You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2007.

drag.jpgThis weekendTthe Bears of the West is doing a charity fund raiser drag show. The show is titled ‘This Ain’t Going to be Pretty” which sums it nicely. Ever see bears do drag? Big fellows, beards, hair and muscles – prancing around in dresses, wigs and boas and the largest pumps imaginable. Pretty outrageous stuff. I have not seen such tacky drag since the Wayne State University Medical Lampoon.  The proceeds go to a local HIV clinic programme, Test Positive.

Some of the guys have a ‘flair’; some looked like they were ‘dragged into it” (pun intended) and looked overwhelmed.                                  

I fancied auditioning, having never done drag. However, I decided not to do so. I have no stage talent to ‘pull it off’. I also have a fear if I dressed up as Eartha Kitt and lip-synched “Champagne Taste’ she may possess me (it could happen!).  So I will go with a fistful of dollars and be an active audience member.  I hope they have some liquor; it helps a lot.


Earlier this week my WordPress counter passed 5,000. I started with WordPress in early February, so 5K in 2 months seems impressive. I wonder about the people who dropped by accident or searched for something else only to find ‘me’. In my studies of Myth, I was very much interested in the Fates. It is intriguing to see who the Fates will deliver next to Spo-Reflections.  

insanity1.jpgLast weekend we drained the pool – 12,500 gallons down the drain. There is a outlet in the front of the house for such; a pump was rented; for 5 hours the pool slowly drained through 200 feet of hose. I was eager to get into the fresh water but the temperature was only 70 degrees and that’s too cold for me. Alas, last nights wind blew in a lot of tree crud, making the surface look like a swamp.  

tomato.jpgMy 20 tomato plants are doing nicely. I have high hopes this year I get some Aker’s
West Virginia, an heirloom (so far) without success.  My friend Doug (not of Gossamer Tapestry) gave me some seeds from Germany; curious to see how these come out.  Ever here of a tomato called “Hellmacht”? 

I attended a supper party where a woman talked about her experiences with on-line dating. What a concept! She conveyed she is going to meet a physicist. I advised her to say ‘quantum theory of relativity’ a lot so he would be impressed.  

Thank goodness for yoga and breathing exercises. By now I have trained myself well: when I start my routine or do a set of relaxation breaths I can clear my head and calm down a lot of body tensions very quickly.  

pan2.jpgIt’s been some time since I got out my Pan Pipes. Now it is warmer out I can go outside and practice. Indoors, my practicing makes the cat jumpy.  

sonicare_7300lg.jpgThis electric toothbrush entered our household recently on the advice of the dentist. He has been suggesting it for some time. I was curious to give it a try. The first week was not easy; the quick vibrations made me giggle and I could not brush the back of the upper incisors without going into hysterics. You turn the vibrations on AFTER you insert it into your mouth (otherwise paste flies). I still work on giving up the ‘back and forth’ motion and let the damn machine do the work. Hard to give up 40 years practice.  I think I have cleaner teeth for it; certainly I am spending more time at brushing. The soft, vibrating pulsing hummmmm of the device conjures up fantasies about where else this could be applied. My brushing jobs feels more ‘thorough’. So I am pleased. Have to keep the ‘heads’ apart or the brushes will be mixed up (yucko).  

I rather liked going to the dentist; it has never bothered me (in contrast my father still has a ‘phobia’ about going the dentist).  As kids Claudia, the dental hygienist made the DDS office visits fun filled; we looked forward to them and seeing her. (Later Claudia would run off with the married dentist – scandalous!).

My present dental challenges are minor ones. I go very early before work, and often I want to fall asleep in the chair. I’ve had to set limits with the new hygienist. Bless’em they think I want the TV on (no) and to talk (no again). The only other issue at the dentist is he is constantly offering me things that I never thought I needed (a new cap for the chipped incisor, whitening of my choppers, etc.)  

What I really want is a foot massage in that fancy chair but that is not going to happen.  


A chum from New Zeeland sent this my way.

doldrums.jpgI seem to be the doldrums.

Every once in a while I stop and reflect on where and what I am doing, and this sometimes evokes feelings of depression. I spent thirty years in school.  The goal was always to get on to the next level. Now I have the degrees and a job. There are no more ‘next levels’. My work is routine. My days are predictable in where I go/what I do and (more or less) and what will happen that day. I am competent at what I do. Despite hazards, I have job security. It pays the bills.
Still, I am left with a sense of disappointment. Is “this” why I studied and worked so hard to achieve? March was an unpleasant month where I had to do the impossible for the ungrateful. Part of my job is listening to people by nature who are not easy to get along with, but the level of nastiness was higher than usual. I am tired.
  At various times of my life I fantasized about all sorts of careers. I envied but dared not stray from the professional path. I was not a brave boy. I figured it was safer to stick with school. So now I am at the end of that long, conservative path and I feel duped.  I regret not having the courage to wander off the trail to do something bold and uncertain.  At 44 I doubt I have the courage to re-invent myself. It is quite a leap to go from board certified physician to ‘student’.  Yet a part of me wants to do just that – something new, completely different; something more meaningful.  All real advancements in life have a price and this would be a sticker shock; a mighty change in the economics and lifestyle. 

 Few people do what they like: a few more like what they do. The rest of us do what we have to do to pay the bills/keep going. Rather joyless but hey it gets us by.   I am not sure where this is going. Usually I edit and think these my blog entries into something very polished. This one feels rough; but I hope it captures – in words – what I am finding hard to put into words.


Breathing is a body function that can be either unconscious or fully conscious. It is a way we can consciously influence and alter the autonomic nervous system.  This is a means to boost the parasympathetic nervous system, which balances the sympathetic nervous system. Anxiety/stress/panic etc come from a too active sympathetic nervous system. Breathing exercises can be a means to treat anxiety, panic attacks, and agitated emotional states. It is available to all, and it is efficacious.  

Whenever you are anxious, stressed or upset, check in on how you are breathing.  Normally, we should breathe from the abdomen, not the chest, taking in slow deep regular quiet breaths.  When anxious, we breathe rapid, shallow, breaths using the chest muscles, which is not only tiring but aggravates anxiety and chest tightness. We may not be able to stop our anxious thinking. But focusing on our breathing distracts us away from the matters in our head and corrects our breathing; both good things. 

Exercise #1 – Conscious breathing  The simplest thing we can do to contain anxiety is to become conscious of how we are breathing and alter it. Breathe in through the nose; exhale out through the mouth. The key words are < slow, quiet, regular, and deep. Those are the 4 qualities you want. Also, in exhalation, try to force out more air at the end to prolong the exhalation stage. The ratio for inhalation/exhalation for most folks is 2:1; make it more 1:1  

Exercise #2 – The Relaxing Breath
This is something you can train to do so when you are anxious or having a panic attack. The anxiety state can be turned down or off.
It is done by inhaling through the nose, via the abdomen breathing, for 4 counts. Hold the breath for 7 counts. Exhale through the mouth for 8 counts. The ratio of 4:7:8 is important. Notice that exhalation is twice as long as inhalation. That means you will not want to exhale too much at once; exhale slowly over the 8 counts. Try doing this for 4 cycles, then relax/breathe normally.  

Like training for a fun run or marathon, the relaxing breath doesn’t ‘pay off’ right away, but with daily practice, these can be used to thwart or stop an anxiety attack. I have my patients practice the ‘relaxing breath’ for 4 breathing cycles, two times a day for at least a month, before going to longer cycles – but no more than 8 cycles at a time. 

I’ve practiced the Relaxing Breath for some time. Whenever I get anxious or start to have a panic attack, it quickly deflates the situation.  



Most of the time I am careful what I eat. Every once in a while I go barking mad and eat Ramen. Ramen is just plain nasty.ramen.jpg I was introduced to the nasty noodles  f death back in college. I marveled it was hot, cheap, quick and filling. I remember my first bowl in the same way alcoholics remember their first drink. 

The noodles are made with partially hydrogenated palm oil. The flavor packet’s main ingredient is salt and its 2nd ingredient is MSG. The rest are things I haven’t read since college chemistry class. I am certain they put something addictive in this stuff. Although the packaging says there is only 33% (!) of the RDA for sodium and 7g of fat per serving, the sneaks inform you there are TWO servings in a bag. Eating 2-3 bags at a time throughout my college days, small wonder I have hypertension.

There is a euphoria and guilt after every bowl with a vow never to buy more. Now what does this sound like? Alas, there are no Ramen Anonymous sponsors.

Ramen is the ultimate “this is gross but damn it tastes good” guilt food.

What’s your awful food craving?

THE HOUSE OF ENVY - from Metamorphoses by Ovid   

Now bellicose Minerva turned the fierce 
fire of her gave upon Aglauros, 
sighing so deeply that her breast was shaken 
beneath the aegis that defended it; 
for she realized that this was the same one 
who had gone against her orders and profaned 
her mysteries by peeking at Apollo's 
motherless child; and now this one would be 
a god's delight and pleasing to her sister, 
and rich with what her avarice demanded! 
   She headed straight to Envy's squalid quarters, 
black with corruption, hidden deep within 
a sunless valley where no breezes blow, 
a sad and sluggish place, richly frigid, 
where cheerful fires die upon the heath 
and fog that never lifts embraces all. 
   Arriving here, the warlike maiden stood 
before the house (for heaven's law denied 
her entrance) and with her spear tip rapped 
upon the doors, which instantly flew open, 
revealing Envy at her feast of snakes, 
a fitting meal for her corrupted nature; 
from such a sight, the goddess turned away. 
   The object of her visit sluggishly 
arises from the ground where she'd been sitting, 
leaving behind her interrupted dinner 
of half-eaten reptiles. Stiffly she advances, 
and when she sees the beauty of the goddess 
and of her armour, she cannnot help but groan, 
and makes a face, and sighs a wretched sigh. 
   Then she grows pale, and her body shrivels up. 
Her glance is sidewise and her teeth are black; 
her nipples drip with poisonous green bile, 
and venom from her dinner coats her tongue; 
she only smiles at sight of another's grief, 
nor does she know, disturbed by wakeful cares, 
the benefits of slumber; when she beholds 
another's joy, she falls into decay, 
and rips down only to be ripped apart, 
herself the punishment for being her. 
   Although the goddess hated Envy, she 
addressed her nonetheless with these fierce words: 
"Infect one of the daughters of the Cecrops. 
That is the task. Aglauros is the one." 
With not another word, the goddess fled, 
placing the tip of her spear against the ground 
and using it to vault back up to heaven. 
   Muttering sourly beneath her breath, 
she eyes the fleeing goddess with distrust, 
already saddened by Minerva's joy. 
She takes her staff, bristling with thorns, 
ands sets off in a mantle of black clouds, 
flicking the heads off flowers as she passes, 
blighting the grasses and destroying trees, 
her breath polluting houses, cities, states. 
   At last she ses the city of the goddess; 
its wealth, its works, its joyous flourishing 
and peaceful temper all effect her so, 
she's scarcely able to prevent herself 
from weeping - for there's nothing here to weep for. 
   Once in the chambers of Aglauros, Envy 
obeys her orders, touching in the girl's breast 
with her rust-stained hand and filling it with thorns; 
now Envy breathes her poison in the girl, 
and spreads her venom right into her bones, 
and so that she would have a cause for grief, 
draws her a picture of her sister's fortune, 
her blessed marriage to the handsome god, 
enlarging on it in imagination. 
   Aglauros, maddened, feasts on on her own heart 
in secret wretchedness as anxious day 
succeeds each anxious night; groaning, she slowly 
wastes away, dissolving, just as ice does 
in the uncertain light of early spring.

I know people got worried when I reported sickness and weight loss from the trip to Costa Rica. I’ve been my usual self for some time. I now weight exactly where I was prior to the trip. 

madness.jpgI took the car in for a scheduled maintenance tune up only to discover several things on the verge of collapse. It was sort of like going to the doctor and hearing your arteries are near shut and a heart attack is nigh.  The bill for all this clean up: $1500! Oh well, on the bright side, I have a tax return. An art purchase will have to wait :-(.

Recently many blogger buddies have had sorrow in their lives. Several are struggling with depression, physical illnesses, financial strains, or whether to not to move. I want to reach out and give them all a hug/cash/a job/medicine etc. but obviously I can not. I try to leave supportive comments and let them know they are not alone. 

I have a two dozen tomato plants growing; goodness knows where I will put them and if they will survive. Some gardeners tell me they have not had success with toms in Phoenix for that last 3-4 years. The pepper seeds are planted.   Seeds are like a promise. 

Next month we visit Scott of Wisconsin. We will bring the ashes of Tiberius the Cat, who died last autumn some of you may recall. I got the cat from Scott’s family’s farm; it seemed the right place to spread his ashes.

In response to recent inquiries about the sun tea –

I get my tea at Mr. Barker is the wizard of tea who sends me my stash. I ordered 3 100g bags of Yunnan Imperial. This is a Chinese “red’ tea (really black) that makes good sun tea – steeps all day without becoming bitter.

The word ‘stress’ is in our daily lexicon thanks to Dr. Hans Selye. He took this word from physics to define the body’s nonspecific response to any demand. He did a fine job promoting the word ‘stress’ is it is now used world wide. I asked a friend in Japan what is the Japanese word for stress and he told me it is ‘stress”. Different kinds of stress (psychological, physical, physiological) occur. The brain receives incoming signals through perceptual centres that feed into the final common pathway of a stress response.  The “fight or flight’ response. (A side note, ‘fight or flight’ is a bit of a misnomer as the stress response was studied in men, and that is what men mostly do in response to stress. Another aspect of the stress response, seen more in women, is the ‘tend and befriend’ response; when stressed, some people care for or talk to each other.)  

Nervous systems, hormones, and the immune systems are all involved in the stress response. The later is important as chronic stress response (fancy name: allostatic load) causes the immune systems to go off. Common sense supports this; when we get stressed we are more prone to sickness. People with chronic conditions who are also stressed don’t fare as well. Modern science is returning to ancient teachings that emotions and health are one in the same.  

Whether a person feels stressed or stimulated by a situation depends a great deal on the ratio of demand to control.  High demand with high control has less stress than high demand with little control. The more out of control you feel; the more you perceive stress.  I use the metaphor of a computer jamming from too much incoming data. What do we do when our computers freeze? We shut them down and reboot. I tell stressed out people not to feel guilty to ‘reboot’ by taking time off/ taking a break/getting help etc. when they are stressed.  

We have a vital stress response; it can’t shut off. We can’t eliminate all stress; bad things happen. The challenge is trying to eliminate what stress we can. Another important factor is changing our perception towards stress.  People can learn to feel more in control of certain aspects of a stressful situation.  When overwhelmed, break it down; prioritize, put a list together, do the parts you can do right now. No single stress reduction modality works for everyone (yoga, meditation, therapy, prayer, etc). Find what helps you, reduce what you can, and watch your reactions to stress. 


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