Archive for the “Random Musings” Category

Sorry to bug off for an entire week, but it’s one of those pedal-to-the-metal situations at work.  And to make things worse, the insomnia bug hit this week.  It’s been awhile since I’ve dealt with that one.

So I’ve been writing code in the wee hours, catching a bit of sleep in the late morning or afternoon, then getting back to it.

I hope to return to something like a normal schedule after the Super Bowl — go Peyton!

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Man, I just love it when researchers confirm that my lifestyle choices – including sleeping late and then drinking coffee – are good for me.

Well, okay, I might be simplifying a bit. But what the heck am I supposed to think when I receive an email alert with a headline that reads something like sleeping until noon fixes metabolic syndrome?

The real story, which is slightly more complex, was reported in a MedPage Today article:

Two nights of good sleep appeared to reverse the negative metabolic effects that can come with short-term sleep deprivation, according to a new study.

Researchers took 19 participants, all of them “lean” young men, and restricted their sleep to only 4.5 hours in bed for four consecutive nights. The participants were then allowed two consecutive nights of 12 hours in bed on the first night and 10 hours on the second night.

Sounds very much like my sleeping pattern in college … although I wouldn’t have been categorized as a “lean” young man at the time.

Insulin sensitivity was reduced by 23% after sleep restriction compared to normal sleep (at about 8 hours a night), but gained about half of that reduction back after sleep recovery, according to Josiane Broussard, PhD, at the University of Colorado Boulder, and colleagues.

That’s why you don’t want to short yourself on sleep: you reduce your insulin sensitivity, which another way of saying you increase insulin resistance.

Actually, that’s just one of several reasons. Not getting enough sleep also raises your stress hormones and (pay attention, guys) reduces your testosterone production.

“A common question is whether, and how quickly, an individual can recover from the adverse effects of sleep loss on glucose homeostasis. We have demonstrated that 2 nights of recovery sleep averaging nearly 10 hours per night following 4 nights of sleep restriction in healthy young lean men is sufficient to improve insulin sensitivity,” they wrote in Diabetes Care.

“The metabolic response to this extra sleep was very interesting and encouraging,” said co-author, Esra Tasali, MD, of the University of Chicago, in a press release. “It shows that young, healthy people who sporadically fail to get sufficient sleep during the work week can reduce their diabetes risk if they catch up on sleep during the weekend.

Of course, it’s better if you don’t need to catch up on sleep in the first place. But if that morning alarm is yanking you awake all during the workweek, do yourself a favor: don’t schedule anything before noon on weekends and sleep until you wake up naturally.

And if you plan to hit the gym after waking up, perhaps you should drink some coffee first, at least according to a Science Daily article:

For anyone struggling to keep the New Year Resolution to ‘Do More Exercise’ science shows a solution could be found in a simple cup of coffee.

In a paper published this month in the scientific journal Sports Medicine, Professor Samuele Marcora, a University of Kent endurance expert, suggests the use of caffeine could help people stick to their fitness plans.

Responding to the findings that the majority of people give up their resolution to do more exercise within the first 6 months, Professor Marcora, Director of Research at the University’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, said his research could provide a solution.

Professor Marcora suggests that reducing perception of effort during exercise using caffeine (or other psychoactive drugs like methylphenidate and modafinil) could help the many people who find difficult to stick to their fitness plans.

I don’t like the taste of modafinil, so I’m sticking with the coffee. But truth be told, Professor Marcora’s hypothesis sounds just a wee bit speculative.

Professor Marcora points out that perception of effort is one of the main reasons why most people choose sedentary activities for their leisure time. Compared to watching television (zero effort), even moderate-intensity physical activities like walking require considerable effort. He says that the use of caffeine or other psychoactive drugs to reduce perception of effort during exercise can make the healthy choice easier.

First off, I disagree that watching TV requires zero effort, at least in my house. To watch TV, I first have to figure out where the hell the girls hid my remote. This often involves lifting the sofa with one hand while trying to grab the remote off the floor beneath it with the other. There’s both stretching and progressive resistance required.

Or it involves a hike around the house, including running up and down stairs, to see if one of them decided to go the bathroom while holding the remote and then set the thing on the lip of the tub while doing whatever it is girls do after going to the bathroom. (Whatever it is, it’s apparently not possible to continue holding the remote while doing it. It’s also apparently not possible to remember you carried a remote into the bathroom. )

Secondly, I don’t think people give up on the resolution to exercise after six months because they’re genetically lazy and need coffee. I think they give up because they finally realize that all those hours on the treadmill aren’t inducing the weight loss they wanted.

That being said, if I can blame the morning coffee for my recent workout sessions on the bike, I’m good with that.  But I suspect sleeping late figures into it as well.

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I hope all of you in areas affected by the winter storm are staying warm and safe.

We had snow in our part of Tennessee, but nothing like what landed in areas north and east of us.  Our driveway is impassable for now, but we knew that was coming and made plans to stay put.

Here’s a quick look at a snowy weekend on the farm.  Some work, some play.

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Interesting items from my inbox …

Good news about statins

I’ve written a few posts with variations of the title Bad News For Statins. But I can finally report some good news, thanks to an article from Reuters:

Roughly one third of U.S. adults should be on cholesterol-lowering drugs, according to current guidelines, but almost half of these people aren’t taking the medications, a recent study finds.

Yee-hah! Despite the medical industry’s efforts to declare almost everyone with a pulse abnormal and in need of treatment, half of those with “high” cholesterol aren’t swallowing statins.

More than 78 million people aged 21 and older have high enough levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – the bad kind of cholesterol that builds up in blood vessels and can lead to blood clots and heart attacks – to be eligible for LDL-lowering drugs known as statins, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

But overall, only about 56 percent of people who might benefit from the drugs took them. Women eligible for treatment did better than men – about 59 percent of them were taking the drugs compared with 53 percent of their male peers.

I’m thinking the real problem here isn’t that people aren’t taking statins. The real problem is that bozos in the medical industry believe 78 million adults need them.

Some cardiologists believe the 2013 guidelines may have recommended treatment for too many people, particularly by suggesting some healthy individuals take drugs based on an estimated future risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The new guidelines may have roughly doubled the number of people eligible for treatment.

What a nice boon for the statin-makers. But I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

I read elsewhere that more people are refusing statins because they’re concerned about side effects. I believe we can thank the Wisdom of Crowds effect for that. If you listen to the FDA or the average doctor, you’ll hear that very few people suffer side effects. But if you listen to the crowd, you know better.

The Anointed want even more calorie labels

There are 235 calories in a pint of Guinness Extra Stout. I know that because I spent almost five seconds conducting a Google Search. There are 149 calories in a bottle of Dos Equis. I found that info and calorie counts for dozens of other beers on this page — again, in about five seconds.

See? It’s quick and easy for beer-drinkers to look this stuff up if they care about calorie counts – which most of them don’t. But that’s not good enough for The Anointed. Nope, The Anointed believe we all need to be confronted with calorie counts, like it or not. Beer is next on their to-do list.

Soon enough, some restaurants, including all of the biggest chains, will be required to provide nutritional information for beer, just like every other product they sell. Walk into a TGI Friday’s or a Chili’s and you’ll be presented with calorie count, fat content, and more. And brewers aren’t happy about it.

Customers shouldn’t be happy about it either. If you want to drink beer and watch your calories, you can order a Miller Lite, a Bud Lite, an Amstel Light, etc. They’re all advertised as low-calorie, low-carb beers. But when most of us go out for a beer, we want to have a good time – not to have finger-wagging nanny-staters shove the calorie count in our faces.

The New York Post recently surveyed a selection of New York state brewers to find out what they think about the new rules. (The Post, delightfully, refers to government health regulators as “FDA busybodies.”) Brewers are nervous, fearing new regulatory costs and decreased sales.

I wouldn’t worry about those decreased sales. See above. Most beer-drinkers don’t give a hoot about the calories. If they do, they order a light beer.

Yet from the FDA’s perspective, this is pretty simple. “Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home, so making accurate and easy-to-see calorie information available for these foods is an important part of an overall effort to help consumers make their own informed choices for themselves and their families,” said Lauren Kotwicki, a press officer at the FDA.

Gee, Lauren, thanks so much for the help. I want to make informed choices when I’m in a bar, and by gosh, I just couldn’t do it without FDA regulations. I mean, it’s not as if I could look up the calorie counts on Google.  Or just order a light beer.

How many people really know the nutritional information of beer and wine, even people who are conscious of calorie counts in other foods?

Very few, because they don’t give a @#$% when they’re ordering beer or wine.  But if they want to know, they’ll spend five seconds on Google.

And those calorie counts can be high: Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot, for example, is a very popular barleywine-style ale, and tops out at a whopping 330 calories and 30.3 grams of carbohydrates.

And how do you know about that whopping calorie count? Did you (just taking a wild guess here) look it up online in about five seconds?

If the point of the FDA’s labeling push is to discourage people from consuming too many calories, evidence is dubious that the strategy will work. A Washington Post survey from 2011 indicated that sales of high-fat, high-calorie products did not much decrease after nutritional labeling on them became mandatory.

Other studies reached the same conclusion.  And yet despite no evidence whatsoever that calorie-count laws lead to people eating and drinking less, the FDA is moving ahead and forcing brewers to absorb the cost of providing calorie-counts that will be ignored … because that’s what The Anointed do. Failure is never a reason to abandon a Grand Plan.

Those danged vegans are ruining the planet.

How’s this for perfect timing? Two weeks ago, I wrote a post responding to a loony-leftie BBC writer who thinks governments should discourage eating meat to save the planet. But according to an online article in Science Daily, she’s the one responsible for global warmi—er, climate change:

Contrary to recent headlines — and a talk by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference — eating a vegetarian diet could contribute to climate change.

In fact, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University, following the USDA recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie.

Well, that’s it, then. Next time I see some vegan chomping down on a veggie burger, I’m going to walk over and scream, “Stop ruining my planet, you selfish bean-brain!” Then I’m going to demand that governments around the world apply “price reform” to make vegetarian meals prohibitively expensive. Fair is fair.

On one hand, the results showed that getting our weight under control and eating fewer calories has a positive effect on the environment and reduces energy use, water use and GHG emissions from the food supply chain by approximately 9 percent.

Oh, no. Now we’ll have loony BBC writers calling for governments to slap climate-change taxes on people who are overweight. That will suck … especially since the diet most governments recommend for losing weight is bad for the planet, according to the study.

However, eating the recommended “healthier” foods — a mix of fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood — increased the environmental impact in all three categories: Energy use went up by 38 percent, water use by 10 percent and GHG emissions by 6 percent.

“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon,” said Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decisions sciences and engineering and public policy. “Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.”

So this holiday season, do your part to save the planet – eat more bacon.

Nutritionist vs. The Philadelphia Eagles

Sports stars make a lot of money endorsing food products. Peyton Manning appears in ads for Papa John’s pizza. The 1985 Super-Bowl Bears (ah, those were the days) did commercials for McDonald’s. Michael Jordan appeared on boxes of Wheaties. It’s been happening forever, but a “nutrition advocate” is very upset with a recent endorsement by the Eagles:

South Philly-based nutrition advocate and TV food personality Christina Pirello is steamed over the Eagles’ proclamation that Dunkin Donuts’ Sweet Black Pepper Bacon Sandwich is the team’s official breakfast sandwich.

She calls the croissant creation “deadly,” given its 560 calories (300 of them from fat, including four strips of bacon). “It’s the complete trifecta to steal our collective health — fat, sugar and salt,” Pirello wrote in an open letter to team owner Jeffrey Lurie, chastising the team for setting a poor example for the fans.

Fat, sugar, salt … I only see one bad ingredient in that list.

“I thought my head would explode,” Pirello writes.

That’s probably because you don’t eat enough fat.

“I find it completely mind-boggling that you would be so irresponsible as to allow our team to send the message to fans that this is something they eat and endorse eating.”

You need to look at the big picture, lady. The sandwich consists of a croissant, bacon, egg and cheese. You notice what’s NOT in that list? That’s right … no lettuce, cucumbers, eggplant or celery. Those foods contribute to global warmi— er, climate change. So the Eagles are just doing their part to save the planet. They should probably receive an award of some kind from Al Gore.

“Look, I’m not going all vegan on you, expecting the players to endorse tofu and sprout sandwiches, but there are far better choices for this team to promote than pure unadulterated junk food. Dunkin Donuts may be paying you a lot, but if all your fans drop dead of heart disease, your gorgeous green stadium will have a lot of empty seats with tickets unsold.”

If the Eagles end up with a lot of empty seats in the stadium next year, it will be because they couldn’t win a division where every team currently has a losing record.

Tomorrow is my last day of work before an end-of-the-year vacation that will be filled with visiting family in Illinois, Christmas (of course), putting together the family 2015 DVD, and (I hope) finishing my first rewrite of the book.  Barring some news I simply can’t ignore, this will be my last post until after New Year’s.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Festivus, and a Happy New Year to all of you.

 

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When we bought the farm in June of 2011, we were told renovations on the house would take until the end of September. Then the end of October. We finally moved in near the end of November – two days before Thanksgiving, to be exact. The timing seemed rather inconvenient back then, but I’ve come to appreciate it. Now everything Thanksgiving, I remember to give thanks for everything that led to us living here and everything since.

We had intended to rent the house where we living for another year.  The landlord agreed, then later announced that he might have a buyer for the house, so we had to leave — in six weeks.  It was class-A jerk behavior on his part, but in retrospect, he did us a huge favor.

Chareva immediately began scouring the real-estate listings and spotted this place for sale, which led to us driving out for a look. As you may recall, I wasn’t impressed. The land and the house were both in awful shape, and I was ready to move on and keep looking.

Here are some before pictures, in case you’ve forgotten (or never knew) what kind of condition this place was in when I first saw it.

Those are the front pastures.  The area behind the house was even worse.  It was so scary, I don’t have pictures — I didn’t dare fight my way through the briar and the shoulder-high weeds to take any.

But Chareva’s artist brain saw what it all could be, not what it was, and talked me into buying it. I’ll be forever grateful to her for that. Yeah, it’s been a never-ending job to get the land into usable shape and keep it there, but that’s how I discovered the joy of working myself into a state of Dog Tired Satisfied.

I’m thankful I was given the opportunity to take what was once a weeds-and-briar jungle and turn it into this:

I’m thankful for these ladies and all the eggs they give us.

I’m thankful for all the work Chareva put into her big ol’ garden, which is still giving us fresh greens in November.

I’m thankful for the work that made the front pastures a great place to play. This is how I’ve been spending most of Thanksgiving week so far:

I’m thankful that at age 57, I have the energy to both put in the work and enjoy the play. That in turn means I’m thankful for all the doctors, researchers, authors and bloggers whose work has become part of the Wisdom of Crowds. (One of those bloggers is here playing disc golf all week, as you can tell from the video and pictures.)

And as always, I’m thankful for all of you who read this blog and keep the conversation going with your comments.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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I wrote a couple of posts back in the day titled This Is Why We Do What We Do. (Here and here if you want to check them out.)

WAIT … STOP THE PRESSES!

Okay, this is a case of perfect timing, so I need to interrupt myself. I literally just now pasted in the link for the second “This Is Why We Do What We Do” post. That post opened like this:

I received one of those hate mails this week, full of the usual brilliant observations:

Your film was obviously paid for by McDonald’s … Super Size Me was awesome and a really important film because it alerted people to the dangers of fast food … your on-camera experts must be beef-industry hacks if they say saturated fat isn’t bad for you … you think you’re funny but you’re not, you’re just really annoying … your film sucked so bad, I stopped watching before the end … etc., etc., etc.

Later in that post, I quoted from one of the many “thank you for changing my life” emails I’ve received to explain why these goofs who think they’re going to hurt my feelings with a nasty email are dreaming.

About five seconds after pasting in the link, my email program dinged at me. So I checked the email and read this:

Hello.
I just wanted to tell you I saw FatHead.
Or, should I say, CrapHead.
Because I just saw a full load of bologna. Literally, the worst movie ever.
You sir, Tom Naughton, can go to hell, or better yet, one of the places you defend in CrapHead, and die.
No one will miss you.
And no one will remember CrapHead in 10 years.
Have a nice day.

Another angry little pissant who thinks he’s going to hurt my feelings. You can’t make this stuff up.

Anyway, back to the original topic.

While taking time off to finish the draft of the book, I received a couple more reminders of why we do what we do. One came in the form of a conversation with a co-worker who has type 2 diabetes. His A1C has been climbing, and he’s concerned that he’ll die young, or lose his vision, or suffer some other calamity. I asked him about his diet.

He’s been told almost nothing by his doctor, and the little advice he’s gotten has been lousy. I asked what he eats. Breakfast is usually an apple and a banana, but sometimes he has oatmeal. He was told that’s good for him.

And your other meals?

Well, for lunch he usually has a sandwich. But he uses stone-ground wheat bread, because he was told that’s good for him too.

I explained that he needs to stop filling up on sugars and starches in the morning and try eating bacon and eggs instead. He didn’t disagree, but asked, “So … eggs are okay?”

You can understand his suspicion, of course. We were all told for decades that eggs will clog our arteries because of the cholesterol. The USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee has finally backed off that warning (a mere 35 years too late), but I don’t think most people got the memo.

So here’s a guy worried that his type 2 diabetes will kill him, and he’s been told eggs are bad, but oatmeal and wheat bread are good. No wonder his A1C is climbing.

The other reminder of why we do what we do arrived in an email. Here’s part of it:

Hi, Tom-

I’m a long time reader of your blog and have emailed you a few times in the past. I just needed to send you a message for a quick rant on some extreme frustration I recently had. I work in mental health as an outpatient clinic therapist and recently had a patient who couldn’t come to our last appointment because she went to the ER for chest pain. Turns out she had a heart attack. She’s only 36 years old, but is overweight, smokes, not a good diet, no exercise, and has a strong family history.

She came in after being released from the hospital. The real kicker is this: she’s been told to eliminate saturated fat from her diet to the point of it only being 7% of her diet. She was told no butter, no fatty meats, blah blah blah. They also put her on a statin even though her cholesterol was ok.

The hospital staff apparently was quoting directly from the USDA guidelines. As for the statin … don’t get me started.

Then….she followed up with this comment, “But what’s great is I saw that Graham Crackers have no saturated fat, so I can eat the s#%*@ out of those.” My internal response? NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

NOOOOO, indeed. Out of curiosity, I looked up the ingredients and macronutrients from a (ahem) “nutrition” label for graham crackers online. The ingredients:

Enriched flour, sugar, graham flour, vegetable oil (cottonseed and partially hydrogenated soybean oil and/or canola oil), molasses, corn syrup.

Refined wheat, sugar and hydrogenated oils.  Nope, no threats to cardiovascular health there.

Here are the calories, carbs, etc:

Hmmm, there’s a gram of saturated fat in there, so perhaps those crackers will kill her after all.  The email continues:

How can doctors still believe this jargon? How can one honestly believe a Graham Cracker is better than an Egg?

Good question. We’re living in a profoundly silly age where food-like products made from refined grains are considered health foods, while real foods humans have been eating forever are considered killers — because they contain fat.

But that’s why we do what we do. That’s why I’m determined to finish this book project, and then jump straight into the film/DVD version.

————– Update ——————

More laughs. The pissant whose email I quoted above sent another one on Friday:

Angry loser? Me? You sound like a whiner or a kid that just lost his favorite toy or a bad football player like Adrian Peterson when the NFL suspends him for beating up his child.
You don’t know me pal. I’m a powerful citizen of the US of A, the greatest country in the world.
I have powerful friends that can f@#$ you up, just like they did with Kobe or Armstrong.
Remember good, and write it down Mr.Nutjob, I’m Mr. Hands, I have power, I have influences, and I can beat you up anytime soon.
You f@#$%ing moron.
At least you had the time to answer mi e-mail.
Have a nice day a-hole.

Well, I believe him, of course.  That’s what powerful and influential people with powerful friends do:  they send angry emails to film directors whose films they don’t like.  Then they return to their video games until Mom calls them for dinner.

Figuring perhaps a reply will cause his pissant head to explode, I sent one:

Sure, send your powerful friends on over to f@#$ me up.  I’ll introduce them to my rottweilers and my Mossbergs.

You can’t make this stuff up.

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