Charlie's Blog: January 2024



Backpacking makes you realize how little you really need to be happy.

I have been using backpacks since I was a kid back in elementary school. I had to lug books back and forth to school along with notebooks, pencils, pens, and whatever else they need to mess up a kid's spine. I can't remember all of the backpacks I have used over the years. I know two of them came from L.L.Bean. One was worn out before I left high school. The second one lasted me until the end of college. I don't know what became of the second one. I liked it because it had a leather bottom.

My current backpack is a cheap camo bag from Walmart I bought in the sporting goods section. It's supposed to be used for hunting, but I have never hunted anything in my life. I bought it over a decade ago to carry books, notebooks, pens, pencils, and my Walkman. The load is lighter than my schooldays, but the point is that I have never stopped being a student.

I have never used a backpack for hiking because I am not a hiker. I have never used one for traveling the world and sleeping in hostels. I have also never served in the military and used a rucksack. Basically, my backpack has served as a portable office to feed my mind. It carries my world with me.

The backpack is a versatile bag, and it struck me at how it is the most useful bag you can own. There are different versions depending upon the task, but they are all basically a bag with two straps that go around the shoulders turning the wearer into a human mule.

Backpacks vs. messenger bags

The biggest competitor to the backpack is the messenger bag. There are different versions from the slim versions bicycle messengers use to the briefcase versions of office workers to the large satchels you see on postal workers. The messenger bag has an advantage over the backpack. The messenger bag is easy to access. You have to take off a backpack to get anything out of it.

I have used a messenger bag a couple of times in my life. I got a lot of insults about carrying a "man purse." I had to remind myself and those idiots that Indiana Jones carried a man purse. I don't care what others think about me as most of the population are blithering idiots. If I want to carry a man purse, I will.

I don't use a messenger bag now because it has a drawback. You can't carry much stuff in it. If you did carry a lot of stuff, the weight of the thing hanging from one side of your body can't do much good for your posture. This is why students shun messenger bags. They can't get the job done for you.

The messenger bag is only good for the office worker carrying papers and a laptop computer. If you wear a suit, you can keep it looking unwrinkled with a messenger bag. I would opt for a messenger bag over a briefcase. But I'm not an office worker.


I became interested in rucking as I was reading up on the benefits of walking. For those who don't know, rucking is simply walking with a weighted backpack. Rucking is very popular among military types who hate running. My research into rucking has shown to me that the extra calorie burn is not worth the increased risk of injury or the hassle of carrying that pack. The touted benefits of rucking are overrated and can be achieved by walking a few more minutes each day. I will break all of this down in a future post about walking versus rucking.


I was interested in hiking in my younger years. I never actually did any hiking, but I dreamed of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. Then, I got old and wise. I don't care to do any outdoor activity that requires me to sleep on the ground overnight. I will do it in a survival scenario, but I would never choose to do it for "recreation."

My time outside is followed by a hot shower and a warm bed. I do have a ratty old backpack I bought from Goodwill. It looks like an old book bag used by a schoolkid. I bought the thing as a way to get into rucking until I changed my mind about rucking. I keep the thing now to potentially carry water and food if I ever go walking in a state park one day. I used to do that sort of thing before my accident, but it is beyond my capabilities right now.

Some people might call this a day hike, but I don't. I think hiking is more serious than anything I do. Hiking is essentially walking except you carry more gear on a hike. What I would carry amounts to lunch. I am not a hiker which is why I can get away with that ratty bag. I would use my camo bookbag, but I don't want crumbs and water messing it up and getting on my books later on.


My two backpacks came from Walmart and Goodwill. I can afford better, but I don't bother. If I did bother, there are three brands I find recommended online. These brands would be LLBean, JanSport, and Eastpak. Those three brands are great for students who put more use and abuse on a bag than any soldier or mountain climber. They are also typically less than $100. I would go with any of those three bags if I was back in school.

I can't recommend anything over $100 from the makers of military backpacks or outdoor packs. This is because I don't do those activities. My personal opinion is that these bags are overpriced. Over the years, I have learned that any specialized gear pales in comparison to a general purpose product in terms of both quality and price. The specialized gear is mostly marketing and hype.


That's it for my discussion on backpacks, At the end of the day, a backpack is just a bag with 2 straps. As long as the straps and the zippers are good, you have a quality bag. Even the ratty bags will do if you don't care to spend a lot of money. Try the thrift store before the department store or online. I have seen those brands I recommended selling for a couple of dollars and in excellent shape. Overall, I think a backpack is the best bag you can own and use for lugging stuff.


100 and Today

The days of our years in them are threescore and ten years. But if in the strong they be fourscore years: and what is more of them is labour and sorrow. For mildness is come upon us: and we shall be corrected.

The Good Book says you have 70 years to live and maybe 80 if you are strong. This verse is not so much a promise but an observation that persists even to our time. Most people who live to old age die between 70 and 80. Current life expectancy in the USA is that women will die at 79 while men will die at 73. These are just averages, but you can see from these numbers that the Bible gets it right.

My personal opinion is that every day past age 70 is bonus time on the clock. None of us is guaranteed anything, but that 70 number is a good benchmark. If you make it to 70, you can't say God didn't give you enough time.

Some people live to 80, 90, and 100. To be candid, I don't know how much of a blessing that is. You have to admit that those advanced years are going to be the worst you ever lived through. A sudden death at 70 from a heart attack has to be better than a lingering death at 95. When you factor in Alzheimer's and dementia, living to the century mark is more curse than blessing. The Bible even says this with that line about increased labor and sorrow.

I think God chooses your death date. Jack LaLanne exercised and ate a vegetarian diet. He died at 96. Charlie Munger did the opposite and lived to be 99. Recently, a former tobacco company executive died. He was 100. I gamble that he smoked until the day he died. Anecdotes like this make a mockery of all our plans to increase our longevity.

The fact is that we could live to 100 or die in the next few minutes. As someone who lived through an accident that could have been fatal, I can tell you that it can be over sooner than you realize. But it was not enough to make me go back to eating steak.

I believe in eating right and getting exercise. This is because I have already lived a life where I did neither of those things. For me, the change wasn't because of quantity of life considerations but quality of life. I don't care about living to 100. I do care about living with less pain and misery today.

If I knew I had a short time to live, I would change nothing about my habits. I wouldn't eat meat, dairy, and eggs again. I wouldn't take up smoking. I wouldn't drink alcohol or smoke dope or any of that. Part of it comes from the fact that I am not a hedonist. The other part of it comes from the fact that I wouldn't do it even if I was a hedonist.

When it comes to pleasure and pain, I think Epicurus had the better wisdom versus the Cyrenaics. True hedonism is not an abundance of pleasure so much as the absence of pain. The taste of steak can never make up for the gastrointestinal distress it would cause me. Likewise, a cigar after dinner would make me turn green and puke.

I do not think you can avoid all pain and misery, but I think misery can be minimized by living sensibly. I like waking up in the morning without a hangover. I like not having to pop antacids after a meal. I like not having to inject myself with insulin. I like not having chest pains after eating fast food. I like going for a walk and enjoying time outside. I am not trying to brag here, but I have a good life.

My good life comes from not hurting myself with bad habits. I don't expect to live any longer than anyone else, but I do live better than everyone I know. I have a high quality of life. Epicurus knew what he was talking about. It doesn't take much to have that quality of life except common sense.

It struck me one day that I did not have any vices except a strong cup of black coffee. I didn't plan to arrive here, but here I am. I got here by giving up the things that made me feel sick. I think most vices come from trying to neutralize emotional and spiritual pain. I turn those pains over to the Lord. A good hour in prayer beats a night at the bar and grill.

For me, the real test will come with a painful terminal disease. I have already decided to not take opioid painkillers. I want that suffering to offer up to the Lord. I want to have a clear mind in my final days and hours. I don't think it is possible to have a good death while being stoned out of your mind.

You should live as if you will live to be 100 but also that you could die at any moment. 100 makes you use common sense. Today makes you live in a state of grace. Sensibility is the balance of those two considerations. If you achieve this balance, you will live well regardless of how long you live.


Walking As An Outdoor Activity

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

Once upon a time, people's primary way to enjoy the outdoors was through walking. This is no longer the case. People still enjoy the outdoors, but walking is not the first thing that springs to their minds. They think of the more laborious exercise of hiking which is just walking but with expensive gear. Others like trail running which requires less gear but more pain and suffering. Then, there are the mountain bikers who make the foot traffic suffer on the trails they terrorize.

Walking is the easiest, the cheapest, and the most pleasant way to enjoy being outside. Fundamentally, you just need some good footwear. The rest would be clothes and gear you probably already own. On a sensibility level, walking should be the top preference for outdoor enthusiasts. It isn't. This is because walking doesn't have a very good PR department which relegates it to being the most underrated form of exercise and outdoor enjoyment.

It is my contention that walking is underrated because it requires so little in terms of equipment and gear. It is virtually a free activity. Other activities require gear and equipment which can be quite expensive. The makers of this gear advertise these products which ends up bankrolling magazines and other media. This is why you will find a magazine for cross country skiing but not one for walking here in the USA. You have to buy stuff to ski. The economics of a gear heavy fringe activity will always outdo the economics of a gear light but popular activity. Over time, the marketing of the product involves marketing for the activity itself.

This marketing for the gear heavy activities has the counter effect of diminishing the appeal of something easy like walking. Because people can't afford a mountain bike, a kayak, or a set of skis, they leave the outdoors to those with the funds, the youth, or whatever as they choose to spend their weekends watching sports on the couch. This takes a toll on physical and mental health. It never occurs to these people that they could just take a walk and get those outdoor benefits. Walking doesn't "count."

According to Outside, outdoor recreation and related businesses contributed $862 billion to the US economy in 2022. Motorized activities were more lucrative than human powered activities. Think of all the motorboats and ATVs that are out there. Yet, walking as an outdoor activity gets virtually no coverage in Outside. You do get some hiking coverage along with climbing and trail running because those things require gear which requires money which pays for advertising.

The irony of all that spent money is that it doesn't reflect the actual participation in these outdoor activities which is quite low relative to that expenditure. Fundamentally, people buy products for things they don't actually do. The activities are just excuses to buy stuff. It can be rightly called "outdoor consumerism." It is simply easier to buy things than to actually do things. If you need more convincing, look at all the outdoor gear being sold at rummage sales in almost new condition.

Some years ago, there was a fellow who became a living folk hero to the ultrarunning community. He was not a particularly gifted runner, but he was certainly a dedicated runner. He was famous for living out of the back of his truck and using minimal gear for his sport and lifestyle. He amazed people not so much for his exploits but for the style in which he did it. Running injuries would force him to cross train with gravel biking, mountain climbing, and skiing as he morphed from trailrunning bum to "outdoor athlete." The guy hasn't done much of anything as an ultrarunner since, but he is able to live off of endorsement deals as a sponsored multisport athlete because he is able to sell product. He essentially lives as a hypocrite now. He also knows he is a hypocrite which gives him angst. The solution to his angst would be to get a day job and go for long walks.

It doesn't matter to me if people like to do expensive activities in the outdoors. Outdoor consumerism doesn't affect my daily walks. What it does do is discourage other people from walking by fostering a mindset of extremism. Consequently, people spend a lot of money on doing nothing, or they just choose to save money and do nothing at all. That is the number one deleterious effect of all of this marketing and outdoor consumerism. Doing something cheap and fun isn't an option for these people.

The most effective "marketing" for walking is seeing people going outside for a walk. When people see a walker, they immediately know they can do that, too. There are virtually no barriers to entry. Walking outside is cheap, easy, and fun. People know this. They just need reminding.


Plant Based For Life

There are two types of cardiologists: vegans and those who haven’t read the data.

There was a recent groundbreaking study of the vegan versus omnivore diet involving identical twins. I won't bore you with the nerdy data. I will cut to the chase. The vegan diet was the hands down winner, and the study gave every possible benefit to the omnivore diet while not so much for the vegan diet. I see this study as the capstone to what I discovered a decade ago and has been confirmed to me again and again. A whole food plant based diet is the optimal way to eat.

I know that I will always eat a plant based diet for the rest of my life. The evidence for this diet is overwhelming. Only the most profoundly stupid person on the planet could ignore this evidence and keep eating meat, dairy, and eggs. My only regret with going plant based is that I didn't embrace it sooner. It still ranks as the most important thing I have ever done for my health.

You will hear all sorts of bad information from people especially low carbers that a plant based diet is bad for you while meat is good for you. These people are liars. The data does not support their idiocy. And they know it. It is because of these lying fools that we have all of this confusion about diet.

In my perfect world, you can eat meat, dairy, and eggs without any problems. I wish this perfect world existed because I loved eating this crap. I would get a narcotic high from eating a bacon double cheeseburger. I loved it so much that it would thrill me to no end to read that the vegans were all wrong about this. But they're right.

I have a nasty habit of following and seeking the truth wherever it leads me. I believe we all have a moral duty to seek the truth. Unfortunately, I am the only person I know that does this. I haven't always gotten it right, but I never stop looking for the truth. This is why I eat a plant based diet. It is the truth.

I don't care about the ethical treatment of animals or the environment when it comes to what I eat. I only care about my personal health. Those side issues have made "vegan" such a loaded term that people will shun anything that carries the vegan label. This is why vegans only comprise 1% of the population, and every vegan restaurant or food company has an almost 100% certainty of going bankrupt. If the meatheads make things bad with their lies, the ethical vegans help those meatheads with their fanaticism.

There is one thing I have learned from the keto craze and the gluten free fad. People will make changes to their diets if they think those changes will improve their health or trim their waistlines. If they do this on the basis of false information, I think they would do the same with the truth. Unfortunately, ethical vegans can be counted on to fumble the ball. That's a real shame.

Is This the Be-All and End-All Proof That We Should All Be Eating More Plants?