Thursday, December 20, 2012

In Mourning

My hometown was paralyzed Friday, December 14th. I'm still feeling a bit paralyzed myself, grieving as I would someone I knew personally. This was an anonymous poem I received in an email and I feel I need to share it too.


"Twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
When 20 darling children stormed through heaven's gate,
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air,
They could hardly believe the beauty, of all that they saw there,
They were filled with such joy, they knew not what to say,
For they remembered nothing, of what happened earlier that day.
"Where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse,
"This is heaven." said a boy. "It's Christmas at God's house,
"When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
But Jesus, their savior, and the babes gathered near,
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same,
Then He opened forth His arms, and called them each by name,
In that very moment, was joy that heaven will bring,
Those children all flew into the arms of their gracious King,
And as they lingered in the glow of His warm embrace,
One small girl turned and looked right into Jesus' face,
Then as if He could read all the questions she had,
He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of Mom and Dad".
Then He looked down on earth, the world so far below.
He saw and wept for all hurt, and all the deep sorrow,
He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
"Let My power and presence re-enter this land!"
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
"Come now my little children, let me show you all around".
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
All displaying exuberant joy that only a child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
"In the midst of this darkness, I am still the light."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Daymares and Nightdreams

So I guess a few of you have probably been wondering whats the deal. I said I'd be back to normal, but alas, I spoke too soon. I apologize for the lack of content it seems I've needed a kick in the pants to get it together. This fall has been a bit of an odd time for me... I've never had nothing to do for so long that the lack of scheduled activities has turned me into quite the couch potato. Sadly, I've been overindulging in social media (still addicted to twitter), catching up on all my fave junk TV, and mostly twiddling my thumbs.

My boredom had gotten so bad, that not only had I become a blob, I started having very vivid and strange dreams. Most of them were not so bothersome for me to remember exactly what the content was, but towards the end of October I started having this one dream repeat itself. The first one was the most shocking, very vivid. A couple days later a very similar, but my more subdued version filled my unconscious REM stage, and the following week the "product" of this dream came back to haunt me for a third time.

What was this disturbing and eerie dream, you ask? Going through labor and having a baby! For those of you who know me, you know I love babies, and I am excited to one day have one after I am married to my buddy. However, despite my "baby fever", I am in no way ready for one right now. So, as you can imagine, this was quite freaky. What do you think I did about it? To GOOGLE!!

While sitting with a group of my girlies and discussing my persistent dream-fetus, we went on a search for dream meanings. You can all relax, the meaning of the dream is not that I am pregnant. We'll hold on to that surprise for a future date and time. The meaning of the dream is actually related to creativity.

The Huffington Post interviewed a dream analyst on the subject who stated that "At its core, this dream is about creativity. Women literally create new life out of their bodies. If you dream of being pregnant, you are likely craving time to be creative, or 'dreaming up' a new and exciting creative project that will come into existence down the line. This could be as small as a home-based renovation project or a large-scale artistic work." My search did not stop there, however. Being educated in a research mindset, one source is simply not enough. Fortunately, link after link revealed roughly the same idea. Dreams of being pregnant or giving birth usually correlate to a developing idea, a new creative project, or an emotional time of growth. 

Yay for not being pregnant! And yay for realizing my boredom was the likely culprit of these dreams/nightmares. Moral of the story, if you are having pregnancy dreams... you can relax! You may be bored out of your mind and looking for creative inspiration, or you may be starting on a new endeavor and your unconscious psyche likes to play with your mind while you sleep. Despite the benign nature of these dreams, you can bet I promptly gave myself some projects to keep them away. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Social Network


Social media has been on the rise since the '90s. Starting with MySpace, progressing through Facebook, and  continuing with Twitter and Instagram. I, for one, never participated in MySpace; Facebook was my first venture into social networking when it was still restricted to college students. Since then I've joined LinkedIn, the professional network, and I dabbled in Pinterest for about a week before calling it quits (I didn't really understand it and didn't want to deal with it after my interest fizzled).

Three days ago, however, I joined a new "club:" Twitter. At first, I didn't understand it. I wasn't interested in joining these millions of networks not knowing who was going to bump into my account. However, my interest grew insidiously from recommendations from friends and siblings, so eventually I caved. And, to my own surprise, I am hooked. Within 24 hours I found myself incessantly checking statuses and searching for new people to follow. So far my collection includes various sports analysts, Chelsea soccer, Barcelona Soccer, Giants Football, Paula Deen, Snooki, some of the Kardashians, Brit Brit, Ricky Gervais, Aziz Ansari, E! News, a bunch of friends, and more. Needless to say, I rarely find myself bored these days since there are always new tweets and instagrams to check up on. No wonder this has caught like wildfire and sucked me in with it!

While I'm completely in love with twitter, it has caused me to once again reflect on American culture. Aside from the friend who urged me to join, most others have had that "why would you do that?" response when I've shared with them my new obsession. But is it really that shocking? Just as facebook was (and arguably still is) a means of instant procrastination with a sense of social belonging, twitter offers that same gratification. Even Pinterest, which I still don't buy into, is loved by many, many of my friends... social belonging is fulfilled by pinning to your friends boards, its a wonderful means of procrastination, and it triggers pleasure centers in your brain looking at pictures of delicious goodies, beautiful places to visit, or creative projects you're dying to try... albeit this is more of a network geared towards girls since you can post an unimaginable amount of the above mentioned goodies, travel sites, or DIY (do-it-yourself) projects.

Twitter offers all those same feelings of social ties, but adds the sense of actual interaction with your favorite celebrities, politicians, sports announcers, sports teams, athletes, organizations, etc. What could be better than watching the X-Factor and feeling like your hanging with Brit Brit as she tweets through the entire show about her feelings regarding the contestants? Or how about getting a play-by-play of your favorite soccer match while at the laundromat? Or getting to hear the sass of your favorite comedian throughout the day? It's instant entertainment at any given moment. Plus you get to add in your own 2 cents whenever you feel like it.

Now, I'm not a spokesperson, but I imagine this is what any advocate of twitter would argue and then some. However, I will admit I waste an incessant amount of time these days waiting for my job to start so I had to entertain myself with something and twitter happened to find me at the right time. And because of that, I felt the need to share with you what I've learned about this bit of American culture gone wild: it can be quite addictive.



Friday, October 12, 2012

Happy PA week!

The end of PA week has come and I felt it was time that I contribute to promote my profession. I'm a Physician Assistant, which means I am a trained graduate of a masters program in medical education, I've passed a national certification exam, and I am licensed by the state to provide medical care to patients in almost every medical specialty, including diagnostic testing, managing patient care, and administering treatment to patients. I work as part of a team with medical assistants, nurses, and supervising physicians. Want to know more about how PAs are providing necessary medical care in today's society? Here's a great video on PAs: I'm a PA

Here's a link to my page on PAs, Health, and Medicine where you can find even more information about this great profession. 


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Apple Crisp!

Just as it wouldn't be fall without apple picking (even if it's in the rain), it wouldn't be fall without delicious fall treats. Everyone goes nuts for Starbucks Pumpkin Latte's, the Pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers start popping into the seasonal spots at the tap, and pies are back in style. But what about our apples we so lovingly pluck from their trees each year? Since I personally am not a pie aficionado, I went for the apple crisp recipes this season.

Apparently there are two ways to make apple crisp: with or without oats. I did not know this was such an issue, but as I was discussing it over the phone with my mother while Howie was in the room, I came to realize this must be some kind of a big deal. My mother was trying to tell me to just use bisquick, meanwhile the online recipe I found called for oats. Howie took no time jumping in: "You northerners and Bisquick, that's not how you make apple crisp! You need oats!" Needless to say I had no response for either of them other than, "I already bought the oats, so that's how I'll do it this time." And it came out great!

Apple Crisp
Courtesy of Betty Crocker, with my own twist
Ingredients:
4 Apples peeled and sliced (choose to use apples on the tart side)
1/3 cup Butter (or margarine)
1/2 cup Old fashioned Oats
1/2 cup All purpose Flour
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
3/4 tsp Cinnamon
3/4 tsp Nutmeg
Generous handful of chopped Pecans (eye ball it how you like, use whatever nut you like, or don't use any nuts at all if you like!)

1. Preheat the over to 375 degrees (I preheated mine to 350 because I know my oven bakes quickly) and grease an 8x8 pan. Now, I never remember to buy shortening or Crisco for greasing pans, so whenever I bake I do it the old fashioned way with butter... call me crazy, but that's what I usually have in the house and I don't bake often enough to change my ways.


2. Spread your peeled and sliced apples evenly in the pan.


3. Combine all other ingredients well and then spread over the top of the apples. Bake for 30 minutes or until  top is golden brown and apples are fork-tender.


4. Enjoy this deliciousness!!

 


Why I chose to add pecans: Howie is in love with them. End of story. However, these nuts are on the sweeter side. Being a sweet nut, it goes perfectly with the apple crisp. If I had to choose a second recommendation I'd say go with walnuts if you prefer those. Walnuts are also commonly used in snacks and desserts, so have at it :) 

Monday, October 8, 2012

How to have a successful rainy day...

... Choose to go on an adventure despite the lousy weather report.

This is exactly what two of my girlfriends and I did this week. Since we are still currently between school and work, we've had some time off and have been trying to take advantage of our days. Naturally, given the season, we planned a day of apple picking and shopping at Woodbury Commons, a premier outlet complex. It wasn't until the night before that we discovered the forecast was questionable with a 30% chance of rain all day. We woke up that morning to cloudy skies and decided to take our chances.

We made our way north to a small family owned apple orchard excited to indulge in this fall tradition. Despite knowing that we might get rained on, none of us dressed appropriately - me in leather boots, one in canvas sneakers, and the other in flip-flops. Well, we lasted all of 10 minutes at the orchard before the drizzle started. With our poles in hand we reached for apples taking breaks under the tree branches to avoid the rain drops (we did take advantage of this "down time" to sneak an apple as a snack... they are just so sweet and delicious when they have been just pulled off the tree). Though the rain came and went, and then came again, we were determined to fill our bags - which we ultimately did. Apple picking is always a treat and a must-do activity when given the opportunity. Plus, its and excuse to make fall favorites, such as apple crisp (post coming soon!)





Happy with our adventure! 
In nice weather, Woodbury Commons is packed with hustle and bustle. The people swarm along the cobblestone paths though the different clusters of shops. With over 200 stores, this is a place where you could easily get lost. If you live in the Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam county region of New York - this is an adventure you should take... hopefully on a nice sunny day. Unfortunately, the rains picked up just as we arrived turning from a drizzly rain to a downpour. We first made our way to the food pavilion to warm ourselves up with some hot soup. Before we left the food pavilion we made a plan to go directly to the stores we wanted to go in, no meandering in this weather. We darted around to Nine West, American Eagle, Gap, J. Crew, Puma, and Loft outlet before calling it quits... By the time we had gotten that far, we were pooped. Next time, hopefully I'll have better material to write about with out the weather stealing the show. All in all we still came home with apples and new goodies from the outlets :)

Our drive to Woodbury Commons

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fantasy

I grew up watching the Giants with my dad and grandfather, but never stretched out to following teams in other divisions. I knew the Giants and I knew to hate their rivals, the Cowboys and the Eagles (sorry Redskins, but no one was ever that worried about you until RG3 showed up this year). Last year I learned a lot more about teams and players who I had previously never heard due to my initiation into Fantasy Football, despite being a "football" fan for years.

My rookie year didn't go so hot, but it didn't go so poorly either, since I was fortunate enough in 2011 to be allowed to continue this season in Howie's league. Fantasy has completely changed my Sundays and Monday nights. Instead of watching and caring for only the Giants, I now worry throughout the day about my  10 starters and whether I should have switched anyone with my 7 bench players... none of which are Giant's team members this year. So that's 18 "parties" I'm keeping track of, some of which might be playing each other.

Today I'm sitting here (with my Hopfen Weiss) hoping for New England's offense to rock it, though I despise the Patriots (an unofficial rival due to my previous residence in CT). Tonight I'll be praying for Drew Brees to throw touchdown after touchdown, and at the same time hoping for the opposing offense to have huge success with their running back. Seattle and Atlanta are teams I've never watched before this year, and now I keep tabs on their games each week. I now understand the conversations I used to scoff at between Howie and my brother regarding their various fantasy teams and who was doing what.

This year my team has gotten off to a rocky start, losing my first three games despite the projected high quality of my starting lineup. My heart strings are constantly pulled based on the efforts of my players . Hopefully I'll make it to the playoffs this year, but the success of my Sundays will no longer be determined based on the Giant's success. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Willkommen zum Oktoberfest

{Welcome to Oktoberfest}

Fall is back! Well, I supposed it has been unofficially fall for over a month now if you count fall as the start of the school year. You could say this is the 4th week of fall if you go by the NFL's calendar. However, you could be true to the solstice and only admit to it being the end of the first week of fall; nonetheless, its undoubtedly the time of year that indicates a select few things to celebrate. First: football, second: Oktoberfest style beer, third: football...

While I clearly am a football fan, that is not the focus of this post. This last Friday we went to a mock Oktoberfest celebration at a quaint German restaurant which got me thinking about what my favorites are, especially since Howie goes crazy for Oktoberfest style beer annually at this time of year. For those of you who know me, you know at least one of two things: (a) I'm not a huge beer person, and/or (b) I'm a huge beer snob. Both are true. I don't always drink beer, but when I do I prefer the good stuff (props to who knows where that line comes from). I don't really do light beers (no Coors, Bud, Miller, etc) unless there is nothing else to drink and I'm not into very hoppy "man" beers. If I can taste the bitter aftertaste in my nose, it's a no-go. So here goes:

5. Blue Moon (by Coors - US of A)
Disclaimer: This beer is making it to the list only because it is my go-to bar beer.
I am well aware this is not an super high quality beer; its the generic "girl beer." With that noted, it was too difficult for me to confidently decide between the runner's up for this spot so Blue Moon is the pick because of the frequency with which I drink this beer. It is a wheat beer - my favorite style. In fact, almost all the beers on my list of acceptable beers to drink are wheat beers. This style is light and fruity in flavor with a smooth finish. Runner's up: Hoegaarden, Sam's Summer Ale, Pumpkin Wheat, Schneider Edel-Weisse.

4. Delirium Tremens (Belgium)
A new beer on my list, Delirium Tremens is quite a treat. Similar to a wheat beer (jury is out on the official classification) it's light in color and smooth in finish - but you don't need a lot of this as the alcohol content is pretty high for a beer.

3. Oktoberfest (by Sam Adams - US of A)
I didn't choose the title of this post without reason. Oktoberfest style is definitely my second favorite in every way. Crisp, full bodied flavor perfect for the season. I'd even accept other brands of oktoberfest. But I do wish it lasted longer than 2.5 months out of the year, as does my boy since its at the top of his list too (see below).

2. Hopfen Weisse (by Schneider - German)
I'll admit, I've only had this beer once - but it's that good. Since you've probably figured it out, Howie is the driving force behind my beer snobbism by exposing me to these fabulous finds. After hunting for a specialty beer store, we hit the jackpot only 5 miles from where we live. This is the type of store that you walk into where the walls are lined with over-sized bottles of specialty beers and you get to select as many or as few of exactly what you want. That is where we found this little gem. It's a wheat beer so its that golden honey color, on the fruity side, with the smoothest finish you can find in a beer. The flavor is so unique and the aroma is just as enticing. I might be drooling thinking about this one.

1. Franziskaner Weissbier (by Spaten - German)
This has been my favorite beer for a while now, though the Hopfen Weisse might take over after I try it a few more times. Howie introduced this as a surprise one time while visiting my family (he and my dad have a tradition of trying new beers and styles as often as they can). It is a wheat beer; I'm sure you are surprised by this. The flavor is full and on the sweeter side with a very smooth finish. If you like wheat beer, this is the best it gets.


Howie's Picks: 
5. Dos Equis Amber
4. Delirium Tremens
3. Guinness
2. Oktoberfest (Sam Adams specific)
1. Schneider Edel-Weisse 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fulfilling a dream

While at the Big E last week, I was able to live a dream: to ride an elephant. Really my dream was to ride any exotic animal. I made an attempt at the Bronx Zoo to take advantage of the camel rides, but when I got to the Asia exhibit, there were only 4 year-olds in line causing me to bail out of my mission. However, as we walked by the elephant rides at the Big E my excitement could not be contained and I convinced my friends to join. Here are some commemorative pictures of the event for your viewing pleasure:




Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Big E

The Eastern States Exposition began in the early 1900s as a way to boost the agricultural economy in New England and has since turned into one of the largest state fairs today known as The Big E. To call it a "state" fair is a bit of a misnomer, as it is a fair for all of the New England states.


The Big E is a well known attraction to those in New England; however, this was the first year I've ever attended despite spending my teenage years as a resident of Connecticut. For those of you who've been, you know its a never-ending display of food, games, rides, shopping, farm animals etc. For the first timers, its admittedly a bit overwhelming. The first few hundred feet into the fair grounds it seems like just a normal northeastern carnival: the tents are colorful, the food trucks are ostentatious, and the rides and games are twinkling with gaudy light fixtures. As you continue walking you realize the fun seems to go on for miles (and I assure you, we walked miles that day around and around - to the point of waking up sore the next morning).

I'm sure my experience was fairly traditional, but lets relive it, shall we? It was a crisp September morning when me and two lovely ladies departed from southern CT on a mini road trip to meet our long lost buddy from PA school who moved back to MA after graduation. We had been plotting this trip for a while and were looking forward to a food-filled day of fun (that's what the repeat visitors to the Big E were looking forward to anyway).

The first thing we encountered upon arrival were the Budweiser Clydesdales... humongous, majestic horses famous for their appearances in Bud commercials throughout the year, and mostly during major football events later in the season. I have always loved horses and as a child I begged to take riding lessons; however, my mother never caved in on that request. As you can imagine, these horses were quite a sight as they are literally huge. In commercials they are often accompanied by their canine friends, dalmatians. I guess the Big E wanted to do things right so on cue at the back of the tent where the horses were kept were two dalmatians arguing over a bone.



We then moved through the warehouses to take in all the goodies being sold by various vendors. There were gadgets and gizmos of plenty, whosits and whatsits galore. There was even a mini winter wonderland to walk through with blasting air conditioners and falling 'snow.' One of the warehouses was entirely devoted to farming and contained pigs, chickens, vegetables, llamas, alpacas, and landscaping displays. My favorites: the piglets and chicklets. 


As for the food, you can get almost anything deep fried at the Big E. Fried pickles, fried zucchini, fried dough, fried twinkies, fried chicken, fried cookie dough, french fries, and so on. The two that I was lucky enough to indulge in were fried oreos - bangin - and fried cheese curds - not so bangin. The cheese curds were the brain child of our one friend; let's just say I won't be having those again anytime soon. In addition to carnival food is a multitude of carnival games rides; however, those are not my specialty so I'm not going to discuss them. Just know that every carnival ride known exists at the Big E.


Finally, you can't really talk about the Big E without mentioning the state houses. Along one strip in the fair grounds are six old style brick houses dedicated to the states of New England: Connecticut (holla), Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Each house contains select food and vendors from the state. In Connecticut, the big deal was the Pez. The United States Pez factory is located in Orange, CT. Each state house had something different to offer - maple syrup, soaps, lobster rolls, cotton candy, sweatshirts, hats, and other paraphernalia. I purchased some all natural soaps and some Vermont maple syrup for my boy during my tour through the houses. Overall this was a very successful and exciting adventure.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

A little country in the big city

I've been on a few adventures since being out of school and not yet at work. One of which was an excursion into the city to one our of favorite restaurants: Hill Country Barbeque. Since Howie is from Texas, he's always on the lookout for "home-comfort-foods," aka real barbecue and real mexican food (I'll leave the explanation of the italicized "reals" for Howie to explain in a guest post since these are two of his hot-button topics). I actually first heard of this restaurant through an old high school friend who attended college in the city. Though it took some convincing to get Howie to try it because he is highly skeptical of the quality of northern bbq, it has turned into one of our top choices of places to eat in the city.

When you first walk into Hill Country it's like walking into an entirely different time and place than the busy streets of New York. Located on 26th between 5th and 6th ave, right near Madison Square Park, Hill Country is a great place to indulge in the southern delicacy of barbecue. The art of barbecue varies from region to region in the south, but the premise remains the same: meats cooked over low heat for hours and hours basted in succulent sauce. With this barbecue comes additional treats for your belly: mac & cheese, potato salad, cucumber salad, mashed sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn bread, and more. The food is delicious and will send you directly into food coma if you aren't careful, which we usually aren't.

Aside from the southern comfort foods, this place is also unique because of its ambiance. With wood everywhere and mildly dim lighting, you feel as if you've walked into a southern hole-in-the-wall bbq joint. There are wood tables lined up cafeteria style, wooden chairs, a wooden bar, and stacks of fire wood along the back wall. When you enter, you are given a meal ticket that you bring with you up to the meat counter where you order your choice of beef, chicken, or sausage by weight as the meat is taken from the back where its likely just come out of the smoker. The meat is wrapped in paper, you are given a tray, and your meal ticket is marked before you move to the line for sides. At that station there is a minimum of 8 or so options to choose from in a variety of sizes along with an additional 5 or so desserts to choose. Your order is marked on your ticket and you are then free to sit anywhere you like. A waiter will come with options for drinks: water, iced tea, lemonade, soda, beer, the usual suspects. As you can imagine, its extremely easy to get carried away here.

My favorite: the 1/4 bbq chicken, with sides of mac & cheese or potato salad and cucumber salad. Howie usually goes for a multitude of things including sausage, brisket, and whatever else he finds himself drooling over... his eyes are always bigger than his stomach. This place has something for everyone and the food is excellent; its definitely somewhere you should try when you have time in NYC.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Have no fear, the camera's here

So way back in July we had out photographer booking escapade. I was crumbling under the perceived pressure of my life and the need to book soon combined with the never-ending, in-depth group projects at school. After a few temper tantrums, Howie took the reigns.

With that said, after several weeks of searching and negotiating, we signed a contract with Tyler Boye Photography. I promptly 'liked' them on facebook and have been stalking their pictures as they post them since we booked. We are very excited about this decision and we are looking forward to planning our engagement session in the spring!
A word to the wise: Start early!! Unlike music, which was a piece of cake, sifting through photographer's websites and online portfolios is time consuming, especially because you are looking for that right style for your personality.

Another word to the wise: Speak with photographers on the phone. Most have extensive online portfolios that give you a great sense of the photographer's style; therefore, unless you are obsessive about seeing album styles in person, it's not a necessity to go meet with the photographers if you can speak with them on the phone.

Finally: Do not be afraid to negotiate this one. I'm not great at negotiating, but after putting the job in Howie's hands, we were able to get our dream studio at a more reasonable price. Keep in mind, the photographer can be pricey, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. You'll want to establish a budget range ahead of time and know how much flexing you are willing to do. Ours started at $2,000-$3,000 and we are ending up in the $3,500-$4,000 range to give you an idea.

With the photographer out of the way, it's on to the next big thing - the dress...


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hello again!

Hello my loyal friends and readers! I apologize for the delay in resuming my writing. Since we last were together, a lot has happened. I went into hiding around the time of my graduation from PA school. I then studied from dawn til dusk for 10 days for my board exam, wallowed through the 5 stages of grief as I felt as though I failed my board exam, interviewed for a job, got the job, pased my boards, and began my recovery from the roller coaster. As for September, I've been working on the never ending stack of paperwork for the new gig as well as trying to get my act together with regards to wedding planning. However, it is time I write; you can expect a complete return of regular posting!

What's coming next?
    Wedding planning updates
    New recipes
    New places to eat
    More on vitamins
    More on paleo and "real food" lifestyle
    Bucket list adventures

Since I'm back in action, feel free to comment here with post ideas or email me at letters.4.j@gmail.com

Friday, August 17, 2012

A step in the right direction, if you ask me

Saw this little article floating in my AAPA news-watch this morning. I bet all you ladies are hoping this gets taken to the next level:


Study in mice raises hopes for birth control pill for men

Related Topics

CHICAGO | Thu Aug 16, 2012 1:17pm EDT
(Reuters) - U.S. researchers have stumbled on a compound that may finally lead to a birth control pill for men.
In lab experiments, male mice given the pill were rendered completely infertile during treatment as they produced fewer and less mobile sperm. The drug, originally tested as part of a broader cancer research project, does not affect the hormone system or sex drive, the team said on Thursday.
"There is no effect on the mouse's mojo. The animals exhibit the normal sexual behaviors and frequency of copulation," said Dr. James Bradner of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, whose study appears in the journal Cell.
What's more, the effect is completely reversible. Once doctors stopped giving the drug to mice, they were able to sire healthy litters, with no apparent side effects, Bradner said.
Scientists say the research is exciting because it applies a unique approach to the problem of male contraception, which is now largely comprised of less reliable methods like condom use, or more permanent procedures like vasectomies.
Bradner's lab focuses on developing new drugs to undermine the molecular memory of cancer cells that tell them to divide. Those memory markers are distributed throughout the genome, the DNA that makes up a person's genetic code, and Bradner likens them to post-it notes that give cells instructions.
The team was experimenting with a compound developed in Bradner's lab called JQ1, which was originally synthesized at Dana-Farber to block BRD4, a cancer-causing gene.
They discovered that it appears to target a protein specific to the testes called BRDT that instructs sperm to mature. Bradner said the compound does not appear to do damage to sperm-making cells, but they forget how to create mature sperm while under the influence of the drug.
DRUG IMPEDES SPERM PRODUCTION
Bradner reached out to reproductive health expert Martin Matzuk of Baylor College of Medicine, another author of the report, and his team tested the compound in mice.
What they found is that the animals began producing fewer sperm, and the ones they did produce were poor swimmers.
"When the drug is removed, these instructions return," Bradner said.
The finding was surprising because few drugs are able to cross a protective firewall known as the blood-testes barrier that protects the testicles from substances floating around in the blood stream.
William Bremner from the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not involved in the research, said in a commentary the finding was "a breakthrough new approach," noting that there has not been a new reversible contraceptive for men since the development of the condom centuries ago.
"It's exciting basic science that provides a new approach to think about how a contraceptive for men might be designed," Bremner said in a telephone interview. "At the same time, it's a long ways from being in clinical trials in men, let alone being on pharmacy shelves."
Other teams have developed hormonal pills that are effective, but they disrupt hormone balance in men, and drug companies so far have not picked up on this approach, Bremner said.
Professor Moira O'Bryan, head of the Male Infertility and Germ Cell Biology Laboratory at Monash University in Australia, said the study was "an exciting report that could have major scientific and social impacts."
O'Bryan said the strong similarity between sperm production in mice and humans suggest that a variation of the drug may ultimately result in a human contraception for men.
Bradner said his team is working to refine the drug so that it only acts on cells in the testes, and not on cancer cells.
And while there are many more tests ahead before it can be a drug, the researchers believe the new approach can be "completely translated to men, providing a novel and efficacious strategy for a male contraceptive."
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Vicki Allen)


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Secret of Life: A Reflection

Here's another repost for your enjoyment taken from another blog I like to follow, A Country Doctor Writes. This is a big time of change for me, so I felt this piece appropriate for the times to remind us all to keep moving forward:


The Secret Of Life

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time”
                    James Taylor
One of my wife’s mentors has a 104-year-old aunt, who on her 100th birthday was asked to reveal the secret of her longevity.
“I always have something to look forward to” was her answer.
Wisdom, happiness and longevity aren’t confined to people in cathedrals or ivory towers. They can be found in seemingly ordinary people in the most ordinary places. James Taylor, in his song “Secret O’ Life”, goes on to say, “any fool can do it”. Similarly, the Bible tells us to be more child-like (Matthew 18:4).
That doesn’t mean you have to be childish or think like a fool to enjoy life. It does mean that finding happiness is not complicated, and we sometimes get so wrapped up in our own thinking that we fail to see the simplicity in some of the universal truths about life as well as the beauty of life itself.
Observing which of my patients live well and handle age, illness and adversity the best, I see the power of this every day.
Jungian therapist Robert A. Johnson describes in his book, “Transformation: Understanding the three levels of masculine consciousness”, how the male psyche evolves from simple man (exemplified by Don Quixote), who asks “What’s for dinner?” to complicated man (Hamlet), who asks “What does it all mean?” to enlightened man (Faust), who asks “What’s for dinner?”
Too many of us dwell on the past – what we lost, what we never had, what we should or shouldn’t have done. Too many of us spin our wheels over-analyzing the present. Too many of us fritter away our days and our lives imagining or pining for distant futures at the expense of the present moment.
There is nothing wrong with thinking about the past, but we must each find our own way of making peace with it. There is nothing wrong with trying to understand our present circumstances, but not all of it will make sense to us now. Sometimes it takes years or a lifetime to understand the things we go through in life. There is nothing wrong with having dreams and goals, but we must somehow find joy in the journey towards those goals without feeling that we are wasting our time in our present life, since for some of us, that is all we’ll ever have.
Wisdom, like happiness, can’t be bought or taught. It is only occasionally learned in formal education settings through rigorous study and practice. More often it is earned through hardship and experience. It is gained when we look deep inside ourselves and acknowledge what we see. In the words of C. G. Jung, One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious”.
In medicine, wisdom is partly gained by being wrong, or at least humbled by facing the limitations of our knowledge. But clinical wisdom must be paired with human wisdom as well as some of that simple joy of life James Taylor sang about, so that we can truly be of help to our patients. Nietzsche, in words that could have been written for practicing physicians, said:
“There is one thing one has to have: either a soul that is cheerful by nature, or a soul made cheerful by work, love, art, and knowledge.”
That is the hope I carry, that my love of medicine, of my wife, my family, and of the arts and the beauty around me will help me be joyful in my daily living. I hope that love will sustain me as the alarm continues to ring at 05:10 on bright summer mornings as well as dark, howling winter ones, this year and for many more years to come.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ice Cream vs. Frozen Yogurt

I apologize for the hiatus, however, my posts will be fewer for at least another week or two for a multitude of reasons. With that said, here is a little treat to tie you over:


Frozen Yogurt Vs. Ice Cream

The debate on frozen yogurt vs. ice cream is catching on like wildfire! So which is better? This article dwells on the difference between frozen yogurt and ice cream. Read on...
How many ice cream lovers have shifted their loyalties to frozen yogurt, simply because they got weight conscious? Most people believe that frozen yogurt is a healthier choice as compared to ice cream. Today, frozen yogurt is being considered to be something like ice cream and is served in several flavors, with different toppings, etc. According to the USDA, 62.4% of US production was regular ice cream in 2007, with low-fat and non-fat ice cream at 25% and frozen yogurt at 4.4%. However, what's the truth? Which is better?

Ice cream

Ice creams are frozen desserts prepared from dairy products, such as milk, cream, fruits, flavors and other ingredients. Most ice cream varieties are made from sugar, however, there are some made with other sweeteners. Sometimes, instead of natural ingredients, artificial flavorings and colorings are also used. People with lactose intolerance symptoms have ice creams made from soy milk and rice milk as well.

Ice cream comprises milk fat (10-16 %), milk solids (9-12 %), sweeteners (12-16%), stabilizers and emulsifiers (0.2-0.5%), water (55-65 %), which comes from milk or other ingredients. All the ingredients are mixed and stirred slowly while cooling, thereby preventing formation of large crystals and conducing to smoothly textured ice cream. Today, ice creams are available in all parts of the globe and are sold in large cartons in grocery stores and supermarkets.

Frozen Yogurt

Frozen yogurt is a frozen dessert prepared from yogurt, rather than cream. In the 1970s, this dessert was introduced as a healthier alternative to ice cream, however, its yogurt like consistency and tart taste lead to complaining customers. In response to these complaints, manufacturers spearheaded the production of a frozen yogurt recipe that would pacify the palettes of the consumers. In 1980s, frozen yogurt made a comeback and reached sales of $25 million in 1986. By the early 1990s, frozen yogurt had captured 10% of the dessert market. In frozen yogurt, the cream of the ice cream is replaced by the yogurt, however, the other ingredients are more or less the same.

Frozen yogurt comprises yogurt culture, milk fat (comprises about 0.5-6% of yogurt), milk solids (form 8-14% of yogurt's volume), gelatin, sweetener, coloring, corn syrup and flavoring. The milk fat accounts for the yogurt's richness and the milk solids provide proteins for smoothness, increased resistance to melting and lactose for sweetness. Frozen yogurt can be prepared in an ice cream machine, however, major companies often use assembly lines, specifically designed for yogurt production. 
Ice Cream Vs. Frozen Yogurt
Today, frozen yogurt is available in several flavors and styles, just like ice cream. Both ice cream and frozen yogurt are known to be nutritious with large amounts of high quality protein, calcium, riboflavin and some other essential vitamins and minerals. While ice creams contain 10-18% of fat content by weight, frozen yogurt usually has lesser amounts of fat content. Fat-free yogurt also exist, however, they often have even more added sugar, as compared to other varieties.

While considering the difference between frozen yogurt and ice cream, people often tend to halt at the fat and sugar content present in them. It's true that frozen yogurt contain less fat content than ice creams and that certain organic frozen yogurt are low-calorie and non-fat, however, one cannot just stop here and draw conclusions. The major health benefit of frozen yogurt goes beyond the horizons of fat and sugar content and stretches to its probiotic content.

Yogurt is actually fermented food, which is made by adding live bacterial cultures to milk. These bacteria spearhead fermentation in the milk and release lactic acid. The acid thickens the milk proteins and causes them to form a thick substance. Consumption of yogurt causes these live bacteria to enter the body and assist various beneficial bacteria in the body. These live bacterial cultures present in frozen yogurt promote better digestion. Probiotic content means good bacterial content, which helps boost the body's immune system, enhances digestion and is also believed to lower cholesterol levels.

Moreover, the amount of lactose present in frozen yogurt is more digestible, as compared to the lactose present in ice creams. This is because frozen yogurt contains enzymes which assist in breaking down dairy products, thereby enabling people with lactose intolerance to ingest frozen yogurt with minimal or no ill effects.

Frozen yogurt, with its additional benefits over ice cream, of greater digestibility, low-fat content and presence of probiotic cultures has caused it to be favored over regular ice creams. However, it is important to note that a great amount of sugar is added in frozen yogurt, which does not make it as healthy as regular yogurt. It is best to view frozen yogurt (health wise), midway between plain yogurt and ice cream. It is best to maintain a balanced consumption ratio. Each is known for its own benefits, so enjoy them proportionately. Hope this article was informative and helpful!
By 
Last Updated: 11/2/2011

*Taken from Buzzle.com, original article linked in the title

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thought this was interesting....

*Note I've copied and pasted this directly from the original article on the Huffington Post's blog:

I'm the Chick Running From New York to San Francisco

written by Kelcey Harrison
I don't know if I am in denial, am extremely naive, or if I truly am confident that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing right now, but for some reason the fact that I've started running 30 miles a day and won't stop until I reach San Francisco doesn't seem to stress or scare me. Maybe it's just that crazy people don't realize they're that crazy?
I'm just your average 24-year-old who grew up in San Francisco, went to Harvard University, and moved to New York soon after college. For the last two years I worked at the New York County District Attorney's Office. Although I had the best time working there, I realized that law school was not really the route I wanted to take, and I was feeling a pull to make a change coupled with a very strong desire to contribute more to Jill's Legacy, I began thinking about some new options.
This is where I break from the normal... The idea that I came up with was to run from New York to San Francisco to raise money and awareness for lung cancer. Lots of people asked, why? Couldn't I have done something a little less risky? But for me, it made perfect sense. I am using a skill that I have been blessed with -- running long-distance -- to make a difference and to draw people's attention to a topic that deserves greater discussion, awareness, and funding. I am doing something really big and out there, which was what Jill was all about.
Jill and I first met when we attended kindergarten together. We went to school together from kindergarten through high school and remained good friends through college. While we were in school, there was a group of about five of us that was inseparable. She was a friend who was always there for me and had been in my life for so long that I always expected her to be around for life's big moments.
When she was diagnosed with lung cancer at just 21 years old, it was a huge shock. I certainly did not know how to handle it, but she did. She lived with more grace, determination, strength, and joy than most people will ever demonstrate in their lifetimes. After her diagnosis she did a lot of advocacy work with the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation. In the last year of her life, Jill was named Pac-10 Women's Athlete of the Year, she graduated Cal Berkeley with a 4.0 and she led the Cal Women's crew team to a national championship. A few weeks after, Jill passed away. After her passing a group of young people with connections to Jill and/or the foundation formed Jill's Legacy, an advisory board to the foundation. Our goal is to mobilize young people to use their voices and power to raise awareness for lung cancer and to really start a movement to demand a change.
Our goal is to debunk the stigma that faces lung cancer patients. The common belief that lung cancer is a smoker's disease or one that only affects older people is wrong. The first question people always ask in response to a diagnosis is, "Oh, you were a smoker?" The underlying message that comes across with this question is the idea that lung cancer patients somehow brought the disease upon themselves and so it is the last disease to get funding for research. This has to change. Nobody deserves to get cancer for any reason and, of equal importance no one deserves to get a disease for which there simply is not enough support. The survival rate for lung cancer has not changed in 40 years and that fact simply boggles my mind. With the technology we have today, there should be better options for early detection and treatment so that fewer lives will be lost. Why aren't people talking about this! For those of us who knew Jill, it drives us nuts.
So, my journey has begun and I already have so much to share! Follow my Twitter account, as I will be Tweeting the wild adventures and characters I encounter along the way.
I can't articulate how thankful I am for all of the support I have already received. I am already overwhelmed by the responses. We have raised over $100,000 since announcing the Great Lung Run just one month ago. I would be so appreciative of any support that readers can offer, whether that be in the form of a wave, a tweet or a penny. To support, visit www.thegreatlungrun.com, follow me on Twitter, or email me at Kelceyharrison@thegreatlungrun.com.