Monday, March 31, 2008
…Personally, HA has kind of a yen for balding guys. That guy from “Transporter”
and “Bank Job”—Jason Statham--pretty tasty! Jeremy Piven, Stanley Tucci are also cuties. Elliot Spitzer..OK, one too many and comb-overs don’t count anyway.
…Men like to fret over going bald, and HA supposes she would too, although she has plenty of other imperfections to obsess over and it would he hard to choose.
…Anyhow, if you are among the shedding worried, HairDX makes a DNA test that searches for the genetic variant that 95% of all bald men share.
…Jason Millman wrote about this in USA Today.
…Men who test positive for this variant have a 60% chance of going bald before
…You can also see if you have another variant that means an 85% chance of not going bald by that age.
…For $149, you swab the inside of your cheek and send it off. You can get it off the hairdx.com website. Some docs also have it
…Naturally, some profs have weighed in saying this might be sketchy since many of the genes involved have not been identified.
…The makers claim it helps to know…But if the “cures” are scammy, what is a guy to do?
…Probably best to take some advanced driving lessons and break into the movies.
Friday, March 28, 2008
…Isn’t Maury Povich the guy who does the paternity tests and then springs the results on his guests? Well, he's out of work.
….Writing in the Philly Inquirer, Faye Flam and Tom Avril says Rite-Aid now offers at-home paternity tests.
…So far, these are available on the West Coast and in Penn, NJ, and 27 other states, along with the District.
…They cost $29.99 plus a $119 lab fee and involve scraping cells from Mom, the kid, and the assumed Dad. Or should that be accused?
…The cheek swabs gather up so-called junk DNA, which varies from person to person even more than the kind in your genes.
…It’s based on something called short tandem repeats, differences in the sequence of chemicals. Most DNA tests look at 13 places in the chain, while this test (Identigene) looks at 16, the authors say.
…Paternity is more complicated than this (and scientists are probably spewing at this explanation) since you are comparing three people. With good samples, though, it can be 99.99% accurate.
…Sometimes, a child’s DNA may have novel mutations—and other tests are needed to prevent a false negative.
…Both men and women are buying the tests in equal numbers. That’s interesting—maybe it indicates Dads are trying to get some say in the kids’ lives.
…Or the opposite—the kid isn’t mine and I will buy the test to prove it.
…Sometimes the tests are used to see if a child’s newly found birth parents are really his or her parents.
…Someone said people might buy them as a joke. Yeah,pretty funny stuff. Only involves love, money, honesty, and a child’s future.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
…Earlier this month, Tara Parker-Pope had a blog entry on the New York Times site about bedbug-sniffing dogs. Yes, some loyal pooches can sniff out the little beggars, which are about as big as an apple seed.
…Is there anything dogs can’t do? They rule!
…Anyhow, bedbugs are baaaack, people. More identified with foreign hotels, now they are nestled in the seams of the seldom-washed comforters and the baseboards of the snazziest hotels in the country.
…The adorably macho “Dirty Jobs” guy always hurls the comforter onto the floor upon entering a hotel. Do you? HA will now!
…If you see white powder around the room, yup, they have been trying to kill bedbugs.
…Any blood spots on the comforter or mattress underneath the sheet. Uh..you have an issue.
…Like the ticks that terrorized HA last summer (and have not been forgotten, you better believe that!), bedbugs have a pretty close relationship with life and don’t want to leave it.
…The comments that followed on Tara’s blog were many and disgusting. Someone got bedbugs in the hospital having a baby—and the baby came home bitten, too! (“This makes me crazy sick,” Tara commented, with her usual flair.)
…Flight attendants reported picking up these unwanted passengers and bringing them home.
…HA heard the Fox newsroom was infested (and supposedly now er, debugged).
…Hiring a trained sniffer dog is expensive—hundreds of dollars. Then what--they don't eat them or anything, just point them out.
…Oh, ack, the insects are gonna win, let’s face it.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
...Evelyn Neier, state coordinator for the Kansas Junior Master Gardener Program, says all those seed catalogs are great for kids, too.
…Older kids can read them and younger ones like the pix.
…As HA has said in these pages, gardening can provide safe,organically grown veggies, too.
…Take your kids to the garden center with you. HA’s daughter was wild for snapdragons when she was young. She called them dragonsnaps and pooched their little cheeks to make the blossoms “talk.”
…HA’s grandmother also helped her make ballerinas from Hollyhock flowers—attach the tutu-like flowers together with a toothpick.
…Plant things that nestle in leaves like pumpkins or eggplants—or underground like carrots. Kids like to hunt for the harvest.
…When HA was a kid, she started bean seedlings in wet cotton. They grew without dirt! She also put fish sticks in with corn in the ground as fertilizer, like the Pilgrims did with dead fish.
…Mixing in flowers—like marigolds that repel insects--gives the kids bouquets to pick for Mom.
…Plus kids are outside, chitchatting with their parents, and observing and smelling nature. Even the bugs are entertaining.
…Actually bugs and fat, horned caterpillars are the best part—if you’re five. After that, they pale.
Monday, March 24, 2008
…Brain drugs, people, brain drugs! So far, according to Benedict Carey, NYT, Mar 9, 2008, no Nobel Laureates have had to hand back their money for using brain-enhancers, but this could be coming.
….Ah, doping in academia. Dude!
…Recently, according to this, two researchers at Cambridge dimed out half a dozen colleagues for using prescriptions drugs like Adderall and Provigil to “promote wakefulness” and improve performance.
…Did they call the NoDoz store and it was out?
…Well, a bunch of profs wrote in and said they used enhancers, too.
…Some say this could have a deeper impact on society than Roger Clemmons shoring up his aging form.
…The purpose of drugs is not to turn healthy people into gods, one said. Hmmm. Did someone decree that? Did HA miss the memo?
…One scientist said some of her colleagues only used these drugs to “stay vertical” for late-night events.
…You can tell who is using them, one added—they are angry, testy, and hyperfocused, and don’t want to be bothered. (But only at night events, right?)
…One guy wrote to the Chronicle of Higher Ed and said he could take on twice the responsibility, work twice as fast, write more effectively, manage better, be more attentive, devise better and more creative strategies.
…Seriously, check out that last comment. Anybody who came up in the Sixties knows that sentence is enhanced.
…Does HA care? Well, hmmmm, are they doing medical research? And where can she score Adderall?
Friday, March 21, 2008
…HA takes all generic drugs. She can’t afford the name brands and her insurance company isn’t enthused by them.
…As an educated amateur in the medical field, HA always believed that generics were “bioequivalent”—which she took to mean “just as good.” Sure, the cheap fillers in generics could kick up problems sometimes, but she really felt she was OK with generics.
…According to Melissa Healy, in the LA Times on March 17, 2008, the FDA insists generics are just as good. Same dose of the active ingredient, delivered in the same way, and manufactured according to the same standards of quality—as Healey put it in her piece.
…Often, though, according to stories in med journals and testimony from docs, generic versions of some drugs bring on different side effects.
…To say generics aren’t swell is like saying you don’t love your mother, one doc was quoted as saying.
…Recently, the American Epilepsy Society asked the FDA to do a large clinical trial to assess “for once and for all” if substituting generics risks problems in patients with epilepsy.
…One study of the generic for Wellbutrin was less effective in quelling depressive symptoms. The same lab that did that has asked the FDA to look at Toprol XL, the fifth most prescribed drug in America (high blood pressure).
…Cardiologists are reportedly worried about prescribing warfarin instead of Coumadin as a blood thinner (warfarin may have helped HA’s right eye go south).
…Other docs have questioned generic hypothyroid drugs and immunosuppressants.
…Of course, the generic drugmakers say the big pharmcos are trying to sow doubt.
…One doc said they were not saying all generics were bad, just that in some cases, it might make a difference.
…Generic drugs are not subject to the same approval process as the original drug. Period.
...So if you think you are not getting the result you’d like, ask the pharmacist. You can also check with www.fda.gov/medwatch to report adverse reactions. Contributing to these experiences is important.
…HA once felt horrible on a generic BP medicine. She decided this life was not for her. Sad. Miserable. The pharmacist said it could be the filler—he had heard other reports.
…HA still takes it because she can’t afford the brand name. She cowboyed up. Now many others will have to do that—especially on the anti-depressants, where that cowboying thing might not work so well.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
…Charles Perry, writing in the LA Times on March 19, 2008, brings the 411 on jellybeans.
…These little Easter guys come in more than 50 flavors now, including margarita, Perry says. Even garlic, for the truly obsessed (or should that be troubled?).
…The jelly is Turkish delight (turkey beans probably didn’t make it as a name). This is chewy and cornstarch-thickened and was created by some guy in Istanbul in 1777.
…Some American, in the 1800s, coated the delight with a hard shell so you could put it in your pocket.
…You can’t make them at home. You need to moisten the beany centers and then tumble them in a dryer-like thing that beats the outer delight part into a shell. This doohicky is called a “pan,” if you care, after dragee pan (dragee are sugar-coated nuts).
…To get the bean part, you punch bean-shaped holes in cornstarch and throw in the Turkish delight and dry it for a few days. Then into the “pan” that looks like a cement mixer not a pan.
…The outside coating is made up of several layers. Sometimes the taste is only in the last layer.
…Kids like jellybeans. Even one president did. Are you proud of HA for not mentioning which one?
…People like the colors as much as the taste. Make that, tastes plural!
…For HA’s money, licorice and lemon are the best. Which ones do you like—and don’t say garlic. She couldn’t take it.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
…In a paper presented at the latest meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, some docs from the Scripps Clinic in LaJolla said, in essence, if you get a knee replacement, don’t make golf your first sport afterward.
…The researchers implanted sensors in four patients after arthroplasty. Force on the knees was measured for jogging, tennis, golf swings, treadmill walking, and biking.
…Jogging, tennis and golf generated the highest forces on the knee. Biking was lowest. The docs said they were surprised golf put such force on the forward knee.
…Almost half a million people get new knees each year in the US. A study HA saw this morning said women were less likely to be offered a knee (just incidentally). Check out: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/18/health/18disp.html?ref=health&pagewanted=print.
…The advice? Think about that knee in selecting physical activity. If you jog, do it on the treadmill, not pavement.
…Recovery can be long and painful from these. Don’t do anything to undo it.
…There is that commonsense thing again.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
…In the Wayback, HA’s kid’s school wanted new playground equipment. Of course, we parents have to pony for it—and even then something was wrong with it and it caused a huge hassle.
…HA remembers it as being big railroad-tie type loggy things bolted together.
…Whatever happened to tacky little swings that always had one leg bursting out of the ground when you went “high”? You couldn’t beat that for a sickening and thrilling LURCH! Thump...thump...thump.
…Anyhow, the Univ of Health Sciences in Philly has some tips for playground safety.
…Kids need some chance to fall, says Roger Adeishi, JD, assistant prof of occupational therapy. “They need to learn what not to do,” he said.
… Playgrounds today exercise all parts—including fine motor skills and social interaction (in addition to wild racing around, hanging upside down, pushing kids off from the top, and that lurch).
…Yet, playground equipment is the leading cause of injury to children. Cushioned surfaces are fine—but parents must still keep an eye out.
…Yet, parents should not hover. They should stay at a distance and only intervene if things get really hairy.
…If you do put a tacky swing in the backyard (apparently and happily these still exist), remember—it can get beaten up. Inspect regularly.
…You mean rebury that leaping leg? Maybe some concrete?
Monday, March 17, 2008
…Barbara De Lollis, USA Today, tells a story of an 83-year-old waiting for a wheelchair to meet her plane—and sitting for half an hour and finally being told to leave the plane. No wheelchair. Then she stood in the jetway, leaning on her cane for half an hour.
…This was at 2:00 in the morning, people! The woman needed service.
…This is a law, not some little frill like you know, food and drink. Airlines must provide free wheelchair service under the Air Carrier Access Act.
…In the last three years, 34,000 diabled flyers have complained of the treatment they got—or didn’t get. In over half these cases, wheelchair assistance was the problem.
…Uh-oh---this could be the problem. The airlines contract for this service with outside companies.
…An LA airports commissioner, himself disabled, says wheelchair assistants are low-paid and exploited. They make less than $19,000 a year. Most have not been trained in how to lift or help a disabled passenger.
…Well, isn’t that special? Fix it!
Friday, March 14, 2008
…National Standard, in a copyrighted story (Mar 2008), takes on the traditional St Patty’s fare of corned beef and cabbage.
…The protein is from beef pickled in brine. Apparently, according to the article, which quotes the History Channel, cabbage was traditionally Irish, but corned beef (referring to the kernel-like salt grains used to preserve it) was brought to Ireland in the 1800s as a substitute for bacon.
…But isn’t beef bad for you? The article said yes, meat has contaminants, but if you eat different kinds you may not get enough of any one contaminant to harm you.
…Meat-eaters have a slightly lower risk of bone fractures. Vegans might get less calcium, which might account for their higher risk of fracture.
…Cabbage, though, is aces! It used to be used medicinally in Roman times.
…The old wives think cabbage helps heal inflammation.
…Cabbage also contains a compound that can cure a disease of the head and neck caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (which also causes cervical cancer).
…Cabbage juices also have antifungal effects—and there is always a fungus amungus someplace.
…The Japanese drink a beverage made of cabbage and broccoli to lower cholesterol. HA would rather have high cholesterol, thanks.
…Green beer is great, though. The nannies, except the Irish ones, probably wouldn’t approve.
…But who asked them.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
…Have you seen those food prices lately? Sure, you have—in this blog!
…And how about those e. coli scares involving bagged veggies?
…Writing in the Arizona Republic (Mar 8, 2008), Karen Fernau says many Americans have decided to be the source of their own organic produce.
…Seeds catalogs are flying into mailboxes and gardening classes are booked solid. Nurseries are slammed.
….Gardening is also good exercise. Fitness the Dynamic Gardening Way by Jeff Restuccio was featured in a story HA wrote for WebMD. He recommends concentrating on deep breathing and increasing your range of motion by exaggerating each movement while digging or raking (hoping the neighbors are not watching).
…Change it up—rake right-handed, then left-handed.
….Double dig, meaning dig down a foot, then bring the soil below to the top. This burns calories, my babies!
…Bring the kids into the garden. Install a chinning bar.
…Be sure to lift heavy bags carefully—with your knees, as they say. If you have allergies, take a pill.
…Don’t throw poison all over the place. This is supposedly to be healthy.
…Let’s face it, a dollar pack of seeds may seem like a cost-effective way to get lettuce, but by the time you add gloves, tools, fertilizer (go easy on it), books, magazines, and all the rest of the gear, you are probably not saving money.
…Just sanity. And maybe your life because you are not gobbling germs acquired in the field and by dragging those nice green leaves in and out of boxes, trains, trucks, counters and bins from one end of the country to the other.
…Even growing herbs is a relatively cheap recession nicety. If there can be such a thing.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
…HA is such a computer rat it’s a wonder she isn’t in a full-body sling. So she was interested to read a story by Ellen Simon of the Associated Press about how repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel were down down 21% in 2006 alone.
…Why? Well, first the “epidemic” could have been just ever so slightly exaggerated. A study done at Mayo in 2001 said computer users got carpal tunnel no more often than the general population.
…Blue collar workers doing repetitive movements on assembly lines get carpal far more than white collar.
…Some white collar patients might have referred pain from back or neck problems.
….Some companies have also been working at prevention. L.L. Bean shuts down its manufacturing line three times a day for 5-min stretches.
…Blue Cross bought ergonomic chairs and desks and assessed work areas for problems. Worker comp costs have dropped 62%.
…The govt tried to put in some ergonomic standards in 2000, but business screeched so hysterically, they abandoned them. This got companies interested in their own steps, though.
…Supposedly not being forced by the govt made businesses ever so much more responsive.
…Oh, well—HA needed a laugh. And it’s good news about those wrists.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
…Lisa Martin (Dallas Morning News) rinses her sinuses with a neti pot.
…Taken from Ayurvedic medicine, this little pitchery thing circulates salt water in one nostril and out the other, rinsing out pollen and other nasties.
…Apparently Oprah is behind the recent popularization, along with that Mehmet Oz guy. HA thinks Oprah can bite her, but HA takes advice where she can get it. Also—one of HA’s best friends uses a neti pot.
…You can get these things in most health food places, or it you have spare money you don’t know what to do with—at Whole Foods.
…Running water into your nose may look like waterboarding but apparently it’s wayyyy less ghastly.
…One doc sagely remarked: What’s old is new again.
…Another doctor said washing the irritants out is better than putting the antibiotics in.
…Of course, the recipes for saltwater vary and you can even buy special salt.
…Of course you can.
Monday, March 10, 2008
…Julie Jargon, writing in the WSJ on Mar 7, 2008, talks about some ways our favorite food companies are making (their) ends meet.
…Sara Lee is reformulating the bread with cheaper, lower-protein wheat.
…There are now only 40 kinds of Hamburger Helper—down from 75. (Seventy-five! How much help did that hamburger need, anyhow?)
…Campbell’s is cutting the number of ingredients in its soups. They described their earlier approach of different meats and flavorings as being “artisanal.” As in art of cooking?
…Coffee is shooting upwards.
…But those specialty things—like the lower-sodium soups all over TV—are expected to do better.
…Those with strong brand loyalty such as Heinz and Wrigley will hold their customers.
…Our old bud Kraft may be in for it, though. Their brands, they say, are not strong enough to withstand price increases.
…HA hates to even think it, but did she recently buy Kraft Dinner that was over two bucks?
…It’s the cheese. Really? That was real cheese? Anyhow, they say it’s the cheese in Kraft products that is not so negotiable.
…Meat companies are also vulnerable. Animal feed is going up…
…Many companies are looking to overseas markets to save them. They also will acquire other companies.
…Even Hershey, which relies on commodity markets, may face trouble.
…No chocolate? Oh, please, we can’t have a recession without chocolate. It just isn’t conceivable. Go back to the drawing boards, people.
Friday, March 07, 2008
…Writing in the AARP Bulletin (Mar 2008), Katherine Greider takes on the subject of trying to get elderly parents or loved ones good home care.
…Boy, has HA been there!
…HA’s father was wheelchair-bound from a stroke for 10 years. HA wrote an ad titled COULD THIS BE YOUR DREAM JOB? Apparently, many people thought so, but some of them saw it more as a dream opportunity, to steal, to sue. Her dad did have pretty good care for most of the time, but there were incidents.
…Especially, if you live at a distance, it is difficult to get reliable care. You really need to pop in and check up on what is going on. Or get someone to do it for you.
…Greider cites the case of someone who had their house ransacked by a “caregiver” who had not been properly background-checked.
…Regulators are now conducting a pilot program in seven states to check backgrounds more thoroughly—and almost 4% of those checked are wrong numbers. (Maybe some were like the sly cab driver who waltzed HA’s mother out of $50,000 before the kids caught on.)
…If you use an agency, see if it is Medicare-approved. If it is not Medicare-certified, see if they are licensed by the state (the place where HA’s Mom stays is).
…Get recommendations from geriatric care managers or from doctors (HA never had much luck there).
…Ask the agency lots of questions—who does the background checks, what do those checks amount to, how big a turnover do they have, are the aides salaried, do they get benefits, who checks on the aides?
…Who checks on the aides? You do! Come at unannounced times. Ask the patient about the care. Even people suffering from dementia can offer clues. Watch how the aides interact with the residents (at one place HA’s mother lived for only one month, the aides ever made eye contact and sat there watching TV).
…If you see things you don’t like, call your state’s home health care hotline, Greider says. Or the Medicare hotline at (800) 633-4227. Or go to medicare.gov and then to “home health.” Also check with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).
…Then cross your fingers.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
…Don Mayhew, writing in the McClatchy Newspapers, says absinthe is back. This is the weird, cloudy green drink so beloved of Hemingway and the debauched writers of Paris in the 1930s.
….It tastes like licorice laced with bile. The ritual is legend--you either set it on fire with a sugar cube or mix it with chilled water over a sugar cube.
…Uh-oh, that does sound a little entertaining. Actually, the original stuff had been banned since early last century. Apparently, the banning started when some Swiss guy killed his pregnant wife and two kids in 1905 after drinking absinthe (and enough other cocktails to stun a wildebeest).
…Well, absinthe does contain a powerful hallucinogenic called thujone, contained in wormwood. But, you can still buy the wormwood in health food stores.
…Pretty soon, though, Pernod was all that was left of “the devil’s cocktail.” (It’s also called “the green fairy.”)
…But it never really died out. And now, our friend the internet has jumpstarted the absinthe game again. Check out www.wormwoodsociety.org).
…The federal ban on it has been lifted.
…So now some bars serve it. You need a special spoon, described as a trowel with holes in it. The spoon goes on top of the glass, the sugar cube goes on the spoon, then chilled water is poured over the cube into the liqueur, forming a cloud called a louche. Louches should be neither too thin or too opaque.
…Five ounces of water are poured. Then you are all set to write The Old Man and the Sea.
…Or barf. And this stuff probably doesn’t improve with use as it wends its way back up.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
…What is up with seeing some drug on TV and deciding you want to take it? This is your one and only body---if something goes wrong, you can’t jump out and get another one.
…The FDA requires the makers to list all those side effects for a reason. You know, the sudden loss of vision, boner lasting more than four hours, dizziness, incontinence, even lymphoma and other cancers. Then they check the ad to see if the most common side effects are listed
…This is the cure—not what is being “cured.”
…Yes, for some diseases and disorders, drugs are lifesavers. But these ads are on TV to sell more drugs—and a recent study showed they work. A third of Americans have “asked their doctor,” as instructed. Of those, 82% got a prescription for the requested drug or another.
…Do people follow up—find out that the little inhaler that looks so cute actually has resulted in deaths. That kind of thing?
…What about everyone on a statin—more and more questions are being raised. But when people see a doctor (not even a cardiologist, and a guy who never practiced medicine or had a DEA number or prescribed meds) whose name is on an artificial heart and says he TAKES a drug, they think, “Wow, this stuff must be safe and terrific.”
…He didn’t row the shell (which takes a lot of specialized skill), so maybe someone took the pill for him, too. Who knows?
…The point is, he is not you. And what he says is not necessarily good for you, either. Be smart.
…This went over into a rant. Oh, so what—it’s HA’s birthday. She likes rants.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
…Sarah Kershaw, writing in the NYT (Mar 2, 2008), says another eating disorder has popped up—drunkorexia, substituting alcohol calories for food calories and basically starving.
…The drinking can be accompanied by either bingeing or starving.
…Typically, sufferers are college kids, who don’t eat all day so they can “afford” the calories to drink at night.
…Some women are afraid to put a grape in their mouths, but will drink a beer—according to one source.
…This requires a facility that specializes in both substance abuse and eating disorders. These centers are growing in number.
…Both behaviors are rooted in emotional pain (though HA has heard there may be genetic susceptibility).
…Many bulimics use the alcohol to vomit. (As many people know, that can work.)
About a third of bulemics have drug issues.
…So how to get free? This can be a problem because you need to stop drinking, but you can’t stop eating.
…Often expensive treatment is needed—and even then, the urge to binge, substitute half a dozen drinks, or cut eating begins to tickle the brain.
Monday, March 03, 2008
…In the 1960s, HA’s father, who was a physician, journeyed to London for a few months to study “socialized” medicine.
…He was horrified to see the government paying doctors. He never really lived to see the insurance companies take over his business. Because it did get taken over, anyway--and he would have loathed every minute.
…Socialized medicine remained a big boogeyman at HA’s house and in many medical homes.
…Writing in the LA Times (Feb 25, 2008), Susan Brink says a Harvard poll shows the word “socialized” is losing its scare power.
…The researcher wondered if people even knew what this 1940’s term meant anymore.
…Pollsters at Harris Interactive asked more than 2,000 people in two surveys.
…67% said they knew what it meant—and almost 80% said it meant that the government makes sure everyone has health insurance. Only 32% said it meant the government controls doctors.
…Of those who said they understood the word, 45% said with socialized medicine, health care would be better. 39% said worse.
…Among Republicans 70% said worse. Among Democrats, 70% said better.
…Independents were 45% for better, 38% worse than now.
…Republicans get mad when they hear the word, according to pollsters.
…Every so often, the word gets thrown around to scare people.
…HA does not intend to get into politics here, but she thinks it means something that is managed centrally for the good of a given society or subset of society.
…You know, like police, fire, Medicare--for and by society, socialized.