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Free software gives new life to old computers

Last year, I had to get a new laptop computer because my old IBM Thinkpad with Windows 95 was basically obsolete. The computer had only one USB port and it needed an Ethernet card to connect with my desktop computer through my local area network hub. With Windows 95, the system would sometimes pause as I was typing a document, and it would stay in a state of limbo for about 30 to 40 seconds before resuming. This would interrupt the flow of ideas that I was trying to type, and during this time I could think of nothing but the top row of keyboard: #$%%*!, %$&^%$!, and @$%*!

I started using the old Thinkpad as a perch for my new laptop because I hated the idea of using it as doorstop, as a mean-spirited geek had suggested. At the time that I bought my new laptop, I also bought a copy of Linspire, a Linux-based operating system, with the idea that one day I would convert the IBM Thinkpad to Linux. Several months later, when I finally installed the new operating system, I found out that the old Thinkpad had regained some of its spark. Linux had fixed the intermittent pausing problem.

You can buy Linux systems- very inexpensively, but you can also download them free from the Internet if you have a broadband connection and you can create a 700 megabyte CD. The three most common Linux versions are Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, and Freespire, a free version of Linspire. Ubuntu has gained wide popularity because it provides online support through a large community of users. All three operating systems come with free web browsers (Mozilla Firefox), e-mail, and a free office suite (OpenOffice) compatible with Microsoft Office to handle spreadsheets, documents, and slide presentations. A wide array of Linux applications can be downloaded from the Internet.

I downloaded GCC, the GNU Compiler Collection, and now, I use my old IBM Thinkpad as a platform for testing the Linux 32-bit versions of my linguistic programs. This has become important now that many of the systems that I previously used for development have been replaced with machines that use 64-bit architecture.

The moral of this story is that you can recycle your old computer and make it useful again with a minimal investment.

Try my on-line English Verb Conjugation program

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2008-03-12 

Five years of Calorie Restriction Diet

It has been a little over five years since I adopted a Calorie Restriction (CR) diet. I am always aiming to make it a CRON diet, i.e., CR plus Optimum Nutrition, but it is difficult to know what is Optimum Nutrition because scientists continue to argue about the ideal level of nutrients. Vitamin D, for example, has been in the news as a significant suppressor of cancer, but like any complex problem, it is not easy to establish the cause and effect, and it is much more difficult to quantify it. Just in case, I take 1000 IU of Vitamin D as a dietary supplement.

Many members of the Calorie Restriction Society argue that the optimum Body Mass Index (BMI) for a CR practitioner is between 18.5 and 21. Although I could cut down my calories to go down to a BMI of 21, I have decided that as long as I have good musculature, the best BMI for me is just below 23. At this BMI, my percent of body fat is 13 percent which keeps me in the "athlete" category, according to the American Council on Exercise. I weigh myself almost daily. If my average weight goes up by half a pound, I decrease what I eat. If my weight drops by one pound, I increase my food.

What I eat now is very different from what I ate before the CR way of life. Before, I would always have a sweet dessert, I baked pastries such as "Napoleon" (flaky puff pastry with butter cream), I did not read labels, and in ignorance, I ate hydrogenated fats. Today, I read labels, I eat large salads, and my dessert consists of fruits, nuts, or dark chocolate. I am not a vegetarian; I eat everything, but in moderation.

I recently watched a TV show which showed a researcher who studied more than 500 people over 90 years old. The researcher said that there was not a single vegetarian among them. He also pointed out that most of these old people were slightly overweight, but active. He concluded that genetics was the most important contributing factor to a long life. Like most research, this finding is likely to be contradicted by some future research project. I believe that a balanced diet, exercise, and weight management all contribute to longevity.
Calculate your percent of body fat

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2008-03-09 

How to Live to 100

A recent article by Dr. Mark Liponis[1] listed several things that can increase your life expectancy. Three items of advice were related to food:

Eat a heart-healthy diet. A Mediterranean diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish and whole grains reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. The average lifespan in France, Italy, Greece, Spain, and Israel rank in the top 25, whereas the U.S. is in 45th place.

Drink up. Moderate wine consumption (up to 5 ounces a day) have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Other beverages like green or black tea, as well as coffee, also contain substances that lower death rates from cardiovascular disease.

Watch your waist. There are virtually no obese centenarians. Excess body weight contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. (Learn how to stay trim.)

Other suggestions for living longer were related to life-style:

Read the Newspaper. Centenarians keep abreast of current events and remain engaged in society. Isolation can lead to deterioration and loss of function. Mental activity will help to keep your brain in good working order. (Try some Puzzles)

Buy a farm. Studies show that living in the country extends life compared to living in urban areas. Is it just the clean air that makes farmers live longer? Not necessarily. Farmers are always physically active. Staying physically fit is important for longevity.

Get Married. According to a 2006 study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, people that never married were 58 percent more likely to die earlier than an age-matched group of married people. Divorced or separated people were 27 percent more likely to die earlier than married people.

Have Children. Women who have children after age 40 are four times more likely to live to 100. Men who father children and start raising a family at a younger age also live longer.

Have Faith. Dr. Liponis points out that most centenarians have some kind of regular religious practice or belief, and that researchers have found that clergymen and nuns tend to be long-lived.

The article by Dr. Liponis is based on statistical correlations which sometimes can lead to strange conclusions. I know a married couple, both in bad health, who keep alive hoping to outlive each other because they do not agree on the disposition of their assets after they die. That is an incentive for longevity. I just hope that it is not too late for me to become a clergyman.

[1] Parade Magazine, March 9, 2008, p. 10.

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2008-03-06 

Snacking can derail your diet

Cheese Samples Free Food Samples

The word "cheating" is frequently associated with the word "diet". Just like we feel guilty when we do something that is immoral or unethical, we also feel guilt when we break our promise to stick to a diet. Guilt is good. It can lead us back to the true path. The real problem is when our guilt becomes indifference or apathy because then there are no mental or moral boundaries to give us strength to achieve our goal.

Temptation is everywhere, specially when you go to a Whole Foods supermarket at lunch time. In the fruit section there are pieces of papaya and pineapple that you can try. Walk over to the deli section and there you will find samples of hummus, tuna salad, and other dips that you can put on corn chips or crispy breads. A little bit further in the cheese section, there are cubes of different cheeses that you can try. Finally, as you go by the bakery section, you will find samples of cakes or other sweet goodies. If you have not passed all these displays with your mouth closed, you will have consumed at least 200 calories before you leave the store.

What can you do to stay on track with your diet? You can walk for 30 minutes to burn off the 200 calories, or you can cut 200 calories from your next meal. What if you don't? One day of straying from your diet won't do you great harm, but if you continually snack on 200 calories per day, you will gain one pound in less than one month. Guaranteed.
Learn about Weight Control

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2008-02-28 

How to reduce your risk of cancer

Vegetable Soup

Did you know that by just increasing the fiber in your diet you can reduce your chances of getting colon cancer? According to the American Institute of Cancer Research increasing the daily intake of fruits and vegetables to 5 servings per day could reduce cancer rates by as much as 20%. Cruciferous vegetables in the cabbage family, such as broccoli and cauliflower, have compounds that have been shown to block the progression of cancer in experimental animals and in humans.

Menus that include a variety of colorful vegetables and legumes provide a delicious way to stay healthy and fight cancer. A soup like Italian minestrone is a simple one-dish meal that can incorporate many different vegetables. Of course, besides eating healthy meals with a lot of fiber, it is necessary to make other life style changes to maintain the integrity of your body. One of the best things that you can do to avoid becoming a cancer victim is to stop smoking cigarettes.
Read about other Strategies to reduce Cancer Risk Factors

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2008-02-22 

How much Protein should you eat?

Human Protein Requirements
Human protein requirements vary significantly

A recent study showed that lower protein diets extended the life of fruit flies.[1] Proponents of low protein diets feel that this study provides justification for lower protein in human diets. Unfortunately, this is not a valid conclusion because different species have different nutritional requirements. Nutrition is not an ideology. Nutrition is a science and any conclusions about what is good and what is bad should be based on scientific evidence.

The study on fruit flies, conducted at the University of Sydney, showed that the highest longevity was achieved by a protein-to-carbohydrate (P:C) ratio of 1:16, whereas the egg-laying rate was maximized at a P:C ratio of 1:2. The maximum lifetime egg production, which corresponds to the optimum nutrition for fruit flies, was attained with a P:C ratio of 1:4.

Human protein requirements depend on many factors, including the degree of physical activity. The chart above shows this variability. The Institute of Medicine, the scientific body which establishes national nutritional policies, recommends a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per day per kilogram of body weight.[2] This corresponds to 54 grams of protein for a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kg). So how does this compare with the fruit fly diet?

The Zone diet promoted by Dr. Sears has a a proportion of 30% Protein, 40% carbohydrate, and 30% fat. The Zone diet P:C ratio is 1:1.3 which is considerably higher in protein than any of the fruit fly diets. However, the standard USDA diet recommends a proportion of 15% Protein, 55% Carbohydrate, and 30% fat. The P:C ratio of the USDA diet is 1:3.7 which is very close to the optimal 1:4 ratio for the fruit fly. Maybe we are not that different from fruit flies after all.
Try the Macronutrient Calculator

[1] Lee KP, Simpson SJ, Clissold FJ, Brooks R, Ballard JW, Taylor PW, Soran N, Raubenheimer D., Lifespan and reproduction in Drosophila: New insights from nutritional geometry. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2008 Feb 11; PMID: 18268352

[2] Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients).

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2008-02-19 

Ambivalent Medical Advice and Quackery

Every few weeks, new research seems to contradict something that we thought was already well established in medical science. Questions keep being raised about carbohydrates, probiotics, hormone replacement therapy, vitamin supplementation, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and a variety of medical interventions that we assumed were safe and would help to lengthen our life. In addition to ambiguous research results, we frequently hear about the benefits of alternative medicines, herbs, and natural products whose claims have not been scientifically examined but which are absolutely guaranteed to clean your arteries, improve prostate health, or help you burn belly fat. What can you believe?

The more knowledge that we have, the better decisions that we are able to make in every aspect of our life. We are much better off today by knowing that malaria is a disease caused by protozoa transmitted by mosquito bites rather than just by "bad air". When we have information based on verifiable truth, we are able to make decisions that can help us to solve a problem. The same is not possible when our beliefs are based on wrong or false information. Modern life is so confusing that we still are not really sure what is the source of the increased rates of autism, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease, and many other maladies of our time.

In the end, we are responsible for our own well-being. The best way to take care of ourselves is to eat, drink, and exercise like the people who have lived in good health to a ripe old age. We have to avoid unproven fads. The most important thing that we can learn is to know how to tell the difference between what is true and what is false. This is called Critical Thinking and it is part of the Scientific Method.

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2008-02-12 

How do you start Calorie Restriction?

Calorie restriction has been shown to extend the maximum life span of many species, but you have to start cautiously. Many people start calorie restriction with such zeal that they worsen their health instead of increasing their longevity. People who start with high degrees of calorie restriction and don't monitor their nutrition sometimes find out that they have lost bone mass, resulting in osteoporosis. My specific recommendations about how to start on Calorie Restriction are these:
  1. Read Dr. Roy Walford's book Beyond the 120 Year Diet: How to Double Your Vital Years-. This book describes the science which we hope will help us live longer, although this has not been conclusively proved for humans.
  2. Download CRON-o-Meter (http://spaz.ca/cronometer/). This is a free nutrition-tracking program that will help you to analyze your food so that you can learn to optimize what you eat. You don't have to start a diet, but you have to start measuring and weighing what you eat. In this way, you will learn how many calories you are now consuming on a daily basis, and you will also get a summary of your macronutrient ratios. The program will also point out any nutritional deficiencies.
  3. Get some lab tests to establish a medical baseline including lipid panel, CBC, blood pressure, bone density, etc.
  4. Join the Calorie Restriction Society. This will give you access to support from many members who can answer your specific questions.
  5. Concentrate on Optimum Nutrition. Try to devise daily menus that meet 100% of the RDA of all vitamins and minerals. You may find some recipes in Dr. Sears Zone Diet books. Try to get your nutrition from foods rather than supplements.
  6. Exercise 30 minutes per day with emphasis on strength-building exercises, but don't overdo it to avoid getting injured.
  7. Use the Calorie Restriction Calculator to determine the number of calories required to achieve 5% Calorie Restriction. Start with a 5% CR diet, but make sure that you still achieve Optimum Nutrition on the lower calorie diet.
  8. Once you are familiar with measuring your food and optimum nutrition, you can gradually reduce your calories, but I would not recommend going below 16% CR.

It takes a long time to fine tune your nutrition. It is a way of life.

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2008-02-08 

Tobacco deaths are rising worldwide

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a report saying that the use of tobacco is killing 5.4 million people per year worldwide -- an average of one person every six seconds. Tobacco is responsible for about one in 10 adult deaths. The main diseases caused by tobacco are lung cancer, oral cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and emphysema which is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Although tobacco use is decreasing in high-income countries, the use of tobacco products is increasing globally, particularly in developing countries. In the 20th century, tobacco caused 100 million deaths. If current trends continue, there will be up to one billion deaths in the 21st century.

Michael R. Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, has committed to donate $125 million Dollars for initiatives to end the global tobacco epidemic. The WHO will coordinate tobacco control efforts in developing countries where the health burden from tobacco use is highest.
Learn how to quit smoking

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2008-02-01 

A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

Antonio Zamora and Jeff Noordermeer in 2007

This is a picture of me and Jeff Noordermeer in 2007 celebrating his 74th birthday. Some time ago, Jeff had mentioned that he had written the memoir of fifty years of his life. I asked him if he was going to publish the material and he said "no". After I read what he had written, I was fascinated by how Jeff survived World War II during the bombing of Rotterdam, Holland. Jeff has had a life with many interesting adventures. He is an optimist who is always looking for the positive things in life.

I would like to thank Jeff for allowing me to post his memoirs on my web site. I think that many readers will find Jeff's perspective of life refreshing and humorous.
Read Jeff R. Noordermeer's Memoir

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