When you have a hammer

Truism: When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
Application: Gastric bypass surgery.

What gets me about gastric bypass is that it’s a surgical problem to what is most often a psychological or behavioral problem. I’m sure that there are those for whom it is necessary, but it seems, in a lot of cases, that it’s (here’s my personal vendetta again) the easy way out. The solution to the wrong problem. These people have eating disorders, not enlargement of the stomach.

For example, one man’s son says that before the surgery, “All he did was watch videos, [but] now he can do stuff.” At a last-hurrah meal for one couple undergoing the surgery together, the woman ate until she vomited. Of course, she can still do that and lose weight– she’ll be full to sickness after a few bites. There are a lot of personal experience stories out there– blogs and so forth — that suggest a lot of food issues hidden behind the surgery. Look at Basil White’s description of what he ate at his last meal before surgery– or rather, his four or five last meals. It sounds like a junkie trying to kick. Only his last fix included a dozen donuts as an appetizer for a meal of chicken-fried steak, fries, and biscuits.

This FAQ downplays the possibility of becoming malnourished or losing too much weight, but it does point out that people who eat compulsively can gain weight even after gastric bypass, by eating constantly, by bingeing until they throw up again and again, or eventually just stretching their stomachs back out to full size.

Lots of information out there, though: recipe guides and of course suggestions for meal supplement, shakes, given that a diet of normal food would leave you malnourished. Not to mention discussion of different varieties of the surgery. The NIH site on gastric bypass seems pretty informative.

I’m not knocking it– it seems to work for a lot of people. Even proponents recognize that it’s a brute-force way of dealing with obesity, and most places require psychological screening beforehand. Still, I’m concerned that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of acknowledgement of the psychological issues behind the whole thing, at least not in media coverage and celebrity stories.

Pale

Been lying around moaning and feeling sorry for myself today. What fun.
Lyrics of the moment:

You better bring a fucking knife
till we see eye to eye
cause I’d rather cut your buttons off
than be caught in a lie.
Before I come to you I never wash my lips
cause when the music starts it goes right to my hips
and I break out in pale
–Kristin Hersh

The Pop Game

The Hollywood Stock Exchange has an offshoot in IMX, the interactive music exchange. In both games, you buy and sell the popularity of popular culture products, and then redeem your virtual earnings for real-world promotional goods and logo merchandise. The sponsors behind IMX are MuchMusic, a Canada-based music video channel, who get not only brand recognition but also good market data for their troubles.

They really do have some neat ideas to go with the game: a TV show centered on the IMX game plays the big IMX movers and shakers, both established large-cap and up-and-coming small-cap artists. There’s a dedication service where you can not only request songs, but have the person emailed to let them know you’ve send them a special message– which is often an insult. Plus, it’s a pretty sophisticated market. You can even short-sell artists you think are overplayed, although pump and dump schemes and other market manipulations are punishable by confiscation of your assets, a trading suspension, or permanent banishment from the game.

Needless to say, I’ve been playing a little, but I’m sure they’ve got me in the junk-data pile, since I’ve confessed to not getting the TV station and being over 25. People sometimes complain about targeted advertising or other forms of user profiling but I’m not opposed to it. I mean, if I were still 20 and watched these videos, I probably would want the shirt to go with it, and I’d want bands I liked to get on the show. Since I’m not, and I don’t want the shirt, there’s no reason I should influence the show, even if I influence the game.

See, every data collection process should involve weeding. I’ve seen sales-lead forms at trade shows that ask “are you a student?” meaning, essentially, “should we just circular-file your info right now?” It sounds callous or rude, but it’s not. If you’re a college student, do you want to be contacted by the sales team and persuaded to discuss twenty or thirty grand worth of rackmount blade servers? No. They could almost ask “OK if sales calls you?” but then people would say no, even if they were potential customers. It’s still easy enough to lie and get your info ignored– just say you make no money, watch no tv, never buy CDs, cars, clustered data servers, electrophoresis equipment. Alternately, to win promotional keychains and junk mail, just claim to be part of whatever demographic they’re aiming for. It’s just marketing data. It’s not like it’s your insurance records.

Fun Pak Assortment

From funny to useful to horrific, an assortment of links I’ve collected over the past few days:
Minims: like a maxim, but with no actual moral or value.

I can only hope that the next wedding I attend will be exciting enough to involve arrests and pepper spray.

The escalating war on drugs in Thailand means that drug dealers and cops are racing to have more magical firepower.

Certain people are losing patience with crappy software.

Bush losing patience with Iraq? I’m losing patience with my neighbors!

Meanwhile, the foreign service is losing patience with Bush.

Warren Buffet writes annual update letters chock-full of Nebraskan multibillionaire wisdom.

AIDS in Africa: worse than you thought.

Trade Rag for the Rag Trade

Trade magazines are the primary documents of what’s going on right now, the bits of information that will become news tomorrow and history ten years from now.

Half the time they’re full of barely-disguised press releases and ads, but often enough there’s real news in them, waiting to reach the mainstream press. Things like Refrigerated and Frozen Foods, and its coverage of Hungry Man Dinners. Sure, that’s a glowing report focused only on Swanson’s upside, but it says to me: American men are killing themselves in record numbers. Heart attacks in the next ten years will not decrease. Obesity epidemic will not, uh, shrink. Or, for example, the very existence of Government Security Magazine, a new publication covering the new industry of homeland security.

I even like the ads, because they aren’t aimed at consumers. You see business in a way that it’s not usually presented to the public, insight into the way things are when you’re not looking.

And there are so many that you can subscribe to: magazines about catalogs, about soft drinks and water, about repossession, pensions, pizza. There’s even a site and magazine about trade magazines and how they work. And the advertising itself tells you what people are trying to sell, who’s buying it, and why.

Once I met a woman who wrote for Beverage World. She was surprised that I had heard of the magazine, and completely bowled over by the fact that I thought it was interesting. I guess, as a technical writer, I have a weird sense of interesting.