Thursday, 22 December 2011

The DOMINIC System: Part Two

Once you have animated each playing card with a person and action according to the DOMINIC system (part one), you then need to think of a familiar journey.  You should identify 52 specific places along that journey where you will place each card/character each time you perform this trick.

The DOMINIC System: Part One

The DOMINIC system was devised by Dominic O'Brien.  It is not particularly unique but is an excellent system nonetheless.  First of all we need to encode the digits 0-9 with a letter (we will start off with the first ten cards of each suit and then move on to picture cards at the end):

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


I use Supradyn's 'Morning Energy Alarm Clock'.  It is a 'light' alarm clock, imitating sunrise.  You can set the sun to begin rising prior to your wake-up time, whereupon your phone gets increasingly brighter at reveille.  You can also set an audible alarm of birdsong.

I am a big fan of sounds from nature and sometimes listen to an MP3 of waves crashing on a beach (with seagulls circling overhead), to provide a degree of isolation at work when I need to concentrate.

For me 'natural sounds' seem to facilitate concentration in a non-distracting way, unlike songs (classical or otherwise).  Even something as relaxing and placid as Nick Drake will lead my mind to float off on to contemplation of his voice, guitar tuning, technique etc...

To this end The Guardian featured an article on a three year program of research by the University of Surrey in to the effects of birdsong on our creativity and on our sense of wellbeing,
  • "The study will examine the psychological impact of being exposed to birdsong, including whether it helps us relax, can assist our ability to complete tasks and even think creatively.

    Eleanor Ratcliffe, the researcher undertaking the study said while there was a growing body of environmental psychology looking at how the natural world affects people, there was still a lot to understand about the power of specific natural sounds."
For those who value wild places and the species that live there, it is time to give up grains, abandon veg*anism and more importantly, start eating indigenous meat.

Meat and Sex

In the great debate about whether man is primarily a meat eater or vegetarian we often lose sight of the subtler utility of animals.  I blogged previously about this in Waste Not, Want Not.  Forage for a plant and you have food.  Kill a bison and you have food, leather and hide for clothing, tendons for bow strings (and musical instruments), bones for handles and tools, and so forth.

In The Red Queen, Matt Ridley draws attention to the work of Kim Hill.  Firstly you might want to bone-up on sexual selection.  Natural selection is indeed powerful, but that is only half the story - or rather the impact of sexual selection is omitted in preference for the 'survival of the fittest' sound-bite we've ended up with.

Hill worked with the Ache people of Paraguay and found that meat was used a form of payment,
  • Ache men would donate any spare meat they had to women they wanted to have sex with.  They were not doing so in the hope of helping to feed children they had already fathered but as a direct payment for an affair.  It was not easy to discover.  Hill found that he was gradually forced to drop questions about adultery from his studies because the Ache, under missionary influence, became increasingly squeamish about discussing the subject.
For a hunter-gatherer society we shouldn't underestimate the pressure to obtain meat, not just from a survival perspective, but also as a means to securing a mate.  Powerful drivers are at work here that may not leave much archaeological evidence.

As I said before, this is a great book!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Division of Labour

My earliest posts saw me romanticising about HGs navigating over wild terrain.  I'd learned to memorise a shuffled pack of cards (still an awesome trick, but one I've not practised for a while), using the 'Journey' method courtesy of Dominic O'Brien where each card position, 1-52, is assigned a position along a familiar route.  The two seemed to be related.

What got me was how easy this trick is - and why did it work so well when done under the framework of a journey?  Why was this geographic angle superior to a method based upon the senses?  It is known that extreme images/scenarios help memory recall as do smells and music, but a journey as outlined above, is by far the most practical approach.

In The Red Queen, Matt Ridley looks at the general differences between men and women when it comes to visuo-spatial tasks.  Putting aside the idea that men have generally superior visuo-spatial skills due to polygamy (a phenomena seen in some mice, so not without precedent), the work of Silverman and Eals suggest that our HG past has left indelible imprints upon the modern self due to a division of labour.  Whereas men looked for food sources that were 'mobile, distant and unpredictable', women foraged closer to home,
  • ...[Silverman and Eals] asked themselves: what special spatial skills would women gatherers need that men would not?  One thing they predicted was that women would need to notice things more- to spot roots, mushrooms, berries, plants - and would need to remember landmarks so as to know where to look.  So Silverman and Eals did a series of experiments that required students to memorise a picture full of objects and then recall them later, or to sit in a room for three minutes, and then recall what objects were where in the room (the students were told they were merely being asked to wait in the room until a different experiment was ready).  On every measure of object memory and location memory, the women students did sixty to seventy per cent better than the men.
Given the evolutionary drivers that must have shaped these behaviours the obvious question is how deep do these differences run physiologically?  I wonder if women would benefit more from a broadly vegetarian diet (still excluding NAD), with some supplemental meat, and men the contrary?  This is just speculation mind.  personally I am still meat-centric with a side order of veg and some starch.  I dial the starch up and down as required and with an eye on season.  If I feel I've put some weight (particularly over summer) I assume that I am doing things right!

Testosterone & The Immune System

I've come across a few interesting articles and papers on the compromise between testosterone and the immune system.  High T comes at a price.  A graphic example of this in the animal kingdom can be found in Matt Ridley's The Red Queen

The comb of a cockerel can be used to judge health by both a potential mate and by farmers.  The comb itself is an adornment, evolved through sexual selection, and so in many ways is a burden to survival:
  • [The] comb is red because of the carotenoidpigments in it...The peculiar thing about caretinoids is that birds and fish cannot synthesise them within their own tissues; they extract them from their food - from fruit or shellfish, or other plants and inverterbrates.  But their ability to extract caretinoids from their food and deliver it to their tissues is much affected by certain parasites.  A cockerel affected by the disease coccidiosis, for example, accumulates less carotenoid in his comb than a healthy cockerel - even when both animals have been fed equal quantities of carotenoid.  Nobody knows exactly why the parasites have this specific biochemical effect, but it seems to be unavoidable and it is therefore extremely useful to the female: the brightness of carotenoid-filled tissues is a visible sign of the levels of parasite infection....The size and brightness of such combs may be affected by parasites, but they are effected by hormones.  The higher the level testosterone in the blood of a cockerel, the bigger and brighter will be his comb and wattles.  The problem for the cockerel is that the higher his level of testosterone, the greater will be his parasite infestation.  The hormone itself seems to lower his resistance to parasites.  Once again nobody knows why, but cortisol, the 'stress' hormone that is released into the bloodstream during times of emotional crisis, also has a marked effect on the immune system.  A long study of cortisol levels in the children in the West Indies revealed that they are much more likely to catch an infection shortly after their cortisol levels have been high.  Cortisol and testosterone are both steroid hormones and they have a remarkably similar molecular structure: of the five biochemical steps needed to make cholesterol into either cortisol or testosterone, only the last two steps are differentThere seems to be something about steroid hormones that unavoidably depresses immune defenceThis immune effect of testosterone is the reason that men are more susceptible to infectious disease than women, a trend that occurs throughout the animal kingdom...It is as if male animals have a finite sum of energy, which they can spend on testosterone or immunity to disease, but not both at the same time.
Great book!

Sunday, 18 December 2011


I'd taken this photo back in November and an item on BBC news this morning reminded me of it which reported on the marketing 'food' to children online.  I say food, but I am not sure Krave meets the definition of anything but neo-poverty food.

I'm looking forward to marketing my own cereal called "Addykt" based upon a similar recipe.  Meantime:
  • crave (krv) v. craved, crav·ing, craves

    1. To have an intense desire for. See Synonyms at desire.
    2. To need urgently; require.
    3. To beg earnestly for; implore. See Synonyms at beg.
A massive social media campaign has been launched to back Krave.  You have to be 16 to sign up for Krave's newsletter and 17 to play their games on Facebook but lets not kid ourselves as to who will be buying this stuff - after all, it is not on a top shelf, nor does it bear any kind of age restriction on the packaging.  In fact I found it on a shelf easily accessible to a toddler and tucked in next to "children's" cereals.  I cannot think of a worse start to the day.

Follow this link to see the nutritional profile of Krave.  What I like about the dumb-ass nutritional information on the box is that it is based upon a 30g serving.  This is the intellectual equivalent of selling alcohol in smaller measures to alcoholics.

I'd like to see the modal demographic that buy this stuff.  Perhaps if we saw those folk on a billboard the penny would drop...

Baise moi.

(Find out how much energy there is in breakfast cereal with this experiment.)

Friday, 16 December 2011

Impromptu Workout

Warm Up (15 minutes)
Main (25 minutes).
1. Sprints (5 x sidewinders to straight sprint, 1 min rest btw)
2a. Snatch Grip Deadlift off a Deficit (5x5xBW)
2b. Chins (10, 10, 6, 6, 5)

The SGDLs and Chins were interleaved with one min rest between each exercise.

Wit & Wisdom

"With every 72 virgins they get in paradise, they get 72 mother-in-laws!"

Christopher Hitchens (1949 - 2011)

“The four most over-rated things in life are champagne, lobster, anal sex and picnics.”

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Sugar Ages Skin Prematurely

Another study backing what ADV has mentioned some time ago, high concentrations of blood glucose make people look older according to New Scientist!
  • A SWEET tooth does more than pack on the pounds. It causes your skin to age prematurely, making you look older than you really are. But how much older?

    A team led by Diana van Heemst at Leiden University in the Netherlands divided 569 healthy volunteers into three groups according to whether they had low, medium or high concentrations of blood glucose after a meal. They also studied 33 people with diabetes who had even higher blood glucose levels.

    Sixty independent assessors were then asked to view pictures of the volunteers and rate how old each looked. The results show that high blood sugar levels made people look older, even when other factors affecting appearance were accounted for, such as actual age, smoking and a history of sunbathing.

    The largest gap in perceived age was one year seven months, between the lowest glucose group and the diabetics, from an average of 59.6 years old to 61.2 years. But even among those without diabetes, there was a one-year gap between the lowest and highest glucose groups. Overall, there was a five-month hike in perceived age for every 0.18 gram increase in glucose per litre of blood.
The research paper can be found here.

    Wednesday, 14 December 2011

    Time Flies

    We spent this evening at a carol service in aid of a local farm trust.  The farm is a true working farm and offers residential and day visits to kids from inner-city infant schools (aged around 4-6).

    The kids are bussed out to the farm and spend a day or more working on the farm collecting eggs, watching the lambing/calving, or if it is snowy, simply sledging down the hills.  It gives them an escape from city living and offers them a chance to see sights, sounds and smells that would otherwise go unknown to them, and a chance to engage with real food.

    A representative from one of these infant schools got up to address the audience and offer thanks for our support,
    • "We've been running visits from our school since the early 1980's and the pupils and ex-pupils always reflect fondly on their time at the farm including those that are now parents and grandparents....."

    Drew Bezanson

    We like wild stuff on NM.  In this video Drew Bezanson follows the 'go big or go home' mantra and lays down some 'unbelievable tekkers' particularly at the 3:06 mark.

    Drew Bezanson from Justen Soule on Vimeo.

    Wednesday, 7 December 2011

    Short walk 'halves' Chocolate Consumption

    Hmm!  Not sure how this ties in with the hormonal effect of exercise and food reward:
    The abstract is here:
    • Workplace snacking can contribute to obesity. Exercise reduces chocolate cravings but effects on chocolate consumption are unknown. This study investigated the effect of brief exercise on ad libitum consumption during breaks in a computerised task. Seventy-eight regular chocolate eaters, age: 24.90 ± 8.15 years, BMI: 23.56 ± 3.78 kg/m2 abstained for 2 days. They were randomly assigned to one of four conditions, in a 2 × 2 factorial design, involving either a 15 min brisk walk or quiet rest, and then computerised Stroop tasks with low or high demanding conditions, in three 180 s blocks with a 90 s interval. Throughout, a pre-weighed bowl of chocolates was available for ad libitum eating. A two-way ANOVA revealed no interaction effect of exercise and stress on total chocolate consumption, or main effect of stress, but a main effect of exercise [F(1, 74) = 7.12, p < .01]. Mean (SD) chocolate consumption was less (t(73.5) = 2.69, 95% CI for difference 3.4–22.9, ES = 0.61) for the exercise (15.6 g) than control (28.8 g) group. Exercise also increased affective activation, but there was no mediating effect of change in affect on chocolate consumption. A brief walk may help to reduce ad libitum snacking in regular chocolate eaters.
    • ► Exercise almost halved ad libitum chocolate consumption among regular chocolate eaters, while performing a computerised task.
    • ► The level of task demand had little influence on the results.
    • ► Exercise also increased level of affective activation.
    • ► Changes in affective activation did not mediate the effects of exercise on chocolate consumption.

    Tuesday, 6 December 2011

    The Food Hospital: Interesting....

    Here is the rundown of this week's episode of TFH:
    • This week The Food Hospital welcomes patients with conditions from the common to the bizarre. Anne is a menopausal woman with hot flushes that are affecting both her daily life and her self confidence. Teenager Taigh seems to be a healthy fitness instructor but is terrified of eating vegetables. A photographer, Kate, also comes to The Food Hospital with a disabling disease that food may in fact be causing, and a pair of body builders with incredible appetites find out whether their diets really are healthy. Also Dr Pixie McKenna investigates how reliable DIY food intolerance tests actually are and the results of the Insomnia Big Food Trial are revealed.

    Saturday, 3 December 2011

    Why Not Eat Insects?

    Entomophagists rejoice.  Further to the topic of bug-consumption I talked about here, I offer this little gem, "Why Not Eat Insects?" by Vincent Holt and dated 1885! 
    • "Beginning with the earliest rimes, one can produce examples of insect-eating at every period down to our own age. Speaking to the people of Israel, at Lev. xi. 22, Moses directly encourages them to eat clean-feeding insects: "These ye may eat, the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind." Again, John the Baptist is recorded to have lived in the desert upon locusts and wild honey. Some critics, however, apparently considering locusts unnatural food, and ignorant of how they are relished in the East, have gone out of their way to produce long arguments to prove that the word which has been translated "locusts" ought to have been rendered as the name of a species of cassia-pod. This is not so. Almost every traveller of note has given us an account of how the Eastern nations enjoy these insects. Pliny records the fact that in his day they were much eaten by the Parthians. Herodotus describes the mode adopted by the Nasamones of powdering locusts for the purpose of baking them into cakes.

      The Hottentots, according to Sparrman, welcome the locusts as a godsend, although the whole country is devastated, for it is literally a case of the biter bit; and these locust-eaters grow round and fat from the incredible quantities they devour of their nutritious and appetizing persecutors. Cooked in many and various ways, locusts are eaten in the Crimea, Arabia, Persia, Madagascar, Africa, and India. Sometimes they are merely fried, their legs and wings plucked off, and the bodies eaten, flavoured with pepper and salt. At others they are powdered and baked into cakes; or, again, they are boiled, turning red, like lobsters, in the process. In India, like every other article of food, they are curried. (It has been cleverly suggested by Simmonds, in his "Curiosities of Food," that their very name, Gryllus, is in itself an invitation to cook them.) In Arabia, Persia, and parts of Africa there are regular locust shops where they are exposed for sale; and among the Moors they are highly valued, appearing in the menu at the best tables. Their method of cooking is to pluck off the head, wings, and legs, boil for half an hour, flavour with pepper and salt, and fry in butter. As I can myself bear witness, of which more hereafter, this recipe applied to our English grasshoppers renders that despised insect a truly tasty morsel. From the time of Homer, the Cicadae formed the. theme of every Greek poet, in regard to both tunefulness and delicate flavour. Aristotle tells us that the most polished of the Greeks enjoyed them, considering the pupae, or chrysalids, the greatest tid-bits, and after them the females heavy with their burden of eggs. Why this taste should have died out in modern Greece one cannot tell, for it is much more wholesome than many which have been assiduously perpetuated. Cicadae are eaten at the present day by the American Indians and by the natives of Australia.

      According to Pliny, the Roman epicures were in the habit of fattening for the table the larvae of the Cossus, with flour and wine. It is somewhat doubtful as to the exact identity of the insect represented by the word Cossus; but it was probably the large grub of the Stag Beetle {Lucanus cervins) or a large Longicorn Beetle {Prionus corioranus). The epicure of Rome was most dainty and discriminating in his food. Why, then, should we turn up our noses at what he considered as a great delicacy?
      Aelian tells us that in his time an Indian king served up, for his Greek guests, as dessert, a dish of roasted grubs, extracted from some tree or plant, which were considered by the natives a great treat. There is very little doubt that these were the larvae of the palm weevil (Calandra palmarum), huge grubs as large as a man's thumb, which are, at the present day, extracted from the palm trees and eaten with great relish by the negroes in the West Indies under the name of Grugru. Kirby in his "Entomology" says that a certain Sir John La Forey, who was somewhat an epicure, was extremely partial to this grub when properly cooked.

      The family of Longicorn Beetles affords a rich store of luscious larvae, which are sought and eaten by the inhabitants of most countries where they are to be found in any abundance. As I mentioned before, it is considered by some to have been a member of this family {Prionus corioranus) that was fed up by the Romans for the table with all the care that is nowadays bestowed upon a prize pig. One of this tribe is also mentioned by Madame Merian as being eaten by both the native and white inhabitants of Surinam, who serve them up nicely roasted after being emptied and washed. In St. Pierre's voyages also, this, or some similar insect, is mentioned, under the name of the Moutac grub, as being eaten by whites and natives alike. In Java there is a species of Cockchafer (Melolontha hypoleuca) to which Wiedemann has drawn attention, as forming food for the inhabitants. The last instance from among the Coleoptera I will bring forward is the well-known meal worm, the larvae of a small beetle (Tenebrio), which Turkish women eat in large quantities for the purpose of acquiring that plumpness of form their lords so much admire. The Chinese, making use of "the worm, a thing that crept on the bare earth, then wrought a tomb and slept" as food, eat the chrysalids of the silkworms after the silk has been wound from off the cocoons. They fry them in butter or lard, add yolk of eggs, and season with pepper, salt, and vinegar. A certain Mr. Favand, a Chinese missionary, says that he found this food refreshing and strengthening. Dr. Darwin, also, in his "Phytologia," mentions this dish, and says that a white earth grub and the larvae- of the sphinx moths are also eaten, which latter he tried, and found to be delicious. The Hottentots eat caterpillars, both cooked and raw, collecting and carrying them in large calabashes to their homes, where they fry them in iron pots over a gentle fire, stirring them about the while. They eat them, cooked thus, in handfuls, without any flavouring or sauce. A traveller who on several occasions tried this dish, tells us that he thought it delicate, nourishing, and wholesome, resembling in taste sugared cream or sweet almond paste."
    Looks like Banting wasn't the only one holding a piece of the paleo jigsaw back in the 1800s.

    Friday, 2 December 2011

    Volume Week 6 W/O3

    The last formal workout of 2011. I will engage in a few periodic workouts over December, but it pretty much ends here until January 2012.

    I need to look back on my numbers for the year.  I don't want to come over all 'Quantified Self' - but it is important to review en route to your goals.  All the measurement will end once an OAC is achieved (off both arms), but for now I need to map the journey.  (As for 'Quantified Self', I recommend you read this article from The Guardian.)

    Warm Up (15 minutes)
    Main (30 minutes).
    1a. Deadlift (3x150, 4x135)
    1b. OACs (4X55kg, 5X50, 2-arm 10xBW with Straight-Leg Leg-Lift)
    2. Backbridge, Wall Walk (15s, 2)
    3. 321 (8L, 8L, 8M)

    Thursday, 1 December 2011

    The Food Hospital: A Horse by Any Other Name

    I have just watched this weeks' Food Hospital:
    • In the fifth week of The Food Hospital GP Gio Miletto, Dietitian Lucy Jones and Gastric Consultant Shaw Somers meet Ellie who suffers from a rare and chronic odour disorder. A teenager, Toby, comes to The Food Hospital hoping to find a solution for his extreme eczema which sparks teasing at school. Michelle is a mother in excruciating pain due to gallstones which she says is more painful than child labour. The team also demonstrates an easy to make recipe for hungover heads. Dr Pixie McKenna investigates the health claims on packaging and reveals the results of the latest survey.
    Surprise, surprise, Shaw Somers recommended a NEOLITHIC DIET ("Huzzah!).   Yep, Somers recommended we eat as we did in the stone age in a bid to help deal with gallstones - and what is more there is evidence that this kind of diet can 'reduce risk of heart disease'!

    Let's back up a minute and reflect upon the main problem with this program.  As I have said a few times already, unhappy with entertaining the idea that some consumer items masquerading as food can lead to malady, TFH assume that pretty much everything sold to us as food IS food, and that people who are sick (sickness that could NOT possibly come from poor nutritional choices), can seek remedy in the medicinal qualities of food.  This is 'arse about face'.  It is not so much that 'real food' food is curing us, it is that much of what is sold to us as food is poisoning us.

    Now let's back up once more.  What is a horse?  Well, it is big and white/brown/black/grey, a bit bigger than cow-sized, has a leg in each corner and goes "neigh".  We know a horse when we see it.  But do we know a Neolithic Diet when we see it?
    Well TFH get something right.  A Neolithic Diet is low in processed foods.  So far so good.  But then the voice over goes on to say that the cause of gallstones is a diet "high in fat and cholesterol and low in fibre" and as part of the Neolithic/Caveman Diet Michelle should eat fresh foods including 'low fat dairy'.

    Noooooooooooo!  The stupid, make it stop!

    Needless to say after 8 weeks Michelle had only one episode of pain (at the outset of the diet), was 'less hungry all the time', and felt 'generally better'.  (Only an ultrasound could conclude if the gallstones had disappeared.)

    Just imagine what a REAL Caveman/Neolithic diet could do eh?

    Baise Moi!