If I had a vivid imagination, I could conjure up some sinister reason for cutting funds to the CDC and the NIH as our recent Congress has done and create a fiction from it. Perhaps a corrupt leader wanted to kill off the type of people he didn’t like and had secret vaccination programs for his followers. His enemies would become infected and die. One way to do that would be with Influenza A.
There are two main categories of Influenza viruses, A,B., and C. Type A viruses cause the most trouble and can be found in humans and animals, including whales, cats, horses, and other animals,notably birds and pigs. (Bats have their own special viruses.) Influenza B is uncomfortable to humans but not deadly. There is also a human C virus which is milder yet. Influenza A can be deadly.
Besides A and B viruses are then categorized by their H and N types of proteins that they have in their outer coatings. If you want to read more about that here is a great description. Let’s just say that it takes a match up of the right H and N to allow a virus to invade your cells, hijack them, create “baby” viruses, and pop the cells to release moe viruses. That is how we get the designations such as H1H1 (the deadly Swine flu) and H2N3 (this year’s virulent strain.) Both of these, and all Influenzas, are zoonoses–infections that can move between people and animals.
Many Type A viruses can creep between birds, human, and pigs. If you look at charts from the CDC (why are we underfunding them by the way?) you can see that birds are a significant reservoir of these viruses. Shore birds including geese are potent carriers but other types of domestic and wild birds also carry viruses. For example N3 viruses are associated with ducks.
Most Influenza A viruses originate in birds. However, not many of these are easily transmitted to people. They can be transmitted to pigs. Pigs are a common go-between for viruses. Pigs and humans can infect each other with influenza more easily than birds and humans can infect each other. Pig flu symptoms are much like human flu symptoms.
And there are/were government funded scientists working on a universal flu vaccine, which we all want but is not profitable enough for big pharma to develop. That’s why we have to rely on public funds. Or if you have a sinister mind, the people who currently are in charge here in the United States do not want the common people to have this vaccine.
So before you vote, ask your politicians what they want to do with the meager bit of taxes they’ll be collecting. Do they want a Universal flu vaccine or something like a wall or a military parade? When you are laid low with the next flu epidemic or even pandemic, you probably aren’t going to care about all that stuff you accumulated. Consider your priorities.
Finally I got organized enough to get my laundry done.
My mom and I used to give each other dish towels as welcome home gifts when we traveled. I continued this tradition with my kids when they grew up. I love dishtowels. But I have so many that when they are all washed, I can’t close the dishtowel drawer.
I have so many socks that when they are washed, I can’t shut the sock drawer. I began to suspect that I have too many things.
I took stock of more than my laundry. I had three humidifiers but I decided I needed a different kind and ordered one. When it came, I hated it but since I used it before deciding I hated it, I couldn’t return it. Now I have four humidifiers.
As I was fretting about having too many things, my daughter dropped off sacks of old clothes for me to look through to see if I wanted any of it. It took me over a week to decide I wanted one shirt and one pair of pajamas. I took the rest to the Thrift Store but in truth nobody wants your old clothes. Clothes nowadays are so cheap that they can’t be recycled easily–not even for rags– and thrift stores have trouble selling them Often only 20-30% of donated clothing gets sold. Meanwhile, the textile industry produces more pollution than planes or automobiles.
Feeling guilty, I vowed to only wear old clothes. I stuck to this for one day. I got a compliment on a shirt that belonged to my daughter in the 90s! But before long I was thinking about how slow my phone is and cool it would be to get a phone and a watch that could charge together on a wireless charger. Yes, I was back in the clutches–and I don’t mean clutch purse although I have one of those, too.
Since WWII, the world has been gripped by a shopping frenzy. Some of this is because of planned obsolesce–things are designed to break and be hard to repair. Parts from one brand don’t fit into another brand. People have to buy to replace.
The other cause is Affluenza. Affluenza is a psychological condition caused by having too much, resulting in sadness and isolation. In the wealthy it manifests itself in a lack of motivation along with entitlement, isolation, and guilt. You can take a quiz to see how deep into it you are. Here are a few of the questions.
“Do you sometimes feel as though your personal expenses are so demanding that you can’t afford public expenses like schools, parks,and transit?”
“Have you ever experienced road rage?”
“Do you ever use shopping as “therapy”?”
“Do you get bored unless you have something to consume (goods, food, media)?”
I only scored a 22 on that test, no affluenza, although I can relate to getting bored easily. On this one, I got “mild “case of affluenza.
To put it into perspective, all living things collect and store. It’s natural to want to stock up for the future and to be safe and comfortable. However, things like advertising and the media can put false emphasis on things that you must buy to stay happy. The goal is to make you insecure so you’ll buy more than you need or even want.
One solution,of course is to not buy anything new unless you have room for it. Also, don’t fool yourself into thinking that a whole lot of people out there want your old stuff. You buy it and you’ll more than likely have to keep it forever or have it go into the landfill.
Radon comes from beneath the soil. When the earth formed, heavier elements–those that are unstable and decay along with others such as gold, silver, and lead–settled lower in the earth than the lighter ones–carbon, nitrogen, etc. In fact, the earth’s core is hot because it is a nuclear reactor. The sun isn’t enough to keep the earth as warm as we need it to be. We need this reactor to keep the earth from being cold and barren. However, we don’t need this “hot” stuff at the surface. When soil is disrupted, a variety of radioactive materials can be released. Being a gas, radon can easily travel into our homes.
You can have a new house and have radon.
You can have an old house and have radon.
You can have a home built on a slope and have radon. You can have a home not on a slope and have radon, too.
You can have a walk-out basement and have radon.
You can have no basement and have radon. (If you have a house on stilts, you probably will have less radon.)
You can fill in a basement and have radon.
You can knock a house down, fill in the basement, put a slab over it, build a new structure, and have radon. This process disturbs the soil a lot.
Earthquakes can change the level of radon in your home.
Radon levels are often higher in the winter, during droughts, and on windy days.
Wells can bring radon into your home.
Homes in the same neighborhood can have different levels of radon.
Opening windows can help radon escape, but more will enter without remediation.
Radon is a problem in Iowa. (Pennsylvania and the Appalachian region also have high levels.) Many people have not tested because the danger wasn’t understood until around 1985 and this makes it seem like just one more thing to be scared about. There are no laws that require testing for it. But please do test. order a test kit
January is radon awareness month. It’s time to close this month and close out the radon in my basement.
Have you seen the photos? Delhi was enveloped in a haze of particulate matter. Its citizen’s lungs look as if they have been life-long chain-smokers. That’s in another country though. We’d never be so backwards, right? Think again. Here’s a blog about how dangerous the air is in Salt Lake City. Iowa has a problem, too, and with the powers that be in our current state and federal government, it won’t get any better.
Few things get my rage up like particulates and ignorant politicians. You can take a look here to see how long I have been talking about particulates. It’s hard to dislike a politician intensely and I try not to do so but Charles Grassley stands out as a man who is willfully ignorant about air pollution. And Iowa elects the man so dangerous to health over and over again. In fact, apparently the world does this as well.
Enough about him. Let’s take a look at a few causes of air pollution.
PM 25–otherwise known as fine particulates are a common source of pollution They are the tiny red dots on this illustration.
Once in your lungs they never leave, These things come from combustion–fossil fuels burning, forest and other fires, cigarettes, and chemical air pollution from industry. In fact, these things not only hurt your lungs, they weaken your bones, too.
Here in Iowa, there are plenty of other types of particulates to worry about “Feed, bedding materials, dry manure, unpaved soil surfaces, animal dander, poultry feathers” from CAFOs are a mixture of “fecal matter, feed materials, pollen, bacteria, fungi, skin cells, silicates” that can cause “Chronic bronchitis, chronic respiratory symptoms, declines in lung function, organic dust toxic syndrome.”
The air pollution regulations that began in the 1970s helped clear our air. But they aren’t enough and some are being rolled back. What can you do personally to help cut down on air pollution? Here are some ideas:
Turn off your car–don’t idle it. In fact, rethink car use and cut down where you can.
When you drive, keep your tires properly inflated.
Buy less on-line. Try to make more of your own things.
Take shorter showers and baths.
Un-plug appliances when not in use and turn off lights.
Don’t use a leaf blower.
Use an air purifier.
Share a room–by that I mean, gather in one or two rooms of your home each night and turn off the lights in the other rooms.
Use a clothes dryer.
Talk about air pollution!
Now that I look over the list, I see that there’s more I can do besides fume about politicians. After all, some of them are probably getting donations from a company that wants to make big bucks selling fresh air.
Removing radon from most homes is a simple process–a tube going beneath the foundation and a fan remove the radon and vent it outside, away from windows and places where people are most likely to go. The radon is quickly diluted by the outside air.
My house, however, wasn’t as easy as the picture shown above. First of all, the vent must be ten feet away from any windows that open. My house is filled with windows. We found a spot in the side yard to place the fan and vent. It was close to the high radon side of the house, too. We don’t hang out much in that section of the yard.
Second, the radon was coming from one nasty spot not easy to vent–a place in the cellar where a drain had been cut into the foundation. This is a thick walled cellar. By cellar, I do not mean a basement, I mean, a true cellar that’s underground with no windows.
Warning: photos of my old basement ahead.
An area where radon is coming in is a drain vent added there recently. It’s near a deep cellar. The heavy gas concentrated in the cellar–great for tornados, bad for radon.
Here’s the solution:
The next step is to test for radon using several meters throughout the house to make sure the gas is expelled and not re-entering. It can take a few days for radon level to drop. If we don’t get it below the level of 4 pCi/L we’ll need more tubes.
You might wonder if I can hear the radon fan. I’m not sure. I hear a fan when I’m next to the window closest to the fan. However, is it the refrigerator or the radon fan? I have radiators that make a gentle rumble. (In the summer, it will be next to the air conditioner.) If it makes a noise, its not a loud one.
One in fifteen homes in the United States tests high for radon and in Iowa, the ratio is seven out of ten–the highest in the nation! (However, some states such as Pennsylvania and South Dakota have higher average ratings. Click here for a map.) Even though I don’t spend much time in my basement, I’m glad to have done this.Going into the cellar always made me sneeze. I though it was mold but maybe it was the irritating radioactive gas. Now I can dodge tornados more safely.
According to Publishing Perspectives, 24% of people in the U.S. listened to an audiobook in the past year. Of these, 48% are under age 35 so this market is expected to remain strong. Roughly equal percent of men and women listen to audiobooks. Most people listen on their phones and believe it or not, the home is the most commonplace to listen followed by in the car and then on an airplane. If you want a fun, crazy book with science, romance, history, tonic, humor, and cute animals, this book is for you!
The book link for the paperback is hard to find on Amazon, so here it is.
You’ve no doubt heard of radon in basements. Where is radon prevent? Here is a radon map. The United States doesn’t have much radon compared to other countries. It’s common in many states, especially in the North. Iowa and North Dakota are the two totally Zone 1 states. That means that here in Iowa, it’s hard to avoid this odorless, colorless, harmful gas. It’s inside and out, concentrating in low lying areas and clinging to dust particles. Inside it can reach harmful concentrations and promote lung cancer.
What is radon? It’s a non-reactive element, in the same family as helium and neon. It hangs in the air as a solitary atom. It doesn’t like to form chemical bonds. The problem is, it’s the big cousin to those elements. It’s heavy. It would NOT float a balloon. Big elements, those with an atomic number of above 81, aren’t stable. They decay and toss off radioactive particles as they strip down to something lighter. And for radon, its light form is lead. So not only does it beat on your lungs with energetic particles as it decays, it goes through a series of forming dangerous atoms, and it’s not too nice when it settles down as a lead atom. Here it is on the periodic table, Rn, radon. There is also an Ra, radium–kind of confusing. Radium c is related to calcium. Radon, the one we are talking about, can be in water but exists as a gas. Because it is a gas, you breath it in. That’s a problem. Radon’s atomic number 86 so it’s a big one! (Carbon by example is 12.) But not so big that you can wear a particle mask and keep it away. It’s got a bad size. Where does it come from? Heavy atoms tend to be found further down in the ground and radon comes from uranium break down. Uranium has atomic number 92. It’s a solid and tends to stay where it’s put. It lets off the gas of radon. (And also helium.)
In retrospect, I wasted time waiting until the basement was done to get after the radon. I have decided that patience is over-rated! We put down radon sealant on our new floors and thought that would be enough but no, It worked in some rooms but not in others. In fact, by adding a drainage system and two sump pumps we probably made our radon worse.
Curious about radon your house? The first step in figuring out if you have radon is to do a short term test. In this test, the radon is collected on carbon, which can suck things in and get them to stick The small package of carbon sits in your home (basement in my case) for a few days is sent to a lab and measured. Want to buy one? Look up “radon test kit.” They aren’t expensive.
The next step–if your reading is high– is to call a radon specialist. This person will probably put some radon monitors in the lowest level the home to see where it is most concentrated.
No surprise. Ours was-concentrated in the root cellar/tornado shelter/bomb shelter. It was less so in other spots in the basement but the average level was too high.
One thing we had going for us–we don’t have any duct work in the basement. We kept our radiators. The duct work for the air conditioner is in the attic. This means were were not blowing the cellar radon around the entire house as can happen with radon. On the other hand, the radon in the basement wasn’t going to go anywhere without help. And we go down to the cellar during tornado scares and store things down there.
We signed a contract with a radon specialist to fix the problem. Then, we waited four months for the problem to be fixed. I think the radon specialist will be here Monday. I’ll keep you posted.
The takeaways from my experience are this:
Don’t wait to test for radon.
When you sign a contract to have it removed, have both a level of reduction AND a completion date specified. I had an oral agreement–or so I thought–to have the work completed in October. I hope that it will be worth the wait.
There’s a new Shero of History posted this week. Here it is.
Or if you prefer, read it here.
Before Sarah Blaffer Hrdy came along, maternal nature had been largely defined by highly romanticized Victorian notions, essentially, wishful thinking. Yet, through her research on other primates and cultures, Hrdy learned that polyandrous matings, abortion, infanticide, and abandoning of offspring occur across the natural world. Motherhood comes with a price and when females don’t have the resources or social support they need, they naturally put their own health and the health of the children they already have first. In a crunch they may retrench, or even bail out altogether.
Sarah Blaffer was born in Texas in 1946 to a wealthy family—one that wanted sons but got mostly daughters instead. As their third daughter, she found herself fortunate enough to be ignored and allowed to go to school and study what she found interesting. She graduated from Radcliffe in 1969 and got her PhD in anthropology from Harvard in 1975. At Harvard she met her husband, anthropologist Daniel Hrdy, a specialist in infectious diseases. They divided their time between Boston and India, where she studied langur monkeys and he rotaviruses. They were extraordinarily happy together. At 31 she became a mother, and twice took infant Katrinka with her to Rajasthan, but the rigors of fieldwork combined with a low point in Indo-American relations, led the Hrdys to abandon work there. “Inevitably motherhood entails compromises,” she said, “but you don’t have to give up everything.” She turned to writing and non-field research, and had two more children, who say that she was a fantastic mother. Her third book, The Woman Who Never Evolved came out in 1981. Mother Nature, was published in 1999. Other important works included Mothers and Others (2009). When asked to contribute an intellectual autobiography to the second volume on Leaders of Animal Behavior she titled it Myths, Monkeys, and Motherhood: A compromising life (2010). With each book, she found herself questioning and challenging traditional ideas of motherhood.
Her central message was how much social support mothers need. Costs of raising a human child to adulthood are tremendous, not only through calories—some 13 million—but children are also emotionally and financially demanding. Most women experience periods of ambivalence about motherhood. Unlike other apes where mothers exclusively rear offspring by themselves, Hrdy found ancestral humans, who reared even more costly infants after shorter intervals, ill-equipped to do so.
What Hrdy saw emerging from her studies was the importance of allomothers—fathers, grandmothers, aunts, other relatives, and trusted associates who help rear children. Because of this need to engage and ingratiate themselves with others, human children had to learn to integrate varied perspectives and in the process became more empathetic. In contrast to conventional narratives about the evolution of our species that feature cooperative hunting and inter-group warfare, Hrdy stressed the role of cooperative childcare.
An advocate of Attachment Theory, Hrdy also sought to revise and expand it to include the role of allomothers. Instead of debating mother-care versus other-care, she sought ways to improve daycare, as well as make it more affordable. Although, she never set out to be a revolutionary, her views challenged patriarchal family structures, and led social scientists and biologists alike to reexamine the way they think about both motherhood and the emotional needs of children.
Hrdy spent most of her career at the University of California Davis where she is currently an emeritus professor of anthropology who continues to publish research papers. Her most recent work concerns human cooperative breeding. She’s received the Staley Prize from the School of Advanced Research and has twice been awarded the Howell’s Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Biological Anthropology. For a complete list of her publications, go here.
These days she can be found on her 1,000 acre farm in California, growing walnuts and writing her next book, this one about the nurturing potentials of males.
My problem? I’ve sat on the sun far too long. I like to be warm. I want my skin to make my vitamin D–it’s better that way. But it’s like beer–no need for too much and I’m guilty of the “If a little is good, more is better” syndrome. Ultra-violet rays break down collagen and the loss of collagen and elastin proteins forms folds of skin known as wrinkles. This is most pronounced for Caucasians. But UV light isn’t the only thing that breaks down collagen--sugar and stress can do the same. Wind and smoking will also add wrinkles. So will lack of sleep–ask any parent.
As child, I thought my grandmother’s wrinkles were fascinating and beautiful. Then, society told me different. So that’s why I say, until the partriarcy falls, there’s no shame in trying out wrinkle creams.
What do you want from a skin cream? Here are some substances to consider:
Retinoids increase collagen production but take several months to work and can be irritating. The new skin is sensitive and thin so it can burn more easily, too. That’s why this product is recommended primarily for night use.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant and protects skin from UV exposure and can reduce wrinkles. It works by removing compounds that break down collagen. The beter way to get Vitamin C is to eat it rather than apply it.
Alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid exfoliate the skin and may remove wrinkles but how they work is yet unknown.
Niacin amide (B3) can also stimulate collagen production and there is some indication that riboflavin (B2) may do the same. A vitamin B analog known as DMAE could increase skin firmness but formulations that don’t harm the skin have proven tricky. These studies are preliminary.
Peptides–pentapeptides in particular–can work to stimulate collagen production.
Alpha hydroxyl acids used in skin peels have been shown to decrease blotchiness and skin roughness.
Hyaluronic acid can be applied or injected and does a good job of attracting moisture to the skin and plumping out minor wrinkles. The effects aren’t long lasting but there are few side effects.
Vitamin E. Tests about this one are inconclusive. It probably works to protect the skin but not as well as Vitamin C.
Collagen is not absorbed through the skin so its application isn’t known to reduce wrinkles. However, it might do so when paired with riboflavin.
Q-10 is produced by the skin as an antioxidant and decreases with age so it makes sense that putting it on your skin will renew it. However, no studies have shown any benefit from applying it to skin.
Most botanicals have produced inconclusive results in the lab when rubbed on human skin or rabbit ears. Aloe vera might increase collagen production. Soy might help remove fine wrinkles according to studies done with people and with hairless mice. But soy has its drawbacks.
Moisturizers such as glycerin have shown mixed results. Some studies indicate that the skin becomes hydrated from them and others show that they act as a barrier to prevent dryness but do not increase skin hydration.
Here is a graphic highlighting the most effective substances.
One thing to remember is that looking young and feeling young are two different things. You can take a natural approach to protecting skin by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and getting enough sleep and exercise. It doesn’t help to produce collagen if you have weak bones for it to cling to. In fact, your wrinkles may be a sign that your bones need attention.
A toss away line in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 went like this.
“You remind me of an old lady”
“Oh, you mean wise.”
But were there any old lady characters in the movie? No.
Older women are wise, powerful, intuitive, and opinionated–this is why they are feared by the patriarchy. Nowhere is this fear more evident than the United States today. Until we put an end to this nonsense, it never hurts to try out some skin products–because who wants to be wise and ignored or even worse, unjustly hated? However, keep in mind that your skin is an indicator of your overall well-being. Perhaps we dislike wrinkles because they are tattle-tales, telling the world of our sleepless nights and wild abandon or maybe that we had to work too hard. With that in mind, I wonder what the grocery store man should have said.
I must admit, wanting to have a Yule log and burn it on Solstice was in part my way of ridding the yard of some of the wood pile we have in the back under a maple tree. I don’t want to burn all of the pile because a possum lives there. However, we haven’t had a wood stove since our insurance company said we had to get rid of ours. But I was surprised when my daughter didn’t know what a Yule log was.
Yule is the Northern European term for the winter solstice. Before people knew that the solstice was caused by the earth being temporarily tipped away from the sun, Northerners used the Yule log to banish the darkness and any evil spirits lurking about. Yule is thought to derive from the Norse word for “wheel”. Northern Europeans believed that the sun was a wheel that turned with the seasons. A wreath is used to symbolize the wheel.
I also bought some mistletoe. The druids thought mistletoe was divine and a cure-all.
A Yule goat, particularly one made from straw, is a Scandinavian tradition. In some legends, goats pulled Thor’s chariot, in others a Santa-like character rode a goat, and in others goats checked in on Christmas festivities and demanded presents. Even older legends have the goat as a fertility god and party master . Sitting on his lap is naughty or dangerous depending on your perspective. Talk about horny! The last time I was near a goat it tried to eat my shirt so I plan to keep away from goats and serve some goat cheese for Yule.
If you want to be officially Yule, you should serve a wild boar or its modern version a ham. I don’t eat pork in general due to pigs being smart and CAFOs being dirty. However, for Yule, I’ll make an exception.
For my fire, I’m going to burn a sexist edition of this book. Allegedly the author is sorry for his description of another scientist as deserving to have her data stolen because she was stubborn and didn’t wear enough make-up or dress like a siren in the lab.
It’ll be a while until the sun takes a direct hit on my part of the world. Until then, I’ll need to stay cozy. As for sexism–up in flames it goes!