An archetypal example of spectacularly shitty “research” and even worse reporting

I recently hinted at the fact that surveys are not scientific studies, and should not be treated as sources of useful data when it comes to certain areas of research. I now have a “study” that exemplifies this perfectly.

It’s one thing to ask people yes-or-no questions that are hard to fuck up without conscious effort, e.g., “Who do you plan to vote for for president next week?” It’s a far sketchier matter to rely on self-reporting and self-recall when it comes to something not nearly so black-and-white, such as food consumption.

Therefore, “research” findings that the author of this article suggests are surprising are not startling in the least, and it’s not difficult to understand why. Continue reading “An archetypal example of spectacularly shitty “research” and even worse reporting”

Bad science blogging: egg-on-your-face edition

“Eggs are Nearly as Bad for Your Arteries as Cigarettes!”

I guess the exclamation point in the title of this post on a militant (hate to recycle that word from the “militant atheists” idiots, but it sometimes fits) vegan blog is supposed to add veracity, or intrigue, or something.  But a survey of several of my friends proves that this is bullshit, and that exclamation points intended to lend support to an idea instead imply that the idea is flimsy at best, laughable at worst. And a survey is as good as a formal study, at least in some people’s view.

Yes, egg yolks contain a lot of cholesterol, and cholesterol has indeed been associated with atherosclerosis and attendant health problems and risks. Smoking’s effects on the cardiovascular system are well established. Good. But the finer points of the “One Green Planet” post are off the mark and signal bias, laziness or both.

Here’s the breakdown. Continue reading “Bad science blogging: egg-on-your-face edition”

Same story, different headlines: a great example

Since sectarian religion by definition plays fast and loose with the truth (I’ve always wondered where the “fast” part of that saying comes from, but for now I’ll just roll with the cliche’), it should be no surprise that Christian news outlets are even more deep into the spin game than most media outlets, virtually none of which are free of at least some degree of obvious bias.

In 2009, a lawsuit was filed that aimed to block President Obama’s expansion of the availability of embryos for embryonic stem-cell research (ESCR) via federal funding. (Ironically, the suit was brought not by pro-life opponents but by a pair of scientists concerned that the change in policy from the Bush Administration, which allowed ESCR but not its taxpayer funding, would ultimate backfire and hurt progress in ESCR.) The suit was tossed by a lower court, which determined that there was no basis for the suit since it was predicated on the erroneous idea that embryos in the federally funded projects were “harmed” in the process, which, if true, would violate a 1996 piece of legislation. (The quote marks are mine; feel free to argue with their inclusion if you want.) This decision was appealed, and on Friday, and appellate court upheld the lower court’s decision. Continue reading “Same story, different headlines: a great example”

Plyo Boxes

In an attempt to regain a certain “spring to my step” which seems to have dissipated with my battling of injuries over the last few years, I decided to get back to some bounding and jumping drills. As part of this little experiment I thought it might be nice to get some plyometric boxes. These can be rather expensive though, and being somewhat of a cheap bastard when it comes to things like this, I decided to build some. I am by no means an expert with tools but I have managed to build a few things over the years and I figured with the assistance of a friend who is an expert with tools involving wood, this shouldn’t take too long nor cost too much.

I decided to build three boxes of 4″, 8″, and 16″ height and 2’x2′ square. By stacking them I could get 4″ increments from 4″ to 28″. To keep them from separating I figured I could latch them together. 3/4″ plywood is plenty strong, especially when glued and screwed together, so that would be the body material. It turns out this takes a little more than one 4’x8′ sheet of plywood but I had an old treadmill deck sitting in the basement which would make up the shortfall (3/4″ MDF). So it was off to the lumber yard.  The sheet was about $40 plus another $8 for a box of wood screws. From there we went to my buddy’s shop and spent a few hours cutting, drilling, and assembling the units.

Fortunately, I had some left over exterior grade poly, so the boxes got two coats. Now I needed something to prevent slippage. I ordered something called “gymnastic rubber” from an online place but it turned out to be very flimsy. Even at 1/4″ thickness it could easily be torn with just your fingers. I returned it and wound up with a couple of 2’x6′ yoga mats ($9 each, on sale due to discontinued colors-oh the horror). The “gymnastic rubber” weighed a mere 1.3 ounces per square foot. The yoga mats are over 1/4 pound per square foot and should hold up nicely. These were cut into 2’x2′ squares and glued onto the top and bottom surfaces of each box. I had some acoustical sealant laying around which is like caulk that never fully dries, it stays rubbery, so I used that.

Then the latches. It seems you can’t buy decent latches at the local home improvement store. The ones I finally grabbed are made by GateHouse and came with perhaps the cheapest screws I have ever seen. The phillips head slot will strip out with only modest torque.  I replaced them with some beefier units I had (3/4″ #8 as I recall).

OK, so the whole thing was less than $100 (not counting supplies on hand) and in total took the better part of a day. The set weighs over 80 pounds. Here’s a pic:

We’ll see if they work.

 

A Healthy, Fundamental Right

If one were to make a list of healthy hobbies, that list would probably include distance running, bicycling, rowing, skiing, hiking, swimming, and a variety of other self-locomotive activities. If a second list were to be created that detailed fundamental rights which need to be protected, it’s a safe bet that it would include items such as the rights of self-determination, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and so forth. What’s the intersection of these two lists? Just ask my Congressman.

New York’s 24th district is represented by Richard Hanna, a conservative Republican millionaire who was swept in with the Tea Party surge of 2010. Now that the next election is less than a year away, we have begun receiving mailers from the Congressman informing us of the important work that he has been supporting. One arrived just the other day. The winning line for me was the following:

“Hunting, fishing, shooting, snowmobiling, and trapping are not only healthy hobbies – they’re fundamental rights that need to be protected.”

Apparently, sitting behind a loud two-cycle engine and breathing its exhaust is both healthy and a fundamental right. So is standing around and shooting at a target. And certainly everyone admits that fishermen and hunters are known for their buff physiques and strong hearts.

For the most part I don’t really care whether or not someone finds fishing or snowmobiling or the like to be a fun pastime. We each have our preferences.  I think it’s a bit of a stretch, though, to describe some of these things as healthy or fundamental rights.

Unless, of course, you’re trying to reach out to your base. In that case it’s better apparently to make them feel better about themselves and mention minor, tangential items that you support than to address the large concerns and necessary legislation that will, in fact, actually help people in a major way.

 

The mysterious, accusatory They

Someone on a fat acceptance blog has written another post about the excoriating unfairness of the Body-Mass Index. (For those who have been trapped under a rock for fifteen or so years, the BMI — calculated by dividing mass in kilograms by the square of height in meters — is a metric clinicians use to define people as overweight [BMI greater than 25.0], obese [over 30.0] and “morbidly obese” [over 40.0].) This post, however, doesn’t attack the legitimacy of the BMI itself by contesting the established correlation between higher BMI and higher risk of certain medical conditions. Instead it targets those who use it without saying exactly who these people are, although from the context it seems to be a loose cabal of epidemiologists, doctors, health insurers, climate scientists, social workers and others. Her argument seems to be that using 30 as a a cut-off for obese ends up classifying a lot of healthy people as unhealthily fat: Continue reading “The mysterious, accusatory They”

Couples therapy may be useful in eating disorders

I use Medline Plus a great deal for my LIVESTRONG Foundation writing and editing work, and I’m glad I added it to my RSS reader because there’s a lot of concise, up-to-date information provided by the NIH.

Here is a short video touting the value of couples therapy in helping women to recover from anorexia, a disease for which, the physician narrator admits, few adult treatment options exist. I don’t know why I’m so struck by a desultory 64-second-long presentation, but it’s probably because most people I know who are in varying stages of recovery from anorexia learn somewhere that they need to deal with the issue themselves; “help” from friends and family had traditionally meant understanding and quiet support rather than actively planning meals or jointly facing the problem of food choices. The problem with the latter is that there’s always a psychological tug-of-war between anorexics being hyperacutely aware of others’ scrutinizing their dietary habits and choices and the fact that their fierce independence is largely what allowed them to become very sick in the first place. as with any other difficult chronic disease of the body and mind, having a partner in your life you can trust is vital; again, common sense, but somehow anorexia seems to have been quietly given an exemption to this guideline over the years.