Monday, August 22, 2016

Your Worth

Capitalism is the most efficient form of society when there is scarcity, as long as people understand supply and demand.  Unfortunately, for a lot of people, when it comes to themselves, they do not and their confusion has understandably turned to anger in the past twenty years.

I read this sad story on r/sysadmin.  Relevant part:
Well there's a problem. I was averaging 55 hour weeks and stage 4 burnout. I begged my coworkers for help but nobody lifted a finger. They didn't want to be pulled into the politics of this customer and they see what they do to me. I was left to crash and burn. 
And later:
I stopped working on them. My boss went out to headhunters to replace me. They cheapest came in >$100,000/year. Which is more than I ever made. The boss doesn't pay himself that much.
However it finally came down to me being fired.
It's common to see the word exploited in conjunction with capitalism, but it's more correct to label the situation as ignorance.  The market rate for that job is >$100k yet he was working for a lot less than that.  Before you are overcome with rage at capitalists' exploitation of the proletariat, what's a parallel of this?  It's the one store where everything is 20% cheaper than elsewhere with no drop in quality.  If that store goes bankrupt or is much less profitable than its competitors, do we feel bad about it?  No.  In both cases, neither parties knew their worth.

For the price of anything, in this case labor, the minimum that it will cost for employees to supply it is what they need to survive.  If food + clothing + shelter is more than what businesses are offering, zero labor will be supplied.  On the other hand, the maximum cost of an employee's labor is whatever profit the employee will bring in by working.  Between those two demarcations is the true "profit" to be shared between the employer and employee.

An article from Pew: young people (millennials) are more likely to live with their folks than any other living arrangement.  Keep this part in mind:
Similarly with earnings, young men’s wages (after adjusting for inflation) have been on a downward trajectory since 1970 and fell significantly from 2000 to 2010. As wages have fallen, the share of young men living in the home of their parent(s) has risen.
The popular thesis is that due to monopsony, asymmetrical information, and lack of leverage, employees have been getting shafted seven ways to Sunday and thus employers--read: capitalists--have captured the vast majority of economic profits.  I'm not saying these reasons are wrong, but can this correlation be read in reverse?  As young people live at home rather than strike it out on their own, their expenses are lower and thus what compensation they need from their job is a lot lower.  Why bother negotiating for a higher salary when you don't have rent?

Hang out on r/personalfinance and you will hear the same story five times a day.  Someone feels exploited or overworked or underpaid and asks for help.  The advice always revolves around communicating your value to your supervisors, as if they don't know.  Do you go to the supermarket and listen to your grocer harp on about how much value their grapes will give you if you pick it over their competitors?  The real answer is: how much are your peers getting paid doing that same job in that same zip code.  If you suspect it's more than you, do this:
  1. Research what your job title/responsibilities are worth on the open market.  It's as easy as googling  "X salary zip code xxxxx"  
  2. Start going on job interviews if you notice that the difference is large.  Don't let your employer know yet.
  3. After getting a job offer with a much better compensation, go back to your boss and say you did your research and noticed that you aren't getting paid the market rate.  If he doesn't give you a raise right away, just leave.  If he starts acting suspicious, just leave.  Actually nine times out of ten, you should leave as most of the time if you are being underpaid by a lot, your boss knows and that the cost of turnover is less than however long it took your dumb ass to figure it out.  But regardless, now you have two options.
  4. Congratulations, now you are being exploited by capitalism whereas before you were just being exploited for being stupid.
Tl;dr: Whatever your motto is at work, change it to Fuck you, pay me.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Listen Up Fatties: How to Lose Fat--Guaranteed or I'll Personally Come Over and Wash Under Your Fat Folds

Calories in, calories out is the most infuriating tautology of all time.  It's such a deflection of the real question that I suspect a politician came up with it.  Admittedly, it is a true statement, much like stock prices go up because of more buyers than sellers, but the other factors of why we get fat is understudied and unfortunately ignored.  This post will be three parts and for the laziest of the lazy (maybe that's why you are fat?), here is what you do to lose fat:

1. Eat 1-2 meals a day, preferably right after you work out.  You should fast for at least 16 continuous hours in a day.  The rest of the day, you should only consume 0 calorie drinks like tea, black coffee, and water.

2. Eat mostly low carb with high fat and moderate protein.  Simply, the more natural the food the better, with lots of green vegetables.  If you are wealthy bourgeoisie oppressing the proletariat, feel free to eat the organic stuff.

3. If you are a woman, cut the fasting period to 12 hours and work your way up to 16.  Drop back down if you suddenly start gaining weight.

Part 1 will explore the diet of an average American: SAD (Standard American Diet).  Part 2 will discuss the mainstream advice of eat less and exercise more and why it won't work in the long run for most people.  Part 3 will explain why my method will work for the majority of people for long term weight loss.

Part 1: Enter Homer Simpson

I said average American and nothing oozes Standard American like Homer.  He eats every few hours: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and possibly another snack that passes for dinner in any other country.  He consumes about 3500 C daily and is currently borderline overweight/obese with high levels of fat around his abdomen.  Luckily for now, his weight has plateaued at 250 lb.  Factually, what is going on with his body?

First, since his weight is plateaued, we can deduce that his body expends 3500 C to keep him at 250 lb.  Second, because he is constantly eating, presumably not just bars of butter, his body's insulin levels are constantly high to drive glucose into his cells.  This is a troubling development if Homer was real and not a cartoon as insulin, like most things, garners a lesser and lesser response if we are exposed to it too frequently.  Just like heroin junkies needing more and more to get the same high, Homer's constantly high insulin levels force his body to up its production of insulin to ever higher levels to drive the same level of sugars into his cells.  One unfortunate side effect is that elevated levels of insulin preclude his body from using fat storage for energy.

Consider a few years later and he is still eating 3500 C, yet he has ballooned to 275 lb.  What happened?  Maybe he is underestimating how much he eats, but this can actually happen even if we know for sure that his eating habits have not changed.  What most likely occurred is that due to his inability to access fat stores, his body mistakenly believes that there is a shortage of calories when his glycogen stores are near empty in the liver and his muscles.  Suppose he can only store 2500 C of energy in those places, his body will actually titrate downwards to burn less Calories as it mistakenly believes that there is a shortage.  Mathematically, his body is now burning less calories while he continues to consume 3500 C.

He is obviously on his way to the American endgame of diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome and as a pledge to outlive stupid Flanders, he decides to go on a diet.

Part 2: The Mainstream Diet is actually sadder than SAD

His dietitian (not Dr. Nick) tells him to eat less and exercise more.  When he consumes less calories, he almost certainly will lose weight at the beginning, but his body is fighting him every step of the way.  First, as he loses weight, his body naturally needs less calories as there is less physical body to maintain so he continuously needs to eat less and less, not fun for any American.  Second, by continuing to eat frequent meals, his insulin levels remain high, which make it difficult for his body to access his fat stores.  Unfortunately, his point of satiety does not decrease as his calorie intake target decreases.  Thus, he feels hungrier as the diet goes on.  Next, he begins to exercise, but this just makes him even hungrier.

The conundrum to any normal diet and exercise routine is that any caloric deficit is noticed by your body, the larger the deficit, the more your body reacts by lowering its expenditure as it automatically assumes a shortage of food.  Like any good manager of a power plant, it decreases energy usage to spare the reserves.  It's just unfortunate for us that the reserves in this case is fat.

Homer eventually fails because the hunger gets overwhelming and the exponential difficulty in losing weight is too much for him.  He settles on killing Flanders instead, which he finds to be a much easier way to outlive someone.  Here is how we could've saved Flander's life.

Part 3: As Mexican Dog Trainer Man Says: Work with Nature, not Against It

To solve this conundrum, we have to do the following:  first, we need to get rid of the high insulin levels in our blood, allowing the fat to be accessed in the first place.  Second, we need to eat in such a way so that our body isn't stingy with the reserves.  Third, we need to eat to the point of satisfaction so that this is a sustainable model for the long run.

Let's tackle the insulin issue: we need to increase the insulin sensitivity.  Taking a cue from relapsed heroin junkies who overdose, the easiest way is to avoid eating anything that garners an insulin response.  This is difficult as both protein and carbohydrates will tell your body to release insulin so the next best thing is to simply eat nothing.  Fasting is unfortunately associated with terrible side effects, but almost all of them are unfounded.  Nobody is telling you to fast for a week and in fact, most men can fast for up to 72 hours with little ill effects.  Of course this isn't sustainable, but at the very least a 16 hour fast in a 24 hour period is very doable.  In fact, it's as simple as skipping breakfast.  You eat around noon and again at 7.  Or if you are feeling like a big man, eat once a day.  This gives your body at least a 16 hour break from insulin, increasing your body's sensitivity to it and not needing as much next time around.  Remember: the higher the level of insulin released, the more difficult to use fat as energy.

Second, by eating a mostly low carb diet, you are staying away from foods that will force your body to release the highest levels of insulin.  This is a bit extreme and not needed if you are close to normal weight, but if you are fat as a fatass like our Homer, it's a lot easier to just simply eat natural meats and vegetables.  Other tricks to increase insulin sensitivity is to use spices like turmeric, drink green tea, and take magnesium supplements, but the biggest factors are fasting and eating low carb.

Most of you will surely think I'm a crackpot as wouldn't your metabolism slow down after skipping a meal?  Wrong again, fatso, and that's why you are fat and I'm not as fat.  This kind of starvation mode does not kick in until 3-4 days.  In fact, your metabolism speeds up as your body releases adrenaline once you fast for +8 hours.  This is attributable to the good old days when we hunted rhinos and shit, before all the Social Justice Warriors got butthurt about all the poaching.  Men would go on hunts lasting for days and could not bring too much food as it would slow them down.  Thus, in anticipation of a successful hunt, men's bodies have evolved to burn fat freely during a fast as it tries to give you as much energy as possible to bring down Bambi.  In essence, we are tricking our body into thinking we actually left the house and is on the hunt.  As an analogy, it's the same as when you ejaculate after watching pornography, tricking your body to think that you actually got to feel the tender embrace of a woman.

Lastly: is this sustainable?  It depends what kind of lardass you are.  If you are like me, who do not comprehend fullness, but rather operate on a binary system of "not full" and "I hate myself," then this kind of diet works spectacularly well.  If you are the other kind of fat fucker that just need to nibble on something all day, this may not work for you, but you should do it anyways because otherwise you are killing yourself with insulin.

In a nutshell, yes you have to eat under your energy expenditure, BUT by eating this way, you are increasing your energy expenditure to the maximum.  It's also much harder to surpass this eating only 1 to 2 meals a day.  If you get stuck, the easiest way to continuously lose fat is to increase the fasting period, which essentially increases the period in which your body burns fat.  Or you can eat less, but we both know that's not happening.  Just keep an eye on the scale and if you start putting weight back on suddenly, your fasting periods are getting too long and you are now in true starvation mode.  Just make sure you didn't go to two buffets in one day.

For women: most of this holds true, but you need to start off with 12 hour fasting periods and see how your body feels.  Since women rarely went on hunts, most women did not evolve to have this characteristic.  Staying at home with the children (no feminism in the -10th Century) meant you had normal meals throughout the day.  Still, shorter fasts should still work, but keep a close eye on how you feel and of course do not attempt this if you are trying to get pregnant, are pregnant, or nursing.

Disclaimer: Talk to your doctor before following any advice you find on the Internets.  Failure to do so may cause death or worse.  If you sue me, my lawyer will force you to read this part in a court of law.


Notes From the American Underground

In Dostoyevsky's Notes from the Underground, the narrator rails against rationality since it detracts from being fully human.  By looking at everything logically and pragmatically, the narrator would cease to truly live since taken to its rational end, any decision can be quantified into a better and worse choice.  By always picking the better choice, then what's the point of living?  Without a set of core values and reduced to picking the quantifiably better choice, life becomes meaningless and sterile.  So the narrator's life in squalor with his pained liver, and irrational spite and rage makes him human because he does things that does not make sense, thus proving his freedom and humanity.

Of course this is his own rationality for being an unrepentant narcissist and it is the tell-tale sign of a full fledged narcissist that he is able to rationalize his own illness as a symptom of society's problem rather than his own.  Yet he has a point about these rational people who maximize self-interest.  Once you no longer have any core values, and only rely on cold logic to maximize quantifiable gains, you are no longer human.  When news outlets are questioning why Americans are so angry in 2016, this is why: we are battling a societal, yet internal, conflict between morality and self-interested pragmatism.

First, pragmatists who weigh the pros and cons have always been in power in almost all successful societies.  Dogmatic leaders like Mao or Hitler are failures because they had these unwavering ideals that couldn't be reasoned away from, even when all the evidence pointed to the opposite.  Yet there was something captivating about their supernatural devotion to obviously irrational principles, which is evidenced by their respective cults of personality.

The relatively successful societies with pragmatic leadership look out for national self-interest, yet this isn't the complete picture.  What really happens is that this leadership rationally looks out for #1 while appealing to the mass's morals.  Depending on how cynical you are, the Vietnam War was either a calculated gambit to rationally block Communist influence or a moral war against injustice and evil Communists.  Similarly, America's entry into World War II seemed to be 100% an act of defense against Japan's day of infamy, but the greater context of oil blockades against Japan was missing from the national conversation.

Note the disconnect: policymakers look at pragmatic solutions while the masses need to be coddled with morality, a code if you will.  Soviets talking shit half way around the world?  Arm these Islamists, but tell the people it's because the evil Russians are trying to build an empire and only the righteous and justified USA can stop them.  This worked just fine except for some crackpots like Ron Paul who ran around like Cassandra telling anybody who would listen that the USA government was corrupt and power hungry like every other government, but there was little alternative to the official narrative: USA is good, X (insert Russia, Iran, Iraq, China, etc here) is bad.

But then GWB ruined everything.  At first, it was going to go like every other war.  Name them as part of the Axis of Evil, then start talking about weapons of mass destruction, make sure to play up the brutal despot angle and the general public should feel morally justified in invading Mesopotamia.  But because GWB and his cronies were so woefully incompetent, that shit all fell apart.  First, it turned out Iraq had no WMDs, then Iraq somehow became worse after Saddam.  People started peeling back the layers and realized Iraq wasn't special--it is the modus operandi of many American-involved conflicts in the past one hundred years.

A few years later in 2016, one of our glorious allies Saudi Arabia is beheading people left and right. The same Obama who extolled against terrible dictators such as Qaddafi and Assad sits amusingly silent against the equally brutal Saudis.  It's because Obama is pragmatic.  They sell us oil and we sell them a shit ton of weapons; everybody is happy.  But the masses who were taught for the past hundred years that America is supposed to be the beacon of morality are now realizing that this is all bullshit.  We are realizing that our government is just as selfish and self-interested as the dictators that we overthrow.  This isn't to point out that America is somehow evil, but rather the opposite: America is banal in the sense that it does what every other country does.  The take-away message is that the American people are realizing that the morals and principles that makes America exceptional--standing up for what's right, freedom and democracy, etc--is fraudulent and is essentially a market campaign to get the American people to go along with the leadership.

Another Dostoyevsky quote:

Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.
We all have an internal code of ethics; lawyers do not--that's why they study the law--to fill that gaping hole.  Whether it's from religion or simply what our parents taught us, that has always been our truth.  But we are now wrestling with the lie: if our leadership lies, cheats, and steals to remain #1, should we do it too?  After all, it's the pragmatic thing to do.  Look at our likeliest next president: Hillary, who gleefully recounts the time she had a hand in overthrowing Qaddafi, ignoring how much worse Libya has gotten.  We are battling this cognitive dissonance because we can't separate our high living standards from what America had to do to ensure those standards.

Our current election highlights this perfectly.  The only establishment candidate left: Hillary is the paragon of cold rationalism cloaked in false morality.  The two insurgent candidates in Sanders and Trump are able to overcome their varying degrees of bat-shit insanity simply because a plurality, if not majority, of Americans recognize this schism between what America "stands for" and what America does.  They peddle American values, even though neither has a pragmatic plan on how to truly get there.

Notes from Underground isn't just a criticism of rationalism over morality, but rather a warning like those old Greek tales.  Once a society believes that the lie of cold hard pragmatism is more important than standing up for one's morals, the Underground Man is what you get.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Trump and ISIS are Symptoms of the Same Illness

What defines neoconservatives?  Quite simply: realism in international relations combined with manifest destiny.   They aren't evil, but simply believe that the world always needs a powerful leader lest it devolves into petty squabbles and they feel that there's no better leader than USA.  Now like all politicians and bureaucrats, they aren't the most efficient or competent, leading to the current legendary quagmire in Syria.  Depending on who you talk to and what level of secret clearance you got, ISIS was born out of the desire to get rid of Assad.  Partially because he was a brutal dictator (although on a sliding scale of brutal dictators, he's no worse than the House of Saud), but mostly because he was allied with Iran and Russia, America funded and supported various rebel groups who promised to fight Assad.  Somewhere along the line, these resources found their way to instead support the fledgling ISIS who not only wanted to get rid of Assad, but are so extremist that the WSJ was forced to call al Qaeda moderate in relation to them.  Instead of destroying ISIS, America tried to funnel it like a rabid dog towards Assad, but because it was a rabid dog it decided to buy some guns and bombs, causing quite the ruckus in Paris.  But this is a boring story; in fact it happened 30 years ago with some tall dude named Osama.

What's interesting is that this is the same strategy used by neoconservatives to win elections and just like ISIS, it backfired and created the Donald.  Let me explain: Donald Trump is an outright narcissist, but this story isn't about how an obvious narcissist gains widespread support, but rather the circumstances that was created to make his candidacy viable.

First, how would neoconservatives most ably pass on their message, that American exceptionalism is real and that America should lead the world?  They did so by preying on the fear of a white America that hasn't seen their living standards rise in 30 years.  Whether it is demanding China stop devaluing their currency, demonizing Russia as warmongers, or painting the Middle East as a chaotic warzone, neoconseratives send a powerful yet implied message: America is an oasis in a world of bedlam and unscrupulous characters.  It pushed a simple narrative straight out of a Rocky movie: America is the good guys, foreigners are the bad guys.  We need to be strong to destroy the bad guys.  If you want it simpler, just imagine the Bush presidency as a Hulk Hogan vs the Iron Sheik.

So what happens when some people are too dumb to not take this literally?  You get Trump supporters.  Just like these moderate Syrian rebels were only supposed to be anti-Assad, neoconservatives only wanted the electorate to vote for sane candidates who supported big money for national defense and active foreign policy.  Rather, all of this extreme rhetoric, and lack of prudence and foresight brought about a ridiculous social climate where a nutjob finds widespread support to stop all Muslims from entering the country.   Meanwhile, this same indiscriminate and fanatical backing of anti-Assad rebels led to nutjobs in black pajamas promising genocide for all.

What makes me afraid is that neoconservatives aren't scam artists trying to pick your pocket.  They truly believe what they are doing is right, that America's destiny is to be always #1--it is part of their identity.  This is a fundamental difference and they will fight to their graves to realize their dream, even if it's a nightmare for the rest of us.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Terrorist By Any Other Name

I was going to write about how the expected returns of new traders oscillate around zero and why that makes improvement so difficult, but San Bernardino got shot up and that's a way more interesting topic.  It's not interesting because it's a mass shooting or because it turned out they were radical Muslims.  It's interesting because when it was first reported as two white shooters, the incident got lumped together with other mass shooting sprees like Elliot Rodger or Cho or Columbine.  Terrorism was not uttered until it turned out they were radicalized in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or whatever.  This is a false dichotomy to pit liberals and conservatives against each other while the real culprit lies unexamined.  Let me explain.

My first premise shouldn't find too much resistance: Liberals for the most part are in favor of gun control and thus when regular Americans shoot shit up like Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech, they push the necessity of gun control narrative super hard.  Conservatives on the other hand defend these incidents as mental health issues rather than gun control.  They much rather focus on terrorism, particularly the foreign kind as it plays into their gamut of core issues like illegal immigration and neoconservative aggressive foreign policy.  So when Bernie Sanders San Bernardino happened, liberals got excited and touted it as another example of gun crazy Americans who had a "work conflict."  But when details started coming out that one of the shooters had an Aladdin type of name and looked a certain shade of brown, the narrative instantly changed: now it's a terrorist.  But this is troubling as the general facts didn't change: 2 individuals carried out a planned attack with automatic weapons at a place with little expected resistance.  Why did this become terrorism when it turned out they looked like extras from Lawrence of Arabia or they took a trip to the Middle East?

This brings me to my second premise, which is a bit more arguable: terrorism is code word for Islamic violence.  If we define terrorism as violence upon a civilian population or infrastructure to deliver a social or political message, V Tech Cho's face should be next to these two people.  Sure they had different messages to send, but these mass shooters didn't do it for the money or any rational reasons.  They did it to send a message (Joker style) about what they perceive as unfair or unjust and how violence was the only way for them to make the world notice.

My last premise: Muslims that get "radicalized," particularly those who grew up in the West, such as the Boston marathon bomber brothers (I hate running too, but these guys were on another level), do so because they felt oppressed by Western society.  Whether it is the constant meddling in the Middle East by Western governments, first Britain, then US (which has occurred since WWI), casual racism in day to day life, or even the plight of Palestine, all of these contribute to a simmering anger towards the West.  But this is unguided and without guidance, it just smoulders,  However, when they take trips and talk with influential and charismatic extremists (many of them funded by Saudi Arabia, which in turn funded by the...West) the rage channels into actionable violence.

Believe it or not, this is Cho and Rodger and all these other mass shooters in a nutshell, except instead of grievance against the West, it's grievance against girls and other guys who have no trouble attracting them. They feel the same injustice and oppression and it simmers inside of them a similar rage.  All it takes is some internet forums (sound familiar?) to get "radicalized" to further fuel this hatred when eventually it explodes in violence.

This is narcissistic rage in a nutshell: you believe the world should work one way (Middle East should not be pushed around by the West/girls should be attracted to me) and these ideas get so ingrained in your identity and self that when the real world contradicts this fantastical construct, it also damages your sense of self.  These narcissistic injuries pile up and with just a little bit of guidance, becomes fuel for incredible violence.  Unfortunately, this kind of terrorism is incredibly difficult to stop.  Unlike a bank robber who knows robbing a bank is wrong, these people firmly believe they are doing nothing more than righting a wrong.  Ironically, our current response of shaming the other side--conservatives using terrorist attacks to bash soft liberals and liberals using mass shootings to bash gun nut conservatives deepens this animosity and schism, which leads to further alienation and radicalization as certain individuals feel the uselessness of talking it out.  The first step in curing any illness is recognizing that you have one.  Until we recognize the issue is a social one born out of the lack of empathy, these attacks will continue.