Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Depressed Rhino Befriends Donkey at zoo

How wonderful is this? I love it when animals make friends.

Also, posted this before, but I can't get enough of Mr. G and Jellybean. I can't believe how happy that goat is to see his long-lost buddy.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Swimming's Climate Series: Floods a-comin'

Lorde-Buzzcut Season

In light of last week's horrific flooding in Detroit and Swimming's sister having to save babies from car tops in the midst of a washed out roadway I am going to address increased flooding.

First off, this is another gruesome effect of climate change (along with the excess heat I discussed in the previous post in this series). Unfortunately, we can expect more of these events to come in the future too. How are the two related? At the most basic level, heavier rainfall and rising sea levels. Per the Times: "scientists have expected this effect for decades because more water is evaporating from a warming ocean surface, and the warmer atmosphere is able to hold the excess vapor, which then falls as rain or snow."

I can only speak secondhand as I don't live in Detroit, but my very close friends and family live there and I have heard their accounts. What irks me (and has irked me since I was at the United Nations and heard the accounts of countries across the world disclose how their citizens and communities are affected by climate change) is the gross injustice of inequality. It haunts me to think that without much warning and without much help afterwards a good deal of Southeast Detroit flooded. Unlike the storms out east last year or the Colorado/California wildfires nearly every year, there was no forewarning for the inhabitants. In the midst of disaster, the law enforcement/government aid was virtually absent leaving most of the citizens of Detroit to fend for themselves. What I want to bring to attention is the fact that climate change is affecting everyone; however, the help and the ability of cities and communities to deal with it is starkly different. Wealthy areas (like both coasts) have the city funding to send police and aid to help people and businesses even before disasters strike. What about the people in the midwest? They are also being affected, but how do those citizens that make up the heart of America get aid when places like Detroit can barely afford police to take care of homicides? Let's not forget about Katrina. These places house some of the poorest communities and these citizens cannot afford to simply uproot their lives. Some people have lost everything--what can be done? A lot in my opinion. Below are some links. I think first educating the masses on the science and the cause is a must. Secondly, preparing communities to deal with weather-related issues and illnesses. Lastly, I think it's time that prominent members of the community (politicians, lawyers, physicians, business people) band together to address this issue with local governments. 

(1) Here is excellent overview
-Explains how the US has already changed--temperature and precipitation-wise. (Apparently the East Coast is sinking...bummer.)

(2) A gorgeous website on Climate change in the US
-Please go here and interactively explore how climate change is occurring 

(3)Specific Info on Flooding via NRDC

(4)What to do during a flood-Be Prepared!
(Copied from website)
Prepare before a flood:
During a flood:
  • Listen to the radio or television for information.
  • Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
  • Be aware of stream, drainage channels, canyons and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings such as rain clouds or heavy rain.
During flood evacuation:
  • Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.
  • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
When heading into flood weather (although avoid doing this at all costs):
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas.
(5) Know the Nations Weather Flood terms (Copied from ready.gov website):

Flood Watch - Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
Flash Flood Watch - Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
Flood Warning - Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
Flash Flood Warning - A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground immediately.

(6) The dangers of driving during floods: (Copied from ready.gov website)
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground, when water is not moving or not more than a few inches deep. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly.  If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, stay in the vehicle. If the water is rising inside the vehicle, seek refuge on the roof.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, particularly during threatening conditions. 
  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
  • A foot of water will float many vehicles
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.
  • Do not attempt to drive through a flooded road. The depth of water is not always obvious. The road bed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped.
  • Do not drive around a barricade. Barricades are there for your protection. Turn around and go the other way.
  • Do not try to take short cuts. They may be blocked. Stick to designated evacuation routes.
  • Be especially cautious driving at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

(7) From 'How to survive a flash-flood: In case you are trapped in a car' here are some great tips.
 Be very aware of your car's limitations. If you drive in water that's six inches deep or more, your car could stall or you could lose control of it. One foot of water is enough to float most cars, and two feet of rushing water can indeed carry away cars, SUVs and pick-ups.
  • Do not panic if your car becomes submerged by flood waters. Release your seat belt, roll down your window and get out of the car. If your windows won't open, let the car fill with water. Once that happens, you will be able to open the doors. Get out of the car immediately and swim to the surface. Do not stay in the car until it sinks.
  • If you are swept away in fast-moving water, try to make sure your feet are pointed downstream. 
  • If you are swept away, make every effort to direct your body over obstacles rather than under them.
  • If you can, try to avoid contact with any flood waters. The water may be contaminated with raw sewage, oil or gasoline, and may also be charged with electricity from down power lines. 
(8) What are the Health Risks?
Here's a few from the webiste
  • Drowning while driving
  • Waterborne diseases contaminating drinking water
  • Sewage back-up in plumbing or basements
  • Bacteria, sewage, and other contaminants in waterways:
  • Mold and dangerous indoor air quality    

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Heart Health!

Lorde-Glory and Gore

In light of Swimming's cholesterol, I'll be posting here some information on how to take control of your heart health. For ten years now, Swimming has controlled elevated LDL and overall cholesterol (genetic) through diet and exercise; each year being more active and healthier than the previous. Please note that if you have problematic H. pylori (the bacteria that is the cause of most duodenal ulcers--we all have it but certain cases it becomes out of control) can also increase LDL levels (due to inflammation that the bacteria causes in the intestines) and can also lead to  atherosclerosis. The literature is limited on this relation, however, it points to something interesting that might be occurring. As a side note: anyone dealing with GERD or ulcers that haven't subsided with short-term use of medication should also have their gastrin levels checked. 

(1) Several months ago the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology just released new guidelines for cholesterol levels and therapeutics:
Here's the reader's digest version.
Here's the longer Times summary. 
Here is the AHA's summary of their 4 new guidelines.  
Here's their online calculator to figure out your risk of heart disease and stroke.  
Lastly, here's AHA guideline resource center which has more info on CV disease, diabetes, obesity and the guidelines.
Here are the full guidelines (NB: both these organizations have industry disclosures.) 
-Anyone dealing with this or at risk read the guidelines and if you have questions ask (myself and I'll consult with my resources or your own physician.) The new guidelines account for the multitude of side-effects the may come with the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs. (FYI all drugs are not created equal. Unfortunately I've personally seen these drugs handed out like candy after a pharm rep dropped off a bunch of samples at a Cardiologist's office.) I personally have been incredibly vigilant about modifying lifestyle as much as possible so I can delay the use of medication by keeping my overall cholesterol to <200 and my LDL to around 100 or less (my earlier discussion reg. my ulcer has totally messed this up for me.) Statins are extremely effective at lowering cholesterol but for many the use of statins come at a high price. Anyone on the border that could avoid statin use with diet and exercise should strongly consider doing everything they can to delay their start of statins therapy (esp if you're like me and are in your 20s or 30s.) Statins are powerful at lowering the risk of Cardiovascular disease and this coupled with the other advancements (Stents etc...) in cardiology have collectively decreased cardiovascular deaths in the past 30 years tremendously and have also increased the life span of humans. With that said, please please please do your part to take care of your heart! How? read further! 

(2) Cooking for lower cholesterol 
and here's some more information on a low fat diet.
-This is really just good information. I have been on a low fat, low sodium, high fiber diet for some time now and the initial transition I had to make when I was 18 was difficult but well worth it. I haven't really had fast food in a very long time, I just don't even go for anything fried (this was easy to give up since fried foods also cause acid reflux). I love steamed veggies! Letting go of cookies and ice cream is just plain hard since I love both. I'm not fully there yet but I would say now every few months I allow myself these treats (mainly seasonal.) 

(3) Good background information on fats and cholesterol. 

(4) Warning: fish oil supplements have also been known to raise LDL.  

(5) Some last links--info and debate on statins (from the evidence I've read I see that they are beneficial, but I always think the first line of defense should be diet and exercise):

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lessons learned

(1) to errr is human, to forgive is divine 
(2) it is my responsibility to free my mind.
(3) keep it up. Don't stop being great. 
(4) with mistakes we learn and gain 
(5) I am now finding solace in how life never remains still 
(6) “Stay away from what might have been and look at what can be.” ~Marsha Petrie Sue
(7) always remember the trichotomy of control
(8) Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us. – Epictetus
(9) when the stars align to offer something, by all means don't go against them. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Beloved Academia!

I don't have much to say about this but there's been a lot of discussion lately about the future of academics here and here. I thought this study was interesting as well. Having had a very very small exposure (but exposure nonetheless) of what academia entails I can only conclude one thing: it's a very tough environment. The sequestering of funding is making it even harder and less appealing. The simple truth is that the limited tenured positions out there and the lack of funding have made it harder to establish oneself financially and as an academic, let alone establish one's body of knowledge, work, ideas etc...I already mourn the loss of the open forum of schools of thought (I'm referring to the lost art of learning rhetoric of a sort from a philosophical school.) Being able to ponder one's craft without being clouded by the nitty gritty (primarily funding) appears to be a lost art and immensely difficult when one is struggling to manage their own livelihood. I don't have a solution (yet) for this unfortunately, but if more individuals who are passionate about a field (any field) choose the industry over the academic route at some point progress will become stallwart. We need innovation in order progress ourselves and our society. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Swimming's Climate Series: Poverty and Climate Change

Greetings fair readers!

This will be a short post primarily to expand on what was published by the World Bank this week.

Per the World Bank this week “We will never end poverty if we don't tackle climate change.”
This is a startling truth that resonates deeply with my own concerns of how climate change affects our health. A reader's digest summary is this: as countries increase their carbon emissions, the planet gets warmer. This results in melting of the polar ice caps causing flooding, prolonged elevated temperatures causing droughts, and increased carbon dioxide in the oceans. What does this mean for poverty? Well the hardest hit countries are the poorest countries. Along with floods comes water-borne diseases. At the UN, I met Dr. Manoj Kurian (manager of the International AIDS Society) that put it best "Viruses don't need visas." Poor countries are already combatting their own health issues and are now becoming even more burdened with foreign vector-borne diseases from increased flooding that carry these critters across borders.

As far as droughts go, it's quite obvious that the hardest hit global regions are the ones where (1) the countries are affected more by droughts and (2) the countries' primary GDP stems from agriculture. Typically, countries whose primary GDP is coming from agriculture are also lacking another sustainable and dominant industry to add to the GDP. Droughts are affecting crops and the economy of these areas (ie India, Guatemala etc...) this results in malnourishment of the citizens. Another effect is increased suicide from depression. Droughts of crops are oftentimes the sole income/livelihood of farming families. After months and even years of droughts many of the farmers in these countries have an increased incidence of mental illness and suicide.

I've run out of time, but at some point I shall elaborate on this topic and include more references.  For now though, just chew on how you can decrease your carbon footprint and help not only yourself and your community, but also generate a global impact.