Earthquake in Republic of Tuva near reindeer herders

From Radio Free Liberty and Earthquake Tracker:

A strong earthquake measuring 6.8 has shaken southwestern Siberia in Russia.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the tremor was located 100 kilometers east of Kyzyl, the capital city of Russia’s Tyva Republic.

The regional emergencies ministry was quoted as saying the quake was felt throughout the Tyva and neighboring regions but caused no casualties or resulted in any serious structural damage.

Nonetheless, several locals reported their apartment windows breaking. The remote and scarcely populated republic on the Mongolian border is one of Russia's most seismically active regions.

Harvard here, Harvard there, Harvard everywhere

Well, seen in the context of Murray's new book, The Great Sort, Bobos in Paradise, etc, we call all see where this article is heading:

Harvard grad Jeremy Lin shares NBA with Harvard grad cheerleader
Published: 11:53 PM 02/26/2012
By Kalyn McMackin - The Daily Caller

It’s not often that two Harvard graduates share an NBA court together. But when Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks visited the Washington Wizards on Feb. 8, another product of the Ivy League school — the Wizard Girls’ Joanna Zimmerman — was cheering from the sidelines.

Zimmerman graduated from Harvard in 2010 and first met Lin, whose performances have caught worldwide attention and dazzled NBA fans, on campus. They once lived in the same housing complex, and the two became good friends.

If the current socio-economic situation doesn't change in the US and East Asia over the next 50 years, I expect we're going to start seeing a lot more pro-athlete-geniuses in the news. "So-and-so had an offer from Goldman-Sachs but chose to sign a contract with the LA Lakers instead. " The other piece of this story that goes unmentioned is that Zimmerman looks more like Lin than one would expect a Zimmerman to look.

Цагаан сар

I was fortunate to be invited this weekend to a Tsagaan sar celebration. Mongolian Lunar New Year is celebrated with a very casual version of what we would call a feast, complete with dumplings, roast, rice, cookies, fried bread, milk tea, vodka...

I would have to say that my first experience of Mongolians en masse confirmed many of the stereotypes of Mongolians--there was some boisterous drunkenness, but also very friendly people who demonstrated a great deal of hospitality and accepted me sight unseen like an old friend.

There was a long game of dominoes called "building gers". I kept asking questions and kept being told to just watch and learn. There was beer and Chinggis Khan vodka. Also several wines: my Hormigas Los Altos wasn't finished. The Jamieson's whiskey seemed to be favored by most of the guests. I was given a traditional deel overcoat to wear. Toasts. Talk of UB and of the countryside, and working with Praeswalski horses and...

At the end of the night, frankly, I felt like shit. I had eaten way more than I needed, and had put down a lot of beer and bread and milk (in milk tea) along with my meat. I'd like to travel to Mongolia, but if I do, I vow to stick to meat and arikh, as consistent as possible with the ancestral health paradigm. It's been a long time since I went to bed with heartburn and woke up with a headache. Machismo isn't an acceptable rationale for that experience.

Wherever you are today, my Mongolian hosts, I salute you.

Hearing Birds Fly review

Mongolia has mountains, yes. And desserts. And steppe. Wide clear blue skies. The whole lot. But it doesn't really have a specific geography to attract the traveler in its own right. The Himalayas are a very different place that would attract travelers even if they were devoid of native people. Mongolia's real attraction is that people contend with it and live a life more like that of our ancestors than many of us will experience. So in the absence of living there, the best one can do is read a book by someone who has, like Louisa Waugh's Hearing Birds Fly.
Waugh spent a year in the west of Mongolia teaching English in a small village school. There, she lived in a yurt, rode horses, chopped wood, ate meat, hunted with eagles, braved the cold and ice, survived a bubonic plague outbreak, fended off amorous men, made many friends... She inadvertently chose to live in a place where Kazakhs and Tuvans live together, meaning she was able to experience life with three of Mongolia's major ethnic groups. (The Tuvans, though ethnically related to the people of Tuva and reindeer herders, do not, however, herd reindeer in this part of Mongolia.)

Her story, or adventure, is told very well in 250 pages packed with her detailed and descriptive yet fast-paced prose. Of several books I've read by visitors to Mongolia, this is by far the best written and gives the greatest sense of a place and people. It is, in the end, a travelogue of sorts, and there is no theme, purpose, or argument other than to record life as she lived it, but that is enough.

There is material here to appeal to both those interested in health care and in ancestral life. Everyone in this book lives close to death, and there is sickness and tragedy aplenty. But as she notes the Mongolians live without sentimentality, their lifestyle is also described in a way that makes it seem appropriate and commonplace.

The book is easily recommended, although Mongolia has changed significantly I think in the short time since its publication. Even in the short time between Waugh's departure and the book's publication, her little village received electricity and a new long-term English teacher. No doubt, by today, they have at least one Internet connection.

Culture death? there's an app for that

Purely by coincidence, linguist K. David Harrison of When Languages Die, which I reviewed a few days ago, is in The Economist: He's trying to rally social networking to save endangered languages. The BBC also picked up the story and has slightly better coverage, explaining a little of the process.

Harrison has helped to build talking dictionaries--that is, compilations of sound files that record the pronunciation of words by native speakers--of several languages, especially Tuvan. The Tuvan dictionary has been incorporated into an Apple iPhone app (see photo above) that helps the user learn Tuvan.

How social networking is involved is a little more wishy-washy in the reporting. It involves Facebook and Twitter and young people, duh! Harrison has his own Twitter, but it's not public. I can't tell if the idea is to let native speakers communicate with more people (i.e., disseminate the language) or what. I know that, with regard to the Mongolian reindeer herders in the Taiga, they don't have access to the Internet except on the rare occasion they go into town.

If you're interested in learning Tuvan, there is a Wiki and a Yahoo group.

Noted: information Banting

I thought The Information Diet looked interesting. But when I got to see a sample, I noticed that the author starts out his discussion of diets with Banting! Now I'm going to check out the book for sure.


As I pointed out yesterday in the Profiles in Ethnology review, the word "shaman" actually comes from the languages and cultures of the Siberian reindeer herders. In When Languages Die, linguist Harrison eagerly tells us about uncovering an almost lost description of a shamanistic rite described one of the last remaining speakers of the Ös language in 1972. I find this description interesting because most living cultures that include shamanism (Mongolian, Tibetan...) have had contact directly or indirectly with other cultures that have their own forms of spiritualism and alternative medicine. Do modern Mongolian shamans, of which there is now a glut if I understand, represent a living tradition of shamanism or the expectations of modern Mongolians and visitors from the west looking for exoticism?

Herewith, a record of a real old shamanistic rite:
When the shaman shamanizes, there is a plate of meat and three liters of alcohol sitting nearby.
Around her neck hang nineteen stings of beads, and a white scarf is tied on her head.
She holds twelve rings in her hand and beats on them with a wooden spoon.
Then she takes the spoon and shamanizes with it.
If the wooden spoon lands right side up, it augurs good.
If the wooden spoon lands upside down, it augurs bad.
(from Harrison, When Languages Die, p. 153)
I find it fascinating that there is a verb "shamanize."

When Languages Die review

I checked out a copy of When Languages Die by linguist K. David Harrison because of his work on the dying languages of Siberian reindeer herders.

As I mentioned yesterday in discussing the Tungus, while there are a whole range of reindeer herders with different cultures across northern Eurasia, from Finland to eastern Siberia, many of the herders north of Mongolia have cultural and linguistic similarities.

The Tsaatan Dukha reindeer herders speak Mongolian, but their "native" tongue is Tuvan, a relatively rare language of the Turkic language group, which is related to Mongolian. Tuvan is also spoken in the Republic of Tuva, nearby northwest Mongolia. Dialects of Tuvan as well as closely related separate languages are spoken by a variety of herding peoples just to the north of Tuva as well as to the south of Tuva in far western Mongolia.

Harrison's doctoral dissertation and his main focus of work is on Tuvan languages. Photos and fairly clear explanations of the languages he works with can be found in the fieldwork section of his website.

The book provides some rather interesting information about the herding peoples he works with. In an attempt to explain how different languages instantiate different types of cognition, he writes a lot about Tuvans' understanding of time and geography. These anecdotes have inherent interest to anyone trying to learn about the reindeer herders, regardless of their linguistic relevance. The book is not linguistically technical and is an easy and fast read.

Beyond the issue of cultural learning, I have to be a little less enthusiastic. Harrison has written this book as an apology for the study, documentation, and attempted salvation of endangered languages around the world. While I am all for trying to preserve forms of human flourishing and history, I am distressed that Harrison has had to fall back on pragmatic and modern arguments.

Men's natural instincts towards beauty and knowledge are adequate arguments in my mind for Harrison's work. But Harrison wants us to believe that languages are a window onto diverse forms of alternative ways of knowing. This perspective is important to him because it puts his work on par with natural sciences. If western sciences can approach nature only through their own non-universal paradigms, then we have something important and "scientific" to learn by studying other ways of knowing.

Why this perspective is important to Harrison I can't say for sure. But the tone of his book suggests that it is not what really animates him. His writing on the relationship between scientific and indigenous taxonomies is strained, overdone, and tedious. The prose becomes natural and emotional only when he discusses personal discoveries, such as the first written text of the Ös language.

Tolkien, another linguist, in creating the character of Gollum, made him a creature who had an unnatural interest in find the "roots" of mountains deep in the earth. But hobbits and dwarves also dig down in his books for buried splendors. The drive to know the past and to uncover things lost or hidden is a real motivation for many people, one in which Tolkien and Harrison both partake, I think.

That Harrison can't dabble in poetry by baring his own soul a little in defense of his field of inquiry is a statement about the state of the modern academy. Harrison's book is essentially a justification of his life's work based on its "usefulness," a pragmatic argument in line with the culture of productivity, grant writing, and lowest-common-denominator thinking that seems to dominate much of university life as far as I can tell.

The book is especially unfortunate in that the lengths Harrison goes to in showing the cognitive differences and advantages for Tuvans of Tuvan languages ultimately undermine his larger argument.

The Tofans Harrison studies have a preternatural instinct for direction and navigation. Harrison shows that this is related to their language, naming schemes, and ways of communicating. Tofan is "efficient" for knowing the land. But the stress Harrison places on the extent of Tofans' discussions about land and movement show that the cognitive resources demanded to maintain the Tofans' navigational abilities, in terms of time and focus, make the broader Tofan lifestyle extremely inefficient and parochial. The Tofans must work constantly in order to be successful at a very narrow range of skills. In short, the opportunity cost of speaking and being Tofan is the development of science and literature. Although implied, I'm sure this is not the conclusion we are supposed to come to from When Languages Die.

I'm not sure who the target audience is for this book, so I have trouble recommending it or denouncing it. I enjoyed it and sympathize with the author, but remain unconvinced that the importance of language preservation is of a kind with the importance of the human genome project.

Profiles in Ethnology review

The book Profiles in Ethnology is an overview from 1978 of hunter-gatherer and primitive agriculturalists from around the world. It contains a lot of profiles that might be of interest to those studying ancestral health paradigms, such as the !Kung, Eskimos, or Andaman Islanders. However, I was interested in it for its profile of the reindeer Tungus of Siberia.

The reindeer Tungus of Siberia are not the same people as the Tsaatan or Dukha of Mongolia and the Tuvans.

For the geographic differentiation, see the map at right: Tungus are in green and red, while the Tuvans are located in the northwest of Mongolia and in Tuva.

However, reindeer herding is sort of a trans-eurasian phenomenon across the north. As this profile points out, differences seem to be largely due to the influence of people to the south. So, for example, in the far east of Siberia, reindeer herders use the animals mostly at pack animals, while in the far west, reindeer herders (the Sami in this case) use their animals more like their southern neighbors in Scandinavia use domesticated animals.

In Asia north of Mongolia, reindeer herders have cultural artifacts similar to Mongolian ones and live a life of nomadic herding rather like the Mongolians to the south. This is true of the Tuvan peoples as well, so the Tungus and Tuvans do have some cultural connections. Their distinguishing characteristics from an anthropological perspective are linguistic. Tungusic language is a third branch of the Altaic group, along with the Mongolic and Turkic branches. Tuvan language is Turkic.

Interestingly, the word "shaman" comes from the Tungusic-Tuvan cultural heritage. The reindeer herders believe some people are priviledged with special abilities to communicate with the spirit world (e.g., ancestors) via trance states. Apparently, "shaman" came into English via Russian, as Russians had the first western contacts with these peoples.

There's not much else to say here, unless I start repeating details of Tungus culture, which you should read about in the book (only $0.01 on Amazon). Other chapters that looked interesting to me were ones on primitive Irish countrymen and on the "Kingdom of Siam," i.e. Thailand. Having been to modern Thailand, it is surprising to have "Siamese" listed among ethnologies of "primitive" people. Of course, the book is from 1978.

Again, recommended to those interested in ancestral health. Not so much for health care workers otherwise.

Obama: Jazlyn's mommy can't cook

Following up on the recent food totalitarianism post, here is another instance of a child being sent to the cafeteria instead of being allowed to eat the food her mother sent. It's possible that Obama could have these rules de-emphasized, defunded, or not enforced, but he hasn't done that. So, yes, Obama might as well be meeting Jazlyn at school and telling her mommy can't cook.

Resistant gonorrhea and Kerry Mullis

Apparently, antibiotic resistant gonorrhea is on the rise (h/t H-G). Writing in The Atlantic, Megan McArdle says "Once chlamydia or gonorrhea develop resistance to the antibiotics we have, there's no guarantee that we'll get new ones that treat them."

That's true, which is why alternative antibiotic treatments should probably be explored. Two off the top of my head: bacteriophage viruses and Kerry Mullis.

Yes, nobel laureate Kerry Mullis of the great skeptical memoir Dancing Naked in the Mind Field.

He's been working on a new method of boosting the immune system to deal with infections and cancer. I'll let him explain himself here and here (TED).

Food totalitarianism : it's already here

It turns out totalitarianism starts in school.

I'm a pretty paraoid, cynical type. I don't use a "Price Chopper Advantage Card," and I make grocery purchases with cash so there's no record of my food shopping habits. I do this because I think there is at least some possibility that the government could start monitoring food purchases.

When I tell people this, they usually act like I'm crazy, but (a) with current technology, it would be relatively easy to do and (b) there is an incentive to monitor diet and exercise if the government becomes the main provider/payer for health care services. Buy a lot of steak and Ding-Dongs? Maybe you should pay higher taxes to help off-set the costs of your future impending heart attack, they will say.

If you think this rationale for the government is crazy, consider whether insurance companies would adjust premiums based on diet if they could get access to that information. Sure, they would. And if the government becomes the single payer?

I always thought that food monitoring would start in the food distribution system if at all. But I was wrong.

Unbeknownst to me, food monitoring has already started, and it happened in pre-school. That makes sense--start with the children. Help the children.

Yes, apparently, DHHS requires that pre-school lunches be monitored to meet standards set by the USDA (standards include a serving of grain, of course). If the lunches don't, the children are forced to buy the prepared school lunch. Crazy.

I became aware of this situation from the case of a girl who ate chicken nuggets in place of a turkey sandwich and fruit due a bone-headed food bureaucrat. Article here. H/t JD.

A preschooler at West Hoke Elementary School ate three chicken nuggets for lunch Jan. 30 because the school told her the lunch her mother packed was not nutritious.

The girl’s turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the person who was inspecting all lunch boxes in the More at Four classroom that day.

The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs - including in-home day care centers - to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.

When home-packed lunches do not include all of the required items, child care providers must supplement them with the missing ones.

Paleo in your Netflix

updated 2012-3-3

Here is a list of Paleo-related films and documentaries you can find for rental through Netflix.

Ironically, this list has arisen from the fact that I watch less and less on a screen. I cut out almost all television a while back, deciding to watch only films. Netflix was a pretty good compromise because, while I enjoy going to the movies but not sitting in front of the TV, almost all the films I want to see are from 30+ years ago.

More recently, I've been frustrated with the amount of time films take out of a day. So I thought, hey, I'll only watch Paleo- and healthcare- related films!

Well, that didn't work out so well for me, but it did give rise to a bunch of stuff in my Netflix queue that I now need to cull out in the process of watching what I really want and then ending my Netflix membership.

You should be able to click on a link, which will take you to a film in Netflix, which you can then add your own queue, but note that you have to be signed in to Netflix for the link to work (sorry).

Also, I have included some links to movies on Amazon that they don't have at Netflix.

Now, without further adieu, the Paleofy-your-Netflix list...

Dragons or Dinosaurs: Creation or Evolution? ...just joking...


The Vanishing Prairie
When Animals Talk
Animals are Beautiful People
Ultimate Safari
In the Womb
End of the Line

"cavemen", documentaries

Before We Ruled the Earth: Hunt
Ice World
L.A. 10,000 B.C.
Journey to 10,000 B.C.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Clash of the Cavemen

"cavemen", fiction

Quest for Fire
10,000 B.C.
The Clan of the Cave Bear
Neanderthal Man
Greystoke, The Legend of Tarzan

"cavemen", exploitation

Prehistoric Women (1950)
Prehistoric Women (1967)
One Million Years, B.C.
One Million AC/DC
Mountain of the Cannibal God
Wild Women of Wongo
Women of the Prehistoric Planet

Teenage Caveman
Bowanga, Bowanga
When Women Had Tails
When Women Lost Their Tails
50,000 BC
Creatures the World Forgot
Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals
Giungla Calore: le avventure erotiche di Tarzan


National Lampoon's Stoned Age
Human Nature
Encino Man
Year One
Cavemen: Season 1
Ice Age
Ice Age: Dawn of Dinosaurs
The Gods Must Be Crazy
The Gods Must Be Crazy 2
Crazy Hong Kong
Caveman: V.T. Hamlin and Alley Oop (documentary)
Eegah! (not meant to be funny, but read the reviews)


Once Were Warriors
The White Reindeer
Snow Walker
7 Songs from the Tundra

farming & animal husbandry

King Corn
Farmer's Markets


French Oganic Revolution
BBQ Pit Masters: Season 1


Capstick: Hunting the African Elephant - 2004 - Peter Hathaway Capstick is a throwback to an earlier, more adventurous era when big game hunters were, pardon the pun, "lionized" by such writers as Ernest Hemingway. In Hunting the African Elephant, Capstick (who, as a government officer in Africa, shot over 800 elephants) goes after perhaps the ultimate hunting trophy -- a bull elephant. This safari is one of a kind and will have you mesmerized.
Capstick: Hunting the Cape Buffalo
Capstick: Hunting the White Rhino
Hunting the Hard Way - 1934
Bowhunting Whitetails
Hunter and Hunted

human development

Walking with Cavemen
The Real Eve
Before We Ruled Earth: Mastering Beasts
Ape to Man
Human Family Tree
Becoming Human
Origins of Civilization
Walking with Prehistoric Beasts
Prehistoric Disasters
A Species Odyssey
Homo Sapiens (docu-drama)
Ao, the Last Neanderthal (docu-drama)
60 Minutes on Neanderthals
Sci-Trek: Neanderthals
The Last Neanderthal
Ancient Mysteries: Fate of Neanderthals
Just the Facts: Pre-historic Man - Human Evolution (there are also two other pieces in this series on evolution in the lower and upper Paleolithic)

indigenous peoples and ways

Keep the River on Your Right
Mysterious Mamburambo
Ring of Fire
Chang: Drama of the Wilderness - silent, 1927 docudrama filmed in Thailand (then known as Siam) chronicles the lives of a family struggling to survive on the perimeter of an unforgiving jungle.
Saltmen of Tibet
Man of Aran - 1934 - brilliant dramatized documentary about the Herculean struggles of a community living on the remote and almost completely barren island of Aran, off the Irish coast
Nanook of the North - 1922 - in what's considered the first documentary ever made, director Robert Flaherty's landmark film grippingly chronicles the often-brutal relationship between humans and nature's unforgiving elements. Over the course of a year, the movie's subjects -- Inuit Nanook and his family -- must hunt, fish and build an igloo to survive in the pristine but inhospitable environs of Canada's frigid Hudson Bay region
Greath North - Nanook's grandson
Fast Runner (docudrama)
Ten Canoes (docudrama)
Aboriginal Architecture
Human Planet - this sweeping documentary series explores the daily interaction between humans and the natural world, taking viewers to witness reindeer herding in Norway, icebreaking in Ottawa and tree house building in West Papua, among other amazing stories.
The Linguists


Land of the Mammoth
Last Extinction: Nova
Prehistoric America
Waking the Baby Mammoth
Baby Mammoth
60 Minutes - Resurrecting the Extinct


Cave of the Yellow Dog
Horses - 1982 - In "Wild Horses of Mongolia," Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts saddles up for a rare glimpse into the region's animals and the people who ride them
Genghis Blues
Horse Boy
My Beautiful Jinjiimaa
Manhole Children
The Eagle Hunter's Son
The Great Match
The Story of the Weeping Camel
Tuya's Marriage
Secrets of Genghis Khan
The Two Horses of Genghis Khan
By the Will of Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth
Mongolian Death Worm

reindeer herders

Lords of the Animals
Taiga (I can't find a place to buy/view this film)

physiology, psychology, health

To the Limit
In the Womb
Inside the Living Body
Sex and the Human Animal
Stress: Portait of a Killer (Robert Sapolsky)
Neurobiology of Primate Sexuality, Part 1 (Google video)
Neurobiology of Primate Sexuality, Part 2 (Google video)


Wild Chimpanzees
Return to Gombe

reality tv

Man, Woman, Wild


100,000,000 B.C.
2012 Ice Age
Mongolian Death Worm
Teenage Caveman
Return of the Ape Man
The People that Time Forgot
The Lost World
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

Add more in the comments section if you find them, thanks!

How to Be Black: survey says, vanilla oreo

The NYTimes has cleverly had Charles Murray and Baratunde Thurston take each others' quizzes. As I posted earlier today, Murray has a new book out on the growing class divide in the US, and I score about 2-8 out of 20 on a quiz measuring how insulated I am from mainstream Americans. Thurston has a book out called How to Be Black.

I first heard Thurston over a week ago on NPR's All Things Considered**. He's funny and quick, but his apparent posturing as something alternative and new in political punditry seems mistaken to me. It's cool that he's a black kid who got used to being black in a white private school before he got to Harvard (as he pointed out in the interview), but in the end the combination of Quaker friends school and militant black nationalism just produced another progressive racialist. As he says at the end of the NYT piece, Murray's quiz might prep him for "the revolution." This from an editor at The Onion newspaper. How many liberals are out there talking about revolutions while completely ensconced in the system? Yawn.

I might actually buy this book since I liked Thurston on the radio. Here are my answers to his questions, a la Murray:

Q. Where did you get that name?

A. My parents are of midwestern extraction and the father Scandinavian, which accounts for the last name. The middle name is the last name of one of the mother's relatives. The first occurred because the parents were newly religious at the time of my birth. Chris, as in Christian, as in little follower of Christ.

Q. When did you first realize you were white?

A. Good question. I don't remember. The first two black men I remember being aware of were Lando Calrisian and Magnum PI's sidekick TC. What I remember is not thinking of them as black, but thinking of them as idiosyncratic. Lando is such an obvious tip of the hat and misplaced in the Star Wars universe that I was aware of his origins in the modern world rather than in the internal logic of the narrative even when I was an unaware young boy.

As far as politics goes, I was thinking about skin color in high school, but I wasn't really aware of blackness until the first year of college at "Elite Eastern U". Before being a freshman, I thought that skin color was simply an issue of logic. Quotas, equal access, and such problems could be solved through reasoning. Ha!! Starting at EEU, I realized the deep, visceral, intractable nature of race problems in politics, which also, paradoxically, started me down the road to losing anxiety over the application of the "R" word. So, when did I first realize I was white? In shades of skin, before age 8; in the broader political sense, late teens.

Q. How white are you?

I had a hallmate in freshman year who was very black with stunning stories like sleeping in a bathtub at night for protection against stray bullets. And EEU prioritized admitting minority students when I was there. Other than that, I don't have much contact with minorities. My current city is very white. One friend has a minority wife, but she is not NAM. My mother is an Iowan, and I would agree with Murray that Iowa is even more white than Minnesota. Not white in the southern "we're not black" sense, but white in the midwestern "let's go down to the Schuetzen Park... wait, you don't know what a Schuetzen Park is?" sense. I read Waugh. I go to Highland Games. I don't like hot climates, desserts, jungles, etc. I'm so white that people don't realize I'm white because I seem just eccentric--I'm white beyond the ken of most whites.

Q. Do you know what an Oreo is?

A. Duh! Nobody has an inner-city hallmate at EEU without finding out what an Oreo is!

(Back to previous question: I'm so white, I'm a vanilla oreo!)

Q. Why are you wearing that black man’s jersey?

A. Murray's take on this is accurate, but frankly I'm so white that I don't own any clothes or other objects d'identity so to speak with a mimetic or cultural geneology in sports, modern music, etc. Short answer: I'm not.

Q. Have you ever wanted to not be white?

A. Yes. Some amateur pr0n of a certain type gives me anxiety. Calling the women in it sluts does not, to my mind, change any of the psychological dynamics of the situation.

Q. Can you swim?

A. Competitively for 7 years; 2.25 pool lengths underwater on one breath. However, without attending EEU, I wouldn't have been able to make sense of this question. I also like hound dogs and snow sports.

Q. How’s that postracial thing working out for ya?

A. What postracial thing? While the Bernstein soiree portrayed in Radical Chic seems dated to me now, we are not even close to one.

** Considering my last post, this is a funny statement. I was on a road trip, and NPR was the last, best option.

Coming Apart: survey results

A lot of bloggers are writing about Murray's Coming Apart, his new book about the growing class divide in American society. In a clever ploy, Murray has included in the book a survey you can take that assesses your insulation from "mainstream" America, what Murray calls being in the "bubble". It's clever because it's just the sort of thing people in the "bubble" will love--an objective measurement tool that acts as social signaling--sure to get people in the reading set to pay more attention.

Although doctors (and to a lesser extent PAs) are thought to be in the upper or upper middle classes (i.e., in the "bubble"), to a large extent they work like blue collar workers: uniforms, on their feet, nasty body fluids, etc. Clearly, nurses and other non-doctor HCPs are not in the bubble at all. So, taken as a whole, the health care industry should really be seen as part of the laboring and service-industry-oriented "mainstream" America.

That observation is not very interesting, really, given our cultural assumptions. The process of realigning health care, including medicine, as a middle and lower middle class industry is connected to its growing involvement with government and the declining importance of creative and integrative intelligence for 95% of what medicine does (which is essentially using humans as database/search functions to match up symptoms, diagnoses, and the standardized treatments recommended by medical associations like AHA). As the government becomes more and more the payer dictating terms to the doctor, the doctor becomes more and more the employee. As care becomes more and more standardized, the doctor becomes more and more the implementer, more and more like middle management rather than like an autonomous professional actor. The process of defining health care down has gone farther in the UK, where doctors in the national health service are basically wage workers with mediocre reimbursement. The end of the process will be the replacement of much of MDs' mental work by computers and much of their physical work by RNs, mid-level providers, and technicians. Then the bubble will be composed, even more, of the university, government, and finance.

I'm too cheap to buy the book, so I'll wait for the interlibrary loan service. But AEI has posted a truncated version of Murray's survey, so you can see how insulated you are from mainstream America.

I took it twice. The first time, I answered the questions with literal truth: e.g., when it asks you if you ever participated in a parade, I said yes because, when I was in high school, everyone in the band had to participate in marching band as well. The second time, I answered the questions as they apply to my current/mental life: e.g., I have no opportunity, need, or desire to be in a parade ever again, so I said no.

The first time I scored 8 points out of a possible 20...
Eight is actually quite low. I'm an Eagle Scout and grew up believing in civic virtue and responsibility. You'd think I might score higher than 8. On the other hand, I have pretty clear ideas about aesthetics derived from an upper middle class mother and university professor father. My fridge will never be stocked with domestic mass-produced beer. Nor will I be able to identify a NASCAR driver. And, despite recent posts, I don't actually read TMZ--I came across that site by accident.

The second time 'round, I scored only 4 points out of 20. And this high score came only because I answered yes to questions hypothetically: I would hunt given the opportunity... although in actuality, I don't.

Talking with SE Cupp recently, I said my dream job was to be a gentleman rancher. It rolled off my tongue whimsically, but the more I think about it, the more I think it's true.

So, in fact, I am isolated from mainstream America, although my bubble is one of its own making: I listen to Bach, but not NPR; I wear an overcoat, but denim shirts as well; I don't watch television, but I also avoid the telephone; I like alternative energy, but I'd choose uranium over wind; I dislike Palin, but I dislike Obama more; I shop at the local food cooperative, but I buy meat there and don't believe in whole grains; I despise cigarettes, but adore pipes and cigars; I want to help indigenous people maintain their lifestyles, but I generally disapprove of international NGOs; I love mountaineering, but I eschew wearing technical clothing from REI in the city. I am WP, but not SWPL.

My life raises two questions vis-a-vis this blog. Can someone in a bubble work effectively in a service-oriented industry like health care? How can someone in my line of work maintain my lifestyle?

The answer to the second question as to do with trading up. I don't really make enough money to live well, but as Guru Rao points out, by choosing to make sacrifices, you can achieve higher standards in certain facets of life. Trading up is a phenomenon directly connected Murray's book and the growing class divide.
The answer to the first question is not very easily. Although I'm fairly personable, a good listener, and ask questions freely, one can only make so much connection with patients and family when there is a large cultural gap. And frankly, it can become extremely tedious to have to go to work each day knowing that one can never express opinions to co-workers or patients without being seen as "uppity." That's actually the biggest appeal to me of the CRNA, but it's also not a good reason to pursue anesthesia. Life isn't easy. That's why you have to look for your own little platoons.

What I'm thinking about

It's hard to stay focused on vocations and avocations after thrilling vacations.

a nice class A

Following up on the TMZ theme, here is Mr. B's "Crack Song," as commentary on the ending to the sad, pathetic saga of Whitney Houston:

On contemplating how one becomes a star,
I appear to have stumbled upon a formula,

Something that will take me straight to the top,

Leapfrog all of those talentless fops.

They leave the Italia Conti,

And they think they’ve got it made,

Sell records to the dribbling mass,
Who claim financial aid.

But when people laugh instead,

They go out of their heads,

Although that’s not something,

I would necessarily dissuade.

On perusing the social diaries in the broadsheets at the club,

I pondered on this problem and thought,
“Ah! There’s the rub!”

So many useless stars once they are popular,

Turn to something else to hide what drivellers they are.

"I'll simply choose a nice Class A,

But heroin is so passé,
I know what to do and I’ll give you a clue,

So listen to what I’m about to say…

I think I’ll try some of that crack cocaine,
I’ve heard it rather takes away the pain,
It’s the kind of caper that might get me in the papers,

I’m gonna be so critical acclaim.

I’ll make myself a nice drug hell,

A cheeky tale the press can tell,

And if I smoke some crack I might get my mojo back,

And win myself a Brit Award as-well!

They wanted me to go to rehab and I said,

“That sounds nice!”

Having my arse wiped by the lower class,

“That sounds nice!”

I’ve got lots of time and if they’re supplying the wine...
Then, they wanted me to go to rehab and I said,
“That sounds nice!”

So, I think I’ll try some of that crack cocaine,

I’ve heard it rather takes away the pain,

It’s the kind of caper that might get me in the papers,

I’m gonna be so critical acclaim.

I’ll make myself a nice drug hell,

A cheeky tale the press can tell,

And if I smoke some crack I might get my mojo back,

And win myself a Brit Award as-well!

I just might…

“That sounds nice!”

Arnold and Sylvester

Aren't you glad I pointed you to TMZ's nurse category last month? Otherwise, you would have missed this photo of Schwarzenegger and Stallone getting shoulder surgery together. We know Stallone uses substances to stay fit (T, GH?). Schwarzenegger is about the same age. Do you suppose?

Anecdotes: T and veggies

In The Four Hour Body, Ferriss says that when he jacked his testosterone levels, women started paying mad attention to him. Some reviewers have poo-pooed this claim as it is based on unsubstantiated ideas about the interaction of biochemistry and attraction.

After a long dry spell, the last week has pretty much been a whirlwind romantic encounter for me, culiminating in a weekend get-away. I didn't go to the gym or get out much for the last week, spending much of it "indoors." When I got back to the gym today, all eyes were on me. While doing sprint intervals on the treadmill, every time I looked around, I was getting checked out by the women on the other equipment. Same for the weights. And although I was feeling good about myself, I was also feeling introspective and not flirtatious, so I don't think it was likely to be from confidence. This isn't a substantiation of Ferriss ideas about T boosting, but it's interesting subjectively.

I also ate a mostly vegetarian diet last week. Today, I just could not put up the weight. Veggies + lack of sleep + missed workouts = strength loss.

TSNR: Reader's Digest edition

It never rains but it pours. After not writing anything on The Sexy Nurse Report for a long time, there's two posts in a row!

Reader's Digest just published an absolutely horrendous article called 50 Secrets Nurses Won't Tell You, published in their print edition, and an additional 25 More Secrets Your Nurse Won't Tell You, published online.

One thing that's important to realize is that the images presented in the hyperlinks above did not appear in the print edition of RD. Previously, I complained about Nurse Jackie, who seems to have become the poster child for nurses in the entertainment industry. Reader's Digest leads their story with an image of Nurse Jackie, and includes on the next three pages Hot Lips Houlihan from M.A.S.H. and Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. A more inappropriate trio of Sexy Nurse imagery could not be found: bubble, bubble, toil and trouble...

But it doesn't end there. The "secrets" are a mixed bag of statements by RNs on a variety of topics such as the "real" scoop on doctors and how to be a good patient. For the most part, they skirt accuracy and appropriateness, but they do it in an unchallenging way. For example, there are a lot of things people could know about being a good patient in the hospital, but not asking out the nurses is a no-brainer.

TSNR: special kissing edition

A special kissing edition of The Sexy Nurse Report: Have you heard of this strange guy William Crane who gives kissing lessons and public image advice? He has a traveling stage show about kissing that he brings to college campuses and a DVD called The Art of Kissing, which seems to be aimed at young teen girls. You can watch it in parts on Netflix. The DVD tries to be funny here and there, including having an appearance from a nurse and doctor, who manage to (1) not be funny and (2) of course re-inforce ideas about doctors and nurses that are non-professional.

Clips on back rubbing and giving hickeys.