ESSAYS cont. ©




I have always wondered how the world, with the widespread trade that exists between countries, hasn't gotten together and made at least the first steps towards real standards. I guess that the Metric ISO standard is a good beginning, but as anyone in a metric country knows, even the metric system seems to have different standards in each of the countries which use it as a basis for measurements. But all the countries in the world but one use at least some form of the same system. The last country in the entire world which is not using the metric system in daily life is the US. (The Burmese were the last Imperial country to convert). Not that the US system is actually Imperial, as it never followed the British standards, but created special ounces, gallons, machine screw threads and other bits. Why does the US have to continue to force every manufacturer to make two different packages, one to the US measurement and the other to the metric one? Waste.

Measurements are not the only way that the worlds standards are out of sync. Why are there still two right-of-way protocols? Originally all traffic went to the left, with the exception of ships at sea, which always passed on the right. After the revolutions in France and the American colonies, the new republicans felt that they didn't want to follow the aristocratic Knights on the left side of the road, and so decided to use the rules of the road for ships, and began driving on the right side. There is little to recommend either one over the other, but a single standard should be decided on to be used everywhere, to make it safer for travellers and to reduce the redundant manufacturing of LHD and RHD vehicles. One type could be sold and driven everywhere. More waste.

Money changers are the biggest cause of financial waste which could be eliminated by creating a common monetary unit to be used by everyone, preferably one based on gold, which is not subject to the wholesale print-up by governments in need of money. The Europeans are to be supported in their attempts to establish the Euro, although it is only a first step. I know that there are people that fear a single currency, and that is why it needs to be the gold standard. Paying a fee to change your money from one currency to another is even more waste.

Power is not quite as obvious as the other ones, but perhaps is more important to the planet. The system of three-phase alternating current electrical generation and distribution was invented by a nineteenth century creative genius named Nicola Tesla. Tesla made many careful calculations and measurements before settling on 60 Hz as the best frequency for AC power generating. He preferred 240 volts, which put him at odds with Thomas Edison, whose DC systems were 110 volts. Perhaps Edison had a useful point in the safety factor of the lower voltage, but DC couldn't provide the power to a distance that AC could.

The first generating facility built in Europe hit a snag in the planning stage. Although the engineers accepted the 200 volt level (actually they chose 220 volts), they wouldn't go for the 60 Hz frequency, because the number 60 didn't fit the metric standard unit sequence (1,2,5), and insisted on 50 Hz. Westinghouse engineers had always preferred 133 Hz, and had been reluctant to go with 60, in spite of the arguments of Tesla, so they didn't push the point with the Europeans. Big mistake, the most waste here, and of precious energy.

Not only is 50 Hz 20% less effective in generation, it is 10-15% less efficient in transmission, it requires up to 30% larger windings and magnetic core materials in transformer construction. Electric motors are much less efficient at the lower frequency, and must also be made more robust to handle the electrical losses and extra heat generated. Funny thing is, I don't think that there has ever been a 50 Hz country who changed the speed of its generators. I doubt it would be that difficult, as the increase in speed is only 20%, and the 50 Hz machines would be actually overbuilt for the higher frequency. Shaft torque would be the same. Internal combustion engines would be more efficient at the higher speed. The only technical difficulty would be to readjust the excitation of the alternators. This would give a lot more energy from the installed base, 20+% without building more plants. Very little is dependent on power line frequency any more.

One of the last things which need standardization is the TV systems of the world, which in the beginning were made to be synchronized to the frequency of the electrical power systems. In those days it would have been too expensive to have used a crystal clock in a consumer TV product. All of todays TVs use crystals and are completely independent of the line frequency. So the Europeans had a system with 625 lines and 25 frames/second, whereas the US used 525 lines and 30 frames/second. The line sweep rates are very similar, 15,650 at the 25 frame rate and 15,750 at the 30 frame rate. Movies use a 24 frames/second rate, so there is no relationship between the three different visual standards! This is the black-and-white standard we are talking about.

The colour standards are even more confusing, since the first system was set up in the US, and was the result of a choice between two competing ideas, one by CBS and the other by RCA. The one selected (RCA's) was thereafter termed NTSC, after the body which chose it, the National Television Standards Committee. (In other countries the engineers say it stands for "Never Twice the Same Colour"). A few years later researchers in Europe developed a superior technique for encoding the colour, called PAL, for Phase Alteration by Line. Pal did not have the problems of the NTSC system in determining what the colour was, but unfortunately it required a delay line to store the information which was coded on alternate lines. A subsequent refinement developed in France was termed SECAM for Sequence with Memory (in French). This system also used a delay line. The two later systems were adopted by the 50 Hz countries, naturally the SECAM was used in France, and the remainder of Europe used PAL. Today there is a 60 Hz country with the superior colour system, called PAL-M, and it is Brazil. Worse, there are several variants of each of these systems in use. Talk about waste!

The world doesn't need to be wasting resources on this sort of stuff. I believe it is time to establish standards for these thing which will be adapted by everyone. Let's help make life simpler, and try to make our limited resources go further.

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Diet and Exercise


One of the problems of modern living is the way in which we have departed from the things we did as we evolved. Diet is one of those things, and I believe that diet and the lack of the right exercise are the main reasons for the widespead prevalence of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

I have always liked meat the best of all foods, and as a child I never wanted to eat my vegetables, other than the usual starchy things like bread and potatoes. As I grew out of my teens my weight suddenly shot up from 125 pounds to 186 in about six months. I was out on my own and trying to eat on the cheap, which naturally resulted in a rather carbohydrate-rich diet. (I once tried vegetarianism for about 6 months, but I felt like my body was dying, so I abandoned that trip). I was absolutely freaked at the sight of my stomach lying on the bed next to me. I went on restricted calories and lost weight down to about 150, but it was very difficult to get below that. When I became interested in ballet, and started to take classes, I found the extra weight a liability, but was unable to lose and still eat enough to have the energy for the strenuous exertions of ballet. I think that there are very few types of athletic activities with the demands of ballet training.

One day I picked up a magazine, since defunct, called Collier's, and there was an article about a way to control one's weight through diet, and the diet was one high in fat and low in carbs. The article was a review of a book titled Eat Fat and Grow Slim by an English physician, Dr. Richard Macarness. I was able to locate a copy of the book and found the theory sounded right, as I had always felt that veggies, which are almost entirely carbohydrates, weren't really food, at least not in the sense that meat was. As a kid I had the idea that we ate veggies because meat was expensive and rationed (which it was during the war).

Eat Fat and Grow Slim had as its basis the writings of an arctic explorer and anthropologist Vilhalmur Stefansson. Macarness was also familiar with the traditional "cure" for diabetes, which was to place the patient on a diet with virtually no carbohydrates. If there are no carbs in the diet, the body doesn't need the ability to make insulin, so the disease was no bother (other than the discomfort of the dietary discipline). Since we did not evolve eating carbs in the modern constant-intake fashion, our pancreas is subject to failure from over work, and perhaps it is sometimes destroyed by our own immune system due to the damage the constant flow of insulin does to the blood vessels. Remember the immune system is there to find and destroy the source of damage to our body. Diabetics, once the pancreas quits, suffer severe and rapid damage to their bodies from the high levels that injected insulin produces. Macarness also referred to a diet known as the "Blanding diet" used traditionally for the reduction in weight of very obese people. I went out and bought Stef's book and read it with growing excitement. The year was 1958....

The book by Stefansson was in its third edition in 1961, the date on the copy I now have, and this may have been the end of the publishing run, for I have not seen any copies later than this. The title is The Fat of the Land. An earlier version of the tale is called Not by Bread Alone. The Macmillan company has gone though a lot of changes since the time of the publication, and now no one at the firm seems to know anything about the book. Recently I have heard that there is a doctor in Hollywood who is putting entertainment people on this basic meat diet and getting phenomenal results in rapid weight reduction. The nice thing about this diet is that the human body does not seem to be able to store fat that is eaten in the food, so the fat you eat must be burned up. On the other hand, the body is totally unable to directly burn carbohydrates for energy, but must first convert them to fatty acids. (Guess where most of this fatty acid winds up!)

This information seems to have gotten lost in the translation, as many people think that carbs are "energy food". Nothing could be further from the truth, but since insulin is highly simulating, the insulin rush feels like "energy" to the person who has just taken in some sugar. Actually the insulin stimulates all the fat storage cells in your body as well as your brain and the little buggers start to work overtime to remove the excess glucose from the blood as quickly as they can. It is one of the ironies of life that glucose, required by the brain in small, but constant amounts, should be deadly poisonous at a higher level! (Diabetic coma).

The female hormones seem cause a strong craving for carbs, as the female body isn't fertile without a layer of fat. This makes this diet very hard for women to follow. Traditionally the women are the gatherers of fruits and (starchy) roots, while the men are the hunters. This is shown today in the different ways men and women go about buying things. The gals "shop" which is a trip through the entire store or mall in search of things to buy. They may not actually buy (gather) anything. The guys on the other hand know what they are after, and then seek it out (hunts it down) and buys it, usually then taking it home right away.

The meat diet in its purest form is similar to the diet of the stone age Eskimo, and contains no vegetables at all. That this is a healthy diet is not in dispute as the Eskimo, most of whom no longer are living the traditional life, never showed any signs of deficiencies. I have eaten this way for 39 years, perhaps not all those years as strictly as I should have, but my body is very much like it was when I was 30, about 2 inches thicker in the waist, but I don't have the kind of body that others my age have.

One of the things which we as hunters/carnivores have as a very real lifestyle requirement, is a high degree of physical activity. As hunters we had to be fit to chase and overcome our prey. Today many people do not continue a good exercise routine past teenage years. Almost all kids are almost excessively active, it is the natural thing to do, you must learn to be lazy, and I assure you the societal pressures are there to do just that. I was very active as a kid, and then when at 23 I started on with ballet, I found that the exercise was the only thing that kept my head clear. I later was into running and continued dance in various forms (good Ol' Grateful Dead!). Eventually I realized that it wasn't enough, that there had to be a more strenuous, challenging sort of physical activity in the mix, as I was losing strength and didn't like the way I looked. I was 55.

I don't think that the weight training was as hard to do at the beginning as the ballet was, but so much time had passed that I could be mistaken. Anyway the weights were HARD work at first, (and boy, were my joints and muscles sore!) but the results were fantastic. After the first few months had passed I felt great, better than I had in years. I had all sorts of people tell me things like: "you can't grow muscles after 40" (a doctor said this!). "Don't push yourself too hard, you're not a kid anymore." Then there were the guys who for some indecipherable reason were convinced that you couldn't possibly grow any muscles if you didn't eat a lot of carbs (they were fat, of course - well muscled, but fat). When I started to grow more muscles than I had ever in my life had, and pretty quickly at that, the voices were silent. I cannot understand why a muscle, which is almost purely protein, should need carbohydrates to grow, and in fact it doesn't. It does, however need fats, so if there isn't enough of them you are in trouble. Straight protein (no carbs, no fat) is not good for you, and in fact can prove quite toxic. I recommend no more than 5 grams a day of carbs, more than that seems to defeat the fat-burning stimulation of the diet.

At this point I should say something about fats. There are basically three types of fatty acids, saturated, which are the principle kind you have in your body; monounsaturated, like linoleic found in macadamia nut oil and olive oil; and the polyunsaturated kind, found in a lot of vegetable oils. These three types of fatty acids are combined (esterified) with glycerine in nature to form triglycerides, but the ones in your body fat will be the saturated kind, since that is what your body synthesizes. The best type for fuel is the saturated kind, it burns clean, not surprising since this is the kind that you are carrying around with you. There are some of the so-called Omega-3 fatty acids in all animal fat, not only in fish. The monos are good, in fact there are health benefits from having a certain amount of them in your diet. The dangerous ones are the polys. Polyunsaturated fatty acids have double bonds in the carbon chain which oxidize to form organic peroxides. These compounds are the most highly reactive of the so called "free radicals" which are associated with aging of the skin and other organs. The reason many people are taking high doses of vitamin C and E is to try to neutralize the free radicals. The joke is that they are probably creating the radicals faster than they can destroy them by consuming polyunsaturated oils in their diet.

There is a remarkable book by Uffe Ravnskov, a scientist-sceptic who has compiled a lot of information on the fat and cholestrol vs good health controversy. The books' title is "The Cholesterol Myths", and it is available through if not at your local bookseller. It is very enlightening, and unlike many of its genre, it has extensive references you can check. As you would guess from my mentioning it, he says fat is good for you and cholesterol has naught to do with heart disease.

There are still a lot of people who will tell you that you must "replenish" the glycogen in your muscles after exercise, even though the most rigorous experiments indicate that the glycogen levels in the muscles don't change during exercise. In fact the experiments show that the source of energy for muscular contractions is free fatty acids in a protein complex (acetylcarnitine), which is the energy source for the translation of the adenosine diphosphate back to triphosphate. The enzymes used in the muscles as they work don't originate there, but come from the liver, a good reason not to consume alcohol, which dramatically reduces the liver's ability to supply these enzymes. I have added nearly 30 pounds of muscles to my body in the last 7 years, no too bad for an old dog. You see most older guys in the gym using light weights, and they don't look so great. I didn't believe that I had to treat my self any differently at my age than anyone else. I found that I needed to have a longer period between workouts to recover, but the exercises needed to be done with the same intensity as everyone else. I currently take two days off between workouts and I try to hold the workouts down to around an hour each time (exclusive of the aerobic warm up, which is necessary to bring the liver online and provide cardiovascular health..

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