2015-03-19

Non-24-hour living

As far back as I can remember, I always had trouble getting up in the morning... and no trouble staying up during the night.

During the years I went to school - and the brief time in my late teens when I actually worked in an office - having to get up in the morning was, without exception, horrendous. It was due to the experience of these years that I thought I hated mornings, and it took me a while to realize I really don't. I actually love being up and alert when the sun is rising, with the streets still calm as night, when nobody is yet up. I really don't mind getting up at that time, either. I just absolutely can't handle a 24-hour sleep cycle.

Early in my twenties, I started to become less dependent on other people's schedules, but I still tried to keep a 24-hour sleep cycle, because that's what you are supposed to do. I would still try to get up at about the same time every day, but the time kept slipping. Getting up at 10 am turned to getting up at 10:15, then 10:30, 10:45, and so on until I was finally getting up at 5 pm, and going to bed when the sun rose in the morning. I struggled against this tendency; I used alarms, I guilted myself to get up earlier, but I was never successfully able to turn the clock back. Always forward. When the cycle came around so I was getting up at 6 pm again, I pushed myself the following few days to stay up much longer, so that I would skip a day and begin waking up again at a reasonable hour. Always, I wished this time around I could start sticking to a reasonable schedule. But again, getting up at 7 am turned to 7:15... And then 7:30... And so on, until it was time to skip a day again.

I failed to stop the slippage at either end of sleep. If I tried forcing myself to get up at a consistent hour, this became increasingly difficult until my eyelids felt like cinder blocks, and it was impossible to honor the alarm. If I tried to make myself fall asleep at the same time each night, I would increasingly just toss and turn in bed.

A few months ago, I thought to myself, what the heck. I had always tried to keep a 24-hour sleep cycle. It had always been a struggle, and in vain. But by now, I'm no longer tied to nearly anyone else's schedule - and I'm far from anyone's judgment. So why not let myself stay up however long I want, until I feel like sleep; and then sleep for however long I need?

For the past few months, the result has been a close-to-25-hour sleep cycle. My wake-up time shifts by about 1 hour, on average, per day. For the first time in my life, I'm neither tossing and turning in bed, nor waging a "get up!" war between spirit and body. I'm rested and relaxed, and never groggy after I wake up. Throughout the day, I feel like I'm at full capacity. This is what a smooth experience feels like.

The negative, of course, is that for a good portion of the month, I'm sleeping through the day when other people would expect me to be up.

A known condition that fits these symptoms is Non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder. I have not yet sought a diagnosis, so I cannot claim that this is what I have. However, the article states: "The disorder is an invisible disability that can be 'extremely debilitating in that it is incompatible with most social and professional obligations'." That is approximately right. One could argue I'm fortunate to have a life and work situation that allows me to accommodate this condition. But the truth is, this is not coincidental. I have never been free of this tendency. I built my life and work situation around this. Chances are that I would not have made the same life choices if I didn't have what felt like a biological requirement to not get locked into a fixed work day.

It is a condition that limits. It does not help me to have it. I have worked my way around it, at some cost.

2015-03-07

Fair and unfair agreements

In economic terms, an agreement can happen where both parties extract value from the arrangement. A fair agreement is where both parties extract proportionally similar value. An unfair agreement is when one party has few alternatives, so the other party can negotiate terms such as to capture most of the value.

If you deal fairly with people, you will offer them agreements that provide them with proportional value. You will do so even when you could negotiate them into terms that are much better for you than for them.

Walmart could be considered an entity that extracts all the value in their agreements with employees, because the counterparty has very limited other options. These are consensual agreements, but they aren't fair. Making such agreements is legal; but that doesn't get you off the hook as a scumbag.

Many countries have legal requirements which attempt to ensure that certain types of agreements - especially in employment - are not only consensual, but fair. This is a form of state coercion which I've come to think is necessary, and welcome. Employment is an area where allowing people to be scumbags has especially detrimental results.

But employment isn't the only area where an agreement, or a mutual promise, can be unfair.

People cheat in lose/lose situations

The internets are full of condemnation for cheaters, and I often feel like I'm the only person tilting at the windmills of hatred against them.

Cheating is wrong. It's not the upstanding thing to do. It's an attempt to eat your cake, and have it too. If you're in a relationship where you're going to cheat, then you shouldn't have entered it in the first place. If you desire to experience intimacy that the rules of your relationship do not allow, there are two proper and upstanding alternatives: either to abstain, and reject temptation; or to confront your partner, and let the chips fall where they may. This could mean ending the relationship, or relaxing the rules.

(Or often, relaxing the rules, and then ending. That's how open relationships acquire a bad reputation; when closed relationships make their last-ditch efforts to save themselves by opening up, and can't.)

The thing is - when people cheat, we tend to judge them way too much. We vilify the cheater, and exaggerate the harm done to the person who was cheated on. We maximize their victimhood, and minimize what they did to help create the situation. Cheating is only ever seen as the cheater's fault.

I argue that the way most people set up their expectations in relationships makes it inevitable that someone will either cheat, or be tempted to. Further, even when temptation is repressed - when cheating doesn't actually happen - the fact that there's repression is a cost. It's a lost opportunity for someone to experience something beautiful.

If you're in a monogamous relationship, the first thing you should notice is that you're extorting your partner. Monogamy is a form of blackmail. Your partner loves you; but you don't love them back freely. The only way you will love them is if they do not love anyone else. Your partner has a burning need to be with you; but the only way you'll grant them this is if they agree to abandon other needs they have. You will not allow your partner to fulfill all their desires. You will not allow them to fully express themselves.

The most common response is that this is fine, because people agree to it. That marriage vows are entered voluntarily. But to suppose that this is fully voluntary is wishful thinking. There is pressure from peers and family; from churches, colleagues, and employers; from the state; pressuring people to at least appear to pursue a traditional, heterosexual, monogamous lifestyle. Even heterosexual monogamous people who decide to merely not have children can be treated as social pariahs. We are only now, and only in select countries, on the road to marriage equality for people with same-sex partners. For people with multiple partners, widespread acceptance is a long way down the road.

It takes unusual guts and self-awareness to go against this pressure, especially at a young age when a person still needs the support of others. Now add to this that a young person getting married doesn't necessarily yet understand themselves, or know what they can and cannot repress in the long run; add to it that the most valuable thing which they know they want - the love of their partner - comes dependent on a monogamous promise; and it's hard to argue the decision isn't made under duress.

There are certainly people who take shitty actions for no reason. In most cases, however, people make shitty decisions as a result of shitty circumstance. What hurts the most when you're being cheated on is the lying, the betrayal; but the main reason the person is lying is that what they have with you does mean a lot to them. There would be no reason to lie, if honesty didn't lead to losing something they value.

So then why cheat, in the first place? Well, because they don't only love you. They also love, and/or need, something else. In the situation they're in, there's no honest course of action that would allow them to have both. Either they lose you; or they lose the other something. It's a lose/lose proposition for them.

Cheating is what people do to delay an inevitable loss. For a while at least, as long as they can hide it, they can have both things they want - which they believe they could otherwise never have.

2015-03-06

Self-confidence and crazy men

People value men based on self-confidence we project. The thing is, a man without self-confidence isn't perceived as weak. He's perceived as scary.

Statistically and physiologically, men are a gender of anger and violence, much more so than women (who are dangerous in more subtle ways). If you lack self-confidence, it sends a signal that you don't know what to do with your raw power. You're prone to misuse it, you're prone to act out, you're prone to do something dangerous - hurt someone or yourself, potentially - because you aren't at ease with yourself.

A confident man is attractive because he projects safety. Not just safety from others, or safety from external circumstance; but safety from his own whims and impulses. If he's self-confident, it means he's more likely to respond appropriately to situations. It means he's less likely to lash out; less likely to be a source of harm.

Being attractive, as a man, is largely about assuring a woman that you aren't crazy and dangerous.

2015-01-08

Rest in peace, victims at Charlie Hebdo

A thought in light of yesterday's killings in France:

People do not deserve to be mocked, but ideas do.

Organized religion - uniting under the umbrella of a sacred belief - is fundamentally a dangerous and harmful idea. Even when the people involved do charity, and do not bomb and shoot.

Ideas kill people. But unlike people, ideas can't be killed. Mocking them intelligently is the best we can do. Don't let that go.



Voices like the following will protest:

Why is organized religion such a bad idea? Some people use religion for different purposes. For some it's a guiding light or it's just a moral compass. Organized religion is about as harmless as can be. It's the people who contort the idea then turn a harmless religion into corrupt propaganda for a senseless cause that harm the image of the religion.

Organized religion is like a man using a gun to shoot. When organized, religion is the gun.

By banding together under a cause, you are that gun. You become part of it. You're making yourself available for people who are going to use it to shoot.

Be a person, first and foremost. Don't be a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Christian, or a Jew. Don't be a Republican or a Democrat, a German or a Frenchman, or a Shia or a Sunni.

Cherish whatever beliefs you want. Support a cause, if it's worth it - but be prepared to abandon it when it's misused.

Think for yourself, and just be you. Identifying with a system of ideas is harmful.

2014-12-22

Study: Sweeteners cause diabetes through changes in gut flora

I previously wrote about my experiences with glucose intolerance:

A study has now found:

Diabetes: The Sweetener Paradox


[T]he scientists adjusted the drinking water of the animals by adding the maximum recommended daily consumption dose of saccharin, aspartame or Sucralose. The control animals drank sugar water or unsweetened water. After eleven weeks, the researchers repeated the glucose tolerance test – with a clear result: during the experimental time period, all sweetener-drinking mice developed glucose intolerance, whereas none of the control mice did.

[...]

[T]he researchers administered high dosage of the broad-spectrum antibiotics ciprofloxacin and metronidazole, which act on Gram-negative bacteria, to both the leaner and obese animal subjects. During the antibiotic treatment, the animals continue to drink sweetener-containing water. Already after four weeks of therapy the researchers were barely able to detect glucose-intolerance test differences between the fatter and leaner animals drinking sweetener and the control animals. [...]

"These results suggest that the sweetener-induced glucose intolerance is caused by changes in the gut flora and the different proportions of its bacterial representatives”, the study authors conclude.

A further test was used to confirm this assumption: the scientists transferred the bacteria of the gastrointestinal flora of sweetener-drinking mice to microbe-free control mice. Already six days after the faecal transplant these mice were also suffering from glucose intolerance.

Original publication of study (Nature, September/October 2014):

Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota

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.


Edit - February 15, 2015:

I have continued to take Vitamin D-3 in the same form factor at 7,000 IU per day, and got tested again. Updated table with latest results:

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
February 13, 201571.35 ng/mL+0.20 ng/mL/day

This seems to support hypothesis 1 - the body adjusts, which is good news.

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. :)