Sunday, September 1, 2013

Which Travel Guide for Tyrol? To Germans does not matter

My endevor to build an tourism indicator with online booksales led to a first interesting result.
In the category of worldwide travelguides, you see that the rank number (more is worse) increases comparably fast.
Whereas within the Tyrol category there are alot of books doing comparably well. The rank number increases slow.

World travel guides 
Italy travel guides
South Tyrol travel guides
Tyrol travel guides

Monday, January 9, 2012

See you at G+

As long as I have not a longer article to publish you find daily rants and ramblings on certainty, uncertainty and ignorance under

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Easy way to stop smoking, this time it works!

It was Supposed to be Easy
Like millions I read the famous book by Allen Carr "Easy way to stop smoking". Like millions, I tought: he has a point. Many quited, but I went on. Now I'v found a secret weapon of mass responsibility, where I can change my behavior for good. The weapon is called Commitment Contract.

UPDATE: it's now over a month since I am without smoking. It was tough, but you just stick with it.

Why Quit?
The consequences of my behavior are well studied:
Men born in 1900-1930 who smoked only cigarettes and continued smoking died on average about 10 years younger than lifelong non-smokers. Cessation at age 60, 50, 40, or 30 years gained, respectively, about 3, 6, 9, or 10 years of life expectancy. 
 [ study prolonged over a century]

This is the current best knowledge:
  1. Quit before 40 and chances are that your smoking has no consequences. 
  2. Quit before 50 and you shorten your life for -5 years.
  3. Quit before 60 and you shorten your life for -7 years.
  4. Don't quit and you shorten your life for -10 years.
Why Smoking?
Addiction is all about dopamine, a hormone that makes you feel happy. A cigarette gives you a small dose of Nicotine which in turn kickstarts the increase of adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. You are more aware, more reactive and more happy after smoking. Just a little, not much.
To learn what is good for one-self is crucial for the sophisticated survival machines we are. Therefore a mamals brain learns to seek dopamine rewards. With every cigarette you learn that smoking is good, and the absence of nicotine worries you. The phenomena of withdrawal.
Although the damages it does are way superior to the possible benefits, not everything is bad with smoking: current medicine knowledge is that nicotine helps against alzheimer's and parkinson's. But I also love the nicotine rich tomatoes and potatoes and I started to complete my nutrition with Omega 3 DHA and EPA (makes you smart and protects against the major civilatory deseases like Alzheimer and cardio-vascular deseases).

How to Quit?
Good news: smoking does not provide increasing dopamine returns.
For a binge drinker, every drink augments the desire of another drink.
Even for a chain smoker this is not the case. The craving for a cigarette might not disappear but it certainly does not increase.
Decreasing Returns
The first cigarette is the most wanted.
The addiction develops more as a decrease in the inteval between two smokes.

This is important. We now know the maximum craving is the longing for the first cigarette. We can measure it! What is the unit of measurement? An economist would say: money. I'd say: money is not enough, but a good start. How much would you give me for a cigarette if you really need one?

  1. Would you give me 100 Euros? 
  2. Would you give me 50 Euros? 
  3. Would you give me 10 Euros? 
  4. ...

There is an amount which you would pay when craving hard. I decided mine is somewhere around 5 to 10 Euros. This is a measure of your addiction.

Hedging against Smoking
If you want to stop smoking you have to make sure that for each cigarette you smoke, you will lose more value than your addiction treshold. For example you can  formulate a contract: "I pay 10 Euros for every cigarette I smoke." I did this, but I did more:

  1. I determined a period for the contract: until 2012-01-01 (Short! Somehow I was not ready for more)
  2. I convinced a friend to be my referee, I gave him 100 Euros to take under ward. 
  3. I declared in my contract that I have to give 10 Euros to a detestable political organisation for every cigarette I smoke. This is anti-charity. This is admitting we are not homo economicus - it is is for the social animal in us. Donating the money to an anti-charity pushes the commitment from being only a higher price (I pay for it, so I have the right to smoke it) to something that would weaken your identity if you fail.
My incentives to resist the Nicotine-crave are now bigger than the temptations.
During the first week I felt the urge to smoke strongly. Sometimes I couldn't sleep well, I was nervous. But it really never came to my mind to smoke a cigarette. Its clear that I do not want to donate to the detestable political organisation. The idea of doing that kept me away from the cigarettes. I've externalized my right to smoke by installing a penalty. If it works for the traffic police it's certainly good for keeping me away from bad habits.

The ideas presented here come from Ian Ayres' Carrots and Stick. The idea is genius but the book is a little bit boring, I'd recommend his other book "Supercrunchers".

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Which day I lose weight

I could swear it is weekend's.
But making a 'seasonal' plot, thus aggregating all data for each weekday, showed I do not so good on weekends. Especially Sundays. I am supposed to do sport on sundays. But, hey we had really bad weather the whole July. And some social obligations too...

Is it my day?
Boxes and Wiskers Plot of weekdays: the horizontal line in the middle is the  median. Upper box border is the 75% quartile, lower border the 25% quartile,so that 50% of values are between 25-75%. Lines outside are the the next 2-98 percentiles. Dots are outliers. Forget the legend, 0.8 is only the opacity of the boxes.

So in hindsight my worst day is Sunday and my best is Wednesday. How does it relate to kcal left to base rate? How would a weekday regression look like?
A weak start
The regression tells that sunday and monday are fatty
The bigger the dots, the more calories left to base rate. 

I even cheated one sunday because of overnight stay in the mountains, including booze, I didn't record.
Disclaimer: You don't know what a mountain is, if you where not there. And I know the evidence is 'thin', five data-points per weekday is not what you should base a scientific law upon

Sunday, July 24, 2011

More Quantitative Diet Analysis

Two Questions:
  1. What is the correlation between calorie consumption and weight loss?
  2. Is it happening the same day?
This Saturday, I skipped hiking up to the mountains to answer these naging questions my last diet analysis left over. To answer them, let me first present the data, carefully recorded over 35 days of dieting.

Weight-loss per day
Measured each morning before breakfast and after taking a crap, pardon my french.
How much did I lose on a regular day? 
Most of the time lost between  -0.07 and 0.5kg

The Percentiles are: 
Min.     1st Q. Median  Mean  3rd Q.  Max. 
-0.66kg  -0.07  0.16    0.2   0.5     1.5kg 

The 1.5 kg outlier draws the attention. Is it a measurement error?

Net caloric intake per day
This is the amount of calories I have eaten, minus the calories that I have burned doing sport.
When I say calories I mean the american metric which corresponds to the european kilo-calories (kcal).

Caloric Balance Sheet
How much calories did I take-in and consume in a day?
Most often 500 kcal to 960 kcal


The Percentiles are: 
Min.      1st Q  Median  Mean  3rd Q  Max. 
-1009kcal 490    660     630   960    1480 kcal 

My friend, the outlier, is here again. Seems reasonable: A day of heavy exercise and little eating... but 1.5 kg? That's a lot.

Caloric intake left to cover the daily base burn rate
Now its getting nasty. Our body consumes calories even if we lay in bed all day. This is the base rate. Whitout getting into details, it depends roughly on your body weight. When you take-in lesser calories than the base-rate (plus exercising) you lose fat. My formula for this spread goes like this:
kcal_left = base-rate - net_kcal

And the distribution of the not consumed calories is:
Distribution of calories-left
I normally underperform the base-rate by 250kcal - 730kcal.


   Min.   1st Q Median  Mean 3rd Q  Max. 
 -240kcal 250   520     570  730    2230kcal 

Median underperformance is 520kcal, roughly a spurned Pizza Magherita. Two times I've consumed slighty more than the base-rate. And the outlier from my sport weekend is here too!

Correlation between calories left and weight-loss
Back to question 1: What is the correlation between calorie consumption and weight loss?
Now I know that I have to maximize calories-left (to the sedentary base-rate) in order to lose weight.
What are the results of my effort?

Figuring a trend
The Linear regression line in blue 
shows there is a positive correlation
between calories-left and  weight loss.
The border of the darker region
is the mean deviation oft the data 
from the regression line,
a.k.a. the standard error.

If you are a genius you certainly have noticed that the outlier is away. It would have greatly influenced the regression and I felt that I want to answer what happened in normal days. Also the correlation is not high (R^2 = 0.3541857), there are other effects that influence the variables a lot and it's clear that grand part of them are measurement errors.

Coefficients of the regression line are:
(Intercept)   kCal_Left  
 0.1174047    0.0001555  

Basically this is the linear function:  
weightLoss = 0.1174047 +  0.0001555 * kCal_Left

For the median calorie underperformance of 520 kcal this means:
520 kcal/day * 0.0001555 kg/kcal + 0.1174 kg/day ~=  0.2 kg/day

Not bad at all, and its supported by the fact that really I lost 7kg in 34days. 7/34 = 0.20!

Do I lose weight the same day that I 'starve'?
Question 2 is remaining: Is it happening the same day?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Yes, but there might be a lag and prolonged effect for sport activities. The evidence in a picture:
Direct impact of 'fasting'
Size of points representing calories left to base-rate
The higher the line, the greater the weight-loss.
A calorie point sits on the weight-loss recorded the morning after.
That is: the loss-spike is caused by the calorie point it carries.

Often a bigger point sits on a higher spike, which leads to the satisfactory conclusion that indeed you lose the kilos the same day as you restrict your calorie intake. The big outlier we saw already before has a different behavior. Here, the big balls hang relatively low. Does sport have a weight loss lag? The mythical regeneration phase?

The days my sport activity burned more than 1000kcal: 
Day 12: 1587 kcal
Day 13: 1946 kcal
Day 29: 1099 kcal
This big outlier on day 12 and 13 could cause a after-burner effect, but the evidence is thin. 
More data needed!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Exponentially Smoothed Diet

Body weight prediction based on irregular measurements over five weeks.
Green is the predicted path in the next ten days.
Exponential smoothing is a technique that can be applied to time series data, either to produce smoothed data for presentation, or to make forecasts. The time series data themselves are a sequence of observations. The observed phenomenon may be an essentially random process, or it may be an orderly, but noisy, process. Whereas in the simple moving average the past observations are weighted equally, exponential smoothing assigns exponentially decreasing weights over time.

I applied Exponential smoothing to the time series I obtained from my recordings. Of course I have the highest motivation to beware this noble technique from being wrong.
Find all the R code and data below.