July 2011

Himalayan Salt

I had never heard of Himalayan salt until this weekend, when three separate people told me about it. It sounded like a total crock, but eventually curiosity got the better of me and I had to look it up. Unsurprisingly, after looking it up online, I quickly and easily determined that... it's a total crock.

What Is Himalayan Salt?
This is, in Wikipedia's words, "a marketing term" for rock salt, much of which is mined out of Pakistan. Other versions of rock salt are mined throughout the world. Frequently this salt is slightly pinkish, thanks to iron oxide contamination. This is the source of "pink Hawaiian salt" which is so beloved by foodies that it practically counts as a fetish.

Killer Heat Wave Marches East

This year's killer heat wave has already claimed 22 lives, and it's heading towards the nation's population centers in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and New York. Temperatures are expected to soar past 100 degrees, with humidity conspiring to create a heat index of 115 degrees or higher in some areas.
At least two of the heat wave's victims were elderly people who had air conditioning units available to them. But they did not turn on the AC, because they were concerned about the electricity bills. These deaths were as preventable as they are heartbreaking.

Facebook Saves Child From Kawasaki Disease

Facebook has been blamed for causing a lot of people a lot of problems, but in the case of a four year old boy with a mysterious fever and swelling, it may have saved his life.
This popular Slate article describes how his mother, desperate and frustrated by the hospital's inability to cure her son, posted pictures and a cry for help to her Facebook account. Within hours, several knowledgeable experts (including her cousin, a pediatric cardiologist) had left posts on her wall mentioning that it might be Kawasaki disease, and she should go straight to the Emergency Room.

Legionnaire's Disease: What Happens In Vegas…

Six cases of Legionnaire's disease have been reported from the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, with more reports likely. Legionnaire's disease is a bit of a mystery to many people, and a curse to anyone charged with running a large facility.
Legionnaire's disease is named after its first known occurrence, when a bunch of Legionnaires suddenly contracted a mysterious pneumonia-like disease at once, back in 1976. In the end, 221 cases were reported, with 34 deaths. (Many Legionnaires are elderly, and are thus more susceptible to respiratory diseases.)

Trivorda May Reduce the Chance of HIV Infection

Could Trivorda Help Slow Down the HIV Epidemic in Africa?


If the recent studies regarding the ability of the drug Trivorda to prevent HIV infections prove to be valid, the results could change the world of fear that many people live in. The NYT just reported that two recent studies confirm that there is a pill believed to prevent HIV in healthy people heterosexuals. In addition, the NYT reported on another study indicating the possibility that Trivorda may be effective at HIV prevention for gay men as well.  

An Open Letter to WebMD

Stop inflaming my hypochondriac tendencies

Dear WebMD: Please stop making me feel like I'm dying.

I know. I get it. Panic sells, and you're not technically in the business of helping people and making them feel better. You're there to sell ad space, and to make sure you get repeat visits to your site--and thus cultivate prime web real estate for advertising--you've got to keep people hooked. Sometimes a great way to keep people hooked is to convince them they're dying of one thing or another. 

To be fair, WebMD does gather most of its repeat viewers due to its eye-catching packaging of medical science. They have lots of slideshows with pretty stock photos about how you can avoid dying so quickly (eat watermelon, have a pet, and don't be so stressed out, whatever you do). But it's the symptom checker that gets my hypochondriac juices flowing every time. I'm not sure if it's intentionally broad or vague in its diagnoses, but apparently every symptom I've ever had could be the sign of some seriously life-threatening condition. It might also be, you know, nothing, but there's no way of knowing when the symptom checker lists its guesses.