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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Why do we ignore warnings?

     My chess blog and this one used to experience a large number of spam, both in the comments section and my associated e-mail. As one can plainly see it is made perfectly clear that all spam will be deleted. Comments do not appear until I approve them (which I usually do) and if you e-mail me using the form at the right, when you hit send you will be asked to prove you're a human. 
    So, my question is, why do so many people still insist on going to the trouble of typing and sending me spam e-mail or making comments that are clearly going to be deleted? I've often wondered about that. 
     Back in my days as a private pilot we had tons of safety regulations and I remember a flight instructor reminding me that many of those regulations were in place because somebody died. It's not that big of a deal with a blog, but in life many people ignore warning signs, sometimes with tragic results. 
     Warning signs and labels are everywhere and many appear to be just plain stupid. Who's going to deliberately stick their hand into a snowblower with the auger rotating, yet people do it all the time. 
     We live in a technological world which is filled with more powerful machines and more potent drugs and chemicals. And, some of the dangers we face are subtle. Add to that the fact that the cost of injury, insurance and litigation is out of control. 
     I used to work part time for an expert witness in industrial safety and can can tell you that some of the lawsuits in which she was called to testify were beyond belief. 
     No matter how careless a person's actions may have been, one or more companies got sued. She explained that if you are injured on the job the lawyers look at EVERYONE involved and then rank them according to who has the most money. The one with the most money money is the first named in the lawsuit with the others tacked on in order of the amount of money they may have. 
     In taking depositions lawyers spoke to anybody that was even remotely involved and asked a ton of irrelevant questions before getting down to asking what they saw. One deposition I read was 50+ pages and at the end, when the witness was asked what he saw, he stated that he did see anything because he was inside a nearby building! She explained that lawyers get paid by the hour so that's why they do that. But, I have digressed a bit. 
     The bottom line is that warnings often fail to change people's behavior. Either the warning goes unnoticed or it is seen but ignored. Warnings use to be given using such things as color, shape, location, pictures vs. text, size and so on. However, recent research seems to show that effective warning design depends as much on the person seeing the warning as its message. They have to decide whether or not to comply. 
     Besides all the technical and/or psychological explanations, I think we are inundated with warnings on everything...the weather, news reports, etc. including many mundane things like don't swallow toothpicks to the point our mind is numbed to them. And, that includes the warning not to spam my blogs. 
Read the rest of the story in The Psychology of Warnings...HERE 
Why Are People Ignoring Expert Warnings?—Psychological Reactance...READ

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Slow Worms of Great Britain

     There never were any snakes in Ireland and there are no snakes in Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica. In Ireland there have been reports of pet snakes escaping, but as of yet, no species has managed to take hold in the wild. 
     In England there are three species of snakes native to Britain plus a fourth, non-native species. Three of these are completely harmless - only the shy and reclusive adder, a native reptile, is venomous. Even then an adder bite is not likely going to be fatal. For a person in good health, an adder bite will hurt and nausea and dizziness might be present. 
     Grass snakes are the largest in Britain, reaching up to approximately 4 feet. Smooth snakes are very rarely encountered. Finally, Britain's fourth species of snake is non-native and has two known populations, in North Wales and in an area of London. They are non-venomous and feed on rodents. 
     There is another creature that looks like a snake, but isn't. It's the slow worm and they are pretty amazing...they are actually a type of legless lizard! The quickest way to tell a snake from a slow worm is to see if it blinks. Lizards have eyelids, snakes don't. 
     Slow worms are often found in gardens -and are sometimes confused with worms rather than snakes because they don't have large overlapping scales and most tend to be quite small compared to snakes. Slow worms are probably the most frequently seen reptile in Britain.   
     Slow worms tend to be smaller than native snakes. Adults are up to 20 inches long. Like snakes, slow worms have scales, but they feel smooth because the scales do not overlap. Also, like snakes, slow worms shed their skin as they grow, but unlike snakes, they shed their skin in patches. 
     They spend much of their time burrowing into loose soil and decaying vegetation. Starting about October, they tunnel underground to hibernate and remain there until March. They are food for adders, hedgehogs, badgers, magpies and lots of other birds and an occasional cat. 
     The worms use their tongues to sense the presence of ambush predators and somehow they are able to tell the difference between the smell of a predator snake and other harmless species.
     Despite their name they can move quite quickly. But, if they can't get away, their first defense is biting, but they seldom bite people. If that doesn't work their next line of defense is defecation. Not surprisingly slow worm crap smells bad enough that it deters some predators. 
      If that dirty trick doesn't work they detach their tail which thrashes about for several minutes, hopefully distracting their attacker while the slow worm makes its escape. Eventually the tail grows back, but it is usually much shorter than the original. It's also no longer detachable so that's a once in a lifetime trick! 
     Slow worms eat a variety of invertebrates, including slugs, snails, spiders and earthworms. Besides eating their teeth have another important function...mating. During the mating ritual the male bites the back of the female and they entwine their bodies and writhe around for up to 10 hours. Female worms sometimes bear scars from these encounters. 
     After a gestation period of a few months, the female gives birth to up to 12 babies. Unlike most reptiles which lay eggs, slow worm eggs hatch while they're still in the female's body. She later gives birth to the hatchlings which are usually little more than an inch and a half long. They are born still wrapped in their embryonic membranes which soon burst open. 
     Their average lifespan in the wild is thought to be 20 to 30 years and one slow worm reportedly survived for at least 54 years in captivity at Copenhagen Zoo. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Asbestos As A Great Health Protection

     A 1950s cigarette ad for Kent cigarettes claimed that they were the only cigarette with the scientific Micronite filter that took out a lot of the nicotine and tars. 
     They bragged about the health benefits of adding a deadly carcinogen to their already unhealthy cigarettes. Those patented Micronite filters contained a particularly nasty form of asbestos. 
     Between March 1952 and May 1956, smokers smoked 13 billion Kent cigarettes before the Lorillard tobacco company changed the filter design. And, sixty years later in 2016 a Florida jury awarded more than $3.5 million in damages to a former Kent smoker stricken with mesothelioma.
     Mesothelioma is an extremely rare, but deadly asbestos-related cancer that typically shows up decades after exposure. Mesothelioma victims often die within a year after being diagnosed. 
     Lorillard and Hollingsworth and Vose continue to face claims from mesothelioma sufferers, both tobacco factory workers and smokers who say they inhaled the microscopic fibers. The companies insist that hardly any fibers escaped, but these days sufferers are asked by doctors and lawyers if they happened to have smoked Kents in the 1950s. There is even a television commercial by a law firm that specializes in only mesothelioma cases. Actually, since the 1980s it's believed that mesothelioma claims.  However, the plaintiffs have lost most of the cases. 
     Kent was Lorillard’s response to the health scare of the early 1950s when smoking and lung cancer first became an issue. In those days all the tobacco ocmpany were touting the value of their filters because people were starting to quit. One company, Pall Mall (pronounced Pell-Mell) didn't jump on the bandwagon...they claimed fine tobacco was its own best filter. 
     They even started a marketing blitz that included ads in medical journals and Kent gift boxes for doctors along with a “Dear Doctor” letter explaining the advantages for patients who were advised to cut down or quit. 
     The switch to filters did prevent many from quitting so the campaign worked even though the cigarette companies' own researchers admitted that filters really didn't make cigarettes safer. 
     The Micronite filter was a blend of cotton, acetate, crepe paper, and crocidolite asbestos, sometimes called African or Bolivian blue asbestos because of its bluish tint. Even at that time the risk of deadly lung disease in asbestos miners and plant workers was already well documented. 
     At the same time it was known that asbestos was an effective filter material because it was dense enough to stop minute particles and gases. Crocidolite had been used by the Army Chemical Corps in gas masks gas masks and that's how Lorillard learned about it and began advertising their filters as “the greatest health protection in cigarette history.” 
     They ran ads explaining how the quest for a new filter ended in an atomic energy plant, where the makers of Kent cigarettes found a material being used to filter air of microscopic impurities. And, another add explained how the Micronite filter worked. “It’s a pure, dust-free, completely harmless material that is so safe, so effective, it actually is used to help filter the air in operating rooms of leading hospitals.” 
     Plant workers were heavily exposed, but how much asbestos Kent smokers inhaled has been a bone of contention. In 1954 Lorillard's director was informed by the company's research director thta they had traces of mineral fiber in the smoke, but they were working on solving the problem. A couple of months later Lorillard determined that asbestos had to be eliminated from Kent cigarettes as soon as possible. But, it wasn't because of their research. It was because their competition was running a whispering campaign about the harmful effects of asbestos. 
     Even so, the company continued using asbestos for another 16 months and sold existing stocks of Kents for several more months. 
     As mentioned, most of the court cases have been won by the cigarette company who claim the tests in the 1950s actually found smoker's exposure very low, but most of those test results have disappeared from company files. 
     Experts who have tested old packs of Kent cigarettes found a lot of asbestos in the smoke, but the cigarette companies counterclaim is that the tests are unreliable because the cigarettes have deteriorated with age. 
     A real problem for the plaintiffs in these cases is proving that they really did smoke Kent cigarettes. And, the cigarette companies have a lot of money and they hire investigators to scour the country tracking down family members, school friends, military buddies, anybody who might have known the plaintiff in the 1950s. Seriously, who remembers what brand of cigarettes a friend smoked when they were in high school or the military?!

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Jalopy Racing

     You don't hear the word jalopy to describe an old, junk car these days, but there was a time when weekend racers with a penchant for souped-up 1930s junkers could race for trophies and maybe even win a few dollars.
     Guys would tow an old car out of a junk yard, get it running, weld the doors shut, install a seat belt, put on a football helmet and they were ready to race on a dirt track somewhere. 
     Jalopy races can be traced back to the 1930s, had their heyday in the 1950s and (unfortunately) were usurped in the 1960s by fancier (and safer) cars. .I remember jalopy races from the 1950s. In fact, at one time my brother-in-law was a jalopy racer. 
     They were noisy and there were plenty of crashes, but almost never any serious injuries...probably because they were going that fast, maybe 60 miles per hour tops. 
     The jalopy races from Van Nuys, California used to be on television back in the 50s and I never missed them. In fact, I still remember my favorite driver...Termite Snyder, so named because he owned an exterminating business. He was one of the early stars in California jalopy racing and passed away in 2005.
     Tell me this doesn't look like fun: 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

High Speeds and Flying Uteruses

     Train A, traveling 70 miles per hour leaves Westford heading toward Eastford, 260 miles away. At the same time Train B, traveling 60 mph, leaves Eastford heading toward Westford. When do the two trains meet? How far from each city do they meet? 
     We've all had to do those types of horrible math problrms, but once upon a time such a question would be ridiculous because nothing man made went that fast and a human being could not survive at such speeds. 
     Back on June 20, 1903. Barney Oldfield, a man known as America's Premier Driver, has just become the first man in America to drive a gas-powered automobile around a dirt track at the unheard of speed of a mile a minute, or 60 miles per hour. 
     His agent told reporters, "The chest of a driver is forced in, average lungs can't overcome the outward force and the result is like strangulation. Blood rushes to the head, temporary but complete paralysis of mind over body occurs." It was said no man could drive faster and live. 
     A month later Oldfield drove even faster in Yonkers, New York, and it was reported that his rear wheels slid sideways for a distance of 50 feet, throwing up a huge cloud of dirt. "Men were white-faced and breathless, while women covered their eyes and sank back, overcome by the recklessness of it all." 
     As automobile growth exploded in the early 1900s, they were seen by many as noisy devil wagons and women, who were it was believed, prone to fainting, physical weakness and bouts of hysteria—wouldn’t be able to control by themselves and shouldn’t be allowed to drive. However, in 1909, 22-year-old Alice Ramsey, along with three female friends, managed to drive cross-country in a 59 days proved that women could be trusted behind the wheel. 
     Back in the telephone's early days fears were expressed that talking on the contraption would prompt impropriety, possession or electrocution in women. It wasn't true. 
     Critics of early steam powered locomotives claimed that women’s bodies were not designed to go at 50 miles an hour and their uteruses would fly out of their bodies as they were accelerated to that speed. Others suspected that any human body would suffer an even worse fate...it would simply melt at such high speeds. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Biased News

     Yahoo! News seems to be biased. It magnifies issues relating to hate, especially when it comes to politics. 
     Founded in 1996, Yahoo! News is a news website that originally carried stories that came from popular news services such as the Associated Press, Reuters, Fox News, and the BBC. It's owned by Oath Inc., a digital media umbrella company for Verizon Communications. By 2012 Yahoo! News had a correspondent in the White House press corps and by January 2019, it ranked sixth among global news sites. 
     According to analyst, Yahoo News! selects more left-leaning sources. Left wing is the liberal, socialist, or radical section of a political party or system. However, a factual search reveals they are high for factual reporting. 
     All news sources engage in sensationalism in today's news coverage...they exaggerate stories in order to get higher ratings or sell more newspapers. Notice Yahoo! News' use of clickbait ads disguised as news stories. Methods used include the choice of words, the exaggerating of facts and making a story sound bigger than it is. They like words like "chaos" or "shocking" even if the story really isn't newsworthy, but is nothing more than a cheap way to score readers. 
     Instead of objective journalism and factual, quality information we are having a political agenda shoved down our throat. One fellow in the business admitted that the news media has one goal... to be addictive. They give some information and opinions or analysis so that you think they’re providing value which motivates you to come back, but the truth is the thing that they are more focused on is getting you to tune in than providing quality information. 
     Late last week one local television station's weather blurb, both online and on the air, blared "disruptive rain" for Saturday. We had some scattered morning sprinkles and that was it. Hardly "disruptive." See my post on sensationalizing the weather HERE.  
     We should not be surprised though. Way back in 1798 John Adams, the second President of the United States, said, "There has been more new error propagated by the press in the last ten years than in an hundred years before 1798."

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Mother Jones

     Mother Jones is an interesting (and for some maybe controversial) magazine that focuses on news, commentary, and investigative reporting on topics including politics, the environment, human rights, health and culture. 
     Its political inclination is variously described as either liberal or progressive. The magazine has been the subject of criticism regarding the editorial position of the staff, exploitation of interns, misinterpreting data about homeless people and promotion of values that are perceived to be inconsistent with those of the magazine's namesake, Mother Jones. Read more... 
     The original Mother Jones was Mary G. Harris Jones (1837 (baptized) – November 30, 1930), who from 1897 onward, was an Irish-born American schoolteacher and dressmaker who became a prominent union organizer, community organizer, and activist. She helped coordinate major strikes and co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World. Read more...

Friday, December 11, 2020

Shady Home Improvement Companies

     I recently contacted a well known area basement waterproofing company because I wanted them to take a look at our house just to see if they could offer a better solution than the amateur way I have our sump pumps set up. 
     When they called the day before to confirm the appointment they insisted that my wife be present...that's when I knew I didn't want them coming around. 
     I had the same experience with a window company years ago. Maybe their windows were fine, but we were really being high pressured to sign the contract before the salesman left. I literally had to tell him to leave. A couple of days later the company called and tried to sell me over the phone. In reality they were pushing a high interest rate loan! 
Don't hesitate to kick 'em out!

     Whenever a window company, waterproofing, siding or any home improvement company says they require that both the husband and wife be present for the quote watch out! They will tell you they need all the decision makers or everyone who might be involved with the paperwork present. Why is that? 
     The answer is simple...they want you both to be there so they can try to talk you into signing on the spot without taking any time to think it over and discuss it between yourselves. 
     Remember these companies have been in business for years, they’ve met with thousands of folks who were considering the same work be done that you are. They know if they meet with the husband alone he’s likely to say he is going to talk it over with his wife and when that happens there isn’t much the company can do to close the deal and they know the odds are significantly reduced. That's because it may be too expensive or the home owners have taken the time and trouble to get more than one quote. Hence, the pressure to get a signature on the spot. 
     Why does it matter so much if someone buys on the spot or takes a couple days to consider their options? For many companies it doesn’t matter because every company knows how their offer compares to their competitors. They know if their offer is a good value and they know if their prices are competitive or not.
     They also know that if they let you have some time you may not sign. If you tell them you want to think it over and they tell you this deal will be gone by then you known they are skinning you! If it's really a great deal they’ll be confident enough to let you shop around. If they don't want you to shop around they are hiding something.
     They also understand something about human nature. They know you are going to be hesitant to make a large decision on short notice. You’re not likely to sign a contract for a lot of money without thinking it over. 
     They also know nobody likes to let a good deal get away, so they try and convince you their sale is about to expire. All of these specials and sales sound good, but they are made up. 
     I remember the time I got a discount coupon in the mail for an oil change which I happened to need at the time anyway. When I got to the dealer and I gave him the coupon he said he didn't need it. The price was the same with or without the coupon. I asked why the coupon and was told, "It's just advertising."
     There was also the time we went to buy a mattress and the salesman told us they would not sell us a mattress unless we also bought a box spring. We did not ask why, we just turned around an walked out. 
     There are no monthly rebates, or managers special, or neighborhood discount, or military specials or senior discounts. They’re trying to get you to be excited about the deal so they can overcome your natural hesitation and buy without taking any time to think about it. If both owners are present it increases the chance they’ll be able to talk you into something. 
     So, don't bother meeting with companies that insist on having both of you present. It is a good idea if you both are present, but making it a requirement is the sure fire sign that you’re going to get brow beaten. Never hesitate to tell a sleazy salesman to go pound salt!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

A Cure For COVID-19?!

     Ben Carson (HUD Secretary), Chris Christie (former governor of New Jersey), Donald J. Trump (President of the US) and now Rudolph W. Giuliani (President Trump's personal and campaign lawyer and lackey) became the latest in Trump’s inner circle to boast about the treatment he received for Covid-19. 
     Giuliani bragged, “Sometimes when you’re a celebrity, they’re worried if something happens to you they’re going to examine it more carefully, and do everything right.” 
     Apparently this idiotic, out of touch with reality, senile 76-year-old wind bag is unaware of the scarcity of drugs to treat Covid-19 because he told interviewers that politicians have taken masks and business closures too far now that Covid-19 is “a treatable disease.” 
     Anyway, it confirms what I have thought for some time...there is a treatment, but it's not for you and me, only the elite. Somehow I am not surprised.
     By the way, while on the subject of Covid-19, did you know that elite athletes suffer many more mental health symptoms and disorders than the rest of us. The poor souls. See the British Journal of Sports Medicine article HERE.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Nose Strips for Blackheads

     If you watch any television you have seen those nose strips advertised that when removed pull out a lot of really nasty stuff stuck in the pores of the poor model's nose. Do they really work? 
     First, let's discuss pores. Your cannot shrink them, open them or close them. Whatever size they are, they are! All products can only reduce the appearance of large pores, not actually make them smaller. So, while you cannot physically make pores smaller, you can avoid making them look larger. 
     Pores can look larger because they get clogged with skin debris, makeup and dirt. Excessive oil can keep them filled with a layer of oil that accentuates their appearance. The growth of bacteria contributes to blackheads which makes pores appear larger. Exposure ot the sun can thicken skin cells around the edge of pores, making them appear larger. And, finally genetics determines your skin type and if you're born with oily, thicker skin your pores will probably be more noticeable. 
     There are things that can help reduce the appearance of large pores: washing your face, using exfoliating scrubs or cleansers, using pore strips, minimizing exposure to the sun and for women who wear makeup, using an oil-absorbing makeup and/or blotting sheets to keep excess oil under control. While all these things can help, the truth is there is not much that can be done about the size of your pores. 
     The main reason people buy pore (or nose) strips is because of blackheads. What is a blackhead? The technical term for a blackhead is is keratotic plug. They form when the opening of a hair follicle becomes clogged or plugged with dead skin cells and oil. This gunk gets oxidized by the air and appears black. The nose strips are designed to pull them out. But do they really work? 
     Nose strips remove top layers of dead skin cells and blackheads by using a very strong adhesive. The strips will extract anything on the surface of your nose which includes hair, dirt and oil. However, they will not prevent the buildup and blackheads from reoccurring. 
     The strip itself is made of a non-soluble woven substrate, that's the papery fabric-like body. On the underside there's a polymer that attaches to the oil plugs in your pores and a non-tacky resin to help the patch adhere to your nose. 
     It's essential for the resin to be wet so that it will stick to your skin. The water also activates the oil-grabbing polymer. Water provides a positive charge, which allows the polymers to bond to plugged pores, which have a negative charge. The activated polymers adhere to the outermost layer of skin, excess oil and hair that clogs pores. All this stuff on the urface level is pulled out when the strip is removed. 

    However, blackheads are a type of keratotic plug that lives deeper, below the surface of your skin. Thus, while the strips may remove the upper portions of sludge, they do not go deep enough to unclog hardened plugs, or blackheads, which are the reasons most people buy the nose strips for to begin with. The strips are a temporary cosmetic fix, nothing more.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Jimmy Durante

     James Francis Durante (February 10, 1893 – January 29, 1980) was an actor, comedian, singer and pianist known for his distinctive gravelly speech, Lower East Side accent, comic language-butchery, jazz-influenced songs and prominent nose. He was one of America's most popular personalities of the 1920s through the 1970s. 
     He often referred to his nose as the schnozzola (Italianization of the American Yiddish slang word schnoz, meaning big nose) and that became his nickname.
     Durante dropped out of school in seventh grade to become a full-time ragtime pianist. He first played with his cousin, whose name was also Jimmy Durante. It was a family act, but he was too professional for his cousin. He continued working the city's piano bar circuit and earned the nickname "Ragtime Jimmy" before he joined the Original New Orleans Jazz Band, a well known band in New York City. In 1920 the group was renamed Jimmy Durante's Jazz Band. 
     By the mid-1920s, Durante had become a vaudeville star and radio personality. By 1934, Durante had a major record hit with his own novelty composition, Inka Dinka Doo and the song became his theme song for the rest of his life. 
     In 1935, Durante starred on Broadway in the stage musical Jumbo. During the early 1930s, Durante alternated between Hollywood, starring in motion pictures and Broadway. 
     On September 10, 1933, Durante appeared on Eddie Cantor's radio show, The Chase and Sanborn Hour, continuing until November 12 of that year. When Cantor left the show, Durante took over for about five months before moving on to The Jumbo Fire Chief Program (1935–1936). Durante teamed with Garry Moore for The Durante-Moore Show in 1943. Moore left in mid-1947, and the program returned in the Fall as The Jimmy Durante Show and it lasted three more years.
     Although Durante made his television debut on November 1, 1950 he continued to keep a presence in radio. From 1950 to 1951, Durante was the host once a month (alternating with Ed Wynn, Danny Thomas and Jack Carson) on a comedy-variety series Four Star Revue. Jimmy continued with the show until 1954. Durante then had a half-hour variety show (The Jimmy Durante Show) on television from October 1954 to June 1956. 
     Beginning in the early 1950s, Durante was often was seen regularly in Las Vegas after Sunday Mass outside of the Guardian Angel Cathedral standing next to the priest and greeting the people as they left Mass. 
     Several times in the 1960s, Durante served as host of Hollywood Palace variety show. His last regular television appearance was co-starring with the Lennon Sisters on Jimmy Durante Presents the Lennon Sisters Hour, which lasted for one season (1969–1970). 
     Durante's first wife was Jean Olson, whom he married in June of 1921. She was born in Ohio and was 46 years old when she died on Valentine's Day in 1943, after a lingering heart ailment of about two years. At the time Durante was touring in New York and returned home immediately to complete the funeral arrangements. 
     Besides his song Inka Dinka Doo, Durante's shows had the trademark signoff, "Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are." For years no one knew who Mrs. Calabash referred to and Durante preferred to keep the mystery alive until 1966.
     One theory was that it referred to the owner of a restaurant in Calabash, North Carolina, where Durante and his troupe had stopped to eat. He was so taken by the food, the service, and the chitchat he told the owner that he would make her famous. Since he did not know her name, he referred to her as Mrs. Calabash. 
     At a National Press Club meeting in 1966, Durante finally revealed that it was a tribute to his wife. While driving across the country, they stopped in a small town called Calabash, North Carolina whose name Jean had loved. Mrs. Calabash became his pet name for her, and he eventually adopted it as his signature sign off. 
     Durante married his second wife, Margie Little, at St. Malachy Roman Catholic Church in New York City on December 14, 1960. As a teenager she had been Queen of the New Jersey State Fair. She attended New York University before being hired by the legendary Copacabana in New York City. She and Durante met there 16 years before their marriage, when he performed there and she was a hatcheck girl. She was 41 and he 67 when they married. 
     With help from their attorney, the couple adopted a baby, Cecilia Alicia (nicknamed CeCe and now known as CeCe Durante-Bloum), on Christmas Day, 1961. She became a champion horsewoman and then a horse trainer and horseriding instructor. She died on June 7, 2009, at the age of 89. 
     On August 15, 1958, for his charitable acts, Durante was awarded a loving cup by the Al Bahr Shriners Temple. Also, Durante had started out his career in the 1920s teamed with Lou Clayton and Eddie Jackson who remained his his closest friends and they were kept on his payroll for the rest of their lives. 
     Durante's love for children continued through the Fraternal Order of Eagles, who among many causes raise money for handicapped and abused children. At Durante's first appearance at the Eagles International Convention in 1961, when asked about his fee for performing, Durante replied, "Do not even mention money judge or I'll have to mention a figure that'll make ya sorry ya brought it up." "What can we do then?" asked Hansen. "Help da kids," was Durante's reply. Durante performed for many years at Eagles conventions free of charge, even refusing travel money. The Fraternal Order of Eagles changed the name of their children's fund to the Jimmy Durante Children's Fund in his honor, and in his memory have raised over 20 million dollars to help children. 
     Durante was an active member of the Democratic Party. In 1933, he appeared in an advertisement shown in theaters supporting Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs and wrote a musical score titled Give a Man a Job to accompany it. He performed at both the inaugural gala for President John F. Kennedy in 1961 and a year later at the famous Madison Square Garden rally for the Democratic party that featured Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday" to JFK. 
     Durante continued his film appearances through the early 1970s and retired from performing in 1972 after he became wheelchair-bound following a stroke. He died of pneumonia in Santa Monica, California on January 29, 1980, 12 days before he would have turned 87. He is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

How's that again?

Dec 02, 2020 
The Ohio Department of Health now recommending those in Ohio avoid traveling to Ohio 
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio has been added to the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 Travel Advisory map, meaning the state is recommending Ohioans avoid traveling to Ohio, and those entering Ohio after traveling from Ohio are advised to self-quarantine in Ohio for 14 days.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Eye Vitamins

      Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in the US for people over the age of 50. The disease damages the small area near the center of your retina, the macula, causing vision loss in the center of your visual field. There’s no effective treatment and it generally worsens with time. 
     About the only recommendation doctors make is that Preser Vision AREDS 2 be taken. They are not cheap. A bottle of 120 (a 60 day supply) costs about $31. 
     There are a lot of other eye supplements available, but not all contain the proper formulation. An article in the March 2015 issue of Ophthalmology stated only four contained the right mix and they were all by PreserVision. Other brands may contain the same ingredients, but not in the right dosage. Some added other ingredients that have not been shown to work and might, in fact, actually reduce the effectiveness of the ingredients that do work. 
     The other day while shopping at Target I discovered their propietary brand that compares to AREDS 2...VisionShield Eye Health Mini Softgels which costs $18 for 120 capsules. 
     The VisionShield vitamins have doubled the amount of Copper. Copper, acting as an antioxidant, encourages the development of flexible connective tissue for proper eye structure. It binds with zinc, and the two should be supplemented together. Copper is added to eye formulas to prevent copper-deficiency anemia, which can occur if large amounts of zinc are consumed.
     Zinc is an essential trace mineral or "helper molecule." It plays a vital role in bringing vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to produce melanin, a protective pigment in the eyes. Zinc is highly concentrated in the eye, mostly in the retina and choroid, the vascular tissue layer lying under the retina. 
The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t test or approve supplements and they are not evaluated or regulated for efficacy or safety.
Do not take this medicine with milk, other dairy products, calcium supplements, or antacids that contain calcium. Calcium may make it harder for your body to absorb certain minerals. Also,vitamin and mineral supplements can interact with certain medications or affect how they work, so ask a doctor or pharmacist if it is safe for you to use multivitamins and minerals if you are also using any of the following drugs: tretinoin or isotretinoin, an antacid, an antibiotic, a diuretic, heart or blood pressure medications, a sulfa drug or one of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that consist of ibuprofen or naproxen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Wheat Allergy

     Wheat allergy is most often seen in young children and is usually outgrown by about the age of 12, however, some individuals remain allergic to wheat throughout their lives. 
     An allergic reaction may occur within minutes or hours of either consuming or inhaling wheat. A good way of detecting when one has eaten something that causes the allergy is to take your pulse. Years ago when I suddenly developed a severe allergy doctors were unable to pinpoint the cause. There was an article in Prevention magazine that suggested that within minutes after consuming the offending substance one's pulse would become elevated. It was true and that's how I figured out what the doctors couldn't...it was a wheat allergy.
     A person with a wheat allergy has developed a specific antibody to one or several wheat proteins. When a person with a wheat allergy is exposed to wheat, proteins in the wheat bind to certain antibodies in the person’s immune system which then triggers the person’s immune defenses, leading to reaction symptoms that can range from mild, such as hives, to severe, such as anaphylaxis. 
     Allergic reactions can be unpredictable, and even very small amounts of wheat can cause one. The most common symptoms of a wheat allergy include: nasal congestion, asthma, atopic dermatitis, hives, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, irritation and possible swelling in the mouth, throat, or both, watery, itchy eyes and a bloated stomach. 
     To prevent a reaction, it is very important to avoid wheat and so it is very important to read food labels. In the United States wheat is the most common grain product and it is one of the eight major allergens that must be listed on packaged foods sold in the US, as required by federal law. 
     One can still eat foods made with other grains such as amaranth, barley, corn, oat, quinoa, rice, rye and tapioca. Buckwheat is not related to wheat and is considered safe to eat. Wheat is sometimes found in unexpected places such as: glucose syrup, soy sauce, gelatinized starch, modified starch, modified food starch, vegetable starch, ale and Asian dishes which can feature wheat flour flavored and shaped to look like beef, pork and shrimp. 
     Other items to avoid include: baked goods, batter-fried foods, beer, breakfast cereals, candy, hot dogs, ice cream, marinara sauce, potato chips, processed meats, rice cakes, salad dressings, sauces, soups and turkey patties 
     Allergens are not always present in these foods and products, but wheat can appear in them so always read food labels. If one accidentally eats a food containing wheat and the symptoms are not severe antihistamines may reduce symptoms of minor wheat allergy. These drugs can be taken after exposure to wheat to control your reaction and help relieve discomfort. An over-the-counter allergy drug such as Benadryl, is appropriate. 
     Emergency medical care is essential for anyone who has an anaphylactic reaction to wheat, even after receiving an injection of epinephrine. Call 911 or your local emergency number as soon as possible. 
Symptoms of Celiac Disease, Wheat Allergy, and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: Which Is It? Read more...

Saturday, November 21, 2020

This explains a lot...

     These days we are seeing a lot of strange and seemingly irrational behavior from our President and many of his supporters and much of it can be explained by the following article. 
     In a recent review paper published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology, Psychologist and UC Santa Cruz professor Thomas Pettigrew argues that five major psychological phenomena can help explain ascent and self-proclaimed invincibility of President Donald Trump. Here is the gist of a Psychology Today article on the subject. 
1. Authoritarian Personality Syndrome 
This refers to the advocacy or enforcement of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom, and is commonly associated with a lack of concern for the opinions or needs of others.
     It's a well-studied and globally-prevalent condition that consists of a state of mind that is characterized by belief in total and complete obedience to one’s authority. Those with the syndrome often display aggression toward those not in their group, submissiveness to authority, resistance to new experiences and a rigid hierarchical view of society. 
     The syndrome is often triggered by fear, making it easy for leaders who exaggerate threat or fear monger to gain their allegiance. President Trump’s speeches are laced with terms like “losers” and “complete disasters” are naturally appealing to those with the syndrome. What You Can Expect From an Authoritarian - Recognizing the 30 traits and behaviors of the authoritarian personality. ARTICLE
2. Social dominance orientation 
This is related to authoritarian personality syndrome and refers to people who have a preference for the hierarchy of groups, specifically with a structure in which the high-status groups have dominance over the low-status ones. 
     They are people who are dominant, tough-minded and driven by self-interest. President Trump repeatedly makes a clear distinction between groups that have a higher status in society and those that some think of as belonging to a lower status; people like immigrants and minorities. Read more...
3. Prejudice 
It would be inaccurate to say that all of President Trump’s supporters are prejudiced, but many are. And, he plays on those prejudices by calling all Muslims dangerous and all Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. 
4. Intergroup contact 
This term refers to contact with members of groups outside one’s own, which has been shown to reduce prejudice. 
     The claim is that there is evidence that President Trump’s white supporters have experienced less contact with minorities than other Americans. 
5. Relative deprivation 
Relative deprivation is the experience of being deprived of something to which one believes they are entitled. It is the discontent felt when one compares their position in life to others who they feel are equal or inferior but have unfairly had more success than them.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Yam or Sweetpotato...what’s the difference?

North Carolina SweetPotato Commission 
     What a lot of people call yams are actually sweetpotatoes. In fact, it’s likely most Americans have never tasted a yam. And, yes, it’s sweetpotato, not sweet potato...that’s the way the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission spells it and they should know. North Carolina has led the US in sweetpotato production since 1971. The state produces nearly three times as many sweet potatoes as California, the second highest producing state. 
     Sweetpotatoes are sweet, orange-colored root vegetables and, in fact, all so-called “yams” are sweetpotatoes. Most people think that long, red-skinned sweetpotatoes are yams, but they really are just one of many varieties of sweetpotatoes. 
     A true yam is a starchy edible root and is generally imported to America from the Caribbean. It is rough and scaly and very low in beta carotene. Depending on the variety, sweetpotato flesh can vary from white to orange and even purple. 
     The orange-fleshed variety was introduced to the United States several decades ago. In order to distinguish it from the white variety everyone was accustomed to, producers and shippers chose the English form of the African word “nyami” and labeled them “yams.” Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term “yam” to be accompanied by the term “sweetpotato.” Even so, most people still think of sweetpotatoes as yams regardless of their true identity. 
     Sweetpotatoes are almost always sweeter than yams which are starchier and more potato-like and usually not very sweet. In the US most sweetpotatoes are one of four appearances: 

* Rose color skin with orange flesh 
* Pale copper/tan skin with white flesh 
* Red skin, dry white flesh 
* Purple skin and flesh 

     All are more slender than a potato and have tapered ends; however each of these does have a different flavor. Some yams are the size and shape of small potatoes while others can grow up to five feet in length and weigh over 100 pounds! Skins may be dark brown or light pink and the insides white, yellow, purple or pink. 
     Sweetpotaotes are very nutritious and have more sugar, protein, calcium, iron, sodium, vitamin A, beta-carotene, and water than yams do. 
     Yams are also very nutritious and they have more fat, carbs, fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin E than sweetpotatoes. Today, yams are grown around the world, but West Africa grows 95 percent of them.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

USS Nautilas Sails Under the North Pole

     Unlike the South Pole, there is no land beneath the North Pole. The world's northernmost town is Longyearbyen located in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. It is about 650 miles from the North Pole, making it the nearest town to the pole. 
     The temperature of the surface water of the Arctic Ocean is fairly constant at approximately 28.8 degress F which is near the freezing point of seawater. The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceans and is also the coldest of all the oceans. It is mostly covered by sea ice throughout the year and almost completely in winter.  
     An underwater ridge divides the North Polar Basin which is 13,100 to 14,800 feet deep and the Amerasian Basin (or the North American, or Hyperborean Basin) which is about 13,000 feet deep, but the average depth of the Arctic Ocean is 3,406 feet. The deepest point is Molloy Hole at about 18,210 feet.
     In the summer of 1958 Operation Sunshine was a scientific expedition conducted by the US Navy where the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear submarine built for the US armed forces, with a crew of just over 100 sailors navigated under the North Pole. The Nautilus was chosen because its nuclear reactor allowed it to remain submerged longer than a conventional submarine. The mission was completed successfully on August 3, 1958, when the submarine passed under the North Pole.
     Nautilus was not designed to be a warship but rather as a symbol for peaceful nuclear energy and the point of the trip was to show how much more advanced the technology was. The trip was suggested by William Anderson, the Captain of Nautilus. 
     Nautilus departed from Groton, Connecticut on August 19, 1957, for her first attempt at sailing under the Pole but it was unsuccessful because of the ice being too deep. Another attempt was not made until the next summer. On July 23, 1958, Nautilus left the Pearl Harbor and headed for the Bering Straight. The boat crossed under the pole at 11:15pm on August 3 and continued on for four more days until exiting from under the polar ice where Captain Anderson radioed to the President “Nautilus 90 North”. 
     The second attempt did not go without issues. They ran into large amounts of ice blockage as well as mechanical failures. It was hoped the mission was timed when the ice levels in the Arctic would be at their lowest making it easier to navigate without hitting the bottom or the top with the periscope. The expedition was also an opportunity for the Navy to experiment with different types of navigational equipment.
     For a lot more information about submarines scroll down the left column of this blog to All About Submarines.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Fun With Maps

     While we were shopping for some home decor stuff the other day I chanced to look at a globe and was surprised to find that if you flew straight south from where I live you would exit the US at Cape Haze on the west coast of Florida. After that the next land would be the tip of the Florida Keys and then Havana, Cuba. The next land would be the western end of Panama. After that you wouldn't hit land until you reached Antarctica! 
    Other odd map facts: In Maine there is a peninsula called Quoddy Head which is 3,154 miles away from El Beddouza, Morocco, making Maine the closest state to Africa. 
     When you think of a warm places to be in the winter time Rome sounds nice, but it's actually further north than New York City. Rome's average low in January is 35.8F, for New York City it's 32.6F.  Not much difference, but it snows a lot more in New York City. The average winter weather in Rome is rainy and chilly, but it's rare to see snow in the winter. Last year New York got almost 41 inches of snow. 
     In fact, Rome is on the same latitude as Chicago which, as I can attest, is not a nice place to be in the winter. They average 36 inches of snow a year. In 1978 Chicago had almost 90 inches. Barcelona and Istanbul are also on the same latitude as Chicago, but both cities very rarely see snow. 
     Minneapolis, Minnesota is on the same latitude as Paris, but the temperature in Minneapolis can dip 60 degrees below zero and accumulate 3 feet of snow in less than 24 hours while Paris averages 15 snow days a year, but it rarely gets more than a dusting. 
     Which state is the northernmost, westernmost and easternmost state in the US? The correct answer is Alaska. Alaska's uninhabited Semisopochnoi Island lies just west of the International Dateline, technically making it the easternmost point of the United States. 
     How big is Africa? Africa could comfortably fit most of the US, India and China within the continent. If you are in certain parts of Detroit and drive south you'll end up in Canada. Seriously! Check a map. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Enjoy Edith Piaf


      Edith Piaf dedicated her recording of this song to the French Foreign Legion. At the time of the recording France was engaged in the Algerian War (1954-1962) and the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment which, backed a temporary putsch of 1961 by the French military against the civilian leadership of Algeria, adopted the song when their resistance was broken. The leadership of the Regiment was arrested and tried. The non-commissioned officers, corporals and Legionnaires were assigned to other Foreign Legion formations. The song became part of the French Foreign Legion heritage. 
     Edith Piaf (born Edith Giovanna Gassion, December 19, 1915 - October 10, 1963) was a French singer-songwriter, cabaret performer and film actress. Piaf's music was often autobiographical and she specialized in chanson and torch ballads about love, loss and sorrow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020


     Trepanning, also known as trepanation, trephination, trephining or making a burr hole is a surgical intervention in which a hole is drilled or scraped into a person's skull to expose the dura mater to treat health problems such as intracranial diseases or to release pressured blood buildup from an injury. In ancient times, holes were drilled into a person who was behaving in what was considered an abnormal way to let out evil spirits. 
     Evidence of trepanation has been found in prehistoric human remains. The bone that was trepanned was kept by the prehistoric people and may have been worn as a charm to keep evil spirits away. 
     Evidence also suggests that trepanation was primitive emergency surgery after head wounds to remove shattered bits of bone from a fractured skull and clean out the blood that often pools under the skull after a blow to the head.
     Trepanations appear to have been most common in areas where weapons that could produce skull fractures were used. Theories for the practice of trepanation in ancient times include spiritual purposes and treatment for epilepsy, headache and mental disorders. 
     Trepanation is perhaps the oldest surgical procedure for which there is archaeological evidence and in some areas may have been quite widespread. At one burial site in France dated to 6500 BC, 40 out of 120 skulls had trepanation holes. Evidence suggests that many of those subjected to the surgery survived.
     Hippocrates gave detailed instructions on the procedure and during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, trepanation was practiced as a cure for various ailments, including seizures and skull fractures. Surprisingly, evidence suggests that the survival rate was high and the infection rate was low. 
     In ancient times, trepanation instruments were were commonly made out of flint or harder material such as stone knives and later with metal such as bronze and copper. The procedure was done by shamans or witch doctors.The Greeks and Romans designed medical instruments that included the terebra serrata made to perforate the cranium by manually rolling the instrument between the surgeon's hand. By the Renaissance period, when trepanation was routinely performed, a range of instruments was developed to accommodate the demand. 
     The procedure includes exposure of the dura mater without damaging the underlying blood vessels, meninges, and brain. Over time, the skin will reform over the puncture site, but the hole in the skull will remain. The location of the trepanation on the skull varies by geographical region and period, common locations are the frontal and the occipital bones. 
     The procedure could result in severe complications which include increased damage to the brain, infection, blood loss, hemorrhage, and potentially death due to the trauma as the skull's protective covering is compromised The operation had very minimal space for error and a high incidence of mortality, if the dura matter was penetrated. Additionally, there was a high risk of infection and possibly significant and permanent brain damage. Even so, some individuals survived multiple skull surgeries. 
     The practice of trepanning continues today due to belief in various pseudoscientific medical benefits. Some proponents claim the procedure results in increased blood flow. In 1965, Dutch librarian Bart Huges drilled a hole in his own head with a dentist drill as a publicity stunt. Huges claimed it increased brain blood volume and enhanced cerebral metabolism in a manner similar to taking ginkgo biloba. Huges and his girlfriend also made several comic books in the 1970s, which promoted trepanation. 
     Among other arguments, Huges contends that children have a higher state of consciousness and since children's skulls are not fully closed, one can return to an earlier, childlike state of consciousness by self-trepanation. Further, by allowing the brain to freely pulsate Huges argues that a number of benefits will accrue. There is a British group that advocates self-trepanation to allow the brain access to more space and oxygen. In 2000, two men from Cedar City, Utah, were prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license after they performed a trepanation on an English woman to treat her chronic fatigue syndrome and depression. 
More reading: 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

A Fly's Two Minutes and 3 Seconds of Fame

     The Vice Presidential Debate was a joke. Neither side actually answered a question; they either avoided answering entirely or resorted to mud slinging, calling each other liars or shouting the praises of their running mate. 
     Vice President Pence was especially annoying with his bullying tactics, interruptions of his opponent while she was speaking and his refusal to heed the moderator's request to shut up because his allotted time was up. 
     The winner it turns out was a fly which spent 2 minutes and three seconds on Mr. Pence's perfectly coiffed and beautiful white hair. Needless to say the incident brought tons of media comments, some quite funny, both during and after the debate. 
     It's a shame that an event of such importance was, if not the fiasco of the Presidential debate, highlighted by a fly on the head of one of the candidates and not where they (the candidates, not the flies) actually stand on important issues.

Chimpanzees...Biters and Throwers

     Once upon a time I worked with a fellow whose hobby was raising sea horses. The pet store where he bought his supplies had a chimpanzee that ran loose in the store and when you went into the store there was a sign warning customers to watch the critter because it was known to sneak up on people and spit at them. In fact, my fellow employee told of the night he was in the store and took a big hawker on the back of the neck. 
     Chimps also attack, bite and throw feces. Why anyone would want to own a 200-pound pet that would spit, throw feces and try to bite your face off is beyond me, but people do. These chimps are often friendly fixtures, but they can be dangerous. 
     Chimpanzees have a genetic profile that's very close to that of humans and they can appear to be cute, hairy people-like creatures, but these animals have something humans don't have...brute strength.
     Most of the time they attack through cage bars and they like to bite off fingers. The attacks generally happen with people the animals don't know, but sometimes they attack owners and other handlers like scientists and researchers.
     Chimps in the wild are not used to people and they're afraid of them. That's why wild chimp attacks are extremely rare. A chimp has strength that for a human would be incomprehensible. Chimpanzee males have been measured as having five times the arm strength as a human male. They also have big canine teeth that can take your face off, no problem. 
     Chimps in the wild are pretty aggressive with other chimps. They have warfare among social groups and males kill each other and they have been known to kill baby chimps. 
     Talk about aggression! In a fight they go for the face, the hands and feet and... the testicles. To outsiders, they have very nasty behaviors. Males are more aggressive than females, but when it comes to people the chimp is familiar with there may be some underlying tension that is often impossible to figure out. These animals are like a like a time bomb waiting to go off. 
     It happens that visitors at a zoo have become the targets of feces thrown by apes or monkeys. Why do they do it? Researchers studying such behavior have come to the conclusion that throwing feces, or any object, is actually a sign of high ordered behavior. 
     The research focused on chimpanzees mainly because they are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Interestingly, they are the only other species besides humans that throw things with a clear target in mind. 
     Brain scans of chimps throwing things found that chimps that both threw more and were more likely to hit their targets showed heightened development in the motor cortex and more connections between it and an area of the brain which is an important part of speech in humans. 
     Like human baseball pitchers, some chimps throw better than others. The better chimp throwers had more highly developed left brain hemispheres which is where speech processing occurs in people. Researchers found that the best throwers also appeared to be better communicators within their group. 
     They also found that throwing stuff at someone else became a form of self expression. When they throw a handful of crap at someone does it mean they don't like them for some reason? Or, do they feel threatened or angry? Or, are they just bored and throwing crap is a crap load of fun? Who knows?

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Just An Opinion

     By now everybody in the world knows President Trump has been reported to have COVID-19. 
     According to Dr. Uché Blackstock, a Yahoo News medical contributor and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, when speaking of possible treatments for the president, stated, “Given his stature as president, he would have access to those therapeutics while the average American would not.” 
     So, the president's health is more important than that of other citizens. In fact, it is not. 
     William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy all died in office and guess what? The Vice President took office and the government kept on functioning.
     If there are treatments available to the president then there are treatments available for everybody. Remember back in 1991 when basketball star Magic Johnson announced that he had AIDS? It was believed that he had pronounced his own death sentence, but he hadn't. Why? Because he had access to drugs that were unavailable to others at that time. Position and money gets you privileges not available to others and that's the way it is.