Saturday, February 09, 2013

February: let's try Paleo.

As wonderful as most of the recent months have been, I've got to say, I could trade in this past January. I don't know if it's the weather or what, but it was a bit blah. Well, it's over. And the January challenge was to meditate daily, and I meditated 20 minutes every day except two. Nice.

For February, I'm finally getting around to a real paleo-diet experiment. Reading Ishmael, hanging out with Bay Area Quantified-Selfers, reading Josh Whiton, talking with a good friend's cousin who's an archaeologist and knows things about hunter-gatherers, picking up the Four-Hour Chef... these things have all combined to make me want to start eating like people before agriculture.

This involves cutting out grains, beans, dairy, and processed food. (This seems pretty close to what I am and am not eating.) The reasons for cutting out processed food are kind of obvious; nobody's going to argue about that.

Why not eat grains and dairy?
- Last time I tried it, it worked pretty well.
- It's good to eat more leaves and fewer seeds; fix your omega-3 to omega-6 fat ratio. (Michael Pollan essay; the omega-3 stuff is toward the bottom, but it's all worth a read)
- Carbs are not particularly good for us. I railed against the low-carb "fad" for most of the 2000's, figuring it was just the next fad after the low-fat 90's, but it looks like the low-carb thing might be right. (or, put another way, the 1950-2000 high-carb thing was a bad fad.) On my reading list: Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. When you eat carbs, blood sugar rises, insulin rises, and while this is all fine short term, long term it leads to insulin resistance and diabetes.
- Wheat and gluten might or might not be particularly bad. Trying to process all these competing arguments makes my head hurt. One thing that seems true: some small but significant percentage of the population (5-10%) has some kind of mild undiagnosed wheat sensitivity. (beyond the less than 1% that has celiac disease.)
- Fat is good for us. Even saturated fat. And cholesterol. Here's a long talk about it by Peter Attia.
- Even if grains aren't harmful, they're filler at best. Nobody (besides the US Grains Council or the FDA) says "eat more grains."

Tracking the changes: I've still got nothing besides my little handmade phone app where I rate 1-5 scales of mood, energy, and how my stomach feels, whenever I remember it. This is not a great scale, but it's still all I've got. (plus, I've got a lot of baseline data to compare against.) I do welcome other ideas to track this.

Side benefit: I'm cooking a lot of meat (from DJ's Butcher Block, highly recommended) and a lot of Korean food. I feel my skills growing. This is exciting.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Exponential displays of information

We spend a lot of time processing information, yes? It strikes me that I often want exponentially-increasing levels of information, at approximately powers of 3 or 4.

Example 1: academic papers. There's the title, which is about one sentence. Then there's the abstract, a one-paragraph summary. Then you can read the intro and conclusion, which is about a page or two total. Then you can read the whole paper. It's not explicitly set up for this (beyond the abstract) but it feels like that's what they're getting at.

Example 2: music. I think the best possible recommendation you can give me is: a band name, one song, 3-4 songs, one album (9-16 songs), and 3-4 albums. (or if one of these levels doesn't apply, say so, and say why. examples: "one-hit wonder, just listen to this one song" or "it's a concept album, you have to listen to the whole thing.") That way, I can keep digging as long as I'm interested, but know that I'm not super missing out if I stop.

Example 3: ... good question! Trailers for movies maybe, but there's no level between 2 minutes and 2 hours.

I guess I'm saying I want this in all domains. It'd be so good to say "I want to learn... statistics!" and then have the one-paragraph, one-page, 3 pages, chapter, short book, long book, etc. versions of stats. I'd love to get news in tweet, paragraph, web-news-article, and in-depth-article forms.