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The cost of being different, and others

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I was thinking about various costs this weekend, and I came up with a few. Everything I’m saying is purely speculation and deductive based on my personal, shallow experience. My opinions here are also wickedly harsh, and not very well articulated. You could say this is just a brain dump of what I thought about this weekend, and it’s not even 5% of that.

Speeding – Most people break the law on the freeway by going 5 miles over the posted limit. California law punishes 1 mile over the limit with the same penalty as 15 over. You might assume that people would either go the speed limit, or 15 over. Anywhere in between would be “inefficient” speeding. But police patrol imperfectly, and they seem unlikely to ticket someone for going 5 over. This is unwritten and purely customary in America.

– The efficient level of crime in this case is slightly above zero. People seem to weigh the value of time saved from that extra 5mph (in my case, it’s about 15 minutes saved time going from my home to my parents’ place, where I was going when I thought of this) plus the added danger of going 5 over, against the chance of being caught by police, coming up with a “market” speed of 75mph on I-5. There are market rates for all crimes, including murder, unfortunately.
– Younger people are either worse at assessing these costs or place a higher value on the thrill factor than older Americans, since they’re often the ones who travel 15 over.
– Rich people can more easily pay the speeding ticket than younger Americans and probably place more value on the time saved, so they also tend to go 15 over, which would save 45 minutes in my case. Not worth it to me, but if I have a Porsche, it probably is.

There must be some equation we use for assessing these costs whenever we see a posted speed limit. Maybe we can do this deductively. If the fine for driving 75 in a 70 is about $250 after traffic school and ticket fees, I want to drive 75 to save 15 minutes, and I believe my odds of being caught are 1% (almost zero), then perhaps I value speeding at $2.50. This sounds about right actually. If I go 85 mph, and the odds of being caught are 15% (from experience), then I value speeding at $37.50. What’s fascinating to me is I never thought about these costs; they seem to be either involuntary thoughts or learned through customs.

Being Overweight – I saw an overweight woman eating a salad, and I started wondering what costs someone has to incur in order to realize what they’re doing is not actually making them lose weight. Lettuce doesn’t make you fat, but the need for fuel usually means you eat some fuel source that you believe is healthy, and the recommended fuel by educational and media sources tends to be “complex” carbohydrates and polyunsaturated fats. Conventional wisdom also tells us to exercise to lose weight. But since animals tend to stop exerting once they find something that sustains them reproductively (being fit), finding a method outside of exercise that helps one lose weight would result in a dropping one’s gym membership overnight. Not all people are this way, but I assume most are. So I’d then assume that people go to the gym because nothing else works for them, or they’re bodybuilders.

At some point the cost of going to the gym becomes higher than the value of being fit, even though the price of being unfit is extremely high. Aside from health reasons, the social pressure to be fit is enormous, especially if you’re single and unintelligent. The cost of lowered reproductive ability is sky high for most men and is the reason for many crimes. So what is the cost of exercising 3 times a week for a half hour? It’s very low. You don’t need a gym membership, you can just run around outside. So it’s almost free, as long as you live between the tropics. But there’s also the cost of disappointing, lackluster results, which I think is the ultimate cost and is what makes people stop exercising. Deduction would tell me that exercise doesn’t burn fat for most people, and other methods should be favored.

Why is it then that people don’t try changing what they eat? It would seem worthwhile, after the gym membership fails, to try an entirely new eating style. But this rarely happens. They also tend to eat according to official food guidelines, which we learn through school and the news. This past weekend I couldn’t find much in my parents’ freezer that had fat, cholesterol, or added sugar. It was all low-fat, low-cholesterol, complex carb, fruity, veggy, diet, natural, organic, free range, fair trade, etc. When my mom, who’s an informed person, goes shopping, she only buys things that her information sources tell her to buy, those things being low-fat, low-sugar, no-cholest, polyunsat, etc. My parents have eaten like this for 20 years now, supposedly the “healthy” way, and they gain weight every year. Is it because they don’t work out? No: that experiment has already been done and failed. Restarting that experiment wouldn’t be worthwhile. Could it be that food information is incorrect? Why would it be incorrect, and what costs do we incur by rejecting it?

It turns out that rejecting conventional wisdom carries extremely high costs, both in the supermarket and, to an even greater extent, socially. On my way out of town I bought various cuts of grass-fed bison from Wimer ranch for, on average, $10/pound. That’s half what I’d pay in the Bay. All for what? An experiment? And there are good reasons why information would be wrong, but that’s a different blog post.

Being different – The thoughts on diet and exercise make me wonder what the costs are for being different. For me, it’s low. Either I place a higher value on being different than most, or my “strangeness” overhead is already low, since I’ve already been a strange person my whole life. So experimenting with a new, unpopular idea carries a lower price tag for me. I’m already off to a good start; my reactionary political perspective is in line with roughly 0.000001% of Facebook users (maybe 0.00001% to compensate for the fact that reactionism and Facebook tend not to align), my views on gender turns heads in the Castro, and the combination of the first two makes me very weird in even those groups. Experimenting with strange ideas costs me next to nothing, and that might be why experimenting with diet had a low cost for me, but a high cost for my parents, who despite their fun quirks are very normal people.


Written by xout

August 30, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Posted in experience, health

REM and depression

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I’ve discovered that when I sleep in past 7am (or whenever it starts getting bright outside), I feel depressed for the whole day. This may be the source of my years of regular, mild depression. I’m not clinically depressed by any means, but the bouts were regular enough to be problematic. If I wake up close to 7am/sunlight, my heart is beating rapidly from some sort of sleep-induced stress, but I don’t feel any negative mood. The longer past 7am I sleep, the more I sink into REM, and the worse I feel. Usually it’s accompanied by a dream that makes no sense but leaves me feeling gloomy, probably due to the REM combined with sunlight.

There must be evolutionary reasons for this. In the past year I’ve rarely slept past 7am because of my work schedule, and depressive episodes are far less common than before. Better diet may be allowing for immediate sleep (within 15 seconds, often less), and immediate wake-up, which prevents bad REM. This has removed almost all day-long depressive episodes. Exercise seems to have little effect, as my regimen has gone from 6 days/week a year ago to 2-3 days/week or sometimes even 1 day/week, yet I feel less depressed than a year ago.

My girlfriend also reported recently that after sleeping in, she had a nonsensical dream followed by a gloomy day. Our brains do strange things. REM combined with sunlight might be triggering a fight-or-flight response to prevent us from being eaten by lions in our sleep, hence an increased heart rate when waking up. And the longer we sleep past that point, the more confused our brain becomes when interacting with the sunlight. Maybe this is why when I woke up at 6:45 without an alarm this morning, my heart was beating so fast I could have sprinted off the bed. And I felt good all day.

Written by xout

June 24, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Posted in health

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