A Friend’s Efforts in Nepal

My friend Miranda has done a lot of work in Nepal, and I wanted to support her and her budding documentary film. She will tell the story better than I, so here’s the link to a short video and explanation of how she’s helping educate girls in Nepal.


(Not So) Stinky Stony – 4 Months In!

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, a while ago I stopped washing my hair with shampoo and switched to baking soda, with diluted apple cider vinegar as conditioner. And I stopped using soap, and instead just cleaning my skin with my daily hot shower – though I do occasional use shower gel on various nether-regions.

This has now been going on four whole months, and I thought I’ve given a little update. I’m honestly surprised at the result – I smell less. Yes, the last thing in the world I expected to happen, but I have less armpit BO than I’ve ever had before.

My only guess is that my skin has a happier balance, or PH, or whatever. And my hair is also happier, definitely feeling less greasy in the morning. I think my hair is most fashionable the day after a thorough baking-soda-vinegar washing, i.e. with one night’s sleep.

The only other surprising side effect is that I’ve gotten to like the smell of vinegar (which you can only smell in my hair the first few minutes out of the shower when I’m still wet), and I occasionally have a glass of water with a little shot of vinegar in it. Hey – Hippocrates used it, so why not me?

The only challenge is getting Bragg quality apple cider vinegar in the UK. But I found Tom’s of Maine Toothpaste in Waitrose, so it can’t be far off…

(Not So) Stinky Stony

Some people get inspired by modern dance. To me it looks like a lot of people who no longer have the energy to jump around watching a bunch of people jumping around. Same for opera – fat people watching fat people sing.

But I do get inspired by weird, unusual, or eccentric ideas, or any idea that seems to be outside the mainstream cultural theme.

So when I read about some lady who stopped washing her hair I thought, cool! I read up a bit more, and figured I’d go the whole hog. No more soap, shampoo, or conditioner, and I feel great and (apparently) look and smell normal. It’s been 10 days now, and I ain’t going back!

The routine is simple – get in the shower, and let the very hot water wash over me and my scalp. This is Europe, where everyone has shower heads that come off the wall, so you can aim them anywhere that particularly needs a good soaking, like your armpits or various nether-regions.

I then take some baking soda, get it a bit wet, and massage my scalp with the baking soda – this acts as the shampoo. I wash that out and put diluted apple cider vinegar into my hair, keeping it there for a few minutes – this acts like conditioner. I wash everything off, hop out of the shower, and am ready to go!

My hair smells a little bit like apple cider vinegar while drying, but once dry has no odor whatsoever. And I think my scalp is happier with all the massaging, and I seem to have less dandruff or a desire to scratch it. I’m curious how this will effect the usual dry skin I get in the winter on my arms as the months go on and the air gets colder.

For all of you who think I’m nuts, why not try it? Give it a week or two and see what you think.

Mallard Duck and Potato Wedges

Living with three french people has an effect on your life. Great for the culinary treats, not so great for the waistline.

I like to roam around Waitrose (fancy super-market, a la Whole Foods for our American Readers) an hour before they close, which is when they mark down all the food. Early this week I picked up a few wild game birds, Mallard Ducks, with buckshot holes evident, for $25 dollars down to $7 (£14 > £4).

As the ducks were purchased, close to expiration, a few days ago, there was some discussion in the house about the safety of eating them, and I do admit they smelled like, well, a dead duck that had been shot a while ago, but you are supposed to leave game a few days to bring out the flavor, right? That’s what I claimed, anyway, figuring that we’d all find out at 3 am that morning if this had been a mistake (it wasn’t, we all slept like fat bloated babies that night).

Johann, our resident chef, was in charge of the meal and he made Canard (Duck) à l’Orange. Our job was to prep the oranges, and make the grilled veggies, while Johann did a beautiful job with the duck in my latest find, a Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron pot (Le Creuset is like crack among gourmands, they are amazing to cook/bake/broil/boil/fry in).

He then made potato wedges fried in duck fat! I didn’t know you could even by jars of duck fat, but back he came from Tesco with a jar of duck fat, and we made giant french fries / potato wedges, cooked to a crisp in the fat, seared under the direct heat of the grill. Omigod they were good. Top that off with a few bottles of ’05 and ’02 French wine, and you get an idea why a gym membership is needed just get into my jeans.

Sadly, Igor goes back to France soon, Johann a month later, and Magalie might move somewhere less expensive, leaving me Froggy-less, and wondering where I should move to. Still, it was an amazing year in the house.

Stealing my Mother’s Cup of Tea

My mother has been making us laugh a lot recently. Just last night, when I offered to give our take-away / doggie-bag dinner to a homeless (and legless) man who was begging for money, my mother shreiked, “No, That’s Mine! I want it for dinner tomorrow night!” I ignored her shreiks and offered it to him, but he apparently felt so bad that he withdrew his hand, and said, “No, I think she wants it.” Indeed, she did.

So, today, when I tried to have a sip of tea, she did the same thing. I tried once again, but this time with my phone recording video. I let the video speak for itself.

Sexonomics 103 – Signaling Theory

Books have been written on this and  Econ classes spend hours, but it’s a shockingly simple idea that I feel my good friend’s husband is the perfect example of.

All guys know that girls . . . forgive me, but economists love generalization and simplification – run with me just a little bit.

All guys know that girls like the whole babies thing. Which is why you’ll occasionally here a man in a bar say to a cute girl, ‘Yeah, I like kids, they’re great.’

But does she really believe him? It took him no effort to say that, in fact he could be lying. As the effort–what economists call cost–of that sentence is nothing, so there’s not much weight behind it. He could take it a bit further, and place a few pictures on his facebook profile playing with his cousin’s kids. Or make sure he plays with kids at a picnic when the cute girls are watching. This has a slightly higher ‘cost’, or effort required, but it’s still easy to fake.

Then there’s Joel. When he needed a new car, he knew he wanted children in the next 5 or so years – long before he would sell the car he was about to buy. So he bought a minivan – before he had even met his wife. Guy wasn’t even dating at the time. Now, that’s a message that carries a lot of weight. Guys can’t easily fake that – Minivan’s are expensive, and also change the type of woman who are attracted to you.

What Joel was doing was signaling to women that he valued family in a way they would believe. He is now happily married to a beautiful woman, but specifically one who values family as much as he does. And when he picked her up in his minivan when they were dating, his minivan said more about his desire for kids than any cheesy line or facebook picture could.

There you have it – Economic Signaling Theory. It’s a fancy sounding theory, but if you’ve ever heard anyone say, ‘talk is cheap’, they are referring to the low cost of verbal signaling (talk). Similar phrases might include ‘put your money where you mouth is’. Got a great example of a phrase that suggests one person is doubtful of another’s signaling, or wants them to increase the cost of signaling so that they believe it more?

Sexonomics 102 – Married Men Cheat more than Married Women (Maybe)

Another popular claim is that married men cheat more than married women. This might be true, but people don’t realize what this implies – mainly that unmarried women have more sex than unmarried men.

If we start with the premise from Sexonomics 101, that men and women have the same number of sexual partners, than this post’s claim that men cheat more than women presents some logistical challenges. Let’s look at two possible interpretations of this claim:

  1. Married men are more likely to cheat one or more times than married women (i.e. 4 of our 5 married men/skittles cheated, while only 2 married women cheated).
  2. Married men have more affairs than married women (i.e. married men/skittles have more straws terminating with them than married women) regardless of how many men or women are actually cheating.

Let’s go back to our skittles/M&M’s/Beer bottles from 101. Separate an equal number of men and women (they are the married couples), and take away all the straws between them for the sake of clutter (I use faint dotted lines to connect my couples).

Faithful Married Couples, Normal Singles

For claim #1 to work, more married men have to have one or more unfaithful straws terminating with them than with married women. The only way to do that, however, means one of two possible arguments.

  1. Most of the married men’s straws terminate at a few ‘energetic’ married women–a female ‘married super-slut’ theory. This means that a smaller selection of married women are responsible for a disproportionate number of unfaithful husbands.

    Married Female Superslut Theory
  2. OR, most of the married men’s straws terminate with unmarried women. Remember, more men are cheating than women, and we are not using the married female superslut theory. Where are those straws going? Single women! Most people initially believe that married men cheat on their spouses with unmarried women, until they realized that this suggests that unmarried women have more sexual partners than unmarried men.*

    Highly Sexed Single Females Theory – Single Females respsible for the majority of male affairs

Now let’s look at claim #2 in greater detail. In this instance, regardless of how many married men are cheating, the number of straws terminating with married men is higher than the number terminating with women. This implies one and only one thing – unmarried women are having on average more sexual partners than unmarried men. In this diagram, I make men and women equal cheaters – three out of five are unfaithful, but I ensure that more straws terminate with married men, resulting in highly sexed unmarried women.

Equal numbers of unfaithful spouses with a higher number of partners for married males suggest highly sexed unmarried females.

So, if we accept the claim that married men cheat more than married women, we are implying (perhaps without knowing it) that either a smaller number of married women are responsible for a surprisingly large number of married men cheating (the married superslut theory), OR that unmarried women have more sexual partners than unmarried men. Most people will agree with the claim that ‘men cheat more’ while denying the two possible implications.

* Almost always. In this particular instance, a few married female super sluts could sleep with enough single men to balance out the number of sexual partners of unmarried people. Again, not something people claim as likely.


  • For this claim, that married men cheat more than married women, you can just as easily consider anyone in an apparent monogamous relationship ‘married’.

Sexonomics 101 – Men have more partners than Women (False)

I’ve always enjoyed spirited conversations, and sex is often a topic. While much is subjective opinion, what drives me nuts is when people claim a blatantly incorrect assumption. The worst is, ‘men have more sexual partners than women’. It’s repeated by friends and journalists alike. Take this quote from England’s The Telegraph, (and repeated word for word by Fox News), in which the journalist discusses the results of a reputable sex survey in France:

A woman’s average number of partners has risen from under two in 1970 to over five today, while a man’s has remained the same for four decades, almost 13.

If we’re speaking about heterosexual relationships, then the number of partners for men and women is equal. No debate, no wiggle room, nothing. Equal.

Doubtful? Go to your kitchen table, lay out some skittles/M&M’s/beer bottles, whatever, in two columns, the left side represnting women and the right side men. Keeping with baby colors, my women are pink and men blue.

Now connect them with drinking straws (or string, or toothpicks). Each straw represents a heterosexual relationship.

No matter how many men or women you have, whether there are more men than women or vice-versa, whether you have a million straws or just one, you will always have two ends for each straw. Always. It’s just not possible for men to sleep with more women than women can sleep with men.*

I’ll write about a few other misconceptions later.

* OK, not entirely true. There is some wiggle room if, for instance, a large number of young men sleep with older women. If this trend continues, as the population ages the older women will die before their former male sex partners, skewing the numbers so that men DO indeed have more sexual partners for the population at that moment. Nonetheless, the expected lifetime number of partners at birth and average number of partners at death remain equal for the sexes. But, is anyone really claiming that this is the case?

** Women do live a few years longer than men, so in theory their average annual rate of new sexual partners could be lower while lifetime numbers remain the same. And while sex and STD’s are apparently rampant in Nursing Homes, I don’t think this is what people are talking about when they say ‘men have more sexual partners’.

North American Flashbacks

Tonight, at a party, I met a fellow North American, one who had just arrived on this little Island I’ve come to call home.

To put it mildly, he was in a state of shock and abject horror at what his new life in England would have, and not have.

The first out of his mouth was warm water. Americans (and Canadians, where this chap came from) take it for granted that if you have hot water, then you can have warm water. It seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Not in England, where this country is designed to produce hot and cold water out of separate taps (or faucets, as they call it), and never the twain shall meet.

Want to wash your face with warm water? Turn on both taps, put the stopper in over the drain, fill up your sink and then you can have warm water. Here is what some people still think is wonderful:

It’s perverse, but there’s nothing you can do about it – most houses have this pre-historic design, and even many brand new houses will have it.

What’s even more confusing is that the British clearly understand the concept of warm water – they do have showers, after all, and those showers produce warm water. That said, showers are a bit of a foreign concept to them. Baths are often preferred, and showers are hideously under-pressured. Water flow resembles eight mice peeing on you in unison. Our Canadian friend mentioned the shower pressure, too. Hell, if Seinfeld could have an episode about water pressure, we’re entitled to grump a bit, no? As Kramer said, “If I don’t have a good shower I am not myself. I feel weak and ineffectual. I’m not Kramer.”

After covering the lack of warm water and shower pressure, the UK’s love of radiators was next mentioned, to round off the trifecta of plumbing complaints Americans usually have.

This was followed by complaints about lack of customer service, awful tumble driers (if there are any), public transport, the bizarre quasi-requirement to carry a copy of a utility bill or bank statement with you everywhere, and the cleanliness of shops.

But what I took away from this exchange was not a reminder of the UK’s annoyances, but rather a compelling example of just how far I have come. He sounded like me when I first arrived, and listening to him made me suddenly realize that I am completely at home here and accept the bizarre ways English do things as completely normal. Given long enough and you’ll get used to anything – and I guess I have. England has become normal, home, even comfortable.

It’s something I’ve been grappling with for a while. Who knows where I’ll be in 10 or 20 years, but for the time being, this place is home and I’m staying indefinitely.