Consumption diets, history is all lies, and funny books - SAARM #6

Almost exactly one year ago, I went on a consumption diet because I was “a faint shadow of what I am capable of.”

A consumption diet, which is a term I made up because of how clever I am, means I stopped spending so much time consuming media, in the hopes that it would lead to me being more productive, less stressed, and happier.

I wrote about my situation, my plan, and my goals here. Take a gander if you’re curious.

I didn’t realize it had been so long until my wife noticed it pop up on her Facebook as a “One year ago today” post.

Did it work? Yes.

And also no.

Even though my initial plan was only to deprive myself of social media, YouTube, Reddit, Hacker News, Feedly, and podcasts for 2½ months, I still have not rejoined Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter on a regular basis. One year later, I find myself very occasionally embarrassed that something has happened in a friend’s life that I didn’t catch wind of, but that is easily fixed with an actual conversation, and in fact this newsletter is partly a strategy to spark just that sort of thing.

I have had a couple of YouTube relapses, but am currently back on the wagon. For me YouTube is seriously the worst, most nefarious, most insidiously “this feels like learning so it’s not wasting time, right?” time suck in the world.

I do check Reddit occasionally, and now that I’m writing a “here’s some interesting things!” newsletter, I’m definitely checking my RSS feeds in Feedly at least every Sunday to see what there is to see.

All in all, though, I can say that the experiment was a success, not because I’ve cured myself, but because I confirmed that it’s a real problem that needs constant attention.

Anyone else out there? Hit reply and let me know.

And please continue to forward this to anyone you think might enjoy it (thanks to everyone who has already done so, and welcome to all the newcomers), or share the subscribe link – – wherever you dig sharing things.

And now, some media for you to consume, accompanied by words I spent a long time crafting to make you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t…


You know how George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and then told his father the truth about it, proving his character?

Didn’t happen. This story illustrating the value of the truth…is a lie [gasp!].

But seriously, did you know you can see the Great Wall of China from space?

Nope. Most of it’s around 10 feet wide.

What about the story about how a bunch of people got baby alligators as pets and flushed them down the toilets, and then all the sewers of major American cities became home to huge sewer gators that fed on our waste?

Made up by a bored newspaper reporter on a slow day.

When a story is widely retold and believed to be true but isn’t, it’s called apocryphal.

And the weird thing is that because written history is so new relative to how long humans have been around, a lot of what we assume to be historical fact might be apocryphal, or at least less accurate than we assume.

But how much? What can we believe?

In what is maybe the most terrifically enjoyable thing I have seen in a long time, this is CGP Grey’s look into whether a famous story about New York getting Staten Island after betting New Jersey it could be sailed around in 24 hours is true, and if so, how true [~11 minute watch].

It is frustrating, entertaining, and made me laugh out loud.


According to Robert Sapolsky, who studies stress in primates at Stanford University, chess players burn up to 6,000 calories a day during tournaments [~9 minute read].

In fact, based on breathing rates, blood pressure, and muscle contractions, he says chess grandmasters’ stress response to chess matches is on par with elite athletes from other [real?] sports, most similar to endurance athletes like marathon runners.

This leads to an average weight loss among high-level players of 2 pounds per day, or 10-12 pounds over the course of a 10 day tournament.

That’s pretty crazy.

Magnus Carlsen, who is one of the best in the world, has apparently developed a way of sitting that minimizes the effort required to stay upright, which may be a significant factor in his success.

I just…what?


Let me introduce you to Peter Wehner. He served in three Republican presidential administrations – Ronald Regan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. He is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), a conservative think tank.

Wehner was a vocal critic of the Obama administration, and once said that Obama has “undermined America’s moral self-confidence.”

He’s pro-life, or anti-abortion, or however you prefer to name that stance.

He rejects pacifism, and is a consistent war hawk.

I begin with all of this because I want to be sure you understand that when he writes an entire piece in the Atlantic about how he believes Donald Trump is suffering from a fairly severe mental disorder [~9 minute read], which is getting worse, he’s not just another commie leftist snowflake looking for any excuse to score some points on a Republican.

His closing paragraph:

“Whether or not his disorders are diagnosable, the president’s psychological flaws are all too apparent. They were alarming when he took the oath of office; they are worse now. Every day Donald Trump is president is a day of disgrace. And a day of danger.”

Worth the read.


If you’re never been to (or heard of) Reddit, here’s a corner of that world that might entice you.

Over on the book suggestions subreddit (Reddit is basically a giant discussion board or forum, and a subreddit is one board about one subject), someone asked “What’s the funniest book you’ve read?” [~depends on how interested you are] and there was quite a bit of discussion and some great suggestions.

Finding well-written books that are funny is a secret obsession of mine, so I was thrilled and added at least 10 books to my queue based on what showed up here.

Once, between conference activities at a Ski industry expo in Minneapolis, I ambled into a book store and happened upon a book whose back jacket made me laugh out loud. I wanted very badly to read the book, but I had to get back to the conference and didn’t really want to carry it around all day. I made a mental note to buy it later or check it out of the library.

The feeling of the writing on that back jacket stuck with me, but unfortunately neither the title nor the name of the author was as persistent in my memory.

So for the last 15 years, I’ve been hoping to run back into it. Maybe one of the books in this reddit thread will surprise me.


Even though I’m not on social media much, I heard about the Popeye’s chicken sandwich that took the world by storm.

Inside the rise and fall of Popeyes’ chicken sandwich [~6 minute read] made me sorry I missed it, but glad I don’t work at Popeye’s.



You rock. Start living like someone who rocks.