Sunday, May 30, 2010

A note on Recent Reading

I'm pleased to have begun reading a little again. It has coincided with an abandonment of my computer at home and weight gain, but the weight gain is probably as attributable to my current obsession with NCIS as to my having taken up a little reading again.

Which is why my current and recent reading are not being updated much.

Nevertheless, some notes:

1. Tami Hoag's books do not seem worth bothering with again. Granted the one I chose seems to have been an intentional (and self-conscious) departure from her usual Forensic Science angle on murder mysteries, but I remain left with the impression that I might as well watch television.

2. Louise Erdrich never disappoints. Terrific storyteller, presenting fascinating meditations on identity. I sort of disagreed with the ending of Shadow Tag, I would've liked to see it go in another direction, but it was not untrue.

3. I can't find my copy of The Woman Warrior. Wah.

4. Luckily, I still have a couple of Amy Tan's on my bookshelves that I hadn't had time for before.

5. This is a picture of a Tennesee Rose of Sharon quilt, which i got curious about when Louise Erdrich mentioned it in Shadow Tag:

When I am an old woman, I may or may not wear purple, but I shall quilt.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How Diabetes Affects Vision

Here's a patient education video about the effect of Diabetes on vision:

(This lady has a great voice, doesn't she?)

In more depth, here are the folks from UC, who told us about Congestive Heart Failure last year:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How-To'sday: 6 Sunscreen Hints from the WashPost

For parents: 6 facts about applying sunscreen

-- Most sunscreens need time to react with substances in your skin before they become effective. Be sure to apply them at least 20 minutes before you go out in the sun.

-- Sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide create an invisible barrier to UV rays on top of your skin and start working immediately.

-- SPF stands for sun protection factor and determines how long that sunscreen will allow you to stay in the sun without burning. Use at least an SPF 15.

-- The Environmental Protection Agency puts out a national UV index forecast map, with sun protection advice, every day. You can even put in your own Zip code! Go to

-- Sun-protective clothing, which has a sunscreen in the fabric, really works (but can be expensive).

-- SunGuard is a laundry additive that gives your clothes long-lasting sun protection when you add a packet to your wash.

Monday, May 24, 2010

“Deep down, obesity is really an economic issue”

A study in Seattle compared BMI of shoppers at different food stores and concludes that people who shop at pricier grocery markets tend to be thinner. Since wealthier people tend to be thinner, this is not surprising (hence the duh-study tag), but it does call into question just how helpful programs aimed at educating children about nutrition will be for reducing obesity rates. Not that I'm against educating the nations' children about nutrition, it's about time, but it needs to be combined with programs that put daily physical activity back into schools and address some of the subsidization programs that make unhealthy foods so much cheaper than healthier food.

Here's the msnbc article about the study, and below is a chart from the article:

Supermarket obesity rates
Seattle researchers ranked supermarkets according to the obesity rates of their shoppers at these Northwest and national grocery stores. A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher indicated obesity.

— Whole Foods Markets: 4 percent
— Metropolitan Market: 8 percent
— Puget Consumers Cooperative (PCC): 12 percent
— Quality Food Centers (QFC): 17 percent
— Fred Meyer: 22 percent
— Safeway: 24 percent
— Albertsons: 38 percent
Source: University of Washington

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Education as Public Health Initiative

OK, well first, I would argue that governmentally-sponsored education is a public health initiative, but only with someone who actually wanted to argue the point. I'll spare my imaginary reader here.

From the New York Times article about Berkeley's optional summer project for incoming freshman:
The university said it would analyze the samples, from inside students’ cheeks, for three genes that help regulate the ability to metabolize alcohol, lactose and folates.

Those genes were chosen not because they indicate serious health risks but because students with certain genetic markers may be able to lead healthier lives by drinking less, avoiding dairy products or eating more leafy green vegetables.

Berkeley’s program for the class of 2014 is the first mass genetic testing by a university. Jasper Rine, the professor of genetics who is leading the project, said it was designed to help students learn about personalized medicine and identify their own vulnerabilities.
Detractors say the students would require counseling to process the results, and that students who don't test as having a risk factor might be encouraged by the result to be more careless with their health.

Typical save-us-all/idiots-from-ourselves knee-jerk response, IMO. These are Berkeley freshman, and should not have to be told what to think to avoid being stupid. That sort of response is what smothers education in the Era of CYA. "If we let people to think for themselves, they might get it wrong and we could be sued!" It's the New Censorship.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More Than a Babysitter

Another "Duh" Study whose time has finally come, in its entirety from WebMD:

Quality Child Care Leads to Smarter Teens
Study Also Links High-Quality Child Care With Fewer Behavioral Problems in Teens
By Kathleen Doheny
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 14, 2010 -- The effects of early child care may be more long-lasting than commonly believed, according to a new study.

At age 15, teens who had high-quality child care in their early years performed better on academic and cognitive tests than did other teens, and they had fewer adolescent behavior problems, says study leader Deborah Lowe Vandell, PhD, professor and chair of education at the University of California, Irvine.

''We think a lot of people expect the effects of early child care would fade away by age 15," Vandell tells WebMD. "We found they didn't. Children who were in early high-quality child care did better academically and cognitively at age 15, compared to other children in the study."

Teens with a quality child care background also had fewer problem behaviors, such as breaking rules, hanging out with kids who get into trouble, and arguing, the researchers found.

The study is published in the journal Child Development.

Effects of Child Care: Study Details
The new findings add to previous research on the same group of about 1,300 children, born in 10 cities across the U.S. in 1991 and followed up over the years. The study is the National Institute of Child Health and Development’s Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development.

In previous reports, Vandell and her colleagues found that children who had early, high-quality child care did better academically and cognitively at grade 5.

"What we also found in previous reports is that children who attended child care for more hours displayed more acting out in early childhood."

The researchers rated the quality of a child care program by observing, noting the caregivers' behavior with the children, and evaluating how sensitive and responsive they were to the child's needs, among other measures.

Vandell and her team then collected the results of standardized school tests measuring achievement and cognition and collected information from the teens, their families, and school personnel.

At the age 15 follow-up, results were obtained for 70% of the original participants.

The backgrounds of the children were diverse, including middle class and low income, two-parent families, and single-parent families.

In the study, Vandell says, "90% had some type of child care experience. It could be preschool, nursery school, child care in the home, home care by babysitters, or nannies. The hours varied, from seven to about 60 [weekly]."

Only 41% had child care classified as high or moderately high quality.

Early Child Care Study Results
How much better did the kids with high-quality child care do? On a test of academic and cognitive achievement, Vandell says, "the children who had high-quality child care scored 5.3 points higher, on average."

To put that in perspective, the average score, in general, on the test is 100. Her study participants, overall, scored 106 on average. The teens with high-quality child care scored 5.3 above that, she says.

Those who had high-quality child care tended to have fewer ''acting out'' problems as teens, they found.

The more hours the teens had spent in early child care during their first four and a half years, the more risk taking and impulsivity they reported as teens, the researchers found, but that was partly compensated for by the effects of quality care on fewer acting-out behaviors.

Although the effects were small, they're important, the researchers say, and they don't fade away over the years.

Effects of Early Child Care: Another View
The messages from the new study are clear, says Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute in Washington, D.C., who reviewed the findings for WebMD. "Quality matters, and the way this study measures quality is to look at the relationship between the child and the child care provider over time. Is it warm, is it caring?"

Even if a teen's child care program was not high quality, parents can compensate, she says. "It's never too late. Whatever positive [things] their child is interested in, they can build on and extend," she says. "Motivation begets motivation."

Likewise, if a child is too aggressive and in danger of behavioral problems, experts know a lot more now about how to help that child than they did at the study start in 1991, Galinsky says. One technique, for instance, is teaching a child ''perspective taking," where a child is taught to ''read'' another child's state of mind to guide his own behavior and avoid conflict, Galinsky says.

Finding High-Quality Child Care
How can parents decide if a child care setting is high quality?

Vandell suggests getting referrals to child care programs from friends, then selecting two or three programs that sound good.

''Talk to the people on the phone, and then go observe," she says. Stay for several hours or half a day if possible. Don’t focus only on the caregiver, she says. Instead, pick a child or two who matches your own in age, behavior, personality, and energy level, if possible. See how each child and the caregivers interact.

Check to see if your state has an evaluation program for guidance, Vandell says.

Pay attention to the environment when you observe, says Galinsky. ''If the kids all run over to you when you walk in," she says, "they're bored."

"If all the art work is the same, the teachers are entertaining the children," she says. If the children are encouraged to be creative in their artwork, it's a good sign, she says.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Babies Like Nice Guys

Can't embed it, but the NY Times has a video of a study at Yale that shows babies prefer nice characters:
In one of our first studies of moral evaluation, we decided not to use two-dimensional animated movies but rather a three-dimensional display in which real geometrical objects, manipulated like puppets, acted out the helping/hindering situations: a yellow square would help the circle up the hill; a red triangle would push it down. After showing the babies the scene, the experimenter placed the helper and the hinderer on a tray and brought them to the child. In this instance, we opted to record not the babies’ looking time but rather which character they reached for, on the theory that what a baby reaches for is a reliable indicator of what a baby wants. In the end, we found that 6- and 10-month-old infants overwhelmingly preferred the helpful individual to the hindering individual. This wasn’t a subtle statistical trend; just about all the babies reached for the good guy.
From the associated article:

Socialization is critically important. But this is not because babies and young children lack a sense of right and wrong; it’s because the sense of right and wrong that they naturally possess diverges in important ways from what we adults would want it to be.
But the new studies found that babies have an actual understanding of mental life: they have some grasp of how people think and why they act as they do. The studies showed that, though babies expect inanimate objects to move as the result of push-pull interactions, they expect people to move rationally in accordance with their beliefs and desires: babies show surprise when someone takes a roundabout path to something he wants. They expect someone who reaches for an object to reach for the same object later, even if its location has changed. And well before their 2nd birthdays, babies are sharp enough to know that other people can have false beliefs. The psychologists Kristine Onishi and RenĂ©e Baillargeon have found that 15-month-olds expect that if a person sees an object in one box, and then the object is moved to another box when the person isn’t looking, the person will later reach into the box where he first saw the object, not the box where it actually is. That is, toddlers have a mental model not merely of the world but of the world as understood by someone else.
Babies probably have no conscious access to moral notions, no idea why certain acts are good or bad. They respond on a gut level. Indeed, if you watch the older babies during the experiments, they don’t act like impassive judges — they tend to smile and clap during good events and frown, shake their heads and look sad during the naughty events (remember the toddler who smacked the bad puppet). The babies’ experiences might be cognitively empty but emotionally intense, replete with strong feelings and strong desires. But this shouldn’t strike you as an altogether alien experience: while we adults possess the additional critical capacity of being able to consciously reason about morality, we’re not otherwise that different from babies — our moral feelings are often instinctive. In fact, one discovery of contemporary research in social psychology and social neuroscience is the powerful emotional underpinning of what we once thought of as cool, untroubled, mature moral deliberation.
But you'll have to read the article for the caveat...