March 25th, 2016

LD Picks: The Best Articles We Read This Week

Nobody has time to read the whole Internet, so our editors have summarized the best of it for you. Read on for smart advice on personal emails, the perils of ‘parachuting,’ pancake science, and more—our favourite articles of the week.

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11 Things A Massage Therapist Knows About You After An Hour

smartphone

Smartphone neck: To your massage therapist, it means you should cut down time spent online.

  1. You love big purses. Your body will be tighter on one side, since you’re likely to weight-bear on a primary leg.   A therapist will detect tight glutes, hamstrings, and quads, as well as an unnatural pelvic tilt.
    [Perhaps you’ve been packing an earthquake prep kit in that ginormous satchel?]
  2. You’re dehydrated. Haven’t drunk your recommended eight glasses of water a day? You’ll feel pain on certain trigger points in your upper back.
    [But wait—could 8 glasses a day be a myth?]
  3. You’re cold all the time. People reflexively hunch their shoulders when they’re cold. It’s common for massage therapists to see additional neck and shoulder stress in the winter months.
    [Perhaps you don’t spend long enough warming up your car. Nope, that’s impossible.]
  4. You have a desk job. It’s not for nothing they call sitting the next public health crisis. Working at a computer weakens the lower back, puts your hips out of alignment, and leads to tight glutes and legs.
    [Forget good posture—this is way more important at work.]
  5. You sleep on your stomach. The parachuting position puts stress on the neck, leading to abnormal tightness.
    [These 6 surprising foods help you sleep all night long—in any position.]
  6. You’re constipated. Much easier to detect than you might think. The dead giveaway is an abdomen that’s firm to the touch.
    [Not sure what to suggest… Bran Buds?]
  7. You have a long commute. Hours spent behind the wheel promotes a posture of leaning forward. You can tell a frequent driver by his hunched shoulders.
    [Apparently, the more you burp, the worse you drive, says Dr. Art Hister.]
  8. You’re hurt. Acute injuries radiate heat and inflammation. An experienced massage therapist can distinguish between chronic injuries (muscles feel tight, dehydrated) and repetitive motion injuries (tendons and muscles feel wiry, like guitar strings).
    [Pain sucks. We’ve got a host of services—from pharmacy to health library—to help you through it.]
  9. You’re on your smartphone too much. Chronic texters will find it unusually painful when a massage therapist rubs their shoulders. The cause? The downward position of your head as you look at the screen.
    [That said, we, ahem, have some excellent deals on smartphones.]
  10. You’re a runner. Hips and lower back are tight to the touch, foot arches are tense.
    [Two words: Icy Hot. Dr. Scholls. Okay, four.]
  11. Your allergies are flaring up. Hay fever got you on the ropes? Tissue around your eyes, forehead, cheeks, and jaw will feel tender and inflamed. Lymph nodes, too, in the chest, neck, and underarms.
    [We’ve got more allergy remedies than you can blast a sneeze at.]

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5 Things You Should NEVER Do in the Shower

Janet Leigh, in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960).

You’ll never look at an innocent shower the same way again. (Janet Leigh, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, 1960.)

Believe it or not, your safety is on the line every time you hop in and steam up the bathroom. To avoid embarrassment, injury, or worse, the experts at Prevention say you should stay away from…

  1. Showering during an electrical storm: Think about it—water conducts electricity. If lightning hit a power line or the ground it can come up your pipes. (Even at a distance from your home, the jolt can be significant.) Activities to avoid in a thunderstorm: showers, baths, dishwashing by hand, playing hard-wired video games or computers, and talking on hard-wired phones.
  2. Using an old showerhead: Over time, potentially dangerous bacteria accrete in the nooks and crannies, providing microbes. Even worse, modern showerheads can aerosolize water particles, allowing bad bacteria deep into your airways. Use a rain-type showerhead or remove it altogether and go with a single stream of water.
  3. Showering without a mat: In North America in 2011, more than 250,000 accidental injuries occurred in the bathroom or shower—20 percent due to slipping. Put non-slip strips or a mat in your tub and consider adding grab bars inside and outside the shower to reduce falls.
  4. Overusing your loofah: They’re great for removing off dead skin, but loofahs can become loaded with germs. Wash yours once a week. Either soak it in diluted vinegar, or run it through the dishwasher.
  5. Showering before bed: An evening shower is a delightful thing, but don’t hop in within two hours of bedtime. The temperature change messes with your body’s natural triggers for restful sleep.

[More at Prevention]

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The Science Behind Making the Perfect Pancake

pancake

Impress your family with a nugget of trivia: That delicious pancake aroma comes from a reaction named for the French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard.

Everyone loves pancakes. But it takes more than luck to work out how much batter you need or how to ensure the perfect flip. Here’s a great recipe, along with secret scientific underpinnings that contribute to perfect pancakes. Good luck!

THE RECIPE

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1-1/3 cups milk
  • butter for frying

THE SCIENCE

  1. Cooking is chemistry: Flour supplies protein and starch, both of which make simple sugar molecules join in chains. Much of flour’s protein comes from gluten. When you mix flour with milk and eggs, its gluten molecules get more flexible and can bind. The mixing causes carbon dioxide gas from the air to be trapped within these networks, which causes the pancake to rise.
  2. If you want thick pancakes, use a raising agent: This produces the carbon dioxide. Use baking soda or baking powder, or a mixture of sodium bicarbonate with a weak acid, like cream of tartar.
  3. Let batter stand for at least 30 minutes: Three hours is better. Why? You want to beat the mixture hard, to form the gluten—but allow the starches time to swell. With insufficient time, the pancake structure will be weak and full of air bubbles.
  4. Go easy with the batter: Rookie cooks always use too much.
  5. Use moderate heat: The pan should be hot enough for the pancake to brown in less than a minute, but not so hot that the batter sets when you put it on the pan. The pan matters, too. The best are heavy and flat, and hold heat well.
  6. The colour and flavour come from “browning off”: This process—a chemical reaction known as the Maillard reaction—is caused by hot sugars reacting with amino-acids, generating a wide range of small molecules that escape from the mixture and carry their wonderful smells to your nose.

Happy pancaking!

[More at Time Science]

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How to Write Emails If You Want People to Actually Respond

imrs-1

The sweet spot of email writing. (Image courtesy of Boomerang.)

Having trouble getting people to reply to your emails? The solution, say the experts behind a popular Gmail plugin, is to write as if you’re 9 years old. Short, declarative sentences carry the day. But beware: Excessive simplicity and complexity both diminish your chances of a reply. Messages written at a kindergarten reading level get replies 46 percent of the time; those written at a university level, 39 percent.

Here’s a full list of Boomerang’s email tips:

  1. Use short sentences with simpler words. A 3rd grade reading level works best.
  2. Include one to three questions in your email.
  3. Make sure you include a subject line! Aim for 3-4 words.
  4. Use a slightly positive or slightly negative tone. Both outperform a completely neutral tone.
  5. Take a stand! Opinionated messages see higher response rates than objective ones.
  6. Write enough, but not too much. Try to keep messages between 50-125 words.

[More at The Washington Post]

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