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....

Aug 7, 2015


47 seems old to me. If you had asked my 18 year old self if a 47-year old man was old, I would have said yes. That's totally old. You're way way more on the side of old at that age than young.

As you get old you pass through a few phases:

  • 0-5 no one remembers
  • 6-12 was pretty carefree. You just try and avoid wetting your pants and securing as many sugary products as possible. And avoid dying from stupidity
  • 13-18 was hell. Puberty, high school, rules, jungle politics, introduction to drugs & alcohol, etc. The "Black" years
  • 18-25 was probably the most fun. College, grad school, confidence, seeing the world, career, learning, growing, physically at your peak
  • 25-35 was exhausting but rewarding. Establishing a career. That's about it. I don't think I did much besides work work work
  • 35-45 was exhausting but more rewarding. Less career focus and more family focus. Kids and marriage are both demanding and incredibly rewarding. In some ways you get to be a kid again since you hang around them all the time. 
Which leaves 45 to, I'm not sure. 55? The jury is still out on this one. 
  • Work is still fun and rewarding, but now the kids are far more self-reliant. The interaction is still high with the kids, but it's less demanding and more sophisticated. Discussions take the place of vomit wiping up and explosive diarrhea (which is nice). 
  • You realize your body has slowly started to breakdown since about 35 but it just wasn't that noticeable. You're eyesight goes. You make noises getting up from couches. Cuts don't heal as quickly. Injuries never quite go away. Ears get more hairy. Pates get less hairy. Skin just isn't what it used to be. This all sucks. And the only way to combat it is through exercise and diet. And you're not combating it, you are merely deflecting its blows which will eventually hit. Which also sucks. So this part sucks. Juries in on that one.
  • But more than any other phase I'm far more content. There's isn't much I'd change about my life. I'm pretty happy with almost everything. Part of this is being less ambitious. I don't need to rule the world. That sounds like an awful job anyway. I care more about quality and getting useful things done. Continuing to learn just for the sake of learning. Trying new things. This is the best part about this phase.
So I guess I'll get back to you at 55 with an update.

Jul 24, 2015


The wife picked up a Tesla this week. We're not a particularly flashy couple and this technically is a flashy car. Pricey. But I have to say both my wife and I were kind of sold from the get go on this car. There are a few key points about the car that are game changers.
  • Safety. Technically the car received a 5.0 on the NHTSA and Euro NCAP safety ratings. Unofficially it scored a 5.4 on the U.S. one. This is a car that has so little in it that it can be purpose built to be extremely safe. There's no engine block in front of you that the car has to stop becoming part of the passenger area in case of a crash. In addition since the batteries are installed low on the floor boards the car has a low center of gravity which makes flipping it extremely unlikely. The batteries also center the center of gravity rather than upfront in an internal combustion engine (ICE) which causes those cars to behave unpredictably in crashes.
  • Maintenance. Basically there isn't any. It's not even required to maintain the warranty. Why? Because there's nothing in the car. You think of a traditional car and you think carborateurs, spark plugs, radiators, pistons, pipes, exhaust systems, gears, transmissions, catalytic converters, oil pumps, oil, oil filters, etc. The Tesla has two things. A big battery. And two electric motors. While they wear down they don't wear down fast. A million things that can potentially go wrong in an ICE versus two in a Tesla. That's why the warranty is 8 years and unlimited miles on the battery and motor.
  • It's electric. It's clean. You drive this car and you think, "are we really still igniting flammable liquid fuel to propel ourselves along?". When did we ever think that was safe? It's like walking into someone's kitchen and they have a fire pit for cooking. The entire concept of an ICE seems archaic once you drive one of these cars. Some people will hang on to things like they like the rumble of their American V8 muscle car. But this is Pavlovian. People don't take you out back of their house to listen to the rumble of their AC unit. Rumbling meant power and that's why people like that sound. In reality almost nothing can beat the new Tesla off the line. Certainly nothing in its price range. Power now means silence. That Pavlovian response will disappear.
There are of course the 2 limitations. Limited range and no way to quickly "fill" up the car. But I think this is the sort of trade off that is like new phones lasting one day whereas old ones lasted for a week on one charge. It's only a tradeoff because you never had to plan for it. With a Tesla you do. 

I ultimately think Tesla becomes a battery and motor company. Ferrari buys the chassis, battery and motor and they build a luxurious facade around it. They almost can't compete on speed right now. 

But here's where I really want to go with this post. Autonomous Driving. This is going to change things in ways we can't even imagine. In a few months newer Teslas will get an over-the-air update to allow some level of autonomous driving. Mainly highway. But where is this going?

Imagine if we get autonomous driving figured out. And frankly we are very close. The only issue now really is the cost of the system components. Lidar is a necessity and it's still pricey but dropping in price precipitously. Once that happens things are going to change fast. There's quite a few bizarre outcomes of this.
  • There are no more crashes. At least ones caused by autonomous cars. Deaths drop over time as the installed base of cars becomes autonomous. Google's cars has been in 11 accidents (I think) and none of them were cause by Google's car. What's interesting about this is that there are 6 million crashes that are claimed in the US each year. The insurance industry predicted there were 6 million more that weren't claimed. Google's rate of getting hit suggests this number of unclaimed crashes is significantly higher. People are shitty drivers. We knew this. Google's data confirms it.
  • If crashes are no more, cars become much lighter. Much of the heft of a car is to make sure you don't die. If you know you aren't going to die cars can frankly be very flimsy. You certainly don't need a steering wheel and pedals any more. This improves efficiency and driving distance and thus adoption increases. It also opens up possibilities about what should be inside the car. 4 seats facing the front? How about a table with four seats facing each other. Or one seat?
  • People don't have to do things like drive kids to school and kids don't get drivers licenses any more. Your kids want to go to school? Just put them in the car and use your phone to tell the car to drive them to school, drop them off, and head back home. 
  • Why own a car anymore? There's not point in owning. Create a large hyper-specialized fleet to meet people's changing needs. Going to get groceries? A single person "car" shows up. Going to the airport with your family? Send a big car. If individuals are going to work, the car could be half as wide as a typical car. Make one lane into two lanes and increase throughput. You can now get work done as you drive to work. When the car is low on batteries it'll charge itself at some station. It doesn't mind waiting. Uber is already on this. They've said they'll buy a metric crapload of Tesla's once autonomous driving is figured out. 
  • Why have lanes at all? Or cats-eyes. Those are for humans? Speed limits and stop signs and yield signs and... Those are for humans. We don't need those anymore. Stop lights? We don't need those. Cars will just interweave through each other without stopping. 
  • Safe distance driving? We don't need that. Cars can ride each others asses because they'll also talk to each other. In fact this creates a drafting effect and improves efficiency even more and thus adoption speeds up.
  • One car hits a pothole or there actually is a crash and the relevant authorities can be alerted instantly whether that's a pothole fixing automaton or an ambulance.
It's happening.

Jul 7, 2015

tv has a problem

TVs are no longer the screen of choice for kids.

While there has been a lot of talk regarding people binge watching TV shows now that they are available for streaming, I think the bigger story is that kids are not TV watchers and are likely to not watch TV shows when they get older.

My kids used to watch TV. And they occasionally watch it when I buy them an Adventure Time season. But by and large they don't want to be in front of the TV, and the entire concept of TV advertising is one they don't get. Or rather they are tremendously irked by it. Because when I purchase a TV show season there are no ads. Even crazier is they prefer to watch the Adventure Time episodes on the iPad and not the big TV with surround sound. Portability is more valuable.

Far more important to them is watching videos on YouTube. My daughter watches a lot of arts & crafts "how-to" shows and my son watches video game shows. Home-made shows by individuals. Nothing from large media companies.

And like the article the iPad is the first line of punishment and TV can be used as a form of punishment.

TV is fu*ked.