Has Evolution Hardwired Us To Be Unhappy?

Happiness is tough, man. No matter how ridiculously good life is in 21st century America, it’s so easy for that nagging worry, or rush hour traffic, or some shithead coworker to hijack your entire emotional state and ruin your whole damn day.

Now, more than ever, happiness should be easy. Our homes have electricity, running water, and can hold temperatures to a precise degree. Modern medicine has eradicated a handful of history’s most disgusting diseases. We have planes that can transport us to the other side of the world in less than a day. We have HDTV and the Internet!

We live in the pinnacle of human existence, but instead of skyrocketing happiness, the opposite is happening. Depression rates are 10 times higher than they were in 1960. Antidepressant prescriptions have increased 400% since 1988. And millennials especially struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

But in order to understand today’s struggles with happiness, we need to go way, way back to the early days of our ancestors.

How Evolution Primed Our Brains for Pessimism and Stress

For almost 60 million years our ancestors lived in small hunting-gatherer groups. Life was simple — there weren’t sales goals, traffic jams, or overflowing inboxes — but it was dangerous. You killed prey or you died. You escaped giant, man-eating predators or you died. You avoided illness, injury, and infection or you suffered for weeks, and you died.

The brain responded to dangers in the pre-civilized, pre-modern medicine world by shaping itself for what was most important: survival. It became paranoid, constantly scanning the environment for potential threats. It developed instincts, reactions, and biases to keep us safe. These tactics have baked into our brains for millions of years, but two in particular don’t vibe with life in the 21st century.

The Negativity Bias

Years ago, two types of motivation drove every human decision:

  1. Seeking pleasure
  2. Avoiding pain

Pleasure or ‘carrots’ included eating food, seeking shelter and sex. Pain avoidance or ‘sticks’ included avoiding starvation, predation and injury. Both carrots and sticks are important and necessary for survival, but they’re not equally important, right?

If you fail to get a carrot today — let’s say you chuck your spear at a woolly mammoth and miss — you can retrieve the spear and be alive to throw it again tomorrow. But if you fail to avoid a stick — say you believe there isn’t a saber toothed tiger in the bushes when there is one — then there is no tomorrow.

Because of this, our brain developed what Ph.D. and bestselling author Rick Hanson calls the negativity bias, a system of thought designed to keep us safe by overestimating threats and avoiding risks. This bias is still in our brain today, influencing our actions as we deal with conflict, present in meetings, and argue with our spouses.

The Fight-or-Flight Response

Imagine you’re a caveman. You’re eating spit-roasted rabbit in your little cave house with your sexy cave lady when — OH MY GOD WTF IS THAT!? — the tiger from the bushes barrels through your front door.

Your eyes perceive the tiger and send a signal to your brain. The amygdala, the emotional processor of your brain, alerts the hypothalamus of a threat. The hypothalamus calls for the stress hormone cortisol to flood your bloodstream.

In an instant your heart rate skyrockets, pupils contract, and muscles tense. You experience tunnel vision and adrenaline catapults you into action.

Without consciously knowing it, you will do one of two things: grab your spear and go for the throat, or grab your cave lady and run for the back door. Fight-or-fight.

In this scenario, the best strategy is the quickest strategy. Any analysis or hesitation only increases the likelihood you’ll be eaten. Fight-or-flight overrides thought with action, because in a life or death situation action is your best shot at survival.

The Ancient Brain in the Modern World

We owe our very existence to these ancestral instincts, but today they do us no favors. In the modern world, our ancient brain is making us stressed and unhappy. Here’s how:

Prevents us from following our dreams. The negativity bias makes us overestimate threats. Historically, when threats were often life or death, this fear and paranoia kept us alive. But today, this bias makes us dream small. It says, “You can’t start that business. What if you fail?” or “Hannah’s way out of your league, bro. Ask her out and she’ll shut you down, and everyone will know about it.”

Makes us ultra-sensitive to bad news, even when it’s outnumbered by good news. This is why a single ‘needs improvement’ on your performance review overshadows ten ‘exceeding expectations’. Our negativity bias is a magnet for negative stimuli. We look for it, find it, and dwell on it. We believe things are not okay, when in reality things are just fine.

Destroys creativity and logical thinking. Complex modern problems require creativity, collaboration, and resilience and we’re trying to solve them with a pessimistic brain that panics when it’s stressed because it’s scared of prehistoric cats.

Stresses us out. Our nervous system has a function to calm us down after a fight-or-flight response. As long as stressful experiences are brief and infrequent, we automatically return to a resting state. But today — where mild stressors are delivered to our inboxes and voicemails and pinged to us 60 times a day by our bosses — we’re getting stuck in our reactive mode, and it’s stressing us out.

Chronic stress is responsible for about 80% of doctor visits and is linked to the six leading causes of death: cancer, heart disease, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. Additionally, prolonged stress has been shown to damage brain structure and connectivity.

Thankfully, researchers have discovered an antidote that can undo the effects of stress, enhance creativity, and even shift us away from our negativity bias. This new wonder drug is happiness.

Why it’s Better to be Happy

Happiness undoes the cardiovascular effects of negative emotion. When we’re stressed, we experience a hike in heart rate as our body sends blood to different muscles preparing us for a specific action like fight or flight. This constant fluctuation shifts our heart into overdrive and is thought to increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Positive emotion has been shown to speed recovery from cardiovascular reactivity and quickly return us to our resting state. So when we’re happy, we’re less susceptible to stress and anxiety. We can then spend more time in a neutral or positive mindset, which is important because…

Happiness expands the mind. While negative emotions limit our thoughts to induce action, positive emotions flood our brains with the feel good chemicals dopamine and serotonin — similar to the effect you’d get from a dose of ritalin. These chemicals activate the learning centers in our brain, increasing focus, motivation, and creativity. This is what researchers call “broaden-and-build”, a theory that suggests that positive emotions broaden the amount of possibilities we process and help us build more resources to use for problems in the future.

Studies related to this theory show that doctors put in a good mood before making a diagnosis reached the accurate diagnosis 20% faster than a control group of doctors in a neutral state of mind. Another study shows that optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56%.

Happiness can be learned. Inside our brains are billions of neurons that connect to form neural pathways called synapses. Every thought, action, and feeling we experience is based on this underlying neural activity. The more we practice an action or think a certain way, the stronger the connection between neurons. This is what scientists refer to as Hebb’s Law — “Neurons that fire together wire together” — and it means that we can use experiences and mindset to change our neural structure. So just as our ancestors learned that the world was a dangerous place, we can re-learn that it’s really not so bad, and that today happiness is a safer and more effective alternative to anxiety and fear.

How Do We Get Happy?

So now we know that happiness is awesome and that, with practice, anyone can obtain it. But what we don’t know is how to obtain it. In the final two posts of this three part series, we’ll leverage research in psychology and neuroscience to lay down an easy-to-follow roadmap to happiness.

Feel free to leave your rose-colored glasses at home, because this won’t be a lesson in blind optimism or self-deception. The world is often a shitty and unfair place, and anyone who says otherwise is either dishonest or delusional. Yet this is another reason to train your brain for happiness: so you can be happy in spite of what you can’t control.

You’re about to discover that happiness isn’t so tough after all. You don’t need a fat salary or roaring success (thank god). You just need a little practice.

 

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Sources and Recommended Reading

Before Happiness

Before Happiness

The Happiness Advantage

The Happiness Advantage

Hardwiring Happiness

Hardwiring Happiness

How to Be The Perfect Cocktail Party Guest

The holiday season is officially here, and one of the best ways to escape the cold, dark, MISERABLE void outside is to wrap up in a lambswool cardigan and cozy in with your closest pals at a cocktail party.

Let the stiff drinks and warm conversation shelter you from the icy roads, crazed Christmas shoppers, and lukewarm political takes lingering on your Facebook news feed. In here, there is nothing but holiday cheer. And should you be fortunate enough to be invited to such an event, here are 14 tips to help you become the perfect party guest.

RSVP. Decide whether you’ll attend, notify the host, and then stick to it. How is the host supposed to accurately estimate the number of cocktail wieners needed with everyone cancelling last minute?

Bring Something to Share like an appetizer, ingredients for a cocktail, or pizza for a late night snack.

Know Where You’re Sleeping. Does the host want you passing out on his sectional? Because you should know this, ideally before leaving your place. Don’t wait until 2AM to discover that you’re the only guest left, you haven’t been invited to stay, and you’re too drunk to drive home. Have a plan, man.

Prepare for Conversation. I find awkward conversation about as cringeworthy as an unrehearsed Maid of Honor speech. So to avoid the agony of long pauses and ‘so…uhhhhhs’, mentally run through the guest list and corresponding conversation topics on the way to the party.

Matt got a new job, so congratulate him on the promotion. Dave just had a kid, so ask how he’s been sleeping. Sarah left Charlie for Todd and all three will be there, so it’s probably best to avoid that trainwreck entirely.

Show Up on Time. Don’t roll up an hour before the party starts. If the host says 7, arrive at 7 or soon after.

Sample the Appetizers. Don’t arrive on the brink of starvation and inhale a dinner’s worth of food. Just sample each app, then compliment whoever made it. Humans love receiving compliments, and flattery makes you likable, so make sure you…

Compliment the Home. For unhandy guys (me), home projects are the very worst thing. Nothing deflates my ego quite like being unable to install, assemble, or hang some shoddy piece of IKEA decor.

However, once I complete a project and it actually looks not terrible, I feel like a god. I will walk 30 steps out of my way just to stare at the creation, hands on my hips, nodding my head with enough approval to ratify the Constitution, gazing upon that SVÄRTAN bookcase like it’s the fuckin statue of David. Breathtaking!

Socialize. With the formalities over, it’s time to get busy. You have accomplishments to exaggerate and buddies to bullshit, and as the booze flows, so does the conversation…among many other things. So as the night starts to get fuzzy, try to remember the following:

Don’t Piss on the Toilet Seat. If you think this goes without saying, then you, my friend, have not recently hosted a cocktail party.

Don’t Barf or Please Barf Responsibly. Hopefully by now you’re familiar with and adhere to your alcohol limits. But if you’re one of THOSE people, then at least barf responsibly. Find a secluded toilet, keep it quiet, then clean it up. Don’t leave bile fossilizing onto the porcelain, and don’t run out front and barf in the rose bushes either. For centuries, the human race has mistakenly believed that barf just permeates into the earth as if it were water. It does not. Barf can linger for months.

Respect Bedtime. If your host is nice enough to let you crash, thank him by getting to bed at a reasonable hour. So instead of staying up to see the sun, or drinking all the half finished beers, or blasting Queen: Rock Montreal, just call it a night.

Don’t Irish Goodbye. When you decide to say goodbye, do it the right way. Don’t slink off and leave everyone wondering where you went. Thank your hosts and give a proper farewell.

Don’t Forget Your Shit. There’s nothing like hosting a party and waking up to thirty abandoned belongings that are now your responsibility. Each item requires that you identify its owner, provide indefinite storage, and then spend a few seconds each day consciously straining over ways in which you can rid it of your possession. Don’t do this to your host. If you bring it with, bring it home.

Have Fun! Now, let’s not get carried away; you can party respectfully and still have a good time. And as much as the host wants to see his toilet seats remain free of vomit and rogue urine, he wants his guests to have fun. So drink your hot toddies and sing your yuletide carols, because it’s the holidays. And even if something does happen, at least it’s not your house.

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How to Get Hammered (Without a Hangover)

Did you get hangovers in college? Because I sure didn’t. I hopped from bed after a night of blacking out on $6 rum, and on 3 hours of sleep, powered through the day like a goddamn hurricane. I hit the gym. I hit the books. Sometimes I even volunteered for things. Then after a day spent existing as a contributing member of society, I bought more rum and did it all again. It’s hard to be hungover when you’re busy being a fuckin champion.

But times have changed, my friends. Today, a night out is followed by a day in the fetal position, swearing to anyone who will listen how I’m never drinking again and pleading with my daughter to just go to sleep so daddy can sleep, and if only for a moment, escape this nauseating hell that he drank himself into. Daddy’s so sorry, sweetie. Oh lord, how daddy’s sorry.

It’s not fair. I’m not looking for some miracle hangover cure (there isn’t one) or even to go out every weekend. All I’m asking is to get drunk at a responsible frequency and to not spend the next day sprawled under the toilet. I wanna have my Cake Vodka and drink it too. Is this too much to ask? Like, what’s the big fuckin deal?

The BFD: Alcohol vs. The Human Body

When you drink, alcohol travels down your esophagus and into your stomach, where it’s absorbed and carried to your bloodstream. From there, it has access to your entire body — including your brain — which has some interesting effects.

Alcohol Vs The Human Body

So the BFD is that because alcohol’s impact is so expansive, affecting the circulatory, digestive, endocrine, and central nervous systems, researchers have struggled to develop any resemblance of a hangover ‘cure’. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t hope.

The Plan: Getting Hammered Without the Hangover

This guide is intended to be the only hangover literature you will ever need — a collection of honest-to-god actual scientific hangover research and practical tips to applying it.

Most importantly, what follows actually works. It has returned to me the pleasure of waking up in my birthday suit while still being able to function like a human being. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all anyone really wants?

Plan and Prepare: Before Your First Drink

How To Prevent A Hangover

Alcohol works quickly — a shot of booze can reach your brain in as little as a minute. Because alcohol has an almost immediate impact on your body, hangover prevention begins prior to your first drink.

Prepare to Pee

Alcohol makes you pee. Ethanol, the primary alcohol in booze, decreases the release of vasopressin, a hormone that helps the kidneys absorb water. So instead of going back into the body, water is expelled through urine. This is the biology behind the broken seal phenomenon where, after a few drinks, you take a whiz, seemingly ‘breaking the seal’ and opening the floodgates to non-stop urination.

The problem with all this piss is that with it goes water, nutrients, and electrolytes necessary for your body to do, well, everything. Every nerve, muscle, organ, every cell needs water to do its job. Without it, you become dehydrated and can experience headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, and muscle cramps — symptoms strikingly similar to those of a hangover. The key to preventing these nasty symptoms? Hydration — building up your water and electrolyte supply before your first drink.

Food Before Booze

Food provides energy for our cells, muscles, and organs to properly function. Normally, the liver monitors energy levels and if needed, can release more in the form of blood sugar. But drinking interferes with this process because your body considers alcohol a poison and directs all energy into expelling it, even at the expense of other bodily functions.

So with your liver busy metabolizing alcohol, there’s nothing to keep your blood sugar from plummeting. A hearty meal before your first drink can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and prevent headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue due to your body working on an insufficient energy supply.

Help Your Liver With Emergen-C

Your poor liver is responsible for metabolizing 90% of the alcohol you consume (the remaining 10% is excreted via sweat, urine, and the breath). Metabolization begins when enzymes in the liver break down ethanol into acetaldehyde — a byproduct which unfortunately is 30 times more toxic than ethanol itself.

Typically, acetaldehyde is quickly metabolized into a less harmful compound. But when you drink a lot, this process gets bogged down, allowing toxic acetaldehyde to pile up in your system and having some pretty nasty effects on your body. Fortunately, the antioxidants and vitamins in Emergen-C can prevent some of this damage.¹

Maintain: The Pre-game

How To Prevent A Hangover

As the night wears on and your inhibitions wear down, it’s gonna get harder to make hangover healthy choices, especially if you’re going out. Here are a few pre-gaming tips before heading to the bar.

Drink Tito’s (Skip the Whiskey)

When it comes to hangovers, not all booze is created equal. Studies have shown that dark spirits produce more intense hangovers than clear spirits due to their increased levels of chemicals called congeners.

Congeners are byproducts of the fermentation process and give dark spirits like red wine and whiskey their rich and delicious flavors. The problem is most congeners are toxic and our bodies struggle to process them. Bourbon and other barrel aged spirits have an especially high congener content, estimated at 37 times that of vodka.

So if you’re drinking for effect, it’s probably best to something clear like Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which is distilled 6 times (further removing congeners and impurities) and made right here in America. Fuck yeah.

Continue to Snack and Hydrate

Adding appetizers and water to your pre-gaming routine will help maintain blood sugar and electrolyte levels.

Bend Don’t Break: The Bar

How To Prevent A Hangover

I’ve discovered an unmistakable correlation between hangover severity and the number of poor choices I make at the bar.

Inhibitions burned from pregaming, I’m easy prey for the blonde in short shorts selling neon shots in plastic test tubes. I’ll take 5.

And no, dude I don’t need another shot of tequila but…you’re goddamn right I’ll do one because this is the best night ever and I love you, man and everything is just so great.

If you’re not careful, a few hours at the pub can derail all the good work you’ve done up to this point.

Stay Out of the Well

You might have heard that cheap booze makes you sick. It turns out, there is some truth to this. Since lower quality hooch is produced using lower quality ingredients and processes, a relatively larger amount of impurities, toxins, and congeners end up in the final product, meaning there is also some truth to ‘you get what you pay for.’

Don’t Smoke

Cigarettes are filled with toxins, including acetaldehyde. So smoking when you drink only adds to the pile of crap your body has to process.

Switch to Water

You’ve done some good work getting drunk tonight. Now, do yourself a favor and ride that buzz through bar close.

Replacing those last few cocktails with water will not only help replenish lost fluids but also save you a couple hours of misery in the morning.

Because unlike the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, which varies based on several factors — height, weight, sex, food in the stomach — the rate at which your body metabolizes alcohol is fairly consistent (averaging about 1 drink per hour, regardless of body type).

So for every late night cocktail you forego, you will save your liver one hour of work, and it will be one hour sooner you get to return to normalcy.

Rest and Recovery: The After Party

How To Prevent A Hangover

Nothing good happens after 2AM. And while blasting bro country and partying-on seems like a bullet proof idea at the time, it is instead one you will almost certainly regret.

While you sleep, your body will be working overtime to process alcohol and its byproducts. The best thing you can do is stock up on some key ingredients and get to sleep to start the recovery process.

Eat, Hydrate, and Take Another Dose of Emergen-C

Food will prevent your blood sugar from crashing overnight, and Gatorade or Emergen-C will start replenishing lost nutrients and electrolytes.

Take Ibuprofen (But Not Tylenol)

Ibuprofen might be one of the most effective ingredients of hangover prevention. Studies have shown that drinking induces an inflammatory response, likely due to cell and tissue damage caused by acetaldehyde and other toxins. Therefore, a simple pain killer like Motrin or Advil can help to relieve those nasty migraines and body aches.

But don’t take Tylenol because the active ingredient, acetaminophen can cause liver damage when combined with alcohol.

Take a Multivitamin (Ideally One With Selenium)

Drinking is associated with low levels of selenium, and selenium deficiency is associated with mood changes, anxiety, and depression. This might explain my curious urge to crawl into a storm sewer and die anytime I’m hungover and Sunday evening rolls around.

Get Comfortable

Alcohol’s interference with brain activity can deregulate your sleep cycle, which can prevent you from reaching stages of restful and restorative sleep. While there’s not much you can do about that at this point, you can at least control your external environment.

Sleeping in a bed would be a good start. So if you can, cab home. If not, find somewhere dark and quiet like a downstairs bedroom. But know that passing out in your jeans underneath a buddy’s pool table is gonna put you at a terrible disadvantage tomorrow morning.

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Notes

¹The Benefits of Emergen-C

Antioxidants for Oxidative Stress
The metabolism of alcohol creates free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules that can damage cells like proteins, fats, and DNA. Even worse, alcohol consumption reduces the level of antioxidants, micronutrients that help prevent and stop damage from free radicals. This imbalance — the increased production of free radicals and the inability to remove them and repair damage — is referred to as oxidative stress and can kill cells. Supplementing antioxidants, however, can defend the body against oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals before they can cause damage. Emergen-C contains the antioxidants zinc, manganese and vitamin C.

B Vitamins for Metabolism
B vitamins are important for metabolism. Emergen-C contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12.

Electrolytes for Dehydration
Emergen-C also contains electrolytes and other nutrients that will inevitably be lost during your upcoming binge.


Sources

http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=489250

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF01966822

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-4/277-284.htm

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-4/307-316.htm

http://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/0006-3223(91)90251-G/abstract?cc=y=

http://www.chemistryviews.org/details/ezine/1080019/Chemistry_of_a_Hangover__Alcohol_and_its_Consequences_Part_3.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20712594

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201110/selenium-and-the-brain

5 Outstanding Rap Albums for People Who Hate Rap

If there’s one thing that really bothers me, it’s the public’s general disdain for rap music. Average Joe Citizen has no issue with the millionaire in a cowboy outfit, yodeling about cold beer, big trucks, and small town gals on a continuous loop. But when it comes to rap, people will denounce it with the passion and blind hatred of a bible-beater picketing outside a Planned Parenthood.

I understand the arguments against hip-hop, having heard many of them from my wife. When I turn on my High School Rap playlist from the early 2000s, she says the lyrics are ‘bad’ (Note: kinda true). I switch to gangster rap, and she says it’s not appropriate for our 1 ½ year old daughter (Note: very true). So in order to get my fix without my wife hating every second of it, I honed a playlist comprised of very special rap: rap for people who hate rap.

These albums — while technically of the genre — differ from run-of-the-mill rap music. They have soul. Some are upbeat. Some are inspiring and optimistic. Some feature non-traditional production styles. All of them, however, will turn you haters into lovers.

#5/4. Luke Christopher – TMRW, TMRWTMRW, TMRW Pt. 2

Luke Christopher uses a half singing/half speaking delivery that reminds me of a mid 90s Cake album. This style combined with optimistic lyrics and uplifting choruses make the TMRW, TMRW mixtapes modern day soul music.

Note: These mixtapes are not available in iTunes but can be streamed or downloaded here: TMRW, TMRW & Pt. 2.

#3. Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon: The End of Day

I first heard Man on the Moon in December of 2009. It was so solid and so unlike anything I had heard before that I listened to nothing else for like 4 months straight, before eventually playing it out. Because of this, the album remains frozen in time. Hearing it now brings me right back to that winter, which is unfortunate because I was living in a shitty, mouse-infested rental house.

We hired an exterminator, and the mice spent all winter eating rat poison and using their final precious moments to crawl out of their nest in the basement and into my bedroom to die. Every night, I checked my floor, sheets, and pillows for dead or dying mice, turned on Kid Cudi, and went to sleep. Such good times!

#2. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap

Applying streetsmart lyrics to musical elements of gospel, jazz and like 20 other genres, Acid Rap is a meditative and nostalgic trip that could serve as the poster boy for psychedelic drug use and its positive effects on creativity.

Also, it’s free. Even after the mainstream success of his third mixtape, Coloring Book (released earlier this summer), Chance remains unsigned and continues to hand out music.

This song, a staple of Acid Rap, was just featured on Obama’s 2016 summer playlist, so that’s neat.

#1. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye has my vote for greatest rapper of all time, and whenever I share this opinion with someone, they usually demand an explanation. So I say forget everything you know about Kanye the person and listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Recorded in Hawaii during his self-inflicted exile following the Taylor Swift incident, MBDTF reflects on life in the spotlight while Kanye embraces his role as Hollywood villain.

Despite the laundry list of collaborators — Jay Z, Kid Cudi, Rick Ross, Justin Vernon from Bon Iver — and pulling themes from his previous work, this album is its own masterpiece. It’s phenomenal.

If I were assembling a musical time capsule and could include only one album from each decade, MBDTF would be my pick for 2010-2019, and I’m willing to bet nothing released in the next 3 years changes that.

 

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It’s Tailgating Season!

Summer is over so say goodbye
To your tan, the beach, and temps that are high
Goodbye shorts and sandals and girls in skirts
Make way for snow and ice and air that hurts
Yes, winter is coming but it’s not here yet
We have 2 months of fall, don’t you forget
So as days get shorter and temperatures drop
It doesn’t mean the fun has to stop
See this time of year is the best time of all
For grilling and beer and watching football
So here are 7 handy tips should you need a reason
To don your jersey….Hell and shit yeah! It’s tailgating season!

1. Start Early

Tailgating Season

Kickoff is at noon, and if you’re gonna reach intoxication levels of the average football fan, you need a quick start. A pre-planned morning menu with some or all of the items below will definitely set this party off right.

Pre-made Breakfast Burritos

Tailgating Season

The key to tailgating happiness is a foundation built on protein, carbs, and Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage. The best thing about these burritos is that if you make them the night before, you don’t have to screw with breakfast in the morning. Just get to your spot, toss them on the grill, and move on to more important things like drinking.

Coffee and Baileys

Tailgating Season

Coffee and Baileys takes my hopeless addictions to both caffeine and alcohol and streamlines them into a single, delicious fix. So not only do I get the essential morning pick-me-up, but a little booze on my breath as well. Isn’t that fantastic? I think so.

Note: I realize what’s pictured above is Merrys. Whoever was assigned the Irish cream must have been on a budget. But whatever, it tastes alright.

Bloody Bar

Tailgating Season

Continuing with the trend of dual-purpose alcoholic beverages, the bloody mary can be both a solid pre-gamer and a hearty snack. Garnish with a beef stick, hard boiled egg, or even a celery stalk for maximum nutrition.

Screw-ups

Tailgating Season

I do poorly with spicy shit. So when one of my hotshot buddies shows up with 5-alarm bloody mix made from the extract of the Trinidad Scorpion Pepper, I kindly say no thanks, asshole and drink screw-ups instead. OJ, vodka, and Sprite won’t win you any manliness award, but I have reached a point where even the threat of heartburn and/or scorching diarrhea trump any objection from my ego.

2. Play Lawn Games

Tailgating Season

It’s rare that I drink somewhere other than on a couch in front of a television. But for tailgating, I’m willing to leave my climate-controlled comfort zone and endure a little physical activity.

3. Run a Route

Nothing exemplifies washed-up athleticism like a bunch of vodka-fueled 30 year olds tossing the ol’ pigskin around. I mean look at this: unless he’s got 12 additional inches of vert on him (he doesn’t) this jump is critically mistimed.

Tailgating Season

Here’s another certain incompletion:

Tailgating Season

This, on the other hand, looks like a nice route and an even better pass. I bet he drops it.

Tailgating Season

4. Sacrifice the Body

Tailgating Season

This is some really good effort. You gotta be willing to lay out like that without regard for yourself or the reputation of our group as a whole. Oh well, at least nobody is watching…

Tailgating Season

5. Fire Up the Grill

Tailgating Season

Oof-dah, I am starving. Who’s on grill duty? You? Alright good. Now whatever you do…

6. Don’t Burn the Meat

Tailgating Season

What did I just say? We can’t even eat these. Now we’ll have to pay $15 for some stadium sandwich. Speaking of which, it’s almost game time.

7. Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

Tailgating Season

It is time…time for long touchdown passes, pick sixes, brain-mashing hits and you, the loyal football fan, cheering your goddamn face off. So let’s do this!!! Skol Vikes!

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How to Dominate Your Fantasy Football Draft in 2016

I don’t sleep the night before the draft. I’m excited, sure. But what really keeps me up is knowing this fantasy team, more than anything else, will determine my overall happiness level for the next 4 months.

If my players blow up, life is good. I live on the league website. I talk smack, do research, and sometimes just stare at projected point totals as I touch myself.

But when my team is shit, I have to PRETEND fantasy doesn’t matter, which of course is the saddest lie. I don’t check the standings. I won’t talk to other league members. I hole up in my house and listen to my wife say things like, “It’s just a game.” AND “Aren’t you too old for this?” AND “Honestly, Dominick I find you less attractive when you’re drunk and bitter every Sunday.”

Fortunately, fantasy has been good to me. Over my ten year career, I’ve drafted 28 teams within 4 competitive leagues, missed playoffs only thrice, and amassed 12 championships. Welcome to Titletown.

I tell you this not only as a blatant brag and in-your-face declaration of fantasy superiority, but for credibility. Because while I don’t have a fantasy official website, what I do have are 3 fantasy teams that I care more about than I do my own daughter are very important to me and a 43% title rate (suck on that!)

Anyway, what follows is the draft strategy responsible for all those titles.

1. Practice Safety First

Spoiler alert: This year, many of you will see Cowboys rookie running back and offseason hype train Ezekiel Elliott drafted before 2015 rushing champ and first ballot hall of famer Adrian Peterson. Another spoiler: You will not see this kind of draft day recklessness from me.

I don’t gamble in the first round. I understand Zeke, running behind arguably the best O-line in football, offers mouth-watering upside. But what’s the floor for a player who has never so much as sniffed an NFL jockstrap?

If you swing and miss while your opponents obtain first round, seen-it-before production from guys like Julio Jones and Antonio Brown, you’re in big trouble, mister — ask anyone who drafted Eddie Lacy last year.

For my first round money I’ll take AP, you know, the guy who spent the last 8 seasons in which he played 12 or more games finishing as fantasy’s overall running back 2,6,1,8,3,2,3 and 3. You can roll the dice with the rook.

2. Later, Draft for Upside

Jonathan Stewart finished as the 16th overall running back in 2015, so why am I targeting him in exactly none of my drafts? Because I know his history.

In 5 seasons with Cam Newton as his quarterback, Stewart has

  • Never scored more than 7 touchdowns
  • Played 16 games only once
  • Never rushed for 1,000 yards
  • Caught more than 25 passes only once

Given this information, I think running back 16 is the best case scenario for J-Steady, and while his 11 points per week is nice, it’s not gonna win your league. At a 5th round cost, I’ll gamble on Jeremy Hill, Ryan Mathews or Matt Jones — riskier players who have a chance to be this year’s David Johnson.

3. Invest in Wide Receivers

More than any other position, I’m willing to invest early draft picks and fat stacks of auction cash in wide receivers because they are:

  1. In higher demand – Most leagues start 3 (as opposed to 2 RBs, 1 QB, and 1 TE).
  2. Less often injured – Of running backs and receivers drafted to be fantasy starters last year (so top 20 RBs and top 30 WRs), running backs missed an average of 3.9 games due to injury, while receivers missed only 1.7.
  3. More indispensable – Backup running backs win fantasy titles. Backup receivers? Not so much. Like if Antonio Brown goes down week 1, Sammy Coates isn’t gonna step up and match AB’s production, something that’s entirely possible at the running back position — as we saw last year with Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams.

4. Collect Running Backs

I collect running backs like ex-running back Travis Henry collects kids from different mothers. It’s all about the the quantity.

Quantity trumps quality because running backs are disposable. They get hurt, wear down, and are therefore relatively more available on the waiver wire. In fact, I’d argue that shrewd waiver play is more important than the draft when it comes to maximizing points from your running backs.

Check out the top 5 runners in last year’s fantasy playoffs, courtesy of FantasyPros.

Fantasy Football Draft

Of the five, only Crowell and Gurley were projected starters before the start of the season. David Johnson and Tim Hightower, who apparently is still alive, didn’t start until weeks 13 and 14, respectively.

Bottom line: You can win a fantasy title without a running back intensive draft strategy. Want an example? Here are last year’s championship WR/RB corps from each of my three leagues.

Fantasy Football Draft

5. Draft Tight End and Quarterback Based on RB/WR Availability

I’ll draft receivers and running backs until either a) I don’t like who’s available, or b) I think I can wait a round to select my next target. Then, and only then, do I draft a tight end or quarterback.

Make no mistake, I’m not ignoring these positions — last weekend, I selected Jordan Reed in the 4th round using this strategy — I just think there’s plenty of late round value.

6. Use a Cheat Sheet

Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet

Pictured above is Document 55, the cheat sheet that has accompanied me to every draft since I created it in 2008.

The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s tiered. This helps me make positional decisions. For example, if I’m drafting at 8 and deciding between receiver and running back, I’ll check the current tiers. If 4 running backs are available and only 1 receiver, I’ll grab the wideout and hope one of the similarly valued running backs comes back to me.

You’ll also notice it’s contained on a single sheet. I’m not flipping through pages of positional ranks like some dumbass noob. With a single glance, I have all the necessary information:

  • Individual player availability
  • The status of each position as a whole
  • The number of tight ends and quarterbacks that have been selected

What you won’t find on Document 55 are kickers and defense and that’s because, as far at the draft goes, kickers and defense aren’t important.

7. Draft a Defense in the Second to Last Round

I stream defenses based on weekly matchups. I’d much rather start a mediocre D at home vs Blaine Gabbert than a ‘good’ D in Foxborough against Tom Brady. So because the defense I draft is for week 1 only, I’m not willing to burn anything more than a bottom two pick to obtain one.

8. Draft a Kicker in the Last Round or Sometimes Not At All

Don’t reach for a kicker before the last round. Why? Because the difference between the best starting kicker and the worst starting kicker is virtually nothing — less than 2 points per week in each of the last two years.

For reference, here is 2015’s average points per game (PPG) differentials for starters at the remaining positions (based on 10 team leagues).

Wide receiver (WR1 vs WR30) 8.1 PPG
Running back (RB1 vs RB20) 6.7 PPG
Quarterback (QB1 vs QB10) 6.7 PPG
Tight end (TE1 vs TE10) 5.6 PPG
Defense (D/ST1 vs D/ST10) 2.6 PPG

Also, preseason or not, a lot can happen in 2 quarters of football. Therefore, if I draft at any point before the week 3 dress rehearsal, I’ll ignore the defense/kicker positions entirely and instead roster a guy like Tevin Coleman — a backup who, if Freeman went down, would immediately become a fantasy starter.

9. Exploit the Recency Bias

If you burned a top 3 pick on Eddie Lacy last year, then not only did you endure a very sad fantasy season, but you’re also likely never drafting Eddie Lacy again.

I get it. It’s tough to forgive a bust that big. You likely don’t care that in his previous two seasons Lacy finished as the RB6 and RB7, or that he spent the offseason training with P90x guru Tony Horton. All you remember is Fat Ed arrived at camp out of shape and ate your $100 league fee.

That’s fine. However, I am more than happy to make your loss my gain and take a more objective approach to Eddie in 2016. Jordy Nelson’s return, Randall Cobb reverting back to a complementary role, and an in-shape Lacy in a contract year all are good omens, making him a tantalizing option in the 3rd round.

10. Shy Away From Players Coming Off a Career Year

I’m a big fan of Cam Newton, and although he’s fresh off the greatest fantasy performance since Peyton’s historic 2013, it’s unlikely he’ll be on any of my teams this year.

The problem with drafting 2016 Cam is that you’re paying for 2015 Cam. And the problem with 2015 cam is that his numbers are unlikely to be repeated.

Would I draft Cam over any other quarterback? Yes. Would I draft him at his current average draft position — the middle of the second round? No. Because that’s 1 round before Rodgers, 2 rounds before Wilson, 3 before Brees, and 10 before Cousins. And at that cost, it’s going to be nearly impossible for Cam to return value.

11. Completely Ignore Bye Weeks

My favorite part about the preseason is that I get to hilariously believe that I know everything. I solidify a bulletproof draft strategy, execute it perfectly, then drool over my roster until the season starts and some guy named Kevin Ogletree scores three TDs, and I have to wonder how in the hell I missed that call.

The NFL changes weekly. By October, a third of your drafted team will be hurt or on the waiver wire. Don’t make draft day decisions based on bye week conflicts of players who may or may not be on your roster.

How to Cut the Cord and Dump Big Cable Forever

I have finally done it, America. After years of dreaming about this day, researching alternatives, and angrily threatening customer service representatives, I, for the first time in my adult life, have cut the cord and am free from big cable…free from oppressive contracts, hundreds of worthless channels, and lousy customer service.

Even better, at 1/3 the cost, I still have everything I loved about DirecTV. I watch live sports, record shows to watch later, and watch Game of Thrones when it airs and before some Internet dipshit can play spoiler.

But there’s more. Are you ready for the best news you’ve heard all day? Okay…in just two easy steps, you can have this too! If you’ve long endured the tyranny of big cable, let this guide free you from your shackles, nurse your wounds, and deliver you to the promised land. You’ll never look back.

Editor’s note: If you know big cable is awful and just want to cut some cord, then skip to step 1. But if, on the off chance, you awoke this morning and thought: You know, I’d like someone, using real-life examples and raw, uncaged passion, to illustrate the misery of life with big cable, then this next section is for you.

The Benefits of Being Cable Free

I am unsigned and unrestricted. Don’t ask me what a contract is because I don’t have a clue, nor do i know how it feels to pay one price in year 1…

how to cut the cord

…only to get fleeced in year 2.

how to cut the cord convo 2

Today, I sign nothing. I pay as I go and add or remove programming based on the season, when my favorite shows air, or just because I feel like it. This, my friends, is freedom.

I pay what is advertised. The most frustrating and terrible part of big cable’s frustrating and terrible pricing model is that you never know exactly how frustrating and terrible it is until you see the bill. Because while your standalone service may be, say, $69.99, after HD fees, and DVR fees, and multiple TV fees, and regional sports and broadcast fees — both of which are categorized as taxes, by the way — what you’re paying is a lot closer to, say, $169.99.

Now for those accustomed to DirecTV’s deceptive (and potentially illegal) pricing model, what I’m about to show you may be shocking. Here is a side by side comparison of the actual bill and the advertised price for my TV charges last month.

how to cut the cord

Would ya look at that. Balanced like grandma’s checkbook.

I am free from gaudy and impractical programming packages. The guy responsible for DirecTV’s programming has a seat reserved in hell…

Oh, you only watch ESPN and FX? Tough; we offer no fewer than 145 channels. You want NBC Sports? Pony up then, playboy, because you’ll need our Choice package. Oh, you want to watch It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia? Well, fuck you; we exclude FXX from our 3 cheapest packages.

Yes, I still subscribe to predetermined programming packages, and yes there are some channels I do not watch and others I wish I had, but seriously you should see these options. They’re fantastic. Here, I’ll show you.

Step 1: Select Your Replacement Service(s)

How do you watch TV without cable? You stream it.

Recently, streaming services have evolved into a bonafide cable killer. Playstation Vue and Sling TV — newer, more cable-like cable alternatives — have joined traditional on demand services like Netflix and Hulu to give cord cutters plenty of firepower in the war with big cable.

But while each service is technically similar, understanding their differences is important when selecting what will be your primary source of television. Here’s your crash course:

Cut the cord

Playstation Vue, a Sony owned and Millennial Man recommended online video service, allows users to access live tv, on demand content, and a cloud-based DVR.

Vue was, without a doubt, the primary contributor in my decision to drop DirecTV. But before making the switch, I needed some questions answered. I have included them here to hopefully make your decision easier.

Do I need a Playstation game console to use Vue? No. Vue is available on a handful of streaming devices, which are covered in the next section.

Is a contract required? No. You pay monthly as you go.

How much does it cost? Packages begin at $30. More details below.

Is the interface easy to use? Yes. Vue features a guide similar to that of big cable, a search feature, and a menu bar containing your favorite and recently watched channels, recommended programming and ‘My Shows’.

How does the cloud-based DVR work? When you add a show to ‘My Shows’, any new episode is saved for up to 28 days after air date. So while you’re not hampered by storage space or recording conflicts, you are given a limited time to watch.

What is the recommended internet speed for using this service? Sony recommends 10 mbps.

Is there a loss of video quality compared to cable/satellite? Currently, maximum resolution is 720p, and while this isn’t full 1080p, I’ve never been able to see a difference between the two resolutions. I was more concerned with the choppy, laggy look that has plagued streaming video for years, and in this regard Vue passes the test, producing video quality that makes you forget you’re streaming.

I should mention that when watching hockey, the quintessential fast-moving sport, I noticed a minor stutter. Not a deal breaker, but I’d say the overall loss of quality (for hockey only) was about 5%. I didn’t expect Vue to produce superior video, and it doesn’t, but it did exceed my overall expectations.

Can I pause/rewind live TV? Yes, but with limits. I was able to pause the NBA playoffs for about 5 minutes before the feed started up again, enough time to take a leak or grab a beer, but you wouldn’t be able to pause for 20 and then fast forward through all the commercials.

Are there commercials? It depends. Since live TV is live TV, the commercial structure is no different than that of cable. ‘My Shows’ saved to the DVR contain commercials, but you are able to fast forward through them. For on demand programming, commercial structure varies. Example: In a 46 minute episode of The Americans, I counted 4 commercial breaks at around 1:25 each.

Am I allowed simultaneous streams? Yes, you are allowed to stream on 5 devices simultaneously, however, streams from Playstation 3 and Playstation 4 game consoles are each limited to only one. So if you’re watching the game on your PS4, any additional stream must come from a PS3 or other compatible device.

Are there any other restrictions? Yes, the most significant being that your service is anchored to your home location. So while you can watch on your game console and streaming and mobile devices, you must be connected through your IP address to have access. This prohibits you from sharing your password, watching ESPN on your iPhone in the office, or bringing your game console over to your buddy’s.

Can I watch local sports? Vue offers a variety of sports programming, but availability depends on your location. In Minneapolis, the basic package includes NBC Sports and 2 Fox Sports stations. For $5 more per month, the middle package includes 2 Fox regional sports stations, so I can watch the Wild or Twins during hockey/baseball season.

Do I get local channels? Again, it depends on your location. If you live in Chicago, Dallas, LA, Miami, NYC, Philadelphia or San Francisco, you have access to all programming. The rest of us can purchase ‘slim’ packages at a $10 discount with one major difference: no live broadcast of ABC or NBC. Instead, these networks offer only a handful of on demand programs.

You cannot choose between the standard and slim versions; availability is dictated by your zip code. And while this might be a bummer for some, others will prefer to save the $10 and receive NBC and ABC for free via an HD antenna — more on that shortly.

What are the programming options? Both the standard and slim packages are available in 3 tiers; Access, Core, and Elite. Slim packages begin at $29.99 and a $10 premium is added for standard.

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how-to-cut-the-cord-access

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How-to-cut-the-cord-elite

Playstation Vue Recap

Pros

  • Cheap, practical packages starting at $30
  • No hidden fees or annual contracts
  • Premier non-cable option for live and local sports
  • A variety of ways to watch — live, on demand, DVR

Cons

  • Shows saved to the DVR are available for only 28 days after air date
  • On demand shows are available for varying amounts of time
  • In most markets NBC and ABC are unavailable
  • Minor loss of video quality for some programs

cut the cord

Sling TV. Starting at $20 per month Sling TV is a cheaper, albeit stripped down alternative to Playstation Vue. With the monthly savings of $10, you sacrifice DVR capabilities and a lot of quality stations.

 

What are the programming options? Sling TV is available in three packages:

1. Sling Orange – A single stream package offering 25 plus channels for $20.

Cut The Cord

2. Sling Blue – A multi-stream package offering 40 plus channels for $25.

Cut The Cord

3. Sling Orange & Blue – A multi-stream combo of both packages for $40.

Cut The Cord

Recap

While Sling Orange offers access to live sports on ESPN, the rest of the channel lineup leaves a bit to be desired. Sports fans will also notice that ESPN is absent from the Blue package, meaning that anyone looking for both ESPN and regional Fox Sports networks will have to subscribe to the $40 package.

Pros

  • Cheap, cable-like alternative
  • Ability to watch ESPN live
  • Mobile viewing outside the home
  • Some on demand programming

Cons

  • No DVR
  • Channel lineup leaves a bit to be desired
  • Regional sports stations and ESPN aren’t available in the same package

Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video

While the three most popular on demand streaming services are all easy to use, similarly priced, available on multiple devices, and fill the same general niche, differences in programming and when/how programming becomes available is good enough reason to think twice before selecting a service.

Netflix

Pros

  • Commercial free
  • Binge watchers can purge on a variety of entire seasons
  • Quality original content like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black

Cons

  • Shows often aren’t available until a season after air date
  • Basic plan is standard definition

Membership options

how to cut the cord

 


Hulu

If you’re looking to catch up on current seasons, Hulu is your best bet. Hulu, a joint venture owned in-part by ABC, NBC, and FOX, offers next day availability for tons of big network programming.

While availability varies, as a whole, shows appear on Hulu much sooner than they do on Netflix, and Hulu is transparent with show specific guidelines.

how to cut the cord

how to cut the cord

Pros

  • Next day availability
  • Especially great for ABC, NBC, and FOX programming

Cons

  • No simultaneous streaming
  • Base package contains commercials

Membership options

how to cut the cord

 


Amazon Video

Spending over $3 billion on content in 2015, Amazon is serious about its streaming service. The company also secured exclusive rights to the HBO archive, with seasons of current shows arriving three years after the original air date. And just this year, Amazon began offering video as a standalone service, separate from Prime and available to monthly subscribers.

Pros

  • Commercial free
  • Growing library of prime exclusives
  • Allows up to 2 simultaneous streams, unless it’s the same title
  • Access to HBO’s archives

Cons

  • Shows aren’t available until months after air date

Membership options

how to cut the cord

 


HBO Now

It used to be that I needed a cable subscription in order to watch my favorite Game of Thrones characters get slaughtered by my least favorites. But with HBO Now, not only can I watch when it airs, but I have on demand access to the HBO archives, all for $14.99 per month and without contract.

Pros

  • Commercial free access to HBO programming when it airs
  • Full access to the HBO archives
  • Allows simultaneous streaming as long as it’s not the same episode

Streaming Services Recap

Here is a summary — by basic plan — of each service provider.

how to cut the cord streaming options

Step 2: Select Your Streaming Device

With your streaming services selected, all that separates you from big cable independence is a compatible streaming device.

If you want a recommendation, get the Amazon Fire Stick. It’s cheap, easy to use, compatible with every service we’ve covered, and offers quick access to Prime’s movie rental library.

how to cut the cord

If you already own a device, our ultra-handy compatibility grid will show you compatible services. And should you need an HD antenna to get local channels alongside, say, a Playstation Vue subscription, links to the antenna and other devices can be found below. Happy streaming!

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*not compatible with Xbox 360

HD Antenna

I purchased this HD antenna to get NBC and ABC alongside my PS Vue subscription, and while antenna technology seems incredibly outdated, the picture is just as good as the one I received with DirecTV. However, picture quality will depend on the distance between your antenna and the nearest broadcast tower.

how to cut the cord hd antenna

Other Devices

Click below to see or purchase any of the following streaming devices.

Roku Stick

Playstation 4

Xbox One

Apple TV


Note: The Millennial Man participates in the Amazon affiliate program. Basically, if you purchase a product or service through a link on this site, we get a small percentage — compensation that covers a fraction of the cost and effort required to maintain this blog. Your support is very much appreciated.