A liquid paleo-diet

One of the books I read this year is Antifragile, Nassim Taleb. It’s kind of a hard book to describe, if you haven’t heard of it I suggest you read the reviews on Amazon or do your own Internet search to find out what it’s about (I may write about it later).


But one of the things that stuck with me is how Taleb has a rule for the things he consumers as food and beverage – I don’t remember the food part, but he says he never drinks anything that hasn’t been around for at least 1000 years. He does this because the human body probably hasn’t had time to adjust to the new-fangled sugary-inventions that have appeared on the consumer market, and are therefore to be treated with suspicion. Our bodies just can’t process the influx of sugar or chemicals that is a regular part of the western diet.

I decided to copy this rule. This means I can drink water, wine, tea, coffee, and beer. I also drink milk but only a couple of tablespoons in my coffee. But if I did drink more than that, it would also be acceptable.

This also means that beverages like Coke, Pepsi (any sugary drink), Red Bull, Iced Tea, milkshakes, iced lattes, anything other than drip coffee from Starbucks, hot chocolate, and even orange juice is out. They are all fairly recent inventions. Orange juice is pretty sugary, so that’s not acceptable despite people saying they need the nutrients (you can get all the vitamins and nutrients you need just by eating fruit). Even Vitamin Water is not acceptable.

I had already been doing this for a couple of years now, but now I am more rigidly enforcing it. It greatly simplifies my dietary choices, and I really like that. Each of the things I can choose from – wine, beer, tea, coffee, and water – I like. I have no problem drinking any of them. And three of them – water, tea, coffee – are either no calories or almost no calories. And over the past year, I’ve gradually swapped out beer for wine, which processes in your body differently.

I took many things away from Antifragile, but this one has stuck with me the most.


In a switch to something I never thought I’d do, I recently added something to my diet: oatmeal.

Growing up, on weekends my family would occasionally have oatmeal for breakfast, although we called it porridge. And I never liked it. In fact, it was my least favorite breakfast food.

In my view, it tasted like goopy glop. It would be spooned into my bowl where it was kind of runny, and then I added milk (the way I would for all cereal – why would porridge be any different?). That made it even more unpalatable (why didn’t I learn?). In order for me to be able to eat it, I’d add several heaping teaspoons of brown sugar.

It kind of looked like this, only much runnier:


I would regularly be asked if I wanted more. There was not a single time I said yes. Not even once, in 20 years. My brother and sister didn’t seem to mind it, and I ate it only because I had to. But I did not like it (a sentiment I share with my aunt). After I moved out, I cut back on it. In fact, the number of times I’ve voluntarily eaten oatmeal in the past ten years is… zero.

However, it turns out that it may not be true that I dislike oatmeal, but perhaps only disliked the texture and mouth feel of the way we used to make it. What if it were made more solid?

I don’t like the feel of goop and glop in my mouth, and that was always my association with oatmeal. But one time in an airport, in the lounge, there was free food for breakfast. I saw that it was oatmeal. Normally I wouldn’t bother eating it, but I peeked in and saw that the oatmeal was semi-solid. That intrigued me.

I took a bowl and put a couple of tablespoons in it, then sat down and ate it. To my surprise, it wasn’t that bad. It was a little chewy, but not at all goopy or gloppy. It kind of resembled this:


A few weeks later, I was browsing through Fred Meyer where I got the bright idea of buying some breakfast oatmeal. I know that the wife would buy it sometimes, but I had no idea what version. I just wanted something not too sugary because that would defeat its purpose. I wanted to try oatmeal to switch up from eating toast in the morning, I wanted to diversify some of my grains from wheat to oats.

I read through a few packages and just ended up getting rolled oats. The next morning, I came down for breakfast and heated up a 1/2 cup of water, put in the packet of oatmeal, and let it cook for one minute. I removed from heat and put it into a bowl.

I took it to the kitchen table, ate it, and the verdict was… not bad. I could eat this without sugar. And I also ate it without milk. It was mostly chewy, but not really goopey or gloppy. I considered it an acceptable substitute for a slice of toast, and probably healthier as I usually put butter or honey on my toast whereas I can eat oatmeal plain.

I don’t necessarily eat it every day (sometimes I substitute eggs, or a second slice of toast) so I don’t get tired of eating it.

But it turns out that all this time, I was eating oatmeal the wrong way. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle.

Another one of the changes I’ve done so far in 2017 is try to improve my understanding of foreign affairs. I’ve always been interested in politics, and I understand that blogs and web articles aren’t always the best place to read it since people are frequently biased. The reason I did this is because while some Americans don’t care about expert opinions anymore, this American still does.

So here’s what I did:

First, I get daily emails from Foreign Affairs today.

At first I only wanted to read the free articles or so, but I discovered that I wanted more. I signed up for a subscription which only cost $50/year, and each day I get an article or two in my email inbox. When something sounds interesting, I click the link and read it.

Second, I read the magazine they send me.

Foreign Affairs originally consisted of a magazine and not online articles, and a lot of what appears in their magazine is duplicated from the articles they send me. But, the magazine comes with the $50 annual subscription. It comes once every two months, and it’s typically filled with about 20-30 articles. I read them all.

What I do is every couple of days, I read one, two, or three articles. Then I go back to the front of the magazine with a pen and put a checkmark next to the subject so I can tell which ones I’ve read and which ones I haven’t. I try to make it through all of them before the next issue rolls around.

So far, with the latest two magazines, I’ve been successful.


Third, I listen to The President’s Inbox podcast

I like listening to podcasts, and one I started listening to this year is The President’s Inbox, which is a roundup of opinions of the international and domestic issues facing the US president. They put out a new article once every couple of weeks, and I think I’ve listened to almost all of them since I started listening to it this past spring.

I find these podcasts informative, it tells me things that I never would have learned otherwise and gives me insights that I previously never would have had.

Heck, even the wife listened to a podcast one time.


So, those are the changes I made this year. I even thought about joining the US Council on Foreign Relations which is made up of a group of influential people in the US. People like former military leaders, think tank leaders, politicians, newspaper editors, etc. The only problem is you can’t just join. There’s an entry fee (fine) but you also have to be recommended by three or four other members.

I browsed through the list of 1000 people and the number of people I know is … zero. No, scratch that, I know that my Congressman is a member. Maybe I could ask him to recommend me.

But I don’t know anyone else, so that’s a problem I have to solve. I’ll leave that for 2018.

Changing shopping habits

One the changes that we’ve made this past year is in how we purchase meat. We used to get it from the grocery store, that is, Trader Joe’s or Fred Meyer or the Asian grocery store.

However, for the past few weeks we’ve also started getting it from an actual butcher shop which is close to the Trader Joe’s from where we live.

I’m keenly aware of this quaint practice. Back in the olden days, people would have used to do this all the time. It was normal, you get your meat from the butcher shop. But as America transformed into big box retail, the supermarket became the selection-of-choice for everything you want to buy.

Why go to the butcher shop?

We did it on a whim one day, and were impressed with the selection. Stuff does cost more from there, yes. But it also tastes better, and it might even have a better fresh meat selection than a number of larger stores. And I also feel good about supporting local business.

So that’s one of the changes we’ve made this year.


This past week, President Trump signed into law a tax cut passed by the House and the Senate without a single Democrat vote. The tax cut lowers the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21%, reduces the tax rates on the various income brackets, and repeals the individual mandate part of Obamacare. It also retains a slew of other tax breaks for wealthy individuals.

You might think I’m saying to myself “Oh, boy! I’m getting a tax cut! More money in my paycheck!”

But I’m not. I think that this tax cut is a bad idea. I used to write on this blog about 10 years ago that tax cuts were a good idea since it put more money into the hands of people who were likely to reinvest it in the economy and grow it, resulting in more jobs and prosperity for everyone. I have since reversed my position on that, tax cuts don’t make sense except at certain times. Now is not one of those times.

Why do I say this?

I calculated how much I will save on income tax. It’ll be about $7000. That’s nothing to sneeze at but I am an outlier. The Republicans have tried talking up the fact that the average family will save about $2000, and what working family wouldn’t want to save an additional $2000? Yet this claim is misleading because averages are skewed towards wealthier individuals. I am not wealthy, but you can see that my $7000 skews that average upwards. If there are five families getting an average of $2000, then that means that my $7000 takes up 70% of the break, leaving $3000 for everyone else – about $750 for the other four families. So even though the average is $2000, the reality is that the “average” family gets no where close to that. And the really wealthy individuals skew that much more than I ever could.

In reality, an average American family might get a $1000, or less than $100/month.

Still, you may say “But that’s $1000 they wouldn’t normally have! They should be grateful!”

Should they?

First, the Republican tax cut is going to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit, which means that in order to pay for its financial and debt obligations, the government will have to print more money. Printing more money will lead to inflation, which means that extra $1000/year is eaten up because the buying power of a dollar is now less than it otherwise would have been. Inflation is always present, but now it will accelerate.

Second, the individual mandate repeal of Obamacare means that people no longer have to buy health insurance. That means that young people can leave the market place, leaving only less healthy people to buy insurance. That means that health insurance companies have to charge more because whereas they used to be able to spread out the health risk among youth and healthy, sick and old, now they have sick and old and far fewer young and healthy.

This means that health insurance companies will have to charge more, which means that people will have to spend more buying their own health insurance, or employers will have to pay more to provide health insurance for their employees, or employer health plans will not cover as much. In all cases, consumer or employer buying power is reduced because money they normally wouldn’t have had to spend on health insurance now goes towards purchasing the exact same product.

Third, there will be cuts to government programs. This means that the private market has to make up the gap, which means that services that used to cost a certain amount will now cost a little bit more; or, service times will take longer meaning that people will have to wait for those services longer, and the longer we wait the less productive we are. Government spending on large projects – such as public transportation – scale much better than when private enterprise does it because of the economies of large scale. Only government has the ability to invest over a multi-year or decade timeframe, which ends up providing benefits for all of its citizens.

Fourth, eventually the bill will come due. Guess whose generation gets to pay for it down the road?

Yeah, that’s why I’m not that excited for this new tax cut. And I’m not alone, a large majority of American disapprove of it also.

For the first six years that I’ve lived in the Seattle area, I’ve had to drive to work. It was simply too far to walk as it would have taken 1.5 – 2 hours every day to get in. But in 2013 we moved closer to work and since then I’ve been able to walk. It takes between 20 and 30 minutes depending upon what building I am working in (the company moves us around a lot). I walk almost every day except when (a) it’s pouring rain in the winter (or snowing), or (b) it’s really cold, or (c) I have to go somewhere before or after work. So, basically I’d been walking to work for about 4 years.

However, earlier this year the company temporarily moved my team to downtown Bellevue, a distance of about 5 miles. This is too far to walk, it would take me two hours both ways so I had to drive in.

I was ambivalent about moving to a high rise in downtown Bellevue, but it turned out that I liked it for the most part. I could listen to the radio on the way in and the way home, and I liked being in the middle of all the action in downtown (there are lots of good restaurants around there, as well as being across the street from a shopping mall). I think most people enjoyed working in the downtown office, including myself.

The drawback was that I missed walking into work. I would deliberately park further away while working downtown so I still had to walk about 10 minutes to get to my office (if I took the stairs to the 11th floor). And, if I wanted to walk during the day, I had to motivate myself to do it during a break in the middle of the day, which I didn’t always do.

After moving back to the main campus, I started walking to work again. I realized that I really missed those early and late walks because I would listen to podcasts on the way. I never did that while driving to work, and only once in a while did it when going for a mid-afternoon walk or in the evening when I would try to catch up on my 10,000 steps. Not only that, but walking to work – depending on the building I am in – is a “free” 6000-7500 steps because it’s part of my daily commute of 20-30 minutes. When driving to work, it took 30 minutes but I would only get about 1000 steps each way, so I had to make them up in the evening somehow.

This is now part of the problem of living and working where I am living and working. I like walking to work because it’s decent exercise that I would otherwise struggle to get. It’s close by so if I ever have to drive, it takes less than 10 minutes; if I have to walk, it takes about 30 minutes.

If I want to switch jobs, my commute will increase as I will either have to drive or take the bus (or both). That means it will, once again, be more difficult to get my daily step count. And if I had to commute into Seattle, it would take me more than 30 minutes to get in, probably 45 minutes at a minimum. In rain, it would probably take 60-90 minutes.

I am fortunate that I enjoy doing what I’m doing, but on the other hand I sometimes wonder if I should try something different just for a change of pace. I hear all the time that it’s unusual for someone to stay in the same job for decades, yet that’s what I have done for the past 13.5 years. But I don’t want to extend my commute because a long commute time is one of the biggest causes of life-dissatisfaction. I’ve driven across the bridges in this city during rush hour, and it’s not fun. Even on the bus, it sucks the life out of your day.

But for now, I guess I’ll sit back and enjoy the ride.

I mean walk.


If you’ve ever had a cat, you’ll know that they can be kind of quirky. Our cat Ruby has more quirks than our other cat Zelda (by far). However, Zelda has a couple of quirks of her own.

One of them that she has developed this past year is wanting to stand or lie down in the bathroom sink. For you see, after I eat breakfast, I head up to the bathroom to brush my teeth and all that, and the cats usually follow me up shortly thereafter. Most of the time, they want to jump on the window sill so I’ll open the window and they can look out. That’s one of their favorite activities.

Both cats do that, but lately for some reason Zelda’s goal has simply been to lay down in the sink. What she’ll do is she’ll jump on the toilet and then hop onto the sink (after I’ve gotten to the bathroom, never before) and then start walking around the edge of the sink. And frequently she will stand in the sink, and sometimes she’ll even lie down in the sink!

I say “Uh, Zelda, what are you doing?”

Sometimes she starts trying to drink from the faucet, so I’ll turn it on a little bit, and then she’ll drink. Then, when she lays down in the sink, I’ll turn on the tap so it dribbles on her a little bit, and then I gradually turn it up so she gets more wet.

But it doesn’t bother her that much. She lets it run on her for about 15 seconds before finally getting up and starts sniffing, then pawing, the running water. And this entire time she’s asking for pets on her back and head. Zelda is not normally a cuddly cat, but once in a while she is.

Eventually she gets bored and jumps down. And a good thing, too, because I have to brush my teeth. You might ask “Why don’t you just kick her out of the sink?”

I can’t do that. You’d understand if you had a cat.