Lard me up

The US has taken steps to stop government action to reduce obesity. They make an excellent point about individuals needing to take responsibility for their own actions (and lardiness), but their claim that there isn’t solid evidence that sugar and fat make you fat is ludicrous (I’m aware that’s an over-used word, but it’s justified here).

No substance that I’m aware of will uncontrollably make someone fat in the same way that, for example, one aspirin can make your headache go away, or arsenic can make you dead. But an overconsumption of calories can certainly do that. And there are three good ways of overconsuming calories:

1. Eat something that provides nothing but calories. Sugar has no nutritional content except for energy. While energy is important, it’s better to get it in forms that are also supplying other nutrition (e.g. complex carbohydrates which generally supply fiber and important trace elements).

2. Eat something that messes with your body. Pure sugar has an amazing effect on the body, causing gluts and shortages of insulin among other things. So even if ‘a calorie is just a calorie’, it can sometimes count for more (or less). This is one of the valid points in the Atkins diet.

3. Eat concentrated energy. If you want to really pack in the calories, you need to make sure they’re as concentrated as possible. One good choice is sugar, because it’s nothing but calories. The real winner is fat, though, as it contains over twice as many calories by weight as protein or sugar. In moderation this is fine, because fat also helps the body to understand when it’s full (and provides important nutrients in the process). But we’re not talking about moderation here, are we?

So the prescription for weight gain is lots of concentrated, calories, with as little between them and your gut as possible, and preferably in irregular patterns to confuse your body. I can’t claim it’s a watertight scientific case, it’s just the truth (which the tobacco industry has shown is something entirely different).

My tip for losing weight (and I know from personal experience that this is easy to understand, but hard to do):
1. Eat less
2. Eat better
3. Move about more.

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Lake Calhoun

I was reading an article about Lake Calhoun recently, and it highlighted to me the routine nature of the dispossession of Native Americans.

“The Pond brothers [European settlers who arrived in 1834], who were encouraged by Cloud Man [the local chief] both to settle nearby and to help out during harvest season, described an active, busy Dakota community surrounding the lake.

The Dakota presence at Lake Calhoun and throughout the region, ended with the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux in 1851, which vacated the land in order to make room for migrating Europeans.”

It’s that kind of arrogance in America and much (most?) of the West, including the British who were a large part of the ‘migrating Europeans’, that concerns me about the current action in Iraq. The ultimate aim is stability in the Middle East, which is clearly a desirable end. But to think that we can do it because ‘we know best’ is deeply troubling. It didn’t work in Iran, and that was a very modest effort compared to the huge mobilization in effect at the moment. I don’t think it’s doomed to failure, and in fact it could work out very well, but the risk is of a Pyrrhean victory with implications too huge to contain in one person’s (or even one administration’s) mind.


Got to love this statistic: “In 2001 Americans spent $25 billion — more than North Korea’s GDP — on recreational watercraft.”

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Bunkum-Busting Bombs

Nick made an interesting comment below about it being better to spend money on stadia than on nuclear bombs, referring to the Bush plan to build ‘little’ nukes to get at underground bunkers. Let’s put aside for a while the ideal of politicians looking at spending as a choice, and concentrate on the explosive side of this.

The case for something to kill people in bunkers (assuming you want to kill people at all) is very fair – terrorists hide in holes in the ground, we like to blow stuff up, it’s a perfect match. What is disturbing about this is the arrogance it demonstrates. These are nuclear bombs, the only true weapons of mass destruction, and have traditionally held a place apart in world history. Yet we want to use them in a tactical setting, like they were just very powerful conventional explosives. They’re not. They devestate their targets, their fallout (and in this case I use the word literally) cannot be controlled, and the effects last for millenia. There will be an accident involving one of these devices if they are developed (there have been accidents at nuclear plants in most countries, and we’re not getting 19 year olds to strap them to planes in the middle of a desert). And we will have no ability to mitigate its effects.

I believe strongly that in any area of discussion you should start with all options on the table. Nothing is too ludicrous to be considered. But many things are too outright stupid to do anything with except reject them. The only country in history known to have used WMDs in anger should embrace the responsibility their position gives them and fight this idea worldwide, not champion it.


A modest aside – I am interested in, though negligibly gifted at, photography. For an example of where I would like to be, and an object lesson in why it’s about the photographer not the equipment, look here.