Random (but not really)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

How Do You Like Them Apples?

Yesterday on our hike I started to wonder about apples. Specifically: Why are apples typically portrayed as red?

The majority of apples we find at our Farmers Market are green or green & red. Yet when you think of an apple, you generally think of a shiny red apple. Why?

Considering that the most common red apple is the misnamed Red Delicious, which was bred not for flavor but looks and storage, it’s amazing that anyone would want to think about Red Delicious when they think “apple”.

Vaguely from my plant biology classes, I remembered that color was often dependent upon light. So might where apples were red be related to why red is seen as the color of apples? Were red apples more common in Europe?

But it’s even more complicated than that.

Apples do not breed true from seed. If you plant apple seeds you will not get an apple tree that bears the fruit of the apple you planted, most likely you’ll get a cider apple (which is what Johnny Appleseed was doing–planting seeds for cider apples, not the fruit).

You have to graft to get a reproducible apple variety.  So what grows in an area is dependent not just upon hardiness, but what humans have chosen to grow in any particular area.

Out of curiosity, I decided to look up what influences peel color in apples, and although light is important, temperature is also important, and colder temperatures increase anthocyanin production. Which makes sense in retrospect, since anthocyanis are protective. So you’ll get red apples where there is a lot of sun, but also where there are colder temperatures.

So red apples would seemingly be more likely to thrive in areas with harsher conditions (more UV or lower temperatures).

It still doesn’t make Red Delicious apples taste better, but it does help explain why we might have developed a preference for red apples.

(FWIW our other indepth discussion yesterday was use of silver to kill paranormal creatures and what kind of ammunition would be best (and easiest) to defend yourself. So don’t think that I spend my time pondering highfalutin topics.)

Red Color Development in Apple Fruit
Traverso, Amy. The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. W. W. Norton & Company.

Written by Michelle at 11:51 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Food,Non-Sequiturs,Science, Health & Nature  

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Better Living Through Chemisty

Someone on FB linked to an article about the medical management of mental health disorders: What It’s Like to Know You’ll Be on Antidepressants for Life.

The essay starts out noting the following:

The notion that people who take medication for mental illness are weak seems rooted in internalized social stigma. There’s still this strange divide in thinking about mental illness, where much of society seems to dismiss those illnesses as somehow less “real” than ones that are considered “physical.”

That’s unfair, yet true. We’re not supposed to talk about mental health issues. It’s ok to have diabetes or high blood pressure but depression or anxiety are secrets to be kept. Issues to be hidden.

To believe that my mental health issues make me a weaker person than someone who has a physical health issue is absurd. Yet it’s a common belief: depression and anxiety are weakness that can just be overcome by hard work and the correct attitude.

Part of it I suppose is historical: Suicide was a mortal sin that would send you directly to hell, so wouldn’t that make the mental state that made you suicidal a moral failing as well?

Part of it might also have to do with many mental health issues being more common in women than men, and women have historically been seen as weaker, both physically and mentally.

But perhaps a greater part is because mental health issues are less visible. You get a cast with a broken limb. You get scars from surgery. I can show someone my scars and X-Rays from my broken ankle, but what do I have to display for more than 30 years of mental health issues?

(Life insurance rates three times higher than my husband’s because I was honest during my interview about my past aren’t really anything you can display as a wound.)

 
 

After Robin Williams died, I remember being enraged by people who couldn’t understand how he could be so weak as to take his own life.

Weak?

When I broke my ankle I didn’t cry–I wasn’t even certain at first I’d broken my ankle, because I was certain it wasn’t painful enough to be broken bones. Yet I have felt emotional pain that was so harsh it took my breath away. A misery so strong that all I wanted was for it to end because it was unbearable.

I knew I could take medicines for relief from physical pain, and that over time the wounds would heal and the pain would eventually be gone.

Mental anguish is different. When you’re given anti-depressants, you’re told they might take up to a month to work. And that some meds are better for some people than for others so what you’re taking might not make things better. And again it’ll be a month before you know for certain.

Know what? I’ve had meds that not only didn’t work, but actually made things worse. That took more than two months to resolve.

Two months of something that no one could see. Two months of something I was certain was a moral failing: A weakness on my part.

A weakness.

During pre-marriage counseling, one of the questions we were asked was whether we suffered from mental illness.

“Yes,” I said, “depression.” (At this time I hadn’t yet been diagnosed with anxiety or OCD, even though they had been part of the mix since the beginning.)

“Not like that,” the counselor replied, “they’re asking about serious illness.”

 
 

Here’s the thing: I’m lucky in that I’ve always been able to work through my depressive episodes. It may have been a struggle, but I was able to get out of bed and be physically, if not emotionally, present.

I know I will be on meds for the rest of my life. I’m fine with that, because I have a strange quirk where I remember feelings painfully clearly. I remember the angst of being a teenager. I remember the shame of being different and unable to fit in. I remember breathtaking misery of grief. I remember the feelings of all my mistakes and the belief I would never get past them. I remember how it feels to believe I was worthless. That I was unworthy of love. That all I ever have done is cause harm and create misery.

I don’t want to live with that agony in the here and now, so I’m glad to take meds.

 
 

My primary fear is not being able to recognize if the meds start to fail and I begin to slip backwards into the abyss.

My secondary fear is of failing to recognize someone else who is suffering. Of missing the person who thinks they are the only one who feels they way they do: lost and broken and unworthy.

Which is why I share things like this. Because we aren’t alone. These things aren’t moral weaknesses or failures. They’re just physiology, and even if it takes a while, these things can usually be fixed.

Because these issues might be permanent but they don’t have to control me.

Because we are more than our illnesses and because we can live through them and be happy.

Written by Michelle at 6:50 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Depression,Science, Health & Nature  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Why We Have the EPA: Water

In 1952 and 1969 and at least 11 other times, the Cuyahoga along Cleveland Ohio caught fire. (Ohio History Central) (Washington Post)



Let’s take a look at something that’s a little more personal–the water quality of the Monongahela River, which runs past Morgantown and is the source of my water. The Mon River also has had a long history of pollution, especially from acid mine drainage.

The Monongahela River watershed was considered to be one of the region’s most intensely polluted by acid mine drainage in the United States until about 1970. (USACE)

Look at the change in pollution from 1974 (1) to 2000.

Morgantown

1974

1999-2000

pH

4.8

6.3

Alkalinity

2.5

14.2

Acidity

24.4

12.2

Total iron

4.9

2.7

(WVU Extension Service)

See also: (1964 Department of the Interior Report) (Morgantown Utility Board 2015 CCR)



Access to clean water is not a problem for 3rd world countries, it is a problem in many areas of West Virginia (and elsewhere in Appalachia). (Inside Appalachia)

Clean water is something many take for granted nowadays, but this is something that has come about through regulation and work. It does not come through the actions of private industries who don’t give a shit about those living downstream.

(1) The Clean Water Act was implemented in 1972, so this sampling is from two years after that.

Written by Michelle at 6:28 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,Science, Health & Nature  

Friday, March 3, 2017

Why We Have the EPA: Air

In 1952, England had a Great Smog that killed at least 4000 people (History.com) (The Guardian), although the history of killer smog in London dates back to the 1800s. (Guardian)



In 1966, at least 50 people were killed by a smog that covered the city of NY over Thanksgiving weekend. (Business Insider) (US Dept of Health, Education and Welfare Report from 1966)



In 1948, smog killed at least 20 people in Donora PA (a town south of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River, north of Morgantown). (History.com) (Pittsburgh Post Gazette) (NPR)



Current smog in the western US comes from uncontrolled emissions from China (Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics), and it’s possible that one third of deaths in China come from smog. (Business Insider)



Why do we need the EPA?

Because industry will not regulate itself. Because without regulation people die.

Written by Michelle at 11:28 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,Science, Health & Nature  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Tyranny of Clothing

I have several bathrobes, which I wear all the time.

This is partially because I like bathrobes (I have three–a heavy terrycloth robe for winter, and two waffle cotton robes for summer) and partially because we shower in the basement, and it’s a trek to make in the winter.

The softest robe has been causing problems for the past couple months–the overlap has been getting smaller and smaller, and it’s a bit to small to contain… me.

This, of course, made me feel badly about myself.

Until I realized that the loops for the tie were no longer at my waist, but are now just underneath my armpits.

The damned thing has been slowly shrinking, but I was convinced that the change was in me.

Nevermind that all my other clothes fit fine, and I’m still wearing the smaller jeans (I have jeans in two sizes; 10 and 12. I’ve been wearing the 10s) but I was somehow convinced that I was getting bigger.

Brains are stupid.

Also, I’m totally getting another robe to replace this one.

Written by Michelle at 9:54 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Depression,Science, Health & Nature  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pedometers: Data Comparison!

Another quick reminder of what I’ve been testing:

Accupedo
Garmin Vivofit
FitBit One
Omron HJ-323U

The Devices
The Software

Now for my FAVORITE PART! DATA!

I tracked the output of the various devices for three weeks, noting steps, kcal, and miles at various points of the day, including immediately before and after exercise or hiking.

Here’s what I found.

Steps

steps-time

As I’d found previously, the FitBit overcounts steps. Accupedo and the Omron are generally pretty close to each other, and typically had lower step counts than the VivoFit and the One.

HOWEVER.

On days when I was doing things like cleaning house or baking, the VivoFit had a much higher count than any other device. (I also threw out the Accupedo data on several of these days, because I didn’t have the phone in my pocket for several hours.)

I’m not terribly distressed that the VivoFit had a higher step count on days when I was baking or cleaning, because I’m active during those times, just not moving from one place to another.

Calories Burned

kcal-time

Not only does the FitBit overcount steps, but it also generally overcounted how many calories I burned during the day.

exercise-kcal

Here you can see that during periods of exercise, the FitBit gave me a far higher calorie burn than any other device–including the Garmin Fit, which should also have been taking elevation and pace into account. (Note that for walks, the Omron and Garmin Fit had very close calorie burns, but for hikes (where we were in steeper terrain) the Garmin Fit gave a much higher calorie burn than the Omron. I believe the Garmin Fit data should which should be fairly correct, although I know that using the heart rate monitor would make it more accurate. But I find it uncomfortable, so you don’t get that data because I am unwilling to suffer that much for data.)

Putting that together, we can see how calorie burn and steps tracked for my lunchtime walks.

steps-kcal

The step counts are all relatively close during these time periods, but the FitBit in general gave me a much greater calorie burn (I’m not sure what happened on that final Thursday–I’m guessing operator error in noting the counts.)

Yes, I do walk up and down stairs during my lunch walks, but I don’t think that’s enough to account for the FitBit calorie burn being that much higher.

Mileage

And finally, because I can’t help myself, I compared the mileage calculated by the pedometers as opposed to the distance given by the GPS for outdoor walks and hikes.

miles-vs-gps

GPS readings were from the Garmin Fit, which tracks mileage using my phone, and my Garmin Oregon GPS. I’ll note that the Oregon GPS does tend to give me a slightly shorter reading than is probably true, simply because I meander. So fractally, the distance I walk is probably longer than the distance calculated by the GPS, but not by a large amount.

Also interesting, the Vivofit seems to underestimate distance when I’m hiking and walking, as compared to other devices, but not consistently so, which could be due both to the terrain, and to how frequently I stop to take pictures when I hike.

And to be fair, hiking is quite different from walking, since one’s stride is generally not consistent.

So there you have it: The FitBit continues to overcount steps and overestimate calories burned, but the interface and community are so much nicer than any other device, it’s still my current favorite.

If you do outdoors activity, the Garmin Fit app is very nice, and I can definitely recommend it.

And if you don’t want to carry around an additional device, the Accupedo app is a very good alternative to a separate pedometer (assuming you can correctly calculate the sensitivity).

Previous Pedometer Geekiness:
2014
2013

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Fun & Games,Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

PEDOMETERS! Software, Websites, & Apps

Because everything is connected now, the screen interface between you and your data is important, so it gets an entire post.

Again, here are this year’s contenders:

Accupedo
Garmin Vivofit
FitBit One
Omron HJ-323U

The Devices

Also tested:

Sense Me
Garmin Fit

Here are the various interfaces.

Accupedo

This is a phone app, so no website.

Screenshot_2015-03-22-20-25-24

I like the Accupedo interface. It puts what I want to see right there, cleanly and clearly.

And I also like the widget, which comes in three different sizes.

Screenshot_2015-03-22-20-26-24

Note that Accupedo is the only widget on my phone. That’s because the FitBit widget comes in one size–too large–and none of the others have widgets.

FitBit

Here is the FitBit website Dashboard. It’s fine. It displays everything I want to see at a glance.

fitbit web

This is the FitBit app. Everything is there in a single glance, and the colors change the closer you get to your goal. I also like this app.

Screenshot_2015-03-22-20-26-12

Garmin Connect

Here is the Garmin Connect website, with the Vivofit panels.

vivifit web

I find this website frustrating. The panels never seem to stay where I want them–probably because I have different computers with different monitor sizes, and the panels shift around. The steps panel itself is fine–if only it would stay where I put it.

The Garmin Connect app I like better. It displays the same information as the website, and in the same manner, but it shows me what I want to see as soon as I launch it. No hunting to find the right panel.

Screenshot_2015-03-22-20-25-48

The Garmin Connect website is ALSO where you view the Garmin Fit app data, (as well as where I view the data from my Garmin watch. (Which I do NOT love, because the buttons are non-responsive, so it’s nearly impossible to start activities and connect the foot-pod and heart monitor. But that’s something else entirely.))

Garmin Fit uses the GPS to calculate the distance, pace, elevation, and calories burned. It does NOT work inside, so this is no good for a pedometer, but it is VERY nice for hiking.

connect website fit

Same panels (and the same issue with the panels) but I do love the little map of my latest activity.

Here’s the app:

Screenshot_2015-03-22-20-26-01

I like the display here as well, although it seems like I have to jump through one too many hoops to start an activity.

Omron Wellness Site

The Omron Wellness site is the new site where your data is uploaded.

omron website

I’ll be blunt. I am having major issues with the Omron Wellness site. It says it’s uploaded my data, but as you can see, my recent data is not there. I’m emailing with tech support, but I must say I really miss the old Omron software where everything lived on my computer.

I’ll update you as to how things go. Since they just rolled out the new site, I’m willing to cut them a little slack–but not much, and not for long. This is the only way I can view all my data (besides on the pedometer itself), and it’s not working.

SenseMe Pedometer App

Screenshot_2015-03-22-20-25-39

There is no screen where I can get an overview of all my data at once. There is no widget. Plus, it’s inaccurate. Goodbye.

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Fun & Games,Geek,Science, Health & Nature  
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