The Woes of Training for a Marathon in New Orleans’ Summer Heat

I had just returned from my first long training run and instead of giving myself a high-five, I felt more like I was on the losing end of a MMA fight. I just had my ass kicked by the steaming heat of summertime. To be honest: It’s my own fault. I jogged out the door hungry and thirsty (from the previous night’s happy hour) at 9 A.M. I wore black leggings and forgot water. Basically, I was completely unprepared.

I’m training for my first-ever marathon—I’ll be running the TCS New York City Marathon thanks to getting a free slot on the New Balance team. And sure, it will land on a (hopefully) crisp November day in New York, but my training has started in the middle of summer and I nearly passed out on my first long run. Oh, and did I mention that I live in New Orleans?

After that run, I wondered: Is it possible to train for a marathon in one of the most hot and humid cities in the U.S.?

First, I decided talk to an expert on athletic performance in hot environments, who could help me understand why my run felt so unbearable.

I reached out to Rebecca L. Stearns, Ph.D., the chief operating officer at Korey Stringer Institute within the department of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut, who told me that the reason heat and humidity impact us so much during exercise is because our bodies already produce a lot of heat while working out as a result of the mechanical processes happening inside our muscles and body when we use energy. (They call it “burning” energy for a reason.) Stearns explained that sweat—specifically, the evaporation of sweat off the surface of our skin—is the release of this heat and the main way the body cools itself during exercise.

When the environment around us is also very hot, it makes it harder for our bodies to cool off through this process. “[Environmental] heat becomes dangerous because it can result in a scenario that we refer to as uncompensable heat stress, where your body is gaining heat faster than it is being dissipated,” said Stearns. So even if your cooling mechanisms are working, the external heat can throw you over the edge and be too much for your body to handle.

To make matters worse, humidity in the air makes it harder for sweat to evaporate. “The more saturated (with humidity) the air is, the less availability there is for evaporation, meaning it will just drip off the skin, which doesn’t allow the body to cool,” Stearns said.

Being in New Orleans, I’m faced with both heat and debilitating humidity. In August, most locals retreat to air-conditioning or spend the day in a swimming pool. How would I ever manage to prep for a marathon?

I’d just have to get my body used to training in the heat. But how?

Luckily, New Balance hooked me up with a remote running coach, John Honerkamp, founder and CEO of J. R. Honerkamp Consulting & Coaching, who I immediately reached out to after that first run. Honerkamp said that while your body can acclimate to running in the heat over time, it can be difficult when you first start. “I always say I am pretty good at running in the heat eventually, but out of the gates I struggle,” he said. This made me feel a little bit better.

So then, how could I get my body acclimated enough that my runs feel more bearable? Stearns said that generally, it takes most people approximately 10 to 14 days of being active in the heat to get adjusted to it. Of course, this all varies by person and the intensity and frequency of activity, and different adaptations—like changes in perceived exertion, sweat rate, blood volume, and heart rate—happen at different points during that rough time frame.

Honerkamp also suggested that I start by slowing down my pace. Considering that I run a 13-minute mile, I tell him I’m wondering if I should speed walk. But he assured me that not having a time goal for my first marathon is a good thing, and that it’s more important to focus on the effort than speed.

So, for the next two weeks, I focused on slower and shorter runs. I also shopped for a new running wardrobe.

Honerkamp told me that less clothing is better in the heat, but that I should add a hat specifically for running (to protect myself from the sun) and wear sunscreen. Stearns said that comfortable and loose, light-fitting clothes will allow air movement across my skin which helps sweat evaporate.

Armed with new information, I purchased a pair of ’80s-style biker shorts and a breathable white hat, and applied broad-spectrum SPF. It’s true, clothing (or lack thereof) made a difference and after a few short runs, the heat actually started to feel less oppressive.

Before my next long run, I asked Stearns what precautions I should take to stay safe.

Longer duration exercise can provide a greater opportunity for your body’s temperature to rise to an unsafe level, Stearns said. She suggested I give myself opportunities to rest, rehydrate, and adjust the intensity depending on how I feel. These things are “all important to avoid potentially dangerous body temperature elevations.”

I asked Stearns about what warning signs may signal I’m starting to overheat. “You might start to feel hot, unusually tired, irritated, or your mental functioning might decrease (feeling confused or disoriented),” she said. The symptoms of severe dehydration are similar, so it’s important to listen to your body and take a break and rehydrate if you start to notice any of these signs.

In one of my daily training emails from Honerkamp, I got a tip to weigh myself (naked) before and immediately after the run to calculate my sweat rate. The goal is to lose no more than 0-2 percent of my initial body weight, he said. So, if I were to lose more than 2 percent of my initial body weight, that means I’m not taking in enough fluid during the run. Quick note: You don’t have to weigh yourself to make sure you’re hydrating enough. It’s just a tool that some experts suggest, and that comes in handy when you’re training for long periods of time in the heat.

But you probably don’t need to overthink it. Most experts (including Stearns) say, quite simply, that healthy adults can usually stay hydrated by listening to their bodies and drinking water when they feel thirsty. “Generally, if you have readily available fluid, drinking to thirst will keep you at a safe hydration status,” Stearns told me. It may not be the best solution, though, if you’re running in a race and only have limited scheduled breaks for water. That’s because when you’re forced to delay your fluid intake, you may end up not drinking as much as you truly need once fluid is available. A simple solution is to just bring water with you on a training run or during the race, Stearns said, so that you are able to drink whenever you feel thirsty. If that’s not possible, though, Stearns said that calculating your sweat rate like Honerkamp suggested (here’s an online tool you can use) is actually the best way to make sure you’re drinking enough when you’re working out hard in the heat with infrequent access to water.

Stearns added that while the best amount of fluid to drink will be different for everyone, generally the stomach will handle small doses of fluid at greater intervals better than lots of liquid all at once.

Also, I’d be remiss to not mention that properly hydrating also means drinking before and after a run, not just loading up on it once you’re unbearably thirsty. So, I decided to skip Friday happy hour and, instead, pre-hydrate leading up to my long Saturday run.

On the first day of August, I set out on a 10-mile run, during which I felt much more comfortable in the heat—and with the idea of slowing down and taking breaks.

I left my house at 6 A.M., and stopped at the park’s water fountains along the way for small sips of water. There were times when I felt like I was jogging in cement, but my body didn’t hate me. In fact, I had a reserve of energy and sprinted the last block home. Did I mention that the heat index was at 109 degrees?

Post-run, I celebrated with lunch beers. Of course, less alcohol is better when you’re trying to keep yourself fully hydrated, but I figure that that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a drink or two when I really want it. (Keep in mind that I’m not a doctor or a dietitian and I’m only making choices for myself. If you’re wondering if you can drink after you have a tough workout, check with your doctor.)

By my third or fourth long run, I was way more comfortable in the heat and kept my hydration in check. (I’m sure that my improving cardiovascular fitness also plays a part in making my runs feel less miserable.)

I’ll be honest, after most long runs, I still want nothing more than to dunk my body into a cold pool of pamplemousse La Croix and sleep for an hour—but the long distance feels doable and occasionally enjoyable. Plus, there’s always happy hour at the finish line.

The FDA Warns That Certain Type 2 Diabetes Meds Have Been Linked to a Rare Genital Infection

All medications come with the potential for side effects. But not all side effects are equally serious. Occasional headaches? Eh, not the worst. A rare flesh-eating bacterial infection on your genitals? A bit more worrying. Unfortunately, people who take a certain medication for Type 2 diabetes are at risk for exactly that, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns.

According to a safety alert from the FDA issued this week, there have been reports of a rare and serious infection of the genitals and the genital area in people who are taking a class of medications called sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors. Medications in this class include canagliflozin, dapagliflozin, and empagliflozin, and they’re available as single-ingredient products and in combination with other diabetes medicines (like metformin).

The infection that has been linked to these medications is called necrotizing fasciitis of the perineum, or Fournier’s gangrene, and the FDA is now requiring that a warning be added to the prescribing information of these pills about this risk.

We regret to inform you that “necrotizing fasciitis of the perineum” is a medical term for a flesh-eating bacterial infection in the area between the anus and the vulva or scrotum.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a bacterial infection of the tissue under your skin that surrounds muscles, nerves, fat, and blood vessels, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. The bacteria usually gets into your body through a break in the skin. Once it’s there, it spreads quickly and destroys the tissue it infects, the CDC explains. In this case, that includes the perineum, the sensitive area between the anus and the vulva or scrotum.

The FDA specifically warns about symptoms like tenderness, redness, or swelling of the genitals, having a fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and generally feeling unwell. Because these symptoms can escalate quickly, it’s important to get medical attention at the first sign that something is off.

The condition tends to be more common in men, but technically it could happen in women, too, infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells SELF. “It can rapidly progress and involve the entire genital area and even the abdominal wall,” Dr. Adalja says. “It requires urgent surgical treatment and has a high mortality rate.”

Treatment generally involves multiple surgeries to try to get rid of the infected tissue, Dr. Adalja says. “It’s kind of like a fire: You have to get ahead of it.” In severe cases, the condition can lead to the loss of limbs or even death, the CDC says.

So how exactly does taking diabetes medication lead to developing this infection around the genitals?

These medications lower your blood sugar by causing your kidneys to remove sugar from your body through your pee, the FDA explains. And having a higher glucose level in any part of your body increases your risk of infection in that area, Jamie Alan, Ph.D., Pharm.D., an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, tells SELF. (There is also an increased risk of UTIs with these drugs, for example.)

“We have bacteria all over us, and one of the foods that bacteria likes is glucose,” Alan says. “If you’re eliminating more glucose in your urine, that’s going to give you more potential for glucose in your urethra and the area surrounding your genitals. That’s going to be a more favorable environment for the bacteria to grow.”

But just having bacteria isn’t enough to give you this kind of infection—you’d also need some type of micro-abrasion (a tiny cut) in your skin to contract necrotizing fasciitis, whether it’s a nick from shaving down there or a skin ulcer, Dr. Adalja explains. Unfortunately, this can and does happen.

If you’re on an SGLT2 inhibitor, you don’t need to panic.

You don’t want to stop taking the drug out of fear that you’re going to get flesh-eating bacteria in your groin without consulting your doctor first, Alan notes. She also stresses that this is a rare complication of this drug. But, “If you’re concerned, call your doctor and ask about switching to another class of medication, if possible,” Alan says. “We have other options for treating diabetes.”

Practicing good hygiene can help lower your risk of contracting necrotizing fasciitis, Alan adds. But it’s completely understandable if you’d rather go with a lower-risk medication.


6 Things You Should Do Now to Prepare Your Own Funeral Plans

Every mortician I know has a bevy of similar horror stories—but they’re probably not the stories you’re imagining. They are not stories about zombies. Our stories are much worse because they actually come true. We can recount in detail the terrifying tales of what goes wrong if you die unexpectedly and your family is unprepared to make your funeral arrangements. I know most of you don’t think you’re going to die, but I’m here with some rough news: Death is the appointment none of us can cancel.

The reality of death is something I’m more intimately familiar with than most people. I spent six years working as a mortician before retiring early almost three years ago. “Mortician” is a word with a variety of meanings that change depending on the region. As a funeral director, an embalmer, and a crematory operator, I was someone who did it all. I met with families to arrange the nitty-gritty details of the service, I prepared bodies for viewing and burial, and I operated the crematory for families who opted cremation as the final disposition of their loved one’s body. I worked many long, hard hours on the weekends and all major holidays, even leaving my phone’s ringer on loud so I could even wake up in the middle of the night to help families navigate the confusion that inevitably comes after someone dies.

Death sucks. Full stop. Death sucks even in situations where everything goes exactly to plan and when you have as much control and advance warning as you can expect to have, and that’s not usually how it works out. As a mortician, I was privy to extremely intimate situations where death showed up unexpectedly and families were left to pick up the pieces. Some of that was what you’d expect, like families struggling to decide on the type of funeral because it wasn’t a conversation they’d had during life. Some of it was more painful. I’ve seen secular humanists “celebrated” with intensely religious ceremonies that were in opposition to their life. My heart broke when a queer person’s partner was blocked from being involved in the funeral plans by the homophobic family, or when an estranged family memorialized a trans person in the gender they were assigned at birth instead of the one they lived in day-to-day.

Seeing how horribly wrong funerals can go was one of the more difficult things I would experience in the mortuary. I learned a lot of different lessons in my time as a mortician, some sad and some poignant, but the most important thing I learned was how to leave my affairs in order so that my grieving family would know what the heck to do if I stepped outside tomorrow and was unexpectedly offed.

Here’s what I think every person should know and do to prepare for their own passing and commemoration. Fortunately, there’s actually a lot you can do now to make things easier on the people you love.

1. Do the paperwork to designate who will be in charge of decision making for your funeral.

First and foremost: paperwork! Without a legal document authorizing someone specific to handle your funeral arrangements, there’s an order of priority for people who are authorized to make these decisions for you. Your legal spouse comes first. If you don’t have a spouse, your adult children come next. After that are your parents and then your siblings. In fact, there’s a legal hierarchy that you can follow all the way down to your second cousins, if need be.

Luckily, paperwork is an easy way to supersede the next-of-kin list. You can specify exactly who you want to make your funeral arrangements and honor your wishes in a legal document. The most effective document to accomplish this is called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPOAHC). This document also allows for your designated agent to make medical decisions for you, which makes it different from a regular ol’ Durable Power of Attorney. You can have one drawn up with a lawyer or you can simply get one online, but there needs to be an included paragraph that specifies you are also designating your agent the right to control your funeral arrangements.

The Noun Project

2. Then make sure the documents are legal and kept where everyone can find them.

Once you have the DPOAHC filled out, you have to take care of a few tasks. First, make sure that your designated agent is aware of and willing to undertake their responsibilities. The last thing you want is to saddle your funeral on someone who doesn’t want the task. Secondly, make sure the document is signed and notarized. A notary public will certify that a DPOAHC is a legally binding document, which means the funeral home can trust it when allowing your agent to arrange your funeral. (A quick Google search will give you notaries in your area; you may have access to one through your bank or at your local courthouse, and some stores may also offer notary services, like a UPS or a pharmacy.)

A signed, notarized DPOAHC is the most important step you can take for ensuring that someone you know, love, and trust will handle your funeral arrangements. Once your paperwork is officially official, you should make copies. At minimum, you should make sure your designated agent has a copy. If you really want to be prepared, you should file a copy with your primary care doctors, your local hospital (the place you would be taken to in case of an emergency), and always, always bring them with you to surgery. If you live in the place you expect to be for the rest of your life, you would get extra points for preparation by bringing them to your local funeral home!

3. Consider your funeral options now—so your loved ones don’t have to do it later.

One of the things people don’t realize about dying is that your death means your family will be left with a gaping hole where you used to be, and the loss of a loved one leaves everyone functioning at suboptimal levels. I took to calling it grief brain, and it feels like when you walk into a room intending to do something but you promptly forget what the heck that something actually was. Grief brain turns your memory into a sieve. It leaves you lying in bed at the end of the day knowing you went through the motions of existing, but unable to remember where you went, who you talked to, or what you chatted about. Grief brain is an exhausting experience, and it’s in the throes of grief brain when your family is expected to make complicated, expensive decisions about your funeral arrangements. Making sure your designated agent has a plan for your funeral before you die is going to make their life easier when the time comes to put that plan into action.

At its most basic level, the decision needs to answer one major question: What do you want to happen to your body after you die? There are three major choices: burial, cremation, or donation. Within those choices, there are a lot of individual options. You can easily get deep into the nitty gritty, but covering the basics to begin with is the important part.

Burial is typically the most expensive option for funeral arrangements. Traditionally, that expense is so high because burial requires the purchase of a plot—that is, land to bury your body on. Most cemeteries also require the purchase of a vault, which is a liner (usually made of concrete) that goes inside the grave to make sure the land doesn’t collapse on itself. On top of that, you’ll also usually pay for a lifetime upkeep fee. These cemetery costs are separate from the funeral home costs, which typically include the purchase of a burial casket and embalming. All told, you’re talking about a minimum of $4,000—and that’s on the very low side. Usually, arrangements involving burial end up closer to $10,000 or more.

Natural burial, an option that’s becoming more popular, doesn’t usually involve the purchase of a casket or a vault. Typically, it means your body is wrapped in a simple shroud and buried directly in the ground. Unfortunately, these options are also not inexpensive. Many natural cemeteries require the family to pay a fee for upkeep on the cemetery grounds.

Cremation is rapidly becoming the most popular choice for disposition, due in part to the fact that it’s far less expensive than burial—by thousands of dollars. During the cremation process, your body is burned and the cremated remains are returned to your family. Many families like the flexibility that cremation gives them when it comes to timing; without a body that’s decomposing, it’s much easier to plan memorial services that require waiting for everyone to come to town. Also, cremated remains (sometimes shortened to “cremains,” though I never do) are easy to bury, scatter, or even keep. Finally, families can be present for the cremation process during a witness cremation, which is often useful for concerns about mortuaries mixing up, misplacing, or not disposing of bodies properly.

Many people don’t realize that bodies can be viewed before burial or any other disposition, and that a body does not need to me embalmed in order to be viewed. (Some funeral homes or cemeteries may require embalming as a company policy, but there are no federal or state policies that require embalming for final disposition.) An unembalmed body is always going to look different from an embalmed body. In death, features sink, the body changes, blood stops circulating. Sometimes the embalming process can help make that body look a little more “normal,” but it completely depends on the skill and experience of the embalmer. A “direct cremation” is a cremation without any viewing of the body beforehand.

Body donation is always an option for disposition, though it’s one that often confuses people because there are a lot of possibilities when you’re trying to decide where and how to donate your body. If you’re local to a medical school, you can donate your body to them to help students learn anatomy and physiology firsthand. Although it’s not the same as a funeral, many medical schools hold extremely moving memorial services for their body donors; families of donors are invited, and many will set up memorializations to teach the students about the body donors. You can also often choose a specific cause to donate your body to, like as Alzheimer’s research, though it requires researching who you’re donating to and often signing forms beforehand.

The Noun Project

4. Sit down with your loved ones to tell them what your funeral wishes are.

Having this conversation with your family can be hard because nobody likes talking about mortality—their own or that of someone they love. However, making sure you have the conversation before you actually die is so incredibly important. If you think it’s uncomfortable to discuss death, consider how much more difficult it will be for your family to have the conversation with a funeral director, a complete stranger.

The most important part of this conversation involves how you want the disposition of your body handled. If you’re dead-set on cremation, your family needs to know that burial isn’t your preference. If you absolutely want to be embalmed and buried, your family needs to know that. You can include your preferences on your DPOAHC (mine states, “No burial!”) to help with the process. Your family needs to know whether you want memorial or funeral services held. They need to know whether you want those services to be religious. They even need to know if you have someone you’d like to give your eulogy. Every single bit of detail you decide before your death means one less decision your grieving family has to make after the fact. If decisions haven’t been made—and especially if your family has different opinions about the funeral plans—it can take hours, days, or even weeks to figure everything out. I once served a family who took more than six weeks to figure out their loved one’s funeral arrangements because none of the next of kin could agree. Not only is that emotionally exhausting, but it becomes expensive: a body must legally be refrigerated before disposition, which eventually comes with a cost.

Sometimes, having this conversation can be challenging. If you find that having this talk is too challenging and you really want to make sure your wishes are handled, you can visit your local funeral home and make all of your decisions with a funeral director long before your actual death. They will keep all of your arrangements on hand until the time comes. If visiting a funeral home feels too emotionally challenging for you, you can always write down your preferences on a piece of paper attached to your DPOAHC.

5. You can start saving for your own funeral now.

As if planning a funeral weren’t stressful enough, you have to talk about money. Direct cremations can start at $1,000 or less, depending on where you are and what options you choose. Burials can run in excess of $20,000. Fortunately, your family doesn’t necessarily have to run a panicked GoFundMe in order to pay for your final wishes—there are easy things you can do now to relieve the financial burden later.

For one thing, you could simply start a savings account now; $20 here and there could go a long way toward funding funeral, as long as your designated agent has access to the account.

If that’s not your preference, you can actually buy funeral insurance from your local funeral home. This insurance operates similarly to car or house insurance. Basically, you make monthly payments on a policy that pays out when you die; I’ve seen monthly payments as low as $25. When buying the policy, you’ll usually sit down with a funeral director and decide the actual details of your services. At the time of death, your family may owe a small portion out of pocket due to inflation, but generally speaking, the larger costs are covered. Many of these policies are able to be transferred, if you move from one place to another. I regularly saw these “pre-need” policies used successfully to cover the entire cost of the funeral, even a funeral that entailed burial and full services.

6. Remember that death is natural, and there’s nothing morbid about discussing yours—this is about making life easier for those you leave behind.

We live in a death-denying society, and our loved ones often find it “morbid” or “disturbing” to talk about it. The reality is that talking about your inevitable death and the funeral arrangements that will follow is terrifying for everyone. It’s not a conversation about sunshine and puppy dogs. It’s hard, but taking small steps now means everything will be much easier for the people you love later. As a mortician, I remember best the stolid comfort of families who knew what they were doing was what their loved ones wanted, families who could make decisions without second-guessing themselves and wondering if they were doing the right thing.

Completing the above steps would put you far and away beyond preparation levels of most families I sat down with through the years of my career. The only thing left to do would be to write your own obituary—they are always the best ones in the newspaper.

How does helping people affect your brain? Study shows neurobiological effects of giving social support

Providing “targeted” social support to other people in need activates regions of the brain involved in parental care- which may help researchers understand the positive health effects of social ties, reports a study in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society.

By comparison, providing “untargeted” support such as giving to charity does not have the same neurobiological effects, according to the new research by Tristen K. Inagaki, PhD, and Lauren P. Ross, BA, of University of Pittsburgh. “Our results highlight the unique benefits of giving targeted support and elucidate neural pathways by which giving support may lead to health,” the researchers write.

Study May Show ‘Neural Pathway’ By Which Providing Support Improves Health

The researchers performed a pair of experiments to evaluate brain responses to providing different kinds of social support. In the first study, 45 volunteers performed a “giving support” task where they had a chance to win rewards for someone close to them who needed money (targeted support), for charity (untargeted support), or for themselves. As predicted, participants felt more socially connected, and felt that their support was more effective, when giving targeted social support.

The subjects then underwent an emotional ratings task including functional MRI scanning to assess activation of specific brain areas when giving social support. Providing support, regardless of who received the support, was linked to increased activation of the ventral striatum (VS) and septal area (SA) — regions previously linked to parental care behaviors in animals. However, only higher activation of the SA when people gave targeted support was associated with lower activity in a brain structure called the amygdala — sometimes linked to fear and stress responses.

In the second study, 382 participants provided information on their behavior in giving support (prosocial behavior) and underwent a different emotional ratings task with functional MRI scanning. Once again, those who reported giving more targeted support to others also showed reduced activity in the amygdala. In both studies, giving untargeted support (such as giving to charity) was unrelated to amygdala activity.

“Humans thrive off social connections and benefit when they act in the service of others’ well-being,” according to the authors. A previous study by Dr. Inagaki, also published in Psychosomatic Medicine, found that giving social support has positive effects on brain areas involved in stress and reward responses. That study suggested that providing support — not just receiving it — may be an important contributor to the physical and mental health benefits of social support.

The new study adds further evidence that giving targeted support may be uniquely beneficial. Both targeted and untargeted support are linked to increased SA activity, supporting the “warm glow” theory of providing support: we help others, directly or indirectly, simply because it “feels good.”

But the link between increased SA activation and decreased amygdala activity “suggests a neural pathway by which giving support ultimately influence health that is specific to targeted forms of support-giving, such as giving to specific people we know are in need,” Dr. Inagaki and Ms. Ross write. The authors note that their study cannot show a cause-and-effect of providing support on activation of the SA or amygdala. They also point out that providing targeted social support does not always lead to improved health — for example, prolonged caregiving for an ill family member can be detrimental to health.

The study adds to previous evidence that providing social support to others “may be an overlooked contributor to the well-known link between social ties and health,” Dr. Inagaki and Ms. Ross write. They conclude: “Giving targeted support to an identifiable individual in need is uniquely associated with reduced amygdala activity thereby contributing to understanding of how and when giving support may lead to health.”

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Materials provided by Wolters Kluwer Health. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Information technology jobs outpace most other jobs in productivity and growth since 2004

Jobs in information technology-like computer software, big data, and cybersecurity-are providing American workers with long-lasting financial stability, suggests a new study from the University of British Columbia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“The future of jobs is in IT, and IT-intensive tasks” said Giovanni Gallipoli, co-author and associate professor from the Vancouver School of Economics at UBC. “Growth and productivity in jobs involving IT tasks are very strong, and workers who can perform such tasks have a clear competitive advantage in the labour market.”

The study reveals the well documented slow-down in employment and wage gains associated with skills and education that has been recorded after the year 2000 is in fact not occurring at all for jobs that involve IT. The share of these jobs has increased substantially over the past two decades, with IT-intensive occupations growing by 19.5 per cent between 2004 and 2017. Less IT-intensive occupations only grew by 2.4 per cent over the same period. The growth in IT jobs is more than eight times the growth rate than for other jobs over the past decade.

“While there is clear evidence that earnings growth for Americans with college degrees has somewhat flattened since 2000, earnings have actually grown significantly for individuals working in jobs involving IT tasks,” said Gallipoli. “Both companies and workers stand to benefit if they invest in IT education.”

Despite the decline in traditional manufacturing jobs from automation or off-shoring, the study also shows that a subset of jobs in manufacturing that involve IT tasks have increased in number, as well as having high productivity growth and returns.

According to the researchers, the rise of IT has changed the nature of employment in the manufacturing sector, creating a greater demand for workers with computing and technical expertise.

“Companies often report troubles finding enough workers for IT-intensive tasks,” said MIT’s Christos Makridis, the study’s co-author. “This suggests the presence of a skills gap for jobs with digital and technical requirements. The insufficient number of job candidates able to perform complex IT tasks suggests the possibility of workers’ mismatches in the labour market. It also suggests the need for additional training, whether formal or on the job, like apprenticeships, that focuses on the skills that are most in demand.”

While much of the debate around automation and the role of technology in employment today focuses on its impact on jobs, or how workers stand to be replaced by robots, the researchers stress greater focus needs to be paid to its effects on productivity, wages and the ongoing structural change in the labour market of both manufacturing and services.

“Our research starts to highlight these sizable effects, and the growth in employment demand for certain IT-intensive tasks cannot be easily automated or offshored,” Gallipoli said. “The emergence of IT intensive jobs has had a major impact on the structure and on the distribution of wages both within and across sectors.”

“As the cost of collecting and processing information continues declining, every company is going to turn into a data science company, whether they like it or not,” said Makridis. “That is only going to raise the demand for information technology workers.”

The study, Structural Transformation and the Rise of Information Technology, is published in the Journal of Monetary Economics.

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Materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Updated: More Than 12 Tons of Raw Ground Beef Recalled for Possible E. Coli Contamination

Update: Last week, Cargill announced that it was voluntarily recalling over 12 tons of ground beef products due to possible E. coli contamination—and retailers are following suit. According to a press release from Albertsons Companies, retailers in seven states are recalling the affected products.

That includes Albertsons, Safeway, Pak ‘N Save, and Vons stores located in Northern California, Colorado, Nebraska, Northern Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Interestingly, the press release states that some of the products being recalled aren’t Cargill products, but were manufactured near the recalled Cargill products and may have also been contaminated. However, there haven’t been any reports of illnesses related to the outbreak to date.

For the full (and long) list of products being recalled from these stores check out the Albertsons site here.

Original report (August 27, 2018):

Outdoor burger season may be coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean you should be any less vigilant about your safe cooking practices—especially with the news that more than 12 tons (25,288 pounds) of raw ground beef were recalled for possible E. coli contamination.

The recall only affects 10-pound chubs of “EXCEL 93/7 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” that were produced and packed by Colorado-based Cargill Meat Solutions on August 16 and shipped to warehouses in Colorado and California, according to an announcement from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The beef in question has a “use/freeze by” date of September 5, 2018 on the label. The recalled products also read “EST. 86R” inside the USDA’s mark of inspection.

Cargill discovered the issue on August 22 when it reviewed its records and found that some of its product may have been associated with another product that was presumed to be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, a strain that can cause particularly severe illnesses. However, there have not been any reports of illnesses to date.

As SELF wrote previously, E. coli can cause diarrhea that may be bloody, among other symptoms.

In addition to diarrhea, according to the Mayo Clinic, an E. coli infection may come with abdominal cramping or pain and nausea or vomiting.

Most otherwise healthy adults are able to get over an E. coli infection in about a week without any special treatment. But in severe cases, an infection can become serious—even deadly. One particularly serious complication of an E. coli infection is called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is a life-threatening form of kidney failure.

So if you’re experiencing any symptoms of dehydration or your symptoms aren’t improving (especially if your diarrhea is severe, persistent, or bloody), it’s important to get medical attention.

The FSIS is urging consumers to avoid eating the recalled products and instead throw them out or return them to where they were purchased. This is also a great time to brush up on your basic food safety rules, which include making sure your ground beef is cooked up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill bacteria.


17 Delicious Ways to Cook With Persimmons

The first time I saw a persimmon, I thought it was an orange tomato. A friend of mine had brought it to school to snack on, and when I probed her about it, she gave me a taste, immediately setting me straight. This was no orange tomato: It was a sweet, soft treat that tasted like fall and cinnamon and all things cozy—hygge in fruit form. I was hooked and I had to know more.

According to Katy Green, global produce field inspector at Whole Foods Market, what I probably ate that day was a Fuyu persimmon, one of the two most common varieties of persimmon. She says the other, called Hachiya, is high in tannins and cannot be eaten if it’s even a little bit underripe, so it’s better to cook with than consume raw. On the other hand, Fuyu persimmons have way fewer tannins, so they’re better for snacking on or adding to salads, she says.

The fruit is indigenous to Asia and in season from mid-October to February, peaking from November to December. Green says you’ll start to notice them at the supermarket a lot more around Halloween.

As for how to pick the best persimmons at the supermarket, Green says the main thing you should look for is exterior color. “They should be orange and bright orange during peak season,” she explains. Additionally, the calyx (which is the star-shaped leaf at the top) should be green and in good shape, not falling off or moldy.

Unlike other fruits, persimmons continue to ripen after they’ve been picked, and often are sold while they’re still unripe and very firm, says Green. Hachiya persimmons will be ready to eat right when you buy them at the store, because they’re supposed to be firm thanks to their high level of tannins. Fuyu persimmons should be left to rest on your counter for a few days, so they have time to get soft enough to snack on. Whatever you do, she says you should never put a persimmon in the fridge. “They will turn black and the texture will be compromised,” she warns.

Put your new persimmon knowledge to work in these 17 recipes, which take advantage of the fall fruit in all the different ways. From baked goods to soups to salads and beyond, there’s something here for everyone.

When God is your only friend: Religion and the socially disconnected

Religious people who lack friends and purpose in life turn to God to fill those voids, according to new University of Michigan research.

Belonging is related to a sense of purpose. When people feel like they do not belong or unsupported by their relationships, they consistently have a lower sense of purpose and direction in life, says lead author Todd Chan, a doctoral student in the U-M Department of Psychology.

Chan and colleagues say that having a belief system that adequately “substitutes” for some of the functions of human relationships, like having a God that values and supports them, may allow socially disconnected people to restore some of this purpose.

“For the socially disconnected, God may serve as a substitutive relationship that compensates for some of the purpose that human relationships would normally provide,” Chan said.

In three separate studies, the U-M researchers analyze the responses from 19,775 people who described their purpose in life, levels of loneliness, the quality of their friendships and religious beliefs.

These beliefs generally provide social comfort. The research shows that seeing God as your friend when you are already socially connected actually provides minimal additional benefit for purpose in life.

“In other words, people mostly benefit from leveraging religion and turning to God as a friend only when they lack supportive social connections,” Chan said.

This research also informs how people can cope with disconnection when other people are unavailable or unappealing. To feel less disconnected, people would ideally “get out there” and improve their social contacts, but this is not always feasible given that an inherent part of social disconnection is that people have poor relationships or are rejected, the researchers say.

The new U-M study continues previous research showing that people who are socially disconnected are more likely to see human-like qualities in things like pets, imaginary beings and God.

“Our research suggests, given two people who feel equally disconnected, the individual who feels more connected to God will have a better sense of purpose in life,” said co-author Nicholas Michalak, a psychology graduate student.

Although the results suggest that religion and God compensate for lost purpose in the socially disconnected, it did not restore purpose to a level comparable to that of people who are socially connected.

“These results certainly do not suggest that people can or should rely on God over people for purpose,” said co-author Oscar Ybarra, professor of psychology and faculty associate at the U-M Institute for Social Research. “Quality human connections still remain a primary and enduring source of purpose in life.”

In addition, the findings do not suggest that people who are socially disconnected are more likely to become religious if they were not already.

The study appeared in the Journal of Personality.

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Materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

New personality test is faster — and tougher to trick

Psychology researchers have developed a new personality test that is both faster to take and much harder to manipulate by those attempting to control the outcome.

“The test draws on the ‘Big Five’ approach to personality assessment, so it’s a new method for personality testing, rather than a new paradigm,” says Adam Meade, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and lead author of a paper on the work.

“But whether the testing is being done as part of workplace training or for research purposes, there is real value in being able to conduct the test quickly and in making it difficult for users to game the system.”

The Big Five theory of personality focuses on five broad factors: extraversion, conscientiousness, openness, neuroticism and agreeableness.

“We used this paradigm because it is supported by the broadest body of research and holds up across cultures and demographic groups,” Meade says.

The new test is an online program that relies on a technique developed by Meade called rapid response measurement (RRM), which displays a series of adjectives one after another. Users have a few seconds to click whether each adjective is “like me” or “not like me.”

“People take about one second, on average, to make a decision for each word,” Meade says. “This allows us to collect a significant amount of data in a very short period of time — orders of magnitude faster than other tests. The rapid response rate also makes it difficult to manipulate the outcome, and our software incorporates response time into its analysis of responses. For example, if users take too long to respond to an adjective, that response does not have as much impact on scores as adjectives with faster responses.”

Altogether, the new paper includes the results from four studies. In three of the studies, involving a total of 425 participants, researchers evaluated the accuracy of the RRM Big Five test when compared to well-established Big Five testing protocols. All three studies found that the results were comparable, even though the RRM technique took far less time.

In the third study, involving 205 people, researchers also ran an iteration of the test asking study participants to manipulate the outcome. They found it was four times harder for participants to alter the outcome of the RRM test, as compared to the conventional test.

And the RRM protocol can be used to assess things other than the Big Five.

The paper’s fourth study focused on workplace personality testing and involved 228 business managers from across the United States. For this study, researchers compared the results of the RRM test to an established workplace personality test — and to assessments from the study participants’ real-world supervisors and peers. The RRM test results tracked more closely with the actual workplace assessments than the traditional tests did.

“We’re optimistic that our approach can streamline the testing process and provide more accurate information for use in training, hiring and research,” Meade says.

Meade has launched a company called PerSight Assessments to market RRM testing for use by employers, and also plans to make a free version available for the research community.

“We’re now working on adapting RRM to measure attitudes toward workplace satisfaction, workplace culture and consumer feedback,” Meade says. “It’s a flexible tool, and there are likely applications we haven’t even thought of yet.”

The god of small things

New research suggests people who are religious gain happiness from believing there is a deeper meaning to everyday events.

Dr Jonathan Ramsay is a Senior Lecturer in psychology at James Cook University’s Singapore campus, with a particular interest in the psychology of religion.

His team surveyed 231 people from a diverse mix of Christians, Buddhists or Taoists, Muslims and people with no religious affiliation.

Dr Ramsay said all world religions believe that the universe has an underlying order and structure that gives greater meaning or significance to events and circumstances.

“What we were interested in is if the believer interprets events in this fashion, does it influence their emotional reaction to those events, and eventually their general sense of well-being?”

Dr Ramsay said the results show that all people, but especially religious people, regularly assign significance to unremarkable events — such as discussing hobbies with a work colleague, receiving a small but unexpected gift, or spending time with a family member.

“We found the more people gave meaning, purpose, and significance to such events the more they experienced positive emotions such as gratitude and contentment,” he said.

Dr Ramsay said previous research had shown a link between meaningfulness and religion and well-being, but this was the first study to examine the emotional consequences of giving meaning to otherwise insignificant events, and also the first to investigate this process in immediate, moment-to-moment experience.

“The relationship between religion and well-being is well-known. Our results tentatively suggest that the positive effect of religious belief on well-being via the giving of meaning to events and the resulting positive emotions is a general phenomenon that holds across religious and ethnic groups,” he said.

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Materials provided by James Cook University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.