Monday, June 2, 2014

This is Why We Grow Root Vegetables

Although this turnip, forgotten in a bag on top of the refrigerator for who knows how many months, had become scarily gray and fuzzy on the outside, as well as starting to sprout small leaves, it was perfectly fine once I cut off the peel.

Back in the day, when we didn't have refrigerators and took our food storage cues from squirrels, a vegetable you could just leave somewhere for months and still eat once you rediscovered it was a pretty good thing.

Still is for those of us who apparently still take food storage cues from squirrels...I roasted it the other day with some sweet potatoes olive oil and it made a tasty snack.

The moral is, turnips are seriously robust.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Taking Your Non-Medicine

I recently stopped taking a daily multivitamin, after reading one too many (or, more positively, let's say just exactly enough) articles like this one from Science Based Medicine, repeating the fact that studies don't show any reliable benefit of supplement use in the absence of a specific medical condition.

It was strangely difficult to quit, having spent so many years taking a reassuring pill every day because it seemed like a good idea, something I could do to help ensure the best health I could get (it can't hurt, right? unless it can...), but I got to the end of my last bottle a couple of months ago and didn't buy any more.

I have not been noticeably more ill since then than I was in all the years when I took that pill, for what my personal anecdote is worth. Although I have to admit even if I did notice a change for the worse, it would as likely be due to the ravages of age, as to the absence of protective vitamin supplementation.

The pediatrician also told me not to give my son a multivitamin because it wasn't necessary--sorry, kid, no more bear-shaped chewies for you!--and he seems as hale as ever, even if he missed his daily candy for a while, until he forgot all about it. (The short memory of infancy can be a wonderful thing.)

I do still take a calcium supplement for bones, partly because I still have a bottle of them that I might as well use up, and partly because I'm not clear from my reading as to whether there's a consensus on their value, or lack of value, the way there seems to be on that of multivitamins.

I also take lysine tablets on occasion for prevention and treatment of cold sores, just because--totally anecdotally--popping lysine like candy does seem to reduce the length of a breakout for me. Studies are inconclusive at best and I can't exactly do a controlled trial on myself, but I hate cold sores a lot and lysine appears to be beneficial in that regard and is not linked with known deleterious side effects, so I have basically concluded that in this case it's worth a shot.

So I'm not immune to the lure of tablets, and while I feel pretty good about dumping the multi (that's a few more dollars I can spend on video games!), I'm sure some people might kind of notice a difference with them the way I kind of do with lysine, so I'm not going to start any campaigns to clear out other peoples' medicine cabinets.

Not right now, anyway. Maybe after I finish Tomb Raider.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Oh Precious, Precious Screentime

A friend sent me this article, which gives away the important news in the exciting headline, "People Play 1900 Years of Call of Duty Multiplayer Every Day."

That's...a fair number of people playing a fair amount of Call of Duty every day. I was almost impressed, until I looked up how much TV people watch.

According to this random page I found on the internet, which must be absolutely true because I read it online (it cites A.C. Neilsen, but this page does not include the annual total, which must have been calculated separately), Americans watch 250 billion hours of TV every year. That works out to about 78,000 person-years every day, assuming I know how to work a calculator.

Those Call of Duty slackers need to step it up a few dozen times.

To give the game its due, 1,900 is a pretty good number for a single title. After all, it takes hundreds of TV channels to keep us watching 78,000 years a day.

On the other hand, the 78,000 years a day is only for the United States, while I think the Call of Duty numbers were worldwide.

On the first hand again, 1,900 is, as mentioned, only for a single title, so people play a lot more hours of video games if other titles are included. This TED Conversations page says 3 billion hours a week worldwide, which would be about 156 billion hours a year, or slightly under 49,000 years a day.

Still not close to the TV-watching numbers, but more of a contest. Except that the TV numbers are still only for the United States, and I bet people in other countries also enjoy television.

I could keep looking for numbers on the internet, but the bottom line is, people obviously need to spend more time playing video games.

Right? That's clearly the take-away here, isn't it?

My problem with that is that video games tend to demand more attention than television, so it's harder to find the 49,000 years per day that you need. Not all games, of course, but a lot of them. So if you have to do some stuff on the computer, say, you can put on a TV show at the same time and watch it with half your attention, but it's harder to do that while you're playing a game.

I bet a lot of the TV-watching numbers are from people doing other things at the same time. The true heroes are the people who watch TV and play games at the same time, and I salute them.

In closing, we spend...a fair amount of time with screens in this exciting modern world.

Friday, October 25, 2013

PubMed: Now More Relevant Than Ever

Oh my goodness, everyone, according to PubMed New and Noteworthy, "PubMed now includes a relevance sort option under the "Display settings" menu." (The quote is from a feed alert--the link given by the post actually says that there will soon be a relevance sort option. However, the quote does not lie, because the option is indeed available now when I look.)

Relevance! In PubMed!

I mean, it's always been there in the "Related Citations," but as for PubMed itself, well, it was just part of the austere, patrician character of the database that you had your results sorted by date, and liked it.

Or, you know, you could re-sort by first author or journal title or something, but who really does that? Not me, and I'm pretty sure I represent everyone in the whole world.

Oh, wait, my mistake. Apparently I don't represent everyone in the whole world. Anyway, enjoy sorting by whatever criteria you prefer, everyone-who's-not-me! (It turns out an astonishing number of people are not me.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Music Musings

Let's consider some music. Specifically, let's consider how sometimes music suggests to us that it doesn't improve a situation if you keep talking.

On my way off the train this morning, I passed a little girl who was singing "You Are My Sunshine." Adorable. And what a sweet song, right?
You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine,
You make me happy when skies are gray.
You'll never know, dear, how much I love you--
Please don't take my sunshine away.

If I may paraphrase, "you're as vital to my life as sunlight, and no matter what else is happening, being with you makes me happy. Please don't leave me to what is, in your absence, a dark and gloomy existence."

I mean, it's a little needy, maybe, but this dude or lady is clearly in love, and that's how it feels to be love. It's a lovely sentiment. Fond.

Next verse (less commonly sung):
The other night, dear,
While I lay sleeping,
I dreamed I held you by my side.
When I awoke, though, I was mistaken,
So I hung my head and cried.

To paraphrase, "I dreamed you were with me, and then I woke up and you weren't there, and it made me sad." Aww...

Still touching, but at this point you have to wonder. Is the dude or lady this person loves normally there, but currently away on a trip or something, in which case happiness will return and maybe breaking down in tears is an overreaction? Or is the singer of the song not actually in a relationship with the object of his or her affection at all, in which case...unrequited love sure sucks, huh?

But yeah, basically, "being away from you makes me sad" is still a sweet thing to say. OK.

Third verse (even less commonly sung):
I'll always love you,
And make you happy,
If you will only feel the same,
But if you leave me to love another,
You'll regret it all one day.

So. All right. "I'll always love you and make you happy as long as you love me and make me happy, but if you don't, someday you'll be alone and miserable just like me and THEN you'll be sorry you left me."

Less touching, somehow.

Pull it together, dude or lady! You're sounding a little whiny there. Whiny at best, actually, since "love me or you'll regret it" could also seem downright nasty.

Not really the tone you want to strike if you're trying to win someone over.

Maybe just stick with that first verse. Yeah. That one is really sweet.

And thus we see why the later verses are so much less commonly sung.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Retro Injuries

I keep glancing curiously at the faint scratches on the backs of my hands, and then remembering oh yes, that's from sticking them way, way into the VCR in an attempt to retrieve some crayons.

Yes, we still have a VCR. Mainly for crayon storage at this point.

I was going to say "solely for crayon storage," but then remembered that it's also decorative.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Me Being Right

The internet is only as good an information source as the information that people put on the internet. Duh, I know. It's just that sometimes people seem to attach a sort of weight to stuff on the internet that may not be justified.

Often the information that people put on the internet is stunningly good. Or at least passably good. But sometimes, if the actual information that people have to put there is quite sparse, or mistaken, it's...not that good.

Following is a dramatically paraphrased version of an exchange I recently had:

ME: That photo you've identified as person X is not X, it's actually person Y.

PERSON: Explain how!

ME: Gladly. You see, the archives holds a vintage 19th century copy of that very photo, signed in pen "Yours, etc., Y." I take this as solid evidence that the photo depicts Y, rather than X, who is nowhere mentioned on it.

PERSON: We got this copy from someone who told us it was X. Also, Google Images has it with X's name. So basically, conflicting information, and we're going to leave the identification as is.

ME: Suit yourself. I'll just be up here thinking to myself about how wrongity wrong wrong you are, unless I can find some evidence suggesting that X was in the habit of signing Y's name to his photos.

I mean, yeah, I get that it's a pain to change a whole display (especially since there's no known photo of X to replace the current--wrong--one), and seriously, the guy's been dead for 150 years no matter who he was so it's not as if anyone is going to know the difference.

And sure, conflicting information, that happens. Sometimes--kind of a lot of times, actually--it's impossible to be sure who's in an old picture. But I have this PRIMARY SOURCE, signed in the very hand of Y (or X, if he liked to sign Y's name...maybe this was a thing they did for fun), and you have...Google Images, and someone who had a copy of this picture and thought it was X.

Gimme a vintage 19th century copy of the same photo signed "Yours, etc., X," and you have conflicting information. When you have rumors and a vague internet reference versus a PHYSICAL ITEM with CONTEMPORARY IDENTIFYING INFORMATION on it, you being wrong.

Sorry about all the shouting. I just think this is kind of hilarious.

Don't get me wrong, I love the internet to pieces and I have every intention of literally marrying it as soon as that inevitably becomes legal (we've had same-sex marriage in Massachusetts for a while, so any minute now). But loving someone or some combination of software and networked servers means recognizing the flaws as well as the good things.