Random Posts

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Medicinal Value of Urine

    It's been claimed by some that one's own urine is the body's own medicine and Urine Therapy can be a very effective in healing certain diseases. The claim is that oral intake of freshly voided morning urine has been recommended for many diseases such as viral or bacterial infections. Symptoms reported during the first days of oral intake of urine include nausea, vomiting, headache, palpitations, diarrhea or fever. Side effects notwithstanding, it's claimed that several substances in the urine are believed to be important for oral intake such as urea, uric acid, cytokines, hormones or urokinase. Local urine therapies include embrocations, compresses for local tumors, whole body bath or foot bath in the urine, use of urine as eye drops, ear drops or nose drops and the use of urine for wound cleaning.
     There was even an episode of the TV series My Strange Addiction that highlighted a "medical" practice that caused many viewers to turn away in revulsion. The feature described drinking one's own urine and using it to massage, irrigate, or coat body parts, as an attempt to fight off cancer.
    Urine therapy, urotherapy or urinotherapy, are terms that have been used to refer to the use of one's own urine as a medicinal aid. There are no medical or scientific data to support this dubious practice, but it has roots in history and in some religious and spiritual traditions. In certain cultures, urine has been used as a skin protectant, an anti-infectious agent, and a tooth whitener, among many other uses, but none of these claims have ever been substantiated by medical research. Even the popular folk remedy of urinating on jellyfish stings has no medical basis and may actually worsen the injury. There have been rare reports of people drinking their urine as a way to prevent dehydration in catastrophic situations when there was no water supply, such as being lost at sea.
     In the TV series, a cancer patient opted for urine therapy to treat her cancer. She not only drank her own urine, she used it to irrigate her eyes and sinuses, brush her teeth and applied it to her skin. The idea of this treatment as a cancer therapy probably comes from the fact that certain tumor proteins are present in the urine of cancer patients. By introducing urine into the digestive tract and other sites in the body, the erroneous belief is that the body will begin making antibodies against the tumor proteins to try to destroy the cancer.
     While it is true that urine can contain tumor antigens, there is no evidence to show that drinking, massaging with, bathing in, or any other application of urine will stimulate antibody production or in any way fight off a cancer. The quantities of substances, including tumor antigens, present in urine are typically minuscule compared with those already present in the blood and elsewhere in the body. The bottom line is that drinking your own urine isn't likely to be harmful, but it has no known medical benefit.
     That's not to say that urine is worthless. Looking back in history urine has been used to whiten teeth. Ancient Romans used urine to brighten their teeth. The Roman poet Catullus wrote, "Egnatius, because he has snow-white teeth, smiles all the time...in the country of Spain what each man pisses, he’s used to brushing his teeth and red gums with, every morning, so the fact that your teeth are so polished just shows you're the more full of piss."
     Before scientists were able to synthesize chemicals, urine was a rich source of urnitrogen-based compound that when set aside for long periods decays into ammonia. Ammonia acts as a weak base when in water, making it the perfect substance for the ancients to use when softening and tanning animal hides to make leather. Soaking the animal skins in urine also made the process of removing hair and bits of unwanted flesh from the skin.
     Ammonia is a prominent ingredient in many household cleaners as it is is a powerful cleansing agent and helps fight dirt and grease. Ammonia is also found in urine and the early Europeans often used it clean their homes. In ancient Rome, vessels were placed on streets as urine collectors. After the buckets were full from people passing by to relieve themselves, the vats were taken to a laundry and used to wash dirty clothes.
     During the 1500's, families dedicated chamber pots to collecting their pee to be used in developing brighter colors when dying fabric. Urine was so important to the textile industry in England that an "estimated amount equivalent to the urine steam of 1,000 people for an entire year were shipped across the country to Yorkshire" to be used in dying fabric according to the Smithsonian.
     Urine can be used to make gunpowder. The main ingredient, potassium nitrate was only made available on a large-scale in the early 1900's. Until then, gunpowder manufacturers used the nitrogen found in urine to make their product.
     Recently a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio University has developed a technology to generate hydrogen fuel from urine.
     Urine contains proteins and other substances that are useful for medical therapy and are ingredients in many prescription drugs (e.g., Ureacin, Urecholine, Urowave). Urine from postmenopausal women is rich in gonadotropins that can yield follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone for fertility therapy. One such commercial product is Pergonal.
     Urine from pregnant women contains enough human chorionic gonadotropins for commercial extraction and purification to produce medication. Pregnant mare urine is the source of estrogens, namely Premarin. Urine also contains antibodies, which can be used in diagnostic antibody tests for a range of pathogens, including HIV.
     Urine is very high in nitrogen, low in phosphorus and moderate in potassium, so if urine is to be separated and collected for use as a fertilizer in agriculture, then the easiest method of doing so is with sanitation systems that utilize waterless urinals, urine-diverting dry toilets or urine diversion flush toilets.
     Undiluted urine can chemically burn the leaves or roots of some plants, particularly if the soil moisture content is low. For this reason, urine fertilizer is usually applied diluted with water.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Roy Bean, the Hanging Judge

     Hanging Judge Roy Bean, who held court sessions in his saloon along the Rio Grande River in a desolate stretch of the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas, was one of the Old West's most fascinating characters. According to myth, his saloon was named after the love of his life, Lily Langtry, a British actress he'd never met.
    Judge Bean didn't call himseld the Hanging Judge though; he called himself the Law West of the Pecos and is reputed to have kept a pet bear in his courtroom and sentenced dozens to the gallows, saying "Hang 'em first, try 'em later." Separating fact from fiction though proves very difficult.
    Bean was born in Mason County, Kentucky about 1825. At age 15 he left home to follow two older brothers west seeking adventure. With Brother Sam, he joined a wagon train into New Mexico, then crossed the Rio Grande and set up a trading post in Chihuahua, Mexico. After killing a local man, he fled to California, to stay with his brother Joshua who would become the first mayor of San Diego.
    While living in San Diego, Roy had a reputation for bragging, dueling and gambling on cockfights. As mayor, his brother appointed Roy a lieutenant in the state militia and bartender of the Headquarters, the mayor's saloon. In 1852, Roy was arrested after wounding a man in a duel, but he escaped and after his brother, the mayor, was killed a few months later by a rival in a romantic triangle, Roy headed back to New Mexico where brother Sam Bean had become a sheriff and also owned a saloon.
     In New Mexico, Roy tended bar in Sam's saloon for several years while smuggling guns from Mexico through the Union blockade during the Civil War. Afterward, he married a Mexican teenager and settled in San Antonio, Texas where throughout the 1870s he supported 5 children by peddling stolen firewood and selling watered-down milk. His nefarious business practices eventually earned his San Antonio neighborhood the nickname Beanville.
     Then in 1882, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railroad hired crews to link San Antonio with El Paso, Texas across 530 miles of the scorching Chihuahuan Desert. The desert was a miserable place that was infested with bobcats, rattlesnakes and scorpions, called vinegaroons by the locals.
    Fleeing his marriage and illegal businesses in San Antonio, Roy headed to to the area, known as Vinegaroon to become a saloonkeeper, serving railroad workers their whiskey from a tent. Bean was his own best customer and was often drunk and disorderly.
    Because the nearest courtroom was a week's ride away the County Commissioners, wanting to establish some sort of local law, appointed Roy Bean as Justice of the Peace for his precinct in Pecos County, Texas. Roy accepted the appointment and packed up and moved north from Vinegaroon to a small tent city on the Rio Grande named Langtry in honor of a railroad boss who had run the Southern Pacific's tracks through it.
    The name Langtry also happened to be the name of a beautiful British actress that Bean had read about and become enchanted with. He built a saloon and named it the Jersey Lilly, as Ms. Langtry was known. He hung a picture of her behind the bar, and above the door, posted signs proclaiming "ICE COLD BEER" and "LAW WEST OF THE PECOS." From his bar Bean dispensed not only liquor, justice and tall tales which included the fact that he had named the town for actress Lillie Langtry.
    When it came to “justice” Bean wasn't too concerned with legalities. He was more concerned with things like greed and prejudice mixed in with a little common sense and a lot of colorful language.
    One of Bean's most outrageous rulings occurred when an Irishman was accused of killing a Chinese worker. Friends of the accused threatened to destroy the Jersey Lilly if he was found guilty. After thumbing through his law book, Bean proclaimed he found the law very explicit on murdering one's fellow man, but there was nothing in the law books about killing a Chinaman and the case was dismissed.
    According to legend, Judge Bean was merciless and was called "The Hangin' Judge." But that title goes to Isaac Parker of Fort Smith, Arkansas, who sentenced 172 men to hang although in fact, only 88 of them actually ended up swinging. Bean threatened to hang hundreds, but one researcher claimed there's no evidence to suggest that ever hung anybody. One or two were sentenced and taken to the gallows, but allowed to escape.
    Like many politicians of questionable repute today, Bean was elected to the office in 1884 and often reelected, so that between 1882 and 1902, most of Roy's bizarre rulings stood. Except for an occasional murder, his cases consisted mostly of misdemeanor offenses such as drunkenness and crimes committed by petty criminals.
    Most days found him sitting on the porch of his saloon with rifle in his lap. In the saloon his favorite customers were railroad passengers who wanted a drink while the train took on water. His favorite trick was not to give them change and then when the train's warning whistle blew, customers asked for their change which was refused. The result was that there were usually a few curse words utter and then Bean would fine them for swearing. The fine was the exact amount of their change. There was nothing customers could do except “pay” the fine and hustle back to the train.
    In 1896, prizefighting was illegal, as it was in Mexico, and promoters couldn't find anywhere to hold the world championship title bout between Bob Fitzsimmons and Peter Maher.
    In February of 1896, Bean's saloon was packed with 200 fight fans and after a few rounds they followed Bean over a bridge he had built to a sand bar in the Rio Grande River. While Texas Rangers watched from shore, Fitzsimmons knocked out Maher in only 95 seconds. After returning to the saloon for more drinks, the fans and sportswriters headed for El Paso, where news stories were filed to papers throughout the US. It was after this that Bean became a national legend and his exploits were recounted in newspapers and dime novels. Many of the “details” came from Bean himself.
Dime novels were popular

    For years, Roy boasted of his acquaintance with Lillie Langtry and promised that she would one day arrive and sing in in town. 1896, after his first saloon was destroyed by fire, Roy rebuilt the Jersey Lilly and constructed a home for himself across the street, which he called the Opera House, anticipating the day when Lillie would perform there. Roy never met Miss Lillie, but he often wrote her, and she is purported to have written back, even sending him 2 pistols.
    Some novels and the movie Streets Of Laredo portrayed Bean as being gunned down by a Mexican outlaw on the steps of the Jersey Lilly, but his end was anti-climactic. In March 1903, he went on a drinking binge in Del Rio, Texas and was found dead in his bed the following morning.
    Lillie Langtry finally did take Judge Bean up on his invitation to visit. Unfortunately, it was tem months after old Roy died. Traveling on the Southern Pacific Railroad on her was from New Orleans to San Francisco she made a stop and visited the saloon and listened as locals told her how Judge Bean had fined a corpse, freed a murderer and lined his pockets by shortchanging train passengers. She wrote of the visit in her autobiography calling it, “...a short visit, but an unforgettable one."
    There's a whole lot of nothing on those west Texas roads, but you can still visit Langtry, Texas which in 2016 had a population of...twelve people. You probably won't want to visit the museum during the months of Jun, July and August though; the average daytime high approaches 100 degrees.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Speaking of Teeth

      As Seen On TV ads are popular and when visiting the local drug store I always stop by to see what they have to offer. Somehow when you see the actual product you always have the gut feeling that it's not as amazing as it's advertised on the commercials. There's also the feeling that somehow you're getting cheated because the commercials almost always offer two items with the second one being free...just pay a separate postage fee. Of course, the second postage fee covers the cost so you're getting ripped off in any case.
     The other day I saw some false teeth (uppers only) that promised to give you an amazing smile for only $20. To be honest, they looked pretty cheap, sort of like Halloween teeth, but if your teeth look like this…

and you don't have dental insurance or can't afford dental work then I suppose they might be OK.
     Do they really work? In the following Youtube video you can see a lady testing them. To be fair, I saw a couple of videos where this product was tested and they weren't really fair tests because the people testing the product already had decent looking teeth.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How Teeth Are Pulled

  Back in the day when barbers, wig makers and even blacksmiths dabbled in dentistry getting a tooth pulled was fraught with danger. There's always some danger even today, but in those days there was no anesthetics and they just grabbed the tooth tightly with forceps, twisted and pulled. If you were lucky only the tooth came out and not pieces of you gum and bone and you didn't walk way with a broken jaw.
     These days tooth extraction is usually relatively straightforward, and the vast majority can be usually performed quickly while the individual is awake by using local anesthetic injections to eliminate pain. Still, pulling a tooth involves more than just numbing the patient, grabbing the tooth and yanking it out.
     First the dentist will anesthetize both the tooth, bone and gum tissue that surround it. There's no way to do this except by injection which will hurt a bit and usually there's a momentary sensation of tsting something metallic, but it can't b helped.
     You're feel pressure during your extraction procedure, usually a whole lot of it. The sensation of pain is transmitted by different nerve fibers than those that transmit pressure and only the nerves that transmit pain are the one that have been numbed. No amount of anesthetic will eliminate the sensation of pressure.
     Also, it's not surprising to hear snap or breaking noises when teeth re being pulled. A study done in 2015 determined that the level of force that resulted in tooth fracture was sometimes only slightly greater than that required for routine tooth removal, so it doesn't take much to break a tooth during extraction. The consequences of having a root break can vary and range from a piece proving to be difficult to “fish” out with the result that the time in the chair is increased, or if you're lucky, the dentist can just tease it out.
     When a tooth is pulled, the root portion is firmly encased in bone (aka the socket), and tightly held in place by its ligament which is a fibrous tissue between the tooth and bone that binds the two together. To get the tooth out the dentist must both widen and enlarge the socket and separate the tooth from its ligament before it can actually be removed.
     If you've ever tried to remove a tent stake that's been driven deeply into the ground, you know that you can't just pull the stake straight out. You have to rock it back and forth to widen the hole. The dentist does the same thing. Fortunately the bone that encases a tooth's root is relatively spongy. This rocking process also loosens the tooth's ligaments.
     They'll use tools like extraction forceps and an elevators which looks like a screwdriver. The tip of an elevator is wedged into the ligament space between a tooth and its surrounding bone and twisted around and the tooth is rocked around to both expand the shape of the socket and separate the tooth from its ligament. In some cases, the dentist may be able to completely remove the tooth just using their elevator, but if not they'll use the forceps.
     A dentist will usually have a number of different ones, each having a design that's tailored to the specific shape of the tooth he's removing and the location of the tooth in the mouth. They grab the tooth with the forceps and then firmly rock it back and forth as much as it will move. While he's rocking it, he's also rotating the tooth back and forth. This helps to rip and tear the tooth away from the ligament. Sometimes all this twisting and rocking won't be real gentle. An assistant may be required to hold you head in place.
     It's during this process that you can be thankful for lidocaine, the most commonly used local anesthetic. They used to use procaine, also known as novocaine. Lidocaine is a faster-acting and longer-lasting local anesthetic than procaine. Its half-life in the body is about 1.5–2 hours.
     The numbing drug is only one part of what's injected. Included can be can include a type of drug called a vasoconstrictor which narrows your blood vessels and makes the numbness last longer. It can also include a chemical that keeps the vasoconstrictor from breaking down, Sodium hydroxide, which helps the numbing drug work. Another ingredient is Sodium chloride which helps the drugs get into your blood.
     There are two kinds of numbing injections. A block injection numbs an entire region of your mouth, such as one side of your lower jaw. An infiltration injection numbs a smaller area. This is the area near where the injection was given.
     The dentist begins by drying part of your mouth with air or cotton then swab the area with a gel to numb the skin. Then they will slowly inject the local anesthetic. Here's a surprise. Most people don't feel the needle; they only feel a sting caused by the anesthetic moving into the tissue.
     If the patient is nervous, some dentists may also use Nitrous oxide, a sedative agent that is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a small mask that fits over your nose to help you relax. Nitrous oxide, sometimes called “laughing gas,” is one option your dentist may offer to help make you more comfortable during certain procedures. You may feel light-headed or a tingling in your arms and legs and some people say their arms and legs feel heavy. It also feels cold. Ultimately, you should feel calm and comfortable. The effects wear off soon after the mask is removed.
     Contrary to popular belief, laughing gas is not a pain reliever and is never used to fully sedate a patient because the concentration needed to completely anesthetize a patient is close to the amount that would lower blood oxygen level to a point where a state of hypoxia results.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Steam Locomotive Engineers

    Steam engines always are a thrill to see. The locomotive engineer's job is fascinating to boys and men of all ages because it is a romantic job. A powerful, throbbing piece of equipment, the steam locomotive is a symbol of dynamic energy and strength.
     The locomotive engineer must not only know how to run his engine, but he must also know a great deal about how it is built and how each part works, so that he will know what must be done if anything goes wrong. Therefore, one who aspires to become an engineer usually started as a machinist's or boiler maker's apprentice, or in some other beginner's job in a shop or roundhouse where locomotives were repaired. His next job may have been that of a hostler, who runs the locomotives in and around the shops and repair yards but who does not drive an engine in main-line service, or his next job could have been that of a locomotive fireman. The fireman's job furnishes the final training ground for the engineer's job and every locomotive engineer was selected from the ranks of firemen.
     An engineer's first assignment was usually running a switching engine, pushing and pulling cars back and forth and making up trains in rail yards. Then he was assigned to a local freight run, and finally, he got a fast or long distance freight or passenger run.
     Because of efficiency and safety concerns engineers, and every other member of the crew, had to be trained for his job but also had to be healthy and have good eyesight. Before the engineer was allowed to run a locomotive he had pass a rigid examination to prove that he was familiar with the technical details of locomotive operation, air-brakes, signals, etc., and also that he was thoroughly familiar with the rule book. For safety reasons no crew mwmber was allowed to start work unless he has been off duty for at least eight hours.
     Crew members were assigned to different runs on the basis of seniority, the man with the longest service record having the first choice, the man with the second longest service record having the second choice, and so on.
     Engineers sat on the right side of the cab and kept his eye on the track, observed signals and making sure the track was clear. When the train approached a signal, its message had to be confirmed by the fireman. to make certain that it was read it correctly. The engineer and fireman also watch the train to the rear to see that it was intact and to note any signal from the conductor or brakemen.
     The steam engine's cab, situated behind the boiler and firebox, contained all of the controls required in the operation: the throttle, the air-brake controls, the sand controls, and several gauges and indicators which tell the engineer how well the engine was performing. Many locomotives were equipped with automatic stokers whereby coal was conveyed from the tender into the firebox.
     The whistle was used to signal the train crew and sounds warnings upon approaching crossings, stations and persons or animals on the track. When the train was approaching a station, the engineer sounded one long blast. On approaching a grade crossing, he sounded two long, one short and one long blast. Several short blasts were sounded to warn persons or animals to get off the track. The engineer also has several whistle combinations for communicating information to the conductor and other members of the train crew.
     On passenger trains the train crew communicated with to the engineer by means of a signal cord extending through the entire length of the train and attached to a little whistle beside the engineer in the cab. When the train was standing, two short pulls on the signal cord told the engineer to start the train; three shorts told him to back up; four shorts told him to apply or release air-brakes. When the train was moving two short blasts signaled the engineer to stop at once; three shorts, stop at next passenger station; four shorts, reduce speed. Freight trains were not equipped with signal cords so the conductor and crew signaled the engineer by means of hand, flag and lantern signals.
    Although steam engines are long gone some scenic railroads still operate them and it is possible to attend classes to learn to be a fireman and engineer. One scenic railroad, for example, offers classes in which individuals must complete the Fireman Steam School Class before advancing to the Engineer Steam School Class. Both the Fireman and Engineer courses must be completed before signing up for the Advanced class and class sizes are limited. But it's not cheap:
     The fireman's class costs $2250.00 and is available to first-time students. Emphasis is on “firing” a K-36 Baldwin locomotive and textbooks, rule book, and timetable are furnished in advance to all students. On day one students view safety videos and review course materials. After the classroom session, students meet in the yard where they receive hands-on training.
     On day two they become familiar with the art of firing the locomotive and then practice the actual firing of the locomotive while it is making its run. Days three and four are test that are actually made during a 64-mile run.
     The engineer's class cost $2750.00 and is open to those that took the Fireman's class. Emphasis is on the use of the throttle, brakes, setting valves, injectors, lubricators, lights, and repairs and maintenance, along with specific studies relative to use of the air on the locomotive and much more. Homework is required and students are tested beginning at day one, the material having been supplied in advance.
     Day two includes the practice, familiarization and understanding of the operation of the locomotive. Days three and four test the students’ proficiency and skill by actually driving the engine on a run.
     The Advanced class cost is $5,000.00. This class focuses less on road trips and more on the everyday tasks of railroading and covers such things as yard operation rules, yard operation, yard switching, air brakes and operating a local freight with switching.
     During training students must pay for their room and board and supply steel toed shoes, eye protection, overalls, long sleeve shirts, caps and work gloves.
     These days a diesel locomotive engineer's salary ranges between $60,000-$130,000 with the average being around $92,000. The route to becoming an engineer is not easy. Generally one starts in an entry-level position such as a Switchman or Brakeman. You do not need any previous railroad experience. These jobs directly lead to becoming a Conductor or an Engineer.
     These are not fun jobs! They require a non-standard 40-hour week that require variable work hours with irregularly scheduled days off. Employees are always on-call, even nights, weekends and holidays, and are typically required to report to work within 90 minutes of notification. I once considered applying for such a position and was told we would be required to be reachable by phone at each shift change (7am. 3Pm and 11pm). I was also informed that the pay was so many dollars per week (I don't remember the exact amount). They phrased it as a dollar amount per week to try and hide the fact that it was actually minimum wage. I wasn't interested! Travel is required and crews sometimes spending a day or more away from home.
     This entry level job requires working outdoors in all weather conditions, including snow, ice, rain, cold and heat and frequently more than 12 feet above the ground. Employees are affected by the amount of work available and it's not unusual to be placed on furlough status and no longer be on the active call list. As work demand increases, individuals are taken off furlough status as needed. Furloughs are based on seniority.
     One railroad claims that as a beginning crew member on can expect to earn about $41,000 a year, but actual pay depends on location and union agreements. The first 14 weeks are dedicated to formal training both in the classroom and on the job. Afterward, you will be assigned to either a switch person, brake person or conductor.