Monthly Archives: March 2009

I have been the recipient of CC’s of at least three great emails in my time. One was forwarded by a young woman who had a romantic admirer that was basically telling her that he could not have her as a part of her life if she was not willing to take things to the next level. She was not willing. The letter wasn’t blackmail or anything like that. It was a statement of fact. I’ve written those before. What stood out about the letter was the degree to which he expressed exasperation adoration for her. He obviously loved every last thing about her. Even and especially the parts he was clearly imagining.

I can’t get into the specifics without presenting the email or reproducing it somehow, but what stands out most is that there is a disconnect between who she was and how he described her. He described her as this magnificent high society type person with a social elegance and standing that he longed for in a woman. He explained that she had this entire world that was full and complete and that he wasn’t a part of it and that it was killing him.

After she forwarded me the email asking for help on a response, I told her, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but he’s so busy worshiping you that he doesn’t seem to know who you are.”

She wasn’t complete without him any more than she would have been complete with him. She had problems. Sure, she liked the opera, but she also liked crummy anime and Matlock and cheesy romance novels. But he didn’t see the earthly parts in her. He papered over them. He invented things to take their place. She wasn’t stupid. She knew who she was and she knew she wasn’t who he apparently thought she was. As flattered as she was by the compliments, and she was, and as much as he was the kind of guy that she might have gone out with at some point, and he was, as long as he held those kinds of lofty views of her, she knew that reality would eventually make its presence known and she had no idea where she would land once it did. She wasn’t partial to making wise romantic decisions, but that was one of them.

She didn’t take what I said the wrong way. She replied, “Totally.”


Capella discusses her college ex-boyfriend:

My college boyfriend, when he was planning his wedding, told me it’s not who you marry but how they make you feel. His fiancee had adopted a stance of worshipfully vacant adoration, combined with forgetting to take her birth control pills, that made him feel like getting married.

I tend to assume everyone is like me, which seems to be a common fallacy. I like men who are smarter than me in some way, whom I can admire, who inspire me. Anecdotal evidence suggests men are more interested in being the object of admiration. I suppose this is complementary and possibly biological, but I prefer when life is symmetric.

I think that there is a bit of difference between being adored and admired. Admired, to me, has stronger roots in the tangible. You are admired for what you have done and maybe for specific attributes you possess. You are adored for the sum of your parts. I admire celebrities. I adored my dog. I say this mostly because this is the terminology I am using throughout the post.

Men, like women, like being adored. Who wouldn’t? But I think that over the longer term there needs to be admiration. Both ways, I would say, for most people. Who wouldn’t want such a thing?

It would be possible to describe my non-relationship with Dharla along these lines. Her adoration of me was one of the things that kept me around even when I was pretty sure I wanted to go. It was immensely flattering, for sure. And it meant a lot more to me because she was one of the more beautiful girls that I dated and was a worthwhile person in many ways (alas, worthwhile in ways that I knew I could not fully appreciate). It really does make you feel good. It’s also very much an insufficient foundation for a relationship. I think it’s also, as with Capella’s ex, the beginnings of an unhappy future if pursued.

The problem with these relationships is not so much assymetry, though that can cause problems. The problem is that such adoration is, as was the case with my friend, unearned. It could be said to be a great deal to get adoration without having to do anything for it, but that which comes from nothing is ultimately reduced to nothing. As tempting as it is to settle down and settle in with someone on the basis that you can do know wrong… we all know that you will, at some people, do wrong. We know that if they never realize this, they’re either blind and stupid or wading through shortcomings of their own that will, unless you’re equally stupid and blind, drive you crazy.

I think a lot of my wife. I admire her a great deal. There are things about her that I adore. The same thing is true of her feelings towards me, I would wager. The difference, though, is that we have each earned one another’s respect. We have proven ourselves worthy of one another’s affections and admirations. It’s not based on some intangible sort of thing. It’s rooted in specific characteristics in a list that I could write right now with footnotes of specific experiences to back it all up. It’s based on things that she has done for me, things I have done for her, and things that we have each done for others.

Our adoration is built on love and admiration. Both are required. Both, in their own way, must be earned. If not at first, then over time. Clancy and I made commitments before we really got there. But we weren’t doing it because of how we felt at the moment. We were, in essence, betting that there was a foundation to it all. Turned out to be a smart bet.

Category: Coffeehouse

As I’ve mentioned before, DeVry University has its share of proud alums.

Interestingly, the University of Phoenix has at least one.

On my drive to work this morning, I saw a UoP license plate frame. I didn’t know they sold those. I didn’t know anybody would buy one. I definitely didn’t think anyone would actually put one on their car.

Maybe getting their own football stadium really has helped!

Category: School

A while back I wrote in irritation about a movie convention wherein the woman leaves the nice, safe (booooring) guy in favor of the character that has been a jerk throughout most of the movie only to see a little glimmer behind that rough exterior which makes him more authentic and virtuous than the man that’s been acting like a good man throughout.

Brandon Berg made the following comment:

I’d argue that the opposite trope—the one where the sensitive new-age beta wins out over the jerky alpha—is equally harmful, because it provides a terrible role model for boys who are confused and trying to figure out how to succeed romantically.

To the extent that one believes that being sensitive is a relationship liability, I would say that the bigger culprit in this are the words of women themselves when they say that all they want is someone nice. I say this but (a) reject the notion that sensitivity is in itself a liability and (b) believe that that any statement that begins in “all I want” in reference to a romantic partner is incomplete at best.

That being said, this reminded me of an area where I think that movies and television do have a detrimental effect on teaching young males the way of the romantic world. One of those things is that being a nice guy and a good friend is (or ought to be) enough for the girl of your dreams to fall for you. But that’s a pretty minor one. The bigger problem is he portrayal of persistence as being a positive attribute.

It’s not an uncommon thing to see in film a young woman won over by the sheer persistence of a young man’s pursuits. Nor is it uncommon for you to see a character harboring an unannounced affection for someone of the opposite sex over a long period of time that (a) remains unnoticed and (b) once a chance is taken, it pays off something big because it turns out that she feels the same way that he does.

In my life I have seen or heard of such things happening. Well, one case. Maybe two depending how you count it. One ended happily. The other did not. At all. But since they did actually date, I guess it counts. But by and large, the notion of persistence as a virtue and of discretion as concealment of feelings are the stuff that restraining orders are made of. The only times that I have really seen a guy keep a wrap on his intense feeling for a girl are when she doesn’t notice his feelings because she barely notices his existence (or the existence of his sexuality). It usually comes across more as a heterosexual variation of this, where the secret-keeper is the last to know that it isn’t really a secret anymore.

But the bigger thing is persistence. I can think of maybe a handful of good things that have ever come from romantic persistence in the fact of rejection or being ignored. In my romantic life, 3/4 of every problem I’ve ever had can be related to persistence. Persistence that kept me interested long after a more rational man would have flamed out. Persistence that made me come across as creepy when I was mostly clueless. Costing me not only the lost cause that was the object of my effections, but of any sort of romantic interest of anybody noticing what the heck I am doing because it would be so impossible notice me without noticing the black hole of patheticism surrounding me.

And this is all from the male perspective! From the female perspective it is arguably worse. At least I can look back and say that I had the opportunity if not the ability to quash my interest. Young women are stuck dealing with these guys bent on the idea that if they just try hard enough and keep coming at her that eventually she will buckle down. They are stuck with the guy that wistfully sighs so audibly loud in her presence that the Archangel Michael’s cat in heaven could hear him, simultaneously being assigned some responsibility for his heartache without having the ability to even confront it. Howeverasmuch I was the prisoner of my delusions, that remains being better than the prisoner of someone else’s delusions.

So I hereby resolve to have every instance of persistence in my writing end up in misery for everybody so as not to convince anybody who reads, watches, or listens to my rhetoric that persistence is ever a good idea.

Category: Coffeehouse

Let’s say hypothetically that you were in charge of picking out a prison director.

The first is a Sheriff Arpaio type. He wants prisoners humiliated wearing pink and working on chain gangs and living in tents. Maybe he wants to throw them in a dungeon. Or, if you think that’s excessive, pick whatever level of punishment that you feel that the criminals have coming to them. Criminals that have gone through his program have a 78% recidivism rate. In other words, 78% of the time, criminals released from his facility end up committing crimes again and end up in prison again.

The second is a college-professor-turn-prison-director. He wants to feed the prisoners very well and afford them luxuries more commonly associated with a luxury hotel. They sleep in nice beds, get to eat what they want, have free entertainment, and free vocational training or classes in subjects that interest them. No expense is spared in order to keep them busy and they end up being afforded luxuries that they couldn’t afford on the outside. Criminals that have gone through his program have a recidivism rate of 35%.

In this hypothetical scenario, and all other things being equal and the decision entirely in his hands (and not in some judge’s or legislature’s), who would you hire?

If you would hire the first guy, how low would the recidivism rate of the second need to be in order for you to reconsider?

If you would hire the second guy, how low would the recidivism rate of the first need to be in order for you to reconsider?

In other words, how much justice would you be willing to sacrifice for the sake of a crime reduction?

This is a question I’ve been pondering lately in less hypothetical terms and am curious of your thoughts.


AC and Web bring up interesting points as to why the recidivism rates may not be the appropriate statistic. The question, at root, is this: if treating criminals much, much better than they deserve were an effective deterrent against future crime… would it be worth forsaking justice in order to do it? How much of a deterrent would it have to be for you to consider it. Given the openings I laid out for the premise itself to be disputed, I probably should have just asked the question more abstractly.

On the hand, the enthusiasm with which people (and I have no doubt that I am a part of this) would try to realign morality with practicality (making their moral preference also the logical one), which is a separate subject I’m interested in. I’ve been mulling over a post on that subject for months now. This one, admittedly, picks a little on the right. There are other subjects (torture, profiling, etc) that pick on the left. The post has been a long time coming because I am unable to phrase it in a way that won’t become a right vs left smackdown, which I generally try to avoid.

Note: I’m not saying the recidivism rates would be lower. Nor do I intend to use this as an argument in favor of “rehabilitation.” Rather, the central question is whether we would tolerate more crime for the sake of justice, or whether we would accept the injustice of bribing criminals to behave themselves. If these numbers are too far apart, what sort of uptick in recidivism would you consider acceptable to accept the injustice? A little? A lot? None at all?

Category: Courthouse

Last weight post. I promise! For a little while, anyway. This post is going to cover some ground covered in my previous post about Inulin. This one was written first and Inulin became a hot news topic before this went up.

I wrote twice before about how people that have never really, truly struggled with their weight (losing 10 pounds to look good for your high school reunion doesn’t count) don’t understand how complex the process of losing weight is. At least from a psychological perspective. Another factor is that people lose weight in different ways. What works for one person does not mean that it will work for another. For instance, if you have one guy that loves cheese and pork and doesn’t have any real use for bread and crackers and put him on the Adkins diet, he’s much more likely to succeed than a bread-lover with a fondness for pastries. Even though they may have will-power, self-control, and discipline in equal measure, the results won’t be equal.

I have personally found that a couple of minor tweaks made all of the difference. What matters most for me is simplicity. Anything that requires me spending a whole lot of time counting points is likely to lose me. I’ll lose track of how many points I have for the day, get frustrated, and put the diet off for another day. Likewise, anything that requires of me to not eat cheese isn’t going to happen. Or a diet that says that if I drink a coke, I’m screwed for the day. I need room for a little bit of sin, lest I end up settling for a lot of sin.

I decided after moving up here to make one and only one major, written in stone change: I will eat my daily allotment of fiber at least five days a week. My initial thought was that I would try to do this, see if it did any good, and then if not I would find some other simple rule. I figured that by then I would have the habit of eating fiber and therefore taking the next step (whatever it might be) might be easier. Turned out that the fiber created a cascading effect of virtue.

Partially, I think, because of how I chose to get those calories: High-fiber cereal. Really high fiber serial. I eat 80-90% (or more) of my daily allotment for breakfast. That has the benefit of getting breakfast into my system at the beginning of the day. As everyone knows, it’s better to eat more meals of smaller quantity than fewer meals of greater quantity. I always knew that, but could never manage to do it. But breakfast set the stage for that. And it prevented me from going out and getting breakfast of a much worse sort. I did have to strike out a compromise and created a compromise: I get to eat breakfast at McDonald’s on Wednesdays. I gave in on this so that I would always have McDonald’s to look forward to without eating it on too regular a basis. To say that I’m never going to eat there is to set myself up for failure. Knowing which day I will be eating there helps solidify the thing to look forward to.

In addition to preventing greater dietary sin, the cereal keeps me full until lunch. For lunch I really lucked out. Another example of how an external circumstance can make all of the difference in the world. Mindstorm, my employer, has a great employee cafeteria. A wide selection of food at reasonable prices. But the biggest thing is that it’s a very short walk away. That’s how I learned something about myself: One of the problems in the past is that I have a psychological fixation on the notion that if I invest time and energy to go some place for lunch, I am going to do some serious eating while I am there. Since going across the street to the cafeteria is no great inconvenience, it’s incredibly easy to just get a quick, relatively small thing.

Sometimes I do get hungry later in the day, so I try to keep a box of cereal at work that I use for snack food. I did this after I realized that I was starting to go to the vending machine to satiate that end-of-day hunger. Plus, Mindstorm has free milk. So that works out. But the important part of this is not what I eat, it’s that by having fewer dietary problems (now I’m eating a good breakfast, eating a smaller lunch) I am better able to identify what the problems are and come up with solutions. It’s not so overwhelming anymore. The more changes you have to make and urges you have to fight off at once, the exponentially harder it gets to make them. I know someone that quit smoking this way, by-the-by. He just got rid of one cig a day per week (the third after lunch, the second in the morning, etc) until it wasn’t worth bothering anymore.

Dinner varies pretty wildly. When Clancy’s not on a horrendous rotation, she cooks and she makes enough for two. Otherwise I usually open something canned or in some cases just have a snack at night. The canned foods are generally not very healthy. But they’re not ridiculously unhealthy either, unless you count sodium. If I’m really hungry it’ll be some sort of pasta like Beefaroni or maybe spaghetti. Chili and/or a burrito is also an option. If I’m less hungry, I’m more likely to eat soup or just get a snack. The snacks are usually not of the healthy sort. They often include Spam.

I’ve recently expanded my attempt to include a morning workout. The workout is actually not entirely for weight. It’s partially an issue of general health and partially in anticipation for my next chore. One thing I don’t mention above is that I still drink three cokes a day and that’s not good. So I’m going to try to make a change there, too. But I know that I have to actually be ready for it in more ways than I currently am.

So for all of you I don’t know how many of these tricks might work for you. I think that it is really important to recognize that overweight people generally have bad habits in different ways. I really don’t think that there is any diet out there that is right for anyone. I think that boosters of one diet over the other (say low carb vs low fat) often mistakenly give people the impression that the way that they lose weight is the only way to do so. According to low carb people, I should be ballooning up about now when in fact it’s my low-fat diets that have historically proven to be more successful. When my wife diets, she has to go all-in. Whenever I go all-in, I burn out and fail.

Of course, what works for me may not work for anyone else. Indeed, what worked for me in the past stopped working five years ago. It used to be that I lost weight by going all-in, spending a couple days eating scratch and then slowly working my way from there. When I lost 70 pounds at the end of high school, that was how I did it (albeit not completely with intent).

Last week I ran across an MSN list about weight loss with a mathematical oddity. In the process of trying to track it down, I read just about every diet-related thing that they have. What struck me as I was reading was how many of their “tips” just didn’t apply to me. It warned against monotony, for instance, but for me monotony is a powerful thing. Creating “defaults” so that if I’m not in a particular mood for something else, I’ll eat the same thing every day. For the author of the article, though, it was a recipe for failure.

Ten years ago little changes were hard for me. Now they’re the only way that I can make changes. Ten years ago eating a little bit of cheese meant that I would go hog-wild. That’s not the case anymore. Ten years ago I could completely steer clear of cheese and sweets. I can’t anymore. Some people need carbs and others need fats and asking them to go without is completely counterproductive.

It seems to me that the best way to go is with an eye towards knowing what your limitations are and what your strengths are. My strength (and weakness) is that I am a creature of habit. I don’t get tired of foods. There are also some ubiquitous foods that I can almost completely eliminate from my diet such as french fries. There are others that I can’t. My wife’s diet includes sacrifices I could never make. Sacrifices I’ve made without little effort are things that would require the world of her.

For me, right now, the path to success is replacing one bad habit at a time.

Category: Hospital, Kitchen

Harry McCracken thinks that in short order Smartphones are going to become the dominant form of PCs:

The next computer is the smartphone–ones like the iPhone, the BlackBerry, the T-Mobile G1, and many of the handsets that debuted a couple of weeks ago at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

On some level, this is an extremely uncontroversial statement. When I chat with folks about Technologizer and tell them that phones are one of our most important topics, I explain how my former employer PC World launched in 1983, when the PC was new–and I say that for this new era of smartphones-as-personal-computers, 2009 is 1983 all over again. Everybody gets that.

But when I say that smartphones are the new PCs, I don’t just mean that they’re PC-like–I mean that they’re going to become the primary form of PCs over the next few years. The time is going to come when even a netbook will look as retro as a PDP-8, and I don’t think it’s all that far off.

When I was a freshman in college, I was told by not one but two professors that five years hence all applications would be run on the Internet and that local computers would be little more than terminals. It’s been ten years. These days, I hear that within five years all applications would be run on the Internet and that local computers would be little more than terminals. The terminology and likely execution has changed, though, so the predictions remain bold!

I mention internet apps because that’s a part of McCracken’s calculation. He expects that the smartphone computers will thrive because of Cloud Computing, which is the latest way that applications are going to all start being run remotely. As it was going to be ten years ago, it will be any day now.

If you haven’t already picked up on my skepticism of McCracken’s claim, let me say outright that I am skeptical. Very skeptical. What I hate about positions like this is that they are lazy. They are not forward-looking at all. McCracken throws out a few ideas as to how this is going to happen and then nods as if he has proven his case. He hasn’t. He overlooks some rather crucial elements insofar as how people actually use their machines. He doesn’t address the most obvious counterpart: Desktop PCs can do a lot of things out there better and cheaper than any alternative.

The question that McCracken should have asked himself is: Why do desktops still exist today? After all, we have laptops now. Laptops can already do exactly the same things that he’s claiming that smartphones will be able to do tomorrow and have been able to for quite some time. The “clam” he refers to is little more than a laptop docking station, which fell out of disuse a long time ago. Most people don’t need their laptops to be desktops. They have desktops for that. Instead of one replacing the other, they mostly coexist. Further, rather than coming closer together, they’re moving farther apart. The netbooks are the laptop market moving away from replacing desktops and towards laptops that are meant for more specified tasks.

It is extremely difficult for me to imagine that smartphones will succeed where laptops failed. Particularly when laptops were already remarkably closer to desktops in form and functions than smartphones will ever be. Laptops can have the same processing power as PCs. Their screens are in the same ballpark if not exactly comparable. Everything about the smartphone that points to it as being a successor to the desktop, the laptop was closer.

Smartphones are getting faster every day, but they’re still slow. Smartphones are rife with proprietary technology in ways that PCs (and even laptops) are not. Smartphones, by virtue of their need to be compact, have specialized parts for just about every model. They lack flexibility. They lack memory and hard drive space. Oh, and of course they lack processing power. And however fast tiny processors on tiny smartphones advance, it won’t be as fast as PC chips. McCracken is convinced that this will become less an issue because of web-based applications.

Now where have I heard that before?

Actually, I appreciate him bringing it up because I really do think that it’s the same faulty thinking at work here. Web-based applications sound great until you ignore the advantages of having your own software installed just the way you like it on your own computer. It doesn’t make sense to do a lot of these things over the internet. Sure, internet connections will get faster over time… but processors won’t? They’ll never catch up. They’ll never be necessary because it’ll be as easy to just use the laptop that you have the software installed on than it will be to log on to some software site to use the software that you’ve purchased.

Whenever you voice your objections and concerns about having all of your software installed and processing on some network server, you just get a blank look and an assurance of that’s how it’s going to be. Because it makes sense. Tell them why it doesn’t make sense for you and they will tell you why you’re the exception and technical geeks and article-writers like them who find it spiffy-cool are the norm. Linux geeks have less hubris.

What McCracken is saying about smartphones could actually happen. It could. Maybe web-apps will finally take off like we’ve been promised for so long. I certainly use GMail in a way that has made email software redundant. But any prediction that takes web-apps as a given is on some pretty shaky ground.

Whatever the case, I do expect smartphones to get smarter until we start thinking of them as a separate computer. I have long predicted the sorts of things that he’s talking about where you will be able to hook your smartphone into a console sort of thing and be able to do a lot more with it than a PC. Most likely, though, I think what we’ll see is that we plug in our phone to a PC and the PC acts as a conduit wherein you can edit files and use software in an emulation environment taking advantage of the superior hardware of the PC for your smartphone.

Right now, though, my PC doesn’t even like trading files with the smartphone.

We’re some ways off.

Category: Server Room

How did I not know about this?!

Addendum: And it’s got Lee Adama in it! That’s at least two stars from BSG that landed straight onto another program. Overall, it was a pretty typical L&O order. The accused was a well-to-do white woman. Man, those court wigs sure are something, aren’t they? Seems so silly, but I’m not sure why it’s any more silly than other required vestments like judge’s robes and whatnot. I know that it was all in English, but I really could have used subtitles on this.

Category: Theater

-{Sunday Night at Home}-

Clancy: This job I’m looking at says this town is like Mayberry. Where’s Mayberry?

Trumwill: I think in the Carolinas somewhere. I’m not sure they ever said.

Clancy: Huh?

Trumwill: Wait, you do know what Mayberry is, right?

Clancy: A town somewhere? In the Carolinas? I mean, I’ve heard of it from somewhere.

Trumwill: Like the Andy Griffith Show?

Clancy: The what?

-{Yesterday at Work}-

Trumwill: I discovered something disturbing today.

Coworker: Oh, yeah?

Trumwill: Yeah, my wife didn’t know what Mayberry was.

Coworker: Mayberry?

Trumwill: Yeah. Mayberry.

Coworker: Is that some sort of fruit or something?

Category: Theater

One danger of forward-dating posts is that between the point when you write it and when you post it, something hits the news that changes the reader’s perception of everything. Seriously, what are the odds that in the week in between my writing of a post involving fiber and it’s scheduled posting, that fiber would be in the news? Particularly the exact kind of fiber involved in the post?

Slate has an buyer-beware article on faux-fibers such as polydextrose and inulin. These don’t constitute real fiber, Jacob Gershman says, and Megan McArdle agrees. The implication, of course, is that people reading this need to go eat raw roots, nuts, and berries if they want to be healthy.

Unfortunately, I think this attitude has precisely the opposite effect. Instead of telling people what the true and good things to eat are, they sort of lead us to throw our hands in the air and say “What’s the point?” It’s sort of like that guy that, whenever you say so-and-so is bad, points to the alternative and says “that’s bad, too!” And we sort of end in this no-man’s land of nutritional post-modernism wherein whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Boiled roots and steamed beans are good for you. No one really contests that. And I get it. I get the notion that as long as I’m not eating things that I have no use for, I am a dietary sinner. I might as well be eating pig lard covered in triple-refined sugar.

One of the problems I have with the medical establishment in general is that they often have the perfect tendency to make the perfect the enemy of the good. I tell my phys ed coach that I’m drinking orange juice, and I’m warned about the sugar. People get excited by new games and game systems like DDR and the Wii that encourage exercise and they go out of their way to say that the exercise isn’t as good as the exercise you might get on the treadmill. I half-expect them to complain that the treadmill isn’t as good as jogging, which isn’t as good as carrying logs, which isn’t as good as pushing boulders in persuit of building a cave.

The problem I have with this is that for most people, the alternative to natural orange juice is not prune juice, it’s Sunny Delight or Mountain Dew Livewire. The alternative to the Wii is the XBox. The alternative fake fiber is not a breakfast of… I actually don’t know of any breakfast that they haven’t told us is killing us at some point in the last ten years. Eggs, bacon, oats, orange juice. Maybe a pear and a grass salad is okay. Or eggs, if you strip it of the part that tastes good and don’t add anything to add taste (cause it probably contains sodium, which as well all know will kill you).

The more personal problem I have with it is that more than any other product I can think of, the one thing that has helped my life more than any other is the fake fiber discussed in this article.

When I moved to Cascadia, I made only one conscious dietary decision: to eat more fiber. I decided to do this with fiber-enriched FiberONE cereal. FiberONE contains inulin, which is discussed in the Slate article. Since making that decision, I have lost 35 pounds.

I drink three or four cokes a day. I eat McDonald’s for breakfast once a week. Donuts once a week. If I really want a burger or a couple pieces of pizza, I eat it. I put cheese in the canned pasta I not-infrequently have for dinner. I have not once said “That’s unhealthy. I shouldn’t eat that.” But the weight nonetheless came off.

It would be silly to attribute it all to the cereal. But what happened was the cereal replaced the far, far less healthy breakfasts that I had been eating. It got me to stop skipping The Most Important Meal of the Day. It kept my bowels regular. It suppressed my appetite. It got me started on the right foot. So when it came to lunch, unless I actively wanted something unhealthy, I would continue the trend that I set myself in the morning and get a boca burger. Since I’m less hungry (or have been hungry for less time), I’ll eat less.

If I had read this article before I’d made that decision, I never would have started eating the cereal. I mean, what’s the point? It’s not real fiber. You might get the impression reading the article that there was nothing worthwhile in the product at all. A waste of time. I might as well be eating at McDonald’s.

McArdle makes the comment that the FDA should release a statement saying “If it tastes that good, it isn’t good for you.”

In some people’s minds, it’s as though something tasting good is immaterial. Or that, if they really tried, they’d learn to like brussel sprouts. Maybe, if raised on it, they would.

But things like taste and convenience matter. They matter a great deal. Because without it, people will not continue to eat it. They will likely default to something far, far less healthy. If putting a cheese on a veggie burger makes me like it, it’s worth the added fat because it means that I will have liked my veggie burger and will eat it again. Struggling with no cheese or soy cheese may be acceptable, but it won’t have me coming back for more. That double cheese-burger, which I know will satisfy me, will call to me evermore loudly.

Granted, I am fortunate in that if I do the right things (and even some of the wrong ones), I will lose weight. I recognize that others don’t have it so easy. For whatever reason, they have to sacrifice a lot more to get a lot less loss in return. So for them, maybe these articles are worthwhile if they wonder why their high-“fiber” breakfast isn’t doing the trick.

But I think that a large part of the problem with obesity in this country has less to do with too many people thinking that faux-fiber is actual fiber and a lot more to do with being made to feel guilty any time they eat something that they didn’t pluck from the ground themselves. Diets are notorious for being short-lived and ultimately resulting in weight gain. They tell us that we need to not just go on a diet, but change our lifestyle. But anything convenient or tasty is off-limits.

That’s a recipe for failure.

Category: Hospital, Kitchen

Clancy and I were talking about baby names the other day. We already have a consensus name if we have a daughter (whenever the time comes, of course). We’re at odds with male names, though. So I was looking up names.

I ran across a couple sites (boys and girls) that had some interesting data on name-frequency rankings. It’s no surprise that you have traditional names that have fallen somewhat into disuse and you have names that came out of virtually nowhere and became prominent. I was curious which names were at the top of each list. So I found a site that has names that keeps track of the most popular names last year, in the last five years, the last twenty-five years, and the last 125 years. The most interesting distinction for me was last 25 vs last 125. I created a spreadsheet and created lists of names that are in the top-100 for the last 125 years and ordered them by what percentage of those occurred in the last 25 years. The list of names will be at the bottom of the post.

I guess it’s no great surprise that female naming is apparently a much more fickle art than male naming. Female names seem much more likely to both suddenly surge and die off. Notably, 13 of the top 100 female names are “dead names”. Only one of male name is dead, and even that name (like one of the 13 female names) may just be on life support because it’s only the last year that it wasn’t used).

The most surprising to me was Jacob, which I don’t associate with being a “trendy name”. I was surprised at the trendiness both ways on Biblical names, which I consider to be more immortal. Part of me would love to dust off some of these unused names. While names like Mildred and Doris seem dated, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with the name Beverly and I think Carol is a fabulous name. Interestingly, prior to even seeing this list, the name Walter was mentioned.

Before I get to the names, a little bit on the limitations of the data. First, only names that made the list are counted. That includes names that are in the top-100 in the last 125 years. I’m sure that there are a lot of dead names that were never as big as the ones listed. Similarly, there are obviously names now that did not exist 25 years ago. So it’s a limited sample. And it’s a bit outdated. By “last year”, I mean 2004. The last five years encompasses 1999-2005. And so on. Lastly, these names are spelling-specific. So a name like Theresa takes a hit because it competes with Teresa. Catherine has three spellings, which dilutes its significance. The dead names are names that have not been used in the last five years. Names that have not been used in the last year are also listed, but with an asterisk.

The trendy male names: Tyler (96.5%), Zachary (94.3%), Austin (92.5%), Brandon (89.1%), Jacob (87.4%), Kyle (86.41%), Justin (85.4%), Joshua (84.8%), Ryan (80.1%), and Nicholas (78.9%).

The dying male names: Fred (2.38%), Harold (3.03%), Ralph (3.42%), Howard (3.59%), Harry (3.63%), Earl (4.3%), Clarence (4.43%), Eugene (4.98%), Walter (5.53%), and Stanley (5.95%).

The dead male name: Fred*

The trendy female names: Brittany (99%), Ashley (96.9%), Samantha (91.3%), Lauren (88.9%), Megan (88.9%), Amber (84.3%), Jessica (83.5%), Amanda (77.9%), Danielle (77.6%), and Emily (76.9%)

The dying female names: Florence (.09%), Mildred (.14%), Lois (.2%), Doris (.68%), Betty (.72%), Joan (.9%), Dorothy (1.16%), Jean (1.31%), Shirley (1.48%), Carol (1.86%)

The dead female names: Florence, Mildred, Lois, Doris, Betty, Joan, Jean, Judy, Debra, Beverly, Cheryl, Tammy, Lori*

Category: Coffeehouse