Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Birthday Problem

Maybe it was all the resistant starch beforehand, or a ton of time in the ice tub, but I just had the craziest dream the other night.

I dreamed I was with my friends, and the "Birthday Problem" came up.  That is the one that many quant-y folks have run into in a statistics class.  It goes like this: 

There are 23 people in a classroom.  What is the probability that at least one of them has the same birthday?

The probability is astoundingly high by most people, because the natural inclination is to think that this is very very rare.  My students mouths always dropped open when the answer was revealed, and it really got them thinking that maybe statistics wasn't so useless after all.

I had one student who was a real go-getter, and in her spare time, she liked to rent roach coaches, create interesting menus and hang around the local sports stadiums for a quick buck.  Unfortunately, many other folks in the restaurant biz hadn't run into the problem.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, the dream.

I decide to explain the birthday problem in great detail to my quant-y friends.  We arrange for a short presentation at a hotel we're staying at.  Other hotel guests get wind of the presentation, and by the time I am ready to start, the room is full of people with all sorts of interests and levels of understanding.  It gets quite comical.  I decide to start with some basics, and somehow I get into a discussion of the history of industrial statistics.  My new students are enthusiastic, but needy and time-consuming, so I remind myself and them what the talk is really about.  As I go back to the technical discussion of the birthday problem, most of the lecture-crashers leave, and I am left with my original presentation and my original friends.

As most dreams go, I never get to the presentation.  I wake up to my house-flipping neighbor's construction crew jack-hammering their front porch, and I sit there for awhile with my day-brain, wondering how I could actually describe the birthday problem more easily, and for that matter, why did this dream even come up?

Earlier I was reading about the percentage of celiacs, which is now around 1 out of 100 people if you include the folks who don't know they have it yet.  I had also gotten off the phone with a family member.  We were planning another mandatory multi-day get-together.  I was told I was "on my own" with the food situation, but also that we weren't going to make it a big-deal food-prep week like many of our gatherings.  Basically, it was, "You can't eat and you can't cook."  I was pretty mad about this.  (Said relative has now thought, back-tracked, and decided better accommodation was a good idea.)  But it got me thinking about how places like Starbucks and Panda Express pretty much say, "Hey Celiacs!  You're on your own here.  If you have some sort of problem, then don't eat ANY of our food."

And I thought, they probably think that there isn't much celiac to accommodate, right?  Isn't it like they are going to lose around .1% of their customer base by flipping celiacs the bird?

Like the birthday problem, the actual consequences of their decision are much larger.  The way to solve the birthday problem is not to look at how many people have the same birthday, it is to look at how many ways the students in the classroom CANNOT have the same birthday divided by the total possible ways that they can all have birthdays.  That is pretty easy to do, and then you just subtract that from one to get the answer.

So here's the restaurant problem.  It is not that they will lose even 1 percent of business.  People usually go to restaurants with other people.  So in order to see impact on restaurants, you have to calculate the probability that NONE of the dining party has celiac and then subtract from 1.

I have done the calcs, and put together a little table, showing the reduction in business if a typical table of 4 or 6 decides not to eat there if the restaurant refuses to provide workable gluten-free options.   The various percentages of celiac or wheat intolerances are also shown based on estimates by Drs. Fasano and Davis.  Of course, this calculations assumes independence, and we all know by now that this is not really the case with dining families, since it is an inherited disease.  So if one person has celiac, the others are much more likely to have it as well.  But, the table does work for friends.

Percentage C or WI                   Table of 4                  Table of 6
1%                                                 4%                                6%
7% (Fasano est.)                            25%                             35%
37%  (Davis est.)                            84%                             94%

You can see that the lost business starts to get pretty high.  Currently, it is pretty easy to ignore the celiacs, either by not offering appropriate menu choices, or improper preparation.  But it is getting pretty hard to ignore the gluten-intolerant.  This is probably what is going on with Lean Cuisine, bread stores, and even places like Red Lobster.                     

Friday, April 25, 2014

Meeting my Acquaintance

One of the advantages of going completely gluten-free is that I have more energy.  That is, more energy to be snarky ----------- or angry --------------or ranty.

Yesterday I was whiny.  I am already obsessing about what will go down during the next big holiday.  'Course, in order to make everything all better, I talked to MOM for a long long time over several days.  Mom was so great, having gone through severe bouts of autoimmune disease herself.  I spend a good part of my early youth shuttling around to different people's spare rooms while she was in the hospital for lupus, or whatever else they thought she had that day.  So, she has developed this really cool attitude about chronic debilitating illnesses and such.

She said it would be absolutely no problem, since she regularly cooks for other family members with such severe allergies that they routinely land in the hospital.  (Not from HER cooking.)  She is skilled in keeping the wrong foods out of the wrong hands.  But I am really fretting about another relative who does much of the cooking for our big family gatherings.  Her life is filled with 20 kinds of pasta and bread boards, and cakes, and hundreds of gluten-infested baking containers.  She carries a cloud of flour around her like Linus.  If she had an "In Case of Emergency, Break Glass" box for her life, behind the glass would be a box of cake mix.

I imagine my kitchen littered with drying bread-crumbs, flour from the cinnamon rolls and muffins and pumpkin pies strewn about.  I see her moving from dish to tasty dish, her various fingers and utensils stuck into every one.  Now I know why I have been getting so sick every Thanksgiving.  It is from the stuffing, made with half corn bread and half whole wheat, and somehow drenched in Campbell's cream of mushroom soup in a way that no one else has ever been able to duplicate.  And from the mashed potatoes with real milk, drenched in giblet gravy with even more flour.

How can I tell her that we have to do it differently this time?

I was supposed to get together with relatives over the Easter holiday, but I just didn't have the energy to do it, but truth be told, I wasn't looking forward to the food confrontations either.  Initially I had hoped to find an ally, or at least get some good help from someone who can read Hyperlipid like its the back of cereal box.  But that was not going to happen. 

How can I tell her that the diet that she detests so much is the only thing I can eat?

After missing the big Easter gathering, I checked her facebook page for posts and pictures from other attendees.  What I found instead was a link to that awful paleo fantasy book interview, and a couple of snarky comments.  (OK, guess snark runs in the family along with several copies of HLA-DQ2.)  The poster could actually read and understand Hyperlipid as well, but won't.

I don't know why, but seeing this post upset me so much.  I whined.  I cried.  My husband told me to get a life.  I thought I might have to unfriend her, or at least leave another snarky comment before I cut the cord.  But I couldn't unfriend the family chef!

I acquaintanced her.  And, changed a few settings.

I just hate that Paleo is mandatory.  I just hate Dr. MacDougall.  I just hate Joel Fuhrman.  I hate it all.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gluteny and Sloth - The game changes

I know I know I have been awol.  Not for lack of things to say.

Just 'cause I don't even know where to begin.

I have celiac disease.

Yuk!  What was formerly a bunch of fun "food experiments" now becomes a medical necessity.

I don't want to be one of THOSE people!

There is more to this story.  Please stand by while I collect my thoughts.

My Resistant Starch Experiment - LOL!

or, cry out loud.  Whatever.

I have been following the RS debate for awhile now, carefully trying to avoid some of the prominent "C-word" websites all along.  But, you see, I already invented it.  I am lower carb, not VLC, and not keto much of the time unless I forget to eat or skip a meal.  This is more and more common for me to skip breakfast, but to also eat similar foods with more carbs than for keto.

And I think last season I grew around 100 pounds of Jerusalem artichokes.  (nuf said?)

This year, due to hoards of rabbits burrowing under the chokes and eating a great majority, I toyed with the idea of eating more potatoes instead of relying on my now-shorter choke season.  In addition, all the chokes that weren't eaten either by myself or the rabbits started sprouting early, making them not as fit for eating.  The little wascally wabbits even stole the tubers out of my basket that I leave right outside the kitchen.  (I wasn't bringing them inside due to all the pill bugs.)

So it didn't seem all that weird for me to buy a few potatoes and try them out.  As I was preparing them for my family, I had a bit of raw potato.  Resistant starch, right?  How hard could it be?

A couple of hours later, I didn't feel so well.  I was burping something, my arthritic knee started hurting, my other knee started hurting.  In fact, everything in my body that had sustained an injury in the last several months started hurting.  Then a huge headache, weird cramps, then chills, then I couldn't walk without bumping into stuff.  I decided I was done with that and went to bed.  I couldn't take an aspirin or anything because I thought I would throw up.  I slept sitting up, and woke up several times to drink more water and to try to mentally calm my racing heartbeat.

I woke up in the morning still very groggy and miserable, and whined to my family, "I feel like I am dying.  I don't want this to be my life from now on."  It felt like my whole body was liquifying, like I had been visited by Harvey Keitel and had been "cleaned".

I went back to bed, but forced myself up after awhile, and forced myself out of the house.  By afternoon I was fine.  There were confounding factors.  Had I been glutened?

You know, I am really done with potatoes for awhile.  I don't care if there are confounding factors.  I'm too chicken-s to go through liquification again.