Monday, August 18, 2014

Today's World - Riots & Ice Buckets

In Ferguson, Missouri, hoards of people are hitting the streets to protest the recent shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man who was shot by Darren Wilson (28), a local police officer.

On August 9th, Michael and a friend of his, Dorian Johnson (22) were walking down the middle of Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Missouri when officer Wilson pulled up and ordered them to step over to the sidewalk since they were jaywalking.

Ten minutes before this incident happened, the two boys were caught on videotape robbing Ferguson Market a few blocks away on West Florissant Avenue. Apparently, the boys refused to moved to the sidewalk and this seemed to anger the police officer. Neighbors reported hearing the screeching of brakes and tires as Wilson backed up to enforce his request. This is apparently when a struggle took place with one bullet being fired inside or into the squad car. Eye-witnesses report that at this point, the boys began to run away, but officer Wilson kept shooting.

However, Dr. Michael Bayden, a well-known but former chief medical examiner for the city of New York stated in his autopsy report that all 6 shots that were fired towards Michael were fired into the front of his body, twice in the head and 4 times in his right arm. The fatal shot was fired into the top of Michael's head. The first shot into Michael's head was through his right eye, came out his jaw and into his collarbone. He was 6 ft. 4 in. and weighed 292 pounds.

These events horrified the residents of this small St. Louis suburb and many have taken to the streets in protest of the police officer's actions. Speculation on both sides of the coin has it that possibly the officer was still shooting at Michael even after he had been hit and was down. On the other hand, others contend that he may have been falling to the ground while officer Wilson was quick firing. In either case, the fact remains that Michael was unarmed when he received the fatal shot.

The police report says that Michael was struggling with the officer for his gun. Eyewitnesses say that Michael simply was shoving the officer back into his police car. I guess we'll let the jury decide. Adding insult to the injury of this small town nightmare is the looting and rioting that's taking place. Many residents have expressed the fact that they suspect these latter events are being conducted by out-of-towners that have come to town simply to stir up trouble and make the difficult job of executing justice in this case even harder.

In other parts of the country, celebrities and commoners alike are videotaping themselves with icy buckets of water being poured over their heads for the purpose of raising money to benefit ALS. ALS or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease is a fatal disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord causing the deterioration of voluntary and involuntary muscle movements such as speaking, swallowing and breathing.

This is called the Ice Bucket Challenge, whereby individuals post these ice dumping videos to their Facebook pages and then tag a friend or friends challenging them to do the same or else make a donation to ALS. The hope is that many people will make the video for fun, to spread awareness for the illness and to inspire motivation to join the challenge and then make a donation as well.  As of today, the ALS's website, alsa.org reports that $15.6 million has been donated to help fight the disease due to this challenge.

A sincere expression of sympathy goes out to the family of Michael Brown for their very tragic loss and a sincere hope that the residents of Ferguson will find some comfort and peace very soon. With things heating up in Ferguson, one might wonder if a bucket of icy water would do some of the troublemakers there some good.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Instagram - Is It The New Facebook?

Teenagers these days seem to be spending a lot of their time posting selfies to Instagram. One such teenager was asked if they still use Facebook. Her reply was, "Not so much. Facebook is full of commercials...and old people. I like Instagram better 'cause I can see my friends pictures and they can see mine without the other junk."

It's true that Facebook is now being used by just about every business that exists to promote their products or services online through something called Social Advertising or Social Media. Just about every website you visit these days has a Facebook icon where you can share this page or product on your Facebook status.

Not only Facebook, but Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and many other social media sites offer the option to share website pages on your home page of that particular social media site. Instagram is still young in its popularity, so teenagers have the "court" so-to-speak to share and interact with their friends without all the commercial ads.

The basic premise of Instagram is similar to Facebook and many other social media sites. You open an account. It's free to do so. You are encouraged to connect with your friends. You can do this by searching for their username or real name. Once connected, you start posting pictures. This is likely the main difference between Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook is mostly about typing what's on your mind, whereas Instagram is mostly about posting pictures. Either one of these actions can be done on either site, it's just that the focus seems to be different for each site. Facebook pages do seem to be getting bogged down with less original comments from their owners and more copied content from other people's pages.

What's the name of that other social media site that used to be popular? Oh yeah...MySpace. You don't hear much about that one anymore. Wikipedia has a list of popular social networking sites. The list is in alphabetical order and the first 100 only makes it to the "J's". That page also explains that there is another page linked to this page that lists all the defunct social networking sites.

Humans are social creatures and apparently they love to connect with other humans. And making a profit off of human emotions can be a big business. And now with Instagram, profits are being made off of human vanity. It's just too much fun to take a picture of yourself. So everybody is doing it. Why even Kim Kardashian is selling a book that contains nothing but selfies in it. 

In April of this year, Instagram boasted that they now have over 200 million users. That's a lot of selfies.




Sunday, August 10, 2014

Book Review: The K-Frost Caper by James Blakley

The K-Frost Caper is an approximately 194 page mystery/crime story written by James Blakley and published by Inkwater Press. Most of the story takes place in sunny Miami, Florida where Luna Nightcrow, an insurance fraud investigator works to uncover the truth about what appears to be insurance fraud and a possible missing person's case. Her talents are showcased to us in the first chapter as she recovers for the insurance company a valuable 19th century Cherokee talisman. We learn of her guts and bravery as she faces her informant's murderer in a dark alley in a small gambling town in Oklahoma.

Despite her tough exterior, she reveals an occasional tender side when she expresses loneliness even if it's only to us as the reader. Even though her physical description is only referred to as cinnamon colored skin and long raven hair, it's hard not to assume that she must be strikingly beautiful. I did note what seemed to me as some inconsistencies in her character development.

In her first scene, she is described as wearing a black bolero jacket, jeans and boots, typical attire, I guess for a casino in Oklahoma. But then when she is on her next assignment in Miami, she is described as wearing a navy pantsuit, pink scoop neck top, heels and bling and later a gray skirt, pink shell and heels. (I guess she likes pink) When she gets into real field work, she wears jeans, a t-shirt and tennis shoes. With these drastic differences, I found it hard to get a feel for her character. She seemed like a simple girl on some occasions, eating biscuits and gravy for breakfast, but on other occasions, she would relax into first class on a flight and sip espresso. Maybe that was the point. Maybe she was a quandary of sorts.

As mentioned earlier, it was easy to assume at first that she was beautiful, so I was disappointed when the author speaks about her "love handles" when she goes swimming in the hotel pool. I wondered then if she had a bit of middle aged chubbiness. The most striking things about her character were her bravery and guts. She didn't seem to have any fear approaching what one would think would be dangerous situations. Of course, she did carry a .38 sometimes and always a 650,000 volt stun gun.

Mr. Blakley slowly develops an exciting romance between Luna and the detective (Tiago) who meets her at the airport and brings her to the police station to brief her on the case. The sexual tension that builds between them is pretty cool and although there is no graphic sex in the book, the relationship  between them is somewhat steamy and engaging. You definitely find yourself hoping that things will work out between them. Additionally, there is only mild language and some descriptive violence but not so much that I would call it graphic or gore.

There are plenty of characters to learn and sometimes it was a big confusing as to who was who. I had to go back and reread a page or two to remind myself who Ms. Crossley was. They were a couple of times that I thought I had figured out who was the villian(s) and then I was wrong. So, the suspense was there all the way until the last chapter. I also liked the way that the action sequences would burst out of nowhere maybe at a point when you might be thinking that the story was getting "slow". Those instances kept me reading until I finished the book in three days.

There were some scenes of predictability. Like when Luna and Tiago go to meet with Quinn Wu who has some information for them. I pretty much expected the outcome that is presented. As to the title: K-Frost Caper, this is explained early in the book. The subject of the insurance fraud investigation is a man named Kelvin Frost who applies for life insurance in Alabama, drowns without a body being found and then applies for life insurance again in Florida. But when Luna gets there, it is told to her that a man named Kelvin Frost was murdered just prior to her coming. A previous insurance investigator who was sent before Luna is also missing, so actually the story is a big mysterious mess that Luna has to be sharp enough to sort through it all without getting hurt herself.

I noticed in the reading a couple of typos and a few grammatical errors. Also, there is some Spanish spoken by one of the characters that is not explained and that is a bit frustrating.  But Mr. Blakley's writing style is deliciously engaging and wonderfully creative. I gave the book a 4 out of 5 star review on Amazon.com. This is an honest, paid-for review.

The K-Frost Caper by James Blakley



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

ZMapp Cure for Ebola - So, Why 932 Dead?

News reports for the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are claiming that the death toll so far for this horrible, worst ever in history Ebola virus outbreak has reached 932 only six months after the first reported case in February. It now appears to be spreading at an alarming rate with over 1600 infected.

But as soon as two Americans got infected, emergency doses of the experimental drug ZMapp were administered, the patients were flown out of the country and they appear to be recovering well in an Atlanta hospital. Meanwhile, many more West Africans are continuing to be infected from this dreadful virus and dying faster than body bags can be shipped into the country.

The Ebola virus symptoms are very similar to many other illnesses, starting with fever, rash, sore throat, headaches, body aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It quickly moves onto internal bleeding, respiratory failure and death. It is not an air-borne virus. It can only be contracted through direct contact from bodily fluids like sweat, blood, urine, saliva and semen.

Mapp Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. developed the drug known as ZMapp by combining laboratory developed tobacco proteins with mice antibody cells and a couple of other older drugs. The testing of certain components of this drug on monkeys infected with Ebola showed great promise, but clinical trials on humans weren't planned until next year.

The two American patients, Dr. Kent Brantly and Ms. Nancy Writebol agreed along with their doctors in Liberia to try the drug despite the potential for unknown risks. So this was a selective situation on two people who knew the risks and considered the alternative to be worse knowing that there is an over 70% fatality rate with the Ebola virus. However, the FDA has not given approval for wide distribution.

It has given an emergency approval for an Ebola test, but not for distribution of the drug itself. Mapp Bio. isn't even ready for the drug to go through clinical trials yet, never mind seek approval from the FDA for dispensing. Even when that does happen, approval and permission to dispense in West Africa has to go through the offices of the Ministry of Health Ethical Committee in each country that wants the drug.

This overwhelming "red tape" process will likely cost the lives of many West Africans. And the World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed great concern that this outbreak could very well become a global threat. Will the process for getting the drug approved be speeded up if that happens? Time will tell. A bigger concern might be...what are the side effects of this drug going to be? (Hopefully not more suicidal thoughts and tendencies)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Blood - Is Yours Thick or Thin?

You know the old saying, "Blood is thicker than water"? Of course, that saying applies to the loyalty among blood relatives. And it's true that in most cases, relationships between family members are "thicker" and stronger than most other relationships. But in a literal, physical sense, blood can be too thick.

Normal, healthy individuals should have a blood thickness that makes it flow through the veins and arteries without forming blood clots too easily. On the other hand, blood shouldn't be too thin so as to spring a leak that can't be stopped. People have died from something as simple as a nosebleed that just wouldn't stop bleeding. Blood containing too many platelets can form a clot too easily, too few platelets and the opposite happens.

According to nih.gov, your blood should be just thick enough to form a clot in something that is measured as an INR (international normalized ratio). It's about the time, usually seconds, that it takes for your blood to form a clot. This is called Prothrombin time. Healthy people's blood should form a clot between 11 and 13.5 seconds. This would translate into an INR of 0.8 to 1.1.

If a doctor has determined that your blood is too thick and you are running a risk of forming a dangerous blood clot, then he might likely put you on a medication called Coumadin or Warfarin. It is basically rat poison in a pharmaceutical form. It works to thin your blood. If your doctor prescribes one of these medications, your INR likely needs to stay between 2.0 and 3.0.

Most people taking these medicines have to have their INR checked either weekly or monthly, because it can make your blood too thin. In that case, then the doctor will adjust your medication to bring that number down. The higher the INR number, the thinner your blood is.

Most doctors will tell their patients not to eat dark, leafy green vegetables like broccoli or spinach while taking Coumadin. This is because these vegetables are rich in Vitamin K. This vitamin works against Coumadin by making your blood thicker and easier to clot. If your blood gets too thin, then a dark, leafy green salad might do the trick.

There are some foods that naturally make your blood thin. For example, strawberries, blueberries, onions, garlic, cinnamon, paprika, olive oil and oregano to name a few. These fruits and vegetables contain an ingredient known as salicylates that naturally thins the blood. Do you recognize that word? Maybe because it's the main ingredient in aspirin.

Everybody knows that aspirin is a blood thinner. How many times have you heard a doctor tell you before surgery not to take an aspirin two weeks before surgery? Or how the TV commercials that sell aspirin talk about how it can save your life during a heart attack? That's because it's a blood thinner.

So, if the main ingredient in aspirin is salicylate, would it be possible to eat a bowl of strawberries to overcome a headache? Well, the funny thing about some fruits and vegetables like strawberries is that they also contain Vitamin K, the blood thickener. The original Danish word for coagulation (blood clotting) is spelled with a "K", thus the name Vitamin K.

Exercise is also something that thins the blood. So does Vitamin D that you get from sunlight and Vitamin E that you get from many vegetables like spinach and broccoli.  But, didn't we just learn earlier that spinach and broccoli contain Vitamin K, the blood thickener? Yes, we did. It depends on which ingredient the food has  more of.

Eating yogurt or other cultured foods thicken the blood because they help form Vitamin K in the intestinal tract . Omega-3 rich fish is a blood thinner, but some types of fish are too high in mercury to eat very often. Are you confused yet? You should be.

I think it's about achieving a perfect balance which is obviously very hard to do unless you have your INR checked daily. That would probably thin your blood just from all the finger pricks. Probably the best advice (unless you already have a blood condition that warrants a doctor's care) is to eat plenty of a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, proteins and spices, get plenty of sunshine and exercise daily.

But, it seems like we've all heard that before.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

This is my hottest selling item on eBay right now

This is a Jon & Anna of New York crepe chiffon dress featuring a rounded hem. It comes with a scoop neckline, is sleeveless and has a hidden elasticized waist. The lining makes it cool and comfortable. The woven 100% polyester material makes it beautiful.

The length of this dress falls to the knee. Measured from size Medium - 34" - 44" approximate length from high point shoulder to hem. This dress comes in four colors to choose from: Coral, Green, Black and Purple. Bust measurements for small are 34-36, medium 37-38, large 39-40 and XL 41-42.

Own this dress in your favorite color for a very affordable $13.50 and it comes with free shipping. Be smart and beautiful!

Oh Most Powerful Internet...Take Me To This Dress!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Litter Laughter - Funny or not?

Recently, my husband and I were driving across the Howard Franklin bridge that spans across the Tampa Bay in southwest Florida. We were enjoying the bright sunshine and the cool, crisp breezes. My husband handed me an apple to snack on while we finished our trip, so I heartily began chomping.

After a few minutes, I finished the apple and lowered my window to toss the core out into the bay. I didn't give that action any further thought. My husband spoke up and scolded me. "You're going to get a ticket!" he complained. I thought about it for a moment and then I offered my defense.

I explained to him that apple cores decompose and so because of that fact, it was not illegal to throw them out the window. He shook his head and said that he disagreed with me. I assured him that I was right, after all I was right most of the time whenever we had a disagreement.

Then, he turned to me and said in a rather frustrated tone, "Dead bodies decompose too, but would it be okay to throw one of those out the window?" LOL! My daughter was riding in the car with us and we both cracked up laughing at his comment for the next ten minutes.

Well, it turns out that my husband is right after all. It IS against the law to throw any trash out the window of your vehicle whether it's biodegradable or not. And the fines can be pretty hefty ranging from $500 to $1000 or more. And even if it wasn't illegal to throw these items out the window, it's a dangerous decision to make that just might cost someone's life.

These food items take longer than you think to biodegrade. An apple core, banana or orange peel can take up to six months to completely decompose. And while they are decomposing, they can attract rodents and maybe even larger animals to creep near to the road and possibly cause an accident.

Moral to the story: Sometimes your husband is right.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The GoPro Hero Series High Definition Camera Lets You Take An Extra Eye Along For The Journey

No more telling fish stories about the one "that got away". No more chasing tornadoes and worrying about getting too close for comfort. No more coming back to town and telling folks that you missed Sasquatch...again.

And if you're friends don't believe you when you tell them that you went to Spain and ran with the bulls, simply strap a GoPro camera on the back of your head and run like the wind!

The GoPro high definition camera is lightweight, rugged, waterproof and can be mounted just about anywhere. Youtube videos are running wild with films about cameras being strapped to the backs of eagles.

Sky jumpers are videotaping in groups of 30 or more so you can share in the exhilarating experience with them. It's hard not to feel excited and breathless when taking in these views literally from the eyes of the outrageous beholder.

With dimensions of about the size of a business card and weighing in at about a half pound, the 35 mm GoPro camera was first released for mass production in 2005. It is now available as a digital camera. Inventor, Designer and Producer of the GoPro camera is Nick Woodman.

Woodman raised money for his company selling belts made out of sea shells and beads from the back of his VW van. He got the idea from a surfing trip in 2002 to Australia when he was hoping to catch photos of his surfing but no photographer could seem to get close enough to him to capture his essence.

So, as history would tell it, necessity is the mother of invention. There are several varieties of the GoPro Hero cameras, some with standard definition and others with high definition, some with 3 megapixels and others with 5 megapixels and still others can shoot stills up to 12 megapixels and able to capture 4K digital video. The camera comes with a self-timer, continuous shooting and the ability to shoot upside down, has low light capability and includes WiFi remote.

The Hero3+ Silver and Black Editions run $299 and $399 respectively. The company's website also sells mounts, accessories and software. 

Imagine how the face and the eyes for that matter, of journalism will change in the future because of this camera's capabilities.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Book Review - Climate Control by Robert Penfold

Climate Control is 31 chapters long and is written by Robert Penfold. This author's writing style is not quite as smooth and flowing as some authors, but his ability to tell a story with elaborate detail is unquestionable. There were a couple of typos and grammatical errors, but basically the writing was good.

Mr. Penfold began by giving me a thorough description of the story's characters. The story revolves around Mark Langham and his beautiful wife Emma, along with her father Simon. As I read through the first few chapters, I gradually gathered the picture on their jobs, their personal tastes and their personalities. The Climate Control system was designed by Mark to break up threatening weather by the use of satellites and the earth's electromagnetic force.

The couple live in Manhattan, New York at present, but they originally met in Maryland where Mark worked as a meteorologist for NASA . Mark is now a young, retired NASA employee who designed the Climate Control system that is now owned by the UN, but he remains on the payroll as a consultant. He comes across to me as a normally quiet, peaceful person who avoids the limelight.

His wife Emma is a TV news reporter and anchor person who is ambitious in her career and lively in her personality. This position puts her in danger as the story progresses. Her retired military father is strong and steady and devoted to his daughter. Emma's mother had recently deceased. It is assumed that Mark's parents have deceased.

The story starts out calm and normal with nothing out of the ordinary as time unfolds with descriptions of everything from how the couple met, how the Climate Control system got started and works, what their apartment looks like to what a normal day for them is. In the midst of ordinary descriptions, I was blindsided by a shocking development. I realized that something terrible had just happened and I sat up in my chair holding my breath while I read.

That chapter ends with a couple of kidnappings and some uncertainty as to their safety and in the next chapter, it's back to calm and ordinary descriptions of how Simon's day is going with his daily routine and kindness being showed to his neighbors, etc. Next, you are in Mark's shoes again with an important presentation he has been asked to give at the UN concerning the Climate Control system and it's 3 deployed satellites. But, he is unaware of the crime being committed as he speaks.

When the presentation is over, Mark is heading back to his penthouse apartment when he receives a very disturbing phone call from a group called the Desert Rain Alliance that puts him into survival and rescue mode. Mark along with the President, FBI, CIA and a couple of other organizations come up with a plan to give them what they want and stall them at the same time. The plan works to free the prisoners, but it also backfires at the same time so that now the terrorists have control of one of the Climate Control system's satellites.

Tragic weather begins to happen in the middle eastern tourist area of the Israeli Red Sea and surrounding areas as the terrorists who had once had seemingly noble ideas and plans for bringing relief to their world began to feel the power they now possessed.  A great deal of description goes into these scenes of a once travelers paradise into the vacation from hell. When the Israeli government fires missiles toward the UN's Climate Control satellite in retaliation, I couldn't help but wonder if these terrorists had inadvertently started a war.

The next step of the terrorist's plan is to teach the Americans a lesson for not giving them prior control of the system and for stalling them in their plots. Danger lies ahead for New York City and Mark has to get control back of the satellite or else destroy it, which is what the President and his security council wants to do. As a massive hurricane begins to hit the big apple, I could literally feel the panic in the descriptions of mass hysteria. I felt sorry for Mark as he had to sit helplessly by and watch this disaster unfolding before his eyes.

Finally, when the storm has almost passed over, missiles are fired towards the Climate Control satellite and it is destroyed. At this point, I thought that the story was near the end, but this is only chapter 23. The government presents a solution that is heartbreaking to Mark and he is forced to carry out their instructions. I thought the story was near over again, but then something very wonderful and exciting happens to the reunited couple and I was sure at this point that the story was about to present its happy ending. However, a few years pass and the face of danger comes knocking on their door again!

There is only a tiny bit of mild language in this book, there is no sexual content, but there are some graphic descriptions of violence. Also, since the writer is from the UK, there are some words common to that country that some Americans might not know or be familiar with, but I did not feel that it distracted from the story. I gave the book a 4 star review on Amazon.com.

To find out what happens, read...

Climate Control by Robert Penfold

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dopamine - Why Do We Need It? Where Can We Get It Naturally?

Dopamine is an organic chemical that is very important to humans both in the brain and nervous system and in the proper function of many body organs. It is formed in the body by removing a type of organic amino acid from a molecule of L-DOPA, leaving an organic compound or derivative of ammonia. L-DOPA is made in the body by a process called biosynthesis. One method of this conversion is through an amino acid called tyrosine which is found in high protein foods such as meat, eggs, nuts, cheese, milk and soy products. In the body, it gets converted to L-DOPA* by a certain enzyme and then that converts to Dopamine in the neurons in the brain by a different enzyme.

If you were to inject Dopamine directly into the blood stream, it would not raise the amount in your brain because Dopamine cannot cross from the bloodstream into brain cells. This is called the blood-brain barrier. Sufficient amounts of Dopamine flow through your blood stream, but it depends on other acids and enzymes to be converted for brain cell use. Once these chemicals are converted to Dopamine in the brain cells, it can then be very useful for memory, muscle control, mood, sexuality and the prevention of pain and nausea. It even promotes proper lactation in females as well as preventing some severe PMS/PMDD symptoms.

While Dopamine is still in the blood stream, it is beneficial to several organ systems. For instance, Dopamine tells the kidneys to excrete excess salt and urine helping to maintain better kidney health. In the pancreas, Dopamine regulates insulin production thereby helping to control type II diabetes. In the digestive tract, it slows digestion and protects the intestinal lining. In the immune system, Dopamine acts to keep viral infections at bay by lowering the amount of a certain type of white blood cell. In the circulatory system, it acts as a vasodilator, possibly preventing or treating migraines and aneurysms.

Unnatural substances used to increase Dopamine levels in the brain are pharmaceutical drugs. Most of these drugs are stimulants such as Ritalin, Cocaine, Cycloset (for diabetes II) and other amphetamines. These medicines were designed to raise Dopamine levels in the brain and are many times used to treat ADHD, depression, and Parkinson's Disease. Natural places to get Dopamine include bananas as the highest source as well as potatoes, avocados, broccoli and brussel sprouts. However, the Dopamine in these fruits and vegetables are useless in the brain without the synthesis to L-DOPA which is found in velvet beans and broad beans. You can purchase velvet bean extract in a herb form called Mucuna pruriens.

Another herb that may be helpful with regard to Dopamine levels is Chasteberry. There is a necessary balance between Dopamine and hormone levels and that's why this herb has been found to be very helpful with symptoms related to PMS/PMDD. However, this herb should not be taken with medications for Parkinson's Disease because Dopamine requires a perfect balance in the brain and too much of a good thing can cause problems like schizophrenia, insomnia and hallucinations. And according to nih.gov, stress lowers dopamine levels too, so it's wise to try to live as calm a life as possible.

In summary, yes, we need Dopamine for many reasons both psychologically and physically and we can get it naturally in bananas and then we can convert it from L-DOPA in broad beans or with the herb Mucuna pruriens. Or, for our meat lover's audience, we can get tyrosine from meat, cheese, eggs, nuts, etc. and then that will convert to L-DOPA and then to Dopamine. It's also interesting to note that Psychology Today, in an article published in April of 2011 entitled Exercise, Pleasure and the Brain points out that exercise can increase Dopamine levels.

In conclusion, we should eat healthy food and exercise. Is this a new concept? Maybe to some.

*The L in L-DOPA refers to the counterclockwise rotation of the molecules in this compound.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review - Bloodsmoke by Rio Ramirez

The story takes place in Southern Florida on the gulf side coastal region near Longboat Key and Anna Maria island. The tropical setting is inviting even though the author has it that his main character seems to abhor the heat, humidity and the locals. 

The author has a unique writing style with many wonderful descriptions. He obviously loves the use of many words even to the point that sometimes I had to read a particular sentence a couple of times to understand what he was saying. 

Mr. Ramirez possesses a very contemporary, modern writing style that reminds me a lot of Lisa Gardner's books. Although I liked his edge of your seat and riveting way of descriptions, I also had some difficulty liking this story. 

The book contains some erotica that I was uncomfortable with. It came across to me as cheap and uncaring.

The hero (Tommy Darlington) is a paid assassin hired by a secret society. His front jobs include being an artist by day and a taxi driver by night. He describes a woman (Rachel) as the love of his life, but he doesn't seem to have much respect for women. He describes "releasing her from her virginal chains" at 23 years old as if women view their virginity as oppressive and need to be released. 

He then refers to this love of his life as a robotic sex goddess. These statements made it difficult for me to be convinced that she was truly the love of his life. The hero also came across to me as a bit egotistical. He talks about how young girls zero in on his muscled forearms.

Tommy coldly kills for $175,000 a pop and then suffers a measure of guilt if the target appeared to be a nice guy. It was difficult for me to like him or relate to his character. It also appeared that the hero had a side hobby of killing off pimps because they mistreat women. This came across to me as a contradiction of character because at the end of chapter 3, he murdered a young girl who he viewed as a "loose end". The relationship between the hero and heroine was also disturbing to me. They go from hateful, foul-mouthed insults and fighting to cheap sex and then back to insults again. 

At some point in the story, Tommy begins to rebel against the men who pay him and when he is discovered, is on the run with his girlfriend Rachel. Tommy is very aware of "the old man" Viktor's ability to be ruthless because he called Tommy over to his place once to witness the murder of his handler Alfred. Tommy and "the old man" exchange chit chat while watching poor Alfred get chewed to bits in an alligator pit.

Later in the book, Tommy, condemns "the old man" for flaunting his casual disregard for human life. This seems a bit hypocritical to me. Later, Rachel gets kidnapped and beaten brutally not once, but twice. Sensitive readers like myself might have a hard time with that.There's a bit of gore in his hit assignments and his taking of revenge on the couple who first kidnap Rachel. At first, you think he is describing their death and then he talks about them waving goodbye and inviting him to come visit them in Belize. Was that whole gory description just his imagination? I'm not sure. Maybe he imagined their ghosts after he killed them.  Again, I'm not sure what actually happened there.

If you are sensitive to language, there are quite a few "f" bombs throughout the book. I have respect for the author's intelligence and his very descriptive writing style, it's just a bit hard core for my taste.

Bad things happen to Tommy and readers wonder throughout the book if true justice will ever be served.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Let's Talk About Popcorn, Coca-Cola and Bezoars

I love popcorn...a lot. To me, you just can't go to into a movie theater and sit down to enjoy a great movie without popcorn. If I don't have enough money for popcorn, then I don't go to the movies. It's just that critical. I think it might be because that's the first thing you smell when you enter the lobby of a movie theater -hot, buttery popcorn. Even just sitting at home watching a movie inspires the idea of putting in a bag of microwave popcorn (with movie theater butter of course) to enjoy along with the movie. If there are several nights in a row of watching movies, then that might mean eating popcorn several nights in a row.

Here's where the problem comes in. I recently had a bought of intestinal distress -severe cramps, fever, and a couple of other symptoms that I will spare you the description of. In my case, it turned out to be a simple stomach flu. But, when something like this happens, I always take to the internet to research possible causes. I came across a discussion thread about popcorn and one participant presented the comment that his uncle suffered from a Bezoar in his intestinal tract from eating too much popcorn. He had to have surgery to have it removed. Could this be true? And what the heck is a Bezoar?

According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health's website (nlm.nih.gov), a Bezoar (pronounced BEE-zor) is a lump or mass of undigested particles that lodges in the stomach, appendix, intestines or colon and refuses to pass. It can cause pain, fever, nausea, diarrhea, bleeding and further infection. These sometimes have to be surgically removed. Bezoars can consist of many different things. For example, some items that typically have trouble digesting and can form Bezoars are fruit or vegetable fibers, pith or pits, hair, seeds, bubble gum, soil or fine gravel, dehydrated milk solids, any small item that a child might swallow and yes...popcorn fibers.

Apparently, it's the tiny clear, yellowish seed coat called hulls that cover the kernel that are the most likely to form into Bezoars. There are pre-packaged varieties without this shell fiber that are typically sold in most grocery stores. Riehle's Select makes five varieties of gourmet, GMO free, hulless popcorn. Their website explains that this variety is actually a very tiny kernel that when popped, the hulls almost completely disintegrate, making it much easier to digest. Another good one is Tender Pop, also GMO-free and gourmet.

If unripe persimmons are a huge part of your diet, then you might have to worry about getting a Phytobezoar. This a a type of Bezoar that is formed from a chemical in the fruit called shibuol that binds with the acid in your stomach to form a hardened mass that cannot be digested. Phytobezoars are especially hard and difficult to dissolve or pass, more so than other Bezoars. But guess what? The high acid content in Coca-Cola has been successfully used to treat these Bezoars according to a study published at the Science Direct website in July, 2006. This study was performed by the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Hanyang University Guri Hospital in Guri, South Korea. 

During this experiment, doctors treated a 41-year-old man with a history of diabetes mellitus. He was admitted with lower abdominal pain and vomiting. The hospital performed an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and it revealed three huge, round diospyrobezoars in his stomach. He was made to drink two cans of Coca-Cola every six hours. When they did another endoscopy the next day, the bezoars were partially dissolved and were significantly softened. At this, doctors performed a direct endoscopic injection of Coca-Cola into each bezoar. When they repeated another endoscopy the next day, the bezoars were completely dissolved.

As exciting as this discovery is, it's also pretty scary. It's no secret that Coca-Cola can clean the corrosion off a battery post. Matthew Wright, co-owner of Wright Brother's Automotive in Atlanta validates that Coca-Cola does work to clean battery posts, although he's not necessarily recommending it.  Listverse.com also lists ten very unusual and rather scary uses for Coca-Cola including cleaning toilets, rust removal, de-blackening pots and pan, skunk smell removal and pain relief from stings. Most everyone knows that the original recipe for Coca-Cola contained cocaine from the coca leaf. However, some people may not realize that the present recipe still contains coca leaf extract that has been treated with a solvent and an acid base chemical process to remove the cocaine.

The present recipe also contains high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which has been linked with diabetes and liver disease. If you live in Argentina, as of June, 2013, you can drink Coca-Cola Life. This variety of Coke is sweetened with real sugar and Stevia and has 60% fewer calories than Coca-Cola Classic without the use of high fructose corn syrup. Why isn't this available in the US? I don't know. Maybe it's coming. In the meantime, regular Coke has HFCS and the phosphoric acid that gives these drinks their tangy or sour taste has also been linked with Osteoporosis according to WebMD.com. Bone density requires a critical balance of phosphorus and calcium, but the phosphoric acid in Coca-Cola apparently messes with this critical balance causing bone loss.

Based on this information, it's doesn't take a Ph.D. to deduce that drinking Coca-Cola in large amounts over time isn't the best idea for good health. However, in this case, moderation might be the key. If you plan to occasionally go to a movie and you want to eat popcorn, but you're worried about the hulls causing a Bezoar, drinking a Coke along with the popcorn might just dissolve the hulls, preventing a Bezoar. Obviously, this isn't something you'd want to make a regular practice of, but occasionally might not hurt and actually help prevent Bezoars.