Thursday, September 26, 2013

Background radiation, muons and us!

A cell's DNA takes a direct muon hit!
Radiation coming from both the sky and the earth, in all its forms, is a fact of life here on earth. Most of it is very beneficial; we wouldn't be here were it not for the light and heat coming from the sun. some of it, however, can be harmful. Ever since humans (and all life forms for that matter) first evolved, we've been bombarded by radiation, of one type or another, both from outer space and from radioactive materials in the Earth itself. We've all seen this solar electromagnetic spectrum chart (see below), that depicts the wide range of energy that can affect us daily. Most of the energy, including the visible spectrum and everything to the left are innocuous at normal levels.

This is not the case for energy of higher frequencies found on the left side of the visible spectrum. Because they vibrate so much faster, they can ionize any organic matter that they strike. Most people know that too much exposure to UV-B waves can cause sunburns that, over a long period of time, can result in some for of cancer for an unlucky few. We are even more susceptible to X-Rays and Gamma rays, but thankfully, our thick atmosphere filters most of these out before they can reach the surface!

Were all that not enough, there are also the very harmful Cosmic particles that come to our planet either from deep space or, more infrequently, from mass corneal ejections of the sun. The majority (80%) of these particles are single protons which are simply hydrogen atoms that have been stripped of their electrons (although heavier nuclei like iron can come blasting in). They are created when a star somewhere in this or another galaxy goes nova and so ejects material at great velocities. And, since these particles have mass and are traveling at close to the speed of light, they can really pack a wallop if they hit a living cell! (Thankfully, the magnetic field around the earth helps to shield us from much of this nastiness). Of the cosmic rays that do hit the atmosphere, most smash into air molecules (most often nitrogen) and cause a billiard ball effect or 'air showers' of secondary particles (see below).

The little blue spheres are the muons!

Once again and thanks to the thickness of our atmosphere (35 miles), most of the cosmic rays never make it to the ground as their energies are absorbed by the constant collisions with other air molecules. How many do make it? On a surface of about the size of a hand, approximately one secondary particle hits every second. And of these, most are little nasties called muons which I like to think of as fat electrons. While extremely light (just 200 x's more heavy than an electron), muons can do a real number on a humans DNA over time and constitute about a third of the ionizing radiation our bodies have to deal with. [Note: The closer you live to sea level, the better. People living in mountainous areas like Denver Colorado receive over 300% more of these bad guys that those of us living lower down, like say Chicago...Sure hope the view there is worth it]!

The good news, in all this, is that we've been living with radiation ever since life evolved and have long ago developed repair mechanisms that mediate most all of the damage. Radiation dosages are often measured in Sieverts with a dose of one Sievert per year responsible for about a 5.5% increase in the rate of cancer. Here, where I live in Forsyth Missouri, the background levels of radiation are actually quite low – about .11 uSv/h (micro Sieverts per hour). That's a tenth of a thousandths of a Sievert per hour, or put another way it would take a level of 114.1 μSv/h every day for a whole year to equal a dose of just 1 Sievert! Now that's a background level of radiation I can live with!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Critique: Gorton's Grilled Tilapia!

I thought it to be way past time to try out a fish dish and so I made it a point to pick up a box or two of Gorton's Grilled Tilapia at the grocery. One of the boxes contained Tilapia which is a mainly freshwater fish that inhabits shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes and which is now grown commercially. They have been served as far back as 2000 years ago! On a good note, they are very low in mercury, and on a bad note they are not very high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Oh well...

According to the package instructions you preheat an oven to 400°F and bake them in a shallow pan for 18 to 20 minutes. Easy greasy! I like to eat my fish with a dab or two of a 'special' sauce. Interestingly this sauce was being served over 2000 years ago and is still popular today. The ingredients are mentioned in the collection of ancient Roman recipes called the Apicius and are a combination of 'liquamen (Garum), pepper, cayenne, eggs, lemon, olive oil, white wine, anchovies, onions, tarragon, pickled cucumbers, parsley, chervil, hard boiled eggs, capers, green peppers and mustard. Give up? We call it tartar sauce and, like the ancient Romans, I feel it is a must have addition whenever I eat fish!

After cooking, I sat down at the dinner table, added a bit of the aforementioned sauce and dug in. (For a side, I had prepared a package of 'country mix' vegetables which I thought added greatly to the overall look of this dish)! The calories for just the fish came in at a modest 80. I also got 25 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids which was better than a sharp stick in the eye and the taste was really quite good. I gave this Gorton's fish offering a solid 8 and will plan on making their fish offerings a regular item on my table.

Monday, September 16, 2013

There be 12 of us apes dancing tonight!

There was a time when I was one of the apes!

We do not need any love on this planet - Dof Codo!

Original real video was circa 1983. A better time for everyone! Fast, forward, then to 2019. And, Dof Codo is becoming more meaningful to me every day vis a vie the insanity we all see!  Dieser Song ist Eva Libre denen ich arbeitete mit so langer gehen gewidmet!

Brain-eating amoeba attacking New Orleans!

Naegleria fowleri amoeba
Just when you thought it safe to travel back on down to the Big Easy, officials have discovered a brain eating amoeba in the water supply.

Test results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the Naegleria fowleri amoeba was found in four locations of the St. Bernard Parish water system, the state Department of Health and Hospitals announced Thursday. Ground zero is St. Bernard Parish, a suburb of New Orleans, after the state linked the amoeba to the encephalitis death of the child, a 4-year-old boy from Mississippi who was visiting a home in the parish.

Boil your water and avoid getting any in your nose, warned one health official. Apparently that's how this monster makes inside the body where it can find easy transport to the brain. Officials caution that this brain dissolving organism can now be found 'all over'.

Critique: Lean Gourmet Salisbury Steak

At just 180 calories, you'd think that no matter how good or bad it might taste, this would be a great entrée for anyone grinding through a diet. And, please don't get me wrong. 'Taters and meatloaf' are alrighty with me – true comfort foods that they are. (But, at a mere 213 grams, just be prepared for not all that much comfort)!

You'll note that the picture on the package looks pretty enticing. Those heaping mashed potatoes and that big old hunk of meat! Wow! I may have to loosen my belt a notch for this meal! But, then, things begin to go a little bit sideways...

The directions, which are on the back of the package, ask you to grasp a corner and lift to vent the meal. OK... You then are supposed to nuke the whole thing for 3 minutes at which point you need to remove the package, open the top and stir them that potaters. The problem is, by that point, I'd forgotten the rest of the instructions and had to lift the whole thing carefully over my head to read them – awkward! Ah, yes – the instructions continue by asking that you re-close the lid (hard to do) and then nuke it for another 2 minutes to finish the cooking cycle. Well, in order to keep that lid closed I had to place a plat on top of it! A heads up Michelina – please consider putting them instructions on the front of the package and rework the lid so it doesn't want to curl up! Duh!

Well, here is the finished meal! (It reminded me of my last ugly date)! You'll note I stuck a piece of toast in there as otherwise this deal
would look like an abortion that had been left out in the sun awhile. And, while the taste wasn't all that bad (score it a 7), I don't feel it was worth the money.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Critique: Chicken Margherita by Healthy Choice!

Take a pass unless you like overcooked pasta!
This frozen TV dinner from Healthy Choice informs me in no uncertain terms... 'Attention all taste buds! This deliciously inspired dish marries juicy chicken breast tenderloins with al dente angel hair pasta, roasted garlic and tomatoes, and a rich balsamic vinaigrette sauce. It’s a meal worth savoring and without a single preservative.' Wow! Now that's some recommendation. And,at a sale price of just $2.50 each, I felt I just had to gloom one up and take it home for dinner.

Nutritionally, this is not a bad deal. Like most all of the Healthy Choice line of frozen meals, you're talking both low calories and low salt. Two items that are important to most every obese American (which is most Americans now a days).

After nuking this meal for 4 minutes and then eating it, I'd give the whole affair a middling score of 7. The main problem – the pasta was overdone! That fact took down my overall enjoyment considerably. If the pasta problem ever gets fixed, it would be a pretty good meal deal.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Five things President Obama hasn't done wrong!

To obfuscate – verb. To render obscure, unclear or unintelligible

Taking unearned credit for the accomplishments of others!

Whenever a great events happens, like the take down of Osama Bin Laden, for instance, Obama has never mentioned himself, but rather is always praising Seal Team 6. 'My' is not a word in his vocabulary! Atta-a-boy prez!

Pointing a finger at others when he was at fault!

Our boy stands right up and makes that buck stop at his desk. I'd mention NRAgate, IRSgate and Bengazigate just to mention a few of the times when he really took it on the chin and accepted full blame. Can you believe this guy? This man needs another Nobel prize, toute sweet!

Waffling as the Commander and Chief!

When that 'red line' got crossed in Syria, our boy took immediate and crafty doing nothing. That a boy O'Bamer! After all, it wasn't really his red line, now was it?

Put the kabash on America's energy future.

When it comes to caution, you have to give it up for da Man. Take that bad old pipeline coming down from Canada, for instance. For five years now, he's been the only bastion of dissent in a sea of overwhelming acceptance even by the likes of the EPA. This man of detail wants to 'study' it some more. Is it any wonder that Americans everywhere love and adore this icon of a man?

Thrown America's healthcare to the wolves!

Who else but someone like Barry would craft such a gem of a document as is the Affordable Healthcare Act. Just reading it will tend to make your jaw drop as you discover many of its inner complexities. It's good to know that everyone will be so well taken care of... And, gosh he's still got another two more years to help fundamentally change our collective arses. I wonder what he'll do next?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fast and easy spaghetti sauce for two!

Cheap and under 200 calories!

Like many other people, I've purchased the ready made bottles of spaghetti sauce like Prego and Ragu which taste great! But, since I live alone, I always end up placing that expensive leftover sauce in the fridge only to throw it out some time later. A real waste, in my opinion.

Nowadays I've licked that problem by making my own sauce (enough for two) on the fly with little, if any, fuss or muss. Here are the ingredients:

Could maybe use some sliced mushrooms
8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 tbsp onion, minced
1 tbsp bell pepper, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried basil
1 tsp olive oil
3 tbsp white wine

I make this by heating a small frying pan over medium heat, adding the oil and then the onions, peppers and garlic. I allow this to cook for a few minutes until the onion is just translucent. Next, I add in the tomato sauce and the herbs. The wine is added to just dilute the sauce a bit and the the sauce is reduced to the proper consistency (about ten minutes). Voilà! You have a perfectly great tasting sauce that cost just a few cents!

Sunbathing is so back in!

After decades of being told to avoid the sun by many doctors and the media, now some leading researchers are telling us just the opposite!

The problem began back in the 70's when everyone was warned of the dangers of getting too much sun and then all those 'sun blocker lotions' hit the market. As a nation, we began to really take all this to heart and collectively moved from the outdoors into electronic 'man caves' where we've been lurking ever since. (If you think I'm wrong, just take a hard look at how pasty white everyone looks at the local market)! As a result, many of us (especially dark skinned individuals) are not getting enough vitamin D, a substance that is now thought to be one of the best anticancer agents ever discovered! How bad is it? Well, according to the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), some '600,000 cases of breast and colorectal cancers could be prevented each year if everyone would just maintain effective levels of vitamin D3'!

So, how's it made (for techno's)?

Although vitamin D is firmly enshrined as one of the four fat-soluble vitamins, it is not technically a vitamin. True, it’s essential for health, and only minuscule amounts are required. But it breaks the other rules for vitamins because it’s produced in the human body, it’s absent from all natural foods except fish and egg yolks, and even when it’s obtained from foods, it must be transformed by the body before it can do any good.

Vitamin D is not one chemical but many. The natural type is produced in the skin from a universally present form of cholesterol, 7-dehydrocholesterol. Sunlight is the key: Its ultraviolet B (UVB)
energy converts the precursor to vitamin D3. In contrast, most dietary supplements are manufactured by exposing a plant sterol to ultraviolet energy, thus producing vitamin D2. Because their function is almost identical, D2 and D3 are lumped together under the name vitamin D — but neither will function until the body works its magic (see graphic).

The first stop is in the liver, where vitamin D picks up extra oxygen and hydrogen molecules to become 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25(OH)D. This is the chemical that doctors should measure to diagnose vitamin D deficiencies. But although 25(OH)D is used for diagnosis, it can’t function until it travels to the kidney. There it acquires a final pair of oxygen and hydrogen molecules to become 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D; scientists know this active form of the vitamin as 1,25(OH)2D, or calcitriol, but for ordinary folks, like you and me, the name vitamin D is accurate enough. [ Harvard Health Publications].

What can be taken away from this last techno-babble is that, absent your ability to get enough sun, you could take a Vitamin D supplement! But, be forewarned that this may or may not do as good a job as the old sol. Even the venerable Readers Digest has suggested; 'Get a little sun. Just 10 to 15 minutes of midday sunshine (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) several days a week may do the trick (apply sunscreen after those few minutes)'. Sounds like fine advice to me!