Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Fluoride in Water

Tap water in developed countries are 100% safe to drink but is it really?

Fluoride in water supply was introduced in the 1940s. Experts back then believed that fluoride needed to be swollowed to fight tooth decay which is why fluoride is added to water supply.

In the United States, fluoride is added to the water supply to fight tooth decay. New Zealand, Australia, Israel and Ireland use fluoridation while all the other developed countries do not use fluoridation. The United States used fluoride in their drinking water more than the rest of the world combined and saw the decline in tooth dacay in the past 60 years. However, this decline has occured in countries that don't have fluoride in their drinking water. Studies done by the WHO found little difference in tooth decay problems between countries that do and countries that do not use fluoridation in water. Fluoride has been classified as a drug and Europe sees fluoridation as unsuitable. 97% of Western Europe used drinking water that has no fluoride.

The National Research Council reported that fluoridation in water causes problems with the blood sugar levels, brain, bones, pineal gland and thyroid gland. The report stated that lowered IQ, dementia, bone disorders and diabetes can occur with infants and elderly being the most vulnerable. For infants, fluoride in baby milk creates tooth decay and lower IQ.

Supporters of fluoridation stated that fluoride is natural and found in the water supply. Environment Canada released a report stating that the amount of fluoride found in lakes and rivers is <0.1 PPM compared to 0.7 to 1.2 PPM added to drinking water. Other toxic substances like arsenic and lithium are found in natural waters. If you put sea animals into tap water with fluoride, animals like salmons and frogs would suffer from shorter life spans, bone problems and behavour changes.

Because the United States uses alot of fluoridation in water, 40% of American teenagers are over exposed to fluoride and therefore have dental fluorosis which is white spots and streaks including brown stains and tooth erosion. Fluoride does not only exists in water but also toothpastes, food and beverages. Because water is already has fluoride, it mixes or added into the production of food and beverages. Teflon pans, tea, pesticides and pharmacy pills also have fluoride.

For people from poverty, fluoride can be dangerous whereas a person from a developed country only has tooth decay. Supporters say that fluoridated water can compensate for the lack of dentists. This however caused poor people to have larger dental fluorosis and greater damage to the brain. Kidney disease, poor nutrition, higher exposure to lead and fluoride. Dialysis patients had been at risk of bone damage due to fluoridated water given to them.

With the lack of access to dental care and the water supply being fluoridated for over 50 years, what kind of future will the United States be seeing?

Monday, 1 April 2013

Barista 101

When seeing people make coffee at cafes like Starbucks, you think its just an easy job of making a hot drink. But is it really? Lets go through the equipment and it's usage.

Grinder



A machine used to grind coffee beans into powder. The top of the machine is called a hopper which stores the coffee beans. The grind regulator under the hopper is not recommended to play with as a small ajustment to it will make the coffee powder too fine/course causing bad coffee. Once the coffee beans are grinded, the powder goes into the dispenser (doser/dosing chamber) which goes into a group handle during service. It is highly recommended to put the right amount of beans and grind the right amount required per order as grinded powder has a life of 15 minutes of quality. The beans and powder left in the grinder are exposed to oxygen and end up losing it's flavours. The beans MUST BE sealed tight and stored in a cool dry place or fridge. To check the beans' quality, check the expiry date, oily feel, fresh flavoury smell and appearance. At the end of service, the beans and grinds left in the grinder must be thrown away as it is already oxidised. The whole machine must be cleaned as the beans and powder leave behind oil and if not cleaned; becomes rancid and ruins future coffee being made causing the coffee's crema to look pale.

Espresso machine



A water boiler that presses boiling water through the coffee grinds from the group head to the group handle. There are keypads that enable features like single/double shots, two cup single/double shots, infinite mode or a water tap. The steam wand is attached on either ends of the machine which steams and froths the milk using the stainless steel milk jug. At the end of service, the blind filter can be used to trap the boiling water inside to clean any coffee residue and oils. A small amount of detergent can be used for improved cleaning but must be rinsed and new coffee shots must be tested to check any detergent taste present. The espresso machine must be left on so it is ready to use at a moment's notice and cups are placed on top of the machine to keep warm and prevent new coffee from being cold.

Process

Grinding

First turn on the grinder machine and place the group handle under the dosing chamber. Pull the dosing chamber's lever to allow the powder fall onto the group handle's portafilter and let it overflow a little bit. Place the group handle on top of the doing chamber and use the dosing chamber's lid to level the powder while all excess powder falls back into the chamber. Do this twice to ensure you have enough powder. Use a tamper to compress the powder and do this with your body weight with your hand under the elbow. Tamp evenly or under/over extraction will occur. By doing this, arm strength is not needed otherwise the arm will get tired and later won't be able to produce good coffees. Also remove any loose grinds off the group head's rim.



Extracting coffee 

Place the group handle under the group head. Most coffees run on single shot (30ml) while Long black runs on double shot. Place the approptiate cup underneath for the coffee you want to make. If the customer wants sugar, put the right amount of sugar into the cup first and as the coffee flows in, the sugar will dissolve. At the start of extraction, the first 7 seconds has no liquid coming out as the boiling water is trying to force it's way through (so don't panic!). After that, a caramel/black liquid will start flowing steadily. This overall process takes 25-30 seconds with making a single shot coffee and at the end, a crema (golden brown liquid) is produced. The thicker the crema; the better. The short and long blacks only require espresso and not milk. The short black requires a small demitasse cup / small shot glass of 30ml espresso while the long black uses a tulip coffee cup with half boiling water and 60ml of espresso. These two are the base drinks of coffee. After making the coffee, take the group handle out and dump the used powder into the dump tube. After, use the machine to clean portafilter fully before placing it back into the group head. If not cleaned, the oil and residue will become rancid and will ruin future coffee being made.



Easier said than done, errors can occur when making coffee. Under/over extraction can occur, so what are they? Under extraction can occur if the powder is too coarse which causes the boiling water to pass through quickly and not able to extract all the oil and flavours. This is seen when light liquid starts flowing out quickly below seven seconds. Over extraction occurs when the powder is too fine and water passes through too slowly causing liquid to drip slowly. Because the boiling water is left inside the portafilter for too long, burnt dark coffee is produced with a very bad taste.

Aerating milk



The milk used in coffee must be cold, fresh and not expired. The steam wand is used to heat up, areate and stretch the milk to double or triple it's volume. Remember to purge / turn on the steam wand to make sure there are no water or foreign substances go into the milk. For one cup of coffee, fill the clean stainless steel milkjug with 1/3 full of milk. Place the wand inside the milk at an angle, not straight down. By placing at an angle, the steam will hit the milk jug's curvy corner and reflect everywhere around the jug making a whirlpool or able to heat the entire milk. If the steam wand is too deep, a screeching sound occurs causing milk to be only heated and not aerated making it less foamy. In this case, lower the jug to make the steam wand come up closer to the surface. A sucking sound must be heard and as the milk rises, a steady bubble sound must be heard. If the steam wand is too close to the surface, it will cause the milk to make big bubbles, splatter and cause a mess. Turn off the steam wand when the stretched milk reaches the top of the jug. Every time after using the steam wand, always wipe it with a damp cloth to prevent any milk residue from sticking as the hot steam wand starts cooking the milk's calcium. After aerating the milk, use a spoon to scoop out the big and excess bubbles. With small bubbles remaining, bang the jug on the table or swirl the jug in a small circle to get rid of the small bubbles and have shiny glossy foam. To check if the milk is hot enough, use a temperature probe or if the jug is too hot to touch, then it is ready. The standard temperature is 65-70°C. If below, it is just a warm/temid drink but if above, will not only be too hot but also destroy some coffee flavours.

Pouring the milk depends on the coffee. Cappuccino and cafe mocha requires 1/3 milk and 1/3 foam so pour from the side of the milk jug. Pour quickly so both the milk and foam will come at the same time. The flat white and latte requires mostly milk and a little layer of foam so pour through the jug's sprout. In this way, the milk will mostly go through as it is heavier while the light foam will come in last.

Remember to pour quick otherwise more milk will be poured with less foam. Another way to pour milk for a cappuccino is to place the jug's spout close to the coffee by placing the cup on an angle (like pouring a beer). Pour the milk through the spout and eventually put the cup upright when pouring is done. Pull the jug higher for more milk as it falls faster in gravity than foam.

Other information

The cups for each coffee varies as every cafe/establishment is different. Normally, the flat white, cappuccino and cafe mocha are in a standard 150ml cup while the latte is on a latte/rocks glass. If a customer wants a large coffee, use a large coffee glass with double shot espresso.

Whan making the cafe mocha, first put chocolate powder and a little bit of boiling water on the cup to form a paste and after putting in a shot of coffee, stir it to prevent the chocolate from sticking from the bottom and to ensure the coffee and chocolate paste is fully mixed before putting in the milk. There is another method which is putting chocolate powder in the cup and mix with the espresso. Another method is to do a shot of espresso and top with chocolate milk.

A good iced coffee requires good flavour especially during a hot summer vacation. Fill a Hurricane glass with ice and trim milk and double shot espresso. Use a straw to stir and add whip cream on top. The reason is because trim milk allows the espresso expose more flavour and the double shot espresso is to guarantee a good coffee flavour otherwise you're left with a big glass of iced milk. Put chocolate powder and/or a couple of coffee beans on the whip cream as garnish.

Iced chocolate on a Hurracane glass has different methods. Put chocolate sauce around the glass and put ice in. Pour in milk while mixing water and chocolate power to make a paste. Pour the chocolate paste into the glass and use a straw to stir. Another method can be mixing a chocolate powder and milk in a milk jug and mixing it by heating with a steam wand. Be careful not to make it too hot and pour the warm chocolate milk into the glass. Another method can be putting chocolate powder and water first to make a paste. Then add milk and stir. No matter the method, Always finish with whip cream on top and chocolate powder and/or marshmellows on the cream as garnish.

For hot chocolate, you can mix chocolate powder and water to make a paste and pour aerated milk. This is done when people want to make patterns by pouring milk. Be careful not to put too much water or there will be a watery taste. Another method is to put chocolate powder in a jug full of milk, aerate it and pour into the cup.




Friday, 1 March 2013

Battlefield 3 Premium

Battlefield Premium is a one off payment expansion pack with all downloadable content like maps, new weapons and dogtags.



Battlefield Premium has a one off payment of $49.99 to $69.99 (depending on currency) while individual map packs cost $15 to $25 (depending on currency). There are five map packs. Call of Duty Elite has a yearly subscription fee of $49.99 while individual map packs cost $15 (Again, all depending on currency). Call of Duty map packs are released monthly for the next nine months after the release of the game. 

The first Battlefield 3 map pack was "Back to Karkand" released in December 2011. It featured four old legendary maps from Battlefield 2 = Karkand, Gulf of Oman, Wake Island and Sharqi Peninsula. They were based on voters' choice and have been redesigned with the Frostbite 2 engine. The assignments has ten new weapons with 8 guns designed for a specific class while 2 guns are for all classes. There are new vehicles like armoured personnel carriers, F-35B fighters and buggy jeeps. A new game mode was introduced called 'Conquest Assault' which one team will have a base while the other can only spawn on captured areas or squadmates.During Battlefield 3's development, DICE had a seperate team to develop this expansion pack.

"Close Quarters" is the second expansion pack released on June 2012 featured infantry only close quarter combat similar to Call of Duty's multiplayer. It's 4 maps are Operation 925, Scrapmetal, Ziba Tower and Donya Fortress. It has enhanced destruction as the walls are made of plaster and light wood enabling players to shoot through walls. The assignments also featured ten new guns with most designed for close quarters while others can be unlocked and used in the base game. It's new gamemodes is Conquest Domination and Gunmaster. 'Conquest Domination' is when there are three point flags around the map to capture and hold; very similar to Call of Duty's Domination gamemode. 'Gunmaster' is where every player starts with a handgun and advances to the next weapons after scoring a number of kills. A player is demoted to the previous gun if being a victim to a knife takedown. The weapons used in gunmaster can vary depending on the server admin's choice.

Third expansion pack is "Armored Kill" which is focused on all-out vehicle action released on September 2012. Its four maps are Alborz Mountains (mountainous snow map), Armored Shield, Death Valley and Bandar Desert which is the largest map in Battlefield history. The assignments are perks for the tank destroyers and mobile artillery like extinguisher for tank destroyers or anti-air missile for the mobile artillery. Both tank destroyers (2S25 Sprut / M1128) and mobile artillery (M142 HIMARS / BM-21) are the new vehicles appearing in the map pack. The AC-130 gunship will also appear to provide air support with a particular point flag needed to be captured in order to use it. With two players on board, it is equiped with the M102 cannon, GAU-12 25mm cannon and both players can use the two anti-aircraft guns to repel any enemy helicopters and jets. Gunship parajump is a mobile spawn point to allow players to spawn and jump from the gunship to paracute.'Tank superiority' is a new gamemode where there is only one objective in the middle of the map with both sides having plenty of vehicles with life tickets like Conquest mode.

The fourth expansion pack is "Aftermath" released in December 2012, is a post-earthquake Tehran and is loosely based on the single player campaign. Its four maps is Epicentre, Markaz Monolith, Talah Market, Azadi Palace. The assignments feature new dogtags and the all new crossbow and it's unlocks like scanbolt, explosive bolt and scope. The game was modified for the post earthquake environments which meant soldiers in the game look devistated from the quake with minor injuries and lost helmets and vehicles like the humvee looking like they were built from scrap. A new gamemode introduced in Aftermath is 'Scavenger' where every player starts with a handgun and a grenade. Weapons lie everywhere around the map with light weapons (Personal defence weapons) located in safe areas while more powerful weapons (LMGs and sniper rifles) are located in areas where the player is exposed to the enemy.

The fifth and last expansion pack is "Endgame" releasing in March 2012. It's four maps are Kiasar Railroad, Nebandan Flats, Operation Riverside and Sabalan Pipeline. It will feature new vehicles including motorbikes and rocket launchers from Humvees. 'Capture the flag' and 'Air superiority' are the new gamemodes introduced in the expansion map.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Best vs Best

On 14 February 1939, the battleship Bismarck was unveiled and media reported that the ship was 35,000 tonnes which was the limit under the Treaty of Versailles that Germany had to follow. The ship was actually 50,000 tonnes. Because of her size, the Bismarck was considered a "he" instead of a "she". The Bismarck was not only the largest warship in the Nazi German navy, but also named after Otto von Bismarck who united all German states under one empire during the 19th century. Hitler promised that war against the British would not happen until 1945 which is when the Navy is ready in full force. When World War Two broke out, the German Navy was unprepared and outnumbered by the British Royal Navy. The German Navy had to think about maneuver tactics and had the task to destroy merchant ships heading to Britain in an effort to starve them.

Hitler did not like the idea of destroying merchant ships heading to Britain as he was afraid that losing warships meant losing prestige. He told an admiral that he was a hero on land but a coawrd at sea. Hitler thought he knew everything about ground war as he fought in World War One. He left the Luftwaffe to his trusted deputy Hermann Goring but had no understanding of the Navy and its structure.

Operation Rheinuburg (Exercise Rhine) was a three month mission to strike merchant ships at the Atlantic. Warships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were under repair after being attacked by the RAF and Bismarck's sister ship Tirpitz was still under construction. Only the Bismarck and cruiser Prinz Eugen were sent but were outnumbered by the Royal Navy. The two ships left in secrecy and even the crew did not know until the the ships set sail. Admiral Gunther Lutjens commanded the two ships while Captain Ernst Lindermann commanded the Bismarck under Lutjens' authority.

When Hitler visited the Bismarck, an admiral was deliberately absent to avoid the possibility of getting Hitler's disapproval for Exercise Rhine to commence. The ships set sail and were spotted by the Norwegian resistance at the Norwegian coast and a Swedish crusier but continued to a naval base in Norway. During their stay at Norway, Prinz Eugen topped up it's fuel while the Bismarck had paintings on the haul to camouflage itself and its size. The sighting led to a Royal Navy captain in Stockholm to send a message back to Britain. An RAF spitfire came in and saw the ships at port and escaped after the port raised the alarm. The Royal Navy sent ships to intercept the Bismarck before it disappeared into the Atlantic. All possible escape routes like the Denmark Strait, North Sea, North Atlantic Sea and the English Channel were blocked. The Bismarck sailed in the Denmark Strait when HMS Norfolk and HMS Suffolk saw spotted it but were told to hold back as the two did not have the firepower to take on the Bismarck. The Bismarck opened fire on the two ships but the recoil of the guns knocked the ship's radar out of action so Prinz Eugin had to take the lead. Hitler was disappointed by the ships' deployment and wanted them back but was too late.

As the Bismarck sailed south, HMS Hood accompanied by HMS Prince of Wales tried to intercept them. The HMS Hood, built in 1920, was the pride of the Royal Navy as it was not only the biggest but most powerful in it's fleet. The battle between the Bismarck and HMS Hood was a battle between the pride of the German Navy and the Royal Navy. The plan was for the Hood and Prince of Wales to block the German ships' path meaning that they can use all it's guns while the Germans can only use it's front guns. The Norfolk and Suffolk lost contact of the Bismarck and after recalculating it's position, the Hood and Prince of Wales came too late meaning that the Bismarck and Prinz Eugin accidently had the tactical advantage of having all it's guns facing the British who can only use it's front guns. The Hood was already in action stations for hours while the Bismarck sounded the alarm after spotting the Hood. The Bismarck crew were suprised they were taking on the Hood.

The Hood and Prince of Wales opened the first shots at Prinz Eugen. Litjens refused to return fire following strict orders not to engage warships. Lindermann was frustrated saying "I will not have my ship shot out from under my ass" and ordered the Bismarck to open fire. It's first and second salvo fell short but the third scored a direct hit on the Hood exploding anti aircraft amunitions. Flames erupted and the compass tower was hit by the Bismarck's fourth salvo. The Hood turned left so it could use all its guns but took another direct hit in the main magazine causing a massive explosion. The Hood exploded in half and sank. It's forward guns fired in anger before sinking into the water. There were only three survivors on board the Hood who were being thrown up to the surface by the ship's exploding boilers. The Hood sank 8 minutes into the battle and the Prince of Wales steered hard to avoid the wreckage. The HMS Prince of Wales was only three weeks into service prior and still had civilian contractors on board at the time of the battle. It's guns were malfunctioning and the ship had no experience in combat. The ship retreated after taking 17 hits while Litjens continued his patrol rather than chasing the lone British ship. The Bismarck crew were horrified at the sinking of the Hood fearing that they could be next.

The Bismarck had suffered 3 damaging hits from the Prince of Wales and suffered ruptures in fuel tanks and flooding water in the front compartment. The Bismarck sailed to German occupied France for repairs while Prinz Eugen broke away. The British were devestated by the lost of Hood and deployed all ships to find the Bismarck. The Prince of Wales, Norfolk and Suffolk followed from the South, Admiral Tovey on the King George V and it's fleet followed from the east while Force H followed from the south. HMS Victorious sent Swordfish torpedo bombers to strike the Bismarck. The swordfish was considered old and outdated and gained the nickname "String bag". It only had one torpedo so they had to make their shot count. Eight swordfish planes attacked the Bismarck at the altitude of 200 feet and all but one made a direct hit. The direct hit caused shockwave with a Bismarck crewmember thrown to his death toward a plane catapult. It was the ship's first fatality. Royal Navy ships were following in a zigzag to prevent U boats from striking but their zig zag tactics caused the Bismarck to outmeneuver by turning around as the British headed south and after, headed west for France.

The Bismarck disappeared so a British leased American PBY Catalina with an American co-pilot later spoted them and retreated after taking heavy fire. The Catalina crew were hailed as heroes when the came back. 15 Swordfish planes came in for a second airstrike. They lost their suprise when it ran into a US coast guard cutter and the Bismarck opened fire. The Bismarck's stern was ripped by a torpedo so the ship's rudders were broken and unable to maneuver. In both airstrikes by the swordfish torpedo bombers, none of them were hit by the Bismarck's guns because the guns could not be directed slow enough.

The Royal Navy surrounded the Bismarck with King George V and Rodney at the west, Nolfolk at the north and the Dorsetshire at the east. The Royal Navy opened fire with Rodney being the first to hit and destroy the Bismarck's front gun turrets. King George V's guns hit the Bismarck's gunnery control centre while the Norfolk struck the fire control tower. After taking so many hits, the Bismarck had wounded crew on deck dying with legs or arms missing from explosion. The Dorsetshire fired it's torpedoes but at the same time, the Bismarck scuttled itself so the ship's sinking is debated. 115 crewmembers survived and rescued out of the 2200 crew.

After the Bismarck's sinking, the Japanese showed that planes and aircraft carriers are the new weapons of naval warfare during the attack on Pearl Harbor ending the battleship era.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Fiscal Cliff

Fiscal cliff is a series of tax increases and budget cuts. It has been on all over the news as both Republicains and Democrats tried to stop it from happening. So what is it really?

When George W Bush was president, he introduced tax cuts ("Bush tax cuts"), meaning more money in the pocket and happy people. They are set to expire on 2013. In 2011, the US debt ceiling was raised and with a current $16 trillion debt, the US government agreed to cut $1.2 trillion to compensate for the current budget deficit over the next decade. With the tax cuts expiring and government spending reduced, government department workers will have less pay or be made reduntant while people are having higher taxes. This will cause less spending and the US economy is set to fall like a cliff which is why it's called a fiscal cliff. To think that the US is already in recession, the fiscal cliff will cause the US to go into deeper recession with the budget cutting 50% of government programs and 50% of defence. This will also cause a loss of a million jobs over the next two years.

The fiscal cliff was caused by the House of Representatives (Republican majority) to not allow the debt ceiling to go any higher without any agreement to cut any spending in mid 2011.

The Democrats wanted to extend tax cuts to all Americans except the wealthy. The Republicans wanted tax cuts extended to all Americans and claimed that the Democrats are heavily taxing the wealthy who are providing jobs. President Obama has cut short his holiday to Hawaii to try to solve this problem. The Senate (Democrat majority) had passed it's proposal but the House of Representatives (Republican majority) are holding their ground prevent President Obama from passing his proposal to stop the fiscal cliff. Both sides must agree on a compromise to prevent the fiscal cliff from automatically happening in 1 January 2013 (NZ time).