John Oliver

Site Addition - Cycling Page by Erin Wade

I have been writing and posting on this site since May of 2010. Applied Life is something more or less of a traditional "blog" site, by which I mean that I write about the things that interest me here. The initial focus - and the tag line - for the site was Science and Technology in Everyday Life. Hence the name.

The very first post on the site was my review of the original iPad back in 2010 (TL:DR version - I liked it). And much of those early years reflected that type of topic, with occasional excursions into things like TV shows or books, or music that I like and music that I don’t.

But more recently the site has become much more focused on cycling in various aspects. I’ve been a cyclist off and on for most of my life - when I was a kid it was our primary mode of transportation, and as an adult it’s one of my two favorite forms of exercise (the other is martial arts). Given that, it’s probably not surprising that cycling has been a part of this site since early on. My earliest cycling focused post appeared in December of 2013 and it was about winter cycling. But the topic of cycling was an occasional one until I got my Catrike Pocket.

That machine has caused considerable changes both to what I do and what I write about. I’m cycling more - more time and further distances - than ever before, and it definitely affects the things that are on my mind, which is, ultimately, where the material on this site comes from. In my head I sometimes muse over changing the name of the site to Applied Trike...

I’m probably not going to do that, but the volume of cycling material does mean that it seemed to me like it might be getting more challenging to find some specific things on the site. As such, I put together a separate page with some links to a series of specific articles that might represent topic areas people are looking for.

The page is just called "Cycling", and depending upon how you are coming to the site - e.g. via desktop/laptop or mobile device it will appear in a couple of different ways.

On the desktop you will see a menu of words across the top right hand corner of the site, one of which is "Cycling":


On your mobile device - and my analytics say that’s how most people find their way here - that menu is in the hamburger button (the three little lines that denote a menu) in the upper right:

Hamburger button

Clicking that will get you the list of additional pages:

Applied Life Other Pages

Choosing ”Cycling" will take you to the Cycling Resources page:

Cycling Resources

What you will find there is a list of selected articles under specific topic areas related to cycling, including (to start with):

  • Trail Reviews
  • Life With Recumbent Trikes
  • Winter Cycling

As I noted, this is a list of selected articles, so it’s not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination. Still, it should provide access to articles that provide longer-term reference information, and which seem to be among the more popular on the site. If you are a person who enjoys the site because of the cycling posts and want to refer someone here, this page would be a good place for them to start.

I will plan to update it and add to it over time - particularly in the area of trail and equipment reviews and so on. I will also likely include a link to it in posts about cycling to make it easy to find.

I said that I’ve been cycling off and on for most of my life, and that is true. But my enthusiasm for cycling has really grown over the past couple of years. I can see by the number of visitors that there are a lot of other folks who are also enthusiastic about it. I appreciate your time and attention here at Applied Life and I hope you will find the new page helpful.

And - of course - I also needed to update the tag line, which is now: Science and Technology - and Cycling! - In Everyday Life...


Evaluating Reported Science by Erin Wade

On the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight John Oliver tackles the problem of science reporting in the media. It's an incredibly important issue, and he manages it quite nicely.

We are, in our modern world, surrounded by the products of science. I'm writing this post on a technological miracle, and making it available to you on a worldwide network that would have been impossible to imagine a century ago. We live longer, we are healthier, we are safer than any generation that came before us. It's really not possible to overstate the benefits we've received from science.

Despite all of that, the actual process of science is often very difficult for people to understand. When science is portrayed in stories, whether books, television, movies, or what have you, the necessity of storytelling presents it as a dynamic, active, and rapid process. It's not. The reality is that real science is slow, methodical, plodding. It's fascinating to the people conducting it, to be sure, but it's not something that makes good fodder for entertainment.

The entertainment portrayal of science seems to interact with a growing tendency for researchers to report information partway through the scientific process. If I've begun a study and I find something interesting, a press release on that effect may bring attention - and possibly funding - to help me continue my study. Research funding is a challenging and competitive process, and one can see why researchers would look for every opportunity to get their particular project out in front of others.

The difficulty is that the interaction here leads to the portrayal of information in the fashion that John Oliver so deftly demonstrates. Each study that's discussed gets similar air time and treatment as another, with little to no evaluation of the relative merits or applicability of the research. And this is problematic at best.

For professionals that work in any healthcare-related field this often means spending time explaining to clients, patients, and concerned family and friends why the thing they heard or read about does not mean they should suddenly go out and change their diet to include eating 473 grapefruits each day, or begin sleeping hanging upside-down in their closet.

Overall, this trend suggests a need for ongoing educational focus on critical evaluation of information. This isn't a new idea, and it's certainly not one I'm coming up with on my own. As those links show, there is considerable thought and effort towards teaching students - starting in adolescence - how to evaluate information they find online.

This is excellent, but I strongly believe there needs to be more. Evaluating information online is only a part of the picture. It's clear, as time goes on and information becomes more pervasive and readily available, that the relative value of memorizing facts has declined, and understanding how to get the information you need is the more relevant skill. Again - this isn't my revelation, instructional processes have been acknowledging this for some time now.

Children should be taught, perhaps starting in adolescence, and repeatedly following, how the scientific process actually works, and how to critically evaluate scientific research. This should include at least the following questions:

  • What was the design of the study? Did it include controls?
  • How many subjects were studied?
  • Who were the subjects? Humans? Animals?
  • Was the sample representative? If so, of whom?
  • Has the study been replicated? If so, how many times, and was the same effect found each time?

Science is, by its nature, long, slow, and methodical. Significant findings, when they occur, should be replicated by additional studies before results are ever felt to be a real phenomenon. The genie appears to be out of the bottle with respect to the infusion of incomplete scientific information in the media. Given this, our kids need to be able to realistically understand when they are receiving useful, actionable information.

Game of Thrones Season 6 by Erin Wade


Tonight is the night for Game of Thrones fans around the world. We wait for the beginning of the new season the way football fans pine for the opening of the next season.

Or - at least - I hope tonight is the night. Since we'll be streaming the show via HBO Now, it's a bit of a mixed bag. The app itself says that HBO Now subscribers will have new episodes “every Sunday”, but the company hasn't always been super reliable at turning these types of things around. I'm a huge fan of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which also comes out every Sunday, but the folks who post it to HBO Now are often several days behind in getting new episodes up. But I digress - one suspects they will be more vigilant with a property as popular as Game of Thrones.

Season six is something extra special. GoT is, of course, a television adaptation of a series of books - A Song of Ice and Fire - by George RR Martin. While modifications have been made to the storyline to make it work better on the screen, the TV series has been largely faithful to the ultimate focus and intent of the storyline found in those books.

But: The end of season five reached the end of the storyline in the books.

This is, of course, not news to anyone who has slogged their way through all of the existing books. Those of us who have spent that time - whether reading words on paper or screen, or listening to it via audiobook as was the case for me - have been well aware for some time that the pace of the TV Series was such that it was going to reach the end of the books before Martin had an opportunity to put out the next installment in the series.

I, for one, am very excited by this prospect. In part this is because this will be the first time since season two that I have no idea what to expect (I started listening to the books after watching the first couple of seasons). Like many, perhaps most, I have ideas about where things might be going, but I don't actually know where they will end up now. This, in and of itself, is exhilarating.

But there's something more. Frankly, I think the TV writing team does a better job with the series than Martin does himself. I described the books as a slog and, in many ways, they are. While they are ultimately entertaining as a whole, Martin gets lost in details and secondary (and tertiary, and perhaps quaternary) storylines that spend pages and chapters often, it seems, to little effect. It often seems as if he has been given a book contract without being assigned an editor.

The show writers, given the limitations of time to tell their story, has chosen to eliminate several of those components. They have consolidated characters, choosing instead to focus on a relatively limited set of primary and secondary players (yes - all of those people you are keeping track of in the TV Series really is a much shorter list than you'd need to manage if you were reading the books), and removing entire sections of storyline. There is a seemingly endless period of river flooding that seems it will never end in the middle of the series, for example, taking place during the time Arya is traveling with The Hound. Their travels end much the same in the show, but there is no flood, it doesn't take nearly as long, and Brienne and The Hound do not face off in the book. The TV writers are able to communicate the key components of the relationships and lessons learned much more succinctly, and in a more satisfying fashion.

To be clear, I do realize that the show runners are following the outline provided by George RR Martin. I'm happy to acknowledge that the show is his creation. But the originator of an idea isn't always it's best caretaker (I'm looking at you, George Lucas), nor it's most skillful operator. And sometimes the application of limitations leads to better outcome than having the world at your hands. The constraint of a fixed number of hours to tell a story, a fixed budget for cast, crew, and sets versus the seemingly unlimited space of a book makes a difference here in the decisions that are made.

So I'm excited to see what they do with the remaining story, and I'm excited to let them resolve it for me. I find, for now at least, I prefer that to waiting to see how Martin chooses to portray it on the page. It's questionable, in fact, whether I will choose to read (listen to) the remaining books after I've finished the TV series.

John Oliver asks: Who Wants to be a Member of the U.N.?... by Erin Wade

Swing by and check out this clip of the Daily Show's John Oliver interviewing the Palestinian Ambassador about that nation's application to be recognized by the United Nations.

Watch for the flash of realization crossing his face as the Ambassador realizes where John Oliver is heading with his discussion of the thermostat. The Ambassador deserves major kudos for being a good sport.

Incidentally - if you enjoy John Oliver on the Daily Show then you may also enjoy The Bugle, which is his podcast with Andy Zaltzman.