Posted by: fireandstone | April 1, 2010

Crazy Babies

Okay,  so I got off to a blazing start…and then I just sort of fizzled out all sudden-like. That’s what happens when you’re dealing with a newborn. My new daughter is now about seven weeks old and she’s been more than a couple of handfuls. She’s finally sort of settling into a pattern of longer sleep sessions, but all in all she’s still clearly an arch demon from the dark underworld…except when she’s sleeping of course, in which case she’s an angel of light. Dealing with an infant, and musing about all of the things that motivated this blog in the first place, gave me a bit of inspiration about life for our ancestors in the savannas making a living for themselves.

It occurred to me in the obvious case that babies that cry and fuss get more attention, and as a result get more resources, which translates into a better chance at thriving, which leads to a better chance of reproducing and, viola: natural selection! The thing about wild life though, is that noise is almost always bad for organisms not so high on the food chain. It just serves as a nice handy beacon for hungry predators who naturally rush right on over for a tasty morsel. We’re often told by academicians that even our meat eating, predatory ancestors were at all times vulnerable to the other predators we shared space with (the assumption as always is that we are weak and soft, an idea which for some reason always seems to put a smile on their faces), especially the big cats and hyenas. Now, you wouldn’t think that my baby’s firmly ingrained need to cry when she’s even slightly hungry, cry when she wants to be held and carried, cry when she’s not positioned on her bed exactly the way she likes, or screams her living guts out if she has some gas, would be a very handy survival trait for a species supposedly surrounded on all corners by deadly super predators to which we had no clear defense.

It’s already well known that early human-like (bipedal) hominids had become habitual carnivores and high order predators, but that’s true of cheetahs and they just as often as not have to give up their kill to better predators and their young certainly don’t squander their vocalizations on things like subtle discomforts. They are vulnerable to lions, hyenas, African hunting dogs…and pretty much anything else that considers them competition and can also garner a quick snack out of the deal. Even lion cubs are defenseless and know better than to give up their position. So why do human infants have such a powerful instinct to be so damned noisy?

The answer is very likely: we were not vulnerable to *any* other species in our environment. It’s known from the archaeological record that hominin species’ had the luxury of being able to render meat from carcasses right at the site of the kill, so we know that at least our hunters were well equipped to deal with other predators and scavengers. Clearly we were also masters of nature back in our camps, where babies could enjoy the freedom to cry out to their hearts’ content, and to not randomly be plucked from their mothers by hungry competitors.

Posted by: fireandstone | March 10, 2010

Milk – She’s A Homewrecking Harlot

For my first for-realsies post, I’m tackling the divisive subject of the inclusion of dairy in the diets of people that otherwise claim to eat/live Paleo. There is a new class of Paleo offshoot movements that have given the green light to the substance that was so vigorously defamed by Loren Cordain. To be sure, these people aren’t claiming that the product of cow lactation should be the cornerstone of a well conceived diet (mammarianism?), but that in the end, it’s a nutritious food source for many well-adapted people and there just isn’t strong enough evidence to conclude that it has debilitating effects on people that don’t have dairy specific allergies. It’s a source of great humor in my life to see dairy treated like the bogeyman by the adherents of the old guard, considering the kinds of things that actually *have* ended up the authoritative list of blessed foods. Here are some of my observations about the whole sordid mess:

  • Is Dairy Paleo? – That depends on your perspective. On the one hand, milk has only been on the adult human menu for as long as the pastoral arts, so just a bit longer than agriculture, and that’s definitely not Paleo time baby. On the other hand, we’ve been guzzling mammary juice down our infant gullets for as long as we’ve been mammals (hey, it’s the definition), and that’s not just the Paleo era, but also all the ones that came before it, all the way back to the Triassic. That’s like milk made it all the way across other side of the Paleo checkers board and got kinged. So what’s my point? Dairy may not fit the simple and intuitive definition of Paleo to the T, but it’s definitely not some alien and unnatural foodstuff from beyond the gates of dietary doom.
  • Dairy proteins are known allergens, ergo it’s not natural – Eggs are allergens too. So are shellfish. And so is everything else. That doesn’t make milk evil, it’s just unfortunate for people that allergic to it.
  • Substituting coconut fat for dairy fat in every single damn thing you eat – I have a couple of points to make about this and it shouldn’t require too much argumentation to get across. 1) Just because some humans somewhere on Earth ate some coconuts sometime during some time within the Paleo time frame doesn’t mean that *your* ancestors did. Coconuts just aren’t present over much of the early human migration range. There’s a reason why coconuts are considered exotic tropical island treats. 2) Butterfat is just another form of animal fat, made directly inside of an actual animal’s body. If you think that the fat extract of 100 coconuts in a can or a squeeze tube is more natural for human consumption than some butter, then you’re paying too much attention to the letter of Paleo and missing entirely the giant elephant that is its spirit standing right next to it, stamping its feet and trumpeting it guts out.
Posted by: fireandstone | March 2, 2010

What Am I Doing Here?

The next best thing after my rambling intro I suppose is to ramble for posterity the purpose and scope this blog by laying out the boundaries. The best way to go about that seems to me to start with a list of what this blog is *not*, considering that so many “Paleo” sites have sprung up across the blogosphere recently. Here we go:

  • This blog is not a hate diary – I have no intention of getting online to chronicle my frustration with everyday life or to emote about people, opponents, fashion trends, bad social interactions or other blogs that randomly piss me off. I’m not an ad hominem abuser and if I have something disagreeable to say about someone’s blog entry, it’s going to be about the content, not the person who wrote it.
  • This blog is not a Paleo journal – I’m not going through a lifestyle change or embarking on a new weight loss program after discovering the miracle of Paleo. I’m already in great shape and have been eating and living “the way” for many years, so I’m not going to run a photo journal of my progress. There are many wonderful success stories out there already anyway and they are truly inspiring and have done an awesome job of spreading the word and convincing people to give it a shot.
  • This blog is not a recipe site – Alot of the popular Paleo blogs have gotten into the habit of putting up recipes or “what I cooked last night” posts when material, or inspiration, dries up. I’m not going to be posting recipes, weekend links, or any other kind of fluff when I have nothing else to say. If I have nothing to post about, I’m going to take a rest. This blog isn’t anyone’s daily lifeline to Paleo lifestyle information…there are many, many, many great blogs to check in on to score a fix.

So it’s easy enough to know what you don’t want to do, but knowing what you do want to do is sort of the hard part, which is why so many wells run dry so fast. Putting structure to thought and making it available, engaging and entertaining is no easy task. Here is at least a good starting point for where I’m going with this:

  • I am a nerd – I will analyze everything to death and use the most precise language possible to convey what other people do with nice short colloquialisms, so if you like heavy rationale with a heaping helping of overwrought prose style and a side of duplication of effort, you’ve come to the right place.
  • I like evolution – mostly everything  I want to say about humanity, be it nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, institutions or what have you, is going to be directly relatable to some aspect of human evolution. It’s practically my religion and the fossil record is like my “Genesis”. So if you’re a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim, or some other kind of religionist that has a fun creation story that’s just too good to not be true, and have some alternative rationale for why Paleo makes sense to you, I’m not going to be a very comfortable read because I’m going to bring it up constantly. If you find that you still can’t get enough of my wit and writ despite your doctrinal disposition, then I must be actually *too* good at bloggery.
  • I have an open mind – Paleo may be as close as I get to religion, but if so, then I’m not a member of its Puritan sect. In a movement that claims to descend from the application of reason, the creeping onset of dogma is more than a little ironic. Not everything that’s “Paleo” is good for you, and not everything that’s modern is bad for you. That should be an obvious-ism. Even where it’s agreed that Paleo is the right way to go, it’s not entirely always clear what’s the “Paleo” thing to do. For every conclusion that can be reached from one piece of archaeological/physiological evidence, an equally astute yet opposing conclusion can be reached from another. Sometimes there just has to be some kind of appeal to efficacy.

Finally, a note on the name I chose for this blog: fire and stone is at once a reference to our most prolific early leaps in technology which gave us the tools to become the apex predator of the entire world, and a subtle play on “fire and brimstone”, a religious reference that seems to fit with my sentiment about the evolutionary journey of humankind.

Posted by: fireandstone | March 2, 2010

Jumping Into The Deep End

My very first blog (I hate that word, but it’s here to stay) ever comes after having worked many years in a technical capacity of one kind or another, ranging from computer hardware and software support, to database programming and web development. Strangely enough it was my distaste for being trapped in a cubicle farm that led me to both my exit from that work world as well as my foray into using the now ubiquitous blog platform as an exercise in self expression. Ostensibly, this site is dedicated to the new wave of science and lifestyle that’s converging into a soon-to-be mainstream movement known as “Paleo”. I say ostensibly because I know I can’t contain my mind to the mere facts of “proper” food consumption or activity patterns.

It has many branches and emphases now and numerous monikers to reflect that fact: Paleo, Caveman, Primal, Ev-Fit.  My interest in this lifestyle predates my knowledge of it, and stems from an almost spiritual orientation toward my ancient ancestors and what their long lost journeys mean to my physiology, my disposition, my world-view and my fate. Each and every one of them are, by definition, winners of the game of natural selection, and they have innumerable tales to tell and supreme wisdom to convey.

Every aspect of what makes us an expression of their survival will be discussed, including nutrition and exercise, but not limited to those topics. How they lived, where they lived, how they played, how they fought, thought, killed and died will be on the plate and each aspect of their world has something unique and vivid to provide instruction to us modern technophiles.

In a world where meaningful religion and deeply connecting social structure have virtually gone the way of the dodo, our broadening knowledge of our evolutionary past has given us a new and powerful way to resonate with something deeper and fuller than each of us as mere individuals. We are each part of a continuum of life and survival against the odds going back millions of years.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

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