Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day!

It's leap day! Because the earth goes around the sun in approximately 365 and 1/4 days, we must add a day to the calendar every 4 years. But a year is not exactly 365 and 6 hours days (it's 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 16 seconds) so the Gregorian calendar adds a few more rules for leap year:

Occurs in years that are evenly divisible by 4, such as 2012 and 2016, unless the year is also divisible by 100 with the exception that years evenly divisible by 400 are leap years. So 1900 was not a leap year (multiple of 100) but 2000 was a leap year (multiple of 400).

The Julian calendar established in ancient Rome applied a leap day every 4 years, always. This over compensated by a tiny amount that accumulated over the centuries. By 1582 (395 leap years since 1 AD) the calendar had shifted by 10 days and Pope Gregory XIII decreed the new calendar rules described above and moved the calendar 10 days forward to correct for errors since the birth of Christ.

What happens if you're born on a Leap Day? In the comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance,  Frederic celebrates his 21st birthday and his release from apprenticeship to a band of kind-hearted pirates. Or so he thinks. He learns that he was born on a leap day with a birthday only every 4 years and won't be 21 for another 63 years.

In reality the UK recognizes March 1 as the birth date in non-leap years for someone born on Feb 29.

Bottom Line

For the super picky, there is also a Leap Second. Every few years astronomers add 1 second to atomic clocks to keep them 100% on track with the sun. Normal clocks ignore the extra second.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Storing Water

An average person needs to drink two quarts of water each day, even more for children, nursing mothers and ill people. Hot environments or intense activity can double the daily requirement. Since you'll also need water for food preparation and hygiene, plan on storing one gallon of water per person, per day. Store enough water for 3 days (2 weeks if you can) for the family and pets.

When storing water you may buy it or, more cheaply, bottle your own. Store tap water in carefully cleaned, non-corrosive, tightly covered containers in a cool, dark place, far away from stored gasoline or pesticides. 2-liter soda bottles work great; you'll need two 2-liter bottles per person per day. Avoid milk jugs as the plastic becomes brittle with time. Some people like glass containers while others find them heavy and fragile.

Before storing tap water, remove plastic lid liners and clean containers and lids with hot soapy water & rinse. Sanitize with a solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Let sit wet for two minutes, then rinse again with water. Fill containers with tap water, add 1-2 drops of chlorine bleach per quart/liter, cap it and shake to mix. Label with the date and use before 6 months to 1 year. When water goes past 1 year I'd pour it on the house plants, resanitze the bottle and refill it.

A freezer is a great space to store a bottle or two of water. If you lose electricity, the icy bottles will help keep foods frozen until the power is restored. Be sure to leave 2 to 3 inches of space in containers because water expands as it freezes.

Bottom Line

For more information check out

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Diet Mistakes

Yesterday my wife & I ordered a slice of pizza; there was pepperoni (which everyone knows is bad for you) and a chicken with veggies. My wife was favoring the "healthy" chicken until I noticed that the calories were listed and the chicken slice was the more caloric. Why? Perhaps more fat & cream in the white sauce used? It wasn't obvious.

Often we think we are eating healthy but make the wrong choice. Here are six diet mistakes from Prevention magazine:

1. Dunked veggy sticks - carrot & celery sticks are a great snack, until you dip them in peanut butter or ranch dressing, or blue cheese. If you must dip, try Greek yogurt, salsa, humus, or black bean. Also try vegetables with more zing like jimaca or radish.

2. Sweet potato fries - yes sweet potatoes are healthier than normal spuds but don't eat them fried (ditto for zucchini). Try a baked sweet potato instead.

3. Too much Olive Oil - extra virgin olive oil is healthy, but not in excess. Use just a mist or wipe of oil while cooking instead of pouring it in.

4. High Calorie Salad - salads can be healthy but not when loaded with cheese, nuts, dried fruit, croutons or high-cal dressing.

5. Coffee with extras - coffee, black, is a classic diet drink. But whipped cream, milk, syrup and the million of other things you can add at any coffee shop make the drink a calorie landmine.

6. Marinades - chicken by itself is healthy, when covered with BBQ sauce, not so much.

Bottom Line

You have to look at the whole dish when on a diet. Any food can pack on pounds when eaten to excess or with accompanied with high calorie flavorings.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

What Flavor is Your Potato Chip?

I like BBQ flavored potato chips; my wife does not. But that's OK, there are lots of flavors out there so everyone can have a personal favorite. Just how many flavors? A lot more than I ever would have guessed.

In 1932, salesman Herman W. Lay opened a successful snack food operation in Nashville, Tennessee. A few years later he purchased a potato chip manufacturer and called it the "H. W. Lay Lingo & Company", later renamed simply "Lay's". This company bought the first TV commercials for snack food, "de-Lay-sious!", using Bert Lahr, the comedian who played the Cowdardly Lion of Oz.

Today Lay's controls 59% of the US savory snack-food market and sells chips around the world. Potato chip flavors are customized for each country - how many of the following flavors would sell in America?

Canada: Ketchup (My sister sent me some. They're good!), Wasabi, Smokey Bacon, Fries & Gravy

UK: Prawn Cocktail, German Bratwurst Sausage, Scottish Haggis (really?!!!), Yorkshire Pudding, Welsh Rarebit, Australian BBQ Kangaroo, Marmite

Australia: Vegemite
India: Massaman  (enjoyed this one!)

Greece and Cyprus: Feta cheese, Tzatziki, Oregano

Holland: Paprika, Bolognese, Balsamico

Belgium: Cucumber & Goats  (goats?)

Russia: Red Cariar, Shishkebab

Poland: Chilli and Knuckle of Pork

Argentina, Chile and Uruguay: Beef Carpaccio with Parmeggiano

Thailand: Bacon and Cheese with Seaweed, squid, French Mayonnaise, Garlic Soft Shelled Crab

China: Kiwi, Blueberry, Finger Licking Braised Pork

Vietnam: Peeking Duck

Egypt: Kebab on Charcoal

Bottom Line

204 chip flavors are listed at Now That's Nifty which closely match the flavors listed on Wikipedia for Lay's.

Last year my wife & I encountered a similar flavor explosion with mustard at the National Mustard Museum near Madison, Wisconsin. So many flavors to try, so many countries.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

What a Pain in the Butt!

" problems are all behind me"
Hall-of-Fame baseball player George Brett, after hemorrhoid surgery during 1980 World Series

I've heard the term "piles" but had no clue that it meant hemorrhoids; nor did I really have a clear idea of what hemorrhoids are. So I've done some reading on this pain in the butt topic.

The MayoClinic says, Hemorrhoids (HEM-uh-roids), are swollen and inflamed veins in your anus and lower rectum that may result from straining during bowel movements or from the increased pressure on these veins during pregnancy [or from being overweight]. ... By age 50, about half of adults have had to deal with the itching, discomfort and bleeding that can signal the presence of hemorrhoids.

WebMD says, normally, tissue inside the anus fills with blood to help control bowel movements. If you strain to move stool, the increased pressure causes the veins in this tissue to swell and stretch.

Symptoms include
  • Bleeding during bowel movements with streaks of bright red blood on toilet paper
  • Anal Itching
  • Rectal pain when sitting or wiping your bottom
If you are younger than 50 your doctor may just examine your rectum with a gloved finger or use a short, lighted scope to look inside. If older than 50 or there's not an obvious hemorrhoid the doctor may recommend a colonoscopy because bleeding can also indicate colon-rectum cancer.

Bottom Line

For most hemorrhoids, home treatment is sufficient - eat more fiber, drink more water, and use over-the-counter ointments for a limited time to stop itching. Get more exercise, especially walking to reduce constipation. You might also use stool softeners to reduce straining.

For painful internal hemorrhoids a doctor may tie off the hemorrhoids with rubber bands or scar the tissue around the hemorrhoids to reduce the blood supply and make them shrink or go away.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Lecture 11 in the course "Argumentation" that I'm listening to as I commute is titled, Moving from Cause to Effect. During an argument you might try to prove B by claiming A is true and that A causes B. This is perfectly valid if A really does cause B but often we're wrong. It could be that A is just a sign  for B. For example a Robin is correlated with Spring but not the cause. It would be wrong to claim spring is occurring in December just because I see a robin. Professor Zarefsky gives five common ways that Cause is misapplied.

1. Has a Correlation been confused with a Cause?
A robin is a sign or correlated with Spring

2. Is there a common cause behind A & B?
Perhaps C causes both A & B so it would be wrong to claim A causes B. It's popular to say guns cause crime but actually criminals cause crime and might use a gun (or a knife, or ...)

3. Post Hoc Fallacy - did B just happen to occur after A?
An example given was a tax cut passed by congress and soon thereafter tax revenue declined. See, we told you so said the opponents, a tax cut caused less taxes gathered. Post Hoc replied the other side, the tax law has not yet gone into effect so it could not have effected revenue, there must be some other cause.

4. Have Cause & Effect been reversed?
Instead of guns causing crime it may be that an upsurge in gun sales is a result of people wanting protection from an increase in local crimes and muggings.

5. Are there significant intervening or counteracting causes?
Reality is rarely as simple as A -> B. Typically there are many different causes for B as well as some causes that mute or cancel B.  'A' might also have many side effects other than B. An example given was that companies want to make the most profit but also have to obey laws and regulations such as environment, equal opportunity, etc. One might argue, Joe can't be incompetent because his company has not fired him. But the company may be afraid of a lawsuit and keeps paying Joe even though he is a waste of money.

Bottom Line

Interesting how something as simple a concept as cause and effect can actually be quite tricky to get right.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Get a Silly Answer

Yesterday I talked about Topoi - a collection of stock issues that can be used in any debate. Issues have the potential to invalidate a claim by showing that it's irrelevant or poorly defined or that the cure is worse than the disease. When a claim is made and is disputed, the focal point of the disagreement is called a stasis (stases in the plural).

According to the lecture series, "Argumentation", in the classical theory of rhetoric and law there are four types of stases, four types of counter-claims. Consider the claim: "You stole my car".

1. Stasis in Conjecture - dispute the "fact" of the claim
(I was never near your car.)

2. Stasis of Definition - dispute the interpretation the claim
(I did not steal your car, I borrowed it)

3. Stasis of Quality - cite a greater good to justify your action
(Yes I "stole" your car, but it was to drive someone who was dying to the hospital)

4. Stasis of Place - dispute the forum for discussion; this is not the time nor place for debate
(How dare you accuse me of theft in public! I'll see you in court!)

The fourth stasis, Place, is like a trump card; it postpones debate to a future time & place and makes no admission of guilt or innocence. Stasis type 1, Conjecture, is total denial. You lie sir! With type 2, Definition, you admit that you did something but disagree on the interpretation. With type 3, Quality, you admit guilt but claim extenuating circumstances.

Bottom Line

This lecture showed that your reply to a claim is very important. You can safely refuse to reply (#4. I want my lawyer or I plead the 5th Amendment) but if you issue a denial (#1) which is proved false, then you've blown your reliability and won't have much credibility to make a defense using stases 2 or 3. Likewise you lack credibility if your reply is ambiguous, "I did not use your car, but if I did use it then I only borrowed it, and if I did steal it then it was for a good cause." To be credible you have to pick one stasis, 1 or 2 or 3, and stick with it.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Ask a Silly Question

In high school I enjoyed a class on public speaking which covered such topics as how to stand, what to do with your hands, developing self confidence, and formal debates. I wish my long-ago lessons on debate techniques had covered the material I'm learning now with my current commuting lecture series, "Argumentation: The Study of Effective Reasoning". This series began slowly with a history of debate theory and proof but things became interesting in chapter 5 with Resolutions and Topoi.

Professor Zarefsky asserts that there are only four kinds of claims:
1. Resolution of Facts - Bush (or Gore) really won the Florida election of 2000
2. Resolution of Definition requiring interpretation - Abortion is (or is not) murder
3. Resolution of Value requiring judgement - The current congress is ineffective
4. Resolution of Policy involving action - the Government should spend more (or not) to stimulate the economy

Most formal debates deal only with the fourth type - Policy issues, e.g. Proposed: we should do X.

Now the classification above is not that exciting but it allows for an analysis of Topoi (stock issues). For each type of resolution there are known issues that can always be raised against the claim:

A. Fact
1. What is the criterion for determining truth? 
(For the Florida election there were recounts, questions over how to count hanging chads, etc. Ground rules, themselves disputed, for how to count the votes.)
2. Has the criterion been met? 
 (The Associated Press did a recount and found that either man could be the winner depending on the criterion used for which votes got counted or disqualified)

B. Definition
1. Is the interpretation relevant?
(In the abortion debate, if a fetus is not a person then murder does not apply.)
2. Is it fair?
(is the comparison using words with a lot of bias behind them?)
3. How should we choose amongst competing interpretations?

C. Value
1. Is the value truly good or bad as alleged?
(Is ineffective government actually a bad thing?)
2. Which competing value is preferred?
(Is it better to have an effective government or ineffective one?)
3.  Has the value been properly applied to the specific situation?

D. Policy
1. Is there really a problem? Or is this much ado about nothing?
2. Where is the credit or blame due?(Is the problem solvable? Does anyone have the ability to do something?)
3. Will the proposal actually solve the problem?
4. Will the cost of the proposal exceed the benefits gained?

Bottom Line

The lecture sounded so much better than the notes in the course outline.  I found it fascinating that one need not reinvent the wheel with every proposal. There are existing lists of issues that should always be considered and addressed and resolved. If only our legislatures were taught this and thought about the consequences of new laws before ratifying them.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Seven ways to warm a room

Toe-kick heater
Our house has many rooms and there's little point in trying to keep them all warm in the winter. And my wife likes the temperature colder than I so I've taken to using an electric space heater when I'm at the computer in my "office". Yet electricity is NOT cheap and space heaters have their drawbacks - they're hot to touch, a trip hazard, and perhaps even a fire hazard if left on unattended. Are there other options? Yes, theFamilyHandyman has seven ideas for warming a room safely.

1.; Electric toe-kick heaters. These are small heaters with a built in blower that are installed at toe level in the base board of cabinets where you stand frequently - the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink, and so on. It will warm your toes and since heat rises, your legs will be happy too.

2. Duct-booster fans. If you have forced-air heat like I do, then you have one fan trying to push heat to the entire house. If there's a room not getting its fair share of warmth, you can install a booster fan inside the air duct to increase the air flow to a given room or floor. The article suggests buying a "quality" fan and avoid the cheap but noisy models.

3. Cove Heaters. These install along the top of a wall and radiate heat downward.

4. Electric floor heat - you can install wires or mats underneath a floor warm it up. But watch out! A friend has this in her kitchen, set down a grocery bag full of chocolates, forget about them, and they all melted. :-)

5. Radiant Ceiling Panels - these inch thick panels mount on a ceiling and radiate heat downwards. Like cove heating you can target areas where family actually sit.

6. Ceiling fan heater - Very clever, a ceiling fan with a built in heater so the fan works great in summer or winter.

7. Room to room ventilators - or "through the wall fan". If you have one room that is always too warm, you can put a fan in a wall vent and blow the warm air to another room.

Bottom Line

Heat wisely. Apply heat to the places you work, eat, and play instead of trying to warm all the air in a house.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Should I Eject USB drives before Removing Them? examines a question that has long been in the back of my mind, "Do I Really Need to Eject USB Drives Before Removing Them"? USB Drives, also called thumb drives, flash drives, etc, are inserted into one of the USB ports and can be just as easily removed at anytime. But you may have noticed an Eject Option and the words, it is now safe to remove the media, after Ejecting. What's unsafe about pulling a drive out?
"Obviously, yanking out a drive while it's being written to could corrupt the data. However, even if the drive isn't actively being written to, you could still corrupt the data. By default, most operating systems use what's called write caching to get better performance out of your computer ... — the OS waits to [write files] until it has a number of requests to fulfill, and then it fulfills them all at once ... When you hit that eject button, it tells your OS to flush the cache—that is, make sure all pending actions have been performed—so you can safely unplug the drive without any data corruption."
Bottom Line

Now MS Windows is a bit odd when it comes to USB drives. Most of the time it recognizes the drive as "removable", disabling write caching, making it safe to remove the drive without ejecting. But it's not a sure thing and you can not ALWAYS count on this for every USB drive manufactured. So it's a best practice to always click on Eject first, wait for the safe message, then remove the drive.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What is freezer burn?

Hamburger with freezer burn
Have you ever removed an old item from the freezer and found it dry and discolored? Or covered in ice crystals? If so, you've been burned by your freezer.

According to Everyday Mysteries, water migrates to the coldest place they can find. If the shelves and walls of your freezer are colder than your steak, the water leaves the steaks and builds frost elsewhere, drying out the food, leaving space for Oxygen molecules to move in, which discolors the food. Wikipedia calls this sublimation, an odd process of going from a solid (ice) to a gas while skipping the liquid in-between state. Water molecules move about, find themselves near the food surface, freeze, and then sublime into water vapor and refreeze elsewhere.

The recommended way to prevent this is to tightly wrap food in layers. This slows the water migration but can not stop it. There is a time limit for storing foods and eventually you'll have ice crystals on the meat, inside the wrapping, instead of on the walls. Great wrapping (better yet vacuum sealed) will block oxidation and discoloration.

An odd cause of freezer burn is a freezer that is TOO warm, above 0 degrees F. In the 0 to 32 degree range water will freeze and "evaporate" from sublimation as described above. This process is actually encouraged with low presssure to "freeze-dry" items.

Bottom Line

With the exception of freezer burn damage, food can last indefinitely in a freezer. Freezing to 0 °F inactivates any microbes — bacteria, yeasts and molds — present in food. The microbes sleep, but they are not dead! Once thawed, the microbes again become active, multiplying under the right conditions to levels that can lead to foodborne illness. Treat thawed items the same as you would any perishable food.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Working While Sick

If your office is like mine, there are quite a few people at this very moment sniffling, coughing, wheezing, and otherwise sharing their cold germs with co-workers. It's flu season and, while I hope you got your flu shot and are protected from the flu, sadly there is no protection from the common cold. Yes, there are the preventative steps of isolation, hand washing, and wearing a facemask but no shot or pill will kill the cold virus that gets past these barriers.

Ideally you would stay home and rest when sick but you might not have that choice. If must work, here are 7 tips for working while sick from the blog Mind Your Decisions.

1. Get as much rest as you can. Get to bed early while sick.

2. Reschedule meetings and phone calls that you conduct. The idea is that you want look and feel your best when making a business presentation or conducting business. I would argue that you should not be in a small room with others when sick. Use the phone instead.

3. Work in short shifts.  You'll tire quickly when sick so work in short bursts and try to recuperate in between.

4. Do mindless tasks. Now is not the time for accounting or detailed work; you'll make way too many careless mistakes. Catch up on email, clean the desk, plan future assignments.

5. Use Home remedies to feel better:  soup, tea, healthy foods.

6. Ask for help. Delegate

7. Be considerate of co-workers.
"Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, throw the tissue in the trash after using it, and wash your hands frequently. And do not share your food or drink!"
Bottom Line

For remedies that work and those that don't check out the Mayo Clinic at

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Don’t Touch – It’s Hot!

Did you know children under the age of five account for fifty-two percent of all child fire deaths?

Did you also know young children’s skin is thinner than older children and adults, and their skin burns at lower temperatures and more deeply?

Since burns are recognized as one of the most painful and devastating injuries a person can sustain and survive, we want to arm you with the tools to keep the children in your community safe from this devastating injury.

Learn more about Burn Awareness Week and the role you can play to prevent injuries at home, at play, and on the way!

Bottom Line

Don't you hate it when you get an email for a event that's in the past? I just received an email from FEMA about Fire Safety Week, which was last week. Oh well, information about safety does not expire.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

I'd rather be phishing?

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to phish and you feed him for a lifetime."
- paraphrasing a Chinese Proverb
Phishing is the act of catching unwary users of email and tricking them into giving personal information or clicking on a link for the purpose of installing malware or other nefarious actions. Phisherman are never so crude as to say, hey look, you don't know me but click here please. Instead they pretend to be someone you know having already stolen your friends email address book, or pretend to be a legitmate business that you deal with, or provide some incredible other that is too good to pass up.
  • Never open or reply to any e-mail when you are unsure of the sender.
  • If it is too good to be true - it is.
  • E-mails that appear to come from a known entity (like your bank, the government, someone from your old high school, etc), often are spoofed e-mails and do not come from them at all.  
    • If you see an e-mail from your bank - sign into your account directly from the official website - NEVER follow the helpful link they send you. That helpful link will take you to a fake website that will save your account # and password for later theft.
    • If you get an e-mail notice from the government about your tax info, think about it. How did they get your e-mail address? And the IRS does not use email; they send you a nicely registered letter requesting your presence at an audit.
The internet is seeing a continuing dramatic rise of e-mails designed to fool you into action; and it does work or they would not be doing it.  Some of the most recent tricks are:
  • Notices of copyright/trademark infringement
  • Notices from the BBB about a complaint
  • Notices from banks requesting an update of some kind or another
  • Notices about problems with an electronic check/deposit (ACH)
  • Notices from the Government looking for you to update your tax data
  • Notices about problems with your tax return 
  • E-Mails from old friends (they get that data from Facebook, Linkedin, etc, etc...)
  • E-Mails asking you to help a friendly prince get his inheritance out of a country controlled by an unfriendly tyrannical government
  • etc, etc, etc...
Bottom Line

This is nothing new - just a reminder to practice safe computing. Below is a screenshot of e-mail quarantined by one person in one morning; you can clearly see  examples of phishing.

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Carb Substitutes

“Man does not live by bread alone, even presliced bread.” - D.W. Brogan
Today I found an excellent list of carb substitutes on and this fits in so well with yesterday's topic of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load.
  1. Use summer squash for hash browns.
  2. Replace mashed potatoes with pureed cauliflower. If the taste bothers you, try mixing cauliflower with potatoes to lower the carb count. Parsnips also mix well with potatoes but there's very little carb reduction with parsnips.
  3. Use sliced zucchini for pasta noodles. This one I've used and it works great. My wife uses a mandolin with a Julienne cutter and then sautee the zucchini strips and pours spaghetti sauce on top.
  4. Use spaghetti squash for spaghetti. Very easy to make and when the cooked squashed is scraped with a fork, the result is spaghetti like strands.
  5. Cottage cheese pancakes? I never noticed this one when I used the South Beach Diet plan. Mix cottage cheese, oatmeal, eggs & a few spices in a blender for a "pancake" batter. What I have tried is almond flour and chick-pea flour for pancakes. The taste was fine but the texture was not the same.
  6. Use Tempheh for Scalloped Potatoes
  7. Make Mac n Cheese with diced vegetables
  8. Use less pasta and more beans or veggies in a pasta salad
  9. Use low-fat string cheese for chips? Slice & bake for "chips"
  10. Use Portobello mushrooms as a mini-pizza crust - YUM. This does work But don't overcook, portobellos will lose liquid and collapse when overcooked.
  11. Use sliced eggplant in place of lasgna noodles
  12. Use lettuce (napa or romain) as a wrap instead of bread for sandwiches
Bottom Line

See for the full recipes. Bon Appetit!

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A carb is a carb is a carb?

"I was gaining weight very rapidly and read about the idea of restricting carbohydrates as an alternative to going hungry. I had a big appetite, so that was the only thing I would even consider."
- Dr Robert Atkins
In diet books the total calories in a food item is calculated by Fat * 9 + Protein * 4 + Carbs * 4 when each is measured in grams. This assumes the body is a perfect food processing machine that will convert the entire food into energy. But that's not true. Some foods digest quickly, some slowly, some perhaps not at all.

In 1980 at the University of Toronto, Dr David J Jenkins and colleagues decided to test real food on real people to see what effect each food had on blood sugar so they could give better advice to diabetics. They fed volunteers 50g of carbohydrate from one type of food and measured the blood glucose level over the next two hours. The total area under the glucose curve was called the Glycemic Index. Foods with a high GI are digested quickly and give a sugar rush or spike that is often associated with weight gain and high insulin demands for diabetics.

High GI: white bread, most white rice, corn flakes and most breakfast cereals
Medium GI: whole wheat products, basmati rice, sweet potato, baked potato
Low GI: most fruits and vegetable, legumes, beans, whole grains, nuts

The GI was quickly put to use in new diet plans like the South Beach Diet which my wife and I used and did lose weight (for a awhile). This was a refinement over the Atkins plan which banned all carbs completely.

But critics soon pointed out flaws with the GI tables.
1. The tests examined one food at a time. Not food combinations. It was later discovered that adding vinegar, for example, will lower the GI. The presence of fat or soluble dietary fiber can slow the gastric emptying rate, thus lowering the GI.

2. Each test required 50g of carbs in the food consumed. Watermelon, which is mostly water with a little sugar, has a high GI but there are only about 8g of carbs per 100g serving size. To get 50g carbs for the test, volunteers had to eat nearly 7 servings of watermelon. Compare this to white bread which is half carb by weight and just two slices equal 50g carbs.

To address this second point, Harvard University created a new standard called the Glycemic Load that takes serving size into account. The GL is the GI * (carbs per 100g) /100.  Under this system, watermelon gets a low GL score.

Under the GL system white bread is very high, bananas on the boarder of medium and low and carrots very low.

Bottom Line

A detailed list of GI and GL values can be found at 

Foods with a high GL should be eaten sparingly. Fill up on low GL items.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fight Bad Breath with Hydrogen Peroxide?

“A sad soul can kill quicker than a germ.”
-John Steinbeck
In our home we always keep a bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide for cuts, especially cat scratches. Even after washing with soap & water, the cat scratches I get from our two furry friends will turn red and leave a scar unless I apply Hydrogen Peroxide (H.P.) because cats have really dirty toenails. It never occurred to me that H.P. could have other uses. The label on the bottle suggests using it as a mouth wash? Yuck!

H.P. is a powerful germ killer and whitener. lists many ways for putting this to use:
  1. Soak your toothbrush in H.P. to keep it germ free
  2. As a mouthwash it kills the germs that cause bad breath (but will my tongue forgive me?).  May also help against gingivitis (gum disease).
  3. Makes a toothpaste when mixed with salt and baking soda
  4. As a cleaner for kitchen counters, cutting boards, lunch boxes
  5. Dilute 1/4 cup of H.P. with a sink of cold water to wash fruits & vegetables
  6. Dilute it even more (1 part in 32) when watering plants to stop root rot
  7. Dab on pimples
  8. Soak feet in H.P. for calluses & corns & foot fungus
  9. Use 1 cup instead of beach to brighten white clothes when washing (it's a main ingredient of OxiClean)
  10. Spritz on hair to bring out natural highlights?
  11. Fights mold on the shower walls and curtain
Bottom Line

See more ideas at like killing fungi in your fish tank (without killing the fish I hope). Please try these at your own risk. I'll vouch for cuts but have yet to try out the other suggestions above.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

What Moon is That?

"Don't go around tonight,
Well, it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise."
-Bad Moon Rising by Creedance Clearwater Revival
I've always loved Astronomy so one of my daily stops for great images and a daily dose of science is Astronomy Picture of the Day. Occasionally they'll have a picture of a full moon and describe it as the Hunter's Moon or the Wolf Moon. Huh? Who made up these names?

Throughout history civilizations have marked time according to the moon. The Algonquian confederation of Indians (from New England to the Great Lakes) used these names to track the seasons:
Jan. Wolf Moon
Feb. Snow Moon
Mar. Worm Moon
Apr. Pink Moon
May Flower Moon
June Strawberry Moon
July Buck Moon
Aug. Sturgeon Moon
Sep. Harvest Moon
Oct. Hunter's Moon
Nov. Beaver Moon
Dec. Cold Moon
Early settlers of New England like the idea of giving names to the Full Moon so they adopted the custom with some changes:
Jan:  Old or Ice Moon
Feb:  Wolf, Hunger, Storm, Candles Moon
March: Lenten, Crow, Crust, Sugar, Sap, Chaste, Death Moon
April:  Egg (Easter), Fish, Seed, Waking Moon
May: Milk, Corn Planting, Corn, Hare Moon
June: Flower, Honey, Rose, Hot, Planting Moon
July: Hay, Thunder, Mead Moon
Aug Grain, Red, Green Corn, Lightning, Dog Moon
Sept: Fruit, Corn, Barley Moon
Oct: Harvest, Travel, Dying Grass, Blood Moon
Nov: Hunter's, Frost, Snow Moon
Dec: Oak, Frost, Winter, Yule Moon
It's not so obvious from the list but some moons got changed from one month to the next like Hunter's from Oct to Nov. The lunar orbit of 28 days makes the full moon shift on the calendar and drift relative to the equinox's (start of spring, summer, fall, winter).

Bottom Line

There are 12.37 full moon in a year so one out of every three years will have 13 full moons. The extra moon is called the Blue moon? It was mistakenly thought from an error in the 1946 Sky & Telescope that the second month in the same month was "Blue". But the correct definition is that when a "season" (fall: Oct-Dec, winter:Jan-March, etc) has four moons, the 3rd moon is Blue. Horrible definition but it must have made sense to someone who made it up.

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Winter Watch or Warning? What's the Difference?

“The snow was endless, a heavy blanket on the outdoors; it had a way about it. A beauty. But I knew that, like many things, beauty could be deceiving.”
― Cambria Hebert, Whiteout
I can never keep the weather warning terms straight. Which is worse, a watch or a warning? Here's what you need to know, listed in order of increasing severity:
  • Winter weather advisory: expect winter weather conditions to cause inconvenience and hazards.
  • Frost/freeze warning: expect below-freezing temperatures.
  • Winter storm watch: be alert; a storm is likely.
  • Winter storm warning: take action; the storm is in or entering the area.
  • Blizzard warning: seek refuge immediately! Snow and strong winds, near-zero visibility, deep snow drifts, and life-threatening wind chill.
Bottom Line

The CDC has put together some excellent booklets for winter preparedness.

See Winterindoor safety:
And Winter Checklist:

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

$500 in the bank

MSN Money has a great article titled, Why you need $500 in the bank, which is cited in another story worth reading, 3 money tips for every income.

In the money tip for households earning less than $20,000 (below the poverty line of $22,000 for a family of four), Liz Weston says, "Forget, for now, all the advice about saving three to six months' worth of expenses." Yes, that is a worthy goal, but out of reach for a family below poverty. But this does NOT mean a family in poverty is off the hook from saving anything. Liz sets a target of $500 in the bank for emergencies.

Begin with $100 left in the checking account - always. This cushion will help protect against the costly mistake of bouncing a check. One tip is writing a $100 check to yourself, then don't cash it. Record it in the checkbook but then rip up the check. [Personally this would drive me batty since I balance the checkbook every month to the penny, but it works to "trick" some people into not spending that last $100]

Next: month by month put away a little money, say $20 per month, more if you can, into a savings account to reach $400. This will cover many common emergencies like a car repair bill, doctor bill, and replacing a broken refrigerator.

Lastly don't touch this savings unless there is a real emergency. If you do spend it, you must restore it ASAP.

Bottom Line

What happens if you don't have $500 in the bank? You may be forced to use a credit card and pay high interest rates for an emergency bill over months or years. Or use a payday money lender who will charge an outrageous fee. Or fail to pay your rent and risk eviction. Etc.

Everyone, should have at least $500 set aside for emergencies.

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How long does it take to get Frostbite?

How long does it take to get frostbite? Sounds like an easy question but I find many different answers on the Internet (including one tough old New Englander who answers, "never", with proper clothing). Part of the confusion lies in the definition of "Wind Chill". See for details. There have been two changes.

1st:  In Nov. 2001 the wind chill values were changed based upon a new equations, see Whereas 15°F used to be extreme cold in 20mph wind, now it's "safe" at all wind speeds and never drops below -11 wind chill.

2nd: Some revised charts appear to use the new wind chill values but kept the color bands the same for exposure times. See this NOAA chart from 2010 which still has 15°F freezing within 5 minutes with strong wind.

A new NOAA chart from 2011 (pictured above) updates the color zones. The exposure time colors don't exactly match the wind chill numbers anymore (for instance -40 wind chill is in two different color zones).
Wind chill of -20°F to -35°F (approx) Frostbite in 30 minutes for exposed face, at night.
Wind chill of -35°F to -50°F (approx) Frostbite in 10 minutes.

There used to be a -30-30-30 rule that -30°F with a 30 mph wind could freeze skin solid in 30 seconds. Under the new chart it's -30 & 30mph & 5 minutes for frostbite.

Bottom Line
So what happened to the NOAA charts? During the fall of 2000, the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research (OFCM) organized a joint U.S.–Canadian government-sponsored action group to develop, test and implement a new Wind Chill Temperature Index. Human trials were done in Toronto, Canada with 12 volunteers in chilled wind tunnels with thermal transducers stuck to their face while walking on a 3mph treadmill. Brrrrr.

So the new chart is based on solid human evidence of facial skin instead of mathematical modes and time to freeze bottles of water.  See for more information.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Would you take shelter inside an animal?

Sleeping bag
"This may smell bad, kid, but it'll keep you warm until I get the shelter up... Ugh. And I thought they smelled bad on the outside."
-Han Solo, The Empire Strike Back
Continuing the topic of off-beat ways to stay warm, was recently asked, "What’s the best animal to slice open and crawl inside to stay warm?" In Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Luke is put inside a freshly killed tauntaun to avoid freezing on the ice planet Hoth. Would this work in real life?

Cecil Adams first offers some silly answers,
"taking shelter inside dead animals can’t really be considered an affordable housing option ... Many large warm-blooded critters would do, such as a bear, water buffalo, or rhinoceros. Historically, however, the emergency refuge of choice was a horse. ... Slice one open even in case of dire necessity and you’re likely to hear from one PO’d little girl or dressage buff. Cows are less of an issue, but you still take the chance of having PETA come over and picket your house."
Then he gets serious,
"I could find only one case where someone had actually climbed into an animal to survive the cold as opposed to trying to get on TV, namely an intrepid pioneer priest named Father Goiffon. [He became lost in North Dakota in a snowy November]  When his horse finally died, the enterprising priest cut open its belly and crawled inside the carcass. He was mostly successful — his equine sleeping bag saved his life, but he lost his leg due to frostbite."
Bottom Line

Cecil concludes with an example that also sheds some light on my question from a few days ago, when does cold weather became too dangerous to endure?
How much time would sheltering in a deceased animal buy you? Assuming a bitterly cold day (9 degrees Fahrenheit), a stiff wind (12 miles per hour) [about -5 wind chill], and a 500-kilogram cow with half its insides scooped out, and factoring in the heat produced by the resident human, my assistant Una estimates the cow’s body would lose about 3 degrees per hour. She concludes you’d have right around 15 hours, best case, before hypothermia set in.

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