This Week in Upgrades: October 3

Hey, it’s October! Does it feel like fall where you are? Southern California is a bit warm still, but that’s not keeping me away from wearing layers and eating the flavors of the season. A little roasted pumpkin soup was just right last night.

But enough about me. What a week, huh? The first presidential debate was last Monday, and I had some thoughts about that and our overall political situation in America. I hope some of that resonated with the way you’re feeling about things. I think these Nevada youngsters are seeing things pretty clearly. We need to build a movement for a better future.

Elon Musk unveiled SpaceX’s big plans for Mars this week. It’s clearly an ambitious and expensive project, but probably a logical and necessary one. It doesn’t seem like we’re going to stop wrecking our planetary home anytime soon, so it’s wise to strive to be an interplanetary species.

California is warming up to the idea of self-driving cars. I’m glad my state of residency is starting to take the lead on this since we all suck at driving. Obviously we need to do autonomous vehicles the right way.

The world has permanently passed the dreaded 400ppm carbon dioxide threshold. The more time passes, the more we can only hope to minimize the worst effects of climate change. It’s discouraging to realize that the United States does not have the policy in place to meet the Paris Climate Agreement targets, which are actually rather modest.

Bees update: “After years of study, the US Fish and Wildlife Service have placed seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees on the endangered species list, the first time any bees have received such classification.” We’re not going to have much left to eat if we cause bees to go extinct.

With so many weighty, urgent things going on in the world, I’d be down for the entertaining escapism of an Indiana Jones animated series. Please make this!

Are you paying off college debt or accruing it as a current student? Do you ever feel like college is primarily just a debt-machine? My wife and I have plenty to pay off. Student debt is a heavy burden, and shouldn’t be what continuing your education is all about.

Is your workplace a culture of stupidity? I bet this essay describes too many employers.

What makes a jerk–and are you one? We could probably all use some self-reflection on our jerkitude tendencies.

Have an awesome week!

 

 

This Week in Upgrades: August 29

Hey, hey! We’re at the start of another week. I’m still on a nature high after visiting the Grand Canyon this weekend. (In fact, I completely forgot to post this yesterday!)

Have you visited the Grand Canyon? Difficult to put the experience into words. It also happened to be the National Park Service centennial when we went, so it was quite the occasion. Pretty crazy that it has been around for 100 years. As beloved as the parks are, though, they are also threatened. It’s up to all of us to protect them for the next hundred years.

What else interesting happened over the last seven days?

The Hawaii Mars simulation ended Monday. Curious to see what they found out from this.

“Their hair fell out.” What kind of regulation should the FDA have over cosmetics? It’s not doing much right now.

The global coffee shortage has already begun. A future without good coffee would be a sad one. Just another reason to do whatever we can to minimize climate change.

Speaking of which, a group of scientists has moved to formally declare the current epoch the anthropocene. We’re officially changing the evolution of the planet in detrimental ways.

“A few milliseconds makes all the difference.” Charisma is largely a matter of thinking quickly. Do you run through options in your mind before you decide what to say and do next?

Please don’t drive slowly in the left lane. Saw way too much of this on our weekend road trip.

We tend to think that the present is much different than the past, but we’ve been asking the same fundamental questions for awhile now.

Have you heard the Millennial whoop? It seems to be in every other pop song.

Have an awesome week!

 

This Week in Upgrades: June 27

Hello there! How’s your Monday? Have all your 4th of July plans figured out (if you’re celebrating)? Nothing like a new week and a new month to hit the refresh button. I know I’m ready to be better at some things than I was in recent days.

You catch some of the happenings on the Internet this week? Crazy, inspiring, tragic. A typical week of the spectrum of humanity and the world we live in. Check some of these out:

Millennials are side hustling because there’s no other choice. Thanks, Neoliberalism.

Here’s another reminder about the importance of self-compassion. A future Upgraded Humans post on it may be in order.

Buenos Aires is closing their zoo because animal captivity is degrading. Well done.

Ludovico Einaudi plays a dirge for the Arctic while floating through. Haunting.

There’s a new climate change podcast called Warm Regards. Listen here.

Matthew McConaughey teased the possibility of another Rust Cohle True Detective season. Please!

Here’s a great profile on Faviken–one of the world’s most remote and creative restaurants.

Why is everyone drinking La Croix?

What were humans like before we started recording our history? Great video.

Wear glasses? Half of the planet will be nearsighted by 2050. Put a new pair of contacts in today, myself.

Rest in peace to a delightful human.

Here’s a moment of Muir to remind you to get outside.

Have a brilliant week!

 

 

This Week in Upgrades: May 2

Hello! Today is the first Monday in May. A third 0f 2016 has already come and gone, you guys. Whoa! But there’s still plenty of time to try to put into and get out of this year everything that you want to. Are you dreaming in years and living in days?

The days of this past week brought some really interesting stuff.

Lots of important animal things:

Buffalo are about to become the official mammal of the United States. In many ways, they tell the story of America.

Kenya just burned over 100 tons of stockpiled ivory.

Elephants have performed in one of the most popular circuses for the last time. Probably should do the same for the rest of the show animals.

Also, barn owls are just really cool. Amazing.

In news of the human animal variety:

SpaceX plans to send a craft to Mars as early as 2018. We may become an interplanetary species sooner than we thought.

Will the first manned mission to Mars look something like this?

Drones are more popular than ever, and we’re not talking about the one your neighbor is flying. Is it too late to stop the unmanned arms race?

The Punisher was the best part of Daredevil Season 2, and now he’s getting his own series. Interested to see how they tell more of his story.

A majority of Millennials are disturbed by capitalism. The flaws of the “free market” are more apparent than ever.

What’s it like to perform the most popular, culture-challenging show in the world hundreds of times? Ask Hamilton’s Leslie Odom, Jr.

Have a fantastic week! You got this.

It's Gonna Be May
via GIPHY

This Week in Upgrades: March 7

…And we’re back! After a couple weeks of needed break, I’m refreshed and ready to write up a storm. Los Angeles is even cooperating today with my favorite writing conditions: gray, rainy, and cool.

To get the week started right, here are some of the most interesting human things from the last seven days–free of Donald Drumpf (Except for that essential John Oliver video in the link. You absolutely must watch it if you haven’t).

Why are human beings curious?

Grammar upgrade: less vs. fewer.

Others on the go deeper than perceptions train: beware the dominant narrative.

For the first time, the Northern Hemisphere has averaged 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial temperatures–the benchmark beyond which many scientists believe climate change becomes especially dangerous for human beings. Gulp.

Speaking of climate change, Sunday night’s Democratic Debate finally touched on fracking–the fool’s gold strategy for cleaner energy.

Sad confirmation of what most Millennials probably already know: “…The economic downturn, slow recovery and student debt have cancelled out today’s record workforce productivity and levels of higher education.”

Researchers have released sound recordings from the deepest trench in the ocean, and they’re super eerie. Please don’t play these around me. #thalassophobia

What do we know about the entry-level Tesla Model 3–the car that’s supposed to bring electric vehicles to the masses?

Cured meats are delicious. Up your food knowledge with salumi 101.

There’s a growing consensus that exposure to peanuts as an infant prevents the development of a peanut allergy. Interesting.

Thoroughly satisfying video of a log cabin start to finish.

 

Let’s Let People Be People

I am riveted by the current presidential campaign. Each presidential election is historic and interesting in its own way. But this one is different. Traditional candidates and predictable narratives are being subverted. There seems to be a groundswell of desire to move beyond the status quo in dramatic ways. In the long run, we’ll see what that means concretely: who wins and what (if anything) changes in society. Right now the race is still up in the air. I hope you’re enjoying watching and participating as much as I am. We need as many people as possible to be invested in this process.

But even in an unpredictable and entertaining race, some things never change. I’ve been especially bothered in recent weeks by the lazy use of stereotypical identity attributes to bunch people into monoliths. Media, candidates, pundits, and others do this regularly. African-Americans must all think and vote one way because they’re African-American. Elderly people must think and vote the same way because they’re elderly. Pick out a single trait or two–an age range, a gender, an income level, a race or ethnicity, a religion–and you can probably find some commentary about how that whole group of people is essentially homogenous.

One among many examples: last night in the Democratic Debate, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had a spirited exchange over the significance of Henry Kissinger being a valued mentor of Hillary Clinton. In the short time since the debate, I’ve heard Anderson Cooper and others on CNN, my local NPR station, and various tweets say something sarcastic like, “I bet that played well with Millennials–since they have no idea who Kissinger is.”

Surely some younger adults don’t know. But quite possibly some do know and have an opinion about it. Why assume an entire age range of the country fits into a uniform group of don’t know and couldn’t care less? And who’s to say a younger person can’t deem it important and figure it out? Between Internet searches, books, documentaries, and other sources, it’s pretty easy to give yourself a decent introductory lesson in things you don’t know. I’m inclined to believe that a number of people care enough to do so–and not just the ones that fit into a nonspecific age range reduced to “Millennials.”

Analogous things could be said about how predominant voices are talking about Hispanics who live in Nevada, African-Americans who live in South Carolina, young women, older women, and many others.

We should all be insulted by this. We can do better.

Identity generalizations may be convenient for a stump speech or a news segment. But they certainly do not represent or empower the individual human beings they are made about. You are a complex person. I (like to think I) am a complex person. Despite the fact that you may belong in a fundamental way to this or that race, class, or generation, you have a unique web of motivations, interests, knowledge, experiences, and beliefs. So does the person next to you. However much we are like others who share certain identity traits, there are meaningful idiosyncrasies that make each of us profoundly different from one another.

So let’s move beyond lazily and simplistically grouping people together. Let’s call it out and challenge it whenever we see it–from national media to our conversations with each other. Let’s let people be people.

 

How to Adult: Eating

From the moment you’re born you have to put food in your pie hole to stay alive. But because human beings can consume practically anything, it makes it difficult to know what we should eat. You could survive on everything from the latest Taco Bell mashup to vegetables grown in your backyard. But your health will probably look a lot different depending on if you eat more things like fast-food Tex-Mex or more things like fresh-picked veggies. I gained a good twenty pounds in my first couple years of college on a pizza-, nachos-, and ramen- centric diet. Cliche? Sure. Filling? Yes, and then some. Healthy? Decidedly not.

So how do we navigate all the different things we can consume? No one really teaches us how to eat as we grow up. We mostly end up feasting on whatever is served to us by family or whatever we can afford when we’re buying groceries and meals for ourselves.

The latest science and health news isn’t a very reliable guide. Over the last several decades, it’s vacillated between very pro this or that–carbs, fat, protein, etc.–and villainizing them. Empirical studies of nutrients have given us vastly different answers on different occasions.

Either way, a full-fledged diet rarely works. They’re often too restrictive and make you loathe eating altogether. Or cut out foods that are actually beneficial for you. Or help you for a time, only to have you falling back to earth when you plateau or can’t maintain it.

So if stringent self-limitation and the lack of clarity over good and bad nutrients are ineffective, what can guide us to eat well?

The best thing I’ve come across is in the writings of Michael Pollan. If you don’t know his work, you should check it out. Not in a fad/cult kind of way. We don’t need another Oprah or Dr. Oz, and I don’t sense that he’s trying to be one. As a regular-person journalist, Pollan’s books and speeches are primarily investigative–trying to comb through research, culture, and real life to get to the bottom of our relationship with food and what constitutes eating for wellness. Appealingly, his advice can be summed up in three short sentences.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

You can’t simplify things much more than seven words. So what does it mean?

Eat food: As in consume things that are real food. Not food-like stuff–processed science projects, tweaked for shelf life or taste, that your body can’t easily recognize. Soda is out. Most things that come from a drive thru are out. Anything with a bunch of ingredients you can’t understand is out.

Look for actual food. The more whole or original its state, the better it probably is. Whole grain (with the beneficial germ and bran). Whole apples, avocados, bok choy, ginger, and the rest. The spectrum of edible things is still vast and compelling even after you take out what went through an R&D lab. Eat lots of different food.

Not too much: This is primarily about the manner in which you eat. The French (excusez-nous for generalizing) have notoriously rich, fatty meals. And yet, their overall health is quite exceptional. Why? Many think it’s because they slow down and have multiple small courses over a long period of time. Lots of socializing. Lots of effort preparing the different dishes and plates. Lots of pauses to let the digestive system do its thing.

Eating is supposed to be a gratifying social experience–from the growing or purchasing of the ingredients to the shared experience at the table with family and friends. Many people eat too fast. Eat alone too often. Eat too much at once. Eat too many of their meals on-the-go, at odd times, or in front of a screen.

Food should be savored in smaller portions, at regular sit-downs, with people that you want to share time with. The fact that work or a general culture of busy challenge this possibility suggests there is an issue with work and culture–not with eating. We need less food that’s ready to eat on the move and more respect for the meal table. Eating food is more than a nutrient delivery system–it’s for pleasure, identity, ritual, wholeness. The manner and context in which you eat are significant and meaningful.

This also means we should ensure that we’re not obsessing over what’s on the plate in front of us. “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Forgive yourself for breaking the rules once in awhile. If you’re stuck getting a burger from a chain for lunch, or decided to snack on some Oreos (like I did the other day), don’t be too hard on yourself.

Mostly plants: Perhaps the most controversial, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s mostly plants, not only. There’s still room for meat every so often (if that’s something you want to chow down). It’s just that plants have been shown over and over again to improve overall health and life-expectancy. There are vibrant Seventh-Day Adventist communities–eating mostly plants or strictly vegetarian their whole lives–with an average age in the 90s. They’re clearly doing something right.

Plants are remarkably diverse, and can provide us with an equally diverse array of things that our bodies are looking for. We don’t fully know what makes plants so great, but it’s likely that fiber, omega-3s, and phytochemicals (being careful not to render anything angelic or immortalizing) are just some of the things that are super beneficial for us. Stick to the broad rainbow of vegetables as much as possible, and let meat, fish, and other foods be subtle complements.

Eating like an adult–a healthy adult–does not have to be hard. It’s even better when you yourself cook everything you eat. That, of course, takes time and know-how–something I’d love to talk about in a future How to Adult post. But for now, whenever you’re about to eat, remind yourself to: eat food; not too much; mostly plants.

 

How to Adult: Growing Up

As someone who has worked with and managed twenty- and thirty-somethings for the last several years, I have experienced on a daily basis what the spectrum of this emerging, majority of society is like. In some ways, it’s probably not all that different from what characterized budding adults in the 60s or more recent decades.

Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson have given way to Justin Bieber and Kendrick Lamar, of course. But still, some people jump into a serious full-time job at 18; others go to college, and school after that schooling. Some are looking to get in long-term relationships–perhaps even marriage–right away, and focus on starting a family; others are eager to venture out on their own and explore.

Some find it easy to live independently and self-sufficiently; others trip and fall flat on their face trying to figure out the ins and outs of everyday life. How do you do laundry, again?

There are a number of things that will probably remain learning experiences and rites of passage as long as there are people on earth. At bottom, we’re not that different from each other.

But as the world rapidly changes around them, so-called Millennials are experiencing profound new transitions and even the erosion of some longstanding stepping stones toward growing up. A college degree now is essentially equivalent to a high school diploma for Baby Boomers, so if an 18-year-old decides not to go to college, that can potentially close a lot of doors. Even so, college degrees are now so ubiquitous that much of the job market consists of opportunities that pay less or are less dignified than what Millennials are bringing to the table. Overqualification is not good for the psyche or the bank account.

As a result, instead of clear-cut independence from 18 or so through the rest of their lives, huge chunks of society are leaning on family for support–especially parents–well into or throughout adulthood. A Pew study in 2014 found that over a third of women and more than 40% percent of men 18-34 were living with their parents. Sharing a home with parents and being an adult are no longer as mutually exclusive as they had long been.

So, many Millennials are dependents, to some degree, for much longer. And, arguably, they’ve been limited–by society or their own choice–to learn what it means to become independent and more fully grown up.

If Dad’s really good at cooking dinner, and the ‘rents are paying for groceries, why think about what it takes to make a meal plan for the week or worry about paying for the ingredients?

If you’re still covered by your parents health insurance, why worry about finding your own doctors when you can just ask Mom to make an appointment for you with the same person you’ve been seeing since you were born? And when their insurance stops covering you, you can just stop making medical visits altogether. You’re young and invincible, right? Some over-the-counter stuff should handle it if anything bad happens.

As a 30-year-old, I have watched time and again–people a little younger than me or a little older than me–make boneheaded decisions about how they take care of themselves or how they operate in the world. I’m sure others have watched me and thought the same. My wife handles most of the finances because my laissez-faire approach wasn’t working too well when I was in charge. Still figuring out how money works.

For young adults who are astonishingly savvy when it comes to other things like culture, it seems like the only explanation is that we’ve got too many people that are not growing into flourishing adults because the training wheels keep getting put back on. Society is letting Millennials down, so we allow the security blanket of childhood to be wrapped around them again–all the while deflating their motivation and expectation for full development.

Before anyone who’s older than a Millennial gets judgmental or thinks this doesn’t apply to them, ask yourself if there’s anything in your life you’ve still got the training wheels on for?

Are there difficult conversations you need to have with your spouse, your child, a co-worker, or someone else, but you avoid it? Do you skip regular medical visits because you might find out something with your body or your lifestyle that’s cause for concern? Do you have indulgent coping mechanisms–alcohol, binge-watching TV, secret obsessions–that probably aren’t good for you but sedate you from your daily stress? Do you have anything you’ve always wanted to do that would bring more fulfillment to your life, but you’re too afraid to try?

Growing up is ongoing at any age. Not just bodily–physical aging is inevitable–but of deepening who you are as a person. Growing up is a continuous process of trying to become a better version of yourself.

We can choose not to do it if we want to.

There are plenty of middle-aged guys who put sports jerseys on and go to the bar in nearly the same routine they were going through in their early twenties. There are plenty of Millennials who pack up and head back to their parents’ house as soon as things get a bit hard. Maybe it just feels too comfortable to think about doing anything else. Maybe it’s a sort of Peter Pan defiance.

And we’ve probably all experienced moments when we wanted to become a better version of ourselves, but the people and things around us wouldn’t allow for it.

A family member treats you the same way they did 10 years ago, even though you’ve become infinitely more mature, intelligent, and experienced than you were then.

You have over $100,000 in student debt with an entry level job, so you have no choice but to ask for the grace to stay with family or friends for now.

You get stereotyped, harassed, ignored, or rejected, based on your resume or your gender or your ethnicity or your hobbies or a million other things…

Those are deeply rooted obstacles in society and human nature that need a lot of attention and improvement, and probably will for a long time. They’re ingrained and institutionalized.

But things like laundry, cooking, being able to carry a meaningful conversation with anyone, and balancing a budget, and waking up on time, and making smart decisions for your health, and being kind, and learning how to appreciate and respect difference, and putting other people’s needs before your own, and much more, are all within your control. There are a lot of things that you can and should decide to take on, wrestle with, and gain wisdom about. They will make you into a better version of yourself.

We all need to keep growing up–whether you’re a 22-year-old Millennial or a golden 90-year-old.

This Week in Upgrades: December 5

RIP to the understatement. Welcome to death by Internet hyperbole.”

Amazon is serious about Prime Air.

What does loneliness do to our bodies?

The health benefits of running are not hard to achieve.

The stress of holidays with family is an expectations-versus-reality problem.

Are “ultra-safe” playgrounds stunting children’s growth?

Why are end-of-year lists so popular?

The United States has an unsustainable meat addiction.

The rise of self-driving cars will likely bring an end to car ownership. I’m OK with that.

MTV wants to call the generation after Millennials Founders. No pressure. (Also, does MTV still carry that kind of cultural weight?)

“The baby market is essentially a commodity market.” Having a baby makes you susceptible to a whole new consumerist trap.

This bandage will glow green if the wound is infected.

This Week in Upgrades: November 7

Young Girl with Tablet
KasparsGrinvalds/Bigstock.com

More and more parents are giving kids devices to keep them busy. “If children are sitting by themselves glued to digital candy, we simply don’t know what the consequences are for their early social development.”

And it’s not just the little ones. A new report says teens spend 9 hours in front of screens everyday. Whoa.

If you’re using Snapchat, have you actually read its new terms of service?

Old is new: Amazon now has at least one physical bookstore.

Bread used to be delicious and good for you. What happened?

Mark Bittman, genius food-writer, has left the New York Times to help people cook more plant-based meals at home.

It’s a bigger problem than most of us realize. How can we all stop wasting food?

Guys are being major creeps on Instagram. We’re better than that, gents.

Every generation is rebelling against the previous generation. Millennials got a raw deal.