Later On

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

Archive for March 21st, 2012

10 stubborn exercise falsehoods that people love to believe

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Take a look. The 10 falsehoods:

Again: each statement below is false.

No Pain, No Gain
Soreness After Exercise is Caused by Lactic Acid Building Up in Your Muscles
Exercise Takes Long Hours/Is Worthless If I Can’t Exercise Regularly
You Need a Sports Drink When Exercising to Replenish Your Body’s Electrolytes/Minerals/Etc
Stretching Before Exercise Will Prevent Injury
Working Out Will Only Build Muscle, Not Help Me Lose Weight
Exercise Will Help Me Lose Weight Quickly
You Need to Take Supplements to Build Muscle
If You Don’t Exercise When You’re Young, It’s Dangerous When You Get Older

If you click the link above, it won’t take you to the article.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2012 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Fitness

Best medical system in the world? Really?

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Donald McNeil, Jr., reports in the NY Times:

For months, a simple generic drug has been saving lives on America’s battlefields by slowing the bleeding of even gravely wounded soldiers.

Even better, it is cheap. But its very inexpensiveness has slowed its entry into American emergency rooms, where it might save the lives of bleeding victims of car crashes, shootings and stabbings — up to 4,000 Americans a year, according to a recent study.

Because there is so little profit in it, the companies that make it do not champion it.

However, the drug is edging slowly closer to adoption as hospitals in New York and other major cities debate adding it to their pharmacies. The drug, tranexamic acid, has long been sold over the counter in Britain and Japan for heavy menstrual flow. After a groundbreaking 2010 trial on 20,000 hemorrhaging trauma patients in 40 countries showed that it saved lives, the British and American Armies adopted it. The World Health Organization added it to its essential drugs list last year, and British ambulances now carry it.

But outside Britain, it is used in very few civilian hospitals, though almost six million people around the world die each year of trauma — 400,000 of them in hospitals. A studypublished March 1 in BMC Emergency Medicine estimated that the drug could save up to 128,000 of those lives a year, 4,000 of them in the United States.

The slowness of American hospitals is due to . . .

Continue reading. The author quotes one doctor as saying the problem is “inertia,” which begs the question: that’s not an answer, it’s just a different word for saying that hospitals are not moving to adopt it. But why not? Reason: In the US medical treatment is a profit-oriented business, and like all such businesses, the constant drive of the institutions and businesses is to grow profits. As noted many times, a modern corporation is legally obligated to put profit considerations first (or face shareholder lawsuits for abdication of fiduciary responsibility). Unfortunately, profit considerations don’t always work well for every situation, and here we see a drug that could save lives by the millions being rejected—or at least not adopted—because the profit potential is so low. So you die? So what? The hospital must make a profit or it will not be able to function, so let that be your consolation.

But maybe—just maybe—the profit model is not the only model to use?

But even then one must face the pig-headed obstinacy of the stupid—Dr. Holcomb, for example, who rejects findings of clinical trials because… well, because he can, I guess. So what if patients die? Not his problem.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that Dr. Holcomb offers an excellent example of how ideology overrides evidence for some people: a study of 20,000 people shows no side effect, but Dr. Holcomb rejects the study out of hand (and, presumably, without so much as a glance at the data) because he has his convictions and those he will keep even if he must ignore conflicting evidence. Much easier for him.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2012 at 2:39 pm

Scotch notes

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I continue to find Scotch whisky interesting and somewhat baffling. (I’m tasting single-malt scotches via a gift of samplers from The Wife.) First the tastes are much more complex than (say) bourbon: more like wine or EVOO (the real stuff) or some other such product. And different single-malts (like different wines and different EVOOs) can have startlingly different flavors and tastes. And even a particular scotch seems to taste differently depending on what else I’ve eaten. Hard to fathom.

Perhaps this will help: Tasting Scotch Whisky, Note By Vacuum-Distilled Note.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2012 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks

Starting to move around more

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Last night my feet and calves were sort of itchy: bad sign for diabetics (could be circulation and/or neuropathy problems, both of which diabetics are prone to have). I can hear a wake-up call as well as the next guy, so today I walked to the library to pick up a book on hold (Barbara Tuchman’s March of Folly to better understand why certain political leaders think another war, this one with Iran, is a good idea). Normally the walk is 20 min each way, 40 min total. Today, with about a 5-minute rest at the library, it took an hour. So probably good to get out and about daily.

My Fitbit was encouraging. I actually climbed two flights of stairs, but I got credit for 13 because apparently climbing a steep hill is counted as climbing stairs—and I’m okay with that. Here’s the display right now:

I was tempted to stop by the sushi place for a small treat, but when I got to the library, I realized I’d have to walk 3 block farther (and 3 blocks back), so quickly lost interest. Just as well.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2012 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

The GOP’s vision for the US

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An editorial in today’s NY Times:

As he rolled out his 2013 budget on Tuesday, Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, correctly said that he and his fellow Republicans were offering the country a choice of two very clear futures. The one he outlined in his plan could hardly be more bleak.

It is one where the rich pay less in taxes than the unfairly low rates they pay now, while programs for the poor — including Medicaid and food stamps — are slashed and thrown to the whims of individual states. Where older Americans no longer have a guarantee that Medicare will pay for their health needs. Where lack of health insurance is rampant, preschool is unaffordable, and environmental and financial regulation are severely weakened.

Mr. Ryan became well known last year as the face of the most extreme budget plan passed by a house of Congress in modern times. His new budget is, if anything, worse, full of bigger, emptier promises. It is largely in agreement with the plans of the Republican presidential candidates.

It vows to balance tax cuts for corporations and the rich by closing loopholes, but never lists the loopholes. It is, however, quite specific about cutting Medicaid by about 45 percent, leaving 19 million people without care, and eliminating plans to provide health insurance for 33 million who lack coverage now.

Worst of all, it undermines a hard-fought agreement Democrats and Republicans made last August to set spending targets for 2013. Under pressure from House conservatives, Mr. Ryan cut nearly $20 billion from spending levels set in the debt-ceiling pact, breaking faith with the Senate and potentially leading to a government shutdown this fall. Much of that reduction is likely to come from programs like Head Start, Pell grants for college students and state aid.

It also tries an end run around an agreement Republicans signed last year to reduce the deficit over 10 years with equal $55 billion annual cuts to military and domestic programs after the Congressional supercommittee failed to agree on a plan. Mr. Ryan wants to increase defense spending and shift all the cuts to domestic programs, which will probably include food stamps, the federal payroll and mortgage guarantees. Very little of Mr. Ryan’s plan will get through the Senate, but it sets a disturbing precedent for future agreements.

Over all, about half of Mr. Ryan’s $5 trillion in cuts over a decade would come from health care. His plan to convert Medicare to a “premium support” system, though less damaging than last year’s proposal, still weakens a guarantee to the elderly and risks driving up costs for future beneficiaries. He would still offer the elderly a fixed amount of money to shop for their own health insurance, but allow the option of enrolling in traditional Medicare.

Unfortunately, that could lead to higher costs and premiums in traditional Medicare because it would attract older and sicker patients who would be expensive to cover, while healthier, cheaper patients flocked to private plans. In the long run, the premium support plan could shift costs to beneficiaries because it would limit annual per capita spending growth to well below the level required by the health care reform act. The plan would also cap the federal contribution to Medicaid by turning the program into a block grant to states.

These extreme cuts and changes would greatly impede the nation’s economic recovery, and hurt those on the middle and lower economic rungs who suffered most from the recession. The contrast with President Obama’s budget, which raises taxes on the rich to protect vital programs while reducing the deficit, could not be more clear.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2012 at 12:43 pm

You can’t sue if the problem is due to generic meds

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Interesting. I’d like Congress to fix this, but Congress is unresponsive these days. Katie Thomas reports in the NY Times:

Debbie Schork, a deli worker at a supermarket in Indiana, had to have her hand amputated after an emergency room nurse injected her with an anti-nausea drug, causing gangrene. She sued the manufacturer named in the hospital’s records for failing to warn about the risks of injecting it. Her case was quietly thrown out of court last fall.

That result stands in sharp contrast to the highly publicized case of Diana Levine, a professional musician from Vermont. Her hand and forearm were amputated because of gangrene after a physician assistant at a health clinic injected her with the same drug. She sued the drug maker, Wyeth, and won $6.8 million.

The financial outcomes were radically different for one reason: Ms. Schork had received the generic version of the drug, known as promethazine, while Ms. Levine had been given the brand name, Phenergan.

“Explain the difference between the generic and the real one — it’s just a different company making the same thing,” Ms. Schork said.

Across the country, dozens of lawsuits against generic pharmaceutical companies are being dismissed because of a Supreme Court decision last year that said the companies did not have control over what their labels said and therefore could not be sued for failing to alert patients about the risks of taking their drugs.

Now, what once seemed like a trivial detail — whether to take a generic or brand-name drug — has become the deciding factor in whether a patient can seek legal recourse from a drug company. The cases range from that of Ms. Schork, who wasn’t told which type of drug she had been given when she visited the hospital, to people like Camille Baruch, who developed a gastrointestinal disease after taking a generic form of the drug Accutane, as required by her health care plan.

“Your pharmacists aren’t telling you, hey, when we fill this with your generic, you are giving up all of your legal remedies,” said Michael Johnson, a lawyer who represented Gladys Mensing, one of the patients who sued generic drug companies in last year’s Supreme Court case, Pliva v. Mensing. “You have a disparate impact between one class of people and another.”

The Supreme Court ruling affects potentially millions of people: nearly 80 percent of prescriptions in the United States are filled by a generic, and most states permit pharmacists to dispense a generic in place of a brand name. More than 40 judges have dismissed cases against generic manufacturers since the Supreme Court ruled last June, including some who dismissed dozens of cases consolidated under one judge.

Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to give generic companies greater control over their labels, a rule change that could allow users of generic drugs to sue, but the agency said earlier this month that it needed more time to decide. “Congress can make this problem go away, and the F.D.A. could, too,” said Allison Zieve, the director of Public Citizen Litigation Group. “But we haven’t seen signs that either of them is paying much attention.” A spokeswoman for the F.D.A. declined to comment.

The Supreme Court’s ruling, which was split 5 to 4 on ideological lines, . . .

Continue reading. Guess whose side the Republicans were on…

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2012 at 10:59 am

Daily dose of aspirin reduces cancer risk

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I take 81mg aspirin daily (the “aspirin regimen” size) as most diabetics do: help with heart disease, which my cardiologist tells me is what finally gets most diabetics. But it turns out to be good as a cancer preventative as well. Roni Rabin reports in the NY Times:

Taking aspirin every day may significantly reduce the risk of many cancers and prevent tumors from spreading, according to two new studies published on Tuesday.

The findings add to a body of evidence suggesting that cheap and widely available aspirin may be a powerful if overlooked weapon in the battle against cancer. But the research also poses difficult questions for doctors and public health officials, as regular doses of aspirin can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and other side effects. Past studies have suggested that the drawbacks of daily use may outweigh the benefits, particularly in healthy patients.

One of the new studies examined patient data from dozens of large, long-term randomized controlled trials involving tens of thousands of men and women. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that after three years of daily aspirin use, the risk of developing cancer was reduced by almost 25 percent when compared with a control group not taking aspirin. After five years, the risk of dying of cancer was reduced by 37 percent among those taking aspirin.

A second paper that analyzed five large randomized controlled studies in Britain found . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2012 at 10:57 am

Posted in Health, Medical, Science

The Stanford Education Experiment Could Change Higher Learning Forever

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Fascinating article by Steven Leckert at Wired:

Stanford doesn’t want me. I can say that because it’s a documented fact: I was once denied admission in writing. I took my last math class back in high school. Which probably explains why this quiz on how to get a computer to calculate an ideal itinerary is making my brain hurt. I’m staring at a crude map of Romania on my MacBook. Twenty cities are connected in a network of straight black lines. My goal is to determine the best route from Arad to Bucharest. A handful of search algorithms with names like breadth-first, depth-first, uniform-cost, and A* can be used. Each employs a different strategy for scanning the map and considering various paths. I’ve never heard of these algorithms or considered how a computer determines a route. But I’ll learn, because despite the utter lack of qualifications I just mentioned, I’m enrolled in CS221: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, a graduate- level course taught by Stanford professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig.

Last fall, the university in the heart of Silicon Valley did something it had never done before: It opened up three classes, including CS221, to anyone with a web connection. Lectures and assignments—the same ones administered in the regular on-campus class—would be posted and auto-graded online each week. Midterms and finals would have strict deadlines. Stanford wouldn’t issue course credit to the non-matriculated students. But at the end of the term, students who completed a course would be awarded an official Statement of Accomplishment.

People around the world have gone crazy for this opportunity. Fully two-thirds of my 160,000 classmates live outside the US. There are students in 190 countries—from India and South Korea to New Zealand and the Republic of Azerbaijan. More than 100 volunteers have signed up to translate the lectures into 44 languages, including Bengali. In Iran, where YouTube is blocked, one student cloned the CS221 class website and—with the professors’ permission—began reposting the video files for 1,000 students.

Aside from computer-programming AI-heads, my classmates range from junior-high school students and humanities majors to middle-aged middle school science teachers and seventysomething retirees. One student described CS221 as the “online Woodstock of the digital era.” Personally, I signed up to have the experience of taking a Stanford course. Learning about artificial intelligence would be a nice bonus. After all, if I’m ever going to let a self-driving car speed me down a highway at 65 mph, it’ll be comforting to have a basic understanding of what’s behind the wheel. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2012 at 9:37 am

A man flying like a bird

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UPDATE: May be a hoax.

UPDATE: Is a hoax. He admits it. (Video at link.)


Brief article here that gives the background, and a YouTube has a series of 14 short videos (the above is the ultimate) on the topic.

Here’s his blog, which gives the full story.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2012 at 9:35 am

Drivers of denial on climate change

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Wired’s Science section includes some good articles from Ars Technica. Here’s a little cluster of highly informative and quite interesting articles:

Climate Change Acceptance Sinks During Economic Slumps – Worth reading. Here’s the conclusion:

. . . Based on their statistical analysis, the authors conclude the economy is the strongest influence on the public’s acceptance of climate science. This held when the authors analyzed things separately in each US state based on its local unemployment rate. The effect showed up in European countries, as well. In Gallup polls, this correlation holds all the way back to 1989, when the current string of unusually warm years began. Overall, the authors found unemployment had an effect that was over three times stronger than either the local weather or skeptical coverage of climate in the media.

Put in other terms, each time the local unemployment increased by a point, that state saw its average citizen’s probability of accepting climate change drop by over 10 percent.

Similar things were seen in Europe: “A one point increase in national unemployment is associated with a 2.5 point decline in the percentage saying that warming is a serious issue, and almost a one point increase in the percentage of the country saying that warming is exaggerated or saying that it is simultaneously not serious, exaggerated, and not due to CO2 emissions.”

The authors note this is in keeping with past findings, which showed people generally value environmental protection less when unemployment is an issue. They suggest this is an attempt to reduce cognitive dissonance: as people increase their concern for the economy, they drop their support for anything that’s perceived as getting in the way of that. Which might help explain one of the earlier findings, that political figures have an influence on the public’s perception of the climate. In the US at least, there’s no shortage of politicians who have been willing to attack environmental regulations as damaging to the economy.

(Of course, the politicians may also be responsive to the public’s beliefs. As the authors note sardonically, “While the earth’s climate may not react to what people think about the climate, elected politicians often do.”)

Even they are stumped, however, that the public doesn’t only change its views on the importance of a policy response to climate change. Instead, it seems to start questioning reality itself. “What is more puzzling is not that people’s priorities shift with the economic conditions, but that their beliefs about basic climate facts and their trust in climate science also appear to change,” the authors note.

Americans Listening to Politicians, Not Climate Scientists – Complementary with the above article, this one focuses on the influence of politicians. From the article:

. . . While articles in popular science magazines and advocacy efforts (especially An Inconvenient Truth) appeared to have an effect, the impact of news media coverage came about because it is transmitting statements from political leaders, what the researchers refer to as “elite cues.” That’s where the meat of this story lies. Those elite cues were the most significant driver of public opinion, followed by economic factors.

The researchers note that around the time when public acceptance of climate change reached its peak, political bipartisanship on the subject also hit a high point. Republican Senator and (then) presidential candidate John McCain was pushing for climate legislation, and current presidential candidate Newt Gingrich filmed a commercial together with an unlikely partner — Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi — urging action.

And then things changed. The economy went pear-shaped and Republican rhetoric shifted into attack mode on climate science. Gingrich’s commercial with Pelosi offers one example — opposing candidates in the presidential race have used its mere existence as a weapon against him, and Gingrich has tried to distance himself, calling it “the dumbest thing I’ve done in the last four years.” . . .

Greed Isn’t Good: Wealth Could Make People Unethical – Wealth, like so many things (Vitamin D, for example, or physical exertion): some is essential, too much is damaging. Insufficient vitamin D leads to rickets, bone loss, and other problems, while too much vitamin D causes kidney failure and can even be fatal. Same with physical exertion—some exercise is essential for good health, but overdoing physical exertion leads to injury and other problems. Food: too little, you starve; too much, you become obese and die. So it seems to be with wealth: the article’s opening sentence: “As an individual’s wealth and status rise, so does their tendency to be unethical, concludes a new study of the relationship between socioeconomics and ethics.”

The problem is that the very wealth/unethical wield enormous power in human society. We’ve structure our society to hand over the most power to the least ethical. This has obvious consequences all over the place, and the decision of wealthy corporations (and political parties) to fight climate change regardless of the truth is but one facet of the whole issue—but it is present in the climate-change arguments.

Ocean Acidification to Hit 300-Million-Year Max – Those who try to stay ignorant of the scientific literature tend of think of global warming/climate change as mainly about heat, but what is causing the temperature rise (and at this point sufficient measurements and observations are available so that there is no doubt—well, no educated, reasonable doubt (some still doubt that the earth is round or that we voyaged to the moon)—that the heat increase is due to the additional increment of CO2 that human activity has added to the atmosphere. (That has been measured: do a search of this blog on “CO2” and you’ll find lots of posts with specific data and good links. Or just click this link and skim down the posts—you will notice that they’re based on evidence, not conspiracy theories (“Scientists gonna get wealthy from this!”).)

But that CO2 is not just going into the atmosphere: it’s also going into the oceans (along with much of the heat: we’ve had a break for a while because the oceans have been absorbing enormous amounts of heat), which means the oceans are becoming noticeably more acidic. This will in time cause a massive die-off of marine life, but that doesn’t seem to bother denialists

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2012 at 9:19 am

Evolution acts just like evolutionary algorithms

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Clive Davidson wrote a terrific account of what happens when you let programs evolve: Creatures from the Primordial Silicon (PDF). It seems peculiar at how the particularities of the chip were baked into the program so that it, in effect, worked only with this particular chipset—i.e., these chips. That’s the way I remember it, anyway. (UPDATE: I just tracked the article to its original source in New Scientist in 1997. Here it is.)

And now they are finding that spending too many days in freefall makes you go blind. It turns out that our eyesight evolved with gravity baked into the program. (Short version: In freefall, blood pressure in the head increases (no gravity), and the additional pressure puts stress on the optic nerve, leading to massive breakdown and blindness. So much for colonizing other planets. Glad to put paid to that romantic and completely unrealistic notion. I love science-fiction myself, but most of the really good stuff is impossible fantasies—but fun.) Details here at New Scientist.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2012 at 9:08 am

World’s best shed: Watershed, a writer’s studio

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Above is a view of the interior. But check out all the nifty features:

  • A small writing studio (just 100sf) in the Willamette Valley, Oregon that the owner calls her “Watershed.” The owner is a philosophy professor and a well-known nature writer. She commissioned the studio as a retreat for herself and for visiting writer friends. Her first request was for a roof that would let her hear rain falling.
  • The designer is the owner’s daughter. Erin Moore currently teaches design studios at the University of Arizona School of Architecture. She uses her own small firm, FLOAT, and her residency at MOCA Tucson to conduct small-scale projects that engage architecture with ecology.
  • The writing studio site is a small piece of land along the Marys River about 20 minutes from the owner’s home in town. The studio sits just uphill from riparian wetlands that are part of a project to restore hydrological and ecological function to the whole Marys River watershed.
  • The writing studio is designed to reveal the ecological complexity of the site to visitors and in this way it is successful: Small tunnels under the studio bring rare reptiles and amphibians into view through the floor-level window. The water collection basin that doubles as the front step draws in birds and deer. At midday, the silhouettes of these animals project from the water onto the interior ceiling. Windows on the west and north sides frame different bird habitats—the tops of fence row trees and the patch of sky at a hilltop updraft. The roof diaphragm amplifies rain sounds and the collection basin is a measure of past rainfall.
  • Two major intentions underlie careful design detailing: 1) . . .

Continue reading. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it?

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2012 at 8:35 am

Tabac and Apollo Mikron

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A Teutonic shave today. Tabac makes a marvellous lather, perfectly suited to inaugurate Spring (today being the vernal equinox). With the Frank Shave faded-butterscotch brush, I really enjoyed working the lather into my beard. I did note that the Frank Shave brush is a bit prickly. Todd Oppenheimer has wondered whether some of these badger brushes are gently trimmed, either to shape or to removed hooked ends (which are relatively rarely seen). The bit of prickliness I felt with the Frank is consistent with a little trimming, and indeed the hooked bristle brush I have is extremely soft at the tips. So these observations are consistent with the hypothesis. Not to look for a prickly hooked badger brush and/or a very soft unhooked brush…

Three passes of the Apollo Mikron holding a used Swedish Gillette blade, with a very smooth final result. That lather really was fine…

A splash of Tabac and I’m ready for Spring.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2012 at 8:27 am

Posted in Shaving

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