Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How many books in your house?

We must have thousands of books in our house, on top of the hundreds (thousands?) we’ve donated to libraries and various book sales over the years.  But are we unusual?

from Hit & Run

The answer is surprisingly hard to find. Data from the 2000 National Survey on Childhood Health indicate an average of 83 children's books in white households (the corresponding numbers for black and Hispanic households were 41 and 33, respectively). I assume adults would tend to have more books than children (although maybe I'm wrong about that), in which case the average would be well above 100. In 2005, according to the Book Industry Study Group, 3.1 billion books were sold in the U.S., about 28 per household.

It’s tempting to dismiss the “average” American as a dumb TV-watching couch potato, but 28 books per household per year seems like a lot to me – even if there are a lot of non-readers out there.   Maybe the voracious readers out there are driving up the averages?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Meeting Online friends

Today was the first time I’d ever met Ken Camp and Sheryl Breuker.  For real, at least.  But I feel like Ive known them well for a long time, through Twitter and through their blogging.  Thanks to Google Latitude, I knew they were driving through the area this afternoon, so a few tweets later and we agreed to meet in person here at the Mercer Island Tully’s. 

There’s nothing like meeting an online person face to face for the first time. I can’t wait till the technology becomes ubiquitous enough that more of my friends are able to meet spontaneously this way.

One thing we talked about was my experience living in Japan years ago, where it seemed like I was constantly bumping into people I knew.  Of course it was easy to spot me back then, since I’m so much taller and just stick out in a crowd of Japanese people.  But I’m convinced that the same thing happens right now, wherever I am, but I just don’t know about it because we get lost in the crowd.  What happens in the future when technology makes that it possible to stick out of the crowd no matter where you are?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Twitter helps lazy people express themselves online

I think I finally understand the appeal of Twitter and why it’s making it harder and harder for me to get excited about blogging. 

For all the talk about how blogs have dumbed down the world’s discourse, the fact is that most of us take a certain amount of time before we post.  Much as I’d like to write more often, the process of creating something readable just takes too much effort, and it means I write only a fraction of the things I would write if I had more time.

But with Twitter’s 140 character limitation, I don’t worry about the time constraint.  I just whip something out:  very brief and very ephemeral.  Ultimately that’s the seductive appeal of Twitter: the short message FORCES me to set aside the universe of things I’d like to write and focus just on the things I CAN write in the here and now.

Plus, Twitter space is full of so much crap that, paradoxically, it makes me MORE LIKELY to write, since it feels like nobody will be taking it seriously anyway. 

That said, i do feel that Twitter is more of a fad than a permanent fixture of the future.  Ultimately it will have to be replaced by something a little more substantive, something more worth reading.  The signal to noise ratio on Twitter seems to be dropping over time and eventually I’ll seek out something with more staying power.  But for now I’m having a blast.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Better stay away from cocaine

A new study reported on the 23andme blog shows a link between cocaine-induced paranoia and the SNP rs9387522.  Turns out that I have the TT variation of this gene, which correlates with increased odds of cocaine-induced paranoia.

Guess I better stay away from cocaine.

I find this to be a problem with many (most?) of the conclusions I get from my 23andme results.  So far most of the actionable consequences of my genes tell me to avoid behavior that my mother taught me long ago was bad anyway.  Although I’m glad I took the test, and I eagerly look for a reason to recommend the test to others, so far I haven’t found many examples of why I think you should pay $300 to see your results.

No more Vitamin D shortage

Late last Summer at my annual physical, my doctor tested my Vitamin D levels and found that, like most residents of the Northwest, I was well below optimal—only 16.2 nl/ML in my case.  Since then, I began taking Vitamin D3 supplements to the tune of between 2000 and 4000 I.U. per day.  Basically, this means I pop two pills in the morning and another one or two in the evening.

Well, I’m happy to report that this week I had my levels tested again and I’m now up to a healthy  52.0 nl/ML.  Since the ideal range is between 32 and 100, I’m not going to bother increasing my dose.  By the way, although the test was covered by my insurance, the normal price for the test is $150 – outrageous!

I found that I was able to get good results by taking relatively cheap supplements purchased at Costco  for something like $10 for a bottle of 300 (on the left in this photo).  Lately I’ve been trying the drop version (on the right, below) which is about the same price but takes up less space.

Vitamin D pills

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, and knock on wood and all that, but I haven’t had any colds or flu or any other significant sickness since last summer.  We’ll see if that lasts, but I’m pretty convinced this is a good idea when you live in an area without much sunshine.