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Tuesday
Feb212012

The War on Salty Bread

Hide the kids in the closet! Bread's coming to get you!

A recent study finds that the greatest single contributor of salt-intake in the American diet comes from bread, not stuff like potato chips or margarita glass rims or sucking on decorative rocks.

Not that bread's all that salty per se – we just eat a lot of it. And is that a problem? Well of course! Because as we all know, salt is a heinous serial killer.

Right?

For example, the AP article just flatly states:

Salt is the main source of sodium for most people, and sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure, a major cause of heart disease and stroke.

No citation, no need to quote an authority. AP simply states that sodium increases risk of high blood pressure, as if that's an obvious, uncontested truth.

Except that it's not. The claim is false, as far as anyone knows. The AP article is an example of how bullshit myths are propagated and are hard to stamp out.

At least, there's NO REASON to think that sodium or salt cause high blood pressure.

The surprising fact is, despite a century of the medical establishment uncritically promoting the claim, THERE HAS NEVER BEEN ANY CREDIBLE EVIDENCE THAT SALT INCREASES HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE.

Does that surprise you? Would it surprise your doctor? Or the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg? He thinks his job is to rid New York of salt consumption by government fiat.

Isn’t the first thing someone who’s found to have high blood pressure is supposed to do is cut back on the salt?

An article in Scientific American addressed this last June. Some quotes:

Intersalt, a large study published in 1988, compared sodium intake with blood pressure in subjects from 52 international research centers and found no relationship between sodium intake and the prevalence of hypertension. In fact, the population that ate the most salt, about 14 grams a day, had a lower median blood pressure than the population that ate the least, about 7.2 grams a day.

So how did the salt myth get started in the first place?

In 1904 French doctors reported that six of their subjects who had high blood pressure—a known risk factor for heart disease—were salt fiends.

So there you go. The worldwide war on salt all began because of an observation of SIX GUYS IN FRANCE. By the laws of science and statistics, such a miniscule, anecdotal bit of information literally means nothing and has no value at all. It is not evidence of anything.

But nevertheless we’ll live with the lie.

Sunday
Jan222012

Lucid Diner o' the Week

Mama’s Daughter’s Diner – Irving, Texas.

 

Mama's Daughters' Diner! Just rolls off the tongue! They even keep their apostrophes straight, which is above average.

I actually got a posse of co-workers to accompany me on this trip. They've been complaining ever since.

 

So the theme here is, Mama's bitching at you about stuff. That's to make you feel at home. If you have that kind of Mama, I guess.

 


You can see this diner draws the creme de la creme of high society. Intellectuals, artists, hedge fund managers. My kinda place.

 

This is extremely healthy food. Or at least, you can't deny there are healthy substances INVOLVED here somewhere. Chicken fried steak, turnip greens, potato salad, and fried Okra.

Just to re-emphasize what a homey place this is.

Thursday
Oct062011

Thoughts on Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs died today. If you have an interest in the technology industry you can’t have ignored Steve Jobs. The story of Apple and Jobs is one of the most fascinating in the history of American business, and you could fill a small town public library with all the books that have been written about the man and the company he co-founded. Following are some thoughts and trivia that I can only excuse listing because I find them among the most compelling things that come to mind about this man’s history.

____________

Steve Jobs resigned from Apple in 1985 and returned in 1997, when Apple bought Jobs’s company NeXT. His new role upon his return was as a “consultant” to Apple CEO Gil Amelio, who was supposed to be a great turnaround artist (but wasn’t). Through the years of his exile from Apple, despite having co-founded the company, Jobs had retained only ONE token share of Apple stock.

Within a year of his return, the “consultant” Jobs deposed Gil Amelio and took control of the company to become CEO. He did this despite not being an employee, nor a board member, nor a major shareholder, and without needing to raise capital to finance a takeover. He simply convinced people he should, albeit reluctantly, be in charge: A bloodless coup.

Jobs became famous for co-founding Apple. But he became a billionaire by owning Pixar – which he’d bought from George Lucas in the 1980s as he was looking to divest his Apple fortune. Pixar went public in the 1990s, about the time “Toy Story” was released, making Jobs a multi-billionaire.

Jobs was the single largest shareholder of Disney (a result of Disney’s buying Pixar).

Steve Jobs was adopted. This seems to have driven a psychological obsession about family. The TV movie “Pirates of Silicon Valley” played on this theme, showing Bill Gates shrewdly manipulating Steve Jobs with talk of Microsoft and Apple being “family”, while Gates was quietly stealing the graphical operating system concept from Apple to create Windows.

When he became rich, Jobs launched a search for his biological parents. As a result he came to be reunited with his mother and came to know his sister.

Jobs’s biological sister, Mona Simpson, was an aspiring novelist who met Steve about the time she was releasing her first novel. She later wrote another novel clearly based on Steve Jobs. It was rather unflattering, portraying a pathological Silicon Valley entrepreneur. But apparently that never bothered Jobs too much – family was more important.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple and became CEO in 1997, he called himself Interim-CEO for three years, and insisted all along he was there only temporarily, to turn the company around. After all, he was simultaneously the CEO of Pixar, a separate company and major corporation in its own right. Finally about 2000 Apple announced it was dropping the word Interim.

Once a celebrity bachelor, in the 1990s Jobs got married and became a committed family man. His beautiful blonde future wife had gone to California to be an MBA student at Stanford, having told her friends her plan was to marry some Silicon Valley entrepreneur like Steve Jobs.

In the technology media, Jobs was famous for his “reality distortion field” – a phenomenon that involved him ignoring reality, lying, marketing, being stubborn, convincing and converting people, and finally somehow winning in the end.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, six months apart in age, will forever be entwined in the history of technology. Four years ago Jobs and Gates gave a joint interview at a tech conference called AllThingsD (see video highlights below) – one of the very few times the two had actually been together in public. As one of his final comments, Jobs made a very poignant remark about his relationship with Gates, quoting a Beatles song:

“You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.”

How true that proved to be.

Saturday
Oct012011

Legions of Ancestors

My last name is Furr, and according to genealogy-minded Furrs, my original colonial ancestor – actually named Heinrich Furrer – came over on a boat from Switzerland in the 1700s. And so on any given day if you ask me my ethnic heritage, I might say we came from Switzerland.

But that overlooks a curious fact that arises from arithmetic and powers of 2. Obviously my ancestry traces back to more than one man in the early 1700s – but how many do I trace back to? How many of my direct ancestors from the same generation co-existed in the early 1700s?

By "same generation" I mean, for example, my two parents were of a generation. And my four grandparents were from the preceding generation. Obviously it's not quite so clean and lockstep as I go back each generation – there must be some amount of age drift here and there. (E.g., President Grover Cleveland's grandson is still alive, and he's not even 60 years old yet!)

Among my grandparents I count, of course, four surnames. I can trace Furr back to Switzerland, but I can only guess from where the other three family names originated. England and Germany are candidates, but that’s just guessing. As is common enough, my forebears neglected to pass on the history. And it really blows my mind that that's even possible. I know where my parents came from – how does that info get lost among kids and grandkids? Yet it does.

Powers of 2

The fact that I have two parents and four grandparents makes for a pretty clear pattern: To look back in time and count how many direct ancestors you had in each generational cohort, you multiply by two. Starting with myself – 1 person – I multiply by two for each passage of, say, 30 years:

Me .... my parents .... my grandparents ... my great-grandparents, etc

1  X  2  X  2 X  2 ...

or,

Me = 1

Parents = 2

Grandparents = 4

Great Grandparents = 8

etc...

To make this more manageable we can use powers of two, where  20 = 1 and 21 = 2, etc.

The exponent that two is raised to represents how many generations back we go before me.  I'm at zero, so 20 = 1, one person. Me.

Go back one generation, or 30 years to get 21 = 2 ... my two parents.

For each generation back, each further 30 years back, we add one to the exponent.

Well my Furrer ancestor came across almost 300 years ago. So that's 10 generations back, using our average 30 years as a generation step.

How many direct ancestors total were there in Heinrich Furrer's generation some 300 years ago? The answer is  210 = 1,024!

More than one thousand ancestors! That's going back only 300 years. In colonial times, my ancestors include Furrer and his wife, plus more than 1,000 other people. When I say my ancestor was Heinrich Furrer, I'm only giving a VERY tiny part of the story.

I know nothing about the other 99.9% of my ancestors from Heinrich Furrer's generation.

Note: I'm sure in reality the number is less than 1,024, because cousins marrying cousins will screw up the math. So let's say 1,024 is the upper bound of how many direct ancestors I had from that time.

Nevertheless that's an astonishingly high potential number of ancestors who get no respect. My ethnic heritage? They can't ALL have been from a couple of European countries – Lord only knows where all my DNA comes from. Surely, I'm a map of the world, and most likely you are too.

Royal Blood?

Occasionally one hears of some celebrity who is found to have descended from some historic European king or queen. I say: big deal, we probably all are.

In fact, let's not stop at 10 generations. Let's go back to the very late middle ages, 600 years ago, the 1400s – 20 generations. 220= 1,048,576.

That's over 1 million people! (Minus inbreeding...)

If I had a million direct-lineage ancestors roaming around Europe in 1411, there's a good chance one of them was a king.

And, I hate to reduce this to an absurdity, but what about 30 generations ago? 900 years ago, the year 1111?

Well, 230 is a bit more than one billion. That's greater than the entire population of the world at that time. Everyone on earth back then must've been my direct ancestor! Or not – at this point that goes to show the effect of distant cousins coupling. I don't have the slightest idea how to account for that. But you get the point. A significant portion of the population of Europe and surely other continents too in the year 1111 were my direct ancestors.

Monday
Sep192011

Lucid and Pellucid: A Tutorial

I've noticed that people come to this blog looking for some explanation of the difference between the words lucid and pellucid. Because this blog is probably the only place in the English language containing the term "lucid pellucid", turns out I'm ranked pretty high on a Google search of those words.

Well wait no more my friends. I never intended this blog to become a guide to usage and diction, but I'll dust off my old Bachelor of Science in English diploma and explain it all right here: Lucid vs. Pellucid.