Car Dependence and Catastrophe

Last week the Willamette Valley got hit by a winter storm that dropped several inches of snow. Portland has only a few snowplows, people don’t know much about winter driving, and many don’t use snow tires, so the city shuts down with even a small amount of snow.


Stalled traffic and people abandoning vehicles on Highway 26 just outside downtown Portland last Wednesday. Credit: Fox 12

This recent storm hit at midday, so school was open and people were lulled to work thinking … well, not thinking about their commute home until the snow started sticking about 1:00 PM. By then it was too late. I left work on my bike soon after and Naito Parkway was already locked up with traffic. I heard stories of hours-long waits to go a few miles. Highway 26 over the Sylvan Hill out of downtown became an obstacle course of abandonned vehicles. Some steep local streets had multi-car pile-ups with cars wedged sideways.

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Sexual Health and Cultural Conformity

The ancestral health lifestyle starts with the fact that our species evolved under a set of conditions as hunter-gatherers for a more substantial period of time than our relatively short period spent as farmers. Therefore, this approach hypothesizes, we are likely better adapted to the former conditions and should mimic aspects of those conditions to optimize health. For diet, this means eating less grains and sugar, and more vegetables, meat, and fruit. It means moving our bodies, spending time outside, and playing. But what does it mean for sex?

Sex_at_DawnThe topic of sexual health seems particularly appropriate here given this blog’s focus on cultural barriers to healthy living and the intense role culture plays in our sex lives. We are scarcely aware of how deeply our culture affects our sexuality until we are exposed to cultures that treat sexuality radically differently.

I recently discovered a book that applies an ancestral health lens to human sexuality, surveying sexuality in hunter-gatherer societies and examining how those origins manifest themselves in modern sexuality. Sex at Dawn will open your eyes to a lot of mistaken assumptions we have about what a natural/normal/healthy sex life is. However, it doesn’t lead to any clear answers other than having an open mind about choices and trade-offs people make about how to live their lives. Continue reading

Bourgeois Fitness

running gearIf you go out on Tom McCall Waterfront Park on a sunny day at noon, you’ll see a spectacle: hundreds of runners in brightly colored shoes and clothing streaming by. Once in a while someone will stop to stretch or do a few pushups, but running is nearly exclusively what people do here for exercise.

Granted, the river is a great place to run. There are paths on both sides and bridges that connect a very popular 3 mile loop (perfect for a quick lunch hour tempo run) with river paths beyond to link longer routes. Still, why is this virtually the only form of exercise people perform here? Continue reading

Moving Bodies – Moving Minds

When are your most productive days at the office? I find some of my best days are ones that have been broken up by lots of physical movement. When I step away from my work and move, I can come back with fresh eyes to complete a task or try a new approach to something. I think of it as breaking up the day. In fact, a study by the Draugiem group using a productivity app called Desktime found that the most productive workers take 17 minute breaks between each 52 minute working period. I’m not sure how they arrived at such precise optimal intervals, but I’m pretty convinced of the overall principle based on personal experience.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of expectations at a desk job that have little to do with performance of the actual job, and more to do with decorum and appearances, starting with the desk. There is plenty of research to suggest that sitting all day has negative health consequences, but less discussion of how our office environments are overly conducive to sitting and discourage physical movement.

Yes, desks are an issue. Stand-up desks are gaining market-share, but I’ve personally had hip troubles exacerbated by standing still for too long. I’ve set-up a treadmill desk, which I find useful for talking on the phone and taking notes (who doesn’t like to walk and talk?), but ineffective for writing. When it comes down to it, being able to change your position and your environment help your body and your mind to perform better as part of a “breaking up your day” strategy. Continue reading

PG-13 Neighborhood

bikes on sidewalksI came across this story about Child Protective Services in Maryland threatening to remove a 6 and 10 year-old from their family because the parents let them navigate the neighborhood on their own.

“Police lectured Alexander, a physicist at the National Institute of Health, about endangering his children during a tense exchange, the couple said. Their son called his mom on her cell phone at one point, in tears and fearful that his dad was about to be arrested. A child welfare worker showed up at their home days later with a safety plan Danielle said her husband was forced to sign, or risk having their children taken away.” Continue reading

Tree Climbing is Not a Crime!

Kids in TreesRemember that slogan about skateboarding? One day while I was out playing in the park on my lunch break, two rangers approached me and asked me to stop climbing trees. I asked if climbing trees was really prohibited and they said indeed it was, along with balancing on railings (another illegal activity I had been perpretrating). I complied, of course, but I was skeptical so I looked it up. Continue reading