and small restaurants, so I probably push the envelope, but rarely get ill. (Perhaps I have built up resistance)

Medicines I use for rare occasions when digestive issues arise? Peptobismol and - if needed - immodium. Some people take peptobismol before eating, but that such a waste because it ruins the taste.

Also, there is no need to buy water purification tablets. Never in more than a decade of travel through developing countries have I been out of reach of clean water. That said, make sure to keep yourself hydrated in tropical heat. Drink small amounts constantly rather than gulping once every few hours.

Most important: Don't obsess on it! Enjoy your holiday.

I spoke to the son of the man who died in or neighborhood. He told us that the doctor mentioned that it was possible that the cancer was caused by heavy metals. The doctor, the head of a hospital nearby, told him that there were dangerous levels of heavy metals in all Japanese water and that this information was being stifled by the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Health in Japan is notoriously corrupt and have probably been under investigation for one thing or another for the last 30 years. I totally and completely don't trust them.

I also once met a toxologist who said that toxologists were coming to Japan to study because Japan was immersed in lots of chemicals that were illegal in other nations and there was a lot they could study.

My neighbor checked his well water for heavy metals and found enough to be a long term health concern. However, he was told that city tap water was even worse.

I don't have much expertise in this area, but it sounds like a good reason to leave Japan long term. I can only image it getting worse. Does anyone know more about this?

Posted by Thomas Crampton

Did a story on the closure of the last factory producing the famed pungent Gauloises brunes cigarettes.

In reporting, I noticed that many of the tobacco shops in Paris are called La Civette. I asked a French colleague and here is her theory.

Disgusting footnote: People smoked musk? Sounds even worse than brown tobacco!!!

A "civette" is a shop selling tobacco and especially cigars. The name comes from a famous, fashionable shop which was on the rue St Honoré in the XIX century. It is not clear why that shop was called La Civette. Either because (one of) the founders' name was Civet, or because in these days snuff tobacco was laced with civette, the secretion produced by the animal of the same name. (I don't know what civette, the animal, is called in English, but civette, the secretion, is musk).

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Posted by Thomas Crampton

I wrote a story on the Global fund deciding to pull out of Myanmar on Friday.

The fund fights HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB, diseases that are the scourges of many developing nations. Click here for their press release.

The fund had been criticised by some for going into the country (some feared they could be seen as providing a support for the goverment) and they were also criticized for pulling out (they did not try hard enough).

Who is correct?

BREAKING NEWS: Rumor is that general Maung Aye has ousted general Than Shwe. If true, we may see even more hardline actions by the government. Maung Aye already beat out general Than Shwe (considered one of the more open members of the ruling clique). now Maung Aye may have consolidated his power further.

In sum: Factions have long weakened Myanmar's military regime, but one of the tougher generals now appears to be consolidating power.

Anyone else have thoughts on Maung Aye?

Jet lag woke me up at 4AM today and I've been sitting in my cabin in the high altitude mountains of Utah reading blogs and chatting with people. I just finished chatting with reverend AKMA about my last post, trying to see if there was something similar to good theologians and open source leaders. We talked about the importance of humility and the risks of greed. (AKMA pointed out that he was by far the most humble person on the planet.) I noticed that my thoughts seem to be somewhat more spiritual than usual.

Then I remembered reading somewhere that there was a scientific study that showed that people were more likely to have spiritual experiences in high altitudes due to the lack of oxygen. They theorized that maybe a lot of enlightenment in the past occurred on mountains because of this. (A bit disconcerting to think that a lot of our theological thought comes from the asphyxiation of hermits.) But then I remembered another article I read somewhere that said that 20% of all scientific studies are wrong. Then AKMA reminded me that according to David Weinberger, 78% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

I know it's very un-bloggy of me not to have the links to the articles I cite, but I'm late for breakfast. I'll try to dig them up later, but if anyone has the links, I'd really appreciate it if you could put them in the comments.

UPDATE from Cameo: Why revelations have occurred on mountains? Linking mystical experiences and cognitive neuroscience.

I was just reading an email from the ProMED medical mailing list I'm on. It was a monthly report on Avian flu outbreaks in Eastern Asia. Part of the report reads:

Source of outbreaks:
- introduction of new animals/animal products;
- illegal movement of animals.

Control measures

A. Undertaken:
- quarantine;
- movement control inside the country;
- disinfection of infected premises/establishment(s).

B. To be undertaken:
- partial stamping out;
- vaccination.

Treatment of affected animals: no.

I read in the Wall Street Journal in the "We think this is sort of funny" section of the front page the other day, abut some guy who had invented a mass chicken slaughtering machine that picked up chickens by their feet and dragged their heads through electrified water. The machine could kill tens of thousands of chickens and was in high demand in countries where slaughtering these chickens has become an enormous task necessary to try to contain the outbreak.

Then I remembered reading that scientists are really worried that this flu is going to mutate into a version that spreads between humans as rapidly as it is spreading between birds.

Start nightmare:

Source of outbreaks:
- introduction of new people;
- illegal movement of people.

Control measures

A. Undertaken:
- quarantine;
- movement control inside the country;
- disinfection of infected premises/establishment(s).

B. To be undertaken:
- partial stamping out;
- vaccination.

Treatment of affected people: no.

Scary thought. Sorry.

Brain Region Linked to Metaphor Comprehension

From Scientific American:

Metaphors make for colorful sayings, but can be confusing when taken literally. A study of people who are unable to make sense of figures of speech has helped scientists identify a brain region they believe plays a key role in grasping metaphors.

Vilayanur S. Ramachandran of the University of California at San Diego and his colleagues tested four patients who had experienced damage to the left angular gyrus region of their brains. All of the volunteers were fluent in English and otherwise intelligent, mentally lucid and able to engage in normal conversations. But when the researchers presented them with common proverbs and metaphors such as "the grass is always greener on the other side" and "reaching for the stars," the subjects interpreted the sayings literally almost all of the time. After being pressed by the interviewers to provide deeper meaning, "the patients often came up with elaborate, even ingenious interpretations, that were completely off the mark," Ramachandran remarks.

More here.

That's interesting. I would never have imagined that metaphors could be so localized. I had imagined that our whole brain worked on some sort of system of metaphors. I wonder what this means in the context of Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By where they argue that metaphor is a fundamental mechanism in the way we think about things...

Just a day ago, I was in balmy Los Angeles noting how much the wonderful weather made me feel mellow and happy. Yesterday, I flew to Helsinki via Frankfurt and arrived at 5:30PM in pitch dark, freezing Finland and arrived at my hotel to find Marko and Jimbo waiting for me to go to Avantouinti. Avantouinti is ice-swimming which is often done in conjunction with sauna. Marko is a member of the 1337 sauna club, The Finnish Sauna Society, dedicated to the preservation of Finnish sauna culture. We went there and sat in the traditional smoke saunas packed full of naked Finnish men. Part of the sauna culture involves asking people if they'd like water poured on the hot stones when you are entering or leaving a sauna. In the particularly HOT sauna, the "yes" is followed by "ahhhh key toss (thank you) oooo heeeee". ;-) After some nice sauna we went avanto swimming. Swimming may be a bit of an exaggeration. We jumped into a hole in the ice from a pier clinging to a frozen rope. As we walked naked along the pier back to the sauna, I noticed the amazing scene of the frozen sea and the dimly glowing sky. I mentioned to Jimbo that walking naked and scenery like this was a unique combination. I think he was focused on his freezing feet, but he agreed.

I woke up at 3AM thinking icy thoughts and made a few edits on the Wikipeida Avantouinti article wishing there was an ice hole nearby...

Sorry for people who have read about avantouinti here before. This is my third time and I've blogged about it each time... (1 / 2)

A few weeks ago, there was an article in Scientific American "debunking" the myth of self-esteem. I've never been to therapy in the US so I don't have first hand experience, but my good friend John Vasconcellos is one of the founders of the movement and my impressions about the movement from him were that it was important and useful. John told me that he thought the definition that they used in the article was different from the one he was using. He said he would get back to me on his thoughts on the article. I found a thread on MetaFilter about this article so I participated in a discussion there. I was still having trouble thinking through the issue, so I turned to one of my favorite moral guides, Reverend AKMA. I decided to record the call and post it here in case anyone is interested in our chat. (37 min 33 MB mp3)

I think the net-net is that overvaluing or undervaluing yourself is bad. Ways to help people swung too far in either direction are good. The US probably suffers differently, than say Japan, because I think more people in Japan get self-esteem from craft or professionalism compared to the US where I believe self-esteem is more highly linked to money. Creating enclaves of people or communities to help people feel happy about their success measured by different parameters is a good thing and something the Net might be good for.

UPDATE 2: Audio available in a variety of formats on

Yesterday I got an influenza vaccination. I'm not sure what I expected but surprise surprise. I woke up this morning feeling like I had a mild flu. As a result I've slept all day. More than have slept all year probably. Which sort of sucks because I'm about to leave for Tel Aviv on the longest flight I'm going to take this year. (sigh)

Speaking of vaccinations, does anyone know if I need any special health preparations to go to South Africa?

Gen says, "Don't eat cheap sushi". I agree. I had never heard about the carbon monoxide process before, but it make me not want to eat cheap sushi even more. On the other hand, I guess some places could start raising prices and still serve crap.

10,000,000 people doing radio taiso
picture via Kampo
One of the participants of Fat Club uploaded an mp3 of radio taiso (morning radio exercise show) and I just set it to my alarm clock sound. radio taiso was banned by the US Occupation after WWII along with shogi (Japanese chess), all martial arts and a bunch of other things that were considered militaristic. I remember hearing a story on the radio that the original radio taiso came from the US. When life insurance just started as a business in the US, there was an uproar about "betting on people's lives." As part of a PR campaign, the life insurance companies started broadcasting exercise programs on the radio to make people more healthy. This culture migrated to Japan where now every morning millions of people exercise to radio taiso...

Here is the mp3 of chorus 1 of radio taiso.

Does anyone know if this story about the US insurance companies is true or not?

The Kampo home page has little animations like the one above and a full explanation (in Japanese) on how to do these exercises properly.

In December, I announced that I quit drinking. I got a flurry of comments of support. Several of us who had decided to be sober, thought a group blog about quitting drinking would be interesting so we started We Quit Drinking, the blog. Soon, due to some weird Google magic, the blog became the first result for "quit drinking". A wide variety of people who were looking for support and help dropped in and commented. Jonas, who among other things works with addiction as a counselor, decided that a more private space, a message board requiring login might make sense so he created the WQD Forums. He announced today that WQD Forums has hit 100 members and have become a vibrant community of people who are in various stages of sobriety sharing and supporting. Since that day in December, I've received sooo much input and advice. Thank you. Some of it has been very useful and some, frankly, not so helpful. I have been to a few AA meetings and have really enjoyed them. On the other hand, I have not yet passed the first step, "Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable." At the meeting I said, "I think I have a problem, but I don't yet believe that I am powerless or that my life has become unmanagable." The interesting thing is, no one was upset. One AA'er later said, "In AA, we call that 'a quart short'". I think I will still drop into AA meetings because I love the stories and the comfortable atmosphere of sharing, but until I get to Step One somehow, I don't think I can really be a true member. It's been quite a journey hearing the wide variety of opinions about drinking. I've decided on the few advisors and approaches that I think work for me now in helping manage myself. My opinion may change and if I finally believe that I am powerless and my life has become unmanagable, I know I can always count on AA, which I now believe has an incredible power to save people from alcoholism. If you thinking you have a problem or know you have a problem, try dropping by WQD Forums and join us in our emerging community.

Wow! A USB weight sensor. Now we can automatically add our weight to the sidebar and make RSS feeds of our weight changes. Who wants to write the mt-weightsensor plugin?

via Daiji

Current Mood: chipper
Current Weight: heavy
Listening to: You Trip Me Up by The Jesus and Mary Chain from the album Psychocandy

Yesterday, Mutsumi in our office told me half a dozen times that I looked "bigger". I'd been thinking about how to lose some weight and I remembered Fat Club because Jane linked to a Fat Club entry on her blog. For some reason, I seem to be able to motivate myself to lose weight when I'm competing. I asked everyone in our office if they wanted to join Fat Club 2004. Kuri, Jim and Nob agreed to participate. The race is to see who can lose 10% of their body weight first and sustain it for one week. The last one in has to be a slave to the winner for a day. Slave rights can be sold or rented. We decided to set up a private wiki to organize this event.

Mizuka bought a fancy scale awhile ago hinting that I should probably lose some weight. I jumped on it this morning and it told me that I had the body of a 49 year old. (I'm 38.) The fancy scale uses Bioelectric Impedance to measure your body fat and calculates basal metabolism, body fat percentage, muscle percentage, internal body fat level, your body mass index and your body age equivalent. Let me just say it was very motivating. This new scale has 6 contacts, two for your hands and 4 for your feet and seems more accurate than some of the older models.

Bjorn Lomborg

What if hospitals only dealt with patients who made the most fuss. That's what it seems like we do with global resource allocation for global problems. Why don't we prioritize? What if we had an extra$ 50Bn to allocate. What would you spend it on?

HIV aids?
Climate age?

We need rational basis on our spending.

The Copenhagen Consensus was a group of leading economists who got together to try to prioritize based on best information available.

What we would do:

1- Prevent HIV - $27Bn will save 29M lives
2- Micronutrients - $13Bn will help more than 1/2 the world
3- Free Trade - would create more than $2000Bn / yr
4- Treat Malaria - $12Bn could come back 10X or more

What we wouldn't do?

Kyoto (global warming) is not a good use of money

Focus on high benefit projects.

We now have the list. We have to get the rest of the world on board.

Bill Joy

I think there will be a crisis or catastrophic event that will take our attention away from terror or war and as a positive response may redefine our focus of the century.

A global pandemic/epidemic - the positive response: New found respect for natural systems and focus on health.

Environmental tip. A phase change with a irreversible climate change - the positive response: Understanding balance with natural systems.

Over self-consumption like the oil supply - the positive response: Might help wastefulness and make it a century of efficiency.

AlterNet: EnviroHealth: Condom Wars

Lethal new regulations from President Bush's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, quietly issued with no fanfare last week, complete the right-wing Republicans' goal of gutting HIV-prevention education in the United States. In place of effective, disease-preventing safe-sex education, little will soon remain except failed programs that denounce condom use, while teaching abstinence as the only way to prevent the spread of AIDS. And those abstinence-only programs, researchers say, actually increase the risk of contracting AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Reminds me of this billboard.

via Bopuc

In the comments on an earlier post on this blog about an artist suspected by the FBI of bioterrorism, there was a great deal of speculation about the incident and the facts. (Read the link above to my previous post for the background.) I emailed the artist, Steven Kurtz, asking him for the facts, and here is his reply.

Deleted by request.

Many people talked to me about this incident and strongly support the FBI's position on this. I still don't know enough details on the FBI's handling of the matter, but I DO think biotech as art is a legitimate form of art. At Ars Electronica, we did a whole festival on Life Science as art. Artists, including Steve, publish their works, talk about the impact, and often teach. Terrorists do not.

One famous example of biotech art is the bioluminescent rabbit created by genetic engineering, adding genes from a jellyfish to a rabbit to make it glow in the dark. This created a great deal of controversy and debate. It was the intention of the artist to cause this debate with an extremely tangible project.

I believe this form of expression is important and mistaking artistic expression for something else is a great risk to society. However, I suppose it would be prudent for artists to be aware of the risks involved in handling the "supplies" they use for their art.

The New York Times
U.S. Won't Let Company Test All Its Cattle for Mad Cow

The Department of Agriculture refused yesterday to allow a Kansas beef producer to test all of its cattle for mad cow disease, saying such sweeping tests were not scientifically warranted.

The producer, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wanted to use recently approved rapid tests so it could resume selling its fat-marbled black Angus beef to Japan, which banned American beef after a cow slaughtered in Washington State last December tested positive for mad cow. The company has complained that the ban is costing it $40,000 a day and forced it to lay off 50 employees.

The department's under secretary for marketing and regulation, Bill Hawks, said in a statement yesterday that the rapid tests, which are used in Japan and Europe, were licensed for surveillance of animal health, while Creekstone's use would have "implied a consumer safety aspect that is not scientifically warranted."

I don't know whether I trust the Japanese or the Americans more on this issue. The Japanese say they're testing all of the cows, but frankly, I have my doubts. On the other hand, the Americans won't even LET them test all of the cows so obviously, they're not all being tested. On the other hand, more people are dying in Iraq than from Mad Cow in Japan or the US so we should keep this in perspective...

via Plastic

Wet talked last night with Linda Stone about her idea of continuous partial attention. She says it is different from multi-tasking.

Linda Stone

It's not the same as multitasking; that's about trying to accomplish several things at once. With continuous partial attention, we're scanning incoming alerts for the one best thing to seize upon: "How can I tune in in a way that helps me sync up with the most interesting, or important, opportunity?

This is really relevant to some of the thoughts I've been having about the UI of mobile devices and how they fade in and out of your attention rather than being on or off like computer screens. Yes, you do this a bit with computers, but not nearly as seamlessly as mobile phones are integrated in the real world by advanced users.

Also, the IRC back channel at conferences or the multi-modal distance learning projects where you have a video of the speaker, the power point presentation, the chat, the wiki and the back channel going at the same time. It CAN be very overwhelming, but I think it's because we are conditioned to think that we need to understand all of the information that is being transmitted.

I think an interesting metaphor might be the difference between loss-less and lossy compression technology. There is so much information being transmitted and it doesn't matter if you everything exactly (or if you are getting exactly the same bits as someone else). You can glean from the fire-hose in the mode that makes the most sense for you. The trick is to get a picture of what is going on from a perspective that makes sense for you in a format that compresses well for you. I think that if we stop trying to "catch it all" which we are conditioned to do, and think more in terms of lossy compression and surfing parallel streams and multi-modes, maybe it is easier.

Also, we discussed last night now human brains are adapting to these changes and how probably younger generations will continue to grow up differently and interfaces and modes will adapt again to this new generation. This has a lot to do with the discussion on ADD.

Good entry in Smartmobs with more links.

Today I met with Nathan Grey and Michael Mitchell of the American Cancer Society. Nathan is working on building their International network and Michael is in charge of the Futuring and Innovation Center. Randall Moss, who I met at ETech pointed them my way.

My mother had cancer for decades before she passed away and my sister and I struggled much of our lives her cancer in the family and dealing with a variety of issues: financial, social, medical and psychological. I remember using the American Cancer Society web page when I was looking for help online. The idea about using blogs and social networking tools to provide more access, dialog, information and support for people who are suffering from or are helping people who are suffering from cancer is such a great idea. The idea of trying to get more people active in campaigns to push policy issues is also very interesting.

I promised to noodle about some thoughts and get back to them, but if anyone has any good ideas or links to resources or blogs about cancer that might be useful too look at, that would be great.

I already gave them the basic advice, make their site more permalink/blog friendly, ping a pinger sites when they update, try blogging themselves, etc.

I woke up this morning with a headache and decided I needed to get my circulation going. I told Marko and he suggested avantouinti. Hmmm...

Marko took me to the Finnish Sauna Society sauna where we hung out in traditional smoke saunas for awhile with a bunch of naked Finnish men. The saunas were covered in soot from the way they prepare them using real wood fires. The experience was about as similar to saunas back home as eating real sushi in Japan is similar to eating California supermarket sushi.

After we were thoroughly heated, we sauntered out to a hole in the ocean and jumped in. Avantouinti! ("ice hole swimming" in Finnish) For a moment I lost touch with my limbs and wasn't sure I'd make it out, but I survived. Then, we did a rinse, heat, repeat. The second time around was much easier and thoroughly enjoyable and it did indeed get my circulation going.

One funny thing I noticed was that every time something strange was about to happen, Marko would say, "this is VERY traditional." I remember when I was taking Marko around Japan, that's what I would say to him when I was about to feed him something pretty weird.

Anyway, Marko may have been trying to get me back for feeding him snapping turtle in Kyoto, but I enjoyed my avantouinti very much and recommend it to anyone who gets a chance.

Gapminder is a truly amazing site of visualizations of stunning facts and statistics.

Thanks for the link David!

A: How many people with ADD does it take to change a light-bulb?
B: I don't know? How many?
A: Want to go to the movies?

Since I quit drinking, I've been doing a lot of talking and reading about addiction and the psychology of obsession. One path of inquiry lead me to the notion that obsessive compulsive disorder was often behind addictive behavior and that replacing one type of obsessive behavior with another wasn't a "cure" for the "disease". They seem to have a name for just about every kind of behavior, and interestingly enough, a medical "cure" for such diseases. I've been trying to face my demons and banish them so I can lead a more simple and fulfilling life.

Recently, someone told me that psychiatry was the only area of medicine where doctors "voted" to determine what sorts of behavior were considered diseases and should be treated. The assertion was that the drug companies created incentives for doctors to classify behaviors which had medical methods of neutralization as diseases. Many of these behaviors, my friend asserted, were natural human behaviors that some people had and didn't require a cure.

Now I'm back to trying to figure out what parts of my personality I should change and what parts of my personality are actually features and not bugs. Of course the first step is to know yourself and identify the demons and quirks. Most personality traits have benefits and drawbacks and designing your life to maximize the benefits and minimize the liabilities is probably a good thing.

Today, I had dinner with David Smith who has ADD. I think his ADD is worse than mine. We talked about a mutual friend who has, as David puts it, "terminal ADD". We talked about the hyper-focus that ADD provides and ways that you can use ADD to do things many people can't do. Harnessing ADD, rather than neutralizing it has interesting benefits. We talked about how modern society has allowed many people, who might have been dysfunctional in the past, to make valuable contributions to society. It's interesting how labels and the notion of disease can cause people to blame these things for their problems instead of trying to figure out how to turn these bugs into features. I realize that some people really do have diseases and I'm not trying to belittle their struggle. What I'm saying is that before we label ourselves and start taking therapy and drugs we ought to think about how all of these elements interact to create the human being that we are and place this in the unique context that each of us are in.

This morning, we had a breakfast between the Global Leaders for Tomorrow, Social Entrepreneurs and Religious Leaders. I got a great table with a broad range of people from developing nations, religious leaders, economists, and entrepreneurs.

We started out the discussion talking about the nature of money. We talked about how greed and the idea that more money means more happiness is compulsive behavior and the notion that more money makes you more happy may hold true in developing nations, but is not necessarily true in developed nations. We talked about how this notion of more money means more happiness may be contributing to some of the problems in society. One representative of a global financial organization talked about how similar to the "poverty line", maybe there should be a "greed line". An economist pointed out that there was a book written about economy as a religion where the author asserted that pollution should be moved to developing nations because poor people were worth less in a purely economic model. Obviously, this is not right, and we asked the religious leaders to address some of the issues such as caring, giving and happiness.

Religions are memories of history, rich with ritual and values. They need to create a double language, one for internal dialog and another to share ideas with others. One point I made was that many religions were designed for environments where people were still struggling to survive and the focus was on rituals and believes for such an environment. Many religions focused keeping people alive rather than providing them with a primary religious experience. For environments where the struggle to survive is not as big of an issue, it might be that religions need to help support people more with things such as their obsessions and ethics.

It was noted that people who live in developing nations still needed money and that it was important. However, it was pointed out that many of the economic values have a detrimental effect on developing nations such as promoting crime. It was also noted that many churches in developing nations focus on promotion economic values. (Join the church, get rich.) The notion of sharing and sacrifice which are very important values that religions promote are often subverted to raise money for the churches.

David Green of Project Impact in India talked about how he performs cataract surgery in India. He provides 1/3 of the procedures for free, 1/3 for a low cost and 1/3 for a high price. The rich pay the high price for first class service, but the basic operation is the same. He is able to subsidize the operation for the poor and still make money. He is so successful that instead of paying $300 for the lenses, he was able to create a manufacturing operation and lower the cost to $4 a lens and has become the second largest manufacturer in the world. He provided this as an example of a good economic model can provide a great deal of good.

An interesting theory that facial expressions affect blood-flow to the brain and are not just results of emotions. The assertion is that these blood-flows affect our emotions. So SMILE! :-)

Zajonc, R. B., Emotion and Facial Efference: A Theory Reclaimed, Scince, 1985, 288, 15-2

He also asserted that elation follows the smile, not the opposite. The blood flow changes caused by contracting the facial muscles in the smile alter cerebral blood flow and cause an emotional change. He extends this reasoning to account for all kinds of other bizarre facial habits associated with emotions -- wrinkled forheads, rubbing one's eyes, hand on forehead, pulling earlobes, licking lips, etc.

Via Jonas

Phillip Torrone, moblogger extraordinaire breathalyzer moblogs his NYE.

We Quit Drinking: A blog by and about people who have chosen to not drink alcohol. A new blog for a new year.

In my highly enlightened state this morning, I mused about the idea of a multi-author blog about resisting addiction. People could share their experience and we could also discuss the meta-issue of creating a network to support people who are trying to quit. I'm pretty set on getting this started today so I'm soliciting ideas before I kick it off. I need a name and a few key things to focus on. I guess that figuring out the URL is pretty important. Any ideas?

I just woke up from sleeping for 18 hours. I know some people who sleep 18 hours+ regularly, but for someone who averages 4-6 hours a day, 18 hours of sober sleep is quite a psychosomatic journey. I had had a full night's sleep the night before, but sitting in the sun cuddling Bo after a big huge brunch with Mizuka's family, their chatter turning into a comfortable drone in the background sent me into a deeeeeep sleep.

I just woke up and my brain is in a interesting state. I've had two espressos but I still can't type properly. I am quite disoriented, but I feel deeply happy and deeply thankful for a bunch of things. A lot of the "issues" I had been pondering now seem trivial and for some reason I seem to be taking a much longer term view on things. It literally feels like I've done a fresh install on my brain and it is now rebooting.

What a wonderful day. If I weren't feeling so merciful today, I would taunt those of you who have hang-overs today. ;-)

Halley, thanks for having #joiito over to your party. Thanks also for sharing your interaction with your wine bottles after the party. I'll be doing a lot of the same over the next few days. Ever since I noticed that I am now the top result for a google search on "quit drinking" I have this sense of responsibility to myself as well as others to show my/our resolve and share this.

I was talking on the phone today with someone trained as a professional in treating addiction. It's interesting to note that when AA was started in the 60's 30's, it was difficult to find other people who would be supportive during the process of trying to quit drinking. There was also quite a bit of social stigma associated with recognizing an addiction and trying to deal with it. It is much more common today and with chat, email and blogs, it's easier to find people to talk to about this.

Nothing against AA and I am fascinated by it, but I think that this cross-blog support network we are creating for people who have chosen to quit drinking is really amazing and it will be interesting to see where this leads. If anyone else wants to join Halley, dav and me, this is a good a chance as any. ;-)

Japan officially bans imports over U.S. mad cow disease case

TOKYO — The health ministry officially banned imports of U.S. beef and beef-processed products Friday after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Thursday that a British laboratory confirmed initial U.S. test results indicating the first U.S. case of mad cow disease.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare notified the quarantine stations across Japan of the decision. On Wednesday, Tokyo halted imports of beef products after the USDA revealed the discovery of the case in Washington State. (Kyodo News)

I remember when Japan was first warned that we may have a BSE risk. I read about it in the Japan Times but didn't see any of the Japanese media covering it. Several months later, the first case in Japan was discovered. The country went into a panic, the government coverup machine went into overdrive but the issue punched through layer one. The had to act like they were going to do something about it. They implemented nationwide testing and tracked of the cows.

The meat packing industry is one of the most "organized" industries in Japan. I'm sorry, but I have absolutely no faith in the Japanese government's claim that they have checked all of the cows. The Japanese are claiming that since they check all of the cows, Japan is the safest in the world. The Japanese bureaucracy has rarely shown itself to be trustworthy on self-regulatory issues. For instance, the health ministry has been under investigation for some sort of ethical issue almost continuously ever since I was born.

I saw one ripple in the fabric when talking to a source I can not reveal here. Although they are supposed to tag and track all of the cows that are born and shipped around Japan, in fact the networks are prefectural and do not track the cows as they cross prefectures. When said acquaintance complained about the ineffectiveness of such a system, he was told to look the other way and move on. They said that it was a "dangerous area" he was treading in. I have no idea whether they fixed this system, but I doubt it.

So please excuse me if I laugh when the health ministry so proudly claims that Japan's beef is safer than American beef because of all of the effort they have put into this.

Jonas has a good blog entry in response to Marc's comment about the 12 steps. Interesting and thoughtful deconstruction of obsessive-compulsive disorders and curing and managing addiction. The only place where I would disagree is that I actually do exhibit a variety of symptoms of addiction and that's why I've chosen to stop drinking.

Update: Jonas comments on the 12 steps. I have never been to an AA meeting, although I've ordered the book and intend to try going, but the comments from Jonas are... sobering. Any thoughts from people who swear by the 12 steps?

Actually, I guess the technical term is, "yo duuuude."

Well maybe those days are over, but there's one thing for sure - Joi will have a drink - again.  Maybe on New Year's Eve - maybe 20 years from now - but once an addict, always an addict.  I mean that in a nice way.

We can try and intellectualize our way out of our problems, manipulating our actions and behavior to suit our health - mental, physcial or economic - but you'll always go back to being - just you. 

I would beg to differ on this point Marc. Since I announced that I would stop drinking, I've been contacted by a lot of people who have chosen to stop drinking and that was the end of that. I realize that it's quite difficult and you can't go back to NOT being addicted, but that doesn't mean you have to end up drinking again or that you don't have a choice.

As for:

Marc Canter
So as Joi dumbs down his persona, going for only the lowest denominator, he'll still pick his battles, stand his ground and make his point on all the right issues.  But he'll be doing that less and less.
I'm not sure I'd use the phrase "dumb down"... I'm not dumbing myself down for my blog, just performing for a more public audience. It's not about "smart/dumb". In fact, I'd suggest that I'm having to be a lot smarter in some ways and am filtering crap that only my close friends would let me get a way with.

Anyway, I know you didn't mean any disrespect Marc. I just want to clarify my position on these two points.

I've been trying to "cut back" on my drinking, but it doesn't work. I got drunk last night and I regret it. So, I've quit drinking. If you're my friend please be supportive and don't offer me alcohol please.

Thank you.

UPDATE: We have set up a group blog called "We Quit Drinking". Please take a look.

Reading in the New York Times about the health hazards of inhaling carbon nanotubes reminded me of Snowcrash. I wonder what would happen if you inhaled these RFID's.

Reading about AKMA's hernia operation reminds me of my own hernia operation. My scar stings with the memory like Harry Potter's scar. This also reminds me of my tonsillectomy. I remember after the operation thinking, "this hurts WAY to much for it to be worth it. Note to self: remember how much this hurts." The funny thing is, I don't remember how much it hurt. My theory about anesthesia is that it's probably just as much about making you forget your pain as it is about making you not feel it. Would you choose to have more pain, but not remember it, or choose less pain but perpetual memory of it? I guess most people would choose no pain... ;-p Which reminds me of the Jack Handy quote, "I'd rather be rich than stupid." Enough associative memory fun...

I hope you feel better AKMA. I'm still going to SD you. Actually, looking forward to SD'ing everyone this weekend in Boston. muahahaha!

The British Government warns that the Atkins diet is a bad thing.

'Cutting out starchy foods, or any food group, can be bad for your health because you could be missing out on a range of nutrients,' the statement says. 'This type of diet also tends to be unrealistic and dull, and not palatable enough to be tolerated for a long time.'

It adds: 'High-fat diets are also associated with obesity, which is increasing in the UK. People who are obese are more likely to develop conditions such as diabetes and some cancers. Low-carb diets tend to be high in fat, too, and eating a diet that is high in fat could increase your chances of developing coronary heart disease.'

"Could be missing out on"? "unrealistic and dull"? "Associated with obesity"? Doesn't sound very scientific to me. Bah. I don't have a copy of the official report but sounds like FUD.

Via BuzzMachine

I've been drinking too much alcohol in the evenings and drinking too much Diet Coke during the day. Diet Coke is starting to taste weird and I'm having trouble moderating my alcohol consumption. I'm going to go off aspartame and alcohol for 1 week and try to turn alcohol on again in moderation after a week. I think this will make me feel happier and give me more energy. If this were a controlled experiment, I wouldn't do both at the same time, but I'm pretty sure that drinking myself asleep and jolting myself awake is not very good for me.

This is probably more information than anyone really wants about my life, but I figured that if I blog it, I'm more likely to keep this promise to myself. Oh, and anyone who seems me drinking Diet Coke or alcohol during the next week can slap me around with a trout.

As a Quaker, I wonder if you're allowed to think about hard-on's in church and joke about people's deaths on your blog. Or maybe being an A-List blogger forces you to resort to deadpan humor to tighten up your style. ;-|

Doc Searls
Other dead Atkins headlines  
I'm still on the Atkins diet. Dr. Atkins isn't , of course. I mentioned that a couple days ago under the headline Ultimate Diet . Since then I've regretted not using either of two other headlines that came to mind at the time:

100% weight loss
Dead weight

Anyway, both Doc and I are on the Atkins Diet which is basically a low-carb diet. Many people swear by it, but many people continue to warn me against it. It's too bad that Dr. Atkins died, but at least he died of an injury and not of something that could be tied to the Atkins diet.

A few quotes from the proMED-mail, which is a good list to follow for on-the-ground updates from the global medical community.
Date: 4 Apr 2003
From: ProMED-mail
Source: OIE press release
Atypical pneumonia: Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)

The causative agent has not yet been identified. It appears to be a Paramyxovirus, a Coronavirus, or a mixture. The World Health Organization (WHO) has hypothesised that the causative virus(es) may be of animal origin, from domestic or wild animals located in Guangdong Province (in South China).

This is why the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has contacted the Chinese Veterinary Authorities to obtain information on the animal health situation in China over the past 6 months and, in particular, in Guangdong Province.

Date: Fri 4 Apr 2003
From: Steve Berger

SARS - Deja vu ?

As SARS enters its fifth month, a number of questions remain unanswered. Why Asia? Why now? Why young adults? To these I would add a fourth question (Why the panic?) and an hypothesis.

Every 10 years or so, a pandemic spreads out from China and surrounding countries. The 'Asian flu' of 1957 claimed 98 000 lives worldwide, and the 'Hong Kong flu' of 1968 an additional 45 000 lives. Although the world community was rightly concerned, I do not recall a collapse of air travel, imposition of quarantine, or daily front-page headlines. To date, SARS has claimed 79 lives, and the etiological agent appears to be far less contagious than Influenza A virus.

joibeer.jpgYesterday, I officially weighed in at our gym with witnesses and I came in at 67.3kg with my clothes on. My target was 68.5kg so I cleared it comfortably. (Again, flashbacks from my wrestling days.) I had challenged myself to stop drinking alcohol completely until I reach the target weight. I was off of alcohol for exactly 2 weeks. It was a good experience. I lost a lot of weight, found out that I was an alcoholic (addicted to alcohol) and that alcohol was lowering my productivity and my general emotional quality. This was probably because I was drinking too much. I had a beer last night, which tasted REALLY good. I also had sake, a double Jack Daniel's on the rocks and another beer. Although this was not much considering my former average daily intake, I got a headache. Maybe my body is trying to tell me something...

I also called Yuichi, my Fat Club partner to tell him that I had won and that he is my new chauffeur. He promised to find a suitable outfit to wear during his day as my chauffeur. We also agreed to do another challenge, since he still wants some incentive to continue his program.

Anyway, it was a good test of my will and a lot of fun. It's probably not for everyone, but competing with someone and blogging about it was a good way to push myself to lose weight.

I am now 9kg lighter than when I started my Atkin's Diet program about a month ago. I weighed in this morning at home at 68.4kg which is just barely under my target of 68.5kg. I will conduct an official Fat Club weigh-in tomorrow at the gym. If I can keep myself under this weight and possibly lose a little more for a safety cushion, I will be free from my committment to not drink any alcohol until I meet my goal.

I have to say that it was tough without alcohol, but I feel much healthier and am definitely not going to drink as much as I used to. I actually enjoyed the challenge and would like to point out to the people who tried to tell me that it was foolish to make promises that I can't keep, that I did in fact keep my promise and actually enjoyed it. Also, special thanks to all of the people who didn't pressure me to drink or eat.

Anyway, it's not over till the fat guy sings, but I'm pretty comfortable that I'll pass tomorrow. I wonder where I will make Yuichi drive me...

A good article in Business 2.0 on the business of the Atkin's Diet

I just had lunch with a friend from Hong Kong. He said people are pretty freaked out. All of the schools are closed and hotels are at 10% capacity. He says that you can actually trace the infections back to a doctor from China who visited Hong Kong for a wedding. He sneezed in an elevator and all of the people who were in the elevator are now dead. There was a rumor that the people who got the disease from him all died, but the people who got the disease from those people haven't all died and that the virus diminishes in deadliness as it is transmitted, but it appears to be a rumor. People in HK are stocking up, partially because of the teenager hoax which involved a forgery of a newspaper site blowing the problem out of proportion and sending everyone into a panic. Seven people are reported to have symptoms in Japan and are being tested, but they they have not been confirmed to have SARS.

Everyone in HK is wearing masks, although it probably doesn't help. Immigration officers in Tokyo are wearing masks, but only telling people who have fevers, have visited risk countries and are coughing to go to the quarantine office. People in China still seem to be under-informed and are not wearing masks.

New York Times
China Yields Data on Mystery Illness Reluctantly

BEIJING, April 3 — In early March, when a new mystery illness started hopscotching around the globe, Chinese health officials looked on in silence, as if to say, "This has nothing to do with us."

At that point, China was already four months into an outbreak that officials later acknowledged was the same disease, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. Yet they insisted that the situation was fully under control, shared none of their data and declined to join international investigations.

Dan Gillmor
April 3, 2003

It wasn't newspapers or television or radio that originally spread the word about the outbreak of a serious respiratory illness, now known as SARS, in southeast China. It was SMS -- text messages on mobile phones.

Boing Boing
Cory Doctorow 7:59

The Chinese government sent out six million SMS messages to Hong Kong cellphones yesterday, informing the populace that the web-page that reported that the whole city would be quarantined to contain the SARS outbreak was a hoax perpetrated by a 14-year-old who'd been arressted.

April 4, 2003 Paul Krugman on the economic impact of SARS

Some more SARS stuff.

Earlier, I praised the WHO on their handling of SARS, but as the news starts to unfold, I guess it's not that simple. The tendency for the web to amplify fluctuation is probably hurting our ability to get a good sense of the actual risk of the situation. I think we should be focusing on what we should do to minimize risk rather than freaking out about it. On the other hand, it still appears we know so little about it. The question is whether the damage from freaking out exceeds the risk that SARS poses...
China coming clean on spread of killer illness

By Hamish McDonald, Herald Correspondent in Beijing, and agencies
April 3 2003

China's wall of silence on the lethal pneumonia epidemic started to break open yesterday when health officials in southern Guangdong province reported 361 new cases of the illness and nine more deaths during March.

This appears to contradict earlier claims that the outbreak was "under control". At the same time, a team of four experts sent by the World Health Organisation was given permission to visit Guangdong, the suspected origin of the new disease, after waiting five days in Beijing for a response.

The figures bring the number of severe acute respiratory syndrome cases in China to 967 at the end of the March, with 43 reported deaths, though more cases might be added later from other Chinese provinces.

A friend of mine who just got back from Shanghai told me that he didn't see a single report about SARS when he was in China. It's stuff like this that still makes me doubt China's ability to really "play" yet.

Is UN politics getting in the way of best practices?

Taiwanese accuse U.N. health agency of ignoring them; say it could aggravate spread of mystery illness

By William Foreman, Associated Press, 3/30/2003 01:44

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) When a deadly flu-like virus began spreading through Asia earlier this month, a group of Taiwanese doctors sent an e-mail to the World Health Organization asking for help in investigating the mysterious bug.

No one responded. No investigators from the U.N. agency visited. And the requests for assistance continue to go unanswered a policy inspired by China's rivalry with Taiwan, and the island's struggle for recognition by the United Nations.

via Technorati Hot Links.

Also, Karuna Shinsho, former CNN and NHK anchorwoman now living in Hong Kong, has written a first hand report on

coronavirus.jpgI reported earlier that the situation with the killer pneumonia was getting better, but it looks like it's getting worse. AP reports that over 1000 people in Hong Kong have been quarantined and travel alerts are increasing. The WHO has called on countries to screen international air travelers for symptoms.

via Dan Gillmor

UPDATE: BBC reports that they've probably identifed the virus and it's called the Corona virus. via Marc's Voice

So I went on a walk as Dave Winer suggested. Then, I called Yuichi, my fat club partner and we decided to play squash and have a weigh-in. We played squash for an hour. I hadn't exercised for a month when I went to the gym yesterday and I was pretty much a mess today. I totally suck at squash anyway, but I was obliterated today. The only thing I have ever been good at is wrestling. I was wearing my Polar heart monitor and noticed that my heart rate went up to 194bpm at one point. Probably a bit too high...

Anyway, I was confident that I had lost some weight since the last weigh-in so I drank a lot of water. Yuichi on the other hand didn't drink any. I wanted to trick him into thinking I was still way out of range so he would slack off. Then, with my new no-alcohol, walking-every-day regime, I could increase my rate of weight loss and beat him easily. ;-)

The weigh-in reminded me of wrestling where we had to weigh in before each match. The biggest difference is that I weigh 17kg more than I did when I was at my peak in wrestling... Anyway, he was still 4kg away from his target and I was 3kg away. We may be at this for awhile...

I've been trying to lose weight and set a target weight. I made a bet with Yuichi. Whoever hits their target first wins. The loser has to be a chauffer for the other one for a day. Well, that doesn't seem to be enough incentive. My weight's been hovering for the last week. So new rule. No more alcohol until I hit my target. I'll think about drinking again at that point. This should help in a variety of ways. I have stopped blogging when drunk. If I stop drinking, I will be able to blog at night and catch Dave Winer when he starts blogging in the morning on the East Coast. With the increase in email since I started blogging and all of the great new deals to look at in Silicon Valley, I am definitely reaching my limit on available time and not drinking should significantly increase my "uptime."

So, this is an official announcement. If anyone catches me drinking, you can smack me and blog that I'm a liar and a cheat. Come to think of it, I quit smoking since I started blogging. After my weight is under control and I stop drinking, maybe I'll take a crack quitting caffeine. Then I can announce that blogging is good for your health and that it saves lives. ;-)

You have probably seen this already, but just to close the loop on my March 16 post about this...

The good news is it looks like they figured out what it is. The bad news is that it will probably be years before they have a vaccine or a cure. The good news is it doesn't spread so easily.

I commend the WHO et al. Everyone did a great job coordinating by email, keeping everyone informed without causing a panic. Great execution. I felt more informed than any other such threat in the past. On the other hand, if the bug had gone into a full blown outbreak, there might have been a panic...

Scientists in Hong Kong have claimed a key breakthrough against a virulent form of pneumonia which is claiming more victims around the world.

The researchers have identified the mystery respiratory illness at the heart of a global health scare as a virus from the paramyxoviridae family, which are responsible for conditions such as mumps and measles.
"It is rather slow-moving, rather restricted to families and hospitals, not a rip-roaring affair, but still very nasty.

"There are no anti-viral drugs against this family of viruses, and there are no vaccines available. It will be a question of several years work.

"But it is not fantastically infectious, so I wouldn't expect there to be a massive outbreak in other parts of the world."

Yesterday, the NYT reported the outbreak of a killer pneumonia in Asia. I was freaking out getting ready to blog about it when the WHO just announced that it has gone global.

First the New York Times says it's an Asian thing.

New York Times
Outbreak Prompts Travel Warning in Asia

Hundreds of people in Vietnam, Hong Kong and China have been stricken by a mysterious respiratory illness that has killed at least six people and left all the others with severe breathing difficulties from which they have yet to fully recover, worried officials of the World Health Organization said today.

The scary quote from the NYT article was:
New York Times
"This pathogen is turning out to be a tough thing to pin down," he said. "Nothing is turning up, not a thing."
Then the next day, it has gone global...
Date: 15 Mar 2003
World Health Organization issues emergency travel advisory
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Spreads Worldwide
15 March 2003 | GENEVA -- During the past week, WHO has received reports of more than 150 new suspected cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), an atypical pneumonia for which cause has not yet been determined. Reports to date have been received from Canada, China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Early today, an ill passenger and companions who travelled from New York, United States, and who landed in Frankfurt, Germany were removed from their flight and taken to hospital isolation.

Due to the spread of SARS to several countries in a short period of time, the World Health Organization today has issued emergency guidance for travellers and airlines.

So, what does "emergency guidance" mean? For 155 people on the Singpore Airlines flight it means being quarantined...
Some 155 other passengers who had been due to change planes or stay in Frankfurt were placed in quarantine there, while the remaining 85 passengers and 20 crew on the Singapore Airlines flight continued their journey, German officials said.
via IP and Louis. Thanks!

So there is a terrible flu making its way through Tokyo. High fevers that can take you out for a week or so. I've been in bed the last few days with this flu. Have you noticed that the flu seems to get worse every year? I seem to have more flu days every year. I wonder if the flu will become a debilitating problem for our global viral village? I went to the doctor yesterday and he gave me Tamiflu. It's a relatively new drug that fights the flu virus. I think I started taking it a bit too late to have maximum impact, but I looked it up on the Net and it sounds pretty cool.

Neuraminidase (noor-uh-MIN-ih-dase) inhibitors treat the cause of influenza infection by inhibiting the critical neuraminidase protein on the surface of the virus.
They have a cool animation on the web page. One more reason to love Google. You can pass the time in bed after a visit to the doctor's office googling all of the drugs you get. You can also check whether your doctor knows what he's doing.

So I hope this flu gets better soon since I have the go to Davos the day after tomorrow. I remember the last time I was in Davos I had to walk for miles through a blizzard...

They say this is from The New Republic, but I can't access the article so I will credit Plastic...

"The problem is one of correlation vs causation. Research has been done correlating being statistically obese with a shorter expected life span. In more detailed studies found a stronger correlation with lack of activity and a short life span than being fat. So if you exercise and stay fit but can't lose pounds don't fret. You're likely more healthy than your thin couch potato friends."
So for someone exercises regularly, but is fat, this is good news. I'll live long, but I'll probably still be fat. Now all we need is, "Survey shows fat people are considered more attractive in light of recent survey that they live longer..." ;-p
FDA request slows launch of cheap Prilosec By Christopher Bowe in New York Published: October 29 2002 21:38 A potential cheap version of Prilosec, the blockbuster heartburn medicine, is to be delayed after Procter & Gamble said it did not expect US regulatory approval of its over-the-counter product until late next year.

Postponement of the final approval stems from the US Food and Drug Administration's request for a study to make sure consumers understood that the treatment was long-acting and once-per-day. That study will take eight more weeks and six months for regulatory review. The FDA has otherwise tentatively approved P&G's retail version.

This is bad news, good news and bad news for me. For someone who takes Prilosec every day, it's bad news that an over-the-counter version is delayed. It's good news because I didn't know an over-the-counter version was even on its way. It's bad news because I live in Japan and it will probably take another Admiral Perry to get it approved in Japan.

For those of you who don't know what Prilosec is... It is the best medicine for chronic heartburn that I know of. I used to have heartburn every day and ulcers. I took all kinds of anti-acid medication and it never worked. After I started taking Prilosec I'm completely fine. I spent SOO much of my high school and college years fighting with my aching stomach that discovering Prilosec was really a key moment in my life. A US doctor recommended it and I had my doctor in Japan search down an equivalent and prescribe it to me.

dietcoke.jpgGosuke sent me this interesting link. It is about the dangers of Aspartame. Nutrasweet in the US and "Pal Sweet Diet" in Japan are Aspartame. Aspartame is an active ingredient in Diet Coke which I drink A LOT of. I am going to definitely take dive into the links on this page. If what this page says is true, I probably should stop drinking Diet Coke today...

I have attached some of the highlights from the page below, but I would go to their page which has a lot of links if you currently drink a lot of diet soda products.

Here are some highlights from the page:

Aspartame is poison!
  • Aspartame/Nutrasweet is not very sweet in itself, that may be why Equal puts Dextrose (sugar) and maltodextrin as the first ingredients, so that it tastes sweet.
  • Aspartame/Nutrasweet is a brain drug that stimulates your brain so you think that the food you're eating tastes sweet. If you pay attention you'll notice that when using Aspartame/Nutrasweet, everything you eat at the same time also tastes sweet! This may be why Aspartame/Nutrasweet causes you to crave carbohydrates. Hence, you won't lose weight using it.
    BTW, cyclamates got pulled off the market in the 70's in the US (but not Canada or the rest of the world) because the sugar industry saw too much of their market disappear.
  • Aspartame/Nutrasweet (aspartylphenylalanine-methyl-ester) breaks down to its poison constituents at 86 degrees (Aspartic Acid 40%, Phenylalanine 50%, and Methanol 10%). Remember your stomach is at 98.6 degrees! Therefore you should never use Aspartame/Nutrasweet in hot beverages or cooked foods such as Jello. How the FDA allows this remains a mystery. There is mounting evidence that the "Burning Mouth Syndrome" experienced by the Desert Storm troops was actually Methanol poisoning from the Diet Coke they drank lots of, after being exposed to desert temperatures.
  • Aspartame/Nutrasweet's 10% Methanol appears in the body quickly and is the same alcohol (wood alcohol also in lacquer thinner), that your mother correctly warned you could make you blind. Many skid-row alcoholics had major problems with this cheap but deadly form of alcohol.
  • Aspartame/Nutrasweet's 40% Aspartic Acid is an "excitotoxin" in the brain and excites neurons to death, i.e. it kills brain cells and causes other nerve damage.
  • Aspartame/Nutrasweet triggers Migraine Headaches This even happened to me!. The Usenet is filled with posts by people who have pinned their migraines down to aspartame/Nutrasweet consumption.
  • Aspartame/Nutrasweet's breakdown products attack the bodies tissues and create Formaldehyde which builds up in the tissues forever. Remember the smelly, eye watering fumes from the frogs you dissected in school? They were preserved with Formaldehyde! Formaldehyde is thought to cause cancer.
    The American Bottlers Association did not want the FDA to approve Aspartame/Nutrasweet because of what the test report showed. But the FDA approved it anyway!
  • Airline pilots stay away from Aspartame/Nutrasweet because they are well aware of the documented dangers.
  • Aspartame/Nutrasweet also breaks down to diketopiperazine [DKP] which is proven to cause Brain Tumors! Brain Tumors used to be rare. Several of the rats in the original study formed brain tumors during their Aspartame/Nutrasweet exposure. The researchers surgically removed the tumors and returned the rats to the study and discounted the tumors.

Earlier I wrote about suicides in Japan. I also recently wrote about the relationship between life insurance and murders. I found an interesting article in the Mainichi covering all of these issues.

This article is interesting because it points to life insurance as the cause of many suicides where life insurance is the only way to get out of debt. I guess the choice is either to kill yourself or someone else. ;-p They actually let you use your life insurance as collateral for home mortages in Japan..

MDN: WaiWai
From kamikaze to hara-kiri, Japanese just can't stop topping themselves

By Ryann Connell
Staff Writer

September 30, 2002

Any wonder, then, that Sunday Mainichi (10/6) refers to Japan as the suicide capital of the world -- a dubious honor also recently bestowed by the World Psychiatric Association.

"Considering that both Japanese men and women have the world's greatest longevity, it came as a shock to learn that we're also number one for suicides," psychiatry Assistant Prof. Kazuo Yamada tells Sunday Mainichi.

National Police Agency figures released earlier this year showed that 31,402 people committed suicide in Japan last year, 915 more than in 2001. It was the fourth consecutive year that deaths by suicide had topped the 30,000 barrier and has prompted calls that the Japanese government isn't doing enough to help its people. Men in their 40s or 50s account for about 40 percent of all Japan's suicides, with health and financial problems the main reasons why Japanese are taking their own lives.

Yet another interesting aspect of Japan's suicide rate is revealed by its skyrocketing since 1998.

"That year the unemployment rate also rose rapidly and people were suddenly getting laid off in large numbers. Suicides became prevalent particularly in 40-something or 50-something guys. Life insurance companies were thrown into a panic. The amount of life insurance payouts the companies had to pay in 1998 threw the entire industry into a crisis. The companies responded by doubling the waiting period before they'd make payouts on suicides. That stemmed the flow of people taking their own lives a little bit," Yamada tells Sunday Mainichi.

Industry figures agree with the claim.

"Usually, payouts aren't made in cases where the cause of death is clearly suicide. And it is true that the decision that companies made in 1999 to extend periods before payouts are made was based on the rising suicide rate," a spokesman for the Life Insurance Association of Japan says.

Indeed, life insurance payouts seem to be a vital factor in Japan's suicide rate. So much so, it seems, that they can almost be rated along with depression as one the major reasons people take their lives.

"Guys in their 40s or 50s, the one's who're most likely to commit suicide, have got kids and home loans, yet when they lose their jobs they have no idea how they're going to cope. All they can think about is how much harder things are going to get each year when it comes to paying their mortgage or for education," psychiatry professor Yamada tells Sunday Mainichi. "Eventually, they come to believe that the only way they can fulfill the responsibilities they have toward their family is to commit suicide and ensure those relatives who remain are set up financially for life."

The biggest hurricane since WWII is about to hit Tokyo. It was supposed to hit this evening, but it is speeding up. My flight on Air China is delayed. I'm sitting in a sushi shop in Terminal 2 (my non-favorite sushi shop terminal) drinking a beer munching on some hokkigai. Anyway, I just wanted to blog in because when I checked into Air China, they asked me if I wanted a smoking seat. (Apologies to those who hate smoking or already know there are smoking seats on Air China.) I thought they had banned all international smoking flights! So... To be a bad boy... I just bought some cigarettes just so that I can smoke on the flight and see what it's like. I hope I don't sit next to a chain smoker who makes me PAY for this little experimental experience. The other funny thing is... I probably wouldn't have bought the cigarettes if I hadn't thought it MIGHT make blog material. Hmm... Blogging causes cancer?

Japan's suicide rate tops 30,000 / yr. Over 3X the 10,000 or so automobile related deaths. Most of the suicides are men in the 50's and 60's and often due to job related and financial stress. So, while many Silicon Valley ventures were built buy people who had lost their jobs in the defense industry. Japanese tend to commit suicide instead. Japan's suicide rate is among the top 10 in the world. It is said that Japanese mental health medicine is 30 years behind the US (Although Kurokawa-sensei is trying to do something about that.) So it makes sense that cleaning up after a suicide is as common as cleaning up after a traffic accident and people are being billed the costs. The original article below is from 1998, but suicides have increased since then, making it more relevant.

Waiwai is the Mainichi Daily News summary of articles from Japanese Weeklies. This one is from Shukan Hoseki (10/1/98) a bit old. Relevant sections quoted below. See original article for full text.

Paying for suicide costs more than the ultimate price
By Ryann Connell
Staff Writer
August 17, 2002

"Trains don't usually stop too long after a suicide, there's rarely much damage to carriages and we rarely have to send anyone off to catch trains on different lines. In that regard, train suicides probably don't cost too much," says an employee of a commuter line. "But to make sure we can cover the costs incurred when a suicide leads to a derailment, we have to ask the bereaved families of suicide victims to compensate us. The costs are usually in the range of 100 million yen, but I've heard of a case where a family was billed 140 million yen after someone killed themselves by jumping in front of a train."

"As soon as the news hits that someone's committed suicide in one of our apartments, rents have to drop by about half or we can't get anyone else to live there," laments a Tokyo real estate agent. "In one case a few years ago, an agent sued the father of a man who slaughtered his girlfriend then killed himself in one of the agent's apartments. The agent won the case and the father ended up having to fork out a few million yen."

"We can get a room back into shape in a couple of days (after a suicide), at a cost of only a few million yen in even the worst cases," says a hotel employee. "We don't usually charge renovation costs, but if the suicide is of a famous person and the hotel's reputation is damaged, the hotel'll sue the bereaved family for whatever they're worth."

MDN: WaiWai

I find I have a terrible memory. I often confuse things that happened during my days at Tufts University and University of Chicago. I can't remember people at all. I have horrible problems remembering what I did when. I recently met someone I knew in college and he remembered a karaoke club that I took him to that has completely disappeared from my memory. Anyway...

I've found that digging up old web entries from the past has helped me reconstruct my memory. I'm finding, having jumped into blogging rather agressively, that it is beginning to create an interesting trail of entries that will probably be very useful to me in the future. So, this blog is serving two important purposes. Publishing my thoughts, but also externalizing my memory function.

I remember once when John Lilly was invited to a conference in Japan about John Lilly, he was asked to comment after almost a full day of people discussing his life and his work. He said, "you all know MUCH more than I will ever be able to remember so there's not much for me to say." or something like that. ;-)

There is a Wired News article - Blog to Cope With Alzheimer's Fog
I found the link on Media coverage of weblogs

Great article in the NYT about how a study shows that people's brains react positively when people cooperate. Using MRI scanning and the Prisoner's Dilemma, researchers were suprised by the results. This reinforces many of Toshio Yamagishi's ideas that I wrote about in a previous entry.

Hard as it may be to believe in these days of infectious greed and sabers unsheathed, scientists have discovered that the small, brave act of cooperating with another person, of choosing trust over cynicism, generosity over selfishness, makes the brain light up with quiet joy.

Studying neural activity in young women who were playing a classic laboratory game called the Prisoner's Dilemma, in which participants can select from a number of greedy or cooperative strategies as they pursue financial gain, researchers found that when the women chose mutualism over "me-ism," the mental circuitry normally associated with reward-seeking behavior swelled to life. And the longer the women engaged in a cooperative strategy, the more strongly flowed the blood.

The NYT Article

From the Guardian

by Tim Radford, science editor

Women live six or seven years longer than men because they sleep more deeply, according to US scientists. Men who stay up late, and who toss, turn, count sheep, or who suffer from sleep apnoea - a respiratory condition - are at greater risk from diabetes, heart disease and other conditions probably because they sleep less well, said Alexandros Vgontzas of Pennsylvania State University.

He told the journal Chemistry and Industry that women's mastery of the mattress was probably an evolutionary adaptation to the needs of child rearing. In effect, waking up for the 2am feed was compensated for by a better kind of oblivion.

Hmmm... This doesn't sound very fair. (Mizuka is still fast asleep. I'm awake 3 hours before I have to be, still tired after only 5 hours of sleep... I wonder if it's this silly blog drawing me out of my deep sleep...)

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