Feb 8, 2016

super bowl

I don't watch TV and competitive sports in general bore me.  Combining the two means that the Super Bowl holds about as much interest for me as lint. We seem to get invited to bowl parties each year and the only thing that used to be good was the commercials.

But I'm just realizing over the last 3 years I can't recall a single good ad. They have suffered in quality. They've been bereft of it. What was that shit this year? The LG ad in particular stuck out as being cringeworthy. The only explanation I can conjure up is that the ads are so expensive now that they're created via committee. And because of the expense, companies are forced to play it extremely safe.

So now I'm basically left to enjoy the vienna sausages.


The ironic thing about the Uber driver protests is that the whole economics of the situation flies right over the head of those drivers that are protesting. Uber runs a marketplace; a place where buyers (people who want a ride) and sellers (drivers) meet and transact. It's in Uber's best interest to have supply meet demand. Too much supply and the drivers are not utilized well and it becomes economically unviable to continue. Too much demand and riders can't get a ride and they stop using the service.

This is Uber's ultimate core competency. Being able to use levers at their disposal to keep demand and supply reasonably matched on a local level. The easiest lever they have to control is price. It has the twin effects of increasing / decreasing demand while decreasing / increasing supply.

And price is what the Uber drivers have been protesting. Namely that it is too low. But that's exactly what Uber wants. It wants these drivers off the road. Too many drivers and not enough demand.

In this light protesting becomes futile. In other words Uber wants them to get off the road. Protest or not. Get off the road.

Feb 2, 2016


I generally have pretty good sleep habits but I would put myself decidedly in the camp of being a "night person" versus a "morning person."  I rarely suffer from insomnia but I do at times not sleep at well at night or find myself staying up late or waking up extremely groggy.

So I ran a little experiment as I'm apt to do. The prescription was pretty easy based on my recent analysis of some of the more prominent sleep research.

  • Turn your phone/tablet of at a reasonable hour
  • Get up at the same time every day (weekends included)
To augment this I also removed scads of stuff from my phone. Games. Most of the news sources that I check every now and again. I don't really have any social media apps but I would have removed those too.

And I also started to systemically read at night (I'm reading Infinite Jest which is the sort of book the requires systematic reading to get though).

My phone turn off time was reasonable. 10pm. And I allowed myself to read from 10-11.

The result were fairly drastic. If I followed these rules I woke up at 6am easily. Not tired and full of energy. There was almost no transition time. I also can rarely make it to 11pm. My body naturally tells me to go to sleep and the transition from being awake to wanting to sleep is also quite quick. It can occur over the course of maybe 3 minutes. If I broke any of these rules, I would stay up late. I did this in order to fully test out the effect. It really was night and day (haha) in terms of the result. 

One suspects then that most insomnia and sleep problems (and it certainly seems like 100% of the population has these problems) then phones and so forth are probably the key driver. 

Jan 29, 2016

the graduate

Interesting facts about the movie The Graduate:

  • Redford was considered for the Hoffman's role but the director (Nichols) thought he didn't have an "underdog" quality to him. He asked Redford, "Have you ever struck out with a girl." Redford replied, "What do you mean?" Nichols replied, "Precisely."
  • Others considered for the role - Harrison Ford, Gene Wilder, Steve McQueen, and Jack Nicholson
  • Hoffman's character in the movie was 20; he was 29
  • Hoffman's father's actor was 39 (10 years older than Hoffman)
  • Mrs. Robinson (Bancroft) was 35 (6 years older than Hoffman)
  • Elaine's (love interest, Ross) character in the movie was 19; she was 27
  • Elaine's college roommate's actress was 35 (the same as Mrs. Robinson)

Oct 2, 2015


How's that dietary advice working out for you?  More fruits, vegetables, and grains. Less eggs, animal fats, and butter. Over the last 35 years. That sure worked out well for everyone.

Sep 30, 2015


This should be surprising but it isn't.

Coca Cola released a transparency report about who they provide funding to. Included in the list are these "health organizations"

  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
  • American Academy of Family Physicians (these guys at least decided to stop taking this money)
  • American Cancer Society
  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Dietetic Association
  • American Council on Science and Health
  • American Society for Nutrition
  • American College of Cardiology
  • American College of Sports Medicine
  • Harvard Medical School/Partners in Health
  • Hope Heart Institute
  • Foundation for the National Institutes for Health
  • National Foundation for the Center of Disease Control
  • Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
  • Center Helping Obesity in Children End Successfully, Inc.
  • Children Medical Center Foundation
  • Save the Children
  • Numerous nurse associations
  • Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
  • Beth Israel/Harvard Obesity Conference
I even went through and found the institutions that have taken the most money over the last few years:

Pennington Biomedical Research Center  6,769,657
University of South Carolina  6,300,534
Boys & Girls Club  6,072,825
Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation  5,081,058
Don't Quit Foundation  4,500,000
American Academy of Family Physicians  3,550,000
American College of Cardiology  3,155,000
American Academy of Pediatrics  2,985,600
National Foundation for the CDC  2,144,862
Emory Global Diabetes Research Center  2,031,000
American Cancer Society  1,878,224
University of Alabama at Birmingham  1,829,000
Calorie Control Council  1,702,000
The Global Environment & Technology Foundation  1,650,000
Foundation for the National Institutes for Health  1,552,446
International Food Information Council (IFIC)  1,469,665
University System of Georgia Foundation, Inc.  1,400,000
International Life Sciences Institute North America  1,332,000
Rippe Lifestyle Institute  1,297,360
American Dietetic Association  1,105,000
Girl Scouts of the USA  1,000,000
University of Colorado  1,000,000

I don't really blame Coke. It'd be great if they didn't support this crap but they sell sugar. But these health organizations? It's another reminder that in most cases associations, groups, and institutes are merely a central lobbying agency that can be bought. Their policies and pronouncements are almost never based on astute science.

And also these "health experts" also took money. Like this blog needs to pan "gurus" anymore. These people are worthless. Most of them push Coca Cola as a part of a balanced diet, are active on Twitter, and suggest obesity is an exercise problem rather than a diet problem. How do these people get up in the morning and live with themselves?

More here:
The New Faces of Coke
Coca Cola: Transparency report on Health professionals and Scientific Experts
Coca Cola: Transparency list of Health Organizations
NYT: Coke Spends Lavishly on Pediatricians and Dietitians

Sep 10, 2015


This article sort of blew me away. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

It's a list of well known songs that were actually covers. At first I thought this would be a list of songs remade in the 90s and later that, in general, I was aware were covers. But it's not that at all. It's songs from the 70s and 80s that I had no idea were covers. In many cases the well known band was a one-hit wonder with the song so really they were talentless one-hit wonders.

Here's some of the stand outs.
  • Quiet Riot - Cum On Feel the Noize (originally by Slade)
  • Kim Carnes - Bette Davis Eyes (Jackie DeShannon)
  • Toni Basil - Mickey (Racey)
  • Eric Clapton - Cocaine (J.J. Cale)
  • Barry Manilow - I Write The Songs (Captain and Tennille)
  • Blinded By the Light - Manfred Mann's Earth Band (Bruce Springsteen!)
  • You Better Run - Pat Benatar (The Young Rascals)
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cindi Lauper (Robert Hazard)
  • Everybody's Talking - Harry Nilsson (Fred Neil, blown away by this one)
  • Mandy - Barry Manilow (Scott English)
  • The Tide Is High - Blondie (The Paragons)
  • Family Man - Hall & Oates (Mike Oldfield!!! From Tubular Bells fame)
  • Killing Me Softly With His Song - Roberta Flack (Lori Lieberman!!)
  • Dazed & Confused - Led Zeppelin (Jake Holmes)
  • Black Magic Woman - Santana (Fleetwood Mac!!??)
  • Obession - Animotion (Michael Des Barres)
  • Gloria - Laura Branigan (Umberto Tozzi)
  • Angel of the Morning - Juice Newton (Evie Sands)
  • Heart & Soul - Huey Lewis & The News (Exile)
The last one has to be heard just for the MASSIVE (and I mean MASSIVE) cow bell at 1:05

homo naledi

The big news this week is the announcement of a newly discovered, extinct, hominid named homo naledi in South Africa. Interesting. There's a big problem though.

They don't know how old this hominid is. This is primarily because of how these pre-humans died or at least were disposed off. There is no sedimentary layers around them.

But without dating we really don't know what we have. These could be 2-3 million years old and at the transition from australopithecus to homo or they could be 100,000 years old. That's too be a range to be remotely useful in understanding what this find means.

Radiocarbon dating can't date things back millions of years. But at least running the test on these remains would tell you if they were 10,000 or 50,000 years old or at least rule these ranges out. Why this wasn't done is strange.

There are other issues too. The two papers were published in eLife. eLife? Not one of the more well known paleontology journals but essentially an open source science publication platform.

Also most of the invited paleontologists are super young. Some just received their Ph.D.s and post-docs.

Aug 10, 2015

hell has frozen over

I rarely read newspapers anymore. I'll glance at headlines but they've lost my trust over the years. Any time there is an article on science, business, or health its always just an epic fail. So why would I expect he rest of the newspaper to be any better.

This one caught my eye though.

Here's the salient crux of the article: The whole idea of breakfast being the most important meal of the day is bunk.

Anyone who has read along on this blog probably already understands why this was obvious but nevertheless the rest of the article was surprisingly good. Here are some quotes in particular that caught my eye.
At 8:30 in the morning for four weeks, one group of subjects got oatmeal, another got frosted corn flakes and a third got nothing. And the only group to lose weight was ... the group that skipped breakfast.
Once again I'm sure long-time readers can spot the obvious problem. Hint: carbs.
This year, as the Dietary Guidelines are being updated, the credibility of its nutritional commandments has been called into question by a series of scientific disputes. Its advisory committee called for dropping the longstanding warning about dietary cholesterol, which had long plagued the egg industry; prominent studies contradicted the government warnings about the dangers of salt; and the government’s longstanding condemnation of foods rich in saturated fats seems simplistic, according to critics, given the ever more intricate understanding of the nutrition in fatty foods.
Surprisingly no hemming and hawing here. Just straightforward facts that are correct. Dietary cholesterol is not unhealthy. Salt is not unhealthy. Saturated fat is not unhealthy.
One of the key pieces of evidence, for example, examined the records for 20,000 male health professionals. Researchers followed the group for 10 years and published results in 2007 in the journal Obesity. They showed that after adjusting for age and other factors, the men who ate breakfast were 13 percent less likely to have had a significant weight gain.
Again I'm sure you can spot the obvious problem. Hint: 20,000 records guarantees it's an observational study.

At this point I'm kind of surprised and waiting for some garbage to appear. Instead it gets even better.
One of the primary troubles in observational studies is what scientists refer to as “confounders” — basically, unaccounted factors that can lead researchers to make mistaken assumptions about causes. For example, suppose breakfast skippers have a personality trait that makes them more likely to gain weight than breakfast eaters. If that’s the case, it may look as if skipping breakfast causes weight gain even though the cause is the personality trait.
Bingo. Confounding variables. All you really need to know is in those two words. And why observational studies are NOT science. Period.
Relying on observational studies has drawn fierce criticism from many in the field, particularly statisticians. S. Stanley Young, former director of bioinformatics at the National Institute of Statistical Sciences has estimated that for observational studies in the medical field, “over 90 percent of the claims fail to replicate” — that is they cannot be replicated later by more exacting experiments.
Statisticians have been criticizing observational studies? Really? Why haven't the newspapers been reporting on this. I've never seen a single article about this. And good for them.

Also who is S. Stanley Young and why have I not heard of him before. This guy is the hero we need. Unfortunately this guy has not written a book or I would have purchased all of them before this sentence was done.

And finally in case you missed it. 90% of observational study claims are wrong. Or said another way, if you did the opposite of what observational studies told you to do you'd be much healthier. 90% wrong. 90%!!!!! Understand why I say these studies are not merely bad but horribly misleading and frankly dangerous?

Then this from Linda Van Horn, a professor of nutrition and preventative medicine at Northwestern University who was the chair of the 2010 advisory committee who used flaky observational studies to recommend that the government recommend eating breakfast in its Dietary Guidelines.
“Regardless of the evidence though, it might be important for you to recognize the value of eating breakfast due to its frequent inclusion of higher fiber containing foods,” her e-mail said. “As you are no doubt aware, Americans eat only about half of the recommended amount of dietary fiber.”
Did you see that? "Regardless of the evidence". Regardless! Regardless? What? Are they holding seances and ouji board session to determine health policy over there? Regardless? What the fuck is this dolt talking about? Someone that stupid should never be chairing anything. Ever.

Overall a very well written article. But don't wade into the comment section. I'm warning you. It's a regurgitation of observational study bunk.

what is your liver's BMI?

It's probably no surprise that all the researchers on this new research paper are Japanese. The acronyms make it tough to parse, but the gist of the article is this: individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are at a much higher risk of developing diabetes even if they are skinny. Moreso than overweight individuals without NAFLD.

This in essence is an Asian problem for reasons unknown. Asians don't get subcutaneous fat at the same rate as other races. Instead it seems that Asians generally pack on fat around their organs. This is worse because you can't see it so you don't know anything is wrong. This is observational and I presume the study is all Japanese people. But it's inline with previous research. What I'm waiting for is a study on what it is about Asians that makes them store visceral fat over subcutaneous. We have no insight into that. Also problematic is that no one explicitly checks for NAFLD. It requires an ultrasound measurement to be sure. And no amount of exercise is going to solve this problem. This is 100% diet. Given doctors recommendations for a 'healthy diet', this is effectively a diagnosis of future type 2 diabetes. And Alzheimers. And heart attacks. And strokes. And....