Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Multi-media reading

Friday, August 12th, 2016

I haven't put any posts up recently; after my wife died unexpectedly in late December, I began "Lynn Stories," a series of vignettes about her life before and with me (48 & 29 years respectively) and some Lynn-connected events that have occurred since (e.g., I've given a matching grant for two of the local non-profit organizations she strongly supported, both with donations and with her time as a volunteer, pro bono therapist. They will share The Lynnette C. Jung Memorial Mental Health Fund.) I'm at 60,000 words into "Lynn Stories" as of today with many more vignettes to add, but it's therapy for me and I have no intention of publishing it.

But I've just recently started what I call multi-media reading, a concept which many others may have come up with, but I'd heard nothing about.

I almost always read non-fiction, often several books at the same time and yesterday, sitting on a recumbent bike in the health club I go to six days a week, started something that was new to me at least.

I will leave on a trip to five National Parks soon with my sixteen-year-old grandson ( he can now do part of the driving), so am reading a book called "Lassoing the Sun: A year in America's National Parks. We only have a week so plan to visit Great Sand Dunes NP, Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, Arches and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison before heading back to DIA.

As I'm reading, using the Kindle app on my iPad Air, I'm toggling in and out of the book, looking up names, photos, Wikipedia articles and lots of images.

This obviously slows down my usual reading pace, but it expands my knowledge and my pleasure in the book immensely.

Try the concept if you're not already using it

Using (or at least minimizing) our food waste

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

I recently read an article in The New York Times with the interesting title, "Recycling the Leftovers." It was written by Stephanis Strom, one of their regular correspondents, and covered a variety of programs in America for recycling food scraps. Lynnette and I have been separating our own waste streams that for at least ten years and have a garbage bin, a trash sack, a recycle sack and a composting pail in our kitchen and laundry room. Our waste-collecting company keeps adding new items that can be recycled, but at present we only put out two containers for them: trash goes to the curb to be picked up weekly and recyclables go out every other week.

Composting is one approach to food waste.

Composting is one approach to food waste.

Now the city of Austin, Texas has plans to markedly extend its  food waste pilot project; Strom's article says 14,000 Austin residences currently have a third garbage bin, one for food scraps, collected weekly Twenty-five years ago the city started with a "Dillo Dirt" program; the city made over a quarter million dollars last year selling the end product, compost made from yard clippings and treated sewage sludge. The newer approach, adding organic waste, currently has enrolled less than 10% of the city's ~185,000 households; the plan is for all of them to be offered the service. I'm unaware of a city-wide program here in Fort Collins for food scrap recycling; ours end up  in a vermiculture bin that's outdoors, but in a fenced-in corner. The worms doing most of the work in turning food waste into compost thus far have survived our winters.

The concept is being highlighted nationally by the U.S. Food Waste Challenge (FWC), a joint project of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The goal of the FWC is to bring about a "fundamental shift" in the way we manage and even think about food and food waste. The USDA/EPA wants to have 400 organizations enrolled this years and 1,000 by 2020 and they are well on their way already with an impressive list of governmental and private partners including companies, colleges and universities, K-12 schools and at least one major hospital having joined.

We as individuals can't join the FWC, but there is a webpage of suggestions for consumers. Basically it says shop thoughtfully, cook with care, serve portions that you'll eat then and there, save whatever can be kept (while eating what would otherwise spoil) and, if possible, grow part of your meal. It also mentions we should shop our own refrigerators first; plan meals before we go grocery shopping so as to buy only those items we actually need; freeze, preserve or can seasonal produce; ask restaurants to bag up leftovers and be realistic at all-you-can eat buffets.

I was at a writers' meeting recently and drove to the event with my long-time writing mentor. She said her family almost always eats everything she buys, but even with a husband and three teenagers on board I knew she was being modest. She obviously shops carefully and plans ahead.

Our lunch yesterday featured a Quiche my wife (professionally a Jung) made that was "Jung Fun." It wasn't your typical recipe, but used up everything in the vegetable drawer that was needing to be eaten ASAP. We still occasionally have spoiled vegetables and fruits, especially when our CSA gives us more than its usual abundance, but those go into the compost bin.

We did go to the CSA a few days ago to purchase four beefsteak tomato plants. We've got a special above-ground gadget for planting tomatoes and have consistently done well with those we bought at a nursery, but, having grown up eating beefsteak tomatoes, I'm really looking forward to have an abundance of them. Our local grocery store generally has good produce, much of it grown locally or regionally, yet it's been my experience that homegrown tomatoes are several orders of magnitude better than anything I can buy at a store.

Beefsteak tomatoes are yummy!

Beefsteak tomatoes are yummy!

The EPA's Food Recovery Challenge webpage has a horrifying set of statistics from 2011 (they're still collecting/collating the 2013 stats apparently, but what happened to 2012?). Almost all (96%) of the 36 million tons of food waste generated in 2011 ended up in landfills or incinerators. The food sent to landfills breaks down and releases methane, a nasty greenhouse gas, twenty times as effective in increasing global temperature than CO2 is. More than a third of all methane released into the atmosphere comes from landfills (domesticated livestock accounts for 20% and natural gas and oil systems another 20%) .

While all that food is being wasted and much of it is contributing to global climate changes, 14.9% of U.S. households were food insecure in 2011, not knowing where they'd get their next meal. Fortunately we have a strong local Food Bank serving Larimer County and their "Plant It Forward" campaign's 2014 goal is to obtain 15,000 pounds of produce donated by local gardeners.

So where are you in the nationwide quest to cut food waste?


I meant cholera, not typhoid

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

I just re-read my last post. Somehow, I substituted typhoid for cholera in one section (the Haitian outbreak).



The PANDAS controversies

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

We're not talking about this kind of Panda

The more I read about the relatively new syndrome PANDAS, Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus, the more I realize how complex the issues are that surround it. We appear to be entering a new field of medicine, one that holds enormous potential for unlocking the root causes of baffling problems in neurology and psychiatry

The story starts in the mid 1990s when Dr. Susan Swedo, now Chief of the National Institute of Mental Health's (NIMH)  Pediatrics & Developmental Neuroscience Branch , reported that childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may sometimes be triggered by a strep infection.  OCD may involve compulsive handwashing, twenty or thirty times a day; it can manifest itself as a need to have things "just so" in order to relieve anxiety, repeating and checking behavior, counting and arranging objects or clothing, hoarding, praying, reading a section of a story over and over again.

Some of these youngsters also have tics, involuntary movement disorders. Another subset just has tics, but no OCD.

A moving portrait of a child who fits this profile was published in the Los Angeles Times early this month. The boy involved wa a normal eleven-year-old sixth grader until he developed a strep throat. Then his behavior altered to the point where daily life seemed totally changed; he became obsessed with being clean  and afraid of germs to the point where he was unable to go back to school.

Increasingly these diseases and perhaps others are being linked by some eminent researchers to strep infections. A senior immunologist at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine thinks the mechanism of PANDAS involves antibodies, released in response to a strep infection, that can bind to brain cells and cause the release of dopamine, a brain chemical which in excess, may be linked to OCD and tics. The diagnosis, at the moment, is strictly clinical; there is no lab test to confirm that a child has PANDAS.

One form of OCD involves repetitive handwashing

Many youngsters with OCD and/or tics don't appear to have this strep-related syndrome and some equally prominent academic physicians feel kids can have a mental health/neurological disorder first and just have it exacerbated by strep throat or other infections. Others want to treat the most severely affected of these children with antibiotics even if they don't have an active strep infection.

The NIMH makes the point that these children, as opposed to others with OCD and/or tics, have an abrupt worsening of their symptoms when they have a strep infection. They then will have a slowly improving course after a few weeks or months.

The guidelines are admittedly vague; NIMH says PANDAS can be "identified after two or three episodes of OCD or tics that occur in conjunction with strep infection."

A senior Harvard professor of psychiatry who is the head of the International OCD Foundation's scientific advisory board has been quoted as saying the portion of OCD linked to PANDAS is "exceedingly common."

Is this the tip of an iceberg of neuropsychiatric problems linked to infections? Only time and lots of research will tell.

Spellcheck failed again

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

You just got a post "Will this work and is it safe?" that I thought I had read carefully and spellchecked. But, once again, there's another step, does-this-make-sense checking.

My wife got her copy on email and said, "I think you meant 1995, not 1195" for the Barker hypothesis."


So what should I eat?

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Medical research comes through for us

I was reading my morning papers yesterday, The Wall Street Journal (hard-copy edition) and the New York Times breaking news (on my Kindle). I came across a June 23, 2011, WSJ article titled "You Say Potato, Scale Says Uh-Oh." It detailed a recent research study online in a prominent medical journal. The premise was what you choose to eat will determine what happens to your weight over a four-year period.

The overall conclusion, once again, is picking healthier items for your diet leads to less weight gain. Most American adults gain a pound a year, but if they add a serving of French Fries on a daily basis, they'll gain more (3.35 pounds). The NEJM said the participants in three huge studies (a total of 120,877 U.S. men and women who were free of chronic diseases and non-obese at the start of the studies), gained most if the extra item was potato chips, and lost weight if it was yogurt. The list, after chips, in deceasing correlation to weight gain included potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages and unprocessed red meat or processed meat.

Negative numbers were noted for the addition of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and then yogurt. Other lifestyle influences were examined. If one of the subjects exercised regularly, they lost weight; if they watched much TV, they gained pounds.

So what's new here? Huge studies over lengthy time periods + a few different conclusions.

The study's co-author, Dr. Walter Willet, the chairman of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard's School of Public Health was interviewed on NPR New's program "All Things Considered." He commented that highly refined foods-sugar-added beverages and potatoes, white rice and white bread-were related to greater weight gain. The presumption is these foods are rapidly broken down into sugar, absorbed and then quickly removed by the action of insulin. So if you eat these things, in a short while you're hungry again.

high-protein Greek-style yogurt

Nuts have fat, but keep us satiated for a prolonged time. Yogurt was a surprise to the research group (we're talking about natural yogurt without added sugar) and the mechanism for its influence on weight is unclear, but may relate to the healthy bacteria included.

The bottom line may be just because some foods contain fat, doesn't necessarily mean they'll be fattening. On the other hand, foods that keep us satisfied for a longer time may help us control our overall calorie intake over the long haul.




correction on web address

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

I tried the web address on my most recent post and had to add nih to get to the actual site I mentioned. This one should work.

If you do eat fast food, you may want to buy this book

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

My writing mentor, Teresa Funke, sent me an email after reading one of my posts recently. She mentioned that her family has a book titled Eat This Not That! Her three kids love reading the book and pointing out choices, especially wrong ones, that she and her husband make. They've purchased several editions of the book over the past few years.

Well I had to buy the book and easily found it in our favorite locally owned bookstore, Old Firehouse Books (that's right; it's in an old fire station). This is the 2011 edition and costs $19.99.

The authors (major and minor) are David Zinczenko, the editor-in-chief of Men's Health and a co-writer, Matt Goulding, who's said to be a New York Times best-selling food author and has cooked and eaten his way around the world. I Googled the second author and found he also has a book called Cook This Not That! Since we already do lots of healthy heart cooking I won't buy that other book.

But let's go back to the book that I did purchase.

So what does this book do? Remember, I rarely eat fast food at all and if I do it's because we're on a trip and didn't bring sandwiches (we almost always do for shorter road trips, but the second or third day out, we may have to find a place to eat). My favorite choice then is Subway since I can pick a simple "sub" and not goop it up. Plus I know what the calories are in the sandwich since they're listed.

But the book is interesting. It lists the "20 Worst Foods in America,' for instance. It tells what's really in a "Chicken McNugget" (seven ingredients in the meat and twenty more in the breading). It has a Top Swaps section telling which burger, wings, pasta, ribs, fajitas, chicken, fries, salad, pizza and ice cream is better than its competitor. It focues on some specific food choices (bad ones, according to the book) and tells why (e.g., a Taco Bell Mexican Pizza has 64 different ingredients; Skittles have more sugar per package than two twin-wrapped packages of Peanut Butter Twix and a whole range of additives that help bring about all those colors; many of those were apparently linked in a Lancet article to hyperactivity and behavioral problems in children).

The bulk of the book fits the title, side by side comparisons of food choices from different fast food restaurants. They're interesting and may be quite useful to those of you who partake on a regular basis of such fare.

I have some real caveats however. Many of their "Eat This' selections still have way too much salt and sometimes more fat than I'd be interested in eating. The book touts losing weight without exercising or dieting. That's not my style at all. Nonetheless it's both a good read, and according to Teresa, a nice way to introduce kids to making food choices. The book rates and, in some areas, grades a wide variety of foods.

Overall I'd give it a C+, but you may rate it higher, even if you only eat fast food occasionally.



Harvard Medical School Weighs In

Friday, July 16th, 2010

I recently received an email from Harvard Medical School (HMS) about their series of medically-related Special Health Reports. I purchased one on Women's Health Fifty and Forward for my wife and then saw another in their list titled "Lose Weight and Keep it Off." That one arrived just after we got home from a two-week vacation. On the morning we departed I weighed 149 pounds, the bottom edge of my goal weight of 149-150. I knew before we left that I wouldn't be sticking to my usual diet, but hadn't realized that I'd gain six and a half pounds on the trip.

I went back to the strict version of my diet as soon as we got home and three and a half of those extra pounds are gone already. This morning I weighed 152.2, within my acceptable range. Having started my dieting in May of 2009 at 177, I'm not too upset, but I wanted to look at the HMS take on dieting and especially on maintaining your weight goal once you've achieved it. I'd like to do better on vacations.

I had lots of excuses for my temporary weight gain: I was recovering from b ack surgery and couldn't exercise like I usually do six or seven days a week;we had visited relatives on the first leg of our trip and they fed us very well; the week-long Chautauqua stay was at a lovely hotel with abundant meals included and the final three days were spent visiting friends, one of whom is on the New York Times staff as a deputy food editor and took us to his favorite restaurants. I wasn't happy with my excuses.

The last chapter of the HMS report cites the statistic that 95% of people who lose weight will regain it in a few years. Well I'm interested in being in the 5% who can keep their weight off, so I read that chapter with great interest. It turns out there's a project, the National Weight Control Registry, that has been following over 5,000 long-term dieting successes. Of course, those people, in general, stick to diets that are healthy and don't have excess calories. They also exercise regularly.

That made sense, but it turns out that they differ considerably in their diets and what they do for exercise. What they do share is the ability to pick out an approach to eating and exercise that fits their own long-term goals. Then they adhere to that plan, get an hour of exercise a day, eat lots of fiber and less fat, weigh themselves at least weekly and don't watch much TV.

Okay, I do all of that and, having read the HMS publication, I realize watch TV is a double-edged sword. By that I mean you're stationary and you're exposed to lots of food commercials.

That's great stuff, but didn't tell me what to do on vacations. I think what I have to incorporate into my travel plans, maybe on my computerized pack lists, is a statement. "You're going on a trip, Peter. You're also going on your own diet plan, especially the part about portion control."

The Brits weigh in on salt; my last post until the 8th

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

We're heading out on a two+ week trip and, since I had back surgery 15 days ago, I can't carry much. So I'm leaving my laptop at home, bringing my Kindle to get the news (it also has eight books I could read) and will only take one paperback book. That one is by Marion Nestle, a named-chair nutrition professor at NYU, and is her take on how the food industry tries and largely succeeds in influencing nutrition and health, usually not for our benefit. More on that subject later.

In the meantime I found an article on a branch of the United Kingdom's health system, their National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (That leads to a great acronym: NICE), wants the U.K. government to help further restrict salt intake.

As I've noted before, most of the salt in the American diet, and apparently most in the U.K population's diet, comes from salt added to "prepared foods." So the NICE group wants the government to get the food industry, via new laws or taxes or restricting some TV ads, to stop pushing salt (and fat and sugar) at the consumers.

The average daily salt intake in the U.K is about 8.5 grams, which is the equivalent of 3.34 grams of sodium. The current recommendation there is 6 grams of sat or 2.36 grams of sodium. The goal espoused by NICE is to gradually lower the salt intake to 3 grams (1.18 grams of sodium) by 2025.

They think such diminution of sodium content of foods (and fat content also) could help prevent about 40,000 premature deaths from heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular disease. Of course the U.K. food industry, through a lobbying group, is protesting, saying NICE is out of touch with what's been happening for years and that the steps recommended are totally unnecessary.

NICE has come up with some great new concepts, including restricting permits for fast food outlets in some areas (presumably near schools), barring some food ads during hours when kids may be watching TV and a "traffic light" system for color codes on foots that would reveal their level of salt, fat and sugar.

If I have to say so myself these are very NICE ideas.