Today I picked this up. Now it sits in my dark kitchen waiting for me to have time to start playing with it.

This was partly prompted by the cold weather and partly by an experience last summer on the Appalachian Trail near Mount Graylock in western Massachusetts, the highest point in the state  [3491 feet–1064 m]. To make a long story short, once I got to the trailhead, I found out the trail I had picked was rated  “aggressive” on a scale of “moderate,” “strenuous,” and “aggressive”.  My scheduled didn’t permit any changes, so I decided to try the trail.  Forty minutes into the hike, I was quite winded, and after monitoring my heart rate, I decided against continuing and chose a more level branch of the trail to explore.

Today I had a similar experience carrying the exercise bike up the stairs. On a level surface I can and do walk 4 to 5 hours at a time, but I can’t seem to do hills anymore.

Can I push past this?  There is only one way to find out– by training.  It has now been more than four years since I quit smoking, and my breathing has improved some.  Can I go further?  There is certainly no literature on the subject that I have ever been able to find; probably it’s not something that can be packaged and sold.    If there is a way, I will have to find it on my own.  I think the way is through aerobic activity.

The machine is a good one–it came from a physical therapy clinic that was disbanded.  The handles can be used to exercise the arms independently of the feet for a more strenuous workout; the fan inside the wheel provides resistance proportionate to the level of exertion.  I’m thinking to set up a little computer with language tapes next to it.

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Suburbia walk

The snow promised for Thanksgiving Day hasn’t materialized. Yes, that’s a squirrel on the ground under the bird feeder.

Time for a walk.

Mostly the streets are the same concrete surface.

This area of Illinois is somewhat south of Chicago and enjoys a slightly longer growing season, as well as some unfamiliar (and familiar) plants.

Sugar gumballs.

The odd fruits of the Osage Orange, a shrub useful for non-decaying fence posts and hedgerows. The wood’s high oil, wax and silica content mean it will take a polish well, but is rarely used for woodworking since the silica also dulls saw blades and makes the sawdust toxic–you need a dust mask to work it.

Finally there is a boring park,…

…and a boring gated community.

After several days of eating someone else’s low sodium cardiac diet, not to mention having access to an indoor bicycle machine, I feel great.  But this is not really my milieu; I don’t feel at home here.  Nice for a day or two, no longer.

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Popcorn Lung

When I was driving through Missouri last week I saw a billboard for an attorney advertising for people who had worked in a popcorn factory and were now experiencing respiratory problems. (No, I didn’t take a picture.)  Now I have discovered the reason. An unusual condition called bronchiolitis obliterans can be caused by breathing the fumes of an artificial butter flavoring called diacetyl  that has been used extensively in microwave popcorn. Now it appears that the CDC, FDA, OSHA,  and the EPA all knew about it–the EPA did a study in 2003 and gave the results to private industries, although the information was not released to the public. Once the lawsuits against the private companies fall into place, I suspect there will be some questions about maladministration in the regulatory agencies to add to case histories of disasters like the Vandalia mine and the Challenger explosions.

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Jesse Junior’s Powerpoint Presentation

Here are the powerpoint notes for Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s August 18, 2009 town hall meeting (click to enlarge).

Further information provided by the representative’s office includes a link to the White House “reality check” page that addresses arguments against the bill and a link to the House Ways and Means Committee. The committee also has on its pages a more detailed description (that is more interesting, for me at least) of the three versions of the bill that were passed out of the three committees (Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor, Ways and Means) that now have to be reconciled, as well as other more technical information about revenue provisions and summary documents.

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Jesse Jackson Junior’s Town Hall Meeting on HR 3200 August 18, 2009

Illinois 2nd DistrictCongress is out of session, legislators have returned to their districts, and all over the country town hall meetings on health care bill HR 3200 have been disrupted by demonstrations.  Not here.  This is the  town hall meeting of Jesse Jackson Junior, held August 18, 2009 in Chicago at the Sheldon Heights Church of Christ at 11249 S. Halsted. The meeting was quite sedate, at least by Chicago standards, and the participants demonstrated huge support for what is being called The Public Option.


For information on the canned presentation, the powerpoint is supposed to be on J3’s official website, but so far it hasn’t been posted. I have a hard copy; if anyone really want to see it, leave a comment and I will post it. (Note: I have now posted it here.)

Crappy terminology:

I have never seen an issue discussed in terms that are so hard to understand.  There’s “single payer”, “the public option”, and then there’s the poll (with no comments possible) on the representative’s website “Should health care reform legislation include a federal government-run insurance coverage option?”  Say, what?  Option??  Shouldn’t it be mandatory, with everyone included? Like the Rev. Jackson said, “Everybody in and nobody out.”

For information on “single payer” try Physicians for a National Health Care Program.  Warning: no two people who have looked at this website can agree on what “single payer” is.  What it isn’t is getting rid of all insurance companies and having the government pay all health insurance claims.  I think.  Or is it?

Some people had a sign “Medicare for All”. People do understand that slogan and respect that system (unlike Medicaid), but the slogan doesn’t seem to be getting much play.

The videos, with times:

Video 1 (0:40):  Outside the church, the two demonstrators with pictures of Obama with the Hitler mustache are LaRouchies.

Video 2 (1:57):  A short speech, sorry, I didn’t catch who is speaking, but I pan the crowd to give an idea of what it looked like.

Video 3 (0:20):  Rev. Jesse Jackson, the father of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., is introduced and takes the stage.

Video 4 (2:00):  Rev. Jackson speaks,

“Nobody in, nobody out.”
Insurance and pharmaceutical companies: “They must not take up all our space at the table.”
“If you like what you got, keep it…expansion.”
“The working poor — don’t have, the very poor — don’t have, our children — don’t have.”
“We all should be in and none of us should be out.”
“Everybody in and nobody out.”
…as I cut off the camera, the son begins to walks across the stage and the camera starts it’s stopping sequence.  After the camera cuts, they embrace.

Video 5 (7:05):  The congressman answers 2 questions from the crowd (the questioner gets a mic at 1:35) about 1)whether preventative medicine is included 2) whether the plan is the same health care that members of congress receive.

Video 6 (3:53):  Answering a question about coops and about the Public Option.

Video 7 (1:24): Answering a question from someone representing a diabetes group about preexisting conditions. (Techie note: The focus is bad here.  It is the notorious problem some Canon cameras have with the lens that the manufacturer has been slow to recognize.  This camera is a Canon Powershot A560 that I paid about $125 for.  It did the same thing a year ago.  Here I just power cycle the camera, and it seems to be okay again.)

Video 8 (2:56): Answer to a question about whether the congressman would support the bill without the Public Option portion.  The congressman answers 1) “should health care be a commodity?” and the “right” to health care as opposed to the “right” to shoot and 2) the “Tenth Amendment Argument” that conservatives use against bills for the general welfare.

Video 9 (0:29): At this point the only remaining questions are about the Public Option, so the congressman asks for applause directed at the cameras to indicate support for the Public Option.

Video 10 (0:58): outside the church after the meeting.  The Larouchies picture of Obama-with-Hitler-mustache is no longer visible as a large handwritten banner supporting the Public Option is unfurled in front of it. In the parking lot, Rev. Jackson gives an interview.  In the sanctuary, the congressman is now on the Larry King show being broadcast live from another city.

Video 11 (0:20): A demonstrator with a “Jesus hearts public option” sign.

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Today I went out for a walk with the idea of taking a picture of a snarling dog.  I don’t know where I got that image (although I was set upon by a dog pack– last week). All the dogs I met today were friendly, unusual for this city where they are kept for protection. One dog even let me pet it.

Then I found the windfall apples.  These apples don’t look like much but they are excellent for cooking.  Today I beat the squirrels to them,  but not the worms.  After I cut the wormholes out, there will be about a third of the apples left.  But it will be delicious–good for ice cream or oatmeal.

Reminds me of how my father taught me to eat green apples years ago.  You take a bite, then look at the apple.  If you see half a worm, you spit it out.


So now the real question is, what is going on in my life that I expect to see snarls and not windfalls? It seems like the world really is conspiring to shower me with happiness. Remind me to read this week’s

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Lumbar Stabilization

I can never find these exercises when I’m looking for them. They’re for lower back pain. I got the exercises back when I was working with hospice, moving people in and out of wheelchairs and beds, in order to keep working at the same job where I had been injured because I really, really needed that $5.25 an hour to pay tuition.

Now if I could find exercises that work for runner’s knee. They say if you do 3000-5000 reps of knee extensions with ankle weights you will start to see improvement, but after doing all those reps, I’ve seen only about 20% improvement. Also, that’s a lot of reps if you also plan on having a life.

The back exercises are (in groups of 10 repetitions):

1) lay on back with knees bent and tilt abdomen, pressing the small of the back into the mattress
2) same position, push torso straight up while keeping feet on the ground
3) this is really three different exercises, all from the same position as before. a) rotate pelvis from one side to the other while keeping feet on the ground. b) lift knee at a 90 degree angle and return to ground. c) or instead (for more weight) extend the leg straight up in the air each time.
4) same position, partial sit up with hands stretched to knees and shoulders off the the floor.
5) more advanced–on hands and knees, extend leg straight out and back, repeat with the other leg. Ultimately you want to be able to extend opposite arm and let straight out simultaneously, but I’ve never been able to do this one. Never mind, when it comes to getting rid of the back pain, the other exercises work just fine for me.

And here’s an odd note on one of the pages:

Piriformas stretch

  • on back
  • knees bent
  • bring foot up
  • pressure on knee to opposite shoulder (I think this means to press the knee diagonally)
  • stretches back of hip


Yikes! I forgot the best exercise of all, but I don’t have a picture of it.  I do have a mental picture of the immediate pain relief it gives. Instructions: lay on stomach with knees bent at 90 degree angle (feet straight up in the air). Lift leg straight up in the air from the hip–the knee raised off the bed as far as possible, for me about an inch).  You will feel the sore muscles in the lower back contract, then start to stretch out and relax. I’ll try to make a drawing of this later. If you only do one exercise, this is the one. (Of course, YMMV)

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Is our food safe yet?

This is just WRONG.

First they thought it was the tomatoes.

Then after months and months of seeing letters about Salmonella in tomatoes posted in supermarkets and fast food chains, they decided it wasn’t the tomatoes after all.  But not before the tomato industry was destroyed for the season.  Now they say it was the jalapeno peppers.  Really?  No matter, I have both tomatoes and jalapenos in the garden.

It used to be that America had safe food and safe water.  That’s what made us different from other countries.  Anyone who has ever gotten a dose of Montezuma’s revenge while enjoying Mexico’s beaches, or a touch of fever after eating the wild boar in Kathmandu can appreciate America’s tradition of eating food without having to take antibiotics afterwards. But all that has changed now.

Where is the government that used to protect our food?

Oh, yeah, that’s right. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Secretary Mike Leavitt is busy these days trying to get contraception redefined as abortion.

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West Nile Virus speads under Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt

Last night my neighbor told me she was keeping the children inside because West Nile Virus had just been discovered in several of Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods, including this one.  Just a few streets over, they still didn’t have electric services restored after the heavy storms and rains that have swept through in the last few days.  And now, with more  standing water in the alleys and nearby nature preserves, we’re in for even more mosquitoes.  Sick, diseased mosquitoes.

Getting infected with West Nile isn’t like catching a cold either. Since the first two dead cows in 2001 confirmed that West Nile had entered the state, 94 people have died from the disease, just in Illinois.  While the epicenter of West Nile deaths has move westward form Illinois to Colorado to California, a hot spot remains in urban Chicago.

When I lived in Jordan back in 2000, there was an outbreak of West Nile virus in Israel just across the border, a 40-minute cab ride away.  I saw notices in the newspaper, films of mosquitoes on channel 2  (the only channel I could pull in), and after dusk chemical trucks spraying the streets on either side of Abdali bus station in central Amman.  Nobody died from West Nile in Jordan.

In the last 7 years, West Nile virus has entered this country and spread like wildfire, killing 94 people and preventing children from playing outdoors in the summer.  Where is our government?  In the past we have seen the federal government take the lead in controlling and even wiping out numerous diseases like influenza and polio.  It used to be that fearing mosquitoes was something that happened in third world malaria prone areas like Africa.  Where is the federal government now?  Oh, yeah, that’s right.  They’re busy trying to impose their religion on everybody else by trying to redefine contraceptives as abortion.

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Bush Department of Health and Human Services tries to re-write contraception laws

The Bush administration’s Department of Health and Human Services is attempting to redefine abortion to include common contraception methods such as the pill. The legislation is being written now. The proposed legislation could have sweeping effects on women’s health services and could prevent victims of sexual assault from getting emergency contraception.

According to the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA)

…the draft rules propose to re-define abortion to include most modern forms of contraception, a radical new definition that directly contradicts the definitions of pregnancy ascribed to by the American Medical Association, the British Medical Association, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, among other leading medical authorities. Defining “abortion” in this manner will limit access to the full range of comprehensive family planning services for women and men most in need of them – the low-income and uninsured beneficiaries of programs like Title X and Medicaid.

Moreover, by potentially invalidating a number of hard-won state laws that protect women’s access to contraceptive services, the draft regulations would be a major step backwards for women’s health. The very laws described as “the problem” in the draft regulations, like the twenty-seven state laws that require equity in prescription coverage for contraceptives, and the eleven state laws requiring the provision of emergency contraception to rape victims in the emergency room – are common-sense, compassionate provisions that are broadly supported by a majority of Americans.

These new regulations could severely limit access to counseling, education, contraception and preventive health services for those who need it most, low-income and uninsured women and men. Americans – including the nine in ten who support federal funding for access to family planning services for those who cannot afford them…

To oppose this legislation, you can send an email message through the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) |here| and send a message to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt through HillPac |here|.