This is what I find so exciting about blogging. This morning I found a comment in my moderation stack from blogger Fahad (His blog is Salmiya) recommending a website Moonsighting, which has all kinds of wonderful photos made of the new Ramadan moon.
I had never known how very very thin this crescent is, and how difficult it can be to spot. In some of the photos, it takes a few seconds to find it at all – and you have to know what you are looking for.
Meanwhile – some of the photos are simply breathtaking.
There is also something that makes me LOL. There are a large number of topics at the top of the page, the last one says “Do Not Click.” I didn’t click it. I resisted. But I am also willing to bet that there are a lot of people who cannot resist. If you are one of them, come back and let me know what happens! LLOOLLLL!
No, no, it’s no trouble at all to be up for the sunrise, in fact, I have been up for hours. Yes, jet lagging. I thought I had dodged that bullet, but when I awoke, feeling GREAT, thinking it was morning, and checked my clock . . . it was only 2:30. 2:30 ay – em.
I’ve got all the laundry done, dishes washed, I’m all unpacked, and I think I am going to need to go back to bed soon.
I was just thinking, for Kuwaitis coming back, there won’t be a jet lag issue – with Ramadan starting almost immediately, nights and days get turned upside down anyway.
My flight in was a hoot – probably 80% families, Kuwaiti and Omani. Most of the kids were between 8 months and 2 1/2 years, but amazingly well behaved. The flight was packed. Packed. Not a single empty seat. I am guessing this was the big influx trying to get back before school starts and Ramadan starts – double whammy.
Fortunately, KLM seemed to have stocked a lot of kid’s meals, they didn’t mind the toddlers in the aisles, and the flight was relatively quiet – astonishingly so, considering all the kids on board. I have never seen a flight with so many children. The Pre-boarding of the families alone took about 45 minutes. Unaccompanied people like me were stuck in here and there where there was an empty seat.
The poor families; many had hoped for an empty seat next to them, and had to hold the babies and toddler the entire flight. There was a baby in my seat when I boarded, but the parents quickly picked her up and we had a good time chatting during our time together; we even all slept when the baby did. The baby coughed and sneezed on my meal, but I don’t seem to be suffering any ill effects.
I’m happy to be back in Kuwait. I’ve grown to love Ramadan, and I am looking forward with great anticipation to those magical days when the temperatures begin to drop once again and we can spend time outdoors.
Fresh from The New York Times: An Article on Wrinkle Removers, Backed by Science. You can read the entire article by clicking on the blue type.
By NICHOLAS BAKALAR
Published: August 18, 2008
Nostrums that promise to smooth wrinkled skin are a staple of snake-oil salesmen everywhere, but now there is strong evidence that certain kinds of treatment are effective. Over the past decade, researchers have been learning which treatments work, and why.
The key is a growing understanding of the skin’s connective tissue, called the dermal collagen, and a recognition that damage to the mechanical properties of the collagen outside the skin cells, and not necessarily genetic damage to the cells themselves, causes wrinkled skin.
A recent review in The Archives of Dermatology concludes that three anti-aging treatments are proven clinically effective: the topical application of retinol; carbon dioxide laser resurfacing; and injection of hyaluronic acid, a moisture-retaining acid that occurs naturally in the skin. Each depends on the same mechanism, the interaction of skin cells called fibroblasts with the collagen they produce.
“This is an area where there’s a lot of hype and not much substance,” said David J. Leffell, a professor of dermatology and surgery at Yale who was not involved in the review. But, he said, this study is “good science.”
Theory and experiment back these treatments, the authors write. Fibroblasts — connective tissue cells — secrete a complex group of polysaccharides and proteins that creates collagen, which gives the skin shape and elasticity and supports the blood vessels that permeate it. The network of collagen tissue is maintained by its mechanical tension with these skin cells.
Skin deteriorates as it ages, but its exposure to sunlight inhibits the ability of fibroblasts to produce collagen. The hands, face, neck and upper chest all suffer more than unexposed skin, and light-pigmented people wrinkle more readily than others. This damage, the authors write, is essentially an accelerated version of chronological aging. Ultraviolet radiation induces production of the same enzymes that degrade collagen with age.
Collagen fibers last as long as 30 years. But with age and ultraviolet exposure, they deteriorate and fragment, and fragmented collagen impairs the collagen-producing function of the fibroblasts that created it. As the fragmented collagen accumulates, new collagen production declines, the connections between the fibroblasts and the collagen weaken, and the skin, now lacking support, begins to wrinkle.
But there are treatments that counter this process. Topical application of retinol, a form of vitamin A, was the first to be proved useful. Although the molecular pathways are not well understood, retinol causes new collagen to form in chronologically aged skin and in skin damaged by ultraviolet light.
I am printing this entire article because few of you will be reading the Military Officers Association of America newsletter, and this is one of the best articles I have seen on the subject. It is SO easy to dismiss a parent’s complaints as just being a normal part of aging – and it is important to catch these things early.
Role Reversal — How to Spot Infections
By Nanette Lavoie-Vaughan
The next time your parent complains of feeling “out of sorts” or gives you a vague list of minor problems, don’t dismiss it as normal grumpiness. There’s a good chance your parent could have an infection.
Diagnosing the elderly with an infection can be difficult. Seniors are less likely to have classic symptoms such as fever, chills, and vomiting. Instead they might have atypical symptoms such as subnormal temperature, confusion, fatigue, and decreased appetite. In many cases, these subtle signs can be attributed to the normal aging process — or ignored until the late stages of the infection.
Let’s take a brief look at how the infection process works. When the human body is under stress or exposed to bacteria and viruses, it triggers a healing chain of events that, in most cases, results in the prevention of infection or illness. However, when the amount of bacteria is too great an infection occurs. At that point, the immune system kicks in doubly hard, releasing a flood of chemicals to attack the infection and promote recovery.
Seniors are more susceptible to infection because multiple chronic illnesses that occur with age put extra stress on the body, and the medications for these conditions can block the immune system. In addition, the immune system naturally weakens as we grow older.
The most common sites for infections in older adults are the urinary tract, the respiratory tract, and the skin. It also is common for seniors to develop an infection prior to an acute deterioration of their chronic medical condition or in combination with other acute medical problems. A typical example is the person with congestive heart failure who develops pneumonia. The symptoms of cough, congestion, and shortness of breath are similar and might occur simultaneously, or the onset of pneumonia might precipitate an acute attack of congestive heart failure.
So how do you know if your parent is developing an infection? Look for:
an acute change in his or her ability to perform day to day activities;
increased pulse rate;
poor appetite; and
fatigue with increased aches and pains.
For specific infections you might want to look for the following signs:
Loss of appetite
New onset of incontinence
Pain with urination
More frequent urination
Blood in the urine
Pain or tenderness
If you note any of these symptoms, due diligence requires a complete medical evaluation to determine the source of the infection and any other acute medical problems.
Why is this so important? The risk of sepsis, an overwhelming infection that enters the bloodstream, is higher in the elderly. The longer these types of symptoms go untreated, the more likely the bacteria will find its way into the bloodstream.
Another concern is the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant infections. The overuse of antibiotics for viral illnesses and the common cold have caused bacteria to mutate and become resistant to antibiotics that once treated most infections. The three super infections that pose a threat are Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C diff), and Vancomycin-resistant enterocolitis (VRE).
MRSA is diagnosed by obtaining a culture of the body fluid (sputum, urine, blood) where the infection is present. MRSA infections can occur anywhere in the body, and even though treatment with Vancomycin appears successful, a small amount of the bacteria can remain — a phenomenon medical professionals refer to as colonization. The remaining bacteria can cause infections to reoccur at any time.
C diff and VRE both cause diarrhea and are the result of antibiotics killing the normal, beneficial bacteria that reside in the intestinal tract and allowing infection-producing bacteria to proliferate. C diff can occur after the prolonged use of any antibiotic; VRE is specific to the use of Vancomycin. Treatment includes preventing dehydration associated with diarrhea, a bland diet, and bulking agents to decrease the amount of diarrhea, and administration of Flagyl to treat the condition and allow the normal bacteria to return to appropriate levels.
The good news is that most infections are isolated and can be treated with short-term antibiotics. Basic preventative measures — such as assuring that your parents have a pneumonia vaccination, receive the flu vaccine yearly, avoid others with acute infections, and stay well-hydrated — can decrease the likelihood of serious infections.
In addition, keeping the skin well moisturized can prevent skin infections. Dry skin is more likely to crack and tear, providing an opening for bacteria to enter. Urinary tract infections are prevented by good hygiene and adequate fluid intake.
Infection in the elderly is a serious concern, but a few simple measures and a diligent eye are all it takes to keep your parents healthy.
(For more information about infections in the elderly, super infections, and vaccinations go to http://www.health.nih.gov/topics. )
Nanette Lavoie-Vaughan is an adult nurse practitioner and professional consultant. She is a featured speaker at national professional conferences and writes about geriatrics for multiple publications. If you’d like to send Nanette a comment, question, or suggestion for a future column, please e-mail email@example.com.
Because it is a time to be considering holy things, and because I was sent this in the mail this morning, and because we have been talking about the prophet Job/Ayoub, I will share this morning devotion with you:
Job 22:24-25. Assign your nuggets to the dust, your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines, then the Almighty will be your gold, the choicest silver for you.
A story tells about a rich man who pleaded with God to let him bring into eternity one suitcase full of his most valuable possessions. God finally conceded, and the man packed as much gold as he could into his biggest suitcase. When he arrived at heaven’s gates he was met by St. Peter, who opened the suitcase, curious to see what the man valued most.
“What!” St. Peter was incredulous; “You brought pavement?”
(For my Moslem readers: I don’t know why, it doesn’t say this anywhere in the Bible, except that Peter is given the responsibility for the building of the church and is often shown holding keys – like in the keys to the kingdom. Peter is often pictured in cartoons as the keeper of the gate into Paradise; he is portrayed as an old, bearded man with a long list in front of him, like who is naughty and who is allowed in. I know it might seem strange to you, but this is not considered offensive; it is an affectionate portrayal.)
This is an excerpt from the New York Times Travel Section on Namibia, a country AdventureMan and I visited a few years ago.
We landed in Windhoek, and our first night, we ate dinner at Joe’s Beerhouse, a little disorienting, as we had flown in from Germany, and found ourselves in a very German restaurant. The Germans colonized Namibia for a very few years over 100 years ago, but their influence lingers on in names, on streets, statues and cuisine.
Our trip through Namibia was unforgettable. It was unlike any other African country we have ever visited. It has a very long coastline with cold Atlantic currents called The Skeleton Coast. It has the world’s highest sand dunes, unbelievably beautiful. When I think of Namibia, I think of dryness – it is the thirstiest country I have ever seen, outside Kuwait.
Much of our time in Namibia, in Etosha and in Demaraland, we were camping, with CCAfrica (Conservation Corps Africa), but at the end, we stayed in one of the most spectacular private lodges in the world: Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge. It was a total WOW. We rode ATV’s to the top of the dunes for sunset. They had an astronomical observatory, because at night there is NO ambient light and you can see the sky so clearly. The food was fabulous and creative.
Namibia, a country of stark beauty and riveting contradictions, should be at the top of any serious traveler’s want-to-visit list.
The landscape is otherworldly, from the ocean of blood red crests along Dune Alley at Sossusvlei (pronounced SOSS-oo-vlay) to the gravity-defying rock formations and petrified forest of Damaraland, in the country’s center. Even beside the main highway, there are enough elephants, giraffes and springbok to satisfy those who can’t imagine a southern African trip without big game.
And the mind-boggling juxtaposition of women draped in skins that covered animals a week earlier against shopping malls offering a full selection of Ray-Bans, or of face powder ground in a mortar and pestle cheek by jowl with shiny Hummers, leads you into the heart of a modern Africa tangled by time, defined by the collision of centuries and traditions.
Namibia isn’t easy, especially for travelers whose notion of a vacation is dashing from one sight to another, or for urbanites who need regular fixes of bright lights and noisy streets. Except for those with pockets deep enough to arrange chartered flights between the dunes and the Damara homesteads, it demands patience with corrugated gravel roads and mile after mile of what poets are fond of calling terrible beauty.
You can read the entire article HERE.
AdventureMan called me, laughing, and said “I just have to tell you what just happened to me.”
He was talking with a Kuwaiti woman who said “You speak Arabic amazingly well, except for one little thing – you say the ‘d’ when you should be saying the ‘Dh’.”
It was all he could do not to laugh. Not because of what she had said, but because it reminded him of a conversation we had, repeatedly.
When AdventureMan took Arabic, I took French. We were on our way to Tunis, I had a small baby, and I already spoke a little French. I made arrangements to study half days, and hoped it would be enough. Thanks be to God, together, we did just fine. In Tunis, most Tunisians spoke French and even those who spoke Arabic switched to French for the numbers. (Things are different now; this was many years ago.) The Tunisians called him “That Lebanese guy married to the French woman.” (He is not Lebanese. I am not French. Most Tunisians spoke a Berber dialect, which was not quite the same as Arabic.)
When I finally started formal Arabic classes, years later, I would say things I had learned from my husband and my dear Qatteri teacher would say “No, that is how those Lebanese people say it, not the way we say it.”
When my husband would correct my Arabic, now I could just cooly look at him and say “That is how you Lebanese say it, but we Qatteris say it this way.”
When he would lecture me on Arabic (I can only absorb about one minute of lecture at a time and them my head starts swimming) I would respond with ” ‘Dh’ AdventureMan, ‘Dh’ ” implying that his “Dh” wasn’t hard enough. It would make him laugh every time, totally crack him up. He can’t lecture me when he is laughing.
So here he is on the phone, laughing and laughing, because the Kuwaiti woman told him his Arabic was fine except that his “dh” wasn’t hard enough. God bless you, dear, whoever you are.