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Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Energy Balance (Weight Series Part 2)

The question of how to lose fat is hotly debated. We have lots of answers, but they contradict each other, and it seems they are rarely based on actual scientific understanding. This is not surprising, as the human metabolism is extremely complex. Still, we do know enough to have at least some good ideas on how to do it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Do You Have a Weight Problem? (Weight Series Part 1)

Obesity is quickly becoming a very prevalent condition in most western countries, and brings with it severe negative effects on health.[1] Consequently, health organizations are regularly recommending people to slim down. This in turn has made slimming down a whole business unto itself, with many groups trying to profit from it. The craze about slimming down has got us to a situation where advertisers post-process human pictures to depict them unnaturally slim, giving us unhealthy role models. There is even a problem with anorexia nervosa,[2] where people have such a fear of gaining weight that they reach extremely unhealthy low body weights.

All of this craze is accompanied by a lot of bad information repeated all over the internet. It does not help that the human metabolism is still only barely understood, so that accurate and good information is hard to come by, if it exists at all.

The true extent of the problem became apparent to me when even my doctor recommended to me a diet not backed by scientific data, and where the basic premises are simply wrong. This is a series on weight-related information I have found.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review: Corsair

Why no real cover?

Tim Severin’s Corsair starts out with a raid by a Turkish slave trader on a city at the Atlantic coast of Ireland, where Hector Lynch and his sister Elizabeth are taken prisoner and brought to the Africa to be sold as slaves. Before they arrive, though, they are separated, and Hector starts on a long journey to find his sister.

The book is set in the 16th century and is able to both draw the reader into a fascinating and fast-paced story, as well as to relay a very accurate historical view of those times. It concludes with a summary of which people and events in the book are historically accurate and where the author took some artistic liberties, another important part of a good historical novel for me.

All in all this is by far the best book I have read in recent times, a must read for fans of historical novels. The follow-up books promise to be about piracy in the Caribbean, so if that is your kind of story, start here, it sets the mood perfectly.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fallacies in the Taxation Arguments of Guaranteed Minimum Income Proponents

A recurring controversy in the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) discussion is the question which tax to use to fund the system. For some reason, the major proponents have fallen to like primarily single-tax systems, and the main debate seems to be about whether to use the Value-Added Tax (VAT) or Income Tax (IT) for the system. The arguments presented are often rather bogus, though.

Buchrezension: Die falsche Reliquie

Die falsche Reliquie
Warum kein richtiges Cover?

Die Falsche Reliquie von Renata Petrys berichtet von einer Phiole, die angeblich Jesus Blut enthält. Ein Bischof schöpft Verdacht und entsendet einen Spion um die Sache aufzuklären. Dieser begibt sich unversehens in größte Gefahr.

Der Erzählstil des Buches kann getrost als »ruhig« bezeichnet werden. Die Einleitung erstreckt sich fast über die Hälfte der Seiten, und erst im letzten Drittel kommt Spannung auf. Da jedoch der Protagonist die Geschichte als alter Mann erzählt hätte die Autorin vielleicht nicht den möglichen Tod des selbigen als zentrales Spannungsmoment für den letzten Teil des Buches wählen sollen. Hier tritt auch die einzige Charakterentwicklung des Buches auf: Der Protagonist erzählt im Epilog, dass ihn die Erlebnisse verändert haben.

Positiv anzumerken ist, dass die Geschichte der Reliquie in immer wiederkehrenden Rückblenden neben der eigentlichen Geschichte erzählt wird, und dass dieses häufig missbrauchte Stilmittel der Autorin sehr gut gelungen ist. Und trotz der fehlenden Spannung ist das Buch gut geschrieben und liest sich sehr flüssig.

Insgesamt finde ich den Roman zu ruhig. Obwohl er wirklich gut geschrieben ist fragte ich mich doch die ganze Zeit, wann denn endlich mal etwas passiert. Von daher eher für Freunde von langsamen Erzählungen mit wenig Spannung zu empfehlen.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Book Review: The Mediterranean Caper

The Mediterranean Caper
Why no real cover?

Clive Cussler’s The Mediterranean Caper starts out just as Major Dirk Pitt arrives on an island near Greece to investigate a series of mishaps on a science vessel looking for a rare fish. The arrival coincides with the attack of an old World War I war plane attacking an US Air Force air field. Dirk Pitt can drive the old war plane off with his own non-combat plane, but is now drawn into a strange fight seemingly about fish.

The second book in the Dirk Pitt series keeps up the story of the James Bond like hero and womanizer who lives through the strangest adventures. The amount of repetitions where the author tries to tell the reader how incredibly awesome Dirk Pitt is are vastly reduced in comparison to the first adventure, but there are still lengthy revelation scenes where Pitt explains the whole story to the Evil Overlord, showing him that he totally saw through him. Other than that, the book is a very simple and fast read, good for casual, low-brain reading.

If you don’t mind some chauvinism towards women and a rather simple but fast-paced story, you can’t go wrong here. Don’t expect high-quality literature, though.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book Review: Pacific Vortex

Pacific Vortex
Why no real cover?

Clive Cussler’s Pacific Vortex tells the tale of a strange area in the pacific where ships get lost. The latest victim is a experimental US navy submarine. When Dirk Pitt finds a message buoy from the submarine, he’s drawn into a mystery hidden below the surface of the sea.

The book starts out with an explanation by Clive Cussler that it’s the first adventure of Dirk Pitt, but he hadn’t released it until later because he did not quite like the quality. Knowing that and not expecting too much, the book is a nice, quick read. Dirk Pitt is a hero of the James Bond kind, always ready with a cool quip, and very much into seducing women. The main irritation I had while reading this was an unnecessary repetition of how awesome Dirk Pitt is. Not only does he do insane things for no other reason than to be a hero, but the author even repeats that he just did something incredibly stupid, er, brave after every other time.

If you can enjoy an unbelievably heroic, womanizing protagonist, and want a book for easy reading, this is for you.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are a topic of extreme misunderstandings and myths. Combine this with the typical effect of the internet, where myths that sounded good can easily get multiplied a thousandfold, you end up with a very tricky jungle of facts, fiction, myths and ideologies. A small attempt at fixing this.

Here, dearest internet, my own contribution to the wealth of badly-cited claims regarding food, as I didn't actually read all of those studies myself, but simply believed those who cited them. Thanks especially to Wikipedia for many pointers.