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The power of placebos is about as clear cut as research findings come. In fact, one of the biggest challenges for drug companies is finding drugs that are more effective than placebo. Many popular drugs are only marginally more effective.
A friend of mine is an acupuncturist. He's a really smart and down to earth guy, and is open to talking about how "real" acupuncture is, despite the years of study. He says that placebo is a great solution, and if all he's doing is providing results because of the placebo effect, he's doing a good job. I agree.
I've taken medicine exactly once in my adult life. It was fifteen years ago and I had strep throat. I believe that for most things, the power of the mind is a very effective cure. And even if it's slightly less effective than real medicine, at least there are no side effects.
I'm not super-radical about this, though. If I broke my arm, I would go to the doctor and get it fixed. There's a right tool for every job, and my belief is that minor things like colds, fevers, headaches, and the like don't need medicine. You may have a different ideas that work for you, and I'm not trying to convince you to do mine. Just offering one perspective.
Today I decided to just handle everything that's been backing up, but hasn't been a top priority. I set up invoicing for the island and began to collect money from everyone to pay for upcoming expenses. I bought socks. I listed a bunch of stuff on ebay that had been collecting dust for months on my "to sell" shelf. I began the process of switching banks for the island, to avoid monthly fees. I vacuumed. Once I write this, I'll start dealing with the mountain of emails I haven't responded to.
These things have to get done, and it's nice to bring them to a close for their own rewards, but the real benefit is how smoothly everything else goes afterwards. What a feeling it is to work on a big project with no collection of minor tasks nagging in the back of your mind.
Besides the low-level nagging, these unimportant tasks can unexpectedly become top priority. If your sock suddenly has a big hole in it, you have to interrupt your work to buy new socks. This interruption of big blocks of time is toxic.
That's the important thing to remember when considering taking one day to consolidate and deal with buildup. It's not that any of these things in isolation, or even in combination, are more important than your big projects, it's that by getting them out of the way, you can give your big projects the time, focus, and attention they need.
Our ship pulled up to Gallno. The landing was nothing more than a small dock and a dirt trail that led into the large island. It's the sort of place where my sense of direction is totally adequate, just one trail with some things along it.
Sharing the trail were a couple people from the boat. One had a hand cart with some sort of cargo, and didn't speak with us. The other was a chatty woman from Stockholm who ended up leading us to the only hostel on the island, a converted schoolhouse that looked closed and had no signage whatsoever.
There's not much to do on the island, but that's a nice change sometimes. We're in the main room of the schoolhouse, converted to a big living room. I'm programming, and Justine is painting. Out the window I see purple and white flowers, green fields, and a few cows. Last night we roasted ourselves in the wood-fired sauna.
When I travel and see other foreigners, I involuntarily cringe. As if Tokyo isn't a big enough city for at least a dozen of us white devils, I feel as though my trip is somehow degraded every time I see another foreigner on the streets.
I played the World Series of Poker for the first time in 2011. Having been consistently winning at the biggest stakes available in San Francisco (which are a lot lower than the biggest stakes in Vegas), I wondered if I might have a shot at showing well in the tournament.
The World Series of Poker is actually around fifty different tournaments, covering most major varieties of poker games and playing structures. The main event is the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold'Em tournament. I play Limit Hold'Em, so I entered the $1500 Limit tournament. Doing well in this tournament is nowhere near as prestigious as doing well in the main event, but it's still a tough test of poker skills, and a pretty big deal.
The top 10-15% of players get "in the money", which means that they win something. Seventieth place might get $2500 back, while first gets almost $200,000. In 2011 I was most likely one hand away from making it into the money.
As I got better at poker, I'd wanted to play again, but competing trips or priorities kept me away until this year. I mentioned to a friend that I was going to play, and he offered to stake me, making it an even easier decision.
In my normal life, I eat two meals a day. A sardine and a tuna sandwich for lunch, and Chipotle for dinner. I never snack, because I know that these two meals are enough to keep me full throughout the day. When I travel, though, I go into opportunist mode. I don't know when my next meal will be, so I eat more frequently, and sometimes larger quantities.
If I'm in a new city, I'll find healthy food. Unless I'm with a group of people going for some special dessert, I don't eat any junk food. I try to balance convenience with quality, and do my best.
Airplanes are a different story, though. I'm currently on BA 771 from London to Chicago, and dinner was just served. There was Chicken Tikka Masala, some strange mayonnaise salad, a whole wheat roll with butter and cheese, and a chocolate mousse dessert.
I have to eat something, and I know where I draw the line. I should eat the bread with butter and cheese, and the chicken and vegetables part of the chicken tikka. The mayo salad looks gross, but the dessert looks really tasty. I glance at the ingredients, and they're not as repulsive as I hoped. Usually seeing artificial colors and flavors is enough to gross me out, but the weirdest thing the mousse has is natural vanilla flavor. Still, it's not good for me.
With a little encouragement from friends smarter than me, I've decided to pour some time into CruiseSheet and try to make it into an awesome cruising resource and a real business.
I think that cruises are the best value in travel, bar none, and are seriously underutilized by many people who could easily afford them, backpackers and independent workers especially. Right now all cruise sites are hard to navigate, hard to search, and geared only towards older people. I want to make something that's easy to use, makes it simple to find amazing cruise deals, and appeals to all ages.
If you haven't seen CruiseSheet in a while, a lot has changed. The biggest new feature is an amazing customized newsletter. Put your email and home port in, and you'll get a weekly update on the best deals in your city, your region, and all over the world. (Popup box for the newsletter shows up after 30 seconds)
I get a lot of newsletters, most of which I didn't intend to sign up for, and most of them are an imposition. If you're interested in cruising, this is going to be a newsletter that you look forward to receiving every week. So far we've sent out about 5000, and the response has been very positive.
On a regular basis, I'm surprised to find that what I think I want isn't actually what I want.
Last night I found out that there was a caving tour here in Budapest. The pictures looked great, and so I emailed the people that run the tour. They confirmed that they had spots available the next day, so we booked them.
We woke up this morning, and I started going through the motions of getting ready for the tour. As I did that, I noticed that I felt an obligation to go, not that I was actually excited to do it. How strange, I thought, that something I clearly signed up for of my own volition was now an obligation.
I decided not to go, and to sleep some more instead. As I faded into sleep, I wondered if I was going to regret missing the tour when I woke up. I didn't regret it, though. I slept in, worked a little bit, and then had a nice day in Budapest. I was really glad I didn't do the tour.
The most common reaction to seeing us young folk on the cruise was to compliment us on our performance the previous night. Apparently all young people look the same, and the dance corps was also a young group of people aboard the ship. The second most common reaction was to ask us what in the world we were doing on the ship. After all, we were all young, and everyone besides the ship employees was old.
Whenever I'm trying to convince someone to come on a cruise with me, which is something I seem to do pretty regularly, the conversation gets to the point where the fact that it's essentially a floating nursing home must be addressed. Not everyone believes me when I tell them that I really enjoy hanging out with the old people.
Part of it is that many of them have lots of interesting stories, and you get to see a side of the older generations that you may not all be privvy to. I've got some choice quotes from senior citizens that wouldn't be fit for print here. Another aspect of it, though, is that it affords a view of what happens when we age.
The variance in health amongst people in their twenties or thirties is pretty small. Sure, there are some outliers who ended up on the losing end of the cancer lottery, but mostly people are mentally alert and reasonably physically capable.
I've written a blog post every single day for a year exactly now. Actually, there have been two or three days I've used the "buffer by one day" clause and had to write two the next day, but still-- 365 posts in as many days.
The bet was Sebastian's idea, and I agreed to it for two reasons. First, I thought it would be an unequivocally good thing to do, and second, because it was just crazy enough that I didn't want to back down from the challenge.
It's amazing to me how quickly something can become normal. As soon as I wake up every day, I'm thinking about what I'm going to write and when I'm going to do it. Sometimes I have a great idea for a post and can't wait to get to it, but other days I'm busy and am grasping at straws for something to write about. As unpleasant as that may be, I wonder if it's maybe the most valuable part of the exercise. After all, the hard part of blogging is coming up with compelling ideas for posts. Maybe practicing that 730 days in a row isn't such a bad idea.
I think my writing has become better, but it's hard to know for sure. This is definitely a case of the frog boiling so slowly he doesn't notice. I feel like I get more compliments on posts that I think are just "good" now, so that's probably a positive sign.
Today a friend showed me a video where an IKEA print was put into a Dutch art gallery. Patrons were asked about the piece in a hilarious and bumbling volley of art-speak. One guy said he'd pay no more than $2.5M for it.
My friend asked me if I'd heard about the study where they put cheap wine in expensive bottles, and wine critics rated it very highly. It's hard for me to understand that, as I've had two (rather repulsive) sips of wine in my entire life. If you could convince me to try wine, there's no way I'd be able to tell.
On the other hand, I'm pretty into tea and feel like I could easily tell a bad tea masquerading as a good one. I've loved cheap teas and disliked expensive ones, so I don't think all that affects me that much.
Later in the afternoon, another friend and I went to see Joshua Bell. If you don't know, he's probably the greatest living violinist. He plays one of the most famous of the Stradivarius violins.