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A Cure For Peanut Allergies?

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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Many medical papers nowadays have such complex statistics that not one in a hundred doctors understands them fully, and the rest have merely to hope or take it on trust that the authors’ conclusions really do follow from their data. I am afraid I hold to the rather crude view that, if results involving large numbers of patients need involved and sophisticated statistical manipulation to yield a positive outcome, they probably are not very important clinically, however statistically significant they may be. Clear-cut results are not very common these days.

I therefore rejoiced to see in a recent edition of the Lancet the report of an experiment so conclusive that it hardly needed statistical confirmation to prove it. The experiment was a double-blind trial of the desensitization of children with an allergy to peanuts by means of oral immunotherapy (OIT).

Ninety-nine children aged between 7 and 12 with proven allergy to peanuts were divided into two groups: those who, unbeknown to them, received small but increasing doses of peanut protein mixed into their food over a period of six months, and those who did not. At the end of that period, 62 percent of the treated group, but none of the untreated, tolerated a challenge of 1400 milligrams of peanut allergy. The children who had had the OIT were 25 times less sensitive than those who had not. When the control group who had not had it were given it, they too became less sensitive.

The authors also demonstrated that the quality of life of the desensitized children improved because they became less anxious that any food might ambush them, as it were, and cause an allergic reaction. Anyone who has seen an allergic reaction to peanuts (or other nuts) will understand this. Since the number of food products that bear the warning “may contain peanuts” is ever-increasing – peanuts seem almost as ubiquitous in our environment as rock music – the world must appear a dangerous place to those with the allergy.

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Is Your Heart Attack More Likely to Kill You at Night or During the Day?

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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It is a hard lesson in life that many of the most important things that happen to us are beyond our control. Indeed, a large part of wisdom consists of the willingness and ability to distinguish what is and what is not happenstance. The distinction, however, may be very difficult: and while too little fatalism leads to fruitless struggle, too much leads to acceptance of the avoidable.

A recent study from the Mayo Clinic published in the British Medical Journal examines patients with myocardial infarction (heart attack) presenting to hospital out of hours and those who present during normal working hours. They pool the data from all the studies that have been done around the world, and come to the conclusion that patients presenting at nights and weekends have a 5 percent increased risk of death. It therefore seems best, if you must have a heart attack, to have it during regular hours, though this is difficult to arrange for yourself.

Interestingly, subsidiary findings are first that the difference between the death rates has been increasing of late; and second that the difference is less in the United States than in Europe, where it is less than in other parts of the world. Could this mean that, at least in one respect, the American health care system is better than others around the world?

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Strength vs. Endurance: Why You Are Wasting Your Time in the Gym

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe

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(image credit: Thomas Campitelli, The Aasgaard Company 2013)

When you consult a medical professional about exercise, the standard recommendation amounts to a prescription for a certain number of minutes per day or per week. The conventional wisdom equates “exercise” with “cardio” — endurance exercise performed at a low to moderate intensity for a continuous period of time. We call it LSD (long, slow distance). The assumption seems to be that as long as your heart is capable of working at 65% of its assumed maximum capacity, that’s about all you need to do.

The fact is that a properly designed strength training program constitutes a much better use of the same amount of time a “cardio” workout takes, and provides far more benefits to your quality of life.

This is especially true if you are older.

Assuming you are not a heart patient, strength training provides enough cardiovascular work to serve the purpose, and produces an increase in strength that endurance exercise cannot provide. Here’s why:

1. Not doing the things that make you strong has its consequences.

Increased strength is produced by activity that requires you to use your muscles to produce force — more force than you normally produce in daily activities, and more force than LSD requires. When you use your muscles in an effective strength program, sugar fuels the activity, and efficient carbohydrate metabolism is necessary for your health. A lack of active carbohydrate metabolism is very closely correlated with the development of Type II Diabetes and other unpleasant things. Type II Diabetes shortens your lifespan, in addition to making your shorter life a lot more trouble.

This cannot be emphasized enough: using your muscles in a way that makes them stronger also improves the way your body handles the sugar that can cause metabolic problems like diabetes.

When the human body is allowed to sit on its ass instead of doing the muscular work that keeps it strong, it is being placed in a situation that its physiology is not designed for. Muscular activity is natural. Inactivity is not. Intellectual pursuits notwithstanding, doing the things that keep you strong may well be the most important things you do.

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You’re Not As Happy As You Think You Are

Sunday, January 26th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Last fall Bret Baier from Fox News interviewed author and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer about his best-selling book, Things that Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics. They discussed Krauthammer’s spinal cord injury that paralyzed him in his twenties while he was a medical student at Harvard. Krauthammer said,

“I made one promise to myself on day one. I was not going to let it alter my life except in ways where were, sort of, having to do with gravity. I’m not going to defy gravity and I’m not going to walk and I’m not going to water ski again. That’s fine. So that you know. But on the big things in life, the direction of my life, what I was going to do, that wouldn’t change at all.”

Krauthammer told Baier that he never entertained the possibility that he would walk again. He accepted his fate and focused on accomplishing his goals in life regardless of his disabilities. Despite overwhelming hardships, Krauthammer managed to graduate from medical school with his class and went on to a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital.

He ran into some unexpected problems, however, during his psychiatry residency, when all residents were required to attend “group therapy” once a week. Krauthammer refused to attend. “I thought, it’s a pointless exercise. So I was called into the chief’s office after about seven weeks of non-appearance.”  Krauthammer explained that he was there to give therapy, not receive it. “The chief of residency told Krauthammer he was in denial. “And I said, ‘Of course I’m in denial! Denial is the greatest of all defense mechanisms. I could be a professor of denial. I’m an expert at denial!’ Krauthammer said. The chief “was not amused.”

Krauthammer completed the required therapy, though he mostly refused to participate in the sessions:

“I’m not a big therapy guy…I don’t like to talk about myself…I’m not a touchy — I’m not a feely guy. That’s probably why I quit psychiatry. If you’re not into feelings and emotions and all the backstory then you ought to be doing something else.”

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How I Lost 25 Pounds without Having to Run

Saturday, January 25th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Over the years, I had made halfhearted attempts to lose weight and get in better shape and never seemed to have much luck. I had spent money on fat burners and tried diets that I couldn’t keep. I even joined the new gym in town hoping it would be the answer to all my problems. But on September 13 of last year, I made a commitment. I was going to lose weight no matter what it took, and I set some goals to try to prevent losing weight from becoming another losing battle.

As of last Friday, I’ve lost 25 pounds, reaching my first goal. (I wish I had before-and-after pictures, but I didn’t take one at the beginning.) I managed to lose this weight during a period that included vacation, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, so it wasn’t always easy. I can tell a definite difference in the way I look. My clothes fit better, and I feel great. Several people have asked me what I’ve done, and my answer turns into a long one, because it’s a combination of factors that have helped me.

The caveat to my weight-loss strategy — I refuse to run. My sister and brother-in-law began training around the same time for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, and while I’m proud of them for it, running just isn’t my thing. So, here are three actions I’ve taken that have contributed to my weight loss.

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Should You Vaccinate Your Children?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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There is no subject that provokes conspiracy theories quite like the immunization of children. That innocent, healthy creatures should have alien substances forcibly introduced into their bodies seems unnatural and almost cruel. As one internet blogger put it:

Don’t take your baby to get a shot, how do you know if they tell the truth when giving the baby the shot, I wouldn’t know because all vaccines are clear and who knows what crap is in that needle.

The most common conspiracy theory at the moment is that children are being poisoned with vaccines to boost the profits of the pharmaceutical companies that make the vaccines. No doubt such companies sometimes get up to no good, as do all organizations staffed by human beings, but that is not also to assert that they never get up to any good.

A relatively new vaccine is that against rotavirus, the virus that is the largest single cause of diarrhea in children. In poor countries this is a cause of death; in richer countries it is a leading cause of visits to the hospital but the cause of relatively few deaths.

Since rotavirus immunization of infants was introduced in the United States, hospital visits and admissions have declined by four fifths among the immunized. However, evidence of benefit is not the same as evidence of harmlessness, and one has the distinct impression that opponents of immunization on general, quasi-philosophical grounds, almost hope that proof of harmfulness will emerge.

A study published in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine examined the question of one possible harmful side-effect of immunization against rotavirus, namely intestinal intussusception, a condition in which a part of the intestine telescopes into an adjacent part, and which can lead to fatal bowel necrosis if untreated.

The authors compared the rate of intussusception among infants immunized with two types of vaccine between 2008 and 2013 with that among infants from 2001 to 2005, before the vaccine was used. There is always the possibility that rates of intussusception might have changed spontaneously, with or without the vaccine, but the authors think that this is slight: certainly there is no reason to think it.

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Getting Healthy In 13 Weeks

Saturday, January 18th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
When you start thinking this would be a rest, something's got to give.

When you start thinking this would be a rest, something’s got to give.

Week 1 — Something’s Got To Give

 

As part of my “taking it easier” with my blog, over at According To Hoyt, I’ve been running ‘blasts from the past’ – i.e. posts a year or more old at least a day a week.  (For instance on Tuesday I posted Jean Pierre Squirrel, from February 2011.)

The interesting thing going through the blog is seeing how many days I curtailed posting or posted briefer or weirder because I was ill.

Now I was aware of having been in indifferent health for the last ten years or so.  It’s nothing really bad or spectacularly interesting, which is part of the issue, because if it were, I could take time off and not feel guilty.  I confess I have found myself at various occasions fantasizing about a stay in the hospital.  Which is stupid, because no one rests in the hospital.  (What I need, of course, is a stay in a remote cottage for a few days. Even if I’m writing.)  And I knew that my health got much worse in the last year.  2013 was the pits, at least since August or so.  But it is not unusual for me to spend every third week “down.” – Usually with an ear infection or a throat thingy or some kind of stomach bug.

My friends have said for years that this is because I don’t listen to my body’s signals to slow down or stop, so it has to bring me to a complete stop by making me too sick to work.

This is part of the reason Charlie Martin and I (in collaboration) are doing a series on taming the work monster.  Part of it is that I have way too much to do, and part of it is that it’s really hard to compartmentalize things when you work from home.  Eventually when we sell the house and move, we’d like to get a place where the office is a distinct area.  It was pretty much all of the attic in our last house, which meant if I came downstairs for dinner (which I did) I didn’t go up again.  But now my office is half of the bedroom (and before someone imagines me cramped in a corner, the bedroom runs the full front of the house.  We just couldn’t figure out what to do with a room that size.  We don’t sleep that much.)  This is convenient in terms of my getting up really early to work, or of my going to bed way after my husband, because I’m right there…  It’s also contributing to a 24/7 work schedule, because I can think “Oh, I should write about that” and roll out of bed, and do so.  There is no “I have to be dressed, as the sons might be roaming the house” and there isn’t (as in the other house) “the attic will be cold.”

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The Touching Asperger’s Storyline on Parenthood

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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Spoiler alert for the December and January episodes below!

Many shows on TV offer viewers an escape from reality — shows featuring highbrow families living in ornate castles or series’ where immaculately dressed crime investigators pick their way around gruesome crime scenes in stiletto heels.  And there’s always the option to tune in to a scripted “reality” show that bears no resemblance to reality.

NBC’s Parenthood is no such escapist fare. Now in its fifth season, the series tells the story of the Braverman family of Berkeley, California — Zeke and Camille, their four children and assorted grandchildren. The show alternates between funny, quirky, awkward, poignant, and brutally honest. Kristina Braverman’s battle with breast cancer last season was incredibly raw and painful, but laced with enough humor to make it bearable. (Monica Potter, who plays Kristina, was absolutely robbed of a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Series by Jacqueline Bisset.) The show deals sensitively (and at the same time humorously) with a range of life issues common to many families: teenage rebellion, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse, marital strains, childbirth, problems at school, the empty nest. Parenthood does it in a way that makes viewers say, “I could totally see someone in my family doing that.”

Perhaps the most acclaimed story line of the series surrounds Max Braverman and his struggles with Asperger’s syndrome. When the show debuted in 2010, actor Max Burkholder played 8-year-old Max Braverman, who had not yet been diagnosed with Asperger’s. Burkholder has brilliantly “grown up” with his character, who is now a high school student. If you know a family that has been touched with an autism spectrum disorder, you’ll see them in this family, even if the details are not exactly the same — fear, frustration, exhaustion, giftedness, surprises, and social isolation are all common issues for these families.

Jason Katims, the show’s creator, has a son on the autism spectrum, so the scenes reflect the realities of life with a child who sees the world on a completely different plane than the rest of us. Katmis told Mari-Jane Williams at the Washington Post that he wasn’t sure they would be able to do the story line justice. He also had concerns about his son’s privacy, but he said the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Katmis explained that he wanted to convey both the challenges and the triumphs of life with a child like Max:

It’s not only the challenges but also the unexpected beauty of it, and we definitely felt it was important to explore that. It really makes you focus on what’s important. You just want them to have friends and be happy and be in a place where they are seen and heard. That’s what you should want for any kid. As parents you really share the triumphs, even when they’re just small moments, even when they’re things that nobody else would even notice. Those moments, when they happen, of him being successful, or progressing, or showing love, I feel like they are much more cherished moments.

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Should the Age to Buy Cigarettes Be 21?

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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Just as a more permissive attitude to cannabis gains momentum in the United States, so does a more restrictive attitude to tobacco. It is as if there were a law of the conservation of prohibition: if one substance is permitted after having been prohibited, another will be prohibited after having been permitted.

While Colorado permits the use of marijuana by those over 21 for any purpose, New York City prepares to prevent sales of tobacco to anyone under the age of 21. An article in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine comes out strongly in favor of this more restrictive approach to the sale of tobacco. The arguments it uses and those it refutes are instructive.

Those who go on to smoke throughout their lives generally start at an early age: earlier, that is, than 21. Thus if adolescents could be discouraged from smoking, rates of smoking among adults would decline markedly.

Of course, it is not enough for something to be desired or desirable for it to be feasible. Such evidence as exists, however, suggests that restricting sales to minors might work. A town in Massachusetts, Needham, forbade the sale of tobacco to those under 21, and the rate of smoking among high school students declined by nearly half five years later. The rate in a neighboring town, which did not impose the ban, fell in the same time by only a third as much. Furthermore, raising the minimum drinking age to 21 was followed by (one cannot with absolute certainty say caused) a fall in alcohol consumption by adolescents, drunk driving, and motor accidents.

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13 Weeks: Diets and Black Swans

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

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Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book The Black Swan introduced an old term and then, annoyingly, redefined it. For Sir Karl Popper, the black swan was an observation about logical quantification: if you assert “all swans are white” then the observation of a single black swan falsifies the assertion.

Taleb’s observation is different, although related: he’s observing that really unexpected events are unexpected: we have a model of the world that says “The US mainland is secure from attack” that seems perfectly plausible on 10 September 2001; we believe “Islamist terrorism is on the run” and then a bomb blows up in Boston.

(There’s a more sophisticated way to deal with all of these called Bayesian inference. We’ll leave the details for a science column, but in a few words, a Bayesian starts with an assumed a priori estimate of the probability of an event. After observation, they have a new a postieriori estimate that incorporates new experience.)

But there’s yet a third way to think about these that shows us how mathematics and probability can show us surprising things.

(Yes, this is a diet and exercise column, just a little further down.)

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2014: A 20-Something’s Year of Food, Art, Exercise, Nostalgia, and Giving

Monday, January 6th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

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I was inspired by some of Dave Swindle’s goals for the New Year (and might steal one or two). Here are a few activities I intend to complete, and write about, in 2014:

1. Read more books on national security.

Hey, I find foreign affairs, history, and war fascinating.  I want to know more. I should read more.

2. Cook through a cookbook.

I’m good at the recipes I already know—time to pull a Julie and Julia and teach this dog some new, culinary tricks.  I am going to choose a cookbook by Ina Garten because her recipes are easy, wholesome, and gorgeous (yes, food can be gorgeous).  Wanna follow along?  This could lead to some mouthwatering posts.

3. Copying Dave Swindle by making it a goal to post more “fun stuff” that is apolitical.

Sometimes, we just need to sit back, relax, and enjoy reading, or viewing, a wholesome post.  I would like to do more of this.

4. Run more.

It has probably become obvious from some of my previous posts that I am a jogger—and that I do so around Washington, D.C.  I would like to make it a goal to get out there and run more.  This will probably lead to some “GET UP AND MOVE” motivational posts for those of you who are looking to “be healthier” this year. Maybe I’ll even cave and get a dog to be my running buddy…maybe you should too.

5. Take more pictures (of my jogging adventures around D.C. and the other resolutions I made above).

I went through my photos from the past year—there were very few to even look at.  This might lead to the creation of an Instagram…

6. Fun fact: I used to paint—a lot.

2014 is going to be the year of the paintbrush and stretched canvas. I would also like to bring some Art talk to PJ Media.  Any interest?

7. Complete Random Acts of Kindness.

I love Christmas and that contagious, happy, “Christmas spirit” that you feel around the holidays.  However, our generosity and “do good” attitude shouldn’t end after a certain date—we should give all year round.  I completed a few “random acts of kindness” around Christmas 2013, but I would like to continue doing these little things in the New Year.

8. Reread books from my childhood and research my favorite children’s book authors/illustrators and their creative process…and maybe write a book of my own.

I bought a stack of my favorite children’s books for my little brother, Julian, this past Christmas. (Where the Wild Things Are, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie—just to name a few). Before I wrapped them, I read all of them over again.  I have always been in awe of writers and how they come up with ideas for books–and then bring them to life through words and pictures. I would like to explore some of the “greats” of children’s literature this year and learn more about the men and women who have written some of my (maybe our) favorites. I am hoping that this will provide some inspiration that will jump start my own creative process for a kid’s book.

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13 Weeks: New Year, New Season, New Experiments

Saturday, January 4th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

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Someone once said that a good epic starts in the middle. (Actually it was Horace, it was in his Ars Poetica around 13BC, and he made the distinction between something that started ab ovo, “from the egg”, or in medias res, “in the middle of things”, but then inserting a lengthy side bar with references to Classical Latin in a diet column might seem erudite but really would be sort of pretentious and silly, don’t you think?)

In any case, we’re starting in the middle of this story. Tomorrow, 5 January 2014, I’m starting the fifth (and sixth, more on this later) of my 13 week experiments in changing and improving my health and my life. The first one started in November 2012, more than a year ago, motivated by the most reasonable of things: I don’t want to die. I most especially don’t want to die young, and I felt like both of my parents had.

I have reasons to be concerned. I’ve had problems with my weight since I was six, and at the time I started this I was around 300 lbs, I was well along into type II diabetes, and I had severe sleep apnea that was manifesting in something close to narcolepsy. I live in a two-story house and I was finding that I was pre-planning trips up and down the stairs because they wore me out.

Now, a year later, I’ve made some significant changes. I’m around 265 lbs, my blood sugar is much improved, and I run up and down the stairs with wild abandon and cups of hot coffee. But I’m not done yet. I want to lose more weight, and I’ve got some new challenges in my life, with a new job and a certain feeling that I have more to do.

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How I Lost 40 Pounds in 4 Months

Friday, January 3rd, 2014 - by Paul Cooper

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I am a regular guy.  I have zero resemblance to the guys you see on the countless weight loss commercials currently running on television.  I still have work to do to become more healthy.  But I did something last year that I’ve never been able to do in a lifetime of weight struggles.  I lost a significant amount of weight in a relatively short amount of time.  Moreover, I did it in a healthy way, and I was able to keep it off.

How did I do it?  Well, first let me tell you the basics. On January 1 of 2013 I weighed in at 283 pounds.  I was significantly overweight.  I was unhealthy, ate poorly, was very inactive, and took blood pressure medicine that I desperately needed. By May 1, 2013, I dropped 40 pounds, was eating much better, exercised 5-6 days a week, and was off blood pressure medicine. And most importantly, I felt great doing it.  Well, what did I do?  I could probably list 20 things, but I narrowed it down to five.  And these are five things that I think can help anyone get healthier if they are ready for a change.

5. Make water your friend.

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Have I lost you already?  Is this too boring for you?  Is this too simple?  I don’t care.  Do it!  Drinking a ton of water was a key to my weight loss and I guarantee it’ll be a key to anyone else’s weight loss.  Get yourself a big bottle that you don’t mind making your friend.  Take it to work, drive with it, work out with it, and have it with you always.  And then take sips all day, every day.

What’s the big deal about water?  It has too many benefits for me to list them all, but here are a few: water suppresses your appetite, has zero bad stuff in it (drink filtered), increases metabolism, helps your body retain nutrients, is what your body is made of, helps maintain normal digestion, and energizes muscles.  There are more, but those are enough reasons for any of us to start diving into some H2O.

Water is your new friend.  Save money by drinking water instead of other beverages.  That’ll free up some income to buy healthier foods.  Drink a full glass of water before a meal and it’ll both speed up your metabolism and make you eat less.  Get at least 64 ounces a day.  And if you think that’s a lot, then check out your biggie cup of soda.  I bet it’s at least 32 ounces.  Put down the soda and pick up a big bottle of water.

You’re going to need to be well-hydrated if you are going to do number 4.

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4 Simple Steps for a Happy January

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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January settles in like a damp blanket. The cheerful lights and Christmas displays disappear, the decorations are stripped and put away, and the commercial air time is filled with ads for weight-loss programs, gym memberships, and help with tax preparation. Is there anything more depressing than watching relentlessly fit superbodies who’ve never eaten three slices of pie at a single sitting tell you how easy it is to get in shape? Your local store shelves are now packed with exercise equipment and diet books. The commercial intent of this month is to make you as miserable as possible and make you part with money you don’t want to spend. Don’t let it happen this year.

Here are four simple steps to a happy January. You’ll start February refreshed, fit, and renewed. Give these a try.

1. Don’t weigh yourself

Don’t throw your scale away, just put it in the closet. Don’t weigh yourself for the entire month. Maybe you’ve put on some weight during December (and most people do), but fretting about those pounds in January does nothing but make you unhappy and does no good. The majority of New Year’s resolution weight-loss plans don’t work.

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My yoga instructor asked our class today if we were ready for the “newbies” in January. The New Year’s resolution types get gym memberships, they resolve to lose ten or twenty pounds, and they fill the gyms for a week or so. They exercise outrageously, make themselves sore and exhausted, and stop coming to work out after the first week. Does this sound like fun? Of course not. This is a waste of money, time, and energy.

Unless you’re a member of OK Go, in which case never mind, you’re awesome.

Don’t buy expensive exercise equipment, don’t engage in some outrageous fitness plan, and turn away from advertisements that barrage you with fitness appeals. You can resist because you have already resolved to follow the Four Simple Steps. They are now powerless against you. You can laugh at the commercials now. I use the disdainful laugh from Christopher Lambert in Mortal Kombat.

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Can Scientists Create a Cure for Pain From Scorpions, Spiders, and Centipedes?

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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Scientists are often portrayed as archetypally rational men, mere calculating machines in human form who propose correct new theories by infallible deduction from what is already known. Science cannot possibly advance in this way, however, and the philosopher Karl Popper pointed out long ago that leaps of the imagination are as necessary to science as they were to art

I have never been able to make such leaps myself, which is why I admire them in others. I remember meeting a researcher into malaria who was trying to produce a vaccine, not against the malarial parasite itself, but against the stomach lining of the mosquitoes that carried the parasite. He hoped that such a vaccine would kill the mosquitoes – causing them to explode in mid-flight, perhaps – and thus prevent the spread of the disease. The idea did not work, but I was impressed by the boldness of the conception.

For the scientist no information is too obscure to be of potential use. And what information could be more obscure than that the desert-dwelling grasshopper mouse that likes eating the bark scorpion, whose sting causes severe pain in all other possible predators and makes them avoid it? Most of us, I think, would say, “All very interesting, professor, but so what?” The scientist, however, asks why the grasshopper mouse is immune to the painful effects of the scorpion venom, and whether, on discovering the reason, it might not help in the development of new analgesics. Mankind has long believed that remedies for its afflictions are to be found in Nature, but only scientists can go about systematically investigating the possibilities. Imagination is a necessary but not sufficient quality for scientific research.

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, in a long-running series that tries to connect basic scientific research with clinical progress, draws attention to research on the grasshopper mouse. The article is provocatively entitled Darwin 1, Pharma 0, thereby drawing our attention to the fact that millions of years of natural selection have done for the grasshopper mouse what a century of research by pharmaceutical companies has not been able to do for Man. The comparison seems neither apt nor fair, but any stick these days is good enough to beat Big Pharma with.

The grasshopper mouse, it seems, has a mutant gene that prevents a component in the scorpion venom from activating the peripheral nerve cells involved in the transmission of pain. Could human pain be alleviated or even abolished if a compound were found that acts on the mechanism that the normal version of the gene, present in all other mammal genomes, controls?

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Pajama Boy Jewish According to… Marx?

Monday, December 30th, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Jay Michaelson’s whining critique of the conservative slam of Pajama Boy is all at once nerdy, narcissistic, and self-defeating, illustrating the dark void that is the nomenklatura Manhattanite liberal Jewish American psyche. (Go on, say it three times fast.) It leads me to ask: Is there anything liberals won’t do to emasculate themselves in deference to Big Government?

Uh-oh, I said “emasculate.” I must be “unconsciously” sexist now.

In defense of his thesis that conservatives are latent antisemites because Pajama Boy looks Jewish (try to choke down your offense at that one), Michaelson cites research done by Daniel Boyarin (an academic who has no qualm comparing the Israeli government to Nazis) and Sander Gilman. Gilman, who has contributed to the catalog of study regarding Jews and race, has also written on Karl Marx’s own antisemitism. And here’s where a 5 minute Google search becomes vastly entertaining: It would appear that Michaelson falls into the very pit of Marxian, Jewish self-hatred about which Gilman has written. In fact, Marx’s obsession with Jewish physiognomy is the same as Michaelson’s fixation with Pajama Boy’s physical appearance, sexuality, and mode of dress down to eye wear, all of which he cites as evidence of “Pajama Boy’s obvious Jewishness”.

As for all of you straight-haired, unquestionably sexual, well-dressed Jewish men with no glasses, you stand as much of a chance at pulling off your Jewishness as Miley does twerking her way into the soul train.

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13 Weeks: Thinking Out Loud

Sunday, December 29th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

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So it’s a week until my next 13 Weeks experiment, and I’m trying to get my head in order around what to do next, so I’m going to write about it to you folks.

There were some interesting comments last week, the most interesting being, essentially, “don’t think so much, just relax, get out and do stuff.”

Which, well, that’s easy for you to say. But let’s resort to some somewhat discredited pop-psych here: I’m an INTJ/INTP on Myers Briggs, I’m fairly high up the Asperger’s scale, I’ve lost a lot of time and energy to severe depression, and yes, for me this is kinda grade school. I want, even this late in life, to make some things work that frankly most people figure out early.

If you haven’t grown up by 50, you don’t have to.

Now, this has hardly been all bad. From childhood the two things I really wanted to do are work with computers and write, and by golly, that’s what I’ve done, and I haven’t done badly at it despite some of the other challenges: I’ve got around a dozen patents, I’ve done some significant work in software architectures, I’ve written at this point hundreds of articles for actual cash money, including supporting myself entirely through writing for months at a time. But I don’t see any reason to stop; there are still things that would make my life better — and of course there are things to do so I not only make life better but I’m alive to enjoy it.

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Why Is It So Difficult to Translate Genetic Breakthroughs into Clinical Benefits?

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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The enormous, even exponential, advance in the understanding of human genetics over the past three decades has so far yielded much less improvement in clinical results than was once hoped. It has proved more difficult than anticipated to translate biological knowledge into clinical benefit.

This is not, of course, to say that there have been no benefits at all from the advances in genetic understanding, particularly in such fields as prenatal counselling. Another superficially promising field is that of pharmacogenetics, that is to say the prediction of responses to medicaments according to the patients’ genetic type. This is very important, for hitherto it has proved difficult to predict whether a patient will respond positively or negatively to a given treatment, and whether he or she needs a higher or a lower dose to produce a desired effect.

The latter is particularly important in the case of treatment with anticoagulants (blood-thinners) because a therapeutic dose is usually so close to a dangerous dose. If we could predict who needs what dose rather than, as at present, proceed essentially by trial and error, it would be of great advantage to patients who need anticoagulation.  They would receive the benefit of anticoagulation – fewer heart attacks and strokes – without the risks of complications such as cerebral and other bleeds.

Three trials of attempts to tailor doses of anticoagulants according to the patients’ genetic type have been published in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The authors compared prescription of anticoagulants by the normal methods with determination by genetic type. The results of the three trials were contradictory.

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Obamacare Video Stereotypes Gay Men, Promotes Risky Behavior to ‘Get Enrolled’

Friday, December 20th, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson

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Set aside any feelings of offense at this video for just a moment.

Now imagine with me. Instead of gay men in their underwear, we have the Marlboro Man out on the open prairie. With the Star of Bethlehem twinkling in the night sky, the Marlboro Man passes out cartons of cigarettes to his young cattle hands. In the background we hear a gruff old voice singing, ”Before the doctor brings a lump of coal, get enrolled, get enrolled, get enrolled…”

Then again we could have a chorus line of Biggest Loser contestants all stuffing triple-stacker hamburgers in their faces, dripping catsup down their ugly Christmas sweaters. Everyone juggling and gulping to the chorus of doctors singing, “Pre-existing conditions won’t stop ‘em…whether silver, bronze or gold… get enrolled, get enrolled, get enrolled…”

Or would you prefer prancing women, scantily clad, seducing men while their pimps holds up the mistletoe?

Out2Enroll is stereotyping gay men, stripping them down to nothing more than their sexuality in this video. A promiscuous gay lifestyle can be deadly. Most of us don’t encourage unhealthy behavior in the people we love, whether it’s risky sexual behavior or smoking. Who gives their favorite diabetic aunt a pound of chocolate and coupon for insulin for Christmas?

Then again, that’s exactly what cultural Marxism does; it destroys the very people it claims to help.

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Should Treatment of Obesity Begin Before Birth?

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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Prevention is better than cure provided (which is not always the case) that prevention does less harm than the disease it prevents. Since obesity is now of epidemic proportions all over the world, and it is estimated that in just over a decade’s time there will be 500,000,000 people with type II diabetes consequent upon obesity, prevention of obesity is devoutly to be wished – which is not to say that it will be easy or even possible.

An article in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine asks the question of how early in life prevention of obesity should begin, given that once it is established it is refractory to treatment. Although the epidemic may have peaked in the United States, there is no room for complacency because the proportion of fat people is already enormous. A half of American pregnant women are seriously overweight or outright fat, and fat women tend to have fat children. They gain even more weight during pregnancy, and women who gain weight excessively during pregnancy are especially likely to have fat children.

The article is a typical example of what might be called risk factor medicine. A disease or disorder is found to be associated statistically with some independent variable which may or may not be causally related to that disease or disorder, so that doctors hope that by reducing the prevalence of the risk factor in some way they will also reduce the prevalence of the disease or disorder. Since many of the risk factors are behavioral rather than biological, and there is nothing as difficult to change as human behavior, doctors’ hopes are often frustrated.

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9 Ladies Dancing: A Gift Guide for the Kings and Queens of Beauty Products

Monday, December 16th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Monday, December 16, 2013.  If we were having a literal, backwards countdown of the “Twelve days of Christmas,” we would all receive “nine ladies dancing” today. Newsflash, there are only nine days until Christmas!

Shopping procrastinators, overwhelmed list-makers, and confused uncles and aunts, listen up.  Although there is one fewer weekend in December this year, and Christmas shopping is sure to be even more hectic than usual, there is still a way to keep your sanity in tact!

Take back some Christmas peace and quiet and make your shopping painless. Here is a gift guide chock-full of holiday cheer and guaranteed smiles for some of the people on your list:

The Beauty Queen/Well-Groomed Man

For that person in your life who loves all things beauty and grooming—from head to toe!

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For The Ladies:

Skin: Clarisonic Mia Skin Cleansing System

Beauty aficionados know that beauty starts with healthy, glowing skin.  (This is also a good gift for the males who love a deep clean, skin deep.)

Nails: London Butter Nail Polish Set

High-end, high-pigment nail color that is sure to make their fingers and toes sparkle.

Make-up: Bare Minerals Starter Kit

Bare Minerals powder system has good coverage–but without the thick, goopy foundation mess. This is a good starter kit for those who are curious about the “mineral powder craze” or want to try something new!

Lips: Frola Cosmetics Professional 66-Color Lip Gloss Palette

So many color options, so few days of the week!

Hair: Moroccan Oil Hair Treatment

This stuff really is a miracle worker—smooth on wet or dry hair for a silky smooth finish and frizz control. (Also available for curly hair)
beauty-products-for-menFor The Gentlemen:

Shaving (Manual): The Art of Shaving Starter Kit

The lucky person on your list who receives this gift is sure to become addicted to the products. My male friends especially rave about the “sandalwood” scent kit.

Shaving (Electric): Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D

This bad-boy came highly recommended by the gadget gurus.

Cleansing for the traveling man: Men’s Jack Black Cleansing System

All the essentials for face, hair, and body and it’s great for frequent travelers who need to take better care of themselves.

Men’s Face Mask: Baxter of California Clarifying Clay Face Mask

Purify and invigorate your mug. You can’t go wrong with Baxter of California.

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As More People Live Longer Why Are Rates of Dementia Falling?

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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There is nothing quite as difficult to predict as the future. In my lifetime I have already lived through an “inevitable” ice age that never materialized and “inevitable” mass starvation (through overpopulation) that also never happened. When I was in Central America I remember reading a book called Inevitable Revolutions by the historian Walter LaFeber, but more than a quarter of a century later the inevitable still had not taken place. By now, according to predictions, most of us should have been dead from AIDS, that is if variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or Ebola virus had not got us first. The repeated failure of confident predictions is therefore almost enough to make one sceptical of dire visions of the future. Only the sheer pleasure of contemplating catastrophe to come keeps the market for apocalypses alive.

One of our present concerns in the western world is the rapid aging of the population. Never have so many people lived to so ripe an old age, and this at a time when the birth rate is falling. Who is going to support the doddering old fools who will soon be more numerous than the energetic and productive young?

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine points out that something unexpected has happened to confound the gloomy prognostications of epidemiologists and demographers. As the percentage of people surviving into old age increases, so the proportion of them who suffer from dementia decreases. People are not only living longer, but living better. This is a phenomenon that has happened across the western world.

The article states that “in 1993, 12.2% of surveyed adults 70 years of age or older [in America] had cognitive impairment, as compared with 8.7% in 2002.” Similar results have been obtained elsewhere. In the light of this unexpected and unpredicted trend, estimates of the prevalence of dementia in England have had to be revised downwards by 24 percent. The burden of the elderly on the economy will therefore not be as great as was feared.

What accounts for the decline in the prevalence of dementia?

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Networks Should *Bleep* the Word Obam#!@$e

Monday, December 9th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard
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I realize that Melissa Harris-Perry’s little stunt on MSNBC, comparing the word “Obamacare” to the “N” word, was just that — a feeble attempt to get anyone with a pulse to watch her network and click on the website. After all, most of the network’s anchors have been banished to broadcast outer darkness for crimes against human decency and the channel’s longstanding tradition of desperation is quickly devolving into pathological, endless mortification.

But I wonder if there isn’t some merit to the point Harris-Perry was making before she launched into a prurient soliloquy on Obama Her Savior. After all, in any honest word-association test, most rational Americans would think first of words like debacle, disaster, and fraud when confronted with the realities of Obamacare. Aside from the failures of the website, it is an attack on 1/6 of the economy, the results of which we have not yet seen, and it is also in the process of destroying and dismantling the best, most innovative healthcare system the world has ever known. Not only that, it has eroded Americans’ faith in government and attacked the fundamental structures of our constitutional republic, destroying religious liberties in the process. Not to mention the coming Medicaid timebomb. As Harris-Perry said, “The Affordable Care Act will loom large in the president’s legacy as the singular accomplishment of his two terms,” adding that he is “playing to win.”

Harris-Perry said the term Obamacare was meant to “shame and divide and demean.” I say that Obamacare itself shames and divides and demeans. And so I call on the FCC to force all broadcasters to bleep the word Obam#!@$e from now on. No one should be permitted to speak this treasonous word on the airwaves from this day forward. The FCC bans “profane” language between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., defining profanity as “including language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance.” I’d say that “Obamacare” undoubtedly fits within the boundaries of that definition. We should also vow to stop using Obam#!@$e in its original form in print and online media.

If Ohio Governor Kasich could issue a proclamation banning the letter “M” in the state due to the rivalry between the Ohio State University Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines — Kasich noted that U.S. Fish and Wildlife is considering adding wolverines to the threatened species list — the FCC ought to be able to ban the word that is threatening our health care and our very liberty, which amount to far more than a “grossly offensive nuisance.”

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Are Republicans Sabotaging Obamacare with Fraudulent Websites?

Friday, December 6th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard

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Here’s the latest chapter in The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

According to Forward Progressives:

There’s a saying that goes, “If you can’t win, cheat like hell” and it’s apparently the motto that the GOP has taken to heart across the country in their latest attempts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

What does their newest attempt involve? Creating fake websites with misinformation that look like state insurance exchanges in order to confuse consumers trying to find out what their new insurance options are under Obamacare.

Forward Progressives cites three websites recently shut down by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, including kynect101.com, which, according to the Kentucky AG, was “deceptively similar to kynect.ky.gov, Kentucky’s official health insurance exchange website….[S]ome consumers attempting to locate the site through search engines were being deceptively steered to the kynect101.com website instead of kynect.ky.gov, where they were provided false information about their options under the federal Affordable Care Act, including being informed that there were no plans with federal subsidies available to offset a portion of their insurance premiums.”

In a conspiratorial whisper, Forward Progressives blames Republicans. And what passes for proof with this crowd?

“f you were running a sabotage campaign, why not run it in a state with a fully functional health insurance exchange site and (not coincidentally) a GOP Senator who is facing a battle for re-election both from Democrats as well as from within his own party?

So apparently, as this conspiracy theory goes (if I’m following it correctly), because Kentucky is operating one of the only (mostly) functioning state exchanges in the country, Republicans, wishing to protect Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s immense Power to Control Everything have been running around creating bogus websites that would not only give Kentucky residents misinformation about their insurance options under the exchanges, but would also potentially leave their personal data in the hands of hackers. (Which, thank goodness, is totally unlike the actual Democrat-created marketplace website that gives Americans misinformation about their insurance options and leaves their personal data in the hands of hackers.) And Republicans have been doing this “across the country” according to Forward Progressives.

And you thought Bush Derangement Syndrome was bad? Progressives, usually content to wait a few years to start their revisionist history, are now revising on the fly. In their alternative reality, they’ve found a way to blame Republicans for (arguably) the most epic website failure in the history of the internet.

[Note to Sen. McConnell’s campaign: After the site was banned by the Kentucky AG, http://kynect101.com is once again available on Go Daddy for the low, low price of $69.99 plus commission.]

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