On The Serious Growth Podcast with Leo Costa, Jr.

I was recently a guest on the Serious Growth Podcast with Leo Costa, Jr.  It was one of the most enjoyable conversations I’ve had in a long time.  I’m pretty sure if we lived near each other, we’d be good friends and hang out together.  We talked about diets and Fat Head, of course, but also comedy, being good vs. being perfect, life in general, etc.

The audio version is here.

The YouTube version (which allows you to see my bald glowing under my studio light) is below.

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From The 2019 News …

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I’m serving leftovers today: news from 2019 that didn’t make into any of my From The News posts.

Mediterranean Diet Study Recalled

The arterycloggingsaturatedfat! crowd just looooooves to talk about the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. That’s because (according to them) it’s a diet low in saturated fat with lots of vegetables and hearthealthywholegrains!

As you know, there’s no such thing as a single Mediterranean Diet. Some folks in that region eat a lot of pork and cook with lard. Some don’t. Some eat a lot fat, others not so much. Some eat a lot of fish, others not so much. Nonetheless, if you run a search on Mediterranean Diet, you’ll probably come across something like, from the Mayo Clinic:

The foundation of the Mediterranean diet is vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains. Meals are built around these plant-based foods. Moderate amounts of dairy, poultry and eggs are also central to the Mediterranean Diet, as is seafood. In contrast, red meat is eaten only occasionally.

That would be news to the healthy Mediterranean people who eat lots of pork.

Anyway, it turns out there were problems with the Big Study that put the Mediterranean Diet on the map in the first place. Here are some quotes from an NPR article:

Ask just about anybody, and you’ll probably hear that a healthy diet is one full of fruits and vegetables, olive oil, nuts and fish — what’s called Mediterranean diet. A lot of research has suggested people who eat this way tend to be healthier, but it’s been harder to prove whether that is because of the diet or some other factor.

So in 2013, many took notice of a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that seemed to provide some proof. The study found that people eating the Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil were 30 percent less likely to experience a heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular causes than people assigned to a low-fat diet.

It was an observational study and therefore close to meaningless even if the data had been sound. But the data wasn’t so sound, as a dedicated anesthesiologist named John Carlisle discovered:

He read up on statistical methods and looked over more than 160 trials by the researcher, Dr. Yoshitaka Fujii, and analyzed how likely it was that the people had been randomized to different treatments. Randomization is part of the gold standard for clinical studies because it reduces the risk of bias and allows researchers to determine cause-effect relationships.

Carlisle found the odds were infinitesimally small that Fujii had randomized people properly. Since Carlisle’s findings were published in 2012, medical journals have retracted more than 160 papers by Fujii — the most retractions for any one researcher, by a large margin, according to Retraction Watch.

More than 160 papers retracted … and these were peer-reviewed papers. That tells you how well the peer-review system functions.

To quote my own Science For Smart People speech, Scientists are freakin’ liars. We apparently have yet another case of a scientist torturing the data until it told him what he wanted to hear.

Interestingly, the NPR article includes a photo of someone eating beans and whole-grain bread, with this caption below:

Flaws in a study of the Mediterranean diet led to a softening of its conclusions about health benefits. But don’t switch to a diet of cotton candy just yet.

Yeah, that’s what I’ve always found so difficult about adopting a healthy diet: I don’t like living on beans and bread, but the only alternative is to live on cotton candy. I sincerely hope that one of these days, the food industry starts producing meats and eggs.

Anyway, the New England Journal of Medicine has since retracted the paper and replaced it with a version that uses “softer” language, although that paper still concludes that a Mediterranean Diet reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Compared to what? you might ask. The answer: compared to a low-fat diet. So how do they explain that one? Well, it’s the olive oil, ya see …

As far as I’m concerned, we’re looking at people who are healthier than average because their diets are low in processed foods, not low in saturated fats, or high in whole grains, or whatever. Living in a region with lots of vitamin-D enhancing sunshine probably helps too.

Anti-Fat Hysteria Goes Underground

My breakfast today included bacon, eggs and butter. If I were in London, a picture of my breakfast would banned from the Underground, according to BBC News:

An advert designed to run on the London Underground was rejected because it contained bacon, butter, eggs and jam, an online supermarket said. Farmdrop submitted a photograph which included images of the meat, dairy products and spread.

Transport for London (TfL) said it was up to advertisers to make sure any items featured were “high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS)-compliant”. Last month TfL issued a ban on all junk food advertising.

Foods found to be high in fat, sugar and salt are now not allowed to feature in advertisements on public transport.

I dunno … is it comforting to know government agencies overseas are just as stupid as those in the U.S.?

The ban was introduced as London mayor Sadiq Khan said he wanted to tackle the “ticking time bomb” of child obesity in the city.

That bomb exploded a long time ago, Mr. Mayor. And bacon, eggs and butter had nothing to do with it.

Weight Watchers Finding New Ways To Lose

I don’t mean “lose weight,” either. Weight Watchers hasn’t been doing so well in recent years because of competition from other diets … like, say, those that actually work. So how is the company responding? Here are some quotes from an article in USA Today:

For the first time, the preeminent weight-loss company, which rebranded as WW in 2018, is rolling out three customized plans simultaneously, officials shared exclusively with USA TODAY.

The Oprah Winfrey-backed company’s new plan includes whole wheat pasta, brown rice and potatoes – which have cost points in past WW programs – as “ZeroPoint” foods, meaning they don’t have to be measured or tracked.

Weight Watchers – er, WW now – has been on the low-fat bandwagon for years. That’s why most of their packaged meals are based on rice or pasta. Customers have been abandoning the company because the long-term success rate is abysmal. That’s what happens when you sell foods and meal plans that leave people hungry and miserable.

The solution? Well heck, let’s tell people they can now eat all the wheat pasta, brown rice and potatoes they want!

“There’s no foods off limits on any of our programs, and it’s going to be sustainable,” said Mindy Grossman, WW president and CEO, in an interview with USA TODAY. “It’s easy, it’s simple and I think that’s what people are craving for – something they can really live with.”

No, Ms. Grossman, what people are craving is a diet that works.

Sorry, No Dinner — My Printer Jammed

If there’s one thing the world needs, it’s more fake food. Check out this article in The U.K. Guardian:

After the success of the Greggs vegan sausage roll and the juicy-yet-meatless Impossible Burger, the next new food sensation is coming to a plate near you: 3D-printed steaks and chicken thighs.

Printed meat could be on European restaurant menus from next year as Israeli and Spanish firms serve up realistic beef and chicken produced from plant protein. And, within a few years, the printers are likely to be available to buy so that consumers can produce their own at home.

Layers of material are built up by 3D printers until there is a solid object conforming to very precise specifications. The meat can be produced either from vegetable matter or from animal cells grown in a lab. The printer uses these raw ingredients, which come in a Nespresso-style cartridge, to build up a steak or chicken fillet that tastes like the real thing.

Well, if it tastes like the real thing, it has to be good for you … just like those corn-oil margarines that tasted like butter.

Eshchar Ben-Shitrit, co-founder and CEO of Israeli firm Redefine Meat, said switching to printed meat would have huge ecological benefits. “The biggest reason for going to alternative meat is because of the future of our planet,” he said. “We can recycle, drive electric cars, we can shower less, but these changes can’t compete with reducing consumption by one hamburger per week.”

Stop eating real meat To Save The Planet! I’m sure Walter Willett approves.

If I ever print “realistic beef” at home, I’m going to make sure it includes a big label that reads Hey, Dumbass! Don’t eat this @#$%!

The Impossible Carrot?

Every time I see a Burger King ad for the plant-based “Impossible Burger,” I shake my head. After reading the list of ingredients, I think it’s impossible this frankfenfoood is good for you. So I chuckled when I read that Arby’s is going in the opposite direction:

Arby’s is turning the plant-based meat craze on its head by testing meat-based plants.

The company says it has produced a new meat-vegetable hybrid food category called “megetables.” It’s an obvious troll against its fast food rivals, including Burger King, McDonald’s and a dozen or so others, which are adding plant-based meat alternatives to their menus.

First from the Arby’s test kitchen is the “Marrot,” a meat-carrot made of turkey breast sliced into the shape of a carrot. It’s then sous vide for an hour and rubbed down in a “special carrot marinade” made of dried carrot juice powder. It’s then topped with a maple syrup powder, oven-roasted for an hour and topped with a parsley to “give it the full carrot effect,” Arby’s said.

I wish the Marrot had been around when my mom insisted I eat my vegetables.

Arby’s has publicly vowed in the past to not add fake meat to its menu. The Inspire Brands-owned company said it wasn’t interested in selling Impossible Foods’ products, noting the “chances we will bring plant-based menu items to our restaurants, now or in the future, are absolutely impossible.”

I’ve been to an Arby’s in years. I may have patronize them again … unless they start printing their meats.

It’s bucking the trend, as interest in plant-based protein is on the rise. Meat eaters are looking to diversify their diets to be healthier and reduce their impact on the environment.

Uh … no, I’m not.

Take Two Hikes And Call Me In The Morning

This headline from BigThink grabbed my attention: Doctors in Scotland can now prescribe nature to their patients.

Since October 5, doctors in Shetland, Scotland, have been authorized to prescribe nature to their patients. It’s thought to be the first program of its kind in the U.K., and seeks to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and increase happiness for those with diabetes, a mental illness, stress, heart disease, and more.

They’ve been authorized since October 5 … maybe someone from across the pond can clarify, but does that mean before October 5, they were prohibited from prescribing nature? Could doctors get into some kind of trouble for telling patients to go outdoors and enjoy nature? If so, that’s nearly as ridiculous as dietitians in South Africa filing charges against a doctor for tweeting that babies should be weaned onto LCHF real foods.

Anyway, some of the specific advice is certainly interesting:

There is a whole leaflet of nature prescription suggestions that accompanies the program, filled with amusing, charming, sometimes seemingly off-kilter suggestions: in February, you can make a windsock from a hoop and material to “appreciate the speed of the wind”; in March, you can make beach art from natural materials or “borrow a dog and take it for a walk”; in April, you can “touch the sea” and “make a bug hotel”; in May, you can “bury your face in the grass”; in July, you can “pick two different kinds of grass and really look at them”; in August, you can summon a worm out of the ground without digging or using water; in September, you can help clean the beach and prepare a meal outdoors; in October, you can “appreciate a cloud”; you can “talk to a pony” in November, “feed the birds in your garden” in December, and do so much more. All on doctor’s orders.

On any day of the year when the weather allow for it, you can play golf outdoors and look for birdies. That’s the advice I’ve been giving myself — and my blood pressure is outstanding, according to my doctor.

Stand Up For Yourselves, Men

Years ago, my former comedy partner Tim Slagle and I imagined a future world in which eating meat was outlawed. But we also noticed a problem with parodying the loony left’s Grand Plans: give it enough time, and the loony left will turn parody into reality.

We’re not quite at the stage yet where meat is outlawed. But in one of our (ahem) “news” shows, we had a story that in the interest of gender equality, men had been banned from standing while urinating. Total parody, right? It’ll never happen.

Check out these quotes from an article in the Huffington Post:

Male representatives on the Sormland County Council in Sweden should sit rather than stand while urinating in office restrooms, according to a motion advanced by the local Left Party.

Known as a socialist and feminist organization, the party claims that seated urination is more hygienic for men — the practice decreases the likelihood of puddles and other unwanted residue forming in the stall — in addition to being better for a man’s health by more effectively emptying one’s bladder, The Local reported.

But not everyone agrees.

Really? Someone dares to disagree with a Grand Plan? Has he been banned from social media yet? Well, all right, let’s see what this Neanderthal’s objection is.

“Men scatter urine not so much during the actual urination as during the ‘shaking off’ that follows,” John Gamel, a professor at the University of Louisville, wrote while addressing the issue in 2009. “As a result, forcing men to sit while emptying their bladders will serve little purpose, since no man wants to shake himself off while remaining seated on the toilet.”

He wrote about the issue. Sounds like a good use of a college professor’s time.

A representative from the party said he hopes to move toward sitting only bathrooms.

With an armed guard to make sure men don’t stand in front of the “sitting only” toilet to pee in it.

You’re Such An Animal When You’ve Been Drinking

This article from an ABC station in Florida wins the prize for the ultimate “hold my beer” story of 2019.

Two men are facing charges after authorities say they caught an alligator and poured beer into its mouth in Palm City, Florida.

Police arrested Timothy Kepke and Noah Osborne last week. The arrests came in response to an August complaint to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about a video of the incident on social media.

I know their real names are Tim and Noah, but I’m invoking editorial license and referring to them as Bert and Ernie from here on.

“Hey, Bert, I’m bored. Let’s say we catch an alligator and get it to drink some beer.”

“Great idea, Ernie. And then we should post a video of ourselves doing it! We’ll be famous!”

The video obtained by WPBF appears to show Kepke attempting to get the alligator to bite his arm. When it does, Kepke pours beer down the animal’s throat.

“How we gonna get a beer into this big fella’s mouth, Ernie? We gonna stick it inside a ham or something?”

“No, that’s too derned expensive. I got an idea. I’ll just wave my arm around in front of his big, powerful jaws. Then when he opens his mouth to bite off my arm, I’ll pour in the beer!”

“Sounds like a good plan, Ernie. But we should be smart about this and ask ourselves if anything could go wrong. Can you think of anything?”

“Hmmm … well, if he’s trashing around trying to bite off my arm, I could miss his mouth. That would be a waste of a good beer.”

I’m trying to figure out why in the heck anyone would want to get an alligator drunk. How would you even know when the alligator is drunk? As far as I can tell, when alligators aren’t swimming underwater looking for things to kill and eat, they sit around slowly opening and closing their eyes and generally being inert. Toss in picking up a TV remote now and then, and that’s pretty much what I do when I’m drunk.

“What’s he doing now, Bert?”

“He’s just sitting there.”

“Boy, we really got him @#$%-faced, didn’t we?”

I can only assume one of these guys has high blood pressure and, after visiting a Scottish doctor, was told to go out and enjoy nature.

Titans Stun The Ravens

The Tennessee Titans shut down the highest-scoring offense in the NFL on Saturday night and won 28-12 to advance to the AFC Championship game. That has nothing to do with diet or health, and it’s not news from 2019. I just never get tired of saying it.

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Happy New Year

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Welcome to The Twenties. That’s got a nice ring to it, eh? The two previous decades had sucky names. First we had The Aughts, or The O’s, or whatever. We couldn’t call the next decade The Teens until three years had passed, and even then it was a namby-pamby name. But now it’s The Twenties.

Thirties, Forties, Fifties … given my age, I’m pretty sure the decades will have catchy names for the rest of my life.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions until at least the weekend after January 1st. I figure if I make resolutions the day after celebrating New Year’s Eve, I’m likely to let guilt cloud the process … you know, like when a guy wakes up with a hangover and swears he’ll never drink again. Better to let a little time pass so reason reasserts itself.

One resolution I’ve already made is to get back to posting more than once per month or so. I believe I had a mild case of burnout happening in 2019. As I mentioned a few times, it was an … uh … interesting year at the programming job. We seemed to have an unusual number of emergencies and/or major projects happening last year. Sometimes the major projects created the emergencies. I wasn’t working 60-hour weeks all the time (although I certainly had some of those), but I frequently went home feeling brain-fried from spending the day solving sticky problems. Then I’d think to myself, I could write a post or watch this series on Netflix … yup, Netflix it is.

I’m rested now. My last workday of the year was December 13th, which gave me nearly three weeks off. For the most part, I spent my end-of-year vacation chilling. I slept late, watched movies and series that have been sitting in my Netflix watch list for months, and watched almost every NFL game shown in our market. I was of course delighted when our Titans made the playoffs. I don’t expect them to go all the way to the Super Bowl, but if they win this weekend and spare the world from another Super Bowl featuring the Patriots, I’ll consider it a successful season.

Another resolution I’ve already made is to get back on my anti-fungal-overgrowth program. I ran out of the CandiBactin tablets some weeks ago. Then we had a batch of the not-yogurt go bad on us for some reason. It had a spoiled-milk odor, so we dumped it. With all the holiday hubbub, I didn’t get around to making new batch. I wasn’t in a hurry because the symptoms of the fungal overgrowth had gone away, so I considered myself cured.

Ha! Riiiight … and Santa Claus is going to bring me a pony.

A few weeks off the program, and the symptoms started returning. A bit of itchy skin here, a bit of we think it’s your prostate but it might be your colon or maybe both discomfort there, followed by some weight gain as a bonus. I’ve since re-supplied the CandiBactin and made a new batch of the not-yogurt. Apparently keeping this thing at bay will require regular maintenance.

The only Fat Head activity I did over vacation was to start reading Real Food On Trial, by Tim Noakes and Marika Sboros. The publisher sent me a copy months ago, and it’s been sitting on my desk waiting for me to have the time and energy to tackle it. When I finally cracked the thick book, I found myself reading very small type. I remember how as my dad got older, he started buying those large-print books for seniors. I hoped I’d never need to do that – and I haven’t. Instead, I bought the Kindle version of the book and increased the font size. I still have a few chapters to go, but when I’m finished, I’ll write a full review.

Consider that a New Year’s resolution. Happy 2020 to you all.

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Causes vs. Effects: A Diet/Golf Analogy

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I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving. And to our non-American friends, I hope you had a lovely Thursday. Now on to more important things …

I became a golf addict in my thirties. As often happens with entertainers, it was partly the result of running around with a show-business crowd. Standup comedians don’t work until evening, so a lot of them play golf during the day. Between my fellow comedians and my golf-addict dad, I got sucked in.

After we moved to Tennessee, I managed to keep the addiction at bay for nearly 10 years. I went to the recovery meetings and followed the advice: don’t watch golf on TV, don’t take practice swings with imaginary clubs, don’t hang around with your old golfing buddies because they’ll trigger the craving, etc. I was confident I’d never golf again.

Then my danged nephews (The Older Brother’s Older Sons) conspired to get me hooked again. They employed cult mind-control techniques, such as calling me up and saying, “It’s supposed to be nice weather when I visit. Maybe we can go play nine holes” or “When you guys come up for the birthday party, you should bring your clubs.”

I tried calling my sponsor, but in a near-whisper, he told me it wasn’t a good time to talk. In the background, I heard a THWACK! followed by someone yelling “Nice shot!” so I assumed he was at an archery tournament and being careful not to disturb the archers.

Stripped of any support system, I weakened and succumbed. I spent a golf-binge weekend with the nephews. Ahh, the sweet, guilty pleasure of that first good hit …

Next thing I knew, I was parked in front of my computer at 2:00 AM, wild-eyed, holding a debit card in my right (trailing-side) hand, ordering new clubs. I engaged in the typical rationalizations: my 61st birthday is coming up, I work hard and deserve a little treat, and those single-length irons everyone’s talking about couldn’t possibly cause as much emotional damage as my old Cobras.

Yup, I was hooked again.

The only thing worse than being a golf addict is being a golf addict with a lousy swing. My dad suffered from that sorry combination in his later years, and the stress triggered delusions. As he drove past pastoral settings, he imagined he saw potential golf courses that had been wasted for lesser purposes:

“Arggghhh!”

“Something wrong, Dad?”

“Just look at those gently rolling hills, the grassy meadows, the pretty little stream. Get rid of those headstones, you could put a good golf course there.”

I realized that to avoid the same fate, I must either give up golf again or develop a decent swing. I chose the latter. I’m happy to say I’ve already made progress. Finding a golf swing that works, as it turns out, is similar to finding a diet that works: ignore the so-called experts whose advice is technically correct but doesn’t fix the problem, and take advantage of social media to find those rare teachers who actually understand how human bodies function.

I became a so-so golfer in my standup-comedy days. I usually hit the ball when I swung at it, and even had some marginally impressive rounds. But when I started playing again this year, I kept hitting it thin. Or fat. Or I’d duck-hook it. Throw in a few curse words known only to Irish-American golfers, and I’d be my dad at my age, but with less hair.

I shot some slow-motion video of my swing and found to my horror that I had a major “chicken wing” issue, which means my left arm was pulling into my body and my hands were flipping at the ball instead of swinging through it. A chicken-wing swing looks like this:

Telling myself “don’t do that” didn’t work, so it was off to seek the wisdom of crowds on the internet – an advantage my dad never enjoyed.

I sent a video of my swing to an online teacher. He replied that the chicken-wing and flippy hands were the result of not properly shifting my weight. (You can see in the photo above that my weight is still on both feet.) You’ve got to start the downswing by rotating your hips, continue rotating them through the swing, and get your weight to your left side before impact. Do these drills to practice getting into the correct positions. Start the drills in slow motion, then gradually pick up speed.

I did the drills. I could move through the correct positions in slow motion, but that was just posing. Put a ball in front of me, and it was chicken-wing/flippy hands time again.

What the …

So I kept searching YouTube for videos on fixing a chicken-wing, preventing flippy-hands, etc. The experts – most of whom are certified PGA teaching professionals – all said pretty much the same thing: the chicken wing and the flippy hands happen because the body stops rotating. You’ve got to rotate your hips and shift your weight to the left side before impact. Try these drills …

I spent hours practicing rotating my hips and shifting my weight just before swinging at the ball. It always felt forced and awkward. I’d get out the video camera, make a very conscious effort to turn those hips … then watch the video and see my hands flipping at the ball, chicken-wing arm fully on display.  Even worse, consciously stepping onto my left foot and cranking my hips around caused my head to drop down and to the right, away from the ball.

Son of a … this can’t be so friggin’ difficult.

Back to YouTube. Since the root of the problem was (according to the certified experts) a failure to shift my weight, I ran a search on golf weight shift. I came across videos explaining the proper weight shift in minute detail: start with your weight on the balls of your feet, then as you begin taking the club back, push most of your weight back onto your right heel, then push off the ball of your right foot and into your left heel, then drop the club into the “slot” and rotate your hips toward the target … oh, and swing the club into the ball too.

Oh yeah, that’s not complicated at all. I remembered an impression I formed when I first visited a teaching pro 30 years ago: the typical golf lesson consists of a talented athlete telling some schlub how to perform a complex and precisely timed series of moves he’ll never master because he’s not a talented athlete. Something like this:

You want a one-piece takeaway, so start the backswing by moving your arms, shoulders, hips and hands all together. As you turn away from the target, push your weight to the inside of your right heel, and let your left knee will bend out towards the ball. When your hands pass your waist, cock your wrists so the club and your left arm form a 90-degree angle, then allow your arms to move across your chest, but keep the “V” of your forearms together. Continue rotating until your hips have turned about 20 degrees, your back is facing the target, your left shoulder is under your chin, and the club is pointed towards the target above your head. To begin the downswing, push off your right foot and rotate your hips, then step hard onto your left heel, straighten your left leg a bit, and turn your belt buckle towards the target. You need to avoid casting the club too early, so as your weight shifts left, just let the club drop until your right elbow is in front of your right hip. Hold the 90-degree angle until your hands pass your right leg, then release the club by rolling your right arm over your left and letting your wrists uncock. Keep your head down until the ball is gone, then come up onto your left leg for a high finish. If you can relax and do all that smoothly in about one second from start to finish, you’ll hit the ball very well.

I began thinking perhaps I should sell those clubs I just bought while they’re still shiny and new. I can just play disc golf – after all, I’m pretty decent at that game.

Then I came across a video titled GOLF WEIGHT SHIFT IS AUTOMATIC-REALLY REALLY!!

Ahh, that’s nice to know. Shifting the weight is autom – wait, WHAT?!  I’ve been trying (and mostly failing) to train myself to shift my weight while swinging a club, and this guy is telling me it’s automatic? How the @#$% can that be?

Remember how it felt the first time you read Protein Power, or Good Calories, Bad Calories, or The Primal Blueprint and realized you’d been struggling for no reason? Remember that AHA! moment when Eades or Taubes or Sisson explained that if you try starving yourself thin, you’re just fighting your own body, and that “consume fewer calories than you burn” is an effect, not a cause? Switch to a real-food diet low in carbs, and your appetite and calorie intake will regulate itself – remember how it felt to finally have someone explain that? That sense of relief … combined with a bit of anger over all the time you wasted following bad advice?

That’s how I felt when I watched the video below (and many more later) by golf instructor Shawn Clement – who reminds me a bit of Mark Sisson. If there’s anyone I’d describe as a paleo golf instructor, it’s him. He relates the swing to motions our brains have already been programmed to accomplish easily. You can watch the video below, but I’ll paraphrase what he says in this and other videos:

If you ask someone to throw a rock or a spear or a frisbee towards a target, he’ll always do the same thing, without fail: take the arm back, cock the wrist, plant the lead foot, rotate the hips, sling the arm toward the target, then release. Ask him exactly when he cocked his wrist, or planted his foot, or turned his hips, he’ll have no idea – but he’ll do it correctly every time. That’s because humans have been throwing things at predators and prey forever, and the kinematic sequence to make that happen is hard-coded into our DNA. We don’t have to learn it. Our bodies and brains already know it.

So why do you struggle to shift your weight and rotate your hips when playing golf? Because you think your task is to hit the ball, so you’re making the ball your target. Your brain doesn’t see any reason to keep rotating your body once you’re facing your target.

But if your task is to throw the clubhead toward a target that’s down the fairway, your brain will fire that hard-coded kinematic sequence, and you will plant your foot, turn your hips, and sling the club – without thinking about it. Shifting your weight and turning your hips isn’t the cause of a good swing; it’s the effect of choosing the correct task.

I felt like a bit of a doofus for not realizing this before. I play disc golf. When I sling a disc toward the basket, I do everything Clement describes: take my arm back, rotate away from the target, cock the wrist, plant my lead foot, rotate my hips towards the target, follow through with my arm and shoulder, etc. – and I never think about it. That sequence just happens. All I’m thinking about is where I want the disc to go.

To remind our bodies that we’re throwing the clubhead toward the target, Clement even has a video showing how to literally throw the club underhand and down the fairway as a drill. I watched that video and several others at night. The next day I took some foam golf balls and a 9-iron out to the front pastures. Yes, I reminded myself, the ball is there, but it’s not my target. The target is that utility pole way out there. My task is to sling the clubhead toward the target and let it pick up the ball along the way.

BOOM. Left foot planted, hips rotated, weight shifted, arms accelerated, hands released, and I ended up standing on my left leg and facing the target. Every time. Without fail. Without thinking about the sequence.

I’ve since watched dozens of Clement’s golf videos. He frequently returns to the same idea: humans suck at thinking about individual body parts – he cites research to back up that statement — but we’re geniuses at automatically moving them in sequence to accomplish a task. Too many golf instructors look at the effects of a good swing and think those are the causes.

Sound familiar? Kind of like when the so-called experts tell you to focus on calories, calories, calories, but can’t explain why most people stayed lean back when nobody knew how many calories their meals contained? Matching their calories to their energy needs wasn’t the cause of being lean – that was the effect of eating real food. It was automatic.

As I watched more of Clement’s videos, I noticed he used to be quite a bit heavier. So imagine my delight when I came across a video where he explains that he lost 50 pounds on a primal diet after reading Grain Brain and meeting a guy named Mark Sisson. I doubt Sisson had any difficulty getting him to understand that matching calorie intake to energy needs is an effect, not a cause.

Because of YouTube’s viewers of this video also watched … feature, I came across another excellent golf instructor named Mike Malaska. His voice and vocal patterns remind me a bit of Dr. Mike Eades. So does his attitude towards the so-called experts.

I’m paraphrasing here, but in one of the first videos I watched on his channel, he said something like this:

Golf is the only sport where you swing at a ball and yet most instructors tell you to forget about your hands and focus on your legs and hips. Would anyone tell a baseball player, or a tennis player, or a ping-pong player, or a hockey player that the arms and hands just go along for the ride? Of course not. But that’s what we tell golfers. We tell them to crank through with their hips and force themselves into these various positions. Those positions aren’t the cause of a good swing. They’re the effects of a good swing. You swing the club with your hands and arms. If you relax and let the arms and hands do what they’re supposed to do, the body rotation and the weight shift will happen automatically.

Can you learn to swing a golf club by focusing on body parts and positions? Yes, but you’ll be fighting against your natural instincts, you’ll probably be inconsistent, and there’s a good chance you’ll hurt yourself.

That sounds a wee bit like:

We tell people to focus on calories and force themselves to eat fewer calories than they burn. Eating fewer calories than you burn isn’t the cause of getting your weight under control, it’s the effect of adopting a good diet. Can you lose weight by focusing on calories and going hungry all the time? Yes, but you’ll be fighting your natural instincts, you’ll be miserable much of the time, and there’s a good chance you’ll screw up your metabolism in the process.

If you’ve ever taken lessons or watched YouTube videos on golf and gone bleary-eyed with all the advice about hips, legs, feet, shoulders, elbows, rotating the core, shifting the weight, holding the lag, etc., etc., compare that with the simple advice Malaska gives here:

He doesn’t specifically say to throw the clubhead toward the target, but if you watch what he’s doing as he describes the “lever system,” it’s the same idea in different words: it’s an underhand throw and release toward the target.

That’s pretty much all I think about now: using my hands and arms to sling the clubhead underhanded towards the target and letting the lever system work. The body moves in response, but I don’t have to think about it. It’s an effect of the swinging motion, not a cause.

Causes vs. effects. The effective teachers — the teachers whose advice works — understand the difference, whether we’re talking about weight loss or golf.

I’ve been practicing what I learned from Clement and Malaska, and originally planned to take those lessons (and my new clubs) to an 18-hole course on my birthday three weeks ago. An emergency situation at work delayed those plans. I finally had the free day and the pleasant weather to play 18 holes the Thursday before Thanksgiving.

When I played 18 holes with The Older Brother and his Older Sons back in August (the day we dumped my dad’s ashes in the water hazard), I shot way over 100 and had more bad swings than good ones. On Thursday, I shot 85. I only took three swings all day where I skulled the ball – because I forgot to sling the clubhead toward the target and went back to trying the hit the ball. As soon as I reminded myself of the actual task, the swing came back – effortless weight shift and all.

I’m no more athletic now than I was in August, but I looked like a completely different golfer … because I kept scouring the internet until I found teachers who understand the difference between causes and effects and followed their advice.

Just like when I finally learned how to be healthy.

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The Farm Report: Finally Back To A Bit Of Farm Work

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Daytime temperatures have mostly been in the 50s and 60s, but it’s cold enough at night to send the ticks and chiggers into hibernation. And of course, there’s the scenery. Man, I love autumn in Tennessee.

I haven’t done any farm work in months. Chareva has been tending her garden and taking care of the chickens, of course, but the two big projects we started last spring – fencing in the back of the property and re-netting/re-securing one of the old chicken yards – have gone nowhere since June. I was busy with the programming job, and neither of lobbied to spend the weekends doing hard outdoor work once the hot, humid weather kicked in.

And truth be told, I think we lost our enthusiasm for the fencing project when our dog Coco was killed. She and Misha used to escape together and go exploring (which led to Coco’s demise). We thought they’d enjoy chasing each other around a much larger area than the current fenced-in yard. But since Coco died, Misha seems to have lost the run-around-and-explore urge. We’ll finish fencing in the property someday, but the urgency is gone.

Now that pleasant days have arrived, I finally eased myself back into farm work by getting out the chainsaw and tackling this big ol’ tree, which fell down months ago.

We need more firewood stacked on the front porch, and as far as I’m concerned, the tree is basically a seasoned-firewood store at this point. I spent a good chunk of last weekend cutting it apart.

Nature provided even more firewood by snapping more branches off a dead tree near the creek. I’ll get to those soon as well.

The big ol’ tree happens to sit across the approach to a disc-golf basket that serves as the target for the first, ninth, tenth and eighteenth holes. Jimmy Moore arrived this week for our (almost) annual disc-golf grudge match, so I was especially motivated to open up the fairway a bit. Neither of us needs to have a disc whack a branch and go flying off in some random direction.

I barely played any disc golf this summer and my game has slipped, so it’s looking like a good year for Jimmy to take the crown. Five rounds in, I’ve yet to break par and managed to eke out two ties. He kicked my tail in the other three.  I only have two more days to redeem myself.

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Galileo’s Middle Finger: The Anointed And De-Platforming (Why Google, Facebook, Twitter And YouTube Are Starting To Suck), Part Seven

Pardon the absence. Busy times at work.

Last year I read a book about scientists who were attacked by postmodernist wackos for the sin of refusing to bend their science to fit The Narrative. I figured taking a peek at the book would be a fitting way to finish off this series of posts.

Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Justice is an excellent read. It’s all the more effective because author Alice Dreger sympathizes with many of the goals of the feminist and transgender activists whose outrageous search-and-destroy tactics she recounts in the book. Dreger is a feminist herself, and she recognizes that science has at times been hijacked by racists and sexists. As she recalls of her own education in science:

Marxist and feminist science-studies scholars had for almost two decades been producing a large body of work deeply critical of various scientific claims and practices. They had shown how various scientists had, in word and deed, oppressed women, people of color, and poor folks, typically by making problematic “scientific” claims about them. Harvard biologist Ruth Hubbard, for example, had taken apart pseudoscientific claims that biology made women “naturally” less capable of doing science than men.… Meanwhile, Hubbard’s Harvard colleague Stephen Jay Gould had scrutinized “scientific” studies purporting to show important racial differences in skull size and IQ and had shown them to be hopelessly riddled with racist bias.

As a science historian, bioethicist, and former professor of clinical bioethics at Northwestern University, Dreger believes in good science. When scientists do sloppy research or allow their biases to skew the results, she reminds us, the problem is with the scientist – not with the scientific method:

The finding by Gould and others that scientists often suffered from bias didn’t mean science itself was rotten. The very fact that scholars could see and show problems of racist and sexist bias in science stood to me as proof that, together, evidence-driven scholars could advance knowledge and ultimately get past the individual human mind’s tendency to follow familiar scripts.

Dreger became an activist when her research led her to discover the medical abuse suffered by intersex children – children whose anatomy doesn’t quite fit either gender.

Some of these patients had immediately apparent mixes of male and female traits—a notable phallus and a vaginal opening or feminine breasts along with a full beard. Others appeared to have one sex externally but the opposite internally. All unwittingly challenged the idea that there were only two real sexes—that there was a clear, natural divide between men and women.

She learned that doctors, when faced with intersex children, often simply picked a gender for them.

The modern system featured not only highly aggressive cosmetic genital surgeries in infancy for children born with “socially inappropriate” genital variations like big clitorises, but also the withholding of diagnoses from patients and parents out of fear that they couldn’t handle the truth. It treated boys born with small penises as hopeless cases who “had” to be castrated and sex-changed into girls, and it assumed that the ultimate ability of girls to reproduce as mothers should take precedence over all else, including the ability to someday experience orgasm.

And later:

I was stunned and outraged by what was going on. I threw myself into the struggle and spent the decade after grad school living two lives—as a professor researching and writing academic histories of the medical establishment’s treatment of intersex and also as a patient advocate and a leading activist for the rights of sexual minorities.

You get the idea: she’s a feminist and activist who spent years fighting for the right of intersex people to choose their own gender or at least to be left alone by the medical industry. Hardly the type of person feminists and transgender activists should try to destroy. And yet they did … because she dared to defend scientists who disagreed with The Narrative promoted by postmodernists.

It was shortly after this time that I took on a new scholarly project, one that without much warning forced me to question my politics and my political loyalties, if not also my decision to give up tenure. This was a project that suddenly changed me from an activist going after establishment scientists into an aide-de-camp to scientists who found themselves the target of activists like me. Indeed, this project soon put me in a position I would never have imagined for myself: vilified by gender activists at the National Women’s Studies Association meeting and then celebrated at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society by the enemies of my childhood hero, Stephen Jay Gould.

… In 2003, three years before I came to the story, a group of transgender activists had kicked up a storm over a book by a Northwestern sex researcher, J. Michael Bailey, because in that book, Bailey had pushed a theory these activists didn’t like: Bailey had suggested that, in cases of men who become women, transgender isn’t just about gender identity, but also about sexual orientation—about eroticism. This, I already knew, was a no-no among certain groups of transgender activists who insisted that virtually all transgender people are born with the brain of one sex and the body of the other.

Transgender people, Dreger is careful to explain, aren’t in the same category as intersex people.  Intersex people have actual, physical traits of both genders.  They are also quite rare — somewhere in the neighborhood of one in 2,000.  Transgender people don’t have ambiguous body parts.

I’ve mentioned several times in this series of posts that postmodernists feel no obligation whatsoever to be logical or consistent. We are simply supposed to accept The Narrative and pretend we don’t notice when The Narrative contradicts itself – which it often does.

The Narrative insists that there are virtually no differences between men and women – in fact, if you declare yourself to be a man even though you have a female reproductive system and menstruate, well, by gosh, you ARE a man … which led to the recent bizarro-world decision by gender activists to go after the Always brand for putting the female Venus symbol on its menstrual products – because “men” have periods too, ya know!  (The company caved and agreed to drop the symbol.)

Okay, let’s see … if you simply declare that you identify as a man, you ARE a man. If you simply declare that you identify as a woman, you ARE a woman. There are no differences in the brains of men and women. In fact, there are really no genders at all … because gender is just a social construct. So says The Narrative. That’s why we see postmodernist drivel like this:

And yet according to The Narrative, the only acceptable explanation for transgender women is that they have a woman’s brain trapped inside a man’s body.

Uh … what? Let’s apply some simple logic:

If there are no differences between male and female brains, it’s not friggin’ possible to have a female brain trapped in a man’s body. If having male reproductive organs doesn’t make you a man, if having female reproductive organs doesn’t make you a woman, and if gender is nothing more than a social construct as opposed to a biological reality, IT’S NOT FRIGGIN’ POSSIBLE TO BE A WOMAN TRAPPED IN A MAN’S BODY.

So here’s the story so far:

If you don’t agree with The Narrative that there are no inherent differences between men and women – including their brains — you’re a bigot, a sexist, a homophobe, a hater, etc., etc.

If you don’t also agree with The Narrative that you are whatever gender you declare yourself to be, you’re a bigot, a sexist, a homophobe, a hater, etc., etc.

But if you don’t also agree with The Narrative that all transgender women have a woman’s brain trapped inside a man’s body, you’re a bigot, a sexist, a homophobe, a hater, etc., etc., and we are totally justified in trying to ruin your career and your life.

Yes, it’s utterly and completely contradictory. But remember, we’re talking about postmodernists here. They can be as illogical and self-contradictory as they please, and you’re supposed to just agree with them on everything, even if actual science says otherwise … which brings us back to the book:

I thought I knew from my background in science studies and a decade of intersex work how to navigate an identity politics minefield, so I wasn’t that worried when in 2006 I set out to investigate the history of what had really happened with Bailey and his critics. My investigation ballooned into a year of intensive research and a fifty-thousand-word peer-reviewed scholarly account of the controversy. And the results shocked me. Letting the data lead me, I uncovered a story that upended the simple narrative of power and oppression to which we leftist science studies scholars had become accustomed.

I found that, in the Bailey case, a small group had tried to bury a politically challenging scientific theory by killing the messenger. In the process of doing so, these critics, rather than restrict themselves to the argument over the ideas, had charged Bailey with a whole host of serious crimes, including abusing the rights of subjects, having sex with a transsexual research subject, and making up data. The individuals making these charges—a trio of powerful transgender women, two of them situated in the safe house of liberal academia—had nearly ruined Bailey’s reputation and his life. To do so, they had used some of the tactics we had used in the intersex rights movement …. but there was one crucial difference: What they claimed about Bailey simply wasn’t true.

Postmodernist tactics 101: words aren’t tools we use to help us arrive at the truth; they’re weapons to be wielded. Whatever you say about an opponent in order to destroy him doesn’t have to be true; it merely has to be effective.

Dreger published a lengthy article detailing the vicious and false attacks on Dr. Bailey. Not surprisingly, the postmodernist search-and-destroy squad went after her next:

Certainly I should have known what was coming—after all, I had literally written what amounted to a book on what this small group of activists had done to Bailey. But it was still pretty uncomfortable when I became the new target of their precise and unrelenting attacks. The online story soon morphed into “Alice Dreger versus the rights of sexual minorities,” and no matter how hard I tried to point people back to documentation of the truth, facts just didn’t seem to matter.

Correct. Facts never matter to postmodernists.

Troubled and confused by this ordeal, in 2008 I purposefully set out on a journey—or rather a series of journeys—that ended up lasting six years. During this time, I moved back and forth between camps of activists and camps of scientists, to try to understand what happens—and to figure out what should happen—when activists and scholars find themselves in conflict over critical matters of human identity. This book is the result.

And that’s just the opening chapter.

The book’s title is partly a reference to a trip to Italy Dreger took as a student. A museum had (supposedly) Galileo’s mummified finger on display. Dreger imagined him flipping off the authorities with all their superstitions and insistence on adhering to dogma.

Philosophically paving the way for the world as we now know it, Galileo actively argued for a bold new way of knowing, openly insisting that what mattered was not what the authorities—ancient or otherwise—said was true but what anyone with the right tools could show was true. As no one before him had, he made the case for modern science—for finding truth together through the quest for facts

But she also chose the title because the scientists whose stories she recounts in the book are much like Galileo himself. They believe in science, and expected (perhaps naively) that being scientifically correct would protect them from being persecuted by people who don’t like what they have to say. They were wrong about that, of course.

I had accidentally stumbled onto something much more surreal—a whole fraternity of beleaguered and bandaged academics who had produced scholarship offensive to one identity group or another and who had consequently been the subject of various forms of shout-downs. Only these academics hadn’t yet formed a proper society in which they could keep each other company. Most of these people had been too specialized or too geeky (or too convinced they were the only ones who didn’t deserve it) to realize there were others like them out there.

Dreger recounts persecutions of scientists who dared to challenge the idea of “recovered memory,” or dared to present evidence that the Yanomami frequently kill each other and kidnap women for sex (The Narrative says they’re all peaceful children of Nature), or dared to write papers arguing that yes, rape is sometimes about sex. (The Narrative says rape is always about violence and power, and never about sex, period.)

For daring to dispute The Narrative, these scientists were all publicly attacked and portrayed as bigoted tools of The Oppressors. Dreger found they were nothing of the sort.

The story I had been told about Mike Bailey and Craig Palmer and so many other white straight male scientists accused of producing bad and dangerous findings, the story I had willingly heard as an academic feminist in the humanities, was that these guys were just soldiers of the oppressive establishment against which we good guys had come to fight. They came from old dogma about human nature; we came from progress and social justice, and so we had to win.

But here I was faced with the fact that not only were these scientists politically progressive when it came to things like the rights of transgender people and rape victims, they were also willing to look for facts that might get them in hot water. They very much cared about progress in social justice, but they cared first about knowing what was true. They believed that good science couldn’t be done by just Ouija-boarding your answers. Good scholarship had to put the search for truth first and the quest for social justice second.

That’s not how postmodernists see it, of course. For them, truth runs a distant second to (ahem) “justice.” As someone who spent years in academia, Dreger knows that all too well:

I knew many of my colleagues in the humanities would disagree. I could practically hear them arguing against me, as if they were seated all around me in those cramped fake-leather seats, yelling to be heard above the churning propellers. We have to use our privilege to advance the rights of the marginalized. We can’t let people like Bailey and Palmer say what is true about the world. We have to give voice and power to the oppressed and let them say what is true. Science is as biased as all human endeavors, and so we have to empower the disempowered, and speak always with them.

She argues back quite effectively:

Justice cannot be advanced by letting ‘truth’ be determined by political goals. Only people like us, with insane amounts of privilege, could ever think it was a good idea to decide what is right before we even know what is true. Only insanely privileged people like us, who never fear the knock of a corrupt police, could think guilt or innocence should be determined by identity rather than by facts. Science—the quest for evidence—is not ‘just another way of knowing.’ It’s a methodical process of checking each other, checking theory against experiment, checking claim against fact, and fact against fact.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the engaging (and often infuriating) stories Dreger tells in Galileo’s Middle Finger. You may not care much about gender and transgender issues, but if you read this blog, I presume you care about science. I also hope you recognize that good science is facing an existential threat because of postmodernist lunacy, and sooner or later, the lunacy will affect all of us.

After all, The Narrative says that eating meat is evil, it’s bad for your health, and raising animals for food will ruin the planet. If these postmodernist wackos aren’t stopped, imagine what will happen to nutrition science. Imagine what will happen if they acquire the power to tell us what to eat. Well, heck, you don’t have to imagine. Just go read the EAT-Lancet paper.

Greger finishes with a chapter titled TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THE AMERICAN WAY. Here are a few quotes:

Perhaps most troubling is the tendency within some branches of the humanities to portray scholarly quests to understand reality as quaint or naive, even colonialist and dangerous … to treat those who seek a more objective understanding of a problem as fools or de facto criminals is to betray the very idea of an academy of learners. When I run into such academics—people who will ignore and, if necessary, outright reject any fact that might challenge their ideology, who declare scientific methodologies “just another way of knowing”—I feel this crazy desire to institute a purge. It smells like fungal rot in the hoof of a plow horse we can’t afford to lose.

What privilege such people enjoy who can say there is no objective reality, no way to ascertain more accurate knowledge! … These must be people who have never had to fear enough to desperately need truth, the longing for truth, the gift of truth. Surely, the “scholar” who thinks truth is for children at Christmastime is the person who has never had to fear the knock of the secret police at her door.

The activists who founded the United States—the Founding Fathers—understood the critical connection between freedom of thought and freedom of person. They understood that justice (freedom of person) depends upon truth (freedom of thought), and that the quest for truth cannot occur in an unjust system. It’s no coincidence that so many of the Founding Fathers were science geeks.

I want to say to activists: If you want justice, support the search for truth. Engage in searches for truth … Evidence really is an ethical issue, the most important ethical issue in a modern democracy. If you want justice, you must work for truth. And if you want to work for truth, you must do a little more than wish for justice.

Bingo. She says pretty much everything the postermodernist wackos — with their hostility to free speech, their cancel culture, their rejection of logic and reason, their “different ways of knowing,” and their insistence that we all bow down before The Narrative — need to hear.

But I doubt any of them are listening. They’re too busy proving what fine, noble, enlightened people they are by shouting down everyone else.

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