A Small Christmas Tree

Gingerbread Cottage (Country Cottage Needleworks)

The Snow Queen

Frontispiece

Over in Norfolk I came across this shed, looking very appealing with its red trailer parked-up inside. A typical corrugated iron structure, but it was the frontage that caught my eye. The ends of sheds like this are usually finished-off with just plain timber doors or infilled with bricks, but often the iron curves were deemed just a bit too prosaic, and so were screened with slightly more upmarket facades. This one in Wereham looks like it was probably once a garage, decorated with petrol signs and the ubiquitous M.O.T triangles. The curved top echoes what lies behind, but two little wings were added to make it 'just that little bit different'. More often we will see crow-stepped gables, painted or rendered to give the illusion of a much larger building behind. Very pre-war, very much a fashion. And of course once you start looking, you see them everywhere. Workshops, factories, cafes; sometimes extended out from the workaday end to form offices with Crittall metal windows. I once went to a cinema in Suffolk that had an art deco facade hiding a corrugated iron-roofed auditorium. Which was fine until a prolonged storm broke out over the town and the noise of hailstones hitting the roof completely obliterated the soundtrack of Witchfinder General. (Screams, noisy dismemberments, Vincent Price's accent.)

Use your extra hour this weekend to check your emergency stockpile

What would you do with an extra hour? With daylight saving time ending this weekend, you have a chance to find out. And APHA has the perfect solution with what to do with your extra hour: Take some time to get more prepared.

In conjunction with its Get Ready campaign, APHA is reminding you to “Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks” this Sunday, Nov. 1. That means in addition to checking the batteries in your smoke alarm, it’s also time to make sure you and your household are ready for emergencies.

APHA has these tips on how you can use that bonus hour to become prepared:

* Check your stockpile and make sure that your emergency supplies, such as food, water and batteries, are still good. If you don’t have a stockpile, take some time to create one.

* Re-familiarize yourself and your family with your community’s emergency preparedness plan, including evacuation routes, emergency shelters and the location of food banks.

* Update your family communication plan, which will spell out how you will get in touch with one another during an emergency.

* Gather extra supplies for your pets, which need their own stockpile of food and water.

* Collect your medications together in one place, and make sure you have enough supplies in case you or your family have to stay home with the flu for a few days.

The Get Ready: Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks Web site has a wealth of free information that can help you with your emergency supplies, including easy-to-understand fact sheets on what to put in your stockpile (PDF), budget stockpiling (PDF), stockpiling for pets (PDF), a stockpiling checklist (PDF) and the supplies you need to have on hand for a cold or the flu (PDF).

Still not convinced? Read what the University of Minnesota had to say about Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks on its Promising Practices: Pandemic Preparedness Tools Web site and see what the buzz is about.


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How to Turn a Curl





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Source: A Girl and Her Hair, 1949

Are you in a priority group and worried because you can't get vaccine?

from this week's update on H1N1 in Maine:

H1N1 Vaccine Supply and Prioritization

As of October 28, a total of 99,000 doses of vaccine had been allocated to the state, which is about 14% of the total amount of vaccine needed for prioritized populations in the state. Vaccine is continuing to be shipped as soon as it is allocated. However, it is possible that there will not be sufficient supplies of vaccine for some of the highest priority people until December.

Maine CDC is developing short-term plans, which are constantly being reevaluated, based on the supply of vaccine being allocated to us from the federal government. Vaccine is being sent out in response to several factors, including current trends in infections, prioritized populations, and the supply available. Every county in the state has received some vaccine, and will continue to receive it as it is available.

Less than 2% of the vaccine that has arrived to date is in the formulation most frequently requested for children under age three. About a third of the vaccine that has arrived is in the nasal spray form, which cannot be given to many people in the priority populations, but can be administered to healthy children over the age of two.

We are focusing our first doses on children and pregnant women, because they are the most disproportionately affected by H1N1. We are providing some vaccine to pediatric providers for very young children, household members of children under six months old, and some high-risk children. Most of our vaccine is going to schools.

Vaccine clinics for school children have been held in the Sanford/Springvale, greater Portland, Lewiston, Augusta, and Bangor areas, as well as in Passamaquoddy Indian Township in the past week. Vaccinating children, who are the major transmitters of flu, provides some protection to the entire community.

As more vaccine arrives, we will broaden our distribution to other high risk groups, including young adults, people with health conditions, and health care and emergency services personnel. Once the full supply of vaccine has arrived, we plan to offer it to anyone who wants it.

In the mean time, people in priority groups who do not have access to vaccine yet can take some steps to protect themselves:
* If vaccine is appropriately available to other members of the household (for instance, children who can be vaccinated in their school), then this is one way to provide some protection to a high-risk individual.
* If you can get a seasonal flu vaccine (which is also in short supply in many areas), do so. The seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you from H1N1, but by protecting you from seasonal flu, it will keep you from getting run down and therefore being more likely to get H1N1.
* Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Wash or sanitize your hands often.
* Keep checking the clinic locator on our web site: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/maineflu/fluclinics/index.shtml
* Your health care provider may prescribe antiviral medicine if someone in the household is sick with a fever plus cough and/or sore throat and the sick person, or a household member, meets one or more of these criteria:
* Younger than 2 years-old
* Older than 64 years-old
* Pregnant
* Has an underlying medical condition
These antiviral prescription medicines (Tamiflu or Relenza) may help reduce the severity of the flu.

To read the full update: http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/attach.php?id=83965&an=2

European Society of anti-aging Medicine

Netherlands

Austria

Czech Republics
Czecho-Slovak Association of Anti-Aging Medicine (CSAAAM)

France
Société Française de Médecine et physiologie du vieillissement

Germany
German Society of Anti-Aging Medicine (GSAAM)

Greece

Italy
Italian Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (AIMAA)

Netherlands
Dutch Society for Anti-Aging Medicine (DSAAM)

Poland
Polish Society of Anti-Aging Medicine (PSAAM)

Portugal

Romania
Romanian Association of Anti-Aging Medicine (amaa)

Russia

Spain
Sociedad Española de Medicina Antienvejecimiento y Longevidad (SEMAL)

Switzerland
Swiss Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (SAAAM)

Turkey
Anti Aging Research & Education Society

United Kingdom
British Society of Anti-Ageing Medicine (BSAAM)

Ukraine
International Association of Anti-Aging Medicine of Ukraine


The wine glass looks half full

Not unexpectedly, the news media embraced and eagerly reported the latest revelation about the health benefits of red wine. The study, published in the online journal PLoS One this week, hinted that resveratrol, an antioxidant compound found in the skins and seeds of wine grapes, can boost cardiovascular health and slow aging in mice at lower doses than previously thought. Earlier studies have suggested that resveratrol helped mice run farther, stay slender, and stave off diabetes and cancer.

redwine.jpg

This buzz about red wine reminds me of the media’s enthusiastic coverage of dark chocolate's effects. Several studies have suggested the antioxidant flavanols in dark chocolate can improve blood vessel function and reduce blood pressure.

Any story about red wine or dark chocolate, especially one that gives people an excuse to indulge, is going to be well-received. As I write this, the New York Times article on the recent red wine study has been hovering near the top of the newspaper’s list of most popular online stories.

But as we swash down red wine and gobble bon bons, we may be inclined to forget that, along with all those antioxidants comes a good dose of alcohol and saturated fat. Excessive alcohol consumption (more than two daily drinks for men or more than one daily for women) can lead to liver disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And recent studies suggest that one or two drinks a day may increase the risk of breast cancer.

And don’t forget the caveats associated with some of these studies. In most of the resveratrol studies (a notable exception being the recent PLoS study) mice were given massive quantities of compound. A human would have to guzzle at least several bottles of red wine a day to obtain a similar amount. And to reap the benefits of cocoa, you have to eat dark chocolate (preferably containing 70 percent cocoa), which tends to be bitter. With creamier chocolate the milk binds to the antioxidant compounds, making them unavailable to the body.

Finally, it is worth noting that the recent red wine study was partially financed by the Swiss DSM Nutritional Products, “the world's leading supplier of vitamins, carotenoids and other fine chemicals to the feed, food, pharmaceutical and personal care industries,” according to the company’s website. Similarly, several studies on cocoa flavanols have been funded by Mars Inc., the maker of chocolate products. So while it's tempting to toast to the promising results from these studies, the bottom line is more bittersweet.

By Coco Ballantyne
Photo by miss karen

Providing information or promoting drugs?

On 12 September, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials released finalized recommendations for drug makers that wish to provide medical literature to doctors about unapproved uses of their products. It's no small matter, since over 20% of US prescriptions are written for ‘off-label uses’.

Earlier guidelines required companies to commit to submitting an application to the FDA for the unapproved use before sharing peer-reviewed journal articles or reference publications about it. However, the new recommendations permit sales representatives to share data about uses that companies don't plan to submit for FDA review.

Additionally, the finalized version of the new guidelines does not require that drug companies provide peer-reviewed materials that reach different conclusions about the unapproved use.

The revised policy recommends that that peer-reviewed materials given to doctors are not “marked, highlighted, summarized, or characterized by the [company] in any way”. Such actions could be considered ‘off-label promotion’ of drugs, which is what US pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly did when it used catchy slogans to persuade doctors to prescribe the antipsychotic Zyprexa for unauthorized use in elderly patients (Lilly pleaded guilty to violating US law on 15 January). This practice is still illegal. However, I doubt the relaxed guidelines will help companies provide an unbiased view of their drug’s safety and clinical effectiveness—something that certain companies apparently need help with.


pill.jpg
Photo by zimpenfish

Pediatric placebos

When I was a small child, I had an earache, so I asked my dad for a Band Aid. The source of my discomfort was an inner ear infection, so antibiotics would have been more on the mark—but a Band Aid seemed better than nothing. The placebo effect is powerful.

As reported in the New York Times this week, there is now a placebo pill designed for children that you can buy. The product is called Obecalp (placebo spelled backwards) and available online for $5.95 a bottle. Each cherry-flavored chewable Obecalp tablet is essentially a lump of sugar in a medicinal disguise. “Invented by a mommy,” says the website advertisement, featuring a headshot of the product’s inventor, a mother of three from Severna Park, Maryland. The implication is that, if a mom came up with the idea, then it must be okay to give fake meds to your children.

But how will mom (or dad) explain the situation when their children discover that the magical tablets they received for headaches, stomachaches and sore throats were always a hoax? The use of placebos sends an uncertain message to children. They will eventually know that their parents deceived them. Moreover, there is something unnerving about looking to pills for the answer to every ailment. There are other ways to comfort children. In some cases they simply need a dose of attention to feel better. Perceived physical ailments may also be a sign of emotional or mental distress that a sugar tablet cannot fix.

Doctors admit to prescribing placebos, according to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Researchers at the University of Chicago surveyed 466 physicians from three Chicago-area medical schools and found that nearly half of all respondents had used placebos in their clinical practice. One of their most common reasons for doing so: “to calm patients.” Something is wrong with a medical system in which patients need pills and injections to feel tranquil and reassured that they have received adequate care. It’s hard to imagine that adding more pills to the market, even if they are fakes, will help change this culture.

Posted on behalf of Coco Ballantyne

pills_fillmore_photography.jpg

Image by Fillmore Photography via Flickr

Blue and Silver

Blue and Silver (Nikki Leeman of "Country Cottage Needleworks")

White Christmas

Lancashire Hotspot

Early last August a friend and I found ourselves in the Forest of Bowland, by the simple expedient of following a little road out of the back of Lancaster, under the M6 and up over Appletree Fell. After passing a little observation tower erected for Queen Victoria's Jubilee, from where it was possible to see just about everything westwards from Blackpool Tower to the far side of Morecambe Bay, we descended into the valley of the Marsh Wyre at Abbeystead. The Forest of Bowland, composed of high moorland and deep valleys, is one of the most beautiful, remote and relatively unvisited areas in England, although Lancashire industrial towns are never far away. Much of it belongs to the Duchy of Lancaster, and the Duke, oddly enough Our Queen, has I believe said that if she wasn't obliged to live in a succession of royal palaces then she quite fancied a house here. On leaving the wonderfully compact and quiet estate village of Abbeystead, the road soon starts to follow the river until a bend reveals a superb little building (above) standing alone above the rushing waters of the Wyre. This is Tower Lodge, where first a lane and then a footpath leads up on to White Moor. Our road continued into the Trough of Bowland and over to Dunsop Bridge, but not before we found refreshment at Annie's snack trailer with chairs set out under sighing firs. I wonder if Her Majesty would come down here in her headscarf for a bacon sandwich.

Christmas Tree Decorations

Last Christmas

Christmas Decorations

Find The Fault No 45

Well, what can I say. There are enough 'faults' here to keep us going for some time I should think. My main concern is why a 1950's caravan manufacturer should employ the services of an Italian hearse designer to do the interiors. Good luck with this one.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

The Singing Keyhole

We're so used to seeing humour in the ornamentation of medieval churches- gargoyles, fantastical corbels, carved bench ends- but Victorian churches and restorations tend to be far more austere.
I still can't quite make my mind up about this keyhole in the door of the little church in my neighbouring village of Blaston in Leicestershire. It isn't as though this escutcheon would go unnoticed, and I really like to think that the church furnishers saw the joke and let it pass. After all, our notions of stiff and starchy Victorians has continually been disabused- their Queen had a laugh from time to time I'm sure. It could have course be that someone drilled those eyes in at a later date, but I doubt it. The great architect Sir Ninian Comper appears to have done something similar with the keyholes at his stunning St.Mary's in Wellingborough, and he never appeared to be a barrel of laughs either. Perhaps they're just happy accidents, because we are always oddly attracted to any inanimate object that makes a face, everything from buildings with windows for eyes to certain views of electrical plugs.

Christmas Tree Decorations

Last Christmas

Santa's Coming

Powder Puff Pointers


(Click on image for a larger version.)
Source: How to Find Your Man by Joe Bonomo, 1954

Gene mutation may reveal clues for treating lung diseases

Oct. 15, 2009 -- A genetic mutation found in four children born with multiple abnormalities may provide insight into potential treatments for newborn lung distress and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The children were born with abnormally developed lungs, gastrointestinal and urinary systems, skin, skull, bones and muscles. In addition, all had cutis laxa, an inherited connective tissue disorder that causes skin to hang loosely from the body. Three of the patients died from respiratory failure before age 2.

Details about the discovery of the mutation, found by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, McGill University, New York University Langone Medical Center and collaborating institutions, are published in the Oct. 15 online edition of the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Elaine C. Davis, Ph.D., senior author and associate professor of anatomy and cell biology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, compared various tissues from a mouse genetically engineered to be missing a form of the LTBP4 gene with skin tissue samples from one of the children. She found remarkable similarities. The mouse, provided by Daniel Rifkin, M.D., the Charles Aden Poindexter Professor of Medicine and professor of cell biology at NYU Langone Medical Center, showed similar connective tissue alterations by electron microscopy as the patient. The child had cutis laxa, lethal pulmonary complications and gastrointestinal and urinary disease.

Based on these observations, researchers in the laboratory of Zsolt Urban, Ph.D., a pediatric geneticist at Washington University School of Medicine, sequenced the LTBP4 gene in the four children and confirmed they had mutations. He determined that the patients were the first described to show severe symptoms of a novel syndrome, which the researchers have named Urban-Rifkin-Davis Syndrome.

The findings have potential implications for newborns with underdeveloped lungs as well as older patients with severe lung diseases, including COPD, says Urban, first author of the paper.

"Many newborns commonly have breathing difficulties," Urban says. "Part of the problem is that the lung is not developed properly, especially the alveoli, the tiny sacs at the end of the smallest airways that serve as a place for oxygen uptake and gas exchange. This finding helped us identify a gene essential for the development of alveoli and potentially provide a target for intervention in premature babies."

Urban says potential treatments could include introducing the protein product of the LTBP4 gene to the newborn or using existing drugs that can moderate transforming growth factor beta (TGFß), which is overactivated in the tissues of these children. The drug losartan, now in trials for treating Marfan syndrome, another connective tissue disorder, has been shown to limit TGFß and merits further research as a possible treatment.

The researchers now are broadening their research into the new syndrome among other patients with cutis laxa. Urban, assistant professor of pediatrics, of medicine and of genetics at Washington University School of Medicine, heads the International Center for the Study of Cutis Laxa at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

"We are finding that about 70 percent of cutis laxa patients with pulmonary, gastrointestinal and urinary problems have Urban-Rifkin-Davis Syndrome," Urban says. "Now we will look at what percentage of cutis laxa patients with only pulmonary problems have the mutation."

Early developmental problems that are not detectable in childhood may predispose a person to age-related disease such as COPD, Urban says. Urban and colleagues are also testing samples collected from patients with COPD for LTBP4 mutations. When lungs are damaged with COPD, alveoli lose their elastic quality, and the walls between them are destroyed as they become thick and inflamed.

"Patients who may have a slightly reduced activity of LTBP4 might be more susceptible to chronic lung diseases later in life," Urban says. "Identifying genes that are central for the formation of alveoli may help us devise ways to regenerate alveoli in patients with COPD."


Urban Z, Hucthagowder V, Schürmann N, Todorovic V, Zilberberg L, Chio J, Sens C, Brown C, Clark R, Holland K, Marble M, Sakai L, Dabovic B, Rifkin D, Davis EC. Mutations in LTBP4 cause a syndrome of impaired pulmonary, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, musculoskeletal and dermal development. American Journal of Human Genetics. Advance online publication Oct. 15, 2009.

This study was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, March of Dimes, Phillip Morris USA Inc. and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Washington University School of Medicine's 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third in the nation byU.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

Scientists identify roots of diabetic tissue damage

Oct. 21, 2009 -- Results from comprehensive assessments of diabetes' effects on cell metabolism may aid efforts to reduce diabetic damage to nerves, blood vessels and other tissues, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and elsewhere.

The scientists found that by blocking the sorbitol pathway, one of several pathways cells employ to use the sugar glucose, they could prevent diabetic damage to nerves and blood vessels in a rat model. Prior clinical trials of blockers for this pathway have been disappointing, according to the researchers, but they and others now think that may be because the sorbitol pathway was inadequately blocked.

"What we've found should help fine-tune efforts to slow or prevent diabetes-associated complications such as hardening of the arteries, damage to vision and loss of nerve function," says senior author Joe Williamson, M.D., retired professor of pathology and immunology. "Evidence suggests that such complications are caused by increased levels of superoxide, and our results point to the sorbitol pathway as the main source of this chemically reactive compound."

The paper appeared online in the journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling and will appear in print in the future.

Normally, cells use glucose mostly to make energy through a process called glycolysis. However, as glucose levels rise, cells begin to use glucose in a process called the sorbitol pathway. The high glucose levels associated with diabetes increase cells' use of glucose via glycolysis and the sorbitol pathway.

Both processes alter a molecule known as NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), changing it to NADH, or NAD plus a hydrogen atom. To keep glycolysis possible, cells have to convert NADH back to NAD. If NADH levels increase relative to NAD, a metabolic imbalance occurs that can limit energy production essential for normal cell function and survival.

Pyruvate, an antioxidant produced by glycolysis, normally helps facilitate conversion of NADH into NAD. However, the sorbitol pathway does not produce pyruvate. Williamson and his colleagues theorized that when diabetes increases sorbitol pathway use, it places an increased burden on the cell by creating more NADH but leaving it with relatively less pyruvate to help change it back into NAD. They noted that a cell faced with too much NADH and too little pyruvate can turn to other enzymes to achieve the conversion, and that these enzymes produce superoxide as a product, making them an important source of diabetic tissue damage.

For the new paper, they tested the first component of this theory in a rat model of diabetes. Among other results, they found inhibiting either of two specific steps in the sorbitol pathway improved vascular function in the rats and reversed impaired motor nerve conduction velocity, or the speed at which nerves transmit electrical signals to stimulate muscles.

"It's already been established in other studies that pyruvate supplementation normalizes vascular dysfunction caused by high glucose levels and slows cataract formation in diabetic animals," Williamson says. "These results support our theories of why this happens, and others may be able to build upon this to create new and improved treatments for diabetes."

Sorbitol pathway inhibitors similar to those used by the researchers have been tested previously with disappointing results in clinical trials, but Williamson says recent studies in animals suggest those inhibitors may not have blocked the sorbitol pathway sufficiently.

"We've assembled what appears to be the most coherent explanation to date on how high glucose levels affect several different aspects of cell metabolism, and all the indicators point to the sorbitol pathway as the primary source of increased superoxide," he says. "More effective inhibitors of the sorbitol pathway are still being explored and may be able to prevent diabetic complications in the future."

For now, though, Williamson emphasizes that the best way for diabetics to prevent complications is to keep glucose levels as close to normal as possible.

Williamson also suggests that pyruvate, as a treatment for patients with poorly controlled diabetes, merits further study, but cautions that the body metabolizes pyruvate very quickly. He suggests that pyruvate may be most immediately useful in preventing diabetic damage to the eye, where it can be applied directly as eye drops and quickly reach its targets, the retina and lens.


Yasuo I, Nyengaard J, Chang K, Tilton R, Kilo C, Mylari B, Oates P, Williamson J. Early neural and vascular dysfunction in diabetic rats are largely sequelae of increased sorbitol oxidation. Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, published online ahead of print.

Funding from the National Institutes of Health, Fonden til Laegevidenskabens Fremme (Copenhagen), the Lundbeck Foundation (Copenhagen) and the Kilo Research Foundation (St. Louis, MO) supported this research.

Washington University School of Medicine's 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third in the nation byU.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

Vintage Christmas

Vintage Christmas

Christmas Gifts

Getting the H1N1 vaccine: The waiting is the hardest part

Today's guest blog entry is by Katie Dineley, a student at the University of Maryland. She was among the first to receive the H1N1 influenza vaccine in Montgomery County, Md., thanks to a flu-shot clinic organized by the health department there.

In mid-October, I went to a local government health facility here in Montgomery County, Md., to get the H1N1 flu vaccine. I thought it would be a 20-minute trip. Was I wrong! When I got there, I could have sworn a sports event or concert was going on. It was the first day the H1N1 vaccine was offered in the county, and police were everywhere telling people where to park. Cars were on the grass, all along the main road and on side streets. The line was intimidating too, wrapping around the building and extending all the way out to the main road. I didn’t want to mess with parking there, so I parked in a neighborhood a few blocks away and walked to the building.

It was about 9:45 in the morning when I got there, and already at least 200 people were in front of me. There were families with small kids, a good amount of pregnant women and some elderly people. Children were running and playing and rolling down the hill. I was surprised to see news cameras there too.

Most of the people in line waited patiently, but one middle-aged man behind me got fed up and rudely cut in line closer to the front. Everyone in line was worried that the vaccine would run out, but health workers were walking through the line reassuring us that there was plenty of vaccine to go around. They handed out fliers with information about who should or shouldn’t get the needle injection or the spray mist. The recommendations are based on age and lots of different health conditions. The intranasal vaccine, or mist — which is sprayed into both nostrils — is only recommended for certain groups. I was considered to be in a “priority group” because I’m younger than 25.

I wore my hooded sweatshirt that morning, thinking it would keep me warm, but boy was I wrong. After two hours, I was happy to get inside the building. It still took another 40 minutes to get to the front of the line, where a health worker administered the mist to me. It had a strange taste, both bitter and sweet, which hit me about five minutes later.

For the next two days, I had a minor headache and felt a little tired and achy, but they told us to expect some minor side effects if we got the intranasal vaccine. I also read in the paper to the next day that about 1,000 people went through the line that day.

I feel so much better now that I’ve been vaccinated against both H1N1 flu and the seasonal flu, which I had done a week earlier. I was worried about catching both. I’m a college student at the University of Maryland, and there are always illnesses being passed around. I can finally go to class worry free. And another good thing: The vaccine was free.


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Christmas Hearts

Christmas Hearts

White and Blue

Railway Echo No 12

Marefield is remote Leicestershire, up on the eastern approaches not far from the borders with Rutland. The Great Northern Railway opened a ten mile line from Leicester's red brick Belgrave Road station in 1882, out through Ingarsby and Lowesby until joining up with the GNR/LNWR joint track from Market Harborough to Melton Mowbray at what became known as Marefield Junction. An unadvertised daily train took workers to the dairy at John O'Gaunt (just north of this red brick viaduct) until 1957, and the last passenger traffic of summer holiday excursions from Leicester to the Lincolnshire coast finished in 1962. I must have gone over this viaduct many times, clutching an enamel bucket and spade and wondering 'are we there yet?'. We weren't. Further south from here a beautiful blue brick viaduct over the Eye Brook was detonated as a cheap source of hardcore, so I marvel even more at the continued existence of this lone survivor, admired now only by walkers and the odd cow ruminating in the field close by. Whose milk I suppose goes by road to some industrial plant far away, when once it ended up in a dairy next door that sent three or four tankers of milk to London every day.

Butter vs. Margarine

I came across an interesting study the other day, courtesy of Dr. John Briffa's blog. It's titled "Margarine Intake and Subsequent Coronary Heart Disease in Men", by Dr. William P. Castelli's group. It followed participants of the Framingham Heart study for 20 years, and recorded heart attack incidence*. Keep in mind that 20 years is an unusually long follow-up period.

The really cool thing about this study is they also tracked butter consumption.  Here's a graph of the overall results, by teaspoons of butter or margarine eaten per day:

Heart attack incidence increased with increasing margarine consumption (statistically significant) and decreased slightly with increasing butter consumption (not statistically significant). 

It gets more interesting. Let's have a look at some of the participant characteristics, broken down by margarine consumption:

People who ate the least margarine had the highest prevalence of glucose intolerance (pre-diabetes), smoked the most cigarettes, drank the most alcohol, and ate the most saturated fat and butter. These were the people who cared the least about their health. Yet they had the fewest heart attacks. The investigators corrected for the factors listed above in their assessment of the contribution of margarine to disease risk, however, the fact remains that the group eating the least margarine was the least health conscious. This affects disease risk in many ways, measurable or not. I've written about that before, here and here.

The investigators broke down the data into two halves: the first ten years, and the second ten. In the first ten years, there was no significant association between margarine intake and heart attack incidence. In the second ten, the group eating the most margarine had 77% more heart attacks than the group eating none:

So it appears that margarine takes a while to work its magic.

They didn't publish a breakdown of heart attack incidence with butter consumption over the two periods. The Framingham study fits in perfectly with most other observational studies showing that full-fat dairy intake is not associated with heart attack and stroke risk. 


It's worth mentioning that this study was conducted from the late 1960s until the late 1980s. Artificial trans fat labeling laws were still decades away in the U.S., and margarine contained more trans fat than it does today. Currently, margarine can contain up to 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving and still be labeled "0 g trans fat" in the U.S. The high trans fat content of the older margarines probably had something to do with the result of this study.

That does not make today's margarine healthy, however. Margarine remains an industrially processed pseudo-food. I'm just waiting for the next study showing that some ingredient in the new margarines (plant sterols? dihydro vitamin K1?) is the new trans fat.

Butter, Margarine and Heart Disease
The Coronary Heart Disease Epidemic


* More precisely, "coronary heart disease events", which includes infarction, sudden cardiac death, angina, and coronary insufficiency.

Christmas and Berries

Little Dreamer

Find The Fault No 44

Apologies for that break in transmission. Candles and whiffs of steam are intermittently available, so I'm typing very quickly before the valves get turned off. I hope you think this one is worth it.

They Go Together




(Click on the images for full size versions.)
Source: American Hairdresser, April 1943