Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for October 15th, 2010

Obesity: Simply a matter of eating too much, moving too little. Not.

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Einstein famously remarked that one should keep things as simple as possible—but not simpler. And often the more one looks at something simple (sharpening a knife, for example), it turns out to be not nearly so simple as one thought. The simple way to fight the obesity epidemic is to advise people to eat less and move more, on the assumption that the cause is eating too much and not moving enough: quite simple. Too simple.

For example, it’s now been found that obesity in children is linked to a specific common cold virus. Additional possible causes:

Obesity has risen dramatically in the United States and many other countries during the past 30 years. A combination of increased calorie intake and decreased physical activity is the most obvious explanation, but other factors may play a role as well. A team of researchers led by David B. Allison of the University of Alabama at Birmingham considered some of those possible contributors in a 2009 paper in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, including these:

Older mothers

Studies have shown that the offspring of older mothers are more likely to be obese; birthrates have increased since the 1970s among women 30 and older.


It takes energy both to keep cool in hot weather and warm when the mercury drops. Some researchers have proposed that increasingly climate-controlled lifestyles have made people soft in more ways than one.


Certain antidepressants, birth control drugs and other medications that have become more common in recent decades produce weight gain as a side effect.

Less sleep

Sleep deprivation leads to metabolic changes that foster weight gain; epidemiological data suggest that sleep duration has fallen steadily over the past century.

Environmental contaminants

The increase of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment over the past few decades has raised a number of concerns, including the possibility that the compounds might interfere with hormones that regulate metabolism.

On the last, see this article.

Also, too much light at night seems to trigger obesity:

Persistent exposure to light at night may lead to weight gain, even without changing physical activity or eating more food, according to new research in mice.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2010 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Your Money: The Missing Manual

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Sounds like a useful book, reviewed here on Cool Tools.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2010 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

Interesting similarities: War on Drugs, War on Terrorism

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From a Greenwald column:

I’m convinced that drug prohibition, and especially the “War on Drugs” which enables it, is going to be one of those policies which, decades from now, future generations will be completely unable to understand how we could have tolerated.  So irrational and empirically false are the justifications for drug prohibition, and so costly is the War waged in its name, that it is difficult to imagine a more counter-productive policy than this (that’s why public opinion is inexorably realizing this despite decades of Drug War propaganda and the absence of any real advocacy for decriminalization on the part of national political leaders).  In that regard, and in virtually every other, the War on Drugs is a mirror image of the War on Terror:  sustained with the same deceitful propaganda, driven by many of the same motives, prosecuted with similar templates, and destructive in many of the same ways.

The similarities are obvious.  Both wars rely upon cartoon depictions of Scary Villains (The Drug Kingpin, Mexican Cartels, the Terrorist Mastermind) to keep the population in a state of heightened fear and thus blind them to rational discourse.  But both wars are not only complete failures in eradicating those villains, but they both do more to empower those very villains than any other single cause — the War on Drugs by ensuring that cartels’ profits from the illegal drug trade remain sky-high, and the War on Terror by ensuring more and more support and recruits for anti-American extremists.  And both, separately and together, endlessly erode basic American liberties by convincing a frightened public that they can Stay Safe only if they cede more and more power to the state.  Many of the civil liberties erosions from the War on Terror have their genesis in the War on Drugs.

The most important commonality between these two wars is …

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2010 at 7:05 am

Posted in Daily life

Drug decriminalization policy pays off

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Next month, Californians will vote on Proposition 19, a measure to legalize marijuana. Because no state has ever taken such a step, voters are being subjected to a stream of fear-mongering assertions, unaccompanied by evidence, about what is likely to happen if drug prohibition is repealed.

But it need not — and should not — be that way.

Ten years ago, Portugal became the first Western nation to pass full-scale, nationwide decriminalization. That law, passed Oct. 1, 2000, abolished criminal sanctions for all narcotics — not just marijuana but also “hard drugs” like heroin and cocaine.

This applies only to drugs for personal use; drug trafficking remains a criminal offense. There is now a decade’s worth of empirical data on what actually happens — and does not happen — when criminal sanctions against drug possession are lifted.

Individuals caught with drugs in Portugal are no longer arrested or treated as criminals. Instead, they are sent to a tribunal of health professionals, where they are offered the opportunity, but are not compelled, to seek government-provided treatment.

For those found to be addicts, tribunals have the power to impose noncriminal sanctions. But in practice, the overriding goal is to direct people to treatment.

By any metric, Portugal’s drug-decriminalization scheme has been a resounding success. Drug usage in many categories has decreased in absolute terms, including for key demographic groups, like 15-to-19-year-olds. Where usage rates have increased, the increases have been modest — far less than in most other European Union nations, which continue to use a criminalization approach.

Portugal, whose drug problems were among the worst in Europe, now has the lowest usage rate for marijuana and one of the lowest for cocaine. Drug-related pathologies, including HIV transmission, hepatitis transmission and drug-related deaths, have declined significantly.

Beyond the data, Portugal’s success with decriminalization is illustrated by the absence of political agitation for a return to criminalization. As one might expect for a socially conservative and predominantly Roman Catholic country, the decriminalization proposal sparked intense controversy a decade ago…

Continue reading. I don’t think the obvious success of Portugal’s approach will have much effect in Congress. Arguments against drugs are not evidence-based, so evidence has no effect on the arguments. And many in Congress believe that the US is so “special” (in the good sense) that it has nothing to learn from other nations which, by definition, are inferior to the US in every way.

Here’s a comprehensive report on Portugal’s drug decriminalization program and its effects.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2010 at 6:41 am

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Apple v. Windows: Touchpad division

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The Apple touchpad requires a firm push to click, whereas the Windows touchpad can “click” with a tap. Advantage: Windows. Or so I thought at first. But now, using again a Windows laptop with a touchpad, I realize that the touchpad responds not only to taps but also to a finger or thumb accidentally brushing the surface, which generally sends the cursor to some remote location on the screen. There is some program available to curtail this sensitivity—and for all I know, one can adjust a setting in Windows. But right now I see the advantages of the Apple approach.

BTW, even if I should get a MacBook Pro, I would still keep the Windows desktop. As Steve points out, there are many programs (e.g., OneNote) simply not available on the Mac.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2010 at 5:53 am

Posted in Technology

100 kg again

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Weighed properly this morning: 220 lbs. Still not obese, but hovering there. OTOH, that means in the course of this trip I’ve gained about 1.5 lbs, not too bad given the food I’ve consumed: delicious and sometimes too much. This morning I’m making McCann’s Steel-Cut Irish Oatmeal for a solid breakfast, but not too much.

UPDATE: I see that 1/2 cup of uncooked oatmeal cooks up into enough for 3 people, roughly. Still: very tsty indeed, and makes me feel incredibly robust. It’s a breakfast that, as my grandmother would say, “sticks to your ribs” (a good thing).

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2010 at 5:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Food


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Thursday was a busy day. I took the train to Baltimore, as you know. The Eldest picked me up, and we went to lunch at Gertrude’s in the Baltimore Museum of Art (a really good restaurant). I had a cup of red crab soup—what I think of as Maryland style. Then a Portobello mushroom holding a crab cake. Okay, one glass of wine (Pinot Grigio).

The afternoon was spent visiting and drinking tea, then off to watch the grandsons perfect their martial arts at the US Martial Arts Academy. I may be coming down with a cold, so we picked up some zinc tablets and I started that. For dinner, to Szechuan House, near the dojo.

The restaurant was incredibly busy—always a good sign—but we got excellent service. I had hot-and-sour soup and hot and spicy coleslaw for openers. Both disappointing, alas, particularly in the hot and spicy and sour areas. The hot-and-sour soup tasted almost as if it were made from beef stock and using canned mushrooms. The entrees were better. They had two pages of “country Chinese cooking,” including several dishes made with intestines. We ordered sauteed water spinach with beef tendon, which was excellent, with the tendon meltingly tender. The Hunan pork was again disappointing: no spiciness. The boys shared a plate of beef lo mein, and the strips of beef were excellent: sauteed to crispness at the edges, but tender within.

Then home, some tea, and to bed.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2010 at 5:39 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

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