Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
3,900 cities, 84 countries, 43 US states, one hour.
The Earth Hour
Friday, March 27, 2009
The "miracle fruit" makes acidic foods, such as lemons and grapefruits, sweet and candy-like. But after chewing the fruit and rubbing the pulp against the tongue, the berry, known by a promising name -- "miracle fruit" or Synsepalum dulcificum -- releases a sweetening potency that alters the taste buds. For about 15 to 30 minutes, everything sour is sweet. Lemons lose their zing and taste like candy. Oranges become sickeningly sweet. Hot sauce that usually burns the tongue tastes like honey barbecue sauce that scorches as it trickles down the throat.
Through word of mouth, these miracle fruits have inspired "taste tripping" parties, where foodies and curious eaters pay $10 to $35 to try the berries, which are native to West Africa.
About five months ago, a Miami, Florida, hospital began studying whether the fruit's sweetening effects can restore the appetite of cancer patients whose chemotherapy treatments have left them with dulled taste buds.
"What happens in patients is the food tastes so metallic and bland, it becomes repulsive," said Dr. Mike Cusnir, a lead researcher on the project and oncologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
"Most of the patients undergoing chemotherapy have weight loss. Then they cut further into their diet and then this furthers the weight loss. It causes malnutrition, decreased function of the body and electrolyte imbalance."
One of Cusnir's patients, Don Blechman, told him about the fruit after discovering it while he and his wife volunteered at a tropical fruit garden in Coral Gables, Florida.
"We didn't need it, but we thought it's wonderful and told a lot of people," said his wife, Terry Blechman. "If you can't eat because everything tastes bitter, and one berry gives you back your taste for a meal, what is it worth? It's worth everything."
Cusnir filed for an investigational new drug application, which is required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use an unapproved product in a new patient population. His study seeks 40 cancer patients.
"The majority have given good feedback that it did improve taste," Cusnir said. "A few patients felt there wasn't much change. The feedback is mixed as it usually is in any situation. It's been encouraging, but we haven't analyzed the data so far."
If the results show promise of helping cancer patients to maintain a healthy body weight and appetite, there will be bigger studies, Cusnir said. The process is expected to take several years.
"If this doesn't work, we move on and spend resources on something else instead," he said.
It's not only cancer patients and foodies turning to the miracle fruit. Carmen Duporte, a Fort Lauderdale,Florida, resident, integrated the miracle fruit into her routine drinks of aloe vera juice. Duporte drinks the juice to cleanse her digestive system, but hates its thick and long-lasting taste.
"It's really bitter," she said. "If I don't take [the miracle fruit], I'd be having that taste for a long time. When I drink it with the fruit, there's no taste in my mouth." Duporte told her friends about the berries, because "it's such a friendly fruit." Through word of mouth, the miracle fruit has picked up buzz.
"This new resurgence of interest is fascinating," said Linda Bartoshuk, a professor at the University of Florida's Center for Smell and Taste. "It popped on the scene and people are having fun with it. It motivated us to go back and do research."
Bartoshuk seeks to better understand how the berry works. In the 1970s, she studied the fruit while working for the U.S. Navy and Army labs. The miracle fruit contains a natural protein, called miraculin, which has sugar molecules that bind to the tongue, she said. When acid enters the mouth, the sugar molecules press into the sweet receptors.
Some of her colleagues are looking into how the berries could help people with diabetes and obesity, because they sweeten the taste of food. Unlike sugar, the miracle fruit has very few calories and unlike artificial sweeteners, the berries are natural. Bartoshuk said she hasn't seen any reports of dangers from eating the berries, but warned against premature health benefit claims.
"Everyone's immediate response is it's an artificial sweetener, it'll help you lose weight," she said. "But the bad side is artificial sweeteners don't help you lose weight. Any real claims for health benefits are going to have to be supported by good research."
After the FDA in 1974 declared that miraculin was a food additive, the miracle fruit grew in obscurity in South Florida and remained a local treat. Individual farmers, like Curtis Mozie, a retired post office employee, raised the berries and began shipping them to customers who found him on the Internet.
"I felt like everyone else needs to be aware of this fruit," said Mozie of Fort Lauderdale. "Why was it kept hush-hush? I wanted people to enjoy the fruit and enjoy the experience and any edible item that doesn't taste good with the help of the miracle fruit."
Curiosity about the fruit began to circulate among exotic fruit seekers. After a few media reports, other small farms cropped up and companies started selling the miracle fruit and tablets.
"No offense meant to people who want to pay money to eat miracle fruit and weird things. We used to do that every Friday," said Richard Campbell, who oversees the tropical fruits at the Fairchild Tropical Fruit Garden. "We grew up with miracle fruit. People came over, ate miracle fruit and sat around eating limes. I feel stupid I didn't think of charging anyone."
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The Guardian (UK) 03/25/09
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Married to Irish actor, Liam Neeson, she had two sons, Michael and Daniel.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Without them, blogging would be just another routine. Instead, it's nothing but an adventure!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Face it, you're screwed. Today is Friday the 13th — the unluckiest day on the calendar — so try not to crash your car, fall down a flight of stairs, set yourself on fire, or do anything else that might compromise your well-being. And for God's sake, stay away from men in hockey masks.
The number 13 has been unlucky for centuries. Some historians peg the superstition to the thirteen people who attended the Last Supper (neither Jesus nor Judas came out of that one OK), but ancient Babylon's Code of Hammurabi omits the number 13 in its list of laws, so the superstition dates back to at least 1700 BC.
Thirteen is so unlucky, in fact, that in 1881 an organization called The Thirteen Club attempted to improve the number's bad reputation. At the first meeting, the members (all 13 of them) walked under ladders to enter a room covered with spilled salt. The club lasted for many years and grew to over 400 members, including five U.S. presidents: Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Despite the club's efforts, triskaidekaphobia (that's fear of the number 13) flourished; even today, most tall buildings don't have a 13th floor.
The number's association with Friday, however, didn't take hold until the 20th century. In 1907, eccentric Boston stockbroker Thomas Lawson published a book called Friday the Thirteenth, which told of an evil businessman's attempt to crash the stock market on the unluckiest day of the month. Thanks to an extensive ad campaign, the book sold well: nearly 28,000 copies within the first week. In 1916, the book was turned into a feature-length silent film.
Wall Street's superstitions about Friday the 13th continued through 1925, when the New York Times noted that people "would no more buy or sell a share of stock today than they would walk under a ladder or kick a black cat out of their path." Some stock traders also blamed Black Monday — Oct. 19, 1987 — on the fact that three Fridays fell on the thirteenth that year. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute estimates that $700-$800 million dollars are lost every Friday the 13th due to people's refusal to travel, purchase major items, or conduct business.
Then came Jason. In 1980, Paramount Pictures released Friday the 13th (tagline: "Fridays will never be the same again"), a slasher flick about a series of murders at a summer camp. Apparently Jason, born on Friday the 13th, chooses that date to take revenge on oversexed campers much like the ones who allowed him to drown in Crystal Lake. So much for trust falls and lanyard making.Friday the 13th grossed almost $40 million at the box office and inspired a long-running franchise: Friday the 13th Part II; Friday the 13th Part III; Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (it was not); Friday the 13th: Jason Lives; Friday the 13th: The New Blood; Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan (he left the summer camp?); Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday; Jason X; and 2003's Freddy vs. Jason.
Friday the 13th Myths:
• If you cut your hair on Friday the 13th, someone in your family will die.
• A child born on Friday the 13th will be unlucky for life.
• If a funeral procession passes you on Friday the 13th, you will be the next to die.
Friday the 13th Anecdotes:
•In 1913, a New York pastor tried to assuage couples' fears by offering to marry them for free on Friday the 13th.
• In 1939, a small town in Indiana forced all black cats to wear bells on Friday, October 13th. When the measure seemed to work (nothing bad happened, at any rate) the town continued the practice for the next three years.
•At the time, October 13, 1989 was the second largest Dow drop in history. Nicknamed the "Friday the 13th mini-crash," these days it's not even in the top 10. That might be the scariest fact of all. TIME Magazine, February 13, 2009
Do you have any superstitions?
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
With just 17 days left until we turn off the lights on March 28, Earth Hour is continuing to grow in the US and around the world. Here's a quick update on some of the recent developments:
A CAPITAL IDEA: Washington, D.C. will join nearly 1,000 cities around the world in going dark for Earth Hour. The word came last week from the District's Environment Director George Hawkins who said Earth Hour was "a symbolic but important step in showing the world we're serious about the climate." At 8:30 p.m., officials will turn off non-essential lighting on buildings and facilities owned by the city.A TOTAL OF 44 U.S. CITIES AND TOWNS have now pledged to "turn out" for the largest climate event in history, with more signing up each day. A complete list of cities can be found at: http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/R?i=RhVDsk0mvvBVp7rCgJHU4g..
BUT WHILE THE U.S. IS OFF TO A GOOD START... we've got some major catching up to do with countries much smaller than ours. Australia is the current leader with 144 cities signed up, but France is a close second with 137. Canada, boasting a total population about one-tenth of ours, has 96 cities signed up, while Italy has 77 and Denmark has 58. Come on, America! There's still plenty of time to bring Earth Hourto your hometown, school, campus or organization. Visit http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/R?i=xEXOlvjqAl4lCrHJ1Wtxbg.. for tools, tips and information."U. S. A. ... U. S. A. ...
"EDWARD NORTON "VOTES EARTH"... The acclaimed actor and environmental activist supports WWF's climate change campaign by agreeing to become the official Earth Hour Ambassador for the US. He joins a list of notables that includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Janeane Garofalo, Melissa Etheridge, Alanis Morissette, Cate Blanchett, Jo Dee Messina, Vince Gill, Wynonna Judd, Amy Grant, Kathy Mattea and many more.DRESSING TO GO DARK: Finally - the latest Earth Hour fashions, including t-shirts, hats, baby onsies and tote bags are available at http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/R?i=M48ArXdzVo2xdbIFhaAAyw...
KIDS TURN OUT FOR EARTH HOUR: Get your children involved in saving the world through http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/R?i=IKpOpuRyD0HWf4NO4x2APw.. . Here's a sampling of the fun to be found there:* Where in the World is Earth Hour? Worldwide. Just like New Years Eve, Earth Hour will travel from time zone to time zone starting at 8:30 pm in New Zealand. Around the planet we expect a thousand cities to participate. Teachers, students and families can learn more at http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/R?i=EzKskYDjMxxUeWagKhVd8Q.. , and click on the following link to play our Geo Bee: http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/R?i=oWtE4zo5zxFeVpyo2rJ96g.. .* Are you a conservationist? Teachers, students and families can learn more about ways to reduce their CO2 footprint and increase their energy efficiency at home and at school. On http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/R?i=Do96ghVnKPMZ84V8ylpRcA.. , take our Earth Hour Power fun and quick quiz and find out your score at http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/R?i=k51wYMMMfeSYAIvdJ-BQQQ..* Empower children to write to President Obama and Congress. Click on http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/R?i=XpaQwTmYdKMTTwH4e9YqTg.. for everything you need to get started. Teachers, students and families can visit http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/R?i=VygkK-0xWi4-Zup5V2FzTw.. to learn more about Earth Hour and climate change.* Earth Hour Everyday. How can one kid make a difference? Practice Earth Hour every day. Click to learn more and play our Memory Game: http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/R?i=eDzqyDtKlmuVafI-yqEUiA.. . Teachers, students and families can visit http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/R?i=vuzUkZCAtNg-8WTdrcpUUA.. to learn more about Earth Hour and climate change.
OUR SPONSORS ARE CERTAINLY DOING THEIR PART TO RAISE AWARENESS: Coca-Cola will publicize Earth Hour on its sign in Times Square and in cinema lobbies nationwide. Esurance has put its TV Earth Hour ad, starring Erin Esurance, into wide circulation on Comedy Central, BET, Discovery, E!, MTV, Nick at Nite and other channels. The Earth Hour message will appear on more than 500 Wells Fargo ATM screens in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, Albuquerque and San Francisco.
WE'RE NOTHING WITHOUT YOU... AND YOUR FRIENDS... AND THEIR FRIENDS: Our planet urgently needs your help. Don't be shy about urging friends, family and any random people you happen to meet to support Earth Hour. All the details for turning out on March 28th at 8:30 pm and becoming part of this historic call for global action on climate change can be found at http://wwf.worldwildlife.org/site/R?i=PAujRG8SHE9L8r0VZBQQ4w.. .When in doubt...VOTE EARTH!
Thanks for your support. The Earth Hour US Team
Turn Out. Take Action.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Since traveling by train is my preferred choice of transport, I can only imagine the excitement on the Orient Express. A relaxing way to enjoy the lush landscapes and striking up conversations with fascinating travelers from the most unexpected places.
Two may start as strangers and end as life-long friends. But beware. Not all are what they seem, as seen below! Enjoy your day on the Orient Express!
Murder on the Orient Express with a star-studded cast
A robbery on...
On the Last Great Train Robbery with Sean Connery