Since making the positive decision to ditch a potential lifetime of medication for arthritis (dicloflex, diclofenac sodium – a cyclo-oxygenase inhibitor) I started to look into the “herbal” alternatives for alleviating the discomfort.
I’ve long been a believer in the fact that we are pawns of the pharmaceutical industry, tied into cycles of proscribing patented drugs to cure “diseases” that are often manageable with diet, or medicinal herbs / spices. After all, the active ingredients in patented drugs is often derived from a freely available natural source.
From personal / family experience, every visit to the doctors surgery resulting in treatment ends up with a prescription for a manufactured “drug” – that could have been avoided with a diet consultation. eg – family member with low iron count – prescribed iron sulfate tablets. No mention at all about diets, iron rich foods combined with vitamin C, avoiding tea / coffee at meal times. Instead a “pill” to cure all the ills.
Whilst statistics are not easy to find, HCPLive (US based) suggests that the average number is 5, rising to 7 for those in a nursing home. 5 “pills” per day for life from about 65 onwards!!
Having had a rough year, I could see the start of this – my medication for arthritis was not a cure, or to get me “over it” – it was a treatment that I was likely to have to take forever. At the age of 40, I was already on 1 of my 5 a day. If you added in the aspirin/paracetamol/ibuprofen taken on a week and it could easily be up to 2 per day (on a bad day).
Someone, somewhere is making a small (or large) fortune out of my medications.
So, I started to look into my condition and medication.
Interestingly my meds (dicloflex) and aspirin/ibuprofen function to inhibit COX (cyclooxygenase) – and hence reduce pain / inflammation.
There appears also to be a suggestion that COX inhibition is related to a reduced risk of developing / progression of certain cancers.
Back to the title of this post.
Turmeric contains an active ingredient curcumin which studies are now showing to be equally effective in reducing pain / inflammation as a dose of patented cox-2 medication. Interestingly, curcumin (and hence turmeric) is also linked to a reduction in the chance of developing Alzheimers later in life.
So about 4 weeks ago I ditched the dicloflex and started taking one teaspoonful of turmeric (with a pinch of black pepper – to aid the uptake, as pepper contain piperine, proven to aid to absorption of chemicals into the blood stream).
Now, 4 weeks into my new “supplement” and I am 90% pain free in my affect joints and have not had a headache for over a month. (Now I accept the irony that I’ve swapped one lifetime commitment for another, but as I can cook with turmeric and there are no recognised side effects, I think I’m onto a winner).
Off to shed quarters, where I thought it might be interesting to see if I could get the curcumin from the turmeric.
As curcumin is only moderately soluble in water (hence the low bio availability and the use of piperine to aid the uptake) I searched Dr Internet for a suggested solvent and method.
I followed this method, dissolving 25g of turmeric in 50ml of ethanol - the curcumin (and oils) can be seen in the liquid layer).
I did not have a soxhlet extractor, so I left it to extract in a warm place overnight. I then filtered waste and let the ethanol evaporate to concentrate the curcumin.
Unfortunately, what I ended up with was a brown sticky mass of resin, essential oils and curcumin, with a pungent smell of turmeric.
I tried redissolving in hexane and adding water dropwise to precipitate the curcumin, but I added too much water and ended up with a emulsion or resin, oils, curcumin – almost back to the start.
At this point, I gave up!
However, my adventure with turmeric and curcumin continues – I am determined not to be a pharmaceutics junkie by the age of 65.
As a teacher and head of department I try to keep my self up to date with the various happenings and developments within the world of education – I hang out in #ukedchat, #asechat and #addcym, I follow other bloggers and blog myself.
Sadly, that often comes a pale second to the daily grind of planning (not enough), teaching and managing “behaviour”.
Over the past twelve months I’ve come to the conclusion that teaching is making me physically ill and damaging my health and my relationship with friends and family.
During the academic year 2011-2012, I was knocked over (twice) in school, resulting in dislocated ribs and hyper extension of my elbow joints – as a result, at the age of 40 years old, I was proscribed “dicloflex” – probably on an ongoing basis.
I spent the year getting increasingly down (dare I say depressed?) and came to resent the job and the institution I represented. But in true teacher fashion, I held on till the summer holidays in the hope that “I would sort my life out”.
The “summer holiday myth”
Question: What do teachers do in their summer break?
Answer: Everything that they are too tired / wired to do throughout the year.
…. sleep for more than 6 hours a night, household chores, dentist, decorate, holiday (if you can afford it) and generally try to reconnect with the real world – watch some trashy TV and this year the Olympics, without feeling guilty.
Project Mr G
For me, the single and selfish aim, was to sort myself out. As a scientist, I wanted some “data” for this, so I have carefully measured my blood pressure every day of the holidays – presented above.
My holiday “diet”
- Disconnect from Twitter, email and anything else related to my job
- Exercise – get outside everyday and walk, run, garden, etc
- I fasted for 3 days and cut out dairy / coffee and tea completley from my diet
- I stopped taking my dicloflex and pain medication
- I went “herbal” and started taking turmeric, cinnamon and chilli for my joints (now diagnosed as arthritis)
- Ensured I slept for 8 hours per night
- Caught up on my trashy novel reading
- Avoided the news concerning examination results
- Stopped debating the state of the world with my wife
- Bought a shed and made a “man cave” for me to escape to
- I’ve lost nearly 2 stone in weight
- My blood pressure has fallen from 142/ 99 to 125 / 75
- My joint pain is considerably less than before — almost non existent on most days
- I am looking forward to starting back at school with a fresh outlook on school and education.
I’m so glad I spent the holidays with “myself” as a project instead of stressing school, examination results, politics and other things that I can’t control.
Now, with a week left before the new term, its time to start preparing for next year.
New terms resolution(s)
- Think less – the ills of the world / education system are not of my doing and are not under my control
- Plan more – take the time to reflect upon my practise and plan for the weeks ahead
- Dump the politics – Use Twitter / blogs for inspiration in the classroom not for political rants
- Sleep more – All school work to stop at 9pm regardless if things are finished or not.
Above all, Mr Gilchrist resolves to acknowledge that he / himself / his health is more important than my job — after all I am replaceable.
What’s your new term resolution?
I’ve never taken the contextualised autocomplete seriously before as I normally type without looking and miss the initial suggestions. But this time I noticed something quite useful.
The auto-complete starts as soon as you start typing. So if you stop at “a” the suggestions show you the most popular searches beginning with “a” – in this case for Amazon.co.uk on 3 June 2012, “A song of earth and fire“.
This made me think about a couple of things:
- The Amazon autocomplete suggestions are not well documented and appear to be the “most searched for” - but this might be adjusted by Amazon to lead purchasers into buying another product (see Evan Rosebrook for details on extracting this using the Amazon API and JQuery)
- Could I extract this information and build something useful
After extensive Google research, I am still unsure about the first. But the second became a project for me and my son.
The Amazon Alphabet
We decided to keep a list of all the search recommendations from A to Z and see if they changed over the course of a couple of weeks. Interesting in itself, but more interestingly, not available elsewhere on the web.
Ever the geek, I registered the domain www.amazonalphabet.co.uk and installed a clean WordPress setup so that the platform ran like a standard blog. After installing Yoast SEO, Statpress Visitors and the GooglePlus theme – I was ready.
My son now has the task of once per week pulling the A to Z autocomplete and updating a new page on Amazon Alphabet - when we have a few weeks data, we’ll make charts of each individual letter.
I’m not sure what use overall this will be, but the list itself is an interesting reflection of what people in the UK are searching Amazon for.
Check out Amazon Alphabet – leave a comment for my 11 year old.
ps – if anyone buys anything from these links, my son will get the affiliate commission — his first step into earning via the web
Once you have rooted your device (the Android equivalent of the iPhone jailbreak) you can start to play with the CPU settings in order to squeeze every last drop of speed / performance out of the handset. This is commonly called overclocking – and it has a long heritage in the PC community.
Sure it can go wrong, kill the phone and eat batteries alive — but that’s part of the fun of getting the settings right. So…..
You can change:
- Minimum CPU speed
- Maximum CPU speed
- CPU Governor (how fast the cpu changes up or down in speed)
- I/O Scheduler (how the CPU organises memory read / writes)
- SD Card Cache (how much “buffer” memory is used to smooth out SD card read / writes)
I wanted to explore each factor at 3 possible levels as I felt this would lead to reasonable understanding of what’s happening and it is the least number of levels to see if there are any “non linear” effects.
5 factors at 3 levels needs 3^5 or 243 experiments to cover every combination of factor and level. As a good experimenter I want to also complete x3 replicates — 729 experiments. Not only will I loose the will to live before I complete them all, I am also likely to kill my phone handset after so many changes.
I need another way.
A Taguchi Orthogonal Array is the way forward
This allows you to assess the Main Effects of a larger number of factors quickly, in the minimum number of experiments. In fact my 243 is reduced to 27. With x3 replicates, that is a manageable 81 experiments.
Friday 6th April 2012 was a big day for me. Yes, it was my 40th birthday and yes, I’m feeling very mortal, but the big event for me, was seeing my book make it’s way on Amazon. Beyond the Mean, “Data analysis for school leaders”.
I’ve posted on the creation of the book before and how, via collaboration I was able to scratch an ongoing professional itch – the story of that adventure is here
Back to the title of my post and the underlying question.
What would you implement / change (assuming it was within your control) within education? Not overly grand policy shifts here that require you to be Education Minister or Head Teacher, but those continually nagging issues that drive you to despair every year?
For me, it was the pet policy of “Gender Differentials” that drives me to the edge every year, that forced my hand and led to the creation of “Beyond the Mean“. Writing down my thoughts and marshalling them into a publishable format forced me to think through my “beef” and to assemble arguments for and against – in short, it has strengthened my resolve that my stance is a valid one.
So, having scratched that itch, what’s next on my Education Bucket List……
- Project based learning?
- Adult numeracy?
- Managing a budget?
- Homework – friend or foe?
Whenever I reflect upon the wider education / political map the current Zeitgeist of all things “ICT” stands out as in need of careful consideration – all too often using technology ends up just automating the chaos that is around us in the classroom. As subject team leader I see colleagues substituting “traditional” teaching methods, text book resources and good olde fashioned “discussion” with trips to computer rooms, where “Google” has removed the need for learners to actually think about what is required for a lesson and PowerPoint is slowly removing the need for learners to bring pens/pencils to school.
I’m not being a Luddite, I enjoy/embrace and celebrate the use of ICT within the classroom. But ICT needs to be one tool in an extensive set of interventions that we employ – not the Swiss Army Knife, without which we can’t teach.
So, my next target on the Education Bucket List, is the “effective” and “enabling” use if ICT within the classroom – call it “In Praise of the Pen” – or some other low tech title……
What would you change as part of your Education Bucket List….?