Michael Pollan Doesn't Understand Paleo

This article, "Michael Pollan Explains What's Wrong With the Paleo Diet", makes several incorrect assumptions about the paleo diets -- starting with the idea that there is one "paleo diet". The paleo idea is a template from which people pick the variety that is right for them -- lower carbs for people who are overweight, higher carb for people who do lots of physical activity, no nightshades for people with certain conditions, raw dairy for people who enjoy it and can handle it.

Michael Pollan criticized a caricature of the paleo diet, not the diet as it's recommended by clinicians for healing sick people. Healing sick people is what's really interesting to me about the paleo diet. 


  1. Lots of meat every day is not a requirement for paleo. Most authors who talk about proportions say more like 10-30% of calories from protein, which ends up being 3-4 x 3-6 ounces of protein per meal. Giant hunks of meat are a stereotype from recreational bloggers, not clinician who are trying to fix sick people. Quality of meat is a HUGE deal in paleo; I eat pastured meat almost exclusively. If I could afford to eat wild meat more often, I would; I only eat wild fish. 
  2. Fine, humans can live on bread alone, but are they *healthiest* living on bread alone? Certainly not. Getting nutrients from bread is fine if you don't have better options.  
  3. Paleo strongly encourages fermented foods like kimchee, sauerkraut, and pickles -- just the fermented foods that don't rely on grains as the substrate. 
  4. Paleo doesn't suggest that you eat all or even most of your food raw; the paleo authors I respect strongly endorse cooking vegetables as a way to make them easier to digest and easier to absorb the nutrients, for exactly the reasons in that article. 
  5. Cook more? Paleo is all about cooking, because food like this simply can't be gotten at restaurants.  


But mostly, I'm not saying paleo is right for everyone and everyone should eat it all the time. I'm saying that paleo cures or dramatically improves some autoimmune conditions, and thus it's worth a real trial for people who are sick.

These ideas are mostly drawn from the writings of Chris Kresser and Robb Wolf. I highly recommend Chris Kresser's book, Your Personal Paleo Code, which has a procedure for figuring out what version of paleo is right for you


how to find an apartment in san francisco

I just went through an apartment hunt in San Francisco that ended with me renting a beautiful loft in Oakland. Here's what I learned from the hunt: 


  • It will cost more than you want to pay. Get used to it. For me, the value proposition wasn't there, so I started looking in the east bay, and fell in love with a property that was literally 4x the size of what I could get in SF. 
  • Quit smoking.
  • Figure out what you want, then figure out whether that sort of thing is available where you want to live, for the price you want to pay. If it's not, don't waste time looking for it; change the nature of your search. 
  • If you don't know the area, talk to your friends and colleagues. Bay Area neighborhoods change block-by-block. I printed out a map of Berkeley and Oakland and had friends mark it up with different-colored markers. Then go look around at neighborhoods, before you even bother looking at craigslist postings. 
  • Check your credit report as soon as you know you will move, and fix it.
  • Prepare a rental resume: present and former apartments, and the one before that. Landlords, with phone numbers. Reason for leaving, dates you lived there. Personal references with phone numbers. (Lots of people will want you to fill out their unique application, but having all this info will make that easier.)
  • Go to open houses early in your search. They will help you get a sense of prices in the area you're looking, so go even before you are really ready to rent. They are also much less hassle to schedule than 1:1 viewings. Just search for "open house" on craigslist.
  • Apartments in this market appear on craigslist and are rented within days. Use or to set up alerts for exactly what you want, and contact the lister immediately. (If your filters aren't specific enough, you will be deluged with too many alerts.)
  • Corrolary: confirm that the listing is still available before going to an open house
  • Get a written letter that verifies your length of employment and salary, with the phone number and email of a HR department that can verify it. 
  • Print out several copies of your credit report and bring it with you to open houses and viewings. Some landlords want you to provide it and others want to run their own credit report. 
  • At open houses, dress like a responsible and boring person. 
  • Arrive early for open houses and meetings with realtors. I mean EARLY. 15 minutes minimum. Why: 1) it looks good. 2) you can spend some time in the area. 3) You're probably going to get lost / the buses are going to be late / the traffic is going to be bad. 
  • If you find something you love, try to view it before the open house. Everything nice is going to get tons of applicants. Being there first matters. 
  • Have a non-trivial conversation with property owners and leasing managers. Thank them for their time. Ask them about themselves, their business, what they think about the bay area. This isn't just Dale Carnegie bullshit -- this is auditioning them for the long-term relationship you will have if you rent from them. 
  • Read reviews on yelp before even going to see developments. I wouldn't have bothered driving to Park Merced if I had read reviews like this before I went. Most of the developments have extensive shitty reviews, in fact. 
  • You can walk in to buildings and developments and get a tour during the week, but you'd need an appointment on the weekend. I suggest not making appointments; take a day off during the week and go see a bunch of developments. 
  • If you can break free of public transit, you have a ton more options. Consider buying a little motorcycle or bicycle. I pay < $250/month for my motorcycle and insurance, and that enables me to look much farther away from bus routes than I could otherwise -- but I can park easily park it on the street, and my heart wouldn't be broken if it was stolen. 



crossfit games regional report

This weekend, I was a volunteer at the CrossFit Games NorCal Regionals. There were way more volunteers than necessary, and my team leader was overworked, so he didn't give me any specific responsibilities. However, my volunteer bracelet served as an all-access pass, so I hung around the control tent, where the athletes lined up to go on the field, then staggered off afterwards.

The first cool thing that happened was that I spotted Bob Harper, said hello, then tweeted a picture of him. 

More hanging around, until the head judge realized at the last minute that he didn't have enough people. He asked for volunteers, so I walked up. My job was simple:  

So I stood around and hit one button over and over. It turned out that the team I was judging set a worldwide competition record for that event, and a picture of them ended up on the main site... with me standing behind the rower, ready to press buttons. 

The head judge asked for volunteers again the next day, and this time someone handed me a JUDGE t-shirt as I was running onto the field for the final team competition. I pulled it on, but then the head judge realized he had enough people after all. I got to keep the shirt, but didn't have to judge; best of both worlds, because judging the final team event looked complicated and stressful, not to mention sunburny.

I noticed that the athlete's warm-up area was a total mess: water bottles and tape everywhere, dumbbells and plates scattered, not enough equipment... so I decided to tidy it up and keep it stocked. I set up the 345-pound barbell that all the individual men used to warm up for their final event, and all the athletes chalked up in the chalk buckets that I kept full. Each athlete selected the height they wanted for the rings, and at least one of them left some blood behind. I saw all the athletes up close; the men are really big and ripped, and most of the women are pretty small and ripped, except for their thighs, which are tremendous. This also put me in position to observe the athletes as they came off the field after each event, usually covered with sweat and dust.

I didn't know what volunteering would be like; the only part of my prediction that was spot-on is that my neck got sunburnt. 

To get involved in an event, volunteer. If you're not given specific tasks, you can still contribute, with this passive/active couplet: 

a) Cultivate passive availability: stand around where things are happening and be available.

b) Cultivate active service: look for ways to contribute, then jump in.


c) A sunburn is a reasonable price to pay to be this close to champions.


dear recruiters

Dear recruiters,

I work at Twitter. It's the best job I've ever had. I love working with all of these incredibly smart and whimsical people. I love contributing to a site with millions of visitors. I'm working with all of the technologies I want to work with, and my co-workers created some of those technologies. The perks are delicious and the commute is just long enough to stretch my legs. I'm not interested in pursuing other opportunities. Thank you for your interest. 



franzen does dfw

One thing I enjoyed in Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Freedom, was his use of David Foster Wallace-style intrafamily dialog. [spoiler alert] This scene, where Patty's father discourages her to involve the police in her rape, echoes the scene in Infinite Jest where Hal identifies his father as the "professional conversationalist", or the late night phone calls between Hal and Orin:  

"Coach Nagel says I should go to the police."

"Coach Nagel should stick to her dribbling," her dad said.

"Softball," Patty said. "It's softball season now."

"Unless you want to spend your entire senior year being publicly humiliated."

"Basketball is in the winter. Softball is in the spring, when the weather's warmer?"

"I'm asking you: is that really how you want to spend your senior year?"

"Coach Carver is basketball," Patty said. "Coach Nagel is softball. Are you getting this?"

Her dad started the engine. 

I enjoy this pattern, but not quite enough to justify reading the whole book. 

Another DFW-esque trick is the foreshadowing that never amounts to much, as in Freedom's opening sentence: 

The news about Walter Berglund wasn't picked up locally. [...] Walter had made quite a mess of his professional life out there in the nation's capital... [He is] in trouble now for conniving the with the coal industry and mistreating country people. 

When I read this, I was hoping that the rest of the book would emerge as the story of Walter's descent from environmentalist to corrupt crony, but Franzen pulls his punches. What could have been the climax of the plot, when precociously independent Joey calls his father for help in the middle of an arms-trading fiasco, is instead handled almost off-screen. The difference here is that DFW's foreshadowing -- of Hal and Don Gately digging up Incandenza père's head -- actually is the climax of multiple plots finally intertwining. Walter's scandal, however, sounds as a disappointing minor note in what could have been the unifying story line. Franzen could have used the scandal to show how all of this freedom led the main characters to betray their deepest beliefs, but he made it just another episode in a long novel that ultimately lacks a climax.