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2007: Year in Review

1 Jan

One of my regular blog reads, Postcards from the Mothership, published this meme a few days ago.  I thought it would be interesting to look back at my year this way, so I gave it a whirl.  These are the first sentences of the first posts of each month in 2007:

1. Well, it’s January 1st, so it really is high time to get back into the blogging saddle again.
2. It was a short week for me, but I’m still glad it’s Friday!
3. As mentioned in the previous post, we attended the Cultural Festival at ATCO Place last night.
4. Argh!  I was going to make a posting about the delightful dinner we had last night with Father Claude in preparation from Jade’s upcoming baptism.
5. About a month ago, I read an article in the Yukon News describing an art project run by the Dawson Arts Society in Dawson City, Yukon.
6. Since the car is still in the shop (because we are awaiting delivery of the crucial part) and we decided to return the rental vehicle and make do with other means of transportation, and because this is, after all, the week of the Commuter Challenge, I biked to work today.
7. So those of you who are friends on Facebook already know that I was recording a demo tonight.
8. I went to bed last night at 12:45, after finally finishing the last page of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
9. This past month Jade learned how to pucker up.
10. Wow, half the visit to Germany is already over!
11. I called my family doctor yesterday to confirm that he doesn’t do prenatal care.
12. Michael is the king of puns.

#3 reminds me that this was the year of the Canada Winter Games, something I didn’t think to mention in my annual newsletter (which finally got mailed yesterday).  I also had failed to realize that we had replaced the stupid springs in our old Volvo just this past summer!  I’m reminded, too, that I never made a follow-up post about the Yukon Women in Music recording project (I came in 14th out of 30, and the recording project is including the top 12, so I just missed getting picked, but am still involved in YWIM).  Harry Potter seems like so long ago, and Jade’s forgotten how to pucker.

Best wishes to all of you for 2008!

Abdominal fat greater health risk for Chinese

23 Aug
This is not a good news story for me: being part-Chinese, and I already know that I tend to accumulate more belly fat than other kinds of fat.  Eek!  I think I really should go check out Curves…

Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun

Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Everyone knows being overweight is bad for your health. But a new study by B.C. scientists suggests it is especially dangerous for those of Chinese and South Asian  descent — who, the study found, actually accumulate fat differently than Caucasians.

Researchers measured the body fat of more than 800 volunteers in Greater Vancouver of various ethnic backgrounds. What they found is that, for the same amount of total body fat, Chinese and South Asian people had a far greater concentration of fat in their inner abdomen — where it poses the greatest risk for diabetes and heart disease.

For example, the study found that a moderately overweight Chinese person has, on average, 36 per cent more inner-abdominal fat than a Caucasian person of the same size. And a South Asian of average weight has 23 per cent more inner-abdominal fat than someone Caucasian.

Aboriginals showed no difference from Caucasians.

Scott Lear, a kinesiology professor at Simon Fraser University who led the study, said the ethnic gap is so profound that it may be necessary to redefine what obesity means for Asians.

At the moment, regardless of ethnic background, you are considered at risk of health problems if you have a waist circumference larger than 102 centimetres (40 inches) for men or 88 centimetres (35 inches) for women.

Given the added health risks weight seems to pose for Asians, said Lear, it may make sense to create new, ethnic-specific weight standards for them — such as 90 centimetres (35 inches) for men and 80 centimetres (32 inches) for women.

Lear said the definition of overweight under the Body Mass Index, a calculation based on  height and weight, may also need to change for Asians, dropping from 25 to 23.

"We’re in the process of coming up with some guidance for what the [new] targets should be," he said.

Lear doesn’t know why Asians accumulate fat differently. But the ethnic gap persists even after controlling for things like diet, height and level of exercise, suggesting it has something to do with genetics.

One theory, said Lear, is that Asia underwent more famines than Europe — causing its people to evolve the ability to store fat more easily.

In recent years, scientists have discovered that overall weight is far less important for good health than where that weight is distributed — with abdominal, or belly, fat most closely linked with heart disease and diabetes.

And while most people focus on subcutaneous fat, the belly fat they can pinch under their skin, it is actually the abdominal fat deep within the body that is the most dangerous. It is this fat that Lear’s team studied by taking CT scans of people’s bellies.

Exactly why inner-abdominal fat is so unhealthy is not known, though it may be that it puts greater stress on the liver.

Rema Sanghera, a dietitian at BC Women’s Hospital, works with pregnant women from various ethnic backgrounds to reduce their risk of diabetes.

"Our hope is that, since mom is the chief cook in the family, that changes she makes will have a trickle-down effect for other family members as well," she said.

Sanghera said the incidence of diabetes among South Asians is several times that of the general population. She said she hopes Lear’s study results in new guidelines for health workers like herself — so they can do a better job of identifying unhealthy weight in Asians.

Lear’s study is published in the current edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Does this mean my blog is boring?

26 Jun

Jenn got a PG Rating, so I thought I’d see how my blog fared…


Check out the puzzle!

21 Jun
You should all go to to check out the partial unveiling of the Dawson City Arts Society puzzle project.  You could win a free trip for two to Dawson City!  While you’re at it, see if you can spot the two puzzle pieces that Michael and I contributed — they both appear in the photo.  If you can’t remember what our pieces look like, check out mine here, and Michael’s here.

Clothes for dogs

22 May
This morning I had the radio on as I was driving to work. It was time for CBC’s local programming, and they were interviewing a woman in Whitehorse who operates a business out of her home, selling dog apparel. The business came about because the business owner got a Yorkie, but "wasn’t able to buy clothes" for it. She decided to open a store where people could come in and let their dogs try on clothing, just like in any other boutique.

I’m prepared to admit that Yorkies are cute dogs. I’m also prepared to admit that the business owner has found an unfilled niche here in Whitehorse. And I really try hard not to be judgemental; becoming a parent has made me more sensitive to the unnecessarily hard-core opinions some people try to push on those around them. But as I listened to the businesswoman talking about the pleasure her husband gets out of picking out Mitzi’s clothes every morning, I must say that my incredulity meter was getting a pretty good workout.

I realize that there are a lot of people out there who treat their pets as their children. But dressing up one’s pet on a daily basis (and not just for special or silly occasions) seems like an indulgence bordering on degrading to the animal. Even if these animals really were children, the practice seems rather akin to dressing a little girl in Disney Princess clothes every day — isn’t it disrespectful to treat her like a doll? Or is that just me?

Still, the business owner mentioned that some little doggies love to wear their jammies and it gets them in the mode of going to bed. So if the dog actually likes to wear clothes, well, who am I to argue, right?

I wonder what Adam and Eve would think…

UCLA study on friendship among women

27 Apr

By Gale Berkowitz

A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more. Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis.

A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. It’s a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research–most of it on men–upside down.

"Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible," explains Laura Cousino Klein, PhD, now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study’s authors. "It’s an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers.

Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just "fight or flight." "In fact," says Dr. Klein, "it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the "fight or flight" response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. This calming response does not occur in men", says Dr. Klein," because testosterone–which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress–seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen", she adds, "seems to enhance it."

The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic "aha!" moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA. "There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded", says Dr. Klein." When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something."

The women cleared their schedules and started meeting with one scientist after another from various research specialties. Very quickly, Drs.Klein and Taylor discovered that by not including women in stress research, scientists had made a huge mistake: The fact that women respond to stress differently than men has significant implications for our health. It may take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the "tend and befriend" notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain why women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.

"There’s no doubt," says Dr. Klein, "that friends are helping us live." In one study, for example, researchers found that people who had no friends increased their risk of death over a 6-month period. In another study, those who had the most friends over a 9-year period cut their risk of death by more than 60%.

Friends are also helping us live better. The famed Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life. In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidantes was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight!

And that’s not all! When the researchers looked at how well the women functioned after the death of their spouse, they found that even in the face of this biggest stressor of all, those women who had a close friend and confidante were more likely to survive the experience without any new physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality. Those without friends were not always so fortunate.

Yet if friends counter the stress that seems to swallow up so much of our life these days, if they keep us healthy and even add years to our life, why is it so hard to find time to be with them? That’s a question that also troubles researcher Ruthellen Josselson, Ph.D., co-author of "Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls’ and Women’s Friendships (Three Rivers Press, 1998). "Every time we get overly busy with work and family, the first thing we do is let go of friendships with other women," explains Dr. Josselson. "We push them right to the back burner.

That’s really a mistake because women are such a source of strength to each other. We nurture one another. And we need to have unpressured space in which we can do the special kind of talk that women do when they’re with other women. It’s a very healing experience."

Taylor, S. E., Klein, L.C., Lewis,B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R.A.R., & Updegraff, J. A. (2000). "Female Responses to Stress: Tend and Befriend, Not Fight or Flight", Psychological Review, 107(3), 41-429.