Meandering Technologist

The meandering thoughts and observations of a Technology Engineer.

Obesity in America

So, this afternoon while sitting down with my dad for lunch we usually try to solve all the worlds problems. We spend our time talking about politics, religion, economics, business and many other things. In an effort to solve the worlds problems we often end up in the same loops, but something new came up this week and it got me to thinking.

In our discussion he brought up this interesting new law in NYC about limiting the available sizes of soda. You can review most of the points on the discussion here: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/04/us-usa-sugarban-legal-idUSBRE85315120120604. Without, hopefully, revealing my opinion on the matter I do want to attempt to analyze, why Bloomberg and the city’s health board might make a decision like this.

Obviously I think the quick place to point is ‘The Fat’. Now I’m not one to judge, and I’m not judging, other than I’m 5’10” and 240 lb., not a small guy, but we’ve gotten fat. I mean seriously America, if we look at ourselves in the mirror you’re statistically going to see someone overweight more than 30% of the time. The numbers when reviewed are startling.

According to the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db82.pdf) there is a lot of people overweight, 35.7% of all americans are what doctors would call obese. Obese is when you have a BMI of over 30 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity#Classification) Your BMI is equal to your weight divided by the square of your height in kilograms and meters (BMI = kg/m^2 -or- BMI = lb. * 703/in^2). For my fat ass, that means I have a BMI of 250 lb. * 703/ 70in^2, or about 35, and it shows. I have handlebars on my side that I could sit a can of soda on, and I stick out fairly far in the front and back. I could defiantly stand to lose some pounds and back down to a healthy BMI would be a BMI of 20-25 where lb. = (25 * 70^2)/703, or about 175 lb. This is by the strict rules of the BMI calculator, the CDC data above is based on a laxer definition where 5’9” can be 200 pounds and 5’4” can be 170 pounds. You can easily do this math for yourself, just get on Wikipedia and read through the article linked above. You should do this math for yourself before continuing, because we’re about to get into the fun stuff below and you’ll need your BMI to fully appreciate the points. Take your time, I’ll wait.

Now to discuss the consequences, which is key for the main point of discussion on why government is seeking to control something like soda consumption. The data doesn’t lie, being obese means you have a 100% increase in likelihood of Congestive Heart Failure, 20-30% increase in heart disease, it can cause infertility, with a BMI of 30-35 you are 2.5 times more likely to have gout, if your BMI is above 35 the number jumps to 3, you’re more likely to be depressed and you’re going to die earlier by about 6-7 years. (Mens BMI risk chart: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MenBMIMort.png, Women: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WomenBMIMort.png)

So, people get sick, get depressed and get dead more often than their non obese counterparts. The startling figures of increased morbidity and complications is all the more worse when combined with the number of people who are obese. Being fat has reached well past epidemic levels when compared to other disease and though the data is currently pointing to the trend stabilizing at 40% that will represent enormous potential health issues as the population ages.

There are other key indicators and trends that differentiate between socio-economic groups. For example, if you’re poor, female and uneducated you are 15% more likely to be obese than a similar woman with a college degree and a good job. I could write an entire post analyzing that, but I don’t have the time. Read more here if you’re interested: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db50.pdf.

So, we know that the rate of obesity is high, we know the rate of disease increases greatly and we know that it is an epidemic that will reach a serious head sometime in the next 30 years when 40 somethings now, seek to retire. The thought process is certainly stemming from the forecasted impacts to our healthcare system and the ability of business and government to support that many sick and dying people sometime in the 2050’s.

So now we need to take a look at sodas contribution to the problem. Looking at another study summarized here (http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/6284/title/Food_for_Thought__Soft_Drinks_as_Top_Calorie_Culprit) the latest data shows us that the average adult in the US drinks 2.6 cups (20.8 oz.) of sweetened beverages per day. Taking the average energy density of soda at 12 calories/oz, the 2.6 cups represents about an extra 250 calories from soda in the average adults diet.

Continuing with the thought of decreasing obesity if you can reduce the soda intake by 4oz you will decrease the daily calorie intake by 48 calories. Since a pound = 3500 calories you would lose a pound of weight every 72 days by reducing the average intake by only 4 oz. This over the course of the next 40 years represents a loss of 200 lb. of saved fat between now and retirement for 30 somethings today.

Looking at that data, I don’t know if I’ve reverse engineered how they got to the 16oz limit, but it looks like that is probably the basis for the ideology.

Personally, I don’t know what the right answer is. There is a large part of my thinking that says that people should be able to do whatever they want. This must be balance against a lot of people that also seem to want medicine provided to them out of the common purse, to me that makes each of us slightly responsible for each-other when we have medical complications. That is a very complex discussion from that perspective alone, but combined with needing to discuss if this is even the right way to save those calories makes for a very complicated mess that gets distracted easily.

I don’t think that legislating behavior directly ever works. They are going to try this and not change the rate of soda consumption, but increase the overall cost of consuming it. To me, it’s probably going to come down to taxation as the right answer, just like we tax cigarettes.

Well, I hope that the collection of info has been useful for you. If you have an opinion, let me know below, if you have any ideas how to solve the obesity problem feel free to discuss that as well.

Reflections on Privledge

There are many things in this world that I’m thankful for, but I know that there are many things in this world that are mine because of who and where I was born. In many cases, it could be argued that there are things that I have that aren’t available to everyone. I have things that are born out of the resiliency of my parents and out of the idea that they wanted a better future for me, not everyone is so lucky.

It is also the case that there are people who are much more privileged than I am, but does that mean I have no care or should disregard those that have less than me? Not less stuff or money, but less access to a life where they have opportunity. Where they could make a choice about what they want to do, who they want to do it with and where they want to do it?

Some would turn the discussion into a philosophical one: Does anyone really have choice in what they do? It’s an interesting point and worthy of a personal examination, most peoples initial reaction would be that they absolutely have personal free will over how they live their life. You can say, for example choose between Vanilla or Chocolate ice cream, or you could choose to take the long or the short way home from work. You could also make bigger choices about who you’re going to marry, who you want to be friends, with and how risky of behaviors that you choose to partake in.

Now, the other school of thought is that we don’t really have much say, cognitively in what we say and what we do. A lot of the activities that we take place in and a lot of the things that we do are driven by reaction and habit. Anyone who has tried to change something about themselves, be it smoking, weight, or chewing their nails, or any other habit usually finds themselves at a dire crossroad where they know what they want, but are incapable of making a change to their behavior.

What’s important there is that inability to make a change in your personal behavior, regardless of the personal desire to make the change. This has been established by a lot of testing on the part of neuroscientists and people much smarter than me. So the real question comes down to how far this programmed behavior problem goes.

Does it go so deep that we could eventually predict with accuracy how successful one person or another will be in life? Will be able to figure out what kind of person you will marry? Will we figure out how many kids you will have? The science hasn’t quite extended to the point that we know if we can even ask these questions. But I think that there are going to be a lot of things about our lives that are being run by parts of our brains that let us think we have control over the outcome and direction of our lives.

I don’t think that there is necessarily anything wrong with this. In fact I think it is reassuring that the brain takes a lot of that load off and I think that we do have a simple choice in much of what happens. We have choices about how we choose to reflect on our current experience. We have choices about how things make us feel. The same studies about habit have found that people that think about making changes in relation to how it impacts their interpersonal relationships, rather than on how good or bad it is for them, make the changes easier than those that don’t think about it that way.

So, that was a mighty tangent from my first thought, but it applies. If we know that much of the actions, thoughts and desires you have are a result of the habit forming parts of the brain, habits that are formed early in life and persist through life. How can we know then, that there really is any way to help someone grow out of their situation. Sure we hear about people that make it out of dire situations of being poor, or disadvantaged, but how often does that really happen? I would bet, that far more often that people born to lives that aren’t in any way privileged, educated or successful are going to have a much harder time breaking out of that situation.

This lines up in the same direction with how hard it would be for me to break into the millionaire/billionaire section of society. I’m born and raised on the habits and pitfalls of the middle class America rather than on the privilege that many receive higher than me.

So, I think that in general it shouldn’t be the place of another person to tell any other person that they should just pull themselves up by the boot straps and get to work making or doing something. Many people just don’t have the capacity or habits to make that work for them. They don’t have access to seeing the world through a lens that privilege brings.

It should be the goal of everyone that truly wants a free and open world to have as many people as possible attain the goals of personal self-control and awareness. Everyone should have a sense that they are controlling the path in their life and have a say in what they get out of life. It would be a much happier and healthy place if we could get over the idea that the roads are paved in gold and anyone can make it.

It’s only true if you know how to find the road, and walk down it.

Reflections on Privledge

There are many things in this world that I’m thankful for, but I know that there are many things in this world that are mine because of who and where I was born. In many cases, it could be argued that there are things that I have that aren’t available to everyone. I have things that are born out of the resiliency of my parents and out of the idea that they wanted a better future for me, not everyone is so lucky.

It is also the case that there are people who are much more privileged than I am, but does that mean I have no care or should disregard those that have less than me? Not less stuff or money, but less access to a life where they have opportunity. Where they could make a choice about what they want to do, who they want to do it with and where they want to do it?

Some would turn the discussion into a philosophical one: Does anyone really have choice in what they do? It’s an interesting point and worthy of a personal examination, most peoples initial reaction would be that they absolutely have personal free will over how they live their life. You can say, for example choose between Vanilla or Chocolate ice cream, or you could choose to take the long or the short way home from work. You could also make bigger choices about who you’re going to marry, who you want to be friends, with and how risky of behaviors that you choose to partake in.

Now, the other school of thought is that we don’t really have much say, cognitively in what we say and what we do. A lot of the activities that we take place in and a lot of the things that we do are driven by reaction and habit. Anyone who has tried to change something about themselves, be it smoking, weight, or chewing their nails, or any other habit usually finds themselves at a dire crossroad where they know what they want, but are incapable of making a change to their behavior.

What’s important there is that inability to make a change in your personal behavior, regardless of the personal desire to make the change. This has been established by a lot of testing on the part of neuroscientists and people much smarter than me. So the real question comes down to how far this programmed behavior problem goes.

Does it go so deep that we could eventually predict with accuracy how successful one person or another will be in life? Will be able to figure out what kind of person you will marry? Will we figure out how many kids you will have? The science hasn’t quite extended to the point that we know if we can even ask these questions. But I think that there are going to be a lot of things about our lives that are being run by parts of our brains that let us think we have control over the outcome and direction of our lives.

I don’t think that there is necessarily anything wrong with this. In fact I think it is reassuring that the brain takes a lot of that load off and I think that we do have a simple choice in much of what happens. We have choices about how we choose to reflect on our current experience. We have choices about how things make us feel. The same studies about habit have found that people that think about making changes in relation to how it impacts their interpersonal relationships, rather than on how good or bad it is for them, make the changes easier than those that don’t think about it that way.

So, that was a mighty tangent from my first thought, but it applies. If we know that much of the actions, thoughts and desires you have are a result of the habit forming parts of the brain, habits that are formed early in life and persist through life. How can we know then, that there really is any way to help someone grow out of their situation. Sure we hear about people that make it out of dire situations of being poor, or disadvantaged, but how often does that really happen? I would bet, that far more often that people born to lives that aren’t in any way privileged, educated or successful are going to have a much harder time breaking out of that situation.

This lines up in the same direction with how hard it would be for me to break into the millionaire/billionaire section of society. I’m born and raised on the habits and pitfalls of the middle class America rather than on the privilege that many receive higher than me.

So, I think that in general it shouldn’t be the place of another person to tell any other person that they should just pull themselves up by the boot straps and get to work making or doing something. Many people just don’t have the capacity or habits to make that work for them. They don’t have access to seeing the world through a lens that privilege brings.

It should be the goal of everyone that truly wants a free and open world to have as many people as possible attain the goals of personal self-control and awareness. Everyone should have a sense that they are controlling the path in their life and have a say in what they get out of life. It would be a much happier and healthy place if we could get over the idea that the roads are paved in gold and anyone can make it.

It’s only true if you know how to find the road, and walk down it.

Nan Desu Kan Dress Code Reaction – 60% of a Bust is No Bust At All

Ok. So initially I just briefly saw a post on my twitter feed about the change in NDK’s costume policy and didn’t think much of it. Then I saw a link to their post on Tumbler specifically the one titled: “Misconception #2: Females” and for some reason became frustrated and upset. This resulted in a two tweet exchange with someone at NDK and an invitation to express myself fully. Invitation accepted, here it goes.

To be fair, I haven’t been to an NDK in a few years, mostly because I live in another city during the summer and it’s, frankly, impossible to make it. Another part of it is because the convention has been in the same venue for umpteen years now and frankly the whole thing feels stagnant, “If you aren’t growing, you’re dying.” Essentially for the last few years, it simply isn’t worth the effort to attend. With that loss to content with to then find myself reading a blog post trying to mince words about a change in the costume policy for the convention, I was astonished.

Things weren’t always like this. I have very fond memories of NDK. I spent almost every year of Middle School and High School and part of college attending the convention. I even went to the convention the year it was at that weird hotel off of Union and 6th (forgive me, I was young and I forget the name of the hotel.) It was the culture I participated in whenever I had free time. I’ve met some of my most dear friends because of Anime and NDK was something we did as a group to be part of the community. To top it off it was just a fun place to get together and learn. I have many a friend that learned how to cosplay going to NDK. That’s why when I read about things like this costuming dress code issue, it got my blood boiling. There are bigger issues and problems to deal with than enforcing a pseudo dress code and the result is frustration.

So now you know me, know why I’m frustrated, now let’s dissect this Public Relations idiocy on the part of NDK. We’re going to pull this one apart, it’s going to be fun.

So let’s start of with the message that I think says what I think NDK is trying to achieve, in their own words, “…Please remember we’re an all-ages convention! Think of it this way: we do not want our younger attendees learning about the ‘birds and the bees’ from a scantily-clad cosplayer.”  This goal, it seems, is the core reason for the rules regarding dress. The convention is literally concerned about having anyone need to explain the birds and the bees to a kid. I find it slightly dubious and hilarious that the convention thinks it might have to take up this mantle and needs to create a ‘bird and bee’ free environment.

When I read this policy, I saw myself with one of my nieces or nephews looking at a busty and otherwise slim Fey Valentine, or a Grenadier cosplayer. I assume everyone knows what I’m talking about. Now the first thing that comes out of that child’s mouth, in my mind, is, “What show is that lady from?” or “We’ve watched that show! Can we get a picture!” Honestly my greater fear is the conversation arising from an encounter with the 230 pound hairy dude dressed as Lina Inverse or Sailor Moon, but that’s just gross not sexual, so it’s fair game.

Now that is probably very different from the first thought that comes into the mind of someone afraid of a parent suing them, which is, “Mommy, that Woman’s state of undress arouses me and I’m wondering what that’s all about, can you explain it to me since I’m screaming it loudly in public because obviously you’re not embarrassed enough?”

This line of paranoid dialog is the only way in which this policy or thought process comes into being in the first place. It’s not from a, what’s good for the kids perspective, it’s from the prudish perspective of dealing with harassing parents. Frankly kids either get it or they don’t and the revelation will not be coming upon them looking at that busty Fey in the halls during the convention.

Now that we’ve established that such a revelation is unlikely the policy and the situation it’s trying to prevent is laudable. With that behind us we can now get to the heart of what the most significant part of the problem in this situation is. Simply put, people don’t understand or respect the rule because the initial goals didn’t make any sense in the first place.

With a confusing rule on the books and some idea that they needed to maintain this goal to kill ‘the birds and the bees’. NDK, having received enough complaints about arbitrary enforcement, now creates a new policy that they hoped would be more clear and less prone to misinterpretation. Frankly though, the rule wasn’t modified greatly, the only change to their rule was adding an arbitrary number 60%. I’m assuming this percentage was selected because there was some perception that it would improve customer service through having a hard, clear line. To try and fix the past issues by creating a fixed standard that everyone could be judged equally and addressing what must have been a common complaint. It’s measurable and they hope it will solve the enforcement inconsistencies.

Now, to digress a little, in my real life job I spend a lot of time working with people with contrasting opinions on issues. 9/10ths of my job is trying to get along and keep issues moving forward. When you’re working through a lot of issues between people and companies I have found that you have to be consistent. Not just consistent in how you enforce rules, but in the presentation of the rules, and with how you communicate and handle the rules. In addition, you have to also accept that there are community rules and real laws that stack on top of all those other rules that you’re trying to enforce.

I understand that NDK was going for a clear and concise rule, trying to bridge the gap, but this is obviously an un-winable situation. The rule, which from the perspective of the community is already inconsistently enforced and hard to understand, now simply has an arbitrary number.

The trouble with the 60% rule is that it will still vary depending on the person and how they interpret what 60% looks like. We know from psychology and other Science that each person has different perceptions in regards to reality. So regardless of whatever number was selected, without a magic body scanner and tape measure inspections (which I would admit, would be highly entertaining to watch), it’s going to be perceived very differently depending on the person.

For example, let’s put two women side by side. One woman has an A cup, she wears a tube top and achieves 100% coverage. No one doubts that she is covered and the con is happy. Now right next to her is a 6’6” amazon of a woman fully grown with 36 double D’s. She’s wearing a sports bra modified for her character of choice and it covers 60% of her breasts by all forms of real measure. But she has 6” of cleavage just because of physical size. With these two women standing next to each other, I know who is more likely to get in trouble in regards to dress regardless of the actual square area of bust exposed.

Breaking it down, it’s just really not reasonable to assume that the hard percentage will be any more effective than the previous rule. It’s safer to assume in fact with the change some idiot is going to get out a tape measure and try to figure it out because now we have a hard number. On top of that, you still haven’t assuaged the fury of the indignant mother who wants any woman near her son dressed in a burka. Effectively, you just continued to piss everyone off.

I could go into thousands of words more, about how this is stupid, didn’t work well in the first place and will continue to not work well in the second place.  Get into a debate about what ‘change’ means when you go from a qualitative rule to a numeric rule. We could then continue with the rules about Mens nipples and all that jazz, which is a rule that sounds nice on paper, but seems ridiculous in practice. Instead I’m going to end the criticism portion here and continue with what should be done and is consistent with other conventions across the country.

For this purpose of this commentary I reviewed the rules and policies for other conventions. Those conventions were, Dragon Con, Anime Expo, Starfest and San Diego Comic Con.

I was relieved at the easy analysis that I found. The first and only observation to be made with the policies at each of these conventions, is that they have NO dress code for attendees. Dragon Con may be an exception in that it has a single line item in their rules that says, “Don’t break the law, there are Nudity Laws.”  All of the conventions, otherwise, only have rules that apply to cos-players competing in the official competition and in regards to dress only say, ‘Don’t be nude.’

So, NDK, that is my focused answer to your problem and the only way you’re really going to fix this. Instead of coming up with some arbitrary, ineffective measure to ‘clarify’ your previous policy, tell people that they must obey the law, not your rules, and not some made up dress code with an arbitrary system of measurement. Simply require that people obey the LAW! This would fix this whole issue and make it go away and removes the burden of enforcement from you.

Now, stop screwing around with this and focus your energy on making the convention better and bigger and stop worrying about what my friends wear to the convention.

- Edit -

References:

Convention Rules:

Starfest – http://starland.com/wp/starfest/contests_competitions/
Dragon Con – http://dragoncon.org/policies.php
NDK Old Rules – http://web.archive.org/web/20101206195237/http://ndkdenver.org/info/rules/costumes
NDK New Rules – http://ndkdenver.org/info/rules/costumes
NDK Tumblr Post – http://ndkdenver.tumblr.com/post/27125611946/misconception-2-females
Colorado State Revised Statues –  http://naturistaction.org/StatesFrames/State_Laws_Frames/Colorado_Laws/body_colorado_laws.html

Nanowrimo 2011

Image

As I write this it is with cramps in my hands.

If you have never had ‘writers cramp’ you haven’t ever written more than 100 words at a go with a break.

Personally I just got done with 5 thousand words for today, not including work.

It’s insanity I know and I’m not even done with the novel that I decided to write this month, but it was a very good experience. Frankly I’m not even really that interested in the novel that I’m writing. I don’t know that I will go back to it.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you have never done Nanowrimo, or you have never even thought of writing a novel I would suggest that you try it out sometime.

It’s very rewarding writing out a story, even if incomplete, that is seperate from your own story, but uniquely tied to you.

If you are interested here are some resources you can check out.

First, Nanowrimo.org. This is the place where all the magic happens. They keep track of your progress, they will let you know if you won. They send you pep talks ever week and I’m sure they would pat you on your back or get you an ice pack for your tired fingers if you lived in Berkley, CA.

Next, you should check this out “No Plot? No Problem!” It is a book written by Chris Baty the founder of the Nanowrimo event and continued supporter of writing and writing education. You can find it here: Amazon.

Last, the Office of Letters and Lights  support programs like Nanowrimo and Scriptfrenzy (Scprit version of Nanowrimo). Chris Office of Letters and Lights to create a company around Nanowrimo and supports many schools and kids groups that help children get into writing. I wish that there had been a way to make me love writing more at an earlier age. Might have written 10 novels by now.

Hope you all have fun with that, and hope to see you at next years Nanowrimo.

*DIES of Handcramps*

DIY Solar System

I saw this the other day and it reminded me how wonderful it’s going to be to learn as a kid in the Internet age.

I wish that there were things like this when I was a kid so that I could really play with the physics of planetary motion. If only there was any money in video game developers making things like this.

I can dream.

http://www.geeksaresexy.net/2011/08/18/solar-system-builder-online-game/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+geeksAreSexyTechnologyNews+%28%5BGeeks+are+Sexy%5D+technology+news%29

Updated About

The About page has been updated.  You can peruse it here: http://meanderingtech.wordpress.com/about/

It seems appropriate to lay down the goals of a project before you set out on the project.  The rules for this project are:

  1. To track personal and professional progress as the days/months/years go by.
  2. To share with friends, family and colleagues the mistakes, successes and experience of life.
  3. Document some fun things that found on the internet.
  4. Document the wacky things from the job, if appropriate.
  5. A place for review and introspection.  There is a lot to be said for reviewing what you’re doing.
  6. Whatever is appropriate…

Obviously item 6 allows a lot of leeway as the page grows and develops, that’s life; this project doesn’t have a scripted end.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.