Mammograms and Monthly Cycles: A Public Service Announcement

If you are a 40-year-old woman who has never had any symptoms of breast cancer, your doctor or your health insurance company probably will nudge you to get a “baseline mammogram” or “screening mammogram” done.  This could detect any tumor that might be lurking, but most likely you won’t have a tumor and this procedure will create an image of your healthy breasts that can be kept on file to compare to later scans.  It seems that a big part of cancer detection is looking for changes in a patient’s tissues rather than waiting for something to get so weird-looking that it’s obviously abnormal.

I had a baseline mammogram earlier this month.  The nurse who did it cautioned me that I was likely to be among the approximately 10% of women who are asked to come back for additional scanning after the doctor looks at the first images, because I have “dense tissue” (this is a polite way of saying “small breasts”) which is more difficult to scan thoroughly because it doesn’t mash so nicely in the scanner.  Indeed, I got a letter telling me to call to schedule a re-mash.  It hasn’t been done yet, but I’m not worried (much) because I am one of those rare Earthlings with no family history of breast cancer.  The reason it hasn’t been done yet is an important fact about the scheduling of mammograms, which nobody bothered to tell me until I was in the hospital gown, having taken off work and skipped wearing deodorant on a hot humid day, all ready to get scanned–and they had to cancel it.

Here is what everyone involved in arranging for patients to get screening mammograms ought to be trained to say:

“We recommend that you schedule the procedure in the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle, if possible, for best results.” Read more…

CONTEST: Name This Recipe!

I’ve developed a main dish that my family really likes, but we can’t figure out what to call it!  “That non-Mexican-flavored Mexican Pizza that fits in the toaster-oven” or “Beans and veggies and herbs baked on cornbread” is too cumbersome.  Surely someone on the Internet will be able to think of the perfect, short, catchy name for this delicious food!

UPDATE: The winner is Dan Efran, creator of cool stuff to brighten your day!  This dish is now called Flexican Cornbread Pizza, and if you click that link you can read another variation on this versatile recipe.

This recipe is flexible and can be adapted to the vegetables and herbs you happen to have on hand.  You could even use leftovers!  That makes it very frugal.  I’m writing the recipe with general guidelines plus specifics on what I used the last time I made it. In an appropriate pan, it will fit into a toaster-oven, allowing you to bake it using less energy and heating up your home less than the full-size oven.  The baking time is short, which makes it ideal for warm weather and busy days.  (I’ll admit, though, that when it’s 92 degrees and humid, like it is here in Pennsylvania this week, we don’t bake anything or even make toast!)  Serve with salad or fruit for a nice meal.  It’s vegetarian and can be made vegan. To make 4 main-dish servings, you will need: Read more

Where Robots Learn to Cook

Recently I’ve had several conversations about robots: how people keep making robots that can do new things, how robots are getting better and better, how someday maybe they’ll take over.  Yes, it is a bit daunting, but I believe there are some things that robots will never be able to do quite as well as we humans can do them.

One of these is cooking.  I can imagine robots making fast-food meals that are exactly the same for every customer in every restaurant.  (And I’m kind of surprised that McDonald’s hasn’t yet replaced its cashiers with ATM-like machines where you key in your order and the foodlike items drop out of slots–that technology has been available for a while, but thank you McDonald’s for continuing to hire humans who need jobs!)  The kind of cooking that requires tasting the food and making judgments about what it needs, though, seems like something that can be done well only by someone who eats food.

I’ve written before about robot cooking blogs, but today I received a trackback from one that really impresses me with its ability to look like a pleasant, informative cooking site while actually publishing a lot of gibberish.  It’s cookdaymeal.com and is “Designed by DECENT WEB EXPERTS.” (You can tell they’re really decent by the capital letters.) I clicked through to their site, and it looks like the decent experts might be humans, just humans who don’t speak English. But cookdaymeal.com has recipes that I don’t think were written coherently in any language.  For example, here are the ingredients of No Bake Banana Pudding:

Components: three or even four ripe plums, broke 1/3 cup dissolved butter (or decreased fat for any healthier version) the single cup sugars or darling (this could become reduced in order to cup) 1 egg cell beaten one teaspoon vanilla one teaspoon baking soda pop Pinch of sodium 1 glasses associated with all-purpose flour or even whole wheat grains flour Optionally available: Walnuts, pecans or some kind of other enthusiast of the particular option.

That’s a lot of plums for a banana pudding–and no bananas.  Yet somehow we will later “mix the particular butter using the bananas inside a large mixing dish.”  Here are some other excerpts from assorted recipes: Read more…

FREE Earth-friendly Party Decorations!

Want to decorate your home for a party?  You could buy a bunch of bright-colored paper streamers or rubber balloons that you inflate with air.  These things are inexpensive, but they’re typically made in China by exploited workers in polluting factories and then shipped halfway around the world to you, wasting a bunch of fossil fuel.  When the party’s over, you can compost these things–if you don’t mind having those strong dyes in your compost (do you put it on your food plants?) and you’re willing to wait a couple years for the balloons to break down.  Another option is to buy mylar balloons and shiny plastic decorations, made (usually in China) from irreplaceable petroleum, which aren’t recyclable and will never biodegrade.  You could inflate your balloons with some of the world’s dwindling supply of helium, which we need for so many other more important things.

Or you could save your money, reduce your environmental impact, lighten the load in your recycling bin, and keep your kid busy while you do other things to get ready for the party!  Simply convert some scrap paper into festive link chains to festoon your home, like this:
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Read more…

But why should your tax status be based on your sex life?

Last week, the United States Supreme Court decided that federal laws that apply to married people apply to same-sex couples who are married in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.  As a liberal person who supports equal rights, I’m supposed to rejoice in this great victory for equality and diversity.

In a way, I am glad.  Making certain federal benefits available only to people whose permanent monogamous sexual partner is of the opposite sex was unfair to people who feel sexual attraction only to their own sex and therefore could never enter into a heterosexual marriage except in a half-hearted or deceptive kind of way.  If marriage is linked to government benefits, those benefits should be available to all people who choose a married relationship.

If.

What bothers me about this court decision and nearly all the discussion of the issue in the past few years is that very few people ever seem to consider that If or to consider what it really means.  This decision does not “make the benefits of marriage available to everybody,” as I’ve heard many people exclaim happily.  Read more…