Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Da Vinci's horse and Renaissance idols on view

Now’s a good time to check out the National Gallery of Art’s cluster of new focus exhibitions. Small but incredible bronze statuettes of the rearing, muscular Budapest Horse – and how modern tech tools have been applied to solve a mystery: whether at least one was cast from a spectacular model by Da Vinci. A collection of smart and richly executed oil paintings by Judith Leyster proves that women in the early 1600s could get access to places some would assume to be off-limits to ladies. With their direct stares and sly expressions, the subjects evoked an earworm of George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone.”

And then there’s ”An Antiquity of Imagination: Tullio Lombardo and Venetian High Renaissance Sculpture.” Stuffy? Not on your life. The stories behind the works created by Tullio (c. 1455-1532) and his brother make them that much more fascinating. Imagine a time when sculptors and painters engaged in scrimmages over which is the more worthy medium? When sculptors tried to prove their superiority by striving to create likenesses of beings, mortal or mythical, so mesmerizing that onlookers would feel sympathy, compassion, infatuation, even love?

Robin’s writing more about this for a print publication, but in the meantime, plan a visit to NGA's West Building at 6th St. and Constitution Ave. NW in DC.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The new Land Art

This Sunday in her Eco Simple column for the Examiner newspapers on the east and west coasts, Robin focuses on contemporary Land Art from the new generation of environmental artists. Try to catch the LAND/ART festival running now through early December in Albuquerque. Click here for the San Francisco edition ... or here for the DC edition. Shown here: one of Basia Irland's Ice Books set afloat to reseed eroding waterways, and “Sandhill Cranes at 80 Camino Todos Los Santos, Corrales, New Mexico,” part of a project by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Neal Ambrose Smith.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fruit skins instead of exercise?

Good news for those who don't get enough exercise: A human-based study by U of South Carolina researchers shows that quercetin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound found in the skins of red apples, red onions, berries and grapes significantly boosts endurance and maximal oxygen capacity (VO2max) in men and women. Details to appear in the June 24 online issue of the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. Researchers cite quercetin's ability to boost the immune system and increase mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) in muscle and brain. Here's the study.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Enviro-friendly public servants

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) just sent us a letter: "Male fish in the Potomac are now producing eggs; high levels of birth control hormones are found in frogs and are working their way up the food chain. Pharmaceuticals are increasingly polluting our waters -- and it is perfectly legal." PEER was established to help public employees who want to report what's going on but fear jeopardizing their jobs. PEER's holding an online auction of fine artworks to raise money. Check them out here. UPDATE: PEER recently released evidence that EPA Admin Lisa Jackson tried to block publication of a scientific paper that called for more stringent federal warnings on PFOA when she headed NJ's environmental agency.

Monday, June 22, 2009

How food makers seduce

In today's New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope writes of former FDA chief Dr. David A. Kessler’s new book, “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.”: At the FDA, he accused cigarette makers of intentionally manipulating nicotine content to make their products more addictive. "Dr. Kessler finds some similarities in the food industry, which has combined and created foods in a way that taps into our brain circuitry and stimulates our desire for more.... [B]y combining fats, sugar and salt in innumerable ways, food makers have essentially tapped into the brain’s reward system, creating a feedback loop that stimulates our desire to eat and leaves us wanting more and more even when we’re full... [H]e offers descriptions of how restaurants and food makers manipulate ingredients to reach the aptly named “bliss point.” Foods that contain too little or too much sugar, fat or salt are either bland or overwhelming. But food scientists work hard to reach the precise point at which we derive the greatest pleasure from fat, sugar and salt.” Results include “hyper-palatable food that requires little chewing and goes down easily.” Read more.

Cashing in on wildlife

Wildlife Property Repository is the resting place for 1.5 million victims of illegal trade. They sit on shelves or in boxes as bracelets, shoes, pelts and ... Read this new LA Times report here.

Art of the Ordinary: Eggleston, free Corcoran Saturdays

See Robin's review about new new William Eggleston retrospective...and details about free admission to the Corcoran in D.C....here in the Examiner. Yep, his dolls shot was a Big Star album cover.

Greenwashing watch

Don't rely on government to police ad claims. More than 98% of supposedly natural and environmentally friendly products sold in the U.S. make false, unsubstantiated or misleading claims, environmental consultants testified before Congress recently. More here in the Guardian. And a report in today's USA Today states that since May 2000, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has taken legal action against only three companies for violating "Green Guide" guidelines about making enviro-friendly claims.

Licorice power: fights sore throats and fat?

Gargling with a licorice solution before surgery reduced postoperative sore throat and cough in a study appearing in the July issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia. Patients who gargled with licorice before surgery had fewer problems with postoperative sore throat and cough."Licorice, derived from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, has been used for many millennia as an alternative medicine for treatment of inflammation, allergies, and gastric and duodenal ulcers," Dr. Anil Agarwal and colleagues write. Licorice contains compounds with anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, and anti-cough effects. The diluted licorice solution used in study is easily made and inexpensive, at a cost of pennies per patient. And here's a website about licorice; recipes include a sore throat remedy. Might licorice even fight fat? Check this out.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Artomatic: Amusement park of alt art, indie acts

If you're in DC this month, there's all kinds of big fun going on at Artomatic in DC. The event has taken over 9 floors of a big building with fantastic city views. It's right above the Navy Yard Metro stop for those not up for a pleasant bike ride to 55 M St SE. Here's Robin's piece about works she enjoyed by artists newly discovered at the indie art expo...appeared in Campello's Daily Art News. Shown here: photo of M/V New Carissa shipwreck off Oregon coast by Edward Hahn; Lioness Enlightened, a print by Johanna Mueller; The Guide, oil painting and beautiful myth by Tracey Clarke.

Lab animals' life - exposed by research scientist

Karen Dawn's post provides an excellent summary of and links to a five part series published this month in the respected online newsmagazine Slate. Written by research scientist turned science writer Daniel Engber.

* Where's Pepper? In the summer of 1965, a female Dalmatian was stolen from a farm in Pennsylvania. Her story changed America. (Also, interesting refererence to the original "101 Dalmatians.") Click http://www.slate.com/id/2219224/pagenum/all

* Man Cuts Dog. Pepper arrives at a laboratory in the Bronx. Click http://www.slate.com/id/2219225/pagenum/all

* Pepper Goes to Washington. The federal-level animal-welfare law is passed. It excludes exclusion of rats, mice and birds ... leaving 95 percent of animals tested with no protection against pain, suffering and inhumane conditions. Click http://www.slate.com/id/2219226/pagenum/all

* Brown Dogs and Red Herrings. Animal testing evolves. Click http://www.slate.com/id/2219227/pagenum/all

* Me and My Monkey. Confessions of a reluctant vivisector.
Click http://www.slate.com/id/2219228/pagenum/all

Reporters and undercover welfare advocates, and the public, have been blocked from seeing testing facilities. However, once in awhile, undercover video has been obtained, including fall 2001 footage showing "researchers marking newborn mice by amputating their toes and cutting the brains from baby rats without anesthesia. Rodents were trampled to death in overcrowded cages, left to die in garbage bins, or allowed to suffer with swollen tumors and open sores."

Reports Engber: "We regularly subject rodents to pain, starvation, solitary confinement, and grotesque disfigurement. Whatever misery they endure is multiplied across the hundreds of millions of rats and mice used in labs every year."

Don't want to think about? Understood. But better if people would stop such cruelty. Non-animal testing models not only exist; they are better. And time and time again, the lack of efficacy of animal testing has been shown.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mainstream media spoof or reality?

Man Who Crossed Nation In Balloon Only Wants To Talk About Horse Abuse

Translating puppy talk

Was that a kiss or just a lick...why did Puppy duck his head...and many other pup communication questions answered in this excellent article in BARK by Dr. Nicholas Dodman and Lawrence Lindner. Click here.

Coral reef rescue news

Coral reefs – key parts of the world's ecosystems – have been dying at alarming rates. Banning or restricting the use of certain types of fishing gear like spear guns, fish traps, and beach seine nets will help the world’s coral reefs and their fish populations survive, according to a joint study by international science and conservation groups. More here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Scolding leads to guilty look

Click the headline for a study that applies to dogs, and surely some kids.

Yard full of pet threats

Click here for article about finding and ridding threats to pets in your yard.

Docs speak out about EDCs - BPA, phlatates, DDT, receipt paper

Receipt paper, hard plastic bottles, food can liners, baby bottles, plastic bags, drugs, many cosmetics...what do they have in common? These and other products contain compounds linked by hundreds of research studies to endocrine and reproductive system disruption. Last week, the Endocrine Society issued its first-ever statement confirming concerns about EDCs, or endocrine disruption chemicals (BPA or bisphenol A, phlatates and DDT, etc.) is evidence-based.

The concerns aren’t new. More than 15 years ago at the first World Wildlife Fund Wingspread Conference, expert scientists concluded “Many compounds introduced into the environment by human activity are capable of disrupting the endocrine system of animals, including fish, wildlife, and humans.” EDCs affect the hormones that control physical development.

And a decade ago, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) was given a mandate to develop test protocols to screen for endocrine effects of chemicals.

Since then, hundreds of peer-reviewed studies have shown associations between EDC exposure and adverse impact in humans. During the same period, new manmade chemicals have been added to the synthetic scene, and scientists have expressed concern about EDCs’ potential role in the increasing occurrence of behavioral disorders, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Possible impacts on animals include early breast development in young women, breast and prostate cancer in humans, bird deaths, sex reversal and infertilify in fish, birth defects in amphibians, and high levels of anthropogenic (man-made) chemicals in polar bears, beluga whales, killer whales and Arctic foxes.

Skipping breakfast as diet-wrecker, declining testosterone effects among ENDO 09 topics

Robin will be writing for some other publications on some new study findings presented last week at ENDO 09, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society (endo-society.org). These include:

* The power of a healthy breakfast in taming cravings for diet-busting foods. Another study proves the health value of eating breakfast, but explains why a nutritious breakfast (fruits and some carbs) curb appetite throughout the day. Study participants who skipped breakfast displayed far greater activity in the brain's reward centers when shown high-calorie junk food than those participants who ate a healthy breakfast. So evidently skipping a meal predisposes people on a neurobiological level to go for diet-busting foods.

* Declining testosterone levels in men as they age has now been linked to weight gain and the cluster of health problems known as metabolic syndrome.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Small: The next big thing?

Really tiny houses ... Robin's subject in this Sunday's Eco Simple column for the Examiner newspapers. Click to access the DC edition or San Fran edition.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Poster art rocks: new Paper Jam exhib

Civilian Art Projects on 7th St. NW in D.C. opens its second exhibition of music-based posters. PAPER JAM: The Art and Grime of the East Coast Rock Poster. Can't get there in person? Click here for a virtual visit.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stress-free vet visits? Handling cats and dogs better

Dr. Sophia Yin on the radio. Topic: Visiting vets, driving, giving pills and other handling other typically stressful situations with less, or no, stress using such techniques as counter-conditioning. Includes great, easy tips for calming frightened cats. Click to listen.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Art spots: Albuquerque

Art happenings in Albuquerque - check Robin's new piece in Daily Art News here.

Motivational posters don't...

Results from a recent University of Iowa study suggest that motivational posters and geegaws are de-motivators for people who are not naturally upbeat. Researchers suppose that these individuals are skeptical and question motives.

Myth busted: exercise beats calcium for bone health

Myth busted: drink milk, eat dairy products and take calcium supplements to improve bone health and prevent osteoporosis. Nope, writes Univ of NC health and wellness professor Amy Lanou in a new book co-written with Michael Castleman titled "Building Bone Vitality: A Revolutionary Plan to Prevent Bone Loss and Reverse Osteoporosis." d

The book shows why eating low-acid foods and taking daily walks are the most effective ways to prevent bone loss.
Recommendations: eat six to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables and no more than one or two servings of high-protein foods. Why? Because protein is composed of amino acids. As the body digests high-protein foods, the blood becomes more acidic, leaching calcium from the bones. That can eventually cause osteoporosis, the authors say.

Fruits and vegetables also contain some protein, but less than meat, dairy and eggs. And fruits and vegetables also contain a great deal of alkaline material, which neutralizes the acid. So the body does not have to draw calcium compounds out of bone.

Lanou and Castleman found that since 1975, 140 clinical trials have explored calcium's effects on osteoporotic fracture risk. Overall, the clinical trials dealing with fracture prevention run two-to-one against calcium, the authors noted. They found that the consensus of bone/exercise research shows that 30 to 60 minutes of daily walking is enough to build strong bones. So: Walk Every Day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Biomimicry: Learning from nature's intelligent designs

The solutions to human challenges don't have to be expensive, toxic or out-of-reach. Check this new article on biomimicry.

Monday, June 8, 2009

‘Warrior Gene’ linked to joining gangs and using weapons

Boys who carry a variation of the gene Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA), AKA the “warrior gene,” are more likely to join gangs, to be among the most violent members and to use weapons, according to a new study from Florida State University. More here.

Cuts and sneezes not backing up the ER

Masters student Andre Maddison won the 2009 Mythbusters Award for research indicating that non-urgent patients aren’t why emergency departments are so backed up. “Emergency department overcrowding is a national problem with potentially devastating effects,” he said. “It is rooted in insufficient physical and human resources and poor integration within and between hospitals.”

Pregnant? Watch those plastics

Newborn girls exposed in the womb to phthalates scored poorly on a standard behavior test. Phthalate metabolites found in the mothers' urine were associated with the girls' poor performance on tests of attention and alertness. This is the first study to link phthalates to neurological development effects in humans. Previous studies have linked phthalates to altered genital development, obesity, diabetes risk and poor sperm quality. Details here. And here's an interesting site all about bottled water.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Go BOINGO: Best WiFi for travelers

As a frequent traveler, I can tell you that all mobile/WiFi services are not created equal. The best I've found is Boingo. The service is even better than the name. Unlike T-Mobile, you can access it in places like Atlanta Hartsfield airport. $7.95 for mobile WiFi...$9.95 for laptop WiFi (what I use). Unlimited. Like roaming without fees. Hotspots in 100,000 places worldwide. Click here for Boingo details.

Free: National parks for 3 weekends

Just in time for vacation planning: Entrance fees at 147 national parks and monuments nationwide, including the Grand Canyon, will be waived June 20-21, July 18-19 and August 15-16.

Sustainable town planning

On May 21, we attended a National Building Museum/American Planning Association symposium examining a century of city planning. Discussion snippets:

* Carolina Barco, Columbia’s Ambassador to the U.S., described Bogota’s evolution. In 1992, the city was overwhelmed by crime, traffic jams and other ills. Planners devised a multi-pronged solution including improved public transportation, better policing, an arms-for-food exchange, and building libraries next to parks and closing bars by 1 a.m. Bike commuting was encouraged and peak time license plates were issued, getting 40% of the cars off streets during rush hour.

* University of Michigan’s Robert Fishman resurrected a book about urban utopias. Projects included Yorkship Village’s elegant 1918 wartime emergency housing in Camden NJ and the Radburn NJ greenbelt town proposed four decades before Columbia, MD. Lessons learned: simple beats comprehensive and highways spawn sprawl; once the National System of Interstate Highways was approved, “the toothpaste was out of the tube.”

* University of Florida dean Chris Silver spoke about visions for new cities that would reverse overcrowding and underservice.

Weight loss study of the month

Overweight individuals who ate a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet high in plant-based proteins for four weeks lost weight and experienced improvements in blood cholesterol levels and other heart disease risk factors, according to a report in the June 8 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. A high-carbohydrate, low-fat vegetarian diet also resulted in weight loss but without the additional cardiovascular benefits.

Dog Tip: Check out Dr. Yin's site

Good source for dog care advice (besides yours truly). Dr. Sophia Yin wrote The Small Animal Veterinary Nerdbook, How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves, and Low Stress Handling, Restraint, and Behavior Modification in Cats and Dogs. Her studies have ranged from vocal communication in dogs to behavior modification in horses and giraffes. Check out her website.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Angels and demons: Inhumane humans

Sad stories this week: someone set a gentle pit bull on fire (article here); someone else horribly beat another innocent dog. Speak up for the voiceless. Please watch the video in the linked article, and most of all, please care.

Animals feel regret

Yep, just as we figured...article in today's New York Times.