Archive for July, 2012

Interesting tidbits from my email inbox and life in general:

USDA back off on Meatless Mondays

Leave it to the USDA to both hand out advice and then retract it for all the wrong reasons.

The message seemed innocuous enough, coming as it did from the federal agency tasked with promoting sustainable agriculture and dietary health: “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias,” read a United States Department of Agriculture interoffice newsletter published on its Web site this week, “is to participate in the ‘Meatless Monday’ initiative.”

Hmmm, I think the writer for the New York Times might be showing a teensy bit of bias here.  The message may be “innocuous” to her, but to me it’s just plain stupid.  The idea that raising cattle causes global warming is even more bogus than the “science” produced by the ClimateGate crowd.  And just because the USDA is “tasked” with promoting sustainable agriculture and dietary health, that doesn’t mean they’re actually doing either.  Is subsidizing farmers to overproduce wheat and corn sustainable?  Are the USDA dietary guidelines based on actual science?  No and no.  I’m surprised the writer doesn’t argue that Meatless Mondays must be a good idea just because so many people are going with it.

Thousands of corporate cafeterias, restaurants and schools have embraced the idea of skipping meat on Mondays in favor of vegetarian options, an initiative of the nonprofit Monday Campaign Inc. and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Look, lady, just because a bunch of goofs embrace an idea, that doesn’t mean it’s a good one.  Countless cafeterias, restaurants and schools also embraced the low-fat diet.  Look where that got us.

But by Tuesday afternoon, amid outraged Twitter messages by livestock producers and at least one member of Congress, the agency’s “Greening Headquarters Update” had been removed. “U.S.D.A. does not endorse Meatless Monday,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. The newsletter, which covered topics like the installation of energy-efficient lights on the Ag Promenade and recycling goals, “was posted without proper clearance,” the statement said.

Let me interpret that:  some vegetarian zealot at the USDA posted the article without checking with the boss first.  Then the USDA caved because of political pressure, which is the wrong reason to cave on anything.  Bad advice, withdrawn for the wrong reason.

PETA rooting for meat-eating senator to die

The folks at PETA reacted to the USDA brouhaha by cementing their reputation as a bunch of vegan lunatics:

PETA upped the ante Thursday, jumping headfirst into a feud involving the Department of Agriculture, the meat lobby and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.

In response to a controversial tweet — now retracted — by the USDA in support of the “Meatless Mondays” program, Grassley Tweeted he was planning on eating an extra helping of meat in order to “compensate for stupid USDA recommendation about a meatless Monday.”

But on Thursday, PETA posted a scathing missive on its website, bemoaning the fact that the senior senator is apparently “anxious to show his campaign contributors that he will fight to the death (literally, perhaps) over Americans’ right to be sick and fat.”

I used to be fat and sick.  That was during my vegetarian phase.

The post, written by Alisa Mullins, continues on to say: “We’re taking bets (place yours in the comments section below) on how long it will take Sen. Grassley to succumb to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or some other meat-related disease.”

So those are all meat-related diseases, are they?  Well, let’s see … Senator Grassley is 78 years old and hasn’t succumbed to a meat-related disease yet.  I wonder if PETA would mind if we had placed bets on when these vegetarian celebrities would die:

George Harrison – died of lung cancer at age 58
Robin Gibb – died of liver and colon cancer at age 62
Linda McCartney – died of breast cancer at age 56
Davey Jones – died of heart disease at age 66
Steve Jobs – died of pancreatic cancer at age 56
Bob Marley – died of malignant melanoma at age 36

Apparently it’s not necessary to actually eat meat to die of a meat-related disease.

Scientists Are Freakin’ Liars

I’ve read about plenty of  bad scientists, but this guy should win some sort of prize:

Dr. Yoshitaka Fujii seems well on his way to becoming the patron saint of scientific fraudsters, setting a record for the most extensive output of fake data. As near as anyone can work out, Fujii started making up data with abandon some time in the 1990s. By 2000, his fellow researchers were already on to him, publishing a comment in which they noted, “We became skeptical when we realized that side effects were almost always identical in all groups.”

But you can’t let such skepticism from your peers slow you down—and Fujii certainly didn’t. Even after the comment was published, two different medical schools hired him as a faculty member. He continued to publish, generally using faked data, racking up an eventual record of 200+ bogus papers.

An investigation later determined that out of 212 studies published by Fujii, only three were based on actual data.  His specialty was anesthesia.  With such an amazing ability to simply fabricate research, I’m surprised he wasn’t in the nutrition field.

It’s high blood sugar that kills you, not obesity

This was an observational study, so we don’t want to make too much of it.  But the results were certainly interesting:

The atmosphere of doom, blame and guilt has grown pretty thick around the subject of obesity these days, in case you hadn’t noticed. In documentaries, public health warnings and, increasingly, in their doctors’ offices, obese Americans hear a drumbeat of bad news and reproach. Among the most alarming of the warnings: Obesity will almost certainly cut short these Americans’ lives.

A new study, just published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, says that may not be exactly true. The study, which tracked 50,994 Americans between the ages of 19 and 90 for a total of six years, suggests that obesity itself may not be a harbinger of impending death: Rather, hypertension and type 2 diabetes — admittedly common fellow travelers to obesity — make people more likely to die in the near term.

Put another way: At any given age, an obese person who does not have type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure is no more likely to die sometime in the next six years than is a person of the same age who is of normal weight.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  it’s not being fat that kills you.  But the foods that are likely to make you fat are also likely to make you sick.  You can be fat and healthy, and you can be skinny and sick.

The study deepens the body of emerging research that suggests that body mass index alone is not a terribly good predictor of an individual’s health status — and that, in some cases, carrying a little extra weight appears to confer some benefits.

In fact, the type 2 diabetes patient who is of normal weight — with a BMI between 20 and 25 — was more likely to die of any cause during the six-year study period than was a type 2 diabetes patient who was overweight or — yes — obese, the study found. And the super-thin patient with type 2 diabetes? The underweight (those with BMIs below 20) were far more likely to die during the six-year study period than their obese peers, the study found.

The authors of the study, physicians from the University of California Davis’ department of family and community medicine, acknowledge it may seem they’re splitting hairs here. After all, obesity undeniably makes type 2 diabetes and elevated blood pressure much more likely.

But people of normal, “healthy” weight — indeed even underweight people — get those diseases too. And once you know that it’s those diseases — and not obesity per se — that predict an untimely death, a physician can accurately assess which of his or her patients is at greater mortality risk and should be most aggressively treated.

If you want to live longer, spend less time obsessing with the scale and more time checking your blood sugar.

Slow progress on the knee

I’ve heard about people having surgery for a torn meniscus and walking a week later.  I’m still on crutches.  At a follow-up appointment today, the surgeon pulled up some before and after photos taken inside my knee during the surgery and explained why:  he had to do more than the usual amount of cutting.  The meniscus was frayed in several areas and one torn flap had folded under itself.

I also had some kind of thick tendon inside the knee that shouldn’t have been there.  He suspects it’s been there since I was born … apparently when a fetus is developing, that tendon shrinks and goes away.  Mine’s gone now because he removed it.

The bottom line is that the extra cutting means extra pain, stiffness and swelling.  His guess is that if I keep up with the physical therapy exercises, I’ll be walking normally in two more weeks.  Let’s hope.  The crutches are a bother.

We’re leaving tomorrow for Illinois.  I don’t know yet if I’ll write a post on Thursday.



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The Older Brother wrote a good post on his blog about the failure of drugs that remove amyloid plaques in the brain to actually prevent or reverse Alzheimer’s.  Those plaques, like cholesterol in coronary arteries, may be a defense against damage, not the cause of the damage itself.

You can read his post here.


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If you couldn’t make it to the low-carb cruise this year, you can at least watch the speeches online now.  Terry and Pam Young of the Make It Fun And It Will Get Done website videotaped the speeches and just posted them.  You can go to this page and click a speaker’s picture to watch his or her speech.

They also interviewed me during the cruise.  The interview clips on are this page.


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The odds are pretty good that I’m writing this between naps.  I’d forgotten how strong the urge to sleep is when recovering from surgery.  When I had shoulder surgery years ago, I entered this strange, timeless world for weeks afterwards … awake for three hours, asleep for four, awake for two more hours, asleep for five, awake for another four hours, etc.  I had to sleep sitting up in a chair.  I couldn’t work and couldn’t focus on a book, so I watched TV.  I ended up watching the HBO series The Wire from beginning to end, all five seasons.

I’m not as messed up this time around (the shoulder surgery was very invasive and massively painful) but I am sleeping more than usual.  I’m sure the pain pills have something to do with that.  I’ll get by without them for several hours at a time, then the pain kicks in out of nowhere.

The pain kicked in today because of physical therapy, my first of several upcoming sessions.  As I told the therapist, I’m not sure if people go into her profession because they’re nice and want to help others, or because it’s the only way sadists can get paid to inflict pain without going to dental school.

As you can see from the picture, the knee is still so swollen, I don’t appear to have a kneecap.  It’s as if my thigh now connects directly to my shin with no knee in between.  Not surprisingly, a leg with no apparent kneecap has limited ability to bend, so that was the sadis … er, therapist’s goal today:  bending the knee to at least 90 degrees.  We got there after several attempts.  I appreciated her help so much, when I came home I found one of the girls’ dolls that looked vaguely like the therapist and stuck pins in it.

The woman on the rack next to mine was also receiving post-operative therapy for the same procedure on the same knee from the same surgeon on the same day.  Apparently he lines up all his left-knee meniscus patients in a row and goes at it.  As someone who reads a fair bit about economics, I appreciate the efficiency.

In chatting about our injuries, I learned that the woman apparently tore her meniscus while playing tennis.  She explained that she’s giving this physical therapy all she’s got because she’s a senior-league champion and is determined to play in a tournament a month from now.  I was tempted to reply that I’m giving it all I’ve got because I plan to kick Jimmy Moore’s butt in disc golf in November, but thought better of it.

After inflicting pain on my knee for an hour, the therapist gave me two pages of detailed instructions on how to inflict the same pain on myself at home – twice per day.  Okay, if that’s what it takes to walk normally again and have my kneecap reappear, I’ll do it.  But I don’t have to like it.

As soon as I came home to begin recovery, Sara declared herself my at-home nurse and made herself a hat worthy of the role.  She’s been a huge help, bringing me snacks, drinks, fresh ice packs, etc.  She was a bit traumatized seeing me lying on a gurney in a hospital gown with an IV tube sticking out of my arm, so I think adopting the role of caretaker is partly her way of getting over it.  But mostly she’s being helpful because she’s a sweet girl who loves her daddy … although she told me today she’s going to coach me through my physical therapy at home, so I reserve the right to declare her the sister of Damian from The Omen.

I haven’t looked for any undiscovered jewels like The Wire to pass the time in my easy chair, but I have been catching up on some movies I’d saved on the DVR and watching re-runs of Seinfeld here and there.  One of these days I’d like to watch that series end to end and capture all the references to meat and fat being bad for us.  I loved that show and still find it funny, but sometimes I wonder if The Guy From CSPI was a script consultant.

I appreciate all the wishes for a speedy recovery people have posted here and on Facebook.  Chareva is serving me good recovery foods – meats, butter, farm eggs, green vegetables – and I expect to heal up quickly.


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I’m home from the surgery, but doped up.  I appreciate everyone’s good wishes and will check comments when I feel up to it.

The surgeon told Chareva the tear in the meniscus was pretty big and part of the flap had folded under, which is why I was experiencing a lot of pain.  He said to expect more than the usual post-surgical swelling for a few days.

Now I’m going back to my easy chair and my ice packs.


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I’ll be going in for surgery tomorrow morning to repair a torn meniscus in my left knee.  “Repair” in this case means poking a hole in my knee and slipping in some tiny surgical tools to remove the torn bits.  There’s not much else they can do, but I’m told I’ll be able to resume normal activity fairy soon and will probably be fine for years — as long as I don’t take up jogging.  I’ll still have padding in my knee, just not as much.

There was no dramatic injury that caused this.  It’s more of a wear-and-tear injury.  I had the dramatic injury to this knee when I was ten, and the surgeon believes I may have never fully healed from that one.  There were no MRIs and no arthroscopic surgeries in 1968, so when I tore something inside in my knee in a backyard football game, the treatment was to put me in a cast for several weeks.

The knee felt okay for most of my adult life, but in the past few years I’ve had little spikes of pain now and then.  The joint also became kind of floppy for awhile … when I walked, the leg would sometimes go beyond straight and bend backwards a bit.  I saw a joint specialist about it when we still lived in California, and she recommended some physical therapy and exercising my leg muscles to keep them strong around the knee.

My legs definitely got stronger, especially after I switched to Slow Burn.  I eventually worked up to lifting the entire stack of weights on the leg press and leg extension at our health club.  The extra muscle tone seemed to be keeping the knee stable until a couple of weeks ago.  That’s when I started getting little pain spikes again when I walked.  I took to limping when the pain kicked up a notch.

I went to see a bone and joint specialist, who ordered some x-rays.  I was relieved as soon as I saw them – there was a clear gap between the bones, so I knew it wasn’t a bone-on-bone situation that might require a full or partial knee replacement.  The specialist scheduled me for an MRI and told me we’d look at the images when he returned from vacation.  That appointment was set for later this week.

Turns out I couldn’t wait.  Last Sunday I was walking down our driveway, no real pain in the knee, when all of a sudden I felt a pop followed by a sensation of something ripping.  I immediately invoked an old Gaelic blessing which, to the untrained ear, could have sounded like a sailor cussing really loudly.  Then I hobbled into the house.  The next morning Chareva went out and bought a pair of crutches so I could go to work and crutch my way around the office.

The knee has been swelling regularly, so I’ve been applying an ice pack instead of taking the ibuprofen the doctor recommended.  I did end up taking ibuprofen on two nights after the pain kept waking me up.  I’ve taken to sleeping with a pillow between my knees so they don’t press against each other.

I went for the MRI on Tuesday and told the admitting nurse I wasn’t going to wait for the first specialist I saw to return from vacation.  We’re supposed to be heading to Illinois next week to visit my family for a few days, then continue on to Chicago to attend Chareva’s father’s 70th birthday party, and I don’t want to be in constant pain (which I have been since the knee popped) and hobbling around on crutches.

So I saw a different knee specialist on Wednesday.  He pulled up the MRI results on a monitor and showed me where the meniscus is torn.  Yup, that would be right about where I felt the pop.

I’ll be under general anesthesia for the surgery, so I’ll likely be groggy for a day or two.  I’ll also be taking some kind of opiate-based pain-killer afterwards.  I’ll check comments when I can, but I’m not sure when I’ll be up for writing another post.  It’s a minor surgery, so with any luck it won’t be long.


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