I suppose I should throw out my Peter Pan peanut butter.

Having read about the recall, I quietly scoffed at the paranoia of those who recommended getting rid of all peanut butter, as if the net of the "2111" product code weren't wide enough.  And all this fuss when no actual contamination has (yet) been found in the product—just a statistical link.

But just for fun, I looked at the product code on my jar, and lo and behold, it begins with the Number of the Peanut Butter Beast.

The fact that I've already consumed more than half the contents of the jar ought to count for something, though.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 22, 2007 at 9:53 am | Edit
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I wonder how much of the harm in the world has been done to people "for their own good."  I think of the Crusades, forced conversions, overzealous social workers who have ripped children from their families without cause (and, when proven wrong, without apology), the punishment of Native American and Deaf children who dared speak their mother tongues in school, and court-ordered therapy against the will of the patient.  One might argue that there were mixed motives on the parts of the do-gooders in these cases, but always the benefit of the victim was used as an excuse, and I believe in most cases the confidence of doing a good thing was truly a major motivating factor. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 10:59 am | Edit
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A Candian study indicates that knowledge of two or more languages can play a significant role in staving off dementia.  Multilingual people in the study began showing dementia symptoms an average of 4.1 years later than their unilingual counterparts.  "How you learn the language probably doesn't make much difference; how good your grammar is probably doesn't matter." said principle investigator Ellen Bialystok. "What matters is that you have to manage two complete language systems at once."

Since previous research has found other mental workouts, like crossword puzzles, to be helpful as well, I'm now looking for a multi-lingual version of my World of Puzzles magazine....
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 12, 2007 at 9:30 am | Edit
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Last night we heard the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra play Pierre Jalbert's deeply moving In Aeternum, which he wrote as a memorial to his niece who died at birth. Naturally, my thoughts were about Isaac as I listened, running a gamut of emotions, including anger during an intense part of the work with a heartbeat motif running through it—that brought back memories of the doctor who interrupted the family's last moments together to tell them Isaac's heart rate was slowing down.

I had the privilege of speaking briefly with Jalbert afterwards and was able to tell him (though not fully express) how much the music meant to me. You can hear an exerpt of In Aeternum here.

(Some readers of this blog will be interested to know that Jalbert is a native son of Manchester, New Hampshire!)

Having been set up by last night's experience, I was not prepared to handle this morning's news from the United Kingdom: The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology is recommending active euthanasia for severely disabled newborns(More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, November 5, 2006 at 7:07 am | Edit
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Economists are accustomed to drawing conclusions from statistical studies and aggregations of data. It's hard to reduce economic behavior to controlled, double-blind studies, and laboratory rats aren't necessarily a good model for corporate rats. So it came as no surprise to me that some Cornell University economists thought they might get a handle on the elusive cause of childhood autism by studying rainfall and the availablity of cable television. Working from the assumption that children spend more hours watching television in households that have cable TV, and in locations where high rainfall keeps them indoors, and observing significantly higher rates of autism in communities with a confluence of those conditions, the researchers suggested early television viewing as a possible trigger for autism spectrum disorders.

When I first read about the study, I was reminded of a story Peter Drucker tells, in his marvelous, autobiographical, historical commentary, Adventures of a Bystander, about an outstanding statistics teacher at the University of Minnesota. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 at 8:45 am | Edit
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Many years ago the folks who were then our medical practicioners strongly urged me to go on hormone replacement therapy drugs, stressing that it was the best thing I could do for my heart, even more effective than losing weight and getting in shape. I declined, having no wish to take any drugs that were not absolutely necessary. Now that HRT has been linked with serious problems—especially for the heart!—I feel justified in my reluctance.

No one has yet suggested I take Fosamax or any other drug that targets osteoporosis, but I foresee it coming, given my age and sex, and find myself skeptical once again. So I was not surprised last week during a visit to the dentist, when I was handed a paper with the impressive title, Bisphosphonate Medications and Your Oral Health, which I was able to find online as well. The article begins with the following warning:

If you use a bisphosphonate medication to prevent or treat osteoporosis (a thinning of the bones) or as part of cancer treatment, you should advise your dentist.

It seems that in rare instances these drugs can cause osteonecrosis of the jaw, severe loss or destruction of the jawbone. No doubt these drugs do much good in many cases, but it's important to understand the risk that something we take to strengthen our bones just might have the opposite effect.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 7, 2006 at 9:47 pm | Edit
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There's nothing like good news in the morning! Stop a moment, go fix yourself a nice cup of tea, then come back and read yet another news story about the benefits of drinking tea.

The results of a double-blind experiment conducted by researchers at the University College of London indicate that drinking black tea helps people recover more quickly from the stresses of life. Volunteers were given either a tea-laced concoction or one that was identical but without the tea ingredients, and subjected to stressful situations. Stress levels, both subjective and measured, rose for all participants, but the tea drinkers recovered significantly faster. For example, their blood cortisol (stress hormone) levels had dropped an average of 47% after 50 minutes, compared with 27% for the non-tea drinkers.

Next step: researching my own favorite form of relaxation: a cup of tea, a comfortable chair, and a good book.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 5, 2006 at 8:05 am | Edit
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Advocates of home birth complain that doctors and hospitals view childbirth as a medical procedure rather than a natural event. Today's Orlando Sentinel adds to the evidence for their position, reporting that photographing a birth is now forbidden at most local hospitals.

"You don't go into the operating room and take pictures of surgical procedures," said Pat DuRant, Florida Hospital's assistant vice president of women's and medical-surgical services.

Not only do they consider childbirth to be akin to surgery, but apparently their primary concern is that there not be any video evidence to bolster a malpractice suit if someone makes a mistake.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 27, 2006 at 6:30 am | Edit
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Hospitals: You can't live with them, and you can't live without them. A trip to a hospital can add years of health and wholeness to your life. Or, it might shorten your life dramatically, thanks to errors, incompetence, and hospital-acquired lethal infections. The decision as to when to seek medical care and when to trust a less interventionist approach is tricker than it once was. "Wait and see" can save you from huge medical bills, needless pain and suffering, and maybe even from death. But that attitude can also kill you.

Today's news highlights another disturbing piece of the puzzle. Hospitals, doctors, and government agencies are not just offering medical services, but compelling them, as in this story of an Irish hospital that forced a Congolese immigrant to undergo a blood transfusion against her will. It is tragic enough that others have the authority to force medical procedures on children against the wishes of their parents, but this case show that even conscious, cognizant adults are at risk.

The Coombe, one of Ireland's major maternity hospitals, said its policy was to do all it could to save a patient's life—and to go to court if necessary to do it.

Caveat emptor.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, September 22, 2006 at 7:46 am | Edit
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I should be happy that the New York Times is highlighting the importance of breastfeeding. But this article on the difficulties faced by nursing mothers in lower-income jobs is disturbing in ways the author did not intend.

Poor women, and their children, suffer because their employers are not as sympathetic to their need to pump milk for their babies as are the employers of professional women. Thus they are less likely to breastfeed their children, and when they do it is not for as long a time, in yet another case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, September 1, 2006 at 8:56 am | Edit
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We stopped at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant on our way through North Carolina. There we were delighted to order the bison burger, described in their online menu as "range-fed bison cooked just the way you like it."

Not in North Carolina. When we ordered ours rare, the waiter apologized, citing a state law mandating all burgers be cooked to nothing less than medium.

I might be tempted to appreciate the state's attempt to protect us from the dangers of our modern agricultural and meat processing and delivery practices, were it not for the shocking discovery that North Carolina still allows smoking in its restaurants!

The bison burger tasted good anyway.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 28, 2006 at 4:00 pm | Edit
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You have to bear in mind that the study was done in Britain, and was funded by the Tea Council, but it's still nice to hear more evidence of the health benefits of tea.

The actual research article in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, at least according to this abstract, is less effusive than the popular press version, but it hints at possible benefits in the areas of colorectal cancer, bone density, and dental health. Much clearer evidence associates drinking three or more cups of tea per day with a significant decrease in coronary heart disease risk.

However, the best news as far as I am concerned was learning that tea is as good for hydration as water is. Apparently the idea that tea dehydrates you is just a myth! That misconception never stopped me from drinking tea, but it did make me feel somewhat guilty, so I feel better now. The facts also conform to my experience; it was hard to believe I wasn't being hydrated when it sure felt as if I was, even if that did contradict conventional wisdom.
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, August 27, 2006 at 1:35 pm | Edit
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Imagine this scenario: After two devastating miscarriages you get pregnant, and you, your husband, and your children begin to dare to hope again. Then at five and a half weeks you have stomach pains and go to the doctor just to be sure. They do an ultrasound and tell you: No heartbeat, baby is dead, check into the hospital for a D&C to get all cleaned out. Numbly, you comply, and go home to grieve with your family.

Three weeks later you return to the doctor because you still feel pregnant. Another ultrasound: Oops, guess we made a mistake, baby is fine and growing well. Sorry about that. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 10, 2006 at 8:40 am | Edit
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Serendipity. Searching for one thing and finding another. And another. The Internet is a beachcomber's delight. While researching my Johari Window post, I found information on Duen Hsi Yen's commentary, which led me to his article on education, which in turn took me to another of his sites, which was chosen in May of 1999 as the Natural Child Project's Parenting Site of the Month. Investigating the Natural Child Project site led in turn to this month's honored parenting resource, Parents for Barefoot Children.

(This is beginning to sound like something from A Fly Went By: "The fly ran away in fear of the frog, who ran from the cat, who ran from the dog. The dog ran away in fear of the pig, who ran from the cow, she was so big!") (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 7, 2006 at 2:45 pm | Edit
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Let me make clear up front that I'm glad our grandchildren are on schedule for most of the currently-recommended childhood vaccinations. I can be pleased with that because their parents have taken the time to research the issues, and decide which vaccines they think are worth the risk, and which are not, and are willing to pay the extra costs—in money and time—to spread the vaccinations out rather than subject their children to the assault on the immune system caused by receiving many vaccines on the same day. Moreover, the children are breastfed, which helps their immune systems deal with the vaccines.

Vaccines have prevented much suffering and death, and they do work; witness the frightening polio outbreaks in Africa when immunication efforts were hindered by Muslim clerics skeptical of both the vaccines and the good will of the vaccinators. But they are far from risk-free, and the government and the medical community are doing parents a disservice by pushing vaccinations as if they were entirely safe and absolutely essential for their children's health. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 3, 2006 at 7:35 am | Edit
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