I can’t see (the eclipse) without my glasses!?

If you waited until the last second to buy eclipse glasses, you’re either standing in line with the folks above, or out of luck.   Given the long lines of people camping out for eclipse glasses, it’s very likely that if you don’t have them already, you won’t be able to find them.   But it’s ok. 🙂  Here are a few alternatives if you don’t have glasses but want to watch the eclipse:

  • Share glasses with a friend.   You don’t have to follow the eclipse second-by-second.  An eclipse is a multi-hour event, and the sun isn’t moving that fast.  Just pass the glasses around and let everyone take a peek.
  • Build a pinhole camera.   Imagine a tiny little movie theater that you wear on your head.  That’s essentially what it is.  They can be constructed quickly and easily using a medium/large cardboard box, a sheet of aluminum foil for the pinhole, a sheet of white paper (for the viewing screen) and some glue or tape.   You can build an even simpler version using just a sheet of paper with pinhole and a second sheet for the screen, but the box makes it *much* nicer to view.
  • If you have a welding supply store nearby, buy a piece of #14 welder’s glass and watch the eclipse through it.   Note:   Do *NOT* buy a lesser tinted welder’s glass, or try to “stack” two or more pieces of welder’s glass.   #14 blocks both visible and infrared light well enough to be safe.   Lesser tints may block the visible but allow the infrared through.   You wouldn’t know you were in danger, but the invisible infrared light it lets through would be injuring your eye, perhaps permanently.
  • Find a local astronomy buff with an eclipse-viewing setup.   Eclipse days are days these folks live for.   They often have telescopes with professional solar filters that will give you the best possible view.

Here’s how *NOT* to watch the eclipse:

  • Don’t use sunglasses.   They don’t block enough light, and you can seriously injure your eye looking at the sun through them.   Don’t “stack” sunglasses either, as you can still injure your eye from the invisible infrared light they let through.
  • Don’t use film or smoked glass.   Again, just because something is dark enough to block visible light, doesn’t mean it’s blocking infrared light, and infrared light can seriously injure your eyes and you won’t know it until it’s too late.
  • Don’t use binocular or telescope without a professional sun filter.  Have you ever seen someone set a fire using a magnifying glass?   In this situation, your eye is the magnifying glass, and the fire is inside your skull… No bueno…
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Fighting Cancer…

As a nerd, I spend a lot of my time reading science news every day.  I hate that I know so many people touched by cancer over the past year, so I put this together hoping it might help.

A lot of this is bleeding-edge research, but scientists have discovered several compounds in common foods that can inhibit and/or kill cancer cells via various pathways. These supplements are  cheap and are very well tolerated. I’ve been taking many of them myself daily for years with no side-effects.

If you or someone you know have cancer, these are *not* a substitute for medical treatment, or to be taken against your doctor’s advice.  These are intended to compliment your medical treatment (on the theory that every little bit helps), or to help prevent cancer in the first place.

Not all of these may be helpful for a particular type of cancer, so Google the compound above + your particular cancer to see if it helps.

It’s not politically correct to mention, but there is a compound that has been shown to inhibit aggressive metastatic cancer, especially breast cancer.   If you Google for “inhibit aggressive cancer id1” I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

This isn’t something you can do yourself, but something to ask your doctor about.  High dose intravenous vitamin C has been shown to have a positive effect on some cancers.   You should talk to your doctor to see if it’s appropriate for you, but it’s one of those “can’t hurt, but cheap and might help” things.

Exercise has been found to have a strong effect on cancer, and helps keep your attitude up.  So take a walk, run a race, go on a hike, or go bike somewhere.

Stop drinking alcohol.   Alcohol is rocket fuel for cancer.   And lay off the sugars and processed carbs for the same reason.

Stop using tobacco in any form.  The tobacco plant, for reasons unknown, concentrates a radioactive element (Polonium 210) that is often found in fertilizers.   Plus, it has all other manner of bad things in it known to cause or promote cancer.

The second leading cause of lung cancers is radon, and unfortunately middle Tennessee has some of the highest radon levels in the country.    You should go to Home Depot or Lowes and buy a radon test and test your home and place of work.   If the test shows more than 4 picocuries per liter, you need to get a radon remediation.   There is *no* safe level of radon.

I will add to this list whenever I find something new and useful that is backed up by actual science (not “granola” science).  If you find something new and interesting, please let me know.

Thanks to Alison Anderson for pointing out Honokiol to me.

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A world with too much money…

Here’s a hypothesis for my economics-minded friends. The fundamental driver of economics is supply and demand. The more demand exceeds supply, the more profit a seller can demand from a buyer. And conversely, the lower demand is relative to supply, the less profit they can demand.

For instance, if I am selling a house in a hot Nashville market, I don’t have to take just *any* price.  As a rational actor interested in maximizing my profit (hi Prof. Froeb!), I can bide my time and wait for a high bidder to come along. Conversely, if I’m selling in Flint MI, I would be wise to take the first semi-decent bid that comes along.

Let’s apply supply and demand to money itself. People want to borrow money (they are the “buyers”) and people who want to save money (they are the “sellers”). When the economy is booming, there are relatively more people borrowing than saving, so profits (ie, interest rates) go up. Conversely, if you’re in a Great Recession, more people are less interested in borrowing money, and profits (the interest rates) plunge.

Now, let’s look at the interest rate the US Government pays on 10 year treasuries, ie. the profit that lenders can charge our government to borrow their money:


Notice that, while it does fluctuate around a bit, over the past 30 years it has trended downward, no matter how the economy is doing or what political party is in office at that time. That implies that the cause of lower interest rates is something else. And it’s a relatively smooth, constant decent. Something long-term, not day-to-day, is causing that trend.

My idea (and I’m happy to consider alternatives if anyone has a better idea) is simply that there is more money, than there is places to stick that money.  Supply and demand tells you that prices (interest rates) will go down, which is exactly what we see.

Over the past 30 years the world has gotten wealthier, so there’s more money sloshing around that people are trying to save, but the growth in investment opportunities hasn’t kept pace with the growth in capital, so lenders are being forced to accept smaller and smaller profits.

If true, it would seem to have a number of “interesting” consequences on people’s long-term investment strategies (I am sure there are many, many more which have not occurred to me, so share if something comes to you!):

  • People complain about government having too much debt. The bond market, on the other hand, is saying (via continually decreasing interest rates) that the government doesn’t have nearly *enough* debt.

    Based on that signal, a future government will likely increase borrowing. As you eventually have to pay the butcher, and poor/middle class people don’t have a lot of money, this implies substantially higher taxes on the wealthy at some point.

  • Interest rates can’t go below zero (ignoring the “carrying costs” of holding cash), as people would just stick cash under their proverbial mattress and earn 0% rather than loan it out at a loss. If the trend on the graph continues, the 10 year Treasury rate will be 0% around July, 2021.

    What happens to the economy when we are in a world where there is more money trying to be saved, than there is investments for it to be saved in?  Do rich people stop saving as much and start spending a proportionally higher amount of their income (which would help stimulate the economy), or do they have a “run on mattresses” (which would not).

    Would the Federal government start limiting the amount the uber-wealthy can invest to preserve sufficient investment opportunities for the poor and middle class to allow them to retire?

  • The 10-12% return the stock market “always” delivered in the past, may be lower for the foreseeable future.  Which means people will need to save more money than before to retire with the same lifestyle, and this will reduce consumption in the present. This will hit equity prices eventually (which are already trading at well above their historic norms).

The “savings glut” problem is further compounded by income inequality, but I don’t have any good ideas what that means yet.  I’ll show you my Nobel Prize in Economics when I understand them both…

As I have both a 401K and a desire to retire before I’m 90, I would be *delighted* to be wrong, but haven’t seen any data that would dissuade me from my thesis.   I’m not sure what the future holds (or else I’d be typing this from my secret volcano lair instead of my cubicle at work), but anyone who expects the next 30 years of economics/politics/investing to look like the previous 30 years is probably crazy.

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Where is thy sting?

I live in an older home with innumerable cracks around windows and doors, and despite all attempts at sealing and caulking, as autumn turns cold there is a pilgrimage of ladybugs and wasps trying to sneak in out of the cold.   So it is an annual ritual to spent a couple of weeks vacuuming them out of my basement windows when I get home in the evening.

Wasps, being the physical manifestation of Satan in this dimension, did not take kindly to this affront, and this morning, sought their revenge…

I awoke this morning much like any other Monday (i.e., desperately tired and wishing it were still Sunday), put some tea on to help wake me up, and went to the bathroom to do what bathrooms are often used for…  A minute or so after having a seat, out of the corner of my eyes I saw some motion between my legs, and looked down…

A large wasp had crawled out from under the lip of the toilet where it had been hiding, turned to face me, arched its back, and glared at me, his glinty little Satanic eyes full of boiling hatred and murderation.

Wasp (actual size)

Wasp (actual size)

As you may expect, there is a certain air of rapidly escalating panic which sets in in situations like this. A moment of extremely urgent soul-searching revealed nothing in my upbringing to help guide me in a moment like this.  I mean, in event of nuclear war, every one in 3rd grade and above knows to duck and cover, but that’s not exactly an option in this case…

All I knew was that I didn’t much like the looks of the wasp, the wasp apparently didn’t much like the looks of me either (metaphorically and literally), and I didn’t particularly want to be boldly stung where no Mat has been stung before.

So I did what any grown, mature, rational human being would do in similar circumstances: start screaming like a little girl while throwing washcloths, books, cats, and other nearby objects at it until one well-aimed book knocked the wasp to the ground, and then pummeling it repeatedly with heavy books until the wasp was flatter than Wile. E. Coyote after a good anvil-dropping.

As it turns out, the tea I has started preparing proved unnecessary, as I was quite awake by the time all was said and done…

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P90X, End of Round 2

In September I tried expanding my diet to include additional food like cheeseburgers and brats (eating chicken/turkey/fish/chile every meal of every day was getting extremely monotonous). After a couple of weeks, I reluctantly accepted that I no can haz cheeseburger.


In October, I had a shoulder and a knee start acting tweaky, and for a couple of weeks that limited how much exercise I could do before having to stop. I was lucky to get 10-15 minutes a day in before one or the other started hurting too much (divebomber push-ups and jump-knee tucks, I’m looking right at you).

And throughout the entire last 90 days, I’ve missed a lot more days that I did the first time.   A seemingly endless torrent of early morning/late evening meetings and general exhaustion working up to our big conference of the year managed to disrupt my exercise routine every time I managed to get back in the groove.

And the worst part is football season is bringing out the chef in *everybody*.    I don’t have any problems turning down food I can’t see.   Put a plate of mac ‘n cheese in my face, and suddenly that devil on my shoulder gets a lot harder to ignore.


So here’s day 180.   I went from 168 lbs to… 168 lbs.  Given all the above, I guess that’s not too bad.  My pants are a little looser, I can’t “pinch an inch” as much as last time, I don’t have to use quite so much imagination to see two abs lurking about, so I’m sure I traded a pound or two of fat for muscle.  But it wasn’t nearly the improvement I saw last round.


On the plus side, I did see good improvements on the cardio side of things. There are two popular measures of heart fitness: maximum heart rate, and heart recovery rate (how quickly your heart slows down after exercise). My heart hit 189 bpm (up from 175 bpm in round 1) after 30 seconds of double-time jump-knee tucks, and dropped 66 bpm within two minutes, both of which suggest I have the heart health of a man 10+ years younger.


So here’s hoping the next 90 days go a lot smoother.   I think they will.   Fall is always the hardest season at work.   My aspirations for the end of round 3:


Hey, delusions are free so you may as well have big ones. 🙂  He’s 5 years older than me, so I think I can catch him.  Do your best and forget the rest. And keep pressing play.

Oh, and read this.  There’s some really provocative stuff there.

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