The misadventures of blood testing

Hello Uncommoners, 

Here's your random dose of intrigue — a collection of content, ideas, and resources that I've recently found mind tingling.  Consume, skim, or skip at your leisure.  Enjoy. 


I was really excited when Theranos first publicized their home blood test kit concept. For years, I’ve felt “in the dark” about the intimate details of the inner state of my own body. After all, without numerous trips to the doctor, how else is the layman to know the stories our blood is telling us each day? How many other health metrics could be so valuable?

I called my health provider regularly and booked blood tests for the widest ranging panels they’d agree to give me. I wanted data. Because data tells stories.

But after a couple visits, I was soon denied access to lab work, because “it wasn’t necessary” (according to my health provider). I was frustrated — and became even more so after learning that technological promises made by Theranos were eventually deemed infeasible and the company ordered to discontinue its R&D for this particular product.

I immediately scheduled an appointment with my doctor to discuss the issue and beg for an exception. I had my case prepared. But to my own consternation, my doctor respectfully and patiently retorted with some surprising and strong counterpoints.

Not all of his comments aligned with the promise of the technology — nor many rogue forward thinkers. But it certainly got me thinking. It served as good reminder of a current day aphorism: Not all data (even in raw form) is complete data — and in some cases can be terribly misleading (i.e.: see article below).

I am still a passionate proponent of taking control of your health by way of self-directed education and applications of emerging technology to recover life’s data, but like any pursuit, the goal should be approached from all angles. And with a “healthy” dose of skepticism that serves to encourage unbiased and sustained curiosity.

For a fun journey into the possible misadventures of blood testing, you may enjoy the articles below from Outside Magazine:

Know Thyself: Don’t let the Theranos saga fool you: we’ve entered a new era of self-quantification, in which on-demand blood testing is sold as the easy way to fine-tune your training and nutrition. Can an algorithm really replace your coach?

How to Be Your Own Doctor – Taking control of your health is easier than ever


“Awareness practice is a continuous quest to separate out you from the experience you’re having–to look upon the present moment’s experience from some remove. Otherwise, according to this teaching, you and the experience you’re having merge into one, and you forget that you are living here right now. It’s as if all of us are in a movie theater and life is playing out on the big screen. Most of us live spellbound in the movie of our lives. Do we remember that we’re actually in the audience and not just on the screen? Can we train ourselves to glance at the green ‘Exit’ sign glowing on the side of the room of the figurative movie theater in order to wake up from living the movie itself?” Ben Casnocha reflects on a 10 day meditation retreat

“In the end, winning is sleeping better.” – Jodi Foster  (I love this. IMHO, this isn’t only suggestive of living morally for peace of mind, but also so the brain just isn’t frantically spinning come bedtime or during sleep. Seems like one of a few great ways to measure success to me.)


One of the most reliable sources of economic growth—college-educated workers—may be tapped out:  “we’re at that point of diminishing returns for educated workers—adding more to the workforce won’t boost growth in a meaningful way anymore.”

A philosopher’s 350-year-old trick to get people to change their minds is now backed up by psychologists



According to a recent study, Americans would spend an average of $43,154 on vacation if money were no object—almost exactly the same amount as the average salary nationwide.


Synthetic spider silk could be the biggest technological advance in clothing since nylon – “Spider silk’s qualities are nearly mythical. Its tensile strength is comparable to steel’s. Yet it is lighter, and can be as stretchy as a rubber band. Those traits in combination make it tougher than Kevlar.”

Scientists move closer to creative glowing trees to light parks and streets at night

Hope you enjoyed this eclectic collection of brain food. Every UM newsletter is slightly unique and may include intriguing quotes, interesting reads, recommended resources, cool products, and other fun surprises.

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