Saturday, July 28, 2012

places you should never park your car because vandals are known to stick "mystery spot" bumper stickers on your car and leave you advertising the most non-destination in america to befuddled drivers everywhere

The Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz, California.1

1. This is the only logical explanation for the preponderance of such stickers in the bay area. For seven years this has confused me. Why is anybody advertising that place if not because they were vandalised by overzealous mystery spot employees? Can anyone really seriously advertise a place that claims a "magical wizard flew down from Gum Drop Fairytale land and cast a spell on the site which made the gravity all wonky"??? Really?? WHY ARE THERE SO MANY OF THOSE BUMPER STICKERS PEOPLE IT MAKES NO SENSE.

Friday, July 20, 2012

where I prove americans are fat using data

The other day, the Economist published a chart in one of its blogs showing a map of inactivity rates by countries. The data is based on a study published in the Lancet, where inactivity is defined as less than 30 minutes of moderate-intense activity five times a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity three times a week, or a combination of both.

Argue all you want with the definition, but I was really curious to see how that correlated to obesity rates by countries. So I looked at it.

I, ahem, borrowed the inactivity data from the Lancet, and got the latest obesity data from the WHO (it's not all super current), where obesity is defined as having a BMI greater than 30. And then I plotted it here:

Of course, that graph isn't very useful, because all of the names collide, and what you really want is something interactive, but I couldn't do that in R very well, so I did it in Highcharts here:

If you click on that you'll be taken to a magical place where you can hover over dots and see countries and relevant statistics. Some countries are missing either due to poor merging on my part or absence in one source or the other.

I also ran a quick and dirty linear model and plotted the line on both graphs (which you can toggle on at the bottom for the Highcharts version). The slope of that line is .2681 and is significant (p value = .01); for every percentage point increase in activity, you'd expect the obesity rate to rise by .2681 percentage points.1 Of course, r-squared on that line is only .096, so inactivity rates only explain 9.6% of the variance in obesity rates; I bet that if we included caloric intakes we'd see a much fuller picture.2

And while this doesn't actually mean anything, the y-intercept of the line is at 6.4; even if inactivity rates were 0, we'd still see a population obesity rate of 6.4. Assuming, of course, that extrapolation of naively-simplistic models based on methodologically questionable data can be trusted. And why not? It worked at LTCM and Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns.

Anyways, the point of this post, like the majority of my complaints, centers around the truthism that Americans are fat. The end. Now off to the gym.3

1. Not percent, percentage points, don't even get me started on that terminology here.
2. Get it? Fuller? Filled out? Because we're talking about obesity?! Because fuller is what you say when someone is fa...okay, I get it, this is not funny.
3. I'd like to thank Highcharts and R for their awesomeness, the Economist for being the best news publication in the history of the universe, and the WHO and the Lancet for not suing me for borrowing data.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

the people of redwood city

Since moving into our place in downtown Redwood City, we've really taken to the city quite well. We can get to Whole Foods (across the street) faster than my mother can get to her pantry in her house in Salt Lake. We can walk to movie theaters, donut shops, a zillion taquerias, and tons of great restaurants in just minutes from our place. It's really quite charming.

This is surprising to a Palo Alto snob like myself who once referred to any zip code containing affordable housing (sub-$1 million) as "the ghetto".

The best part about Redwood City, of course, is its people. Just like any slice of Americana, we get a lot of your traditional characters here:

The friendly UPS guy
Our nice landlady
The Russian who spends every waking moment of his life waiting for you to open up your balcony door, then runs outside to light up boxes of cigarettes and laugh maniacally at your misery1
The welcoming supermarket clerk
Your OCD neighbor, who wears a hoodie tight around his face, and opens and closes the door a dozen times before entering or leaving his apartment, many times just to enter/leave again.
The caring church members
The lady who dances on the side of the street during rush hour, and then, when you and your wife are jogging by one day, attempts to stop you by saying, "I don't want to get in your way, but I think you should know that if you're not married, you need to go to confession at the Catholic church", and when your wife responds that you are, in fact married, she replies, "WELL GOOD BECAUSE NOBODY ELSE WANTS YOU!", then as we run off, shouts, "THANKS FOR TAKING HER OFF THE STREETS!!!"

Really, it's the people of Redwood City who make it so great here, and we really love you for it.

1. I would really like to apologize to my Russian friends for disliking that man. Truly, I love Russians. Just not that one countryfellow of yours. He moved out this week, though, so we can open up the window without worry.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

orange cars

We all love old people for their old-timey charm, their rambling stories, the voting bloc they represent that makes balanced budgeting political suicide, their insistence on stealing the pulpit at church multiple times to harass you about going to a blood drive, then calling you at home later to try to sign you up for an appointment instead of just letting you use the American Red Cross website like god intended, and the poorly-written wills they leave behind that currently help employ my wife.

But we also love them for their driving abilities, which are, I assure you, TOP NOTCH.

One thing I especially love about old people is the old-timey way they merge onto the old-timey freeway that wait, isn't old timey at all, it's a speeding blur of death to EVERYONE WHO WOULD BE SO RIDICULOUSLY STUPID AS TO TRY AND ENTER WHILE GOING 40 MPH YOU CRAZY MORON.

Which is why, as your president, my first act would be to mandate that all persons aged seventy and above would be required to drive cars painted bright orange. You just turned seventy and you want to keep driving? Well, your car is orange now.

That way, when I'm trying to decide if I have enough time to pass you on the onramp, I can see that your car is clearly painted orange to indicate you have little to no clue as to the hazard you are presenting others by going speeds first achieved in the Mesozoic Era, and the rest of us can avoid you like the plague.

Also, no driving after dark, because, sorry, it'll be harder to spot you out there.

Thanks for beating the Nazis, and yes, this is your reward, we love you.



1. I blame Tina Fey for this post. She just HAD to mention in her book that she doesn't have a driver's license, and since she's my wife's hero, my wife let hers expire too. Having just read this footnote to my wife, she reminds me David Sedaris doesn't have one either. Fine. You're right. I'll keep driving you around like a fabulously wealthy comedian.