Wednesday, December 31, 2008

First for the year is a shout-out

I couldn't have asked for a better start to my blog year than to have my blog referenced to by another blogger, and an influential one at that.

Ms. Janette Toral wrote her 2008 wrap-up and had included the blogs of fellow Plurkers who have provided her with links to their year-end thoughts. I had two entries (i-swipemo and i-sabuhaymo) but she chose my personal journal.

I have provided the link through this entries title. Or you may reach the same at:

A good year in the making indeed.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Farewell 2008

I couldn't be happier to end this year given the series of personal and professional challenges I faced. In order to usher in the new year, I would like to enumerate my resolution bullet-points for 2009:

1. Blog more. I intend to populate all my blogs meaningfully.

2. Work effectively. No longer will I just do a job for compliance but seek specific tasks that translate in quantifiable results.

3. Eat better. No more diet soda. Less processed flour and sugar products (goodbye brownies and cinammon rolls, I barely knew you). Less fast food. More fruits.

4. Engage more. I will exert more of an effort to get out and meet people, especially interesting people with unique perspectives.

5. Deeper self evaluation. I promise to no longer be stumped when asked for my strengths & weaknesses, my most defining professional/personal decisions and core beliefs.

I know I will discover more points moving forward but this is a good start.

Happy New Year all!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Straight talk on Politicians (and saying it because it is a bad thing)

So that more people will read about this. I hope the message gets to them that this behavior, whether in Lanao, Cainta or anywhere else in the Philippines, is no longer acceptable.

Again -

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Year in Review

This would be a good way to wrap up one's year then think about the coming one. Got this from a High School & Facebook friend.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

7. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

9. What was your biggest failure?

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

11. What was the best thing you bought?

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

14. Where did most of your money go?

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

17. Compared to this time last year, you are:

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?

22. What was your favorite TV program?

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

24. What was the best book you read?

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

26. What did you want and get?

27. What did you want and not get?

28. What was your favorite film that you saw this year?

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

32. What kept you sane?

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

35. Who did you miss?

36. Who was the best new person you met?

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Because inquiring minds want to know

I could survive for 1 minute, 25 seconds chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor

Created by Bunk

Friday, December 19, 2008

Straight Talk on best diet for diabetics

Again an article on diet and the importance of lentils.

I am tracking these studies because of a genetic predisposition for Type 2 diabetes. This has been blamed on a change in eating habits in developing countries with an growing affinity for quick service food and sweets/confectionery and the overall increase in caloric intake.

Now if we can only find a diet to mitigate the effects of a lentils on high levels of uric acid, yet another recessive trait to watch out for.

Recommended Diet for Diabetics May Need Changing, Study Suggests

People with Type 2 diabetes on a high-fiber diet kept their blood sugar under better control when they ate foods like beans and nuts instead of the recommended whole-grain diet, researchers have found. (Emphasis mine)

Beans and nuts are among foods that only modestly increase blood glucose levels; scientists describe these foods as having a low glycemic index. The new study, which lasted six months, is one of the largest and longest to assess the impact of foods with a low-glycemic index, researchers said.

Participants on the low-glycemic diet also saw significant improvements in cholesterol after six months, with increases in HDL, the so-called “good” cholesterol associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, the study found.

“That’s an important issue today, because there’s a double whammy for people who are diabetic," said Dr. David J. A. Jenkins, lead author of the report and a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto. "If they’re men, they have twice the risk of heart disease, and if they’re women, they have four times the risk. If you can hit the heart disease to which they’re particularly vulnerable, you may have something useful."

“Pharmaceuticals used to control Type 2 diabetes have not shown the expected benefits in terms of reducing cardiovascular disease,” he added.

The study was published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Some 210 patients with Type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to a low-glycemic diet or a high-cereal, high-fiber diet.

The high-cereal high fiber diet emphasized “brown foods” such as whole-grain bread and breakfast cereal, brown rice and potatoes with the skin on. The low-glycemic diet included beans, peas, lentils, pasta, quickly boiled rice and certain breads, like pumpernickel and rye, as well as oatmeal and oat bran cereals.

Both diets are low in saturated fat and trans fat. Both groups were told to limit their consumption of white flour and to eat five servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit each day.

Participants on the low-glycemic diet saw their hemoglobin A1C levels — a measure of blood glucose levels over recent months — reduced slightly, by 0.5 percent on average, but experienced significant improvements in HDL, which increased by 1.7 milligrams per deciliter of blood on average. Those on the high-cereal diet saw smaller reductions in hemoglobin A1C and slight drops in HDL.

Dietitians who work with people who have Type 2 diabetes said earlier studies had not demonstrated the benefits of low-glycemic index foods as clearly as this report.

“We’ve been telling people to eat whole grains for a long time," said Emmy Suhl, a nutrition and diabetes educator at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. "What this study shows is that it’s not enough to have whole grains. It’s these very specific low-glycemic carbohydrates that do a much better job."

But, she said, following such a diet is complicated, since the glycemic index of a food can change depending on how it is prepared and served.

“People tell us again and again that diet is the hardest part of diabetes management,” she added.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Shocking story on pet cruelty

I simply have no words for this...

Pet lovers protest cats on the menu in China
By WILLIAM FOREMAN, Associated Press Writer William Foreman, Associated Press Writer

GUANGZHOU, China – While animal lovers in Beijing protested the killing of cats for food on Thursday, a butcher in Guangdong province — where felines are the main ingredient in a famous soup — just shrugged her shoulders and wielded her cleaver. "Cats have a strong flavor. Dogs taste much better, but if you really want cat meat, I can have it delivered by tomorrow," said the butcher, who gave only her surname, Huang.

It was just this attitude that outraged about 40 cat lovers who unfurled banners in a tearful protest outside the Guangdong government office in Beijing. Many were retirees who care for stray felines they said were being rounded up by dealers.

"We must make them correct this uncivilized behavior," said Wang Hongyao, who represented the group in submitting a letter urging the provincial government to crack down on traders and restaurants, although they were breaking no laws.

The protest was the latest clash between age-old traditions and the new sensibilities made possible by China's growing affluence. Pet ownership was once rare because the Communist Party condemned it as bourgeois and most people simply couldn't afford a cat or dog.

The protesters' indignation was whipped up by recent reports in Chinese newspapers about the cat meat industry. On Monday, the Southern Metropolis Daily — a Guangdong paper famous for its exposes and aggressive reporting — ran a story that said about 1,000 cats were transported by train to Guangdong each day.

The animals came from Nanjing, a major trading hub for cats, the newspaper said. They were brought to market by dealers on motorcycles, crammed into wooden crates and sent to Guangdong on trains. A photo showed a cat with green eyes peering from a crowded crate.

Some people in Nanjing spend their days "fishing for cats," often stealing pets, the report said.

One cat owner in Guanghzou said people are afraid to let their pets leave the house for fear they will get nabbed.

"It's never been this bad. Who knows, it might be because of the bad economy. I've heard that there are cat-nabbing syndicates from Hunan that are rounding up cats," said the man, who would only give his surname, Lai, because he feared the cat business might be run by gangsters.

Animal protection groups have occasionally ambushed truck convoys loaded with bamboo cages filled with cats bound for Guangdong. In one recent case, hundreds of cats escaped after their cages were opened, though hundreds more remained penned in the vehicle.

Lai Xiaoyu, who was involved in the attempted "rescue," said authorities couldn't stop the cat shipment because the traders said the animals were to be raised as pets.

"The police did what they could, but there's little they can do to stop or punish those traders from shipping live animals," Lai said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, issued a statement Thursday decrying the cruel treatment.

"China has no animal protection laws, and throughout the country scores of cats and dogs are bred or rounded up, crammed onto trucks and driven for days under hellish conditions to animal markets, where they are beaten to death, strangled or boiled alive," said a spokesman for the group, Michael V. McGraw.

Guangdong is home to the Cantonese people, famous for being the most adventurous eaters in China. There's a popular saying: "The Cantonese will eat anything that flies, except airplanes, and anything with legs, except a chair."

Zhu Huilian, a nutrition and food safety professor at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangdong's capital, Guangzhou, said people usually eat cat in restaurants, not at home.

"There's a famous soup called 'Dragon, Tiger and Phoenix,'" Zhu said. "It involves cooking snake, cat and chicken together. In winter more people eat cats as they believe it's extra nutritious."

The wide-ranging Cantonese culinary tastes are on display daily in Guangzhou, also known as Canton, in the Qing Ping Market. Shopkeepers sit behind cages full of writhing snakes, tubs with turtles and plastic basins with mounds of scorpions crawling over each other.

That's where the butcher, Huang, sells her meat, sliced on a blood-soaked cutting board in a stall filled with cages of chickens and rabbits.

Hanging on a hook from its head — with its snout cut cleanly off — was a skinned dog with a long curly tail, paws with small clumps of fur still on them and black claws. The dog's jaw bone was displayed in a metal tray beneath the carcass.

"The cat meat we sell comes from legitimate sources," said Huang, who gave only her surname because her boss doesn't allow her to speak to reporters. "It's from cat farms. The animals are raised the same way cows are."

She said cat meat sold for about $1.32 a pound, while dog meat was cheaper, at about 95 cents a pound. Chicken was the best buy at 62 cents a pound, while lamb sold for about $1.32.

Huang said customers had to order cat meat a day in advance because it doesn't sell as well as dog.

"Cat tastes a bit like lamb. I don't like it much," she said. "Young cats are tender, but the meat on the older ones is really tough. Usually old people like eating it."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Straight Talk on handling less then ideal offers

Excellent, albeit American-centric, take on the challenges facing many of us in this busted economy. This resonates with me as I am trying to make sense of opportunities and some are definitely well within "low-balling" range.

If you ever find yourself saying, "it's not all about the money, really", while fighting the urge to raise an eyebrow when presented with the offer sheet, then this article would be appropriate for you.

How to Handle the Job Offer You Can't Afford

Earlier this year, Mark Cummuta walked away from a chance to become the No. 2 executive of a Chicago technology consultancy -- for less than $100,000. As the sole breadwinner and father of triplets, Mr. Cummuta couldn't afford a nearly 20% cut in pay, compared with what he was earning as an independent management consultant.

He's still looking for a permanent position. "Every now and then, I hit myself and say, 'I should have taken that offer,'" concedes the consultant, who has helped several firms navigate difficult times since 2003.

Unfortunately, Mr. Cummuta is hardly unique. More battered businesses are giving new hires less money than they made in their last job. "I am seeing that a lot more," says April M. Williams, a career coach in Algonquin, Ill. Puny amounts flabbergast some of her clients.

"As the downturn deepens, an increasing number of job seekers will find themselves getting lower-paying offers," says Mark Royal, a senior consultant at Hay Group. "We are on the cusp of a trend."

But excess eagerness to toil for fewer bucks sends the wrong signal. Such applicants often "are really desperate," says Niki Leondakis, chief operating officer at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, a boutique chain in San Francisco.

Rather than immediately reject or accept a lowball deal, you should mount a careful counterattack, experts recommend. You could improve your chances of winning a satisfactory compromise, with tradeoffs ranging from a faster pay review to extra perquisites.

Arm yourself with data about the going rate for your position by trolling Web sites such as,, and You'll see whether a concern "has poor information about the external market" and rewards staffers below prevailing levels, says Robin Pinkley, a professor at Southern Methodist University's business school and author of books about pay negotiations.

Just Say No?

Reasons why you might want to reject a lower-paying job:

* You couldn't afford your rent
* You old pay far exceeds prevailing rate for the new position
* Your repeated efforts to negotiate alternative rewards fail
* Boss-to-be won't let you make more money than him
* The offer reflects a workplace that's a poor fit for you
* A better offer looms elsewhere

Source: WSJ reporting

As part of your homework, you must grasp a potential employer's problems so you can promote yourself as a problem solver worth more than the proposed skimpy pay. "To negotiate in tough times, you have to be able to create a vision," says Jim Camp, an author and president of Camp Group, a negotiation-consulting firm in Dublin, Ohio.

A big New York law firm recently agreed to hire an Ohio lawyer for $140 an hour, $40 an hour less than he was earning. The firm blamed tough times. But the attorney knew he could provide important client referrals, recalls Mr. Camp, who coached him. "What number would I be paid if I brought a million-dollar client?" the candidate asked firm officials.

"If you're a rainmaker, the numbers change," they replied, according to Mr. Camp. After further interviews, the firm raised his starting pay to $240 an hour. He began last summer.

A West Coast executive took this tactic a step further. Keen to enter senior management several years ago, she hoped to accept a vice presidency at a midsize manufacturer -- and keep making over $300,000 a year. But the concern offered less than $200,000, the same cash compensation it gave other VPs.

The woman prepared a Power Point presentation for the chief executive, highlighting accomplishments he didn't know about and describing ways she might bolster customer satisfaction. She says she also sold him on a quarterly bonus plan for herself, linked to measurable milestones needed for the manufacturer's long-term growth.

The CEO enlarged her package by nearly $25,000. And she racked up bonuses fast enough that she was paid nearly $300,000 within a year. "It was a win-win for the company," she notes.

Some job hunters weighing lower offers bargain for alternative rewards, such as flexible hours, extra vacation, special training or a gym membership. Not everyone can long survive on a shrunken paycheck, however.

PeaceKeeper Cause-Metrics, a small cosmetics distributor, offered Stephanie S. Hayano a $50,000 salary to be its chief operating officer starting last January. She previously earned $300,000 a year running Natural Health Trends Corp. The puny pay wouldn't have even covered mortgages for her three residences. "Unless I was prepared to totally change my lifestyle, $50,000 was not in the cards," Ms. Hayano says.

She assumed the COO title at the New York firm, but gets compensated as a part-time consultant and retains other consulting gigs.

It's a good idea to assess the long-term career impact of toiling for less. Younger individuals, for instance, might get a valuable opportunity to build their résumés.

That proved true for Sanjay Gupta. In 1994, the 26-year-old senior marketing analyst accepted 10% lower pay when he transferred to a database marketing job at his employer, FedEx Corp. He and his wife were forced to dine out less often. However, Mr. Gupta says that he gained experience "with every facet of marketing," a critical skill for becoming a chief marketing officer of a big business some day. He achieved that title last March, when GMAC Financial Services named him CMO.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On The Day Stood Still movie

The movie is a remake of a 1951 cult favorite and varied little from the basic premise: a galaxy-wide confederation of societies have decided that humanity must die to save the earth. Even the android resembles the original rendition except that the latest one is several stories high. Having established all that, I now want to discuss my issues with the movie.

The movie is so formulaic – the conflict is quickly resolved when the doe-eyed and pretty (and impossibly learned) heroine begs the aliens at the last minute to save the earth and he, no big surprise here, relents - moved as he is by her compassion and selflessness. There is no room for the normal cycle of denial-anger-remorse-acceptance – the heroine buys into the situation and the alien story from the get-go. It helps of course that the alien took on the form of Keanu Reeves. Imagine then if he looked like an Aeta – they would’ve eviscerated him as soon as he emerged from the sloughed-off skin suit.

The plot is also incredulously thin. Within the span of twenty-four hours, humanity goes from condemned to redeemed, albeit in a Luddite-ian state. Pretty please has changed the mind of the ambassador of alien societies, all of whom have been convinced by seventy years of observation using “plains-clothes” agents, that we are irreversibly damaged and therefore, ripe for annihilation. If only real-world negotiations and diplomacy were as straight-forward as in the movie – Afghanistan would be at peace before the hukka burns out and the Korean Peninsula would be united, disarmed and transformed into the third largest movie-producing society after the U.S. and India in a fortnight. Really now?

And what about the parallel story of the mother and step-son? Is the post-election fever supposed to drive ticket sales up at the prospect of mainstreaming cross-racial relations? Will Smith's boy acts and projects well but this storyline is an unwelcome distraction.

Gort, for me, is the sole mitigating item of the movie. A 60-storey robot that dissolves into metallic nano-insects - how truly cool is that?! And that moving eye - what Kitt would have switched into if he was a Transformer - but in mercury-silver. Awesome!

Straight talk on stupidity hiding behind calls for tolerance

I just had to react to this Yahoo! front-pager. The parents of this four year old asked their local bakeshop to decorate the boy's birthday cake with his name which happens to be Adolph Hitler. Their other children are as colorfully named: one carries Aryan Nation as a middle name. I mean, really?

The father is reportedly puzzled by the storm of controversy this has generated and is pleading for tolerance. Tolerance is never an excuse to make light of one of the most horrific examples of modern humanity's depravity and brutality. The then duly-elected government, abetted by the "tolerance" and acceptance of the general populace, systematically brutalized then murdered whole societies, families, generations of not just Jews but Roma, gays, minorities and even Germans not deemed perfect enough for the Aryan race. This was a monumental crime against humanity which even today is marred by the senseless recidivism by various national front/white supremacist groups and some Middle Eastern states.

Genocide and its perpetrators - and not just limited to the Holocaust but must include the forgotten mass murders of Armenians, the Baltic people, Kurds, Manchukuo Chinese, colonial Koreans, Tutsis, southern Sudanese, Cambodians, and Tibetans - should never to be trivialized and passed off as just a name.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What I have to be thankful for in 2008

I have many things to be thankful for towards the close of 2008. First would be the fact that I am close to putting this bad year behind me. Then the fact that no one in my immediate family needed hospital confinement during the year. And lastly, that I am getting a better feel for blogging.

My Chinese horoscope did warn me of several challenges within the year: from legal troubles, to financial difficulties, to career/work issues. And, the year did not disappoint unfortunately. I found out that I have pending tax payables from a failed business from two years ago (unresolved to date). I may have maxed out my credit cards after misjudging my cash-on-hand after making several ill-advised purchases in the third quarter. And my relationship with my manager has deteriorated of late. While the new year does not promise a quick nor clear resolution for any and all, I am thankful for the long Christmas-New Year holiday that will allow me to breathe, regroup and plan for the coming months. It does help that my Chinese horoscope tells of a better year for Earth Monkeys.

Despite the frequent close calls (many of which are self-inflicted), my father was not confined to the hospital for any of his numerous ailments. His blood sugar, creatinine, triglycerides and blood pressure have been stable for the longest time - thanks to good doctors and serious policing at home. And my mom's hypertension is likewise well managed.

I have taken to writing more this year just so I can make sense of the passing year. Somehow committing my thoughts into paper and bytes have allowed me to digest, process and order my reactions and responses to the daily challenges. By committing to blogging, I have even managed to order my postings/sites along business, personal, sports and "collectibles" lines.

So why Moleskines? I have seen and handled one in Bestsellers in Galleria and the mere feel of it inspires me to write. And the crispiness of the paper reminds me of freshly laundered sheets, something to ensure that my thoughts are put to bed everyday.

Straight talk on web security

Despite the years I have spent online, I am still a rank amateur as far as personal security is concerned. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to list a few key points to ensure one's online safety and privacy.

First, de-list birthdays from public profiles like on Friendster, Facebook , and the like. Remember, credit card companies and other financial institutions use birthdays for the validation of identity. In addition, we frequently use our birthdays or a combination of the digits as our PIN numbers.

Secondly, manage the privacy settings for personal information. Details like phone & mobile numbers and physical/mailing addresses should never be listed or, if socially relevant, limited only to close friends and family or others for whom the information would be relevant to. Same goes for the names of the individual members of one's immediate family and even pets.

Always review the privacy settings of the social networking sites you use; if in doubt, block all access to personal information. It would be important to note that the combination of the contact information with the tags on family pictures will provide outsiders not only with unnecessarily intimate information on your family and home but also the means to use the same.

As mentioned in the immediately preceding paragraph, manage access to pictures. No sense allowing the worldwide web know how your house, your family members, and/or your possessions look like, at least, without your expressed permission.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

On joining the Nuffnang community

I just signed up on Nuffnang, a large Austra-Asian blog community, that will allow for better coverage of my postings. I came across the site through a Facebook friend, Janette Toral, through her blog. What intrigued me was the possibility of generating more hits to one's lowly blog through an ad aggregator (and yes, the possibility of money won't hurt either, eh?).

In addition, Nuffnang is running a promo for blogger members to get cash and a chance at winning a netbook just by joining. So here goes:

"I want to win the Dell™ Inspiron™ Mini 9 so I can blog anywhere, anytime surreptitiously even during my coffee & lunch breaks and meetings because I can fit this netbook inside a large folder or on my lap. Another advantage of its small size is that I can use the "free" bandwidth of coffee shops and restaurants without having to pay or buy anything without attracting the proprietor's notice."

Now just to find three blogger friends on Nuffnang...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Straight Talk on Reducing Belly Fat and Improving Body Readings

Because I am now totally focused on running as my exercise, I have to supplement training with a more restrictive diet. The article below would be the first of several I would be referring to moving forward.

I have been a firm believer in a diet with nuts, which in my case, would not be too difficult to have. The only "roadblock", so to speak, is the relative cost of walnuts, almonds and most especially hazelnuts in the country: a small pack of almonds (around 200-250 gms) is around P80 at SM, around the same price as a full meal deal at a fastfood restaurant.


Scientists find nutty risk reducer: Eat more nuts
By CARLA K. JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO – Here's a health tip in a nutshell: Eating a handful of nuts a day for a year — along with a Mediterranean diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fish — may help undo a collection of risk factors for heart disease.

Spanish researchers found that adding nuts worked better than boosting the olive oil in a typical Mediterranean diet. Both regimens cut the heart risks known as metabolic syndrome in more people than a low-fat diet did.

"What's most surprising is they found substantial metabolic benefits in the absence of calorie reduction or weight loss," said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

In the study, appearing Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the people who improved most were told to eat about three whole walnuts, seven or eight whole hazelnuts and seven or eight whole almonds. They didn't lose weight, on average, but more of them succeeded in reducing belly fat and improving their cholesterol and blood pressure.

Manson, who wasn't involved in the study, cautioned that adding nuts to a Western diet — one packed with too many calories and junk food — could lead to weight gain and more health risks. "But using nuts to replace a snack of chips or crackers is a very favorable change to make in your diet," Manson said.

The American Heart Association says 50 million Americans have metabolic syndrome, a combination of health risks, such as high blood pressure and abdominal obesity. Finding a way to reverse it with a diet people find easy and satisfying would mean huge health improvements for many Americans, Manson said.

Nuts help people feel full while also increasing the body's ability to burn fat, said lead author Dr. Jordi Salas-Salvado of the University of Rovira i Virgili in Reus, Spain.

"Nuts could have an effect on metabolic syndrome by multiple mechanisms," Salas-Salvado said in an e-mail. Nuts are rich in anti-inflammatory substances, such as fiber, and antioxidants, such as vitamin E. They are high in unsaturated fat, a healthier fat known to lower blood triglycerides and increase good cholesterol.

More than 1,200 Spaniards, ranging in age from 55 to 80, were randomly assigned to follow one of three diets. They were followed for a year. The participants had no prior history of heart disease, but some had risk factors including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and abdominal obesity.

At the start, 751 people had metabolic syndrome, about 61 percent, distributed evenly among the three groups.

Metabolic syndrome was defined as having three or more of the following conditions: abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low levels of good cholesterol (HDL), high blood sugar and high blood pressure.

The low-fat group was given basic advice about reducing all fat in their diets. Another group ate a Mediterranean diet with extra nuts. The third group ate a Mediterranean diet and was told to make sure they ate more than four tablespoons of olive oil a day.

Dietitians advised the two groups on the Mediterranean diet to use olive oil for cooking; increase fruit, vegetable and fish consumption; eat white meat instead of beef or processed meat; and prepare homemade tomato sauce with garlic, onions and herbs. Drinkers were told to stick with red wine.

After one year, all three groups had fewer people with metabolic syndrome, but the group eating nuts led the improvement, now with 52 percent having those heart risk factors. In the olive oil group, 57 percent had the syndrome. In the low-fat group, there was very little difference after a year in the percentage of people with the syndrome.

The nut-rich diet didn't do much to improve high blood sugar, but the large number of people with Type 2 diabetes — about 46 percent of participants — could be the reason, Salas-Salvado said. It's difficult to get diabetics' blood sugar down with lifestyle changes alone, he said.

To verify that study volunteers ate their nuts, researchers gave some of them a blood test for alpha-linolenic acid found in walnuts.

The study was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Health and the government of Valencia, Spain.

Salas-Salvado and another co-author disclosed in the publication that they are unpaid advisers to nut industry groups. Salas-Salvado said all of their research "has been conducted under standard ethical and scientific rules" and that peer-review journal editors determined the study results were not influenced by food industry ties.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

New web-based business

A friend of mine introduced me to a new web-based business in the country. Photovendo takes photos of participants of major events like races which they then sell online. This is the "web-ification" of the unsolicited photo service we are always offered during weddings in Manila (which I swear must have hundreds of shots of me over the years).

The web interface is very simple: one just chooses the event that one participated in. The site asks for certain identifiers like a race number then the serves up thumbnail/-s of the picture/-s, with the requisite watermark, of course. The site then asks for a choice of payment: Paypal for VISA, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover cards or BDO for local deposits. A fax of the deposit slip completes the settlement cycle. The service then delivers as many 4x6 copies of the ordered pictures to the listed address on Monday-Wednesday-Friday but only within selected Metro Manila areas including Pasig, Manila, Makati, Quezon City, Taguig, Mandaluyong, San Juan and on Sundays at a pick-up station at selected races.

On its face, the business is genius, the type that one wishes he thought of first. Then again, the settlement cycle bothers me in that it breaks from what should have been a seamless set-up where ordering was blended with the local non-credit payment option.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Straight Talk on Avoiding Colds

This article is of interest to me because I am recovering from the colds.

5 Ways to Protect Yours Kids from the Flu

The season is changing and we have finally arrived at that bittersweet time of Daylight Savings. I always feel like this simple one-hour time change throws me into a pretty significant physiological shift. For me, it also marks the beginning of the flu and cold season.

Ever wonder why the winter months are when we get sick the most? While many experts have their myriad reasons, the culprit is not as simple as "it's cold outside."

There are few steps that you can take to protect yourself and your family from what seems to be the inevitable flu. The guardian of the health of our body is the immune system. While intangible and challenging to identify, the immune system has very specific signs and symptoms.

For a moment, put aside the traditional considerations for assessing your child’s health. Instead, I’d like you to consider some new approaches and angles that will provide you with insight into the likelihood that your child will stay healthy or get sick this winter season.

1. Sugar and processed foods impact the immune system.

Studies have shown that through a complex system of chemical processes sugar and processed foods depress the immune system. There exists a direct link between the amount of these foods that your child consumes and his/her health.

Obvious foods such as sodas, candy, cookies, ice cream, and potato chips are the big guns that should be kept concealed.

Even more disturbing are the foods that you think are healthy for your child that hide sugar and many refined ingredients: yogurt, and yogurt drinks and “pops;”most cereals; juices; fruit roll ups and “leathers;” “healthy” cookies and treats, soy ice cream and frozen treats. While being marketed as healthy choices, these foods aren’t much better than the obvious poor choices. Work hard during flu season to keep these foods away from your children. Read ingredient labels and watch out for: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup or “HFCS,” brown rice syrup, fructose, sucrose, barleymalt and the obvious, sugar.

2. Fresh foods offer the highest quality vitamins.

It’s shocking to me how often I see people turn to orange juice for vitamin C in an effort to fight off a cold or flu.

It is important to understand that the majority of vitamin C in orange juice is added after processing. Vitamin C and others like zinc, vitamin E, and magnesium help to support the immune system and are a great defense during flu season.

Choose better by having kids eat fresh whole foods such as cherries, berries, and apples, and vegetables such as spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots and sweet potatoes.

I know you probably hear this suggestion all the time, but it can’t be stressed enough. It is imperative to find creative ways to prepare vegetables so that kids will actually eat them. Sautee, roast or grill vegetables with olive oil or real butter, add some fresh sea salt or sprinkle with organic low fat cheese and kids will be more likely to eat.

3. Sleep will boost the immune system.

At night while we rest, the body is working to rebuild the immune system. Deep sleep allows a complex set of hormonal changes that recharge the body so that it’s resilient the next day. Be diligent and ensure that kids get a full night sleep of 8-10 hours.

Mandate bedtime despite protests and stick to a regular schedule. These are the times that mom and dad really need to be the boss. Resist the temptation to allow your child to stay up late and watch his or her favorite show. At the end of the day when you are tired as well, it’s easy to give in to your child’s vigilant campaign.

Remember: Would you rather avoid the confrontation tonight? Or deal with a sick kid tomorrow?

4. Fatigue is the first sign of a distressed immune system.

As already stated, the immune system desperately needs sleep to keep the body healthy. When the immune system is fighting to keep your child healthy, it requests that the body get extra rest to help in the fight.

If your child seems more fatigued than usual, it could be a very strong signal that your child is on the brink of getting sick.

The best way to fight off a cold or flu is to act immediately and get extra rest. Pay attention to the health of others around you such as those at work or your child’s school. If you hear of a bug “going around” and you notice that your child is tired, there’s a good chance that extra sleep will ward off the cold or flu. This is the time to allow extra television and require a mid-day nap.

5. Wash hands frequently, but avoid antibacterial products.

This seems counterintuitive, but the best way to kill environmental germs is to use soap and hot water and scrub hands thoroughly. Bacteria live all around us. They are on every surface we touch and in every breath we take. Without bacteria, our immune system wouldn’t learn to be strong.

Our internal bacterial system fights off invaders and thereby gets more effective at winning the battle. It’s just like working out: In order to become stronger, you must work hard in the gym. Your child’s body is a bacterial gym. Again, this comes back to the immune system. If you foster a strong immune system, your child’s body will fight off invaders and therefore become more resilient to future battles. While it is imperative to wash hands frequently during flu season, remember that the hands are only one very small way that germs enter your child’s system. Killing off the germs on hands with antibacterial products is futile and weakens your child’s- and the world’s- future ability to confront germs.

- Holly Perkins,

Straight Talk on Responsibilities

As I have been wont to do in a brother blog (, I frequently take relevant material from the New York Times and post it with my commentary as cover. And the matter discussed below is no different.

It has taken me several years to put off the resentment for the increasing "dependency" (if I may call it that) of my parents. I thought at first it was because I was just selfish, refusing to carry my own load of work around the house, but lately, I have have begun to realize that I resent the responsibility because it was an acceptance that my parents not as young as I want them to remain to be. We have long passed the point where they were the primary care-givers - I should have been more perceptive, especially after my dad's mild stroke, his insulin dependency, and his then frequent visits to the hospital for mild pneumonia. My mom isn't as sprightly as I have always imagined her to be: frequent drives now tire her easily and she is now more prone to colds and cough. Funny, we have always fought for the right to be treated as an adult by our parents but when the tables are turned, it becomes just as big a struggle to assume the mantle.

Now I understand why a friend in Culver was reading up on caring for geriatric parents even when he was still in high school. I hope to learn as much in time to meet my parents' needs.

More Men Take the Lead Role in Caring for Elderly Parents

When Peter Nicholson’s mother suffered a series of strokes last winter, he did something women have done for generations: he quit his job and moved into her West Hollywood home to care for her full time.

Since then, he has lost 45 pounds and developed anemia, in part because of the stress, and he is running out of money. But the hardest adjustment, Mr. Nicholson said, has been the emotional toll.

“The single toughest moment was when she said to me, ‘And now who are you?’ ” he said. “My whole world just dropped. That was the pinnacle of despair.”

Mr. Nicholson, 53, is part of a growing number of men who are providing primary care for their aging parents, usually their mothers.

The Alzheimer’s Association and the National Alliance for Caregiving estimate that men make up nearly 40 percent of family care providers now, up from 19 percent in a 1996 study by the Alzheimer’s Association. About 17 million men are caring for an adult.

“It used to be that when men said, ‘I’ll always take care of my mother,’ it meant, ‘My wife will always take care of my mother,’ ” said Carol Levine, director of the families and health care project at the United Hospital Fund. “But now, more and more men are doing it.”

Often they are overshadowed by their female counterparts and faced with employers, friends, support organizations and sometimes even parents who view caregiving as an essentially female role. Male caregivers are more likely to say they feel unprepared for the role and become socially isolated, and less likely to ask for help.

Women still provide the bulk of family care, especially intimate tasks like bathing and dressing. At support groups, which are predominantly made up of women, many women complain that their brothers are treated like heroes just for showing up.

But with smaller families and more women working full-time, many men have no choice but to take on roles that would have been alien to their fathers. Just as fatherhood became more hands-on in the baby boom generation, so has the role for many sons as their generation’s parents age.

Mr. Nicholson said his family had not discussed who would take care of his mother, Bernice, if she became frail. But as the unmarried child among his two siblings, and the one who was most readily available, he had spent increasing time with her as she aged.

Still, he was not prepared for the isolation of full-time care. “There’s absolutely no involvement in the outside world,” Mr. Nicholson said. “When I finally get out to a Dodgers game, walking to the car, I say, Oh, this is what life is about. I forgot about this. I can’t be doing myself any good by not getting out of here.”

Isolation affects women as well, but men tend to have fewer lifelines, said Donna Benton, an assistant research professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California and director of the Los Angeles Caregiver Resource Network. Men are less likely to have friends going through similar experiences, and depend more on their jobs for daily human contact.

“That’s the harder part for men, to find someone to talk to,” Dr. Benton said. “It’s the emotional side: the guilt, the sadness, the anger. For men it becomes more stressful because they can’t talk about it. They feel cut off.”

And then there is the inevitable question: What happens when I have to bathe her?

“That’s where the rubber meets the road,” said Donna Wagner, the director of gerontology at Towson University and one of the few researchers who has studied sons as caregivers.

For Mr. Nicholson, the whole experience has been a journey into the surreal, but especially at bath time.

Though he is not squeamish about it, he said: “The weirdness permeates our relationship. She doesn’t know if I’m her husband or her boyfriend or her neighbor. She knows she trusts me. But there are times when it’s very difficult. I need to keep her from embarrassing herself. She’ll say things like, ‘I adore you.’ I don’t know who she’s loving, because she doesn’t know who I am. Maybe I’m embarrassed about it — it’s my mom, for Christ sakes. But it’s weird how the oldest son becomes the spouse.”

Matt Kassin, 51, said he had no role model for male caregiver in his family. His father had been distant; he, in turn, had been the rebellious son.

“I was the son who went through divorce, who needed to separate from my mom when I was teenager,” Mr. Kassin said. “I’m the son that wanted distance. Now I’m the son who hears every morning, ‘It’s so nice to hear your voice.’ ”

On a recent evening, Mr. Kassin visited his mother, Doris Golden, in her Manhattan apartment. Ms. Golden, 82, is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and still lives independently, but relies on Mr. Kassin to arrange her schedule, pay her bills and make sure she remembers her daily tasks (his sister also helps).

His care has surprised his mother. “When he was young, I couldn’t get him to raise a finger,” Ms. Golden said. Her conversation looped repeatedly back to this point, and with each return, Mr. Kassin grew more irritated. That was when he was a teenager, he said, sharply; hadn’t he been more attentive since?

Finally she looked at him tenderly and asked, “When did I start relying on you?”

Interviewed apart from his mother, Mr. Kassin said: “It’s kind of like living my nightmare situation. But it’s a great opportunity here. Here’s the woman who nurtured me. She now is the child. You worry if you’re up for the challenge. If I don’t make this challenge, what kind of human being am I?”

In past generations, men might have answered this question by pointing to their accomplishments as breadwinners or fathers. Now, some men say they worry about the conflict between caring for their parents and these other roles.

In a 2003 study at three Fortune 500 companies, Dr. Wagner found that men were less likely to use employee-assistance programs for caregivers because they feared it would be held against them.

“Even though the company has endorsed the program, your supervisors may have a different opinion,” Dr. Wagner said. “I had a man who worked for a large company with very generous benefits, and he was told that if he took more time to go with his dad to chemotherapy, he was at risk of losing his job. He ended up not going with his father.”

Mr. Kassin said that although his employer had been understanding, he was reluctant to talk about his caregiving because “I think it would be looked at like, when they hire a male, they expect him to be 100-percent focused.”

“I don’t want to appear to be someone who has distractions that detract from performance,” he said.

For many men, the new role means giving up their self-image as experts, said Louis Colbert, director of the office of services for the aging in Delaware County, Pa., who has shared care of his 84-year-old mother with his siblings since her Alzheimer’s made it necessary.

“I’ve been a professional for 32 years,” Mr. Colbert said, “but yet I remember the first time I was driving to my mother’s house, being afraid because I didn’t know if I knew what to do.”

Once a year, Mr. Colbert organizes a get-together for male caregivers. The concerns they raise, he said, are different from those of women in support groups. “Very clearly, they said they wanted their role as caregiver validated, because in our society, as a whole, men as caregivers have been invisible,” he said.

This invisibility can extend to hospitals and nursing homes, said Amy Torres, helpline director at Fria, a national nonprofit organization based in New York that represents family members and residents in long-term care facilities.

“Nursing homes have a very difficult time dealing with male caregivers,” Ms. Torres said. “It’s unusual for them. The male caregiver is made to feel their interest in their relative is inappropriate. Our male callers say they’re made to feel what they’re doing is unusual, that it’s wrong.”

She gave the example of a son who was the health care agent for his mother and wanted to be in the room when the staff changed her diaper because he was concerned about her skin condition. “The staff refused to allow it,” Ms. Torres said. “They said the mother’s dignity was at risk.”

After two weeks of pressing, she said, he finally got his way. With a daughter, this would not have been an issue, Ms. Torres said.

And even when they are acknowledged, for many male caregivers, as for women, there is the lingering sense that whatever they do is not enough.

Mr. Nicholson said he knew this feeling too well. As a teacher, he could measure his contribution by the students’ progress. But with his mother, he can only watch her decline.

“I’m always asking myself, Am I even qualified for this?” he said. “Just because I love her a lot doesn’t mean that I have any idea if I’m doing the right thing, or doing what’s best for her.”

He sounded exhausted, rattled even.

“I don’t know if this is just the musings of someone who’s on the verge of tossing everything and putting her in a home,” he said. “But this is a very revealing journey about who I am to me and my family, and what’s important to me.”

Future hope

Even though I couldn't vote in the U.S. elections, I was rooting actively for Obama. It was a source of some debate between my sister and I, she of the firm right while I was more left of center.

I was attracted by the promise of change especially change for a more accommodating social agenda in contrast to the discriminatory "Christian" platform of the past eight years. The world is weary of the America leading from the bully pulpit, a position that has only hardened the resolve of enemies and isolated friends.

But I am rooting for Obama more for his promised economic agenda. Any improvement in the American economy would have an immediate impact on the Philippine economy, notably in our electronics export sector, among our top five employers.

I hope my faith will be rewarded.

Bucket list item 1

Bucket list - a personal listing of activities or achievements one wants done before dying (aka kicking the bucket).

I intend to run my first full marathon in 2009. This means running for a full 42 kilometers in one race. Completely. And live to tell about it.

I plan to run more in the next few months: UNICEF 10k 2 weeks ago then the Runnex UP 10k this coming Sunday; I heard of a 5k on Saturday also. The runs will allow me to build endurance gradually - it's a longer process the older you get.

I will be using the blog as my race diary from now on. I ran the UNICEF 10k at 1:06:10.

Being a "Yes" man

I was intrigued by a book title that I happen upon during my last visit to National Bookstore. The title went something like say yes more often and become more successful. Apparently, the book has been adapted into a movie starring Jim Carrey.

Even if I haven't read the book (or at least the jacket summary), the message was intriguing. I can think of the many times in the past that I have regretted refusing an opportunity to try something new due to stubbornness, shyness, or plain laziness. I mean my best friend in high school was the co-captain of the baseball and hockey teams and I never learned to play either sport - couldn't even skate to save my life. I refused to ask a foreign boss for reconsideration for an office-paid MBA scholarship. Etc, etc, etc. A litany of regret.

I will read that book then see how I can put it into practice then I will write about it here.


I just added an old high school friend to Facebook and he e-mailed me asking if I needed any plastic models assembled. I then remember contracting him to build me my Hasegawa 1/72 scale F-15C with a non-standard cookie cutter air superiority grey camo scheme. I still have that model stored somewhere at home and even more boxes of unassembled kits.

I still promise myself the time to finish them all. At least I no longer many.