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There’s always a prevailing mystique in any civilization. It builds itself as a barrier against change, and that always leaves future generations unprepared for the universe’s treachery. All mystiques are the same in building these barriers – the religious mystique, the hero-leader mystique, the messiah mystique, the mystique of science/technology, and the mystique of nature itself. We live in an Imperium which such a mystique has shaped, and now that Imperium is falling apart because most people don’t distinguish between mystique and their universe. You see, the mystique is like demon possession; it tends to take over the consciousness, becoming all things to the observer.

Frank Herbert, Children of Dune

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Oatmeal Modifications

One of the things I learned from reading How Not to Die is that there are two different types of cinnamon. This seems like a thing I should have been aware of, but I was not. What is commonly sold simply as “cinnamon” is more properly called cassia cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels, and is also toxic in large amounts. The second variant is ceylon cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon probably has no effect on blood sugar, but is also not toxic, so that’s a win. From the book:

There are two main types of cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon (also known as Chinese cinnamon). In the United States, anything simply labeled “cinnamon” is probably cassia, since it’s cheaper. This is unfortunate, because cassia contains a compound called coumarin, which may be toxic to the liver at high doses. Unless it’s specifically labeled Ceylon cinnamon, a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon even a few times a week may be too much for small children, and a daily teaspoon would exceed the tolerable upper safety limit for adults. Can’t you just switch to Ceylon cinnamon and get the benefits without the risks? Without the risks, yes, but we’re no longer so sure about the benefits.

Nearly all the studies showing blood sugar benefits of cinnamon have been performed with cassia. We’ve just assumed that the same would apply for the safer Ceylon cinnamon, but it was only recently put to the test. The nice blunting of blood sugars you see in response to cassia cinnamon disappeared when the researchers tried using Ceylon cinnamon instead. In fact, all along it may actually have been the toxic coumarin itself that was the active blood-sugar-lowering ingredient in the cassia cinnamon. Thus, sidestepping the toxin by switching to Ceylon cinnamon may sidestep the benefit. So, in a nutshell, when it comes to lowering blood sugars, cinnamon may not be safe (cassia), or it may be safe, but apparently not effective in reducing blood sugar (Ceylon).

I still encourage Ceylon cinnamon consumption, given that it is one of the cheapest common food sources of antioxidants, second only to purple cabbage.

I consume some cinnamon daily in my Standard Issue Oatmeal. After running out of cassia cinnamon a few months ago, I switched to ceylon cinnamon. It tastes different-but-similar. I am not concerned about my blood sugar levels – I’m in it purely for the flavor – so cassia cinnamon does not seem to have a place in my life.

The book also advocates strongly for the regular consumption of ground flaxseed. The author cites studies that show flaxseed to have anti-cancer properties and to be more effective than both drugs and aerobic exercise at lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure. After reading the book I began to add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to each of my oatmeal capsules. It does tend to make the oatmeal a bit more runny, but its impact on the taste is barely noticeable.

Also discussed in the book are goji berries. These are small dried fruits, sort of similar to raisins, that have unusually high levels of melatonin and antioxidants. I use goji berries to supplement my raisin consumption. Occasionally I substitute them into my oatmeal capsules, and I like to keep some on hand (in one of my preferred Sistema Klip It 1520 capsules) for an easy candy-like snack.

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Ritual Masks

The use of respirator masks in popular culture is often more about social signaling than medical efficacy, similar perhaps to decorating your door frame with lamb’s blood. Yet huge global demand has caused a shortage in hospitals, where the use of respirators does actually serve a functional purpose. A Vietnamese company – possibly realizing that much of the current demand stems from symbolic usage – decided to make masks out of toilet paper. These would have sold well in Hong Kong during the SARS epidemic, where mask usage emerged as an important social ritual:

In a masked city it was difficult to recognize the identity even of one’s friends and colleagues as they passed. Yet mask-wearing became the quickly improvised, if obligatory, social ritual; failing to don one was met with righteous indignation, a clear sign of ritual violation. The mask symbolized a rule of conduct -– namely, an obligation to protect the wider community – and an expectation regarding how one was to be treated by others (Goffman 1967b [1956], p. 49). More simply, the mask was the emblematic means by which people communicated their responsibilities to the social group of which they were members. Through mimicry and synchronization… mask-wearing amounted to a joint action, normatively embodied, the entrainment and attunement of the society as a whole. By disguising an individual’s face, it gave greater salience to collective identity. By blurring social distinctions, it produced social resemblance. Mask-wearing activated and reactivated a sense of a common fate; it was a mode of reciprocity under conditions that supremely tested it. Accordingly, mask demeanor was much more than a prophylactic against disease. It showed deference to public emotions and the decision to respect them.

Today mask usage interferes with facial recognition. That AI researchers and corporations are scrambling to work around this limitation is expected, but in a sane timeline individuals would identify this limitation as an unexpected bonus of the ritual. Instead the response is printing faces.

A Sign of Dystopia

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Consecutive nights of reduced sleep may lead to the same deficit in cognitive behaviour as complete sleep deprivation.

A 2003 study concludes:

Since chronic restriction of sleep to 6 h or less per night produced cognitive performance deficits equivalent to up to 2 nights of total sleep deprivation, it appears that even relatively moderate sleep restriction can seriously impair waking neurobehavioral functions in healthy adults. Sleepiness ratings suggest that subjects were largely unaware of these increasing cognitive deficits, which may explain why the impact of chronic sleep restriction on waking cognitive functions is often assumed to be benign. Physiological sleep responses to chronic restriction did not mirror waking neurobehavioral responses, but cumulative wakefulness in excess of a 15.84 h predicted performance lapses across all four experimental conditions. This suggests that sleep debt is perhaps best understood as resulting in additional wakefulness that has a neurobiological “cost” which accumulates over time.

via Sean Bonner

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We may be located far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy.

Scientific American proposes a solution to the Fermi Paradox by using the European exploration of the South Pacific as an analog.

When the frequency of occurrence of settleable worlds in a galaxy is intermediate between high and very low, fascinating things can happen. Specifically, ordinary statistical fluctuations in the number and location of suitable worlds in patches of galactic space can create clusters of systems that are continually visited or resettled by wave after wave of interstellar explorers. Think of it as an archipelago, a group or chain of islands. The flip side to the existence of these clusters is that they are typically surrounded by large unsettled regions of space, places just too far and too sparsely distributed to bother setting out for.

via Orbital Index.

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Lawson Kline has been manufacturing high-quality outdoor equipment for about ten years.

He’s experimented with a wide range of products, and I’ve bought most of them. These days he’s known mostly for his cordage, which is unique and inovative, but cordage is not a topic I get overly excited about. I do get excited about stakes and Lawson’s aluminum Apex Stakes and Titanium Shepherd’s Hook Stakes are both probably the best on the planet. The titanium stakes are currently on sale, and he sent a description of how they are made to his newsletter today:

We cut, bend, and point each tent stake one at a time in our shop. I usually have to buy a very large quantity worth of Titanium, per diameter. And this is practically me begging them to sell to me. The mills I buy from require very large qty’s in order to sell to us, as they usually sell to big aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, etc, So it is very expensive to stock a product like our titanium stakes, as it is 100% an aerospace material.

The rods come to the shop in a wooden crate via motor freight. They are usually about 12 feet long. We first start off by using a rod parter to cut the stakes to length to get our blanks. If you have never seen one of these machines before they are very neat. It essentially breaks/shears the rod in a very clean and controlled manner. So they do not have to be saw cut. It’s like a sheet metal shear for round rods. Our rod parter will accurately cut rods from 1/16”-5/8”. There are two parting disc’s used to do all the of the work. They are made from hardened tool steel. So they are cutting like scissors so to speak, but the rod goes through a hole to keep the end round and to reduce the burr as much as possible. There is an adjustable stop on the machine that allows the first rod to be cut as the 10,000th one, with no real measurable difference between any of them. It is a highly precise machine.

Next, they are bent either one, two, or three at a time (depending on the rod diameter) on a custom made bender. This is a bender that I made myself over 10 years ago, and it has probably made 100,000+ tent stakes ever since. Last the stakes are pointed in another machine that I also custom-built. The stake is fixtured into a holder where it advances towards the cutting head and then puts a point on the end using a special end type mill.

There is no machine in the world that you could buy that could make a stake from start to finish, so I had to custom make two of the three machines to make these. This is the reason we are the only manufacturer in the USA making titanium tent stakes. (and probably because I am bad at bean counting…) I do know that it would be far more profitable for me to stock and sell Chinese stakes, but for me, the details matter. And I honestly love making custom machinery that can make products that not many other companies can. BUT as a result, this means I usually have way too many titanium tent stakes in stock as I have to make about a year’s supply at one time. Obviously, if I sold more stakes, then this wouldn’t be an issue, but since I don’t, this is the one product that I have a lot of my working capital tied up into.

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The cow collapse is nigh.

The Guardian reports on the end of food and the cowllapse:

We are on the cusp of the biggest economic transformation, of any kind, for 200 years. While arguments rage about plant- versus meat-based diets, new technologies will soon make them irrelevant. Before long, most of our food will come neither from animals nor plants, but from unicellular life. After 12,000 years of feeding humankind, all farming except fruit and veg production is likely to be replaced by ferming: brewing microbes through precision fermentation. This means multiplying particular micro-organisms, to produce particular products, in factories.

RethinkX envisages an extremely rapid “death spiral” in the livestock industry. Only a few components, such as the milk proteins casein and whey, need to be produced through fermentation for profit margins across an entire sector to collapse. Dairy farming in the United States, it claims, will be “all but bankrupt by 2030”. It believes that the American beef industry’s revenues will fall by 90% by 2035.

Story via John Ellis. Cinemagraph via Overhead Compartment.

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