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Data center, meet the smart grid

If one looked back at the last sixty years and told a story about the electrical grid, it would be a tale of monumental growth as electricity use in the U.S. is about 13 times what it was in the 1950s. Americans now consume about 20 percent of all energy worldwide.

But in the last decade that growth has slowed to just under one percent per year. The story of the next sixty years will be less about demand growth, but about creating a stable grid in a world of increasing amounts of renewable energy.

The issue with renewable energy integration come down to the reality that with wind and solar, generation is intermittent. You can’t just power up or down a generator as needed. Which has meant that utilities are increasingly looking for its customers to help balance the grid through programs like demand response and frequency regulation which incentivize customer to use less or more power at the precise time that operators need to adjust demand.

The opportunity for data centers

It’s this scenario that has some people wondering if data centers might have a role to play in helping utilities maintain grid stability. It often surprises many to learn that data centers are built with about 20 percent extra capacity and on top of that can have utilization rates as low as 10 percent. They are designed to absorb spikes in usage, like when Michael Jackson died and sites from Twitter to MSNBC struggled to stay available.

Much is written about how companies like Apple and Facebook have gone to states like North Carolina and Oregon respectively to access cheap, abundant power for its data center buildouts. And it’s precisely because data centers are such power hogs that they make attractive targets to shed and take power as needed to help balance the grid. Facebook’s Oregon data center has a capacity of 28 megawatts out of a total regional grid capacity of 720 megawatts, making it the largest commercial user of power in the region.


Gluten-Free, Whether You Need It or Not By KENNETH CHANG


Eat no wheat.

That is the core, draconian commandment of a gluten-free diet, a prohibition that excises wide swaths of American cuisine — cupcakes, pizza, bread and macaroni and cheese, to name a few things.

For the approximately one-in-a-hundred Americans who have a serious condition called celiac disease, that is an indisputably wise medical directive.

One woman’s story of going gluten-free.


Now medical experts largely agree that there is a condition related to gluten other than celiac. In 2011 a panel of celiac experts convened in Oslo and settled on a medical term for this malady: non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

What they still do not know: how many people have gluten sensitivity, what its long-term effects are, or even how to reliably identify it. Indeed, they do not really know what the illness is.

The definition is less a diagnosis than a description — someone who does not have celiac, but whose health improves on a gluten-free diet and worsens again if gluten is eaten. It could even be more than one illness.

“We have absolutely no clue at this point,” said Dr. Stefano Guandalini, medical director of the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center.

Kristen Golden Testa could be one of the gluten-sensitive. Although she does not have celiac, she adopted a gluten-free diet last year. She says she has lost weight and her allergies have gone away. “It’s just so marked,” said Ms. Golden Testa, who is health program director in California for the Children’s Partnership, a national nonprofit advocacy group.

She did not consult a doctor before making the change, and she also does not know whether avoiding gluten has helped at all. “This is my speculation,” she said. She also gave up sugar at the same time and made an effort to eat more vegetables and nuts.

Many advocates of gluten-free diets warn that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a wide, unseen epidemic undermining the health of millions of people. They believe that avoiding gluten — a composite of starch and proteins found in certain grassy grains like wheat, barley and rye — gives them added energy and alleviates chronic ills. Oats, while gluten-free, are also avoided, because they are often contaminated with gluten-containing grains.

Others see the popularity of gluten-free foods as just the latest fad, destined to fade like the Atkins diet and avoidance of carbohydrates a decade ago.

Indeed, Americans are buying billions of dollars of food labeled gluten-free each year. And celebrities like Miley Cyrus, the actress and singer, have urged fans to give up gluten. “The change in your skin, physical and mental health is amazing!” she posted on Twitter in April.

For celiac experts, the anti-gluten zeal is a dramatic turnaround; not many years ago, they were struggling to raise awareness among doctors that bread and pasta can make some people very sick. Now they are voicing caution, tamping down the wilder claims about gluten-free diets.

“It is not a healthier diet for those who don’t need it,” Dr. Guandalini said. These people “are following a fad, essentially.” He added, “And that’s my biased opinion.”

Nonetheless, Dr. Guandalini agrees that some people who do not have celiac receive a genuine health boost from a gluten-free diet. He just cannot say how many.

As with most nutrition controversies, most everyone agrees on the underlying facts. Wheat entered the human diet only about 10,000 years ago, with the advent of agriculture.

“For the previous 250,000 years, man had evolved without having this very strange protein in his gut,” Dr. Guandalini said. “And as a result, this is a really strange, different protein which the human intestine cannot fully digest. Many people did not adapt to these great environmental changes, so some adverse effects related to gluten ingestion developed around that time.”

The primary proteins in wheat gluten are glutenin and gliadin, and gliadin contains repeating patterns of amino acids that the human digestive system cannot break down. (Gluten is the only substance that contains these proteins.) People with celiac have one or two genetic mutations that somehow, when pieces of gliadin course through the gut, cause the immune system to attack the walls of the intestine in a case of mistaken identity. That, in turn, causes fingerlike structures called villi that absorb nutrients on the inside of the intestines to atrophy, and the intestines can become leaky, wreaking havoc. Symptoms, which vary widely among people with the disease, can include vomiting, chronic diarrhea or constipation and diminished growth rates in children.

The vast majority of people who have celiac do not know it. And not everyone who has the genetic mutations develops celiac.

What worries doctors is that the problem seems to be growing. After testing blood samples from a century ago, researchers discovered that the rate of celiac appears to be increasing. Why is another mystery. Some blame the wheat, as some varieties now grown contain higher levels of gluten, because gluten helps provide the springy inside and crusty outside desirable in bread. (Blame the artisanal bakers.)

There are also people who are allergic to wheat (not necessarily gluten), but until recently, most experts had thought that celiac and wheat allergy were the only problems caused by eating the grain.

For 99 out of 100 people who don’t have celiac — and those who don’t have a wheat allergy — the undigested gliadin fragments usually pass harmlessly through the gut, and the possible benefits of a gluten-free diet are nebulous, perhaps nonexistent for most. But not all.

Anecdotally, people like Ms. Golden Testa say that gluten-free diets have improved their health. Some people with diseases like irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis also report alleviation of their symptoms, and others are grasping at gluten as a source of a host of other conditions, though there is no scientific evidence to back most of the claims. Experts have been skeptical. It does not make obvious sense, for example, that someone would lose weight on a gluten-free diet. In fact, the opposite often happens for celiac patients as their malfunctioning intestines recover.

They also worried that people could end up eating less healthfully. A gluten-free muffin generally contains less fiber than a wheat-based one and still offers the same nutritional dangers — fat and sugar. Gluten-free foods are also less likely to be fortified with vitamins.

But those views have changed. Crucial in the evolving understanding of gluten were the findings, published in 2011, in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, of an experiment in Australia. In the double-blind study, people who suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, did not have celiac and were on a gluten-free diet were given bread and muffins to eat for up to six weeks. Some of them were given gluten-free baked goods; the others got muffins and bread with gluten. Thirty-four patients completed the study. Those who ate gluten reported they felt significantly worse.

That influenced many experts to acknowledge that the disease was not just in the heads of patients. “It’s not just a placebo effect,” said Dr. Marios Hadjivassiliou, a neurologist and celiac expert at the University of Sheffield in England.

Even though there was now convincing evidence that gluten sensitivity exists, that has not helped to establish what causes gluten sensitivity. The researchers of the Australian experiment noted, “No clues to the mechanism were elucidated.”

What is known is that gluten sensitivity does not correlate with the genetic mutations of celiac, so it appears to be something distinct from celiac.

How widespread gluten sensitivity may be is another point of controversy.

Dr. Thomas O’Bryan, a chiropractor turned anti-gluten crusader, said that when he tested his patients, 30 percent of them had antibodies targeting gliadin fragments in their blood. “If a person has a choice between eating wheat or not eating wheat,” he said, “then for most people, avoiding wheat would be ideal.”

Dr. O’Bryan has given himself a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity. “I had these blood sugar abnormalities and didn’t have a handle where they were coming from,” he said. He said a blood test showed gliadin antibodies, and he started avoiding gluten. “It took me a number of years to get completely gluten-free,” he said. “I’d still have a piece of pie once in a while. And I’d notice afterwards that I didn’t feel as good the next day or for two days. Subtle, nothing major, but I’d notice that.”

But Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides, Inc., a consulting firm, said fewer people these days were citing the benefits of gluten-free diets. She said a recent survey of people who bought gluten-free foods found that 35 percent said they thought gluten-free products were generally healthier, down from 46 percent in 2010. She predicted that the use of gluten-free products would decline.

Dr. Guandalini said finding out whether you are gluten sensitive is not as simple as Dr. O’Bryan’s antibody tests, because the tests only indicate the presence of the fragments in the blood, which can occur for a variety of reasons and do not necessarily indicate a chronic illness. For diagnosing gluten sensitivity, “There is no testing of the blood that can be helpful,” he said.

He also doubts that the occurrence of gluten sensitivity is nearly as high as Dr. O’Bryan asserts. “No more than 1 percent,” Dr. Guandalini said, although he agreed that at present all numbers were speculative.

He said his research group was working to identify biological tests that could determine gluten sensitivity. Some of the results are promising, he said, but they are too preliminary to discuss. Celiac experts urge people to not do what Ms. Golden Testa did — self-diagnose. Should they actually have celiac, tests to diagnose it become unreliable if one is not eating gluten. They also recommend visiting a doctor before starting on a gluten-free diet.

How Music Can Boost a High-Intensity Workout

Taken from:

Intense, highly demanding exercise has many health benefits and one signal drawback. It can be physically unpleasant, which deters many people from beginning or sticking with an intense exercise program. An encouraging new study, however, suggests that listening to music makes strenuous workouts feel easier and may nudge people into pushing themselves harder than they had thought possible.

Strenuous exercise, especially in the form of high-intensity interval training, has interested many scientists and exercisers in recent years. High-intensity intervals are brief bouts of hard, draining exercise interspersed with rest periods. Past studies have shown that 15- or 20-minute sessions of interval training improve people’s fitness and reduce their risk for many chronic diseases as effectively as much longer bouts of moderate, continuous endurance training.

In other words, high-intensity interval training promises a hefty fitness bang from a small time investment.

But as those of us who have experimented with this type of exercise quickly learn, that time, short as it may be, is punishing. Many people find the experience “aversive,” said Matthew Stork, a graduate student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who led the new study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Mr. Stork and his colleagues at McMaster, who have conducted many studies of high-intensity interval training, wondered if it would be possible to find ways to modify people’s perceptions of how little they were enjoying the exercise. You can’t reduce the actual intensity substantially, he knew, without reducing the physiological benefits. But perhaps you could alter people’s feelings about the difficulty.

He and his colleagues thought immediately of music.

Many past studies have found that listening to music changes people’s experience of exercise, with most people reporting that listening to energetic songs make a workout feel easier and less monotonous.

But those studies have generally involved standard endurance exercise, such as 30 minutes or so of continuous jogging or cycling. Few have examined the effect that music might have during intense intervals, in part because many exercise scientists have suspected that such training is too draining. The physiological noise bombarding people from their own muscles and lungs during intervals, many scientists have thought, would drown out the music, making any effect negligible.

But Mr. Stork was unconvinced. So he recruited 20 young, healthy adult volunteers, none of whom previously had dabbled with high-intensity interval training. Then he brought them into the lab and had them learn how to work out quite hard.

The precise regimen that the volunteers followed was simple enough. Using stationary bicycles, they completed four 30-second bouts of what the researchers call “all-out” pedaling, at the highest intensity that each volunteer could stand. Each 30-second bout was followed by four minutes of recovery time, during which the volunteers could pedal gently or climb off the bike and sit or walk about. Throughout the all-out intervals, meanwhile, the scientists tracked the volunteers’ pedaling power output and asked them how hard the exercise felt and whether they were having fun. Or not.

After that workout, the volunteers sat down and listed their favorite songs, which the researchers then downloaded and used to create custom playlists for each volunteer.

Then each volunteer returned twice more to the lab, grunting through two additional sessions of the high-intensity intervals. During one, they listened to their chosen playlist. In the other, they did not listen to music.

Afterward, the researchers compared the riders’ power outputs and reported feelings about the workout’s difficulty.

The volunteers all reported that the intervals had been hard. In fact, their feelings about the difficulty were almost identical, whether they had been listening to music or not.

What is interesting is that their power output had been substantially greater when they were listening to music. They were pedaling much more ferociously than without music. But they did not find that effort to be more unpleasant. Without music, the workout struck them as about the equivalent of an eight or higher on a zero to 10 scale of disagreeableness (with 10 being unbearable).

With music, each interval still felt like about an eight or higher to the riders, but they were working much harder during each 30-second spurt. The intensity increased but not the discomfort.

Polled by the scientists at the end of the experiment, all 20 riders said that if they were to take up interval training on their own after the study, they definitely would listen to music to get themselves through the workout.

How music affects performance and perceptions during intense exercise remains unclear, Mr. Stork said, but it likely involves “arousal responses.” The body responds to the rhythm of the music with a physiological revving that prepares it for the demands of the intervals.

People may also turn to music in hopes of ignoring their body’s insistent messages of discomfort. Music cannot, of course, override those messages altogether, Mr. Stork pointed out. But it may mute them and make you more eager to strain through another session of intervals, sweat and playlist streaming.

When iPhones Ring, the Economy Listens

Most Food Illnesses Come From Greens

Spoiled shellfish and unrefrigerated mayonnaise are notorious for causing digestive troubles, but the most common cause of food-borne illness is leafy vegetables like lettuce, according to a new study, and the most common cause of death is contaminated poultry.

A study in the March issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases estimates that 1,451 people died from 1998 to 2008 in outbreaks of food-borne illness. Meat and poultry accounted for 28.7 percent of deaths, dairy products (including eggs) for 14.5 percent and vegetables for 16.4 percent.

But more than half of all food-borne illnesses were caused by plant foods, which made more than 4.9 million people sick. Leafy vegetables like spinach, above, led the list, with 2.1 million people falling ill after eating them. The dreaded shellfish caused 330,981 complaints, just 3.4 percent of the 9.6 million illnesses caused by contaminated food.

A co-author of the study, Dr. Robert V. Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said produce-related illnesses come largely from a norovirus infection of the food preparer. Poultry is often contaminated with salmonella and listeria. But, he said, “It’s important to understand that we didn’t try to estimate the risk per dinner — in fact, the risk per dinner is very low. ”

Remarks by the President on the California Drought

Joe Del Bosque’s Field Los Banos, California

4:55 P.M. PST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I want to thank Joe and Maria Del Bosque and their beautiful daughters for showing Governor Brown and me around their farm.

Joe has got an incredible story.  The son of a migrant farmworker, farm work is how he put himself through college.  He’s been a farmer for most of his life.  He started by going around to other folks’ land and saying, I’ll grow some cantaloupes for you as long as you pay me for what we produce, and over the years was able to develop this amazing business and not only start growing cantaloupes, but almonds and cherries and all kinds of other good stuff.

“There are three things that make farming work in California,” according to Joe, “soil, water, and people.”  And in the little free time they have, Joe and Maria work to improve the health and safety of farm workers.  There are a lot of people who are dependent on him year-round, and a lot of people who work seasonally with Joe and Maria, and their livelihoods depend on the functioning of these farms.

But today, we’re here to talk about the resource that’s keeping more and more California’s farmers and families up at night, and that is water — or the lack of it.

As anybody in this state could tell you, California’s living through some of its driest years in a century.  Right now, almost 99 percent of California is drier than normal — and the winter snowpack that provides much of your water far into the summer is much smaller than normal.  And we could see that as we were flying in — Jim and Barbara and Dianne and I were flying over the mountain ranges and could see, even though there was a little bit of snow that just came in the last couple of days, that it’s nothing like it is normally.

While drought in regions outside the West is expected to be less severe than in other years, California is our biggest economy, California is our biggest agricultural producer, so what happens here matters to every working American, right down to the cost of food that you put on your table.

And that’s why, last month, Governor Brown declared a state of emergency, directing state officials to prepare for drought conditions.  And together, our administrations launched a coordinated response.  Secretary Vilsack, who is here today, declared 27 counties as primary natural disaster areas, making farmers and ranchers eligible for emergency loans.  And over the past two weeks, his team at USDA and Mike Connor’s team at the Interior Department have released new funds for conservation and irrigation; announced investments to upgrade water infrastructure; and partnered with California to stretch the water supply as much as possible.

Today, I’m want to announce new actions that we can take together to help these hardworking folks.

First, we’re accelerating $100 million of funds from the farm bill that I signed last week to help ranchers.  For example, if their fields have dried up, this is going to help them feed their livestock.

Second, last week, we announced $20 million to help hard-hit communities, and today, we’re announcing up to $15 million more for California and other states that are in extreme drought.

Third, I’m directing the Interior Department to use its existing authorities, where appropriate, to give water contractors flexibility to meet their obligations.

And fourth, I’m directing all federal facilities in California to take immediate steps to curb their water use, including a moratorium on water usage for new, non-essential landscaping projects.

A bipartisan bill written by your outstanding Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, as well as your own outstanding Representative and almond farmer, Jim Costa, includes similar ideas.  And I hope that Congress considers the legislation that they have crafted soon, work through some of the concerns that have been expressed — let’s make sure that we’re getting some short-term relief to folks, but also long-term certainty for people who are going to be harmed by this drought.

These actions will help, but they’re just the first step.  We have to be clear:  A changing climate means that weather-related disasters like droughts, wildfires, storms, floods are potentially going to be costlier and they’re going to be harsher. Droughts have obviously been a part of life out here in the West since before any of us were around and water politics in California have always been complicated, but scientific evidence shows that a changing climate is going to make them more intense.

Scientists will debate whether a particular storm or drought reflects patterns of climate change.  But one thing that is undeniable is that changing temperatures influence drought in at least three ways:  Number one, more rain falls in extreme downpours — so more water is lost to runoff than captured for use.  Number two, more precipitation in the mountains falls as rain rather than snow — so rivers run dry earlier in the year.  Number three, soil and reservoirs lose more water to evaporation year-round.

What does all this mean?  Unless and until we do more to combat carbon pollution that causes climate change, this trend is going to get worse.  And the hard truth is even if we do take action on climate change, carbon pollution has built up in our atmosphere for decades.  The planet is slowly going to keep warming for a long time to come.  So we’re going to have to stop looking at these disasters as something to wait for; we’ve got to start looking at these disasters as something to prepare for, to anticipate, to start building new infrastructure, to start having new plans, to recalibrate the baseline that we’re working off of.

And everybody, from farmers to industry to residential areas, to the north of California and the south of California and everyplace in between, as well as the entire Western region are going to have to start rethinking how we approach water for decades to come.

And as I said when I was meeting with the town hall group, we can’t think of this simply as a zero-sum game.  It can’t just be a matter of there’s going to be less and less water so I’m going to grab more and more of a shrinking share of water.  Instead what we have to do is all come together and figure out how we all are going to make sure that agricultural needs, urban needs, industrial needs, environmental and conservation concerns are all addressed.  And that’s going to be a big project, but it’s one that I’m confident we can do.

Part of the Climate Action Plan that I put forward last summer is designed to protect critical sectors of our economy and prepare the United States for the effects of climate change that we’re just not going to be able to avoid.  So, last week, for example, the USDA announced seven new “climate hubs” to help farmers and ranchers adapt their operations to a changing climate — one of which will be at UC Davis, focused on resilience for California’s specialty crops.

The budget that I sent to Congress — the budget that I send to Congress next month will include $1 billion in new funding for new technologies to help communities prepare for a changing climate, set up incentives to build smarter, more resilient infrastructure.  And finally, my administration will work with tech innovators and launch new challenges under our Climate Data Initiative, focused initially on rising sea levels and their impact on the coasts, but ultimately focused on how all these changes in weather patterns are going to have an impact up and down the United States — not just on the coast but inland as well — and how do we start preparing for that.  And that has to be work that we do together.  This cannot be a partisan endeavor.

One of the great things about that town hall that I just came out of — not everybody agreed on anything — (laughter) — except people did agree that we can’t keep on doing business as usual.  That’s what people did understand — that there has to be a sense of urgency about this.

And issues like the federal government helping states to build infrastructure to adapt and ensure economic development and that families and workers are able to prosper — there’s nothing new about that.  We just saw a photograph of President Kennedy and current Governor Brown’s dad building some of the aquifers that have been so important to the economy of this state for decades.  If we were able to do that then, we should be able to do it now.  It’s just a matter of us making sure that we’re not putting politics ahead of trying to get things working.

Our work with Governor Brown and his administration is going to continue.  Californians have all had to come together and already make sacrifices, big and small, to help your neighbors and your state get through this.  The good news is California is always on the cutting-edge.  Already you use water far more efficiently than you did decades ago.  You do it smarter.  Joe was explaining just how this drip irrigation that you see in this region has made many of these farms much more efficient when it comes to water utilization.  And so we know that we can innovate and meet this challenge, but we’ve got to start now.  We can’t wait.

So I want to make sure that every Californian knows — whether you’re NorCals, SoCal, here in the Central Valley — your country is going to be there for you when you need it this year. But we’re going to have to all work together in the years to come to make sure that we address the challenge and leave this incredible land embodied to our children and our grandchildren in at least as good shape as we found it.

So, thank you very much, everybody, for the great work that you guys do.  And I’ve already told the Governor as well as all your outstanding representatives here that our administration is going to stay on this and we are prepared to cooperate with local, state officials throughout.  And that’s not just in California, because we’re going to see some similar problems in places like Colorado, Nevada, some of the neighboring Western states, and so part of the conversation is also going to have to be a regional conversation.

But this is something that I’m very committed to.  We’re going to make sure to get it done, working together.  Thank you so much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END                5:08 P.M. PST

Seeking the Keys to Longevity in ‘What Makes Olga Run?’ By CHRISTIE ASCHWANDEN

taken from:

No one would mistake Olga Kotelko for one of the Olympians competing in Sochi, Russia, but at age 94, she holds more world records than most: 26, to be exact, including age-group bests in the high jump, the hammer throw and the 200-meter run. Not bad for someone who took up track and field at age 77.

Bruce Grierson met Ms. Kotelko in 2010 while writing about her for The New York Times Magazine, and swiftly became obsessed. His interest was personal. The title of his previous book, “U-Turn: What If You Woke Up One Morning and Realized You Were Living the Wrong Life?,” might also describe his mind-set at the time. He was 47 and had abruptly realized that he could no longer see his feet beneath his growing potbelly. His stamina, drive, memory, even the hair on his head, were disappearing, too.

“Whatever was happening with her,” he writes in the prologue of his latest book,“was the opposite of what was happening to me.” If he could identify the reasons she was aging so well, perhaps he could reset his own course.

Eventually, they struck a deal: “We would explore the mystery of her together. She would offer herself up to science while I took notes.” The result is this jolly book, which follows the pair as they consult researchers in fields like gerontology, exercise physiology and genetics for insights into Ms. Kotelko’s remarkable youthfulness.

What they find are countless opinions, but little definitive proof. Genes, diet, temperament, the theories abound. (Mr. Grierson rules out performance-enhancing drugs.) Or maybe it’s the exercise itself.

Research on twins suggests that heredity accounts for only about 25 percent to 30 percent of longevity, so it is not enough simply to label Ms. Kotelko a “genetic freak.” Besides, tests show she lacks at least one gene associated with longevity, and it turns out that her telomeres, chromosome caps that shorten with age, are merely average in length.

As for her diet, it is abundant and promiscuous. Her staples include red meat, sauerkraut, cottage cheese and sour milk, and she eats “immoderate amounts” of tapioca pudding. A centenarian friend of hers, the Australian shot-putter Ruth Frith, eschews vegetables altogether.

Ms. Kotelko’s kitchen contains a few promising items (probiotic bacteria in her beloved fermented foods might bolster her immune system; zinc in the beef and nuts she devours could possibly offer some protection against Alzheimer’s disease). But readers looking for dietary tips will find little satisfaction here.

Among the potential anti-aging elixirs Mr. Grierson explores, exercise appears most potent. This old standby doesn’t just keep hearts pumping and muscles strong; studies suggest it may protect themind, too, by promoting the formation of neurons in the hippocampus — a part of the brain associated with memory. “For building cognition, Sudoku is a shovel, and exercise is a bulldozer,” Mr. Grierson writes.

Since she began her track and field career, Ms. Kotelko has rarely remained still, and that active lifestyle may be more important than her workouts at the track. “Both Olga and I exercise, but she moves when she’s not exercising, and I don’t,” Mr. Grierson writes. “Olga is older than I am. But 95 percent of the time, I am getting older faster than she is.” Burgeoning research on the inactivity epidemic suggests that one important habit he could acquire is standing up.

The book concludes with a tidy list of “rules for living.” The nine maxims, which include “keep moving,” “believe in something,” “don’t do it if you don’t love it” and “begin now” — convey nothing that a consumer of health news and popular psychology hasn’t already heard a million times. Perhaps that’s the point.

For now, the best anti-aging tools science can offer are habits we already know we should be doing, but perhaps, like Mr. Grierson, are not: exercising regularly, sleeping enough, limiting sedentary behavior and maintaining meaningful social connections. To his credit, the author does not oversell the still-unfolding science of aging, and he’s quick to acknowledge that a single example cannot explain why some people age better than others.

While this book provides an accessible overview of the current science on aging, its charm comes from the tale of a woman who refuses to hang up her track shoes, and the younger man she inspires to stop acting so old. In one of the book’s most engrossing chapters, Mr. Grierson decides to enter the 10,000-meter run (6.2 miles) at the 2011 World Masters Athletics competition in Sacramento, Calif. He runs “like a hairy goat” and finishes second to last, but he gains an important insight: These competitions are about the camaraderie.

“Comfort doesn’t promote togetherness,” he writes. “Discomfort does.” Strong social ties track with longevity, and the confidence derived from finishing a race probably doesn’t hurt either.

Ms. Kotelko turns 95 next month. No one would blame her if she chose to rest on her laurels; instead she’s looking forward to chasing more records when she enters the next age group, 95 to 99.

I finished this quick read on my birthday, after cross-country skiing my age in kilometers. Since I began this annual tradition in my early 30s, people have asked me at what age I will quit. This book convinced me that the answer is “never.”

9 Foreign Words the English Language Desperately Needs

As demonstrated before, the English language has some grievous holes in it. We’re talking about everyday phenomena that we have all noticed, yet don’t have terms for.

Fortunately, while we were busy fumbling with hand gestures and illustrations like cavemen, other cultures just made up the perfect words and phrases to encapsulate those little everyday moments filled with … uh … je ne sais quoi.

#9. Shemomedjamo (Georgian)


To eat past the point of being full just because the food tastes good.

Here is a word that describes such a quintessentially American phenomenon it’s shocking that another culture came up with it first. After all, there are entire civilizations that have never heard of “never-ending pasta bowls” or “dessert pizzas.” Fortunately, the Georgians (the European Georgians, that is) devised a word to describe it exactly. “Shemomedjamo” is the act of eating to the point where your body says, “OK, we did it! We’re all done now,” and then muscling through another three steaks.

As absurd as that may sound, keep in mind that America has a holiday devoted entirely to shemomedjamo in November. The only way to know if you’re done eating on Thanksgiving is when physical pain gets involved. If you don’t eat on Thanksgiving until it hurts to breathe, you’re either a liar or a terrorist (you’re welcome, FBI). In fact, many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving shemomedjamo every day, because they’re so patriotic.

Patriotism comes breaded and deep fried.

The literal translation for shemomedjamo is “I accidentally ate the whole thing,” which is a charming way of saying “Oh my God, why isn’t somebody stopping me?!”

Which neatly brings us to …

#8. Kummerspeck (German)


Excess weight gained from emotional overeating.

“Kummerspeck” translates to “grief bacon,” a word that finally acknowledges that when we are under a crushing weight of sadness or stress, many of us skip alcohol and narcotics in favor of delicious fried meats.

“Oh God, it reminds me of heeeerrrrr!”

College students do have their own version of this term — they refer to the pounds gained by a new student on his own for the first time as the “Freshman 15” (or the “Freshman 50,” depending on how homesick the kid is and how bad his grades are).

“No, you stud … it’s the number of girls you’ve slept with. Now let’s leave the ’80s and go the gym.”

Sitcoms have always treated this as a predominantly female act (the scene usually features a woman frumped up in pajamas eating fistfuls ice cream after a breakup), but the comforting effects of fatty and salty food is both a physical and a psychological reaction that isn’t exclusive to one gender. Everyone knows how comforting it can be to fill the metaphorical holes in our hearts with real doughnut holes.

Please note that icing makes a godawful lubricant.

What we’re saying is that if there were a product for sale in the United States called Grief Bacon, we can almost guarantee that it would sell off the shelves right around Valentine’s Day, Christmas and all 363 of the other saddest days of the year. Plus, with the recent trend of combining bacon with everything from chocolate to ice cream, it was only a matter of time before we combined it with grief just to see how that would taste.

“Tastes like the cold embrace of a razor. Until you pair it with Easy Cheese. Then it tastes awesome.”

#7. Hikikomori (Japanese)


A teenager or 20-something who has withdrawn from social life, often obsessed with TV and video games.

We need this word because we badly need to draw a distinction here. After all, we’re long past the “If you play video games, you’re a virgin who lives in your parents’ basement” stereotype. Pretty much everyone under the age of 40 owns at least one game machine. And these days, “geek” basically refers to the 80 percent of people who like video games, sci-fi or comics. “Nerd” just means somebody who’s really smart. So what’s the term for, say, MMORPG players who get so sucked into their game that they just withdraw from life?

No idea. All we do is call 911 when the hallway starts to smell.

Because these people do exist — World of Warcraft even has its own syndrome named after it to account for the people who play the game so much that all of their friends think they moved away. We’re guessing there isn’t one person reading this who didn’t have at least one friend disappear from the social scene when WoW was in its heyday. Or maybe they survived only to have Skyrim claim them.

“Fus Ro Dah” is just Dovahkiin for “LOL stfu n00b.”

Well, Japan has named these unfortunate souls: the “hikikomori.” It had to be the Japanese who came up with a word for it, because the phenomenon is at its worst in Japan, where some people will go entire years without leaving their bedroom (this is also a country where, coincidentally, a record number of young people have no interest in sex). Psychologists in Japan think the epidemic is linked to societal pressures and constant bullying.

Japan makes people want to curl up and hide? No, really.

Nevertheless, we all know at least one person who’s right on the cusp of becoming one of the hikikomori, and if you don’t, ask yourself when you last saw sunlight.

#6. Gadrii Nombor Shulen Jongu (Tibetan)


Giving an answer that is unrelated to the question.

“Gadrii nombor shulen jongu” translates literally to “giving a green answer to a blue question,” and you won’t find a gushier spring of it than in political debates. It sounds like this:

Moderator: How do you respond to allegations that you funneled federal grant money into your string of underground toddler fighting arenas?

Candidate: You know, I really can’t believe we’re focusing on this silly “scandal” when what Americans are really worried about is jobs.

“I will create jobs for boxing managers and trainers. And maybe ninja knife fighters.”

It’s an old rule of politics — if you don’t like the question you were asked, just answer the one you wish they had asked instead. Here’s Sarah Palin doing a clumsily transparent job of it.

If you turn the sound off, it looks like a perfectly normal conversation between two batshit insane people.

But those of us not seeking political office can be just as guilty of this not-at-all-clever bit of skullduggery. Every once in awhile, when someone asks you a mundane question for which you have no answer, pride will intervene and refuse to let you cave to honesty. Before you know it, a question about whether you like a band you’ve never heard of devolves into a story about the time a bird shit in your friend’s eye while the two of you stopped to watch a couple of horses humping. In situations like this, gadrii nombor shulen jongu can, at the very least, convince people to never ask you another question ever again.

And now your favorite musical genre is horse sex.

#5. Iktsuarpok (Inuit)


To go outside to check if an expected visitor has arrived, over and over again.

For lonely people eager to find new ways to express their loneliness, there is a new word that perfectly sums up the feeling of waiting for someone who, as time goes on, you realize probably isn’t coming. We’ve all been guilty of “iktsuarpok” at one point or another, whether it’s waiting for a prom date or waiting for a concealed-weapons permit in the mail after that prom fiasco. Time can seem to stretch on for eternity in moments that require you to wait on someone else, glancing out the window again and again, waiting for their car to pull into the driveway. The Inuit know the feeling so well they developed a word for it.

They have 40 words for “sudden onset cannibalism,” too, if you’re thinking of visiting.

The fact that iktsuarpok even exists as a word offers us all a sense of exactly what kind of isolation the Inuit people are subjected to every day. They will get all iktsuarpok-ed for the prospect of a guest like a kid for Santa Claus. So the next time you’re feeling sick to death of all the people around you, remember that somewhere there’s a group of people disconnected from civilization in subzero temperatures, just waiting for some hypothermic company to stumble past.

“Just chopping up some nice ice logs for the ice fire.”

#4. Kaelling (Danish)


An ugly, miserable woman who yells obscenities at her kids.

If you claim to have never seen one of these, go to the laundromat. Or Walmart. Or maybe it’s the woman who lives down the street and offers a Master’s class in parenting to everyone in earshot. Their calls are unmistakable, from “Get your asses in this house” to “Clean up your fucking mess” and even “I’ll beat the shit out of you in front of the whole goddamn neighborhood.”

“Don’t cry at me. You’re such a child.”

But where we rely on the long-winded “That-crazy-fucking-lady-down-the-street-who-someone-really-needs-to-call-CPS-on-but-no-one-will-because-she’s-scary-and-besides-she-probably-set-our-house-on-fire” to describe them, the Danish invented a single word.

We do not know the kaelling’s story. We are too afraid to make eye contact with her. Was the kaelling always like this? Did the father of the children know this before he made children with her? Is he now dead? Or, most frightening of all, did those kids make her that way?

Now we know that’s not the way to beat an indistinct yellow offspring.

Given that at least one of these women live in every neighborhood in the United States — regardless of how rich or poor that neighborhood is — it’s strange that we never came up with a name for it. Maybe it was because we were already calling her Mom.

#3. Neidbau (German)


A building (often of little or no value to the proprietor) constructed with the sole purpose of harassing or inconveniencing his neighbor in some way.

Remember when we told you about the crazy neighbor who built a 16-foot-high wall just to annoy the person living next to him? That’s an example of a “Neidbau,” a word that in German represents a very special and intense flavor of dickbaggery so potent it comes at the expense of the dickbag. It translates to “envy building,” and, honestly, if a guy constructs an entire building just to say “Screw you,” how can you not be flattered by that?

“Soooo … saw your erection … cool.”

Apparently this happens so frequently that the Germans not only made a word for it, they actually had to create laws against it. After all, even among neighbors who can’t sink a half million bucks into pissing off the guy next door who rehearses in his garage with a Creed cover band, they can still celebrate a much smaller, subtler form of Neidbau with smaller projects like fences. People do it all over suburbia — neighbors will build “spite fences” just to rob the guy next door of his view of the sunset with a Brandenburg Gate of neighborly hate. Sometimes it’s the simple pleasures in life that make it all worthwhile.

Which is why we’re building one around Canada, because they refuse to take their 30 miles of Montana back.

#2. Pochemuchka (Russian)


A person who asks too many questions.

So, your class/work meeting/couples therapy session is dragging on and you are just barely containing a hangover that’s making your internal organs try to crawl out of your mouth. Just when you think everybody has finally shut the hell up, it happens.

Everything was all wrapped and couldn’t have been clearer. But not for this guy. He wants times, dates, definitions, measurements. The endless stream of questions begins. And they are all staggeringly boring:

What font should that be in?

When will the old wooden doorstops be replaced by the regulation blue plastic doorstops?

Where do I find paper for the printer, if the printer is empty and the replacement printer paper has also run out?

“I have secretly pooped somewhere. Is it on the TV or in your handbag?”

That’s when you realize that the guy is simply inventing irrelevant questions because he just likes the attention. You now truly know the meaning of despair, and the meaning of “pochemuchka.”

Naturally, this word comes from a country in which asking too many questions will result in death. But maybe more surprisingly, it originates from the children’s book Alyosha Pochemuchka, which is the story of a young boy who constantly asks “Why?” There are no copies of it online, so we can only assume it’s a parable about a Russian child who started getting too nosy about government affairs and was quickly taken care of.

He wants to ask TWO questions! Shooooot!

#1. Pilkunnussija (Finnish)


A person who believes it is their destiny to stamp out all spelling and punctuation mistakes at the cost of popularity, self-esteem and mental well-being.

They’re out there. They’re reading this right now. Judging, smirking, analyzing. They care nothing about the actual meaning or fun of writing, but care everything about whether you used that semi-colon correctly. While we — perhaps inappropriately — call them Grammar Nazis, the Finns have a much more fitting name: “pilkunnussija.”


Check out that tail.

Let that delicious imagery sink in for a second: Some stubborn, miserable person slowly removing his or her sweater vest while caressing the pendulous dip and point of a comma before slowly climbing on top of it and thrusting away in quiet desperation. These are people who have taken the most boring, pedantic aspect of language and adopted that as their cause. It’s like a child on a basketball court dreaming of one day being a referee. And these people certainly exist. Take, for example, the Apostrophe Protection Society, who feel the need to protect this “much abused” punctuation mark from the grubby fingers of people like you.

The’yre pretty seriou’s about it.

Read more:

Outcome or process — what investment focus succeeds over time?

By Barry Ritholtz
taken from:

“The reason investors and the investment industry rely on performance is because it’s simple, objective and easy to measure. But more importantly, performance goals, performance reviews and performance measurement are so common in business, in sports, in education, in investing — almost everywhere — that not using them feels uncomfortable.” — Marshall Jaffe, Think Advisor

Has this ever happened to you?

In the course of a conversation, you learn about an acquaintance or colleague who made an unusually successful investment. For whatever reason, they put capital at risk into XYZ and the returns were extraordinary — far more than what is typical for your investment returns.

In that situation, which of the following comes closest to your immediate thoughts?

(1) I wish my 401(k) was filled with XYZ !

(2) If only I had his access to his inside information.

(3) How much time and effort goes into his research?

(4) What does his win/loss ratio look like? Gains vs. losses over time?

(5) Sounds like he got really lucky.

If your thoughts were along the lines of answers 1 or 2, you are, like most investors, outcome-focused. If your thoughts were along the lines of answers 3 or 4, you are in the minority, and are process-focused. Answer 5 can fall into both camps, but the significance of each depends on the context.

Let’s define these two so you have a better sense of what is under discussion.

Outcome is simply the final score: Who won the game; what numbers came up in a roll of the dice; how high did a stock go. Outcome is the result, regardless of the method used to achieve it. It is not controllable. You can blow on the dice all you want, but whether they come up “seven” is still a function of random luck.

Process, on the other hand, is a specific methodology. It is a repeatable approach to any challenge or endeavor, be it construction or medicine or investing. And you can control a process.

What kind of people are outcome-oriented? Gamblers, many (but not all) sports fans and, of course, speculators.

What about the process-oriented people? They include airline pilots, professional sports coaches and, of course, long-term investors.

I have never recommended a sports book in these pages – how relevant are they for investors? – but I am going to do so now: New York Giants Coach Tom Coughlin’s book “Earn the Right to Win: How Success in Any Field Starts with Superior Preparation.” Coughlin is a master of process. His approach to football is rigorous and data-driven. His players enter each game better prepared than the opposing team. Imagine what a huge psychological advantage it is, knowing you know much more about your opponents than they do about you.

For example, the annual NFL Scouting Combine is a week-long showcase for head coaches and assistants to look over this year’s draft prospects. Clipboards in hand, they prowl events evaluating more than 300 players.

Before he joined the Giants, Coughlin was fired after nine seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. That small inconvenience did not keep him from pursuing his process, going to the combine, evaluating draft prospects.

Why would a head coach without a team go to combines to evaluate players? Coughlin did not want to be at a disadvantage if he was hired again. Not coincidentally, that was where he bumped into the Giants’ general manager, who was astounded by his work ethic and his commitment to process. “You don’t have a team, what are you doing here?” he was asked.

His response: “I will one day, and when I do I want to be ready.”

Not too much later, the Giants hired him, and Coughlin has since become one of the winningest coaches in NFL history. Indeed, the Jaguars’ decision to let him go has been described as one of the 10 worst head coach firings of all time.

According to Coughlin, this was simply the result of dedication to process.

While two-time Super Bowl-winning coaches are process-oriented, Wall Street thrives by appealing to our tendency to be outcome-focused. We rank fund managers, best asset classes, top-performing sectors, highest-returning mutual funds. Note that all of these are ranked not by repeatable process, but by outcome. This is a brilliant bait-and-switch. You don’t know if these outcomes were the result of dumb luck or one-time events or simply a turn of the cycle. The tease is that you, too, can have these fabulous returns if only you invest in these products. Here is the next XYZ, yours for the taking.

If only. A funny thing happens the next year: A whole different set of outcomes “wins.” Different sectors lead, another mutual fund is on top, a new manager is top dog. Last year’s top performers? That was last year! Here are the new winners, ripe for your investment dollars. Wall Street engages in this classic outcome-oriented advertising because it pushes people’s buttons. It sells.

It is not just that “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” But rather, that is an actively misleading goal, the legalese in fine print belied by the headline promise of great riches. I call that “the dangle.” It is the tease that suckers investors in. Any Wall Street advertising that does not go into the boring details of methodology is most likely to be pushing past performance.

Which brings us back to our earlier questions: If you said of your colleague who made all that money, “sounds like he got really lucky,” you are probably on to something. (To the outcome-oriented investor, it may just be sour grapes.) But the process-oriented investor knows that dumb luck is not a repeatable event. It is not anything that can be relied on over time. Indeed, eventually, random outcomes all revert to the mean, meaning that streaks eventually end. Understanding this is a key part of intelligent and rational investing.

Process-oriented investing is a long-term approach to putting capital at risk by owning a broad variety of asset classes, making periodic contributions and regularly rebalancing. You can just hear the marketing guys screaming, “Boring! How can we ever sex up that sort of approach?!”

Focusing on your investment process, and not the outcome, should be your goal. Here is the payoff: Over the long term, a good process delivers highly desirable results, and generates better and more reliable outcomes. There is nothing boring about that.

Study: The key to remembering your dreams might be the blood flow in your brain

By Meeri Kim

taken from:

How often, and how well, do you remember your dreams? Some people seem to be super-dreamers, able to recall effortlessly their dreams in vivid detail almost every day. Others struggle to remember even a vague fragment or two.

A new study has discovered that heightened blood flow activity within certain regions of the brain could help explain the great dreamer divide. In general, dream recall is thought to require some amount of wakefulness during the night for the vision to be encoded in longer-term memory. But it is not known what causes some people to wake up more than others.

A team of French researchers looked at brain activation maps of sleeping subjects and homed in on areas that could be responsible for nighttime wakefulness.

When comparing two groups of dreamers on the opposite ends of the recall spectrum, the maps revealed that the temporoparietal junction — an area responsible for collecting and processing information from the external world — was more highly activated in high-recallers. The researchers speculate that this allows these people to sense environmental noises in the night and wake up momentarily — and, in the process, store dream memories for later recall.

In support of this hypothesis, previous medical cases have found that when these same portions of the brain are damaged by stroke, patients lose the ability to remember their dreams, even though they can still achieve the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep in which dreaming usually occurs.

The sleeping brain cannot store new information into long-term memory — for instance, if presented with new vocabulary words to learn while asleep, you will wake up completely unaware of what you heard. But this leaves open the question of how one is able to recall vivid nightly visions in the morning.

“If the sleeping brain is not able to memorize something, perhaps the brain has to awaken to encode dreams in memory,” said study author and neuroscientist Perrine Ruby of Inserm, a French biomedical and public health research institution. If awakened during a dream, the brain has the chance to transfer its faint flashes — via reiteration of the memory in one’s mind — into more long-term storage. This hypothesis has been dubbed the “arousal-retrieval model.”

“There’s a real question about the difference between dreaming, encoding memories of those dreams and being able to recall them,” said Harvard Medical School’s Robert Stickgold, a sleep researcher who was not involved in the study. “For someone to remember their dreams, all three of those things have to happen.”

Dream themselves exist first in working memory, or the memory we use to hold and manipulate thought fragments. Stickgold gives the example of hearing a five-digit number and then reciting it backward. But, like a fleeting dream, the series of numbers will erase in a flash if not put away into longer-term memory.

“Dreams are very fragile in short-term memory,” said Harvard Medical School psychologist Deirdre Barrett, who was also not involved in the study. She consults for a new mobile app, Shadow, that is aimed at improving users’ dream recall by waking them during REM sleep and having them dictate their dreams right away. “People do seem to form many short-term memories of dreams which, most nights for most people, are lost.”

In a previous experiment, Ruby and her colleagues tested the arousal-retrieval model by measuring the sleep and wake cycles of a group of high- and low-recall dreamers. Using electroencephalography, or EEG, they found that the high-recall group had twice as much awake time throughout the night as compared with the low-recallers. Also, they found that the brains of high-recallers responded more strongly to auditory stimuli.

Upon seeing these distinctions between the two kinds of dreamers, Ruby wanted to suss out exactly which regions of the brain were behaving differently. Using positron emission tomography (PET) blood flow maps, they compared 21 male super-dreamers who consistently remember their dreams roughly five days a week with 20 low-recall males who could remember something only about two mornings per month.

They saw higher activation in the temporoparietal junction in high-recallers both during REM sleep and wakefulness, which could mean these people are more reactive to sounds or movements in the night and briefly awaken. Another part of the brain that showed higher activation in high-recall individuals is the medial prefrontal cortex, which has been found to be involved in self-referential thinking.

The study was published online Wednesday in Neuropsychopharmacology, a journal published by Nature Publishing Group.

Stickgold finds the study fascinating and convincing. As a 20-year veteran of dream research, he frequently has people asking him why they do not remember their dreams.

“Let me guess: You fall asleep quickly, never have trouble staying asleep, and you wake up with an alarm clock,” he said he tells them. “You never get a chance to remember!”

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