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Agent Orange info session Saturday at ECC North

National representatives from Vietnam Veterans of America will attend an informational meeting Saturday to provide information on the organization's efforts to create a registry of those impacted by the U.S. military's use of Agent Orange during the conflict.

The meeting will run from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday in the Kittinger Building, Room K-100, on the Erie Community College North Campus, Main Street and Youngs Road, Williamsville.

Organizers are calling this an educational meeting for Vietnam veterans and their families.

Vietnam veterans, wives of living and deceased veterans, along with children and grandchildren, are invited to attend to learn more about ongoing health issues related to Agent Orange and other chemical agents used during the Vietnam War. Other members of the public also are welcome.

Certified Veterans Service officers will be on hand to answer questions and assist any individual interested in making out a related claim.

-- Scott Scanlon

 

What are you eating?: Restaurateur sticks close to home

Tricia.browne
Eagle House owner Tricia Browne, left, buys some yellow tomatoes and fresh produce from Ken Seabert of Seabert Farms during a recent Williamsville Farmers Market. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Tricia Browne’s roots run deep in the Williamsville restaurant trade, so it’s no surprise that she has decided to turn food she buys Saturday mornings at the Williamsville Farmers Market into Saturday night specials at her restaurant, the Eagle House.

Her grandparents would have been proud.

John and Audrey Hanny owned the Lamarque restaurant on Delaware Avenue during the 1940s – “when you went out to dinner in dresses and heels and everybody wore a suit jacket,” Browne told me recently during a sit-down interview at the historic restaurant she and her father, Bud Handy,
have owned the last 12 years. (Before that, it was run by her dad and uncle, Jack.)

Her dad’s parents left the Lamarque and owned the Little White House in Williamsville after that.

“That’s where I got my first taste of the restaurant business,” Browne said. “I would be 3, 4 years old holding the menus and following behind my grandmother thinking I was hostess with the mostest.”

John Handy died about 40 years ago, but Audrey became a star on the village restaurant strip before she passed away about a dozen years ago.

One of the many lessons she passed to her family was the concept of a “no thank you portion,” her granddaughter said.

When it comes to eating, you try everything, Browne explained.

“You take a spoonful. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to have anymore, but at least you tried it. So you couldn’t say you didn’t like something without ever having tried it.”

That’s why she, and her husband, David, who works in finance, can describe their sons , Connor, 9, and Jeffrey, 14, as “well-rounded eaters.”

It’s also a concept that blends nicely with Browne’s local food philosophy.

Browne, 44, spends part of her Saturday mornings this time of year at the village farmers market, buying fresh produce that head chef Greg Freeland and sous chefs Colin Cave and Dave Venditti turn into something special. Customers are eating up the idea and tonight  is a great time to join them; from 5 to 9 p.m., it’s An Evening in the Village along Main Street, with entertainment and discounts designed to encourage walking traffic and local shopping.

How have the chefs used the farmers market for Saturday night specials?

Last week, we took peaches and they made a brandy sauce with some walnuts and put that over a grilled pork chop, which was nice and different. They took summer squash and made little boats out of it and stuffed the boats with other fresh vegetables and that went with our salmon special. They made a Caprese flatbread appetizer. They layered yellow and red tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and we have herb pots out in our back garden. So we took the fresh basil, and we took the fresh mint for mojitos.

Why did you decide to go local?

Last summer, we started. It’s literally in our backyard. So it’s kind of fun. So you’ve seen the show “Chopped,” where they have to open a box or bag of mystery ingredients? I will walk into the kitchen and you think I just walked in with a bag of gold. I have peaches and summer squash and eggplant and I hand them this and they all go crazy. Who gets the peaches? Who gets the yellow tomatoes? Who wants the zucchini and what are we going to do with it? They get a kick out of it in the kitchen on Saturday morning when I walk in with that bag of stuff.

Everything here is homemade. They’re in there every day making soups and sauces, so it’s nice to have started a new tradition with food from the farmers market. It’s fun. You see all the farmers, customers with their kids out in strollers, my employees parents or their sisters.

What sort reaction have you had from customers?

It’s been great. It has created a buzz. “People ask, ‘What are you doing next week?’ And I have to say, ‘I won’t know until I get (to the market).’”

Has there been a variety so far?

We’ve used white eggplant to make eggplant parm. We’ve used blueberries to make a blueberry coulis, which is like a blueberry puree. We use that on desserts, with a peach and blueberry tart, to decorate the plate. Or we’ll use it to make blueberry mojitos at the bar. So we find all different ways to utilize the fruits and vegetables.

Fresh strawberry cream sauce has been the hit of the summer. We put that over our salmon dish. And everybody’s in the mood for peaches right now.

What is your philosophy of eating and the staples of your diet?

Good or bad, the philosophy with my grandmother, with your no thank you portion. They’re always anxious in the kitchen to have taste testers when they’re coming up with something new.

I love fresh vegetables and pasta and I love fresh salmon and seafood. I get the privilege of having a lot of different seafood out here, so that’s nice.

Is it hard to eat right when you own a restaurant?

It’s definitely hard. When the baker delivers last week sliced banana cream pie, how are we not supposed to break a slice out and let everyone taste it. I’ll be the first to say, ‘Why don’t you plate a slice so we can all taste it and know what we’re selling?’”

What’s the food that’s hardest for you to resist?

Definitely desserts. I use four different bakers here that are all local and that is very hard. Everybody has their own niche and when they bring something new in, that’s very hard. Or they bring you a whole platter of what’s new this season and it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ How do you not try all eight of those?

I do a lot of walking, and having two kids, I’m constantly on the move. That helps.

How often do you eat as a family and what do you tend to eat when you’re here?

We eat seafood when we’re here. My kids love seafood and they love soup. They eat pretty well. My little guy, you can cut up a couple red peppers and he’ll sit and eat that like it’s a bag of chips. I love that they’re open to new things.

Talk about buying local.

I think it’s important that everybody understand that buying locally, no matter what you’re buying from independent businesses, is so important because so much more of your dollar spent at a locally owned business stays local.

The statistics show that probably more than 80 percent of your dollar goes not only to the business but to local vendors.

email: refresh@buffnews.com

Local diet app can help you eat – often – and lose weight

Derek.alessi
Derek Alessi practices what he preaches when it comes to his "Eat, Eat, Eat" app. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

 

By Mary Kunz Goldman – News Staff Reporter

Not all healthy-eating apps are food diaries – or from far-flung places.

There is a notable exception close to home. Derek Alessi, who runs Alessi Personal Fitness in Clarence, has his own personal app for sale to the public through iTunes. It is called “Eat, Eat, Eat,” and is among prospects among the apps highlighted in today’s WNY Refresh cover story.

It does not have you track your food. Instead it is a collection of recipes, as well as – O happy day! – reminders to eat.

“I invented it as a tool for my private clientele,” Alessi said. “It’s unbelievably important that somebody eats on purpose.”

In other words, it is important that you eat on schedule, so your blood sugar stays steady, and that you eat the right foods.

“The way it works is, you pick your wake-up time,” Alessi says. “The app reminds you to eat within 30 minutes of wake-up time and every three hours thereafter. You want the blood sugar going as straight as possible. A big mistake people make is, they don’t eat, and blood sugar crashes. Next thing you know, you’re looking for a six-inch hoagie from Jim’s Steakout. Your blood sugar goes up again, then it goes down, you get home, and you’re tapping the Stella D’Oro breadsticks. It’s happening because your blood sugar is all over the place.”

Like my old friend the South Beach Diet, Alessi encourages lean meats like steaks and chicken breast, while frowning on carbs and grains. Corn, he said, is grown for starch and sugar. “It’s grown to fatten
pigs.”

Even brown rice and whole wheat bread are bad.

“But they ate bread in the Bible!” I protested. “Abraham told Sarah to bake bread.”

“If you want to go into why that happened, they didn’t have a predictable food source, so they were fat.”

“Abraham was fat?!”

Gentle, Alessi replies: “Yes, because there was an unstable food source.”

“Oh.”

“Fast forward to 2013. Am I having trouble finding calories?”

Um ... no.

My remarks in my app’s comment sections were proof enough of that.

“Am starting two-week push under a cloud. Up two pounds.”

“Darn the iron!”

“Calories are good but short on calcium. I have to take the Supplement of Shame.”

“Moral of the story: Never eat out.”

“The promise of a new day.”

Reading back, I had to laugh, but I also had to face up to a tough truth.

Since a year ago, since whenever, I had not lost my 10 pounds. I had lost, well, two.

Two pounds is better than none. And I do not have much to lose. But there is one thing about these apps: They trust you. Don’t fib to them.

I didn’t stay ashamed for long. You should keep going. Such was the advice of Elle, the nutritionist for the popular San Francisco food diet app My Fitness Pal.

“Log diligently,” is her first tip on an online list of suggestions. “Logging foods daily creates an awareness of the energy foods provide in relation to the energy our bodies need.”

In losing my two pounds, I’ve gained a ton of wisdom.

Doing Pilates to YouTube, I realized how half-hour sessions can add up. At the end of the week, you’ve spent three hours at it, and you’re stronger.

My Footsteps app keeps me walking, just so I do not have to leave a day blank.

“Work in any activity you can do,” suggests Elle, of My Fitness Pal. “Small things like walking meetings, parking farther from the grocery store, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, creating a standing work station or doing chores while watching television add up! Take advantage of burning a few extra calories whenever you can.”

Even if you stumble, don’t be afraid to take that app in hand and try, try again.

“Use it. Absolutely use it,” Alessi advises. “Don’t blow it off. Don’t ignore it. Don’t turn it off. If you’re not being perfect, if you don’t want to see it – use it. If you’re not perfect, that’s when you
need it.

“Use it.”

email: mkunz@buffnews.com

 

Cheektowaga software company juggles health care with other projects

 

Paul.buckley
Paul Buckley and Applied Sciences Group use a detailed formula to bring off software projects. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

 

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

The space is mostly open at the Applied Sciences Group office on the Calspan campus in Cheektowaga. An organizational chart with dozens of potential software design scenarios sits above two white boards in the conference room, which also contains a projector and teleconferencing system that helps this 42-person company serve clients from across the country.

Paul Buckley is the maestro here. The 57-year-old Elma resident – who holds degrees in biochemical and systems engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy – became president of ASG in 1996, three years after the company was founded.

“Back then, mainly we were doing software development for the manufacturing industry; writing the software that controls the machines that make the products,” he says. “Praxair was a big client, Emerson Controls up on Grand Island. Parker International and many that have long since closed their doors in this area.

“We recognized with the downturn in manufacturing that we had to diversify or die.”

Learn more about Buckley Saturday in WNY Refresh, in my “In the field” story.

Meanwhile, I was struck by the workflow chart at ASG. The company helped developed a “smart pill” that is swallowed by a gastrointestinal patient and can record information as it travels through a patient’s digestive tract. The information can help diagnose a host of problems, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s disease.

When I asked Buckley to walk me through the process he and his staff used to develop the software, he took me into the conference room to show me pictorially, using a project flow chart above the white boards.

Here’s what he said:.

We have an engineering process that is quite formal. It has to be to in order to be a high-quality system. We ask a bunch of questions and follow a series of steps. The first quarter of this (chart) is sales; you have to understand what a client wants and repeat it back to them so you know you’re both on the same page, the formulation of what we’re going to do – the what – the requirements. That’s first.

The next portion is the organizational aspects. We just got done with the whats, now we’re going to worry about the hows. How are we going to architect this? What kind of processors do we need? How much computing power do we need? How much speed do we need? Are there any user requirements? Do they want it in blue or in green? How are we going to do that?

That’s kind of the middle portion of it, along with the organizational aspects.

We create a binder that stores all the information and make a database for ourselves that stores all of the code. That’s the design aspect.

Then you get into software development. It’s the middle portion. Basically, you start creating specifications and you get the people on the computers to actually program them and create the software that’s going to run the equipment.

Then you get into the tests and scenarios, make sure that you can formulate tests that confirm that you have covered all the requirements and that you’re doing so successfully, that there are no errors.

Then, finally, there’s a post-delivery review to make sure there’s no bugs and if there are you have to correct them. So there’s a trouble-shooting stage.

There’s also a lot of little pieces that go in there. There’s a lot of meetings. You see the red (on the chart): Meet, meet, meet, meet. There’s a lot of meetings involved to make sure you’re always on the same page with the client. You’ve also got the politics, the corporate layers, the finance layers, the legal layers.

It’s all of those things. You have to be aware of them.

You have to have a rich background to work in the software field. What would that include?

The knowledge of how to use the system. The formal term is ‘use cases.’ You’ve got to understand and be able to formulate use cases. You have to understand the trade-offs of any engineered product. Trade-offs include everything from the cost of how to develop the product to the politics involved to your market spaces. There’s a lot of pieces to that.

You have to be disciplined, so you have understand the quality process, the rigor that goes into a quality piece of software.

What sort of educational background is important?

Certainly a bachelor’s degree is required, minimally. Computer science degree is good, as is an engineering degree, electrical engineering. Probably two-thirds of our staff are either CS or engineering. An MBA is useful. Any other degree are icing on the cake, as far as I’m concerned. We do have a couple mechanical engineers, one biologist, a couple business degrees, one sociology, one psychology, finance, physics.

What market spaces are you in?

When we looked at major market spaces, we came up with automation, biotech, municipalities, embedded software – which is essentially the software that runs inside little, tiny computers that are sort of invisible, transparent to users. For example, microwave ovens, the voice of a Fisher Price toy. Just about every device you have today has software inside of it. That’s the embedded software. Medical devices would be embedded software.

So the market space is essentially automotive, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, medical, military, municipal, energy, non-automotive industrial, retail and commercial. That covers pretty much everything but financial.

What goes into writing a software program?

Oh boy. All software programs generally do the same thing: They read some sort of inputs, they process those inputs and they output something.

How did you become involved in smartphone and mobile apps?

The VA one is a mobile application that is meant to optimize the ability to get information from homeless veterans. It was a two-step process, with agents going out with clipboards to get information and going back to the office and typing it into a database. We eliminated the two-step process for a one-step process by going with an iPad to the VA database. That is an agent facing
application. The only people who have access to that information are VA employees. That is not a user facing application. We’ve also used user facing applications which also allows veterans to be able to more easily track their prescriptions.

The New Era cap one was a down-time issue. The people who work on the manufacturing floor mainly work on sewing machines and those machines can break down for one reason or another. They needed a quick way to service those machines so people weren’t sitting there idle. So we came up with a methodology that used remote applications and tablets for those to tap on a tablet and say they were down and why they were down and maintenance staff could find where they were and quickly get there to fix the machine.

What’s it like living in the Southtowns?

Other than not knowing my way around anyplace north of Walden Avenue, I love it. Growing up in Holland, I was used to those areas to begin with, and (living in) Elma was a great compromise to the point of I wanted the open spaces, my wife (who's from Kenmore) and I wanted to participate in outdoor activities, but it wasn’t so rural that she was uncomfortable with it.

email: refresh@buffnews.com

Friday benefit seeks cure, better treatment for Rett syndrome

Lisa Flick, of Williamsville, emailed this story to me this week about her daughter, Rachel, who has Rett syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental disorder that strikes late in pregnancy or in the first few months after birth and afflicts girls almost exclusively. The inability to use properly use the hands leads to more degenerative mental and physical challenges that often can be misdiagnosed as autism or cerebral palsy.

Rajat and Jenny Shah, along with Rachel's grandparents, Peter and Suzie Rivo Solender, have helped organize a fundraiser to benefit the International Rett Syndrome Foundation.

Hustle for a Cure takes place from 7 p.m. to midnight Friday in the Harbour Club at First Niagara Center. Tickets cost $125 per person or $225 per couple and can be ordered  here.

Meanwhile, here's the story:

Our beautiful daughter, Rachel Julia, was born on Jan.17, 2009.  She came into our world and was immediately taken to the NICU due to fluid in her lungs. She spent 16 long days there, only to come home and develop RSV. She spent six days at Buffalo Children’s Hospital.

Once Rachel was released, we began to live our lives with our new daughter and her older sister, Jenny.

Rachel developed normally, meeting all her milestones slowly, but eventually she acquired skills like holding her head up and babbling “da-da”, “baba” and “ma-ma.”

We noticed a change when she was about one year. We took her to a developmental specialist at Children’s Hospital. Rachel was slowing down meeting her milestones and was losing her babbling. The doctor suggested early intervention to help her and they would see how it went. Rachel stopped
developing new skills, which led us to Pittsburgh to see a specialist there.  Many tests were run over the period of one year and all the results were normal. It was suggested that we see a genetic doctor in Pittsburgh who decided more tests needed to be performed. This tim,e the test for Rett syndrome was performed. It came back on June 29, 2010 and it was positive. We will never forget that day.

My husband, Jack, and I were very surprised and we wanted to learn as much as possible to help our precious daughter. We saw a Rett syndrome specialist in New York City and made connections with IRSF.

Rachel is now 4½ years old. She is non-verbal, has use of her right hand and has been trying to learn to walk with a walker. Due to Rett syndrome, she has no balance which makes it hard to walk. Rachel attends pre-school five half days each week (due to fatigue she isn’t able to do a full day yet) at Summit Educational Resources, where her teachers and therapists work with her to help her achieve and maintain skills. At home, we work with her to practice standing (we have a stander), walking, using her hands to her best ability. Soon we hope she will have a communication devise to communicate her wants and needs. It is so frustrating for us and Rachel when she knows what she wants and cannot express it. Rett children can show a lot with their eyes but not be able to tell us.  As parents, you want to help your children and make everything better for them. With the lack of communication and cure for this disorder, it makes days at times very difficult for her, for us as parents and her sister.

We pray every day that somemedication will become available to help our little girl who so badly wants to come out of her little body and be like typical children.  We love her so much and show and tell her every day by working with her, hugging her and giving her the best treatments available at this time.

Rachel is a sweet little girl who is loved by all who come into contact with her.  Her beautiful blue eyes say so much to us and we are so proud of all she has accomplished in her 4½  years, and look forward to many more accomplishments  and years of loving her. Every smile brightens our day.

To this day she struggles with a low immune system, which means she gets sick frequently. When she gets a cold, it means one week of her struggling, using her nebulizer and other medications. We worry about her contracting something constantly. She also suffers from bad reflux. It is so hard to keep her from laughing and jumping around after she eats. If we don’t keep her still, she spits up. We need everything that she can take in to keep up her weight.

Rett syndrome has affected our entire family as well as our extended family.  We so badly need a cure so all the Rett angels and their families can live normal lives.

-- Scott Scanlon

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About The Refresh Buffalo Blog

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered various topics in his quarter-century as a journalist in South Florida, Syracuse and Buffalo. He is aiming to pass along what he is learning these days about health, fitness, nutrition and family life.

@BNRefresh | refresh@buffnews.com

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