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Saturday, January 29, 2011

SMART BACTERIA

Research Shows How Bacteria Stay Ahead Of Vaccines And Antibiotics

The following is the short form of the very interesting research into Strep pneumoniae bacteria and how it changes using data collected over 24 years leading the researchers to the surprising finding of when  the drug resistance started.  If you wish to read the entire article just click on the above link.

'New research provides the first detailed genetic picture of an evolutionary war between Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria and the vaccines and antibiotics used against it over recent decades. Large-scale genome sequencing reveals patterns of adaptation and the spread of a drug-resistant lineage of the S. pneumoniae bacteria.

S. pneumoniae is responsible for a broad range of human diseases, including pneumonia, ear infection and bacterial meningitis. Since the 1970s, some forms of the bacteria have gained resistance to many of the antibiotics traditionally used to treat the disease. In 2000 S. pneumoniae was responsible for 15 million cases of invasive disease across the globe. A new vaccine was introduced to the US in 2000 in an attempt to control disease resulting from the most common and drug resistant forms of the bacteria.

"Drug resistant forms of S. pneumoniae first came onto the radar in the 1970s," says Dr Stephen Bentley, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and senior author on the study. "We sequenced 240 samples collected over the course of 24 years from the PMEN1 lineage of S. pneumoniae. By comparing the sequences, we can begin to understand how this bacterium evolves and reinvents itself genetically in response to human interventions."

The power of next-generation sequencing exposes S. pneumoniae as a pathogen that evolves and reinvents itself with remarkable speed. The degree of diversity was a real surprise in such seemingly closely related organisms. .

"By looking only at the DNA mutations that are passed down through direct ancestry, we constructed an evolutionary tree. When we looked at our tree, we could see that the drug-resistant PMEN1 lineage originated around 1970 - about the time that saw the introduction of the widespread use of antibiotics to fight pneumococcal disease."'

Friday, January 28, 2011

My Sticky Notes of Odds and Ends



Every so often I find I have accumulated a few things that are too short by themselves but together fill up a page and so it makes me think I have actually accomplished something today.


Many jockeys are severely injured every year as a result of their career choices and monies are raised by members of their own and their families and set up in various funds.  Perhaps this one could have been worded a bit differently called 'The Permanently Disabled Jockey's Club' ...... it sounds like you could be contributing to a permanently disabled jockey's club......

Commenting on a new Nicolas Cage movie a report from Southland, calls 'Season Of The Witch' a profound surprise.  Not because it's all that good, or all that smart it went on to say, but because this movie is set during the late Crusades and has the guts to lance one of the bigger boils on the face of organized religion--killing in the name of God.  An interesting turn of phrase to say the least!

There was an interesting piece yesterday in the sports section with the headline 'GRETZKY'S TRADE TO THE KINGS WAS NO SUDDEN MOVE'.  During the 1974-75 NHL season reporter Red Fisher heard a rumor numerous times from various sources that there was a trade going down.  He had a gut feeling that there was truth to it and wrote it up in 650 words in June and filed it away despite repeated reassurances from his closest friends Glen Sather and owner Peter Pocklington that the reports were 'ridiculous'.  In August it was with exactly the same details he wrote up in June.  With friends like that who needs enemies?  He was robbed of the sports story of the year maybe of the decade.....

A recent ad and one I've heard on TV a number of times says .......'Tell your doctor what medications you are on.' 
Am I missing something here or do a lot of people have more than one primary care doctor?  Yes, if you saw a doctor in the ER or when you on vacation I should think most people would tell their doctor about it in particular if you were given a prescription other than a very short term one or have a condition that you need to tell your doctor about.   Common sense I would say.  A specialist and your doctor communicate well in my experience and I would hazard a guess here that all doctors have computers now days and unless yours is a witch doctor in the bush somewhere your records are easily available when you see your doctor.   However I have heard rumors that witch doctors are opting for the IPad now days so no problem there either......

Thursday, January 27, 2011

1947 Extreme Snowfall Across the Canadian Prairies

The above 1947 picture from Minnesota, U.S.A. is like a picture I belonged to my parents but now cannot not find.  My  pleas on Facebook have so far have yielded no results and neither has extensive internet searches.  Surely I didn't have the ONLY Canadian image of the train buried in between snow drifts higher than the telephone lines?

Extreme Weather in Canada - The Canadian Encyclopedia: "The worst blizzard in Canadian railway history occurred between January 30 and February 8, 1947, when 10 days of blowing snow buried towns and trains from Calgary to Winnipeg. Some Saskatchewan roads and rail lines remained impassable until spring. Children stepped over power lines on their way to school and people dug tunnels to their outhouses."

We have a ways to go this year before there is any comparison to 1947.   However worry lines are already beginning to appear across the brows of many a civic leader on the prairies well before spring.  The idea is that being proactive is the smarter thing to do rather than mop up the consequences of being ill prepared.  "Be prepared to fill sandbags" said one report, and another spoke of the monies that are now being earmarked in January for berms and levies.

Time will tell of course just how effective and 'proactive' humans really can be given that the powers of nature can never be predicted.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

LIFE'S GREY WATER


The other day I was contemplating mountains of wonderful bubbles in the bathtub and the enjoyment that a bubble bath brings whether one is young or old. As the minutes went by I realized that there were fewer and fewer bubbles and I started to see an occasional grey patch.   Then another patch here and one over there and before you knew it there was just a vast sea of grey water with two knees sticking out.
Life is like that isn’t it?  At first you are young and vigorous with lots of bubbles in your life.  You might have a career,  a great circle of friends, you raise a family and you are having the time of your life.  As you navigate through your life, eventually you will see a few bubbles burst along the way as a family member dies,  moves away, or there's that lost opportunity, family rifts and so on but it takes a long time before you really see any grey patches.  But eventually you do see them and suddenly one day you look around and right in front of your very eyes there are very few bubbles left in a vast sea of grey staring back at you. 
But what I can’t figure out is what the heck do the two knees represent?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eastside Lewisdale Gold Missy

When this beauty, Missy for short, which was owned by Morsan Farms in Ponoka, Alberta sold for $1.2 million in Uxbridge , Ontario, on November 11, 2009, jaws dropped all over the world.  The 3-year-old Holdstein fetched one of the highest prices ever paid for a cow.  Genetically speaking she is a perfect cow which is why chances are you will never drink a glass of milk from Missy.  Her real value is in her ovaries and, now, in her good name.  Missy's notoriety has enhanced our nation's already excellent reputation for cattle breeding.  Speaking of milk, Holsteins are known for their ability to produce large amounts of excellent milk, and top milkers can produce more than 65,000 pounds (7,550 gallons) of milk per year.

Tips on Cow Tipping
Country folk have long amused their city friends with tales of cow tipping.  The story goes that one person can knock over a cow that's standing asleep in a field just by giving it a push.  University of British Columbia professor Margo Lillie says that this is not true.  She and one of her students proved that the physics of cow tipping just didn't add up.  Another thing: Cows don't sleep standing up.  And, contrary to their docile image, cows are well aware of what's going on around them and are hard to sneak up on.
However, if you absolutely have to tip a cow, never leave more than 10%.

Monday, January 24, 2011

THE NEW 'PRICE FIXING'


Recently there have been more and more media reports that the consumer is getting fooled yet again in many new, sneaky and underhanded ways making us think that we know exactly what we are buying.  This is happening with alarming frequency particularly in the grocery store where many of us spend a great deal of time and money.
 Business knows all too well how price increases are perceived and reacted to.  In an effort to keep their cost margins where they like them they have began to whittle down their product right before our unseeing eyes.  They have reduced sizes ever so slightly, ever so surreptitiously without altering the price which is the most visible red flag for the buyer.  Another method they use is to push up the glass bottom of a container displacing area inside the container thereby reducing content and yet charging the same price.  I’m sure there are many more just under-the-radar ways that we are not aware of.
I first noticed this a few years ago when a pound of coffee was no longer a pound anymore when it became less than 454 grams.  But it still looked about the same and we’d still say, “Pick me up a pound of coffee on your way home please” and paid the same price at the till.  The consumer got less but still felt good about it because there was no price hike and little negative fanfare about the change.  This kind of business practice has become like a virus infecting everything we buy now days from juice, paper towels, detergents, soap bars and toilet paper which brings our attention to today’s picture.
I shop as diligently as I can when it comes to higher priced items like toilet paper, I watch the numbers of squares per roll, price etc and felt reasonably pleased with my purchases of President’s Choice toilet paper lately.  The above two squares are the same product not purchased at the same time but more than a month apart.  When I had first discovered that President’s Choice UtraSoft with 280 squares per roll was a good deal for the asking price I rejoiced at my find, alas it would be short lived. 
When I started to use the newer purchase represented by the right square I immediately knew there was something different and so there is.  You likely can't see that the square on the left is thicker and also softer than my later purchase on the right.  The wrinkly appearance is because I happened to find it in my makeup kit.  The new purchase is thinner, rougher and you can even hear the ‘papery’ sound it has when you rub it between your fingers as compared to the other.  
And thus I have become the latest victim of this new kind of ‘price fixing’.  
It's a new kind a different kind of sneaky…..same packaging, same price, same amount of squares, same size squares but thinner and thus less pleasing to the touch. 
While the CEO’s count their gold coins and piles of paper money in their ivory towers we are left counting pennies and toilet paper squares and putting them in piles of our own.










Sunday, January 23, 2011

PLASTIC HOMES

When I read the title I was so skeptical that I had to find out why they just wouldn't be blown away by the breeze.  I was pleasantly surprised and I think you will be too.
 The article was written for the Financial Post by Jameson Berkow jberkow@nationalpost.com.

A Canadian company thinks it has an answer for Haitian relief.  Innovative Composites International Inc. (ICI) is combining large industry experience with small start-up ingenuity to position itself as a housing provider for Haiti that desperately needs one million homes.
The Toronto-based company, made up of former executive from companies such as Magna International Inc, and Chrysler Group LLC, is hoping to popularize the concept of a plastic house.  Such houses are actually cheaper, stronger, greener and far easier to assemble than those built using more traditional materials.
Terry Ball, the founding chief executive lauds plastic as a great structural material.  “We’ve developed a a bunch of products that take high-strength fibres, we combine them with low-cost plastics and provide structural applications to replace steel, concrete and wood with something that last longer, is stronger, lighter and is completely recyclable.”  Because wood has challenges in tropical and warm climates in terms of having to be treated for decay and other things that aren’t typically a problem here in Canada, so perhaps a plastic approach can overcome some of those challenges.” 
Jerry Olszewski, VP of engineering for ICI boasts ICI components as being nearly impervious to common wood-afflicting ailments such as moisture, insects, rot and mould.  The building panel is totally superior to any wood product and we can make the material hurricane proof and if necessary, earthquake proof.”
ICI uses a rubber seal—similar to what Mr. Olszewski used in the automotive industry as manager of applied materials technology for Chrysler—to attach the plastic structure to the concrete slab used as the foundation.  The result is the structure “floats” atop the foundation in such a way that it can compensate for movements in the earth directly below, while the production process allows it to hold up against winds in excess of 24 kilometres per hour.
The tests that they use, they fire a two-by-four at 72 mph (115 km/h) at the wall out of a cannon,” Mr. Ball said.  “Our wall sections can take multiple strikes; you can hit them numerous times without knocking them down.”
A statement by Brian Eames, manager of large export projects for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., makes the following observation.  “The company’s final assembly procedure—whereby an ICI-produced home can be erected by four unskilled labourers in about two days will prove important as ICI vies for a contract.  A lot of countries want to employ their populations in the recovery process and a company that comes in with foreign workers may not do as well as something that engages the locals in putting together their own housing and taking ownership of it.”
Barely two years old, ICI has established a manufacturing base in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and is preparing to open another facility at a southern U.S. seaport, where it hopes it can soon start shipping the components for more than 5,00 homes to Haiti. 
Nobody believes in the potential of ICI more than its own staff.  That is why, in addition to Haiti, the company is involved in the initial stages of low-cost housing projects in Iraq, Libya, Mexico and Colombia.
By Jameson Berkow