Friday, April 16, 2021

Guest Post: What I've Learned the Past Decade (@pdxsag)

[From our guest correspondent, @pdxsag.] 

In keeping with the new theme of GenX poasting their wisdom at peak-life (CBS , SA, ShH), I thought I would take the challenge myself and add my own 3500 words.

The big demarcations in my life are college, birth of our first child, and the GFC. I'm going to cover the big things I've learned since the GFC, which is close to the one decade that these reviews cover, but obviously is slightly longer. I expect this epoch to last until our youngest leaves the household. In that regard I am probably half-way through the middle of my life. Now is definitely is a fitting time to pause and take stock.

With that established, what have I learned over the last 13 years?

Hifi Kit
After you take the time to listen to some carefully crafted A-B comparisons (1, 2, 3) you realize modern electronics are so far out the Pareto curve it's laughable. The engineers that came up with the standard for CD audio were no dummies. Trained music professionals are virtually the only people that can discern audible differences in the range of 90-95 db. It is no accident CD audio is capable of 96 db of dynamic range.

What is true is our hearing is finely tuned to loudness and reliably prefers louder. Differences as small as 0.5 dB louder will sound better to almost everyone. Unscrupulous sales people exploit this by ever so slightly turning up the volume on the things they want to up-sell you.

Thanks to Moore's Law, almost any modern hifi kit can faithfully reproduce CD audio (4). You do not have to spend large sums of money to get incredibly accurate music reproduction.

A bespoke set-up can be had for $2-5k in speakers, $500 in amplification, and $100 in source playback. A value buyer could spend ½ to 1/5 that amount on each piece – particularly if searching out used equipment – and be just as pleased in every way, except giving up something in SPL (loudness).

My light bulb moment came after I did a decent upgrade of my kit (by no means to the bespoke level) and realized a lot of music consisted of really bad recordings. Later after doing the aforementioned listening tests, I realized there was no perceptible difference between best and second best, and the difference from best to worst was pretty darn small to be getting worked up over.

The inconvenient fact is most modern music production is sloppy junk. There is a perverse race to the bottom where the cheaper the tools for music recording and engineering have become, the lower the skill of the practitioners has followed.

In sum: the several hundred dollars I spent on a kit upgrade made it so the difference in good recordings and bad recordings was very noticeable, while the difference in the minute details that differentiate among kit was imperceptible in almost all but the greatest extreme of cases.

Now I experience neither fear, uncertainty, and doubt, nor most importantly of all, a scintilla of envy or wishful thinking at upgrading to more expensive hifi kit.

For completeness, my hifi system consists of a Sony HAP-S1 for playback of my CD collection, an Oppo BDP-105 for streaming services (it has native apps as well as digital inputs I used with a Gen 1 Fire TV and a laptop computer), a pair of Airmotive 6s self-powered speakers, and a 10” sub-woofer.

Cycling in America is a competitive-wannabe hobby dominated by manufacturers trying to sell performance products to weekend warriors. Not unlike the hifi electronics industry, manufacturers would quickly put themselves out of business if they leveled with their customers and sold them just the products they need.

The two biggest factors differentiating bicycles is frame stiffness and weight. However, what few people know is that the frame acts like a spring and the best performance comes with a flexible frame that can resonate with the pedal stroke of the rider. Next is that weight differences are greatly overstated as to their effect on speed.

Stiff frames, skinny tires, and light weight are things that feel good and are easily discernible on short test rides. They have in common that they transmit high frequency vibration – buzz. Since high frequency vibration is proportional to speed, your senses are easily tricked into associating more buzz with more speed. When you make the effort to calibrate your speedometer and pay careful attention you realize you aren't going faster, it may just feel that way.

As to the things that do matter, the biggest difference, after riding position, is tires. High quality casings are better. Wider is better.

Spending a little bit more money on comfortable tires and deciding you don't care how fast you go, that the journey is the goal, opens up a whole new and completely different dimension to the sport.

See also: 19 myths in cycling.

CBS covered this in his post.

An additional point I would make is that fats are superior to carbohydrates because fats do not elicit a large insulin response, which is pro-aging. More on that later.

Also, Omega-6 should be strongly avoided. Treat it like a poison. Trans-fats were made to be the fall guy for omega-6.

Pareto-wise, the best diet advice is to target your P:E ratio to above 1.0. That is Protein to total Energy. There is decent evidence that the body's hunger mechanism targets protein intake first, and total calories only when total body fat is sub 8-9%.

If you are deficient in protein, you will be hungry until you consume enough food to fulfill your body's protein requirement. If you are eating low protein density foods, you are consuming more total calories, which your body will store as fat, to hit your daily protein requirement.

Conversely, high protein density foods will have you consuming fewer total calories, which your body will liberate from stored fat to make up any energy deficit. Only at very low BMI's will the hunger drive need to be satiated by total energy intake instead of only protein. (PE Diet)

As far as choosing high PE foods, the simplest and quickest rule for packaged food is look on the wrapper. The protein in grams * 10 should be greater than or equal to the total calories. A lot of so-called energy bars fail this test. They are candy bars in drag. High quality protein bars pass this test (Ted Naiman).

For everything else, Dr. Naiman has shared a handy visual aid.

Last, this doesn't really apply to P:E diet, but it needs said and fits here well enough. The enforcers of plant-based diet orthodoxy play serious hardball. Diet research is completely beholden to the orthodoxy, and the vast and overwhelming majority of it is written to obfuscate the results to fit within the approved narrative. It's comical once you see it because it is so reliable. I don't follow him regularly anymore, but the blogger Peter Dobromylskyj has made reading between the lines and parsing the results for hidden gems into high art. If you have yet to be disabused of the  “trust science” propaganda, Peter is a great follow.

Vitamins & Supplements
I used to be of the opinion that vitamins and supplements were a scam. I wasn't wrong. However, the blame lies with the scam-artists that have found vitamin and supplement buyers to be easy marks. There is an uncanny overlap with the hifi audio industry as to their methods. The cheapest ingredients have the greatest mark-ups and thus can afford the most advertising.

I have learned from personal experience that vitamins and supplements can make a huge difference. But to be effective, they need to 1) target an actual deficiency in your system and 2) be in a bio-available form.

We think of them effecting our physical health. However, just as assuredly, some effect our brain and psychological health. Knowing which vitamins target which parts of health is a pretty big topic in and of itself. It is well worth investing the time to learn.

As regards vitamins and supplements, the biggest effect of aging is that the body becomes less efficient with resource inputs. Think of your body like a manufacturing plant. As it ages, yields drop. You can console yourself to lower output, or you can figure out what your rate-limiting inputs are and goose them with supplements.

The total bio-activity of vitamins and supplements vary greatly based on which form of it you take, and in some cases whether you take it with food or fasted.

Briefly here's what to never waste your money on:

  • catch-all multi-vitamins – they don't target any deficiency enough to move the needle
  • catch-all B vitamins – not a common deficiency in modern American diet. They also lead to weight gain. Maybe a couple times a year I notice myself extra tired getting up in the morning. If it persists a few days in a row for me to notice it being “a thing,” I take a B-50 vitamin and after 1 or 2 days I am back to my normal self. Take early in the day. Taken late in the day B vitamins can lead to sleeplessness.
  • anything with calcium – excess calcium seems to end up on artery walls
  • anything with iron – iron is the rate-limiting nutrient for all the micro-pathogens inhabiting our body (Mangan)
  • inexpensive fish oils – they oxidize into harmful by-products; omega-3's are so vital and the modern diet is so deficient, do not skimp on these. Buy fresh from a high turn-over source.

As far as what to take, a few years ago I coined what I call the Big 5 + 1.

  • Omega-3 
  • Vitamin D – 2000-5000 IU/day
  • Vitamin K2 
  • Magnesium – take before bed, if you have the best night's sleep in months, you're probably deficient. Repeat until you don't think about it anymore, then take 1-3 times a week.
  • Zinc (and selenium)


  • NAC – not an essential amino acid, but it is one that our body loses efficiency in synthesizing as we age; has beneficial psychological health effects.

Today, I wouldn't change a thing. In the Pareto sense, these will get you 80% of the health benefits for 20% of the effort.

(I find it a little funny that when the 'Rona hit the first set of OTC recommendations for prophylaxis and treatment were Vitamin D, Zinc, and NAC.)

For people looking to really dial-in their health using the supplement game, here are a few things I've added to my stack. My rule for all my supplements is I have to be able to note a physiological effect.

  • L-Citrullene – metabolizes into NOx – physiological effect attests to its efficacy
  • collagen – my ring-finger fingernail has a tendency to split. Taking this solves that. Also makes wife's skin noticeably smoother and softer. It's supposed to help with artery health. If it can almost immediately fix fingernails and skin, I have no reason to doubt it works great on arteries – again physiological effect is my guide
  • whey – Isolate and BCAA's are good. Fillers, especially sugars are not. If for some reason dinner has been light on protein a couple days in a row, or I've been extra physically active, or I just feel unusually peckish, this is my go-to. On the other hand, BCAA's activate mTOR, the opposite of what we want for longevity, so be mindful. I mostly only take it on work-out days.

Insulin & Programmed Aging
There is a reasonable argument that aging itself is programmed into our genes. No one questions that growth is a biological program: certainly the magic of embryological development is a running biological program. Growth from infant to toddler to adolescent to adulthood though far more subtle, when you think about it, has a obvious deterministic, which is to say programmatic, aspect to it too.

So if you recognize all growth is a biological program, then probably so is aging. And it's clocked.

The Holy Grail of aging research is finding the biological master clock and slowing it down, stopping it, ideally even reversing it. That remains life's greatest mystery – maybe it's the moon – but for now the top contender among those things we can actually control is insulin and the mTOR pathway.

The best thing you can do for your health is keep insulin as low as possible for as long as possible. Two popular ways to accomplish this are consuming all your calories within a single 4-6 hour window every day. (I typically have a 9 hr window myself.) And intermittent fasting, usually defined as >18 hours between meals, on some sort of regular basis, ideally weekly. (I manage to at least twice a year.) When you do eat, aim for low carbohydrate meals: meat and leafy greens. (We are no strangers to potatoes, but we do keep our bread and pasta intake low and never have boxed cereal, soda, or fruit juices in the house.)

Last, as my wife and I approach 5-0 I anticipate adding rapamycin to our vitamin and supplement stack. It is ridiculously expensive and requires greasing the palm of a dirty licensed gatekeeper or I would have started taking it a few years ago.

I underestimated perfidy of the financial elite
I naively thought after the Great Financial Crisis regulators would have come to their senses, realized the significance of bullet the country dodged, and undertaken reforms to get the economy off the exponential growth treadmill.

Obviously I could not have been more wrong.

Boomers didn't reform anything. They doubled down. They have sold-out the nation's future. They are unforgiven and unforgivable. History shall not be kind to them.

Where I grew up in the rust belt no one cared about civic engagement. The social buzz was do as much as you can to build liquid wealth in the short-term so that you could retire and leave. “Winning” was defined by how soon you could hit your number and leave. Growing up with that mindset, I didn't know any better and took it as a completely normal way to view life. Winning was leaving. The sooner you leave, the bigger a winner you were.

It wasn't until I went away for college and moreso later moved to Portland that I realized there were places where people liked where they were living and wanted to build it and make it better, and even stay there into old age. It was remarkable.

Sadly, I have seen that attitude of not caring at all about the civic future, and instead trying to make as much money now so that you can leave, the earlier the better, take over the entire country. I don't know anyone or anywhere that is happy with where they are and want to plan for a future remaining there. It seems no matter where you are the one thing every place in the country has in common is your kids can't afford to buy a house there after they move out, and you can't afford to continue to live there after you retire.

The Boomer's definition of winning: selling everything and leaving the place you have lived, worked, and raised your kids at for 40 years for a completely new place in which you can arbitrage your cost of living as you burn through your capital has taken over the entire country's mindset.

I well remember this was not the case 10 and 12 years ago.

Every conspiracy theory is directionally correct
(Except for the ones that are dis-information meant to discredit and ridicule. Yes, that has a whiff of “no true Scotsman” fallacy.)

I don't expect most people rise to this level of awareness, but for those that do, at some point you have seen enough conspiracy theories become conspiracy fact, that you can make the bold statement that every conspiracy theory is directionally correct.

The details, though unknowable and as often as not probably gotten wrong, but directionally when something bad happens that in the fullness of time benefits the elites' interests you can be certain the official story is a cover story.

Elites are aware of this too. They plant ridiculous, hyperbolic stories which they use to discredit their critics. Speaking of fallacies, the fallacies elites traffic in are strawman and nut-picking. They want the public to think that if someone believes a conspiracy theory they are a kook and must believe all conspiracy theories.

Since the elites control the media, they control which facts are legitimate. Any facts not disseminated  by the media are ipso facto conspiracy theories of ill-repute. If inconvenient facts are all summarily discredited and dismissed, they know they've won every argument.

2020 was the year literally everyone dropped their mask.
It was amazing. And really, really sad. I won't dwell on this one with examples, but there are hundreds. Indeed, literally everyone did it. Prior to 2020 I thought half the people in the world were reliable mutuals, if just needing the right encouragement. Now I think maybe 14% of the people in the world are capable of thinking for themselves, and 2-5% of standing up against petty tyranny.

The NPC memes ring way too true.

Avoid the siren song of hedonic treadmills. Mid-wits think it's high culture and the pinnacle of taste to be a connoisseur of some kind. That's a marketing job used to separate status strivers from their money. I'm not saying the differences at +3 sigma of quality aren't real, I'm saying they aren't worth the time and financial investment to learn to discern them. It can be just as satisfying to experiment wildly in the +1 to +2 sigma range if you choose that as your objective.

Be mindful about what you make your ego.

Habits are great things. They let you do things without thinking about them too hard, or sometimes even at all. But you must be careful about what you make into a habit. Bad habits form almost completely on their own if you are not careful. So be careful. On the other hand, good habits usually take a lot of effort to form, but they are worth it. That's what makes them good. As an example, I never lose small things like keys and everyday carry items because I have exactly two places I put them. I don't allow myself to put them any where else. It's a habit now and I don't have to think about where my keys are, or where I'm going to put them.

Processes beats goals (H/T Scott Adams). This was an “a-ha” experience for me because I was a quintessential goals guy without fully realizing it. Interestingly, my best friend from college was a quintessential process guy. Reading this book was like reading a case study on the differences between the two of us. Now that I see it, I can spot it from miles away. Some guys are comically textbook examples with entirely predictable results. His woman left him because pre-menopausal women are not going to be satisfied with a man without a mission in life. He lacked the imagination to come up with a mission despite having a million dollars to do so. YouTube wasn't quite the thing it was then as it is now, but even a crappy travel blog would have been enough to give his life mission and meaning. Without realizing it, that guy totally bought into the Boomer meaning of life and “winning”: a childless, Eloi existence. It's not even an interesting hedonism. It's a boring hedonism-lite for crying out loud. (Of course Boomers had children, but in aggregate their narcissism made it so the next generations never mattered to them. They were childless in spirit.)

Hypnotism is real. Thoughts put into your conscious the right way (hypnotism being the right way, yes I recognize the tautology) take seed and eventually manifest. It may take years, maybe even decades, but manifest they will. Again, I speak of this from personal experience.

Memes are cultural hypnosis. Hollywood had a monopoly on memes in the form of TV shows and movies. The internet democratized meme generation, but now Big Tech is trying to re-assert a monopoly and use it censor the right-wing. The fact they are fighting so viciously shows they know the power memes hold over culture. They take seed and manifest.

Social media is self-hypnosis. Every twet/Faceborg post/Instagram photo/YouTube video/podcast/blog you see is a suggestion. Something like twitter or Facebook is hundreds of subliminal suggestions a day. Social media necessarily radicalizes all its users (radicalize in the sense of making one's opinions more firmly and aggressively held). Because it is basic human nature to identify with a social group and do those things that will gain you in-group status, you have the power to curate your social group surround yourself with any set of beliefs you choose and cement them into your psyche. But this is a sword that cuts both ways. Your mind cannot operate in a vacuum. You must choose your social media wisely or someone else will choose for you.

Kids – you don't know anything about yourself until you've had one; preferably more than one. The signal from just one child has too much randomness to make any definitive judgement. By three or four, you can reliably filter for yourself, your partner, and your parents. It's pretty enlightening.


Anonymous said...

This is outstanding info, especially the part on multivitamins, at lest for me.

Thank you CBS

SBR said...

this is a fantastic read. thanks