Monthly Archives: November 2006

The Fountain

A calorie-restricted diet can lead to an increased life-expectancy in humans. The intuition behind this fact is that when your body is starved, it goes into “survival mode” and directs resources towards body maintenance. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported on a study showing the anti-aging affects of a chemical found in red-wine called resveratrol which is thought to mimic the effect of a calorie-restricted diet. The study, originally published in Nature, considered the difference in life expectancy and general quality of life between mice with standard diets, high calorie diets, and high calorie diets supplemented by large amounts of resveratrol.

In effect, they were looking for a solution to the “French Paradox“, which is the contradictory fact that the French typically have high-fat diets while maintaining lower heart-disease rates than Americans. It has been suggested that the resveratrol in red-wine could explain this paradox.

In short, the study found that taking huge doses of resveratrol did reverse some of the effects of a high-calorie diet in mice. One visually appealling example is the contrast between the livers of mice from each of the three groups studied:

Resveratrol Livers

In this figure (Baur et al., Nature 444, pp. 337-342), SD = ‘standard diet’, HC = ‘high-calorie diet’, and HCR = ‘high-calorie diet supplemented with resveratrol’. The three livers are representative of the mice from each group. While the HCR diet does produce a liver comparable in size to that of the SD mouse, it does look quite a bit more gnarly, doesn’t it? (the authors claim that the liver cells from mice on the HCR diet do look healthy when they are examined with a microscope.) In addition, the HCR mice had longer life-expectancies and better ability to do cool tricks like balancing on a rotating bar than the HC mice. Essentially, the HCR mice, while gorging just as much as the HC mice, enjoyed the benefits of a healthy lifestyle without suffering the burden of tiresome restraint in their diets.

So is this the panacea that the American fast-food industry has been waiting for? Some people have apparently started taking resveratrol supplements, but we’d be hard pressed to keep up with the mice in this study. The Times article explains:

The mice were fed a hefty dose of resveratrol, 24 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Red wine has about 1.5 to 3 milligrams of resveratrol per liter, so a 150-lb person would need to drink 750 to 1,500 bottles of red wine a day to get such a dose.

1000 bottles of wine per day! Clearly this is not the solution to American addiction to fatty foods, but a better understanding of the mechanism of action of resveratrol could have the potential to help counteract some of the deleterious effects of:

  • McDonalds
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Hydrogenated fat
  • Being surrounded by cheap, low-nutrition, high-carbohydrate food
  • Eight hours television of television per day
  • Seventeen stab wounds to the back
  • Diabetes
  • Machines that do our movement for us

Focusing on the effects of resveratrol to combat specific ailments (e.g. diabetes or hypertension) will be important in the future, because barring the classification of “aging” as a disease, resveratrol won’t be considered for a drug status anytime soon.


Posted by on November 28, 2006 in Alchemy


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A golden pothos plant turned calico, probably from lack of nutrition.

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Posted by on November 27, 2006 in Photos


Dr. Debacle

For our post-dinner Thanksgiving entertainment, one of my housemates has long insisted that we watch “Doctor Zhivago“, a three-hour twenty-minute film (2 DVDs) made in1965 about a Russian doctor who experiences hardships with his wife and mistress during the Bolshevik Revolution. Needless to say, this classic tale of Communism doesn’t make anybody’s list of top thanksgiving movies, but I am a reasonable person who is at peace with everyone, so I was happy to oblige (it happens that I did my obliging with some of our like-minded guests playing football and other games).

While we were playing Tekken, Heath, one of our guests watching Dr. Zhivago, came upstairs with a knowing smirk on his face. He told us that they had reached the end of the first DVD only to discover that they were watching the second DVD! They sat through an hour and a half of a movie where they had little-to-no idea of what was going on, and *nobody* realized that it was the second disc until the credits actually started rolling. I can only imagine that everybody’s expectations were so very low initially that when they became paralyzed with boredom because the movie made absolutely no sense, they just assumed that was what it was supposed to feel like. I could not stop laughing for a full five minutes, and for the rest of the night I would burst into spontaneous giggling at the very thought. The most boggling part is that they proceeded to watch the first DVD anyways.

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Posted by on November 24, 2006 in Entertainment



I Already Ate

I Already Ate

The collaborative Thanksgiving meal is ready.

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Posted by on November 23, 2006 in Photos



By Saving You, Did I Save the World?

It’s Thanksgiving, and I just spent my morning catching up on Heroes while waiting for the turkey to cook.  Most of the T.V. viewing public I associate with have snubbed Heroes from the start, but there are those on the interweb who have dubbed it “the new Lost” (probably a positive association).  I like it alot, so I’ve made a point of reserving space for it on the DVR even when my housemate starts getting antsy because there are less than 30 hours of recording time left.

The most recent episode (November 20, “Chapter 8: Seven Minutes to Midnight“) finally addresses in real-time the show’s catchy slogan “Save the cheerleader, save the world”.  Without going into the specifics of the episode, I would like to say that for the last 12 minutes I was choking back my own tears.  I wasn’t quite sobbing like when I watched “The Muppet Christmas Carol“, but I definitely experienced an inexplicable upwelling of emotion that made me give thanks for whoever came up with the idea of mutant super powers (I’m betting that someone reading this will know who did in fact come up with that idea).

This all comes at a time when I’m generally extremely dissatisfied with television.  I feel like the producers at FOX, NBC, and ABC all got Ph.D.s in psychology and now delight in toying with my emotions “like a poodle that has been neutered twice” (-A.E.).  I gave up on all the other massively popular shows a while ago just because it seemed like every season was a repeat of the last.  Recently, I decided to open the gates again for Heroes.  I know they use the same “bait, hook, switch, skin, repeat” philosophy as all the other shows, but that bait just tastes so darn good.


Posted by on November 23, 2006 in Entertainment


Weakness Leaving the Body

On Monday I did a hard calisthenics workout consisting of repeated sets of squats, lunges, split jumps, and power jumps (a split jump is when you jump from one lunge into the next, alternating legs as you go, and a power jump is a vertical leap starting from a partial squat). This ended up being harder in practice than I thought it would be when I started. Through the course of the workout, I felt dizziness, nausea, acute pain, shortness of breath, hopelessness, and occasional urinary urgency, but the real torture didn’t set in until the next morning when I had to literally roll out of bed and crawl to the bathroom for my shower.

Now my legs still feel like they are about to break. I’ve never actually suffered a broken anything, but I imagine that if my legs were on the verge of snapping at the femurs, this is what it would feel like. When I lift my knee more that a few inches off the ground, my brain instantly gets this signal translating into something like “WTF are you thinking boy?!” It’s not a constant pain… Really I only feel it when I move.

It is supposedly a slogan of the U.S. Marines that “Pain is weakness leaving the body” (does that mean that pleasure is weakness entering the body?). Even if I disagree with the notion that “weakness” is necessarily a bad thing that we need to expel via excessive exercise, I do like the slogan. It’s nice to view the pain of excercise as a thrill, something to look forward to rather than something to apprehend over before, during, and after a workout. Beyond that, I actually sleep better when I’m tossing and turning from sore muscles (so while I may need more sleep because of the tossing and turning, I feel like my body is getting more out of the sleep it gets… does this make any sense?). Of course I’m only referring to muscle soreness here — pain from pulls, tears, or breaks should be investigated by a physician and probably won’t help anyone sleep.

Working calisthenics into my exercise is something I decided to try at the beginning of 2006. Normally I have a monogamous relationship with long distance running, but adding cross training via calisthenics and core strengthening exercises has made me a more well-rounded athlete, and in the end it has probably made me a stronger runner to boot. Now I devote 1-2 days per week to calisthenics, 1-2 to resistance training, and 2-3 to running. Cross training is also easier in the cold, cold winter.

In the end, exercise is just the gradual development of an immunity to the adverse affects of pain by repeated exposure… Because the pain really never goes away. You just learn to love it. You embrace your weakness as a part of you.

I can’t wait to do more power jumps.

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Posted by on November 22, 2006 in No Easy Days


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First Snow

First Snow

A muddy pair of Nike Zoom Waffle XC Spikes on freshly fallen snow.

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Posted by on November 21, 2006 in Photos


An Uncommon Dialogue

The book “Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsch tells the story of its author, who one day in an epiphany of frustration with life wrote all of his questions about things that bothered him down on a yellow legal pad. To his surprise, God answered with words whispered into his ear by a “Voiceless Voice”, which Walsch faithfully transcribed onto said legal pad. I read this account (or one-third of it… the account is actually a trilogy) about eight years ago, and questions about the veracity of the experience aside, it had a big impact on me. Somewhere in the book, Walsch (stenographing for God) writes:

So go ahead now. Ask Me anything. Anything. I will contrive to bring you the answer. The whole universe will I use to do this. So be on the lookout. This book is far from My only tool. You may ask a question, then put this book down. But watch. Listen. The words to the next song you hear. The information in the next article you read. The story line of the next movie you watch. The chance utterance of the next person you meet. Or the whisper of the next river, the next ocean, the next breeze that caresses your ear—all these devices are Mine; all these avenues are open to Me. I will speak to you if you will listen. I will come to you if you will invite Me. I will show you then that I have always been there. All ways.

This sort of idea appears frequently in the book — “the answers are there, you just have to look for them.” I took a lot of those messages to heart, to the point where I was constantly looking for “signs” in my life. Sometimes the more coincidental an event was, the more likely it was for me to interpret it as a signal that I was doing something right. Small world phenomena drove me crazy (“I just ran into Jill’s brother’s girlfriend on the subway in D.C. — that can’t be just a coincidence, it must mean something!”). I let the movement of the world around me be my indicator of whether I was doing things right.

But sometimes we do everything right and things still don’t turn out how we hope, even when the 8-ball tells us so plainly that the “signs point to yes”. At some point I realized that I had taken the philosophy of looking for answers too far, and now I try to enjoy a balance of marvel at coincidence (“If I hadn’t come to get coffee with you, I never would have realized that I dropped my keys outside the front door to my building! And I hate coffee!”) and passive skepticism (“It’s probably just a coincidence that ‘Unwritten’ came on the radio while I was working on my memoirs.”) about the signs along my path.

Coincidentally, I seem to have lost my copy of “Conversations with God”. I must be doing something right.

“Conversations with God” was recently released as a motion picture ( , though it didn’t make it into many cities.


Posted by on November 20, 2006 in Garbage In, Garbage Out


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Confidence Week

A friend of mine suggested today that the week before Thanksgiving should henceforth be known as “Confidence Week”. As someone who is routinely told by others that I need to be more confident, this caught my attention right quick. He explained that the main tenants of Confidence Week are that individuals apologize less and wear more ostentatious clothing (cowboy shirts and anything with flowers would work for me, but your outrageous outfits may vary).

Confidence Week ends on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and starts on the Monday six days prior. Since today is Saturday and Confidence Week ends tomorrow, I’m looking to do something mighty confident in the next 24 hours.

Thanks to Jason for the suggestion!


Posted by on November 18, 2006 in Garbage In, Garbage Out