Oh Canada!

July 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Canada!  July 1 is a day to celebrate, in a low key way, because Canada is a low-key kind of place.

Have a smoked meat sandwich, with a Labatt Blue to drink and a Beaver Tail for dessert. And don’t forget some maple syrup.





Another BP oil spill

June 10, 2010

OK. It is an oil spill. It does involve BP. Only it isn’t that BP. And it isn’t crude. In fact, it is highly refined.

Our daughter Beth (the BP in the story) returned today from 3 weeks in Israel. Rya asked her to bring back some Israeli olive oil. And not just any olive oil, but olive oil from Kibbutz Yad Mordechai http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yad_Mordechai. We discovered this olive oil (http://www.strauss-group.com/yad-mordechai) on our 2005 trip and stock up whenever we visit.

We equipped Beth with bubble wrap, tape and Ziplock bags. We didn’t give her explicit directions on how to pack.

Beth bought 12 liters of olive oil, as well as 3 or 4 bottles of the kibbutz’s wonderful honey. Yes, you read that correctly – 12 liters.

Her suitcase was seriously overweight, but that was OK. She warned the airline personnel so they could appropriately mark the suitcase to protect the baggage handlers. She paid a weight charge as a result, but that was OK.

When she got to Philadelphia Beth claimed her luggage to change planes and clear customs everything was OK with her luggage.

When we collected her bags in Chicago, however, I noticed a couple of dark spots. Sure enough, we had a serious oil spill. Not “black gold”  or “Texas tea” as in the Beverly Hillbillies theme song, but clear, delicious, wonderfully fragrant. In and among her clothes, some of which she bought in Israel. Oy!

Once we got settled at home, our crack cleanup team sprang into action. Beth pulled everything out of her bag, separating dry from oily. She and Rya carefully treated the clothes with Dawn, the same stuff we (and maybe you) wash our dishes with and animal rescuers use to clean marine mammals’ fur and birds’ feathers. We also had to soak the duffel bag in Dawn, then sprayed it with the garden hose to get out the soap.

Did our rescue operation succeed? We rescued all the clothes. We’ll have to wait and see about the duffel. It’s outside drying and will likely require some more TLC to get all the soap out and make it usable.

We did have one casualty. A second bag Beth had packed with stuff ended up with a big rip. Fortunately, nothing was missing.

So, that is our big disaster. It was well contained and easily abated. No wildlife died, though we had to work hard to keep our dogs away from interesting smells.  In a couple of days, there will probably be no trace of what happened. If only the people of the Gulf Coast could have such an easy time with their BP spill.

Am I Old?

June 7, 2010

As usual, I  took the “L” home from work today. On my first leg of my trip I had a seat. When I switched to the Green Line train I had to stand, which is unusual but not unheard of.

I was standing, reading a book in one hand and holding on to a handrail with the other. A couple of stops out of the Loop a couple of seats opened up as people got off the train.

Someone sat in one of the seats. The other remained empty. I asked the young (an older teenager) woman standing by the seat if she was going to sit down. She said “No” and signaled to me to sit down.

As I took the seat I said to her “I hope you didn’t give me the seat because my gray hair makes me look old.” in mock indignation.  She was kind of flustered but said “No. You are reading a book and thought it might be easier for you to sit.”

As I sat down I noticed a couple of women nearby with big smiles on their faces as they knew that I was pulling this young women’s leg. And I told her so.

Normally, I don’t mind taking the “L” but last week I had a couple of trips where the noise and attitude of some of my fellow travelers became too much. I was glad to have some fun, and make a few other commuters smile.

Another milestone met

May 27, 2010

Yesterday, I had my last cardiac rehab session, 36 of 36.  I am an official graduate with an official certificate.

Now that it is over, I am amazed at how quickly it went. But, to be honest, there were times I thought it would never end.

Life will now return to what it was before my surgery. On Mondays and Wednesdays I can come home right from work, but I do not have a reason to leave early. On Fridays, I am going to be driving again, with various grocery stores as my stops on the way home.

My only concern is trying to get exercise during the week. I got really used to three hard-working sessions and don’t want to turn into a lazy sloth. I wonder if filling the shopping cart full of stuff and pushing it up and down the aisles is the same as 40 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical? That is rhetorical. I know the answer, unfortunately.

I never intended to use this blog to talk about stuff like shopping, but I recently had such an amazing experience that I wanted to write about it.

Rya gave me a couple of gift cards that she had received so I could treat myself to some new clothes.

I needed some new shoes but because of the card that she was given, it could only be used in a limited number of retailers, although both online and in real stores.

I ended up buying a pair of shoes from Zappos, and it is my experience with them that I wanted to write about.

I have always been reluctant to by shoes on the Internet or by mail order. I am always concerned that they won’t be comfortable or won’t look good. And, I don’t want to go into a bricks and mortar place, take up a salesperson’s time, and then buy my shoes online.

But, this time I didn’t have a lot of choice. I tried on a pair of shoes at a local retailer and then went on line. I found another style by the same company on Zappos and ordered them. It was a very easy process. They have free shipping, and free return shipping if necessary.

Well, return shipping was necessary as the shoes didn’t look as good on as they did on the site. Again, it was a wonderfully easy thing to do. Go online, fill out the necessary info, print out the return label, stick it on the box, and bring it to a local UPS shipping outlet. I got my money back, no questions asked, no hassle, and no extra cost.

A couple of days later I even got a reward! For returning merchandise? I was upgraded to Zappos VIP status. This gives me free overnight shipping.

Last night, I decided to order a pair of running shoes. I sat down at my computer at about 8PM and ordered my shoes. I figured they would be shipped today and arrive tomorrow.

When I got home tonight, there they were, waiting for me. Think about it. Order at 8PM. Get it next day. And at no charge! Wow!

I’m still reluctant to buy shoes without trying them on, but with a company like Zappos the risk is nil. All you might waste is some time.

If you want to read more about Zappos the company go to http://about.zappos.com/zappos-story/fulfillment-facility

Drill, Baby, Drill

May 18, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill.

British Petroleum? Louisiana? Oil? Gas? Pollution? Capping leaks? Nah! Caps on Teeth! Old caps that break down, develop holes and  cavities. Almost like oil wells, only nowhere near as newsworthy.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been having pain on and off in my mouth. Luckily it started just before a regularly scheduled, routine, 6 month checkup. My dentist found a little hole in a cap. A week later, he repaired the tooth. I hoped all would be well, but he warned me that I might continue to experience problems.

Turns out I did, experience problems, that is. I continued to have pain on and off. Monday morning I called the dentist’s office to ask what to do. I spoke with the office manager and decided to hold off a little longer. Monday turned out to be a good day. No real pain. Some pressure but nothing bad. I thought things were getting better.

Then it happened. On my way home from the gym I bit into an apple. I bit, and chewed on the side of my mouth opposite from the problem tooth. A little piece broke off and was immediately attracted to that problem tooth. It just scooted right across my mouth! I experienced an immediate, sharp, pain. You would have thought I bit onto something hard. The pain didn’t quit for hours.  Somehow, I got to sleep.

When I woke on Tuesday I was pain free, but real concerned. I called the dentist first thing.

By noon I was in the chair at the endodontist. He did all kinds of poking, prodding, pushing, shocking, to see what was going on. They took X-rays.  Turns out the tooth with the problem was not the one just worked on. To be sure he knew what he was getting into, the dentist did a 3-D X-ray and found a pretty good size infection hiding from the normal views. (Did you know about 3-d x-rays? It’s another big, fancy piece of equipment that I had never seen before.)

So, away he went with all manner of drills, files and other equipment. He occasionally asked the assistant for an “excavator”. I had visions of a little guy in a piece of miniature road construction equipment moving around my mouth, digging a big hole to get rid of crud. About an hour after starting, the first phase of care was done. My mouth was sore, but closed.

So, why write about my dental problems?

When you have had other serious health issues, you worry. Don’t think it didn’t cross my mind that the pain was due to some really serious medical problem, rather than a bunch of old fillings and caps and stuff from the time before fluoride and floss and stuff like that as a regular part of our lives.

And the thought that I had a possibly “hidden” infection that could go untreated was another nightmare, as that was the likely cause of the valve problem that required surgery.

In the grand scheme of things, my problems are pretty small but they are mine and I’ll do my best not to let them get blown up out of proportion.

I am now 31 sessions into Cardiac Rehab. Only 5 more to go. Ever time I go to rehab I get a strong reminder of the side benefits of my surgery. My resting heart rate has dropped. It is routinely in the low 60’s, and sometimes it goes into the upper 50’s.  This is great because it means my heart is not working as hard as before.  One of the goals of rehab is to get your heart rate up, and increase the maximum rate over time. My problem is that my heart has gotten stronger, and it is actually harder to get my heart rate up to the target. After exercise, it also takes a long time to get it back down to a near-resting rate. Unless it drops to a low-enough rate, I can’t move on to weight training or to hit the showers. I try to will it down, but that just seems to keep it high. I guess I shouldn’t complain as it is a problem lots of people wish they would have.

I will soon experience another benefit. I am due for a colonoscopy in late June as a follow up to my colon cancer., which was 6 years ago.  If you have had a colonoscopy (and you should have one if you are 50+) you know how horrible the prep is. You get to drink a horrible-tasting concoction to clean out your system and give the gastroenterologist a good view of you gut. In recent years, less-terrible tasting alternatives have hit the market. When I had my last colonoscopy I wasn’t allowed the new “improved” stuff because of my heart condition. This time I was hoping my cardiologist would give me the OK. I sent an email hoping for, but not expecting,  her OK. When she sent me her email saying I could go for the “good stuff” I let out a cheer.  It was like winning the lottery! Of course, getting another clean bill of health is  the outcome we all want.