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Tuesday, September 29, 2020


     Bacon dates back to 1500 BC when the Chinese were the first to cook salted pork bellies more than 3000 years ago making bacon one of the world’s oldest processed meats. The word bacon refers to the "back" of a pig. 
     These days you can find this marvelous meat in ice cream, coffee, cupcakes, and chewing gum. There are bacon-scented candles, bacon lip balm and even a bacon deodorant. National Bacon Day is December 30th. 
     The first bacon factory opened in 1770. Locally farmers and butchers made bacon and in England, where it became a dietary staple, it was usually dry cured with salt and then smoked. In the late 18th century, a businessman named John Harris opened the first bacon processing plant where he developed a special brine solution for finishing the meat. The "Wiltshire Cure" method is still used today, and is a favorite of bacon lovers who prefer a sweeter, less salty taste. 
     The phrase "bringing home the bacon" refers to making money, but in 12th century England, churches would award a flitch, or a side, of bacon to any married man who swore before God that he and his wife had not argued for a year and a day. Men who "brought home the bacon" were seen as exemplary citizens and husbands. 
     During World War II housewives collected their bacon grease and the rendered fat was used to create glycerin which was used in bombs, gunpowder, and other munitions. 
     In the 1980s people turned on and attacked bacon because of the saturated fats and cholesterol. Even so, bacon couldn't be kept down. In 1992, Hardee’s Frisco Burger (a fast-food burgers served with bacon) became a hit and it revived bacon and today bacon cheese burgers are popular. Nowadays the average American consumes 18 pounds of bacon each year and in 2018, bacon accounted for $4.9 billion in sales. A survey conducted in 2014 by Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork supplier, found that 65 percent of Americans would make bacon America’s “national food.” 
     Here is some good news! Most researchers focus on bacon’s bad side, however, some research shows positive health benefits associated with bacon consumption! And, the price of bacon, after adjusting for wages and inflation, is about 86 percent cheaper today than it was 100 years ago. 

     A University of North Carolina study found that choline, a micro-nutrient in bacon, is key to healthy brain development in unborn babies. 
     Besides that, it turns out bacon (and all pork) is good for the environment. Growing beef requires 28 times more land and 11 times more water than bacon and pork. 
     Bacon is high in saturated fat and contains additives such as nitrates and nitrites that cause concern among scientists who fear it could be linked to gastric cancer, but overall bacon is a hearty and nutritious food packed with essential vitamins and nutrients. 
     Bacon contains Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12, high-quality animal protein, 89 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for selenium, 53 percent for phosphorus plus minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc and potassium. A serving of bacon accounts for about one-fifth of the recommended daily fat. Unfortunately, a serving is considered to be only three slices. 
     Bacon is popular in restaurants where it’s used in a variety of ways, but it is predominantly a breakfast food with 70 percent of all bacon being consumed at breakfast. 
     The World Health Organization says bacon can cause cancer; of course they do. In 2015, they concluded that every daily portion of processed meat (including bacon) raises the risk of colo-rectal cancer by 18 percent. 
     Some medical researchers claim it's poppycock. For a healthy person, eating bacon every day will raise their overall risk of colon cancer from something like 5-6 percent 
     So, what's the trade-off? By foregoing bacon you can lower your intake of saturated fats and marginally lower your risk of cancer and heart disease. But by doing so you miss out on important vitamins and nutrients.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Ghost Ships

     A ghost ship, or a phantom ship, is a vessel with no living crew aboard; it may be a ghostly vessel or a physical derelict found adrift with its crew missing or dead. The term is sometimes used for ships that have been decommissioned but not yet scrapped, as well as drifting boats that have been found after breaking loose of their ropes and becoming carried away by the wind or the waves. 
     In recent years Japan holds the records for the number of ghost ships that appear. Every year the remains of dozens of ghost ships turn up in Japanese waters. Typically, the ships are small wooden boats believed to be North Korean fishing vessels that are ill-equipped for going to sea. Some boats have been found empty but at least 25 people have been found in advanced states of decomposition, probably dead from starvation or exposure. 
     Marine Insight has a nice article on these intriguing ships titled Top 10 Mysterious Ghost Ships and Haunted Stories of the Maritime World HERE. You eill also want to read the National Geographic article HERE.

Friday, September 25, 2020

What is an Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate (eGFR)?

     If you have had a Basic Metabolic blood test you may have noticed a result called eGFR and wondered what it means. 
     Estimated glomerular filtration rate is the best test to measure your level of kidney function and determine your stage of kidney disease. 
     It is calculated based on the results of your blood creatinine (a waste product that comes from the normal wear and tear on muscles of the body), your age, body size and gender. Your GFR tells your doctor your stage of kidney disease and helps the doctor plan your treatment. 
     Speaking of creatinine levels, besides impaired kidney function, factors that can raise levels include: certain medications, including some antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, a high intake of protein, strenuous exercise, low blood flow, dehydration, shock, infections, and serious illnesses such as cancer. 
     If a blood (or urine) test shows a high creatinine levels the doctor may perform further tests to identify the cause. A person may be able to reduce their creatinine levels by making some of the following changes to their diet. 
* Reducing protein intake - According to a 2014 study, eating cooked red meat may increase levels of creatinine. Red meat is muscle tissue, which naturally contains creatine and cooking causes the creatine to break down into creatinine. When a person eats the meat, their body absorbs the creatinine, and their levels may rise. Eating less red meat and fewer fish products may reduce high creatinine levels. A person might try incorporating more sources of vegetable protein, such as beans, in their diet. Dietary fiber helped lower creatinine levels in people with chronic kidney disease. Many plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, seeds, and whole grains, contain fiber. 
*Avoid dehydration - Creatinine levels can rise when a person is dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include thirst, dizziness, and fatigue. Severe dehydration can put strain on the cardiovascular and other systems and can be life threatening. Drinking water is the best way to correct or prevent dehydration. 
*Some supplements can increase creatinine levels. Many athletes and bodybuilders take supplements containing creatine to build muscle strength and endurance and for energy, but if the muscles do not use it, the body converts it into creatinine resulting in high creatinine levels that doctors may misinterpret as kidney disease. 
*Diuretics - They can raise creatinine levels in people with kidney disease. 
An eGFR of under 60 for 3 months is consistent with chronic kidney disease. 
     If your GFR number is low, your kidneys are not working as well as they should. The earlier kidney disease is detected, the better the chance of slowing or stopping its progression.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Clogged Drain? Try Commercial Drain Maintainer

     Let's talk about drain cleaners. When you need to clear a clogged drain there are quite a few a few options you can try before you call a plumber. You could try homemade remedies, removing the trap and cleaning it, trying a small sink snake or you could try a drain cleaner. 
     Most drain cleaners are made with strong chemicals to break down hair, grease and oils. However, enzyme-based cleaners are also available. These drain cleaners use bacteria and enzymes to break down hair and organic matter. So, should you use a chemical-based or an enzyme-based cleaner? 
     There can be a price to pay with chemical-based drain cleaners which rely on chemical reactions in order to clear clogs. There are three general types.
1) Caustic cleaners that contain either lye or potash, two powerful alkaline chemicals. Caustic drain cleaners produce heat to break down food and grease clogs, turning them into a soap-like substance. 
2) Oxidizing cleaners that contain bleach, peroxide and nitrates; they oxidize clogs to produce heat and gas which breaks up the organic matter. 
3) Acid cleaners that contain highly concentrated levels of sulfuric acid or hydrochloric acid. These products are typically not available to homeowners; they must be purchased locally by plumbers. Acid drain cleaners also create heat by means of chemical reaction in order to break down clogs. While acid drain cleaners are more effective than caustic or oxidizing drain cleaners, they also carry greater risks if used improperly. 
     Because the chemicals used in these products rely on the heat produced by chemical reactions, they can actually soften PVC pipes, especially if the pipes are more than 20 years old. They also damage older metal pipes made from brass, aluminum, chrome, stainless steel, or galvanized steel. These caustic chemicals can also affect septic tanks because they kill the good bacteria necessary for a healthy septic system. 
     Fumes from chemical drain cleaners can irritate or burn eyes, skin, and mucous membranes and eat holes in clothing if accidentally splashed or spilled. 
     If you mix a chemical drain cleaner with bleach or ammonia, the chemical reaction can create a toxic gas, which is especially dangerous for those with asthma or heart conditions. 
     Enzyme drain cleaners are generally safer and use bacteria that produce enzymes in the presence of organic matter, such as food particles, hair, mildew, mold, and algae. The enzymes break down the material into tiny pieces that can then be flushed through your pipes with water. Because enzyme drain cleaners are free of chemicals, they pose no risk to your pipes, surfaces, or septic system.
     Most plumbers discourage the use of chemical drain cleaners. Though they can clean your drain pipes thoroughly, they can damage the system over time. 
     What is an enzyme drain cleaner? They contain bacteria cultures as well as concentrated enzymes that respond to the presence of organic substances. They are generally designed to work on clearing the pipes of live organisms such as mildew and molds as well as those that have organic content such as food particles. 
     They feed on organic materials that range from hair to food waste to molds and algae and soap scum. The minute organisms digest these substances and actually reproduce and spread throughout your plumbing system. 
     Enzyme drain cleaners are effective in maintaining the smooth flow in pipes, but they’re not that great when it comes to getting rid of clogs. Also, the speed at which they work depends on the flow of liquid through the pipes. If the flow stops because of a clog the cleaner can only clean up to the clog. Therefore, you cannot use these products as instant clog busters. 
     Don't expect these products to clear a clog 50 feet down a 2 or 3 inch drain line quickly, nor will they clean out twenty year old pipes in a few hours or even a few days; it will take time for the enzymes to break it all down. Enzyme cleaners are primarily maintenance products. If you have a serious clog you may need to get it open with clog removers or a plumber before using an enzyme product. 
     On a Saturday night after doing the dishes I noticed the sink was draining very slowly. Sunday morning the water in the sink in the half bath directly below the kitchen was draining painfully slow. After removing the trap and cleaning out a large amount of black greasy sludge, the sink still failed to drain. The next step was to take the trap off again and use a small sink snake. It's 8 feet long, but the clog was beyond its reach. 
     That's when I tried a product called Commercial Drain Maintainer which sells at Home Depot for about $14 a gallon. According to the label billions of enzyme producing bacteria digest fats, oils, and greases, along with other organic waste that accumulates in drains and grease traps. It clears slow drains and eliminates foul odors and when used regularly it reduces clogs and grease trap pumping. 
     Did it work? I poured 8 ounces down the drain and ran hot water until the sink filled up and then left it. When we returned home six hours later the water had drained out of the sink which I then filled up with hot water and then unplugged it. The water immediately gushed down the drain. And, a check of the kitchen sink upstairs revealed that it, too, was draining freely. Success!
     This product received a mix of good and bad reviews online. I suspect the bad reviews came as a result of problems for which the product was not designed to handle. In my case it worked well because the problem was built up soap scum, grease and bits of organic matter that formed an ugly black sludge. I intend to use it on a regular basis to keep kitchen and bathroom traps and lines free of build up.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Vellux Blanket Plugs Up Our Washer


    First off, if you own, or are planning to purchase an LG washer be aware that finding a repairman can be difficult. One repairman told me they are manufactured in Korea and parts are difficult to get so he does not work on them. And, at least five repair places told me they did not repair LG washers. I ended up calling LG Customer Service to get the names of places in my area that repair them and there wasn't many. 
     We had one of those light weight vellux blankets that my wife wanted to wash and so she put it in our front load LG washer and within a few minutes she called me because it had made a funny sound then quit. It was showing an error code and trying to pump the water out only resulted in a humming noise. Peering through the glass in the door revealed that the blanket had disintegrated and there was what amounted to a large mass of glop that looked like a sodden mass of blanket fuzz! This is not an uncommon problem with these blankets! Read more about them HERE

     The error code was "OE". Looking up LG washer error codes on the Internet revealed that the OE error code indicates that the washer is unable to drain the water it used during the wash cycle. OE can be triggered by a kinked drain hose or a clogged drain pump filter. 
     Not being sure exactly where the filter was I was thinking a repairman was required and that's when the whole rigmarole of finding a repairman started. After finally locating one and scheduling an appointment I did some further research on Youtube (everything is on Youtube!) and found the solution. It turned out that it was very simple to make the fix. 
     Down in the lower left on the front of the washer is a small door and behind it is a manual drain hose and a filter that unscrews. Using the drain hose, I drained all the water into a bucket then unscrewed the filter...it was full of a sodden mass of blanket fuzz. 
     After cleaning out the filter and running the washer through several cycles to flush out the remaining fuzz, everything was fine and I saved at least a $90 service call charge. Note that during the flushing process a wire screen had to be placed over the deep sink drain that the washer discharges into in order to keep all the fuzz from going down the drain and clogging up the deep sink!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Dreaded Necktie

     Why do we have to wear neckties? They serve no purpose other than being purely decorative, yet all men either have to or choose to wear them on certain occasions. 
     Necktie historians generally agree that neckties originated in the 17th century, during the 30 year war in France. King Louis XIII hired Croatian mercenaries who wore a piece of cloth around their neck as part of their uniform. Their neckties served a function in that they tied the top of their jackets, but they also looked snazzy. King Louis liked the look so much that he made ties a mandatory accessory for royal gatherings. He called them “La Cravate” to honor the Croatian soldiers. 
     The early cravats had little resemblance to today’s neckties which did not emerge until the 1920s. From 1900-1909 cravats were common, but they were tied differently than those Croatian cravats in France. They were tied with a four in hand knot had been recently invented; it’s still one of the most popular knots today. 

     Also popular at that time were bow ties and ascots. From about 1910 to 1919 cravats and ascots were on the decline and neckties began to resemble what we wear today. 
     In the 1920s a New York tie maker namec Jessie Langsdorf invented a new way of cutting the fabric when constructing a tie, which allowed the tie to spring back into its original shape after each wearing and neckties became the popular choice. Bow ties were used mostly for formal wear reserved for formal black tie functions. 

   The 1930s saw the Art Deco movement and neckties became wider and often had Art Deco designs. Men also wore their ties shorter and commonly tied them with a Windsor knot. That was a knot that the Duke of Windsor invented during this time. 
     When WWII ended in 1945 colors on ties became bold and patterns stood out. 
     During the 1950s the skinny tie emerged and tie makers started experimenting with different materials. In the 1960s neckties went the other direction and became wider...some as much as 6 inches. The disco movement of the 1970s lead to the popularity of the the Bolo Tie (aka Western Tie) which became Arizona’s official state neckwear in 1971. 
     In the 1980s all necktie styles were popular. In the 1990s neckties became more uniform in width (3.75-4 inches) and bold floral and paisley patterns were popular. 
     Beginning about 2000 and for the next ten years neckties became a little bit thinner and European designers re-introduced the skinny tie. Today, ties are available in just about any width, pattern and fabric. The standard width is about 3.25-3.5 inches.

     Hats were common for men until John F. Kennedy became president in 1961 and he never wore a hat which set a new trend and they began to disappear.  Maybe someday we will have a president who refuses to wear a necktie and that will set a new trend.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Buying Light Bulbs

     1. Light Bulb Shape and Base Shape:
Light bulbs tend to be described by their shape name with terms such as globe, reflector or spiral. Light shapes are denoted with a letter-number-letter. The first letter indicates the bulb’s shape; the number is the bulb’s diameter at its widest part while the last letter designates bulb length. Base: There are two main types of light bulb bases: pin base and screw base. 
     2. Watts and Lumens: Watts measure the amount of energy required to light the light bulb, whereas lumens measure the amount of light produced. The more lumens produced by a light bulb, the brighter the light. 
    3. Color Rendering Index (CRI): Color rendering describes how a light source makes the color of an object appear to the human eye. The CRI is a scale from 0 to 100 percent indicating how accurate a "given" light source is at rendering color when compared to a "reference" light source; a typical comparison is to daylight. Light sources with a CRI of 85 to 90 are considered good at color rendering. Light sources with a CRI of 90 or higher are excellent at color rendering and should be used for tasks requiring the most accurate color discrimination. 
    4. Color Temperature: Color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin (K). The color temperature of a light bulb describes how the light appears when an illuminated bulb is looked at directly by the human eye. Light bulbs that produce a yellowish white light may have a color temperature around 2700K, producing a “warm, cozy feeling.” As the color temperature increases, the yellowish color of the bulb decreases, and the white or “cooler” color increases. At 5000K or higher, the light color appears bluish white. 
See Home Lighting 101 for complete information HERE

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Dead Mouse Odor Coming Out Of A Wall

   A mouse can distort or shrink its body to a fraction of its normal height to squeeze into some tight spaces...smaller than a dime. Because we have a woods behind our house that’s crawling with wildlife, snakes and assorted small creatures, field mice (and an occasional snake) in the shed are not uncommon, but a while back I suspected there might be mice in the garage. By the way, if you see one mouse, there are more! 
     I elected to get glue traps and set them around and they worked. The only problem is that glue traps do not kill the mouse...you have to do that yourself. It was easy...take the trap with the mouse stuck on it out to the driveway and decapitate it with a hatchet. 
     After trapping four and not getting any more for several days, it was time to make a diligent search for entry points and seal them up. Apparently the entry point was around the sump pump pipe where it goes through the wall. Sealing around it must have been successful because in a couple of days I heard a scratching sound coming out of the wall that kept getting fainter and fainter then stopped. It was obvious that I had sealed up a mouse in it's hidey hole and unable to escape, it died in the wall. 
     Unfortunately, while the mouse could not get out of the wall, the odor could...there was a repugnant dead mouse smell coming out of it. Tearing out the wall wasn’t really an option because the mouses’s exact location was unknown. Ninety degree weather didn’t help the smell either. What to do? 
     Waiting several weeks for the smell to dissipate wasn’t a pleasant option. That’s when I discovered a few hacks that seemed worth a try. In order to achieve the best result, using two or more of these tricks was recommended. 

# Vinegar. This is one of the simplest and easiest tricks. Get a bottle of vinegar and fill several plastic cups with it, then place them in strategic locations. The vinegar will absorb the odor, plus it also leaves a rather pleasant smell. 
# Coffee filter packs or coffee grounds. Place the filter packs or grounds in the area and they will absorb the smell. 
# Baking soda. It's is a good deodorant. When you can’t trace the source of the dead animal’s odor, make a solution of baking soda and water then spray the affected area 2 to 3 times a day. 
# Charcoal briquettes. Rob the bag of charcoal you grill with of several briquettes and place them at different locations to absorb the odor. 

     In my case, I chose the charcoal briquettes and vinegar, but they did not work. Coffee grounds was the next choice; that didn’t work either. 

   I searched Home Depot’s website and noticed a product called OdoBan Odor Eliminator that sells for $4.00 had received good reviews. It’s a jar of gel that comes in assorted fragrances. You unscrew the lid, remove the paper covering inside, replace the lid, set it out and it absorbs odors. 
One 5-star reviewer wrote that the gel will remove odors in your home, RV, closets, lockers, litter boxes, kennels or anywhere you have odors. Great for smoke, mildew or musty odors. 
     Arriving at Home Depot I noticed that the product seemed to be in limited quantities. According to OdoBan’s website, due to increased demand owing to to Covid-19, they have temporarily shifted production to only making OdoBan Disinfectant concentrates and ready-to-use sprays. However, they do plan to resume normal production of other products, like OdoBan Solid Odor Absorbers, very soon. 
     I purchased a jar in the morning and placed it near the area where the dead mouse might be. That evening it seemed as though the smell had lessened. The next morning it was gone! OdoBan is amazing stuff and I am off after I post this to purchase a couple of more jars. One for the laundry room and one for a spare.