Greg Perkins

Oct 232009
 

The Objectivism Seminar is working through Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s all-too-topical book, The Ominous Parallels. In it, he explores what gave rise to to the fascist, totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany — and analyzes whether and how a fascist, totalitarian regime could emerge here in America.

Our focus this week was Chapter 6, “Kant Versus America” — a reference to the fundamental opposition between core American ideals and German ideological imports. Topics we discussed included:
  • German metaphysical idealism coming to America via the transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson et. al — an eclectic “literary” version of German romanticism. Then decades of Hegel’s purified Kantianism dominating American philosophy departments.
  • How some advocates of these ideas were open and clear about their rejection of reason for emotion/intuition/will, while others took the tack of presenting themselves as champions of rationality even while undercutting every essential element of it.
  • How advocates of the American system of rights and capitalism tried to find ideological support in classical economics and evolutionary biology — and how this was ultimately a doomed effort because these are not philosophically fundamental. Mill, Smith, Say, and the rest of the classical economists tried to defend an individualist system while accepting the fundamental moral ideas of its opponents (altruism, collectivism). And on the biological evolution front, Herbert Spencer tried and failed to defend capitalism while adhering to more fundamental ideas which clash with it (advocating a species-based collectivist approach that would be inspiration for Eugenicists, and thinking evolution would eventually eliminate egoism in favor of altruism in humans).
  • What Pragmatism is and how it became the main American manifestation of the Kantian trend.
  • Why Pragmatists adopt codes of values and political ideas designed by others (non-pragmatists), usually without consciously acknowledging this, through cultural osmosis.
  • How Pragmatism was the only 20th century philosophy to gain broad, national acceptance in America (and how this happened through Orwellian twists of meaning and language to sell it to an audience who would otherwise recoil). How it enjoyed a disastrous acceleration by taking over the educational system (Dewey), its prevalence in politics, etc.
  • How academic philosophy then all but disappeared in America — as the “dead end” of the Kantian dichotomy between thought and reality, with the public rightly rejecting the field of philosophy as worthless (even though they nonetheless remained powerfully influenced by philosophy).
  • And a lot more…
If this sounds interesting, you can listen in on the podcast — just download the session’s MP3 directly, or listen to it with the little player on the right, or subscribe to the podcast series over on the Seminar’s TalkShoe page. And if you have something to ask or add, please do pick up the book and join the discussion! We meet at 8:00pm Mountain on Mondays, for about an hour.

CrossFit: Three.. Two.. One.. GO!

 Posted by on 17 October 2009 at 12:00 pm  Exercise, Fitness, Health, Sports
Oct 172009
 

I started looking into CrossFit after seeing it mentioned by various health/fitness guys I’ve learned a lot from — like Richard Nickoley, Mark Sisson, and Art De Vany, who talk about the value of mixing things up, using high intensity, intervals, resistance training and such. I liked what I was finding in the methodology and was intrigued at its potential, so I was eager for an opportunity to try CrossFit in a way that includes the coaching I knew I would need to not hurt my middle-aged self. (Sure, it’s free if you do it at home, but who goes out on their own and just starts doing Olympic-style lifts? Not me!) Happily, a couple of months ago Tammy and I noticed that a CrossFit gym was about to open near our house. We checked it out and took the plunge! So far, it’s been very cool.

Before giving reports from the front and breaking out the obligatory pictures of progress, let’s start with a little about what CrossFit is. The headquarters site says

CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.

Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.

And in a CrossFit Foundations article, creator Greg Glassman writes, “CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. We have designed our program to elicit as broad an adaptational response as possible. CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains. They are Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.”

Of course, I’m not a Navy SEAL, a stick-fighting champion, or a fireman — but developing serious competence in all of these domains, and therefore a powerful “ready state,” would be awfully useful for the sorts of play I like to engage in: mountain biking, summit-scrambling, snowboarding, maybe a spontaneous half-marathon hill run or whatever else Tammy or my friends might want to draw me into. And it would come in handy for those (hopefully vanishingly) rare times when Stuff Happens — plus as I age, maintaining as much physical capacity as possible would be invaluable for health and autonomy.

There’s a lot of empirical observation and some pretty good epistemology behind various aspects that I can go into later, but today I’ll just share the central CrossFit prescription for efficiently achieving that broad, general, and inclusive fitness: constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity. Every element of that is essential. Glassman breaks it down in a brief article on Understanding CrossFit:

Functional movements are universal motor recruitment patterns; they are performed in a wave of contraction from core to extremity; and they are compound movements — i.e., they are multi-joint. They are natural, effective, and efficient locomotors of body and external objects. [Author's note: Examples include squats, pullups, situps, jumping, running, throwing, lifts like deadlift and clean & jerk and overhead press. They are elemental movements, used in lots of activities.] But no aspect of functional movements is more important than their capacity to move large loads over long distances, and to do so quickly. Collectively, these three attributes (load, distance, and speed) uniquely qualify functional movements for the production of high power. Intensity is defined exactly as power, and intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing favorable adaptation to exercise.

Recognizing that the breadth and depth of a program’s stimulus will determine the breadth and depth of the adaptation it elicits, our prescription of functionality and intensity is constantly varied. We believe that preparation for random physical challenges — i.e., unknown and unknowable events — is at odds with fixed, predictable, and routine regimens. [emphasis and paragraph break mine]

Plateauing is not easy when the adaptational response never has a fixed target — plus, the novelty of not knowing what will be coming next keeps us from getting bored. As sick as it might sound, it actually becomes a fun adventure to show up at the gym not knowing what challenge we’ll be hit with! One day it’s a 5k run or row for time; another day it’s finding the maximum weights you can deadlift, press, and back-squat; on another it is a butt-kicking, lung-searing sequence of a dozen varied exercises done for time (here’s one we were given a week or two ago, as demonstrated by a bunch of uber-fit trainers at a certification: [wmv][mov]).

CrossFit turns fitness itself into a sport by making general fitness quantifiable, setting standards, and measuring performance in a very visible way. So people get to see their own development, have fun competing with themselves and their buddies in some sense, get encouragement in a group setting, and so on. This all goes toward motivation and intensity (making it fun to show up, and keeping you engaged in the work when it’s soooo hard).

Turning fitness into a sport also makes the CrossFit Games possible. The Games are a proving ground for demonstrating general fitness, and a way to draw attention to those who might have a more effective training method. Elite athletes train all year and show up to compete — but what’s special about this competition is that they have to train while not knowing exactly what the events will be. They only know they will be tested in some way that is broad and brutal enough to differentiate the fittest person. So the athletes have to focus on developing that well-rounded, inclusive fitness to win. The rest of us get to marvel, and learn.

Then we throw ourselves into tomorrow’s unknown workout. Three.. Two.. One.. GO!

Some links:

  • What is CrossFit” is a one-page promotional summary from an affiliate gym’s website.
  • The Okinawa Speech is a video of a great talk by CrossFit’s founder, Coach Greg Glassman. He presents the origins of the CrossFit definition of fitness, the development of the training methodology, addresses safety, efficacy and efficiency, and a lot more. Worth the time.
  • God’s Workout” in NY Times Magazine made me laugh (and of course I have seen no dangerous, macho behavior, nor any cultlike attitude — in fact, I’ve only seen the opposite on both counts).
  • The Truth About Crossfit” is a pretty good perspective piece by a fitness writer, fun to read, from a big bodybuilding site/magazine (though it has some goofiness, like defending another of their writers who apparently had some sort of tussle with CrossFit’s founder, Glassman).
  • Eight quick perspectives/reviews by people.
  • World HQ for CrossFit itself is a free website with a huge amount of information.

[image from games.crossfit.com]

 

The Objectivism Seminar is working through Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s all-too-topical book, The Ominous Parallels. In it, he explores what gave rise to to the fascist, totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany — and analyzes whether and how a fascist, totalitarian regime could emerge here in America.

Our focus this past two weeks (due to technical difficulties) was Chapter 5, “The Nation of the Enlightenment” — a reference to the central influence of the ideas and spirit of the Enlightenment in America’s founding. Topics we discussed included:
  • The eras of reason in Western philosophy, and how this relates to Peikoff’s characterization of the US as the Nation of the Enlightenment. Whether the US is indeed unique in being a “nation of ideas”.
  • How achievements in science and philosophy basically proclaimed the world open to reason — with reason becoming a virtue, the norm and expected.
  • The difference between early America and the America that the Founders built. How the American Enlightenment is a ‘profound reversal’ of the Puritans’ philosophic priorities. What brought about the dislodging of Puritanism, and the religious outlook of the founding leaders.
  • Why Aristotle is the first father of this new world. And Locke’s contribution to that legacy.
  • How the founders integrated their considerable knowledge of history to devise a brilliant, practical implementation of these abstract ideas with checks and balances, trying to isolate the operation of the state as much as possible from the moral character of any of its temporary officials, as well as subversion by an aspiring dictator or temporary sentiment.
  • How this rising nation of ideas then fell prey to bad ideas in Europe: There was no American attempt to give systematic statement to and defense of the American approach to liberty — we had no major philosophical innovators and relied on Europe to provide this (e.g., Locke). Unfortunately, there were gaps and problems, leading to the “American conflict” between the implicitly egoistic upholding of rights vs. the explicitly altruistic morality of the culture.
  • And a lot more…
If this sounds interesting, you can listen in on the podcast — just download the session’s MP3 directly, or listen to it with the little player on the right, or subscribe to the podcast series over on the Seminar’s TalkShoe page. And if you have something to ask or add, please do pick up the book and join the discussion! We meet at 8:00pm Mountain on Mondays, for about an hour.

The Irony, It Burns

 Posted by on 12 October 2009 at 4:00 am  Culture, Politics, Religion
Oct 122009
 
A recent piece from PJTV floated by, “Is Barack Obama Jesus Christ?” It starts off with footage of one of those often-creepy examples of children singing patriotic songs or Jesus-jingles with the words modified to be about Obama (this time it appears to be a Jesus-jingle). The piece goes on to explore its title question with sarcastic tongue in cheek comparison and contrast that ranges through the schools that have kids singing like that, to the adoring treatment of Obama in the mainstream media and artistic community.

There’s a lot to talk about here, but what struck me wasn’t the quality or lack in the analysis. No, it was the sheer irony. This commentary was created to register some degree of outrage at the deification of Obama, at the sacrilege of any comparison of him to a Christlike Savior — and the commentator is making a real point about how dangerous this is: after all, pretending doesn’t make it so. Giving up our independent understanding and following authority in some sort of primacy-of-consciousness yes-we-can pretend world does in fact leave us dependent and exposed to all sorts of dangers, positioned poorly to deal with all those pesky facts of reality, ill-equipped to achieve genuine values in the actual world.

The video took some serious effort to produce, so what is being said isn’t exactly casual — yet it somehow misses the painfully obvious application of its criticism to precisely what it is defending! Check out the closing:

Luckily, though, if there’s anyone on earth who can help us stop thinking or laughing or learning new information, it’s our public school teachers, mainstream journalists, and state-loving artists.

So, boys and girls, is Barack Obama really Jesus Christ? Of course not! But working together we can all pretend, can’t we? And if we pretend very, very hard, we can soon go to live in his magical kingdom, where everything is taken care of for us, and nothing costs anything, and we never have to make any of those nasty, old personal decisions for ourselves ever again. And then we’re screwed.

And in religion — most definitely including the one being defended against this slight/competition — we are called to submit to authority and take important matters on faith (that is, it helps us stop thinking). And religion tells us that if we simply pretend (i.e., believe) very, very hard, we can soon go to live in God’s magical kingdom, where everything is taken care of for us, and nothing costs anything, and we never have to make any of those nasty, old personal decisions for ourselves ever again.

And then we’re screwed. Indeed.

Shape of My Heart

 Posted by on 6 October 2009 at 1:00 pm  Cool, Fun
Oct 062009
 

Here’s a very cool video of Shawn Farquhar performing. He’s a two-time World Champion of Magic and has some serious skill with cards. I love seeing people this good at what they do!

Sep 302009
 

The Objectivism Seminar is working through Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s all-too-topical book, The Ominous Parallels. In it, he explores what gave rise to to the fascist, totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany — and analyzes whether and how a fascist, totalitarian regime could emerge here in America.

Our focus this week was Chapter 4, “The Ethics of Evil” — a reference to the implications for peoples’ lives that flow from the ideas they accept about values. Topics we discussed included:
  • How Obama matches and doesn’t match fascists in history — an important distinction to observe.
  • The two fundamentally opposed approaches to morality.
  • How Kant carried Christianity’s ethics to its climax — and how Christianity “prepared the ground” for modern totalitarianism by entrenching three fundamental ideas in the Western mind.
  • Christianity’s non-sacrificial ethical nod to Pagan egoism — and how Kant expunged this.
  • How Kant felt he wasn’t an innovator in the realm of morality, but yet he was an innovator in in an important respect: actually divorcing morality from values, with moral perfection being uninterested action devoid of any love or desire.
  • What evil consists in, for Kant: not self-love per-se, but giving self-love priority over morality in one’s heart. Kant’s version of Original Sin.
  • How for Kant, “It is the lot of the moral man to burn with desire and then, on principle — the principle of duty — to thwart it. The hallmark of the moral man is to suffer. … It is sacrifice — sacrifice as against apathy or indifference, sacrifice continual and searing — which is the essence of Kant’s moral counsel to living men.” [p.80]
  • How Kant did not preach Nazism (he likely would have frowned on the Nazis) — yet he established a necessary precondition for their development.
  • The rise of the formal doctrine of Altruism, giving a target to sacrifice… Then Hegel’s development bringing ‘social relativism’ to ethics — and how the Nazis’ pragmatism dovetails with it to strengthen their sacrificial, collectivist program.
  • Why physical coercion and persuasion are the only two methods for people to deal with one another — and how altruism gives the use of force a moral sanction, making it not just a practical recourse, but a positive virtue (in both secular and religious forms).
  • How the many “mindless activists and nonideological brawlers” were nonetheless in the grip of a particular philosophy, morphing and rewriting their program, yet never altering the three fundamental ideas that their program rested on from start to end.
  • That the world has not learned its lesson from history, with these three fundamental ideas still spreading throughout the Western world and increasing in their potency (and damage).
  • And a lot more…
If this sounds interesting, you can listen in on the podcast (just download the session’s MP3 directly, or listen to it with the little player on the right, or subscribe to the podcast series over on the Seminar’s TalkShoe page). And if you have something to ask or add, please do pick up the book and join the discussion! We meet at 8:00pm Mountain on Mondays, for about an hour.
Sep 232009
 

The Objectivism Seminar is working through Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s all-too-topical book, The Ominous Parallels. In it, he explores what gave rise to to the fascist, totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany — and analyzes whether and how a fascist, totalitarian regime could emerge here in America.

Our focus this week was Chapter 3, “Hitler’s War Against Reason” — a reference to the implications for peoples’ lives that flow from the ideas they accept about knowledge and its acquisition and use. Topics we discussed included:
  • The connection between the rejection of reason and the use of force.
  • the Nazi “epistemology”: the wholesale undercutting and replacement of reason as a source of knowledge and guide to action — in favor of feelings, instincts, “will” or (as Hitler was so surprisingly breezy in putting it) whatever you want to call such things.
  • Irrationalism as the rejection of reason, Mysticism as the supplementing or replacement of reason, and [non-esthetic] Romanticism’s existing strength in the German culture being necessary for Hitler and the Nazis to accomplish their aims.
  • The timeline and major philosophical players in the transition from the Enlightenment reliance on reason to its rejection for romanticism and voluntarism.
  • Hitler and the Nazi’s profound, central reliance on and promotion of two forms of anti-reason: dogmatism and pragmatism.
  • How this mixture of dogmatism and pragmatism brought something new (and seemingly paradoxical) to the world: “the absolute of the moment, or the immutable which never stands still, issued by an omniscience that ceaselessly changes its mind.”
  • A more general exploration of the subjectivism that underlies the above, how despite being present systematically since Greek times, it was able to take off and dominate a culture at this time and in this place.
  • The naked use of force that subjectivism/primacy-of-consciousness has always brought — even necessitated — in politics.
  • How the Nazis were utterly dependent on the groundwork laid by philosophers, merely “cashing in” on what was already in place.
  • And a lot more…
If this sounds interesting, you can listen in on the podcast (just download the session’s MP3 directly, or listen to it with the little player on the right, or subscribe to the podcast series over on the Seminar’s TalkShoe page). And if you have something to ask or add, please do pick up the book and join the discussion! We meet at 8:00pm Mountain on Mondays, for about an hour.
Sep 162009
 

The Objectivism Seminar is working through Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s all-too-topical book, The Ominous Parallels. In it, he explores what gave rise to to the fascist, totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany — and analyzes whether and how a fascist, totalitarian regime could emerge here in America.

Our focus this week was Chapter 2, “The Totalitarian Universe” — a reference to the implications for peoples’ lives that flow from the metaphysical ideas they accept about the nature of reality. Topics we discussed included:
  • The complex, centuries-long development in the history of philosophy involving dozens of figures that brought about modern German culture and its Nazi climax — boiled down to the essential turning points found in three major philosophors: Plato, Kant, and Hegel.
  • Plato’s metaphysics and what it says about men, ethics, and politics — how the implications in politics mean some men must rule others.
  • The fundamental contrast Aristotle offered.
  • The points at when Plato’s and Aristotle’s contrasting outlooks alternately dominated cultures, and how Kant’s innovations drove the most recent transition to an essentially Platonic outlook.
  • The difference between Plato and Kant — how Kant “purified” Plato epistemologically and ethically.
  • How Kant and Aristotle are similar in their professed political ideas not expressing the implications of their metaphysics/epistemology (and how later thinkers in their lines went on to develop those implications).
  • The role of Hegel as a post-Kantian Platonist; how he “purified” the Kant and made Plato’s totalitarian blueprint pale by comparison.
  • The forms in which Hegel’s ideas propagated — Fascist Italy vs. Nazi Germany — as well as the ways in which Hegel’s ideas were secularized and made more materialistic and seemingly scientific. (Social Darwinism with Hitler, and class/economic determinism with Marx).
  • And a lot more…
If this sounds interesting, you can listen in on the podcast (just download the session’s MP3 directly, or listen to it with the little player on the right, or subscribe to the podcast series over on the Seminar’s TalkShoe page). And if you have something to ask or add, please do pick up the book and join the discussion! We meet at 8:00pm Mountain on Mondays, for about an hour.
Sep 102009
 

The Objectivism Seminar just started going through Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s all-too-topical book, The Ominous Parallels. In it, he explores what gave rise to to the fascist, totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany — and analyzes whether and how a fascist, totalitarian regime could emerge here in America.

Our focus this week was Chapter 1, “The Cause of Nazism.” Topics we discussed included:
  • Hitler’s explanation of the moral philosophy of Nazism, which underlies “the individual’s capacity to make sacrifices for the community, for his fellow men.” He contrasted this with egoism/selfishness (which we only found surprising for its forthrightness).
  • The degree to which the German people were aware of the political aims of the Nazi party (the “total state”, a totalitarian regime) when they freely voted the Nazis into power.
  • Terminology: statism, totalitarianism, individualism vs. collectivism, socialism and its relationship to communism and fascism, etc. For the Nazis, socialism was much broader than economics.
  • How property and economic action fare under Marxist/communist treatment vs. fascist/Nazi treatment.
  • Peikoff’s argument that “An evil of such magnitude cannot be a product of superficial factors” (a good number of which he names and dispenses with). And why there is no direct or even approximate causal relationship between any “specific practical crises and the development of Nazism.” (Like losing WWI or a nasty economic depression.)
  • What it means to understand things in terms of fundamentals, and why the tools for doing so are necessarily philosophical.
  • Peikoff’s basic argument that philosophy is the fundamental factor behind the destiny of nations and the course of history.
  • Peikoff’s statement that the science of philosophy had to be destroyed for the horrors of the 20th century to come about.
  • And a lot more…
If this sounds interesting, you can listen in on the podcast (just download the session’s MP3 directly, or listen to it with the little player on the right, or subscribe to the podcast series over on the Seminar’s TalkShoe page). And if you have something to ask or add, please do pick up the book and join the discussion! We meet at 8:00pm Mountain on Mondays for an hour or hour and a half.

The Flame Game, Geek Style

 Posted by on 5 September 2009 at 7:00 am  Food, Funny, Science
Sep 052009
 

A note titled “Alright Men” arrived in my inbox from an old friend, cluing me in to a local tradition which was apparently gaining some fame:

You haven’t got a hair on you a$$ unless you’ve done Flying Pie’s double habanero pizza. “Man vs. Food” (on the Travel Channel) is doing it this Friday … not to be outdone, I did it tonight (4, count ‘em, four slices) while my co- challenger (not-to-be-named) managed only 2. So, the question is are you man enough?

He went on to challenge all comers to meet him at Flying Pie any time during the month and give it a go (August is the only time of year they serve this monstrosity). Another recipient quickly replied:

What a load of crap. Were you wearing a pink skirt when you did that?

I bet I wouldn’t even break a sweat.

Unfortunately, I am busy any night that you want to do the competition, so I guess I will have to pass. Although, the record books should show that if I wasn’t already scheduled for something I haven’t thought of yet, that I would eat 5 with no ice cream.

Whoohooo! Winner.

In the end, there was just one fool taker for his challenge, so naturally my friend expanded his campaign of peer pressure:

OK, ladies, only [one of you] is man enough to take me up on this … Once [he] and I get a time and place scheduled, I’ll let everyone know so if you want to come by, you can see how men eat. And, who knows, maybe some of you will check your ovaries at the door and join us.

At this point several of us fell prey to his irresistible powers of persuasion (he’s a lawyer). If I had to pick out what made mere words so effective, I would put testosterone poisoning at the top of the list, well known for its capacity to dampen volition. The better part of a dozen males signed on, but no females, which indicates a significant causal factor by Mills Methods of Induction. (As many females as males did attend, but only to mock the guys’ idiocy.)

Alright, so Flying Pie will spread diced habanero on pizzas like it’s just another flavor of cheese or something, and now we had a shared-strife male-ego-driven test of wills based on it. Being a certified geek, I reflexively broke out some research to see just how ugly this little adventure might turn… and what I might do to better survive it.

First Question: Just how hot are we talking? It turns out that habanero chilies have a Scoville hotness value in the 200,000-300,000 range. (My prior pepper experience topped out at the hotness of the jalapeno pepper, which lands in the comparatively wimpy range of 2,500-10,000.) The Scoville scale is based on dilution into sugar syrup until the heat can’t be detected by a panel of five people, presumably selected by their high levels of testosterone. Bottom line? They are saying the heat of a teaspoon of habanero only stops being noticeable when you mix it into about 400 gallons of sugar syrup. Jesus.

Obvious Second Question: Can it harm me physically? The Scoville scale is basically a measure of the level of capsaicin in the peppers. Capsaicin is a chemical that binds to and stimulates nerve endings, especially in mucus membranes, creating that burning sensation. But it’s only a sensation of burning — the consensus seems to be that capsaicin does not itself cause any physical damage when you eat it, though exposure at high enough concentrations could cause irritation, which if great enough could bring “nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and burning diarrhea.” So I might hurl — or come to more fully appreciate the lyrics to a certain Johnny Cash tune the next day, as the pizzeria staff was so helpfully suggesting we would — but whatever hell my nerve endings might go through, I should come through it with at worst psychological scars.

Third Question: Any chance for a prophylactic… or failing that, an antidote? Sure, everyone has a prescription, and I vaguely remembered a Mythbusters episode that looked them over. Those guys can be pretty objective, so I looked up their results. The upshot? All the various methods, from drinking beer to tequila shots to coating your mouth with Vaseline (ugh) to eating wasabi (wtf!?) and so on are basically crap. They found that your best bet for putting out the fire is to simply drink milk. Others who study such things explain, “Milk contains casein, a lipophilic (fat-loving) substance that surrounds and washes away the fatty capsaicin molecules in much the same way that soap washes away grease.” Sweet! I had my secret weapon: just swish and swallow a bunch of milk before, during, and after the ordeal! Maybe this would let me make it through an entire slice and demonstrate my extreme manliness.

So I called up Flying Pie to ask if they served milk. Then I asked, in my most virile tone, if they had a big, tough mug I could drink it from. Hooked. Up.

The evening arrived and we assembled around the table, eyes watering from just the smell of the peppers. I was still wondering just how much the milk could help… 300,000 is a big number. Then our official judge kicked it off! I was careful not to chew any more than necessary (why make a bad situation worse by spreading the capsaicin around?) — so I was biting off and swallowing hunks of the deadly pie with my best horse-pill-eating technique. Hoo boy! The staff said that the “Man vs. Food” guy gave up in something like two bites, and now I appreciated why. Within about ten seconds I learned I should try to wash every bite down with milk, and to maybe do some extra swishing between slices.

And it was working! Two of us quickly left the others behind, downing slice after slice. He was doing the horse-pill thing, too, but he wasn’t using milk. Damn, who is that masked man? Turns out he was none other than The Ringer — a guy who apparently used to eat whole habaneros right off the plant while gardening. After I’d eaten about 8.5 slices, and just when someone was about to order yet another of the deadly concoctions, the fog of competition cleared long enough for me to see that he would surely go on matching me slice for slice (and staying ahead by one) until my already-full stomach burst.

So I gave my concession toast, ending the ordeal.

I could tell my stomach was none too pleased with me for this gastric offense, but I indeed suffered no ill effects. And I was finally in a position to verify that Johnny Cash was on to something… it’s a fact: we don’t digest all of the capsaicin we ingest.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha