Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cool garden idea

This slammin' thing is called a Growroom, or rather a collection of Growrooms. It was designed by Space 10 as part of the Ikea Lab development program.

Growrooms are 2.8 x 2.5 meters in size. Light and water reach theplants and there is shade anad shelter for visitors.

The design is open-source--available from Space 10 (http://www.space10.io).

The goal is to create space-conserving sustainability in inner cities, perhaps, and developing countries. The whole thing is made of plywood.

This sustainability thing is spreading...in the Netherlands, a big supermarket has a growing herb garden--customers pick what they need.

There is also a whole "farm" in a shipping container.

Keeping thinking, people!

Monday, February 27, 2017

What first aid should mountaineers carry?

This is not a problem for me--I won't climb mountains or even hike. But plenty of people do.

Researchers at the Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio analyzed 11 previous studies of illness and injuries among climbers and came up with a list of medical supplies these people might want to bring along.

They admit it's hard to think of a one-size-fits-all and that experienced climbers learn over time what to bring.

First, the researchers studied what the most common problems are. Fifty-eight to 76% of injuried needing medical care came from falls.

Strains and sprains made up 25% to 29% of injuries.

Stomach upset and flu-like sickness were the most common illnesses.

The most commonly carried item was Band-Aids and other bandages. Some mountaineers also carried Vaseline and antibiotic reams.

The researchers suggested:

--Wound care supplies (medican glove, bandages, and tape)

--Splinting materials

--Syringes, tweezers, skin glue, Vaseline, blister ointments

--Anti-diarrheals, fever reducers, opioid painkillers, and anti-vomiting drugs.

Don't underestimate the mountain environment was the parting advice. This means also bringing proper clothing, water, navigation, and communication equipment.

I would add ropes to that... but what do I know?

Friday, February 24, 2017

I admit it--I had a fat cat

My cat Chubby Butters was almost 20 lbs when I rescued him. The shelter said he had to be  on a diet and no carbs. I went to Petsmart and carbs were not listed on the food. I added up all the other nutrients, subtracted from 100 and got that most of the cat food was 30% carbs.

I then limited his amounts, even though he was aggrieved. At the next vet visit, he had gained 8 lbs.


So he was fat all his 11 yrs he lived until near the end--when he lost some. But, believe me, this was not deliberate.

Now, we are told, 59% of cats and 54% of dogs are overweight (Assn for Pet Obesity Prevention).

Yet, pet owners and veterinarians disagree on what to do. What about corn and grains--bad or good. Raw diets? Organic?

Obesity kills millions of pets prematurely, the pet obesity people say. It costs in sadness and money.

Yet, when asked about their own pets' weight, owners and vets report they are normal (81% of owners, 87% of vets).

The survey also showed that many vets do bring up the pets's weight (half of owners said it was never raised). Of course, the vets said they did.

So what about that food?

--61% of owners and 25% of vets said low-grain or no-grain was best.

--Raw diet? 35% of owners thought this was best, but only 15% of vets.

--Corn? 73% of owners thought it was bad for pets, while 48% of vets agreed.

So what to do...

We may be back to limiting quantity--you saw where that got me. My other cats in the same household at the same time were normal weight. I did notice, Chubby begged for food the most--and I think some of this might have been out of boredom.

If it was hunger, it sure made him grumpy--he bit me so badly one time I had to get a tetanus shot.

I have one cat left--she is tiny and skinny as a skeleton, although very spry at almost 20. Every time I stand, she runs to her dish to be fed. So go know.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Would you like to peer into the future?

We all know people who consult fortune tellers to try to find out their future. There seems to be an assumption that people would like to know their personal prospects.

But do they? Do you?

Personally, I don't want to know about any future ailment or disability if there is nothing I can do about it.

Now, the American Psychological Assn has studied this and found that most people would not want to know about future events that will affect them--even IF these events would make them happy.

In other words, most people would say no thanks to the powers that made the Greek woman Cassandra, daughter of the king of Troy, such a great fortune teller.  In fact, her contemporaries thought she was cursed having this "gift."

Two studies--of more than 2,000 adults in Germany and Spain, Spain, found that 85% to 90% of people would not want to know about upcoming negative events, and 40% to 70% would not even want to know about happy ones.

The prefer-not-to-knows are more likely to buy life insurance. The closer one is to the event, say death of a spouse, the less that person wants to know the details.

The only thing people did want to know was the gender of a child coming in the future.

So how does this track with all the cancer and genetic screening we are told to want and get?

Deliberate ignorance is widespread, the researchers noted, more or less dodging the question.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Parents doubtful they are getting kids to eat healthy diets

My child eats sugary cereal. She bakes cookies every week, My child is 35.

Did I provide a good example? Yes, and no. We always ate a varied diet--all the food groups. I have had lifelong intestinal issues and am not crazy about raw foods such as salads due to pain. She eats some salad.

She used to work at Wendy's--we ate more fast food then. Now almost never.

Still, we are both large women. Our lab numbers are OK so far.

Researchers at the University of Michigan did a survey of (guilty) parents. Only one in six said their children's diet was nutritious. A fourth said their diet was somewhat healthy or not healthy at all.

Most parents, the researchers said, know healthy food is better for their kids--but work schedules, play schedules, and food preferences make meal prep frustrating.

You can spend time and money on a health meal and the kids won't eat one bite.

It's all too easy to slip into a fast food mentality.

The parents polled also said it was difficult to tell which foods were actually good. Phrases such as all-natural, low-fat, organic, and sugar-free abound--and there may be a big difference between the term and the nutritional value.

For lots of parents, too, healthy foods are not available--this is the so-called "food deserts."

Is awareness of this a start?

Can kids be co-opted into helping shop well--maybe as a challenge?

Can kids pack their own lunches or help make their own dinners?

How about kid cooking classes to get them interested?

Remember, the average kid cannot buy Twinkies and HoHos--you would have to. So don't have that stuff around. It's a start.

I remember when my daughter was about 10, she begged to get "fruit leather," which for some reason, I found to be an expensive and stupid food--basically pounded jam. I refused many times and endured many meltdowns. Now I wonder--was fruit leather really that horrible?

Maybe an occasional compromise would make all this go better.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Hey, there might be a good use for fat cells

Yes, you can buy a stuffed
fat cell...what is science
coming to?
Ah, those magnificent fat cells--they never seem to die, just multiply or the ones you have get fatter.

They cause inflammation in nearby tissues. They make you look wobbly-blobbly.

But now--get this--researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn say fat cells may be better than, say, skin cells, for anti-aging treatments.

Seems they chronologically age better. Wait--don't hang up. Chronological aging is the natural life cycle of cells--in the body, not manipulated in a lab. The Penn folks developed a system to collect and store cells without forcing them to replicate in a lab.

This is when the researchers found that human fat cells make more proteins than originally thought.  This gives them the ability replicate naturally and stay stable.

The cells are very robust, one researcher said. They can potentially be used in the future.

Stem cells are currently used in anti-aging treatments. They take them from various parts of the body, but now the fat cells may be the most promising.

At present, these cells are not approved for direct use by the FDA. But stay tuned.

Maybe those fat cells will turn out to benefit us after all--in situations other than preventing starvation.

I wonder about the FDA approval statement, though--don't doctors lipo out fat cells and inject them into other areas of the body as a way to make women look younger? I guess that doesn't count.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Blue Monday--does your job suck?

Robert Camarote, Government Executive magazine, Jan 18, 2017, says a lot of people are unhappy at work--no or paltry raises, no new skills, and a bad boss.

Even people with a good salary and a nice manager may be disgruntled. Our relationships and community ties seem to be lacking compared with past generations. We chase fame and image--which come with anxiety and depression. And our expectations are too high--all that "you can be anything you want" stuff.

We lack clear purpose and don't see how our work is helping.

Most of what we do may be internal reporting, performance measuring--how does that help anybody?

There is, in short, no obvious benefit.

Both employers and employees rarely ask--is this job important? Is it needed?

People with a direct connection to the customer can say--look, you might need this, I made it for you, I can explain it to you, if it breaks I can fix it for you.

This gives clear purpose.

So how can everyone's job edge closer to this ideal? That is up to managers and even to you, the employee...

How about it?

We can't spend our lives frustrated and moping around.

Friday, February 17, 2017

New advice: Keep baby in parents' room, but not bed

I remember watching my daughter sleep...breathing in and out. It is so hard to leave them, so tiny and helpless, in a big crib alone.

Of course, parents worry about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which claims 3,500 infant lives a year in the US.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a recommendation that infants sleep in the parents' room, close to their bed, but on a separate surface designed for them.

This arrangement should last six months to a year.

Doing this could cut the risk of SIDS in half.

Of course, some pediatricians say no, this would interfere with the parents' sleep and ability to perform the next day.

Still, the recommendation has been reinforced since it was made in 2011.

The rate of SIDS has actually decreased but the risk of accidental suffocation and strangulation in an adult bed have increased.

Parents need to decide for themselves. Some tips:

--Put babies on their backs to sleep.

--Have a firm surface.

--Keep soft objects--toys, pillows, wads of sheets, out of the crib.

--Breastfeed for as long as you can--it reduces the risk of SIDS.

--Keep your baby away from smokers or places where people smoke.

--Don't overbundle the baby and let him or her get too hot.

--Offer a pacifier so the baby does not thrash around.

--Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors or other products claiming to reduce the risk of SIDS.

I think the theory is that the parents will subconsciously listen for the baby's breathing if the child is nearby. You know--an instinct.

By the way, my daughter did not like covers. So I got her blanket sleepers--pajamas that were warm, fuzzy blanket material--no covers needed.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Australian system connects with discharged patients

Personify Care from Down Under helps hospital staff and patients stay connected after a hospital release.

This is one of 25 companies selected for the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institutes' accelerator program.

When patients are discharged now, they may get a fistful of paperwork, which they may or may not feel well enough to read and heed.

Personify Care sends the forms to the patients and allows them to ask followup questions.

Discharged patients receive regular texts from their nurse over a 6-8 week period with information about what they should be feeling and questions allowing the nurse to see if complications are developing.

In the test site, in Australia, each patient was contacted 17 times across seven weeks.

These texts got a 95.8 response rate. In one case in five, it identified risks the patient was facing.

Now--on to the US market.

Sounds useful to me. I remember being discharged from the hospital and feeling...what...scared..sort of abandoned--and thinking, what now?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nutty goodness

Jane E. Brody, New York Times, riffed off the other day on nuts.

When you stop to think of it, a nut is a seed for a big tree and a plant--it contains the nutrients that tree or plant will need to grow. Some of this giant nutrient package is also good for humans.

Since the 1990s, studies have revealed nuts as a powerhouse. The newest study (NEJM) followed 119,000 men and women for decades. They compared nut-eaters to non-nut eaters, basically.

The more nuts that were consumed, the less likely the participants were to die of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. Their death rates, in fact, were lower of all causes during the years that followed.

Those who ate nuts seven or more times a week were 20% less likely to die between 1980 and 2010...once a week, 11% less likely.

The more often people ate nuts, the leaner they were likely to be, too.

Nuts have calories, of course, quite a few. But if you eat nuts, you are less like to eat chips and other empty calorie foods. A small amount of nuts is filling.

All this applied to peanuts, as well--not just tree nuts.

Nuts are packed with unsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, Vitamin E, and fiber, to name a few things.

You can add nuts to hot and cold cereals, eat peanut butter on toast for breakfast, put them in stir fries, toss them over ice cream and into other desserts.

Nuts rule!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Start before birth to get kids to like veggies

Getting children to like vegetables starts in the womb, says Richard Rosenkranz, assoc professor of food, nutrition, dietetics and health at Kansas State.

At least in rodents (no offense), the eating habits of the mother can shape the tastes of the babies.

Once born, infants learn through exposure and variety.

--Rosenkranz says rely on whether the child will try the item, not the face they make once it's in their mouth.

--If they swallow, offer the item over time.

--As early as six months, kids notice whether the parent is eating the food...they take cues from the parents. Parents need to eat items similar to what they are offering the baby.

--Start with sweeter items--corn or carrots.

--When kids develop hand-eye coordination, they will pick up tiny pieces and be distracted by that and not mind the taste. Rosenkranz also recommends cutting items into fun shapes and putting on faces and eyes made of other food items.

--Involve the children in the food prep as early as kindergarten. If  kids wash the veggies or better yet, help shop for them or get them from the garden, they will eat them.

--As kids grow older, respect their input. Let them decide which veggies and fruits they prefer.

Remember, as kids grow into teens, their veggie consumption drops. Put dip and veggies on the counter, make it easy.

My daughter would eat artichokes with orange Hollandaise at age one, scrape the leaves with her new white teeth. I would not say she eats a ton of veggies now, but she doesn't hate them and still buys artichokes for pizza and salad.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cooking as a med school course

I think most people with obesity or digestive problems get shunted to nutritionists. Doctors are not famous for their nutritional knowledge.

Often, in fact, doctors don't even mention food or they say eat less, see ya. (OK, a little exaggerated but not by much.)

Several universities, though, are including cooking classes in their med school curricula--notably Tulane.

Teaching doctors to cook healthy, delicious meals, it is hoped, will increase their interest in passing this along to their patients.

Stats show nearly half of all deaths in the US are due to heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes (CDC).

The links between food and health are well known at this point. Policy recommendations abound.

But studies show providing info does not change eating habits. Coaching is needed.

Doctors could be such coaches, but fewer than a fourth of doctors feel they could fulfill this role.

The National Academy of Science recommends 25 hours of nutrition instruction for med students.

Tulane requires 53 hours of culinary classes, 53 hours of clinical teaching, and 53 hours of learning nutritional counseling techniques.

At present, 28 other medical school, two residency programs, and two nursing schools have adapted the Tulane program. Harvard even partnered with the Culinary Institute of America to offer week-long workshops in making healthier food choices and managing caloric intake.

Even without a trip to the doctor, taking a culinary course can improve your eating pattern.

Why not?

Friday, February 10, 2017

MMMWAH! Some very important info on kissing

Of course, with V-Day coming up, I would not resist talking about kissing. Or, rather, I am going to let anthro professor Vaughn Bryant at Texas A&M talk about it.

First, kissing is good for your health. It releases hormones and endorphins that relieve stress, help with depression, lower blood pressure, and make you feel younger.

When did kissing start? (I feel like I am asking Mel Brooks' 2000-Year-Old Man). Bryant says it might have started millions of years ago with animals chewing food and feeding it to their babies. But--he says--it more likely started with smell..the so-called "sniff  kiss"--or cheek sniffer. In many cultures--kiss and sniff are the same word.

AND--get this--there are so many types of kissing in the Kama Sutra, that they think kissing as practiced now, may have started in India.

What about kissing folklore? "If your nose itches, you will be kissed by a fool." There are others. "If a standing man bends to kiss a woman, they will soon quarrel." "If you have a bad toothache, kiss a donkey on the nose." Uh...never mind on that one, but I liked the picture.

Alas, the French kiss probably originated in India. What can we believe anymore, I ask you. The French probably got the credit, Bryant says, because French women were more likely to kiss American travelers to France than the strait-laced New England gals these travelers left behind. Ooo-la-la..

No one around to kiss deeply and meaningfully? I can relate. Bryant has a solution for us--Hershey's Kisses provide the same endorphins, he says. And probably fewer cold viruses.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

You may be in danger in the ambulance

Whew. The ambulance--and you assume help--finally arrives. But ambulances are not Federally regulated. The rules and training of drivers and crews are left to the local entities, with minimal state guidance.

As a patient or even an EMT, you could be entering into more danger.

This according to a story in Emergency Management magazine.

Ambulances are involved in 4,500 crashes a year on average. About 2,600 people a year are injured and 33 killed (National Highway Traffic Safety Admin). Included in the casualties are some pedestrians, cyclists, and people in other vehicles.

In one instance cited, the ambulance driver was consulting the GPS on her phone and crashed through a guardrail and off an embankment. The 56-yr-old patient was thrown out and killed and the EMS worker, also not strapped in, was injured.

Some agencies require workers and patients to wear lap and shoulder restraints, but others don't.

Also--in many places, ambulance drivers get no special training, even though they speed through traffic.

Experts say ambulances should be safer than cars and held to standards more like school buses, which are subject to Federal rules.

Do school buses require the kids to wear seatbelts? Just asking.

It is the height of irony to be killed in an ambulance. But irony aside, you are still dead.

I have ridden in an ambulance once--the EMT did not wear a seatbelt that I saw. Of course, I was busy being sick.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Nonprofit combines help with cancer and rock & roll

Cancer Can Rock (http://cancercanrock.org), based in Northern Virginia, is a nonprofit aimed at helping musical artists with cancer.

It's backed by Jim Ebert, a multi-platinum record producer and a cancer survivor, and Bruce Parker, who holds an MBA from Syracuse.

After you check out their website, you can watch the video FIGHTING FOR MY LIFE by Goodnite Neverland, which has already received more than a million views on YouTube.


Don't forget--not all musicians are wealthy superstars. Cancer is no respecter of profession.

My former filmmaking partner and friend Ross Stanfield, who films many musical groups, is involved with the filming.

Go see what you think...

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Sabotaging dieters

Anyone who has ever attempted to lose weight--I would venture to say--had saboteurs. These are people who either consciously or for unconscious reasons try to undermine you.

Some researchers are North Carolina State set out to quantify this phenomenon. Their particular target was the "lean stigma."

The lean stigma is often exhibited by snarky remarks about how many people gain back lost weight or how wimpy it is to try to eat healthily.

They talked to 40 people who reported being overweight but now considered themselves "thin." This was 21 women, 19 men, and they had lost an average of 76 pounds.

All 40 had people in their lives who tried to belittle them or undermine their efforts.,

How would the dieter cope? Communications strategies were suggested,

Help the belittlers save face and not feel uncomfortable. The dieter can, for example, talk about their intentions and rationale. They could also eat smaller portions of unhealthy foods in front of family, accept an unhealthy food but not eat it, or save a "cheat day" for outings with friends.

Dieters should stress that they want more energy or to feel more healthy or to pursue a sport.

Saboteurs say things like:

--Come on, one bite won't kill you.

--Almost everyone gains the weight back--and more.

--You looked fine before (trying to be nice, but discounting the effort).

--You don't want to get too thin at your age.

--You may think this is healthy, but you are not eating enough.

--If you eat too little, the body thinks you are starving and piles the weight on.

--Can you afford surgery for the extra skin?

--I hope this does not mean you want ME to diet.

If you find yourself saying such things--don't.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Children may like pets more than their housemate humans

Some researchers at the University of Cambridge (UK) recently reported in the J of Applied Developmental Psychology that children may have a more satisfying relationship with the family pet than with siblings.

I know MY dog (when I had one) never called me names and contradicted my every word like my sister did (we don't talk now).

The US, in case you hadn't heard or seen the dozen or so veterinarian shows on TV, is a nation of pet lovers, with 66.5 million households having at least one four-legger.

Pets have a positive effect on our health-relieving stress, anxiety and depression. They love you no matter what. (Well, some do, anyhow.)

These scientists surveyed 77 12-year-olds with at last one sib and one pet.

They asked 30 questions.

The kids reported less conflict with pets than siblings and greater satisfaction.

They also found girls have stronger relationships with their pets than boys do. Girls may interact in more nuanced ways, the researchers said. (Such as dogvestism? Dressing the dog up in embarrassing outfits?)

I liked my dog because I could talk to him--and thus very cleverly avoid admitting I talked to myself. He used to glom onto me when I felt droopy. He made me laugh when his fur swept back he was running so fast.

The cat? It just isn't the same.

But I decided dogs were a vet-bill and falling risk...So no more...

Friday, February 03, 2017

Eeek, watch out, the robot

Constance Gustke, NYT, Jan 20, 2017, writes about how robots are affecting older, retired people. I would say, helping, but I am not sure.

One couple, in a retirement, home had a "screen head" pal who "scuttles" around on wheels. He dials their family for calls, among other things. They named him Jimmy and declared they are now on the cutting edge.

Virtual reality, says the director of the Age Lab at MIT, is for young and old alike.

He also pointed out that robots like Jimmy can augment the efforts of adult children to take care of their parents.

A guy at Stanford dubs these servos "consumer robots."

Jimmy was invented by OhmniLabs, whose co-founder jumped straight to how isolated many old people are.

Jimmy's "parents" (owners?) are beta-testing the little fellow. He will cost 20% as much as a full-time caregiver.

In five to seven years, predicted one source, home caregiving will shift and such automatons will become mainstream.

Brookdale Senior Living is also testing Virtual Realty devices that allow people to walk through their old homes or go to remote places. That sounded kinda cool.

Meanwhile, Jimmy's owners take him on the elevator to pick up breakfast (for the owner, presumably, not the robot).

All these companies tout the companionship potential of these devices.

My question is--if the Artificial Intelligence capability of these keeps on you know, "learning," so as to know the owner and communicate meaningfully or even enterainingly, would it get out of control? Remember those assistive monkeys that turn on their disabled owners in horror flix?

Just asking...

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Try to eat "purple"

I am sure you have heard the theory that your "plate" should be colorful and varied.

The website Black Health Matters recently had a piece on purple foods.

The purple color comes from anthrocyanins--a powerful anti-oxidant.

These foods have many health benefits:

--Cancer killer--Resveratol is present in purple grapes, blueberries, and red wine. This substance has shown promise in killing cancer cells.

--Obesity control--High levels of anthrocyanins can help control levels of leptin, the obesity hormone.

Reduced liver damage--Again, the anthrocynanins protect here.

Heart health--Protects the heart against oxidative damage, reduces "bad" cholesterol, and increases "good."

Anti-aging. Help reverse UV damage and postpone collagen breakdown.


So the next time you go to the store--think:

Purple cabbage

Purple potatoes

Purple carrots (yes--they exist)


Black rice--not exactly purple but full of iron and Vitamin E.

And many more.

These foods also dress up a plate. A feast for the eyes, as they say.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Bike-riding EMTs becoming popular

You see those ambulances, often called "buses," trying to weave through traffic? It can be tricky.

In an article by Jenni Berygal, published in Stateline (Pew Charitable Trusts), we learn that many cities, including Los Angeles, have now have bicycle-based EMTs. When Carrie Fisher took ill on a plane, in fact, the biking EMTs got there first.

Every second counts, of course. The LA EMS Bike Team was at the airport during the holidays.

The LA force has 60 bikes and costs LA $90,000 a year for staff and $12,000 for equipment.

Bike teams are great where things are congested--festivals, concerts, marathons.

At present 500 agencies have EMS bike teams.

Sounds like a plan to me.