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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Winter Solstice

When we were in Peru some years ago, we took the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu – the ‘lost’ city high in the Andes Mountains discovered just 100 years ago this year. The trip alone was truly memorable. The little train’s engine struggled to climb part way up the mountain, stopped and backed up an equally steep grade, stopped and went forward up further and in this way zigzagged its way up to the level that ran through a mountain valley. After a couple of hours of mountain scenery, we got off at a station below the towering cliffs jutting up on all sides of the amazing site. A waiting bus transported us through tortuous hairpin turns and took us up the rest of the way.

The video takes you to the breathtaking site. The most spectacular part of the tour for me was to the sacred flat rock with its hitching post where the Incans performed the ritual of lassoing the sun at the time of winter solstice. After days of prayers and incantations, they believed they made it stop disappearing into the horizon earlier and earlier each day and start it’s return toward longer days of spring and summer.

The axis around which the Earth spins, precesses [wobbles like a top] and for us in the northern hemisphere, it tips away from the sun to its full extent at winter solstice and then takes 4 or 5 days before it starts tipping back. On June 21, it is fully tipped toward the sun, the days are very long and our summer starts . At the South Pole, of course, December 21 is their longest day and thus the beginning of their summer.

I’ve always been surprised at the extent to which ancient civilizations studied the skies. Observatories from Samarkand in Uzbekistan to Uxmal on the Yucatan peninsula, to name two special ones I’ve visited that were very advanced. They were able to create calendars to predict the best planting and harvesting times and the dates of ritual ceremonies needed to be precisely known so they could be celebrated correctly.

Without the distractions of modern times and the accumulated knowledge so freely available, people had a special connection with the planet when surrounded with the grandeur of the moving skies full of stars that appeared, disappeared and moved predictably. It gave a sense of wonder that is missing now for many of us living in light polluted cities.

At this special time of year, in whatever way you may observe the holiday in our northern hemisphere, I hope you will rejoice in the knowledge that the days will start getting longer and as the Earth warms, anticipate the rebirth spring brings. Soon, out will come our seed catalogues. Rie

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Guinness stout

Recently my doctor prescribed a glass of Guinness stout before dinner to improve my appetite. It’s nearly black in colour and I love the distinctive taste. It’s an old remedy – I had an aunt many years ago who was told to drink a bottle of stout a day to improve her ability to nurse her new born. Scientists now corroborate that the signage that says ‘Guinness is good for you’ that is to be seen very prevalently all over Ireland especially, is actually true. It does contain healthful vitamins and minerals.

When we were in Ireland some years ago, we visited the old St. James’s Gate Brewery where Arthur Guinness started brewing beer in 1759. During the tour someone asked why the beer appeared so black and the answer of necessity, required a short lesson on how any beer is made. We were told that the cereal that is the basis of most beers is barley or wheat [rice is used sometimes in lighter varieties] and to change the starch in the grains of cereal to sugar, it is soaked in water and allowed to sprout. The sprouted grain is then heated to dry the seedlings and the resulting product is what they call ‘malt’. Water, hops [for flavour] and yeast are added to the malt and the yeast feeds on the sugar to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. The result is beer, the third most popular drink in the world behind water and tea. With that basis we were then told the story about the first batch of the deep ruby red Guinness stout.

It turns out that the men who made the beer were allowed a certain amount of it to drink during their breaks in a day. One day, as the story goes, they were having such a jolly time, they allowed the sprouted barley to heat too long and the malt was roasted to a dark colour. It wasn’t burned and they decided to use it anyway. When the overseer saw the resulting almost black beer, to punish the men he insisted that to they would have that for their break and they would have to drink it until it was all used up. Actually it was really no penalty at all because the workers liked the dark beer so much and thus the start of production of Guinness stout that was perfected and has became renowned throughout many countries in the world.

Those who make their own beer know that when it is racked into bottles, a teaspoon of sugar is added to each one and then the cap put on to seal it. The yeast continues to work on the sugar and produce the carbon dioxide bubbles that give the beer its characteristic taste and ‘fizz’. Instead of using this method of producing effervescence, Guinness developed an altogether unique new method. It was a widget that is filled with nitrogen gas under pressure and sealed into any container of stout.

The "floating widget" found in cans and bottles of Guinness is a hollow plastic sphere, 3 cm [over an inch] in diameter, 7 cm [about 3 inches] in length with the small microscopic hole in the bottom. The video shows how it works to put that special ‘milky head’ on the beer.

It’s taken some serendipity and a long time for Guinness stout to develop but, Oh my, it’s been worth the wait! Best medicine I’ve ever had!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Elephant Safari

In 1996 when we traveled to Nepal, we made arrangements to visit the southern jungle bordering on India where rhinos could be hunted using elephants. As the picture shows, the rhinos must not consider elephants any threat because they pay no attention to them nor to the gaggle of tourists on their backs.

Our first morning there, we are awakened to the sound of elephants returning from the jungle where they had spent the night chained to a tree feeding and sleeping. Though tamed, the chains are routine and necessary to keep them from wandering off.

Each elephant is always accompanied by its mahout, the man who controls it. Mahouts apparently start as boys when they are assigned a young animal. They form a bond with their elephant that often lasts through much of their lives. After breakfast, we were shown the elephant enclosure where they are groomed and trained. The younger elephants being in close contact, learn from the older ones and the video shows that the elephants learn vocal signals as well but usually won’t react to any command unless given by its own mahout.

To go on safari we had to climb up to a high platform built so the elephants could come alongside and we could step onto the ‘howdah’ or the carriage strapped to their back. It was comfortable enough as we moved slowly along the trail being rocked from side to side. We soon reached a clearing where rhinos were grazing. They seemed dwarfed by our huge mounts and we certainly had a good look at them.

.Actually I was more interested in the elephants. They are among the smartest in the animal kingdom with 160 gestures and more than 70 sounds that they use in communication. Many vocalizations are complex and sophisticated and progress has been slow in the study of elephant language. I was even more intrigued when I read that in the wild, male and female elephants live separately and that female groups of up to 20 close family members spend their lives together. The life cycle of females is similar to that of humans in that they live 20 or 30 years after their last child. I am reminded of the piece I wrote about the ‘grandmother effect’ and how the close contact of the older women with the young allows them to pass on their accumulated knowledge. Elephants may be wiser than we realize.

The biggest treat for me on that safari was in the afternoon, watching the elephants playing in the river where they were having a fine time together. It was easy to see they were interacting and you could truly feel their affection for each other. Rie

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pasteur to Penicillin

When I was visiting a science museum in Paris in 1949, I remember being thrilled to come across the very swan neck flask that Pasteur had used in his famous experiment in 1862. He did that experiment to prove that the popular belief in ‘spontaneous generation’ - that life just starting up of its own accord - was not the reason why any food left open to the air ‘went bad’ or began to ferment.

The results of that experiment would be far reaching. One of the main reasons that science has been so successful is that experimental outcomes are openly reported and thus able to be used by other scientists with confidence as the basis for their own work. This post is about a chain of important discoveries affecting all mankind that started with the work done in the 1670’s by Leeuwenhoek, the Dutch scientist famous for making microscopes. He had reported that through them he could see a multitude of very tiny microscopic life forms. This knowledge subsequently convinced Pasteur that there were all sorts of microorganisms, mostly bacteria, viruses and fungi spores that you couldn’t see suspended in the air and that they were drifting down onto food and infected it.

To prove his point, Pasteur did a simple but very famous experiment. He put some nourishing broth in 2 identical long stemmed flasks boiled them both to kill any microorganisms they contained and one he left the top open while with the other, he melted the glass at the top of the stem and pulled it into a long swan neck shaped tube as shown in the picture. It was still open to the air but microorganisms could not fall into the broth and, as Pasteur predicted, it did not spoil as the other one did.

Influenced by Pasteur’s results and writings, Joseph Lister, a surgeon in Scotland, became convinced that the reason open wounds usually became infected was because the harmful microbial life forms from the air were similarly contaminating them. By 1869, he was sterilizing his instruments, cleaning open wounds and covering them with bandages covered with an antiseptic. His results were so dramatic with so many lives saved that he spread the word and medical science was revolutionized through reading about his methods and following his example.

The story of Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin can also be connected to Pasteur’s work. Although it had been suspected for many years that disease could be passed from one person to another by being in close proximity, Pasteur proved that bacteria suspended in air could cause disease. In 1928, Fleming was looking for a substance that would not be harmful to the body but could kill the disease-causing germs a person had breathed in. He was growing a type of Staphylococcus bacteria in covered glass dishes and trying to kill them with different substances. By chance while cleaning up some discarded dishes, he happened on one that had been open to the air and a mold was growing in it. Observant, he noticed that the mold was killing the ‘staph’ germs all around it. Recognizing his ‘find’ as important, he had a colleague identify the mold as a Penicillium type and he called its active ingredient penicillin. His chance discovery opened up the whole field of antibiotics.

When you prepare food be aware, like Pasteur, that you are creating conditions for air born contamination. Cover and refrigerate. Rie

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kite surfing

To the uninitiated, kite surfing is the sport of riding on a small surfboard propelled across water by a large kite to which the rider is harnessed. I was introduced to it when we wintered in Caberete, on the north shore of the Dominican Republic. The bay there is touted as being one of the world-class sites for kite surfing.

That is because on every sunny day, the air over the land is warmed and, as it rises, air is drawn off the water to take its place. This causes the consistent, steady onshore breezes that sweep in over the large open bay - perfect conditions for kite surfers. They begin appearing around 2 pm ready for hours of extreme sport. Besides jumping and stunts in the air, some kite boarders with the latest equipment and a good wind, can reach speeds of 80 to 90 km/hour and they can travel very long distances in a downwind.

With this background, I was intrigued to hear the following story, the truth of which I cannot verify but it does make for a good tale. It is about an entrepreneur from Marseille who used to windsurf for fun and exercise in the large bay there, The story goes that he was very happy with the sport until one day a couple of kite surfers showed up. Seeing their amazing speed and comparative lack of effort - a harness strapped around their waist is directly connected to the kite - he decided he had to try it for himself. It would not be inexpensive to take lessons and to rent or buy equipment but apparently it paid off for him. As he directly experienced through his body harness the powerful force of the wind in the kite, it suddenly dawned on him that that same power could be used to pull along the ships in his merchant fleet.

And so it came to be - huge new towing kite systems that capture the energy of the wind are now a reality and one kite can cut down on a ship’s fuel costs up to 20%. Considering that the cruise liner Queen Elizabeth II moves only six inches for each gallon of diesel it burns, the saving are worth a lot of investment.

Using sails to harness the power of the wind is an old story but it turns out that kites have several major advantages over sails. First the wind's speed near the surface is slowed down by friction with the water and there are much stronger winds higher up where a kite flies. The kite above a ship are in an unhindered position to capture the much greater energy accessible up there. Then important too, the kite is controlled by a computer that maintains the shape and position of the kite so that most of wind’s available energy is captured and is concentrated in pulling the ship straight ahead with an ‘even keel’ so it to slips through the water with least resistance.

Ship’s ‘sky kites’ are good news and hopefully we'll increasingly hear of more green ideas like this to help stop the pollution of our planet in time. Rie

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Antioxidants are all about the problems that happen when oxygen we are constantly breathing in, ‘burns’ the food we eat to give us the energy we need to stay alive.
It works like this: single oxygen atoms need extra electrons [they need 8 to be stable] so two of them pair up to form a weak bond and they go around as a molecule [see picture]. But when molecules encounter food that’s ready to be oxidized, they easily split apart and while one atom oxidises food the other – it’s called a free radical - is compelled to attack anything to grab a couple of electrons to satisfy it’s chemical need. Cell tissues are most often attacked and disrupted but it doesn’t stop there – the attacked cellular molecules split apart themselves each creating two free radicals and they in turn attack more cellular components forming more and more radicals needing electrons and a chain reaction starts that only ends its destructive deeds when enough antioxidants are present to donate electrons and not become free radicals themselves. If you click on video the whole process is nicely illustrated and makes it plain that antioxidants mop up free radicals helping prevent damage to cells and tissues.
The damage caused when antioxidants are not present can trigger all sorts of nasty things like a variety of cancers, arthritis, cataracts, heart disease, atherosclerosis, and premature aging to name a few. So it’s obvious we should make every effort to see that our bodies have an ample supply of antioxidants to stop damage as quickly as possible!
We do naturally produce some antioxidants but since most are found in foods we eat. It’s important to know that antioxidant rich foods are fruits and vegetables [especially the coloured ones], cereals, beans, nuts and seeds. Apparently the best way to make sure you are getting enough antioxidants is to eat 5 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. That’s a bit much for me so I take vitamin supplements like vitamins A, C and E that are concentrated antioxidants.
If you want to have the best information possible about antioxidants for optimal health and foods high in antioxidants, I suggest you click on the link provided here. Knowledge is power - fight back - live long. Rie

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Microwave Ovens

All sorts of rumors abound about the dangers of microwave ovens leaking and microwaved food being harmful. I think it must be that some people are disturbed because they don’t know what’s going on in the oven and how it works. I hope then that my attempt at explanation is understandable and allays any concerns.
First of all you must know that microwaves are part of the electromagnetic radiation [EMR] spectrum just like radio waves and visible light and x-rays - they are rays of energy that pulse positive, negative, positive, negative, etc. through space and travel at the speed of light.
If the frequency at which the EMR changes from positive to negative is in the visible light region it affects our eyes so we can ‘see’ it as light. When the EMR comes from the sun, the part of it in the microwave region we feel as heat on our skin and think nothing of it. The remote control to turn a TV on and off is in the radio frequency region. X rays are pulses that change positive negative with such high frequency that mostly they pass through the body but the waves are partly absorbed by flesh and bones so give us an ‘x-image' of them.
To understand then how microwaves heat food, you have to know four things:
- 1. Positive is attracted to negative and repulsed by positive – something like the poles of a magnet. - 2. Lots of molecules have charges on them and we’re interested especially in charged water molecules here. - 3. Microwave pulses are slow enough to push and pull charged molecules, like water, around by attractive and repulsive forces as the waves, go past them, just like stick in the water bobs up and down as a wave goes by. - 4. We feel faster moving molecules as heat - the faster they go, the hotter they feel.
So essentially, all microwaves are doing is making charged molecules move faster. Since most plastics and pottery and glass have no charged molecules, they don’t react and stay cool in a microwave oven. Food, on the other hand, mostly has charged water molecules in it and heats up. Actually, microwaving has benefits because, by not heating food too long or too hot, many of the nutrients are preserved!
As far as microwaves leaking out of the oven, unless there is poor seal on the door - as an old, much used oven might have - no microwaves can escape. It’s like a box with a light in it in a dark room, if there are no cracks in the box, no light can escape.
So rest easy – microwave ovens have been around commercially since 1967 and when you look up the hazards, examples have to do with whole eggs in their shells and potatoes with skins intact which tend to explode and splatter because off the pressure of steam formed inside. You can’t heat water to more than 100 degrees C because it then just uses extra heat to form steam - but fats can be heated easily to very high temperatures and splatter so take care in heating them. Otherwise, rest easy – nothing unusual is going on in your microwave oven so just enjoy its wonderful convenience! Rie

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Alone in the Universe?

As usual my tendency is to look at things with a long perspective and scientific bent. However, it’s evident I’m not alone in wondering about the chances we’ll ever reach any form of life out there in the Universe. As is common knowledge, a radio call is being sent out through SETI – the global Institute whose purpose is to explore the ‘nature and prevalence of life in the universe’.

To answer that message, the life form on another planet would have to be advanced enough to understand it. Certainly we are unique on Earth in that we are intelligent enough to be logical and to communicate but it has taken most of the time since our planet was formed for us to have reached this level of complexity.

The fossil records are our main source of information on just what has happened during the evolutionary process. These scientific records tell us that:

- 4.6 billion years ago our planet was formed

- 3.8 billion years ago, life evolved in the form of single celled bacteria or microbes

- 0.53 billion [or 530 million] years ago bacteria got together to form multi-celled life forms and in a remarkably short period, many different species came into being in the so-called Cambrian Explosion

- 0.050 billion [or 50 thousand years ago] homo sapiens reached the modern form that could be recognized as us.

- 0.000,000,050 [or about 50 years] since radio became advanced enough to send messages out to the Universe. That has happened in the last very small fraction of time since the planet has existed.

If you consider that from our point of view on Earth, the sun has risen and set and the seasons have existed all those billions of years – in comparison to other planets, that makes ours a very rare and remarkably stable one. For this stability to occur we have had to:

- Be orbiting around a medium-sized, single sun in the outer reaches of our galaxy so as not to have been disturbed by other nearby suns.

- Be a planet that makes a circular orbit around the sun at just the right distance away to be in a good temperature range where most water was liquid.

- Be a planet spinning on its axis frequently enough (24 hours for us) so all parts were warmed in the day and cooled off at night. The axis had to be tilted so over a period of a year it wobbled and gave both hemispheres summer and winter seasons.

- Be fortunate enough to have a large moon that caught much of the debris during our planet’s early formative years.- There is much more about how rare our stable Earth has been if you click on the highlighted text.

Let’s try to always be aware how special and precious our planet is and do everything possible to prevent environmental deterioration so future generations can enjoy its beauty and bounty. Rie

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I remember when I was growing up being intrigued by news stories of the discovery of some shepards in the Caucasus Mountains in Bulgaria who lived to very old ages – healthy lifespans of over 100 years were not out of the ordinary. Their vigour and health were attributed to some special kind of yogurt-like drink they concocted.

It has taken decades for research to be done on the special fermented drink they consumed and now it is available in the health sections of supermarkets. It is called Kefir and no one knows how it originated but apparently it has been around since time immemorial. It is composed of a complex structure of bacteria and yeasts with proteins, lipids and sugars. To make kefir you must have a source of kefir grains (see picture). They may be obtained from a health food store or anyone you know who makes kefir. The grains increase in the process of making a batch of the kefir drink. The video shows how simple it can be to make kefir which is much more healthful than yogurt and temperature control is not critical as it is with making yogurt.

‘Kefir contains different types of beneficial bacteria than yoghurt and many many more of them. Yogurt contains transient beneficial bacteria that keep the digestive system clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria that reside there. But kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract, a feat that yogurt cannot match.’

The health advantages of kefir are endless and it is one of the most affordable drink there is! Some of the known kefir health benefits are: strongest natural remedy against any allergy; strongest natural antibiotic without side effects; treats liver disease; cleans the body of perscribed antibiotics; cleans the gastrointestinal tract; treats ulcers; improves the human immune system; cures Candida; stops growth of cancer cells; reduces size of tumors; reverses calcination of blood vessels; boosts the body's energy; has anti-oxidant and anti-aging properties; replenishes body of good bacteria after antibiotic; balances the microflora of the body’s digestive system; and on and on the almost unbelievable list goes – click on kefir benefits.

Even if you don't think you want to live to the really old age of 100, with kefir so readily available, you should at least give it a try just to see how good it makes you feel! Rie

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hindu Cremations

In the news this week was a story about the English researcher who spoke of the environmental costs of cremation and I am reminded of how important a ceremony it is in the Hindu religion.

They believe that until a body is cremated, the soul will remain nearby and that only when it is consumed by fire will it be released to go to the sacred place where it may be reincarnated into a new life. Their next life depends on how well the person had lived in their past life.

There is often much money spent on elaborate carved wooden cremation pyres – there was even a workshop devoted to building them just at the end of our street in Ubud, Bali. Kids often gathered to play with the shavings and build their own pyres. Many people attended cremations and tourists are welcomed as voyeurs of the spectacle and traditional ritual ceremonies around lighting the pyres.

On one occasion in Bali we were touring the north of the island by car and had stopped for lunch when we were approached by a pleasant young man who offered to be our escort to a local cremation. Arriving at the site, the ceremony was already in progress and any wooden pyre had been burned revealing the body on a concrete platform. The family of the body must have been poor and to us, not understanding the rituals or language, it was a very crude sight. There was a large tank of kerosene hoisted into a tree and a hose from it fed a burner trained on the body. We were there about an hour and one of the refills of the kerosene tank, until all that seemed left was the skull. A holy person would soon arrive to crack it open to release the soul and the ashes would then be taken by the family to the ocean to be scattered out to sea.

For Hindu’s there is no question or choice in what happens to their bodies when they die. We do have a choice and mine is to leave my body to a medical school, and leave some locks of hair for family should there ever be need for DNA analysis. For those with concerns about the considerable amount of fossil fuel energy used in cremation of a body, there are some natural burial sites set aside where burials are recorded but no markings are allowed to identify the grave. I know of one such natural site a friend chose for his burial and I am curious about their prevalence.

I believe it to be only considerate for each of us to face our inevitable death and let our families know our wishes for burial and any events they would like to see around it. Rie

Sunday, October 16, 2011

8 Glasses of Water a Day??

I have an ongoing argument with a good friend about how much water we should drink in a day. The common advice is 8 glasses but he says he drinks justa few cups of tea or coffee and feels just fine. Besides he’s well into his 80’s like I am.
A few years ago, I started drinking about 6 or 7 glasses a day because I had leg cramps every night and I found just by accident that the water alleviated the problem altogether and I have felt better physically ever since too - so I am sold! But to prove the point I went on line this week to do some research. First, I was vindicated by the statistics; secondly, no one says it has to be water - just fluid - and finally, the amount depends on how much you weigh.
Your weight in pounds divided by 2 gives you the number of ounces to drink in a day. For instance, if you weigh 150 lbs. then you should drink around 150/2 = 75 ounces [or 7 and a half 10 oz. glasses a day].
If you weigh 90 kilos, then you should divide your weight by 30 then 90/30 = 3 litres you should drink in a day
Water affects every cell in the body by absorbing nutrients better and it also detoxifies by facilitating the work of the kidneys and bowels. The brain is 90% water and when properly hydrated, it works better and you don’t tend to get headaches or migraines or tire as quickly. The water we drink protects and moisturizes our joints etc. Going to sites about the benefits of water there are many others.
In my searching I came across a site that informed me of the enormous benefits of drinking water with lemon in it. In the body, lemon water becomes alkaline and has a similar composition as other digestive juices like saliva, hydrochloric acid, and bile. The juice helps dissolve gallstones, calcium deposits in the joints and arteries, kidney stones, and pancreatic stones as well.
Another amazing fluid is green tea. It has been used as a medicine in China for at least 4,000 years and an old Chinese proverb says ‘Better to be deprived of food for 3 days than tea for one’. Recent research on green tea has discovered that it contains a compound epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), that slows the growth of cancer cells and can kill them without damaging healthy cells around them. It also alleviates rheumatoid arthritis, benefits those
with cardiovascular disease and infections. As well it actually lowers and balances cholesterol levels. It is also actually benefits impaired immune functions.
I began by addressing those who poo-hoo the need to keep the body hydrated and ended by learning the benefits of drinking lemon or green tea in the water. Thanks old friend for being so hard to persuade! Rie

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cell Phone Dangers ?

Wondering why cell phones could possibly be so dangerous to teenagers - there were warnings on the radio all this week - I decided to do a little research myself.

The topic also gives me an excuse to use the diagram pictured. I got almost as pleasant a jolt of 'instant understanding' from a diagram like that as when I was first introduced to the periodic table. If you could enlarge the picture, you would recognize that what we call light has a much broader range or spectrum than the small portion of it we can actually see as the colours of the rainbow. Interesting that birds and bees can ‘see’ a little on either side of our visible spectrum.

Well established theory says that light is made up of particles called photons that travel in waves at the speed of light. The length of the waves gets shorter and shorter as you go from left to right in the diagram. The wiggly lines representing wavelengths run from the straight baseline up to the arc. Radio waves on the left have the longest waves from 20 meters long down to 1 mm. Next to them are the more energetic microwaves with wavelengths from 1 mm. to 25 millionths of a meter or 25 micrometers. Next, as you see, are infrared through visible to ultraviolet to X-rays and Gamma rays. The x- rays are so energetic they can do damage to cells on occasion.

Fundamentally there is no difference between the radiation emitted by cell phones and microwave ovens except for power – they overlap in the electromagnetic spectrum of frequencies. Since cell phone waves can penetrate 4 - 6 cm (1.6 - 2.4 in) into the human brain the worry is that, if

more powerful microwave frequencies (shorter wavelenghs) are used, the young developing brain may be harmed by the breaking of weak molecular bonds.

One solution is that cell phones almost all have a feature that allows you to use them as speaker phones so you don’t have to hold them up to your ear except for private calls. Or why not start texting or twittering more ? Rie

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Walking Sticks

As I write, it is my first day home from the hospital for good after an operation that restored circulation to both my legs. Before the operation, I had a great deal of pain in both legs after walking even just across a room and even had a nasty ulcer on one foot that wouldn’t heal. I am elated because I now I have a chance to have a whole new lease on life at 86!

I have inherited bad genes from both parents that cause abnormal plaque to build up in my arteries. One result was that the main aorta leading to my legs was almost totally blocked and a bypass from the aorta above the blockage was not possible because it’s walls were very calcified [my doctor used the term ‘porcelain’ coated].

Instead, during the operation, an artery in my shoulder was tapped using an artificial gortex artery that was slid down inside my body and attached to my groin areas left and right. It has brought oxygenated blood to my legs and it’s like a miracle! My feet are warm, the ulcer is healing and I have no pain when I walk!

I am recovering but having to use a walker until I get stronger. That thing is awkward and makes me look like a poor frail old thing. Soon I’ll get out my walking sticks and they will exercise, my arms as I support my bad back - see picture above. Besides, I stand up straight when I use them. They are sporty and even better than a single cane, give me super balance. I was a skier and I will enjoy the rhythm of getting in stride again. Rie

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I am currently hospitalized and recovering from a long, complicated (but successful!) bypass operation. To all my readers, I will be back next week.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Vitamin C

I have an arterial by-pass operation in a couple of days and in preparation I have been popping lots of time-release Vitamin C pills. It is necessary for the building of collagen the connective tissue between our cells and for ligaments and tendons. I figure it will be good for the body to have lots of it available for mending the surgical damage I will undergo.

The word ‘vitamin’ means something that the body does not produce itself but needs for its chemistry to work - so we have eat foods with the vitamins we need in them. Sometime in the distant past when we were evolving as a species, we must have lived in an environment where we ate foods that contained lots of Vitamin C so, we didn’t need to produce it in our body like cats and dogs and many other animals do.

Linus Pauling in his book on Vitamin C tested rats and he discovered that they produced so much of the vitamin that, if we could still make Vitamin C like they do, taking into the consideration the difference in our body weights, we would produce up to 18 grams [18,000 milligrams] a day. An orange contains around 10 mg so mostly we don’t get anywhere near that amount.

Pauling himself took 18 grams of Vitamin C for years but if you start supplementing with large amounts like that most of it will be expelled in your urine until the body develops the enzymes to handle the larger amounts. Taking time-release is the best way to make sure your body can handle what you take. There are many other benefits to getting enough Vitamin C. Pauling lived to a healthy 97 and was surprised and disappointed when he got cancer, which took his life. Rie