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Pocket Queue 85

  • Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?
    Randomly, I added several articles that took existing thinking around health and argued that they are wrong. The first is around sunscreen and whether everyone needs to wear as much as experts say.

    At the same time, African Americans suffer high rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, internal cancers, and other diseases that seem to improve in the presence of sunlight, of which they may well not be getting enough. Because of their genetically higher levels of melanin, they require more sun exposure to produce compounds like vitamin D, and they are less able to store that vitamin for darker days. They have much to gain from the sun and little to fear.

    And yet they are being told a very different story, misled into believing that sunscreen can prevent their melanomas, which Weller finds exasperating. “The cosmetic industry is now trying to push sunscreen at dark-skinned people,” he says. “At dermatology meetings, you get people standing up and saying, ‘We have to adapt products for this market.’ Well, no we don’t. This is a marketing ploy.”

  • You Don’t Need Sports Drinks To Stay Hydrated
    Next is an article about Gatorade. Do you really lose enough electrolytes while being active to need it?

    Deborah Cohen, an investigations editor at the BMJ who was involved in the project and wrote a summary of the findings, recalls a study in which volunteers who fasted overnight were divided into two groups, one whose members were given a sports drink containing water, salts and sugar and another whose members received water. “People who were given the sports drink fared better,” she says. “Well, no shit.” If you haven’t had any food in 12 hours and then you get a bit of sugar, of course you’ll perform better than the people still running on empty. But to say that this means the sports drink is superior to whatever a normal person would consume leading up to or during exercise just isn’t generalizable, she says. “Who starves themselves overnight and then goes to perform some exercise?” And yet the BMJ investigation found that this type of study design is surprisingly common among tests of nutritional products.

  • White gold: the unstoppable rise of alternative milks
    And finally, there is a rise in alternative milks (soy and others), but do and should they replace cow’s milk?

    We are all born milk drinkers. Babies’ guts produce the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, the sugar in breastmilk (and cow’s milk), into the simpler sugars glucose and galactose. But for the majority of humans, production of the enzyme lactase plummets after weaning. “From a human perspective – no, to go further than that, from a mammalian perspective – the norm is to be able to tolerate your mother’s breast milk, and then as you get past infancy, to stop producing lactase and become lactose intolerant,” said Adam Fox, a consultant paediatric allergist at Guy’s and St Thomas’s hospitals, and one of the UK’s leading food allergy experts. “Then you’ve got a small group of humans that have a mutation which means they maintain production of lactase into adulthood. Northern Europeans, the Masai [in east Africa], some Arab groups as well. But that’s the exception, not the rule.”

  • How chicken became the rich world’s most popular meat
    On a similar but less controversial topic, here are some reasons why chicken is so cheap (and popular).

    Fans of cheap chicken have selective breeding to thank. In the 1940s America launched a series of “Chicken of Tomorrow” competitions for farmers. The aim, as described by a newspaper at the time, was to produce “one bird chunky enough for the whole family—a chicken with breast meat so thick you can carve it into steaks, with drumsticks that contain a minimum of bone buried in layers of juicy dark meat, all costing less instead of more.” The result was something along the lines of the modern broiler chicken.

    Since then chickens have continued to get bigger. A study by Martin Zuidhof of the University of Alberta and colleagues documented this shift by comparing chickens that were selectively bred in 1957, 1978 and 2005. The authors found that at 56 days old the three birds had average weights of 0.9kg, 1.8kg and 4.2kg (see chart). As raising a single big bird is more efficient than raising two smaller ones, it now takes farmers just 1.3kg of grain to produce 1kg of chicken, down from 2.5kg of grain in 1985.

  • The Goalie Is a Hired Gun, and He’s Yours for $50 a Game
    This was a strange article because it appeared in the NY Times but is a very Canadian topic of the Uber market for goalies.

    Some even try to make itinerant goaltending their profession. Hamilton is one of those.

    A musician who plays the vibraphone in a six-person folk band called Beams, Hamilton said he makes more money being a rental goalie than playing music in clubs.

    He averages 10 games a week and keeps 40 Canadian dollars per game, paying 10 dollars in commission to a rental agency. His cut works out to about 1,600 Canadian dollars, or $1,220 in United States currency, a month. By his estimate, he has made well over 100,000 dollars in eight years as a rental goalie. And, yes, he said, he declares all of his income on his taxes.

February 2019

Whoops, forgot to blog about February until now. So what happened – well it was a short month, but it always feels long because this is the dead of winter. It didn’t feel as cold as January, but that might be because I was used to and expected it this month. There wasn’t as much snow, but still a snowfall or two. Driving in this month felt like the winters of old, where there is a constant layer of snow underneath your wheels (at least on the inner roads) and snowbanks along the sides. Fortunately, Spring is supposed to come soon and dramatically this year.

I flew out to Korea for a few days this month. I’m pretty tired of Seoul the city, so I connected through Japan on the way back. The connection involved a change in airport so I was able to catch some sights for a few hours before departing.

I made the conscious decision to stop playing Star Trek Timelines this month. I guess inertia kept me going but there wasn’t anything that I “needed”. I “bought into” Disney Heroes (meaning I paid $10 to get to a higher VIP level so I could avoid menial tasks) so I’m giving that a ~90 day run before deciding whether I should continue spending time on it. I also started playing Hearthstone some more (at least the questing and saving gold). It feels good to make this change!

RV: Resurrected Victims

Resurrected Victims is a Korean movie where the mother of a prosecutor comes back to life and tries to get revenge on the people that killed her. All signs point to the son who did it and the movie tells what happens as they unravel this mysterious incidence. The movie says that there have been 89 victims who have come back to life in order to kill their murderers before disappearing in a burst of flames.

The movie spends the rest of the time investigating why the mom came back through a variety of flashbacks before finally explaining what happened. The story-telling was pretty poor – I’m not sure whether they did that for suspense or if it was just a bad script, because it’s easy to explain what happened once you know the entire story. The movie also tacks on a moral message as part of its ending, which is a bit lame.

I don’t think this movie was that great, only a two out of five stars from me.

Teen Titans Go To The Movies

I think I’ve seen portions of the Teen Titans TV show while vacationing with the kids, but I haven’t watched enough to know what their mannerisms and songs are. So going into this movie blind, it felt like there were a lot of in-jokes that missed. That’s ok though because this is a kids movie (like a real one, not a Pixar one) so you can just jump in and out of it.

I guess the best way to put this is that they took the “Teen” Titans and made them 6 years old, complete with the potty jokes. The plot revolves around the other DC heroes having movies made about them, while Robin desperately wants one (as he sees that as legitimizing him as a superhero). So he does whatever he has to do to get a movie, involves the villain Deathstroke (except they can’t call him that so they just use his normal name Slade), and then learns a life lesson.

There are a lot of DC heroes in Teen Titans Go To The Movies, the Justice League act like adults and behave as you would expect kids to see adults. The action is crazy and nonsensical (even though it is a cartoon, it’s not a Into The Spiderverse level of movie). However, it was fun even for adults. Three out of five.

Venom

I’m not sure why they did this movie. I guess they went through all the A-list Marvel properties and now they’re working on the B-list (see The Wasp). Thing number 2 is that Venom‘s story is so intertwined with Spider-Man that it feels very weird that he is not in this film. I think they made up a new backstory for him to get away from the world of Spider-Man.

Without the foil of Peter Parker, the story of Venom is not compelling. It’s a lot of Eddie Brock talking to himself. It also makes the ultimate bad guy and who to root for confusing (since in the typical story, you’re hoping that Spider-Man wins). Based on the post-credits scene, it sounds like they are trying to build a new mini-series with Carnage next (or it could just be a sequel like what they did with the Winter Soldier). I also found the Stan Lee scene to be dumb and useless. His cameos were funny the first couple of times, but now it is just wasting screen time. I guess this was his last one unless CG shenanigans are in the works.

The plot ends up being relatively faithful to Venom’s first story (revolves around a spaceship). But everything else around it smells weird. Glad I watched it for free as it is two out of five stars for me.

Fantastic Four

I watched the first Fantastic Four movie (with Jessica Alba), and even the second one; and given the critical reception of them, I’m not sure why they decided to remake it. The group is not popular or well known either. However, it is one of the last Marvel films I haven’t seen so I took a try on it. I didn’t know that this version was a teen movie though (and I don’t recognize the cast except for Michael B. Jordan).

The movie is pretty short (around 90mins) which doesn’t give a lot of time to do anything after explaining how the crew got their powers. Dr Doom shows up, they have a quick battle to save the day, and the movie is done. If I wasn’t familiar with the characters, I would have thought that there wasn’t much substance to the movie. However, since I know the FF, it was a fun romp in expected territory. This movie gets three out of five stars from me (not any worse or any better than the first run through).

Belle De Jour

I used to follow a blog about an English call girl which was named this, and I wonder if this old movie was the source of the name. This movie is about a young wife in the 60s (movie was made in 1967) who moonlights (daylights?) as a call girl. It’s not really raunchy but more of a look at what French society was like back then – gender stereotypes and retro cars abound.

The movie also reminded me of how slow movies were back then. Unlike The Godfather though, Belle De Jour wasn’t able to set the mood to make the slow scenes feel immersive. The plot was also a bit weird as it pushed character development by introducing different Johns, before events force the final scene. While it made sense, the way that it was told felt disjointed. Interesting to watch but not fun, two out of five stars.

Pocket Queue 84

  • The Titanic Was On Fire For Days Before The Iceberg Hit
    Might just be a crazy theory, but a fire could have contributed to a sinking of the Titanic. What’s most fascinating about this story (and a rabbit hole in itself) is that a coal fire is almost impossible to put out (and how does burning the coal in a furnace help??)

    An example of the difficulties with a coal fire would be the coal fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania. This fire broke out in a mine in the Northeast United States and has proven impossible to put out. How impossible you ask? It’s been burning since May 27, 1962.
    Yes, I’m being totally serious, it’s been burning for 56 years.

    Despite numerous efforts to deal with the fire, nothing has been able to stop it. It’s estimated that some sections where the fire is burning are about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and put up lethal gas clouds of carbon monoxide. Eventually, the federal government gave up trying to put out the fire and just bought all the land from the inhabitants, who moved. Centralia is now a tourist attraction, where visitors come to see the smoke and abandoned buildings.

  • How Premium Mediocre Fashion Conquered the World
    Short article but totally agree with it. Hate people wearing those Gucci shoes.

    On Lyst.com, the fashion shopping aggregator, plastic sandals by Givenchy and Gucci routinely top the most sought after product category.

    Premium mediocre in fashion is not a new phenomenon. During the ‘80s some Parisian couturiers licensed their name to mass market manufacturers. All of a sudden office workers could buy fifty-dollar Pierre Cardin button-up shirts. What followed was brand dilution and the perception that those names were no longer associated with luxury.

  • Technology, Ranked
    This, in practice, seems like a good idea. But it felt like it was written by a snarky teenager with an over emphasis on 21st century changes. Also, I don’t think a paragraph on each idea gives it enough justice, I guess we need a book about most important inventions of all time.

    57. Radar

    Radar literally won the war for the Allies in World War II. I mean, that’s the story we’re told. And it’s nearly true. So, um, thanks radar? Otherwise we might be living in an alternate reality world where a Nazi sympathizer was in the White House. What a nightmare.

  • Singapore’s ‘kiasu’ culture makes FOMO look like child’s play
    I wouldn’t say that kiasu is like FOMO, but it’s more like ‘not giving others an advantage’. Also, I think it’s more of a Chinese thing than a Singaporian thing.

    Giant, a local supermarket chain, ran a contest in 2017 to determine which neighborhood was the most kiasu. The winner, an eastern town called Tampines, impressed with a high percentages of residents admitting to excessively pressing the crosswalk button.

    They also fessed up in large numbers to reserving tables at busy coffee shops with a tissue packet or umbrella rather than more considerately ordering their food first and then finding a place to sit — a widespread practice known in Singlish as chope (You can also chope a parking space by having someone stand in it).

    Giant reportedly rewarded Tampines residents with free drinks, ice cream and more tissue packets for choping.

  • “Down The Rabbit Hole I Go”: How A Young Woman Followed Two Hackers’ Lies To Her Death
    A long story about how in today’s day and age, con men can be young and hackers. There’s more than the story here, but I guess it’s hard to distill the truth from all the crazy lies.

    As it turned out, Mir Islam posed a flight risk. Only two months after getting out of prison, he left the US in violation of the terms of his release. Islam slipped past immigration by claiming to be someone else: his younger brother, who is confusingly also named Mir Islam, and presenting that Mir Islam’s Bangladeshi passport as his own. According to Philippine government records, the older Mir Islam, posing as his younger brother, arrived in the country on July 24, 2018.

Bleeding Steel

Another movie that has been hanging on my “to watch on a flight” list, and survived until I actually had time to watch it; given its longevity, I thought that Bleeding Steel must be a masterpiece with a lot of views amongst flyers. I mean, it has to be good if the synopsis is that Jackie Chan fights a bunch of bionic bad guys, right?

As you can expect, it was a bit weird. It wasn’t a serious movie but whatever attempt at incorporating HK cinema humor got lost in translation somewhere. Instead, what they did bring was the B-level villains from Chinese period films into a production that was like The Adventurers – a Chinese film set in the Western world. The majority of the film takes place in Australia and the language was fluid – I didn’t keep track of how often they switched between Mandarin and English, but I did notice the accented English from the Chinese actors.

I’m not sure that this movie would play well with theatre-goers as the only thing it has going for it is Jackie Chan (and isn’t his brand of comedic Kung Fu fighting getting tiresome?) Two out of five stars for me

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Mission Impossible, or a Tom Cruise movie. This movie has been sitting in the inflight entertainment for awhile and there was always something a little better to watch. Finally, I ran out of movies and ended up watching Mission: Impossible – Fallout (how are you even supposed to write the name as it has two modifiers).

While there haven’t been as many MI movies, I would guess that this is the American version of the Bond movies. Where Bond has his gadgets, MI seems more gritty and athletic – the most memorable scene I have from all MI movies is the second one where Cruise is climbing a cliff. But, that difference has never made the MI movies that much more fun to me.

I was pleasantly surprised by how this film turned out. It started off pretty clichéd and I thought it was going to be a snore (give up and try another movie). And then Superman (Henry Cavil but it felt like the same characterization) showed up. But as we got into it, the story improved a lot. I forgot that one key element of the MI series is the espionage and double crosses – it’s like mini Ocean’s 11 throughout. I’m sure the scenarios don’t make sense under scrutiny but when you’re watching the movie, it’s fun. Even though it ran significantly over 2 hours, the plot felt pretty tight.

This MI also drew elements from previous movies. Seems like that is something that it shares with the Bond series. At least with Bond, there have been 10s of movies to refer to, so this is a little premature for MI. But then maybe this is the movie version of the greatest hits album, and if they don’t make a retrospective movie now, the actors will get too old.

All in all, a surprisingly good action film from a movie franchise that I’ve long forgotten. Three out of five stars.