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Christmas cookies and candies

German Honey CookiesChristmas is a time of the year when the family gets together to eat delicious food and celebrate. On Christmas eve, cookies and a glass of milk are placed for Santa Claus near the Christmas tree, and Santa places gifts under the tree while the children sleep.

The tradition of baking cookies and sweet treats for the Christmas holidays was started in medieval Europe. By the 16th century, cookies were being flavored with many types of spices and fruits. In Germany, honey cookies like the ones pictured above are particularly popular.

Honiglebkuchen - Honey Cookie Recipe

Candies are also popular during Christmas, and almond brittle is a favorite because the new crop of almonds is harvested in the fall. Brittle is a hard candy embedded with nuts such as pecans, almonds, or peanuts. The candy is easy to make by just melting sugar and adding the nuts.

Almond BrittleAlmond Brittle Recipe

Learn about the History and Traditions of Christmas

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Delicious pasta shapes - farfalle and garganelli

Everybody loves pasta, and it is not hard to make your own. The pasta that you buy in the store is usually made only from flour and water. When you make your own pasta, you can make it more nutritious by adding eggs like traditional Italian pasta. You can also create fun shapes that are decorative and appetizing.

The picture above shows farfalle (butterflies) and garganelli tubes. Farfalle are made by folding and pinching pasta squares, and the garganelli are made by wrapping pasta squares on the handle of a wooden spoon while pressing the pasta tubes against a gnocchi board to make ridges.

Learn how to make ravioli and other types of pasta

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World Geography Scrambled

A New World Map
Australia has the shape of a dog's head. Africa looks like a human skull with a horn in the forehead and Lake Victoria forms an eye. Italy is shaped like a boot, and the other boot is New Zealand, but it is broken. Are there enough geographical pieces to create a human figure?

The new world map has a man with two boots accompanied by a dog. The biggest problem was to find a torso for the body parts. It was not an easy task, but by turning Eurasia on its side, we can pretend that it is a torso. In this new map, Russia corresponds to the back, and the Bering Strait is the neck. Spain ends up as a pubic appendage, India takes the place of a breast, and the Arabian peninsula is a hip. It is not a pretty map, but there are not enough well-shaped pieces to work with.

Just like the ancient astronomers were able to imagine celestial figures for the groupings of stars that we call constellations, this new map adds an imaginary dog's body to Australia's dog head, and the human figure gets a hat. America is not on the map, but you can imagine it as a beautiful young woman who has lost her dog and has not come into the picture yet.

The shapes of the continents are determined by the level of the ocean. Fifteen thousand years ago, a large volume of water which is in the ocean today existed as thick ice sheets that covered the continents. The sea level was 130 meters lower than today and this created a Bering land bridge between Alaska and Siberia that allowed human migration from Asia to America. Melting of the ice deposits on Greenland and Antarctica by global warming will change the shapes of our continents in the future.

Learn more about the geological history of the world

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Types of Cardiovascular Diseases


The word "cardiovascular" derives from the Greek root cardio (heart) and the Latin root vascular (vessel). The word "cardiovascular" refers to the heart and all the blood vessels, including the arteries that carry blood from the heart, capillaries that distribute the blood throughout the body, and veins that return the blood to the heart.

The terms "heart disease" and "cardiovascular disease" are often used interchangeably. Heart disease refers to defects in the function of the heart or the coronary blood vessels that directly supply the heart. Heart disease includes irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), racing heartbeat (tachycardia), heart infections, coronary artery disease, and congenital heart defects. Cardiovascular disease is most commonly associated with conditions involving blocked, narrowed or stiffened blood vessels that can lead to chest pain (angina), heart attack, or stroke. Cardiovascular disease reduces the blood flow to the heart, brain or other parts of the body and may cause symptoms such as numbness, pain, weakness or coldness in the legs or arms.

The principal cause of cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. This condition develops when plaques of fatty substances build up in the inner walls of arteries. The buildup of plaques is slow, but grows over time. The plaques narrow the blood vessels and make the heart work harder causing high blood pressure (hypertension). When a plaque in a blood vessel ruptures, the blood forms a clot (thrombus) around the plaque material, and the clot may partially obstruct or completely stop blood flow in a blood vessel. The tissues deprived of blood eventually die from lack of oxygen.

Coronary arteries are blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscles. The blockage of a coronary artery (coronary thrombosis) causes a heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction. An ischemic stroke occurs when the blood flow of an artery to the brain is blocked by a clot. The cells of the brain tissue die within a few minutes after a stroke and often result in paralysis and speech impediments. Aneurysms are bulges or weakened sections of the blood vessels that can occur anywhere in the body. The bursting of an aneurysm causes internal bleeding. The rupture of a blood vessel inside the brain is called a hemorrhagic stroke.

Heart failure, peripheral artery disease and cardiac arrest are other common complications of heart disease. Heart failure occurs when the muscles of the heart weaken and the heart cannot pump enough blood. Peripheral artery disease is a condition where the legs or other limbs do not receive enough blood flow. Cardiac arrest is the sudden, unexpected loss of heart function usually caused by an electrical disturbance in the heart.

Learn more about the Circulatory System

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The search for extraterrestrial life

Many years of robotic exploration of Mars have not produced evidence of life on the Red Planet. During the next twenty years, NASA will conduct several missions to try to determine whether life ever arose on Mars. NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission Curiosity rover, will launch in late 2011 and land on Mars in August 2012. The search will focus on places where there may be liquid water at sources of geothermal energy. There is great expectation that there may be Martian microbial life, but it would really be surprising to find multicellular organisms. Some scientists think that life on Earth may have had its start from microorganisms that traveled on rocks ejected from Mars after meteorite impacts. If life is found on Mars, DNA analysis will be used to identify similarities to Earth organisms.

The search for intelligent life has been a dream of science fiction. The Star Trek television series started each episode with the prologue "Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."

Establishing a technologically advanced society has a great number of special requirements. We have been able to achieve this because we live in an oxygen atmosphere where we can make fire that makes it possible to smelt metals. Our manual dexterity enables us to manipulate objects easily and to build tools. Had we been relegated to the realm of the sea with flippers instead of hands with opposable thumbs, even with all our brain power we would not have been able to build the technology to send a probe to another world. The Neanderthals who preceded us were able to use fire for cooking and for warmth, but in the 250,000 years that they were on Earth they did not advance beyond the stone age. Modern humans have existed for about 60,000 years, and civilizations were only established 10,000 years ago. In the last 250 years, our industrialization has managed to pollute the atmosphere to the point that we may trigger a global warming event within a couple of hundred years and cause the extinction of many species, perhaps even our own.

Learn more about the evolution of life on Earth

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The Moon stood still for twelve hours

On November 6, 2010 I posted a theory that Mare Moscoviense on the far side of the Moon is the result of overlapping impacts from comet fragments. The image above highlights what I think are four of the major impacts. So far, I am the only person who believes in this idea.

On the one hand, geologists are of the opinion that impacts have to retain specific shock characteristics from the high impact forces.[1] The reason for this is that, on Earth, many volcanic features can be easily confused with impact craters, and the shock characteristics can help to differentiate between volcanic and impact features. This works fine when a single isolated impact is involved, but the criteria do not take into consideration multiple overlapping impacts which would be very different because impacts after the first would fall on a surface melted by a previous impact.

A second prevalent idea is that ancient craters can be flooded by lava so that only the rims remain visible.[2] This may be true, but impacts on viscous fluids also produce what appear to be "flooded craters", but this mechanism has never been considered because impacts by a cluster of impactors would be a very remote possibility. In 1994, we saw the fragments of comet Shoemaker Levy 9 strike Jupiter, so the possibility of multiple impacts is small, but real. Unfortunately, Jupiter is a gas giant; there were no impacts on a solid surface that we could use for comparison.

In trying to make the case for an impact origin for Mare Moscoviense, I have tried to identify the characteristics that would differentiate volcanic lava from impact lava. Interestingly, the 40,000 square kilometers covered by Mare Moscoviense are very smooth and there does not seem to be any volcanic cone from which such a great quantity of lava could have come. I have also experimented with impacts on soft clay to show that these impacts may have some morphological similarity to impacts on molten rock. I then estimated the volume of molten lava in Mare Moscoviense and calculated that the proposed impacts could have had enough energy to melt all that rock. The last thing that I accomplished was to identify a viable collision trajectory between a string of cometary fragments and the Moon. In this trajectory, the Moon appears to remain still for at least a period of 12 hours while the string of fragments has the opportunity to hit the Lunar surface repeatedly in the same location. The figure below shows a tangential collision during the first quarter or third quarter Moon that fulfills these requirements.

Several months ago, I notified two of the main Japanese scientists who worked on the KAGUYA Lunar mission about my theory, but I have not received a reply. I expect that many years will pass before this idea is considered seriously.

Learn more about Mare Moscoviense

[1] French, B.M.; Koeberl, C., 2010, "The convincing identification of terrestrial meteorite impact structures: What works, what doesn't, and why" Earth-Science Reviews, 98 (2010) 123–170.
[2] Morota, T., et al., 2009-b, Ages and Thicknesses of Mare Basalts in Mare Moscoviense: Results from SELENE (KAGUYA) Terrain Camera Data, 40th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, (Lunar and Planetary Science XL), held March 23-27, 2009 in The Woodlands, Texas, id.1280

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WordPress wp-admin/install.php gives blank page

The installation of the WordPress content management system is straightforward with very clear installation instructions. The basic steps consist of 1) downloading the WordPress package, 2) creating a MySQL database and establishing a MySQL user with all privileges for accessing and modifying the database, 3) setting up a configuration file wp-config.php that identifies the database, user, and password, and 4) running the installation script by accessing wp-admin/install.php.

I wanted to install a local copy of WordPress on my Windows Vista computer to develop a WordPress theme. My computer had the required Apache web server, PHP, and MySQL database programs. Using phpMyAdmin, I set up the database and the user ID for the blog without problems. However, when I ran the WordPress installation script, I got a blank page.

To get some diagnostic messages, I changed the WP_DEBUG variable from "false" to "true" in the wp-config.php file.

define('WP_DEBUG', true);

This produced the following messages:
Warning: mysql_connect() [function.mysql-connect]: A connection attempt failed because the connected party did not properly respond after a period of time, or established connection failed because connected host has failed to respond. in C:\www\wordpress\wp-includes\wp-db.php on line 1037

Fatal error: Maximum execution time of 60 seconds exceeded in C:\www\wordpress\wp-includes\wp-db.php on line 1037

About one year earlier, I had a problem establishing a connection with a MySQL database from a Perl program. The problem was finally resolved when I used the numeric IP address of the localhost instead of just "localhost". This same solution worked for WordPress by specifying for my localhost in the wp-config.php file.

/** MySQL hostname */
define('DB_HOST', ''); /* localhost */

My Perl programs accessing local MySQL databases look like this:

# Access MySQL database "names"
use DBI;
$database = 'names';
$hostname = ''; # localhost
$port = '3306';
$dsn = "DBI:mysql:database=$database;host=$hostname;port=$port";
$user = 'user1';
$password = 'xxxxx';

$dbh = DBI->connect( $dsn, $user, $password )
|| die "Cannot connect to $database: $DBI::errstr";

$query = 'show tables;';
$sth = $dbh->prepare($query);
my $numRows = $sth->rows; # number of rows
print "Number of Tables=$numRows\n";
while (my $row = $sth->fetchrow_arrayref) {
print join("\t", @$row), "\n";
print ' * * * *',"\n\n";

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What to eat to lose weight

Eating a daily portion of French fries will eventually make you fat, and eating yogurt every day can keep you from gaining weight. This is one of the conclusions of a report published by researchers at Harvard University[1] which found that specific dietary and lifestyle factors are independently associated with long-term weight gain. The study found that a combination of these factors have aggregate effects. In essence, if French fries can make you fat and, independently, sugar-sweetened beverages can make you fat, the combination of French fries and sweet sodas will make you fatter than either one of them alone. The image above shows the pounds gained or avoided over four years for every additional serving per day of specific foods.

The research followed for twenty years 120,877 non-obese U.S. men and women, free of chronic disease from three different groups. Relationships between lifestyle factors and weight change were evaluated at 4-year intervals, with various adjustments made for age, baseline BMI, and lifestyle factors.

Overall, the participants gained 3.35 pounds, or 2.4% of their body weight, in each four-year interval. Over the 20 years of follow up, that amounted to almost 17 additional pounds. The data also revealed a strong weight-gain connection with certain foods, such as potatoes in various forms, sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed red meats, and processed meats. Some foods such as vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and yogurt were inversely connected to weight gain, i.e., people who ate these foods gained less weight over time.

The study found that daily consumption of yogurt prevented 0.82 pounds of weight gain over each of the 4-year periods. Physical activity translated into 1.76 fewer pounds gained during each time period. Participants who slept less than six hours or more than eight hours per night gained more weight within each study period. Those who watched more television gained an average of 0.31 pounds for every hour of TV watched per day. Foods most strongly associated with weight gain every four years were potatoes, including fries (a 1.28-pound gain), sugar-sweetened beverages (1-pound gain), unprocessed red meats (0.95-pound gain), and processed meats (0.93-pound gain). Alcohol use was also associated with about a 0.41-pound gain per drink per day.

Each increased daily serving of potato chips alone was associated with a 1.69 pound-weight gain every four years. Potato chips are basically carbohydrates and fat with very little protein and almost no nutritional value. The Nutrition Label of Kirkland Kettle brand krinkle cut potato chips shows that one serving of 28 grams consists of approximately 9 chips. Eating those nine potato chips every day for four years results in a weight gain of 1.69 pounds.

One serving of potato chips

The results of the study demonstrate that the quality of the diet, i.e., the types of food and beverages that one consumes, is strongly linked to weight gain. One of your best strategies for losing weight is to increase your physical activity and reduce your consumption of potatoes and other simple carbohydrates such as white bread and sugar-sweetened drinks.

Learn more about weight loss.

[1] Dariush Mozaffarian, et al., Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men, N Engl J Med 2011; 364:2392-2404 June 23, 2011

Comments »

healthyengineer said,
2011-06-27 @ 04:52:38

I suspect that the significant weight gain for soda and fries, and their combined effect are likely due to the hepatotoxicity of both polyunsaturated fat and fructose leading to both insulin and leptin resistance... and therefore destroying the bodies natural "lipostasis" system. Perhaps there is even a synergistic effect, where neither PUFA or fructose are nearly as toxic as their combination. Obesity often co-occurs with NAFLD. I doubt that "simple [starch] carbohydrates" play any role here at all... there's many traditional cultures (such at the Kitavans) whose diet consists largely of starchy root vegetables yet have virtually no obesity. Notice how "potatoes all" is significantly lower than potato chips and fries... likely because this group contains both potatoes fried in polyunsaturated fat (strongly obesogenic) and potatoes that are not (non obesogenic). As an epidemiological study this (1) doesn't determine cause and effect, and (2) doesn't isolate individual ingredients.

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How to publish an eBook for Kindle

Amazon.com announced that the sale of electronic books for the Kindle reader surpassed the sale of printed books in April 2011. There are many reasons for the shift from print to electronic media, including the fact that thousands of books are available in electronic form. Books in Kindle format can be read on Amazon's Kindle and also in other devices such as the iPad, iPhone, Android phone, and personal computers. The Kindle reader can store more than one thousand books and can download those books via Wi-Fi wherever you are. Kindle readers also have a built-in web browser and text-to-speech so that you can listen to your books. Paper books can't do that!

Publishing an electronic book for the Kindle is as easy as formatting a Microsoft Word document or developing an HTML web page, but there are additional requirements for HTML. You can prepare your text and images using Microsoft Word or OpenOffice Writer and save the text as HTML in a new folder. The text can also be prepared using HTML editors such as Microsoft FrontPage or SeaMonkey Composer. Once your source material is ready, you need to format the file for the Kindle, and prepare a book cover and table of contents. These are some of the steps you need to take:

- Read the Kindle publishing guidelines. https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help
- Create an account for Kindle Direct Publishing. https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin
- Create a book cover JPG image (600 by 800 pixels) using Irfanview, Gimp, Photoshop, etc.
- Write a short description about the book, similar to what would be in a book jacket.
- Download the free software from Amazon to build and preview Kindle books:

KindleGen is a command line tool used to build eBooks. KindleGen will accept as input an HTML file or an .opf file which is an XML file that has the title of the book, the author, the location of the cover, the location of the table of contents, and the sequence in which the HTML files should be organized. The table of contents is an .ncx file also in XML format. KindleGen has a sample book with .opf and .ncx files that can be used as a guide. The KindleGen application integrates all the HTML files, the images and the table of contents to create a Kindle book file with a .mobi extension.

The Kindle Previewer can read a .mobi file and emulate how the book will display on Kindle devices. This is a useful tool to check the appearance of the book on the Kindle, Kindle DX, iPhone, and iPad.

Amazon also provides a free Kindle for PC application that allows you to read Kindle books on your PC or laptop.

You will need to decide whether you want to assign an ISBN number to your book before you submit it to Kindle Direct Publishing. The ISBN is not required by Amazon, but you may want to get one if you plan to promote your book actively. The ISBN is used by libraries and book sellers as an identification for published items. An electronic book has to have a different ISBN from a printed book with the same contents. You can get an ISBN for $125 Dollars or a set of 10 ISBNs for $250 Dollars from https://www.myidentifiers.com/ The ISBN is contained in the .opf file, so you have to obtain it before you can produce the final version of your kindle book.

If you do all the book development and formatting yourself, the cost of the ISBN is your only expense. Once you have built your book and tested it, you are ready to publish it. For Kindle books that sell between $2.99 and $9.99, Amazon will pay 70% of the revenue to the publisher. When the eBook has been accepted, it will be listed in the Amazon.com web site and will also be available in ads such as this:

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What is numerology?

At the beginning of civilization, man invented the alphabet and the written word. The early writing systems did not have numbers, so letters were assigned to represent numbers. In the Hebrew alphabet, for example, Alef (א) represented 1, Bet (ב) represented 2, Gimel (ג) represented 3, etc. The Roman numbers made from the letters C, D, I, L, M, V, and X are more familiar to us today and we use them on clock faces, book chapters, and movie production dates. The Roman number LIX represents 59, where the L is 50, the X is 10 and the I to the left of the ten subtracts 1 from the 10. Notice that LIX could be pronounced in English like "licks" or "likes". This type of association of numbers with words and meanings is the basis of the ancient numerology.

There are many systems of numerology, but they all seek esoteric and mystical relationships between numbers, words, and the physical objects that the words represent. Numerology, like astrology, has been classified as a pseudoscience because the purported associations between numbers and objects are arbitrary and based on traditions and beliefs that do not have an objective origin. Numerological divination was practiced by early mathematicians, such as Pythagoras, but numerology is not part of mathematics today.

The association of words and numbers is practiced on a large scale today for encoding alphabetic characters in computer records. Computers can only work with numbers, and mappings such as EBCDIC, ASCII, and UTF-8 specify how those numbers are to be interpreted to represent letters and words.

Learn more about Numerology

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