Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fly to Johannesburg for <$60 (RT)

I just received confirmation of my flights to/from Joburg from Dulles for my Enduro Africa trip. Two highlights are worth mentioning: 1) I scored the semi-direct RT flight on South African Airways (refueling in Accra), thereby sparing me many hours of layover and the cost of a Yotel room at Heathrow or Schiphol; and 2) by using air miles accumulated from work-related travel, I got away with paying all of $53.67. Check it:


SSA 208 WASH/DULLES: 5:40 PM Equip: 346 In-Flight services: Movie/Audio


SSA 207
JOHANNESBURG: 5:35 PM Equip: 343 In-Flight services: Movie/Audio
Arrive WASH/DULLES: 6:00 AM

Confirmation: SQXXX Issued: 26 MAY 09

Number in party: 1

Name: Ticket no.: Mileage Plus no.:

FORSYTH/ANDREW D MR 016xxxxxxx 031xxxxxxxxxxx

Base fare: 0.00 USD

Tax/Fee/Charge: 2.50 AY, 51.17 XT (Federal excise tax)

Total: 53.67 USD

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Off-road rider training

I'm closing in on an off-road rider training course on July 11 & 12 in Romney, WV.

Better still, a friend may let me to use his 250 cc dual-sport bike for the course. I'll write more as plans solidify.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

TED Talks - Hans Rosling: HIV in (not so) tiny bubbles

Here's yet another reason to love statistics and data: Hans Rosling's incredible talk at the 2009 TED Conference using data presented in graphical form by GapMinder, a non-profit seeking the "increased use and understanding of statistics and other information about social, economic and environmental development at local, national and global levels."

Rosling uses Gapminder data - which are online and fully interactive - to make the case that prevention, not treatment, is the way out of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He also shares provocative graphics highlighting between- and within-country variability in HIV prevalence rates. 

Along the way, Rosling debunks a number of myths about the factors that worsen the epidemic in Africa, although he doesn't consider things like circumcision rates, prevalent sexually transmitted infections, etc. 

Be sure to explore GapMinder's gaps within the U.S., which effectively counter data-free claims made commonly on conservative talk shows that the U.S. leads the world in health and well-being. Not any more, folks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Enduro Africa 2009 - important flight information

The excitement builds. Following is the flight information for the early October cohort for Enduro Africa 2009. I can now move forward with using my frequent flyer miles for the flight to/from Johannesburg, South Africa. Fingers crossed that I can score the Dulles - Joburg direct flight, which is only 17 hrs (going through Europe adds another 12+ hours!). By donating my air miles, I increase the amount donated to the 4 charities by ~$900.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Must see video

The video captures nicely the same sentiments I feel about my October 3d trip. Some key differences between actor Ewen McGregor's and my adventure are worth noting: 
  • I'll be riding with ~100 others, broken into groups of 10 - all of whom will be strangers to me.
  • Unlike the 550 pound, 1200cc, $20k BMWs shown, we'll ride 300 pound, 200cc, $4k Hondas or Yamahas
  • Our ride is only 8 days and just through South Africa and Lesotho
  • It's not just about the bikes -- it's about raising attention and funds for incredible charities in the region. 
But you know, these differences are insignificant. The excitement I feel? It's the very same that McGregor so eloquently describes. The video, Long Way Down, is well worth the rental fee but see the DVD extras on UNICEF's work to see exactly why I committed to raising funds for Enduro Africa. 

And as always, stay tuned. The adventure continues. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Leading causes of preventable mortality, U.S.

Ok. This is not so relevant to Enduro Africa (more so to Enduro America), but indulge me: 

A fascinating study was published recently by Danaei and colleagues that used comparative risk analysis to estimate the number of preventable causes of premature deaths in the U.S. in 2005 from 12 modifiable dietary, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors, including blood glucose, blood pressure, physical inactivity, alcohol use, and smoking, among others.

The study found that of 2.5 million deaths, 500,000 were attributable to tobacco smoking with an additional 400,000 to high blood pressure. Together, these accounted for 20% of preventable deaths in 2005. Overweight and physical inactivity accounted for an additional 10% of these deaths. 

Here are estimated deaths from all causes (thousands) attributable to the following risk factors (95% CIs): 

Click to enlarge

Note the slight differences in rankings within and between the sexes.

Danaei et al. suggest that targeting just the top risk factors with effective public health policies and programming can have a huge impact on averting preventable deaths in the U.S., far more than the 18,000 that might be averted by “providing universal health insurance.” However, without better data, it is difficult to evaluate the veracity of this claim, given that universal coverage may positively affect access to, and utilization of, interventions that could rein in these risk factors. Similar dynamics emerge all of the time for associations like socioeconomic status and diet

The authors conclude:

The risk factors in this analysis can be influenced through both individual-level and population-wide interventions. In particular, effective interventions are available for tobacco smoking and high blood pressure, the leading two causes of mortality in the US. Combinations of food industry regulation, pricing, and better information can also be effective in reducing exposure to dietary salt and trans fatty acids, especially in packaged foods and prepared meals. 
Despite the availability of interventions, blood pressure and tobacco smoking decline in the US have stagnated or even reversed, and there has been a steady increase in overweight–obesity.

The key here is that each of these leading causes of premature mortality is preventable. Better yet, evidence-based interventions are available for them. The next step is to use other areas of health promotion and decision-making science to nudge those at-risk to take advantage of these life-saving resources. 

Source: Danaei G, Ding EL, Mozaffarian D, Taylor B, Rehm J, et al. (2009) The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary, Lifestyle, and Metabolic Risk Factors. PLoS Med 6(4): e1000058.