Freedom is Found at the Frontier

SFS Interior
Creative Commons License photo credit: patrissimo

I’ve heard it said that the success of the creation of the United States was due in part to the American society being founded on a frontier. Of course the Native Americans were already in North America when the “white man” showed up, but the land was sufficiently “up for grabs” for some element of force and technology to overtake “we were here first.” How that unfolded is unfortunate, but I believe generally moot.

The overarching nature of North America was a place without property rights or government. This frontier paved the way for the establishment of a new form of government, a Constitution, and the United States.

Today, what is left unclaimed? Where are the frontiers? How can we experiment with new forms of government if we have no more frontiers left? I think Patri Friedman has enumerated this problem: lack of competition due to both a lack of options (frontiers) and high transaction costs to changing governments means society stagnates within archaic, increasingly bloated and controlling bureaucracies. We need a lot more frontiers if we want to see alternatives to the status quo. However, all the land save the uninhabitable Antarctica has been claimed, so where can we find any frontier, much less the needed abundance to really see a plethora of options take form? And of the options available, which are actually likely to take form? After all, putting “practicality aside” is easier said than done.

Revolting against current regimes can create a frontier of sorts, but if history is any guide (a poor guide), post-revolution governments (again U.S. being excepted for various reasons) don’t tend to be much better than the one’s they replace. Out with the old boss in with the new boss. To some extent, the New Hampshire Free State Project is taking this approach. I wish those liberty-minded folk the best of luck.

Another solution to the shortage of frontier is to go to the oceans. The oceans make up a huge amount of “unclaimed” frontier. Sure, they are water and not land — slight problem. But there is an ounce of historical precedent to support new sovereign nations at sea: see Sealand. This solution to the frontier-problem is what the Seasteading Institute is pursuing. I’m lending my support to TSI however I can, and I wish Patri the best.

Assuming mankind doesn’t blow itself up and we eventually learn to cheaply blaze a trail through the universe, space truly will be the “final frontier” (Save transdimensional pioneering). There are untold millions of planets out there that are just waiting for bungalows and Wal-Marts. Human existence in space could look something like Firefly or perhaps a new frontier is made from the Moon a la Robert Heinlein. Homesteading space just presents a few teeny logistical hurdles.

So where does that leave us?

What about the Internet? Even having advanced radically over the past two decades or so the Internet is still very much a wild west. Could the Internet be the frontier we have available right now to secure increased human freedom?

The logistical problems are fairly obvious, of course. The internet is virtual and as much as our lives become digitized, we still have to eat and live in real space. However, the government can’t tax what it doesn’t know you have. Encryption creates frontier by obscuring information from the taxman. Further, there’s a natural progression that increases the likelihood we move more of our lives beyond the purveyance of Big Brother: as governments make our existence in real space more onerous, there will be ever-increasing incentives to take life to cyberspace, encrypt it, and thereby restore freedom. For practicality purposes, this may be the best option we have for at least increasing our freedom in the near term. To some extent, it is already happening (i.e. see The Pirate Bay’s fight against the RIAA and MPAA).

The frontier problem is real, but human ingenuity is vast. Are there other frontiers out there worth pursuing? Freedom where art thou?

Reverting to “Le Corre” of Things, Our Nature


For all things Erwan Le Corre, MovNat, Methode Naturelle, Georges Hebert that I’ve been tracking, be sure to see this Link Repository

Conditioning Research had a fantastic interview with MovNat’s creator Erwan Le Corre, who has recently been in the fitness and health limelight thanks to an article in Mens Health. In this interview Le Corre comes off as more a philosopher than a modern-day Tarzan. Le Corre’s philosophy drives not so much at being able to speed through a jungle but as to our biological, evolutionarily-endowed “true nature,” which he sums up simply as: “to be strong, healthy, happy and free.”

So much of what Le Corre speaks about resonates within me that I need to dedicate my thoughts to their own post. For now, I’m going to link down heavily from the interview because it is excellent and worth further review, particularly since there is an obvious scarcity of material on Erwan Le Corre, Georges Hebert (Methode Naturalle), and MovNat.

Just two last notes. I find it oddly refreshing that Le Corre’s MovNat philosophy essentially skips on including bromides about morality. Why does reversion to nature need to bring with it a clearcut moral code anyway? Does our DNA (life) know any morality other than survival? Perhaps understanding the morality that flows from nature is less a matter of reflection and prescription as it is a matter of practice and action first. I don’t know.

The zoo analogy is fantastic. It is incredibly evocative of The Matrix and is much more palatable than “human domestication,” which is what we’re really talking about. Fitness should be about function. It should be playful and fun or productive hard work — both of these purposes are both means and ends, an ideal marriage. I can’t help but read Le Corre’s words and think about gyms as the wheels on which hamsters run. Is the fact that we all willingly enter such droll rigidity a testament to the state of our minds? Our lives?

Le Corre:

1 Who is Erwan Le Corre? Can you give us some idea of your background in sports / fitness

I practiced a training and philosophy called “Combat Vital” for 7 years in Paris, which had many similarities with the Methode Naturelle. That’s when I started training barefoot. We would train most of the time at night so as not to be seen, climbing bridges, balancing on the top of scaffoldings, kicking walls to toughen our bare feet, moving on all fours, swimming in the river even in the freezing cold of the winter…some kind of “Fight Club” of natural movement if you will! They are unbelievable memories: quite a conventional-wisdom-defying kind of philosophy and practice. …

2 How did this background bring you to your current philosophy and approach to exercise?

The more I was thought about [Methode Naturalle], the more I thought that while the core of the 100 years old method was excellent, an update of the pedagogy and methodology of Methode Naturelle was needed; it also became clearer that my personal approach couldn’t and wouldn’t avoid addressing the zoo human predicament and the many issues modern humans have to deal with regarding their body and mind’s health and quality of life. …

So despite the core practice being natural movement skills, MovNat is not only an approach of exercise but also a more holistic education system. Not a guideline, certainly not a set of morals, but both an experiential and conceptual knowledge: an array of solutions and alternatives people can learn and apply to an extent that is entirely up to them.

3 Your website talks about us being “zoo humans” – far from our natural habitat and lifestyle. How do we start to escape from the zoo – what might be the first steps in this approach?

The first step is a change of perception. It is becoming aware of this predicament, because you can never change something you deny or for which you take no personal responsibility. Understanding what our true nature is from a biological and evolutionary perspective and understanding the workings of the zoo is the first step.

The zoo is not just an environment, it is a phenomenon, a process, which is designed to keep you a captive of both external and internal cages. It is something that conditions many of your behaviours: clearly it is to me a domestication system, no less. The zoo impairs our ability to experience our true nature which is to be strong, healthy, happy and free.

We’re not born to be weak, sick, depressed and enslaved and, more than that, we should never accept this becoming the norm or a “fatality” (our fate). So the first step is a reaction and a form of resistance, it is a life-affirming reawakening. Once your perception is changed and that which is commonly regarded as “normal” is not acceptable to you anymore, it is time to look for rational alternatives, to find ways to apply them in order improve your own experience of life.

It requires critical thinking, knowledge, time, commitment and – depending on individuals – a tremendous courage.

So first step? I would say that being ready to defy conventional wisdom is a fundamental start.

4 “Evolutionary Fitness” has gained some popularity recently, but somehow the prescription often leads us back into the gym, lifting weights, using machines or sprinting to fixed intervals. This seems a long way from nature. Should we abandon the gym and go to the playground?

So it is not the gym per se that is a problem to me, but what you’re going to perform in a gym. Bringing a leg extension machine into the woods won’t make your training more natural, but crawl on the floor of a gym and there you’ll start to unleash your inner animal. Ideally of course, you want to be in touch with nature, breath good air, expose your skin to natural light, capture the energies of the vegetation around, well, spend as much time outdoors as you can. Thing is, it would be really difficult to recreate natural conditions in a gym, such as mud, wet surfaces, unpredictable dangers etc…which are also essential parameters that require specific adaptation.

That’s the difference between capability and adaptability. The more your movement skills are adaptive, the more you’ll expand your comfort zone in dealing with a variety of real-world circumstances. So the more varied is the environment where you train, the more you’ll increase your movement adaptability. …

I see this split coming: a so-called “upstream” but in fact downstream, super zoo approach of fitness going on on the one hand, then the come back of an upstream, though so far too often seen as backward, wilder and healthier fitness orientation on the second hand, that will produce new generations of amazing natural athletes or if you will of strong, healthy, happy and free individuals. No doubt. To me, the revolutionary is now in the evolutionary. …
5 I’ve seen your ideas presented as an updating of the “Methode Naturelle” of Georges Hébert. From what I’ve read, his philosophy is holistic – much broader than exercise. Can you indicate some of the wider consequences of the motto – – Être fort pour être utile”–“Being strong to be useful.”

Methode Naturelle was not only a physical but a moral education based on altruism, hence the motto “to be strong to be useful”. But I personally have a problem with morals or ethics when it comes to deciding what is good or what is not good for me, what is done and what’s not, what I should do or what society expects me to do or would like to impose to me as some form of duty.

After all, a tool is useful, a cog in the machine is useful right? I accept no institutional duty. Free will is the most precious thing in my eyes. If I choose to be helpful to others, which I in fact often do because I tend to like others, it is because I decide so and not because I have to. The problem is, many people often think of altruism as sacrificing oneself or one’s resources unconditionally for others, even for those that are total strangers to you or even if it’s going to be seriously detrimental to yourself. I prefer to impose no moral code in MovNat and leave it up to each individual to decide for themselves what is best when it comes to investing their energy or risking their physical integrity for others, because each situation is different. MovNat training will greatly increase your preparedness so that, in time of need, you have the ability to respond efficiently to practical challenges. Now if your goal is to save lives it’s best to consider becoming a firefighter for instance. These guys save lots of lives!

MovNat stands for a different motto which is “Explore your true nature”. First, people undergoing the zoo syndrome shouldn’t think of helping others first but make sure they’re recovering their own strength and vitality before anything. They want to rehabilitate themselves and get stronger and healthier before anything and this should be their absolute priority. They need a training and education that is liberating and empowering.

Again, I am convinced that our true nature is not only to be strong but also healthy, happy and free. If you become such an individual, then there’s many ways you can help others, if such is your intention. It’s entirely up to you. …
6 What implications does your particular philosophy have in terms of diet? Sleep? Posture?

[Le Corre advocates a fairly typical paleo / hunter-gatherer lifestyle approach of natural, pre-agriculture foods (no dairy), plenty of sleep, and an activity pattern that is active]

That’s a few insights, though in my opinion no personal lifestyle should ever become an obsessive application of overly strict rules. It’s all a matter of paying attention, of awareness, and when for some reason you know you’re not really respecting the needs of your true biological nature, make sure you’ll re-establish balance very soon.

7 One of the movement patterns that you recommend is “defence” – grappling / boxing etc. I’ve recently begun to train in Krav Maga and am really enjoying it for the coordinated /useful movements. But the social side is great too – supporting and helping each other in class. Is there a social side to movement that we also need to recover?

Obviously yes.

I believe the self-obsessed, cosmetics-driven fitness practitioner is missing an important point among others, which is a healthy, cooperative interaction with others. The result in thinking isolation is that in addition to isolating your muscles, you tend to isolate yourself. Is there any fitness machine designed for two people to work out cooperatively and coordinate their movements? Now imagine yourself as part of a small tribe 100,000 years ago, would you spend your time figuring out the most efficient strategy to build big guns fast? Or the latest scientific discovery that will allow you to get six-pack abs in no time?

No, you would rather find ways to work cooperatively with other members of the tribe and would expect all tribe members to do so!

It would be a matter of survival at individual and collective level. A lack of cooperation could have you banned from the band …….and an isolated individual would have been so much more vulnerable. Not the smartest type of behaviour.

Thank you Chris for doing this interview. Fantastic, thought-provoking stuff.

Related Link on Human Nature and our Hunter-Gatherer, Non-Specialist Evolutionary Roots

Can Blogging Make You Happier? [Research]…ke-you-happier/

I can’t say any of this comes as a surprise — some recent (2009) research has found that blogging can result in greater feelings of connectedness and social bonding which can improve one’s sense of well-being.

Yeah, that sounds about right to me (See my post on the power of blogging).

The researchers found support for deeper self-disclosure from bloggers resulting in a range of better social connections. These included things such as a sense of greater social integration, which is how connected we feel to society and our own community of friends and others; an increase in social bonding (our tightly knit, intimate relationships); and social bridging — increasing our connectedness with people who might be from outside of our typical social network.

They also hypothesized and found support from their data that when these kinds of social connections increase or grow deeper through blogging, a person will also feel a greater subjective sense of well-being or happiness.

H/T to Seth Roberts.

Yves Smith “On Traders Behaving Badly and Cognitive Bias”


Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism is doing “the Lord’s work” and asking for traders who have specifics on the various market manipulations shady trading behaviors perpetrated by Wall St. funds, banks, etc. to come forward and blow the whistle. The timing of her request is somewhat an effect of Jon Stewart’s recent battle with Cramer (See the more recent appearance and discussion from Jon Stewart vs Jim Cramer or the original Stewart spat against CNBC that started it all), which made very public an interview Cramer had done back in 2007 where he talks frankly (and yet not specifically enough as Smith points out below) about how funds would manipulate markets for profit.

Very interesting stuff, and since we’ve seen no successful persecution of this behavior, I have little reason to believe that future regulations will stop it. What does that mean? It means that investing in the markets is an incredibly risky business for laypeople as you are unavoidably swimming with the sharks.

The Jim Cramer chatter precipitated by his Daily Show appearance included some links to an infamous interview Cramer gave in 2007, where he discussed how he would, as a hedge fund manager, push the prices of stocks he was short down via the futures market. It was arguably a public admission of market manipulation.

What was most striking about this incident was how quickly it was forgotten.

Now, of course, one can cynically say, that’s what traders do. And there have been times when I’ve had the vast misfortune to be watching the ticks (I hate trading, I put on very few trades, and I sweat them all and second guess myself hugely) and have seen more than once some end of day action that was clearly tape painting (and my pro investor buddies saw it the same way).

But nobody seems offended at the notion that the markets aren’t safe for mere mortals, just the sharks, even the whole US investing mythology touts how transparent, open, and well policed US securities markets are.

That’s one level of heinousness.

As long as banks are playing with other people’s money, and the higher ups have plausible deniability, they have no incentive to rein this stuff in, save maybe a token case here and there so they can pretend they really were on top of things. And I’m being charitable and assuming the higher ups were not actively enabling it.

So why isn’t there more understanding of and outrage about this? After all, this is the heart of the looting that went on. If firms will tolerate (or even encourage) overly aggressive behavior that appears to generate profit, it isn’t just the nominal miscreants that are at fault, but the whole chain of command all the way to the top (after all, just as in the Jett case, they profited and therefore had reason not to probe too hard).

So here is my theory: the details are not specific enough for the public to see it as real. And if they can’t formulate a picture, they can’t believe it happens all that often (after all, if it did, surely it would be in the Wall Street Journal).

That is an example of a cognitive bias called the availability heuristic. If we can have examples, the more concrete the better, the more likely we are to believe that a phenomenon is valid (that is why anecdotal evidence is more persuasive than it ought to be).

Go back and look at the Cramer tape. It’s actually brilliant. He is not very specific! There is no “when I was short X stock in 2004, I did F, T, and H and the price fell by $Z and I made $100,000 in two days.” It’s all murky, to the point where Henry Blodgett, in parsing the transcript, had to insert words at quite a few junctures to make what Cramer say make sense to him (and note I in reading the transcript would have inserted different words). That’s why this incident never really stuck to Cramer. It all came off like knowing innuendo, but he didn’t present a smoking gun.

So unless we have a Pecora commission, or a lot of ex-traders and trading managers coming forth with particulars, the great unwashed public is not going to know enough of what happened to know where to direct its diffuse but well warranted anger over having been had.

Are we consuming too much Vitamin C?


Via a Google Reader shared item from Patri Friedman titled Vitamin C Abolishes Endurance Training Effects. The post is just a synopsis of a study that demonstrated that Vitamin C has a negative impact on training for endurance. That we should be training for endurance at all is a topic often derided by various paleo gurus, but the somewhat tangential snippet below is what really caught my eye. It immediately makes me wonder, how much Vitamin C should we be consuming in our diets? Fruits and vegetables are frequently touted as the end-all be-all of nutrition, but most all of those foods have a lot of Vitamin C, which is an antioxident we arguably don’t need much of.

A mere cup of chopped broccoli has 135% of the daily recommendation, which is 90 mg, so 120 mg (Vit C rec. info). And who eats just a cup of broccoli? Further, what about all the other sources we’d get C from in a day?

Who would have thought maybe the colorful fruits and veggies are actually harming our health? Maybe Peter at Hyperlipid has it right. It’s worth further investigation.

Here’s the bit from the Mangans blog:

As noted before on this blog, glutathione is by far the most important antioxidant, and it’s made internally from amino acids. Other antioxidants, as can be seen here, can hamper its production.

Our paleolithic ancestors would probably have been ingesting only small amounts of vitamin C, so any dose larger than say, 100 mg, must be considered quite unnatural. That is not to say that megadoses of vitamin C may not be useful in certain medical conditions, but overall it seems best to avoid that. Many holistic practitioners recommend doses of several grams a day, which could be positively harmful to health. At the least, we can say that athletes should take small doses if any.

Thoughts on Explaining Twitter (vs. Facebook)

(12:31:51 PM) Shannon: how do you explain what twitter is to people who don’t know?
(12:32:44 PM) Shannon: whenever i do it, they end up asking me “so, it’s like the status message thing for facebook?” and in a way it is, but it seems like it’s more than that. only i can’t describe it well.
(12:34:26 PM) Justin: yeah … I’d say its a way to stay in touch with friends and acquaintances
(12:35:30 PM) Justin: that allows you to share cool stuff you find, follow people who seem interesting — even celebrities
(12:37:03 PM) Justin: it’s more about communicating dynamically with others whereever you happen to be or about whatever is on your mind whereas facebook is more about keeping in touch with people generally and giving everyone some sort of internet presence no matter their tech savviness

Cross-posted to tumblr.

Jon Stewart vs. Jim Cramer


Just watched the showdown between Jim Cramer and Jon Stewart from The Daily Show on Comedy Central last night. It’s worth watching if you’ve kept up with the back and forth and the original CNBC takedown by Stewart (See Jon Stewart Throttles CNBC).

I enjoy Stewart’s ongoing crusade against network television. He has similarly gone after CNN (Crossfire) for being more about entertainment than about reporting. Stewart is clearly in a better position to throw stones as he can pull apart the mistakes (and there are many) of the mainstream media; however, he is doing hard reporting. That it gets the networks up in arms is a testament to Stewart’s progress.

Having said that, I think there is a bigger picture that is widely being overlooked. That is that media outlets usurp individual authority on a very subtle and sinister level. Many Americans outsource their own analysis and thinking to these talking heads on tv. Ultimately, it is the Americans who put their trust in Cramer, who go to Fox News for “facts” and come away with more opinions, and who fail to take responsibility for their own behaviors and perpetuate their own victimized demise.

So even as I like how Stewart is going after the networks, I think the fingers should be pointed elsewhere — at the American people.

It is for that reason that the below clip, which is from around the 17 / 18 minute mark of the Hulu/Yahoo TV 21 minute snippet from last night, is fantastic.

Secondarily, I think Cramer’s explanation of how they were essentially duped into thinking 35:1 leverage ratios were okay is spot-on — at least, it fits extremely well with the business cycle argument that excess credit leads to seemingly prosperous or booming times. These booms more-or-less trick investors/businessmen/entrepreneurs into believing that things are fundamentally sound and returns will continue going up in perpetuity. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and beyond the infomercials that try and tell you otherwise, we human beings should realize when someone is trying to sell us snake oil!

So here we have some actually solid television programming — on a tv station that is centered around laughs.

JON STEWART: Honest or not, in what world is a 35 to 1 leverage position sane?

CRAMER: The world that made you 30% year after year after year from 1999 to 2007 . . .

STEWART: But isn’t that part of the problem. Selling this idea that you don’t have to do anything. Any time you sell people the idea that, “Sit back and you’ll get 20% on your money,” don’t you always know that that’s going to be a lie? When are we going to realize in this country that our wealth is work? That we’re workers. And by selling this idea that, “Hey man I’ll teach you how to be rich!” How is that different than an infomercial?

President Chuck Norris, of Sovereign Texas?


Creative Commons License photo credit: cloune

Now this is just all sorts of awesomeness not because it is likely to happen (I’m skeptical), but because it puts pressure on the Feds to behave. Apparently, Chuck “When I do a push-up I push the world down” Norris quipped recently on The Glenn Beck show that he may run for President of Texas. Even said in jest, something like this has to have been contemplated or at least joked about by Chuck Norris before in order for it to just sorta come out on national television. And based on Chuck’s recent write-up (the link), he’s clearly thought a great deal about the notion of Texas reasserting itself as a sovereign nation.

Time to move to Texas? I hear Austin is a great place to live.

Chuck is far too religiously minded for comfort, but then again, so is Ron Paul (and mind you it gave me similar pause there, as well). I’m far more worried about acolytes of the State than conservative Christians these days though. It’s also encouraging to hear someone mainstream (As Patri noted) seriously discuss the notion of secession. As I see it, it’d only take one state to break the Union before others would follow. The “United” States is so overrated — why don’t more people see that?

Here’s would-be President Norris:

When I appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio show, he told me that someone had asked him, “Do you really believe that there is going to be trouble in the future?” And he answered, “If this country starts to spiral out of control and Mexico melts down or whatever, if it really starts to spiral out of control, before America allows a country to become a totalitarian country (which it would have under I think the Republicans as well in this situation; they were taking us to the same place, just slower), Americans won’t stand for it. There will be parts of the country that will rise up.” Then Glenn asked me and his listening audience, “And where’s that going to come from?” He answered his own question, “Texas, it’s going to come from Texas. Do you agree with that Chuck?” I replied, “Oh yeah!” Definitely.

It was these types of thoughts that led me to utter the tongue-n-cheek frustration on Glenn Beck’s radio show, “I may run for president of Texas!”

I’m not saying that other states won’t muster the gumption to stand and secede, but Texas has the history to prove it. As most know, Texas was its own country before it joined the Union as its 28th state. From 1836 to 1846, Texas was its own Republic. Washington-on-the-Brazos (river) served as our Philadelphia, Pa. It was there, on March 2, 1836, where a band of patriots forged the Texas Declaration of Independence. (We just celebrated these dates last week.)

On March 1, 1845, then-President John Tyler signed a congressional bill annexing the Republic of Texas. Though the annexation resolution never explicitly granted Texas the right to secede from the Union (as is often reported), many (including me) hold that it is implied by its unique autonomy and history, as well as the unusual provision in the resolution that gave Texas the right to divide into as many as five states. Both the original (1836) and the current (1876) Texas Constitutions also declare that “All political power is inherent in the people. … they have at all times the inalienable right to alter their government in such manner as they might think proper.”

Anyone who has been around Texas for any length of time knows exactly what we’d do if the going got rough in America. Let there be no doubt about that. As Sam Houston once said, “Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may.”

By the way, I actually didn’t know the Texas Republic history. I probably learned it in some social studies class but subsequently forgot all about it. Neat.

Bacteria, saliva, and overall health…ref=mpstoryview

First, Seth Roberts blogs on Oral Health, Heart Disease, and Fermented Foods here:

Oral Health, Heart Disease, and Fermented Foods

A relevant snippet:

Epidemiologic data have shown a statistical association between periodontal disease and coronary heart disease and stroke. In a meta-analysis, the odds ratio increase for CVD in persons with periodontal disease was almost 20%. Poor oral health also seems to be associated with all-cause mortality.

Emphasis added. As I blogged earlier, during my last trip to the dentist I was told my gums were in great shape, better than the previous visit — and the only intentional change since the previous visit was a huge increase (a factor of 50?) in how much fermented food I eat. So perhaps fermented foods improve oral health. A reason to suspect that fermented foods reduce heart disease is that Eskimos, with very low rates of heart disease, eat lots of fermented food. If both these ideas are true — fermented foods improve gum health and reduce heart disease — it would explain the observed correlation between gum disease and heart disease. …

The shift to a diet high in sugar and refined flours has usually happened at the same time as a shift away from traditional diets. In other words, the increase in sugar and flour wasn’t the only change. I suspect there was usually a great reduction in fermented foods at the same time. Maybe the reduction in fermented foods caused the trouble rather than the increase in sugar and flour. The reduction in fermented foods is almost always ignored – for example, by Weston Price and John Yudkin (author of Sweet and Dangerous).

Cross-posting here a comment I made on Seth Robert’s blog post:

I saw a potentially relevant article on saliva and bacteria in CNN recently:

A quote:

Since people have different eating habits in different places, you might think an American’s saliva might look a lot different from, say, a South African’s. But a new study published in the journal Genome Research finds that bacteria in saliva may not be as related to environment and diet as you might think.

In fact, researchers found that the human salivary microbiome — that is, the community of bacteria in saliva — does not vary greatly between different geographic locations. That means your saliva is just as different from your neighbor’s as someone’s on the other side of the planet.

Americans in particular have a lot of amylase in their saliva because their diets are full of starch: chips, rice and baked potatoes. But the Pygmies of central Africa, for example, eat mostly game animals, honey and fruit. They have relatively little amylase in their saliva.

Dominy and colleagues found these differences at the genetic level, meaning natural selection has favored large quantities of amylase in populations with starchy diets.

But there is also evidence that amylase levels can rise and fall within an individual’s lifetime. A study on college students in Ghana, who typically eat a lot of meat at the university, found that students who had grown up eating traditional starchy Ghanaian home-cooked meals had lower levels of amylase after attending the school.

Finally, trying to get Stephan of WholeHealthSource hooked up with Seth Roberts as I’m willing to bet there might be some synergies in their research and experimentation on fermentation (particularly as examining the changing diets a la Weston Price’s research).

(H/T Nathan)

Cory Doctorow: Writing in the Age of Distraction


Originally furl’ed here

Some great advice on avoiding distractions while writing. The quoted bit is just one of Doctorow’s gems (One I find particularly apt), but the rest is worth reading, as well.

Realtime communications tools are deadly The biggest impediment to concentration is your computer’s ecosystem of interruption technologies: IM, email alerts, RSS alerts, Skype rings, etc. Anything that requires you to wait for a response, even subconsciously, occupies your attention. Anything that leaps up on your screen to announce something new, occupies your attention. The more you can train your friends and family to use email, message boards, and similar technologies that allow you to save up your conversation for planned sessions instead of demanding your attention right now helps you carve out your 20 minutes. By all means, schedule a chat — voice, text, or video — when it’s needed, but leaving your IM running is like sitting down to work after hanging a giant “DISTRACT ME” sign over your desk, one that shines brightly enough to be seen by the entire world.