Posts Tagged ‘fluorescent lights’

Jefferson neuroscientist helping astronauts sleep better

Pondělí, Červenec 23rd, 2012

A new sunrise takes place every 90 minutes. Docking maneuvers sometimes occur at odd hours. Then there’s that feeling of apparent weightlessness.

No wonder astronauts aboard the International Space Station can have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep.

Now, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University is among those working on a solution: light.

George C. Brainard is advising NASA as it prepares to replace the aging fluorescent lights on the station with high-tech LED fixtures. The lights, which received the agency’s go-ahead earlier this year, can be adjusted to enhance or relax an astronaut’s state of alertness at the appropriate time of day.

The plan is the outgrowth of research by Brainard and others that has established how light plays a powerful role in regulating our various biological clocks. Changes in light exposure can affect sleep, digestion, cognitive performance, and mood — a phenomenon known to people who experience jet lag, night-shift work, or the seasonal blahs associated with the shorter days of winter.

Initially, NASA planned to replace the lights on the space station with LED fixtures purely because they last much longer than fluorescents and are energy efficient. But when Brainard heard about the plan, he and a handful of other experts urged the agency to modify the specifications so that the lights could be a tool for maintaining astronaut health.

“Bud was instrumental” in making the case for the adjustable lights, said NASA flight surgeon Smith Johnston, referring to Brainard by his nickname.

Aboard the station, astronauts average as little as six hours of sleep during a 24-hour period, even though they are allotted 8.5 hours, Johnston said.

Sleep becomes even harder with disruptions, such as the occasional emergency or a docking procedure that may require the crew to get up in the middle of their sleep time. Some astronauts take short-acting sleeping pills, but the addition of adjustable lights will be welcome, Johnston said.

“If you’re chronically sleep-deprived, you don’t perform as well,” the NASA physician said. “You’re moody. You don’t have as good coping mechanisms.”

It’s a cause for concern during a six-month stay aboard the space station, let alone for an eventual Mars mission that could last three years, Brainard said.

“Every one of us has probably done an all-nighter or two in our lives,” Brainard said. “You feel crummy the next day, but you bounce back. And you also get your recovery sleep. They [the astronauts] are not getting their recovery sleep. That’s the problem. Day in, day out, they’re missing the ingredients for best health and best behavioral regulation.”

The specs call for the new fixtures to fit precisely into the 7-by-26-inch rectangular sockets now occupied by fluorescent bulbs, said Debbie Sharp, a senior manager at Boeing, which is overseeing the project. The first of 100 new LED lamps will be delivered to NASA in mid-2015, she said. A variety of tests are needed first, including an evaluation to ensure that the lights can handle the rigors of space travel.

A Night in Times Square

Středa, Leden 4th, 2012

Wearing colorful party clothes, some arrived at 7 a.m. to secure a good position from where they could see the famous midnight ball dropping on New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

By midnight, nearly a million people had decided that it was worth it to spend the last minutes of 2011 in the reveling square. For a long time, I had wished to be one of these people attending the New York’s largest New Year gathering.

In Iraqi Kurdistan, I had only seen and heard of it on television. Watching people dancing and wearing hats and glasses displaying the numerals of the New Year had given me the impression that New Yorkers had great lives.

It was part of the heavenly image of henderan “abroad” which many Kurds, including me, had longed to be a part of. Many of my friends and relatives equated living in henderan with living without sadness. (Though the word henderan was more often referred to Europe than America, given its geographical location.)

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many Kurds found it was worth risking their lives to be smuggled by unknown people on illegal boats through Turkey’s Aegean Sea to Greece. Hundreds died before reaching their destination.

But here I was now in America, attending a New Year’s Eve party in the Big Apple, a nickname with which I had become familiar with thanks to a British teacher in Kurdistan. Though I’m yet to understand exactly why it’s called as such, I felt the analogy on New Year’s Eve.

Accompanied by another Kurdish student, I headed to Times Square finding fluorescent lights and Christmas decorations on avenues which police barricaded — taking people’s freedom of movement for security, a notion that I had been indoctrinated with in Iraq.

“Are you guys also Kurdish?” asked a random Kurdish man curiously, interrupting a Kurdish-language conversation I had with my friend. It was a moment as thrilling as unexpected to meet a fellow countryman in a city whose multi-ethnic nature is as old as its diversity.

He was speechless and happy about it as well, seeing how happy people looked in the fast-approaching new year. One of Roland Emmerich’s movies, 2012, strengthens the eschatological belief that it would see cataclysmic events.

Putting aside all grievances was what I felt in people regardless of their economic status. One man who appeared to be homeless, a poor street vendor, for instance, was shouting on Broadway: “I love you… I love you.” In the Square, people were expecting Lady Gaga and Justin Biebier to sing, marking the demise of a certain year and birth of an unknown one.

It was around 8 p.m. when I arrived in Times Square to see people shoving and pushing to get closer to the sight of the ball dropping in four hours. Not long after I came out of the subway, parts of which were again closed by the police, it was clear that I would not be a witness to it. But missing the ball dropping here didn’t actually sadden me as it would have in Kurdistan, because for me the Big Apple now means having options more than anything else.

How larger regional aircraft are upscaling interiors

Čtvrtek, Prosinec 22nd, 2011

Regional aircraft cabins are undergoing extreme makeovers to look and feel more like their mainline brethren. Dual-class and triple-class configurations, thoroughly refreshed interiors with new LED lighting, and lightweight slim-line seats are only some of the features emerging on regional jets and turboprops manufactured by ATR and Bombardier and industry newcomers.

Even in-flight connectivity is making its debut in the regional sector. Some 223 regional aircraft operating as Delta Connection are being fitted with Gogo’s air-to-ground-based airborne internet system, as part of Delta Air Lines’ broader plan to fit its entire domestic fleet with the system.

A confluence of factors is driving the transformation of regional cabins. As pilot scope clauses have loosened, regional aircraft have grown in size. With 70-plus seaters now a fixture in the skies, airlines have more leeway in configuring their aircraft.

At the same time, major carriers have accepted they must offer a seamless in-flight product across fleet types if they want to meet the demands of their most exacting customers, frequent flyers and business travellers.

“With regional aircraft, historically we didn’t have the ability to deliver a [multi-class service] economically so, for example, it’s not really easy to get a first-class seat into a 19-seat turboprop without losing a whole lot of economy class seats.

But as regional aircraft have evolved [and grown] over time, the tube has gotten bigger, and that means you can configure them in different combinations,” says Mark Bergsrud, senior vice-president of marketing at United-Continental, which offers first class, an economy plus product, and economy class on all Bombardier CRJ700 and Embraer 170 regional aircraft operating under the United Express banner.

“As a marketing person, these [regional] partners of ours are extensions of our products and our brands and we need them to adhere to our product specifications and standards because our customers expect that. Getting on a United Express airplane with a livery that looks like United, with a United ticket bought with Mileage Plus [frequent flyer] miles, they need to have their product expectations matched,” adds Bergsrud.

United-Continental is extending its upgrade strategy to large turboprops. During the coming months, the 30 Bombardier Q400 turboprops operated by Colgan Air on behalf of United-Continental will be retrofitted to include a three-abreast first class cabin with 36in (90cm) seat pitch, as well as an economy plus section offering 34in pitch and economy with 30in pitch, says Gordon Pratt, director of Q programme management at Bombardier. “It spells seamless service big time.”

However, a refurbishment plan has not been defined for the 50-seat regional jets operated for the Star Alliance member. SkyWest, together with the ExpressJet operation it acquired last year, flies a great many 50-seaters on behalf of United-Continental, but “has not heard a lot about what is going to be delivered on the regional level yet”, says SkyWest vice-president of in-flight Sonya Wolford, noting that United-Continental has been focused on its own merger integration.

Staying ‘happy’ during the dark, depressing winter

Pátek, Listopad 11th, 2011

Martin Morsing, a Vesterbro-based psychologist, said that he sees seasonal affective disorder in five to ten percent of his clients, mostly women.

“In Danish, we call it ‘vinterdepression’ [winter depression], but actually I prefer the English term ‘winter blues’, because the word ‘depression’ carries with it a number of associations which, from a psychological viewpoint, could be misleading,” Morsing said. “It is important to distinguish between a clinical depression and the winter blues. Although the symptoms are similar, they are two very distinct states of mind. To complicate things, the winter blues can easily become a depression if it is not treated.”

The condition can particularly affect the elderly. “They’re less likely to leave their homes due to their increased immobility,” said Sarika Staflund, a Swedish occupational health therapist based in Copenhagen. “They’re frightened they’ll slip in the wintry conditions, so they don’t go out and spend all their time inside, getting even more depressed as a result.”

At its most extreme, depression can lead to suicide. Statistics from the Odense-based Centre for Suicide Research (CSR) show that suicides and suicide attempts peak at two points during the year: October/November, when the days begin to shorten, and April/May, when the days get longer again.

“Studies have pointed towards daylight hours or changes in the day’s length as the most significant explanation for seasonal variations in suicidal behaviour,” wrote Borge Jensen, CSR’s statistician, in a 2003 report. “As the changes in the daylight hours and temperature are the highest in the autumn and spring, the number of suicides and suicide attempts peaks [during these times].”

According to Jensen, it is a common myth that most suicides occur during December. But although the most suicides actually occur in the spring, the long, dark days of winter may be the culprit for that as well.

“People with a severe winter depression, or seasonal affective disorder, lack the initiative to act while they are suffering from the depression, and first get it when they are on their way out of the depressive period in spring,” Jensen told The Copenhagen Post.

Beyond the time of year, the particular weather conditions are also a factor in suicides.

“During autumn and winter, there are more suicides when it is foggy, humid, and rainy, but fewer when there is true winter weather (cold, clear weather with snowfall)”, Jensen wrote.

With the past few weeks providing dark and foggy conditions, what can be done to stave off the winter blues?

Ask a Dane how to make it through the winter, and the odds are the answer will include two words: ‘hygge’ and ‘candles’. The theory seems to be that if one lights enough candles, has enough low-hanging lamps and regularly meets with friends over coffee or drinks, seasonal affective disorder can be avoided. Danes, after all, consume more candles per capita than any other people in the world. But does that work? The professionals think so.

“Definitely that’s a way to survive the hard winter,” Morsing said. “Cuddle up together and have some candlelight to make it more hyggeligt.”

For those suffering from SAD, Morsing recommends they practice light therapy, where special lamps with bright fluorescent lights are used to  simulate the light from the sun. Spending 20-30 minutes a day under the lamp can improve the depressive symptoms. Although, Morsing said, nothing replaces the real thing.

“Be active, do sports, and get out in direct sunlight,” Morsing advised. “That is, during those few hours when the sun is out.”

Senior remodels keep Albrecht hopping

Pondělí, Listopad 7th, 2011

There is rarely a quiet moment on the job for Cecilia Garcia.

She actually enjoys working Saturdays because they offer an atypically calm day at the office.

As the office manager at Albrecht and Son Construction, Garcia is answering the phone, scheduling site visits for multiple different workers, and sending emails.

“It’s 10 different things at one time,” Garcia said.

The company juggles around eight or nine different jobs that overlap in the same time period, and whether the project is big, such as a full kitchen remodel and room addition, or small, such as replacing the fluorescent lights in a Sun City home with more modern can lights, Garcia keeps track of it all.

Albrecht and Son operates out of its Youngtown office to serve communities throughout the West Valley, especially in the Sun Cities. Owner Thomas Albrecht said many of his projects come from seniors who want to make their homes as comfortable as can be.

“It’s like their gift to themselves,” Garcia explained, adding that their clients feel like they don’t have to take care of anyone but themselves at this point in their lives and they deserve something nice.

For the clients, the remodel process starts with a call to Albrecht and Son, whether they heard about the company through a recommendation, newspaper ad, or at one of the numerous vendors fairs in Sun City.

From there, the customers meet with Thomas Albrecht or one of the construction supervisors, or both, along with special vendors related to the project, usually in the showroom next door to the main office.

“They feel more comfortable seeing how we operate,” Garcia said. “Before the job even happens, they’re familiar with everybody and how it works.”

After they are given a price quote for the project, and the contract signed, the deposit paid, it’s time to move on to product selection, which can be a fun or daunting task.

“Some people are really easy where they can just pick everything out, some people can’t even pick out a paint color,” said Garcia, who then orders all the selections. “It could be anywhere from a week to when we can start, or if there are cabinets, 12 weeks.”

Projects can begin quickly after everything is ordered, but if it requires permits from the city or county, it could take longer, said Garcia, who submits all those permits.

While the process may seem intimidating for a new client, it’s everyday for Garcia; checking out the new “champagne bronze” kitchen faucet model, a currently popular fixture choice, is cause for excitement.

“When in my life did I ever think I would care about people’s windows, and I do it all the time now,” Garcia said. “I drive by and think, God they need new windows.”

Garcia rarely sees the jobs she helps organize, unless it’s a big job, when she’ll make sure to get out of the office to check out the finished project she worked so hard to bring about.

Restaurant Review: The 401 Diner

Pátek, Říjen 28th, 2011

I’ll be the first to admit that I was saddened when the pride & joy of Conshy, The 401 Diner, mysteriously closed last year. Granted, it wasn’t necessarily the greatest dining experience you’d ever have (think of greasy diner food, a few impolite waitresses, and an outdated pink decor that reeked of the late 80s). Yet, whenever you wanted a hearty breakfast, or wanted a late-night meal after the bars closed, the diner was open and waiting for you to peruse their jukebox. So once I heard that The 401 Diner was reopening in September with a new owner, I couldn’t wait to stop by.

As we approached the entrance of the restaurant, it appeared as though not much had changed; the fluorescent lights were still glowing and the time on the clock facing Fayette St. was still wrong. It wasn’t until we walked into The 401 Diner that we were stunned at the overhaul that had taken place. Simply, the diner has been completely transformed. The linoleum has been replaced with hardwood floors, the lamps with modern light fixtures, and even the coat hooks on the booths have been handcrafted; the new management certainly has an attention to detail, which did not go unnoticed.

We arrived at 5:15 on a Sunday evening to find The 401 Diner moderately busy. We were seated as soon as we walked in and given very detailed menus. The first thing I noticed (besides the vast assortment of entrees) was how fresh the meals were prepared. Almost every selection on the menu had either “organic,” “local,” or “free-range” it its description…three phrases I’ve never seen within miles of a standard diner menu.

To start, we decided on sharing a cup of Organic Veggie Chili, as well as the Spinach & Roasted Artichoke Dip. Brought out within five minutes, the Chili was served piping hot, chock full of black beans, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and prepared with just the right amount of spices. As for the other appetizer, we were both impressed by not only the toasted pita chips, but also the fresh ingredients within the dip itself; unlike many spinach & artichoke dips, this was full of large artichoke hearts that had clearly just been chopped. The garlic was also freshly sliced and the creamy texture was perfect and not too greasy.

As we finished our appetizers, the waitress made sure to check on us whenever she thought that a drink might be running low. For some reason, there are so many restaurants that just don’t utilize this simple gesture which normally always results in a satisfied customer (and a healthier than normal tip); fortunately, the waitstaff at the new and improved 401 Diner has been trained well.

Within another 10 minutes, our entrees were served. Though breakfast is served all day, my girlfriend decided on the Salmon Burger with Side Salad and was more than satisfied. When she was originally ordering her entree, the waitress mentioned that someone had ordered the same sandwich earlier in the day and the customer had complained that it was ‘fishy.’ Though we appreciated the heads up from the waitress, and agreed that salmon should indeed be ‘fishy,’ we were a little apprehensive but still ordered the meal. The entree was a patty of nicely seasoned fresh salmon topped with aioli, freshly roasted red peppers, greens, red onion, and tomato, presented on fresh brioche; also, the fresh side salad with white balsamic vinaigrette complimented the sandwich properly.