Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 23rd, 2007

Vitamin D may help elderly avoid falls

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From WebMD:

Vitamin D, taken in a high dose, may help prevent falls in the elderly. That finding comes from a study of 124 residents of a Boston nursing home. The study shows that residents who took a daily dose of 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D for five months were less likely to fall than those who took either lower doses or no vitamin D.

“Ensuring that nursing home residents are receiving adequate daily supplemental vitamin D may reduce the number of falls in elderly nursing home residents and could potentially reduce the risk of fracture in this high-risk group,” write the researchers.

They included Kerry Broe, MPH, of the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife in Massachusetts. Hebrew SeniorLife operates senior health care, housing, research, and education in the Boston area. The study appears in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Vitamin D acts in the body as a hormone. Its tasks include keeping bones strong by boosting their calcium absorption. Vitamin D may also help muscle function, Broe’s team notes. The body makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. But that ability fades with age, leaving older adults at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is also found in some foods, including milk fortified with vitamin D, cod liver oil, salmon, tuna, and eggs.

Participants in Broe’s study were 89 years old, on average. Most were white women. All lived at a long-term care facility run by Hebrew SeniorLife. Sixty-two percent of the group had fallen in the year before the study.

When the study started, 63% of participants were taking a multivitamin. But 57% of the entire group — and 54% of those taking a multivitamin — had low blood levels of vitamin D. Participants were randomly assigned to take vitamin D or an empty pill (placebo) for five months.

Those taking vitamin D were given one of four daily doses: 200 international units (IU), 400 IU, 600 IU, or 800 IU. No one knew what dose they were taking, or whether they were taking the placebo. Participants were allowed to keep taking multivitamins during the study, if they wanted to, but the researchers didn’t supply anyone with multivitamins.

Currently, the Institute of Medicine says 600 IU of vitamin D per day is “adequate” for men and women 71 or older.

The nursing home was required to keep records of residents’ falls. During the five-month study, 61 participants (59%) suffered falls. The group taking 800 IU of vitamin D daily was the only one to show a reduced fall risk. They were 72% less likely to fall during the study period than those taking the placebo. None of the other vitamin D doses were associated with reduced falls.

These results held when the researchers took age, BMI (body mass index), and other factors into account.

People can fall for many reasons; and it’s not certain vitamin D was the sole reason for the drop in falls for residents taking 800 IU of vitamin D daily.

While the data doesn’t show how much vitamin D participants got from their diet or sunshine, intake from those sources was probably “minimal,” write the researchers.

Vitamin D is one vitamin you shouldn’t overdo. The body stores vitamin D in fat, and it can be unhealthy to let too much of the vitamin build up in the body. The tolerable upper limit for daily vitamin D intake is 2,000 IU for adults 19 and older, according to Institute of Medicine standards.

Sunshine and diet are much less likely to cause excessive vitamin D levels than supplements, unless you’re consuming lots of cod liver oil, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, part of the National Institutes of Health. None of the nursing home residents had excessive vitamin D levels during the study.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2007 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Many babies short of Vitamin D

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Regular readers know that I fairly frequently emphasize the necessity of taking a vitamin D supplement (around 1500 IU daily) in order to have sufficient vitamin D. But people don’t do it, and so babies are born with insufficient D:

Even in the womb, babies face a high risk of vitamin D deficiency, a new study finds. The sunshine vitamin is a building block for a hormone that not only helps build bone and muscle, but also fights infections and many chronic diseases.

Lisa M. Bodnar of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and her colleagues collected blood samples from 400 first-time moms early in their pregnancies and again at delivery. Half the women were black, and half were white.

More than 90 percent of the participants took multivitamins—including vitamin D—during pregnancy. Half that group had also taken such vitamins before becoming pregnant. But by the end of their pregnancies, only 4 percent of the black women and 37 percent of the whites had vitamin D blood concentrations deemed sufficient for good health, the researchers report in the February Journal of Nutrition. Tests of umbilical cord blood showed that just 17 percent of black infants and half the white ones had sufficient vitamin D at birth.

The team expected to see a racial difference because heavily pigmented skin absorbs less sun and produces less vitamin D than light skin does. However, sunlight in northern latitudes is too weak in fall and winter to spur adequate vitamin production even in whites. The authors say that their findings could partly explain a reemergence of rickets among black children in the United States.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2007 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

When journalism is good, it’s very, very good…

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And this is in praise of some good journalism:

Where are those critics now, the right-wing know-nothings and the bloviating Bill Bennett who wanted to arrest the Washington Post’s Dana Priest for treason when she outed the CIA in November 2005 for hiding captives in “black sites”? She was a shill for the Democrats, one wingnut cried. Why are they not congratulating Priest and her colleague, Anne Hull, for exposing the shameful conditions for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center?

Bennett, you’ll recall, was among those who, when she won a Pulitzer, said she ought to tried for giving away state secrets. She replied, a bit caustically, that publishing classified information is no more a criminal offense than, say, gambling. But more seriously, Priest demonstrated in the CIA stories what reporting and digging and putting together bits and pieces to make a story. Take a look some of her other stories and you’ll see, as she insisted, that she does not depend on leaks as too many reporters do now. Washington is so accustomed to leaked stories, stories that have an agenda besides journalism, that it has forgotten what real journalism looks like.

Thus, Priest and Hull did what none of the Pentagon or White House reporters bother to do much anymore besides sitting around waiting for leaks and briefings. They went to talk to the people involved: the wounded, the patients that no one listens to. They did not go to the Walter Reed officials or their PR people until they had their facts and their story. And it took them two years. Did it embarrass the hospital, the Army? You bet. That is what journalism is all about, shaming officialdom into doing the right thing. If that be treason, Mr. Bennett, well you know what to do.

There’s another lesson there, the value of the newspaper, which when the journalism is done right can raise hell. The immortal A.J. Liebling, who knew how to poke the press and its barons, once said that newspapers give him pleasure because every once in a while, despite all the nonsense, they publish a gem, well-written, well-reported by someone who cared.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2007 at 1:06 pm

Med report

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I’ll update this same post with progress reports of the bone scan. I’m just back from the hospital, where a young man (almost young enough for me to think he’s doing this for a merit badge) injected me with some potion. Very small needle and probably lots of practice: I didn’t even feel it. Now I’m home for 3 hours, directed to drink a fair amount of liquid. Back to hospital at 3:00 for the scan itself: whole body, and with special attention to right hip. The joys of aging.

UPDATE: Well, the scan wasn’t much. Remove all metal from my person (watch, glasses, belt, change, etc.), lie on a moving table on my back and wait 20 minutes while the table slowly passed under the camera. All digital: image ready to be emailed. I went to sleep, naturally. Then two more 5 minute exposures: one focused solely on my right hip, one with my head turned sideways. That was it. The young man, sporting his new merit badge (just joking), said that the radiologist would review the pictures and have the report in two business days.

Nicest part: all my stuff was still there when I got up to go. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2007 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Interesting tip for job seekers

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From Daytipper:

Google yourself before an interview

While you likely can’t change it quickly, Google yourself before an interview. Your interviewer is likely to do it, so you should beat them to the punch and be ready to address anything that could come up as a result.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2007 at 11:19 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Duncan Hunter finds the bottom of the barrel

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Duncan Hunter, a GOP contender for Presidental, quickly dived to the bottom of the barrel for his advisers:

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) yesterday named the South Carolina advisers to his presidential campaign. One of them, Lois Eargle, boasted about her hard-line views on immigration, explaining that when “an illegal immigrant with three children came to her office this week asking for free legal help for an abused child,” she told the immigrant to “get back to Mexico.” Another Hunter adviser, Dr. Henry Jordan, declared last year, “I mean you’ve got to be stupid to believe in evolution, I mean really.”

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2007 at 10:45 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Nashville Knife Shop: more than a knife shop

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I’ve received a couple of emails drawing my attention to the Nashville Knife Shop as a source of shaving equipment and supplies. They carry all the Merkur safety razors you’re likely to want (Vision, Futur, Progress, HD (Hefty Classic), Slant Bar, and so on), along with the excellent D.R. Harris shaving creams (and several others), shaving mugs and bowls (look like good lathering bowls), Muehle-Pinsel shaving brushes, and so on.

In the cutlery line, I particularly like that they carry Wüsthof, which I consider the best of the widely known brands—much superior to Henckels, not to put too fine a point on it. They also have the delectable William Henry pocket knives.

All in all, another good place to browse for your shaving needs, and I’ve added them to the shaving blogroll.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2007 at 10:25 am

A transhumanist dictionary

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From Mind Hacks:

George Dvorsky has published a guide to the terms and buzzwords of transhumanism — an optimistic movement that seeks to apply current and future scientific discoveries to extending human experience and abilities.

Transhumanists are interested in neuroscience as a way of improving on the natural human range, either through optimising the biological systems already present or extending them with technological interfaces.

They are variously treated with excitement, suspicion and amusement by mainstream scientists who tend to be conservative by nature.

However, the movement has attracted some leading lights in the sciences who are not put off by the sometimes science-fiction focus of the transhuman mission.

You may see lots of references to the Singularity, a key concept in transhumanist thought.

It’s exact meaning differs depending on the context, but one of the most influential definitions is from Ray Kurzweil who uses it to describe the notional point when computers will overtake the abilities of the human brain.

Needless to say, this puts the back up of many philosophers and cognitive scientists who believe that computers will never be able to fully emulate human intelligence or consciousness.

There’s plenty more of these thorny issues touched on by Dvorsky’s dictionary, so have a look through if you want to know what the dreamers of neuroscience are thinking about.

Link to ‘Must-know terms for the 21st Century intellectual: Redux’.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2007 at 9:58 am

Posted in Religion, Science

The Walter Reed story

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The Army is taking an odd position: it says the Washington Post stories are “accurate” but “unfair.” That’s a delicate balance. A full quote: “It’s not the accuracy I question, it’s the characterization.” Hmmm. AmericaBlog has a scathing response:

Well, don’t I feel warm all over. As Joe noted below, the Army Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, is now telling us that the Washington Post expose about the horrendous problems at Walter Reed is a pack of lies. (Ignore for a moment that the top military brass has already apologized for that pack of lies, and has assured us that the pack of lies are being fixed and that many of the lies have already been fixed (which isn’t really true because one of the biggest problems is that they’re 600,000 disability claims behind)).

But my favorite part of the Army Surgeon General’s interview is the following statement:

But, remember, more than half the [soldiers’] rooms were actually perfectly OK.

Wow, more than half! That’s really super! That’s a bit like bragging that more than half of the pages WEREN’T sexually abused by Republican congressmen, or assuring your spouse that more than half the time you’re NOT cheating on her (or as one of our readers commented, “And more than 95 percent of American cities HAVEN’T been flooded because of federal neglect of levees!”)

Yes, this is the standard of excellence that George Bush and the Republicans have brought to our military. In the greatest country on earth, more than half of our wounded and maimed veterans aren’t being treated like scum.

Heckuvajob, Kiley.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2007 at 9:51 am

Group creativity & Nominal Group Technique

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Brainstorming is a well-known technique for generating innovation, but it has problems. Among them:

People have a harder time coming up with alternative solutions to a problem when they are part of a group, new research suggests. Scientists exposed study participants to one brand of soft drink then asked them to think of alternative brands. Alone, they came up with significantly more products than when they were grouped with two others.

The finding could be good news for advertisers who buy spots during big events like the Super Bowl, since consumers often view those commercials with others.

The clouded thinking might also extend into corporate boardrooms.

“When a group gets together, they can miss out on good options,” study team member H. Shanker Krishnan told LiveScience. This could mean ordering from a pizza place advertised on television even if there’s a better option, or making a poor decision in the boardroom. “Whether it’s with family or a group of co-workers, we could very quickly fixate on things and all come up with the same options.”

The research appears in this month’s issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

The researchers speculate that when a group of people receives information, the inclination is to discuss it. The more times one option is said aloud, the harder it is for individuals to recall other options, explained Krishnan, associate professor of marketing at Indiana University.

To overcome problems of this sort, Nominal Group Technique was developed. It gets its name because the members of the group actually are working individually, then pooling what they come up with—so it’s only nominally a group. It’s an extremely effective technique, especially when time is limited and the group leader wants more control of the process. The basics:

What: A technique similar to brainstorming. A very structured approach to generate ideas and survey the opinions of a small (10-15) group.

Why: NGT produces many ideas/solutions in a short time. Structured to focus on problems, not people; to open lines of communication; to ensure participation; and to tolerate conflicting ideas. Builds consensus and commitment to the final result.

How:

  1. Present issue, instructions.
  2. Generate ideas, 5 to 10 minutes of quiet time, no discussion.
  3. Gather ideas round robin, one idea at a time, written on flip chart and posted.
  4. Process/clarify ideas—duplicates are eliminated, like ideas are combined. Limit discussion to brief explanations of logic or analysis of an item and brief agreement/disagreement statements. Focus on clarification of meaning, not arguing points.
  5. Set priorities silently and individually, no discussion.
  6. Tabulate priority votes.
  7. Develop an action plan.

Applied when you face:

  • Group decision-making with difficult or non-conforming groups and under time pressure.
  • Considering problems in staff meetings where political or status issues might reduce the input of some staff whose expertise is relevant.
  • Obtaining solution ideas in a way that allows everyone to feel that they participated and were heard—people who want to dominate the discussion are reined in, people who would sit silently are brought out.
  • Obtaining the input of a group while retaining the authority to make the decision independently.

Download full write-up (pdf).

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Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2007 at 9:42 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Friday Megs-blogging

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Megs lolling

Megs, lolling about on the floor, still a kitten at heart. She was extremely grouchy last night when we tried to trim her nails, with the result that today she walks around with one front paw sticking to the carpet, the other one free. Her fault.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2007 at 8:46 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Think twice about political robo-calls

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Some localities and states are thinking of banning political robo-calls. Tempting, but a bad idea, as explained here about an effort underway in Maryland:

The legislature is considering banning the robo-call. Lots of people, it seems, don’t like getting a lot of computer-generated political calls. I LOVE them, but if you are reading this you already know that I’m not exactly normal when it comes to politics.

Many people don’t understand why they get these calls even though they may be on the “do not call” list. To date, these calls have been protected as political speech. This is as opposed to the commercial speech that “do not call” is supposed to suppress. We have held political speech in a class of its own–as more important than a solicitation to re-finance your house or buy a timeshare.

So why should the robo-call be saved? I’ll tell you why: MONEY. Robo-calls are cheap. Really cheap. You don’t need a huge volunteer or paid staff to generate the calls. You need, like, eight cents. So isn’t this just an invitation for any joker with a dime to call your house? Well, yes. But it’s an important way to get a message out. This isn’t Boston circa 1770. You can’t go to the public square and stand up on a box and share your thoughts with the whole town. If the 21st-century version of the public square is the shopping mall, it gets even worse. Malls are private property and one cannot exercise political speech there without permission from the man.

If you think back to the Mayoral race of 2003, Andre Bundley took about a third of the vote from Martin O’Malley who at the time was seeking a second term. That’s a lot of votes. And he did it almost 100% with robo-calls. The fact that a guy with no organization and no money could send a message like that is reason enough to preserve the robo-call.

So who really wants to kill the call? Who would really have a reason to do so? Hmmm. We are being told that the public is screaming for action. But I don’t really hear much screaming. Elections don’t happen that often. Who would benefit from silencing the little guy in the election? INCUMBENTS. The people who are already sitting pretty in office. The people with the fundraising and organizational advantage. The people who most desperately need and deserve a wake-up call at the ballot box.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a mad, anti-incumbent lunatic. Good people serving us in office deserve to be re-elected. But even they deserve a stiff challenge. It keeps them sharp. It makes the work for it. It makes them accountable.

Save the robo-call. Read the Sun article on what is happening HERE, and then email sponsor Delegate Dan Morhaim HERE. And try to learn to love that stupid robo-call.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2007 at 8:29 am

Posted in Election, Government

Day 5 of lather experiment

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Today I used the first of the two shaving creams: CS 1 Violet

  1. Effect on skin (dryness, etc.): no problem
  2. Quantity of lather (how easily it lathers up): Lathered much better than any of the soaps (which were, I think, made with an eye to working the lather up in a lathering bowl). More lather, and better lather, than the soaps.
  3. Quality of lather (slickness): slickness was fine
  4. How well lather lasts: lasted well through the shave, and lather on face stayed wet and dense

On the whole, I liked the shaving cream quite a bit better than the soaps, as you gathered. Excellent shave, and my appreciation of the Futur (and the Swedish Gillette) grows. Finished with alum bar and Taylor of Old Bond Street No. 74 aftershave. Really a BBS shave this morning.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2007 at 8:14 am

Posted in Shaving

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