Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mini Book Review

Catherine The Great: Portrait of A Woman by Robert K Massie

Quote from the book:
Hoping to improve their performance, she wrote, on June 6, 1763, to the senators as a body: " I cannot say that you are lacking in patriotic concern for my welfare and the general welfare, but I am sorry to say that things are not moving towards their appointed end as successfully as one would wish." The cause of this delay she said was the existence of "internal disagreements and enmity, leading to the formation of parties seeking to hurt each other, and to behavior unworthy of sensible, respectable people desirous of doing good."

That is from Catherine The Great (Catherine II) -- an autocrat. The "senators" responsibilities were to administer her edicts.

Nothing ever changes. Sounds like a comment that could have been made by any one regarding the current deadlocks in the US Federal legislative bodies.

Although a long read, it is good history by an excellent story teller. This book covers the history of Russia from about 1729 to 1796 -- the span of Catherine's life. Not Russian, but born as a minor Prussian princess, it is amazing to realize that she became a very powerful (after Peter the Great) Russian czarist modernizing Russia and changing the way the rest of the world viewed Russia.

A personal connection to this history was when Catherine the Great arranged the partitioning of Poland between Russia, Prussia and Austria. That was in 1793. Many of my Prussian (German) ancestors were from an area that was once part of Poland and given to Prussia at the partition. Ancestor Carl Treichel was born in that area in 1816. He arrived in the US in 1852.

Read as an eBook borrowed from a library via the Overdrive app on the iPad.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Old Guys Hike

One of my long time hiking companions when I was living in Denver was Joe. About eight years older, Joe is slowing down. Kinda like Wandrin Lloyd. The hike destination was Roxborough State Park. Met Joe at his Wash Park area home. From there it takes a while to get out of Denver and through the suburbs to arrive at the park.

There are several trails within Roxborough. With open lands, tree covered slopes, gambel oaks and tilted sandstone formations, there are lots of scenic views. Not unusual to see deer. Occasionally a mountain lion has been sighted. When we arrived at the park, there was a sign about bear sightings in the area.

When living in Denver, I had hiked all of the trails in the park. Some times with Joe. A hike to Carpenter Peak (altitude of 7160 feet) allows a panoramic view of Denver on the Front Range.

For us old guys -- both with balance issues -- we took an easy walk. Makes it easier to chat and catch up on life and living.

Cooler than Denver, this home was built about 1910 to get away from the city's summer heat. To me, a building constructed of rock is an art work.

After that very strenuous hike ;-)), we rewarded ourselves with lunch at the restaurant at the nearby Arrowhead Golf Course.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Signs of Fall

Cooler nights. Color changes in tree leaves. Day time high temperatures have moderated to the 80s and occasional 90s. Diesel prices are ticking upward with each Silver Slug fuel fill.

Yup. Another sign of fall is the increasing diesel prices. Happens every year as home owners in the north and northeast fill tanks with heating fuel.

Driving around the neighborhoods yesterday, I noted one station had diesel at 4.16. Won't be long before all diesel will be over four dollars a gallon regardless of the station.

Cooler weather is on the way. Winter won't be far behind. And I will be in Arizona.

See the Energy Information Administration reports for historical and current prices of diesel and gasoline fuels.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Leonardo Visits Denver

Walking on Denver's 16th Street Mall, I found Leonardo sitting outside the the DaVinci Exhibition. Had to get a photo of me along with the genius -- and his most famous work: The Mona Lisa.

Leonardo Da Vinci was a genius. This traveling exhibit is a creation of the many designs from his journals. In addition to several machines demonstrating the properties of physics, there were several war machines including this chariot with rotating blades.

How about this prototype for the bicycle. Two wheeled design is pretty much the same 500 years later.

Turning to the air, his designs included a helicopter and a human powered machine to flap wings like a bird. Found that to be a bit of a problem, so he designed the glider.

In addition to his machines, the exhibit included some of his paintings enlarged to provide a backdrop for the machines. It was a great and informative hour long visit seeing his designs turned into three dimension machines.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thinking -- A Lost Art

Anyone with an email account has gotten viral emails reporting negative things about some issue or person. Obama. Romney. Health care. Medicare. Doctors. Federal legislators. Oil companies. Taxes. And many more -- including Mister Rogers.

Once received and believed as truth, the recipient (not me***) sends the "truth" viral email to all their email correspondents. A few days ago, I heard one of those "fact filled" viral emails related at the RV park social hour.

Are there no skeptics. Where is the BS detector. What about common sense. How about thinking a bit.

Seems most of society has become automatons as a result of the years of brain washing.

No thinking is allowed in schools. Just regurgitate the answers that were drilled in.

No thinking is allowed in religion; it's all about belief and a single book that was written based on oral histories of 2000 years ago.

No thinking is permitted in some work places; just do the job. You are not hired to think.

After all that training not to think, what can be expected. Since people have been conditioned not to think or question, the viral email is truth.

The internet is a useful and great research tool. However, it is just a tool. A hammer is a tool; used for construction or destruction. The internet as a tool is a medium for cranks and crackpots to spread their untruths and beliefs via those viral emails.

As the receiver of the email, use the internet tools to research the veracity of the email.

Time for a skeptic approach to internet derived "truths". Think. Question.

*** Note: I no longer get those emails. Each time I received one of those, I reply with the real facts -- usually with a URL to Snopes.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Living Without Drugs

Last year's annual physical was described at Body Maintenance.

Been seeing this same doctor for over twenty years. On this visit I weighed in at 144 lbs. That is what he recorded as my weight in 1992. Over those 20 years, my weight had a high of 165 before returning to the current 144.

I was actually looking forward to this visit. Why you ask. The curiosity was about the blood tests. The overall cholesterol number last year was 285. This year it was 235. With the exception of LDL, the other detailed cholesterol and blood measurements are within a point or couple of points of last year's numbers. The good cholesterol (HDL) has always been about 70 for the past ten years.

What was different was the drop of total cholesterol to 235. Result of changes in my diet. A year ago I was still eating grain products and the sugars that are invariably included in the manufacturing process (breads, cookies, pastries). Beginning early this year, grains had been removed from the diet and my diet essentially consists of meats, fish, vegetables, and fruits. Called a paleo diet. (Paleolithic diet at Wikipedia) My weaning from the "common wisdom diet" was described at Breaking a Habit and Breaking A Habit -- A Follow Up.

Breakfast will vary from day to day. Some days it is a blueberry and yogurt shake. Some mornings it is eggs and bacon or ham. Some days it was leftovers from the previous evenings meal. Lunches are huge salads. Dinners are some meat/chicken/fish with a vegetable side or an original meat dish/concoction that resembles a stew.

Dropping grains and most sugars from the diet dropped the LDL by 50 points. If I were to cut back on the amount of fruits I consume, I have no doubt the LDL number would be lower.

The doctor was pleased with the results although concerned with the high LDL number. Since the other cholesterol numbers were so positive, he was not as concerned about the LDL. However, a heart scan that I had about 15 years ago showed some calcification in some of the heart arteries. Assuming that is still there, he is still concerned about the possibility of stroke or heart attack.

It might be interesting to see what the heart scan looks like 15 years later. However, I have to ask myself would I do anything different. Would I take the statins which he recommends at each annual visit including this one. He wasn't as strident about the statins this time with the blood data that he saw. However, that heart scan remained a concern. He suggested statins. Again. Also suggested taking baby aspirin. Again. Not going to take either ones. (For my search about statin drugs a year ago, check out my post Just Say No.)

No drug comes without side effects. I would rather eat good foods that the chemistry of my body can handle rather than some drugs that the human body has not evolved to handle.

I will take my chances with living. What is life without a little excitement. And if I die of a heart attack, I won't even know it. I will be dead. A stroke is another issue. It certainly will affect living. Will the statins actually eliminate the stroke -- or heart attack. Nope. Not a sure thing.

No "better living through chemistry" for me. I will take my chances living without taking drugs.

An excellent graphic of the paleo diet without too many words.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Smoky Sunset

The smoke from wild fires in the northwest (Oregon, Idaho and California) has been drifting over the Rocky Mountains for about a week. With the smoky haze, the mountains are barely visible. A cold front passed through today clearing some of the haze. That provided this red sunset.

With that cold front in control. today's temps did not get beyond the mid 70s. Could that be the first warning that fall temperatures will soon be the norm rather than the 90s and 100s. Sounds great!

Soon it will be time to hitch up and start the journey south to warmer weather for the winter months. That is planned for mid-September.

To see where those fires are burning, see the Active Fire Map.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Searching For Quiet

While waiting for an oil change, customer waiting rooms at car dealerships are a nice place to go. Not really. The TV is tuned to either a news channel or some day time drivel -- and the commercials. When I'm the only one in the waiting room (what does it say about a dealership when the waiting room has accommodation for 25 to 30 people), I mute the TV sound. Most times it stays that way as people come and pick up some of the dated periodicals that lay on the table.

Occasionally, there is that individual who returns the sound to the TV. That is when I leave to go for a walk. Someplace. Anyplace without a TV blaring away with commercials every few minutes.

The most recent oil change was at a large Ford dealership. With chairs and tables scattered throughout the show room and the central court, there was no need for a waiting room. There was a TV playing in one area of the central area but mostly invisible to the rest of the area. Wi-Fi was available throughout the area like it is in most car dealers. The good part was the seating and the free Wi-Fi.

However, there was no avoiding that too loud music over the PA system. The music ranged in selections from the 50s genre to current rap hits. Actually much of the music could have been any vintage in the last three decades. Don't really know. There was probably something for every person's music taste who might be in the show room. Even worse, there was a singer in all the selections.

Unfortunately, I have a hard time concentrating when there is singing music in the background. They are talking. My brain always tries to listen to talking. Would be great if it could just be music. No singing. When it is just music without singing, it doesn't impact my concentration.

Sat myself down at a table and decided that perhaps the ear buds listening to Pandora on my iPad might drown out the dealership music/noise. It doesn't really work. If I turn up the sound on the iPad to block out the dealership noise, my ears hurt from the volume coming from the iPad. Not a good solution to the problem.

Eventually, I gave up. I couldn't concentrate on anything as I tried to read an eBook on the iPad. Walked around inside searching for a place where the music could not be heard.

Headed outside. It was great. Found a quiet place. Unfortunately, it was a tad chilly no sun day. It was tough outside for a guy with little body fat and usual attire of a Hawaiian shirt. With reflection on the screen of the iPad (Yeah. I know the eInk technology is readable outside.) it was either sitting or go for a walk. So I went for a walk around the car dealer's lot and checked the sticker prices for trucks and cars.

The little walking exercise was good. The time went quickly and soon I was reunited with Silver Slug and headed down the road in search of a quiet place. Home. There I control the sound -- and the music.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mini Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

The full title Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

The extrovert is applauded and encouraged. The other one third of the population of introverts is encouraged (sometimes forced) to become an extrovert. Doesn't work. There is the person/child who doesn't volunteer or talk in groups. That becomes a stigma and a bad report to the child's parent.

This book describes the introvert compared to the extrovert. Examples of well known introverts are included throughout the book. With research of brain function through imaging, the author relates that introversion can be observed in the brain. Further research and long range studies concur that there is the prescence of an introvert personality.

As I read Quiet, I could see myself as the shy and introverted kid that grew into a less shy but still introverted adult. In order to succeed in many business situations, the introvert has to take on the role of the extrovert. I also did that. It isn't easy and it is physically draining.

The author includes a chapter for the teacher and the manager where the author describes the ways to deal with the introverted individual.

With research, interviews of introverts and examples of well known introverts, Cain (an introvert) presents a very readable book on the subject of introversion.

For a brief overview of the author's thoughts, watch the TED talk Susan Cain's The Power of Introverts

Friday, August 3, 2012

Boosting Local Economies

In a previous post of observations and wonderings, I commented that I had been supporting the service departments of Ford dealerships during these last three months. I was hoping for future major expenses to wait until 2013. After a morning of coffee at Loveland Coffee, Silver Slug wouldn't start. Here we go again.

Long story short. Towed and repaired within the same day and now $1800 poorer. (On a credit card until next month.) A shorted fuel injector module was the reason for Silver Slug in "no go" mode. That was one very expensive part. The technology seems to include pricing for a Mac computer.

Once again I hope this is the end of these expenses for Silver Slug.

Wonder if there is an insurance plan for aging Silver Slug. Probably not with the miles and pre-existing conditions. :-)

Forgot to mention that this occurred on my birthday. Some birthday present!