Are You at Risk for Text Neck?


Funny phrase this text neck, a malady Millennials and Gen X’ers are more likely to suffer than Baby Boomers.  If you don’t already know what it is, what the thing is may be a mystery.  I can say this, it’s not the craning of the neck to catch a glimpse of what others are texting, which came to my mind first when I saw the article headline – Text Neck is becoming an epidemic…I was also thinking about necking, the thing that went out of vogue in the early 80’s and that  only Baby Boomers, and the GI Generation would remember.  And of course I was wrong.  Text Neck is what you get when you bend your neck to text or read on your smartphone, tablet or smart watch.

Did you know that the brain weighs about 12 pounds but when you bend your neck just 30 degrees, the pressure on your spine is as much as if your brain weighed 40 pounds.  That would be a pretty big brain.  Imagine how much smarter we’d be if we had bigger brains.  But the trade off apparently is that all this bending destroys the spine and the natural curvature of the neck, causing all manner of aches, pains, joint stiffness, muscle spasms, and tissue tears, that, as one doctor claims, could lead one to have corrective spinal surgery.  The only corrective thing I ever had was shoes.  As a Baby Boomer, I have some natural protection against text neck.  I never learned how to text quickly having grown up using a typewriter.  I am just now getting comfortable with a computer keyboard.  No, I’m not 94 and not still using a flip phone with a phone card.  But this Qwerty keyboard is still foreign to me.  I can type fast, but can only peck a smartphone with the index finger of my left hand.  And by the way, there’s no such thing as peck neck.  The only thing I can do with my thumbs is give the thumbs up and hitchhike.  Yes, it’s a generational thing I think.  I’ll never get a smart watch which may ultimately cause teens extreme spinal degeneration.  I’d hate to see the younger generation walking around with bent backs and huge bowling ball heads that weigh 60 pounds.

I do feel bad for the next generation who are growing up in the era of global warming, climate change, famine, drought, GMO’s, new rounds of nuclear madness, text neck, and the new threat of being buried alive by unrecyclable k-cups.  What a way to die! The Baby boomers and those still alive who came before, will most certainly fall to cancer or heart disease, but won’t live a painful life of text neck.  And for the rest of you, Gen X and young Millennials, it’s not too late.  You still have time to save yourselves.  Put away your devices and live just a little.  In the badly paraphrased words of Mark Watt’s paraphrase of his father Alan Watts, with a modern twist:  stop thinking (and texting) and start experiencing life.  And I would add, look up, look around, not down!

100 Foods To Die For (or not) Before You Die (41-60)

Honeycomb Building

Honeycomb Building

I took The Food List Challenge and scored 61% having tried 61 of the 100 foods (or drinks) listed.  So I’m going through each one, 20 at a time.  Here’s the third of 5 planned installments.

Fugu. I don’t know if you can get this outside of Japan, but there are two things to know about this fish  1) it’s delicious (they say) and 2) highly poisonous, that is, if prepared improperly, it can kill you.  I don’t like fish enough to take the risk.  No fugu sushi for me.

Funnel Cake.  I’ve eaten fried dough and churros, but never had funnel cake.  I think it might be a regional thing from a region of the country where I’ve never lived.  While I haven’t tasted the goodness of funnel cake, and it must be good (not good for you) because it’s deep fried, I have experienced the badness of funnel clouds having lived in tornado country for many years.

Gazpacho.  Love it.  My dad used to prepare it, I think or my grandmomma, maybe they didn’t.  The first time I had it outside the house, if I in fact I ever did have it at home, memory is a funny thing isn’t it, was at Au Bon Pan in Harvard Square one hot summer in the mid 80’s.

Goat.  I don’t think so.  Where I grew up, a good way to insult someone was to call them “an old goat”.  Goat as food first came to my consciousness after the Rolling Stones released Goats Head Soup in 1973.

Goat’s Milk.  I’ve had goat cheese, which I presume is made from goat’s milk, and I could be wrong, but if I’m not, then technically, I’ve had goat’s milk.

Goulash.  That word has been in my vocabulary from as early as I can remember, but I honestly don’t remember ever having the dish growing up.  I associate it with Hungary, a country I know very little about.  In fact, I have only met one or two Hungarians in my life. I do know that linguistically, according to the Ethnologue, the Hungarian language is a bit of an odd bird in that it is not classified as Indo-European.  All the major languages spoken in the countries it borders: Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Romania and Croatia are genetically classified as Indo-European.  Classified as Uralic, Hungarian is part of the same language family as Finnish and Estonian.  But I digress.  Goulash.  The answer is no I have not.  The closest thing I’ve had to Goulash would be American Chop Suey, which I first had in a cafeteria-style eatery in Braintree or Quincy, MA.

Gumbo.  Yes, having grown up in a state bordering Louisiana, I was exposed to a considerable amount of Cajun cuisine and Gumbo was one of those dishes.  But I have a confession:  I never liked it.  The spices were ok, but I didn’t care much for shrimp, or crawfish then and still don’t now.  There’s something about a crustacean that gives me the creeps.

Haggis.  I have never acquired a taste for heart, liver and lungs.  And I don’t care how much it’s all spiced and everything niced, probably the only way to get me to eat some would be to gift me a fine bottle of single malt scotch whiskey, or tell me the haggis was something it’s not, like mincemeat pie.

Head Cheese.  Another no thank you.  The closest thing I’ve eaten to head cheese is pickle loaf which was honestly pretty awful.

Heirloom Tomatoes.  I love tomatoes of all kinds, the heirloom included.  I also love ketchup, tomato juice, tomato based sauces, and tomato relish:  finely chopped sweet onions, chopped tomatoes, salt and vinegar.  Goes great on black-eyed peas and fried okra.  Try some sometime, won’t you?

Honeycomb.  As a kid, I loved the cereal.  I like honey.  Nothing better than melted butter and honey on a hot roll.  Don’t think I’ve ever eaten the actual honeycomb; didn’t even know you could.  Can you?  The cereal notwithstanding, the closest thing to honeycomb I’ve eaten is a waffle.  Waffles with honey – now that’s an idea.  And I just remembered the honeycomb building in Chicago.  I didn’t eat it, but I did photograph it.

Hostess Fruit Pie.  How this made the list, I’ll never know, but I must confess to liking them and eating them with some regularity in the days of my youth and young adulthood.  I liked cherry the best.  I wonder if they still make these?  Haven’t seen them in a while.  My grandpa used to make fried blueberry pies for snacks when he took me fishing.  Were they ever good! I remember asking him if the fish might like some.  He just laughed…but I was serious.

Heuvos Rancheros.  I’ve had variants that I prepared myself, but never the real thing.  When I’m out for breakfast, I usually stick to eggs over easy, bacon or sausage and toast.  Plus, in my neighborhood, there aren’t many, perhaps not any, authentic Mexican eateries that serve breakfast.

Jerk Chicken.  I think I have had some jerk chicken, long ago, at either a picnic, or a Jamaican restaurant, but it doesn’t stand out in my memory.  I’m probably missing out on something extraordinary.  I do like Jamaican patties with coco bread, something that should be on the food challenge list in my judgement.  And another confession:  I like beef jerky.

Kangaroo.  Never.  As a kid, I loved Winnie-the-Pooh.  How could anyone eat the kin of Kanga and Roo without feeling some level of guilt.

Key Lime Pie.  Love the stuff.  Hard to find it on the Northeast coast, though.  My mom used to make lemon meringue pie to die for which I will assert is a variant or relative of key lime pie.  I made a key lime pie from a North Carolina recipe once with a saltine cracker pie crust.  It was pretty good and my family loved it, but it wasn’t the real deal.

Kobe Beef.  I don’t think I’ve had it.  I’ve seen the Iron Chefs cook with it though.

Lassi.  I don’t think I’ve ever ordered this sweet yogurt based drink for myself, but have sampled a few.  If I drink anything other than water at an Indian restaurant, it’s usually a beer.

Lobster.  I’ve eaten lobster in various forms, and I like it ok, although eating a whole lobster is a mess and I’ve never mastered  proper meat extraction techniques.  The thing is, I have a generalized fear of crustaceans.  Once, a friend gave us a styrofoam cooler full of lobsters.  When my then 3 year old saw them she said, “Papi, SPIDERS”.   That about sums it up.

Mimosa.  Oh yes, not the tree, the drink.  I don’t usually buy champagne, so a mimosa is a rare treat for me.  Just yesterday, I made a Mimosa with prosecco and orange juice.  I wanted to make a Bellini but we didn’t have any peaches.  So it was really kind of a bellmosa.

Stayed tuned for the fourth of a five part installment on the 100 Food List challenge where I’ll be writing about, among other things, okra, moon pies and Spam.

The No-Work Workout


The no-work workout – have you heard?  It’s based on those good whole body vibrations.  Good, maybe, but it sounds high voltage dangerous to me, like what I imagine would happen if you touched the third rail on the subway.  But it’s not electric shock therapy, which could actually help folks shed a few billion brain cells that just take up space.  Whole body vibration is nothing new really.  The concept has been around for years.  Sears Roebuck sold an exercise machine called the Fat Shaker.  If you’re as old as me, you’ll remember that contraption with the electrified belt.  You stood on a crude machine and put a conveyer belt around your waist, flicked the switch to jiggle all the fat away.  It was the silliest thing ever.  I remember trying it out when I was 10 or so and laughing hysterically.  I had no fat to shake off so the thing was like a toy.  On the high setting, it shook violently and made my voice sound like I was talking through a fan.  This new fat shaker machine at the heart of the new and improved no-work workout just vibrates fat right off your body.  You stand on a platform of a machine that looks like a treadmill without the mill. As the platforms begins shaking, so too do you and your jiggly parts.  It’s a real hoot and folks are sold on it.  No impact. No lifting. No running to stand still. No hanging upside down or pretend cross country skiing.  Just some good, good, good, good vibrations.

Smoking Fraud


I know many smokers who quit cold turkey.  Just like that.  And not for themselves, but for a concerned friend or loved one or the birth of a child.  No one that I know misses those cancer sticks one bit.  And even though some had been smoking for years prior to quitting, they had no withdrawal symptoms.  They didn’t need to chew on straws, or Nicorette gum, had no weight gain or anxiety attacks.  They just quit and never looked back.

And looking back, I don’t know how I survived the smoking era.  I can remember going to concerts and being consumed by walls of smoke illuminated by the stage lights and the occasional flick of a bic or Zippo.  Folks smoked at the movies, in offices, on airliners and even inside hospitals.  Can you imagine this today?  We’ve come a long way.

Here’s the thing and the reason I’m writing this post – the British Journal of Psychiatry came out with a study that said that smokers have reduced anxiety when they quit, not more, which is often the reason people say they can’t quit.  Anxious smokers.  Smokers worried that quitting will make them anxious or more anxious or who smoke to cope with anxiety are no doubt already anxious – they’d be worried and nervous with or without smokes.  But consider this, are all smokers who use the anxiety excuse to continue smoking really anxious or are they instead pleasure seekers and extreme narcissists?  If these class of smokers quit, they’d use the anxiety excuse to eat unhealthily – burgs, dogs, “freedom” fries, Hostess Cupcakes, Pringles, and Cheez Doodles.  They would then blame the weight gain on the fact that they quit smoking, begin to feel guilty and go back to smoking, exchanging one pleasure for another.  It’s the oldest psychological fraud in the book.

I’m not opposed to people smoking, but “I mind very much if you smoke” around me.

Don’t Drink 2,083 Cans of Diet Soda a Day

Coca Cola Zero

Coca Cola Zero (Photo credit: xcaballe)

Here’s the thing:  diet soda is bad for you, really bad for you.  At least that’s the suspicion.  There hasn’t been any study to conclusively link diet soda consumption to cancer in humans. Even the latest published study trying to find one concluded that some of their findings about the ill effects of artificial sweeteners could have been due to chance.  Nonetheless, the jury is out.

Confession:  I like diet soda – I do.  I am particularly fond of Coke Zero.  They’ve put something in it that I crave – I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s the zero, or the aspartame and its phenylalanine content, which apparently I am able to metabolize unlike some people with a rare genetic disease called PKU.  These folks should stay a mile away from the stuff.

Flashback:  In a high school debate round, I once argued that there was no reason for the government to regulate artificial sweeteners despite the fact that they caused cancer in laboratory rats.   I cited evidence that showed the rats were injected with the human equivalent of something like 700 cans of diet soda a day for a lifetime.  I imagine the study I referenced was looking at saccharine.  What ever happened to saccharine anyway?  I kind of miss it!  A more recent study concluded that with aspartame, the risk range for humans is between 8 and 2,083 cans a day.

I know I should just drink water all day, but that decaffeinated lifestyle is a little too stringent for me.  I figure as long as I don’t drink 2,083 cans of Coke Zero a day, I’ll be ok… I think.

Best Stick with Mashed Potatoes and Fries

Well, I guess we can’t eat rice anymore, at least not the stuff grown in Texas and Louisiana because it’s toxic.  Now, I’m not much of a rice eater myself, so I’m going to be ok. But good heavens. I mean there’s rice in baby food and pudding too.  Arsenic in Old Lace, and now rice.  According to a report on CBS this morning with Charlie Rose, rice grown in fields that used to grow cotton is the most susceptible, because the cotton planters sprayed the crops with all manner of pesticides laced with arsenic to chase off boll weevils. And rice sucks up all those old toxins like a sponge.  Advice: best stick with mashed potatoes and french fries.   


Congressman PDR – What’s in a Name?

Congressman Paul Davis Ryan.  Darn.  I was hoping his initials were PBR, which would be rather fitting for a man from Wisconsin and the original home of Pabst Blue Ribbon.  Davis.  Maybe that’s a typo, and his name is actually Bevis, or Bates or something.  But my fact checker says that he is in fact Davis.  So he’s PDR, not PBR.  But that’s ok, because PDR helps me point out something alarming about the Congressman.  Google PDR and you know what you get?, a drug information company that publishes the Physicians’ Desk Reference and works hand in hand with the FDA to provide safety alerts and information.  However, Congressman PDR has not lived up to his initials.  Do you know why?  Here’s why – just take a look at his voting record:

  • Against FDA appropriations
  • Against the FDA Modernization Act
  • Against FDA regulation on tobacco labeling, ingredients and warnings
  • Against Food Safety regulations
  • Against the Mine Safety Act
  • To limit regulation of Farm Dust
  • To repeal EPA standards for cement manufacturers
  • To repeal prevention and public health funds
  • To repeal Obamacare
  • Against funding to combat Aids, Malaria and TB.

That’s some record there Congressman PDR.  If your vision comes true to dismantle health care, clean air and food safety regulations, more people would have to rely on the Physicians’ Desk Reference and Web MD to self-diagnose and self-medicate, provided they can afford the drugs.  I am sure this would give rise to snake oil salesmen and women, unregulated elixirs and home remedy advice.  Here’s one, next time you get a headache, rub some cauliflower on your temples.  Oh, and rub some on your forehead to improve memory.

Bubble Gum Recall

A friend told me that Benadryl had been removed from the market and I was a little worried given my dependence on the stuff during allergy season. And what a season it has been so far. Tree pollen counts at record highs in my neck of the woods in the NE section of the EEUU. To survive, I have taken to taking Clartin during the day, and Benadryl at night. When my friend said that Benadryl was nowhere to be found, in a panic, I went to the FDA website to see what I could find by way of recalls. To my relief, I didn’t see any mention of a Benadryl recall, nor any news of tainted antihistamine. While it may be true that Benadryl has been removed from the shelves of some pharmacies, it may have more to do with reports of antihistamine abuse, than bad antihistamine. But I did find something even more disturbing that has been recalled. Not disturbing that it has been recalled, but disturbing that the thing exists, and even more disturbing and ironic is the reason it has been recalled.

If you can believe it, and I certainly can’t, or maybe I can, there is a brand of bubble gum called Toxic Waste Short Circuits. Wait until you hear why it has been recalled. Brace yourself. ELEVATED LEAD CONTENT! This is why we need the FDA folks.  Anyway, when this company says Toxic Waste, they really mean it.  You have to give them props for their truth in advertising, but what on earth would possess a company to market fake (in this case, actually not fake) Toxic Waste candy. Interestingly, the product is imported from Pakistan and sold nationwide.  I didn’t know we imported anything from Pakistan.

Now, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and this is probably coincidental, but I wonder if this candy is for export only to the “infidels” of the West.  It does appear that the recalled lots went to Switzerland, Canada and the U.S. And the concept? It’s almost as if the labeling is a bad translation or something. But the packaging gives the appearance that the product indeed is dangerous. I mean look at it – yellow and black stripes of a nuclear hazard and cartoon figure blowing a bubble perhaps moments away from an internal nuclear meltdown and explosion. Sick stuff for kids.

But this concept is nothing new. I seem to remember back in the 70’s a thing called Wacky Packs, those crazy trading cards that had the most bizarre and humorous parodies on product advertisement, clearly aimed at kids. I don’t remember if it came with a stick of gum (remember those?) usually brittle and nasty, but it may have.  How about the card depicting the Band-Ache brand that strips off skin or the can of De-Mented Rotten Tomatoes. I had collected most of those cards in the set by the age of ten. And I have never been the same since.  Maybe there was lead in the gum.  Actually, I think those card stickers liberated my mind a little bit.  There was something subversive about them and they made me think of advertising more critically, all at the tender age of 10.

So I guess I should not get on a soap box and rant against this candy maker for their product concept, but you know, they should lay off the lead.  There’s nothing funny or liberating about a gum ball full of lead.

Most Powerful Woman in the World

Fareed Zakaria of CNN interviewed Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico on his Sunday GPS show. Zakaria asked Nooyi to respond to her reputation as the world’s most powerful woman.  She seemed embarrassed by the title, but remarked that she works very hard, often sacrificing precious family time.  The interview moved along fairly tamely until it came to the question of healthy food and the growing American problem of obesity.  As you may know, Pepsico is a snack food conglomerate.  Their products include Pepsi, Gatorade and other sugary drinks and Frito Lay, known for salty chips.  She was not at all apologetic and gave what I thought to be an incredibly silly but revealing  answer which to me was a tacit admission that Pepsico is more concerned with profit, than juvenile diabetes or clogged arteries.  She characterized Pepsico’s products as “20% good for you and 80% fun for you”.  Said another way, what’s good for you is not fun for you, and what’s fun for you may not be good for your health. It sounded like a clever marketing pitch to skirt the question, but it does show that Pepsico is 80% about profit. Once the 20% becomes more profitable, things will change, but this is likely to take a long time.

30 years ago, I heard Ralph Nader speak at the University of Arkansas.  He described a hot dog as a pink missile and railed against snack food, suggesting that the vending machines could be stocked with healthier food.  Fast forward to 2011, and not much has changed.  The majority of stuff I see in the snack aisles at the supermarket and in vending machines are sugary drinks, candy bars and salty chips.  Just the other day I was delighted to see a bag of sunflower seeds in the vending machine where I work.  I was disappointed to learn that the seed shells were coated in a powdery salt.  I guess seeds qualify as “good”, and with all the salt also “fun”.  But those seeds were unsafe at any speed and not even fit for the birds, who seem, by and large, more fit than an average American.

Dr. Watson to the Rescue

Watson the IMB supercomuter may soon be used to diagnose patients.  Dr. Chase of Columbia, not the show House, has teamed up with IBM to “retrofit” Watson for use as an aid to physicians in diagnosing patient ailments.  Presumably, Watson could comb through unthinkable amounts of data in seconds flat and cough up a diagnosis.

I tell you one thing, I’d rather a doctor use Watson then to step out of the room to consult Web MD, as I suspect some do.  You know those ask your doctor commercials on TV?…Is Zegred OT right for you, or whatever…I’d like to ask my doctor if he could ask Watson what’s up with my ailing “frozen” shoulder.

I do have some reservations though. Watson is not omniscient.  It is a computer programmed by humans, who have been known to fail upon occasion.  Don’t forget that on Jeopardy, Watson did not answer all the questions correctly. It thought Toronto was a U.S. city, and it buzzed in to give the same wrong answer that its competitor gave.  Watson may be intelligent, but not a very good listener.

I can imagine a scenario where a doctor plugs in some data about an elderly male patient who has the chills, an earache and leg cramps and after a a 15 second delay, Watson comes back with a likely diagnosis: Colic.  Treatment:  Warm milk.

Actually, warm milk might just do the trick, I don’t know, but if you ask me, I say I’d rather my doctor stay informed than depend on a computer. After all, a computer is potentially more vulnerable to a virus than a doctor.