Last October, on a rafting excursion on Oregon’s Hood River, I learned that an abundance of salmon near a dam on the Columbia River attracts bears and sea lions from 150 miles away. Faced with abundance, the bears eat the salmon’s most nutritious parts: brains and belly then wastefully discard the rest.
Contrast this with humans.
Faced with such abundance we have no idea what to eat. The food pyramid may as well be a Ouija board invisibly guided by cows on even decades and cornstalks on odd. We’re keto, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, pastafarian, intermittent fastertarian…
If you focus solely on the bear’s unconflicted instincts, in relief, homo sapiens look like actors in a Greek comedy, adorned in masks exaggerating protruding cerebrums, bumping into one another in state-of-the-art grocery aisles.
The triple-distilled, no chaser truth behind this confusion is our human biologies have evolved on a time scale that cannot keep up with modernity and its accelerating pace of change. The world was pretty much the same for most of human history save the last couple hundred years. More people are alive today than have ever lived. Exponential curves are not intuitive. This era that you were born into, is asking for more than your instincts have in the bank.
Well, this week’s links are overdraft protection on an account that you can’t afford let slip out of balance —
I learned the importance of sleep shortly after high school. I had the privilege of taking the largest college course in the U.S. Cornell’s Psych 101. Prof James Maas, one of the world’s leading sleep researchers, lectured 2000 students weekly at Bailey Hall (a giant auditorium whose crowning moment was undoubtedly hosting the Grateful Dead in 1977). Maas’ research was unequivocal on the gravity of getting a proper night’s rest. A noble and critical lesson in the midst of an “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” culture.
Well, it turns out your persistent sleep debt eventually compounds until there is no windfall large enough repay it. Author and sleep researcher Dr. Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep is an amazing exploration of the science of sleep, its universality, and its various states of evolution.
Dr. Peter Attia interviewed Walker on his podcast The Drive. Find notes, the audio, and my highlights here. It makes one of the most compelling cases to modify behavior that I have encountered so I hope you’ll check it out.
Some of the more interesting nerdy aspects include:
- How sleep stages cycle in a way that emphasize non-REM sleep in the earlier parts of your slumber and REM in the latter portion. With a few interesting exceptions, this implies that you are unable to get meaningful amounts of REM if you get under 6 hours of sleep
- Find out what REM and non-REM sleep is good for. Not all species experience REM. It’s a more highly evolved sleep stage.
- Find the link between sleep and Alzheimers.
- Understand why lack of sleep is a modern problem and why that hints to how serious it is.
- The modes by which lack of sleep can kill you — both acute and accumulated causes.
- Data on the global decline of sleep.
If you enjoyed that and want another rung before reading the book, check out Allen Cheng’s summary. Lifehack alert…Cheng’s summaries’ stated goal is to compress a book into 10% of its pages and convey 90% of its content. He delivers. Of course, a 400-page book is still going to be 40 pages of web reading, but if you like this format check out all of his summaries.
Healthspan: The Area Under Your Lifespan Curve
You don’t have to calculate any integrals, but if you want to optimize not just the length of your life but its quality then check out Dr. Peter Attia. I first discovered him via a series of interviews he had on the Invest Like the Best podcast. I’ve had to listen to each of them multiple times as they are quite dense. His professional life as a doctor, investor, race car driver, former finance risk guy, and former high-level endurance athlete is all suspiciously ridiculous. Judge for yourself… here are my notes on his talks including the links to the podcasts.
Like my own profession, finance, the health world is complex enough to numb your face which means you will need to outsource reliance to experts. To make matters worse, these fields have low signal to noise ratio. There’s no luxury of drawing straight lines from cause to effect and trade-offs abound. Enter the “expert”, with air quotes. There are outright charlatans lurking in addition to equally dangerous cases of “Hanlon’s Razor“. You are tossed to and fro in a murky sea between type 1 errors and type 2 errors. Still, you need to decide or not decide (which Rush reminds us is “still a choice”).
H/t to Brook (a fellow self-hacker and skeptic) who introduced him to us about a decade ago and whose family has a much longer history with Josh.
- My favorite sites for book notes besides Allen Cheng:
- Nat Eliason: good compression and helpful commentary
- Dean Yeong: well-balanced compressions
- The Power Moves: the largest collection of basic summaries
- ReadMyBookNotes: bullet point format
- Derek Sivers: extensive collection, more distilled, not really formatted. Side note: Sivers himself has a super interesting story
- Four Minute Books: extensive collection similar to Blinkist which I used to pay for but I find too lightweight
- Yinh pointed out that Patagonia is trying to take the “vest” out of investments.
- Michael Lewis is starting to release his 7 part podcast series about the role of judges in many facets of life. It tackles the idea of fairness in classic Lewis-style — by diving into the stories of individuals at the heart of the conflict. The first episode tackles the perplexing position that modern day NBA refs occupy. They are reviled more than ever, despite demonstrably more accurate performance than their predecessors. The NBA expressly built its exorbitant and cutting-edge replay center in Secaucus, NJ to defend its officials from the growing animosity. Check it out here.
From my actual life
- After Disney, Yinh and I soaked up sunny SoCal with the family. Thanks to Yinh I enjoyed a “Welcome to the Jungle” cocktail at the LP Rooftop Bar in West Hollywood (or WeHo as the natives call it). The bar has a sick view of the Hollywood hills and is a stone’s throw from the Sunset strip clubs where Gn’R first burst on to the scene. We did not spring for the pitcher.
- Sara’s Beachcomber rec did not disappoint. It’s a summer breeze to wait for a table when the kids can play in the sand, ocean or one of the many tide pools steps from the restaurant. A total gem inside Crystal Cove Park in Newport. She should have warned us about the size of their deservedly famous Bloody Marys garnished with olives, pickled carrots, a large shrimp, and the coup de grace — a lobster claw. The $18 price tag went from indulgent to value quickly as neither of us finished the drinks.
- I’m insufferable on vacation as I am always browsing fancy RE on Redfin. LA might be the most fun place to indulge this dreaming. Houses in the hills, condos on the beach. Full dreamer mode. A local turned me on to this pseudonymous blog which seems to know too much about celebrity dealings. Rumor has it that it’s written by a clerk in the title office. This is my new US Weekly.
- On that October trip to Portland, Avi organized what turned out to be one of my favorite all-time dining experiences. See Willow. Its amazing chef duo delivered an exemplary testing menu at a flat converted to an intimate restaurant. They do 2 seatings, four nights a week. I recommend the beer pairing if you want to check out rare, historic brews you will never find again. All in, it was $100 pp.
…One last thing
This is the fourth issue marking one month and just gotta say you guys are great. My goal always is to curate useful recs and content and reward your most precious capital — attention.
The dialogue and feedback have been a welcome surprise. I wasn’t really expecting that since I know everyone is busy. Having people throw stuff back my way is really cool and can be breadcrumbs leading to my next share.
If you think it’s worth inviting some fellow nerds, feel free to forward the letters or pass along this signup:
Have a great week!!