Binge eating = fat belly

Skipping meals could lead to fat gain, research suggests

I didn’t get ‘skipping meals leads to fat gain’ from the article, instead I saw ‘binge eating leading to a bloated belly’. I am certainly guilty of binge eating. When I prepare food I prepare as much as I think I will want to eat, then generally eat every bit of it, though if someone else prepares the meal and it is smaller, I can eat that amount and be completely happy. So far I haven’t been able to reliably ‘outsmart’ myself in this regard, though I generally eat ‘dinner’ around 3 and try to avoid eating until I go to bed (around 9).

Buffets have historically been a problem for me. I actually swore them off for years because I could never leave satisfied: either I was in agony because I had ate so much or I felt I hadn’t got my money’s worth. Only years later did I develop the mental stability to be able to have a plate (sometimes two, but often just one) of food and be satisfied with my experience. I am now able to enjoy a bit of a bunch of my favorite foods and not feel the need to stuff myself to the gills. Sadly, this attitude doesn’t carry over to holiday meals where I tend to belly up to the trough multiple times, then, once the agony has subsided, return with both trotters in.

Naturally, being human and American, it isn’t my fault. It is my parents/genes/society/bad gut microbiome/whatever else I can latch onto’s fault!

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Octopus camouflage bypasses brain, eyes

Octopuses can ‘see’ with their skin – completely bypassing their eyes and brains
The same light-sensitive pigment found in their eyes exists in their skin—5733629

This is not unexpected to me, I have seen videos of octopi moving onto something and then camouflaging themselves while apparently keeping their visual focus on the camera man. I have also seen situations where the octopus is slowly moving across a portion of the sea floor and shifting their colors as they move. Of course, they might be shifting their focus briefly and have the intellect to memorize the ground they are about to cover, but it makes more sense to me that ‘evolution’ would ‘delegate’ this task to the skin and not bother using the brain/eyes.

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Liquid metal antenna…

Team Designs Liquid Metal Antenna Twice as Powerful than a Regular One

Interesting idea. I was intrigued to note this passage: “NCSU researchers have long shown a special interest in liquid metal devices…”. I guess they just think the subject is cool and keep playing with it until they find something useful. I have to imagine that they will need someone else to take it from concept to product, an attitude like they must have to keep at this for so long indicates they lack what is necessary to productize it.

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This one took a few seconds…


I recently learned that the ‘punchline’ often required a mouse-over, give it a try…

Even after reading the mouse-over text I still had to think about it for a few more seconds (I was clueless entirely until the mouse-over), but, dammit, he is right! Why do we persist in ignoring the information science has gleaned over the years? It took decades to get their tails off the floor and hold them in the air as the counterbalance to the long neck, how long until we cloth them properly?

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Positioning is key

This is a follow on to a previous post

Over the weekend I discussed the positioning of my writing as ‘erotic romance’ with my wife. I was not sure how I felt about the sex scenes I had written or planned and wasn’t sure adding them would help or hurt any marketing efforts. My lovely wife said that back when she read what she termed as ‘suspense romance’ she recalled the sex scenes were even more explicit than what I had written, and as such didn’t see that what I had written so far actually applied to the ‘erotic’ label. As a consequence I did some more research on the distinction between romance and erotic romance. The general consensus seems to be that in erotic romance the sex is largely no-strings-attached and/or deviates from pure pair-wise heterosexual whereas plain romance the sex is about love and is pure pair-wise heterosexual. There also appears to be a bit of a distinction based on word choice, meaning more graphical descriptions of ‘parts’ leans toward erotic while less graphical is romance. Based on that ‘definition’, such that it is, I am still not totally clear on my work. My intent is to evolve the sex between my characters into love (part of the story is about how they need help to even realize they have fallen in love with one another) but that process is aided and abetted by a third party (woman) who also happens to wind up in love with both of the other characters, hence not pure pair-wise heterosexual. Since I wrote what I have so far as less graphical and was planning on continuing that theme, intend for there to be ‘forever after’ love at the end (complexified a bit because it is a three-way instead of pair) I think I will strip out the ‘erotic’ label and stick with just the ‘romance’ bit. These distinctions matter because they influence how any work gets positioned/marketed. If you position wrong you are spending resources targeting a population that isn’t going to be satisfied with your product (this is as true in erotic romance thrillers as it is in such things as bicycles, rocket ships and nuclear power plants). Consequently, if my sex scenes are not hot enough for the erotic market, I am deemed a failure and there is bad word-of-mouth hurting sales. Conversely, if my sex is deemed inappropriate for the romance-only crowd they are also dissatisfied and there is poor word-of-mouth. AFter all that analysis, I am thinking now of dropping the ‘erotic’ moniker as I think I am better off without it. Of course, all my efforts to categorize things may be moot if I go with a traditional publisher, but it will no doubt be a factor if I do decide to try and find one as I would be targeting romance publishers (as opposed to erotic-focused publishers).

Though I haven’t had time to actually do anything, there is also an element of analysis paralysis regarding putting my writing on the web. Initially I planned on a simple password protected site run over HTTPS and any feedback needed to come via email on the part of the reader. However, I immediately started to get into more elaborate designs: first having a link on each paragraph (I was thinking each sentence, but believe I have talked myself out of that) that would pop up a new browser window that would take the reader to a comment section where they could provide feedback without having to create a separate email. That then mutated to carrying over the relevant text so they didn’t have to refer back to the previous window which then immediately lead to storing the content and responses in a database which naturally lead to showing the reader any previous comments which of course lead to some sort of diff mechanism so readers coming back after I have made changes can easily see what is new/different. So, I have gone from maybe two hours of work to weeks-long development of a full-blown application and I have yet to set fingers on keyboard (well, regarding this issue). This aspect of my design process is fairly normal, I don’t like to tie myself down too soon during design, sometimes the best ideas sound crazy at the start (of course, most of them really are crazy, got to sift through a lot of gravel to find the occasional nugget!). What has given me some slight pause in simply discarding the elaborate idea and going back to simplicity (though perhaps retaining the pop-up window for adding comments (though without carrying the selected text along)) is that the couple of places I have looked at regarding critiquing authors on-line have been terrible. All text based, showing their deep roots back to their listserv beginning and basically a huge pain in the ass. While I don’t think there is much money in something like this, it does appear to be something needed. Still, again, I haven’t put the needed time/effort into the retro game and I think there is money it that; why should I think I will do something for free? Also, I started writing stories because I couldn’t make the effort to program the game, so now I am going to make time to program that isn’t the game? I think I have just talked myself into going back to the simple version, perhaps with the small add-on to skip the need for email.

So much analysis, so little accomplished!

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Beta readers

In the off chance that any of my reader(s) are interested, I thought I would throw out a request:

Anyone want to be a ‘beta reader‘ for my erotic romance thriller?

At the beginning of this year I started to think about how I could try and turn my weekday afternoons (weekends being ‘lost’ to construction) into something that could generate some income. Since I can type fast (60+ wpm) and like to tell stories I thought that perhaps I should investigate creative writing. It turns out there are a handful of places that pay for short stories, one,, actually pays up to 25 cents/word (others 5-8). Of course, after review/editing I wouldn’t be outputting 60 wpm, but I decided to think about it during my too-ing and fro-ing from work. I came up with a story based on the question: “What if the light speed ‘barrier’ was irrelevant due to longevity?” so set out writing about an astronomer who detected a faint signal from a long-living being who has been ‘racing’ around the galaxy trying to catch up with a technological civilization before it was lost to self destruction or the singularity. My most natural writing style is ‘intense’ first person (based on the ‘intense third person‘ style of one of my favorite authors). When I read I like that style (the “Stainless Steel Rat” books are written much the same way) and since it was easy for me when I wrote, I decided to go with it.

So, my first effort was hard science fiction, the few reviewers I got feedback from were mixed so I sort of stalled (my intent was a series of short stories) and thought about other ideas. One I came up with was also scifi, the idea of a ‘travelogue’ where the narrator travels the solar system at the point in the future where there is a substantial population scattered about, actual space stations with 100’s of thousands of people, regular space-based industry, etc. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of any plot, it would be mostly an excuse for me to fantasize about how I would like things to be and what I had intended to work towards when I was young and full of optimism (before I became a cynical old man bitter about society). I never got any words written on this topic (I got about 5K words (assuming 250 words/page, about 20 pages) on the “Starfarer’s Journal”), so I started to think about another idea: what about telling the story of a contract killer from his point of view? I set about writing a character sketch for my development purposes but that sucker got out of control and wound up being nearly 6,700 words. Quite thin on plot, suspense, etc., it was a character sketch after all, but the little feedback I got seemed to indicate it had promise and the concept had a tight hold on my brain and was keeping me awake at night, so I decided to put some time in it.

I had done some research on what sort of stories sold the most and it seems that romance is king. Thrillers are a close second, so I thought, why not a romantic thriller? I had my protagonist established as having a particular fascination with a specific spy he had met, I could tell a story about how they met. That work was flowing fairly easily for me, I pounded out 12K words in next to no time. I found myself extending one of the romance scenes into an erotic one (it sure was fun to write, let me tell you! The visions floating in my head ‘disturbed’ me for days, nay, weeks afterwards). I did some research and found that erotic romance was indeed a genera and things got sliced and diced to the point that erotic romance thriller is actually a considered sub category large enough to talk about. Again I sought feedback, but found things even more difficult. At this point I have feedback from one person: my aunt who used to be in the publishing ‘biz. I may have offended her, though, as I felt much of her feedback related to my stylistic choice of intense first person and deliberately leaving explanations for some activity later, or not at all. As I started working on a follow-up story I started to think that I might have a novel in me. It seems getting a novel published is a huge pain in the ass and rarely pays well, but my ‘short’ stories were already at the limit of what magazines would consider, so I figured I could explore this route. My second section has reached close to 10K words and I have outlines for a couple of other sections that make me optimistic that reaching the debut novel length of 75-80K words is quite achievable.

The problem I have is I don’t like to work for no reason. I like my effort to have meaning, so when writing, I want readers (when programming, I want users). I have been running low on motivation lately (though my wife read the first section and said she couldn’t put it down, she has been conspicuously silent every time I have asked her to read my second section) because I can’t get feedback (beyond my aunt, who I think I may have alienated). I have found some sites that appear to put authors in touch with ‘beta readers’ and think I will pursue that angle. However, I figured I would at least let my dear reader(s) know about my efforts in case they want to get involved. I will be developing a password protected web site where I can post my works-in-progress and will provide the link and username/password to anyone interested in taking a look. All together at this point I have about 38K words written, though only about 28K of that is to the point I want to show it to someone (the thriller clocks in at about 22K words so far). The kind of feedback I am looking for is: is my writing interesting enough to pay for or is it tripe and I have already wasted too much time on it? In particular for my erotic romance thriller, is it thrilling? Romantic? Should I bother with the erotic bits? (Meaning, does my writing turn you on? Does it fit within the story?). I hope to have the site set up in a week or two (I experimented yesterday and believe I can fairly trivially set up the secure, password protected site, what I need now is a way to convert my Google docs into the sort of HTML layout I have in mind), then I am going to seek feedback. If that feedback is not supportive, then I will probably just remove the password protection and leave it as-is and try something else with my few spare hours. If the feedback appears positive, then I will continue writing and then make the decision to seek a publisher or self publish (there are pros and cons for each method), perhaps with feedback from my reader community.

So, any interest? If so, email me at mitakeet [at] gmail [dot] com

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Firm handshake = longer life

A handshake can reveal how long you will live
How likely you are to die in the next few years could be judged from your handshake, new research shows.

I doubt this is causative, almost certainly correlative (meaning a firm handshake doesn’t cause longer life, just reveals those that are healthier), but it does give an easy way to test to see if someone is on the way out. An interesting next step would be to take those with wimpy handshakes and give them extra health counseling and encourage them to exercise, then if that group lives longer than the control group (uncounseled wimpy handshakes), then it becomes a very handy and simple health metric.

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Dress riddle

I have to imagine everyone has seen it by now, the dress that appears to be blue/black to certain people and gold/brown to others, well it seems it has to do to what kind of light you are most used to:

Mystery dress

That Dress riddle: trick of the light?

Now, three scientific studies, including one from the University of Bradford, have explained why. Scientists say the conflict is due to the mechanism the brain uses to ensure an object is seen to be the same colour, no matter what time of day or type of light it is bathed in. In bright, midday sun, daylight is blueish and so the brain subtracts blue light. In artificial light, it gets rid of yellows – and in both cases an object should appear the same.

Crucially, the mechanism relies on other nearby colours, such as reds and greens, to judge how much blue or yellow to remove. In the case of the dress, these reference colours were missing. Blue is also particularly tricky for the brain to deal with.

Neuroscientist Bevil Conway, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, who asked more than 1,400 people about the dress, says it is likely those who spend a lot of time outdoors, or had just been in daylight, took away too much blue and saw it as white, while those more used to artificial light subtracted yellows and perceived it as blue.

I like to be outdoors (though my job has me sitting at a desk all day, and I admit I spend a lot of time on the couch in front of the TV) and when I drive home each afternoon I deliberately do not use sun glasses so I can get exposure to the light. Perhaps that is why I am in the gold/brown camp.

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Burn it! Burn it all down!

How to demolish the oligarchy in 3 easy steps
American democracy has been tainted by lobbying and corporate interests. How do we fix it? Blow it all up

This is a nice clean summary of some of the pivotal sources of inequality in our ‘great nation’. This doesn’t require that the rich pay higher taxes (though they certainly should), it only requires that parasites on our dysfunctional system get shed for the greatest good for the greatest number…

We have six separate, major American health care programs, with different streams of revenue and based on different systems

America’s health care policies are a dog’s breakfast. America’s retirement policies are a dog’s breakfast that a dog barfed up later.

By my count, that’s four distinct major retirement systems in the U.S.

Education? We have public provision: public K-12 and public community colleges and state universities. Outside of this system of direct public educational provision, we have a separate system of federal student loans. And a third system of federal grants. And because three incompatible systems of aiding higher education are not enough—this is America!—we have yet a fourth, completely different system of tax-favored college savings accounts. America’s system of funding higher education is not quite as insanely complicated as our health care and retirement systems. But we’re getting there!

The political scientist Steven Teles calls this kind of baroque public policy “kludgeocracy.” Another way to describe it would be that Rube Goldberg gets elected and promotes various goals—health care, retirement security, educational access—by means of needlessly elaborate contraptions involving candles, levers, and gerbils running on wheels.

Who benefits from this complexity? Lobbyists, tax preparers, accountants, and rent-seeking parasites in the private sector who figure out how to game these needlessly elaborate systems to skim money from taxpayers and rate payers. Complexity is the friend of corruption. Simplicity, on the other hand, promotes democracy.

Equal rights for all, special privileges for none.

Fantasy? In the short term, sure. The well-paid parasites who profit from complexity will see to that. But there are two kinds of politics: Moving the ball and moving the goal-posts. This is about moving the goal-posts. This is about the next generation, not the next election.

Rome was not built in a day, and the antiquated, crumbling, rat-infested fire hazard that is American public policy will not be condemned, demolished and replaced by a clean, modern, solid structure overnight. But the sooner we start the demolition, the better. In the meantime, “Equal rights for all, special privileges for none” would make a good campaign slogan in 2016.

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Physicists ‘skeptical’ of global warming

Semantic battle among physicists forces a restatement of their stance on climate change

Semantics is very important in science and I agree that the 2007 version was non-scientific:

The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.

The key here is ‘incontrovertible’. Very little is such in science and to have an official statement representing a huge body of scientists use that word is rather offensive. Though physicists sometimes bandy about Einstein’s equations using such verbiage, they all know that doing so is a lazy approximation and is fine only in casual conversation. When they stand up to give presentations or write papers they get a lot more conservative and sprinkle caveats all over their statements. The person behind the change in verbiage, Dr. Steven E. Koonin, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (which, naturally, was controversial in itself since the WSJ has regularly been critical of climate science) where he basically laments the crappy state of the science of climate science and how both sides (‘denalists’ and what I term ‘end-of-the-world-ists’) have left no room for actual scientific discussion. As I talk about many times I have many of the exact same complaints about the science of climate science (I even talk about it here, toward the end) and while I seem to have missed Koonin’s original essay by a number of months, I do agree with his sentiment and so want to promulgate it to the extent my poor blog is capable of.

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