Health Club Industry Sees Growing Market

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

Years ago, I thought, Why doesn’t the gym have a kids’ gym attached? From Health Club Industry Sees Growing Market:

The childhood obesity epidemic combined with cuts to schools’ physical education budgets has inspired commercial gyms and health clubs to launch programs aimed at those under 18. The idea appeals to kids, and also to parents looking to help their children develop a healthy lifestyle or improve their chances of winning an athletic scholarship or a spot on a sports team.

The programs are a growing source of revenue for the health club business. The number of gym members under the age of 18 rose 29 percent to 4.5 million in the five years ended in 2003, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

Kim Hreha started Cardio Kids in September of 2003 because clients at her other gym, Ladies Workout Express, said their children weren’t getting enough exercise at school, and the mothers also worried about the kids playing outside after school without supervision.

WSJ.com – Professional Toys and Games of Tag

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

From WSJ.com – Professional Toys and Games of Tag:

One hit toy this Christmas was the RX5 microscope. With it, kids can view fungi, amoebas and other childhood fascinations. But scientists, doctors and researchers have also snatched up the plaything, which comes with a powerful lens and can be used to send images over the Internet. It also has an $89 price tag that is less than one-tenth of its professional-grade counterparts.

Interest from adults is taking Digital Blue Inc., the microscope’s maker, by surprise. ‘I founded the company,’ says Digital Blue CEO Tim Hall, to ‘get kids playing something other than videogames.’

I thought the adults simply found the microscope amusing. It looks like they’re using it for real work:

Andrew Westphal, an astrophysicist at the University of California at Berkeley, says he was recently able to examine some microscopic dust from outer space with the help of the RX5′s plastic lens. That is because a conventional microscope’s glass lens would have suffered from the hydrofluoric acid used to separate the particles from other elements. “Had it not been for the toy, we would have been at a loss,” he says.

Meanwhile, patients suffering from Morgellons, a rare type of skin disease, have been getting medical information by using the microscope in sending images of their lesions to Morgellons Research Foundation in McMurray, Pa. The toy is “made for kids so it’s pretty easy to us” to use, says Mary Leitao, the foundation’s executive director. Collectors of stamps and sports memorabilia are also using the microscope for authentication purposes, Digital Blue says.

How Evil Works

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

How Evil Works reviews The Dictators: Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia by Richard Overy:

The crudity of Hitler’s genetics, the patent falsity of Lysenko’s experiments, their visions of “world domination” — all seem ludicrous in hindsight. Recordings of Hitler’s speeches make him appear laughable, hysterical, absurd. Looked at now, Stalin’s kitsch propaganda films seem like parodies. Yet it is clear from archives, from memoirs, from recollections, that very few people were laughing at the time. The propaganda, the education, the parades, the spectacles, the falsified history, the marble statues, the Socialist Realist novels: they worked.

Both regimes treated pseudo-science as an infallible new religion:

The science itself was very different in Soviet and Nazi society, in other words, but its function was essentially the same. The supposed neutrality and incontrovertibility of scientific doctrine gave both regimes a good part of their intellectual legitimacy. Science, or rather pseudoscience, gave people a moral justification for behavior that had formerly been unthinkable. German concentration-camp guards, convinced that their Jewish prisoners were biologically inferior humans, had few qualms about murdering them. Soviet concentration-camp guards, convinced that their political prisoners were flawed humans who had to be re-educated through hard labor, saw nothing wrong with mistreating them, even if they died in the process.

NPR : Last Laughs 2004: Cartoonist Matt Groening

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004

If you enjoy The Simpsons — and, really, who doesn’t? — you might enjoy this NPR interview with Matt Groening.

The BitTorrent Effect

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004

The BitTorrent Effect looks at Bram Cohen, the inventor of BitTorrent, who entered a “starving artist” period after quitting his job at MojoNation:

What kept Cohen going, say friends and family, was a cartoonishly inflated ego. “I can come off as pretty arrogant, but it’s because I know I’m right,” he laughs. “I’m very, very good at writing protocols. I’ve accomplished more working on my own than I ever did as part of a team.” While we’re having lunch, his wife, Jenna, tells me about the time they were watching Amadeus, where Mozart writes his music so rapidly and perfectly it appears to have been dictated by God. Cohen decided he was kind of like that. Like Mozart? Bram and Jenna nod.

“Bram will just pace around the house all day long, back and forth, in and out of the kitchen. Then he’ll suddenly go to his computer and the code just comes pouring out. And you can see by the lines on the screen that it’s clean,” Jenna says. “It’s clean code.” She pats her husband affectionately on the head: “My sweet little autistic nerd boy.” (Cohen in fact has Asperger’s syndrome, a condition on the mild end of the autism spectrum that gives him almost superhuman powers of concentration but can make it difficult for him to relate to other people.)

By the way, this passage intrigued me:

Cohen says he loves Amazons, a cross between chess and the Japanese game Go, because it is pure strategy. Players take turns dropping more and more tokens on a grid, trying to box in their opponent.

GMAT Score – Admissions Criteria 1

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004

I found this bit of GMAT trivia amusing. From GMAT Score – Admissions Criteria 1:

The math and verbal scores range from 0 to about 52. (I know that ETS claims the scale can go as high as 60, but it has never actually gone over 52).

I found this bit less amusing:

Most people don’t know that they can take the GMAT under what ETS, the test administrator, calls “non-standard accommodations.” That means you can get twice as much time as everyone else, if that’s what you need to compensate for a medical condition. ETS doesn’t promote this accommodation very aggressively, but I’ve had many of my students take the test “non-standard” and all of them who have gotten a truly significant accommodation (such as double time) have gone up at least 100 points from what they were scoring with me on practice tests given under standard conditions.

I had one student who consistently scored in the mid 500s with me. He took the test under non-standard conditions (he got double time), went up more than 100 points, and was accepted at Harvard.

WSJ.com – New Obesity Boom In Arab Countries Has Old Ancestry

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004

WSJ.com – New Obesity Boom In Arab Countries Has Old Ancestry opens with an anecdote from Mauritania that explains the Middle East’s obesity epidemic — amongst women:

Jidat Mint Ethmane grew up in a nomad family in this impoverished nation in the western Sahara. When she was 8, she says, her mother began to force-feed her. Ms. Ethmane says she was required to consume a gallon of milk in the morning, plus couscous. She ate milk and porridge for lunch. She was awoken at midnight and given several more pints of milk, followed by a pre-breakfast feeding at 6 a.m.

If she threw up, she says, her mother forced her to eat the vomit. Stretch marks appeared on her body and the skin on her upper arms and thighs tore under the pressure. If she balked at the feedings, her mother would squeeze her toes between two wooden sticks until the pain was unbearable. ‘I would devour as much as possible,’ says Ms. Ethmane. ‘I resembled a mattress.’

Today, Ms. Ethmane, 38 years old, is slender because her family ran out of money to continue the force-feeding technique, known as gavage. The term stems from the French word for the process used to force-feed geese to make foie gras. Yet in a recent interview in her family’s one-room house, Ms. Ethmane says she still believes in the practice. ‘Beauty is more important than health,’ she says. Her husband, Brahim, agrees: ‘It is thin women who are not healthy.’

Virtual Apple 2 – Online disk archive

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

Whoa. Virtual Apple 2 – Online disk archive:

Thanks to FTA, Kegs, and the online Apple community, you can now relive, play, and enjoy old Apple 2 games and other disks through the internet and web browser. This web site uses an ActiveX application and Apple IIgs emulator to automatically download and play most Apple 2 disk images online. To play a game, just select the disk from the menu and click on Yes to automatically download the ActiveX emulator and disk images. (Note: Requires Internet Explorer and Windows)

The Vanishing

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

In The Vanishing, Malcolm Gladwell reviews Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, a book that looks at many failures, including the collapse of Viking Greenland:

The Norse colonies in Greenland were law-abiding, economically viable, fully integrated communities, numbering at their peak five thousand people. They lasted for four hundred and fifty years — and then they vanished.
[...]
The problem with the settlements, Diamond argues, was that the Norse thought that Greenland really was green; they treated it as if it were the verdant farmland of southern Norway. [...] But Greenland’s ecosystem was too fragile to withstand that kind of pressure.
[...]
The Norse needed to reduce their reliance on livestock — particularly cows, which consumed an enormous amount of agricultural resources. But cows were a sign of high status; to northern Europeans, beef was a prized food. They needed to copy the Inuit practice of burning seal blubber for heat and light in the winter, and to learn from the Inuit the difficult art of hunting ringed seals, which were the most reliably plentiful source of food available in the winter. But the Norse had contempt for the Inuit — they called them skraelings, “wretches” — and preferred to practice their own brand of European agriculture. In the summer, when the Norse should have been sending ships on lumber-gathering missions to Labrador, in order to relieve the pressure on their own forestlands, they instead sent boats and men to the coast to hunt for walrus. Walrus tusks, after all, had great trade value. In return for those tusks, the Norse were able to acquire, among other things, church bells, stained-glass windows, bronze candlesticks, Communion wine, linen, silk, silver, churchmen’s robes, and jewelry to adorn their massive cathedral at Gardar, with its three-ton sandstone building blocks and eighty-foot bell tower. In the end, the Norse starved to death.

Celebrity Tsunami Stories

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

With the death toll at 59,000 and climbing, we get these hard-hitting stories:

Yahoo! News – Czech Supermodel Injured in Tidal Wave:

Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova, who appeared on the cover of 2003 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, was injured and her photographer boyfriend is missing after the pair were caught up in the Asian tsunami disaster, a spokeswoman for the boyfriend said Tuesday.

Yahoo! News – Reports: Jet Li Escapes Maldives Flooding:

Vacationing action star Jet Li injured his foot as he protected his daughter from tsunami waves that flooded his hotel in the Maldives, Hong Kong newspapers reported Tuesday.

Li, who played the villain in “Lethal Weapon 4,” was with his daughter in the hotel’s lobby Sunday when huge waves gushed into the hotel, the Apple Daily newspaper reported, quoting a friend vacationing with Li.

Li slightly injured his foot while picking up his daughter, the report said. Ming Pao Daily News reported Li struck his foot against a floating piece of furniture.

Drink Your Medicine? Weighing the Health Benefits, Risks of Alcohol

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

From Drink Your Medicine? Weighing the Health Benefits, Risks of Alcohol:

There is a drug that can lower your risk of heart attack, diabetes, osteoporosis and mental decline by 30% to 60%, but doctors aren’t prescribing it.

The reason? It is alcohol.

Will We Be Richer Than Our Kids?

Monday, December 27th, 2004

From Will We Be Richer Than Our Kids? :

Throughout our history, children have lived better than their parents, usually by a wide margin. The math is simple. The U.S. economy, despite occasional dips, has grown consistently at 3 percent a year or more. So, at age 48, you will be four times richer than the average American when you were born.

James K. Glassman dismisses the weak dollar and our trade deficit and points to these three threats to American growth:

  • We’re developing a science gap.

  • We’re discouraging what economist John Maynard Keynes called “animal spirits” — the drive to take business and investing risks that ultimately benefit others as well as ourselves.
  • We won’t have enough workers to provide the Social Security and Medicare benefits for retired Americans.

French ‘Urban Gymnastics’ Gaining Devotees

Monday, December 27th, 2004

The Associated Press has a “health news” article on the very cool sport/art of parkour, French ‘Urban Gymnastics’ Gaining Devotees:

The name means obstacle course in French and the goal of the sport’s traceurs, also known as freerunners, is to run, jump, vault or climb over obstacles in the most fluid manner possible.

Urban Freeflow describes parkour:

Parkour is very basically the art of movement where participants (otherwise known as ‘Free-runners’) use objects within their urban surroundings, to create new and interesting ways of moving. It encompasses running, jumping, vaulting and climbing to overcome these obstacles, where the ultimate aim is to do so in the most fluid and flowing way possible. For people unfamiliar to Parkour, the easiest picture to paint is to say that what we do is the closest you can get to the Matrix, Spiderman and Hong Kong martial arts movies in the sense of movement, but without the need for special FX or wires.

Times Online – When you strip away all the pious fiction, what is left of the real Jesus?

Monday, December 27th, 2004

From When you strip away all the pious fiction, what is left of the real Jesus?:

No one knows the exact date of the birth of Jesus Christ. December 25 was selected by the Western Church only in the 4th century to rival the pre-Christian Roman feast of the Victorious Sun. Nor was Christ born in Year 1 as the era bearing his name continues to pretend. The New Testament locates the event shortly before the death of King Herod which occurred in 4BC. A 6th-century Roman monk, Dionysius the Small, is guilty of the miscalculation: he wrongly placed the birth of Jesus in the year 753 ab urbe condita — after the foundation of the city of Rome — instead of 747 or 748.

The Long Tail: Why Long Tail content is different

Monday, December 27th, 2004

Why Long Tail content is different cites an insightful take on TV’s catering to the Lowest Common Denominator from A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again:

TV is not vulgar and prurient and dumb because the people who compose the audience are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simply because people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests.