Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Basics Of Opioids

The opioid problem has swept across the nation over the last decade and a half.  Since 2000, there have been around 300,000 opioid deaths (33,000 alone in 2015).  What is causing this emerging addiction?  Before we can understand the problem, maybe a step back would be good for us.   A step back that would entail looking at the molecular structures of various opioids.  Not Chemistry!

Yes, indeed - Chemistry!  In order to understand the problem, a look into the molecular similarities might be of great use.  Last weekend, Kayla -- who writes on this blog and other sites -- finished up a blog post on "opioids".  You can access that blog post by clicking -- HERE.  Kayla takes the reader on a short journey starting at the outset with the stated fact that over 150,000 plant and microorganism derived "bioactive" compounds are found in nature.  As she points out some of which are active in humans.  One class of "bioactive" compounds are the opioid family (shown below):

Structural similarities were shown to reveal that the active ingredient in cough syrup (Dextromethorphan -- derived from codeine) is not very different from the molecular structure of "vicodon" -- which is commonly abused by the public.  Although, Dextromethorphan has a lower risk of abuse.  The manner in which the drugs target a given "active site" forms a range.  This is due to the molecular structure.  Each molecular structure (in a family) has an "affinity" for a given "active site" in the body.  Drugs with a higher affinity to hit a given "active site" result in being labeled as "more potent."  Potency can be related to abuse.  Other drugs might hit a range of "active sites" which might contribute to the phenomenon of "side effects" associated with a given drug.  These drugs might not be preferable to an addict due to unwanted side effects.

The blog post is a great primer on the molecular similarities and differences  -- worth reading.  Especially for the readers who are interested in the content that is presented on this site and "Mike Thinks".  With that in mind, I hope that you enjoy the short primer on opioids written by Kayla.  Have a great day!  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Extreme Personality Traits And Making Small Changes

Are you a person who has extreme tendencies?

What are extreme tendencies?

What is extreme behavior?

The answer to these questions is centered around the behavior of focusing your attention or behavior (habit) on one task and going all in.  An example is of the disease of alcoholism.  Typically, as the disease progresses, the whole behavior becomes centered around the use of alcohol.  Extreme behavior is not limited to the use of drugs and alcohol.  In fact, many people suffer from being a 'workaholic' -- spending an unusually large amount of time at work.  Work becomes your life.

Why do I mention this behavior?

After returning from vacation, I had a short break from writing blogs on various sites -- which was much needed.  Over the vacation, I realized that I had taken some time off from checking in with my journal on the site "Kaiserwellnesscenter.com".  Periodically, I write about my mental journey.  These electronic journal entries are different from the learned "mental awareness" articles found on this blog site.  The last time I checked in was a few months ago.

Therefore, I wrote another entry which can be accessed by clicking -- HERE.

I hope that you find useful content on the journal entry that will help you move toward a healthier lifestyle.  In the coming week, I should be continuing the "Anti-Aging Skin Series" with the ingredients from Jergen's Skin Firming Lotion (as promised).

With that being said, I will finish the next post to publish soon.  Have a great day!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Packing for Your Car-free Vacation

Have you ever considered taking a vacation without a car?  Yes, I mean without a car.  No rental car when you arrive at a destination.  Oh My Goodness!!  Yep.  If you are not a seasoned cyclist who engages in these types of trips, then the following sites might be of interest to you.  We are not seasoned cyclists -- although, we are becoming seasoned cyclists.  Did this happen over night?  No.  Have we tried various trips and learned different lessons on each. Yes.

Engaging in a bicycle adventure trip is easy.  First, you have to make up your mind that you are going to try to go on one.  Second, decide where you would like to travel to.  Some bloggers suggest going on an overnight trip to a local hotel near your house on your bicycles with a couple of panniers to start out with.  This is one strategy.

Another strategy is to decide to go further.  If you decide to do this, the learning curve is steeper.  But you adjust very quickly -- which is a good thing.  We started by taking trips down to the beach near family (around 60 miles away) and staying in a hotel.  This trip was simple in that the whole trip involved a bicycle and a hotel (easy to plan).

Next, we extended this toward taking the train which we ride daily to the beach to camp last year.  You can read about that experience in the following blog post -- written by Mike.  Adding a train component to a bicycle vacation is not difficult.  But remember, the train usually has limited times of departure and arrival.  Be sure to consider these schedules while planning a vacation departure or arrival time and date.

Recently (as in last week), we took a bicycle trip up north to Grover Beach and stayed in a hotel.  The bicycles served the purpose of a rental car.  We were able to explore the town car-free and stress free with a bicycle.  Part of the journey is the bicycle trip.  Most of the time on vacation, people are trying to get to a destination to enjoy the destination (such as a beach).  When riding a bicycle to a destination, the journey is part of the enjoyment of the destination.   With all of this being said, you might be wondering what to pack for such a trip.

If you are considering a car-free vacation, you may find the following links to our previous trips useful.  Each contains suggestions for packing.

Newport Beach and Oceanside (July 2014) + Metrolink + Hotel

San Francisco and Santa Cruz (May 2015) + Amtrak Coast Starlight + Hotel

Doheny Beach (January 2016) + Metrolink + Camping

Grover Beach (January 2017) + Amtrak Pacific Surfliner + Hotel

We hope that you enjoy reading the above sites packed with the lessons that we have learned evolving over time while learning how to bicycle adventure.  The photos below are of the recent trip to Grover Beach which we just returned from.  Additionally, we hope to see you out on the road on a bicycle vacation.  Have a great day!

Day 1: Waiting for the Amtrak

Day 1: On Board the Amtrak

Day 2: View from our Hotel Balcony

Day 2: Monarch Butterfly Grove (FREE)

Day 3: Bike Ride to Avila Beach (FREE)

Day 3: Bicycle Parking in Hotel Room (FREE)

Day 4: Tour of the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (FREE)

Day 4: Riding San Luis Obispo County Transit ($5 Day Pass)

Day 5: Returning via Amtrak

Day 5: A Beautiful way to End our Vacation

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Vacation Time ... Happy Holidays!!!

Hello Everyone,

  This is Mike.  Since the Holidays are upon us, I am going to take a short vacation.  I know, you are going to miss all of the wonderful content.  I know that a few of you are desperately waiting for an update on "Mike's Mental Awareness" webpage.  Furthermore, those readers who are currently following my interest in demystifying the science behind aging and skin care products in the 'anti-aging' series are eager to move onto more products.  But first, we have yet to discuss the ingredients and a note about their toxicities -- which is coming next.

  With that being said, check back in just after the beginning of the new year.  I hope that each and everyone of the visitors to this site have a great set of holidays.  I look forward to writing soon.

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!

Happy New Year!!!!!!!

Write to you soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Winter Garden Plan

Thinking about the benefits of renting, I always ask myself, "why would I want a bigger yard when there's so much work to do in even a small yard?"  We currently have 1/16th of an acre. Definitely not enough for subsistence farming.  I used a website to map out our current garden layout. (http://www.smallblueprinter.com/garden/planner.html)

Front                                                                       Rear

This year, around my birthday, I built an arbor in the backyard out of some scrap wood and a 4' x 8' reed fence.  I've been moving stuff around back there all year.  I thought it would be a good spot to grow some special plants.  A friend gave me some heirloom seeds and I tried growing them in the backyard because sometimes people steal my plants from the front yard. Due to the drought, it wasn't practical to water them as much as they would have needed, even though I did install a mister system along the arbor.  Maybe I'll use it next year.

To determine what would grow the best (and where in the yard to put it), I took a series of photographs each hour.  This was in response to the new arbor and also to the City of Glendale who came by and chopped down so many branches of the Magnolia tree out in front of our house.  I had lots more veggies out there that didn't survive without Momma Magnolia's dense shade.

Another great thing that happened this year is that I started composting again.  One of my neighbor's plants started spreading a powdery mildew that attacked my garden.  I treated the leaves with dormant oil and baking soda (via spray bottle) then started composting near the original host plant.  It seems like it's coming back healthier than before.  I hope she flowers this spring.

Front Yard Only
I'm not so sure the computer-generated garden plan is more appealing than the hand drawn plan. What do you think?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

2017 Garden Plans

I shared my 2012-2014 gardens here.  In 2015 my garden plans were listed here.  This year, I made some great plans for 2016.  We had a really hot summer, and lots of things sprouted but never bloomed.  Maybe I got too busy, teaching two summer classes simultaneously, and didn't water the garden regularly.  The drought limited our outdoor watering, and the Zika virus scare made water collection impossible.

I can't say the drought is over, but at least Gov. Brown's water restrictions have been partially lifted.  We can now water between 6pm and 9am for 10 minutes on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. There is no time limit for watering by hand, but the three-days-per-week rule still applies.

I don't have automatic sprinklers, and in the past I have used rain barrels as well as greywater reclamation. I got so depressed at the sight of my empty containers in July 2016 that I planted a bunch of colorful pinwheels to look like beautiful flowers, and thought about the best layout for companion planting.  Instead of putting my energy into the outdoors, I did a bunch of online research that may someday be part of a grant proposal for a community garden space.

Then I got the idea to go for drought-tolerant plants.  It would beautify the space, although not produce edible leaves.  I researched cacti.  Then we got a variety of new plants at the Cactus and Succulent Society of America (CSSA) Inter-City Show at the LA County Arboretum.  Some of the recent planting calendars for LA that I've made, together with a "care guide" for the succulents, cacti, and bromeliads I bought are here.

So I bought some new seeds and rearranged the garden layout to start some of them this month.  I don't totally care if things don't work out.  I'll let you know how it goes.

"There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments," ~ J. K. Philips

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Anti-Aging Skin Series Post 6: Short Glossary Of Functions For Skin Care Ingredients

In my last post on the the ingredients in Jergen's Skin Firming Lotion, I listed the ingredients (of which there were 29 in total) in the formulation.  Included in the listing was the primary and secondary function of each ingredient.  My intention with part II was to discuss the function of the ingredients and add insight into the toxicities associated with certain compounds.  As a reminder, this post is number 6 in a series called "Anti-Aging Skin Series" -- which was originally meant to deconstruct an original post located here.

Since the current series was my first attempt at deconstructing the chemicals inside skin care products, I have been oscillating (going back and forth) with a given layout of the series.  No, this is not your fault (the reader).  I am just trying to find a way to simplify the series to illustrate the science behind such products and furthermore the ingredients within.  The ultimate goal is to demystify the scams and myths behind 'anti-aging products' which seems to be growing toward an annual multi-billion dollar industry.

With that being said, to continue with the last post, I got caught up with a few of the ingredients having multiple functionalities listed like "Skin-conditioning agent" or "Absorbent".  This led me to form the glossary below -- which I hope will shed light on the purpose of listing the functions of each chemical ingredients on websites like the "Environmental Working Group" which provide great (and detailed) information to the public.

Glossary Terms:

To start with, I will proceed alphabetically.  I will cover the terms listed as functions in the last post which can be found here.

1) Absorbent:

From "The Free Dictionary.com" -- Absorbent: a substance that is capable of absorbing.

2) Adhesive:

From "wikipedia" for 'Adhesive':

Adhesive may be used interchangeably with glue, cement, mucilage, or paste,[1] and is any substance applied to one surface, or both surfaces, of two separate items that binds them together and resists their separation.[2] Adjectives may be used in conjunction with the word "adhesive" to describe properties based on the substance's physical or chemical form, the type of materials joined, or conditions under which it is applied.[3]
The use of adhesives offers many advantages over binding techniques such as sewing, mechanical fastening, thermal bonding, etc. These include the ability to bind different materials together, to distribute stress more efficiently across the joint, the cost effectiveness of an easily mechanized process, an improvement in aesthetic design, and increased design flexibility. Disadvantages of adhesive use include decreased stability at high temperatures, relative weakness in bonding large objects with a small bonding surface area, and greater difficulty in separating objects during testing.[4] Adhesives are typically organized by the method of adhesion. These are then organized into reactive and non-reactive adhesives, which refers to whether the adhesive chemically reacts in order to harden. Alternatively they can be organized by whether the raw stock is of natural or synthetic origin, or by their starting physical phase.

3) Anti-caking Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for 'Anti-caking Agent':

An anticaking agent is an additive placed in powdered or granulated materials, such as table salt or confectionaries to prevent the formation of lumps (caking) and for easing packaging, transport, and consumption.

Ex: a list of common 'anti-caking agents' (and articles) can be found here.

4)Anti-foaming Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for 'anti-foaming agent':

A defoamer or an anti-foaming agent is a chemical additive that reduces and hinders the formation of foam in industrial process liquids. The terms anti-foam agent and defoamer are often used interchangeably. Commonly used agents are insoluble oils, polydimethylsiloxanes and other silicones, certain alcohols, stearates and glycols. The additive is used to prevent formation of foam or is added to break a foam already formed.

5)Binding Agents:

From the website "Cosmetics and Skin.com" -- Binding Agents: binding agents such as gums, fats, or waxes which hold the product together.

6)Buffering Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for 'buffering agent':

A buffering agent is a weak acid or base used to maintain the acidity (pH) of a solution near a chosen value after the addition of another acid or base. That is, the function of a buffering agent is to prevent a rapid change in pH when acids or bases are added to the solution. Buffering agents have variable properties—some are more soluble than others; some are acidic while others are basic. As pH managers, they are important in many chemical applications, including agriculture, food processing, biochemistry, medicine and photography.


From the website 'Cosmeticsinfo.org' -- Denaturant:

The process adds a small amount of a denaturant to the alcohol to make it taste bad, thus creating  alcohol  that is not suitable for drinking, but is otherwise similar for other purposes.


The definition of an 'Emollient' comes from 'wikipedia' for "Moisturizer":

Moisturizers or emollients are complex mixtures of chemical agents specially designed to make the external layers of the skin (epidermis) softer and more pliable. They increase the skin's hydration (water content) by reducing evaporation. Naturally occurring skin lipids and sterols, as well as artificial or natural oils, humectants, emollients, lubricants, etc., may be part of the composition of commercial skin moisturizers. They usually are available as commercial products for cosmetic and therapeutic uses, but can also be made at home using common pharmacy ingredients.

 The range of properties causes formulation chemists to break down the definition further.  Below is the list of definitions from the website "Chemists Corner" - taken directly from here:

Traditionally, emollients are considered ingredients which have smoothing or softening properties. They are put into formulas to provide moisturizing benefits and support a variety of conditioning claims. There are a number of types which we’ll list below.

Hydrophilic emollients

The term emollient is rather broad so things that are humectants can also be considered emollients. Water soluble ingredients like glycerin, sorbitol, and propylene glycol are all technically emollients. When you need conditioning, this are good ones for your water phase.

Lipophilic emollients

These are ingredients that are not soluble in water and make up the bulk of the available varieties of emollients. The one that you use depends on properties such as polarity, emolliency scores, spreading behavior, compatability with other ingredients, rheological behavior, and hydrolytic stability. This group can further be broken down by grouping them by their polairity.

Non-polar: These are mostly derived from petroleum and include ingredients like mineral oil, Isoparaffin, and Isohexadecane.

Polar: This includes a range of ingredients including materials such as natural oils (Jojoba oil, Olive oil, coconut oil), esters (Octyl Palmitate, Isopropyl stearate, Isopropyl palmitate) and alcohols (Octyl dodecanol).

Silicone fluid emollients

The final group is silicone fluids. They provide incredible levels of slickness and also feel light compared to lipophilic emollients. The most common ones used include Cyclomethicone and dimethicone. There are a number of varieties to choose from and each have different characteristics when it comes to viscosity, volatility, and ease of formulation.

9) Emulsifying Agent:

From the "UNC School of Pharmacy" -- Emulsifying Agent:

Emulsions are stabilized by adding an emulsifier or emulsifying agents. These agents have both a hydrophilic and a lipophilic part in their chemical structure. All emulsifying agents concentrate at and are adsorbed onto the oil:water interface to provide a protective barrier around the dispersed droplets. In addition to this protective barrier, emulsifiers stabilize the emulsion by reducing the interfacial tension of the system. Some agents enhance stability by imparting a charge on the droplet surface thus reducing the physical contact between the droplets and decreasing the potential for coalescence. Some commonly used emulsifying agents include tragacanth, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium dioctyl sulfosuccinate, and polymers known as the Spans® and Tweens®.

Emulsifying agents can be classified according to: 1) chemical structure; or 2) mechanism of action. Classes according to chemical structure are synthetic, natural, finely dispersed solids, and auxiliary agents. Classes according to mechanism of action are monomolecular, multimolecular, and solid particle films. Regardless of their classification, all emulsifying agents must be chemically stable in the system, inert and chemically non-reactive with other emulsion components, and nontoxic and nonirritant. They should also be reasonably odorless and not cost prohibitive.

10) Emulsion Stabilizing Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for 'emulsion stabilization using polyelectrolytes':

Polyelectrolytes are charged polymers capable of stabilizing (or destabilizing) colloidal emulsions through electrostatic interactions. Their effectiveness can be dependent on molecular weight, pH, solvent polarity, ionic strength, and the hydrophilic-lipophilic balance (HLB). Stabilized emulsions are useful in many industrial processes, including deflocculation, drug delivery, petroleum waste treatment, and food technology.

11) Foam Boosting Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for 'foam boosting agent':

A foaming agent is a material that facilitates formation of foam such as a surfactant or a blowing agent. A surfactant, when present in small amounts, reduces surface tension of a liquid (reduces the work needed to create the foam) or increases its colloidal stability by inhibiting coalescence of bubbles.[1] A blowing agent is a gas that forms the gaseous part of the foam.

12) Film Forming Agent:

From 'Paula's Choice Skincare' for 'film-forming agents':

Large group of ingredients typically found in haircare products, but that also are widely used in skincare products, particularly moisturizers. Film-forming agents include PVP, acrylates, acrylamides, methacrylates, and various copolymers. When applied they leave a pliable, cohesive, and continuous covering over the hair or skin. The film has water-binding properties and leaves a smooth feel on skin. Film-forming agents can be weak skin sensitizers, but this almost always depends on the amount used; lower amounts generally are not problematic.

Additional definition -- 'wikipedia'

13) Humectant:

From 'Wikipedia' for 'humectant':

A humectant /hjuːˈmɛktənt/ is a hygroscopic substance used to keep things moist; it is the opposite of a desiccant. It is often a molecule with several hydrophilic groups, most often hydroxyl groups; however, amines and carboxyl groups, sometimes esterified, can be encountered as well (its affinity to form hydrogen bonds with molecules of water is the crucial trait). They are used in many products, including food, cosmetics, medicines and pesticides.
A humectant attracts and retains the moisture in the air nearby via absorption, drawing the water vapor into or beneath the organism's or object's surface.[1][2] By contrast, desiccants also attract ambient moisture, but adsorb—not absorb—it, by condensing the water vapor onto the surface, as a layer of film.[3]
When used as a food additive, a humectant has the effect of keeping the foodstuff moist.[4]
Humectants are sometimes used as a component of antistatic coatings for plastics.
In pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, humectants can be used in topical dosage forms to increase the solubility of a chemical compound's active ingredients, increasing the active ingredients' ability to penetrate skin, or its activity time. This hydrating property can also be needed to counteract a dehydrating active ingredient (e.g., soaps, corticoids, and some alcohols), which is why humectants are common ingredients in a wide range of cosmetic and personal care products that make moisturization claims (e.g., hair conditioners, body lotions, face or body cleansers, lip balms, and eye creams).

14) Masking Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for 'masking agent':

A masking agent is a reagent used in chemical analysis which reacts with chemical species that may interfere in the analysis. In sports a masking agent is used to hide or prevent detection of a banned substance or illegal drug like anabolic steroids or stimulants.


--FDA : labeling cosmetics

--List of masking agents - 'thegoodscentscompany'

--Warnings: 'naturalcosmeticsnews'

15) Occlusive Agent:

From the website "ChemistsCorner" - Occlusive Agent:

Occlusive agents increase moisture levels by providing a physical barrier to epidermal water loss. Ingredients with occlusive properties include petrolatum, waxes, oils, and silicones. Some occlusive agents like petrolatum can leave a heavy feel so they are often combined with other ingredients, like emollients, to improve consumer appeal.

Additional resources: here and here

16) Opacifying Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for Opacifier:

An opacifier is a substance added to a material in order to make the ensuing system opaque. An example of a chemical opacifier is titanium dioxide (TiO2), which is used to opacify ceramic glazes and milk glass; bone ash is also used. Opacifiers must have a refractive index (RI) substantially different from the system.

17) Refatting Agent:

From the website 'wiktionary' - Refatting Agent: The replenishment of lipids to the skin.

18) Skin-conditioning Agent:

From the website "MiMi beauty" - Skin Conditioning Agent:

A skin conditioning agent and an essential fatty acid that helps maintain optimal skin health and function.  Lipid Organic products found in living systems that are insoluble in water, like fats. Cell membranes are made of lipids.

Additional resources: ChemistsCorner

19) Skin Protecting Agent (skin protectant):

From the website 'Walgreens' for Skin Protectants:

Remedy Dimethicone Skin Protectant provides a breathable barrier that protects against moisture. Also protects and helps relieve chapped or cracked skin. Protects against moisture loss. This product is equally intended for use as a long-lasting moisturizer.

20) Surfactant:

From 'wikipedia' for Surfactant:

Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension (or interfacial tension) between two liquids or between a liquid and a solid. Surfactants may act as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, and dispersants.

21) Surfactant-Solubilizing Agent:

See 'wikipedia' page for 'Surfactant'.


As you can see above, the functions are clarified by listing the definition of each.  Although, there are some glossary terms that refer to multiple terms in the glossary itself.  One example is a 'skin conditioning agent' -- an emollient, etc.  We need to think critically about the purpose of having the ingredient inside of the formulation.

Furthermore, listed above are the functions of the ingredients.  Lots of information have been left out.  One important piece is the relative concentration of each chemical.  Some companies do not list concentration to avoid duplication of their marketed project.  In the next post, we will return to the last post and look further into the lotion "Jergen's Skin firming" lotion in more detail.

Until then, Have a great day.