Biography

RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Friday, January 16, 2015

On dieting

In response to an online argument about dieting. Like most of us, I've tried several kinds of weight-reduction diet. I also know enough about thermodynamics and intermediate metabolism to be able to think about diets intelligently. This is what my experience and education tell me.

(1) Dieting by calorie restriction alone works, but it's tough. You're hungry a lot of the time, and you need to maintain a fairly high level of exercise to keep your metabolic rate up.

(2) The Atkins diet, in practice, works better. The high levels of protein and fat keep you satiated. And, having tracked calories while on Atkins, in my experience it tends to be a calorie reduction diet as well. You just don't want to eat that much meat. It's not so hard to maintain an exercise regime, although I find retaining muscle mass isn't easy; weight training gets a lot tougher. And it's very effective. 5 - 10 pounds in the first week is typical, and it's not all water. You can get enough zero carb roughage with an intelligently constructed salad every couple of days.

I believe Atkins weight loss is due to two effects, both significant, but whose exact contributions I haven't tried to measure. One is the raw calorie reduction. The second is ketosis, which is how Atkins himself thought it worked. Basically, after a couple of days of extreme low carbohydrate intake, your body runs out of its glucose stores, and it has to make glucose by a process called gluconeogenesis. It can do that by using a small portion of a fat molecule, or from some amino acids, but both processes are inefficient, and the result is a lot of the rest of the fat gets converted to acetoacetic acid and eventually acetone, a ketone. Your body can use the 'ketone bodies' but you're producing a lot of them, so some of them get excreted, and with that you lose the calories you would have gotten from metabolizing them properly. So there's some extra weight reduction, but you don't excrete enough to account for all the weight reduction.

In practice, I find that a bit of attention to the calories, combined with Atkins, is still easy to maintain, and more effective than raw, eat-all-the-fat-and-protein-you-want Atkins.

(3) I think a low, but not zero carbohydrate diet is a good long term maintenance diet, particularly when you get older. Eating lots of carbs these days just gives me glucose swings, and my doctor assures me I'm not pre diabetic. And the carbs should come mostly in vegetables. South Beach, maybe, not Atkins.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The other medieval religion

Pope Francis, who increasingly looks like the biggest mistake the Catholic Church has made since, ooh, about 1600, yesterday said, in effect, 'you talka da trash about my mama, I breaka yo face'. The actual words were:
[I]f Dr. (Alberto) Gasbarri, a great friend, says a swear word against my mother, then he is going to get a punch
...and pooh to all the 'meek shall inherit' and 'turn the other cheek stuff'; he's a Catholic, and the Bible is merely a set of suggestions. This was all in the context of allowing that while those naughty boys in Paris shouldn't killed all those journalists, Charlie Hebdo pretty much had it coming.
The pope said freedom of expression was a “fundamental human right” like freedom of religion, but one that must be exercised “without giving offense.”
It goes without saying is a freedom to say only what doesn't offend is no freedom at all...not that the Catholic Church has ever had much time for freedom anyway. Let me don my classical liberal cap, and instruct the Holy Father. As Oliver Wendell Holmes put it:
[I]f there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought—not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate
Louis Brandeis (whom the Argentinian prelate probably would regard as one of the gang who killed Christ) put it far more eloquently:
To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.
In other words, the solution to speech you hate is not the violence Pope Francis recommends, it's contrary speech. This is what marks us (some of us) as civilzed 21st century human beings, not medieval savages.

Fortunately, for me, Catholicism was a disability I outgrew with puberty. But if I were Catholic, I'd be feverishly scanning Canon Law for the phrase "recall election". Because every time this guy opens his mouth, it seems, something stupid pops out.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The less you know...

A recent crime gives a lovely glimpse into news suppression policies at three local media outlets. First, our beloved Lincoln Journal Star.
Two men robbed a Belmont neighborhood convenience store at gunpoint Monday morning, police said. The pair went into a Kwik Shop at 14th and Adams streets just before 3 a.m. -- one had a handgun -- took the 24-year-old clerk to the back of the store and bound his wrists, Lincoln Police Officer Katie Flood said. Then they stole cash and cigarettes before running north, Flood said.
Armed robberies, unlike burglaries or murders, usually come with a suspect description. But the Lincoln Journal Star won't publish suspect descriptions, because, I suspect, they fear if you read 5 or 10 or 20 descriptions of Lincoln area armed robbery suspects, you might draw inferences about the typical profile of an armed robber in Lincoln.

Moving on to Channel 10/11 news...

The clerk told police that just before 3 a.m., two males wearing ski masks entered the store with a gun and demanded money. The suspects stole cash and cigarettes, then ran off. One is described as around 17 years old. The second suspect is described as being in his early 30's.
Now we know their sex, and their reported ages. Evidently this is information Channel 10/11 thinks you should be permitted to have, But is that a full description? Apparently not. Here's Channel 8 news.
Police say the men are described as two black males wearing ski masks. One is described as being in his thirties, about 5'10" and 160 pounds. The other is reported to be younger, about 5'6" and 220 pounds. Officials say the suspects were last seen running northbound.
Two of our main news outlets feel you're not fit to be given a complete report of local crimes, because racism, or something. Personally, I wouldn't pay anyone to provide me only with the news they think I should be allowed to hear. Accordingly, I don't subscribe to the Journal Star, and I won't buy stuff advertized on the 10/11 news.