Author: Jeb Kinnison

Mostly harmless purveyor of gently-used memes. My latest book: "Red Queen: The substrate Wars," available at: Also see, "Bad Boyfriends: Using Attachment Theory to Avoid Mr. (or Ms.) Wrong and Make You a Better Partner," is now on sale exclusively for Kindle (this will change soon.) Get it at:

Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner

Mailbag: “Avoidant”

I get a lot of good feedback on my attachment books, even seven years after publication. This one was really touching.

I hope you’re well.

I read your book, Avoidant. I normally don’t do this… I mean, reach out to people, like this. I am on the tail end of a short-lived marriage with a dismissive avoidant. The whole ordeal was an explosion of emotional dysfunction. I, at one point, had completely lost it. I was doing frantic things I never do, because of the trauma. Your book helped me more than any of the therapy (there was a lot of therapy) I went through. The analytic in me sent me into heavy research mode. Of course, I had to learn what was wrong with this man (in hindsight, that idea seems a bit humorous). I learned about attachment styles and somehow found your book. OMG, you were so on point. I mean, like an Exacto knife. You helped me find out what was going on with him, as well as myself. THAT part was the most beneficial. I learned that I have preoccupied tendencies, but my partner choices can tip me more. Anyway, you probably don’t want to hear all of my small explanations. Long story short, I really want to impress upon you how much your book mentally helped me. I don’t remember when I’ve been so in tune with a piece of literature. I bought and just finished reading your book Bad Boyfriends. More solid advice. I gave it to my 25-year-old daughter. I want her to completely bypass any of the poor companion options altogether.

Again, I am so grateful I came across your books. Blessings to you and your husband.

— [name redacted]

IVF Journey: On SDF and Antioxidants, Sorting Chips

Zymot sperm sorting chip (photo credit: Zymot)

Zymot sperm sorting chip

I offer up my own experience here since it may help older/infertile men seeking to be fathers. It’s anecdotal, not statistical, but I did go from zero sperm to 4 to millions in a year. And my first try turned out badly with the eight eggs assigned to me — only two developed, and they were genetically abnormal, which meant more cost and delay to have our egg donor back again. By then more time had passed and presumably the Zymot sorting chip picked out better sperm for ICSI, so it was successful — four good embryos from 20 eggs, which is more than usual.

Disclaimer: this is not medical advice, just what happened to me, so if you are persuaded to follow a similar regimen, there is no guarantee it will work. If you are infertile in middle age and are seeing the clock run out, you would be wise to consult a fertility specialist.

My first try at IVF didn’t result in any viable embryos, presumably because there was SDF (Sperm DNA Fragmentation) — damage to the DNA of the sperm, thought to be the result of oxidative stress on the way from production to delivery and rustiness of the sperm production process in older males. The IVF doctor warned me that such cases can be permanent or take over a year to remedy with medical assistance.

Sperm DNA Fragmentation (SDF):

Men with sperm motility defects often have high levels of sperm DNA fragmentation. The degree of DNA fragmentation in sperm cells can predict outcomes for in vitro fertilization (IVF) and its expansion intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The sperm chromatin dispersion test (SCD) and TUNEL assay are both effective in detecting sperm DNA damage. Using bright-field microscopy, the SCD test appears to be more sensitive than the TUNEL assay.

Its main units of measurement is the DNA Fragmentation Index (DFI). A DFI of 20% or more significantly reduces the success rates after ICSI. (more)

I never had an actual test for SDF, but the failure of 8 eggs to produce one viable embryo with my sperm strongly suggested SDF. One of the many causes of SDF is oxidative stress, so it can help (and do little harm) to up your intake of antioxidants.

March 27 2020

We had a great Zoom teleconference with Dr. [Redacted], who’s quite knowledgable (world expert and of course not cheap.) He commended me on my self-help recovery treatment. He also badmouthed compounding pharmacy rHCG and offered to prescribe the regular pharma variety (high-priced, no doubt.)

He’s plugging use of a “Darwinian selection” chip which selects the best by making them compete to swim down a microfluidic channel. This is the culmination of similar ideas in a Petri dish. I may be a good candidate for such since the last test showed 300K sperm, half motile. The more drastic collection from the testicles may not be necessary. The doctor consults for the chip company [Zymot], and he also suggested a line of antioxidant supplements he developed. I checked the ingredients of his branded supplement, and I had already been taking all of them with one exception, so it was less costly to just buy the missing ingredient and add that to my usual vitamins.

Dr. [Redacted] name-dropped [gay Silicon Valley billionaire], who he said “is in the same boat,” not wanting to have his sperm selected by a community-college-educated technician. I appreciate *justified* elitism… but people do come from around the world to our IVF doctor. It costs little extra to use the Zymot or similar sorting chips, so it would be wise for all older men to consider it.

I rarely meet anyone who knows more about much of anything than I do, so that was refreshing. And no one knows when the ASRM will relax the “no procedures unless ongoing” restriction. There’s more data on pregnancy effects (limited) and transfer of the virus to the baby (doesn’t seem to happen), so it’d be nice if they allowed the plans of millions to proceed. Which reminds me of the “no cataract surgery because it’s not critical” ruling. Postponing trans surgery (medically unnecessary, should be discouraged for minors) is no loss, but this is a taste of M4A: some high council will decide on political grounds whether your treatment is necessary or not.

As it turns out, implantation of the first boy was delayed over six months by the ASRM guidelines, which were in turn guidelines of the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) which decided hospitals and clinics should postpone all non-emergency procedures to keep beds and staffing free for COVID-19 patients. This emptied hospitals and laid off staff, postponing important surgery (cancer biopsies, for one) and causing worse outcomes for millions of people. And how many tens or hundreds of thousands of IVF babies will now never be born?

Repeating the drug regimen from the previous post:

    Clomiphene, 50 mg / every other day – inhibits the feedback loop that suppresses natural testosterone. It’s a “selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM)”

    Anastrazole, 1 mg /day – suppresses estrogen production via aromatase inhibition.

    hCG, .25 ml / every other day – chemically similar to luteinizing hormone, so shields testosterone and sperm production from negative feedback loops. Restored my levels of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) to normal in six months.

Antioxidant Supplements: One commercial supplement (FH Pro for Men) has this ingredient list:

Vitamin A (as beta-carotene) 1500 mcg, Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) 120 mg, Vitamin D (as cholecalciferol) 30 mcg, Vitamin E (as d-alpha tocopheryl succinate and mixed tocopherols) 134 mg, Vitamin K1 (phytonadione) 40 mcg, Vitamin K2 (menaquinone-4) 40 mcg , Thiamin (as thiamine HCl) 3 mg, Riboflavin (as riboflavin 5 phosphate) 3.4 mg, Niacin (as niacinamide) 20 mg, Vitamin B6 (as pyridoxal 5 phosphate) 25 mg, Folate (from L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate, calcium) 1360 mcg DFE, Vitamin B12 (as methylcobalamin) 1000 mcg, Biotin (as d-biotin) 600 mcg, Pantothenic acid (as d-calcium pantothenate) 20 mg, Iodine (as potassium iodide) 150 mcg, Zinc (as zinc citrate) 30 mg, Selenium (as selenomethionine) 140 mcg, Copper (as copper sulfate) 1 mg, Manganese (as manganese bisglycinate chelate) 2 mg, Chromium (as chromium picolinate) 120 mcg, Molybdenum (as molybdenum glycinate chelate) 75 mcg, L-carnitine L-tartrate 2000 mg, L-arginine HCl 350 mg, CoQ10 (as ubiquinone) 200 mg, N-acetyl cysteine 200 mg, Grape seed extract 20 mg, Lycopene 10 mg, Benfotiamine 1 mg, Vegetable capsule (hypromellose), Microcrystalline cellulose, Magnesium stearate, Silicon dioxide.

See this study for results with this commercial supplement. Some of these ingredients are questionable. Taking an array of antioxidants is normally not especially beneficial (results of studies are mixed — no effects or even deleterious effects), but in case of SDF, six months of these will probably help.

You can buy this high-priced premixed formula as capsules here (FH Pro for Men) or do it yourself at lower cost (but less convenience.) If you don’t mind taking lots of pills twice a day in hopes it will help with SDF, here’s what I took:

    Daily multivitamin for older people (“Spectrum Silver” equivalent)
    Vitamin C (500 mg)
    Vitamin D (2000 IU)
    Vitamin K2
    Methyl Folate
    L-Arginine HCl
    coQ10 (ubiquinone)
    NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine)

Amazon links for these (note that if you buy through these Amazon affiliate links, a tiny percentage of your purchase costs comes back to me; it’s always appreciated.):

Typical multivitamin for older people

A “Spectrum Silver” equivalent

Kirkland 50+ Multivitamin


Antioxidant Vitamin C

Vitamin C 1000mg



Vitamin D-3 2000IU



Vitamin K-2 100 mcg



Niacinamide 500mg



Methyl Folate 1000mcg

Calcium Magnesium Zinc


Calcium Magnesium Zinc tablets

Acetyl-L-Carnitine bulk powder

Acetyl-L-Carnitine bulk powder

Acetyl-L-Carnitine bulk powder. This is more cost-effective; add to a protein shake or other strongly-flavored liquid to cover the taste.


L-Arginine Powder

L-Arginine Powder. This tastes so foul it spoils anything liquid. I found it best to dissolve it in warm water to drink quickly, then immediately rinse.

Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinol)-100mg

Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinol)-100mg

CoEnzyme Q10 (Ubiquinol)

N Acetyl Cysteine

N Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)

N Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)

The drugs in the list previously mentioned all require prescriptions. The HCG in particular is used not only by men restoring fertility, but by women doing an IVF cycle; a diet fad (which is now fading) had people injecting themselves with large bootleg quantities to lose weight.

Here’s what a packaged pharmacy bottle looks like — inside the box is a vial of lyophilized (dried and preserved particulate) HCG and a vial of sterile water. Since the FDA no longer allows compounding pharmacies to do this for you, you have to mix it yourself by using a syringe to move water from the water vial to the hCG vial. The result is a water-based, injectable HCG that begins to spoil immediately, so use it in 30-60 days at most.

Packaged HCG

Packaged HCG

The syringes for these subcutaneous (just beneath the skin) injections are readily available because they are used in the billions for self-administered insulin shots. The procedure is to find an area underlain by fat (often around the naval) and pinch the skin to insert the very fine and short needle before injecting. This is usually nearly painless. The syringes look like this:

B-D .3 ml syringe

B-D .3 ml syringe

IVF Journey: Genetic Screening of Parents and Embryos

Genetic testing of human samples

Genetic testing – (credit NIH)

[Continued from Remedies for Male Factor Infertility – Azoospermia]

The additional cost and unnatural nature of IVF has some benefits — both parents and embryos can be genetically tested in advance. If the parents have certain recessive genes, they can either use donor sperm or eggs to avoid offspring with significant defects, or roll the dice and check the resulting embryos for the issues they’d like to avoid. Most testing is motivated by a family history of genetic disease for one or both parents — it can be demonstrated that a certain inherited disease is not likely, or the opposite (in which case IVF

Our process involves both an egg donor and a separate gestational carrier (GC.) Both intended fathers and the egg donor were Counsyl tested; husband’s passed with no problems, while my genetic tests showed two fatal recessives and one “problematic” recessive (not fatal for years if ever, but weakening the adult.) Fortunately the egg donor’s test combined with ours showed no bad combinations.

The modern IVF process can freeze both sperm, eggs, and the embryos resulting from fertilization after 5-7 days; this reduces the difficulty of timing each element. Instead of rushing to inseminate fresh eggs with fresh sperm, the eggs and sperm can be frozen and thawed later for combination. The resulting embryos are typically cultured for 5-7 days and frozen as soon as they develop enough. In an echo of the quiet natural winnowing process, often only half or less of the eggs develop at all, and around a quarter look like good candidates for implantation.

The embryos are graded (letter grades!) A-D for development of the part of the cell mass that will be the child, and separately for the cells destined to form the placenta and accessories. This can be augmented by PGT-A (Preimplantation Genetic Testing for Aneuploidies) to determine which embryos are most likely to be viable. This is accomplished by taking out one or two cells from the less-critical part of the embryo and testing them. This is controversial because it is expensive, may possibly harm the embryo, and is not necessarily reliable because it’s not uncommon for cells in the embryo to have different genetic makeups (“mosaic.”) Nevertheless, choosing embryos that pass this test greatly improves the live birth rate for IVF. Desperate for offspring of their own, couples sometimes direct implantation of apparently unsound mosaic embryos, which can sometimes develop normally, but usually don’t.

Embryos that are missing entire chromosomes or major segments will either not make it to term or suffer serious defects that limit their lives. Since we are already intervening in the natural process and each attempt at pregnancy is very costly, using these tests to improve the odds is very much worth it.

While I was unable to produce viable spermatozoa, [husband’s] were fine and so we went forward with the egg donor and directed half the harvested eggs to be fertilized with his contribution.

Oct 18 2019

So they centrifuged my pathetic sample and found 4 live (if not terribly healthy) spermatozoa. Not really enough to work with!

Nov 21 2019

Egg donor at IVF doctor’ office in LA. Got an Amex charge notice, $16K, billed for the next few days until the extraction on the 23rd. 15 follicles ready, so harvest will likely be good (avg is around 10.) They will immediately fertilize half with Paul’s sample (frozen months ago) and freeze the rest of the eggs (waiting on my less-than-robust spermatozoa, which may have to be handled one-by-one.)

This first stage [husband’s] went well enough, though in hindsight we were both old enough to have benefitted from the Zymot sorting chip, which would have improved the health of the spermatozoa used for ICSI. Then we waited for reports from the culture lab to see how the little buggers did.

Nov 24 2019

Update: Got a report from the lab. Darwinian selection (which occurs silently in the normal process) underway. Of 9 oocytes, 2 rejected as immature. They thawed [husband’s] sample and selected sperm cells from a microscopic examination, then used ICSI to fertilize seven of the fresh eggs. Two of the remainder were discarded for not developing a healthy profile of pronuclei (PNs). Research has shown that the most healthy look is 2 normal-sized PNs, but other configurations (0, 1, 2.1 [one of the two is small]) have some chance of healthy development, so they are grown for more days in case they turn out fine (it turns out the male’s DNA can still be incorporated without the obvious signal of two PNs.) That leaves 5 growing. They weren’t specific about the 0N-1N-2N status of each. Kind of nerve-wracking.

Technology has improved a lot, but expect by a century from now that it will have progressed past “screening” to libraries of genetic material that can be recombined at will, and probably an artificial womb for gestation. Brave New Worldish. Costs will drop and it may eventually be seen as retrograde to have children the old-fashioned way. We’ve already seen lots of world-building where that cultural struggle is a theme.

BTW, any “super race” ideas (e..g., Star Trek’s Khan) will require a lot of arm-waving to explain how gene engineers can improve on the best/luckiest naturally born people. I don’t think (other than splicing out obviously damaging defects) anyone will be able to tailor the perfect combination of traits, and one thing we do know is that the natural diversity of talents contributes to the advantages of human teams….

Nov 28 2019

IVF update: the tech was rushed and so the report for Day 5 came in early. 3 embryos looked good enough for genetic testing (there was a differentiated clump of cells that will end up as the fetus and surrounding cells that end up as placenta, and it’s safe to remove one of those for the gene testing (shipped frozen to the lab.)) The 3 candidate embryos were then frozen. Testing comes back < 10 days. We haven’t heard from the surrogate wranglers about who might be available. I hope there’s more data to decide with. nov 30 2019 Day 7 report: the two zygotes not frozen didn’t develop and so were disposed of. 3 survivors were frozen Day 5, so that’s the choice for [husband's] kid. Kinda sad but as expected (the beyond-5-days embryos rarely develop enough). Was just reading about a PA bill that supposedly requires burial certificates for disposal of any fertilized egg. This is, of course, silly. Whether the bill actually says that is unclear, the usual amplification to get people outraged for clicks being in play. Dec 9 2019 Monday morning news: genetic tests done, 1 of the 3 embryos failed. Awww. I resent they don’t send us the report, but we can talk it over with the doctor if we schedule a Skype call. [later edit]: We got the genetic test results. Two euploid XYs (boys) and the aneuploid XY (female) who lacked the full complement of 16 chromosomes. Eek. The lottery odds favor us (only 16% chance neither XY will be carried to term) but still that worries me. [further note: I think they mean one Chromosome 16 is absent or incomplete, not 16 missing chromosomes.]

[Current state 2-1-2021: [husband’s] best embryo was implanted 7 months ago and is likely to be born to our surrogate in mid-April. We’re getting ready by buying all the equipment, clothes, diapers, etc.! We’ll get to mine later in the saga, which took much longer and had more issues with “Sperm DNA Fragmentation” (SDF) because I am older. Half of our first batch of eggs were fertilized with my sperm, and none survived culturing and screening.]

IVF Journey: Remedies for Male Factor Infertility – Azoospermia

[continued from Donor Eggs.]

Update: in real time, offspring #1 is at 32 weeks, with two months to do. He is reportedly very active during the day, but sleeps at night, which is very helpful so his gestational carrier (GC) can sleep. #2 is frozen in pre-launch until his GC is ready, probably next month.

Now for my part of the tale: my sperm tests came back stamped “azoospermia,” which is the condition of having no spermatozoa in your semen sample. This is rare for older men (who usually have at least a few feeble wrigglers), but is common for any man of any age who has been on testosterone replacement therapy for a length of time.

July 30 2019

The saga continues. World-class LA IVF doc refers me to either a Beverly Hills or Century City urologist-fertility specialist. They turn out to require an office visit starting with a $400 phone consult to come up with a treatment plan (and there are no promises you’ll get one.) Meanwhile, I find sources online, especially a comparative study of treatments. (These were funded in an effort to test use of testosterone itself as a male contraceptive; it does quite reliably induce temporary sterility, but they were doing baseline studies to see what (patentable, easier, more targeted) molecules they might find.)

So the treatment is: 1) Stop T, wait. Most men restart sperm production in a year. 2) Accelerate recovery using the same kind of hormonal manipulation used on egg donors. Notably, clomiphene citrate (cheap, easy to get) and injections of hCG (expensive, hard to get, subject of a silly diet craze as well.) I can find bootleg sources of both but it would sure be nice if our legitimate system wasn’t such a clusterfuck. Something like 80% of the men in studies recover in 2-3 months (but they were on average much younger.)

So I called the most prominent of three Eisenhower medical group urologists. No appt until Feb (7 months.) Not useful.

It’s amusing that all healthcare types think the patient is central and should have informed consent, but then make it an exercise in paying gatekeepers and wasting time no matter how informed the patient might be. I’ve had a few doctors with enough experience and intuition that they can quickly judge and decide matters. But much more commonly I can research the narrow subject of my rare condition and know as much or more about it than they do in a day or two. But thousands of dollars and hours of wasted time are the price of lost freedom. The rest of us must pay in time and $ so that stupid people can be protected from their mistakes.

BTW, there are websites where you can order up lab tests from Labcorp and Quest for cash prices. The full battery of STD and other blood tests the IVF doc wants costs about $450 cash there. Given only a few of these would be covered under our grossly expensive ACA-monopoly insurance policy, may just pay cash. I can’t get my primary care doc’s staff to do anything. Tomorrow I see my doctor and four tests that were supposed to be done for a 1/18 appt I had to cancel have never been set up so we won’t be able to discuss results as is their plan; Eisenhower is a nonprofit run by doctors and they are trying to make all patients over 40 come in three times a year and constantly undergo screening for bp and cholesterol, pushing everyone onto medications and keeping those office visits (and revenue) coming in. “Nonprofit” doesn’t mean no one is making money.

In hindsight, it was a mistake not to go to the Beverly Hills fertility specialist. My primary care doctor helpfully prescribed the hCG (available from a local compounding pharmacy — a few months later, the FDA forbid such compounding, and after that I had to use GoodRx coupons to get it from a regular pharmacy: both products start from encapsulated powder which has to be mixed with distilled water, so what the compounding pharmacist used to do, the patient now has to do. The injections are simple — subcutaneous (just under the skin, into a fat layer) and water-based so small-needle insulin syringes can be used. My doctor had me on 25 ml every other day, which seemed to be enough.

The full regimen I went on included more drugs (oral):

    Clomiphene, 50 mg / every other day – inhibits the feedback loop that suppresses natural testosterone. It’s a “selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM)”

    Anastrazole, 1 mg /day – suppresses estrogen production via aromatase inhibition.

    hCG, .25 ml / every other day – chemically similar to luteinizing hormone, so shields testosterone and sperm production from negative feedback loops. Restored my levels of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) to normal in six months.

To cut to the chase, I ceased t-supplementation in early August and after failing to fertilize a single egg from the first batch, went to the Beverly Hills fertility guy (via Zoom, since the pandemic caused him to waive his usual requirement of examining new patients in person.) That world-renowned expert recommended what I was already taking, plus use of a Zymot sperm-sorting chip to select the best spermatozoa for ICSI (more about that in a later post.) We had to wait months for our egg donor’s second donation before trying again, but this time it worked — more than a year since I started rehab, we had four new frozen embryos (my children-to-be) that passed all screenings.

The graph showing my hormonal recovery:

FSH and T graph 5-13-20 showing recovery to normal levels

FSH and T recovery graph