Monday, November 21, 2011

First Lab-Grown Blood Transfusion a Success

Researchers at Pierre and Marie Curie University have successfully completed the first-ever artificial blood transfusion after extracting stem cells from a patient's bone marrow, which were then used to grow the red blood cells under laboratory settings.

"After five days, 94 to 100 percent of the blood cells remained circulating in the body. After 26 days, 41 to 63 percent remained, which is a normal survival rate for naturally produced blood cells." The cells carried oxygen throughout the patient's body, just as normal red blood cells would.

"The results show promise that an unlimited blood reserve is within reach," says Luc Douay, of Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris. The transfusion's success is an important step towards mass produced artificial blood. Only a small amount of blood was transfused in the experiment. A complete real-life transfusion would require 200 times the amount of blood used by Douay.

[Source: New Scientist]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Inflatable, Water-Proof Solar Light - LuminAID

A couple of grad students from Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture founded Luminaid Labs and currently has a crowdsourcing fundraiser ongoing at IndieGoGo - 100% of funds will go to producing and distributing the LuminAID lights.

Some features:
Water-proof, inflatable, and packs flat

Flexible, semi-transparent waterproof material (Photovoltaic film is laminated to polyethelenevinyl acetate plastic) with a printed dot matrix to diffuse light.

Charge time: 4-6 hours in sunlight
Low setting: 4 hours of lighting @ 35 lumens
High Setting: 6 hours @ 20 lumens
Batery is rechargeable up to 800 times.

Visit their IndieGoGo Page
LuminAID Labs

The Hunger Games (2012) Movie Trailer

The first full-length trailer for the Hunger Games was released on Monday.

Definitely, a lot more exciting than the teaser they showed at the MTV awards.

More posts on the Hunger Games.
Hunger Games food recreated
Hunger Games sneak peek preview trailer
Hunger Games - banned book at school?

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Hunger Games Food Recreated

Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games)
I very much enjoyed the Hunger Games Trilogy and I'm looking forward to its theatrical release, so on my quest to scan for apocalyptic/post-apocalypse content I came across someone who is actually recreating some of the dishes straight out of that book.

What's on the menu so far:

Peeta's Burnt Nut and Raisin Bread

Mr. Mellark's Cookies

Lamb Stew with Dried Plums

District 11 Bread

Haymitch's basket of love

Pale Purple Melon

Everdeen reaping supper. Fish stew with greens

Goat cheese and apple tarts

Lunch with Cinna

Katniss Style roasted rabbit

Perfectly prim goat cheese

How to make a Mockingjay Cupcake:

[Sources: iO9, Fictional Food ]

Post-apocalyptic Animated Short Film: ROSA

ROSA is an epic sci-fi short film that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where all natural life has disappeared. From the destruction awakes Rosa, a cyborg deployed from the Kernel project, mankind’s last attempt to restore the earth’s ecosystem. Rosa will soon learn that she is not the only entity that has awakened and must fight for her survival. The short-film was created entirely by young comic-artist Jesús Orellana with no budget during a single year.

Source: ROSA movie

75% of Honey in U.S. Groceries are Fake

Most of the honey sold in chain stores across the country doesn't meet international quality standards for the sweet stuff, according to a Food Safety News analysis released this week.

One of the nation's leading melissopalynologists analyzed more than 60 jugs, jars and plastic bears of honey in 10 states and the District of Columbia for pollen content, Food Safety News said. He found that pollen was frequently filtered out of products labeled "honey." "The removal of these microscopic particles from deep within a flower would make the nectar flunk the quality standards set by most of the world's food safety agencies," the report says. "Without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources."

Why does it matter where your honey comes from? An earlier Food Safety News investigation found that at least a third of all the honey consumed in the United States was likely smuggled from China and could be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals.

Foreign honey also puts a squeeze on American beekeepers, who have been lobbying for years for an enforceable national standard to prevent foreign honey from flooding the market.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that's been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn't honey. However, the FDA isn't checking honey sold here to see if it contains pollen.

The food safety divisions of the  World Health Organization, the European Commission and dozens of others also have ruled that without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources.

Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey - some containing illegal antibiotics - on the U.S. market for years.

Some of the findings:
76 percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed, These were stores like TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.

77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam's Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.

100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald's and KFC had the pollen removed.

Every one of the samples Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and "natural" stores like PCC and Trader Joe's had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen.

And if you have to buy at major grocery chains, the analysis found that your odds are somewhat better of getting honey that wasn't ultra-filtered if you buy brands labeled as organic. Out of seven samples tested, five (71 percent) were heavy with pollen. All of the organic honey was produced in Brazil, according to the labels.


Note:  Another reason to buy from your local farmer's market and beekeepers.

[Source: Food Safety News, CNN]

Survival Emergency Plan: Water Purification

Water is the most crucial element for staying alive. It's more important than food.

Everyone must have enough safe drinking water, which generally means one gallon per person per day. Needs will differ according to age, physical condition, lifestyle and climate.

This doesn't include water for cooking, bathing, washing dishes and clothes, and pets or other animals. Large dogs may need as much as a gallon a day, while cats can do well with just a pint a day. If you have other livestock your water needs obviously soar. But in that case, water taken directly from a river or stream, without purification, will probably be okay.

Untreated water straight from the tap should keep for six months when stored in clean, durable containers. However, it must be changed periodically. Bacteria-free water, which means treatment with bleach or other compounds, will keep up to several years. Heat, light, deterioration of the container and other factors can cut this figure substantially.

Water should be stored as far as possible from paint and petroleum-based products, acids or anything with strong odors such as fertilizer or common household cleaning solutions. Lower-grade containers are permeable to certain gases and should be avoided whenever possible.

You'll need to locate at least one other water source, since even several hundred gallons of stored water won't last long. Assume any water not stored or purchased is contaminated, especially in perilous or unstable times. A mountain stream could look pristine, but still be polluted.

If you can find only marginal water, first strain the debris through a paper towel, clean cloth or coffee filter, then use one of the following methods.


Short of using a very high-quality water filter, this is the most reliable method for killing microbes and parasites. Bring water to a rolling boil and keep it simmering for at least several minutes. Add one minute of boiling to the initial 10 minutes for every 1,000 feet above sea level. Cover the pot to shorten boiling time and conserve fuel.
Liquid chlorine bleach

Use 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite that is free of soap or phosphates. To treat one gallon of water, add eight drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach to clear water and 16 drops (1/4 teaspoon) to cloudy water.

When purifying five gallons, add 32 drops (1/2 teaspoon) to clear water or 64 drops (one teaspoon) to cloudy water. By purifying a larger quantity of water, you will cut bleach usage 20 percent over the one gallon at a time method. After treating with chlorine, mix well and allow the water to stand for 30 minutes before using. An eye dropper can be used to measure the dosage.

Bleach that is more than a year old loses approximately half its potency. Adjust the dosage accordingly.

Dry chlorine

Also known as calcium hypochlorite, it is used primarily in swimming pools. Since it is a powder, it has the significant benefit of extended shelf life. Dry chlorine may be stored for up to 10 years with minimal degradation if it is kept dry, cool and in an airtight container.

This is a far better choice for quantity storage than liquid bleach. Dry chlorine is commonly available at swimming pool supply stores as well as many hardware and grocery stores.

For chlorinating water in rain tanks, the recommended dosage is seven grams dry (1/4 ounce by weight) or 40 milliliters (1.35 ounce) per 1000 liters (264 gallons). Let the water stand for 24 hours before drinking. To maintain chlorination, add one gram (.035 ounce) of dry chlorine or 4 ml (.135 ounce) weekly per 1,000 liters.

If no instructions are provided on the bottle, use 12 drops per gallon of water. Increase the dosage if the water is of dubious quality. Mix well and allow the water to stand for 30 minutes before using. Iodine does have an unpleasant aftertaste.

Hydrogen peroxide

This is a suitable disinfectant, as it oxidizes the water. Peroxide degrades even more rapidly than chlorine, and it needs to be kept in a dark bottle that blocks out sunlight. Potency could be an issue if it has been stored for a long period.

Testing for peroxide residual levels is more difficult than testing for chlorine content. Residuals need to be measured to ensure that disinfection is thorough.

The bacteria content of your water source is a major factor to monitor. There are various methods for testing the bacteriological level, but measuring residual levels is a much simpler task.

"Residual" is what remains from the original dosage. For example, if one cup of water has 20 parts per million of impurities in it, the disinfectant dosage needs to be at least 20 PPM but no more than 25 PPM to prevent ill effects. A dosage of 23 PPM of the active chlorine content will have a 3 PPM free residual while showing a 23 PPM total chlorine level.

Peroxide would potentially have the benefit of breaking down to oxygen and water, but its use is also made more difficult by that tendency.

A common calculation for daily usage is the required dosage in parts per million times the volume treated in gallons divided by 120,000, which is a constant number. This will give you the number of pounds needed for a particular dosage.
Purification tablets

They are either iodine or chlorine based. One or two tablets will purify a quart of water depending on the contamination level and length of time allowed for treated water to stand. Follow instructions on the package. These tablets are among the more convenient and affordable ways to purify water. Not every brand of purification products (especially iodine tablets) will kill giardia.

Stabilized oxygen

People who have used this method generally prefer it to chlorine or iodine. Both treatments have shown some side effects if used for an extended period of time, and iodine and chlorine give water an off taste. Stabilized oxygen doesn't have side effects or add unpleasant flavors to water, and it also offers health benefits.

For long-term storage, treat one gallon of chlorinated water by adding 10 drops of stabilized oxygen. Add 20 drops if the water hasn't been chlorinated. Use five to 20 drops per eight-ounce cup of giardia-contaminated water.

Stabilized oxygen is the new kid on the block in water purification, so it isn't as widely known as other methods. Among the chlorine dioxide (a form of stabilized oxygen) products on the market are Aerox, Genesis 1000, Dynamo 2, Aerobic 07 and Aquagen.


Water purifying units

There are literally dozens of units on the market. Some are designed for campers, while others are made to be installed on household plumbing.

If you plan to rely heavily on a water filter for purification during a crisis, choosing the right one will be a vital decision. Durability, dependability and a company's track record are important factors to consider. "Test drive" the unit to see how easy or strenuous it is to pump. Ease of use should be a high priority for anyone with limited strength or physical ailments.

What is the average water output? This is especially important for families or groups. Will this filter eliminate giardia and bacteria? Don't assume that the filter you choose will be 100 percent effective.

Can the filter handle the really nasty stuff - stagnant, muddy, even brackish water? Are replacement elements and parts easy to locate?

How often does the filter have to be replaced? Sporting goods and camping stores as well as a number of discount stores and mail-order firms offer water filters.

One model to consider is the Swiss-made Katadyn. Although it isn't cheap, the Katadyn is popular with serious outdoorsmen, Third World travelers and others who frequently deal with polluted water. To improve the taste of treated and stored water, pour the liquid from one clean container to another several times. This will help re-oxygenate the water and remove some of the "blah" effect that comes with long-term storage.

Click image to see large version

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Christmas Tree Tax brought to you by the Agriculture Dept.

One of Christmas' most recognizable symbols apparently needs a PR campaign -- and a new tax to pay for it.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave the green light to a new 15-cent tax on live Christmas trees on Tuesday in order to pay for a new board tasked with promoting the Christmas tree industry.

The new fee and board were announced in the Federal Register on Tuesday, to be effective Wednesday. According to the Agriculture Department announcement, the government will impose a 15-cent-per-tree charge on "producers and importers" of fresh Christmas trees, provided they sell or import more than 500 trees a year. 

The change quickly drew opposition from Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who vowed to fight what he described as a "Grinch" move by the administration. "It is shocking that President Obama tried to sneak through this new tax on Christmas trees," Scalise said in a statement Wednesday.

The program and fee, though, were supported by some in the Christmas tree industry. The money is not meant to pay down the debt or fund any other program. The Agriculture Department-imposed tax is designed to go back into the new Christmas Tree Promotion Board.

The board, proposed earlier this year, is the culmination of a years-long effort by the fresh Christmas tree industry to promote itself, according to the background provided in the Federal Register. The industry has faced increasing competition from producers of artificial trees, but efforts to collect voluntary contributions for a fresh-tree marketing campaign have repeatedly run out of funding. So the government stepped in to mandate a fee to support the promotion board.

Heritage Foundation Vice President David Addington, who first reported on the rule on his blog Tuesday evening, said there are two problems with the new fee. First, he said it's likely the 15 percent fee will be passed on to consumers. Second, he said it's inappropriate for the government to be putting its "thumb on the scale," helping out the fresh-tree sellers and not the artificial-tree sellers.

"If it's one thing I think the free market could handle, it's letting people decide what kind of tree they want to buy for Christmas," Addington told

But Agriculture Department spokesman Michael T. Jarvis defended the program, saying it's along the lines of over 20 other promotional programs supported by the department, such as the "got milk" campaign.

"It's worked great for beef, pork, chicken, eggs," he added.

Jarvis also insisted the fee does not count as a tax, since the industry is effectively "assessing themselves."

"This one's not a tax," he said.

The industry itself further rejected the claim that the fee would be passed onto consumers. The National Christmas Tree Association said in a statement that the program "is not expected to have any impact on the final price consumers pay for their Christmas tree."

The group said most growers who weighed in on the proposal were in favor of it.

According to the Federal Register, the new board is supposed to launch a "program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry's position in the marketplace."

As part of that job, the board has been charged with improving the image of both Christmas trees and the industry itself. After three years, an industry-wide referendum will be held to determine whether to renew the program.

The tax was requested by the Christmas Tree Checkoff Task Force, an industry group, worried by declining market-share for fresh-cut trees.

Per the rule:

According to additional data supplied by the Task Force, the market share of fresh Christmas trees in the U.S. from 1965 to 2008 has declined by 6 percent. In comparison, the market share of artificial trees has increased 655 percent from 1965 to 2008


(On a slightly humorous, mildly snarky) Note:
First off, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that there's such a thing as a Christmas Tree Checkoff Task Force. Seriously? That sounds like something out of Tim Allen's Santa Clause movies.

Taxing Christmas trees to help promote it? It's a pretty popular holiday symbol as it is, it doesn't need anyone's PR help.

As lovely as they look and smell, live Christmas trees are overrated, high maintenance, not very eco-friendly at all and for the most obvious practical reason - it's too much cleanup. You ever have one of those guys cut the trunk off way too high and you're left with a stump to try to ram down the tree stand. So what happens is that you end up having a wobbly, wonky tree that you try to counterbalance and offset with more ornaments on one get the point. I think I still have pine needles in the back of my truck from last year's tree.

This year, we're welcoming back the artificial Christmas tree into our home.

U.S. Vets Face Unemployment in Post-War Life

America’s veterans are returning home from wars to staggering unemployment and homelessness rates.

­Their job is to defend their country’s interests, but once that job wraps up, their country has no interest in them any longer. Tens of thousands of American war veterans are simply being discarded.

“They are coming home to a disproportionate rate of homelessness, of foreclosures and evictions. In 2010 a whopping 75,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the United States were homeless; were sleeping on the streets,” said Iraq war veteran Michael Prysner to RT.

War veterans include 55-year-old Joe Mangione. After 16 years of military duty, he is homeless on the streets of New York with health problems he can’t afford to take care of and no job.

“Just to sit here like this, it’s not easy. It’s degrading! It’s just demoralizing. I had no resources. I can’t collect unemployment because I was hurt and was working cash. And that unemployment runs out anyhow,” said the veteran.

Mangione says all the US military machine cares about is money, while the people who risked life and limb are disposed of once they’ve served the purposes of politicians.

“It’s a bunch of deceptions. It’s about numbers. As long as they keep the numbers up, the recruiter gets his money; he gets his promotions; his bonuses. They care for themselves. They don’t care about us. They care about their own bank notes,” said Mangione.

The US is winding down its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the damage to the people who fought in those wars remains.

“We have a VA system that is unable to provide us with the services that we need, the services that we are entitled to as a result of us signing a contract and putting our lives on the line for our country,” said war veteran Eli Wright.

Unemployment rates among war veterans are staggering.

“They are coming home to an unemployment rate of about 30 percent for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. This is triple the national average,” said Michael Prysner.

Joining the military used to be considered a great career step that led to a life of honor; these days this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Joining the U.S. military is probably one of the stupidest retirement or career moves you can make as a human being,” said Ted Rall.

The editorial columnist and author believes military service is one of the biggest hoaxes in American history.

“They’re defending the borders, they’re expanding the empire – we owe them. They’ve lost their minds, and they lost limbs, they’ve lost their time and they took risks, they deserve it. Somehow, generation after generation, America keeps screwing its vets,” said Rall.

There are said to be 18 suicide attempts a day among veterans in America, hundreds each month – handling the realities of being forgotten at home is tough.

“When you come home, you’re foreclosed on, your job is gone, and then they want you to go to shelters. And shelters pretty much housing criminals, drug addicts, and a lot of us can’t tolerate that lifestyle,” said homeless U.S. army veteran Joe Mangione.

The hardest truth is that many believe forgotten vets back at home is a permanent stain on America’s image.

“This reality is set to continue indefinitely, with no end in sight. Despite the Iraq war supposedly ending, of course that’s yet to be seen, reality for soldiers with these constant deployments, to wars we don’t want to fight, that is not going to change,” said Michael Prysner.

After nearly nine years of war in Iraq, the US Government plans to bring American soldiers back home by the winter holidays. But with joblessness, homelessness and official neglect an undeniable reality for many of America’s veterans – after the cruelty of war, thousands more may be faced with the cruelty of life after it.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bugging In Idea for Preppers - Infographic: How to Build A Panic Room

I was looking through various infographics (because they're an excellent way of presenting new ideas and data), and I happen to stumble upon this.

It's by ADT (home security company). 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Emergency Kit for Winter Power Outage

With the early winter peeking its head here in the northeast, we're already getting some supplies stocked up as well as replenishing our emergency kit. With the possibility of extreme weather conditions, you just never know when a power outage will happen.

I still remember the record breaking snow accumulations from last year. The roads were completely impassable - hell, you can barely walk a few houses down. People were running out of places to dump the shoveled snow. Pipes were freezing and when the snow did start to melt the basement would flood. Fun times.

As for the emergency plan, of course, this'll vary depending on your situation as well as location. Either way here are some useful things to keep handy for the winter season with a power outage specifically in mind
  • A battery or hand cranked powered radio (to keep track of weather reports, emergency information,) flashlights, and plenty of batteries.
  • Plenty of extra blankets and towels (you can use the towels to seal up any drafts from windows and doors to keep heat in)
  • Paper plates, plastic utensils - you won't have to use up stored water for cleanup
  • Fill spare containers with water for washing, and plenty of bottled water – one gallon per person per day (Most emergency preparedness experts recommend having at least a three-day supply on hand.)
  • non-perishable food items, along with a manual hand opener for canned food.
  • first aid kit - always keep in mind any special medical & dietary needs of those in your household. 
  • If you have a fireplace, be sure to have enough wood stocked up someplace safe from the elements
  • a firestarter - you'd be surprised how easily you can forget the little things such as matches and lighters.
  • a pack of cards / boardgame for entertainment (esp. if you have kids)
  • Shovels and plenty of sidewalk salt (ice melter)
  • Don't forget about supplies for your pets as well.
You can pretty much place most of these in a centralized location and the smaller items can be kept in a footlocker or a plastic bin where it's easily accessible.

During outage:
Dress for the season, wearing several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing, rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent
Avoid drinking coffee and/or alcohol - will promote dehydration & chills

Wear a hat since most body heat is lost through the top of the head
You can always use the snow as an extra temporary water source or to keep items from your fridge cold (place in ice chest/cooler)

Before an outage:
It's always good to anticipate potential problems so in addition to stocking up you might also want to
prepare one or two rooms to be your hub. By that I mean setting it up in a way that it's the most insulated spot in the house prior to any major snow storms. You can do this by hanging up thick drapes in front of the windows. You can even add additional weather stripping. Keep the area/s clutter free - easier to move furniture around and set up sleeping arrangements.
Know where your primary and secondary water valves are in case you have to shut it off. It's always a good idea to shut off the pipes that are leading out to external fixtures (back yard or side of the house). 

If your water supply could be affected (a well-water pump system), fill your bathtub and spare containers with water. Water in the bathtub should be used for sanitation purposes only, not as drinking water. Pouring a pail of water from the tub directly into the bowl can flush a toilet.
Set your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings (remember to reset them back to normal once power is restored). During an outage, do not open the refrigerator or freezer door. Food can stay cold in a full refrigerator for up to 24 hours, and in a well-packed freezer for 48 hours (24 hours if it is half-packed).
If you have medication that requires refrigeration (such as insulin), check with your pharmacist for guidance on proper storage during an extended outage.
Review the process for manually operating an electric garage door. (Not that you'll be able to pull the car out but it's still good to know how to do this.)

To prevent water pipes from freezing, keep faucets turned on slightly so that water drips from the tap
Our experience with a winter power outage: Rural setting
Middle of a harsh winter in the hill country of Texas - it's not so much the accumulation of snow that was hazardous, it was the fact that everything outside had iced over.  Thankfully we had a wood-burning fireplace then and we stocked up on a lot of wood. 

You can never have enough firewood and kindling. 
The pipes didn't freeze but we were pretty much homebound for several days.
We ended up filling up some bins with water in case the pipes freeze. 
We had plenty of food so that wasn't an issue. 
The main issue was keeping warm. The house wasn't well insulated so keeping the heat in and the cold out was the challenge. We turned the family room as the main hub since the fireplace was there.
It took maybe 3-4 days until power was back on. 

So this year, since we're now in a metropolitan urban setting with no fireplace, our current emergency kit / plan reflects that. 

Hope that helps and be safe.

Health Benefits from Drinking Coffee

Just a couple of decades ago, quitting coffee was a prerequisite for establishing a healthy diet and adopting a healthier lifestyle. But gradually, several new research studies into coffee drinking have provided health benefits from drinking coffee. So now we have both positive and negative health effects from drinking coffee.

Coffee benefits
It's not just the caffeine, but a synergistic combination of caffeine and an unnamed natural compound stimulate higher blood levels of GCSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor), which protect the brain from dementia and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

This conclusion was published in The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, May/June 2011 from research by a team at the University of South Florida.

Coffee drinkers also showed lower rates of diabetes and strokes. An American Heart Association's journal, Stroke, published findings from a long term Swedish study involving 35,000 women. Dr. Susanna Larsson led this study from The Division of Nutritional Epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute's National Institute of Environmental Medicine.

The heaviest coffee consumption is commonly found in regions that are often overcast, drizzly, and dreary. The Pacific Northwest in America is a good example. Apparently coffee offers some protection against depression also.

The protections against the diseases of concern noted in the studies were very substantial. Since coffee beans are loaded with antioxidants, coffee should be consumed without dairy, sugar, or artificial sweeteners. Sweetening with Stevia would be okay. Avoid flavored coffees.

Of course, forget the standard pastries and cigarettes normally associated with drinking coffee. That could be what causes bad health more among coffee drinkers than just coffee.

Organic black coffee with natural whole grain toast or pastries is a good way to have your java fix without adding items that minimize or neutralize coffee's antioxidants.

Coffee drawbacks
Addiction, inability to fall asleep if consumed at night, and caffeine jitters are the most obvious downsides. Using decaffeinated coffee, which leaves just enough caffeine to combine with the mystery compound and antioxidants, has shown similar, albeit lesser, health benefits as regular coffee. Just make sure it's decaffeinated with water or steam, not chemicals.

Since caffeine is a diuretic, any kidney or bladder problems can be exacerbated. If not, beware of not replenishing eliminated liquid with purified water. Perhaps the worst ill effect of excess coffee drinking involves the adrenal glands.

When we drink coffee, the adrenal glands are stimulated to produce adrenaline. This is part of the flight or fight syndrome. It is what causes irritability, especially since it also inhibits soothing serotonin.

If coffee is consumed excessively too often and too long, one can experience Adrenal Fatigue, a malady that seems to be recognized by holistic medicine only. Adrenal Fatigue lowers cortisol production, making it very difficult to cope with stress.

Clarifying coffee type confusions
There are generally two basic types of beans sold widely, Arabica and Robusta. You'll find Arabica beans in discriminating coffee shops and health food stores. Arabica beans offer richer flavor than Robusta beans, which are usually used in less expensive coffees. Organic coffee beans are easy to find nowadays.

Types of roast vary from light to dark. Contrary to popular belief, dark roasted beans contain slightly less caffeine than lighter roasts. And espresso, commonly spelled incorrectly as expresso, does not depend on the level of roasting. Purists argue that only lever operated steam pressure machines make real espresso. And any roast can be used.

You can enjoy your java without guilt if the positive exceeds the negative.

[Source: Natural News]

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Remember, remember the 5th of November (Guy Fawkes, Occupy Movement, Operation Cashback)

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

Over in Britain, the 5th of November becomes a special night where people up and down the country let off fireworks and light bonfires to celebrate Bonfire Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Night.

The tradition stems back to the events of the 5th November 1605. Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder plot, was caught guarding explosives which were set to go off under the House of Lords – in an attempt to assassinate King James I whilst he attended the State Opening of Parliament. Guy Fawkes was then found guilty and hung, drawn, and quartered; a rather grizzly end.

With the plot failed, the government proclaimed the 5th of November as a day of thanksgiving and since then celebrations in one form or another have taken place across the country on this day.

Most local towns and villages nowadays will have a fireworks display, and will occasionally burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes on the large communal bonfire.

You may have recognized the photo above as a still from the film V for Vendetta, based on the comic book series by Alan Moore.

From wikipedia:
The series depicts a near-future UK after a nuclear war, which has left much of the world destroyed, though most of the damage to the country is indirect, via floods and crop failures. In this future, a fascist party called "Norsefire" has exterminated its opponents in concentration camps and now rules the country as a police state. "V", an anarchist revolutionary dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask, begins an elaborate, violent, and intentionally theatrical campaign to murder his former captors, bring down the government, and convince the people to rule themselves.

The face of "V" is also being used today by many of the Occupy protestors as a sign of discontent.
Today many customers of big banks are transferring their money into smaller local institutions such as credit unions to show solidarity with the ever-growing Occupy movement. You can read my Bank Transfer Day / Move Your Money Project post from yesterday.

There's also been word that the hacktivist group Anonymous will host a series of attacks on various institutions waged by members of the online collective Anonymous. Among the rumored targets this weekend include Fox News, Facebook and a notorious Mexican drug cartel. 

Anonymous posted a video on YouTube regarding this:

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." - V

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." -  John F. Kennedy

Friday, November 4, 2011

Food Price Inflation, Job Loss, & the National Debt

More stores closing, more jobs lost:

The Gap plans on closing 189 locations or 21% of its namesake stores (Old Navy and Banana Republic) by the end of 2013 but plans to open more stores in China (from 15 by end of the year to 45 by end of next year).

Discount retailer Syms and its subsidiary Filene's Basement have filed for bankruptcy protection and plan to close all 46 of their stores.


1 in 15 people in America now living in poverty.

44 million + (15%)  Americans are benefiting from Food Stamp (Supplemental Nutrition Assurance Program) program. The program is facing possible cuts as policymakers search for new ways to curb the rising cost.

National debt is closing in on the $15 Trillion mark. 

Food price inflation:
The price of food is expected to increase 3.5 to 4.5 percent this year overall

With Halloween over, the nation’s thoughts turn now to Thanksgiving.  This most American of holidays is a cornucopia of culinary delights -turkey and dressing; mashed potatoes and gravy; cranberry sauce and all the other traditional Thanksgiving dishes which are at the heart of this celebration.

One of the greatest aspects of life in this country is the fact that overall, we as Americans enjoy a true abundance of food. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, this year U.S. farmers are expected to produce 750 million pounds of cranberries, along with 2.4 billion pounds of sweet potatoes, 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins and more than 2 billion bushels of wheat, the essential ingredient for bread, rolls and pie crust. The typical American consumes 13.3 pounds of turkey each year, with no doubt a hearty helping eaten at Thanksgiving time.  As you may have noticed if you have visited the grocery store recently, prices for all this abundance have been on the rise. Thus, the question is: how much more will the Thanksgiving feast cost us this year?

Price inflation is measured by the changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  The CPI is a measure of the level of average prices paid by urban consumers for a defined market basket of goods and services, including food.  The CPI for “food at home” is a component of the full CPI and is the principal indicator of changes in retail food prices. Thus, the CPI for food consumed at home and its changes are an accurate measure of price inflation for food items.

The 6.3% rise in “food at home” prices over the year has been much higher than the 3.9% increase in overall prices.  Food commodities such as soybeans, corn and wheat, along with energy prices, have increased over the past year. These increases, combined with a weak U.S. dollar, have caused most of the grocery store price increases which have been observed in 2011.  Several key ingredients for the Thanksgiving feast have risen substantially over the past year, including turkey, which is up 7 percent to an average of $1.68 a pound.  So, that 10-pound turkey, which cost $15.66 last year, is going to set you back $16.80 this year.  Other food items with above average price increases include: white potatoes, up 23%, dairy products, up 10.2%, fats and oils, up 11.3% and fruits and vegetables, up 6.7%.  Thanksgiving dinner is still going to be well within the reach of most American families, but it is going to be more expensive this year.

The Move Your Money Project - Nov. 5 is Bank Transfer Day

Saturday, Nov. 5, has been declared Bank Transfer Day as thousands of people around the country are set to transferring their money from large corporate banks to small banks & credit unions.

The Move Your Money project is a campaign that aims to empower individuals and institutions to divest from the nation's largest Wall Street banks and move to local financial institutions.

According to Huffington Post:

People fed up with the nation's biggest banks, whose casino-style investment practices are partly responsible for the financial crisis, are pledging to move their money  to small community banks and credit unions. They're taking the power into their own hands and voting with their dollars to help put an end to predatory lending, outrageous fees and impersonal service.

Many are transferring to credit unions instead. 

From Reuters:
The credit unions pulled in some 650,000 new customers since September 29, when Bank of America announced it would add a $5-a-month debit card fee, an industry trade group reported. Deposits from new customers surged to $4.5 billion, according to the survey released Thursday of 5,000 credit unions by the Credit Union National Association.

More info at Move Your Money Project

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cherry Juice Improves Duration & Quality of Sleep

Note: I think an important component of preparedness / survivalism that gets overlooked a lot is health, so I decided this would be a good article to post here. 
Drinking cherry juice significantly improves both the quality and duration of sleep, according to new findings from Northumbria University.

Researchers from the School of Life Sciences have found that Montmorency cherry juice significantly increases the levels of melatonin in the body, the hormone which regulates sleep, and could benefit those who have difficulty sleeping due to insomnia, shift work or jet lag. 

Their findings, which are published this week in the online edition of the European Journal of Nutrition, reveal that people who have consumed cherry juice not only sleep for longer, but they also have improved quality of sleep, or ‘sleep efficiency’.

In the study, led by Dr Glyn Howatson, 20 healthy volunteers drank a 30ml serving of either tart cherry juice or a placebo juice twice a day for seven days.

Urine samples were collected from all participants before and during the investigation to determine levels of melatonin, a naturally occurring compound that heavily influences the human sleep-wake cycle.

During the study the participants wore an actigraphy watch sensor which monitored their sleep and wake cycles and kept a daily diary on their sleeping patterns.

The researchers found that when participants drank cherry juice for a week there was a significant increase in their urinary melatonin (15-16%) than the control condition and placebo drink samples.

The actigraphy measurements of participants who consumed the cherry juice saw an increase of around 15 minutes to the time spent in bed, 25 minutes in their total sleep time and a 5-6% increase in their ‘sleep efficiency’, a global measure of sleep quality.

Cherry juice drinkers reported less daytime napping time compared to their normal sleeping habits before the study and the napping times of the placebo group.

According to Dr Howatson, this is the first study to show direct evidence that supplementing your diet with a tart Montmorency cherry juice concentrate leads to an increase in circulating melatonin and provides improvements in sleep amongst healthy adults.

Dr Howatson, an exercise physiologist, said: “We were initially interested in the application of tart cherries in recovery from strenuous exercise. Sleep forms a critical component in that recovery process, which is often forgotten. These results show that tart cherry juice can be used to facilitate sleep in healthy adults and, excitingly, has the potential to be applied as a natural intervention, not only to athletes, but to other populations with insomnia and general disturbed sleep from shift work or jet lag.”

The study’s co-authors are fellow Northumbria University academics Dr Jason Ellis, director of the Centre for Sleep Research, School of Life Sciences PhD students Jamie Tallent and Phillip Bell; Benita Middleton of the Centre for Chronobiology at University of Surrey; and Malachy McHugh of the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma in Lenox Hill Hospital, New York.

Dr Ellis said: “Although melatonin is available over the counter in other countries, it is not freely available in the UK. What makes these findings exciting is that the melatonin contained in tart cherry juice is sufficient to elicit a healthy sleep response.

“What’s more, these results provide us with more evidence surrounding the relationship between how we sleep and what we consume.”
[Source: North Umbria University]

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

12% of Americans have no bank accounts

More people in the Southeast don’t have bank accounts than in any other part of the country. Mississippi leads the country with more than 16% of households using cash-and-carry for all their transactions.

A new interactive map released by Wednesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows state-by-state comparisons for median bank fees and policies, as well as percentage of households that don’t have a bank account, across the United States.

The national median monthly fee for a checking account is $8.95 — or more than $107 per year. The national median minimum combined balance to avoid a monthly fee is $2,500.

But with fees rising for accounts at the biggest banks — and with the median income falling — more Americans could find themselves on the margins of the banking system, and unable to afford an account. Amenities that are part of having a bank account, including checking, savings, and access to credit, could slip out of reach for more millions. Today, many people without bank account rely on borrowing money from friends and family, or from payday loan operators, short-term lenders that charge interest rates of up to 400% annually.

In eight states and the District of Columbia, at least 10% of households don’t have any kind of bank account, according to the Pew Trust data. Overall, around 12% of all Americans do not have any financial institution to call their own, based on 2009 data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

States with the fewest number of account-less households are clustered in northern New England, as well as Washington, Montana, Utah and Minnesota. Utah has the smallest percentage of unbanked households: Just 1.7% of households are unaffiliated with a financial institution.

People without a bank account also have trouble moving up the social ladder, as their lack of one puts things like mortgage loans out of reach.

“We know that those who are banked are much better able to save for long-term goals,” says Susan Weinstock, director of the Safe Checking in the Electronic Age project for the Pew Trusts.

[Source Daily Finance]

Note: Just a quickie interesting addition to this - I just read that Bank of America has decided to drop the $5 month debit card fees after the public backlash. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Preparedness & Survivalist in the mainstream (Zombies: A Living History)

Zombies, survival skills, post-apocalypse, preparedness? Yes please!

I watched Zombies: A Living History on the History channel this weekend. Overall, it was an informative 2-hour show covering everything from the origins and cultural differences of the zombie lore (Jiang Shi, Draugr, Revenant, Ghoul) down to zombie defense skills.

I write horror / post-apocalyptic stories and yes that includes zombies and various monsters so this is all very interesting to me. But no, I don't think that there's going to be an actual zombie apocalypse. The show did mention the zombie-like effect of Prions (the infectious agent that causes Mad Cow Disease).

What I enjoyed about the show is that it emphasizes survivalist skills and preparedness during a catastrophe setting.

It went over terms such as Bugging In vs. Bugging Out. Survivalists and preparedness as well as having an emergency kit were also mentioned. I would say this is the first time I'm actually hearing these words thrown around in mainstream media.

Max Brooks. author of World War Z, even mentioned that he has an emergency preparedness kit ready for action in case a natural disaster such as an earthquake occurred.

The show went over topics such as post-apocalyptic survival and the importance of having skills that will provide you, your family, and your neighbors with essential and very basic needs.

Overall highly recommended.