Editor's note

Just a reminder: At the end of June, I started a new offline business, which necessitated a change in publishing schedule. New content in the Arena now appears each weekend rather than throughout the week. Thanks for reading.


A man sees what he wants to see…

Published 7.16.2017
As I sometimes do, what follows is a collection of links I've found in recent (and in this case, not so recent) readings online.

Aseem Malhotra wrote a book after visiting one of the Blue Zones (Pioppi). Malhotra, a cardiologist, is a frequent target here for his dangerous babbling against regular exercise for weight loss, though he himself goes to the gym regularly. Malhotra is team LCHF (low carb high fat), and clearly wants to the be the “bad boy” heart doc who tells you shove fat down your gob and don’t worry about exercise. This review correctly points out that AM shoves everything through a LCHF funnel, no matter the evidence.

Pioppi is at the very centre of the nutritional orthodoxy. Not only did Ancel Keys live there for many years, but it is recognised [sic] by UNESCO as the home of the Mediterranean Diet. In a sense, The Pioppi Diet is an attempt to erase the legacy of Keys and reclaim the village for the one true faith of LCHF. Keys attributed the Pioppi residents’ low rates of heart disease to the relative scarcity of saturated fat in the Mediterranean diet, but as far as Malhotra and O’Neill are concerned, saturated fat has been exonerated and their job is to discover what is really going on there.

Read the rest.


Doctors need to badger more or less?

Published 7.16.2017
On a population level, people continue to get and stay obese, and the question is how should doctors react? The answer to that question depends on where you sit on the obesity political spectrum— and yes, I do find the analogy to politics more convincing than the religious analogy I've seen used. However, further discussion would be a digression from my point here.

Some believe that their number do not sufficiently confront patients who are unknowingly obese. Or perhaps trending that way for a few years. The answer is that doctors need to badger obese patients more. If you read much in the health at every size (HAES) or body positive (BoPo) social media, you’d get the impression that the only issue doctors ever address is the patient’s obesity.

To overcome the stigma associated with obesity, Dr. Lazarus recommended opening the conversation and using person-first language (e.g. refer to a “patient with obesity,” instead of an “obese patient”). This can be performed if physicians begin to look at obesity like diabetes—there’s pre-obesity and obesity. It isn’t two separate diseases, but similar to diabetes, it allows physicians to provide measures to prevent obesity. By choosing the right approach, physicians can begin to address obesity with their patients without feeling uncomfortable.

Read the rest.


The telecommuting wave ebbs again

Published 7.16.2017
This is a bit of an odd topic for the Arena, but it's an area that I've written about occasionally because for the past few decades I've worked from home. I have never telecommuted, however, and the two are not the same.

I have worked from home both as an independent contractor and as a business owner. In both cases, my time and scheduling was my own. I had deadlines to meet as a contractor, but how I met them was up to me. That might not always be the case, but the word independent means just that. I was no one's employee, I was responsible for any taxes to be paid, benefits to be funded, etc.

Telecommuters are employees that work remotely— perhaps at home, but definitely outside the office. IBM is ending its remote worker program. IBM had been a huge supporter of the work from home model, and had touted it— an sold the software to make it work— to other companies. In the past up to 40% of IBM employees worked remotely.
Read the rest.


Is higher education the next punching bag?

Published 7.16.2017
Earlier this year I announced that I wanted to start writing more about education, but of late the focus has been elsewhere. However, this week I have a bit of analysis regarding education to share.

Will higher education be the next punching bag for the right? Because I went to school for engineering, most of this did not/does not apply that type of education program. The physical laws the rule engineering are politically agnostic, and the knowledge necessary to do engineering doesn’t vary much between programs. The research opportunities or interning opportunities might vary, but the basic set of courses and knowledge do not.

I suppose there are differences in terms of the electives available too. Electives for me were extra work to get through as quickly as possible so that I could focus on the engineering. All of the arguing about education is mostly centered around a “liberal arts” education, which does not train a student for any particular career but rather is supposed to expose them to “great” ideas. The argument then is which or whose ideas get presented.
Read the rest.

Measuring teachers

Published 7.16.2017
Not all teachers are equal, some are better than others. But as the system is designed now, advanced degrees, certifications and time in service (tenure) are how teacher compensation is decided. It’s very difficult to get rid of poorer teachers.

Students aren’t widgets, but William S. Sanders found a way to measure teacher performance by considering the student’s progress as defined against that student’s expected progress. Therefore, if my son wasn’t expected to be reading by the end of third grade, the fact that he wasn’t wouldn’t be held against the teacher.

I don’t think the school grading system that was such a disaster was based on this.

To fairly evaluate teachers, Mr. Sanders argued, the state needed to calculate an expected growth trajectory for each student in each subject, based on past test performance, then compare those predictions with their actual growth. Outside-of-school factors like talent, wealth and home life were thus baked into each student’s expected growth. Teachers whose students’ scores consistently grew more than expected were achieving unusually high levels of “value-added.” Those, Mr. Sanders declared, were the best teachers.

Read the rest.

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