Monthly Archives: January 2013

Venice!

Stefano and I have been together for a number of years, and I think I know him quite well, but he can still manage to surprise me. :)

A few days ago he suggested we go to Venice this weekend. Just like that.

Venice??? Wow. We haven’t been there in ages…since we were a brand new couple, in fact. Our first, official trip together as a couple was to Venice…and boyohboy, you can’t beat Venice for romance…

Besides, neither of us has ever been to Venice during the carnival period, even though we both grew up here in Florence…

And so, after wondering if we could afford it, I said an enthusiastic “YESSSSS!!!” 

Well then…it’s settled. We’re off to Venice…leaving tomorrow (Friday) afternoon after work and returning to Florence and our kitties (who will be well taken care of, as usual!) on Sunday evening.

VERRRRRY EXCITING!!!

Tons of carnival-related events are going to take place this weekend in Venice (for those interested, here’s the official Carnival in Venice 2013 website, in English: http://goo.gl/2kBMR), such as the contest for the best mask right in Piazza San Marco, which should be fabulous…and offer some super photo opportunities, I hope… 

But today I have to get down to work…Soooo…Ciao for now! :)

A Johns Hopkins doctor’s enthusiasm for curcumin…and a bunch of other stuff…

Well, the last few days have been a mix of ups and downs. One of my longtime myeloma friends died. I didn’t even know that she wasn’t doing very well. So yesterday, when another MM friend wrote to me, giving me the news of Carol’s death, I was totally shocked…and upset, too…goes without saying. I’m going to miss you, Carol. Gentle hugs!

I’ve also been working quite a lot. In addition to my regular jobs, I’ve also just been assigned a long translation from English to Italian. It’s a company safety manual, which I have to translate for the company where I work here in Florence. 😯

But all work and no play would certainly make Margaret a dull gal, so tomorrow morning Stefano and I are going bird watching at the Parco della Piana, and in the afternoon I’m getting together with some of my crazy (in a good sense, of course!) girlfriends for some laughs and fun. It’s the weekend, after all!

Now for a few interesting things I’ve come across recently. This curcumin “alert” took me to an interview with a Johns Hopkins doctor who has become very interested in curcumin: http://goo.gl/mg66s Water-soluble curcumin, huh? Mmmh…perhaps that isn’t such an impossible dream after all… :)

This Science Daily article tells us that qigong can reduce symptoms of depression and improve quality of life in women undergoing radiation treatments for breast cancer (and I bet it can do the same for many other cancer patients, too): http://goo.gl/qqppm Good stuff! 

My longtime blog readers know about the mutant gene p53. I’ve written quite a lot about it (please use the blog’s “Search” box to find out more). Well, here, in this article, we have something “new” (though, to be quite honest, years ago I had already figured out that targeting mutant p53 would be an incredibly good idea, duuuh! But now we do have more proof to substantiate said targeting, I suppose…sigh…): http://goo.gl/2hbVQ

And finally, an article on curcumin and mistletoe (and their effects on pre-diabetes and liver damage and cancer): http://goo.gl/CKCJ8 I’ve read about mistletoe before but have never really researched it thoroughly. In fact, if you take mistletoe, would you mind getting in touch with me (in private, too)? Thanks a bunch! 

Okay, back to work a bit before dinner…

Have a great weekend, everyone! Ciao! :)

Work work work!

IMG_0364Just got back but already overwhelmed with work…translations…and stuff I need to do for my second (online) job…blablabla…But I hope to be able to do some research, too, at some point soon. I have a few studies, drafts…I just need to find some time to have a look at ’em all…

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In the meantime, I thought I’d quickly post some of the photos I took with my new (Xmas!) camera while I was in the States. Just a few, random photos of this and that…for example, two cute dogs that Stefano, my cousin and I saw in Salem, Massachusetts…our Xmas tree, a nuthatch looking for food on a tree, a “Keep Calm” sign I saw in a shop window, a couple of seals off our beach and my parents’ Myeloma buddies (dear Paula…much missed…)… 

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Enjoy! IMG_0156

 

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Back home…and jet lagged…

IMG_0459First, let me apologize for not having written in such a long time. The week I spent with Stefano on Cape Cod went by so incredibly quickly…And then, poof!, we were back in Florence (on Sunday, late afternoon) and were both hit by jet lag…big-time, this time! 

The best thing about coming home was seeing the cats again. What a joy! They were all over me, except for my eldest, Puzzola (13 years old, more or less). When we arrived, she went to her usual corner in the kitchen (being the eldest, she has the privilege of eating “alone”; the others have their own separate but not-so-private eating areas in an area of our dining room…) but ran away whenever I tried to approach her. It broke my heart, let me tell ya, especially when I saw Stefano petting her. She just didn’t seem to recognize me. Luckily, it didn’t last very long. After dinner, Puzzola jumped onto the table (not that we let our cats onto the dining room table, of course! Uhm…) and rushed right over to me, as she always does…And that was THAT! :) IMG_0432

Coming home to heaps of laundry, an empty fridge, 1300 unread emails and so on…But it’s not all bad. I have already planned a get-together with my girlfriends…as soon as one of them gets over the flu (yikes!), that is. And even going back to work (yesterday) wasn’t too “traumatic” (in spite of the jet lag, I mean): all of my students were absolutely overjoyed and welcomed me back with hugs and kisses…I just hope none of them have the flu!!! Don’t you just hate it when people kiss you, then have a terrible coughing fit? Yeah. Exactly. :( 

Anyway, things are a bit of a blur right now (I need a few more naps!), and I have quite a lot of work to do. Plus, Prezzemolo has had a recurrence of his feline viral rhinopneumonitis. As with humans, the herpes virus is “reactivated” in cats during periods of stress. 

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And I’m sure that Prezzemolo was very much affected first by my “disappearance” a month and a half ago, then by Stefano’s departure almost two weeks ago. Prezzemolo hasn’t yet fallen in love with our fabulous cat and house sitter (a good friend who adores our cats), and that, I think, was the main source of his di-stress. 

Our friend told me he’d begun sneezing on Saturday. And his nasal discharge…yuuuuuck! I immediately began giving him some immune boosters, including fish oil (for cats), hoping to avert disaster, but when I heard him coughing yesterday morning, I decided not to wait on the antibiotic. So he’s now on a 12-hour antibiotic. Bummer. Poor dear. But really, he seems fine…very active, voracious appetite…the terror of the house…chasing the others and so on…

Speaking of Prezzemolo…It’s only day 3 in Florence, but I’ve come to realize that we’ll never be able to have friends over, ever again. 😉 Prezzemolo, as his name suggests (in Italian, the saying goes that if you are like prezzemolo, = parsley, you pop up everywhere, all the time…), is, well, everywhere…all the time. No matter what you’re doing, even if it’s the most BORING thing (from a cat’s point of view, of course), he has to be right by your side to check it out…On the kitchen counter, in the kitchen sink, on the dining room table, on the stove…you name the place, he’s there. So curious! All this is very cute right now, but I imagine it will be a bit less cute when I have to bake something…and when friends come over for dinner. Nothing like a nosy cat sticking his wet nose into your dinner plate…hmmm…  😉

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Anyway, all is well, more or less. But I miss my parents and the Cape. Eh.

Speaking of the Cape, here are a few of the photos I took with my fab new camera during my stay, including one of me standing in the snow (I love taking quirky photos…This one shows my very distorted reflection in one of the Xmas ornaments I put on my parents’ trees …). I wasn’t able to download any photos onto my Mom’s computer, so I have quite a few that I would like to publish in the next few days…Hope you like ’em!

Take care, everyone!!! :)

Sweet!!!

Stefano arrived in Boston yesterday evening. I met him at Logan Airport and screeched a bit too loudly as soon as I set eyes on him…startling a few of the people around me, I’m afraid. 😉 And then we hugged and hugged and hugged, as though we hadn’t seen each other in years.

It’s really hard to explain. Stefano is not just my life partner and my sweetie…He’s my soul mate, my best friend, a part of me. And, while we’re two strong and independent people, no question about that, we share the same interests and hobbies (bird watching, e.g.), and we enjoy each other’s company very very VERY much. Ok, enough, enough…I guess I just wanted to say that it’s reaaaaaally sweet to be reunited… :)

Well, we have heaps of things to do today, including planning what to do next week…before we return to Italy, that is. Stefano wants to visit Salem, Massachusetts, and I want to go to Nantucket. So we’re going to see if we have time to do both.

Anyway, I just stopped by to write a quick note for the blog…And now I’ve got to dash off and begin all the planning! And do a bit more hugging, too, as soon as he wakes up!!! 😉

A new gadget and some serious research on xanthones…

First, the funny bit (funny to me, anyway!). Before I left for the States, Stefano and I decided to buy ourselves (well, it’s for me, really…he already has an iPad) a mini iPad. He’s been bugging me for ages to get an iPad, so that I can download and read virtual books instead of filling up the house with real, dust-accumulating books. But I’m a bit old fashioned and sometimes resistant to new, high-tech gizmos. Plus, when I was an undergrad at Harvard (quite a long time ago!), one of my many jobs involved putting books back on their shelves at Widener Library (= book shelver, yes). Ah, how I loved that job…the smell of books…getting lost in the stacks…In fact, that’s when I began dreaming of becoming a librarian (still a dream!)… 😉

Anyway, point is: because of my stubborn opposition to downloading books onto any sort of gadget, I’d refused, till recently, even to contemplate buying anything containing the word “pad.” But I finally gave in…Stefano can be very persuasive, you see!

So as soon as I arrived in the States, about a month ago, I went to a local Apple store and got on a mini iPad waiting list. Yes, a waiting list. The pre-Xmas sales period is not at all a good time to buy a super popular item of any sort. So (to make a long story longer!) I finally called the online Apple store and asked for an “in-store pickup” anywhere in the state of Massachusetts. It turned out that the closest Apple store that had a mini iPad for sale was in Braintree (= the South Shore Plaza mall, for those of you who live in MA). That’s more than an hour’s drive from here. But, no biggie. So a couple of mornings ago I set off for Braintree, which is just south of Boston. 

I didn’t intend for this part of the post to be so long. Okay, I’ll shorten it, even though, wowsers!, I’d never been inside such a HUGE mall…unbelievable (mmmh, loved the “games for the brain” store! 😉 ). Anyway, the upshot is that I got my mini iPad. When I brought it home, though, it refused to connect to my parents’ wireless network. Stubborn little creature, I thought, a tad annoyed.

But yesterday I finally got it to work. So last night I decided to send Stefano an email on the mini iPad…from my bed…what a thrill!

I began typing a message in Italian. Well, let me tell ya, the auto-correct feature went absolutely mad. With hilarious results, I must say. Here’s an example: one of my standard emails greetings for my Italian friends is “cucu!!!,” which is related to the cuckoo clock and is used as a joke (in Italy, when you come out of a hiding place, e.g., you can say “cucu!” like the bird popping out of the cuckoo clock). So I wrote “cucu,” which of course Mr. English Auto-Correct changed to “cucumber.” Cucumber??? And that was just my FIRST word! :) For those who know Italian, the below list should be amusing:

  • “Qualche” became “quail he.” Qualche means “some, a few.”
  • “Questo correttore automatico” became “question correct tore automatics.” Correttore automatico means “Automatic Corrector.”
  • “Almeno ti fai una risata” became “lame no ti fai una roast a.” Almeno ti fai una risata means “At least it’ll make you laugh.” Roast a WHAT? 😉
  • When I reread the message and began laughing hysterically at the “corrected” gobbledygook, I wrote “da schiantare dalle risate,” which became “da Schiaparelli dale rip sate.” Da schiantare dalle risate literally means “It’s so funny it will make you die laughing.” “Schiaparelli”??? Is that even ENGLISH? Oh, okay, just looked it up: Elsa Schiaparelli was a famous Italian fashion designer. Uhm…
  • “Pensa un po’ te” became “Pensacola te.” Pensa un po’ te means “Fancy that!” (hehe, indeed!)
  • And just one more: I wrote that I was laughing like a mad woman, “sto ridendo come una pazza furibonda.” Well, the auto-correct feature translated my comment as “I’m laughing like a mad piazza” (a mad city square???). 😀

Okay, enough. Let’s get serious now. I ran across an interesting item recently. Has anyone ever tasted a mangosteen? I haven’t, I admit. I have never even seen one in real life. It’s a dark purple tropical fruit (nothing to do with mangos, though) that contains heaps of antioxidants and, quelle surprise (not!!!), has been used for ages in traditional Southeastern Asia medicine to treat a variety of ailments, from skin rashes to bladder infections and irritable bowel syndrome.

Recent test tube studies have shown that its compounds, called xanthones, possess antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties. These xanthones are extracted from the thick, hard mangosteen rind (= the pericarp).

So why am I writing about mangosteen xanthones today? Because they also seem to have anticancer activity. Yup. Even more interestingly, they have been found to kill HL60 leukemia cells. In vitro, anyway. See this 2004 Japanese study: http://goo.gl/nfmne And this 2009 Chinese study, on a different leukemic cell line: http://goo.gl/dlzEX And there is also a 2008 French study, on cells from B-CLL patients: http://goo.gl/QyG5E These in vitro tests resulted in the death (= apoptosis) of all the cell lines. Aha! By the way, there are a few other mangosteen-leukemia abstracts on PubMed…

Now, I don’t have much time right now, as you know, so what I have isn’t much: it’s simply the result of a very quick, preliminary, superficial bit of research. That said, I decided to introduce the subject anyway, thinking it might be of interest to some of you. I should also mention that I came across a warning for patients undergoing chemo treatments. If you fall into that category, then don’t even look at a mangosteen or its extracts. It might lessen the toxic effects of the chemo, which would defeat the purpose, of course. I wrote “might” (the conditional tense) because, as usual!!!, we simply do not know…no studies on that topic. Sigh…

Well, that’s it for today. I hope you’ve enjoyed this bit of silliness…AND the mangosteen info, too, of course! Have a super weekend, everyone! :)