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How much time should you spend with your children?

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

Parents are hardwired to feel guilty that they may not be involved enough with their kids. But what is it that makes the difference when it comes to time – quantity or quality?

If you worry you are not spending enough time with your children, you can relax. Get a babysitter and go out for the evening. Studies show that it is quality, not quantity, of time that makes children thrive. While research has usually focused on mothers, a study last week on BMJ Open showed that the amount of time fathers spend with children is also less important than how much they enjoyed parenting. Fathers who took pleasure in caring for their young children were 28% less likely to have children with behavioural problems at both nine and 11 years old.

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How was your weekend running?

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

Share your frosty parkruns, epic PBs and injury woes below the line as always – and salute a real running hero

To run one sub-three marathon may be regarded as impressive. To run three in as many months – four in the year – looks like awesomeness. People of the running blog, take your winter running caps off for Gill. 2hr 53min at Florence marathon yesterday, finishing off that sub-3 streak with a PB.

To put that in context, the first two of those marathons were within a couple of weeks of each other (Berlin, Lake Garda). It’s impossible really to come up with a precise equivalent for what a sub-3 marathon for a woman would equate to for a man. Sub 2hr 45min? 2 hrs 40min? At any rate, I genuinely think that very few people (men or women) have performed at that level (their absolute best, remember) with such consistency. Gill, you are my hero. Also, can I borrow your legs? And, err, lungs?

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Hemosep: the machine set to revolutionise blood transfusions

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

A new medical device that give a patient’s own blood back to them could, its makers say, save lives and money, and is already being used around the world. So why isn’t the NHS buying any of them?

The idea of being able to recover a patient’s own blood and put it back into their body is not new. But until now it has been expensive and largely unworkable. Autotransfusion, as it is known, has typically used large, complex, centrifugal devices that require skilled operators, take a lot of time and are very expensive. The cumbersome machines used in many hospitals return just the red blood cells, eliminating the platelets needed for clotting and the white cells required to fight infection. That can lead to complications.

But a new machine, devised by Strathclyde University’s biomedical engineering department, may change all that. Hemosep, as it is known, is designed for use during major surgery. It removes blood from the surgical site, takes out the plasma and returns the vital blood cells to the patient, all through a single lightweight device.

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How to talk to strangers | Oliver Burkeman

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

People are happier when they talk to strangers, even when they predict they’ll hate it

I know I risk having my British citizenship revoked for saying this, but I admired how Jonathan Dunne – the American behind those “Tube chat” badges, encouraging conversation on the London Underground – responded to the hostility his project provoked. He ordered twice as many badges, recruited volunteers, and plunged back into the fray. Don’t get me wrong: true to my nationality, my first instinct is that anyone proposing more conversation between strangers should be imprisoned without trial. But on reflection, that reaction’s odd. After all, Tube chat isn’t encouraging unwanted conversation (if you aren’t up for talking, don’t wear a badge). The main objection seemed to be how excruciating it would be to have to listen to other passengers’ stumbling attempts at dialogue. And when you’re that horrified by the prospect of humans willingly engaging in mundane activities in public, isn’t it possible the problem isn’t with them?

Because the truth – according to an accumulating body of research, and now a book, When Strangers Meet, by the American educator Kio Stark – is that people really are happier when they talk to strangers, even when they predict they’ll hate it. This topic quickly gets derailed by questions of street harassment, but Stark is clear she’s not excusing that. (Nobody who thinks it’s OK to pester a woman to remove her headphones, as per that sleazy blogpost that went viral this summer, will find solace in Stark’s argument.)

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Experience: I didn’t speak for 17 years

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

I liked not speaking. It gave me peace. People ask if I spoke to myself, but why would I? I’d just have complained when I had no one to blame but myself

I stopped speaking on my 27th birthday in 1973, because I found myself arguing all the time. After witnessing an oil spill in San Francisco Bay in 1971, I gave up using motorised vehicles and started walking everywhere as a statement about pollution. I lived in a small village on the west coast of America, where I kept getting into debates about whether one person could make a difference. I would rant and rave about how everyone should do what I was doing.

I used words to hide from other people, and from myself. I made things up: if someone told me they were going on a trip to Europe, I’d pretend I was going, too; I guess I had low self-esteem. I decided not to speak for one day, as a kind of gift to my community. My girlfriend thought I was doing a nice thing. When I woke the next day, I didn’t see any reason to speak, so I didn’t. When others spoke to me, I mimed that I was being silent. They were thrilled.

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Itchy and scratchy – why the battle against head lice just got serious

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

Nits and lice don’t just infest children and getting rid of them can be hard work – especially with their growing resistance to pesticides. Now a whole new industry is growing up to offer hi-tech solutions to this itchy problem

This article will make you itch. I’m sorry. There’s no way round it. I’m pretty itchy myself, but that’s head lice for you. They warm themselves on Planet Scalp, sifting wisps with their antennae and, as the experts creepily put it, “taking a blood meal”. I have learned to recognise many types of itch since discovering two of the beasts in my hair. Some are a slow, creeping thaw on the head. Others, a fleeting tweak.

Between 8 and 10% of children in the UK are thought to have head lice at any one time and there are an estimated 6-12m cases a year in the US. But lice can also move from adult to adult. You might have hugged a colleague who has caught them from her children. They can ping from the static of a comb. Or maybe you tried on a hat in your lunch break, and a louse moved into its new home. Contrary to popular belief, there is no data to prove that men are less attractive to lice than women. Can you feel that tickle behind your ear yet?

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Two-wheel takeover: bikes outnumber cars for the first time in Copenhagen

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

Denmark’s capital has reached a milestone in its journey to become a cycling city – there are now more bikes than cars on the streets. Can other cities follow?

Bicycle sensors in Copenhagen clocked a new record this month: there are now more bikes than cars in the heart of the city. In the last year, 35,080 more bikes have joined the daily roll, bringing the total number to 265,700, compared with 252,600 cars.

Copenhagen municipality has been carrying out manual traffic counts at a number of city centre locations since 1970, when there were 351,133 cars and 100,071 bikes. In 2009, the city installed its first electric bike counter by city hall, with 20 now monitoring traffic across the city.

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Paying a coach won’t make you run faster – listening to one will

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

Even if you’re not an elite athlete, surrounding yourself with the advice and support of a coach could change your performance dramatically

Running coaches are just for fast runners aren’t they? I’m not good enough to have a coach. I don’t have enough time to do all the running a coach would want me to do.

Maybe the idea of a coach has crossed your mind but you’ve dismissed it for one of these reasons. But the world of running coaching is becoming more and more accessible to us mere mortals – and the benefits at every level are huge.

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Car-free Belgium: why can’t Brussels match Ghent’s pedestrianised vision?

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

In Belgium, cars are cherished possessions and driving is a staple of everyday life. But two of its major cities are making forcible efforts to cut down the traffic on their streets – with wildly different results

One morning in 1997, Frank Beke, the mayor of Ghent, woke up to find he’d been sent a bullet in the post. For the next few weeks Beke wore a bulletproof jacket, while police stood guard outside his house and accompanied him everywhere he went. “I was very anxious for my family,” he says. “I was protected by police but my wife and my children weren’t.”

The culprit was eventually found and arrested – a man who owned a shoe shop in the Belgian city’s medieval centre. His motive? Beke’s plans to pedestrianise the area around his shop.

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London cycling and the “by chance” success of Amsterdam

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

A new book about the cycling cultures of Dutch and other European cities offers some valuable guidance for London

For many London cycling activists and politicians with transport responsibilities the Netherlands is the touchstone nation for urban cycling policy, as demonstrated by the London Cycling Campaign’s ongoing “Go Dutch” theme and Boris Johnson’s borough-centred “mini-Holland” schemes. It is easy to see why. In 2014, cyclists accounted for a commanding 32% of modal share across the Dutch capital Amsterdam, higher than any other category and rising. Only walking rivals it as a way to get around. How did Amsterdam come to be such a beacon as a cycling city and what can London learn from it?

Professor Ruth Oldenziel of Eindhoven University – a Dutch person and a cyclist, just so you know – is co-editor of a new book called Cycling Cities: The European Experience. In it, she and a colleague characterise Amsterdam as the “world bicycle capital, by chance”. Last week, presenting the book’s findings at a London Travelwatch event, she summarised the city’s cycling pre-eminence as resulting from “a kind of coincidence”.

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