Obesity in US: pros and cons

I encourage you to explore charts #7&8 about confidence and sexuality of people with different body type, registered on a dating website OkCupid.

We see that about 1/2 of women and 1/4 of men do not burn all the fat they eat. And about 1/4 of women (those who selected “curvy” as their body type) are arguably better off than their average counterparts. They even get better self-confidence scores starting age 29. So those are pros.

Cons: if you read medical lit, it turns out the fat that’s being stored in the body is the cause of many diseases, most notably heart, spine, joints are not happy. Which means all those 1/2 of women and 1/4 of men will have to pay a sum with many zeros to their doctors starting the age 60.

Pros again: but if you actually want to change the body type, the trouble you need to go through is enormous! Even the average recommended US exercise routine is harder than anything I’ve ever done in my life: 5 moderate 30min intervals of cardio/aerobics per week, and 3 “vigorous” ones. I don’t even know what “vigorous” would be 🙂 And to change your body type, you need to #domore. Much easier to find a source of self-confidence in whatever you already are, like “curvy” women did in the picture above.

Cons again: for a guy, though, self confidence doesn’t do magic. You have to work hard, either to change your body type, or to develop some other attractive character trait. There’s no free lunch. Some may say that self confidence is an attractive character trait by itself, but they should read  messages by FedoraGuys, and figure how attractive is that.


Jazz anecdotes

Note that the picture shows a failed fashion attempt  – everything below my waist is wrong. Shorts have to be tight around the knees, or else the silhouette does not look trendy… On a good side, the upper body was a success, I noticed at least one intense stare. Win. Anyways, this is a jazz festival which attracts mainly seniors and parents with kids who picnic on the nearby lawn. Not the strictest fashion censors.

Speaking of parents, I am interested in a stereotype of an “inappropriate parent”. Someone who would say “It is so nice to watch their relationship develop” in front of the kid and his/her friends. Someone who would say “We are having so much fun together!” when everybody else in the room are clearly bored. You probably remember a more colorful examples from your favorite teenage TV show. There are always two sides to the conflict: from a teenager’s point of view, it is so easy to be understanding and appropriate! Yet the parent doesn’t seem to put any effort into doing so. From an older person’s point of view, parents are wiser and know not to worry about such trifles in the first place.

As a teenager, I took a radical stance on this controversy. I’ve terrorized my parents, especially my mother, to not do anything at all in my presence in public. It resulted in a special form of paranoya on her side, when she is afraid to like my status on facebook because it may make me look bad. In fact, my parents are afraid of doing something wrong on any kind of social media.

From a more grown up point of view, I am still very surprized every time I meet people who are completely unaware of other’s comfort zones. I’ve met one on that Jazz festival. They remind me of people who took the following motivational advice too seriously: “When you need to go to the restroom, you are very focused on your goal. You don’t hear people failing to go to the restroom because they thought they’re not good enough etc. So next time you need to focus on your goal, think of it as the restroom”

From each Jazz festival I bring at least one jazz joke. The previous one was about a composer who bought a long stick with a cigarette holder on its end. His friend asked “Why?” “My doctor told me to stay away from smoking.”

This time, it is a story of a cat. In the house of one of the orchestra directors, there lives a cat named Jazzman. This cat is 23 years old, missing both eyes and lives in a garage. It prefers garage to the house. So the house owner and his friends composed a piece “Garaje gato” (Garage cat in spanish) dedicated to this cat. I think I have found my role model here. They say Jazzman even had fights with coyotes and survived!

Typical thoughts of a STEM person

I’ve held a small survey among grad students in my department. I asked open questions: “Why we are who we are? What is your theory on what made us like this?” and added an example: “We just had a talk about Interstellar that many friends of friends of people involved in the making of the movie attended. Yet it did not occur to us to try and talk to those people. We think it’s a waste of time. Instead we prefer to stay isolated. Why?”

  • Who we are – like, human beings? Grad students with minimal income and no family?
  • Talking to people is hard. And there’s nothing interesting. If they come and talk to us, of course we would keep the conversation, but not the other way round.
  • ‘You wouldn’t mind talking to a movie star!’
    ‘but they don’t want to talk to me.’
    ‘And what would you say?’
    ‘I can ask them for an autograph.’
    ‘they probably get that a lot.’
    ‘ You can always pitch them a brilliant idea for a movie’
    ‘They get that a lot too.’
  • You meet a lot of people when you’re young, but then it shrinks to your coworkers and friends.
  • (talking about ideas for a movie, involving quantum mechanics)  you see, that’s why we can’t talk to people – in one minute we’re back to talking science.
  • Caltech is special that way, we can talk about it and everybody around us understands. In other schools we’ll do it only 9-5, and then we spend time with people from other departments who don’t have a clue.
  • I was concerned about forgetting how to talk to normal people, but not so much so after I stopped  dating a non-physics girlfriend.
  • There was a sci-fi book where earth collapsed, it turned medieval and to save the civilization they made monasteries to keep scientists in them. They were only allowed to get outside and mix with normal people once every 10 years – that’s when the story starts. And then I went with my friends to six flags  and noticed – it feels exactly like in the book!
  • ‘But there are extroverts out there! They meet new people every week and enjoy it.’
    ‘Yeah, but they’re not in gradschool’
  • I’m not in Hollywood because I haven’t been born white and I didn’t win in random talent contest. And it’s not a stable income most of the time. Also, I think what I’m doing is much more interesting.
  • Gradschool is a way of avoiding real life for a few more years. And maybe, indefinitely. Yeah, screw real life!

Meanwhile, in biology department they made a toilet seat kickstarter #PottyGlo and Huffington Post writes stories about them.

On drugs and EDM festivals

So when are you going to break free from this boring world with its restrictions, and go to EDM festivals which are the best place to experiment with different kind of drugs? I think this question has occured to many, given the prevalence of such stories in mass media. They go hand in hand – drugs and strange dance music. Sometimes the popular media also adds beautiful women. Indeed, you can hear braggery now and then about meeting 2 girls from another country who were “on the same drugs as him”, and spending the rest of the day in physical contact (all in the VIP zone in front of the stage).

The answer is surprisingly simple – if you got friends who are fun in such environment, go. Going alone is pretty much useless.

PS. Some of the EDM regulars are actually romantic, read Paolo Coello and such.

It is a museum where cool devices and things that work from different epochs are gathered

What crazy things am I gonna do if I get rich

I was considering what crazy things I am gonna do if I get rich.

The general idea is that after hipster subculture to be trendy, the next one should be nerd subculture. Only under the mask of nerd subculture people would learn that there are way more possible interests and hobbies, not only the ones that are considered ‘nerdy’. There are also some that are just not well know, you can only stumble upon them if you use your mind more. So how to foster this transition in the society, if I have some money to waste?

Continue reading “What crazy things am I gonna do if I get rich”

Arts as a way of fulfillment

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Let’s face the hardest of questions: whether I am an expert in any worthy part of human culture. I’m not, obviously. Moreover, the level of my ignorance could shock innocent bystanders if they were to know. Let’s start with pop-culture. I know a lot of music videos, but don’t differentiate them by genre, and often don’t remember the name of the singer. I like the dance moves. I can kind of differentiate the genre of a dance performance. I even heard somebody’s rant about contemporary dance vs. contemporary ballet. I’ve learned from dance majors and minors of different kind, so I vaguely know what “isolation” means. I want to join a hip-hop class next year, because apparently that is a thing to do in LA.

The classical and modern art: painting, sculpture, and other vague “installations”. I’ve always enjoyed going to the art galleries. I often don’t remember the name of the artist. I can vaguely differentiate the genre of a painting. Paintings don’t “move” me, but I find certain things about them curious. I can feel the difference between taste and no taste, but I can hardly apply it in practice. I never buy, that is. And if I make something myself, I’m usually much less devoted to the process of creation, than an artist would be. So even my good taste decisions do not reach completion. The out product is unsightly (my poster/slide presentations, postcards).

In general, I think most of the art is not coherent enough to actually address any of the serious problems, it just slowly changes your emotional palette. What about photos on Facebook? I own an old camera, and I don’t carry it around too much anymore. I’m trying to fight with Amy about not taking the “pose” photos, but taking “slice of life” photos instead. I’m very much behind any people who are still trying to capture the reality artistically. Here’s my more stubborn friend’s photostorytelling.

I’m more or less acquainted with internet culture, since that is where I spend most of the time. Maybe my knowledge are not so useful, but it makes me smile.

Photos in the dark

«What to do in your free time?  Note that people who are contempt with life have something in common about their leisure activities: they do something they’re good at, and do it in front of people who can appreciate it. If you are an artist, you probably have a lot of friends on facebook who support you every time you post your art. If you like sports, then you participate in a team sport and enjoy your teamwork. Or you can join a competitive sport. If you ever join a marathon, you meet all these supporters you don’t even know along the way, and after the finish line. Even for a gym running track, you can bring a friend and boast about how many miles and inclination and speed you have on display. Same is true for less worthy activities, like getting drunk. You are much more likely to get drunk if everybody around you encourages you to, as compared to when they don’t care. So positive reinforcement that you get of your quality time should better be there. You’d better spend time with someone who respects you, than strive to earn that respect where there is none.»

The above little sketch attempts to explain why some people always look happy, and other always have a grin on their face. Those others probably found themselves in situation “That awkward moment when you’re asian, but you don’t have any special talent”. In other words, you’re not good at anything. You try to join clubs, do various sports, dances and go the bars, but the positive reinforcement is nowhere to be found. The bars have been broadely discussed on this american blog, I have to add that sometimes the people you’re with are not the people you want to get drunk with, and then the positive reinforcement is not there and you don’t come back to the same bar the next week. So very quickly you end up in a situation where the best thing you can do around that area is to sit in front of your computer. You probably heard people complaining “There is nothing to do in this town” etc., they are likely to be in this situation as well.

Have you noticed how all the dance classes and similar activities in US are very careful to never criticize you directly, instead they will say “try doing this instead” or “some of you (without pointing) have this mistake”? And of course, there’s a lot of encouragement going on every minute. Compared to that, the instructors back in Russia were way more strict and direct. But somehow, even with all the nice words being said, many people still don’t feel like continuing to learn a dance. So what’s left if you had given up on almost everything listed above?

What follows is my story, which is in many ways ridiculous. First, I found that cartoons/comics are safe in a sense that they give you a positive reinforcement, but don’t make you feel inadequate because you’re not good at anything. I think most of the adults who play computer games, read comic strips, webcomics and blogs with funny pictures are actually avoiding some more introspective activities, that would make them sad. I’ve recently found out about popularity of Calvin and Hobbes comics, you may note that they are mostly about returning to childhood – the “safe” topic for many of us. To explain what would be “unsafe”, I’ll just say most of the american top TV shows are, as the main characters are usually much better (more handsome/ more well spoken) than you, and you can’t help comparing yourself to them. For some reason, this doesn’t happen as much for inherently nonrealistic cartoon characters. Someone in the review said “everybody wants to be a kid like Calvin”, but there’s hardly any negativity in this feeling.

Then, with all the bad things said about US, it also has free food events, which are like the exaggeration of free sampler that you can encounter in the food shops around the world. Finding one such event, and being sufficiently hungry to devastate the table is a positive reinforcement of a stronger, primitive type. If one watched an anime Ben-to, there’s nothing to add really. As my friend said, “This show doesn’t have the right to be that good.”

If you think on a global scale, bringing people positive reinforcement is certainly not a goal of science and technology. It’s the goal of arts. So even if you are not an artist, there are artists in this world whose work will trigger your response, make you express yourself, and give you positive reinforcement in the end. You can go to a garage rock concert, if you feel like loud music that makes your ears blocked for a few minutes after you exit. Shouting and shaking your head inside, and then get a sticker of the band at the shop, or a signed copy of their album. This is kind of a positive reinforcement, isn’t it?


You can go to a modern art performance, and get your feet soaked in paint, or interact with other crazy props they have. After the performance, if it was sufficiently provoking, you can ask question about something you didn’t understand to pretty much anyone around you. Well, actually some people are busy between themselves, but them aside.


Other than that, just finding an event with a good music in the background, and taking your sweet time to listen to some of the songs, maybe dance if it’s a club music and you don’t mind dancing for yourself. This may be hard, but it’s also fulfilling regardless. You can talk to drunk people instead, they may randomly want to introduce you to somebody.




“How do we usually meet new people? It’s when we are socializing with our friends. Sure it makes you happy, but I think it’s fake happiness. I can imagine you spending a Friday afternoon in a chinese restaurant with your asian friends (or: drinking half a bottle of beer on a social hour). Have you ever wanted to do something completely different?”
“Like what?”
“If you want, then welcome to the team. I’m trying to give people an alternative way of life. I can’t tell you what it is right away, but I guarantee that it will bring up a new side of you you never knew.”