Sunday, November 23, 2014

Seniors shouldn't eat dog food; It's too expensive.

Some time ago a reporter a the local paper wrote an editorial warning those with some years left until retirement that they should be worried about the prospect of eating pet food in their senior years. I wrote she was being silly and she got in touch with me to say writing editorials wasn't her job. She simply cranked out her piece at the demand of those above her.

Still, the piece was silly. Last night, as I at my dinner, I thought about how much I had spent on food that day. I don't believe I spent more than $3. I bought all on sale and all was purchased with food value and taste in mind. The soup pictured cost about $2 a serving and was thick with added broccoli and carrots. The vegetables were leftovers. I'd have added a little extra cheese but my wife didn't want the added calories. We could have added some leftover chicken but yesterday was a meatless day for me: doctor's orders.

The bread with the meal was two-day-old baguette and the topping was sun-dried tomatoes with grated Parmesan cheese -- both leftovers sitting almost forgotten in our fridge. The meal was filling, nutritious and delicious. Breakfast and lunch were also put together from food items bought on sale.

If I had written the editorial telling folk how to prepare for retirement, I'd have told them to not eat junk. Junk food is expensive. Don't get a taste for the stuff. It's neither good for you nor easy on your food budget. Build your daily food menu around stuff on sale at your local grocery stores and do the food preparation yourself. You will eat well and on a fraction of what most folk believe you must spend.

Bon app├ętit!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Newspaper falling through the cracks

Contrary to the newspaper report, it is American seniors and not Canadian ones most at risk overall.

The headline warned readers that Canadian seniors were falling between the health care cracks. Clearly this can be quite nasty. Falling through cracks is bad enough but smashing against the material between the cracks is surely even worse.

Overall, American seniors fare worse than Canadian ones.
What did fall through the cracks with the publication of The London Free Press article was journalistic neutrality. The survey at the core of the story was published by the American Commonwealth Fund. The survey found, quote: "Compared with their counterparts in 10 other industrialized countries, older adults in the U.S. are sicker and more likely to have problems paying their medical bills and getting needed health care." American seniors, not Canadian ones, are in the most trouble when it comes to health care issues.

This is not to say that the newspaper article did not report the facts. It did. But those facts were carefully picked to fit the aims of the story. This put an all too familiar spin to this story. This has been done in the past with Commonwealth Fund reports. In the past, I have contacted the fund and had it confirmed at the source that the newspaper seemed to be spinning the work of the fund and not simply reporting it.

Key Findings from the Commonwealth Fund study:

  1. The United States stands out for having the highest rates of chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease: 87 percent of older adults in the U.S. reported at least one chronic illness,and 68 percent reported two or more.
  2. Despite having Medicare coverage, U.S. adults age 65 or older were the most likely to report that cost posed a barrier to care. One-fifth (19%) said cost was the reason they did not visit a doctor, skipped a medical test or treatment recommended by a doctor, did not fill a prescription, or skipped doses.
  3. U.S. survey respondents were also the most likely to report trouble paying their medical bills (11%). Only 1 percent in Norway and Sweden reported the same.
  4. Canadian, Swedish, Norwegian, and U.S. respondents were the least likely to be able to get a same- or next-day doctor’s appointment when sick or to find it somewhat or very easy to get after-hours care without using the emergency department.
  5. Older adults in all countries face care coordination and safety problems. In the U.S., 35 percent reported at least one problem with care coordination, such as not having a recommended medical test, receiving conflicting information from different doctors, or experiencing a lack of communication between a primary care doctor and a specialist. In every country but France, one-fifth or more of older adults have experienced at least one of these problems.
  6. Along with the U.K., the U.S. did well in areas related to managing chronic illness: 58 percent of chronically ill older adults in the U.S. and 59 percent in the U.K. had discussed their treatment goals with their doctor and had clear instructions about when to seek further care. Fewer than half of chronically ill people in the other nine countries said the same.
  7. More than three-quarters (78%) of older adults in the U.S. said they reported talking to a family member, friend, or health professional about their care preferences if they become unable to make decisions for themselves. Two-thirds said they had a written plan naming a health care proxy and more than half (55%) said they had a written plan regarding the treatment they want at the end of life.
Note: Canada is only mentioned directly in key finding number four. In a press release, The Commonwealth Fund states "all of the countries in the survey could do better." Why did The Free Press single out the Canadian health care system? Was this a right-wing attack by a Sun Media newspaper?

Also note, the newspaper illustrated the article with a clip art. This image does not show a patient in a London hospital, nor does it show a Canadian nurse. Photojournalism has fallen through the cracks, too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The dark side of strawberries

Each spring I take my granddaughters strawberry picking. Strawberries are, or at least used to be, a spring treat. But no more. Today strawberries are available year 'round. Most come from California.

A few years ago my wife and I motored through the strawberry fields of coastal California. They were immense. As we drove along I wondered about the downside to this vast monoculture of fruit. Today I came across an article answering a part of this question: California's strawberry industry is hooked on dangerous pesticides.

I believe this story may go a little heavy on the element of fear but at the article's core it is true. Dangerous chemicals are being used and not just in agriculture in California. In this case, the use is good for the strawberry growers but may not be good for the field workers, the people in nearby communities and even the world at large.

I have a friend who likes to start dinner with a prayer for those children going without enough food. Possibly he should also being praying for those children who have enough food but food that comes at a very high, but hidden, price. These children, or their descendants, may well find that they must pay the hidden costs as the payments can no longer be deferred.

Think Peru and the fields used to grow asparagus for year 'round consumption. When the ground water is exhausted, when the fields are again dry, dusty, desert land, how will the children of the region survive? Big agriculture will simply move on but the people, the people with deep historical roots in the area, will remain.

How Peru's wells are being sucked dry by British love of asparagus
Industrial-scale production risks water tragedy, charity warns

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The tripod grip: Really the ultimate pencil-gripping grasp?

Isla, only 17-months in this picture, is already using the tripod grip.

When my niece looked at my picture of granddaughter Isla working on her scribble art project, my niece exclaimed, "She's already using the tripod grip!" My niece, a physio-therapist, had been taught that this was an advanced pencil-gripping technique which many children don't master until the age of four or later.

I confess, I didn't know what my niece was talking about. When she left, I took to the Internet. I soon read that many folks believe the most efficient way to hold a pencil is the dynamic tripod grasp. In the dynamic tripod grasp, the pencil is held between the thumb and index finger, with the pencil resting on the middle finger.

Some parents worry so much about this grip that when a child fails to use it they go looking for a physiotherapist. Is this really necessary? The short answer is "Maybe not." I discovered in Physiotherapy for Children that there are a number of acceptable grasps. As long the grip is functional and does not cause muscle strain, parents should relax.

Why anyone would be immediately concerned with a variation in pen-holding technique amazes me. One of the finest students I every met did not use the tripod grasp. He gripped his pen with brutish practicality. His penmanship was atrocious, but he was quick and he could read his own writing even if no one else could. He never had a mark that wasn't in the 90s. He really didn't give a damn about penmanship.

For the last word on this read the conclusions reached in a paper found in the U.S. National Library of Medicine:

The dynamic tripod pencil grasp did not offer any advantage over the lateral tripod or the dynamic or lateral quadrupod pencil grasps in terms of quality of handwriting after a 10-minute copy task. These four pencil grasp patterns performed equivalently. Our findings question the practice of having students adopt the dynamic tripod pencil grasp.

My advice: Look at the results and not the technique. If the child can accomplish their goals using whatever grip they are using, leave 'em be.

One of Isla's finished scribble projects. She scribbles and I colour. We both like 'em.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why kids should be vaccinated

The London Free Press had an article today looking at the rising numbers of parents who are refusing to have their children vaccinated. It was a good article but for a better one read: A Math Lesson in Vaccines and Infectious Disease

If you enjoyed the first link, here is another: True or False: There are more pertussis cases among the vaccinated than among the unvaccinated.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jack Bruce, of Cream, dies at 71

There is also a version posted to You Tube from the 2005 Cream Reunion.

In the late '60s I was going to art school in Detroit. The Art School of the Society of Arts and Crafts was a cool place back then, filled with music: blues, Motown, jazz and more filled the rooms. The album Disraeli Gears by Cream would have been placed in the 'more' category along with other groups like Savoy Brown. Cream's unique sound has been described as psychedelic blues.

Cream, composed of Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker on drums, was possibly the first of the so-called supergroups. Their debut album was Fresh Cream, followed by Disraeli Gears and then Wheels of Fire. Their last album before the break up was appropriately titled Goodbye. Bruce wrote and sang many of the songs in the Cream playbook.

With the passing of the oh-so-talented Jack Bruce, I find myself remembering all the fine music released by Cream and wondering why these songs are given so little airtime today. The Ultimate Classic Rock (UCR) site has posted what they claim to be the top ten Cream recordings. If you have the time, follow the link and give a listen.

  • Sunshine of Your Love
  • White Room
  • Crossroads
  • Strange Brew
  • Spoonful
  • Tales of Brave Ulysses
  • Badge
  • Born Under a Bad Sign
  • I Feel Free
  • I'm So Glad

If you haven't heard Badge, it only climbed to about number 60 on the top ten list of the time, check out Badge. The UCR site rates it number 7 in their top ten Cream list and I feature it at the top of this post. I drank a lot of beer while listening to Badge spinning at 33 and a third rpm's on my Dual turntable.

The BBC reports: Jack Bruce died at his home in Suffolk surrounded by his family. A statement was released saying: "It is with great sadness that we, Jack's family, announce the passing of our beloved Jack: husband, father and granddad and all-round legend.

"The world of music will be a poorer place without him, but he lives on in his music and forever in our hearts."

When I think of Cream and the late Jack Bruce, I think of folks from my past such as Andy Whipple and Rebekah Wilcher. Both Andy and Becky have also passed on. My world gets smaller and smaller with each passing day.

Andy Whipple used to throw the best parties at his parent's home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And Becky used to take me to the best parties in Berkeley, California, back in the late '60s. Fine wine, good beer, great food and the best music was always to be found at these parties. Cream easily passed the muster.

Not being a musician, I wasn't aware of the rich mix of historic blues to be found on Cream albums. The other folk at these parties were far more sophisticated than I and they would sit on the floor, drinking wine and discussing the distant roots of some of the Cream music: I'm So Glad was an old Skip James song from the '30s, Spoonful was a cover of an earlier take by Howlin' Wolf and Crossroads recalls a 1936 recording by blues great Robert James. Sadly, I'd forgotten most of this and only today began remembering all as I read the many obits praising the late Cream bassist.

Jack Bruce had quite the musical pedigree. He was truly among the cream that rises to the top. He won a scholarship to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, played in a group that featured drummer Charlie Watts, later of The Rolling Stones, and played with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers and Manfred Mann. Composer, singer, and one of rock's best bass players, Jack Bruce was talented. No argument.

Tonight I will pop the cap on a bottle of Steam Whistle and carefully play my Cream albums. Vinyl is has almost disappeared and sadly the artists that made vinyl worth having are slowing fading away too.


If you have ever wondered what inspired the album name Disraeli Gears, here is an answer I found posted on the Disraeli Gears website. A site dedicated to the derailleur gears used by bike manufacturers.

"You know how the title came about - Disraeli Gears - yeah? We had this Austin Westminster, and Mick Turner was one of the roadies who’d been with me a long time, and he was driving along and Eric (Clapton) was talking about getting a racing bicycle. Mick, driving, went ‘Oh yeah - Disraeli gears!’ meaning derailleur gears . . . We all just fell over . . . We said that’s got to be the album title."

Ginger Baker remembering 1967

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola: technically not airborne but . . .

Ebola is NOT technically an airborne disease. Airborne diseases float in the air, suspended, carried by air currents. There is no evidence that Ebola is transmitted in this manner. According to Doctors Without Borders:
As long as a patient hasn’t developed symptoms, the risk of contagion is close to zero. Ebola is not an airborne virus like the flu.

For more on this read: Ebola virus may be spread by droplets, but not by an airborne route: what that means.

As long as an infected person is not symptomatic, they are essentially not contagious. Those riding in an airplane or a subway car with an infected, but not symptomatic person, are said to be at essentially no risk. Without the exchange of bodily fluids, there is absolutely no risk of infection.

Unfortunately, the word airborne has other meanings independent from the technical one. Airborne when used by the average person in day-to-day conversation may simply mean propelled through the air, as in: the car went airborne and hit an embankment. An airborne car can travel surprisingly far -- a hundred feet or more.

Most of us would consider big, Ebola-contaminated, droplets propelled through the air by a violently ill patient as being briefly airborne. One can become infected by the Ebola virus by coming in contact with these large, violently expelled droplets. For this reason, medical personnel need to be completely protected. No exposed skin, eyes protected by goggles. Face masks must meet strict standards. And no quibbling over the use of the word airborne.
The following Public Health Agency of Canada bulletin may have been removed from the Web and the posting changed because of the non-technical use of the word "airborne." Personally, I don't think health care workers and others working in close proximity to an Ebola patient want a lecture on the technical meaning of "airborne". They want protection.

If the word airborne adds confusion to a life and death situation, let's use caution when using it. Let's aim for clarity as well as accuracy. Lives depend up it.

"Airborne spread [of the Ebola virus] among humans is strongly suspected . . . "

The above quote is from a pathogen safety data sheet once available from the Public Health Agency of Canada. I understand the sheet has now been modified. I found the sheet containing the warning in the Wayback Machine Internet archives.

Ebola is deadly. Depending upon the strain and other factors it kills anywhere from 25 percent up to 90 percent of those infected. Front-line healthcare workers are at great risk. With two nurses in Texas having now having tested positive for Ebola, it appears the protocols in place in Texas were not up to the standard set by groups with experience fighting Ebola, such as Doctors Without Borders.

A Canadian expert is warning that healthcare personal, nurses for instance, are not being given adequate life-saving protection. Read the story in The London Free Press, the daily paper in London, Ontario, Canada. The experience in Texas seems to give credence to this expert's warning.


Today (Oct. 20th) the Associated Press is carrying a story reporting "revised guidance for health care workers treating Ebola patients. As of now, health care workers will be using protective gear "with no skin showing."

The article also makes clear hospital officials admit masks covering the nose and mouth were originally optional for nurses and others caring for Ebola patients. This may have been partially a result of a misunderstanding caused by the use of the word "airborne" in the warnings about the transmission routes taken by the disease.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids. The virus begins its attack by entering the body through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola.
Think about it: If the person sitting beside you began leaking bodily fluids, or even just sweating profusely, you'd move. If you worked in a hospital, you'd ask for gloves, a mask and other protective gear -- if it was available. Sadly, in West Africa, many hospitals don't have clean, disposable gloves in stock. Nor do they have adequate amounts of other oh-so-necessary medical supplies: Think one-use disposable needles.

Taking the subway in New York? Relax. You're not going to catch Ebola. It is healthcare workers and not subway riders who need to be on guard.

Test your Ebola knowledge. Follow the link.

The following was posted by the CDC but has been taken down for modification. The story was carried by Huffington Post.

This is the html version of the file http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/infections-spread-by-air-or-droplets.pdf.
Google automatically generates html versions of documents as we crawl the web.
Page 1
What’s the difference between infections
spread through the air or by droplets?
Airborne spread happens when a germ floats through the air after a
person talks, coughs, or sneezes. Germs may land in the eyes, mouth, or
nose of another person.
>If a germ is airborne, direct contact with the infected person is NOT
needed for someone else to get sick. Airborne spread diseases include:
chickenpox, tuberculosis.
Droplet spread happens when germs traveling inside droplets that are
coughed or sneezed from a sick person enter the eyes, nose, or mouth of
another person. Droplets travel short distances, less than 3 feet (1 meter)
from one person to another.
A person might also get infected by touching a surface or object that has
germs on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
Droplet spread diseases include: plague, Ebola.
How do I protect myself from getting sick?
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are
not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Cover your cough! Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when
you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Germs spread this way.
Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs,
faucet handles, and toys, since the Ebola virus may live on surfaces for
up to several hours.
Is Ebola airborne?
No. Ebola is not spread through the airborne route nor through water or food.
Is Ebola spread through droplets?
Yes. To get Ebola, you have to directly get body fluids (like pee, poop, spit, sweat, vomit, semen, breast milk) from
someone who has Ebola in your mouth, nose, eyes or through a break in your skin or through sexual contact.
Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola>
patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or
body fluids of sick patients.
Air, food, and water do not carry the Ebola germs.
CS252291-A 10.27.2014 07:54AM
Droplets can contaminate objects
>like doorknobs.
Ebola is spread through droplets.
>Germs like chickpox and TB are
spread through the air.





CS252291-A 10.27.2014 07:54AM
Droplets can contaminate objects
like doorknobs.