This is the best thing I’ve seen in like forever

Jimmy Kimmel, Oscars host, brought a bunch of unsuspecting tourists into the Academy Awards where they met more stars than they could ever hope to meet while touring LA. It was totally awesome.

There’s something about these types of things that just fills me with smiles. Like when the President walks the streets in DC. Or a soldier dad surprises his daughter at graduation.

I love the looks on people’s faces: the surprise, the glee and squee, the wonder. Everyone should have a chance to look like that once in their life. Jimmy Kimmel may have done the best version of this: not too sappy, funny and lighthearted, and just all-around awesome.

Want a free copy of Crashpoint?

First book in the Kagent Trilogy. Just tap: InstaFreebie.

Tell your friends. Unless they are Stabilizers or bounty hunters.

Deal ends next Friday, February 10th.

My Public Service Announcement about Politics

People on both sides of a number of aisles and sides believe that now is the time to speak out, to express what’s on your mind, to stand up for what you believe in, to tell it like it is. The implied criticism is that if you don’t that you are a moral coward, somehow less than fully patriotic, a bystander to the great outrages of our age.

I’m not going to. For a bunch of reasons.

  1. I shouldn’t. I am a nonpartisan number cruncher in the federal government working with people from both political parties. Technically, I have the right to spew my beliefs, but doing so would undermine my role in our political system. I can’t undermine any trust or credibility I’ve built with people in both parties and independents by tossing my opinions in the mix. I have seen other civil servants do that and it’s incredibly wrong and counterproductive. (You probably think I’m talking about James Comey, the election-flipper poster-boy for what a civil servant should never do, but no, I’m not.) Part of the job is to inform people (again, from either party) that some of their beliefs about the state of the world are self-destructive misperceptions. You need to be considered trustworthy.
  2. I really shouldn’t. I am also a manager and have staff who report to me. A boss or other authority-figure who spouts unsolicited political, religious, or sexual opinions that have little to do with their job are abusing that authority. This is trickier when some of those staff knew me as a mouthy coworker from pre-management days and know exactly where I stand. It’s also trickier because I do have some responsibility to look after the mental health and morale of these folks (which is a bigger part of the job than I ever imagined). Sometimes that means tamping down their enthusiasm/depression when their team/issue/sports team doesn’t perform as expected (even if I agree with their feelings). Like with the political people,  I need to be seen as a trustworthy voice on certain issues and there’s just not a lot of room there to take sides and still be effective in that role.
  3. I just won’t. There is an overwhelming surplus of guys, especially nerdy white guys like me, who feel compelled to spew forth their opinions in public. The world has too many of them and my small contribution will be to not be another one.

Don’t get me wrong: I am a highly political person. My undergraduate degree is in political science, my master’s is in public policy, and I work for political appointees in Washington, DC. I am chock full of opinions, both odd and conventional, highly-informed and knee-jerk. For that reason, here comes the however’s:

However, I do have to stay engaged with politics and policy for my fed job. (It’s why I read the Washington Post, which I really dislike doing.) About 75% of my office’s success is anticipating the needs of elected officials and their staffers. To do that requires staying on top of various policy discussions, knowing the players, and predicting where things will go next. And that requires a certain amount of political analysis and prediction. But not advocacy.

However, I will offer information on various political science and political history to people when I deem it necessary. Especially because those who don’t know history are doomed to think everything happening now is unprecedented. Nine times out of ten it’s not unprecedented. And it is shocking to me how many people who work in or opine on politics or public policy have the scantest knowledge of civics, history, or philosophy.

However, I will call people on their blindspots when they are about to step in a squishy pile that could splatter on me. Especially when their ill-informed opinions are causing them substantial and misplaced distress or shiny-eyed glee. This is ingrained in my personality and there is a certain joy I get in doing so.

However, I will opinionate on other public policy issues unrelated to my job when the need or urge arises. (I just published a book on the obesity epidemic that doesn’t exactly paint the food industry in an entirely positive light, for instance.)

However, as a writer, I will hold forth with opinions on non-political subjects, when they are warranted. I have already expressed a bevy of them. These subjects are going to be relatively apolitical in nature, as much as anything can be apolitical in such an age. But I will try to remember my third point, that in general, adding another unsolicited guy’s opinion isn’t necessary these days.

However, I may accidentally violate my own rules. Writing this post is as much a reminder to myself as it is a public service announcement to those wondering why I haven’t chimed in.

Sugar, the root of all obesity evil?

For those of you who have heard of my latest book, The Obesity Conspiracy, or are just mildly interested in your own health, check out this article on Vox where Julia Belluz interviews nutrition journalist Gary Taubes, author of the recently published The Case Against Sugar, about, well, take a guess.

His basic proposition is that research on the causes of the obesity and diabetes epidemics should first try to rule out sugar as the primary or biggest cause, and until it does, sugar should be considered as unhealthy or worse than tobacco or alcohol. Which is a problem since Western eaters are wolfing down sugar at most meals in grotesque amounts that they probably don’t realize.

Let’s not forget the horrendous explosion of American obesity in the last half century. Note that the proportion of overweight men and women hasn’t decreased as the ranks of the obese have skyrocketed. That means those who would have been overweight in earlier years became obese, and those who were normal weight became overweight.

Taubes is not just a controversial nutrition journalist, he’s tried to organize and fund sound nutrition science. Nutrition research is a whole other difficult issue, complicated by self-interest, poor methodology, sneaky corporate financing, excessive shoulder-shrugging, and research findings that often fall prey to hyperactive-press coverage-disorder.

I think Elaine Cassano and Gary would probably be colleagues if Elaine wasn’t just a character in my book. I have to give Taubes credit that he allows for his theory to be wrong, which seems to be a rare things these days in heated debates.

For what it’s worth, I have been conducting my own crusade against consuming sugar. I have fought it back into a corner where it sneaks in via baked beans, breads, and the very occasional soda (that night at Time Market in Tucson, for example).

This is partly to make up for some truly ridiculous overconsumption as a kid. I could make a bowl of Rice Krispies look like Mount Everest with the help of two or so tablespoons of sugar, every morning. Not to mention the Hostess cupcakes, root beer, chocolate, and high-test (double the powder) Country Time lemonade. Sugar is bad, m’kay?

 

The Obesity Conspiracy revealed on Barnes & Noble

The e-book and paperback are now available on the Barnes & Noble site for all you Nook owners and paperback readers.

 

Earth Temperature Timeline = Genius

Randall Munroe is a national treasure for many reasons, but his latest XKCD comic is a brilliant example of why (as well as an example of stupendously awesome graphing). Bad Astronomy blog at Slate explains in more detail, but to keep it short, I’ll say that this is an infographic of Tuftian perfection. Read it in detail for the full effect.

earth_temperature_timeline

If you want to see the new book’s cover…

For newsletter subscribers, reading it in the comfort of your inbox, you’re probably wondering where is the cover of The Obesity Conspiracy. Open the email in your browser to see it. Sorry, I didn’t know that when I sent the newsletter. I made sure the picture showed up in the preview but I realize now that was in a browser.

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Oh. What’s that? I’m sorry, you’re not a newsletter subscriber, but you want to see the book cover? You probably expected me to splash it all over this site. Well, I will at some point, but not yet. Subscribers get a first peek. And there may be further tweaks to the cover. Subscribing won’t cost you anything but it will gain you everything.* Here’s what you’ll get as a subscriber:

  1. That damn book cover picture. For a book called The Obesity Conspiracy. Aren’t you curious what the heck that cover will look like?
  2. A monthly newsletter about my writing, my reading, as well as what I have been reading and thinking about.
  3. Discounts and freebies on my writing. Subscribers get the lowest prices, including free stuff.
  4. The absolute earliest news about my publishing, appearances, and general portfolio of writerly activities. Launches, marketing ploys, appearances, etc.

*Everything, for values of everything related to my writing.