29 September 2008

Advice for Childbearing Women: Eat Fish...

...but not too much. From a Harvard study:

The research, which looked at 25,446 children born to mothers participating in a Danish study between 1997 and 2002, found that children whose mothers ate the most fish during pregnancy (about 2 ounces a day on average) were more likely to have better motor and cognitive skills. Meanwhile, those whose mothers ate the least fish had the lowest developmental scores at 18 months of age.

Children who were breast-fed for longer periods of time also scored better, especially at 18 months. Breast milk also contains omega-3 fatty acids.

And from the Food Standards Agency:

Women of child bearing age, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, and girls, can eat up to two portions of oily fish a week.

Fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids ("oily fish"): mackerel, smelt, lake trout, herring, sardines, anchovies, albacore tuna and salmon.

Fish that are highest in mercury and should NOT be eaten by pregnant/lactating women: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

Fish that are somewhat high in mercury and should rarely be eaten: grouper, tuna, orange roughy, marlin, red snapper.

27 September 2008

Skip the Box Lunch at Fuji House

Fuji House is a new restaurant in Hyde Park Plaza. I had lunch there last week.

When you enter, you have two dining options, the hibachi grill menu or the regular menu. Since there were only two of us, I suggested the regular menu. The hibachi show seems more fun with a tableful.

We both ordered the same thing, the spicy chicken box lunch. While waiting we agreed the space is well designed and well decorated.

The spicy chicken is a generous portion of sauteed chicken and onions. And no, it is not spicy. The flavor was okay, nothing great. The real issue was the chicken, which was a bit dry and tough.

The box lunch comes with three sushi rolls which are not even worth mentioning. It also comes with what I guessed was a piece of fried plaintain puree. That was good, actually.

Overall, we were disappointed. We were hoping for something a little bit special but what we got was very average. My companion also warns that the pepper shaker seemed to be filled with something that is not regular pepper. She is a picky eater and was especially disappointed in Fuji House and said she'd never go back. I might go back, but only with a group of people for the hibachi.

Top Nerds Endorse Obama

Not just ordinary nerds... Nobel Prize-winning nerds. Sixty-one of them signed a letter of endorsement (pdf file):

The country urgently needs a visionary leader who can ensure the future of our traditional strengths in science and technology and who can harness those strengths to address many of our greatest problems: energy, disease, climate change, security, and economic competitiveness.

We are convinced that Senator Barack Obama is such a leader...

During the administration of George W. Bush, vital parts of our country's scientific enterprise have been damaged by stagnant or declining federal support. The government's scientific advisory process has been distorted by political considerations. As a result, our once dominant position in the scientific world has been shaken and our prosperity has been placed at risk. We have lost time critical for the development of new ways to provide energy, treat disease, reverse climate change, strengthen our security, and improve our economy.

We especially applaud his emphasis during the campaign on the power of science and technology to enhance our nation's competitiveness. In particular, we support the measures he plans to take – through new initiatives in education and training, expanded research funding, an unbiased process for obtaining scientific advice, and an appropriate balance of basic and applied research – to meet the nation's and the world's most urgent needs.

Senator Obama understands that Presidential leadership and federal investments in science and technology are crucial elements in successful governance of the world's leading country.

Thoughts: It's good to see the scientific community speaking out but it should go the whole nine yards. The Presidency is one branch and it is HIGHLY overrated in terms of importance. Most of the nitty gritty stuff that effects our daily lives happens in Congress and at the state and local level.

The scientific community should make a concerted effort to focus on all branches of government at all levels. It should demand that the media ask relevant questions. It should expect candidates to be knowledgeable about science & technology. It should promote and support scientists running for office.

There are enough nutball special interests with way too much influence. It's time for the scientific community to tilt the seesaw back towards sense and reason.

23 September 2008

Anticipating the Result of Ohio's Smoking Ban

Smoking bans are everywhere because the evidence is overwhelming that secondary exposure carries potential health risks. This excerpt from the New England Journal of Medicine gives the bottom line (note: cotinine is a metabolite of nicotine):

The urinary cotinine levels of nonsmokers who lived with smokers were higher than those of nonsmokers who did not, increasing with the combined daily cigarette consumption of smokers in the family. The urinary cotinine values of nonsmokers who worked with smokers were also higher than those of nonsmokers who did not, increasing with the number of smokers in the workroom. The presence of smokers in both the home and the workplace also increased the cotinine levels... We conclude that the deleterious effects of passive smoking may occur in proportion to the exposure of nonsmokers to smokers in the home, the workplace, and the community.

For a smoking ban is to be effective, it must result in a decrease in environmental nicotine. This is easy to measure because nicotine only comes from tobacco and is not normally present in air. But to see the change, measurements would have to be made before the ban took place as well as after.

As it turns out, this was done in Spain, which instituted a smoking ban in 2006. Results of the study:

The median decrease in nicotine concentration ranged from 60.0% in public premises to 97.4% in private areas. Nicotine concentrations were also markedly reduced in bars and restaurants that went smoke-free (96.7%) and in the no-smoking zones of venues with separate spaces for smokers (88.9%). There were no significant changes in smoking zones or in premises allowing smoking, including discotheques and pubs.

This study shows that smoking bans reduce ambient nicotine levels. Reducing ambient nicotine levels reduces the public health threat posed by secondhand smoke. From this we can anticipate Ohio's smoking ban to reduce the public health risks of secondhand smoke in the workplace and community.

20 September 2008

The Times They Are A-Changing

OTR is on the cusp of change. Two weeks ago appeared this missive from OTR residents which was echoed on Building Cincinnati, Just Past Central and Cincinnati Blog. Several weeks before that I posted about this article in the Pulse-Downtowner. And yesterday the Business Courier published the article "With disproportionate number of social services, Over-The-Rhine also grapples with concentration of crimes."

These are a few examples of the increased attention OTR has been getting from the public, the media, city council and the business community. I think the key difference now versus years ago is the business community. The business community has been making Cincinnati its bitch for about a century. When it wants results, it gets them.

Now that 3CDC, PNC Bank, Western-Southern, etc. are invested in the OTR market, the world will move with them. There is every reason to believe that sometime in the near future, OTR will start looking significantly different from year to year. The concentration of social service agencies will diminish. The crime, drugs and litter will diminish. Socioeconomic diversity will increase. Businesses will move in. Streetcars will roll along. And Washington Park will morph from a place to drive by and witness society at its most pathetic to a place where workers and residents eat their lunch and walk their corgis.

How the city will get there is uncertain, but the first step is for all parties to recognize the problem. That has finally happened. The second step is moving towards solutions, which is happening as we speak. The second-and-a-half step is to marginalize the Smithermans who can be guaranteed to try and prevent progress by playing the race card and fomenting opposition based on emotion rather than sense. I hope council, businesses and residents discuss this and prepare a proactive plan to derail it with-- pardon the poorly placed expression-- extreme prejudice.

I also hope social service agencies can deal with this as an opportunity to re-invent themselves rather than as a threat to their existence (like OTR, now that I think about it). If they can provide new models for their services that the community believes will produce results, they will get the chance to follow through.

Meantime, I think I'll start scouting condos...

Seen This Week Around Town

At Vine St. Kroger: a mother with two young sons, both shirtless. She walked right by the manager, who said they can't be in the store like that and would have to wait out front. "But it's his birthday!" she replied.

In front of King Wok, Clifton: a cute asian girl in a nice summer dress being chatted up by two guys. Then a third guy darts through traffic from the other side of the street and approaches her. "I love you, I think you're beautiful and I want to marry you!" he tells her. It was a great start to her week, I'm sure.

At various dead stoplights during power outage: Six cars driving straight through without stopping, all of them SUVs, three of the drivers talking on cell phones.

At Liberty & Central: A yellow, three-wheeled motorcycle. Two wheels in front, one in the rear.

Ignore the Top of My Blog

At the top of my blog there is an email address. For a time, it worked. Earlier this summer, the provider rescinded the service. So it no longer works.

I have a new email, but for some reason Blogger didn't change the text up there on the bar.

So if you want to email me, I'm now on Yahoo! The name is westender314159.

The number makes sense, just think about it for a second.

18 September 2008

Bisphenol-A Reveals Flawed FDA (again)

As everyone except those without power has probably heard, bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most widely used plastic compounds in the world. It is a common element in plastic bottles and the inside of tin cans.

There are three problems with BPA:

1) It leeches out.
2) Experiments demonstrate it has physiological effects at levels currently present in humans.
3) The FDA said BPA is safe.

Let's take the last one first. To be blunt, the FDA is a joke. Henry Waxman ways it better:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration appears to be giving priority to projects that benefit the pharmaceutical industry rather than helping consumers, a top Democratic lawmaker said on Wednesday.

A 2007 list of top projects includes plans to offer advice to companies on promoting products, as well as guidance on offering reprints of journal articles to physicians...

The agency also planned to change its regulations to protect device makers from lawsuits as long as their products are FDA-approved with a so-called preemption clause.

"All appear to prioritize industry desires over consumer protection," Waxman wrote.

The FDA, like most of government, is more focused on corporate special interests than the public interest. If you back one political issue in your life it should be this: campaign finance reform.

But the FDA's corporate bias does not explain why it deemed BPA safe. After all, it tested the compound. What is the difference between the FDA's science and everyone else's?

The answer is toxicologists' perspective that "the dose makes the poison." If a chemical is dangerous, it will be more dangerous at higher levels. So toxicologists typically test chemicals in a high dosage range.

The problem: many chemicals, especially those that mimic hormones, can have physiological effects at both low and high levels. Sometimes the effect is completely opposite; it will have one effect at low doses, nothing at moderate doses, and the opposite effect at high doses.

So testing at only high doses does not result in a complete assessment. When the FDA tested BPA, they tested it only at levels much higher than what is found in our bodies. And they found nothing. When scientists like UC's Nira Ben-Jonathan studied it, they used it at levels found in humans. And they found something:

The researchers exposed some of the tissue to estradiol, a natural form of human estrogen, and some to bisphenol A. Both treatments suppressed the release of the protective hormone adiponectin. Adiponectin is secreted by fat cells and protects against the suite of conditions that can result in heart attacks and type 2 diabetes.

My plan: In the lab, I remember we had some glass bottles with a plastic coating on the outside. It didn't prevent breakage, but it prevented glass from flying all over the place. I'm going to look for a few of those.

Obligatory Power Outage Story Post

Sunday morning I drove north to my parents' home for a lunch party. It was supposed to be only family but as usual my mom lost control and it ended up being 37 people. While setting up the Heineken (in cans) my dad told me how it was going to get windy, and then windier.

It did indeed get windier and windier as the afternoon progressed. The bending trees and flying leaves provided exciting diversion during commercials in the Bengals game. Soon after halftime the cable went out. Since my parents have the Time Warner bundle, the phone and internet also went out.

Around 5 p.m. everyone left and I stuck around to help clean up. In the fifteen minutes between the time that everyone left and I was ready to leave, three trees fell down and blocked the road. No egress possible.

About an hour later the power went out. Me, my parents, and two unlucky guests who didn't make it out in time were stranded for the night. We amused ourselves with a game of Scrabble while daylight lasted and then just sat around. I had a radio headset with me so I was able to listen to WLW and give them periodic reports. We talked about how close we came to having 37 people, including a dozen kids, stranded in the house with us.

Later in the evening we heard a truck drive down the road, turn around, then drive back up. This was exciting because it meant the trees were cleared. Unfortunately, by that time a fourth tree had fallen across the driveway so we were still stranded. I told my parents they needed to call someone with a chainsaw to cut up the tree the next morning. They called the three Mexican brothers who came the next morning at 10:30 and cleared the tree.

I called work at 9 a.m. but the phone didn't work so I made the reasonable conclusion that the power and phone were out. I told my parents that they likely would not get power until late in the week and they needed to buy flashlights, batteries, candles and ice. So I took mom out and we bought all that stuff. The gas stations had lines and the restaurant parking lots were filled. On the way back I got a call from a co-worker who said the office manager was wondering where I was and sent two people to my apartment to make sure I was okay.

What? People are at the office? I realized that I mis-dialed earlier and dialed a nonexistent extension. I dropped off mom and went to work. It turned out that the office, like much of downtown (including my apartment), never lost power.

My folks' power came back on Monday evening, so they got a break there. Some people who live within a mile or so still don't have power. But they all have candles and flashlights ready for the next midwestern hurricane.

Ohio Statistic: Divorce-to-Marriage Ratio

Divorces per 100 marriages in 2006:

Ohio: 55

Hamilton: 49
Butler: 60
Warren: 63
Clermont: 73

State lowest: Erie county (NE Ohio), 5; Brown county also low.
State highest: Lawrence county (SE Ohio, across from W. Va.) is consistently the highest, 138.

14 September 2008

Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator

It was just a matter of time before someone came up with this.

As we know and are still trying to understand, Sarah Palin named her children Track, Trig, Bristol, Willow and Piper. I ran track, studied trig, and have been meaning to visit Bristol, England. I've always thought the willow is a fine tree and I've flown in a Piper cub.

With the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator, anyone can translate their normal name into Palinese.

For more fun, try all the candidates names (yes, including Sarah Palin).

(from; via)

Ohio Statistic: Births to Unwed Mothers, 2006

In 2006, 40.4% of all births in Ohio were to unwed mothers. The stats for our area:

Hamilton: 50
Butler: 37.4
Warren: 18.1
Clermont: 32.2

The lowest in the state was Holmes county (NE central OH, Amish country), 8.6
The highest was Clark county (SW central OH, Springfield, Wittenberg U.), 50.8

(from Ohio Dept. of Health statistics)

13 September 2008

Chili Taste Test: Empress Chili

I haven't had much time to post lately since I've been working on Mavericke, my bio-opera about John McCain.

But I did begin my canned chili/cheese coney taste testing this week. For some reason I've had cheese coney pangs the past few weeks. I got cans of Empress, Skyline, and another one I can't remember right now. And then, thinking that I could do better than an ordinary hot dog, I bought smoked metts.

Important: do NOT make coneys with metts. It does not work.

So I went to IGA to buy a pack of the highly regarded Hebrew National dogs but they don't carry them. But I ran into a friend outside and talked with her so it wasn't a wasted trip. I'll try Kroger later today.

Even thought my coney was fundamentally flawed because of the mett, I did sample Empress chili after many years and liked it. It's very similar to Skyline. I will definitely stock a few cans for late-night chili fixes following Monday Night Football.

Long-time Cincinnatians may remember the Empress Chili parlor in Mt. Lookout Square many years ago. It was in the space now used by Ramundo's (or maybe Ruthai's). I also remember buying a 1-gal container of Empress chili from the grocery store several years ago and taking it back to Chicago when I lived there. I wonder if they still sell that.

09 September 2008

Is It Really Organic?

Here is what I've learned about "organic."

My understanding is that there is no official national standard to qualify something as "organic." I think basically anyone can call their product "organic" and it seems fairly obvious that many producers do exactly that as a marketing tactic.

The USDA doesn't even have the resources to carry out it's current mission, let alone monitor national and international foods for organic qualification. To do that it would need more money, which means more taxes, which will kill Jesus. But they did the next best thing, which is to accredit other organizations which do the job of certifying whether producers meet "organic" standards.

So there are certified and uncertified organic foods, and this is what to look for. Certified organic products will say "certified by XXXX" on the product whereas uncertified products will not, although they may be described as "organic" on the label.

It's not a perfect system. There are many, many certifiers and their standards may differ. Furthermore, there are certifiers who have not been accredited by the USDA but still certify products unofficially.

The database of accredited certifiers is here, if you want to go the whole nine yards and keep the list on your PDA for ready access while shopping.

Other than that just do the next best thing and look for "certified by XXXX" on the label.

Seen This Week Around Town

Over the weekend I saw something I've often dreamed existed but never seen: a tricked out Rolls Royce. It was in the West End, two blocks from home.

Returning from a meeting yesterday morning, I saw a girl-- maybe a teenager but no older than early 20s-- on an OTR corner. She was standing, her body and head spastically jerking back and forth and side to side almost like being sporadically juiced by electricity. While doing this she was kind of rotating but somehow not losing her balance. She was completely detached from reality. She looked baaaaad. We guessed meth and probably two or three other things.

I saw a Prius on the highway with the license plate "HIGH MPG."

WKRC Sucks Donkey Balls

It's true. WKRC, instead of televising the US Open finals like a normal CBS affiliate, chose to air a "special" broadcast of weatherman Tim Hendrick performing-- and I am not making this up-- science experiments for kids. So instead of watching one of the year's biggest sporting events and the only major tennis tournament in the U.S., one in which Roger Federer made history by winning his fifth straight title in spectacular fashion thus becoming the only man to win five straight titles in two different majors, I got to see a weatherman do tricks for kids.

Whomever made this decision is a maggot-infested heap of fetid, putrescent flotsam.

07 September 2008

The Election Year Drinking Game

The quadrennial drinking game Americans know as "the presidential election" can be a lot of fun if one has an equal commitment to intoxication and country. "Beer First!" as the Clark St. Blog delegates like to say.

When a candidate makes a promise... drink! Don't worry about getting too drunk and missing some promises, they'll repeat them again in the next election just like they did in the last election.

Here's a comparison of McCain's convention speech with Dubya's as only Jon Stewart can do it. The magic starts at about the 4:30 mark.


05 September 2008

U.S. Open Final Weekend

The Olympics were great, got me all goosed up for sports. Then the Bengals news started coming, one crazy thing after another. The U.S. Open came by just in time. There's so much to watch I can barely keep up. Thankfully we live in the age of DTV.

Based on what I've seen, I'd put Nadal as the odds-on favorite. Federer is just not the same player he was from 2003-2006. He's not moving as well and he's not hitting his shots as aggressively, especially when returning serve. He has serious problems with his return game. His backhand, which was a total joke at Wimbledon, still has problems.

I haven't yet watched the Djokovic-Roddick match so I don't know the result. But historically Federer always steamrolls Roddick. Djokovic could be a tougher opponent, especially if he starts going to the net. If he plays well he could definitely beat Federer.

Murray is playing very well but I expect Nadal to beat him and get to the final. I hope Federer makes it because I'd like to see how he handles (or fails to handle) Nadal in this slam final after two previous losses.

On the women's side I'd like to see Jankovic win a major. That would be one for each of the Serbs, icing on the cake of their great life stories.

04 September 2008

Thank You, Maria Bartiromo, for Making Me Laugh

Maria Bartiromo on Sarah Palin:

I don't think she would describe herself as a feminist, I think she would describe herself as a champion of women.

Thank You, GOP, for Wasting My Time

You know, I'm convinced that the best thing that can happen to the GOP is to have massive, humiliating defeats in every election at every level. Because that is probably the only thing that will lead them to fix their own house. And they need to fix their own house.

When I watched the Dem convention, I was impressed. It was not only watchable, but delivered the goods pretty well. Maybe it was because my expectations were so low, I figured.

After watching the RNC last night, I know my expectations of the GOP were too high. I expected something special. After all, they've got hurdles to jump: they have to follow a Dem convention that hit a home run, and they have to overcome a complete loser of a VP pick (you don't have to take my word for it).

And what did they offer? The same, tired old bullshit rhetoric they've been regurgitating for three decades. Unfuckingbelievable. To be fair, they did a good job of doing it; Giuliani was particularly potent punch of peppery pungency and Huckabee was a nice dollop of folksy white cream. But when you've been giving the same speech for 30 years, you get pretty good at it.

So if you missed it, here's the recap: the liberals control everything and if we don't fight them they will tax us to death and make everyone work for a European-style socialist government that will take away your guns and babies and give them to the UN. Anything you hear otherwise is misinformation from the liberal media. Also, DRILL NOW!!

Thank you, GOP, for wasting my time. Since your rhetoric is the same as the last 8 years, I'll assume your plans for governing are also the same.

03 September 2008

What is Campbell Brown Up To?

Sorry, English instructors... I meant to write "To what is Campbell Brown Up?"

Anyway, she must have done something because the number of hits my blog gets as a result of Campbell Brown searches has spiked this week. I presume it has something to do with the RNC.

Campbell Brown is by far the #1 search item that reaches this blog. This is a result of my posts, Campbell Brown Exposed and Campbell Brown Exposed, Pt. II.

Here's what surfers want to know about Campbell Brown; most of these searches have been repeated over and over in various forms over the past 15 months:

campbell brown's husband
campbell brown is she jewish
campbell brown republican
campbell brown sexist
support campbell brown

I don't know what she said, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it was something other than incisive wisdom. She-- like most of her mainstream media talking head colleagues-- is on TV only because she says what her producers tell her to say and looks cute doing it. Once either of those two things ceases to be, her marginal relevance as a news figure will subside into occasional appearances on daytime TV as "special correspondent."

Anyway, if someone out there reaches this post and wants to tell me what she said this time, that would be great.

02 September 2008

Oberlin: Carbon-free Commencement

Wow, talk about going the whole nine yards...

...Oberlin is trying to surpass the standard. Beginning last spring, students, faculty and staff joined together to form the Green Commencement/Reunion committee, which has reinvented the mentality surrounding the weekend.

...a highlight of the 2008 Commencement is a $5,000 donation from Bon App├ętit, the food services management company for the College, to offset the carbon emissions for the entire event.

Purchasing carbon offsets has become popular in recent years, though the mechanics of the process still mystify many. Basically, when an individual or an institution acts in a way that creates carbon emissions, they can pay an organization such as Carbonfund.org — Oberlin’s site of choice — and the money will go to projects that reduce atmospheric carbon, such as wind farms, solar fields and reforestation efforts.

Danielle Young, the interim executive director of the Alumni Association... designed a rideshare website where visitors can post their travel information and find carpools either from the airport or across several states... In addition, Young set up an online reservation system with the Cleveland Hopkins Airport, so as to avoid sending College vans every hour as she has done in the past.

The College is also renting hybrid cars for those who need assistance getting around campus during the event-filled weekend.

...the College will serve 25 to 30 percent local food on compostable corn plastic bioware. Diners can mop their lips with non-toxic paper napkins without any colored dyes. Thirsty visitors will notice that the 1,300 plastic bottles of water usually present at Commencement have been replaced with pitchers and glasses.

Pretty impressive. Gotta tip your hat to that kind of effort. But the best line in the article: "If we can make Commencement carbon neutral, the next step might be doing the same for Parents Weekend, Safer Sex Night and Drag Ball.”

No, mom and dad! That was last weekend! This is Safer Sex Night and I... um, made plans.