Feb 11, 2015


This is worth a full read.

Short story: Addiction to cocaine in rat experiments is radically reduced if the rats are happy (read eat well, live in a non-sterile environment, and, more importantly, are around other mice.


I've been waiting for this research report for a while. The benefits of alcohol are vastly overrated. Alcohol and fructose are just too similar. They look similar. They are chemically similar. And they are processed in the body using almost identical biochemical steps. If fructose is so bad for you how can alcohol be good? Answer: It isn't.

The primary correlation reported in the press is that alcohol consumption is inversely related to coronary heart disease. Drink more, have less heart attacks. 

The study linked above is a meta-analysis (I generally like these although they aren't technically clinical studies) of 34 studies of men and women totaling about one-million people and one-hundred-thousand deaths. All the studies were observational (so we're not exactly talking science here).

It does show that there is a correlation as suggested up to 4 drinks per day for men and 2 drinks per day for women. But the maximum protection afforded by these drinks is still smaller than the confidence interval. Suggesting it may not be real and there is no benefit. And any binge drinking has no benefit.

Furthermore this only seems to hold for men over 34 and women over 54 years old. Below that the correlation is proportionally related not inversely.

And while it may reduce cardiovascular disease it does seem to increase cancers, cirrhosis (no surprise) and death from accidents (don't drink and drive, user Uber).

Dec 4, 2014

eric garner

It's kind of hard for any rational person to view the grand jury decision on whether to pursue a homicide case against Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner as anything other than insane. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide. There was a videotape of the whole incident. Almost everyone who viewed that video tape saw it as your usual police over reaction to some guy apparently (although no cigarettes were found on him) selling black market cigarettes on the corner. And the chokehold maneuver has been banned by the NYPD for years. There was nothing professional or ambiguous about the entire incident.

Was there any question this police officer should have at the very minimum gone to a trial by his peers?

And yet the grand jury came back with a decision to not pursue a trial. How is that even possible?

I'm guessing at this point that the entire construct of the grand jury is a facade. It's been said that a decent prosecutor could make a grand jury indict a ham sandwich if they wanted to. If that's true then it must be true that the prosecutor in this case simply didn't want the jury to come back with an indictment. Why would that be? I can only think of two reasons. First, political forces coerced or forced him to do this. Second, that there is a cozy relationship between prosecutors and the police force. Most of what the prosecutor does is bring indictments against people the police bring to the prosecutor. Does he need to avoid prosecutions of this type to avoid getting the cold shoulder from the police force?

Either way I think it's clear we won't see any police being indicted on any kind of charges in the near future. Body cams or not. And that can only lead to bad things.

Oct 13, 2014


Bungie's new game, Destiny, is an interesting game. It's so flawed on one level, and it invokes such cycnical disdain. On another there are enjoyable aspects that remind one of Halo and Marathon.

I don't really know where to start. Other than this main point that the game is maddening and fun at the same time.

What's wrong with it?

  • First and foremost this is a uninspired approach to game making on Bungie's part. This has all the hallmarks of a game designed and developed by a company far more interested in money than gameplay. This isn't your Bungie of old. The feeling that people who love gaming run the company is gone. This strikes me as a company that has far more in common with King or Zynga. 
  • The gameplay is designed around the concept of addiction rather than fun. Much of the game seems designed to make you happy in small doses, frustrate you in larger doses, and promise the holy land just around the corner. Everything about the game speaks to this. If I could just get that legendary gun. If I could just find that helmet with 2 more light ratings. 
  • It's a social game so you see other players during gameplay. And what do you see? You see their name and their level. The level in Destiny is a measure of your accomplishments. It's a social ladder climbing metric reduced to a single value to compare against other. I'm 24 and he's 26. He's better. I need to be better. 
  • Most of the game motivation comes from The Level. You can easily work your way to 20 and then up to about 30 or so with armor modifications. It's an asymptotic climb. 21 is not so hard. 29 is brutal. What seems close is not so close.
  • The act of getting "stuff" to level up can in most cases be described as monotonous and for beginners utterly confusing. Before you can buy better armor you need "reputation". And reputation in most cases involves running the most repetitive and monotonous mini-campaigns or patrols and bounties you can imagine. It's Sisyphean in its silliness.
  • The worst thing about Destiny's leveling motivation is that it's largely useless. As you get better you just fight tougher aliens. They move largely in sync with you in degree of difficulty. So what is the point? The point is to compare to other people. Who is the most popular guardian in Destiny and where do I fit in. You can see how this game might appeal to high schoolers and early 20 year olds and baffle an old man like me.
  • The complexity and lack of any obvious help in game is off-putting. I think for a young kid this is essentially pretty exciting but for me it's just archaic detail for the sake of detail. You need to do this first and then this and then do this other thing to get a hold of this item and combine it with.... Bleah! I didn't come here to follow rules. I came here to shoot and kill aliens.
  • There are endless modifications to your character in terms of what they look like and some of these modifications can require endless grinding to get one set of stuff so you can then buy that other stuff so you can get the blue cape. Again this endless preening probably appeals to younger gamers but for someone square in the marks of the marketing salivations of Rockport Shoe Company, this is a god damn waste of time. And the problem with this is development effort is put into this rather than making a compelling game.
  • I've never played Farmville but aspects of this game seem probably what that game is like.
  • The story is so bad that you suspect the writers are fucking with us. So much mumbo jumbo and weak storylines and cliche lines ("What you are doing guardian is brave. You might not make it back."), and invocation of bullshit jargon and oh my god it's terrible. It's fucking awful.
  • While it's a social game it's a lonely feeling game in many respects. Part of what made Halo great were the drops where you went in with other computer controlled marines. It feels great to have them with you making funny quips and it makes the game human. There is no humanity in Destiny.
And yet I keep playing it. Why?
  • It's gorgeous. It's the one aspect of Bungie that lives on. the design and detail are beautiful I just love looking at it. Here's how good it is. Sometimes I just move the camera angle around so I can see my guy with the landscape behind it and think, "I wish I could take a quick snapshot of this."
  • The music is similarly Halo-like in it's goodness. Sometimes I just sit and listen to the music.
  • The general mechanics of character control are flawless. You want to do something and it just seems easier in Destiny than it does in other games. Shooting, moving, jumping, throwing a grenade. Things just seem easier.
  • I'm not a competitive guy. I much prefer the camaraderie of team activities in gaming and Destiny has really fun "Strike Missions" where it groups you with 2 other guardians and you go in and complete a mission. It's fun. I just wish I had friends who had the game so we could do it together.
  • I'm curious where Bungie will take this game. It's designed as a platform to be built on. And I'll give them a bit of a chance to play this platform out. If they do not add some fun stuff and veer away from this "gaming monetization strategy" then I'm squarely going to focus on Halo and drop Destiny.

Sep 17, 2014


Interesting. I've suspected something was up with artificial sweeteners. This is mice so take everything with a grain of salt. But gut bacteria should behave similarly in animals.

Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota

Sep 16, 2014

u2 and the currency of outrage.

I am still seeing people complaining about this Apple U2 thing. Because free stuff is an imposition on our privacy. We've been violated. I'm a victim. We like getting outraged don't we? You can tell by the lede's on most 'buzz' journalism now.  And certainly by the comments sections or much of the Twitter landscape.

"You won't believe what this mother did to her daughter?"

We just have to click on that article and zoom right to the comment section without reading it and attack something. The article, the writer, the website, the mother, or the daughter. Or someone unrelated like the guy who makes $4,565 per week from his home.

When did we get so angry? And when did get to the point that begin angry and outraged was a goal? That we got satisfaction from that?

Because either I'm getting old and drifting from the cultural zeitgeist of today. Or people really are just getting up in the morning to complain about something and say they hate something and to make sure that person on the internet who said something wrong is corrected and hopefully beaten senseless.

This can't be good for people's psyche. Is this a pendulum that swings back at some point?

CK Louis famously touched on this in his Everything is Amazing, Nobody is Happy piece.

What is strange about this though is that it seems like it's the younger generations that are going to be the ones yelling at me to get off their lawns. Most of the social networks are filled with this kind of thing. Twitter and Reddit make it almost their business model. And the only source of 'uplifting' stories is basically cute pictures of animals which in and of itself really tells a story of heightened misanthropy. Screw humans. Give me a cute fluffy thing.

We do a bit of hiring at our company. I generally make the last call on hiring. We had just talked to this woman who looked great on paper. She was maybe late 20s or so. She had talked to most of the people on the team and they reported back favorably. She went to Stanford, went to school in Beijing, spoke English and Chinese, was on the volleyball team, and had worked at some high-end start-ups. And yet she was a disaster. I had given her a project to do. I rarely interview people because that basically means you end up hiring people who are particularly talented at being interviewed. It wasn't a hard project. It took her a month to get back to me. No updates. No nothing. She just sent it a month later.

And her response to me telling her immediately that a non-hiring decision had already been made was outrage. I was a little taken aback. She spilled out some excuses. I should have given her a deadline. Why didn't I contact her to see how she was doing? She had a job and had a wedding to attend to. And I simply did get baited into a conversation. But she wouldn't take no for an answer. We should hire her apparently. I was wrong and I needed to be corrected. And I saw the same sort of attitude that I see online. We haven't hired any 20 year olds to date. I'm not entirely sure we ever will.

Sep 11, 2014


Frankly a remarkable pair of graphs. I don't entirely believe it. It's compiled from OKCupid data.

Sep 9, 2014

wealth redistribution

Just playing Devil's advocate. If all wealth was redistributed in the U.S. what would it look like.

Total estimated wealth in the U.S. ~ $17.5 trillion.
Population ~ 300m.

Average payout - $58k.

So in a family of four if your net worth is over $200k (e.g., you own a house) you are going to be losing wealth on redistribution.

Worldwide it's even worse.

Worldwide wealth is estimated at $241 trillion. Divide by 7 billion and you get $35k.

Sep 4, 2014

yet another low carb diet research paper

I have about 20 people send me this news. This one made a bit of a splash because the NY Times picked up on it.

As usual I've read the original research report. The study is quite good.
  • 148 men and women (60 in low fat and 59 in low carb completed the full test)
  • Randomized clinical study
  • Parallel trial
  • The low-carb diet was indeed low carb (<40g/d)
  • The low-fat diet was indeed low fat (<30%/d, <7%/d saturated)
  • Measurements taken at 0, 3, 6, and 12 months
  • Low carbers had greater decreases in weight (mean difference in change -3.5kg)
  • Low carbers had greater decreases in fat mass (mean difference in change -1.5%)
  • Low carbers had greater decreases in triglycerides (mean difference in change -0.16 mmol/L)
  • Low carbers had greater increases in HDL (mean difference in change 0.18 mmol/L
  • Who cares about HDL? No one that knows what they are talking about.
  • We know all this. What they didn't do is measure ApoB
  • Where are we on the effects of resistant starch?
  • Where are we on the effects of exogenous ketones?
  • Where are we on the effects of glycemic index and loads with respect to carb heavy foods? Do we really know the differences between pure sugars, complex carbohydrates, and resistant starch?
  • Where are we on genetic and racial factors (aka why are Asians so fucked when it comes to carbs)?

Aug 28, 2014


I've been looking for this kind of data for a long time. This guy does a great job of helping to visualize it.

The real issue isn't distribution of wealth but the mobility you have among the the wealth distribution. Are there things you can do to move up the ladder or not. This doesn't really answer the question because it's all based on correlation but it's interesting nonetheless.

Basically it shows things we already know. Being black puts you at a disadvantage. Not having married parents puts you at a disadvantage.

The first thing I'm struck by is that while the presenter takes a dire view of the situation I was actually surprised at how mobile we are. It's not perfect but it's a lot better than I would have guessed.

I'm also surprised by the implications of this in the mirror view. Namely, since people have a decent amount of mobility from the bottom to the top, this implies that people at the top have a lot of mobility down. This is surprising. Because if you own a lot of assets then those assets can work for you (investment). The lower you go down on the ladder the less that option is available to you to the point where it works against you (debt). In fact that's part of why I had a previously dire view of the mobility measurement. Rich people in general have more means to remain rich and that should create friction.

The other thing that is strange but I'd have to look at the data is that whites have essentially frictionless mobility (pure random distribution). And blacks have frictionful mobility (high distribution on lower quintiles). This leaves the question who is picking up the slack? Do Hispanics or Asians have higher than average mobility? I don't know. But it's interesting.