❤️[Podcast] Tim Ferriss Interviews Esther Perel on Maintaining Desire and Rethinking Infidelity

Tim Ferriss is in Kevin Rose’s words, “very private,” despite his very public personality and lifestyle business. We, the audience, see a very detailed and in-depth view of some parts of his life, but with things like love and relationships, he is more reserved.

I have often felt curious about that side of him, and this episode starts to pull back the veil just a bit. They have a very interesting conversation about modern relationships and the implications of too-much honesty in relationships.

Esther Perel is the daughter of two holocaust survivors who is a world-renowned therapist specializing in relationships and adultery. Fluent and working in more than half a dozen languages, she brings a culturally diverse perspective to the conversation. Her wide-ranging therapeutic experience gives her many experiences and examples to draw on. She does an excellent job of articulating and contrasting different ideas of what is normal for different cultures.

They talk about the how American culture’s “traditional” relationship model has evolved from defining monogamy as one person for life, to serial monogamy as the norm. And in both cases, clandestine adultery as a norm.

They discuss polyamory and the importance of considering the cost and burden to partners when considering whether to reveal indiscretions which they seem to argue are inevitable with our culture’s unrealistic ideas of what relationships should be like.

This was a fascinating listen which left me feeling very unsure about how I feel about many of the topics they covered.

Tim also recommends checking out her TED Talk which he describes as being, “on maintaining desire and rethinking infidelity.”

She also talks about several best-selling books she has written on this topic. This one in particular I intend to read…

I will relisten to this episode many times!

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❤️ [Podcast][Must Listen] Tim Ferriss – Exploring Smart Drugs, Fasting, and Fat Loss — Dr. Rhonda Patrick

This episode has an unbelievable amount of information. The Guest is Dr. Rhonda Patrick, who Tim describes as, “an American biochemist and scientist.” She has done extensive research and work in the fields of the cellular biology, genetics, nutrition, and nootropics. She views aging as a disease to be treated, and elaborates in depth on all of these topics.

There were a few big takeaways right off the bat;

  • Regular sauna use is really really good for you, for a huge number of well researched reasons.
  • There is a tremendous amount of research around the influence of genetics on nutrition, and the fact that nutrition works differently for everyone. Having recently synthesized my genome with 23AndMe, I was very interested in her comments about various services which will allow you to bring over your genome for dietary analysis. This is something I will need to look in to.
  • Nootropics or any drugs which work by prevent reuptake in the brain cause down-regulation, or the reduced capacity of the brain to deal with normal levels of those neurotransmitters. She goes in depth into the implications of this and her conclusions about how to use those.
  • NSAIDs are really really bad for you. I had no idea about the mountain of recent research linking them to everything from stroke to heart attacks. As someone who takes them almost every day, I will certainly stop doing that. She suggests several great, healthy, natural alternatives.
  • Sulforaphane is very important and I should eat a lot more of it, (ie. Broccoli). It is very important for many cellular processes which prevent and repair the damage that leads to aging. It also drives the growth of new neurons and body systems which ward off insects.
  • She goes in depth into her experience with nootropics and dietary supplements and the ones she takes every day. I will need to look further into these.
Fasting and time-restricted diets are very good for cells and for fighting the kind of damage that leads to aging.

Fasting makes your body consume sick cells for energy at a much higher rate than normal, decreasing the chances for cancer and improving the function of the tissues and organs composed of these cells.

This goes hand in hand with cellular genesis, or the creation of new cells which also speeds up during fasting. These new cells are more efficient and functional than the old, less-functional cells which are converted to energy.

Research also shows that animals which eat during a smaller window like 10 hours per day have pervasive improvements in function of systems all over the body from the mitochondria to the digestive system. In tests with mice, this also leads to up to 20% longer lifespan.

 

There was way too much information to absorb in a continuous stream. A few minutes in, I found myself enumerating the lenses I would need to re-listen through:

  • Nootropics and other good supplements
  • Fasting and time-restricted eating
  • Cellular health and rejuvenation and its impact on cognitive performance and long-term decline

 

I will be re-listening to this episode a number of times in the next few months and expanding on this post. For now, it has inspired me to start eating during a smaller window, for now just ten hours. This is the largest window she says will likely still confer the benefits of time-restricted diet.

Stay tuned for updates!

 

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Ayn Rand – Atlas Shrugged

I first read this book in 2010. It was a gift from the senior development engineer at Build.com during a series of interviews I had there. It is the kind of book that gives you a lot more questions than answers.

There is a knife’s edge today which I feel myself balancing on. On one side, there are people like Peter Thiel who have amazing ideas about business growth and the future, alongside a casual disregard for altruism and social responsibility. On the other side are people who spend all their time and energy on helping others, with a casual disregard for the business growth that could elevate their ideas to having a real impact on the future.

In the same way, politically, there are socialists like Bernie who want to feed the hungry and educate the masses, but casually disregard fiscal responsibility. Opposite him, Ron Paul and the libertarian austerity crowd want to let the hungry starve and close the schools in order to balance budgets. Both relegate themselves from accomplishing their goals by ignoring the valid points on the other side.

In the middle, there are a few impact entrepreneurs who accomplish change and improve the world by building businesses that create change as a product or service. Tesla and Solar City are easy examples, but there are many others. These people balance their budgets while building products that have a huge impact on real problems facing the world today.

I think it takes honestly understanding both sides and thinking both ways to see the narrow  path between them.

Far From The Middle

Atlas Shrugged is a long way from that path of effectiveness through the center of the issues, and it informs a great many people today. This book is an important part of understanding the way the world is today and how one side thinks.

Rand does a great job of creating a vision of what John McCaskey calls, “an exciting moral enterprise.” She shows a world with two sides, the bums and mooches on one side and the heroic “Prime Movers” who lead industry, build products, and make things happen in the world. She calls her philosophy Objectivism, assuming the denotation of an unbiased and unarguable validity. It is worth pointing out that this philosophy is contradicted by a huge number of examples from her life, and its foundational arguments are based within a drastically simplified world.

In an early metaphor in the book, she describes a large oak tree which had been seen as a symbol of power and strength by one character. It is split by lightning and shatters. The character looks inside and sees that the tree’s heart had long since rotted away, and all that was left was its shell, “The living power had gone, and the shape it left had not been able to stand without it”

Her characters set out to convince all the Prime Movers to abandon the world and retreat to a remote and secret mountain valley where they can wait for the world to collapse, only to re-emerge and rebuild it in their image once the mooches have realized the error of their ways.

It is a very convincing story, and it really makes you want to become someone she would consider a Prime Mover, and to avoid doing anything she might think of as “Moochy.”

The problem is that the vast majority of the world is full of people who don’t fit into her molds, and people who don’t want to lead or make things. And there is nothing wrong with that.

I found myself constantly thinking back to Buckminster Fuller‘s famous quote, “We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

Probably for that one in ten-thousand person Fuller is talking about, this book is great. As a very driven and ambitious person, it is easy to get distracted and discouraged by the lack of drive, direction and ambition most people have, and this book really taps into that. In this world, those mooches and bums are cattle to be dehumanised with pejorative titles. This makes it easy to ignore them and focus on creating and fulfilling her grand vision of being what she calls a Heroic Being, a Prime Mover.

There are really great and valuable things in this book, and it is always a very inspiring read, but I worry about those who consider it a kind of religious text. There is so much wrong with it and the kind of world it would like to create.

❤️ [Documentary] Adam Curtis – HyperNormalisation

Adam Curtis is an amazing documentarian and this is his best work yet.

HyperNormalisation focuses on the culture in the USSR at the end. Curtis describes the meaning behind the title, “…everyone knew that the system in place wasn’t working and that the politicians didn’t believe it any longer. Yet at the same time, because they didn’t have any alternative, everyone just accepted it as normal even though they knew it was abnormal.”

There are so many parallels to America today, and he explores them in depth. This came out before Trump became president, but interestingly it largely follows his bizarre life and career as a hypernormalisationist.

Trump is a special example, “over the past 40 years, politicians, financiers and technological utopians, rather than face up to the real complexities of the world, retreated. Instead, they constructed a simpler version of the world in order to hang on to power. And as this fake world grew, all of us went along with it, because the simplicity was reassuring. Even those who thought they were attacking the system – the radicals, the artists, the musicians, and our whole counterculture – actually became part of the trickery, because they, too, had retreated into the make-believe world, which is why their opposition has no effect and nothing ever changes.”

Through this lens, the theatrical insanity of Trump makes a lot more sense. He is a constant geyser spewing out the kind of world he wants. Nobody knows how to react to him because it breaks the metaphor of our hypernormalised world.

[Documentary] Adam Curtis – All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace

Years ago, I came across this documentary series and was struck by its intense and unusual style. Adam Curtis has become one of my favorite documentarians. Luckily for me, he is prolific. His new documentary Hypernormalisation is one of his best.

All of his work is about the interplay between power and economics and politics. All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace focuses largely on the idealism of Ayn Rand and her followers and how they built the “New Economy” on top of new information technologies.

Curtis is very critical of Rand and her ideas and the way that most of it did not work out how they wanted. As a tech entrepreneur who aspires to climb echelons and maximize my impact, this topic was close to my heart. I found myself feeling very conflicted about both sides of this argument.

After watching this series, I was compelled to read Atlas Shrugged twice. Both have given me many questions and few answers, but I feel like they are the right questions.

Neil Strauss – The Game

This is a book about a group of terrible people.

A few months ago, I was sitting in a cafe drinking some coffee, when I noticed an odd-looking man reading this book. I Googled the title, and found that it was a New York Times nonfiction best seller about an investigative journalist infiltrating the pickup artist community, and relating the strategies he learned which allowed him to make-out with a woman just minutes after meeting her.  He even became roommates with Courtney Love in the process and succeeded in seducing Britney Spears to some degree.

I had not previously heard of such a community, and found it fascinating. Almost everything I read about the book paints it in a very negative and puerile light. This is probably a well-earned reputation. The people in the story work together to refine manipulation tactics in order to seduce women into having sex with them. Many of these tactics are trivially easy to employ and left me feeling worried for the unwitting targets of this community who likely do not stand a chance of resisting.

I’m not sure I can disagree with their actions morally, they never do anything without consent. But they certainly objectify women and suffer some consequences of their purely shallow lives. Their many one-night stands and transactional interpersonal relationships leave them feeling incomplete and lacking for basic human connections; one of the main characters suffers several mental and emotional breakdowns.

The characters often relate their “scores” or the number of women they have slept with. These are one of their main success metrics. As a gay man who frequents bathhouses and sex clubs, I found their high scores of 10-20 to be hilarious and adorable. There are definitely cultural differences between gay and straight culture around sex and promiscuity, and apparently several orders of magnitude of difference in volume.

There are a few topics I think everyone should read books on: real estate law, investment strategy, business. Maybe this topic should fall in that list. Everyone is sure to encounter these tactics being used against them at some point, either by a practiced expert, or a casual neophyte. When these tactics are used on me now, I will see through them and be less likely to succumb to them if I am not so inclined.

23andMe – My Genes

I recently signed up to do 23andMe. This is a service that sequences your DNA and provides in-depth analyses of various traits and risk factors as well as a detailed analysis of your family history and origins.

They offer two options: a cheaper $100 Ancestry Service which just shows you where you’re from, or the more expensive $200 Health + Ancestry Service which also gives you access to your entire genome and the details of all your genes and what they mean.

I chose the latter, and soon thereafter received my specimen container. A test tube came in the mail for me to spit in and send back. It took about 6 or 7 weeks to get my results.

My Origins

I was not surprised to learn that I am 99.8% European, as I have done lots of genealogy work to learn about my family’s history. I WAS surprised to learn that one of my fifth or sixth-grandparents on my mom’s side was 100% African. It was even able to determine that they were likely born between 1720 and 1840 based on the genes I got from them. This is definitely not reflected by the family tree! Somebody had a secret 😉

CCR5: HIV immunity

I was very interested to see my CCR5 gene expression. I was hoping to have homozygous CCR5-Δ32. This would mean I received the Δ32 gene mutation from both parents, and am completely immune to HIV. Based on my haplogroups, I have a high relative probability of having this gene. Unfortunately, I am only heterozygous for CCR5-Δ32. This means one parent, in this case my dad based on his haplogroups, gave me the gene, but my mom did not. Having heterozygous CCR5-Δ32 means that my cells have less than 50% of the normal functioning chemokines. These are a structure which some viruses like HIV or the common cold use to get into cells. So I am far less likely to get HIV than someone without any CCR5-Δ32 genes, but far more likely than someone with two. It’s not the news I was hoping for, but still a plus. I will have to keep taking PrEP, but I will rest easier knowing that the PrEP has backup.

GJB2: Deafness

I was also interested to see my GJB2 expression. This is the gene linked to genetic deafness. My family is very active in deaf culture and the deaf community. My genotype was G:G which is described as having “unclear significance with regard to deafness.” It is at least not the genotype we know will cause problems.

Other Insights

They accurately determined my weight and height based on my age as well as my hair and eye color. They also gave me lots of suggestions. For example, I am more likely to gain weight if I eat saturated fats, compared to the average person. And I am not genetically predisposed to lactose intolerance, meaning my current lactose intolerance is likely due to a lack of bacterial cultures as a result of rarely eating lactose. Luckily, there were no scary red flags like cancer risks or any other serious diseases I am predisposed to.

Conclusions

This was very interesting, and I think I will probably try some of the competing products to compare my results and see if they have any deeper insights.

I highly recommend 23andMe to anyone curious about their heritage or their genetic predispositions! And please tell me how it goes for you!

Ernest Hemingway – The Sun Also Rises

In July of last year, I listened to Brett McKay’s Art of Manliness podcast Episode #219: The Real Life Story of Hemingway and The Sun Also Rises.

McKay likes interviewing biographers who are writing about figures who are the actual subject of his interviews. In this episode, he talks with author Lesley Blume about her new book which goes into the back-story and inspiration of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.

The podcast is a great listen, and a great preface to the book. In it, the author tells what may be a true story of how he went on a trip with some fellow expatriates from Paris to see bullfighting in Spain. It is a great story with an interesting style.

I found that Hemingway left me wanting to talk like him.

He likes to say the minimum possible, and leave you to fill in the blanks.

 

That said, the story breaks the traditional plot form, and does not end with a resolution. It is told in the first person from the perspective of the author. He is even a writer in the story.

He goes on an adventure with some friends which really doesn’t end well for anyone, and leads to far more questions than it answers.

Brett Mckay talked about how Hemingway was trying to reinvent masculinity. I can sort of see that in this story, but I think all of his gender roles are very unusual, and I think I will have to reread it several times before I can tell how I feel about any of the characters, and whether I relate to any of them.

There is so much between the lines, it’s easy to imagine a million different and entirely plausible interpretations of this story.

I recommend trying several different whiskeys with soda water while reading this, as it is a favorite of several of the characters and forms the centerpiece of many scenes. :]

❤️ Must Listen: Tim Ferriss Interviews Dr. Phil Zimbardo of the Stanford Prison Experiment on What Makes a Person Either Heroic or Evil Under Pressure

Tim Ferriss interviews Dr. Phil Zimbardo of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment on what makes a person either heroic or evil under pressure.

This was an amazing episode. They go very in depth on the research around this topic from antiquity to the cutting edge, and they identify several key things to watch out for in order to avoid being evil.

I hadn’t really considered it before, but Dr. Zimbardo hammers home the point that groups of people will often do things that many of them would never consider doing on their own. I would have scoffed at this, but they discuss in depth the enormous experimental evidence which suggests that situations and groups around you have an huge impact on your subjective morality and choices.

There are lots of great examples and lots of practical things to watch out for. This is a must-listen. I will certainly revisit this episode many times.

 

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Tim Ferriss with Kevin Rose Drunk in a Bathhouse in Japan

These two together is automatically magic, and the fact that they are drunk in a rural Japanese bathhouse should hardly surprise anyone who follows them.

Kevin Rose turns 40 the day before the episode was recorded, which seems shocking because I remember seeing him on BusinessWeek when I was selling websites at 18 years old and aspiring to do the things he was doing.

They talk about a lot of different topics from building apps to Japanese culture and lots of other interesting topics.

This line stuck with me, “[Apps don’t] have to be everything on day one… [Take your] list of 15 features that you would like to see in the next two years, narrow it down to 3 to 5 that you must have for version 1.0 and go launch with that.” -Kevin Rose

Check it out!

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