Archive for February, 2006

Sacred Cow Disease
9 February, 2006

linked to a CNN article about a long-term study of a low-fat diet that did not show the expected health benefits. In contrast to the study's authors I do not find this especially surprising. But the reason for studies such as this is to find the way things really work, not just the way we think things work.

What I do find surprising is that attitude evidenced by Dr. Manson, one of the study's authors. She says, “[the results] are somewhat disappointing. We would have liked this dietary intervention to have a major impact on health.” Manson appears to have gone seriously awry with her motivations. Science is not about validating her theory; science is about determining the facts. Science requires objective analysis of the results. Manson and her fellow researchers should not be disappointed that the data does not support their theory. Rather they should be excited that the data gives insight into the reality of the situation.

From the remainder of the article it seems that the researchers have already accepted a solution and are in search of facts to support it. The article offers weaseling from the researchers like claims that the women did not cut enough fat out of their diet and that the study did not account for different kinds of fat. If the theory is that A is correlated to B and the data shows little correlation, the data does not support the theory. Such claims by the researchers are like saying that if adding boogers to silicon wafers has little effect on their yield we should add even more boogers to see if that will have a better effect.

I think what has happened is that the researchers are true believers in the religion of Fat Is Evil. (Apparently not only the creationists let belief pollute their science.) The obsession with being lean seems to have led many, not just the researchers, to conclude that if fat in the body is evil, then so must be fat in the food. Instead of advocating healthy moderation, this religion demands abstinance. Of course a diet consisting solely of fried foods is unhealthy. But so is a diet consisting solely of uncooked fruits and vegetables.

Being healthy is much more than restricting the fat in our diets. Being healthy is about eating, moving, laughing, living, and loving well.

One Time at CAD Camp…
2 February, 2006

I did two years at Harvey Mudd, a place a lot like Real Genius. As a frosh, the dorm officers were all members of a group of friends with the exonym “The Bozos”. (Not because of size 16 maroon shoes but because of things like have a keg fridge in the closet.) A good-natured bunch of blokes, they had a somewhat, er, coarse sense of humor.

For example: Like most Mudders, they had their fair share of nerdiness, including D&D. One somewhat shorter fellow played a fighter in full plate mail. During one session, someone suggested that his character became aroused and somebody else commented that his erection hitting the plate mail sounded like a ping. Sure enough, his nickname thereafter was “Ping”.

No one had an explanation how another fellow acquired his nickname. Regardless, each and every one of them studiously referred to him only by the nickname, “Butt Sex”. (His attempts to quash this had no effect and probably exacerbated it.) This was amusing in casual conversation, but really shined when yelled across the dining hall, e.g., “Hey, Butt Sex needs more butter!”. But his nickname reached full fruition only during parties. Our man would be off in a corner, chatting up some lass, when one of his (naturally drunken) friends would spot him and bellow at the loudest possible volume “Butt Sex!”. Invariably his carefully crafted seduction would be scuttled, leading him to secret assignations with ladies of dubious provenance.

As I work my way through the back issues of Mac Hall, this strip reminded me of good ol' “Butt Sex”. Ah, good times!

127083
1 February, 2006

Last week I ran across this article. I have read Graham's work before and found it worthwhile so I printed a copy to read this weekend. So I was surprised to read the following in his discussion of avoiding prestigious occupations for which one has no talent:

… you have to like the actual work of novel-writing if you're going to be good at it; you have to like making up elaborate lies.

"Elaborate lies"? Stories are created to entertain; lies are created to defraud. There is a big difference between entertaining readers and defrauding readers. (Some authors notwithstanding.) Perhaps Graham liked the turn of phrase, “elaborate lies”, but it is both inaccurate and unfair.

But I ploughed ahead, trying to overlook the misstep. Some paragraphs later, though, I was startled to read the following:

… people would rather be English professors than work in ad agencies … but it is the existence of English majors, and therefore jobs teaching them, that calls into being all those thousands of dreary papers about gender and identity in the novels of Conrad. No one does that kind of thing for fun.

Point of fact, I know someone who finds discussing gender and identity fun. Regardless of that, I find the assertion that the people who pursue English as an occupation can not love what they do ridiculous. Such a position immediately fails the Laugh-Out-Loud Test and suggests that Graham has some unexplained antipathy toward the arts.

These two ludicrous points ruined the article for me and I suspect ruined my opinion of Graham.

126952
1 February, 2006

I publish the newsletter for the PTA at my eldest's school. This is my preferred form of volunteering because I'm a word nerd but mostly because I can help without dealing with the personalities involved. Case in point: the current president.

I have been doing the newsletter for a year and a half. During that time I have repeatedly sent out an email detailing the schedule for going to press. Specifically, submissions must be to me by the Friday before the Friday the parents will get the newsletter. One week, is that so hard? Yet she continues to try to submit things on Monday or Tuesday for publication that Friday. I continue to expect (apparently vainly) that she'll eventually learn.

But one thing that really irritates me is that she doesn't bother to pay attention. Every time she wants something in the newsletter, she sends it to my spouse. Even though I set up an email address specifically for the newsletter. Even though I publicized that email address. Even though everyone else in the PTA can remember that email address. She doesn't even send it to me at the wrong email address. She insists on sending it to my spouse. (grrr)