Saturday, February 28, 2015

Interesting data...

I recently started losing weight.  And I've been tired.  So I worried about the symptom "unexpected weight loss", which so often seems part of serious illness.  However my weight loss wasn't unintended, as for the first time in my life I'd started a diet.

Its a simple diet.  When I finish dinner, I don't eat any more, or drink anything other than water until the next morning.  This is also supposed to be good for oesophageal reflux.  Its precisely this sort of diet I can stick to.  So I'm happy to be losing weight, but a little bit worried none the less.

I weigh myself nearly every morning, and make a graph.  Its been going for just over 3 montsh, and looks like this:

The diet started about the same time as the weight loss.  A bout of gastro coincided with the first time my weight dropped below 93kg.

At the same time, I've started on Strava, a great app that tracks my cycling (and other people's running).  So some time in the not too distant future, I'll have a time series of my cycling performance, particularly on hills.

One would expect my climbing speed to increase as my weight falls.  So I can choose a particular hill, and plot my times on that hill.  However, cycling times are highly variable.  The wind is a huge factor.  So you'll need lots of data over a long time to identify any trend.

Here are my times on Stock Road hill since I started Strava at the beginning of January.

As you can see, there is no discernable trend, or if there is one, it looks as though I'm getting slightly slower (the time axis is inverted, so that the higher a dot, the shorter the time).

Anyway, if lots of people start keeping records, then medical researchers will have much more data.  They may be able to identify patterns corresponding to particular illnesses.  Maybe in the future, your phone will be suggesting its time to see a doctor...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Well behaved uni students - yet again

In a previous post, I hypothesised why uni students today are better behaved than their parents were back in the 1970's.

I came up with two ideas.  Firstly, that the abandonment of corporal punishment in schools was responsible.  Secondly, that the change was due to smaller families.

But right now on Catalyst on ABC tv, they have put forward the hypothesis that lead exposure may be the cause.  And it seems like a compelling case.

My son was born in 1993, and I recall that at that time new parents were very aware that lead was bad for children.  Leaded petrol was phased out from the mid 1980's.

I have a friend who teaches at a "good" private high school.  He's been there since the mid 1990's, and he noted that when he got there, there were still some "ratbag" kids, but that within a few years these had vanished.

OK, it is compelling, but there is more work to be done.

Can I say, right now, that the right wing will hate this, and will fight it.  The idea that some effort to improve the environment actually led to improvements will piss them off something chronic.  But thye are dickheads, so pay them no mind.

Now to find out what caused the rise in ADHD and autism.

Monday, February 9, 2015

What conservatives want

When I looked at Tony Abbott and his conservative government in Australia, I used to wonder what was the guiding light for their policies.  Mostly it just seemed like reduced government spending, usually at the expense of the poor.  And quite frankly, that just didn't make sense.  These were nasty, unpopular policies.  Surely there was more driving them than simple budget balancing.

Anyway, after a while it twigged.  Basically, Tone and the Libs were helping big business.  Lets take a few of their measures.

They argued that health costs were out of control, and that Australians should have to pay more to visit a GP.  This doesn't even make sense, because the government subsidy for people visiting a GP is not the rapidly growing area of health costs.  That area is medical specialists, who through their closed shop policy, earn a fortune.  The government has not even suggested tackling specialists and forcing them to allow more people to work as specialists.  No, they've gone after the relationship between poor people and GP's.  Why?  I can only think they want to build a two tier health system, where you either get Rolls Royce treatment for a kings ransom, or you get Holden Kingswood treatment for nearly free.  And that Rolls Royce system will be run by the big private health companies.  And if you want to be part of that Rolls Royce system, be prepared to pay an arm and a leg.

With universities, they reduced the subsidy that students got, and allowed universities to set their own fees.  But they went one step further, paying a subsidy to students at private education providers.  And some of them are big multinational companies.  So the Libs are paving the way for big companies to start granting degrees.  And they'll be targeting the poor, getting them into debt by enrolling them into useless courses - a temptation that even the traditional universities find hard to resist.  Just ask Open Universities Australia.

Tone deaf Tone wanted to change regulations for financial advisers.  He wanted people who gave financial advice to not have to be fair, and actually recommend the best product.  He wanted them to be able to receive commissions on the products they recommended, without telling the customers that they were.  Where do you think most of these financial advisers work?  For our big four banks.  So Tone was under pressure from the banks to increase their profits - at the expense of the elderly, whose retirement savings the banks wanted to get at.

So you see, Tone is really just Vladimir Putin in disguise.  He wants to create a lot of wealthy oligarchs who owe their success to him.  Tone may not even know this.   This isn't Russia, and Tone won't actually be able to call in any favours from these guys.  They just want him to turn them into the new aristocracy.  And that means giving them open access to the wallets of the little people.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Weight

So I regularly drive this little street to the shops.  Often there are cars parked on both sides, and it is difficult for two cars travelling in opposite directions to get past each other.  And I'm usually kind, and pull into gaps between parked cars to let the other driver past.  But other times I'm more assertive.  Anyway, today I feel almost fully recovered from a bout of gastro, and I'm heading down this street, and there is a car at the other end, and I find myself looking for spots to pull over.

But suddenly on the radio, comes The Band, singing The Weight.  And I just drove straight down the street letting other drivers figure out how they wanted to cope.  I swear, I would have made a Mack truck reverse.

Just goes to show the power of good music.


One of the nicest beaches in the world.  Had a lovely brunch there today with Wayne and Nadine Back, and all the local family except Christine and Lucy....

Monday, February 2, 2015

Political leaders

I'd like to make a suggestion.  That in an Australian election, each party appoint a campaign leader.  This person is the leader of the party during the election campaign.  Immediately after the election, the winning party then appoints a leader.  It might be the campaign leader, or it might be someone else.  The point is that both Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd were very good in their campaigns, but they were not the best people to lead the government after the election.

We've come close to this model back in 1983.  Bill Hayden led the ALP out of the wilderness, imposing strict discipline, and effectively making the ALP electable.  A month out from the election the ALP realised they were likely to win, and ditched Hayden for Bob Hawke, who went on to win the election and to be a very successful PM.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Targeted welfare

John Howard, former Australian prime minister was on TV today, and one thing he said, as though it was self obvious, was that welfare payments needed to be targeted.  That is, only pay welfare to people who really need it.

Now this sounds entirely obvious.  I mean, why pay people who don't need it?

But lets look at this a bit differently.  In my previous post I point out that the unemployed are not necessarily unemployed through any fault of their own, but because our government wants an unemployment rate of around 5%.  Other welfare recipients are the disabled and the old.  And clearly being disabled or old is not a choice.

Since we have targeted welfare, though, we need people to prove that they are part of that target.  So the unemployed have to show that they are looking for work.  The disabled need to prove that they can't work.  The elderly are lucky, they just have to be old.  So this targeting results in you having to jump through hoops, to fit in with the system.  And if you fit into one of the targeted categories, but you earn some money, then the government wants to pay you less, because you don't need as much from them.  All really reasonable.

Except that its a load of shit.  Whatever is deemed to be the necessary amount of money to live on, pay it to everyone in Australia.  Everyone, from the homeless derro to Gina fucking Rinehart.  And then change our tax system so that most people still get the same amount of money that they get now.

What changes?  The unemployed - you know the ones the government wants to be unemployed, they don't have to bullshit about how they are looking for work.  The disabled don't have to prove they are disabled.  No one has to make a judgement that they are fit for 8 hours a week work or 15 hours.  The pensioners, if they want to make a bit of money, they pay tax on it, but their pension is not affected.  You put thousands of people out of work, because they don't have to work on this shit.  They can actually go and do something useful.  You give those currently on welfare a reason to work (if they can), because they keep the money they earn.

And instead of putting their effort into complying with the system, the unemployed, disabled and elderly can get on with their lives.

I'm assuming, of course, that you want a better world.  If you don't, that is fine, you can get fucked.