Why I Unpublished My Book

For those who do not know, I use to run a nutrition and health website called Scientific Nutrition. While running this site, I came across intermittent fasting and in reviewing the literature, I thought it was a potentially useful behavioral trick for weight loss. However, I also found a variety of people making entirely nonsensical claims about intermittent fasting. They believed it cured cancer, diabetes, and overall was the solution to greater health. I wrote a book called The Optimized Guide to Intermittent Fasting that was meant to look at a healthy framework for using intermittent fasting for weight loss, combined with scientifically rooted myth busting surrounding claims others had made. I recently chose to unpublish this book and I would like to publicly discuss the reasons.

I always had a fear surrounding intermittent fasting that it looked a lot like disordered eating, but convinced myself that this is true for many diets, and allowed myself to go forward writing about it. However, as I have spent more time reviewing recent literature, and reflecting on my own eating patterns I felt compelled to remove it.

First, let’s address some of the recent literature that has been published and how that factored into my thought process. A recent five year prospective study on Bulimia Nervosa identified intermittent fasting as a strong risk factor for the development of bulimia. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2850570/) Furthermore, it suggested that intermittent fasting is a much better predictor of development than assignment to a weight loss diet. There is also generally a pattern in the pscyhology research that suggests that using any unhealthy or excessively strained eating pattern can correlate with later development of bulimia and binge eating disorder. This is consistent with my own experience.

I have for much of my life struggled with a nearly compulsive need to eat, and have often felt out of control while I am eating. Starting about a year and a half ago I shared this fact with my primary care provider, and have started receiving treatment for it. However, in the past it has been a problem that has repeatedly dogged me. It was always a source of great shame, and as such I was an expert in hiding my eating. If you occasionally grab some things out of the pantry, and eat less at the meals, then people might not notice. If you grab a Wendy’s Dave’s Double combo and eat it before you get home then no one has to know. If you eat this candy bar from the grocery store before you get back then no one will see it. These narratives had always been present in my head, and had influenced my relationship with my body, my weight, and my confidence.

There were periods where these feelings of shame surrounding my eating were nearly overwhelming. I remember several times in college where I would be kneeling over the toilet bowl, hoping I would be able to purge, because if I did then maybe I would not feel so wrong. I never did, and I am grateful for that fact, but in considering my own behaviors and the things I have written I have come to the conclusion that I can no longer endorse my own work.

The fundamental problem with intermittent fasting is that it represents the same thought pattern as certain types of disordered eating. Namely, that you can eat and consume and do all of that to your limit, so long as you follow this other procedure. It seems to serve much of the same purpose for many people as purging does.

Eating disorders are some of the mostly deadly mental illnesses, and lead to badly damaged health across a variety of measures, not to mention the difficulty inherent in living with them. As such, I have unpublished my book, will be removing any older podcast episodes discussing intermittent fasting, and adding a disclaimer to any older articles that will link back to this article. This may take me some time, so please be patient, but it is happening.

I am writing this article, because I have strongly publicly advocated for some of these techniques, and as such now that I no longer believe them I feel that you deserve to know that. I do still believe that intermittent fasting can be effective for some people, but I worry that the people advocating it for broadly or as a panacea may be unintentionally contributing to health problems, and I regret strongly that I did the same.

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A List of Companies Who Worked With Crypto Capital

Crypto Capital is the money processor famous in both the QuadrigaCX case and the Bitfinex and Tether cases. Bitfinex famously handed them approximately $1 billion without even a contract. This is a list of companies who have worked with them for my own reference as I do research:

AirBEx – No longer open

MIMEX – No longer open

1BTCXE – No longer open (appears to have been owned by Crypto Capital)

Coinapult – No longer open

1EX.Trade – ‘There has been no trading activity in the last 24 hours’

MonetaGo – Appears to be still be open

BitMEX – https://www.forbes.com/sites/tatianakoffman/2020/10/01/bitmex-exchange-charged-with-failing-to-prevent-money-laundering/

Chip Chap – No longer open

Charna Crypto Exchange – No longer open

X-Coins – No longer open

WLOX (White Label Open source eXchange) – Last commit 7 years ago https://github.com/9cat/wlox

Kraken – Second largest United States exchange by volume (as this is being written)

Bitfinex – Well…

Decentralized Capital – Was a stablecoin, now closed

Bitt – Still open

Foxbit – No longer open

The Rock Trading – Still open

BTCC – No longer open

CEX.IO – Still open

QuadrigaCX – https://www.financemagnates.com/cryptocurrency/news/quadrigacx-trustee-recovers-30m-creditors-seeking-171m/

Exmo – Still open

The Time Brock Pierce DMed Me

Image of Brock Pierce DMing me with the following messages: "If you seriously want to short tether i can find the long", "Would have to be substantial to justify all costs to be compliant"

One of the best things about Twitter is all the different people that you get to meet and communicate with. For example, the founder of Tether (infamously sued for child sexual abuse and arrested in a house full of child pornography) would semi-regularly talk to several of us Tether skeptics in threads. In one he even told us that we knew more about Tether than he did (despite founding it):

Around this same time I received a direct message out of the blue from the one and only Brock Pierce who offered to help me short Tether, the ‘dollar-backed’ stablecoin that he had created. This was a very unexpected message, as I had never messaged with Brock before, and I had never before seen someone offer to help someone else short an asset they created.

My response to this was, “I am not an accredited investor, nor do I have enough funds to make the costs worth it”, but my internal monologue was more like, “what in the ever-loving fuck is going on.” I was a college student when this happened, and apparently Brock Pierce was under the impression that now only did I have a deep desire to short Tether, but enough money to make his own efforts in facilitating this trade worthwhile. Even more strange, is that his initial message seems to be responding to a point where I said that I would be interested in shorting Tether, but in reviewing my tweets I cannot seem to determine a single time that I have ever done that.

Zooming out from the batshit absurdity of this moment we are left wondering, what in the world motivated Brock to think this was a good idea? Who decides that the solution to the problems of the beleaguered asset of their own creation is more people shorting it? Who decides that the best person you should contact out of the blue is a college student who angrily yells at you on Twitter? Who decides to spontaneously ‘run’ for president? Who decides to promise to donate more money than they have ever had? Who decides it’s a good idea to hang out in a house filled with child pornography with a fugitive from the law? The answer to all of these is Brock Pierce.

(Important note: Brock Pierce was released from custody without charges being filed after his arrest and the child sexual abuse lawsuits against him were dropped. However, it is true that Pierce did go to Spain with Marc Collins-Rector after his (Marc’s) indictment.)

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Mozzarella, Grilled Grapes, and Basil

Fresh mozzarella pairs with marinated grilled grapes.



This recipe is based on a recipe by Ottolenghi in Simple.

Ingredients

  • 11 1/4 oz/320g seedless red grapes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 1 1/2 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • – Toasted and lightly crushed
  • Flaked sea salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 3 large balls of burrata or buffalo mozzarella
  • 6 small purple or green basil sprigs

Directions

  1. Marinate the grapes with the vinegar (the original recipe had sherry and I used balsamic and white wine), oil, garlic, sugar, 1 tsp of the fennel seeds, flaked salt, and plenty of pepper. Mix well and allow to rest for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. Do not throw away marinade, it is used in serving.
  2. Grill grape skewers over high heat for 90 seconds per side.
  3. Using half a ball of mozzarella, top with marinade, sprinkle with remaining fennel seeds, serve with grapes and basil.

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My Ideal Writing Tool 2: Electric Boogaloo

So a while ago I wrote a post bemoaning what I felt was a lack of writing tools that truly fit my workflow. However, I have recently found one that finally feels right to me. It is called Dendron and it has helped me immensely. It is a hierarchal note taking tool, that also allows easy linking to other notes and other content that you put into it. It has the ability to add metadata to the notes using something called Frontmatter. It is built on top of VS Code so it feels comfortable for me to hop into it to write, and perhaps most importantly it is built on a directory of local markdown files.

This last feature is increasingly important to me as I see a variety of cloud services shut down, or sunset old products. An open source note taking tool that works on widely accepted file types is built with longevity in mind, and for writing projects, and especially for research I want that long last ability.

Features I am still missing:

  • Better mobile editing experience: Because it is text files, I use Gitlab to track them, and so can edit and refer to them while on the go, but it does lose the ability to easily follow links
  • Automatic citation generation: I would love to write a script where I could add metadata to a file, and then when I link to it on ‘chapter’ documents, I would be able to automatically generate a citation
  • Automatic generation of ‘final’ products. Scrivener and other tools provide ways to take your text with all of your footnotes, and endnotes and everything and ‘finish’ it down to a variety of formats. This lacks that.

This tool has a bit of a learning curve, but despite that it was deeply integrated into my workflow within the space of a single day.

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$FEW Care About This

If there is one thing that crypto can regularly provide it is drama. Today, the controversy (or at least one of them) centers around a token called Few. The token seems to have started when Sam Ratnakar decided to invite a small number of influential people from cryptocurrency to work on an “Experiment”. Each would receive an equal proportion of the tokens and a small proportion would be reserved for liquidity.

Archive link just in case: https://web.archive.org/web/20200923022606/https://twitter.com/mrdotboson/status/1308538094463844352

Many members of the telegram who received the token seem to have an honest desire to build something. However, the Telegram was also quickly filled with ‘jokes’ about pumping and dumping the token.

Archive link: https://archive.li/x07W6
https://web.archive.org/web/20200923023443/https://twitter.com/bluekirbyfi/status/1308533204224110592

Now let’s give all of these people the benefit of the doubt and assume they were working honestly with the goal of building something important. Even still they are doing it in what seems to be an inexplicable manner.

Generally, tokens should be created in order to serve a purpose. You decide on a project, a protocol, something, that in order to function optimally requires a token. What happened instead here seems to be that the token was created, distributed to a list of people with influence in crypto, many of them started “jokingly” shilling it on Twitter, and there was still no reason for the token to exist.

My intuition, and I hope I am wrong, is that the earliest creators and shills of $FEW were not doing it entirely as a joke. I believe many of them were experiencing FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and in order to rectify that feeling settled on creating their own token, airdropping it to a small group of influencers, and then “influencing”, so that they too could share in the mania.

Even if it was all a “joke”, where’s the punchline? Is it a meta point that most tokens are worthless? Is it a commentary on the large amounts of wealth that generally accrue to the earliest and most connected in crypto? Is it supposed to be a mockery of the “great team” method of crypto investing? None of those feel convincing to me, and I am left with a sadness about the state of cryptocurrency.

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Prosciutto Wrapped Hard Boiled Egg

It was breakfast time and I was hungry. But I had procrastinated eating and was supposed to be hard at work, so I needed something quick and easy. I had hard boiled eggs in my fridge. I had prosciutto in my fridge. I removed the shell from a hard boiled egg and wrapped it in prosciutto. It was great. Like a little handheld breakfast. Salty, fatty, rich, and keto-friendly (I am not on a ketogenic diet). I recommend it if you are a person who is lazy, hungry, and already has hard boiled eggs and prosciutto.

Learning about Kimchi

There is an obsession passing through crypto over ‘yield farming’. I have very little idea what yield farming is. In order to learn what it is I am going to look into a coin that recently launched that I saw people tweeting about called Kimchi. I chose this coin as it came out the same day that I made my first batch of kimchi. This post will be a log of my trying to understand this coin.

First, I need to figure out what is yield farming. As far as I can tell yield farming works by placing your token into a Uniswap (or similar auto market maker) contract that is against a dollar equivalent (often Tether or USDC). In order to understand the impact of this I have to zoom out again and refresh my memory of how Uniswap pools work.

[Aside I learned while researching this: Tether and Binance violate the ERC-20 standard by not returning an integer boolean when transfer() is called and both instead return nothing.]

Each pool consists of two ‘ERC-20’ tokens (as discussed above they do accommodate some non standard implementations) (this also means that the contract does not natively handle Eth and instead must use WEth which is ether wrapped in an ERC-20 compliant token). When you make a swap in this pool the token you transfer is exchanged for the proportional value of the other token in the pool. Say there is 1 Eth in the pool and 100 USDC and you swap 0.05 Eth then you will receive 4.747 USDC. This amount may seem odd at first glance, but Uniswap charges a 0.3% fee on the trade which is paid out to those who have contributed their assets to the pool. (Note: this examples ignore gas fees)

So now we need to zoom out slightly more and focus in on the liquidity providers. The way these pools work is that you deposit your tokens to the contract as a liquidity provider and then are paid a liquidity token which represents your proportional ownership of the fees for that contract. This token can be transferred, traded, and lent (this is where some of the more complex interactions come into play) and to receive your payout of the liquidity fee your liquidity token must be burned. On contracts with decent volume you can receive meaningful returns from contributing your tokens to the contract and thus people are incentivized to contribute to further liquidity.

Okay now I feel like I have a strong enough understanding of these systems to actually look at the token in question Kimchi. In the past when assessing new contracts my instinct has always been to read the whitepaper, however Kimchi and many other of the ‘new’ tokens do not have whitepapers. So that stymied somewhat, however Kimchi does tell us it was forked from Sushi and Yuno. I was optimistic that one of these would have a whitepaper. They do not. Sushi however does have a Medium post. Perhaps that will help us understand their system.

The first change is that the liquidity token provided in Uniswap is replaced with a Sushi token that gives an ONGOING right to fees deposited into the contract. I emphasized that in case any securities lawyers come across this article. The way this works is that the majority of the liquidity fee is distributed to active liquidity providers in the same way that it is with Uniswap, but a small portion of it (1/6) is converted to Sushi and issued proportionally to Sushi stakers. Every block Sushi are minted and 90% are distributed to Sushi stakers and the remainder go to the ‘Dev Fund’.

Now we can shift back to Kimchi and try to figure out how it differs from Sushi. First, they mint more tokens in each block. Second, they offer preferential rewards for some pairs. Looking around on Twitter it appears that YUNO the other token they forked from had a backdoor, and Kimchi preserved that backdoor but made it impossible to exploit by tying it to a non-functional contract. https://twitter.com/emilianobonassi/status/1300925536747876354

This also means that there is no real governance or changes that can happen with Kimchi, whereas Sushi claims to be working on governance.

Now we need to zoom out one more time and look at yield farming as a whole and why these tokens are popping up in the first place. Many different DeFi products like Compound issue governance tokens to users and this has incentivized a large amount of liquidity to flow into them. Furthermore, there are people who will contribute their token to liquidity on Compound, and then use the resulting token representing their lent token on Compound as liquidity on Uniswap (or Sushi or whatever). The ability for the same collateral to be used in multiple places, and producing yields in multiple places that can then also be used to generate yield seems to be the basis of yield farming.

My fundamental and deep seated issue with all of this is that this all seems to be happening with such speed that any kind of due diligence is skipped. There are no whitepapers. There are no security audits. There is no community due diligence before money starts pouring in. Many of these contracts have admin keys that allow for the creators to mint a large amount of tokens, to remove liquidity, to change the contract in other ways. This does not seem to be the future of money, but instead a mad cash grab built with the assumption that the black swan will never happen. That the stacked yields won’t eventually succumb to abnormally large withdrawals, or exploits, or extraordinary market conditions. Inevitably they will. I hope every single person with funds committed to them are fully aware of that risk.

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Why Does Tether Deserve the Benefit of the Doubt?

I have been told that I am prone to seeing plots in the mundane, and in trying to make mountains out of molehills when it comes to Tether. I have been told that I do not give them the benefit of the doubt or try to find charitable explanations for their behaviors. I am left wondering, why does Tether deserve the benefit of the doubt?

Tether was founded in 2014, and was almost immediately owned and controlled by the same principals as Bitfinex. This was not fully brought to light until the Panama Papers were leaked and it was also mentioned in Bitfinex’s lawsuit against Wells Fargo. Does this level of transparency deserve the benefit of the doubt?

Tether originally claimed to be backed solely by the currency represented. So USDT would be backed solely by USD. However, early on they also advertised exchanging Bitcoin for Tether through Tether. This was also advertised as a way to get Tethers without going through Know Your Customer regulations and processes. Does that also deserve the benefit of the doubt? Coincidentally, Tether’s lawyer said in the recent NYAG case that part of their reserves were invested in Bitcoin. I’m sure that is nothing though.

Tether loaned 100’s of millions of dollars to another business well knowing that the funds that business was going to give in return were currently not able to be withdrawn. Does that deserve the benefit of the doubt?

Tether was once hacked for ~$30m. Their response was to never explain what happened and force a hard fork of the Omni protocol to freeze those tokens. Does that deserve the benefit of the doubt? Luckily for Tether the Omni devs added in the ability for them to freeze any Tether at will.

Tether was supposed to be regularly audited for transparency. They eventually released monthly attestations from an accounting firm in Taiwan, and then those stopped. Then they released a statement from an auditing firm, and then there was nothing for a long time, and then they released a statement from a law firm, and since then nothing.

Perhaps the reason they are having so much trouble getting audited is because they’re incompetent at record keeping. They admitted during the proceedings of the NYAG case that they commingled corporate and client funds. Furthermore, Tether has a transparency page that has been incorrect for months. They claim that they have $31,304,655.00 Tether on Omni. Let’s go to the blockchain quick and check their math: $354,645.00 + $3,100,000.00 + $30,950,000.00 + $940,000.00 + $2,039,980.00 = $37,384,625. So they are unable to even add, yet we are supposed to give them the benefit of the doubt?