Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Water: the road to recovery for chronic heart failure patients

After people have chronic heart failure (CHF) they are usually advised to start or resume an exercise program. That helps, but so does water. Not the drinking water, but warm water.

Researcher Julie Adsett at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital conducted a study in 2013 on CHF patients and quality of life. Specialized exercise programs are often conducted in hospital gymnasiums for people as a means of convalescing. It was noted that exercise was difficult for people with muscle and joint pain, or balance problems. For these people, they were less inclined to exercise.

But when people exercised in warm water – in the hospital swimming hydrotherapy pool or other indoor pool – they received the same benefits as people doing land-based exercises. Water-based exercises can improve fitness, strength and balance in a group of patients with stable CHF. Warm water can help to regulate blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperature. For some, water-based exercises suited them more than gym work or walking, and they were less reticent about continuing a regular exercise routine.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Revelations of a Lady Detective by William Stephens Hayward: book review

Revelations of a Lady Detective (1864, reprinted 2013) was the second time in literature that the female protagonist was a professional detective (six months after the first fictional female sleuth). She – readers only know her as Mrs. Paschal – pre-dates the iconic Sherlock Holmes. Like the Sherlock books, WS Hayward (1835-1870) sets his fictional novel in London. It was 20 years later when the third female detective character was in print. Hence this is both a story and a retrospective glimpse of a genre in which there are few leading female characters.

What do we know of this well-experienced lady detective, Mrs. Paschal? She is “verging on 40” and “rarely acts before she thinks.” Not much else. The novel presents 10 cases – they are all brief and easily solved by the readers. Her unexpected presence as she solves crimes is rationalized in phrases such as “a woman is more likely to be successful in a thing of this sort, because men are thrown off their guard when they see a petticoat.”

There are no high-tech devices or in-depth forensics, nor a myriad of disguises. Neither does she (or the author) know their physics! Mrs. Paschal solves crimes the “old fashioned” way – through surveillance, observation, eavesdropping, police files, clues, infiltration, and working in situ (after applying for employment to be close to the scene of the crime – with no disguise except for a work uniform, if required).

The cases include robbery, forgery, a jewellery heist, and mistaken identity. But she does tackle murders too, such as the drowning of the “pretty shop girl” Laura Harwell.

One case, The Mysterious Countess, has the detective infiltrating the 25-year-old aristocrat’s home, employed as the third lady’s maid, on request of the London police to determine how she gained great wealth. Surprised that a man exited the room she had just been in (and had not seen him), she follows him right into an underground vault. Who is this midnight robber? The case of the Stolen Letters has the lady detective undercover in a post office, eventually following a man to his home where “the domestic hearth is something like wine. It shows men in their true characters.”

The Nun, the Will, and the Abbess is the case of a mother deciding, on the advice of Father Romaine when her daughter was but two years old, that at eighteen she would “retire from the world” and enter a convent. But the girl’s nineteen-year-old cousin, Alfred, fell in love with her and she reciprocated. The only way to marry her was to ask permission of her mother, or Father Romaine. On the “fatal” day, Alfred visited the chapel to witness Evelyn St. Vincent taking her vows. He watched as she fainted and was carried away. When Alfred went to the police, he was told it was “just the case for a Lady Detective” and so Mrs. Paschal became a noviciate in the convent to solve the case of Evelyn’s death.

Written in the first person, the writing often slips unelegantly into the third person. And the short cases don’t build suspense or engage the wit of the reader. For the linguists, there are quaint phrases, such as “When, ho! For the night mail, north.” But for the curious, the style is easy and light for reading on the train.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Iraq may be strong contenders in the 2015 AFC Asia Cup in Australia

On Tuesday January 20, Iraq defeated Palestine (2-0) to gain second spot in Group D of the AFC Asia Cup in Australia. This means Iraq meets Iran in the quarter-final on Friday January 23 at Canberra Stadium. A win by Iraq would make them strong contenders to take the winning spot in the whole Asia Cup competition.

The other quarter-final matches will be Korea v Uzbekistan tonight, January 22, in Melbourne; China v Australia tonight, January 22, in Brisbane; and Japan v United Arab Emirates on Friday January 23 in Sydney.

I first encountered the Iraq team – the Lions of Mesopotamia – in Baghdad in 2004. Iraq entered the 2007 Asia Cup as the Group E winner and went on to win the Asia Cup by defeating Saudi Arabia (1-0). So Iraq will be hoping to emulate their 2007 win. But first they must defeat Iran on Friday to get to the semi-finals.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Vivienne Westwood by Vivienne Westwood and Ian Kelly: book review

Vivienne Westwood (2014) is part memoir and part biography of the British icon of fashion. It is not really “co-written” by Westwood – it is more “as spoken to Kelly” because her words are in quotations. But they are extensive. Kelly adds detailed commentaries and summaries of her conversations with him. In addition there are lengthy quotations from associates, her brother Gordon, her two sons Ben (from her first husband Derek Westwood) and Joe (from her second relationship with Malcom McLaren). For some readers this may detract from the flow, but I found it okay except for a few times when I had to check who was making the comments.

The book commences with the 2014 Paris week before starting from the beginning (1941) – from then onwards it is a chronological memoir. It sets the scene of the early 1960s at a time when her first husband briefly managed musicians before most were famous, such as The Who, John Lennon, and Eric Clapton – all emerged from art schools, as Vivienne did. It was a time of the “crossover from art to music and from graphics to sales and marketing … into running businesses that fused pop iconography, fashion, music, and happenings.”

After a brief marriage to Derek, it was her relationship with Malcolm McLaren (her brother’s friend) to 1979 that was intrinsic to her fame. McLaren, the provocative British musician, artist, and band manager of Sex Pistols, brought anarchy, radicalism, and “a restive atmosphere” to Westwood. The volatile relationship also brought a “safe island of creative complicity.” Hence Westwood’s punk period began, as did their iconic shop at 430 Kings Road, “the epicentre of a global fashion revolution.” It was where they reinvented and rebranded fashion, starting with embellishments, slogans, and graphics on T-shirts.

The book details the shop, the clothes, the cuttings, the designs, the partnerships, the journey, the “power to disturb” and the “politicization of clothing.” While many viewed it as the “sexually ambiguous fusion of world-worn … razor-sharp mod, threatening rocker … and safety pins” others viewed it as “degenerate, puerile and willfully ugly.” The book continues with the business, the expansions, the designing, and the making of the fashion.

Vivienne Westwood, the maverick ideas person, was on her own from 1982. While her designs were having a wider impact she “needed to find better, faster and more responsive manufacturers.” During her Italian period she added her name to her designs, and a logo. Her dictum was now, “the more creative you are the more you need a structure.” She moved into her collections and high culture period, as well as human and ecological activism.

The book concludes with her relationship with her husband, designer, and creative partner Andreas Kronthaler, twenty-five years her junior. It tells of their first meeting in 1989 when she was 48 and he was her 23-year-old student. Kronthaler gives a detailed account of his impression the very second he saw her. The rest is history.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

2015 Asia Cup: China to play North Korea at Canberra Stadium tonight

Tonight, January 18, 2015, China plays North Korea in the 2015 AFC Asia Cup being played in cities across Australia. The Canberra Stadium in the capital of Australia will host China PR and DPR North Korea for the night game.

Group B winners of the Asia Cup, China, are aiming for their third consecutive win, while DPR Korea has already been eliminated. To get to this stage China beat Saudi Arabia (1-0) and Uzbekistan (2-1). North Korea’s scores were with Uzbekistan (0-1) and Saudi Arabia (1-4). Saudia Arabia and Uzbekistan will play each other in Melbourne. 

The China v Korea game is expected to draw a large crowd this evening because both sides have very ardent fans – 18,000 tickets have already been sold. The capacity of the stadium is 25,000. China will be keen to gain the perfect nine points – which will be the first time in a major tournament. North Korea will be keen to win a match.

For the remaining groups in the 2015 Asia Cup Australia – Korea Republic (South Korea) gained a perfect nine points in Group A (beating Australia last night) while Japan won Group C. The United Arab Emirates will play Iran on Monday evening (January 19) to determine Group B’s winner.

Australia will now play China in the quarter-finals on Thursday evening (January 22) at Brisbane Stadium.