Thursday, January 31, 2013

Classic Corvette In Prague

Yeah baby!

Talk about an unusual sight, any sort of classic car is pretty extraordinary here, but this is really off-the-rails. This vette is a throwback to the days when all cars, including high end sports cars, didn't look look like cookie cutouts. And there ain't no sweeter sound than the growl of an old-time big-block American V8.

Not that I don't have a soft spot in my heart for European sports cars. In college I had a magnificent tragedy of a car, a 1976 Triumph TR7--the shape of things to come. And my last car before I left for Europe was an '82 Alfa Romeo GTV6 which would whip a Porsche 911 of the same year, okay maybe not whip it, but certainly hold its own.

If this magnificent beast of a car doesn't get your heart beating faster then you need to stick your fingers in the nearest electrical outlet, because you happen to be dead.

Can Government Institutions Like the NIH Ever Be Fixed?

John Hawks recently tweeted this excellent comment about the inherent problems of the NIH grant system. It's worth quoting in full:
Well, since you asked, I'll repeat what I've already said in other comments threads: the problem is not simply the lack of job security. It's the constant, unrelenting need to be writing grants in order to get just the bare minimum required to stay afloat. This is *incredibly* wasteful of scientific talent and resources.

The relationship between what one proposes in a grant and what one actually does is, in many cases, tenuous at best. This means that the NIH is demanding that the scientific workforce spend a majority of its time writing bullshit, not doing real science. How can this be good?

In my view, the solution is to implement some form funding based on past results. I'm not saying that all grants should be awarded this way, but some large-ish fraction of NIH's money should be awarded based on what a PI has done in the past, NOT on what she bullshits about what she'll do in the future.

Am I proposing this because it would make my life easier? In part, yes. But my own publication record is certainly not the best in my field, by many metrics. So it has the potential to help a lot of other people much more than it helps me. And I am most certainly NOT suggesting that opportunities for less-experienced scientists be limited in anyway. I'm saying that once the newbies get their funding and demonstrate what they can do with the cash, the barrier for getting re-funded should not involve onerous amounts of time-wasting grant-writing.
The commenter makes some good points, and most importantly, has a plausible suggestion on how to fix things. I have no idea if his suggestion would work or if it would simply entrench established views even more, but I appreciate that he or she has proffered a seemingly viable solution.

I've never run on the government research hamster wheel. I have worked for the US Federal Government, perhaps the most decadent of branches, BIA, when I taught at SIPI, and it was a cesspool of government waste, administrative infighting, and anti-meritocracy. I tend to assume BIA mirrors government bureaucracies in general to a greater or lesser extent. Some students did manage to actually learn something at SIPI but it was appalling how much time and money was wasted for that small amount of learning to take place.

Has there ever been a case of a government bureaucracy actually being improved? After the shock of 9/11 there was talk of reforming the spy system, but all that happened was that more bloated bureaucracies were added and more money pumped into an already dysfunctional system.

John Hawks and others have been pushing for open access journals and more transparency as a way to improve the research grant system and I think it's a great idea. Transparency allows for parallel systems to spring up, such as bloggers, to examine all this data and separate the wheat from the chaff in a manner that doesn't cater to the system's internal rules.

Can I have bullshit Harvard meta-studies for $1000 Alex?

But as far as actually fixing these bureaucracies goes, there is simply no way this is ever going to happen, short of a revolution. Politicians are incapable of fixing bureaucracies and bureaucracies are incapable of fixing themselves, they've never done it before and aren't going to start doing it now. Call it pessimism, nihilism, realism, whatever, it simply isn't going to happen.

Addendum: Speaking of the NIH and bureaucratic pork check out this article about Sen. Tom Harkin and his pet NIS project, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Is Stephan Guyenet an Evil Capitalist Pigdog?

"Smithers, tell me again about reward"

I've made no secret of my increasing distaste for the Highly Distinguished Doctor Guyenet over the years, including recently mocking him for what I consider paranoid delusions, or more likely a lame attempt to silence detractors, or perhaps just reading too many Stephen King novels late at night.

I thought that would be the end of my discourse about the Good Doctor, but his latest excursion into entrepreneurship has me back at the ol' keyboard. Obviously I have some confirmation bias when it comes to Stephan, but I'm going to try and be objective here.

Now I've self-identified myself as a libertarian on this blog for a long time, although nowadays I'd probably describe myself as more of a lapsed libertarian, but I have no inherent hate or envy for any blogger that parlays their blog into successful career, on the contrary, I'd like to see it happen much more often. Nor do I mind a published author blogging in a way that helps flog their book or movie.

But being a fan of the free market is not the same thing as being a fan of everything that goes on in the free market. Same thing goes for free speech. This ought to be obvious but apparently isn't. Just because I believe people ought to be able to trade things in an unfettered fashion doesn't mean I don't hate Microsoft's mostly awful products from the depths of my soul. And just because I believe people ought to be allowed to make offensive statements doesn't mean I have to agree with those offensive statements.

A few comments in Stephan responded with his typical petulant tone:
To the critics,

I'm blown away by the sense of entitlement I'm seeing in some of these comments. This program is basically a more effective version of a book. It is designed to help people achieve a constructive goal, and it's completely optional. In other words, no one is forcing you to buy it, and you can continue reading the free material I provide here with no restrictions.

I've written this blog since 2008, literally putting in thousands of uncompensated hours providing free material for anyone who wants to read it. I have no obligation to do this-- I do it because I want to help people and I enjoy it.

We designed the most effective fat loss program we were able to, but putting together something like this requires money. It is not reasonable to expect people to design a fat loss program for free. I plan to receive financial compensation for my work, and I am not in any way ashamed of receiving money in exchange for a valuable service.

I'm not trying to "sell stuff". What I'm doing is informing my readers of a service that I helped create, which people can accept or decline as they please. 
It's annoying how often projection is overused these days. If you hate gays it is because you are secretly gay, if you hate guns it's because you secretly think you are Rambo, etc, but I find complaining about entitlement and then going on to talk in such an entitled fashion to be pretty ironic. I've spent many hours writing my little blog also, but I'm willing to admit that has more to do with my own vanity and idleness rather than a selfless desire to help Mankind. Perhaps I simply lack the Good Doctor's noble nature.

The biggest problem I have is when Stephan talks about this program being more effective than a book. First, as any failed novelist such as myself knows, writing a book is a hell of a lot of work. Second, I can't think of the last book I bought that cost 40 dollars.

Let's face it, it's a lot easier to partner up with an organization and put your name on something, do a few online interviews and a write-up on your blog, and watch the bucks roll in.

I'm jumping to a conclusion here and I've already admitted I'm not the most objective judge of Dr Guyenet's motives, but from a lot of the comments there, I'm not the only one who has jumped to this conclusion.

I will say, finally, that Stephan is allowing these critical comments on his blog in the first place and I have no doubt that whatever he's endorsing is probably quite healthy. While I'm not the biggest fan of Dr Guyenet, I don't believe he would push snake oil, which puts him light years ahead of multimillionaires actually pushing snake oil such as Dr Oz.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ashton Kutcher Gets Pancreatic Attack From Method Acting Steve Jobs

Or maybe he's a big enough asshole to actually pull this as a publicity stunt. Which would still not make him as big an asshole as Steve Jobs who spent two years dodging paternity by claiming he was sterile (amongst other things).

From USA Today:
Kutcher says that he started a fruit-only diet to prepare to play the Apple co-founder for the biopic Jobs, which premiered Friday night at the Sundance Film Festival.

The diet, which the film claims Jobs adhered to, ended up sending Kutcher to the hospital with pancreas problems.

"First of all, the fruitarian diet can lead to like severe issues," Kutcher said after the film's screening. "I went to the hospital like two days before we started shooting the movie. I was like doubled over in pain.

"My pancreas levels were completely out of whack," Kutcher added. "It was really terrifying ... considering everything."

Jobs died of pancreatic cancer on Oct. 5, 2011. 
Pancreas levels? Just keep that little gem of a phrase in mind the next time an actor tries to tell you something about health, or about anything, actually.

I don't think Steve Jobs ever publicly said what kind of vegetarian diet he ate. I know there's been lots of speculation about it, especially in paleo and LC circles. Do the film producers have some inside Hollywood knowledge that Jobs was actually on a fruitarian diet? I don't know, but I can't see how a fruit diet would suddenly damage the pancreas more than a diet high in glucose and that takes years. I also find any sort of implied link between fructose and pancreatic cancer ridiculous. Unlike glucose, fructose has to be processed in the liver, so if anything, I could see it affecting that already overworked organ the most.

Via FilmDrunk.

Google and The Czech Election

I thought this home page localization by Google for the Czech presidential election a few days ago was interesting. Also interesting was that this guy was polling like 10%, sure he's a damn socialist, but how funny would it be to have The Illustrated Man as your country's president, posing with all those stuffed shirts at some big international photo-op? Yeah, I'm turning into a nihilist.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mobile Template Disabled

I just noticed that the template for the mobile version of the blog, while pretty slick, doesn't display the Disqus comment plug-in, and in fact lets people comment on the old Blogger system that won't get displayed, so I have to disable the mobile template.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

Monday, January 21, 2013

MagLev Cooking Pan

We finally broke down and got one of those new MagLev pans that are all the rage these days. By avoiding direct contact with the pan surface, they are supposed to eliminate potentially harmful AGEs. The physics is pretty simple of course, one just magnetically aligns the water molecules in the food by passing it through the MagLev magnetizer then heat up the pan and let the food float above and cook like a rotisserie. Unfortunately, as you can see from the picture, this chicken breast is floating way too high to cook efficiently so I ended up having to stand in front of the stove holding the breast down with a spatula in order for it to cook in a reasonable time.

So until they sort out the magnetic charging mechanism, I'm giving this product a thumbs down.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What's The Difference Between The Pusher and The Dealer?

When I was in the States last I have to admit I was pretty amazed at all the pharmaceutical ads. Why are these things constantly running? Because they work. As Willie Sutton never actually said, "That's where the money is." A doctor friend told me that people come in all the time asking for stuff because they saw an ad for it, the thirty second litany of horrific side-effects notwithstanding.

Steppenwolf, that Hesseian inspired band, had a famous hit bolstered by its appearance in Easy Rider, that was critical of pushers, but supportive of dealers.

People want to make a distinction between pushers and dealers whether it is Steppenwolf's heroin pusher and an mj & pills dealer or people who hate Big Pharma pushing things like statins, anti-depressants, etc, but acknowledge the therapeutic efficacy of antibiotics, anti-virals (remember when people were dropping like flies from AIDS?), etc.

I've made no secret of the fact that while I'm not a fan of Big Pharma I consider it to be a direct result of extremely heavy-handed government intervention into the pharmaceutical and health care industry.

Where exactly does Steppenwolf draw the line between dealers and pushers? And where exactly do Big Pharma haters draw the line between advertising statins and anti-depressants and coming up with a host of effective anti-AIDS drugs and next-gen antibiotics?
You know the dealer, the dealer is a man
With a lump of grass in his hand.
But the pusher is a monster
Not a natural man.

The dealer for a nickel
Goin' to sell you lots of sweet dreams.
Ah...but the pusher will ruin your body;
Lord he'll leave your mind to scream.
 All very poetic but what does it actually mean? Why would people choose ruined bodies and screaming minds over sweet dreams? Sweet dreams seem like a no-brainer.

The difference is the perceived lack of choice or free will. Pushers sell heroin, a highly addictive drug, whilst dealers sell mj and pills which simply offer sweet dreams, such as giggling at shitty TV reruns. Likewise, it is the perceived lack of free will versus television commercials and doctor manipulation that separates the pushers of Big Pharma from producers of benevolent drugs. All fine and well, but in real life there are no such clear-cut distinctions.

I could go on about how people ought to be responsible for their own health choices, regardless of whether it's heroin, mj, statins, antidepressants, etc, but instead I'm going to acknowledge that these are legitimate concerns--because they are.

People, even extremely intelligent people, can be manipulated by the conventional wisdom outside their focus of thought. I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of top-level physicists think that salt and SFAs are the major cause of CVD.

So all we need to do is separate the dealers and the pushers and line-up the latter against the wall, right? Not so fast Che, Stalin and Sean Penn. Acknowledging that people can be manipulated leads back to the same place, that people ought to be allowed to make their own choices, unless one is naïve enough to believe that governments are innately better at manipulating people's choices in a better direction than other pushers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Soy Steak Is a Sin Whether It's In A Movie or Real Life"

Truer words were never spoken. From CinamSins' video, Everything wrong with Looper in three minutes or less. Via FilmDrunk.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Stephan Guyenet Thinks He's Jodie Foster

And It's the Woo is John Hinckley, or something. Yeah, I know, the paleo drama gets really tedious, but the free speech and fascist PC police aspects sometimes have to be addressed.

Recently we had the good doctor of all things food rewardish writing in the comments of Hyperlipid:
People post all sorts of nonsense on the Internet, and it isn't my concern. What is my concern is when people fire up the crazies and point them in my direction. I am literally concerned that someone is going to come to my door one of these days and hurt me or my friends/family because someone like Peter went beyond politely disagreeing and into ad hominem territory for his own personal amusement and/or ego defense. I am literally concerned that someone is going to try to stick a knife in my back at AHS while in a Hyperlipid- or "Woo"-fueled rage. It won't be Peter (might be Woo though), but as I said there are a lot of disturbed people out there.
It's okay to post nonsense on the internet, just as long as that nonsense doesn't consist of insulting Stephan Guyenet, because that could cause "disturbed people" to kill him. Got it.

Hate crimes, as opposed to most normal crimes (manslaughter vs 2nd degree murder being a notable exception), are about the retrograde reading of someone's mind when they committed the crime. Did you assault that person because you hate black/Jewish/Muslim/gay/etc people or simply because you have anger issues? Unlike the hate crimeologists, I'm not going to pretend to read Dr Guyenet's mind when he wrote this. Maybe he really is that paranoid. What I find more likely, though, is that he was trying to invoke an imaginary heckler's veto as a way to play the victim, as a way to try and stop people saying mean things about him on the internet.

As a white (presumably Gentile) male, Stephan is in a world of hurt when it comes to being part of an officially recognized victim group. He does have one option, though. Dr Guyenet has always struck me as somewhat effeminate in his passive-aggresive style of argumentation. What he could do is declare himself to be gay--instant trump card! Then Stephan could simply accuse anyone who insults him of gay-bashing. He could even report them to the proper hate-speech watch group and FBI.

Or he could just realize that insults on the internet are just that: insults on the internet (he also confuses an insult with ad hom, but logical fallacies have never been his strong suit). If Stephan really feels that his blogging is putting the lives of his friends, family and himself in mortal danger, he should stop whining about it and just stop blogging.

I wouldn't be surprised if Dr Guyenet was in favor of government taking an active role in curtailing hurtful speech (like this), because it "fire(s) up the crazies". It would be consistent with his thinking that the way to fix obesity is for the government to take an even more active role than it does now in how people eat, just, you know, listen to the proper TOP MEN this time around. TOP MEN such as himself, of course. Maybe computers ought to come with some sort of ridiculous warning label like everything else sold these days:

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Gina "Bronco" Bouza, Baboons and Muscle Fiber Recruitment

I was listening to Bill Burr's latest podcast and he was talking about story of Gina "Bronco" Bouza. There is very little on the interwebs about Ms Bouza, but she's apparently featured on the wall of Buca di Beppo, an Italian restaurant chain I've never heard of. There's no Wikipedia page for Ms Bouza (yet!) but here's a summary written on a message board:
She traveled around and did a lot of shows, and in doing so, also made money for charity. A local wrestling promoter named Joe Delcampo decided that it would be a cool idea to put her up against an old, toothless baboon that was being retired from the local zoo, along with whatever else the show offered at the time. I think this was in a town in Wisconsin. The baboon suddenly attacked her and broke her neck in a second - apparently no one knew how many times stronger than humans monkeys were. It also said her last word was crying "Foul!" the instant before it happened.
And here's the actual summary from pics I managed to find on the internet and tried to Photoshop a bit for contrast:

The last sentence, "And about monkeys' inherent advantages over people in speed, agility, reflexes, hammer locks and airplane spins." is pretty damn funny. Nowadays pretty much everyone who has seen Animal Planet or one of those stations, or just Every Which Way But Loose, knows that a baboon or a chimp half their weight can crush them like an aluminum can.

But why are baboons and chimps so much stronger for their size? The largest baboon weighs a mere 40kg. There are no straight answers on this and there seem to be a variety of factors. This article quotes John Hawks:
Dr. John Hawks, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, points to a combination of skeletal muscle structure and genetics as part of the reason for the chimpanzee's strength. The muscle fibers of the chimpanzee are longer than those of a human, enabling them to generate twice the work output over a wider range of motion. He also points out that certain genes that limit muscle development have been deactivated in the human, but are still present in the chimpanzee.
But goes on to talk about what seems to be a major factor:
In addition, primatologist Dr. Ann MacLamon's research indicated that the motor neurons in the spinal cord that control muscle function in the human are less prevalent in the chimpanzee, giving the animals immediate access to far greater muscle power than humans have. This enables the chimpanzee to use far more of its potential strength than is possible for a human being, due to the constraints our nervous systems place upon us
A very important factor seems to be that monkeys have inherently superior muscle fiber recruitment (MFR). If you read about lifting weights at all you know about MFR. This is something that improves as one adapts to lifting heavy things since your body not only builds muscle when stimulated by lifting weights but improves the nerves that tell those muscles what to do. I don't agree with the last part about "constraints" of our nervous system.

While we would all probably like to have chimpanzee strength, there is a definite tradeoff. Chimps and other monkeys lack dexterity. For one thing they have giant hands with ridiculously long fingers. But take a look at this chimp doing simple tasks and it's apparent that it lacks the fine motor skill of, say, a three year old human.

Somewhere along the evolutionary road, the tradeoff was made that allowed us make complex tools, play musical instruments and spend hours writing on computer keyboards, but meant that we'd come out very much the worse for wear in a cage match with a baboon, even an old toothless one. And a baboon with teeth? Fuggedaboutit!


Cooking Advice From Captain Obvious--Marinade Kills Germs

There are two things that I spent a lot of time learning myself the hard way, cooking and fixing cars. Unlike when I was trying to figure out how to rebuild a carburetor, I was fortunate enough to have access to the internet when I started teaching myself how to cook.

Still there are huge gaps in my knowledge. Just like a guy who grew up in a family of brothers and/or a father who could rebuild an engine in their sleep, someone who grows up around great cooks, helping out in the kitchen picks up a lot of stuff just by osmosis. And someone who is completely self-taught, especially before the advent of YouTube videos on everything, had to go through a lot of painstaking trial and error.

For example, it took me literally years to figure out not to overcook potatoes. I don't know why I thought potatoes had to be boiled for hours until they turned into glue. I suppose it was because my father made a lot of baked potatoes in the oven, slice in the middle, wrap in tinfoil, and those take like 45 minutes to cook.

Why did it take so long to figure out something so simple, that sliced up potatoes only need to be boiled for 10-15 minutes? I have no idea. In my defense, I think they do take a little longer to cook in my hometown of Albuquerque due to the altitude.

Another thing that is really obvious but took me way too long to figure out is the power of marinades, not only to enhance flavor but to keep meat from going bad. I buy meat mostly from the local butcher which means it's not packaged in a shrink wrap styrofoam container, they just put it in
a flimsy plastic bag. Turns out that's a really bad way to store meat, apparently because it creates an anaerobic environment for the really nasty bacteria. Yes I had to learn this the hard way. So after bringing home 5 kgs of meat from the butcher, some of it has to be frozen and the rest gets marinaded so it will last for a few days in the fridge.

My marinade formula is straight from Alton Brown: any combination of salt, sweet, & sour. This is typically soy sauce, honey, and vinegar, all three of which are antibacterial. Balsamic vinegar can be the sweet and the sour. Also, one has to be careful with the salt, especially with a tender quality cut like sirloin which absorbs the salt faster, so make sure to use liberal amounts of sour and sweet to dilute it.

Marinading is especially important for chicken both for flavor and antimicrobial reasons. For hamburger, you better freeze it or eat it right away, or just grind it yourself which I do when I'm not feeling lazy. Most bacteria is on the outer surface so when you grind up meat you've just created a love-in festival for them to get it on.

There are some basic tips from someone who, despite liberal access to the internet, still doesn't really know what he's doing in a kitchen.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Found Art--Winter Tree Wrapped By Ivy

Saw this walking my kid home from school today and thought it looked interesting. It looks sorta like a tree that just lost its outer leaves, but of course it's a tree that's wrapped all the way to the top with flourishing ivy, or creeper, whichever one keeps its leaves throughout the winter.

Here's a shot of the base, and not run through B/W filter, both pics taken with the crappy iPad 2 camera.

Friday, January 04, 2013

All Cats Bark and Being Fat Is Healthy

All dogs bark. All dogs have four legs. All cats have four legs, therefore fat cats are healthier than normal sized ones. Wait, somewhere along there the logic broke down.

The latest meta-study of poor science to hit the media mainstream drone express shows that being moderately obese (25 ≤ BMI ≤ 30) has 6% less mortality (ie healthier) than being "normal" (18.5 ≤ BMI ≤ 25).

There are a lot of things not to like about this study. The most obvious one is that BMI is a really lousy measure of obesity. Height and weight and that's it, let's completely ignore muscle and bone mass because those things are hard to measure.

Why bother building the Large Hadron Collider to look for the Higgs boson? That's also really hard to measure. Can't we just do a meta-study of all the physics papers and figure it out from there?

Which leads me to the next big problem with this paper, it is a meta-study, and in case it wasn't clear, I HATE META STUDIES!!! Almost every time one of these idiotic pronouncements sweeps through the media drones it is because of a meta-study. Remember the great red meat causes cancer kerfuffle a while back? Another poorly done meta-study.

The great thing about meta-studies is that all a 'scientist' has to do is run a net through the literally millions of scientific papers that have been published in the last few decades, throw all the results into a huge spreadsheet, make a few graphs and BAM, they've made a contribution to science.

Except they haven't.

The problem with normal dietary studies is that there are already way too many variables and very little in the way of hard data (eg self-reported diet data). So when these meta-studies combine studies together they simply add more variables (different nationalities with different diets, genetics, different methodologies, etc).

What could possibly go wrong?

According to the lead author this diversity is a good thing.
CDC researchers analyzed 97 studies involving nearly three million people and 270,000 deaths around the world. "The findings are very consistent across all different ages and continents," said lead author Katherine Flegal, a senior scientist at the CDC. She stressed that the study looks at all causes of mortality, not overall health risks. "This is not meant to suggest that the conventional wisdom is wrong," she said. (Source)
Actually, Kate, the conventional wisdom IS wrong. She does mention that the study looks at overall mortality not health risk which is an important caveat, especially since the study looks at many different countries. In places like China or Taiwan (n = 4), Brazil (n = 2), India (n = 1), and Mexico (n = 1), being moderately obese is likely correlated with higher income and social status, better access to healthcare, better working conditions, etc. And in the richer countries, moderate obesity might be correlated with a different demographic, married people tend to live longer, etc. 

But more importantly, when trying to isolate cause and effect, which is kind of the point of science, diversity is not a strength. 

As for being very consistent across all ages and continents, I find that a pretty dubious claim, and couldn't find any tables in the paper to back it up. All countries and ages showed moderate obesity (as measured by BMI) to be 6% less death-defying than normal weight (as measure by BMI)?

Then there was this little snippet in the comment section of the paper: 
We found a generally lower summary HR (hazard ratio) and less heterogeneity in studies using measured data than in studies using self-reported data. 
In other words, the harder the data, the less correlation and the more uneven were the results.

Followed by this: 
The differences were more pronounced in analyses stratified by sex than in analyses that combined both men and women. Because the errors in self-reported data tend to differ by sex, there may be an offsetting effect when analyses combine men and women.
Wow, this is amazingly disingenuous. Men lie about their weight in self-reported studies, women lie about their weight much more than men. So the "errors" in self-reported studies are less in studies that combine men and women. Really bad data is "offset" by merely bad data. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what passes for science in the world of government sponsored nutritional health! How about we just throw out all the self-reported data studies? Naw, that's just crazy talk.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Peer Pressure and Jumping Rope

I recently started taking my kid to kickboxing classes in the evening. The instructor is an ex-kickboxing champ for the Czech Republic, and quite good with kids. One of the requirements was for the kids to bring a jumprope.

The other kids in the class are older (Liam just turned six) and they are really good at jumping rope, not to mention that this is a kickboxing gym so there are a lot of people jumping rope when they aren't fighting in the ring or wailing on a bag.

Turns out that jumping rope has a pretty steep learning curve. Liam was really frustrated and angry at his inability.

So of course I went on the internet and looked for some sort of methodology for teaching a kid to jump rope. I tried some of these exercises: shadow jump, jump with the rope in one hand, trap the rope with the feet, etc. These were all useless*.

Basically what happened is that my kid really wanted to learn how to jump rope, so he did. Why did he really want to do it? Because it was cool, other kids were doing it, big tough grown up kickboxers were doing it, Batman might as well have been doing it.

He just pushed through the wall. He was always trying to jump rope at high speed, despite my telling him to start out slow. And that's how he learned it, at a blistering speed, one rep at a time, through sheer bloody-mindedness.

A month later and the kid has it nailed and is experimenting with things like jumping on one foot, jumping while running in place, etc.

Now had I just went out and bought a jump-rope and tried to teach my kid to use it, without enrolling him in this class, things would've gone nowhere. I lack the will and energy to be a tiger dad and my kid is too damned stubborn. But because he really, really wanted to learn this, because it was a cool thing to do, he learned it, and is already amazing at it. His stubbornness worked in his favor instead. And every time a kid learns to push through a wall like this, it gives them more confidence to push through the next one.

*There is one shortcut exercise to help a kid to jump rope himself that seems to work and it's probably the most obvious one, that is to have him jump whilst a parent swings the rope. This can be done with two people or simply by tying the rope to something at waist height. This teaches the child to jump in a regular rhythm, and gives them confidence that's it's even possible, without them having to co-ordinate the rope themselves.