Category Archives: post face job

plate shift or screws loose

Plates shift all the time.  In the earth’s lithosphere, the theory of plate tectonics describes how the continents drift over time.  Drift is barely measurable during a human lifetime.  Enough drift produces a shift.

I had been living in San Francisco, CA for six years when a plate shifted below the Loma Preita mountain north of Santa Cruz and caused devastation in the SF Bay Area.  I was in Hong Kong on a short trip at the time and could only watch the news and hope that those I knew were OK.

Nowadays though, I’m keeping my eye on another type of plate shift, one held in place by a set of screws.  I came to New York on a routine home visit and prudently had the periodic recommended CT scan on my neck/head.  The results showed the beginning of possible plate shift.  (Ahh, so that’s the reason my face has had that tingling feeling lately.)

The doctor who installed the hardware told me we could go in and take out the plate.  Plates or rods are installed in bones so that they properly set, after which the metal serves no purpose.

The scan shows that the screws holding in the plate may be coming out.  Not only that, there appears to be deterioration in the upper part of the mandible, the result of the gift that radiation, from five years ago, keeps on giving.  Taking out the drifting plate may be like “opening a can of worms,” the surgeon says.  The surgery could resolve the issue or complicate it.  There is no road map for radiation effects.

“Let’s take another CT scan in six months,” the doctor says, “and until then, just live life,…and make sure you don’t get hit in the face.”  I guess what he meant was try your best to prevent a plate shift.

In the meantime, if I hear someone telling me I’ve got a few screws loose, I’ll know they won’t be wrong.

gaining vs winning with humble pie

Yesterday I went for a bike ride with a friend (BU) who met me at the NJ side of the George Washington bridge in NY.  We used to ride more often together but lately our schedules haven’t been in sync.  As we rode up to Nyack, NY, we discussed various rides we’ve been doing and what our training schedules have been like.

I’ve tapered off to a once-a-week rider this summer (suited up rides).  BU has been  more intense, gearing up for a sanctioned 24-hour competition in a couple of weeks.  (We did one of these rides together three years ago, the summer I had a ball in my throat).  As we rode, he told me about his recent trip to Maui and his annual Cycle to the Sun race (from the sea to 10,000 ft).  He said he bettered his previous time by 30 minutes this year.  And although he hasn’t said it, I know his personal goal for the 24 hour event is 400 miles.

BU is one of the (rare) few who is about gaining, not winning.  What others are doing is not important in comparison.  Many confuse winning and gaining.

As we rode up 9W towards Nyack, which must be one of the heaviest ridden corridors for cyclist in the country (most serious cyclists from NYC use this route), it’s easy to get bitten by the competition bug.  On 9W Saturday and Sunday mornings, cyclists are not out for a leisurely smell-the-roses ride.  There is a certain need for speed.  Or at least, a need to push.  When other cyclists pass you, if you are not careful, the bug bites and you get pulled out of your riding pace.  Not good or bad, as there are times when a nudge from a bite is gain promoting.  Point is, there are not many sports or activities (maybe running or walking), where, over the course of hours, there are scads of opportunities to defend  yourself against the competition bug bite.  It’s a microcosm for what affects many of us in much of what we do.

When I ride in Colombia, there is a 3,500 foot climb on the back side of Medellin.  It’s a favorite for hundreds of cyclists who prefer an outdoor spin class.  Most ride the hill for time.  The discussion among cyclists is always about your latest time on “Las Palmas.”  It defines how good you are as a cyclist.

I wouldn’t want to argue over the pros and cons of competition, whether it’s good or not, except to say that merit may lie in gaining vs winning.  The subtleties may come down to behavior and character.  In politics, as in sports, the need to win seems to trump the need for gain.  Why would so many top athletes cheat to win?  Why do so many politicians focus on winning small battles at the expense of gaining for the whole.  Win at almost all cost is something we learn.  (You could say that some want to win for economic personal gain, but by cheating, it’s a corrupted gain.)

I don’t mean to imply that the will to win is a not a good thing.  It’s only natural to see and know how we rank next to our fellow humans.  And to want to do better.

Last year I read an article titled A Truly American Scholar, about the recently deceased James Quinn.  He was a popular professor at Chicago, UCLA, Pepperdine, and Boston College, but spent most of his time teaching at Harvard.  He taught students to “be enthusiastic over prudence.”  One of the things he said about winning, “The will to win might make you forgo the desire for gain.  It can be dangerous and, because it cannot be removed from human desires, it needs to be controlled.  Here is where character comes in.”

Winning is like a photo.  It’s a snapshot in time, where gaining produces broader results.  Will winning a short race in cycling make me a better cyclist?  Perhaps.  But if the goal is gaining better overall long-term health, the answer might not be the same.

I’m a couple of gears slower in the saddle this year than I was a few short years ago.  When it seems that most guys and gals are passing me on the 9W corridor, it’s good prudence practice to take out the non-compete bug spray for (mental) protection.  The spray has the effect of eating humble pie.  A humble pie diet is developed with a taste for gratitude and being thankful that there is any pie at all.  I’d better be content that I’m a bit slower then before.  There are other not-so-visible factors that come into play when the focus shifts to winning.  If I’m going to win, I’d better focus on winning at humble pie.  It may be where the gain lies.

what the #sleep (debt)?

Over the years, I’ve read and heard that as we grow older we need less sleep.  That was good back-pocket news.  Knowing we could get away with less sleep as we age meant more time for productivity, even if productivity meant having fun.  For years, it seemed that functioning on six hours of sleep was sufficient.  So the news that I’d need even less later (now?) was a positive consequence of aging.

So I’m not sure why eight hours seems more necessary these days.  What the sleep?  What’s going on?  I was supposed to have more wake time, not less.

During my 20’s & 30’s, I’d wake up and go straight to work like multitudes of others.  Personal time like working-out, studies, entertainment, or relaxing was reserved for the evenings.  And the evenings always seemed full.  Full enough, that more than six hours of sleep was a serious cramp in (life) style.

In my 40’s, I made the big switch of moving exercise to the morning, which had a not so small impact on sleep.  So that exercise did not slide off the priority list it was important to get to bed at a certain time.  Up by 5am meant in bed (and asleep) by 11pm.  It was a gradual acclimation of moving sleep time earlier (and making sure mobile devices were switched off).

I don’t know what happened lately that two additional hours of sleep crept in and have comfortably secured themselves as part of my routine.  Up by 6am and in bed by 10pm.  What the sleep?  And they say that two of the indicators of sleep depravation are falling to sleep within five minutes of going to bed and needing an alarm to get up.  Guilty and guilty.

Everyone’s sleep needs are different.  That’s logical.  But because we are biological creatures, there is a range of normalcy, which is 7-9 hours per adult per night.  Outside those ranges lay outliers and those at risk (to things not normal).

They also say there is a thing called sleep debt.  We are given our biological machines on the condition that we sleep an average of 35 years for every 100 (counting early years needs).  So if I’ve had two decades of six hours daily when I should have had eight, means I’m 14,600 hours in debt.  Maybe I’m paying back that debt now.  If so, I’ve been operating for a long time at a slightly less than favorable efficiency.  Does that mean I’m more efficient now?  Not if my debt isn’t repaid yet.  I’m only 1.67 years  behind in sleep.  I can get out of the debt column and back to balanced if I spend the next eight years sleeping 13 hours daily.  Or maybe self induced coma is a consideration, although missing 20 months in a row would be a stiff payment.

I’m signing up for that tutorial course Quick Books for Sleep.  That will help me answer questions like: ‘Have I just had too much fun for too long?’

I’m paying lots of debts recently, and sleep seems to be one of them.  What the sleep, debt?

August 17, 2013 update

…..don’t take my word for sleep, how about a circadian neuroscientist.

 

CO2

Last week in Lima, Peru was a reminder of how bad traffic is in a large capital city — one without any kind of efficient public transportation system.  It’s also chaotic.  Bogota in Colombia is another traffic-dense capital with no metro system to speak of (not counting their crazy bus system).

Medellin, where I am writing this, is bad, but not as bad as the others.  At least they have a metro system which runs every few minutes and is packed from morning to night.  The thing many of these cities have in common is that they are jammed with vehicles that belch out massive amounts of CO2.  There doesn’t seem to be rules.  The black clouds from vehicle pipes simply floats up, dissipates, and is absorbed by our atmosphere — out of site out of mind.

We hear quite a lot about global warming and greenhouse gasses.  One side predicts we are dooming the planet.  The other side thinks the planet can take whatever abuse we dish out.

The earth has had ice on the poles for thousands of years.  Hundreds of thousands.  We do this thing called ice coring.  It’s a way to read the temperature and CO2 history of the earth as far back as 800,000 years.  The DNA of the micro air-bubbles trapped in the ice tells an accurate climate tale for each of those years.  For 800,000 years, temperature and CO2 has fluctuated up and down together.    During that time, CO2 has never been more than 280 ppm (parts per million).  That is until recently.

From the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (the year 1750) until 1950, the level of CO2 in the air has risen 50 ppm to about 340 ppm.  From 1953 to 2006, the level rose another 50 ppm to 390 ppm.  Just this year, we’ve seen measurements of 400 ppm, more than 40% higher than the world has seen for 800,000 years.  And if temperature fluctuates up with CO2 levels,……

You don’t need to be a meteorologist, a climatologist, or a rocket scientist to understand that a dramatic increase in CO2 levels means the earth is warming — 800,000 years of data doesn’t lie.

Multiple the hugely inefficient transport systems of cities around the globe and it’s no wonder CO2 levels have spiked and are going higher.  It’s a worldwide conundrum.  We need urgently to make (a lot) less CO2.

We’ve all got to do our part — heavy energy conservation.

control of the window shades (let the light shine in)

I’m certainly no road warrior, nor would I want to be.  But I fly often enough to run into plenty.  Road warriors are the super-duper frequent flyers on all the major airlines who are golden members of elite clubs with millions of miles.  And there seems to be millions of them.  They get first dibs on airline priority seats.

Priority seats are those where the seat in front of you, when in the reclined position, is not in your lap.  For any flight longer than a movie length, seating is key to flight comfort.

Airlines have figured out how to run mostly full flights.  In a supply and demand economy, they’ve cut supply enough that getting a good seat can be tricky.  In the typical three seat configuration, not many eagerly choose the middle seat.  Maybe if you are a hetro dude and you could see that two attractive females were occupying the window and aisle seats, you might jump at selecting that middle seat without a second thought.  But we don’t have that kind of visibility so no one grabs middle seats.  We choose between aisle or window.  Wait too long and you won’t have a choice.  It will be middle.

I always choose aisle.  I’m not a happy camper being pinned.  Maybe picking middle or window would be good meditation practice, but I’ll leave that for another life.  The aisle seat advantage is obvious — you can stand when you want to.  The window seat, while more comfortable with the plane’s side to rest against, also comes with full control of the shades.  Both have their downsides.  The negatives of the aisle are,  you’ve got to put up with constant bumping by anyone who walks by and you are left to the whim of the window seat occupier’s shade control.  The one bummer of the window seat is being trapped, usually by two others.

In every row, there are two windows that the window seat occupant can control.  And that control is mostly abused.

If the flight is not crossing a half dozen time zones where you need to help your circadian system adjust, and it’s a daytime flight, why close the shades?  OK, there are times it’s extra bright but that only lasts for a little while.  And if the shade must be dropped, why all the way?  A night or red-eye flight is different.  It’s already dark.  But if it’s a daytime flight, the window shades should be open.  It should be another airline rule.

It is downright annoying to take a daytime flight in the dark.  Evidently though, I’m an oddball because the majority of flyers who hold window seats love shuttering the shades.  Both of them.  Doesn’t matter if they are resting, eating, watching a movie, or picking their nose, the majority choose dark over light.

On one flight returning from Dubai to the U.S. I had a bulkhead middle seat and it afforded me the best of both aisle and window.  I could control one of the shades and still stand when I wanted.  But I had to take control of the shade at the outset.  The window seat occupant thought he had control of both, but I quickly showed him, by gaining control of one of the shades, that he would not dictate the amount of light that would enter our row space.

What is odd though, is that the flight I’m on as I’m writing this, from Lima to Quito, has only a minimum number of shades drawn.  It’s refreshing.  It’s around noon and the light is shining in (even with a movie playing).  It’s not alway this way.  The afternoon flight to Lima from Bogota the other day ended up mostly dark.  The woman in the window seat of my row closed both right away.  Se looked at me glaring at her and quickly looked away.  She knew I was not pleased that she blocked out the light.  The outside light was not too bright and she wasn’t doing anything that eliminating light would improve.  I kept glancing at the closed shades and she gradually eased them open a bit.  I was happy for at least a little daylight during the daytime.

Why so many people shut out light is beyond my comprehension.  Maybe it’s a flight thing.  Being in the dark may be conducive to lots of good work, but I cant think of any on an airplane.  I’m writing this on my trusty iPad with full daylight.  It works fine in the daylight.

Later,……….

I’m now on another flight from Quito.  It’s a sunny afternoon and I got lucky again as my row-mate has not shut the shades.  But directly across the aisle, all shades are drawn.  You’ve gotta think that when you shut the shades, you shut them for everyone in your row.  You alter the lighting for the area.  Wouldn’t it be courteous to ask the others in the row if they mind you shutting out the light?  Not asking is rude.  But rude is normal where shade control is concerned.

I remember before individual screens when movies were shown on center isle TVs that dropped down every five or six rows.  I was stuck in a window seat on a daytime flight.  We had just reached cruising altitude when they made an announcement for everyone to close the window shades so that movie viewing would be improved.  I did not drop my two shades.  I was finally in control and wasn’t ready to give it up so quickly.   The flight attendant came to my row and asked if I’d please shut the shades for the movie.  I said “no thank you, I’m not watching the movie.”  She seemed taken aback.  I shut them halfway as a compromise.

Besides light being cheerier (than darkness), the ability to see something outside is a hell of a lot more interesting than a grey screen.  I’d rather watch a movie with glare and have the window shades open than trade darkness for improved screen resolution.  But that’s me.  I know I’m the oddball.  Most prefer shutting out the light.  It’s just a fact, the freedom to stand without bothering others trumps control of the shade.  Maybe the airlines could skip the announcement about smoking being illegal on flights (since even the dumbest fliers know that), and instead add “if you occupy a window seat, please confer with your row mates before making a unilateral decision to shut the shades.”

a car at birth or a health nut?

Imagine if we were given a car at birth.  Free.  It would be considered our birth right.  Each of us is allowed only one, so it’s got to last our lifetime.  But this car is an engineering marvel.  It was designed to last 100 years or more with unlimited miles.  All we need to do is follow three rules:  1) put in high-grade fuel, 2) perform periodic maintenance, 3) run it right.  Three simple rules and our car would last from birth to a century or more.

We would learn about these birth-right marvels at an early age.  If we took care of our cars and followed the three rules, we’d learn, our gifted vehicle would take us just about anywhere, at anytime.  So wonderful is this gift, that starting at the age of reason, we’d be drilled about the three golden rules so that our marvel machines would last a lifetime.

Imagine now (you saw this coming?) that our bodies are the engineering marvels and we were taught those same three golden rules.  That if we use high-grade fuel, perform periodic maintenance, and run them right, we last well into 100 years with little problem.

High-grade fuel.  Organically grown, mostly local whole food.  The closer to home, the higher the grade.  And the further the fuel is from looking like it grew from the earth, the lower grade.  Boxes, cans, packages of shelf-life = low-grade.  Our bodies may run fine on low-grade fuel for decades.  We run with low-grade fuel to economize and nothing seems to be an issue.  But after decades of running low-grade, the system starts running less and less efficiently, well below peak performance.  Continually running high-grade fuel keeps our machines running at optimal level, cleanly, while accumulating little crud.  Thing is, if we run high-grade fuel most of the time, a tank of low-grade fuel once in a while does little harm.  Running primarily high-grade allows us those (comfort) times to splurge on buccal pleasures (otherwise known as junk food).

Periodic maintenance.  Many states have rules that cars must undergo periodic maintenance. The rules are in place because we become careless and undisciplined about maintenance scheduling.  Any machine, including (especially) our biologically engineered marvels, responds positively to periodic maintenance.  Everyday stress is normal.  Accumulated stress is damaging.  Retreats, meditations, reading self-help books, talking with credible people who have “been there, done that,” changing careers, taking vacations, are all forms of maintenance.  It’s basic that we take the required time to drain stress and recharge batteries.

Run them right.  Early in life, I knew a couple of grease balls who tore cars apart and rebuilt them.  They re-engineered the motors and elevated them to souped-up phenomena.  Their cars could pop wheelies.  They cared for their cars, ran the engines hard, but their vehicles remained pristine.  To them, using the motor’s full spectrum of the RPM gauge was essential.  They periodically red-lined the gears and knew that if they ran them too timidly, they’d start to bog down.  They also knew that going over the tachometer’s redline was as risky to the engine as letting it idle too long.  Machines idling too long clog the system.  A sedentary system is a clogged system. If we are not routine and consistent about running through the full (safe) rpm spectrum, our systems bog down over time.

Throughout early life, we’d learn the intricacies of each of the rules.  We would learn that consistently breaking one of these three rules could be detrimental to our health.  We might break a rule or two for a while with no apparent consequence, until we spit and sputter and then wonder why.  Break all three rules and we are asking for trouble by driving our machines to an early demise.

There was an article in last week’s NYT’s Real Estate Section referring to homes for health nuts.  Obviously the editor was trying to be cute.  We’ve evolved to where those who care about the three rules are called health nuts, or some other version of nutty.  We’ve reversed the direction of the nut.

A few years ago, I was on a collision course to wreck the system.  I was ignoring at least one of the rules and paid a heavy maintenance fee.

Lots of rule-breaking damage can be repaired as we go.  But it’s a risky bet going into the garage for a major unexpected overhaul.  Better to be a nut.  Better to follow the three golden rules, and drill them home at an early age.

Now, where is that candy bar with nuts that I’ve been saving?

where are your clothes made?

Ever since the building collapse in Bangladesh a couple of months ago that killed over 1,100 garment workers, the New York Times has run almost weekly front-page articles covering the story.  Each piece names retailers and brands, US and European, who make substantial garment purchases in Bangladesh.  The WSJ has also had their share of B’desh articles recently.  These periodicals are bringing garment sourcing front and center.

The articles point to Bangladesh as one of the cheapest places on earth to make apparel.  The writers of these articles seem to point a finger at the brands and retailers for exploiting a cheap source.  But what they don’t point to is why.  The answer is simple.  We, the mass market in the US and Europe, demand cheap clothes.

How many times have we complemented someone on what they were wearing only to have that person proudly quote how cheap they bought the item?  We love bargains, the cheaper the better.  When we find deals, we share our find with whoever will listen.  We can’t get enough of them.  We are mass market in constant search of bargains.  And an endless number of retailers are fighting for our attention by scouring the earth to bring us the cheapest garments possible.

We are affected by huge volumes of media showing us what it means to be fashionable.  The cheaper the garments are, the more we can buy.  Many mass market retailers have done creative work making garments available to the masses for incredibly inexpensive prices.  Principally, because we are a good audience.  We consume, throw away, recycle, and consume some more.

It used to be that people had a few key clothing items in their closets.  We didn’t used to collect clothes just to have more clothes.  That was then.  Today is a different story.

Part of the time I lived in San Francisco it was with a girlfriend who had relatively few clothes (in comparison to most).  She could afford more, but chose not to.  She always looked elegantly fashionable yet her closet was small.  She was in the fashion business.  She invested in quality pieces that were fashionably classic, mostly black or white, and combined them in ways that made it appear she had more outfits they she did.  Her philosophy was to have fewer higher quality pieces rather than many cheaper ones.  She was not mass market.  Most of us are.

Years ago, I worked for a large speciality retailer.  When I started with them, 60-70% of their clothes were made in the USA.  Today that number is somewhere under 2%.  That transition took place for main two reasons: 1) people got better jobs and 2) competition demanded we find cheaper labor.

Sewing garments is a low skill job.  One doesn’t think “one day I’m going to grow up to be a sewing machine operator.”  Unless you order a custom, fully-constructed blazer or a couture piece, you likely don’t need a craftsperson stitching your garments.  In all likelihood, your clothes were stitched by a production line of sewing operators each performing a single operation over-and-over, hour-after-hour, day-after-day, making minimum wage in a foreign country.  The larger the buyer’s order, the more efficient the sewers become at that one operation, and the cheaper the clothes become.  It’s simple economies-of-scale.

About two months ago, there was an article in the WSJ: The Economics of a $6.75 shirt.

made with the lowest wages on the globe

made with the lowest wages on the globe

The article talked specifically to Bangladesh.  The author broke down the costs of a $6.75 button-down woven shirt (several x’s that price by the time we buy it).  Using a fine 50s thread count cotton yarn, the fabric cost for the shirt is $4.75.  Accessories like labels, buttons and other items the retailer requires cost another $1.  The remaining $1 gets allocated to cut fabric, sew the garment, light washing, factory & office overhead, marketing, and bank interest.  The Bangladeshi wage of about $80/month comes out of a small portion of that last dollar.  There is not much room to give that worker a raise.  It’s not that the factory would not want to pay the workers more.  If they do, the buyers will go to another low cost country.

Savvy retailers know down to the fraction of a yard or gram of fabric used in each garment.  They measure the efficiency of each sewing operation, called SAM’s (standard allowed minutes), and pay the factory accordingly. Others less detailed will simply not pay more than that last dollar to cut & sew a woven shirt.  The result? Corners get cut.  They are not always evident, but they get cut.

Garments made in cheap labor countries is not a bad thing.  Transiting to low wage countries has helped provide jobs, pulling millions out of lower levels of poverty.  It’s provided fuel for part of that country’s economic engine.  As the engine gains speed, more people are lifted out of poverty.  Those people eventually, after years of production line sewing, want better jobs.  It’s why large garment production factories left the U.S.  It’s now why buyers are leaving China and flooding into countries like Bangladesh.

For designers and buyers in the mass market, price is their guide.  They think fashion, but are hamstrung and limited by price.  The further you get off the bottom of the barrel, the garment quality starts usurping price as the ultimate guide.  But the audience starts to thin the further off the bottom you swim.

Looking at the “made in” label of the garment we purchase is more likely an afterthought, if a thought at all.  Who cares where it was made, it was a deal.  We are a consumption society.

I’d expound in more detail, but right now I’ve got to run to the corner as there is a sale on tee shirts, five for $20.  One can never have enough tee shirts in the closet.  I’m not sure where they are made.  It won’t matter because it’s a bargain to hard to pass up.

organic logic

If you had a choice between an organic strawberry and a non-organic strawberry, which would you choose?  If there was no difference in cost or appearance, the answer might be obvious.  If there was no difference in nutritional value, would the answer still be obvious?  The availability of organic products has exploded over the last dozen years, so the choice between the two is confronting many of us with increasing regularity.

USDA Certified

USDA Certified

Then again, what exactly does organic mean?  Instinctively, it means naturally grown and produced, without synthetic chemical warfare used during the process.  Technically, it means ‘of or derived from living organisms.’  Certified organic means raised without the use of drugs, hormones, synthetic chemicals or pesticides.  (No preservatives allowed.)

We define non-organic as conventional, since the natural method of growing food, at least in this country, equates convention with chemicals.  A century ago organic would have been convention.

It seemed for a while that people buying organic looked organic themselves.  Even those who show up early at local green markets.  Naturally grown, with an unvarnished appearance.  No makeup or dyed hair.  No face tucks.  No preservatives.  Now even more conventional looking folk are getting into the act.

With the sudden growth of organic food, there has been a similar growth in studies and opinions (about the benefits of organic).  As most studies go, the results are clear yet fuzzy.  One study divided kids into two groups and fed one group organic food for a week while the other ate conventional (non-organic).  The result showed that the group who ate conventional food had residual traces of chemical pesticides in their urine that the organically fed kids did not.  It was an easy measurement.  So the question is, are those chemicals harmful?  Is our body’s filter system capable of processing out the bad stuff without side effects?  Apparently, we haven’t done enough scientific experiments.

Current in Wikipedia: “evidence of substantial differences between organic food and conventional food is insufficient to make claims that organic food is healthier or safer…..and the benefit of buying and eating organic may simply be a halo effect.”  People usually buy organic food for one of two reasons; 1) it does not contain pesticides and chemical fertilizer residue, or  2) (they believe) it is more nutritious.  Some buy for both reasons.  “In studies done last year there is insufficient data to support that either of those reasons would be true; i.e., there is no significant difference in nutritional content between organic and conventional food, and conventional food appears to be harmless.”

darn good milky smooth organic saké

darn good milky smooth organic saké

Last week in the Wall Street Journal Special Health Care Section, they featured two opposing views from experts (university professors, specialists in their fields) tackling the question of “whether we would be better off eating a mostly organic diet?”  The short answers were:

  • Yes, because it makes logical sense, even though there are no scientific studies to prove the benefits.
  • No, because there were no studies to prove otherwise and we can’t draw logical conclusions, so why spend the extra money.

The biggest benefit of buying organic could be ecological.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, organic agriculture affects our agro-ecosystem over the long-term.  “Soil building practices such as crop rotation, inter-cropping, symbiotic associations, cover crops, organic fertilizers and minimum tillage…encourage soil fauna and flora, improving soil formation, preventing soil erosion, and creating a more stable system.”  Not only the soil, but organic agriculture does not have the damaging effects on our groundwater as does conventional agriculture.

Growing up my parents always had vegetable gardens.  We were compelled to put in our time there, (from just out of toddlerhood until we were out of the house.)  We recycled all our biodegradable kitchen waste in compost pits/piles (3 pits–one for every third year).  We did this because it made sense.  It made sense that if we were cultivating and reaping natural nutrients from the earth that we somehow replenish those nutrients in a natural way.

the dirty dozen vs the clean 15

the dirty dozen vs the clean 15

Conventional agriculture didn’t evolve out of the desire to feed more people.  It evolved because feeding more people was good business.  But the business stimulated other logical processes.  Over time the easy availability and price of food made growing organically a disincentive.  We changed our idea of  what made more sense.  Now growing organically is good business.  But there are no scientific studies which prove that logical sense makes more sense.

It may just be that food freshness has more to do with nutritional value than whether it is organic or conventional.  But logic tells us that processing toxins over time must have a downside, whether to the earth or our bodies.  Even if experts and scientists don’t agree, when choosing between buying and eating organic or conventional it looks like we are left to error on the side of our own logic.

the head tilt

It’s not very often through the course of human evolution that man goes through a posture change.  Millions of years ago we transitioned from a curved spine to almost straight.  We walked tall with our heads up for many a millennia since.  It appears now that we are in another transition.  This time, our heads are starting to tilt down.

Almost everyone uses handheld devices.  Phones are replacing computers, tv’s, books, cameras, the list goes on.  They are capable of storing loads of new interactive media.  The functionality of mobile handheld devices has evolved at warp speed.  If you don’t own a smart phone, you might as well be living in the dinosaur age.  Or maybe you’ve capped your technological limit, like the Amish (although many of them are up-to-speed).

With the rapid proliferation of these devices, more and more people carry their handheld devices, where else, but the hand.  Most of us wouldn’t leave home without them.  You might think some worship the little devices at the way we respond to their every quirky sound.  We pay more attention to them then our newborns.

The most telling trait of device is that it pulls our head down, causing the head tilt. Physical therapist tell us to hold the device up to eye-level to interact with them.  But the devices don’t like being held that high.  Our arms don’t like it either.  Fact is, it’s getting comfortable tilting the head down.

tiltWorking in New York, elevators are a fact of life.  Most people, if their heads are not already tilted down, immediately whip out their devices when the elevator doors close.  Heads tilt down.  They scroll, look at contact lists, Instagram feeds, Facebook updates, anything, rather than standing head straight up.

More and more people walk with heads tilting down.  Many have learned to drive a car with head tilted.  We see the tilt all the time.  It’s happening more and more, at an evolutionary rate.

I was in a department store the other day doing research.  On an upper floor, I pressed the down elevator button to leave when I looked up an noticed a bicycle hanging upside-down from the ceiling.  It was a handsome bike.  How odd, I thought, that I hadn’t noticed it earlier.  “Was the head-tilt affecting me?” I thought.  One of the elevators opened as I was staring up at the bike.  I stuck my hand into the door so it wouldn’t close while still mesmerized by the bike.  It was a few seconds and I hadn’t realized I was holding up the elevator.

a beautiful up-sidedown bike, requiring reverse head tilt to view

a beautiful up-sidedown bike, requiring reverse head tilt to view

When I pulled my attention away from the ceiling and into the elevator, there were six other people waiting.  It was so quite I wasn’t aware there were people there.  I apologized and stepped in.  The interesting thing was, none of them seemed to care.  They were each in the head-tile position, engrossed in their own device.  One even mumbled “no problem” as if I could have kept the doors open longer. tilt 2

Maybe that’s what the devices are, comfort.  They are our grown-up comfort blankets.  As long as we have them, not much else matters.  They are a time occupier.  We are in constant need to give away our attention and the new handled device is the ideal recipient.  Those reading this may have started head tilting several years ago.  But our children and their children will head tilt shortly after birth.  The handheld will be their new pacifier.

We may not see it in our lifetime but we are developing a new head-tilt posture.  And it’s happening fast.

fell down on the job

Not literally.  But I might as well have.

Normally I update this blog with a post weekly.  I start on Saturday and finish, update, and post sometime on Sunday.  Not that the posts take two days to write, it’s just that my attention span works better if I break them up.  I even had a topic planned for today.  But I up and fagged out.

The other normal activity on (clement) weekends is cycling.  And cycling has never been an impediment to uploading a post.  Except this weekend.

Recently, I haven’t been in the habit of biking both weekend days.  But yesterday was the kind of day that kept pulling my bike further.  Today’s ride was the planned long ride.  Long sob story short, I also ended up with a searing pain inside my right shoulder rotor during the weekend.  It’s no excuse and I’m not crying about it.  It’s just that disappointment set in as I realized I fell into faggdom — that place where you know you should be doing something and don’t.  Both days, rather than writing, I fagged.

So for those who expect more than a veiled pitch at sympathy from a post, I’ll do better next week (yes, you’ll be the judge of that).  Until then, I’m going to climb out of this lounge chair and this state of faggdom reverie and and tie up the balance of weekend chores.