Serious News Stories

Liviu Librescu, Hero

Don't really feel like writing much tonight...events like today's make me want to hunker down with my girlfriend and our dog and shut the mad world out.

I did want to take a moment to share the story of one of the victims. I don't know if he will get the recognition he deserves in the coming days, and certainly in light of the tragedy there will be an overwhelming emphasis placed on all the horrific details of today's events. But in my search for something, anything to renew my faith in the human spirit, I read the story of professor Liviu Librescu. Mr. Librescu died today, his final act being to sacrifice himself so that his students might escape. Although the story below doesn't state his fate, the Virginia Tech website is now reporting his death. Godspeed to him...

Liviu Librescu

The Golden Hour

If you or someone you know suspects a heart attack (myocardial infarction in doctor speak), doctors suggest you treat the situation like a gunshot wound. In other words, get to the hospital stat. Call 911 and get an ambulance to the nearest, best equipped hospital. Cardiologists refer to the "golden hour" --significant because this will be when the fate of the patient is decided -- life or death is no exaggeration. A heart attack is caused by a blood clot blocking a major artery of the heart, the coronary muscle. Without blood flow, key parts of the muscle are prevented from receiving critical oxygen, without which cells die. Once myocardial cells die, the overall function of the heart to continue pumping blood suffers. Obviously, if this ability is sufficiently diminished, you end up dead. Below is a fascinating account from the New York Times of how one patient suffered his M.I. and the events that preceded it.

The Golden Hour

Jogging the Sahara

Ever thought about jogging through the Sahara desert? Probably not. Apparently, these guys, Charlie Engle, Kevin Lin, and Ray Zahab, not only thought about it, they decided it was a good idea. To put this in perspective, this amounted to running over 4,300 miles for 111 consecutive days (they got about five hours of sleep per night). That works out to about 39 miles a day, every day. Now, consider they did it in temperatures approaching 120 degree Fahrenheit. Definitely, this is not a good idea! Yet, the three undertook this amazing journey and, although I'm sure they were tempted to quit many times, they persevered and completed their journey alive. Read more about this incredible story below.

Jogging the Sahara

Dog Biscuit Recall Expanded

OK, hopefully this is the last dog post, at least for a little while. Today, Friday, more brands of Sunshine Mills dog biscuits have been named in the recall for tainted wheat gluten. The affected brands are listed in the article below, but of those roughly 80% were sold at Wal-Mart. Melamine from China has been traced as the causative agent of the illness that leads to kidney failure in affected dogs and cats.

Dog Biscuit Recall Expanded

Pet Food Recall Expanded to Include Dog Biscuits

Today is definitely dog day around this blog...here's an update from CNN on a story I've been following -- some kinds of dog biscuits are now being recalled including those made by Sunshine Mills. The kidney disease affecting the dogs and cats exposed to these foods is thought to be due to poisoned wheat gluten, originally supplied from a Chinese company. More can be read below.

Dog Biscuits Added To Recall

A list of recalled Menu Foods dog products is listed here

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Dogs Big And Small

To continue the dog theme, just by looking at the various phenotypes, it's pretty obvious there is a much greater physical variation present in dogs versus humans. According to this article, dogs actually show the greatest variation of all land animals (no doubt due to their selective breeding by man). So, if they're all the same species, why do they look so differently? Part of the answer, at least in terms of size, is illuminated by this recent study which found that a gene common to humans, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is responsible for regulating growth. Studying the genetic makeup of dogs not only satisfies our curiosity, but also provides help for understanding some of the diseases we share, like cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis, and many others. Check out the article in the paper, or go to your local library to read the study itself in the journal Science.

Dogs Big and Small

Dieting Doesn't Work

Dieting doesn't work, at least according to a psychologist at UCLA. According to the study, people lose weight during the diet, but then most eventually gain it back over the next five years. This isn't very surprising to me; it seems quite likely that people would lose the weight and then as people age they tend to add a pound here, a pound there over the years. What's to prevent them from going on another diet after they've gained the weight?

I especially found it odd that the study said the "wear and tear" of losing and gaining weight is harmful. It doesn't go into any detail about that, nor does it quote a single MD in the entire study. Maybe the psychologist was talking about the mental wear and tear? There is some vague reference to increased cardiovascular risk...but I would venture being fit for five years is better than not being fit for five years. Sure, if you're dropping 20 lbs a month and then gaining them back you're going to be in trouble. Not everyone who diets keeps off the weight, and of course people who are more overweight to begin with are going to be on a diet -- skinny people wouldn't need to. Hopefully no one impressionable reads this article and then decides to not diet. There are plenty of healthy diets out there, it's just a matter of finding the right one.

Dieting Doesn't Work

Florida, enough already!

Ouch, this must hurt:

"The players gave no indication that Donovan would leave, either.

'Why go to Kentucky?' junior Corey Brewer said. 'When's the last time they won a national title?' "

He does make a good point though...

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/news/story?id=2823573

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The Myth of the Student Athlete

Well, it's the weekend of the Final Four once again (for those of you outside the United States, it's a national basketball tournament of major universities). I'd be more excited if any of my teams made it out of the second round, but alas, they did not. And not even a Cinderella among this year's group. So, because I'm bitter about their poor showings, I feel the need to rehash a conversation I've had with my girlfriend several times -- arguing against this false belief that these kids are somehow scholar athletes. NCAA Division I basketball is about money, first and foremost. Just because the students aren't literally paid a salary to perform doesn't change this fact...the advertising and sponsorship, the coaches salaries, the shoe company contracts -- all of them involve massive amounts of money. Along with the money comes the potential to corrupt, and to succumb to pressures that might not normally be so tempting. It's unfortunate, but it's reality and the sooner people stop thinking all the kids at Duke are 1600 SAT scoring choirboys, the better. This article that appeared in the New York Times has caused some ruffled feathers because it seems like they're picking on Georgetown, but the truth is things like this happen at every major program in this country. There's no way to consistently win at a high level without taking players who are a liability from an educational standpoint. It happens, and I think deep down everyone recognizes this.

PPG vs. GPA

Is A Hummer More Ecofriendly Than A Prius?

Continuing with the environmental theme...here's an interesting article arguing that a Hummer is more ecofriendly than a Prius. Now, before you get in a huff (and yes, I hate Hummers too) consider all that goes into forming the rechargeable battery of a Prius (metals strip mined from the earth) and the fact that it's only designed to last for about 100,000 miles. A Hummer, on the other hand, is built for the long haul -- 300,000 miles. How much gas would that cost? If gas prices stay where the are now, in California a gallon is about $3.25 right now, so that would be just a shade under $1 million for the lifetime of the car. And of course gas prices will only be going up. Anyhow, the article makes for an interesting read:

Is A Hummer More Ecofriendly Than a Prius?

San Francisco Bans Plastic Bags

I'm in San Francisco this week...the story has already hit national media but I think it's pretty interesting. The city has decided to ban plastic bags from its stores. Anything reducing our dependency on oil is a good thing, and this measure aims to save about 450,000 gallons of oil. How many gallons of oil in a barrel of oil? 42. Not only that, but of course plastic bags last pretty much forever and kill wildlife too. I think it's a good measure all around, hopefully other cities follow suit.

San Francisco bans plastic grocery bags

Bright Headlights Bother Me

I think I must be getting old. Either that, or my lasik is failing me...probably both. I can't stand those super bright blue-ish headlights from cars in my rear view mirrors. I'm sure the people driving those cars feel very secure, but what happens when I run off the road because I'm seeing spots where the median is? In today's UT is an article about a study being done to evaluate the relative safety of these blindlights...it'll be interesting to see if anything comes of the research.

Blinded By The Light

Play Ball

Well, it's almost time for baseball season again. We tried to get seats to Opening Day, but we were too late. J's dad is going to be here during the opening homestand so we might still see them in the first week of the season. I don't feel too strongly one way or another, since a lot of my favorite players from last years team are gone (well, at least two of my favorites).

In any event, here's an interesting article from the Times' Sunday Magazine about a ballplayer who shares some peculiar similarities to Archibald Graham from Field of Dreams. It's an interesting, well written story about a baseball player who's had to overcome a bit of adversity (sports adversity, not necessarily real-life adversity). Hopefully he makes it.

Head Trip

Kenneth Starr Please Just Go Away

From the Times, an interesting story about the whole "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" debacle (yes, BongHits4Jesus.com has already been registered...). It's actually an interesting question about where a student's free speech rights end and a school's right to censor begins. Obviously, once a school begins to moderate what students can say about politics and religion, things begin to get a bit murky. On the other side, if it's my school I'll run it the way I see fit, and if people don't like it, well then they can go to another school. This is why we have judges. No, the issue I have is that Kenneth Starr is front and center in this story (as well as front and center in the photo, dressed like a G-man), and I wish he would just go away. Regardless of how you feel about Clinton, Starr was nothing more than a Republican mercenary who was appointed to investigate Whitewater and, after failing to dig up anything significant, then pursued the Monica Lewinsky affair in what amounted to a smear campaign. For me to bring up issues of the Republican leaders' own infidelities during this time would only lead to partisanship arguments, and since I don't align with either party I'll leave it at that. I do feel as though a large part of bipartisan cooperation died with Starr, and we are left with bickering ignoramuses in Washington who do little to help the common people but serve their own interests quite adeptly. Hopefully I'm wrong.

Ken Starr Please Go Away

Refueling at Saturn

Cool story about Titan, one of Saturn's moons, having huge seas of methane. While I'm not normally a big fan of hydrocarbons, at least here on earth, I wonder if this fuel source couldn't be used in say, a few hundred years, for space travel?

Wouldn't it be great if some day we could all cruise about the solar system (no Uranus jokes, please) and fill up our space ships with Saturn's methane? I bet Dick Cheney already owns stock in it, and Halliburton is probably poised to win a no-bid contract on harnessing the natural resources. Ah well, it was a nice dream until my cynicism took over.

No Fuel For The Next 100000000000 miles

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