Saturday, September 12, 2009

Favorites

The Amazon Vine program recently asked me to add lists of favorites to my profile, and it occurs to me that perhaps anyone reading here might also want to know what I've rated as "Excellent" in the past five years in books, music, movies and other "stuff", so here goes:

My Favorite Books:
Windows 7 Secrets, by Paul Thurrott & Rafael Rivera;
The Last Day, by James Jandis;
The Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey;
One Second After, by William R. Forstchen;
Beasts of New York, by Jon Evans;
The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young;
Boundaries with Kids, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend;
La Biblia par Principiantes;
Moment of Truth in Iraq, by Michael Yon;
Bike for Life, by Roy M. Wallack and Bill Katovsky;
My Grandfather's Son, by Clarence Thomas;
What's so Great about Christianity, by D'Nesh D'Sousa;
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein;
Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall and Denver Moore;
Real Food, by Nina Planck;
SQL Queries for Mere Mortals, by Michael J. Hernandez and John L. Viescas;
America Alone, by Mark Steyn;
Younger Next Year, by Chris Cowley and Henry S. Lodge;
The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon;
An Army of Davids, by Glenn Reynolds;
Blood Brothers, by Elias Chacour;
The Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz;
SAS Survival Handbook, by John "Lofty" Wiseman;
Bulletproof, by Chuck Holton;
The Ezekiel Option, by Joel C. Rosenberg;
The Road to Serfdom, by F. A. Hayek;
State of Fear, by Michael Crichton;
Basic Economics, by Thomas Sowell;
The Total Temple Makeover, by Gregory Jantz;
A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck;
A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck;
The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli;
Ten Minutes from Normal, by Karen Hughes;
The Skeptical Environmentalist, by Bjorn Lomborg;
The CONTRARIANS Guide to Leadership, by Steven B. Sample;
Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel, by Mike S. Adams;
Applied Economics, by Thomas Sowell;
Darwin on Trial, by Phillip E. Johnson;
Authentically Black, by John McWharter; and
Beyond black and White, by George Yancey

My Favorite Music:
Everybody Talkin' 'bout Heaven, by Acappella;
Holy, Holy, Holy, by Alvin Slaughter;
Thy Word, by Amy Grant;
By the Rivers of Babylon, by Bonny M;
Big Enough, and And Your Praise Goes On, by Chris Rice;
Sandstorm, by Darude;
Colored People, by dc Talk;
Get Over It, by Eagles;
Anywhere Is, by Enya;
Amazing Grace, by The Five Blind Boys of Alabama;
Lead On, O King Eternal, by Glad;
Everybody Understands The Blues, by Glenn Kaiser;
What A Day It Will Be, by Greg Ferguson;
Tom's Diner- (White Label Club Mix), by Kenny Blake (feat. Suzanne Vega);
You Are The New Day, by The King's Singers;
Everlasting God (New!), and Here I Am to Worship (New! Instrumental), by Lincoln Brewster;
Aethera Et Terra, and Cantandus, by Magna Canta;
Earthrise Return, by Mannheim Steamroller;
Spiritual High (Part III), by Moodswings;
Don't Give Up, and This Is The Picture (excellent birds) by Peter Gabriel;
I'm gonna love you forever, by Randy Travis;
Faure--requiem- Pie Jesu, by Robert Shaw;
Tent In The Center Of Town (Live), by Sara Groves;
Revelation 19, by Student Impact Worship Team;
Secret Garden-Moving, from Natural Wonders Music Sampler 1997;
I am a Man of Constant Sorrow (With Band), from O Brother Where Art Thou;
The Urgency (Of The Generally Insignificant), and Come Home, by Wayne Watson; and
Everyday (Live), by Willow Creek Music

My Favorite Movies:
Up; and
The Gods Must be Crazy

My Other Favorites:
Asus Eee PC 1000 netbook computer;
Palm Centro GSM unlocked cell phone;
Apple iPod Touch handheld computer;
Amazon Kindle 2 electronic reader;
Garmin Forerunner 305 and Nuvi 350 GPSes;
Peek handheld Email device;
2002 Toyota Prius automobile; and
HP Velotechnik Scorpion Fx recumbent tricycle

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Getting ready to live longer

Some researchers think we are on the virge of being able to vastly increase human lifespans. One obvious preparatory step is to keep intact whatever vitality each of us already has, so we can actually enjoy such an extension.

The Speculist today asked Dr. Terry Grossman what three things people might do to prepare. Here's the response:
1 Stop eating sugar
2 Get exercise
3 Reduce stress in your life
Speculist adds a fourth:
4 Don't smoke or drink heavily

These all seem excellent suggestions for best enjoying whatever time remains any of us.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Common Ground on Abortion?

This Slate article makes excellent sense to me. Author William Saletan suggests abortion foes and advocates work as hard at finding common ground as President Obama has in seeking common ground with Muslims, and suggests four specifics:
1) Abortion supporters need to accept "abortion reduction" as a goal. I've always liked President Clinton's way of putting it: "safe, legal, and rare."
As Saletan says, " No ordinary person sees a difference between reducing abortions and reducing the need for abortions."
2) Abortion opponents need to stop also opposing contraception.
As Saletan says, "Next to abstinence, contraception is the surest way to prevent abortions, period. Save your scruples about taxpayers' rights for an issue where nobody's dying."
3) Don't let the actions of extremists (such as the recent murder of a doctor who performed late-term abortions) stop the seeking of common ground.
As Saletan says, "Look at the president. Instead of portraying Muslims as family members of terrorists, he's reaching out to them so that they won't become or support extremists. You would do well to treat pro-lifers the same way."
4) Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good when it comes to money.
As Saletan says, "Stop quarreling about indirect funding, and focus instead on the most direct question: preventing abortions. You might even discover that the most efficient way to prevent abortions in the long term is to fund the family planning organizations you keep trying to defund."

Here are my own (slightly-updated) previous thoughts on abortion:

I'm always amazed when folks on both sides of the abortion debate go way out of their way to avoid obviously reasonable compromises. Here are examples:

1. Some folks still oppose nearly all forms of birth control, even when used by married couples, yet have the gall to demand any resulting pregnancy not be aborted. I understand their argument -- that birth control pills, and IUDs do not prevent fertilization, acting rather to prevent implantation, much like an abortion, and agree that it's hard to set any specific starting point for life other than at conception. But if aborting at that stage is wrong, then what does that make of Nature and Nature's God who allow a significant percentage of fertilized eggs not to implant even without our assistance?

2. For the same reason, I don't oppose the "morning after" pill, or even RU-486. In my opinion, both are morally better than allowing life to develop further only to still be aborted. Although potential life is just a few cells on day one, soon after it is recognizably human, with feelings that deserve at least as much protection as PETA would offer animals, and death penalty opponents would offer mass murderers.

3. In my view, abortion should be as former President Clinton once said "safe, legal, and rare." I remember the years before abortion was legalized, when rich women flew to England, and poor women used coat hangers. Although I consider most abortions immoral, I can't bring myself to favor making them all illegal.

4. On the other side, I can't imagine how any moral person can support a form of abortion that intentionally murders an almost-fully-developed infant, merely to ensure the child doesn't enter the world alive. Who can comfortably face God after doing such a thing?

5. Also on the other side, I very strongly favor adoption over abortion I've known several wonderful couples desperate for a child, and seen literally how far around the world they've had to go to find a child to adopt, at the same time millions of potential lives are snuffed out needlessly here in the U.S.

6. I've also seen the emotional scars an abortion leaves on those involved, and wonder in light of that how anyone can oppose a pause to think, and to consult loved ones and multiple counselors before taking such a drastic step, especially when the mother-to-be is underage or married.

7. An unborn child now has its first official right, in that its death or injury by violence against the mother is now a separate crime. An excellent article in MIT's "The Tech" today correctly points out that as a result we now "simultaneously recognize the unborn child as a person and as property." If it makes you uneasy to think of persons as property, well -- IT SHOULD! Read the whole thing here.

8. San Franscisco-based U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled June 1, 2004 that "a woman's right to have an abortion is paramount, and that it's 'irrelevant' whether the unborn child suffers pain in the process." That incredibly-callous comment harkens back to the very first entry to my former blog, which included this Mallard Fillmore comic quote:
"You should probably vote Democratic if:
You think trees have feelings, and unborn babies don't
."

9. Freakonomics credits abortion with reducing crime, by preventing children from being born into an "adverse family environment. Seems to me that argument applies to birth control in general, rather than only to abortion as a specific method of birth control.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Still Losing the 'War on Drugs'

My, does this seem right!
"The futile effort to stop Americans from consuming politically incorrect intoxicants is the real source of the violence in Mexico, since prohibition creates a market with artificially high prices and hands it over to criminals. ...Instead of importing Mexico's prohibitionist approach to guns, we should stop exporting our prohibitionist approach to drugs."

Here's my own previous blog post on the topic of the futility of continuing to fight a drug war we obviously have no intention of winning:
One of the great failures of our nation was Prohibition. Eliminating the sad consequences of alcoholism was a worthy goal, but never shared by enough Americans to make it actually possible.

Another great failure was our war efforts in Viet Nam. In my opinion at the time, we weren't doing the things necessary to win, and were therefore doomed eventually to lose.

Both of the above problems seem to apply now to our decades-long "war on drugs."

Despite decades of education against use of illegal drugs, some folks in pretty much every community still choose to use them, enough to make complete elimination of the drug trade almost impossible.

If we really wanted to win the War on Drugs, we'd prosecute customers as harshly as sellers, and not worry, for example if pesticides sprayed on Marijuana plants still ended up in Marijuana sold here, even if it killed those who used it.

The only country I'm aware of that "won" its war on drugs was Communist China, which reportedly did so by immediately executing anyone caught in the trade.

We can't do such things and still be America, any more than we could in the '60s have simply paved over Viet Nam (my preferred solution at the time.)

As a result, it's not a question of whether we will eventually legalize most illegal drugs, but only of when we will finally do so. That being the case, sooner is better, with one exception:

I don't want legalization to turn into implied approval. If someone just has to smoke a joint in the privacy of their own home where no one else is harmed, that would likely be OK with me. But I don't want to see billboards suggesting I "Smoke Mary Jane", nor would I want to see vials of Crack next to the condoms at the local Safeway.

Canada, in my opinion, had a better idea. When it legalized alcohol, it restricted sales of hard liquor to government stores, which were intentionally not made attractive and did not advertise.
That removed the incentive for marketers to increase the use of hard liquor, and ensured profits from such sales went where they could help deal with the unfortunate consequences of legalization.

Some Americans sense a constitutional right to advertise any legal product on every flat surface, but I do not. In my opinion, many bad products that must nonetheless be legal for use by adults should not be advertised, lest they artificially increase demand for an unhealthy product.

I've been advocating legalization publicly for a few years now, and have yet to meet anyone (other than friend Greg) willing to actively disagree with the idea. This may be an idea whose time has come, if only we can remember legalization is not equivalent to approval.

Update:
M. Simon reports "there are two iron rules of prohibition. The harder the enforcement the harder the drugs. The harder the enforcement the harder the criminals." The rest of his article here is also well worth reading.

Update2: Instapundit adds "Legalize the stuff, tax it like tobacco, and let the trial lawyers sue sellers for any product defects or dangers."

That would be a corrective for problems resulting from legalizing any and all drugs to thereby also cut medical costs, as suggested in a second previous blog entry:
change the role of the Food and Drug Administration, from deciding what drugs may be sold at all to merely certifying, like Good Housekeeping or Consumer Reports, which drugs are known to be safe and effective. This immediately reduces the cost of bringing new drugs to market by removing most of the hoops through which a company must now jump before being allowed to sell new drugs.

Final note: This all also has immediate relevance to our current efforts in Afghanistan. How likely is it that we can prevail there long term, so long as we insist on fighting not only Al Queda and the Taliban, but also a thousand-year old trade in opium poppies?

Update2: Here is a similar opinion from New Scientist:
"Far from protecting us and our children, the war on drugs is making the world a much more dangerous place.

SO FAR this year, about 4000 people have died in Mexico's drugs war - a horrifying toll. If only a good fairy could wave a magic wand and make all illegal drugs disappear, the world would be a better place.

Dream on. Recreational drug use is as old as humanity, and has not been stopped by the most draconian laws. Given that drugs are here to stay, how do we limit the harm they do?

The evidence suggests most of the problems stem not from drugs themselves, but from the fact that they are illegal. The obvious answer, then, is to make them legal."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fructose Index is the new Glycemic Index

I've recently read a lot of literature from Hammer Nutrition, from whom I recently bought a bottle of electrolyte capsules. As I read, I learned they use long-chain Maltodextrin in their Hammer gels because (though a complex carbohydrate instead of a simple sugar) it has a Glycemic Index twice as high as table sugar (meaning that when eaten, it quickly and significantly spikes blood sugar.) I immediately wondered (as a former borderline diabetic back when I was fat) whether I should therefore avoid Maltodextrin. Surprisingly, researching that on their Web site led me to a PDF article on pages 1 and 3 of their Endurance News, Issue 058: "Fructose Called Most Dangerous Sugar." suggesting high fructose foods may be a far more important problem than high glycemic index foods, by increasing insulin resistance, this way:
"1) Unlike other sugars, fructose causes blood levels of uric acid to rise rapidly.
2) Uric acid in the blood reduces levels of nitric oxide (NO), especially in the endothelial lining of our arteries..so-called 'endothelial NO'.
3) NO enhances the efficiency of insulin, increases blood flow to muscle and enhances glucose uptake.
4) Animals that lack endothelial NO develop insulin resistance and other features of metabolic syndrome: a cluster of symptoms linked to increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease."


Googling the term "fructose index", in turn, led me to an article in the Whole Health Source blog. Key line: "it is the ingestion of foods that induce insulin resistance that carries the increased risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease and not eating foods that stimulate insulin secretion."

Also note this:
"Fructose, but not starch or its component sugar glucose, causes insulin resistance, elevated serum uric acid (think gout and kidney stones), poorer blood glucose control, increased triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in animal studies and controlled human trials. All of these effects relate to the liver, which clearly does not like excessive fructose (or omega-6 oils.) ... Drs. Johnson and Segal recommend limiting fructose to 15-40 grams per day, which is the equivalent of about two apples or one soda (choose the apples!). They also recommend temporarily eliminating fructose for two weeks, to allow the body to recover from the negative long-term metabolic adaptation that can persist even when intake is low."

For me, this means a bit of change, as I've been taking seriously government recommendations to eat 4-5 fruits a day. [Update: mypyramid.gov actually only recommends 2 cups of fruit a day for me.] I've limited those to actual whole fruits, rather than juices or processed items, but if this research is correct, even those aren't good in the quantities I've been feeling virtuous about eating.

The particular villain in the above articles was high-fructose corn syrup, which I already carefully avoid, but now it looks like we need to also be careful of fruits and even vegetables bred to be extra sweet. Even honey is listed as problematic. Naturally, table sugar is also a problem, even when hidden behind such labels as "cane juice."

I haven't found an official fructose index yet, but here's an informal one posted by the blog Natural High Transition (as reformatted by me for easier understanding):
"Grams fructose / 200 kcal serving
Best:
0 avocado, raw"

1 rowal, raw (?)
3 cranberries, raw
4 apricots, raw
6 nectarines, raw
7 clementines, raw
8 peaches, raw & grapefruit, raw
9 oranges, raw & tangerines, raw & pineapple, raw & raspberries, raw
11 bananas, raw & blackberries, raw & melons, cantaloupe, raw & abiyuch, raw (?)
----------- Safe Cutoff? ---------------
12 strawberries, frozen, unsweetened, raw
13 plums, raw & currants, raw
14 dates, deglet noor & kiwi & cherries, sour, red, raw
15 strawberries, raw
16 melons, honeydew, raw & persimmons, Japanese, raw
17 blueberries, raw & cherries, sweet, raw
18 figs
21 pears, raw
22 watermelon, raw
23 apples, raw & dates, medjool
24 grapes, red or green (seedless), raw
Worst:
(Lower numbers are better in this list. Those in bold are often on my shopping list.)