My longest fast

Also my first serious fast. I did one for 3 days in college because I wanted to prove a point to a friend (with no diagnosed medical problems) who was convinced she would pass out if she didn’t eat every 2-3 hours. I noticed then that after day 2, hunger went away. The same thing happened this time.

Day one was a normal day. I got hungry a few times, ignored it, and powered through. The hunger didn’t come back worse each time, it just came and went at about the same level. Apparently, if you exercise on day 1 and deplete your blood glucose, you start burning fat faster. I’ll try that next time. Day two must have been the beginning of ketosis because my mouth tasted bizarre, like fake sugar, and I was constantly thirsty. I still got hungry, but less so than on day one.

Days 3-6 were fantastic. I never have energy like that when I eat food. I felt more focused and clear-minded. I didn’t get groggy in the afternoons. I wasn’t hungry. I lost about 1.5-2 lbs a day throughout. This was mostly water weight. I’ve been off the fast now for nearly a week, but I haven’t regained all of the weight. I’m still 2-3 lbs lighter than when I started, which is about how much fat loss I had expected.

One question I do have about fasting to lower insulin resistance is how many times or how long the fasts have to be to show stable changes to the body’s set weight? Theoretically, the body has a set-point for weight which gets nudged higher as insulin resistance builds. But when insulin resistance goes down, does this set-point decrease as well? Is it harder to decrease it than increase it?

After the science, my second favorite thing about fasting to lose weight and improve health is its simplicity. It appeals greatly to the sloth in me to be told that 95% of weight loss depends on diet (and only 5% on exercise). It is wonderful not to have to cook. Or clean up after meals. Or think about what to eat. Or shop for it. Modified versions with “eating windows” are simple too: eat 1-2 meals between these hours and never at any other time in between. How easy is that?

Another thing I love about this diet: I have enough fat stores to see me through a week-long backpacking trip. How wonderful not to have to pack anything to eat. Or a trip to one of these tropical islands with over water bungalows and exactly one severely overpriced restaurant. I can go for week-long vacations and never have to worry about eating! I’ve never before been so pleased about my fat stores. Finally, they’re useful for something.

Tidal: why Jay-Z and Taylor Swift are wrong

Jay-Z, along with Madonna, Kanye West and other thoroughly cringeworthy big names in music have launched Tidal, ostensibly to protect music, musicians, art. But this Instagram post from Madonna is telling. She says, in part

And remember nothing is for free! This is a universal LAW. Somewhere-Somehow-Someone has to pay.

Let’s not forget that this is also the woman who compares an album leak to rape and terrorism. How could such a person possibly be wrong about the future of music? I guess she’s in pretty good company though, as Taylor Swift (who is also on Tidal) pulled all her music from Spotify, saying

Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.

But she and other artists who believe they’re being paid too little under the streaming model are wrong. Here’s why.

1. No one else gets paid forever for work they did once

Art is indeed valuable. No one is contesting that. But isn’t everything valuable? Nursing care, doctors, teachers, the guy who painted your house. The software engineers that make Google work, or the ones who maintain Wikipedia. All of their work is valuable. But does the engineer who wrote part of Google’s search code get paid $0.0006 every time someone does a Google search? Does the guy who installed your toilet get paid every time you flush it? Even if their work continues to be of value, even if there’s a measurable way in which it’s being used, most people do not get paid forever for work that they did once. What millionaire musicians don’t seem to realize is that they already enjoy a position of great privilege in the royalty system and they should be more grateful. It’s easy to understand why they aren’t: they see that Spotify pays 70% to the recording companies, which leaves a smaller share to them. But the answer is not charging the end user more money.

2. Making streaming more expensive will not increase revenues

The same applies to making streaming more difficult. If someone wants a playlist with all their favorite artists, but the artists each have exclusive contracts with five different streaming services, it makes life difficult. If streaming costs $20 per month, it makes the service less attractive. In fact, according to data analysis done by David Touve of the University of Virginia, the price of streaming that will maximize revenues is around $6/month.

3. Lost album sales is the wrong way of looking at things

Musicians just need to forget about the glory days when buying a CD or waiting around for the song to play on the radio were the only ways for a fan to consume their music. The metric of “lost album sales” is misleading. There’s no evidence that if pirating and streaming weren’t options, those fans would all be paying for albums.

4. The only way to increase revenue is to increase value

It should be fairly obvious that free or nearly free streaming and pirating are here to stay. It should also be obvious by now that fighting these (with encryption, lawsuits, shutting down sites like The Pirate Bay) are a temporary stopgap at best. If it’s easy to get free music, the only way to convince people to keep paying a premium price for it, whether via album sales or costlier streaming services, is to offer them something extra. Tidal claims it offers some exclusive content, but I think they’ll have to do better. Promotions like “buy this album and be entered for a chance to win a dinner with this artist” or “subscribe for N months and you can qualify to get these limited edition items” — things that freemium streaming and pirating don’t and can’t offer.

I’ll end with simple armchair psychology. If musicians alienate their fans by complaining that an estimated $6 million per year earned from Spotify is too little, fans will be less likely to care about “hurting the artist” by pirating.

Kim Kardashian: the new American dream

If you look at the comments section of any online article featuring Kim Kardashian, you will find detractors. There are the people who deride her appearance, who call her fat, who say she’ll be nothing when she’s 50. There are people who say she’s vapid and doesn’t deserve fame. There will always be someone who asks why she’s given any attention at all, and “why can’t she just go away.”

The reason is, we won’t stop talking about her. Or clicking on articles about her new nude photos or her latest cleavage bearing, flesh colored, slit-up-to-her-netherparts vinyl dress. We can’t. I think our collective fascination with her is that she’s the new American dream. It’s got nothing to do with the old one: the one where your parents come as immigrants and you work hard every day of your life and give your children a life better than your parents ever dreamed. No, not that one.

This one is much more glamorous. The new American dream is that anyone can become rich and famous and jetset around the world. After all, Kim Kardashian did it, so what does she have that you or I don’t?* You don’t have to be particularly pretty — she’s not ugly, but she’s not exactly a supermodel either. You don’t have to be smart. You don’t have to have a college degree. You don’t have to have any particular talent or skill. You don’t have to be interesting. I’m not criticizing her: she’s just thoroughly average, the way that most of us are.

Who am I supposed to be impressed by? Stephen Hawking? Bill Gates? Hilary Clinton? Those people were born brilliant. I expect them to do great things. Kim was born average and she’s achieved wealth beyond what most of us can imagine. I’m impressed the way the rest of the world is impressed when someone with Down’s Syndrome writes a book.

There you have it. If you conveniently ignore that she was born into wealth, the rest of her is average. But that gives us hope. We see her and think — maybe someday, for no good reason at all, I can be the idle rich too. I can get paid $20,000 for a tweet. I can go to fashion weeks in Paris, New York, Milan and sit in the front row. I can go to the Met ball. I can fly off to Dubai on a whim. I can have any dress, any purse, any shoes, any house, anything anything anything I want. Won’t that be marvelous? We sneer over every mistake she makes and every poor fashion choice. We make fun of every tasteless misstep, but it’s really because we’re imagining how we would do it better. That’s why we can’t stop looking, clicking, talking. It’s because we’re all secretly dreaming.

* It may not sound like it, but I deeply admire Kim and of course I wish I could be just like her. That’s why I wrote this: she truly is the new American dream!

Benedict Cumberbatch’s shotgun wedding

BBC

A few months back, when Benedict Cumberbatch announced his engagement in The Times (of London), I thought “That’s interesting — I didn’t know he was seeing someone.” It was not that surprising though, since he’s famously protective of his privacy. Good for him. I left it at that. A week or so later, he was in my newsfeed again, commenting on his engagement. When asked if he was happy about the fan approval he was getting, he responded that he was, but

The only support I really need, to be honest, is from the woman I love, who I proposed to.

That seemed strange and unnecessarily distancing. That quote was when I first thought something was off. Is that the reaction of a man in love? Someone who is happy spreads joy involuntarily. He’d gush about his future wife and his lovely fans.

A month later, his fiancee was rumored to be pregnant, and a month after that, it was confirmed by his PR. Then, things started to make more sense, e.g. why Benedict seemed grumpy and irritated rather than happy. After news of the pregnancy, I googled for any indication that the engagement was the result of an unplanned pregnancy and came across the delightfully addictive Sophie Hunter Gossip Blog. In one sitting, I must have hit “previous posts” about a hundred times. It was a joyous occasion, discovering that I’m not the only one who doesn’t buy the “we fell in love and had to get married right away” spin they’ve put on it.

What do I want?* I think it’d be nice if he had a sit-down interview and just told the truth instead of trying so hard to sell this fairytale version of it. Something like — they just started seeing each other, she got pregnant, he’d been wanting kids since he was a kid, Oscars season was coming up, everyone advised him to play it up as a happily ever after and he tried but his face gave him away. Oh, wasn’t that silly. Still, they’re making a go of it, and who knows, it could work out. I see nothing wrong with that story. It has a charming honesty and relatability to it.

There’s been speculation that he has ambitions to be the next Hollywood leading man like George Clooney or Brad Pitt. A better way to court a larger fanbase is by staying dorky and lovable. Who says you can’t be a huge star and a goofball at the same time? Just look at Taylor Swift! People value authenticity and kindness. Trying too hard to emulate someone more famous doesn’t play well. Feeding the paparazzi may garner Kardashian status at best — but if he really cares about the longevity of his acting career, that isn’t what he wants. It isn’t too late to come clean, and I hope he does soon. Maybe his new baby will inspire some honesty.

Disclaimer: I’m a fan of his work, but I’m too lazy to be a really dedicated fan. I’ve never had the energy to fantasize about marrying him, nor have I even paid to see any of his movies. Forget about seeing him live or waiting anywhere for an autograph. I think my favorite of his work must be Parade’s End, and it seems like life is now imitating art.

* (Okay, yes, who cares what I want because I’m a dog on the internet)

Notes from a writing workshop

February 4, 2015

Not so much a writing workshop so far, but rather, a listening to other people talk about other people’s work… shop. Horrifying. Maybe I should try an online writing group… thing. I just don’t care about anyone’s opinions though. Maybe it’s time to go home, bury myself in Tumblr and blankets and write Holmescest.

There’s a man with a nasal-ey voice who has taken half the speaking time. Another man who shuffles his papers. A woman obsessed with getting published, insistent on reading one of her original poems to us. A black woman named “Edisa” who hasn’t learned about her indoor voice yet. And who is a little too fond of bright pink (she’s wearing 3 slightly different shades of it in her outfit). She commanded me to shut the door, but ignored me when I asked why.

The second man, loud shuffler. He’s chewing gum in an almost obscene way. He doesn’t seem to have top teeth so his jaw goes further into his head than it should. Up up up, whoa. His jaw crushed halfway into his face.

The obsessed-with-getting-published lady has left. Because she isn’t going to get to read her poetry out loud. She gathered her handful of short library pencils, her two grocery bags full of other bags and her grimy Timbuk2 messenger bag and left. She had fuzzy pilling on the back of her camel colored probably Old Navy peacoat. It made me determined to keep my coats well-shaven.

Black lady talking again. Sharing about herself: “I love to laugh, but it has to be funny.” I know more about her than I care to. She doesn’t know what “mod” means. She thinks “Pavlov” is a reference to uncontrollable desire, she doesn’t see how a narrator could possibly refer to characters as “the lady” or “the gentleman” unless the setting is Victorian England.

The nasal man writes like a poet but hates poetry.

Highlight of the evening: an Asian man told us that the last time he left the class, a shady stranger told him Market street was blocked because “there’s a suitcase full of body parts.” His was the only story I wanted to hear, and the only one we spent too little time on.

In defense of harsher sentencing for crack

(versus powder cocaine)

It isn’t the least bit about race. Crack cocaine dealers have the same access to information about mandatory minimum sentences as anyone else, and if they choose to pursue a life of drug dealing, they can just as well switch to dealing powder cocaine. If a disproportionate number of blacks happen to continue choosing to deal one over the other, we’ll have to conclude either ignorance or stupidity.

Here’s why longer sentences for crack dealers is good: they deal in public. On street corners. Probably on the corner of a street where I used to live. One day I actually exited my building to see a body — someone who had been shot in the head on the (suspected) drug corner. That could’ve been anyone. In fact, it’s much more likely to be someone completely uninvolved because it’s in public.

I don’t really care if a drug dealer is going to someone’s upper east side apartment to deliver powder cocaine. Or their high rise office building. That’s a private transaction that has no bearing on me, and even if that drug user loses his job, his children probably won’t be the state’s problem. He’s probably not going to rob anyone. All that will happen is that he’ll get to go to an expensive rehab a few times. Not the same as when a highly addictive drug is popular among the poor: that increases everyone’s problems — the taxpayer (in the form of welfare, emergency room fees for the uninsured, food stamps, extra policing), the neighbor (armed robbery, burglaries), and even the random person walking in the street (muggings, gun violence/turf wars).

Mostly, I’m just tired of hearing this differential in sentencing trotted out as an example of racism in the legal system. Even if we ignore every point I just made, it still remains true that there was significant support from black leadership to enact these stricter sentencing laws.

Lowered expectations

This post is in response to a couple of articles I read recently. One on how smutty fiction makes us unhappy by giving us unrealistic expectations, and the other on why I’m not married (both linked below). I have also linked my favorite response to the marriage article: it brings up the good point that expecting nothing means that we allow ourselves to be treated badly, and this is obviously not ideal.

Though the author of the marriage article, Tracy McMillan, has been called sexist, misogynist, etc, and I won’t agree or disagree. I do think she has a point. If marriage is so important that you are willing to mould yourself into an ideal of pleasant femininity, to accept any guy who will marry you, to be selfless and expect nothing in return except sexual fidelity, then yes — do that. It may really help you with your goal of being married.

However, I think it may be worthwhile to first examine why marriage is that important to you — and whether it’s really about you. Or is that that your parents expect it? That your friends are all doing it? That you’re sick of answering questions about why you aren’t married? You’re afraid to be alone? Your biological clock is ticking? There may be better solutions to all of these concerns.

The other article on fantasy boyfriends from fiction mentions the author’s parents who, at the time of publication, had been happily married for 39 years. I’m always interested to know how people manage to tolerate each other for that long. Her mother said her secret was “forgiveness and lowered expectations”.

Her response makes me sad. While articles like these are telling women they should be less selfish and more forgiving and live life “working around a man’s fear and insecurity”, they’re implicitly giving men a free pass. The other side of telling women “please lower your expectations” is telling men “you’re fine just the way you are”. In other words, men: you don’t need to work on improving yourself. You don’t have to be romantic. You don’t have to act like an adult rather than your wife’s other 5 year old son. You don’t have to deal with your emotions and your wife’s concerns in a thoughtful way. You don’t have to look good. You’re a man! That is just how you are! The only thing expected of you in a marriage is that you don’t cheat!

I think we should teach people (both genders) to raise their expectations. Unless it’s the kind of love that streaks across the heavens and lights up the night sky, it isn’t worth your time. Trust me on this one — I’ve taken the long road to verify it.

Your Fictional Fantasy Boyfriend May Be Making You Fifty Shades of Miserable

Why You’re Not Married

An Open Letter to the Women Who Are Telling Me It’s My Fault I’m Not Married