Archive for the “Random Musings” Category

Two years ago, Jimmy Moore had never played disc golf.  Then I introduced him to the game during a visit, and he became a monster.  We played multiple rounds per day during the summer 2012 drought, with temperatures pushing and occasionally exceeding 100 degrees.

It was raining this morning as I was nursing my coffee to wake up.  I looked outside and saw this:

Yup, that’s Jimmy practicing in the rain so he can make good on his threat to whomp me.  He hasn’t yet, but the week is just getting started.

Tom: -5
Jimmy: -2
Christine: even par

1:30 PM
Tom: -8
Jimmy: -3
Christine: -3

2:30 PM
Tom: -2
Jimmy: -1

4:10 PM
Tom: -7
Jimmy: -4

5:30 PM
Tom:  -7
Jimmy: -4

(Nice action shot, Christine.)

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I’ll be tied up this week, but thankfully not with work.  Weather permitting, I’ll be spending most of my days playing multiple rounds of disc golf against this character as part of what has become an annual tradition.

Jimmy threatened to “whomp” me on Twitter before leaving South Carolina this morning.  Some weeks ago, he tried to intimidate me by posting pictures of his pretty new drivers and trash-talking.  Unafraid of engaging in an arms race, I also ordered some pretty new drivers, but chose not to tip my hand by posting pictures.

One practice round down already.  Many more rounds to go, since Jimmy and Christine will be here for a week.  I’ll check comments, maybe write a post, but mostly I plan to be out in the front pastures slinging discs.

Oh, and for the deluded types out there who were trading rumors online that I skipped this year’s low-carb cruise because I want to “distance” myself from Jimmy… well, you’ve got a point.  As you can see from the picture, I kept a distance of nearly six inches between us.  In last year’s pre-tournament photo, it was only four inches.

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Interesting items from my inbox …

The obesity epidemic is taking over the world

According to this article, one-third of the world’s population is now obese.  Hey, remember when the big concern was worldwide starvation?  I guess we overshot the mark while working on the cure.  Anyway ….

The number of overweight and obese people around the world has soared to a record high of 2.1 billion, equaling a third of the global population.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Washington published what researchers called the most comprehensive study on the subject. They gathered data from surveys, the World Health Organization (WHO), various government websites, and read all academic articles about the spreading epidemic. Anyone with a body mass index (BMI) over 25 was considered overweight and anyone over 30 was considered obese.

The U.S. counts for 5 percent of the global population with about 318 million people, yet accounts for 13 percent of obese population. China and India combined — the world’s two largest populations — only hold 15 percent of the world’s overweight and obese population. According to the CDC, about a third of adults in the U.S. are obese and another third are overweight.

The U.S. was followed in order by China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan, and Indonesia on the list of the most overweight people.

That’s an interesting mix of countries there in the Top Ten List.  I wonder what’s causing all that obesity?

“Over the past decades the modernization of our world, with all the technology around us, has led to physical inactivity on all levels,” said Professor Hermann Toplak, at the University of Graz.

The researchers said the rates are highest in developed countries because of longer work commutes from the suburbs, sitting at computers all day, and unrestrained eating.

I see.  So that would mean Russia, China and India are more technologically developed than Germany.

The study stressed the need for “urgent global leadership” to fight against risk factors such as excessive calorie intake, inactivity and “active promotion of food consumption by industry.”

So there you have it:  the whole world is getting fat because technology is allowing them to move around less, and of course because the food industry promotes its products instead of hoping you discover them by accident.  But fear not – global leadership will fix this problem.  In fact, government has already fixed the problem …

The childhood obesity epidemic has been cured

According to an article in the New York Times, today’s little kids are skinnier:

Federal health authorities on Tuesday reported a 43 percent drop in the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year-old children over the past decade, the first broad decline in an epidemic that often leads to lifelong struggles with weight and higher risks for cancer, heart disease and stroke.

The drop emerged from a major federal health survey that experts say is the gold standard for evidence on what Americans weigh. The trend came as a welcome surprise to researchers.

A smattering of states have reported modest progress in reducing childhood obesity in recent years, and last year the federal authorities noted a slight decline in the obesity rate among low-income children. But the figures on Tuesday showed a sharp fall in obesity rates among all 2- to 5-year-olds, offering the first clear evidence that America’s youngest children have turned a corner in the obesity epidemic. About 8 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds were obese in 2012, down from 14 percent in 2004.

The article notes that sugary-soda sales have dropped since 1999 and people are eating less generally.  I suspect more and more people have figured out that sugars and refined starches will make them fat and have cut back on both.

But since this is The New York Times, you can bet the farm that if there’s a positive change in society, they’ll immediately wonder how the government made it happen.

Barry M. Popkin, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has tracked American food purchases in a large data project, said families with children had been buying lower-calorie foods over the past decade, a pattern he said was unrelated to the economic downturn.

He credited those habits, and changes in the federally funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, for the decline in obesity among young children. The program, which subsidizes food for low-income women, reduced funding for fruit juices, cheese and eggs and increased it for whole fruits and vegetables.

Great.  Because as well know, eggs make people fat.

Another possible explanation is that some combination of state, local and federal policies aimed at reducing obesity is starting to make a difference. Michelle Obama, the first lady, has led a push to change young children’s eating and exercise habits and 10,000 child care centers across the country have signed on. The news announcement from the C.D.C. included a remark from Mrs. Obama: “I am thrilled at the progress we’ve made over the last few years in obesity rates among our youngest Americans.”

Well, clearly that’s the correct explanation:  Mrs. Obama did it.  (She did it so effectively, her efforts worked retroactively back to 2004, five years before her husband took office.) All she had to do was push the USDA to serve lunches that are so tasteless, kids end up throwing much of the food in the trash.  Which is why this is happening …

Another school dumps the federal lunch program

We’ve been thoroughly enjoying the new TV series Fargo, and since this story is from Minnesota, I can’t help but wonder if someone said, “Aww, geez!” when those new USDA lunches came along.

Starting in the fall, a west metro high school will no longer be part of the national school lunch program.

The program has calorie guidelines and requires that every student has a vegetable or piece of fruit on their tray.

Eighty percent of kids at Wayzata High School do some sort of activity. Many of the kids do a number of activities. They are burning a ton of calories, and 750-850 is not enough to power them through their long day, according to school officials.

“You can imagine we have such activity levels here that that’s been really challenging for the students to get enough food,” said Mary Anderson, Director of Culinary Express at the high school.

After the school looked at numbers on paper, they found that kids participating in the lunch program decreased by nine percent. The district says it would be more beneficial to leave the program than stay on.

In other words, since kids don’t actually want these lunches, sales have dropped to the point where the school is losing more money than it’s getting in the form of federal subsidies.  Hmmm, I wonder if someone could figure out how to apply the same brilliant economic incentives to health insurance?

The school has also seen more waste because the federal program requires that kids take a piece of fruit or have a vegetable on their tray.

The high school will still offer healthy options and a registered dietician will help with meal planning, but they will not make a kid take something that they do not plan to eat.

Wait a minute … they’re NOT going to force kids to fill their trays with foods they don’t like and won’t eat?  Aww, geez, those wacky Minnesotans clearly don’t realize that putting a vegetable on your plate improves your academic performance, even if you don’t actually eat it.  We know that because ….

Mrs. Obama saves the U.S. from academic decline

Actually, the main point of this article is that Mrs. Obama is standing up to people who are too stupid or too evil (the only possible explanations) to follow the plans dictated by The Anointed:

First Lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday said waiving healthier standards for school meals is “unacceptable” and touted the new guidelines success in a rare foray into politics to combat Republicans who argue the initiative has been too costly.

“We’re now seeing efforts in Congress to roll back these new standards and undo the hard work that all of you, all of us, have done on behalf of our kids,” the first lady said. “And this is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable not just to me as first lady, but as a mother.”

But of course, it’s perfectly acceptable for the First Mother to tell other mothers what their kids can and cannot order in a school cafeteria.  The point here is that the mother must be a member of The Anointed for the dictating to be acceptable.

Mrs. Obama was joined by school administrators from around the country to discuss the benefits that more rigorous nutritional guidelines have had for students. Serving healthier food has aided young people’s academic performance and helped them develop better eating habits at a time when childhood obesity is at an alarming high, according the round table participants.

Kids are throwing away the (ahem) healthy foods they’re forced to take and don’t want, but those foods are nonetheless leading to better academic performance.  Wow.  I had no idea that’s how it worked.  My daughter Sara typically scores at or near 100 on math and science tests and in the high 90s on tests for other subjects, but I’d love it if she scored 100 on everything.  So from now on, I’m going to put zucchini (which she doesn’t like) on her plate, then tell her to throw it away.

Mexico takes the obesity crown

Now wait just a gosh-darned minute!  The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation just told us the U.S. is the fattest nation on earth, and then this report comes along:

Even as nearly half its people are poor and as officials launch a national anti-hunger campaign, Mexico by some accounts recently has replaced the United States as the chubbiest of the globe’s larger countries.

Diabetes and cardiovascular ills spike, plus sizes cram clothing racks and Mexicans keep eating, eating, eating. While cutting across class lines, the crisis disproportionately hits the poor and the young, malnourishment and obesity stalking them in tandem.

About 70 percent of Mexican adults are overweight, a third of them very much so. Childhood obesity tripled in a decade and about a third of teenagers are fat as well. Experts say four of every five of those heavy kids will remain so their entire lives.

Since the authors of the IHME study told us that technology and sitting at a desk are major causes of obesity, obviously Mexico is now more technologically advanced than both the U.S. and Germany.  Perhaps we should grant immediate citizenship to all obese Mexicans so they can bring their technology and tech-related jobs to the U.S.  Otherwise, we may see the day when Americans are sneaking over the border looking for desk jobs.

The better option, of course, would be for fat people around the world to adopt a diet that helps them lose weight.  If only some documentary filmmaker would try to get the word out about that.

No, I’m not talking about me …

Morgan Spurlock goes low-carb

The subject apparently came up while he was being interviewed about his new reality show:

When Morgan Spurlock shot to fame, he was gorging himself on McDonald’s three times a day to see what happens if he lived off only that — and he ate the largest size that workers pushed — in “Super Size Me.”

The workers only “pushed” super-sized meals nine times in 30 days, and yet he somehow managed to consume more than 5,000 calories per day.  But I digress …

No shock that Spurlock could have inflicted permanent damage had he not stopped. In his CNN documentary series, “Morgan Spurlock Inside Man,” Spurlock quaffs supplements and exercises.

In “Futurism,” airing Sunday, April 20, Spurlock focuses on those striving for immortality. Since shooting that episode, Spurlock has lost 25 pounds.

“I am still losing weight,” he tells Zap2it. “I am not eating carbohydrates, no bread, no pasta, no sugar. I feel better than I ever have. Last night I had wine at dinner. You have got to enjoy yourself.”

He goes low-carb and feels better than he ever has – apparently even better than when consuming his ex-wife’s vegan meals.  (Of course, she’s now an ex-vegan herself.)   So when Inside Man wraps up, I have an idea for Spurlock’s next production:  he should do another all-fast-food diet that features lots of fatty cheeseburgers, sausage patties and eggs while restricting carbohydrates, then see what happens with his weight.

Wait … I think that’s been done already.

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A couple of readers let me know lots and lots of links to pictures in my old posts are broken. I checked with my IP provider, and it turns out the links went bad when they moved the site from a Windows server to a Linux server last month.

Windows isn’t case-sensitive when it comes to file names and links. Linux is. A whole bunch of pictures in the images folder have an extension of .JPG but are linked as .jpg in my posts. Windows interpreted, Linux doesn’t. The only way to track down and fix the links is to go through every post from the last five years, look for broken links, and update the file name. So that’s what I’ve started doing, occasionally mumbling “Why the @#$% did I write so many posts?!”

2009 is done. Moving on.

Geek Rant — you may want to skip this

As a programmer, I don’t like the case-sensitive feature one bit. For software I develop on my own to sell to customers, I prefer VB.NET for lots of reasons, one of which is that it’s NOT case-sensitive.  When naming my variables and classes, I use what’s called CamelCase, capitalizing what would be the first letter of each word if they were separated …. e.g., TotalTrademarks, DateOfRenewal, BoundRecordset, etc.  When I use those variables later, I can type in lower case and VB will auto-correct.  So if I type dateofrenewal, it’s immediately converted to DateOfRenewal, which I use as sort of a spell-check.  If my lowercase is auto-corrected to CamelCase, I know I typed the variable correctly.

In most of my contractor gigs, the companies have used C# for development — largely because old-time programmers who are now in management believe VB is a toy while C# is for serious programming.  And that was true maybe 15 years ago.  Now both languages are built on the same platform, call the same code libraries and compile into exactly the same machine code, so pretty much anything you can do with one, you can do with the other.  You could even code part of your software in VB and another part in C#, and the compiler wouldn’t care.  The difference is in the coding language itself, not the result.

Like Linux, C# is case-sensitive.  So if I have a variable named DateOfRenewal and type dateofrenewal in my code, C# doesn’t auto-correct; it flags my variable as undeclared and then I have to go back and type it slowly, using the SHIFT key.  And yes, I’ve seen code where a programmer intentionally created one variable with a name like TrademarkDate and another with a name like trademarkDate, which I think is both stupid and confusing.

Anyway, that’s my rant on the subject.  I don’t like case-sensitive languages, and I don’t think sane people would want to have file names that are identical other than the capitalization.

Back to fixing all those @#$%ing links now …

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My next two posts will be the Q & A with Paul Jaminet.  I asked him to pick whichever questions he found most relevant, and he apparently found them all relevant.  We’re talking about 17 pages of answers, so I decided to break it into two posts.

That whole safe-starch issue is obviously controversial among low-carbers — just read the comments on my last few posts – so I expect some readers will be inclined to resist what Jaminet has to say.  Hey, I’m all in favor of healthy skepticism, but I’m also in favor of being open-minded and logically consistent.  So before I post his answers, I want to engage in a little exercise in logical consistency.

We low-carb and paleo types have gotten pretty good at replying to all those “your diet is going to kill you!” challenges from friends, family members, doctors, nutritionists, government officials, and of course our good pals the vegan zealots.  They say this, we know to say that.  Cool.  We’re fully armed, locked and loaded.

But now let’s make sure we’re being logically consistent when we consider whether safe starches are good for us, bad for us, necessary for some people, not necessary for anyone, only necessary for “sick” people, etc.  Here are some of the challenges the “meat kills!” and “arterycloggingsaturatedfat!” crowds toss around and our usual replies — followed by how the logic of our replies might also apply to safe starches.

All that meat and saturated fat is bad for your health.  It’s going to kill you.

We don’t believe that because the evidence shows that humans have been eating meats, organs and animal fats for hundreds of thousands of years.  We evolved eating those foods.  It is, as John Yudkin pointed out during the McGovern Committee hearings, ludicrous to blame modern diseases on the foods we’ve been eating forever.  The foods we’ve been eating forever are the foods that are good for us.

The evidence also shows that humans have been eating tubers and other starchy plants for hundreds of thousands of years, as I learned when I read Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human.  We evolved eating those foods – not as the dominant feature of the diet in most areas, but certainly as part of the diet.  So once again, it’s ludicrous to blame modern diseases on ancient foods.  Foods we’ve been eating forever are the foods that are good us.

Don’t eat egg yolks.  You should avoid cholesterol as much as possible.

We answer that by pointing out that cholesterol is so important for human health, our bodies will make the stuff even if we don’t consume any.  Our bodies aren’t stupid and wouldn’t have a backup system for producing a health hazard if we don’t consume the health hazard.  Cholesterol is necessary nutrient for our skin, our hormones, our sex hormones, and our brains.  So eating some of the stuff is fine and probably beneficial.

Glucose is likewise so important for human health, our bodies will make the stuff even if we don’t consume any.  Our bodies aren’t stupid and wouldn’t have a backup system for producing a health hazard if we don’t consume the health hazard.  Glucose is a necessary nutrient for our red blood cells, brains, tears, saliva, mucous and intestinal lining.  So eating some of the stuff is fine for most people and probably beneficial.

And yet what I keep seeing in comments is that since our bodies can make glucose, only a sick person would need to actually eat any of it.  Everybody everywhere ought to be able to produce sufficient glucose without eating any starches.  If they can’t, it means there’s something wrong with their metabolisms.

Okay … so what would you say if some vegan pointed out that our bodies can make cholesterol, and therefore nobody should ever have to eat any?  I think I can guess.  The answer would be something like:

But if you force your body to produce all the cholesterol it requires for basic biological functions, you could eventually end up becoming cholesterol deficient, and that would be bad for your health.  Better eat an egg now and then to be sure.

Right.  And if you force your body to produce all the glucose it requires for basic biological functions, you could eventually end up becoming glucose deficient, and that would be bad for your health.  Better eat a tuber now and then to be sure.

Humans are natural vegetarians.  Eating meat is just a bad habit we picked up.

I can guess the answer to that too:

If humans are natural vegetarians and aren’t meant to eat meat, why did people in almost every so-called primitive society hunt for meat and fish?  And why were they so healthy?

Well, guess what?  Humans in almost every so-called primitive society also sought out foods that would provide them with some dietary glucose.  In most of the world, paleo people gathered roots and tubers.  In the arctic regions, paleo people hunted animals and sea animals that contained glycogen in their meats, organs and fats.  And as I pointed out in comments, there’s a tuber known as the “Eskimo potato” that grows waaaay up north.

So if ancient diets are the template for what’s natural for us to eat, the template would include some starchy plants in addition to meats, organs, nuts, vegetables and fruits in season.

I haven’t eaten meat in five years and I’ve never felt better!

My usual reply:  Good for you.  I hope that continues working for you.  But most people who go on a vegan diet eventually quit, and the number one reason they cite for quitting is lousy health.  I’ve also known several vegetarians who ended up with health problems.  So clearly it’s not a healthy diet for everyone.

Lots of people feel great on a ketogenic diet that includes very few carbohydrates and no starchy foods at all.  I wish them well and hope it keeps working for them.  But some people end up feeling lousy on a very-low-carb diet – so clearly it’s not a healthy diet for everyone.  Insisting that the inability to thrive on a no-carb diet proves they’re sick or metabolically damaged sounds exactly like a vegan insisting that anyone who doesn’t thrive on an all-plant diet is metabolically damaged.

So let’s be logically consistent.  When people like Lierre Keith or John Nicholson (author of The Meat Fix) finally drop their dietary dogma and declare that a vegan diet was making them sick, we cheer them for coming to their senses and reclaiming their health by returning to the diet of their ancestors.  We laugh at the vegans who insist that Keith and Nicholson just didn’t do it right.  We’ve read their books.  We know they tried very hard to “do it right.”

So when someone like Paul Jaminet declares that a very-low-carb paleo diet was making him sick, we should cheer him for having the good sense to drop the dogma and return to the diet of his ancestors – who, since they didn’t live in the arctic, almost certainly ate some starchy plants along with their meats and seafood.

If you prefer to insist that Jaminet just didn’t “do it right” when he was on a VLC paleo diet, be my guest … but if you’re logically consistent, you should laugh at yourself immediately afterwards.

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I’m making a run up to Illinois this afternoon to pick up a half-cow’s worth of grass-fed beef.  This was one of the cows The Older Brother raised on a local farm.  Brief visit with the family, then back to Tennessee on Saturday with a van-load of meat.

During all that time on the road, I won’t be able to check comments.  I’ll get to them when I can.

On a completely unrelated note, my project manager at work sent a bunch of us a link to this essay about programming — probably because he’s had so many of us (definitely including me) look at existing systems we’re supposed to fix or update and growl, “What @#$%ing idiot wrote this piece of $#@%!!”

Any of you coders out there will appreciate it.  Long essay, but very funny.

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