Help Celebrate Hug A Cloud Day!

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

You can do this! Cloud-hugging (instructions below) benefits all of humankind.

Hug A Cloud Day came about because this is the 250th anniversary of the birth of English chemist/amateur meteorologist Luke Howard, the man who named clouds. The above puffy/fluffy ones are cumulus — if I’m not mistaken — from the Latin cumulo. On Hug A Cloud Day — or any other day, for that matter — it’s okay just to call them beautiful puffy things in the sky. But thanks to Luke Howard, they have names. This information is courtesy of the Cloud Appreciation Society.

Photo by Michael & Diane Weidner on Unsplash

Everything I know about clouds comes from British-based Cloud Appreciation Society, of which I am Member #45,662. (Everything, that is, except for Hug A Cloud Day; I just invented that.) Largely it comes into my Inbox every day in the form of the Cloud of the Day.

In lieu of the daily cloud, though, my Inbox recently brought a portait of Luke Howard, and the information that he’s the guy who, back in 1802, came up with the idea of giving clouds Latin names like those for plants and animals.

Photo by Anna Spencer on Unsplash

So now we have Cirrus, Cumulus, Stratus, Nimbus and endless varieties, all worth appreciating. Or hugging. Here are the benefits of cloud-hugging: a healthy stretch, exercise time if you add a little happy dance, a chance to commune with the universe and balm for the soul. Plus, it’s free.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Here’s how to hug a cloud:

Go outside. If you can’t go outside, go to a window.

Look up.

Stretch out both arms as wide as you can.

Smile at a cloud. It can even be a rain cloud. You don’t have to call it by its proper name; clouds don’t really care.

Wrap your arms around your shoulders.

You have now celebrated Hug A Cloud Day. Your cloud, happily hugged, can now float off and around the planet, to make itself universally available. Free hugs, humans everywhere. Imagine.

The Joy of Supplements

Today’s random health report

Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Dietary doomsday may be upon us. For instance, how’s the eicosapentaenoic acid?

And should we be REALLY worried about it?

There’s food — as in breakfast, lunch, dinner, nosh — and there’s Supplement. I grew up on meat & potatoes plus a few vegetables, old-fashioned stuff you cook and eat. But the world seems to be geared to popping pills for daily needs, so I supplement with the best of them today.

One of my children told me to take turmeric with curcumin, so I started swallowing those yellowish pills a few years ago. I have no idea why; sometimes I think they give me desert-sand breath.

Then there’s fish oil. Does everybody take daily fish oil? I sort of think so. That’s where you get the eicosapentaenoic acid. It’s a “fatty acid,” which doesn’t sound particularly yummy when you think about it. Plus, I used to take pride in never having dropped acid.

I am more than a little suspicious of it all. Big Pharma, I think, did a mind control thing on my primary care doctor, the one who said I really should take extra iron, and calcium with vitamin D, and if I’m not mistaken she threw in the fish oil. There is no fish oil capsule smaller than a quail’s egg. After I while, I got a new doctor.

Mostly, I am fascinated with CoQ10. Seriously, now. Had you ever heard of CoQ10 before it began starring in every other commercial on MSNBC?

CoQ10 — I’ve been researching this, no easy task — is an enzyme. More specifically it is “Coenzyme Q, also known as ubiquinone . . .” Most healthy people have plenty of it, but maybe — maybe — scarfing a little more might help with one’s blood pressure or metabolism or headache. Apparently, nobody much knows. Just reading about it gives me a headache.

In the small print of the CoQ10 packages are warnings about diarrhea, nausea and heartburn, little things like that. As to whether taking this happy little supplement can actually do any good, phrases like “the evidence is conflicting,” or “it’s uncertain that adding CoQ10 will have any effect” proliferate.

Maybe we should go back to kale and blueberries.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles+

A 3-day Getaway trip that’s all about the journey

Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

You’ve gotta love Scenic-Route trains. Or maybe you don’t, if you’re some sort of a lumpy impassive immovable home-bound sedentary stick-in-the-mud grump and bless your heart. But I simply love trains.

Salt ponds with coastal mountains & the City receding at the start of the journey south 

It began, therefore, as a bucket-list trip on the Amtrak Coast Starlight from San Francisco to San Diego. Fourteen hours’ worth of California the beautiful: Bay marshes, salt ponds, golden hills, picture-perfect rows of vegetables and vineyards, tunnels through rugged mountains and finally the indigo grandeur of the Pacific Ocean, right there where it’s always been — albeit still on the wrong side of the street for this East Coast native. 

Vineyards near Paso Robles

Late fall colors, the passing scene 

All that should, truthfully, have been enough. Get on the train, restore the soul, fly home — and that was the original Plan. But it grew exponentially, transportationally-speaking, into a couple of addenda that are worth mentioning.

For starters, the ferry. Maybe there’s one near you. If not, just come on to San Francisco. From Gate G at the Ferry Building, catch the 4:30 eastbound to Jack London Square in Oakland. On a late autumn afternoon, this features a receding view of the sun setting behind the cityscape. Whew.

Ferry view of San Francisco

After the ferry, after the train, it’s likely you will add in a taxi ride or two or (in my case, because something was interrupting the train tracks between Los Angeles and San Diego) a FlixBus, a few cars driven by friends, a couple of hotel rooms and a good bit of old-fashioned walking. I was also treated to a trolley cart of some sort that careened us for what seemed at least a half a mile from train stop to actual station in L.A. — but that was a vehicle not worth a photo.

At the end, fully restored, there’s no place like home.

An end-of-trip Pacific sunset, this one from above San Francisco

Last Minute Midterm Week Survival Plans

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Next Tuesday is election day. On Wednesday I have a root canal.

Clearly, something’s wrong with my planning mechanism. For all I know, I scheduled a colonoscopy for Thursday and just forgot to write it on the calendar. There is a limit to the amount of pain one can endure; I’m hopeful about the midterms but not unrealistic. Next week should at least have included a spa day, if I had only hired a scheduler.

In the olden days there were Secretaries.

CEOs, district managers, sales representatives, all those guys — they were all guys — had secretaries. (Who were all girls. The olden days were before girls became women. You could’ve been 75 years old, but if you were a secretary, you were still one of the girls.) Secretaries kept their bosses from missing meetings or dinners, knew where everything was, found stuff. After a root canal, any good secretary would’ve scheduled a spa day.

I was never a secretary, and certainly never had one. Reporters had editors who seldom created order and usually complicated daily life. I did, of course, immediately after picking up a BA in Art, go to night school to brush up my shorthand. I can still cover a mean story with the help of my efficient speedwriting, but the rest of what they taught at secretarial school passed me by.

And today I just need a secretary. Secretaries were displaced some time in the 1980s by electronic organizers: digital diaries that straightened out address books and calendars and dental appointments. These were eventually displaced by computer systems way too complicated for anyone who can remember what a secretary was. Computer organizers were eventually displaced by old-fashioned humans who discovered a whole new career choice: the professional organizer.

I actually have a professional organizer. For a very large fee she occasionally breezes around my apartment collecting stuff, say to take to the tax accountant so I don’t lose my mind or go to jail. Worth every penny of that fee, she replaced the organizer/financial secretary I did have, who was called a Husband — the very top of the household line. (He, however, may he rest in well-earned peace, operated with amazing efficiency out of seeming chaos, probably because he used to have a secretary.)

If I live long enough to master the switch from my beloved PC to this MacBook Air that threatens my sanity and blood pressure, the theory is that I will then have a brightly lit computer calendar synchronized with my iPhone and life will suddenly be ordered and peaceful.

This, however, will not happen before the midterms. Prayer may be my only hope.

Last Flight Home

by Fran Moreland Johns | Oct 18, 2022 | Movie Review | 0 comments

(This is reprinted from an End of Life Choices California blog just up. A wonderful story I was delighted to be able to tell; and a great movie. See it when you can!)

“It was like light from a lighthouse,” says David Timoner of the call he got from End of Life Choices California (EOLCCA) when he and his family were facing the toughest time of their lives.

“The wisdom we got from those final days we will carry with us forever.”

Ondi Timoner with her father

David’s 92-year-old father Eli was in the hospital. He had reached a point at which advanced COPD, CHF, and other health issues had become intractable and meant he would have to transfer to a care facility. But Eli knew he wanted to die at home surrounded by those he loved, and he asked about medical aid in dying. His family understood and supported his decision but didn’t know where to turn for help. Vaguely aware of a California law, they still had no idea what to do next.

“The day is a blur,” David says. “I think I googled something like ‘How to end your life legally . . .’ and EOLCCA popped up right on top. I called the number, left a message, and had a call back within the hour.” Lynne, the volunteer at the other end of the phone, was everything David needed at that moment: “Calm, empathetic, and with the answers to all of our questions. Lynne explained how the California law works and reviewed the eligibility requirements.” These, in brief, include the requirement that the patient must be diagnosed as terminally ill, with a six month or less prognosis by two doctors, must make the request himself, be able to self-ingest the medications, and be of sound mind. “Lynne also recommended that my father consider enrolling in hospice care,” David says. She was able to recommend two hospices in our area that she knew had doctors who participate in medical aid in dying. We chose one and brought Dad home.”

Ondi Timoner, an award winning documentary filmmaker, decided to record those days during the then 15-day waiting period mandated after Eli first requested aid in dying medication from the hospice doctor, until he could receive the prescription. She initially intended just to have a family remembrance. After all was over, however, she realized she had the makings of something important.

Ondi’s remarkable film, Last Flight Home, tells the full story. In the ensuing weeks, the Timoner family – Eli and his wife Lisa, their children David, Ondi and Rachel, their grandchildren and friends–would spend invaluable time at home together celebrating Eli’s unique life’s journey. The profound, intimate, loving farewell afforded Eli and his family by California’s medical aid in dying law, is the outcome we at EOLCCA wish for anyone who reaches out to us for similar help and information. That this Southern California family’s experience would be recorded by daughter Ondi and edited into a powerful documentary now being released to widespread acclaim, is a visual testament to the value of medical aid in dying.

At a screening in New York, daughter Rachel told a New York Times interviewer, “And then there is the idea that this film could change laws.” Many of us with EOLCCA worked hard to get the California law passed, and we continue to support expanding the law throughout the U.S. To have had a part in helping Eli Timoner and his family gain peace at his life’s end, and to know that they now join the fight for everyone to be able to make such a choice, is doubly gratifying for EOLCCA.

California is one of a small number of states fortunate to have a law which enables its residents to access this compassionate end-of-life option for the terminally ill. But, from call after call we receive every day, it’s clear that few terminally-ill Californians are even aware of the law, or know enough about it to even begin the process of requesting medical aid in dying from their physician.

Last Flight Home is a film we hope will receive all the top accolades in the film industry for its many-layered and beautiful story. The story behind the film has been well documented in the New York Times. It is one we urge our readers to see as soon as possible and then recommend to friends and family everywhere.

Deliver Us from Updates . . .

Photo by Cookie the Pom on Unsplash

How to ruin someone’s day? Update her computer while she sleeps.

Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, enjoys doing this. Don’t Turn Off Your Computer, it advises when you’re trying to turn it on. We are updating . . .

This is a signal just to go back to bed and pull the covers over your head.

I mean, really. Has any Update ever been invented that didn’t drive its victims up the wall? Has any Update actually updated itself into something better than whatever it updated, which was something the user knew and understood? OK, I was unfortunately born (long ago) without a left brain and understand zilch about technology. But still. Those of us who have journeyed from manual typewriters to PCs would like a little stability.

AND NOW. I am adding the journey from PC to Mac, which is dangerous to the health of anyone over 60, and I am wayyy over 60. (Why, you ask? Well, ask my children, and all those geeky friends who assured me how much I will love this Mac. Or ask Microsoft why they forced the issue by closing those lovely stores I used to go to for help. One can get help from the Genius Bar geniuses — I believe; that’s still an open question.)

Technology, the wise people insist on saying, is making our lives better. The wise people probably spend their spare time thinking of things to update on the computers of the unsuspecting – and frequently unwise.

Here’s the thing about manual typewriters: No one could Update them while you slept.

Just Don’t Get Sick on Friday, After 12 Noon

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Early Friday morning — OK. But after, say, 11 AM, either convince yourself you’ll be fine until Monday or just go ahead and drink the hemlock. It will save untold humanoid hours.

Medical providers provide only sketchily after Friday noon. By Saturday morning, forget it. They’ve all gone to the beach for the weekend, or they’re taking their kids to soccer games, or one way or another doing things regular people do after Friday noon. These just do not include responding to the needs of the puny, so deal with it.

I, unfortunately, was feeling puny on a Saturday morning; and of course I exempt myself from all advice given to the rest of the populace. Therefore, I commenced a program to reach a Prescribing Physician for some drugs of which I felt a great need. This was about 9 AM.

If you are unwise enough to ignore my advice and follow, instead, my pathway, here’s what you may expect:

An hour or so of leaving your name, phone number, insurance information and intimate details of your lifelong personal history on assorted phone-trees. The chirpy voice requesting all this will assure you the doctor/clinician/pharmacist/whoever will respond within the hour. This is a lie. But in the grand scheme of lies one encounters when feeling puny on a Saturday it is negligent. I mean, really. Looking back, did you honestly feel as terrible as you told the chirpy voice at the outset?

Then, a few more hours of texting with your children, friends and the occasional perfect stranger who seemed medically knowledgeable on Instagram. They will all have excellent suggestions for stuff you never heard of, like probiotics that you can pick up at the nearby health foods store; so plan for another few hours of discussing your healthcare needs with the friendly health foods store people while you wait for the healthcare person who was going to call back by 10.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

It is now supper time, but you’re too sick to eat anything so what does that matter. If you’re really lucky, someone will by now have broken through to the healthcare person who just got back from his kids’ soccer game, so he will actually text you a response. Something like “Oh, the XYZ isn’t working? Well I’ll write a prescription for PQR!” Relief.

But of course, all reputable pharmacies are now closed.

You will still find a pharmacy. Can I help it if it’s in the sketchiest or nuttiest part of town? You should’ve gotten sick 12 hours sooner. Well, anyway. Most cities will have an all-night (or Open Until 9:30 PM) pharmacy in one quaint area or another. If you’re in San Francisco, for example, that will be in the heart of the Castro District, where liveliness does not calm down a little until about 3 AM. On arrival to pick up your meds you may encounter an apparently dead person in the middle of the sidewalk, but another person standing near will say, “Nahh, he’ll be fine. . .” when you make polite inquiries. So you get in line — the lines will be very long, considering all the people who need drugs at 9 PM of a Saturday night — and you are eventually rewarded with a prescription.

Author photo of formerly dead person with rescuers

Outside again you will find the paramedics have arrived to collect the formerly dead person on the sidewalk and deliver him to wherever users of weird drugs go to sleep it off.

So. Everybody’s OK now. Go home, take your own weird drug and feel better in the morning. But next time, try to get sick on a Monday.

Miracle Drugs, Miracle Products . . . Really?

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

“Surefire cure for erectile dysfunction!”

“Lose 10 pounds this week!”

“Lower your A1C!”

“XYZ Brand cured my (fill in the blank)!”

The ads bombarding you 24-hours a day via the internet, TV, social media and every known pathway all have one goal: to get you to buy their product. Some of them are true. Some are truly misleading. Some of them are downright dangerous.

Chances are there’s a product out there that could be useful. Chances are even better that there are things that would be a total waste of your time and money, or downright damaging.

How can one rational person sort it all out?

Three experts recently appeared at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco to offer help: Dr. George Lundberg, founder and president of the Lundberg Institute (designed to build better-informed patients, physicians and relationships between the two;) Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA😉 and Dr. Kamran Abbasi, Editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ.)

Commonwealth Club Humanites Forum Chair George Hammond with Dr. GeorgeLundberg (seated.) – Author photo

“There’s information overload,” said Dr. Domingo; “there’s disinformation, there’s spin. We need clear, consumable information.” Dr. Abbasi added that thanks to social media and the proliferation of non-medical sources, it’s hard for ordinary consumers to find evidence-based medical information.

All this is thanks to Direct to Consumer marketing. Every country in the world bans DTC marketing — except the U.S. In 1997, during the second Clinton administration, the Federal Trade Commission relaxed its rules, allowing such ads to take hold. They’re unlikely ever to go away. Some estimates put the amount spent annually on DTC ads at nearly $10 billion.

Those ads are required to carry disclaimers in small print. Or they’re read at warp speed so nobody hears. “Common side effects include nausea and diarrhea, muscle ache, headache and joint pain. Rare cases of paralysis, brain disease or death have been reported.”

Dr. Abbasi offered two bits of wisdom:

1 — Consider the source. Where’s that information really coming from? You can always check with JAMA or the BMJ; but if that’s too much trouble you might just check with your own physician or healthcare provider before you listen to Dr. Oz.

2 — Follow the money. Who paid for that miracle drug, that claim, that ad?

In other words, read (or listen to) the small print before you buy. JAMA or BMJ are two good places to start; either can direct you to answers of your medical questions.

The ads promise nirvana, but failure to question can be harmful to your health.

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