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Odd Lots

  • A study performed almost fifty years ago has come back into the light, in which half of a reliable (i.e., institutionalized) sample population was fed saturated animal fat, and the other half was fed vegetable oils. After almost five years researchers found that low cholesterol was not heart-healthy. For every observed 30 point drop in cholesterol, overall mortality went up 22%. Step away from the corn oil!
  • Again, not new (from 1998) but intriguing: A study showed that people on a high-fat diet exhibited a better mood than those on a low-fat diet. I’m always in a better mood when things taste better, and fat tastes better than almost anything else you could name.
  • We are slaughtering so many sacred cows these days: A brand-new study shows that only 20-25% of people exhibit BP sensitive to sodium. And not only that: Among the others, the ones who ate the most salt were the ones with the lowest blood pressure.
  • OMG: Cheese is as addictive as crack! Actually, it’s not. And today’s fake science is brought to you by a former vice-president of PETA. Yes, scientists have a constitutional right to vent politicalized nonsense and swear fealty to political parties and ideologies. I have a constitutional right to mark down their credibility if they do.
  • I’ve been saying for a long time that counting calories is worthless, based on research that goes back almost sixty years. If The Atlantic piles on, I suspect the debate is over.
  • For her eighth birthday recently, I gave my niece Julie three books on the visual programming language Scratch. Julie, who, when her mother told her she was too young for roller skates, tried to make her own out of Lego. I’m not sure what she’ll do with it…but trust me, she’ll think of something. (Thanks to Joel Damond for the link.)
  • Due to an intriguing gadget called an isotope ratio mass spectrometer, we can say with pretty reasonable confidence that human beings were top-of-the-food-pyramid carnivores long before we ever domesticated plants. Yes, it’s a long-form piece. Read The Whole Thing.
  • Look at the US Drought Monitor. I remember when much of California and Nebraska were dark brown. If this be climate change, let us make the most of it.
  • This may be funnier if you’re deep into RPGs, but I found it pretty funny nonetheless. I suspect that I dwell somewhere in the Diverse Alliance of Nice Guys. And hey, that’s where Space Vegas is.
  • Beware the Bambie Apocalypse! (Thanks to Esther Schindler for the link.)


  1. Olli says:

    “I’ve been saying for a long time that counting calories is worthless,”

    It is extremely difficult too. 😉

    “Von Neumann liked to eat and drink; his wife, Klara, said that he could count everything except calories.”

    1. I think the great man may have known that counting some things just isn’t useful; you might as well count the hairs on your upper arm.

  2. Orvan Taurus says:

    Back in the 1980’s the family had a big C-band satellite dish and one of the neat things about it was being able to see stuff that wasn’t network broadcast as such. Once there was some doctor/researcher (I wish I could recall the fellow’s name now) who presented some stuff that was not in line with the orthodoxy of the day. One was how saturated fat was NOT a problem, but some other fats were troublesome. Or simply: Don’t feel guilty about butter, and keep away from margarine.

    The other thing that stuck with me was his pointing out how salt did NOT seem to have much relation to blood pressure. The line I recall was, “If you find salt affects your blood pressure, go get your thyroid checked.”

    A few months ago I mentioned that or started to and got a “MY blood pressure is affected by salt.” “Oh? How’s your thyroid?” “How did you know?”

    1. This is a textbook example of how orthodoxy corrupts science, especially orthodoxy endorsed by the Federal Government. Herman Taller’s book Calories Don’t Count laid it out in the early 1960s. Then Harvard University (which I now consider a worthless pile of extremely expensive bricks) was bribed to start publishing papers stating that fat was harmful and sugar harmless.

      I hadn’t seen much on the connection between salt and thyroid until you mentioned it, but yup. My thyroid is right down the middle, and salt doesn’t affect my BP. This seems to be a trend with northern European genetics. A number of my Asian friends apparently have to watch their sodium, and don’t have thyroid problems. This is one of those areas that deserves a lot more research than it’s gotten.

  3. TRX says:

    I’ve been on some sort of diet since the 1960s. Over the decades I’ve watched the calorie tables change, sometimes dramatically. And then boggled at how Weight Watchers did things. And finally I found that the new-new-new calorie tables were being updated by burning foods in caloric bombs to measure the heat energy.

    Um. Er. Ri-i-ight.

    I’d thought that they figured calories by feeding stuff to lab mice and watching food vs. weight. I used to blame the inconsistencies on mouse vs. human metabolism differences. But it turned out I was far too trusting about the “science” of calorie counting…

  4. Bob Halloran says:

    On the drought map: I’m glad to see most of the country is in good shape, but when I’m walking out in the morning smelling wood smoke from the West Mims Fire around 50 mi away along the FL-GA border (, it’s a little disconcerting, especially when they say they don’t expect it to be fully contained until November (

  5. Tom Hanlin says:

    I’d have to say that Calorie counting worked very well for me. I lost 80 lbs that way. My weight has bounced back up slightly, but I’m still over 60 lbs lighter. I’d consider going back on that diet. My weight is currently fairly stable, so I don’t worry about it too much.

  6. Rachel Maxwell says:

    This might seem silly, but just out of curiosity which three books on Scratch did you gift your niece? I happen to have a niece and nephew or two who I would like to introduce the art of programming to. The MIT Website for Scratch has listed 18 books on Scratch 2.0, but I don’t know which ones to pick.

    1. Not silly at all. My only caution in answering you is that Julie is only just now starting to fool with Scratch, which competes with softball for her evenings. So I don’t know (yet) how well any of the books work. The three I bought her were all in the DK Workbooks series. All three books looked good to me, but I just don’t know which ones she’ll favor. She’s independent, stubborn, and scary smart. I’ll be out there in July and will go over it all with her, and may have more to say then.

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