Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blathering On Pt1

I first saw Magnus Zeller's "The Orator" at a LACMA German Expressionist exhibit back in high school. Yes, it does foreshadow--ahem--Hitler. But it also captures the flat-out awesomeness of public speaking when you're good at it. (Just click on the image to make it bigger.)

I was not good at it. In fact, I was terrified of it. And as far as I can tell, MOST people are terrified of it. In many surveys, it even ranks above the fear of death.

(I should also note that at least half of the small minority of the people who aren't terrified of public speaking seem to be oblivious to how others perceive them and therefore SUCK at public speaking--but do it anyway.)

The only time I managed to even stand up in front of a class and give a presentation without terror was for a few months after I returned from a college semester in Spain. The immersion exchange program I'd been on required the students to speak Spanish and only Spanish during the entire semester. Since Spaniards aren't shy about laughing in your face every time you make a slight linguistic mistake, I had become more or less desensitized to public humiliation.

However, it didn't take long before I became "re-sensitized" to the fear of public speaking.

By the time my first novel sold and my book tour loomed, I realized that not only was I terrified of public speaking, but this fear had kept me from actually doing any public speaking. Thus, I not only feared it, but sans practice, I sucked at it too.

My first step was to start going to as many author readings as I could, and see how other writers managed to do it. If you've ever attended random author readings, you won't be surprised to hear me say that most authors are actually terrible readers. First, like me, they spend most of their time writing in private, and freak out when they have to engage the public. Second, many if not most writers chose to be writers BECAUSE they felt more comfortable hiding behind a keyboard than, say, doing a stand-up routine at the local comedy club.

If I could have pulled a Pynchon and gone into hiding instead of going on the book tour, I would have. Instead, I was forced to take a rather drastic step and enroll in an improv comedy class.

Yes, improv comedy.

You see, I could think of NOTHING more terrifying than improv comedy. Not only do you have to stand up in front of a crowd and try to be funny, but you can't prepare at all. I figured that if I could force myself to stand up in front of a crowd and improv, doing a public reading would be a piece of cake.

And it worked.

[Full Disclosure: Alright, so it was all I could do not to puke before my first reading at Powell's, but it did get easier after that. And the important thing is that I now actually LOVE public speaking.]


Monday, September 28, 2009

Don't Be a Swine

Every time I try to stop prattling on about Vitamin D, they pull me back in.

Dr. Kurt G. Harris over at the PāNu blog has written an excellent article on how Vitamin D may help prevent the dreaded H1N1.

"So higher D levels make you less likely to get infected.

With higher D levels, if you do get infected, you are much less likely to get severely ill, and more likely to be able to breathe on your own.

With higher D levels, if you do get infected, you are probably also less likely to spread the virus to others."

Hey, I don't know about you, but I'm all for breathing on my own. He also shows the specific physiological benefits of different levels:

Prevent rickets 10 ng/dl

Suppress parathyroid hormone 20 ng/dl

Maximize intestinal calcium absorption 34 ng/dl

Maximize muscle strength 50 ng/dl

The blog is also a great resource for anyone interested in the concept of paleo nutrition. It's far more science-based than most paleo blogs.

Also, I've found that Carlson's makes Vitamin D3 drops (in coconut oil). It has no taste and solves the problem of trying to get your toddler to swallow a gel cap. You can even add it to food if need be.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vitamin A and How to Plot a Novel

So now that you're taking your Vitamin D, I thought I should tell you not to neglect your Vitamin A or K2.

These three fat soluble vitamins work together to...

Fuck it. I'm sick of writing about nutrition.

Every now and then, I go back through some of the old books on writing I have lying around and try to refocus my brain on the basics.

Since I'm 38 and a published novelist, reading books like "Fiction First Aid" or "Writing Screenplays that Sell" is a tad embarrassing. Even worse is reading through them in a coffee house like I am now. Honestly, I'd rather be caught reading porn.

But it's worth it. For example, Michael Hauge's advice on how to write a screenplay in one easy lesson:

Enable a sympathetic character to overcome a series of increasingly difficult, seemingly insurmountable obstacles and achieve a compelling desire.

Obviously, this is the "Hollywood Happy Ending" version (after all, the book is called "Writing Screenplays that SELL"). But if you want the more literary (i.e., box office flop) unhappy ending, all you have to do is add "fail to" in front of "achieve."

Yes this is unbelievably basic stuff, but it's this very basic stuff that writers continually fuck up. That I continually fuck up.

Hauge goes on to explain that any story idea can be expressed in a single sentence:

It is a story about a ______ who __________.

Obvious stuff, right? Well, in my experience, MOST aspiring novelists can't formulate that sentence--or at least not without using a run-on.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vitamin D PSA

As school has started again and the rains won't be far behind (at least here in Portland, Oregon, USA), I thought it time to bring up Vitamin D supplementation.

The last few winters, I've suffered from what seemed like a never ending series of colds. From the beginning of November all the way through about March, I was constantly sick. Since I have a four year-old and was under a great deal of stress, I just chalked it up to that.

However, January of last year, I started reading about Vitamin D, and began supplementing with around 2000 units a day using a combination of cod liver oil and D3 oil gel caps (both the specific type of Vitamin D and the specific type of pill turn out to be important). This is actually much less than the Vitamin D Council recommends, but much more than the RDA, so to be cautious, I decided to split the difference.

Lo and behold, I haven't been sick since. And I'm not alone. Cardiologist Dr. William Davis hasn't been sick once in the three years since he started supplementing with Vitamin D.

If you think about Vitamin D in terms of evolution, this all makes perfect sense. We've gone from running around outside in loin cloths all summer long to slathering on SPF 5000 before venturing out to watch the sunset. The older you get, the more you use sunblock, the farther you live from the equator, and the darker your skin color, the more likely it is that you aren't getting enough Vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency causes many more problems than just an increased susceptibility to the common cold and influenza (i.e., cancer, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, and periodontal disease).

But isn't the thought of NOT GETTING SICK AT ALL this winter enough?

If not, check out the Vitamin D Council. Actually, check it out anyway. Here are a few quotes to get you started...
"Because vitamin D is so cheap and so clearly reduces all-cause mortality, I can say this with great certainty: Vitamin D represents the single most cost-effective medical intervention in the United States."

~ Dr. Greg Plotnikoff, Medical Director, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.

"I believe [vitamin D] is the number one public health advance in medicine in the last twenty years."

~ Dr. John Whitcomb, Aurora Sinai Medical Center

"This is like the Holy Grail of cancer medicine; vitamin D produced a drop in cancer rates greater than that for quitting smoking, or indeed any other countermeasure in existence."

~ Dennis Mangan, clinical laboratory scientist
Okay, I admit that I have no clue who these people are, but still...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Before and After Pics

It's been awhile, so I just thought I'd throw up some before and after pics showing my progress eating an evolutionarily appropriate diet.



And if you haven't looked at them yet, I recommend the following appalling NYTimes links...

It's Hip to Be Round
(Ah, Brooklyn...)


For Your Health, Fruit Loops

Eileen T. Kennedy, president of the Smart Choices board and the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, can go fuck herself.

Dr. Kennedy, who is not paid for her work on the program, defended the products endorsed by the program, including sweet cereals. She said Froot Loops was better than other things parents could choose for their children.

“You’re rushing around, you’re trying to think about healthy eating for your kids and you have a choice between a doughnut and a cereal,” Dr. Kennedy said, evoking a hypothetical parent in the supermarket. “So Froot Loops is a better choice.”

I think this pretty much sums up why I've stopped listening to mainstream nutritional advice.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Many readers have had a hard time accepting my claim that agriculture is the root of all evil. I believe that my four part series Missing the Forest for the Field has made a convincing case, but in an effort to be even more convincingesque, I offer perhaps the most damning evidence of all...

Agriculture created white people.

That's right, honkies, crackers, anthropomorphic mayonnaise... whatever you want to call them, these white devils are a DIRECT result of agriculture.

Until recently, scientist thought that populations simply evolved to have lighter (i.e., pasty) skin as they migrated north in latitude. Now it turns out that AGRICULTURE is the cause...

According to the Daily Mail:

People in England may have only developed pale skin within the last 5,500 years, according to new research.

Scientists believe that a sudden change in the diet around that time from hunter-gathering to farming may have led to a dramatic change in skin tone to make up for a lack of vitamin D.

Farmed food is lacking in vitamin D and while humans can produce it when exposed to the ultraviolet light in sunlight darker skin is far less efficient at it...

...If the theory is correct it would mean that until this period in history, the ancient inhabitants of Britain and Scandinavia - our ancestors - would have had a dark skin tone.
So the next time "The Man" (i.e., the "White Man") is keeping you down, blame agriculture.

[Thanks to Free the Animal for the link. Although Richard took it in a slightly different direction...]

Even More People

I got a nice comment from John Feeney on my last post. He's actively working (hard) to solve the problem of overpopulation, so if you're interested in the subject, I suggest checking out his site.

Here's just one of his articles for the BBC.

"It's the great taboo of environmentalism: the size and growth of the human population. It has a profound impact on all life on Earth, yet for decades it has been conspicuously absent from public debate."