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A Ferret Called Wilson

Chasing Happy, Chasing Dreams

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Let’s All Compete Ourselves to Death

We are taught to live with “the goal of being competitive so we can make a living.

Does anyone ever stop to wonder if all this competition is wholly necessary in our world? We can’t all be competitive in the meaning used above. Being competitive isn’t just an attitude or feeling here, it’s directly linked to success. Being competitive here specifically means being better than most of your peers. By its very definition, we can’t all be competitive, so what does it mean when we insist that this is the way to design our societies?

In reading this article I was reminded of my PE teacher back in high school. We only had to take one class of physical education in the entire four years I went to high school and the teacher/coach took it upon himself to give us a pep talk about our lives. In classic form, with his foot on the chair and his body draped loomingly casual over his knee, he tells us, “These are the best four years of your life. Don’t waste them by taking naps. You’ll nap in the afternoon, then you will stay up late because you slept too much. Then you will oversleep your alarm because you stayed up late, and the cycle repeats. Push through the tired! Get up and get out and DO something! My athletes are all tough…” I don’t remember what he said after that. I was too hung up on the terrifying notion that high school was the best my life was ever going to get, and that some people didn’t understand that naps were themselves a valid activity to spend the afternoon on.

Why should high school be the best four years of our lives? I think, now that I am what people call an adult, that my PE teacher was making the critical grass is greener error. High school, unlike adulthood, does not have 30-year mortgages to pay, jobs to clock in and out of, bosses that are never pleased with your performance, kids that always need your attention and never shut up. In high school, you are young and your life is ahead of you. Your body is resilient, you are full of potential, you are forgiven for your mistakes on account of you being “just a teenager”, and your job, which is to attend class and do your homework, carries no responsibility whatsoever. To the teacher, high school kids just look like a bunch of brats who get to hang out with their friends, smoke pot, and get doted on by their parents all day, insulating them from all the harsh realities of “real life.”

But again, I ask, why should real life be so harsh? Why should coming of age be a burden? Why must it be that when we are young we have our parents and our teachers to fight for us and care for us, but when we are grown we should be abandoned and left to fend for ourselves?

The belief that being competitive is the only way to survive in this world is simply the other facet of the resignation that life is harsh. But it doesn’t have to be that way, does it? It is a choice we make together as a people.

As an economist, I am familiar with the argument: Inequality and competition are necessary to fuel economic growth. However, even as some people are losing relative to others, it is not actually a bad thing on an objective level because the growth we achieve raises the quality of living of everybody. Moreover, if you try to reduce competition or inequality by redistributing wealth or making laws that prevent people from getting profits or wages that are too different from each other, you will destroy the desire for people to make progress and the economy will stagnate. Therefore the harshness of life is both a necessary and sufficient condition for economic.

The thing that really bothers me, though, is that this is not even true. Recent research has shown that happiness correlates with income only up to a certain level (slightly above the average income level of a community) and that the extremely rich can be just as thinly spread as the moderately poor. Millionaires have been quoted saying outrageous things like “4 million dollars just doesn’t go as far as it used to…” Then there is the blockheaded insistence that bloated bonus packages for top level management are the just and necessary compensation for their entrepreneurship, skill, and willingness to bear the risks of success and failure in the name of economic progress. When stakes are very high, experiments have shown that people perform worse than when stakes are medium or low. The explanation is that high stakes means high pressure and every human, no matter how strong we like to believe we are, has a pressure threshold above which we start to crack.

Economic research, despite what we want to believe, does not support the notion that more money is sufficient to motivate people to innovate or risk new business endeavors. At the same time, is it even necessary? In other words, even if at some point more money cannot induce people to try harder or perform better, are there ways to motivate people without just increasing their income? The answer to this second question is yes. Throughout history great artists and inventors created their works not because of the material rewards they were getting from them, but in spite of the failure of their work to generate income. Two famous examples are Edgar Allen Poe and Nikolai Tessla. Both men are indisputable titans of their fields, and yet both men spent their lives in relative obscurity and suffered their work being stolen, plagiarized, and ridiculed. It was not until after their deaths that their true genius was appreciated. So why would these men persevere? The answer is that it exists within each human being the power and the drive to create.

The “starving artist” archetype is not an archetype for no reason.

So, why, I ask, why is it that we hold so desperately to this notion that harsh competition is the only way to design our lives? Even the economists who brought us this idea in the first place are tearing it down again. Ironically, the authors responsible for contradicting the sacredness of the competitive claim were merely attempting to further their own careers through new, innovative and competitive research. The master’s tools?

I often write as if I know the answers. Often I can see the environment, the underlying infrastructures, that makes otherwise perplexing behavior of humans seem perfectly rational and understandable. When I can, I try to elucidate those structures in the hopes that a better understanding will enable the empathy we need to improve our world. However, in this case, I am at a loss. Why do we cling so desperately to a notion of the world that causes us pain, despair, and a rotting of our spirit inside our still living bodies? Why do we resign ourselves to inaction as all the beauty and joy in our lives is sacrificed on the altar of economic progress? I DON’T KNOW!

I don’t know why we worship competition. I do know, though, that there is another way. I know that we as humans have access to something greater than the scraps that are thrown to us from the rich and the powerful on high. Our world is big enough and, despite all we have done to it, still healthy enough to support all of us in abundant life. Rather than design our lives around the act of getting enough money to pay the bills, we could design our lives around to goal of abundant life. Instead of fearing nature, we could venture out into it to collect our food as it grows wild in the earth, rather than buying it prepackaged and marinated in synthetic chemicals in a grocery store. Instead of spending our hard earned money on brand name items that we wear as a symbol of our success, we could buy products that give our bodies immediate physical comfort. Insteand of blaming ourselves for not being competitive enough, we could acknowledge that the rules are against all of us and instead work together to achieve the happiness that seems to elude us as individuals.

Living in perpetual competition amounts to accepting that their is not enough for all of us, and it is a sour deal. There is no rest for the competitive lest they fall behind. There is no enjoying the spoils of victory when they could be invested into even more competitiveness. Worst of all, when we are always competing, always banking our joy on the outcomes of our endeavors, we are not enjoying the process that is being alive along the way. Humans were never intended to live in perpetual competition. Even hyenas find time to play.

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Candida Recovery Relapse

I diagnosed myself with an overgrowth of Candida albicans in September of 2014. I had been fighting with an array of mismatched and otherwise inexplicable symptoms, including adult “non” acne, bipolar like depression, soft stools, and chronic vaginal yeast infections. In addition I required as much as ten hours of sleep on a regular night, and sometimes up to fourteen if I had had a particularly rough day. I had seen doctors for each of these issues separately and was frustrated by how often they would come back saying there was nothing wrong with me. If I don’t have acne, what are all these red bumps all over my face?!?

Luckily I’m both stubborn and inherently suspicious of the scientific community. So eventually I landed on candida as a potential explanation for my difficulties. I started a low carb diet, with zero pasta, bread, rice or potatoes, root vegetables only in emergency situations, maximum of half an apple’s worth of fruit in a day, and always mixed with yogurt or in a smoothie so as not to hit my blood stream full force, zero added sugar, massive quantities of active culture yogurt, natto and a daily clove of raw garlic. I quit mushrooms and even laid off soy sauce — in Japan! — for the first two weeks. The result was a two day stretch of carbohydrate withrawal, a two week stretch of mental carbohydrate withdrawal (where anything starchy looked delicious, but my body did not crave it the same way), followed by a steady improvement of my symptoms. In one month my vaginal candida healed. After two months it didn’t come back. After three months my skin was relatively red-bump free and my bowel movements were on the whole generally regular and solid. In the fourth month I relapsed.

Proponents of fancy or trendy diets can rave all they want about the “ease” of their diet, how “tasty” the allowed foods are, the health benefits, the moral superiority, but the truth is that in the modern world wheat is king and corn is emperor. It’s nearly impossible to take starchy foods out of your diet and still participate in society. I found myself feeling isolated from my friends because I was the one who couldn’t go out to eat anywhere but a family restaurant (think Denny’s) that would serve a la carte. I had to quit beer and almost all other alcohol, too, which meant people always felt awkward when it was time for drinking parties. On top of that, the world is so fast and full that I think any human would find it a challenge to prepare all of their own meals today, but almost any pre made meal or snack today is just saturated with sugar. I found myself spending whole days feeling hungry and light headed because there was just nothing that I could eat. Naturally, after I was confident that I had things under control, I started to reintroduce small quantities of the forbidden carbs into my diet. That’s when things went awry.

It’s hard to know, without writing it all down all the time, how much wheat someone consumes in a day. A sandwich, a cream sauce, a steamed bun — they all have nutrients attached to the wheat part, so it’s hard to think of the wheat as separate from the whole. For example, how much filling needs to be in a sandwich to justify the fact that it’s being put between bread slices? So, I relapsed. I was under a lot of stress between work and my sick weasel, and I didn’t have the time or energy to go out shopping AND cook. The first sign that things were bad was the poo. Then my skin started to break out again. Finally, back came the crotch rot. I was hoping I could just tough it out until the stressors went away, but no go. I had to go back on my diet and I had to do it immediately.

I quit the carbs again four days ago. I cooked with garlic, ate double portions of natto, made my own kefir and chugged it. I’m happy to say that my body is already starting to rebalance itself! The vaginal candida is all but gone (fastest I’ve EVER healed from one of those!) I’ve had a few good poos mixed in with the slushy ones and my skin hasn’t produced any new bumps in a week. It’s frustrating to have to be so strict with myself, but it’s comforting to know that it pays off and that I can be in control of my health. I hope I don’t have to stay on such a strict diet forever, but for the time being I’m just trying to be at peace with the fact that my body had gotten overwhelmed by all the unnatural crap that had been thrown at it since my youth. I’m trying to be kind to my body, and to my spirit, because we are all trying really hard in a very human unfriendly environment.

The tyranny of the majority

Why do some mountains have stairs in them? It’s because people want to pretend that they are hiking through nature, but they don’t want to experience the icky bits of real hiking through nature that involve things like getting sweaty, or dirty, or actually having to touch the nature.

Peace!
Two mountain bikers obviously just wrecking this busy mountain trail

I was out riding my bike yesterday, and one of the guys I was riding with commented that he used to have a lot of trails available to him back at home in Yokohama, but in recent years they have all been chocked full of stairs and are now unrideable. This is on top of plans by the Tokyo prefecture to outlaw riding mountain bikes in any of its public parks because they are “dangerous” and “damaging” to the trails.

I love riding mountain bikes. There’s nothing like it! I love riding my cyclocross bike, too. I have been a voluntary bicycle commuter for working on four years now and every year my commute gets longer. This year I’m up to twenty-five kilometers (around twelve miles) in each direction.  When I lived in Philadelphia I was an active member and supporter of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and between my personal experience and their research, I have come to the conclusion that bicyclists are the middle child of society. Everyone hates us despite how hard we try.

Many mountain bikers will, of their own accord and because no one else will do it, go out to trails to reinforce them against runoff and erosion. To clear them of fallen logs and to add stones or other solid objects for safer and less environmentally damaging water crossings. Many road cyclists go out of their way to signal to other road users, stop at stop lights, give the right of passage to pedestrians. On the whole, I think people who really love bikes are pretty damn awesome citizens. And yet on the trails we are banned because most people don’t want to have to share with us. They don’t want to have to learn trail manners, wear lights or bells to make their presence known to other trail users, or walk through passes that aren’t boarded up with stairs. On the roads, we are banned from sidewalks because we are dangerous to pedestrians (pedestrians don’t move as fast as bicycles. Simple physics), but are we protected from cars when we ride in the streets? Of course not! Cars are busy being driven by busy people who are too goddamn busy to pay attention to whether or not their actions could kill someone.

It doesn’t matter that bicyclists have been shown time and again to benefit the environment and to benefit the economy. The reality is that most people own and drive cars and most people do not ride bikes. What happens is that an activity which is good for everyone but only practiced by a few, an activity that is beautiful and healthy and clean and provides thousands and thousands of humans a critical sense of freedom and exhilaration in their life, is being snuffed out by the tyrannous majority of lazy, pampered, but most importantly obediently consumptive humans the world over.

Well, if you want to live in a world where the only way to get around is by gas guzzling carbon belching automobiles, a world where the closest you ever get to nature is through the bullet proof glass at the gorilla exhibit in your local zoo, a world where everything is dumbed down and sterilized for your convenience, go ahead and have at it. If you want your stairs, go to a fucking park.

Just stay out of my mountains.

Things That Don’t Sit Well

I know it’s a vice, but I was browsing the Savage Blog this morning. What can I say? When I’m home alone even reading about people complaining about their lives feels like company. Anyway, I found a link to this article about the evolution of sexual intercourse. Apparently a species of fish native to Scotland is now believed to be the first animals to reproduce via internal fertilization. In the article published on the topic, Professor John Long, from Flinders University in Australia, said:

 “We have defined the very point in evolution where the origin of internal fertilisation in all animals began. That is a really big step.”

Something about the idea that we could know, observe, document the “origin” of an activity so fundamental to life as sex, and that we could claim to have done this for “all animals,” stank of such hubris that my stomach turned over inside me when I read these words.

I will not hide the fact that I don’t believe evolution as truth. People today, especially noisy liberals who publish syndicated blogs on the internet, like to use people like me as an example of the stubbornly ignorant. They say things like, “there are people today who don’t believe that [insert some scientific claim that is supposed to be nearly self evident] is true, just like there are still people today who don’t believe in evolution!” As a Ph.D. holding member of the upper stratus of intelligence on this planet I have the confidence in my deductive skills to not take this type of comment personally. Personally, it actually irks me that the way people talk about evolution is so similar to the way they talk about religion: “Do you believe in God?” “Do you believe in Evolution?” Evolution is a scientific theory of how life organizes itself on this planet, and in the greater universe in general. It’s a theory with axiomatic suppositions and empirical predictions that can be measured and rejected with data. What many people don’t understand about science, though, is that you can’t actually verify a theory with data. You can only fail to reject it. I’ve read the published articles that supposedly prove the validity of evolution and quite frankly I don’t think they’ve proven anything other than that within a framework of belief people can find data that parallels their expectations.

When I read this comment about the supposed origins of sex in an animals I couldn’t help but feel the same sort of repugnance as I experience when people make claims to have discovered ancient relics from the Bible, particularly ones that should not exist according to scientific rules. For example, Noah’s ark. Some people claim to have discovered it on the top of a mountain somewhere. If you believe the Bible word for word then perhaps you take a boat on a mountain as unrefutable scientific proof that the Flood really happened. If you don’t believe the Bible word for word, then a boat on top of a mountain might very well appear to you like a dilapidated log cabin. It’s the same with evolution. If you believe that evolution is the One True Story of how life came to be the way it is, then you most certainly believe that fossil remains of a fish with a boner prove that ancient fish invented sex.

Me? I don’t believe the theory of evolution to have a monopoly on the Story of Life. I believe that scientists who study the fossil record are very skillful. I believe they have robust and precise techniques for measuring the age of things that they discover. I also believe that scientists are generally eager for fame. They all want to be the ones to discover the “missing piece” of the evolutionary puzzle. It isn’t once that scientists have faked evidence with methods so base as to have actually glued separate fossils together to create the evidence they wanted to discover. But whether or not the evidence is reliable isn’t even the point. The point is that there is a movement today within the People that seeks to overthrow God’s thrown and replace it with hard, cold, unrelenting and merciless Science. Frankly I don’t want to worship science any more than I want to worship a god who creates an imperfect creature and then punishes it for its failings.

The hubris, the mere suggestion that we could in any way observe the origin of All Life Everywhere, this doesn’t sit well with me. Those people who would tie themselves to this Story, they frighten me.

Eat a Variety

So, I’m on this candida diet right now. It’s perhaps the most difficult and restrictive diet I’ve ever been on, particularly since I’m trying to do this in Japan where the food is strange and the resource all written in weird squiggly box symbols. Yesterday I finally found a website that offered information freely (Candida Cure Recipes) and it even explained why there seemed to be confusion over whether or not fermented and pickled foods could be part of a healthy candida purge. I am really grateful to Susan for making this information available. It’s really the only thing that can help me in my position.

So that said, according to Susan’s candida philosophy, the first problem with a candida infection is that it tends to come in tandem with a generally weakened immune system. So a candida diet has to be rich in essential nutrients, vitamins and detoxifying bits. She offers up several degrees of candida dieting that are increasingly difficult to adhere to, but also increasingly hostile to an unwelcome candida population. The first level is simply to take out useless calories from your diet and add in helpful foods. Think ditching refined sugars, bleached and husked grains and most processed foods. This should be an easy and absolutely essential step in any diet that aims to promote overall health, but even though it was only one out of ten degrees of dieting it is so restrictive that anyone following it immediately loses the ability to dine at most restaurants.

Supposing one is successful at removing refined and simple carbohydrates from their diet, one is then challenged to replace those calories with more nutritious foods. Reading Susan’s website, you would think this is an easy and fun task. I’ve been on a candida diet for three days and I’ve eaten:

  • TONS of yogurt
  • Tofu
  • Avocado
  • Tomato
  • Garlic
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Eggplant
  • Eggs
  • Okra
  • Peppers

That’s about it. If these were each one a meal, that would be one thing. I could say “look how many recipes I’ve made!” But these are single ingredients. Tell me it’s not a sad list to look at? However, these are the only foods I could find that matched the commandments of no sweet rooty vegetables and no refined carbohydrates. Moreover, in order to achieve my daily caloric needs I’ve relied heavily on the animal categories.

This isn’t what Susan meant and this isn’t a sustainable diet. It’s also almost entirely industrial products with unknown chemical contents. No matter what the USDA says it most certainly does not contain enough variety to provide me with all my body’s nutritional needs, particularly its needs for antioxidant assistance and immune system support. Even the variety of animal flesh in my diet is miserably low. Chicken, beef and fish? That’s it? It’s a shame.

I ran into the problem of sufficient nutritional diversity before when trying to shift my ferrets onto a raw, or at least a whole prey diet. The advice is unanimous that a ferret’s digestrive tract is too short and too sensitive for almost all commercially manufactured kibbles, but as an obligate carnivore they require a variety of meat sources at a variety of ages, including organ meats, skin, small bones, fur and feathers. So far I have been able to find frozen mice of dubious origin, and chicken. It’s maddening!

Even mainstream doctors will stress the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet. But like everything else in our world today, once health was quantified everything that we couldn’t measure suddenly lost its value. The government decided that there are three macronutrient categories that partition all calories: carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. The government decided that there was a list of vitamins and minerals that encompassed all dimensions of nutritional benefit in a food, so that foods nearly devoid of natural goodness can still be considered nutritious if they are “enriched” with molecular constructs matching the missing elements from this list. According to the government, and therefore according to industry, chemically purified, skimmed, homogenized and hormone enhanced milk is the same as milk that came out of a cow that lived in a field and ate cow foods so long as you put the vitamins back in. And so when we try to follow the doctor’s orders we end up with trite recommendations: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Really? One apple? Every day? Is a pesticide apple ok? What about an apple that was picked last year and stored in a climate controled refrigeration facility? Is an apple better than, say, a pomegranate? Or a coconut? Why an apple? And while I’m on the subject, should I peel it first?

These days everything I say has the tone of despair and in my heart I want to sound the alarm of impending disaster. Help me! Please! I am dying! We are dying as a people! We know what we need, we know what we want, but we are so small and so insignificant that we can’t do it without help. All goodness in the world cannot be quanitified. It is not that “money can’t buy love”, it’s that scientists can’t measure the body’s voice, governments can’t enforce good spirit, bosses can’t observe the value of a human life. In our mistaken belief that science will one day allow us to know all things, we have arrived at the false conclusion that what science can’t know does not exist. It’s heartbreaking.

And right now, it’s stomach-aching, too.

Candida, Holistic Care and the Interwebs

I recently self-diagnosed myself with chronic systemic candida. I’m not sure if systemic is the right word cuz I think that means in the blood versus just in the digestive tract, but anyway I’ve got it. And I’m in Japan. So what do I do about it?

One of the things that people don’t tell you about moving to a new country is that not only is the culture different, but so is the food and all of the resources that you have become accustomed to. Suddenly, if you want food that you used to eat, you can’t get it locally and so you are probably going to be stuck with whatever the industry standard is. For anyone who has considered a holistic approach to any ailment, you can already see the problem. But more than that, I don’t know if the Japanese care about the same types of things Americans care about. What do vegan, organic, paleo mean to the Japanese and how would you express those concepts? It’s a major struggle.

While I would have liked to find a holistic care giver to help me with my candida problem, unfortunately I still don’t have the language to find one so I am making do with the interwebs as my guide. After reading a ton of websites I’ve learned a few things about natural treatments (really, the only treatments) for candida overgrowth:

  • You can’t diagnose yourself and should see a professional. However most professionals will misdiagnose candida, so you should buy the products and services being advertised on this webpage.
  • Candida overgrowth is caused by a number of factors, some chemical and some lifestyle. Even if the cause is lifestyle and diet, changes to your diet and lifestyle alone are insufficient to cure a candida overgrowth, so you should buy the products and services being advertised on this webpage.
  • Most other information on the internet is misleading because it is being posted by unreviewed sources that are really just trying to get you to buy their product, so you should buy the products and services being advertised on this webpage.
  • Absolutely eliminating all sources of sugar and simple carbohydrates from your diet for a minimum of one month is a critical step in curing a candida overgrowth. All fruit is off the menu, but some fruits with low sugar are ok if your body can tolerate them. At any time during your healing process if you eat any sugar at all it will destroy all of your progress to date, however listening to your body is a good way to determine if you are tolerating a certain food. Pickled foods are bad, but fermented foods are good, unless they are fermented with yeast or other yeast similar organisms. The candida diet is so strict and the rules so rigid that no one is successful in healing an infection through diet  and lifestyle changes alone. Instead, you should find a support group or even better the coaching of a professional, so you should buy the products and services being advertised on this webpage.
  • Even if you follow the candida diet very strictly, you will not be able to cure yourself from candida without powerful herbs, supplements, probiotics and natural antifungals. None of these exist in nature or are available at your local grocery store, so you should buy the products and services being advertised on this webpage.
  • As candida die they produce toxins that your body must purge in order to be healthy. Sweating is an important detoxification process, but exercise sweat doesn’t count. You have to sit in a sauna. If you don’t have a sauna at home, don’t worry because the author of this webpage has a physical location with a sauna as well as all the other detoxification products that you can’t get anywhere else, so you should buy the products and services being advertised on this webpage.
  • It is impossible to know if you have a candida infection or how long it will take for you to heal without being examined and overseen by a professional, so you should buy the products and services being advertised on this webpage.

After several days of research on the interwebs I came to the conclusion that most licensed medical professionals acknowledge the possibility of a candida overgrowth and its relationship to blood sugar. However from a traditional perspective chronic candida type symptoms can only be explained by diabetes, which I tested negative for. Thus I concluded that the candida diet probably works in at least one of its forms because of its focus on lowering and stabilising blood sugar. On the other hand, most holistic and natural health care advisors sound awfully similar to those people on late night infomercials who really just want your money and aren’t particularly interested in sharing information with you that might lower the chance of you buying their product or service. So on the front of antifungals and probiotics I’m kind of at a loss. I know that garlic is a powerful antifungal and so I am incorporating a raw clove into my diet every day. I also know that coconut oil has antibiotic properties and is supposed to help, but honestly the taste just makes me gag in anything other than a sweet dish. Vinegar I’ve got no clue about since on the one hand vinegar is deadly to mold and fungi, but on the other hand only apple cider vinegar is considered acceptable and all other vinegar is off limits. For the life of me I can’t find out why apple cider vinegar should be special so I’m just going to skip the vinegar for now.

Taking out grains and simple sugars from your diet is a great way to lose weight. I’m seeing now why the Atkins was so popular in the United States twenty years ago. All of a sudden almost every dish served at restaurants is off limits. At the same time in order to replace the calories I’m losing the sheer volume of vegetable matter that I have to consume is overwhelming. I’ve been to the grocery store three times in the last week. So taking grains out of your diet forces you to supercharge the nutritional content and variety of your food. The downside of this diet, and indeed the truly difficult part, is that it is so far away from mainstream eating habits both in the United States and in Japan that it effectively isolates you from other people and often leaves you floundering in a blood-sugar starved daze for something to eat.

After dropping two kilograms in the first three days of this diet I decided very quickly that I need to make sure that I’m tracking my calorie and nutritional intake. Combined with the immediate die off symptoms I suffered, I needed to know clearly what was causing what in my body in order to be able to complete the first month of restriction. I track my foods on CRON-o-meter where I can see what my caloric intake is along with protein, carbohydrate and fat breakdown is. It will also track my weight and give me predictions based on my current habits.

I’ve never consumed a more complete nutritional panel, but I’ve never felt so awful doing it! Die off hit me immediately with headaches, stomachaches, disorientation, and fatigue within hours of starting the diet. I was shocked, too, at how badly I wanted sweets in the first few days. All the food that was available to me was healthy and delicious, but even when I ate my fill of it I would sit in a daze craving more but not being able to eat it. I have never had such an experience before. Hot baths at night and a full night’s rest would clear my head by morning, but the ache in my abdomen was near constant for three days. Today I feel much better, but I also blew my carb limit yesterday despite not eating any grains, starches or sweets. I will be more careful again today, but I hope the die off symptoms are over for me. I want to heal quickly, but moreover completely. This is an incredibly difficult diet to follow and I sincerely hope that the websites who so earnestly think I should buy their products and services were exaggerating when they said the diet would have to be followed for up to six months.

This is my first adventure in holistic medicine. I will keep you updated with my progress.

Bad Science

An article published in this week’s issue of The Week (March 23, 2012) claims to have explained “why women seek conflict.” I didn’t know until I read this article that women did, in fact, seek conflict. Women’s overwhelming marital and career strife can often be boiled down to an aversion to conflict; when their overbearing husbands or bosses criticize them or deny them the authority they deserve, preferring to keep relationships smooth, women back down and simmer quietly inside rather than correct their superiors-by-default.

However, according to The Week, and “researchers,” “women tend to want to engage around conflict,” while “men…find conflict threatening.” I am sure that this research was motivated by the innumerable cases of unruly women in bars breaking bottles over each other’s heads and wrecking the furniture, or perhaps the rising incidence of women getting out of their cars at stop lights to threaten the driver in the next lane who didn’t get out of the way fast enough. On the other hand, it could simply be the many cases of domestic violence wherein women, in their desperate need for conflict, pester and nag their poor peace loving husbands into a fit of rage, so that they will, most unwillingly, beat, rape and abuse their wives into an ecstasy of emotional rapture. This one must certainly have been the motivation.

The study consisted of filming 156 couples interacting with each other and then reviewing the films with the man and the woman in the relationship and asking them to describe their feelings. Their finding was that women felt more secure and validated when their men were distressed. There are a number of problems with this study and the conclusions it claims to achieve. The most basic are simple math: 156 is a very small sample. Maybe with a good theoretical model built on well established behavioral findings, one might be able to draw conclusions from 156 observations, but generally speaking, good data sets should have thousands of observations in order to draw reliable conclusions.

Supposing, however, that the sample size was large enough that the statistics measured were robust, we next must face the problem of causality. Most periodicals that publish on academic findings make the error of implied causality. Put simply, we hear a lot of language that says things like “eating red meat increases your risk for heart disease.” What this means is that if you are a data point in a research project and your data point gets put in the bin of other data points that all eat red meat, then that same bin would be full of a lot of data points who have heart disease. The key here is that it doesn’t mean that you will have heart disease. That’s because red meat doesn’t cause heart disease, but its consumption is correlated with heart disease. A less reported correlation is with firemen and fires. Whenever you see a building on fire, you tend to see firemen running about. More firemen running about is correlated with more fires, but no one would say that firemen cause fires.

In this study, we face the same difficulty of establishing causality. We know that firemen don’t cause fires because we know that we build fire stations in order to respond to the fires, that is, we have a theoretical model explaining why the firemen and the fires appear at the same times, so we know which causes which. However, in the study on conflict, women’s feelings of security were correlated with their men being distressed, but which caused which, assuming there even exists a causal relationship. One possibility, one that many divorced women will happily ascribe to, is that conflict arises in a relationship when the party who is usually submissive asserts her opinion. A woman feeling more confident and validated in her point of view is more willing to stand her ground. This upset of the typical balance of power leads to conflict as men who are not accustomed to being stood up to must reassess their position, which leads to distress. In this perfectly plausible story, women are indifferent to conflict, but their positive feelings about themselves or their relationship initiate conflict which leads to the correlation.

Another explanation could be that men do not care for their women until they scream — the squeaky wheel explanation. Men are often more assertive about their desires and more willing to fulfill their own needs without checking in with their women or friends whereas women tend to consider more how the whole group will be affected by her decision. Thus, a woman is likely to quietly sacrifice her own needs if she feels that the relationship as a whole will benefit while men are more likely to sacrifice a woman’s needs if she doesn’t make a big stink about it. Thus, a woman feels ignored and uncared for in the status quo and the only times she receives attention from her man is when she puts on a show. In this case the woman certainly is seeking conflict, but the explanation is not that the conflict makes her feel good, or that she has some intrinsic pleasure from fighting, as the article would suggest, the explanation is that the behavior is encouraged by her mate. This is the exact same social process that leads to whiny children, too.

Finally, the article suggests that men ought to be more tolerant of women’s inherent need for conflict while women should be more understanding of men’s desire for peace. Pardon me while I cry shenanigans here. This implication on the surface sounds like science is finding answers for our every day problems, but lets look a little closer. Remember that time when you found yourself sitting down reading the Sunday paper and thinking “Gee, there are so many women in the world with insatiable needs for conflict!”? Right. Thought not. The article begins by creating the idea that it is common knowledge that women desire conflict. It then goes on to use this false presumption to motivate a statistically weak study on relationships that supposedly demonstrates this “fact.” Finally, the language that it uses to describe its solution to this invented problem describes women as hysterical, emotionally warped creatures that are more something that we as society have to deal with than something we would want to be around. At the same time, the men in the study are described as fundamentally harmless, peace loving creatures — both traits that we as a society value in others.

So what is this really about? This article is a devious attempt at using bad science to further vilify the feminine in our society. It’s a really good strategy, too. Because if our society holds anything more sacred that the Pope, it’s science. Science never lies.

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