Monthly Archives: June 2013

Fired up for the Fourth of July

I am affected by what I see.  Mountain vistas, nighttime cityscapes, autumn forests, clear night skies far from the city, pictures of my family – I can feel myself fall into them.  And fireworks!  Those summertime delights of color, exploding in and falling from the sky, either viewed in relative solitude from afar, or surrounded by crowds sharing in the awe of the display, hearing the music to which the dancing light is choreographed, and smelling the wisps of smoke in the air…  A professional fireworks show is a true gift for the senses.

But the fireworks used by non-professionals are another story.  According to June, 2013 reports from both the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), approximately 9,000 people each year go to a hospital to be treated for fireworks-related injuries, and there are an annual 5 to 10 deaths from fireworks (either from direct injury or secondary to fires).  In recent years, the average annual number of fires started by fireworks was between 18,000 and 20,000.

I grew up in a state where consumer fireworks were illegal.  That didn’t prevent their use.  One could drive a short distance over the state border to another state where they were legal, and wouldn’t you know it – there were multiple fireworks stores right over the border.  And one frequently had friends with older siblings (or even parents) who made that drive to make that purchase, even if one’s own parents had repeatedly told one that fireworks were dangerous, and that one should stay away from them.  Hey, if all these other parents let their kids use them, fireworks couldn’t be that bad.  And, as the kids and their parents said repeatedly, they were “only bottle rockets.”

Well, it turns out that one’s own parents were correct (as occurred (and still occurs) with annoying frequency) – those things did not necessarily shoot off in the intended direction.  And sometimes they would fizzle out, only to explode right before someone reached out to pick up the “dud.”  My pyrotechnic youthful rebellion was short-lived, since it was quickly apparent to me that you could put an eye out with those things, or worse.  Turns out that in 2012, over 10% of fireworks injuries were due to bottle rockets.  (And 17% of total fireworks injuries last year involved people’s eyes, so you definitely could put an eye out.)

But sparklers are harmless, right?  Nope.  According to the NFPA, the tip of a sparkler burns at a temperature over 1200 degrees Fahrenheit.  That’ll hurt.  Or catch your clothing on fire.

And the very best amateur fireworks displays don’t hold a candle, so to speak, to the professional displays.  Buy some glow-stick bracelets, grab some friends, and find a good spot for the municipal fireworks shows.  Bring a blanket to stake your spot, bring some food, bring some bug spray, bring your sense of awe and wonder, and have a safe, spectacular Independence Day celebration!

Note: my statistics were gleaned at the following two websites:


Recovered From Red Eyes and Recovering From the Redeye

Just over 4 years ago, my brother and his family moved to a hot, desert climate in the Southwest.  We visit yearly, usually during the summer, since that’s when the kids in both states are out of school.  So my family just spent the past five days in Las Vegas.  108 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s a dry heat.  Like my convection oven, only bigger.

Not even a wisp of a cloud in the sky the entire time we were there.  And that sun is brutal.  So I listened to my own advice, and when it wasn’t possible to stay in the shade, I used a strong sunscreen.  Personally, I love the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer stuff – it absorbs really quickly, and doesn’t feel at all slimy or greasy.  But whatever you do, for the love of all that is holy, do NOT allow that substance to get in your eyes.

When I splashed into the pool at the bottom of a lovely, meandering water slide, it took about 4-and-a-half seconds for the sunscreen to get from the skin around my eyes to the surface of my eyes.  And I thought my corneas might actually catch on fire.

So, when you get sunscreen in your eyes, rinse them immediately with lots of clean water.  Use soap and water to wash your whole upper face, so that more doesn’t drip in again later when you start to sweat or when you jump in the pool again.  Wear a hat.  Get in the shade.  And find a sunscreen made for faces, or a tear-free one.

Oh, and here’s another first-aid tip (this one’s not really my field, but I figured I’d share information learned) :  When you realize a few minutes after jumping into a swimming pool that your cell phone is in your pocket, pop out the battery immediately (to avoid short circuits that’ll completely fry the inside of the phone), dry off what you can, and stick the phone in a zip-lock baggie with a bunch of uncooked rice and leave it overnight.  The rice absorbs water vapor, helping to draw moisture out of the cell phone.  This trick made for a mostly-functioning phone and a very grateful teenager (one who will likely not put a cell phone in his bathing suit pocket again).

We had an absolutely fabulous visit with my brother and his family.  It was laid-back, yet fun-filled.  Everyone, from the 7-year-old to the 45-year-old, enjoyed swimming, pinball, four square, laser tag, walks, a rock music show, restaurants, ping pong, air hockey, card games (we were, after all, in Vegas), and just being together.

And then it was time to come home.  It’s painful saying goodbye, since it’ll be about 10 months until we’re together again, but we consoled one another with talk of the modern wonder that is Skype, and then the five of us went to the airport.  For an 11:45 p.m. flight.  Also painful.

The price differential between a redeye flight and one at a decent hour is big enough that you can’t ignore it when you’re purchasing five plane tickets.  Hydrate well prior to one of these flights, because if you snooze through the drink cart’s procession, you’ll feel like you’re back in the desert by the time the three-and-a-half hour flight is over.

Once home, it’s amazing the good a brief nap can do.

Please forgive any sleep deprivation-induced typos or grammatical errors in today’s post.  And keep sunscreen out of your eyes, keep your cell phone out of the pool, and keep making memories, even when you have to fly all night to do so.



The Joys and Hazards of a Mediterranean Diet

My family is a family of foodies.  We savor flavors, and love trying new ethnic cuisines.  But as much as we love the adventure of trying new places, we definitely have favorite places or cuisine types that we fall back on time and again when we want to eat out.  All of us love Indian food, but we’re not always all in the mood for it.  We all love Italian, but again, we’re not always all up for it when we want to go out for dinner.  Same with Ethiopian.  But when we want to go out, and nothing’s invoking the same level of enthusiasm in everyone, there’s one thing that never has anyone object: Lebanese.

One of the best things about living in the Metro Detroit area is that we have readily available some of the best Lebanese food in this country (I have not been to Lebanon, but I am assuming the Lebanese food is pretty good there, as well).  It’s simply delicious.  The hummus, the tabbouleh, the fresh, deep green romaine salads with just enough tomatoes, cucumber and red onion to keep it interesting, tossed in salad dressing with lemon, olive oil and mint flavors peeking through – wow!  Fresh smoothies made from strawberries, banana and a little mango juice.  Grilled vegetables.  Chicken shawarma – marinated and grilled shaved pieces of chicken, topped with a little garlic sauce.  Sauteed cauliflower with caramelized onions.  Vegetable ghallaba – julienne peppers, onions, mushrooms, garlic and carrots sauteed with an allspice-infused broth.  Lentil soup, crushed or whole, with a squeeze of lemon over the top.

All of the above happily fits into the category of the “Mediterranean Diet” that is touted for its health benefits.  But not everything in a Mediterranean restaurant fits into that “healthy” category.  The deep-fried potatoes are not tops on the healthy list.  Layers of phyllo dough and butter also do not top the list of good-for-you foods.  The research showing the benefits of a Mediterranean diet does not assume an eating pattern heavy on lamb, beef, fried potatoes and baklava.  To keep the it’ll-make-you-live-forever type benefits from what you order, stick to the vegetables and a little chicken or fish.  Choose restaurants where they use olive oil rather than butter (or request that they use olive oil instead of butter when they prepare your meal).

Some of the foods in Lebanese restaurants can have a lot of sodium.  Mediterranean countries are hot.  When it’s over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and you don’t have air conditioning, most people’s bodies could use some extra salt.  In more temperate climates, and when you are not away from air-conditioning for extended periods during the summer, the excess salt is not necessary, and can cause or exacerbate health issues in many people.  (Note: speak to your doctor about how dietary sodium specifically affects you, considering your individual medical and health situation.)  When in a Labanese or other Mediterranean restaurant (or any restaurant, for that matter), you can request that they make your dishes with less salt.  Also, when you prepare this type of food at home, you have complete control over the salt content, as well as the type of oil, and you can use whole grains rather than white flour.

At our favorite local Lebanese places, there is a major not-necessarily-super-nutritious temptation: the fresh, oven-baked pita bread.  I am well aware that it is not whole-grain, but it is so good that it’s worth an occasional splurge.  As I’ve said before, if I’m going to splurge on something, it’s going to be really good.  The pre-packaged, flat, white-flour pita from a plastic bag does not provide the taste bud tantalization for me to be worth eating, so I skip it.  But a piece of the soft, hot, yeasty, puffy, fresh-baked stuff?  Completely worth it.  And after I have a piece of it, I switch to using pieces of red onion to dip into the rest of the hummus (red onion dipped in hummus is really good – you’ve got to try it).  I have plans to someday try making my own pita with whole grain flour.  It needs a really hot oven, so I think I’ll attempt it using my outdoor grill – I’ll let you know how it goes when I try it.  And if you try it first, please pass along any advice.

So find a great Lebanese restaurant (you may have to try a few), and enjoy!  And enjoy making the stuff at home, too!


A Little Privacy Here, Please?

When circumstances allow, I like to give myself a little time to breathe and reflect before reacting to something that angers me.  So this post relates to a news item from a little over three-and-a-half weeks ago.  I’m still mad.  I read the following headline: “(Prominent Politician) Gets Secret Weight Loss Surgery!”  (*Note: the “secret” here does not refer to a prototype or not-available-to-the-public procedure, but to the fact that the person who had the procedure done didn’t announce it to the world when he had it done.)  Since the headline ticked me off, I figured I’d read the article.  Annoyance was confirmed.  And each time I’ve looked back at the article over the past few weeks, I’ve fumed.

A person’s medical decisions, when not made public, are not “secret.”  Secrecy implies that someone is hiding something, and implies that other people have a right to know about it.  “Secret” is not the correct word here.  The proper term in this situation is “private,” as in “none of anyone else’s business.”  HIPAA covers “privacy” rules, not “secrecy” rules.  A medical decision is a private matter, concerning a patient and his or her doctors, and only those other individuals that the patient chooses to include.  A person certainly has a right to publicly share his medical information if he so chooses, but there is certainly no onus upon him to do so.

The article includes references to multiple public questions and comments about private health concerns, including a public comment from a prominent physician, who had never examined, met, nor even spoken with this politician.  I am well aware of today’s general erosion of privacy, but at times the presumptuousness of people simply blows me away.  Unless they are either the patient or the physician of record in regard to a specific medical issue, any politician, member of the press, and anyone else, for that matter, needs to get out of that doctor’s office.

I feel a little better now.  Maybe I shouldn’t have held that in for almost a month.

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