Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hack Your Car

By Homer Ashburn

Remember the days when the car was a marvel of engineering? Pistons, carburettors, the internal combustion engine with nary a computer in sight? You stepped on an accelerator connected to several mechanical bits that opened and closed other mechanical parts and – bang – off you went.

Nowadays, while things like the engine still remains at the core of any automobile – some say the true heart of any car – practically everything that we take for granted in our well-oiled machine is made up silicon chips and transistors.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, the average family sedan has more than 30 computers that it needs to move you from A to B in some comfort and safety. Luxury vehicles apparently have as many as 100 of such electronic control units and it is said that the modern car has more lines of computer code than you would find in most modern fighter jets.

Why so many, you ask? Do we really need s many computers? It’s just a car. Actually, if you really look closely at your car in the driveway – be it a Proton or a Peugeot – you’ll find that all the things that we take for granted need some form of electronic control unit to make it work.

Like, for instance, climate control. The alarm and immobiliser is another. Throw in visible tech like parking sensors, automatic transmission, and central locking and power windows, and non-visible tech like ABS and engine management systems, and you can see why your car can’t run without computers.

Which raises the point of today’s article … a computer is a computer and, like any computer, it seems that your car’s computers can get the equivalent of a digital cold. Researches from the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Washington have found out that – thanks to all those processors – your car can get hacked.

Now, most of us, at one point or another, have experienced having our laptops or desktops hit by a virus that disables one or more of their capabilities. In extreme cases, the entire computer is rendered inoperable.  

Now, imagine that happening to your car following a virus attack or a hack. Those wonderful boffins from those two institutions of higher learning have apparently found out that – by hacking into a car’s computers – they could switch off the engine, lock the doors and even kill the brakes.

And it wasn’t some old junk they did their tests on. While they were discreet not to mention the model or make, they did say that the car in question was manufactured in …2009.

Right, at this point in time, you have to wonder how exactly the computers in your car can get hacked. After all, the last time you checked, you don’t use your car to surf the Net or to download educational stimuli of the adult variety.

Well, according to the researchers who hacked their way into that 2009 model car, there are a variety of ways of getting control of a car’s electronic processing unit. One way is via a car’s Bluetooth system. All it took the research team to hack the car was a CD with an extra code to a digital file, While you play the CD, the virus in the disc alters the firmware of the stereo system, which then provides the hacker the entry point to change all the other computers in the car.

At this point in the technical evolution of the car, a virus spread through your car stereo, can do quite a range of damage, ranging from some basic B&E (breaking and entering) right up to and including fooling around with a car’s acceleration and braking systems.

But, for now, hacking is still very much caused by having your car infiltrated by an external source, like that virus-laden CD and that diagnostic tool with the malicious software lurking in its innards.

How about in the future when cars are linked to the world wide web via WiFi? When cars start sharing information about traffic jams and accidents via ad-hoc car-to-car networks, and when the electronics help to make the hassle of driving as hassle-free as possible through things like crash mitigation software and automatic parking?

What happens then when your car of the near future starts becoming as affected by viruses, Trojans, malwares and the other nasties all too common in our home computers? When a hacker can, via a  line of code, convert your car into a murder tool?

It’s the ultimate …Criminal Minds/CSI/NCIS episode …murder by hacked automobile.
(The Star)

Polishing Car By Hand

By Darren Chang

What makes one car look merely polished and another fit for a motor show? It’s called detailing. For the most part, detailing enthusiasts will have an option of either manually polishing their car’s paint work by hand or using a machine.

They both vary in terms of their individual techniques and results. As most of us usually embark onto the journey without machines, we’ll start off on how you can achieve the correct polishing techniques by hand.

It’s important that you understand that working by hand has inherent list of limitations in terms of achievable results, but don’t let that dampen your enthusiasm. There’s just something magical about working on the paint work of one’s own car. And this as good a way to start as any.

By using your hand to manually polish your car, you should target the fine swirls and light surface marring rather than the deeper scratches and heavy watermarks. This is usually why some enthusiasts consider sending their cars to professionals to correct things the first time around and then proceed to maintain it at home.

For a rudimentary walk-through, let’s start at the beginning by giving the car a proper wash using a pH-balanced car shampoo. While washing the car, glide your palms and fingers over the paintwork surface lightly to detect if there are rough, uneven contaminations that usually includes oxidation, tar and other road grime.

If there is some form of unevenness, begin the claying process with the clay bar keeping it constantly lubricated either with a quick detailer spray, a diluted pH-balanced car shampoo in a spray bottle or by constantly flushing the paintwork surface with a low-volume filtered water.

This allows the clay to glide over the surface picking up the contaminants and reducing or removing the contaminants. Once the surface smoothness has been improved, give the car another proper wash and proceed to dry it.

When you begin polishing your car at home, always find a suitable shaded spot away the harsh sunlight and heat. This will allow you to efficiently detail your car, not to mention more comfortably so.  

One factor this is crucial during polishing is heat. How does heat affect polishing? Essentially, heat dries up the polish causing it to gum up and lose its ability to spread and work evenly as well. This also reduces the time-span that you will have to polish a panel or section of a car. As with any choice of polishes for your car, have a small range available to suit the different requirements.

As a fundamental practice, always use the least abrasive polish and work your way up the abrasiveness scale according to what your paint needs.  And regardless of how abrasive the job is, ensure that you work your way back down the abrasiveness scale as the finer polishes will clear up the micro-marring that previous more abrasive polishes leave behind.

What you require when you manually polish your car is either a microfibre applicator pad or the cheaper foam applicator pad with the latter being a bit more abrasive for slightly heavier swirls and marring. Start with a smaller panel or section to test out the appropriate polish. Apply a few drops of polish onto the applicator pad and begin buffing it on the paintwork slowly, allowing the polish to spread evenly.

As it spreads, begin applying more pressure and carefully increasing the speed of manual buffing which in turn allow the abrasives to work into the paintwork surface. You might use either a combination of circular motion, horizontal/vertical motion or in a crosshatch. A plush microfiber towel is then used to remove the polish residue after buffing.

As the section being worked on gradually becomes clearer, determine if the polishing product used is sufficient or if a more abrasive product is required. Repeat as necessary.
Remember to use a clean applicator pad for each product. Mixing products might produce some less than stellar results. Finally, complete the detailing process by sealing off the polished section(s) with a wax or sealant.

When working by hand, experiment with the different grades of fine to coarse polishes, paint cleaners, glazes and all-in-one products to find out which product suits your vehicle
(For more information, go to

Friday, April 29, 2011

Glucosamine for Healthy Joints

Are you at a stage in your life where your bones and joints are beginning to feel a bit stiff and sore? For a start, you could feel a mild stiffness in the morning followed by creaking, cracking joints. You could also find that sitting down or standing up seems to pose quite a bit of a challenge.

Well, at least you can take heart that you are not alone. It’s a fact that as we get older, our joints also age along with us. Increasing joint problems, especially those affected with loss of joint cartilage due to wear and tear and/or injury, is a key issue that affects any aging population.

Consider joint care and management earlier in life, especially from the peak age of 30, to ensure your joints do not let you down too soon as you get older.

Your bones make up the main skeletal framework of your body. Your skeletal framework not only allows you to stand and walk, but also protects your internal organs. Although bones are strong, they remain flexible because they are linked to each other at intersections called joints.

There are several kinds of joints:
  • Hinge joints – most notably in the elbows and knees. Allow the body parts to bend and straighten.
  • Ball and socket joints – the shoulder and hip. Allow twisting and turning.
The joint capsule is a tough membrane sac that holds all the bones and other joints together. Synovium is a thin membrane inside the joint capsule, while the synovial fluid lubricates the joint and keeps the cartilage smooth and healthy. Keeping the joints together and stable are the ligaments.

Pain, swelling and stiffness are likely to develop if the structure or functioning of a joint is disrupted. This could make it difficult to carry out everyday activities.

Covering the ends of the bones is a smooth, hard cartilage that acts as a shock absorber, and a joint protector. Tough, elastic and very durable, the cartilage allows the bones to ride smoothly and effortlessly over each other. Consisting of collagen and water molecules, the cartilage does not have a blood supply. The cartilage relies on its ability to absorb nutrients, oxygen and fluid in order to function without a blood supply.

When we move a joint, the pressure across the joint expresses fluid and waste products out of the cartilage cells. When the pressure is relieved, the fluid diffuses back, carrying a supply of oxygen and nutrients. In short, the health of the cartilage depends largely on the health of the joints.

A continued, progressive loss of cartilage can lead to serious discomfort and eventually, reduced mobility. Two key cell factors are crucial to the process of replacing the cartilage in the joint. Special cells called chondroclasts break down old cartilage and remove it from the site, while other cells, called chondrocytes, help to replace the cartilage tissue by using essential nutrients, which include glucosamine.

Understanding Joint Diseases

Arthritis refers to the inflammation of a joint or joints in the body. As a person’s age increases, so does the possibility of having arthritic conditions. Scientists and doctors in rheumatology have uncovered that there are over 100 different types of arthritis.

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is most prevalent in people aged 55 and older. It also affects more women than men. Osteoarthritis describes a condition where the cartilage cushion in the joint breaks down. This causes the bones to rub together, resulting in pain, stiffness and in some cases could lead to the formation of bone growths called spurs.

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but it is most common in the hands, feet, spine and large weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees.

Although osteoarthritis is often attributed to general tear and wear associated with aging, it can also be caused by other problems like obesity, injury or repeated joint stress.

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Often regarded as the most serious, painful and disabling of all forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is prevalent in people between the ages of 20 and 40. Three times more likely to affect women than men, rheumatoid arthritis occurs most often in the same joints, on both sides of the body, for example, the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles and feet. Symptoms include swelling, pain, redness and warmth.

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the synovial membrane becomes swollen and inflamed, causing pain and stiffness. Chemicals released in the inflamed tissue increase blood flow to the joint. This causes the joint to appear red and feel warm to the touch. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis have the tendency to favour the affected joints by holding them in a fixed position to reduce pain. This, however, causes the muscles surrounding the joints to stiffen and weaken. Tendons, which attach muscles to bone or to other muscles, may also tighten. As a result, joints may contract or change shape, and patients may eventually lose mobility.

Unknown to many, gout is a form of arthritis. It is often characterised as an inflammatory form of arthritis that causes severe, and often, sudden attacks of pain in some of the joints. Usually, only one joint is affected at a time, but the symptoms can come and go. Unlike the inflammation in RA, joint inflammation in gout is caused by the deposits of sodium urate crystals from excess uric acid, a waste product circulating in the blood.

Overindulgence in alcohol consumption, excessive meat, refined carbohydrates and sugar consumption, and obesity as well as reduced renal clearance of uric acid may increase an individual’s risk of developing gout. Gout is one of the most treatable forms of arthritis. With proper treatment and care, inflammation can be prevented entirely.

A condition that occurs most frequently among older people, osteoarthritis can strike across various age groups, sex and geographic areas. It is also known commonly as degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear arthritis” due to its association with aging and injury. It is characterised in x-ray findings by decreased joint space and bony spurs.

Over many years and with activity as well as use of a joint, the cartilage in the joint may become frayed, injured and torn. In some instances, it may even wear away entirely. This allows the bones under the cartilage to rub together, causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint.

Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape. In addition, bone spurs (called osteophytes), may grow on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space. This causes more pain, damage and even swelling.

In advanced cases, walking or regular daily activities may become difficult or impossible. Synovial fluid may accumulate in the affected joint, giving it a swollen appearance. The synovial fluid generated from the soft tissue in the knee, tries to create more lubrication to make the joint surfaces smoother. A knee may feel unsteady, stiff, or have a sensation of giving out when weight is placed on it. Additionally, a feeling of knocking or grinding may be felt in the joint.

Unlike rheumatoid arthritis which also affects other parts of the body, osteoarthritis affects only joints and not internal organs. Compared to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis can begin at a younger age, causing swelling and redness of joints, and may make people feel sick and tired.

Osteoarthritis can be divided into:
  • Primary osteoarthritis: commonly occurs with aging, as the water content in cartilage increases while the protein portion degenerates.
  • Secondary osteoarthritis: is usually due to another disease or condition, repeated trauma, infectious disease, gout or surgery on a joint. Obesity is a contributor, as excess weight put additional stress on the cartilage, particularly the joints in the knees and hips.
What are the common areas affected by osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis most often occurs at the ends of the finger, thumb, neck, lower back, knee and hip.

What are the common causes for osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis can be caused by any or a combination of the following risk factors:

  • Being overweight
  • The aging process
  • Joint injury or fractures around a joint surface
  • Stress placed on the joint from certain jobs or sports activities
  • Hereditary
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
  • Stiff and painful joints are the main symptoms. The pain tends to worsen on exercising the joint and at the end of the day. The joint may not move as freely or as far as normal, and often “creaks” or “cracks” when moved. Occasionally the joint seems to give way because of weak muscles or loss of stability.
  • Symptoms often vary for no obvious reasons, with bad spells of few weeks or months being broken by much better periods. Changes in the weather (especially damp or rainy weather) can worsen joint pain for some people. Others may find it depends on how much physical activity they do.
  • Often, the joint appears swollen, due to hard bony esteophytes or extra synovial fluid (which will feel soft) while the muscles around the joint look a little thinner.
  • In some advanced cases, more severe and constant pain may develop and occur not only with or after exercise, but even at rest or at night. Certain daily tasks and activities may then prove difficult, depending on which joint is affected. Mobility may be affected due to pain on walking. These difficulties can restrict what you can do and limit your independence.
Note: Osteoarthritis is a medical condition and should not be self-diagnosed. To find out if you are at risk, please consult your physician for a medical check-up.

For most people with osteoarthritis, the best advice is:
  • Rest between activities
  • Decrease your speed
  • Do housework or gardening in short spells interrupted by short rests
  • Avoid sitting in one place for too long – get up and stretch the joints from time to time.
  • Break up car journeys with frequent stops to walk around
  • Avoid exercises that place excessive stress on the joints
  • Engage in a balanced fitness programme that includes walking, swimming, biking – all aimed at shorter distances – and stretching exercises.
  • Try to cut down on carrying heavy things/load.
 What mechanical aids can benefit a person with osteoarthritis?
  • Wearing shock–absorbing soles in shoes or orthopaedic shoes can help in daily activities and during gentle exercise.
  • Over the counter elastic supports can be used on affected knee and wrist joints, but it is important to check with a physician before using one.
  • A firm mattress also often proves beneficial
  • Canes, crutches, or walkers offer benefits to patients with advanced arthritis
Support Normal Joint Health with Glucosamine

Glucosamine is an amino monosaccharide derived from chitin in crustacean shells. Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance found in cartilage that stores water. It keeps cartilage strong and flexible. As we age, natural production of glucosamine slows down, resulting in a deterioration of cartilage known as osteoarthritis. Glucosamine hydrochloride is a natural substance which stimulates the manufacture of substances necessary for cartilage repair and aids in restoring proper joint function. Thus, it helps to slow down the progression of osteoarthritis without some of the unpleasant side effects of conventional drug treatments.

The body requires the raw materials (glycosaminoglycans) which the joint cartilage requires for repairing joint cartilage tissue. The body requires these glycosaminoglycans (a polysaccharide)  to produce proteoglycans (mortar-like substances made from protein and sugar that are building blocks of cartilage that help absorb the shock of body movements and provide the joints with strength and elasticity) prior to the deposition of collagen in the joint. The availability of these glycosaminoglycans determines the rate of cartilage formation. Glucosamine provides the important glycosaminoglycans to the joints to help in cartilage formation.

Who can benefit from taking glucosamine?
Anyone who wants:
  • a relieve from joint pains and to protect the cartilage
  • to manage osteoarthritis
  • to reduce inflammation
  • an aid to  rebuild and rehabilitate damaged cartilage
  • an aid in recovery from orthopaedic surgery
How does glucosamine help athletes?
For anyone involved in sports activities, injury is a way of life. It does not matter if you engage in these activities professionally or for recreation, you are at risk all the time

Sports injuries may not just mean broken bones or sprained ankles, but also more insidious kind of injuries that can leave you with debilitating pain for the rest of your life.

For active athletes, the slightest injury can result in the development of “secondary” osteoarthritis. Athletes can lose functional capability in one or more joints very quickly, and of course may be subject to a lifetime of debilitating pain.

To perform at peak level, your joints must be at top condition. Given the availability of glucosamine hydrochloride without prescription, a smart athlete will take a proactive role in taking a glucosamine formula as a preventative measure and as an adjunct to improve joint health.

Is there any research update to substantiate the use of glucosamine in the treatment of osteoarthritis?

Positive Findings
A systematic review by the Cochrane Database found that there was evidence that glucosamine is both safe and effective in osteoarthritis.2 Glucosamine was found to be statistically superior to placebo in 12 of 13 trials in which such a comparison was made. In addition, in four trials comparing glucosamine to a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (unspecified), glucosamine was superior in two, and equivalent in two.

There is published research demonstrating that glucosamine at high intravenous doses in animals can interfere with insulin signalling. Some investigators have extrapolated these findings to suggest that glucosamine might increase risk of diabetes.14 However, development or worsening of diabetes has not been reported in clinical trials of oral glucosamine taken for up to three years, and 13 placebo-controlled, double-blind trials, each of at least 4 weeks in duration, attest to the safety of glucosamine, which was associated with no more adverse effects than placebo.2 Considered in this context, although there is no cause for concern, it is advisable for individuals on medication to consult with their physicians prior to taking glucosamine. 

Overall Conclusions
  • Research conducted on glucosamine since 1997 strengthens the evidence in favour of its efficacy for reducing inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis.
  • The effective glucosamine dose reported in the literature is 1500 mg per day.
  • Individuals taking medication should consult their physicians prior to taking glucosamine.

2 Towheed, T. E., Anastassiades, T. P., Shea, B., Houpt, J., Welch, V., and Hochberg, M. C. Glucosamine therapy for treating osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2001;1:CD002946. 
14 Nakamura, M., Barber, A. J., Antonetti, D. A., LaNoue, K. F., Robinson, K. A., Buse, M. G., and Gardner, T. W. Excessive hexosamines block the neuroprotective effect of insulin and induce apoptosis in retinal neurons. J Biol Chem 2001 Nov 23;276(47):43748-55. 

Glucosamine is derived from shellfish? What is the exact source of the glucosamine?
Glucosamine is derived from shrimp

What potential beneficial effects do active ingredients have in the body?
Glucosamine offers a way to supplement the diet with compounds that may help improve range of motion and flexibility and improve joint and cartilage health.

Glucosamine is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans, which are the major component of joint cartilage that serves as a "cushion" between the bones of the joints. Glucosamine is the main building block for semi-fluids that lubricate joints.

Are there any other physical states/conditions for which use of this product is contraindicated?
There is no evidence of any contraindications with use of this product.  However, as with any supplement, those under medical care should consult with their personal physician before using this product. Anyone with a medical condition, including diabetes and hypoglycemia, should consult with a physician before using this product.

Are there any potential side effects from taking this product?
There is no evidence of any potential side effects from taking this product.  However, as with any supplement, anyone should consult with his/her personal physician before using this product.

What would be the consequences of consuming over 2000mg of glucosamine per day?
Glucosamine appears to be safe and well tolerated. However, consuming over 2000mg of glucosamine per day is not recommended. Extremely high levels of glucosamine can cause gastric fluctuations such as soft stools, diarrhoea or nausea. Recommended dosage is 1500mg.

When should this product be taken?  With meals?  Empty stomach?   Can it be taken with other dietary supplements?  How many capsules/tablets are recommended to be taken at one time?
This product should be consumed as two capsules twice daily, preferably first thing upon waking in the morning and again in the afternoon or early evening. The directions call for Glucosamine to be taken  wice a day because of its pharmacokinetics. If it were taken only once a day, for a good part of each day there would be very low concentrations of glucosamine in the body, undermining the cumulative health benefits.  Thus the usual recommended dosing schedule for all glucosamine products is two or three times a day. 

The direction to take it first thing in the morning stems from the pattern of joint stiffness and pain peaking in the morning: it makes sense therefore to take it as early as possible. 

The second dose would ideally be 8-12 hours later. At this time there is no information available to discourage use of this product with other dietary supplements.

What environmental conditions may decrease the active ingredients potency?
Environmental conditions such as heat, exposure to air, open cap allowing oxidation to occur can decrease the nutrient activity and potency stated on the label.

    Research citations used to support this document.

Research Citations
Towheed TE, Maxwell L, Anastassiades TP, Shea B, Houpt J, Robinson V, Hochberg MC, Wells G.  Glucosamine therapy for treating osteoarthritis.  [Update of: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2001;(1):CD002946.]  Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Apr 18;(2):CD002946.
Reginster JY, Bruyere O, Fraikin G, Henrotin Y.  Current concepts in the therapeutic management of osteoarthritis with glucosamine.  Bull Hosp Jt Dis. 2005;63(1-2):31-6.
Anderson JW, Nicolosi RJ, Borzelleca JF.  Glucosamine effects in humans: a review of effects on glucose metabolism, side effects, safety considerations and efficacy.  Food Chem Toxicol. 2005 Feb;43(2):187-201.
Dodge GR, Jimenez SA.  Glucosamine sulfate modulates the levels of aggrecan and matrix metalloproteinase-3 synthesized by cultured human osteoarthritis articular chondrocytes.  Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2003 Jun;11(6):424-32.

Keeping the joints healthy
Being proactive goes a long way in overall bone and joint health. This also enables us to reduce the risks of joint diseases like arthritis, and slow down wear and tear or degeneration of the joints.

It can range anywhere from a  degeneration or “wear and tear” of joint surface cartilage, accompanied by an overgrowth of bone (osteophytes), narrowing of the joint space or hardening of the bone at the joint surface and deformity of joints – broadly under the category of “arthritis”. Whether someone already has arthritis or not, it is important to try and keep the joints in good working order with regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Why exercise?
Exercise keeps the supporting muscles and ligaments strong and relieves pain. Furthermore, combined with a healthy diet, exercise helps keep weight under control, thus lessening the impact and load placed on the legs and the joints by the upper part of the body. Losing weight also helps relieve damaging pressure on the joints. And, contrary to popular belief, regular exercise, for example swimming, is beneficial for osteoarthritis since it improves the function of the joints and helps reduce pain. So the negative cycle of joint pain, inactivity, weight gain and worsening joint pain can be reversed to become:

More Activity ð Weight Loss ð Less Joint Pain
Because cartilage has no blood supply of its own, exercising the joint is important to ensure it receives adequate levels of nutrients. As the joint is moved, it compresses the spongy cartilage material, expelling the fluid it contains and allowing new, richer nutrient-containing fluid to enter. This is the reason that mild to moderate exercise is important to help maintain joint health and mobility.

Will exercises help?
Exercise is one of the best treatments for osteoarthritis. Exercise can improve mood and outlook, decrease pain, increase flexibility, improve the heart and blood flow, maintain weight, and promote general physical fitness.

Exercise is also inexpensive, and , if done correctly, has few negative side effects. The amount and form of exercise will depend on which joints are involved, how stable the joints are, and whether a joint replacement has been done.So if you want to move better, move often.

A healthy diet
A healthy diet emphasising fruit, vegetables, and whole grains can help you control your weight and maintain your overall health, allowing you to have better bone and joint health in the long run

Important nutrients to note would be:
Keeps the bones strong
Skim or low fat dairy products, fish with edible bones like sardine, nuts, seeds, whole grains and cereals.
Essential fatty acids like omega 3
Believed to reduce the process of inflammation and subsequent joint damage
Fish like Salmon omega, Tuna, Mackeral, Cod Fish, Flax seed, pumpkin seeds and walnuts
Antioxidant vitamins like A,C and E
Beneficial through their antioxidant function. May help tissue damage from inflammation
Yellow, orange and green coloured fruits and vegetables, nuts, cereals and whole grains. Vegetable oils, and low fat dairy products
Vitamin D and Magnesium
Plays a pivotal role in nutrition by  facilitating absorption of calcium , thereby helping to support strong and healthy bones and joints.
Also important in promoting bone mineralization in conjunction with other vitamins , minerals and hormones
Vitamin D : Fortified low fat fat or skim milk, fortified cereals, butter, margarine, liver and egg yolk.
Magnesium: Green, leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grain cereals, seafood, nuts and seeds.
Essential to form collagen which is fibrous protein found in bones, ligaments, cartilage, tendons and connective tissue
Protein rich foods include low fat dairy products, sea food, poultry, and eggs.
B vitamins
For overall nerve health and for healthy blood circulation
Whole grains, cereals, fortified breads, legumes, fruits and green leafy vegetables, lean meats, poultry, low fat dairy products, liver, seeds and nuts

What other ingredients can also be combined to have a synergistic effect with glucosamine?
Ingredients that can work synergistically with glucosamine to help rebuild cartilage, ease pain, reduce inflammation and increase mobility include vitamins C, A and E, omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins , protein and minerals like calcium, magnesium and vitamin D.

Additionally, bioflavonoids (from acerola cherry, lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits) that have been referred to as vitamin P are good sources of antioxidants that can neutralise free radicals damage. They also help to strengthen the capillaries that are so essential for healthy blood circulation

Note: If one does not have an adequate dietary intake of the above nutrients, then it is advisable to consider supplementation to complement one’s diet.

Control your weight
Excess weight puts stress on your joints, in your back, hips, knees and feet – the places where joint pain is commonly felt. Excess weight can also make joint surgery more difficult and risky.

Apply heat
Heat will help ease your pain, relax tense, painful muscles and increase regional flow of blood. One of the easiest ways is to take a hot shower or bath for 15 minutes. Other options include using a hot pack, an electric heat pad set on its lowest setting or a radiant heat lamp with a 250-watt reflector heat bulb to warm specific muscles and joints. If your skin has poor sensation or you have poor circulation, don’t use heat treatment.

Practice relaxation techniques
Muscle relaxation and deep breathing techniques can all be used to help ease joint pain or relax tenses muscles and joints.

Coffee consumption of more than two cups a day may contribute to accelerated bone loss.

Certain medications, such as steroids and anticonvulsants contribute to bone demineralization.

Listen Up

A father was agitated when his nine-year-old daughter did not immediately do as he had requested. He also wanted her to acknowledge everything he said. Like many parents, he would complain that his growing children do not listen well.  

One 13-year-old cried out to her parents, “How can you say that you love me when you never listen to me? All you do is expect me to listen and obey you.” Adults are used to believing that children should be seen and not heard. It is expected that children just know how to listen and submit to what their parents say.  

But children need good role models to show them how to listen well. When they do not heed what we say, we often threaten or punish them. It is not surprising that many children lack good listening skills, which lead to learning difficulties and behavioural problems.  

In the average home, a child is bombarded with many types of sounds the moment he wakes up. He hears noise from the television, radio, passing traffic, people talking, a telephone ringing and babies crying. The child learns to shut out certain sounds so that he can concentrate on the ones that please him.  

The child also hears words spoken by people who live with him as well as conversations outside his home. Over time, he learns to tune out the negative reprimands and complaining words. This probably explains the selective hearing that many parents today encounter when they raise their voices at their children.  

Children develop listening skills over time as they grow and interact with people around them. When there are positive role models in their lives, they get to practise effective listening skills that will make them feel good about themselves. A child would say, “I listen to you when you listen to me.” It is a two-way street when it comes to getting children to listen.  

Here are some ideas on how parents can help their children to practise listening skills by setting supportive conditions at home.  
  • When talking with your child, remove all distractions; switch off the radio or the television. Make sure that your child’s eyes are focused on your face before you start talking. Gesture gently and kindly to him to pay attention. Set a positive tone so that he will be most willing to listen.  
  • Speak in an animated and interesting manner, as though you can hardly wait to let him know something delightful. Children pay attention to details of stories they like to hear. However, they tend to forget easily when you try to give them instructions on their homework.   
  • Speak in a moderate tone so that your child can catch every word you say. You may have to pause after one or two sentences when you are talking to a young child. She may have something to say, too. Observe your child as you speak. If you are speaking too slowly, she may get bored. If she looks bewildered, slow down or pause when you talk.  
  • Children need some guidance on rules for good listening. Help them make some up to help them along. For example, remind them to look at the face of the person who is talking. Ask questions when the speaker has finished his last word in the sentence. To interrupt, say, “Excuse me” or “Pardon me” to get the speaker’s attention to pause.  
  • Help children to understand what they have heard. This is also the way you check for comprehension after you have read a story aloud. Ask question such as “What did I say we would do after lunch?” or “What was the first thing I said to you when I saw you at school?”   
  • Use encouraging words to get your child to listen. If you have given directions that she has carried out well, let her know that you are pleased with her effort. Say to her: “I really like the way you listened to what I said. I am pleased that you carried out my instructions carefully.”   
  • Practise the motto of “listen first before talking”. Start listening to what your child needs to say first before talking to her. Reflect on the words you have heard and direct your full attention to her when she is talking.   
  • Be patient with your child. Do not interject too quickly with your corrections and opinions. Your young child may make many mistakes in her speech but you must refrain from interrupting her. You can use the correct words when you are speaking to her. 
  • Repeat your words only when necessary. If you want your child to listen well, avoid unnecessary repetition. Children who think they have heard correctly the first time will not listen the second time. To encourage good listening, say it once and be clear. When you repeat too many times, it may sound like you are nagging. 
 (Source: The Star)

Taxation of Passive Income

The Malaysian Inland Revenue Board (IRB) does not define the term “passive income”, unlike the US’s Internal Revenue Service, which describes it as income “generated by activity in which the taxpayer did not materially participate.”

Passive income in the Malaysia context would normally include dividends, interest, rental and royalties. In order to decide on the tax treatment of an income, you have to understand whether it is an income from a business source or a non-business source. It is wrong to assume that passive income cannot constitute business income.

In deciding whether an income is regarded as business, some of the “badges of trade”, as derived from tax cases, would have to applied: They include profit-seeking motives, acts and conducts, methods of finance, period of ownership, frequency of transactions, development or processing of asset, nature on the subject matter, organisation and special skills and circumstances leading to realisation.

Try to structure your venture as business to take advantage of the tax benefits accorded to business income. The rules about deduction of expenses for business income are more flexible. For an expense to be tax deductible, the general tax rule is that the expense must be wholly and exclusively incurred in the production of gross income and should not all within the list of prohibited expenses. Examples of allowable expenses are staff salaries, repairs and maintenance of business premises, interest on bank loans or overdrafts for business purposes and business travelling expenses.

In the first year of the business venture, you may incur losses. You can either use the adjusted business loss to set off against other income (including non-business income) of the same year or carry forward your loss to offset against a future year’s business income. Such advantage is not given if passive income is treated as non-business income.

Since network marketing is services rendered and normally conducted for profit, the commission and overriding income derived are regarded as business income. Activities like selling e-books, creating software products, blogging and selling stock photography can also be carried out as business venture where the expenses incurred in the production of the business income are deductible against the income derived therein.

Also, to turn this into a business venture, you have to run it in a very systematic and organised manner, for example, for rental income to be treated as business income, you have to provide ancillary or support services/facilities such as providing 24-hour security services (you could hire a security firm to provide the service) and housekeeping services (you can employ a maid). This would indicate that you are in the business of letting properties. You could continue to receive passive income with an employee managing it for you.

From a legal perspective, you are advised to set up a company as it will have limited liabilities. If something goes wrong, you would not be sued directly. However, note that the expenses incurred before the commencement of a business (or before a non-business asset produces income) cannot be deducted.

Alternatively, for rental income, if you are ready to part ways with your assets so that you can have some tax savings, you can consider passing on some properties to your family members. If you have houses to rent out but do not want to turn it into a business venture, and you are already in the highest tax bracket, you can consider transferring some of rhe properties to your heirs. You are then spreading the rental income to your heirs, who would normally fall in a lower income tax bracket.     

As a concession in computing the adjusted income from rent, which is non-business in nature, the IRB allows properties to be grouped into the following categories: residential properties, shophouses /commercial properties and vacant land. The groupings should include only properties that have commenced receiving rental income. The grouping allows you to take advantage of pooling the direct expenses under the same group to offset the rental of that group.

Income from owning shares, unit trusts or real estate investment trusts (REITs) is normally regarded as non-business income. In certain cases, the dividends could be tax exempt in the hands of the recipient. Capital gains from the distribution of unit trusts are not taxable. As for REITs listed in Bursa Malaysia, individual investors are subject to a 15% withholding tax for five years effective from Jan 1, 2007.

It is pertinent to know the tax treatment on investment income before you decide to take up a borrowing to finance the investment. If the return is not taxable, it may not be wise to take up any borrowing to finance your investment. When a loan is taken to finance the portfolio of investment in shares or unit trusts, the interest incurred would be regarded as wholly and exclusively incurred in the production of the income generated from the portfolio of investment and deductible from the taxable dividend income. If the investment income is not taxable, no tax relief would be given to the interest expenses. Note that going forward, all companies would eventually go under the single-tier corporate tax system. Dividends paid under the system would be tax exempt and thus it would be tax efficient to take borrowing to finance investments in shares.

The excessive interest cannot be carried forward to future years for utilisation, the taxpayer would need to carefully structure the amount of borrowing, bearing in mind the interest rate and the rate of return from the investment.

Always be tax compliant and declare the right amount of taxes to avoid any penalties. The penalties could be up to 100% of the under-declared taxes. As any one of us could be selected for tax audits, please maintain documentary evidence of all your income (be it taxable or non-taxable income) and your expense claim to substantiate your income and self-calculated taxes. If you don’t have the time, patience or nerve to deal with your taxes, you can always hire a tax professional. The disadvantage is that this costs money. The advantage is that this would allow you to sleep more peacefully at night, avoid mistakes in assessing your income and optimise the chance of taking advantage of deductibles.

Note that the following royalties received by an individual resident in Malaysia are tax-exempt up to:  

RM20,000 for publication of, or the use of or the right to use, any literary work or any original painting.

RM10,000 for publication of, or the use of the right to use, any artistic work.

RM10,000 for recording discs or tapes.

Small and medium enterprises – run-in period of two years for tax estimates with effect from YA2008

A new company will no longer be required to estimate its tax within three months of commencing operations. They now have two years to get established before they are required to estimate tax for the forthcoming year. During the two years, the company must settle its tax in full by the end of the seventh month after the close of its books.