Friday, July 23, 2010

The national heat wave.

     My cousin forwarded to me some photos sent to him by a friend taken on a trip to Antarctica. I thought that was a good idea though it may not suffice to make one feel cooler. Maybe if one really concentrated on the photos with mindfulness and turned on creative imagination full dial to the right, you might feel better. If not at least you'll see some of these gorgeous photos.

Various views of glaciers, snow, ice on the Antarctic peninsula and surrounding islands.

Above are 25 pictures that are designed to cool you down.

Here are some details about the photos. This trip occurred in Feb 2008. We flew to Santiago, Chile, and visited Valparaiso and Venue del Mar, then flew to Punta Arenas where we boarded the Hurtigruten Norwegian Cruise boat, Nord Norge. Then we cruised the Chilean Fjords, and saw Torres del Peine which is an amazing place. We were able to mount Cape Horn before we crossed the Drake Passage which that day was like the Drake Lake. We had a total of 12 landings because our weather in Antarctica was so good. The only bad weather was one morning when the deck as you see above was coated with slippery snow and also when we tried to cross the Antarctic Peninsula into the Weddell Sea. There was too much pack ice there and we had to turn around. We landed at the Chilean Research Station twice, in the midst of several penquin colonies, on Deception Island which is actually a flooded volcanic caldera, and at Port Lockroy. In the pictures you see gentoo penquins, adelaide penquins, and chinstrap penquins. In the middle of one gentoo colony there is a single kind penquin lying down which had gotten lost there. See if you can find him. We saw all sorts of birds, whales breeching and waving at us, many seal species and dolphins. It was an absolutely phenomenal trip and well worth the rough return across the Drake. Though it was hard to walk on ship for that crossing, with the scopalamine patches behind our ears, neither of us got at all nauseous and were able to eat dinner, though the crew had difficulty trying to carry in the baked Alaska which was served for dessert that night. We returned to Ushusaia, Argentina and then flew to Buenos Aires, and later Iguasu Falls, then home. If anyone has any questions about this trip, please enter your questions in the comments and I will answer them or email me at

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bathroom Wars

     The proverbial war of the toilet seat up or down goes on.
      Our war has some extras that add fuel to the fire. Our large house has 5 bathrooms, 3 of them downstairs where we live most of the time. The one that is part of the master bedroom suite has always more or less been mine so I would usually find the toilet seat down. My husband when he got up to go at night would usually walk to the other end of the house and use the back powder room near the laundry. I don't know why he always walked so far--maybe because he usually left that seat up and so it was ready for him. There is the guest powderroom that is right outside his bedroom door, but that one is special. It contains my Kohler :Wildflowers of the Prairie pedestal sink. Also both of us got in the habit of not flushing because we didn't want to wake the other person, but then we would forget the next day and this is not good for the porcelain toilet bowl or for the welcoming odor of the home. Finally we both agreed to flush even at the risk of waking the spouse. But this still leaves us with the "seat up or down" battle.
     As time as gone on and we have both aged, various things have happened to our bladder musculature. My husband has had prostate issues and subsequent radiation treatment that leaves him with nocturia (medical term for getting up at night to urinate too often). He may also have some urgency, I don't know. (Term that means you have to rush to urinate to avoid an accident). I have definite urgency to a significant degree and perhaps some degree of overactive bladder in addition to the sinking musculature that contributes to this. Both of these factors in the two of us sometimes necessitate us using the other's designated bathrooms. For example, I come home and have that urgency the minute I step in the door that leads me to use the back powder room near the laundry. Hence, seat stays down on husband's bathroom. My husband again avoiding the "special" guest powder room , uses the one in the master suite. Hence I find the seat up and I am having urgency. Those few seconds needed to put the seat down in the middle of the night might be all it takes to prompt an accident. Neither one of us have commented to each other about these issues because they are beneath civilized conversation in the living room or over coffee in the morning.
     What do we do? Write Ann Landers? I think she is no longer doing a column. I think her sister is, but should either of us communicate with her? See our respective doctors and medicate ourselves further than we already are medicated? I for one don't want any more medication. Wear one of the several brands of panty liners and/or with time a Depends type of product? I have already tried the former and it helps, but I doubt I could get my husband to do this. Anyway how would this help under dire circumstances? What should we do, just let it rip? Fill the product, so to speak. Seems rather uncouth, don't you think? I did do some research on the Internet on this issue. Some suggestions for toilet bowl etiquette suggested that both parties lower the seat and the lid each time. Then both parties would be equal when they approach the toilet bowl and can choose which way they want the set up. Each would be subject to the same delay -- certainly an equitable solution. There is also the question of closing that lid on germs and just the general site of the open toilet while washing your hands or brushing your teeth. Before we have company, I always go around and close all the toilet lids, so there is something in me that thinks the closed seat and lid is more esthetic.
     To add further analysis to this question access the following website. You will see an analysis on work units starting with two different schemes pertaining to the position of the toilet seat after use. Convincingly there is less work if the toilet seat is simply left in the position in which it is found. But the level of kindness to the female is at least perceived to be higher if the seat is left down even though it takes more work units to accomplish this. Access this website to see the statistical analysis: funny!  Or google toilet seat up or down etiquette and you will find this site listed.
     I guess after my husband's encounter with prostate neoplasm and mine with melanoma, the urgency and nocturia problems as medical problems go are rather diminutive. Just another sign of aging and another deficiency to deal with. Maybe some day there will be a toilet seat reader that reads an implanted chip on the butt of the urinator and automatically raises or lowers the lid. Wouldn't that be something?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

     I have often thought about how much time and effort each human being needs to spend to stay healthy. It came to me again today.
     I often attend Grand Rounds at Columbia Hospital even though I am a retired physician, because I like to keep up with my old profession and I also like to exercise my brain a little bit. Today's talk was by a cardiologist at the hospital talking about reducing salt in our diet, what that will accomplish and whether indeed it would be possible to achieve that in this country of fast food and prepared foods in boxes. It is known that indeed we would need the full cooperation of our food industry to reduce salt. Studies have shown that there are remarkable reductions in hypertension -- reducing salt can lower systolic blood pressure by 10 to 13 mm of mercury which is what each individual blood pressure medication can do. This means that a significant salt reduction in our diet will allow us to drop one blood pressure medication. Our high salt diet has been linked not only to hypertension but to gastric cancer, osteoporosis, kidney failure, obesity, strokes and heart attacks. Finland, later Japan and then England have made national moves to force the food industry to lower salt intake. In the English study for example, heart attacks were reduced by 80% and it is calculated that the average person in England with this salt reduction will live 5-6 years longer. Pretty impressive numbers! It is estimated that in this country there are 100,000 deaths per year by cardiovascular events that could be prevented by lowering sodium in the diet. This is the equivalent of 2 jet liners crashing every day for a year. Now if a single jet liner crashed daily for 3 days, don't you think that all planes would be grounded and there would be a huge shake up to improve safety and figure out why such an awful thing was happening? Yet that equivalent of people die each year from the salt in our diet, and so far very little is being done to help the situation. Needless to say it was a very interesting talk and following discussion. But this prompted me to try harder to reduce salt in my own diet and avoid the snacks and other foods that unfortunately I love so much. Therefore I am back to reading the ingredient lists on foods I have in my pantry and when shopping at the store. This all takes a lot of effort and I can't even venture the amount of extra time it takes.
     In general, we eat way too much fast food and deli food with its salt and with too many calories in the form of fat and sugars. If we each really try to buy less of this kind of food and prepare food from scratch at home we will invest a very large amount of time. I can only guess that we cooks would be spending at least 2 more hours a day to prepare these healthier meals.
      I also recently went to the dentist. After such a visit I am always inspired to floss better and brush better and try to keep up with my teeth. Add maybe -- oh let's say 20 minutes a day to brush better and floss at least once.
     Then of course there is my recent encounter with skin cancer. So I am being very faithful about wearing sunscreen. Of course, I now put it on whenever I go out in my garden or go for a walk. But I have recently learned that I should be putting it on just when I drive to run errands. Did you know that the majority of skin cancers occur on the left side of the body, usually the arm, side of neck or shoulder, or face. This is especially true in men. Why would this be? Well, it is postulated that it is because men usually drive the car and hang their left arm out the window. But even if you don't hang your arm out the window, significant UV light can come through your cars windows unless they are made to block UV light. Even if they are, they may not block UVA light and that can over years of time cause skin cancer. So now when I am driving I am conscious of what part of my body is in the sun and am now putting on sunscreen even if I am just off running errands. It doesn't take much time but it is another obligation I am trying to meet. My exercise patterns which you will read about below involves water aerobics. In the summer, there is lots of sun exposure so now I have sent for sun protection swimwear with long sleeves on the top and longer pants on the bottoms. Cost: $130. Time to put on sunscreen: 10 - 20 minutes per day depending how much you are out in the sun.
     What about your exercise plan? You are supposed to exercise aerobicly for at least 30 minutes every day. If you are not in too good a fitness shape then you will have to exercise at a slower rate and maybe are just going to go for a walk. Then you will have to spend more time at that exercise to get the same benefit -- probably spending 50 minutes or so with that slower paced exercise.
     How many of you women spend a lot of money on skin products for your face and skin elsewhere on the body. I usually don't use too many of these products but as I get older my skin on my legs is getting dryer and with the water aerobics that I do, I need to put lotion on my legs to keep the skin moisturized. It is recommended that you apply this moisturizer after showering to trap the moisture into the skin. Extra time -- maybe 5 minutes.
     How much sleep do you get? We all know the touted 8 hours per night.
     I am a very spiritual person! I try to meditate daily. There are many studies that show that regular meditation lowers blood pressure, lowers pulse rate, calms anxiety, prevents and even treats depression, lengthens life. The usual minimum for meditation is about 20 minutes a day, but more frequent practice can only help more. Though some of the benefits from meditation are seen after regular practice for only 4 days. But one would assume those benefits are lost if these practices are not kept up. If you do not meditate and instead obtain your spiritual practice from  church attendance you are investing time there as well. Membership in a church also is membership in a community which requires other responsibilities and volunteering time and effort as well as money to the community. Difficult to estimate this time and money, but let me venture an average of 2 hours per week minimum.
     What about you ladies with your hairdresser. Do you go once a week for a wash and styling? If you do your hair yourself, you are investing more time than that a week. I would estimate at least 15 minutes per day.
     Do you get regular manicures or pedicures? I have never had one of these so I can't estimate the time and money spent on such luxuries. But it must be about an hour per week. Is this a reasonable estimate?
     I have read that if we don't exercise our brain regularly we may be more at risk for dementia in later life. We can't just sit in front of the TV. We must actually learn something new each day whether it is studying a new language, doing crosswords, or word puzzles, or taking a class. Let's figure at least an hour per day with these endeavors.
     It has been shown that those who live longest and healthiest are those with the largest and most effective support group. Support group equals friends. So for our health we need to maintain a healthy group of people around us who care about us a great deal. Those people are not going to be there for us unless we contribute to the maintainence of these friendships. This maintenance takes time as well. Let's figure at least 2 hours a week to keep friends as close as we need them for this purpose. I suspect that it would take a lot longer.
     What else do we need to do to keep ourselves happy and healthy? Any other ideas?

I think we are up to about 4.5 hours per day without your required sleep. Just do some math and you will find where that 5-6 years you saved watching your salt intake went. Yup, reading ingredients, and doing all the other things listed above. It's a wash!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Birds on Lake Michigan

     Lately we have been having excellent birdwatching on Lake Michigan. Today for example, I was just sitting in the great room reading and I looked up. Out on the lake were some white things; they were pretty distant and I couldn't tell if they were boats or could they be large white birds? Grabbed the binoculars and then ran for the Swarovski spotting scope. Indeed, they were birds! Very large birds! Four mute swans all in a line. They paddled from just off our point northward, pausing here and there to preen. Two even seemed to be napping at times with head tucked under their wings. They paddled north until they were out of sight. Four together. They must be unmated 2 or 3 year old birds. Right now mated pairs would be still raising their young which after 35 days of incubation, are hatched, but do not fly for 120 days. So the mated pair would still be very busy indeed.

     Several days ago I saw the female eagle fly along the lake bluff with a large fish in its talens. My grandson asked what kind of fish it was. I don't know, I told him, but it looked like a very good lunch for the two eaglets in the nest.
     When my grandson was recently here we made regular trips to my bluebird house. Low and behold the pair in the back nest box have already fledged the first set of offspring and are working on their second for the season. The first night I looked with grandson Sam there were four sky blue eggs in the nest. The next day when we looked there was a freshly hatched baby bird. And the third day that we looked all four had hatched. I looked the day after my family left and the four babies already had black fuzz on their backs. Wow, they grow fast. Grandson Sam enjoyed making trips to the lake bluff to look for the eagle and to see the baby bluebirds and other birds we could see from the bluff top -- swallows, gulls, and a great blue heron.