Tuesday, October 09, 2007

We Need to Reject the “Odyssey Years” Concept

This evening’s most-read article at the NY Times is “The Odyssey Years,” by David Brooks. It’s a catchy read about a new phase in life called the “odyssey,” which comes after adolescence and before adulthood. Brooks refers to it as a “decade of wandering.”

During the Odyssey years, 20-somethings are “delaying” marriage, children and permanent employment, says Brooks. In other words, they’re delaying adulthood by Boomer-era standards.

Again, this is a fascinating read, but I feel it’s helping to create a problem where I don’t believe one exists. Are 20-somethings “delaying” adulthood, or are they simply redefining it? Why should marriage or having children be considered “accomplishments” and not problems? Aren’t there already enough people on Earth? Don’t most marriages end up in divorce anyhow?

I’m a bit concerned with even coming up with this category, “odyssey.” How many 20-somethings actually go through an “odyssey” in their 20s? The whole concept sounds like an excuse for the behavior of a few.

Look, as a guy in my early thirties, I’ve noticed that people on an “odyssey” in their 20s pretty much stay that way well into their 30s; while people with families by age 30 were pretty much working their way towards family life all through the 20s. For the latter, the post-college years were less of an odyssey and more of a terrible struggle with the new realities of modern life.

The new realities of modern life, acknowledged by Brooks, are instability in the job market and instability in social life; things that make it hard to live up to Boomer-era measures of accomplishment like financial independence and having kids.

A potential problem now, is that those who once struggled will now kick back and take it easy because they’re in “the odyssey years,” bro. It’s cool, man. Whatever, dude. It’s okay to drift.

But it’s not, I assure you.

Those who take their 20s as an odyssey will continue on an odyssey well into their thirties. And those who fight it will end up with a more stable life.

Which one is better? An eternal odyssey or mind numbing stability? It depends on the person. Some customized mix of the two is probably best. But by making up a new stage in life (an excuse) for wandering, my guess is that more people will end up drifting and ultimately disappointed when their early 30s set in.

NY Times on “Good Calories, Bad Calories”

A new book by Gary Taubes takes a controversial look at the question, what should you eat? Food in our society is plentiful, convenient and cheap, so the question is more crucial than ever. But is Taubes on the right track? Pound360 likes what he has to say, but we remain skeptical.

So what should you eat? Less carbs, says Taubes. According to the
New York Times book review, “Taubes argues at length that people get fat because carbohydrates in their diet drive up the insulin level in the blood, which in turn encourages the storage of fat.” In other words, “a calorie of fat is much less fattening than a calorie of sugar.”

This of course runs counter to conventional wisdom, but Taubes argues there are a lot of misconceptions floating around about food. “Much of what we’ve come to believe is wrong,” says Taubes. Bad science, he argues, has led to confusion about the relationship between what we eat and serial killers like cancer, obesity and heart disease. For example, Taubes demonstrates how there’s not much of a link between cholesterol and heart disease, salt and high blood pressure, or fiber and reduced cancer risk.

“Taubes convincingly shows that much of what is believed about nutrition and health is based on the flimsiest science,” acknowledges the Times.

However, if “all calories are not alike,” wonders the Times, how is it that people on controlled diets don’t gain weight, no matter what the balance between protein, fat and carbohydrates is adjusted to? Research in the 1950s showed this.

Another issue here is the whole low-carb thing. We’ve been through this with the Atkins craze. And from what Pound360 recalls, the Atkins didn’t perform any better over time than any other diet.

Elephant’s Bee Phobia Could Protect Crops

Recent evidence supports the theory that elephants, like many of us, are terrified of bees, according to a report at ScienceDaily. In the latest test, scientist set up speakers playing the sound of bees buzzing. Within a few seconds, elephants within earshot fled. Elephants in the same test ignored playback of white-noise.

Earlier research showed elephants damaged acacia trees with beehives less than those with them.

All research considered, “This behavioral discovery suggests that bees might very well be a valuable addition to the toolbox of elephant deterrents used by farmers and conservation managers,” read the ScienceDaily report.

It’s fascinating that science is just now confirming this (I’m sure indigenous populations could have told you bees scare elephants for millennia). Scientific confirmation is the first step towards widely-used solutions. And we at Pound360 are excited to see what we come up with next. We only hope that there’s enough of the natural world left to understand and preserve.

About Me

My photo
I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.