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November 3, 2004

BehindTheMedspeak: Infertility is an infectious disease

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This important new book, if read while you're still in your teens and haven't started giving it away to anyone who asks, could markedly improve your chances of having a family in the future.

Like quitting smoking, it's never to late to start.

Dr. Attila Toth is an obstetrician, gynecologist, and pathologist who's been practicing in the field of fertility medicine since its inception thirty or so years ago.

During that time, he's noticed the steadily increasing incidence of infertile couples coming to him for help.

He's convinced that the only explanation for this alarming rise is the increasing presence of contamination by pathological viruses and bacteria in both the female and male genital tracts.

Every year, about 13 million Americans contract sexually transmitted infections.

More often than not, they don't even know they're infected and so they unwittingly continue the spread of their subclinical diseases.

Then, after marriage and a year or two of trying to get pregnant without success, they go in for a fertility workup.

This costs a fortune, is usually not covered by insurance, results in a battery of often painful and sometimes dangerous tests, and often yields nothing but broken hearts and checkbooks.

If pregnancy does ensue, alarmingly often it's one with two or more embryos due to the necessarily artificial methods of embryo implantation required for in-vitro fertilization.

Multiple births result far too often in dead or damaged children, and financial devastation even more profound than the work-up that got the parents to that point.

How can this be avoided?

It's so easy, it's deceptive.

Even if you're not worried about HIV or hepatitis infection as a result of sexual activity, use a condom and prevent infertility.

Bonus: cervical cancer has been proven to be an infectious disease.

You - a woman - get it by becoming infected with your unaware male partner's penis-born papillomavirus infection.

The virus finds a home in your cervix and multiplies for a few years, until your Pap smear comes back positive.

By then, it's too late: even if you have treatment for suspicious areas using cryosurgery with liquid nitrogen, you're infected for life.

Use a condom - it's really not that difficult.

If the guy won't, then dump him.

Most gynecologists and urologists are unaware of the importance of these issues: by the time you find out you're infected, it's pretty much "game over."

Reminds me of the classic line you see every now and then in magazines and newspapers, written in all seriousness: "The first sign he was having a cardiac arrest was his sudden death."

You've got to look out for yourself, because your doctor really isn't gonna lose sleep if you can't conceive.

Oh, sure, she'll look sad and concerned and be all empathetic, but trust me: the party begins as soon as you leave the office.

If you don't like it, better move to another planet where there aren't human beings.

Because that's just the way it is here on our fragile blue planet.

Get over it.

November 3, 2004 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

bookofjoeTV just got that much closer

Bookofjoe

Yesterday two developments created a sense of expectation and even more excitement than the usual level of near frenzy here at bookofjoe worldwide headquarters in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.A., Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, ad infinitum (almost).

Suddenly, I am reminded of one of my favorite epigrams, by Edgar Degas: "Some forms of success are indistinguishable from panic."

First, Qualcomm announced that it's setting up a nationwide network to help U.S. cellular operators broadcast TV programming to cellphones.

Qualcomm said that it's going to invest nearly a billion dollars over the next four to five years to build out the system.

The company has already acquired licenses to broadcast in a frequency band that's been used for TV channels.

They expect to begin broadcasting in 2006.

Cellphone users in South Korea already can watch TV on their cellphones; as usual, we're a couple years behind when it comes to fast wireless networks.

The new technology, being developed by Texas Instruments and others, allows a city to be covered with only 2-3 transmitters, a fraction of the number typically needed by cellphone carriers.

Texas Instruments isn't as optimistic as Qualcomm; Bill Krenik, TI's manager for wireless advanced architecture, said in yesterday's Wall Street Journal story that he didn't think Qualcomm's network would be up and functioning before 2008.

Doesn't matter; you and I know that coming from nowhere, under the radar and invisible right now, is an app that'll eat these companies' lunch and do the trick cheaper and faster.

Wait and see.

The second development is the announcement by networking gear maker Avaya and camera maker Polycom that they're introducing the ViaVideo II video camera for PCs, packaged with an Avaya softphone.

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The combination allows people to make video or voice phone calls by dialing someone's number from an IM-like window on a PC.

If the recipient's setup is also video-enabled, the call goes through as video.

If not, the call automatically switches to voice only.

It's the price that's astounding: $429 for the whole package.

Just five years ago, videoconferencing systems were $40,000 and required a technician to operate them.

This year, videocalling gear will amount to $40 million in sales; by 2008, the projected market is seen as 20 or 30 times as large, amounting to over a billion dollars.

Avaya intends to cut the price to under $200 by next year.

I'm lovin' it.

November 3, 2004 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Paris Review goes online

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Sensational news: starting next Tuesday, November 11, The Paris Review will start putting its legendary author interviews online.

The best part: it's free.

Initially two interviews with William Styron, from 1954 and 1999, will go up.

Decade by decade, the archive of more than 300 interviews from the 1950s to the present will be posted, with the entire archive becoming available by May 16, 2005.

Internet users like you and me will be able to type in names or keywords to read, search, and download (!) more than 10,000 pages of author interviews.

Among the authors: James Baldwin, Alice Munro, Primo Levi, E.M. Forster, Gabriel GarcĂ­a Marquez, Philip Roth, anyone of note will be in the treasure trove.

George Plimpton, who died last year at age 76, started this great magazine in 1953.

November 3, 2004 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Surrealist fashion photographer David LaChapelle tries his hand at interior design

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The results are on view at the just-opened Dream Hotel, in a 100-year-old Beaux Arts building at 210 West 55th Street in Manhattan.

LaChapelle designed the Subconscious Bar and the Dream Lounge next to the lobby.

The lounge has bands of yellow, chartreuse, mauve, and baby blue on its walls, carpet, and stained-glass windows.

Guests can amuse themselves by leaning back and gazing at their reflections in the mirrored ceiling.

The hotel's guest rooms are labeled Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large.

With tall midnight-blue headboards,

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the beds are perched on slender legs and covered with high-thread-count Egyptian cotton duvets and illuminated from beneath by pale blue lights.

Rooms have plasma TVs with digital cable and iPods preprogrammed with 2,000 songs.

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There's a branch of the Serafina restaurant designed by David Rockwell, as well as a Deepak Chopra Ayurvedic healing center designed by LaChapelle scheduled to open in January.

November 3, 2004 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Synesthesia

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New work from University College [London], just published in the journal Cognitive Neuropsychology, suggests that the colored auras some people say they see around others may be nothing more than the manifestation of a condition known as emotion-color synaesthesia.

Jamie Ward, the study's author, said that these colors do not reflect hidden energies being given off by other people, but rather "are created entirely in the brain of the beholder."

"The Mind of a Mnemonist,"

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by the great Russian psychologist A.R. Luria, remains the defining book about this condition.

It is a masterwork.

Emma Maris, in the October 19 online edition of Nature magazine, wrote an excellent story about the recent report.

It follows.
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Auras May Be Generated In The Brain

Synaesthetic woman sees colours around faces and names


She sees colours emanating like haloes from her friends and foes.

Blocks of colour form in her mind when looking at names of acquaintances, or even at words like "love" and "hate."

And no, she will not read your aura for a low introductory fee.

She is not a charlatan, or a psychic - she's a synaesthete.

People with synaesthesia, perhaps one in 2,000 by conservative estimates, get two-for-one sensory experiences.

They feel music, taste art, and often see colours around words or things.

A new case study now raises the possibility that cases like this are the origin of the new-age belief in "auras," a coloured emanation of energy that can be seen only by the spiritually in-tune.

G.W. is a young woman who sees colours around words or things only when the object has an emotional association for her.

Many synaesthetes see letters as coloured, for example in the word "love," "l" might be green, "o" might be cream-yellow, "v" might be crimson, and 'e' royal blue.

But instead G.W. sees the whole word 'love' as pink or orange because it is a positive word.

She sees the word "James," or James himself, as pink for the same reason: she likes him.

Her case is described by Jamie Ward, a psychologist at University College London in the latest issue of Cognitive Neuropsychology.

"She sees as things as being coloured, out there, in space," says Ward.

Sometimes a colour would be attached to a whole area because of an emotion, he explains: "She went into a room, and it was a happy party, and the room kind of took on a red tint."

To test whether G.W.'s experiences were genuine, Ward presented her with a list of names of acquaintances and words that she said evoked colour, and asked her to note down the hue she saw.

A group of control subjects was also presented with similar lists of emotionally resonant words and familiar names and asked to assign each word a colour.

After a week, G.W. relabelled 86% of the words with the same colour, while the control subjects only did so for 46% of the words.

Four months later, she was still giving the same colour 76% of the time.

Another test was derived from the classic Stroop test.

In this, colour words are presented in another colour.

For example, "green" might be shown in red or blue.

When reading a list of words quickly, we stumble over such words.

Or, when asked to tell the colour of each word as it flashes on a screen, we trip up when one of the words is a mismatched colour word.

Mismatching colour names slows our reaction times.

Synaesthetes experience a similar effect if numbers or names are given the "wrong" colour.

For G.M., these bumbling reaction times also show up for her synaesthetic words. If she sees "James" as pink, and it is presented in blue, her reaction time goes down.

This effect is subtle, and according to Ward, difficult to fake.

Synaesthesia most probably comes from a cross-wiring in the brain.

Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen of the University of Cambridge, UK, has suggested that it comes about when the densely connected infant brain does not prune itself rigorously enough as it grows.

Ward suggests that the cross-wired areas in this case are the retrosplenial cortex, which is associated with emotion, and the V4 area, which has been shown to be involved in colour perception.

The two areas are close together in the brain.

Could people with this condition be the original aura-readers?

G.W. doesn't have any interest in the occult, but others may have.

"You can understand how people who have this and were born in a different age would consider themselves able to see spiritual states," says Ward.

They would see the colours, and assume they were coming from the people, not from their own brains.

Richard Cytowic, neurologist from Washington DC and author of a 1970s book on synaethesia that helped legitimize it as a neurological condition, says that emotion always seems to be part of the experience of synaesthetes.

"Even a phone number is described as delightful and luxurious," he says, "and mismatches like an ad in the wrong colour are like fingernails on a blackboard."

He is intrigued by the idea that synaesthesia could explain auras, but doesn't see a way to prove it.

"We don't have any way of knowing," he says.

"But certainly synaesthetes are perceiving things that others aren't. It's an interesting supposition."

Ward, like many, is a bit jealous of those with synaesthesia, but the condition seems to be present from birth and impossible to learn.

"The literature of aura reading - such as it is - claims that you can train yourself to read auras," says Ward.

"This I do not believe. Synaesthesia is hardwired and biological."

November 3, 2004 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

World's Best Baked Apple

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Everything you need to create one of the simplest, most succulently delicious desserts extant is contained in this post.

Food writer and cookbook author Nancy Baggett recently spent an enormous amount of time and effort preparing a definitive article on baked apples.

It appeared on the front page of the October 20 Washington Post Food section.

Ms. Baggett purchased a variety of apples said by various orchard owners and cooks to be "the best one" for baking.

She then conducted her own informal "bake-offs" over a several year period.

She wrote: "Eventually in my testing I tried more than 30 different kinds of apples. I baked them all in the same kind of dishes, with the same recipe, in the same oven."

"I always tested two of each kind at once, to be sure the results were characteristic of that apple and not a fluke."

"Every apple was sampled and informally rated by two or three testers."

Her article follows.

In it you'll find her favored recipe, along with one for excellent microwave-baked apples.

These are followed by her specific comments on the very best of the best baking apples.

Finally, there's a short item on the best apple corers on the market.

bookofjoe suggestion: serve the apples with a scoop of Ben & Jerry's French Vanilla ice cream on the side.

Perfection.
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Some Apples Bake Better


During a recent visit to an orchard, I asked the owner which varieties were best for preparing old-fashioned baked apples.

Admitting that he wasn't a cook (and perhaps wanting to duck the question), he answered that all apples taste good when they're baked with sugar and cinnamon.

He's right - to a point.

But aren't some apples - like some potatoes - better suited for baking whole than others?

Some baked apples come from the oven temptingly colored, nicely shaped and with full-bodied fruit flavor and aroma.

Others emerge looking a bit slumped and faded, but tasting appetizing nonetheless.

Unfortunately, still other kinds emerge bland, limp or mushy, or all three.

While it's true that very crisp, tangy, intensely flavored apples are the best candidates for baking, not all the varieties in this category actually do perform well.

Many recipes simply call for "baking apples," "tart apples" or "large apples."

Those that are more specific suggest Granny Smith or Golden Delicious, some mention Rome, and a few suggest McIntosh.

Having learned that it's better to test than just to take other folks' word for it, I purchased the four kinds mentioned and baked them all at once, following a recipe I'd used before.

The baking times varied dramatically even though all the apples were the same size; in particular, the Granny Smiths were done 10 minutes before and the Golden Delicious five minutes after the others.

The different varieties also reacted to the baking process in different ways.

The Rome apples held their shape, although the skins tended to split.

Their skins also retained some color, but not as much as I expected.

The flesh tasted pleasantly tart.

The McIntosh apples, on the other hand, split apart and completely collapsed.

Their interiors softened, bubbled up and heaved out of the center.

Their texture and taste could only be described as "applesaucy," which, no doubt, is why they are often said to be excellent applesauce apples.

The Golden Delicious and the Granny Smith apples were satisfactory but not at their best.

Baking seemed to bring out the Granny Smiths' tartness, but their skins split and turned olive drab.

The Golden Delicious kept some shape, but their handsome yellow color faded.

Baking muted the tantalizing fruity-sweet taste that usually characterizes these apples.

Considering the results, I can only assume that baked apple recipes often call for these two varieties because they are readily available and because they are suitable for general cooking and baking purposes.

But baking apples whole is a different enterprise than slicing them up and chopping them for dishes like crisps and pies.

Eventually in my testing I tried more than 30 different kinds of apples.

I baked them all in the same kind of dishes, with the same recipe, in the same oven.

I always tested two of each type at once, to be sure the results were characteristic of that variety and not a fluke.

Every apple was sampled and informally rated by two or three tasters.

The details are in. There is not one all-out winner, but several "best bakers" available in the markets this time of year.
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Old-Fashioned Baked Apples


6 servings


These apples perfume the kitchen during baking and the juices result in a sweetly spiced sauce. Add a scoop of ice cream for dessert or serve the apples plain for breakfast.


6 large (7 to 10 ounces each) baking apples, such as Braeburn, Empire, Honeycrisp, Jonathan or Rome


1/2 cup apple juice, apple cider or cranberry juice cocktail


2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice


1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1/4 cup raisins (optional)


6 tablespoons packed light brown sugar


1 tablespoon honey, maple syrup or dark corn syrup


1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature


1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position.


Using an apple corer or a small, sharp paring knife, core the apples. (The center cavity should be no more than 1 inch in diameter.) If necessary, trim a thin slice from the bottom of each apple so it stands upright.


Using a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife, peel away a 1-inch ring of skin from around the top of each apple. Using the tip of a paring knife, make four small slashes about 1/2 inch deep around the equator of each apple. (These steps aid the release of steam, which helps the apples remain intact rather than collapsing.)


Place the apples in a baking dish just large enough to contain the apples, such as a 9-by-9- or 7-by-11-inch baking dish.


In a bowl, combine the juice or cider, lemon juice and vanilla and pour the mixture around the apples. If desired, divide the raisins evenly among the apples, sprinkling them in the cavity. In the same bowl as you used for the juice mixture, combine the sugar, honey or syrup, butter and cinnamon. Divide the mixture evenly among the apples, spooning it into the cavity.


Bake the apples, basting occasionally with the pan juices, until they are tender when pricked with the tines of a fork, 45 to 65 minutes, depending on the size and variety of apple. Set the apples aside to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. (May cover and refrigerate for up to several days and reheat until warm, but not hot, before serving.)


To serve, spoon the apples into individual bowls and spoon the warm juices over and around the apples.
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Hurry-Up Microwave "Baked" Apples


4 servings


Apples "baked" in the microwave come out tender and flavorful but quite different in character from those baked in the oven. If anything, they're more attractive. The apples retain their original color and shape rather than cooking down and taking on a tawny appearance, and the juices don't evaporate from the dish.


To ensure that all of the apples are done at the same time, choose apples that are the same size.


1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature


1/3 cup packed light brown sugar


1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or cinnamon


Four medium (6 to 9 ounces each) baking apples, such as Braeburn, Empire, Honeycrisp, Jonathan or Rome


1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice combined with 1 tablespoon water


In a small bowl, combine the butter, sugar and allspice or cinnamon.


Using an apple corer or a small, sharp paring knife, core the apples. (The center cavity should be no more than 1 inch in diameter.) If necessary, trim a thin slice from the bottom of each apple so it stands upright.


Using a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife, peel away a 1-inch ring of skin from around the top of each apple. Using the tip of a paring knife, make four small slashes about 1/2 inch deep around the equator of each apple. (These steps aid the release of steam, which helps the apples remain intact rather than collapsing.)


Arrange the apples upright in a deep microwave-safe casserole dish. Pour the lemon water over the apples and divide the sugar mixture evenly among the apple cavities. Cover the apples loosely with wax paper and microwave on 100 percent power for 6 to 11 minutes, until tender. (If the oven has no turntable, rotate the apples one-quarter turn every 1 1/2 minutes.) After 6 minutes, begin checking to see if apples are tender by piercing with a fork. The microwaving time will depend not only on apple size and variety but on the wattage of your oven.


Set the apples aside to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.


To serve, spoon the apples into individual bowls and spoon the sauce over and around the apples.
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Best for Baking?


After testing more than 30 types of apples, the following varieties scored highest in recipes that used whole apples:


BRAEBURN Originally imported from New Zealand but now also available from Washington state, this flavorful red Granny Smith descendant is a good choice for baking. The skins take on a burnished look, the fruit maintains its shape extremely well, and the flesh has a pleasing apple aroma and taste.


EMPIRE This red, sweet-tart apple is a cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious and a far better baker than either of its parents. The skin turns an attractive pinkish-red, the flesh usually holds together.


HONEYCRISP Descended from Macoun, Golden Delicious and Haralson apples, this large, super-crisp and sweet-yet-tangy variety holds its shape fairly well when baked, and its reddish-yellow skin takes on an attractive tawny hue. The flesh has a faintly golden color and a memorable sweet-but-mellow flavor.


JONATHAN This old favorite doesn't hold its shape quite as well as some other varieties, but its complex sweet-tart flavor comes through clearly. The reddish skin retains some color.


ROME Also called Red Rome and Rome Beauty, this bright red apple is recommended primarily because it's very large and impressive. Its zesty-tart flesh maintains its integrity during baking. However, the skin fades to russet-red, sometimes splits and may become a little tough.

Other "bakers" to try: Cameo, Crispin, Gravenstein, Jonagold, Nittany, Pacific Rose, Paula Red, Green Pippin, Sansa, Stayman and Summerfield.
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To the Core


Any apple corer will get the core out of an apple, but some do it a lot more deftly than others. We tested several models to see which finer points of finish and design were most critical.


After doing a lot of push-twist action, we settled on the following:


L'ECONOME (Inox-France, about $6): Opening is three-quarters of an inch wide, with smooth, sharpened rim, stainless-steel chassis, wooden handle with a slight pear shape that fits well in your hand. Hit/miss: Low-tech and solidly made/ the apple core is sometimes hard to remove, and this model's not for the dishwasher, but L'Econome also makes this corer with a plastic handle.


MESSERMEISTER ($6.95): Same-size opening with a serrated rim, stainless-steel chassis, plastic handle with texturized grip and hanging hole; dishwasher-safe. Hit/miss: Nonslip handle/ serrated edge goes into the apple soundly, but tears the skin on the exit end of the apple.


PROGRESSIVE ($3-$4): Opening is seven-eighths of an inch wide to allow for the plunger to push through; stainless- steel tube with smooth, sharpened rim and plastic plunger; dishwasher safe. Hit/miss: Plunger features a molded plastic apple design that makes it clear what this tool is for /the apple core was surprisingly difficult to extract from the device; pieces do not lock together, so the plunger may go astray in the typical kitchen junk drawer.

November 3, 2004 at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

DeadJournal.com

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From the website:
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What is DeadJournal.com?

DeadJournal.com is a journal site (much like LiveJournal), but as you will quickly see, not all journals are apple pie and fruitcakes.

Here is where you find the journals that nobody else wants to see, or even host.

We love pissed off people, if you're a pissed off person who hates incompetence, please sign up now!


Who uses DeadJournal?

All sorts of people use DeadJournal to record their rants and psychotic thoughts!

To date, 47,774 people used DeadJournal in the past 24 hours.

Overall DeadJournal has over 471,325 members and is still growing!

If stats and graphs interest you, check out our Stats Page.
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Rats.

I'm not qualified to use DeadJournal.

B1

See, I do hate incompetence, but I'm not at all pissed off; in fact, I'm - right now, and almost always - in an excellent, cheery mood.

Oh well.

Maybe someone will start PollyannaJournal.

Hey, maybe I should do it.

Might be a nice sideline when things get slow around here.

Or maybe I'll dump it on Martin.

I mean, between volcanic eruptions he can get it off the ground.

What do you think of that idea, Martin? Bueller? Anyone?

November 3, 2004 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

MoMA: Bad news, good news

Moma

New York's Museum of Modern Art, reopening next month after an $858 million expansion and renovation, is going to charge a flat $20 per person admission fee, the highest of any museum in the country.

That's the bad news.

I just did the numbers: it'll take only 42.9 million people paying $20 each to pay for the work.

The good news is that Target has stepped in and will sponsor "Target Free Friday Nights."

Target

Beginning November 26, admission will be free every Friday from 4 to 8 p.m.

November 3, 2004 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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