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May 19th, 2018
12:19 pm


Orthotics are over-prescribed


There's no solid evidence for orthotics for most of the conditions they're prescribed for. They are good for rheumatoid arthritis and for high arches.

For other conditions, improved coordination can be a more effective solution.

Personally, I've only gotten plantar fasciitis from a chi gung exercise called swimming dragon, which I solved by not doing swimming dragon. However, I didn't have the problem with the exercise when I was younger, so maybe I should take a serious look at how I'm doing it.



Also, I cleared up flat feet for a while by doing an exercise about the relationship between hips and ankles from _Running with the Whole Body. I need to get back to that.


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April 2nd, 2018
04:13 pm


Beware the "butterfish"! The escolar probably isn't your friend
Summary: Escolar (frequently sold as butterfish or white tuna) can make you pretty sick.

I bought some smoked butterfish at the Reading Terminal Market-- it was only $5 for about a pound, and I like smoked fish.

I didn't like it all that much-- too salty and an odd flavor. I was trying to figure out whether rinsing it and cooking it with something was worth doing.

Then I got some diarrhea which seemed vaguely different than usual-- some of the details are TMI (Too Much Information) and I started thinking about what I'd been eating lately.

I'd heard about white tuna (a sort of sushi) being hard on the digestive tract, so I was open to the possibility that fish might be a problem.

Well! White tuna isn't related to tuna, it's butterfish. So is escolar. I will say a thing or two to the people at Reading Terminal Market-- they've got a big fish shop with a neon sign over it that says something like EAT FISH BE HEALTHY.

White tuna as sushi isn't a hazard to me-- the quantify in an assorted sushi plate isn't enough to hit me, and it's actually pretty tasty. It being labeled as white tuna is eroding my faith in humanity that little bit more, though.

Substantial article. I got off easy, some people get a lot sicker. If you read the comments, you'll find that people getting sick from escolar happens all over the world, except Italy and Japan where the fish is illegal. Pricey restaurants sometimes sell escolar (mislabeled, often enough) as a main dish.

Teminology! There's an English eel called butterfish.

Mercifully, "black cod" is at least has black scales, but many species of sable aren't black.

I'm reminded of the bit in Stranger in a Strange Land which complains about English words having multiple meanings. The example was that red hair doesn't resemble the color otherwise called red.

Butterfish, the red-tailed hawk and turkey vulture of the sea.


Which is not the same as butterfish.



More details. People who love escolar, including chefs. Recommendations to make it safer (less fat, small portions).

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March 7th, 2018
02:34 pm


Presidents with military experience
This was on facebook. I'm reposting it here because I definitely want to be able to find it again, and also because I think I should be doing more on DW/LJ.


Al Lock posted in response to my question:

Nancy Lebovitz "I've asked elsewhere about whether presidents with military experience make better military decisions, and never gotten an answer."

I'll give you an answer from a historian's point of view (not everyone may agree with me, but still...).

George Washington had more military experience than the 4 Presidents who followed him combined... and yet, only he had to deploy military forces to deal with rebellion.

Ulysses S. Grant arguably made some of the worst military decisions in US history in how he dealt with the Sioux. He was very, very experienced in military matters, but I'd say that pretty much all the Presidents who followed him made better military decisions regarding the various tribes.

Dwight Eisenhower was probably the most educated and experienced General to ever reside in the White House. He is also responsible for the massive increase in the various intelligence agencies and their activities worldwide.

JFK had military experience - combat - and took us to the brink of nuclear war, as well as getting us into Vietnam.

LBJ had very limited military experience (the story about his Silver Star is enlightening) - made horrible decisions throughout Vietnam.

Jimmy Carter was a Navy Commander. Submariner. Worst CinC in my service era.

Ronald Reagan made movies while he was in the military. Important stuff, but not really combat or even overseas duty. Best CinC in my service era.

GWH Bush was a naval aviator. Shot down at the Battle of Midway. Honestly? Middle of the road.

Bill Clinton had no experience and made some absolutely horrible decisions early - but he did learn from them.

Being President is its own skill set. I don't think military service has as much to do with being good or bad (even as related to military decisions) as the right mindset to challenge assumptions and make smart, balanced decisions.

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February 3rd, 2018
10:37 am


Don't hassle people for doing what you want



I mean, it seems pretty obvious when you put it like that.

But how many families, when an introvert sibling or child makes an effort to socialize, snarklily say, so you've decided to join us"?

Or when someone does something they've had trouble doing, say "Why can't you do that all the time"? (Happened to me, all too often.)

Or any sentence containing the word "finally".

If someone makes a step, a small step, in a direction you want to encourage, encourage it. Don't complain about how it's not enough. Don't bring up previous stuff. Encourage it.

Because I swear to fucking God there is nothing more soul-killing, more motivation-crushing, than struggling to succeed and finding that success and failure are both punished.


Here's my comment: So, why do people do this?

Two theories: One is that they're still angry about the past lack of accomplishment. The other theory is that they just want to claw at the person.

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January 22nd, 2018
09:17 am


Favorite shoes, and source for unusual sizes
I've been wearing Grasshopper Janey shoes-- they're a nice comfortable simple sneaker. The thing is, they've solved their durability problem-- the shoes' canvas used to wear out on the sides near the heel-- this doesn't seem unreasonable for $50 shoes, but my current pair is holding up nicely.


It didn't seem reasonable to reward them by buying shoes I didn't need, and I was thinking about how I could reward them some other way. A little publicity seems reasonable.

Also, the company I found them at is Auditions Shoes. After going to a number of stores to not find comfortable shoes (I'm an 8W, not a very extreme size), I hope to shop online for shoes for the rest of my life. Auditions' return policy isn't especially generous-- they don't cover postage to or from you-- but their prices are good.
navy blue sneaker

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December 16th, 2017
04:53 am


Apple thing (recipe)
Medium-large apple, sliced
2 eggs
about an egg-sized volume of chevre (soft goat cheese)
about a cup of cooked brown rice
cinnamon and all-spice

Mixed together (I used a potato masher to mix the eggs and cheese), and baked at 350 for about 40 minutes.

This worked out pretty well. The apple was hot rather than cooked soft as it would be for a pie, but I'm actually not crazy about the texture of fruit pie.

The result tasted like a dessert, but was as satiating as a normal dinner.

The apple was a variety I'm not familiar with-- green with some small pinkish areas, round, sweet, no seeds and very little core.

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December 4th, 2017
10:54 pm


Tinnitus-- a thing that works well for me + a generalized ramble
I have some tinnitus in my right ear, and I also have a way of shutting it down, generally for months at a time.

The method is to run my attention down a muscle on the side of my neck. I think it's the sternocleidomastoid-- it starts at the back of my ear and runs diagonally down the front of my neck. It sticks out if I turn my head towards the center.

Minor evidence of involvement of neck muscles-- I've felt that turning my head included a sensation of pulling on my eardrum a couple of time.

I'm not sure how long I need to keep running my attention down the muscle, but I think it's in the range of a few minutes.

I've tried stroking the muscle instead, but that doesn't seem to work-- I may not have kept it going long enough.

I've tried paying attention to the tinnitus while I do this-- I wanted to see if I could catch the moment when tinnitus went away-- and that definitely doesn't work.

The idea for doing this just came into my head, apparently from nowhere. It seemed like it was worth trying and I was surprised at how well it worked.

There's a technique at the bottom which helps some people and makes things worse for others. While I think my technique is so gentle it's likely to be harmless, I also believe that anything which is strong enough to do good is strong enough to do harm, so it's a gamble.

And that's the specifics about my technique, the rest is a ramble about various things from the net about tinnitus.

I had the impression that doctors said there was nothing to be done for tinnitus, but apparently they do have some methods. Informal survey-- what have you heard about treatment for tinnitus?

There are different sorts of tinnitus. Mine has some correlation with worrying. It isn't the result of exposure to loud noise. I avoid loud noise because I find it painful-- no rock concerts for me. I've had the good fortune to not be exposed to loud noise involuntarily.

I get a wooshing noise in my right ear-- it ranges from just barely there to moderately annoying.

I haven't seen any evidence people are looking into the possibility that loud noise might cause muscle tension which would lead to tinnitus. However, some drugs cause tinnitus, so presumably it isn't all about muscle tension.


This article has what seems to be a thorough overview of tinnitus, including methods for managing it.


This article offers an intriguing idea of neurological treatment for (some types of?) tinnitus, but is much weaker about existing treatments.

Tinnitus and trigger points:

"Tinnitus is a multifaceted symptom that may have many causes (otologic, neurological, metabolic, pharmacological, vascular, musculoskeletal and psychological) several of which often occur in the same patient. Tinnitus can often be modulated by different kinds of stimuli. In this chapter we describe the results of a study of modulation of tinnitus from stimulation of myofascial trigger points (MTPs). MTPs are small hypersensitive areas in palpable taut bands of skeletal muscles found in patients with the myofascial pain syndrome where stimulation of MTPs causes local and referred pain. We found a strong correlation between tinnitus and the presence of MTPs in head, neck and shoulder girdle (p<0.001). In 56% of patients with tinnitus and MTPs, the tinnitus could be modulated by applying digital compression of such points, mainly those of the masseter muscle. The worst tinnitus was referred to the side that had the most MTPs (p<0.001); Compression of the trigger point on the same side as the tinnitus was significantly more effective than the opposite side in six out of nine of the studied muscles. Compression of MTPs was most effective in patients who have had chronic pain earlier in the examined areas."


20 minutes of pressing on muscles to see which ones might be involved in a person's tinnitus. This is something you can do for yourself. I've never followed the video when I have tinnitus, but I can testify that it's a pretty good head, neck, and shoulder massage.

I like that anatomical charts are superimposed on the man demonstrating the trigger point exploration, but if you don't like that sort of thing, you've been warned.


This one offers hope that magnesium might help tinnitus, but leaves out any connection to muscle tension.


Meditation on the tinnitus sound was very good for this man.


Tapping on the back of the head works well for some people with tinnitus, causes temporary relief (sometimes a good bit better than nothing) for others, has no effect for some, and makes tinnitus worse for others. I don't have a feeling for the proportions.

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December 1st, 2017
09:22 am


Archiving your writing
It turns out that if you're a journalist, you can't count on your publications to store your writing reliably. Even if they don't go under, they might change format and lose your stuff. Or, I suppose, just lose it because computers are like that. Here are some methods for archiving. This isn't just for journalists, of course.


Saving things in the Wayback Machine

For readers: Keep track of changes in news stories

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November 21st, 2017
11:28 pm


Looking for ride to Chessiecon, will make and deliver buttons
I'm looking for a ride to Chessiecon-- it would just be me and a couple of pieces of luggage. I'm not bringing the business.

I'm in south Philadelphia, but I'll meet you anywhere that Philly mass transit goes.

If you'd like buttons, pre-order them and I'll bring them. Info at NancyButtons or just email or PM. I'm at nancyL (at) panix (dot) com.

I'm not sure how much time I'll have before the convention-- orders by Wednesday night will definitely get done. I'll do my best with later orders, or I can mail them.

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November 18th, 2017
10:47 am


Biology, always more complicated
Genetics of passenger pigeons

The hypothesis is that they were strongly selected for living in huge flocks, which is why they all died off instead of surviving in small groups.

I’m not sure that the strong immune systems which make sense for large flocks would make it hard to survive in small groups, but there might be something else.

This caught my eye:

“When a beneficial mutation spreads through a population, it carries along with it adjacent stretches of DNA, so subsequent generations carry not only the good mutation but entire sections of identical DNA. These regions of low diversity can be broken up by recombination, the process in which paired chromosomes exchange sections of DNA during the formation of eggs and sperm (which explains why parents don’t pass on exact copies of their chromosomes to their offspring).

“Recombination tends to happen less frequently in the middle of chromosomes than at the ends, a tendency that is especially pronounced in birds. In the passenger pigeon genome, the researchers found that areas of low genetic diversity were in the middle of chromosomes, while higher diversity regions were at the ends.”

I’d assumed that genes are selected for individually, but apparently not.

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