Monday, February 28, 2005
Vitamin C is in everything, vitamin A (Beta Carotene) too. The former in excess quantities can lead to kidney stones, the latter to liver problems and jaundice. The latest thing about to be added to foods are Omega-3-fatty-acids, famous for their protective effects on the heart and vascular system. Now, aside from my general aversion to overly processed and modified foods, there is a serious problem here: omega-3's only have a positive effect in very limited amounts. I used to work in a biochemistry lab doing research on just this topic: how much of what types of lipids (including omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids) were good for you, and how much of what types were bad. Omega-3's are very good for your heart, up to moderate doses, but with more than low-moderate doses, they begin to wreak havoc on the liver and kidneys. I can see this trend going so well.
So how do you eat healthy and stay fit and thin? Eat more! That's right, I said it: "Eat. More." It's just a matter of what you eat. Low-calorie-density foods, like soups and fruits and veggies, fill you up their high volume, but still have fewer calories. One apple is more filling than one cookie, but has probably half to a third as many calories. This is a theme of those new dietary guidelines, and the heart of what may be the next dieting trend. Not that I'm promoting any sort of fad diet at all...they tend to have a second feature in common, as well as the one stated above: as soon as you stop being 100% on them, you gain all the weight back. Which is worse for you than never having lost it (true fact - studies have shown that "yo-yo dieting" is extremely rough on your cardiovascular and digestive (read: insulin regulation) systems. So, you best bet is to eat all kinds of foods in healthy balance and moderate amounts.
(Cross-posted at DCFüd...comment there!)
Another study suggests that gay men read maps both using 'male' strategies such as direction and distance, but also using 'female' strategies such as landmarks, but that lesbians did not use 'male' strategies in addition to 'female' ones. If it is to be believed, this is an interesting finding; I have, however, some reason to doubt that it will not be born out by further research. First of all, it makes little sense that there would be a gender shift here for gay men and not for lesbians, whereas most previous research has found them in lesbians but not in gay men (though rarely reaching significance or conclusiveness). Second, this kind of study is so vulnerable to Type 1 Errors I just have a hard time buying it, especially with such a small n (80).
Whether gay or not, people seem to keep wanting to get married. Well, now you can add a severely gross element to your already-sickeningly-sweet wedding celebration, by having your wedding rings lovingly crafted from you and your partners' cultured bones. Now, as a scientist and probably the least squeamish person I know, I have to say: "Ew. That is nasty. Don't do that. Ew."
Saturday, February 26, 2005
The girl half of Tuscadero wears the years better than the boy half, but they all sound awesome together. There's a certain something to going to a show all by oneself, especially one that you know is a bigger deal for you than it would be for anyone else you know. You have to understand the role this band played in my earlier years. I fucking loved this band from the first time I heard "Mount Pleasant," which is where I spent much of my time growing up. "Freak Magnet," "Tickled Pink," and yes, even "Leather Idol" have long been theme songs of mine.
I stupidly didn't check my coat, and thus was less able to dance like I meant it, but none the less bounced and grinned like a fool and sang along to every word the whole damn time. I haven't had that much fun in ages. I hope they stay reunited for a few more shows...I'd like to see Melissa a bit more confident and aggressive, and Margaret happier more at the front of the stage (she's apparently gotten used to hiding behind her drumset in Hot Pursuit, but chick drummers are hot, so...).
UPDATE:What I apparently meant last night when I wrote "still a bit high off Tuscadero's performance" was more like "still drunk because the cute bartender kept 'upgrading' the rail drinks I ordered to the good stuff, and so I kept having more." I therefor take no responsibility for the fact that the above makes little actual sense, and is probably spelled wrong.
Friday, February 25, 2005
Once HIV enters the body, the immune system attempts to neutralize it before it can enter cells to replicate and do its damage. Only a few people are known to have developed successful antibodies to HIV, and Scripps researchers have characterized one of them. This could be a crucial step in developing better treatments and, most excitingly, an effective vaccine against HIV.
But we still need a cure.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
The American Psychological Association has released a study that shows, to no one's surprise, that comprehensive sex ed is the only kind effective in slowing the spread of HIV and teen pregnancy. We will continue spending all that money on abstinence-only programs, because results are less important than making the fundies feel comfortable on their moral superiority complexes.
Speaking of stupid, the oldest independent boarding school in the US will change its 242-year-old name for reasons that I feel could best be summed up by "we want to sound cooler." Granted, The Governor Dummer Academy makes for easy jokes. But then, if anyone concerned was clever enough, it could be pointed out that "Dummer" is a completely meaningless word in English: it's homonym, "Dumber," would be another story, but as it stands, well...clearly "oldest" doesn't mean "smartest."
Speaking of dubious cures, dental drilling for cavities is a miserable experience, but may soon be a relic. Japanese researchers have created a synthetic enamel that can fill the tiny gaps in your teeth that dentists traditionally have had to enlarge to fill properly. Yay!
In the States, we know it as Lou Gherig's Disease, and researchers continue to ponder how to deal with Amylotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. New research is both wired and possibly very enlightening: it seems that soccer players have an elevated risk of the disease. The article mentions ALS clusters, but isn't clear about any theoretic or established risk elevation for ALS amongst athletes in general. If there was one, it'd kinda make me happy: at least I've got some health advantages over those damned jocks!!
I watched Lost last night, because I was bored. I've only watched it a few timed before, so can someone please explain why, near the end, the Japanese woman randomly started yelling at her husband in English (for starters), and why her otherwise thick accent was absent from that bit??
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
The fact remains that no matter how much you enjoy it, there's only so much nutrition you can get out of a sno-cone; you have to eat healthy foods. I like healthy foods, but never seem to get them, because they cost more. Not so, says el WaPo. Now, we have to assume that you can get decent produce at your local Safeway...which many of us can't. Also, these things take more time to prepare than I can usually manage. I do big cooking jobs on the weekends, yeah, but during the week? I just want to come home and crash. I do not, however, eat fast food. Lots of canned tuna and frozen dinners yes, but only the (marginally) healthy ones. Now, how do I make myself enjoy it?
Monday, February 21, 2005
Anywhom, a US Agricultural Research Service representative told a meeting of the AAAS that parents who force a vegan lifesyle on young children are harming their development. Now, I agree in concept, but the evidence she gave is rather lacking. Comparing vegan Americans (who are, by and large, rich and white) to starving Africans living on "starchy, low-nutrition corn and bean staples" is, to be blunt, totally fucking stupid. You can get *almost* all the nutrients a kid needs from eating a wide variety of vegan foods. Almost. Vegan advocates talk about taking vitamin supplements to get the rest; this is kinda stupid - I mean, first off, that's not real nutrition, and second, if you have to supplement your diet with pills, it's clearly not complete! Also, you're denying your kids exposure to all sorts of things - antigens, proteins, allergens, etc - that could lead to problems down the road. You may be denying your kid the chance to decide for him/herself whether to be vegan or not: if you don't get it as a kid, often your body 'forgets' how to digest things.
It's women who remain vegan while pregnant that are really awful, in my mind. There are so many things that are so dependent on proper nutrition during pregnancy, and well, taking pills just doesn't seem like a good answer for real health.
Friday, February 18, 2005
Even if you're not a mutant freak like me, you should probably drink
Last Friday we found more brains, this Friday we get a 'sixth sense!' If only it was a more fun one.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Gay and lesbian people are the current targets of much of the world's ire these days, particularly in the United States. Not even mentioning the looney toons of the so-called religious right directly (it's too easy), theoretically serious and mainstream groups are on the bandwagon. The president of the American Medical Association this week spoke out in defense of the New York College of Medicine's ban on an LGBT student group. This actually makes me so insanely angry I have little to say about it - go visit Graham for the story.
On the less-surprising-but-maybe-more-horrifying side, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAHMSA) has "requested" (meaning, actually, "ordered") that organizers remove the words "gay," "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender" from the program of a federally funded conference on suicide prevention originally titled "Suicide Prevention Among Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Individuals." Because we don't want anybody actually knowing what it's about. The level of stupidity here are beyond my comprehension.
On the other side of things, the unintentionally bad, a new study indicates that older doctors tend to deliver lower quality care than younger ones. One explanation for this is the recent shift to "evidence-based medicine," in which older doctors may not be trained or comfortable practicing. There are a number of worrying aspects to this for me. First of all, measures of care quality are slippery (a good bit of my job revolves around them), and can sometimes be de facto advantages for younger doctors. This study is from a very well regarded group and published in a very reputable journal, so it's probably safe to assume that's not a major issue here.
Where it will become an issue is the second, and more major, of my concerns. Stories like this in the popular press stir up trouble (see, for instance, last night's episode of Scrubs). That's what they're designed to do: scary/shocking stories are really good for ratings and readership. The problem is, you get a generally clueless public clamoring for Something To Be Done, and you get hasty, counterproductive new rules and legislation. "Toughening up" recertification requirements might be a good idea, but not if it's based on measures that give unwarranted advantage to younger doctors. We already have a care provider shortage in this country, the last thing we need is all the ones with more than five years experience being put out to pasture. So what's the solution? I don't know, but it probably requires careful consideration and study and will be complicated and incomprehensible to the general public. In other words: politically infeasible. Oh well.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
The scene: a rugby match. The players break scrum, and one passes to Gladys Knight, who, wearing a tight red dress, does the tight-red-dress-and-heels run and dives for a try. The announcer says something like: "They both have a lot of hits, but Gladys and the team have something else in common...the MBNA [whatevertheywereadvertising]!"
Monday, February 14, 2005
That you exhale so much of the alcohol in your body makes this old thing even funnier.
Friday, February 11, 2005
Yesterday, Canadian regulators removed the popular ADHD drug, Adderall XR, from shelves in Canada, over concerns that it was causing heart problems and deaths. Senator Charles Grassley, of Iowa, apparently less concerned with his citizens' well-being than with his pharmaceutical buddies PR, claims that the US Food and Drug Administration asked Canada not to do this.
Now. A: The US does not actually have the ability to dictate what other countries governments do, unless we invade them, which doesn't seem to be a great plan. B: $#@%^@##$!$!!!!!!!
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
"Whole grain" and "healthy" are not the same thing: as the food industry dumps "whole grains" into their breakfast
Health care costs consumed about 25% of the US GDP last year. That's a lot more than the 6-9% France, Canada and Japan pay for their universal coverage.
If Americans are going to be more active participants in their own healthcare, they need better information. And as we all know, the media is not helping.
Par example, this bit from Yahoo! News: The reporter allows a Galen (ultra-conservative think-tank) rep to tell him about how strict health insurance regulation in New Jersey makes a NJ worker's premium three times what it is in Iowa. Now, yes, those prices may be true, but: Iowa has a lower cost of living than Jersey. Jersey has more environmental health risks, like smog, traffic and dubious water supplies, which inflate premiums - it's called risk adjustment, and is the basis of insurance pricing - than Iowa. Scandlen also gives no indication that the two 25-year-old males in question are in the same job. A receptionist in NJ would pay much less for insurance than a janitor in Jersey. Again, relative risks, this time for the mode of employment.
Speaking of transformations and celebrities, bitch-queen of the ice, Tonya Harding, has left skating and is now a professional boxer. She looks scary. I doubt Nancy's coming to take personal revenge now!
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
- Hiya Gaia! Coral reefs seem to create clouds to regulate the climate.
- The Edmonton Protocol could cure diabetes. Very cool!
- Brushing your teeth will not only stave off bad breath, but may help prevent heart attacks!
- Surprise, surprise, an unregulated "supplement" has lots of side effects! Melatonin shrinks your balls.
- Sorry Shaggy: pot affects cerebral blood flow, even after abstinence.
- Hope for a blindness cure!
Friday, February 04, 2005
I don't get physics. I may lack some instinct or insight, and I certainly lack talent in mathematics; I just don't follow so much of it, and am mainly just in awe of physicists. I know, I know, we mustn't encourage them, but still. So they've discovered a bunch of the 'missing' matter in the universe, which sounds very cool and important but I am not sure really why. How did we know it was there if it was missing? I mean, gravitational pulls, et cetera, I get that, but what is so special about these baryons and why they were missing in the first place.
Something I do get, however, is the importance of vaccines, and of the scientific process. And while I was disappointed to read that VaxGen's rgp120 HIV vaccine has not succeeded in its trials - meaning, of course, that it didn't work, and people who probably unwisely thought they had a better chance got sick - it's encouraging to see that the process works. Also, methodological data from this trial will inform and improve future trials, and even vaccine designs. Here's to the next one!
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Economic theories have always annoyed me because they make assumptions that are so obviously false: that people are rational and fully informed about their decisions. Now, researchers have developed a zero-intelligence model of the stock market, which acts rather like the real thing. Which I think is not only fascinating, but should have some interesting implications for the future of modeling (i.e., my next project at work).