Posted by reno
Oct 29, 2013

snooze button on the alarm clock

The human race managed to survive without the alarm clock snooze button until 1956, until we finally realized we were doing it all wrong. So why is the snooze mode 9 minutes, and not 10? It was not an arbitrary number, nor was it based upon circadian biology or even corporate marketing-- the reason had more to do with mechanical engineering.

Our civilization has progressed since 1956, and sleep scientists now know that the snooze button is bad for you. The healthy, continuous sleep cycles we need are thoroughly disrupted by the snooze.

During the hour or two before you wake, you primarily have REM sleep. You dream a lot during this period, and consolidate recent memories. Weirdly, this means that your body does most of the processing of the preceding day's events just before you wake naturally. The earlier you interrupt that process—by, say, setting an alarm earlier than you need so you can snooze away for a half hour—the less time you give yourself to process those experiences. Research shows that cutting into REM sleep like that can blunt your mental function during the day.

When we hear the first sound of the alarm, our bodies release adrenaline and cortisol, hormones that wake us, interrupting our natural sleep cycle to make us alert. Surrendering to the temptation of the snooze erases that hormonal surge: our bodies try to reenter the deeper periods of sleep. Only those restorative levels of sleep take a lot longer than nine minutes to enter, so every snooze confuses our bodies even more. We think three or four snoozes are the equivalent of an extra 30 or 40 minutes of rest, but the patchy, interrupted sleep of snooze is worse than no sleep at all. Instead of the natural sleeping then waking, the snooze drags us into unhealthy, unsatisfying fits of trying to sleep and trying to rise, but failing to do either.

The snooze button makes us feel good. But like any good drug, it's all an illusion.

The solution? Go to bed earlier and rid your life of artificial alarm clocks altogether. (Ha! Just kidding!) Otherwise, use an iPhone or Android device which allows you to customize the snooze interval, and set it for a full 20 minutes, not 9.


FleaStiff Oct 29, 2013

We did not evolve to go from "night to day" ... resetting of the biological clock(s) requires us to experience "the dawn" which is something we very much miss going from night to morning.

Alarm clock... sure.. but have it "ring" only after it gradually brightens a lamp in the room that simulates a "dawn". That way you wake up rested with all your circadian rhythms re-entrained properly.

Malaru Oct 31, 2013

O ;ole how the alarm app I put on my ipad has a gentle-wake function which slowly increases the volume of the alarm over a period of a minute or two- and its more musical then mean buzz buzz buzz- .. i find I wake up better like this.

Posted by reno
Sep 18, 2013

beer belly

And then there's the time a 61 year old Texas man went to an emergency room complaining that he was drunk. Sure enough, he scored a 0.37 on the hospital's breathalizer, which is almost 5 times the legal limit for driving in Texas. No one believed him, but the man swore up and down he hadn't had a drop of booze all day.

Doctors determined that he had an intestinal infection of Saccharomyces cerevisiae bacteria. Turns out the Texas man was brewing alcohol (and lots of it) in his own gut.


FleaStiff Sep 18, 2013

Gut bacteria also influence major hormonal levels for neurotransmitters.

Microbes affect mood and also behavior. Think of the parasite that infects an insect causing it to prefer open sunshine rather than leafy shade. Ofcourse the insect gets eaten by birds and the parasite goes on to utilize the bird's organs to reproduce itself.

Is it so strange to think the microbes do not affect "higher" organisms?

reno Sep 18, 2013

Fleastiff- Yes, Toxoplasma gondii bacteria will make mice lose their fear of cats. And as a cat owner, I'm embarrassed to admit that this same bacteria might also be responsible for the prevalence of mental illness among us cat owners. Meow.

tringlomane Sep 19, 2013

Wow, that's crazy. I wonder how much longer he could have lasted if he didn't go to the ER.

FleaStiff Sep 19, 2013

>might also be responsible for the prevalence of mental illness among us cat owners. Meow.

Among us cat owners? How did you know I was a cat owner?

ChesterDog Sep 21, 2013

I remember watching a court show in the 1960's that used this idea as a plot device. The defense attorney had the defendant, who was accused of some crime like drunk driving, take the stand in his own defense and had him eat crackers. After about 15 minutes the jury saw that he had become quite drunk, so they found him not guilty.

Posted by reno
Aug 26, 2013


One study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology by researcher Bruce A. Goldberger of the University of Florida College of Medicine shed light on the variability of caffeine content. His research found that 16 ounces of caffeinated coffee from Starbucks had 100 milligrams more of caffeine than the same serving size from Dunkin' Donuts. The study also found that Starbucks' caffeinated breakfast blend, purchased at a Florida store, varied greatly in its caffeine content from day to day. One day, a 16-ounce cup had 259 milligrams of caffeine. Another day, the same size coffee contained 564 milligrams. Despite its eye-opening reputation, espresso actually contains less caffeine than brewed coffee, due to its deep roast and quick brewing. You can actually drink three shots of Starbucks espresso and get about the same 195-milligram dose as a 12-ounce coffee.


odiousgambit Aug 27, 2013

> Despite its eye-opening reputation, espresso actually contains less caffeine than brewed coffee

ya learn something every day!

friendly note: posting a link for your source is always considerate

reno Aug 27, 2013

odiousgambit-- Here's the link.

FleaStiff Oct 30, 2013

Its not just the amount of caffeine in a serving... but how quickly you consume that serving.

This would affect how xanthine oxidase enzymes might be exhausted. Its part of the reason a girl's drink is served much stronger than a guy's drink is. Its not the amount of the alcohol but also the time over which it is consumed.

reno Dec 11, 2013

I always assumed regular Coke had the same amount of caffeine as Diet Coke. How naive of me.

Posted by reno
Aug 02, 2013

your West Coast gambling options in 1885

Here's a map of vice (i.e. prostitution, gambling, opium) in San Francisco's Chinatown circa 1885. Several questions come to mind: was Chinatown more lawless than any other low income San Francisco slum of the same era? Was San Francisco more lawless than any other Western city of the same era? (They say that Bodie was the worst.) And as for the gambling itself, I'm wondering if the most popular game was faro, if the clientele was entirely Chinese, if the odds/rules were identical at every casino, and how common cheating was.


FleaStiff Aug 27, 2013

Lawlessness varies. Since Chinese were not legal as witnesses against a Whiteman, one could at least know he was on his own.

The famed Barbary Coast area got its name from the open lawlessness of the Barbary States in the Mediterranean: clip joints upon clip joints with no honest taverns at all.

I think in some ways opium dens functioned as the mix of games in a modern casino. Even if you did not partake, you expected to see it there.

Posted by reno
Jun 25, 2013

from 1933: a young man ought to know how to gamble

From a 1933 magazine article about what every young man should know:

"I shall certainly be in a minority in suggesting that our sons should know the rudiments of gambling. Gambling might be placed on the same plane as drink — the less use one has for it the better. And the sooner America gives up gambling, not only at card tables, roulette wheels, and slot machines, but in stocks and bonds of equally mysterious and unpredictable corporations, the better also. But gambling in one form or another seems to be a national habit of mind. Almost every American gambles at some time in his life. And there are things valuable in other departments of life which gambling can teach: to be a good sport, to be a good winner as well as a good loser, especially when games are played for money; not to brood over the irrevocable, not to give way to retroactive daydreams and say, “if only I had put a big stack on double zero, if only I had sold out in August, 1929.” October of that year was the rout of the amateur gambler, and the crash revealed this country to be singularly full of poor losers. Important as it is to be a good loser in public, it is even more important to learn not to try to turn the hands of the clock backward in the privacy of one’s own soul."

Here's the link to the full article. To put it in perspective, legal casino gambling in America had only existed for 2 years when this article was written, and in only one state: Nevada.


FleaStiff Jun 26, 2013

1932 was the worst year of the depression, so an article from 1933 on gambling would indeed mention wall street. Gambling was though very American in nature. Bootblacks and bartenders would often steer a traveling man in the right direction. And anyone looking for a craps game could always ask a bartender or bellhop 'Have you see Skinny Dugan?'

odiousgambit Jun 26, 2013

Interesting that he doesnt go on to say what the rudiments of gambling are, unless you want to count "to be a good sport, to be a good winner" etc.

Buzzard Jun 26, 2013

Has Wall Street ever been more of a casino than today ? ? ?

reno Jun 26, 2013

Buzzard: I agree that a computerized trade on Wall Street where a stock is only owned for second or two is obviously gambling not investing. But the Bucket Shops of the 1890s offered gamblers an experience very similar to a sportsbook on the Las Vegas Strip. These days Bucket Shops are illegal, but their modern day equivalent (derivatives) are arguably far more dangerous to the entire economy because the derivatives market is so enormous.

silicone Jul 03, 2013

awesome article to chew for the day

FleaStiff Sep 19, 2013

Bucket shops... Buy and Sell orders were written out by the salesman and sent to the "back office" for actual execution on the stock exchange but in reality were thrown into the trash with the customers receiving various confirmations of order execution and commissions due. In reality no orders were ever executed and the bucket shop simply bet that its customers would be wrong or wrong by enough to offset the commissions.

Since quotes often varied, a bucket shop could even misquote a stock to stir up activity in it.