Going Analog Sidequest: Quitting Google

Email isn’t analog by any stretch of the imagination, no. But I consider more hands-on approaches to technologies, where we have to use them, as part of the same ethos. The whole Going Analog project is, at is heart, about regaining control. It’s about transparency. And it’s about removing corporate middlemen that stand between me and what I’m trying to accomplish. So I consider opting-out of one more ad-driven platform a perfectly valid thing to write about under the analog banner.

Three years ago, I was using a lot of Google products. Gmail, Office, Drive, Maps, search – even their flagship line of smartphones, which I chose for having the least amount of bloatware for a shipped Android device, and even an early Chromebook model. And then I started reading about the ethics, and subsequent gross breaches by every for-profit tech giant, of user privacy. Boy did I change my tune after that.

Search

The first thing to go was Google’s search engine, the product that made the company its first millions so many years ago. This was the easiest thing to do, obviously. I installed Chromium (the surveillance-free*, open-source version of Chrome) and set my default search to DuckDuckGo and have been perfectly happy ever since. Its algorithms are different, but the results it gives me are just as good. There are other options out there if DDG isn’t to your liking: SearX, Qwant, Ixquick, and for the truly paranoid, many of these options are usable with the Tor browser. Odds are, though, if you’re reading this blog you probably don’t know what the Tor browser is. (But you probably should.)

Nexus and Chromebook

The next thing I gave up was my Nexus smartphones. I tried rooting them, but found the process a little too esoteric (and potentially risky if you don’t know what you’re doing) for it to be worth it. It was around that same time when the batteries stopped holding good charges, the screen on my primary phone cracked into a million spiderwebs, and I was looking to get away from having a screen in my pocket 24/7 anyways, so I chucked them into the recycling bin and didn’t look back. And just like that, it was impossible for Google to track where I was and what I was doing thanks to my use of Maps, device location, and other features that most smartphone users never bother to disable. I bought an LG Xpression 2 from eBay for $40, including shipping and 2 years of insurance, and I’ve never been happier.

The Chromebook was its own set of headaches, but I liked the form factor and that the level of hardware maintenance pretty much amounted to zero. I knew I didn’t want to run such a lumbering, bloated OS like Windows on such a lightweight machine, so I started looking into and test-driving different Linux distributions. Eventually I came across Elementary OS, the smallest operating system I’ve ever used, and quickly discovered that it would deliver on everything I needed – and nothing I didn’t – and do it with a clean, stylish interface. A few more weeks of research sold me on the HP Stream 11, which I again used eBay to procure for $100. A refurbished model, of course. I then proceeded to wipe the drive and install eOS.

But what about the other big feature of the Chromebook: syncing of files to Docs and Drive (by way of your forced use of the G suite)? My workaround is below.

Office and Drive

I was never a big office suite power user, so my use of Google Docs etc. never amounted to anywhere near what other users rack up in terms of files stored on Google’s cloud servers. Most of them were simple word documents of prose fiction, job resumes, and the occasional miscellany; rarely anything important. I barely even used the calendar app. But what was important was that I be able to access these files from any of my devices quickly and easily – something that was handy when I wanted to go out on the town and settle down to lunch somewhere and chip away at a chapter or a blog post.

There weren’t many Linux-friendly options for cloud backup and file syncing. At least, not many that were multi-platform compatible. I still had a primary working machine at home that I needed to sync files to, which has to run Windows thanks to my current dependency on Adobe products. (And my refusal to get a Mac.) More research introduced me to SpiderOak’s One product, which is part backup service and part sync: it’s compatible with Win, Mac, and Ubuntu-derived Linux distros, which is exactly what I needed. (And in the end, it was better than my old Carbonite subscription anyways – SpiderOak charges not per device, but by the amount of storage needed across as many devices as you need to use. Score.)

The key part of the One service is what’s called the Hive folder: a folder that sits on your computers and functions like any other folder, but where the contents of which are instantly synced across all other copies of your Hive. It’s basically like a little Dropbox.

Honestly, the need to sync files across devices was the biggest reason I’d mostly stopped using on-board document editing software in the first place, even though I’ve been installing Open Office and Libre Office on my computers for the better part of a decade. Gone are the days of hauling flash drives with me everywhere (I had a number of them fail on me for no good reason over the years), or emailing things to myself all the time. With SpiderOak One and Hive, I could go back to doing that, and subsequently break away from my use of Google Docs, Sheets, and the rest of their badly-designed Suite.

(For distraction-free prose writing, I’ve also been using the hell out of Focus Writer. Highly recommended.)

In-Progress: Gmail

Quitting Gmail and opting for a quality, privacy-respecting alternative is easier than ever before. There are a small handful of free services like Protonmail or Lavabit, but most providers have to charge something in exchange for not bombarding you with ads or mining the contents of your emails to sell to somebody else.

Seeing that I have my own domain already, and my own email server, I figured the best thing to do would be to start using that more often. Currently, it’s bombarded with spam emails and the filter seems to have a will of its own in what it sends to the inbox and what it marks as junk, so that’s something I have to figure out how to fix. Thunderbird, my inbox software, helps a little, but the lion’s share of the issue lies with other parts of the infrastructure.

However, I plan to start using a service called StartMail, which has a business plan that will piggyback on your own domain. The company abides by Dutch privacy laws, the service has a lot of security features, it’s IMAP compatible, and I can create disposable dummy email addresses all I want… say, if I wanted to subscribe to a newsletter for a one-time contest entry or something. The service isn’t free, but you can take StartMail for a test drive for a week to see if you like it.

I’ll post more on this one as I work on it.

Maps

Unfortunately, I haven’t found a very good alternative to Google Maps yet. Maquest is clunky, and most other non-app services don’t have live traffic updates, which is something I rely on a lot to figure out whether I should leave 30 minutes before I gotta be at work… or 90 minutes.

As it is I don’t use it very often, and I’ve got my computer and privacy settings done such that it doesn’t seem to know where my computer is located, so at least there’s that. What I should probably do is get in the habit of using it only while Incognito or via some other similar tracking-lite browser space to keep Google from putting too many one and ones together.

For my 1000-mile roadtrip, though? I do plan on going to AAA to get some old school paper maps, using common sense, reading road signs, and only breaking out the smartphone (my husband’s) in the event of some kind of emergency.

So wait… this all isn’t free, is it?

No, no it’s not. But that’s the price we pay for not being spied on, emotionally manipulated by echo chamber search results, and attacked with ads everywhere we turn. But think of it this way: how much is Google making off of storing the contents of your life every year? Probably not nearly as much as I’ll be paying annually for these ad-free, privacy-respecting services, but still: what I’m paying for is peace of mind, and complete ownership of my data and content. I’m paying for transparency in a tech landscape where obfuscation is basically just legalized pick-pocketing.

So how much will my peace of mind cost me every year? Let’s break it down.

  • Google search to DuckDuckGo: free.
  • Google smartphone to LG dumbphone: +~$200/replacement cycle. Not including savings from lack of data plan.
  • Chromebook/Chrome OS to HP Stream/eOS: no difference.
  • Google Docs to Libre Office: no difference.
  • Google Drive to SpiderOak One: -$5/mo.
  • Gmail to personal domain/StartMail: -$75/yr.

All in all? It comes out to be about the same. If the cost of the dumbphone is 1/4th the cost of a used smartphone, AND the replacement cycle is, say, doubled in length, then that’s a significant savings just for the device by itself. It also more than makes up for the other $80/year I’m paying for quality email and domain services that are entirely, or almost entirely, without the corporate meddling, spying, and marketing efforts inherent to the so-called “free” services.

The end result? Google will have a damned hard time figuring out who I am and what I’m up to. And that’s what counts.

*Chromium isn’t surveillance-free, exactly: it still sends Google your IP address, which many privacy advocates still decry. But if you’ve ever used a Google product, the company already has a lot of information about you – and it would take a LOT of work to disappear from their sights entirely. So, I’ve struck a balance. And yes, I have reasons not to use FF.

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How To Make Lake Pigments

Seeing as how I want to take up painting again, I’m interested in making my own paints, pigments, and art-making tools (thanks to Nick Neddo’s book) learning how to make pigments from dyes is going to come in handy. Enjoy!

What I’m Reading: A ‘Dumb F**ks’ edition of the friday roundup

It’s bittersweet to have to say I told you so, and even in 2015 I was way late to the game. Can we all just quit the damn platform already? Your society will thank you.

How Facebook’s Naive Optimism Built A Toolbox for 21st Century TotalitarianismExponents
“Maybe when we learned that a 19-year old Mark Zuckerberg called 4,000 of his fellow Harvard students , “dumb f$cks”, for trusting him with their personal information, we should have believed him the first time.”

‘Dumb f***s’: The two words coming back to bite Mark Zuckerberg amid latest data scandal – NZ Herald
“…the latest scandal involving a shadowy company that pinched Facebook user data to help it design software to influence elections has given the company its biggest black eye yet.”

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have just confirmed it: online privacy is dead – Maclean’s
“Opinion: Welcome to the age of ‘surveillance capitalism’ where highly personalized information and psychological models are leveraged to change consumers’ behaviour and sway their opinions”

Both Facebook And Cambridge Analytica Threatened To Sue Journalists Over Stories On CA’s Use Of Facebook Data – Techdirt
“…it’s raising a bigger question, as well, and it’s one that caused Facebook to do something that I’ll definitively call as “incredibly stupid,” which is that it threatened to sue the Guardian over its story, mainly because the Guardian story refers to this whole mess as a “data breach” for Facebook’s data.”

Zuck and Sandberg go M.I.A. as Congress summons Facebook leadership by name – Tech Crunch
“Congress is mad. And it might be as mad about this poorly handled Cambridge Analytica  debacle as it is about getting stood up the last time around. Without any kind of public statement from one of the faces of the company, Facebook users are starting to feel stood up too.”

WF Mechanization Is Plodding Along As Predicted

Sure, the OTS implementation happened before the Amazon buyout, but Amazon is unlikely to be interested in fixing this problem, let alone know how, because Bezos has zero interest in facilitating healthy, functioning human relationships in his line of work. Whether that’s between employer and employee, or customer service representative and customer, Bezos and those of his ilk have made their billions via spreadsheet fiat – reducing everything and everyone to numbers and graphs… and brick-and-mortar stores to dolled-up warehouses.

This is something I predicted a while ago. Check out some of these recent headlines:

Whole Foods Is Datafying Its Employees To Death – Gizmodo

‘Entire aisles are empty’: Whole Foods employees reveal why stores are facing a crisis of food shortages – Business Insider

Internal documents reveal that Whole Foods is leaving some shelves empty on purpose – Business Insider

My recommendation? Taking your business elsewhere.

What Environmentalists Never Told Me About Cars

It’s popular to hate cars right now. And, really, it’s not without reason. The are spectacular polluters, they decentralize infrastructure in a way that spreads fragility (as opposed to antifragilility), they guzzle fossil fuels, and each has a tremendous amount of embodied energy from the moment they roll off the assembly line. In short, cars are terrible.

But they’re also a godsend.

Growing up I hated cars and car culture. I hated speed demons and commuters who sat in stop-and-go traffic for 2 hours a day alike. I hated freeways, parking lots, gas pumps, and everything to do with them. Because I was fortunate enough growing up to be able to get rides to every place I wanted to go, and to be located in such a way that I could walk to some of them myself. When I lived in NYC, owning a car was a laughable idea – what, and own a racehorse too?

Growing up in Los Angeles, cars were both irritating and ubiquitous. I was alienated without one, so I puffed up with a superiority complex that I would later justify using green-speak. But there were things about cars that I’ve since learned on my own – things that no environmentalist worth their salt, or even the greatest automobile advocate, will ever tell you.

1. Driving is freedom.

Driving is a pain in the ass, it’s not cheap, and depending on where you live, it can really, really, not be worth it some days. But other days, when you need to go to the store and your local transit infrastructure is nonexistent, or at least so underdeveloped that not even the poor bother with it? You can just hop in your car and go. And that’s just destinations in the city. What if you want to go camping, or hiking, or someplace else off the beaten path? You think a bus or train is going to take you there? Fat chance. Hope you didn’t intend on ever “getting away from it all” again because you ditched your car for hippy points.

2. It can actually help you save money.

Because public spaces are increasingly under attack in this country, it’s almost impossible to go out daytripping around town without being bombarded by advertising, enticed by fancy eateries, and just plain surrounded by places designed to squeeze your extra dollars out of you without you barely even noticing until you you get that low balance notification from your bank. There’s not actually that much to do in many cities these days but shop and eat, and most metropolises’ downtown districts are pretty much carbon copies of each other, featuring the same chain eateries and the same stores. Couple that reality with the silent encroachment of NO LOITERING signs and uncomfortable park benches and you get a frustrating situation in which there is no place to go in the city where you don’t feel pressured to break out the credit card.

But as I said above, owning a car can get you away from all of that. It can get you to a campsite or a beach or the trail, where loitering is encouraged, the bathrooms aren’t for “paying customers only”, and where you are likely going to be packing in your own picnic – no need to be tempted by a $10 sandwich or $4 coffee to go about your day.

3. Every car is capable of getting more than its advertised MPG.

And without modifications, even. No, it’s not rocket science, but you will have to fight the urge to drive fast and hard. Basically, the trick is to drive like you’re in a big rig: slow and steady. Maintaining your car’s momentum is key, here. Keep your RPMs low, don’t accelerate quickly, and try to brake as little as possible. Keep a large distance between you and the vehicle ahead, so that you don’t have to brake every time they do, simply letting off the gas and coasting instead. If you have a small, aerodynamic car, you can afford to go a little faster, but if you’re heavier and blockier, your inertial sweet spot will be lower. For instance, on my Cherokee, it’s been said that that “sweet spot” in maximizing both speed and efficiency is about 58 MPH. Still being in Los Angeles, I go faster than this – no more than 65 – just for sheer sanity’s sake. A 1 or 2 MPG drop in fuel economy is a worthwhile trade-off if it means not being angrily tailgated and yelled at by jerks who absolutely insist on speeding in the truck lanes. But, YMMV. (Pun intended.) Finding that sweet spot is like striking gold, though. My car’s user manual lists a highway MPG of 18, while I regularly average about 20, and have gotten as much as 25 without making a single modification to my engine, ignition, or exhaust system. (In the near future, I plan on installing an upgraded ignition kit that will increase my average efficiency by about 2 MPG: a $200 upgrade that will pay for itself in less than a year.)

For the slightly more maintenance-minded, adding a detergent to your fuel at fill-up will also help to increase your mileage. There are a lot of products out there that do this – Magic Mystery Oil, Seafoam, and so forth – so you’ll have to find which one your engine likes best. Keeping gas station receipts and entering them into a spreadsheet also helps in zeroing in on the factors contributing to good or poor fuel economy. Everything from the weather to what brand of gas you use can have a larger impact than you think. Whatever you do, though, don’t trust your memory when it comes to maxing out your MPG. You need to keep track of the numbers.

For more information on this sort of thing with your  vehicle, just do a web search for “econo-modding” for your year, make and model, and you’ll surely come across forum thread after forum thread of enthusiastic owners who have experimented with everything under the sun and reported their results for anyone to learn from.

4. There is a whole world of local manufacturing still out there for you to support.

In working on my Jeep as much as I have over the past year, I’ve met a lot of mechanics. But what I didn’t expect to find were the machinists, the engineers, and the blue-collar manufacturers that keep the aftermarket parts economy going. I recently replaced my sagging, 22-year-old rear suspension with OEM replacement leaf-spring packs and bushings, but the bushings needed to be pressed. When I called my mechanic to find out what was involved, I quickly found out that this was a bigger job than I was ever expecting: I spent weeks calling around to find out who might have a multi-ton press to push the metal-encased plugs of rubber into the steel eyes of the leaf pack, and wound up driving across town to a family-owned machine shop for the job. I was summarily treated like family myself, invited into the WW2-era warehouse complete with gorgeous machining equipment that had to be almost just as old as the building itself, offered coffee, and was promptly treated to a sparknotes’ version of the proprietor’s life history. Apparently I’d stumbled into one of LA’s best shops for building, customizing, and fixing drivetrains, and I was happy to see the two men so busy. They’d been in that building since the 70’s.

If I had never owned an older car that I enjoyed working on, I would have never known that these kinds of places still existed, staffed with experienced folks with genius minds and deft hands, sometimes using low-tech equipment older than they are.

In the end, they decided they didn’t want my money in exchange for the use of their press, asking me only to leave a good Yelp review for them, which I promptly did. In the end, not a single component of the leaf pack (aside from the smelted steel itself, maybe) was made overseas. Not many components for much of anything can say that anymore.

5. Not all engines are created equal.

Some engines are terrible, most are average, and some are legendary. (Like my famous straight six, which is no longer used in new vehicles to my knowledge.) Before buying a car, do your due diligence. Really do your due diligence. Part of this is to avoid the draw of new things – don’t be an early adopter for anything, because the joke will inevitably be on you. Wait at least a few years for the recalls to start coming in, the wear and tear reports from daily drivers, to find out what the manufacturer decided to drop and decided to keep for the next year’s model. Jeep engines, for instance, are generally regarded as pretty unreliable in the current day and age (that is, since they dropped the I6!), and unless you only want to keep your stock vehicle for a few years or you have the money and gumption to modify the hell out of your machine, then it’s best to stay within a certain year range and go with older models.

The I6 is widely regarded as a “bulletproof” engine for a number of reasons: mostly it’s just a really solid design, but other things, like how low maintenance and resilient it is, make it one of the best ever made. It requires no special treatment, though it does require a little kindness: drivers that change fluids regularly and never overheat stand a decent chance of making it past the half-million mile mark on their odometer. And if you’re good to the rest of the car, then what’s an engine swap when the beast finally kicks the bucket? It’s certainly a lighter footprint to put in a used engine with low miles than to go out and buy a whole new car to run into the ground.

That said, regular maintenance is critical to a long-lived vehicle. Regular fluid changes, including those who have much longer schedules than oil (like, say, transmission or differential fluid, which need to be changed around every 30k and 100k miles, respectively) go a long way to keeping your car happy and healthy. Also, take care of your tires: getting them balanced, rotated, aligned, and properly inflated will help them last a lot longer as the tread wears evenly.

Cars are not evil. At least, not any more evil than personal computers, smartphones, or light bulbs are. For many people, they’re the only way to get around, or to get away. A lot of people depend on them for the livelihoods, and love nothing more than to see old things taken care of and used long after their supposed pull-by date. And they can last a lot longer than most people give them credit for. All it takes is a little mindful stewardship, some preventative maintenance, and research.

Oh, and some love, too.

Simple Fit: Week ??

I fell off the Simple Fit bandwagon for about a month there. Mostly, it was kind of frustrating that I didn’t have a pull up bar (which was exactly an entire 1/3 of the program) and no real good way to substitute, so I reevaluated for a while. I’m back at it, though it’s not really Simple Fit at all… I’m just kind of doing my own basic exercises on my own.

I’m doing these for strength, mind, not for weight loss, which is something that the Simple Fit workouts did emphasize, though.

What am I doing instead? Cheater push-ups, planks, crunches sometimes, and reps with a 15lb kettle bell. I do leg exercises while I’m at work, because I’m on my feet the whole time anyways. I’ll stand on tiptoes for calf strengthening. If I’m squatting, I won’t rest my rear on my heels (and hope to god I don’t need to fart lol). That sort of thing. I’ll engage my glutes and core for a few minutes here and there if I’m sitting in traffic, too.

My goal? To literally be sore, somewhere, all the time. Always working on building muscle.

Strength training works, and it even works on wiry bodies like mine. A year ago I wouldn’t have been able to lift 30 pounds over my head without hurting myself, now I do it pretty regularly. I carry 40 and 50 pound boxes quite often, and my legs have long since stopped hurting after being on my feet for 30-40 hours a week, even after swapping out my Asics for a crappier pair of skate shoes. (Pro tip: foot pain is a lot more about how you stand and what your footstrike looks like than what your shoe’s made of.) Not to mention that a few painful corns I’d developed on the inner-middle ball of my feet cleared themselves up after improving my walking/standing form, even though I’d had them for years.

I do need to do formal squats again, and wall sits are usually pretty fantastic… even though they are evil.

But even now, as I’m typing this from where I’m laying down on the floor, I’m doing leg raises or breaking between paragraphs to plank for a minute or two. Most of the problem with exercising is finding the time to actually have a routine – and it helps to know how to hack yourself to start the habit – and for me, interspersing it throughout my day, turning things I’m already doing into mini strength training reps is appealing and doable. If I already have to stand for work, why not do calf raises while I’m there, right? Sneaking the fitness into my day like this builds confidence and builds the appetite to exercise more, so now I’m finding that I’m more likely to do exercise for exercise sake: setting the minutes aside to do the planks or the push-ups, and do them daily.

So… it’s not Simple Fit anymore. But at least I’m still at something like it.

Minimalist Footwear

I’ve been intrigued by minimalist footwear ever since I got my first pair of Oliberte shoes several years ago and found the soles to be thinner than anything else I’d worn. Being leather, they had a breaking-in period where they “learned” the contours of my feet and now fit like a glove. Even the natural rubber soles have shaped themselves to the bottoms of my feet.

At first I was skeptical about their comfort, having pronated feet and long since being a wearer of insoles to protect my (already damaged) knee. But they were an unreturnable clearance item, so I was determined to make it work.

I was sold on them after spending a month in rural Oregon while I was helping to take care of my grandmother who’d broken an ankle. She and I were staying at my uncle’s small ranch, which butted up against the BLM – public land. I’d go for long walks out in the bush when I needed a break from running errands and cooking meals, and much to my surprise, I found that the Olibertes were, by far, the most comfortable off-pavement shoe I’d ever worn. They didn’t pound the dirt like hiking boots or thick-soled running shoes; they allowed me to feel variations in the path, and my feet were given an opportunity to make decisions about which muscles to use, which bones to put weight on, which toes to flex…

It was a domino effect. Suddenly, my ankles were making decisions, and my knees, my hips, my back were making decisions too. My whole body was engaged in a way that normal shoes, apparently, weren’t allowing. A dialogue was happening between my muscles and bones that they’d been previously shut out of.

When I came back 2 hours later and found that I had no pain or feeling of compression anywhere, I was brimming with questions. Everything my doctors and physical therapists had told me was now up for debate. What else about the common wisdom of footwear might be wrong? How did we arrive at these best practices when evidence towards the contrary was right here, in these glorified leather socks walking around on real earth?

I think the answer lies in the sort of thinking that got us a lot of other supposedly necessary garbage: that more, and more complex is better. Humans have been doing just fine walking barefoot, or with little more than flimsy sandals, for millennia. So who the hell decided that Asics were a good idea?

I’ll be honest: part of my motivation here is frugality. I shouldn’t have to buy $50 insoles to go into a pair of $140 shoes every year just to keep my knees from giving out or my back from caving in. Another part of my motivation is also a striving for self-sufficiency: there’s not much in the way of repairing or repurposing an average worn-out shoe, so when it goes, you’re stuck with buying another. And lastly, of course, there’s the environmental concern: a lot of energy and labor goes into making a single damn shoe. And all of these together imply a voluntary simplicity: if I’m trying to do away with my dependence on these, then clearly the alternative will look much more like this.

The end goal? To be able to make my own shoes and be able to wear them without injuring myself.

Walkers in regular shoes, I’ve come to find out, tend to plod. It’s a lazy, inefficient way of walking that outsources what the feet were designed to do and makes the rest of our bodies do it, which is why so many of us have bad backs, knees, and ankles. Typical walkers put all their weight on their heels, which is made all the more damaging by the fact that most of us do almost all of our walking on hard surfaces. This weakens leg muscles, encourages bad posture, and relegates our toes to little more than a footnote – pun intended.

I’m not especially interested in taking up minimalist running, but I will probably benefit from reading the books that spurned that fad. However, here’s a few internet resources I’ve found on the subject, and the video that really kindled my interest.

There’s more to ‘barefoot’ running than thin soles: technique is vital, too – The Guardian

The Art and Sole of Barefoot Hiking – Redefine Progress

How to Walk Barefoot – Xero Shoes: This link is cool because it talks about the biomechanics of healthy walking. This is a long article, but here’s a neat excerpt:

If I asked you to start walking, most people would basically swing their free leg out in front of them and, at the right moment, push off the toes of the back leg to pivot over the front foot, which has landed on the heel way out in front of you.

You basically walk “behind your feet.” One interesting thing about walking behind your feet is that you’re never really off balance. We’ll come back to that idea in a moment.

Now, imagine being on one foot again. If I asked you to contract whatever muscle or muscles you can think of that would move you forward, which one(s) would you tighten. Remember I said “move you forward.” Falling forward doesn’t count, so the answer is not “ankle” (leaning) or “abs” (as in, bending forward until you fall).

The answer is the muscles that are referred to as the “prime movers” in our body: The glutes and hamstrings.

Tighten the glutes and hamstrings and you’ll actually MOVE forward.

And stronger glutes and hamstrings protect the lower back.

But after you tighten your glutes and hamstring you will eventually get off balance and fall on your face… unless… you put your other foot down to stop you.

And here’s where it gets cool.

If you simply place your foot down where it’ll stop you from falling (rather than swinging it out in front of you like you usually do), it’ll land closer to your center of mass, more flat-footed, with a slightly bent hip and knee, and with the now front leg in a biomechanically stronger position. You will have planted your foot.

If you repeat this — using your glutes and hips to move you forward, and placing your foot instead of swinging your leg forward — you’ll be supporting your lower back… and your knees, and your hips, and even your ankles.

Your foot-strike will take care of itself.

What bothers me the most, perhaps, is that we’ve created a world that actively hates the natural state of our bodies. We peddle weight-loss cures because our food system is awash in empty calories and simple carbohydrates. We coat our nails in carcinogenic enamel because our nail beds aren’t blue (or whatever is ‘in’ this season). We cover everything in pavement, which ruins our natural gait, so now we pay $86 billion dollars every year in America on spine treatments. Pretty cool.

So this is me, learning to literally walk away from all that dubious medicalizing, marketing, and flashy neon on this year’s line of running shoes. I hope my feet will thank me.

What I’m Reading: A Friday Link Roundup: Smartphones Edition

Modern Media is a DoS Attack on Your Free Will – Nautilus Magazine
An interview with James Williams, ex-Google marketing guru, who believes that modern technology platforms are subverting our ability to think, to be alone, and most importantly, to pay attention.

A New, More Rigorous Study Confirms: The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel – Harvard Business Review
The study was specifically done for Facebook, but being that most other forms of social media function very similarly (clicking links, liking other people’s posts, and posting your own updates, to use the study-makers’ measurements), a lot of this data can likely be applied, at least in part, to all other social media that makes use of profiles and update feeds.

Has the Smartphone Destroyed a Generation? – The Atlantic
The author, a researcher on generational trends, tries coming up with one good thing about Gen Z’s trends throughout this piece – “they’re safer” she says, but can you really say that with a straight face when rates of suicidal ideations and attempts are skyrocketing among young people?