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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Verizon Wireless (Lack of Customer) Service

    About two weeks ago I lost my new cell phone and called Verizon Wireless to report it. The customer service rep turned on the Family Locator which showed it was located in an apartment building a half mile down the street. As there was no chance of getting it back I had the phone deactivated and my credit card was charged $265 to pay for the lost phone and at the same time an order was put in for a replacement to be shipped via UPS.
     The next morning when I went out back of the house to feed the birds there was the phone lying on the deck; it was not a half mile away. I called Verizon to cancel the order, but the phone had already been shipped. Somehow Verizon contacted UPS and had the phone shipped back to the warehouse which received it about 5 days later.  
     Initially I was informed by customer service that it would take 24-48 hours after they got the phone back for the charge to be removed from my credit card, but when that didn't happen I called back and was told it would take 3-4 days and when that didn't happen I was told it would take 5-7 days.
     Finally, after two weeks my credit card was credited for only $16. That generated another call to Verizon and I was informed they had used the $265 to pay off my current phone and the refund was for an installment payment for the new phone that I had already made! I carefully explained that was not what I wanted. I wanted the $265 removed from my credit card and I would continue to pay for the new phone by monthly installments.
     Customer service informed me the change would be made and to give it 2-3 days to to show up as a credit on my credit card. When I told the rep that was what I was told last time and it didn't happen, she said it could take 4-5 days. When that didn't happen I made another call and was told give it 5-7 days. When that didn't happen, in another call customer service told me it might take one or two billing cycles!! Not happy with that answer, the customer service person straight up told me she did not have the authority to do anything except write it up.  She also advised that if the charge didn't come off my credit card “in a few days” visit the Verizon store and maybe they could help.
     So, that's where I'm at now, still waiting. If the charge shows up on my credit card bill next month I will write a letter to the credit card company and dispute the charge. Verizon wireless customer service people have all been very nice people, but they don't know what they are doing and they have absolutely no power to actually do anything.   
     No matter how good a company’s products or services may be, if employees are not given authority to make decisions, the company will have serious problems. This is especially true if instead of giving general direction, the company micromanages its employees.
     Micromanaging is a method of management in which an individual closely observes or controls the work of an employee. The result is that efficiency, creativity, trust, communication, problem-solving, and the company’s ability to reach its goals are all hampered. I know. I worked for a company that micromanaged. The solution is to hire/train competent people and let them do their job without constantly looking over their shoulder. 

3-6 Followup. Eventually I talked to a very nice lady at Verizon customer service who agreed that I should not be having so much trouble resolving this issue. She promised to take care of it and volunteered to be my point of contact so I would not have to deal with a different customer service representative every time I called. She also promised to followup on my complaint and even supplied me with her e-mail in case there were problems or questions and advised me to give it 5 days.

At the end of 5 days the $265 was still on my credit card, but my Verizon bill showed my account was credited for that amount. As a result, I did not owe them anything for the month and the balance would be applied to my bill the following month. i.e. instead of paying Verizon for the next couple of months, I pay the credit card company.

That is not the solution I was looking for, but it works. I am happy to report that Verizon has at least one customer service representative that actually provides service. I emailed her back thanking her and requested she supply me with her supervisor's email so I can make sure she gets credit for a job well done.

How High Can Airplanes Fly?

      All airplanes have a maximum altitude. The highest certified altitude of an airliner was Concorde's 60,000 feet. The record altitude for a jet plane is 123,520 feet, set by Alexandr Fedotov in 1997 in a military Soviet MiG-25M. 
     Today some of the corporate jets can fly at 51,000 feet, but most commercial airliners are limited to 45,000 feet or less. If a plane were to climb beyond its ceiling limit then the engines would eventually lose the ability to produce enough thrust to continue the climb.         
     The optimum altitude is also linked to the weight of a commercial jet and heavier planes fly lower, and lighter higher. Light aircraft do not have pressurized cabins and must remain below 10,000 feet. Any higher and the pilot is required to wear an oxygen mask to remain conscious.
      One of the main reasons behind aircraft altitude is that, as the air gets thinner with altitude, planes can fly more easily and therefore faster and burn less fuel, which saves money. Normally commercial flights fly between 35,000 and 42,000 feet.
     At these higher altitudes aircraft avoid much of the bad weather. The troposphere, the layer closest to the ground, is where most of the world's weather occurs. Usually measured up to 36,000 feet, this is where clouds are most likely, as well as heavy rains and high winds. Aircraft prefer life in the stratosphere, which means less turbulence. 
     In case of an emergency, say engine failure, aircraft at 35,000 feet, allows for much more time to deal with the situation. It also means that if all engines fail, the glide distance is much further.
     There are minimum altitude restrictions, but they apply much more to light aircraft than airliners. It is illegal to fly below 1,000 feet over a built-up area or 500 feet over any person, vehicle or structure. There are also vertical distance restrictions.
     The elite group of 35-50 of the world's U-2 pilots routinely fly at 70,000 feet are subject to altitude-induced decompression sickness which is known by its common name, the bends. This is the same condition suffered by divers who rise too quickly from the high pressure at depth to the lower pressure near the surface.
     U-2 pilots are especially at risk, not just because of their extreme altitude but also because their cockpits are only partially pressurized. The pressure in a U-2 cockpit is equivalent to the atmosphere at 29,000 feet, as high as Mt. Everest so U-2 pilots breathe pure oxygen for an hour before their flight and wear a pressurized suit. 
     Pre-breathing oxygen helps purge nitrogen from their bodies. If any nitrogen remains and the pilot climbs to altitude, just like when you open a can of soda, the thin atmosphere will cause the nitrogen dissolved in the body’s blood and tissue to boil which can cause extreme pain, bruising, brain damage and without treatment death.
     In 2006, one U-2 pilot several hours into a combat mission started experiencing symptoms of knee pain and over the next five hours, an intense headache, nausea, and extreme fatigue. At one point he also hallucinated that his plane was in a steep bank and be began to feel disoriented and almost like he was intoxication, at one point even falling asleep. 
     It progressed to the point that he had essentially forgotten how to fly the plane. After vomiting into his pressure-sealed helmet he had to take it off he could see, but that exposed him to he much lower pressure which only made matters worse. He tried setting the autopilot for home, but he had forgotten how to use the device. It took three hours of careful instruction from his squadron commander to talk him back home because all he could remember was how to perform only the most basic tasks.
     Landing was critical because he had developed several blind spots in his vision and could not even see the landing gear handle, but had to fumble for it in the area where he knew it was. Warnings were going off, but he couldn't remember what they meant. The pilot had no recollection of the last 45 minutes of his flight and during landing he was flying towards structures on the ground. It wasn't until a couple of jet fighters were launched that he was able to be guided towards the runway. 
     When he finally managed to land after blacking out at least one, his limp body had to be dragged out out the aircraft. But, he wasn't out of the woods. The nitrogen gas had caused havoc with his body. Normally the bends is treated early on when the symptoms begin. He was placed in a pressurized room where a gradual shift from low to high pressure gives nitrogen gas time to dissolve back into the blood. In this pilot's case, he was in and out of the room for several days as he was in a haze and could not remember how to simple, routine tasks. He fully recovered, but there are on his skin that was caused by bubbling nitrogen gas.
However, in many cases symptoms don't show up until hours, or even days, later and there can be long-lasting or permanent brain damage. Some pilots have reported the sensation of free-falling, being completely awake, but unable to move. Additionally some have experienced problems with short-term memory and reasoning. 
     U-2 pilots fly for longer stretches and so seem especially susceptible because their flights can last up to 12 hours. There is also another reason...a study found that even mild exercise, including motions used in flying, can increase the risk of getting the bends. Another factor is stress. In the old days U-2 pilots essentially did nothing more than fly over a target and take pictures often times leaving the plane on autopilot, they could even snooze. Today they must quickly react to threats from missiles etc, act as relay for communications and serve as an eye in the sky for troops on the ground.
     The problems for U-2 pilots saw a significant increase during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because of the long missions and the stress. The military has taken some act, but in typical fashion, has not moved very fast to solve the problem. 
     The Northrop Grumman Global Hawk, an unmanned, remotely piloted drone, can fly almost as high and do almost everything a U-2 can do, but the Pentagon cut back on the program because U-2s are cheaper and, as all military personnel know, people are expendable.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Fun And Interesting Stuff To Do On Your Laptop

 Cartoon yourself  
Just upload a picture and select the type of cartoon you want and in a few seconds you'll have a neat cartoon-like picture 

World Wide Internet TV  
This site is an independent guide to streaming media available on the web that allows users of personal computers and other consumer electronic devices to find and access streaming media content over the Internet. i.e. watch television from all around the world on your laptop. 

Trace an email automatically  
When you're worried that an email isn't what it claims to be, you should inspect the headers, which give chapter and verse on where it came from, but that can be difficult. This site does it for you. IP-address.com. 

Wonder How To  
Hacks for all kinds of things, even how pick locks if you need to. 

Weather Around the World 
Super accurate, and helpful for your local area weather as well as around the world. Also future predictions. Current for my location Thursday at 3:30PM 
Wind: 14 mph out of the South 
Humidity: 79% 
Dew Pt: 33 degrees 
UV Index: 1 
Visibility: 7 miles
Pressure: 1033 mb 
38 degrees Mostly Cloudy. Feels Like: 30 degrees 
Low: 32 degrees
High: 39 degrees 
Light rain tomorrow morning. 

Use It As A Media Center 
A laptop can easily become the media center of your home. By connecting it to your TV, you can suddenly play your Blu-rays, DVDs, stream your favorite TV shows and listen to your playlists. Connect some Bluetooth peripherals and you can do it all from the comfort of your own couch. Just Google for information on how to connect a laptop to a TV.

Make Some Fun Music  
Incredibox is a fun musical app in which you can quickly and easily create a mix by running a band of beatboxers. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How Cold Is It?

     Nunavut is the newest, largest, and northernmost territory of Canada. It was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, though the boundaries had been contemplatively drawn in 1993. The creation of Nunavut resulted in the first major change to Canada's political map since the incorporation of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949. And, up there in Bear Lake, Nunavut in Canada it's cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey as they used to say. Either way you measure, Celsius or Fahrenheit, it's 40 below. 
     Sailing ships had to have cannon for protection and the cannonballs had to ready for instant use so the story goes that cannonballs used to be stored aboard ship in piles on a brass frame or tray called a 'monkey'. 
     The cannonballs were stacked up in a square based pyramid next to the cannon. The top level of the stack had one ball, the next level down had four, the next had nine, the next had sixteen, and so on. Four levels would provide a stack of 30. The problem was how to keep the bottom level from sliding out from under the weight of the higher levels. To do this, they devised a small brass plate called a brass monkey with a round indentation for each cannonball in the bottom layer. Brass was used because the cannonballs wouldn’t rust to the brass monkey. 
     In very cold weather brass contracts faster than iron and as it got cold and the indentations in the brass monkey would get smaller than the iron cannonballs they were holding. If the temperature got cold enough, the bottom layer would pop out of the indentations spilling the entire pyramid over the deck. Thus it was, quite literally, “cold enough to freeze the balls off a “brass monkey.” 

     A nice explanation, but it's not true. The Oxford English Dictionary doesn't even record a usage of “brass monkey” like this. References to “brass monkeys” started appearing in print in the mid-1800s and cannonballs weren't mentioned. It was cold enough to freeze the ears off a brass monkey or the tail off a brass monkey or the nose off a brass monkey. On hot days it was hot enough to scald the throat of a brass monkey or singe the hair off a brass monkey. 
     Besides, warships didn’t store cannonballs, or round shot as it was known, on deck all the time. Space was a precious commodity and decks were kept as clear as possible in order to allow room for sailors to perform all the tasks necessary for ordinary ship’s functions. Also, storing cannonballs on deck presented a hazard...they might break free in high seas and start rolling around deck, possibly even going over the side. Cannonballs were only brought on deck when action was a possibility. 
     Gunners were also persnickety about their cannonballs. Gun crews kept the balls polished to remove imperfections in the belief that smooth shot would fly truer. And, like all military men everywhere, rust is a bad thing. Back in my day in the Marine Corps, rifles were stored in a gun rack in the squad bay and one day the Platoon Sergeant walked by and started picking out rifles to inspect. He found a spec of rust on one, pulled out his notebook and checked the serial number to see who it belonged. It wasn't mine; I carried a Colt 1911 A1 Government Model .45 caliber pistol. The rusty rifle belonged to one of the squad leaders who was summoned and in a few choice words instructed to clean his rifle. Rust is an enemy that won't be tolerated. 
     Nobody really knows where the term “freeze the balls off a brass monkey” comes from, but it's probably another version of brass monkeys having their nose or ears or tails frozen off. Now you know.

Real Heroes vs. Ersatz Heroes

     Sorry sports fans, but honestly, I am getting g kind of tired of the Olympic coverage because it's kind of boring. To me, bobsledding, ski races, ice dancing, etc, etc all looks pretty much the same, the only difference being a few hundredths of a second or a nuance here and there that I am unable to pick up on. 
     For me the real heroes are those who participate in the Paralympic Games. These are people with a wide range of disabilities who participate in sporting events. People with things like paraplegia, quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy, post-polio syndrome, spina bifida, amputations or various congenital disorders such as leg length difference, short stature, central nervous system disorders, lack of voluntary coordination of muscle movements, abnormal muscle contractions, vision impairment and intellectual impairment. 
     A hero is someone who can be looked up to for their actions and courage is usually their biggest trait and they have usually overcome huge obstacles. And these are people who have overcome a lot more, both physically and emotionally, than the healthy kids and young adults participating in the Olympics have ever overcome and that makes them the real heroes. 
     As actress Mary Tyler Moore said, "You can't be brave if you've had only wonderful things happen to you." And, General Norman Schwarzkopf wrote, “It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle” Certainly the title “hero” belongs to those who participate in the Paralympic Games. 
     But, it's the same everywhere.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Was Abraham Lincoln REALLY Honest?

     With all the nastiness of politicians that's going on today I wondered how they compared to one of the greatest of all American Presidents, Honest Abe Lincoln. Was our 16th president a paragon of honesty or was he a shrewd politician who was not above stretching the truth if it served a political goal? 
     A professor of history at Columbia University, Eric Foner, claims that Lincoln was essentially honest, but while he acquired his "Honest Abe" nickname long before he ran for president, Lincoln and his supporters also realized it was a valuable label.  Forner dubbed Lincoln as a consummate politician. 

     Maybe he didn't tell outright lies, but he certainly stretched the truth when the occasion suited it. And, like all politicians of today, Lincoln held private and public positions. For example, in 1865 the House was debating the 13th Amendment which says, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction and Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” rumors had reached Washington that negotiations with the Confederacy were about to begin. 
     Lincoln was afraid this would derail the amendment, so he issued a statement saying that no Confederate commissioners were on their way to Washington. While that was technically true, Confederate commissioners were actually on their way to Hampton Roads, Virginia where Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward then met with them. This reminds me of the time during the Vietnam war when we were watching the news on television in the company rec room and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the main architect of the futile Vietnam war,  announced that no troops were being sent to Vietnam. Technically that was true, but half the company had received orders to Okinawa FFT. That FFT meant “For Further Transfer.” Guess where? 
     Lincoln did not keep a diary, and he and his wife destroyed their personal letters, but historians have combed the many pieces of correspondence left behind that basically confirm his reputation as Honest Abe. One Lincoln scholar has confirmed that Lincoln really did work to pay for a book he borrowed that had been damaged by water. He did pay off the debt accumulated by his failed New Salem store. And, even as a young man he was often recruited to judge horse races and wrestling matches. 
     Of course, as a Republican and northern candidate, Lincoln didn't get a single vote in the southern states and according to Lincoln historians, he was quite capable of changing his position on things like emancipation or race relations as conditions changed. At the same time it's pretty much agreed that one of Lincoln's best qualities was that he was open-minded and willing to learn. That quality right there puts him way, way ahead of the buffoons in the government today! 
     During the famous Lincoln vs. Stephen A. Douglas debates during the llinois Senate campaign of 1858 where Lincoln challenged Douglas' bid for a third term, the seven 3-hour debates were full of political zingers just like today. On one occasion, Douglas accused Lincoln of hypocrisy on the issue of temperance, charging that he had once operated a grocery store that sold hard liquor. Lincoln drawled that if that was so, Douglas was his best customer. During the Senate race Douglas encouraged votes by providing liquor to those who supported him. 
     When Douglas claimed Lincoln was two-faced on the slavery issue, Lincoln shot back, "If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?" 
     For his part, Lincoln argued that Douglas violated the spirit of the founding fathers by denying blacks their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and in fact was part of a vast right-wing conspiracy to make slavery national and permanent.
     Lincoln organized support among western state Republicans by secretly buying a German-language newspaper to sing his praises to immigrant voters who might tilt such swing states as Illinois and Indiana. 
     All this involved a senate seat, not a presidential race. During the presidential race, politics were tumultuous, but the candidates did not campaign directly for the White House and did not face each other in undignified debates. During the 1860 presidential campaign Lincoln stayed home and did not say a thing while Douglas made one half-hearted campaign trip under the guise that he needed to visit his ailing mother. 
     That's not to say that getting the Republican Party's nomination in 1860 and then defeating Democrat Stephen Douglas didn't involve a little dirty politicking and cunning political moves by Lincoln's election team. Lincoln relied on his aides to do the ruthless dirty work and cut deals. 
     Prior to the 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Lincoln's campaign team met with delegation leaders, sometimes promising Cabinet positions in exchange for support for Lincoln. Lincoln's campaign aides even printed out 5,000 counterfeit tickets to the Republican convention to pack the halls with his supporters. 
     Lincoln was firmly against slavery, but his position on what should happen to freed slaves wasn't so clear and it took him a long time to figure out exactly what should be done and he waivered considerably. His historic Emancipation Proclamation, which he delivered as President in 1863, stopped short of granting citizenship or any other rights to African-Americans. Instead he only stated that freed slaves should be paid reasonable wages for their work and should be allowed to serve in the US military.
     In fact, in an 1854 speech he advocated sending them back to Africa. And in the debate with Douglas during the 1858 Senate race, Lincoln said, "I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races." That statement was repudiated by the Emancipation Proclamation, but did Lincoln's personal views really change? Up until September 1862, the main focus of the Civil war had been to preserve the Union, but with the War not going well and the population becoming more and more disgruntled over it, the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation declaring freedom for slaves became a legitimate war aim and drew people's attention away from its cost, both in money and lives. 

     The bottom lines seems to be that Lincoln was about an honest a President we ever had, kept his personal opinions to himself and if there was any dirty work to be done, he let his staff handle it.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Tobacco Smoke Enemas

    Tobacco smoke enemas were administered by medical practitioners in the 18th century to treat everything from colds to cholera. 
     In England around 1774 Drs. William Hawes and Thomas Cogan formed The Institution for, you aren't going to believe this, affording immediate relief to persons who were apparently dead. 
     The treatment for "apparent death" was warmth and stimulation. Anne Greene, a woman sentenced to death and hanged in 1650 for the supposed murder of her stillborn child, was found to be still alive. She was revived by pouring hot cordial down her throat, rubbing her limbs and extremities, bleeding her, applying heating plasters and a "heating odoriferous Clyster to be cast up in her body, to give heat and warmth to her bowels." After placing her in a warm bed with another woman, to keep her warm, she recovered fully and was pardoned. 
     The Institution later became the Royal Humane Society. In the 18th century, the society promoted the rescue of drowning people, and paid 4 guineas (about $160 today) to anyone who successfully brought a drowning victim back to life! In the process they began began the practice of a unique type of holistic medicine. 
     It was around this time that tobacco had been imported to England from Virginia in the United States that was intended to be inhaled, chewed, smoked (usually in a clay pipe), or smoldered as what were known as bum cigars. 
     Native Americans (American Indians as they used to be called) used tobacco as a medicine and pioneered the use of tobacco smoke enemas. Word of this treatment made its way to England and medical assistants with Hawes and Cogans's society began to use the procedure to treat half-drowned London citizens who were pulled from the Thames River.
     An enema tube with rubber tubing attachments was inserted into the victim and smoke was blown into the rectum. It was thought to accomplish two things; first, warming the drowned person and second, stimulating respiration. Artificial respiration was used if the tobacco smoke enema failed. 
     Soon, along with bloodletting, tobacco smoke enemas were all the rage. Practitioners offered the practice as a treatment for headaches, respiratory failure, colds, hernias and abdominal cramps. In the case of cramps the enema was administered simultaneously with feeding chicken broth by mouth.  Tobacco smoke enemas were used for treating typhoid fever and cholera outbreaks, during what was referred to as the “stage of collapse” and death. Liquid tobacco enemas were often given to ease the symptoms of a hernia. 
an early enema kit
     There were enema kits, but before bellows were included the results could be disastrous to the tobacco smoke blower. If the practitioner inadvertently inhaled then some stools of cholera victims could be aspirated and swallowed with with the result that the practitioner himself became infected. The introduction of bellows and a variety of rectal tubes spared practitioners from this horrible fate. The enemas were also purported to be good for the treatment of hemorrhoids and carbuncles. In 1811, English scientist Ben Brodie discovered that nicotine was toxic to the heart and it soon became unfashionable to prescribe tobacco smoke enemas. 
     The effects of smoke was not unknown to European medical practitioners because incense has been used since antiquity and the effects of burning hemp seed was well known by the Scythians and Thracians. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates recommended the inhalation of smoke for "female diseases" and Pliny the Elder recommended it as a cure for coughs. 
     Native Americans used the leaf for a variety of purposes, including religious worship, but Europeans soon became aware that they also used tobacco for medicinal purposes. The French diplomat Jean Nicot used a tobacco poultice as an analgesic and Nicolas Monardes advocated tobacco as a treatment for a long list of diseases, such as cancer, headaches, respiratory problems, stomach cramps, gout, intestinal worms and female diseases. 
     Tobacco was thought to work because of its ability to soak up moisture, to warm parts of the body, and to therefore maintain the equilibrium that was considered so important to a healthy person. In an attempt to discourage disease tobacco was also used to fumigate buildings. 
     In 1686 a fellow named Thomas Sydenham described its use to cure iliac passion. First the patient was bled, then after an hour or two the patient was caused to puke by administering “a strong purging glyster.” He knew of nothing better than tobacco smoke. This was accomplished by the smoke being “forced up through a large bladder into the bowels by an inverted pipe, which may be repeated after a short interval, if the former, by giving a stool, does not open a passage downwards.” 
     By the 19th-century Danish farmers are reported to have used the enemas for horses that needed laxatives and it has also been reported that in the United States Catawba Native Americans also treated their horses using the technique. 
     Artificial respiration was not unknown, but blowing smoke into the lungs (or the rectum) was thought to be useful, but the smoke enema was considered the most potent method, due to its supposed warming and stimulating properties. 
     The Dutch experimented with methods of inflating the lungs, as a treatment for those who had fallen into their canals and apparently drowned. Patients were also given rectal infusions of tobacco smoke, as a respiratory stimulant. 
     One of the first to recommend tobacco smoke enemas to resuscitate victims of drowning was Richard Mead in 1745. His name is associated with one of the earliest documented cases of resuscitation by the tobacco smoke enema. In 1746, a woman who looked to be drowned had, on the advice of a passing sailor, the stem of the sailor's pipe inserted into her rectum. The bowl was covered with a piece of perforated paper and smoke was blown hard into her rectum; she recovered. Who did the inserting and blowing and what subsequently happened to the sailor's pipe is not known. 
     In the 1780s the Royal Humane Society installed resuscitation kits, including smoke enemas, at various points along the River Thames and by the turn of the 19th century, tobacco smoke enemas had become an established practice in Western medicine, considered by Humane Societies to be as important as artificial respiration. 
     By 1805, the use of tobacco smoke enemas was so established as a way to treat constrictions of the alimentary canal that doctors began experimenting with other delivery mechanisms. In one experiment, a concoction of about 30 drops of tobacco in four ounces of water was used as an enema in a patient suffering from convulsions. The convulsions ceased, but the patient suffered vomiting, and profuse perspiration. 
     Such enemas were often used to treat hernias. A middle-aged man was reported in 1843 to have died following an application, performed to treat a strangulated hernia and in a similar case in 1847 a woman was given a liquid tobacco enema, supplemented with a chicken broth enema, and pills of opium and and an oral dose of a purgative. Somehow she recovered. 
     An 1827 medical journal reported on a woman who was treated for constipation with repeated smoke enemas, with little apparent success, but according to a report of 1835, tobacco enemas were used successfully to treat cholera "in the stage of collapse". 
     Early in the 17th century King James I offered a scathing attack on the practice writing, of its effectiveness, writing "[it] will not deigne to cure heere any other than cleanly and gentlemanly diseases." Others claimed that smoking dried out the "humours", that snuff made the brain "sooty" and that old people should not smoke as they were "naturally dried up anyway". 
     Some beliefs about the effectiveness of tobacco smoke to protect against disease persisted until well into the 20th century, but the use of tobacco smoke enemas in Western medicine declined after 1811, when animal experimentation demonstrated that nicotine is a cardiac poison. 
     The point of all this is to inform readers that if someone accuses you of blowing smoke up their a** now you know where the term came from.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sleeping Cats and Flatulence

      Cat farts are especially annoying, but one big question that even stumps vets is, do they make a sound?
      Cats often show owners their butt and when they do, they're making themselves very vulnerable and by doing so, they're saying they trust you and know you won't do anything to hurt them. Another sign of trust is when they fall asleep on you.
      Cats can sleep up to 16 hours a day, and older cats spend even more, as much as 20 hours a day sleeping. In the wild, cats have to hunt in order to eat and all that stalking, chasing and killing of prey burns a lot of energy so they conserve energy between meals by sleeping. 
     But cats aren’t always sound asleep...about three quarters of their sleep is what might be called snoozing; they are getting their rest, but are still alert enough to spring into action at a moment’s notice. As a cat dozes it generally lies with his head raised and paws tucked beneath them. Sometimes they actually sleep sitting up, in which case their muscles stiffen to hold them upright. Again, they are ready to spring into action. Here's a little secret to know if a cat is in a light, snoozing sleep: their ears will twitch and rotate toward noises and their eyes will be open a tiny bit.
      When they are not in the snooze mode they are in a deep sleep. Except for older cats; they're in deep sleep 30-40 percent of the time. Signs that a cat is in a deep sleep are they are usually curled up with their eyes tightly closed. Sometimes they might even have their tail over their face. Deep sleep is critical for their health and it's also the time they dream.         
     You can tell they are dreaming because their whiskers and paws twitch. Sometimes they also snore. The airway is obstructed by extra skin from the soft palate and is likely to happen when a cat is relaxed.
      When the cat transitions from light into a deep sleep, their body relaxes and they stretch out and roll to one side. Their brain patterns change and become smaller and closer together and are very similar to their waking patterns. However, they are hard to awaken during deep sleep. This phase usually lasts only about five minutes and the cat then returns to slow-wave sleep and thereafter alternates between the two until they finally wake up. Kittens fall directly into deep sleep without this alternating pattern until they're about a month old.
      The cat's senses continue to record sounds and scents during up to 70 percent of sleep, so the they can awaken quickly at the squeak or smell of a mouse.  Slower wake-up times are characterized by a predictable pattern of blinking, yawning and stretching. First the forelegs, then back, and finally rear legs each, in turn, are flexed. Most cats also groom themselves briefly upon first awakening. Sleep time increases on cold, rainy or cloudy days. For house cats, their sleep time is usually modified to fit in with their owner's habits.
     And, what about that nasty flatulence cat's often have? Dr. Mickila Collins DVM, when asked about farting in cats, said she never heard a cat rip one but that doesn’t mean they don’t; she thinks they could. Personally, I have had three cats and certainly smelled them, but never heard one. I can also tell you that when a cat lets one loose, the smell can sometimes cause bile to come up in your throat!
      Diet itself is frequently to blame because the filler found in many cat foods may include such hard-to-digest ingredients as soybeans, beans, peas, corn or other carbohydrates. Food that’s spoiled, table scraps, milk products, especially cow’s milk, high-fat diets and spices all create gas in cats.
      Worm infestation, signaled by stomach upset, diarrhea and foul-smelling gas is is a sign of of a problem. Cats with excess gas need to be examined so vets can diagnose or rule out any illness. Excessive gas or signs such as a bloated tummy, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite are cause to consult a vet immediately. Never ever give any cat a human medicine designed for gas relief.
      Other causes can be a diet high in fiber, eating too fast and swallowing excessive amounts of air, consuming spoiled food or garbage, hairballs and dietary changes, especially ones that aren’t gradual. Don't feed a cat dairy products. Their digestive tract isn’t designed to process it properly.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Vitamin B17

   I recently saw the picture about vitamin B17 destroying cancer posted, where else, on Facebook and wondered if it was true. 
    Vitamin B17, also known as laetrile, is a chemical compound derived from amygdalin, a substance that occurs naturally in bitter almonds and apricot and peach pits. Its use as an alternative cancer therapy is controversial, and several studies since the mid-1970s found no proof that laetrile is effective in treating cancer. The FDA has sanctioned against the sale, use and transportation into the United States of products labeled as vitamin B17, laetrile or amygdalin.
     It seems there is no such thins as vitamin B17. The term is inaccurately applied to laetrile, and amygdalin, the natural substance from which laetrile is made. Because the FDA has not approved laetrile for any use in the US, its makers decided to call it vitamin B17. It has none of the characteristics of the 13 vitamins our bodies need for normal growth and development.
      Amygdalin occurs in the seeds of apricots, peaches, and almonds. It can release cyanide when eaten, making it potentially toxic. Because of the lack of evidence for laetrile’s effectiveness plus the risk of serious side effects from cyanide poisoning caused by taking it orally, the FDA and the European Commission have banned its use. Although you can buy laetrile online, these products may come from questionable sources and could be contaminated.
      The notion that laetrile can prevent or treat cancer stems from the theory that cancer is caused by a vitamin deficiency. However, there is no scientific evidence that the body needs laetrile or that laetrile acts as a vitamin in humans or animals. That said, it is important to recognize that some laboratory studies have demonstrated positive effects against cancer cells, but animal studies found that laetrile was ineffective for treating, preventing or delaying the development of tumors.
     In 1982, the National Cancer Institute conducted a human study with 175 patients, most of whom had breast, colon or lung cancer. They were treated with amygdalin injections for 21 days, followed by oral doses, plus vitamins, pancreatic enzymes, and dietary changes. The tumor size decreased in one stomach cancer patient and this change lasted for 10 weeks while the patient remained on amygdalin therapy. By the end of treatment period, cancer had progressed in about half the patients and within seven months after treatment ended, there was no measurable benefit in any of the patients. It seems to me that the results of this test are proof as long as the patients were on amygdalin therapy there were some benefits.
     The claim is that despite the lack of proof that laetrile/amygdalin can prevent or treat cancer, promoters continue to make unwarranted claims for it and to sell it as a dietary supplement for these purposes.
     Laetrile use has been linked to several cases of cyanide toxicity with symptoms including liver damage, difficulty walking due to nerve damage, fever, coma and death. According to the American Cancer Society, one case report suggests that vitamin C may increase the amount of cyanide released from laetrile in the body, raising this risk. In addition, they warn that individuals who also eat raw almonds or crushed fruit pits while taking laetrile, as well as those who eat fruits and vegetables that contain the enzymes found in celery, peaches, bean sprouts, and carrots are more likely to experience toxicity. Thus the admonition is that vitamin B17 offers no protection against cancer or any other disease and it should be avoided.
     One the other hand, Great Britain's CANCERactive website suggests that there are some benefits. The site points out that orthodox medicine can increase a patient's odds of survival, but alternative methods have also helped.
   Amygdalin or Laetrile or vitamin B-17 as a cancer treatment is one of the most controversial subjects in alternative cancer treatment. The controversy was re-opened in October 2014 when research showed that natural amygdalin reduced growth and proliferation of cancer cells in a test tube or culture dish. Then in 2016, when the UK's Food Standards Authority considered banning the sale of Apricot Kernels it was claimed that they did not understand. 
     The site claims it is important to differentiate the use of natural amygdalin from Apricot Kernels, and Laetrile, which is a concentrated, synthetic drug.
     The site says there are at least five studies (three on animals, two with humans) that show some effect on cancer with B-17. But the evidence was unreliable because there was no placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial data with humans. Despite that, B-17 was shown to be of some benefit, but the results were suppressed. The Food Standards Agency published warnings based on overseas reports saying cancer patients should be aware that Apricot Kernels could kill them. None of the articles specified the origin and the detail of the overseas reports.
    Apricot pips contain amygdalin, not laetrile, and it is claimed that there is an important difference. Apricot kernels can contain up to 3 per cent of Amygdalin which is the natural form of B-17 and eating apricot kernels does not require medical approval. Apricot pips alone are not a cure for cancer, but eating them may provide some preventative powers. 
     Laetrile is a synthetically prepared form of B-17 and is thus a drug and is subject to approval. Since there are no definitive clinical trials on Laetrile, it has not received FDA approval in the US. As is to be expected, there conventional medicine is at loggerheads with alternative medicine and conspiracy theories abound. There is even a rumor that the growth of bitter almond trees is illegal in the United States, but that is not true. See THIS article. Laetrile (the synthetic form of B-17) can be obtained in tablet form but Laetrile in prescription form is illegal in the UK and the US.
     No drug cures all cancers and there is no drug that kills cancer stem cells at the heart of cancers, so no treatment, conventional or alternative, is going to prove effective in every case. All drugs have side-effects...just read the labels! When using B-17 there is definitely an issue with overdosing because cyanide by-products have been known to build up in the liver of cancer patients. A healthy liver can detox these by-products, but in a cancer patient, this enzyme may be depleted and cyanide poisoning can result if excess is consumed.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Death Valley

    Death Valley is a desert valley in Eastern California, in the northern Mojave Desert bordering the Great Basin Desert. It is famous for being the hottest and driest region of North America. The average summer temperature there is around 117 degrees F, but in 1913 a heat wave resulted in the record temperature of 134°F at Furnace Creek. This temperature stands as the highest ambient air temperature ever recorded at the surface of the Earth.
     Located near the border of California and Nevada, Death Valley constitutes much of Death Valley National Park and is the principal feature of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve. It has an area of about 3,000 square miles. In 1994 Death Valley National Park was established and covers over 3 million acres.
     Death Valley's Badwater Basin is the point of the lowest elevation in North America, at 282 feet below sea level and it lies 84.6 miles east-southeast of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. The highest point in Death Valley is Telescope Peak which has an elevation of 11,043 feet.
     In spite of the extreme conditions, Native Americans lived in Death Valley and rock art has been found there dating back over 9000 years. Death Valley is home to the Timbisha tribe of Native Americans, formerly known as the Panamint Shoshone, who have inhabited the valley for at least the past millennium.
     The valley received its English name in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It was called Death Valley by those who sought to cross the valley on their way to the gold fields after 13 pioneers perished from one early expedition of wagon trains. During the 1850s, gold and silver were extracted in the valley.
     In the 1880s, borax was discovered and extracted by mule-drawn wagons. A variety of mines and way-stations have come and gone since the mid-1800’s. Most have disappeared to time, but a few ghost towns still exist.
     Borax is a component of many detergents, cosmetics, and enamel glazes. It is used to make buffer solutions in biochemistry, as a fire retardant, as an anti-fungal compound, in the manufacture of fiberglass, as a flux in metallurgy, neutron-capture shields for radioactive sources, a texturing agent in cooking.

20 Mule Team hauling borax out of Death Valley

     Borax was first produced commercially in the United States north of San Francisco from about 1864 to 1868, at which place the industry flourished until the early 1870’s when borax began to turn up in large and purer quantities in several of the alkaline marshes of eastern California and western Nevada.
    The discovery of borax north of the mouth of Furnace Creek was made in 1881 by Aaron and Rose Winters, whose holdings were immediately bought by William T. Coleman and Company for $20,000. He subsequently formed the Greenland Salt and Borax Mining Company (later the Harmony Borax Mining Company), which in 1882 began operating the Harmony Borax Works, a small settlement of adobe and stone buildings plus a refinery. The homestead was later known as the Furnace Creek Ranch, a supply point.
     Several small mining enterprises were attempted, but didn't last long. It is amazing that any of these works experienced half the success they did because their distance from main transportation systems and the daily hardships involved in working under uncomfortable desert conditions were severe obstacles to their economic success.

     A railroad was needed in order to open up these deposits, and this resulted in the construction of the Death Valley Narrow-gauge Railroad operating from Death Valley Junction to the newly-opened mines.
     When the Death Valley Junction plant shut down in 1928, a significant era in borax production and processing in the Death Valley region came to an end. From then until 1956 mining all but ceased, with mines being kept on a standby basis and furnishing only small tonnages to fill special orders. This lull continued until Tenneco, Inc., started open-pit operations at the Boraxo Mine near Ryan in 1971. Borax mining continues in the area today.
      Life is actually quite abundant in the Park, which is home to more than 300 species of birds including red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, LeConte's thrasher, Townsend's solitaire and the house finch. Also living there are mammals such as bighorn sheep and coyotes, as well as small mammals, amphibians and reptiles such as the desert banded gecko, the Pacific treefrog and a variety of lizards and snakes. The sidewinder is one of the more unusual snakes.

     A number of movies have been shot partially on location within the confines of Death Valley National Park and at least a dozen movies and TV shows with the words "Death Valley" in the title actually were filmed in or near Death Valley.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Presidents Saluting...Much Ado About Nothing

I can see he's not in your good books, said the messenger. ...  
    I have never heard so much complaining about the President of the United States saluting military personnel until Presidents Obama and Trump came into office.   My conclusion is that it must have something to do with people's dislike of them or they wouldn't do so much nitpicking over something so petty. 
    The argument goes that the president, even though he is the Commander in Chief, is a civilian and therefore the salute is improper. 
   The military's salute is a privileged gesture of respect among military members. The salute is not only prescribed by regulation, but is also recognition of each other's commitment, abilities, and professionalism. Even though the junior renders a salute to the senior, it is NOT is a gesture of servility. The fact that the junior renders the salute first is a point of etiquette and under military regulations the senior is required to return the salute.
    When it comes to saluting the flag, all persons present in uniform (military, police, fire, etc.) should render the military salute. Members of the armed forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their head dress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. While this is part of the US Code, it has no force of law...you can't be prosecuted for failure to comply. Thankfully! If you could the majority of spectators at sporting events would get arrested!
    When it comes to presidents saluting military personnel, there’s no regulation that stipulates presidents must salute the troops. Rachel Maddow’s 2012 book Drift stated that saluting was started by President Ronald Reagan. She wrote that while soldiers were supposed to salute the president, the president was not supposed to return the salute and no modern president had saluted military personnel. Not quite, but almost, correct. 
     In 1981, President Ronald Reagan was the first who made the presidential salute a common practice, especially when exiting or boarding Air Force One or Marine One. But President Eisenhower did return salutes of military members while he served as president when he was in civilian clothes.

     When President Reagan rendered his salute, his military aide advised him that it went against military protocol for presidents to return salutes. Reagan took up the issue with Gen. Robert Barrow, Commandant of the Marine Corps. Gen. Barrow told Reagan that as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, he was entitled to offer a salute, or any sign of respect he wished , to anyone he wished. Every president since then has followed that practice, even those with no military experience.
     Some argue that it's against protocol, others say it represents an increasing militarization of the civilian presidency. Blah, blah, blah.
     My dictionary says a salute is a gesture of respect, homage, or polite recognition or acknowledgment, especially one made to or by a person when arriving or departing. So, if a president wants to render a gesture of respect to military personnel, what's wrong with that?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Fingernail Facts

    Nails are made of many layers of hard keratin, similar to hair and there is also a thin layer of keratin covering most of the surface of your body; it's thickest on palms and soles. What's the difference between your hair, nails, and skin? Nail and hair keratins contain more cysteine (an amino acid) than the soft keratins of skin; this leads to stronger bonds between cells. Nails also have a lower content of fat and water and the skin regularly sheds its outer layer of keratin, while the nail doesn’t.
     Cuticles - Many manicurists will remove your cuticles, they shouldn't because they play a vital role in protecting you from infection. Too much cuticle clipping or picking opens the protective barrier and allows moisture and bacteria in which can cause an infection, pain, and/or swelling and eventually even damage the shape of the nail as it grows out.
     Nails Grow Faster on Your Dominant Hand - The theory behind this is that nails that are used more often and exposed to the elements grow faster.
     Nails Grow Faster in Warmer Climates - The sun helps the body create vitamin D that your nails need to grow.
     The Salon Can Damage Nails - A weekly manicure can hurt nails. Continuous polishing can stain the nails and the adhesives and harsh chemicals used in acrylic and gel polishes can strip layers off of the nail, leaving them brittle. It takes six months for a fingernails to be replaced.
     Nails Can Be a Tip Off to Other Health Issues - Changes in shape, color, thickness and the color of the nail bed can all be signs of problems. Nails grow an average of two to three millimeters a month, and it only takes six months for healthy lifestyle changes you to show up in your nails.

1. White Spots - There are several causes for white spots, but few of them are a problem. The most common cause is trauma to the nail or to the end of your finger right before your nail. If the matrix, a layer of cells at the base of your fingernail, is damaged, the spots can appear. Prolonged polish wear, which can partially break down the surface of the nail plate is another cause. If the white spots are powdery an infection with a fungus could be to blame.
2. Brittle Nails (Onychoschizia) - These are caused by a dry nail plate. Overdoing it with nail polish remover can cause this, but so can frequent dishwashing without gloves or swimming. People suffering from hypothyroidism, when the thyroid is working too slow, it’s possible to see brittleness, too. The weather could also be to blame. Fall and wintry weather and drying indoor heating systems can bring about dry air.
3. Yellow Nails - Yellow nails could just be stained from polish. But this change in color could also signal diseases like diabetes which need to be treated by prescription or insulin. Yellow Nail Syndrome, where the nail thickens, turns yellow, and growth slows, is often a sign of a respiratory disease like bronchitis.
4. Lifting Nails (Onycholysis) - Chefs, bartenders, or health-care workers may notice their fingernails separate from their nail bed which is often due to irritation from excessive water exposure. An aggressive manicure, nail hardeners, or glues could also cause the damage. If the nail color is opaque white, green, or yellow it could point to everything from a thyroid disease or psoriasis to injury and infection.
5. Vertical Ridges – These are thin lines that run vertically up the nail are likely normal. Vertical nail ridges are from aging; they are like the wrinkles of your nails.
6. Spoon Nails (Koilonychia) – This is when the nails curve up and it's time to have some bloodwork done. A very thin nail which becomes concave in shape is usually a sign of iron deficiency or anemia. Liver disease, heart disease, and hypothyroidism are also linked to spoon nails.
7. Pitting Nails - Little indentations that look like they were made from a mini ice pick occur in up to 50 percent of people with psoriasis. It can also happen to people with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease in which you lose patches of hair.
8. Clubbing - If nails seem softer and the tips and appear larger or bulging, it may indicate something serious. An increase in the tissue around the ends of the fingers, right where the nail curves, can indicate lung disease. It is caused by low oxygen in the blood. But clubbing nails are also associated with inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, AIDS and liver disease. Chronic respiratory disease or cardiothoracic disease could also be contributors.

     Dirt under the nails? It turns out that stuff under the fingernails is not only pretty common, but pretty harmless. It is most commonly the keratin debris from the underside of the nail, as well as skin cells from the nail bed. Dirt, lint, and personal care products are also common culprits.
     But if the gunk turns from gray to green it's a sign of bacteria underneath the nails. Some bacterial organisms have a particular affinity to the nail. Pseudomonas is commonly found on nails and produces a green pigment. This bacteria can cause an infection, but it most often occurs with women who wear artificial nails.
     Be careful when cleaning under fingernails because overly vigorous cleaning can cause the nail to separate from the underlying nail bed.