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.

Jun 26, 2015

pin point

This newer farther range tracking cam footage of the last SpaceX first stage landing really puts into perspective how friggin hard this is to do. When you see the close up cam it just looks like the rocket comes in and botches the landing. But from far back you can see how they really are threading a needle. They have limited fuel and a giant multi-story building coming in at 100s of miles per hour that has to land on a dime-sized barge. They're so close really. It's just a matter of time as the last two failures were really just small malfunctions and errors.

lies lies lies

Ugh. One-quarter of cancer research studies contain faked data.

Ugh Ugh. Only 6 of 53 "landmark" cancer studies could be confirmed.

Do you really believe this is contained within cancer research?

Jun 15, 2015

shoulder day

I always feel like shoulders get blown off in workout routines. I've partially dislocated my shoulder a number of times now and if I don't work it hard it can really stiffen up. So.

  • Alternating shoulder press - Keep the weights up on your shoulders. Extend upward, one at a time
  • Upright rows - Pull hands directly up to chin, keep elbows pointed out to the side and above your hands
  • Arm circles - I hate these. Very light weight. Arms extended and make small circles. 10 seconds on, 10 seconds off, 10 seconds on, etc.
  • Forward arm extension - Lift arms directly in front of you
  • Outward arm extension - Lift arms directly to the side of you
  • Seated arm flys - Sit down. Elbows bent 90 degrees, lift outward to side
  • Extreme pike press - You're trying to do a push up but as upside down as you can. Pike/downward dog position, feet close to hands, dip head down to flow
  • Pour flys - Like outward arm extension but at the top you twists wrists so weights are pointing down
  • Y presses - Weights at shoulders, lift up and out to make a Y with your torso
  • Last 6 exercises are Alternating shoulder press and upright rows again

Jun 13, 2015

is that a big island you have there or are you just happy to see me

I went to Hawaii when I was a kid. Oahu. To be frank I kind of thought it was a bit lame. The pineapple was good. The beaches were nice. But something about it just seemed so touristy even at a young age. And that's probably because it is. Last year for our 10th anniversary we went to the Big Island on the recommendation of my best man who grew up in Hawaii. And it was a completely different experience.

The Big Island is the most underdeveloped island in Hawaii. And that suits me just fine. Cities are cities. But the outdoors has great variety. The geology of Hawaii is fascinating. As soon as I landed I wanted to know more. It has such an alien landscape. Here's a good example. You're driving along and, what the hell, you're in the middle of an old lava floor. Those grasses in the photo are some of the first vegetation that can take hold in the solid lava once it cools. Serving to break it up and allow other plants to grow some years later. Also note the black color of the lava. This tells you it's a relatively young flow. Lava contains a lot of iron and 'rusts' over time and turns an orange-brown.

We went back last week for 3 days. I think my wife and I are kind of enamored with the place. We stayed at the Hualalai. The Mauna Kea has a much better beach but this resort has its own charm too.

For one, green seat turtles are everywhere. And they're pretty cute with big big eyes.

Most of the Big Island doesn't have a sandy beach. It's the youngest, and most volcanic island, and so the shores are generally solidified lava. It has the same feel as Big Sur (another of my favorite spots).

I believe the beach at Haulalai is man-made. But it's fine. We aren't there for the beach for the most part.

Last time we hit most of the major hikes that allow you to see volcanic activity, waterfalls, and black sand beaches. We did another hike similar to last time that takes you down to a very secluded black sand beach. It involves a steep hike down (and later back up!).

Combined with the humid weather, hikes mean significant perspiration. Bring water! But most of the hikes have huge payoffs. Everything is gorgeous on the island.

The second hike we did was Kiholo Bay near the resort. It's about a mile hike through white-black sand beaches and lots of sea turtles.

At the end is a blue blue bay and a vast sea of solidified lava. Here's a typical example. I call this "brownie lava" because it looks like the top of brownies.

The real pretty spot though is the bay. Lots of turtles. Reasonably warm water. And no one else. I didn't see a single person while we were there.

We're going back again in August. It's become an addiction.