Dean Karnazes: The Man Who Doesn’t Tire of Running

Most runners have to stop when they reach their lactate threshold, but Dean Karnazes’ muscles never tire: he can run for three days and nights without stopping. What’s his secret? The answer: he doesn’t have a lactate threshold.

When running, you break down glucose for energy, producing lactate as a byproduct and an additional source of fuel that can also be converted back into energy. However, when you exceed your lactate threshold, your body is no longer able to convert the lactate as rapidly as it is being produced, leading to a buildup of acidity in the muscles. It is your body’s way of telling you when to stop – but Karnazes never receives such signals.

“To be honest, what eventually happens is that I get sleepy. I’ve run through three nights without sleep and the third night of sleepless running was a bit psychotic. I actually experienced bouts of ‘sleep running’, where I was falling asleep while in motion, and I just willed myself to keep going.”

A brief explainer on the lactate process:

Your body clears lactate from the blood via a series of chemical reactions driven by the mitochondria in your muscle cells. These reactions transform lactate back to glucose again and they are enhanced by specific enzymes. The clearance process also works more efficiently if your mitochondria have a larger capacity, increasing their ability to use lactate as a fuel.

Years of training will improve both your enzymes and mitochondria and so improve your clearance, but there is a limit to how much you can improve your lactate threshold by training alone. If you inherit these enzymes and a larger mass of mitochondria genetically, your personal limits will be far higher.

In this 2006 interview with Outside Magazine, Dean offered his thoughts on pursuing his passion:

Outside: I know you just ran a marathon and want to get back to the bus to relax, so I’ll jump right in. The theme of our story is how to take your life from a seven to a ten. How did you decide to do that for yourself? 

Dean Karnazes: I made the commitment to turn my passion into my vocation. I’d always thought if I start making my life what I love, I might hate it. I might not enjoy it as much for some reason. I think that was an excuse more than anything else, because now that I’ve decided to do exactly what I love to do, it’s been the most rewarding, fulfilling experience of my life.

The Rise and the Importance of the Listicle

The list (and the listicle) is a takeaway in its most essential, convenient form. Mark O’Connell considers, in an essay titled “10 Paragraphs About Lists You Need in Your Life Right Now,” what it is about articles in list form that pulls us in (or why you can’t NOT read the listicle after reading its title):

The list is an oddly submissive reading experience. You are, initially, sucked in by the promise of a neatly quantified serving of information or diversion. There will be precisely ten (or fourteen, or thirty-three) items in this text, and they will pertain to precisely this stated topic. You know exactly what you’re going to get with a listicle. But there’s also a narrower sense in which you don’t know what you’re going to get at all. You know you’re going to get twenty-one kinds of gross offal, yes, but you don’t knowwhich kinds of offal or how gross they’re going to be. Once you’ve begun reading, a strange magnetism of the pointless asserts itself.

Don DeLillo, author of White Noise, speculated on the coming importance of the list:

In an interview with The Paris Review twenty years ago, Don DeLillo mentioned that “lists are a form of cultural hysteria.” From the vantage point of today, you wonder how much anyone—even someone as routinely prescient as DeLillo—could possibly have identified list-based hysteria in 1993. DeLillo’s statement also hints at something crucial about the list as a form: the tension between its gesturing toward order and its acknowledgement of order’s impossibility. The list—or, more specifically, the listicle—extends a promise of the definitive while necessarily revealing that no such promise could ever be fulfilled. It arises out of a desire to impose order on a life, a culture, a society, a difficult matter, a vast and teeming panorama of cat adorability and nineties nostalgia. Umberto Eco put it dramatically: “The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order.

Worth reading in entirety.

Learning How to Think

A pithy post from Dustin Curtis, in which he argues that once you truly learn how to think, you’ll no longer feel constrained to be a “worker bee”:

There is an insanely huge difference between, “We’re making a site for connecting to your friends” and, “Privacy is a relic of the past, so we’re going to push people to open up their lives and share, connecting them together.”

Most people see Facebook and extrapolate backwards to the first sentence above. But the genius behind Facebook, and why it has been continually successful, is actually in the second sentence. Facebook isn’t about connecting; it’s about sharing. MySpace failed because it focused on the connections, not the interactions between those connections. Facebook had the Wall and the News Feed.

Learning how to think like this is like discovering halfway through your life as a flightless bird that you have wings and can fly. And once you discover it, there is no going back. It’s addictive and powerful. It ruins your ability to be a worker bee, because you’ve tasted blood: you become a killer bee, intent on understanding why things are the way they are, finding their flaws, and pushing the universe forward by fixing them.

For a very good start on learning how to think, check out these mental models at Farnam Street. Highly recommended.

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If you want to go even deeper, I recommend the book Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life, which offers invaluable advice in outmaneuvering your rivals/competitors. It takes a series of case studies from business, sports, politics, and more and provides useful strategies for making things happen in your daily life.

On Etsy’s Crumbling Economy

Kevin Morris summarizes the crumbling Etsy marketplace — whereby Chinese manufacturers are infiltrating the handmade moniker of Etsy by flooding Etsy with cheaply manufactured, mass-produced items. I had no idea it was this bad.

Take a look at the “Infinity Ring,” a delicate brass loop coated with a silver sheen and topped with rhinestones and crystal. In pictures of the factory where it’s made, you can see rows of workers in surgical masks bent over dusty tables, not far from bulky industrial machines. From ports in Ningbo and Shanghai, the Yiwu Daihe Jewelry Corp. exports the ring to anywhere in the world at 50 cents a piece.

You can buy it on Etsy’s most popular jewelry store for $15.

How? To most Etsy users, the obvious answer is that Laonato, the store, is buying the rings wholesale from the factory, then pawning them off as handmade goods, reaping a monstrous 2,900 percent profit. That practice is known as “reselling,” and it’s a subject of intense controversy on the site. But like with a lot of things on Etsy—where the entire economy operates behind the shroud of the Internet—easily drawn assumptions and reality rarely align as neatly as you’d expect.

Continuing:

Laonato’s story might seem hard to believe, but there are actually a lot of Etsy stores getting ripped off by Chinese manufacturers—a second front in what seems like an uncoordinated war on the site’s hobbyists and single-person shops.

Trish Hadden’s bags are definitely handmade. The 53-year-old flight attendant from Albuquerque, N.M., sews her personalized label into each one, which she sells for anywhere between $12 for smaller purses to $60 for a handbag.

But like with Laonato’s jewelry, you can find Hadden’s bags on Alibaba—the commerce site that connects Chinese manufacturers to wholesale purchasers around the world and claims to be as big as Amazon and eBay confined—where they’re offered by the Hangzhou Dawnjoint Business and Trading Company for $3 to $4 apiece. The company, based out of the capital city of Zhejiang province, didn’t respond to a Daily Dot request for comment. It’s been plundering more than Hadden’s designs. The firm has stolen her photographs—which included images of her hand-sewn, personalized tag—and superimposed their own store’s logo on top.

As usual, caveat emptor, and all that.

The New Words of the Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary added 44 new words today. Over at The Atlantic, Derek Thompson decided to be creative and use every one of them in an article. The result:

FROM: Word Selection Committee of the Oxford Dictionary

TO: Staff

SUBJECT: Re: today’s new words

Dear Staff,

I know what you’re thinking: “Grats, idiots. You’ve destroyed the English language.”

You don’t like our new batch of words. You unlike our new batch of words. The Oxford Dictionary isn’t supposed to girl crush on Urban Dictionary. We’re supposed to be a gateway for the future of language, not some linguistic omnishambles for Generation Twerk. When trends like the Internet of thingsMOOCs and space tourism crop up, the Oxford Dictionary is supposed to stick with tradition, not bandy about some vapid list of last season’s most fashionable acronyms (FIL? BYOD?), like we’re some A/W catalog previewing next season’s chandelier earrings for click and collect shoppers. (Even as I’m typing that sentence, I barely know what it means!) And lord, you’re thinking, if some Jersey Shore girl in a pixiecut with double-denim jorts and flatformstaking a selfie on her phablet is this generation’s William Shakespeare, you’re gonna straight up vom your street food.

I’ll admit, guac is a “new” word like bitcoin is a “real” currency.

But let me respond first by saying: Apols. Lately, we’ve been feeling a bit of FOMO about all the buzzworthy verbiage orbiting outside our hallowed pages. While initially it seemed a bit dappy to add nonsense like LDR and other ghastly abbrevs just because teens don’t have time to spell things out on Facebook Chat, the thing is, we can’t have our blondie cake pop and eat it, too.

It’s not this dictionary’s job to request a digital detox just because Web diction has shaved a fauxhawk into the English language. Rather, it’s our job to highlight the words that blend into the way we actually talk today. It’s kinda like linguistic balayage, if I truly understood what the heck balayage actually was.

So yes, our language is suffering from a food baby of derp these days. But it’s our job to adapt to the geek chic hackerspace — even if babymoons strike you as a dumb excuse for me time; even if pear cider remains an unacceptable alternative to beer; and even if  emoji represents everything a good dictionary should be against.

TL;DRSrsly, this is the future of language. Squee.

I could use some digital detox after looking up some of those definitions…

Which Begs The Question?

In the “today I learned” department, I had heretofore had no idea that the phrase “begs the question” is a fallacy and should not be used. Here’s Wikipedia’s explanation:

Begging the question is one of the classic informal fallacies in Aristotle’s Prior Analytics. Some modern authors consider begging the question to be a species of circulus in probando (Latin, “circle in proving”) or circular reasoning. Were it not begging the question, the missing premise would render the argument viciously circular, and while never persuasive, arguments of the form “A therefore A” are logically valid because asserting the premise while denying the self-same conclusion is a direct contradiction. In general, validity only guarantees the conclusion must follow given the truth of the premises. Absent that, a valid argument proves nothing: the conclusion may or may not follow from faulty premises—although in this particular example, it’s self-evident that the conclusion is false if and only if the premise is false (see logical equivalence, logical equality and law of identity.

I know I’ve written dozens of papers in high school and college where I started a sentence with “Which begs the question, …” The proper alternative is “Which raises the question.”

On the Origin of the Picnic

I am having one myself this weekend, so it seems apropos to read this short piece in The New York Times on the origin of the picnic:

The word “picnic,” however, is of more recent vintage. An early mention can be traced to a 1649 satirical French poem, which features the Frères Pique-nicques, known for visiting friends “armed with bottles and dishes.” In 1802, the term made a hop to Britain after a group of Francophiles in London formed a Pic-Nic Society to gorge, guzzle and perform amateur theatricals. Participants drew lots to determine who would supply which dish — from calf’s-foot jelly to blancmange.


Read the rest here.
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Success Cannot be Measured

Success is the strength of your heart, the power of your mind and giving of your soul.

This is a great post by Ketan Anjaria who claims that success, like other intangibles in life such as love, can’t be measured:

Real success isn’t measured by how many cars you own, how hot your startup is, or even how amazing you are at yoga.

Real success can’t be measured, just like happiness or love can’t be measured.

If you are trying to apply a metric to your success you have failed to realize one the most beautiful reasons we are on this earth.

Success to me is what you make. What you give to the world. That your thoughts, and actions and time go to building something that works for others.

We could all this reminder every once in a while.

What Defines a Workaholic?

I learned something new today via this short piece in The Atlantic.

Wayne Oates, who published 57 books in his lifetime, coined/invented the word workaholic in 1968. While there still isn’t a standard medical definition of a workaholic, Jordan Weissman digests some papers on the subject:

What, precisely, qualifies someone as a workaholic? There’s still no single accepted medical definition. But psychologists have tried to distinguish people merely devoted to their careers from the true addicts. A seminal 1992 paper on how to measure the condition argued that sufferers work not only compulsively but also with little enjoyment [1]. Newer diagnostic tests attempt to single out those who, among other behaviors, binge and then suffer from withdrawal—just as someone would with, say, a gambling or cocaine habit [2].

Even as the precise outlines of workaholism remain a bit fuzzy, various studies have tried to identify its physical and emotional effects. At the risk of carrying on like a Pfizer ad: research has associated it with sleep problems, weight gain, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression [3]. That’s to say nothing of its toll on family members. Perhaps unsurprisingly, spouses of workaholics tend to report unhappiness with their marriages [4]. Having a workaholic parent is hardly better. A study of college undergraduates found that children of workaholics scored 72 percent higher on measures of depression than children of alcoholics. They also exhibited more-severe levels of “parentification”—a term family therapists use for sons and daughters who, as the paper put it, “are parents to their own parents and sacrifice their own needs … to accommodate and care for the emotional needs and pursuits of parents or another family member” [5].

How many people are true workaholics? One recent estimate suggests that about 10 percent of U.S. adults might qualify [6]; the proportion is as high as 23 percent among lawyers, doctors, and psychologists [7]. Still more people may be inclined to call themselves workaholics, whether or not they actually are: in 1998, 27 percent of Canadians told the country’s General Social Survey that they were workaholics, including 38 percent of those with incomes over $80,000 [8]. (Even among those with no income, 22 percent called themselves workaholics! Presumably some were busy homemakers and students.)

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(via Andrew Sullivan)

Men of Science, Men of Faith

In a must-read op-ed piece in The New York Times titled “Welcome to the State of Denial,” Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, laments on the decline of people’s perception of science in our society.

Today, however, it is politically effective, and socially acceptable, to deny scientific fact. Narrowly defined, “creationism” was a minor current in American thinking for much of the 20th century. But in the years since I was a student, a well-funded effort has skillfully rebranded that ideology as “creation science” and pushed it into classrooms across the country. Though transparently unscientific, denying evolution has become a litmus test for some conservative politicians, even at the highest levels.

Meanwhile, climate deniers, taking pages from the creationists’ PR playbook, have manufactured doubt about fundamental issues in climate science that were decided scientifically decades ago. And anti-vaccine campaigners brandish a few long-discredited studies to make unproven claims about links between autism and vaccination.

The list goes on. North Carolina has banned state planners from using climate data in their projections of future sea levels. So many Oregon parents have refused vaccination that the state is revising its school entry policies. And all of this is happening in a culture that is less engaged with science and technology as intellectual pursuits than at any point I can remember.

He goes on to write:

We face many daunting challenges as a society, and they won’t all be solved with more science and math education. But what has been lost is an understanding that science’s open-ended, evidence-based processes — rather than just its results — are essential to meeting those challenges.

My professors’ generation could respond to silliness like creationism with head-scratching bemusement. My students cannot afford that luxury. Instead they must become fierce champions of science in the marketplace of ideas.

As some comments note, the effort to denigrate science is strong and insidious. I agree with this:

The push by religious institutions to have creationism and intelligent design taught alongside evolution in schools as legitimate competing theories, as well as the suppression of data linking man-made atmospheric discharges to climate change by industry are designed to preserve the status quo. Science, as a catalyst of change, has always upended institutions as it ushers in new ideas. We are on the verge of discoveries that may forever change the way we look at the universe and our place in it. It’s clear that those with a vested interest in the institutions of today fear what this means for their futures. Science can make oil and bishops largely irrelevant rather quickly if left unchecked. You bet they’re scared.

If I am not being clear: this perverse social acceptability of the denial of scientific fact must be fought with vigor. I fear for our future generation in America otherwise.