It's been well established that the antioxidants found in fruits and
vegetables, as well as some kinds of tea and wine, provide protection
against high cholesterol, heart disease, and cancer. I'm not averse to
Brussels sprouts if you don't overcook them, but personally I've always
felt that the cocoa bean ought to count as a vegetable. And it turns out
that, by golly, I was right. Chocolate has recently been shown to
contain substantial quantities of antioxidants.
A standard 1.5 ounce milk chocolate bar has approximately the same
quantity of antioxidants (phenols) as a 5 ounce glass of red wine, and
cocoa powder extract turns out to be a potent antioxidant working
against LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Dark chocolate has more than twice the
quantity of milk chocolate; white chocolate, alas, has none at all. Mind
you, you still have to watch out for the sugar and fat that come in the
same package as your melt-in-the-mouth antioxidants. But it seems to me
that, if this type of finding can justify having a glass of wine despite
the alcohol and "empty" calories that come along for the ride, it should
damned well be able to justify the occasional bar of chocolate. Now, if
only somebody will please fund a cheesecake study. ...
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What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
In the notorious Turing test
intelligence, you determine whether a computer program qualifies as
"thinking" or not by engaging it in conversation. If you can't tell
after a reasonable amount of time whether you're talking (or typing) to
a human being or a "chatterbot" program, the computer is said to have
passed the Turing test. To my knowledge, no computer program as yet has
ever passed it successfully. But there's a new one out there that has
craftily decided to turn the entire concept upside down. When you
converse with Mr. Mind, you
are the one put on trial -- you have to try and convince "him" that
you're really a human being. "His" creators will use the transcript of
the session later on to improve "his" conversational abilities further.
In other words, there's fun and enlightenment in abundance here for all
concerned. The only drawback is that you may in fact start doubting your
own humanity after a half-hour with Mr. Mind, in which case I suggest a
vodka-based beverage and a walk in the garden to put you right.
Per aspera ad astra
The drought continues over much of the nation, emphatically including
my home state of New York, with no end yet in sight. The dryness has
actually brought a perverse kind of relief in that, much of the time,
there's simply not enough moisture for the knock-down drag-out humidity
you'd expect to contend with. The relative dryness of the air makes it
marginally less unpleasant to walk down a 96-degree city street -- at
least, until the next useless five-minute thunderstorm passes through
and plumps out the air again.
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In the country, dry days mean unusually clear nights for stargazing.
Distract yourself from the dying corn crop by the roadside and the
ominously low water pressure vouchsafed by your well lately with
It's free Windows software that will create maps of your own night sky
based on date and location, zooming in and out at will and identifying
stars, constellations and planets. Bring a printout or two and a
flashlight into the hills with you and let your kids get bitten by the
astronomy bug. And perhaps I should point out that Adastra is the
product of a company whose name sounds almost talismanic in these
parched and feverish ears: Swimming Elk Software. Poetry, isn't it? They
offer a free configurable night-sky wallpaper
Cure for the blues
You don't want to throw away that favorite pair of old jeans, do you?
They fit you just right. You despair of ever finding their equal. And
you loathe jeans shopping, anyway -- but this pair is just too nasty now
for even you to wear anywhere but on the beach. Luckily, the Web is here
to offer you new hope. Those aging yet "perfect" jeans can be
rehabilitated by Denim Doctors, at
quite reasonable rates. They'll also do alterations on a pair that isn't
absolutely perfect ... yet. Denim jeans, skirts, jackets, etc, and
international appeals for help are welcomed.
Pat yourself on the back
Or kick yourself in the pants, depending. Quantify exactly how much
of a workout you just had with the OnHealth caloric expenditure
calculator. Type in
your weight and specify what activity you performed and for how long,
and the calculator will tell you how many calories you've burned off.
The site very properly takes note of the difference between walking at
slow (2 mph), medium (3 mph), or quick (4.5 mph) speeds, which I find
impressive, but it could stand to offer information on a wider variety
of physical activities. Still, if you bike, ski, jog, run, walk, play
tennis, or swim, you may find it quite useful.