This is my personal blog, on which I talk about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy. Some topics are serious, others whimsical. I love comments and questions so don't be shy, just courteous, even if you don't agree with me. I have another blog, The Story Template, on which I post writing-related topics on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Let's see, a bit about me... I'm married with two children, and spend much time taking care of our family. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research. I am a Christian who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. I also have written a nonfiction book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story. This book is a programmed learner-type book that helps you, the writer, develop a complete compelling story (novel or screenplay) from a vague idea.

YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Snow for Halloween

Unbelievable. These pictures were taken near our home. Fortunately no power outages.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lowering Insulin Levels to Lose Weight

OK, back to calories not all being created equal.

The Eades are a married physician couple who have written extensively on diet and weight. They advocate a low-carbohydrate, high protein/fat diet to lose fat and stay healthy, and note that our great- great- cestors hunted and didn't have much to eat except meat and fat. They also noted that humans crave sweet, salt, and fat, and these things may not be as bad as we've always heard. I don't have personal experience with their work but they probably wouldn't keep putting out the diet books if they didn't have a following, so will assume they're effective. Gary Taubes is another low-carb author about whom my mom raves, and apparently there are others as well.

My sister had a baby two years ago, and was discouraged about her weight gain until she tried the high-protein/low-carb regime. Now every time I talk to her on the phone she tells me about how wonderful she feels and how the diet has really worked for her. My Mom has also taken up the cause, although she's not losing weight as she wishes. (Too many carbs? Too much wine? Or it doesn't always work?) Who knows.

I've never been fat, but I've noticed these past few years that I'm no longer "slender" i.e. I moved to 10-12 size range two years ago. This trend is NOT good, so I've been doing some research on my own about losing weight.

Unlike my family, the first thing I decided was that I did not want to eat only meat and butter for the rest of my life. An interesting book I found that was related to low-carb was Diane Kress' The Metabolism Miracle, which offered an alternative and more detailed explanation for what may be going on to cause people to gain weight. Basically, if your fat cells have a too-vigorous response to insulin, they will snarf up the available blood sugar and grow, ignoring the needs of the other cells. She postulates that this is a genetic type of metabolism (Metabolism Type B). It could be. It also could be simply that as the person ages and/or undergoes life stress, this response becomes more likely. It's not essential for understanding her diet though.

Kress postulates that one simply has to retrain the body's response to insulin. Instead of the fat cells dominating, slower responses by all the cells can be trained.

Her diet has 3 stages:

Stage One: virtually no carbs. This in essence pushes the "reset" button on insulin metabolism in the body. No carbs equals no insulin equals a resting of the pancreas (that produces insulin) and the liver (that coordinates metabolism).

Stage Two: gradual, regular ingestion of relatively low levels of carbs to help the body adjust to modest insulin responses.

Stage Three: maintenance: higher, regular carb ingestion that will keep the body's metabolic functions working well without causing fat gain.

Stage One is for 8 weeks, Stage Two for 8 or more weeks until you're happy with where you are, and Stage Three for "the rest of your life." (It's not difficult, by the way). I've now been on Stage One for three weeks and have lost 8 pounds. I haven't been hungry or felt bad, although have to admit that I'm eager to move back to some carbs. Kress has excellent recipes in her two books, but really, I'm a bit tired of cottage cheese, eggs, broccoli, cheese and peanut butter. The artificial sweeteners have a nasty aftertaste (although Dickinson's sugar-free Cherry Preserves are AMAZING!).

I prefer the idea of "Metabolism Miracle" diet better than the simple low-carb-forever plans. If it works, this method allows you to eat anything, even frosted brownies, as long as you space carbs and don't overload your system.

Although after reading William Davis' Wheat Belly, I'm not as eager to use flour as I used to be. I've been baking with almond and flax flours with pretty good results. We'll see.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Whole Grains are NOT Healthy!

Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist, also postulates that insulin is a problem. He believes that America's growing obesity problem can be explained largely through the large consumption of "Whole Grains." In the American diet wheat is a component of most foods, and there is evidence that we Americans eat more of it than we have in the past. The problem with this is that the wheat we eat now may not be the same plant we ate even 50 years ago. Davis references aggressive cross-breeding of different strains of wheat to produce desired characteristics such as shorter growing season and resistance to different conditions (drought, parasites etc.). He notes that gluten composition (gluten is a major protein in wheat) is also altered, and new gluten types are appearing. He postulates that these changes may alter how wheat is metabolically handled in the body.

Dr. Davis uses the glycemic index to show how "Whole Grains" may be contributing to America's obesity problem.

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a standardize measurement that quantifies how quickly a particular food converts to blood sugar in the human body. The standard is glucose, with a GI of 100. Other foods are compared to the glucose GI to receive their own GI. A high GI food means that blood sugar rises quickly, and causes an intense insulin release. The insulin causes fat cells (and other cells) to absorb the sugar for proper functioning. When fat cells are stimulated by insulin, they manufacture more fat and eventually cause unsightly bulges. Many experts believe that keeping insulin levels as low as possibly will decrease fat formation.

Whole Grains are viewed as being "healthy" in our society, but in reality they have high GIs. For example, Shredded Wheat cereal has a GI of about 69, whereas a Snickers candy bar has a GI of 40. This high GI in grain is in large part due to high quantities of amylopectin A, a form of branched sugar molecules (complex carbohydrates) that are quickly broken down in the body.

Davis gives a chain of reaction: whole grains --> amylopectin A broken down --> sugar absorbed into the blood --> quick and high release of insulin --> fat cells take up the blood sugar --> fat cells produce more fat --> blood sugar levels drop --> brain senses low blood glucose levels --> brain stimulates the appetite --> whole grains often preferred because they produce a fast sugar rise

Davis' prescription to his patients is simple: DON'T EAT WHEAT PRODUCTS! Other grain products, such as corn and rice, are also not encouraged. He suggests using flax flour, almond flour, and coconut flour for baking. He also recommends avoiding simple sugar ingestion, since the sugar also gives fast insulin responses.

It's interesting to contemplate that a Snickers candy bar might be a better breakfast than breakfast cereal and milk.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Types of Food

Insulin is the hormone released in response to blood sugar rise, and works to allow cells to uptake the sugar for energy. Dietician Diane Kress postulates that insulin response in some people is skewed so that the fat cells take up all the sugar, leading to growing fat cells and no sugar for the other cells.

There are four general substances that can generate blood sugar to power cells. These substances come from foods that we digest. They are: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and alcohol.

Carbohydrates are the starches and sugars: breakfast cereal, potatoes, breads, and so forth. They yield 4 kcal per gram.

Proteins are things like meats, egg whites, and tofu. They also yield 4 kcal per gram.

Fats are, well we know what they are: butter and oil. They yield 9 kcal per gram. Molecularly fats are long carbon chains with hydrogen atoms. "Saturated" fats are the ones that are filled with hydrogen atoms so they lie flat and on a larger scale are solid at room temperature: butter, fat in steak, and so forth. "Unsaturated" fats means that they don't have as much hydrogen and are bent. These are the oils such as safflower and corn oil that are liquid at room temperature. "Monounsaturated" oils have just one hydrogen missing; olive oil is a good example. Hydrogenated fats are unsaturated oils exposed to hydrogen to saturate them. The trans fatty acids refers to a specific type of bond that develops in the fat when an unsaturated oil is hydrogenated: I don't want to go into too much detail with the biochemistry, but feel free to write to me if you wish for further explanation. The trans fatty acids are considered unhealthy.

Alcohol is ethanol; if you're drinking another sort of chemical alcohol you'll get in trouble. It yields 7 kcal per gram.

These substances are broken down in the digestive process through different metabolic pathways. Carbohydrates are the substance that cause insulin to be released: proteins, fats, and alcohol don't. Carbohydrates are also most quickly broken down to yield glucose in the body.

To be continued...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Are All Calories Equal?

Obesity rates are rapidly rising in the USA. Why?

Many overweight people I know are distressed by their inability to lose weight. "I keep a food diary to count my calories, and I still can't lose weight!" my friend wailed not too long ago. Well, she might be mismeasuring food quantities or not being honest, but is it possible that she's right? Or should she just do a few more sit-ups before leaving in the morning?

The equation of weight loss seems so simple:

Weight Loss occurs when Calories in < Calories out.

Calories out equals basal metabolic rate + thermogenic factors with metabolism + daily activities + exercise

But is this simple formula always correct? Some experts think that all calories are NOT created equal. I'm beginning to wonder if they're right.

Beyond the calorie counting for food and exercising, the problems of "being fat" seem to revolve in large part around the hormone insulin. Insulin is the substance that diabetics inject to manage their disease since they are unable to manufacture it (Type I) or need extra since their cells don't respond strongly enough to the endogenous supply (Type II). Insulin is secreted by the pancreas in response to blood sugar. The hormone opens gateways in the cells, allowing the sugar to be taken up by the cells so that they can continue to function.

According to dietician Diane Kress (more about her soon), people may have one of two general responses to insulin. In "textbook" people insulin works efficiently, and calories in causes blood sugar rise causes insulin release causes appropriate cellular function. However, there may be a second sort of person in whom insulin doesn't work as well. Calories in causes blood sugar rise causes insulin release causes an overstimulation of fat cells to take up all of the blood sugar in the blood. Blood sugar drops, and yet the other cells haven't received sugar/energy from the meal. Because the brain depends upon blood glucose to function, it sends out signals that it is STARVING and the person becomes more hungry than he was before.

This second group of people may remember that dieting, eating fewer calories and engaging in more exercise, never seemed to result in reliable weight loss. They weren't cheating. They also tend to put on weight, especially around the middle, as their fat cells grow.

Hmm, interesting concept. I'll pick up more of this next blog.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why is America so Fat?

It's interesting to note that the obesity rate is skyrocketing in the USA. See this CDC site with an animated map showing the rates of obesity from 1985 to 2010 HERE. The site shows that in 1985 the incidence of obesity by state was, at most, 10-14%. (Some data is missing). However, by 2010 every state has an obesity incidence of at least 20-24%, and most states have a rate between 25-29% or even > 30%. This means that throughout the country, at least one out of five people is considered obese.

Holy Smokes. What happened?

My first thought is that it may not be as bad as it looks. Here are some facts:

1. These are cross-sectional data not longitudinal. As a scientist I would like to see the relative racial mixes of 1985 and 2010. Different ethnic groups may very well have different incidences of obesity. Pima Indians, anyone?

2. I would next like to see the relative ages of these populations. Again, I suspect that getting older may be associated with getting fatter.

However, all this being said, I find it interesting that we have so many overweight people now. I suspect that our diets now may not be the same as they were even 25 years ago, and this may lead to an increase in obesity. For example, in the supermarket I notice many labeled "low-fat" foods in the aisles, and I've heard that sugar consumption is very high now. No hard facts here, but some observations.

More next time.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!*

*my favorite quote from GalaxyQuest

If you have a good idea that no one else seems to be enthusiastic for, be very careful before you decide it's really NOT something worthwhile. Here are some fun quotes...

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 15 tons." – Popular Mechanics," forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949.

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." – Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year." - The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.

"But what...is it good for?" - Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM commenting on the microchip, 1968.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." – Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." - Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" - David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible." - A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

Who the heck wants to hear actors talk?" - Harry M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.

"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper." - Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone with the Wind."

"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make." - Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting her company, Mrs. Fields' Cookies.

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." - Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, President, Royal Society, 1895.

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this." – Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives or 3-M "Post-It" Notepads.

"So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you; you haven't got through college yet.'" - Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer.

"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools." - New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work, 1921.

"You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can't be done. It's just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training." - Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the "unsolvable" problem by inventing Nautilus.

"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy." - Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." - Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value." – Mrechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

"Everything that can be invented has been invented." - Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction". – Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.

"The abdomen, the chest and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon." - Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon- Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.

"640k ought to be enough for anybody." - Bill Gates, 1981

Never fear following your passion... Where there is a will, there is a way.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Four Personality Categories

If you want to test your personality, a free and fast site is HERE


Most of the information for this post is from David Keirsey's book Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. Reading the title, I question if intelligence and character go along with personality type, but that's just me. It's an interesting book albeit a little dense.

Keirsey (and others as well) propose four basic personality types based on the MBTI:

Artisan (_S_P)

Guardian (_S_J)

Idealist (_NF_)

Rational (_NT_)

The Artisans (SPs) assess the immediate environment for options and advantages, and tend to act on them quickly. They are extremely practical and like to live in the moment. They are often thought of as easy-going, impetuous, tolerant, adaptable, and artistic.

The Guardians (SJs) are serious, believing that everyone and all things should behave in a well-ordered manner. They are careful, thorough planners, very practical, and insist that things are done the *right* way.

The Idealists (NFs) are empathetic and caring, focusing on how to complete and nurture the dear ones in their circle. Conflict is deeply personal and upsetting.

The Rationals (NTs) need to find a reason for everything. They think abstractly, and are the ones who come up with stunning breakthroughs of inventions or systems as they are able to find patterns in seemingly unrelated data and ideas.


It's interesting to calculate the relative incidence of these four personality types within the population. Assume that the following proportions exist:

E:I is approximately 75% to 25%
S:N is approximately 85% to 15%
T:F for males is approximately 67% to 33%
for females is approximately 33% to 67%
J:P is approximately 50% to 50%

Then the SPs are (0.85)(0.50) = 42.5% of the general population
The SJs are (0.85)(0.50) = 42.5% of the general population
The NFs are (0.15)(0.50*) = 7.5% of the general population (approximately 2/3 of these will be women)
The NTs are (0.15)(0.50*) = 7.5% of the general population (approximately 2/3 of these will be men)

* since we're not calculating for male versus female, I'm using an even proportion of T to F that is true over the whole population

So, as you look around your roomful of friends, you've got a much better chance of bumping into an SP artisan (about 2 in 5) or SJ guardian (about 2 in 5) than an NF idealist (less than one in ten) or NT rational (less than one in ten). As someone who measures extremely intuitive, I can emphatically say that it's hard for me to understand how other people think -- I'm able to observe and predict what they will do, but it seems like I'm constantly missing things. My thoughts fly onto tangents all the time, and I often find a solution to a problem by observing something completely different that has an interesting mechanism I can apply. I think in images and ideas, and need to translate to words. However, I don't see things right in front of me; I constantly miss the obvious real-world stuff.

Personality tests try to pigeonhole unique individuals into categories, and there are always inaccuracies and approximations. Still, after some study I've decided (for whatever my opinion is worth) that the MBTI works pretty well. So, what is it like to live in your head?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Myers Briggs, an Overview

There are many personality analyzing tools in the world. One of the bigger ones is the MBTI that was developed during World War II by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. While no test can completely pigeonhole a unique personality into a cubbyhole, the MBTI is a respected test used to describe individual preferences and tendencies. I've had a lot of fun playing with it as I analyze self, friends, family, and characters for my stories, and find it reasonably accurate (as far as I can tell). If anyone's interested, I'm strongly I, strongly N, and straddle the T-F and the J-P axes (I test INTJ).

MBTI describes four preference-type dichotomies that each person uses. These preferences are similar to left- or right-handedness; the person uses both aspects of each preference, but one is preferred. These preference dichotomies are:

Extroverted (E) versus Introverted (I)

Sensory (S) versus Intuitive (N)

Thinking (T) versus Feeling (F)

Judging (J) versus Perceiving (P)


The terms are technical, and therefore not quite the same as the colloquial meanings.

Extroverted (E) / Introverted (I)

This axis describes the attitudes to outer world (people, objects) or inner world (ideas, reflection). The extroverted prefer to act, whereas the introverted prefer to reflect and withdraw. This axis doesn't reflect how social someone is, or how well they interact with people; more it's whether they'd prefer to be around action, or prefer a quiet place.

Sensory (S) / Intuitive (N)

This axis describes how information is gathered. Sensory people prefer concrete, tangible facts or data that is accessible through the five senses. In contrast, Intuitives prefer abstract or theoretical information, and easily relate it to other information, patterns, or future pathways.

Thinking (T) / Feeling (F)

This axis describes how a decision is made. The thinkers detach and use rational, reasonable, consistent rules to make a decision, whereas the feelers consider the needs of the people involved, attempt to empathize and balance to achive the best harmonic solution. A question that exemplifies this axis is: Do you prefer justice or mercy?

Judging (J) / Perceiving (P)

This axis describes, roughly, how a person relates to the outer world. Judgers tend to use their judging function (T or F), whereas perceivers tend to use their sensing function (S or N). Judgers tend to want to make a decision and move on, whereas perceivers want to keep options open.


Dominance of these four preferences is not evenly distributed, just as right- or left-handedness is not. Approximate incidence of the characteristics in USA is:

E/I -- approximately three quarters of the population are extroverts

S/N -- approximately 85% of the population are sensors

T/F -- about two-thirds of males are Ts, and about two-thirds of females are Fs

J/P -- about evenly distributed

If you'd like to analyze your own personality, a free and fast site is HERE

In the next few entries I'll go over four basic personality types that can be further subdivided. Have a great day everyone!