2014-12-19

Vitamin D-3 test results

I previously posted how:
As of December 19, 2014, I have been targeting a Vitamin D-3 intake, in pill form, of 7,000 IU per day, for over two months. My other sources of Vitamin D-3 ought to be negligible (little or no exposure to sun). My D25OH test results have been as follows:

Sample DateResultAverage Daily Change
October 8, 201427.15 ng/mL/
November 12, 201449.71 ng/mL+0.64 ng/mL/day
December 12, 201458.71 ng/mL+0.30 ng/mL/day

I have three hypotheses for why the average daily change has dropped off towards the third test:
  1. Body adjusts. Perhaps the body makes use of more Vitamin D-3 when more is available in long-term storage. This would be excellent news - it would mean a person can continue to take a consistent amount without worrying too much about overshooting the 60 - 80 ng/mL range. As long as the intake is within reason, the body will use more if more is available.
  2. Pill inconsistency. Perhaps reported pill content is unreliable. All my intake of Vitamin D-3 has been in the form of pills from GNC, but the pills have come in a variety of different form factors. I began with 7 x 1,000 IU per day; then I had to switch to 17 x 400 IU because a larger pill was not available locally; then I switched to 1 x 5,000 IU + 2 x 1,000 IU when Jana returned from a trip to the US, and brought a supply from GNC there. If pill content is inconsistent and unreliable, that would be bad news; staying in the 60 - 80 ng/mL range would require frequent blood testing.
  3. Daily variation. Perhaps there are daily fluctuations in metabolism that might cause results to vary by a large amount, depending on when the sample is taken.
I'm leaning towards either the first or the second hypothesis. Of the two, I'm very much hoping for the first. For now, I'm continuing to take 7,000 IU per day. In January, I plan to do a 4th blood test. I'll be able to take my daily 7,000 IU in the same form factor as between the 2nd and 3rd test, so my intake should be consistent. The results of the fourth test in January may then provide further evidence. If average daily change drops further, that will speak in favor of hypothesis 1 - the body is using more as it gets more. If average daily change remains the same as between 2nd and 3rd test, that will be in favor of the second hypothesis - pill content may be unreliable. If daily change returns to what it was between 1st and 2nd test, that would suggest hypothesis 3 - large daily variation.

I should note that my average mood and enthusiasm have improved consistently with D25OH blood level. There are differences from day to day, but I now feel much more enthusiasm for work and general activity than e.g. last month. Since this is not a blind study, it continues to be impossible to rule out placebo, but the improvement has been consistent with my long-term level climbing up.

2014-12-13

On moral relativism

An overly rational person, such as myself, can spend decades wondering about a basic question, such as:

"What is bad, and what is good? Can we even tell the difference?"

It turns out this is not so hard.

Love is good. That which comes from love is good. Caring is good, so is compassion.

The opposites of love could be considered: hatred; fear; indifference; not caring. Those are bad.

There we go. That wasn't so difficult.

Too bad it took me a few decades.



I posted the above some place on Reddit, and was surprised by the immediate vitriol I received. I can sometimes get deeply upset about people, but in this particular case, it was so mind-boggling I couldn't even stay angry. People were literally upset with me because I said "love is good". Of all the things that I could say - that's what they were upset about. :)

Another person observed this:

"A lot of people here are stuck in a backlash from the moral absolutism of church, etc... In that frame of mind, I'd imagine a statement like 'love is good' sounds more disingenuous than profound."

That was certainly the case for me.

I've seen Arthur C. Clarke quoted as saying: "The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion."

I rejected Catholicism and Christianity that I was raised in; and with it, anything that reminded me of it. I didn't reject it because of its love teachings. I rejected it because it's used as a vessel for guilt and hate and sexual repression. However, all that guilt and hate and repression comes bundled with the love teachings; so I associated those with the hypocrisy of religion and discounted them, as well.

It's weird how we can go through life claiming something as obviously stupid as "there's no objective good or bad", while at the same time passing all sorts of judgments that require us to tell the difference.

We have virtually all people coming together and agreeing that e.g. overt racism is bad, genocide is bad, rape is bad, corporate greed is bad, no police accountability is bad, political corruption is bad. Yet, for those of us inoculated from religion, it's hard to see the common thread that connects the bad things: they're mostly lack of love.

And even though our lives are made worthwhile by the passions and relationships we love, we stop short of saying love is good, because who says that kind of thing? Sappy religious types say that. And fuck them, right? :)

2014-11-06

Vitamin D-3 and depression

Jana didn't enjoy life on a Caribbean island. But what I loved about it was the sun. I could go out in mid-day, stand in the heat for ten minutes, and soak it all in. It felt so good. I felt recharged. It put me in a good mood, and I enjoyed the afterglow the rest of the day.

I'm an indoor person. Perhaps you are, too. When we moved to Costa Rica, my exposure to sun dropped to nearly zero. San Jose is often rainy or cloudy; it's a busy city, where it's not as pleasant to go out; and my sleep schedule rotates, so I'm often asleep during the day.

I knew all this. I knew I wasn't getting enough sun, so I got vitamin D pills. I took one a day, 400 IU, the then FDA-recommended dietary allowance. I didn't know that this wasn't nearly enough. I even asked a doctor if I'm taking an appropriate amount. He dismissed the question. He had no knowledge of vitamin D-3, or its importance.

A year into our life in Costa Rica, I felt a palpable sense of ennui. I objectively have everything; I am blessed with a high income, no work stress, rent and mortgage-free life, a beautiful and supportive wife with whom we have a wonderful relationship. By all accounts, I should be happy with my life. And I was. Except... I felt less and less enthusiasm. I reasoned that I'm satisfied, but no longer felt it.

In April 2013, a person walked into my life. Suddenly, there was passion, and interest, and meaning. Then shortly after, she left. By September, I was in a relentless depression. I wanted to enjoy life, but I couldn't. I lacked enthusiasm. Everything felt mundane and grey. Our son was born, bringing excitement and love, and also challenge. (He's screaming on top of my head as I post this.) I enjoyed spending time with Jana and Aaron, but depressed thoughts set in as soon as I was alone. I enjoyed games, in particular WoW battlegrounds, but I was depressed again as soon as the match was over. I tried to work, I pushed myself, but it was hard to find motivation. Hundreds of days, I got up from bed only because I had to, and spent the day wishing I didn't exist. I couldn't enjoy a good life as it was. And I had no solution.

To illustrate the depth of my abyss, here's a diary entry I wrote a month ago, on October 5:
11:43

I genuinely smile at the thought of Ebola killing us all. I mean all humans. Entire planet. If only I die - or if any number of people die, short of a vast majority - I'm not achieving anything. I'll still be reincarnated back into this crap.

But if we all died... If we all died, maybe I wouldn't have to come back.

So I wish we all died. I wish life on Earth would be over.
I hope you understand: it takes a certain misery to write this.


It's a hormone!


The evening of October 6, I found this presentation by Dr. Stasha Gominak, who also maintains this informative vitamin D-3 page. The next day, I wrote a blog post about it. I started taking much larger doses of vitamin D-3. I got a blood test: on October 8, my level of D25OH was 27.15 ng/mL. Based on established guidelines, that's slightly below normal - and no big deal. It's just a vitamin; it's optional. But if Dr. Gominak is right, it isn't optional. It's not even a vitamin, it's a hormone - and I'm way below the healthy range, 60 - 80 ng/mL.

For the past month, I've been taking 7,000 IU of vitamin D-3 per day. During this time, my frequency of depressed moods has much decreased; they have become absent most days. I have more energy. Things are now interesting! I feel an esprit similar to what I felt in the Caribbean, where I could bask in the sun any day.

It is estimated that a light skinned person, naked and without sunscreen under the sun in the summer, produces between 10,000 and 20,000 IU of vitamin D-3 in thirty minutes. Using sunscreen, synthesis is reduced to negligible levels. It's also reduced if you're dark-skinned. At higher latitudes, you can't synthesize vitamin D-3 during winter. You can't get it in meaningful amounts from food, except if you take drops or pills. Synthesis requires Ultraviolet B, which is absorbed in the ozone layer. It only hits the Earth's surface when the sun is at a high angle. In mainland US and Europe, this is from April to October, between 10 am and 4 pm. Even if you're outside at such a time - sunscreen blocks it.

Evolution made depression for a reason, and we know its seasonality is tied to vitamin D. When days are short, and food is scarce, depression improves survival. It makes you want to find a comfortable place, and lie down, and just sleep. It makes everything dull and gray; it makes you not interested in things, because that helps to conserve energy. You can't be running around, expending scarce fat reserves, when food is many months away.

In the ancestral environment, this state would only last a season. In our environment, it can last indefinitely because we're ignorant. It becomes chronic, and gets much worse. Other than its effects on bone health, we don't know much about vitamin D at all. It's named a "vitamin", so that sounds like snake oil. At best, it's "science" for "nutritional doctors" - you know, the kind that are mostly female. Most of us spend hours from 9 to 5 inside, so we have to supplement it - yet we don't even know what the dose is.

So that's how I spent a year depressed.

I'm not saying all depression is for this reason. But if you're dark skinned; or if you're rarely out in mid-day, without sunscreen, in summer sun; get your D25OH level tested. If it's not between 60 to 80 - make sure it gets there. Don't be deluded into thinking it's fine, just because you're taking 400 or 1,000 IU per day.

My subsequent update on this topic:

2014-11-01

Reading list for afterlife studies

I've had things happen to me that I couldn't otherwise explain, so I sought explanations. It turns out that knowledge about our life when we aren't in a human body is readily available, it's just that few people want to know it. Without further ado, here is a reading list if you'd like to learn about this topic.

Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind
by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer

Materialism is the conviction that the universe consists only of dead matter as our current physics knows it, and that our consciousness inexplicably emerges from this. This book will prepare you gently for the possibility that materialism is not merely an unproven jump to a conclusion, but has actually been shown false with experiments. The science being done on this is rigorous, but isn't being taken seriously because materialism is a faith: an unproven belief that people adhere to in defense against the unknown. Trying to disprove it evokes fear and discomfort, but the science is there, and is thought-provoking.

Glimpsing Heaven: The Stories and Science of Life After Death
by Judy Bachrach

This book will open your mind to the possibility that a significant number of convincing death experiences have in fact been reported by people who returned to life, and that these experiences aren't explained by dying brain activity or hypoxia. The book prudently stops short of speculating on the afterlife, its main purpose is to crack the door open, and show that something is beyond it that we should not ignore.

Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives
Destiny of Souls: New Case Studies of Life Between Lives

by Michael Newton

This is the life's work of Michael Newton, who claims to have recorded thousands of sessions of hypnotic regression with clients from a variety of cultures and religious backgrounds. Newton performed deep regressions that led clients not merely into memories of past lives, but into what happens in the spiritual realm when we are between lives. Not all regressions were successful, but thousands were, and they revealed memories of a spiritual world that were consistent among clients, even if they were in conflict with clients' own beliefs before the regression. Newton approaches the issue methodically and systematically, and builds a detailed picture of the spirit world, and what happens between reincarnations.

In his later years, after being inundated with interest, Newton founded The Newton Institute, which teaches hypnotherapists to perform the same type of regression. I've talked to such a therapist, who confirmed that her clients' regression experiences are consistent with Newton's work, and are that way regardless of their religious background, including clients who had not been exposed to Newton.

Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives
by Brian L. Weiss

Weiss's books are popular and moving, but a skeptical reader will want to read them after Newton's. Weiss's work supports Newton's, but is less systematic and more anecdotal.

Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot
by Andrea Leininger, Bruce Leininger, and Ken Gross

I haven't read this book, I don't have a craving to, but maybe you'll want to. A child gave a detailed account of his previous life as a WWII fighter pilot, which his parents were able to corroborate. This is not the only such account; past life memories and spiritual awareness, such as contact with dead people, appear to be frequent in children up to ages 3-5, but tend to be dismissed by parents who have their own beliefs, and/or no one to share this with. It seems that 3-5 are the ages when our built-in memory blocks start to set in, but prior to that, many children remember.

2014-10-20

Join us!

The Warlords of Draenor expansion is looking to be the most fun and noob-friendly I've seen Blizzard make World of Warcraft. The game is finally in a state where I can genuinely recommend it to a new player. Check out these videos from Blizzard with short and neat intros to the available classes. Maybe one of them is something you'd want to play!

At $15 per month, WoW is by far the best bang for the buck you'll get for an entertainment hour. Hookers, restaurants, theater, opera, cinemas, bars, and legal and illegal drugs can't compare with that bargain. What I can't promise, however, is that you won't want to play too much. :)

2014-10-15

Bill Gates in favor of progressive tax on consumption

I can't believe it! Bill Gates agrees with me! Not that he even knows of me, of course. But in today's article about economic inequality, he dismantles the popular compulsion to counter inequality with debilitating income or capital taxation, and argues in favor of a progressive consumption tax.

I've been making this argument for a while - on this blog, most recently here.

2014-10-11

Politically Correct Asshole

A person who, instead of just saying things, concerns themselves with statements and observations about ways in which it's okay to say things.

2014-10-07

It's not a vitamin, it's a hormone - and we lack it

Dr. Stasha Gominak makes a solid case in this presentation for the following:
  • In her experience with migraine patients, she discovered that 90% have a sleep disorder. Headaches in patients she tried to treat with medicines for years improved in a matter of months if she sent them to a sleep study, which got them a CPAP device to help them sleep.
  • But CPAP devices are awkward and intrusive. After experiencing success by improving sleep, Dr. Gominak discovered her patients have something else in common - a vitamin D deficiency.
  • She began researching vitamin D, and found that:
    • It's not a vitamin, it's a hormone. A vitamin is something we must get from food; a hormone is something our body produces to regulate its processes. We produce D-3 through our skin, and it deeply affects the entire body. We can't get it in sufficient quantity from food, except from pills.
    • We produce D-3 (cholecalciferol) only when exposed to sun during the summer. D-3 is synthesized from exposure to UVB rays, which are absent in the winter.
    • Vitamin D-2 (ergocalciferol) is not something humans produce, it's something that was discovered in rats. Rats are nocturnal animals, they get their version of this hormone by eating a fungus.
    • D-3 regulates a bunch of things in the body, from metabolism to sleep. D-3 is what enabled our ancestors to sleep 6 hours in the summer, eat 10,000 calories in a sitting, and work all day. Then in winter, dropping levels of D-3 caused their metabolism to slow down, depression to set in, and sleep to be longer, improving survival.
    • Most of us now spend our time indoors, with little sun exposure. We are operating on a permanent winter metabolism, with all its symptoms: fat accumulation, depression, sleep.
  • After applying this to her practice, Dr. Gominak's experience suggests:
    • Fixing D-3 deficiency fixes sleep. Sleep, in turn, fixes symptoms exhibited by patients, including: migraines, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, memory problems, depression, autoimmune disease, balance difficulties, pain, infertility, endometriosis.
    • Dosage is an issue. Too much D-3 causes the same types of symptoms as too little. The blood level to aim for is 60 - 80 ng/ml of D25OH. 50 causes problems; so does 95.
    • Reliability of pills is an issue. D-3 is over-the-counter, and is not subject to requirements for prescription drugs. A pill does not have to contain the amount listed on the label, and frequently doesn't.
    • 1,000 IU per day is probably too little, while 10,000 IU is probably too much. The right dose depends on the person - where you live, how much time you spend in the sun, what skin color you have. People with dark skin create D-3 much slower.
    • Prenatal vitamins don't have nearly enough D-3 for the mom and the baby (only 400 IU).
    • D-2 (ergocalciferol) is for rats. It probably does not help humans, and might even hurt by competing with D-3.
I highly recommend this video of Dr. Gominak's presentation; I found it concentrated and engaging. She also maintains a website with this information.

My subsequent posts on this topic:

2014-09-30

Terrible Weakness

Brilliant.

By Dave Palumbo, "Terrible Weakness":




Since not everyone seemed to be figuring it out where I found it, or they had weird theories, I played art analyst:

The way I see it, he killed a woman who loved him. Her spirit is being pulled away from this world (the knife is in his hand, her death is recent), but even in death, she continues to love him (still hugging him, not letting go). Even as his shirt is soiled with her blood (a heart-shaped stain - implying love between the killer and the victim), her peaceful expression makes it seem she has forgiven - perhaps never blamed him to begin with.

One way to look at the name of the piece is that she had a terrible weakness - her love for him. But love isn't terrible; neither is compassion and forgiveness. The real terrible weakness, I think, is his proneness to anger and violence, the inability to control it. The destruction it wrought has been awful. It ended her life, and cost him a future with a woman who loved him. She departs in peace; he stays to live with the burden, already haunting him.

2014-09-28

In favor of economic incentives for healthily-proportioned mixed-race neighborhoods

I was recently involved in a discussion about race and racism. It revolved around findings such as in the following Economist article:


Three-quarters of all victims and nearly 90% of perpetrators are male. Black Americans are only 13% of the population, but over 50% of murder victims. Among black men between 20 and 24, the murder rate is over 100 per 100,000 (see chart). [...]

Perpetrators in America tend to look like their prey: less than 20% of murder victims are killed by someone of another race.

The conversation also revolved around the contentious issue of race and average IQ. I reproduced some arguments I had recently written:

The main problem is the color itself, and its reliable correlation with IQ. This is unfair to exceptional individuals, who are judged superficially by their skin. Others notice the difference, and treat black people poorly and exclude them. This treatment causes them to bundle together and turn inward, producing hopeless, crime-ridden ghettos.

If we could break the correlation with color, yet still keep the same overall number of low IQ individuals, the race issue would be solved. Those who believe there aren't biological differences could find that they're right. Prejudice would dissipate over time, since no actual differences would exist to sustain it. But we don't know how to do that.

For the US, the only solution I can think of is to minimize the dynamic of concentrated black populations becoming ghettos by enforcing racial quotas. But that takes coercion, and is totally not workable within the constitution.

As-is, we really don't have a solution. In the absence of one, we resort to paying lip service to how there are no differences. We make superficial attempts to aid them - the kinds of efforts that should work if differences didn't exist. But that's not effective, so really, we're just letting them be, and escaping to gated communities.

Though my correspondent still disliked what they perceived as my insensitivity, they found this analysis insightful, and made a suggestion I didn't consider on my own. If the US race problem is made worse by the vicious cycle that takes place in inner-city ghettos, then coercion is not the only way to encourage healthy mixed-race neighborhoods.

An effective solution might be to offer economic incentives to people living in healthily-proportioned mixed-race communities. If black Americans are 13% of the population, then an ideal proportion of black Americans per city block might be between 7 and 20%. If the federal government offered a, for example, 5-percentage-point tax rebate to members of balanced communities, inner city ghettos would eventually disperse, and the vicious cycle they create with them.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the type of solution for which we have to understand race-IQ as a crucial contributing factor to the ghetto and crime dynamic - and yet not judge individuals on the basis of their skin color. This, unfortunately, is a difficult proposition. If we do not discuss race-IQ, people will argue that this proposal is itself prejudiced, and that race has nothing to do with the problem, other than white people being racist - which, they will say, this is an example of. Alternately, if we do discuss race-IQ, we risk people taking it as an excuse for bigotry and ideas of race superiority.

I'm talking about it now because, for the first time, I can see a solution.

2014-09-23

Aaron's adventures #5

It's been 7 months since I last posted photos! My family has been reminding me about that. :-)

These are sorted oldest at the top, newest at the end. It's been a while, so there are quite a few.