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Health

Paula Radcliffe: “The ability to run is a gift”

Saturday, 10 September, 2016 0 Comments

“The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky always.” So writes Haruki Murakami in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Clouds of all different sizes and big sky are constant presences in Run by the filmmaker Jack Weatherley. His subject is Paula Radcliffe, the English long-distance runner and holder of the women’s world record in the marathon with her time of 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds, which she set in the Chicago Marathon on 13 October 2002.

After competing in the London Marathon last year, Paula Radcliffe announced that she had decided to end her long-distance running career. But she keeps on running.


The season of the wasp

Wednesday, 31 August, 2016 0 Comments

Chester Britt, chairman of the Iowa State Department of Sociology, died yesterday after a severe reaction to a wasp sting suffered earlier while jogging. He was 54.

A wasp sting is extremely painful and can be fatal since the sting produces an anaphylactic reaction in some people who have allergies. The August/September transition is the season of the wasp when the insect displays a complete lack of respect for personal space and will aggressively insist on tasting your food and drink. What to do? Those who have allergies should carry medication, such as an EpiPen, which can be used to treat anaphylaxis in an emergency. A local café slices an orange, perforates it with whole cloves and places it on a plate. Kabooom! Wasps away.

Wasp repellent


Boogio days and nights while running on sensors

Wednesday, 23 March, 2016 0 Comments

Wearables. What does the word conjure up? For a start, activity trackers that monitor our exercise and sleep and generate vast amounts of data as we move towards the quantified self. “The fitness tracker on your wrist may be the most evident sign of the Internet of Things,” wrote Thomas H. Davenport and John Lucker for the Deloitte Review Issue 16.

That report is dated 26 January 2015, which isn’t that long ago, but a year is a long time in the wearable world. Consider the following Davenport-Lucker sentence: “It’s not surprising that health activity tracking isn’t highly useful for serious health applications yet, because the first devices became available in 2006 (in the Nike+-shoe-based sensor).” A lot can change in a year. On Monday, Apple introduced its most ambitious health product yet, an open-source app development platform called CareKit, that will help people keep track of their medical treatment. And as regards that Nike+-shoe-based sensor, Boogio intends to give it a run for its money, so to speak.

Boogio is a pair of inserts for your running shoes that contain sensors. These provide real-time feedback on such biomechanics as foot strike zone, centre of balance, ground contact speed and gait symmetry, and communicate with Android, iOS and Windows apps over Bluetooth LE. Who needs smart shoes? Well, all the data from those sensors could be very useful for runner training, physical therapy and paediatric rehabilitation. Human quantification at this level will have a dramatic impact on how athletic performance is perfected and on how medicine is practiced. Soon, we’ll all be running on data, wrists and feet combined.


Post of the Year

Monday, 21 December, 2015 0 Comments

On 10 November, BBC Sport reported: “Eleven-time Flat racing champion jockey Pat Eddery has died at the age of 63. Eddery, who rode more than 4,600 winners and won 14 British classics in a 36-year career, is regarded as one of the greatest jockeys of all time.”

The report went on to note: “Ireland-born Eddery, who retired in 2003 and was awarded an OBE in 2005, had been suffering from ill health.” That “ill health”, while a statement of fact, was also a term of discretion. Out of respect for the dead and, perhaps, for the sensitivities of an industry that has a special sponsorship culture, there was no further elaboration.

The world didn’t have to wait long for an explanation, however, and when it came it was especially moving because of its honesty. “Filled with grief this morning that my dad Pat Eddery is no longer here,” wrote Natasha Eddery, and she named the culprit: alcohol. She hadn’t seen her father in five years, she confessed in her Instagram post:

“…we stayed in touch and spoke on the phone, I never missed a birthday etc and not a day went by when I didn’t think about him. The last time I saw him face to face was when I brought him home from rehab and he drank straight away. I turned to him and said ‘dad if you choose to drink over health and family, I can’t be part of that life for you.’ Sadly his addiction was too strong and he couldn’t overcome it.”

Pat Eddery

Pat Eddery came from a country with a long history of alcohol abuse and it was not his fault that he couldn’t free himself from this destructive legacy. It was his good fortune to be part of a business that helped make him a winner; it was his misfortune that the same business fosters a fatal attraction. Natasha Eddery receives the Rainy Day Post of the Year award for declaring her love of her father and for naming the disease that destroyed him.

Tomorrow, here, the Object of the Year.


Drink of the Year

Thursday, 17 December, 2015 0 Comments

And the Rainy Day award goes to Caol Ila 12 Year Old Single Malt. Why? Because winter is here and ‘flu prevention measures have to be taken. Seriously. And this is a seriously medicinal single malt. Check out the Official Tasting Notes: “Nose: Subdued, citric fruitiness; a whiff of bath oil and dentist’s mouthwash. A little water raises almond oil and old-fashioned oilskins; still a fresh fruitiness (lychees?), a trace of olive oil, and after a while pot pourri or scented hand-soap.”

Kills bad breath, doubles as a deodorant and protects against the hospital bug — what more could one want? But that’s not all. Based on personal tasting, we can confirm that this remarkable whisky also delivers a tang of seaweed, a whiff of smoke, a glimpse of green barley, a hint of lemon pudding, a taste of treacle, a perception of salt, a smidgen of creosote and, depending on one’s temperament and temperature, wellness. Seriously.

Caol Ila

Tomorrow, here, the Rainy Day Video of the Year award.


Sell oil, buy drugs

Thursday, 13 August, 2015 0 Comments

“The Board believes that the healthcare industry, particularly the biopharma sector, is experiencing strong momentum and there exist significant M&A and value creation opportunities for both small cap and large cap companies.” We all know that the healthcare industry and the biopharma sector are experiencing growth and that both are set for more, so that remark would be unremarkable were it not for who is issuing it. Namely, an oil exploration company. Fastnet Oil & Gas PLC is listed on the Dublin and London alternative investment markets and on Tuesday it informed shareholders of the following change of policy:

“In light of the current economic climate within the oil and gas sector, the Board has determined that it is not in the best interests of Shareholders to either pursue M&A opportunities in that sector or to expend further resources on the Company’s existing oil and gas assets.”

On the same day that Fastnet signaled its retreat from the coasts of Ireland and Morocco, the socialist paradise of Venezuela, which gets more than 95 percent of its export revenue from oil, was hit with more bad news: its huge gold reserves are losing their value, fast. Meanwhile, biopharma deals are booming and there’s no end in sight.

Moral of story: Sell oil, buy drugs.


The Innovation Prize for Africa Awards

Monday, 11 May, 2015 0 Comments

Tomorrow and on Wednesday, The Innovation Prize for Africa Awards ceremony will be held in Skhirat, Morocco. A record 925 applications from 41 countries were submitted and the jury has whittled the list down to 10 nominees. Marc Arthur Zang from Cameroon is one of the finalists and his idea will be of particular interest to Mrs Rainy Day and her colleagues in cardiology:

The cardio-pad: “An affordable tablet that records and processes the patient’s ECG (heart signal) before transferring it to a remote station using mobile phone networks. The device can be used in village hospital and clinic settings in the absence of a cardiologist. ECG results can be downloaded on a tablet by the cardiologist. The examination is then interpreted using cardio-pad’s computer-assisted diagnostic embedded application, then results and prescription transmitted to the nurse performing the procedure. This will ensure effective monitoring of heart patients living in rural areas with limited or no access to cardiologists.”

For Jean Claude Bastos de Morais, founder of the African Innovation Foundation, the key word is ecosystem. “Innovation thrives when people are connected, and when they are connected ecosystems are born,” he writes. IPA “By supporting innovation ecosystems, we collectively contribute to building African innovation economies. I believe it’s achievable (and I’d go as far as to say in the very near future), if African leaders, business communities and investors can take a step back, observe the strengths and gaps particular to their nation or region, and then accordingly mobilize knowledge, expertise and funds where required.”


Stand up!

Monday, 20 April, 2015 0 Comments

The haptic sensor in the Apple Watch sends pulses to remind the owner to stand up every hour, along with a text message. “You’ve been sitting for a while. Take a minute to stand up,” a sample text reads.

“If I sit for too long, it will actually tap me on the wrist to remind me to get up and move, because a lot of doctors think sitting is the new cancer,” says Tim Cook, the Apple CEO. Cancer is a disease; sitting is a behaviour, but the point is taken. So, stand up today and take a walk. The London-based Art&Graft design studio shows how it’s done.


The Austrian exception

Friday, 10 April, 2015 0 Comments

Did you know that Austria has alarmingly high smoking rates? In the young adult bracket (18–28 years), 52 percent of men smoke as do 34 percent of women. One would imagine, then, that the “Alpine Republic”, would be eager to eradicate this extreme danger to public health, but none of it. After years of bickering, the country’s governing parties have just agreed that a general ban on smoking in bars, cafes and restaurants will be introduced in May — 2018. Landlords and landladies are up in arms against the legislation, claiming that their businesses will suffer, but we’ve heard it all before.

Stub it out


From flash freezing to social freezing

Monday, 27 October, 2014 0 Comments

One of the joys of reading Steven Johnson’s How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World lies in the many ways the author riffs on the butterfly effect. For example, the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Ottomans marked not just the end of the Roman Empire and a huge setback for Christendom; it also led to an exodus of glass makers. Many of them found a welcome in Venice, but because their furnaces caused numerous conflagrations of the city’s wooden houses, they were exiled again, this time to the island of Murano, where they could do less damage. There, they flourished in a kind of watery Silicon Valley and came up with astonishing ideas thanks to their co-operation and competition with each other.

How We Got to Now One of these innovations plays a key role in Las Meninas, the great painting by Diego Velázquez. This Spanish masterpiece mixes reality and illusion and puts royalty in perspective by having the king and queen, Felipe IV and María de Austria, reflected in a mirror at the back of the room. The mirror was another Murano byproduct. By coating the back of crystal-clear glass with an amalgam of tin and mercury, the island’s glass makers created a shiny, reflective surface and the mirror was born.

Another example. In the chapter titled “Cold”, Johnson recounts the story of Clarence Birdseye, an eccentric American naturalist and entrepreneur, who moved his family to the Canadian wilds of Labrador in 1916. While fishing with some local Inuit, he noticed that the trout they pulled out of carved holes in the ice froze solid in seconds and tasted fresh and crisp when thawed out and cooked. He became obsessed with the puzzle of why ice-fished trout tasted better than the rest of the family’s frozen food and eventually figured out that it was all in the speed of the freezing process. Back in New York City, Clarence Birdseye created a flash-freezing food business and he sold his company for millions in June 1929, just before the Wall Street Crash. Today, Birdseye’s name is synonymous with frozen food.

The frozen food culture Birdseye created “would do more than just populate the world with fish sticks,” notes Johnson. The revolutionary thing is that “It would also populate the world with people, thanks to the flash freezing and cryopreservation of human semen, eggs, and embryos… Today, new techniques on oocyte cryopreservation are allowing women to store more eggs in their younger years, extending their fertility well into their forties and fifties in many cases. So much of the freedom in the way we have children now… would have been impossible without the invention of flash freezing.”

Seeing that companies are now promoting oocyte cryopreservation for their female employees, a more user-friendly term is needed for the process, hence, “social freezing.”

Steven Johnson’s How We Got to Now is nourishing food for thought.


#Ebola

Monday, 13 October, 2014 0 Comments

In a time of hysteria and rumour, much of which is being spread by the the 24/7 news biz, it is comforting to know that sober and alternative sources of information about the Ebola virus exist. For instance, there’s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Ebola page and its equivalent from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Google News has a dedicated site, and the Ebola Resource Centre at The Lancet has made all of the publication’s relevant articles freely accessible. The Pathogen Perspectives is a new Ebola-oriented blog that’s very well-informed and documented.

Meanwhile, under the hashtags #Ebola and #EbolaOutbreak, one can listen to the voices of real people and concerned organizations. Sure, there are trolls out there, but they go with the social media territory.