On a personal note...

For those that want to see what's up with me and who are not all that enamored with Peak Oil.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

"There are no answers, only choices."

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Q: What is the spiritual relationship between the bison and the American Indian culture?
A: It varies from tribe to tribe. However, many of the tribes relied on bison not just for meat, but for shelter, clothing, and a source of utensils, tools, etc. The bison naturally became a spiritual focus for many American Indian tribes. Often, the creation legends of the tribes included the bison. (from Buffalo Nation, by Valerius Geist.)

On my walk today, I stopped by to pay the herd a visit. They were closer to the road today. Apparently, there are eleven of them here in the park and they are all females. Reading from this site, it is probably just as well; while the females weigh a hefty 1,100 pounds, the males weigh in at 2,000 pounds! I have been thinking about this paleolithically. If there was no refrigeration or substantial amounts of salt for curing, then how did a tribe eat all the edible portions before they began rotting? Even if half of a male was considered inedible, that means there was 1,000 pounds of meat on the dinner table that night. I wonder if they dried it?

I made it to the all the way to the Zoo and back – 15.5 miles. It was a gloomy day.

Monday, June 27, 2005

I eat 15 miles for breakfast

This morning I broke all my records and walked all the way from here to Vista Point on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge; and then I walked back. Starting at 7:00am, I walked to the bridge as I did the other day, through National Cemetery. It took about five hours to get there and back; fifteen miles. It was a rather gloomy day as you can see, but that is often the best walking weather. I found this cool new thing called Google Maps, and plotted the route I took on it below. The graphics are amazing aren’t they?

(just joking, here's the real google maps)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Noticeable changes

My consistency with the diet has been due, largely to the fact that it is convenient. There is not much cooking; I have even eaten a bit of the red-meat portions raw. I do not think I could ever eat poultry raw as I have seen people who have been infected with salmonella, it is not pretty. Fish could arguably be eaten raw, but for some reason, I feel like it takes specialized Sushi chef training to do so. I generally cook with a Teflon pan (I know, how very Paleolithic of me), slice meat thin, sauté with little or no olive oil and it is done in a few minutes. Fruits nuts, seeds and veggies, I tend to eat raw. Very simple, very easy.

The exercise I was getting during the school year was baseline; a little weight training and at least four days of cardio workout. It was enough so that I felt at least like a couch carrot rather than a couch potato. The rest of the days involved sitting, reading, writing, eating and frequent boozing – truly a recipe for ever tightening jeans.

The combination of the more protein based diet and hours-long bouts of exercise, what with all the walking combined with the workouts, have had a noticeable effect:

  • In 18 days, my waistline has decreased from between 3 and five inches, depending on how you measure.
  • Weight is down from 209# to 201#.
  • Measured muscle mass has remained stable, which is good to know as often muscle mass is sacrificed over fat by the body. Maybe it is because I am not putting my body into starvation mode; I never let myself get too hungry.
  • There has been a definite change in my normally prehypertensive blood pressure. At this point, my daytime highs are running 122/74 and morning lows are 108/62! I have never measured blood pressures so low on myself.

I have just broken the hundred-mile mark with the walking. However, I have only been counting intentional walking. Last Friday I worked my E.R. volunteer shift and I was noticing that for at least 60% of my five hour shift, I was walking as briskly as when I am outside. That means, I could have easily walked ten to 12 miles just within San Francisco General! Maybe I should get a pedometer and monitor passive walking as well.

On the docket today, put away the Walton feed order that arrived the other day, write an article on biodiesel for Gone to Croatoan (which is up to 2,440 hits as of today) and of course, the dishes; always the dishes.

(GARY BLACKMAN Dirty Dishes)

PS.. No that's not me in the top photo.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Marching on - days 12, 13 &14

Yesterday I awoke exhausted from the previous days hike. I spent most of the day reading and planning some more TEOTWAWKI strategy. It was a good recovery day, by this morning I had as much energy as a puppy.

Today some of my fellow nursing students and I went out to a quaint little restaurant for lunch called the Crêpevine, where they feature,..... you guessed it, crepes. It has been awhile since I allowed myself restaurant food, so I was looking forward to it. That meant though, that I had to bust-a-move and complete my walk before 10:00am when we were to meet. Normally, it seems that I do not get started until 11:00 or noon. So, with only three hours to spare after a good gym workout, I walked straight though, all the way to the beach and back to 9th and Irving. That is the first time I walked nine miles without a break.

After lunch and catching up on gossip, I walked the last two miles home – 11 today. I am finding that the beach via Golden Gate Park walk is becoming hypnotic; I am not observing the nature around me. It is just too easy to stay on the asphalt sidewalk bordering JFK and MLK drives and get lost in thought. To remedy that, I thought (while lost therein) today, why not walk the park via the side trails and lakes paths of which the must be many miles worth?

I could also walk through the maze of cute S.F. streets. Years ago, I wanted to do a website where I featured one amazing San Francisco house per day, week or outing. This might be a good time to incorporate that idea over here on my 'non' end-of-the-world blogsite. The only issue would be that of breaking my stride, what with all the traffic and intersections. Hmmm, come to think of it though, I am sure Paleolithic humans stopped on their long walks to admire beautiful scenery.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A walk in the park (days 8,9,10 & 11)

I built an Excel sheet to track the various body changes resulting from this half-assed but earnest attempt at a Paleolithic diet/exercise regime. There are also some before/after photos but you will not be seeing them until the end. Realize that when one is coming down from an extreme, as I am, changes are bound to be more dramatic at first. Well, in ten days, I have walked 66 miles and have lost five pounds, and two inches off my waistline. Blood pressure has remained normal though I am noticing a gradual drop in diastolic blood pressure. There has been no measurable increase in muscle mass. At no point have I felt ravenous as is often true of restrictive diets. Dietary discipline has been limited to food choices, not how much and when to eat; I just eat when I am hungry. I have not felt fatigued, but I have been sleeping like a rock for the full eight hours. This might also have to do with the fact that stopped drinking alcohol, and drinking always seemed to give me insomnia. So far, so good.

I will be modifying the routine a bit based on the study I mentioned in the prior post. I am going to try four days of more extreme exercise, interweaving days of rest or less exercise, rather than moderate exercise everyday. This seems to fit the Paleolithic pattern better. It will take a little while; we are talking fifteen-mile hikes here - five hours at the pace I go.

Today I walked down the street with Travis, his mom and his dog Grekko to Duboce Park. There we ate fresh, sweet, ripe plums from a tree in the middle of the park; urban foraging at its finest. .

Sunday, June 19, 2005

On the Beach.

My walk today took me thorough the park to the beach, but this time I walked south another few miles. I climbed up and nestled in on the top of the dunes that run along the beach. Here’s a satellite image of the area. Further south, these dunes grow to veritable cliffs from which people hang glide. I picked up an L-Taraval bus in front of the S.F. Zoo that took me all the way home. In all I walked seven miles. Tomorrow I may stay closer to home as I promised this little boy (actually, both little boys in the picture) some of my time.

The reason I walk

This is a nice summation of the premise behind the Paleolithic diet.

“From the emergence of the genus Homo, over 2 million years ago (MYA), until the agricultural revolution of roughly 10000 years ago our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, so the adaptive pressures inherent in that environmental niche have exerted defining influence on human genetic makeup. The portion of our genome that determines basic anatomy and physiology has remained relatively unchanged over the past 40 000 years. Thus, the complex interrelationship between energy intake, energy expenditure and specific physical activity requirements for current humans remains very similar to that originally selected for Stone Age men and women who lived by gathering and hunting.”

[From the abstract : Cordain, L., Gotshall, R.W. and Eaton, S.B. Physical activity, energy expenditure and fitness: an evolutionary perspective. International Journal of Sports Medicine 1998; 19:328-335] [PDF to entire study]

Over the millennia, our crafty little monkey ways have lead to more and more inventions, techniques and access to resources which have made our lives “easier.” The authors of this article, renowned for their work in this field, do not go into the reasons that food became ever more abundant for us with little personal effort to produce it. However, it is my contention (and that of others) that the advent of cheap and easily transmuted fossil fuels have allowed us to achieve this state. My primary motivation for exploring these primitive ways, the ways we designed to live, is my lack of trust in the sustainability of this ‘way of life’; these fuels are running out.

But on the subject of walking, and Paleolithic exercise in general, the authors point out, “Overall, the Paleolithic rhythm involves days of fairly intense physical exertion which alternate with days of rest and light activity..” But how much physical exertion? In our modern world, “… physical activity for most people has become an extraordinary activity largely separate from other daily tasks and engaged in specifically to improve fitness variable such as endurance, strength and or flexibility.”

The activity per day guidelines recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine are, “participating in physical activity 3-5 days/week, at 50-85% maximum intensity, continuously for 20-60 minutes” along with “accumulating 30 minutes of physical activity over most days of the week…” However, when compared with the activity levels of the modern day hunter-gatherers, the Ache, !Kung, Agta, Hadza and Inuit, these guidelines fall far short, for their daily activity levels are much higher.

Evidence gained by observation of these modern hunter-gatherers, suggests that we were meant to walk as much as nine miles a day. Along with the fairly strenuous daily activities of the community. This is significant. For millions of years our closely related families of primates and even modern hunter-gatherers have had to walk a long way nearly every day to get something to eat. We are programmed to burn off far more calories each day then any of us in the west would ever dream of burning, even the athletes among us.

The difficulty with fitting this level of activity into our lives is not in retraining ourselves. In fact, what I have noticed is that one can quickly become conditioned to walking. After two weeks, eight miles does not strain me any more than three. What can become problematic is the amount of time it takes to do this. Three and a half hours of walking, the equivalent of ten miles at three miles an hour, is not a lot of time, unless you are committing yourself to doing it every day. Three and a half miles, six days a week, is 21 hours; that is a part time job. If it were not for my being marginally employed this summer, I do not know if I would have had the energy to do all this.

Nevertheless, I will continue at least until the new semester begins. The answer to regaining the balance may lie in increasing activity level in combination with intentional calorie reduction. Hmm, that sounds like most modern diet plans.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

If planes are still flying,

I am so HERE next year.

Paleo Experiment - Day 6 and 7

Yesterday I hiked north to the Golden Gate Bridge. This time, with the help of Google Maps, I plotted a route that took me through the northeastern tip of Golden Gate Park and then due North through the Presidio golf course and into San Francisco National Cemetery. From this little portion of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, I came to the cemetery rather dramatically as it appeared suddenly over the crest of a hill. At the same time, a piece of somber cello music by David Darling called “Children” (click for free mp3 download), was coming up on my mp3 player. The timing for such a piece could not have been more perfect. I had to stop and take note of some of the forgotten that had gone before me.

Who were these people? What were their hopes, their dreams? Whom did they love? Some had such short lives. There was an area dedicated to nurses who served in WW I. Who were you my brave sistren? I have never found the thought of death something to be avoided. In fact, it is something to contemplate often. It is hard to explain, but seeing all these thousands of stones and knowing that I will find myself in such a place (if I am not eaten by wolves), is somehow reassuring.

I managed to find my way to the southern visitors center of the G.G. Bridge all on back roads and trails. One goal this summer is to hike all the way over the bridge into Sausalito, which will be a 19 mile round trip.

Today I stayed in. It was a rainy day in the City and I had many ADL’s (nursespeak for ‘activities of daily living’) to attend to. Below is what I had for dinner. I have yet to figure out how Paleolithic people cooked. Many meats can be eaten raw. Eskimo eat raw fermented fish all the time. For now, I am sautéing lightly in my stone aged Teflon pan. The red meat was cooked a total of 20 seconds, rather tar-tar. The salmon I caught by hand in the stream out behind the building. Seasoning for the fish: wild dill, from the banks of the stream behind the building. Apricot for garnish. (P.S. the only stream behind the building is from the parking lot rain runoff).

Merlin Farms

(from the movie Excalibur)

[cross posted from Gone to Croatoan]
Well, it is done. I placed my order with Walton Feed today for the basic one person- one year supply of emergency food and two empty 55-gallon water drums. So am I turning into some loony Ted Kaczynski type? Maybe. Somehow, though, I feel a bit liberated. I feel like I took a stand and put my money where my mouth is (literally). I feel like I would have made my grandparents proud. I feel like, in my own small way, I am beginning to return to what was a way of life only just a few generations back. Sadly, at this point two full generations of us have only heard of the Great Depression, so stable have our lives been. A line from the movie Excalibur, spoken by Merlin the Magician, always comes back to me - “…it is the doom of man that they forget.”

The entire premise of the 20,000-year Agricultural age was to grow things during the season and put them in storage for the off-season or for hard times. We have lost that way of thinking. We have allowed the perpetual abundance of the grocery shelves to lull us into complacency. Grocery stores only have about three days to one week of food inventory on their shelves if they are run well. In fact, all the way up the line, through distributors, warehouses and manufacturers it makes sound fiscal sense to let the next person up the line hold most of the inventory while you carry as little as possible.

Today I have broken that rule, and honored those that lived through the Great Depression by ‘putting up’ one years worth of food for one person, or three months for three or four people. (Sorry, San Franciscans, I already have these folks picked out and they have never heard of an ‘internet’). What did I get for my money? Just the basics; 600 pounds of wheat berries, beans, rice, powdered milk, corn, sugar, yeast and salt, all packed in 13-six gallon buckets with oxygen absorbers inside; oh yes, and a manual grain grinder. The life expectancy on this food is between ten and fifteen years and I hope I never have to crack a lid. I hope I wasted my money. We will see.

I have nothing on many of those out there already living the alternative back to the land life. Near to where my folks live, near the ocean in Southern New Jersey, there is a little organic farm. On this farm is a large electricity generating wind mill, big water storage containers out back, and solar heating panels on the south side of an old house. The sign out front says, “Organic Produce for sale.” That is the goal; my goal at least.

For now, I live in a studio apartment in San Francisco only a few miles from downtown, and for the next few years, it will be here that I make my stand. I will buy my emergency rations from wherever I can, rather than grow, can/dehydrate and store them. That will suffice. Being the building manager here, I have access to a few storage areas, but even if I were not, it would all fit in this studio, including the water drums. They would make for great conversation pieces don’t you think?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Paleolithic Nursing Student (dia cinco)

Today I had my secondary training for an E.R. volunteer position at San Francisco General Hospital. I feel privileged to be there and it was not easy to get in. The letter of recommendation from the volunteer department along with the “R.N.” after my name should make me a shoe in for real job there sometime next year. Not that an RN would have a hard time getting a job anywhere, it’s just that I want to work there.

The General is an interesting hospital. I get a real sense of idealism and a “can do” spirit there. The typical stratification of Dr. to RN to LVN is absent and so is the elitism. In the ED, the doctors, nurses, techs and some volunteers all wear the same burgundy scrubs; you can’t tell who’s your boss or who’s your subordinate. Granted, it’s not like I have worked there long enough to really know if this spirit is consistent throughout the system, but I am betting it is. I guess I’ll find out.

Of course I walked there and back; it took fourty minutes each way - about four miles round trip. On the way back, I did some produce shopping in the Mission. I love the Mission. I am already a Latinophil, but the colors, the music, the produce spilling out to the street, the Spanish spoken everywhere, the wall murals (did you know that there are over 445 of them in this town?) all make me feel that I am in another country. And, dios mio, the prices! I walked out of there with a big bag of produce for only $3.43, choosing items that Paleolithic humans might have yanked off a tree.

Years ago, I learned a simple salsa recipe that I imagine could have been made easily millions of years ago. In fact, I bet our distant ancestors must have eaten well. When people think of primitives they often conjure images of dirt caked people struggling for every meal, which often involved a stick with some bland meat on the end of it roasting over a fire. For all we know they had figured out nature’s spice rack hundreds of generations prior and ate dishes with flavors we could not imagine. Anyway - the salsa. Dice up a medium red onion and two medium tomatoes and toss it in a bowl. Chop up three fingers width of cilantro and toss it in with the juice of two whole limes. Now the secret: let it sit overnight. It will be too potent if you eat it too soon. Patience.

(image courtesy: www.abekleinfeld.com)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Paleo Biomechanics (and day 4)

Today I stayed home, I decided to give my legs a rest and the dishes a clean. I did make it to the gym however. This brings up an interesting point. We can imagine that Paleolithic humans walked a lot, but what about running? They probably did not run much. Think about it. Is there a single predator of that era or today that we can outrun? Is there an animal (besides a turtle) that we can chase down? To be sure, running had its place but not for any real length, what would be the point of running five or ten miles? If I were to intuit how to incorporate running into my Paleo plan, I would think that some short bursts or uphill sprints would be in order. Short spurts would have pracical merit. Further searching and a hint from Ran lead me to the website of Frank Forencich, the author Play As If Your Life Depended On It. The author has apparently done much of the intuiting already on how our ancestors went to the gym; the list of exercises he has invented is extensive and most can be done at home.

Since I have a gym membership and my home based routines usually fail in the end, I think I might try incorporating some of the more savannah like exercises into my gym routine. I know this may not appeal to a purist but it ought to be simple enough to create pushing, pulling and balancing type exercises that mimic our Paleolithic ancestors in their daily quest for food and shelter.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Paleo Experiment - Day 3

It was very difficult to wake up this morning. It almost felt like cold and flu fatigue and then I remembered that I have not been eating much in the way of carbs. That is not part of the methodology in the Paleolithic diet, mind you, I just have not been selecting many starchy foods when I shop.

On that theme, in a nutshell, these are the dietary guidelines I am following.

Do eat:

  • Meat (and fat, fish, eggs)
  • Vegetables (and berries)
  • Fruit (and nuts)
  • Dairy (milk, cheese, butter, etc) (*)

Do not eat:

  • Dairy (milk, cheese, butter, etc) (*)
  • Grains or corn (maize, wheat, barley, rice, etc.)
  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes, yams, jerusalem artichokes, etc.)
  • Sugar (refined)
  • Legumes (beans, soy products, peanuts, cashew, lentils, etc.)
  • Chemical food additives

Go easy on:

  • Salt (can cause overeating and hypertension and dull the senses)
  • Processing of foods (nut flours/butters, pork rind flour, etc.) Eat simple foods instead
  • Artificial sweeteners (don't dull your senses, and they cause insulin responses simply by being sweet on the tastebuds)

This list was taken from this the PaleoDiet webpage, which goes into much more detail. I am sure I will be revisiting this information as the weeks progress. The above list allows dairy conditionally, but I am going to eliminate it entirely. Dairy products seem too much a part of the Agricultural era, when our hunter-gatherer ways began to go awry.

I got ready anyway and walked to the beach again this time taking the southern Martin Luther King drive stopping by Java Beach Café where friend and fellow nursing student Stacy works. In spite of the fact that I have been using factor 30 protection on my exposed skin surfaces, I am getting nice and red about the face and arms. The color contrast between my face and pasty white chest is quite humorous. So I decided to lay out in the sun a bit, seeing as it was a warm, windless day and there were miles of beach calling me. Afterwards, I walked back home. So there it is – my first round trip to the beach and back - 10.5 miles today.

By the way, the fish I bought came out pretty good. All I did was steam them. After ten minutes, I pulled them out and poked around. It turns out that the skin comes off very easily allowing one to tease the meat out using a fork. I did saute some onions as a side dish - simple and nice.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Paleo Experiment - Day 2

I decided to walk over to this place.....

today after my Escrima Serrada class; gorgeous day, as you can see. Breakfast consisted of pine nits and raisins. It’s funny, but by 4:00pm, I still was not very hungry. I stopped by the traditional American hunting ground called Safeway, and bought some lean read meat, some almonds and peaches and two whole fish.

Don’t ask me how to prepare them, I always bought the prefileted kind. It will be fun. Maybe in a month or so I will walk to Chinatown and get a live fish. Imagine that, me carrying a live fish on a crowded bus. My calculations indicate that I walked nine miles today before I cashed in and found a bus home.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Paleolithic diet

[repost from Gone to Croatoan]

I am going to begin an experiment. My studies In the Peak Oil phenomenon, like many of us willing to think about it, have lead me to contemplate what it would be like to experience a complete collapse of everything; economic, societal, food distribution etc. What would it be like to suddenly find ourselves existing, in not only a pre-industrial world, but even a pre-agricultural world. This is how we lived, anthropologists and others, say for 99% of our existence as a species.

This curiosity, combined with the end of semester/vacation excesses, weight gain, lethargy etc are compelling me to find out the effects of applying a Paleolithic diet and activity level.

I know I am being extremely vague, but I am figuring this out as I go along. I have taken the before photos and will be tracking various biomarkers over the next ten weeks before the new semester begins.

Today I will eat what you see in the above photo and will walk about five miles. On the theory that Paleolithic people walked a lot, my daily walking goal will eventually be ten miles, with spurts of upwards of twenty. If I need it, I am also going to allow myself one day a week to follow the ‘normal-early 21st century-urban-American-male' diet (minus the booze).


[UPDATE: 4:30 PM]
I chose a route from my neighborhood, the Castro, through the Haight and into Golden Gate Park. Actually, I skirted Haight St. When you are a tourist, of course you must stand on the corner of Haight and Ashbury. If you live here however, and have passed through the neighborhood enough, the panhandling can be annoying. I have seen homeless people get hit up for money. There are other roads into the park. Once inside, I walked down JFK Drive, which runs east to west along the north side of the park. It is amazing to me that such raw nature exists so close to a big city. Did you know that there are Bison in G.G. Park?

And how about this little fellow, trotting across the golf course.

I made it to the archery range, one of my goals today, in two hours. Why the archery range, you ask? Why, did not Paleolithic man use a bow and arrow with which to hunt? Yes, this summer, I will be buying a bow and learning how to use it. I then took a long walk, with pants legs rolled up in the cold Pacific surf.

I figure, based on the amount of time walked and an average speed of 2.5 miles an hour, that I walked 8.25 miles today; pretty good for a 43-year old out of shape cave man.