Archive for March, 2016

Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

PETA wants our kids to get cancer!

Okay, just kidding with that headline. Now and then it’s fun to act like a True Believer vegan and accuse those who don’t agree with me of being horrible, horrible people – you know, the weenie mentality I described in the previous two posts.

Anyway, check out this article from the U.K. Telegraph:

Long term vegetarianism can lead to genetic mutations which raise the risk of heart disease and cancer, scientists have found.

No, no, no! Vegetarians don’t die of heart disease or cancer! Just ask them. (Or don’t … there’s a good chance they’ll tell you anyway.)

Populations who have had a primarily vegetarian diet for generations were found to be far more likely to carry DNA which makes them susceptible to inflammation.

Scientists in the US believe that the mutation occurred to make it easier for vegetarians to absorb essential fatty acids from plants. But it has the knock-on effect of boosting the production of arachidonic acid, which is known to increase inflammatory disease and cancer. When coupled with a diet high in vegetable oils – such as sunflower oil – the mutated gene quickly turns fatty acids into dangerous arachidonic acid.

So PETA wants you to follow a diet that will give your kids and grandkids cancer. Or something like that.

The finding may help explain previous research which found vegetarian populations are nearly 40 per cent more likely to suffer colorectal cancer than meat eaters, a finding that has puzzled doctors because eating red meat is known to raise the risk.

I see. So eating meat raises your risk of colorectal cancer, but vegetarian populations are nearly 40 percent more likely to suffer colorectal cancer. So that means … uh … uh … something.

Researchers from Cornell University in the US compared hundreds of genomes from a primarily vegetarian population in Pune, India to traditional meat-eating people in Kansas and found there was a significant genetic difference.

“Those whose ancestry derives from vegetarians are more likely to carry genetics that more rapidly metabolise plant fatty acids,” said Tom Brenna, Professor of Human Nutrition at Cornell.

“In such individuals, vegetable oils will be converted to the more pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid, increasing the risk for chronic inflammation that is implicated in the development of heart disease, and exacerbates cancer.

Okay, now I’ve got it: if you’re a vegetarian living in India and come from a long line of vegetarians, you need to move to Kansas. I knew there had to be a logical conclusion in there somewhere.

You can read more of the article, but I’d put this one in the “so what?” category … even though it would be fun to wave it in the face of the next vegan zealot who shows up here predicting my demise from colon cancer.

Sunbathing will extend your life and perhaps also kill you

More fun with observational studies … take a look at this article from Shape Magazine: (If you’re in the sun, you may want to put on your sunglasses first.)

You’ve made it a point to regularly choose the shade over the sun (right?!). Well, new research from the Journal of Internal Medicine challenges the whole “avoid the sun like the plague” thing.

According to the study, women who regularly sunbathed had lower mortality rates than those who tried to stay out of the sun. They also had a lower risk of developing heart disease and dying of non-cancer and non-cardiovascular-related causes than the shade seekers.

They were also linked to more boyfriends because of their nice tans.

The researchers, who followed nearly 30,000 Swedish women for 20 years, determined the sun avoiders reduced their lifespan by .6 to 2.1 years.

I wonder if those 30,000 Swedish women got tired of researchers following them around for 20 years. I’m thinking by around year 18, some of them were yelling, “Hey! Piss off and leave me alone! I’m trying to get a tan here!” (I’ll ask Dr. Eenfeldt to translate that into Swedish when I see him on the cruise.)

Researchers even went so far as to conclude that avoiding the sun is just as bad as smoking since nonsmokers who stayed in the shade had a lifespan similar to smokers in the sun-loving group. Cue confusion.

“Hey! Piss off and leave me alone! I’m trying to enjoy a smoke and get a tan! Go follow that pale-skinned lady around for a change!”

Not everyone’s on board with the study’s findings. “They could have dangerous repercussions,” says Stuart Spitalnic, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of emergency medicine at Brown University School of Medicine. The results may be skewed since women who sunbathe likely come from the upper class, which is a group that tends to be healthier to begin with, he says. “You could then make a case that sunbathing perhaps shortens the life of sunbathers compared to similar people who avoid the sun.”

Yes, of course. You can speculate every which way, because it’s an observational study. We don’t know why the Sunbathing Swedish Stewardess—er, Swedish women had longer lifespans. (Sorry, I had a brief flashback to drive-in movies from my high-school days.) Could be they got more vitamin D. Could be that women who are lean and fit are more likely to go sunbathing because they look good in a swimsuit – and also live longer because they’re lean and fit.  Could be the upper-class connection the good doctor mentioned. There’s no way of determining cause and effect.

But I wish doctors and researchers would be consistent in their opinion of observational studies. Because I have a feeling if the sunbathing women died younger, we’d be hearing all about how getting a tan will kill you – an idea the doctor floated even though the sunbathers had longer lifespans.

Finally, a health magazine I like

While sitting in my chiropractor’s waiting room some weeks ago, I thumbed through his magazine collection. Usually the magazines in medical offices just annoy the bejezus out of me. Article after article (placed strategically opposite the ads for Weight Watchers meals and various drugs) proclaiming the wonders of whole grains and low-fat diets, stuff like that.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I began reading articles in a magazine called Experience L!fe. The focus was all on real foods, good sleep, quality exercise, meditation, etc. I wasn’t in the waiting room long enough to read the whole thing, so I asked the receptionist if I could pull out the subscription card and take it with me. Sure, she said.

Here are some article titles from the issue sitting on my desk:

The Cortisol Curve
Rebuild Your Back
How to Measure Your Resting Heart Rate
Resistant Starch for a Healthy Gut

Here’s a bit of advice from the article on cortisol:

A low-carb diet can support weight loss, but it’s not idea for those with disrupted cortisol. In a 2014 clinical trial, subjects with cortisol issues were able to reset their curves by eating low-carb breakfasts, moderate amounts of health carbs in the afternoon, and higher amounts of healthy carbs (think sweet potatoes, not bread of pasta) in the evening.

Endocrinologist Alan Christianson, NMD, author of The Adrenal Reset Diet, directed the trial. He now prescribes carb cycling to his patients who are dealing with any type of cortisol disruption.

Lots of good stuff in the issue – and not one ad for Weight Watchers or Healthy Whole Grains!

Just thought I’d mention it in case any of you still enjoy the feel of an actual magazine in your hands, as I do.  Seems well worth $21 per year.

Serve the food we tell you to serve – or else!

Recommending good magazines, books, blogs and other educational material is one way to change people’s eating habits. Now here’s the government method:

The federal government is taking steps to fine schools that do not comply with first lady Michelle Obama’s school lunch rules.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service issued a proposed rule Monday to codify parts of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by Mrs. Obama.

The regulation would punish schools and state departments with fines for “egregious or persistent disregard” for the lunch rules that imposed sodium and calorie limits and banned white grains.

We are The Anointed. We know what’s best for you. Bow before us and obey.

A West Virginia preschool teacher was threatened with fines for violating the rules by rewarding her students with candy for good behavior in June 2015. The teacher ultimately did not have to pay, but the school had to develop a “corrective action plan” with training on the policies.

I don’t like seeing teachers reward kids with candy. But the proper response is to explain to her why it’s a bad idea … or just explain to your kids why they shouldn’t eat the candy. Or just let your kids eat the candy on rare occasions and serve them real food at home.

The government now seeks to make fines enforceable by regulation. Section 303 of the law requires that the federal government “establish criteria for the imposition of fines” for all the Department of Agriculture’s child food programs.

The fines would be the latest consequence of the healthy eating law that Mrs. Obama lobbied for in 2010. More than 1.4 million students have left the lunch line since the rules went into effect, as students have complained of small portions and unappetizing fare. The standards have been blamed for cafeteria workers losing their jobs, and some kids have even resorted to creating black markets for salt to add flavor.

We The Anointed commanded you to serve kids tasteless, low-salt, low-fat, low-calorie foods. Millions of your rebellious offspring responded by refusing to buy school lunches .. so YOU, YOU WORTHLESS PEONS, responded by trying to break our commandments. We The Anointed do not tolerate peons making their own decisions. You will submit. You will obey. We know what’s best for your children.

The Food and Nutrition Service is targeting schools that refuse to comply with Mrs. Obama’s lunch rules and said monetary penalties are a “useful tool” to get noncompliant cafeterias in line.

I’m afraid the federal officials have confused useful tool with useful idiot.

So let’s see … there’s no good scientific evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease or obesity, yet the USDA is mandating low-fat meals in schools.  There’s no good scientific evidence that salt causes health problems — in fact, a study commissioned by the CDC concluded that low-salt diets may be dangerous — but the USDA is mandating low-salt lunches.  Studies show that kids who drink skim milk are no leaner or healthier than kids who drink whole milk, yet the USDA mandates skim milk … but allows sugar in the skim milk, in spite of all the scientific evidence that sugar is bad for kids, from their teeth on down.  And now schools that refuse to comply with USDA commandments will be fined.

Well, at least the people imposing and enforcing all this unscientific nonsense don’t belong to what one reader insists is the “anti-science” party.

But I’ll stop now before I commit a microaggression.

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How’s this for perfect timing? The day after I wrote a post about weenies, Politico.com posted a news item that demonstrates the weenie mentality in action:

In a sign that the nutrition space is as defensive as ever, Nina Teicholz, an author who has publicly criticized the science behind the government’s low-fat dietary advice, was recently bumped from a nutrition science panel after being confirmed by the National Food Policy Conference. The panel instead will include Maureen Storey, president and CEO of the Alliance for Potato Research and Education. The event is set to take place in Washington next month.

Teicholz, of course, is the author of the terrific book The Big Fat Surprise, which presents a detailed history of how we ended up with our current dietary advice. So why the heck would she be disinvited from a panel on food policy?

Teicholz said she was disinvited after other panelists said they wouldn’t participate with her.

I see. And who are the other panelists?

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, will speak on the panel, along with Barbara Millen, the former chairwoman of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and Angie Tagtow, executive director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Wootan said that “concerns were raised about Teicholz’s credibility, given the significant inaccuracies in her work.”

Um … as opposed to CSPI’s dead-on-accurate description of trans fats as safe and coconut oil as dangerous back when they were harassing restaurants and movie theaters into switching to trans fats? Or the USDA’s dead-on-accurate description of cholesterol in eggs as a contributor to heart disease?  (Maybe my memory is getting faulty in my old age … didn’t both organizations have to reverse those positions?)

If Teicholz doesn’t present credible arguments, then the non-weenie approach would be to welcome her onto the panel and point out where she’s wrong. But of course, this isn’t about credibility. It’s about avoiding a debate against a woman who would kick their asses all over the stage.

But hey, that’s part of the weenie mentality: they hate having to debate people who don’t agree with them. That’s why they demand “safe spaces” where they can’t be challenged. That’s why they accuse people who disagree with them of creating a “hostile environment” as a strategy for stifling dissent.  That’s why they’d rather attack the messenger than debate what the messenger has to say.

The Big Question is: if they’re convinced they’re right, why are they so afraid of debate? Why don’t they just stand up and vigorously argue in favor of their positions instead of trying to silence the opposition?

That’s the topic of this post. We’ll be venturing into the political/cultural realm again, so consider this your trigger warning. If you haven’t retreated to your safe space by the beginning of the next paragraph, don’t complain to me if you read something here that annoys you.

Still here? Okay, then.

The brief answer to the “why do weenies hate debates?” question is: their beliefs aren’t based on facts or logic, so they’re scared @#$%less of being challenged by logical people armed with facts … not because we might change their minds (we won’t) but because we might change the minds of other people listening.

Now for the expanded answer.

You may have heard the saying you cannot reason people out of a position they did not reason themselves into. Sooner or later, logical people discover that for themselves – because they end up in debates with illogical people and are stunned to see indisputable facts bounce harmlessly off their brains like little rubber bullets. Apparently it’s always been that way. Even Aristotle explained that some people form their beliefs based on logic and facts, while others form their beliefs based on emotions.  Logic and facts have no effect on the emotional thinkers, Aristotle explained.

In a lovely little book titled Explaining Postmodernism, philosophy professor Stephen Hicks wrote about the intellectual heritage of objectivists vs. subjectivists — that is, logical types vs. emotional types.

Objectivism traces its modern roots to the Enlightenment thinkers, most of whom were British: Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes (not British), John Locke and Adam Smith. Their works emphasized rationalism, the scientific method and individual freedom. Thomas Jefferson, to name one stellar example, was deeply influenced by Locke. To quote professor Hicks:

Individualism and science are thus consequences of an epistemology of reason. Individualism applied to politics yields liberal democracy … individualism applied to economics yields free markets and capitalism.

Subjectivism, by contrast, began as reaction against the Enlightenment thinkers — ironically, in part to save religious faith from the onslaught of rationality. Its proponents were mostly German: Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg W.F. Hegel, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (not German), Martin Heidegger, and of course Karl Marx. They specifically rejected reason and logic in favor of subjectivism.

Simply put, an objectivist thinks like this: If it’s true, I’ll believe it. A subjectivist, however, thinks like this: If I believe it, it’s true. Or the flipside: If I don’t believe it, it’s not true.  If you’ve ever debated a nitwit subjectivist, you may have had the experience of offering some objectively true fact, only to be treated to a reply of “Well, I just don’t believe that.”  Oh, okay, that settles it, then.

As Hicks explains, objectivists and subjectivists also have very different ideas when it comes to the function of language. Objectivists view words, ideas, logic, debates, etc., as tools we use to discover the truth. But  subjectivists (a.k.a. post-modernists) view language as a weapon to be wielded in the battle for dominance. Therefore, what you say doesn’t have to be true. It merely has to be effective in battle. (There is no “true” after all, except what you believe.)  Or as Hicks summarizes the subjectivist strategy when it comes to words, if you can’t debate your opponent on the facts, change the argument by calling him a racist instead.

Hicks explains these differences in the two mindsets to answer a question he poses near the beginning of the book:

A related puzzle is explaining why postmodernists — particularly among those postmodernists most involved with the practical applications of postmodernist ideas, or putting postmodernist ideas into actual practice in their classrooms and in faculty meetings — are the most likely to be hostile to dissent and debate, the most likely to engage in ad hominem argument and name-calling, the most likely to enact politically-correct authoritarian measures, and the most likely to use anger and rage as argumentative tactics.

Whether it is Stanley Fish calling all opponents of affirmative action bigots and lumping them in with the Ku Klux Klan, or whether it is Andrea Dworkin’s male-bashing in the form of calling all heterosexual males rapists, the rhetoric is very often harsh and bitter. So the puzzling question is: Why is it that among the far Left — which has traditionally promoted itself as the only true champion of civility, tolerance, and fair play — that we find those habits least practiced and even denounced?

Hmmm, doesn’t that sound just like college administrators promoting the weenification of students by demanding triggers warnings, safe spaces and speech codes?

Hicks doesn’t claim subjectivists never attempt to cite facts or offer what they consider persuasive arguments.  Of course they will.  Those are verbal weapons they’re happy to wield in battle.  The difference is that they’re just as happy to ignore facts and logic when it suits them. That’s why they cherry-pick their evidence.  They’re not interested in weighing the evidence to reach a conclusion; they’re only interested in selecting the weapons that support their cause.

Look at the vegan zealots who show up here now and then.  They’ll happily post a link to some weak study showing an association between meat and this-or-that disease.  But if I reply with links to studies where the association is exactly the opposite, or point out all the confounding variables, facts and logic become little rubber bullets bouncing off their brains.  Then they’ll yell “murderer!” and (if we’re lucky) go away.

Another lovely little book I’d recommend to anyone who wants to understand the weenie mindset is Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer. (Sadly, it’s just as relevant now as when it was written in 1951.)  In a nutshell, here’s how Hoffer describes what he calls true believers:

  • They often have low self-esteem and are typically frustrated with their own lives or the world in general.
  • Fanaticism appeals to them because it provides a sense of idealism, identity and certainty.
  • They value the collective more than the individual and believe individuals should be willing to sacrifice themselves for the collective good.
  • They believe that by imposing their beliefs, they can bring about a better future.
  • They can ignore or rationalize away all contrary evidence, as well as logical inconsistencies in their own beliefs.
  • They consider anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs an enemy and want to silence those who disagree.

Here are some direct quotes from Hoffer:

They can feel free only by diminishing the freedom of others, self-confident only by spreading fear and dependence among others, and rich only by making others poor.

It is the true believer’s ability to shut his eyes and stop his ears to facts which in his own mind deserve never to be seen nor heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy.

The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated.

Sounds just like The Anointed, doesn’t it? It also sounds eerily like the loony-left fringe on college campuses.

So of course the weenies want to stifle debate. In their weenified minds, words are not tools we use to discover the truth. Words are weapons, and if other people are allowed to wield those weapons freely, by gosh, the wrong side might win. People in the audience might be swayed to abandon the “correct” position. They might decide The Anointed got it all wrong about saturated fat and cholesterol and salt and red meat and whole grains.  Heck, they might decide The Anointed were wrong about all kinds of things.

That’s why Teicholz was disinvited. It’s also why so many colleges – the supposed centers of free and open inquiry — have become such a joke.

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More evidence that the weenification of America is continuing on schedule … check out this news item from Entrepreneur.com.

Perhaps an indication that gluten-free has reached peak cultural saturation, late last year Zara tried to capitalize on the trend. Via black capital letters on a white-crop top, the retailer inquired: “Are You Gluten Free?”

I wasn’t familiar with Zara before a co-worker alerted me to the article. Apparently it’s a company that produces t-shirts. Here’s the t-shirt in question:

I’ll bet your first thought when seeing that shirt was something along the lines of HOW DARE YOU MAKE LIGHT OF A SERIOUS CONDITION LIKE CELIAC DISEASE, YOU CALLOUS, INSENSITIVE BASTARDS!!

No? You mean you just figured it’s a shirt that promotes a gluten-free diet? Well, that’s because you’re not a weenie. But America is chock-full of weenies these days, so here’s what happened when the shirt was promoted:

The T-shirt, as many a T-shirt has done before, drew polarizing reactions. While some shoppers, a few of whom said they had celiac disease, embraced the shirt, others felt Zara was making light of a serious disorder.

If you’re a partial weenie, you might decide (illogically) that the shirt is making light of a serious disorder! and respond by not buying one. Here’s how a full-blown weenie responds:

One consumer was upset enough to start a change.org petition, which received 53,000 signatures. “The truth is that I just wanted Zara to reflect on the message, I was trying to explain that perhaps it wasn’t the best way to make people aware of the illness,” she told The Local.

Yup, that’s the full-blown weenie mindset in action:  I’m offended because I chose to interpret the message to mean something offensive. And now that I feel offended, I don’t want anyone else to buy that shirt – because it offends me. No message that I find offensive should ever be displayed in public.  So let’s start a petition to get this shirt off the market.

She got her wish. Zara’s parent company said the crop top would no longer be sold online or in stores. “We sincerely regret that this case might be interpreted as a trivialization of celiac disease, the absolute opposite of our intentions,” the company said in a statement.

Great. As so often happens these days, the company responded to a weenie attack by caving – thus acting like weenies themselves.

I’m about to go on a political/cultural rant here, so those of you who get all upset when I express such opinions might want to avert your eyes … although you should probably keep reading, because if you’re that easily upset, you’re a weenie and need some de-weenification. Either way, consider this your trigger warning. If you haven’t retreated to your safe space by the next paragraph, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Still here? Okay, then.

Let’s review the words printed on the shirt: ARE YOU GLUTEN FREE?

It’s a simple question. Lots of people avoid gluten these days whether they have celiac disease or not. It’s like asking ARE YOU SUGAR FREE? or ARE YOU PALEO?

So what’s offensive about it? Nothing. But that’s what makes weenies such weenies: they constantly feel offended and victimized – usually by people who had no intention of offending them. Thanks to the takeover of college faculties by the loony left, we even have an entire generation being trained to feel offended at every turn.

If I have a foreign accent and you ask where I’m from, you’ve committed a “microaggression,” according to campus guidelines written by loony-left administrators. You’ve “other-ized” me or something horrible like that. It’s perfectly okay for me to be proud of an ethnic heritage that makes me different, but if YOU notice I’m different, I’m entitled to be offended – like a good little weenie.

Here’s a hot-off-the-presses example of how weenified college students are becoming:

Students at Emory University claim they were frightened and ‘in pain’ after someone wrote ‘Trump 2016’ in chalk around campus.

Officials at the Atlanta school, which has an enrollment of more than 14,000, were forced to act after the youngsters claimed their ‘safe space’ was violated when the messages of ‘hate’ appeared on sidewalks and buildings.

One student even said she ‘feared for her life’ as she thought a ‘KKK rally’ was going on, while others were scared a mass shooting was going to take place and wouldn’t walk alone.

Someone scrawls a candidate’s name on a sidewalk, and college students — legal adults — think it’s a hate message and a violation of their safe space.  They want someone prosecuted.  Way to prepare those college kids for the real world, college administrators.  ISIS and other terrorist groups must be laughing their asses off and licking their chops.

The weenie takeover of college campuses is so complete, comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock refuse to perform at colleges anymore – because they can’t crack a joke about anything without all the weenies in the audience deciding they’re offended.

I remember a comedian I worked with in Chicago cracking a joke about his hair – or lack thereof, since he was rapidly balding:

I think your hairstyle should make a statement. Mine says “chemotherapy.”

That line got a laugh back then. Today there would probably be a stunned silence, followed by some weenie yelling, “Cancer isn’t funny, you insensitive bastard!”

Weenies like to think of themselves as sensitive, caring types. They’re not. What they actually are is profoundly self-centered.  The weenie attitude is the ultimate “it’s all about me-me-me!” attitude.  You have to be self-centered to believe you’re endowed with a divine right to go through life without being offended — even by people who intended no offense. You have to be self-centered to expect everyone else in the world to know what words or phrases you might find offensive (good luck with that, since the loony left keeps expanding the list) and then censor themselves accordingly.  You have to be self-centered to demand that a company stop selling a shirt others may want to buy because YOU interpret it as offensive.

The person who ran out and started a change.org petition because she decided ARE YOU GLUTEN FREE? is somehow making light of celiac disease is exactly that kind of weenie. So are the 53,000 people who signed the petition. Unfortunately, the loony left won’t be happy until nearly everyone in the country has been properly weenified. I say “nearly” because they’ll want to keep a few non-weenified people around to say things the weenies can find offensive. After all, being offended is what makes them feel important.

So with that rant out of the way, I’ll tie this in with diet, since this is a diet and health blog.

I’ve been going through interview footage for the film version of the book. Three people who work with kids – Dr. Ann Childers, Nora Gedgaudas, and Dr. Brad Hoopengarner – all talked about how diet affects mood and personality. Take a kid who’s overly anxious or easily upset, remove all the sugars, refined grains and industrial seed oils, start feeding him real foods with plenty of natural fats, and there’s a good chance you’ll see a personality change.

As Dr. Hoopengarner said in some footage I watched last night, the kids who switch to a real-food diet are happier and less anxious, they concentrate better in school, they get along better with other kids, and they don’t get upset over little things.

So perhaps part of the successful weenification of America is due to all the processed junk in the American diet.  Perhaps that’s part of the reason we have so many people in adult bodies exhibiting the emotional maturity of toddlers.

When people get upset and want to force a company to stop selling a t-shirt because they decide ARE YOU GLUTEN FREE? is offensive, something is seriously wrong … which means they probably need to go gluten free.

Gosh, I hope that suggestion doesn’t offend anyone.

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The annoying thing about a farm – even a small one – is that it doesn’t know or care if you’ve got a book to finish. When spring comes around, the spring-time planting and weeding has to be done, period. So in addition to drawing for several hours per day, Chareva has been preparing raised beds and planting vegetables.

On the weeding front, she at least had help from the girls. The previous owner extended the driveway somewhat with paving stones.  Probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but poison ivy grows up around the paving stones every spring. The whole thing becomes a poison-ivy patch by mid-summer.

Chareva is determined to get rid of the stuff by ripping up the ground and planting grass. Her hired hands spent part of the weekend pulling up the paving stones and stacking them.  Good outdoor exercise for the rugrats.

I’ll take on the task of ripping up the ground because … wait for it … I have a tiller now.

Yeah, I know: life doesn’t get more exciting than that. Back in the day, I dreamed of owning all kinds of cool toys. There were no farm implements on that wish-list. Now Chareva suggests we buy something like a tiller, and I think, A tiller?! Wow, that would be awesome!

We bought a Countyline model at our local Tractor Supply. Since I’ve become intimately familiar with Tennessee soil, with all the rocks and clay and tough roots, I chose a bigger model than the one Chareva researched online.  I wanted the extra horsepower.

Now that I’m a born-again Tool Man, I no longer consider some assembly required to be the scariest three words in the English language. But I did have the usual complaint when I started putting the thing together: the manual was apparently written by engineers who think everyone else is an engineer. To name just one example, the manual instructed me to secure a plate with “four M-8 bolts and locking nuts.” So I opened the bag containing all the nuts and bolts and looked for “M-8” stamped on something.

Nope. Some of the bolts had numbers stamped on them, but there wasn’t an “M-8” to be found on anything. (I’m sure the engineer who wrote the manual would reply, “What kind of moron doesn’t know what an M-8 bolt is?!”) So I ended up doing what I often have to do when faced with clear-as-mud manuals: figure it out by counting.

Let’s see, add up the number of M-8 bolts in all the assembly steps … it’s six total. Now separate the nuts and bolts by size … yup, there are six of these and four of the other size, so these have to be the M-8 bolts.

Heaven forbid I do that someday and find equal numbers of different-sized bolts. Anyway, I got the thing put together on Saturday afternoon.

I took it out for a test drive on Sunday. We plan to grow our own tiger nuts in at least half of the abandoned chicken yard in the front pasture. I had to clear a jungle out of that yard with The Beast last fall. Now it was time to till the soil.

Any worries I had about cheating myself out of exercise by using a tiller disappeared right away. With all the rocks and tough roots in the soil, the tiller bucked like a rodeo bronco. I had to hold on for dear life and man-handle it along a straight (more or less) path. Sometimes the thing wanted to bounce right over a tough patch, and I’d have to drag it back and hold it still so it would dig in.

But it did dig in. And I have to say, I’m impressed with how tough those blades are. Again, this is Tennessee, where the state song is Rocky Top for good reason. Here’s what you find when you dig up the soil:

I checked the blades after my first pass through the yard and didn’t find so much as a dent. After a brief rest, I fired up the tiller again and made a second pass. With the roots and hard topsoil already broken up, the tiller mostly glided right along. It felt a bit like wading through waves of dirt. Here’s the chicken yard afterwards.

And here it is from a different angle.

Now I just have to plant those tiger nuts. I’m told they grow like weeds, so with any luck, there won’t be much work involved after planting.

Meanwhile, Chareva is spotting all kinds of patches around the land that could use a good tilling.

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Just wanted to share this because it’s so well put.  An email alert from Reason magazine included a link to a Facebook post by Nassim Taleb that perfectly describes The Anointed, even though he doesn’t use that specific label.

Nassim Who?  Yeah, I had to look him up.  Here’s what Wikipedia says about him:

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a Lebanese-American essayist, scholar, statistician, former trader, and risk analyst whose work focuses on problems of randomness, probability, and uncertainty. His 2007 book The Black Swan was described in a review by the Sunday Times as one of the twelve most influential books since World War II.

And here’s part of his Facebook post:

What we are seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30y of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, microeconomic papers wrong 40% of the time, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating only 1/5th of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

Perfect. Now I have to go order at least one of his books.

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I have mixed feelings about technology. I’m a blogger, so obviously I appreciate the power of the internet to spread information. Heck, I gave a whole speech on how the internet and social media have enabled the Wisdom of Crowds to shove aside a lot of the official (and bad) dietary advice.

I also love having production tools at my disposal, stuff only professional studios could afford not long ago. Earlier in the week, I was going through interview footage for the film version of the book. I had to shoot much of that footage in less-than-ideal circumstances, using the available light in a hotel room, a cruise-ship room, etc. In at least one case – an interview with Dr. Ann Childers – something went goofy in the camera during the shoot.  Partway through the interview, the footage suddenly looked like this:

Yikes. I tried randomly fussing with the color wheels in Premiere but couldn’t get a natural-looking balance. Once again, internet to the rescue. I logged into my account at Lynda.com (an outstanding learning site) and watched some tutorials on using Adobe SpeedGrade. A few hours later, I understood what the various color scopes are telling me, how to work with gain, gamma, contrast, saturation, shadows, midtones, highlights, etc.  Then I opened the footage in SpeedGrade and adjusted it to this:

Not many years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to afford anything with the power of SpeedGrade, and even if I had access to the technology, I wouldn’t know how to use it.  Now we have the entire Adobe suite at our disposal for $54 per month.  When I need to learn a technical skill quickly, I go to Lynda.com and get instruction from working professionals who are excellent teachers.  Chareva’s been doing likewise to learn InDesign for laying out the book.

That’s the kind of technology I love. Now here’s the kind I can’t stand …

On my way to work this morning, I was sure I was going to get rear-ended by a woman in an SUV. I was sitting at a red light and saw her approaching in my rearview mirror. Hmmm, she doesn’t seem to be slowing down, I thought. Just as I was bracing for impact, she hit the brakes and managed to stop in time. Then I noticed the @#$%ing smartphone in her hand. Like millions of other people these days, she apparently can’t wait until she stops somewhere before checking that oh-so-important tweet, email or Facebook post.

That’s twice in the past several months I’ve almost been creamed by idiots with their eyes pinned to a smartphone while driving. I see plenty of other idiots with their eyes pinned to a smartphone while attending (physically, anyway) a baseball game or concert, or while sitting in a restaurant with three other people. I don’t get it.  I’ve yet to see the Facebook post would tempt me to ignore my wife while we’re out for dinner.

Love technology, hate technology. And then there’s technology that’s utterly pointless, like the one mentioned in a Science Daily article:

Carrots and apples not only taste different. They make distinct sounds when chewed.

I learned that years ago while sitting next to people who shouldn’t be allowed to eat in restaurants … even if they don’t check Facebook while eating.

This may seem like trivial knowledge, but it’s not in the laboratory of University at Buffalo computer scientist Wenyao Xu, who is creating a library that catalogues the unique sounds that foods make as we bite, grind and swallow them.

If I need a person chewing carrots sound effect in the film, I know who to call. Perhaps there’s a person who wasn’t told ‘chew with your mouth closed’ as a child chewing carrots in a crowded restaurant while checking Facebook sound effect that would work even better.

The library is part of a software package that supports AutoDietary, a high-tech, food-tracking necklace being developed by Xu and researchers at Northeastern University in China.

Described in a study published February by IEEE Sensors Journal, AutoDietary is like Fitbit and other wearable devices. Only instead of tracking burned calories, it monitors caloric intake — in other words, what we eat — at the neck.

Good grief. So this contraption says, “Hmmm, that sounds like carrots. Logging 30 calories into today’s record.”

AutoDietary wraps around the back of the neck like a choker necklace. A tiny high-fidelity microphone — about the size of a zipper pull — records the sounds made during mastication and as the food is swallowed. That data is sent to a smartphone via Bluetooth, where food types are recognized.

Then the data is automatically routed to the NSA, where super-computers run algorithms to see if you show a marked preference for falafel or other Middle Eastern foods.

“Each food, as it’s chewed, has its own voice,” says Xu.

I’ve noticed that.  I recently chewed some Brussels sprouts that sounded just like Christopher Walken.  Or maybe I was hearing my nephew across the table.  He’s a whiz with voices.

The device could someday help people suffering from diabetes, obesity, bowel disorders and other ailments by enabling them to better monitor their food intake and, thus, improve how they manage their conditions.

Uh … because it’s so darned difficult to write down what you eat? Or log what you eat into that smartphone you take into restaurants so you can ignore your dinner companions? I give it two years before this thing is covered by ObamaCare to assist people with diabetes, obesity, bowel disorders and other ailments.

The study describes how 12 test subjects, male and female, ages 13 to 49, were given water and six types of food: apples, carrots, potato chips, cookies, peanuts and walnuts. AutoDietary was able to accurately identify the correct food and drink 85 percent of the time.

Well, that’s going to be a HUGE problem. According to the calorie freaks, miscounting your calories by 10% can lead to obesity. So we’re going to have people getting fat and then yelling, “That @#$%ing necklace logged my nightly serving of apple pie as a carrot!”

While promising, a wearable necklace that measures sound has limitations when used alone. For example, it cannot differentiate similar foods such as frosted corn flakes and regular corn flakes.

Another HUGE problem. If you have corn flakes for breakfast, you’re eating crap. If you have frosted corn flakes for breakfast, you’re eating crap frosted with crap. Once again, you’ll get fat and you’ll have nobody but the necklace to blame.

To address these limitations, Xu is planning a biomonitoring device which would complement AutoDietary. The device is underdevelopment but it would be activated once the necklace recognizes that the user is eating a general category of food.

The biomonitor would then determine the nutritional value of the food via blood sugar levels and other measurements.

So buy a blood-sugar meter. You don’t have to wear it, which means you don’t have to accessorize it tastefully during the fashion season.

The system then gathers and presents this information on a smartphone, while providing suggestions on healthier eating.

And I bet that will be sterling advice … something like “eat more whole grains.”

Here’s my suggestion for healthier eating: don’t eat corn flakes, with or without sugar. Don’t eat bread, cereal, chips, sugar, or chemically extracted “vegetable” oils. In fact, don’t eat any “food” substance that only exists because of industrial processing.

Do that, and you can live without the necklace … even if you can’t live without your smartphone while driving.

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