Kombucha during pregnancy

Kombucha is a very well-loved drink in our household; we drink a bottle almost daily, especially after we started brewing our own! When I became pregnant, I wanted to make sure kombucha was okay to continue drinking, especially since it usually contains trace amounts of alcohol due to the fermentation process (by the action of yeasts on the sugar in kombucha).

A quick Google search proved fruitless, as only two websites discussed this issue in a more thoughtful manner. One website was from a fellow homebrewer who drank kombucha during her pregnancy and experienced no ill side-effects, although she cautioned pregnant women anyway. Another website was a mommy forum, where various women who were kombucha drinkers before pregnancy recommended against kombucha due to its mild alcoholic properties. These websites were a good start, but I knew there had to be more information out there, given that fermented drinks are common in traditional societies where pregnancy also occurs.

So far, I’ve found our homebrewed kombucha tastes better than ever during my pregnancy! Being pregnant during the summer is not for the weak, and a glass of chilled, bubbly kombucha has been a very refreshing pick-me-up (and also satisfies my need for something a little sweeter and more flavorful than water). And if you were like me, a pick-me-up was necessary quite often during my first trimester because I felt fatigued every single day for three months! Kombucha helped supply me with mineral ions that were depleted during perspiration, and I learned recently that kombucha is even better than plain water at quenching thirst because it contains dilute sugars and electrolyte of minerals, which are absorbed faster and retained longer than plain water (a fact used to encourage the drinking of commercial sports drinks, but if you read the ingredients on these labels, you’ll see that they contain A LOT of sugar and not many electrolytes).

Kombucha also aids in digestion because it contains lactobacilli, lactic-acid, and enzymes. I noticed my dietary habits changed as my pregnancy began: I ate less at mealtimes, but I wanted to eat throughout the day (many pregnancy advisors will suggest eating smaller meals throughout the day instead of big meals because progesterone slows your digestive system). I’ve been drinking kombucha almost consistently throughout my pregnancy so I don’t have a control to compare this experience to, but I know that I’ve experienced less constipation so far, and I believe it’s due to kombucha! Furthermore, the only time I ever experienced morning sickness (in the evening) was when I was not drinking kombucha and had not drunk any for a week or two (because our batch had spoiled from a gnat invasion when we were out of town). That evening, I felt extremely nauseous and vomited my lunch over multiple trips to the bathroom. The only thing I wanted at that time was something ginger-y, so my husband went and bought some of GT’s ginger-flavored kombucha. Since then, I have resumed drinking kombucha almost daily (approximately 6-8oz once or twice a day), and I have not experienced nausea again. A few weeks later, I was reading Sally Fallon’s cookbook and learned that kombucha, with its liver-supporting properties, can help prevent morning sickness!

If you’re pregnant and want to drink kombucha but are worried about the alcoholic fermentation, you can minimize it by adding whey or a little sea salt! If you’re new to drinking kombucha, try a little bit first to make sure you and your baby like it 🙂

I learned a lot about kombucha from Sally Fallon’s cookbook, Nourishing Traditions.


Why Do Former Presidents And Politicians Need “Jobs”? And How Do They Manage To Find Them In Silicon Valley? (#corruption)

I got a good chuckle out of this today, “Obama hints at a future in VC“:

“had I not gone into politics, I’d probably be starting some kind of business,” said Obama. “The skill set of starting my presidential campaigns—and building the kinds of teams that we did and marketing ideas—I think would be the same kinds of skills that I would enjoy exercising in the private sector. … The conversations I have with Silicon Valley and with venture capital pull together my interests in science and organization in a way I find really satisfying.”

The rest of the article contains quotes from VCs good-humoredly sniffing Obama’s jock strap and suggesting candidly that he would make an excellent high risk capital allocator. I don’t even need to provide examples of why these disclosures are a bunch of bald-faced lies. You can make up your own punchlines.

Instead, I am pondering the following: does something like this represent a sign of how crony Silicon Valley is and how dependent upon government privilege it is for the profit it generates? Or does it represent how pragmatic this community of businessmen is in co-opting the enemy that is continually placing new obstacles on its road to riches?

I am not sure I am comfortable with either reality but the latter has merit in that one could at least argue one is acting in self-defense, and that’s more noble than getting behind the guns and pointing them at competitors and customers as in the case of the former.


Who Is YCombinator Trying To Fool With Their New Cities Research Project? (@ycombinator, @sama, #centralplanning, #economics)

Two friends independently linked me to YCombinator’s “New Cities” blog post and it interested me enough that I thought to write about it in brief. The idea of a new city started “from scratch” excites me as an advocate of the private property society. I have a hard time imagining how my preferred values and ideas for peaceful, voluntary social arrangements will come to be implemented incrementally within the existing coercive institutions we call “city governments”. Starting with a bare plot of land, wholly-owned by one or more sympathetic parties and going from there seems like the only viable option for realizing this ideal and building a working model.

I was excited, then, to see that some well-known and resourceful people in the Silicon Valley VC community seem to be on to the same idea. But then I started reading their short post and I ended up with a lot of questions, the primary one being “What are they really trying to accomplish with this?”

I’m having trouble trusting their motives as sincere because of this: if they’re trying to build new cities, and they think they need to conduct “research” to figure out things like…

  • How can we make and keep housing affordable? This is critical to us; the cost of housing affects everything else in a city.

  • How can we lay out the public and private spaces (and roads) to make a great place to live? Can we figure out better zoning laws?

  • What is the right role for vehicles in a city?  Should we have human-driven cars at all?

  • How can we have affordable high-speed transit to and from other cities?

  • How can we make rules and regulations that are comprehensive while also being easily understandable? Can we fit all rules for the city in 100 pages of text?

  • What effects will the new city have on the surrounding community?

…they could prop open a free copy of Rothbard’s Man, Economy and State, Scholar’s Edition (with Power and Market) and start reading the basic economic theory underlying these questions, with special emphasis on the sections about “The Economics of Violent Intervention in the Market” which specifically deal with the problems they mention which relate to artificial scarcity of housing, zoning laws, street use permitting, mass transit policies and legislative efficiency. All the brainwork has been done for them, there is no need to reinvent the wheel and “discover” these effects independently if only they will consider what Rothbard has to say on the matter.

In fact, anyone who has read such material would immediately look at the “high-level questions” the YC Research project hopes to think through and notice the flawed premises evident in asking them. For example, asking “What should a city optimize for?” implies a city has some kind of monolithic identity and singular purpose, rather than being an unplanned, spontaneous outcome of the individual plans and values of the multitude of people who compose it. In asking the wrong questions, this project is doomed to arrive at arbitrary answers that are worse than wrong– they will be unknowledge which will set people back in believing it to be true and acting on it.

I don’t expect anyone at YCombinator or the research project to take a concern like this seriously, because I don’t believe their stated motivation is authentic. If it was, I would expect them to study the conclusions of 350+ years of economic pondering on these very unoriginal curiosities before proceeding with their experiment, which will never happen.

So my question remains. What are they really trying to accomplish with this? (And their Basic Income research project, which almost seems like expertly engineered trolling for the same reason I question the motivation of this New Cities project.)



A New Kind Of “Fairy Tale” (#education, #parenting)

Moral instruction in the form of short stories, nursery rhymes and “fairy tales” is a common tradition in most cultures. In the West in particular, many children grow up learning stories from Aesop’s Fables or other derived literature such as “The Tortoise & The Hare” or “The Old Woman in the Shoe”. The trouble with these pedagogical traditions is that they often rely upon magical or other irrational characters or premises to tell the story and teach the lesson. That or, even worse, the original moral intent has been lost or confounded in modern retellings and there either is no principle at root or the one evoked has to do with some commie catchall such as “sharing is caring.”

A good friend seeks to rid the world of such childish flim-flam and bestow well-reasoned and entertainingly told moral tales upon our cultural heritage with a new series she is writing. The first of her efforts, The Three Little Pigs: Or, To Survive We Must Plan… and Work, has just been published and as I read several drafts before publication I can say without reservation that she is off to a promising start.

As the author, Roslyn Ross, mentions in the foreword,

This version of the Three Little Pigs is unlike any other–it is clear, rational, and value-oriented. Specifically this version is different in that: -It has death in it. Most other versions of The Three Little Pigs available today shy away from this reality of life, the very value this story was intended to teach: Those who fail to plan for their survival … often don’t survive. It does not serve children to hide reality from them, so this version of the story deals plainly with death.

Yes, the story has anthropomorphic pigs, anthropomorphic pigs who talk in rhyming verse, no less. But this was a creative decision made purposefully by Roslyn because she feared that if she scrapped the animals from the story entirely it’d be TOO unfamiliar to the parents who grew up with such nonsense and thus they might miss her story entirely when searching for this kind of material for her children.

Roslyn also had the story illustrated with her own commissioned artist. The result is a story that is both literally and visually original.

We are big fans of Roslyn Ross’s parenting philosophy at A House Rises, which she has most recently outlined in her first book, the misleadingly titled “A Theory of Objectivist Parenting” and which she continues to develop, explain and exemplify on her personal blog, Raising Children Is An Act of Philosophy. (We hope to either convince her to adopt the WordPress medium for her blogging efforts or convince her to join us in our effort!) We will be posting a summary review of Roslyn’s parenting theory book for those short on time or hesitant to devote an hour to reading the whole book on a mere recommendation.

For now, we’re just excited to see Roslyn’s latest effort come to fruition and we’re looking forward to seeing the other planned installments in the series and eventually incorporating them into the educational curriculum of our own children.

Ko School, An Incubator For Middle Schoolers? (#entrepreneurship, #education)

A friend in Dallas told me about an alternative educational institution he recently learned about, Ko School, located in Austin, TX. The school bills itself as “focused on ensuring that you have the skills, habits, knowledge, and attitudes to thrive in a rapidly changing world” and appears to provide students with both a standard STEM education as well as an entrepreneurship curriculum centered on “the three pillars of Authentic Leadership, Personal Development, and Autodidacticism”.

One of the founders has given a few TED Talks, here is a recent one:

I don’t know much more about it than this at present. I plan to do more research and I am making a note here for future reference.

Undisturbing birth

According to G. Kloosterman, Dutch professor of obstetrics,

Spontaneous labor in a normal woman is an event marked by a number of processes so complicated and so perfectly attuned to each other that any interference will only detract from the optimal character. The only thing required from the bystanders is that they show respect for this awe-inspiring process by complying with the first rule of medicine–nil nocere [do no harm].

I found this quote in Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering and thought it was worth sharing.

Summary Thoughts On Learning New Languages

English is my primary language. Growing up in the United States I’ve really had no reason to learn any other, although I’ve been tempted at various times to learn Spanish as a practical matter.

I did study Spanish in my early schooling, and Italian in my later schooling. Despite a combined 7 years spent learning foreign languages, my fluency and literacy remains limited with both.

I’ve long considered the idea of learning another language to be romantic. Speaking other languages can open up new opportunities in life– a whole group of people you previously couldn’t communicate with are now people you can exchange ideas and value with. Studying many of my philosophical heroes of the past, I noticed how many were not just bilingual but multilingual, able to read, write, argue and convince in a variety of languages. I once bought a copy of Wheelock’s Latin after realizing I had missed the opportunity to study this dead language in high school like the other nerds; I convinced myself I might take up an independent study in my abundant free time (this was being imagined when I was still a college student and so my use of “abundant free time” is less sarcastic than it would’ve been intended if I referred to the present) and maybe even convince a friend or two to learn some phrases so we could converse in front of others on the subway or at a bar and confuse the hell out of them. To this day I read about early political figures in American history and their classical (read: European) education consisting of studying Greek and Latin grammar and I feel a twinge of regret.

And with all the talk of the inevitable rise of China and its coming economic dominance, I have often considered picking up some Mandarin so I can continue doing business under new overlords.

But I never quite get to the part where I seriously dedicate myself to learning a new language. And rather than beat myself up as lazy, stupid or otherwise incompetent, I’ve instead spent some time trying to rationalize why this has not come to pass. Here are my thoughts to date:

  1. English is the third most widely spoken language in the world (by native speakers) and based upon my travels to Central and South America, Europe and Asia, it appears to be the secondary language of choice for a “universal” non-native tongue and is part of the mandatory curriculum in many developed and developing country school curriculums.
  2. It is difficult (for me) to learn a language if I am not going to be using it frequently for practical reasons; my language learning has accelerated whenever I’ve been in the place the language is spoken on the street when I am learning it formally. Until I am living in a place where English is not the primary language, it will be inefficient and impractical for me to learn another language and gain fluency
  3. Without a practical reason such as #2, my decision to learn any language besides English is entirely arbitrary; I could set a goal for myself such as “Become fluent in German” but why is that worth doing as opposed to “Become fluent in French” or “Become fluent in Mandarin”? There needs to be a specific goal for the learning besides “acquiring the language for its own sake”
  4. While many of my intellectual heroes spoke, read and wrote in multiple (European, typically) languages, they did so out of necessity, not to prove an intellectual point. They were either international scholars who needed to be able to communicate in languages beside their native one for purposes of research or idea-sharing, or they inhabited border regions or cosmopolitan political centers where speaking multiple languages had a functional or official benefit. I don’t face those circumstances in my own life.
  5. I have many competing demands on my time and many other subjects I’d like to master besides gaining a secondary language fluency. I could learn another language, just as I could learn an instrument such as piano or guitar, but it would mean purposefully giving up another valued activity or area of inquiry and I haven’t been prepared to make a tradeoff like that so far.

One life activity I derive a lot of enjoyment from and which I hope to continue to do not only for myself but with my family is traveling around the world. I think one of the highest values learning another language with fluency would have for me is making such travels more accessible. However, because these travels are usually limited in duration and because many of the locals speak English more passably than I can learn bits and phrases of their language, it’s usually a better use of time to brush up on key words and phrases or stumble through in English than to try to learn a whole language for a couple of weeks on the road.

For now, it seems, language learning will be relegated to a high ideal without practical implementation in my life. However, I have been considering whether formal language instruction (immersive or otherwise) would be an important part of my future children’s education.

Update: here is a strongly-written article arguing 10 reasons why Westerners should still be studying Latin.

Collected Resources on Menswear (#menswear, #fashion, #Dandyism, #masculinity)


This page will serve as an updated resource of noteworthy links and information I have collected on the topic of menswear and principles of fashion, including wardrobe construction, pattern-matching and color theory.

Principles of menswear

20 Essential Menswear Pieces

In a perfectly curated wardrobe, all of the pieces (well, almost all) should make sense together and be interchangeable. For example, each of the ties should work with each of the shirts, and each of the shirts should work with each of the trousers. In theory, you could get dressed in the dark.

The article provides 20 items with classic appeal and high versatility allowing for recombination and higher wardrobe efficiency. It also argues that a menswear wardrobe should be built over time, selectively, rather than all-at-once, en masse.

It might take you a couple years to build a high-quality, well-edited wardrobe. That’s okay. Menswear is a marathon, not a sprint.

An Interchangeable Wardrobe – How To Build A Versatile Wardrobe

The article explores argues that building a wardrobe of fewer items of higher quality with higher interchangeability will cost less, last longer and take up less storage space than accumulating many inexpensive “one off” items. It provides a recommendation for surveying and filtering an existing wardrobe as well as a process for accumulating appropriate items over time.

Go-To Looks You Can Build With Men’s Wardrobe Staples

The article offers 9 different outfits that can be created with 2-3 essential items from a man’s wardrobe, such as a pant, shirt and topwear item. The styles range from sporty to casual to semi-casual, and from warm climates to cool climates, demonstrating the versatility of a simple, essentials-based wardrobe.

How To Easily Judge A Fashion Item’s Versatility

This article offers a meaningful definition of versatility in fashion:

The definition of versatility is: “having many uses or applications.”

In the world of fashion, this means that an item can be worn in many different ways; or a lot of different looks can be created with an item. You can measure an item’s versatility by looking at how many other clothes can be worn with it.

It also offers a 4 standard grading system for judging the versatility of clothing items at a glance:

  • Grade A, solid and neutral
  • Grade B, solid and color
  • Grade C, patterned and neutral
  • Grade D, patterned and color

The Best Underwear You’ve Never Heard Of

The article compares and contrasts three proprietary men’s underwear brands:

Metrics explored include structure and support, material type and feel, versatility and intended use, and style.

Patterns 101: All You Need to Know About Wearing, Mixing and Matching Patterns

The article explores seven common men’s fashion patterns, explains how to distinguish them from one another and provides principles for deploying patterns in outfit construction.

You should include pattern in your everyday outfits. Pattern will add some dimension, texture, and visual interest to whatever you’re wearing.

The patterns are:

  1. Stripe
  2. Gingham/check
  3. Plaid
  4. Dot
  5. Paisley
  6. Houndstooth
  7. Herringbone

A recommended approach to creating a patterned outfit is:

  1. Let the shirt you choose be the base of your outfit
  2. If your shirt is a solid color, match the color to the “background” color of your tie
  3. If your shirt is patterned, wear a bold, large-scale pattern tie with a small-scale patterned shirt, or wear a small-scale pattern tie with a large-scale pattern shirt
  4. Start with small-scale patterns closest to your body and work your way up as you move out

The article also offers a helpful DO and DON’T list:

  • DO
    • mind pattern scale, especially when pairing with other patterns (remember: start small and work your way up in scale, color complexity, and intensity)
    • wear solids (or small scale patterns) as a base for your bolder patterns
    • mix small patterns with larger scale patterns
    • start small when you first begin experimenting (i.e. a solid suit + patterned shirt, solid dark-colored chinos + dotted shirt, or small scale pattern shirt + bold patterned tie)
    • balance bold patterns with more subtle patterns, and vice versa
  • DON’T
    • wear two similarly bold patterns of the same scale in one outfit, as the outfit becomes too busy
    • wear two different patterns of the same boldness and scale; those two items will compete with each other visually
    • wear different plaids in one outfit; stick to one plaid item, keep everything else solid (see Mr. Murray as an example of what not to do… unless you are Mr. Murray, then you can do whatever the hell you want)
    • wear the same exact pattern as a top and bottom (unless it’s something like a stripe or check suit).

The 12 Commandments of Buying a Bespoke Suit

The article provides some pointers on how to make an intelligent purchase with regards to a custom-made suit from whole cloth, including helpful math for understanding the economics of the purchase:

A well made hand-tailored suit takes an average of 40 hours to complete. The average master tailor working in America doesn’t pick up his shears for less than $30-40 an hour…let’s call it an average of $35/hour. That’s $1,600 in labor alone.

Decent cloth from a respected mill, purchased at wholesale, runs roughly $50-$100 per yard…let’s call it an average of $75/yard. It takes about 3 yards of cloth to make a suit (2.5 for solids, 3 for pinstripes, 3.5-4 for check patterns). That comes out to an average of $225 for the cloth. Add roughly $25 for the buttons, trims, lining, etc. That’s $250 in cost of tangible inputs, making a rough total of $1,850 for overall cost of production.

Therefore, an American made suit (with a typical 65% profit markup) is going to retail for at least $3,050.

How to Build a Smart Suit Wardrobe

The article recommends building (and wearing) a suit wardrobe in the following order:

  1. Navy blue; the workhorse
  2. Light grey/charcoal grey; your back-up workhorse, can interchange jacket and trouser with navy blue
  3. Pinstripe (navy or grey); power suit
  4. Windowpane; suave flair
  5. Black; going-out and formal occasions
  6. Double-breasted (dark, solid and navy or grey); adds variety, can wear jacket as a blazer
  7. Light blue
  8. Khaki linen or cotton; comfortable in spring and summer
  9. Grey flannel; comfortable in winter
  10. Brown; opens up new possibilities in matching colors and patterns

Noteworthy vendors

The Tie Bar offers a variety of mid-priced neckwear options.

Thick As Thieves LA offers custom-tailored suits, “Thick as Thieves aren’t for men who need to wear a suit, but for men who want to wear a suit.”

Charles Tyrwhitt offers mid-priced fitted business shirts (see slim and classic fit)

The Matador Alcove offers a “men’s sanctuary dedicated to bespoke, grooming, leisure & vice.” Get a haircut, have a drink and enjoy male bonding. It sets a standard for the male grooming experience.


What Education, At What Cost? (#education, #identity)

In “The Big Uneasy“, the New Yorker explores what some students are taking away from their liberal-arts educations:

If you are a white male student, the thought goes, you cannot know what it means to be, say, a Latina; the social and the institutional worlds respond differently to her, and a hundred aggressions, large and small, are baked into the system. You can make yourself her ally, though—deferring to her experience, learning from her accounts, and supporting her struggles. You can reach for unity in difference.

It also profiles some of the students who are learning these important concepts:

Eosphoros is a trans man. He was educated in Mexico, walks with crutches, and suffers from A.D.H.D. and bipolar disorder. (He’d lately been on suicide watch.) He has cut off contact with his mother, and he supports himself with jobs at the library and the development office. He said, “I’m kind of about as much of a diversity checklist as you can get while still technically being a white man.”

The epistemology of this paradigm appears to be relativism, which is to say that it is a subscription to denial of a universal human reason. It’s hard to understand what the point of attending an institution of learning is if it has nothing to teach you because your personal experience is the only truth to know.

It’s also hard to accept that this paradigm is representative of a universal truth and thus part of an enlightened human knowledge, not just because that would be a contradiction in terms according to the paradigm itself, but because so many of the correspondents seem to suffer from a multiplicity of dysfunctions.

It seems many of today’s students really need help sorting out their personal problems, not “access to higher education.” When they arrive at even the most accommodating, out-there institutions like Oberlin and find the curriculum is not about them but about something else, they develop severe inferiority complexes that result in frustrated, emotional outbursts.

But, imagining for just a moment that the common mainstream trope that “access to higher education” really is a missing social panacea, are these the students such supporters have in mind and are these the ideas they think are important that they receive as part of their program?

“Students believe that their gender, their ethnicity, their race, whatever, gives them a sort of privileged knowledge—a community-based knowledge—that other groups don’t have,” O’Leary went on.


“People are so amazed that other people could have a different opinion from them that they don’t want to hear it.”

What is the value “to society” in these factionalizing lessons, and are they really worth borrowing money, in many cases, to have them taught?