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Improve your diet for the New Year

A few changes to your diet can improve your health dramatically. The improvements will not occur suddenly, but your body will be healthier over time. If you are overweight, or if you have high cholesterol or blood pressure, a proper diet can improve your health. The important thing to remember is that you have to maintain good eating habits. You cannot eat junk food frequently and expect to improve your health. Pastries, candies and greasy food should become a very, very small part of your diet.

If you want to be healthy, you have to eat nutritious food. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The vegetables and fruits can be fresh, frozen, canned or dried, as long as they do not include added sugar or preservatives. Fruits and vegetables decrease the risks of cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease by increasing fiber and aiding weight loss. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and watercress, have been shown to protect against cancer.[1] Brightly colored vegetables and berries have phytonutrients that serve as antioxidants that enhance immune response. Blueberries and raspberries are low in calories and have many essential nutrients.

Reduce your fat intake by avoiding greasy foods like pizza, potato chips, fatty meats and cured or smoked meats. You should not avoid all fats. The body needs omega-3 fats, which are good for the brain and eyes, and can be obtained by eating fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and trout. Sunflower seeds and walnuts are vegetable sources of omega-3 fats. You should eat these foods three or four times per week to get an adequate amount of essential fatty acids.

Reduce starchy and sugary foods. Excessive consumption of carbohydrates leads to obesity and type 2 diabetes. One of the best changes that you can make to your diet is to avoid sweet soft drinks and to replace all refined flour products with whole-grain products. Try whole-wheat pasta, brown rice and grains like quinoa and bulgur wheat. These are easy to cook and can be used in salads, side dishes or main courses. The hardest thing to give up will be pastries and candies because our body has a built-in desire for sweets, but you must limit desserts to very small quantities.

Humans evolved on an omnivorous diet that included plants and animal products. Some nutrients, like Vitamin B12, can only be obtained from animal sources. Vegetarian meals that include milk and eggs can provide complete nutrition and may be an alternative way for decreasing meat in the diet. Vegetarian meals like a bowl of lentil soup with a cheese sandwich, or Cajun red beans and rice with a garden salad can be delicious and very satisfying.

To make your diet work, you have to get rid of the junk food in your kitchen. Donate to a food bank any food with hydrogenated fats, and anything high in sodium or with preservatives. Also, eliminate sodas and sugary drinks. Make room in your refrigerator for fresh produce and in your pantry for whole grain products. Start the new year with better menus for a healthier life.

[1] Keck AS, Finley JW., Cruciferous vegetables: cancer protective mechanisms of glucosinolate hydrolysis products and selenium, Integr Cancer Ther. 2004 Mar;3(1):5-12. PMID: 15035868

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Flash Player spyware in your computer

The video camera and microphone of your computer can be controlled remotely by web sites if you installed the Flash player using the default settings. This is a great invasion of privacy because most computer users do not know how to change the settings to avoid this type of intrusion. In addition, the Flash player allows web sites to store information on your computer that can be used to track your activities on the web.

Adobe's Flash Player is used extensively on web pages to provide dynamic web content. Web sites like YouTube rely on the Flash Player or Shockwave Flash plugin to display movies and video clips on a user's terminal. In January of 2010, Steve Jobs announced that Apple would not support Flash because it was so buggy that it caused most of the crashes in Mac computers, but the Flash player is a very common component of Windows computers. Beginning with Flash Player 10.1, the Flash Player integrates with web browsers to automatically clear stored data in accordance with the browser's private browsing settings.

When installing Flash, the first concern is that the download screen has a checkbox for McAfee security scan that is checked by default. If you click the "Download now" button without unchecking the box, you are going to end up with extra software in your computer that you may not want and will have to uninstall later.

Once you install the Flash player, you have to set the privacy settings. Open a web page like YouTube.com that uses Flash and right click on a Flash object. A pop-up panel like the one below appears. Click on Global Settings...

If you don't want to be tracked through the Flash player, click on the option to block all sites from storing information. The interface may give you a warning that some sites may not work properly. Click OK to set your choice.

Next, click on the "Camera and Mic" tab and set the option to block all sites from using the camera and microphone. If you will only be using the Flash player to watch videos, there is no reason to allow any site to eavesdrop or spy on you.

The following link invokes the Flash Player settings manager for your computer with the web interface below. Needless to say, you have to go through this procedure for each computer on which you have installed the Flash player.

Global Privacy Settings panel

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Scientific Research in Washington DC

Andrew Carnegie founded the Carnegie Institution of Washington as an organization for scientific discovery in 1902. The organization changed its name in 2007 to the Carnegie Institution for Science to reflect the fact that scientists work not only in Washington, but in six scientific departments on the West and East Coasts of the United States. The Geophysical Laboratory and the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism are both located on a beautiful campus at 5241 Broad Branch Road, NW in Washington, D.C.

The Department of Terrestrial Magnetism was founded in 1904 to map the geomagnetic field of the Earth. This goal was accomplished by 1929, and the focus of the department's research shifted toward understanding the Earth and its place in the universe. Today, the department has an interdisciplinary team of geophysicists, geochemists, astronomers, astrophysicists, cosmochemists and planetary scientists.

Dr. Linda Elkins-Tanton is the director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. Dr. Elkins-Tanton conducts research on the evolution of terrestrial planets, and the relationships between Earth and life on Earth. One of Dr. Elkins-Tanton's latest projects analyzed the relationships between large volcanic provinces and global extinction events, focusing on the gaseous emissions of sulfur, chlorine, and fluorine from the Siberian flood basalts and their possible contribution to the end-Permian extinction 251 million years ago. In the above photograph, Dr. Elkins-Tanton introduces a lecture on the use of pressure to make novel materials by Dr. Timothy A. Strobel of the Geophysical Laboratory.

Dr. Strobel answers questions after his presentation

The Geophysical Laboratory was founded in 1905 to examine the physics and chemistry of Earth's deep interior. The laboratory is a world-renowned center for the study of rock compositions. The laboratory's research in high-pressure and high-temperature physics has produced many scientific publications in both Earth and material sciences.

Dr. Russell J. Hemley is the director of the Geophysical Laboratory. His research program has expanded to include high-pressure experimental and theoretical studies in condensed matter physics, Earth and planetary science, and materials science.

The Geophysical Laboratory and the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism host a series of Neighborhood Lectures at 5251 Broad Branch Road, NW, Washington, DC 20015. The lectures are open to the public and provide information about the research programs. Light refreshments are served after the lectures. Click this link for more information about the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Learn about the Timeline of the Earth

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Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Salmon SandwichThe consumption of fish has played an important role in the evolution of humans. The human brain consists approximately of 60% fat. Fatty acids called ALA, DHA and EPA are concentrated in cell walls and the myelin sheaths of the neurons. These long-chain fatty acids have an unsaturated double bond in the third carbon from the end, and thus are known chemically as omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are essential for good health and must be included in the diet because the body cannot create them from other fats. Some vegetable sources, such as walnuts and flax seed, contain ALA, but fish oil is the best source of DHA and EPA. The body can convert ALA to DHA and EPA, but not very efficiently.

Omega-3 fatty acids are components of all cell membranes and a deficiency of these essential fatty acids can cause symptoms such as fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, depression, and bad circulation. Fish oil supplementation is generally safe when taken in low doses (3 grams or less per day), but there are some safety concerns when fish oil is taken in high doses because it may keep blood from clotting and can increase the chance of bleeding, particularly in combination with anticoagulants and blood thinners.

It is always better to get nutrients from foods rather than from supplements. Natural foods, such as salmon, herring or other fish, have the essential fatty acids, but they also have protein, vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy diet. The picture above shows an open-faced sandwich with slices of smoked salmon on sour dough bread spread with a teaspoon of mustard, and garnished with slices of avocado and chopped dill. This is a delicious way of getting your omega-3 fatty acids.

Learn more about Fatty Acids

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How To Get Ripped Abs

Most people would like to have a well toned body with ripped abs to show off at the beach. Unfortunately, our modern way of life is very sedentary and we eat too much, so we are generally overweight. We know that diet and exercise require perseverance and sacrifice. This is why when a TV advertisement offers a device that in 3 minutes can give the results of 100 sit-ups we are tempted to buy it even for $200 dollars or more, especially when the device is promoted by a good-looking fitness model like Jennifer Nicole Lee who lost over 70 pounds after bearing two children. The Ab Circle Pro is a fiberglass disk with handlebars and knee rests that can be used for doing pushups, swinging from side to side, and doing leg squeezes. The TV infomercials promoting the Ab Circle Pro ran more than 10,000 times between March 2009 and May 2010. One of the things that the TV commercials did no mention was that Jennifer Lee was already slim when she started promoting the exercise device.

Jennifer Nicole Lee and the Ab Circle Pro

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is a consumer protection agency, charged the companies and individuals which promoted the Ab Circle Pro with making unsubstantiated claims that the device could cause rapid and substantial weight loss and that three minutes of exercise on the Ab Circle Pro was equal to 100 sit-ups. The FTC filed a civil lawsuit against four companies promoting the device: Fitness Brands Inc., Fitness Brands International Inc., Direct Holdings Americas Inc. and Direct Entertainment Media Group Inc.

The FTC proved that it was deceptive to promise that people could lose 10 pounds in two weeks by using the abdominal exercise device for only three minutes a day. In the settlements, the companies agreed to pay as much as $25 million in refunds to customers for deceptive advertising. Michael Casey and David Brodess, two executives who control the companies, agreed to pay a total $1.2 million. Under terms of the settlements, none of the defendants admitted wrongdoing.

The FTC warned marketers to refrain from promising magic solutions to health problems, and advised consumers to carefully evaluate advertising claims for weight-loss products because weight loss requires hard work.

If you bought the Ab Circle Pro and got ripped off instead of getting ripped abs, you can try to get your money refunded by applying through the Federal Trade Commission web site:
FTC Ab Circle Pro Refunds

Learn More About Exercise

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HTML web pages for mobile devices

The iPhone and other smart phones have become very popular because in addition to making telephone calls they can also access the Internet, play music, take photographs and record videos. Tablets like the iPad are also increasing in popularity because they are lightweight and eliminate the need for a keyboard, but they can perform many of the functions of a computer. Before tablets were introduced, "mobile devices" were telephones with small screens that could only handle small web pages. Web programmers were encouraged to redirect traffic from mobile devices to a mobile subdomain containing streamlined web pages that would load fast and format data for the small screens.

Telephone manufacturers reacted to the need for accessing the Internet by introducing bigger screens with higher resolution and by developing pinch-in and pinch-out zoom gestures to make the text more readable. The variety of mobile devices and the way in which the pixels of web pages are mapped to the screens has made it difficult to design optimum mobile web pages, particularly with the introduction of tablets with displays equivalent to a laptop or a desktop computer.

The increasing number of tablets means that it may not be appropriate to automatically redirect mobile devices to web pages for small screens. A more practical approach is to let the user decide which format to access by providing a button such as the following that is displayed close to the top of the page for mobile devices only.

The following code sets up a non-display <div> element containing the image. The JavaScript code that follows checks the screen width and the userAgent to allow the display of the button for screens with a width smaller than 500 pixels or for web browsers used by mobile devices. The BMI web page (http://www.scientificpsychic.com/health/Body-Mass-Index-BMI.html) uses this code. View the page with a desktop computer and with a mobile device to see this technique in action.

<div id="mobile" style="display:none;">
<a href="http://m.domain.com/webpage.html">
<img src="mobile-page.gif" width="100" height="71" alt="view mobile page"/>

<script type="text/javascript"><!--
if (screen.width < 500 ||
navigator.userAgent.match(/Android/i) ||
navigator.userAgent.match(/iPhone/i) ||
navigator.userAgent.match(/BlackBerry/i) ||
navigator.userAgent.match(/webOS/i) ||
navigator.userAgent.match(/iPod/i) ) {
document.getElementById('mobile').style.display = "block";

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Skeptics doubt global warming

A NASA report stating that it was "unprecedented" that melting was taking place on 97 percent of Greenland's ice cover was criticized by people who doubt that global warming is actually occurring. The critics point out that the current melting may be part of a regular planetary cycle that recurs approximately every 150 years, with the last one happening in 1889. Furthermore, they say that the current fires in the west coast and the drought in the central and southern part of the U.S. are just variations within the normal range of weather patterns and are not the result of global warming.

Is global warming real, or is it an exaggeration? If it is real, and if it is caused by the carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, there is something that we can do about it by switching to alternate sources of energy. If we don't do anything about global warming, there are serious consequences. Two major things will happen: 1) as the ice in Greenland and Antarctica melt, the sea level will rise by several feet flooding coastal communities around the world, and 2) the shrinking glaciers and snow cover in the mountains will decrease the flow of fresh water in the rivers thus reducing our crop yields and our food supply.

Some scientists have predicted that there will be a mass extinction event in about 200 years if nothing is done about the rate at which we are putting carbon dioxide into the air. Basically, we are killing ourselves and many other fragile life forms with our pollution. After humans are gone, other life forms will inherit the Earth.

The following video shows a huge newly discovered rift in Antarctica that will create a giant glacier when the ice finally breaks. You may hear about this in the news soon.

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Did Cleopatra bathe in milk?

At last, healthy feet

It has been widely reported, although not confirmed, that Cleopatra bathed in milk. The practice may seem eccentric and somewhat bizarre, but close analysis indicates that bathing in milk or washing the skin with milk has some merits.

At room temperature, milk is fermented by bacteria that produce lactic acid. Such bacteria are commonly found in yogurt. Lactic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid with the chemical formula CH3CH(OH)COOH. Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) are used extensively in the cosmetics industry in products claiming to reduce wrinkles, fade age spots and improve the overall look and feel of the skin. They are also used by dermatologists in chemical peels, and by beauty spas and home kits in lower concentrations. The effectiveness of alpha-hydroxy acids for improving the skin is well documented, although there are many cosmetic products with exaggerated claims. It is quite reasonable to expect that washing the skin with milk could promote the growth of lactobacilli bacteria that would help to remove dead skin cells by the action of the acid generated. In addition, the butterfat in milk would act as a moisturizer to prevent the skin from becoming dry.

Recent studies have revealed that many microbes inhabit the skin and mucosa of the digestive system of healthy humans. It is estimated that there are at least ten times as many bacteria as human cells in the body and that these bacteria are beneficial by preventing the growth of pathogenic organisms.[1] In view of this, we should question whether the use of antibacterial soaps is useful or harmful. Killing the beneficial bacteria on our skin could leave us vulnerable to infections by fungi and disease-causing bacteria.

I recently read Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone. This book describes the life cycle of fungi and the lengths to which people go to find edible wild mushrooms. The book points out the pervasiveness of fungi throughout nature, the fungal infections that afflict humans, and the intricate and delicate balance of conditions required to culture mushrooms.

I decided to integrate some of the ideas of the human microbiome and the knowledge that I had gained from reading this book to fight a minor, but persistent athlete's foot infection that I had had since my early twenties. For more than 40 years, I had used antifungal powders and creams to keep the infection in check, but nevertheless, I still had scaly feet and rough heels.

My new treatment consisted of scrubbing the feet with a lava stone to remove dead skin while showering. After the shower, I rubbed about one tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide to each foot so that the bubbling action of the hydrogen peroxide could loosen flaky skin. While the feet dried, I mixed one teaspoon of plain yogurt with a quarter cup of milk and stirred. Once the feet were dry, I applied the milk inoculated with yogurt to my feet making sure to rub the feet thoroughly, including between the toes. I allowed the milk to air dry, and applied a little bit of coconut oil to the feet as a moisturizer. My feet looked healthy with no sign of fungus infection after two weeks of this daily treatment, as shown in the picture above.

I feel that this experiment, although not scientifically rigorous, demonstrates that the milk-yogurt mixture changed the environment of my feet to promote the growth of bacteria that inhibited the persistent fungus. Looking at Cleopatra's milk baths from this perspective makes a lot more sense now.

[1] Human microbiome, Wikipedia

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Questions about the personality test

Carl Jung

Personality analysis can be very useful for understanding people and the mechanisms of social interactions. The Zamora Personality Test provides an approach for identifying behavioral characteristics that contribute to what is called "personality". Through these characteristics we are able to judge whether a person is honest, hard-working, aggressive, etc. Such knowledge enables us to develop strategies for successful business negotiations or satisfactory everyday interactions. Recently, I got the following questions about the personality test.

Question from Alex:
I happened upon your interesting website and conducted your online personality tests for myself. Might you answer the following questions on these Zamora tests, please?
1. Which personality theories, or tests, are they based on, or are they entirely your own creation?
2. I had problems answering quite a few questions, both in the Social and in the Individual Attributes test. The reason is, I think, that these, and many of your questions are actually a compound of two questions, but your questionnaire only allows for one answer; thus, I believe, my conflict, or disagreement with being forced into giving one answer to actually two questions, also will affect the results of your testing procedure. I admit, I am very logical when it comes to reading and writing, but these remarks to you are intended as a stimulating thought process to see if I, or you, have missed anything!

An example from the Social Attributes Test:
Your Question reads: I have enough money, and I don't like to spend it:
say my Answer is: Disagree (No), then logically I am agreeing to two statements:
First, that "I have enough money" and second, "That I don't like to spend it".
But for any individual person, two other answers (which match reality) as combinations of the double-question are possible, namely:
Alternative Answer 1:
First, that "I have enough money" (Agree = Yes) and second, "That I don't like to spend it" (Disagree = No). I.e., this person has enough money for their needs, and does enjoy spending the money they have (possibly few people in today's consumerism-driven society!)

Alternative Answer 2:
First, that "I have enough money" (Disagree = No) and second, "That I don't like to spend it" (Agree = Yes). I.e., this person tends to spend money, even more than they have (a common social affliction apparently!).

I think my interpretation of this question is logical and correct, and there are many other of questions that are equally "difficult" for me to answer as the questions similarly allow two possible answers, but only one answer is allowable to both in the questionnaire.

I would value your comments to this conundrum in your questionnaire.

I approached the personality test form a linguistic perspective. The rationale is explained in the discussion of what is personality. With regard to the questions, I tried to identify personality attributes by probing from different perspectives and then coordinating and ranking the results. In any linguistic test, it is inevitable that there will be misinterpretations because language has many subtleties and ambiguities. This is one of the reasons for the variety of statements, some of which appear to be redundant. Inconsistency in answering may indicate a neutral attitude, but it may also be the result of not understanding the question.

Regarding the particular statement: "I have enough money, and I don't like to spend it.", The purpose of the statement is to try to determine whether a person is generous or stingy as a measure of egocentrism; it is also an indicator of tolerance for risk. Of course, if a person does not have enough money, the answer is tricky, as you mentioned. Many of the personality attributes could be obtained by asking direct questions, such as "Are you mature?", "Are you generous?" or by posing ranking criteria "On a scale of 1 to 10 how dependable are you?". Unfortunately, people are not very objective judges of their character and it is better to classify them by their actions. The test provides this round-about way of gathering information which hopefully is more reliable than an introspective self-evaluation.

Looking at the question from a Boolean perspective, as you have, is an interesting exercise, but it does not apply well to natural language. The statement "I like apples and oranges" could not be true in Boolean logic since the intersection of apples and oranges is null in set theory. The Boolean interpretation is "I like apples or oranges" where the set includes both, but this is not the way we speak in English, or any other natural language. The sentence "I like apples or oranges" has the natural language implication of liking one or the other, but not both, which is another Boolean conundrum. I am sure that logicians could write many papers on the topic that the English "and" is approximately equal to the Boolean "or", but not quite.

Try the Zamora Personality Test

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BET Information Systems nSphere scam

Beware of working with BET Information Systems, doing business as nSphere, which is supposedly a Boston-based high-growth technology company that builds informative aggregate websites targeting local markets. BET lists its address as 100 Franklin Street, Suite 900 in Boston, but the address is occupied by a real estate investment company. When I contacted the Better Business Bureau, they could not find any information about BET or nSphere, but they told me that the address had come up before as a virtual office.

The scam works by teaming with a web site owner who agrees to split revenue 50/50 for a "localmarket" subdomain of the website which is hosted by BET/nSphere. The web site owner only needs to provide a few articles, add a few links in the home web page, and redirect the subdomain to a server controlled by BET/nSphere. nSphere organizes local information and connects users to the local data that they need. It takes some time for the traffic to build up on the localmarket.website.com, but BET/nSphere starts collecting ad revenue from Google AdSense and posts the monthly earnings in a database accessible to the web site owner. BET/nSphere is supposed to send monthly reports, but they don't do it, and they also don't make the payments for half of the revenue as required by the contract. E-mail messages about the missing payments are ignored, and even written invoices sent by certified mail are ignored. As far as I can tell, nSphere only has people setting up systems to collect revenue, but all the people disappear when it is time to pay. Some web site owners may forget that they redirected their localmarket subdomain and may continue being victims of the scam for years.

My advice is to avoid doing business with BET Information Systems or nSphere. The company does not seem to have honest management.

Learn more about scams

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