Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bush Telegraph…

This phenomena is real. Let me explain. In the outback of Australia I lost my lap-top - worse than that - I left it in a donga! In a place called Quilpie. I hand’t realised this until I’d got to Windorah and crashed out in the Western Star Motel, over 5 hours up an unsealed road. I felt sick. My life is on that machine and it wasn’t backed up. (my life wasn't backed up?) Near to tears I asked the motel owner Marilyn, if we could ring the roadhouse that ran the donga. She got straight onto it and within five minutes, she was speaking to road-train drivers, bakers and DJ’s (seriously...DJ Duck) and had identified the whereabouts of my machine and a driver to bring it out. Within 10 hours, my laptop was back in my arms. Can you imagine if you lost your laptop in Manchester? It would never be seen again, yet here in a vast landscape with so few people (6 children at the school here) the bush-telegraph works, people go out of their way to help. So it was, I met up with Geoff in Birdsville, the guy who so kindly had driven my laptop out to me, without any fuss, just as a favour. Now that’s another story.

This week, the Arts and Health training I’ve been delivering in Lithuania with Socialiniai Meno Projektai comes to a close. My work has been part of a rolling programe of activity supported by the British Council and has seen the input of amongst others the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival, Pia Strandman, Jenny Elliot and Carmel Garvey. This Thursday I am thrilled to be speaking at the National Gallery of Lithuania. Following my presentation I’ll be joined for a discussion by participants in this years artists training: Eglė Gudonytė, Ulijona Odišarija, Gailė Prackūnaitė, Kunigunda Dineikaitė, Gretė Siliūnaitė, Kamilė Klevinskaitė, Rasa Baradinskienė, Gabrielė Ganžaitė. I very much look forward to meeting up with friends and colleagues again.

UIA Charitable Foundation 
The UIA Charitable Foundation has announced that the next deadline for applying to its grants programme is the 31st December 2013. The Foundation is funded entirely by donations from UIA (Insurance) Limited, a mutual insurance company providing household insurance to trade union members, their families and other like-minded individuals.  Since inception the Foundation has made grants in excess of £450,000 to projects based in the UK and Internationally.  The aim of the charity is to support projects under two main categories. These are:
· The Community Support Programme
· The World Programme. 
In both areas the Foundation will consider projects that empower individuals and communities to improve their lives and the prospects of the community.  The Foundation will not usually provide grants to organisations with a turnover of more than £500,000.  The Foundation's grants range in size from a few hundred pounds to £5,000 for individual donations but they will consider funding for development projects on their individual merit. However applicants will need to be clear about the specific amount required, the timescales for the achievement of objectives and how the project will be monitored and evaluated. Read more at:

The Wellcome Trust – Broadcast Development Awards 
The Wellcome Trust's Broadcast Development Awards(BDA) support the development of broadcast proposals in any genre that engage the audience with issues around biomedical science in an innovative, entertaining and accessible way. The Trust are interested in funding individuals and organisations with brilliant early-stage ideas for TV, radio, new media or gaming projects. The funding will enable these ideas to be developed into high-impact, well-researched proposals that can be used to secure a broadcast platform and/or further funding. Development funds might be used to undertake thorough research, create a taster tape, develop a script, or build a game prototype or mood reel. The project should primarily be aimed at a mainstream UK and/or Republic of Ireland audience in the first instance, although the subject matter can be international. Broadcast Development Awards are up to £10 000, for a maximum of one year. The next closing date for applications is the 24th January 2014. Read more at:

Until very soon...C.P.        

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dried mussels: A little plate with 160 g of protein (plus some comments on high-protein low-carbohydrate dieting)

Many hunter-gatherer groups employed various methods of drying to preserve meats. Drying also increases significantly the protein content of meats; this is the case with dried mussels. I discussed this effect of drying before here with respect to small fish (). The photo below is of a plate with about 240 g of dried mussels that I prepared using the simple recipe below.

To prepare your mussels as in the photo above, you will have to steam and then dry them. You can season the mussels after you steam them, but I rarely season mine. Almost none of the food I eat requires much seasoning anyway, because I use nature’s super-spice, which makes everything that has a high nutrient content taste delicious: hunger ().

- Steam the mussels for about 10 minutes, or until all are open.
- Remove the mussels from the shells; carefully, to avoid small shell pieces from coming off into the mussels (they are not kind to your teeth).
- Preheat the oven to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and place the mussels in it (on a tray) for about 1 hour.
- Leave the mussels in the oven until they are cold, this will dry them further.

About 240 g of mussels, after drying, will yield a meal with a bit more than 160 g of protein – i.e., the proportion of protein will go from about 20 percent up to about 67 percent. In this case, most of the calories in the meal will come from the protein, if you had nothing else with it, adding up to less than 800 calories.

This comes in handy if you need to have lunch out, as the dried mussels can be carried in a plastic bag or container and eaten cold or after a light re-heating in a microwave. To me, they taste very good either way; but then again anything that is nutritious tends to taste very good when you are hungry, and I rarely have breakfast. I often eat them with pre-cooked sweet potato, which I eat with the skin (it tastes like candy).

You may want to think of dried mussels prepared in this way as a protein supplement, but a very nutritious one. You will be getting a large dose of omega-3 fats (3.11 g) with less omega-6 fats than you usually get through fish oil softgels (where n-6s are added for stability), about 1,224 percent of the recommended daily value (RDV) of magnesium, 461 percent of the RDV of selenium, 1,440 of the RDV of vitamin B12, a large dose of zinc, and (interestingly) almost 100 percent of the RDV of vitamin C.

Since mussels are very low in the food chain, accumulation of compounds that can be toxic to humans is not amplified by biomagnification (). But, still, mussels can be significantly affected by contaminants (e.g., petroleum hydrocarbons), so sourcing is important. The supermarket chain I use here in Texas, HEB, claims to do very careful sourcing. Telltale signs of contamination are developmental problems such as thin shells that shatter easily and stunted growth ().

For those readers who are on a low-carbohydrate diet, please pay attention to this: there is NO WAY your body will turn protein into fat if you are on a low-carbohydrate diet, unless you have a serious metabolic disorder (see this post: , and this podcast: ). And I mean SERIOUS; probably way beyond prediabetes. Do not believe the nonsense that has been circulating in some areas of the blogosphere lately.

A high-protein low-carbohydrate diet is one of the most effective diets at reducing body fat, particularly if you do resistance exercise (and you do not have to do it like a bodybuilder). That is not to say that a high-fat low-protein diet (like the "optimal diet") is a bad idea; in fact, the optimal diet is a good option if you do not do resistance exercise, but that is a topic for a different post.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

...out of office (part 2)

As time in the outback draws to a close, here is another one of those wonderful 'willy-willy's.' Sitting in a hotel (at last) in one of the most remote places on this continent, I'd like to rant just a little, about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty, which considering my presentation on Big Pharma last week, has never seemed more relevant. Click on the flowers below to find out a little more why we should be interested in this. TPP will make it easier for pharmaceutical companies to have greater control in our lives and even provision that allows surgical procedures to be patented! Sounds irrelevant? It's not! This is about our creative and intellectual freedom. are some funding opportunities, including this first international opportunity, which I have had the pleasure to support successful applicants with, over these last few years.

Artists International Development Fund 
The Arts Council England has announced that its new Artists' International Development Fund is currently open for applications. Through the Artists' International Development Fund the Arts Council offers grants of between £1,000 and £5,000 to individual freelance and self-employed artists based in England to build links with artists, organisations and/or creative producers in another country.  The fund is open to individual artists, including creative producers, curators and editors.  Although the Artists' international development programme is aimed at individual artists, small groups of artists who normally collaborate in their work can also apply. This could include, for example, musicians and visual artists who usually create work together, or writers and their translators. 

In parallel with the Artists' international development fund, the British Council are administering a separate fund for film makers designed to help emerging UK film talent travel with their work and reach new international audiences. The Travel Grant Fund will support makers of short films in the UK in showing their work at international film festivals.
The closing date for applications is the 7th February 2014. Read more at:

Hyperlocal Media Competition Launched 
Innovation agencies Nesta and Technology Strategy Board have announced that they are seeking entries for Destination Local Demonstrators - a new hyperlocal media competition which will invest £2.5 million in projects that provide online news or content services to local communities.  The competition is looking for entries that:
· Demonstrate the potential for technology-led news or content services to specific geographical locations across the UK
· Enable people to connect more easily with their communities
· Provide evidence for the commercial and social potential of new services. 
Between three and five projects across the UK will be backed by the competition to support the development of new forms of hyperlocal media information and content services. It is estimated that projects will range in size from £700, 000 to £1.4 million. Entries to the competition can be submitted by technology, content and community focused organisations of any size that will go on to form business-led partnerships.   Projects will commence by May 2014 and last between 12 and 18 months and may be deployed in specific geographical areas.
The deadline to register to take part in the competition is the11th December 2013. Read more at: 

Government Launches New Vulnerable & Disengaged Young People Fund 
The Cabinet Office Centre for Social Action has announced the launch of a new £2million Vulnerable and Disengaged Young People Fund to inspire England’s most vulnerable young people. Administered by the Social Investment Business, organisations looking to create or further develop inspiring projects for young people can apply for a development, evidence or scale-up grant of between £30,000 and £250,000. The funding can be used towards:
· Setup costs
· Frontline delivery
· Evaluation
· Mentor/volunteer expenses
· A percentage of core costs (e.g. overheads). 
The grants can only fund up to £5,000 of capital expenditure.  Applications can come from the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector, public bodies (for example Local Authorities) and businesses with a social mission or a clear objective in their corporate social responsibility policy towards increasing social action, or businesses involved in the delivery of public service.   The closing date for applications is the 6th December 2013. Read more at: 

Healthy Hearts Grants 
Heart Research UK has announced that its Health Hearts Grants Programme will re-open in January 2014. Heart Research UK Healthy Heart Grants support innovative projects designed to promote heart health and to prevent or reduce the risks of heart disease in specific groups or communities. Grants of up to £10,000 are available to community groups, voluntary organisations and researchers who are spreading the healthy heart message. The closing date for this funding round will be the 28th February 2014. Read more at: 

Thank you Wills for the photographs and company. To anyone who's emailed me, but not yet had a reply, I promise to get back to you over the next week or so.

...I really hope you are well and thank you for popping by...C.P.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

...out of office!

...please excuse the self-indulgent nature of this blog whilst your blogger is outback, chasing tornadoes! OK, well maybe not tornadoes, but Australia's very own, 'Willy-Willy's'! I promise normality soon. : |     ...C.P.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Having made a 30 min version of my presentation and fended off those appalled by the 'drone', I have responded to the call to create something smaller, more compact, without the melancholic drone and with just a sense of the subject matter. Sensitive to this request, here is a gentle haiku version for you to unwind to.  C.P.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

...from Australasia

What a blur this week has been! The conference has probably been the most interesting and engaging of all those I’ve recently attended. Whilst its been great to spend quality time with colleagues and friends from the UK, it has been fantastic to catch up with old friends from other parts of the world and make new ones too! (Be lovely see more friends from non-English speaking countries though) Thank you to anyone who’s gone out of their way to say hello to me. Its great to meet kindred spirits in this arts and health field.

There are so may people I’ve met whose practice I’d like to share, but of course that’s not practical, so, to shine a spotlight on just one of the many new things I’ve seen and heard, here’s a link to just one organisations work that’s of exceptional vision, quality and impact.

Vic McEwan runs an organisation called Cad Factory and I had the pleasure of chairing a session he spoke at about his year-long exploration of a community in recovery, actively seeking the stories from the town of Yenda in the wake of the 2012 floods. Click on the shop front to find out more.

A few conference-connected highlights include having a breakfast with the philanthropist (and advertising magnate!) Harold Mitchell. Organised by Currency House Press, the breakfast saw Mitchell emphasising the need for creative leaders to have imagination and courage. Thanks to N.S. for arranging this. Being invited to the residency of the Governor of New South Wales for a drinks reception was something I felt a little uncertain about. Those of you who know me, will know why! But what a woman Professor Marie Bashir is! With a background in medicine, public health and psychiatry, she was quite a sensational host, and completely in tune with the potential of culture and the arts in the 21st Century. The final day of the conference has seen a contingent meet the Minister for Ageing and Disability Services, John Ajaka and an exploration of research, policy and practice in creative ageing. Brilliant work Margret Meagher.

As for my presentation at the conference this week - I had the chance to share some of my thinking around the constant, (and in my opinion, deluded) assertion, that to understand the impact of the arts and cultural activity of health and wellbeing, we need to measure our work using the Randomised Controlled Trial, as exemplified by big pharma. You can make your own opinions (although, I am bored rigid with the myopic mantra of dull-eyed pseudo-scientific sycophants) so enjoy - (or not) - this quickly recorded version. Some people loathed the music, some loved it, so good look with it - but remember, it’s there to drill into you, not placate and soothe you. Click on the CONTROL image, above.

I had to reduce many elements of my presentation, to keep within the allotted 30 minutes slot and another time, perhaps we can share some of those things I edited including: the soft-drinks industries influence on government policy; the ‘gatekeepers’ of our hyper-inflated and gated-community-of-interest ‘journals’; (overpriced-exclusive and just a tad-self-congratulatory) - oh, and Barry Manilow drug endorsements + dogs on sedatives! 
So much to say and play with - so little time.

And on the over-priced books front, I’m thrilled to have a new book-chapter out. It’s called Towards Sentience and is text developed from my thoughts on how art and design might be relevant to the ways in which we live and die. Its in a book called: The Handbook of Interior Architecture and Design, by Bloomsbury and only costs around £90. Cheap eh? I don't want to dig my own grave ; ) but I think the publishing industry is outrageous! I’m sure most libraries can’t afford books like this, let alone the hallowed journals.

Whilst I’m away, I can announce that the first of the Dementia and Imagination posts is open for applications. I’m very excited by this, but have to advise that this is a research post working with me and is pivotal to the three-year programme, and we are looking for post-doctoral candidates. Very soon, we’ll be recruiting an admin role and research-artists to work across the UK in our various research sites. Keep an eye out for the details. To find out more about the Research Associate post, click on the researcher below.

Whilst we are developing the Dementia and Imagination research, we’d love to share this simple survey with people who are involved in arts/dementia work. This will help inform our theoretical framework. thanks in anticipation, and feel free to circulate. 

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health is currently recruiting a Public Health Research Specialist to work on a project called Representing Communities: developing the creative power of people to improve health and wellbeing. The project involves understanding how community representations produced through creative arts practices (e.g. storytelling, performance, visual art) can be used as forms of evidence to inform health-related policy and service development. You will be involved in both the facilitation of these creative outputs (in partnership with Impact Arts) and leading on parallel research which will describe and report on the process. This post will be based within the Glasgow Centre for Population Health. Click on the mob below to find out more.

Thanks as ever for reading this and your email correspondence...C.P.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Latitude and cancer rates in US states: Aaron Blaisdell’s intuition confirmed

In the comments section of my previous post on cancer rates in the US states () my friend Aaron Blaisdell noted that: …comparing states that are roughly comparable in terms of number of seniors per 1000 individuals, latitude appears to have the largest effect on rates of cancer.

Good point, so I collected data on the latitudes of US states, built a more complex model (with several multivariate controls), and analyzed it with WarpPLS 4.0 ().

The coefficient of association for the effect of latitude on cancer rates (path coefficient) turned out to be 0.35. Its P value was lower than 0.001, meaning that the probability that this is a false positive is less than a tenth of a percent, or that we can be 99.9 percent confident that this is not a false positive.

This was calculated controlling for the: (a) proportion of seniors in the population (population age); (b) proportion of obese individuals in the population (obesity rates); and (c) the possible moderating effect of latitude on the effect of population age on cancer rates. The graph below shows this multivariate-adjusted association.

What is cool about a multivariate analysis is that you can control for certain effects. For example, since we are controlling for proportion of seniors in the population (population age), the fact that we have a state with a very low proportion of seniors (Alaska) does not tilt the effect toward that outlier as much as it would if we had not controlled for the proportion of seniors. This is a mathematical property that is difficult to grasp, but that makes multivariate adjustment such a powerful technique.

I should note that the 99.9 percent confidence mentioned above refers to the coefficient of association. That is, we are quite confident that the coefficient of association is not zero; that is it. The P value does not support the hypothesized direction of causality (latitude -> cancer) or exclude the possibility of a major confounder causing the effect.

Nonetheless, among the newest features of WarpPLS 4.0 (still a beta version) are several causality assessment coefficients: path-correlation signs, R-squared contributions, path-correlation ratios, path-correlation differences, Warp2 bivariate causal direction ratios, Warp2 bivariate causal direction differences, Warp3 bivariate causal direction ratios, and Warp3 bivariate causal direction differences. Without going into a lot of technical detail, which you can get from the User Manual () without even having to install the software, I can tell you that all of these causality assessment coefficients support the hypothesized direction of causality.

Also, while we cannot exclude the possibility of a major confounder causing the effect, we included two possible confounders in the analysis and controlled for their effects. They were the proportion of seniors in the population (population age) and the proportion of obese individuals in the population (obesity rates).

Having said all of the above, I should also say that the effect is similar in magnitude to the effect of population age on cancer rates, which I discussed in the previous post linked above. That is, it is not the type of effect that would be clearly noticeable in a person’s normal life.

Sunlight exposure? Maybe.

We do know that our body naturally produces as much as 10,000 IU of vitamin D based on a few minutes of sun exposure when the sun is high (). Getting that much vitamin D from dietary sources is very difficult, even after “fortification”.