Thursday, April 15, 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Diet record-keeping

So I'm taking this nutrition class, and one of the key exercises is keeping track of everything you eat for five days, once at the beginning of the quarter and again, later, when you will allegedly will have learned enough to mend your wayward chow-hounding.

I think I've done pretty well, but the program we're using to keep track keeps record of both eats and activities. I say "but" because the short questionnaire the program uses has labeled me as "active" and thus believes I need nearly 2,500 calories a day just to keep my head above water. I'm dubious.

I'm also skeptical of the claims about how much the kinds of exercise I do count. For example, I swim (hard, baby). I did a pretty aggressive half-hour yesterday (Friday) and the gizmo thinks that's about 400 calories burnt. I don't know about that. I find it hard to believe that a half-hour swim could counteract, say for example, a six-shot bender of vodka (65 calories apiece). To put it a different way, the swim would amount to four normal peanut butter spoons (1 tablespoon each).

Anyway, the upshot of the five-day deal is that I have been paying way, way more attention to my eating patterns. I probably have snacked a lot less than usual on account of the record-keeping. If you believe my friend Chris Sawin, a college pal, the bad-habit-breaking/positive-habit-forming threshold is 17 days. I assume he came up with that during one of his quit-smoking efforts. Anyway, I'm not sure 17 is right, but five surely is to few?

I've tried to act normal this week, but I'm sure I've cut back. And because I tend to eat cyclically (i.e. I'll go on a V-8 jag starting tonight and lasting a couple weeks, then avoid the stuff), I am certain this isn't going to be super representative. But it is interesting!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cheap turkeys in Walla Walla

If you happen to blunder into this blog soon, you might find you can get a good deal on a turkey at Safeway on Rose Street in Walla Walla. I happened in Monday night and wound up with a 13.5-pound Safeway brand turkey, frozen, for $3.46. Supposedly you had to buy $25 worth of stuff to get a discount, and it was supposed to be 37 cents a pound for that size of bird, but I bought about $16 worth and got the 27 cents a pound deal. $3.46! Freaky.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jobs, writ large

Just a quick thought: While reading about how reports on jobs created by the federal rescue stimulus handout giveaway were :riddled with inaccuracies," I was reminded of how the unemployment, cost of living and inflation reports are, too. I'm sure that's different, though...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Color me ecru!

Printers would of course agree about colors that are combinations of standardized bases, like red/green/blue or cyan/magenta/yellow/black, but I think those schemes are useful only to people who have learned what the base colors look like.

I can talk to you until you're bored about percentages of CMYK color, but I'm pretty helpless in the RGB environment, let alone more arcane schemes. I'd be more inclined to advocate for teaching people to more closely observe their surroundings so they could reference appropriate phenomena to describe colors.

If you're from New Hampshire, for example, you could probably be relied on to know what kind of blue is the blue of a Karner blue butterfly, and you could show the uninitiated a photo to describe that necktie or blouse you saw... And so on, ad infinitum.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

S&P: Shots in the dark

It is said, but only Allah knows all, that "when there is a conflict between vision and other sensations, vision usually dominates – a phenomenon called visual capture."

You can demonstrate a remarkable exception through a simple procedure. Take a flash camera into a room with patterned wallpaper or a picture on the wall. It should be a room that can be darkened (an interior bathroom with a towel against the bottom crack is ideal). Turn off the lights and dark adapt for 5 minutes. Now, while holding your arm outstretched with an open hand toward the wallpaper or picture, aim and click the camera so the flash hits your hand. In a second or two, you will see a strong positive afterimage of your hand against the wallpaper. Now, move your hand downward. What did you see? What do you think happened?

When I carried out the kinesthetic capture observation above (not my design, but that of J. Seiver, or whoever JS got it from), I did as instructed, using a flashbulb to illuminate my hand against a visually interesting background. Here's what I observed:

In the moment of the flash, I didn't see much except "wow, that's bright!" Then I dropped my hand. Within a second, I saw a strong image of my hand and arm in a uniform magenta, as though my arm was still outstretched. I blinked, then saw my arm and hand outstretched in full color against the background, which also was in color but not as vivid as my hand and arm. After watching for a few seconds, the colorful scene faded, and I saw my hand and arm in cyan for a while before the scene faded away. I did the observation three times, too, just to enjoy it.

So, what happened? I think that by adapting to the darkness beforehand and then only having illumination for a moment, I set my visual system up to be fooled into seeing a false representation of the scene. I think the illusion is an outcome you'd expect when you essentially shut down the visual system then give it a brief flash of a scene then shut down the inputs again. It's reasonable to surmise the visual system has a feature analogous to the vestibular sense, and that the most recent output has an echo.

A corollary experiment involves just wiggling your fingers or making a fist with your arm in place after the flash. When I tried this, I found the afterimage blinked and never resolved completely as it did the scene did when I dropped my arm. I tried this again leaving my arm in as close to the same place as I could while turning my hand so that instead of having my palm outstretched I had the back of my hand turned outward. So I had my palm out when I hit the flash, then turned my hand inward. I saw, clearly but in dimmer light, my palm turned inward, then the afterimage of my arm and hand with the palm outward.

I have no explanation for being able to clearly see my hand with the palm inward. Maybe the flashbulb was still dying when I turned my hand? In any case, I am assuming that by turning my hand inward after that I disrupted the position of my arm enough to then see the afterimage, unlike when I wiggled my fingers. In that observation I never got a clear afterimage. In this one, I got the clear afterimage. This fits with what H Hogendoorn, M P M Kammers, T A Carlson and F A J Verstraten found in their 2008 study, "Being in the dark about seeing your hand: multisensory conflict resolved by proprioception erasing visual information," namely that moving your hand around in the place disrupts the afterimage effect but moving your hand elsewhere leads to the visual system taking over.

Monday, October 26, 2009