Later On

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

Archive for July 30th, 2012

Mark Bittman continues to weigh in on dairy

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It certainly seems easy to experiment: give up all dairy products for a month and see what happens. Apparently for some, what happens is quite good and surprising. Bittman writes in the NY Times:

Not surprisingly, experiences like mine with dairy, outlined in my column of two weeks ago, are more common than unusual, at least according to the roughly 1,300 comments and e-mails we received since then. In them, people outlined their experiences with dairy and health problems as varied as heartburn, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, eczema, acne, hives, asthma (“When I gave up dairy, my asthma went away completely”), gall bladder issues, body aches, ear infections, colic, “seasonal allergies,” rhinitis, chronic sinus infections and more. (One writer mentioned an absence of canker sores after cutting dairy; I realized I hadn’t had a canker sore — which I’ve gotten an average of once a month my whole life — in four months. Something else to think about.)

Although lactose intolerance and its generalized digestive tract problems are well documented, and milk allergies are thought to affect perhaps 1 percent of the American population, the links between milk (or dairy) and such a broad range of ailments has not been well studied, at least by the medical establishment.

Yet if you speak with people who’ve had these kinds of reactive problems, it would appear that the medical establishment is among the last places you’d want to turn for advice. Nearly everyone who complained of heartburn, for example, later resolved by eliminating dairy, had a story of a doctor (usually a gastroenterologist) prescribing a proton pump inhibitor, or P.P.I., a drug (among the most prescribed in the United States) that blocks the production of acid in the stomach.

But — like statins — P.P.I.s don’t address underlying problems, nor are they “cures.” They address only the symptom, not its cause, and they are only effective while the user takes them. Thus in the last few days I’ve read scores of stories like mine, some of which told of involuntary or incidental withdrawal of dairy from the diet — a trip to China (where milk remains less common), or a vacation with non-milk-drinking friends or family — when symptoms disappeared, followed by their return upon resumption of a “normal” diet.

Others abandoned dairy for animal cruelty reasons, or a move towards veganism, and found, as one reader wrote, “My chronic lifelong nasal congestion vanished within a week, never to return.” Still others (I’m happy to report) read my piece and, like one writer, “immediately gave up dairy … and quit taking my medications.  After nine days … I have had no heartburn, despite the fact that I have eaten many foods that would normally bring it on…. It feels like a miracle.”

There is anger as well as surprise, because . . .

Continue reading. I actually haven’t had milk in a long time, though I do have yogurt and a pat of butter each morning with an egg. But no milk.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2012 at 8:26 pm

Posted in Food, Health

Special report in the New Scientist on Inequality

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Quite fascinating series of articles—for example, the evolutionary heritage of humanity has been egalitarian societies: the hunter-gatherer humans were highly egalitarian because of the chanciness of their food supply: anyone could come back empty-handed, so sharing was the (socially enforced) norm—the way to survive. But with the introduction of agriculture and surpluses there arose a manager class, and inequality became the rule. The interesting thing is that inequality results in instability, so that societies with high inequality quickly spread, looking for additional resources, pushed by internal conflicts (and competition), etc., and ended up wiping out egalitarian societies.

At any rate, a fascinating collection of articles looking at inequality from various points of view—for example, societies with high inequality are better for the environment.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2012 at 8:16 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Interesting food notes

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I don’t know how much credence to give this, but it is interesting and certainly fits with my own eating preferences (as you know from my grub recipes):

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2012 at 6:59 pm

Best healthcare system in the world?

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Jessica Silver-Greenberg reports in the NY Times:

Accretive Health, one of the nation’s largest collectors of medical debt, has agreed to pay $2.5 million to the Minnesota state attorney general’s office to settle accusations that it violated a federal law requiring hospitals to provide emergency care, even if patients cannot afford to pay.

The company has not admitted wrongdoing. [Of course not: they never do. IMO the attorney general should insist on that as a condition of settlement, since it will ease the lawsuits against the company. In additional, I would say the wrongdoing is evident if not flagrant. – LG]

As part of Monday’s settlement, Accretive Health is also barred from contracting with hospitals within the state for at least two years, effectively ending its business at three Minnesota hospitals. For four years after that, the company will have to obtain permission from the attorney general before resuming business in the state.

In April, Lori Swanson, the Minnesota attorney general, disclosed hundreds of Accretive’s internal documents that outlined aggressive collection tactics, including embedding debt collectors in emergency rooms and pressuring patients to pay before receiving treatment.

Carol Wall, a 53-year-old Minnesota resident, said “a woman with a computer cart” told her she owed $300 as she was “vaginally hemorrhaging large amounts of blood” at an Accretive-run emergency room in January, according to court records.

Another patient, Terry Mackel, 50, said he was asked to pay $363.55 at another Accretive-operated emergency room in Minnesota as he waited “alone, groggy and hooked up to an IV” waiting to see an emergency room doctor, according to court documents. Fearing that it was the only way to see a doctor, both patients paid.

Accretive Health declined to comment about Ms. Wall and Mr. Mackel. “The conduct described by these patients is directly contrary to Accretive Health’s policies, practices and training,” Accretive said in a statement.

In an interview Monday, Ms. Swanson said . . .

Continue reading. A lot of people say that hospitals should be run like a business. This is what you get when you do: a focus on profit above all.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2012 at 6:12 pm

Wow! Jonah Lehrer resigns from New Yorker, admits to fabricating quotations

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This report took me totally by surprise. I’ve really liked Lehrer’s writing: a very bright guy who seemed to be moving rapidly up in the world of writing. It looks as though he cut some crucial corners on the way. Julie Bosman reports in the NY Times:

Jonah Lehrer, the staff writer for The New Yorker who apologized in June for recycling his previous work in articles, blogs and his best-selling book “Imagine,” resigned from the magazine, he said in a statement.

Mr. Lehrer faced new questions about his work on Monday in an article in the online magazine Tablet that reported that he had admitted to fabricating quotes attributed to Bob Dylan in “Imagine,” a nonfiction book published in March by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“Three weeks ago, I received an email from journalist Michael Moynihan asking about Bob Dylan quotes in my book ‘Imagine,’ ” Mr. Lehrer said in a statement. “The quotes in question either did not exist, were unintentional misquotations, or represented improper combinations of previously existing quotes. But I told Mr. Moynihan that they were from archival interview footage provided to me by Dylan’s representatives. This was a lie spoken in a moment of panic. When Mr. Moynihan followed up, I continued to lie, and say things I should not have said.”

“The lies are over now. I understand the gravity of my position. I want to apologize to everyone I have let down, especially my editors and readers. I also owe a sincere apology to Mr. Moynihan. I will do my best to correct the record and ensure that my misquotations and mistakes are fixed. I have resigned my position as staff writer at The New Yorker.” . . .

Continue reading. This seems terribly sad. It strikes me as different, somehow, from Stephen Glass‘s serial fabrications at The New Republic or Jayson Blair‘s at the NY Times, or Janet Cooke‘s in the Washington Post (which won a Pultizer prize). Not to excuse or condone Lehrer’s bad choice, but it doesn’t seem like the sort of wholesale fabrication committed by the others. But he did it, and I think his life will now change dramatically.

Oddly, I was just about to blog a link to this Lifehacker post on making mistakes in the Internet age—when the record of the mistake seems to live on. Since we all do make mistakes—perhaps not so grave as those listed above, but mistakes nonetheless—the article is worth a look. And the point is well taken that mistakes are how we learn. As I once said to someone, “If you’re batting 1.000, you’re playing in the wrong league.” A record of perfection is not a good sign, overall. Growth involves mistakes.

UPDATE: Roxane Gay has an interesting take at Salon.com on the Jonah Lehrer incident, with a focus on the system that produced and promoted him and that (she believes) will protect and reinstate him. We’ll see, but in the meantime her column is worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2012 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

Dean Baker upbraids Bill Keller

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Dean Baker is a respected economist, Bill Keller is the former NY Times editor who was a cheerleader for the war in Iraq and who withheld the story of the wholesale illegal domestic surveillance ordered by the Bush Administration until after the election, thus helping to enable Bush to squeak into office for a second term. (The Supreme Court must be credited with an assist as well, but if the story had been released, several close states may have gone the other way; Bill Keller apparently did not want that to happen, so he sat on the story until another paper was about to break it (after the election was safely over).)

At any rate, Keller weighs in with a column today about how important it is to cut Social Security and Medicare—and I imagine the fact that he doesn’t need either plays a significant part in his opinion. And so does Dean Baker, who writes:

The effort by the rich to take away Social Security keeps building momentum. Today Bill Keller urges his fellow baby boomers:

“FELLOW boomers, we have done more than our share to make this mess. It’s not our fault that there are a lot of us, but we have resisted any move to fix the system. We should make a sensible reform of entitlements our generation’s cause. We should stiffen the spines of our politicians, and push lobby groups like A.A.R.P. to climb out of the bunker and lead.”

“Lead” in this context means supporting cuts to Social Security and Medicare. That is really brave for Mr. Keller to stand up and call for sacrifice from his age cohort. Does Keller know that the typical near retiree has total wealth of $170,000. This includes everything in their 401(k), all their other financial assets and the equity in their homes. Another way to put this is that the typical near retiree (between the ages of 55-64) could take all their wealth and pay off their mortgage. After that they would be entirely dependent on their Social Security to cover all their living costs.

Does this situation describe Mr. Keller’s finances? My guess is that it doesn’t. If that is true, how does Keller claim to speak for people who are in a hugely different financial situation than him? Is he really that ignorant of the issues that the NYT gives him a column to write about or is he dishonest? Readers will have to debate that in the months and years ahead.

This is not the only place in the piece where Keller lets ignorance and/or dishonesty get the better of him. At one point he calls for a change in the indexation formula for Social Security’s cost of living adjustment that would be the equivalent of a 3.0 percent across the board cut in benefits. (We know, got to do something about those high living seniors.)

Keller describes this 3.0 percent cut in Social Security benefits as:

“They also include technical fixes like aligning the automatic cost-of-living formula with reality.”

Is that right? Has Keller studied the cost-of-living for the elderly? Did he evaluate the Bureau of Labor Statistics elderly index, which generally shows that senior citizens experience a higher rate of inflation than the index used for making the annual cost of living adjustment for Social Security.

If he did, he shows zero evidence of this fact in his piece. It sure sounds like he is just repeating pablum that passed for wisdom in Washington elite circles, but rightly gets ridiculed everywhere else.

While Keller appeals to arithmetic it is not on his side. The arithmetic says that . . .

Continue reading. A good case can be made that Bill Keller is not very smart, but that doesn’t mean that he’s honest.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2012 at 11:53 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Weight note

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I haven’t talked about my weight loss efforts lately, and gave up the daily weight report as too up and down. But to step back: after hitting my goal of 170 lbs, I tried entering maintenance by eating some formerly forbidden foods and let it get out of hand somewhat. I find that it’s better for me to simply avoid some foods altogether. OTOH, I do now truly understand how to eat and how to lose weight, so when I hit 192.9 lbs on 10 May, I thought it was time to get to work. Nothing drastic, just resume eating sensibly, cut out all bites of food except at meals, make sure I didn’t miss any fruit snacks, and so on. The weight bounced up and down daily, but the trend was down. Still, although I still weigh daily, I decided no need to report daily.

But I think it’s time for a check-in. This morning’s weight is 177.5 lbs, and it’s been 81 days since 10 May, when I hit the recent high, or 11.6 weeks. I’ve lost 15.4 lbs in that time, or 1.33 lbs/week.

At the time I said one should figure on about 1 lb per week when the “diet” (in the sense of weight-loss foods” is really just a diet (in the sense of the foods you eat) of normal foods, prepared sensible and with sensible portions. I’m doing a little better than that, but still I would expect this last 7.5 lbs will not be gone until close to the end of September.

That’s why a 5-lb gain is a serious thing: you can expect it will take more than a month to lose it. I used to think adding 5 lbs was really nothing to get excited about, but now I think of those pounds in terms of the weeks they represent, and it seems like more. That makes it easier to still with sensible foods and right-sized portions.

I also understand better how to be patient as I lose weight: I know it’s going to go slowly, at about 1 lb/week, but I’m not going anywhere and in particular I’m not going to throw up my hands and say, “Enough! It’s not working!” and have a tremendous feast. I now know understand (in the sense of truly grasp) that doesn’t work. Previously I knew in an abstract way that it didn’t work, but my adaptive unconscious was not convinced. Now we’re on the same page.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2012 at 9:36 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Food, Health

NJ courts will recognize scientific findings regarding memory

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Many organizations that have developed procedures are resistant to changing those them even when evidence clearly shows that current procedures are badly flawed and better methods exist: the organizational culture has absorbed a way of doing things and clings to it.

New Jersey’s State Supreme Court has recognized scientific research and findings regarding human memory and has mandated a new approach. Mary Ann Spoto reports for the Star-Ledger:

New Jersey’s standards for eyewitness testimony in the courtroom is unreliable and can encourage police misconduct, the state Supreme Court said today in ordering a revision of investigative and court practices.

The unanimous ruling follows a recent report recommending tighter restrictions on eyewitness testimony and is likely to have far-reaching effects beyond New Jersey.

The decision tightens standards adopted by New Jersey after the U.S. Supreme Court 34 years ago announced the rules for allowing eyewitness testimony in the courtroom.

Since that time, however, “a vast body of scientific research about human memory has emerged,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote. “That body of work casts doubt on some commonly held views relating to memory.”

Noting most wrongful convictions in the United States are the result of misidentification, the court said judges should conduct pretrial hearings when there is a question about whether police suggestion influenced the outcome of an identification. The court also said jurors should be given greater instruction about how eyewitness testimony can be influenced.

Public Defender Joseph Krakora, who argued the case before the state Supreme Court, . . .

Continue reading. It’s highly gratifying to see a government organization accepting current knowledge and incorporating that into its procedures. This ruling will keep some innocent people from going to prison.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2012 at 7:51 am

Posted in Government, Law, Science

Termite suicide bombers

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Fascinating—but does not the same situation exist for bees, who lose their sting and die in the defense of the hive? Hayley Dunning reports at The Scientist:

Famed biologist E.O. Wilson wrote that while humans send their young men to war, ants send their old ladies. As workers age in insect societies, they play a larger role in nest defense, and new research on a termite species has revealed a link between aging termites and the accumulation of toxic substances on their backs—which they can burst in an act of self-sacrifice when the colony is threatened.

“I think it is a great discovery and a nice combination of behavioral, morphological, and molecular biology,” said Olav Rueppell, who studies social insects at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and was not involved in the study, by email. “It demonstrates the power of kin selection and social evolution to create novel adaptations.”

Inspecting individuals of Neocapritermes taracua termites, which feed on and live in decaying wood, Robert Hanus of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and colleagues noticed some workers had dark blue spots at the intersection of the thorax and abdomen. When faced with rivals of another termite species, these so-called “blue workers” actively bite their attackers until they are overpowered, at which point they burst their backs to expose the blue dots.

The blue dots, it turns out, are . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2012 at 7:43 am

Posted in Science

Apollo at Ginger’s Garden

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Fine shave once again, but the true pleasure’s in the process. Ginger’s Garden makes a very nice “shaving cream soap“, along with various other products for men, including shave sticks, aftershave splashes, glycerin-based shaving soap, and so on. The Almond Creme shaving cream soap I used today produced a good lather easily with the H.L. Thäter brush, and the Apollo Mikron with its Swedish Gillette blade did a fine three-pass shave. This is one of the razors that I had to learn—when I first started using it, I would get nicks more often than usual—but after a while, those problems vanished and now it’s another excellent shaver and a favorite: very heft, very solid, like a Progress on steroids.

Three smooth passes, then a dab of Al’s Shaving Palermo aftershave balm. I do like the fragrance—and the balm, for that matter—but it’s very thick and quite difficult to get out of the container. Perhaps mine has dried somewhat, or I just got a stiff batch. I did manage to get some out, though, and I enjoyed the effect.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2012 at 7:38 am

Posted in Shaving

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