Category Archives: Science

Faulty Sidewalks

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown.

A couple of weeks ago our neighbor, while out walking her dog, went down on glare ice – that sort of fall where you are suddenly flat on your back staring at the sky, and don’t know how the he** you got there. This was worse than usual though, as she cracked her skull on the ice. Pamela actually passed out for a bit; there was a lot of bleeding, a trip to the ER, and a concussion. She’s almost back to normal now, but is taking an afternoon nap (which is tricky at work), and was told she must not hit her head again. Just saw her (carefully) walking the dog for the first time today.

Traveling on foot is particularly treacherous in this season, due to a lot of melting and freezing. And here in Winona, we keep getting a new dusting of snow, which is fine in some places but hides the ice in others. I fell last week after a concert, because of an uneven sidewalk that wasn’t really visible – “just” went down on my knees, but was OK mostly.

Have you had any really bad falls, either out- or indoors?

Got any tips for prevention?

Sensory Processing

I  frequently run into children in my psychology practice who have issues with how things feel, taste, or sound. These children do not have diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder (although many of those people have significant sensory problems).  No, the children to whom I refer are just really irritated and bothered by things in their sensory worlds.  They have problems with the textures of foods, with seams in their socks, and with dirt on their hands. They crave tight clothes and heavy blankets, or else they don’t like wearing clothes at all.  Some can’t abide loud noises.  Some can’t bear to have anything like a tooth-brush in their mouths, or else they have an intense need for oral stimulation and need to chew on things.  I refer them to Occupational Therapists who do all sorts of mysterious and wonderful things with them to reduce their sensory stress  and make them less irritable.

I, too, have some sensory issues. I remember as child that I wouldn’t wear any article of clothing that had a tag in it. Mom had to cut them off. They were itchy and scratchy and I couldn’t stop thinking about them if they were still inside my clothes. I also remember wearing what are called “rumba pants” as a very little girl. They were  decorative panties with lace on the backside.  They itched like crazy and it was impossible to sit down without having them scratch my legs.

I prefer loose clothes to tight clothes.   I never liked it when my mom would wash my bedding, since I liked things soft against my skin, and the freshly laundered  sheets were scratchy.  I can’t stand to feel that there is anything under my fingernails. This partially accounts for my unbreakable bad habit of chewing my nails. My son tells me that whenever he touches cardboard with his fingertips, it is like hearing nails on a black board for him.

I don’t know why I am seeing so many children with this issue.  I think  other children had sensory issues when I was young, but that no one asked the right questions to find out.  Perhaps life wasn’t quite as complicated  then and it was easier to learn to cope.  Perhaps we are doing something environmentally  or in our child rearing practices that is causing more problems like this. I don’t know the answer. I just know I am glad there is help for all that sensory irritability now.

What sensory issues do you have? Do you know someone with sensory issues?

Not Science

I know that anecdotes are not science. Just because you know two people who know two other people who have had something happen to them doesn’t mean it is science.   When the anecdotes don’t agree with your own world view it’s pretty easy to refute them.  But when it happens to you, it’s a little harder.

For many years I didn’t get a flu shot because they were made with thimerosal as a preservative and I’m sensitive to that. Then about 8 years ago, they started making the shots without the preservative so I signed up at work and got the shot.  A month later I was as sick as a dog; since I’d had the flu shot I was sure I had food poisoning and that was when I got a lesson in flu coverage by my doctor.  The flu shot is an educated guess about what will be coming around each flu season; sometimes they work, sometimes they miss the mark.  But the memory of being that sick made me hesitant to get a flu shot again.

Fast forward to last spring when I had pneumonia (ick). My doctor told me that the flu shot would be a helpful preventative against pneumonia so I dutifully got the shot this year.

You know where this is going, right? As I sat in Urgent Care yesterday with chills so bad I could hardly drive and a temperature over 103, the doctor (of course) asked me if I had gotten a flu shot this year.  I said “yes, and a lot of good it’s done me”.  She repeated to me that every now and then the current flu serum for the year really doesn’t help that year’s flu strain at all.  This is one of those years.  And apparently 8 years ago was one of those years as well.

I understand that this is a complete coincidence that both years I got the flu shot were the only two years that I’ve gotten the flu in the last couple of decades. My brain knows that getting the flu shot didn’t really give me the flu…. but just the same, my hearts thinks it’s going to be really hard for me to go get that shot next year!

Has your brain ever disagreed with your heart?

 

 

Jurassic Coincidence

Last summer I read a string of books that I didn’t enjoy – all from my self-imposed “lists”. I beat myself up for a bit and then went to the library website and typed in “dragon”.  All kinds of books came up, from all the Ann McCaffrey books to The Black Dragon River (a book on a journey down the Amur River) and then Dragon’s Teeth by Michael Crichton.  I’d never read anything  by Crichton (not sure how I managed that) so I put it on my waitlist.  This was the book that his wife found among his papers and published posthumously.

I just finished it and really enjoyed it. The postscript shed light on which characters were fictional and which were historic.  Charles Marsh and Edward Cope were real people – famous in paleontology for their 19th century rivalry.

Fast forward 24 hours. I just started A Brief History of Almost Everything by Bill Bryson (about the only Bryson I haven’t read yet – but that’s another blog).  As I got to Chapter Three, suddenly he is talking about Marsh and Cope and their rivalry.

I understand in my head that coincidence is just coincidence, but sometimes in my heart I wonder how I can go six decades and never discover something, then within a day or so, run across it again. And we’ve talked about it here before – including pointing out that it is common enough that there is a phrase for this – Baader Meinhof.  We’ve even put this phrase in our Baboon Glossary.

But it still amazes me when it happens.

Any coincidences in your life lately?

Dieter Substitution

I didn’t have the television switched on too much today but I think I saw Marie Osmond at least three times. It occurs to me that I haven’t seen her hawking her diet system since before Halloween. Interesting that the diet ads start up right away on January 1.

Weight loss is the number one resolution in America these days (and has been for decades). And I read something recently that says most folks have blown through all their resolutions after six weeks.  I’m guessing that means we’ll have plenty of Marie Osmond until Groundhog’s Day.

I also saw recently that PETA wants to replace Puxatawny Phil with an animatronic groundhog. This seems absurd to me; would we really be able to program it to recognize its own shadow and forecast the end of winter? Of course, we could always program it to monitor diet ads; once spring and summer arrives, the ads drop off. This made me wonder if we replaced Marie Osmond with an animatronic dieter, maybe SHE could tell us when winter is ending and save PETA the trouble of replacing Puxatawny Phil!

What robot would be useful in your life?

 

 

Elusive Darkness

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown

Just as “sound pollution” makes it difficult in most of our country to find a place where there is complete quiet, “light pollution” means it’s difficult to find a place that is totally dark. You may have seen a map like this of the United States, showing our light-polluted spaces. Some of the ramifications in my life:

– The only time I have really seen the Milky Way was on a trip to Utah in 1995.

– I’ve learned to use an eyeshade in the times of more daylight, allowing me to sleep better. And when I get up in middle lf night, I don’t really need a night-light to find my way to the bathroom.

A dancer friend writes a couple of blog posts a month, and her November 28 post is about what she calls “holy darkness”.    I quote:

– “Darkness is the absence of light but it is not the absence of the Divine.”

– “Years ago friends told me about a lecture exploring how electric lights have completely changed our relationship to night and experience with darkness. Our conversation inspired us to experiment with fasting from electric lights for an entire night. We call it our holy darkness practice. We bring out candles and get very cozy. “

I hope to find a night soon, at this darkest time of year, when I can spend at least a couple of hours with just candle light, and experience what I can of darkness. How long I will last without my lamps, lighted screens, and phones I cannot say. I might read a book by candle light, or find someone to tell stories with. I will be sure to do this AFTER supper… I don’t feel like cooking over a candle flame.

What would you do with an evening of “total” darkness, except for candle light?