Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mucus & Sputum Are Your Friends

I heard this on San Diego Public Radio today, and was delighted to see how easy it was to look up:  the mucus in human noses and throats (and elsewhere in our bodies) helps to protect us from bacteria by harboring viral phages that prey upon bacteria (bacteriophages).  You can read about it here in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science of the United States of America (link), or here, in the Journal of Immunology (link).

Those pesky scientists...  testing theories...  using scientific method and publishing peer reviewed articles... taking up tax payer funded government grants...  what do they know?  Shouldn't they just be reading their fundamentalist religious texts and trusting everything to the creator in which they should be placing their faith?  =)

I am glad that Jeremy Barr, Rita Auro, Mike Furlan, Katrine Whiteson, Natasha Talago, Lauren Paul, Marcella Erb, Joe Pogliano, Aleksandr Stotland, Roland Wolkowicz, Andrew Cutting, Kelly Doran, Peter Salamon, Merry Youle,  and Forest Rohwer DID test their theories, and used rigorous scientific methods to show that the phages symbiotically help protect the underlying epithelium from bacterial infections.  Considering the massive amounts of soap, Purell, and bleach I've personally used in the last 2 weeks both at MUSC and at my son's home, and the active upper respiratory infection I was sporting throughout my trip that was causing me to cough and blow my nose whenever a nurse was not present, I am happy to hear that all that mucus was laden with viral phages that were actively working to kill off any bacterial invaders who tried to gain entry.

I wonder how much the phages liked the generic guaifenesin (Mucinex) I was taking?  Old old family allergist, 20 years ago, used to say guaifenesin acted like a 'super highway' making mucus long and stringy, more stretchy, and mobile, less "sticky".  He said that initial trials of guaifenesin with women who were trying to get pregnant helped to thin out and elongate the uterus mucus so that sperm could swim more easily up the walls and get to the fallopian tubes and the precious eggs they were seeking (definitely an "off label" use).  Keep that in mind the next time you cough up some sputum...  lol!

Karma Seems To Keep Working

I went down to the headlands at Dana Point this afternoon, to see the raptor chicks who have fledged and who are flying about, following their parents around, learning to hunt and fly and do all the things avian apex predators are supposed to do in nature.  I had the good fortune to notice a wispy plume of rendered white feathers, blowing in the breeze, and upon further observation, saw one of the chicks tearing apart what appeared to be a sea gull, from the webbed pinkish foot that was sticking out, as large as the raptor chick's head as she rendered her lunch with her beak and talons.  A moment later, her mother and one of her sisters came flying past, with a chorus of shrieks and cries.   It was good to see them flying again, after getting back from South Carolina.    I heard another stationary chick's cries, high up on the cliffs, but could not locate her, so I continued all the way to the headlands at high tide.

I looked all around the far end of the headlands, saw no flight or perching activities, and headed back along the rocks at high tide, in a very slow parkour, to keep my binoculars safe in one hand.  About 100 feet from the main point or the tide pools, I spotted a chick high up in an old crow's nest on the cliff face, eating something white and feathery.   I marveled at her through my Nikons, until she literally saw me watching her from several hundred feet away.  She stared at me, and then took her lunch further back in the nest, away from the edge, to dine more privately, out of sight.

That's when I saw the teenagers, with Coors Lite silver bullet cans in their hands, trying to be secretive in the caves at the base of the cliff.  They obviously didn't like it that some old guy with binoculars was looking up, but they were busy trying to scurry with their cooler out of site too.  They just happened to be directly underneath the first of the chick sister's dining cliff... which really annoyed me, that they were drinking, underage, oblivious the beauty of nature around them.  I mean, I did some stupid stuff too when I was in High School, and I would have cut them some slack... but they were littering their empty silver cans all over the most pristine and best preserved tide pools in all of Orange County.  Had they just quietly carried out their empties in a discreet trash container, I would not have texted the park ranger and describe the 5 teens to him.  He would not have had to hike down to the headlands, and that nice ranger would not have then had to make all 5 of the teenagers collect every single piece of trash along the 1/2 mile rocky coast line from the headlands back to the parking lot.

I reflected back on the dumb things I did in High School as I began to compose this posting.  Littering was not one of them.  Making a fool of myself in front of adults and law enforcement occasionally did happen, but not all that often.  In fact, I was so opposed to littering, that once, while in Munster and waiting at a light on Ridge Road, I saw the car ahead of me open it's driver's door and put an entire brown paper bag of garbage on the street.   When the light turned green, I opened my door, picked up the garbage bag, and followed the litterer to the next light at US6 and US41, where I then got out of my car, walked up to their vehicle, and laid the garbage bag on their hood and windshield, telling the surprised driver "Excuse me, you dropped this back there. Don't litter anymore" before getting back into my car, and driving away.

I try to make it a point to not even spit my gum out, and instead throw it in the trash, as it seems that every time I've spit my gum out in the last 40 years, I wind up stepping in someone else's gum a day or two later. When my son and I hiked "off trail" in Arizona, we carried garbage bags with us, and collected discarded trash along the way... both to help the environment and improve the natural beauty, but also to serve as an alibi if a ranger said "hey! why are you off the marked trail?" Invariably, we'd have a large bag of trash in hand by the time we got back to the parking lot.

I do hope my son's leg recovers fully and he is completely ambulatory before he visits us here again in California.  There's so much beauty to see and things to do in this amazing state.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Week At MUSC

Well, the last week I've been on an unplanned trip to Charleston SC, to attend to my son in the MUSC hospital, after a nasty knee infection took over and got him admitted to the hospital ER & ICU.  He's recovering now, and will be out of the hospital now and back to his home by the weekend, and I'll be on a flight back to California before Memorial Day.  While I've been able to spend ALOT of quality time with my son, I do with it was under better circumstances.
View from the room, looking NW
I've become very familiar with the one-way, non-linear, and confusing roads of the Charleston peninsula, between my hotel, the MUSC campus, and my son's home.  Next time I travel, I need to remember to pack extra underwear and socks, just in case the trip gets unexpectedly extended, as this one did - then I won't have to do laundry every 3 days.
From the 10th floor observation desk looking north towards the Cooper River bridge.
I wanted to share these lovely vistas of Charleston, as most people who have visited the city have not been 100 ft above the city on the 10th floor of the teaching hospital.  Only the Francis Marion Hotel and Sgt. Jasper Apartments (built in the 50s) are taller than the MUSC patient towers.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

First California Outdoor Grooming

I groomed our 19 year old cat this evening, outside.  There was almost no wind, so her combed hair didn't blow far in the wind.   I filled up an entire tissue box full of 19yr old American Short Haired fur.   It took over an hour.   Dr Desert Flower and I bought a package of Curad surgical face masks at Target, which helped to keep the fur out of my lunch and face.  A trio of purple finches were annoyed that I was grooming a potential predator near the hummingbird feeders from which they were determined ot drink nectar... and a dozen or so neighbors on the footpath behind our home noticed me in gauntleted gloves, long sleeves (it was over 90F today), long pants, and a face mask combing and petting / spanking our old cat.   No one has called the ASPCA yet....  I will be sad when she eventually expires.

Stone Espresso Russian Imperial Stout

I just enjoyed a Espresso Stone Brewery Russian Imperial Stout with 1.5 lbs of ground Angus Beef from Trader Joes.  The rectangular packaging made grilling it easy, with 2 3/4 patties, about an icy thick.   Dr Desert Flower is working late, so more protein and beer for me.

From the Stone Brwery Page (also printed on the back of Every Espresso Russian Imperial Stout:)
assic Release

"Stone Imperial Russian Stout
Stone Imperial Russian Stout is so thick, rich and well, sinful, you might worry that you'll be doomed to the fiery pits just for thinking about a sip. Rest assured, however, that even though this seemingly pernicious brew is indeed as black as sin, we guarantee that no actual sin was committed in making it... you'll have to add that on your own. This massive and intensely aromatic beer abounds with notes of anise, black currants, coffee, and roastiness, and its heavy palate is nothing to be trifled with!  

2013 Odd Year Release
Stone Espresso Imperial Russian Stout
Like the classic version, this Odd Year edition was brewed in the authentic, historical style of an imperial Russian stout, but with the addition of several hundred pounds of espresso beans from our friends at Ryan Bros. Coffee. Layers of flavor and complexity augment an already enigmatic brew, leaving this darkly delicious libation positively brimming with deep, rich espresso flavors that meld beautifully with the roasty bitterness of the dark malts."

Really fantastic stuff.  I know I've tried giving up craft beers, but Trader Joe's sells this for $5 a bottle, and it's So Damn good, I can't resist it.  And hamburgers and beer is an American tradition, much more than hamburgers and wine.    I highly recommend you try it in 2013.   They won't brew it with espresso in 2014.  =)


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Watch Today's Solar Eclipse LIVE (now)
link here

I think this is VERY cool!
I've never seen a live solar flare before....   sweet.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

10E-35 to 10E27

This is very cool.  (link here)

And considering the speed of light, makes a "6000 year old Universe" hysterically laughable.

Beautifully done.

Get the kids.... open up the link...  and have teachable moments.  Many teachable moments.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Yard, Home To Rufous Hummingbirds

I am happy to announce, that after years of trying, I was finally successful in hosting a viable hummingbird nest in my yard.  At first, I thought it was an Anna's hummingbird, but then upon closer inspection and observation I found the female was a Rufous hummingbird, native to Southern California.
not zoomed in

The nest was in a low hanging branch, about 8 feet off the ground, and less than 15 feet from my hot tub.  I noticed it one evening while enjoying an adult beverage during a hot tub soak before dusk.  I couldn't figure out at first, why there was a female hummingbird nervously watching me soak, and then sheepishly ducking into the dense tree foliage and not re-emerging.   She had already built the nest, out of spider webs and bits of plant matter.  I was delighted to see her sitting in the nest when I got out of the hot tub.  She sat there each night, and intermittently through the day between feedings, for the 16 day incubation period.  When the chicks hatched, I was out of town, but upon my return, I was amazed to see two young hummingbird chicks As Big As Their Mother, sitting motionlessly in the nest, waiting for mom to return.
Mama Rufous hummingbird trying to be a decoy "Don't Look to the left, there's no nest there!"
Close observation through my 10X binoculars from inside my home, I could watch mom come and go and regurgitate nectar and small insects into her children's open mouths and throats.  The whole nest is no bigger than a small tea cup - one Cartman would perhaps use for a tea party with Polly Prissy Pants and Clyde Frog.  Smaller around than a baseball, mom would fill the nest when she sat on it.  After hatching, the 2 chicks dominated the nest as they grew so quickly.  Mom could barely perch on the side of edge of the nest to feed them before they finally fledged.

Dr Desert Flower and I were heading out of the house in late April, when I saw a very small and young Rufous female sitting on our driveway in the sun.   I was concerned that some predator would come and devour the resting hummingbird, so I grabbed a post-card sized piece of paper, and gently slid it under the little female, to pick her up and place her on a higher branch of a palm about 5 feet above the driveway.   About 6 inches above the driveway, she got enough energy to fly away on her own, off the paper, and perched on a deciduous tree about 20 feet in the air.  I was glad that she was sticking around the house where she had just fledged.

I hope she continues to visit the 4 feeders I have out, and next mating season she and her sister and mom can each build nests of their own in the foliage around my yard.