Monday, May 30, 2005

America is full of fat people, right? Well, I've been subject to the same delusion. I think it took hold firmly in 1993, when I drove from Waterloo, Ontario, to Milwaukee, for a few days at GenCon, and for some reason was struck by seeing all the fat people in the streets of Milwaukee. Was that simply observer bias? Who knows. Now I live in California and it's very clear to me that Californians don't tend to be obese, but I still had the meme in my head that "Americans are fat" even if California big cities might be some fitness-oriented exception.

Well, I'm encouraged to hear I might be wrong. It seems this is a common myth, and that other well-off countries have similar weight profiles, as explained by Paul Campos in a TCS interview (I keep reading TCS for exactly this kind of myth-busting material though many articles are more boring). I wish the article provided links supporting the claims, because there were a few quite interesting tidbits from the article:
  • The CDC had previously estimated 400,000 deaths from obesity in 2004 but has recently had to revise that figure significantly downward (following CDC links, I see the surgeon general now says an "estimated 300,000 deaths[/year] may be attributable to obesity").
  • The classification of "overweight" in children is defined as the heaviest 15% of children for a particular age cohort. That would mean nearly a million children are labelled overweight because they're defined that way. According to that methodology, 15% of children in a third-world, famine-wracked country would also be overweight. I can't find evidence at CDC of this methodology but there was a study showing that 16% of teens had been found to be overweight [*].
  • There's no strong evidence that Type 2 diabetes -- one of the diseases justifying the labeling of obesity as an epidemic -- has increased, let alone having increased due to weight factors.
  • The governor of Arkansas has written legislation proposing that body weight index be part of kids' report cards. If I were in Arkansas I would write him personally to indicate my disgust at such misguided and potentially harmful interference in the family.

One nasty statistic I picked up myself from the surgeon general's note is that "Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults". Yikes, oh no! But combine that with the claim that 60% of adults are overweight or obese, and a sensible person will see that so-called overweight adolescents would have only a slightly higher (if measurable) tendency than non-overweight adolescents to become overweight adults. Sigh.
I completed another long-term project this weekend -- though it was supposed to take only a couple months, I dawdled for over a year. It's a silk-mohair cardign, pattern and yarn chosen to show off some really marvelous Toulouse-Lautrec buttons I found in Vienna. More details and pictures can be found on my knitting gallery.
One of the projects I've been very involved in at OSAF has been the Cosmo project, an effort to take existing open-source WebDAV server technology and turn it into an easy-to-install, easy-to-administer "sharing server" for use by Chandler -- but also supporting standards that make it easy for any client to share too. Last week, Mitch did a demo with Cosmo in the background for the first time and it went smoothly. Thanks BCM!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I have completed a big long-term hobby project, and given it away (I think it was quite a surprise) so now I can reveal what I was working on: a king-size Amish-inspired wedding quilt. It's at the top of my crafts gallery right now if you want to take a look.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I needed to cancel a credit card I wasn't using, so I called up their toll-free line and tried to navigate their voice-activated automated menu. The automated system repeated all the choices ad nauseum, misheard me, and of course didn't have an option for "Cancel this goddamn card". I tried to say "Cancel card" and "Cancel" hoping that would either trigger some bonus feature or get me out of the system and talking to a human. I tried to say "Talk to representative". At some point the system offered the option of "Help me with something else" but when I said that it misunderstood me. Finally the system gave up on me -- literally said it couldn't seem to help me -- and that it would transfer me to a live person (thank-you).

I got some satisfaction, however, when they asked me why I was cancelling their card. "Because of the automated voice assistance system", I said -- and this was typed in without comment by the operator. I only felt the teensiest bit bad for lying.

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