How to spell Hanukkah 2011

Hanukkah (חֲנֻכָּה) started at sundown on Tuesday, December 20th, 2011. This year’s data was collected the following morning.

  1. Hanukkah: 20,800,000 hits.
  2. Chanukah: 6,820,000 hits.
  3. Hannukah: 1,860,000 hits.
  4. Hanukah: 1,560,000 hits.
  5. Chanukkah: 568,000 hits.
  6. Chanuka: 388,000 hits.
  7. Hanukka: 375,000 hits.
  8. Channukah: 306,000 hits.
  9. Hanuka: 215,000 hits.
  10. Hannuka: 104,000 hits.
  11. Hannukkah: 97,400 hits.
  12. Chanukka: 72,300 hits.
  13. Channuka: 57,200 hits.
  14. Hannukka: 38,300 hits.
  15. Xanuka: 31,900 hits.
  16. Chanuqa: 27,700 hits.
  17. Channukka: 19,700 hits.
  18. Janukah: 14,200 hits.
  19. Janukkah: 12,700 hits.
  20. Channukkah: 8,530 hits.

Instead the spaghetti graph from previous years, I’ve switched to a stacked area chart. This shows total hits and gives a quick visual sense of how each spelling is distributed. Prettier AND more meaningful!

Bing was used to generate the numbers this year, collecting the data with the Bing API was fast and easy. Google is a mess, their search result counts are basically arbitrary, change constantly and are difficult to collect.

This year I’ve opened up the spreadsheet data through Google Docs. I’m not a spreadsheet guy or a statistician, if this could be done better let me know. Here’s the link: How to Spell Hanukkah Spreadsheet.

And finally for my mother, who insists on Chanukah, I’ve included a new “gelt” chart which breaks down the spellings by H vs. Ch:

Based on my original Sixteen Ways to Spell Hanukkah post from 2005. Updated in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Are Lavender and Tea Tree Oils estrogenic?

There’s a bit of a monster pesticide-resistant lice epidemic going around New York City, it seems like every school near us is infested. Last week, a third of my younger daughter’s class had lice. We didn’t.

Besides regular comb outs and wearing their hair up or in braids, we’ve been applying aromatic oils to our daughters’ heads before school. The mix of oils was recommended by a friend:

  • Tea tree, lemongrass & lavender in apricot kernel oil (25% dilution)
  • Put a couple of drops on your hands, rub palms together & then pat it on the hair.
  • Avoid contact with skin
  • Definitely avoid contact with eyes!

I mentioned the oils to some other parents and emailed it to the class. This morning the classroom smelled like tea tree oil.

But one parent mentioned some concern about estrogenic qualities of lavender and tea tree oils. This was troubling me so I did some research. Check out the most thorough essential oils guide

From what I found, the concern about tea tree and lavender originated with this 2007 observational study published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM):

Prepubertal Gynecomastia Linked to Lavender and Tea Tree Oils

NEJM received several critical letters about the study which should be read too.

This was foremost an observational study, and the author’s conclusions seem loosely drawn from the results of three cases. (Gynecomastia is enlarged breasts in males) From their abstract:

We investigated possible causes of gynecomastia in three prepubertal boys who were otherwise healthy and had normal serum concentrations of endogenous steroids. In all three boys, gynecomastia coincided with the topical application of products that contained lavender and tea tree oils. Gynecomastia resolved in each patient shortly after the use of products containing these oils was discontinued.

First issue with the study is that not all three cases were exposed to tea tree and lavender, here’s what they mention in the text:

  • patient 1: “healing balm” containing lavender oil
  • patient 2: regular use of styling gel and shampoo containing tea tree and lavender oils
  • patient 3: lavender scented soap and occasional lavender lotions

Only one of the three of their observed subjects even recorded contact with tea tree oil.

As pointed out in the letters, there’s virtually no mention of dietary factors. Soy is known to have estrogenic effects and processed soy products are in everything these days.

Experiments using breast cancer cells to measure estrogenic effects seem to only vaguely apply to gene-expression in boys.

Both oils stimulate ERE-dependent luciferase activity in a dose-dependent manner, with the maximum activity observed at 0.025% volume per volume (vol/vol) for each oil, corresponding to approximately 50% of the activity elicited by 1 nM 17β-estradiol. Treatment with higher doses of the oils was cytotoxic.

The most extreme numbers were collected at the maximum possible oil dose before the cells they were treating were poisoned so much they died. I have no idea what that dosing would be to a human, but I suspect there’d be significant physical reaction before getting to that point.

Presenting their findings as “Average fold increase above control” without the actual numbers can be suspect. An increase from 0.02 to 0.06 is a three-fold increase, but still relatively insignificant.

Also, the delivery vehicle used in testing, dimethylsulfoxide, is suspected of having estrogenic effects:

Our data show that DMSO-induced significant increase in ERα, ERβ, Vtg and Zr-protein genes in a time-dependent manner. Indirect ELISA analysis showed a time-specific effect of DMSO. The use of DMSO as carrier solvent in fish endocrine disruption studies should be re-evaluated.

Most tea tree oil studies in PubMed seem to be related to its anti-fungal qualities or efficacy as a delivery vehicle for topical medications. I did find one study which looked at transdermal absorption of tea tree oil and found that very little passes through the skin:

…only a small quantity of TTO components, 1.1–1.9% and 2–4% of the applied amount following application of a 20% TTO solution and pure TTO, respectively, penetrated into or through human epidermis.

I believe this study looking at the effects of dietary soy proteins on tumor growth demonstrates greater estrogenic effects of dietary soy protein isolate than the tea tree oil study showed with direct in vitro exposure.

Free Your Feet infographic

Free Your Feet. Since you were a baby, you've worn shoes. You might remember your first Nikes or Adidas too: a nice thick sole with padding up to the base of the ankle. In a few remote parts of the world, though, nobody ever wears shoes, and evidence shows that they're in much better shape because of it.


One quibble with their timeline: The human foot has remained essentially unchanged since the pre-human Australopithecines, nearly 4 million years ago. Judging from evolution, the design must work pretty well.

Created by X Ray Technician Schools, via Tuck, via The Discovery Channel, via America’s Podiatrist.



iPhone Heart Rate Monitors

For the past couple months I’ve been experimenting with MAF training, running at a targeted heart rate with the goal of improving my aerobic base. I’ve been using a simple heart rate monitor (HRM), but I always run with my iPhone and it would be nice to record my heart rate data alongside all the other information my phone collects.

All iPhone compatible HRM sensors work by attaching a dongle to the iPhone.

I’m only looking at Runalyzer and Wahoo because they both work with a wide range of apps. (Runalyzer compatible apps, Wahoo compatible apps) The other HRM options I found, Garmin’s and Digifit’s, only work with their own proprietary apps.

Wahoo uses the ANT+ wireless protocol (2.4 GHz) and requires an ANT+ compatible HRM strap. Runalyzer claims to work with all existing analog HRM straps (5.3 kHz). Runalyzer’s hardware dongle is slightly shorter and wider than Wahoo’s.

Unfortunately, RunKeeper, my preferred running app, doesn’t support anything except the Wahoo Key. But I tried iSmoothRun again and was very impressed with how it’s progressed since I last tried it–enough to switch.

So, I’ve decided to try the Runalyzer dongle with iSmoothRun since I can keep using my existing Omron HRM strap. It’ll be here in a few days.

Thank you Steve

I’m sad, but I’m trying to frame this sadness. Steve Jobs, in one form or another, has been a part of my life since I was 8 years old. In 1979, demonstrating remarkable foresight and disregarding doubtless financial burden, my parents brought home an Apple ][+ computer. I was 8. My daughter is older than that now. A few months before she was born we bought our first iPod, Steve introduced it ten years ago this month. I still have it, and the Apple ][+ is at my parents–both still work.

I’m sad for his his wife and children. But mostly I’m sad for the rest of us. 56.

I was lucky enough to see Steve speak in person at WWDC several times. The first time I saw him come onstage in 2003, it was as if the air was suddenly electrified.

This post was drafted on my iPhone. Steve’s iPhone, running Steve’s new OS, built on the foundation of Steve’s old OS, connected to a machine Steve led the creation of, all of them sold by a company Steve founded 35 years ago.

It’s traditional to wish for the departed to rest in peace, but Steve’s vision won’t be resting, there is so much more to do.

Here’s to the crazy ones.

Thank you Steve, for everything.

NYC Barefoot Run Weekend 2011

Sunday was the second annual NYC Barefoot Run, and the cap on a very unique, very fun weekend. In spite of a forecast of potentially heavy rain, the weather was perfect.

I ran three loops, or as Chris H. said (a line I’m gleefully stealing) “I had three wonderful conversations.” I’m still nursing some old ankle injuries (shoe-related) and some of the laps were a lot faster than I’ve been comfortably running lately, otherwise I would have kept going. But I couldn’t have asked for better company.

My main takeaway of the weekend was how much the idea of barefooting has grown in the past two years. Sure we’re still out on the fringe, but it’s a rapidly exploding fringe which is transforming lives around the world.

I really enjoyed meeting and catching up with old and new friends, putting faces on names and being surrounded by hundreds of like-minded people whose radical diversity was unified by our hyper-capable genome. And toes.

Thank you to Maggie and John Durant and all the organizers and volunteers who put this together. I’m already looking forward to next year.

Four times, one morning every year

Four times one morning every year I go downstairs to the sidewalk and stand in silence with the men and women of the fire station across the street from our apartment.

8:46. 9:03. 9:59 and 10:28. This year they also stood for Flight 93 at 10:03 and may also have commemorated the Pentagon at 9:39, but I didn’t know to check. This is the right thing to do, it wasn’t just New York City.

Across the street, the younger firefighters might have been kids in 2001. Ten years is a long time. Our oldest daughter was born six months after the towers fell. Children who were her age on that day are now soldiers, police and firemen. I’ve seen how tragedies and catastrophes on the other side of the world have affected my own kids. I can’t began to imagine how difficult it was for children to deal with an atrocity down the street.

I did not know what I was going to feel today. But as I stood there, my thoughts kept coming back to the selflessness on display. The stories of heroism and sacrifice on September 11th must have inspired the direction of their lives.

So, perhaps strangely, this year instead of a pervasive feeling of loss and sadness, I find myself filled with a sense of hope and pride in humanity. We remember the act of hatred, destruction and mass murder, but what we commemorate and honor is the spirit of what makes mankind so spectacular.

Ten years: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.

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