Sugar in Breakfast Cereal

I’ve been thinking about sugar. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the high level of sugar that exists in the typical American diet. I’ve been examining labels and tracking my sugar intake. As a breakfast (cold) cereal aficionado I’ve spent some time reading the sides of boxes.

I find it interesting to see what percentage of the cereal is sugar by weight. It’s a bit depressing. I now understand why Honey Smacks used to be called Sugar Smacks.

Breakfast cereal percent sugar on a weight by weight basis.

Breakfast cereal percent sugar on a weight by weight basis: the top five and bottom five of the cereals I analyzed.

Calories are another interesting thing to analyze with sugar.


Breakfast cereal calories and sugar per cup plotted for some common products.

I’ve also looked at sugar and protein, which I plan to post about later. Right now I don’t have time to develop this post any further. . .

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Lane Splitting in California

Some things about California still amaze me. The Pacific Ocean. The palm trees. The perpetual summer. And lane splitting. In California there is no law prohibiting motorcyclists from driving beside another vehicle that is occupying a lane. I made a simple diagram in Paint for those of you not sure what this means:

Lane Splitting: The motorcyclist passes between the cars.

Lane Splitting: A motorcyclist passes between the cars.

When traffic is very slow or stopped I understand lane splitting to allow motorcycles to filter forward. Many motorcyclists only use lane splitting for this purpose. However, not all motorcyclists are that intelligent or polite. On U.S. Route 101 I see reckless lane splitting frequently. A few weeks ago a biker split a lane with me at 75 mph in heavy traffic. I also had a close call with a motorcycle that passed me on the right as I was preparing to take an exit off-ramp.

I fail to understand lane splitting on a simple level. As I see it, when a vehicle is in a lane the driver has the right of way for that lane. California is the only state in the United States that does not prohibit lane splitting (1). The 2015 California Driver Handbook states that “Motorcyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as automobile drivers” (2, pg 62).  On the very next page of the book these statements appear: “Allow the motorcycle a full lane width. Although it is not illegal to share lanes with motorcycles, it is unsafe.” And then: “Never try to pass a motorcycle in the same lane you are sharing with the motorcycle” (2, pg 63). So what I am hearing is this (lack of) logic:

– Motorcyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as automobile drivers.
– A motorcycle and automobile can legally share a lane.
– A motorcycle and automobile sharing a lane is unsafe.
– An automobile driver should never pass a motorcycle in the same lane.

I think allowing motorcycles to filter forward in slow traffic might make sense (when cars are stopped or driving <10 mph). However, if this is conceded, then it must be acknowledged that motorcyclists do not have the same rights and responsibilities as automobile drivers. The automobile driver has the responsibility to defer lane ownership to a motorcyclist, while in some cases the motorcyclist may invade the lane of the automobile driver.

Some things in California I like–lane splitting is not one of them.

(1). Bizjak, T. Motorcycle lane-splitting study finds: the more speed, the more danger. The Sacramento Bee. October 23, 2014.

(2) California Department of Motor Vehicles. Driver Handbook. English. 2015.

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A Valentine’s Day Hike on the Black Hill Trail

Yesterday Pam and I decided to go on a hike. A few weeks ago I mentioned to Pam that I wanted to hike Black Hill and Cerro Cabrillo (Cabrillo Peak), which are part of the Nine Sisters. And so we decided to tackle the Black Hill Trail on Valentine’s Day. We did the long version of the trail, which is an easy hike under 3 miles. Black Hill is the shortest of the Nine Sisters that can be hiked (only Morro Rock is shorter). The views of Morro Bay and the Pacific Ocean are excellent.

The Black Hill Trail winds under tree canopies.

The Black Hill Trail winds under tree canopies.

The trail moves through meadows, wooded stands, and rocky areas. In the lowest ravine we encountered many mosquitoes. It had been more than a year since I had been bitten by a mosquito–they’re just so rare on the Central Coast. As we gained elevation the views went from good to great.

Morro Rock is visible from the trail, though at times only through the trees.

Morro Rock is visible from the trail, though at times only through the trees.

Lizards were lounging in the sun by the trail. I’ve lived here more than two years, and lizards and palm trees still delight me.

A lizard sunbathing.

A lizard sunbathing.

The marker at the top of Black Hill.

The marker at the top of Black Hill.

When you stand on the top of Black Hill you see Morro Bay spread out in front of you like a model city. It looks something like a model train landscape.

Morro Bay viewed from Black Hill.

Morro Bay viewed from Black Hill.

The sights aren’t limited to Morro Bay. The estuary and sand spit are also visible.

A panorama from Black Hill, looking at the Morro Bay Estuary and Morro Rock.

A panorama from Black Hill, looking at the Morro Bay Estuary and Morro Rock.

The inland areas were also beautiful. Rolling green hills, with Hollister Peak serving as the most conspicuous sight.

Hollister Peak, another of the Nine Sisters.

Hollister Peak, another of the Nine Sisters, viewed from Black Hill.

At times Morro Bay is blanketed by fog, but not during our hike. The water was a brilliant blue. The grass was bright green. We could see for miles.

One last shot of Morro Rock from Black Hill, with boats on the bay on this sunny Saturday.

One last shot of Morro Rock from Black Hill, with boats on the bay on this sunny Saturday.

After the hike we went to Taco Temple in Morro Bay. I got a carnitas burrito that must have weighed close to three pounds (I regret that I did not have my scale with me). It is the first burrito that I have ordered that I was unable to finish.

Hiking and burritos with my lovely wife–not a bad Valentine’s Day.

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Thoughts on Pete Carroll, Winning and Losing, and Left Shark

I watched Super Bowl XLIX with friends. By now the events of the game and halftime show are old news, but a few things about it have stuck with me. Here we go:

Left Shark

Let’s start with left shark. After the halftime show Twitter and the rest of the internet buzzed with references to left shark. For those of you with real lives, here is the quick version of why this was happening: during Katy Perry’s halftime show, during the singing of California Girls, Perry was accompanied by two dancing sharks. The sharks were not synchronized in their choreography. People were quick to mock left shark.

While I think right shark was the better dancer, I do not think left shark messed up. If you play the tape and cover right shark up, the moves pulled off by left shark are completely fine. They fit the beat and the song. It is only in direct comparison to right shark that they look off.

The flak left shark is catching is merely a reflection of the hyper-critical and mean spirit that pervades social media.

Pete Carroll

I find it amusing and frustrating that so many people have criticized Pete Carroll after the Super Bowl. I do not think he made a major blunder with the play call at the end. Just look at two of the biggest calls in the game: 1) the call to throw the ball into the end zone before halftime and 2). the call to throw the ball into the end zone at the end of the game. The first one flew in the face of conservative thought . . . and it worked. It worked in a major way. I feel secure in saying many head coaches in the NFL would have settled for the field goal, happy to have the 3 points and willing to sacrifice the other 4. Not Carroll. He went for it and it paid off. At the end of the game he made another aggressive play call, and in this case it backfired. What must be remembered, however, is that it was not probable that New England would intercept the ball on the throw. Carroll didn’t make a stupid call. If you run that play 10 times, I bet the outcome is favorable for Seattle 8 times (either a touchdown, penalty, or completion–which isn’t a major problem in this scenario).

Hindsight is a beautiful and terrible thing.

I do not consider Pete Carroll a goat. I do not think he choked. I do not think he is a bad coach.

I think the negative backlash is a reflection of hyper-critical and delusional sports fans (notice a theme?).

Winning and Losing

Following up on the last point, the constant need to evaluate winning and losing in sports drives me crazy. I despise how negative analysis has become, especially when it gets personal. This is true of the interception at the goal line in the final minute of the Super Bowl. Two teams competed. Each played hard. One team emerged victorious. No one on the field or sidelines was incompetent. Everyone competed well. And one team won (that’s sports). Just because you lose doesn’t mean you made terrible or horrible mistakes. It might be the case, but one team has to lose. You flip a coin–one side loses. Yes, there are instances when poor play calling or preparation exist, but often chance is a major factor.

I see this in baseball. A pitcher must throw a ball past a hitter. The ball needs to go through a specific strike zone to avoid being a called ball. Most major league hitters are capable of hitting any strike very hard. So the pitcher attempts to throw off the hitter’s timing and move the ball around. But sometimes the hitter hits the ball hard. And here’s where I get frustrated, analysts will always talk about the pitcher making a mistake “up in the zone” or “over the plate.” The only times these mistakes are pointed out are when the batter hits the ball hard. Baseball is a game of probabilities. Pitches get hit. Good pitches will get hit hard with less frequency than bad pitches, but you might throw a very good pitch and have it get smoked. It happens. The nature of the game is that you can do a great job and lose.

A very good batter will make more outs than hits. Why do we have such a hard time accepting this?

I understand the desire to win. I admire the refusal to accept moral victories and to remain focused on the bigger prize. I like a champion. It is important to remember that winning and losing is often out of the hands of one person–the best that person can do is compete with honor and effort. I respect that.


Don’t criticize left shark.

Evaluate Pete Carroll on more than just the (improbable) outcome of one play.

Respect competition and realize that the natural order demands winners and losers.

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A Quick Update

When I survey this blog I notice it gives the impression that my life is full of leisure. I tend to post about the little pockets of time I manage to find to explore or relax, but in truth life looks very different most of the time. Instead of hiking and exploring I am grading papers. Instead of hanging out at the beach I’m preparing lectures. Instead of reading I am writing grant proposals. Instead of watching a movie I’m attending a recruiting dinner. Work often invades the weekends and evenings. I’m not writing this because I want pity–I enjoy my work very much. I try to be cautious about how I blog about my work. I don’t want to share too much about students or university affairs on a public forum. This means that a large portion of my life receives very little mention here.

Here are a few things I’ve been doing or thinking about recently. They might turn into full posts later. . .


Pam and I purchased Kindle Paperwhites with some of our wedding gift money. I had been adamantly against digital readers, but the Kindle is slowly growing on me. Right now I have three books in progress: two hard copies [Tomatoland (Barry Estabrook) and Seeds of Change (Henry Hobhouse)] and one digital [The Yosemite (John Muir)]. In the past few months I have read White Fang (Jack London), A Day in the Bleachers (Arnold Hano), The Teammates (David Halberstam), and How Carrots Won the Trojan War (Rebecca Rupp). I enjoyed A Day in the Bleachers very much. I love books.

Sugar Added

In the past I made conscious decisions to eliminate some sugars from my diet. I stopped drinking soda regularly (it is now rare). I started drinking unsweetened iced tea. I eliminated most fruit juices. I did this to try to reduce my odds of getting Type II diabetes (research shows sugary drinks may increase risk). A few weeks ago I read an article about Robert Lustig and his views on sugar (Robert Lustig: The Man Who Believes Sugar is Poison). Lustig believes sugar should be treated like other damaging agents, such as alcohol, cocaine, and tobacco. His arguments make a lot of sense to me as a scientist. I have no difficulty believing sugars can be very harmful. I still need to investigate this further. I’m not planning to eliminate all sugars, but I think being aware of sugar intake is a good thing. I’ve started watching how much sugar I am ingesting. The numbers have been shocking to me. I’m thinking about tracking this for awhile to see how the numbers trend.


Pam and I play Canasta frequently. We are rather evenly matched. I’ve been trying to form conclusions on some aspects of strategy, so I have been keeping records of our scores. At some point I might write a post looking at typical game flow and scoring. The key thing I would like to resolve is if playing a hand with high risk and a potential high reward is worth the gamble, or if playing conservatively is a better path to victory. Part of this depends on the opponent. The hazard of making this a blog post is that Pam will be able to see my conclusions. . .

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