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Monday, September 30, 2019

Benefits Of Fish Oil

     When I was a kid, my father insisted that, like him, I should take a tablespoon full of cod liver oil every day at suppertime.  For reasons I never understood my mother did not have to take the abominable stuff.
     I can't begin to describe the horrible taste of cod liver oil.  It had no effects on my father, but it triggered my gag reflex something awful. In an effort to make it more palatable, my father, bless his heart, began purchasing mint flavored cod liver oil.  Honest!  You can still buy it.
     Mint flavored cod liver oil is infinitely more disgusting than the plain stuff.  Being the clever kid that I was, I figured out a way to outwit my father so that I didn't have to take it any more.
     Since it always made me gag, I decided to go all the way.  I began gagging and jumped up as if to run to the bathroom, but sunk to the kitchen floor on my knees and puked up the stuff. Fact: Mint flavored cod liver oil coming up in the form of puke is enough to induce more vomiting.  And, since it was on the kitchen floor at suppertime, it was a disgusting scene for my parents.  The bottom line was may father told me, "If it's going to make you sick, you don't have to take it any more."  It was a small price to pay for success. 
     That was a long time ago, but I'm sure that had fish oil capsules even in those days.  Fish oil is one of the most commonly consumed dietary supplements because it's rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are very important for your health. 
     For 17 science-based benefits of omega-3 fatty acids see THIS article in Helthline. 
     The best way to get omega-3 fatty acids is to eat oily fish: 

* trout 
* salmon 
* sardines 
* pilchards 
* kippers
* eels 
* whitebait 
* mackerel 
* herring 
* tuna 

     If the idea of eating oily fish is rpugnant and your idea of fish is one of the more popular fish eaten in the U.S. (catfish, cod, Alaska pollock, tilapia, or if you live in my neck of the woods, Lake Erie perch) then taking a fish oil supplement could help you get enough omega-3 fatty acids. 
     Fish oil is the fat or oil that's extracted from fish tissue. I am not sure you want to know how it's done, but in case you do, Mike Reid tells you HERE.
     Because the omega-3 fatty acids in fish provide so many health benefits, including protection against a number of diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating 1–2 portions of fish per week. Besides omega-3s, fish oil usually contains some vitamin A and D. 
     The Western diet has replaced a lot of omega-3s with other fats so fish oil does the following: 

1. May Support Heart Health 
* people who eat a lot of fish have much lower rates of heart disease 
* it can increase levels of “good” HDL cholesterol However, it does not appear to reduce levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol 
* it helps reduce blood pressure 
* it may prevent the plaques that cause arteries to harden 
* it may reduce fatal arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) 
Note: Although fish oil supplements can improve many of the risk factors for heart disease, there is no clear evidence that it can prevent heart attacks or strokes. 
2. May Help Treat Certain Mental Disorders 
* research suggests that fish oil supplements can prevent the onset or improve the symptoms of some mental disorders. 
* it can reduce the chances of psychotic disorders in those who are at risk it may reduce some symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder 
3. May Aid Weight Loss 
* some studies indicate that fish oil supplements, in combination with diet or exercise, can help you lose weight.
Note: not all studies found the same results 
4. May Support Eye Health 
* eye health begins to decline in old age, which can lead to age-related macular degeneration. Eating fish is linked to a reduced risk of AMD, but the results on fish oil supplements are less convincing. One study found that consuming a high dose of fish oil for 19 weeks improved vision in all AMD patients. However, this was a very small study. 
5. May Reduce Inflammation 
* it may help treat conditions involving chronic inflammation of joint pain, stiffness, and medication needs in people with rheumatoid arthritis, which causes painful joints. 
6. May Support Healthy Skin 
* skin disorders such as psoriasis and dermatitis may benefit from fish oil 
7. May Support Pregnancy and Early Life 
* Fish oil supplements in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers may improve hand-eye coordination in infants. 
* it may also improve infant visual development and help reduce the risk of allergies 
8. May Reduce Liver Fat 
* improves liver function and inflammation 
9. May Improve Symptoms of Depression 
* studies show that fish oil and omega-3 supplements may improve symptoms of depression 
10. May Improve Attention and Hyperactivity in Children 
* a number of behavioral disorders in children may improve perceived hyperactivity, inattention, impulsiveness, and aggression in children. 
11. May Help Prevent Symptoms of Mental Decline 
* people who eat more fish tend to experience a slower decline in brain function in old age. However, studies on fish oil supplements in older adults haven't provided clear evidence that they can slow the decline of brain function. 
12. May Improve Asthma Symptoms and Allergy Risk 
* a number of studies show that fish oil may reduce asthma symptoms, especially in children. 
13. May Improve Bone Health 
* some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial. 

Fish oil supplements come in a number of forms: 
* ethyl esters (EE) 
* triglycerides (TG) 
* reformed triglycerides (rTG) 
* free fatty acids (FFA) 
* phospholipids (PL). 

    Your body doesn't absorb ethyl esters very well, so choose a fish oil supplement that comes in one of the other listed forms. Some countries have actually banned the sale of ethyl ester fish oil supplements. Currently, the U.S. still allows the sale of ethyl ester fish oil supplements and does not require that labels state the type of fish oil used. How do you know what type you have? You can test it as described HERE
     For the other side of the coin see this: Fish Oil Ethyl Ester vs Triglyceride – Revisited 

   Other dietary fats help the absorption of omega-3 fatty acids so it's best to take fish oil supplements with a meal that contains fat.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Presidents’ Military Experience

Of the Presidents, 31 served in the military. Six of them could be considered professionals:

George Washington 
Revolutionary War
combat veteran
Andrew Jackson 
Major General
War of 1812 and Indian Wars
combat veteran
wounded or injured
William Henry Harrison 
Major General
War of 1812
combat veteran
Zachary Taylor  
Major General
War of 1812, Indian Wars and Mexican War, Civil War
combat veteran
wounded or injured
Ulysses S. Grant 
Mexican War and Civil War
combat veteran
Dwight D. Eisenhower 
WW1 and WW2
combat veteran
James E. Carter Jr. 
Navy Lieutenant
Graduated from the Naval Academy and served seven years on active duty 
He served during Korean War, but not in country

Others who served in the military were: 
Thomas Jefferson (Revolutionary War-Colonel) 
James Madison (Revolutionary War-Colonel) 
James Monroe (Revolutionary War-combat veteran-wounded or injured-Major)
John Tyler (War of 1812-Militia Captain) 
James K. Polk (Colonel) 
Millard Fillmore (Civil War-Major) 
Franklin Pierce (Mexican War and Civil War-combat veteran-Private, later promoted to officer-Brigadier General) 
James Buchanan (War of 1812-Private) 
Abraham Lincoln (Indian Wars-Private later promoted to officer-Militia Captain)
Andrew Johnson (Civil War-Brigadier General) 
Rutherford B. Hayes (Civil War-combat veteran-wounded several times-horse shot out from under him on four occasions-Major General) 
James A. Garfield (Civil War-combat veteran-Major General) 
Chester A. Arthur (Civil War-Brigadier General) 
Benjamin Harrison (Civil War-combat veteran- Brevet Brigadier General) 
William McKinley (Civil War-combat veteran-Private, later promoted to officer-Brevet Major) 
Theodore Roosevelt (Spanish-American War-combat veteran-Colonel) 
Harry S. Truman (WW1-combat veteran- Private, later promoted to officer-Colonel) 
John F. Kennedy (WW2-combat veteran- injured when a Japanese ship ran over his patrol boat-Navy Lieutenant) 
Lyndon B. Johnson (WW2-Navy Commander) 
Richard M. Nixon (WW2-Navy Commander) 
Gerald R. Ford (WW2-combat veteran-Navy Lieutenant Commander) 
Ronald W. Reagan (WW2- Private, later promoted to officer-Militia Captain)
George H.W. Bush (WW2-combat veteran-injured when bailing out of his plane when it was shot down by Japanese-enlisted as Seaman, later promoted to officer-Navy Lieutenant, junior grade) 
George W. Bush (Served during the Vietnam War, but not in country-National Guard First Lieutenant) 

Did not serve: 
John Adams 
John Quincy Adams 
Martin Van Buren 
Grover Cleveland (Received a draft notice, but hired a substitute) 
William H. Taft 
Woodrow Wilson 
Warren G. Harding 
Calvin Coolidge 
Herbert Hoover 
Franklin D. Roosevelt (Served as a civilian Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1913 to 1920 and during World War I sought to join the Navy as an officer, only to have his appeal rejected by President Wilson) 
William J. Clinton (see below...it’s a long story) 
Barack H. Obama (was 12 years old by the time the draft ended) 
Donald J. Trump (received military draft deferments five times-once for bad feet (bone spurs on his heels) and four times for college) 

     Some anti-Clinton sources claim that according to draft records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, William J. Clinton has the distinction of being (among other things) the only pardoned Federal felon ever to serve as President of the United States. 
     According to Snopes, his controversial activities in avoiding the draft during the Vietnam War years of 1968-69 are difficult to trace with certainty because by the time the issue became one of national interest in 1992, reporters and biographers were faced with reconstructing a 25-year-old account from the decades-old memories of those involved and some were dead.  And, Clinton himself often responded to questions on the subject with misleading or inaccurate information...no surprise there!  Here's the story according to Snopes:
     In 1964 as an 18-year-old Clinton registered with the Selective Service in September and was assigned a 2-S (student deferment) because he was a student at Georgetown University.  He was selected to receive a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in England, but in February 1968 the federal government eliminated draft deferments for most graduate students, and Clinton would therefore no longer be eligible for additional student deferments after he completed his final term at Georgetown in the spring of 1968. And so he was reclassified as 1-A (fit for military service) in March of 1968. That's when he began looking for ways to weasel out of the draft.
     An uncle pulled some political strings to get him a billet in the Naval Reserves. Clinton never showed up and his uncle told the local Navy Reserve Commander that things had been taken care of "in another way."  A judge in Hot Springs, Arkansas told the draft board to put Clinton's record on hold and it was done.  
     He began his first year at Oxford in October 1968 and in December, Clinton received a notice from the Selective Service instructing him to undergo an armed forces physical examination at a U.S. air base near London, which he took (and passed) on January 13, 1969.       
     In April he received an order to report from the Draft Board, but because the notice had been sent to England via surface mail it was late in arriving, and the assigned reporting date had already passed. 
     I received a notice from my draft board to report for induction into the Army after I had already been in the military for over a year.  At the time I was on a US Navy ship in Europe.
     Clinton had begun another school term and the regulations allowed students who received draft notices to finish out their current terms before reporting. Clinton would be obligated to report for induction after the end of the spring term unless he found an alternative before his new reporting date of July 28, 1969.   
     Clinton headed for Arkansas with slim chances of avoiding the draft. Qualifying as a conscientious objector was out, the local Army National Guard and Reserve units were full. 
     He took physicals for the Air Force and Navy officer programs but failed them both...he was undersize and his eyesite was too bad for the Air Force and his hearing too bad for the Navy.  Joining the advanced ROTC program at the University of Arkansas was out because he had already received an induction notice.  
     However, after pulling some political strings Clinton was accepted into the ROTC program on in July, 1969.  As a result, his draft notice was nullified, and his draft board reclassified him 1-D (reservist deferment) in August, 1969.   
     This is where things get murky, but sometime after returning to Oxford in the Fall of 1969 where he later helped organize anti-war protests in London, he changed his mind and asked his draft board to drop his ROTC deferment and reclassify him 1-A. The logical question is why would he do that?
     The reason was that there were rumors of upcoming policy changes by the Nixon administration that graduate students who received induction notices would be allowed to finish out their school years rather than just the current terms.  Also, Nixon was said to be considering withdrawing 35,000 troops from Vietnam, temporarily suspending the draft, and changing the draft requirements so that only 19-year-olds would be called and only “those draftees who volunteered for service there” would be shipped to Vietnam.  Also, Nixon was supposedly pushing for a draft lottery system which would expose eligible men to the draft for one year only.
    It was a wily political move.  He calculated that he was not risking much by dropping his ROTC commitment in favor of a 1-A classification.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Spelling And Intelligence

     In August 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an order from his summer residence in Oyster Bay, New York, that would soon be the talk of Washington—and the world beyond. 
     Addressing himself to the government printer, Roosevelt decreed that all documents issued by the White House should now follow the spellings advocated by an organization known as the Simplified Spelling Board. 
     Launched the previous March and financed by the steel baron Andrew Carnegie, the board wanted to strip the American language of its antiquated British baggage and create a clean and modern version for the 20th century. Read the rest of the story… 

     In in New Jersey in 1992 former Vice President Dan Quayle visited a school and confidently told a student who had written "potato" on the blackboard that it was spelled “potatoe.” 
    When Harvard granted an LL.D. to Andrew Jackson in 1833, John Quincy Adams boycotted the graduation ceremonies, calling Jackson ''a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar.'' To which Jackson replied: ''It is a damn poor mind indeed which can't think of at least two ways to spell any word.''
     Sarah Palin made up the word “refudiate” (she meant refute) and President George W. Bush invented the word “misunderestimate.” And, once I even convinced a college graduate that “snow” was spelled “snoe.” 
     In his tweets President Trump insists that he is a genius, but some insist his spelling errors contradict the claim. Add to that the declaration by his detractors that he speaks at a fourth-grade level, lower than any of the last 15 presidents, and it’s claimed that is “proof” he’s not a genius. Politics aside, I know some of his detractors and think he has to speak at a fourth-grade level in an attempt to get them to understand him, but no matter. It turns out that spelling ability and vocabulary aren't necessarily barometers of someone's overall intelligence.
     Everyone has difficulty with spelling from time to time and many spelling errors these days are the result of people’s poor typing skills and simply not checking what they wrote. 
     Spelling is something we do only in writing and is something that we store in the brain as procedural knowledge. This means it becomes automatic only after a person builds up extensive contact through repeated exposure to a word in reading and writing. Some people might have certain words they always mix up because they never learned the correct spelling, or because they wrote them incorrectly and now can’t tell the right from the wrong version. 
     Researchers from the University of Grenoble Alpes asked 536 professional recruiters to evaluate different job applications and found that poor spelling was just as detrimental to a candidate's chances as having insufficient work experience. Applicants that meet every selection criteria for the job, including education and work experience, were rejected because of a couple of typos. 
     Even with today's word processing spell checkers, as long as a word is spelled correctly using the wrong word won't be caught.  I can also attest to the fact that sometimes no matter how carefully one checks a document for grammar and spelling errors they will sometimes slip through. In my working days when we produced engineering drawings we always had someone else check them...it was a rule of thumb that you can't check your own drawings...too often you simply won't catch even the simplest error.  Same thing with your own writing.
     The perception is that people who can't spell are ignorant, illiterate or stupid, but research shows that there is no significant association between spelling ability and intelligence. 
     It’s true! In his youth Albert Einstein was considered intellectually impaired because he couldn't spell. And, he wasn’t the only one. Check out this list of 15 famous intellectuals who couldn’t spell, including that beloved president John F. Kennedy. 

15 Famous Thinkers Who Couldn’t Spell

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Art of Being A Manly Man

The Art of Manliness
Lots of cool stuff for men: 

* Style- How a shirt should fit 
* Sports jackets, suit jackets and blazers, what’s the difference? 
* Getting ahead-financial stuff 
* Get strong- hints on fitness 
* Social-the art of conversation, how to know if a woman likes you 
* Podcasts and even a store

Sample article: Beards, Hair, Mustaches, Style & Grooming. The Science of Facial Hair: What Signals Do Beards, Stubble, and Mustaches Send to Others? 

Hobbies - The Ultimate List of Hobbies for Men
75+ Ideas For Your Free Time 
22 More Hobbies for Men 
45 Manly Hobbies

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Mild Head Trauma and Brain Damage

     The brain’s most obvious protection is the is our approximately one-quarter inch thick skull, but the brain is also surrounded by protective cerebrospinal fluid and a protective membrane called the meninges. Both provide further defense against physical injury.
     Another protective element is the blood–brain barrier. As the name suggests, this is a barrier between the brain’s blood vessels and the cells and other components that make up brain tissue.
     Whereas the skull, meninges and cerebrospinal fluid protect against physical damage, the blood–brain barrier provides a defense against disease-causing pathogens and toxins that may be present in our blood. 
     The link between repeated head trauma and neuro-degenerative disease continues. According to researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine and Trinity College in Dublin even mild head trauma in adolescents and adults who participate in contact sports damages the barrier that protects the brain from pathogens and toxins. 
     In the study, scientists scanned the brains of teenage and adult rugby players and found damage to the protective barrier that separates the brain from blood borne pathogens and toxins in roughly half of adolescent rugby players after a full season. And, that was even in athletes who didn’t report taking a shot to the head. 
     Even mild blows to the head may temporarily weaken the blood–brain barrier and affect normal brain function even if only temporarily. The temporary changes are in the form of awareness and responsiveness, short-term amnesia, headache and difficulty thinking clearly which can be difficult to spot.
     Researchers wondered if mild head trauma damaged the blood-brain barrier and scanned brains rugby players to see if the blood-brain barrier was intact. Ten of 19 teen players showed signs of damage by the end of the season. Of eight college rugby players, two had damage. Their injuries were not serious enough to be considered a concussion. 
     Scientists recruited five professional mixed martial arts fighters, who wore the mouth guards during fights and had their brains scanned before and after fights. After fight scans showed increased blood-brain barrier damage. Surprisingly, not all blows that looked bad, like an early knockout, caused damage. 
     It used to be thought that the brain bouncing around and slamming into the skull caused the damage, but recent evidence suggest the damage goes much deeper than just on the surface. Researchers are unsure how long recovery from he blood-brain barrier takes. Bottom line: research has raised questions that it’s too soon to answer. 
     The dangers of American professional football is a hot topic because studies have found high rates of concussions, traumatic brain injuries and a serious brain disorder called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in former players. These injuries can have terribly debilitating effects and as a result, the NFL changed rules designed to make play safer. 

Concussion: Occurs when a collision causes the brain to hit the inside of the skull. The greater the force of the impact, the more severe the concussion. Symptoms can include disorientation, memory problems, headaches, fogginess, and loss of consciousness. After suffering from one concussion, a person is much more likely to suffer from a second one after another injury. Having more than one concussion can cause depression, anxiety, aggression, personality changes, and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, CTE, and other brain disorders. 
CTE: A brain disorder that is caused by repeated head injuries. These brain changes progress and worsen over time, and may not be noticed for months, years, or decades after the last brain injury. There is no cure. Common symptoms include memory loss, impaired judgment, aggression, and depression. 

     Some of former athletes with CTE have committed suicide or murder. CTE is most often found in athletes who have experienced repeated head injuries, such as former boxers, hockey players, and football players. 
     Former pro football player Aaron Hernandez committed suicide in prison where he was serving time for murder. The autopsy results revealed that he had the worst case of CTE ever reported on such a young man (Hernandez was 27 years old). 
     In September 2017, President Trump tweeted that the NFL is ruining the game because the league’s safety restrictions and rules make the game less enjoyable to watch. Apparently, like back in the days of the gladiators, some football fans want to watch violent games, regardless of players’ safety and health. 
     A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association in 2017 found that among 202 deceased former football players almost 88 percent of them were diagnosed with CTE. However, it needs to be pointed out that these results are not typical because their bodies were donated by family members who wanted to know if they had CTE when they died. 
     Researchers at Virginia Tech found that football risks start at an early age when young children take high-force hits to the head. The researchers observed 9- to 12-year-old players and found that about 8 percent of head impacts were high magnitude (40 times the force of gravity). Quarterbacks, running backs, and linebackers were at the greatest risk. 
     Another study found that dangers are much greater when players start before the age of 12, because they are twice as likely to develop mood and behavior problems later in life. 

The NFL has changed several rules. 
* They have moved kickoffs from the 30 yard line to the 35 yard line and touchbacks from the 20 yard line to the 25 yard line. This rule shortens the distance between the kicking team and the receiving team. Since players gain a lot of speed as they run at each other from across the field, the shorter distances are less dangerous. 
* The NFL plans to also reduce injuries by continuing to disqualify players who exhibit poor sportsmanship and dangerous conduct. 
* Crown-of-the-helmet rule penalizes defensive players or offensive ball carriers who initiate contact with the top of their helmet. This type of play happens when a player uses his head to hit another player’s head, which is very dangerous for both players. It reduces the probability of all head and neck injuries by 34 percent. The downside of this rule is that players are more likely to tackle the lower body, which increases risk of serious lower body injuries. 
* The NFL has made several changes to its concussion protocol. Prior to the change, if a player left the field with a possible concussion, he had to stay out of the game while he was being evaluated. If he was diagnosed with a concussion, he would continue to be benched for the rest of the game and for as long as it took for a doctor to clear him for play. 
*After the rule change an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant must be present for all games to evaluate any player who seems to lack motor stability or balance, and re-evaluating any player who had been evaluated for a concussion during a game within 24 hours of the initial evaluation. Having the decision made by an expert who is not working for either team is a good way to try to better protect player safety. 

     With several high school and collegiate athletes dying from head injuries sustained during football games in recent seasons, concern over head injuries and concussions has become more prevalent. 
     Part of the renewed focus on athletic head injuries is a better understanding of the symptoms and ability to diagnose the condition. 

Signs of a Concussion: 
It is often assumed that athletes suffer concussions when they lose consciousness or have difficulty remember or repeating things. However, according to doctors at the Mayo Clinic, most people who have a concussion do not lose consciousness or black out; some people will have a concussion and not even realize it. 

Symptoms of a concussion include: 
* Headache 
* Fatigue 
* Ringing in the ear
* Vomiting 
* Nausea 
* Difficulty speaking 

     There are also symptoms that may not appear until well after the injury initially occurs, including irritability, difficulty sleeping and memory or concentration problems. 
     Parents, friends and teammates should not only be aware of these symptoms, but also watch the athlete closely in the hours following a hard hit in a game. 
     According to a recent study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, over 40 percent of high school athletes return to action prematurely after suffering a concussion. These statistics include 16 percent of football players who play the same day after losing consciousness. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, nearly half of concussions in high school football go unreported. 

    Second Impact Syndrome - SIS is a condition that reflects the compound effect of head injuries and can results in a serious permanent brain injury or even death. Younger, less developed brains are at a much higher risk of SIS according to the Ohio Children’s Hospital Study. 
     In an effort to alleviate pressure on high school athletes to return to games following a hard hit, the Illinois High School Association has adopted a rule concerning concussions.  The rule states that if an official, coach or trainer suspects that a player has suffered a concussion, that player can be removed from the game and can only return if cleared by a medical professional. This rule applies to all sports and players. 
     When a young athlete receives a head injury in a game, the first person they generally come in to contact with is the school’s athletic trainer. The primary responsibility of the trainer is to properly diagnose the condition, inform the student and parents of the assessment and any potential risks. When a trainer fails to properly diagnose a condition and an injury is caused by that act, the trainer may be held liable.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Parking Your Car

     Two physicists, Paul Krapivsky of Boston University and Sidney Redner of Santa Fe Institute, recently published an article in the Journal of Statistical Mechanics where they took a look at a classic optimization problem...parking you car. 
     When you pull into a parking lot and want to minimize the time you spend in the parking lot should you park in the first spot you come to or drive to the door and hope to find a spot near it? 
     Obviously, the parking place by the front door is ideal...unless you have to circle the parking lot several times to get it. In order to reduce the time spent driving around the lot and walking across it, what’s the best strategy? “Mathematics allows you to make intelligent decisions,” Redner says. “It allows you to approach a complex world with some insights.” 

A) Meek strategy - grab the first space available You don’t waste any time looking for a spot 

B) Optimistic strategy - gamble on finding a space right next to the entrance.  With this strategy you drive all the way to the entrance hoping to find a spot near the entrance. If you can’t find an empty parking space you circle around to the closest empty spot. 

C) Prudent strategy - drive past the first available space, betting on the availability of a closer space. When you find what looks like a reasonably close space you take it. If no spaces exist between the furthest parked car and the entrance, prudent drivers circle back to the space a meek driver would have taken right off. 

    Discounting all the mathematical observations which strategy is best? Overall, the meek strategy is inefficient because it causes you to have to make a long walk to the entrance. The optimistic strategy is next. If you’re lucky you get a close spot and a short walk...if not you end up wasting time circling. Overall the prudent strategy costs drivers the least amount of time. 
     As the authors pointed out, their study didn’t take into consideration all the variables such as how fast people drive and walk, the actual designs of the parking lot and spaces and the realization that every parking situation is different.  Of course, some people would rather park farther away and walk a bit rather than circle the lot for five minutes looking for a space close to the door.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Eating Raw Cake Batter

     I baked a cake this morning and I did it. “It” is the same thing I’ve been doing since I was a little boy and my mother baked a cake or cookies, I licked the spoon! 
     This is a very dangerous thing to do I’m told...much more dangerous than drinking water out of a garden hose like we did as kids, but probably more on a par with riding a bike with out pads and a helmet. 
     Most everybody knows that raw eggs in cookie dough and cake batter can carry salmonella, but mot so many know that the FDA has issued a grim reminder that raw flour could make you sick, too, so cake batter and cookie dough could be a double whammy! 
     Not long ago two General Mills boxed cake mixes were recalled due to possible E. coli contamination which had the potential to give people a bad case of diarrhea and cramps for a week and, at worst, can cause kidney failure. General Mills ended up recalling more than 10 million pounds of flour.
     Widespread flour contamination is a relatively new phenomenon. Raw flour can carry contaminants just like any other field crop because it is derived from uncooked grains growing in an open field making susceptible to bacterial contamination. 
     Four is not treated to kill bacteria like E. coli because it’s expected that consumers will kill any possible bacteria by boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving or frying the flour during the cooking process. 
      We eat raw fruits and vegetables all the time, so what’s so bad about raw flour? Well, according to the experts, it’s because E. coli outbreaks in flour are a relatively new phenomenon. People in the food business have a lot of experience preventing the bacteria in raw fruits and vegetables, but not no much in flour. They simply don’t know how flour is getting contaminated. One theory is that it’s animals. They drop feces in the fields or it could come from processing facilities, it could be the workers, nobody knows. 

     They may be able to lower the risk of E. Coli in flour by heat-treating it. Nestle started heat-treating all the flour in its cookie dough when the FDA linked raw cookie dough to an E. coli outbreak in 2009, but most other manufacturers haven’t followed suit. 
     Processing steps like grinding grain and bleaching flour do not kill germs like E. coli. Bacteria are killed only when flour is cooked. This is why you should never taste or eat raw dough or batter. In addition, raw eggs can contain Salmonella that can make you sick if the eggs are eaten raw or lightly cooked, so do not taste or eat raw dough! 
     The warnings say whether for cookies, tortillas, pizza, biscuits, pancakes, or crafts made with raw flour, do not let children play with or eat raw dough, including dough for crafts. People eat homemade play dough or holiday ornaments?! 
     Do not make milkshakes with products that contain raw flour, such as cake mix and do not use raw homemade cookie dough in ice cream. The store bought stuff contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria. 
     Wash your hands with running water and soap after handling flour, raw eggs, or any surfaces they have touched. Wash bowls, utensils, counter tops and other surfaces with warm, soapy water. 
     The symptoms of E. coli infections vary among people but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. People usually get sick 3 to 4 days after swallowing the contaminated material and most people recover within a week. However, some people develop a serious type of illness called hemolytic uremic syndrome which can result in kidney failure, stroke, and even death. 
     The symptoms of Salmonella typically appear 6 hours to 4 days after eating a contaminated food, though this period is sometimes longer. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. In most cases, illness lasts 4 to 7 days and people recover without antibiotics. Illness from Salmonella bacteria can be serious and is more dangerous for older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Shady World of Politics

     There’s this guy, just an acquaintance really, and we almost never agree on anything, but the other day he said, “When I talk about politics, parties are immaterial. I am an Independent - both parties are deeply corrupt in many different ways...” At last, there is something upon which we can agree!
     Transparency International is a website that they say is intended to give voice to the victims and witnesses of corruption, work together with governments, businesses and citizens to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals. They add that they want a world free of corruption. Good luck with that! 
     They maintain that in 36 out of 62 countries surveyed, political parties were rated by the general public as the institution most affected by corruption. After political parties, the next most corrupt institutions worldwide were perceived to be parliaments followed equally by the police and the judiciary. 
     An interesting statistic was that half of the low income respondents believed that corruption is a big problem, but only 38 per cent of high-income respondents felt the same. The poor also reported the biggest impact of corruption on their personal and family lives. That’s no surprise. As an attorney once told me when the subject of bankruptcy laws came up...he said the laws were written to benefit the rich, not the poor and middle class. 

A case of the pot calling the kettle black… 
     Last year The Atlantic ran an article titled, The Corruption of the Republican Party and asked “Why has the Republican Party become so thoroughly corrupt?” Why single out the Republican party? 
     The online magazine Week ran an article “The Democratic Party is suffused with wretched cowardice” and claimed “great swathes of the Democratic structure are permeated to their very marrow with moral rot and cowardice, unwilling to do anything...” and went on to say, “If America is to be purged of the Republican Party's lawlessness and corruption, only somewhat less serious problems in the Democratic Party must also be rooted out first.” 
     Political corruption is defined as the use of power by government officials for illegitimate private gain. An illegal act constitutes political corruption only if the act is directly related to their official duties, is done under color of law or involves trading in influence. 
     Corruption includes bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft and embezzlement. Corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and human trafficking, though is not restricted to these activities. 
    Naturally there are loopholes. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by private persons or corporations not directly involved with the government. And, in some cases, government officials have broad or ill-defined powers, which make it difficult to distinguish between legal and illegal actions. Campaign contributions are almost impossible to police.
     One of the biggest frauds perpetrated on voters is what I like to call “reverse wording.” It’s used to turn “No” votes into “Yes” votes and politicians use it all the time on ballots. Depending on how a question is put on the ballot, a measure can become confusing and a no vote can be turned into a yes vote, or the reverse. 

     Voting along party lines is to vote in a manner that is consistent with the official policy or opinion of one's political party and it is irresponsible. As columnist David Davenport opined in Forbes magazine:

“...there is now a growing cancer on Congress. The rapid and pervasive rise of party-line voting is a cancer that is eating at the effectiveness of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. As a consequence, what was once the world’s most deliberative body, the US Senate, hardly deliberates at all, and what little is accomplished in Washington is done through party-line votes and executive orders, with devastating consequences.” 

He continued… “Unfortunately party-line voting has become the new normal. As recently as the early 1970s, party unity voting was around 60 percent but today it is closer to 90 percent in both the House and Senate.” 

    Mr. Davenport concluded, “Apparently party discipline is more important than finding the right solution...” Nothing new in all this. 

8 Early American Political Scandals - From an early sex scandal to a mass conspiracy to siphon taxes from the federal treasury, get the facts on eight political controversies from the 18th and 19th centuries. Juicy stuff! 
American Presidential Scandals 
Political Corruption in Postbellum America 
When a Candidate Conspired With a Foreign Power to Win An Election - It took decades to unravel Nixon’s sabotage of Vietnam peace talks. Now, the full story can be told. Interesting reading.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

     PTSD has been known by many names in the past, such as shell shock during the years of World War I and combat fatigue after World War II. One of the most famous incidents was General George Patton’s slapping of a couple of soldiers during World War II. But, PTSD does not just happen to combat veterans. 
     It is a psychiatric disorder that can occur not just with combat veterans, but also in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, serious accidents, life-threatening illnesses, physical abuse and sexual assault during childhood or adulthood. Abuse can be especially traumatic for children...see THIS article in Psychology Today.
     A traumatic event that precedes the onset of PTSD can be experienced either directly or indirectly by an individual. Learning how a loved one died a violent death, or watching someone be assaulted, are examples of indirect trauma. A trauma often threatens a person's sense of self, world, and future, causing trauma-exposed individuals to experience substantial emotional distress. 
     In the United States it is estimated that 61 percent of men and 51 percent of women have experienced at least one trauma during their lifetime. Fortunately, only 8 percent of men and 20 percent of women develop PTSD. 
     With time most people recover, usually within about three months. Common reactions following a traumatic event include intense fear and anxiety, re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive memories and nightmares, avoidance of trauma reminders, irritability and anger, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, difficulty sleeping, feelings of guilt and shame, disrupted relationships, decreased interest in sex, impaired concentration, and activation of other traumatic or negative memories. 
     Individuals who are sexually assaulted develop PTSD at much higher rates than individuals who experience other types of noncombat traumas.  But, any traumatic event can be a watershed moment that creates a discontinuity between someone's pre- and post-traumatic life. At its worst, the trauma will cause prolonged symptoms of PTSD that affect an individual's day-to-day well-being. 
     PTSD symptoms are organized into four subgroups: intrusive symptoms, avoidance symptoms, negative alterations in cognition and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity. 

Intrusion Symptoms: 
* Unwanted, distressing memories of the event 
* Recurring trauma-related nightmares 
* Flashbacks – involuntary and vivid re-experiencing of the experience 
* Intense emotional distress and/or noticeable physiological reactions to reminders

Avoidance Symptoms: 
* Persistent avoidance of thoughts and memories related to the trauma 
* Persistent avoidance of external reminders of the trauma (e.g. avoiding the location or people that are that reminders of the trauma. 

Negative Alterations in Cognitions and Mood: 
* A complete lapse in memory of or a feeling of blacking out for parts of the trauma. 
* Perpetual negative expectations about everything Continuous blame of self or others about the traumatic event 
* Persistent negative emotional state and/or the inability to experience positive emotions 
* Loss of interest or participation in significant activities or activities once interested in 
* Feelings of detachment from others and feeling others cannot relate or understand the experience. 

Alterations in Arousal and Reactivity: 
* Easily irritable or angry 
* Reckless or self-destructive behavior 
* More alert 
* Easily startled
* Problems with concentration 
* Difficulties sleeping 

     It is also common for individuals to suffer from depression and some turn to alcohol, drugs or medication to cope with the distress. 

     Acute Stress Disorder is a related condition. It occurs in reaction to a traumatic event, just as PTSD does, and the symptoms are similar. However, the symptoms occur between three days and one month after the event. 
     People with acute stress disorder may relive the trauma, have flashbacks or nightmares and may feel numb or detached from themselves. These symptoms cause major distress and cause problems in their daily lives. 
     About half of people with acute stress disorder go on to have PTSD. An estimated 13 to 21 percent of survivors of car accidents develop acute stress disorder and between 20 and 50 percent of survivors of assault, rape or mass shootings develop it. 

Five Ways To Cope With PTSD
U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs National Center for PTSD

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Strange Smells In Your House

     If there are strange smells in your house you may have a bigger problem than just the stink! The top five strange smells are: 

1. Dead Animal 
     If you smell animal pee/poop, or any other pet smells, that’s probably what it is, assuming you have a pet. However, if the smell is a noxious sickly smell, most likely you have an insect nest or dead animal somewhere in your house. 
      Sometimes, people think they are smelling sewage, but it very possibly could be a dead animal. It happens. Squirrels and raccoons are ingenious when it comes to finding a way in and if they die in your house they’re going to stink. Snakes, possums, rats and cats are pretty good at finding their way in, too. Short version, if you smell a dead animal, it probably is one.

2. Fish Smell 
     This one is really critical! Unless it is fish, the smell is probably emanating from a burning electrical component. 
     Electrical shielding, wires, and other plastic components emit a fish or urine smell when exposed to high heat. If you smell something fishy, go around your home and look for outlets and other electrical equipment that looks burnt or melting. 

3. Sewage 
     If there is a sewer smell in your home, this might be caused by a dried up trap. The purpose of a trap is so that water gets trapped, creating an air block for any sewer gases that might rise up. If, however, you have not used your drain in a while, the water could evaporate, clearing the way for noxious sewer gases to infiltrate your home. Simply run water in the drain. Also, see number 5 below. 

4. Moldy and Musty smell 
     If you smell a musty or moldy odor, it is a sign that something is not right. Moldy and musty smells are similar in nature and both are caused by the presence of mold or mildew. 
     Mold and mildew are both fungi and grow in the presence of moisture or water. Mildew is a powdery or downy surface growth and is most often found on plant materials (fruits and vegetables, flowering or decorative plants). 
     Molds are usually thicker and can cause more structural damage since they penetrate deeper into the material they are growing on. Molds can grow on plant materials as well, but are also commonly found on building materials like walls and flooring and most home contents (books, cardboard, clothing, etc.) 
     The primary difference between moldy and musty odors is in the strength of the smell; musty odors are usually not as strong as moldy odors. Since both moldy and musty odors suggest mold growth it’s important to take action quickly when you notice an odor to prevent extensive damage to your home and the lingering musty odor that can penetrate non-moldy materials in your home making eliminating them difficult. Go around your house and check for water leaks, damp items and moisture to find the source of the problem. 
     Mold varies in severity from being merely cosmetic to dangerously toxic. For small areas of mold you can clean it up yourself. However, if the problem is larger than you can handle, you may need to call a plumber. You may need to re-caulk plumbing fixtures to prevent water from entering the area between the fixture and the wall, which could cause water damage and foster mildew and mold growth. You may also need better ventilation, especially in areas of high moisture like your basement, bathrooms, and kitchen. 

5. Rotten Eggs 
     The smell of rotten eggs is a tell-tale sign that you have a gas leak or a problem with your plumbing. The smell of sewage often smells like rotten eggs. The first thing you should check is if the smell is coming from your drains or when you turn on the water as mentioned in number 3 above. 
     If you notice the smell more when you have the hot water running, then the problem is probably your water heater. 
     The other, more dangerous, cause of a rotten egg smell in the house is a gas leak. Manufacturers add a chemical to natural gas and propane to give it a distinctive odor, as they are naturally colorless and odorless. This smell is a safety precaution and it is supposed to bother you. If you suspect a gas leak you should call the gas company or a plumber immediately.
     You should be aware that if you call the gas company they will err on the side of safety.  They will instruct you to take your pets and lock up and leave immediately.  They will bring a locksmith with them to gain entry into your house. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Chronically Disgruntled

     We have all met people who no matter what you do will find fault, complain and generally be disgruntled. When you do something for them they somehow manage to leave you feeling guilty or even angry because what you did was not appreciated. Why are some people so demanding and dissatisfied all the time? 
     According to new research, narcissism (excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one's physical appearance) does not explain some people’s lack of gratitude. 
     Charlotte Witvliet and her colleagues at Michigan’s Hope College in a recent study concluded that some people just lack the quality of gratitude. They noted that as a trait, gratitude “is an experience of abundance, with awareness that one is the recipient of a good gift from a giver.” And, some people just don’t have it. 
     If gratitude is, as the authors claim, a personality trait, then it means that a person who is never satisfied is likely to remain an ingrate for their entire life. Also, besides being perpetually ungrateful they are likely to be chronically unhappy. As they are unable to experience an inner satisfaction that comes from having a sense of abundance, they can never be truly happy. 
     Previous research has shown that people who feel a lot of gratitude, when offended by others, regard the offense not as an insult, but instead as an opportunity for growth. 
     Cognitive appraisal is involved. A cognitive appraisal is an assessment of an emotional situation in which a person evaluates how the event will affect them, interprets the various aspects of the event, and arrives at a response based on that interpretation. So, when dealing with the ungrateful, any favors you do for them will probably go unappreciated because they are programmed to view favors as never being good enough. 

     A danger for the ingrate is that life becomes an endless self-fulfilling prophecy of other people’s failure to do right by them. Ingratitude becomes a part of their personality. What often happens is that people give up on trying to be nice to the ungrateful person and as a result the person’s ingratitude begets more ingratitude when they conclude that they will not receive any rewards for their own nice behavior. 
     For some reason, perhaps early in life, their hopes were squashed and they learned never to expect anything out of anybody. They don't see the good in what other people do for them and when they feel rebuffed, they react with anger and resentment. The result is that they often find themselves one of those type of people no one wants to help. 
     What the study did show was that gratitude is a quality that can be nurtured to some extent. 
     It should also be pointed out that there are medical reasons why some people are angry all the time.  For example, a hyperactive thyroid which increases the metabolic rate, diabetes which affects blood sugar levels, cardiovascular disease and dementia.  
     Otherwise physically healthy people can also experience anger because they cannot deal with fear, disappointment, frustration or embarrassment. Then there are people who want to control everything and everybody, but cannot. And, some feel like they are a failure or worthless and blame others for everything that goes wrong.

Further reading:
Dealing With Angry People
The Power of the Disgruntled Employee
Seven Habits of Chronically Unhappy People


Monday, September 9, 2019

Can Being Underwater Protect You From Bullets?

Water is 800 percent denser than air, so unlike a bullet fired above the surface, once the bullet hits the water it immediately begins slowing down. For a full discussion you can read THIS post from Science ABC 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Ice Road Truckers

     There are REAL ice road truckers. It’s a highly dangerous job and ice road truckers get paid some of the highest salaries in the business. 
     What makes the job so dangerous? The drivers have to deal with freezing weather and snowstorms which make driving significantly more dangerous. And, they really do drive over frozen lakes, ponds, rivers and swamps and some drivers report being able to hear the ice cracking as they drive over it. Ice road truckers must always keep moving. The ice can hold the weight of a 100,000 pound truck – when it’s moving. If the truck comes to a standstill, the ice can only hold about 60,000 pounds of weight before it caves in so stopping is not an option. 
     The trucks themselves are specially outfitted at a cost of around $10,000. Special cab and engine heaters, satellite phones, first aid equipment and fuel additives. 
     The weather in Northern Canada can be brutal...it’s not uncommon for temperatures to drop to 50 below zero, not counting the wind chill factor which can make it feel twenty degrees or more colder. Drivers can even face hypothermia. Drivers have to carry food, water, supplies and other stuff. 
     Ice road trucker jobs are scare, mostly because of the high pay. They are paid between $20,000 and $80,000 for the season. The length of the season will vary depending on the climate. Typically, the season starts in the middle of January and will run to the middle of March. Some seasons can be as short as six weeks, while others can last several months. 
     It requires drivers with years of experience and recent truck driving school graduates need not apply. It also helps if you know someone in the business. Many drivers quit after their first trip and the turnover rate is upwards of 70 percent. That’s the real skinny on ice road trucking, but what about the reality show Ice Road Truckers? 
     Since its debut in 2007, Ice Road Truckers has been a ratings machine for the History Channel. The opening of the show from the first season showed a huge truck breaking through the ice and falling into the water. Question...how did the camera crew happen to be right there when it happened? Easy. They used miniature models. 
     Of course, the show is scripted as attested to by cast members then further edited to make them look like either heroes and villains. On the show danger lurks at every turn and over every hill as trucks slide on the ice, risk breaking through the ice and sinking into a lake and nail biting trips through horrible blizzards plus any other drama the producers can think up. 
     In 2013, the website The Trucker polled truckers about their opinions on the show. One person complained the show perpetuates stereotypes and makes truckers look like buffoons. Others admitted that in spite of the reality of ice road trucking, it wouldn't be interesting enough to keep viewers entertained for an hour. 
     Of course, driving on the show is not always as dangerous as it appears...film crews are always camera crews in front of and behind the trucks, which requires being extra safe. Also, they don’t want to risk damage to all that equipment. That doesn't mean there aren't risks involved. They are still dealing with heavy trucks and icy roads. It’s been determined that the best speed to get dramatic shots is 40 mph, which on ice is pretty fast especially with the film crew dangerously close. 
     Like all reality shows, it's not.