Saturday, October 29, 2016

Holistic Moms Talk Discusses Home Toxins

On Thursday morning March 26, the Holistic Moms Network of Northern Westchester welcomed certified Wellness Coach Perry Levenson to the Katonah Methodist Church at 5 Bedford Road to present, How Healthy is Your Home. Taking on each room, the board certified Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Professional identified common toxins that people unwittingly bring into their homes.
He began with what would be hard to consider a toxin but definitely acts to debilitate. “Light from your electronic devices can damage the body’s melatonin and interrupt your sleep,” he said.
So shutting the TV and the tablet in favor of a book to relax is far more conducive to a good night’s sleep. In accordance, Levenson recommended a sunrise alarm clock that gradually dims as bedtime approaches and lights up as the alarm time approaches. “This causes the body to increase melatonin with the dimming of the light, and then stimulate the pituitary system as the light brightens in the morning,” said Levenson.   
Closing on the lights, Levenson moved onto the closet, and the danger dry cleaned clothes represent. “It’s not really dried and it’s not really cleaned,” he said.
Often soaked in a chemical known as perchloroethylene, the residue carries carcinogenic risks and can cause liver and kidney damage. As such, he recommended finding a green cleaner or when no stains are apparent, dry cleaning in the sun. “Ultraviolet rays act as a natural disinfectant,” said the New Rochelle resident. 
As for the machine washable, anything that is less than 100% cotton will consist of poly vinyl chlorides, which carry risk of developmental damage, liver and central nervous system problems and impediments to respiratory and reproductive systems. “Anything put on your skin quickly goes into your blood system,” he said.
Unfortunately, 100% cotton also poses a risk. “Cotton producers are the number one user of pesticide,” he said, and Levenson recommended pesticide free clothing.  
Levenson then went skin deep and took up all the products people apply in personal care.  “Between shampoos, lotions, soaps and skin care, people average seven products a day,” said Levenson, and manufacturers include all kinds of chemical additives to lengthen the life of products.
Immediate gain is lost in the long run anyway. “These products usually damage the skin,” he said.
Otherwise, before a group of 10 moms who are part of this nationwide network that seeks to develop a thriving local community of holistic families, he cited how many creams stimulate estrogenic activity and cause early maturity in young women.
Companies also find ways around the law. Formaldehyde banned in products, companies include agents that stimulate its production in the product once opened and act as a preservative.
Once again, natural products are out there in abundance. The extra cost, though, must take the long view. “Paying the higher price now is called re-directional spending that will put you ahead later,” he said.
In the kitchen, the neurotoxins put people knee deep in terms of cleaning products. As such, substitutes do not have to even go the all-natural label route. “Baking soda, white vinegar and even hot water are all good,” he said.
Acknowledging all the harm, Levenson allayed the dirge of disturbing information by suggesting that parents take it incrementally. “You don’t have to change everything overnight, just make baby steps one at a time,” he said.
Holistic Moms chapter leader Shira Adler agreed and expressed how the talk was another example of the way members pursue a healthier life for their families. “We learn from experience and each other,” she concluded. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Max Maven is More than Magic

I hate magic - specifically because it is not magic and can be rationally explained. Of course, the explanation completely eludes me. That's why I hate it. So if you're anything like me, you're going to hate Max Maven : Thinking in Person. Worse yet, his show at the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex is not slight of hand but slight of mind. And I'm not entirely certain this mind reading gig superimposed on a magic act can be explained rationally.  Hey, now we're talking.

Max Maven emerged out of the darkness in confinement of the show's first spotlight. "Once upon a time, he began, "what a clever little Iambic Pentameter."

This set the tone for his unique delivery. A mathematical interpretation of creativity was the manner in which much of his dialogue proceeded. Adding an analytic degree of encryption to the mystery, the  dialogue maybe offered some explanation in the off-chance something extrasensory wasn't in play.

On the record, Maven chalks his presentation up to metaphysics mixed in with subliminal persuasion and the power of suggestion. In turn, the claim is he can pick up on discernible cues to read the thoughts of total strangers.

I'm not buying it. No explanation, this isn't magic.  I could tell because I didn't hate it. Not even trying to figure it out, I loved it!

Nonetheless, Max came into the light and expropriated a quarter from an audience member.  He spun it, and before it stopped, placed the piece under a paper cup. He then locked it under a transparent cube and claimed the quarter landed tails up.

A 50-50 shot at getting it right, he conceded that predicting the outcome came without much risk. The audience seemingly in agreement, he relented, "We'll build it up as we go."

Moving on, I'll only completely spoil his first offering, while you can definitely be assured his powers escalate in geometric astonishment.

Presenting a deck of cards, Max picked Charlotte out of the first row and asked her to think of a card in the sleeve of 52. She settled on the queen of Hearts.  "Passion and Power," he quipped. "You've told us more than we wanted to know."

Max fanned out the deck in right hand and instructed her to stop his motion when she felt so inspired. Quarter way through, she gave the verbal cue and Max pulled the card.  On the turn, the queen of love was revealed.

But before the audience could confront him with the obvious, Max addressed it by way of a gentleman to the left.  "I haven't shown you the rest of the cards," he posed. "They all must be queen of hearts."

"You are so smart but how did I know she would pick the queen of hearts." Making it a rhetorical jest, Max poked fun back at himself. "Not such a practical skill," he agreed.

The same might be said for the warehouse of useless information he's acquired in the field of...everything.  "Wizard is an alphabetically symmetrical world. 'W' and 'D' are forth from the beginning and end of the alphabet, 'I' and 'R' fall ninth in similar fashion and 'A' and 'Z' are first and last. And what's most interesting," he said in passing on any discussion of word origins, "is that someone even noticed."

Intrinsic value or not, it was well worth the laugh before he came back to the quarter and the easy odds he faced. "50%, how compelling is that," he asked.

Referencing Frank R. Stockton, he hoped this most famous even odds choice would give a little edge to the drama. "Lady or the Tiger," he needled the audience. "I guess not."

Ziegfeld or Roy, he queried to a silence. "Hmmm - Too soon," he deferred to audience's amusement.

Thus, putting the questionably elevated anticipation off a little longer, he enlisted a somewhat reluctant participant to the stage. "Don't worry, I don't bite...on stage," he reassured her.

Somewhat questionable was Jamie's card playing acumen.  Flashing her the two of spades to identify, he cautioned, "You know my career depends on this."

Apparently succumbing to the pressure, she mixed clubs for spades. "My life is passing before my eyes," he joked.

And when Jamie presented the card he called later in the trick with the face away from the audience, Max did not disappear as the scene obviously diverted from the script. "What's wrong with this picture Jamie," he said in seamlessly working the moment.

In the second act, Max gave the audience a better sense of his metaphysical act by changing into an outfit that aligned more closely with the discipline's home office, while not completely giving all props to the East. "The shirt is from Singapore, the tie is from China and the pants are from...upstate New York, he perfectly timed the beat.

The stage and segue set, Max really got outer worldly on us. He coaxed five more audience members into awaiting chairs and informed them that one of them would be compelled to rise and deliver the answer he sought. "This is my favorite part of the show," he revealed, but the power of persuasion secure on Max's side was not necessarily immediate.

Once in Toronto, he said during the delay, "We were waiting until dawn."

Well before then, but with the audience sufficiently compelled themselves, a young woman finally provided the crescendo. "You looked like you were fidgeting on a hot plate," he poked at her.

However, the audience did not cool as his final trick took place as two Kennedy half dollars were duct taped over his eyes. Assuring the audience that no homing devices were implanted into the copper/silver composites, he duplicated the drawing an audience member provided in his temporary blindness.

In that, Max disappeared into the darkness and left the audience in a state of astonishment.

So much so, that when he quickly returned to finish what he started with the quarter, the audience had  completely forgotten the buildup and then were ready to give him the benefit of the doubt – if necessary.

Audience reengaged, he unlocked the cube, put his hands to the cup and....

Sorry, you have to see this for yourself.

Ronald Reagan – I take the Good with the Bad

I’m a liberal and I don’t hate Ronald Reagan.  I remembered that as I came across him on FullMovies as host of GE Theater. But before I’m denied entry in every Brooklyn style independent coffee shop in America, let me give an accounting and recount what came to mind next - the less than visionary speech he made in regards to the perils of Medicare.

On the upside, he was positive and coming out of Vietnam, Watergate and the stagnation of the Carter years, America needed that – even if much of his rhetoric distorted reality.

I remember fondly the time he addressed students at Notre Dame the year the football team won the national title.  Eventually presented a football, he turned his attention to where the team was congregated and let the pigskin fly.  Every nearby player reaching out for the president’s perfect spiral, it landed magically in the hands of his intended receiver – Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown.  Always with a flare for the dramatics, he let us feel good about ourselves.

In terms of the cold war, he was the right man at the right time – even as I never approved of the daily verbal hammer he put on the Soviet Union and the massive arms build up that went with it.  In 1960, such an combative approach might amounted to suicide, but in 1980, stepping on their necks was exactly what was needed.

In fact, thinking it was the height of folly to exhort, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” I now view the clip with pride. Reagan was one man with a vision and the right one.

On the other hand, pursuing wars in Central America were a total misread of history, which played no part in the fall of Russia and wrought untold havoc and death on those countries.

At home, “supply side economics” may have resulted in a revived economy but gave rise to policies that created a wealth gap today that would have made the robber barons proud.

That provides the perfect lead in to the Medicare, which is foretelling, but not in the manner Reagan intended.

A typical strategy in which governments impose control, he tells us is under the guise of humanitarian programs like Medicare. Reagan goes on to say that Medicare will open the floodgates and government will expand into all areas of our lives.

For instance, he cites a socialized medicine based scenario in which the government will dictate where doctors work in accordance to the number of doctors in a particular area. In turn, nationally employed physicians will have limits on the number of patients they can treat and a set price since all doctors would be of equal value.  From there, he says, it’s a short step to government telling us what professions we chose, where we go to school and where we live and work.

Off that, he warns one day we will wake up and remember a time when America was free.

50 years later, while our government has expanded to possibly unmanageable proportions, he’s just slightly off.

But his prescience was certainly on target as we see Fox News perfect a propaganda driven business model that works quite well and suckers more in every day with a disinformation machine that has paralyzed our entire system of government.

Oh well, I guess you take the good with the bad.

Fox Lane App Team Stars in County Competition

In early March, six students from Fox Lane High School signed up for the Westchester County App Development Bowl. A competition involving 28 area schools, the intent was to create Apps that could help patients with Alzheimer’s. Winning one category and taking 2nd place in two others, the showing Team Fox Lane put up definitely must be considered unforgettable – and not just because of the prize money, accolades and the sense of accomplishment for helping others.

“Their App is called MemBook,” says Teacher Advisor Jessica Fletcher of the digital scrapbook that users can put together over time.

Acting as a substitute – so to speak – for the damaged nerve endings, MemBook can breach the gaps in memory at the touch of the screen. “They can tag people in the photos or put in a description,” says Fletcher.

Winning the usability award and taking second in the functionality award and the caregiver award, the endeavor began the way the best technology emerges – by putting their brains to work before any tapping of a touch screen. “They did a lot of research,” she says of team members Vian Ambar Agustono, Austin Morretta, Drew Gregory, Sean Sacks, Danny Delannes-Molka and Ben Coleman.

In accordance, the leg work revealed a crucial component that has nothing to do with bits, bytes and motherboards. “People with Alzheimer’s don’t like to be referred to as Alzheimer’s patients so the word cannot be found anywhere on their App,” says Fletcher, a Math and Computer Science teacher.

The selling point aside, each came back with ideas and eventually settled on MemBook. “I thought it was a great idea, and we went from there,” says Fletcher.

As such, the process inherently created a division of labor that had everyone rising to the top. “There was a leader for the coding, a leader for the presentation, a leader of organization, etc,” she said.

Still, the team didn’t succumb to having too many cooks – especially when it came to the main point of contention. Conflicted on whether to include the possibility of pulling posts directly off social media, time constraints of the competition gave them pause.

The team compromised by including with their presentation an addendum that proposed the social media feature. “I thought it was grown up of them,”said Fletcher

Of course, the scope of the project wasn’t the only thing that held them up. In terms of coding and implementation, walls were definitely hit, and as the teacher, Fletcher held her tongue. “They appreciated that I didn’t provide the answers because they were proud of the solutions they came up with,” she says.

Tweaking and adding on throughout, the team met almost every day in Fletcher’s room and kept each other in the loop when Apps should have been the last thing on their minds.

“They’re all on the track team so even while in practice they would talk about the project,” she said.

Prize money now in the bank, the real return will ultimately go to Pace University as part of the conditions of the competition. The team is fine with that because they know their product isn’t necessarily ready for mass consumption. “They were concerned about making this public so the fact that Pace is going to polish it - they are happy about that,” says Fletcher.

Having their name attached to a functioning App can’t be a bad thing either way but the kids don’t seem to be considering their own dive into the market yet, according to Fletcher. “They’re looking forward to what Pace offers next,” she says.

And Pace is probably thinking the same thing about them.  

Composting System Keeps Chemicals from Seeping into the Soil

Bedford has always prided itself on staying ahead of the curve on environmental sustainability. But change still takes time – even when the benefits satisfy all we stand for environmentally and the new actually pays for itself long before the shoe (or hoof) drops on the costs.

​Developing a manure composting system on her Bedford Corner’s horse farm, Susan Roos still awaits her first sale besides her own prototype. The technology eliminates the problem of chemical seepage into the soil. “Changing everyone’s mind has been the hardest part,” says Roos.

Typically, horse farms gather their manure weekly and store the waste in a dumpster for about a month before having a composting company haul the contents away. “The problem is dumpsters leak and allow dangerous chemical by products to escape into the soil and eventually the watershed,” says Roos.

The overflow of rain doesn’t make the problem any better either, but while chemical release may be out of sight, the monthly cost for a farm is not. “Before I implemented the system, I was paying $800 per month for a service,” says Roos of her four horse farm.

Of course, fertilizer is required to replenishing the paddock, where the horses graze. “Farmers are essentially buying back the composted manure they ship off to the service,” says Roos.

At her farm, the cost for fertilizer was about $100 a month.

The expenses left behind, three tidy bins encased in cement occupy a tiny corner of her acreage. As each bin is filled, heated air is pumped into the system to speed up the chemical breakdown – allowing nothing to escape.

Common Sense Composting completes the cycle in about a 30 days, which outperforms anything else by a month or two. 

But her efforts haven’t gone completely unnoticed. “We were one of the six winners of the Town of Bedford Conservation Board’s Green Awards,” says Roos.

Otherwise, the town is moving towards putting in regulations on the composting of manure and waste, but unfortunately democracy works on a timeframe that composting systems can relate to. “The creation of legislation on the town level is taking time,” says Roos.

​Fortunately, she has Bedford’s way of doing things on her side, and when debate eventually becomes law, change should get a whole lot easier.  

Roos says the price tag on the system is $20,000.

Lose the Rake, Mower Mulch your Lawn and Leave Leaves Alone

When I was a kid, Sunday’s in the fall always had game time bearing down on me as my father operated under the directive that any leaf we left behind was one I’d have to eat. Sarcasm aside, I did look pretty good. But if opening kickoff was ever missed, did he really want to risk the call I’d be forced to make to the child protective services of the time.  How about just running the lawnmower over the leaves and let them disintegrate by spring.  

This the seventies, talk like that would have put a rake in my hand at halftime, but according to a Bedford initiative called, Leave Leaves Alone, it would seem I was something of a visionary. 

In Bedford, residents pile their leaves along the street and town workers accumulate about 2,500 hours of work through five weeks to haul it all away. No need to put anyone out of work, says founder Fiona Mitchell, “They could be fixing roads, they could be clearing drains, they could be doing plenty of other things that the community needs.”

The decreased carbon footprint of less vehicle use and fuel savings are also benefits as the mulch mowers that most people already have puts my forward thinking youth to pragmatic use. “Leaves are severed into tiny little pieces, they fall between the blades of grass and enrich the soil as they breakdown to organic matter,” says Mitchell. 

In other words, the only trace left behind by spring will be a healthier lawn. Part of the productive process is that the organic matter provided by the decomposed leaves creates air space for drainage.  “It keeps the soil from being too compact,” she says. 

Of course, the lawn not racked on my street led to dirty looks and muffled grumbling among the more diligent. In “Leaves” case, it actually works the other way. Leaves piled on Bedford sidewalks are far more likely to blow around than the tiny splices that mulch mowers leave behind,” she says.

Phosphorus, on the other hand, won’t get that treatment. Foliage left on the street waiting for pickup has the compound contained within. In turn, as the leaves await their removal the less than friendly chemical clings to the asphalt. In turn, the remains runoff into the reservoirs, streams and ponds and helps create algae. “That really kills the activity of the water body because it diminishes the amount of sunlight getting through,” she says.

No matter, her initial presentation to the town came with skepticism. Nonetheless, Bedford has now adapted the procedure for public property and purchased the very reasonable prices attachments for their landscaping equipment. “They were happily surprised,” she reports.

But she concedes that the pace among residents and landscapers will likely come at a slower pace. “I think they’ll be plenty of leaves on the sidewalks this fall,” she says, “but I’m confident the change will come to the community.”

As for me, I can’t wait to send this article to my dad.