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November 25, 2015

My fling with Soylent, the scientifical "food"

I think I have some odd eating quirks. I don’t mean the fact that I’ve been vegetarian for 35+ years. It’s that I don’t like vegetables and I exhibit some possibly compulsive behavior about food.

Maybe 7 or 8 years ago (which probably means 10 years ago) I had put on a ton of weight. I had weighed 165 lbs. when I got married, but about 20-25 years later I had fattened myself up to 220+. My blood sugar control system was responding in the predictable way. My doctor diagnosed me as pre-diabetic.

So, I stopped eating things with added sugar and went on a low glycemic index diet. Over the course of maybe six months I lost about forty pounds. Even at 183 lbs., I was fat, but I was no longer a fat fuck. More like “Oh, he’s an American.” The weight loss, change in diet, and intermittent exercise dropped my blood sugar levels, and for at least the past five years they’ve been well below the diabetes threshold. I am no longer pre-diabetic. My doctor counts me as a success story.

“I got fat by eating with a child’s tastes and an adult’s permission.”I got fat by eating with a child’s tastes and an adult’s permission. Worse, if left at a table with a food that can be consumed in small amounts, I will eat one peanut or bread shred every 90 seconds until nothing’s left. Compulsively.

On the other hand, I am also very disciplined about food, which I think is just another way my compulsiveness manifests itself. So, I’ve eaten the same breakfast every day since my diagnosis. Every day. And it’s a fine breakfast: no-fat unsweetened yogurt with walnuts, sunflower seeds, and a little cut-up fruit stirred in. Every day. (I do allow myself exceptions during our two weeks of vacation.)

Dinner I eat with my wife. Weekdays she cooks. I cook on weekends. There’s a relatively small set of things we like, and that’s what we eat. A lot of it is carb heavy, but it’s just one meal a day, I eat in moderation, and my blood work says I can afford it.

But lunch has been a problem for years. I work at home these days, which means around noon I’m poking around the fridge. Egg whites have been one go-to meal, but I don’t like them all that much and they’re not very filling. A sandwich has too much bread. I like leftovers, but they’re often too carby.

So lunch is always a problem. It is why, I believe, I’ve gained back ten pounds over the years. That’s not bad given, well, everything. And I weirdly thought that I’d gained about twenty-five pounds until I finally weighed myself six weeks ago — so I apparently suffer from body dysmorphism also.

I needed to address lunch.“ I decided to use my compulsive personality as my secret super-power.” I decided to use my compulsive personality as my secret super-power.

I had been reading about Soylent, a perfectly engineered food replacement (or thus is the goal). I like the idea of a community of food hackers arguing about exactly which micro-ingredients are needed. Soylent is a commercial company offering its version. With version 2.0, it comes in convenient liquid form, shipped in plain white bottles. Four hundred calories. Glycemically ok, according to the site.

I have found my lunch.

You can apparently live on Soylent. Five bottles a day gives you 2,000 perfectly-balanced calories. (That’d cost you about $12.50/day, although you could make your own for far less.) But I’m just looking for a repetitive, never-think-about-it, healthy-enough lunch. So, “I’ve been drinking a bottle of Soylent every day”I’ve been drinking a bottle of Soylent every day between 12:00 and 12:30 in the afternoon.

Someone on Reddit, I think, described the taste well: It’s like the milk after you’ve eaten the Cheerios. I hate milk because it comes from inside cows, and Soylent is a little too close to how I remember milk tasting. So, I’ve been mixing it with a tablespoon of Hershey’s dark chocolate baking power (10 cals) and one packet of fake sugar. I actually look forward to it.

Yes, I know egg whites come from inside chickens, which makes me squeamish both because of the cruelty with which even “free range” chickens are treated, and because it is a slimy fluid that comes from inside a chicken. But I am a hypocrite, so shoot me. (I like honey even less because it comes from inside a bug. I’ve seen the insides of bugs. How does anyone eat that?)

Soylent is not intended to be a weight-loss product. A bottle has more than twice the calories of a Nutrisystem shake. But I have in my life done Nutrisystem and it’s deeply unsatisfying. One of their shakes doesn’t last long enough, and it’s jacked with fake everything. “Nutrisystem is jacked with fake everything”Soylent is, I’m pretty sure, actually good for me. And it keeps me going until around 4pm, when a half an apple will take me the rest of the way to dinner. Since starting on Soylent, I’ve lost 8 pounds, getting me close to where I plateaued when I did my big weight loss after the pre-diabetes diagnosis.

Although Soylent is definitely not a low-carb “food,” my blood sugar seems to be doing well with it. I’ve seen no spikes in my home tests after a Soylent lunch. Obviously, your blood sugar mileage may vary.

I’m not tempted to replace more of my meals with Soylent. One a day seems to be doing the trick for me, keeping in mind that I was looking for a way to be more compulsive about eating.

Soylent: The perfect non-food for compulsives! (, you can have that tagline for free.)

No, I will not be having Soylent tomorrow, Thanksgiving, for lunch. I may be slightly compulsive, but I’m not crazy. (Of course, I won’t be having turkey either.)

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, y’all!


November 18, 2015

Quiet blog

This has been one of the longest stretches of non-blogging for me since I stopped blogging every freaking day in around 2010.

In part it’s because I’ve been traveling — to Mexico City for a library conference I blogged about, to Penn State for a talk at the new and really interesting Center for Humanities and Information, to Atlanta to talk at a Deloitte internal Knowledge Management get-together. (I’ve decided to mention my speaking more often in my blog to remind people that this is something I do. For the past twenty years I’ve barely ever mentioned it because it felt like bragging. It still does. Sorry.)

But it’s not really the traveling that’s kept me non-blogging. It’s that I’m in a weirdly hyperactive brain state. There’s too much to think about. Some ideas I’ve been trying to nail down — or, more exactly, tie to other ideas and wrangle into words — have kept my brain from settling. I’ve been doing a lot of writing, but almost all of it is fodder for re-writing.

Mainly what I’ve been thinking about is the way in which our idea of how the future works has been changing under our noses. I’m getting very close (I hope) to having a book proposal on that topic. But I’m not there yet. The ideas feel like they almost work together, but they don’t yet. Maybe they won’t ever. Maybe they’re bad ideas. Most of my ideas are, and some would say they all are.

It’s a weird state, waiting for a phase change.

I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, here’s something encouraging about the world.


July 26, 2014

Why I have not been blogging much: it’s my book’s fault and more

My blogging has gone way down in frequency and probably in quality. I think there are two reasons.

First, I’ve been wrapped up in trying to plot a new book. I’ve known for about three years the set of things I want to write about, but I’ve had my usual difficult time figuring out what the book is actually about. For example, when I was planning Everything is Miscellaneous, I knew that I wanted to write about the importance of metadata, but it took a couple of years to figure out that it wasn’t a book about metadata, or a book about the virtue of messiness, or two dozen other attempts at a top line.

I’m going through the same process now. The process itself consists of me writing a summary of each chapter. Except they’re not summaries. They’re like the article version of each chapter and usually work about to about 2,000 words. That’s because a chapter is more like a path than a list, and I can’t tell what’s on the path until I walk it. Given that I work for a living, each complete iteration can take me 2-3 months. And then I realize that I have it all wrong.

I don’t feel comfortable going through this process in public. My investment of time into these book summaries is evidence of how seriously I take them, but my experience shows that nineteen times out of twenty, what I thought was a good idea is a very bad idea. It’s embarrassing. So, I don’t show these drafts even to the brilliant, warm and forgiving Berkman Book Club — a group of Berkfolk writing books — not only because it’s embarrassing but because I don’t want to inflict 10,000 words on them when I know the odds are that I’m going to do a thorough re-write starting tomorrow. The only people who see these drafts are my literary agents and friends David Miller and Lisa Adams, who are crucial critics in helping me to see what’s wrong and right in what I’ve done, and working out the next approach.

Anyway, I’ve been very focused for the past couple of months on figuring out this next book. I think I’m getting closer. But I always think that.

The second reason I haven’t been blogging much: I’ve been mildly depressed. No cause for alarm. It’s situational and it’s getting better. I’ve been looking for a new job because the Harvard Library Innovation Lab that I’ve co-directed, with the fabulous Kim Dulin, for almost five years has been given a new mission. I’m very proud of what we — mainly the amazing developers who are actually more like innovation fellows — have done, and I’m very sorry to leave. Facing unemployment hasn’t helped my mood. There have been some other stresses as well. So: somewhat depressed. And that makes it harder for me to post to my blog for some reason.

I thought you might want to know, not that anyone cares [Sniffles, idly kicks at a stone in the ground, waits for a hug].


May 15, 2013

<no_sarcasm>Lucky me</no_sarcasm>

I had a lovely time at the University of Toronto Faculty of Information yesterday afternoon. About twenty of us talked for two hours about library innovation. It reminded me: how much I like hanging out with librarians; how eager people are to invent, collaborate, and play; how lucky I am to work in an open space for innovation (the Harvard Library Innovation Lab) with such a talented, creative group; how much I love Toronto.

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September 23, 2012

A happy day

I don’t often blog about purely personal events, but our daughter Leah is getting married this morning to her friend Matt.



The next day: It was a wonderful wedding, joining two wonderful, loving people. We’re all very, very happy.


June 28, 2012

Support Michael O’Connor Clarke

I saw my friend Michael O’Connor Clarke just about a month ago, after too many years of being cheered by his tweets, rather than by his in-personage. We were at the Mesh conference where Michael gave a paste in the face to traditional marketing in his normal insightful, laugh out loud fashion. He had to run home — he and his wife had tickets to Cirq du Soleil — so we caught up in a hurried conversation, which we were able to prolong because he offered to drop me off at the airport shuttle. He was, in his usual way, funny, frank, warm, and self-deprecating…terms not always associated with someone so driven by values and ideals.

This evening I’ve learned he has esophageal cancer. I cannot do better at expressing how I feel about Michael and about this news than my friend Doc has.

Michael is a devoted father of four, so some friends have started a fund for him . Please consider giving.


June 16, 2008

Get well soon, Doc.

Doc has a touch of pancreatitis. Of course he’s live blogging it, and it sounds like no fun at all.

Get well soon, you Friend of Everyone and Friend of the Net.

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April 14, 2008

The Two-Thirds Life Crisis

I am coming to grips with the sticker shock of hitting my 40th birthday. Unfortunately, I’m 57.

This inconvenient truth is born home by Doc Searls‘ recent “incident.” [More from Doc here, here, here, and here.) I am one of the absurd number of people who count Doc as a close friend. I happened to be in the conference room when the pain in his chest got too strong to ignore. He called the Harvard health folks who said it might be a good time to stagger on over. So, I walked him there. It’s the least the second oldest person in the room could do. Not to mention, that way I found out as soon as possible what was going on with him, which turned out to be a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot that had traveled to his lungs), which was treated quickly and well.

Boston is a good city to get sick in.

Doc’s doing well, thank heavens. He blogged a couple of days after the incident that he’s resolved to start taking better care of himself. Good. We want Doc around for many decades, purely for selfish reasons.

Doc is in the midst of what I guess we should called a Two-Thirds Life Crisis because it comes some time after the Midlife Crisis. I’ve been through my own, having eaten my way into Type 2 diabetes a couple of years ago. I resolved to start taking better care of myself, and, fortunately, you can no longer use my blood to top off your pancakes in the morning. I’m actually in better shape than before. (Irony alert: I’ll probably drop dead this afternoon, just to give y’all something to blog about.)

Anyway, here, is a handy comparison chart:


The Male Midlife Crisis

The Male Two-Thirds Life Crisis

Occurs in your 40’s

Occurs in your late 50’s or early 60’s

Brought on by hearing your songs played on the oldies station

Brought on by hearing your cardiologist going “tut tut,” and then realizing that your cardiologist is 15 years younger than you.

Can’t believe you’re not twenty years younger

Can’t believe you’ve only got twenty years left

Purchase sports car in desperate attempt to appear young

After catching yourself in a mirror, you give away your baseball cap and shorts because you realize you’re too old for camp

Work on abs

Work on cholesterol

Ready to prove to the ladies that you’re still in your sexual prime

Continue lifelong redefinition of “sexual prime.”

Learn (= pretend) to like hip hop

Learn your parents were right about Duke Ellington

50 seems really old.

50 seems really old.

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