Saturday, November 24, 2012

Agriculture Considered Harmful?

Disclaimer: I wouldn't say I wholesale believe this yet. I'd like to hear more on both sides.

The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race, by Jared Diamond. It's agriculture. Using evidence from current hunter-gathering tribes and studying skeletons, they found that after humans adopted agriculture, they started getting nutritional deficiencies, their average height decreased by six inches, diseases became epidemics, weather changes caused famines, and the ability to stockpile led to greed, class divisions, and gender inequalities. Why did agriculture spread, then? Because it could support more people, so they could push the hunter-gatherers out. See also: Ishmael. (it is an easy and interesting read. I recommend it.)

Interesting side note: The Most Spectacular Mutation in Recent Human History, by Benjamin Phelan. It's the ability to drink milk. Around agriculture-time, we also became able to drink milk without fermenting it first. Nobody seems sure why that was such a big evolutionary advantage.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I've been feeling less than great.

- I am useless when I get home. I just futz around on the internet. It's not even fun. I'm trying to practice drawing, but I can't even be arsed to throw together a couple of stick figures. I would also like to just convince myself to go to bed a little earlier. (I usually get to bed by 1. But instead of wasting an hour, why not just get to bed by 12?)
- I am getting increasingly useless at work. I've had lots of afternoons where I just haven't done anything. I track time spent on email, naps, coffee, and just general futzing there too, and it looks like it's increasing.

(y-axis is hours)
- I am getting increasingly useless talking to people. It's like there's a little fog there, like I can't really quite interact normally, like I'm interacting with everyone in a different language or over a phone with a half-second delay or something.
- I am getting less joy out of things: biking, good weather, good music, even time spent with friends (partially because of the above point)
- I am doing less fun things, and finding less energy to plan them.
- coffee isn't even kicking. Usually I get high after it; not much now.
- it has been really hard to wake up this week.

Unlikely causes:
- caffeine addiction. I still drink only 8oz of coffee a day. Occasionally I drink 12oz, or 8oz coffee plus one cup of tea.
- lack of sleep. Average over the last two weeks: 8:05 per night. The two weeks before that, 7:26, and before that I was averaging about 7:10.
- poor quality sleep. Zeo score over last two weeks: 91. Previously 86, then 82. My sleep has been getting better.
- lack of physical activity. Fitbit says I'm averaging in the 50k-70k steps range every week, except the week I was sick and stayed inside for 3 days. No noticeable trends up or down. Still biking.
- diet. Again, all been about the same: bread and peanut butter for breakfast, homemade indian food for lunch, and something good for dinner.
- work going poorly. It's going fine- indeed, I'm working on 4 projects that are all exciting to me.
- depression from life events. Everything is fine-to-great.
- seasonal affective something. I don't think I get this much, even in Seattle.

Possible or likely causes:
- too many hours in the office (hours of work the last few weeks have been 54, 28 (sick), 52, 52. Note that this is "butt in chair time" including the above useless time.)
- less social time. Kickball has finished, intramural sports are rare, and I'm not sure why but my social schedule has just really opened up.
- related: less mental time off. I've worked just about every day the last few weeks, except when I was sick. Only a couple hours on weekends, but it's still on my mind.
- fewer fun things I'm thinking about; I find myself going home and thinking about work.
- allergies, I guess? I have weird symptoms where I feel like hell sometimes, and people have suggested maybe it's some nebulous allergy thing. I took some claritin last couple days, no luck)

Discounting allergies, I'm thinking the best course of action is to cut back a bit. Especially use the weekends to recharge.

Further Discussion:
I am a little dubious, because terms like "recharge" are so unscientific and everything in this vein is subject to bias. (oh right! science says I should work less!) Also, I can't really argue that 50-some hour weeks are inhumane or even unusual around here; there's a culture of "working hard".

But science does say I should work less. Especially given that I'm thinking hard a lot, maybe I've only got 40 good hours in me per week. Or even less. So the rest of the time is just screwing around. My data so far points in that direction.

So actually I guess the thing to do is set hard deadlines and only work 40 hours, and see what happens. Not "work less", but futz around less. It may be that the burnout-cause here is not my work, but all the spinning wheels that I do in the meantime.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"I tell you, we are here to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different"

When you go looking for capital-T Truth, as far as I can tell, you probably throw out afterlives and reincarnations and universal "should"s and humanoid Gods and you end up with the cold hard fact that you are a critter on this planet controlled by a large pile of neurons. And then, doesn't it seem like life reduces to just trying to get through this existence in the least painful/most pleasurable way possible?

Everyone hates to say "life is meaningless" because that sounds bleak, so we try to shoehorn some meaning into it. But when it comes down to it, don't we talk about beauty and goodness and stuff because it would be more painful to deal with a life in which we didn't pretend that we were doing something other than trying to squeak through life with a minimal amount of pain?

(one could accuse this poster of vaguebooking. don't worry, I'm fine, just honestly curious.)

Friday, November 02, 2012

Really just Movember

First of all, it's Movember! I was a lot sick yesterday, so I'm a day behind, but I sure have not shaved this month. I'll be growing a moustache all month. It's always a little tenuous with fundraising how these things are connected, but: give some money to prostate cancer research I guess?

Second, it's election time. Your to-do list:
  1. Stop watching campaign ads and instead take the quiz at I Side With to see which candidate's policies you actually agree with. 
  2. If you find yourself most aligned with a third party candidate, then:
    1. if you're in a swing state, (sadly) still vote for Obama/Romney
    2. if you're not, probably go with the third party
  3. Read up at least a little about your local elections. You make more than one decision on election day.
  4. About big issues, be honest with yourself about your motives.
Third, well, I figured I'd have some deep thoughts but really the biggest question I've come up with over the past couple days was "how do they get ham in that shape? is there really a muscle that big on a pig?" (answer: yes) Fever hallucinations, what can I say. Back in top shape soon!