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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

     ...aka warts are benign (not cancerous) skin growths that appear when a virus, there are over 150 of them, infects the top layer of the skin. You are more likely to get one of these viruses if you cut or damage your skin in some way and did you know wart viruses are contagious? Warts can spread by contact with the wart or something that touched the wart. 
     Warts come in a variety of colors ( they are usually skin-colored, but can be brown or gray-black), shapes and sizes. Body warts, hand warts, foot warts, finger warts, internal genital warts, external genital warts, anal warts. You can get warts anywhere and once you have the wart virus, you can never get rid of it; it lives in your DNA. All you can do is treat them. 
     You've got your plantar warts on the soles of the feet which usually appear as flesh-colored or light brown lumps that are flecked with small clotted blood vessels that appear as tiny black dots. These boogers are highly painful! 
     Then there are the nasty genital warts which can appear in the pubic area, on the genitals, in or around the anus, and/or in the vagina. They look like small flesh-colored, pink, or red growths...similar to the small parts of a cauliflower or they may be very tiny and difficult to see. They often appear in clusters of three or four, and may grow and spread rapidly. They usually are not painful, although they may cause mild pain, bleeding, and itching. 
     The genital wart variety is specific to the genital area and can't spread to other parts of the body. The genital wart virus can lie dormant in your system for years before it is triggered by stress, immune system deficiencies, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, life style changes and more. In fact, many people are unaware of the fact that they have HPV. Many men may have outbreaks on their penis and be unaware of them because they can be very small and hidden. Women may have internal genital warts, which may cause cervical cancer, and be unaware of them. Only 10 percent of genital warts are visible. HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in North America and certain forms of the virus can cause cervical cancer. These warts should be seen by a doctor! 
     There is the flat wart which is more common in teens and children than in adults. These warts are smoother, flatter, and smaller than other warts and they generally occur on the face, but can also can appear on the legs, especially among females. 
     Usually  basic wart is harmless and can disappear without treatment, but if you have one you probably won't want to wait for that to happen because they are aggravating and...ugly!
     They can be treated, but most methods require multiple treatments. Treatments, beside over the counter medications, may include:

Freezing using liquid nitrogen. A blister forms around the wart and the dead tissue falls off within about a week. 
Cantharidin is an extract of a blister beetle and applied to the skin, forms a blister around the wart which lifts the wart off the skin so the doctor can remove the dead portion. Other medications may be injected into a wart to kill the virus. 
Surgery is sometimes used to cut away the wart. The base of the wart is then destroyed using an electric needle or by deep freezing. Also, sometimes lasers are used to burn and destroy wart tissue. 

     If you have a wart be aware that it can spread. To prevent spreading don't pick at it! Also, try and your keep hands as dry as possible because warts like moist environments. You should never brush, comb, or shave areas where warts are present as this can cause the virus to spread. Wash hands thoroughly after touching any warts. 
     Here's a fact for you. There is something called Canine Oral Papilloma Virus...dog warts, meaning dogs get them in their mouth. While they are usually not something to worry about because they usually stop growing and disappear on their own between 1 and 5 months.
     They usually appear in the mouth, but can also appear on the nose, eyes or occasionally to other parts of the body. They are only dangerous if they begin to appear in the dog's throat. If a dog gets these warts it means it has a weakened immune system, so puppies. older dogs and dogs that are being treated with immunosuppressive medications like steroids are likely candidates. The virus is spread by direct contact with other dogs, toys and even humans if they have been in contact with a dog that carries the virus. 
     But enough of dog warts.  For anybody that has a routine wart (often called a seed wart)...on the hand or finger, for example, here is a little secret to getting rid of them that actually works. Don't try it on plantar or genital warts...see a doctor! 
     Use apple cider vinegar. Do the following every night before going to bed. 

1) wash the part of your body that has warts 
2) soak a cotton ball with vinegar 
3) place the cotton ball on the wart. Note avoid soaking the area of skin surrounding the wart because it can cause a chemical burn to the healthy tissue. For that reason, it may be necessary to use only a portion of the cotton ball. 
4) place a bandage over the cotton balls to keep it in place. 
5) Repeat this process until you start to see that your warts are turning black. 
6) Even after the wart falls off continue treatment for a few days to ensure that the virus will not come back. This process may take a week or so, but it does work and it works better that a lot of commercial products.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Light Pollution

     From CNET...for a third of humanity, it's obscured by fog of light, caused by the artificial illumination used at night in towns and cities. And for Americans, it's even worse: Around 80 percent of the country can't see the Milky Way at night. "We've got whole generations of people in the United States who have never seen the Milky Way," said Chris Elvidge, a scientist with NOAA's National Centers for Environmental, who co-authored an update of a global atlas of light published in the journal Science Advances. "It's a big part of our connection to the cosmos -- and it's been lost." They discovered that it's most prevalent in Singapore, Italy and South Korea, while Canada and Australia are the darkest (although it's worth noting that most of Australia's population is concentrated around its edges). You can play with an interactive map to find out how heavily your home is light polluted HERE.
     Less than 100 years ago everyone could look up and see the Milky Way, but now increased and widespread use of artificial light is impairing our view of the sky, adversely affecting the environment, causing safety issues and affecting energy consumption and even health. The inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light can have serious environmental consequences for humans, wildlife, and the climate. Types of pollution:

Glare – excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort 
Skyglow – brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas Light trespass – light falling where it is not intended or needed 
Clutter – bright, confusing and excessive groupings of light sources 

   Light pollution is a side effect of our civilization. Sources include building, both exterior and interior lighting, advertising, commercial properties, offices, factories, streetlights, and illuminated sporting venues. Much outdoor night lighting is inefficient, too bright, poorly targeted, improperly shielded and, in many cases, unnecessary. Both the light and the electricity is wasted by spilling it into the sky, rather than focusing it on what is intended to be illuminated. Artificial lights overpower the darkness causing cities glow at night which disrupts the natural day-night pattern and shifting the balance of the environment. 
     The negative effects of the loss is very real. It leads to:

Increased energy consumption
Disrupting the ecosystem and wildlife
Harms human health
It has an effect crime and safety

    There is evidence that artificial light can alter physiology, including hormonal balance, as well as behavior, orientation, organism fitness, food web interactions, and biotope connectivity. The artificial disturbance of the natural day/night cycle may, as a result, have serious psycho-physiological and even medical consequences for humans, along with ecological and evolutionary implications for animals, plants, and even entire terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems.
    Street lighting has been blamed for up to 50 percent of the urban sky glow due to 95 percent of the light directed down toward the pavement being reflected upward at reflectance rates ranging from 6 percent for asphalt to 25 percent for concrete. Urban sky glow has been reported to be increasing around 30 percent annually in some American cities
     Long-term exposure to artificial lights can prevent trees from adjusting to seasonal changes, which has an impact on wildlife that depend on trees for food or shelter.  Artificial lights also have a devastating impact on birds. There are over 200 bird species that follow nocturnal migratory patterns across North America, but the sky is lined with communication towers and skyscrapers. Lights confuse the birds and cause them to crash into buildings. Seriously! It's estimated that the New York City skyline kills 10,000 birds per year and one billion die from collisions across North America alone. 
     Even turtles are impacted by artificial lights. Some sea turtle hatchlings born at night follow the moon’s reflection on the water to find the ocean, but now big cities along coastlines confuse them and they head inland by mistake. 
     How bad is light pollution, really? Los Angeles experienced a full blackout in 1994 and people reported a strange, silvery cloud over the city; they were seeing the Milky Way for the first time. 

5 Appalling Facts about Light Pollution

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Earth's Amazing Oceans

The Ocean is DEEP! This graphic can be seen HERE and it's impressive. 

Oceans and sharks
15 Fun and Surprising Facts about the Earth’s Oceans 
Ocean Facts - 26 slides
Interesting Ocean Facts 
The Earth's Amazing Oceans
National Ocean Service

What is the highest point on Earth as measured from Earth's center? Mount Everest is usually said to be the highest mountain on Earth, 29,029 feet at its summit, but that is the highest point above global mean sea level. The summit of Mt. Everest is not the farthest point from Earth’s center; it is the peak of Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo, located just one degree south of the Equator where Earth’s bulge is greatest. Mauna Kea, a volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii originates deep beneath the Pacific Ocean and rises more than 33,500 feet from base to peak making it the highest mountain on earth. See article.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Does Lightning Kill Fish?

     That's "lightning," not "lightening." Lightning is an abrupt electric discharge from cloud to cloud or from cloud to earth accompanied by the emission of light, while lightening is the process of making something lighter, or medically speaking, it refers to the sensation that a pregnant woman feels when the baby drops. 
     While lightning is one of the most beautiful displays in nature, it's also one of the most deadly natural phenomena known to man. Lightning is a sudden electrostatic discharge during an electrical storm between electrically charged regions of a cloud (called intra-cloud lightning), between that cloud and another cloud, or between a cloud and the ground. 

     All thunderstorms produce lightning and are very dangerous. If you hear the sound of thunder, then you are in danger from lightning. Lightning kills and injures more people each year than hurricanes or tornadoes; between 75 to 100 people. 
     Lightning is an electric current. Within a thundercloud many small bits of ice (frozen raindrops) bump into each other as they move around in the air. All of those collisions create an electric charge. After a while, the whole cloud fills up with electrical charges. The positive charges or protons form at the top of the cloud and the negative charges or electrons form at the bottom of the cloud. Since opposites attract, that causes a positive charge to build up on the ground beneath the cloud. The ground's electrical charge concentrates around anything that sticks up, such as mountains, people, or single trees. The charge coming up from these points eventually connects with a charge reaching down from the clouds and lightning strikes! For complete details on lightning see the excellent article on How Stuff Works.

Does Lightning Kill Fishes or Other Marine Creatures? 
6 Weird Facts About Lightning Strikes 
Unusual Lightning Facts
Where Lightning Strikes More Than Twice 
What Happens When You Get Struck by Lightning? 
11 crazy facts about getting struck by lightning (and how to avoid it)

Ball Lightning - This type is rare. I have seen it once. When I was elementary school there was a thunderstorm and a ball passed through the window and exploded in a puff of smoke in the classroom. My dad also reported seeing it once when he was working on the railroad. A ball about the size of a basketball bounced down the track for some distance before it finally exploded. Yes, it DOES exist!

Monday, June 6, 2016

What's the Easternmost Point in the United States?

     If you said West Quoddy Head, Maine, you'd be wrong. Or, would you? It all depends on where you are measuring from
     The geographic center of United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, lies west of Castle Rock, South Dakota at 44°58' latitude and 103°46' West longitude. Castle Rock lies in the middle of nowhere in western South Dakota.  However, if measured from the prime meridian in Greenwich, England, then Cape Wrangell on Attu Island, Alaska, would be the easternmost point. 
Castle Rock, South Dakota

 Cape Wrangell is considered to be the westernmost point of Alaska and all of the United States by direction of travel. It is located on Attu Island.  But, because it sits west of the 180th meridian it can also be viewed as the easternmost point of the United States. Cape Wrangell is not to be confused with the CITY of Wrangell which is located in the Alaska Panhandle; it's located on the island of Attu which has a pretty interesting history. 
Cape Wrangell
     Attu is the largest island in the Near Islands group of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska; it became uninhabited in 2010. Attu was the site of the only World War II land battle fought on an incorporated territory of the United States (see the Battle of Attu) and its battlefield area is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. 
     Attu Station was a former Coast Guard LORAN station. The facility was closed on August 27, 2010,but the airfield remains available for emergency use. The station was established as Naval Air Facility on June 7, 1943, just seven days after Attu Island was declared secured.
     Attu Island probably is not a place you would want to visit. The weather on Attu is typically cloudy, rainy, and foggy. High winds occur occasionally. Five or six days a week are likely to be rainy, and there are only about eight or ten clear days a year. The rest of the time, even if rain is not falling, fog of varying density is the rule rather than the exception. There are 39–49 inches of annual rainfall and other precipitation with the heaviest rains in the autumn and early winter.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Spelling and Grammar Checkers

     I saw a Facebook post the other day where you could download Grammerly that read: Sick of making grammatical and spelling mistakes? Perfect writing is a click away! There was also a download button, but I have an aversion to clicking on anything on Facebook.
     The question is, how good are available spelling and grammar checkers, really? Even if they aren't all THAT great, I wish more Facebook posters would type their stuff in Word and spell check it then copy and paste it into the post. Hastily typing something usually results in spelling and grammatical errors to be sure, but I am convinced many of my friends just can't spell or write proper English. That does NOT mean they are stupid or anything, but all the spelling and grammatical mistake make them LOOK that way. 
     Running spell check is very important, but it is not a foolproof means of making sure your documents are error free. It will let you know if there is a group of letters that doesn’t actually spell anything, but it won’t let you know if you have used the wrong word. So, it's a good idea to proofread your work yourself rather than rely completely on spell check. Also, if it is an important business document, it's a good idea to have someone else proofread it! Don’t take a chance on making a careless mistake just because you won’t take the time to proofread what you wrote.  It's easy to miss your own mistakes.
     I found a site that tested some of the "free" checkers with a block of text containing eight different errors and here is what they found. 

This one claims to be the "World’s Most Accurate Grammar Checker." It promises to identify over 150 text errors, offer synonym suggestions and to check for plagiarism. It's free to get your text checked, but the hook is you need to sign up for a seven day trial to see the details of the problem. You can pay $19.95 a month, $13.32 per month for a quarterly subscription or $7.95 per month for a yearly subscription...that's almost a hundred dollars for a year! In the test Grammarly found three spelling errors plus two other issues where it made suggestions for changing the wording of the text which actually was OK as written. Score: 3 out of 8 

It claims to be a do-it-all grammar and spellchecker. It can be downloaded and it's supposed to add proofreading functionality to Microsoft Word, Outlook, Powerpoint, Internet Explorer and Firefox. A small control bar appears whenever you’re actually using one of the applicationa. By clicking on the control bar it will check for any any spelling errors or grammatical errors and suggest corrections. It has a "hook", too. You can test a 600-character demo for free but the premium version costs $198, $132 for spelling and grammar correction only or you can subscribe for about $20 a month. The premium version also claims to have a text-to-speech function that enables you to hear your text read aloud in a digital voice. It also has a "learning" feature (you learn, not the software) that acts like a tutor to teach you not to make mistakes. Score: 3 out of 8 

Microsoft Word 
How did this one do? Score: 4 out of 8 

After The Deadline 
This one can be used with bbPress, Confluence and OpenOffice and linked to Firefox or Google Chrome browser and you can access it via a WordPress plugin. It also allows you to cut-and-paste the copy into a web page. That's with the download version. There is also an online version, but in the test, it only found one spelling error and didn’t spot any of the grammatical mistakes. When it was tested using the WordPress plugin it did better...it found all the misspelled words. Score: 4 out of 8 

A knowledgeable human using care is still the best, but while these tools can be useful for checking spelling and grammar thus preventing you from embarrassing yourself, Microsoft Word's (or, in my case, Libre Office's) built-in spell checker  provides better results for free.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Bowery Boys

Leo Gorcy
     The Bowery Boys were fictional New York City characters played by a repertory theater of New York-based actors, who were the subject of feature films released by Monogram Pictures from 1946 through 1958. 
     The Bowery Boys were successors of the "The East Side Kids," who had been the subject of films since 1940. The group originated as the "Dead End Kids", who originally appeared in the 1937 film "The Dead End Kids" originally appeared in the 1935 play Dead End. 
     When Samuel Goldwyn turned the play into a 1937 film, he recruited the original "kids" from the play, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan, Gabriel Dell, Billy Halop, and Bernard Punsly, to appear in the same roles in the film. This led to the making of six other films that shared the collective title "The Dead End Kids." 
     In 1938, Universal launched its own tough-kid series, "Little Tough Guys." Gradually, Universal recruited most of the original Dead End Kids, so the series ultimately featured "The Dead End Kids and Little Tough Guys." Universal made twelve feature films, and three 12-chapter serials with the gang. 
Huntz Hall
     When Warner Brothers released the remaining Dead End Kids from their contracts in 1939, producer Sam Katzman at Monogram immediately hired several of them, including Jordan and the Gorcey brothers, Leo and David, as well as some of the Little Tough Guys to star in a new series using the team name "The East Side Kids." These films also introduced 'Sunshine' Sammy Morrison, one of the original members of the Our Gang comedy team, as part of the gang. As a result, the original members of the "Dead End Kids" were working at several studios, so these films were made at the same time that Universal was making "The Dead End Kids" and "Little Tough Guys" series. A total of 21 films were made, with the final one, Come Out Fighting, released in 1945. 
     In 1945, when East Side Kids producer Katzman refused to grant Leo Gorcey's request to double his weekly salary, Gorcey quit the series, which then ended immediately. Bobby Jordan then suggested a meeting with his agent, Jan Grippo. Grippo, Gorcey, and Hall formed Jan Grippo Productions, revamped the format, and rechristened the series, The Bowery Boys. 
     Gorcey, who owned 40 percent of the company, starred, produced, and contributed to the scripts. The new series followed a more established formula than the prior incarnations of the team, with the gang usually hanging out at Louie's Sweet Shop (at 3rd & Canal St.- actually, there is no intersection of Canal and 3rd Street. They parallel each other about six blocks apart.) until an adventure came along. The Bowery is a street and neighborhood in the southern portion of the New York City borough of Manhattan. 
     The original main characters were Terrence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney (Leo Gorcey), Horace Debussy "Sach" Jones (Huntz Hall), Bobby (Bobby Jordan), Whitey (Billy Benedict), and Chuck (David Gorcey, sometimes billed as David Condon). "Sunshine" Sammy Morrison, "Scruno" in the East Side Kids films, declined the invitation to rejoin the gang, later stating in an interview that he "didn't like the setup", possibly referring to the idea of Gorcey and Hall being in the forefront, and being paid much more than the other members.
     When Bobby Jordan quit the series for the same reason, his character was replaced by Butch Williams, with former East Side Kids Bennie Bartlett and Buddy Gorman alternating in the role. The proprietor of the malt shop where they hung out was Louie Dumbrowski (Bernard Gorcey, Leo's and David's real-life father). 
     The members went through a number of changes over the course of the series and thirteen actors were members of the team at one time or another. Bobby Jordan, an original Dead End Kid, appeared in the first eight films, but left after being injured in an elevator accident. Jordan was also unhappy with the direction of the series, which favored Gorcey and Hall, and limited the participation of the other gang members. 
     Gabriel Dell also appeared in some of the movies. He was just out of the Navy with a French war-bride in tow. He played a utility character, appearing as a private investigator, policeman, songwriter, reporter, Nazi spy to suit the story. Because money was apparently an object of concern for Gorcy, Dell appearances limited the casting budget. 
     The early films flirted with humor-laced crime dramas, but gradually shifted to all-out comedy, growing more slapstick and fantasy-oriented over the next decade. After 1950, the series began to resemble Abbott and Costello comedies and the gang's dingy basement club-house was replaced by an ice cream parlor. They also adopted a more adult look, exchanging their sloppy, juvenile wardrobe for suits. 
     The team started to fade when Huntz Hall was elevated to co-star status to showcase his comedic skills and the stories began to focus entirely on Slip (the self-proclaimed leader of the bunch) and his sidekick, Sach, with the diminished three or four "boys" receding into the background with little to do. Time and again the plot revolved around Sach accidentally acquiring some strange power or ability (a psychic, champion wrestler, crooner, etc.) that he tries to exploit. In most of the films, the gang pursued get rich quick schemes or got mixed up with neighborhood thugs. 
     Gorcey and Hall became a comedy duo that increased the popularity of the series and in 1953 a new producer and director who had previously worked with The Three Stooges, transformed the series into profitable kiddie-matinee material. Gorcey and Hall re-enacted gags borrowed from the Stooges.  Slip was famous for his Brooklyn-accented malaprops like "I depreciate it!" ("I appreciate it!"), and "I regurgitate" ("I reiterate"). 
     In the 1940s, Abbott and Costello appeared in four "service comedies", one for each branch of the military which the Bowery Boys duplicated in the 1950s.The  Bowery Boys, also like Abbott and Costello before them, became detectives when they opened up a detective agency. They also released other copies of Abbott and Costello story lines. 
Louie Dumbrowski (Bernard Gorcy)
     After filming a movie in1955, Leo's father, Bernard Gorcey, was killed in an automobile accident, which left Leo devastated.   He started drinking heavily and it visibly affected his performance in his next film, which would be his last. During filming, he became violently unhinged, trashing the set and destroying every prop in sight. At a subsequent meeting Gorcey demanded an increase of the 40 percent interest he held in the series which was denied and after a heated exchange, he quit the series and stormed off the studio lot. 
     Gorcey was replaced by Stanley Clements, a former tough-teen actor who had been in a few East Side Kids movies and they were now billed as "Huntz Hall and The Bowery Boys."
     The series was renewed for the 1957 season and four more films were made. In all, there were 48 Bowery Boys films, making it the longest feature-film series of American origin in motion picture history and only Huntz Hall and David Gorcey had remained with the series since 1946. 
     The Bowery Boys and East Side Kids were repackaged and syndicated for television in the 1960s and 1970s. They became a staple for independent stations and were often used to fill up the early-afternoon time-slots on weekends. 
     In 1967, The Beatles paid homage by selecting pictures of Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall for the cover of their Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. The Gorcey photo was removed, however, after Gorcey's agent demanded a $400 payment for use of his image. You Tube has a number of episodes you can watch HERE.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Warning to Parents About Kids and Imodium

     I've been somewhat baffled lately by advertisements on television about a condition I never knew existed...opioid induced constipation. It seems that if you need an opioid to manage your chronic pain you can get constipated. 
     According to the U.S. Pain Foundation nearly 8 million people, and maybe more, who are on opioids suffer from constipation and they often try to treat it with over-the-counter remedies. Also, not all doctors are on top of opioid constipation so the commercials are there to tell people how to treat it and that it's probably a good idea to educate their doctor on this scourge. That's supposedly necessary because both patients and doctors may fail to connect their pain medication with their constipation. 
     What are opioids? They are medications that relieve pain by reducing the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect areas of the brain controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus. Medications that fall within this class include Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, codeine, and related drugs. 
     Hydrocodone products are the most commonly prescribed for a variety of painful conditions, including dental and injury-related pain. Morphine is often used before and after surgical procedures to alleviate severe pain. Codeine is often prescribed for mild pain. In addition, some of these drugs can be used to relieve coughs and severe diarrhea. 
     Opioids act by attaching to proteins called opioid receptors which are found in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body. When these drugs attach to the receptors, they reduce the perception of pain. Opioids can also produce drowsiness, mental confusion, nausea, constipation, and can depress respiration. 
     Some people experience a euphoric response to opioid medications because these drugs also affect the brain regions involved in reward. Those who abuse opioids, OxyContin for example, may snort or inject it which increases their risk for serious medical complications, including overdose. Opioid addicts are turning to a common over-the-counter medication to address withdrawal symptoms with dangerous and even fatal consequences. 
     Imodium is great stuff. As advertised, Imodium products provide FAST relief of diarrhea, often is as little as one dose. But... 
     Imodium has seen a surge of popularity among opioid users for their withdrawal symptoms PLUS a lot of people, including kids, are using it as a recreational drug. 
     According to a recent CBS News report some people are taking dangerous doses of Imodium. The anti-diarrhea medication has growing appeal with substance abusers because it's cheap and readily available. 
     Loperamide, its main ingredient, causes intestinal slow-down, which helps stop diarrhea. But in very high doses, it can have other effects as well as some serious risks. A person has to take an enormous dose to get high and addicts pop anywhere from 50 to 300 pills per day.  According to the study, in large doses Imodium works the same way as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. However, Imodium is a cheap alternative, as stores sell 400 tablets, which should control a LOT of diarrhea, for less than $10. 
     The National Poison Center data recorded a 71 percent increase in calls related to loperamide usage from 2011 to 2014. Many are kids who are not addicted to anything...they just know popping a ton of Imodium is a cheap high. Overdose symptoms may include dizziness, drowsiness, urinating less than usual, severe stomach cramps or bloating, and vomiting. Excessive doses of Imodium can lead to heart problems, kidney and liver failure, and even death.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Yard Moss: Nasty and Obstinate

     There are thousands of species of moss, a very simple plant that lacks the a leaf, shoot, root, and seed-forming systems. Unfortunately, at least if the stuff is growing in your lawn, moss is one of the hardiest living organisms on the planet! The stuff reproduces either sexually (spores) or asexually (breaking off into smaller pieces that divide and multiply).
    Regular grass cutting won't do anything to get rid of it. There are several underlying conditions that allows moss to come out ahead of regular lawn grasses. These conditions most frequently are some combination of: 

1) poorly drained, persistently wet soils
2) acidic soil conditions
3) medium to dense shade
4) repeated “scalping” of turf on uneven terrain
5) compacted soils 

The stuff thrives in these conditions! Lawn grass doesn't! 

     Another factor that helps moss is lack of sunlight because many species of moss prefer moist soil in the shaded areas. Removing trees though can be unacceptable, not to mention expensive. Tree pruning can help though. 
     If moss occurs in sunny spots, mower “scalp”(cutting the grass too short...don't do it!) may be the cause of the problem. Scalping severely weakens lawn grass and allows moss to thrive.
     Compacted soil is another cause and using a core aeration machine (either rent one or have a lawn care service do it) can also help. I can attest that physically removing moss with a rake is essentially impossible because you simply can't get rid of every single piece and since there are millions of spores already in the soil it will just continue to grow. The best thing to do is remove as much vegetation as possible then reseed. 
     Sprays, etc may help, but the stuff won't work on many kinds of moss and often when it does, it leaves very ugly yellow or brown spots when the moss dies. 
     One irritating thing is that if you don't fix the above 5 problems, the moss will come right back. You see, the moss is not killing the grass, but rather failure of the grass to thrive allows the moss to do so.  As one article stated, if the conditions are right for moss then significant renovation may be required to get the grass to thrive, but...there are no guarantees. 
     Moss growing in the yard is an indication of less than ideal conditions for growing grass. The potential causes behind the problem are: 

Low soil pH Lack of necessary nutrients in the soil 
Poor drainage 
Excessive shade 

So, just removing the moss is only the first step. THEN you have to some detective work to determine why the moss is growing to begin. If you can't determine the cause then the moss will simply return. It's recommended that you have the soil analyzed. Some local cooperative extensions will do it for you. so that they can test it for you. Let them know that you need to find out what the soil pH is and whether or not your soil contains the necessary nutrients for growing a healthy lawn. This way you can discover the root cause of the problem. 
     Your grass may need a more alkaline soil to compete effectively against moss. If this is the case, you will need to apply lime. If the ground lacks the nutrients, you will have to fertilize the lawn on a regular basis. 
     Bad drainage is another problem because if the lawn does not drain very well and retains excessive moisture, this condition is good for moss to grow. Soil with a high clay content is a red flag. Water tends to percolate slowly through overly clay soils and that can lead to puddling. Happily, there is a very simple test you can conduct to determine what type of soil you have. If you see standing water on your lawn after a rain then you have drainage issues. If clay is the source of the problem then something like humus has to added to the dirt. If the whole lawn is poorly drained then that may be a whole other issue! Good luck!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Paint Shop Pro V. 4.14

Created with PSP

     I have been using this FREE painting program for years and HIGHLY recommend it. Even though it was released way back in 1997, it's powerful yet simple to use and everything is intuitive so it won't take forever to learn how to draw and edit photos. 
    Unfortunately the sites where you can download it are full of all kinds of unwanted junk, so I am making it available for download from Dropbox. 

It's possible that you could get a message "Failed to update the system regristry. Please try using REGEDIT."   If you do get such a message, just click OK and the program will launch.

Free Diagram and Flowchart Program

If you need to put together diagrams and flowcharts this is an excellent program. Use it to create network diagrams, table plans, work or study plans, project outlines, and just about anything else. It's a 63 MB download and is free and malware-free according to VirusTotal and Web of Trust. You can also test-drive the yEd Graph Editor online! Just click the Launch yEd button to start the application right from your browser. Recommended. Visit SITE

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Submarine Crush Depth

     What happens when a submarine reaches its crush depth? There are actually two crush depths. The depth at which engineers have determined it wouldn't be safe to dive below and the depth at which it actually crushes. 
     WW2 submarines were rated at a maximum depth, but it was impossible to know for sure just how deep they could really go. Some went well below their rated crush depth and managed surface with or without damage; some, well, they never surfaced. 
     At the true crush depth the outer hull finally gives in along with the fuel and air tanks and then the inner hull. Submarines have a light  outer, non-watertight hull that provides a hydrodynamically efficient shape. Then there is the pressure hull which is the inner hull; it maintains the difference between outside and inside pressure.
    At crush depth the sub just crumples like a tin can. As a sub approaches its crush depth the crew would hear piping and fittings giving way then the ship’s hull creaking and groaning until it finally implodes, killing everyone in a matter of seconds. The water doesn't leak in, it pours in and the air inside either forms a bubble at either end of the boat or tremendous heat is generated as the water rushes in and the boat implodes killing everyone instantly. Debris, including body parts, and fuel oil float to the surface. Very terrifying.
     WW2 German U-boats generally had crush depths in the range of 660 to 920 feet. Modern nuclear attack submarines are estimated to have a test depth of 1,600 ft which means the estimated depth at which they would actually implode is about 2,400 ft. However, there are some specialized military subs that can go as deep as 4,200 ft. 
     Submarines had many openings in their hulls to accommodate torpedo tubes, diesel engine exhausts and air intakes, periscope, the prop shaft, etc. A submerged submarine is very delicately balanced as to buoyancy and so it takes very little flooding to overwhelm it. WW2 subs also had very little power available on their electric motors for running underwater. That meant that in the event of flooding they had very little possibility to use their hydroplanes to "fly" the submarine towards the surface. 
     The bathyscape Trieste, made it to 35,813 feet in the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench, a few hundred miles east of the Philippines. The ocean is 36,200 ft. deep there. The water pressure at that depth is over 1000 atmospheres. The Trieste was 6.5 ft. in diameter with steel walls 5 inches. 

The USS Thresher
     At 9:18 am on April 10, 1963, sonar operators aboard the US Navy submarine rescue ship Skylark, which was accompanying the nuclear attack submarine Thresher, heard a sound like air rushing into an air tank when the Thresher went down in 8,400 ft. of water on its deep-dive trials southeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, killing all 129 men aboard. 
     Five minutes prior to the implosion, Thresher had radioed that it was having minor problems then there were several fragmentary, garbled messages, followed by silence. Moments later the sounds of the Thresher breaking apart and imploding were heard.
     According to US military reviews of the accident, the most likely explanation is that a piping joint in a sea water system in the engine room gave way with the spray shorting out electronics that in turn forced an automatic shutdown of the nuclear reactor. 
     When the accident occurred, Thresher was near its maximum test depth which was classified, but probably around 1,300 ft. Normally, a submarine would be able to survive depths 20 to 35 percent greater than its maximum test depth, but without the reactor and any power, the Thresher could not stop itself from sinking.  Thresher Memorial

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Can You Eat a Platypus?

     Platypuses, also known as the duck-billed platypus, are weird and unique animals. So much so that the first scientists to examine a specimen believed they were victims of a hoax. 
     Looking at the animal is like looking at a combination of a duck (bill and webbed feet), a beaver (tail), and otter (body and fur). When the animal was first encountered by Europeans in 1798 a pelt and sketch were sent back to Great Britain by Captain John Hunter, the second Governor of New South Wales and British scientists' initially thought it was a hoax. Examining a dried specimen, George Shaw, who first described the platypus in the Naturalist's Miscellany in 1799, stated it was impossible not to entertain doubts as to its genuine nature. Another scientist, Robert Knox, believed it might have been produced by Asian taxidermist. Somebody had sewn a duck's beak onto the body of a beaver-like animal. Shaw even took a pair of scissors to the dried skin to check for stitches. Early settlers called it by many names, such as "watermole", "duckbill", and "duckmole".  
     Until the early 20th century, it was hunted for its fur, but it is now protected. Captive breeding programs have had only limited success and in the wild the platypus is vulnerable to the effects of pollution. 
     Platypuses are unique because males are venomous. They have sharp stingers on the heels of their rear feet and can use them to deliver a strong toxic blow. The venom (most is secreted during mating season) is not life threatening to humans, but it is powerful enough to kill smaller animals such as dogs. The pain is so excruciating that the victim may be incapacitated. Swelling rapidly develops around the wound and gradually spreads throughout the affected limb. A byproduct of this is the development of hyperalgesia which is a heightened sensitivity to pain that persists for days or even months. 
     While the venom is used against predators if threatened (the platypus would actually rather run than fight), it is primarily used against other male platypuses during mating season. They fight to show dominance and scare away potential mating rivals. They have been heard to emit a low growl when disturbed and a range of other sounds have been reported in captive specimens.
     They are indigenous to freshwater rivers and lakes in eastern Australia and Tasmania and are roughly the size of a house cat.  They are covered in thick, dark brown hair over most their bodies. The thick hair is waterproof and helps keep the platypus keep warm and dry when in the water, where it spends most of its time. 
     Platypuses hunt underwater where they swim by paddling with their front webbed feet and steering with their hind feet and beaver-like tail. Folds of skin cover their eyes and ears to prevent water from entering and the nostrils close with a watertight seal. They can remain submerged for a minute or two and employ their sensitive bill to find food. The platypus needs to eat about 20 percent of its own weight each day which requires it to spend an average of 12 hours daily looking for food. 
     Bottom feeders, they scoop up insects, larvae, shellfish, and worms in their bill along with bits of gravel and mud and all this material is stored in cheek pouches. At the surface it's all mashed for consumption. Like the rest of the animal, their bills are unique, containing both electrical and pressure receptors. The platypus can determine the direction of an electric source, perhaps by comparing differences in signal strength across the electro-receptors. This would explain the characteristic side-to-side motion of the animal's head while hunting. The platypus uses the difference between arrival times of the signals to sense distance. When it digs with its bill, its electro-receptors detect tiny electric currents generated by muscular contractions of its prey, enabling it to distinguish between animate and inanimate objects which also stimulate its mechano-receptors.
     The babies have a few teeth which they lose before or just after leaving the burrow and the develop pads in their place. These pads are used to crush and grind their food with help of small stones they have picked up along with their food. As one would expect, the platypus jaw is constructed differently from that of other mammals and the opening muscle is different. 
     The platypus has extra bones in the shoulder area which is not found in other mammals and their bones are extra dense which helps to provide ballast in the water. On land they walk like an alligator because their legs are on the sides of the body, rather than underneath. This causes it to knuckle-walk on its front feet. The nails and feet are also handy when they construct their burrows at the water's edge.
     Platypuses are also unique in that they are only one of two mammals that lays eggs. Bet you don't know what the other one is. It's the echidna, also known as the spiny anteater.
     Females seal themselves inside a burrow chamber to lay their lizard-like eggs, usually one or two, and keeps them warm by holding them between her body and her tail. The eggs hatch in about ten days and the babies are the size of Lima beans and totally helpless. Females nurse their young for three to four months until the babies can swim on their own. The males have nothing to do with the eggs or the blind and hairless newborns. 
     As you might expect, it also has eyes that are different. They are similar to those of Pacific hagfish or Northern Hemisphere lampreys. They also contain double cones, which most mammals do not have. Its eyes are small and not used under water. In some ways the eyes are similar to those of an otter and sea-lions. They have binocular vision, but poor visual acuity Studies of their eyes indicate that they are adapted to an aquatic and nocturnal lifestyle although they are also active during the day, particularly when the sky is overcast. 
     In captivity, platypuses have survived up to 17 years. Natural predators include snakes, water rats, goannas, hawks, owls, and eagles and crocodiles. 
     I know you're dying to know if they are edible!
     There are some foods that are banned in most restaurants either because they come from highly poisonous animals or it must be cooked exactly as specified if you want to avoid killing yourself. Of course this doesn’t some people from playing Russian Roulette. 
     For example, in certain Asian countries the Puffer Fish as an exquisite delicacy. Their meat is perfectly edible because the poison is concentrated in the eyes, skin and the internal organs. The problem is, one wrong move by the chef and you'll be in paralytic coma that will kill you within a few minutes. It only takes a few milligrams (one drop of water is about 50 milligrams) of their poison to kill a full grown man. The fish is so poisonous that in order to be allowed to prepare it in Japan you have to train for two to three years and then pass a test. What's the test? You have to eat the meat yourself. 
     Australia has a lot of weird animals, some of which are edible and some are not. They exported kangaroo meat as early as 1959, but it was not legalized for human consumption in most Australian states until 1993. I am told most Australian supermarkets carry various cuts of kangaroo – fillets, steaks, minced meat and sausages. So, it's quite edible. 
     Koala bears look cuddly and adorable, but they have razor-sharp claws and are highly unsociable animals. They are listed as vulnerable in the Australian Endangered Species List so you are not allowed to eat them. It is illegal to keep a Koala as a pet anywhere in the world. 
     Emus are farmed for their meat, oil and leather. Their meat is low in fat and high in protein and as such it's as a healthy alternative to beef. It's similar to beef, but more gamey.
     Wombats are also on the protected list and it is illegal to kill them.  Some species of wombat are even on the endangered list. 
     Quokka. These adorable macropods are much like a small kangaroo. It is illegal to even touch a quokka so they are not used as food. 
     The Kookaburra is a carnivorous bird known for eating their young. They are crafty birds, hard to catch and they are not eaten. 
     A dingo is a wild dog and is classified as a subspecies of the grey wolf and are listed as vulnerable to extinction due to interbreeding with domestic dogs. Dog meat is not generally considered edible, so nobody eats dingos. 
    That brings us to the Echidna (not edible) mentioned previously and platypuses. The platypus is poisonous so it's not edible. What about the eggs? They are only 11mm in diameter (less than half an inch) so it would take a lot of them to make a meal, but I was unable to find a source that even mentioned platypus eggs as a source of food for humans.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Medical Quackery and Snake Oil

    In the age of quick fixes and assembly line cosmetic surgeries, Bob McCoy urged folks to beware of the quack: the doctor who may not be a doctor and who purports to have a cure for just about anything.  Their advertisements are all over the place today, more sophisticated, but still plentiful – just swallow a pill and lose weight while you sleep; eat this stuff and flush your arteries clean, etc. 
     McCoy was the founder of the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis. The museum was the nation's largest display of quack medical devices and was founded in 1987. McCoy retired and closed the museum in 2002, donating his devices to the Science Museum of Minnesota, which still displays a number of items in their Collections Gallery. 
     This fun site features all of the items McCoy had on display, many of which are also featured in his book: Quack!: Tales of Medical Fraud from the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices
     A few things: Vibratory Chair, Bloodletting Devices, Electropathy, Foot Operated Breast Enlarger, McGregor Rejuvenator, Natural Eye Sight System, Prostate Cures, Phrenology, Radium Ore Revigator, the1904 Price List for electrical devices with NO electricity, Dr. Bell's Electro Appliance...especially for men, Crazy Crystals - horse salts eliminate the need for crutches, Electrovita - water to revitalize, LaMercey relieves "periodic" distress...and lots more!   Visit the site

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Rat Meat

     My favorite food guru Andrew Zimmern says he's eaten a lot of rats and they are “pretty darn tasty.” Of course I've seen Mr. Zimmern eating stuff he has described as having a “poopy” taste and he thought it was delicious, too. 
     Zimmern says that the United States (and probably a lot of other countries) is obsessed with the belief that rat meat is bad, diseased and unclean. He adds that in the US (and probably a lot of other countries) that’s mostly true, but it's not the case in some parts of the world. For example, the 20-pound forest rat in the jungles of South America feed mostly on fallen date palms and other fruit and have the succulent sweet flavor that that tastes like pork. Read more...
     In the book Unmentionable Cuisine author Calvin W. Schwabe says that North Americans should be using many forms of protein which are routinely consumed in other parts of the world. He says, "Brown rats and roof rats were eaten openly on a large scale in Paris when the city was under siege during the Franco-Prussian War. Observers likened their taste to both partridges and pork.” Supposedly in France rats inhabiting wine cellars were skinned and eviscerated, brushed with a thick sauce of olive oil and crushed shallots, and grilled over a fire of broken wine barrels. Schwabe also adds that in West Africa the cane rat, the common house mouse and other species of rats and mice are all eaten. 
     According to a United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization report, rats now comprise of over 50 percent of the locally produced meat eaten in some parts of Ghana. Between December 1968 and June 1970, 258,206 pounds of cane-rat meat alone were sold in one market in Accra. 

Here are a couple of recipes: 

Stewed Cane Rat 
Skin and eviscerate the rat and split it lengthwise. Fry until brown in a mixture of butter and peanut oil. Cover with water, add tomatoes or tomato purée, hot red peppers, and salt. Simmer the rat until tender and serve with rice. 
Roasted Field Mice (Raton de campo asado) 
Skin and eviscerate field mice. Skewer them and roast over an open fire or coals. These are great as hors d'oeuvres with margaritas or "salty dogs."

Or, if you want to get really snooty: 
Mice in Cream (Souris à la crème) 
Skin, gut and wash some fat mice without removing their heads. Cover them in a pot with ethyl alcohol and marinate 2 hours. Cut a piece of salt pork or sowbelly into small dice and cook it slowly to extract the fat. Drain the mice, dredge them thoroughly in a mixture of flour, pepper, and salt, and fry slowly in the rendered fat for about 5 minutes. Add a cup of alcohol and 6 to 8 cloves, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Prepare a cream sauce, transfer the sautéed mice to it, and warm them in it for about 10 minutes before serving. 

     One Internet story claimed that in China the Ministry of Public Security announced that the police had arrested 63 traders accused of buying rat, fox, and mink meat and then selling the meat as mutton. Apparently, the crime ring had been mixing the meat with gelatin, red dye, and nitrates before selling it in Shanghai and neighboring Jiangsu province. 
     According to North Carolina-based artist Laura Ginn, who once put together a rat-themed five-course dinner in New York rat tastes delicious when brushed with a glaze and barbecued. Smoked rat jerky served on brioche French toast is pretty good, too.  She adds that rats are most commonly eaten in Asia because of the rice crop. In areas where rats feed off rice paddies rather than garbage, they are considered safe to eat. Not so of the sewer-dwelling, garbage-eating rats. Rats are disease carriers, so when she organized her meal she ordered the rats from a company that supplies specially raised, grain-fed rodents to zoos. Here are some hints on how to know if what you are eating might be rat meat:

1. It smells like rat. Rats secrete an oil onto their skin that gives them an odor that makes them smell, well, like rats. Something like a warm tortilla...I will probably have to get that out of my head next time I have one of my favorites...Mexican food! Other people said rat meat smells like urine. Apparently, even after skinning and cooking, the smell never completely goes away. 
2. It tastes like rat. The oil rats secrete gives them a distinctive taste...pungent and gamey… somewhat akin to raccoon or rabbit. That's why it's sometimes blended with other meats. 
3. It looks like lamb. When it’s raw rat looks very much like lamb...kind of pinkish red. But, when ground up with other meat it just looks like generic ground meat. When cooked, a big rat looks sort of like a like rabbit. 
I am not sure where in the US you can actually purchase rats suitable for cooking, but if you do find a place this site has some recipes:  Gourmet Rat Recipes

Also, if you are interested in exotic meats, then there is a place called Exotic Meat Markets in California (where else?!) that sells everything from alligator and alpaca meat to zebra meat. Happy dining!