Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Possible cure for some kinds of blindness

"This is truly a regenerative project. In the past it's been impossible to replace lost neural cells. If we can deliver the very layer of cells that is missing and give them their function back this would be of enormous benefit to people with the sight-threatening condition.” — Lyndon Da Cruz, Ophthalmic Surgeon, Moorfields Eye Hospital

I'VE LAUDED my virtual village many times with good reason. What a well-informed, intelligent (and compassionate) group. I have a hard time keeping up with how knowledgable and au courant they are. But I'm grateful. They challenge me to keep expanding my brain and my heart.

In light of that, here is a piece from the BBC forwarded by my excellent friend, Paul Quintanilla.  

Stem cell trial aims to cure blindness

By Fergus Walsh
September 29, 2015

Surgeons in London carried out a pioneering human embryonic stem cell operation last month in an ongoing trial to find a cure for blindness for many patients. The procedure was performed on a woman aged 60 at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. It involved "seeding" a tiny patch with specialised eye cells and implanting it at the back of the retina.

The London Project to Cure Blindness was established a decade ago to try to reverse vision loss in patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Ten patients with the wet form of AMD will undergo the procedure. All will have suffered a sudden loss of vision as a result of defective blood vessels in the eye. They will be monitored for a year to check that the treatment is safe and whether their vision improves.

Professor Peter Coffey, of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, who is co-leading the London Project, said: "We won't know until at least Christmas how good her vision is and how long that may be maintained, but we can see the cells are there under the retina where they should be and they appear to be healthy."

The cells being used form the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) - the layer of cells that nourish and support the photoreceptors in the macula - the seeing part of the eye.

In macular degeneration, the RPE cells die, and as a result the eye loses function. Patients with AMD lose their central vision, which becomes distorted and blurred.

The cells used in the operation were originally derived from a donated early embryo - smaller than a pinhead - which has the potential to become any cell in the body.

Professor Lyndon Da Cruz of Moorfields Eye Hospital, who carried out the surgery, said, "This is truly a regenerative project. In the past it's been impossible to replace lost neural cells. If we can deliver the very layer of cells that is missing and give them their function back this would be of enormous benefit to people with the sight-threatening condition.”

If the treatment is successful, the scientists say, it would also help patients in the early stages of dry AMD, and could potentially halt their vision loss. AMD affects more than 600,000 people in the UK and is the leading cause of sight loss in the developed world. It is estimated that one in every 10 people over 65 has some degree of AMD.

The team at Moorfields is working in partnership with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which is funding the trial. It is not known how much the one-off surgical treatment might cost, although the scientists involved point out that treating and dealing with sight loss is a huge burden on the NHS.

It is not the first time that scientists have used stem cells derived from human embryos in patients with sight loss. In 2012, patients with Stargardt's disease - which leads to progression deterioration of vision - were injected with embryonic stem cells in a safety trial carried out in the US and UK - which also involved a team at Moorfields.


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a painless eye condition that causes you to lose central vision, usually in both eyes

This makes reading difficult, colours appear less vibrant and faces can be hard to recognize

— Peripheral vision remains unaffected, so while it won't cause complete blindness it is debilitating

AMD affects more than 600,000 people in the UK and is the leading cause of vision loss

It is more common with age and there are two main types: wet and dry AMD

Dry AMD is the most common and least serious type and develops when cells at the back of the eye become damaged by the build-up of deposits

Wet AMD is more serious and develops when abnormal blood vessels form and damage the cells at the back of the eye

There is currently no cure for either type

Of more relevance to the current trial are the 40 AMD patients already treated at Moorfields with cells taken from their own eyes.

Da Cruz said "We saw extraordinary recovery, with some people being able to read again and drive, and that recovery being sustained for years."

He explained that using the patient's own cells was complex and carried risks, which is why the London Project opted for the embryonic stem cell line, which can produce a limitless supply of specialist cells.

Da Cruz said animal studies had shown that surgery to introduce the sheet of cells into the eye was feasible. So although the team cannot say whether this trial will work, the years of planning give them confidence that this treatment has huge potential. It is far too early to make any judgment, but if successful, it would be a stunning medical advance of huge implications. The results from the first patient, and subsequent volunteers, will be eagerly awaited.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Breast cancer news

“Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live.” — Angelina Jolie

BELOW find an ABC News story about a new genetic test that identifies which breast cancer patients can skip chemotherapy — and a New York Times piece by a woman with the BRCA breast cancer mutation. 

(To read previous, related Hey Look Something blog posts, click on these links: Get a Mammogram and Breast Cancer in Younger Women.)

Gene Test Finds Which Breast Cancer Patients Can Skip Chemo

By Marilynn Marchione
September 28, 2015

Many women with early-stage breast cancer can skip chemotherapy without hurting their odds of beating the disease — good news from a major study that shows the value of a gene-activity test to gauge each patient's risk.

The test accurately identified a group of women whose cancers are so likely to respond to hormone-blocking drugs that adding chemo would do little if any good while exposing them to side effects and other health risks. In the study, women who skipped chemo based on the test had less than a 1 percent chance of cancer recurring far away, such as the liver or lungs, within the next five years.

"You can't do better than that," said the study leader, Dr. Joseph Sparano of Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

An independent expert, Dr. Clifford Hudis of New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, agreed.

"There is really no chance that chemotherapy could make that number better," he said. Using the gene test "lets us focus our chemotherapy more on the higher risk patients who do benefit" and spare others the ordeal.

The study was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Results were published online Monday by the New England Journal of Medicine and discussed at the European Cancer Congress in Vienna.

The study involved the most common type of breast cancer — early stage, without spread to lymph nodes; hormone-positive, meaning the tumor's growth is fueled by estrogen or progesterone; and not the type that the drug Herceptin targets. Each year, more than 100,000 women in the United States alone are diagnosed with this.

The usual treatment is surgery followed by years of a hormone-blocking drug. But many women also are urged to have chemo, to help kill any stray cancer cells that may have spread beyond the breast and could seed a new cancer later. Doctors know that most of these women don't need chemo but there are no great ways to tell who can safely skip it.

A California company, Genomic Health Inc., has sold a test called Oncotype DX since 2004 to help gauge this risk. The test measures the activity of genes that control cell growth, and others that indicate a likely response to hormone therapy treatment.

Past studies have looked at how women classified as low, intermediate or high risk by the test have fared. The new study is the first to assign women treatments based on their scores and track recurrence rates.

Of the 10,253 women in the study, 16 percent were classified as low risk, 67 percent as intermediate and 17 percent as high risk for recurrence by the test. The high-risk group was given chemotherapy and hormone-blocking drugs. Women in the middle group were randomly assigned to get hormone therapy alone or to add chemo. Results on these groups are not yet ready — the study is continuing.

But independent monitors recommended the results on the low-risk group be released, because it was clear that adding chemo would not improve their fate.

After five years, about 99 percent had not relapsed, and 98 percent were alive. About 94 percent were free of any invasive cancer, including new cancers at other sites or in the opposite breast.

"These patients who had low risk scores by Oncotype did extraordinarily well at five years," said Dr. Hope Rugo, a breast cancer specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, with no role in the study. "There is no chance that for these patients, that chemotherapy would have any benefit."

Dr. Karen Beckerman, a New York City obstetrician diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, said she was advised to have chemo but feared complications. A doctor suggested the gene test and she scored very low for recurrence risk.

"I was convinced that there was no indication for chemotherapy. I was thrilled not to have to have it," and has been fine since then, she said.

Mary Lou Smith, a breast cancer survivor and advocate who helped design the trial for ECOG, the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, which ran it, said she thought women "would be thrilled" to skip chemo.

"Patients love the idea of a test" to help reduce uncertainty about treatment, she said. "I've had chemotherapy. It's not pretty."

The test costs $4,175, which Medicare and many insurers cover. Others besides Oncotype DX also are on the market, and Hudis said he hopes the new study will encourage more, to compete on price and accuracy.

"The future is bright" for gene tests to more precisely guide treatment, he said.

The Breast Cancer Gene and Me
By Elizabeth Wurtzel
September 25, 2015

I DID not know I have the BRCA mutation. I did not know I would likely get breast cancer when I was still young, when the disease is a wild animal. I caught it fast and I acted fast, but I must have looked away: By the time of my double mastectomy, the cancer had spread to five lymph nodes.

I had eight rounds of the strongest chemotherapy there is for breast cancer. Two months later, my body still tingles from the blast. My insides are shimmering. I am reconfigured.

I have six weeks of daily radiation coming up. I have scans all the time. I have waiting rooms in my future, full of Golf Digest and Time from four months ago and that same issue of W that’s always there. I have waiting ahead. If you don’t like waiting, cancer is not for you.

I could have avoided all this if I had been tested for the BRCA mutation. All Ashkenazi Jewish women should be tested, because we have it at least 10 times the rate of the rest of the population: Up to one in 400 women is BRCA-positive, as opposed to one in 40 Ashkenazi Jews.

It seems I am the designated driver at my Seder table.

I could have had a mastectomy with reconstruction and skipped the part where I got cancer. I feel like the biggest idiot for not doing so.

The statistics vary wildly, but they are scary at the low end: According to a 2012 article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the lifetime breast cancer risk for BRCA carriers is between 56 and 84 percent. From where I am, if you are BRCA-positive, you get breast cancer — because, voilĂ .

All I know is I have the BRCA mutation most unexpectedly, and, still in my 40s, I had the kind of cancer that meant three surgeries in six months.

I did not know I was a carrier because I do not fall within testing parameters. Most insurance companies cover testing specifically for Ashkenazi Jewish women only once we present with breast cancer. Before that doomed moment, testing is only for women who have a family history of BRCA or who have had breast cancer at a young age, or who have close relatives with the disease.

Mary-Claire King, a geneticist whose work led to the discovery of a gene that carries an added risk for breast cancer, has called for testing to be offered to all American women 30 and older.New Genetic Tests for Breast Cancer Hold PromiseAPRIL 21, 2015
But that is not how mutations operate. They are sneaky.

I could not have guessed I am BRCA-positive. My mother has not had breast cancer, nor has her sister, nor did her mother. My first cousin — my mother’s sister’s daughter — did have breast cancer at the same age as I did, but not as a result of BRCA.

I did not think of my father in this situation, or perhaps I did not think of my father at all, as I last saw him in 2001. At the time he told me to beware of gum disease, and maybe something else. But I know his mother lived to be an old woman, and she did not die of breast or any other cancer, and my father made no mention of anything going wrong with his sister.

A 2009 Genetics in Medicine study of Ashkenazi women with breast cancer in New York found that about 10 percent carried the BRCA gene — but of these, only 50 percent “had any family history of breast cancer among the first or the second degree relatives.”

Click here to read the entire New York Times piece.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Interview with Buffy Sainte-Marie

“Instead of kids just hearing about beads and baskets and fringe, and about what 'was' and 'were,' we present Native American culture as a living contemporary culture.” — Buffy Sainte-Marie

THIS Hey Look post comes to you courtesy of my Facebook friend, Lucy Beckett Martinez who hipped me to the below interview with Buffy Sainte-Marie conducted by Vice about the recent Polaris Music Prize she was awarded.

In case you haven't heard of the Polaris Music Prize (I hadn't), it's an award given annually to the best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit regardless of genre, sales or record label. Buffy Sainte-Marie won for 2015 for her album, Power in the Blood.

And in case you haven't heard of Vice (again I hadn't), it's a print magazine and website focused on arts, culture and news topics. Founded in 1994 in Montreal, the magazine later expanded into Vice Media, consisting of the magazine and website, a film production company, a record label and a publishing imprint.

Cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie's latest album, 'Power in the Blood'

Buffy Sainte-Marie on Winning the Polaris Prize, Viet Cong, and Indigenous Activism

By James Wilt
September 24, 2015

It's 5 AM when Buffy Sainte-Marie picks up the phone at her home in Hawaii, but there's no semblance of fatigue in her voice: the 74-year-old folk legend and, as of this week, 2015 Polaris Prize victor dispenses sagely advice between bursts of kind laughter. Sainte-Marie, born on Piapot Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan, came up in the industry during the 60s alongside the likes of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young, releasing her now-legendary It's My Way! in 1964. Since then, she's dropped another 20 albums, been blacklisted by the US government, been sampled by Kanye West (and then Young Thug), and become one of the most renowned First Nations activists in the world.

VICE: You've won many awards in your time. How does it feel to pick up the Polaris Prize?

Buffy Sainte-Marie: It's a big surprise, I'll tell you that! It's wonderful. I'm really thrilled. I have a lot of respect for the Polaris Prize for specific reasons. One of things that makes it so personally nice for me is that I had the time to listen to all of the other artists: I listened to the entire album for everybody. I got to hear some of the lesser cuts that might not get played on the radio. Full respect for all the different kinds of music that people are making in Canada.

Did any of the albums stand out to you most?

I had my own little shortlist: I couldn't narrow it down to one. I had no idea who was going to win: I didn't think it was going to be me. I liked Tobias Jesso Jr., I liked Jennifer Castle's album, I liked Caribou, and I really liked Viet Cong. And God bless them for changing their name, it's the smartest thing they could have done. If the name is distracting from the music, just change it. I had big hugs for them and congratulated them for the decision to change their name.

You were a very early pioneer of using electronics in your music. What's it like to hear artists like Caribou and Drake take these technologies to entirely new levels?

It's a dream come true for me. As you say, I've been into electronic music since the 60s: I made the first-ever totally electronic quadraphonic vocal album ever, called Illuminations. People really, really didn't understand it. But art students did. Electronic musicians did. There were people making electronic music back then: Jon Hassell and Brian Eno and Morton Subotnick. But audiences were not hearing it because the record companies and the market weren't really that interested in it so they weren't bringing it to people.

I think it's real important to acknowledge the role of a good record company. Especially True North in this regard because they got this album to people's ears. That's the biggest difference with this album: it's not as though it's better than Running for the Drum or Coincidence and Likely Stories, but they didn't get heard. They didn't have a record company really making it available to radio stations who then make it available to other people. The internet didn't used to be what it is now. Some people were afraid of electronic music. It's really nice. I'm glad. I think it's a wonderful medium that offers all kinds of avenues for creativity.

The name of the album, Power in the Blood, comes from an Alabama 3 title. Why did you decide to reference that album?

Well I'm a big fan of Alabama 3: they wrote the theme song for The Sopranos! [sings first two lines of song] They were a bunch of guys in Brixton, London. They are a really original, wonderful band: they're friends of mine, they're fans of mine, I'm a fan of them. They had written a song called "Power in the Blood"—"There is power in the blood, justice in the sword / When that call it comes, I will be ready for war." I thought it'd make a great peace song; they were pretty surprised by that. By rewriting it to reflect contemporary issues, the idea was to borrow their idea—it is their song, really—and give it to my audience in a new way. I love the song and how it turned out.

We've witnessed a resurgence of Indigenous peoples in the public eye, from musicians like yourself and Tanya Tagaq, to Idle No More, to Ashley Callingbull (the Cree woman who recently won Mrs. Universe). Why do you think there's been a notable upswing, even in the last two or three years?

I think a lot of it has to do with our ability to get beyond those who would shut us up. It's because of the internet. We're networked. It's not as if we're smarter: we've been smart all along. It's not as though we're suddenly trying to make changes: we've been doing that all along. There's a very broad strength in Indian Country. But it used to be so, so hard to be networked. We have a long way to come and can use all the support we can get in networking, but at least it's starting so those beyond our community can know what's going on. Shoal Lake is going to be a huge issue: it provides water for the city of Winnipeg, and they don't have their own needs covered! There are always going to be improvements that need to be made and issues to talk about, but I really do think we can be part of making positive change. And so can government.

You participated in and wrote songs about the anti-war movement ("Universal Soldier") and American Indian Movement ("Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee"). Do you have any advice for young activists who are depressed by the state of the world?

In the first place, get a bath and a good night's sleep. You don't want to burn out. St. Francis was very smart: he said you have to take care of "brother mule," or your body. So take care of yourself. Don't cave into peer pressure and burn out. There's so much you can do through a song. Here's some specific advice: in your presentation, you need to be brief, clear, and engaging. You don't want to give people the truth in an enema. Hopefully, you want to attract people to your issues and have them want to work alongside what you're trying to accomplish. That kind of brevity that a songwriter has: I also got to explore that on Sesame Street. The world has a very short attention span. If you go in knowing that, and instead of having an axe to grind you have information to give, it's a real different approach. It stays very positive even if you're working with a difficult, painful, tragic issue like genocide or residential schools or war. Don't burn out!

What's next for you? Are you ever going to kick back and retire?

I've had such an interesting career, over 50 years. I retire whenever I feel like it. I took 16 years off to raise my son, and have never let a record deadline keep me from doing what I really need to do, [like] when my mom was passing. I don't have any plans to stop being an artist. Artists just don't stop. I only go on the road when I think I have something to offer people, so I'll probably continue to come and go on the scene and not worry about it very much. Let somebody else do some of the work! Everybody who's got dreams in their hearts and issues that are bothering them: don't be afraid of it. Just keep on keeping on. We're all ripening every day.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Gail Collins bids farewell to John Boehner

“Zippity doo dah, zippity ay!” — John Boehner, singing as he entered his resignation news conference (really)

I OFFER to you an irresistible mashup: New York Times columnist Gail Collins and John Boehner

Bye, Bye, John Boehner

By Gail Collins
September 25, 2015

Farewell, John Boehner, farewell.

These departures are a little wearying. It was not long ago that we said adieu to Rick Perry. And then Scott Walker. And of course we are gearing up for the moment when the political world says goodbye forever to Donald Trump.

Good times, all.

Boehner’s leave-taking is a bit more of a mixed bag. The surprise announcement came the day after he sat proudly in the background while Pope Francis gave his address to Congress. You will not be stunned to hear that crying occurred, none of it involving Francis.

And there was a private meeting, in which reliable sources said the pope admired Boehner’s tie. But there is no indication he grabbed the speaker by the shoulders and cried: “You’re surrounded by crazy people! Get out while you can, my son!”

Not that it couldn’t have happened. The pope is infallible.

Maybe Boehner fell on his sword to keep the government from being shut down. We’ll probably never figure that one out, since it’s impossible to discuss the question without using the term “continuing resolution.”

The Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood. There are many, many reasons that idea is not going anywhere. We will not enumerate them, since it would require the mention of the term “budget reconciliation process.” However, the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, had expressed confidence that Planned Parenthood would be safe even if the Republicans “vote their alleged hearts out.”

We should spend more time quoting Nancy Pelosi. Also noting that in recent years, the nation has avoided a raft of political cataclysms because Pelosi has delivered crucial votes whenever Boehner could not get his own majority to behave in a minimally responsible manner.

Anyway, under normal circumstances, Boehner would have used the Democratic votes to keep the government funded. Then the right wing would have descended on him like a band of vicious wombats.

No more. The speaker may still need the Democrats, but once it’s all over, it’ll be … all over. Boehner is retiring and everybody loves him. There’s nothing like an imminent departure to make a politician popular.

“A patriot,” said President Obama. “To say that I will miss John Boehner is a tremendous understatement,” said the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid.

O.K., not popular with totally everybody. The right-wing Value Voters Summit burst into applause when Senator Marco Rubio announced the resignation news. “I’m not here today to bash anyone,” Rubio said, slightly inaccurately. “But the time has come to turn the page … and allow a new generation of leadership in this country.” Rubio is always promising to usher in an era of fresh new ideas, which appear to involve lowering taxes on the wealthy.

So who would you like to see as the next speaker of the House? (Really, you don’t need a reason. People will just be impressed you have an opinion.) Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California is the favorite. Some say he’s a little dim, but there are worse things in the world.

Then there’s the majority whip, Steve Scalise of Louisiana. He’s a red state guy, which seems appropriate. And he has no memory of giving a speech at that white power convention.

Or what about Paul Ryan? No, wait — take Paul Ryan back. The former vice-presidential nominee declared he was ineligible since he is the father of young children. “This is a job for an empty nester,” he told reporters.

It was a grand moment of gender progress. Someday, perhaps, ambitious women will be allowed to say stuff like that. Maybe even under circumstances that do not involve trying to dodge a politically disastrous assignment.

Boehner claimed he had always been planning to retire at the end of the year. He was going to announce it on his birthday, Nov. 17. But then he suddenly decided it might be better to do it on … Friday. To end “leadership turmoil.”

The bottom line is that the next time the Freedom Caucus decides it cannot support any legislation that fails to defund Planned Parenthood, repeal Obamacare and eliminate the Department of Homeland Security, it will be somebody else’s problem.

John Boehner won’t be around to worry about continuing resolutions. Or the coming crisis over how to keep highway construction going. Or funding the national debt. And after that it’ll be Thanksgiving and time for the next government shutdown.

Boehner won’t care. No sirree, he’ll be back in Reading, Ohio, peacefully carving the turkey. Or maybe in his Florida condo. Soon, he won’t even have to set foot in Reading, Ohio, again unless he feels like it. He hung out with the pope and now he’s hanging up his hat. Canny fellow.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Three bands

“Jazz is smooth and cool. Jazz is rage. Jazz flows like water. Jazz never seems to begin or end. Jazz isn't methodical, but jazz isn't messy either. Jazz is a conversation, a give and take. Jazz is the connection and communication between musicians. Jazz is abandon.” — Nat Wolff, American actor, singer-songwriter, composer, keyboardist and guitarist

MANY of you know that Paul is a musician. You might not know, however, that he plays in three bands. Yup, three. He's been the lead trombonist in Des Moines Big Band for 21 years. Some of you helped me design a logo for DMBB recently when the new musical director took over after 28 years and wanted a new look. (Actually, in this case he just wanted a look, not just a new one, since the band had never had a logo.)

Paul has also played lead trombone for Turner Center Jazz Orchestra since its inception five years ago. Paul and I designed the logo for TCJO too. (I swear I don't have a thing for blue and black. The TCJO logo came first, and the new director of DMBB wanted blue and black, so there you have it.)

And now Paul is playing in a South American band called Parranderos Latin Combo. 

I said all that to say this: Turner Center Jazz Orchestra is debuting its 2015 - 2016 on October 1. Below is the poster I designed for it. If you live in central Iowa, join us! It's going to be an awesome season!!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Mama Logli and her cards

“When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age.” — Victor Hugo

MANY OF YOU know that I borrow Virginia Logli as my stand-in mom. Mine died when I was six, although we were separated long before that. I probably spent two years at most in the company and care of my mother from the time I was born until she died.

For most of my life I was raised by my paternal grandparents, Porter D. and Kathryn M. Sargent. The Logli’sRichard, Virginia and their two children, Ann and Mark — lived one house away. 

Richard and his brother Rico owned the grocery store in town, so there was always plenty of food at Richard and Virginia's house which wasn't always the case at mine. They fed me if I was there at meal time, and they took me along on outings to drive-in movies or the amusement park — things my grandparents couldn't afford. Later they moved a block away, which is where Virginia still lives.

Virginia turned 90 in July. In the weeks leading up to her birthday, I was wracking my brain for something special to do for her since, homebody that she is, she'd ruled out a party or going out to celebrate. Finally I remembered how much she likes getting cards in the mail, so I asked residents of my virtual village if they would consider sending her a birthday card.

You came through in spades!!! She received cards from the UK, Canada and all over the US, and had so much fun opening each one, discovering where in the wide world you call home and quizzing me about how it is I’ve come to know you.

The last one arrived — so far, anyway — a week ago, and we decided to set them all up and take a picture. Some of you even sent little gifts: a book from Leominster, foreign paper money, tiny trinkets from Florida, a calendar and picture postcards from Cornwall for her to use.

Thank you all SO much!!! How kind.

My little present back to you is this brief video I’ve been saving since her birthday. On that day Mama Logli said she wanted to ride her bike, and away she peddled with her son Mark frantically running after her. It’s a hoot.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The 100-year-old sprinter

“Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years.” — Ausonius, 4th century Roman poet and teacher of rhetoric

FOR THOSE of us who believe ourselves to be beyond the age of accomplishment, most certainly athletic accomplishment, consider this story from The New York Times!

100 Years Old. 5 World Records.

By Karen Crouse
September. 21, 2015

SAN DIEGO — Don Pellmann had been at the San Diego Mesa College track for less than an hour Sunday morning and had already moved his lawn chair twice to remain in the shade, which was receding fast. By the time Pellmann set his fifth age-group world record, in the early afternoon, the temperature on the track was creeping toward 100, which also happens to be the birthday Pellmann recently celebrated.

Pellmann, the most senior athlete in the San Diego Senior Olympics, became the first centenarian to break 27 seconds in the 100-meter dash and the first to clear an official height in the high jump. He also broke records for men in the 100-and-over age group in the shot-put and the discus and set a record in the long jump.

Wearing baggy shorts and a faded red T-shirt with “Donald Pellmann Established 1915 Milwaukee, WI” written across the front, he opened his program by trying to become the oldest man, by roughly nine years, to record a height in the pole vault. He dislodged the bar three times at 3 feet 1 ¾ inches, which gnawed at him the rest of the day.

“I thought I was in better shape,” he said.

The meet volunteers, composed of students from San Diego State’s nursing program and Mesa College’s track team, were awed by Pellmann’s fitness level. They sought him out between his events to express their admiration.

“He’s very, very steady on his feet, and his posture’s very erect,” Sarah Provencher, one of the nursing students, said. “He doesn’t have as much bone and muscle degeneration as others in his age group. You can see he has really maintained his muscles.”

Samantha Foster, 17, a freshman pole-vaulter on the Mesa track team, planted herself so close to the pit that she could hear Pellmann muttering to himself after each of his three vaults. “I love when he says he needs more practice,” she said. “It’s cool to watch him being able to still do this at 100.”

His fellow competitors also sought him out for selfies, including 57-year-old Robert Silva, who said, “You see people that are 100 run, but to see someone that age pole-vault or long jump, that’s another galaxy.”

Pellmann said he had been a gymnast and a high jumper in his youth. The Depression cut short his athletic career at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, then known as La Crosse State Teachers College. Pellmann said he quit the track team to get a job. After raising three children with his wife, Marge, who is in her early 90s, Pellmann retired from his job with a General Electric subsidiary in 1970.

At the urging of one of his children, he entered a masters track meet. He did so well that he kept going. “I’ve been in 127 meets since,” Pellmann said.

Before Sunday, two years had passed since Pellmann’s last competition in the pole vault. He used to practice by taking a bamboo stick and jumping into the sandbox at a children’s park, he said, but those days are long gone.

“The only time I can practice is at the meets,” said Pellmann, who lives with his wife, who is ailing, in an assisted living home in Santa Clara, Calif.

He approached the vaulting pit with trepidation, running with a pole he had borrowed from Nadine O’Connor, 73, who is also a record-setting masters athlete. O’Connor and her partner, Bud Held, a 1952 Olympian in the javelin, live outside San Diego and hosted Pellmann, whom they got to know on the seniors track circuit.

Held acted as Pellmann’s coach. In the pole vault, Held urged him to run faster on his approach and consoled him each time he knocked down the bar.

Click here to read the the whole article.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The new science behind sleep

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” — Thomas Dekker, American actor and musician

I BOOKMARKED this New York Times article to share because it seems applicable to many of us, not just those with babies and small children. The emerging science behind sleep and wakefulness is fascinating. Who knew?!

High-Tech Lights to Help Baby Sleep, or Students Stay Alert

By Diane Cardwell
September 11, 2015

Like many expecting parents, Tracy Mizraki Kraft in Portola Valley, Calif., worried about how her newborn would sleep. So she paid attention when her doctor handed her a light bulb that he said would help her son do just that.

The small amber bulb, called Sleepy Baby, seemed to work well, she said, creating a soothing environment for Leo, now 16 months, as he drifted off to sleep.

For Ms. Mizraki Kraft, the bulb’s appeal was self-preservation. But it is part of a technological revolution coming to homes, offices, hotels and schools through lighting designed to undo the ill effects of artificial light — both overhead and on screen — and help regulate sleep, alertness and even people’s moods.

“Lighting is really not about a fixture in the ceiling anymore,” said Mariana Figueiro, who leads light and health research at the Lighting Research Center of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “It’s about delivering individualized light treatments to people.”

Scientists have understood for years that different levels and colors of light can have powerful biological effects on humans. But that concept has been applied only with expensive bulbs — costing as much as $300,000 — for specialty applications like mimicking the 24-hour cycle for astronauts or treating jaundice in newborns.

Fredric Maxik of the Lighting Science Group,
the inventor of the Sleepy Baby bulb.
Now, with lighting technology, especially LEDs, becoming more sophisticated and less expensive, companies are developing so-called biological lighting for ordinary consumers.

The Lighting Science Group makes Sleepy Baby and is among the companies that are most devoted to the growing market for lighting to enhance rest or alertness, with bulbs like Good Night, and Awake and Alert.

But other companies, from start-ups to the biggest lighting manufacturers, have products promising similar results. General Electric announced this year that it would release a color-changing LED as part of its Align product line that is compatible with Apple’s HomeKit system and is meant to automate lighting according to the natural sleep cycle.

Two years ago, Philips introduced the Hue, a Wi-Fi-connected bulb compatible with Apple systems that offers “light recipes” conducive to waking up and winding down.

Digital Lumens, which makes and manages smart lighting systems for commercial and industrial settings, including supermarkets, is supplying lights for a study at Brown University aimed at controlling brightness and spectrum to promote learning among adolescents. And a company called LumiFi has an app to adjust lighting in homes and commercial spaces like hotels, with settings like Rest, Energize, Focus and Sexy.

“With these kinds of bulbs that are coming to the market, you can suddenly now put better lighting controls systems, very affordable, into the hands of everyone,” said Beatrice Witzgall, an architect and lighting designer who founded LumiFi. “It’s a big revolution.”

Companies are also focusing on a host of health applications for lighting, said Milos Todorovic, who leads bioelectronics research at Lux Research. Among these are changing a person’s mood and affecting actual physical processes inside the body, he said, including using light to enhance collagen regeneration to help heal wounds.

It’s all part of a goal — to undo, in effect, the damage that regular lighting has done to the body’s natural rhythms.

The new consumer-oriented bulbs, for example, are designed to regulate the body’s basic need to rest and wake up by stimulating receptors in the eyes that signal to the brain when it is time for bed and when it is time to go about the activities of the day.

When exposed to short-wavelength light, the blue end of the spectrum, those receptors suppress the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

Click on this link to read the whole article.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Firearm suicide epidemic

“How many have to die before we will give up these dangerous toys?” ― Stephen King, Guns

THOSE of you who read Hey Look know how strongly I feel about the gun carnage is this country. Here's a New York Times editorial board piece that reiterates and reinforces my view.

The Quieter Gun Death Toll

By The New York Times Editorial Board
September 10, 2015

The grisly carnage from mass shootings regularly attracts the nation’s focus as a public safety issue, if only fleetingly. But the highest death toll from guns by far continues to be the far less noticed wave of suicides — nearly 20,000 a year — by Americans whose easy access to guns presents an irresistible temptation in a critical moment of despair.

Suicide accounts for two-thirds of the 30,000-plus gun deaths each year, as more than half of all suicides are carried out by firearms, according to the latest federal data.

If it takes a sensational statistic to spur national concern about such self-destruction, consider the latest research showing that 82 percent of teenage suicides by firearms involve guns left poorly secured or foolishly unprotected by members of their families. These young lives are impulsively lost in supposedly safe home environments, where just the presence of a gun has been found to increase the risk of suicide three times, according to a new report by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun safety organization.

The report also notes that 85 percent of people attempting suicide by gun succeed, while drug overdose, the main method chosen for suicide attempts, is fatal only 2 percent of the time. Ninety percent of those who fail in a suicide attempt embrace their second chance at life and do not eventually die by suicide.

There is stark evidence that easy access to guns compounds the crisis. The states with the five highest rates of gun suicides have gun ownership rates notably higher than the national average, according to the Brady study. Meanwhile, the gun lobby and firearm industry are engaged in a reckless campaign to have more Americans own and carry guns.

The suicide problem is enormously complicated without irresponsible access to guns. At a minimum, people who own guns should be required to keep them firmly under lock for the safety of society, let alone their own families.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Another benefit of being outdoors

“The older I get, the more I appreciate my rural childhood. I spent a lot of time outdoors, unsupervised, which is a blessing.” — Barbara Kingsolver

YET ANOTHER study suggests that spending time outdoors is beneficial to eyesight. Although the degree of effect varies study to study, the existence of improvement doesn't. I've posted on this topic before. Click here to read my previous post.

Making Kids Play Outside Reduces Rates of Myopia in Study

By Maggie Fox for NBC News
September 15, 2015

Could making your kid play outside help prevent nearsightedness later? A Chinese study published Tuesday suggests it can.

With 30 percent of Americans suffering from myopia, and closer to 40 percent of the population in Asia, it's a question worth exploring.

People tend to believe that too much "close work," such as sewing or reading in poor light, might be the culprit. Other studies suggest time outdoors can reduce the rates of myopia. Scientists know that some combination of genetic risks and childhood activities are playing a role.

So a team in China decided to try their own version of studies showing that time spent outside might help.

They found 12 schools willing to take part in the experiment. Half the schools assigned their first-graders to an extra period of outside recess for every day of the school year. Half didn't. In all, 1,900 first graders, aged 6 and 7, took part in the three-year-long experiment.

Three years later, nearly 40 percent of the kids who did nothing extra had developed myopia, compared to 30 percent of the kids who got the extra outdoor activity.

But the effect wasn't as big as the researchers had hoped.

The team, headed by Dr. Mingguang He of the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center in Guangzhou, had hoped for something like the 50 percent reduction that researchers in Taiwan got by locking kids outside for as long as 80 minutes a day. Their study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, gave the kids an extra 40 minutes a day for the nine-month school year.

"Our study achieved an absolute difference of 9.1 percent in the incidence rate of myopia, representing a 23 percent relative reduction in incident myopia after three years, which was less than the anticipated reduction," they wrote.

"However, this is clinically important because small children who develop myopia early are most likely to progress to high myopia, which increases the risk of pathological myopia," they added. So they could have prevented severe myopia in at least some of the kids.

They also noted that parents did not take their advice to encourage kids to spend more time outdoors playing. It might be if children spend even more time outside, the combination of sunlight and activity will help protect their vision.

The researchers don't think it's exercise alone, or time spent away from books and computers alone, that's making the difference. In a study in which kids were assigned to exercise indoors, rates of myopia were not affected, they said.

It's not clear what it is about being outdoors that might affect vision -- exposure to sunlight, forcing the eye to focus on objects a varying distance away, exercise, or a combination of these factors.

Dr. Michael Repka of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said it would be important to see how long the effects of the experiment lasted.

"In some studies evaluating myopia treatment, there has been catch-up in the progression of myopia in the treatment group after the intervention was discontinued," he wrote in a commentary.

A team that came up with a formula for predicting myopia found that children tend to be slightly farsighted in first grade, and that kids who are less farsighted at this age tend to become myopic later.

Friday, September 11, 2015

More flushing of Rush (yay)

“It is my sincere desire that my research and hard work will help create a world where we all learn to walk this Earth, safe, enlightened and free from the perils of cruelty, ignorance, and all the other dark and sinister forces which make assholes possible.” ― Alexei Maxim Russell, Alexei Maxim Russell's Field Guide to Assholes

YOU know me, whenever I want to get pumped or I'm looking for a reason to do the happy dance, I check in with the good folks at Media Matters, Flush Rush and #StopRush to see which stations are dropping him now. 

And . . . drum roll . . .  another one has!! Hee hee hee hee hee!!!! 

Feel free to dance around. Better yet, follow the link to Flush Rush, check out the list of his advertisers, and call or email some of them cuz' it's working!!! Yay us!!!

Bad For Business: Rush Limbaugh Dropped By One Of His "Original" Affiliates

By Angelo Carusone
August 11, 2015

California's KOWL has dropped Rush Limbaugh's radio show from its lineup. Describing the station as "one of the original Rush Limbaugh affiliates," the announcement release emphasized that the decision was based exclusively on "economic reasons," citing Limbaugh's "toxic brand."

The release elaborated on the economic reasons: "And now the free market has spoken. Rush has repelled local, regional, and national advertisers from KOWL costing the stations [sic] thousands of dollars in advertisers." It went on to state that "advertisers would rather just avoid the whole station then [sic] take the risk of being associated with Rush's increasingly toxic brand."

KOWL's explanation for dropping Limbaugh's show is very similar to reasons offered by Boston's WRKO and Indianapolis' WIBC, which both recently dropped Limbaugh from their lineups.

The commercial viability of Limbaugh's show has suffered since 2012 following Limbaugh's prolonged attack on then-law student Sandra Fluke. That attack and resulting firestorm led advertisers to recognize that Limbaugh's volatility and brand were bad for business. Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported on the industry-wide damage Limbaugh is causing. Limbaugh's toxicity is so severe that it has cost radio stations millions of dollars in lost ad revenue and contributed to dramatic reductions in advertising rates for talk radio as a whole.

KOWL Station Manager Steve Harness offered some behind-the-scenes insight and touched on the additional problem of Limbaugh's syndicator fees (which at this point adds injury to injury by having radio stations that are losing money due to Limbaugh also pay him for the disservice of losing them money), explaining in the statement: 

"I spent a lot of time negotiating directly with Limbaugh's syndicator. I told them that we didn't want to lose his show, but that we couldn't pay him a fee in addition to him losing us money repelling advertisers and they refused to drop the monthly free. Ironically, they lost the fee anyway and a long-time affiliate."

Indeed. From the initial days after the Fluke controversy, Limbaugh and the team around him have shown little regard for the damage to the industry Limbaugh caused. In the first few days, Limbaugh resisted apologizing, which further inflamed the controversy -- eventually only apologizing for two but remaining steadfast in refusing to apologize for the other 44 personal attacks he had lobbed. Subsequently, he continued to engage in the same kinds of indecency and vitriol that ignited the controversy in the first place. This only served to emphasize Limbaugh's volatility and calcify the recognition that Limbaugh is bad for business.

Advertisers continue to leave and stay away thanks to a dedicated group of independent organizers in the Flush Rush and #StopRush communities. Their participation matters and is having a big effect.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Today we are adorable

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.” — Anatole France, French poet, journalist, and novelist

HUMAN BEINGS can be so annoying and disappointing. Except for Paul of course — since he is, after all, perfect (in my eyes and for me).

Today he has been annoyed, and I have been disappointed. 

So without further ado, here are three videos of such sweetness as to provide an antidote for both annoyance and disappointment.

Don Myers reminded me of the one of the man who taught his heart-melting cat to sign for treats. Paul came across the first two. Collectively, they are so adorable, they just might kill ya'.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The boss Big Boss Oil-less Fryer

"Good food and a warm kitchen are what makes a house a home. I always tried to make my home like my mother's, because Mom was magnificent at stretching a buck when it came to decorating and food. Like a true Italian, she valued beautification in every area of her life, and I try to do the same." — Rachael Ray

I'VE BEEN looking for a wall clock for our AP (all-purpose) room for several weeks. Six stores tried, four clocks purchased, three returned . . . so far. Paul and I independently thought one of them was just right, but the darned thing didn't run! 

In the process of hitting these shops, I found some drapes I thought I might like for our bedroom we've just redone. They seemed like a long shot, but as it turns out, I love them! The palette for the room is light taupe, off white, brown and deep sea blue. I didn't intend to change the drapes. The old ones were brown and worked, but when I changed the shades — Levalor top-down, bottom-up, room darkening (we'll never have any other kind) — to the deep sea hue to introduce more color into the room, I found the intensity of the blue a little overpowering for the old drapes' color and volume. 

I'm crazy about the new ones. The pattern helps them hold their own against the shades as do the heavier weight and greater volume of the fabric. I'm still finishing repainting the woodwork, and when I pulled the drapes on one window out of the way to do more painting, Shiva decided to test them out for nap-ability.

She, by the way, is now a whopping 8 pounds, seven ounces — three ounces more than she's ever weighed that we know of. We've added a full two pounds since her disastrously low weight during her life-threatening, unidentified illness. Believe me, we feel grateful every single day.

While I was at Tuesday Morning where I found the drapes I didn't know I wanted, I spotted a Big Boss Oil-less Fryer. I'd seen them advertised on TV and had thought it sounded like a potentially good product. I decided to take a flyer on the fryer (I know . . .  groan), and brought it home, and oh my goodness, if you don't run out and get one, you're missing a bet! 

Seriously!! Buy one! Paul tried frying skinless chicken breasts dipped in buttermilk and rolled in gluten-free bread crumbs in it last night. Best chicken ever! The outside was crisp and brown, the inside was tender and juicy. Tonight he made parmesan-encrusted tilapia. Same deal. And no oil!!! Really.

As the website points out, this device as three cooking elements: "Halogen heat warms the surface of the food directly, for browning, roasting and flavor. Convection circulates the hot air, evenly distributing the heat for faster cooking. Gentle infrared heat cooks food from inside out, sealing in juices." It really, really, really works!!!

Aside from the fact that not using oil is so much healthier, the other big plus is that there's no mess! No left over oil to dispose of as there is with either deep-frying or regular frying. No splattering up the stove. Tomorrow we're going to make homemade french fries.

I paid $59.99 for ours at Tuesday Morning which is the lowest I've seen one for. You can get one on Amazon or WalMart or Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Here's the box it came in — and according to Shiva (below), the packing
makes a perfect kitten nest.

Here's what the website has to say.