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Category: science

06/01/11 09:40- ID#54393

Claritin Vs. Benedryl: Mechanism of Action

(e:Paul), (e:Terry) and I were discussing the relative merits of Claritin (Loratadine) in comparison with Benedryl (Diphenhydramine) in combating symptoms of allergy. Apart from remembering that Benedryl is a 1st generation antihistamine and that Loratadine is a 2nd generation antihistamine, I was sorry to note that I remembered nothing more about their pharmacology or specifics of how they differed from each other in their mechanism of action.

What follows is a dry account of the differences. Well... maybe not so dry because I am interested. :-)

Any allergic episode has two components: the early and late component. The early component is when the immunoglobulins (type E) recognize allergens, interact with the foot-soldier cells of the immune system. This interaction promotes the release of histamine, prostaglandins and leukotrienes from granules within not only mast cells, but also basophils, lymphocytes, and other reservoirs. Histamine then binds to receptors on nerves and blood vessels and leads to sneezing, tearing up, congestion and whatnots. Antihistamines compete with histamine for spots on the receptor and thus competitively reduce or completely block its action.

1st generation drugs such as diphenhydramine (Benedryl) also have additional anticholinergic, anti-serotonin, local anaesthetic, as well as sedative effects that might either provide a broader spectrum of relief from allergies or might just end up giving people more side effects (which explains the trippy experience I had.)

The late component of allergy is a plain inflammation reaction in the tissues mediated by immune cells called T-helper cells type-2 (Th2) and a host of cytokines (hormones/signalling molecules of the immune system). The inflammatory component feels exactly like a cold with the same reactions. In addition, the inflammatory component primes the immune response or "sensitizes" the immune system to even swifter allergy-induction in response to future allergens.

Loratadine (Claritin) not only binds to the histamine receptor, it also prevents the release of histamine as well as prostaglandins from mast cells - thus preventing "mast cell activation". Loratadine also has some effect on Th2 cells and suppresses some of the later inflammatory phase. It decreases the production of some of the late-phase cytokines. So it's not just an antihistamine. It also has none of the other wider receptor blocking effects of 1st gen antihistamines.

If you are inclined to read the nitty-gritties or how Loratadine acts on the immune system, here's a good review:
::READ PDF::
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Permalink: http://estrip.org/articles/read/tinypliny/54393/Claritin_Vs_Benedryl_Mechanism_of_Action.html
Words: 394
Location: Buffalo, NY
Last Modified: 06/01/11 09:40


Category: eating in

05/29/11 10:09- ID#54383

Make coffee with broken coffeemaker

My coffeemaker broke LONG ago and I didn't really want to get another coffeemaker because I drink so little coffee anyway. So usually I try one of the million ways of making coffee without a coffeemaker as documented on the net by various random people whose coffeemaker has suffered a fate similar to mine or who are between broken coffeemakers or out camping or don't drink coffee but want to make coffee for their visiting in-laws etc. etc. I think I must be up to at least the 50th way of making coffee without a coffeemaker since mine broke.

Anyway, I was walking down Elmwood when I saw a Melitta coffee-making funnel in a shop window.
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I have seen the funnel before but this time as I walked home, realization finally dawned that it is just a glorified version of the average coffeemaker filter basket.
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I threw away my coffeemaker framework away when it stopped working but I had re-purposed the filter basket for filtering out water from steamed chickpeas, kidney beans, navy beans, lima beans, edamame and other big beans. I just dug it out, put a paper coffee filter in it (any fine muslin cloth will work), poured in some coffee grounds, just-off-the-boil water and et voilà! I have perfect coffee!

So don't throw those filter baskets away. They make even better coffee than your formerly working coffeemaker. Best of all, the cleanup is super easy. Just wash it as you would any other dish in the sink. No pores to unclog with vinegar etc. When not making coffee, you can always use it to filter water out from steamed big beans.
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Permalink: http://estrip.org/articles/read/tinypliny/54383/Make_coffee_with_broken_coffeemaker.html
Words: 278
Location: Buffalo, NY
Last Modified: 05/29/11 10:19


Category: linux

05/29/11 08:23- ID#54381

Make skype audio work in Debian

I am really tired of struggling with skype on Debian (and Crunchbang) to get its audio to work properly. If the microphone works the output doesn't work, if the output works, the microphone doesn't. I think I may have found a solution and I am posting it here so other frustrated souls can find it.

Install Pulseaudio if you only have ALSA. ALSA alone does NOT work with skype whatever people on the #Debian channel might think and tell you.
  • sudo apt-get install pulseaudio

Install pulseaudio volume control
  • sudo apt-get install pavucontrol

Run Skype.

Go to the Sound devices sections. Click on the Open PulseAudio Volume Control button. pavucontrol will open.
  1. In every tab maximize ALL the volume sliders.
  2. Go to the configuration tab. Mine has two sections. One is called RV710/730. Turn this off in the dropdown menu below it.
  3. The other one is called "Internal Audio". Choose "Analog Stereo Duplex" in the dropdown menu.
  4. When you go back to the "Input Devices" tab now, you will see that there is an setting for "Internal Audio Analog Stereo". Crank this to 100%.
  5. In the "Output Devices" tab, choose the "Analog Output" port from the dropdown menu. Crank the front left as well as front right channel to the max 100%.

I think this will make your microphone as well as sound output work on skype. Test with skype test call to echo123.


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Permalink: http://estrip.org/articles/read/tinypliny/54381/Make_skype_audio_work_in_Debian.html
Words: 231
Location: Buffalo, NY
Last Modified: 05/29/11 10:19


Category: buffalo

05/29/11 01:01- ID#54379

Windmill Farm near Buffalo

I didn't know there was quite a big windmill farm somewhere near the Buffalo airport.
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I thought the ones near the harbour were the only ones. I took these snaps before my flight was about to land at the Buffalo Niagara Airport. Does anyone know if this farm also contributes to our electricity supply or is this a private farm? How cool to be able to generate your own renewable energy...

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Words: 77
Location: Buffalo, NY
Last Modified: 05/29/11 01:01


Category: eating out

05/29/11 12:43- ID#54378

Petite Abeille: BEST Belgian waffles EVER.

Last week, my brother whisked me directly to his favourite little breakfast spot as I got off weary and sleepy from the train to NYC.
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It's an artsy but cute Belgian restaurant in the Chelsea neighbourhood of NYC called Petite Abeille... run by fierce-looking Mexicans.
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The sitting area is like being transported to a railway compartment in pre-war Belgium with stacked cardboard suitcases on metal-racks on the wall.
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I ordered an extra crispy belgian waffle with bananas, a dollop of triple cream vanilla ice-cream topped with hand-whipped light cream with sprinkled on powdered sugar with a side of their darkest chocolate.
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It was the BEST waffle I had EVER had. It was so crispy and went perfectly with the cold ice-cream and the hot chocolate syrup.
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It makes me want to relocate to NYC right next to the shop even though the alleyway gets no sunlight.

Not really... but I now want a waffle iron. :-)

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Permalink: http://estrip.org/articles/read/tinypliny/54378/Petite_Abeille_BEST_Belgian_waffles_EVER_.html
Words: 170
Location: Buffalo, NY
Last Modified: 05/29/11 01:01


Category: tourism

05/29/11 10:30- ID#54377

The perils of a Niagara Gorge Hike

I had really fun time with (e:Paul) and (e:Terry) at the Niagara Gorge Trails yesterday. But it was not without some perils. The trail was tame enough to start with.
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I was lazily enjoying the beautiful colours of the gorge from the top of the trail.
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But then, things started to get rough.
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They got rougher and rougher and suddenly there were rocks taller than me that I had to scramble and climb across.
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Some of them were MOVING under my feet!!
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This sign should have given me a clue that it was not some tame walk in the wilderness but I was busy trying to keep up with my 6 ft+ tall comrades without breaking my neck.
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They made it to the rapids rock basin long before I could scramble over and probably waited an eternity before I got there.
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The rock basin has these little pools worn down by the water into the rocks, lined with rust. I guess the rocks must be rich in iron deposits.
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Alas, these pools are not untouched by human carelessness bringing in aluminium into the iron stronghold.
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(e:Terry) was our bellwether on the trail. You can see him deep in thought mapping out our strategy.
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On the way, we met up with some wildlife natives from the Gorge. I chatted with this Victorian smiley from back in the day.
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(e:Paul) rescued this little snail from frying on the rocks.
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There were a million millipedes all through the trail.
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(e:Terry) took some pains to get acquainted with one and in return, got a nice palm massage from its million legs.
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At one point on the trail the only way to move forward was by traveling upside down. (e:Paul) reminded us that that there was no time to just sit and eat and to keep alert!
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He was right. Suddenly things started happening. We were were upon the upside-down stretch! (e:Terry) leapt into the frenzy.
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(e:Paul) soon followed.
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They joined the legions who have braved the toughest part of the Niagara Gorge upside down. My shoes and socks were soaking wet by that time so naturally, I couldn't stand on my hands. (Note that the lack of upper body strength had nothing to do with my giving up.)

While (e:Paul) and (e:Terry) completed the trail upside down , I photo-documented our awe-inspiring surroundings. We had clambered all the way down from that top ledge where (e:PMT)'s car was parked down to the basin with crazy rapids.
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The rapids itself are pretty interesting.
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(e:Paul) and (e:Terry) pointed out how, in spite of a very fast river gushing forwards, there were all these small counter-currents that just kept moving backwards.
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Trying to imagine the neutralizing forces that made these counter-currents possible was mind-boggling.
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I looked up and saw this nice little cable car system that was giving tourists a bird's eye view of the entire gorge without facing its perils (well, they could have crashed into it, but at least they didn't have to climb over rocks bigger than them).
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I really want to ride in that cable car sometime. (e:Paul) told me that he was not interested in that adventure because apparently, heights weird him out. I was pretty surprised that we managed to come back home in one piece. (e:Matthew) was happily rocking in the porch enjoying the weather while (e:Terry) recounted out brush with the devil at the Niagara Gorge Trail.
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Permalink: http://estrip.org/articles/read/tinypliny/54377/The_perils_of_a_Niagara_Gorge_Hike.html
Words: 644
Location: Buffalo, NY
Last Modified: 05/29/11 10:30


Category: eating in

05/28/11 11:35- ID#54374

Oven-Baked Spicy Cranberry Open Sandwich

I was absolutely obsessed with the smell of cranberries all week and was determined to have a cranberry-themed dinner today so I created this eccentric-combination warm open sandwich from scratch. I also went slightly crazy at the coop and bought many new things including a mango and ginger cheese that I melted on this sandwich.

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It is out-of-the-world delicious! I wish there were more... It's been a while since I went this elaborate in Buffalo. (I need to blog about the 5 day housewarming cooking marathon I indulged in NYC later...) Before I forget, I need to write down what I did.

1. Finally baked the super-sour-almost-alcoholic bread today using up the 12-grain & quinoa sourdough starter from around a month back. Didn't throw away the top layer of alcohol that had formed on the sourdough starter. As a result the bread was caramelized in places and the flavour is pretty intense. The sourness of the bread equals that of an extremely sharp cheese crossed with sour cream or maybe feta. I also added cranberries and raisins into the dough during the 2nd rising because I thought the sourness might be overpowering. It's quite amazing at how well these dried fruits go along with the super-sour bread.

2. Sliced and toasted a couple slices of the bread in the oven at 350 deg F till the surface went a slightly darker brown (the bread itself was super brown to start with).

3. Added an even layer of super-thin sliced ripe heirloom tomatoes over the toasted bread, followed by a layer of thinly sliced mango and ginger cheese and thin slices of garlic.

4. Put it back in the oven till the cheese JUST melted over the tomatoes, sprinkled a slight hint of rosemary, and drizzled a whisked dressing of extra virgin olive oil and tamari soy sauce (bulk from the coop).

5. Added a whole thinly sliced jalapeño and green bell peppers, thinly sliced red onions and finely chopped cilantro followed by another layer of the mango and ginger cheese and a generous number of dried cranberries and a good sprinkle of hand-ground celtic sea salt (part of the crazy run at the coop).

6. Back in the oven till the cheese completely melted and browned in places and semi-caramelized the red onion.

7. Added even more cranberries after serving on plate. Sprinkled with a dash of pepper and nutritional yeast (Another crazy new trial from the coop. It was slightly funny at first but it kept on getting better and better after a couple bites... Went really went as a dressing to this open sandwich)

Enjoy with Earl Grey, Hot*. ;-)

====
PS: Mighty Leaf Organic Earl Grey*: Not really my favourite. Actually, I think it tastes pretty weak and does not come up to my standards of what Earl Grey should be like. Next time, I will stick to Ahmad's or Hedley's.

PPS: The Mango and Ginger cheese is an excellent find!

PPPS: (e:Paul), they are discontinuing the Herbmare original flavour salt at the coop and have the medium bottles on sale for $5 if you haven't noticed already. I kept thinking that I should probably get a bottle but forgot in all the excitement of the "crazy coop run"
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Permalink: http://estrip.org/articles/read/tinypliny/54374/Oven_Baked_Spicy_Cranberry_Open_Sandwich.html
Words: 534
Location: Buffalo, NY
Last Modified: 05/29/11 11:15


Category: eating in

05/28/11 04:17- ID#54365

Norpro Krona Stainless Steel Saucepan

Soups are perhaps my most favourite kind of food. I really want a deep three-quart saucepan because I want to make them really fast and more often. When a soup is really thick, the large shallow all-purpose frying pan I use for soups now does nothing to prevent splattering all over the kitchen wall near the stove. I end up having to wipe down the entire kitchen in addition to other cleaning up. It's such a waste of time even though it does keep the kitchen cleaner than it would be if not for this unfortunate soup-pan mismatch.

I am a bit torn over several awesome saucepans on Amazon. I definitely want an all stainless steel body and interior. So all anodized, non-sticks and enamels are out. I am not a very careful or gentle dishwasher so glass lids are out. I am pretty sure I will eventually break them and slice my hand open or maybe both.

I am attracted towards cast iron saucepans but I don't think I actually have the patience to do all the maintenance that a pre-seasoned finish requires. When I see a cast iron pot in any sink, my cleaning OCD kicks in. I know I will end up scrubbing all the seasoning out every time. That sort of defeats the purpose of having a seasoned cast iron pan. And of course, I doubt if I have the muscles to handle the weight of a 3 quart cast iron pot.

So after some elimination, I am staring at this: the 3 quart Norpro Krona Stainless Steel Saucepan:
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But sigh. It has only two rather non-specific vague reviews. Do you think this saucepan is worth $35?

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Permalink: http://estrip.org/articles/read/tinypliny/54365/Norpro_Krona_Stainless_Steel_Saucepan.html
Words: 289
Location: Buffalo, NY
Last Modified: 05/28/11 04:30


Category: music

05/28/11 03:49- ID#54364

Westlife

Don't you know that....dreams come true
Westlife are the best boyband there can ever be?!
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And I will take no arguments about NKOTB or Backstreet Boys or Take that or this or whatever other crappy band. Just take all the tunes that have ever been stuck in your head from each of these bands and do a t-test. You will find that Westlife's rate of sticking in your head is by far the MOST significant, heads and shoulders and totally irrational cowlicks above all of the other so-called "boybands".

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Permalink: http://estrip.org/articles/read/tinypliny/54364/Westlife.html
Words: 92
Location: Buffalo, NY
Last Modified: 05/28/11 03:49


Category: eating in

05/28/11 02:30- ID#54361

#1 Bestseller in Kitchen and Dining Sales

at Amazon is apparently this weird looking thing called the Trudeau Bottle Cap Catcher:
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REALLY?! Since when did the people shopping for kitchen stuff on Amazon find the desperate need to catch beverage caps top of their priorities? There is not a single review for the #1 bestselling item in kitchen and dining on Amazon. Was some company responsible for the bulk of the sales and gave these silly things away as corporate gifts to their entire workforce... And everyone was like "eh?" so they didn't bother reviewing?

What's even more unbelievable is that it was just released on 15th March this year and beat out every saucepan and frying pot on the site in 3 months? Does that sound reasonable?


Totally ludicrous.
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Permalink: http://estrip.org/articles/read/tinypliny/54361/_1_Bestseller_in_Kitchen_and_Dining_Sales.html
Words: 142
Location: Buffalo, NY
Last Modified: 05/28/11 02:55


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The peeps are actually cake batter (blue), bubblegum (pink) and sour watermelon (green) flavored. Ca...

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