Saturday, October 24, 2009

Marshmallow Test

By Unknown

Ah yes, the sweet allure of sugar combined with the cuteness of children in the marshmallow test.

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about the video. The kids are super-cute, but that kind of attraction to sugar is seriously unhealthy, not just physically but mentally too. I know that too well from my own experience!


Saturday, October 17, 2009

New OList E-mail List: OEvolve

By Unknown

I'm delighted to announce the creation of a new e-mail list for paleo-ish Objectivists (and lurkers) to share information and resources: OEvolve. You can sign up to the Google Group here, but please be sure to peruse this basic information on the list before doing so:

OEvolve @

OEvolve is an informal private mailing list for Objectivists and others interested in the proper application of evolutionary principles to diet, fitness, and health. Its basic purpose is to facilitate discussion and information-sharing amongst Objectivists about the practical sciences of cooking, nutrition, fitness, health, and more.

Any Objectivist committed to eating an evolutionary-based diet may participate in OEvolve. Such diets encompass low-carb, paleo, and traditional diets -- including Cordain's Paleo Diet, Sears' Zone Diet, Eades' Protein Power, Weston A. Price's Traditional Diet, and all the myriad variations thereof. Any Objectivist seriously considering switching to such a diet is also welcome to subscribe and post. Moreover, non-Objectivist evolutionary eaters, as well as Objectivists merely curious about such diets, are welcome to subscribe to the list, but only as lurkers; they cannot post.

OEvolve is managed by Monica Hughes. Monica received an MSc and PhD in forest pathology and mycology from State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) in 2008. She is the founder of Free Agriculture - Restore Markets (FA/RM). She can be reached at


To join the OEvolve mailing list as a poster, you must meet two criteria:
  • You must be an Objectivist, meaning that you agree with and live by the principles of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism as best you understand them. Newcomers to Objectivism are just as welcome as old-timers. Please do not subscribe if you consider yourself to be a libertarian (or associate with the Libertarian Party), advocate revising Objectivism (like David Kelley's "open system"), or associate with the dishonest pseudo-advocates of Objectivism (most notably David Kelley, Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, and Chris Sciabarra).

  • You must eat some form of evolutionary-based diet -- or be in the process of seriously considering or working on doing so.
To join the OEvolve mailing list as a lurker, you need only meet either the first or the second criterion. Please indicate that you wish to only lurk when requesting to join the list. If you are confused or doubtful about the subscription criteria, please contact the list manager Monica Hughes.

Do you wish to join OEvolve? To do so, you must request a subscription via this web form. The OEvolve list is managed through Google Groups, so subscribing requires an account with Google. (It's free and easy to create.) In requesting a subscription, you will be asked to confirm that you meet the criteria for membership.

After you subscribe, please feel free to post an introduction, including your name, location, and a bit about your interest in evolutionary-based health.

List Rules

The OEvolve list has a few basic rules:
  • Please be friendly or at least civil in posts to the list. Subscribers who behave like asses, such as by insulting other list members or attacking Objectivist intellectuals, will be removed from the list.

  • Please respect the purpose of the list. Subscribers who prove disruptive to the basic purpose of the list -- such as by attempting to arguing against Objectivist positions or posting on irrelevant topics -- will be unsubscribed or subject to moderation.
Interested? Then sign up now!

Also, just as a reminder, the other four lists in my ever-growing empire are:
  • OActivists: OActivists is an informal e-mail list for Objectivists committed to fostering positive cultural and political change. Its purpose is to facilitate and encourage effective advocacy of Objectivist ideas in non-Objectivist forums by facilitating communication with other Objectivist activists. Posts to the list alert subscribers to opportunities to speak out, recommend sources of information, discuss effective arguments and principled strategies, reproduce op-eds and letters written by subscribers, announce events, and more.

  • OBloggers: OBloggers is an informal mailing list for Objectivist bloggers. Its basic purpose is to facilitate communication about matters of mutual interest, such as upcoming events, posts of interest, best blogging practices, and the like.

  • OAcademics: OAcademics is a forum for Objectivist academics to discuss teaching, research, coursework, dissertations, job prospects, publication, and all other aspects of life in (or after) academia. The list is basically a means of sharing knowledge and experience as ever more Objectivists enter academia.

  • OGrownups: OGrownups is an informal mailing list for Objectivists interested in raising and educating children well. Its basic purpose is to facilitate discussion about child development, discipline techniques, education methods, parenting resources, and more.


CrossFit: Three.. Two.. One.. GO!

By Anonymous

I started looking into CrossFit after seeing it mentioned by various health/fitness guys I've learned a lot from -- like Richard Nickoley, Mark Sisson, and Art De Vany, who talk about the value of mixing things up, using high intensity, intervals, resistance training and such. I liked what I was finding in the methodology and was intrigued at its potential, so I was eager for an opportunity to try CrossFit in a way that includes the coaching I knew I would need to not hurt my middle-aged self. (Sure, it's free if you do it at home, but who goes out on their own and just starts doing Olympic-style lifts? Not me!) Happily, a couple of months ago Tammy and I noticed that a CrossFit gym was about to open near our house. We checked it out and took the plunge! So far, it's been very cool.

Before giving reports from the front and breaking out the obligatory pictures of progress, let's start with a little about what CrossFit is. The headquarters site says

CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.

Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.
And in a CrossFit Foundations article, creator Greg Glassman writes, "CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. We have designed our program to elicit as broad an adaptational response as possible. CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains. They are Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy."

Of course, I'm not a Navy SEAL, a stick-fighting champion, or a fireman -- but developing serious competence in all of these domains, and therefore a powerful "ready state," would be awfully useful for the sorts of play I like to engage in: mountain biking, summit-scrambling, snowboarding, maybe a spontaneous half-marathon hill run or whatever else Tammy or my friends might want to draw me into. And it would come in handy for those (hopefully vanishingly) rare times when Stuff Happens -- plus as I age, maintaining as much physical capacity as possible would be invaluable for health and autonomy.

There's a lot of empirical observation and some pretty good epistemology behind various aspects that I can go into later, but today I'll just share the central CrossFit prescription for efficiently achieving that broad, general, and inclusive fitness: constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity. Every element of that is essential. Glassman breaks it down in a brief article on Understanding CrossFit:
Functional movements are universal motor recruitment patterns; they are performed in a wave of contraction from core to extremity; and they are compound movements -- i.e., they are multi-joint. They are natural, effective, and efficient locomotors of body and external objects. [Author's note: Examples include squats, pullups, situps, jumping, running, throwing, lifts like deadlift and clean & jerk and overhead press. They are elemental movements, used in lots of activities.] But no aspect of functional movements is more important than their capacity to move large loads over long distances, and to do so quickly. Collectively, these three attributes (load, distance, and speed) uniquely qualify functional movements for the production of high power. Intensity is defined exactly as power, and intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing favorable adaptation to exercise.

Recognizing that the breadth and depth of a program’s stimulus will determine the breadth and depth of the adaptation it elicits, our prescription of functionality and intensity is constantly varied. We believe that preparation for random physical challenges -- i.e., unknown and unknowable events -- is at odds with fixed, predictable, and routine regimens. [emphasis and paragraph break mine]
Plateauing is not easy when the adaptational response never has a fixed target -- plus, the novelty of not knowing what will be coming next keeps us from getting bored. As sick as it might sound, it actually becomes a fun adventure to show up at the gym not knowing what challenge we'll be hit with! One day it's a 5k run or row for time; another day it's finding the maximum weights you can deadlift, press, and back-squat; on another it is a butt-kicking, lung-searing sequence of a dozen varied exercises done for time (here's one we were given a week or two ago, as demonstrated by a bunch of uber-fit trainers at a certification: [wmv][mov]).

CrossFit turns fitness itself into a sport by making general fitness quantifiable, setting standards, and measuring performance in a very visible way. So people get to see their own development, have fun competing with themselves and their buddies in some sense, get encouragement in a group setting, and so on. This all goes toward motivation and intensity (making it fun to show up, and keeping you engaged in the work when it's soooo hard).

Turning fitness into a sport also makes the CrossFit Games possible. The Games are a proving ground for demonstrating general fitness, and a way to draw attention to those who might have a more effective training method. Elite athletes train all year and show up to compete -- but what's special about this competition is that they have to train while not knowing exactly what the events will be. They only know they will be tested in some way that is broad and brutal enough to differentiate the fittest person. So the athletes have to focus on developing that well-rounded, inclusive fitness to win. The rest of us get to marvel, and learn.

Then we throw ourselves into tomorrow's unknown workout. Three.. Two.. One.. GO!

Some links:
  • "What is CrossFit" is a one-page promotional summary from an affiliate gym's website.
  • The Okinawa Speech is a video of a great talk by CrossFit's founder, Coach Greg Glassman. He presents the the origins of the CrossFit definition of fitness, the development of the training methodology, addresses safety, efficacy and efficiency, and a lot more. Worth the time.
  • "God's Workout" in NY Times Magazine made me laugh (and of course I have seen no dangerous, macho behavior, nor any cultlike attitude -- in fact, I've only seen the opposite on both counts).
  • "The Truth About Crossfit" is a pretty good perspective piece by a fitness writer, fun to read, from a big bodybuilding site/magazine (though it has some goofiness, like defending another of their writers who apparently had some sort of tussle with CrossFit's founder, Glassman).
  • Eight quick perspectives/reviews by people.
  • World HQ for CrossFit itself is a free website with a huge amount of information.
[image from]


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Name Help

By Unknown

In part spurred by some new friends adopting our paleo-ish diet, Monica Hughes and I have concocted a most excellent plan of creating an mailing list for Objectivists interested evolutionary-based eating, workouts, and the like. Monica will manage the list.

We've found that lots of people are intrigued by our diet, but they've got a million questions about the principles and practice of it. That's not surprising. Given the prevalence of junk science in nutrition and the prevalence of junk food in the most diets, understanding what to eat -- and why -- can be difficult. So the mailing list will facilitate the sharing of useful information, as well as provide moral support and advice.

As with OGrownups, anyone will be welcome to subscribe. However, to keep the conversation focused, we're going to limit posting to Objectivist practitioners of an evolutionary diet. Everyone else can lurk. We're going to construe that "evolutionary diet" broadly to include Cordain's Paleo Diet, the Primal Blueprint, the Atkins Diet, Protein Power, The Zone, Weston A. Price, and the like. While I certainly have criticisms of some of these diets, the basic goal is to eat foods appropriate to the human animal, as informed by our evolutionary history.

However, Monica and I have terribly serious problem with this new list: we can't figure out what to name it! I'd like to use the OWhatever format, if possible. We don't like OPaleo, as "paleo" is too narrow and too much associated with Cordain. We don't like anything with "primal" or "caveman" or "primitive" or "traditional": we don't want to celebrate primitive man. We don't want anything specific to food or diet, as questions of fitness will also be central to the list. Something suggesting our evolutionary approach would be good, and so one option would be "OEvHealth." However, we're not thrilled about that.

So we thought that we'd ask you -- most excellent NoodleFoodleDoodlers -- what do you suggest?


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Foot Coffins

By Unknown

A few weeks ago, the NY Times ran a pretty good story on the barefoot running trend: Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants. Here's the basic story:

Recent research suggests that for all their high-tech features, modern running shoes may not actually do much to improve a runner’s performance or prevent injuries. Some runners are convinced that they are better off with shoes that are little more than thin gloves for the feet — or with no shoes at all.

Plenty of medical experts disagree with this notion. The result has been a raging debate in running circles, pitting a quirky band of barefoot runners and researchers against the running-shoe and sports-medicine establishments.
The establishment view is that -- despite millions of years of barefoot evolution -- the human foot is nonetheless seriously defective:
"In 95 percent of the population or higher, running barefoot will land you in my office," said Dr. Lewis G. Maharam, medical director for the New York Road Runners, the group that organizes the New York City Marathon. "A very small number of people are biomechanically perfect," he said, so most need some sort of supportive or corrective footwear.
And here's the view that I've found fits my own experience:
"The shoe arguably got in the way of evolution," said Galahad Clark, a seventh-generation shoemaker and chief executive of the shoemaker Terra Plana, based in London. "They're like little foot coffins that stopped the foot from working the way it's supposed to work."
(Foot coffins! Too perfect!) Last year, I was hobbled by unbearable and untreatable foot pain whenever I attempted even moderate running and hiking -- until I went barefoot. While barefoot is surely not for everyone, I say: foot coffin dogma be damned!


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