Saturday, January 22, 2011

Brisbane flooding photos.

Fantastic photographs!

Japanese eco-friendly electronic rickshaw

Green wheels:
Everything old is new again for one Japanese manufacturer, which has unveiled an electronic version of a rickshaw.

The "Meguru" is a three-wheeled, three-seat compact vehicle whose single lithium-ion battery allows for a maximum speed and range of 40 kilometers (25 miles) per hour, although the number of batteries could be increased for a longer ride.

"This is a true environmentally friendly car," said Nobuyuki Ogura, the chief executive officer of Yodogawa Group, which built the vehicle in cooperation with three other small companies in western Japan.

"Instead of an air-conditioner, it comes with a pinwheel, and we are also thinking of adding a wind chime because it gives a refreshing sound to cool you down without the need of electricity," he told Reuters Television. "It doesn't have a heater, but it's equipped with blankets to keep you warm in the winter."

A regular driver's license is required to take the vehicle on the road, but car registration is unnecessary. Devised as part of a project to revitalise small businesses facing economic hardship, the vehicle - which is 2.5 meters (8 ft 2 in) long, 1.2 meters (3 ft 11 in) wide and 1.6 meters (5 ft 3 in) tall - also showcases traditional Japanese crafts.

The body is coated in red lacquer, the floor is filled with recycled bamboo, and the retractable "window" has been carefully crafted in the shape of a Japanese fan using Japanese "washi" paper. All were made by craftsmen in western Japan. The company says it is selling the vehicle for around one million yen ($12,180) while assessing a business plan for mass production.

Even disposing of the car after its usefulness has passed poses no problems. "We've used all-natural materials, so if you ever decide to get rid of the car, simply bury it in the ground," Ogura said.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Sleep is essential for the normal functioning of the human body. The duration of essential sleep varies from one individual to another. Some people may feel fresh and energetic after 6 hours of sleep while others may need to sleep for 8 hours Babies need most sleep and may sleep for almost 16 hours a day. Teenagers need an average of 9 hours, and for most adults, an average of 8 hours of sleep a day suffices.

Though the amount of sleep needed remains constant with increasing age, older people tend to sleep less. This is particularly noticeable in males. Older females tend to sleep as long as younger ones. Older people also spend less time in deep sleep than younger people.

What are the various stages of sleep? 
There are five stages of sleep ranging from the lightest to the deepest sleep. When someone sleeps, he goes through stages 1,2,3,4 and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. During the first four stages, a person gradually drifts from light sleep to very deep sleep. During the fifth stage, sleep again starts becoming lighter and eye movements begin. In the first stage, the person can be woken up easily. The brain activity does not slow down. In the second and third stages, the individual goes into deeper sleep. The brain activity slows down and eye movements stop completely. The fourth stage is the stage of complete deep sleep. Most sleepwalking and bedwetting occur in this stage. There are no dreams in this stage.

It is during the fifth stage of REM sleep that a person dreams. The eye movements begin and the body muscles become tense. Breathing becomes rapid and brain activity increases. There is also a rise in blood pressure.

What are sleep disorders?
Any condition that causes a disturbance in sleep or due to which an individual is unable to complete his quota of required sleep is called a sleep disorder. The main types of sleep disorders are – sleep apnoea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome and insomnia.
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea – this is the most common form of sleep disorder which may usually be ignored as excessive snoring. Sleep apnoea is a disorder of disrupted breathing during sleep. The throat muscles relax during deep sleep. In persons with sleep apnoea, the muscles relax so much that they cause obstruction to the windpipe making breathing difficult. In some cases, the breathing may actually stop for sometime. The patient may wake up at this time but does not remember it afterwards.

    The symptoms of sleep apnoea include heavy snoring, drowsiness during the day due to disturbed sleep, headaches on waking up, decrease in muscle coordination and in the long run, mood changes and depression. The sleep apnoea syndrome is one of the commonest causes of excess daytime drowsiness. When the patient tends to fall asleep inappropriately eg. during conferences, while talking, while eating or while driving. If such a patient also gives a history of loud and heavy snoring and is obese in weight, clinical suspicion of sleep apnoea is very high. A sleep test called polysomnography is usually done to diagnose sleep apnoea. A polysomnograph measures eye movement, heart rate, breathing rate, brain waves and muscle tension. The test is not painful.

    Sleep apnoea syndrome is diagnosed if there are at least 7 episodes of apnoea (stoppage of breathing associated with fall in blood oxygen) per hour of sleep, Sleep apnoea syndrome tends to cause Hypertension, heart disease, heart attack and strokes. Besides it may lead to accidents if patients persist in driving.

    Treatment - Some changes in the sleeping position may bring about relief from the symptoms. Sleeping on the side instead of the back and reducing weight if obese may help to alleviate the condition. Many such patients also have low thyroid function and this should be looked for and corrected. In the past sleep apnoea was treated by doing a tracheostomy or making an opening in the lower part of the wind pipe so that even if the upper airway obstructs, breathing continues. Sometimes surgery was done to increase the area of the air passage. Now we believe that if air is given at high pressure into the back of the nose it will prevent the air passage being occluded. This is done by putting the patient on a machine (BIPAP), which delivers air at pressure into a mask fitted snugly on the nose. This is used each night. Patients definitely become more active after using the machine.
  • Narcolepsy – it is a disorder of abnormally increased sleep. People with narcolepsy have irresistible sleep attacks during the day. These are different from “catnaps” that are voluntary naps taken by people. Narcoleptic attacks may occur anytime during the day even when the individual is engaged in some activity. These attacks last from less than a minute to more than half an hour. The sleep pattern during this time is also abnormal. The patient enters the REM stage of sleep prematurely. The duration of time spent in the stage of deep sleep is also less.

    Other symptoms of a narcoleptic attack include muscle twitching and stiffness of muscles (cataplexy), sleep paralysis (involuntary numbness and immobility of limbs) and dream-like hallucinations while awake. The person may fall asleep while involved in an activity like driving which can be extremely dangerous. Frequent attacks of narcolepsy generally indicate severe sleep deprivation.

    Narcolepsy is usually a genetic disorder and thus requires medical treatment. In some people it may be due to a brain disorder or a neurological problem. Narcoleptic attacks may be more common in conditions like pregnancy, fever, increased stress and fever. When examined by Polysonography patients of narcolepsy start often with a REM sleep and may have dreams and excess movement during stage 3 or 4 sleep. The sleep latency i.e. time from trying to sleep to falling asleep is shorter implying there is a disruption of entire sleep function. Narcolepsy is also then a cause of excess day time drowsiness and should be suspected in such patients if:
  • There is no obesity or no excess snoring and
  • If there is associated cataplexy or sleep paralysis.
  • Besides sleep apnoea and Narcolepsy other causes of excess day time drowsiness are
  • Metabolic disorder like renal failure, liver failure or lung disease causing hypoxia.
  • Excess use of sedatives
  • Depression
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Alcohol abuse and some brain tumours.
  • Some drugs not considered sedatives also some times cause drowsiness e.g. anticonvulsants.

    There is no known cure for narcolepsy. Treatment involves some lifestyle modifications that may help to alleviate the symptoms. Regularising the sleeping pattern helps in reducing the symptoms. Light meals should be taken at dinnertime and if possible, a short nap may be taken after every meal. In some cases, the doctor may prescribe stimulants such as dexidrine or Ritalin to reduce the attacks. Cataplexy responds well to Imepramine (Depsonil).
  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS) – it is a less common disorder among the middle aged and elderly. Affected individuals experience a tingling and prickly feeling in their legs as they try to fall asleep. The feeling is usually so intense that the person finds it difficult to sleep and has to move his legs to get rid of the feeling and he may have to move his legs, press them, tie bandages round them or walk up and down the room to get relief and move the legs about. On examination there is usually no abnormality but some cases of early nerve disease e.g. renal failure and alcoholic neuropathy may start as restless legs. Many patients with restless leg have periodic leg movements even in sleep, which may disturb the partner. The best treatment for restless legs is a small dose of L Dopa and Carbidopa (same drug used in Parkinson) or Clonazepan at bedtime. Results may not always be satisfactory.
  • Insomnia - Insomnia is a condition where sleep is disturbed for prolonged periods and person takes long time to fall off to sleep or having fallen asleep wakes early. The person thus sleeps less than 4 hours and suffers effects of sleep deprivation and tries all sorts of drugs to get relief. The causes of insomnia are many and include
    • Psychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety, mania, agitation.
    • Situational insomnia due to pain, discomfort, heart failure, or restless legs. Arthritis patients and chronic bronchitis patients often have insomnia
    • Other sleep related illness like carpal tunnel syndrome causing tingling in the hands
    • Some drugs may disturb sleep such as fluoxitane, ciprofloxacin, theophyllin etc.
    • Primary insomnia where none of these apply and people go long periods with insomnia.
    • A rare new disease fatal familial insomnia. Which is a rare disorder caused by abnormal genetic material a prion protein. In the vast majority the cause is psychogenic and the situational ones easily diagnosed.

Besides these children have a number of sleep related problems.
7.   Nocturnal enuresis - tendency to pass urine in sleep, in clothes. This affects 1 in 10 children between 4-14 years. In a child in whom control was never established it is usually a matter of development delay and will come under control with time. The best treatment is to use an alarm to wake the child in the middle of sleep and send him to pass urine. A useful drug is imipramine (depsonil) and gentle education. Where control over urine was established and then enuresis restarts one should look for the possibility of a spinal lesion in the lumbar region.
8.   Nocturnal terrors - patient gets up frightened may cry hold tight to relation and have a fast pulse and in short time settle down. It may be mistaken for epilepsy. It can occur each night.
9.   Sleep walking - this is not a form of epilepsy and does not imply psychiatric disorder and child may walk about at night for a while and then return and lie down. This usually clears by itself. One has usually only to ensure that the child does not hurt himself in such episodes.

What can be done about sleep disorders?

Most countries have specialised sleep clinics where people with sleep disorders are treated. These clinics have specialised personnel and equipment to diagnose the condition and carry out rehabilitation of patients with incurable sleep disorders. India, unfortunately, does not have too many specialised sleep clinics but facilities are increasing in the major cities. A patient can usually consult a neurologist for medical help.

Lifestyle changes like regularising sleep patterns, eating lighter meals, reducing weight and taking short frequent naps during the day may help. However, a doctor’s opinion should always be sought in case such a condition is detected.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fighting common cold

The common cold is a viral infection that affects the upper airways including the nose, voice box, throat, windpipes and the lungs. There are more than two hundred viruses that can cause colds and are commonly known as rhinoviruses or the nose viruses. These viruses cause inflammation or swelling of the mucous membrane lining the airways.

Early signs of a cold are a sore, scratchy throat, sneezing, and a runny nose. Other symptoms are headache, watering eyes, chills, weakness, cough and congestion, fever and muscle ache. The symptoms generally last for 2 to 7 days and in some cases may last for weeks. 

You should wash your hands a lot. Frequent hand washing, using a medically-approved anti-bacterial soap, will help you get rid of any potential germs that you might have come into contact with.
You should also get plenty of sleep or rest. If you are tired and fatigued, your body's resistance decreases, making you more susceptible to common cold. 

You should avoid drinking milk as it causes mucus to form and coat your throat making it very difficult for you to swallow and cough.
You should eat spicy foods. Spicy hot foods will cause your body to expel mucus. When you eat these types of foods, your nose will start to run and you will begin to cough up mucus. Spicy foods work just like a natural decongestant but without side effects.

It is always good to take vitamins as it helps strengthen your immune system. It is good to help buffer against getting a cold and during a cold to boost your immune level against the virus.
There is no specific test to diagnose common cold. The diagnosis is based on the symptoms reported and the physical examination made by the doctor.

Drinking plenty of liquids can help. Water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey helps loosen congestion and prevents dehydration.
A saltwater gargle - 1/2 teaspoon salt in a glass of warm water - can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat.

It has been found that soup does seem to help relieve cold and flu symptoms in two ways. First, it acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils - immune system cells that participate in the body's inflammatory response. Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose, helping relieve congestion and limiting the amount of time viruses are in contact with the nose lining. 

Saline nasal sprays combat stuffiness and congestion. Unlike nasal decongestants, saline sprays don't lead to a rebound effect - a worsening of symptoms when the medication is discontinued - and most are safe and non-irritating, even for children.

Avoid alcohol, coffee and caffeinated sodas, which make dehydration worse.
Non-prescription decongestants and pain relievers offer some symptom relief, but they won't prevent a cold or shorten its duration, and most have some side effects. If used for more than a few days, they can actually make symptoms worse.

Cold viruses thrive in dry conditions, another reason why colds are more common in winter. Parched air also dries the mucous membranes, causing a stuffy nose and scratchy throat. A humidifier can add moisture to your home.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

10 habits ruining your health

Skipping breakfast

Most of the time, people tend to jump inside the cars and go to work and forget about taking breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Try to eat healthy, small meals or snacks 5 – 6 times a day, starting with a good breakfast that contains good quality protein.

Having caffeine

We tend to love coffee with a little bit of creamer and some whipped cream and other flavoured syrup. One or two cups in a day would not harm. But the more you add cream and other flavoured syrups to your coffee, the more you add calories to it. Avoid consuming extra cups of coffee. Instead drink water as much as you can.

Eating quickly

We tend to eat quickly especially during the last minutes of our lunch break. Try to eat and taste the food first before you shove it down your throat the next time.

Wearing the wrong shoes

Wearing the wrong shoes can pose a threat to your posture and your overall gait. Even though you will not be able to feel the pain, hours and hours of walking with your high heels can take its toll on your feet. Wear comfortable flats instead

Not brushing teeth before sleeping

People mostly avoid brushing at night before going to bed. This bad habit leads to plaque formation, bad odour and oral infection. So, brushing should be done right after every meal and should be done right before you sleep. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.

Inadequate sleep

Lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain. Not sleeping enough seems to be associated with metabolic changes that can lead to overeating and obesity. Sleeping too little can also contribute to weight gain by putting undue stress on the body. Therefore, people particularly youth and office goers should avoid sleeping for long hours on weekends as compared to other days.

Not exercising properly

Nowadays, boys are more into body building exercises, due to which they are avoiding other exercises like cardiovascular exercises. Add treadmill work, outdoor walking or running to your cardio routine.

Wrongly stretching your back

Stretching out your back helps reduce back pain, but it can work against you if you do it just after waking up in the morning. Before stretching in the morning, do your usual routine such as drink coffee, wash your face and brush your teeth.

Holding back urine

Resisting the urge to empty your bladder can be harmful. This may result in bladder infections. Go when you feel the urge. Try eliminating common bladder irritants such as caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, carbonated beverages, chocolate and tea.

Straining the same shoulder daily

Carry your laptop or handbag over the same shoulder every day can also lead to health problems like shoulder pain. Switch shoulders and/or hands back and forth throughout the day when you carry a bag.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why Steve Jobs Is So Important to Apple

Apple announced Monday that Steve Jobs is taking another medical leave of absence from the company, his third in the past 7 years.
Apple did not disclose what is wrong with Steve, or what his prognosis is. In Steve's note to Apple staff, however, he sounded more emotional and less certain than he did when announcing his prior leave, and this has obviously left everyone who cares about Steve and the company very concerned.

How will Apple do as a company if Steve is not able to return?
This, obviously, is a critical question, and there's no simple answer. In the short term, six months to a year, the company will likely be fine.  After that, however, it's anyone's guess.

Steve Jobs' greatest strength is his product vision, which includes a magical ability to create gadgets that people don't just want and use but love. In the midst of a tectonic collision of the media, technology, and communications industries, Steve's vision has allowed Apple to invent whole new categories of gadgets that had never existed before, including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. These products, and others, have made Apple the most valuable tech company in the world.

Now that the products have been invented, can someone else steer the Apple ship?
Again, over the short-term, yes, without question. And if Apple's future growth comes primarily from minor updates to existing products, the answer is probably still "yes."  Apple is a massive, global company with tens of thousands of talented employees, and they will likely keep making great iPhones and iPads with or without Steve.
But if Apple's future involves whole new categories of products -- as it very well might --Apple without Steve could be much less of a company than it is today. 

The collision of TV and computing, for example, is leading dozens of companies to jump into the fray, and this particular battle has not yet been won.  Apple's own product in this war -- Apple TV -- is still a work in progress, and it's not clear how the product will evolve.
Apple has many strong executives beneath Steve, and it may be that one of them possesses the same (or similar) product magic that Steve does, but at this point there's no way to know. And Apple's tremendous success over the past decade -- combined with the repeated failure of companies like Microsoft and Nokia -- has illustrated just how how rare Steve's talents are.

Monday, January 17, 2011

India Inc write to politicians over 'governance deficit'

A group of prominent personalities, including industrialists Azim Premji, Keshub Mahindra and Deepak Parekh, have expressed concern over a series of scams leading to "governance deficit". They asked the government to deal with burning issues like corruption urgently.

In an 'open letter' addressed to the leaders, they said: "We are alarmed at the widespread governance deficit almost in every sphere of national activity covering government, business and institutions. Widespread discretionary decision-making have been routinely subjected to extraneous influences.

Asking politicians to rise above party politics, the letter said "time is overdue for India's elected representatives to distinguish between dissent and disruption while the era of coalitions, tolerance of compromise still remains a challenge."

"Elected legislators and leaders must acknowledged and demonstrate their collective role and responsibility in restoring the sense of purpose and confidence in national institutions."

"The topmost responsibility of those at the helm of the nation's affairs must be to urgently restore the self-confidence and self-belief of Indians in themselves and in the State as well as in Indian business and public institutions which touch the lives of every Indian."

The signatories to the letter also include Jamshyd Godrej, Justice Sam Variava, Prof M Narasimham, Yezdi Malegam, Anu Aga, Dr A Vaidyanathan, Bimal Jalan, N Vaghul, Nachiket Mor, Justice B N Srikrishna and Dr Ashok Ganguly.

The letter comes against the backdrop of 2G, CWG and Adarsh scams, and also leakage of tapes involving corporate lobbyist Niira Radia's conversations with various personalities, including industrialist Ratan Tata, politicians and journalists.

Deepak Parekh had earlier echoed Tata in voicing concern over the leakage of the tapes stating such incidents were only generating negativity, which threatened to derail India’s growth story.

"In the last few months, the country has witnessed eruption of a number of egregious events. There are, at present, several loud and outraged voices, in the public domain, clamouring on these issues which have deeply hurt the nation," the letter said.

Amid all the scams, the letter further said, "The judiciary is a source of some reassurance but creation of genuinely independent and constitutionally constituted regulatory bodies, manned by persons who are judicially trained in the concerned field, would be one of the first and important steps to restore public confidence."

Terming corruption as "possibly, the biggest issue corroding the fabric of our nation" it said "this malaise needs to be tackled with a sense of urgency, determination and on a war footing".

"Dealing determinedly with governance and aggressively against corruption, while openly debating these issues by elected legislators is the only means left to reassure our citizens," it said.

Amongst several urgent steps needed, this is possibly the most critical one that the nation can immediately initiate in order to reassure its citizens that corruption will be most severely dealt with, both at the branch and at the root level, the letter added.

The letter further said the benefits of growth are not reaching the poor and marginalised sections adequately due to impediments to economic development.

"This is because of some critical issues like environmental concerns and differences in perspectives between central and state governments," it said.

Tips to help relieve acidity

Acids present in the stomach helps break down the food during digestion. But when there is excess production of acid by the gastric glands of the stomach, it results in a condition known as acidity. Acidity leads to the sour or burning sensation in the chest. Its common symptoms are dyspepsia, heartburn and formation of the ulcers. 

Bananas have protective action against acidity and are highly recommended in the diet. The alkaline ash present in banana correct the acidosis caused by acid forming diets.

Maintaining an upright posture for some time after food will help in preventing reflex in to oesophagus.

Acidity leads to the sour or burning sensation in the chest. Include green leafy vegetables and sprouts in your diet as these contain vitamins B and E, which aid digestion and also facilitate the elimination of acids from the 

Put a small part of jaggery (gur) in your jaws and slowly suck it. Repeat it each hour till acidity subsides

You should avoid any sport activity or exercise like abdominal exercise right after eating food. Abdominal muscle contractions can make the food you just ate to come back on the oesophagus and gastric acid that got to be secreted during eating will get to the oesophagus too.

Acidity can be cured and controlled by following simple health tips in our daily routine. Fruits are very good and handy remedy to cure acidity. Fruits have great nutritional value for our health and fitness.

Make a habit to have a glass of luke warm water every day, it helps relieve acidity.

Avoid having pickles, spicy chutneys, vinegar etc. in your food as these are also responsible to trigger acidity.

Ginger is also a good source to cure acidity. You can add ginger to your regular food preparation.

Acidity can also be a result of excessive smoking and alcohol consumption. So avoid both if you are suffering from acidity.

Coconut water is a very good source to help cure acidity and soothe your system. So try to have coconut water daily to keep away acidity.

Always make a habit to have your last meal two to three hours before going to bed. This habit will help control acidity.