Friday, May 28, 2010

Boating and booze--stupid, stupid, stupid

You know who they are—you see them walking down the dock with two cases of beer, headed for a day on the water.

Arizona is in a desert, but has many lakes and the country’s worst boating fatality record—mostly due to our old friend, alcohol.

Operating a boat while impaired can get you in as much trouble as a car.

But our state does not require you to take a safety course—does yours?

Sometimes you can take these online.

Children under 12 must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket.

Know the boating laws in your state. (Yes, there are boating laws.)

Check the weather…even a lake can get dicey.

Have electronic devices—cells, beacons, personal locators,

AND DON'T PARTY and operate the boat.

Have a designated captain.

Also—out here they warn to be careful of swimming under pontoon boats where carbon monoxide can collect and deep-six ya. You can be dead before you even feel sick or confused.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Baking soda pops

I used to horrify my sister and girlfriends by using Vaseline on my face. Hey—I like it.

Anyway, I am feeling Heloise-y today, so how about some tips on using baking soda from Vicki Lansky’s book called Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous,. Fun, and Frugal Uses You’ve Probably Never Thought Of.

I am posting this on my Recession Fun blog, too— You DO read that, I hope.

First, you can use baking soda to wash food like veggies and fruit. I am famous in my family for asking my then-mate if one uses soap to wash potatoes. If ONLY I had known this!

You can make a drain cleaner of a half a cup of baking soda, followed by half a cup of vinegar. Put a glass bowl over the drain from two hours, then run in hot water.

Vacuum up soda to kill odors in your vacuum. I can honestly say a stinky vac is the least of my problems.

Musty books? Baking soda between the pages, brush out in a few days.

Soak up oil and grease with it on the garage floor.

Put it in driveway cracks to kill weeds.

Clean tents and canvas bags with a paste of soda and water.

Burned-on food? Pour on a thick layer, an inch of water and boil. After one minute, get the crud off.

You can even make a dishwasher detergent with 2 tablespoons of soda and two of borax. My kid won’t let me try this…and I am offended. I believe the word “crackpot” might have been used.

Any others, readers? (No—not names you want to call me.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thrilling American palates

According to Miriam Gottfried (WSJ, 2010), foods are being amped up.

I once ate a Doritos lime chip that was so sour and salty, I could hardly stand it!

Food makers are concentrating on the fifth basic “taste,” umami…which sort of means “flavory” or an explosion of flavor. The others are sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.

Umami is king now—with longer lasting zippy gum and fruitier drinks.

There is even a chip gradation called “Third Degree Burn.”

Apparently, people get bored with a basic taste and want it enhanced.

Good-bye, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and chicken sticks, and hello, roasted cumin, caraway, bitter greens, roasted rhubarb, and ale…some of the hot flavors for 2010.

Although some flavors came from Szechuan cooking in China, now the American products are wilder.

Water...I need water.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Doctors are thinner and healthier, right?

My father used to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Followed by: “That’s an order.”

Melinda Beck (WSJ, May 25, 2010), says 40% of male physicians are overweight, and 23% are obese (this is 43% and 23% in the average population).

Doctors use hormone replacement more than their patients do.

Doctors are less likely to have a primary care physician—and more apt to abuse prescription drugs.

Doctors who watch calories and exercise are more likely to recommend this—and more likely to be believed.

More than half of Harvard med professors exercise three times a week for 30-60 minutes a session.

Only 203% smoke, compared with 24% of the rest of us.

Both male and female doctors are more likely to drink alcohol, but are less likely to binge.

Almost half of the Harvard docs ate fast food a couple of times a week (42%).

Half of female docs said they would take the pill.

Many docs also “wing it.” They take sample meds and if they get a worrisome symptom, ask a colleague about it over lunch.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Compliments are healthy for you

Surely it’s not so unthinkable that someone likes something about you. And they might even say it.

Then what do you do?

Elizabeth Bernstein (WSJ, May 4, 2010) talks about why we are so unsettled by compliments.

Of course, some compliments are, shall we say, mixed? She cites the example of a man dressed to the nines in a receiving line and a dowager said, “You certainly do dress well…for a fat man.”

I used to get the “you have such a pretty face” one, followed by a pause where I was to mentally insert, “Too bad your body is so fat.”

“You short people sure are intelligent” was another back-hander she cited. Or “You must have been pretty when you were young.” Or (this one made me laugh), “You look like Kevin Spacey.”

One thing about compliments—we hear what we want to hear. If we are feeling insecure, we may take it as a shot.

We can accept compliments easier from a peer—someone who knows how hard you work or whatever the praise is about.

Sometimes you will believe something nice from a mere acquaintance and not from a loved one.

Just be sincere. Don’t overdo it.

If you are praised, just say thank you.

You also don’t have to toss out a compliment in return—this isn’t tennis.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Testing, testing

Lest outbreaks of e.coli and other horrors lead you to think nobody is checking up on products for safety and efficacy, enter Consumer Union, the nonprofit that publishes Consumer Reports Magazine.

According to a piece in the WSJ by Gwendolyn Bounds (May 5, 2010), technicians in Yonkers NY test 3,000 product models annually.

Recently, even a Lexus did not meet their standards and thousands were recalled for repairs.

Consumers Union has been under a cloud because of bad reporting by labs it contracted to, but it has apologized and is keeping tighter control.

Many things go flooey in the labs from time to time—bread burning in a toaster, molten metal almost hitting a tester. Another tester had to amass 9,000 condoms from machines in men’s rooms—that must have been fun.

In one test, Maine coon cat hair was thrown on rug segments to test vacuums. In another, sawdust was used to test snow blowers in summer.

The company even buys pre-soiled cloth with body oils on it to test washers.

This could even be a place to get a job if you can tell 1% milk from 2% and have finely tuned sensory organs.

The boxes. Yes, this is my personal theory…Almost all household items are boxes. Washers are boxes of water, dryers and refrigerators boxes of air, vacuum cleaners boxes of no air…etc.

No point, really. I just felt like saying that.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Heal your soul--and drink more tea

If, amidst the cat boxes, children’s toys, and ringing phone, you aspire to a higher form of existence, get these two books.

The first is “Tea with a Twist,: Entertaining and Cooking with Tea” and the second is “The World in Your Teacup: Celebrating Tea Traditions Near and Far.”

If you know someone refined and perfect, this would be a great gift, too.

I am so far from perfect it’s not on my map and I am not very refined, but these gorgeous books, written by Lisa Boalt Richardson, with luscious, soft-focus photography by Lauren Rubenstein, took me to a better place.

As if you needed to ask, Richardson is a certified tea specialist.

Between the two books, you will learn how to brew tea in the way of all the great tea-drinking nations. There are recipes for tea-centered parties, including a chocolate party with chocolate tea.

You will learn how to make tea from certain flowers, how to prepare an all-green meal. How do Key Lime Coconut Bars sound?

Ah, do have a cuppa.

By the way, tea is also healthful.

Throwing Luzianne decaf tea bags into water and putting the pitcher in the fridge probably does not even qualify as tea drinking on this level, but we do drink it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We're sick, but what do we have?

Is hoarding a mental illness? Yes. Now.

Shirley S Wang, WSJ, Feb 10, 2010, says the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is being revised.

This is used to make insurance coverage decisions and treatment calls. It matters.

Hoarding is now a diagnosis. Severe childhood temper tantrums are now temper dysregulation disorder.

Aspergers will be put under autism.

Apathy disorder—lack of motivation—is still being considered.

Mixed anxiety depression is a new one—people can be depressed and anxious at the same time.

Substance abuse is broadened to include gambling and the whole deal is being renamed addictive behaviors.

Improvement? We’ll see. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lots of people can't "go" on command

Seventeen million Americans suffer from “shy bladder”—according to the International Paruresis Assn.

Doctors and others tell them if you have to go bad enough, you will be able to. But it doesn’t work this way.

Some sufferers can’t hold jobs or take trips. One man, in a story by Detroit Free Press’s Robin Erb, took a job as a janitor so when he had to go, he could put out a sign and keep others out of the restroom.

Not being able to control it creates panic and panic means you can’t go.

Urinating means relaxing some strong muscles instantly and on command. If it doesn’t happen that way, panic sets in.

One man could not even walk around a building—he would be watching every bathroom to see who was coming in or out.

There are therapy sessions you can take that begin with lots of tea and water and work around to restrooms, first in the building, then out in public.

I don’t have this, but it sounds awful—like you would have to have a lot of secret coping mechanisms.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Women in fast cars

Uh-oh, women are speed demons

New survey out (Allstate) that says 48% of teenage girls say they like to drive 10 miles over the limit. Only 36% of the boys said this.

Joseph White and Anjali Athavaley wrote about this in the WSJ, May 5, 2010.

Many people were surprised. The boys lied, scoffed some.

Sixty-five percent of boys and girls said they were good drivers, but 77% said they weren’t sure about their friends.

This was a sample of more than 1000 teens.

Are young women taking on more risks in all aspects of life, wondered one expert.

Still, Allstate charges boys 40% more than girls.

Some good news? Teen deaths in accidents—down 54% from 1975.

Still, 84% of girls will adjust the radio, only 69% of boys.

Eight-two percent of both use cells.

And almost a quarter admit to drinking and driving.

Here's a tip: You may feel you are immortal, but you're not.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Watch that DEET

It’s bug time! Mosquitoes, ticks, Bees, wasps, Lyme Disease, West Nile…oh, our insect friends are creepy, all right.

In the US, there are 20,000 confirmed cases of insect-borne diseases each year.

First, you can get them before they get you. This means community spraying. In our community this means airplanes spewing poison on you.

To aid, you can dump standing water in the littlest containers in your yard and let your fish eat critters that land on your pond. Don’t let swimming pools go green—a problem with foreclosures being what they are.

Check out the CDC’s bug advice at If a product contains permethrin—it’s for clothes only, not skin.

The most popular repellent—DEET—must be used cautiously. It can zonk out baby rats and make them walk funny or die.

Gulf War Syndrome may also be attributed in part to DEET.

Use below 30% concentration for adults, 10% for kids. Never use DEET on babies under age 2.

Don’t use DEET—even to spray your yard—if you take certain meds.

Outside, you can use a bug zapper, or a citronella candle.

Avon’s famous Skin so Soft that is said to gross out bugs? Some swear by it.

You can also avoid strong perfumes (bugs like those). Check for ticks when leaving the woods. Wear light-colored, loose clothes outside (no red).

Heck, stay indoors. I plan to. I have seen "Deliverance."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Nothing is perfect--wabi sabi

Almost everyone has heard of feng shui by now—the Chinese art of placement to create optimal energy flow. We even practice it somewhat in our little hut here.

The other day, though, I think I learned about my personal philosophy—wabi sabi. It’s not Chinese, but Japanese.

It is also a school of thought of what is beautiful—but the object or whatever is being considered brings about a sense of serene melancholy and longing. The longing for the perfect, the even better.

Wabi sabi instead recognizes reality—nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect.

Carried within it is a sense of the unfinished, the raw, the what-it-is. The words sort of mean apologetic rust.

Your mate, child, house, job, yourself, your health, the economy, the world, everything is wabi sabi.

This is the first time I saw a name for it.

I remember back when I did more publications work. If we found a mistake (always when it was too late to fix it), I would say, “Japanese potters always leave a small imperfection so the soul of a pot can escape.”

I knew wabi sabi—I just didn’t have the lingo.

The tree in the picture? My yard. It's dead. Shortly after, it was cut down. But it had a certain beauty in that shot, didn't it?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Childishly simple--but effective

Simple but not easy—the jump rope

The old becomes new again. Jumping rope is aerobic, cheap (yes, there are expensive high tech ropes), and portable.

Human Kinetics is out with a book called Jump Rope Training—go to

Ten minutes of jumping equals half an hour of jogging.

The muscles used in jumping also help prevent falling.

You will increase your speed, endurance, and power, too.

Next time: Jacks.

Aw, just kidding.

Do they still sell jacks? I loved those.

Can you say the words to the Lady with the Alligator Purse—Miss Lucy called the doctor, Miss Lucy called the nurse, Miss Lucy called the Lady with the Alligator Purse…In came the doctor…
something like that.

Sorry, digressed.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Don't let your child drown

Out here in the desert, we have lots of pools and lots of tots tumbling in and dying.

It’s a grim theme with us.

Kids love going to the pool, so when they see a pool, they go right over—if you let them.

Never leave a kid near the pool—even for a quick dash inside.

Designate a “watcher” to scan the pool at all times while children are swimming. They can go under in a crowd and you might not notice.

You must have a fence with bars less than four inches apart. In AZ, pools built since 1993 also must have a 5-foot wall.

Doors leading to the pool must be self-latching. Lots of times kids wander out while a parent is napping or working.

Trim trees near the fence and keep toys away from the fence so kids can’t climb in—they are little monkeys!

Keep basic lifesaving equipment near the pool.

Keep a cordless outside with you.

Don't count on plastic floats or flimsy little waterwings to keep your child's head above water.

Learn CPR—did you know they are thinking now just chest compressions, without the breaths in between. Learn the latest. Practice.

Summer should be fun—not the saddest time of your entire life.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cutting off the cell in the car

In the Costco Connection (Apr 2010), a mother is described as being horrified when her teenage son was practicing for his license, took a call, and swerved around alarmingly.

Teens are easily distracted and they aren’t the only ones.

This mother then devised some software called iZup ( to work on certain cellphones.

At more than 5 mph, it launches and shuts down the handset.

In case of emergency, three preselected numbers get through or goes out. 911 always works.

What do you think, readers?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Don't fake out the ER

In an article on the MSNBC website, JoNel Aleccia, said often people go to the ER and give a fake name or number and then if test results come back positive after they have left, the staff cannot find them to tell them.

My daughter was diagnosed with MRSA but had gone home and come back, which is when she learned the results. Never knowing could have been bad.

Not much data exists on this, but a study in 2000 showed fewer than half of 1,136 patients could be contacted using the info they gave.

Clerical error? Deliberate? Not known.

Some people fear being contacted to check their immigration status. Cellphones get disconnected. They don't want to get big bills.

Some ERs call the police to track down severe cases, others send registered letters.

One doctor said in the story that it was the patient’s fault—he had responsibility to give accurate information. So don’t count on these doctors turning in House or Dr Welby and chasing you down.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Breast cancer prevention with fewer side efx

At 81 months of followup, the STAR P-2 trial between Tamoxifen and Raloxifene shows both are effective in preventing breast cancer recurrence, but the Raloxifene has fewer side effects for many women.

Taloxifene improves its effectiveness against noninvasive b/c and caused significantly less endometrial cancer, and was significantly less toxic than Tamoxifen.

I am not a physician, not very knowledgeable about breast cancer, but if you are involved with this subject, this is worth checking out, in my opinion.

Here is a teleconference you can download:

Again—talk to your doctor.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Here, honey, hug your germ

There is a website called They sell plush stuffed animal versions of many, many deadly diseases.

I could not make this up.

Among their best sellers—e. coli and mad cow. You know—cuddly e.coli and cuddly mad cow.

They even have one of my daughter’s affliction, MRSA.

I asked her did she want a stuffed version of it.

She said nope.

Each comes with a rather scientific explanation of the disease. I learned about this because they were seeking a writer to do these “tags.”

I still would like to do it. That way, I could ask, Who buys these?

My daughter did ask did they have STDs. I didn't ask why.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Someone to help you sort out medical bills

If ou are going under with an illness and bales of medical bills, EOBs, insurance questions, doubts, fears, and just plain panic, there are companies that can help you sort of it out—for a price, of course.

I got a press release on one, Health Advocate, which will provide you with an advocate, usually a specialized nurse, to resolve insurance problems, understand costs and make good decisions, find qualified doctors and hospitals, and go over tests with you.

They also negotiate payments where this is possible and do lots of other services you cannot do yourself even if you were well or not caring for someone.

To find out more, go to

Has anyone worked with a company like this? How did it work out?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Alzheimer's: This is science-y

My mother does not have Alzheimer’s, which is a form of dementia, but she is memory-impaired.

So I have read up on Alzheimer’s and these other horrible variations quite a bit over the years, and the conventional wisdom, to the extent they know anything, is that the physical and mental symptoms of Alzheimer’s were caused by amyloid plaque, kind of like oozy brain snot that sort of smothers brain signals.

This was discovered or put forth 100 years ago and forms the basis of much research.

Now, in a rat model, researchers seem to have shown that floating clumps of amyloid called oligomers are key to impeding brain cell function.

Mice that never developed plaques were just as impaired as those with both plaques and oligomers.

Recently, a drug was tested that cleared away 25% of plaques—and patients weren’t any better.

Knowing what causes something helps docs find a way to detoxify or remove it—presumably leading to improvement.

Some researcher have wondered before this if the plaques might be neutral or even protective, rather than the villains.

So, keep those fingers crossed.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Liquid meds for kids recalled

Just a quickie I spotted. Forty popular liquid medicines for children--Tylenol, Tylenol Plus, Motrin, Zyrtec, and Benadryl--are now thought to have been manufactured without proper quality controls, whatever that means.

Don't forget--kids have littler systems to process stuff.

Parents should not give these as a precautionary measure. Stay tuned.

If your child has a cold, try sitting in a steamy bathroom, offering juice and water, and plenty of hugs.