Showing posts from July, 2008

Forget about cholesterol

Stuart Buck on Overcoming Bias posted this great article summarizing Gary Taubes's book, "Good Calories, Bad Calories". Gary Taubes appears to be making a strong case that diet-health research has developed a strong bias in the past few decades, which led to evidence being ignored that (1) cholesterol and high-fat diets might not in fact be as bad for us as we've been told, and (2) processed carbohydrates might in fact be much worse for us than we've been told. My suspicion is that these correlations might all boil down to abdominal fat. Abdominal fat is really bad for you - especially for men. The cells in abdominal fat convert testosterone to estrogen. Because the brain regulates testosterone production based on the amount of estrogen in blood, this causes testosterone production to lower, which further throws your hormone levels out of whack. The elevated estrogen then proceeds to cause all sorts of damage, increasing your risk of heart disease and cancer.

John Otto

Here's a fascinating character. According to Wikipedia: The [Colorado National Monument] area was first explored by John Otto, a drifter who settled in Grand Junction in the early 20th century. Prior to Otto's arrival, many area residents believed the canyons to be inaccessible to humans. Otto began building trails on the plateau and into the canyons. As word spread about his work, the Chamber of Commerce of Grand Junction sent a delegation to see what he was doing. The delegation returned praising both Otto's work and the scenic beauty of the wilderness area. The local newspaper began lobbying to make it a National Park. The area was established as Colorado National Monument on May 24, 1911. Otto was hired as the first park ranger, drawing a salary of $1 per month. For the next 16 years, he continued building and maintaining trails while living in a tent in the park. As well as: According to Horace Albright, "Otto was a marvelous guide and knew every inch of his monu

"Water scarcity"

Given current energy costs and up-to-date technology, what is the cost of desalinization of ocean water? US $0.75 per cubic meter. A nice 20-minute shower consumes about 150 liters , or about US $0.12 worth of desalinated water. Keep this in mind next time someone asks you to "be responsible" and "conserve water". However, it does take some 2.5 - 5 cubic meters of water, rain and all, to produce a quarter pound hamburger.

The People's Romance

Thanks to an anonymous poster on Overcoming Bias for linking to Daniel B. Klein's article The People's Romance - Why people love government (as much as they do) . It is an illuminating article. Excerpts (bold font not in original): Government creates common, effectively permanent institutions, such as the streets and roads, utility grids, the postal service, and the school system. In doing so, it determines and enforces the setting for an encompassing shared experience—or at least the myth of such experience. The business of politics creates an unfolding series of battles and dramas whose outcomes few can dismiss as unimportant. National and international news media invite citizens to envision themselves as part of an encompassing coordination of sentiments—whether the focal point is election-day results, the latest effort in the war on drugs, or emergency relief to hurricane victims— and encourage a corresponding regard for the state as a romantic force. I call the yearning

To die for one's country

Thanks to Robin Hanson for the link to this classic Onion : As a true patriot, I would gladly die in battle defending my homeland. I love my country more than my own life. But I would also be more than willing to give my last breath in the name of, say, Mexico, Panama, Japan, or the Czech Republic. The most honorable thing a man can do is lay down his life for his country. Or another country. The important thing is that it's a country. Happy independence day, everyone. Happy independence day.

What's wrong with the U.S. health care system?

The Freakonomics blog recently published a guest post about U.S. health care which proposes that America's "market economy approach to medicine has to change", and the way to fix the system is to have the federal government pay for everyone's health costs. Many commenters respond that the U.S. health care system isn't really a free market, and that this is part of the problem. I agree with those comments. The U.S. government distorts the system in various ways: by imposition: the government prescribes standards that may not necessarily make sense in every case; the government requires practitioners to provide treatment in some cases even if patients can't pay, transferring the cost to others; by prohibition: the government tells people what medicines and drugs they can and cannot take, and under what conditions; the government prohibits markets in organs; but most significantly, by distortion: when the government permits companies to pay for employees' h