Humps

Readers, for the next few weeks I'll be doing some travelling, so please enjoy this post from Casual Kitchen's archives.
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Much of human behavior essentially amounts to comfort seeking. When we're hot, we seek air conditioning. When we're hungry, we eat without delay. When we want something, we buy it, even if we don't really have the money.

A few years ago, when I fortuitously stumbled onto William Irvine's brilliant book on Stoicism, I started embracing various types of "voluntary discomfort" as part of my halting efforts both to learn about Stoic philosophy and to try to learn how to appreciate life a little bit more. And as a quick reminder: Stoics don't "do" voluntary discomfort because they get off on suffering, that's just a snarky and condescending misreading of the practice. Rather, they do it to appreciate the comforts they already have, and to avoid taking them for granted.

At this point I'd also read Julien Smith's short and intriguing book The Flinch, which talked about how our "flinch" reaction often covertly produces avoidance behaviors that divert us from valuable life experiences. This book taught me to invert the flinch reaction and seek out experiences I'd normally flinch from. Finally, it was around this time that I'd begun exploring compound weightlifting in an effort to combat aging and get back some of my lost athletic footspeed and endurance.

Now, I'm awfully slow--window-lickingly slow--at learning things, but I'm finding surprising synergies, big ones, across almost all "domains of discomfort" in my life. Let me describe three examples:

1) Cold Showers
A crucial metaphor from The Flinch is the cold shower. And holy cow, the idea of taking a cold shower is something I definitely flinch from. It seems like such an incredibly awful experience that some days (uh, like today, the very day I'm working on a first draft of this post) I simply can't do it. I turn the water to a nice hot temperature and I wait like a wuss for the water to warm up.

But on the days I can do it, the actual experience of a cold shower isn't really all that bad.

Hahaha ...hahahahahaha... yes it IS that bad! That first shock of the cold water is hellish. I hate it.

Except... three minutes into that shower, the water oddly doesn't feel cold any more. More importantly, I always feel great after a cold shower. I feel refreshed, calm, replenished. Moreover, there's compelling evidence of both positive physiological and psychological effects of cold showers. For example, after difficult athletic training sessions, cold showers help your body recover. I've also found I get cognitive benefits from cold showers too: I feel sharper, mentally fresher afterwards.

The point here is that you've just got to get over the hump. And in the case of a cold shower, that hump is just three minutes long. That's it. And all these benefits are yours, in return for a minor exercise of voluntary discomfort and discipline.

2) Deadlifts
There's a lot to talk about in the domain of compound lifting, and most of this domain is still outside of my circle of competence. But I can speak to my experiences learning to do deadlifts, and one thing I can say confidently is that my road--the road between nervously picking up a deadlift bar with exactly zero pounds on it, and now doing a somewhat respectable 3x10 reps at one and a half times my body weight--was paved with humps. Lots of them.

In contrast to nautilus-type machines that work one or two muscles at a time under more limited conditions, compound lifting trains your entire body: your muscles, bones and connective tissue are all forced to work in concert. And this includes lots of minor muscles overlooked in most standard workout routines.

So, as I worked toward making my body deadlift-compliant, I tweaked parts of it I didn't even know about, and pulled muscles in places I didn't know I had muscles. In my first few months of deadlifting, I experienced intercostal muscle pulls throughout my rib cage. I experienced strains in all kinds of random places in my abs and upper hips (the so-called "abdominal cuff" area is fertile soil for injuries for beginning deadlifters since most people are shockingly fragile there). I tweaked my elbows, wrists, collarbone, even my fingers.

It was kind of like a cold shower... except that it took me about a year to come out the other side. But once I got over the hump, I had a more robust and far less fragile body.

In how many other domains do we see a "hump" of discomfort between us and serious insights and opportunity? And where else do we lose out on longer-term gains because we flinch from (or fear) the upfront discomfort?

3) Learning to Cook
With my typical slowness, I've come to discover that cooking is yet another discipline of voluntary discomfort, with enormous benefits once you get over "humps" of various types.

The discomfort here is a bit more metaphorical, of course. In the very short run, learning to cook is way more of a pain in the ass than grabbing takeout or going out to dinner. So the voluntary discomfort at first involves deferring an easier solution in order to develop some basic cooking and shopping skills.

And then there are the dinners and recipes you screw up as you learn. You'll make mistakes, and ruin a few meals. More humps and discomfort, in other words. It's a necessary part of the road towards competence, and later, skill.

There are many more layers to the metaphor: you'll have to learn how to keep a stocked pantry, how to shop efficiently, how to avoid rookie errors like buying out of season fruits and veggies, and so on. These are all examples of humps to be overcome, but on the other side of those humps are enormous benefits.

Conclusion
I'd speculate that when it comes to cooking humps, most readers here at CK have long ago gotten over them, to the point where we can whip up several days' worth of laughably cheap food in less time than it takes to drive to the takeout place. Some humps used to be big, but as they recede into the rear-view mirror of life, it gets deceivingly easy to forget about all the work that went into getting over them. Don't forget to give yourself credit for this!

Once again, though, this is still more proof of the enormous value of what's on the other side of those humps. Which is why I'm trying to look at the various humps and sources of discomfort in my life in a different way. I am trying to think about what's on the other side of them--usually really good stuff--and I'm trying to train myself to run towards them rather than flinch from them.







You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!

Tragedy at Peat Village: A Natural Resource Fable

Readers, for the next few weeks I'll be doing some travelling, so please enjoy this post from Casual Kitchen's archives.
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It was Ireland, during the 11th Century, in a tiny little community called Peat Village.

Peat Village was nothing special, just a tiny village on the edge of a huge peat bog. People there lived very simply back then, and life in this forlorn little village was at best brutish and short. Average life expectancy was 24 years, disease was rampant, and famine and hunger were constant realities.

One day in Peat Village a villager stumbled onto a significant discovery. The peat from the bog next to the village could be used as a fuel! Yes, it was a dirty fuel--it was awfully smoky when it burned--and of course it had to be harvested, treated and dried before it would really burn well, but without a doubt it could be used as a serviceable fuel. And there was so much of it! This villager began using peat to heat his home, his food and his water. In the following years, he and his family enjoyed a meaningfully improved standard of living.

Others in Peat Village caught on to the idea of using peat as a fuel, and they began heating their food, water and homes too. Their standard of living also increased. It wasn't long before everyone in Peat Village was burning peat, and as this little community's living standards improved, things changed irrevocably for the better: disease became just a little less rampant, food became a just little more plentiful, and life expectancy became just a little bit longer. Life became a little less brutish and short.

However, there was a very intelligent villager living in Peat Village who began to worry. He wondered about the longer-term consequences if everyone in Peat Village continued to use peat to heat their homes and their food and water. He started to worry about what would happen if Peat Village ran out of peat.

And he was right to worry about this. It was clear--to the point of obviousness--that there was a limited supply of peat. Yet each year, villagers used more and more of it. What would happen when, inevitably, all the peat was used up?

The other villagers considered this nothing more than scaremongering. Some laughed. But this very intelligent villager was absolutely certain he was right. He could see the writing on the wall. After all, when the supply of a resource is fixed and demand is growing, it is only a matter of time before that resource runs out. It could be years, it could be decades, but the logic was inescapable: at some point--probably soon--Peat Village would run completely out of peat.

Clearly, this would be an unmitigated disaster for the Peat Village community. "Peak Peat" was coming, and with it would come a total collapse in the peat-based economy.

Our scaremonger friend traveled throughout Peat Village to spread the word. He created a list of rules and recommendations for peat conservation for all the residents to follow so they could avoid, or at least postpone, the inevitable Peak Peat catastrophe. He encouraged villages to use peat only when absolutely necessary, if at all. He got into many debates with villagers who didn't agree with him. After all, the villagers wanted to keep their heated homes and heated food. These things improved their quality of life and their standard of living. And some of the villagers thought it was silly to just leave the peat sitting there in the bog completely unused when it had brought about such improvements in their community. Finally, the villagers said, it will be a long time before we use up all of our peat. In the meantime perhaps we will discover another fuel source to replace it.

But our scaremonger friend didn't think very much of the intelligence of these villagers. He considered them unsophisticated and naive, and he mocked them by calling them "deniers." He told them they already achieved significant improvements in their standard of living, and it would be impossible (and not to mention irresponsible) to maintain their current living standards in the post-Peak Peat era.

There was another vaguely bothersome thing about this scaremonger villager. It a small thing, but bothersome nonetheless: since he traveled so much throughout Peat Village, he didn't exactly follow all of the peat conservation rules he set down for all the other villagers. When he stayed at inns and homes across the village, he would often enjoy peat fires and peat-heated food. He reduced his peat use slightly in his own home, but because he was so successful speaking, writing and teaching about Peak Peat, his thatched hut was one of the largest in the entire village. It took quite a bit of peat just to heat a small portion of his house! But in any case, he told himself, his personal use wasn't all that important. What was more important was that he get out the word about Peak Peat and the coming catastrophe that would inevitably follow.

Centuries later (our scaremonger friend lived for a very long time, you see), a new and revolutionary fuel came along. It was called "coal." Coal was hundreds of times more efficient than peat, far cleaner, and in every sense a superior energy source. In Coal County, which wasn't very far from Peat Village, homes and industries switched over to this new and advanced fuel. As a result, Coal County began to enjoy a significantly improved standard of living.

But not tiny Peat Village. They were still busy preparing for Peak Peat: conserving peat as much as they could, shivering over their tiny peat fires, huddling around their half-warmed meals, and earnestly following the rules and guidelines as they were told. Their standard of living hadn't increased at all for centuries, and their community never developed sufficient scientific or engineering expertise nor any extra economic capacity to make use of a newfangled energy source like coal.

In the meantime, our scaremonger friend continued traveling widely, spending the passing centuries getting the word out on the coming collapse of the peat-based economy. Since he’d already fully convinced everyone in Peat Village of his views (what few remaining "deniers" there were had been totally ostracized by the community), he often found himself traveling into Coal County to give speeches on Peak Peat. Sadly, he couldn't find many people in Coal County who were interested in conserving peat, as hard as he tried. Peak Peat just didn't seem to be a priority there.

One day, however, after giving yet another sparsely attended speech in Coal County, our very intelligent villager stumbled onto a brilliant insight: The supply of coal had to be limited too!

Once again, he could clearly see the inescapable logic: when the supply of a resource is fixed and demand is growing, it is only a matter of time before that resource runs out. It could be years, it could be decades, but the logic was inevitable: at some point--probably soon--Coal County would run out of coal. This would be an unmitigated disaster. A collapse in the coal-based economy was coming, and coming soon.

And he was right to worry about this. It was clear--to the point of obviousness--that there was a limited supply of coal. And yet every year more and more people were burning more and more of it. What would happen when, inevitably, all of it would get used up? Peak Coal was coming. Anyone who doubted so was clearly a denier.

Our scaremonger friend began traveling even more widely (even using coal-based modes of transportation) in order to get the word out. He created a list of rules and recommendations for coal conservation for the residents of Coal County to follow so they could avoid, or at least postpone, the inevitable Peak Coal catastrophe.

By this time, he hardly ever visited his friends back in Peat Village any more. With all of his important work on coal conservation, there was just no time.

Another century or two passed. Coal began to be replaced by a new and even better energy source called "oil." It was far more efficient than coal, hundreds of times less polluting, and all around an infinitely more flexible and useful fuel. In fact, it was such a superior fuel that throughout Oil Nation (which was just few days' journey by coal-powered steamship from Coal County) most homes and industries quickly switched over to this advanced fuel. As a result, Oil Nation enjoyed a much improved standard of living.

The residents of Coal County, however, were still preparing for Peak Coal: conserving as much coal as they could, huddling over their modest coal fires, and earnestly following the rules and guidelines set down by our scaremongering friend, just as they were told. Sadly, however, their standard of living hadn't increased at all for several generations, and needless to say, their community never developed the scientific expertise nor the extra economic capacity to make use of a newfangled energy source like oil.

Our scaremonger friend continued to travel widely, often using coal- and even oil-based energy to the extent he needed to. After all, spreading the coal conservation message was far more important than following a few minor rules, you see.

Interestingly, by this time, he never used peat-based energy at all. Why would he use such a laughably primitive fuel source, especially with such important work to do?

One fine day, while he was speaking to a mostly empty auditorium in Oil Nation (oddly enough, there wasn't very much interest in Peak Coal there), he hit on yet another truth. Admittedly it was a somewhat derivative truth, but it was staggering in its implications: the supply of oil had to be limited!

Once again, he could clearly see the inescapable logic: when the supply of a resource is fixed and demand is growing, it is only a matter of time before that resource runs out. It could be years, it could be decades, but the logic was inevitable: at some point--probably soon--Oil Nation would run out of oil. This would be an unmitigated disaster. A collapse in the oil-based economy was coming. And coming soon.

It was clear--to the point of obviousness--that there was a limited supply of oil, yet every year, more and more people used more and more of it. What would happen when, inevitably, it was all used up? Peak Oil was coming. Anyone who doubted it was a denier.

Our scaremonger friend redoubled his efforts. There was important work to do! He created a list of rules and recommendations for oil conservation for all Oil Nation citizens to follow, so they could avoid, or at least postpone, a Peak Oil catastrophe. He began traveling even more widely, all over Oil Nation and beyond, and his utterly logical and inescapable conclusions became so widely accepted and respected that he began receiving invitations to speak internationally at major conferences like Davos and the World Economic Forum. He became one of the world's wealthy elites, sharing his important and far-seeing knowledge through books, speeches and media appearances.

Needless to say, he never visited Coal County any more. His work on Peak Oil was far too important.

And of course, by this time we'd all but forgotten about the people of Peat Village.


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You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!

Are You Sure Your Farmer Wants To Get To Know You?

Readers, for the next few weeks I'll be doing some travelling, so please enjoy this post from Casual Kitchen's archives.
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The First Lady has planted a garden, organic, of course, and the Department of Agriculture is spending 50 million or so on a program called Know Your Farmer. The effort is likely to disappoint: in fact, a suburban housewife determined to know this corn farmer is likely to be mortified by my looks, the way I smell, and my opinions. I can't imagine why any resident of Manhattan would want to know me, and, trust me, some of my neighbors are even worse.

...One of the assumptions implicit in all this local food stuff is that we farmers are dying to make a connection with our customers. In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth. All we want is to sell corn and to be left alone.
--Blake Hurst, farmer and president of the Missouri Farm Bureau

I borrowed this striking quote from The Locavore's Dilemma, partly because it had me laughing out loud, but also because it illustrates an intriguing point about the food and ag business.

Take a Brooklyn hipster (no, really, take one!). Imagine her, freshly done reading one of Michael Pollan's books, and deciding, firmly, that she wants to get "close" to her food. She’s gonna know her farmer, man. Now she'll make regular trips to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, take a weekly subway ride to Manhattan's Union Square Farmer's Market, and maybe even once a month line up a Zipcar Prius to drive up the Hudson Valley (staying within 100 miles of course) to visit an actual organic farm!

Hipsters are usually quite good at irony. But there's one question, ironically, that this hypothetical Brooklyn hipster never thought to ask: what if her farmer doesn't want to know her back?

You'd think this imaginary friendly farmer, if he really wanted to know this hipster and others like her, would take a job where he'd actually get to meet hipsters. He wouldn't farm at all! He'd work at the Apple Store. Or at Whole Foods.

If you take Blake Hurst's word for it, most farmers just want to farm. They didn't sign up to meet hipsters and agri-intellectuals. That's the reason other people sell, distribute and retail their food: because selling, shipping, distributing, retailing and hipster-meeting isn't farming.

Think about this a little bit. Does your farmer want to know you?

Are you sure?


Related Posts:
Thoughts On Recipe Development
An Interview with "Appetite For Profit" Author Michele Simon
A Cup of Morning Death? How "Big Coffee" Puts Profits Before People
Did Newark Mayor Cory Booker Really *Try* With His Food Stamp Challenge?

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You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!

What Happens Once You've Cooked a Recipe 100 Times?

Readers, for the next few weeks I'll be doing some travelling, so please enjoy this post from Casual Kitchen's archives.
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Readers, do you have any recipes you've cooked so many times that you've lost count?

When you reach this point with a favorite dish, interesting things happen. You barely need to look at the recipe. Preparing it becomes relaxing, even meditative. You don’t think about the process steps and how to do them. Heck, you hardly need to think at all, and the recipe comes out great every time.

Despite all I've written here at Casual Kitchen, you'd think cooking would be meditative and relaxing for me all the time. You'd be wrong. Usually I try to avoid cooking--or even better, shirk it off onto somebody else. But there are several key recipes here, recipes like Chicken Mole, Risotto, Black Beans and Rice, North African Lemon Chicken and Groundnut Stew, that I've made hundreds of times, and I’m so comfortable with these recipes that preparing them becomes as mentally demanding as folding the laundry. Which is my idea of a meditative exercise.

My introduction to this idea was in New Zealand. Our friend Richard, who owns a cafe and catering company in the city of Christchurch, was teaching me how to make a "flat white" (like a cappuccino, only better). Coffee is a refined art in New Zealand and I was struggling to get it just right. The grounds needed to be pressed just enough, the milk needed to be frothed just right, and everything needed to be combined with just the right amount of flair. I screwed up several that went right into the wastebasket. Then, finally, I made one that got a passing grade. Maybe a C-minus.

Richard told me, "after you've properly made 200 of these, I'd let you in front of a customer." I stared at him. As naive as I'm sure this sounds, this was the first time I'd really thought about the concept of making something so many times that it becomes second nature, that you don’t have to think about it, and you can start to add your personality to the process rather than just complete the process.

These are the kinds of things you can do after you've cooked a recipe 20, 50 or even 200 times:

1) You can carry on a conversation while you cook, and pay sincere attention to both tasks.

2) You can scale up the recipe for a large dinner party or a big group with little additional stress.

3) The cooking experience becomes easy, even effortless.

4) You confidently modify the recipe, or add improvisational flourishes as you cook. You know exactly how the recipe works and you know what variables you can and cannot tweak.

5) You make it... and it tastes amazing every time. You may not even know why it tastes amazing, but it just does.

Perhaps this is the home cook's version of the so-called 10,000 Hour Rule. Then again, you certainly don't need 10,000 hours to get good--really, really good--at cooking. Why? Well, just do the math: It only takes fifty hours to make a 30 minute recipe one hundred times (the majority of the recipes here at CK can be made in under 30 minutes for $2 a serving or less). Using the time-saving strategy of heavy rotation--rotating in the easiest, least expensive and most-loved recipes on a twice- or three-times-a-month basis--you could hit the I cooked this 100 times mark with four or five favorite recipes within just a few years.

Which makes cooking healthy food for your family an even easier part of your life than it already is.


Related Posts:
Thoughts On Recipe Development
Making It a Treat
Re-Seasoning: Never Be Bored With Leftovers Again
The Paradox of Cooking Shows

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You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!

Greeting Card SCAM! How to Save $6 (Or More) on Greeting Cards -- and Defeat the Greeting Card Industry Once and For All

Why are greeting cards so ridiculously expensive?

It's hard not to think about the incredibly fat and juicy profit margins of these little folded pieces of paper when you find Mother's Day, graduation and birthday cards priced at $4.99, $6.99, and even $8.99 in your local suburban grocery or drug store. Sure, some have glitter or cute ribbons on them. And bad poetry. But the bottom line is this: greeting cards are one of the most profitable products in modern retailing.

And long term readers of this blog know why: it has everything to do with competition. Or the lack thereof.

While there are plenty of items in our grocery stores sold at fair prices and reasonable markups, there are also certain items sold at unfair prices under surprisingly limited competition. Many branded/advertised foods, the dreaded spice aisle, and of course greeting cards are all good examples of non-competitive submarkets in the grocery/retail world.

Two companies dominate the greeting card aisle, Hallmark and American Greetings, making it one of the least-competitive segments of all of retail. Worse, when consumers need a card for Mother's Day or an almost-forgotten anniversary card for a spouse, they don't care that much about the card's price. Typically, they just need to get the card and get on with their day.

An economist would call this a non-competitive market with minimal price sensitivity. An investor like Warren Buffett would call this a wonderful business,[1] because in markets like these companies can actually raise prices, every year, little by little, and consumers just passively keep buying cards like they always do.

There may appear to be thousands of cards to choose from, the choice is illusory. The market and its egregious prices are under complete duopoly control. And that's why you can hardly find a card for less than $4.99 any more.

Just to focus our attention here: for $4.99 you can buy a paperback book. Or five pounds of pasta. Or three dozen eggs. Or three pounds of lentils! Many of Casual Kitchen's most popular laughably cheap recipes cost less than this.

Looking downfield a little bit, I wonder what the consumer reaction will be to the first basic greeting card that exceeds the $10 price point? It's coming. And here's something really mortifying: at the rate card prices are currently compounding, we could easily be paying $20 for greeting cards in a decade, give or take. [2]

Which brings us to a question: how high does the price of a greeting card have to go before it becomes... insulting? Or even condescending? As in "We, the greeting card industry, have so little regard for you consumers that we expect you to mindlessly pay 60,000% markups for a folded card."

Don't misunderstand: I have no problem paying money for a gift card. But I have a huge problem paying sums of money that are ridiculously divorced from the value we receive from that expenditure. As an empowered consumer, you should too.

So, what do we do? Well, as in many consumer empowerment situations, the answer is "it depends." But a good starting point is to stop using our typical buying patterns. Clearly, the greeting card cabal can easily prey on us if we seek to satisfy our greeting card "needs" the way we always have.

One solution we know won't work: going to another retailer. Remember the simple technique of going to a local ethnic grocery store to find more reasonably-priced spices? This tactic, which worked so well to subvert the non-competitive grocery store spice aisle, isn't effective against the anti-competitive greeting card industry. They've pretty much locked up control of all of the shelf space at all retailers, everywhere.

Which takes us to a more elegant solution, something we might call a modified "don't want it!" technique. Rather than submitting to the greeting card cabal, and paying their prices on their cards, screw 'em. I'm playing this game on my own (much more fun) terms, by making my own cards.

So, for Laura's birthday, this was this year's card:

I muffed the ice cream cone, but that's an exact likeness of Laura.

Sure, we save a little money. But more importantly, Laura LOVED it. She thought this card was hilarious, adorable even. We both got a huge laugh out of it. And it was free. FREE. [3]

And if I can do this with my pitiful artistic ability, you can do better.

Here's the broader takeaway for anyone interested in consumer empowerment: in any anti-competitive marketplace where prices are way out of line with the value we receive, don't buy. Don't be so damn obedient. Figure out another way. Play chess.





Footnotes:
[1] Lamentably, American Greetings and Hallmark are both privately held. Recall elsewhere in Casual Kitchen where we discussed how easy it is to self-fund many of your consumer products purchases by investing in the stock of the company and receiving dividend payments. That won't work here unfortunately.

[2] Don't laugh, hear my math: Assume a $7.99 card and imagine the greeting card cabal gradually raises prices at an average 8% annual rate, consistent with recent pricing activity. In just 12 years, that $7.99 card will have compounded to $20.12. It's coming.

[3] Okay, I lied. It wasn't quite free: the cost was technically 1 sheet of standard copy paper at $7.49 per 500 sheets, or about 1.5c. Thus I provided Laura with an amusing birthday card for less than one 300th of the price of a standard $4.99 greeting card.


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You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!

Okay Then, So… When Can I Talk?

All this talk about talking and its role in subverting our actions may have left readers somewhat confused about what they can talk about and when. Heck, I'm confused, and I'm the guy who wrote this stuff in the first place.

Recall that the type of talk we're considering here is the kind that fools our minds' reward centers with "a sense of completion," makes us confuse talk with action, and narcotizes us into apathy and inaction. If we could figure out what kind of talk doesn't do that, that would be awfully helpful.

With that in mind, here are a few general rules for which types of talk you can safely engage in that won't trigger the subversive "sense of completion" loop:

1) You can only talk about actions you have already performed.
a) "Hey, last week I did deadlifts for the first time (and boy are my arms tired!)" (contrast this with "I'm thinking of starting deadlifting" which, as we've seen, produces a sense of completion and therefore prevents you from doing deadlifts)

b) "I did my very first run today, 1.5 miles." (contrast with "I really need to start running.")

c) "I made five new healthy and laughably cheap recipes from Casual Kitchen last month. My grocery bill was down by 45%!" (contrast with "I really should look into ways to cook healthy for less.")

2) You can talk about future tweaks you'd like to make to things you've already done.
"I'm noticing some minor muscle tears all over my rib cage after a few weeks of deadlifting practice. I wonder if adding an occasional cold shower would help my body recover."

3) You can talk about things you don't want to do.
Again, remember: the sense of completion loop means talking about things you want to do makes it more likely you won't do them. Here we simply apply the reverse example, where we use the sense of completion loop on purpose to evade action. Thus, only talk about things if you actually do not want to do them.

A final postscript and disclaimer: Readers, first of all, thanks for being patient with me as I slowly and painstakingly articulate and attempt to solve a challenge I've struggled with, even though it has next to nothing to do with this blog's usual subjects. Second, despite all the prescriptive advice here, please remember that of course you can talk about whatever you want, whenever you want. ;)


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You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!

How to Stop Narcotizing Dysfunction

Last week's post was pretty darn depressing wasn't it? Well, at least it depressed me. I can't stand the idea that I might be narcotizing myself, and I certainly don't want to fool myself into thinking I'm being "part of the solution" or "becoming informed" when really I'm just lulling myself (and worse, those around me) into inaction and complacency.

The only course of action is to take action--and so today's post is an attempt to offer solutions that readers (and I) can use to avoid, subvert and beat the problem of narcotizing dysfunction.

Four things:

1) Eliminate the narcotic. What I mean by this, obviously, is stop consuming media. And for good measure, stop all news, all broadcast media, all social media, and most importantly, stop consuming peoples' rage-driven posts about any issue you care about. These things narcotize you and lull you into apathy, while fooling you into thinking you're doing something about the issue. Embrace a low-information, zero-media diet.

2) Read less about the specific issue that's important to you. Not more, less! Admittedly, this seems counter-intuitive. We all like to think we're missing out on being informed when we read less about an issue, but remember, we're up against a media that has interests that differ substantially from our own. In other words, the information made accessible to us through media isn't the information we want. Which brings us to the next solution...

3) While reading less, go directly to the source for your subject or issue information, do not use media or social media intermediaries that distort or impose (their) narratives on the information reaching you. Thus, read books or papers by genuine experts in the subject--and then read an oppositional book by opposing experts to make sure your own brain doesn't impose its own narrative on you either. I'll share an example in the domain of personal investing: I go directly to company quarterly earnings report transcripts (they are free at SeekingAlpha.com) and never read analyst reports or financial media reports telling me their interpretation of what happened. I don't want the intermediary's perception! I want to shape my own.

4) Be aware of the phenomenon itself, always. If you can remind yourself that "this information I'm seeing about issue X (or this discussion I'm having about topic Y) is likely displacing or supplanting action I would rather be taking" you are far less likely to be lulled into narcotized complacency.

5) Take specific action. Fricking actually do something about the thing. And no, once again, posting rubbish on social media does not count. True action involves putting your own skin in the game: If you want to do something about the pay gap, hire a woman. If you want to do something about wealth inequality, teach people how to invest. If you want to do something about XYZ political issue, run for office. If you want to write a novel... write a novel. Do not talk about it or consume media about it unless you wish to be narcotized and made inert and impotent. See how that works?

To summarize:
Eliminate media consumption.
Read less about the issue.
Go directly to source documents; never use informational intermediaries.
Be aware of the phenomenon: you are always at risk of being narcotized.
Take action.


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