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Tuesday, 01 January 2013


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2019 is the next big date, a.k.a. the movie "Blade Runner".

Will the world have robots that are more human than human?
Will climate change bring a dark and rainy Los Angeles?
Will we all have one of those cool voice activated photo enlargers?

Happy new year

Billy Connolly diet. Eat less. Move more.

Los Angeles
November, 2019

from "Blade Runner."

Happy New Year Mike.Another good book about John Snow and the Broad St. Pump is Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. Weight Watchers does work. Richard Simons plan is very close to Weight Watchers. And your statement about no overweight 80/90 year olds is an eye opener. Thanks for all you do for us.

Best for the New Year Mike.
Was attending the London NYE and supposed to watch from the terrace of a posh hotel on the Thames, but got caught up in the spirit of the loads of people in the street and stayed...

It was such a wonderfull evening full of fun, laughter, the company of the best woman in the world, and loads of street photography. Eventually ended with rooms service delivering steak sandwiches and hot fries in bed at 03:00 in bed!

Just follow your heart and hope you have a blast. Its the unexpected small happenings that make life the experience we need.


"And I fell in love, really for the only time in my life, with a woman who, in my solitary mid-middle age, I still think about rather too much."

At the risk of being impolite, will we learn more of your love story? It's something I've wondered about since I discovered your blog. Though rarely if ever mentioned, this love story seems to have cast a distinct shape and colour upon your writing.

Sincere interest from an inveterate romantic.

Thoughtful post, Mike. Possibly one of your best. Regarding the woman of 1984; mine existed in 1994/5. Things didn't work out and I've been haunting the world with a camera ever since.

Mike, I think you're exactly right re nutrition. The fad diets are exactly that--fads. The only thing that really works is eating less, eating better and exercising more, which is what Weightwatchers does a good job encouraging.

Good luck

Dear Mike,

The obesity affair is relatively simple. As you age, you lose muscle mass which keeps up your metabolism, therefore, you should either eat less, move more, or pump iron continuously, in order to keep the muscle mass up.

If you go through a substantial diet, and do not correct your behaviour later, you aggravate the problem by the yoyo factor.

On top of the yoyo factor, you can add the risk of stress induced eating, typical of middle age males running their own business.

The only solution, is to force yourself to substitute stress induced eating with a brisk walk, reduce the calories and increase the time for exercise. In other words, you have to stop sitting in front of the computer screen for 16 hours a day, like I do...

Therefore, I leave you with this tip: work more on income generating ideas, that do not increase your in front of the computer sitting time proportionally.
The only more effective strategy would be to fall in love again and slim down for reasons of male vanity...

Happy 2013 !


The "future" seems to arrive for different products at different times. For Pop music the last significant change seems to have been the introduction of rap in the eighties. For cameras it is the switch to digital in the early 21st century. For computers the future arrived in a couple lurches, with desktops in the eighties and then with the consumer internet in the early nineties. For motorcycles, sometime in early to mid eighties the Japanese brands became more creative in a very futuristic way, especially Honda. The pocket computers we call smart phones clearly hit the future thanks to Apple a few years ago, but will likely be in stasis for quite a while other than the usual incremental improvements. It's all a strange mix of marketing, perception, and a real desire for progress that we share.

Re weight loss -- Have you studied Matt Stone's "180 degrees health" blog. I find he has a lot of good ideas I don't see too many other places. Good luck.

To help with the weight loss, read "The Four Hour Body". Very, very, very, easy to do. I cannot exercise much due to injuries but I lost 60 pounds in a year. The dietary change also helped my wife avoid gall bladder surgery (she met the 4F mnemonic) and cured her glucose intolerance (pre-diabetic?)

The fun part is cheat day.

I'm sure it's already been said by myriad other people, but the last "numbered year" per your train of thought above was 2012, due to the brouhaha over the Mayan calendar which naturally, amounted to nothing.

The only other thing I could think of is sometime in the 2040s or 2050s sometime when we're scheduled to have a flyby from a rather large NEO.

I just finished your "compliance" column and I want to let you know how much I appreciate your outstanding writing and your blog.

The best to you in the New Year, Michael!

You are making a category error in comparing cholera, which is due to infection by a bacteria, with the multi valent causes of obesity in the so called developed world, many of which you cite.

If a human’s or other mammal’s diet contains more calories than they burn, accumulation of fat is inevitable, with ultimately a negative effect on health.

It’s that simple.

However, what’s not so straightforward is human nature and our interactions with such things as you state – including sedentary lifestyles and relentless pollution of most of the industrialised food supply with sugar and fats.

(By the way, in the UK, antibiotics added to poultry feed are described in scientific papers as growth promoters!)

Best of luck with your weight loss in the coming year.

John Garrity

Strangely, I'm someone who just didn't like "Blade Runner" at all. Total zero of a movie in my book. I'm sure that's just me; I know it has many fans.


I've heard it said, Mike, that it takes 21 times doing something to make it a habit. Maybe my goal will just be 21 of something. Still haven't figured out what. Happy New Year!

You sound like Rumpole.

"If a human’s or other mammal’s diet contains more calories than they burn, accumulation of fat is inevitable, with ultimately a negative effect on health. It’s that simple."

In my opinion, it's NOT that simple.


"You sound like Rumpole."

Does that mean I "have the honour of being an Old Bailey Hack"? I'll take it.


Mike, good luck with compliance. I've been dancing around my own weight issues for years.

Personally, my resolutions are simple:

Shoot 250 nights this year, produce 52 excellent photos, and get my website up and running.

That's been my resolution for the last three years, and so far the best I've managed is 234 nights, 36 photos, and the sad skeleton of a website. Each year I get a little closer to meeting the goal, and it looks like 2013 might be the year I actually do it.

It's only a matter of food and exercise. Marathon runners are a bad example, because sportsmen shape their weight in order to achieve results, and they have little fat, much less than average.
The story is quite simple - if you sit a lot, rarely walk on foot or work out you will gain weight no matter what. You can either start starving yourself or go running/ridding/swimming etc. And you must exercise regularly.
My father, at the age of 50, quit smoking in one day, because he started mountain biking. Just like that and it was't really hard for him (he was smoking for about 15 years).

Obesity is caused by eating too much. Eat less than your body burns and you will lose weight. All that's required is the will to actually do it.

Mike, try weight lifting by joining a gym. Any special dieting will result in gaining the weight back in a matter of months. Avoid sugar. Good luck.

Mark Probst, it's NOT that simple, except insofar as your statement is a tautology, cf. Gary Taubes' 2 books. Certain obese people can eat starvation diets and not lose weight. Certain ectomorphs can eat twice as many calories as obese people and not gain weight. It's absolutely not that simple. Your statement is just one of the "known truths that aren't true." It seems reasonable to you but that doesn't make it true. Read more about the known science, you'll see.


And then there was my great-aunt Maude, who was grossly obese, severely diabetic, and lived to the age of 94. My dad was obese, but only made it to 90.

Mike - As for years to look forward to(or not)2029 might fill the bill for you as that's the year Ray Kurzweil is predicting that the "Singularity" will occur. There's a lot of info about it on his site and on the net in general so I won't add more in this post. While I don't really have a personal take on it, his history of tech trends and innovations is fascinating. The documentary movie about him "The Transcendent Man" really makes one think about the implications and convergence of Nano-tech, AI and Bio-tech and what it could mean for all of us. If you're looking for a new 1984...2029 is my best suggestion! My best to you and all the TOP readers for a wonderful New Year.


Happy new year!

Regarding the perception of time, I would highly recommend this popular science article:

"ON THE PERCEPTION OF TIME" by F. Thomas Bruss and Ludger Rüschendorf

It appeared 2001 in the Scientific American, a preprint is available from the author's homepage:


Essentially, as one gets older time seems to fly faster on a logarithmic scale. This is because you have seen most of "it" already, you've been everywhere. One way around this is a learned attitude. Learn new stuff all the time, and try look at the world as if you would see it for the first time. And travel a bit, not too much, but every year go for a few days somewhere where you have never been before (#16):


Well I've been waiting for this year since 1972.

Bladerunner is set in November 2019.

"Now—unless you count a really wretched pop song about "2525" that I hope I never have to hear again—nothing."

Ah man, thanks loads for the "Ear worm" that you just planted in my brain!!!

Now I've got to hum the theme of "Gilligans Island" to clear it. grrrr

Mike. The book probably mentions it but John Snow is, I imagine the only epidemiologist who has a pub named after him not far from the location of the Broad Street pump in Soho, central London.

"What are you giving up for Lent?"
"My New Year's resolutions."

'In the year 2525 if man is still alive' by Zager & Evans. One of the first EPs I ever bought...

I've only read four books and many articles regarding diet and exercise. Personally, I feel convinced that Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food is the final word on the matter. After all, if one does not want to be overweight or diabetic, couldn't we just eat and behave the way people did before these epidemics existed? The reductive science of nutritionism has, sadly, served only to cause great confusion in the search for a dietary villain or silver bullet. My wife and I enjoy our food (and physical activity!) more than ever before.

Dear Folks,

What drives me crazy is the irrational obsession with dieting that's built around two myths:

1) Dieting usually works.

2) It doesn't hurt to try, so you might as well give it a shot.

Both of these are known to be false. The vast majority of all diet attempts fail (success defined as taking off *any* significant fraction of your target weight and keeping it off). Worse, any particular diet approach fails for the overwhelming majority of attempters.

I'm not saying any one of you individually will fail if you attempt to diet. I am saying you're betting against the house and you're rolling weighted dice. The odds are strongly against you.

The failure rate is not due to lack of "willpower" or some other character flaw. It's because obesity is not like a disease but more a syndrome. It's a common collection of symptoms, but the underlying causes are myriad. About half have nothing to do directly with diet. Genetics, more importantly, epigenetics. A common viral infection when you're a kid (that's a big one most people don't know about). Sleeplessness -- that one not only drives obesity but diabetes entirely separately.

There's a real sleep deprivation epidemic in this country. Almost every single child of school age and adult working a "regular" job is significantly underslept. Funny how that one doesn't get the attention of dieting. Maybe because it would be seriously inconvenient to businesses and schools, and there's nowhere as much money in selling people on sleeping enough as in selling them diet stuff?

That's just a cynical guess on my part. I'm sure I must be mistaken.

So why not give dieting a try, anyway? Well, for the same reason that Kaiser Medical took it off the list of recommended practices by their physicians. Some years back (10? more? Don't recall.) Kaiser removed dieting from the general recommendations their doctors gave overweight patients. They will still recommend it in certain specific cases, but as a general thing? Nuh uh.

Significantly changing your body weight, up or down, stresses the body. Down is worse than up, but neither's good. Changing by even 10% a year is a stressor (although usually safe). Going down and up repeatedly is WORSE than staying where you are in almost every case no matter what weight you're at.

Kaiser ran the numbers on their patients -- one of maybe 2 or 3 diet studies with good methodology... and that wasn't paid for by a company in the diet business (coincidence, no doubt). Yup, losing weight was healthier than keeping weight. But trying and failing to lose weight and keep it off was unhealthier than just keeping weight on, and almost all patients failed. The aggregate result? Recommending dieting was causing patients a lot more physical harm than teaching them how to live with the weight they had.

Get the point?

You wanna diet? Be my guest. I'm a strong believer in living the life that makes you happy over one that makes you healthy, if you're forced to choose. If dieting is going to make you happier, for whatever reason, do it!

Just don't delude yourself, going into it, that you are choosing the likely-healthier path. You're not. Do it because you WANT to.

Or, y'know, you might just see if you can change your living habits enough to insure you get enough sleep every night.

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

"Ah man, thanks loads for the "Ear worm" that you just planted in my brain!!!"

Very sorry Walt. Sometimes I'm part of the problem....


hi Mike, Happy New Year !!
Now, about this health-thing. You have done amazing in quitting smoking and drinking...the two most difficult addictions we know of. So now to just think, that you have to look after your health as we, and the World, need The Online Photographer. You have to keep going as there is simply no substitute to what you have going here. It's really that simple.

Well Mike, this year may be only 1/55th of your life in total (1/58th of mine), but is everything in your life that is to come (and hopefully more). It will only be what you make of it. Happy New Year!

I like to call the thing where time seems to speed up "reverse time dilation" or "old people time dilation"... it's sort of the opposite of what happens near the speed of light in relativity theory.

The other aspect of it is how things that are now old still seem to you to be "new" since they used to be new. Like that movie that just came out called The Matrix. Really wild special effects in that one.

See what I mean?

Mike, You may want to check out the NY Times website right now there is an article re: overweight and mortality. Personally most of the people I know that are borderline obessive about their weight and eating right are usually pretty miserable. Eat and be well in the New Year!

About the weight thing Mike. Not an expert but at age 57 I dropped 30 lbs of fat this past year (200 down to 170 )with much better muscle tone to boot. Like you I've done a fair amount of investigation. On one hand studies say a calorie is a calorie and if you eat less than you burn your weight will drop. Simple enough. For me the trick was to eat "real" food. Veggies, meats, seafood, some fruit, dairy, nuts etc. Many believe the body processes these foods more efficiently plus they have the added nutrient factor compared with junk calories.

What I don't eat now is pasta, sugar, soda and processed foods of any kind. Ok occasional cheating may occur but not often and never was I really hungry in losing this weight. It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change.

Oh exercise! I work out with weights 3 times a week. You don't need to be a gym rat either. You can make yourself beg for mercy at home with a pair of dumbbells and some body weight exercises in 20 minutes. To me the combination of this and diet is a fountain of youth. Improved muscle tone = more efficient calorie burning. (for anyone wanting to try this start slow!)

BTW thanks for all your great articles. There are few blogs this well written and as interesting as yours.

Set the treadmill to medium pace, prop up the ipad and blog your way to healthy living! I'm only half joking, I frequently moderate comments while on the treadmill.

The internal Unix clock rolls over in 2038, but I'm not especially worried about it. Google "Year 2038 problem".

We make first contact with the Vulcans in 2063; damn their pointed ears.

Nobody likes to hear it, but smoking is now probably much more important than income as an indicator of ones social class.

I reached a high weight this past summer, so on July 5th I quit drinking. I decided I wouldn't have a drink until I lost 15 lbs which for my thin frame was a lot but it would take me near my high school graduation weight. Several friends emailed that Scotland was in mourning which gave me pause. Were my evenings' imbibes so noticeable? As of today, Jan 1, 2013, I've maintained my weight loss, a mark I hit in Nov, and I'm still not drinking. There's no great intended AA proselytizing here, just the notion that some motivations can be a bit subliminal. I should add that I also stopped topping up with food at mealtime. I did a calculation of my daily burn rate (2200 Cal) and made sure I never ate more than 2/3rds of that. Pounds melted off quickly then slowed but still decreased until I hit my mark. So no booze and less cals made it work for me. Good luck on the path that works for you! -TR

With regard to your political awakening in 1984 I hope you discovered that all the world is a stage and RR is just another actor.

Happy New Year to all!!

Though I don't usually comment on your great posts, Mike, this one got me brain a goin'. (Well, maybe it's because I'm overtired ATM ;-) )

Anyway, I really like your description of why time seems to change as we age (I'm almost at 1/63rd). For some reason it popped into my head. Remember that something that happened to make you first notice as a fairly young automobile traveler, not long after you passed the "Are we there yet?" phase? It always "takes" longer to get to your destination than it does to home from it. We were able to figure out then that it was because of the built up anticipation of reaching your destination which caused time to seemingly pass more slowly as compared to the more worn out feeling of our return with all anticipation -- and memories -- behind us.

Well, isn't it also true that many of us who follow TOP have passed the main periods of life that involve some concentrated major anticipation when it comes to the commonly expected passages of life's journey? We no longer have so many of them before us. We are, in fact, closer to "home" except for the final anticipation of going HOME as it's referred to in many contexts. This is pure and simple conjecture on my part.

Likewise, I have no science behind me or books and articles to refer anyone to about what follows, just personal life experience. You know as well as I do that no smoker quits until s/he is personally motivated to embrace the pain of a change in lifestyle.

When it comes to dieting, I think we allow ourselves to get caught up in the notion that it is something of temporary duration. That is, we will "diet" only until we reach a certain goal, then we will go back to our more habitual ways. So long as I was told that I was pre-diabetic, I did nothing about it beyond some lip service and short lived changes. Last May I was told I had "crossed over" the line and I became scared shitless only because I already knew that diabetes can caused detachment of the retina AND I WANT TO BE ABLE TO SEE, damnit!

With that as my main motivation, I embraced the suggested diabetes education course that was part of my insurance coverage and learned all I could about what really IS known about nutrition for diabetics. HOWEVER, I am the sort of person whose blood glucose rose exponentially through the night only to be at its highest of the day when I awoke. WHAT???? What gives here?

Then the diabetes ed nurse told me that when we go without eating a certain length of time, our pancreas can begin to pump out extra glucose because it had decided that we are entering a starvation mode and that is a natural antidote to it.

SO, I tried being very careful about having a literal midnight snack that included protein and a small amount of fat (read some lightly peanut buttered toast for example). Bingo! My morning fasting blood glucose readings began to drop closer and closer to the target my doc had set for me to achieve.

BUT, I also had to figure out that, in addition to eating smaller meals more frequently to feed the internal glucose meter, it was only part of the answer. Diet controls the sugar, but it's only exercise that burns it up. Back to the drawing board. All of a sudden, I had to go back to the lifestyle change drawing board and actually become consistent about my walking as that is, for both physical and tempermental reasons, the only form of exercise I can commit to. Having accomplished that, I just missed my 3 month after-the-end-of-the-nutrition-classes weight goal by 7 pounds. And I'm still on no medications, just diet and exercise control. Not bad, huh?

The point being is that each of our bodies respond differently to some of the same input/output elements so that we have to spend some time figuring out what happens to work for us. Easy? Not on your life for some of us! But simple? In the long run, yes.

Finally, I just wanted to add a comment about New Year's resolutions. A few years back now, I read about someone who says that, instead of making those resolutions that he knew he'd break in record time and feel defeated by, he began to make a list of the things he reasonably wanted to accomplish by the end of the year. Not only did it work for him, but it has also been working quite well for me despite the curve balls life is bound to throw my way.

The connection with losing weight? Coming up with a plan of goals which will go unfulfilled without developing a broken down, step by step, plan with provisions for building in evaluation and needed changes along the way! Now doesn't that sound a lot like what you do to run a successful business?

Best wishes to all in the coming year....

Many years ago I printed-out the Royal Canadian Air Force Publication "5BX" - it's an increasingly pleasurable way to spend 10 minutes before a morning shower.

And to shock myself out of most bad habits I signed-up to Dr. Mercola's daily newsletter... my one regular bad habit is getting worse, but keeps my weight down and is temporarily resolved by going to Confession on Sundays.

On the subject of dates, worth a read..

"It’s becoming harder by the day for Americans to make believe that the old saws of upward mobility and an ever brighter future have any relevance to their own lives — and yet those beliefs are central to the psychology, the self-image, and the worldview of most Americans. The resulting cognitive dissonance is hard to bear, and apocalyptic fantasies offer a convenient way out. They promise that the world will change, so that the believers don’t have to."
The Beginning of the World

I take a pretty dim view of standard conventional American-bashing. You're in Melbourne? Seems like a few Brits and Aussies have some very comfortable stereotypes of Americans--I'm always running into these pronouncements, Americans are this, Americans do that.

In fact it's a very big country with a whole lot of diversity, in all sorts of ways. Stereotypes aren't actually terribly useful.


Hi Mike,

I've now been reading your blog for a while, I highly appreciate it; your New Year's post makes me want to add a few observations of my own:

* re "years": you write that we experience them as *percentage* of our lives, to continue that for you, a year is now 1/55th of your life. Wouldn't it be more consistent to speak of *fractions* here?

* re "obesity kills": couldn't agree more on that, one thought though: not so long ago I was told by my doctor to reduce my intake of coffee as it may be interfering with some medication I was taking at the time.I asked "so quit completely for the duration", to which he said "no, not if you enjoy it" ("it" being coffee, not quitting ;-). Lesson: some enjoyment can be more important than following (dieting) rules all to rigourously (no, this is not to be construed as an excuse to indulge without measure!).

* re "dieting": it is my impression that especially in the US, there is a desire for "silver bullets" to address problems, ie the one single solution that will bring salvation. This works only in simple system (there's a hole in the bucket - so fix it, dear Henry!), which the human body definitely is not, and inasmuch as we have a very sketchy understanding of it, hoping for a "one ring to bind them"-like solution for obesity is slightly naive, IMO.
Having said that, a few things that work for me:
- don't eat late, and if you must, eat lightly
- avoid "artificial" sugars (sadly, very widely used in the US, eg in soda): our body cannot digest them, and therefore "stores" them (in body fat); in addition, since the brain expects sugar when we taste something sweet, and then doesn't get it because we cannot digest it, it creates a craving for more ... a vicious circle if there ever was one!
- avoid artificial flavouring (glutamate, "umami"): probably much harder to do than avoiding artificial sugars, as glutamate is used in very many foods to enhance taste. I'll not go into details here, but glutamate is considered by some to be responsible for some disorders, among them obesity.

All the best for the new year, and keep it up!


Here in Italy the food is usually traditional and healty, even if sometimes is a little on the big side of calories :). And you can notice that, here, the Italians that eat too much and exercise too little got obese. The others, not. And, about NY Resolutions - I don't believe in them, but I do believe in setting goals. Maybe big ones, but realistic ones. So, when 35 yrs old I decided to quit smoking, I did it cold turkey, and I've never light a cigarette again in the last 12 years.

2025 is my new 2001. Dont ask me why because it's only a feeling.

Thanks for this thoughtful post Mike. Good luck with the weight loss. Smoking? For anyone struggling with that, for me what worked was a four hour long hypnotherapy session with Allen Carr - the man himself is dead now so the book has to suffice (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Allen-Carrs-Easy-Stop-Smoking/dp/014103940X).
Re: time speeding up, I like Jean's analogy, above, with the car journey taking longer on the way out. As a child and young person one is always looking forward to things; getting older, not so much, so trying to find new activities to do seems like a good way to counter this trend.

"[...] Years should seem longer as you grow older, [...] I hope I never have to hear again—nothing. [...]"

" [...] Every year is getting shorter
Never seem to find the time [...]"

Happy New Year and Thank You for the posts!

I hate to be blunt but all the theories about obesity are bull used cynically to get money out of people to build the careers of third class scientist with very inflated egos. The sad basic fact is that (1) if people eat more energy than they expend (2) they will store it and (3) people store surplus energy as fat. That's it. I understand that people do not like to hear that they are overweight because they eat too much and do not do enough exercise. Everything else told to overweight people is a lie told to get money out of them. Eat less, do more exercise, end of. I also understand that eating less calories than are expended every day means being hungry all the time, and that is very very uncomfortable. Too bad.

I recommend a book called 'mindless eating', which is real good science explaining why people eat much more than they think they do. I also recommend joining a good gym where some *knowledgable* coach will keep you in check and get you to do some exercise (which you need, because the human body hates to lose fat and wastes muscle before burning fat unless you exercise while you diet).

Being overweight means more energy in than energy out, either now or in the past. Burning fat means a long uncomfortable period of constant hunger, regular exercise and almost guaranteed general unhappiness. It means changing habits (less food, more exercise), possibly losing old friends and making new ones (friends that want to meet for a 1 hour long jog are better than friends that want to meet for cake). Man up and face the music rather than hiding behind the bullshit theories that are there to absolve you of your responsibilities and get your money.

Two major events shaped my health, Mike, and I am a dozen years older than you, take no medication, have few aging problems and lead a very active life.
The first event was our doctor telling my mother to let us eat plenty of dirt and play in it all we wanted, because that dirt was full of germs that would help us develop immunities.
The seconf event was at 25 I married a "nutritional nazi" who studied under several of the pioneers in the 60s. Her advice is " all things in moderation". I am somewhat overweight but have no signs that it affects my health. I avoid sugars and eat little red meat. I eat NO commercial processed foods, drink no soda or wine which is now a chemical soup. For alcoholic intake, Jack Daniels does just fine.
Stress is more harmful than a few extra pounds and processed foods are full of chemicals with no safety testing.
Calm down enjoy life and live longer!

quote: "we experience "years" as a percentage of our lives. A single year is now only 1/55th of my life, which isn't very much, so it doesn't take a whole lot of time for one to go by . . ."

Mike - did you ever read Alvin Toffler's book "Future Shock"? He talks about this, as well as the acceleration of technology and many other things. I believe it was written in the mid 1970's, but it is still a fascinating read.

Another theory regarding time "speeding up" is that as we age we suffer short-term memory loss. So we remember less and less of the year that just went by...making it seem shorter.
Happy New Year on that!

Coupla things: To really pump up the pomp, the Zager and Evans song is properly titled "In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)". It is, correctly identified here, as not good.

Mike, if you didn't care for Blade Runner, it may well be because you saw the theatrical release. (I know you are not a movie goer). There have been 4 alternate releases since it came out in 1982. It is one of the few movies in my experience where the 'Director's Cut' is an improvement. Typically DCs are just alternate versions with more scenes which had been removed to improve the film. This is probably irrelevant, because I suspect even if you saw the 'best' version, it still wouldn't be your cuppa. See The Master, instead, so you can witness the most beautifully photographed film of the year (narrative).

I agree with Mike that there is no good understanding of how to (as Kodos said on the Simpsons) 'reduce in mass'. Personally, I think the 21st century will be seen as when medicine began to understand how to cure illness. Until now, in my view medicine has been repair (surgery/setting bones etc) and squashing bugs with sledgehammers (drugs). From a physiological point, I don't think it is known properly how the various organs and systems of the body (especially the brain) interoperate, and until we do, we're stuck at this level. I am optimistic.


I gave up smoking when I was 29 or 30, which is a good bit more than half my life ago. It was not easy: I had already tried unsuccessfully several times, until one New Year's day morning, when I woke up with a particularly severe hangover, I hit upon a strategy, and made a sort of post facto resolution. It worked for me, and it could work for others. Previously I had told people that I was giving up smoking. This time I told them I had given up smoking. Note the past tense. I figured that I'd look pretty stupid if I went back after that. Since then, there were a few years when I smoked a pipe occasionally, and now I still smoke an occasional cigar, but never a single cigarette.


I have found when I reduce my carbohydrate intake below 50 grams / day I lose weight. If I cut out carbs completely (excepting what is in fresh veggies) I drop 10 pounds in a week. I think Gary Taubes theory about insulin being the key to fat storage is correct.

Best of luck to you in your quest for health in the new year.

A timely article on the subject of obesity:


Goes along with the adage, "If it comes from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't eat it."

RE: Perception of Time, that's why a 40 year old can't hit the fastball like he used to. It may be the same 90 MPH fastball that he hit out of the park 15 years ago, but time is moving faster for him, or more to the point he's moving slower relative to time. That's my theory at least.

Happy New Year!

Mike writes, "there are just very few obese 90-year-olds. And precious few obese 80-year-olds."

Taking that as given, the question is: does it matter? Do you really want to live that long?

Both sides of my family are long-lived. It's quite possible I'll live into my mid-90s, and I have no idea how I'm going to deal with it. The slowly-increasing infirmity, the specter of continuous pain management at some point, and the loss of about 3/4 of my retirement savings in the current economic "downturn" don't bode well. Fortunately I'm an introvert, so I won't be as devastated by the ongoing loss of friends and relatives as others might be.

In my opinion, it's not about how long you live, but how well you live. I've examined my personal priorities, and mobility is near the top. So I exercise regularly, even though I thoroughly dislike it. Enjoying life is up there, too, and I wouldn't enjoy avoiding the foods I love for the rest of my life.

Anyway, it's not clear that obesity is related to increased mortality in the elderly. Study results are mixed. A sedentary lifestyle, however, does seem to correlate with increased mortality.

Mike - the very best for your New year, including compliance when it lines up with reality. I too seek compliance with a better ratio of exercise to calories and good calories to bad calories this year. However, some of those with the data make it sound like it is even worse than Ctein indicated in his comment -- see:


Mike & Ctein,
I agree that obesity in our population is mysterious, but in case you hadn't spotted it, there are some pretty good studies on how satiation works, which might be helpful. Fortunately satiation is a testable phenomena!

The shortest possible version agrees with Ctein - if your other physiological needs, particularly sleep, are out of balance, it is hard (or impossible) to achieve satiation. (Insert long, tedious explanation of hormone systems here :) Other examples of ways to trigger satiation include drinking water outside of mealtimes, so as not to confuse thirst with hunger, keeping regular mealtimes and not eating between to avoid unwanted peaks in insulin flow, eating 'real food' that satiates (veggies, meats, fats) before having sweets, that sort of thing.

One observation that I found helpful, is that people attempt to reach a setpoint of about 15-16% calories from protein in a given meal, regardless of the total number of calories eaten. In other words, you could eat an 800 kCal meal, or an 1800 kCal meal, but if you don't hit 15%, you'll continue to keep wanting to eat until you reach it. So eating lots of carbs with small amounts of protein can create a race condition. Thus the common pairing of hamburgers and fries - or fish and chips, or soda and anything: if you want people to buy a lot of food, you can manipulate the ratios so they keep going back for more until they get physically full (but not necessarily satisfied.) It was a useful trick* back when people regularly died of 'consumption', or cholera, and getting people, particularly children, to eat enough to be protected from wasting diseases was a concern. (For that matter, french fries are a good source of readily digestible sugar, salt, and potassium, which is why they aren't a bad choice on a hot day full of exertion, say at a county fair or a theme park. Once again, more of a concern in a world without air conditioning.)

*another fantastic weight-gain trick is milkshakes - you can consume a large volume of fluid before your body figures out that it is 'full'. Of course, full-fat, real ice cream shakes do satiate if drunk slowly enough - and the protein ratio is correct.

I think your diet problem relates to Ctein's column today. We have lots of "lab" experience related to obesity, and the results are pretty clear. The problem is that people people create structures (analogous to math) which don't have much to do with the real world: we call these diets, and there's always something wrong with them. Like the fact that you can't stay on them. The math is always right in its own system -- eat nothing but celery and you'll lose weight -- but as a human, you can't do that. There are also a lot of other problems that sort of wander into the kinds of things that Nate Silver lectures about...basic faulty analyses of how the world works. For example, you naturally pick a diet that doesn't seem "hard." In doing that, you're already setting yourself up to cheat. Or, yoiu pick a diet that seems "easy": no carbs. Or no white food. But that means the thou can never eat out, and you gotta eat out, because you've got no time to cook.

It's like quitting cigarettes: there's only one real way to do it. Quit. There's only one way to lose weight: eat fewer calories than you use in your daily life.

So I'll tell you how to lose weight -- eat a balanced diet of protein, carbs and fat, and not too much, and get a moderate amount of exercise, and you'll lose weight. You can see entire nations, like Japan, doing that. The lab results are there. The nutrition is good. You could sit down in an hour and write out a monthly menu for yourself that would accomplish this. But, you probably won't, because it's too hard (and possibly boring.) But that's the only way to sustainably lose weight -- it's Weight Watchers without the advertising.

"The sad basic fact is that (1) if people eat more energy than they expend (2) they will store it and (3) people store surplus energy as fat. That's it."

That's not it. That is the standard, conventional current belief. It's called "calories in, calories out." It has been thoroughly debunked. It is not true. It does not describe the way our bodies work.


You're not kidding that we know little about food and nutrition. That light bulb went off for me recently while I was reading about milk and found that we're still not certain about the molecular structure of liquid milk's major component, and we don't seem to know all that much about how the body uses it and other parts of milk.

To me, this ignorance is the best argument for avoiding processed and manufactured foods, as well as fad diets, and to try to eat food in natural or traditionally prepared forms--ways that worked well for us for thousands of years. In some ways at least, this is getting easier to do, as both foods and traditions become more mobile, and as the "fresh and local" food movement gains steam.

I lost over 15lbs in just over a year recently, to get pretty close to what I consider an ideal weight for me. Lost half my middle-age weight gain, in other words. And I did that primarily by walking more and eating better (not intentionally less)--two things that were not only relatively easy to do, but enjoyable (OK, I'm lucky to live in a pedestrian-friendly city).

I think stressing the body when you're trying to become healthier is counterproductive (even if healthier means losing weight). I find that as I age, my body's tolerance for junk diminishes, which suggests to me that they were always stressors. Actually, I find that when I eat better, I naturally end up eating less anyway. I also cook more, which gives me physical activity and better food, and is easier on the wallet--a win-win-win. (Add routine, which bodies like, a good feeling, and another fertile area for geekery, for three more "wins".)

A tip for desk jockeys: Keep a number of things you frequently use (printer, stapler, etc.) in places where you need to get up and walk, or stand up and stretch, to reach them.

"The sad basic fact is that (1) if people eat more energy than they expend (2) they will store it and (3) people store surplus energy as fat. That's it."

That's not it. That is the standard, conventional current belief. It's called "calories in, calories out." It has been thoroughly debunked. It is not true. It does not describe the way our bodies work.[/Quote]

Unfortunately Mike it is entirely true. What is missing though is that those calories go through our bodies and we all use them differently. Different human bodies are more or less efficient at creating heat, moving muscles, thinking or even digesting food. Our bodies use calories to make usable calories out of our food.
Why there are these differences remains the mystery and may be due to genetics, various symbiotic relationships, viruses, bacteria other protozoans, and perhaps even food combinations, lifestyles and activity profiles.

Calories in = calories out but the details matter!

The China Study



is the book that really changed my ideas about eating and health. See what you think


Mike, glad to hear you're thoroughly educated on the nonsense of calories-in-calories-out.

Funny how certain fields of psychology seek to understand the human "mind" by analogies to computer function, and nutrition seeks to understand human metabolism by analogies to calorimeters. It's a funny picture that starts to emerge- "The Body According to Selected Science," a quirky old mac tower for our heads, powered by a little steam-powered generator heated to an incinerator that uniformly extracts calories from any organic matter... can my eyes at least be something cool like a rollieflex?

Cannot believe the thread has gotten this long without mentioning the Rush album (and 20-minute megasong) 2112.

Prog rock, envisioning dystopian futures so you don't have to :).

Dear Mike,

"That is the standard, conventional current belief. It's called "calories in, calories out." It has been thoroughly debunked."

And, furthermore, even if it hadn't been debunked, it would still be crappy medical advice. Because 90 plus percent of the people who try to follow it fail… Repeatedly. And repeated failure is WORSE for health than not trying at all. It's fundamentally a moralistic position, not a medical one, especially under the dictum, “First, do no harm.” Which goes back to your early remarks, which is the attitude towards this is medieval, harkening to the era when many diseases were considered moral failings.

Suppose an ironclad major medical study showed that running a marathon each weekend would substantially improve one's health (statistically speaking, of course, everyone's mileage would differ). But… doing it inconsistently would make your health worse. Yes, a small percentage of the population could actually commit to following that regimen and stay with it. Would that be considered sound medical advice to recommend as a general practice? No! It would be a joke, even a violation of the Hippocratic oath.

So it is with, “just cut your calories and you'll lose weight” aside from the fundamental factual inaccuracy of that.

Humans just love to take holier than thou positions on matters of physiology and practicality. Look at how long it took for the medical consensus to accept that ulcers were not the result of a “stressful lifestyle” but a bacterial infection. And that one was a simple one to demonstrate, it wasn't a complex syndrome like obesity.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 


Are you saying that Conservation of Mass and Energy don't apply to the human body?



Mike, you should read this:

Study Suggests Lower Mortality Risk for People Deemed to Be Overweight



You are a wonderful writer, I hope you write that book someday.



John Walker's "The Hacker's Diet", maybe: http://www.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/

The body's a bag and how to determine whether it's getting larger or smaller, how to get all the exercise you need in 15 minutes a day, etc.

A short interesting read, applicable to those of us who sit way too much, whether you subscribe to it all or not.


Best of luck, Mike. A year ago I made a quasi resolution to be happier with myself and how I looked. I was tired of seeing the bulge around my middle when I looked in the mirror and I figured I had 15, maybe 20 lbs to lose. So I gave up soda (didn't hardly ever drink more than one a day), stopped having my pretty-much-daily beer, and stopped snacking on junk food in midafternoon when I felt peckish (but was probably really just bored). I started drinking water like it was my job, and mostly just ate less than I was accustomed. I didn't change *what* I ate, excepting the aforementioned, just less. I started using the elliptical that my wife and I bought a few years back and had never used, my initial aim was 3x per week, but it grew to be about 5-6x, a half hour per session. I started losing about 1-2 lbs per week, and most importantly I felt (still do) fantastic. I lost my 15-20 lbs and practically couldn't see a difference in the mirror, so I kept going. By mid August I was down 52 lbs and it's been a flat line ever since. I have added back in reasonable desserts and occasional beer, and my elliptical action has been down to 1-2x per week, sometimes less. I'm doing push-ups and pull-ups daily, and honestly have never felt (or looked, if I may be so modest) better. I never did a program, just ate reasonably and exercised. I subscribe to the old saw of "moderation in all things."

I believe it just comes down to choices. Yes, there are some who are probably predisposed to obesity or have medical conditions that might make it hard to maintain a healthier body, but for most of us it's just due to choices we make. All rational persons probably realize that if one eats reasonably and isn't a lazy slug, one has a better chance of being happier with their body. Do I want that donut while sitting on the couch, or do I want to be happier and feel better (not to mention being a better model for my kids)? For years I chose the former and ended up with 50 lbs (!) to lose. I'm now much happier with the latter and hope to keep it up. But if I regress, I know I did it once and could do it again. So my experience tells me to simply avoid unnecessary calories, exercise, and that's pretty much it. Oh, I also weigh myself just once a week. Given that I had lost 15 lbs and couldn't really tell, I decided that while a couple of pound fluctuation is normal, I'll be more likely to notice an upward trend if I track my weight over time and catch myself if I start to get 5-10 lbs in the wrong direction.

Again, best of luck and Happy New Year!

"Mike, Are you saying that Conservation of Mass and Energy don't apply to the human body?"

I believe what I said was that, in my opinion, nutrition is so enormously complex that it's beyond the reach of current science. I certainly don't think it's a bone-simple matter of crude thermodynamics.

If you don't believe it, I can suggest a small experiment: I'll eat 300 calories of lean protein, 200 calories of grain starch, and 1500 calories of steamed whole vegetables every day; you can eat 2000 calories of sugar dissolved in water every day. If your Conservation theory of nutrition is correct, you should be just as well off as I a year from now.

We'll feed another guy 2000 calories worth of grass daily. He'll be just fine too.


(P.S. Humans can't digest grass. But wouldn't pointing that out needlessly complicate the simple elegance of the "calories in, calories out" argument?)

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