Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

30% Chance of Rain

Yesterday, Weather Underground for Kuwait forecasted a 30% chance of rain. I told my husband this morning that what it meant was that it rained about 30% of the day, not that there was less that a 50 – 50 chance of precipitation. It rained just enough to make the roads DEADLY. . . Cars skidding on built up oil all over the place. Kind of like the first snow of the winter in Seattle.

Today, Weather Underground says there is a 60% chance of rain, but so far I don’t see any. Uh oh, as soon as I wrote that, I saw a huge flash of lightening and heard an up close and personal rumble of thunder. Need to send this in and unplug! Is there an electrical souk in Kuwait where you can buy transformers and heavy duty surge protectors?

One of the reasons I love living here, however, is the colors. This is the color of a morning with a projection of 60% rain. Just look at those colors!


March 26, 2007 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Uncategorized, Weather | Leave a comment

Mosquito Magnet

I am a mosquito magnet. Adventure Man and I go to Africa almost yearly, on safari, sometimes walking, and we love it. But oh, the price I pay! Two or three times a day, I have to tend my wounds – putting antihistimine creams on my bites, which swell and throb and itch until it nearly drives me crazy.

In Tanzania last year, I had no sooner put some serious DEET on when a TseTse fly landed on me and bit me – right where I had just sprayed the repellent!

So every step scientists take to develop a repellent which will truly repel, I applaud.

Mosquitoes Target Exhaled Breath

The mechanism mosquitoes use to zero in on their targets has been discovered by scientists in New York. It is already known that the insects are very sensitive to carbon dioxide in exhaled breath.

Now a team led by Rockefeller University has found that they sense the gas using protein receptors in the structure extending from their jaws.

Writing in Nature, they say the discovery could aid the fight against insect-born diseases, such as malaria.

Read the rest of the article at BBC Health News.

I’m not ready to stop breathing! But maybe they could develop a gum I could chew that would mask the carbon dioxide I exhale?

March 25, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Tanzania, Travel | 6 Comments

Oops – Hershey Sponsored the Study?

If you will remember, one of my key themes is “Who sponsors the study?” I love studies, and I also love going behind the scenes to find out where the funding is coming from (ok, ok, grammar-nazis, from where the funding is coming.)

So, checking around for the credentials on my previous story about chocolate being good for your heart, I found the below, which I excerpted from The International Herald Tribune. Let the chocolate buyer beware!

During a talk with analysts in October, the Hershey chief executive, Richard Lenny, called the dark-chocolate category a “major growth platform.” He told of a new Yale study sponsored by Hershey’s, and yet to be put through peer reviews, that found that eating Hershey’s Extra Dark chocolate improved blood pressure and blood flow because of the candy’s level of natural flavanol antioxidants.

In the study, 45 people were fed 2.6 ounces, or two servings, of Extra Dark, which also contained 26 grams of fat.

“These results enable us to better communicate with consumers the positive aspects of antioxidants and dark chocolate,” Lenny said.

Such claims are troubling to Mars’s chief scientist, Harold Schmitz, a driving force behind the development of CocoaVia. He said competitors were potentially misleading consumers by talking about antioxidants in chocolate when it was the level of flavanols that really made a difference.

Bonnie Liebman, nutrition director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that when it came to flavanols, “the marketing is getting ahead of the science.” She noted that two recent studies, including one from Harvard, had found no link between flavanols and any reduced risk of breast cancer or heart disease.

A spokeswoman for Hershey, Stephanie Moritz, denied that the company was exploiting the excitement over flavanols and said that a range of studies had linked dark chocolate to health benefits for the heart.

Bottom line: Sponsored by Hershey’s.

March 24, 2007 Posted by | Diet / Weight Loss, Health Issues, Statistics, Women's Issues | 1 Comment

Chocolate: The Newest Truth

I heard this tidbit on today’s Good Morning America – Good news for chocolate lovers!

And Now Some Good News from the AAAS: Chocolate in Medicine, Tractors in Space
By John Tierney
From the New York Times blogs.

I just spent five days at the Woodstock of science, the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The theme at this year’s meeting, in San Francisco, was “sustainability” — not the most sprightly topic. But in between the lectures on environmental degradation, there were some cheerier discussions. A couple of my favorites:

The healing power of chocolate. The researchers weren’t quite ready to call chocolate a health food — they cruelly reminded the audience of its fatty content — but they did have good news about the flavanols found in cocoa (particularly some dark chocolates).

Norman Hollenberg of Harvard Medical School has documented that central American Indians who consume large quantities of cocoa have low rates of hypertension and of vascular dementia (caused by restriction of blood flow in the brain). At the AAAS meeting, he reported on a experiment showing people given flavanol-rich cocoa enjoyed a “a significant increase” in cerebral blood flow. “We hope,” he noted, “to explore the potential of flavanol-rich cocoa in preventing or ameliorating the vascular dementias.”

Another researcher, Ian Macdonald of the University of Nottingham, scanned the brains of women who’d been given flavanol-rich cocoa. He found it increased “cerebral blood flow to gray matter.” He and Dr. Hollenberg didn’t urge listeners to go out and gorge on chocolate, but they did raise the possibility of flavanols being used to help aging brains, perhaps being administered in the form of vitamins. Let’s hope these vitamins are the chewable variety.

March 24, 2007 Posted by | Communication, Diet / Weight Loss, Generational, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Shopping, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

The Kuwait Church Souk

In Kuwait, as in most of the Middle East, in the shopping areas, shops that sell the same kind of goods are grouped together. “Souks” in the traditional shopping areas are small stalls, or open displays, thus all the vegetable vendors are grouped in one area, the perfume dealers in another, the cloth dealers in another. It is handy – when you go looking for something, if one shop doesn’t have it, another surely will.

I remember once looking for masonry screws in Doha; when the first stall didn’t have it, he left his stall – and all his merchandise, unprotected – and took me to his friend, who did have them. Sometimes a stall owner will send a helper to another store, and return with the item you are seeking.

Even some of the large malls seem to group similar vendors in the same spots. In Saudi Arabia, I remember entire floors devoted to shoes, or to abayas, or to accessories, or cloth and tailors.

So it gives me a big grin to go to churchin Kuwait on Fridays.

Friday mornings are sleepy in Kuwait. It’s a day off for the majority of the population, and Moslems go to the mosque for Friday prayers around noon. In the middle of downtown Kuwait, however, even early on a Friday morning, there is a hive of activity – at what we call the “church souk”.

It’s really a very clever concept, and also one that tickes my heart. In one area are many many churches. They are all Christian, and range from congregations of mainly Indian men, to Phillipino families, Nigerians, Chinese, Western, Baptist, Evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, at least one congregation which has live musicians playing loud, joyful hymns and then more staid and traditional congregations.

I’ve often wondered how all these different congregations manage to work out a schedule – there must be at least 10 – 12 different meeting locations – for sharing the chapels, for managing the time needed to get people seated, and then to clear up and get people out again. It’s exactly these kinds of little bureaucratic quibblings that can stir up a hornet’s next of problems between “like minded” believers. If there are problems, the church leaders seem to work them out without acrimony. I wonder how they do that?

In my heart, I believe this is how we were meant to worship – and although our worship has different styles, it delights me that we all – hundreds of us, if not thousands – meet in the one area, every Friday, and have the freedom, here in Kuwait, to worship each in our own style. That’s a very powerful freedom.

March 24, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, Random Musings, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual | 4 Comments

Heart Attacks in Women

I got this in an e-mail this morning. It was particularly interesting to me that we should not be drinking cold water during or after a meal (we drink iced tea) because it solidifies fats and makes them more harmful. I remember there used to be a syndrome called Fondue Belly in Switzerland, because people would eat cheese fondue (lots of fat there) and drink chilled white wine, and then get terrible stomach aches. As it turns out, a stomach ache is the least of the problems . . .

Here is an article on Heart Attacks “for women”; written by one who had one.

I’ve meant to send this to my women friends to warn them that it’s true that women rarely have the same dramatic symptoms that men have when experiencing a heart attack…you know, the sudden stabbing pain in the chest, the cold sweat, grabbing the chest & dropping to the floor [that we see in the movies]’

Having had a completely unexpected heart attack about 10:30 p.m. with NO prior exertion, NO prior emotional trauma which one would suspect might’ve brought it on, it was this past April,’06, about 1-1/2 hours after I’d spent a pleasant 2 hrs. rehearsing with the Note-a-Belles.

I was sitting all snuggly & warm on a cold evening, with my purring cat in my lap, reading an interesting story my friend had sent me, and actually thinking, “Ah-Ah-Ah; this is the life …. all cozy and warm in my soft, cushy Lazy Boy with my feet propped up.” [Now pay attention to these symptoms]: A moment later, I felt that awful sensation of indigestion, like when you’ve been in a hurry and grabbed a bite of sandwich and washed it down with a dash of water; that hurried bite seems to feel like you’ve swallowed a golf ball going down the esophagus in slow motion, and it is really awful and so most uncomfortable. You realize you shouldn’t have gulped it down so fast; needed to chew it more thoroughly, and this time drink a glass of water to hasten its progress down to the stomach ….. which doesn’t do much good because your esophagus and throat muscles are in spasms, and it hurts like h _ _ _ to swallow.
This was my initial sensation — the only trouble was that I hadn’t taken a bite of anything since about 5:00 p.m. After that, it had seemed to subside, and the next sensation was like little squeezing motions that seemed to be racing up my SPINE(hind-sight: it was probably my aorta spasming), and gaining speed as they continued racing up and under my sternum (breast bone, where one presses rhythmically when administering CPR). This fascinating process continued on into my throat and branched out into both jaws!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

AHA!! NOW I stopped feeling being puzzled about what was happening. We all have read and/or heard about**pain in the jaws being “one of the signals” of a heart attack happening, haven’t we??

I said aloud to myself and the cat, “Dear God, I think I’m having a heart attack!” I lowered the footrest, dumping the cat from my lap, and started to take a step but fell on the floor instead. I thought to myself, “If this is a heart attack, I shouldn’t be walking ……… into the next room where the phone is, or anywhere else ……. but, on the other hand, if I don’t, nobody will know that I need help. And if I wait any longer, I may not be able to get up in moment, or at all.”
I pulled myself up with the arms of the chair, walked slowly into the next room, and dialed the paramedics. [ I guess when one reaches them, your address automatically flashes on a screen], and the operator verified my address immediately and asked my symptoms.
I told her I thought I was having a heart attack due to the **pressure building under the sternum and radiating into my jaws. I didn’t feel hysterical or afraid; just stating the facts, She said she was sending the paramedics over immediately; asked if the front door was near to me, and if so, to unbolt the door and then lie down on the floor where they could see me when they came in. No, I didn’t take an aspirin, as I’m allergic to it, but I did take a [important] 100 mg “magnesium oxide” capsule … which bottle I keep handily in reach on the kitchen counter … which is a small detour on my way to the front door…with about a 3/4 glass of water to get it dissolving ASAP into my bloodstream.
[Important info] ~”Magnesium” relaxes blood vessels, and it dissolves to get them expanded to let blood get through the constriction of the vessels~. I then laid down on the floor as instructed and lost consciousness. I don’t remember the medics coming in…their examination…lifting me onto a gurney or getting me into their ambulance…or hearing the call they made to St. Jude ER on the way. But I did briefly awaken when we arrived, and saw that the Cardiologist was already there in his surgical blues and cap, helping the medics pull my stretcher out of the ambulance.
He was bending over me asking questions (probably something like “Have you taken any medications?”) but I couldn’t make my mind interpret what he was saying, or form an answer, and just nodded off again…not waking up until the Cardiologist and partner had already threaded the teeny angiogram balloon up my femoral artery into the aorta and into my heart where they installed two side-by-side stints to hold open my right coronary artery; and now was being taken into the CCU, and looking up at the three anxious faces of my children, Karen, Mark, and Wendy. Since I’d been a patient at St. Jude in 2002 for my TIA treatment, they had my emergency info in their system and had called my kids. I spent two days in CCU, and two in General Ward, and then was discharged.
I know it sounds like all my thinking and actions at home must have taken at least 20-30 minutes before calling the paramedics, but actually it took perhaps 4-5 minutes before the call, and both the fire station and St. Jude are only minutes away from my home, and my Cardiologist was all ready to go to the OR in his scrubs and was getting going on restarting my heart (which had stopped somewhere between my arrival and the procedure) and was installing the stints
Why have I written all of this to you with so much detail? Because I want all of you who are so important in my life to know what I learned firsthand, as a Certified Medical Back-Office Assistant in Internal Medicine Clinics, and as one who has lived through a heart attack due to:

*1. Being aware that something very different was happening in my body …not the usual men’s symptoms,… but inexplicable things happening (until my sternum and jaws got into the act ). It is said that many more women than men die of their first (and last!) MI because they “didn’t know they were having one, and commonly mistaking it as indigestion”… take some Maalox or other anti-“heartburn” preparation…and go to bed…hoping they’ll feel better in the morning when they wake up….which doesn’t happen.
My female friends, your symptoms might not be exactly like mine, so I advise you to: *call the paramedics if ANYTHING is unpleasantly happening that you’ve not felt before. It is better to have a “false-alarm” visitation than to risk your life guessing what it might be!

*2. Note that I said **”Call the Paramedics,” Ladies. *TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE! **Do NOT try to drive yourself to the ER. You’re a hazard to others on the road, and so is your panicked husband/friend who will be speeding and looking anxiously at what’s happening with you instead of the road, and so are your kids or friends a hazard as well. As sure as I sit here, they will get the attention of a cop who will pull you over for speeding — more wasted time.
*Do NOT call your doctor — he doesn’t know where you live and if it’s at night you won’t reach him anyway, and if it’s daytime, his assistants (or answering service) will tell you to call the Paramedics. [He doesn’t carry the equipment that you need to be saved in his car! ] The Paramedics have what you NEED — principally “OXYGEN” …… that you need ASAP. Your Dr. will be notified later.

*3. Don’t assume that it couldn’t be a heart attack because you have a normal cholesterol count — I did, and do, too. Research has discovered that a cholesterol elevated reading is rarely the cause of an MI (unless it’s unbelievably high, and/or accompanied by high blood pressure.) MI’s are usually caused by long-term stress and inflammation in the body, which dumps all sorts of deadly hormones into your system to sludge things up in there (and, of course, family genetics can be a factor). I qualify for the latter, and the years 2005 and 2006 have been the most stressful of my life since Jack died in 1981.

4. Read on for the e-mail I received today that prompted my above lecture to you:

SUBJECT: Drinking ice water at mealtime (which I’ve always done until now.)
Noting that neither Urban Legends nor Snopes has anything to say about this one, it could be true.

For those who like to drink cold water, this article is applicable to you. It is nice to have a cup of cold drink after a meal. However, the cold water will solidify the oily stuff that you have just consumed. It will slow down the digestion. Once this “sludge” reacts with the stomach’s hydrochloric acid, it will break down and be absorbed by the intestine faster than the solid food. It will line the intestine. Very soon, this will turn into fats and lead to cancer. It is best to drink hot soup or warm water after a meal. (Make it green tea–a great antioxidant!)

A serious note about heart attacks: Women should know that “not every” heart attack symptom is going to be the left arm hurting.

*Be aware of intense pain in the “jaw line”, or even pressure there …… and under the sternum, or “indigestion” symptoms, especially if you haven’t eaten in several hours.

**You may never have the first chest pain during the course of a heart attack, but heaviness /pressure under the sternum is common.

*Nausea and intense sweating are also common symptoms, but not necessarily in the women. 60% of people who have heart attacks while they are asleep do not wake up.

*Pain in the jaw can wake you from a sound sleep. Let’s be careful and be aware. The more we know, the better chance we could survive.

March 24, 2007 Posted by | Family Issues, Health Issues, Women's Issues | 1 Comment

What Will Your Children Choose?

An old southern country preacher had a teenage son, and it was getting time the boy should give some thought to choosing a profession. Like many young men, the boy didn’t really know what he wanted to do, and he didn’t seem too concerned about it.

One day, while the boy was away at school, his father decided to try an experiment. He went into the boy’s room and placed on his study table four objects: a Bible, a silver dollar, a bottle of whisky and a Playboy magazine.

“I’ll just hide behind the door,” the old preacher said to himself, “when he comes home from school this afternoon, I’ll see which object picks up. If it’s the Bible, he’s going to be a preacher like me, and what a blessing that would be! If he picks up the dollar, he’s going to be a businessman, and that would be okay, too. But if he picks up the bottle, he’s going to be a no-good drunkard. And worst of all, if he picks up that magazine, he’s gonna be a skirt-chasin’ bum.”

The old man waited anxiously, and soon heard his son’s footsteps as he entered the house whistling and headed for his room. The boy tossed his books on the bed, and as he turned to leave the room he spotted the objects on the table. With curiosity in his eye, he walked over to inspect them. Finally, his son picked up the Bible and placed it under his arm. He picked up the silver dollar and dropped it into his pocket. He uncorked the bottle and took a big drink while he admired this month’s Centerfold. “Lord have mercy,” the old preacher disgustedly whispered, “he’s gonna be a Congressman!”

March 23, 2007 Posted by | Generational, Humor, Joke | 1 Comment

Google Earth Update

My nephew, Earthling, who works for GoogleEarth, makes the following recommendation:

“there are a lot more panoramio photos now. . . “

“Spain and France are both completely covered in 2.5 meter imagery or better now. Switzerland is now 100% high res and has new improved terrain. I highly recommend turning on terrain and flying through the alps. Highly recommend it!”

Have fun!

(If you don’t have Google Earth yet, you can download it here. It’s FREE.)

March 23, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, France, Generational, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Photos, Technical Issue, Tools, Travel | Leave a comment

What is Your Greatest Fear?

Reach down deep. Take your time. Think about this.

A friend sent one of those “getting to know you” e-mails, and this question was on it: What is your greatest fear?

(Photo from Acclaim images)

My first reaction is – whoa! That is a VERY personal question! But I shared my answer with her.

One of the reasons we share when we blog, I think, is to connect with one another, to make this world a less lonely place. When we are going through a hard time – and don’t be fooled, no matter how good, how together, we look on the outside, we ALL go through hard times – it helps to know that we are not the only person in the world who has ever gone through this, whatever this may be.

There are things we don’t talk about. From time to time, you find a friend you can really really trust, and you take a chance. What a relief! You discover, if you are lucky, that maybe he or she has been there, too. At the very worst, you have someone who knows what you have suffered. It can be years down the road that they come back to you and say “I’m there now – can you help me through it?” And two people are less alone, and your suffering has not been for nothing; it has equipped you to walk this path with your friend, and lighten the load a little.

So here is is: my greatest fear is to die a meaningless, stupid death.

I don’t want to die on a Kuwait highway saying “oh sh$t” as I see some doped up, testerone-loaded, out-of-control driver barreling straight into me.

I don’t want to die as a random, unchosen victim of terrorist attack, like 9/11, or Pan Am 103.

I don’t want to trip over my high heels and break my neck falling down the stairs. (My own stupidity!)

I wouldn’t mind dying a heroic death, but my preference is to die quietly, prepared, even eager to meet my Creator. But my terror is to die too soon, for no good reason, as the result of someone’s stupidity.

So. I’ve taken the risk, early on this Thursday morning. Step up to the plate. Take a deep breath. Even if you’ve never commented before, take a risk, here, now. (Regular commenters, welcome!) Share your greatest fear.

What is your greatest fear?

March 22, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Random Musings, Spiritual | 18 Comments

Adventure Man’s Diet

My husband, the great Adventure Man, said that his idea of a diet was being married to a woman who was sometimes so busy with her hobbies that she doesn’t have time to fix dinner and he has to eat peanut butter and crackers. It’s true. Sometimes I lose track of time. Fortunately, he LOVES peanut butter and crackers.

The bottle of peanut butter we were working on – more than half finished – was one of those bottles recalled for contamination. Ugh. Great weight-loss peanut butter. 😦

March 21, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Diet / Weight Loss, Family Issues, Humor, Marriage, Relationships | 6 Comments