domingo, 15 de junio de 2014


By Kentin Waits - @kfwaits

The Great Depression sank its teeth into the American economy in 1929 and didn’t let go for a full decade. My father was born in 1917, and most of his childhood spanned this economic upheaval. It influenced his (and by infusion, my own) relationship with money and his spending habits for the rest of his life.

My dear old dad is gone now, and with the perspective of years I’ve come to appreciate the money lessons he taught so thoroughly.

Here are 10 of the most valuable:

1. Forget the superficial clues; you never know what someone’s financial reality is like
It’s a phenomenon we seldom talk about: Easy credit allows people to separate (at least for a time) the condition of their bank accounts from how they present themselves to the world. This hasn’t always been the case.
Now, for better or worse, with a little inspiration and some plastic, anyone can look like a million bucks.
As kids, Dad taught us that appearances can be deceiving and to avoid drawing conclusions about anyone’s financial life based on cosmetics. The guy driving the new car might be teetering on a tower of debt; the woman in worn-out coveralls might be sitting on a fortune.

2. With few exceptions, own instead of rent
Owning the essentials of life (house, car, land, etc.) can be ballast against inflation and economic downturns. And while ownership of these things isn’t always possible for everyone and every stage of life, the idea is still an important one. Ownership means assets and autonomy — two important benefits in the best and worst of times.

3. … Then take care of what you own
To protect the value of what you own, take care of it. Reflexively, I remember my dad in hunched position -obsessively repairing even the faintest rattle in his car, meticulously cleaning his tools, and sanding and polishing everything in his path. What he owned lasted for years. When they combined their talents, my mom and dad were the only foil I’ve ever known to a machine’s planned obsolescence.

4. A rise in income shouldn’t necessarily produce a bump in lifestyle
My dad had a knack for maintaining a relatively constant lifestyle in spite of upticks in income over the years. He was a firm believer in pocketing extra money from raises rather than embracing the much-celebrated option of buying a bigger house or later-model car.
As much as I disdained it in my youth, I have to tip my hat to a strategy that’s helped me easily adapt to all the economic turmoil of the last decade.

5. Saving is just as potent a force as earning
It seems like people devote a lot of energy and effort to maximizing income, but seldom give equal time to saving that income. Dad realized that salaries, to a certain degree, are out of most people’s control, but saving is an area where we can exert real influence. In our house, earning and saving were just two sides of the same coin and both were scrutinized carefully.

6. Prepare for the unexpected
If there’s a single, resounding lesson that the Great Depression taught an entire generation, it’s this: Be prepared for the unexpected.
He’d be labeled a chronic pessimist today, but my dad never automatically assumed that today’s economic success guaranteed tomorrow’s. He was always prepared for the “what-ifs” in very tactical ways — by saving, ruthlessly avoiding debt, keeping a huge garden, and having the know-how to make do.

7. Self-reliance is power
From mowing the lawn to replacing the brakes in his car, from growing a huge garden to patching an old garden hose, my dad demonstrated the value of self-reliance. Most of his skills were self-taught through what I’m sure were long hours of trial and error, but he must have saved thousands of dollars over the years. By the time I came along, his skills at fixing or building nearly anything seemed almost instinctive and something close to a super power.

8. When possible, let someone else take the hit of depreciation
Buying new inevitably results in almost immediate depreciation. My dad taught me that this value loss is easy to avoid simply by buying used whenever possible. With allowances for condition, expected lifespan, efficiency, warranties, and other factors, buying secondhand is a smart way to maximize money.

9. Little expenses add up
I have to confess, I kind of hate the fact that I can’t buy a cup of coffee without the faint echo of my dad’s voice admonishing me for such an indulgence. He was famous in our family for using bad math to prove a good point: “If you spend $1.50 a day on a cup of coffee, you’ve wasted $1,000 in a year!” (or some such statement that inspired a collective eye roll and mad dash for the nearest calculator).
Still, somehow we got the message: Little expenses can easily become big financial drags.

10. Consider your future self
Saving shouldn’t be an end in itself. Frugality, thrift and careful investing should be driven by clear goals and with an eye toward future security. My dad may not have verbalized it quite this way, but his efforts were driven by his retirement goals, our family’s future needs, and his desire to leave some sort of legacy. These modest goals fueled his efforts and defined him as one of the most financially vigilant people I’ve ever met.

To be sure, I didn’t always love my dad’s Depression-inspired ways, but I never rebelled against them either. Even as a kid, it didn’t take me long to connect the effort with the success and quell any lingering protests.

As an adult, I’m a financial red herring in my own generation (I came along late in my dad’s life and he was closer in age to most of my peers’ grandparents). And though my spending style marginalizes me a little, I love the freedom those early lessons have given me. Distilled, reinterpreted, and modernized just a bit, they serve as my own post-Great Recession road map.

Read more at /2014/06/13/10-money-lessons-i-learned-from-my-depression-era-dad/#pM7yto3ATEyOw7TY.99

sábado, 29 de marzo de 2014

By Robert Preidt
Cases of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy -- or 'broken heart syndrome' --
 jumped in Vermont, Missouri following natural disasters

THURSDAY, March 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) --

The stress of natural disasters can break people's hearts, according to a new study.

Researchers found dramatic rises in "broken heart syndrome" in Vermont after a huge storm ravaged the state, and in Missouri after a massive tornado.

People with broken heart syndrome --formally called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy -- suffer a temporary enlargement and weakening of the heart. The condition is often triggered by extreme emotional or physical stress, such as losing a loved one or being in a traffic crash.

"Despite the seemingly increasing number of natural disasters we have, there is limited data about how it might affect the heart," said lead investigator Dr. Sadip Pant, an internist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

"Our findings suggest two disasters --one in Vermont and one in Missouri-- might have been possible triggers for the clustering of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy cases in these regions," Pant said.

For the study, a university team looked at data from nearly 22,000 people in the United States who were diagnosed with broken heart syndrome in 2011. They mapped the cases state by state and found that Missouri and Vermont had the highest rate of cases -- 169 and 380 per 1 million residents, respectively.

Most states had fewer than 150 cases per million people. In 2011, Vermont was devastated by Tropical Storm Irene, and an enormous tornado tore through Joplin, Mo., and killed at least 158 people.

The study is scheduled for presentation Saturday at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.

Symptoms of broken heart syndrome include chest pain and shortness of breath. The condition typically resolves within one or two months, but can lead to serious complications, such as heart failure, heart rhythm disorders and stroke in some cases.

"By and large, it is a very reversible form of cardiomyopathy, but in the acute phase these patients need to be monitored closely to be sure they are stable and to prevent and manage problems," Pant said in a college news release.

"It's also something that emergency doctors and medical personnel need to be aware of as they are often on the frontlines seeing patients after disaster strikes," he said.

Broken heart syndrome is "a perfect example of our brain-heart connection," Pant said. "The emotional stress we have in our brain can lead to responses in the heart, and not much is known about this condition."

Data and conclusions presented at meetings typically are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

SOURCE: American College of Cardiology, news release, March 27, 2014

sábado, 8 de febrero de 2014


By Robert Preidt - The Lancet

An episode of the TV medical drama "House" helped doctors determine the source of a patient's mysterious symptoms, a new report reveals.
Doctors realized patient's mysterious symptoms 
resembled those of a character on the medical drama
The man had severe heart failure but the cause of the condition and other health problems remained unknown after more than a year and multiple hospital visits. Coronary artery disease is a common cause of heart failure, but was ruled out in this case, the study authors said.

In May 2012, the patient was referred to the Marburg University Clinic in Germany. The medical team there reviewed the patient's records and learned that in November 2010 he received a metal-on-plastic hip implant to replace a broken ceramic-on-ceramic implant.

Within six months, the man had developed symptoms such as underactive thyroid, acid reflux, increasing loss of vision and hearing, unexplained fever and, eventually, severe heart failure, according to the study, published Feb. 7 in The Lancet.

The Marburg team noticed that the patient's symptoms closely resembled those of a fictional patient in an episode of "House", a series in which lead character Dr. Gregory House, played by actor Hugh Laurie, solves difficult medical cases.

The real-life conclusion was that the patient was suffering from cobalt poisoning caused by debris from the metal part of the hip replacement, the researchers said in a journal news release.

The man was referred back to his orthopedic clinic and received a new ceramic hip implant.
After that, his heart function improved and he had no new incidents of unexplained fever or acid reflux, according to the report.

domingo, 19 de enero de 2014

The Canadian Press-An overweight person is shown in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., May 12, 2005.

It’s hard enough to attract recruits to the Canadian military or police forces without worrying about fitness.

An internal Defence Department audit released last year noted that “fitness and education levels of recruits in the last five years have been slightly lower than in the past,” when compounded with other factors such as mobility, changing career expectations and an aging workforce.

Recent reports show that American police and armed forces are struggling to find new recruits who satisfy the weight restriction.

It’s slowly becoming the case in Canada too. The Canadian Forces have been adapting their application process to accommodate its changing applicant pool.

In 2006, the military eliminated the Canadian Forces Applicant Physical Fitness Test as a pre-enrolment screening process, with some exceptions.

Instead of a physical test right off the bat, the evaluation is done once they’ve been admitted to basic training. The three per cent that fail are not disqualified — rather, they are given the option to join the 90-day Warrior Fitness Training Program.

Recruits who get in shape within the 90 days are returned to basic training.

But the changes don’t necessarily mean the Canadian Forces are lowering their standards to bring in more recruits, according to Christian Leuprecht, a Royal Military College and Queen’s University professor who has spent years studying military demographics and recruitment.

I think it’s important to realize — just like the way companies can’t expect the people who wander through the front door to have all the skills that a company might need and that a company invests in training — the

Armed Forces look at the potential that the candidates bring rather than necessarily candidates that already have all the physical attributes that the organization is looking for,” he said.

- Phoebe Ho/For Metro

Uncle Sam wants you … to lose some weight

Former Navy SEAL turned fitness instructor Stew Smith putspolice officers through a squatting exercise. ​Courtesy Stew Smith.

Recently Mike Harper ran into the wife of a police officer friend on a Dallas street.

She told me she was worried about his safety because his colleagues are overweight,” he recalls.

The wife had good reason to be concerned. Even though American police officers should be fitter than average, a comprehensive study reports that they’re less fit than half of the population.

They have to be able to crawl and run,” notes Harper, a fitness educator in charge of police and military programs at the Cooper Institute in Dallas.

These are not tasks that you do every day, but it’s critical that you’re able to do them. It’s like using a firearm. You don’t need it every day, but when you do need it, it’s essential that you know how.”

And police officers are not the only ones with a weight problem. According to Lt.-Gen. Mark Hertling, no less than 75 per cent of civilians wanting to join the U.S. Army are ineligible due to being overweight.

And “of the 25 per cent that could join, what we found was 65 per cent could not pass the (physical training) test on the first day,” he said in a speech.

Young people joining our service could not run, jump, tumble or roll. These are the kind of things you would expect soldiers to do if you’re in combat.”

According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, between 1959 and 2008 the percentage of men who were ineligible for military service because of their weight doubled, while the percentage of ineligible women tripled.

Even though Hollywood portrays army physical training as extremely gruelling, the fitness test for new soldiers is surprisingly low.

Fifty push-ups, 40 sit-ups and a 1.5-mile run in less than 10 minutes,” notes Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL who now runs a fitness company for soldiers and officers.

Now armed forces and law-enforcement agencies are getting serious about fitness, enlisting companies like Smith’s and the Cooper Institute to train their staff. Some, like the British Army, have even developed apps to help applicants get fit. In fact, many former elite soldiers have discovered a business niche in fitness companies.

However, fitness apps won’t really make a difference, observes Smith.

The police and military do their best with what society brings them, but this is a society-wide problem. A financially struggling population will keep eating crappy, inexpensive food.”

- Elisabeth Braw/Metro

Russian police force goes on a diet

In recent years, Russia’s much-maligned police force has been trying to revamp its image, including tackling obesity among officers.

The fat and paunchy will not get through,” former interior minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said in 2011.

The force was literally slimmed down by 20 per cent. Police are now obliged to pass physical tests, with top performers getting a bonus salary.

- Evgeniy Moruz/Metro

miércoles, 20 de noviembre de 2013

Claudia Hammond

It’s an appealing idea that caffeine can cancel out the effects of too much alcohol. Sadly, studies reveal it is not that straightforward.

A few years ago I went to a play at my local theatre with some friends. My husband arrived late and a little jolly, having been to his office Christmas lunch and spent most of the afternoon drinking wine. Luckily it was a comedy, but he laughed so much that even the cast looked surprised at his enthusiasm.

During the interval I bought him a coffee to help sober him up before the second act. By the end of the play he was a bit quieter, but was I right to assume it was the coffee that had done the trick?

The sedative effects of large quantities of alcohol are well-established.
For the first hour-and-a-half or so, when blood-alcohol concentrations are high, people become more alert. From two hours after alcohol consumption to around six hours, objective measures of sleepiness increase .
Caffeine does the opposite, making people more alert, which has led to the appealing idea that a cup of coffee can cancel out the effects of a pint of beer.
Sadly it’s not that straightforward.

Historically, studies of the effect of caffeine on people’s driving abilities when drunk (in the lab, not on the roads) have had contradictory results. Some have found it reverses the slowing of reaction times caused by alcohol, others have found it doesn’t.

More recently, a study published in 2009 was designed to tease out in more detail the effects of combining alcohol and caffeine.
Mice were given alcohol followed by the human equivalent of eight cups of coffee. After the caffeine they seemed more alert, but they were still much worse than sober mice at getting round a maze.
So caffeine can counteract the tiredness induced by alcohol, which might explain why a cup of coffee is popular in many places at the end of a meal. But it can’t remove feelings of drunkenness or some of the cognitive deficits alcohol causes.
The reason is that we have to metabolise the alcohol we drink in order to diminish its effects.
The body processes it in several ways. Mostly it’s broken down in the liver by two enzymes: alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase. After several steps the alcohol is eventually excreted as water and carbon dioxide.

It takes approximately an hour for the body to metabolise one unit of alcohol, although some people do it faster and some slower, depending on their genetic make-up, how much food they’ve eaten and how often they drink.
Caffeine doesn’t speed up the process. However its effects vary according to which function you’re looking at.

One study, for example, found a large dose of caffeine can counteract the negative effects of alcohol on memory, but that feelings of dizziness remain.

There are also suggestions that caffeine can make matters worse.
If you feel tired you are more likely to realise that you must be drunk, but if the caffeine takes away some of that fatigue you might believe you’re sober when you’re not.
This might explain the findings of a study of American college students from 2008. Those who chose drinks containing both alcohol and caffeine, such as vodka and Red Bull, were twice as likely to get hurt in an accident and more than twice as likely to accept a lift with a driver who was over the limit. This effect was independent of the amount of alcohol consumed. This is an early study on the topic in which the students choose their own drinks and reported themselves how much they’d drunk. But it does illustrate how caffeine could fool people into thinking they’re sobering up, and some of the potentially disastrous consequences.

miércoles, 6 de noviembre de 2013


Two new startups could help bring individual customization 
to the mass production of meals with 3D printed food.

6th November 2013 in Food & Beverage, Style & Design.

The 20th century ushered in the age of mass produced food, which — for better or worse — has fed the population with an endless array of new dishes and delicacies. The 21st century food industry may come to be about the individual customization with 3D printed food, however, if two new startups get their way.

Headed by Hod Lipson and Jeffrey Lipton, the Cornell Creative Machines Lab (CCML) is a part of Cornell University researching 3D printing. Having already worked with the International Culinary Center, its prototypes can create scallop nuggets in novelty shapes, cakes with messages printed inside, noodles and hamburger patties. The devices currently take liquid and paste foodstuffs such as melted chocolate, dough and pureed goods, which can be used much like the plastic in typical 3D printers.
Barcelona-based Natural Machines (above) is another startup moving the world of catering into 3D printed territory. According to the Wall Street Journal, the startup uses precise piping directed by digital designs to create pastas, breads and food decorations. It is already in the process of developing a printer for market, which it hopes to retail for EUR 1,000. Connected to the web, users will be able to download recipes and designs, as well as tweet their latest creations.

While regular readers of Springwise may remember Japan-based FabCafe‘s 3D-printed Valentine’s Day jelly sweets, both the research by CCML and Natural Machines could bring the production of digitally-designed meals out of science fiction and into reality. Could your business benefit from the convenience of 3D food printing?

Spotted by Murray Orange, written by Springwise

domingo, 29 de septiembre de 2013


Spain’s Bankia has launched mobile branches, with the aim of offering its financial services to those in rural locations.

Boston’s City Hall To Go scheme has seen the municipality’s administrative services placed on wheels to reach those in the suburbs, and now Spain’s Bankia hopes to do the same for its financial services, with the aim of helping out those in rural locations.

Due to the financial crisis several years ago, the bank was the subject of a EUR 19.2 billion bailout by the Spanish government and had to close many of its smaller branches, often located in the suburbs and countryside.
In order to ensure its customers in those regions can still access important financial services without having to travel to the next town, the bank has created traveling branches that go straight to the customer.

Visiting 17 towns in the Valencia region a few times a month, the buses are fitted with deposit and withdrawal facilities, as well as tellers to help deal with queries.

The Bankia buses are an example of a business that is willing to put in the hard work and go direct to the customer in order to maintain its userbase.

Are there other services that could be made mobile to reach a greater audience?


Spotted by: Murray Orange