Assorted Links

Thanks to Tyler Cowen.

Assorted Links

  • Genetics less important than claimed…again and again. The article’s html name says “human genetics successes and failures” but the article is almost all about failure.
  • Why I left (tenured) academia. “We shouldn’t expect [a college president] whose experience is in leading gigantic, dominant corporations to create an environment that rewards original, interdisciplinary, potentially disruptive research. Their previous success (such as it is) is from operating in an inherently conservative environment, running an organization that thrives in the status quo.” It isn’t just the college president. That such people are chosen as college presidents shows how little people at the top understand or value innovation.
  • Monitor Me. BBC TV show about high-tech self-monitoring. My self-monitoring is mostly low-tech, except for brain tests done with a laptop. My experience is that I needed to do everything right — good understanding of previous research, good experimental design, good measurement, good data analysis — to make progress. A talk by Larry Smarr, one of the people in the BBC show, supports this. Smarr has colon inflammation. His design, measurement and data analysis are excellent. However, he chose to test treatments (antibiotics, steroids) known to be poor. They didn’t solve the problem. It would have been wiser to try to figure what in the environment might be causing the problem. It certainly wasn’t not eating enough antibiotics.
  • Fecal self-banking

Thanks to Linda Stein.

Doctor’s Data Sues Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch

In 2010, Doctor’s Data, an Illinois clinical lab, sued Stephen Barrett, who runs Quackwatch, for making false and misleading statements about them. The lawsuit is still in progress. I am glad they sued. As far as I can tell, Quackwatch does contain false and misleading statements. Continue reading “Doctor’s Data Sues Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch”

Progress in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy: The Half-Full Glass

Here is an excellent introduction to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression, centering on a Stanford psychiatrist named David Burns. I was especially interested in this:

[Burns] currently draws from at least 15 schools of therapy, calling his methodology TEAM—for testing, empathy, agenda setting and methods. . . . Testing means requiring that patients complete a short mood survey before and after each therapy session. In Chicago, Burns asks how many of the therapists [in the audience] do this. Only three [out of 100] raise their hands. Then how can they know if their patients are making progress? Burns asks. How would they feel if their own doctors didn’t take their blood pressure during each check-up?

Burns says that in the 1970s at Penn [where he learned about CBT], “They didn’t measure because there was no expectation that there would be a significant change in a single session or even over a course of months.” Forty years later, it’s shocking that so little attention is paid to measuring whether therapy makes a difference. . . “Therapists falsely believe that their impression or gut instinct about what the patient is feeling is accurate,” says May [a Stanford-educated Bay Area psychiatrist], when in fact their accuracy is very low.

When I was a graduate student, I started measuring my acne. One day I told my dermatologist what I’d found. “Why did you do that?” he asked. He really didn’t know. Many years later, an influential psychiatrist — Burns, whose Feeling Good book, a popularization of CBT, has sold millions of copies — tells therapists to give patients a mood survey. That’s progress.

But it is also a testament to the backward thinking of doctors and therapists that Burns didn’t tell his audience:

–have patients fill out a mood survey every day
–graph the results

Even more advanced:

–use the mood scores to measure the effects of different treatments

Three cheap safe things. It is obvious they would help patients. Apparently Burns doesn’t do these things with his own patients, even though his own therapy (TEAM) stresses “testing” and “methods”. It’s 2013. Not only do psychiatrists and therapists not do these things, they don’t even think of doing them. I seem to be the first to suggest them.

Thanks to Alex Chernavsky.

Assorted Links

  • The increasing popularity of kvas. “We ferment with ginger and, I believe, longer than other people – for seven to 10 days.”
  • Giving up wine (and other alcohol) for a month. Before this he drank 2 glasses of wine/day.
  • Wellness Mart (in California) makes it easy to get basic medical tests. “In California, you are required to have an order from a doctor for blood tests, but WellnessMart, MD stores all have medical doctors on staff. Our doctors allow their license to be used for basic screening tests because there are some things that really shouldn’t be that difficult to find out. If you don’t have a doctor’s order and you want to run tests that aren’t a part of our standard screening packages, you will be charged a MD Consultation Fee of $25. Our doctor will help you to put together a panel that will accomplish the goals you are looking to accomplish. If the doctor determines that it is not appropriate for you to run the tests you want to run at WellnessMart, MD there will be no charges.”
  • Riding a bike while learning Polish. It helps.

Thanks to Casey Manion and Adam Clemens.

My Heart Watch: Bay Area Health Measurements

For many years I have used the services of Heart Watch to measure my cholesterol and other health-related things, such as HbA1c. The couple that runs Heart Watch, Sandy and Glen, travels up and down California. I was able to get tested only every three months. Feeling that this was inadequate, just as I did, a man named Karl Corbett recently started a business called My Heart Watch that allows much more frequent tests in the Bay Area, at similar price. My Heart Watch uses the same portable testing devices as Heart Watch.

The Berkeley location is almost across the street from Whole Foods. I signed up online (I was the first person to use their online sign-up service), which was very convenient.

Corbett told me that he greatly improved his cholesterol numbers by changing to a Caldwell-Esselstyn “plant-based diet” that included lots of vegetables, some fruit, no oils, and no animal-based products. (Since the usual oils, such olive and soybean oil, are plant-based, this is a curious feature. Esselstyn seems to ignore bad effects of cholesterol lowering.) The more often you can test yourself, the more easily you can determine what controls what you’re measuring. When you can test yourself often enough to be sure whether a dietary (or other) change has made a difference, you can begin to ignore large clinical trials and their many limitations, which include poor choice of control group, poor statistics, incomplete reporting, biassed reporting, publication bias, confoundings, investigator fraud, on and on. They are the fool’s-gold standard. If I can determine if alternate-day fasting improves my HbA1c, I can ignore what clinical trials say about it.

Before writing this post I spoke to Corbett about getting discounted testing in return for publicizing My Heart Watch.

Assorted Links

  • self-tracking neuroscientist. I have only learned from tracking when I am adventurous — when I change stuff, such as what I eat. I will be curious to see if the same thing happens here. The initial thought when tracking yourself is “keep things constant” so that the data from different days will be more comparable. This makes sense if you are doing an experiment where different days get different treatments. It does not make sense when you are not doing an experiment. This self-tracker doesn’t seem to be doing any experiments, so he should allow his life to be messy if he wants to learn more.
  • Interview with Renata Adler
  • Alternate-day fasting thread at Mark’s Daily Apple
  • An essay on the effect of immigrants on “economic freedom” (via Marginal Revolution) does not mention the fact that immigrants bring new ideas and skills. This is an example of the way economists usually ignore innovation, which benefits from new ideas and skills. Innovations usually derive from new combinations of things. To open a new business (an instance of economic freedom) it really helps to have a new good or service. New cuisines (immigrants open restaurants) is just the beginning.

Thanks to Dave Lull.

Assorted Links

  • Walking after a meal improves blood sugar
  • A look at QSers. “Some of the most societally redefining concepts now emerge from edge-thinkers, who are increasingly visible, organized, and effective, in part due to the Web. Even so, whenever I spoke to them or read their blogs, at some point I always wondered, why?”
  • Steve McIntyre vindicated. RealClimate says: “That is the most disquieting legacy of Steve McIntyre and ClimateAudit [McIntyre’s blog]. The real Yamal deception is their attempt to damage public confidence in science by making speculative and scandalous claims about the actions and motivations of scientists while cloaking them in a pretense of advancing scientific knowledge.” A comment on ClimateAudit: “It’s quite obvious that in 2009 and again in 2011, you shamelessly plagiarised Briffa 2013.”

Thanks to Jazi Zilber and Phil Alexander.

Anti-Procrastination Software Available


This graph shows how much work I did in early 2013 (one point = one day). It gradually rose from about 2 hours/day to about 8 hours/day. I did not literally get to 8 hours/day because some tasks got counted extra. For example, one minute of Chinese counted as 2 minutes and one minute of book writing counted as 1.5 minutes. The data is in three blocks because sometimes I didn’t use the tracking program (e.g., due to travel). 
Continue reading “Anti-Procrastination Software Available”

Assorted Links

Thanks to Bryan Castañeda and Andy.

QS Contest: What Would You Do With a Body Media Armband?

A la Google Glass, Gary Wolf announces a Quantified Self contest/give-away:

In conjunction with our upcoming QS Europe Conference in Amsterdam on May 11/12, our friends at BodyMedia have agreed to donate a complete personal SenseWear System (retail price $2,500), a state-of-the-art wearable sensor that allows raw data output. That’s going to be our prize. So if you have good questions, we can supply you with a way to collect the data.

The best answer wins the sensor.

Assorted Links

Thanks to Peter McLeod, John Batzel and Joseph Sinatra.

Introduction to Inside Tracker

Inside Tracker sells blood panels — for example, 20 things measured in your blood (e.g., hemoglobin, magnesium, Vitamin D). It was founded in 2009 in Boston, Mass., by Gil Blander, a biology Ph.D., and two other people. They started offering the service in late 2011. Their main customers are athletes (20% professional, 30% amateur) and many Quantified Selfer’s (20%). I recently interviewed Dr. Blander:

What have you learned from the data you’ve collected?

Around 60% of the population has low Vitamin D.[What’s low Vitamin D?] As of today, if you look at the ranges of the diagnostic companies, they are saying that everything below 30 ng/ml is low Vitamin D. We are giving you your optimal zone based on age, gender, athletic activity and ethnicity. We also compare you to your peers. Continue reading “Introduction to Inside Tracker”

Assorted Links

Thanks to Paul Nash and Adam Clemens.

Assorted Links

Thanks to Dave Lull , Bryan Castañeda, Patrick Vlaskovits and Tucker Max.

Assorted Links

Thanks to Phil Alexander, Vic Sarjoo, and Navanit Arakeri.

Assorted Links

Thanks to Bryan Castañeda and Dave Lull.