Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why Do We Eat? A Neurobiological Perspective. Part III

In the first post, I explained that all voluntary actions are driven by a central action selection system in the mesolimbic area (the reward system).  This is the part of you that makes the decision to act, or not to act.  This system determines your overall motivation to obtain food, based on a variety of internal and external factors, for example hunger, the effort required to obtain food, and the sensory qualities of food/drink.  These factors are recognized and processed by a number of specialized 'modules' in the brain, and forwarded to the reward system where the decision to eat, or not to eat, is made.  Researchers divide food intake into two categories: 1) eating from a true energy need by the body (homeostatic eating), e.g. hunger, and 2) eating for other reasons (non-homeostatic eating), e.g. eating for social reasons or because the food tastes really good.

In the second post of the series, we explored how the brain regulates food intake on a meal-to meal basis based on feedback from the digestive system, and how food properties can influence this process.  The integrated gut-brain system that accomplishes this can be called the satiety system.

In this post, we'll explore the energy homeostasis system, which regulates energy balance (energy in vs. energy out) and body fatness on a long term basis.

The Energy Homeostasis System

Read more »

So you know how I feel about cleaning...

...But it actually just got a little better.  

And if you don't know how I feel about cleaning:  Although I love a clean house, I STRONGLY dislike the act of cleaning itself.  A lot.  I mean, like buying the better-looking cleaning supplies they now offer and I'm okay with a little here & there, but when it comes to vacuuming and mopping & all of that... ugghhhh.  There's something about doing the same thing over and over that feels futile to me.  No thinking required in cleaning really, just doing.  The same thing you did yesterday.  (Or let's be honest... with me, a couple of weeks ago ;) ;)

A few months ago, I was contacted by someone from Black & Decker about doing a post on a product of theirs with an emphasis on showing how I "embrace the luxury in cleaning" with their product.  (With the way I feel about cleaning, I thought this was laughable...  Cleaning has never been luxurious for me and usually involves sweatpants and a ponytail.) I often say no to product pitches, but when I saw what is was, I said, "send it to me!!!"...   I was definitely seeing how this product could make cleaning more luxurious for me...

It's a dust buster.  But seriously the best dust buster ever.  It's from their Platinum Lithium Series.  

What I liked about it when I saw the photo was that it's small and light...

There were no cords to worry about...

 (Do you see where I'm going yet??)

It arrived and we charged her up.

It can be used effortlessly.  

"Hey boys! Look at this machine we got in the mail!!"

"What is it mommy?!!"

"It's your very OWN vacuum!!"

{Merry Christmas Christian!!!}

"And it's for you too Justin!!"

"But you have to promise me you boys are going to share it."

I have really embraced the luxury in cleaning with the Platinum Vacuum because I can literally be sitting as my house gets cleaned!!

The boys use it to clean up their messes almost every day (why does it seem like we could feed a small army with what falls on the floor under their chairs??) and we keep it right in the kitchen.  It's so light & powerful that they literally just have to walk around with it in the right general area and it sucks up all the crumbs.

But in all honesty, I use it a lot too.  I love it because I can just grab it from the kitchen drawer to clean a quick mess...  which usually leads to an entire floor vacuuming (It's addictive!!) but what I like about it is that when I take it out to vacuum something, I'm not committed the way I am when I take out the big vacuum.   This way, I can stop whenever I feel like it.  And I don't have to deal with the plug.  I've used other dust busters over the years and haven't really been impressed before.  But I've had it for a couple of months, it's still going strong, and I love this thing.  (And especially how it involves my kids in helping with free labor chores.;)

If you want to check it out, here's the link to it: BLACK AND DECKER PLATINUM LINK
Feel free to embrace the luxury of cleaning too ;) ;)

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Board Track Heroes...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Does Modigliani-Miller apply to countries?

If it does, the capital structure of the US is just fine.  Current GDP is 15.8 trillion.  Let's apply a  real discount rate of 4 percent (which is probably high, given that the yield on 10-years TIP is negative), and assume a real long-term growth of 2 percent (which is likely low).  This means the country is worth about $316 trillion (this figure includes human capital as well as asset values).

Total debt outstanding in the US, public and private, is $55 trillion.  So we are about 17 percent debt funded, which means we are about 83 percent equity funded.  This should be OK.  What I am missing here?

(note: it was Matthew Yglesias' Slate piece today that got me thinking along these lines).


Steve Oliner shows that it takes too damn long to build things in California

The set-up:

Recent research, which I conducted with Jonathan Millar of the Federal Reserve Board and Daniel Sichel of Wellesley College..... presents the first comprehensive estimates of planning times for commercial construction projects across the United States. We analyze roughly 82,000 projects nationwide for which planning was initiated  between 1999 and 2010, using data obtained from CBRE Econometric Advisors/Dodge Pipeline. The projects in the dataset include office buildings, retail stores, warehouses, and hotels. About 95 percent of these projects involve the construction of a new building; the remainder are additions or alterations to an existing building or conversions to a new use.
They find that average planning time in the US for a commercial building is 17 months.   But the longest planning times are in California and the Northeast.  Planning times in some California MSAs are about a year longer than the national average.  This makes California's economy less nimble than others.

This is not about whether or not there should be strong rules to protect the environment--California needs such rules.  This is about making rules straightforward and predictable, and allowing economic agents to behave quickly within the rules.  My hypothesis is that it is California's clumsy implementation of planning, more than anything else, that puts it at a needless disadvantage relative to Texas.

Why Do We Eat? A Neurobiological Perspective. Part II

In the last post, I explained that eating behavior is determined by a variety of factors, including hunger and a number of others that I'll gradually explore as we make our way through the series.  These factors are recognized by specialized brain 'modules' and forwarded to a central action selection system in the mesolimbic area (the reward system), which determines if they are collectively sufficient cause for action.  If so, they're forwarded to brain systems that directly drive the physical movements involved in seeking and consuming food (motor systems).

The term 'homeostasis' is important in biology.  Homeostasis is a process that attempts to keep a particular factor within a certain stable range.  The thermostat in your house is an example of a homeostatic system.  It reacts to upward or downward changes in a manner that keeps temperature in a comfortable range.  The human body also contains a thermostat that keeps internal temperature close to 98.6 F.  Many things are homeostatically regulated by the body, and one of them is energy status (how much energy the body has available for use).  Homeostasis of large-scale processes in the body is typically regulated by the brain.

We can divide the factors that determine feeding behavior into two categories, homeostatic and non-homeostatic.  Homeostatic eating is when food intake is driven by a true energy need, as perceived by the brain.  For the most part, this is eating in response to hunger.  Non-homeostatic eating is when food intake is driven by factors other than energy need, such as palatability, habitual meal time, and food cues (e.g. you just walked by a vending machine full of Flamin' Hot Cheetos).

We can divide energy homeostasis into two sub-categories: 1) the system that regulates short-term, meal-to-meal calorie intake, and 2) the system that regulates fat mass, the long-term energy reserve of the human body.  In this post, I'll give an overview of the process that regulates energy homeostasis on a short-term, meal-to-meal basis.

The Satiety System (Short-Term Energy Homeostasis)

The stomach of an adult human has a capacity of 2-4 liters.  In practice, people rarely eat that volume of food.  In fact, most of us feel completely stuffed long before we've reached full stomach capacity.  Why?

Read more »

It's the G.

After I saw the weak 4th quarter GDP number reported this morning, I went to the National Income and Products Accounts website, where I found that in the 4th quarter, government expenditures and investment has declined by 6.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate and that defense spending had dropped 22.2 percent, again, on a SAAR.

Can this possibly be correct?  I am wondering if there is some anomaly in the data.

Visiting Sadie + Stella

I'm over at my blog friend's Lindsay's today to be a part of her "Favorite Room" Series...  Lindsay writes Sadie + Stella and she's fun and sassy (yes I said sassy...  do people still use that word?? ;) and talented...

I shared more details on a favorite project of mine- the DC Row House that was recently featured in Small Rooms Decorating Magazine:

I'm thrilled & honored to be sharing over at Sadie + Stella today- thanks Lindsay!!  Click here to visit!

On another note, I've got some really exciting things in the works with the fabric line & I will share with you as SOON as I can!!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why Do We Eat? A Neurobiological Perspective. Part I

As with all voluntary movements, eating food is an expression of activity in the brain.  The brain integrates various inputs from around the body, and outside the body, and decides whether or not to execute the goal-directed behaviors of food seeking and consumption.  Research has uncovered a lot about how this process works, and in this series I'll give a simplified overview of what scientists have learned about how, and why, the brain decides to eat.

The Gatekeeper of Voluntary Behaviors

Read more »

Comment Policy

Over the last year, I've noticed that the quality of the comments section here has deteriorated significantly, with a high proportion of poorly grounded and/or disrespectful comments, typically from anonymous or semi-anonymous people.  This is the nature of the Internet I suppose-- comments sections are rowdy places.  But ultimately I do have control over this, and I intend to exert it to maintain a higher level of information quality and decorum in my corner of the Internet.

For the foreseeable future, I'll be moderating comments.  Here are my criteria for deciding whether or not a comment will be published:
  1. Value.  Comments should be well thought out, and points supported by research or at least solid logic.  Personal anecdotes are welcome as long as they aren't over-interpreted.  Thoughtful questions are also welcome, although I can't guarantee I'll answer them.  As always, anyone is free to disagree with me in a constructive manner, or simply offer a word of support.  
  2. Respect.  Comments should be respectful to me and other commenters, and composed in a concise manner.  It isn't difficult to disagree in a respectful way.
  3. On topic.  Comments should be at least somewhat relevant to the subject of the post.
  4. Full name.  Attaching your full name to a comment means taking responsibility for what you write.  I'll continue to publish anonymous comments if they add value, but I'll be more likely to publish if you include your full name in your screen name, your profile, or at the bottom of your comment.
  5. No ads.  I will not publish links to commercial sites that do not add value to the discussion, nor will I publish any other link I find objectionable.
Because I'll be moderating, I've decided to remove the captcha word authentication, which many people found difficult to use.  We'll see how that goes.  Since I have a lot on my plate, and Whole Health Source is a one-man show, I may not always moderate comments in a timely manner.  I apologize in advance for the inconvenience.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Announcing the Ideal Weight Program

I often receive requests from people asking for my overall perspective on fat loss and health.  I share my opinions here, but they're scattered throughout hundreds of posts, there's a lot I haven't had a chance to write about, and I rarely give practical recommendations.  However, I knew I'd eventually put everything together into a cohesive fat loss program-- it was only a matter of finding the right opportunity.

That opportunity presented itself in 2011 when I met Dan Pardi, a researcher whose work focuses on sleep and food intake, and the CEO of a company called Dan's Plan.  I was immediately impressed by Dan because he stood out as someone with a high level of expertise in sleep and physical activity, as well as someone who has successfully lost a substantial amount of fat and kept it off for several years.

Dan and his team had developed a set of unique and engaging tools for tracking weight, sleep, and physical activity to help people maintain daily mindfulness over the simple fundamentals of health.  These tools are 100 percent free and incredibly easy to use, particularly if you sync them with an electronic scale and step counter.  When synced with these devices, the Dan's Plan website automatically uploads and displays your weight, sleep, and physical activity score, as well as integrating them all into a single user-friendly Health Zone Score that lets you know your overall performance at a glance.  Even if you have no interest in fat loss, I highly recommend using the free tracking tools on the Dan's Plan site-- I do.

In early 2012, Dan approached me about creating a fat loss program for Dan's Plan that incorporates their unique tracking tools.  This struck me as an excellent opportunity to create a diet and lifestyle program that combines sound science with exciting new technology.  Dan and I both brought science to the table, and Dan also brought the perspective gained from working with others to help them lose fat, as well as his own successful fat loss experience.  Dan and I have been working hard on this project, and we're finally ready to launch.

I'm happy to announce the Ideal Weight Program, an effective new system for fat loss and maintenance.

What is the Ideal Weight Program?

The Ideal Weight Program is a unique system for fat loss and maintenance that draws from the latest science on diet, physical activity, sleep, and behavior modification, and pairs it with engaging tools that help you define your goals and meet them.  It keeps you consistently focused on the everyday factors that really matter for fat loss, and gives you the skills you need to make sustainable diet and lifestyle changes.  Based on your own goals and priorities, you can choose one of two diet strategies for the initial fat loss phase:
  • The Fat Loss and Sustainable Health (FLASH) diet, an intensive high-protein diet for rapid fat loss.
  • The Simple Food Diet, a more flexible diet based on whole, natural foods specifically selected for fat loss.  One important goal of this diet is to teach healthy cooking skills, using recipes and tips provided.
These diets are designed to naturally promote a lower calorie intake and fat loss, without requiring calorie counting.  The Ideal Weight Program also includes important physical activity and sleep components, and explains why these are so critical for fat loss and health.  Dan and I discussed some of the principles underlying the Ideal Weight Program on Chris Kresser's podcast recently.

Here's what you get when you sign up:
  • Detailed documents that walk you through the program
  • Weight, sleep, and physical activity tracking tools tailored for fat loss
  • Simple recipes and cooking tips that work with almost anything in your fridge
  • Videos that explain the key concepts behind fat loss and maintenance
  • An e-book explaining the scientific rationale behind the program
Signing up for the Ideal Weight Program gives you lifetime access to everything.  We've discounted the initial price, because we want to hear your feedback so that we can continue to improve the program over time.  If you follow the link below, first you'll be prompted to sign up for a basic Dan's Plan account, and once you have your account set up, you'll be able to purchase the Ideal Weight Program:

Ideal Weight Program

Financial disclosure: I will receive a portion of the revenue from the sale of the Ideal Weight Program.  I do not receive revenue from the sale of other products associated with Dan's Plan or the Ideal Weight Program (such as the Fitbit, cooking tools, and other programs).

Sarah Ann Murray - Grand Palais - Paris

hebergeur image

      Sarah Ann Murray - Grand Palais - Paris
      Cette élégante jeune femme est Fashion Editor pour "The Rake", un magazine on-line pour
      hommes, qui se présente comme: "The modern voice of elegance". C'est sans doute pour cela
      qu'elle porte un magnifique Borsalino et une cravate ...

      Photo by Fred - Easy Fashion Paris

Hanaa - at JP Gaultier - Paris

hebergeur imagehebergeur imagehebergeur image

      Hanaa - at JP Gaultier - Paris
      La superbe Hanaa Ben Abdesslem, mannequin d'origine tunisienne à la sortie du défilé de
      JP Gaultier. Une de mes préférées !

      Photos by Fred - Easy Fashion Paris

At Rick Owens - Bercy - Paris

hebergeur imagehebergeur image

      At Rick Owens - Bercy - Paris
      Je n'ai pas toujours le temps de parler avec les invités des défilés et donc de connaitre leur nom.
      Ce que je peux dire, c'est que cette jeune femme est représentative dans sa tenue des personnes
      que l'on peut croiser aux défilés de Rick Owens.

      Photos by Fred - Easy Fashion Paris

Our Kitchen Island Continued... And a note on Honed Marble

Hope you had a great weekend!!  We got the teensiest bit of snow (not enough!!) and hung around home for the most part.  The guys worked on our island and I'm loving how it's coming out:

The reclaimed wood from Lorimer was applied horizontally across the drawer fronts.  It's almost totally flat when you look at it and the guys did an amazing job of keeping the wood flush on the sides of the drawers.

Here, Spiderman is investigating the newly applied tape "pulls" on the drawers:

(This means he can now get into the drawers himself which makes my life easier.   The kids can grab cups and get water from the spout on the outside of the fridge..  They can ask for a snack and I can say go ahead & get it.  Ahhh drawer pulls- who knew?!!)

Anyway, they still have three more sides to go, so we're only part way there, but I am so excited with the results so far!!  To read more abou the process, check out my last post here.
And finally, we have white honed marble on top of the island and I LOVE it.  It's super-easy to take care of  and looks and feels so good.  I really wish it didn't have such a bad rap.  (And I have two boys and a baby, we entertain a lot and we are faaaar from careful.) 
In general I find that people (who've never been exposed to it & are listening to the stone companies)  are so afraid of using it & I feel like they're really missing out on something special.  Yes, some things can stain it (red wine is the only thing I've noticed when it's sat out for hours on there) but the stains turn into pretty gray marks... I don't even notice them with the movement in the marble.  I'm actually dying to dirty this thing up a bit.  I've left so much stuff on it in the hopes of seeing what it would do and not much has happened though it's definitely gotten prettier as it's seen more use of the past couple of months. 
 Like what I love about most natural things, life changes it and makes an impression on it. 
I don't get why unchanging and perfection should equal beauty.  I feel the opposite.  (Except about my face haha!! j/k)

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

An update of my tinker-toy model of housing starts and GDP

We had pretty robust growth in housing starts in December:

A few months ago, I suggested that we could have second quarter GDP growth of 2.9 percent.  I am now revising that to greater than 3 percent growth (the point estimate is 3.2 percent).  We'll see how things turn out....

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Elena Perminova - Bd des Capucines - Paris

hebergeur imagehebergeur imagehebergeur imagehebergeur image

      Elena Perminova - bd des Capucines - at Elie Saab - Paris - Trench Coat by Burberry
      Les Fashion Week parisiennes se succèdent et le "Russian Fashion Pack", dont fait partie Elena 
      Perminova assure le spectacle pour la plus grande joie des photographes. Cette fois, Elena
      a choisit le blond platine pour rehausser le bleu électrique de son Trench. La casquette à 
      jugulaire apporte la touche finale à sa tenue. Pour couronner le tout, Elena Perminova 
      vit avec un ancien espion du KGB devenu milliardaire. So romantic !
      Si vous voulez en savoir plus, lisez cet article du Time Magazine (english only).

       Photos by Fred - Easy Fashion Paris

Friday, January 25, 2013

Andrej Pejic - at JP Gaultier - Paris

hebergeur imagehebergeur image

       Andrej Pejic - at JP Gaultier - Paris
       On dit souvent que Andrej Pejic est "l'Ovni" de la planète Mode. Il défile indifféremment habillé
       en homme ou en femme. C'est sans doute pour cela qu'il suscite autant de curiosité.
       Photos by Farid - Easy Fashion Paris

Zoe - Bercy - Paris

hebergeur image

      Zoe - Bercy - Paris
      J'ai déjà photographié Zoe plusieurs fois comme ici ou ici ou ici et ici
      Elle est chinoise et étudiante en dernière année dans une école de Mode à Paris.
      Bientôt, elle rentrera à Pékin pour mettre en pratique son savoir dans son pays.

      Photo by Fred - Easy Fashion Paris

Food Reward Friday

This week's "winner"... the KFC Double Down sandwich!

Read more »

Our kitchen island

In our kitchen, I went back and forth (over and over!!) on what I wanted in our kitchen, and I finally decided we needed some worn wood in it somewhere to add warmth and carry over the rustic feeling from the rest of our house into the kitchen.  I originally planned to do wood perimeter cabinets but then fell in love with a slab of black soapstone, so I liked the idea of the lighter-painted perimeter cabinets with the dark soapstone top and then a darker wood island with a white marble top.  Here you can see our mid-stage kitchen:

Our island is around 8 feet long & can sit four of us...  (Even though you only see 3 chairs above)

Our builders got the kitchen island fucntional and we've been doing this for a while:

This island is a WORKHORSE!! Oh my gosh, it's a beast.  I love it.  It holds our trash, recycling, junk drawer, pasta/rice/randoms, a little bar drawer, kids' snacks, my vases & mason jars, and then paper goods like paper towels/ plates/cups.  We've had parties where we've loaded it up with food/ drinks.  (And even beer pong I must admit ;)  For Christmas, it seemed like our entire extended family fit around it easily.  It's one of the most practical pieces I've ever had and I've never had anything like this in a kitchen of my own before.  It might be my favorite thing in my house...  And it's not even pretty yet.

{Reality: My dog is "vacuuming" up our crumbs.  Get it giiiirl.}

BUT... our reclaimed oak arrived this week!!!  It was an amazingly generous gift from David Ellison at the Lorimer Workshop who we often team up with for cour clients' projects.  David & his team are true craftspeople and everything that arrives from them is so much more beautiful than any photos could show.  Our clients are always over the moon with their Lorimer pieces and we were no less blown away when our reclaimed wood arrived:

(Don't mind the helicoptor ;)

The color was exactly what I'd asked David for...  It's stained sort of a warm (but still somehow grayish and not too orangey) medium walnut.  I love how it looks with our light white oak floors.
Here's a close-up where you can really see the saw marks: 


We are having the wood planks applied horizontally over the entire existing island & drawers similar to this:

 They're all random length, width & depths though, so it will be a bit rougher-looking.

I wanted something special for hardware on the island and on an ebay search Dave, my husband, found prettiest antique apothecary bin pulls:

antique bin pulls
{My computer is being evil and won't let me flip this photo around}

Thy're labeled with what the bins used to hold...

Here's a close-up:

They had the exact number of bin pulls we needed (7) so I'm convinced it was meant to be ;) ;)

Anyway, I'll keep you posted on our island's progress and can't wait to share 'afters' of it!!
Have the best weekend!! 

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Domino - Maison des Métallos - Paris

hebergeur imagehebergeur image

       Domino - Maison des Métallos - Paris
       J'ai rencontré Domino lors d'un défilé à la Maison des Métallos.
       Il est Editeur du Magazine UMNO.

Anaïs - Maison des Métallos - Paris

hebergeur image

      Anaïs - Maison des Métallos - Paris
      J'ai rencontré la charmante Anaïs, rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud dans le 11° arrondissement. Elle est
      étudiante en modélisme et compte bien travailler dans l'univers de la Mode à l'issue de ses études.
      Coat - Slim - Cap by H&M
      Shoes by Doc Marten's
      Bag by La Bagagerie
      Perfume "Flower" by Kenzo

      Photo by Fred - Easy Fashion Paris

Laptop Boy - les Tuileries - Paris

hebergeur imagehebergeur image

       Laptop Boy - les Tuileries - Fashion Week - Paris
       Il est assez rare de voir les Tuileries sous la neige, comme ce fut le cas pendant cette semaine.
       L'effet le plus remarquable est de donner une tonalité particulière au modèle photographié.

       Photos by Farid - Easy Fashion Paris

Is finance different than medicine?

Readers of this blog know that I generally write about the risks of finance -- risks I think are systematically underestimated by standard economic theories. But finance does of course bring many benefits, mostly when used in its proper role as a means to insure against risks. I just happened on this terrific paper (now nearly a year old, not breaking news) by two legal scholars from the University of Chicago who propose the idea of an FDA for finance -- a body that would be charged with approving new financial products before they would enter the market. It's a sensible proposal, especially given the potential risks associated with financial products, which are certainly comparable to the risks of new pharmaceutical products.

But beyond this specific idea, the paper gives a great discussion of the two fundamentally opposing uses of derivatives and other new financial products -- in acting as insurance, to spread risks in a socially beneficial way, or to act as mechanism for gambling, to increase the risks faced by certain parties in a way that does not bring social benefits. The following two paragraphs give the flavor of the argument (which the full paper explores in great detail):
Financial products are socially beneficial when they help people insure risks, but when these same products are used for gambling they can instead be socially detrimental. The difference between insurance and gambling is that insurance enables people to reduce the risk they face, whereas gambling increases it. A person who purchases financial products in order to insure themselves essentially pays someone else to take a risk on her behalf. The counterparty is better able to absorb the risk, typically because she has a more diversified investment portfolio or owns assets whose value is inversely correlated with the risk taken on. By contrast, when a person gambles, that person exposes herself to increased net risk without offsetting a risk faced by a counterparty: she merely gambles in hopes of gaining at the expense of her counterparty or her counterparty’s regulator. As we discuss below, gambling may have some ancillary benefits in improving the information in market prices. However, it is overwhelmingly a negative-sum activity, which, in the aggregate, harms the people who engage in it, and which can also produce negative third-party effects by increasing systemic risk in the economy.

This basic point has long been recognized, but has had little influence on modern discussions of financial regulation. Before the 2008 financial crisis, the academic and political consensus was that financial markets should be deregulated. This consensus probably rested on pragmatic rather than theoretical considerations: the U.S. economy had grown enormously from 1980 to 2007, and this growth had taken place at the same time as, and seemed to be connected with, the booming financial sector, which was characterized by highly innovative financial practices. With the 2008 financial crisis, this consensus came to an end, and since then there has been a significant retrenchment, epitomized by the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, which authorizes regulatory agencies to impose significant new regulations on the financial industry.
Of course, putting such a thing into practice would be difficult. But it's also difficult to clean up the various messes that occur when financial products lead to unintended consequences. Difficult isn't an argument against doing something worthwhile. The paper I mentioned makes considerable effort to explore how the insurance benefits and the gambling costs associated with a new instrument might be estimated. And maybe a direct analogy to the FDA isn't the right thing at all. Can a panel of experts estimate the costs/benefits accurately? Maybe not. But there might be sensible ways to bring certain new products under scrutiny once they have been put into wide use. And products needn't be banned either -- merely regulated and their use reviewed to avoid the rapid growth of large systemic risks. Of course, steps were taken in the late 1990s (by Elizabeth Warren, most notably) to regulate derivatives markets much more closely. Those steps were quashed by the finance industry through the action of Larry Summers, Alan Greenspan and others. Had there been something like an independent FDA-like body for finance, things might have turned out less disastrously. 

Forbes (predictably) came out strongly against this idea when it was published (over a year ago), with the argument that it goes against the tried and true Common Law notion that "anything not specifically banned is allowed." But that's just the point. We specifically don't allow Bayer or GlaxoSmithKline create and market new drugs without having extensive tests to give some confidence in their safety. Not only that, once approved those drugs can only be sold in packages containing extensive warnings of their risks. Why should finance be different?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Comment Published in Nature

I recently read an opinion piece by Gary Taubes in the scientific journal Nature, titled "Treat Obesity as Physiology, not Physics", in which he promoted NuSI and repeated the statement that obesity research is a "house of cards" because it focuses on calories in/out, at the expense of studying the "hormonal regulatory disorders" underlying obesity (1).  I wrote a letter to the editor in response to Taubes's commentary, which has been published in Nature (2).

I'm used to seeing these kinds of claims in the popular press at this point, but to see it published in a scientific journal is galling (even if it's in the opinion section).  This is the equivalent of a person who has never held an ax telling a group of lumberjacks they need to focus on cutting trees.  It's part of a disturbing trend of popular writers in the low-carb and Paleo world attacking researchers, and even entire fields of research, they have little understanding of.  Of course this only applies to a minority of the community, but this argumentation style smells of desperation and reflects poorly on the community as a whole.

Read more »

I didn't think Phil Mickelson's Tax Rate Could be > 60 percent

From the Tax Foundation:

Mickelson lives outside of San Diego so he is subject to one of the highest tax rates in the country, but it doesn’t appear to be quite that high.  Gerald Prante and Austin John total up all the top tax rates on wage income in the 50 states and they do find California has the highest at 51.9 percent:

"For example, the 51.9% top METR [marginal effective tax rate] for wage income in California for 2013 under the Fiscal Cliff scenario is equal to the 39.6% federal income tax rate plus the new 13.3% top state income tax rate in California minus the deductibility of state taxes against one’s federal taxes (5.27%) plus the marginal tax rate effect of Pease returning (1.18%) plus the current 1.45% Medicare employee tax plus the new 0.9% tax on Medicare plus the current 1.45% Medicare employer tax which we assume is borne by workers in the form of reduced after-tax wages. The sum of these tax rates, which equals 52.6%, is then divided by 1.0145 (1 + Medicare employer tax) because by assuming that the incidence of the Medicare employer tax is borne by workers, we must add back the employer contribution to the worker’s income. The final METR figure is thereby 51.9%."

It’s not clear how Mickelson is getting to 62 percent, since there is no other income tax at the local level in or around San Diego. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dogs Eating Carbs

Five years ago, I had an interesting conversation with a veterinarian friend about dog food.  We were talking about diabetes in one of the dogs she was treating, and I remarked "that's what happens when you feed a carnivore carbohydrate".  She gave me a funny look.  At the time, I was seeing the world through the low-carb lens, and I remember thinking how bizarre it was that she didn't yield to my impeccable logic.  As they say, live and learn.

The journal Nature published a fascinating paper on the evolution of the domestic dog today (1).  Researchers compared the genome of wolves and domestic dogs to see what genetic changes accompanied domestication.

Read more »

The Beautiful Mess

Every decorator has his or her own way of doing things but when I'm working on a project (that doesn't require any architectural work) I usually start with a fabric palette.  I typically have a general idea of the floor plan & of what types of pieces I'll need but it's the fabrics & materials themselves that drive the design for me.

As a fabric freak, I guess this makes sense, and I really like to start creating a mood and a feeling right from the fabrics.  I start out by putting everything that's going in the right direction on my big work table (or the floor) and making a huge mess.  At this point, I try not to think about what's going where, I'm more just working for a feeling.  

Once the mess is finished, I start organizing it & making general decisions of what goes where.

It's one of my favorite parts of the process and I love it because it's one of the moments in this job where I actually get to just go with it & create and let go.  It feels really good to just go with your gut and keep your brain out of it for a change.  

The fabrics in the plan below have been narrowed down & everything's got a place to go.  My client lives in a really unique rustic-modern home and has a beautiful collection of rugs in reds and oranges.  

We're looking to bring a more natural feeling into the home.  We're planning to use (below) my Fern Star on a pair of large pillows on the sofa along with a third pillow in the blue velvet, and then we'll do a window seat in the cream linen with pillows in the orange-red, my Pierced Porcelain in Olive with the Greek Key banding, and one of my favorites- Jasper's Indian Flower in Orange.

Hope you enjoyed a peek into the way we do it over here!! Have a great day STAY WARM!!! (Oh my gosh I'm literally in a furry blanket & hat right now!!  We still have some vent work to be done!! eeek)

I'll be sharing 5 of my favorite things in my home this afternoon on (super-talented!!) Haskell Harris's blog later today!  Check it out here!

My textiles are available at Pure Style  and the Jasper fabric is available through John Rosselli.

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Do higher marginal tax rates lead superstar athletes to play less often?

Let's think, for a moment, about why people want more money:

(1) To buy stuff.

(2) To keep score.

(3) To accumulate power.

Perhaps there are others, but these seem to me to be the big three.

OK, so there seem to be two kinds of athletes in the world (with respect to consumption):

(I) Those with entourages.
(II) Those without entourages.

It takes an entourage for superstar athletes to spend all the money they make--it would otherwise be hard to spend an eight figure money quickly enough (people can even afford private jets at those incomes).

So let's think about those with entourages.  If their taxes go up, they will actually have to work harder to keep their entourages.  That should mean they play more, not less.

For those without entourages, the marginal utility of consumption must be zero--this is the implication of not being able to spend all your money.  So their incentives must arise from reasons (2) and (3).

Scorekeeping is independent of taxes.  If an athlete wants to say he/she has the most winnings, they will have an incentive to play more games.

That leaves power.  Higher marginal taxes reduce the ability of high income people to accumulate power, which may mean they work/play less.  I don't know that this is entirely a bad thing. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Aging Brass

Since I really started getting into design & figuring out my own style, I've really developed a love for brass.  When we moved into our old house (almost 4 years ago) my husband found an old brass bed on the side of the road and dragged it home where it became one of my favorite pieces.

  {our bed}

I love the warmth that brass brings to a home.  (And I'm not talking about the shiny "builder's brass" here... You know, the coated & lacquered shiny brass that feels almost plastic-y??  That still needs to go if possible.  )

{"builder's brass"... I know how common it is so bide your time patiently if you've got it.  I've had lots of it too.}

In our very first town home when we first got married, (7 years ago) our house was full of shiny builder brass door hardware.  Not knowing anything or doing any research, I bought a can of spray paint and "aged" my brass door hardware. hahahah  NOT a good idea.  My hands came away sparkly every time I opened my closet door.

In the next house, I never really got there.  We had projects upon projects and on my "eventually" list I planned to swap out the doors and door hardware but we ended up moving before we got there.

In our new house, I finally got the chance to get what I want as we had to buy new doors anyway because we changed the floor plan so much it didn't make sense to pay our contractors to put the old hollow core doors back in. SO...  I am finally getting a chance at that brass I've wanted.  (!!! yee haw!!)

I decided on black 3 panel Shaker-style doors & we had them painted in black.  (semi-gloss)

We've been collecting antique & vintage wooden warm orangey-brown door knobs for the doors:

And we took a leap on unlacquered brass escutcheons, deciding we'd attempt to age them ourselves.

We started slowly, with salt water to oxidize the brass...

My collection of beakers actually DOES come in handy for science experiments ;) 

Maybe I was supposed to completely submerge them in the salt water??  But apparently the brass- saltwater thing is for patient people.  (I'm not one of those.)  There was a bit of change to the brass but nothing big enough to warrant an "after" photo.

Next up, we tried BAKING the brass in the oven.  (** REALLY IMPORTANT WARNING!!***  We used unlacquered brass to do this so it's okay but don't do this if you have lacquered brass because the lacquer is flammable.  )  After we baked the brass, it became a bit more orangey but it still looked a bit too pristine and shiny for me.

We had heard about trying white vinegar and also that ammonia vapor is maybe the best way to age brass but not having either of those around, we were lazy.  Then, when posting some brass progress pics on Instagram, a couple of my friends mentioned Over Off Oven Cleaner.

It came in a spray can and my husband did it without me watching so I'm not quote sure how he applied it.  (The door plates have become kind of a joke as they've been hanging around for a couple of months and we do random things to them all the time.)  We let them sit overnight and here's how they looked after that:

You can see that they each do different things.

Here's a close-up of one:

{The shine is all but gone!!}

I'm completely new at this but I think my next step is to sort of buff them a little so it looks more natural??  I also might try applying it completely over the piece instead of spraying it (which gave it the speckled appearance.)

We went after our kitchen faucet too and I'm loving how it's looking:

There are some green spots on the pieces too, which I love.

The faucet is almost good to go but I'm going to need to work more on the door plates...  They are a little too spotty for what I'm looking for so maybe if I can get them fully submerged somehow?  I've also heard of gels??

ps- I came across this blog post which looks super-helpful
Yours Truli Blog on Aging Brass

Anyway, I'll keep you posted!!  I can't WAIT to show you how the pieces look when they're in!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.