Friday, September 29, 2006

Rock those wrinkles

…HA always wants to tell Nora Ephron that we have something in common. A guy. But that’s the stuff of another blog (and we know HA is always very discreet).

…Moving on, Nora wrote a book about her neck “contours” called I Feel Bad About My Neck.

…Nora looked in the mirror and thought, “Hello. Ohmygod, what is that looking at me in the mirror?”

…The face lies, she quips--the neck never.

…HA must stop this right here. Nora is 65, she says. And does not look it! There, HA said it—and the guy married her. Wait, did HA mention that again?

…Life is confusing when you get older, Nora claims. You are wiser—but how can you be, because you have forgotten so much.

…Nora figures she spends eight hours a week, including exercise, to maintain her looks. She has twice-weekly hair appointments, waxing, manicures, and hair dyeing (why 60 looks like 40, by the way).

...She did say in an interview that facials are a waste of time--buy a moisturizer.

…The money quote: “It’s totally comical the amount of time it takes just to basically attempt to stand still and not be an eyesore.”

…(Eyesores take even more time to cover up.)

…She sort of thinks (like she is trying out the thought) that you should live everyday like your last. Eat two desserts.

…Maybe she is trying to fill in those wrinkles the HA Way(tm)—with fat.

…Remember, they don’t even have one dessert in Darfur. Save a little time each day for it not to be about you.

…HA is just sayin'.

Grab food by the labels

…Steven Reinberg, writing on HealthDay (sept 26, 2006), says most people can’t read a food label for squat.

…A study was done of 200 primary care patients (Am J of Preventive Med), by Russell L Rothman at Vanderbilt. 68% had some college, and 77% had at least 9th grade literacy skills. 63% had less than 9th graded math skills.

…But only 32% of them could calculate the amount of carbs in a 20-oz soda that had 2.5 servings in the bottle.

…Wait a hot one there! What human could calculate that—and why? Who shares a soda
with 1.5 other people?

…This is so not fair. You need to read and do math to eat.

…All they need to write is: “If you eat all of this, you will eat twice what you need your your entire day.”

…A skull and crossbones—also good.

…What would you like to see on labels, readers?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Walk, boy?

…These scientists will say just about anything to get us to walk. It will lower your BP in a hot second, microsecond even. Just 20 minutes a year and you will see the pounds fly off. Walk a mile, lose a doughnut.

…This isn’t pretty. They are getting desperate.

…But one of the best ones they ever came up with it—your dog will love you for it.

…Of course, your dog already loves you.

…But what if—your dog will benefit from it? Hah! Got ya!

…A Chicago doctor has been running some studies called People and Pets Exercising Together (PPET).

…Other studies have shown that exercise is more effective and happens more often when you do it with a peer. Your dog is your peer, right? Except for that extra pair of legs?

…They pitted human pairs against dog-human pairs and told them to hit the bricks on 1500 cals a day (for the human).

…Sure enough, the furry and fur-deprived both shed pounds going together. In one study, the average was 14 (human) pounds after nearly a year, with one participant losing 30 pounds. The dogs also regained svelte little waists.

…Participants began with walking a dog just 10 minutes daily, three times a week, and worked up to 20 minutes five times a week

…”This is the most fun study I have every done!” exclaimed the doctor.

…Hills Pet Nutrition, maker of Hills Science Diet and Pet Prescription foods, sponsored the research.

…Keeping dogs alive to eat their food—and owners alive to buy it—must be in their best interest or something.

…In the interests of full disclosure, HA does not walk her dog Spencer. For one thing, he is hyperactive as it is. And secondly, he blew out her knee last spring jumping into it.

…HA is just now working up to walking an hour a day again. Sans the "huffing, mumbling and half-choking himself" ill-trained pooch.

…He declares himself done with the walk after 2 blocks of these histrionics anyhow.

...That little speedy face in the picture? Not him.

Sorry state of the apology

…Have you ever gotten an apology in Valley Girl-speak…”Like sawr-ree.”?

…HA hates those crappy little quickies.

…Also bad, the one the Pope rolled out recently, “If anyone was offended, I am sorry.” HA suspects you knew they were offended (the fires and shouting might have been a clue).

…Or was it the listener’s fault by implication? “You must be the sort of person to be offended by this, what’s wrong with you?”

…Health professionals say apologizing helps the apologizer even more than it does the apologizee.

…What is the crux of the satisfying apology? Sincerity yes, but you also must hit the form of apology the person responds to best.

…Jean Patterson of The Orlando Sentinel, writes about the book The Five Languages of Apology, by Jennifer Thomas and Gary Chapman.

…The five apology structures are: Expressing regret (“I am sorry.”).

…Accepting responsibility (”I was wrong.”).

…Genuinely repenting (“I will try never to do that again.”).

…Making restitution (“What can I do to make this right?”).

…Requesting forgiveness (“Do you forgive me?”).

…When apologizing to a group, you may need to use all five so that you hit the form appreciated by each person in the group.

…Hugs optional but probably a good idea—unless it’s a mob.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Walking a mile in someone's brain

…This thing could toss the show “Cops” off the air.

…According to a story by Gary Fields in the WSJ (Sept 27, 2006), cops in Phoenix are
wearing a sort of virtual reality headset that simulates inner voices and flickering hallucinations.

…The idea is to replicate what a schizophrenic or psychotic person would be experiencing when approached by a police officer.

…One officer ripped off the headset saying, “This thing could drive me crazy!”

…The voices whisper and murmur and say things you can just make out like “They’re after you,” then murmurs again.

…Many cities, Fields says, are trying to be more understanding of the mentally ill. Some cops take mental health professionals along. Dispatchers are getting training, too.

…In Mesa, Arizona, instead of clamping down on a situation by moving in fast and shouting, the police are more conversational if they see the person is disturbed.

…They also talk to people with a mental history and see which words they do not want to hear—nutcase was one.

…Preferred are: Have you eaten, did you take your medication, can we call your case worker.

…The police also go to halfway houses and check up on mentally ill people.

…Some cops don’t welcome this role, but budgets are limited in most cities.

…One homeless man (they also dislike that word) was hitting his leg rhythmically. The copy said, “He’s calibrating, trying to keep himself on an even keel.”

…He hadn’t done anything wrong, so the officers moved off, saying they would contact an agency for him.

…A little undersanding can go a long way. Most mentally ill people are not violent or dangerous, even though they report those voices may be saying things like “kill.”

…Maybe if gets to be like a radio stuck between two stations.

Lizard spit and diabetes

…Lizard proteins from our Southwest pal, the gila monster, make up a new Type II diabetes medicine called Byetta (“By-A-tuh), according to Connie Midey in the Arizona Republic (Sept 26, 2006).

…It’s creating a buzz!

…Not only does this non-insulin approach return some people’s blood sugar to normal, but it knocks off pounds like mad.

…One guy had had amputations, went on Byetta, and his sugar returned to normal.

…The secret? Dried gila monster saliva. (Who gets the idea to test these things, anyhow?)

…Apparently the reptiles can go without eating for long periods and then stuff themselves and their blood sugar stays steady.

…Some people are trying to get it as a diet aid, too, but this is an off-label use.

…”Hooray for lizard spit!” exclaimed one happy user.

…Others, though, reported nausea and constipation. Byetta still has to be injected. About 10% stop taking it, one doctor said, because of the urps and, in some cases, pancreatitis, a serious condition that can require hospitalization.

…No, smartie, it’s not the nausea that causes the weight loss. The stuff slows absorption of food and makes you feel full longer. One patient said she had to remind herself to eat.

….Ask your doctor. This may be a boon to some--despite the pre-hurls.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Yes, a vaccine, get on it

...Writing in USA Weekend (Sept 8-10, 2006), Ted Mitchell, MD, says a professor of chemistry at Scripps Research Institute has been studying an anti-fat vaccine.

…A pill, a shot, something—this subject is wearing out its welcome.

…The researchers are focusing on a stomach hormone called ghrelin, which surges around and affects appetite and how much fat is sent to the storage tanks in your thighs.

…This little gremlin…er, ghrelin…squirts out like mad when you go on a calorie restricted diet. This slows down how you metabolize fat and makes you hungrier.

…This is nifty during a famine, but watch my lips: WE ARE NOT HAVING A FAMINE!

…The vaccines being studied bind with the ghrelin and keep it from making you hungrier.

…So far, good news for rats who feel they have put on a couple.

…It has yet to be tested on humans.

…And of course, the killjoys remind us we will still have to eat healthy foods in sensible amounts.


Monday, September 25, 2006

A little smarts can smart

…Screenwriter William Goldman famously once said of Hollywood: “Nobody knows anything.”

…Writing in the NYT (Sept 16, 2006), Jerry Avorn says many of the people who give you medical advice or run over and try to minister to you might not know the right things to do, either.

…He cites his own experience, when he suffered a jellyfish sting and lifeguards and passers-by all gave him the wrong, water, vinegar.

….A nurse came along and calmly removed the stinger, dripping with neurotoxins.

…Turns out--funny story--the distilled water poured on at first actually activates those poisons.

…Avorn, a drug tester at Harvard, says his research group constantly comes across effective treatments that are underused and poor-choice drugs that are widely prescribed.

…There is no coherent system, he says, for getting the word out to doctors on which is which.

…So often some of them may look at the glitzy promotional items the drug detailers just left them and think, “Hmmm, CuresIt is worth a try.”

…We need more studies comparing two drugs against each other, instead of one drug for effectiveness and safety.

…Usually drug companies like to compare their drug against a placebo, because the drugs usually win that way.

…In Pennsylvania there is a pilot project called the Independent Drug Information Service (, where researchers scan the medical research for the best evidence on how to treat a condition.

…Similar programs also exist in Canada and Australia.

…A little knowledge may not always be a dangerous thing.

...But a lot of knowledge is better.

The potty chamber

…Forget the smelly, scary, and probably disease-ridden port-a-potty at the state fair, rock concert, or construction site.

…The john has gone uptown.

…Jane Spencer, writing in the WSJ (Sept 22, 2006), says even the blasé rich are swooning over the new luxury potties showing up at their horse shows and award parties.

…One, the “Cherry Suite,” features marble sinks, porcelain toilets, air conditioning and if you wish, a uniformed attendant to hand out towels.

…The tab? $2,500 a night.

…No need to soil the Manolos, as one guest put it

…These “conveniences” come with carpeting, sound systems, all the amenities.

…On the mundane side, a garden hose runs the toilets and sinks.

…One bride was so er, relieved. She never would have entered a normal port-a-potty in her wedding dress, she said.

…The one shown is from Royal Flush Mobile Restrooms (, a company with a sense of humor.

…And a six-holer.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Talk about sore thumbs

…The AP’s Stephanie Hoo says those who are clutching their personal assistants (electronic kind) and pecking and fussing away all day can get sore thumbs.

…Tremendous stress on the thumbs, pronounced one doctor.

…Thumbs are nice, but they are the least flexible digit. They get “Blackberry Thumb” pretty easily—a repetitive motion disorder akin to carpal tunnel.

…Ow. And the thumbs and hands can go numb, too. And swell, they swell.

…The problem can get so bad the person can’t pick up a cup of coffee or lift the milk out of the fridge.

…What should you do? Take breaks! This was supposed to be a short message medium and not contain a thesis. (Paris Hilton aside, is this really your main means of communication?)

…Write fewer messages.

…Use abbrevs. C U 2moro may offend people (like HA, who doubts it’s even legal), but your thumbs will benefit.

…Oh, and here’s one: USE OTHER FINGERS!

Fat good

…Connie Midey, writing in the Arizona Republic (Sept 12, 2006), says come on, fat is a food group!

…Don’t we look at our bodies and think we are MADE of fat. Well, we are, in part, and we must eat fat to make the nutrients soak into our bodies so we can use them.

…One nutritionist did a study ordered by a Procter & Gamble exec who ate salads with fat-free dressing everyday. Was she missing out?

…The carotenoids (nutrients giving fruit and veggies their colors) needed to be absorbed with almost an ounce of oil.

…The jury is out on timing—will cream in the coffee and hour before eating something else help absorb the nutrients? Scientists say the foods should be in the same meal.

…Ways to add some fat without adding lbs? For breakfast, add a piece of wholegrain toast with half a tablespoon of non-transfat canola margarine. (Ewww-why not butter? Oh, that’s right—cholesterol. Still, ewww.)

….With veggies, add some hummus or ranch.

…Avocadoes are a tasty fat source.

…Put peanut butter on apples.

…Come on, people, we know how to eat fat, let’s buck up now!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Zut alors! Chubby Frenchwomen?

…It was entertaining enough to see some Spanish designers toss the ultra-skinny coathanger women off the runway last week, but this? Can it be?

…According to ObEpi-Roche, a survey company across the pond, 42% of the French over age 15 have a weight problem. A third are overweight—and 12.4 are classified as the O-thing.

…This despite their reportedly dainty habits, tripping along for miles in chic shoes to get a baguette and a scrap of cheese, sipping on antioxidant-crammed red wine, slow-digesting for hours under sunlit grape arbors, and nibbling like gaunt meerkats while smoking madly.

…French experts are aghast. What about the couture, the pencil skirts?

…Just kidding. They are worried about the health of their fleshy compatriots. (Have you ever noticed, these weight mavens are usually skinny?)

…Lower income people are more likely to be obese, the survey said. And for the first time since 1997, pounds are dropping off the very rich.

…Take this as you will—but sales of C-cup bras are up 7% in France. More than half of the women wear a C or larger now.

…Horrible to contemplate? Depends on your point of view, doesn’t it?

Quiet little table

…Gary Allen is a cool foodie. You can check his site at

…Each month, he puts out an email newsletter of incredibly fun food sites, recipe sites, and nostalgia sites. To get on his list, drop him an email at

…This month, to give ya a sampling, Gary included a bunch of sites on ice cream, but also had directions to the blue crab of Chesapeake Bay, all about bread (well, not all about, there is always more), how to make a Brooklyn egg cream, how to set a formal place setting, a history of napkins, retro recipes, how to have good table manners, and how to tip without getting your soup spat in the next time.

…Food should be passed to the right, HA learned, and women should reapply lipstick in the bathroom, not at the table.

…Bah to the second one. But HA would not mind some of the more etiquettely challenged in AZ taking off their baseball caps while eating.

..She once expressed that humble little preference in a newspaper column and was roundly excoriated by the yahoo set. They can write! To the editor, too, as it turns out!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Retail therapy or obsession?

…Let’s face it, the gatherer urge has not left us.

…As we wander through a store, even a thrift shop, eyes go right, left, scanning, scanning.

…Writing in the New York Daily News, Phyllis Furman says 2% to 8% of Americans are compulsive shoppers.

…Bummed? How would another pair of black pants make you feel? Better, bunky?

…A&E has another reality show—this one called Big Spender. The CS (compulsive shopper) is merrily tooling along in the shoe department or someplace and is pounced on by a financial planner.

…Not a jury in the world would convict! HA says. (She apparently missed the memo asking her opinion, she so often misses those.)

…If you shop a lot, find it a huge rush, and then feel guilty afterward…you might fit the description.

…Spending more than 5%-10% of your income on clothes is another sign.

…Some tips for avoiding the poor house…Shop only with cash, keep a record of what you spend, make a list, and if you think this is getting out of control, you are probably right.

…Amanda Ford wrote a cute book on “Retail Therapy: Life Lessons Learned While Shopping,” in case you feel like justifying your binges instead. (HA is all about free will.)

…In her book, Ford suggests the buddy system. Never shop alone. Why? A friend can share the excitement of the words “50% off.” A friend can tell you if a hat looks hideous. It’s fun to chat, eat, and get a friend to hint to the cute sales guy that he ought to ask for your number.

…And a friend can keep you on mission. You have a list, remember?

…HA’s system. Never buy on the first pass. If the item itches at you for a week, go back.

…If you are lucky, someone else snapped it up.

Bluegills to the rescue

…If any nasty idiots pour poison in our water supply, an old childhood friend, the bluegill, will be the first to die.

…San Francisco, New York, and Washington keep the little pan fish in water tanks continuously washed through with reservoir water.

…Should the bluegills turn a little green around the gills (how could HA resist that one?), it’s time for another looksee.

…Pardon HA, but isn’t this a little…organic…don’t they have litmus paper or something?

…Oh, don’t worry—they do. Maybe the water engineers just like hanging around the little fellows, although HA is sure these water “canaries” would prefer to be swimming around free and not doing their twisted Piscean duty.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Watch out, breakfast, they are after ya

…Most important meal of the day.

…Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dine like a pauper.

…According to Andreas von Bubnof, writing for the NYT Sept 18, the first meal of the day may be overhyped.

…They say there is no data that skipping breakfast or lunch (or both) is unhealthy.

…Is nothing sacred anymore?

….HA digresses.

…Most countries eat breakfast, although some consume fish and other non-breakfasty stuff.

…Cereal didn’t even come along until 1863.

…Other scientists say breakfast, with traditional fare, is the only time many people will eat fruit or drink fruit juice, or eat whole grains, or get an egg in.

…They counter with studies that show breakfast skippers pack it in later in the day.

…HA looked over the battling studies for you. Sort of inconclusive on either side.

…Break the fast? Continue it until someone puts doughnuts or chips out?

…Skipping probably won’t compromise your health. Or have an effect either way on weight loss.

…Your call.

…To HA, though, that empty dish is one pitiful sight.

Be sure your seltbelt is...zzzzzz

…Alex Williams, writing in the NYT September 17, 2006, says more people are self-medicating before flights—and not V&Ts, either.

…Even the most drug-averse are pounding in the Ativan and Xanax.

…There is an underlying anxiety born of 9/11, the squooshed together seats, the confinement—nappie time!

…Xanax, some say, does not make them spacey or their legs feel like they are filled with putty.

…This can be especially fortunate if you are called upon to jump out or slide down a chute.

…Getting the wherewithal from a friend is also a bad idea. You don’t know how it will affect you. Have you read lately of incidents in which people disrobed or hurled flight attendants through hatches? HA is just sayin’.

…Other people take an outright sleep drug—the heck with the stinking chutes.

…If you do this, any of this, do not order a drink.

…And do not bring the pills “just in case,” unless your name is on the bottle.

…HA? She would be afraid of the drooling open mouth and the six hours of snoring.

…This way, too, she can hit the chute first.

…Now that’s how you handle anxiety.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bag this stuff!

…HA wasn’t going to join the crowd warning about bagged spinach.

…A couple of people have died of E. coli infections from eating some, though, and maybe there is a hermit someplace who hasn’t heard this.

…If HA can save just one computer-owning hermit.

…People started falling over in Wisconsin and the bloody diarrhea and agony was traced back to some of that ready-made salad stuff. Dozens of brands, including Dole and Trader Joe’s, are affected.

…People have also reported problems in more than 20 states.

…Apparently hygiene in the fields can lead to human, matter, getting on the produce. Washing it doesn’t help.

…Those mixtures of greens can also contain spinach, so read labels.

…Wah! HA loves bagged greens—no washing, which she thinks of as cooking. Now, though, she better actually even cook the stuff.

…(HA had giardia, a different bug, once—no joke, these aren’t funny.)

Easy, easy, old Joba

…Let HA get this straight. This new exerciser from Japan called the Joba Core Trainer? It joggles you around and in an attempt to stay still, taterly, and upright, you inadvertently exercise?

…Sure enough. According to Hammacher-Schlemmer copy, the gentle swaying of the saddle forces the core body muscles to extend and contract.

…Of course, you can make it gyrate faster and get an aerobic effect (and make HA wish she could watch).

…Yukari Iwatani Kane wrote about this in-home bull riding thingie for the WSJ on Sept 14, 2006.

…”It’s better than nothing,” sniffed one expert.

…Usually, customers laugh. Some women even find it suggestive. (Hey, this makes HA like it better.)

…Some Japanese guy apparently saw that horseback riders have good posture, but since Japan isn’t exactly loaded with space for horses, he invented this thing. (Didn’t John Travolta once ride one of these—he’s not thin.)

…The Joba in its original form costs about two grand, although cheaper imitators have come along (Daito Electric’s Rodeo Boy, for one).

…At least you can have a drink as you exercise, one devotee pointed out.

…Darned if this doesn’t have some appeal!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Thunderbolt of love

…Writing in the McClatchy Newspapers, Savannah Ashour says women can take in 10,000 non-verbal clues in less than a minute and can form an opinion of someone in a 40th of a second with 80% accuracy.

…Pheromones are a biggie. Although men can wear cologne, they usually pick a scent similar to their own.

…Players try to merge a lot of styles and buy trendy drinks.

…Lack of eye contact and fidgeting—even the cops use these to size up a ne’er do well.

…Sallow complexion, labored breathing, shaky hands, clumsy—an unwell look. Probably bad in the sack.

…Loud, ick, whispery, ick.

…If he’s into the bling, it don’t mean a thing. The watch can be an indicator. Understated is better.

…Do these apply to women, too?

…Of course. You had to ruin it, didn’t you?

Car crash prevention--good

…Dirty secret—HA is not a driver. Don’t ask--it involves family weirdness and a guy named Freddy.

…So, naturally, she was fascinated by a WSJ story Sept 14, 2006, by Laura Meckler, about cars that seem to be approaching the level of driving themselves.

…Most safety measures involve pillows and belts that shield you in a crash, but now designers are being asked by the Highway Safety Administration to put in controls to prevent crashes in the first place.

…These stability control measures, Meckler writes, involve using brakes and engine power to keep a car from veering.

…Look for these in the 2009 model year, with more phased in the following three years.

…Studies show these tricks are great in preventing rollovers, which account for a third of all deaths.

…40% of vehicles, the high-end ones, have this stuff now. For others, it’s an option that costs more money.

…So what’s coming? Lane-departure warning systems, a beep or seat vibration if the car crosses the line without the turn signal on.

..Adaptive cruise control. Radar or lasers judge distance to vehicle in front and adjust your car speed.

…Automatic steering. If you slide toward the line, the car corrects.

…Vehicle to vehicle communication. Good for when one is barreling into an intersection, but both cars must have it.

…Seriously—Freddy? You weren’t curious?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Eating out vs kitchen--tough call

…HA reads those shelter mags and drools over the industrial-strength kitchens, the brushed aluminum, the spit and sparkle.

…Get real. She can hardly make scrambled eggs.

…Cass Calder Smith, an architect with offices in NY and SF, has designed kitchens everywhere, from the Hamptons to Effingham, Illinois (Effingham?).

…In NYC, Smith has observed, a high-end residential kitchen’ll run ya $200K, chunk of NY extra, bringing the total to north of half a mill.

…If two people dine out in New York City at a cost of $75 per person per meal, this would come to 3,467 meals—or 10 years of eating out!

…HA redid her kitchen 7 years ago. A modest $7,500. She has granite counters in her little one-butt kitchen.

…Now if she could just figure out how to turn on the stove.

…By the way, those flat cooktops? Losers.

Fits to a Tea

…Florence Fabricant, writing in the NYT (Sept 13, 2006), reports that a 100-year-old has been refurbished—the tea bag.

…Tea bags used to be pretty opaque—filled with, well, seeds and stems, as they say, detritus after loose tea is sorted and graded.

…The industry called that “dust.” Rusty and acidy.

…With tea sales up four times over a decade ago, drinkers are ready for the good stuff.

…Long leaf tea is now going in some bags, starting with Lipton.

…The paper envelope is out, too—in are nylon mesh bags in a pyramid shape.

…Harney and Sons, Mighty Leaf, Adagio, and Highland have been selling the better bags for awhile.

…So now, even bag users can savor the high-end flavors, often teas hailing from exotic ports of call in Kenya and elsewhere.

…Strangely, Fabricant writes, the English aren’t as enthused. They dose their cuppas with milk and sugar and don’t care if from “dust” it came.

…Remember when A&P used to be called the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company? You probably don’t.

…HA’s grandmother always said she was going to the “Tea Company,” not the “store.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hissies could endanger public health

…Alison Young, writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Sept 10, 2006), says the top cheddars at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are out of there.

…Finally, they decided to go public with their complaints in a letter to director Julie Gerberding.

…Top down management…stifling science…new layers of bureaucracy…the blogs and missives are flying.

…More than a dozen of the big boys have left. All but two of the directors of the eight science centers—out!

...This includes the head of the pandemic flu operation.

…Kind of bad news in the event of a pandemic or terror attack, what?

…CDCers are saying this is like FEMA before Katrina. Ouch.

…The problem lies in big fiefdoms being shattered and the components scattering around the country.

…Giant erosion of the scientific base, is how scientist described that idea.

…Oh, yes—and the admin thought this was a good time to cut the CDC’s budget, too.

…Apparently, certain people (HA is sure they know who they are) are so worried about the boxes on the organizational chart that little things like outbreaks and clusters of disease may go unnoticed.

…HA also thinks they should worry less about obesity and more about germs.

…Gerberding responded by hiring a person to listen to employee complaints.

…HA is sure that will do the trick.

…Did that guy over there just sneeze?

Designer cleans up assistive devices

…HA totally loved the comment from architect and designer Michael Graves, as he lay in an ambulance with numb legs: He told people his only thought was: “I don’t want to die here because it’s so ugly.”

…Now that, as recounted by Louise Sloan in the Sept issue of the AARP Bulletin, is the definition of aesthetic sensibility—and a nifty way to stay alive!

…Graves was paralyzed (sinus infection that migrated to his spinal cord—great new thing to worry about, not that this is about us).

…Graves is so well known, a medical supply company hired him to design new assistive devices for them.

…In a week or so, his shower massager, illuminated bed rail, bath, bench and folding cane will be introduced.

…He talked to disabled people. He added color, design, whimsy.

…His bath massager is genius. He took a weak-sister sponge on a stick and made it a gorgeous appliance, great whether you are disabled or not.

…Check out

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ask, as always, what would Anthony Bourdain say

…Now, ta da, from Quick Cuisine, shelf-stable ready-to-eat meals that contain their own heating device.

…Meals ready-to-eat…hmmm, sounds familiar. MRE’s!

…Yes, the technology (but maybe not the recipes?) came from the Pentagon.

…You cook the stuff at 140 degrees for 10 mins.

…These meals are already available in Europe and are esp popular in Britain (no food jokes).

…Albertsons, Kroger, Publix and 7-Eleven are about to roll these out here.

…Will it vaporize after eating…like the Mission Impossible instructions? No? Landfill?


New kid protection deal

…Child seats are as heavy as a second kid. Twenty lbs or more!

…But help is on the way.

…The FAA has approved a light system of straps to lash kids into place.

…It’s called the Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES). It wraps around the seat and anchored by the seatbelt. There! That tot isn’t going anyplace.

…CARES is for tots from 22 to 44 pounds, which is about ages 2-4.

…It’s $75ish from

…By the way, this is not OK for cars. And you may have to BYO—the airlines are afraid they will be stolen and may not provide them.

…What a good idea! Who thunk it up? A mother—and grandmother—named Louise Stoll, a former Dept of Transportation employee.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Delicious cycle

…A mag called Four Weeks is coming out. It sorts women’s activities and buying whims into segments corresponding to their point in their menstrual cycle.

…They came up with this during the creative part of their cycle, HA wagers. A new one on her.

…The dance of estrogen/progesterone, the way they describe it, goes something like this.

…Week 1. First day of the period. They say a woman feels like a kid, but is still low on estrogen, so craves comfort. This section will contain recipes from “Mom’s kitchen” and laughter-filled getaways.

…Week 2. Estrogen is peaking, so she is seeking the fun and exotic. She also has a lot of testosterone, so may be feeling sexy. This section contains out-of-the-way trips, and must-have indulgences.

…Week 3. Progesterone, the sedating and nurturing hormone is rising, so she feels mellow. This is the time to tackle DIY projects.

…Week 4. Estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone are slumping—can we spell PMS? They say this makes a woman “a tad” more emotional and increases aches and pains. The feel-good guy serotonin—also low. Yuh-oh. Time for yummy, guilt-free food if that isn’t an oxymoron.

…Are we women really this predictable? Who even has a 28-day cycle anymore?

….Never one to let sleeping hormones lie, HA had some great gift ideas for each cycle. For the feel like a kid week, how about a trip to the zoo, Disneyland anyone, PB&Js, trip to Open Mike Night.

…For fun and exotic, sex toys, a new teddy, tiger-sweat perfume, and a trip to the Costa Del Sol?

…Now, that mellow week, time to do things for yourself. Weedeating! (Ask anyone, HA is all about the weedeating.) Call the contractors to redo the kitchen (oops, not done by PMS week, their families will miss Daddy).

…And for PMS week, Godiva, of course. Maybe a self-defense class. Buy a new guard dog? Kevlar for hubby? Midol, of course, by the pallet.

…During the period--that’s cleaning time! Merry Maids, the yard man, dusting the inside of the radio, you know how this goes.

…Yeah, sure. Like packmule HA would get a spa run or jaunt to the Costa del Sol.

…An opportunity to weedeat, yes. And when was the last time that radio saw a dustcloth?

…If only she had a magazine that could tell her what to do.


Consumer-driven? More like consumer driven nuts

…In his Capital column in the WSJ (Sept 7, 2006), David Wessel put the kibosh on the admin theory that if only everyone knew the cost of medical services and could research docs and hosps, they could make the best choices and drive the baddies out of business.

…This presupposes, Wessel says, that health care is like other businesses. (And that insurance plans will let you pick and choose.)

…For one thing, would patients go to all of the trouble to do the nearly impossible task of researching all this, if they liked their doctors and thought they were getting good care?

…Many do think this.

…But Wessel says just because patients think they are getting good care, doesn’t mean they are.

…If you like the food in a restaurant, it doesn’t matter if a restaurant reviewer agrees. Same for a car. If you like it, who cares what websites say about it? But in health care, what the experts think might be life or death for you.

…Rand asked some elderly patients at two big managed care plans about their docs. The average score was 8.9 out of 10.

…They were asked did the doctor and other providers listen to you? Did they explain things so you could understand? Oh, yes! Communication came in a 9.2.

…Some researchers went over 13 mos of records for these patients, using a standardized measure of quality.

…These same docs and providers averaged 5.2 on what they were actually doing for these people.

…Patient satisfaction surveys—much favored by health plans, for obvious reasons—do not tell the whole story.

…If these patients, for instance, didn’t know that a standard of care was for them to be offered a daily aspirin, they wouldn’t know their care wasn’t as great as they thought.

…HA has one corollary observation. To get this loyalty, these people must either believe “doctor knows best” or have extraordinarily personality-endowed physicians.

…Her main gripe—again just this week about a provider her 89-year-old mother sees—is that many of these people are personality-less and do not inspire the least bit of confidence.

…1’s out of 10.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Teens should not take dangerous jobs

…This is one for "The Big Book of Duh."

…One out of six teens is injured on the job, many in jobs they should not have even had, due to their age.

…Published in the Sept-Oct issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior was a study of 6,800 Wisconsin high school students.

…Half got a job and of that half, 514 were hurt so badly it affected their activities for three days or more.

..Seventy kids die of work-related injuries each year.

…Well, no wonder. These kids aren’t tearing tickets at the movies, they are working in lumber mills (where half got injured), lumberyards (40% hurt), gas stations (36%), someone’s farm besides theirs (36%), and construction (30%).

…Legally, kids were not old enough to be in most of those jobs.

…Kids working late were more likely to get hurt.

…The researchers said that might be because the managers with common sense had gone home.


…Just because youngsters think they are invincible, doesn’t mean they are. Where are the ‘rents?

Currying medical favor

…There’s an ancient spice that’s becoming new kid on the block for various health purposes: turmeric.

…It gives curry its yellow color. The second you taste it, you will know you have had it before.

…Chinese docs have used it for years, as have Ayurvedic docs in India.

…It has antibiotic properties, it detoxifies.

…Various studies have linked it with preventing recurrence of breast cancer, benefiting ligaments and keeping you limber, cleaning up the liver, and promoting digestive health.

…Turneric regulates metabolism, its proponents say. What does that mean? Burn food—weight, people!

…It also soothes insides against irritants, even from drugs.

…It can lower cholesterol.

…Pretty lazy spice, HA would say.

…Wait, it also treats respiratory infections! Acne and psoriasis—turmeric. Bladder probs? Yup.

…If you don’t feel like pounding in a ton of curry everyday, you can put ¼ to ½ teaspoon of the powder in a water with honey.

…You can also take the powder and mix it with aloe vera gel and put it on bug bites. Don’t overdo it or you will turn yella.

…OK, what’s the catch? Like most stuff, pregnant women should probably avoid it. Be careful if you are on blood thinners, too. And those with gallstones probably should not be hitting the Indian food too hard.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The worst part of you to be thin

…HA has had bouts of hair loss—the platinum tumbleweeds on the bathroom floor.

…Writing in the Arizona Republic (Aug 29, 2006), Connie Midey elaborates most unnecessarily: “You don’t need a reminder that you, in your 40s, 50s or beyond, have lived more years than still await you.”

…Uh, no we don’t! Thanks a mill, Connie!

…We surely don’t need what one woman called “fairy hair.”

…Oh, lighten up. Half of women get this! It’s normal to lose 50 to 100 hairs a day. Beyond that, you don’t want to know.

…It’s the hormones. It’s the genes. It’s the stress. It’s the thyroid. It’s toxins. Chemo, we know that one (not everyone loses hair).

…Some women lose hair after weight-loss surgery, too, so this is a new group. Weird self-slathered dyes and perms can also discourage otherwise enthusiastic hair.

…Hair grows in three stages. The first is the actual growing period, which lasts two to six years (90% of hair).

…In the second, or transitional stage, one percent of the hair stops growing and shrinks. This takes weeks, not years.

…Finally in the last stage, old hair is pushed out by new. This takes months and ideally involves only 10% of the hair.

…The doctor will ask if your hair is brittle, what you take for meds and supplements, what is going on in your life, etc. He or she might also order blood tests or a scalp biopsy.

…Some women even spray a dye on the bare scalp places or get a transplant or weave.

…HA favors those “Hair & Nails” vitamin mixtures, mostly consisting of biotin. They work, for her, anyway.

…For you--she is thinkin’ hair plugs.


Keeping your own med records

…Ho-hum, here comes this again. Keep a diary of your own records.

…HA has written about this so many times. She even tried it for two entries. Now she can’t remember when she was in the hospital, even.

…Usually around Christmas?

….(Hmmm, Dr Freud, call your service.)

…You know you should do this. Nothing fancy-schmancy. Just a notebook with date, time, doc, why, and what he or she said or prescribed.

…You could find your kids’ immunization records this way.

…What if we have another flood or tornado? Then what? Oops.

…When enrollment time at the health plan rolls around, at least you would know what plan you are on.

…Travelers would have medication and treatment records, or at least a clue about them.

…Come on, can we get real? HA will if you will.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Smallie-size it

…Obviously, restaurant and fast-food portions are gimongous! There are enough fries in there to fence your house.

…They beg you to make it larger. (“Yes, supersize me, I need to buy all new clothes.”)

…HA’s kid uses a Big Gulp cup for milk. That is one big…well, you get the idea.

…People apparently are too damn dumb to know what a portion is. Taking a lead from this notion, researchers asked people how much they ate the day before. Guess what? They were too damn dumb!

…See if this helps. A meat portion is the size of a deck of cards.

...A fish portion can be the size of a checkbook.

…Two tablespoons of peanut butter = pingpong ball.

…Pancake = compact disk (3 per customer).

…Bagel = hockey puck (many are twice this or more).

…Cheese = size of four dice.

…Pasta = tennis ball. (Man, really?)

…Tip: Try measuring once. Then you will remember it.

…Those Lean Cuisines—seriously, that’s a portion.

…Focus on soups, stews, fruits, veggies. They fill you up and have lots of water.

…This one is so sad. There is a pie portion measurer you can buy. Go to Want to guess how many pieces in a pie?

…Hate to break it to you: 12.

How about a virus hoagie?

…The FDA has approved the use of bacteria-eating viruses as food additives. Before we make immature retching sounds, these are bacteriophages (oh, PHAGES, well all righty then).

…These critters will be sprayed on cold cuts to prevent listeriosis, admittedly a very yucky form of food poisoning.

…Very safe, announced a professor at Rockfeller University.

…A lot of this comes from East Europe where phages are deliberately given to people to wipe out diseases.

…Phage viruses are everywhere…water, soil, our insides. They are the most prevalent lifeform on earth.

…Each phage has to be customized to the virus it is intended to kill. And then sprayed onto the food.

…So far, Kraft and the meat packing industry are looking at this but not committing. Soon, though, you may see “bacteriophage preparation” on labels.

…Does HA still hear those retching sounds? Oops, they were coming from her.

…HA prefers not to think of lunch as a teeny video-game-like fight with light swords, heading stomachward.

…But if this is progress, we will all have to eat it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Drive, he said

…Daniel Akst, writing in the Wall Street Journal (Sept 1, 2006), asks if you have driven cross-country lately? This is a soul, not health issue. Or is it?

…HA comes from the tradition of the family driving vacation. Do people still take those? Three weeks on the road, begging for swimming pool motels, buffeted all day by hot wind (before a/c, HA is old), fights over whether kids could order a meal or had to share.

..Weird adventures…bobbing in Salt Lake, where you can’t go under and your nether parts sting with salt. Dipping a toe in the ice water of Lake Superior. Swimming in another icy body of water outside a lodge in the Rockies—then returning to find the hotels had been kicked out of the national park and the lake was just a lake surrounded by pines.

…HA also remembers shouting out Burma Shave signs and begging to see “The Biggest Bull in the World,” which was advertised for hundreds of miles. When Pater Familias relented—it was a dusty cow in a pen, perhaps not even male (HA wasn’t into checking in those days).

…Akst says don’t let cross-country driving go the way of the Atlantic crossing.

…Thelma & Louis, Jack Kerouac, Route 66…the romance is still there. It is not all McDonalds.

…It’s a balance between wonder and exhaustion, Akst writes.

…Even though it’s September, with that built-in back to school rush, we need to remember to stop and smell the coffee…

…Er, joe. Served by a waitress named Mabel with her name on her pocket.

Time to regroup

…Writing in the Arizona Republic (Aug 7, 2006), Sonja Haller says multitasking is bad for us. (What was that? HA was listening to the radio.)

…To completely make us shudder, she likens it to putting up spinning plates on sticks.

…What is the answer? Do less, Haller writes. Don’t make a big list and drag it around. If you need to return a library book, put it in the car and when you get near the library, your mind will probably remind you.

…Create a quiet hour. March steadily toward deadlines, don’t rush over. One hour a day with no emails, one man said, allows him to work on one priority project with full concentration.

…Play together. If you have kids or a spouse, double up doing things with them.

…Just decide not to feel rushed. Breathe more slowly.

…Say no more often. Pick and choose obligations. You don’t always have to be the good guy.

…Delegate. This is what kids are for.

…Lower your standards. Put yourself first, then your family, then your work.

…Stop every once in awhile and stretch, walk, or jump around. It resets the brain.

…A brain reset button. HA needs one of those.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Lattes are grande, but what about the birdies?

…In honor of “The Croc Hunter,” Steve Irwin, HA is posting on a holiday—because it’s a wildlife story.

…Jim Burns, the ornithology columnist for the Arizona Republic, brought up an unusual subject Sept 1st.

…Coffee and birds.

…September is songbird migration time. But where are they going? Burns points out that they are headed for the places where coffee is grown.

…When they get there, they need trees. This means shade-grown coffee.

…Up to 10 billion (that’s a B) birds breed in North America, then head for South America in winter.

…Late last century, slash-and-burn agriculture in South America, coupled with leaf rust, almost deforested some areas.

…Coffee plants like shade and now had to be forced to produce using fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

…A desert, no insects, no birds.

…But how much of a difference would this make? More than 40% of permanent cropland in Latin America is devoted to coffee.

…The songbird population is down 3% annually.

…Where can you get shade-grown coffee? Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and Sunflower are three places. Look for “organic” and “fair trade” on the labels.

…Better yet, look for “shade-grown.”

…HA’s mother was saying the other day that she didn’t hear birds singing. Maybe it’s because they head south and find a wasteland.

….Kinda sucks the chirp right out of them.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Siss, boom...uh-oh

…Falling off the pyramid or spraining her ankle could be the least of your kid’s problems if she becomes a cheerleader.

…Renee Grant-Williams, a voice coach, says no other sport requires such coordination of body and voice.

…And so much yelling!

…Cheerleaders often become hoarse and can get voice-altering nodes on their vocal cords that could require surgery.

…One thing you can’t do is tell cheerleaders to yell softly. Ain’t gonna happen, the coach says.

…She recommends using lower body strength to support voices. Cheerleaders should breathe “low” and stand with a solid grip on the ground, projecting their voices from there.

…HA needs a minute on that one. Yell with your legs?

…Also? Megaphone? Do they still use those?

…Cheerleaders are often outside on cold fall or winter days and are susceptible to colds.

…Grant-Williams recommends eating a balanced diet, staying away from alcohol and caffeine, wearing layers, putting a scarf on your throat, chewing gum or candy, and gargling with warm salt water.

…Clamming up about how super-fab you are, after the game and in the lunchroom, might also be a plus.

…Did HA really say that?

Out, out, damn pills

…Must we take all this stuff? HA had an almost-fatal medication reaction four years ago—and still takes four pills.

…One doctor looked over the list and said, “I like these.” You take them!

…Amy Dockser Marcus, writing in the Wall Street Journal in 2003, said a lot of docs today try to steer people away from taking so many meds, especially those from the drugstore shelves that people tend to layer on willy-nilly.

…This is “less-is-more” medicine, Marcus says.

…Studies show that OTC cough syrups, such as Robitussin and Dimetapp, work no better than a sugar placebo.

…Some docs think fevers serve a purpose—to “cook” out infection. If the person is miserable, sponging and drinking fluids can help.

…Colds seem to last the same amount of time whether you treat them or not.

…Coughing up yellow gunk, docs used to think, meant an infection was bacterial—bring out the antibiotics.

…Now, they know viral infections can also produce this delightful substance. Antibiotics are no good for those—and giving them for no reason just allows bacteria to become more resistant to their effects.

…Some decongestants, such as Sudafed, can raise blood pressure. Anti-inflammatories can have the opposite effect on stomach lining. Aspirin and ibuprofen can thin blood and pop little bleeds.

…At the same time, docs are writing out more prescriptions than ever. So many drugs, so many older people, so little time!

…Most viruses last three weeks, yet most people don’t give in, admit they feel bad, and spring for a doctor until week 2. Then they take home the drugs, take them, and feel better.

…In many cases, they would have felt better anyway.

…Some suggestions (you have to decide): If you get a cough, steam in the shower and drink hot tea with honey. Headache? Cut back on caffeine (you may feel worse before you feel better).