Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Soy-Powered Mind

A few weeks ago I started taking a soy-derived drug called Phosphatidylserine to help combat stress-induced high blood pressure. The results have been remarkable enough to forfeit some medical privacy to share.

First an important disclaimer; I am not a doctor, nothing in this post represents medical advice, and my experiences with this drug may be largely due to having an existing adrenal disorder, acute synesthesia, and engaging in rough sporting activities that have led to multiple concussions. As this drug is considered a dietary supplement in the US its not heavily regulated and is available in many forms which may be dangerous, such as combined with high amounts of caffeine in a diet pill. Caveat emptor, especially with things you put in your body.

My source was Vitamin Shoppe brand "Phosphatidylserine Complex", each capsule containing primarily 100mg Phosphatidylserine, 25mg Phosphatidylcholine, and a grab bag of other phosphatolipids extracted from soy lecithin. I've been taking 4 capsules a day, between meals, the first of the day with 500mg L-Carnitine before breakfast and the last of the day with 10mg Policosanol just before bed.

For the first three days the experience was shocking; colors became brighter, music richer, tastes bolder.. all of my senses increased as if I've been living in a monochromatic world and suddenly I'm in OZ surrounded by singing midgets.

On the second day I started noticing strange radial rainbow patterns around sharp contrasts of light such as my hand in front of my netbook screen. By day four I had either become accustomed to this experience or my brain compensated for it. I started noticing that I was remembering words that I had lost through repeated concussions and accidental electrocutions, as if the drug was triggering a mass repair effort on my white matter.

My mood has changed even more dramatically; in contrast it feels like I've been in a constant state of fight or flight for as long as I can remember and suddenly.. its gone. I'm calmer, happier, can concentrate better, get angry far less and have become generally nicer to everyone. Many of my friends and family have remarked about this.

The period of time I've been on this (less than a month) would have normally been extremely stressful; I've been sprinting on PySoy, went to PyCon, organizing Summer of Code, getting married (last Sunday), and working as treasurer for a local non-profit getting their bi-annual tax filings together since 2007.

Through it all my blood pressure has actually gone down, perhaps the most scientific measurement of stress, and lost 6kg of body fat while my diet has actually been fairly bad considering all the travel. As an herbalist I've seen what belief in a drug can do by itself, the changes from this drug have been far beyond what would be reasonable for a placebo effect.

While I hate the idea of being dependent on a drug, the changes to my mind, body, happiness and productivity is well worth it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

PyCon 2011 wrapup

This has been an awesome week at PyCon, though I'm completely exhausted.

The most notable outcome of several meetings with Python leadership about increasing diversity in the Python community. In my role with PSF's educational outreach programs I'm calling on 3rd party projects working with us to help work to increase gender balance in our community, and as PySoy's project maintainer I'm committing us to working seriously on this issue over the next year as an example.

Several college-aged women at PyCon knew about Google's Summer of Code but believed it was only for "geniuses who've been programming since they were 13" or that they were unqualified for other reasons, even though they're clearly more skilled (and moreso, have a better attitude) than some of the male students we get.

To address this, my first step is outreach to women for applying to us for Google's Summer of Code in hopes of resolving any miscommunication over required experience and what we're looking for. This is being sent out over the next week so potential applicants leverage of early involvement with mentors that many students have already started on.

Once Summer of Code is underway I plan to continue this an internship program in attempt to get more women involved in our community in ways not supported by GSoC such as through QA testing, documentation, video tutorials, and artwork. This program will be for women ages 18+ with no college requirement, though we're still working out many of the other details.

For the PyCon sprints I worked on the new "packaging" package for Python 3.3, formerly known as distutils2. My primary interest in this is a packaging.backport module based on 3to2 (which backports code from 3.2 to 2.7) extended with further fixers for 2.7 to 2.6, 2.5, and 2.4. This module will work for packages written for Python 3.3 and above to maintain Python 2 compatibility, and also to backport "packaging" to the standalone distutils2 package for previous Python versions.

We managed to get distutils2 largely upgraded for Python 3.3 syntax and the non-PyPI tests running cleanly, though much more work is needed. We have a few months given than Python 3.2 was just released and we're working on a roughly 18 month release cycle.