"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Good For You 

Exercise is good for you (we all know that) and it makes sense that what kind you do makes a difference. It turns out that for diabetes control, a combination of aerobic and strength-training routines is more effective than either alone, and, more amusingly, it turns out that playing soccer is better exercise than jogging. I'd much rather play soccer than jog, so I'm cool with this. Now I just need a new ACL...

But exercise isn't always good: too much working out during pregnancy appears to be a miscarriage risk. This isn't really a surprise, if you think about it, but it is good to keep in mind.

Lastly, the American Dental Association has granted its 'seal of approval' to a few chewing gum makers to market their products as "good for your teeth." The thing is, the studies used to evaluate the positive effects were mostly funded by the gum manufacturers, and so I find it hard to really trust them.

Still, one more excuse to chew gum in class!

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Speaking of Rip-Offs (Atlanta Edition) 

I have to use a company called Infinite Energy for my natural gas service. My bill this month included $7.15 in actual energy costs (amount used), a $5.95 "customer service charge" and a $15.95 "base charge," which is apparently charged by the Atlanta Gas Light Company, which actually sells the gas but not directly.

So, for my $7.15 worth of energy used, I'm paying $21.90 in fees. That's more than THREE TIMES my use cost. No wonder energy company stocks are so safe!

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

One More Reason... 

...to hate Microsoft. My school has, inexplicably, decided to put Office 2007 on all of the public terminals. This is of course odd because (a) they never got 2003 working properly,and 2007 is even worse, (b) no one uses it yet, (c) it bloody sucks, and (d) they're always complaining about budgets anyways (why not do something like, I dunno, useful/necessary/not a tech-support nightmare?).

Now, I really HATE Office 2007. The layout is confusing, the menus inscrutable, and the changes completely baffling. Oh, and then there's its incredible insistence on saving files in its special .docx formats. Which cannot be read by previous versions of Word. Even when you bloody tell it to retain formats of files you created at home in Word 2003.

The result? I got home today, having spent considerable time working on a paper at school, only to find that I can't open it here. School's closed. Papers are due. And Bill Gates is another billion dollars ahead of me.

You can install the "Compatibility Pack" from M$, but that entails submitting to yet another preposterous software license, and all the security risks involved with a Microsoft product. Oh yeah, and it makes running Work 2003 even slower than it was to begin with.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

By the Balls 

We don't generally think of a man's balls as the best place to search for cognitive performance. Cornell researchers are looking to change that: their research results suggest that testicular stem cells could be used to treat disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, among others.

The question remains, of course, how many men would be willing to give up bits of their bits to their brains. One can only hope...

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Probably Not Good For Your Children 

Parents are big on protecting their kids from all kinds of (real and imagined) threats, but they don't always have complete control, and they don't always get it right when they do.

Most parents would agree that sugary sodas are bad for you, and that their kids probably should drink few, if any, of them. The Washington Post reports that school vending machines have been selling fewer and fewer sodas to kids in the last couple of years; this is great news and a triumph for parents and kids health advocates, except for that last nagging detail: what kids are drinking instead.

Parents often substitute fruit juice for sodas, on the logic that fruit is good and natural and has vitamins in. The problem, of course, is that in the US at least, most commercial juices as packed every bit as full of high-fructose corn syrup as are sodas. Even no-sugar-added juices are still, for the most part, just empty high-glycemic-index calories - they have negligible amounts of real vitamins that kids don't get elsewhere (vitamin C is everywhere, and Americans get plenty of it), and no fiber or protein to speak of.

Even worse is the diet soda issue. HFCS is terrible for kids, but aspartame and sucralose can't be much better (aside from the dubious record of sweeteners for general health, there's evidence that they also screw up the body's ability to 'count calories'). So kids should probably stick to water and limited amounts of 100% juice. Which is fantastic news for the beverage people, since the profit margin for bottled water has gotta be off the charts, even compared to soda.

On the topic of hyper children, a second study has found that French maritime pine extract Pycnogenol appears to alter stress hormone levels and help control ADHD in kids. This is really interesting news, but one wonders about the long-term effects of suppressing your kids endocrine system. Also, I wonder if it might also be helpful in treating depression, which involves many of the same hormones.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Money, Money, Money 

I won't name the publication, because it's too awful*, but suffice to say it's a prominent healthcare management journal. In an article about strategic planning, the authors suggest setting performance goals for the upcoming year:
Quality: Achieve top 50th percentile for clinical performance
Operations: Achieve top 75th percentile salaries, wages, and benefits, and supplies costs
I mean really. Talk about setting a low bar to begin with, but also look at where the higher bar is. The message here is clear to hospital managers: you are a business first and a care provider second; either way you're not expecting spectacular results.

Anyone still confused as to why we have such crappy healthcare in this country?

*Actually yes, I will: Bachrodt and Smyth, Strategic Business Planning, Healthcare Financial Management; Nov 2004; 58, 11; pp 60-66.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

39 cents 

At the Atlanta International Farmers Market. They also have instant coffee from other countries (i.e., that doesn't taste like crap), and awesome lentil samosas to eat while shopping. Because shopping there when hungry would be an expensive mistake.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Artificial Ingredients; Sex 

A study published in the Lancet suggests that the common food preservative, sodium benzoate, may be causing or exacerbating kids hyperactivity. That this kind of chemical has harmful effects should surprise no one, but they do highlight how important it is to watch what your kids (and you, since it's likely to have some effect in adults too) eat.

Diacetyl, another problematic food additive which has spawned numerous lawsuits, also still remains on the market. Previously, it was thought only to be dangerous to people working in manufacture (thus the whole remaining on the market bit...don't you miss effective labor unions?), but now doctors report a case of a consumer with bronchiolitis obliterans. He really liked microwave popcorn, and would inhale its delicious fumes a few times a day. Now he has a fatal lung disease. There's a lesson here, somewhere.

A chemical that people take more intentionally is Viagra; recreational use of the drug is as prominent as on-label treatment. Now it seems that this may come with a hilariously ironic side effect: all that rampant sex seems to carry with it the thing playing men fear most - LOVE! It appears that Viagra (and similar drugs) increase oxytocin, known for its role in social bonding. This makes me very happy.

And finally, speaking of love and sex, why are we gays fighting so hard to get married again? Live-in boyfriends do more housework than husbands. Another reason not to fully commit!!

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