Showing posts from 2012

This is how I lose weight

This is how I lose (and maintain) weight. Advantages: If you stick to it, it works. Reliably. Spreadsheet tells me when I can eat, how much I can eat, and how much protein I should get in the near future. It helps me follow a nutrition plan where I eat 20 or more grams of protein in every 3 hour window, and 130-160 grams of protein every day. This means I actually lose fat, instead of muscle, and keep most of my muscle mass. Disadvantages: Requires an aptitude for numbers. Requires food with nutritional information, and/or constant look-ups on a site like . Requires weighing most items you consume, i.e. all items where the nutritional information is not framed for a practical, reliable serving. For meals consisting of multiple ingredients, requires a cook willing to weigh every single ingredient, as well as the end result. Some exercise is still necessary. You don't get any protein while you sleep. Muscle will atrophy if unused. I've been us

AA sells impossible connection, blames gov't, declines responsibility

So I needed to go to St. Kitts, and purchased a return ticket on American Airlines from Costa Rica to St. Kitts, via Miami. It turned out the return connection didn't have enough time to make it through immigration in Miami. I was not unusually held up in any way - I even ran from the airplane to immigration. It's just that the lines this time of year are so long, by the time I was through, I missed the connection to Costa Rica. The surprising part is, American Airlines declined responsibility. "We have no control over immigration," they said. Yes, but you put millions of passengers through Miami every year. You know how long the lines are. Why do you sell tickets for connections which you know a person can't possibly make? "We won't pay for your hotel if you were delayed at immigration," they said. But I wasn't delayed - not compared to any other passenger. I just went through the normal process. "The connection time is legal, y

People will lie for no reason

People will lie for no reason, and keep it up for years : The overall percentage of people who are driven to keep up a lie for no reason is probably small. But sadly, this needs to be considered every time we hear an anecdote. "What possible motivation could they have to lie about it?", I would ask myself, when I would hear an incredible story. Well, there you go. No motivation needed.

Condominium for sale in Frigate Bay, St. Kitts

St. Kitts is a small, green, sunny island in the Caribbean. It's part of a two-island federation, St. Kitts and Nevis, located about an hour's flight east of Puerto Rico. The islands are an independent nation, part of the Eastern Caribbean Community, and part of the British Commonwealth. We moved to St. Kitts in May 2007; we are originally from Slovenia. Living on the island has had its benefits and shortcomings. For my part, the shortcomings were largely outweighed by the warm, all-year-round sunny weather. I just love that about living on the island. My wife, however, prefers more of a city environment. After 5+ years on St. Kitts, we are looking to make a new home in Costa Rica, and to sell our condominium in St. Kitts. Price SOLD! I'm looking for something in the range of USD 525,000 . That's about $150k less than what it cost me 5 years ago, even before inflation, and less than its recent appraiser's valuation, which is $595 - $640k. The reason I'm

The libertarian dream

To people like me, libertarianism is an attractive ideal. This is, to people who are self-motivated, who value reason, and who just want to live life without being bothered, and without bothering anyone else. This leads to a conviction that we need minimal government, that most everything possible needs to be private, and then it will be easy for everyone to take care of themselves. The unfortunate thing about this ideal is that it assumes a world where everyone is like the libertarian. If we, indeed, had a world consisting of rational, well-meaning, capable, self-motivated people, libertarianism would be ideal. But we do not. Instead, our world is chock full of people who fall short of this ideal, in ways that cause libertarianism to fail in practice. The instinctive reaction of libertarians is, why can't other people just become like that? Why can't they be capable, self-motivated, well-meaning, and rational? Why don't we just set up libertarian rules, and wait for pe

Letter to a friend

It took me a while. But, I finally came around to writing this letter to an acquaintance with significant economic power. Insignificant compared to the US President; but significant compared to mine. The thoughts in this letter are very general. The questions could be addressed to any person of his class. So, I see no harm in publishing it. I'm interested in what people of power think of these questions.   [Dear powerful/influential friend:] I'm wondering about your thoughts on life extension, artificial intelligence, human-machine integration, and the future of the human species (assuming there's going to be any). I don't generally have this kind of conversation with people of your generation, largely because they seem to not be interested in this topic. Most people appear to assume that the way things have been for ourselves, our fathers and grandfathers are how things are going to continue, even in the face of compelling evidence that this is unlikely to be

There must always be... a Lich King

After having contemplated religion for a couple decades, I've come to a tentative conclusion about religion and the state. This conclusion may sound surprising. I'll put it like this: I'm atheist. I think the overall effects of faith are harmful. Separation of church and state makes the problem worse. This is not to say I want religion to run countries. Not at all. Quite the opposite. In order to control irrational and fundamentalist tendencies, countries have to run their religions. Consider the following graphic: Out of 11 countries in this graphic where support for evolution is over 75%, the following have, or have until recently had, a state religion : Country Church Official Until Iceland Lutheran Evangelical Church continuing Denmark Church of Denmark (Lutheran) continuing Sweden Church of Sweden (Lutheran) 2000 England Church of England (Anglican) continuing Norway Church of Norway (Lutheran) 2012 One could possibly also count the following a

7.6 earthquake in Costa Rica

Damn this earthquake! My shower gel fell off the windowsill. Fortunately, my shampoo was unaffected. Seriously, though - our building shook a lot. It was pretty scary. We're grateful to the scientists, engineers and construction crews whose work allowed us to survive this with (so far) no visible damage. If we lived in Haiti, we would not have been so fortunate. Thank you.

Monogamy and polyamory in our culture

I know people who are innately polyamorous, and people who are innately monogamous. The innately polyamorous people don't feel like they can be restricted to one partner, but they don't feel the need to restrict their partners either. The innately monogamous people can't imagine their partner being with others, but they don't feel the slightest desire to be with others, either. I believe, however, that many people - perhaps most - are neither the former or the latter, but are, instead, born hypocrites . We would like to screw around, but we don't want the same freedom for our partner. Our education, therefore, needs to consist either of: (A) reinforcing the idea that we shouldn't screw around because we don't want our partner to do so - therefore, monogamy; or, (B) reinforcing the idea that, since we want to screw around, our partner should be able to, as well - therefore, polyamory. The thing is that neither approach works best for all peo

Study finds fluoride in water is neurotoxic, lowers IQ

Alarming and very important news. Apparently, fluoride in water is neurotoxic, and lowers IQ. Children, unborn children, and heavy water drinkers may be among the most affected. Other studies have previously found that IQs of breastfed babies are 10 points higher on average than IQs of newborns fed formula milk. Could neurotoxicity of fluoride in tap water, mixed with formula, be another factor in that? Harvard Study Finds Fluoride Lowers IQ [...] After reviewing fluoride toxicological data, the NRC reported in 2006, "It's apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain." Choi's team writes, "Fluoride readily crosses the placenta. Fluoride exposure to the developing brain, which is much more susceptible to injury caused by toxicants than is the mature brain, may possibly lead to damage of a permanent nature." Fluoride accumulates in the body. Even low doses are harmful to babies, the thyroid, kidney patients a

Surrogacy should be more common

Consider this. Pregnancy and childbirth involves unavoidable and irreversible aesthetic damage to the mother's body. Some people argue this is not "damage", but "change", and that it's "natural", and therefore ought to be appreciated. I believe there's nothing about "natural" that necessarily implies "desirable", and that these changes to the mother's body are about as equally desirable as disease and death. In addition, childbirth involves a good chance of functional damage : Fifteen percent of women become incontinent, to some degree, of stool or urine after normal delivery, this number rising considerably after these women reach menopause. Vaginal birth injury is a necessary, but not sufficient, cause of all non hysterectomy related prolapse in later life. You can avoid functional damage by opting for a Caesarean Section, and you can mitigate some of the aesthetic impact through plastic surgery. But this i

The doghouse: Cabletica

If you find yourself in Costa Rica, looking for a home internet provider - pick ICE. I signed up for internet with both ICE (the phone company) and Cabletica (cable), because I want a backup connection in case the primary is down. The ICE technician arrived the next day, installed the phone line, installed the modem, and everything worked. But Cabletica... oh boy. The Cabletica technician first came around a few days after ICE (the companies were contacted at the same time). When Cabletica first came around, there wasn't a computer or a TV in the apartment, so they said they can't install, because they have no way of testing the connection. Apparently, the company doesn't entrust their technicians with equipment they need to test. When Cabletica came around the second time, the technician messed with the phone cables for no reason, disabling our ICE connection temporarily. The modem had to be restarted twice to bring the ICE connection back online. The Cabletica t

Lessons from games

I recently exchanged thoughts about World War II with a pacifist - someone who believes the deaths from the atomic bombs could have been avoided through negotiation. (Typical of people with nebulous idealism, he also said that everyone with a different opinion is a monster, and should never have public office.) At this point, I realized an important lesson I learned in player vs. player games. Someone who has won and lost many matches against other players knows that, in war, every hesitation is an advantage to the opponent, means more losses for your side, and a smaller chance of victory. You can afford to be infinitely patient only if you are infinitely strong. When the stakes are high and your advantage marginal, you must act decisively. Hesitation is commitment to failure, and is very hard to recover from. The penalty is death.

Well put.

This is all that needs to be said.

"You can never repay all the interest"

The upside of commenting on Reddit is that, every once in a while, you get an insightful reply. A common complaint about our monetary and banking systems is that "you can never repay all the interest". The argument goes like this. Suppose you have a barter society, and someone - representing a central bank - introduces money. But he doesn't just give people money; instead, he loans it. He loans a total of 100 pieces to everyone, at 5% annual interest. The community starts using money to trade, it's convenient, and everyone is happy. But then, after a year, the money issuer comes back, and asks everyone to repay him the money. The total amount due is 105 pieces, but there's only 100 pieces to go around. Someone won't be able to repay. The system forces someone to go bankrupt! Except, not. The system doesn't force everyone to return all the money all at once, and the same money can be used over and over again to repay debts and interest. Here's

Extinction risk: Mad scientists

I came across this captivating article about a teenager who attempted to build a nuclear breeder reactor in the vicinity of Detroit. The most fascinating part of the story is how far he got, with very few resources other than ingenuity, determination, and a complete disregard for safety. As technology progresses, this is our major extinction risk. In the 1990s, this kid was able to obtain dangerous quantities of radioactive materials by laboriously extracting small amounts from readily available equipment. In several more decades, some similarly ingenious, short-sighted kid is going to synthesize a virus that ends up killing most humans. Not because he intends that result, but in a blind attempt to do good, or to compensate for social maladjustment by showing off his prowess. Our Earth is a single system where everything is interrelated. A monkey could destroy the planet if she knew what actions to take, and what order to perform them in. Increasingly, our knowledge is bringin

If you're ever in Vegas, looking for entertainment...

... think at least twice before you see the Blue Man Group. I hereby submit some of the worst money I've ever spent on entertainment: First of all, this show is expensive. It's going to cost you $75 per person for an obstructed view . That's sort of in line with other shows in Vegas, perhaps a bit pricier. But that brings me to my second point: It's not comparable to other shows in Vegas. You're going to have a better time going to a movie theater. You don't even have to check what movie is playing. If you're in Vegas, just buy tickets to any movie playing at Rave Motion Pictures Town Square, and you're going to have a better time. Guaranteed. Unless the movie is Jack & Jill. And perhaps even then, maybe. If you don't feel compelled to see Blue Man Group: You could use the same money to see ten movies with your mate. You could have a more than delicious dinner for two at Sushi Samba. You could take your significant other to Spear

Economic woes of the US middle and low classes

My previous post was about religion and its scary effects on a powerful democracy such as the US. However, I started the post by saying good things about the US economic system. This attracted some comments, pointing out the growing income inequality in the US, the unemployment and the lack of income growth for middle and low classes. I'm not decided on whether that trend is as grim as commonly assumed. For the time being, I think it's plausible to say that employee wages aren't growing, because employees have to compete with products and services provided by developing countries. That's harsh on US employees because they live in a first world country with first world costs, but they have to compete with third world workers who live on third world costs. From a global perspective, someone who earns a minimum wage of $7.50 per hour, or whatever it is, is still vastly overpaid compared to a Chinese guy earning a few dollars a day. The only competitive advantage of th

Yes, we are afraid

Let me tell you a few facts, some of them scary. The United States is the world's largest economy according to nominal GDP. It's the world's largest democracy, and by far, the world's largest military force. It is capable of destroying the world many times over, but it thinks of itself as the world's protector; a beacon of prosperity, democracy, and liberty. To a large extent, the US is those things. US citizens are prosperous, not because the country would sit on an abundance of natural resources, sell them to the rest of the world, and do nothing else; but because the country employs an economic system its participants can depend upon - a system that emphasizes honesty, consistency, dependability, and responsibility. As opposed to many places, the US system creates an environment where risk-taking is possible, and rewarded generously. The result has been a prosperous economy that makes even poor US people richer than middle-income people in many countries.

WoW: Solving the Blizzard raid frame problem

If you play World of Warcraft as a healer, and you use the default Blizzard raid frames that were introduced in Cataclysm, you may have experienced a common problem where the raid frames become corrupted. This problem manifests in the following ways: whenever a person enters or leaves the raid or battleground; or when anything else happens that would cause the frames to rearrange; some or all of the frames stop functioning correctly. The names on frames no longer properly correspond to the players these frames target. A single player's name may appear on multiple frames, but only one of those frames actually targets the right person. The reason this problem occurs is because of an unfortunate and subtle interaction between Blizzard raid frames and third-party add-ons. The default raid frames expect to execute with privileges that WoW reserves only for trusted, Blizzard-provided UI code. When the frames work correctly, the buttons that correspond to individual players will adjus

The fallacy of cheap foreign aid

I watched the video to Sarah McLachlan's World on Fire - a nice, likeable song. The video makes claims such as the following: "$150,000 could make a difference to over 1,000,000 people" "$200 [pays for a] Production Assistant in LA for 1 day, or 100 children's school fees for 1 term in Ethiopia" "$10,200 = 2 hours of film stock, or 6 wells built in 6 different countries" I will trust Sarah McLachlan that these claims are technically correct - "the best kind of correct". The problem with these statements is that they stop being correct when applied at a meaningful scale. I would hazard a guess that a well would cost a lot more than $1,700 to build, if you build it in the US. In the US, $2 is obviously not enough to pay for a child's school fees for one term, regardless of how poor the quality. The reason these costs are "lower" in places like Ethiopia is not because it takes less work to do them. In fact, buildin

On feminism

I recently observed the following conversation: Muslim Female: I have nothing whatsoever against gays, but I do despise feminists. Other Person: So you believe that women are inherently inferior to men? That's a fascinating thing for me to try to understand; that people would willingly regard themselves as inferior. I just can't comprehend that attitude. Of course she didn't think women are inferior to men, and she explained so. However, one way of looking at it is that males and females are biologically different. Women menstruate and carry children; men do not. There are consequences that arise from these small biological differences. For example, some households may prefer for one parent to stay at home. Given the biology, it may be more convenient for that person to be female. In today's western societies, both men and women are expected to work full time jobs. Unfortunately, this leaves families scarcely better off today, than they were in the 1950s. When

UPS Delivery Fail

I live in St. Kitts, in the Caribbean. I usually prefer to send and receive packages using FedEx, because I've never seen them fail. A month ago, I ordered a package which was sent by UPS. The package's due day arrives. I check its status using online tracking: it says they attempted delivery, but no one was present. We were, in fact, at home. We live in a condo building with the number clearly marked. The address was correct on the package. No one knocked, at all. So I jump into my car and head to the local UPS office. I find the delivery guy right there with my package. He says he didn't deliver because the shipper didn't put my phone number on the package, and he found our building complex "too confusing". Our building complex isn't confusing. FedEx has no problem finding our condo, and always knocks on our door. The guy just didn't feel like putting in the effort to find our condo, at all.