Nov 142016

Have you ever had frostbite? I have.

I think I was in about the 8th grade when my father started telling me how he enjoyed ice skating while growing up in Butte, Montana. Being indoors in the winter time in Montana in the 70’s was boring, isolating, and claustrophobic, I was interested in finding an outdoor activity that entailed being outside. Missoula had a pond, fed by water from the Clark Fork river, that froze over and was officially sanctioned by the city for ice skating. It had a “warming hut” that was supervised by an employee and was surrounded by tall wooden poles that supported powerful flood lights and a speaker that played music from one of the local radio stations. The flood lights obviously enabled skating at night.

Being that this was a pond, and that the water level of the pond would vary over the course of a winter, giant cracks would form on the surface. The city was clueless regarding maintenance of the rink, and would only flood the top surface about once a season. They would never scrape off the accumulated ice shavings that would inevitably accumulate on an ice rink.

Being that my introduction to ice skating was through my father, I took what he told me about it very seriously. He told me that all the serious skaters in Butte would
use speed skates, not hockey skates or figure skates. My father and I drove to Butte to buy ourselves some speed skates. Not surprisingly, we were the only two
humans on the rink wearing speed skates…

The skates had no insulation. The upper part was one thin layer of leather. Whatever insulation to keep my feet warm had to come from my socks. Over the course of
several seasons I tried numerous sorts of socks; wool socks, silk socks, and special “Space Age Socks” which I believe had little strips of Mylar woven into them. None of them worked to keep my feet warm! One night I even sprinkled chili powder inside my socks, but the rink happened to be closed that night, and I was not able to go skating. That
was a bad idea! My feet began to burn painfully…

I still continued to skate, despite having cold feet. I discovered a pattern: I would start skating and my feet would become very cold. This would be uncomfortable and borderline painful. Eventually the pain would go away, but this was actually my feet becoming numb. When I would finish skating and change into my tennis shoes, the feeling in my feet would return in a matter of minutes. I did this repeatedly, and didn’t think anything of it.

One night I returned to the warming hut after changing into my shoes and my feet remained numb. By the time I was in the car and driving home I became more concerned, as the feeling had failed to return to my feet. When we got home I decided to warm my feet in hot water. In retrospect, this was the WRONG thing to do, and I take full responsibility for my ignorant action. This did not result in a return of feeling. I went upstairs and joined my unflappable father in the study. I told him what was going on. He suggested I had frostbite, and the correct action was to put my feet in a pan of COLD water and warm it up slowly. My mother was in a bedroom, and became aware of my predicament. She became alarmed, and called her friend Betty, who was a nurse. This resulted in new orders; namely to put my feet in a pan of WARM water. This was the wrong advice, and my father was unwilling to overrule this bad advice. I didn’t know better either way.

My feet were placed into a pan of WARM water. Eventually the feeling started to come back, and I became less alarmed. But with it came PAIN.

By the time feeling fully came back into my feet I was in agony. I believe this was the worst physical pain I’ve ever been in my life. It was a searing, burning pain. I believe I was given some sort of OTC pain killer, probably acetaminophen or aspirin. This did nothing. I remember writhing in pain sitting in the study next to my father, trying not to exhibit the outward signs of burning agony.

In retrospect, I must assign blame to myself for the initial immersion in hot water, yet that was an act born of ignorance, not willful disregard of good advice. I wish my father would have interceded and overruled the bad advice from Nurse Betty. The good news is that I never lost a toe, or experienced necrosis.

If you live in a cold environment I believe it’s essential to thoroughly understand the nature of both hypothermia and frostbite.

These days MCcormick Pond is no longer used for ice skating:


 Posted by on 11/14/2016 Growing Up In Montana, Opinion Tagged with:  Comments Off on Frostbite
Nov 092016

I’ve loved peanut butter all my life. As a child I read a biography of George Washington Carver, who ran numerous experiments trying to find novel uses for the humble peanut. I was so motivated by his life’s work that I decided I wanted to be a biochemist “when I grew up.” That idea tied in with my general reverence and fascination with science as a child, driven by the books I read and watching Star Trek.

My mother developed type II diabetes in about 1970, when I was about 8 years old. To her credit she decided to change her diet, and thus our family’s diet, for the better. The peanut butter brands she purchased were either Sunny Jim or Adams. Neither of those had added sugar or hydrogenated vegetable oil. To this day I’m more or less repulsed by peanut butter that has added sugar or fat. I recall walking home from both grade school and high school for lunch and eating peanut butter smeared on my mother’s home made whole wheat bread chased by whole milk. Delicious!

Our family had a copy of Frances Moore Lapp√©’s book Diet for a Small Planet. Her book promoted the now-discounted notion of “complimentary proteins.” If I recall correctly, peanuts and wheat were considered a complete source of all necessary amino acids. A quick Google search suggests this idea is still being promoted:

“Complementary to peanuts, whole grains contain high levels of L-methionine, but lack L-lysine. Grain products and other foods can be eaten with peanuts and peanut products to give your body a complete source of protein. Combine peanuts with whole grain bread, pasta, rice, wheat, corn, almonds or sesame seeds.”

The older I got the more I noticed that peanut butter was subtly associated with childhood. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich was something that children ate, not “grown ups.” But I never lost my reverence for peanut butter. As a young adult living in Seattle, I was energized to learn that Thai cuisine commonly incorporated the humble peanut into peanut sauces. Sadly, this discovery led to me going too far down the peanut butter rabbit hole…

The great problem with peanut butter is its caloric density, because of its high fat content. It’s all too easy to ingest an appalling number of calories in just a few spoonfuls of peanut butter. I would buy peanut butter from Costco in huge containers. I think this packaging subtly reinforces the idea that it’s OK to consume it in commensurately large amounts. In about 2000 I discovered a remarkably hedonistic taste combination. Being that Seattle is chock full of Asian markets, imported dried ramen noodles are commonly available. I would buy them by the case. I found brands which I considered to be MUCH more tasty than Top Ramen, that reviled staple of poor college students. Asian markets would sell very large melamine bowls, designed for pho. I would crush up two packets of dried noodles, add a large chunk of Lloyd’s shredded barbecue chicken, replete with sugar and fat, and top it all off with a large dollop of Adams peanut butter. I’d add water and microwave it. I would eat this in reaction to the slightest impulse of boredom or hunger. Not surprisingly I began to gain weight, and within several years weighed between 250 and 260 pounds.

By 2008, I had regained good exercise and impulse control habits. I’ve largely retained those good behaviors and have bettered them in some ways. For a time, I decided that peanut butter was simply too tempting to keep in my refrigerator! It was all or nothing thinking.

We all backslide about things from time to time. I’ve taken peanut butter back into my life, and have even discovered the intoxicating combination of straight peanut butter with a tad bit of chili-garlic paste. An objective observer would probably see this consumption as abusive, sort of like eating cake frosting right out of the jar…

I lift weights for exercise, and so listen to the advice of various bodybuilders on the subject of exercise and nutrition. I came across a video made by a bodybuilder named Arash Rahbar in which he mentioned a product called PB2.


I was curious. They sold it at Costco, so I decided to try it. It’s simply peanut powder in which a large part of the oil has been extracted. My guess is that it’s really an industrial byproduct of peanut oil manufacturing, now being sold as food for humans.

The beauty of this product is that it retains the taste of peanut butter, yet is MUCH lower in calories. It’s simply mixed with water to create a paste. I add a bit of chocolate protein powder to create a wonderful chocolate / peanut combination as a paste. Sort of like eating straight cake frosting without the guilt! The Costco I frequent is currently selling another brand, called PB Fit. I find it indistinguishable from PB2 as far as taste and consistency goes.


Recently I discovered by chance another tasty combination. I cooked some dried hominy in my pressure cooker for lunch, but happened to add a bit too much water. Peanut powder is claimed to be able to thicken watery dishes, but I don’t find it as effective as corn flour in this regard. Nevertheless, I added some peanut powder to the hominy, which had been seasoned with soy sauce. It did thicken the resulting product a bit, but more importantly I discovered that peanut powder plus soy sauce is a very tasty combination!

If you supplement your diet with protein powder, I HIGHLY recommend you try adding a bit of peanut powder to any chocolate flavored supplement beverage. It’s a superb combination, and doesn’t add that many calories.

I suspect there are a number of other tasty and novel uses for this new product. Good luck in discovering them!

 Posted by on 11/09/2016 Opinion Tagged with:  Comments Off on An Homage to Powdered Peanut Butter
Aug 072016

Hindsight is 20/20, especially when it comes to science fiction. Then again, what constitutes a “hit” or “miss” regarding a predicted future may be ambiguous or nuanced. Consider the claim that Star Trek (speaking here strictly of the TOS franchise, the only with which I’m really familiar) successfully predicted cell phones with the use of “communicators.” Even in the 60’s there were two-way radios, aka “walkie-talkies” but they were not integrated with the telephone infrastructure. Similarly, Star Trek’s communicators are only person to person or person to ship, which is really just a two way radio in space. The great failure of TOS to predict cell phones was in imagining that future communicators would be single function devices. Modern smart phones are vastly more complex, and effectively integrate text, video, data storage, and an array of apps that gives them essentially unlimited functionality.

Let’s extrapolate the use of another technology into TOS universe. Consider the so-called “body cam” that many police officers now wear. The moral argument is that police officers are public servants who have been given great authority and tools capable of applying lethal force, and therefore it’s a virtue to have an objective record of their actions. Though it’s never made explicit, as far as I know, we are given to understand that the Star Trek crew are essentially a combination of social emissaries, explorers, and scientific researchers. They are not soldiers, and they don’t appear to be employed by a corporation engaged in commerce. This three-fold job description makes them perfect candidates for body cams.

Consider the role of social emissary: In the TV show, situations are neatly wrapped up at the end of each episode. In the real world, alien contact is often just the beginning of often long-running relationships. Imagine the historical value of knowing EXACTLY how “first contact” occurred. Imagine how much more rich an historical record could be if we could SEE and HEAR exactly what happened during first contact. An electronic recording device is superior to human memory in not having a bias that might color descriptions of the way historical events really occurred.

Ah, counters the imaginative interlocutor: Consider a future in which drugs or neural implants give humans perfect recall. Such advances could obviate the need for even electronic devices. Yet consider what I call the “Bloomsday” analogy: The amount of time it takes an author, in this case James Joyce, to describe the events of a single day is VASTLY greater than a single day. Captain Kirk is a busy man. There is a reason his Captain’s logs are brief and pithy. Let future historians mull over his actions and question his motives at their leisure.

Consider the role of the Star Trek crew as explorers. Real world explorers periodically encounter danger, often abruptly and with little warning. Now imagine body cams that might do more than passively record events; imagine multi-function devices that could sense infrared or ultraviolet light, radio waves, charged particles, toxic chemicals, ultrasonic sounds, or other sorts of stimuli beyond the limited senses of the human organism. Futuristic body cams might warn the wearers of danger, or alert them to anomalous places or structures worth investigating. Unlike bulky tricorders, future body cams would not need to be held in the hand and constantly monitored. Imagine body cams that would relay this information in real time back to the ship. It’s safe to assume a future in which ALL the data is stored. It’s easy to imagine an AI level computer engaged in command level decisions, perhaps as trivial as “investigate over there” all the way up to “Don’t trust this guy, Jim, his heart rate just went up and his eye saccades suggest he’s bluffing.” At the very least, an AI aboard the Enterprise could help ~augment~ command level decisions, based on body cam input alone.

It’s safe to assume a future in which voice recognition technology would be more or less perfect. An AI integrated body cam could recognize the words and vocal intonations of crew members, and alert others automatically in perilous situations. But imagine a future using neural implants. Imagine Jim Kirk’s neural functioning being transmitted from the neural implant to the body cam, or even directly to an AI aboard the Enterprise. While frighteningly invasive, perhaps neural implants would be intentionally “de-tuned” perhaps programmed to automatically broadcast warnings, or distress calls. No more need to fire up a communicator to order “beam me aboard.”

Imagine body cams that were easily removable from one’s uniform. They could easily be integrated with a video enabled smart phone style communicator. Left discretely, such a body cam could turn a Klingon vessel into the Watergate Hotel.

Consider the purely scientific role of the Enterprise crew. Besides Mr. Spock, other command level crew members lack specific scientific training. It’s still safe to assume a future in which humans are specialized in their training and expertise. A multi-function body cam could help overcome the scientific shortcomings of untrained crew members. A body cam, transmitting in real time to an AI computer, might help a crew member avoid a plant that would shoot freaky spores that contain MDMA…

It’s been suggested that cell phones would have quickly obviated 90 per cent of the misunderstandings that drove sitcoms until very recently. In the same way, intelligent body cams would certainly increase the degree of power and control that the crew of the Enterprise enjoys. The next time you watch an episode of TOS, imagine how such devices would change if not simply eliminate the fundamental premise of the episode. To give drama a fighting chance, no doubt the crew would encounter malefactors that would simply strip them of any and all of their devices.

While “warp drive” and faster-than-light travel may forever be science fiction, a world full of humans wearing body cams is not at all unreasonable. Data analysis is only going to get better and data storage is already dirt cheap. A future world in which the heroism of explorers is so coupled or even eliminated by small electronic devices may not make for good fiction, but is in fact a much safer bet as to what will really happen.

 Posted by on 08/07/2016 Opinion, Personal History Tagged with:  Comments Off on Star Trek and Body Cams
May 192016

I vaguely recall the environment of the boy’s locker room in my high school. I recall a number of posters which contained what might be called “motivational quotes.” Not surprisingly, they focused on athletic performance and winning. For those unfamiliar, they might be such sayings as “a winner never quits, and a quitter never wins.” At the time I found these abrasive, namely because I held science and technical innovation as MUCH higher human virtues than athletics, particularly team sports.

Not surprisingly, over time my thoughts on motivational quotes have changed. First of all, I notice that there are MANY human enterprises about which there are motivational quotes. A quick Google image search shows a number of categories, some of which include the following: Relationship, strength, determination, attitude, confidence and beauty. Helpfully, Google has chosen to further identify these categories with color codes! I invite you to check it out for yourself. Secondly, we all struggle with doing what we think is good, and avoiding what we think is bad, and I’m no different. Perhaps I’m still stuck with the juvenile disdain for motivational quotes I had when I was in high school, as I’m resistant to doing anything besides just reading these aphorisms when I see them. I would never buy a poster or print out a motivational quote and put it on my refrigerator.

Recently I began to think about the nature of resisting temptation, which is integral to creating and maintaining good habits. I believe “motivation” is a two headed coin; namely avoiding bad habits and inculcating good habits. A simple metaphor for this dichotomy is an Angel on one shoulder and a Demon on the other. Let’s consider for a moment the act of persuasion on the Demon’s part. First off, consider a more prosaic example. You are with someone who wants you to do something that you don’t immediately want to do. This person attempts to persuade you by suggesting positive outcomes if the suggested action is performed.

“Let’s go get Indian food!”
“Hmm… I’m sort of tired tonight. I’m not sure I feel like going out.”
“Oh,come on, you know how delicious that curry is, you know you’ll love it.”

Or the persuasion could go in a negative direction:

“Let’s go get Indian food!”
“Hmm… I’m sort of tired tonight. I’m not sure I feel like going out.”
“Don’t be such a wuss, we haven’t gone out in ages.”

The second example is a sort of double-whammy, as it implies that one’s inaction is preventing the other from having fun.

Obviously there are MANY sorts of persuasion, encompassing the entire spectrum of approaching positive outcomes to avoiding negative ones. In my opinion, some of the most successful persuasion works because the persuader KNOWS AND UNDERSTANDS the personality of the person being persuaded. Consider romantic relationships. Why is it that insults and threats delivered by a partner can be the most upsetting? Because of all the people on the planet, a partner is likely to know the sensitivities and weaknesses of the other the best. This is one of the great downsides to all romantic relationships. The person that knows you the best is also the person poised to hurt you the most.

But let’s step back from that dire human assessment for a moment. What if you are trying to break a bad habit? What if you are like me, and wish to stop snacking after dinner? Is there a killer motivational quote to help us? Well, I’m not sure, but consider this: Who REALLY is the Demon on your shoulder who tempts you to engage in postprandial snacking? It can be no other than you, yourself! Consider that of all the humans on the planet, probably including romantic partners, it is YOU who can formulate the most cunning and tempting idea, the most persuasive rationalization to give in to a bad habit. The Demon is YOU!

Frankly I don’t consider this a giant psychological insight, but I do find it helpful. When I find a temptation entering my stream of consciousness, I now realize that it has derives its psychological power from the fact that it came from ME, the person who can most persuasively tempt me of all humans on the planet. For what it’s worth, I find this conception empowering, as I now recognize how potent our OWN ideation can be.

Suppose I find myself in the kitchen, and the following idea enters my stream of consciousness:

“Go ahead and have a spoonful of peanut butter, if you use that long handled spoon it will be even cooler.”

Of all humans on the planet, IT IS I who knows just how much I love peanut butter, and how groovy I find my long handled spoons! Understanding this allows me to recognize how effective such internal persuasion can be, and weirdly, I feel it helps me resist it.

Perhaps understanding how effective your own persuasion works on you will enable you to resist it more effectively. So far it seems to be working for me. I plan to continue paying attention to see if it continues to function effectively.

Good luck!

Homer Simpson

 Posted by on 05/19/2016 Opinion, Personal History Tagged with:  Comments Off on Musings on “Motivational Quotes.”
May 162016

I’ve fooled around with cooking curries for several years now. I’m never quite content with whatever version I’ve created and inevitably tweak it somehow. Not long ago I hit on a combination that may represent my best effort yet, so I’ve decided to write this recipe down and share it.

First off, this curry contains chicken and chicken bullion, so it’s not something that vegans or vegetarians would be eating. I’ve experimented with a number of different beans and legumes, and I find toor dal to be both tasty and very well tolerated as far as avoiding the not-uncommon GI “issues” associated with many sorts of beans. Only late in life did I learn the term “pulse” along with bean and legume. Toor dal is a split pulse, and for further reading on the subject I found THIS PAGE to be quite helpful.


1. One chicken breast. I use frozen from Costco, so I thaw one breast in the refrigerator overnight.
2. 100 grams toor dal. I soak mine in water overnight, though I understand one does not have to.
3. 100 grams bulgur. I like coarse bulgur, so I usually use #4.
4. Coconut milk.
5. 4 grams Curry powder
6. 7 grams MSG
7. Two spoonfuls (about two tablespoonfuls) Chicken Bullion. I use a ~paste~ bullion, so I’m not sure how to adjust for powder or cubed bullion.
8. 4 grams Red pepper flakes.
9. One spoonful (tablespoonful) Peanut butter
10. Soy milk (0ptional)
11. One half onion, diced. (Optional)

Soak 100 grams toor dal overnight in water. Rinse well in a colander and add to a crock pot. Add 100 grams dried bulgur, curry powder, MSG, red pepper flakes, chicken bullion, and peanut butter. I consider the peanut butter to be the “secret ingredient” in this recipe. Add one half diced onion, if desired. Cut the chicken breast into small chunks, perhaps a centimeter across, and add to the crock pot. Cover with coconut milk. Cook on the lowest crock pot setting for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. If the mixture becomes too thick, feel free to add a bit of soy milk. The soy milk I use is sweetened, and as such adds a nice counterbalance to the savory nature of the curry.

Curry Crop

 Posted by on 05/16/2016 Opinion Tagged with:  Comments Off on Toor Dal Curry