A Solution to Confederate Statues
2017 strikes again with another hip new thing to get angry about: statues. This trend started in larger places like Austin, TX and eventually even made it's way to small towns like Worthington, OH, which is biking distance from my house. Once one confederate memorial was taken down, many others wanted to follow suit.
What should we do about this sudden issue that nobody seemed to care about a few months ago? Well, we could do nothing, because they're just statues, and anyone with even a moderate thickness of skin has no reason to find confederate statues (or any statue for that matter) offensive. Unfortunately, we live in an age of sensitive people who break down when stones are shaped like southern generals, so maybe there's a better option we could consider.
Actually, I happen to believe there is: every public statue should be auctioned off and removed by the highest bidder. Why do I hold such an extreme/wacky position? I would argue that thinking tax dollars should be used to build statues of any kind would be an actual extreme position. Why do we have them in the first place? These lovely rocks don't feed anyone nor help them stay sheltered; instead, wealth is confiscated from the hands of the American tax-payer and gets wasted frivolously upon art depicting a war which we fought against ourselves. Amazing.
The important thing about trying this method is that statues of all kinds must be eliminated, not just the "evil confederate" ones. Otherwise, an agenda will necessarily be formed and some kinds of art will be favored more than others without an objective reason for doing so. As for what will become of the statues? More likely than not, people who'd buy a public statue would want to show it off, so it's highly likely that museums would be the ones to hop on such an opportunity.
The best part of all of this is that tons money would be gained from the auctions and could be used to pay off some of our vast national debt, not that anyone in Washington is interested in doing so. Still, my hope is that many eventually reach this conclusion so the conversations and riots over statues can end, while our nation prospers.
Hurricane Harvey and Price "Gouging"
Recently, Houston, Texas has been struck by hurricane Harvey. It has delivered extreme property damage an taken several lives. The silver lining is that compared to Katrina, which killed over 1,800, Harvey's confirmed toll is currently 23. This of course is not to downplay the tragedy, as thousands are finding that they have no home to return to, and shockingly, only one out of every six Houston residence has flood insurance.
Stores have also been destroyed, and now many basic items are in overwhelmingly high demand, the most famous being water. ABC News, NY Daily, CNBC and others have been putting out articles regarding "price gouging", and demonizing the greedy store owners who would charge disaster struck citizens as much as $99 for a case of bottled water.
So what is price gouging? It's a subjective term meant to describe when a company/person spikes the price of a good they're selling to an amount that seems exploitative and unfair. Usually, this would never work. If Walmart shot the price of milk up to $25 a gallon, then people would buy milk at Kroger's or a gas station; but because of the dire circumstances of Harvey, water isn't as plentiful as normal, and people are freaking out.
Put yourself in their shoes. You're a parent who finds a grocery store which still has eight cases of water on its shelves for their normal price of $3.99. You immediately throw six cases into your cart and load them into your car. Did you need that much? No, but better safe than sorry, right? Now parents from three more families rush into the store to find that there are only two cases left, and it's a battle of who can get their hands on it first.
Take the same scenario with $50 per case. Would you still buy six in a hurry, or would you stop, pause, and really consider how much water you and your family need? What is called price gouging is simply the market reacting to a massive increase in demand for a good. If there was no increase in price, more than half of the survivors in Huston would be without water, because human nature would drive people to buy more than they need.
Same goes for hotels. Many rooms in Houston have tripled their prices, because everybody is in a massive rush to get a place to stay for the night. If normally you'd pay for two rooms at $80 each for you, your spouse, and two kids, you may change your mind and cram into one room, should the price be $250 a night. What's the result? Now you sleep a bit lest comfortably, but more people have a place to stay, since you didn't hog up two rooms.
The counterintuitive conclusion is that by increasing the prices of goods in high demand, more people can get their hands on what they need, especially in times of trouble.
14 Day Fast Completed
On August 15th, I decided that I'd go two weeks without consuming any food—just water and salt. Nine days in, I decided that I really missed coffee and tea, so I added them back into my diet. Without sweetening or cream of any kind, they obviously had no caloric value, but I felt it mentionable, as I cannot truthfully call the full 14 days a "water-fast." Now, let's get straight to the details.
Weight and Body Composition
I started out at 206lbs and broke 190 around 10 days in. For the next four days, my weight remained stable (total weight loss was just shy of 18lbs). When starting a fast, anyone will lose usually 3-6lbs of water weight in the first 36 hours, but because I am experienced this didn't alarm me.
A common fear associated with fasting is an extreme loss of muscle/lean mass. The truth is that whenever one loses weight, they will lose lean mass. However, the claim that fasting will suddenly ramp up burning of the muscles for energy is unfounded, and illogical when thought through. If you couldn't find food for five days, and your body decided to burn up muscle during that time frame, each and every day you'd grow significantly weaker. Therefor, the human body conveniently prefers to store energy in the form of fat for later use. If we didn't burn fat while fasting, why would we even store it?
But numbers often speak louder than ideas, so I'll share my own experience. Waist size measured at the belly button is an excellent dictator of what is going on with your fat mass. Starting the fast, I measured 35" around; by the end, I was 31". Another measurement I took was around my bicep. There was no change at a consistent 13" throughout the experiment, which makes sense because I have virtually no fat in my arms, further suggesting that my body wasn't eager to burn up muscle for a quick glucose fix.
The mental aspects of fasting are just as interesting as the physical. I found myself feeling energized after six hours of sleep, even though I normally get eight hours. I believe this is a combination of the body not needing to digest food in its sleep and wanting to give me some extra time to "hunt" and get some food. Regardless, the amount of energy I had was quite remarkable, and I never became exhausted while fasting.
What I didn't like about fasting was the personal disconnect that I felt when doing it. While others are eating I had excessive free time, which was a bit overwhelming. Fasting overall made me much more antisocial.
Breaking the Fast
I didn't think I would write about this, but I felt the need to because I surprised myself. I've read up quite extensively on how many others have broken extended fasts, and what I had learned from every single blog, article, and video is that you need to take it easy. Let me quote an article from WikiHow to show you how seriously breaking a fast is regarded:
Anyways, I continually built up throughout the day, and inadvertently ended up eating around 2.5-3lbs of meat, half a pound of cheese, and a few vegetables thrown in there. I feel fine, better than fine. My experiences today have completely flown in the face of what many believe to be dangerous in regards to fasting, so I found it worth sharing. In all, I'm glad that I don't need to spend four days in fruit juice misery to return to my regular eating habits.
Fasting isn't easily implemented; if by chance I gave off the impression that this fast was just some casual experiment that I tried on a limb, believe me, I've done my research and wouldn't recommend you try doing one without at least reading Jason Fung's "The Complete Guide to Fasting".
Overall, I was very impressed by the percentage of body weight lost that appeared to be fat, and how little hunger I felt each day. The greatest surprise was my ability to eat right after completing my fast. Hopefully, this small journey will inspire someone to give fasting a go. Here is the final before and after picture of my results.
Motivation Without Desperation
Motivation without desperation—why is it so difficult? The drive that we feel whenever an compelling idea strikes us is understood by most, but not easily summoned by one's will. I would argue that many other emotions are easily replicable: happiness and fear can be experienced at amusement parks, sadness at movies, pity is everywhere on Facebook, the list goes on.
An emotion that is considered much harder to control is motivation, and the reason for that seems apparent. Happiness isn't expected to be a continuous state, nor are most other feelings; but for some odd reason, we ask "How do you stay motivated?" as if that's even a reasonable inquiry. What would you think if someone said "How do you stay excited?" It's hard to answer, because it begs the question.
Yet the reasons for wanting to stay motivated are quite distinct from other emotions. Even temporary motivation spurs productivity, something that most strive to have much more of, while happiness doesn't manifest itself into any physical benefit to people. This is a reason why drugs are often shunned. Putting yourself into a state of euphoria doesn't actually produce anything of value for your life, it only feels good.
So how do we get motivation? There is one way that rarely seems to fail: desperation. You have a wife and kids and need to get food on the table; therefore, you find a way. The dire need to obtain essentials is usually enough to kick anyone in gear.
The problem ironically arises when times are good. Food and shelter are plentiful, laborious work is minimized, responsibilities are few. What's the need to be motivated? The human mind detects no desperation, so it doesn't try and throttle you with unnecessary motivation that would lead to exerting yourself. When you think about it, the vast amount of unmotivated people in first world countries is really not even a remarkable thing, it should be expected.
What's the solution? I can't say for sure, but the most reasonable one I can muster is faking desperation. If you can so vividly create a goal that you feel compelled to attain that you can essentially form a false need, your mind will motivate you to reach it. The only flaw to this method is of course that you must truly believe your perhaps frivolous goals are of paramount value, a skill which we don't all possess. But is it really a flaw? If you can't even convince yourself that what you want matters enough to work for it, perhaps you don't deserve to feel motivated.
Does Dose Determine?
Paracelsus has been credited with the famous phrase "Dose determines the poison" but perhaps its implications have been stretched too far. The basic concept is that anything and everything is toxic, but the quantities required to become so vary drastically; therefore, the only relevant concern is the quantity of a substance, not necessarily the substance itself. But can something be toxic in any dose?
Starting off with the classic example of water, the abstraction can easily be understood. Drink around 3-4 liters of water per day, and you're likely a healthy individual. But 3-4 gallons could certainly kill you. Even though water is generally considered benign, in this instance that didn't matter, because the only issue was consuming an absurd amount.
But let's take an example of something that isn't necessary for human life, like cadmium. Cadmium is a heavy metal found in insecticides, batteries, and plastics. It is extremely toxic and is widely considered to have no recommended "safe margin" for human exposure. If there are substances which the trend of toxicity is linear (the less that is present in human, the better), can you not deme them toxic by nature?
There is no better amount of x-rays to be exposed to than 0 in regards to the health of your cells. Although obviously in this example there are practical reasons to be exposed to x-rays, that doesn't change their inherently destructive nature.
Understanding that not some substances should be entirely avoided, while others simply limited, let's bring it full circle and see what the phrase "Dose determines the poison" actually implies.
1. The undisputed fact is that anything can be toxic if one is exposed to enough of it. [through ingestion, inhalation, physical contact, etc.]
2. There exists a threshold where the toxicity of a substance can be detected. Some exposure to mercury wouldn't be classified as mercury poisoning, unless there were discernible negative changes to the individual.
3. Although damage may not always be noticeable, there do exist substances which are destructive by nature, meaning that there exists no benevolent quantity which can be present in a person. This is true regardless of whether or not toxicity by such a substance is diagnosed, or even measurable.
Another way to look at this is to take the opposite into account. Just like lead poisoning is only diagnosed when the sufferer exceeds a predetermined minimum percentage of lead in his body, scurvy is only diagnosed when the sufferer doesn't meet a predetermined maximum of vitamin C in his body; nevertheless, you can still be deficient in vitamin C without getting the diagnosis of scurvy.
In summary, I am of the opinion that Paracelsus's famous phrase needs a slight alteration in order to be definitively true. "Dose determines the severity of toxicity." This caveat solves the issue of normally benign substances like water and damaging substances like benzaldehyde both being referred to as poison. Two liters of water could be called "no toxicity", while one nanogram of benzaldehyde could be called "asymptomatic toxicity."
Any Minimum Wage is Immoral
A minimum wage is an artificial standard imposed by a government upon the contracts of individuals. Whereas in a free society, the only way jobs are created is when the employee and employer mutually agree upon terms of work and pay, the imposition of a minimum wage becomes a barrier to entry for cheap labor.
Let's break it down point by point. Suppose we lived in a free society without government restricting contracts between individuals. Let's say Tom is a poor young man, who struggles to get the food and shelter that he needs to survive, so he sets out to get a job.
He gets accepted to buss tables at an Italian restaurant and talks over the details of his hiring with his manager, who soon realizes that there might be better alternatives than an hourly check to compensate Tom for his labor. "Tell you what Tom," his manager starts, "I know we agreed upon $5 an hour for 40 hours a week, but I've got an offer that I think would suit you better. You're no good at cooking, and I know you need some food; how about I cut your wage to $3 an hour, but you can eat for free here any time any day? You can't order the steak or shrimp, but the rest are free of charge to your hearts content—what do you say?
Current labor laws aside, and also regardless of whether or not Tom was given a good deal, should Tom have the right to make his own conscious decision to accept this offer? Of course the answer is yes, because him deciding that he values some prepared tasty food more than a couple more bucks per hour is his decision, and his alone. Even if I or you know better than Tom does about the decisions we think he should be making, this doesn't negate his right to accept an offer that others may deem inferior to what he deserves.
If Tom had to worry about a $5 per hour minimum wage, then he could have never been able to swap out pay for food, and if he had the burden of a $10 per hour minimum wage, then he wouldn't have even been hired at all. This minimum wage which is intended to give people higher paying jobs, results in simply eradicating all of the lower paying jobs.
It's like banning cars made before the year 2005 to be driven on the road. The visual effect is in fact that all of the cars on the road are nicer, but the sinister truth is that there are fewer cars being driven, and the ones disproportionately burdened by not having any access to a vehicle are the lower class. Next time that you see groups insisting on the "Fight for 15" know that they are trying to control agreements between individuals, and are subsequently harming the impoverished around us.
3 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
Sugar is a drug. It's highly addictive, present in almost all of our food, and detrimental to human health. This is rapidly becoming common knowledge, and thus tons of people are deciding to give up on eating sugary foods—but, a great portion of them still need their daily fix of sweets. That is why artificial sweeteners are becoming more and more popular today. Here is why avoiding this trend will make you happier and healthier.
1. They Aren't Food
Yes, yes, I know. Mr. All-Natural-Hippie-Man is here to lecture us on what is and isn't real food. Well the fact is that artificial sweeteners are just that—artificial. There is no reason that our human bodies would have any clue how to use energy from Aspertame, sucralose, saccharin, or any other chemical not found in a diet based on real foods.
Our body treats these ingredients as toxins, because that's how any ingested foreign body which cannot be burned for fuel gets categorized. Of course, your body will do it's best to remove toxins through the colon, urinary tract, skin and mucus, but what happens when you intake more than can be quickly expelled? There is no choice but to store the toxins into your fat tissue, because all of the other organs are far too important. This build up in your body fat leads to a whole host of chronic issues, because believe it or not, toxins are not meant to remain in your body.
It's always better to eat real food, because we know that's what our bodies are made to handle. If you quit sugar, your body will thank you down the road, but if you replace sugar with some other chemical, the outcome is at best foggy, and at worst very dangerous.
2. Excessive Insulin
When you eat sugar, your blood glucose increases. Because high blood glucose is toxic, your pancreas releases insulin to send it to burn in your muscles and store any excess in the form of fat. Artificial sweeteners usually don't have much of an effect on blood glucose, so many people decide that they are therefore sin-free, but such a conclusion is unfounded.
Our bodies are very smart; when we smell food, our brain sends signals to our gut to get ready for the digestion process. Moreover, when we taste something sweet, whether or not it's sugar, our brain tells our pancreas that we are eating sugar. So the pancreas, staying true to its role, releases insulin to fight off the incoming blood sugar spike... But it doesn't come.
High insulin in the blood has been causally linked in study after study to many chronic metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's, so spiking your insulin just for the heck of it is something you should strive not to do. Plus, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that the excess insulin in your blood will try and store the small amount of blood glucose which is available, putting you in a state of hypoglycemia, because your blood sugar never rose to begin with.
3. It Doesn't Solve Your Addiction
Even if some fake sweeteners are more benign than others, like stevia leaf extract, your brain still gets the opioid release from consuming sweets. What this means is that although you've stopped eating sugar, you haven't beaten sugar. You've swapped out one addiction for another, and the temptation to eat chocolate, pies, pancakes with syrup, and bear claws never leaves you.
The addiction needs to come to an end cold turkey. Artificial sweeteners aren't inherently evil, but relying upon them to accommodate your cravings for sweets is not a sustainable solution to the root problem. If you can go 30 days without anything sweet, not just desserts but rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, stevia, berries and fruits, then you can claim to have conquered your cravings. If instead you never go a week without something that resembles sugar, the addiction will never leave.
Keep Internal Promises
Breaking a promise that you made with yourself is a surefire way to spiral into a person who fails to achieve great things. After you do it once, the next broken promise becomes easier, and easier, until you're walking all over yourself and ignoring all responsibilities.
"This year, I'm going to go to the gym everyday." Ok, well if you only went to the gym a handful of times last year, then what are the odds that you'll attend 365 days this year? Goals like this are designed to fail, but the consequences of not meeting them are more severe than most consider.
Suppose you go to the gym for the first five days, take Sunday off because you feel that you deserve it, go back in on Monday, but the weather on Tuesday is terrible so you figure it's better not to go. Each day that you don't go to the gym is a promise broken with yourself, and after you've done this half a dozen times, you begin to lose authority over your own life. Your promises no longer hold any substantial value.
Now suppose you make another goal: "I'm going to save $10 a day for 100 days." Depending on the circumstances, such a goal could be quite attainable, but why would you stick it if you didn't the others? Is this one more important than other goals you set? Why should this time be THE goal that you actually follow through on?
A string of broken internal promises depletes trust in oneself as well as confidence. It's hard to summon up a logical reason why each new project is going to be the one that succeeds, when the last were never followed through upon.
Now, since the doom and gloom is out of the way, how can you crush this deadly cycle? To get away from perpetual failure, you must interrupt it with blatant success. Set goals that are beyond achievable, to the point where you would be embarrassed if you couldn't achieve them. For example, "I'm going to make my bed every morning."
What happens when you follow through on this? Well, you now have clear evidence of a promise that you made which had been kept. Then, you set another reasonable goal: "I'm going to go biking with a friend every Tuesday this summer as weather allows." Of course these promises are all less than remarkable, but the idea is that once you get into the habit of doing what you say you will, you will gradually become unstoppable.
The man who can't make his bed every morning despite desiring to do so is not a man who will change the world. He is dishonest with himself, doesn't have the respect to manage his own time, and is inconsistent at seeing tasks through to their end. He isn't the captain of his own ship; he is someone who rides the waves and lets life take him to whatever shore where he may end up on.
Water Fast: Week One
It's been eight days since I've consumed anything besides salt and water. My goal is a full two weeks of fasting. Here's an update on how it's going.
Throughout this fast, I have had no signs of bothersome hunger. Since my body is running off of its own stored fat, there is no lack of energy and therefore no reason to have cravings. Nevertheless, I'm still human, and I love food. I like watching cooking shows and recipes, but this habit is a bittersweet reminder of what I'm missing out on.
I started out at 206lbs before fasting (6'1" and relatively fit). Currently I'm at 192lbs, which is quite a drop, but I estimate that as much as five pounds of this decline is water weight that will quickly return after I resume eating. On average, I've been losing 1.5lbs per day, but muscle mass doesn't seem to be in noticeable decline. I could do around 8-10 chin ups in one set before fasting, and decided to give it a go today, and discovered that I still could do 10. Of course I'm a few pounds lighter now, but if my body was truly burning its muscle stores up, it's unlikely that my strength would've maintained as it has.
I feel as though I have more energy than when I began fasting. Mentally, my thoughts are very clear and my general cognitive function seems as high as ever. I had ADD more severely throughout high school until around a year ago, but during this fast I can tell that I'm much more attentive and aware than usual. I also have found that I run off of six hours of sleep similarly to how I normally feel on eight hours, which is likely because of adrenaline being increased. The only complaint energy-wise is that I sometimes feel cold in average temperatures. I assume this is just my body trying to be smart with how it expends energy, because it doesn't know when the next meal is coming.
I won't lie, I miss food, but as long as I can stay preoccupied, I feel fantastic on this fast. It doesn't do me much grace socially, because eating is perhaps the strongest cornerstone of human connection/interaction; this aspect is probably the least favorable, because I have a lot of time which can't really be spent with others. In the future, I will probably do many more fasts, but for much shorter periods of time for the sake of maintaining relationships and enjoying myself.
Your Olive Oil is Fake
First cold pressed in Italy, unrefined, premium, extra virgin, organic. None of these words guarantee anything in the scandalous world of olive oil.
Back in 2008, more than 400 Italian police officers commenced "Operation Golden Oil" in which 85 olive oil farms were seized because they had been cutting their oils with cheaper ones such as rapeseed (canola), sunflower, and other vegetable oils (disclaimer: olives are fruits). On top of that, colorings and perfumes were added to mask the non-olive appearance and scent.
This is why the Italians refer to American olive oil as "Lampante"—lamp oil. They make enough real stuff for their own country, but the cost of shipping out quality olive oil to the US isn't one that many Americans are willing to pay, especially when there are other brands at half the cost that claim to be real olive oil as well. We're smart shoppers after all.
But how is it that the companies get around saying that their olive oil was bottled in Italy? You've surely seen this on a bottle of oil if you've ever bought one, and the good news is that such statements are almost always true. The bad news, however, is that such claims are ultimately meaningless when it comes to the quality of product.
Italy is the number one global exporter of olive oil, no surprise there. It is also the number one importer of olive oil... huh? The fact is that companies will pay to send their rancid canola/olive oil concoctions to be bottled in Italy entirely for the reason that us foreigners will bite off on it being the real deal. And so Italy is the middle country where companies can earn a superficial seal of approval to alleviate all of the ignorant buyers of junk oil.
What can you do about this? The only way to know for sure if your olive oil is safe is to know how it was made, so buying local is always ideal. If that isn't possible, then here're a few popular brands that are indeed of the quality they claim to be: Kirkland's Organic (Costco), California Olive Ranch, Corto, or you can order from oliveoillovers.com to have a vast selection of high quality oils.
Lastly, here is a small list of some FAKE olive oils which are made from omega 6 rich vegetable oils that are inflammatory and detrimental to your health: Pompeian, Bragg Organic, Bertolli, Carapelli, Colavita, Mezzetta, Antica Badia, Carapelli, Mazola, Safeway, Coricelli, and Whole Foods. It's estimated that around 70% of olive oils on US store shelves are cut with cheaper oils. Be careful out there when trusting the next bottle you run across in hopes of making some salad dressing, because your innocence and ignorance could be taken advantage of.