The Democratization of Content


Benedict Evans has two thoughtful articles out about content creation versus consumption (and how mobile versus PC relates to the two) and the end of “Content is King.” If you follow Evans on Twitter (and you must if you are at all interested in macro-tech trends, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.), you’ll find both of these articles put lots of words behind ideas he’s been brooding on for some time.

Raw Milk Safer than Salad

A little background

Some of you know that when we our second daughter Raya was around 5 or 6 months old, I started “homebrewing” her formula based on a recipe for raw cow’s milk based baby formula I found at The Weston A. Price Foundation website.  I made this formula for Raya for about six months before we just started giving her straight raw cow’s milk.  Today, and ever since (some seven months later), both our girls continue drinking raw cow’s milk.  I’ll circle back and talk more about that in a minute.

Why I Didn’t (And Don’t) Vote

Folks who know me know I don’t vote. Many roll their eyes at this decision. Others awkwardly skirt around it preferring to avoid asking why I don’t vote (I don’t usually go into why unless prompted). And most people just assume I do vote. Of all my friends and family and coworkers, I’m unsure how many have given a second thought to the act.

Do they simply accept the rhetoric that it’s some moral imperative to vote? That it’s a duty? That it’s a right you must exercise to preserve?

I don’t know.

Weight Gain from Forced Overeating has Limits

It seems the only things I can find time to blog on these days are posts from Peter of Hyperlipid. I’ve whittled down the number of blogs I follow that cover nutrition — just not enough time in a day — but Peter’s is fun to read if not a bit “in the weeds.” Peter can go in depth on scientific studies and the chemistry of metabolism, mitochondria, insulin, etc., but he almost always has a way of distilling that information in a way that I can not only make sense of it, but take away some insight. If you are interested in what drives obesity, eating, etc., Peter’s blog is one of the best around. And if you’re not buying the whole “Reward Hypothesis” of obesity that is being trumpeted by Stephen Guyunet (or are at least skepitcal of it — I think Guyunet is off track here; Todd Becker’s theories make a more holistic, coherent case that strings together the behavioral aspects of obesity like reward and the insulin — required reading of his here and here and here).

Compensating for Broken Fat Cells

When it comes to reading about the metabolic effects of eating a high fat diet (With low fat and low carbohydrate, in turn), I turn to Peter’s wonderful Hyperlipid. I was catching up on Reader the other day when I saw this post about broken mice. It’s a bit esoteric so be warned, but there’s an idea therein that I find particularly interesting — it pertains to mice with broken metabolisms.

Gamers Solve Problem that Dogged Researchers for Decades

“Online gamers have achieved a feat beyond the realm of ‘Second Life’ or ‘Dungeons and Dragons’: they have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had thwarted scientists for a decade.”

Awesome. The takeaway I see in this approach is evocative of self-experimentation. Gamers are basically lots of little experimenters. Perhaps gamers succeeding where scientists had failed for a decade is less about playing a (purposeful) game for fun and more about simply having enough people iterating on the problem with a basic incentive to succeed (it’s fun).

Read more:

Doctors make bad business people


Posting here a comment I left over at the Entrepreneur School Blog, where Jim Beach talks about the lack of business sense in doctors. If it sounds rant-ish, I apologize.

There are good reasons doctors make for bad business people (and entrepreneurs). The healthcare system is set up where the customer is an insurance company (1) and (2) practicing medicine has turned into a matter of treating symptoms rather than proactive care. In other words, the doctors expect *you* to call them when you have a problem because on the front-end (the preventative end) they largely have nothing to offer.

Case in point: medical students only take maybe a semester’s worth of nutrition. Insane when you consider that diet (and lifestyle) choices are certainly the most likely causes of people’s health maladies — so really, when it comes to having the proper tools to help patients avoid getting ill in the first place, doctor’s aren’t equipped. They are proactively/preventatively neutered.

I won’t get into the insurance company angle, but that has an impact, too. The customer has been utterly divorced from the healthcare system when you’ve got so many layers between you and your care:

you -> employer’s HR department -> [the insurance company bureaucracy] -> [hospital bureaucracy that negotiates reimbursement amounts] -> doctors who code procedures and provide you care

Simply cutting out the employer side would immediately get the consumer more plugged in as you’d have 10s of thousands of more individuals interested in getting better rates/plans from insurers than the lackadaisical corporate HR departments. I digress.

And there’s a (3) here, too. That’s that the doctor’s go to school for longer than any other profession, which makes them prone to dogmatism/procedure instead of being creative or driven to trial/error and problem-solving.

All things considered, it’s a disaster of a system. It’s no surprise it’s only getting worse. The only surprise (to me) is that so few people are talking about these core, simple problems that are making for such a disastrous healthcare system.

Collapse and Renewal


Found a lot of interesting things to think about in this article. Seems to get at how dynamic/complex/living systems (ecosystems, economies) evolve rapidly and then stagnate, which leads to collapse, and reboots the system (my simplification).

What I Have Learned
Change that is important is not gradual but is sudden and transformative. There is a common base cycle of change in individuals, in ecosystems, in business, in society. Increasing rigidity halts a long, slow period of growth and increasing efficiency. That begins a period of creative destruction and a fast period where uncertainty is great, where novelty emerges, and where new foundations are formed for a new cycle to begin. That is where we are now heading internationally.

In the United States, it is a time when the power of the state has achieved rigidity unseen since the triumphs of the falling of the Berlin Wall. Politicians have reacted to extreme disturbances, like the appalling terrorist attacks of 9/11, with powerful military response, a blind view of history and cultures, and a greedy desire for narrow benefit. Global economic expansion and dependence on peaking oil supplies, particularly in the Middle East, lock geopolitics into a self-destructive state from which transformation is extraordinarily difficult.

That is the time when change is most uncertain. We are living in it now. In this year we have simultaneously faced the sudden appearance of now reinforcing flips – sudden increases in the price of oil, increases in the costs of food, a financial collapse and the start of a recession, the retreat of Arctic ice sheets with climate warming, and accelerating loss of biodiversity. That is a lot to swallow and it reflects a process of human development and expansion since WWII.

But it is also the time when the individual has the greatest influence: when experiments determine the future; when the Internet opens opportunities for collaboration within and across nations; and when low cost mistakes are glorious because they trigger learning.

And these are the lessons I have learned that help in that process of dealing with turbulence:

1) Separate individual thought and work is essential but now, when integrative studies are the only way to reveal understanding, work with others is equally so. An individual’s knowledge can be combined with that of others to make the whole greater. In doing that we each recognize that we do not know everything but we do know, and know well, something. We learn with grace and humor and patience to work with others from different disciplines and backgrounds.

2) Complexity is in the mind of the beholder, in the patterns that are generated by causes that are simpler. Not as simple as once thought, but explained by a kind of “Rule of Hand”, not by a “Rule of Thumb’. Quite simply, I found in case after case of ecosystem change that four to six sets of variables operating at a number of different scales, in a non-linear way, captured nature’s flipping behavior. It turns out that ecosystems are temporary assemblages, pausing for a few hundreds of centuries in a passing state of quasi-stability as part of evolutionary change. Think of that when we think of the reality of global climate change.

3) There are about three kinds of scientists – the consolidator, the technical expert, and the artist. Consolidators accumulate and solidify advances and are deeply skeptical of ill formed and initial, hesitant steps. That can have a great value at stages in a scientific cycle when rigorous efforts to establish the strength and value of an idea is central. Technical experts assess the methods of investigation. Both assume they search for the certainty of understanding.

In contrast, I love the initial hesitant steps of the “artist scientist” and like to see clusters of them. That is the kind of thing needed at the beginning of a cycle of scientific enquiry or even just before that. Such nascent, partially stumbling ideas, are the largely hidden source for the engine that eventually generates change in science. I love the nascent ideas, the sudden explosion of a new idea, the connections of the new idea with others. I love the development and testing of the idea till it gets to the point it is convincing, or is rejected. That needs persistence to the level of stubbornness and I eagerly invest in that persistence.

All types of scientists are necessary, but I would love it if we could encourage and include the innovative type of artist. At the least, enjoy rigor, but never inhibit the innovative artists.

4) I learned that the key to make effective designs was to identify large, unattainable goals that can be approached, but not achieved, ones that relate to fundamental values of free speech, freedom, equity, tolerance and education. And then to add a tough design for the first step, in a way that highlights or creates options to design, later, a second step – and then a third and so on. We found that the results were steps that rapidly covered more ground than could ever be designed at the start. At the heart, that is adaptive design, where the unknown is great, learning is continual and actions evolve.

5) I am prodigiously curious about nature, and that triggers initial ideas. I am also terribly persistent and stubborn about developing and testing an idea that grabs me; at those times I am totally and narrowly focused, driven by the potential. That is what eventually makes an idea useful. So I conclude that natures create the idea; stubbornness makes it useful! But I have had to learn how to see nature. It is curiosity, anecdotes, funny correlations, jokes and metaphors that start that. It is new emerging theory that completes it.

One has to learn to develop senses that help us listen to intriguing voices that are hidden amongst the noise. Owlish ways to hear the rustle of the mouse. Do that and the future will be fun and rewarding. We all might even help, at this time of great change and threat, to develop further a world of justice, understanding and equity.

Joel Salatin’s “Everything I want to do is illegal”…legal1esp03.htm

Richard Nikoley pointed me to this excellent essay by Polyface Farm’s Joel Salatin. It is one of the best things I’ve read in quite some time — a complete indictment of government interference with just wanting to be free. Joel suggests that eventually the noose will tighten too much and a cycle will assert itself once more, throwing off these heinous chains to freedom, individuality, diversity and independence. I hope he is right.

Look, if I want to build a yurt of rabbit skins and go to the bathroom in a compost pile, why is it any of the government’s business? Bureaucrats bend over back-wards to accredit, tax credit, and offer money to people wanting to build pig city-factories or bigger airports. But let a guy go to his woods, cut down some trees, and build himself a home, and a plethora of regulatory tyrants descend on the project to complicate, obfuscate, irritate, frustrate, and virtually terminate. I think it’s time to eradicate some of these laws and the piranhas who administer them.

Martin Armstrong’s latest on Dark Pools…real-dark-pools

Martin Armstrong continues writing his typewritten letters (from a detention center in New Jersey) regarding ongoing economic and political events. I’m no expert on Armstrong though if you’ve not heard of him, he was detained (imprisoned) for some seven years for contempt of court and only went to trial when the judge who had been detaining him was removed from the case by the NY Court of Appeals (source: wiki). There’s a pretty reasonable chance that Armstrong did nothing wrong other than crossing the State.

Oh and Armstrong had a number of models and forecasts he used to predict the market, some of which were apparently amazingly accurate. Who knows.

Armstrong’s latest letter is available on ZeroHedge, a finance-centered blog that has quickly become one of the most cited and popular finance blogs out there. Interestingly, the ZH writers are anonymous, taking on the names of various characters in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. Recently, ZH took their site off of and moved it to offshore servers to further protect their anonymity and the site’s often whistleblowing content.

Getting to the point. The letter is about Goldman Sachs and what Martin calls the “club” on Wall Street. The “club” is a group of extremely powerful individuals who are out to make massive amounts of money via the financial system. Importantly, the “club” attempts to do this not by making better bets (as in, speculating), but essentially by rigging the system and creating the perfect trades. The “club” accomplishes this goal by controlling inside information.

The letter is pretty lucid and provides an interesting glimpse into what goes on behind-the-curtains of Wall Street. What struck me most about the letter is that Armstrong works to dispel the notion that there is some conspiracy theory across all central banks to control the world. What’s really going on is that the central bankers are trying to do their jobs and maintain economic and monetary order. Unfortunately, they are clueless academics. Martin realized just how impotent and lost the powers-that-be were back during the 1989 crash:

It had dawned on me perhaps when there was the 19889 Crash. I had carried two cell phones many times when the model was reaching critical turning points as it did in 1989. The markets were going nuts, and my one cell phone ran[g] that was used primarily for very special clients. it was one of the G5 Central Banks asking me outright what the model was showing and did I think they needed to intervene? As I was explaining the focus was in Japan and that there would not be any abnormal correction and thus there should not be concern about intervention, my regular cell phone rang. It was another G5 member asking the same questions.

What became very clear to me, was they truly had no idea what was taking place any more than the rest of the world. Everyone was struggling to comprehend the new world that was emerging. Communism seemed defeated, markets were crashing, and the general expectation was – Should we be rejoicing?

Most of the central banks have a lot of PHDs, with no real world experience. They have read books, but have not been in the trench to “feel” what it is truly like. This is why government employees rarely have anything worthwhile that will ever contribute to society. …

Armstrong has seen behind the curtain and knows that the authorities (in this case the central banks) are clueless, self-interested, and incapable of working together to effect change. Often, outsiders see these authorities and point out their ineptitude, understanding they are clueless academics. And that’s where outsiders go from insightful to crazy — they go on to conjure up theories of impossibly coordinated efforts by the same incompetent authorities.

In other words, it’s just like the South Park episode — Mystery of the Urinal Deuce.

So what is going on when we see Goldman Sachs making money hand over fist? Simple: they’re doing what they do best, exploiting their inside information, political connections, and their current monopolistic status on Wall Street. Is it all that surprising?