Gumshoe Review LogoGuess you all know where I’ll be for the next 24 plus hours. Sitting in front of a computer screen pulling out hair I can’t afford to lose, wondering if that word should be hyphenated, why can’t people at least run the spellchecker (I mean if it pops up on my browser in red — that should be a hint right)?

Why oh why did I wait so long to get my stuff pressed and polished — I should have known that at least 10 more things would pop into my “need to check it now” stack at the last minute and they did…

SFRevu AdDeep breath. I need a nap. It’s already been a long day. Tomorrow at midnight the zines go live. Beware the anticipation… Breathe.

I think after that nap, I’m making a pot of coffee with triple scoops of COFFEE…maybe with coffee syrup and coffee flavoring. I might even add chocolate. But first the nap…provided I can get to sleep.

Insomnia. I hate it. I deal with it a few times a month. I haven’t had coffee or caffeine in four days thinking that was it and I still haven’t slept more than 2-4 hours a night lately. I’ve decided to change my attitude. I’ll now be taking a nap tonight. Not sleeping mind you just napping for 2 or 4 hours. See. It’s not insomnia now, it’s planned. I’m not trying to sleep. (I’m using reverse psychology on my sleep engine — do you think it will work? ) Anyway, it’s not like I don’t have plenty to do in the next 24 hours anyway.

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Mad Hatters Tea Party

I haven’t posted for a few days and doubt I’ll get to anything before Monday, June 1st. I’m on deadline to get two of the magazines up and live by June 1st (SFRevu and Gumshoe Review). So things always get a bit hectic at this time of the month.

What’s making things even more chaotic than usual is that we moved the magazines from one host to another. That necessitated repointing the DNS (Domain Name Server) and that takes several hours to a day or two to percolate throughout the world’s internet system (very general and not completely accurate but you get the idea).

To make the switch we had to disable administrative functions. Basically, that means that while readers could go to the sites and read the May issue, I (and the other staff) couldn’t enter books, paste in reviews, edit/proof, write material…. In short about a week and a half of work has to be done in the six days before the end of the month. But wait there’s more … the usual six day’s of work also has to be done.

So now I’m down to two days left and about 5 days of work to do. I think I’m going to need a few gallons of caffeine to get me through the run up to our June issues.

So, thanks for dropping in but there probably won’t be anything new here until Monday….

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May Coffee CupIt’s been a heck of a month. It seems like all month, I’ve been running as fast as I can just to stay in place. There’s been so much going on. So, finally, here is the May Coffee Cup. It’s bright and cheery and I’ve been enjoying it all month. It’s just the right size to fill and sip on at the computer and the coffee stays relatively warm in it. Though I have to admit that I will drink my coffee hot, warm, tepid, and cold. Comes from years of work in IT where often you’d forget to go heat it up if you were deep in the code and on the right track.

We’ve been moving the zines from one host to another. That means transferring the DNS and that means a lot of backups and waits to see when the change would go through and the administrative functions were disabled and all I could do was let the work pile up. We’re nearing the end of the month and tonight the last magazine is being moved and the administrative functions restored. The email addresses are being reinstated on the new server and hopefully they’ll work okay. There’s a bit of a problem with sending email out and I’m hoping that gets resolved before I have to send out the notification to the publishers that a review is now up on our site. The monthly announcement can, if necessary, be sent from another server as a backup plan — hopefully we won’t need it.

So, I’ve been trying to get more books reviewed this month and have managed to do several graphic novels for the June issue of SFRevu, including Jim Butcher’s The Dresden FIles: Storm Front: Vol. 1, The Gathering Storm adaptation by Mark Powers and illustrated by Ardian Syaf (so check out our June issue for the review.

Yellow FinchWe’ve managed to keep the bird feeder going. We thought the little guys were going to eat us out of house and home but now that it’s getting into late Spring/Summer we’re finding that while they still cluster about the feeder, the birds aren’t eating as much. We do have a Tufted Titmouse that is coming about and fluttering at the windows by where we sit in the living room. Not the window closest to the feeder but the ones where we sit. He’s even been at the kitchen and the dinning room window when I’m there doing something. The hummingbirds are back in force and we’re making food regularly for them. We had to buy a new feeder since they didn’t like one of them and now they’re eating from both of them.

We’ve had some new birds show up also. We started getting Yellow Finches, Tufted Titmouse (Titmice?), Blue Jays, Brown Headed Cowbirds, and a strange looking black bird we haven’t gotten a good look at yet. I’m enjoying trying to identify the birds that stop by and I’m getting a better understanding of why people enjoy bird watching.

Toe up sock with Magic CastonI’ve also been knitting. Trying out new techniques and more importantly trying to finish up some projects that have been sitting around for a while. First, I’m trying to keep socks on the go all the time for traveling and away from the house waiting times. I finally tried the magic caston. I watched the youtube video. Well, actually there are several just search on Magic Caston and a long list shows up. I tried several before I found one that worked for my brain. The others were well done but I just didn’t get it until I meshed with the right video.

After-thought HeelI used an after-thought heel and did a very loose cast off for the cuff on these toe-up socks. That makes it easier to get them on if they shrink a bit in the wash. Here’s a photo of the needles in for the after-thought heel and another of the finished socks (well, one finished sock though I’ve got both done now).

Finished Sock

So, in spite of the fact that I’m running as fast as I can to just stay in place, I might just have accomplished some stuff this month — or rather I hope I will. I don’t know how other people cope with unexpected or even expected inconveniences that through their schedules all out of whack. Luckily for me, I cope with these things by either knitting or reading — too things that I need to do anyway. How do you cope?

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Cafe Chocolats Art PosterScience Daily for April 7th had an article on how Caffeine Reduces Pain During Exercise. Professor of kenesiology and community health, Robert Motl has been studying the effects of caffeine on pain during exercise. He began by noticing that he always had a cup of coffee before going out to train and felt it helped him workout longer and perform better when he was a competitive cyclist.

Early in his research, Motl noticed:

“caffeine works on the adenosine neuromodulatory system in the brain and spinal cord, and this system is heavily involved in nociception and pain processing.” Since Motl knew caffeine blocks adenosine from working, he speculated that it could reduce pain.

Even more interesting to me is that the results were pretty much the same whether the test subject was a caffeine junkie or someone who barely ate or drank anything with caffeine in it. (Remember caffeine is in more than just coffee, it’s also in chocolate, soft drinks, and many other foods and beverages.) This particular study was only interested in pain and exercise and did coffee make a difference. For other activities or pain related problems caffeine might not work.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll notice that the research about coffee/caffeine and its impact on people’s heath is very much dependent on what research you’re reading. It’s good for you. It’s bad for you. It’s okay in moderation. You should never touch the stuff. It might help reduce the pain during exercise.

What to believe?  I don’t know. I’ve never really paid attention to whether or not having coffee before I do my exercise routine helps me do more exercises or push on harder on the ones I do. I guess now I’ll have to keep that in the back of my mind.

Personally, as I’ve said before, I have a liking for a good cup of coffee but I reduce my intake for health reasons and so that when I have a migraine, drinking coffee will have more of an effect on alleviating the pain. Could it be that this pain blocking effect also works a bit with migraines or is it only the blood vessel dilation/contraction effects that are at work?  I don’t know but I will keep my eye out for more research on the effects of coffee/caffeine on health.

And I’ll also ponder whether the quality of that cup of coffee has any effect on the results of the research. After all if it’s a truly gross cup of coffee I might prefer the pain of the exercise. Would you?

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Coffee posterI was surprised to see an article on caffeine withdrawal the other day, “Beware the perils of caffeine withdrawal” on CNN.Health. I mean, I thought everyone already knew that coffee, or rather caffeine was addicting. But then I remembered that in this Just Say No society many people won’t admit they have a problem with drugs.

Yes, caffeine is a drug. And, yes, many people are addicted, including children. Caffeine is in many of the products that you ingest each day: coffee, tea, chocolate, some sodas/soft drinks, and many other food items. When you cut out all caffeine it can cause your body to react and fight to get its next fix. Not as bad a withdrawal from some of the hardcore drugs or cigarettes but painful nonetheless.

Personally, I love coffee. Those of you who read my blog know that I have often sung the praises of coffee; one of my favorite beverages. But, alas, I keep the intake down to one large mug a day and when I can (usually in summer when I prefer iced tea (decaf)) to one every other day.

We all have reason why we cut down on caffeine. Some people can’t have it because of health reasons. Me, I cut down because I have migraines. I find that if I keep my daily caffeine intact at a low level then when I have a real big whopper of a migraine upping the caffeine along with a smaller dose of pain meds, I can survive it without resorting to sitting in the dark closet with a pillow wrapped round my head, crying myself to sleep.

I picked up the caffeine trick when pain meds for migraines became difficult to get because, as I’ve been told so often by my health insurance, “It’s only a headache — take aspirin.” (I’m hoping all health insurance workers develop killer migraines and have to resort to aspirin for the pain.) Most of the heavy duty pills for migraines have caffeine in them so I thought why not experiment and see if I can find a balance that will work for me (other migraine sufferers will probably have their own strategies — but if I hear “go to your happy place” one more time, I may do damage…).

Anyway, I thought that just in case you found yourself shaky and unable to concentrate, maybe achy and tired — you might want to think about what you’ve cut out of your diet lately. It could be you’ve cut down on caffeine too quickly and need to rethink just how quickly you cut it out of your life. Slowly reducing intake is the best way to avoid the withdrawal symptoms. Check your food labels because you may have cut out caffeine you didn’t know you were getting.

Me. I’ll stick to my one cup a day or less until I really, really need this drug of choice. What about you?

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Coffee 2009 CalendarThere seems to be a lot of conflicting information being published about coffee and its effect on us. Of course that’s not new; some people have always said it’s bad for you to drink coffee and some have said it’s good. I remember as a child it was forbidden to have coffee unless, of course, it was one part coffee to about 6 parts milk. But now science has put its oar in the water and the boat is spinning…

First there’s the good.

Last April (2 April 2008), BBC News ran this article, Daily Caffeine ‘protects brain’. This study basically showed that caffeine helped protect the brain’s blood/brain barrier from decaying. Saying among other things:

The University of North Dakota study used the equivalent to just one daily cup of coffee in their experiments on rabbits.

After 12 weeks of a high-cholesterol diet, the blood brain barrier in those given caffeine was far more intact than in those given no caffeine.

Caffeine is a safe and readily available drug and its ability to stabilise the blood brain barrier means it could have an important part to play in therapies against neurological disorders.

Dr Jonathan Geiger, University of North Dakota

All well and good. Just one cup a day and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be looking at having full mental capacity into my golden years.

Then there was more good news.

On January 16th, 2009 there was a report of a new study in theage.com.au, Coffee reduces Alzheimer’s risk: study.

This was a longitudinal study, meaning it took a long time to gather the data — usually having quite a bit of time between the first set of interviews and the second (in this case about twenty years). They interviewed 1,409 people in Finland. The people were first interviewed when they were in their 50s about their coffee-drinking habits then their memory functions were tested. These same people were re-interviewed when they were between 65 and 79. Again they were asked about their coffee drinking habits and their memory functions tested. What they found was that:

A total of 61 people had by then developed dementia, 48 of whom had Alzheimer’s, the researchers said.

The overall results of the study from the lead research:

“Middle-aged people who drank between three and five cups of coffee a day lowered their risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by between 60 and 65 per cent later in life,” said lead researcher on the project, Miia Kivipelto, a professor at the University of Kuopio in Finland and at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm

“There are perhaps one or two other studies that have shown that coffee can improve some memory functions (but) this is the first study directed at dementia and Alzheimer’s (and) in which the subjects are followed for such a long time,”

Note the number of cups of coffee listed — “between three and five cups … a day”. Because here comes the bad…

The Telegraph.co.uk on 13 January 2009 published Three Cups of Brewed coffee a day ‘triples risk of hallucinations’. Researchers looked at the

[Researchers examined the] caffeine intake of about 200 students, some of whom had experienced seeing things that were not there, hearing voices or sensing the presence of the dead. The volunteers were questioned about their caffeine intake from products including coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate bars and caffeine tablets.

So what did they find out from this study. Well:

Researchers found that “high caffeine users”, those who had more than the equivalent of seven cups of instant coffee a day, were three times more likely to have had hallucinations than those who had less than the equivalent of one cup.

Those who have three cups of brewed coffee a day could be at the same risk, they warn, because of the drink’s higher caffeine content.

On average the volunteers had the equivalent of three cups of instant coffee a day, which could still cause an increased risk, according to the study.

Remember, three to five cups a day could possible help protect you from Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, three cups of coffee or more in a day could cause you to hallucinate.

Oh, joy. Conflicting reports. See the problem with science is also what is good about it. Depending on what hypothesis you are testing and what groups you study, you will find different results. The point is that while the good and the bad here are in conflict when you’re trying to decide whether coffee is good for you or not, you can’t make an educated decision based on three pieces of data. You also have to take into consideration your own health. Do you have high-blood pressure? Caffeine can cause it to be elevated. Has your doctor told you to avoid coffee? Why? Have you talked with the doctor about your lifestyle and health history? Are you at risk for Alzheimer’s?

The problem is that people pretty much do what they want no matter what the issue is about. If you want to drink coffee you’re going to like the protection against Alzheimer’s reports and ignore the report on increased hallucinations even if the music in your head is bothering your neighbors. Humans tend to find the facts that backup what we want to do and then feel all happy and righteous about our decisions.

Me. Well, I’ve reduced my coffee intake to no more than two cups a day. By the way did you notice that not one of the studies included a definition of “cup of coffee” in their reports. Perhaps they did in the actual paper presented to their respective scientific conferences but for the lay person well it’s sort of up in the air. My cups are pretty big so reducing my intake to two cups might be the equivalent of five cups in those pretty delicate china cups with saucers. But since I used to have four or five of these big mugs/cups of coffee a day my reduction is pretty drastic. Besides the only times I’ve ever hallucinated has been when I was ill with very high fevers — I called them fever dreams. So, I’ll take my chances with my two mugs a day until the next batch of reports come out and then I may rethink depending on what the results show.

What will you do?

[Hyperion here] This is really interesting … unless, of course, she’s only hallucinating that she read these reports.

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