Turn Hopelessness Into Realistic Optimism

When the Titanic sank, people scrambled aboard lifeboats and were set adrift in the middle of nowhere in pitch darkness. Only three hours after the liner disappeared from the surface of the water, the first relief ships arrived. But by that time some people in the lifeboats had already scared themselves to death, or had gone mad.

Ninety percent of the survivors of any shipwreck die within three days. But to die of hunger or thirst, it takes much longer than that. It is despair that kills those people. "Helpless in the night," wrote Dr. Alain Bombard, French survival researcher and author of The Voyage of the Heretique, "chilled by sea and wind, terrified by the solitude, by the noise and by the silence, it takes less than three days for him to surrender his life."

When people are in what looks like a hopeless situation and they give up hope, it not only causes a breakdown of the body, but they stop doing the things that could keep them alive.

And this doesn't only apply to life-or-death situations. We all tend to give up hope about some things — our dreams, some special goal we have, something we really want, and we stop doing the things that could make them happen.

The loss of hope is a poisonous potion. Optimism is the antidote. Here are three steps to greater optimism:

1. Be negative about the negative. Question those negative thoughts you automatically think when disaster strikes. Argue against the pessimistic conclusions you've jumped to. This must come first. When you feel negative, the next two steps are very difficult. Being negative about the negative brings you up enough to go further.

2. Appreciate what's good about your situation. There's always something good. Think about how much worse the situation could be and be glad it isn't that bad.

3. Create a future. Make realistic plans for the future and actively work toward those goals. This creates life-giving, strength-building, sanity-bestowing hope.

Your mind has no direction of its own. Without your active participation, it will be blown hither and thither by the winds of circumstance and the tides of emotions. But it is possible to grab the tiller and steer. To get to the sunny shore from the ocean of life, wrote James Allen, "Keep your hand firmly on the helm of thought."

Adam Khan is the author of Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot, Principles For Personal Growth, and Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

How Dogs Changed History - Season 2, Episode 1

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Four of My Kindle Books Are On Sale For Six Days

Four of my books, in their Kindle versions, will be on sale in the United States and the United Kingdom, from this Friday, September 16th until Wednesday, September 21st, 2022:

Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought: On sale for 99 cents. Using one of the simplest self-help methods ever created, this small book shows you how to change the one thing that will change everything: Your habitual way of thinking.

Self-Help Stuff That Works: On sale for $1.99. This is a collection of short, easy-to-read, to-the-point articles on how to have a better attitude, how to do better at work, and how to deal with people successfully. The articles were originally published in a newsletter called At Your Best, where Adam Khan's column was voted the reader's favorite.

How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English): On sale for 99 cents. You know from experience that when you change your perspective on something that troubles you, it can sometimes quickly change how you feel and improve the way you deal with challenges. This small book explains how to change your perspective deliberately and reliably, which will make you feel good more often and get more of your goals accomplished. This is a short, practical, easy-to-read book on reframing the events in your life so you're more capable of dealing with them and better able to keep a good attitude.

Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot: On sale for 99 cents. While it's true that sometimes you are naturally motivated, especially immediately after deciding on a goal, it is also true that you can cultivate motivation or let it do what it naturally does most of the time: fade. Motivation is a tremendous power. A highly motivated person can accomplish seemingly impossible things. In this tiny book, you will learn how to stoke your inner fire, to get and keep your motivation burning white hot. This not only makes you more capable of accomplishment, but it makes life more fun. Would you like to see what you are really capable of? Intense motivation can unleash it.

The Fundamental Component of a Relationship

When two people interact, what is the interaction made of? Strip the conversation of its content, and what are the fundamental elements? What are the building blocks of connection?

John Gottman, one of the most influential researchers into marital relationships uses what he calls “the love lab” to study couples. The lab is an apartment fixed with two-way mirrors and cameras, where married couples come and spend the weekend while being filmed and observed, and then these films are analyzed carefully. After 25 years of this kind of painstaking analysis of hundreds of thousands of personal interactions, Gottman discovered an elemental core of connection. It’s something he calls “the bid.”

In an interaction, one person “makes a bid for connection.” The other person responds to that bid in one of three ways: Turning toward, turning against, or turning away.

These are the fundamental components of connection — between anyone. This is what connection is made of: The bid, and the response to the bid.

This understanding removes the complication and confusion from relationships. Each subject and interaction may be different, but underneath it all are these basic components.

People are bidding and responding to bids all the time. But without seeing what is happening, the responses to bids can shut down any further bidding. And the bids people make to others can be made in a way that doesn’t encourage good responses to the bids. Fully understanding the concept of “the bid” can greatly improve your capacity to connect with people.

So what is a “bid?” It can be anything:

  • “Can you tell me what time it is?”
  • “Hey, Joe, how’s it going?”
  • “You look great in that color!”
  • “Are you hungry? Do you want to get a pizza?”
  • “What are you doing tomorrow?”
  • “I just saw a great movie called Date Night. Have you seen it?”

And the response to a bid can be turning away, turning against, or turning toward. The responses of turning away and turning against tend to discourage further bidding. For example, you say, “You look great in that color!” The other person could turn away by completely ignoring your statement as if she didn’t hear it, or responding with something like, “Do you know what time it is?”

Or the person could turn against it by saying, “I hate this color,” or “What do you know about color matching?”

Or the person could turn toward your bid by saying, “Thank you!” or “Oh I’m so glad you said that; I don’t usually wear this color but I really liked the dress.”

Every interaction we have with someone else is a bid and one of those three responses to bids. That’s all there is. These simple building blocks are the foundation of all relationships.

You want to know how to connect with someone. Here’s how: Respond to other’s bids by turning toward those bids. And learn to be good at making bids for connection.

Okay, what makes a good bid? The most important element in making bids is to understand that the point of all the bidding and responding is to give and receive emotional information. This is so important, let me say it another way just to be crystal clear: To connect with people, the important thing is to transmit and receive emotional information. So a bid would invite the other person to give you some emotional information. Volunteering some emotional information about yourself is also a good way to bid.

Not all bids or responses might seem like emotional information. If I ask you what time it is and you respond “12:30,” it may not seem to deliver any emotional information. However, the way I ask and the way you respond can indeed give each of us emotional information about each other. I can ask you what time it is in a commanding way, in a friendly way, and many others. You can respond to me in many ways too, while technically giving the same information.

The important principle is that you begin to see your interactions with others as bids and responses to bids. This will give you a whole new way to view what’s happening and it will make it easier for you to connect with someone.

Notice the way you bid, and notice the responses you get, and you will naturally get better at connecting.

Don’t focus on what’s complicated about it. You are a human being, a social animal, and your brain is exquisitely engineered to learn social information, and will learn all by itself. All you need to focus on is making good bids, and responding to others’ bids by turning toward them. This is how to connect with people.

Read more at the Gottman Institute:

Testosterone is Like Cocaine

Women and men both have testosterone. Men have 10 to 20 times more of it though. And testosterone has strong effects on muscle growth, feelings of confidence, and mood (among other things). When people are given extra testosterone, they feel more energetic, more confident, and more aggressive. 

One of the things about men that exasperate women is that he is "overconfident," which, in a technical sense, he is. He feels more certain about what he's doing and the decisions he makes than she does, generally speaking. He's more likely to feel he's right and he's more likely to be wrong than she is (click here to read more about these differences and why they exist). 

This overconfidence seems like a flaw, but it is also an advantage, and that's why evolution selected for it. To see how it's an advantage, check out an article by two women in The Atlantic: The Confidence Gap. Basically, if someone has more confidence, he's more likely to speak up, to put his ideas forward, to act on his ideas, etc. It adds up to greater success, even though he's more likely to make mistakes, more likely to be wrong, and more likely to pitch dumb ideas.

There is a benefit to you if you understand this. If you're a man, it can help you make better decisions to realize your feeling of confidence isn't necessarily correlated to how right you are. And if you're a woman, it's in your best interest to understand that the man you're talking to is under the influence of a very powerful cocaine-like substance.

Adam Khan is the author of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About ItPrinciples For Personal GrowthDirect Your Mindand co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English)Follow his podcast, The Adam BombYou can email him here.

In Women But Not In Men, and Vise Versa

I've been collecting instances of sex differences that show up in diverse fields. I came across another one today. It was from an interview with Stephen Kopecy, MD, a heart specialist at the Mayo Clinic. He was talking about research on using aspirin daily to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

In the interview, he said, "Aspirin reduces the risk of stroke in women but not in men (first stroke). Aspirin reduces the risk of a heart attack in men, but not women."

Many people try to deny or minimize the differences in the sexes, but they are extensive and pervasive. To learn more about it, and what good it might do to know about the differences, read this: How the Sexes Differ (and What You Can Do About It).

Some Like It Hot

Does it seem like your mate likes the temperature of the room colder or hotter than you do? This may be a biological difference.

I just read a little article in a really great newsletter called The Whippet. A study on bats found that female bats stayed in the warmer valleys and the male bats tended to go to the higher, cooler mountain areas. And that across the board, in both birds and mammals, females feel colder. Their core temperatures are actually not any colder, but they feel colder, and the researchers think it's an evolutionary adaptation to making sure their offspring stay warm. If the mother feels cold, she will tend to stay in warmer places, and very young animals are not very good at staying warm.

Read more differences between the sexes here: How the Sexes Differ (and What You Can Do About It).

Adam Khan is the author of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About ItPrinciples For Personal GrowthDirect Your Mindand co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English)Follow his podcast, The Adam BombYou can email him here.

Feeding the Ocean Might Reverse Climate Change

I watched a video a couple days ago, by Freethink. They make pretty good videos — interesting, and relatively short. Here's the video: The Highly Controversial Plan to Stop Climate Change. It's about the idea of putting iron (the mineral) into the ocean as a kind of fertilizer for plankton.

The idea is that plankton is the base of the food chain in the ocean, and there would be more plankton if the ocean had more iron. The lack of iron is the main thing that limits their reproduction. So when you add iron, the plankton multiply like crazy, which provides food for the next biggest animal that eats them, and that provides food for the next biggest animal, etc., all the way up the food chain.

Whale poop contains a lot of iron and there used to be a lot more whales in the ocean pooping.

Plankton is the world's most abundant life form. The plankton in the ocean make about 70 percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere. That's way more than the Amazon rainforest and all other forests combined.

One important possible consequence of adding iron to the ocean is carbon sequestration. When the plankton die, a percentage of them would sink to the ocean floor and get buried for hundreds or thousands of years. So CO2 would be pulled out of the atmosphere by the plankton and then sequestered under the ocean floor.

This is, of course, a very controversial idea because we don't really know what the long-term consequences of it would be. Several experiments have been done on a small scale, and it seemed to do exactly what they thought it was going to do, but what they tested was limited.

But one entrepreneur took the idea and ran with it. He was hired by some indigenous people living in a village called Old Massett to try it. The people in Old Massett rely on salmon, and the salmon runs were getting smaller, so they paid Russ George to put iron in the ocean near their village, and sure enough, the next two years, the salmon yield was record-breaking.

More plankton equals more of everything up the food chain, which equals more salmon surviving.

Rush George got in trouble for doing this, and environmentalists were up in arms around the world about it, justifiably feeling frightened by the thought of a lone actor or even a lone country feeling they had the right to put something in the ocean that may affect life in the ocean or even affect the whole world's climate. Who gets to decide whether or not something like that can be done?

The idea, however, seems to be a good one, it seems to do what people think it's going to do, but what if there are negative consequences we're unable to anticipate until it's too late?

The reason I wanted to write something about this is that the topic of climate change is covered everywhere. You can't really watch much of anything or read much of anything without hearing about climate change and the impending doom it will bring. And yet I have never heard of the idea of putting iron in the ocean. And it's not even new. It's been around since the 1980's. In the description below the video, I found three articles about it. They're all good — long, detailed and authoritative — explaining how and why this idea has merit.

Scientists aren't one hundred percent certain it would reduce CO2 in our atmosphere, but it seems likely it would, and it could do the job on a large enough scale to make a real difference. And a side effect would be an increase in yield for the fishing industry, which would be good for all of us. So it looks like something worth experimenting with (in a way that's safe until we are sure about what we're doing).

Any viable idea that might help reduce the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is worthy of our attention. So check it out and share it with your friends. Here are the three articles I mentioned:

The Complicated Role of Iron in Ocean Health and Climate Change

The Climate Renegade

Engineering the Ocean

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal GrowthSlotralogyAntivirus For Your Mindand co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English)Follow his podcasts, The Adam Bomb and Talk to Klassy. You can email him here.

Women Retain Stronger and More Vivid Memories of Emotional Events Than Do Men

The differences between the sexes are interesting, and knowing about some of the differences is surprisingly helpful in a relationship. You can read more about that in How the Sexes Differ (And What You Can Do About It). I just came across another sex difference in the book, Hold Me Tight.

The author, Sue Johnson, says that when she asks couples to reveal to each other their attachment fears and longings, "the female partner will probably find this task easier." Throughout her book, Johnson goes out of her way to play down differences between the sexes, sometimes explaining them as mere socialization. And still, she can't help but acknowledge important differences because it comes up again and again in her counseling sessions, and the many studies on the subject are impossible to dismiss.

Johnson created a couples therapy called Emotionally Focused Therapy, which has been shown in independent studies to be the most effective form of couples therapy. 

The reason women will probably find the task easier, Johnson says, is: "Women have been shown in many studies to retain stronger and more vivid memories of emotional events than do men. This appears to be a reflection of physiological differences in the brain, not a sign of the level of involvement in the relationship."

Read about why it helps to know the differences between the sexes here.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal GrowthSlotralogyAntivirus For Your Mindand co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English)Follow his podcasts, The Adam Bomb and Talk to Klassy. You can email him here.

Makeup, Shampoo, Nail Polish — Are They Dangerous?

I just watched a four-part series on HBO Max called Not So Pretty. It's worth watching. The cosmetics industry is not very strictly regulated in the United States. On the ingredients labels, when it says "fragrance," the company doesn't have to reveal what chemicals it used because it's protected as a trade secret. And some of those chemicals are potentially harmful. 

The cosmetic industry can put a product on the market without testing its ingredients for safety. Lots of hair products, makeup, nail products, etc., have been linked to cancers and infertility problems. Products with talc — and a lot of products have talc — probably contain asbestos, which causes disease.

Some plastics used as containers for things like makeup and shampoo can leach into the product, get absorbed into your skin, enter your bloodstream and disrupt your hormones.

When consumer groups have tried to get stricter legislation to oversee these industries, the industry responds with legions of paid lobbyists, who descend on Congress and sway the vote or kill the bill. 

If you know anyone who works in a nail salon or anyone who is having trouble conceiving a baby, tell them about this documentary. And all of us should see it because these are products almost everybody uses every day. Four episodes, roughly a half hour per episode. Check it out: Not So Pretty.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal GrowthSlotralogyAntivirus For Your Mindand co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English)Follow his podcasts, The Adam Bomb and Talk to Klassy. You can email him here.

When a Relationship is in Trouble

I've written a lot about the differences between the sexes. I find it interesting, and it's also surprisingly helpful in a relationship. You can read more about that in How the Sexes Differ (And What You Can Do About It). I just came across another sex difference in the book, Hold Me Tight.

The author, Sue Johnson, says that when their relationship is in trouble, "men typically talk of feeling rejected, inadequate, and a failure; women of feeling abandoned and unconnected."

Johnson created a couples therapy called Emotionally Focused Therapy, which has been shown in independent studies to be the most effective form of couples therapy. She also points out that women have one additional response to distress: Something researchers call "tend and befriend." When women feel a lack of connection, they sometimes increase their attempts to connect with others.

Read about why it helps to know the differences between the sexes here.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal GrowthSlotralogyAntivirus For Your Mindand co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English)Follow his podcasts, The Adam Bomb and Talk to Klassy. You can email him here.

Sleep is Not For Sissies

"The best bridge between despair and hope," said Harry Ruby, "is a good night's sleep." When you don't get enough sleep, your body produces extra stress hormones, making you more vulnerable to anxiety and stress.

The authors of Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life wrote: "For people prone to social anxiety, adequate sleep is crucial. It can mean the difference between thinking about an issue realistically and becoming needlessly upset over something that's not really important. In other words, when you're overly tired, you're more likely to misread social situations and interpret them negatively."

A large percentage of people go day after day without enough sleep, causing themselves extra unnecessary stress and anxiety.

The question is, of course, what is enough sleep? The research can answer that question quite specifically. People are healthiest when they sleep somewhere between seven and eight hours every night. Health problems are associated with both more and less sleep than eight hours. Of course that is an average. Some nights you won't get enough sleep, but if you sleep extra the next night or two, you're getting eight hours sleep on average, and that is healthy.

Just to give you an example, a recent study at Yale University found that when people slept less that six hours a night on average, their risk of adult-onset diabetes doubled. When they slept more than eight hours, their risk of adult-onset diabetes tripled. This is typical of the findings. Too much sleep is bad. Too little sleep is bad. The right amount is good.

But seven to eight hours of tossing and turning won't do it. Researchers have also uncovered some useful information about how to get good quality sleep. You will sleep better if you:

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

Keep your feet are warm.

Eat three hours before going to bed. The closer to your bedtime you eat, the lighter the meal needs to be (especially light in fat, which takes the longest to digest).

Do something relaxing immediately prior to going to bed rather than doing something agitating. For most people, reading or stretching gently are relaxing; watching television or working on a computer are agitating (produce alertness and tension rather than relaxation, and therefore interfere with the going-to-sleep process).

Hormones that control wakefulness and sleepiness rise and fall in a cycle with regularity throughout the day. Most people feel sleepy around three in the afternoon, and if you take a nap then, you lower your risk of heart disease. Why? It is natural and healthy to sleep in two periods rather than one. It allows you reboot in the middle of the day. Not trying to power through "slump time," probably lowers your stress hormone level.

As Winston Churchill said, "You must sleep some time between lunch and dinner, and no half-way measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed…Don't think you'll be doing less work because you sleep during the day…You will be able to accomplish more."

It is important to sleep when you feel sleepy, and not force yourself to stay awake, because the opportunity will go away. It's not like hunger where you just get hungrier and hungrier. Your body cycles through ultradian rhythms (biological rhythms that cycle more than once a day) and you need to strike while the iron is hot. You may feel sleepy now and if you went to bed you would sleep well. But if you wait for forty-five minutes, the wake-sleep cycle has rebounded, and now it might be more difficult to fall asleep.

If you can fall asleep very quickly any time, by the way, that is a definite sign you are chronically sleep-deprived.

The sleep researcher and author of The Promise of Sleep, William Dement, probably knows more about sleep than any other person. His research will give you a respect for sleep. It needs to be taken seriously. It effects your motivation level, your competence at your job, your likelihood of making a mistake while doing something dangerous, like driving a car. It effects your immune system. It obviously effects your mood.

Good sleep has been proven to be a better predictor of how long you will live than exercise, heredity, or diet. Amazing but true.

Did you get that? According to Dement, regular good sleep will help you live longer — and it will help you more reliably than even exercise, diet, or your genetic tendencies (all of which have a major impact on how long you will live).

One of the things Dement has discovered is that not getting enough sleep influences your motivation level, especially for creative people. It doesn't take a scientist to figure this out, although scientific research is the best way to sift fact from mistaken observations.

Another good way to find out what works is to only pay someone when they produce results. Under those conditions, there is a strong commitment to discover what works, regardless of anyone's pet theory. That's why salespeople often come up with so much practical information. When you're on commission and your entire income depends on your effectiveness, you lose your attachment to ideas that impair your abilities, or you don't make it.

W. Clement Stone wrote about sleep in The Success System That Never Fails. Stone worked his way up from a young man of limited means and no connections to an extremely wealthy man. He started out as a commission insurance salesman, selling door-to-door to businesses. In the process, he learned about the importance of sleep. He tried to get ten hours of sleep every night, plus a nap in the afternoon. This may be too much for optimal health, but it worked as a salesman putting out intense effort all day, and he said getting a lot of sleep gave him the energy he needed to keep at it, and it helped him maintain the high motivation he needed, to work his way to the top.

Sleep is important. When you feel tired or sleepy and you can sleep, you ought to. It's one of the best things you can do to lower your stress level, improve your health, and increase your ability to accomplish your goals.

Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought, Direct Your Mind, and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Interesting Facts About Alcohol Fuels

1. Since at least 1791, most American farmers used their own alcohol stills to turn crop waste into ethanol for stove fuel. In the 1830's, whale oil became expensive, so using alcohol for light became increasingly popular.

2. In 1860 Nikolaus Otto built an early internal combustion engine. It was fueled by ethanol.

3. By 1900, alcohol fuel (ethanol) was used for lighting and many other uses including cars, farm machinery, stoves, laundry irons, heaters, coffee roasters, hair curlers, etc.

4. Around the same time, most cars on the road used gasoline because it was abundant and inexpensive. But racing cars used alcohol for fuel because it could generate more power in a lighter engine. There was a tax on the industrial use of alcohol, and Henry Ford helped American farmers stop the tax because he was familiar with experiments on alcohol fuels in Germany.

5. In 1906, the alcohol tax was lifted and alcohol became cheaper than gas — 14 cents versus 22 cents per gallon. Bills were also passed that exempted farm stills from government control. When he endorsed the bill, President Teddy Roosevelt said, "The Standard Oil Company has, largely by unfair or unlawful methods, crushed out the competition...It is highly desirable that an element of competition should be introduced by the passage of some such law as that which has already passed in the House, putting alcohol used in the arts and manufacturers upon the [tax] free list."

6. In 1908, the Model T Ford began coming off the assembly line. It had a built-in adjustable carburetor so it could burn either alcohol or gas. In other words, it was a flex fuel car. At the time, of course, gas stations weren't everywhere, but most farms had stills, so it made the car more practical to be able to burn both fuels.

7. In 1917, Alexander Graham Bell said, "Alcohol makes a beautiful, clean and efficient fuel… Alcohol can be manufactured from corn stalks, and in fact from almost any vegetable matter capable of fermentation…We need never fear the exhaustion of our present fuel supplies so long as we can produce an annual crop of alcohol to any extent desired." He was ahead of his time.

8. In 1920, Prohibition began and lasted for 13 years. John D. Rockefeller, the owner of Standard Oil Company, had backed the Eighteenth Amendment to ban alcohol. Farmers were no longer allowed to have a still.

9. In 1925, Henry Ford said: "The fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that sumach out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust — almost anything. There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There's enough alcohol in one year's yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years."

10. In 1964, there was a seven-car crash at the Indianapolis 500, killing two drivers because 150 gallons of gasoline caught fire. One of the drivers involved in the crash survived because his car was running on methanol, which didn't ignite. So the United States Auto Club banned gasoline. The cars ran on methanol exclusively for the next 41 years. In 2007, they switched to ethanol, which is still much safer than gasoline.

11. In 1971, American farmers were producing enormous grain surpluses, which threatened to put them out of business (because the price of grain sank too low because there was so much of it), so the Nebraska APIU Committee was formed to find new uses for the surplus grain. They tested gasoline-ethanol blends extensively and discovered ethanol could be used to boost octane, and could potentially replace lead in gasoline (to prevent knocking).

12. In 1973, OPEC initiated the first oil embargo (as a retaliation for America's support of Israel during the Yom Kippur war). The member countries of OPEC drastically reduced their oil production, which raised world oil prices catastrophically. It threw the whole world into an "energy crisis" and seriously hurt the American economy.

13. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter created government incentives to help develop alcohol-fuel production, and by 1984 the United States had 163 ethanol refineries producing almost 600 million gallons of ethanol fuel that year.

14. In the late 80s and early 90s a global oil surplus drove gasoline prices very low, putting many American ethanol plants into bankruptcy. By the end of 1985, only 74 American ethanol refineries remained in business.

15. From the late 90s until now, the ethanol and methanol industries have been making a comeback. Ethanol alone employs 400,000 Americans today, and that's with only a very small percentage of flex fuel cars on the road. Imagine what could happen with the passing of an Open Fuel Standard.

The list above was edited from the more complete article, Timeline of Alcohol Fuels.

What OPEC Does is Illegal

What OPEC does to control the world price of oil is illegal. They all agree to raise or lower their oil production for the purpose of keeping the price of oil high.

As Robert Zubrin notes in Energy Victory, "Collusion by suppliers to fix prices is not only a crime under US law, it is banned by international law as well. The rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) contain antitrust provisions that prohibit member nations from setting quota restrictions on import and exports. The WTO outlaws conspiracies to fix markets, and permits member nations to prosecute all parties to such conspiracies. The US Justice Department would thus be entirely within its rights to initiate prosecutions against OPEC principals with interests in the United States (for example, Saudi royals), as well as against corporations, such as international oil companies, found to be acting in concert with OPEC. In addition, the imposition of retaliatory trade measures against OPEC nations would be fully justifiable."

Do You Know Anyone About to Get Chemotherapy?

Fasting before a chemotherapy session might prevent some of the side effects of chemotherapy, and might even kill more cancer cells.

Researchers studying fasting have found that when they poison mice, if the mice have been fasting, fewer of them die of the poison. It got the researchers to thinking that perhaps (since chemotherapy drugs are toxins) fasting before chemotherapy might help. So they tried it on mice with cancer.

Comparing mice with cancer that didn't fast before chemotherapy with mice that fasted for 48 hours before chemotherapy, the ones that fasted beforehand shrank their tumors significantly more. After two cycles of fasting and a high dose of chemotherapy, 42% of the mice lived longer than 180 days. For comparison, by that time ALL the well-fed chemo-treated mice were already dead.

While a mouse (or a human) is fasting, its normal cells change how they use energy, shifting away from growth and reproduction and focusing more on maintenance and repair. But cancer cells do not make that switch. In fact, fasting makes cancer cells hungrier. Cancer cells are notoriously voracious, and fasting just makes them even more so, which makes cancer cells more susceptible to the toxin and healthy cells less susceptible to the toxin — exactly what you want.

Valter Longo, the lead researcher in this study, says fasting puts your healthy cells in a "protective mode," but cancer cells have the opposite reaction to fasting. (The mice in the study fasted for two or three days, which Longo says in a human is the equivalent of four or five days.)

You can find a good article about the study in Scientific American here: Fasting Might Boost Chemo's Cancer-Busting Properties.

A video called The Science of Fasting covered some of this research, and pointed out that fasting before chemotherapy is the exact opposite of what is normally recommended. Usually doctors suggest a patient eat extra calories before a chemotherapy session, since the treatment tends to kill a person's appetite for many days.

Human trials have begun. A woman interviewed in the video, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, said she realized that by the time the first human trial was over, she would already be dead of cancer, so she decided to try it on herself. She was scheduled for five chemotherapy sessions. She fasted before the first one and felt fine afterwards. Her doctors then talked her out of doing it, so she did two more chemotherapy sessions without fasting. She said she felt terrible both times. So for the last two she fasted beforehand, and felt much better. She experienced fewer side effects.

Many of the side effects you get from chemotherapy are from your healthy cells dying. The whole principle behind chemotherapy is to give you a toxic enough dose to kill cancer cells without killing the patient, but that also means destroying a lot of healthy cells. This fasting protocol might prevent many of those healthy cells from being harmed, which would mean fewer side effects.

Several people have tried this on their own, just like the woman above, and in a survey of these pioneers, they reported it made the chemotherapy more bearable. They had less nausea, less fatigue, fewer headaches, and less weakness — all typical side effects of chemotherapy.

The Emperor of All Maladies

Ken Burns makes historical documentaries. He's made some famous ones about the Civil War, the Vietnam War, Prohibition, etc. But he also made one about the history of fighting cancer. It's called, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies.

The story starts with a hospital that took care of children with childhood leukemia. At the time, it was pretty much a death sentence. There was a man who worked in the morgue of the hospital, and it broke his heart to see all these children dying while he stood by helplessly, so even though he wasn't a doctor, he decided to try to do something about it. He came up with the idea of killing the cancer with poison.

They tried one toxin and it killed some cancer cells, but the cancer adapted to it. So then they tried two different toxins at the same time, and that killed even more of them. When the cancer cells tried to adapt to one of the toxins, the other toxin got them. But it still didn't kill them all. So then they tried three toxins and that worked even better. And then they finally tried four toxins and that worked even better. And that's the normal protocol now. And childhood leukemia went from being almost a zero percent survival rate to now 85 to 90 percent of children diagnosed with it survive. Advances in chemotherapy have been truly amazing.

But this method of fasting before a chemotherapy session might make it even better. If you know somebody who is going through chemotherapy or about to go through chemotherapy, please tell them about this. Although many people can't imagine going for four or five days without food, I have done it several times, and it's really not that bad. It's not nearly as bad as you'd think. I was one of those people who didn't think I could possibly do it, and I found I could without difficulty. 

Besides, if you think about the normal side effects of chemotherapy, suffering through some hunger pangs doesn't doesn't seem so bad in comparison.

I chronicled my last fast — which was 14 days long — on my podcast, and I talked a lot about what fasting does and what it is like. Check it out here: What's So Great About Fasting?

I made this article into a podcast. Listen to it here.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

All In Your Head

In 1914, a small ship sailed into the icy Weddell Sea, on its way to the South Pole. It carried a crew of twenty-seven men, and their leader, Ernest Shackleton. But unseasonable gales shoved the floating ice together and the temperature sank below zero, freezing more than a million square miles of ice into a solid mass. And they were stuck in the middle of it. They had no radio transmitter. They were alone.

For ten months the pressure increased until it crushed the ship, stranding them in the middle of an icy wasteland which could, at any time, break up and become a sea of floating ice chunks. They had to get off this ice while it was still solid, so they headed for the nearest known land, 346 miles away, dragging their two lifeboats over the ice. But every few hundred yards they ran into a pressure ridge, sometimes two stories high, caused by the ice compacting. They had to chop through it. At the end of two backbreaking days in subzero weather, they were exhausted. After all their hacking and dragging, they had traveled only two miles.

They tried again. In five days they went a total of nine miles, but the ice was becoming softer and the pressure ridges were becoming larger. They could go no further. So they had to wait...for several months. Finally the ice opened up and they launched the boats into the churning mass of giant chunks of ice and made it out. But now they were sailing across a treacherous sea. They landed on a tiny, barren, ice-covered, lifeless island in the middle of nowhere.

To save themselves, they needed to reach the nearest outpost of civilization: South Georgia, 870 miles away! Shackleton and five men took the best lifeboat and sailed across the Drake Passage at the tip of South America, the most formidable piece of ocean in the world. Gales blow nonstop — up to 200 miles an hour (that’s as hard as a hurricane) — and waves get as high as ninety feet. Their chances of making it were very close to zero.

But determination can change the odds.

They made it. But they landed on the wrong side of the island, and their boat was pounded into the rocks and rendered useless. The whaling port they needed to reach was on the other side of the island, which has peaks 10,000 feet high and had never been crossed. They were the first. They didn’t have much choice.

When they staggered into the little whaling port on the other side of the island, everyone who saw them stopped dead in their tracks. The three men had coal-black skin from the seal oil they had been burning as fuel. They had long, black dreadlocks. Their clothing was shredded, filthy rags, and they had come from the direction of the mountains. Nobody in the history of the whaling port had ever been known to enter the town from that direction.

Although all the men at that whaling port had known about Shackleton’s expedition, his ship had been gone for seventeen months and was assumed to have sunk, and the crew with it. The whalers knew how deadly and unforgiving the ice could be.

The three ragged men made their way to the home of a man Shackleton knew, followed in silence by a growing crowd of people. When the man came to the door, he stepped back and stared in silence. Then he said, “Who the hell are you?”

The man in the center took a step forward and said, “My name is Shackleton.”

According to some witnesses, the hard-faced man at the door turned away and wept.

This story is incredible, and if it weren’t for the extensive verification and corroboration of the diaries and interviews with the men on the crew in Alfred Lansing’s account, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, it might easily be disbelieved. The story is true, and as incredible as what I’ve told you seems, I’ve only given you some highlights.

Shackleton went back and rescued his friends on the other side of the island first, and then after many attempts to get through the ice, on August 30th — almost two years since they’d embarked — he made it back to that barren island and rescued the rest of his men. Every man in Shackleton’s crew made it home alive.

Fifteen years earlier, a different ship got stuck in the ice in the Weddell Sea — the Belgica, led by Adrien de Gerlache — but they didn’t do so well. During the winter in the Antarctic, the sun completely disappears below the horizon for seventy-nine days. Shackleton’s crew endured it. But the crew of the Belgica grew depressed, gave up hope, and succumbed to negative thinking. Some of them couldn’t eat. Mental illness took over. One man had a heart attack from a terror of darkness. Paranoia and hysteria ran rampant.

None of this happened to Shackleton’s men because he insisted they keep a good attitude, and he did the same. He once said that the most important quality for an explorer was not courage or patience, but optimism. He said, “Optimism nullifies disappointment and makes one more ready than ever to go on.”

Shackleton also knew that attitudes are contagious. He was fully aware of the fact that if anyone lost hope they wouldn’t be able to put forth that last ounce of energy which may make the difference. And they did get pushed to the limits of human endurance. But he had convinced himself and his men they would make it out alive. His determination to remain optimistic ultimately saved their lives.

And it can achieve great things for you too. It comes down to what you say: Either you say it’s hopeless or you say it can be done. You can never look into the future to find the answer. It’s in your head.

Make up your mind you will succeed. 

This article was excerpted from the book, Principles For Personal Growth by Adam Khan. Buy it now here.

Starting Fresh: Rebooting Your Immune System

Researchers at the University of Southern California found one of the reasons fasting is so good for your health: It kills off weak or damaged white blood cells, causing your body to generate healthy new white blood cells to replace the old ones.

"The researchers say fasting 'flips a regenerative switch' which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system," writes Science Correspondent Sarah Knapton.

"It gives the 'OK' for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system," said Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California.

In an article in the Telegraph, Knapton writes:

Prolonged fasting forces the body to use stores of glucose and fat but also breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells.

During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells.

In trials humans were asked to regularly fast for between two and four days over a six-month period.

Scientists found that prolonged fasting also reduced the enzyme PKA, which is linked to aging and a hormone which increases cancer risk and tumor growth.

"We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system," added Prof Longo.

"When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged," Dr Longo said.

"What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So we started thinking, well, where does it come from?"

Fasting for 72 hours also protected cancer patients against the toxic impact of chemotherapy.

"While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy," said co-author Tanya Dorff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth
SlotralogyAntivirus For Your Mindand co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English)Follow his podcasts, The Adam Bomb and Talk to Klassy. You can email him here.

Why Does Homelessness Seem To Be Out Of Control?

A friend of mine sent me a three-hour podcast of Joe Rogan interviewing Michael Shellenberger, the author of the book, San Fransicko. You can listen to the interview here: #1719 Michael Shellenberger.

I don’t normally listen to podcasts that long, but I found it fascinating. I bought and read the book, and it's full of surprises. 

I'm originally from Southern California, and I've lived in Seattle for a long time. In my adult lifetime, I've seen homelessness increase decade after decade. But that’s mainly because I have lived in cities on the West Coast. In the U.S. as a whole, homelessness has gone down in the last fifteen years. I never would have guessed.

Just to be clear — it’s not just because people from around the country are moving to West Coast cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle), although that is happening. But in the United States, the number of homeless people has dropped from 763,000 to 568,000 between 2005 and 2020.

We take it for granted that we call the problem “homelessness,” but this term is only one possible name for the issue, and it gives the impression that the problem has something to do with housing. As a matter of fact, news stories often call it a “housing crisis,” which sounds sensible since we’re calling the problem “homelessness.” But this may not be the most accurate way to label the issue.

I remember reading something a couple decades ago that the main reason the number of homeless people began increasing suddenly in the 1980’s and has continued ever since is that Ronald Reagan made it illegal to keep someone in a mental institution who wasn’t dangerous. It saved taxpayer dollars, and there was a strong argument to be made that these are U.S. citizens and human beings and they have rights.

On the other side of that valid argument is the problem that many mentally ill people don’t want to take medication or be treated for their illness. In fact, many do not believe they are mentally ill. And since it’s now illegal to force treatment on them, where do these people go? They often alienate their families, many are unable to keep a job, so they can end up on the street.

This is dangerous for them, and it makes a mess on public streets and public parks, as they have to urinate and defecate somewhere. And many of them turn to drugs as a way to self-medicate (and because the largest majority of chronically homeless people are those with serious drug addictions).

Another thing I was surprised about is that some powerfully addictive drugs like heroin, fentanyl, meth, and crack, have become extremely inexpensive over the last twenty years or so. This makes it much easier for people to become addicts and to remain addicts. Many of the addicts now on the streets were once prescribed opioids for a surgery or some other valid medical reason, became hooked, and then substituted heroin or fentanyl to avoid withdrawals when the prescription ran out.

The large majority of chronically homeless people are addicts and mentally ill people. In other words, rather than identifying this as a problem with housing, it could justifiably — and perhaps more accurately — be defined as a medical problem. 

If we approached this issue as a medical problem or a health problem, different solutions would present themselves more readily, wouldn’t they? 

But because the most obvious thing about homeless people is that they don’t have an established residence, this definitely looks like a housing problem. And if you live in a place where rent has gone up, doing something about the cost of housing seems like a reasonable response. But it’s not working. Obviously. Look around. Wherever that is the main focus, homelessness has only grown. 

It’s not as self-evident as it seems anyway, because there are plenty of places where rents are going up just as fast but they do not have homelessness to the degree we do in West Coast cities.

Another common reason given for why homelessness is growing here is because the weather is so mild. People can be homeless and live outdoors or in a tent without freezing to death in the winter. Except that there are plenty of other places that also have pleasant year-round weather, but without a homelessness problem.

Those seem like fairly obvious causes of homelessness, but they are not the real problem. 

Another thing most of us don’t know is that there are lots of services available for homeless people, but usually those services are not available to people who continue to take drugs. When someone is addicted to alcohol or heroin, for example, they may not want to sleep in a shelter because they can’t go that long (from dinner until morning) without a fix. For the safety of the other people in a shelter, there are necessarily rules about people not shooting up or taking meth or smoking crack. They have to have rules like that because they need to look out for the safety of everybody else there.

So if you're addicted to something and you can't go ten hours without it, many of the services being offered can’t help you. There are groups, organizations, and government programs that help people with a warm place to stay at night, food, even to get training or medical care, get off drugs, find housing, etc. You rarely find a woman with children homeless on the street, even though they really should be the most likely to end up there. They have more mouths to feed and have a tougher time keeping a job while taking care of kids, but you don't see them living in a tent on the street because there are so many services available to people who need help.

Some mentally healthy and unaddicted folks do, of course, temporarily become homeless, but they get help and things improve for them. The ones who are chronically homeless, who have been there for years, are very likely to be addicted to a drug or mentally ill, or both.

One way of dealing with this issue is to simply arrest people for defecating on the street, sleeping on the sidewalk, or taking drugs. These things are already illegal in most cities. But then instead of being homeless on the street, they would be in jail. This doesn’t help them get a job or a place to live when they get out. It doesn’t even help them get off drugs (which are often illicitly available in jail). It gets them off the street, but it doesn’t really solve the whole problem. 

In an effort to become more humane, some West Coast cities and other places have decided to offer housing first with no strings attached. This is, of course, an expensive solution in most cities, which means there’s not enough money to house everybody, so by not putting any effort into shelter and putting it all into housing, you end up with some people in housing who are still drug addicts or mentally ill without treatment, and the rest of them on the street because there are no shelters.

And many of these “housing first” projects are resisted by people who don’t want an apartment building full of drug addicts and mentally ill people in their neighborhood. 

Shellenberger talks about possible solutions. He suggests we do something like what they do in Amsterdam and some other European and American cities: When someone does something illegal, the police arrest them, but then offer them the option of jail or treatment. This encourages more people to get treatment and end their addictions. It encourages the mentally ill to get the help they need rather than go to jail.

Everybody I’ve talked to about homelessness seems as interested in the topic as I am. That’s why I’m writing about it. I've been reading about homelessness and watching videos about it for years now, and I thought I would just share some interesting things I’ve found out. I am by no means an expert on this topic. But there seem to be some things about homelessness that people are both interested in and don't know that I thought should be more broadly known.

If you have something you’d like to add or ask, I invite you to leave a comment here.

I've seen Shellenberger interviewed a couple of times in shorter interviews, and his clarity and succinctness are really good for getting an overview of what he’s discovered. Here are a few good (and brief) interviews with him:

This one is longer (22 minutes): How San Francisco Creates More Homeless While Championing Equality 

Adam Khan is the author of Self-Reliance, Translatedand co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam BombYou can email him here.