Archive for April 2013

Gearing up for allergy season

If you have allergies, you’re most likely aware it’s started in force.  Trees have been blooming like it’s no tomorrow and experts are saying this could be THE WORST ALLERGY SEASON EVER.  If you didn’t guess already, these kinds of statements remind me of…

The Sandlot (1993)

The Sandlot (1993)

Exaggerated statements like this are what created the terms Snowpocalypse and Snowmageddon.  They rarely turn out to be as bad as predicted, except for hurricanes and tornadoes, and grocery stores make out like bandits when folks rush to buy all the milk and bread in a 20 mile radius.  Wait a minute, I was talking about allergies.

So last year, 2012, was an awful year for allergies.  I happen to be allergic to molds, grass, ragweed, and trees, as well as dust and dust mites.  There is no off-season for me and mold came around twice.  If you suffer from allergies like me, or are lucky enough to suffer from only one, I want to share a few tips with you.

  1. Wear big sunglasses – they not only keep the sun out of your eyes, they can also block pollen and dust.
  2. Take a shower before bed – this not only leaves you refreshed, you’ll also wash any pollen off your face and out of your hair.  There’s nothing worse than transferring pollen from your hair to your pillow and waking up with swollen eyes.
  3. Be active early or late – if you’re wanting to work outside or exercise, try to do it early in the morning or late at night.  Pollen levels tend to peak during the middle of the day, which is also the hottest.  If you do have to be outside try to take some precautions.
  4. Take your medicine – do I really have to say this?
  5. Keep the inside of your home and car clean – if you’re going to be stuck inside, it might as well be a safe zone.  If dusting isn’t a great option for you, try finding someone else to do it for you.  I pay someone to mow my lawn and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
  6. Get a HEPA air purifier for your home or office – I’ve been running a Honeywell 50250 at home since 2006 and it’s really saved my bacon.
  7. Encase your pillows and mattress – this can really help with dust and dust mites, as well as pollen.
  8. Drink lots of water – staying hydrated will help keep the mucous flowing which sounds gross, but keeps all the tiny attackers at bay.
  9. Swap your contacts out for your glasses – if my eyes are bothering me, one of the easiest things to do is take my contacts out.
  10. Know your limits – I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve found myself in a bad place and just tried to act like I was fine.  While every boy from the 80s wants to be Rambo, Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris – none of them really are.  McGruff taught us to just say no, so do it.

These are just a few tips, but hopefully they’re enough to get you started.  Hang in there and hopefully 2013 doesn’t turn out to be allergy hell.

My daughter gave me a Netflix recommendation

I’m one of those guys who watches a LOT of movies and TV shows.  Often times friends will tell me they don’t know what to watch and after twenty questions to find out what kind of movie/show they’re looking for, I’ll have some recommendations for them.  I never thought my three year old kid would be doing that for me.

Last November we were traveling in New England for a wedding and while hanging out in a hotel room we turned on the TV.  Chuck wanted “a show” and the first thing I tried was Cartoon Network.  There was a weird, animated show about a kid and a dog/animal thing that was funny/snarky and remotely reminded me of Dungeons and Dragons.  At the time I thought the content was probably too advanced for her both from an intellectual and maturity standpoint, but she loved it and we let her watch anyway.  I didn’t really think much about it until Chuck recognized the characters, a few weeks ago, on a Netflix recommendation screen and begged to watch it.  We turned it on and it wasn’t too bad.  I barely paid attention while reading email or Facebook on the couch.  At some point over the next week I actually paid attention to an episode and realized how good it was.  And then it happened…


The Funniest Moments of Adventure Time

My wife caught me watching Adventure Time by myself one night after Chuck had gone to bed.  I did find one video on YouTube explaining the show is popular with adults due to nostalgia…and that makes sense.  Eventually I mentioned it to a friend at work who would be aware of this kind of stuff and discovered I’m not the only father who loves the show.  With the amount of pop culture we’re exposing our child to, I can’t imagine what sort of recommendations she’ll be able to give in ten years.  I’m gonna have to call this a proud parent moment.

Beards are healthy

I’ve seen this message before, but came across an article today touting the health advantages of bearded men.  Some of the advantages can be up for debate, but it’s hard to argue with the homemade scarf protecting one’s face from weather and UV rays.

I’ve been personally growing facial hair since 1999.  I was blessed with productive hair follicles and rarely have to wait long to try something new.  In college I let my sideburns turn into their own zip codes and played around with braids here and there.  Obviously I can’t do that now as a working professional, but that’s what college is for, right?

If you’d like to start growing a beard and aren’t sure what to do, or have limited options – be sure to check out these charts…

http://zouchmagazine.com/the-hierarchy-of-beard-moustache-charts/

beard-mustache-facial-hair-types

 

hierarchy of beards

…and then there’s this one, the Trustworthiness of Beards in case you’re trying to give that unspoken message

trustworthiness_of_beards

Buffalo Sausage Grilled Cheese

Tonight I made an epic grilled cheese sandwich to really celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month 2013 before May 1st sneaked up on me.  Last year I felt as if Leonardo Da Vinci himself inspired me to crush nacho Doritos onto the outside of my sandwich.  It was so rewarding, I had to try it again.  So without further adieu, I give you the Buffalo Sausage Grilled Cheese…

BSGC1

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Cook and season the ground sausage to taste
  2. Ground up some Doritos Jacked into a bowl
  3. Butter your bread and apply the crushed Doritos Jacked

    Buttered bread with Doritos Jacked applied

    Buttered bread with Doritos Jacked applied

  4. Place your bread into a skillet and apply a layer of gorgonzola

    Bread in skillet with Gorgonzola

    Bread in skillet with Gorgonzola

  5. Cover with ground sausage

    Sausage applied

    Sausage applied

  6. Cover with the top slices of bread, cooking on medium to medium-low heat

    Nominal to profile.  We're in the pipe.  Five by five.

    Nominal to profile. We’re in the pipe. Five by five.

Tips, thoughts and what have you:

Anytime you cook a grilled cheese with a crust of some sort, you have to make sure the crust sets without burning the sandwich.  You also don’t want to scrape the crust off when moving or flipping.  This means you’re only going to cook each side once.  Another problem that can arise is flipping a grilled cheese sandwich whose insides are not completely gelled together.  In this scenario, you have to flip quickly, but not too quickly, and make sure the pieces of bread don’t slide apart before you’ve turned it over.BSGC6

Both things happened with this sandwich, but I was able to make do.  You just have to be careful.  As far as taste goes, you really need to like bleu cheese if you’re going to make a grilled cheese sandwich with it.  The strong taste requires some strong co-ingredients to help balance things out.  Think about the other things with which you eat bleu cheese to get ideas.  I went with some flavorful sausage here.

Last year I used Nacho Doritos for a crust and this year I tried out the new Doritos Jacked because it seemed like they would go with the bleu cheese.  The chips were ok, but there also double thick and this affected how the crust formed and how the sandwich heated up.  I think the chips actually tasted better cooked than pre-cooked.BSGC7

Just for kicks I used the same skillet for the sausage cooking and sandwich making.  I left some of the grease in there and kind of wish I hadn’t.  It wasn’t horrible, but there was just a hint of sausage grease flavor on the bread I wasn’t really digging.  Next time I’ll go with a clean pan for the sandwich.

I originally tried both ranch and spaghetti sauce for dipping.  The ranch really clashed with the bleu cheese, but the spaghetti sauce was AMAZING.  This sandwich was very rich and definitely hearty.  It probably wasn’t a great idea for me to try and tackle two of them at once.Buffalo Sausage Grilled Cheese

NeilMed Sinus Rinse

Spring is finally here, kind of, and so the trees are gracing us with their pollen.  For me this can mean horrendous sinus congestion, swollen eyes and a scratchy throat.  Rinsing out my sinuses does wonders for all of these symptoms and I prefer to use the NeilMed sinus rinse bottles.  Friends of mine have used the neti pots which look like miniature tea pots and basically do the same thing.  I like the ability to control the water pressure with the bottle.

For several years now I’ve always purchased my supplies at various pharmacies and drug stores.  I used to be able to buy either one squeeze bottle with 50 pre-mixed saline packets or purchase a box of 100 pre-mixed packets.  Lately all I seem able to find are boxes with one bottle full of saline with a few mixed packets included.  This would be great if I were on a business trip or vacation, but it’s not what I want to buy when at home and the added cost seems ridiculous.  I try to support local business as much as possible, but I finally turned to Amazon.  I recently discovered I could get two bottles and 250 pre-mixed packets for the low price of $24.

To purchase the bottles and pre-mixed packets separately I’d probably end up spending around $40.  I’m always up for finding a deal and saving money when it comes to medicine and medical supplies.  One other problem I’ve always had is finding a good place to clean and store the bottles in between use.  I noticed the Neilmed Nasadock Plus Stand for about $6 and added that to my order.

This provides a great solution to the problem of cleaning and storing the bottle.  In the past I’ve left it next to the bathroom or kitchen sink on a towel or paper towel.  The bottle has never dried well lying on its side or right side up.  I’m often a fan of buying online because I tend to think of things I need when stores aren’t open.  I’m quite pleased with my purchases and will most likely try Amazon first next time I need more supplies.

Cinnamon Challenge

So I’ve been hearing about this thing for a while where people challenge each other to digest a teaspoon of raw cinnamon without any beverage.  It sounds like quite a “manly” thing to do with the exception that this can actually damage your lungs and airways.  This isn’t as simple as eating a jar of jalapeños, lighting farts or drinking a gallon of milk.  Most takers on this challenge might cough, cry and spew out cinnamon dust – but those of us with pre-existing lung conditions could really screw ourselves over.

Cinnamon is derived from the bark of trees from the genus cinnamomum.  This bark, or cinnamon sticks, is then ground up into what most of us know as that spice added to many desserts and drinks.  Because it derives from tree bark, cinnamon is largely composed of cellulose fibers which do not break down within the lungs once inhaled.  The oils contained within the spice can cause allergic or toxic reactions.  The reactions plus the lingering materials can cause tissue scarring and long term damage.

collapsed_lung

Collapsed Lung

This is nothing to laugh at unless you’d like to end up in a hospital for a week.  I know I’m totally sounding like a parent here, which I am, but please find something else stupid to impress your friends.  It’s not worth it for those of us with existing respiratory illnesses to further mess up what lung function we still have left.  If you’ve ever been in the hospital for respiratory problems before and experienced an arterial blood gas test in your wrist, you might want to put the cinnamon back on the spice rack.

Arterial Blood Gas Test

Arterial Blood Gas Test

Senator follow-up

Last week I wrote both of my US Senators, urging them to vote no on CISPA should a vote come about, after CISPA passed in the House of Representatives.  I truly see this bill as a bad thing in the same way I disliked SOPA and PIPA.  At the beginning this bill was supported by some big technology hitters, but at the moment Google seems to be the only one sort of in their corner.  Google likes the idea of a bill like CISPA, but is not behind the contents of CISPA.  Also, unshockingly, Verizon, AT&T and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association are supporting the bill.  If there’s anything I can easily complain about, it would be my cell phone and cable internet/tv providers.  I do not trust them to have a hand in telecommunication legislation.

I received a lengthy response from our newly elected senator, but am still being stonewalled by the other.  The one I haven’t heard back from happens to be a co-sponsor of the bill and I am not surprised by the lack of response.  I also don’t really agree with most of his stances on big or little issues.  In an effort to be better informed I did sign up for all email newsletters offered by my elected officials.  I realize I may need to seek other venues for particular information, but at least this way I’m being informed about what they think is important to their constituents.

The whole idea of activism is still somewhat new to me.  The first time I ever wrote a letter to my representation was around the time “Obamacare” was being introduced.  I obviously have some health issues and there were many positives in the healthcare bill for me and my family.  They’re still helping me out today and while the law is by no means perfect, I’m much better off now.  I still don’t understand most of the arguments against it because they seem to be based on misunderstandings.  It’s hard to argue with others when you can’t agree on the basic tenets of the issue.

The urge to participate all started when I began to approach 30.  I don’t know if that’s a magic number, I finally grew up, or I finally realized what was affecting me.  As a kid I remember certain men and women in different social circles who were very politically active.  It never quite made sense to me, and maybe it’s because my parents never seemed to take part.  I know see myself as someone who can make a difference even if I am just one voice.

Sons of Anarchy: Season 1

WARNING!! This contains spoilers…

While having a chronic lung disease is mostly bad, the silver lining is I often stay awake for days at a time where I am able to watch hour upon hour of TV and movies.  I’m not always completely paying attention to whatever I’m streaming via Netflix, but Sons of Anarchy definitely caught my eye.  It has great music, good acting, character development and left me wanting to watch just one more episode.

Sons of Anarchy Season One is about a motorcycle gang in Charming, CA fulfilling the role of modern day outlaws.  While illegally selling firearms and fighting with rival gangs and motorcycle clubs, SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original) also does a lot for the community.  The founders of the club worked out a deal with the local law enforcement allowing these motorcycle enthusiasts to basically do whatever they want as long as drugs are kept out of Charming.  It has the makings of an Italian mafia thing but with a Californian twist.

Clay Morrow, played by Ron Perlman (Hellboy), is the current president and one of the original nine members.  He and his friends founded the club after returning home from the Vietnam war.  Jax Teller, played by Charlie Hunnam (Nicholas Nickleby and Undeclared), is the current vice president and step-son of Clay.  Jax’s deceased, biological father was the club’s previous president.  Gemma Teller, played by Katey Sagal (Married with Children and Futurama), is Jax’s mother and Clay’s wife.  Jax has a new baby to take care of because his junkie ex-wife Wendy Teller, played by Drea de Matteo (Sopranos), is at rehab trying to turn her life around.  Tara Knowles, played by Maggie Siff (Mad Men), is Jax’s highschool sweetheart and has just returned to her hometown to work at the local hospital.  Opie, played by Ryan Hurst (Remember the Titans and Saving Private Ryan), is Jax’s best friend and son of Piney, one of the original nine members.  On top of all the soap opera drama we see SAMCRO selling guns, avoiding the ATF, involved with the IRA and clashing against rival motorcycle clubs.  There is plenty to keep you interested.

I’ve mentioned gangs and rival clubs – they’re pretty much the same thing.  In season one we meet:

sons_of_anarchy-the_mayans

  • The Mayans – this Latino gang blows up SAMCRO’s gun factory in an effort to disrupt its gun business

sons_of_anarchy-the_one_niners

  • One-Niners – this African American gang is SAMCRO’s biggest gun customer

sons_of_anarchy-the_nords

  • Nordics/Nords – this white supremacist group is led by Ernest Darby, played by Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files), and they are constantly looking for a way to bring drugs into Charming

Everything has been going fairly well for SAMCRO and Jax is being groomed to one day take over as president of the club.  History seems to be repeating itself as Jax starts reading his father’s old diaries and begins to discover what really happened in the early days of the Sons.  This diary is making Jax question who he is, what he stands for and why SAMCRO does the things it does.

If you enjoy mildly realistic crime dramas with decent character development and exciting twists, you should probably give Sons of Anarchy a try.  As always I suggest watching three episodes before making a decision to continue.  Parts of this show remind me of HBO’s Oz.  I think it’s because of the different gangs always at odds with each other and making deals to try and destroy their enemies.

Vote NO on CISPA

CISPA is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, and was passed in the House of Representatives today.  Its failed precursors were SOPA and PIPA which failed to become law in 2011-2012.  While the basic idea of sharing information amongst government agencies when trying to track down crime sounds great, the reality of the federal government able to look at anything you do with a computer online is quite scary.  If you are even remotely concerned about big government, freedom of speech and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure – you need to contact your senators and urge them to not vote for CISPA.  I contacted both of my senators today, one who is even a co-sponsor of the bill.  I hear many complaints about the legislative system and how our elected officials votes are bought by lobbyists.  This may be true, but if I don’t allow my voice to be heard I can’t complain about it.

If you’re not sure who your senators are, check out this web site.  If you’re not sure where your elected officials stand on this issue, the CISPA Senate Whip Count can help. Last time when our privacy was threatened, people banded together and overwhelmingly told their senators to vote no.  Please don’t stand by and assume someone else will speak for you this time.

CISPA-GOT

Sons of Anarchy

Sons-Of-Anarchy-sons-of-anarchy-32111948-1600-1200

Sons of Anarchy is a show that’s had a lot of ups and downs for me.  On one hand it’s one of the best modern American-outlaw shows I’ve seen.  It’s hard to argue with the thrill and cool-factor associated with the motorcycle gangs, tattoos, leather and guns.  When I first saw Eastern Promises (2007), starring Viggo Mortensen, I must admit I was a little mystified by the whole Russian prison/gang tattoo thing.  Some of that exists in this show with their tattoos, patches and pins, but I still haven’t figured out what they all mean.

I’ve never been a soap opera person, but I must admit I was really getting into the storylines and plot twists.  After my two favorite characters had been killed off in seasons four and five, I threw in the towel.  I called it quits and said, “no more.”  Well, it’s been a few months and I decided I had cooled down a bit.  The sixth season is going to start this fall and I decided I needed to get over it and watch season five.  The rest of the episodes turned out to be not so bad.  I know this is by no means reality and the story that unfolds is often ludicrous, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to watch.  In a build-up to my thoughts on season five, I’m going to re-post some thoughts on seasons one through four back in the day.