Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chew On This

So it turns out that the staple of my diet for the last almost fifty years has actually been bad for me. I am talking about breakfast cereals.

When I was a kid, most of their names started with “sugar” – Sugar Pops, Sugar Smacks… well there was Frosted Flakes. The ones that didn’t have sugar I put sugar on by the teaspoon full; often several.

Now I know that most of these cereals are carbohydrates, a form of sugar itself. So sugar plus sugar; well it is a recipe for disaster. My blood sugar is dangerously close to the diabetic cutoff. So a few years ago I cut out sugar quite radically. Stopped putting it on things like cereal and coffee; stopped drinking pop. We had one of those sugar dispensers like you see in diners. I would fill that think up about once a week. We don’t even have it any more.

An interesting thing happened – I started to lose my taste for sweet things. Now some cakes and candies look disgustingly sweet; unappetizing almost. I can easily pass up doughnuts or cake. I like ice cream but I don’t need it very often. My “desire” for sugar has dropped… and as a result, so has my weight.

But I still have to eat something for breakfast, I cannot go without breakfast. The way it was explained to me is that if fiber is added to carbohydrate, the absorption rate is reduced. So I look for cereals now that are high in fiber. But there is a problem: high fiber cereals like Shredded Wheat, Raisin Bran, Grape Nuts, ALL taste like cardboard. I am getting tired of eating cardboard for breakfast – very tired.

There are some better tasting nutritious cereals out there but damn, they charge a hell of a lot of money for a tiny box. My jaw gets tired chewing this stuff sufficiently so I can swallow it. I probably burn up a quarter of my daily calories simply chewing this stuff.

In college I loved breakfast. My buddy Scott and I were the first ones in line at the dorm cafeteria every morning. We would have scrambled eggs, sausage, and stacks of pancakes with syrup. But then I was tearing around campus in a bike and partying all night. I made good use of my calories.

Now I am pondering at what point I can be considered “elderly”. And I am reduced to eating cardboard. Well, one advantage for an old guy… it keeps me “regular”.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yes Virginia, there is a Scrooge

I can't take credit for the idea... I saw it in a cartoon in the New Yorker magazine decades ago. But upon urging by my daughter and co-conspirator, Kara, we crafted this as a holiday father-daughter project a few years ago.

Yes, it is a real sign that we hung on my house!

I was actually surprised that the neighbors didn't complain or that there wasn't an article in the local paper. The HUMBUG sign went up two years in a row with apparently nobody noticing, or caring. 'Tis the season for apathy, I guess.

Anyway, Happy Holidays or Season's Greetings to you all regardless of what deities you may, or may not, worship. Good health and cheer to you all throughout the year and may you enjoy the company of loving people around you. - Robert

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The one person you can rely on.

Completely out of nowhere, you suddenly find yourself in an emergency situation - you are in your car and the accelerator has locked; you cannot stop, it's racing out of your control at breakneck speed. You are going to crash if you don't do something quickly. You are pressing the brake to the floor but the engine is too powerful and the car continues to accelerate out of control.

What do you do?

This actually happened a few months ago and has since prompted the biggest recall of Toyota vehicles in history. It has been blamed on defective floor mats. But this out-of-control situation can come from a number of other causes.

In this case, the people in the runawy car called 911. !!

Consider this for a moment -- four people are careening out of control in a runaway vehicle and their expectation is that SOMEBODY ELSE is responsible for saving them! What they thought thought 911 was going to do for them is beyond me... send the Power Rangers, dispatch Superman? They wasted valuable seconds which could have been used to problem solve their situation. All four died when the car crashed.
There are two things you can do if you ever find yourself in a stuck accelerator emergency:

1. Shift into NEUTRAL - There is no locking mechanism, it easily shifts... you can tap it into Neutral whether the shift is on the steering column or console.
2. Turn off the ignition with the key.
Ultimately we are all responsible for our own safety. Depending on others to save you could result in your death!

Below is a link to a story I wrote on my Second Life blog about my real life personal skydiving near-incident. It is well worth re-reading.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Allusive Dreams

I have insomnia. I don’t mean occasionally having difficulty falling asleep – I mean severe chronic insomnia. In recent years it has become worse. During my last few years at work it was so bad I would sneak out into the parking lot and try to nap in my car. A futile act of desperation; napping is also sleep – I can’t nap either.

I have suffered through this all my life. I can still recall as a youngster my mother putting me down for a nap. She would nap; I would lie in my bed and make tents out of the covers and play quietly. When I was a Boy Scout, I recall being on camp outs where I would be wide awake most of the night hearing the other kids sound asleep. By the end of the camp out I would be exhausted.

High School was hell for me. It was always so difficult for me to sleep that I would go to bed before my parents. I was probably the only teenager in the country who would get up and ask my parents to turn the TV down. But to no avail – the next morning in class I would be sitting at my desk drowsy, my eyelids heavy, my head nodding off, jerking me awake as I caught myself. My high school grades were lousy; it was a miracle that I was accepted to college.

My wife, like most people I know, goes to sleep moments after putting her head on the pillow. It annoys me to no end. I try not to glance at the clock, but torment myself nonetheless: 1:22 AM, 2:43 AM, 3:06 AM and I am still not asleep. I am so drowsy and tired, but being tired and drowsy does not equate to being able to fall asleep. I believe that some “software switch” in my brain is broken. I fall asleep when I reach the point of sleep deprivation when the body can no longer remain awake. Then, my body having sensed the minimum amount of sleep I need to survive, my brain wakes me again. I go through the day with a sleep deprivation “hangover”. It is hell.

I turned to the Medical Establishment for help. I have been to psychiatrists, psychologists, and even a physician who specializes in Sleep Medicine. The latter put me through a sleep study. But sleep studies are designed to detect Sleep Apnea. Like the Saturday Night Live routine about the Greek restaurant where, no matter what you order, they give you a Cheeseburger; they are only trying to answer one question, do you Apnea: yes or no. They gave me a sedative so I would actually sleep. In the morning they showed me how my body wakes dozens of time a night without my knowing. I felt like I slept great and just wanted to keep getting the sedative. Instead they ordered a CPAP machine for me.

I spent hundreds of dollars on this CPAP machine. It was like having a vacuum cleaner hose attached to my face. It takes me hours to fall asleep, now I had this uncomfortable contraption on me. It worked – to the extent that the device wouldn’t allow me to sleep. It now lies in the closet gathering dust.

The physicians and psychologist have had me try just about everything; Blue-Blocker glasses, Alpha-Wave generators, Melatonin, and all kinds of behavior modification techniques – you name it. I am actually one of the few people on whom the knock-out sleep drug Ambian doesn’t even work.

One psychologist even suggested that I “…just think happy thoughts”. I canceled my next appointment.

After a year of intensive medical intervention I have resigned myself to the fact that I was born with this condition and it is incurable. I sometimes fall into some very unhappy thoughts about seeking permanent sleep, but those quickly disburse. But I confess; were it possible to sell my soul to the Devil, I would trade it in a heartbeat to be able to sleep like a normal person. I am so tired.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sinking Feeling from Climate Change

My Uncle Marsh used to say: “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” He always elicited a chuckle in me when he said things like that. What can I say -- he was my lovable nutty uncle.

But many of our political leaders, who should know better, proffer a similar attitude… specifically the Conservatives in this country. Be the issue extending medical coverage to the millions of citizens without it, or finding solutions to the global climate issue, their mantra sounds remarkably like my Uncle Marsh… whatever it is, they’re against it.

Conservatives are against placing any credence in the hard science behind the facts of global climate change because doing anything to divert it might dip into the sacred “profit motive” of business. And remember, according to Conservatives, American freedom is pretty much narrowly defined as the freedom to make money.

But science is difficult to argue against. Well maybe not so much in THIS country where half of the population believes that God created every living thing pretty much as they exist today in six days. So you couldn’t blame Conservatives doing the Happy Dance when recently discovered e-mails leaked from the computers of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England revealed differences in details regarding the interpretation of data supporting climate change hypothesis.

Ah Ha, shout the Conservatives gleefully… the scientists disagree, prompting Conservative pundits and talk show hacks to fan the flames of couching climate change as a Liberal plot to stifle business interests. Sen. James Inhofe (R–Okla.), who famously dubbed climate change a "hoax" in a 2003 speech, is now the poster child for what the Conservatives are hailing as “Climate-gate”.

And of course one cannot depend on the news media to air the facts in the light of perspective. Since the topic of global climate change was first brought to the forefront, the Media has presented this as a two-sided issue of equal weight. Even to day they will bring on one scientist supporting the position of global climate change and another who opposes it and present it as though the scientific community is equally divided on the issue. They are NOT! The scientific community will always have those who hold different views, but the number of those in the scientific community who feel the science clearly support the theory of anthropogenic climate change is in the overwhelming majority.

What leaves me scratching my head when I ponder the Conservatives reaction is; don’t you think someone is going to notice? Isn’t someone going to notice that the glaciers in Sarah Palin’s back yard have receded to the size of ice cubes? Isn’t someone going to notice that deserts have increased in size by huge percentages every year? Isn’t famine and loss of drinking water going to be rather obvious when mountain sources of snow melt dry up?

I wonder if, had Conservatives had been in charge on the Titanic, would they have denied that the ship was sinking. No; the deck chairs always slide toward the bow. That isn’t an ice burg, we’re just taking on cocktail ice. Hey if you spend all your money on expensive life boats you won’t have enough for caviar.

Nope, we don’t need health care reform, global climate change is a liberal (communist) plot, and The Titanic is a submarine… just wait; it will be popping back up to surface any minute now.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Please Daddy....

Sometime my family wonders why I don't get very excited about Christmas. My sister and I got plenty of gifts as evidenced by the photo here of Christmas 1957. We were a middle-class family living the American Dream in the suburbs. But like a lot of suburban middle-class families, we had our dark secrets.

Tis not the season to rain on anyone else's holiday so I am not going to do it here. Instead I will simply post this song by the late John Denver which, I might add, I have great difficulty listening to without singing along until my voice fails.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Future is Here... Now!!!

I know I visited this topic already recently, still I am fascinated by all that has (and has not) changed during my short tenure on the planet.

I encourage you to check out this link: www.pixelmatic.com.au/2000

The page contains excerpts from July 22, 1961, Weekend Magazine explaining what life will be like in the year 2000. Below are some highlights:
  • By the year 2020, five per cent of the world's population will have emigrated into space. Many will have visited the moon and beyond.
  • There will be moving plastic-covered pavements, individual hoppicopters, and 200 m.p.h. monorail trains operating in all large cities.
  • At work, Dad will operate on a 24 hour week. The office will be air-conditioned with stimulating scents and extra oxygen - to give a physical and psychological lift.
Strap on your jet packs, citizens... there's work to be done!