Weekly Head Voices #221: The anti-breakfast club

Hello there friends, and welcome to Weekly Head Voices #221, covering the week from Monday April 12 to Sunday April 18, 2021, and focusing on the programming language Erlang and the evil that is breakfast.

Figure 1: Entrance to Vergelegen and Morgenster, taken during an Autumn morning long(er) run. I’m three bananas strong.

Figure 1: Entrance to Vergelegen and Morgenster, taken during an Autumn morning long(er) run. I’m three bananas strong.

Learn you a tiny bit of Erlang for Great Good!

Last week I attended a meetup that turned out to be primarily about Erlang and not so much about automated crypto arbitrage, the other topic of the talk. Although it’s interesting to me that we have a company right here in this town that has been successfully doing automated crypto arbitrage for a few years now, using Erlang!

Like many other folks, I became interested in Erlang back in 2013 (I just checked my notes, but it was also mentioned on this blog in 2014, when I decided not to learn it) when WhatsApp started becoming well-known. The WhatsApp backend was famously implemented in Erlang, enabling them to handle hundreds of millions, and now billions, of users with relatively little resources.

The first two hours of the talk was a detailed intro to Erlang that did require a substantial amount focus and grit to keep up with.

However, understanding how light-weight Erlang processes work and talk to each other was quite interesting. More importantly the speaker both really knew what he was talking about, and spoke really well.

The last 20 minutes or so after that were great, more about how and why exactly Shiftly uses Erlang to do their real-time crypto arbitrage.

Their Erlang system is self-healing (when one of the light-weight processes dies, for whatever reason, its supervisor simply replaces it; there are supervisors watching the other supervisors!), and usually runs for years on end, keeping all of its state in memory. They usually only have to stop it to perform security upgrades on the underlying operating system.

Erlang processes pull in feeds from forex and various other suppliers, monitor order books in real-time, and then execute movements on crypto trading pairs that are affected by any order book entry.

My main take-home was that Erlang seems to combine super light-weight processes (you can run millions of them on a single machine) that are fully isolated (a process can divide by zero, be killed and a new one takes its place) but can still easily share code and data via messages.

It seems like the antithesis to the sticky and sometimes over-complicated micro-services situation we have collectively gotten ourselves into.

All of that being said, the same caveats apply as using another actor platform like akka.net for example: Everything is unicorns and rainbows if you stay within the lines (i.e. strict Erlang, or pure .NET managed code in akka’s case).

When you start adding native code, things can still go quite badly awry.

Still, the Erlang actor-based approach to writing highly concurrent and fault-tolerant code sure looks amazing!

I really don’t like breakfast

Some of my friends know that I’ve been quite angry at breakfast for a while now.

I’m referring specifically to the idea that has been quite successfully propagated by the makers of breakfast cereal for as long as I can remember:

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

So they really want you to eat their usually sugar-filled products first thing in the morning, and they’ve convinced you, and most of the “field”, that this is healthy.

Eating causes inflammation

What many people don’t realise, is that every single meal causes inflammation.

Postprandial inflammation, as this is called, is your body’s normal response to any foreign material entering its systems.

Refined foods, and especially sugar, cause much more inflammation per volume than natural foods, such as fruit and vegetables. Some food types even counteract the inflammation to a certain extent.

Can you see where this is going?

A few hours after dinner you go to bed, your body still dealing with the inflammation caused by that dinner.

You hopefully sleep for 8 hours or more, and your body finally gets a break.

The problem with breakfast

What do you do when you get up? You eat breakfast, because it’s entrenched in your brain (thanks to years of marketing) that breakfast is healthy and should not be skipped, instead starting up a full day’s inflammation again.

This article in Nutrition & Metabolism describes the phenomenon quite nicely:

The typical Western diet is characterized by sizable portions of highly processed foods, large amounts of added sugars, and a high total fat content. The average fat content of a Western meal is between 20 and 40 g, and three to four meals per day are consumed regularly. Therefore, many individuals spend the majority of their day in a postprandial state, characterized by elevated levels of circulating triglycerides (TRG) following a meal.

Chronic low-grade inflammation is associated with metabolic disorders that include obesity, type 2 diabeters and the metabolic syndrome. Furthermore, low inflammation predicts successful ageing.

In short, we want as little as possible inflammation, not more.

There are fortunately a few great ways to mitigate feeding’s role in inflammation: 1. Eat the best food you can find, 2. eat less food and, importantly, 3. try not to eat for the whole dang day.

My anger at breakfast and its cereal-maker proponents is because they have sabotaged point 3 above, sending a large part of the western populace into glucose metabolism and inflammation every single morning.

Skip you some breakfast for great good

This blog post on time-restricted eating is definitely worth your time. Here I would like to reproduce what it has to say about breakfast:

We have all been told to eat breakfast. Unfortunately this is inaccurate advice.

When you first wake up in the morning, your insulin level is quite low and most people are just starting to enter the fasted state, 12 hours after eating the last meal of the previous day. Eating at this time raises insulin and glucose and immediately shuts off fat-burning. This is especially true for a high carb breakfast. A potentially better choice would be to push the first meal of your day out at least a few hours, during which time you can continue in the fasted state and burn stored body fat.

Interestingly, many properly fat-adapted people aren’t very hungry in the morning and have no problem skipping breakfast.

From personal experience I can confirm this: I usually don’t get hungry at all until lunch-time, at the earliest.

(If I’m planning to go on a morning run, I will usually eat a few bananas right before the outing to be able to keep up a higher pace. I have also run fasted, but in that case my pace is automatically more relaxed.)

In this context, it’s interesting to look at Peter Attia’s nutritional framework as well. He refers to eating less, eating specific things and restricting when you eat as three levers that have to be regularly pulled.

Pulling these levers helps your body to become metabolically flexible, that is, being able to switch easily between glucose burning and fat burning, the latter of which many western humans are not capable of anymore.

It is interesting in this regard that our brains, although they can run on fat when required, strongly prefer glucose (source: fascinating podcast episode “Hussein Yassine, M.D.: Deep dive into the ‘Alzheimer’s gene’ (APOE), brain health, and omega-3s”). I’m still working out the implications of this on my personal intellectual requirements.

Ok friends, thank you for sticking around for this sermon!

Next week: A whole bunch of information that in fact does constitue financial and investment advice that I take full responsibility for. (haha just joking. it’ll be politics or religion.)