The Dunning-Kruger club…


Upshot: it takes a bit of intelligence, awareness and humility to be aware of your own intellectual limitations. If you think that your “common sense” overrides the opinion of experts who are talking about their field of expertise, you belong to the Dunning-Kruger club.

That might sound snarky, but there are times when I find myself as being too close to being in that club. Here is one such example:

Pass the sick bag. A device that allows people to empty a portion of their stomach contents into a toilet after a meal has just got the go-ahead from the US Food and Drug Administration. The device is approved for use by people who are severely obese, defined as having a body mass index of over 35 kg/m2.

The stomach-churning device, which is already available in some European countries, involves a tube being placed into the stomach in a short surgical procedure. The end of the tube contains a valve that lies flush against the skin.

Normally it is kept closed, but after meals, the person can connect the valve to another tube to drain about a third of their partially digested food into the toilet. It cannot remove more food than this, because the end of the internal tube is positioned higher than most of the stomach’s contents.

Manufacturer Aspire Bariatrics, based in Pennsylvania, says users need to chew their food well and eat more slowly to stop the 6 millimetre tube from getting blocked, and that this in itself helps reduce overeating.

“You get some solid chunks,” says Kathy Crothall, head of Aspire Bariatrics. “If a patient doesn’t chew their food very carefully they won’t get anything out of this device.”

The link contains a video and a description of the experimental results.

Now my emotional reaction is YUCK…THAT CAN”T BE GOOD FOR YOU (disclaimer: I used to weigh 320 pounds so this arouses some emotions in me). But I am not an expert in medicine and …IF this actually helps some people lead healthier lives…well, that is a good thing, despite my “yuck reaction”.

June 17, 2016 Posted by | obesity, science, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Obesity and Conservatism ….


Interesting. Yes, blacks and Hispanics tend to be fatter than whites and the former two groups are more likely to vote Democrat than whites.

But Republican voting states are still fatter than Democrat voting states, and the effect remains (save an exception like Utah) after one just looks at the non-Hispanic white population.

Moral: don’t vote Republican; it is bad for your health. 🙂

Seriously, I have no idea what that means; I’d like to see some correlation with things like smoking and alcohol consumption. It could be that Democrats have other ways to be unhealthy; I don’t know.

March 9, 2015 Posted by | obesity, republicans, social/political | | Leave a comment

PC’ness, mathematics, quantum mechanics and other stuff….

Shameless fluff: I really like President Obama:

(yes, I know; it is probably edited)

Confession: when I am around a really accomplished mathematician or scientist, well, I end up acting a bit like Chester….. 🙂

Quantum Mechanics
Little Boy Boo collapses Leghorn’s “position” wave function:

Of course quantum mechanics uses a lot of mathematics. And mathematics uses things like equations and formulas. But equations and formulas are a relatively recent invention in human history (relative to the time humans have been using writing). Prior to that, an equation such as 4x + 3 = 7 would have to be written as “a number, when multiplied by 4 and subsequently added to three yields 7” or something like that. You can see how mathematical progress would have been glacially slow!

For more on this, read this Guardian article.

Academia: It is nice to see an accomplished liberal academic speaking out against smothering “political correctness. Jerry Coyne talks about some instances that were lampooned by the Wall Street Journal. He then notes:

The WSJ is, of course, a conservative organ, and goes on to decry the “loopiness” of the left wing and the ostracism of conservative professors, as well the tendency of universities to allow “the nuttiest professors to dumb down courses and even whole disciplines into tendentious gibberish.” That’s an exaggeration, but still, it’s disturbing that we see the left attacking, in effect, freedom of speech. If you don’t like Condaleeza Rice (and I sure don’t), that doesn’t mean you should mount such a protest against her that she has to withdraw. Are all speakers to be vetted for signs of cryptic conservatism? Are students that loath to hear views that might disagree with them?

I’m no conservative, but these Commencement Police frighten me, and paint students as self-entitled, fragile beings who can’t countenance dissent—unless it’s their own. At my own commencement at William and Mary in 1971, we had an undistinguished state legislator as speaker—and this after many of us wanted a more leftist person. But we didn’t shout him down, or pressure the university to withdraw his invitation. Instead, we organized a “counter commencement,” held at a different time and place, and our class invited and paid for Charles Evers, the older brother of slain civil rights worker Medgar Evers.

On one point the Journal has it right:

No one could possibly count the compromises of intellectual honesty made on American campuses to reach this point. It is fantastic that the liberal former head of Berkeley should have to sign a Maoist self-criticism to be able to speak at Haverford. Meet America’s Red Guards.

Indeed. The remedy for speech you don’t like and have rational arguments against, is this: more speech—counter speech.

However the “Red Guards” snark is an exaggeration; after all, these people can be stood up to; no one is going to shoot you.

Personal life
Where I was wrong: there was a time when I was part of “a calorie is a calorie” crowd. I was “sort of” right. After all, one cannot get fat if one doesn’t ingest calories; the fat has to come from somewhere.

But though the energy balance is still true, some foods have no available energy for us at all (at least for humans: think “grass”). Some foods are put to work making energy and some foods are more prone to get stored as fat and NOT be immediately used. Hence the new conjecture as to why fat people might be hungry all of the time. Note: I am no longer morbidly obese but I not only cut back how much I eat, I changed what I eat (drastically).

Personal note

Do we sometimes benefit from doing what we don’t want to do? This essay argues “yes”. This is similar to the line in John Denver’s song “Thank God I am a Country Boy”: “fiddle when I can, work when I should”. This essay has an interesting paragraph:

Dr. King taught that every life is marked by dimensions of length, breadth and height. Length refers to self-love, breadth to the community and care of others, and height to the transcendent, to something larger than oneself. Most would agree with Dr. King’s prescription that self-fulfillment requires being able to relate yourself to something higher than the self. Traditionally, that something “higher” was code for God, but whatever the transcendent is, it demands obedience and the willingness to submerge and remold our desires.

Perhaps you relish running marathons. Perhaps you even think of your exercise regimen as a form of self-improvement. But if your “something higher” is, say, justice and equality, those ideals might behoove you to delegate some of the many hours spent pounding the track on tutoring kids at the youth center. Our desires should not be the ultimate arbiters of vocation. Sometimes we should do what we hate, or what most needs doing, and do it as best we can.

He also mentions the situation in which a skilled doctor saved up so much money he could retire and roller blade full time (his true passion) which, while it is what he wanted to do, ended up depriving patients of his life saving skills. I really can’t weigh in as, well, I really don’t have “essential skills”. But I can do things like volunteer (as I do to help new runners build to a healthy life style) and give blood (and I hate that, but will keep doing it…and complaining about doing it).

Note: My body can no longer can stand training for hours on end so the “marathon” paragraph really doesn’t apply to me.

May 23, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, mathematics, obesity, physics, political/social, science, social/political | , , , , , | Leave a comment

New found respect

Needless to say, some things have been on my mind.

Then I thought about my recent past and my brush with “fitness instructors” at our local park district, as well as with beginning programs for “new runners”.

I admit that in the past, I wondered “what is the big frigging deal; these are just easy exercise classes!” I even thought that these were mostly a waste of time.

But then: well, there are those who are genetically predisposed to exercise (e. g., the mouse that heads for the treadmill) and those who aren’t. And then, I have seen first-hand that a tiny bit of fitness (e. g. endurance, upper body strength) can, at times, make a HUGE difference in someone’s life, especially when things go wrong.

I am not talking about the ability to do multiple sets of pull-ups or to run 10 miles.

So, those “fitness instructors” who get people to move really are doing a public good; I was sure wrong about that.

November 25, 2013 Posted by | obesity | , , | 1 Comment

Exercise pills, weight, large viruses and other topics

Fun: watch this video of a raccoon eating cat food, and watch the end when it scampers away on its hind legs.

Social Science and Human Behavior and Health

Have you mistakenly told the same story to a person multiple times? Have you ever repeated back a story to a person, who was the one who told you the story to begin with? The latter happens sometimes but the former acts more. Here is one reason why. In a nutshell: when you are telling a story, you are spending more mentally energy focusing on telling the story correctly and less on taking in the person you are talking to. When you are listening to a story, you are focusing not only on the story, but also on the story teller. Via: Mano Singham.

Monsters in our society It is helpful to remember that society’s worst criminals are often someone else’s loved ones and that the monster in question might appear to be normal, or even likable when you see them. Villains don’t always look like Dick Tracy caliber freaks. Randazza’s blog post talks about this.

Human health:
It is possible that some of the benefits of exercise might be obtained via a pill. But I wonder how this would pertain to a “training effect” (PT, weight lifting versus swimming versus running, sprinting versus marathon running, etc.). And there is no way this would compensate for not seeing the ladies in their spandex workout gear. 🙂

Obesity What about genetics and obesity?

The mice were eating their usual chow and exercising normally, but they were getting fat anyway. The reason: researchers had deleted a gene that acts in the brain and controls how quickly calories are burned. Even though they were consuming exactly the same number of calories as lean mice, they were gaining weight.

So far, only one person — a severely obese child — has been found to have a disabling mutation in the same gene. But the discovery of the same effect in mice and in the child — a finding published Wednesday in the journal Science — may help explain why some people put on weight easily while others eat all they want and seem never to gain an ounce. It may also offer clues to a puzzle in the field of obesity: Why do studies find that people gain different amounts of weight while overeating by the same amount?

Scientists have long thought explanations for why some people get fat might lie in their genes. They knew body weight was strongly inherited. Years ago, for example, they found that twins reared apart tended to have similar weights and adoptees tended to have weights like their biological parents, not the ones who reared them. As researchers developed tools to look for the actual genes, they found evidence that many — maybe even hundreds — of genes may be involved, stoking appetites, making people voraciously hungry.

This rare gene-disabling mutation, though, is intriguing because it seems to explain something different, a propensity to pile on pounds even while eating what should be a normal amount of food. Investigators are now searching for other mutations of the same gene in fat people that may have a similar, but less extreme effect. The hope is that in the long term, understanding how this gene affects weight gain might lead to treatments for obesity that alter the rate at which calories are burned.

There are genes that regulate hunger and others that regulate metabolism. Of course, nothing here means that people can’t be “trained” to eat the right amount of food FOR THEM; it doesn’t matter if someone else can/should eat more.

Spaceships will be taking a photo of Saturn with earth in the deep background. People are being invited to wave at Saturn and at the probes.

It should look something like this:


Evolution Why distinguishing scientific truth from religious myth and superstition matters. From Jerry Coyne’s website.

The largest virus yet has been discovered. This virus has many genes which have not been seen before. Is this virus of ancient origin?

“We believe that those new Pandoraviruses have emerged from a new ancestral cellular type that no longer exists,” he says. That life could have even come from another planet, like Mars. “At this point we cannot actually disprove or disregard this type of extreme scenario,” he says.

But how did this odd cellular form turn into a virus? Abergel says it may have evolved as a survival strategy as modern cells took over. “On Earth it was winners and it was losers, and the losers could have escaped death by going through parasitism and then infect the winner,” she says.

Eugene Koonin, who wasn’t involved in the research, isn’t buying this theory. “These viruses, unusual as they might be, are still related to other smaller viruses,” he says.

The virus’s size is probably part of its survival strategy. Amoebas and other simple creatures could mistake it for bacteria and try to eat it, opening them up to infection. “The internal environment of the amoeba cell provides a very good playground for acquiring various kinds of genes from different sources,” Koonin says. He thinks that the Pandoravirus’s unusual genome may be a mishmash of random genetic material it’s sucked up from its hosts.

Nevertheless, Koonin says, the new virus is fascinating. And he predicts this is only the beginning. “We are going to see many, many more giant viruses discovered around the world, some of which, probably will be bigger than Pandoraviruses.”

Follow a discussion among life scientists at Larry Moran’s blog.

July 19, 2013 Posted by | astronomy, biology, evolution, health, nature, obesity, social/political | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A comment and some science…

Paula Deen: this New York Times article talks about some support she is getting from fans; her show was cancelled by The Food Network. Frankly, this was a business decision by The Food Network: they figured that they’d lose advertiser revenue due to companies pulling their ads; my (uneducated) guess is that the pressure on advertisers would come from a much larger population than the viewership audience.


This is the crowd: as much as I’d love to lampoon the lack of physical fitness of this crowd….in terms of body type, this crowd is pretty much what you’d see at most places around here OTHER than the hiking trails, bike paths, gyms, swimming pools, tennis courts, basketball courts or participant oriented public sporting events. In fact, if you added black and brown people to this crowd..this could be a Democratic rally event. Given how white the crowd is, it could have also been a Republican event too. 🙂

Epigenetic Effects
Smoking while carrying a baby not only gives the baby a higher risk of asthma, but an increased risk extends to two generations:

Having a grandmother who smoked can increase your risk of suffering from asthma – even if your mother didn’t take up the habit.
Researchers say the discovery shows how the chemicals and environmental factors we are exposed to today could determine the health of family members for generations to come.
Writing in the Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the scientists cited a rat study they say has major ramifications for human health.
They found that pregnant rats given nicotine produced asthmatic babies.
These rats, in turn, went on to produce their own asthmatic children, despite the fact they had not been directly exposed to nicotine.
The researchers, from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, say the findings show that nictotine can leave a ‘mark’ on the genome (our complete set of DNA), making future generations more susceptible to respiratory conditions such as asthma.
In other words, the cause of the grandchild’s asthma was a genetic change caused by an environmental factor – in this case, smoking.
As a result, they concluded that environmental factors experienced during pregnancy – such as smoking – will not just affect the child in the womb, but those further down the line.

Note: if you click on the link, read the comments. So many make the comment: “MY mother/grandmother smoked but neither I nor my siblings got asthma”. Upshot: many people don’t understand what “increased risk of” means.

Botany and Math
There is evidence that plants can do some sort of biological calculation to figure out how to use starches during the hours when the sun isn’t shining; they can adjust for having less or more daylight:

Computer-generated models published in the journal eLife illustrate how plants might use molecular mathematics to regulate the rate at which they devour starch reserves to provide energy throughout the night, when energy from the Sun is off the menu1. If so, the authors say, it would be the first example of arithmetic division in biology.

But it may not be the only one: many animals go through periods of fasting — during hibernations or migrations, for example — and must carefully ration internal energy stores in order to survive. Understanding how arithmetic division could occur at the molecular level might also be useful for the young field of synthetic biology, in which genetic engineers seek standardized methods of tinkering with molecular pathways to create new biological devices.[…]

Plants make the starch reserves they produce during the day last almost precisely until dawn. Researchers once thought that plants break down starch at a fixed rate during the night. But then they observed that the diminutive weed Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant favoured for laboratory work, could recalculate that rate on the fly when subjected to an unusually early or late night2.

To Alison Smith and Martin Howard of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, and their colleagues, this suggested that a more sophisticated molecular calculation was at work. The team hypothesized the existence of two molecules: one, S, that tells the plant how much starch remains, and another, T, that informs it about the time left until dawn.

The researchers built mathematical models to show that, in principle, the interactions of such molecules could indeed drive the rate of starch breakdown such that it reflected a continuous computation of the division of the amount of remaining starch by the amount of time until dawn.

For example, the models predicted that plants would adjust the rate of starch breakdown if the night were interrupted by a period of light. During that period of light, the plants could again produce starch. When the lights went out again, the rate of starch breakdown should adjust to that increase in stored starch, the models predicted — a result that the researchers confirmed in Arabidopsis plants.

The researchers looked at mutants and found that a particular mutant could NOT alter its starch consumption rate. Hence some genes have been isolated; it will be interesting to see how the calculations are performed.

Taking on the “alternative medicine industry“: A famous doctor, Paul Offit, wrote a new book:

“Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine” in which he takes on the vitamin and herbal supplements industry, alternative medicine of all kinds, Congress and celebrity doctors who peddle their own products. It hits the shelves on Tuesday.

Here is one example of what is going on: remember Vioxx? It was pulled when it was found out that it increased the risk of heart attack. But some vitamins can increase health risks by at least as much, but they are on the market! The bottom line: the vitamin and nutritional supplement industries are not regulated as well but yet get a free pass.

June 25, 2013 Posted by | biology, evolution, obesity, science, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Woos, Violence, Science, Chained CPI and other topics…

Workout notes
Weights only: rotator cuff/ hip hikes, Achilles/
pull ups: 5 sets of 10
abs: 3 sets of: sit backs, twists, crunches, vertical crunches
incline bench: 10 x 135, 5 x 155, 6 x 150, 8 x 145
dumbbell military: 3 sets of 12 x 50 (seated; 50 each arm)
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160
curls: 3 sets of 10 x 57.5 (pulley)
dumbbell bench: 3 sets of 10 x 65
dumbbell row: 3 sets of 10 x 65 each arm.
back PT, side plank, etc.

Note: I always do these with very little rest between sets; I might do curls, incline, dumbbell military, and repeat.

Robert Reich explains the “chained CPI” concept with respect to social security:

The Obama administration counter to this is that increasing health care costs will be mitigated by some Obamacare provisions.

This is an hour long video via the BBC. But it discusses Richard Dawkins and his ideas; I found it to be informative and entertaining.

Social Science
On the surface, this Psychology Today article by Goal Auzeen Saedi appears to be another “conservative suck” nonsense article. But it makes some interesting non-partisan points:

Further, studies have indicated an automatic association between aggression, America, and the news. A study conducted by researchers at Cornell and The Hebrew University (Ferguson & Hassin, 2007) indicated, “American news watchers who were subtly or nonconsciously primed with American cues exhibited greater accessibility of aggression and war constructs in memory, judged an ambiguously aggressive person in a more aggressive and negative manner, and acted in a relatively more aggressive manner toward an experimenter following a mild provocation, compared with news watchers who were not primed” (p. 1642). American “cues” refers to factors such as images of the American flag or words such as “patriot.” Interestingly, this study showed this effect to be independent of political affiliation, but suggested a disturbing notion that America is implicitly associated with aggression for news watchers.
Taken together, what do these studies suggest? Excessive exposure to news coverage could be toxic as is avoidance of open-minded attitudes and ideals. Perhaps turn off the television and pick up a book? Ideally one that exposes you to differing worldviews.

In my opinion, liberals and Democrats are just as prone to be set off by a simplistic, shallow news presentation as are conservatives and Republicans. The take away here: read something more in depth so you have some context to what is going on.

I found this amusing:


This also touched some emotions.

Commentary and navel staring I am 53 years old. I don’t like it that my body’s physical abilities have degraded; e. g. 5K has gone from 19 to 25 minutes; bench press went from 5 x 225 to 5 x 185. But I really don’t miss the old “dating game” and all of the lying that one had to do. 🙂 Were I single now and I had the above discussion, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that astrology was nonsense, no matter how “hot” the female was. Sure, such an attitude will alienate you; after all, everyone thinks of themselves as being “smart” and “informed”; I can’t count how many times I’ve read social media comments in which people (especially women) referred to themselves as being “smart” even though many of these people have had very little in the way of difficult intellectual accomplishment.

Well, at my age, I no longer care about alienating people socially. 🙂

Speaking of social alienation, a fat woman decided to do a sort-of social experiment:

I was traveling with students in Barcelona in the summer of 2011, walking through La Rambla, when I noticed two guys making fun of me. I could see them in the reflection of a mirrored building, making gestures with their hands to suggest how much bigger I was than the thin girl standing next to me, her small waist accentuated by her crop top and cut-off shorts. They painted her figure in the air like an hourglass. Then they painted my shape like the convex curves of a ball. The guys were saying something, too, but there was only one word I could make out: Gorda. Fat woman.

I’ve been hearing comments like this for much all my life. Maybe someone else would have yelled at them, or shrunk inside. But I don’t get upset when this happens.

I pulled out my camera, and set up a shoot.

For about a year, I’d been taking pictures of strangers’ reactions to me in public for a series I called “Wait Watchers.” I was interested in capturing something I already knew firsthand: If the large women in historical art pieces were walking around today, they would be scorned and ridiculed.

So I found a crowded crosswalk farther down La Rambla, used my rangefinder camera to set the exposure and focus of where I would stand, and handed the camera to my assistant. I bought a cup of gelato and began eating it. I’ve learned I get more successful reactions if I am “doing” something.

In my peripheral vision, I saw a teen girl waiting for the signal to cross the street. As I stood there, eating my ice cream, I heard a repetitive “SLAP, SLAP, SLAP” of a hand on skin. I signaled to my assistant to shoot. It was only when I returned home to Memphis and got the film developed that I realized the sound was the girl hitting her belly as she watched me eat. She did this over and over. I have five frames of her with various facial expressions. I called the resulting image “Gelato.”

I’ll let you surf to the article to see the photos. In one photo, the police are clearly making fun of her. But in other cases, it really wasn’t that clear to me. If you take 100’s of photos, you’ll see many different facial expressions, some which may well be unrelated.

As far as the woman herself: yeah, she is reasonably fat and grossly out of shape. But if she lived here in Peoria, she would NOT stand out at all; she’d mostly blend right in, especially at a Golden Corral or a Chinese Buffet. In fact, some of the slower pace groups in our “beginning runners/walkers” programs are populated by people who look like her; hey you have to start somewhere!

So, I am a bit puzzled about her getting much ridicule; after all, I did get some but at my fattest, I was way fatter than she is now.

Social: our reaction to the Boston Bombing:
Yes, I know it is an Alternet article (linking to Salon and Alternet! wow…my standards have really dropped! 🙂 )

But this author raises the question:

he Boston Marathon bombing and shootouts with the suspects frightened millions of Americans and turned into one of the biggest media events of the 21st century. But beyond lingering questions of whether the government went too far by shutting down an entire city and whether that might encourage future terrorism, a deeper and darker question remains: why is America’s obsession with evil so selective?

There are all kinds of violent events in America that go unheeded. The British-based Guardian newspaper reported that on the same day as the bombing, 11 people were killed by guns across the U.S. That sad list included a pregnant woman in Dallas allegedly shot by her boyfriend; a 13-year-old who took his own life after being bullied at school; and an off-duty New York City policewoman who killed her husband, her year-old baby, and then committed suicide with her police-issued handgun.

The lists of most violent American trends reveal the mundane shades of evil. There are the most violent cities. There are the murder capitals. There’s domestic violence primarily against women. There are the most dangerous jobs, where injury is common and death far more widespread than from bomb-wielding terrorists—such as at the Texas fertilizer plant that blew up last week and killed at least 14 people and where 270 tons of ammonium nitrate was illegally stored in violation of state and federal law.[…]

I see a few things at work here. First of all, humans tend to overreact to the high profile events and ignore the more mundane; e. g. you are far more likely to be hurt or killed in a car accident than you are by a terrorist bomb.

Secondly: society tends to see underserved sectors (ghettos, isolated rural areas) as places isolated from us. Much of the violence there are people who live in such areas doing some self-enforcing of local codes (reference: Steve Pinker’s book Better Angels). So if poor blacks and poor rural whites shoot each other…well…that isn’t our world so just keep it there, ok? On the other hand: the Boston Marathon is something the media consuming public can relate to; we all know a runner and have watched parades or sporting events. Killing and maiming is out of place here; we rely on police and law enforcement to keep order…and not vigilantism. This is OUR world and such acts are out of place here since we aren’t at war.

Note: This is NOT voicing approval of such attitudes but an attempt to “call it as I see it”.

April 24, 2013 Posted by | creationism, economy, evolution, obesity, political/social, politics, poverty, republicans, science, superstition, weight training | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Morbid obesity: a pathway out

This was posted at Daily Kos:

I’ve noticed the recent obesity diaries; presumably they started because of the diary about Governor Christ Christie and his reaction to a doctor saying that he ran a non-trivial risk of dying while in office.

If you are obese and feel good about it, then this diary isn’t for you. This diary is about those who are obese and do NOT want to remain that way. I took the liberty of
1. Gathering some statistical facts about obesity (e. g. actual evidence instead of “what everyone knows”) and
2. Sharing my journey from weighing 320 pounds (size 52 waist) to 190 pounds (size 34 for waist) and staying a normal size since 1995.

Yes, my story is merely one data point among thousands (millions?) and it is not complicated by unusual medical conditions, food allergies and the like.

More below the fold. Part I is a link to resources and part II is a bit more personal.

Note: I do not claim to have a “one size fits all” answer or even an answer that will work for anyone else. But I did find a pathway out that worked for me, and I decided to share it with those who are interested.

Part I: resources about obesity.
I’ve chosen articles that have a base of research to them in order to move beyond mere opinion and to avoid cherry picking factoids that “make sense to me”.

New England Journal of Medicine: this article is behind a pay wall, (I’ve linked to the abstract) but if you are a student or faculty member of a university, your library probably has an online subscription to this journal. This article lists:

1. Popular misconceptions (rebutted by the evidence).
2. Popular “notions” which have neither been rebutted nor confirmed by evidence.
3. Popular “notions” which have shown to be true.

National Institute of Health: Obesity Education Initiative.
This outlines many of the risks. Note: the risks are statistical in nature; in other words, being obese means that one’s risk for certain maladies are higher than a non-obese person’s. This is no guarantee that a fat person will get these conditions nor be inoculated from them by losing weight.

The Scientist Strangely enough, a father’s obesity can induce somewhat harmful epigenetic changes in their offspring! I admit that this sounds counterintuitive to me, but I have no training in this field.

Part II
I’ll start with “before and after” photos. And no, I am NOT “selling” anything! I used no diet industry gimmicks nor did I pay money to quacks; I am careful about what I eat and I do use a “free of charge, non-commercial” support group. And no, I didn’t “give my life to deity X”; I remain an outspoken secular atheist. 🙂

The reason for the photos: I posted running photos so my clothes can’t hide my body. I posted a non-running photo as well. As far as the weight loss: I was 320 pounds when the first photos were taken; I reduced to 185 in 1996 and have stayed mostly between 185-195 the entire time (save a time when I got a stomach flu, etc.)

What happens: I’ve found that a 53 year old man needs less food than a similarly active 37 year old man. So I’ll eat a certain way, then the pants (now size 34, down from 52) start to tighten, i weigh, then I reduce the amount of food on my plan, then the weight comes down. So yes, I eat less now than I did in 1996.

Me in 1992:

Me in 2000

Me in 2012

How I do it and other thoughts
Basically I eat 3 times a day and only set amounts; I completely abstain from foods that set me off (mostly the standard “junk” foods, snacks, sugary items etc.). There was a time when this made me feel deprived…not any longer! I honestly don’t miss it.

As far as working out: I work out on most days; I often pick from either:
1. fast walking
2. running
3. weight lifting
4. swimming (not lately)
5. yoga (not lately)

However I don’t do these activities for weight control. Example: a couple of years ago, I hurt my knee (meniscus tear) and couldn’t run; I tried to swim too far with a pull buoy and hurt my rotator cuff. So there was a several month period when all I could do was to walk easily…..and I gained no weight during that period.

Upshot: for me, these are sporting activities; they are part of my “fun”. I don’t do these for weight loss or for health benefits. These are the times when I can pretend to be an athlete. 🙂

I also don’t “diet” in terms of “temporary weight loss diet”. I just eat moderately at all times, with no “opening of the flood gates” for special occasions. I’d much rather enjoy the company of others and not be held captive by the food.

Why I enjoy being non-obese:
1. stairs are much easier, so is walking to work.
2. clothes are easier to find.
3. seats at concerts and sporting events: no problem!
4. I can safely play sports that I love.
5. I am not out of breath all of the time.
6. I almost NEVER think about food! When I was obese, I thought about food all of the time. I even remember my vacations, in part, by what I ate and where.
7. I don’t live with that “stuffed to my throat” feeling all of the time; I don’t wake up with food hangovers.

How I got obese
I overate and lied to myself about how much I was eating. Being around normal people was kind of a shock; I didn’t know that humans could exist on so little food!

As far as losing weight: I went the “support group” route; it seemed to work for me.

What I did right as an obese person: I still exercised; I lifted weights and I walked. It may have taken me 36 minutes to walk 2 miles (and that was walking as fast as I could!) but I still got it in…and no, I didn’t like the cat-calls (and I got a few).

February 11, 2013 Posted by | health, obesity | , | 1 Comment

Humor, Snark and Ridicule…


Ok, the above is funny.

Politics and statistical literacy

A facebook friend posted this.


Now someone on her comment thread doubted these statistics because he knew that just walking around was safer than being in a war zone. That is, of course, true. But that doesn’t mean that the above statistics are false. What it means: wars tend to be brief and the armed forces involved are far smaller in number than the population of the United States.

Interestingly someone tried to argue by just posting a link, and I admit (and admitted it there) I misread the number of countries that were being compared (with respect to homicide rates). But the person attempting to argue with me didn’t get that this was a comparison of European countries; after all this study (which was a competent one) talked about the “high homicide rate” of the Netherlands and Sweden. Yes, their homicide rate is about 1.1 out of 100,000 whereas ours is 4.8 out of 100,000. But this person didn’t know that and won’t accept it.

The point: statistical and numerical illiteracy hamstrings a person when it comes to being able to make an intelligent contribution to a discussion on the major issues.


I am happy to let Ted Nugent be the face of the Republican party:

Bill Maher: made a joke that he wanted to see Donald Trump’s birth certificate to ensure that he wasn’t fathered by an orangutan and joked that he’d pay 5 million dollars to charity if one were produced. Mr. Trump produced a birth certificate and is now attempting to sue Mr. Maher for a breach of contract. Just watch the response:


Sorry, my sympathy for “senior citizens” is very limited here. Why? Here is why.
Screen shot 2013-02-09 at 9.38.37 PM

You old people voted for the Republicans. You richly deserve what you get.

I generally like Daily Kos. It is one of the few places you can make a physics joke and someone will get it. There are some smart people there. But if someone from a “community” feels that people from that community has been insulted, a “this prejudice X is the last remaining socially acceptable form of bigotry allowed in America…people from community X are your {insert obligatory list of family, friends and professions here}”, etc. etc. You could write one of these diaries with a computer program.

Well, here is the “fat acceptance” diary (you know, anti obesity programs are just there to enrich the diet/weight loss industry, right?”) 🙂

I’d say that this opens our community to ridicule from the red staters, but fortunately the Republicans also have their share of obese people, though I wonder if they are as prone to blaming external forces for their situations as liberals are. Oh wait, of course they are; look at how they whine and complain when they lose an election; much of their strategy is to make the poor social conservatives feel like they are being victimized by “the libs”.

February 10, 2013 Posted by | 2012 election, humor, obesity, political/social, politics, ranting, republicans, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Onward, ever Onward…

Workout notes 4 mile untimed walk (Cornstalk course) following a weight workout:
rotator cuff
pull ups: 6 sets of 5 (varying grips), 1 set of 10, 3 sets of 5.
incline press: 10 x 135, 3 x 155, 3 x 155, 7 x 145, 8 x 140
dumbbell bench/rows: 3 sets of 10 with 65 each exercise
dumbbell military: 2 sets of 15 x 45, 1 set of 10 with 70 each arm (machine)
pull downs/pulley curls 3 sets of 10 with each (160 with pull downs, 52.5 curls)
abs, etc.

Obesity: Mano Singham directs us to a New England Journal of Medicine article that discusses some common misconceptions about obesity and some common ideas that are without foundation. If you are a faculty member at a university, you probably have access to the article itself, which is behind a paywall for non-subscribers.

It is worth reading; some of what “you know” isn’t so, and some “hasn’t been confirmed, or rebutted”.

February 6, 2013 Posted by | health, obesity, walking, weight training | , | Leave a comment