A possible solution for Greece

An open letter to the Greek government:

It’s obvious to me that more preparations should have been done to switch currencies. It’s obvious that the European situation had no remedy, no matter the amount of negotiations that would take place. I believe that the way out of this tomb is to innovate. You can’t use old methods to fix old errors. You need new methods. And technology can provide those.

I know that printing a new currency would be difficult, and even more difficult would be to build trust. I’d suggest this: No actual printing of new currency. Make everything electronic. I’m NOT talking about bitcoin (which isn’t modernized in principle, as Mr Varoufakis has pointed out). I’m talking about people paying with credit cards (for large amounts) and smartphones using NFC (Near Field Communication) for up to 20 drachma (I’m assuming a parity with the Euro, at least in the beginning). Regarding notes, these can be in euros (since they’re already out there circulating anyway).

People WILL trust this new form of paying because of the same reason people in the States prefer to use credit cards: they don’t see the money, so they feel that they didn’t pay much for the goods. It’s a psychological trick. In fact, the NFC trick, where you simply touch your phone to pay a micro-payment up to 20 drachma/euro, is even more painless. People will use that, even if for convenience. Most people already have Android smartphones in Greece, and one can buy such a phone for 100 Euros today (Archos brand). Within a few months, people will be using this new system, and they will even like it. They won’t even realize that there was a change in currency. Overtime, all the euros will end up in banks, especially if you offer them a sweet buy-back program.

Now, regarding corruption in Greece: Since all businesses and micropayments in shops would have to happen via NFC/cards, it would be very unlikely that people will be able to not pay their taxes. In fact, the taxes could be calculated automatically in such a system. Who needs an accountant (that most people can’t even afford), when the system takes care of that for you?

And regarding the rest kind of corruption (e.g. fakellaki, rousfetia etc), since everyone would now have these smartphones, they should be fully supported by law to RECORD every chat they have with civil servants, taxi drivers, doctors, police etc etc. And I don’t mean just audio recording, but full video recording. Who ever doesn’t accept the new kind of currency, or wants “extra”, they should be admitted to court, given the video proof. Russia does the same with the dash cams for car insurance purposes. It works.

I would like to re-iterate: you have an old Europe in new lipstick, and an old style financial problem (debt). The problems Greece has are not novel, they are in fact the status quo throughout history. So in order to go around these problems, you need the tools of today, not old tactics of the yesteryear (be it diplomacy, negotiations, politics). It needs swift action, and mobilization of technology.

FlashForwarding with Sense8

Sense8 is a Netflix production, originally developed by the people behind “The Matrix” and “Babylon 5”. When I saw the trailer a few weeks ago, I was so stoked about it: DMT, oneness, spiritual and philosophical discussions… Are you kidding me? This would be so cool! But now that I’ve seen all 12 episodes, I’m not as stoked anymore. Here’s a list of what went wrong:

1. No mystery. While the show has 4 more seasons (if they don’t get cancelled) to explain more things, its mysteries aren’t holding together well. They could have gone instead for a full episode per sensate (8 + 4 more exhilarating episodes at the end glueing together the story). Let the sensates and the overall story unveil in a way that is more interesting (not slow, but in a more brainf*ck way), rather than laying out the stories block by block and only have a central mystery to solve at the end of the season (in this case, Whispers and the company behind him). LOST worked because it knew how to build anticipation and thrilling by twisting the way it informed the viewer about what is what. Sense8 doesn’t. Sense8 is very traditional in its story telling instead, no matter if it likes to think the opposite for itself.

2. Boring, cheesy drama. Especially the ones set in India & Mexico. Very little action (except in the last 1-2 episodes), which is not fit for sci-fi. There have been at least 5-7 extremely cheesy scenes in the season too. I cringed in a similar way I did for the Star Wars prequels for some reason.

3. Unneeded sex scenes. Even on Game on Thrones, sex usually acts as a plot threading or character development, rather than filling up time. On Sense8, it was just too much of it because we already seen the same lovers over and over again having sex (we get it, they have sex daily, good for them!). I loved the trans story, but the gay one had way too many cheesy scenes in it for me to take it seriously. It felt that the whole series were revolving around the trans & gay sex scenes, rather than these sex scenes being simply part of the story. For the record, I would complain just as much if it was as much hetero-sex from the same lovers over and over too. My complain is not the gay/trans sex, it’s just the fact that we see the SAME lovers doing the same thing all the time, which is something that doesn’t serve the story and the plot. The only time I felt that the sex scene was excellent AND very much needed by the plot (because it **explains** what sex can be for a sensate) was the sensate orgy scene (3 men + 1 trans woman). This scene needed to be there because it’s the only way we can understand the unlimitness of being a sensate. It was rightfully part of the plot! But seeing the other two same set of lovers making out on each and every episode, was unneeded, too much, and ended up being cheesy at the end.

4. Single-dimensional characters. This is mostly because of how the series was setup (everyone dividing their screen time with the others, not leaving much time for development).

5. The language. JMS explained on his Facebook page why they decided to use English as the language set in other countries (see: that’s how Hollywood does it traditionally), but this just doesn’t work today. If anything, it makes the series less interesting, less mysterious even. It levels the playing field in a way that takes realism away.

So my verdict is that this is another FlashForward (remember that show, from ABC?). Great ideas, bad implementation.

Regarding tap water & farmed fish

I wish some people stopped asking others to “not drink bottled spring water”. While bottling is indeed harmful for a variety of reasons, my health would be harmed even more if I was to drink that fluoridated, chlorinated, DISGUSTING tap water. So, no, I will not stop drinking spring water (bottled or otherwise), and I won’t stop buying wild-only fish (another such thing the same kind of people ask).

Farmed fish is in worse fate than farmed mammals are because it’s treated worse: it’s fed food that it didn’t evolved with at all, like soy and beef bone meal. At least the farmed mammals, while miserable in these nightmare farms, they eat food that resembles the food they evolved with.

So if you want me to drink tap water, the quality must become as high as spring water. And if you want me to eat farmed fish, then I need the nutritional composition, health of the fish, and feed, to be the same as in the wild. For example, farmed salmon is advised to be eaten *only* once a month, because even the government agrees that it’s a sick fish. While true wild salmon, it can be eaten daily, without any consequences (only benefits).

So, fix all that, and then we’ll talk. But under no circumstances I would put my own health into jeopardy just to be among the few who fight for environmental causes that never have any true impact. I have been very sick for 38 years, so now, well, now, it’s my turn to be healthy. Having spent 10 years of these 38 years in nightmare health situation, I now owe it to myself to get the best damn water/food I can. Even if it’s detrimental to the rest of the environment. At some point, being selfish only means self-preservation, and not necessarily arrogance.

So get off my face with your “bottled water is evil” shiz. I don’t care.

Are Smoothies Paleo?

Some say that smoothies aren’t Paleo, but I don’t agree with that sentiment. I would instead say that not ALL smoothies are Paleo, for example, the ones with just exotic fruits in them. I would also argue that it’s all fruit juices that aren’t Paleo, because they lack the fiber that stops fructose from running havoc in the body. But smoothies retain all fiber!

Yes, smoothies have more carbs than most Paleo meals (usually up to 30 gr net carbs, in the versions I make them as), but if you eat 80-100 gr net carbs per day overall (as I do — I will never go Paleo-keto again, I did that mistake once and I lost my hair), this fits perfectly into that diet regiment. Heck, I’m still low carb!

Smoothies are important in my diet for other reasons too: I get to add some powders that are not palatable otherwise (e.g. exotic berries that I can’t find in my grocery store, added fiber via psyllium husk, home-made goat kefir, goat whey, ginger & turmeric for extra health, ceylon cinnamon for extra blood glucose control), but most importantly, I pack my smoothies with GREENS, and often, other veggies too (e.g. raw carrots, beets). So basically, I get to eat more raw veggies this way!

If some fat is required on breakfast for satient/leptin/cortisol reasons, one can add a tablespoon of nut or seed butter in it too (except peanut butter, which is a legume and not a nut)! And sure, have an egg on the side too (why only have a smoothie?).

Having said all that, I would argue against the “Paleoification” of baked goods. These are not Paleo, even if they might be using coconut/almond flour and honey (which are Paleo ingredients on their own). When these nuts are flour-ed they become acellular (which is not so good to consume them often), when they’re baked they oxidize, and finally, honey loses ALL its medicinal properties when heated. So, for desserts, I would suggest people make RAW desserts (with the exception of adding some warm-ish grass-fed gelatin if the recipe asks for it), and even then, only ONCE a week, as a treat. Let green smoothies, or plain fruit, be your daily dessert otherwise.

How to make people give up processed foods

To make an educated guess or decision, you need to first have the educational part checked out. Unfortunately, for most matters, people don’t have the time or the interest to get “educated”, so they end up making bad decisions.

This is true for the subject of nutrition too. No matter the amount of “alternative blogging” and instagraming about how healthy Paleo is, the majority of people won’t follow it unless the government tells them so clearly.

This has worked with smoking. A lot of measures were taken against smoking in the last 40 years, however, one measure that is always omnipresent is that message of “Tobacco severely damages health”, on each and every cigarette product. It has worked for most!

What if we had something similar for all packaged food?

What if, we had an indicator score about the nutrition and anti-nutrition present in the said packaged food? For example, given that we know that wheat bread has many phytates, lectins, and other antinutrients going on, along with its capacity to bind into certain nutrients and neutralize them, it could get a score of, let’s say, 30 out of 100.

But kale or blueberries, having no major antinutrients to speak about, but instead having many nutrients, antioxidants, polyphenols etc etc, would get a score of, let’s say, 80 out of 100.

Yes, this would require re-sending all these products onto labs for full measurement on much more than just the 4 basic vitamins found on each label today (CoQ10, PQQ, iodine etc anyone?), but I’m confident that such a nutritional index could have such an impact.

I’m an artist, and it’s my job to know what makes people tick visually. Such a nutritional index could have huge implications in the decision of an individual to buy or not candy, donuts, bread, or cakes. When they can QUANTIFY how bad they’re doing diet-wise, then they have to ACT.

But right now, things are too abstract for them: eat this but not that, eat vegan not paleo, eat paleo not vegan, etc etc. There’s too much information flying from all over the place, so much, that most people simply prefer to shut out their ears and just ignore the whole thing.

But when they see an easy to understand number (without even knowing all the details behind it), clearly labeling the nutritional value of a product, they won’t be able to ignore it anymore.

Towards a more Pegan Diet

What do you know? I’m actually a Pegan (or as I call it, the Chris Kresser’s version of Paleo: Paleo +fermented dairy +some specific soaked beans +rarely some rice). Basically, in my updated Paleo diet regiment, there’s little red meat, due to it being loaded with sialic acid (which creates inflammation). As long someone doesn’t have Neu5gc antibodies or has Hashimoto’s, eating medium amounts of mammalian meat is not hurtful. But if you’re inflamed for no good reason (as I am), then taking out or reducing mammalian meat is probably the logical thing to do (poultry and seafood don’t exhibit much Neu5gc).

So here’s how I’ve decided a few weeks ago to go about it:
– 1 meal a week (probably Sunday lunch): mammalian pastured meat/offal.
– 1 meal a week (Wednesday dinner): organic poultry (I’d eat it more if it wasn’t so loaded with omega-6 here in the US).
– 2 meals a week (dinners): Wild fish.
– 2 meals a week (dinners): Shellfish (farmed ok).
– 1 day a week (3 meals on Monday): totally Vegan (detox).
– For the rest 12 meals in the week, I’m Vegetarian.

Plus, even just up to 40 years ago, my ancestors didn’t used to eat too much meat (they’d eat red meat 4-5 times a year only, poultry once a month, some fish from the nearby river occasionally), so I think this is what makes sense for me. My grandma lived such a life, and the first 20 years of my parents were as such too (even if they were goat & sheep herders!). Taking into account that I’m coming from steep, mountainous terrain that life hasn’t evolved much for thousands of years prior to 1970s (when electricity finally came about), it’s safe to assume that most of my ancestors ate that way too (soaked beans were a staple). So I believe it’s detrimental to my health to gorge on meat so much.

Living with $29 a week in groceries

Gwyneth Paltrow got a lot of heat lately, claiming that $29 a week (SNAP food stamps’ allowance) buys you enough food to eat. Her visual example of $29 in groceries was something of a disaster, showing… limes as a must-have food, and extremely low calorie density to the point of malnutrition.

So I put together a list of groceries that are both nutritious, and healthy. These items, calculated from prices found at the DollarStore, Walmart and other very cheap stores are on the bottom line of what’s possible for $29 a week, while staying somewhat Paleo (according to the Chris Kresser Paleo version that allows beans/rice/dairy). But in all reality, to really get proper nutrition, you’ll need about $50 a week. At $29, a lot of shortcuts had to be made.

So, in my list, you get 12,000 calories a week (1715 calories a day on average). According to this calorie calculator here, that’s (barely) enough food for a 6′ tall male, doing a job of medium activity (e.g. a cleaner). The average of “net” carbs are 157 per day, which is lower carb than the national average, but higher than a low-carb diet. Finally, olive oil was added to the calories consumed, even if olive oil was not calculated in the $29 per week limit. The reason for this is because neither Paltrow did calculate it (and it’s obvious that you can’t just plainly boil everything in her list and expect people to eat it as such). We should consider olive oil in this list, like we would also consider salt & pepper: “extras”, that are on everyone’s pantry by default.

So, here’s my $29 list:
$1.50, 1 lb lentils
$1.50, 1 lb garbanzo beans
$1, 1 lb white rice
$1.50 for 12 eggs
$1.50 for full fat milk

$3 for 4 frozen drumsticks
$2 for 2 cans of sardines
$1 for 1 can of tuna
$3 for 3 cans of shellfish (mussels, clams, or mix)

$3 for fruits (bananas, frozen fruits)
$8 for veggies (e.g. carrot, onion, greens, zucchini, potato)
$1 canned tomato sauce

Extra: Olive oil (20 tbpsoons a week)
Extra: salt & pepper

And here’s the actual nutrition breakdown (rice & beans are calculated as raw):

$29 a week

This is a very solid nutrition (MUCH better than the average Westerner’s nutrition), with only a couple of hiccups: more vitamin C is needed, and more vitamin E too (found only in nuts & seeds in ample quantities, which unfortunately are too expensive for this list). For these two vitamins, the person might have to supplement (if there’s no financial ability to buy nuts/seeds or more fruits). Also, supplementing in Magnesium and D3 are suggested for all people too, either poor or rich (most Westerners don’t get enough of it).

For maximum nutrition, here are some additional ideas:
– Boil the drumsticks for 3 hours on low, and keep the water (which is now bone broth). Using that broth, you can later add the tomato sauce, and some carrots, to eat with rice.
– Don’t drink the milk as-is: ferment it to kefir. Add the fruits and blend them with the kefir, as a smoothie for breakfast.
– Buy veggies in season for more variety and better prices. Get a bit of everything found in a plant: tubers, roots, bulbs, greens, fruits. Prefer greens though.
– Place the lentils and beans in water for 24 hours before cooking, to remove most of its lectins. Cook them in high heat for the same reason.
– While more expensive, always prefer olive oil to industrial seed oils. The money you would save buying seed oils, you’d pay later to doctors.

So, anyway, all this is kinda possible, but $50 a week per person is probably what’s needed for a more optimized nutrition.

Cinema FV-5 for Android

My mini review of the Cinema FV-5 Android application, tested on the OnePlus One phone. The app is able to do all the basic things needed to get a good quality, flat result out of your phone’s camera. It supports: exposure set & lock, WB set & lock, manual focus and lock, low contrast/saturation/sharpness (“flat” colors), 24p support among other frame rates, and up to 40 mbps bitrate. On my phone, it supports up to DCI 4k resolution (the free version of Cinema FV-5 does all the above too, but it goes only up to 720p — which can be enough for most cases). In some phones (particularly if they have Lollipop), the app also supports manual shutter speed and ISO settings. If you couple your phone with a variable ND filter for phones (to control the camera better outdoors, where they tend to overexpose), and a small steadicam, you could have a winner.

It worked fine on my OnePlus One, but on the 1st Gen Moto G with Android 4.4.4 it had problems: no focus, no recording (it only recorded once, and then it refused to do so again). It’s very possible that these problems will go away with a Lollipop upgrade, because Lollipop has a much better camera API.

The eXperiment

Horror-action short movie, that I shot using a small Canon S110.

A look at the Canon S110

I was close on getting a Panasonic LX100 for its 4k video, but then I found a deal at Amazon for the Canon S110, for just $180 (1/5th of the LX100’s price). The S110 doesn’t have 4k or full manual control, but it does have the bare minimum to be able to shoot nice videos: exposure compensation & lock, manual focus, flat colors, an ND filter, and 1080/24p at a good bitrate. If you half-press the shutter button, it also gives you the shutter speed, so you might be able to lock the exposure at a shutter speed close to 1/48th, to achieve an even more filmic look. The camera has a larger sensor and faster lens than most P&S cameras, so for the price, it was a steal. I haven’t shot anything interesting with it yet, but so far, I like what I’m seeing.