Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Another Experiment with High Dose Vitamin C

I like to experiment on myself occasionally. For instance, I haven't had any soda for 15 months. I wish I could say that I've lost tons of weight and feel great, but that isn't the case. However, knowing how nasty soda is for me, I am only occasionally tempted to indulge in an ice-cold, sweetly carbonated Pepsi. I ruthlessly squash the urge.

If only I could apply this same self-will to portion control of the foods I like best, such as my homemade crispy black bean tacos with cabbage/cilantro/red onion slaw. My kids are so done with that dish, but I still love it so much, even when I don't have feta cheese to add to it.

Right now I'm experimenting with high dose Vitamin C. I'm trying to find my bowel tolerance (the number of grams of Vitamin C that it takes to cause diarrhea), and I started out by taking 3000 mg total throughout the course of the first day. Then I read some more articles, such as this very helpful one, and decided to greatly increase my dosage amount.

Today, I've already had 4 grams (4000 mg) of ascorbic acid Vitamin C fizzy tablets in water. At our request, my in-laws bring home many tubes of fizzy Vitamin C tablets from England (though the tablets are made in Germany) whenever they go to visit. While I can stomach the black currant flavored ones (I'm not a huge fan of black currant), I prefer the orange flavored ones. When I run out of those, I'll buy some more pure ascorbic acid Vitamin C from a drugstore or health store, or I may order more acerola cherry powder.

I'm taking 2000 mg of the stuff every one or two hours today. I think I may be reaching bowel tolerance, which is great (if one can ever be excited about deliberately giving oneself diarrhea) because it means that despite my being overweight, I am pretty dang healthy internally. I would increase my dosage rates if I start feeling sick or if I am stressed. But for now, I'll find bowel tolerance and then reduce my dosage to 80%-90% of bowel tolerance on a daily basis.

I am also taking more zinc, but I had forgotten about the side effects of taking zinc on an empty stomach. Blech.

Tip: don't take zinc tablets on an empty stomach. If you don't actually vomit, you'll be suppressing the urge to vomit for hours.

You're welcome.

Last thing:

I know everything I write lately is completely dry and humorless. I blame it on my job. For years now I have been writing thousands upon thousands of words of dry and humorless content for the Internet. In fact, except for all the random trivia I have stored up in my head because of the research I have to do, I have become an utterly boring person in general.

The cure for being boring and humorless has got to be enjoyable, though. Right? I think I've found my next experiment.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Curious Reason I May Have Become a Flat Earther

Here's a thing:

Back on November 7, 2015, I and several others were walking through a parking lot around 7pm. It was dark, and our eyes were suddenly caught by an extremely bright, unusual light in the western sky. We stood and watched this light until it slowly faded out. It was so unusual that I didn't forget it.

When I looked it up on the Internet the next morning, there were several articles (herehere, and here, among others, written in the two or three days following the incident) and a couple videos about it. This video, taken by amateurs in Southern California, includes some foul language (some F-bombs), but the light show they captured is exactly what I saw.

So the government says it was a rocket test over California, and they closed down air traffic over the Pacific. Fine. Just because it looks nothing like a rocket trail or like any light I've ever seen in the sky before, fine. We're used to explanations from the government that stretch the limits of credulity--not that I actually believe in aliens from outer space for a number of reasons. But I do believe the government has technology far beyond what they normally allow the public to see.

But that's not the issue I want to address, even if it is a good subject.

The question I have is this: if that rocket test happened over 670 miles to the southwest from where I was standing, how did I see it?

In the video above, the light is high in the sky, and it's massive. Standing where I was in Northern Utah, I saw it high in the sky, as well. In fact, to the direct west of my location is a range of very tall mountains. Given the curvature of the earth, I should not have been able to see that light either because it was below the horizon line or (even if it was very, very high in the sky above LA) still hidden behind the range of mountains. Yet I saw that light high in the sky, unobscured by the mountains. People reported seeing this same thing from all over the Western States.

There are two explanations I can think of.

Either the officials failed to mention that they shot off multiple rockets in various places throughout the West simultaneously (a theory that is not confirmed in any of the articles about the subject)


the earth is actually flat and there is no curvature of a global world that would obscure my ability to see a light of that magnitude and height even from 670 miles away.

I can think of no other explanations.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I'll Do It Now in a Minute!

The Welsh have invented a wonderful phrase: "I'll do it now in a minute!"

It may seem contradictory at first, but then when you really think about still is contradictory. However, it makes a certain amount of sense in certain situations.

For instance:

I was eating dinner the other day when Husband asked if I had put the colors into the wash. Oops. I had forgotten. So I said, "I'll do it now," and then immediately realized I was still in the middle of my dinner, so I instantly added, "in a minute." Then I repeated the entire phrase again in a Welsh accent, which caused Husband to laugh out loud for quite a long time.

It's obvious how useful this phrase is when you're being hounded to do something right that instant, but you're just not yet ready to jump to it. Like right now, when I am trying to digest a 22-page white paper on robotics software in order to coherently summarize it in about 500 words (including correct terminology), I stopped at page four in order to jump over here and write in my blog, thus relieving my overheated brain.

Yeah, yeah. I'm getting back to the rest of it. In a minute.

(Closely related is the phrase, "I'll be there now in a minute!")

(I think you get the idea.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

This is Not an Allegory

When I was at the end of my sophomore year of high school, the student body of my small school roundly rejected the sensible candidate for student body president and elected a pot-smoking punk instead. The sensible candidate was female, a cheerleader, and a straight-A student who seemed to be in the leadership of nearly every important school organization. She was smart, responsible, and just a tad bossy. She would have followed a long line of sensible, responsible student body presidents, each of whom would be qualified to win the "Most Likely to Succeed" award.

The pot-smoking punk, on the other hand (who happened to be in my circle of friends, though we were not close), was part of the inner drama club elites (and an excellent actor) and would, as a secret signal, wear the front of his hair in a little pigtail on the days he came to school high. He was charismatic and popular, but he wasn't necessarily what you would call responsible or sensible.

It was a revolution that brought Nate to power. Everyone was just sick and tired of the smart, responsible, rich, popular kids getting elected. They wanted something different, something not so status-quo. In a surprising upset, the cheerleader lost to the pot-smoking punk, and we all waited to see what would happen the next year.

When I started my junior year of high school, it soon became apparent that electing Nate had been a mistake. He was really terrible at being president. He didn't take it seriously, and when he did anything presidential, he butted heads with the real authority: the school administration. He wanted things that weren't appropriate, and he treated the position like a joke (which, okay, it really is in high school, where no student is ever going to be given any real authority to make changes). It was an interesting year, and there was even talk of impeachment amongst the more outraged.

Although no real damage was done, I think everyone learned a little bit of a lesson. The next student body president elected (one of my graduating classmates) was a responsible, athletic, charismatic, straight-A young man. I know I voted for him because I had had a secret but very intense crush on him since the first moment I saw him at the beginning of our freshman year. He was something special, that guy. And the girl who got elected as the senior class president that year was a straight-A cheerleader, athlete, and leader in the most important academic school organizations. She was also our class valedictorian, so you can imagine that she was also responsible and sensible.

Before you ask, I am not equating anyone in my story with any of the current presidential candidates. This is not an allegory. I was just musing on this memory as I was listening to and reading the news of the last few days of our nation's presidential circus race. If I have any points to make by sharing this memory, perhaps they are these (which I do not claim to be profound or even useful in any way):

1. Change simply for change's sake alone is never a good idea. Indiscriminate destruction is stupid and dangerous.
2. The real power behind the throne will never give up its power lightly or easily.
3. If the person who is elected actually does manage to wrest power and control away from the shadow power, you better be absolutely sure of his or her character.
4. Collectively, we're still reacting like immature high school students even as adults. Perhaps that is a sad constant.
5. Sometimes it is really satisfying to vote for the underdog.
6. Don't let the satisfaction of voting for an underdog make you forget your responsibility to seriously weigh the consequences of electing said underdog.
7. Presidents of the United States (along with members of Congress) can do real and lasting damage, unlike high school student body presidents. (As a side note, so can unelected Supreme Court judges and hundreds of thousands of unelected bureaucrats.)

That's it. That's the most profound I'm going to end up being today. I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

20-Second Lectures on the Dangers of Socialism

I realize my children don't want to hear me spout off about politics, so I have made a conscious effort to restrain myself around them. I will, however, answer their questions when they ask, or make very brief commentary on something we're both hearing on the radio. I keep it short, though, because they have the attention spans of a gnat when it comes to such boring topics, and I don't want them forever equating learning about political ideologies with the need to immediately tune out.

Because of my restraint, I've noticed that they are more willing to ask questions. This morning on the way to school, for instance, Sophia said, "A lot of people like Bernie Sanders because he is talking about free college and stuff," with the implication being, "Why is this a problem?"

I said, "Bernie Sanders is a socialist, and socialists believe in forcing everyone onto an equal playing field. The government does not produce any material thing of value, including money. Therefore, in order to give things for free to some people, they have to force other people to pay for it. When Bernie talks about free college, what he means is that some people will get free college tuition, but the government will force other people to pay for it. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If you disagree that some people should be forced to pay for things that are given to people who didn't work for them but you still want free college, you would have to force college teachers and professors and staff and janitors to work for free, which would make them slaves in the truest sense. That's what they don't tell you about socialism. They make it sound so wonderful and equal, but it's just a way of making some people slave away for others to get something they didn't work for, or taking from those that produce and giving them back a lot less of it because you've shared it with everyone else, including those who produce nothing. Eventually, you run out of the producers' money because they aren't interested in producing things they are forced to give away."

Then I shut my mouth and said no more. We had almost arrived at the school anyway.

We have discussed briefly in recent days how true socialism and communism also represses innovation, takes away peoples' incentive to work hard, and reduces everyone to an equal state of misery--except those at the top who are in charge of distributing everyone else's property and who can (and will) take the biggest chunk for themselves.

I can tell they're thinking about it and actually getting it. My job is to help them see through the rhetoric and propaganda and think critically about what they are hearing and learning--not just about politics, but about everything (although you could argue that nearly everything has become politicized anymore). They need to know when an emperor is wearing no clothes and be confident enough that they can note it both to themselves and to others.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Cream of Crisper Soup

Sophia and Elannah have just completed Hell Week, the week before a play opens and the cast and crew go through numerous grueling hours of technical and dress rehearsals. There have been many late nights. Yesterday, Saturday, there was a very long day. Because the kids were going to be there all day and into the evening, cast parents were asked to bring food for lunch and dinner.

I was asked to provide a big pot of soup for dinner. I had a busy day, and when the time came to start preparing the soup, I searched through my crisper bins to see what vegetables were on hand. I ended up throwing together a soup I like to call Cream of Crisper. It contained baked potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, and some herbs and spices. Also cheese. And milk, of course, since it was a cream soup. After it was ready, I pureed part of it to give it a silky texture while also leaving in some toothsome chunks. By that point, I was rushing to get the soup to the school, so I barely had time to check it for seasonings. I worried that high school kids would not be interested in a soup that looked like it had vegetables in it.

Still, I was so inspired by cooking the soup that I made crispy ginger beef and rice for my family at home. It was heaped with praise as being even better than take-out.

Much, much later, when the girls were done, I picked them up from the school and grabbed my crock pot and ladle. Elannah told me that one of the boys had raved about my soup, and had, in fact, helped himself to five bowls of it. I'm still feeling a glow from that sort of praise. I often don't cook with passion anymore, and my family is left uninspired by the meals I prepare. It was nice to get a win and feel excited to cook again. Funny how much a high school boy's excitement about my soup means so much to me.

Cream soups are dead simple. You don't even need a recipe to make a cream soup as long as you know the basics of how to make a roux. Another tip is that if you have vegetables that need to be sautéed or cooked in a broth, do it before making and adding the roux. Trust me: you're far less likely to have to throw the entire pot of soup away because it got burnt by accident (been there, done that).

Cream of Crisper Soup (serves 4 or 5)

2 or 3 cups of whatever veggies you have in your crisper, chopped
2 or 3 leftover baked potatoes, peeled and cubed (or bake some potatoes in the oven or microwave)
2  cups stock or broth (water and bouillon cubes do fine in a pinch)
fresh or dried herbs and seasonings (I used parsley, rosemary, Montreal Steak Seasoning, Mrs. Dash, and would have used thyme if I could have found it in time (ha ha))
butter for sauteeing
a knob of butter or bacon fat (about 1/4 cup)
flour (equal to the amount of fat)
2 cups (or less) milk or cream
grated cheese of any kind (optional)
leftover mashed potatoes or potato flakes for extra thickening (optional)

1. Sautee the chopped vegetables (except cubed backed potatoes) in butter. When they are getting soft, add the stock or broth and let the veggies simmer until soft. Add the cubed baked potatoes. Add herbs and spices.

2. Make a roux: melt the butter or bacon fat in a medium saucepan. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Let cook for a couple minutes to eliminate the flour taste. Slowly add the milk or cream, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent burning. This is a white sauce.

3. Add the white sauce to the vegetables in broth. Heat gently, stirring frequently, and then stir in the grated cheese and let it melt.

4. Puree some or all of the soup with an immersion blender or regular blender.

5. If you want a thicker soup, add a cup of mashed potatoes or 1/4 cup potato flakes. If it is too thick, add some more broth.

6. Check seasonings and adjust as you like.

7. Serve it to a hungry person who will appreciate your culinary genius. Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers for another meal.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sophia Beats Anaphylactic Shock

Sophia, who is 17, went into anaphylactic shock yesterday after biting into a brownie that, it turned out, contained walnuts. Even though she immediately spit the bite out after noting the taste and immediate reaction of her body, it was enough to start the chain reaction that nearly led to her death.

The ER team at our local hospital surrounded her for almost an hour, injecting adrenalin and other drugs into her bloodstream and making sure she got enough oxygen and that the CO2 levels in her blood didn't rise to dangerously acidic levels that would stop her heart.

For the first 30 minutes, Sophia was panicked. As her mother, it was awful to watch her struggling so hard to breathe and only being able to pray that the doctors and nurses would do all the right things. After they gave her ketamine in order to help open her lungs and relax her muscles, she appeared to lapse into unconsciousness, although she told us later that she could hear what was going on but couldn't move her muscles. The ketamine also made her unconcerned with having multiple needles and IVs stuck into her arms, which is a thing she is normally very apprehensive about. She also remembers being worried that she couldn't breathe but then realizing that she was still alive, so somehow, she must be breathing.

Elannah and I had to leave the room so that all the people working on Sophia would have enough space to move freely. I peeked around the curtain at the doorway after that, watching them work and trying to understand what was happening. I also worked hard to control my emotions so I could deal with all the people who needed information from me and so that I could keep Husband updated on what was happening, but there were definitely tears on my and Elannah's part.

After the doctor and his team got her stabilized, Sophia rode in an ambulance to the children's hospital in The Big City, where they are far more experienced at dealing with acute respiratory emergencies. She would have been flown, but the weather wasn't cooperating, so the doctor had the Air Med team accompany the regular EMTs. I made the short drive home to drop off Elannah (so she could watch the boys) and grab Husband, who was nearly desperate with fear for his little girl and who was only getting information through my texts.

When we arrived at the hospital and finally found our daughter in the maze of departments and corridors, she was still unconscious (really unconscious this time) and intubated in the ICU. The worst was over, however. Within a few hours, she had the tubes removed and, after falling into a normal deep sleep, woke up lucid and shaky, but fine. She was released before dinner. She's had no further reactions, and after a good night's sleep, she swept and mopped the main floor this afternoon. She said it was because it needed to be done. I find it surprising behavior.

I now have epinephrine in the house, which is something we didn't have before. She's had allergic reactions before, but never anything this serious and severe. She's usually very careful about eating desserts or chocolates if she's unsure whether or not they contain nuts, but she's really learned her lesson this time.

My emotions are still on the surface. You cannot watch one of your children go through such an emergency and not be deeply, deeply affected. But at the same time that I was worried, I also felt that calm reassurance from the Spirit that all would be well, and I took comfort in the many recent lessons I have had on the tender mercies of the Lord.