Author Archives: adguru101

About adguru101

Formerly a creative director and writer in NY and NJ ad agencies, I'm now a freelance writer living in Austin, TX. With this blog, I hope to reach "mid-century moderns" -- women born in the '50's -- with content and observations about the issues we deal with every day.

Good News Monday: Something Writers Always Suspected

writing paper
(Credit: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels)

(From Studyfinds.org)

Writing on paper triggers more brain activity than using a tablet or smartphone

by Chris Melore

TOKYO, Japan — As digital devices become an everyday part of society, many probably view a pen and paper as things of the past. Despite the ease of tapping information into a smartphone or tablet, a new study finds you may want to keep those paper notebooks after all. Researchers in Tokyo have discovered that people writing notes by hand display more brain activity than their peers entering data into an electronic device.

A team from the University of Tokyo adds the unique and tactile information that comes from writing things on paper may also help writers remember the information better.

“Actually, paper is more advanced and useful compared to electronic documents because paper contains more one-of-a-kind information for stronger memory recall,” says corresponding author and neuroscientist Professor Kuniyoshi L. Sakai in a university release.

“Our take-home message is to use paper notebooks for information we need to learn or memorize.”

The pen is mightier than the tablet?

It’s a common belief that digital devices help people complete tasks faster. Despite this, the study finds people writing notes by hand actually finished their task 25 percent quicker than tablet users.

Researchers add that paper notebooks also contain more complex spatial information than a digital screen. Physical paper allows the writer to add tangible permanence to their important information. Writers can also use irregular strokes to convey special meaning and uneven shapes — like a folded corner of a page. Study authors say “digital paper” is much more uniform. There is no fixed position when scrolling and the information disappears from view when users close the app.

What happens to the brain when you write on paper?

The study gathered 48 volunteers to read a fictional conversation between two people talking about their future plans. The discussion included 14 different class times, assignment due dates, and scheduled appointments. Researchers also sorted the participants — all between 18 and 29 years-old from university campuses or the NTT Data Institute of Management Consulting — into three groups, according to memory skills, personal preferences of digital or paper methods, gender, and age.

The groups then recorded the fictional schedules using a paper notebook and pen, a calendar app using a tablet and stylus, or an app on a smartphone using the touch-screen keyboard. The participants did not take extra time to memorize the information after completing the task.

After a one-hour break and an “interference task” to distract the volunteers from thinking about their notes, researchers gave participants a test on the conversation. The multiple choice questions also ranged in difficultly from simple to more complex. Simple questions asked “when is the assignment due?” while others included “which is the earlier due date for the assignments?”

During this test, study authors examined brain activity using functional MRI (fMRI) scans. During this procedure, scientists say increased blood flow in specific brain regions is a sign of higher neuronal activity.

The results reveal young adults using paper completed their note-taking in just 11 minutes. Tablet and smartphone users finished in 14 and 16 minutes, respectively. Volunteers using pen and paper also scored higher on the multiple choice test. However, researchers say the participants’ brain activity reveals even greater differences.

Volunteers using paper displayed more brain activity in areas with a connection to language and imaginary visualization. They also show more activity in the hippocampus, a brain region vital to memory and navigation.

Writing on paper may also be better for kids and creativity

Study authors say the fact that writing on paper triggers activity in the hippocampus shows analog methods contain richer spatial details which make hand-written notes easier to remember.

Digital tools have uniform scrolling up and down and standardized arrangement of text and picture size, like on a webpage. But if you remember a physical textbook printed on paper, you can close your eyes and visualize the photo one-third of the way down on the left-side page, as well as the notes you added in the bottom margin,” Sakai explains.

The team notes that it is possible to personalize digital documents, using highlighting, underlining, circling, and drawing arrows. People who prefer a digital pad can even leave virtual sticky notes that mimic analog-style spatial enrichment.

Although the experiment only included young adults, researchers believe the link between paper writing and brain activity will be even stronger in children.

“High school students’ brains are still developing and are so much more sensitive than adult brains,” Sakai adds.

“It is reasonable that one’s creativity will likely become more fruitful if prior knowledge is stored with stronger learning and more precisely retrieved from memory. For art, composing music, or other creative works, I would emphasize the use of paper instead of digital methods.”

The study appears in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

The Pandemic Oscars

I see the Oscars are coming up next month, and I’m baffled: Did anyone actually make any movies in 2020? I know I didn’t set foot in a theater all year.

Well, hats off to whichever intrepid souls did any filming. Here’s my list of nominees:

Home Alone: 19

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Toilet Paper Story

Apocalypse 2020

The Unsocial Network

The Adventures of Han, Solo

The Do-Over

CasaVacia (The Empty House)

Big Night In

12 Billion Angry Men

Sleepless in Seattle, London, Paris, and Barcelona

Raging Bulls***

The Six-Foot Journey

What are yours, dear readers?

Good News Monday: A Cancer Vaccine?

BERLIN (AP) — The scientist who won the race to deliver the first widely used coronavirus vaccine says people can rest assured the shots are safe, and the technology behind it will soon be used to fight another global scourge — cancer.

Ozlem Tureci, who co-founded the German company BioNTech with her husband, was working on a way to harness the body’s immune system to tackle tumors when they learned last year of an unknown virus infecting people in China.

Over breakfast, the couple decided to apply the technology they’d been researching for two decades to the new threat, dubbing the effort “Project Lightspeed.”

Within 11 months, Britain had authorized the use of the mRNA vaccine BioNTech developed with U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, followed a week later by the United States. Tens of millions of people worldwide have received the shot since December.

“It pays off to make bold decisions and to trust that if you have an extraordinary team, you will be able to solve any problem and obstacle which comes your way in real time,” Tureci told The Associated Press in an interview.

Among the biggest challenges for the small, Mainz-based company that had yet to get a product to market was how to conduct large-scale clinical trials across different regions and how to scale up the manufacturing process to meet global demand.

Along with Pfizer, the company enlisted the help of Fosun Pharma in China “to get assets, capabilities and geographical footprint on board, which we did not have,” Tureci said.

Among the lessons she and her husband, BioNTech chief executive Ugur Sahin, learned along with their colleagues was “how important cooperation and collaboration is internationally.”

Tureci, who was born in Germany to Turkish immigrants, said the company, which has staff members from 60 countries, reached out to medical oversight bodies from the start, to ensure that the new type of vaccine would pass the rigorous scrutiny of regulators.

“The process of getting a medicine or a vaccine approved is one where many questions are asked, many experts are involved and there is external peer review of all the data and scientific discourse,” she said.

Amid a scare in Europe this week over the coronavirus shot made by British-Swedish rival AstraZeneca, Tureci dismissed the idea that any corners were cut by those racing to develop a vaccine.

“There is a very rigid process in place and the process does not stop after a vaccine has been approved,” she said. “It is, in fact, continuing now all around the world, where regulators have used reporting systems to screen and to assess any observations made with our or other vaccines.”

Tureci and her colleagues have all received the BioNTech vaccine themselves, she told the AP. “Yes, we have been vaccinated,” she said.

As BioNTech’s profile has grown during the pandemic, so has its value, providing funds the company can use to pursue its original goal of developing a new tool against cancer.

The vaccines made by BioNTech-Pfizer and U.S. rival Moderna uses messenger RNA, or mRNA, to carry instructions into the human body for making proteins that prime it to attack a specific virus. The same principle can be applied to get the immune system to take on tumors.

“We have several different cancer vaccines based on mRNA,” said Tureci, who is BioNTech’s chief medical officer.

Asked when such a therapy might be available, Tureci said “that’s very difficult to predict in innovative development. But we expect that within only a couple of years, we will also have our vaccines (against) cancer at a place where we can offer them to people.”

For now, Tureci and Sahin are trying to ensure the vaccines governments have ordered are delivered and that the shots respond effectively to any new mutation in the virus.

On Friday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier awarded the wife and husband one of the country’s highest decorations, the Order of Merit, during a ceremony attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel, a trained scientist herself.

“You began with a drug to treat cancer in a single individual,” Steinmeier told the couple. “And today we have a vaccine for all of humanity.”

Tureci said ahead of the ceremony that getting the award was “indeed an honor.”

But she insisted developing the vaccine was the work of many.

“It’s about the effort of many: our team at BioNTech, all the partners who were involved, also governments, regulatory authorities, which worked together with a sense of urgency,” Tureci said. “The way we see it, this is an acknowledgement of this effort and also a celebration of science.”

The Sun and I: A Cautionary Tale of Unrequited Love

Ah, dear sun… you were so hot. In my misspent youth, how I burned for your touch. And oh, how I am paying for this as an adult!

Those of you who are blessed with darker complexions will never know the true agony of raw, red, sunburned skin. Or the “cute” freckles that eventually become age spots. Or the ever-present threat of skin cancer lurking below the surface, waiting to pounce years later.

But who thought about this while spending long, sunsoaked days at the beach with my friends during the endless summers of my teens and early twenties?

For decades since, I have been diligent about sunblock, avoiding the sun, and wearing a hat. But I have displeased the sun by my inattention, and now I am being punished. A biopsy here, a patch of squamous carcinoma there (on my wrist a few years ago), and lately a nasty little basal cell uprising on the tip of my nose. On my damn face, for heavens sake — you couldn’t wreak your revenge somewhere else?!?!

Last Monday I trekked to a specialist an hour away for Mohs surgery. The technique was developed in the 1940s by Dr. Frederick Mohs at the University of Wisconsin, and has subsequently been refined.

Unlike other forms of treatment, Mohs is generally reserved for cosmetic areas or types of skin cancer that are at risk of recurring. It permits immediate and complete microscopic examination of affected tissue to make sure all “roots” are removed. And it is said to leave the least noticable scar.

Well.

We arrived at a very nice office and the very nice doctor (both physician and surgeon) immediately told me I looked much younger than my age, so we were off to a good start.

A little numbing, a little scraping, a little cauterizing, and then a long wait to see if he’d gotten everything. Which he hadn’t, so then it was time for Round Two, which did.

I emerged three hours later feeling ok only because the numbing hadn’t worn off yet and my nose was covered with a pressure bandage.

Naturally, I did not know what I looked like, which was a good thing. Although the cancer was fairly superficial and about the size of a pencil eraser, I have a row of stitches all the way up the side of my nose. And OMG do they itch!

The bandage came off two days later and I could assess the full effect. Luckily, I’ve had to keep the area covered with petroleum jelly and regular bandages so nobody has to see it, including me. To add to the loveliness are several areas of bruising, which are now in the process of fading from bright red to purple to yellow.

I’ll see the derm again on Tuesday to get the outer stitches removed, but I have been “assured” that the dissolving stitches will render my nose a little lumpy for months until they dissolve. Not to mention the scar. Woo hoo.

So, dear readers, be warned: If you have fair skin that is prone to burning or freckling, and especially if you are young enough, it is time to end your love affair with the sun for once and for all.

Oh, and meanwhile, ask your dermatologist about nicotinamide and HelioCare, just to improve the odds.

Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

What’cha Thinkin’, Dudes?

File this under “Dumb da dumb dumb”…. oops, sorry, my politics are showing.


Almost Half of Republican Men Say They Won’t Get the Coronavirus Vaccine

By Marisa Sarnoff

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Almost half of Republican men say they will not choose to be vaccinated if given the chance, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

According to a survey taken March 3 through March 8, when asked whether they would choose to be vaccinated “if a vaccine for the coronavirus is made available to you,” 49% of Republican men said they will not get the vaccine. More than one-third of Republican women (34%) also said they will not get vaccinated, along with 36% of Independent men.

Nearly half of Trump supporters – 47% – said they would not take the vaccine.

While Republican men and Trump supporters are the biggest group that would refuse a vaccine, 37% of Latinos also said they will not get vaccinated; similarly, 37% of people younger than 45 would also not get the shot.

The poll also measured approval of President Joe Biden’s handling of the pandemic, which currently stands at 62% approval, and 30% disapproval. Thirty percent of Republicans and 22% of Trump supporters are among those who approve of Biden’s actions on the pandemic so far.

According to the survey, two-thirds of Americans say have either gotten the vaccine or will get it, and overall, only 30% say they won’t, down from 44% who said they would not get it when asked the same question in September 2020.

While the CDC hasn’t yet determined how many people need to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity in the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said the number might need to be 75 to 85 percent of the population, up from earlier estimates of 60 to 70 percent, according to a New York Times report.

Good News Monday: Planet of the Apes

Great apes at the San Diego Zoo receive a Covid-19 vaccine for animals

By Stella Chan and Scottie Andrew, CNN

Updated 4:10 PM ET, Fri March 5, 2021Members of the San Diego Zoo's orangutan and bonobo tribes have received a Covid-19 vaccine designated for non-human use, zoo officials said. Members of the San Diego Zoo’s orangutan and bonobo tribes have received a Covid-19 vaccine designated for non-human use, zoo officials said.

(CNN) Several great apes at the San Diego Zoo have been vaccinated against Covid-19 a few weeks after the zoo’s gorillas tested positive for the virus. Members of the zoo’s bonobo and orangutan troops were vaccinated using doses from a supply intended strictly for non-human use, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA) said in statement to CNN. Veterinarians identified members of the bonobo and orangutan troops most at risk who could be easily vaccinated, the organization said.

San Diego Zoo gorillas make full recovery from Covid-19

Vaccinations began in January and have continued up to this month, and the animals received their second dose after three weeks. “The animals are doing well and we have seen no adverse reactions from the vaccine. The wildlife in our care is closely monitored throughout their lives,” said Darla Davis, a SDZWA spokeswoman.

In January, eight of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s gorillas caught the virus, though their symptoms were mild and limited to coughing, congestion and fatigue. The troop has since fully recovered.

What We Eat Now

I’m inspired by Marty, of the witty blog snakesinthegrass2014, to revisit the infamous food pyramid.

Pre-pandemic food pyramid:

Healthy Eating Pyramid

Post-pandemic food pyramid:

As my friend D commented the other day, “Covid-19 stands for the 19 lbs we’ve gained.”

How Many Fruits and Veggies Should We Eat?

Harvard study says 2 fruits, 3 vegetables ‘right’ number of daily servings for a longer life

WWW.STUDYFINDS.ORG

For years, the recommendations have been vague and confusing. (What actually constitutes a “serving”?) But this clarifies the “what”, if not the “how much”.

Sadly, potatoes and corn don’t make the list. However, I remain convinced that the pleasure inherent in eating french fries (“chips” to you in the UK) absolutely prolongs life.

Good News Monday: The Ultimate Haircut

Baarack the overgrown sheep shorn of 35kg (78 lbs!) of matted wool.

From The Guardian

Escaped merino ram found on the lam in regional Australia.

A rogue overgrown sheep found roaming through regional Australia has been shorn of his 35kg fleece – a weight even greater than that of the famous New Zealand sheep Shrek, who was captured in 2005 after six years on the loose. The merino ram, dubbed Baarack by rescuers, was discovered wandering alone with an extraordinarily overgrown wool coat, and was promptly shorn to save his life.

Kyle Behrend, from the Edgar’s Mission farm sanctuary, told Reuters that it appeared Baarack was “once an owned sheep” who had escaped. Merino sheep do not shed their fleece and need to be shorn at least annually, as their wool continues to grow.

The hirsute ovine was found near Lancefield in Victoria, and rescuers said he had “eked out an existence” eating small shoots of grass.

“He had at one time been ear-tagged, however these appear to have been torn out by the thick, matted fleece around his face,” Behrend said. “He was in a bit of a bad way. He was underweight and, due to all of the wool around his face, he could barely see.”

Baarack is the latest in a long line of very large and woolly sheep to make international headlines.

In 2005 Shrek became a beloved celebrity in New Zealand after he spent six years evading capture and growing to a tremendous size.https://interactive.guim.co.uk/embed/aus/2021/02/ai2html-output_sheep

He was eventually shorn of his 27kg fleece, and even met the New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark, before he died in 2011.

A 2014 Guardian Australia analysis estimated that Shrek’s fleece could be used to produce 47.3 jumpers. (That’s “sweaters” in American.)

Based on an 70% yield assumption, Baarack’s fleece would be the equivalent of 61.3 wool sweaters, or 490 pairs of men’s business socks.

A shorn Baarack wearing a rug
 Thirty-five kilograms lighter, Baarack is adapting well Photograph: Edgar’s Mission

Shrek’s legacy much lives on in his home country, with TVNZ announcing the discovery of Baarack with the headline: “Lost Australian sheep brings back memories of our very own Shrek.”

In 2014 another escaped merino ram, called Shaun the sheep, was found with a 23.5kg fleece in New Zealand.

And last year in Australia an escaped ewe – eventually dubbed Ewenice – was relieved of her 20kg fleece after she was discovered in central Victoria.

But all sheep, Baarack included, still pale in comparison to Chris, a Canberran ram who was found in 2005 with a world record 41kg fleece – twice his body weight.

Chris’s fleece was donated to the National Museum of Australia, where it sits in a large display case. The relieved sheep was adopted to live comfortably on a sanctuary until he died in 2019.

Behrend said Baarack had adapted well to his new weight and was settling in with other sheep on the farm.