The harbingers of civilizational collapse and impending apocalypse have become so very common as to encourage a serious case of the old ennui. There is little to generate surprise in the latest catastrophes and the daily litany of hopeless headlines. Yet once in a long while something can come along that compels even the most jaded fatalists among us to stop, back up, and say, “Mother of the Mother of God, what have we come to?”
Popping up in some news outlets today were remarks made by former secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, in an interview with The Guardian, where he advocates the consumption of insects as a source (for humans) of animal protein. He says: Continue reading Delicious Insects: Good for You, Good for Earth
However strange one might think it that the president of the United States was first reported to have been sent to the hospital today for “a sore throat” and afterwards was diagnosed with “acid reflux,” it seems an opportune time to share a bit of knowledge I wish someone had shared with me much sooner.
In particular, this piece of advice ought to be shared on every bottle of TUMS® or ROLAIDS® or PEPCID® AC® or [fill in your own preferred over-the-counter antacid preparation]. Informing people of this, however, would necessarily reduce the sales of such substances; so, even in the information age, this information is not very commonly available. Continue reading Heartburn? Try Sleeping On Your Left Side
I came to allergies late in life. Through childhood and my twenties, I didn’t know what hay fever and such things were, other than that they were things that afflicted certain other people, and I sure was glad not be one of them: they seemed to be sad human beings, turned into miserable sniveling wretches by pleasant weather and the blooming beauty of nature. It was sometime in my early thirties that I became inexplicably taken with occasional strange bouts of sneezing that would not stop until they decided to no matter how much I blew my nose or yelled curses at the universe. But these were just annoying fits, I supposed. Then one beautiful spring day I was walking down the avenue, greatly admiring the trees on both sides in full bloom, the white and pink blossoms gorgeous and filled with delight in the radiant sunshine, when suddenly I began sneezing uncontrollably, and sniveling like a wretch, and then my eyes began watering, and then they started itching like nothing I’d ever experienced before, and the terrible truth abruptly dawned upon me: I’m allergic! Continue reading As Usual, It Will Be an Unusually Bad Allergy Season
Time was that the average human being would go for a brisk walk pretty regularly, for the purpose of fetching water, or firewood, or pursuing a comely potential consort, or escaping from aggressive neighbors wielding spears, or retrieving the newspaper from the lawn. But the internet has changed all that. Now we can achieve all of those things by merely tapping our fingers. And our fingers have never been in finer shape. Continue reading Brisk Walks “Boost Your Memory”
Researchers have found a dramatic link between the presence of smiles in photos taken during childhood and young adulthood and the future happiness of the people in those photos (see WSJ article by Matthew Hertenstein). Most specifically, a study of hundreds of college yearbook photos found that those individuals who smiled least were about five times more likely to get divorced later in life versus those who smiled most. Further research indicated that even photos taken at the age of 10 illustrated a strong correlation between a full-faced smile and a future successful marriage, versus a flat or stoic look and the likelihood of experiencing divorce(s) instead. The better-smiling types also seem to live substantially longer.
It seems clear enough that the more research that is done, the more associations there will be between smiling in youthful photographs and successful outcomes in every area of life. This is very depressing for someone like me. Were one to go through my childhood photos, one would conclude that I should be divorced four or five times by now. As it happens, I have failed to get started on even my first divorce. I can only conclude that my wife’s far more cheerful and smiling nature as a child has somehow outweighed the grim misery with which her future husband was obviously burdened. So, therein lies a key lesson for the non-smilers: do not marry someone as sour-faced as yourself. Continue reading Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella
After performing a series of recently-developed tests, doctors and scientists report that an 84-year-old man, presumed to be in a vegetative state since 2006, showed “significant” brain activity when shown family pictures and offered other stimuli. A statement from Ben Gurion University in Israel, whose scientists participated in the tests, is quoted here:
“[The patient], presumed to be in a vegetative state since 2006 due to brain haemorrhage, was scanned to assess the extent and quality of his brain processing using methods recently developed by Professor Monti and collaborators,” it said.
“Scientists showed [the patient] pictures of his family, made him listen to his son’s voice, and used tactile stimulation to assess to what extent his brain responded to external stimuli,” it said in a statement.
“To their surprise, significant brain activity was observed in each test in specific brain regions, indicating appropriate processing of these (stimuli).”
Although this sounds dramatic—and rightly so—it is not unprecedented. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010 (and noted then in this space) found similar results in a number of patients who were also diagnosed as “vegetative.”
Why then are the results for this particular patient in the news today? It is because the patient’s name is Ariel Sharon, and he is a former prime minister of Israel. In 2010, several years after his medical crisis, a hospital manager involved with the care of Sharon was quoted as saying that “The part of the brain that keeps his body functioning, his vital organs, is intact, but beyond that there is nothing, just fluid.”
Yet, although he remains incapable of speaking or of making substantial communicative gestures, the results of these tests will make his family feel vindicated in believing that Ariel Sharon is in fact still “there,” despite what various medical professionals have maintained, and despite the voices of all those who have advocated disconnecting the feeding tube and “allowing” him to die (of starvation). Will he ever recover something like normal consciousness and the ability to communicate? No one can say. Continue reading 84-year-old patient in “vegetative” state responds to stimuli
Yours truly usually chooses not to participate in flu epidemics, but it seems possible I may have been drafted into the one currently sweeping the country. At any rate I’ve been experiencing a variety of the associated symptoms for some days.
The most annoying is probably the persistent cough. Perhaps no medications have been purchased at such cost, for so long, and with such futility as those labeled as “cough suppressants.” They seem pretty good at producing a variety of effects, but rarely much in the way of cough suppression.
Most people would already know that honey is good for a cough, but some may not know that studies have shown (see NIH and Mayo Clinic) that simply imbibing a teaspoon or two of the pure stuff seems to work as well and better than common cough medicines, and I would attest to the truth of that. Especially at night, when you’re not going to be drinking anything else, swallowing some and letting it coat your throat and lay there seems to have definite soothing effect on the coughing demon. Continue reading Public Health Advisory
Are you worried that eating that high calorie lunch is going to leave you with no room for dessert? Fret no more: With the new Bacon Sundae from Burger King, you can satisfy cravings for sugar, fat and salt all in one go.
The Bacon Sundae, being rolled out for a limited time to participating restaurants nationwide, includes vanilla ice-cream, chocolate fudge, caramel and crumbled bacon bits along with one honest-to-goodness-no-kidding crispy slice of bacon. Continue reading A Bacon Sundae from Burger King
The world seems agog at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest attempt to forcibly improve the health of his subjects. He is proposing—and seems very likely to be able to fully implement—a ban on the sale of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 oz at restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and street carts (i.e.: pretty much anywhere other than standard grocery stores, where fortunately you’ll still be able to take home a 2-liter Pepsi and embrace death by high fructose corn syrup).
A move like this is tailor-made for lengthy expressions of outrage over the incremental loss of freedom in modern American society. And, you know, have at it, by all means—but as for me (who happens to be a citizen of New York City), this particular effort is only good for chuckles. Is reducing the size of the available drink actually going to keep those who want to drink more from doing so? Are such people too dumb to realize that they can just order two 16 oz drinks in order to get the more fully-thirst-quenching 32 oz quantity which they desire? No one is really being prevented from doing anything here. It’s merely a perfect example of government nannyism run amok, expending pointless effort and over-regulating private enterprise with the vain goal of altering gluttonous human nature. A good knee-slapper is what it is.
As to the broader question of the rise in power of the health fascists, I believe the decisive turn in that battle was fought and lost (or won, depending on your point of view) years ago, and it too happened in New York. Continue reading New York Nanny Bloomberg takes a really big gulp (but this battle was lost long ago)
It seems that I’ve traversed a line of some sort, and passed a milestone detectable only by elite marketing professionals. Age-wise, I am somewhere in my forties (I make a conscious effort not to keep precise records anymore), and I was as of this afternoon feeling reasonable healthy. I returned from a quick run around in the park with my dog, and opened the mailbox to find a single item addressed personally to me.
The front of what is an 8″ x 14″ card, folded in fours, pictures the sun setting over a gently sloping meadow, dotted with trees. In the foreground are clusters of dandelions, blowing in the breeze. There’s a small, curving path through the meadow, with tracks as might be left by a farmer’s small tractor.
Or, on second thought, by the cart carrying his corpse. Large white letters on the upper left tell the recipient of this card that, “You’ve traveled many roads to get where you are today ….” The logo in the lower right of the picture identifies the sender: St. Michael’s Cemetery.
Unfolding the card reveals much information on amenities at my would-be future abode. St. Michael’s is not just a “warehouse for the past” (how could you think such a thing?); it is instead a place that “celebrates life.” There are concerts during the summer, and on Valentine’s Day too. It’s a great place to “share memories with friends and family members.” There are monthly billing options and you can get started with just 10% down. It’s unclear whether heat and hot water are included.
I don’t know if this is a one-off solicitation, or whether I can expect a steady flow of graveyard advertising from here on out. Now, I try to remain conscious of the fact that death is only ever a moment away, and each morning presents a new day for which one ought to be grateful. I would not say that the prospect of the Grim Reaper’s arrival makes me feel sanguine, by any means, but bearing him in mind can be bracing and helpful in its way.
Having to deal with his junk mail, however, seems a bit excessive.
A psychologist named L. Alan Sroufe who was there in the beginning when conditions like “A.D.D.” were first characterized as problems, and who believed treatment with drugs like Ritalin was correct and helpful, pens an interesting column in the NY Times: Ritalin Gone Wrong: Children’s A.D.D. Drugs Don’t Work Long Term. Read it and weep. Continue reading The scandal and tragedy of over-medicated kids
There has been considerable evidence accumulated through various studies that sitting for many hours each day—as so many people do as a matter of course at work, not to mention in recreational screen-watching—is extremely hazardous to one’s heath, especially when it comes to heart disease. A new report today has a cardiologist stating that it is every bit as dangerous as smoking. Continue reading Sitting, Your Health, and Donald Rumsfeld
With the news full of the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan, it seems that there is a run on potassium iodide tablets, pretty much across the world. In the United States, the president of a company in Virginia (which ran out of the product on Saturday) reports that they continue to receive about three new orders a minute for single $10 packages of the anti-radiation pills. He’s quoted as saying, “Those who don’t get it are crying. They’re terrified.”
Since experts, governments and the World Health Organization are insisting that the risk to people far away from Japan is negligible, I guess this is all evidence of just how little trust people have in their leaders and their supposed betters, and I can’t say I blame them one bit. Continue reading Potassium Iodide
There’s a really remarkable story in the New York Times today, titled Giving Alzheimer’s Patients Their Way, Even Chocolate. It demands a complete reading, and will leave you moved and amazed — at least it did me. It follows the work being done at the Beatitudes nursing home in Arizona, where a very different approach from the norm is being followed in the care for Alzheimer’s patients, with dramatic and heartwarming results.
It amounts to an enormous testament to the dignity and value of human life, at all stages, and the tremendous power that comes from giving that dignity and deserved respect to people, especially when hardship seeks to rob them of it.
The Times doesn’t refer to the source of the name for this facility, i.e. Beatitudes. But I don’t mind making the reference at all.
From the Sermon on the Mount (ESV):
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Many children in England have been found to be suffering from rickets due, apparently, to a lack of exposure to sunlight. Kids are spending more time indoors playing with electronic contraptions, and, when they do go out, their parents have made sure that all of their exposed skin is covered in sunscreen. Hence, a vitamin D deficiency (yes, this has long been a bugaboo of mine, for which I make no apologies.) From the UK Telegraph:
Middle class children in the south of England are suffering from the ’17th century disease’ rickets as parents cover them in sunscreen and limit time outside in the sunshine, a leading doctor has warned.[…]
Professor Clarke says he and colleague Dr Justin Davies, a consultant pediatric endocrinologist, have checked over 200 children for bone problems and more than 20 per cent of them have significant deficiencies.
“A lot of the children we’ve seen have got low vitamin D and require treatment,” he said.
“This is almost certainly a combination of the modern lifestyle, which involves a lack of exposure to sunlight, but also covering up in sunshine, and we’re seeing cases that are very reminiscent of 17th century England.”
Low levels of vitamin D have been increasingly linked by studies in recent years not only to rickets (which has long been known) but to a greatly enhanced risk of developing a range of lethal cancers. There have also been correlations found with Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and other ailments. So eat some nice oily fish, and get what sun exposure you can get — without burning, of-course.
(As always The Cinch Review is meant for entertainment purposes only. Consult your local veterinarian before adopting any new health regimen.)
The evidence just keeps piling up. From the Beeb:
Having low vitamin D levels may increase a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life, say Finnish researchers. Continue reading Low Vitamin D levels linked to Parkinson’s Disease
The following is a passage from Miles: The Autobiography.
Shooting heroin changed my whole personality from being a nice, quiet, honest, caring person into someone who was the complete opposite. It was the drive to get the heroin that made me that way. I’d do anything not to get sick, which meant getting and shooting heroin all the time, all day and all night. Continue reading Miles Davis on friendship
Why does vitamin D interest me so? I swear, I’m not one of those supplement-popping freaks. I’ve never been a vitamin C zealot, nor a loud advocate of ginseng, royal jelly or even wheat germ. Yet, the continuing story of how vitamin D levels have been massively overlooked by the scientific and medical communities as a vital factor in human health fascinates and compels me because it is a singular example which illuminates a much bigger picture.
Science is wonderful. Medical science has saved so many lives and every day works what would have been considered miracles not very long ago. It is to be greatly valued and scientists and doctors are to be admired and encouraged to continue in the same vein. All of that is true, and yet, it is even more important not to forget one underlying fact: Everything that scientists and doctors think they know could actually be wrong. Everything. Continue reading Study: Vitamin D Crucial to Fighting All Kinds of Infection
Webster’s Dictionary defines a vegetative state, in the medical sense, as being “a state in which there is a total loss of cognitive functioning and in which only involuntary bodily functions (as breathing or blinking of the eyes) are sustained.”
And we know what that diagnosis means, in terms of the kinds of treatments given to such patients and the kinds of “end of life” decisions which family members make, based on the confident assertions of doctors. Continue reading “Vegetative” patients show cognition
The story today is: Lack of Vitamin D in Children ‘Shocking’.
About 70 percent of U.S. children have low levels of vitamin D, which puts them at higher risk for bone and heart disease, researchers said today.
“We expected the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency would be high, but the magnitude of the problem nationwide was shocking,” said Dr. Juhi Kumar of Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center.
Cases of rickets, a bone disease in infants caused by low vitamin D levels, have also been increasing, other research shows.[…]
The cause? Poor diet and lack of sunshine, the researchers conclude today in the online version of the journal Pediatrics.
And this doesn’t even get into the mounting evidence that Continue reading Vitamin D: Told Ya So