Saturday, January 29, 2011

Phatic speech

Phatic speech is speech that exists to fulfill a social task, not to convey some meaning.  For example "what's up?" doesn't necessarily happen so that you can find out what's up.  Sometimes it's just a way to say "I acknowledge you."  Other phatic phrases can be for social grooming or making friends.

I think it would be cool if we had more phatic speech.  Like this:
Me: What's up?
You: How's it going?
Me: Four score and seven years ago,
You: Our fathers brought forth on this continent
Me: A new nation, conceived in liberty
You: And dedicated to the proposition
After you finish the Gettysburg Address, high fives are in order, and then you're instant friends.

And so ends the No Grains Experiment.

I decided to start eating grains again yesterday because I'm going skiing next week, and I'll probably eat some grains then, and if reintroducing grains weirded my stomach I'd rather that happen here than there.

Plus, 3 days of eating-grains-again data would be nice to have.  It's not much, but it's all I've got.

Anecdotal findings so far:
- not eating grains makes me feel rather healthy.
- not eating anything with added sugar would make me feel rather healthier.  I went with "well I'll try to minimize sugar" which ended up being a pretty ineffective way to minimize sugar.
- grains make me feel a little fuller.  (not in a good way.)
- a bit of the difficulty in making the switch is "what's the base of your meal?"  Replacing grains with spinach worked for a couple dishes.  Sometimes I'd eat fruit and/or nuts.  I'm trying to just stop worrying about having a staple that soaks up all the rest of the sauce.
- eating no grains is easy when you cook your own food.
- eating no grains is easy when you have a bountiful buffet of wonderful food available for you every day.
- eating "minimal added sugar" is easy when you cook your own food.
- eating "minimal added sugar" is hard when you have a bountiful buffet of wonderful food available for you every day.  Dessert is tempting (especially when it's interesting, ice cream, or italian).
- eating no grains is hard when you go out to eat.  At some restaurants, you cannot eat!  At most restaurants, you just have to be comfortable looking a little ridiculous.  I ate Indian with no rice.  It was good anyway.
- eating minimal added sugar is easy when you go out to eat.
- I feel better after eating healthier.  If I could just internalize that thought, and not divorce the immediate good taste from the 15-minutes-later heavy feeling, eating junk food would never be appealing.  Hmm.
- There was a specific warning in "the 4 hour body" about how thai curry without rice might give you gas.  Truth!  I wonder why.
- smashed frozen bananas + other smashed fruit (or peanut butter) is almost just straight up ice cream.  Seriously.  It'd probably be even better in a food processor.

's all for now.  More real findings after data happens.  First, anyone know stats?  Here are two analyses I'm thinking of doing:
- if each day had a "mood rating" or like my average mood for the day, track that in the 7 days before vs the 21 days of the study.  (like a T test or something?  Null hypothesis: mood before = mood after, uhh non-null hypothesis: mood after > mood before)
- see if there are correlations between mood and energy, stomach and energy, or stomach and mood (I guess run a linear regression?)
- and maybe rope sleep into this too; we'll see.
If I sound totally off base on any of these, do tell.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I am sick of bear and laundry jokes.

Bears: I thought it would be funny to cultivate an unreasonable fear.  I picked bears.  Not just fear of bears as in "they might eat me", but as in "they're plotting to take over the world."  I figured I'd learn to act in a pretty realistic way even, which would be actually funny.  Turns out I can't.  Whenever anyone says "bear", my neck swivels around and I try to make a "funny" comment about how bears will eat you.  And then I try to keep the conversation going by talking about how clever bears really are.  (this only got worse after I found out Stephen Colbert had the same joke.)

Laundry: It started out actually funny, I think.  Ram, Beej, and I were talking about laundry one time, and we started talking about how it takes a long time.  And then we kept talking about how it takes a long time.  And then, whenever someone would say "laundry", I'd go on to say how it takes a long time, and how you just don't understand because the thing is, laundry takes a long time.  Somehow, they've both moved on with their lives, and I'm still pestering all my friends about laundry taking a long time.

The end result of each is that I act obnoxious.  And they're traps: I can't ever actually speak about either one honestly, because that'd be a break of character.  So as of right now, I'm dropping the bear joke and the laundry joke.  Life's too short to tie myself to running gags that even I don't find humorous anymore.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What stories do you tell yourself?

Catch yourself feeling insecure.  Ask yourself why.  Tell yourself a different story.  Start to feel better.

Example: I'm in a room full of people, some of whom I kinda know, some of whom I don't know at all.  Sometimes conversations dissolve or whatever, and I'm standing around sort of awkwardly.  I feel bad.  Why?  Because at some level I'm imagining someone watching and mocking me.  I'm saying "well I'm inherently awkward, of course nobody wants to talk to me."  This is a story.  It is not objective truth.  We all tell ourselves stories, and it's hard to turn it off.  But as long as I'm constantly telling myself a story, why not at least make it a good one?

I think for many social cases I'll replace this voice with a younger cousin, like 4 years younger.  Younger cousins always think older cousins are the coolest dudes on the block.  (at least I do.)  Say I'm standing around awkwardly; younger cousin doesn't even see that.  He just sees older cousin Dan hobnobbing with awesome folks, because of course he is also an awesome folk.

So look out for this.  There's more than one way to view most situations.  You're probably unconsciously picking the pessimistic one.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ok Twitter for serious I guess

The short: if I know you in person, and/or you'd like to hear things like "Hey Cat Stevens is really good" (more on that later) or "I like this particular blend of coffee at Victrola" or "I just saw a hat wearing a dog", follow @sedatesnail.
If I don't know you in person, and/or you'd like to hear things like "Huh, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is involved in attention AND smell" or "git rebase --onto rocks the casbah" or "I wonder why nobody's studied the effects of lycopene on social networking", follow @dantasse.

The reasoning:  AFAICT, there are two main uses of Twitter: to stay up to speed in your professional field, and to microblog about what you had for lunch.  It's not that my "lunch" posts are super private, but it's just that nobody would want to read them.  And given that we're all drowning in information these days, I want to try not to make people's lives worse.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'm drinking the last of the Darjeeling tea I brought back from India

... almost two years ago.  I've still got some Nilgiri and Assam.  I guess it's like they say: when you run out of tea from your last trip to India, it's time to go back to India.  (nobody says this.)

Week One of Eating Weird: feels pretty good!  I've eaten grains just once, when I was out for sushi with coworkers.  I feel like I'm eating a lot of meat, but I think that's just because I used to eat not much meat.  And getting it all at the farmers' market hasn't been a problem, it just means I have to go to the farmers' market, which is only a bus ride away.

I don't know if I've felt consistently better.  The data will show that at the end of the experiment.  I do know that it feels good to think of myself as someone who only eats healthy things.  (And defining "healthy" things beforehand has helped me be sure that I only eat "healthy" things.)  I guess that's a possible confounding factor, and if this works, I should try eating "healthy" things with a different definition of "healthy" after the experiment's over to see if I just get some energy from thinking about myself as healthy.

Also, buying and cooking farmers' market meat is fun, not going to lie.  It's like new levels on a video game: more to explore.  I'm not going to tackle the "will I eat meat or not" question until after the experiment.

Drinking Weird: well, on this plan, no beer.  But I didn't want to stop drinking entirely, as that might confound my results too, so I've been drinking wine a bit.  Actually I kind of like it!  I had a Syrah for the first time that I remember (ok ok noob ok) and it was pretty good, and I could distinguish it from "average red wine taste".  Also I had a Malbec, also good.  I could rather grow to like this.  But it does make me hella sleepy.

Unrelatedly, low-level evil: buried in the terms of service: "All lift ticket products are non-transferable and non-refundable. When you purchase lift tickets, you will automatically be enrolled in the Vail Resorts "Peaks" loyalty program, at no cost to you. You will receive program information by standard mail and will be offered the chance to decline."  NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.  The fact that this is bad, but not bad enough to make me not buy a ticket, cheeses me the hell off.  I guess what gets me is that it's very low-level evil, but it is unquestionably evil.  So few things are unquestionably good or unquestionably evil these days!  When we find one, shouldn't we by god do something about it?

And speaking of which, I think I'll try single-spacing after periods. Apparently it's Just Correct.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

I'm eating less grains.

I'd like more energy.  I'd like to feel good stomach-wise all the time.  I imagine this would help me with life in general.

I think, and write, a lot about what foods would be maximally beneficial to eat.  I haven't done much about it... until now!  I've been tracking my energy, stomach feeling, and mood for the last couple weeks.  I plan to make a dietary shift and see how these things go.

What dietary shift?  Good question.  Here are some things I believe might have some degree of truth:
- Michael Pollan suggests eating more leaves and less seeds is a good idea because of the balance between omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids.  Leaves have more omega-3, seeds more omega-6.
- There's this "paleo" thing.  Here's Wikipedia.  The idea is that evolution moves slowly, and we've only been using agriculture for 10k years, so a lot of recent post-agricultural foods are new to our bodies, so we can't digest them very well.
- A lot of people hate gluten a lot.  It sort of makes sense, if you subscribe to the whole paleo thing; grain has only been eaten recently.  Also, grain has changed a lot even more recently.
- This book called "The 4 hour body" by Tim Ferriss, which I've been reading, recommends a type of low-carb something.  (it's a kind of neat book.  yeah it's a lose-weight-gain-muscle book, among other things, but it's from a pretty nerdy perspective so I can relate to it and trust it a bit.)
- Nobody says "eat more grains."

So what am I eating?  Some sort of paleo.  Specifically, I will definitely eat these:
- colorful vegetables, as much as possible
- grass-fed meat and fish from the farmers' market.
- good eggs.  (from the farmers' market, or failing that, the most expensive eggs that say "omega-3" on the carton.)
- good fats, including grass-fed butter, olive oil, and probably all sorts of other trendy oils
- fermented things like tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt
- tea
These are a little controversial but I will probably eat them:
- fruit.  I think, when you start cutting out fruit, you get out of "what caveman ate" territory and into "low carb" territory.
- some starchy vegetables like sunchokes and sweet potatoes; I'm not sure if these are cavemanish or not, but the consensus seems to be "they're good for you"
- milk, as whole and raw as possible; paleo folks seem to be okay with it even though a caveman wouldn't squeeze some udders.  Not sure if this is consistent, but I can deal.  Anyway, I'm already pretending to be glutarded, let's not be lactarded as well.
- nuts; they are seeds, but also generally agreed that they're healthy
- wine
- coffee; let's not be crazy here either
These are a little controversial and I will probably not eat them if I can get around it:
- beans; low-carbers would like these, but they're not very cavemanly or leafy.  They're definitely seeds.
- tofu; it's still beans.
- regular potatoes, everyone says they're like grains, I'm not sure if that makes sense outside Atkins-land but I can live without potatoes pretty easily anyway
- beer (it's only 3 weeks)
Totally not eating:
- grains
- sugars
- you know all that other bad processed stuff okay

And should I just cut back on grains, or cut them out entirely?  I'm interested in the cut-them-out-entirely approach.  Two reasons:  I hear convincing posts like this one, and I tend to be kinda all-or-nothing.  I'll probably eventually go to "cut back on grains", but for the 3-week experiment, it'll be easier to just categorically reject them.

But I won't only track self-reported variables.  For argument's sake, I'll also track weight and a few key measurements.  I'd like to track body fat percentage, as it seems more useful, but the 7 ways to do that listed in "The 4-hour body" all require scheduling an appointment (meh) or buying a multi-hundred-dollar device.

So here are my pretty rough measurements: (hooray for 1. being young, and 2. being a dude, so I don't feel any insecurity about posting these sorts of things online)
Weight: 151 lbs.
Stomach at navel: 32"
Biceps: 10.5"
Thighs: 21"
Hips at widest part: 36.5" (I don't really know what this means.  Butt?  It's the sort of squeeze point for my lower body I guess: if I were in a hole with circumference 36.4" I would be kind of stuck, and it would be at my butt, so that's what I measured.)
Neck: 15"

Body fat using US Navy method: 12.08%
Body fat using some random website: 17.22%
Using some other random website: 15%
Well perhaps trying to measure body fat percentage using just measurements is kind of silly anyway.  I'm not too fussed about it.

Which brings us to the conclusion: it's all an experiment.  Let's see how my average mood/stomach/energy goes in the next few weeks.  If physical measurements improve too, great!

Finally, disclaimer about comments: Nutrition is something that everyone has a lot of very strong mostly-hand-wavey opinions about.  I am not trying to say that these changes that I'm making are good for everyone.  I don't even know if they're good for me.  I'm interested to debate a little bit, but I reserve the right to stop talking and "agree to disagree"* at any point.
*That is the second time I've said "agree to disagree" in three days.  That makes me sad.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Twitter and energy

On that note, I guess I'll start Twittering again.  No reason not to; like every other internet thing, it's only as bad as you make it.  And I only read it for a couple minutes a day, so I'd be better off optimizing my Google Reader time 10% than optimizing my Twittering 90%.

Not sure about personal/professional.  It used to be all personal, but I think it'd be nice to have a professional Twitter too, so I could follow other researchers, and so I could say "Ooh here's an interesting idea" or "I just published this paper, check it out" or whatever.  I think I'll keep it personal, and I can add a professional one later if necessary.

At any rate: if you follow me, I can guarantee / you won't find nobody else like me.
(side note: oh shit, actually the lyric is "if you want to leave I can guarantee you won't find nobody else like me", which is even creepier.  dear uncle kracker: "follow me" is what a prophet says, not a guy trying to win a lady.  this'll likely be one of those moments when our grandkids are like "wtf 2000's" and we'll say "sorry, dunno.")

Anyway, about that optimizing my Google Reader time 10%: I would like more energy.  I took a class at Google called "Managing your energy", and it's stuck with me more than I would have thought.  The premise: it's not that you don't have enough time to do everything that you want, it's that you don't have enough energy.  (here's a good summary.)  Think about the times that you're high energy and positive: you can do anything.  You'll make a to-do list and then knock them all off, one by one.  But when you're out of energy, you'll watch TV or surf the internet.

They (a group called the Energy Project, but I won't link to them because their site sucks) say there are a few kinds of energy: physical, mental, emotional, and I guess you could say spiritual.  Without getting into too much detail, they build on each other like a pyramid.  I'm doing okay on all levels, but not rocking any of them, so I'd like to start with the physical and work up.  2011: the year I have more energy.

One thing I like about this approach: it's abundance-based, not scarcity-based.  Managing your time is saying "I have X hours, and they are slipping away slowly, so I better grab on to them and squeeze out all the time I can".  Managing your energy is like building things with bricks.  It adds and multiplies.  If you take more time to do another thing, it might give you more energy instead of taking it away.

More details later.