One Small Win (Breakfast Edition)

Fixing our fast food breakfasts with “Deb’s Delicious Quinoa & Compote.” Quick. Easy. Healthier.

Our Three Goals:

2018-06-08 07.43.10
Quinoa and peach compote, with tree nuts. And black coffee (because that’s healthy, too!)
  1. Substitute a quick, healthier breakfast for our current go-to of fast food or microwave, highly-processed junk food (pre-packaged, high carb, preservative-filled, high-sugar, non-nutritive, “convenience” food).
  2. Support the ongoing process of weaning ourselves away from an undeniable sugar addiction — one of the greatest long-term health risks we embrace.
  3. Nudge ourselves toward more consistently eating for tomorrow, rather than eating for “right now.”

 

For busy people, eating — especially breakfast — too easily becomes a grab-and-go, on-the-fly activity optimizing short-term convenience over current and future health.

But we all know that eating should be mindful, not mindless. Like anything else when it comes to caring for ourselves, the diet we choose in this decade directly affect how we’ll look and feel in the next one. The habit we want to form is one that shifts our focus from eating crap because it’s convenient toward eating healthy because we’ve made it just as convenient. That’ll help lay our foundation for a happier, healthier future.

With this breakfast choice, we address the sabotaging attraction of fast food or quick, microwavable breakfasts for an alternative that’s just as fast (if not faster!), and much healthier (while still being tasty!).

Because when you eat better, you feckin’ feel better. Seriously!

The number one key toward sustaining healthy eating is to add just enough organization to your life to make healthier choices convenient. In the case of this breakfast, that can be accomplished with a little as 30 minutes of prep time on a weekend. That will allow you to eat healthily all week long!

What We’ll Need

  • Two, 2-quart saucepans (or just one, if you want to make the two components below serially instead of at the same time).
  • One cup of quinoa (available in the “grains” section of your grocery store, usually in the same area as rice).
  • Two 1-lb bags of frozen, sliced peaches (you can slice your own, but our goal here is speed and ease, right?).
  • Stevia (I like the Truvia brand) brown-sugar blend (this mixes natural, low-cal Stevia sweetener with a little bit of brown sugar, which reduces the sugar you’re eating (yeah, there’s still some sugar in this recipe, but we’re going for healthier, not militant! …and, over time, you may find you’re fine with cutting this ingredient out altogether, and just going to with Stevia).
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla Extract (organic is ideal, but any extract will do)
  • (Optional) Some walut halves (or chopped walnuts). If you like another tree nut, you can grab some of those, too. What I like to do is add (or make) a trail mix blend that has a high ratio of tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc) to dried fruit.

2018-06-08-07-33-26.jpg

Your Weekend Prep

Step 1. Start your compote bubbling!

  1. Dump the peaches into your saucepan.
  2. Add in about a half-cup of water.
  3. Add in about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the Stevia brown sugar blend (you can use up to 1/2 cup if you’ve been a sugar addict and still need your food really sweet for it to be tasty; over time, eating more healthily will retrain your palate so you don’t need everything to be sweet, salty, or fatty to enjoy it).
  4. Add in about 2 tsps of cinnamon (vary to suit your preference)
  5. Add in about 1 tsp of vanilla extract.
  6. Stir. Bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer for a bit (15-30 minutes, whatever). Chanting the “Double, double, toil and trouble” verse from Hamlet will make you sound more educated, here. Or maybe a little crazy. Either is good, right?

Step 2. Cook the Quinoa.

(Note — if you’ve never eaten quinoa and want to ease into its flavor (which can be a little nutty at first), you can also mix the compote into oatmeal instead of using quinoa. Quick-cook, steel-cut oatmeal cooks in the microwave in about 2 1/2 minutes, so it’s pretty convenient, too. Then, perhaps over time, graduate to 1/2 oatmeal and 1/2 quinoa. Then finally to just quinoa, which is better for you in many ways than oatmeal (lower glycemic index, more protein, more fiber, etc). Or, hell, just do this breakfast using oatmeal every now and then for a change of pace! Variety is the spice of life, right? Okay, back to the quinoa, though:

  1. Dump 1 cup of quinoa into your saucepan (note that some brands of quinoa recommend rinsing it first. If that’s the case rinse your cup of quinoa in a strainer, then dump it into your saucepan).
  2. Add in 2 cups of water (like cooking rice, Quinoa just takes a 1:2 quinoa:water ratio).
  3. Optionally, add in a pat of healthy butter from grass-fed cattle (e.g., Kerry Irish Butter).
  4. Bring to a boil, cover, lower to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.

Step 3.

Allow your quinoa and compote to cool. Then stick each separately into tupperware containers.  That’s it. You’re prepped and ready to eat healthy all week long!

Your Weekday Rush-Around-And-Out-The-Door Breakfast

Grab a bowl. Toss in about a 1/3 to 1/2 cup or so of your pre-prepped quinoa. Add in about the same amount of your peach compote (vary the ratio to suit your preference). Add in your optional nuts and/or trail mix — these give this bowl o’ goodness a more varied, interesting mix of textures, which I really like. Heat the whole thing in the microwave for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Voila! You have a healthy breakfast that’s a helluva lot better for you than the pre-packaged crap being sold throughout most of your breakfast store’s frozen breakfast section. And it’s just as fast to prep on a weekday when you’re rushing around before work.

If you’re feeling froggy, add in some fresh blueberries. And/or strawberries. Get creative.

P.S. I like to alternate this meal occasionally with a breakfast of fried eggs over a piece of whole-grain toast; or occasionally scrambled eggs, onto which I put some salsa. To either of these I like to add 1/4 or 1/2 of an avocado on the side, sometimes with a couple marinated artichoke heart quarters. Sprinkle it all with a little salt and pepper and go to town! Yum!

Hope you enjoy your evolving, healthier bod!

 

Elite: Dangerous Community Screenshots

For more than two decades, MMOG developers have known that completely open-ended games without strict community guard rails guiding and limiting behavior and player interactions bring out both the best and worst in people. More often than not the veil of anonymity that some choose to hide behind while online reveals an unfortunate lack of character. In such environments, one bad apple can degrade the enjoyment of many others.

Rings and SRV large

As a result, given the massive expense associated with creating online games, very few game developers will risk letting the players interact as they will within that virtual space. But Frontier Development did with their game, “Elite: Dangerous” (“E:D”).

The reward for giving players complete freedom to spend their time as they will is that such lack of constraints enables people to surprise and delight you with their inventiveness, their creativity, and the communities they create. In E:D’s full scale recreation of our 400-billion star galaxy, many people spend their time exploring distant worlds and sharing the magnificent views they’ve found there.

Elite Dangerous Screenshot 2017.11.17 - 2048x1024

Flying around our solar system in virtual reality, and then the myriad worlds within several hundred light years of our sun, Sol, has provided me with uncounted breathtaking views. The level of immersion is incredible.

But I’m just an amateur in-game “photographer.” Thousands of E:D community members are both farther ranging and more talented at capturing their in-game experiences. So I wanted to share some of the experiences they’ve had, captured through the windows of their cockpit or via the in-game camera.

All of these images are taken from within the game as it exists today. If you were inclined, you could outfit a spacecraft, visit these locations, see these sights, dock at these space stations, perhaps fly with some of these pilots.

r66Usn6

In an update due this spring, Frontier has promised that these environments will gain more fidelity, more beauty! That’s something to look forward to. Until then, I hope you enjoy this brief taste and that it stirs whatever latent Walter Mitty you have within. Did you dream of being an astronaut, or exploring the vastness of space, being the first to cast eyes on the startling beauty of far worlds? I still do.

With a little searching via Google or Youtube, you can find thousands more of these screenshots. I use them as fuel for the imagination during the cold winter days and long nights here on Earth. …when I’m not flying around the galaxy myself, of course.

The “Thargoid Threat” is Fake News!

Dateline: The Galactic Enquirer. January 4th, 3304. Agricola’s Ascent, Pleiades Sector DL-Y d65.

Elite Dangerous Screenshot 2017.11.27 - 07.49.30.48
[This picture was not taken anywhere near Agricola’s Ascent. But it was taken by the author and he let us at the Galactic Enquirer use it royalty free, so there’s that…]
Galactic Enquirer sources have revealed that the “Thargoid Threat” is a manufactured one, created in a cooperative effort by the embattled executives at Lakon Spaceways and the cash-strapped Alliance.

The Agricola’s Ascent orbital is crowded these days. One can’t walk anywhere without bumping into packs of feral billionaires who have flocked to the Pleiades region pursuing the latest topPercenter and Trustafarian pastime: “Hunting Thargoids.” Hundreds, perhaps thousands of these nouveau riche thrill seekers have left humanity’s boring bubble hoping to join the “elite” club of those who’ve successfully ambushed one of the peaceful alien space flowers in hopes of securing its heart for their trophy case.

Agricola’s Ascent’s corridors and brandy lounges are filled with the swaggering machismo and raucous flamboyance these billionaires flaunt like a million-credit cloak. Ask them why they’re here and to their credit some will honestly reply it’s strictly for the thrill of the kill. But eight times out of ten the response will be some variant of “To save humanity from the growing xeno threat.” Those respondents are convinced their mission is truly that noble, that the reason they’re willing to sacrifice their billion-credit ships (if not their lives) is this “defense of humanity.”

But The Galactic Enquirer has uncovered highly placed sources that suggest the threat to humanity is a manufactured one. That makes many of these Dudley Do-Rights unfortunate sheeple, herded by a heretofore unimaginable galaxy-wide conspiracy.

Investigators at the Galactic Enquirer have sifted through thousands of pages of documents provided by the shadowy hackers famous for populating the GalactiLeaks Galnet site. Our intrepid journalists have uncovered secret emails documenting the manufacture of an interstellar, possibly criminal manipulation of public sentiment. And the conspirators? None other than officials at the highest levels of the Alliance, working in conjunction with Lakon Spaceways! Together they’ve seeded a campaign through the media channels of hundreds of worlds that goes far beyond the normal underhanded but legal persuasion techniques employed by common, high-value marketing campaigns.

Like with most crimes, all investigation takes is following the money.

Hundreds of the GalactiLeaks documents reveal increasingly frantic correspondence over the last eighteen months between Lakon Spaceways product development, financial, and marketing departments. These documents reveal C-level panic throughout Lakon’s highest executives. From the documents, it’s clear that early leaks citing underwhelming flight performance figures for Lakon’s massively hyped new Type-10 “Defender” resulted in an almost total evaporation of military demand for the heavy ship. Coming at a time when rumors of major market share lost to both Faulcon DeLacy and Core Dynamics for the fourth straight quarter shook investor confidence, the leaks triggered a catastrophic plunge in Lakon’s stock value. Lakon executives needed a miracle.

According to documents we discovered, company executives responded to their company’s Edsel moment by manufacturing a threat so serious, so existential, that the galaxy would become desperate for an answer. Enter the Alliance, whose own influence has steadily waned from its recent peak in 3300. As the major power driving Lakon to produce the Type-10 Defender before canceling half their contracts last year, the cash-strapped Alliance needed to cooperate with Lakon to avoid ruinous lawsuits.

For people who believe one should never let a good crisis go to waste, the sudden return of Thargoids was a godsend for Lakon. Although big, beautiful, and not hostile unless threatened or attacked, the lumbering space leviathans’ utter alien-ness made them the perfect foil for Lakon executives desperate to create a new market for their heavily armed and armored, 2250-ton, 500MM* Cr recycled space barge. [* Weight and value figures common for a Defender minimally outfitted for Thargoid hunting. –Ed.]

In the words of one Lakon Executive, from one of the discovered interoffice memos, “We need to make those weird-looking space daisies evil and threatening. There’s no other way we’ll unload all these flying pigs- er, “Defenders” [poop emoji] the damned Alliance decided not to buy! Ha! Coming up with a campaign to make floating daffodils reek of evil — that oughta keep those marketing weasels in PR busy for the holidays!”

But the Lakon PR folks seem to have done the impossible. They’ve painted the Thargoid presence as a looming menace to our civilization. Despite resembling nothing so much as a giant flower and possessing a nature that seems nothing if not benignly inquisitive toward anything man-made, the Thargoids’ very otherness works against them. They’re so alien to us that even their sentience (and thus any possible guilt at even being able to form the hostile intentions accorded to them by Lakon Spaceway’s guerilla marketing) is still very much in question. What is known is that they’ve never initiated an attack on a human ship without that ship either firing first or at the very least aggressively infringing on the Thargoid’s immediate space.

But you don’t have to take this reporter at face value, gentle readers. Use your Randomius-given powers of logic. Ask yourself: If these aliens really posed an existential threat to humanity – or even to humans that didn’t provoke them first – would the Alliance, in conjunction with the Pilots Federation and other major powers, only award a measly two million credits as a Thargoid bounty? That’s a mere 2M credits for a kill, when defeating one involves the following hurdles and risks:

  1. Pilots must foot the bill to buy and/or outfit a ship (ideally the Defender, of course!) that costs at least 500-million credits and be willing to risk the associated 25-million credit insurance deductible if they lose the ship in combat. (And note, the Thargoid hunting builds that improve one’s chances run closer to 750M or even a cool 1B credits!)
  2. Pilots must foot the bill in hiring and paying a ship-launched fighter operator, without whom that pilot’s chances of survival, let alone victory, became low indeed – and pilots must do this understanding that even if they themselves make it to an escape pod, their hirelings will DIE if the pilot fails and loses his ship to the Thargoid;
  3. Pilots go into their hunting knowing that even if they succeed – which most will not do at first, if ever – their ship restock and repair will almost certainly cost almost half-a-million credits (and that’s for a solo fight against the weakest of the Thargoids!).

If you’re doing the math, you’re realizing that hunting one of these dangers to humanity virtually requires a multi-billionaire to put a billion in assets (and his life) on the line, and then offers him a net profit of …about a million credits. It’s a laughable amount in a galactic economy that provides entrepreneurial pilots with profits that are literally fifty times that (or more), in the same amount of time, with a lot less investment, simply for ferrying passengers to remote starports (with little or no risk).

Your realization, gentle citizens, must be: That doesn’t add up! And Lakon’s marketing slogan, developed to rally humanity’s xeno hunters (and, coincidentally, sell lots of Type-10 Defenders!) waives all that financial consideration with a simple slogan: “You don’t do it for the money; you do it for humanity.”

There’s only one solution to this puzzle: Lakon Spaceways has convinced thousands of pilots to conduct genocide against the first and only alien megafauna we’ve ever encountered, for the sole reason of selling a ship that would otherwise be a market flop.

This must not go unanswered! Humanity is better than that!

[Submitted to the Jan 6th edition of the Galactic Enquirer by Cmdr Talion Camisade]

The Importance of Taking Leaps of Faith

I love this commencement address by Peter Dinklage to Bennington College’s class of 2012 (link goes to a Facebook page):

Peter Dinklage: The Importance of Taking a Leap of Faith

I watched this today and it made me realize that in almost every major (professional) change I’ve made during my adult life, and certainly all those I look back on as positive inflection points, I chose *against* common wisdom, *against* the advice, the counsel, of those advocating a safer, more conventional path. I chose for novelty, for adventure; I chose for passion, and I chose to be contrary. And, yup, chance plays a role, and holy crap it was hard, exhausting, stressful work for long stretches of my life. But I think that incredible man has a point! #FailForward #DoItAgain

 

The Sun and The Wind …and Ideological Conflict

The events in Charlottesville, VA, over the weekend beginning August 11th, which included the death of one woman and the injury of dozens of others were tragic. My heart goes out to the family, the friends, and the community to which the slain woman, Heather Heyer, belonged, and to all those injured when a homicidal white supremacist drove his car into a crowd.

My hope is that James Fields, allegedly the man behind the wheel, will be found guilty and sentenced to death — a sentence that gets carried out in Virginia faster than any other state.

I no longer live in Charlottesville, though I did once. As a result, I’ve a great many contributors to my social news feeds from that wonderful city. All are saddened; most are broadcasting anger.

As a beginning Stoic, I ask: What do we want to accomplish? How best will we get there?

Many of those affected by that weekend’s events are clamoring for censure, some for the removal of freedoms that underlie our society. As an American, I understand their hurt, their rage, but believe that it’s not just the wrong answer, but a counter-productive one. It won’t solve the problem, it would exacerbate it and cause greater ones. (Full disclosure, I believe that to be true for most “solutions” that seek to apply the power of The State to force constraint, control, or the limit of freedoms, upon The People.)

Ramez Naam, a born Egyptian who rose to prominence in the US as a Partner and Director of Program Management at Microsoft, an award-winning author, a patent-holding entrepreneur, futurist, and technologist, posted this on his blog today:

Don’t let the terrorists win.

We said that a lot after 9/11, and have for the last 16 years. As air travel became absurdly cumbersome, as civil liberties were eroded, as people were arbitrarily blacklisted or detained without room for appeal – we said the terrorists were winning, causing us to undermine the underpinnings of our own society, to crack down on the freedoms that are central to the principles of the United States.

Now, I see friends calling for cracking down on freedom of speech, for restricting the First Amendment, taking away its protections from speech they (and I) consider loathsome. I even see friends advocating for physical violence against people because of their speech.

That, my friends, is letting the terrorists win.

I loathe the ideology of white supremacy. But to let fear or anger at it undermine our notions of civil liberties or civil society… that would be letting the terrorists win.

We’re bigger than that. We’re stronger than that. Don’t let the terrorists win.

In all the footage I’ve seen of those rally’s, without exception, “counter-protesters” are broadcasting hate, vitriol, and disgust at assemblies of white supremacists and neo-nazi’s, who are themselves there to trumpet their irrational hatreds and disgust toward anything “other.”

It’s an emotional, understandable reaction for even rational, tolerant humans, as deeply wired into us as our core values. Emotional responses often come from deeper places, stemming from shared heritage, cultural identity, or our own experiences with justice or lack thereof.

But nowhere among the thinking, the tolerant, does there seem to have been consideration of the question: What do we want to accomplish?

Because, sure as shit, answering hatred with hatred has never worked worth a damn. We know that! In fact, we as a civilization know pretty fucking well at this point that anger, loathing, denials — even the threat of (or actual!) violence — has never done a damn thing to knock a fundamentalist movement from its ideological perch.

When you apply force that will not be sufficient to break a belief, you only strengthen it. Knowing that, why would we choose to strengthen the voices of racists for them? You don’t kill ideologies by denouncing them any more than you do by making martyrs.

Denunciation didn’t work against the original Nazi’s. It doesn’t work with Islamic fundamentalists like Isis. And it won’t work with any other form of dogmatic, institutionalized, hatred like that paraded by supremacists. The most it can do is drive such movements underground where they fester like a cancer until achieving metastasis. Then there’s really hell to pay.

Answering hatred and intolerance with hatred and intolerance is like deciding it’s smart to put out a fire with gasoline. When you see someone doing that, you have to ask, “What exactly are you expecting to accomplish?”

Martin Luther King knew that. He knew that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Mahatma Gandhi knew that. He knew “You must be the change you wish to see in the world. The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Most importantly, he knew that “Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.”

Hell, even Aesop, the storyteller and slave in ancient Greece back around 600 BCE taught that lesson in his fable, “The Wind and the Sun.”

The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on and took it off.”

The moral, of course, is: “KINDNESS EFFECTS MORE THAN SEVERITY.

These great men knew that meeting hatred with hatred was counter-productive. And in that knowing, they accomplished the seeming impossible. Why have we forgotten that?

As citizens in a complex society, filled with partial information and misinformation, we should know that often the intuitive, emotional response is the wrong one, the least productive one. And the more complex or deep-rooted the problem, the more counter-intuitive the solution will often be.

It’s one of the reasons why societies ruled by demagogues or tyrants inevitably collapse.

What do we want to accomplish? How best will we get there?

Well, we know for damn sure that you cannot bully people away from an ideology. You cannot soften a mob’s will by flipping it the bird, shouting epithets, or throwing stones. So if you’re not willing to employ lethal force to “change” someone’s mind, the only rational response is to embrace an approach that will work over time. Be cool. Be measured. Be smart. Because peoples’ minds change slowly, when they change at all.

When a little kid throws a tantrum, the fastest way to suck the energy out of it is to deprive it of an audience. That’s why timeout is so effective.

At the same time, when you want to kill a fire, you don’t spray water at it’s top. You take away its source of fuel. You wet what hasn’t yet burned.

When your war is one of ideology, the only way to win is over time.

  1. You undermine its recruitment. You make the beliefs so ridiculous that the cult’s target recruited demographic does not want to be associated with it. In short, you starve the movement of fuel.
  2. You educate whom you can. You remain human, and caring. You contribute to the society you believe in. You stop fanning emotional fires by attempting to put them out with facts — they don’t work. You look through those trumpeting irrationality and vitriol. You give no voice to those who would tyrannize or terrorize others. And you bide while waiting for intolerance to die. In the meantime, give racism, hatred, NO audience. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Because mobs and fundamentalists are like two-year-olds. And you don’t raise a two-year-old into an adult by mirroring their own tactics back at them. That’s no more likely to accomplish anything meaningful than, well, showing up at a bigots’ rally about hatred with a bucketload of your own.

Much more effective, especially against adults, are leadership by example; gentle, consistent, persuasion; and pity. King knew it; Gandhi knew it; Marcus Aurelius knew it; and even the lowly Aesop knew it, more than 2500 years ago.

What would happen, I wonder, if counter-culture rallies proclaiming the embrace of ignorance, the spreading of barbarism or self-serving revisionism, went completely ignored? If nobody showed up? If nobody gave a damn that a bunch of crackpots chose to demonstrate their conviction that the world was flat, or (as in this current case) that others should be blamed for ones’ problems simply due to the color of their skin; their willingness to work smart or hard; or for their choice of beliefs?

What would happen if such rallies were completely ignored or, better, that those who witnessed such displays in passing, going about their peaceful, productive day, simply shook their heads, half-smiled with visible, sad pity, then went about their business?

What if no news broadcasters showed up to amplify delusional voices? Because people declaring sad, ludicrous beliefs are NOT NEWS?

If you cannot, will not, or should not, use force — especially deadly force — to change minds, you must use persuasion. You must find and use the leverages that are inherent in our being a social species to shape amoral or aberrant behaviors over time. You find the vulnerabilities, then apply pressure when and where it will be productive.

Many people like to embrace anger as their first response. It’s as natural as flight-or-fight in response to a perceived threat. But no one rational, no one who’s educated, no one who’s studied history’s errors and would avoid repeating them, jumps to anger as an answer when the questions they should be asking aren’t how do I feel right now, but:
What do we want to accomplish? And,
How best will we get there?

Obstacles are opportunities.

What happened in Charlottesville was tragic. And this is going to happen again, and again, there and elsewhere, if we as a society continue to take our responses from ideologues that are like carpenters whose only hammer is anger.

Home is where the heart …gets healthy again!

For me, it’s always great to get back home from a trip. We had a wonderful time …but of course, like people often do,  while touring Italy I allowed the excuses of “vacationing” and “environment” for a solid week of lazy exercise and detrimental dietary choices.

Unsurprisingly, Italian food, commonly served in 3- or 4-course meals, always with wine (and desert!)(at least on the group tour we took, where many of the meals were pre-ordered for us) created an easy +5lbs in 9 days. Because, “Hey, everyone else is ordering that way!” It’s ridiculous how easy it is for me to fall back into nom nom nomming foods that reinvigorate those American-bred, fattening, aging, sugar and wheat addictions! It’d be easy to shift blame to those childhood “clean your plate!” instructions, but let’s face it: If I claim sentience I also have to accept responsibility for the food I shovel into my pasta hole!

So I always feel that one of the best parts about coming home from a trip is resuming the healthy lifestyle that is too often the first casualty of world travel. That feeling made this recent post by Rohan Rajiv, whose blog I follow, resonate this morning (@4am, because of course my I’m still recovering from a week on European time!):

Your environment versus your willpower

You can find his post at: https://alearningaday.com/2017/07/18/your-environment-versus-your-willpower/.

Now I’m looking forward to a short run and a mindful breakfast!

Thunderstorms and Golden Doodles

We get awesome thunderstorms in the Midwest. I love them.

2017-06-13 13.34.52
Karly H., aged twelve’ish.

My dog? Not so much. As you can see here, during any stormy rumblings, she will only be found down in the basement, in my writing cave, hunkered under my desk.

Today, while Debbie and I were sitting at the table eating taco salads for lunch, looking over a backyard being inundated with needed rain (about thirty minutes before the adjacent picture was taken), Karly and I had the following exchange:

[Scene: Two humans are seated at a dinner table. Their faithful canine companion is curled beside the man’s chair, snoozing (and perhaps snoring) as only twelve-year-old dogs can do within 8 seconds of laying down, anywhere, anytime. Lightning flashes.]

Man: “Oooh, that’ll be a good one.”

[Thunder rocks the house. The dog sproings from sound sleep to stiff-legged alarm. She pivots toward the stairs leading down into the basement.]

Man: “Karly, it’s just a little Spring storm. Stay and watch with us.”

[The dog pauses, perhaps recognizing the word “stay” in her master’s speech. A command? Really? Now? Is he freakin’ kidding? She looks over her shoulder. “Hooman,” her eyes say with deep sincerity, “fifteen thousand years ago, when our kind first began living with your kind, there were two kinds of dogs. There were my kind — those smart enough to know full well that storms were dangerous and the only wise thing to do when the sky growls is *always* seek shelter below ground, where dens are supposed to be dug (for good reason!) — and there were the other kind of dog, those who left risk determinations in the hands of their supposedly smarter hoomans…

“As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one kind of dog left.

“Now, are you coming, or not?”]

[The dog exits, stage left.]

 

This weird new snake oil can extend your life!

Edit: This article was updated on Jan 25th, 2017, after an exploratory conference call with the Ambrosia, LLC, Founder. -KH

So, do you wanna live forever?

When I began writing my number one non-selling book, “Surrogate Threats,” I was motivated by the idea that advancements in medical science had put us near the cusp of consumer-accessible life extension. Even back in 2015, a growing number of very smart people were predicting near immortality within ten years. My contemplation of that possibility spawned the creation of a fictional antagonist named Ryk Marius who, obsessed with the desire to become immortal and unwilling to be constrained by regulatory brakes or cumbersome morality, developed a plausible plan for life extension using today’s (and, okay, a little bit of tomorrow’s) medical technology. As an entrepreneur, I had such great fun hashing out my antagonist’s business model and innovating through his logistics challenges, I ultimately put his company, Marius Technologies, online at Rejuvi.me.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to spending part of 2015 caught up in recurring fantasies about extracting the (mostly) legal aspects of Marius Technologies to create and fund an actual bio-tech venture. If I’d known then what I know now, I might just have done it!

The Tantalizing Business of Life Extension

My sticking points in 2015, other than a chickenshit reticence toward funding legally gray, outlandish, futurist ventures, were (1) that I didn’t think I’d be able collect quite enough funding to get my life-extension venture off the ground; and (2) that I’d have to move out of the country to get around the United States’ oppressive regulatory environment when it came to building businesses out of experimental bio-tech. Put another way, I’d pretty much have to become a full blown Bond villain to develop this world-changing therapy into a profitable business. So I was stymied.

What made it more frustrating was that I was pretty sure someone could actually pull my plan off, if those meddling kids (and, you know, the rest of the world) would just leave them (and me, and my imaginary investors) alone to do it!

I needed a way to advance the vision that the rest of the world wouldn’t consider insane, ethically dangerous, and/or shudderingly creepy. Aye, therein lay the rub!

I was stuck.

Then, a week ago, I was stunned to learn I could have worked within the current US regulatory system to offer experimental age rejuvenation services while collecting substantial revenues — even if the process ultimately didn’t work! After all, while Winston Churchill once said,

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm,”

Kevin Higgins adds, “…and, even better, with no loss of your own money!”

There WAS a way!

you-wanna-live-forever

why-yes-i-doThe inciting element in this week’s narrative was a blog post on the site Singularity Hub by Peter Diamandis titled, “Stem Cells Are Poised to Change Health and Medicine Forever.”

Buried about three-quarters of the way into that article, in a section about the four main areas of stem cell therapies to watch, was a section on parabiosis. (For those not into linking away while reading, parabiosis was the term originally coined in the 1860’s (!) for linking the circulatory systems of two creatures, one young and one aged. The resulting blood sharing was found to literally, significantly, reverse the age of virtually all bodily tissues in the older creature. More recently, parabiosis is a term used to describe a process where blood (or plasma) from young donors is provided to elder recipients. The most energetic studies of parabiosis potential today in the US are being done at Stanford, where the treatments are being explored for their potential to stop (or reverse!) the progression of Alzheimer’s. Similar studies are being pursued at many other universities and research clinics elsewhere in the world.)

It’s really not science fiction that hordes of our most advanced researchers are beginning to view aging as a disease that can be cured.

It may turn out that Ponce de Leon’s long-sought “Fountain of Youth” was circulating through the arteries of the Utes* around him all the time!

This is the part where your inner mad scientist says, “Well, wait. If learned and aggressive clinical research doctors are securing valuable (and always scarce) funding to explore whether parabiosis rejuvenates aging, Alzheimer’s-riddled brains …and a full century of parabiotic experimentation with animals has created reams of peer-reviewed findings documenting the reversal of cellular age in virtually all bodily tissues …then maybe parabiosis has a strong chance of becoming at least one part of a multi-faceted strategy to cure people of aging!”

And your inner entrepreneur says, “Holy crap — that’s one of the Holy Grails of bio-tech!” (the other, of course, is to resolve once and for all whether a European Swallow might carry a coconut)(sorry, that was obligatory after a Holy Grail reference, but I digress)crazy-enough-to-work

Meet Dr. Jesse Karmazin, MD, Founder of Ambrosia, LLC, and your Conductor on this Entrepreneurial Train to Sci-Fi Town. Because what Dr. Karmazin has figured out, which I missed back in 2015, is (1) how to offer old (and perhaps wealthy, or desperate, or both) people access to the blood of youths via transfusions of plasma (a modern day, lower-risk take on actual parabiosis), while (2) operating under FDA regulations in the US, AND (3) get the applicants to pay the cost of the clinical trial! Genius!

Karmazin realized that as part of the Federal Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 (one of many regulatory evolutions that opened up and increased transparency around clinical trials), establishing a clinical trial has become much more accessible (read: cheaper). He also pieced together two additional key allowances that made Ambrosia’s study viable: (1) (some) patient-funded clinical trials now fall under less scrutiny than they used to, and (2) the FDA doesn’t require approval for processes that are well-established, standard treatments. As you might expect, common blood transfusions (and, especially, even less-risky plasma transfusions) fall under this category!

One valuable type is genius is the ability to solve Gordian Knots of bureaucratic red tape with Alexander-like clarity.

Having found a way through the regulatory maze that I thought would require going offshore, Karmazin next had to develop a capitalization scheme — never an easy prospect when your core enabling technology (blood or plasma transfusions) isn’t protectable via patent. Because without developing a barrier to competition, finding Angel Investors, let alone Venture Capital, is a low-probability moon shot!

Still, the financial prospects were persuasive: 600 participants at $8000 USD per enrollee …comes to a cool $4.8MM in potential revenue for this study! …if you can find that many applicants.

Advancing science while making money? That’s enough to make the Pet Shop Boys sit up and take notice!

And the costs? Here’s my personal speculative back of the napkin work: The wholesale prices for getting blood tested and bio-markers reported can be found for less than a couple hundred dollars (depending on the various markers being evaluated and the accuracy desired). [Update: this may cost significantly more, given the vast number of biomarkers being tracked in this study.] You’ll need that done at least twice. And the cost of an actual unit blood plasma? Only about $61, on average. (Maybe one might pay a little more for the special order, primo stuff — like the plasma of Utes). [Update: this article’s initial calculations were based on erroneous information found online. Dr. Karmazin’s study is for an initial infusion of seven (7) units of Ute plasma, not the ~3 units originally reported.] Add in some consumables here and there and that creates estimated testing and plasma variable costs of about $1000 for each study enrollee. But, then it gets harder; you have to have a place for the participants to go for initial testing and qualifications, to receive the transfusions, and for subsequent blood draws and foll0w-up. That requires staff and office space. And, as every entrepreneur knows, fixed costs can be a bitch for a small venture (it’s why we so often start them in a garage).

[Update: At about an hour per unit of infused plasma, the seven (7) hours of clinic “seat time,” which is spread over a two-day period, will have to be factored into the variable costs.]

Enter young Dr. Karmazin’s savvy choice of business partner, Dr. Craig Wright, a longtime luminary in the field, a board-certified physician with over 30 years experience in seeing patients and working in the biopharmaceutical industry, an innovator (he holds over 15 patents), and a man with one additional important contribution: He’s already come out of retirement to open and operate an infusion clinic in Monterey, CA! With one brilliant partnership, that smashes our fixed costs flat and flattens out many of the other logistical hurdles — opening and managing clinical office space, tapping into an existent business for insurance and regulatory compliance, hiring technicians, etc. And it’s a win for Dr. Wright — his clinic is (presumably) already operating in the black; this is yet another source of (high-margin) revenue that doesn’t increase his existing fixed costs.

Work your way through the creation of a clinical trial and register it on the FDA’s clinicaltrials.gov web site, pay the requisite fee, and Voila! You’re in business!

[Update: And there’s an additional business model strength. The shortness of the clinical trial (one month) introduces opportunities for participants to come back for multiple transfusions, enabling this clinical trial to perform financially more like a therapy. That’s beautiful. As an entrepreneur, being able to sell deeper into your market, tapping satisfied customers, is usually a more profitable course than having to acquire new customers for additional revenues (assuming your therapy works).]

So, who wants a chance to feel (and perhaps actually become) younger? As a bonus, you may help advance the science of longevity, of anti-aging.

Step right up. You pays yer money and you takes yer chances.

image-53.jpg

* “Utes” – Youths

Sliding windows of opportunity

Author , who wrote “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” published an article an Internet eon ago (roughly 10 days), titled, “What to Do When Someone ‘Steals’ Your Amazing Idea.” I came across it in my newsfeed from Observer.com.

Now that, thought I, as a self-identified (paranoid) entrepreneur and occasionally penitent bad sharer, looks like something I should read. Because while a mere idea is the 1% inspiration to the 99% perspiration required to breathe life into a new venture, that flash  of what often feels like original genius is the inciting element that starts every entrepreneurial snowball rolling down Mount Disruption. That lightning-like “Eureka!” moment strikes rarely and without warning, so it’s natural to adopt a Gollum-like protectionism over your conceptual Precious, less some sneaksy Bilbo-analog snatch away your visions of changing the world.

The hard truth, of course, as Nir writes, is that that attitude is the “Sign of a Novice.” He explains,

“People tend to believe ideas are rare things, gems to be collected and hoarded. But in fact the nature of creative work, be it corporate innovation, academic research, or artistic endeavor, tells us quite the opposite—that if a useful insight pops into your head, it’s most likely in other people’s minds as well.”

Well, that stings. I’m a serial entrepreneur and I still want to behave that way when I get speared by inspiration out of the blue.

Nir continues,

“It’s called the ‘multiple discovery theory,’ which, contrary to the ‘heroic theory of invention,’ posits that discoveries are most often made by multiple people, not by lone ‘geniuses.’ History is littered with examples: the formulation of calculus, the discovery of vitamin A, the development of the telephone, the light bulb, the jet engine, the atom bomb.

‘When the time is ripe for certain things,’ the mathematician Farkas Bolyai said, ‘these things appear in different places in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring.'”

Of course, most people who think they’ve stumbled onto some novel idea discover truly original insights are as rare as Astatine shortly after rushing off to uspto.gov (or Google) to execute a quickie patent search.

Mr. Eyal and Mr. Bolyai are inarguably correct. One’s idea is almost certainly not unique or novel to the world. But that doesn’t suggest that dismissing such shower thoughts, or approaching their development with slow deliberation, is the sane course of action. On the contrary, embracing the slavering enthusiasm that such ideas fire is what separates entrepreneurs from those preferring the path most trodden. The thing to recognize about such ideas is that they fuel the furnace that creates the steam it takes to start an entrepreneurial locomotive up Disruption Mountain.

But here’s the thing I would add to Nir’s article: That those flashes of inspiration are almost always shared by others does not mean they are not scarce. Nor does it imply that birthing an idea simultaneously with (or after!) some other inventor(s) dilutes one’s chances of fanning that baby into the kind of conflagration that burns yesterday’s paradigms down.

It’s an adage that while many people get ideas; few do anything with them. But that’s not entirely true and it’s a worldview that can be dangerous for the erstwhile entrepreneur. There are a lot more people that, once shown the path, can figure out the execution than there are those who can see the path to begin with.

Each of those ‘Amazing ideas’ (assuming you’re not delusional) may represent what I think of as a sliding window of opportunity. Once opened, they’re only going to remain that way for a short period before someone else will slam it shut. The risk that makes inventors averse to sharing should not stem from fear of theft. The greater danger is that sharing an idea beyond a select few known and trusted fellow visionaries wastes time that could be spent in research, refinement, and development. In the early stages of business conception, after commitment to the unicorn-like Golden Idea, sharing and the doubt that can introduce from people who don’t have time or interest in your vision can slow one enough that they never get out of the starting blocks.

Sometimes, that instinct to guard one’s embryonic inspiration with at least some level of discretion is the best way to convert innovative adrenaline into the most precious of all entrepreneurial elements: The will to begin the work of building a product. That protecting your Precious reduces the chance of theft and exploitation by a pent-up competitor is merely a bonus.

 

Friday Flections: “9 Rules For Building A Successful Business” (or life).

Today’s “Friday Flection” is from the blog of Tim Ferris and conveys some sagacity from Dr. Peter Diamandis (@PeterDiamandis), who has been named one of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” by Fortune magazine. In the field of innovation, Diamandis is Chairman and CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation, best known for its $10 million Ansari XPRIZE for private spaceflight. Today the XPRIZE leads the world in designing and operating large-scale global competitions to solve market failures.

maxresdefault

Enjoy Peter’s Principles (which are very different from the “Peter Principle!”) at the below link:

http://fourhourworkweek.com/2016/09/22/peter-diamandiss-9-rules-for-building-a-successful-business/

Have a great Friday and remember — if you’re not chomping at the bit for Monday morning to roll around, your life’s parabola might need some flexing!