Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Pogo Stick Saga of 2014

My daughter wanted a pogo-stick for Christmas.  So, as the dutiful father I scoured the Thanksgiving weekend  ads and found one for sale.  We were visiting my in-laws in Pocatello, Idaho and once I found one for sale I cajoled my father-in-law into going shopping with me.
We dutifully drove to the rundown Kmart on the North end of town, found our prize, and moved to the checkout counter.

Would I like to buy a year warranty for $3?
Well, my kids are going to beat this thing to death, and if any part breaks for any reason in the next year they’ll give me a new one.  SOUNDS GREAT!

The pogo stick box was way too long to fit in a single bag so they teller put one bag on the top, another on the bottom, and I slipped the receipt in the bag and walked out with my prize.
WHAM!  Gale force winds slammed against me as I sprinted into the parking lot trying to keep the pogo stick from flying out of my hands.  The bag on top went flying off into the air, then the wind struck the pogo stick and sent it toppling out of the bag on bottom.  I bent down to pick up my daughters Christmas gift and saw the receipt fly out of the bag and skid across the parking lot. 

I secured the pogo stick under one arm and started running after the receipt.  Just as I was about to step on it the wind whisked it out from under my foot.  I started doing a Charlie Chaplin imitation as I slammed my feet over and over again onto the pavement trying to pin down a receipt that kept evading my shoe.  My father in law was doubled over in a full on belly laugh at this point.
I tried at least 12 times to step on the stupid receipt as I chased it all the way across the parking lot until I saw it fly up and over the curb and into the middle of 4 lane traffic. 

The road was VERY busy as it was the biggest shopping weekend of the year.
I watched the receipt flip and float and then land in the gutter on the other side of the street. 
It paused.
Maybe, just maybe I could get to it.  I started to step into traffic and try to sprint across the street when I saw the receipt flip up and over the curb and into the corner of a large stone wall.
It stopped.
The wind was holding it prisoner in the corner.  My prey was trapped!

I ran across the road and just as I stepped over the far curb I panicked as the receipt flipped and flew and blew into the entrance of some large facility.  I looked up and saw that this facility had a large parking lot.  The entrance was foreboding with huge car destroying blockades in the road and a guard house   between the entrance and exit lanes.

The receipt had blown just over one of these metal blockades on the side of the guard house.
The blockade was only about 4 feet high. I could probably hop over really quick and grab the receipt and hop back before the guard ever noticed.
Besides would the guard really care?  This facility couldn’t be THAT worried about security could it?
 I looked at the wall and saw three Big Bold Letters: 


What were the chances? My receipt infiltrated the FBI?  COME ON!!

What’s the penalty for hopping the barricade into an FBI facility?  I didn’t really want to find out. 
I saw the receipt start to flip up in the wind and I took the pogo stick out from under my arm and extended it over the barricade and pinned the receipt against the pavement.
 I couldn’t let it blow away. 
Now I was standing just outside the guardhouse at an FBI building with my arms over their barricade holding a receipt against the ground by means of a pogo stick.

By this time my father in law had come and parked in the entrance and was walking towards me.
Just then the guard looked up from her television and saw one man reaching over the barricade while another walked up behind him.

She ran out of the guard house yelling at us and trying to ascertain the seriousness of the situation.

I must have looked ridiculous as I stood, grasping a pogo stick like my life depended on it over the barricade.  

She questioned my about the receipt, about the pogo stick, and about where I had bought it.


My father-in-law could have been helpful, but instead he just kept laughing and laughing as the guard finally bent down, picked up my windblown and tattered receipt, and handed it to me and let me pull my pogo stick back over the barricade.

My daughter better LOVE this gift.  She has NO IDEA what I went through... 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: The Happiness Advantage

Grade: B

Riveting research gets a little stifled by the author’s pride.

Did you know Shawn Achor went to Harvard? 
No really. I’m quite certain of it.  He only mentioned it about 27 times in this book, so it was kind of subtle, but if you read between the lines you too can pick up this hidden gem.
I promise not to mention it again – because it was the only glaring annoyance in this otherwise useful book.

This book could also be called: The Placebo Effect.
It is very very VERY real.  People dismiss the effect of thought on our physical body – and it’s HUGE.

Thought is what leads to hormone release.  Perception of fear releases adrenaline.  Perception of happiness releases Dopamine.  This book discusses Oxytocin and Cortisol and many other hormones and it points out the absolutely real physiological effects of each.

Doing the exact same physical activity, with the thought that you are exercising – leads to more weight loss and increased muscle gain.  HORMONES matter.  THOUGHT matters.
Being “happy” can kill pain better than narcotics. Exercising can cure depression better than antidepressants. 
Being Happy decreases heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and many other PHYSICAL diseases.
This is not about positive affirmations or “think a happy thought.”  This book is not Peter Pan advice to help us fly away from tragic lives.
This book is science.  Research study after research study proving that our mental outlook on life makes a HUGE difference in our physical health, our finances, our family, our friends, our entire existence.

This book is very worthwhile – because the author doesn’t just say “Get Happy” – He gives you specific tasks and practices to accomplish it.

My favorite chapter was “Principle #6:  The 20 Second Rule”
It talks all about "activation energy."
It takes very little energy to keep a signal running along a nerve.  But it takes a burst of energy to start the flow.  You have to provide enough “activation energy” to start it.  Kind of like getting  a car rolling on a flat road.  You have to put in a ton of energy to push the car from a dead stop but once it’s going it doesn’t take much to keep it going.
It is the same way with habits.  Habits are very hard to start.  Forming them can be a nightmare.
The answer – DECREASE the activation energy.  Make it as simple as possible to do the habit each day.
What ever you want to do: put it in your natural path.  Take away all need for decision making. Make it harder NOT to do the new thing.

If you want to exercise first thing in the morning – sleep in your gym clothes.
If you want to learn to play the guitar – keep the guitar in the middle of the room where you will almost run into it every time you walk through your house.
The same is true for habits you want to STOP.  Make it much much HARDER to do the thing you want to stop.
If you check your e-mail WAY too often and you want to stop – delete your shortcut, and don’t let the computer remember your password.
Make it require time, energy, and a whole lot of work to do the WRONG thing.

This chapter is genius.  The entire book is good.

I recommend it.

Here are two of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Common sense is not common action." - p. 146

"Coercing employees into awkward icebreakers or forced bonding activities, like making everyone at a meeting share something about their private lives, only breeds disconnection and mistrust. Better that these moments happen organically - which they will if the environment is right. The best leaders give their employees the space and time to let moments of social connection develop on their own" - p. 193

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Industrial Cleaner being inserted in your food!

Saleratus (Chemical formula NaHCO3) is finding its way into more and more products you use on a daily basis.

Saleratus is a powerful cleaner used to in Silver Polish, Tile Scrub, Drain Cleaner and more.  It is an odorless white powder which is very hard to detect.

It is such a powerful absorbent that it can eliminate noxious odors, masking spoiled foods. 

It is likely in your cupboard and refrigerator right now, preventing you from smelling which foods have gone bad. 

Saleratus is dangerous for many reasons.  

It is well known for its explosive properties and is commonly used by amateur bomb makers who can’t get a hold of regulated combustibles.
Saleratus is discovered through fracking, mining, and other corrosive means.  It can also be made in a lab by combining ammonia with sodium chloride and carbon dioxide.  

Due to its abundance it is now a cheap additive used in your food.

Most commonly it is being found in breads, cakes, muffins and even your morning pancakes.

There are even reports of its use in toothpaste!

Find out more at this Wikipedia page: 

First get educated, then join in the fight to ban Saleratus from our food!

(it is currently being marketed under many names so as to not be easily identified.  It may also be listed as: sodium hydrogencarbonate, nahcolite, sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ativan causes Alzheimer's. (Xanax and Valium too!)

I treat people with anxiety and sleep disorders all the time.  I have seen many people who take the medications daily.  I even have plenty of friends who have told me they take Xanax or Ativan or some other "benzo " like Valium, Klonopin, Restoril, etc...

If you've taken daily doses of one of these meds for 180 days (6 months), your risk of Alzheimer's may now be 84% higher.

Yeah.  I know.  FREAKY!

It doesn't matter if those 180 days were all together in a 6 months block, or spread out over 5 years.  The increased risk of Alzhemier's is the same.

It wasn't a small study that gave me these numbers.  The researchers looked at 10,000 people!

1,800 of them had Alzheimer's disease, the other 8,200 didn't.  Most of them were about 80 years old.

The researchers did everything possible did avoid "confounding factors" like the fact that some people who are developing Alzhemier's but don't yet have a diagnosis may be prescribed these medications for their symptoms.

So the researchers didn't count any benzo use in the 5 years before diagnosis, it had to be in the five years before that.

Short term benzo use was not linked to increased Alzheimer's rates at all.  0% increase for people who took benzo medication for less than 90 days.

90-180 days of benzo medication use caused a 32% increase.

180+ days of benxo use caused the 84% increase.

Overall there is a 51% increase in Alzhemier's diagnoses among those who took benzodiazepines.
Having said all of that.  I am NOT telling people to stop taking their Ativan or other benzo medications.  I am not your doctor, I don't know your situation, and stopping these meds cold turkey could kill you.

AND - you should know about this risk.  You should know that 5 millions Americans have Alzhemier's disease.  An overall increase of 51% doesn't mean one or two more people have Alzhemiers because of their anxiety pills.  It means an extra 1.5 Million Americans have Alzhemier's because of their anxiety/sleep/epilepsy medications.

Now You Know.

Give the Doc a Lollipop

What if you could make your doctor faster at finding your diagnosis and treating you?

I mean it. 

What if you could do something that would make it more likely for your doctor to diagnose you correctly, and get you on your way with the correct treatment sooner?

You can. 

Give the Doc a lollipop.

Seriously - Give your doctor a compliment, a tiny piece of candy, something to make the doc happy in the moment he/she sees you.

That's what researchers did and the results were impressive.  They gave doctors a patient summary to read over and diagnose.  They handed one group of doctors a wrapped piece of candy before the test, not to be eaten right then, just to save for later whenever the doc wanted to eat it.

The other group got nothing - just the case summary.

The doctors who were given a piece of candy knew the right diagnosis twice as fast as the "no candy" group.  The "candy docs" were also less likely to get stuck thinking it was one diagnosis and be unwilling to consider other options.  They didn't feel anchored by their first assumption.  The candy docs were more willing to keep options open and search for the right diagnosis, rather than just try to prove their first instinct correct.  And they found the right answer TWICE as fast!

This little study re-affirms what we already know.  People do better work when they are happy.  So instead of focusing on the deficits and problems and faults of your doctors, your kids school teachers, your mechanic, your grocery store checker, etc...  Make them happy and they'll do better work.

Better for you and better for them.

Give the doc a lollipop, it's as simple as that.

(study quoted in The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, page 47)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Review: Walden

Inspiring and Deceiving

Reviewing this book is complicated.  If I had written the review yesterday it would have been mostly negative.  I would have compared it to Atlas Shrugged: a few good facts that are oversimplified and mis-applied to everything, surrounded by hundreds of pages of boring monotony.

Today I have quite a different view.  This book is a glimpse, a pause, an alternative perspective that is useful and applicable.

Let me explain.

The problem was in my initial assumptions.  I've heard of Walden and Thoreau many times in my life.  I thought it was about a poor author who decided to stop fighting economic hardship and instead go live on the side of a little pond in the woods by himself so he could sit and think and contemplate and write down his thoughts in a journal.  Then he eventually published what he learned while living in solitude in a little shack by a pond.

Then I found out that Henry David Thoreau studied at Harvard, and he could live by the pond for free because his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson owned the land.  Thoreau didn't live in solitude, but walked in to town on most summer days and visited friends, neighbors, local farmers, and also had regular visitors to his little self-built cabin.  He used tools that he found, like an axe and a boat, and the rest he bought used.

His book is NOT telling people to go live off the land by themselves.  He isn't recommending solitude or that society would work if everyone only lived with what they need.

His book is about an experiment. 

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately.. and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived...I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life."
"I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there.  Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one."

Thoreau never said that living off the land by himself was the best way to live.  He said he wished to reduce life to it's most simple form and see what he could learn.  After he had learned it - he moved on to a new form of life.

That is where I see the value:  The lessons he taught are to be applied to the life we wish to live.  We aren't supposed to abandon society and ambition and family and all comforts to live the most simple life possible - but we ARE supposed to see the superfluous parts of our lives.  See where we have excess, where we are indebting ourselves, and what we can do without so we can simply enjoy life.

This book is not a page turner.  The first 10 pages were great, and the next 20 really were monotonous.  It was worth it nonetheless.  This book is worth reading, because it made me think and increased my understanding.  What more could I want from a book?

The quote which made me think the most was this:
“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”  

That made me realize that med-school didn't cost 4 years, or $200,000.  Medical school will have cost me at least 15 years of life when I pay off the last debt.  It will cost most doctors 30 years of life. 
Not that we don't live while in medical school and internship and residency and fellowship and practice - but we don't live free.  We are still bound by medical school and it's debt and it cost me 15 years. 

Was it worth it?

My favorite quotes:
“As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail.”

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”  

"The number of those who own a shelter is a very small fraction of the whole.  The rest pay an annual tax."

“Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe.”

“Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.”  

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”

“My greatest skill in life has been to want but little”  
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
"The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is."
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

"I do not speak to the well-employed... but mainly to the mass of men who are discontented, and idly complaining of the hardness of their lot or of the times, when they might improve them."

"While civilization has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them. It has created palaces, but it was not so easy to create noblemen and kings."

“As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs.”

"Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only.  Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: Unbroken


There is no other way to describe this book.

I remember WWII History in High School.  I learned all about Hitler and D-day and the battle throughout Europe and the concentration camps and Hitler's death and the victory and then the dividing up of Germany among the Allies, and Russia and the subsequent Berlin wall etc...

Then I learned about the Band of Brothers of Easy Company and more and more about the European side of the war.

What happened in the Pacific?
I knew that we were bombed at Pearl Harbor, then Japan tried to take over all the islands in the pacific, many battles were fought, then we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the war was over.

Seriously - that's what I knew about the battle in the Pacific.  I heard names like Iwo Jima, and Midway, but I had no idea what happened there.

Now - I'm astonished at my own ignorance.

I never knew how indoctrinated the Japanese were by their leaders.  They were convinced that it was better to die than surrender.  Any American who surrendered would really prefer death. 

While less than 0.01% of Japanese POWs captures by the USA died, 37% of American POWs died in Japanese camps.  The Japanese completely ignored the laws regarding the treatment of POWs.

It is sadly understandable now why the POW's in Japan were starved - the Japanese citizens themselves didn't have food either.  All their resources went to the war,  ALL.  All young men were enlisted.  All food taken for the war.
The Japanese were determined to die fighting, down to the very last child.

As I read I came to believe that the most humane thing the American's ever did in the war, was use the most horrific weapon ever created. 

Dropping the Atomic bomb saved hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives.

This book tells the amazing story of perseverance of Louis Zamperini, but what I learned was the history I had never heard. 

Many will read this book and enjoy seeing Zamperini prepare to break the 4 minute mile.  He was running 4:42 per mile in high school and was running under 4:10 in college.  That boy could run!

Some readers will be amazed to learn of the tragic loss of life in training accidents:

Almost 15,000 American soldiers died stateside in aircraft accidents.

I think most everyone will agree with what the POW's learned:

"Louis and Phil learned a dark truth known to the doomed in Hitler's death camps, the slaves of the American South, and a hundred other generations of betrayed people. Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen."

Dignity.  We can be deprived of many things in life, but to lose our dignity is to lose our very soul.

This book was excellent.  I recommend it.