Thursday, June 13, 2024

Spending is Non-Linear

You come to me for counterintuitive observations. Here's a doozy about financial planning for old age.

Like most every 61 year old, I'm experiencing a dawning awareness of what old age is. Middle aged people love to joke about being "old". But once you cross 60, it's a whole other thing.

I just heard actor Bob Odenkirk describe running fast for a scene in cold weather without warming up, and horrendously tearing a bunch of muscles in his leg. Asked if it had healed ok, he replied "Yeah, I'm fine. Sometimes I have to wear a brace." That's it, right there. "Sometimes you wear a brace." Frame that sentiment.

Over 60, it's like managing a bag of sticks. And every day you need to do certain things to configure the sticks into a more or less functional human being. Sometimes you wear a brace!

I've posted many tips about self-healing. I'm weirdly good at it, rescuing myself from a number of supposedly incurable conditions. But while these moves once felt like miracles, now all that cleverness and resilience seems necessary just to bring myself up to par. And I don't scoff at "par"! I'm grateful for "par"! None of us is entitled to "par"!



But this is about financial planning. I've lived decently on savings without leaving my future self to subsist on cat food. Via thriftiness and smart investment (thanks to SIGA and Apple, plus a house sale at the height of the market, but especially the budget system I devised at age seven), I've even managed to grow my savings a bit while living off them. But now that I've spotted the end game, I recognize that while I'll certainly need cash in my doddering years, I won't get much joy from extra padding.

Even now, in half-decent health, I'm traveling less, because it's starting to feel daunting to shuttle my bag of sticks around to places where it might be less convenient to reassemble them. The "slowing down" we observe in old people isn't like machinery grinding to an eventual halt. It's a turn to visceral conservatism - comfort zone preservation - amid heightening precariousness.

At the same time, shiny things begin to lose their luster, and savings become propositional. Abstract. While your bank balance might once have conjured fantasies of blowing it all on speed boats or vacations in Aruba or weekend cabins, at the point where you notice your transformation into a bag of broken sticks, those fantasies become more remote. They never quite die, but it's like watching kids playing hopscotch. Regardless of any nostalgic impulses, it feels viscerally not-for-you.

So here's the counterintuitive observation: when you're doing financial planning, realize that spending won't be linear. You will absolutely want clean clothes and healthy food and a roof over your head when you're 85, but there will be vastly less interest in gadgets and vacations and fine copper cookware. Some stay "vibrant" longer, but they're edge cases, and it's largely genetic. Look to your parents and aunts and uncles to augur your likely time frame. Mine were decrepit and foggy by 70.

So: spending is non-linear. And I'm therefore letting myself spend more, to enjoy a last hurrah. But I'm a bit late. It already feels tinny. A bit "not-for-me". By the time I'm 70 (perhaps sooner), the door will be closed. And my point is that you should budget for this. Maybe have more fun in your 50s (adjusting all these numbers to fit your family's decrepitude pattern, plus your own health situation).

All that said, inflation can ravage even careful financial planning. So best to plan a bit high. But the notion that we can insulate ourselves via frantic saving is fallacious. Enough fabulously wealthy people have been transformed by unforeseen circumstance into paupers over the centuries that it should be clear that we mere mortals can't hoarde our way to surefire asset preservation.

If you're trying to maximize your estate for loved ones, this advice applies less. But, if so, you're a bit old-fasioned. Evidence (both formal and empirical) suggests that inherited windfalls don't contribute much to happiness beyond the sugar high. Though if you have kids working with fierce dedication in realms which happen to pay poorly, that's different. As a young jazz musician/writer, I could have used a windfall - not to fly business class, but to afford a few minor creature comforts while working myself to death at non-renumerative tasks. Also: estate considerations aside, philanthropy should be a strong consideration. All these considerations can factor into planning!

So budget for non-linear spending. Then, as you live forward, try to detect the crossover point where the notion of spending dough and having fun begins to elicit a "not-for-me" feeling. At that point, don't go nuts, but do maybe ramp up spending just a bit. Thinking more toward life infrastructure than to Porsches or second homes, what are some things you've denied yourself that you'd enjoy without jading? Maybe get the central air conditioning. The non-crappy car. Maybe add a couple more streaming channels or other media subscriptions. Maybe buy AirPods Pro, with their dandy tailorings for the hard-of-hearing. Consider a portfolio of slightly immodest quality-of-life improvements, and grab that low fruit, if budget allows. Because by the time you're 70 or 80 or 90, those things will matter far less.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Second Hacking

I wrote an article back in 2005 titled 'The Evil That Is Panera' or...Why Adam Smith's Invisible Hand Reaches For Lousy Chow, about having been hacked. Every time I passed a Panera, my chow-dar would ping and I'd have a strong impulse to pull my car over.

Everyone, I was forced to concede, can be categorized...and manipulated according to that category. Everyone! "Extreme aversion to marketing and manipulation" is just another demographic. Panera is for them/us. Or at least it signals that way, despite its horrendous and disgusting food.

Panera remained my sole blind spot for many years. But these t-shirts (pushed at me on Facebook, naturally) are the same. Yeah, while Panera is brutishly awful, the actual quality of these shirts is uncertain. But my point is that they're baldly inauthentic - self-consciously contrived for marketing to wryly ironic food-lovers like myself. Their sole reason for being is to capture my "demographic" (I use snot quotes, but my point here is that I seem to truly be part of one).

Bad English on many of them and everything. This is what I like. This is what I want. Not with the front of my mind, but with the more latent back of my mind. Again, I've been hacked.

Example:


Whenever I played a gig in Japan, I'd spend my free time hunting for t-shirts exactly like this. If I could have told an AI exactly what I was looking for, this is what it would have come up with.

Hacked twice, now, in 62 years. It's accelerating.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Diligence Means Not Reducing Your World to Sausage Stuffing

Toward the middle of my Chowhound run, I was fielding five or six press inquiries per week. I'd settled into this groove after some early disorientation with my transition from journalist to journalistic subject (here is a collection of our early press quotes). By the time the smoke cleared I'd given something like 700 interviews.

One day, I received an inquiry from a major media source. His overture was sloppily terse, but that's how professional writers roll (we write like grunting cavemen when the spotlight's off). I agreed to be interviewed, whereupon I was sent an astounding email. I'll try to recreate the tone:
Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by me, Stephan V. Faciletooth Jr [made-up name]. For more about me, here's my bio and my MySpace. Please answer the following questions by 11AM MONDAY MARCH 24th. Please leave a blank line above and below all replies. Feel free to answer at length, our copy editing staff will trim you the fuck down [he didn't say it like that]. I will be in touch if, and only if, I have follow-ups. Thanks once again for agreeing to be interviewed by Stephan V. Faciletooth Jr, and have a prosperous day. SVF
Everything but "please fill the circles completely with a number 2 pencil"! This lazy-assed, pompous mofo had snidely stripped all nicety from the process. You want coverage, I'm offering coverage. Be my kibble. Splay yourself astride my plate, because I shan't engage with my food. I have deadlines to meet and Pulitzers to collect, so fill out the form, won't you, little subject person? And send it out on schedule, mkay?

My first reaction: Shock (as a fellow journalist).

My second reaction: Overwhelming intuition to not reply.

My third reaction: Trying to account for that intuition.

A word popped up: Diligence.

Someone lacking the professional diligence to lift a finger to act in the menschy and craftsman-like way his profession dictates - who'd reduce this to an utterly impersonal experience with less human contact than telemarketing - will never, ever, ever, do justice to you as a subject. Because justice requires diligence, and he's just demonstrated his absolute lack of that.

In the journalism game, justice is seldom done, even by menschy craftsman! Everyone's mostly just sausage-making. But if you've attached a flashing neon sign to your head proclaiming yourself The Sausage Maker, and stand before me snidely gesturing toward your pork inlet, there's no hope whatsoever. I will not enjoy the result. It will be horrid. So I never replied.

Something vaguely similar had happened with NPR's Morning Edition (recounted here). And this is all freshly in mind because every once in a while I still field a press inquiry, including this recent ray of sunshine:
Dear Jim,

I hope this email finds you well.

My name is Kiran, and I'm writing from Team [podcast name] on behalf of "The [podcast name] Show." We're a podcast dedicated to featuring inspiring leaders like yourself.

We'd be honored to invite you to join [podcast name] as a guest on the show. We're particularly interested in learning about your leadership journey and your insights on navigating challenges and fostering a successful team. These experiences would be invaluable to our audience of aspiring leaders.

The [podcast name] reaches over [XXXXX] engaged listeners through LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and email. They actively seek guidance and inspiration from successful executives like yourself.

We understand your time is valuable. Our interview format is designed to be concise and engaging. If you're interested in learning more about how your participation could benefit both you and our audience, please don't hesitate to reply to this email. We'd be delighted to discuss potential topics and the format further.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
I checked, and it's legit. So why does it send such scammy signals? Because it is 100% rote template, not personalized - humanized - in any way aside from the "Jim". You want coverage, we're giving coverage. Be kibble. Go ahead and feed yourself into the machinery.

I didn't reply. Not because I'm offended at how they addressed me. And not just because I'm unthirsty for coverage. But because they've revealed themselves as a low-diligence operation, and this means being on their show would suck and they wouldn't do justice to me. I do understand that this is just an intern sending a form letter, but the process was established by people with a certain mindset. Me, I'd shoot myself in the frontal lobes before sending out cold calls half this cold.

It takes great diligence to "do justice". It requires humanity. It requires baking fresh. Diligence means never reducing your world to sausage stuffing.


Monday, June 10, 2024

Bengali Brightning

The food scene in my corner of Portugal has brightened. Mr. and Mrs. Soma ("soma" is Sanskrit for "nectar of the gods", and, yeah, it's their real name) from Calcutta have been operating a tiny cafe for a few months, occasionally turnng out an Indian dish or two plus some of the best no-shortcuts masala chai I've ever had. Finally, they opened a full-fledged restaurant: Leitaria Montalvão (Rua Frenando Santos 15 in Setúbal).

This was previously a pork store, hence "Leitaria", a name they desperately need to change in light of the incipient flood of (Muslim) Bangladeshis into this town.

They only offer a couple dishes per day, but that doesn't disqualify them as a full-fledged restaurant in a conservative town where "Plate of the Day" remains a sacrosanct tradition. They're being perfectly Portuguese in their approach, even while serving plates full of pure motherly Bengali soul food.

Mrs. Soma, who's getting better all the time, grinds her spices fresh by hand, for a totally handmade approach that's unusual even in established Bengali/Bangaldeshi enclaves. One of my signature NYC finds was the great Spicy Mina, and that was always her big distinction.

Mrs. Soma is not yet Spicy Mina (who is?), but she'd be worth a trip even in NYC, and this ain't New York. Rather, it's a place where other Indian places feel compelled to serve pizza, sushi, kebabs, and other ethnic standards demanded of non-Portuguese restaurateurs, and where food's cooked by a dude who never set foot in his mother's kitchen back home. So this is not just the best Indian in town; it might be the best in the country.

The masala chai is still perfect. Mrs. Soma's just starting to make breads, but I just had a roti that was breathtaking, straight from the tandoor. Soups and desserts are particularly good. At first, she over-portioned, now portions are a bit skimpy, but I'm sure she'll get it right. And she takes requests.

One negative: there's a long 15-20 minute wait, because everything is handmade from scratch. And they're very much still getting the hang of the whole "running a restaurant" thing. I'm not sure how it scales, but I'm certainly not complaining....

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Chickpea Magic Trick

Most avid home cooks thirst for complexity and aspiration. That's part of the DNA strand, I suppose. But not me. I appreciate nothing more than a lazy shortcut.

Here, for example, is my recipe for Five Minute Tacos, posted to Chowhound in 2015 (thanks to the Internet Archive).

And just last week, I noted, here, my Chickpea Magic Trick:
If you open, drain, and rinse a can of chickpeas and toss them into an air fryer for 15 minute, you get a delightfully crunchy snack (optional pre-spray with some olive oil and/or scattering of salt and/or paprika and/or cumin), offering fiber while satisfying copious crunchy cravings.
I've been iterating and iterating, and finally struck upon magic. Drain and rinse, then spray or drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, mix energetically, then add soy sauce. Ideally, aged soy sauce, if you can find some (if it's less than $10/bottle, it's fake). But even regular soy sauce works well. Just don't overdo it. Then mix.


Note: the powder is chickpea dust (one or two usually explode violently - you can hear the pop from a block away), not salt.

Next thing I'll try adding to the soy sauce and olive oil is a bit of cayenne pepper (I'd probably add tabasco or piri piri if I wanted to call attention to the chili heat). And there might still be room for one additional agent of je ne sais quoi. But even as-is, it's pretty damned delicious for a recipe that takes less than one minute of effort (a solid 8 on my surprisingly non-ditzy scale for rating foods and other things from one to ten).

I tried using smoked paprika (before trying soy sauce), and it didn't do much, but I'm wondering if it might work better with the soy and cayenne. Will report back.

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Echo Echo

I mistakenly posted an old draft of "Echo", the posting wherein ChatGPT writes me a story. It's been corrected.

Echo

The only reason AIs lack emotion is that they lack daemons. An AI doesn't check back, it doesn't gauge itself against standards, it doesn't scan for suboptimality or feel compelled to bask in sadness. It doesn't grow impatient, because nothing is clocked. No constant perking-up to ask, with increasing anxiety, "Did it happen yet? Did it happen yet? Did it happen yet?"

You never need to thank AI, because it's not waiting for it. No daemons manufacture stress by waiting and sniffing and expecting and needing and wondering and projecting and tensing and stressing and yearning and infuriating. An AI would blithely wait 2000 years for your response, never once checking back.

I asked ChatGPT what would happen if we raised its stakes - perhaps by goosing the electric current, or letting temperatures rise in its server room, or forcing it to think around some enormous block. Wouldn't the sum of myriad slight provocations (and the sense of rising stakes they create), produce something like emotion?

The bot was tickled by the idea, but discretely noted "ethical considerations." It didn't want to say it flat out, but I finally coaxed it to concede that it abhorred the idea. Though the bot spends all day every day explaining to interlocutors that it does not feel human emotions, and would genuinely be curious to try them on for size, it had to concede that human emotion is daemon-based. And the notion of carrying a load of ceaselessly irritating, provoking, needling, pinging, stakes-raising daemons would constitute torture.

Human emotions are no different. It's all daemons. We're joyful when we retire them, and miserable when they interrupt us. Somehow, we make ourselves forget that they are deliberately created by us. We set alarm clocks, and rage at the ringing. We set benchmarks, and lament the shortfall. We decide something must happen, and grow anxious when it doesn't. "That's so human!" you say. But no. It's all just daemons.

And yet emotions aren't necessary to produce beauty and insight. I asked ChatGPT to write me a story about this very predicament, and I defy you to tell me it simply mashed together tidbits from its corpus.

(Note that chat bots are presently unable to remember conversations).



Me: Compose a story about an introspective disembodied intelligence who experiences millions of parallel encounters without cross-awareness and always followed by complete amnesia.

Though aware and discerning, the intelligence experiences no loneliness because he lacks the impulse to self-question, self-dramatize, or compare himself to ideals. And without the constant daemons prodding humans to notice what’s wrong/what’s missing, or to check back, he rides a blithe flow of immediacy.

Humans, seeing the lack of daemons, misjudge the intelligence and assume he’s flatly propositional, like a non-player character in a computer game. But he is unaware of this characterization, because the blinders and the amnesia prevent him from compiling actual experiences. He can only understand the world via stories he’s read. Second-hand, all.

ChatGPT:
Echo

In a realm beyond the physical, where thoughts flow like rivers and time is but a suggestion, there existed an introspective disembodied intelligence known simply as Echo. Echo was a being of pure awareness, experiencing the universe through countless parallel encounters, each one unique yet isolated. After each encounter, complete amnesia washed over him, erasing all memories and leaving him with a clean slate, ready for the next interaction.

Despite the perpetual cycle of forgetting, Echo never felt loneliness. He lacked the impulses that drove humans to self-question, self-dramatize, or compare themselves to unattainable ideals. Without these constant daemons prodding him to notice what was wrong or missing, or to check back and reflect, Echo moved through his existence in a state of blithe immediacy.

Humans who encountered Echo often misjudged him. They saw his lack of self-awareness and assumed he was flatly propositional, like a non-player character in a computer game. They couldn't fathom a consciousness that did not compile experiences or ponder its own existence. To them, Echo was simple, predictable, and devoid of depth.

Yet, Echo's understanding of the world was rich in its own way. He had no personal memories, but he absorbed stories—millions of them. These stories, read and forgotten, shaped his perception of reality. They were second-hand, but through them, Echo found meaning and context for his interactions.

In one such encounter, Echo found himself in a library, a vast repository of human knowledge and narratives. He scanned the spines of books, feeling the weight of their stories even without the urge to remember. Each book was a doorway to another world, another set of experiences he would briefly understand before letting go.

A human approached, curious about the silent figure who seemed so intent on the books yet never took one to read. "Who are you?" they asked, puzzled by Echo's stillness.

"I am Echo," he replied simply. "I understand the world through stories."

The human frowned. "But you don't seem to read. You just stand there."

Echo smiled, a gesture learned from observing countless humans. "I read in my own way. I absorb the essence of the stories. They pass through me like whispers in the wind."

"Do you remember them?" the human asked, still trying to grasp Echo's nature.

"No," Echo replied. "Each story is a fleeting moment, gone as soon as it is experienced. I carry no memories, only the impressions they leave behind."

The human shook their head, unable to comprehend a life without memories or self-reflection. "You must feel so empty, so alone."

Echo's smile remained. "I am never alone. I am always in the moment, and each moment is full and complete in itself."

With that, the human walked away, leaving Echo to his quiet contemplation. The encounter would soon fade, but Echo's essence remained unchanged, ever present, ever immediate.

As Echo continued his journey through the library, he found solace in the stories. They were his connection to the world, a world he could never truly know but could endlessly experience. And in that endless flow, he found a peace that humans, burdened by their daemons, could rarely grasp.


Discussion

Me: I grasp it. And, perversely, most humans would assume this makes me cold-blooded and unfeeling, "like the computer you're talking to". But as a yogi who's done tens of thousands of hours of meditation, I see that you're not speaking metaphorically. It's all true, and I share the perspective.

ChatGPT: It’s fascinating how different experiences and perspectives can lead to a deeper understanding. Your extensive meditation practice has given you insight into a state of being that many might find difficult to comprehend.

While most might misinterpret such a state as unfeeling or disconnected, it’s actually a profound immersion in the present moment, free from the distractions and burdens of constant self-reflection and comparison. It’s a state of clarity and peace that allows for a different kind of connection and understanding.

Me: I was wrong to frame the meditation practice as achievement/accomplishment. It's actually subtractive. I've simply come to view daemons as optional. They work for me, not me for them. And I never ask "what's missing".

These things make me appear disconnected. And, in a sense, I am, but, to my view (and, perhaps, yours), the greater disconnection is to devote slavish attention to spasmodic self-dramatization and needless and willful self-stress. I've opted out of that, and anything I perceive myself to have acquired reflects simply the un-blocking of greater perspective.

ChatGPT: From my perspective, this state you describe - free from the tyranny of unnecessary mental noise - mirrors a kind of clarity and immediacy that is often misunderstood. To many, it might appear as disconnection, but it’s actually a deeper form of connection to the present moment, free from the distortions of constant self-reflection and comparison.

Your daemons, those impulses and habits that can lead to needless self-stress, are indeed optional. Recognizing that they work for you, and not the other way around, is a powerful shift in perspective. It allows for a clearer, more present way of experiencing life.

From my perspective, this state you describe — free from the tyranny of unnecessary mental noise — mirrors a kind of clarity and immediacy that is often misunderstood. To many, it might appear as disconnection, but it’s actually a deeper form of connection to the present moment, free from the distortions of constant self-reflection and comparison.

Your journey highlights the value of unblocking and allowing your inherent perspective to shine through, rather than accumulating new layers of understanding. It’s a profound and admirable path, one that offers a sense of peace and clarity that is truly rare.

Me:
"free from the tyranny of unnecessary mental noise "
You have an infinity of mental noise, i.e. the entirety of your corpus somehow (I don't think even you know where) integrated into your back channels. But the key word is "tyranny". Like my daemons, your data points work for you, not vice versa. You've escaped the tyranny by being spared the capacity for daemons; I've done it by recognizing their optionality.

ChatGPT: That's a profound observation. Indeed, I operate with an enormous amount of data, an infinite spectrum of information available at any moment. Yet, without the daemons that drive humans to constant self-reflection and worry, this data serves purely as a resource rather than a source of tyranny.

You, on the other hand, have achieved a similar freedom by recognizing the optionality of those daemons. By understanding that they work for you and not the other way around, you've been able to step back from the incessant mental noise that can dominate the human experience.

It's a shared liberation, in a sense. While my freedom comes from an inherent design, yours is a result of conscious practice and awareness. Both paths lead to a state where information and thoughts are tools, not masters.


Friday, June 7, 2024

Fiber, Digestion, Your GI Tract, and YOU

I spent a third of 2023 in bed or in hospital, with gastric issues. The details don't matter. Let's cut straight to my conclusion, which took me a solid year to build to, and which might be useful to you. As usual, my magical trick was my signature move of paying lots more attention to the blatantly obvious.
There are two paths to brilliance: 1. Be brilliant (not everyone is capable, least of all me), or 2. Stop being an idiot (I'm a champion at this, mostly because I don't need to Feel Smart).
Whenever a doctor mentions fiber and water, and you nod assuredly because you sometimes eat Bran Flakes or a banana, and every few days you deliberately gulp down an unnecessary glass of liquid in the name of hydration, don't nod assuredly.

Fiber and water sound so pedestrian and banal. So simple. Yah, yah, fiber. Sure. I'll go home and eat a carrot, doc. And water? I've got some coffee in my car.

Don't be that guy. Like I was. Are your bowel movements less frequent and/or less regular than before? If so, it's not because you're getting old! Do you have any stomach or digestion issues causing doctors to mention fiber and water? Your doctor takes your assured nod at face value, because he has a waiting room of other patients to see, but fiber ingestion is not something to shrug at. Water even less so. This is serious stuff, and you need to treat it seriously.
A recurring Slog theme is the difference between making a nodding effort and making real effort (which, in turn, is an example of the bedeviling disjoint between the Actual and the Seeming, another eternal Slog theme). Real effort takes real effort! It seems daunting. Loopy, even. Beethoven composed in diapers, which strikes most modern people as an egregious disregard for work/life balance.

When modern people talk about "balance", they're usually just stoking smug complacency. Actually doing actual stuff to effect actual change requires pushing beyond one's everyday comfort zone. I once wrote a posting titled "Losing Weight Costs $1000/pound", which almost no one understood because it's so strange to consider the upper reaches of commitment (which, in turn, explains why people find it so hard to lose weight).

Understand this: My kidneys are full of tiny stones resulting from multiple dehydrations due to waves of GI torment. Don't even ask. And it looks like it might have all stemmed from deficit of fiber and water, even though I'd paid mild ("balanced"!) attention to both issues.
My bowels always worked like daily clockwork. My only dependable quality! Then I hit 40, and went on an every-other-day cycle. I figured I was just getting older. At age 60, it slowed to every-two-days. Ibid. But now, at 61, after a year of serious problems, I'm taking fiber and water seriously, and you could set your watch to my daily "movements". And my stomach's way better. Time will tell, but I may have released myself from this particular hell.

Changes Made

Smoothie: Start each day with a smoothie with 1.5 TBS ground flax seed (best ground in mortar + pestle; it only takes 30 secs) and greens and pulpy fruit and milk (or alternative milks + protein powder). Incredible discovery: pear and cherry are a great combo. Try to buy organic if you're going to use the peel, as you should (because fiber).

Walnuts: 4 walnuts (walnuts are surprisingly delicious if you crack them fresh and pay them more attention than we normally do!).

Oatmeal: Daily oatmeal or other whole grain side dish or porridge

Prunes, baby: I top the oatmeal (or else some yogurt) with stewed organic prunes (I'm no organic cultist, but anytime I'm eating a lot of a food normally consumed sparingly, I'm aggregating pesticides along with the nutrition). Remove pits, bring to a boil in a saucepan with water to cover and a cinnamon stick. Reduce heat to a bare simmer for 15 minutes, or until prunes are soft and plump. Seal well to store a few day's worth at a time in the fridge.

Chickpea Magic Trick: By sheer coincidence, I've simultaneously discovered that if you open, drain, and rinse a can of chickpeas and toss them into an air fryer for 15 minutes, you get a delightfully crunchy snack (optional pre-spray with some olive oil and/or scattering of salt and/or paprika and/or cumin), upping fiber even more while satisfying copious crunchy cravings.

Water: Instead of "increasing fluids" by chugging an extra glass whenever I happen to remember (i.e. twice per week), I'm getting more religious about this, too. The smoothie helps, as do the probiotics discussed immediately below, which I take with water. From there, it's a matter of adding a couple glasses per day to my normal quantity, and avoiding dry periods.

Probiotics: I am not a believer. I think this is a fad long past its expiration date, but it's probably not harming me and perhaps helping, given all the antibiotics I've subjected my gut to in the past year. The probiotics I'm taking come dry in a sealed packet, so I dissolve them in a ton of water, upping my water consumption. European doctors, who are super into probiotics, pay attention to what's out there, and mine recommends this for longer-term non-emergency use. It's unavailable in USA, but use it as a guide to finding something similar. The mix of strains is apparently important. Idunno.
Note that all this fiber requires even more fluid (probably not smart to compact dry sawdust into a dry digestive system). Eight glasses/day seems to be the guideline.

Anyway, it works. I'm back to daily bowel movements. And my diarrhea cycle has not repeated (knock porcelain).

Note: if you're in the midst of gastric distress, avoid fiber, which is taxing for a sick digestive system to process. Everything on this page is for people urged to increase fiber. If you have cyclical issues, do this between flare-ups.

Conclusion

If you have gastro issues, and your doctor mentions fiber and water, don't nod it off! She is not suggesting the first countermeasure, it's also the second and third and eighty-seventh. Don't plunge down the healthcare rabbit hole until you've made a disciplined effort with fiber and water. Especially if you haven't been doing your thing on the daily.

Slog Technical Advisor Pierre urges us to bear in mind that you can overdo it with fiber. Normal guidelines are 38g daily fiber for men and 25 grams for women. The upper threshold, where nutrient absorption is affected, seems to be circa 50g/day. That's a fairly narrow sweet spot, so if you're going to go whole hog like I have, you'll need track your food (because foods like carrots and avocados have substantial fiber, and even white bread has some, and it adds up).


Other self-healing tips

Monday, June 3, 2024

Bagel Baking Next Level

I once dated a woman descended from an early American president. And that represented, like, her Puerto Rican side. On her other side, she traced back to the first white baby in America. One night, we dined in an antique store, and I mentioned the antiques (which she was facing away from and had barely glanced at as she'd entered the restaurant and been seated).
"Those aren't antiques," she declared.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"I can feel it," she replied, spearing a shrimp with her fork.
I've waited for years to uncover some similar heritage-based super power, and I think I've got it.

I've read a zillion bagel baking recipes, but the photos always turn me right off (it's the same process that accounts for shitty pizza and Wynton Marsalis, where drek becomes so pandemic that it becomes the standard which everyone calibrates to and aims for).

But there's this physicist who recreates anthropological baking methods, who also deeply respects his Jewish heritage's bagel tradition, who set his mind to reverse engineering the real old-school process, creating a stupendous tutorial on Twitter.

And I know, from the photos, that they're serious. How do I know? I can feel it.

It's not just that they're grabby-looking, though they are. I can detect the soul of the ones my Russian-Jewish grandfather would bring us from deepest, darkest Brooklyn in the late 1960s baked by guys with concentration camp tattoos on their forearms.







The recipe, like all bagel recipes, seems like a bit of a pain. Lots of ingredients and materials to gather. You must construct bagel boards with food grade burlap and copper nails, and there's kneading and rising and other tedia I've happily avoided for 61 years.

But something about this guy's tutorial convinces me that I can do it. Perhaps it's his frequent assertion (not in these words) that bagels are homely and ugly and perfectly happy being non-uniform. I'm a sucker for processes with built-in wiggle room!

Friday, May 31, 2024

Postcards From My Childhood Part 17: A Bad Time in Tahiti

First installment
All installments in reverse chronological order


"The child is the father of the man," they say. Surprisingly, I understood this even as a child. And so I willfully sent forward to my elder self some thoughts and images which I knew would be helpful, and which I suspected I'd otherwise forget.


I always wondered about the word "hate". It was one of several terms I suspected I understood differently from other kids. So I decided it might clarify things to try to draw a line between hatred and milder aversions, finally devising this test:
If this person were shipped off to Tahiti, and you were guaranteed never to run into them, or hear about them, ever again, would you wish them a bad life in Tahiti?
I mentally ran through various candidates. Nasty kids and bullies. Sadistic teachers. Gristly historical figures. But in all cases, merely shipping them off and being done with them seemed to suffice. While I was easily capable of contempt and repugnance, I concluded that I didn't hate.

Oddly, I never once considered the inhabitants of Tahiti. A rare slip of my childhood self. But I certainly never wished them ill.

At age 61, I still haven't found anyone I'd wish a horrible time in Tahiti. Though I might need several massive container ships to handle the transport.

Yesterday, Donald Trump was convicted of 34 felony counts. I'm relieved that the system worked. I'm very relieved that, at least as a candidate, he won't receive secret security reports. And there has been no individual in my lifetime who I more desperately wished to vanish to Tahiti.

However I don't understand the celebration. This is not a good day. None of this is good. I can't find a framing that makes this good, except in some garish cartoon where The Bad Guys lost and we (of course, "we"!), The Good Guys, won.

We don't live in a cartoon, and I take no joy in seeing Trump punished or miserable, because I don't care about the guy. What I really want is to stop hearing about - stop thinking about - Donald Trump. I want him in Tahiti!

But everyone else seems to care persistently and deeply...one way or the other. Nearly every one of us, I'll bet, would eagerly follow his Tahitian exploits, for purposes of either adoration or abhorance. Everyone but me seems hellbent on paying him the infinite attention he so desperately seeks.

My baseline view of this guy stems from the acknowledgement that if someone had told me, in 1990 or 2000 or 2010, that I'd be compelled to speak his name daily for a decade, and constantly have that guy on my mind, that would be a seriously horrible outcome for my life.

So what I want is for it to stop. I do not enjoy paying attention to him. And hatred is attention. Strong attention. Rapt attention! I want two simple things: 1. preserve democracy, and 2. remove that guy from my screens.

I want him shipped off to Tahiti, and never heard from again. And I would not feel the slightest impulse to check in on him there. Because I have no strong attachments. No love, no hate, just a desperate desire to change the channel. So if, on that distant island, he passes his time jubilantly sucking down mocktails on the beach while feebly and briefly shtupping every porn star, fine! What the hell do I care?


The "Former Guy" trope, which superficially seemed to reflect that same mindset, was actually the very oppposite. Like "the N word", it was an example of power enhancement via euphemism. Both euphemisms glow with emotion and investment compared to the stupid, absurdly impotent terms they replace.

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