Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Peter Attia on the Best Way to Improve Your Lifespan and Quality of Life

Look at that explosive leaping ability!
Photo from 1982.

On EconTalk (the straightest, whitest, malest podcast outside of Sam Harris' - maybe even moreso) Dr. Attia talked about the best thing we can do to live well in the future:

Is smoking bad for people? Yes. How can we measure this? Well, when we look at all-cause mortality, if we compare a smoker to a non-smoker at any point in time, the smoker has a 40% increase in all-cause mortality in the coming year relative to the non-smoker. So, [smoking has] a hazard ratio of 1.40. That's a very big hazard ratio. 

If you look at the hazard ratio for high blood pressure, it's about 1.29, 1.3. So, 29 to 30% chance greater death in the following year than the non-smoker.

Now, let's talk about the difference between being very fit and not being very fit. If you take 60-year-old men in the bottom 25% [of VO2 max] and you compare them to 60-year-old men in the top 2.5%, the hazard ratio is five. That's 400% difference. If you just compare the bottom 25% to the second quartile - these people are both still below average - the hazard ratio is 1.5. It's a 50% difference.

I could do the same exercise with muscle mass and strength. The reason for this is that VO2 max strength and muscle mass are amazing integrals of work. You can't just decide tomorrow you want to be strong and have a high VO2 max the way you could fix your vitamin D. 

If we improved your VO2 max by 25%, which we could do in two years, it would have a bigger impact on your lifespan and the quality of your life than any other intervention. But it would require work. So, this is the two-edged sword of exercise, which is it does require the most work by far, but it has the most bang for the buck.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Best Thing About My Life Since...

Sara Bareilles - Uncharted
(Director's Cut, funny, with Ben Folds)

Mmmm...delicious chocolate Berlin Wall.

#1 Heart Surgeon: The WORST Food Destroying Your Heart
Plane takes off TOO STEEPLY
My CONTROVERSIAL United Business Class Opinion
We QUIT Airbnb!
Producer Told LEGEND Song was A TERRIBLE Idea…Became a BILLION DOLLAR Enterprise!
Stretching is KILLING Your Gains (BIG MISTAKE!)

Since being terminated following my January 2021 accident, there has been one massive improvement* in my life: I don't spend literally every day trying to get people to "like" me / my organization.

Ever since Anne and I founded Animal Liberation Action in the early 90s, I have been desperate to figure out how to get donors to fund our efforts to help animals. And since the truism is "People give to people," that meant getting people to like me. 😖

As I mentioned before, 2022 was the first time in literally decades that I took a vacation** and didn't spend a significant part of each day marketing myself and my group. For example: in the 3+ years leading up to 2021's final betrayal, I spent every single day** trying to get members of the media to write about the organization I worked for.

No more. 

Which is good, 'cuz I suck at it almost as much as I hate it.

Every time I see headlines like those in BOLD above***, I'm so grateful to be off that treadmill. (And when I see those headlines, I temporarily feel bad for those individuals who are spending their time playing the "out-shout the competition for eyeballs" game. But then I realize I am just projecting - surely some people enjoy it.)

* This improvement didn't come about right away, of course. From September 2022 -> ~July 2023, my insatiable ego desperately wanted more people to read and review Losing. (Thanks so much to everyone who wrote to me and reviewed it. 👍 ) That book is the culmination of my professional life, and its failure**** was the perfect capstone to that failed half of my life. 

Desire causes suffering.

** Except when in the hospital.

*** Still waiting on those abs....

**** Some non-failures: At least one person who was totally unknown to me somehow came across the book, read it, and donated to One Step. Also, a professional, full-time writer wrote this to me (but won't review the book publicly, natch), and a famous best-selling author and former bigshot at the DNC called it "wonderfully idiosyncratic."

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Northern Arizona Photos, September 2023

Anne confronts Jabba

These trees rock

This and the rest are West Fork Trail, Oak Creek Canyon, north of Sedona

Anne for scale (and beauty)

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

When the rights of a hypothetical person supersede those of an existent person

As a follow-up to Everybody Dies and the philosophy chapters of Losing:

The primary purpose of any morality must be the reduction of suffering. Nothing external justifies or offsets causing an individual to suffer greatly

This doesn't just apply to tormenting someone or paying Tyson to have tortured them. It also applies to bringing an individual into existence. 

A potential child's right* to a good life free from intense suffering supersedes anyone's right to reproduce. 

This might be obvious if the two parents are carriers of a terrible genetic disease that is certain to be passed on and cause their offspring significant suffering.

This also applies if the couple has reason to suspect their offspring might have a similar disease. In this case, the only ethical choice is amniocentesis (or other genetic screening) with abortion as the humane way to prevent the disease from unnecessarily ravaging a new life.

These are specific examples of a broader ethic that extends beyond a known genetic disease. In short: 

The right of any potential child to a good life overrides anyone's right to reproduce. Full stop. 

This is the underlying philosophy of The Fair Start Movement. (And related to the purpose of The Organization for the Prevention of Intense Suffering.)

The most impactful step we can take to reduce human suffering may well be funding programs to give women full control over their reproductive choices. (In the United States, that includes voting and campaigning for Democrats and against the Christianist Patriarchy at every single opportunity. No exceptions.)

(As in Losing, I use "rights" here as a shorthand; I'm not a deontologist.)

Monday, September 18, 2023


Everclear - I Will Buy You a New Life

Not a wonderful song, but this is great:

I hate those people who love to tell you
"Money is the root of all that kills"
They have never been poor
They have never had the joy of
A welfare Christmas

One of the telescopes of The Very Large Array.

What humans may have lacked in physical attractiveness, they made up for in gullibility. You could tell them anything in a convincing enough voice and they would believe it. 

Anything, of course, except the truth.

-The Humans, Matt Haig (a good book)

As with astronomy, the difficulty of recognizing the motion of the earth lay in abandoning the immediate sensation of the earth’s fixity and of the motion of the planets. So in history, the difficulty of recognizing the subjection of personality to the laws of space, time, and cause lies in renouncing the direct feeling of the independence of one’s own personality. 

But as in astronomy, the new view said: “It is true that we do not feel the movement of the earth, but by admitting its immobility we arrive at absurdity, while by admitting its motion (which we do not feel) we arrive at laws.” So also in history, the new view says: “It is true that we are not conscious of our dependence, but by admitting our free will we arrive at absurdity, while by admitting our dependence on the external world, on time, and on cause, we arrive at laws.” 

In the first case, it was necessary to renounce the consciousness of an unreal immobility in space and to recognize a motion we did not feel; in the present case, it is similarly necessary to renounce a freedom that does not exist [free will] and to recognize a dependence of which we are not conscious.

-Babylon's Ashes (book six of The Expanse; the TV adaptation is really interesting - just some very fascinating choices)

Friday, September 15, 2023

The Greatest Source of Unnecessary Suffering

Curt Smith's (Tears for Fears) cameos on Psych

Psych is a great show - fun but not stupid, and not depressing.
Dule Hill is in that and The West Wing!

Roadrunner on our wall.

Even though he is shockingly dishonest regarding climate change, David Wallace-Wells rightly notes:

Recently I came across perhaps the most mind-bending chart about the pandemic I’d seen over three-plus years. Originally published two years ago in The British Medical Journal, it shows how Covid affected age-standardized mortality in England and Wales.

At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, there was a dramatic spike in age-standardized mortality. For men, the increase was 14.6 percent, according to the Office for National Statistics; for women, 11.9 percent...

That jump ... only brought age-standardized mortality to the level it had been in the year 2008, meaning that, correcting for age, the English and the Welsh were no more likely to die in 2020, in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime global health crisis, than they were 12 years before, in what did not seem like a particularly deadly year at the time....

The mortality setbacks of 2020 looked smaller than the apparent gains of the previous 20 years — and not just in England and Wales. Across much of Western Europe and North America, even the horrible pandemic peaks only brought age-standardized death rates as high as they were in normal-seeming years around the turn of the millennium. 

As I try to emphasize in Losing, the world is so much better than ever before for the average human being, contrary to the general narrative, especially from liberals.

I honestly think that doomers (like Wallace-Wells) may well be the greatest cause of absolutely unnecessary human suffering in the West today.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Key to Happiness (Tim Urban)

Bob Geldof - Walking Back to Happiness
(from The Vegetarians of Love)

Wait But Why: Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy

I strongly disagree with one bit of his piece, but overall it is as insightful and complete of an analysis as I've ever seen.

5. The (initial) key to happiness is:

Low expectations. 

But expectations ≠ assumptions:

Well-being isn’t about expecting the best. It is about making sure you don’t assume the worst.

–Adam Grant

You might think this is snark or a joke, but I’m entirely serious. The less you expect – especially of other people – the less you’ll be disappointed. The less you expect, the more you’ll be grateful when things actually work out or people do what they say.

But always assuming the worst leaves you with no room for growth. It is a subtle but important distinction.

And this (which is along the lines of this) from The Expanse:

The universe has plans for you, Josep said in her imagination. You couldn’t have come this far through so many dangers if there weren’t a reason for you to be here. 

The same beautiful bullshit that everyone told themselves. That they were special. That they mattered. That some vast intelligence behind the curtains of reality cared what happened to them. And in all the history of the species, they’d all died anyway.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The World of Tomorrow, Part 2

The Chicks - Gaslighter

September 7, 104 degrees outside.

As a follow-up to this (and this) via Noah Smith (who rightly points out that Star Trek Strange New Worlds is awesome):

Climate scientist Patrick T. Brown's "I Left Out the Full Truth to Get My Climate Change Paper Published":

[I]n my recent Nature paper, which I authored with seven others, I focused narrowly on the influence of climate change on extreme wildfire behavior. Make no mistake: that influence is very real. But there are also other factors that can be just as or more important, such as poor forest management and the increasing number of people who start wildfires either accidentally or purposely…[Including these] would detract from the clean narrative centered on the negative impact of climate change and thus decrease the odds that the paper would pass muster with Nature’s editors and reviewers.

This type of framing, with the influence of climate change unrealistically considered in isolation, is the norm for high-profile research papers. For example, in another recent influential Nature paper, scientists calculated that the two largest climate change impacts on society are deaths related to extreme heat and damage to agriculture. However, the authors never mention that climate change is not the dominant driver for either one of these impacts: heat-related deaths have been declining, and crop yields have been increasing for decades despite climate change. To acknowledge this would imply that the world has succeeded in some areas despite climate change—which, the thinking goes, would undermine the motivation for emissions reductions. 

Climate scientist Brian O’Neill, "Envisioning a Future with Climate Change":

Large segments of the population in high-income countries believe that climate change could lead to the extinction of humankind or that, at a minimum, the future will be worse than the present. This belief is partly based on projections from climate change research; for example, hundreds of thousands of deaths from heatwaves and other climate-related causes, billions of people at risk of disease, steeply rising damages from floods, millions pushed into poverty, 20% of species going extinct, tipping points about to be bridged and parts of the world already approaching the threshold of a survivable climate. Statements in the press have echoed, and in some cases magnified, the theme. But the very same studies that underlie this dire outlook anticipate a future where, in most scenarios, humanity is better educated, better fed, longer lived and healthier, also with less poverty and less conflict, continuing trends that have been underway for decades. These improvements apply not just to the global or country average but — where such outcomes have been examined — to more vulnerable populations as well.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Infinite Capacity to Hand-Wave

Rush - Freewill 

Cleveland Amory once said, “Man has an infinite capacity to rationalize – especially when it comes to what he wants to eat.” (He wasn't a vegetarian, so he knew of what he spoke.)

As I've noted elsewhere, we all have our blindspots. We all have things we want to believe and will accept the most absurd arguments if they tell us what we want to hear.

This came up when Anne and I recently listened to two very educated individuals (one the head of a college) discuss free will. The guest contended that we have free will because 1. Computer programs can be so complicated that you have to run them to find out what they do, and 2. Chaos. Thus, since you can't predict what someone is going to do ... [hand-waving] ... free will. 


Obviously, if you just stop to think about it, the fact that we don't know exactly what will happen when we run a very complicated computer program doesn't mean the program has free will. Because a butterfly's wingflap can change the weather doesn't mean the wing or weather has free will.

I've written ad nauseam about free will. That isn't because I think people are stupid to believe (it sure feels like we are in control) but because I think people will be much happier if we realize that everything is just matter and energy following the laws of physics. Holding on to the illusion of free will doesn't make life better ... and it doesn't help us make the world a better place.

PS: James Gleick's Chaos is a really interesting book. (At least in my memory from 25 years ago.)

Monday, September 11, 2023

Only for E-Readers, Quick Question re: LMR

Pet Shop Boys - What Have I Done to Deserve This? 

"Who you lookin' at?"
Photo by the great Ned Harris.

Just got this email:

I bought your book on Kindle. We started it and loved it, but then Kindle got wonky and kept shutting it down. So, I tried Kindle on IPad and had the same issue. 

So if you've had any issues with the ebook (or pdf) please let me know - mattballaz (at), or leave a comment on this post.


Sunday, September 10, 2023

Sunday Worship


Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

–Epicurus (quoted in Losing My Religions)

That summary - sometimes called "the question of theodicy" - really captures it all. 

Of course, zillions of words have been desperately thrown against this logic to justify a belief in an omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent god. 

For example, when I posted this on Facebook,* several people said that god gives us free will, and we choose to do evil. 

But of course, if god is omniscient, he knew what we'd do, and he created us anyway. Furthermore, "free will" doesn't explain why bad things happen to good people or why innocent individuals suffer (I assume I don't have to give examples).

Every argument against the simulation hypothesis ("Worse than Hitler" in Losing) applies even more to god.

* Someone posted that evil exists because of homosexuals. Goddamn, can you imagine how horrible it must be to be that person?  😱

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Anniversary and Vasectomy

The Chicks - Not Ready To Make Nice

From Losing

Getting “fixed” was yet another example of how society promotes procreating. As happened to all my friends who got vasectomies, I was questioned very seriously if I really wanted this. (YES.) (Although it was uncomfortable, and seeing smoke rising … down there … well, there were moments….) But no one grills you about bringing an entirely new person into the world. No one questions you about that decision at all. That. Is. Fucked. Up. Reverse that – make everyone who wants to breed pass an inquisition and let anyone who wants a vasectomy get one free and without hassle – and the world would be a vastly better place.

Also, today is my two-year anniversary of being off oh-pea-oyds following the accident on January 20, 2021. I've never had any problems with going off those meds. (But, as also said in Losing, "If you are ever on high doses of [oh-pea-oyds] for the love of all that is decent, err on the side of too much poop med. Trust me on this." 

I am, however, still on the nerve med (Pregabalin, a similar drug to Gabapentin). Slowly weaning off that has really been a ride. 😢

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Dogma Quiz

Lyle Lovett - Tiny Desk Concert
(Cowboy Man [hilarous], If You Were To Wake Up [beautiful], Good Intentions)

Roseanne Cash
(I've never seen Lyle in person)

Choose between these scenarios:

A. The status quo (increasing factory farming).

B. Over the next five years, the number of animals killed for food in each category (pigs, "broiler" chickens, "layer" hens, fishes, etc.) is cut by 50% and will never increase (could keep decreasing).


Every month for the rest of your life, you have to eat a burger (made from a slaughtered cow - no loopholes) and you can't ever use the word "vegan."

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Everybody Dies

The Gathering Field - Bound to Be

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

This may seem obvious and "duh," but it is worth remembering: No one will live forever. Almost no one dies a "good death" or wants to die (and as I've discovered, those who do want to die are having a terrible life). 

The question is always: "What is the alternative?" 

Saying "climate change will kill X people" is basically meaningless. Would an alternative policy lead to 5X individuals living in abject poverty and dying young of preventable causes?  I know some climate fanatics prefer more poverty and premature death (for others) (to say nothing about cruelty to non-human animals). That sure seems immoral.

Combine this with the fact that we don't harm anyone by not bringing them into existence, ethics simplifies down to reducing suffering for those who exist and are sure to exist, as well as preventing the existence of those whose lives would be suffering. (One Step for Animals; Organization to Prevent Intense Suffering)