Category Archives: Health

Questioning the Quantified Self as it Marches Towards Mainstream

I’m back at the Media Lab today and got to attend a talk by cultural anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll, of MIT’s Science, Technology, and Society program, who’s speaking at Pattie Maes’s Tools for Well-Being series.


Digital technologies can have negative impacts on our well-being. Natasha grew interested in the topic over the course of writing Addiction by Design, on the game elements throughout machine gambling in Las Vegas. Speed, repetition, continuity, and designer chairs lure players into a zen flow and open wallet. The casino industry seeks to produce this bubble state, and closely tracks players’ behavior to further refine its profit engines. Loyalty cards are a key mechanism for these studies, recording the games we prefer, the denominations we default to. As “Dividuals“, we are treated as a collection of habits and preferences that can be marketed upon, often in real-time. Continue reading Questioning the Quantified Self as it Marches Towards Mainstream

Get the gunk out

Day 2: Environmental Working Group – Americans are gradually waking up to the chemical bath that is their daily existence, and EWG is their greatest ally. EWG helps you find out about the nasty stuff in your moisturizers, toothpaste, deodarant, cleaning products, and food. And they’re starting to turn the tide, as even my father, a man whose foreign policy approach can best be described as “nuke them all”, has switched to a lichen-based deodorant rather than the pore-suffocating aluminum in mainstream brands.
They’ve led the way on toy recalls, Bisphenol A, and agricultural reform. Check out their cosmetics database and guide to saving money on organics.

Honorable allies: Wired’s “What’s Inside” section, Seventh Generation, the granddaddy of the clean green category (and still the only green brand, I think, that actually lists their ingredients on the back of the bottle).chemicals

Drink Up

“Truth is, I’ve always been thirsty”
-Ed Bloom, Sr. – Big Fish

Even back when a sip of my Dad’s wine would make me spit fire in the backyard, I loved beverages. I would ask my parents to buy me a drink every time we went somewhere. My “cool empty bottle” collection was my favorite, if not the cleanliest, of all my packrat collections. As I started drinking alcohol and becoming a nutrition freak (the latter preceded the former by a few years fortunately) I found all kinds of new beverages to quench my thirst.


And apparently I’m not the only one who loves beverages. The New York Times’ most emailed article yesterday was You Are Also What You Drink.

In case you’re busy, I’ll summarize for you:

everything with high fructose corn syrup: bad
(pretty much everything at the store)
coffee: questionable
tea: probably good
alcohol: bad, red wine studies be damned

Smoke free, DC

Today, bars, restaurants, and workplaces across DC are at last smoke-free.

No longer will Garret and Gwen come home with random burns on their skin from drunk girls waving fire around with reckless abandon.

No longer will carcinogenic secondhand smoke be blown in our faces.

But most importantly, this is a victory in the battle against unnecessary laundering. No longer will a perfectly clean sweatshirt or pair of jeans have to be washed simply because I spent twenty minutes at a happy hour.

From the Smokefree DC FAQ:

What’s wrong with smoking and non-smoking sections? Isn’t that a good way to make everybody happy?
No. Smoking and non-smoking sections in restaurants are misnomers. Smoke travels; it knows no boundaries. Having smoking and non-smoking sections is like have peeing and non-peeing sections in a swimming pool – it doesn’t work. Like that yellow substance in the water, smoke circulates, and everybody is exposed to it.
Won’t bars and restaurants lose business if they go smokefree?
No. Every reliable study of sales tax data shows that in localities that have gone smokefree, business is just as good – if not better – than when smoking was permitted.