Later On

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

Archive for August 29th, 2012

Silicon Valley & Academe, Part Deux

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Lifehacker has an interesting related post.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2012 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Education, Technology

Calorie-restricted diet doesn’t prolong life in monkeys

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And given the closeness of the relationship, this suggests that calorie restriction won’t do much for humans, either. Report in NY Times by Gina Kolata:

For 25 years, the rhesus monkeys were kept semi-starved, lean and hungry. The males’ weights were so low they were the equivalent of a 6-foot-tall man who tipped the scales at just 120 to 133 pounds. The hope was that if the monkeys lived longer, healthier lives by eating a lot less, then maybe people, their evolutionary cousins, would too. Some scientists, anticipating such benefits, began severely restricting their own diets.

The results of this major, long-awaited study, which began in 1987, are finally in. But it did not bring the vindication calorie restriction enthusiasts had anticipated. It turns out the skinny monkeys did not live any longer than those kept at more normal weights. Some lab test results improved, but only in monkeys that were put on the diet when they were old. The causes of death — cancer, heart disease — were the same in both the underfed and the normally fed monkeys.

Lab test results showed lower levels of cholesterol and blood sugar in the male monkeys that started eating 30 percent fewer calories in old age, but not in the females. Males and females that were put on the diet when they were old had lower levels of triglycerides, which are linked to heart disease risk. Monkeys put on the diet when they were young or middle-aged did not get the same benefits, though they had less cancer. But the bottom line was that the monkeys that ate less did not live any longer than those that ate normally. Rafael de Cabo, lead author of the diet study, published online on Wednesday in the journal Nature, said he was surprised and disappointed that the underfed monkeys did not live longer. Like many other researchers on aging, he had expected an outcome similar to that of a 2009 study from the University of Wisconsin that concluded that caloric restriction did extend monkeys’ life spans.

But even that study had a question mark hanging over it. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2012 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Miso soup

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I’ve been using up my collection of South River miso by making miso soup in my 1-pint mug: some instant dashi, a big tablespoon of miso, some Eden Organics Wakame Flakes, and juice of a lemon or half a lemon: not authentic, but tasty. The Dandelion-Leek miso makes a tasty broth, as does the Garlic Red Pepper.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2012 at 10:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Wall Street Journal takes a look at shaving

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Interesting article, but incomplete and misleading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2012 at 9:48 am

Posted in Shaving

Eating wood

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I bought some English walnuts recently, and as I was enjoying them the other night, I realized that trees are made of wood of various types, but all wood: bark, heartwood, sapwood, trunk, branches, twigs—all wood. If a tree grows it, it’s wood. So the walnut I’m eating is just a special kind of wood: softer and tastier than most of the wood in the tree. And of course, very high in fat—in animal terms, I’m eating the tree’s fat cells, I suppose.

Not the way I usually think of walnuts.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2012 at 9:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Silicon Valley eyes Academe

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Interesting article in the Washington Monthly by Kevin Carey:

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon on Easter, and I’m standing on a wooden deck in the Corona Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, looking out toward Nob Hill. A man is cooking large slabs of meat on a gas grill as two dozen people mingle with glasses of bourbon and bottles of beer in the cool, damp breeze blowing in off the ocean. All of these people are would-be movers and shakers in American higher education—the historic, world-leading system that constitutes one of this country’s greatest economic assets—but not one of them is an academic. They’re all tech entrepreneurs. Or, as the local vernacular has it, hackers.

Some of them are the kinds of hackers a college dean could love: folks who have come up with ingenious but polite ways to make campus life work better. Standing over there by the case of Jim Beam, for instance, are the founders of OneSchool, a mobile app that helps students navigate college by offering campus maps, course schedules, phone directories, and the like in one interface. The founders are all computer science majors who dropped out of Penn State last semester. I ask the skinniest and geekiest among them how he joined the company. He was first recruited last spring, he says, when his National Merit Scholarship profile mentioned that he likes to design iPhone apps in his spare time. He’s nineteen years old.

But many of the people here are engaged in business pursuits far more revolutionary in their intentions. That preppy-looking guy near the barbecue? He’s launching a company called Degreed, which aims to upend the traditional monopoly that colleges and universities hold over the minting of professional credentials; he wants to use publicly available data like academic rank and grade inflation to standardize the comparative value of different college degrees, then allow people to add information about what they’ve learned outside of college to their baseline degree “score.” It’s the kind of idea that could end up fizzling out before anyone’s really heard of it, or could, just maybe, have huge consequences for the market in credentials. And that woman standing by the tree? She’s the recent graduate of Columbia University who works for a company called Kno, which is aiming to upset the $8 billion textbook industry with cheaper, better, electronic textbooks delivered through tablet computers. And then there’s the guy standing to her right wearing a black fleece zip-up jacket: five days ago, he announced the creation of the Minerva Project, the “first new elite American university in over a century.”

Last August, Marc Andreessen, the man whose Netscape Web browser ignited the original dot-com boom and who is now one of Silicon Valley’s most influential venture capitalists, wrote a much-discussed op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. His argument was that “software is eating the world.” At a time of low start-up costs and broadly distributed Internet access that allows for massive economies of scale, software has reached a tipping point that will allow it to disrupt industry after industry, in a dynamic epitomized by the recent collapse of Borders under the giant foot of Amazon. And the next industries up for wholesale transformation by software, Andreessen wrote, are health care and education. That, at least, is where he’s aiming his venture money. And where Andreessen goes, others follow. According to the National Venture Capital Association, investment in education technology companies increased from less than $100 million in 2007 to nearly $400 million last year. For the huge generator of innovation, technology, and wealth that is Silicon Valley, higher education is a particularly fat target right now.

This hype has happened before, of course. Back in the 1990s, when Andreessen made his first millions, many people confidently predicted that the Internet would render brick-and-mortar universities obsolete. It hasn’t happened yet, in part because colleges are a lot more complicated than retail bookstores. Higher education is a publicly subsidized, heavily regulated, culturally entrenched sector that has stubbornly resisted digital rationalization. But the defenders of the ivy-covered walls have never been more nervous about the Internet threat. In June, a panicked board of directors at the University of Virginia fired (and, after widespread outcry, rehired) their president, in part because they worried she was too slow to move Thomas Jefferson’s university into the digital world.

The ongoing carnage in the newspaper industry provides an object lesson of what can happen when a long-established, information-focused industry’s business model is challenged by low-price competitors online. The disruptive power of information technology may be our best hope for curing the chronic college cost disease that is driving a growing number of students into ruinous debt or out of higher education altogether. It may also be an existential threat to institutions that have long played a crucial role in American life. . .

Continue reading. It’s a fairly long article.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2012 at 7:57 am

Organic farming is where we’re going

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Climate change—and water shortages—will force it—and vegetarianism—on us. Two columns from this morning:

Mark Bittman discusses how one investor sees the future of farming:

It’s unlikely that large-scale changes in the so-called food system will happen without movement on the part of big investors. Sadly, most of these — like the corporations they support — take short-term, profit-maximizing views. (This, along with enthusiastic dabblers, is the basic reason we have bubbles.) But there are unconventional exceptions. Jeremy Grantham, the chief investment strategist for the unfortunately named G.M.O. (it stands for Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. LLC, and he is a company co-founder), is one of those.

Grantham, widely known in the investment community as a supercontrarian, came to my attention last month when I stumbled across an article he wrote in his firm’s quarterly newsletter entitled “Welcome to Dystopia! Entering a Long-Term and Politically Dangerous Food Crisis.” Next to this unexpected headline was a photo of (forgive the stereotype) an expectedly conventional-looking investment banker. Below it, however, were two quotes: one from Bob Marley (“Them belly full but we hungry . . .”) and one fromKenneth Boulding: “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” My attention was caught.

Grantham has made offbeat predictions before, and he’s been right. In 2007, referring to remarks by the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, about the subprime crisis being contained, he said, “If it’s contained, the container in this case is likely to be Pandora’s.” Since then, he’s been sounding the alarm on the finite nature of resources, an undeniable state of affairs that is largely ignored by economists. And he’s concluded that the most compelling issue isn’t energy (technology will take care of that, he believes, making renewables less expensive while oil prices rise) or even metals, but food.

Grantham’s article succinctly puts economic teeth into the argument that all advocates of truly sustainable food make almost constantly: We are going to be eating sustainable, more-or-less organic and mostly regional food within a couple of generations, and the big question is whether we get to that place willingly (it might be too late for that, but one can hope) or whether we go through a dystopic convulsion first.

Citing falling grain productivity, rising resource prices (and, of course, dwindling resources; they are finite after all), snowballingwater problems, declining returns from the use of chemical fertilizers, increasing energy costs, a lack of will, investment theory that is “ill-informed, manipulated, full of inertia, and corruptible,” and a newly unfavorable climate, Grantham concludes that we are “about five years into a chronic global food crisis that is unlikely to fade for many decades.” . . .

Continue reading.

And Tom Philpott of Mother Jones makes a similar prediction:

Every year, Americans eat 200 pounds of meat each—equal to a little more than two Mcdonald’s Quarter Pounders, per person, per day. That’s about twice the global average; but now the rest of the globe (led by China) is catching up fast.

Except, by 2050, it’s highly unlikely that Americans will be able to maintain anything close to current levels of carnivory, or that people in China, India, and other developing nations will be able to enjoy current US-style diets. There are a number of ways to reach this conclusion—for example, meat production is a massive generator of climate-changing gases—but here’s one that seems pretty fundamental: There just isn’t enough water.

In a new report—which makes bracing reading in this season of widespread drought, severe crop losses, and high food prices—the Stockholm International Water Institute does the math (hat tip to Grist’s Philip Bump):

The analysis showed that there will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected population in 2050 if we follow current  trends and changes towards diets common in Western nations.

The researchers found that industrialized nations currently get on average 20 percent of calories from animal protein (meat plus other products like milk and eggs). To produce the grain necessary to maintain that level and take it worldwide by 2050, farmers would need more usable water than the planet is capable of providing.

What level would work, according to the researchers? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2012 at 7:43 am

Mühle silverfibre, Otoko, and the ARC Weber

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Exceptionally smooth shave today. The Mühle silverfibre synthetic really is a nice brush, and this morning I noticed in particular that Otoko, in addition to its interesting formulation and kindness to the skin, really makes a superb rich lather. This is a top-flight shaving soap.

The ARC Weber with an Astra Keramik Platinum blade did its usual wonderfully comfortable, smooth-cutting and efficient job. This is really a great razor (for me, at least).

A splash of TOBS No. 74—most of the aftershaves are now packed—and I’m ready for more packing. I feel as though I’m floundering, but I’m trying to flounder in the direction of progress.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2012 at 7:28 am

Posted in Shaving

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