Sunday, June 30, 2013

Taking Care of Yourself in High Heat

Chris Carlson/AP

Today is Sunday, June 30, 2013.

The heat wave continues in the West.

In the photo, tourist Cheng Jia from China posed next to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley National Park on Friday.  I have trouble imagining what 128˚F feels like, but at least the humidity in Death Valley is low.  Dry heat is much, much easier to deal with than heat plus humidity.

Lots of record temperatures are being recorded this summer.  The record high temp of all time on earth is 134˚F in Death Valley, California, on July 10, 1913, just short of 100 years ago.  No one will be very surprised if the Death Valley record is broken this summer.

I've talked about heat before.  Everyone's body is a little different in the amount of heat it can take, based on how used to the heat your body is.  There are basically four factors to keep in mind when talking about heat stress. They are temperature, humidity, radiant heat (from the sun or from a furnace, for example, and wind speed.

Wind speed tends to make the air temperature seem cooler to the human body, which is why the weatherman talks about the "wind chill factor" in the winter.  We all know the power of a cooling breeze in the heat of summer.  That's why it's important, if you don't have air conditioning, to at least have a fan to keep air moving around you.

Heat Index Chart: Temperature in Degrees Fahrenheit
Humidity (the relative amount of moisture in the air) tends to make the air temperature seem warmer to the human body, which is why the weatherman talks about the "heat index" in the summer. Besides lowering the air temperature in a room, air conditioning tends to reduce the humidity in the air.  Some people also run dehumidifiers in their homes to deal with excess humidity.  Since dehumidifiers literally pull the water right out of the air, it's important to check your machine often to dump out the water collected in the tray.

 As you can see from the chart produced by the National Weather Service, even at a fairly low relative humidity (40%), caution should be used when the temperature goes above 80˚F (26.6˚C).   The humidity in Furnace Creek, CA, was only about 8% when the picture above was taken.

Radiant heat is also a factor.  We all know that it's much hotter in direct sunlight than it is in the shade.  The expression "100 degrees in the shade" reflects the wisdom that if it's hot in the shade, it's even hotter where the sun is shining.  Firefighters deal with radiant heat from direct exposure to flames in their work.  To protect from radiant heat, a source of shade is essential.  Protective and reflective clothing is also important.

The human body has three ways of defending itself from heat: breathing, sweating, and changing the blood flow.

When it's hot, blood must be circulated to the skin,  which increases skin temperature.The body can then give off some of its heat.  If you're doing heavy work, the body must also make sure plenty of blood gets to the muscles, which means less blood can go to the skin.

Sweating helps the body cool off, but only if the humidity is low enough to allow the sweat to evaporate.  The water and salts lost through sweating must be replaced.

It's important to know the signs of the various levels of heat stress and what to do about them.

Heat rash is the least dangerous heat stress condition.  When the humidity is so high that sweat cannot evaporate, the sweat glands become plugged, and cannot function, and a rash can occur.  The rash will look like small pink or red bumps on the skin,  and the skin will itch or feel prickly.  Getting out of the direct sun is the best cure for this.  Bathing, drying the skin and resting in a cool place will eventually make the rash go away.  Wear loose, cotton clothing, and use lotion to ease the pain or itching.

Fainting, or heat syncope, can happen when blood vessels in the skin and lower part of the body become enlarged.  Blood pools in the legs, reducing the amount of blood to the brain.  The person needs to lie down to restore blood flow to the brain.  To avoid this condition, if you must be on your feet in the heat, keep moving, rather than just standing still.

The next most dangerous condition is called heat cramps.  These are muscle spasms which usually affect the arms, legs and stomach.  Heat cramps are usually due to working too hard in high heat and not enough fluid intake.  The cramps can occur while you're working, after you finish working, or even hours later!  The most important thing to do is rest in the shade and cool down.  Try to drink an electrolyte-replacing drink such as Gatorade.  If the cramps are severe or they do not go away after an hour, seek medical attention.

Electrolytes are minerals in your blood and body fluids that carry an electric charge.  They affect the amount of water in your body, your blood's pH balance (acidity in the blood), and muscle function, among other things.  Common electrolytes include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and sodium. Problems most often occur with levels of sodium, potassium or calcium. If the amount of electrolytes is low, your body becomes dehydrated.  If the amount is too high, your body is overhydrated. 

If you need more potassium in your blood, eat a baked potato or grab a banana for immediate relief.  Prunes and raisins are rich in potassium, and are a good snack to take to the gym.  Calcium-rich foods include broccoli, kale, pinto beans, and wild salmon.  Milk, yogurt and low-fat cottage cheese are good options, too.  For magnesium, add wheat germ, brown rice, avocado, and spinach to your diet.  Magnesium works with calcium to help bones and muscles function properly.  Most of us get too much sodium, rather than too little, so use salt sparingly, but increase your salt intake after strenuous exercise in hot weather if you feel weak, cramp up, or have excessively dry mouth.

Here's a simple recipe for an electrolyte-replacement drink:

1 quart water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 to 4 tablespoons raw sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt substitute (potassium chloride)

Combine and stir until all ingredients are dissolved.  For flavor, ad three or four tablespoons of lemon juice.  Serve as is or iced.

Heat exhaustion is more serious than heat cramps.  This occurs when the body's internal cooling system is overworked, but has not yet shut down.  It happens because the body has lost too much water and salt.  Symptoms include cool, moist skin, gray or ashen complexion, headache, intense thirst, dizziness, feeling faint, low-grade fever, heavy sweating, feeling weak or tired, and rapid pulse rate and/or low blood pressure.  Move the person to a cool location and have them lie down with feet elevated.  Loosen or remove clothing, apply cool, wet cloths to the body, and direct a fan towards them. Have them drink cool water or an electrolyte-balancer such as Gatorade, but make sure the liquid is not too cold.  Avoid caffeinated beverages such as coffee, cola, or iced tea.  Monitor the person closely, because heat exhaustion can quickly become heat stroke, a very dangerous condition.  If the person has a fever of 102˚F (38.8˚C), faints, exhibits confusion, or has seizures, call 911 (or the emergency number in your country) immediately. 

Heat stroke is life-threatening, and must be dealt with immediately.  It occurs when the body has depleted its supply of water and salt, and can no longer regulate its own core body temperature.  The body stops sweating, heartbeat is rapid, breathing is shallow and rapid, the victim complains of a throbbing headache, the victim is confused, or the victim loses consciousness or has convulsions.  The body temperature may be 104˚F (40˚C)  or higher.   Call for an ambulance immediately.  Loosen all unnecessary clothing and place the person on his/her side to expose as much skin as possible.  Move to a cool area if possible, out of direct sunlight.  Cool the skin with wet sponges or spraying the person with water and fan vigorously.  Use ice packs on the groin, neck and armpits.  DO NOT GIVE THE VICTIM FLUIDS TO DRINK. 

How can we avoid heat stress conditions?

1.  Remember that the body needs to get used to the heat.  It takes 2-3 weeks to get adjusted to a hot climate. (Remember this if you take a short trip to a hot place!)

2.  Adjust your activity or work schedule.  Try to save heavier work for cooler days or do your heaviest work in the coolest part of the day.

3.  Try to limit your exposure to machines at work and at home that produce heat.  (Ovens, stoves, irons, clothes dryers, hairdryers, etc.)

4.  Remember that work/rest ratios need to change as the temperature and humidity goes up. If you are in the GREEN zone (use the chart at left), use caution and rest when you need to as long as you are doing light work.  (What is meant by "light" depends on how fit you are.)  If you are doing moderate work, the ratio should be 10 minutes' rest for every 50 minutes' work.  This is a good ratio if you are doing yard work on a hot day.  For strenuous work, a 30-minute rest for every 30-minute work period is essential.

If the heat index is in the YELLOW zone, reduce your work to a 40-minute work period followed by 20 minutes of rest for moderate work, and 30 minutes' rest after 30 minutes of hard work. 

When the heat index is in the PINK range, you may need to follow a work/rest ratio for light work if you are out of shape. Listen to your own body.  For moderate work go to 30/30 work/rest, and for strenuous work, rest for 40 minutes after 20 minutes' work.

If you must be active when the heat index is in the RED zone, you must rest for at least 10 minutes after every 50 minutes very light work, even if you are in good condition.  For moderate work, rest for 40 minutes after every 20 minutes' work, and for heavy work, when you cannot avoid it, rest for 50 minutes after every 10 minutes' work.

In all cases, make sure to rest in a shaded place (ideally air-conditioned) and reduce activity to a minimum.  If your clothing is heavy, add 5 degrees (F) to the heat index and work/rest accordingly.  Use a buddy system when doing intense work in extreme heat.

4.  Keep your body hydrated.  Drink 1/2 quart (2 cups) of water per hour in the GREEN zone (using the chart above).  3/4 quart (3 cups)  per hour in the YELLOW and PINK zones, and 1 quart (4 cups) in the RED zone.  Do not drink more than 1 and 1/2 quarts (6 cups)  per hour or 12 quarts (48 cups) per day.   Remember that when you are working, Gatorade helps, but don't overdo the Gatorade if you don't need it, because of the amount of calories.   The key is to drink BEFORE you are thirsty. 
Avoid caffienated beverages such as cola, black or orange tea, or coffee.  Also avoid alcohol. (Herbal tea that contains no caffeine is OK.)  If you are out in the hot sun, beverages should be cool, but not too cold.   If you have epilepsy, kidney or liver disease, or are on a fluid-restricted diet, check with your physician before increasing liquid intake.

5.  Wear light-colored, loose clothing made of natural materials, such as cotton.  Wear a hat with a brim to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face.

6.  If you engage in heavy physical work for a living, monitor your body weight.  If you lose more than 1.5% of your weight from sweating, you may be at higher risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  As an example, if you weigh 150 pounds and lose more than 2.25 pounds from sweating, you need to be careful.

7.  Keep electric lights off or turned down low.  Stay in the shade, and stay on the lowest floor of your home.  Open windows during the coolest part of the day and close them when it gets hot. 

8.  If you don't have air conditioning, plan to spend time in air-conditioned areas, such as a shopping mall, public library, or movie theater.

9.  Take a cool bath or shower periodically, or cool down with wet towels.  Keep wet washcloths in the refrigerator or freezer (in plastic bags) to use when you need them.

10.  Avoid eating heavy meal, and avoid eating hot foods in warm weather.  Stick to light, regular meals.

11.  If you are on prescription medications, find out whether any of the medications has particular side effects in hot weather.

12.  Never leave a child or a pet in a car, even if the windows are rolled down, when the heat index is high. 

13.  Never leave a child or a pet sleeping outside in direct sunlight for any length of time when the heat index is high.  (Babies' skin can sunburn, even if the heat index is not that high.)

14.  Avoid walking your pet on blacktop surfaces in hot weather, as their paw pads will burn.

15.  Check on family and friends, especially elders, who spend time alone and do not have air conditioning.  

Stay cool!  :-)

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Today is Saturday, June 29, 2013.

“You can't keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.”

― Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons 

 Right now I'm feeling a little disappointed about the way some things are going, not that I want to talk about the actual situation online.  

Sharon Creech's book for young people, Walk Two Moons, is a wonderful story on many levels.  The quote above about the birds of sadness is one that I think about every time I get into a funk like this.  I know the situation will pass, and that it's how I handle the disappointment that counts.  Still, it's no fun when the birds of sadness are passing overhead.  

The girl in the Creech's story learns what all young people must learn: that life is sometimes sad, and that it's OK to be sad.  But life goes on, and it's not OK to be sad for the rest of your life.  Your attitude colors everything.  

When an event happens, our minds and bodies respond to the event with various chemical reactions and electrical impulses, but once these initial reactions are over, our attitude is how we choose to feel.  We can keep churning out feelings of sadness, or we can acknowledge the sadness, but move on into the future with a sense that all is ultimately well.  

We ask ourselves, "What was this experience about?  What can I learn from it?"

Friday, June 28, 2013

Thoughts on the Paula Deen Fiasco

Today is Friday, June 28, 2013.

It's taken me a while to piece together the whole story about celebrity chef Paula Deen.  I'm not a Food Network viewer, so I didn't have a lot of the backstory that others were privy to. 

Paula Ann Hiers Deen was born in January 1947 in Albany, Georgia.  She was raised in the Baptist (Christian) faith.  Her parents died before she was 23 years old.  Her first marriage, early in life, ended in divorce.  In her 20s, she suffered panic attacks and agoraphobia, which is fear of large spaces and large crowds.  Cooking for her family was something she was able to do without leaving her house, and her kitchen became a "safe place" for her.  (I guess she must have had someone else do the shopping.)  She was taught traditional Southern cooking by her grandmother.

In 1965 she married her second husband, Jimmy Deen.  It seems that Paula's two sons Jamie and Bobby may have been fathered by their mother's first husband, because Jimmy Deen is not listed as their father.  It appears that Mr. Deen must have adopted them legally.  The Deen family lived in Savannah, Georgia.  When the marriage ended, Paula was left with only $200, and by this time, she was raising not only her two sons, but her younger brother, Earl "Bubba" Hiers.  (Bubba is a common nickname for a younger brother in the American South.)

Deen tried hanging wallpaper, working as a bank teller, and selling real estate and insurance, but none of these jobs worked out for her.  Going back to something she loved – cooking, and her "safe place" – her own kitchen, she started a catering service, making sandwiches and meals, which were delivered by her two sons.   Her home business, called The Bag Lady, grew too big for her kitchen.  The Best Western Motel in Savannah hired her to cook for their restaurant, which was named "The Lady."  Five years later, she opened her own restaurant, "The Lady and Sons," in Savannah, along with her sons, who still manage that restaurant.

With the success of her own restaurant came her first cookbook in 1998, called The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook.  Soon she appeared on QVC, a TV network devoted to shopping from home.  Her show, "Paula's Home Cooking" on The Food Network opened in 2002.   Another show called "Paula's Party" was added in 2006, and her sons began to make appearances on that show.  Her sons got their own show, called "Road Tested" on The Food Network. Now Bobby appears in "Not My Mother's Meals" and Jaimie's show is "Home for Dinner with Jaimie Deen."  Besides "Paula's Home Cooking," Deen has been appearing until recently on one other show, called "Paula's Best Dishes," which debuted in 2008. 

Deen married her current husband, Michael Grover in 2004.  She has opened several other restaurants in the South, all featuring Suthern style cooking, and has co-authored a couple of other cookbooks, as well.  She appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2002, twice in 2007, and once in 2010.  As with many others, Deen saw her popularity rise exponentially when she was featured on Winfrey's TV talk show.  Dean made deals with Wallmart to sell a line of desserts, and with Target and Home Depot, among others, to sell a line of cookware.  She has also enjoyed until recently a number of sponsorships, such as one by Smithfield Foods, a pork producer that services Deen's restaurants.

In January 2012, Deen announced that she had type 2 diabetes, a fact she had apparently hidden from her audience for some time.  Since the style of cooking that she is famous for is a contributor to this type of disease, Deen was widely criticized, and she was forced to lighten up her recipes, which originally featured the generous use of butter.  Her favorite method of cooking – frying – meant that her dishes were high in fat.  They were also loaded with sugar and salt.  She even wrote a recipe for fried butter balls!  Deen became a spokesperson for a well-known brand of medication for type-2 diabetes, but many people wondered why she didn't just start eating healthier meals.  She did apparently do this, and lost some weight.

This spring, a case was brought against Deen and her brother, "Bubba" Hiers, by a former general manager of Uncle Bubba's Oyster House, co-owned by Deen and Hiers.  Lisa Jackson, who is white, alleges several instances of sexual harassment by Hiers and racial workplace discrimination.  Specifically, she alleges that Hiers kept pornography on the premises of the restaurant and that he made sexual advances to her, while Deen used racial epithets such as the word "nigger" in Jackson's presence.  In a recent deposition that was leaked by a tabloid newspaper, Deen admitted that she had used racial slurs before, but declared that she was not a racist.

It appears that the use of the "N-word" is not the only problem.  Deen was in on the planning of her brother Bubba's wedding, which had a "Southern plantation" theme.  It is unclear why Deen felt that it was important for Bubba to experience this sort of themed event, but while planning the event, it became apparent that Deen wanted all the waitstaff to be black, because the era of Southern plantations was pre-Civil War.  (The American Civil War was fought from 1861-1865.)  At that time, blacks in Southern states were legally kept as slaves to run the big plantations, which produced cotton and all the food for the family and their slaves.  In addition to working in the fields, slaves were used to do all the housework, laundry, and serving and cooking of meals.  In other words, the waiters for this themed wedding, held in 2007, were to represent black slaves on a Southern plantation.   Apparently, Deen told Lisa Jackson that she wanted some "little niggers" (presumably children) to come out and dance for the guests, but she knew that the press would be all over her for it.  So she knew it was wrong, or, at least, she knew someone else would think it was wrong.  Still, she asked blacks to be waitstaff at the wedding, to look like slaves. There are two kinds of people in the United States: people who think this is OK, and people who think this is not OK. 

When Deen was born, in 1947, slavery had been outlawed for nearly a hundred years, but a system of racial segregation was firmly in place in the South.  No doubt Deen grew up seeing blacks only in positions as service employees, and she undoubtedly heard the "N-word" spoken many times.  She probably didn't go to school with any black children.  Many blacks were still routinely denied the right to vote or own property.Schools were strictly segregated.

It wasn't until the mid-1960s that the nation grappled with the issue of  "civil rights," the upshot of which were voting laws that explicitly outlawed denial of voting rights based on race, as well as laws that gave black children the right to attend schools previously reserved for white children.  A number of people lost their lives in police actions that turned ugly during demonstrations, marches, sit-ins, boycotts and other mass events.

It has been said that there is a fundamental difference between the way Southerners and Northerners think.  I was raised in the north, where slavery has never been legal.  Although I am not that much younger than Paula Deen, I do remember hearing that blacks in the South were not really free to shop, go to school, attend church, or seek entertainment wherever they pleased.  They lived in segregated neighborhoods.  If I had been raised in a big city, I might have become aware that, even in the North, although blacks were technically free to go anywhere, there were still private clubs where they were not allowed, and there were places black people shunned, knowing that they were not truly welcome there.

Very few black people were famous, and only relatively recently has it become public knowledge how difficult life was for these people.  Jackie Robinson, the famous baseball player who broke color barriers in his sport, famously had a stipulation in his contract that he would not publicly complain about racial harassment.  Lena Horne, the popular singer, who shunned movie roles that stereotyped black women, and who was in turn shunned by the community of black actors, was blacklisted during the "McCarthy era" for her part in the civil rights movement and her so-called "leftist" views.

While Deen rarely saw blacks except in servant or service roles in her youth, I saw almost no blacks at all when I was young, since I was raised in small towns and rural areas.  I remember being told that it was inappropriate to call a black person a "nigger," and that the appropriate word was Negro.  It wasn't until the 70s that it became appropriate to use the terms "black" or "African American" for a black person.  Soon, the term Negro seemed somehow tainted.  Meanwhile, in the South, people were still using the term "nigger," although they seemed to pronounce it "nigrah" as if they were saying the more accepted term "Negro".  The white community in the South apparently thought that was still OK, well into the 1960s and beyond.  I have a feeling that Southern whites tended to "pretend" not to be racist in public, while maintaining their usual mindset and practices privately.

When I was interviewing for a teaching job with DeKalb County Schools in suburban Atlanta, I was told that there was no bus service in the suburbs, and the person who told me this was not shy about saying that this practice kept "those people" out of the suburbs.  I clarified, "You mean, blacks?"  She agreed.  I wondered whether she realized that she was keeping me out, too, since I did not have a driver's license in those days.  Needless to say, I did not accept a job in the DeKalb schools, nor did I accept the offer that was made in Athens, Georgia.  There was just too much racial stuff going on, even in the 1990s, and I'm glad I didn't get into the middle of it.

Deen says she's not a racist, and I truly believe she means what she says. Unfortunately, she seems unaware that racism in her millieu is so ingrained that whites do, think and say racist things without even realizing it.  There has to be a process of waking up and becoming totally conscious of racism due to ingrained and institutionalized white privilege.  This will not be a pretty realization for most whites.   Even Northerners are guilty of racism in some instances, even if they think otherwise.

As a result of the lawsuit and the charges of racism, Deen has not only been dropped like a hot potato from The Food Network, but she has also been dropped by Walmart, Caesars Entertainment, Smithfield Foods, Target, Home Depot, and diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk.  Random House, which is due to publish Deen's latest cookbook, is monitoring the situation, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if they decided not to publish.  The only ones who have stood by Deen are the people who operate Paula Deen Cruises, which are done on Royal Caribbean ships.  Royal Caribbean has no formal association with Deen, and the cruises are booked through a specific travel agent called Alice Travel.  The two cruises planned for 2014 are booked with many of Deen's most loyal followers, and representatives of Alice Travel say that a whole new crop of people have been calling to make reservations since the legal snafu became public.

Deen's most loyal fans are calling on The Food Network to bring her back, and that may happen in the fullness of time, when people have begun to forget about her legal woes.  Some will want to excuse her racist behavior because she is "such a nice lady."  It would be a good thing if Deen truly acknowledged that she has behaved in a racist way, unconsciously.  I suspect, though, that she will continue to defend herself and see nothing wrong with the idea of a Southern plantation-themed wedding.  A lot of people who think the same way are in her corner. 

Recently Deen has begun to cry on national TV.  I was reminded. when I read about this, that people deal with problems in whatever way worked for them the last time they had a problem. Apparently, Deen has solved problems before by crying, but I suspect that it won't work very well this time around.  :-/

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Our Bodies Emit Light

Photo credit:
Today is Thursday, June 27, 2013.

 It's official folks: our bodies emit light.  Not that we can see it with the naked eye, mind you.  Using special cameras called cryogenic charge-coupled devices, or CCD cameras, Japanese researchers at Tohoku Institute of Technology and Kyoto University found that the human body emits biophotons, also known as ultraweak photon emissions (UPE).  These emissions are 1000 times lower than the sensitivity of the naked eye.  Even though we cannot see them ourselves, we can measure the light in terms of either waves or particles which are part of the electromagnetic spectrum (380-780 nm) that can be detected using special equipment.

It has also been shown that these emissions are not simply a mechanical bodily process, but they can actually be influenced by intention, defined as "a directed thought to perform a determined action."  When subjects in a darkened room imagined light, their output of photon emissions increased significantly.    Directed thought has been shown to manifest itself in terms of electric and magnetic energy, which produces an "ordered flux" of photons.  Our intentions operate as highly coherent frequencies that are capable of changing the molecular structure of matter.  In order for this to work, though, we have to choose the right time.  The human bodies, like all living beings. are synchronized to the magnetic energy of the earth, which is constantly fluctuating.  Researchers found that the weakest emissions occurred around 10 a.m. and the strongest occurred at around 4 p.m.

The light, life energy, or aura around the body has been termed the biophoton field.  This field has been known for centuries by mystics and spiritual teachers, but apparently, scientists feel better if they can give something a truly scientific name.  (We wouldn't want to get too "touchy-feely," you know.)  This biophoton field was actually proven back in 1974 by Dr. Fritz-Albert Popp.  This biophoton field is reognized by other names in healing models developed up to 12,000 years ago, such as Tibetan medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, and Ayurvedic medicine from India.  The biophoton field functions as a highly sophisticated computer that processes, stores, and receives information used to regulate your biological processes. Biophotons originate in our DNA, and they operate much like lasers, which are coherent beams of light that contain information.

The DNA in our systems vibrates at a frequency of several billion hertz.  Unfortunately, this is the same frequency on which cell phones work, a fact that may help explain why cell phones are slowly but surely proving to be harmful to our health.

Here's an interesting fact:  Transmitting information of nutrients in the form of light into our biophotons  can affect the body the same way as eating the actual nutrient.  This may help explain why mystics in India practice sun-gazing, also called sun-eating, where they stare at the rising or setting sun, starting with only a few seconds' exposure per day, and gradually working up to about 45 minutes per day.  These mystics claim that they do not need to eat food, as they get their nourishment from the sun!

Forward-thinking doctors are excited by these "new" scientific discoveries, because they surmise that there may be a way to measure these biophotons to locate imbalances in the body that lead to disease.  Others envision using light as treatment for disease.  Dannion Brinkley, who is able to recall three major out-of-body experiences in which he was instructed by heavenly beings, was told that his mission in life was to build places where healing was to be done by means of light. 

It appears that not only are we Beings of Light in the  Soul sense, but our physical bodies are also composed of light.  It is interesting, indeed, that religions around the world have described God as the Source of Light.  Let there be light!  :-)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Experience Necessary

Today is Wednesday, June 26, 2013.

Life is experiential.  Experience is why Souls come into physical bodies to live on this earth.  There's something about doing things for yourself that makes the lesson part of who you are.  The experience alters or enhances each Soul's basic energy signature. 

In the same way that we can recognize the same person at age 5, at 25, 45 and 65, Soul has a basic energy signature, like a soul name, except it's not necessarily a word that you can say.  The experiences that we have in life, both here on earth and between lifetimes add to that signature as Soul grows and matures.  The experiences we have help us to hone qualities such as perseverance, empathy, trustworthiness, independence, discipline, inventiveness, patience, compassion, integrity, cooperativeness, courage, sense of humor, open-mindedness, and self-reliance. 

The fact that we don't really learn anything in the sense of making it a part of who we are unless we experience it should not hold parents or anyone else back from trying to teach young people.  It's just important to realize that "telling" kids something is not always going to get the job done.  If a Soul really needs a certain experience, he or she will get it, in some way, no matter how horrendous or painful the outcome may be.  I have often heard parents saying, "I told him not to..."  Whenever I hear this, I feel sorry for the parents, who are feeling helpless and incompetent, but my thought is always, "It's a good thing that you did, but he had to learn it for himself."   Most of the time, the parents don't want to hear this, so I don't say it aloud.  It's true, though.

A good exercise to do – and you an encourage your older kids to do this, too – is to list ten experiences you have had in your life.  List ten important ones.  For each experience, list the things you learned, and be sure to include the qualities that you may have learned from the experience, such as patience, etc. When we do this, we realize that no experience is wasted in this lifetime.  There is always something to learn from it.  :-)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Temple of Healing

Today is Tuesday, June 25, 2013.

The other day a friend reminded me that I could go on the inner planes to receive healing.  I have done that before, and have been given healing using colored water, light, and sound. Where are these temples and how do you get there? 

When I speak of going on the inner, what I mean is that I enter a meditative or contemplative state and entertain an inner vision.  I can mock up any scene that I wish, because the inner planes are infinitely malleable, and Souls can create with their thoughts on the inner.  

I visualize my self walking in a serene natural environment to a beautiful temple building filled with light.  When I enter, a caretaker usually greets me and shows me to a private space where I can put my "outer" things.  (In this case, although I envision taking off my street clothes, what I am really doing is dropping the physical body for a while, knowing that I am still connected to it via the Silver Cord that will only be cut when I am ready to leave this particular body for the last time.  

I don a sort of "guest robe," much as you would when entering a health spa on the physical plane.  Then I am invited to receive treatment in any one of a number of places.  It may be a pool, a shower, or just a simple room with a comfortable chair in it.  It may be a room with a massage table.  I may be attended by a healer, or simply receive treatment by myself by means of entering the pool, standing under the shower, or sitting in the chair and absorbing rays of light. Since I am looking mainly for physical healing right now, I will concentrate on getting a shower of orange or golden light or water.

When the healing treatment is done, I will be invited to relax with some restorative tea.  I may meet with a spiritual advisor or mentor.  I may be given some information to take back into the physical world with me. Even if I don't remember what it is when I come out of the meditative state, I know that the information will be shown to be at some point, perhaps in the form of an intuitive nudge to eat a particular kind of food or read a certain book.  

Contemplations like this one need only take about 20 minutes each day, and it's best to do them for about three weeks, so that is what I will do.  Let the healing continue!   :-) 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Waiting for the News to Break

Today is Monday, June 24, 2013. 

There is a sort of lull right now before several big-time news stories break.  

Right now, Nelson Mandela, 94, former president of South Africa, and before that, a long-time political prisoner, is in critical condition with a lung infection.  He was brought to the hospital on June 8 in a military ICU ambulance that broke down while it was transporting him.  That seems horrible to Americans, but from what I understand, cars break down a lot in Africa.  The doctors traveling with the convoy insisted that the breakdown and resulting wait for another ambulance did not compromise Nelson's condition, and that seems to be true, given that his condition was fairly stable for several days.  Nobody really expects a 94-year-old to fight off a lung infection, and I suspect that Nelson will leave us soon, having lived an exemplary life of service and benefit to all of humanity.  While his body clings to life, the news organizations are no doubt busy in the background, putting together tribute after tribute to this great man. 

As if to compensate for the eventual loss of Mandela, a baby will be born soon who will be in line for the throne of England.   Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is due to deliver a child sometime in July, according to reports.  The cheap tabloids had her due the same day as Kim Kardashian, but since Kardashian has already had her bundle of joy, we all know that couldn't have been true.  

The birth will follow protocol for announcements.  There will be one announcement when the Duchess leaves for the hospital, and another when the baby is born, but not until the royal family has had their chance to see the baby.  

Meanwhile, the press has us all on pins and needles, and while waiting, they are doing stories on the items that the mother-to-be has bought at various trendy – and very pricy – stores, as well as some of the plans already in place for the birth.  

Apparently, Prince William plans to be present for the birth, as most modern fathers do.  The couple has chosen not to find out the sex of the baby, but with the legal changes in protocol that have been made recently, the child seems destined to be a monarch of England whether it is a boy or a girl. 

At least one of the things we're waiting for will occur on schedule.  On Tuesday, President Obama is due to announce his policy on climate change.  I, for one, hope that he will announce that he is not going to allow the Keystone XL Pipeline to be built, but at this point, I wonder if that is too much to hope for.  We'll see what the president says.  No matter what it is, Republicans will no doubt waste no time in putting up roadblocks to whatever it is the president wants to do. 

The Supreme Court will be meeting for the last time before their summer recess today.  They have eleven cases, several of them very high-profile, to rule on.  Some of the legislation being considered in Congress will depend on these rulings. 

There are two cases involving gay marriage being considered right now.  One case challenges California's ban on same-sex marriage, and the other deals with federal laws that deny legally-married gay couples from receiving various tax, health, and pension benefits. 

There is also – in this day and age – a voting rights case. They have already struck down  Arizona's voter ID law.  The case they have yet to rule on involves the constitutionality of having to get federal approval before making changes to voting procedures.  

A case that is making headlines in my home state of South Dakota is one involving Native American adoption.  A Native American father is suing the couple who adopted his daughter for custody.  The case involves the interpretation of a 1978 law intended to prevent American Indian children from being taken from their homes and typically placed with non-Indian adoptive or foster parents.  This case probably represents just the tip of the iceberg, because the Sioux tribes are accusing the state of South Dakota of taking away children whose parents are perfectly capable of raising them, and the Native Americans here are watching this particular case very closely. 

There is a case involving generic drugs,  a case having to do with private property and two cases dealing with racial discrimination in the workplace.  It will apparently take a while for the opinions of the court to become public.  Meanwhile... we wait.  :-/

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Taking the MENSA test

Today is Sunday, June 23, 2013.

Yesterday I took the admission test for an organization called MENSA, the oldest "high-IQ society" in the world, founded in 1946.  The headquarters of MENSA International are in England.  There are over 110,000 MENSA members all over the world, and over 56,000 of these are members of American MENSA. There are 50 national MENSA organizations around the world.  The youngest member is just over 2 years old, and the oldest is 103. 

The founders of the organization hoped to create a society of intelligent people that was free from issues of politics, race, or religion.  According to the organization's constitution, MENSA's mission of is trifold: "to identify and to foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity; to encourage research into the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence; and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members."    MENSA is involved in programs for gifted children, literacy, and scholarships.  Local events may include speakers, field trips, leadership workshops, dances, children's events, or games, or they may simply consist of conversation over coffee.  Members may join Special Interest Groups that range from motorcycle enthusiasts to business.  Several countries have Annual Gatherings, and Regional Gatherings, and there have also been World Gatherings. 

I'm not sure exactly why I waited until now to try out for this organization.  As an educator, I know that a high IQ score is not a predictor of success in life.  Still, it might be nice to have a chance to get to know some people who are interested in some of the same things that I'm interested in, and who enjoy a good conversation on a variety of topics.  (High IQ is not necessarily a good indicator of conversational ability, either, I realize.)

Anyway, I went to the test, bruises and all (from a car accident I had in a rental vehicle while visiting friends in Miami).  I had a chiropractor appointment first, so had to wake up quite early, and didn't have much time to dawdle over coffee as I have become accustomed to doing.  In order to take the test, I had to have a check for $40 and a picture ID.  For some odd reason, I could not find my driver's license this morning, and almost panicked.  I decided that my passport would have to do, and thankfully, it was right where I thought it would be.  (Living in a foreign country for an extended period of time teaches one to have one's passport safe but handy at all times.  I'm so glad I got that lesson down pat.)

Knowing that it might be chilly in the public library, I grabbed what I thought was my black summer sweater, only to find out later that I had grabbed a pair of black culottes, instead.  As a result, I was a little chilly during the test, but at least I had been able to down some coffee. 

The information available about the test said it might take as much as 2.5 hours, but we were done inside of 2 hours.  The test was proctored by a local MENSA member who happens to be a high-school algebra teacher.  There were five candidates – two women and three men.  Believe it or not, I don't think I was the oldest, although I fully expected to be.  The other woman was a mother of three who helped her kids with math and "fell in love" with it, taking a course in calculus along with one of her kids.  I believe she hopes to teach math one day. 

In order to be invited to join MENSA I will have to be within the top 2% of those who take the test.  In other words, I will have to score in the 98th percentile.  If I had taken the Standford-Binet Intelligence Scales  (the most well-known IQ test), I would have to score at least 132.  For other IQ tests, the numerical score might be different, but the requirement is a score at the 98th percentile, which means that out of 100 people taking the test, you have the same or better score than 98 others.  The MENSA test may be taken only once, but if you don't make the cut, you an submit scores from one of several other "approved" tests to gain admission to MENSA.   There were two tests given yesterday, with a break in between.  A candidate only has to qualify on one of those tests.  I should know whether I am eligible to join within three weeks or so.  If I fail to qualify, I'm not sure if I will look up my old SAT scores or not - we'll see.  Fortunately for me, membership in an organization like MENSA is not a significant element of my sense of self-worth.  :-)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Taking the Rules Too Far

Margaret Doughty
Today is Saturday, June 22, 2013. 

Every once in a while I read something in the news where some "official" decides to follow "the rules" to the point of idiocy.  Notably, there have been several incidents recently involving high school students whose schools imposed rules without common-sense regard for personal differences. Recently, there was a medical decision, based on "the rules," denying a lung transplant to a little girl.  There have also been a number of really stupid decisions made by the "government" at all levels: city, state and federal.  In some cases the decision could be reversed or altered to suit the circumstances, which gives credence to the idea that most rules are not as ironclad as they may seem.  In other cases, the rules were imposed, regardless, and ended up causing much angst and suffering.

The case of Margaret Doughty caught my attention the other day.  According to the story on ABC News, Doughty is from England, but has been living in the United States as a permanent resident for more than 30 years.  She and a friend who was originally born in South Africa decided to become naturalized American citizens, and together they went to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office to fill out the paperwork.

Doughty's friend sailed through the process, but she got hung up when she was asked if she were willing to take up arms to defend the United States.  Keep in mind that this is a 64-year-old woman.  She was not going to get a draft notice in her mailbox, even if she agreed.  But she wanted to be absolutely honest about her beliefs, so she said no, on moral and ethical grounds.  The USCIS officer asked her whether this was a religious belief, and Doughty answered that it was not.  The reason: Doughty is an atheist.  

For some reason that I can't figure out, apparently, an atheist is not allowed to have "moral and ethical" concerns, according to the U.S. government.   Or, at least, there is no provision for this in the citizenship documents.  It is simply assumed that one might object to military service on the basis of religious belief.  I've heard atheists talk about this before: the fact that they are assumed to have no moral compass or sense of ethical behavior (sense of right and wrong) just because they decline to join an organized religion.  Or the assumption that because they are not religious, they must automatically be followers of the devil.  

Doughty appealed to friends on Facebook for help, and caught the attention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Appignani Humanist Legal Center (AHLC) in Washington.  These two groups spoke up on Doughty's behalf, pointing out that she met the legal definition of a "conscientious objector." 

Someone at USCIS must have realized how ridiculous it was to deny citizenship to this woman on the basis of her beliefs.  After all, there are plenty of conscientious objectors and atheists among natural American citizens. Doughty's application for citizenship has been accepted, and she plans to attend a swearing-in ceremony for new citizens with her friend from South Africa.  They always have one on the Fourth of July.

If Doughty were a twenty-something male and the United States were conducting an active military draft, things might possibly be different, especially if she came from a country with whom we were not on friendly terms.  Even then, it would be inappropriate to stereotype an atheist as someone who lacks any sort of moral standards.  :-/

Friday, June 21, 2013

Chiropractic Treatment

Today is Friday, June 21, 2013. 

Yesterday was my first day back home, and I had several appointments: two separate blood draws (one to measure blood coagulation and the other to tell whether my body is still dealing with the microbacterial infection from last November), and my regular chiropractic appointment.  My mother had told the chiropractor about my accident, and he encouraged her to make sure I came in to see him as soon as possible.  

Normally I have a treatment every two weeks, which is what I can afford, and I simply pay them without going through insurance.  This time, his office manager had me fill out a whole bunch of forms, because as she explained to me, my accident occurred in a "no-fault" state, so the insurance companies have to pay for the treatment.  The doctor explained to me that with injuries from accidents, people don't always start "feeling the pain" for a few weeks or even a couple of months.  

The chiropractor said that one side of my body is one-and-a-half inches shorter than the other, meaning my muscles on one side have started to contract, due to the trauma from the accident.  He measured my rage of motion and told me that he noticed that I had lost some of that range.   He had me make an appointment for another treatment the next day, and I suspect that he will continue to treat me several times a week. 

I know that as a healer, he is interested in my wellbeing, but I couldn't shake the feeling that he and his office staff saw me as a walking dollar sign when I came in after the accident.  :-/

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Driving Back to Brandon

Today is Thursday, June 20, 2013.

After a leisurely breakfast I started out from Kansas City.  I managed to stay on the right roads through several highway changes, and marveled once again how spread-out the Kansas City metro area is.  Once on Interstate 29 going north, I relaxed a bit and sang along with some music.  The weather was just perfect for driving.

Before leaving Kansas City, I found a bagel shop in Omaha that had free wi-fi and altered my driving directions to find the place.  Fortunately, it was right where I expected it to be.  In order to avoid having to turn left without benefit of a traffic light, I decided to keep going east on Dodge Street, then find an intersection with a street light where I could turn left.  I would just loop around to the left, then turn right on Dodge and be going west, straight onto the Interstate.  (Since the accident occurred while turning left, I'm going to be very leery of left turns for a while, I think.)

Unfortunately, when I got back out on Dodge Street, I kept coming across the No Left Turn sign. I must have passed five or six of them, and started to panic, thinking I would surely be lost in Omaha during rush hour traffic.  Then the road I was on veered to the left, because the street I was on became a one-way street going the opposite direction.  Suddenly I was in a one-way street with several lanes.  Finally, somehow, I found myself in a left-turn-only lane and turned left, and the next street was... Dodge.  I'm still not sure how that happened, but I was thankfully able to turn left on Dodge.  I made it onto Interstate 680 and from there to I-29 going straight north.

With a sigh of relief, now that I was on the road home, I turned on my CD player and sang my heart out all the way to Sioux Falls.  From there, it was a short drive home on slower roads.  As I drove, I thought to myself how lucky I am to live in a latitude where the sun shines on into the evening hours during the summer.  That was one thing I really missed while in Florida.  I really do need my evening sunshine during the summer.  The sun comes up earlier in the morning here, too, in the summer.

In Brandon, I went straight to my parents' place, knowing they were worried about me and my mom (a nurse) would want to look at my bruises, etc.  When my folks were satisfied that I was really OK, I went home and accepted some help with my luggage from my sister, who lives across the street from me. Before leaving the folks' place, I collected a really good-looking zucchini that my folks pulled out of my garden (in their backyard) the other day.  I think I will have a couple more zucchini ready to eat tomorrow.

It's so good to be home!  :-)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Changing Travel Plans

Delta Sky Club in Tampa, FL  by Kwame O.
Today is Wednesday, June 19, 2013.

On Monday night, I found out that my friend in Tampa, in whose home I was staying, had to leave for Japan on business the very next morning.  My own flight to Kansas City was due to leave at 6:33 p.m., but his flight was to leave around 8:30.  I realized that would make for a very long wait at the Tampa airport.

I decided to check on Delta's change-of-plans policy, and found that you can request an earlier (or presumably, later) flight on the same day, as long as you are going to the same destination and flying in the same class.  My plan was to log into the Delta web page after midnight (early Tuesday morning) and do one of two things: either get my flight changed or purchase a one-day pass for the Delta Sky Club (pictured here).  I checked around the web first and found that you can get a one-day pass for $50, and that there are complimentary beverages and snacks, plus a quiet place for napping and plenty of electrical outlets to charge up or use your laptop.  WiFi service is complimentary, too, but then it is free in the airport for everybody, so that's not much of a draw.  The people who reviewed it said that there were no meals offered in the lounge in Tampa, but I figured I could buy a sandwich somewhere else.  I decided that if I couldn't get an earlier flight for a reasonable fee, I would just use the Sky Club lounge facilities.  The location was convenient - in Terminal E, right inside the TSA security screening area.  The reviewers said that there was an elevator to the second floor, but more than one person remarked that it was excruciatingly slow.  That information didn't bother me too badly, since I wasn't planning to wait until the last minute and then sprint to the boarding gate.

Since I'm not a business traveler, I haven't had to do much changing of flights.  I've had a flight arrive too late for a connecting flight, and I've had flights that were delayed.  I've also had the experience of volunteering to fly on "standby" status when I knew the plane was likely to be full and I had no one waiting for me at my destination.  Once when I did this, I was booked on a flight that left a little later but got to my destination earlier.  Magic!  Another time I was booked on a flight the next day and given a complimentary hotel room and complimentary dinner and breakfast.   Several times I received a ticket voucher good anywhere in the USA - I even got another voucher while flying on a voucher one time.  Pretty slick if you can pull that off.

*** *** ***
My friend and I were on the road by 5:45 and at the airport by 6:10.  I waited until nearly 7 am for him by the check-in counter.  His flight had just started to board so we said a very quick good-bye.  Then I got into a line for passengers who needed special assistance.  40 minutes later, I was finally helped. 

I was the second person to check in at the gate, and was told to listen for my name.  I found a bagel shop nearby and had a turkey/lettuce/tomato sandwich on a warm cheesy bagel with a hint of mustard and some water.  Then I went back to the gate, and when all the passengers had got on, my name was called.  I was on the flight, and my connection in Atlanta was confirmed.  I had a middle seat in the very last row.  Not the best seat, but I'm at least not so fat anymore that my hips have to be wedged in between the armrests, and the seat belt fit around my waist, thank God.  The flight was short and uneventful.

In Atlanta I had a pretty long walk, so found a place where I could wait for the little trolley car.  A normal person wouldn't have thought of taking it, because I only had about 8 gates to go past, but I was breathing hard and my back hurt, so I was very thankful when the trolley came.

At the gate I purchased Internet access so I could check in on Facebook and work on my blogs.  Unlike Tampa, the Atlanta airport charges $4.95 for one-day use of the Internet facilities.  I wasn't able to use the Internet access for long, however, because I had to stand in line to see about a seat assignment.  The person at the gate kiosk helped two people in front of me, then ignored me (and everyone in line behind me) for 25 minutes.  She then told me I could find what I was looking for on a screen next to the kiosk.  Couldn't she have made that announcement earlier?  I'll bet it would have saved several of us a wait in that line. 

The flight was totally full, and of course, I got a middle seat again, this time in the exit row.  The plane we had was one of those narrow ones again, so my hips didn't fit that comfortably in the seat with the arms down.  Also, I had to ask for a seat belt extender again, and this time the attendant said, "No, because you are in an exit row."  So I switched seats with a willing passenger, and waited and waited for the seat belt extender.  I had to ask another attendant for one. 

The flight was a little bumpy, but I slept most of the way, anyway.  This time I had taken care to grab a blanket the attendants were handing out, and I put it around my shoulders to cushion my neck.  It made all the difference. 

The plane arrived in Kansas City on time, and my friends took me out for dinner before bringing me home.  I gassed up my car and got the windshield cleaned in preparation for my trip tomorrow.  I will get into some pajamas soon and go to bed early. 

I never did see the inside of the Sky Club Lounge.  Oh, well...  :-)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


 Today is Tuesday, June 18, 2013. 

The medical term for a bruise is "contusion."  It is the result of capillaries and venules (very small blood vessels) breaking and allowing blood to seep into the surrounding tissues under the skin, due to blunt force trauma, such as surgery, car accidents, falls, and collisions with furniture, etc.  Bruises can be classified as light, moderate, or severe, depending on how much tissue is involved. 

For light bruises the best treatment is RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), painkillers such as Tylenol, and, later in recovery, light stretching exercises.  Putting ice on bruises right away helps to reduce swelling by restricting blood flow to the immediate area, thus preventing more internal bleeding.  When you elevate an area, it needs to be above your heart, if possible.  Very gentle massage the area and applying heat may encourage blood flow and relieve pain. 

It can take months for a bruise to fade, but most last about two weeks.  Typically, a bruise will  start off a reddish color, and then turn bluish-purple and then greenish-yellow before returning to normal. 

I have always bruised fairly easily, but now that I'm taking a blood thinner, I bruise at the drop of a hat, so it is no surprise that my body is covered with bruises after my car accident.  The largest bruise is on my abdomen, where my body hit the steering wheel.  The bruise on my right hand and right knee may be from the airbags.  I have some bruises on the back of my left leg and on my lower back, also on the left side.   The bruise on my hand did swell quite a bit, and the ambulance guys put an ice pack on the hand right away, so the swelling went down before I left the hospital.  

A friend of mine gave me a very gentle massage the other day to help with blood flow and make sure the muscles were relaxed.  The masseuse commented that my body was pretty supple for having been in a car accident, which I took to be very good news.

My friends have been recommending arnica cream or gel for the bruises, and I think I will try that, this time.  I do have some arnica pills at home, as well.  Arnica montana has been used medicinally for centuries in liniment and ointment preparations for strains, sprains, and bruises.  The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has reported that clinical trials "suggest benefits of arnica for osteoarthritis and reduction in postoperative swelling and pain."
Arnica contains the toxin helenalin, which can be poisonous if large amounts of the plant are eaten, and contact with the plant can also cause skin irritation. However, people don't typically handle the plant or ingest it, and homeopathic preparations of Arnica 24X dilution or more are not toxic.  :-)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Some Observations About Florida

Today is Monday, June 17, 2013.

I'll be leaving Florida tomorrow, so I guess it's time for me to write about some of my impressions of the Sunshine Sate.  For one thing, I learned that the Sabal Palm (pictured) is the state tree of Florida.  They're all over the place.  There are lots of other interesting trees that I've never seen anywhere else, and the greenery and flowers grow in profusion here.

Although it's called the Sunshine State, it has rained at least once every day I've been here.  The rain generally doesn't last long, but it sure does come down hard.  They had so much rain before I came that down in Miami the powers that be put a "boil only" policy in place for the city - the water was contaminated by the flooding.  The vast, vast majority of people drank bottled water, but they also cooked and washed their hands with it.  I used bottled water to wash my wounds, as well, out of an abundance of caution.

It's true that most Floridians have easy access to a pool of some kind, if not to the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, but once again I have not been able to take advantage of this, even though I was careful to bring my swimming suit on this trip.

Like a lot of cities near water, Tampa and Miami seem kind of squished into a small space right by the water  This makes driving a challenge, because the roads are narrow and irregular, instead of being laid out in a neat grid pattern, as they are in the Midwest.  One thing that helps with driving is these little green signs that tell what the next major intersection is called.  Whoever thought of doing this is a genius.  Maybe it's just that there are so many people from other places driving in Florida that they put the signs up for the convenience of visitors.  It's a great idea, no matter why they did it.

Another interesting fact: On the way down to Miami, I kept seeing these electronic signs saying "SILVER ALERT" and posting information about the make, model, color and license number of a certain car.  I thought I was supposed to watch out for someone trying to evade police, but one of my friends explained to me that a "silver alert" is when an older person who tends to be forgetful takes off in a car.  Since Florida is a destination of choice for many retirees, this does make sense.  I wonder how many other states could benefit from a "silver alert"?

All over the USA, "roundabouts" are being built at intersections that were four-way stops.  I saw how they worked in Australia, where they have them everywhere, and I marveled at how quickly the Aussie drivers decided who should proceed next.  Here in the US, even in Florida, the roundabouts are not located in busy intersections, so there is usually only one car in the roundabout at a time.

The thing that struck me the most about Florida, this trip, was the security in buildings and the gated communities.  My Tampa friend's apartment has a locked metal grate door.  I guess it's really no different than the electronically locked glass security door in my own apartment building, but the grated gates can also be found inside garages so that nobody can walk from the garage into an apartment building without knowing how to disarm the lock.  The grated gates make me think of cages, and that gives me a "jail" feeling.  There are a lot of "gated communities" in Florida, as well, that give one a feeling of "us versus them."  You can see how that mentality plays out in the so-called "Stand Your Ground" law, where people are allowed to use firearms to protect their property.  We have that in South Dakota, too, but I don't see so many gated communities up north.  The trial of George Zimmerman, who is accused of shooting black teenager Trayvon Martin is bringing this whole issue into the national consciousness these days.

At the hospital where my friend's daughter was having her baby, I had to pass inspection by no fewer than three security guards, and I wore a printed name tag.  

One other thing I noticed about people in Miami is that they refer to "Miami Time."  I've heard people talk about "African Time" as well.  If you are on "Miami Time," you arrive late to a function. Maybe it's the heat that leads to a more lethargic lifestyle, I don't know...

I've already commented on the heat and humidity, which make it harder to breathe.  I also noticed that they were warning of vary high UV radiation during the day, so I'm glad I didn't go out that much during daylight hours. 

From time to time I've had thoughts of moving down to Florida to be with friends, but it appears that it might be pretty expensive for me to live here, and that, with my health issues, it might be better to stay where I am.  Florida is a wonderful place and I enjoy visiting, but I guess I really wouldn't want to live here. :-)