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Foraging for mushrooms and bamboo shoots

Bamboo Shoots Bamboo Shoot cross section
Bamboo Shoots

After almost one week of continuous spring rains, the trees are green and the the ground is moist. These conditions promote the growth of mushrooms and bamboo. A nice walk in the woods will bring you closer to nature, burn up some calories and, if you are lucky, you can find some edible mushrooms, berries, or bamboo shoots.

Bamboo shoots are frequently used in Chinese cooking. They are also a favorite food of Panda Bears. Bamboo shoots are low in calories and contain a significant amount of B vitamins and minerals. 100 grams of raw bamboo shoots have only 27 calories and the following nutrients:
Nutrients in Bamboo Shoots

Next time that you go for a walk, keep your eyes open. You can enjoy nature, and perhaps find a nice edible treat.
Learn about the benefits of exercise.

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Swine flu forces students and parents to work from home

Don't Pollute e-commute

Many schools across the country have closed because of swine flu infections. This has forced some parents to stay at home to take care of the kids. These unexpected changes in schedules are a hardship for the parents and for the firms that employ them because it reduces productivity.

Some firms provide employees with the opportunity to work from home. The work-at-home programs may be called telecommuting, e-commuting, e-work, or telework. The firms that allow working from home may also provide equipment, such as computers, modems, and internet access. The most effective way to work from home requires a connection for the computer and a separate line for the telephone so that both can be used at the same time.

When a significant portion of the employees work from home, a company is able to reduce its office space. In addition, a company that allows telecommuting may be able to hire qualified individuals who live far away or who, because of disabilities or other obligations, may not be able to drive to the company location.

Telecommuting provides a "green" alternative to driving. You don't use gasoline. You don't have to fight traffic. You don't pollute and you reduce your carbon footprint. However, you need to have discipline to get your work done in spite of the distractions that can be found at home. You cannot just surf the internet or play solitaire and expect to get paid.

Learn more about working from home

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Native Americans wiped out by comet explosion over Canada

Clovis Spear Point
Clovis spear point

Approximately 15,000 years ago, the Earth started coming out of an ice age. There were glaciers several miles thick in North America which trapped great volumes of water, and the sea level was 130 meters (426 feet) lower than today. As the weather warmed, a land bridge opened between Alaska and Siberia in what is now the Bering strait. This allowed humans to walk from Asia to America and establish new colonies.

At the time, the wildlife in North America was like Africa. There were huge animals like mammoths, giant sloths, camels, and saber tooth tigers. The Clovis people, who had spread throughout what is now the United States, hunted these animals with finely-crafted flint spear points and arrow heads. And then, around 12,900 years ago, all the large animals disappeared from North America, and with them, the Clovis culture.

It was long thought that the Clovis people had annihilated the megafauna, but new studies reveal that the large animals and the Clovis people themselves were destroyed by a comet explosion over south-east Canada, around the great lakes. The explosion was so bright and so intense that it ignited much of the vegetation of North America. The forest fires created a layer of black dirt which became mixed with a thin dusting of microscopic diamonds from the comet.[1,2] The smoke and dust from the impact blocked the light of the sun for many years and the global temperature dropped, creating a rapid return to glacial conditions. Without vegetation, the large herbivores could not survive, and the carnivores were left with nothing to eat. The catastrophe started what is now called the Younger Dryas cool interval, which was a period of cold weather lasting approximately 1300 years.
band of dark sediment at Murray Spring, Arizona Younger Dryas cooling event

A band of dark sediment at Murray Spring, Arizona contains evidence for a cosmic impact that started an abrupt period of global cooling and a mass extinction in North America. Similar deposits have been found in five other widely separated locations: Bull Creek, Oklahoma, Gainey, Michigan, Topper, South Carolina, as well as Lake Hind, Manitoba, and Chobot, Alberta, in Canada. The highest concentrations of extraterrestrial impact materials occur in the Great Lakes area.
Geologic and Biological Timeline of the Earth

[1] D. J. Kennett, et al., Nanodiamonds in the Younger Dryas Boundary Sediment Layer, Science 2 January 2009: Vol. 323. no. 5910, p. 94. DOI: 10.1126/science.1162819 [link]

[2] University of Cincinnati. "Exploding Asteroid Theory Strengthened By New Evidence Located In Ohio, Indiana." ScienceDaily 3 July 2008. [link]

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Swine flu panic causes bizarre behavior

Egypt began slaughtering the roughly 300,000-350,000 pigs in the country Wednesday as a precautionary measure against the spread of swine flu even though no cases have been reported there yet, according to Health Ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman. This is a fairly useless measure because the mutated Influenza A H1N1 virus responsible for the outbreak can be transmitted from person to person and does not require a pig host.

Israel's ultra-Orthodox deputy health minister, Yakov Litzman, has stated that the swine flu is unkosher. "We won't call it swine flu. We will call it Mexican flu.", he said. Pork is considered unclean by Orthodox Jews, and it is a constant source of friction in Israel between the Kosher community and those who eat pork. Indeed, calling the disease the "Mexican Flu" will make everyone feel better, and a pig by any other name will smell as sweet.

The first case of the flu in Mexico was a four year old boy who is now recuperating. Mexico's Health Minister, Jose Angel Cordova, said that in addition to 151 deaths, another 2000 persons had been admitted to the hospital with "grave pneumonia", and at least half of them had since made a full recovery. It is thought that the virus mutated into a virulent form at a village called La Gloria in the state of Veracruz, where residents have long complained about the smell and flies from a nearby pig farm. The facility, Granjas Carroll de Mexico, is partly owned by Smithfield Foods, a Virginia-based US company and the world's largest producer and processor of pork products.

Learn about hygiene

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Bumblebees are highly territorial

Territorial Bumblebee

As soon as the weather got warm, I noticed that two bumblebees staked a claim in my terrace. One patrols the north side, and the other guards the east side. If they get into each other's territory they scuffle, and sometimes they drop to the floor as they attack each other.

The bumblebees just seem to hover back-and-forth along "their" territory in spite of the high winds in the penthouse patio. They do this all day long. I don't know what they eat to have all that energy. There are no flowers yet.

The bumblebees don't seem to be interested in people. When I walk around in the patio, they just keep buzzing in their normal flight patterns. However, as soon as another bumblebee comes into their visual range, they chase after it. Sometimes, you will see a bumblebee take off in a hurry chasing after another bee that may be thirty feet away. Bumblebees really have good eyesight and great reflexes!

Several years ago, before I knew that the bumblebees were harmless if left alone, I doused one with the hose and it fell into a pool of water and drowned. I felt so guilty. This animal was not hurting me, and it was not harming my home, but I killed it. Now, I try to be more respectful of nature.

May 25, 2009 update. I was explaining to a visitor how the bumblebees are so protective of their territory. I told him that I wanted to try an experiment where we would toss a small stone toward each other in the area where the bumblebee was flying. Sure enough, as soon as the stone was in the air, the bumblebee flew toward it and tried to attack it. We stopped the game when the bumble bee got too close for our comfort.
See the bumblebee feeding on my sunflowers

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Swine Flu outbreak in Mexico and Texas

Influenza Virus
Influenza Virus

Over 1000 people in Mexico City have been infected with flu virus and at least 68 have died. The same strain of influenza virus has been found in Southern California and Texas, raising fears that the outbreak could develop into a global pandemic. Mexican health officials closed all schools, universities, museums and libraries to try to keep the infection from spreading. Authorities are also screening international travelers for flu symptoms before they leave the country.

Residents of Mexico are taking precautions against getting infected by staying at home, avoiding public places, and not greeting people with handshakes and kisses. People who must use public transportation have started wearing rubber gloves and face marks to avoid getting infected.

The influenza virus mutates easily. Small genetic changes allow the virus to adapt to new hosts and jump species. The H1N1 virus of this outbreak can infect pigs and birds. Recent outbreaks of flu have originated in Asia. It is unusual that the current epidemic started in North America. People who work in close proximity with chickens and pigs are more likely to get infected with flu viruses. A 2004 study in Iowa found that 20 percent of swine veterinarians and 3 percent of meatpackers had antibodies in their blood indicating they had been infected with swine flu.

There are no vaccines against this virus, although Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), which is an antiviral drug, appears to be effective at suppressing viral replication.
Learn about the structure of the Influenza Virus

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Earth Day: Poisons in our environment

The Washington Post reported that more than 80 percent of the male smallmouth bass in the Potomac River are growing eggs, and after six years of searching, scientists still have not found the pollutants that are causing the abnormality. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which provides water to over 5 million people in the Washington metropolitan area says that the drinking water is clean, but the WSSC report for 2008 shows detectable levels of Dalapon (less than 1 microgram per liter), and Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (less than 2 micrograms per liter).[1]

Dalapon is a herbicide used to control grasses in a wide variety of crops. Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) is a commonly used plasticizer in the manufacture of articles made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). DEHP is also used as a hydraulic fluid and as a dielectric fluid in capacitors.

Many organic chemicals mimic the effects of sex-hormones. DEHP metabolites in the blood of pregnant women have been significantly associated with decreased penis size, shorter anogenital distance, and the incomplete descent of testes in newborn boys.[2]
Learn more about environmental contaminants

[1] WSSC Tap Water Analysis - 2008, Potomac Water Filtration Plant

[2] Pelley, Janet (November 2008). "Plasticizer may make boys less masculine". Environ Sci Technol.

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How we get fat: Buy one, get one free

Free Bacon, Free Sausage Buy one, get one free (BOGO)
Buy one, get one free

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are now over 1.6 billion overweight adults in the world. That number is projected to grow by 40% over the next 10 years. The following list reflects the percentage of overweight adults aged 15 and over. These are individuals who have Body Mass Index greater than or equal to 25. Obesity is defined as a BMI greater than or equal to 30. In the United States 74.1% of the people are overweight or obese. That is almost 3/4 of the entire population.

Rank Country %
1. Nauru 94.5
2. Micronesia 91.1
3. Cook Islands 90.9
4. Tonga 90.8
5. Niue 81.7
6. Samoa 80.4
7. Palau 78.4
8. Kuwait 74.2
9. United States 74.1
10. Kiribati 73.6
11. Dominica 71.0
12. Barbados 69.7
13. Argentina 69.4
14. Egypt 69.4
15. Malta 68.7
16. Greece 68.5
17. New Zealand 68.4
18. United Arab Emirates 68.3
19. Mexico 68.1
20. Trinidad and Tobago 67.9

One of the reasons why Americans are so fat is that they cannot pass up a bargain. The way in which food is merchandised makes it virtually impossible to buy only a reasonable amount of food. Look at the receipt above. You buy one and you get one free. If you buy only one, it is like throwing half of your money away. Who is going to do that? Nobody. We would rather eat it than waste it. That is how we get fat. Interestingly, you seldom see such sales for fruits and vegetables.
Calculate your BMI

Comments »

MaineBob OConnor said,
2009-04-15 @ 00:56:48

What's with the top four countries all above 90%. I bet that those countries do not have the two for one deals. There must be another factor... And in the USA, Corn... in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup was implicated in the Fattening of Americans in the Indi film "King Corn".

Administrator said,
2009-04-15 @ 02:51:33


The countries at the top of the list are in Polynesia. The traditional Polynesian diet consists mainly of taro, yams, bananas, coconuts, and fish baked in leaves. The flesh of young coconuts and coconut water are important parts of the cuisine. Baked breadfruit is popular when it is in season. Leftover food is fed to pigs, which are killed and cooked for special feasts. The modern diet of Polynesians includes large quantities of imported flour and sugar which is made into breads and sodas. The abundance of starchy foods in the diet is responsible for the high rates of obesity.

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Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.

Cherry Blossom Festival

April is a colorful month in Washington, D.C. The blooming of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial is an example of the natural beauty of the capital of the United States. These Japanese cherry trees, also called sakura, were originally a gift from Japan in 1912, and additional trees were planted in 1965.

People who live in the Washington area look forward to the Cherry Blossom Festival which is held every year at the beginning of April. The festival includes a parade that runs along Constitution Avenue and is usually televised. Giant colorful balloons, marching bands, performers, celebrities, and spectators fill the streets of Washington. Several streets are closed for the Annual Sakura Matsuri, the largest Japanese Street Festival in the United States.

The booths for the Japanese festival display a wide variety of arts, crafts, and products. Geishas in their bright kimonos demonstrate dances to the sounds of traditional Japanese instruments. Visitors can learn how to fold origami, and they can buy anime, manga, J-POP music, and Japanese food delicacies.

Tour the Washington Monument

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(OS 3) The system cannot find the path specified

Apache Web Server

Recently, I got a new computer and I had to install the Apache Web Server on a Windows platform to be able to test my CGI scripts locally before publishing them on the internet. The installation went well and I could test CGI executables without problems, but HTML pages that used Perl scripts displayed the dreaded HTTP Status 500 - Internal Server Error. My Apache error.log file had the entry:

[client] (OS 3)The system cannot find the path specified.
: couldn't create child process: 720003: echo1.pl

This type of error occurs more frequently in Windows systems than in Linux or Unix systems. The reason is that the shebang line of the Perl script (#!/usr/bin/perl) is used by the Apache web server to find a program to interpret the script. In Windows systems, the Perl interpreter is normally installed as C:\Perl\bin\perl.exe, whereas in Linux/Unix systems the path is usually /usr/bin/perl, as indicated in the shebang line. Although there are several ways of telling the web server where to find the Perl interpreter, I have found that the simplest solution is to leave the Apache configuration alone and store a copy of the Perl interpreter as C:\usr\bin\perl.exe.

In this way, I can test my Perl scripts in the Windows system with exactly the same code that will run in the Linux systems. In the event that I upgrade to a new version of Perl, I have to remember to also change the copy in the local C:\usr\bin\ directory, or install the new version of Perl in directory C:\usr instead of the default directory C:\perl.

Click Here for a list of Free and Open Source Software

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