Posts Tagged ‘health’

Two hopefully gone medical conditions

July 19, 2015

I’m going to say ten years ago, I had a weird fuzziness in part of my eye. It was like a hair on my lens making everything I looked at out-of-focus. I could see to navigate but often held my head or eye at an angle to try to read through a clear portion of my field of view. Closing the eye didn’t help and it didn’t feel like something was physically touching my eye. After half an hour it would go away for days or weeks or months or several years now. I can’t remember the last time I had the problem but I did have it often enough to start recording when it happened and how I felt. Those notes are gone. It was annoying but strangely not terrifying. Was I just fatalistic, resigned?
I don’t think the next condition I had was at exactly the same time but the two overlapped. This condition started, I think, during a bout of food poisoning. between races to the toilet, I would relax and fall asleep. The dream would get weird and very realistic and I felt strong dejavu. Then my stomach would tighten and I would awaken trying to remember the dream.
But trying to remember also seemed like a trigger. For the next few years, I would be daydreaming and sometimes my train of thought would take me to a buried memory and as I tried to recall it, suddenly my stoamch would cramp, I would feel weak and have trouble standing – just too tired. Then it would go away. I would get maybe five episodes over a day or a day and half and those episodes would start very intense but fade. I distinctly remember two things. 1) being afraid to remember something for fear it would trigger another attack and 2) trying to remember the scene or event that tantalized just before the attack.
I think the last attack was a year ago, while at a sports camp.
Sometimes, I was unusually tired or sick when either of these attacks occured but for some of them I can’t think of any specific trigger. I don’t recall having both things happen at the same time.
I think the descriptions I gave above are vague and a little scary and I have never been able to make them clearer. The frequency was just too low for me to note any connections between them.
I’m feeling pretty good these days, aside from the entirely understandable pain and stiffness in my legs from all the running. I am eleven kg lighter than last year now. From around 2000 to 2013 or 2014, I was over 90kg and maxed out at 95._kg in the winter of 2014. Could being slimmer and healthier be the difference?
Well, I now wear progressive lens glasses, with the top third being for long distance and the bottom bit for closeups so age is still taking its toll on me.

Falling from the rib-breaking tree and hitting every branch

November 3, 2010

It is no laughing matter that my father-in-law fell from a tree and broke some ribs but there must be some way to work that cliche in.

On Monday, my f-i-l was collecting persimmon, when he fell. Now, he was hurt and seriously enough to need to stay in the hospital for a few days, but don’t think he fell from a tall pine or maple or the like.  Horticulturists could better explain, but as I understand it, you clip the main growth bud of a young tree and major branches grow instead.  This way you can have many more fruit-bearing branches and all close to the ground.

So, he fell and probably hit a branch on the way.  He went home, and probably went to bed early.  The next morning, he was in great pain so he decided to visit a hospital.  There he was diagnosed with broken ribs, admitted to a room and had his lower chest wrapped.  I suspect he was given pain-killers.

We visited in the evening and he was sitting up and smiling at his grandchildren. When my son pointed to something behind him, he twisted slowly, but without gasping or showing pain, and told my son the thing was a baduk board.

He will spend a few days at the hospital.  We will visit him on Friday evening on our way to the farm. On Saturday and Sunday we will work on the persimmon crop and do whatever else we can.  I will be very careful while climbing the trees but then I always am. My fear is not of falling though.  I am over ninety kilos and the branches seem thin and long; my weight is strongly amplified by leverage when I step away from the trunk and I would hate to break a major limb – botanic or human.

One strange thing about the hospital was that behind the nurses desk was a white board with the patients names, their ages and maladies.  Any visitor could read that my f-i-l had broken his 8th rib and had a hemo– (? this word was illegible).  That’s not so bad or private, but others might have been.

That didn’t take long

November 3, 2010

I prepared ahead – albeit insufficiently – for November and Nanowrimo.  I’ve had an idea for a novel for some time now and have wanted to try writing it.  I have written short fiction and essays short and long for this blog, a few magazines and my students.  I was ready, I felt, to extend myself…

No point in being wordy now.  It will take an extreme effort of will to continue at this point.

Oh, Nanowrimo, for those unwilling to follow the link, is short for national Novel Writing Month.  The organization is international now, so the name is both cumbersome and incorrect.  Anyway, the goal for Nanowrimo is to type 50,000 words during the month of November.  Quantity is important and quality is not.  This makes sense to me as the first step is a sort of brainstorming, with the expectation of massive revisions coming afterward.

By the end of November first, I was a little behind in my word count, but not disastrously so.  In the late afternoon of November second, I received word that my father-in-law had fallen from a tree -a cultivated persimmon tree, so it was particularly tall – and we spent that evening driving to the hospital and visiting with him.  Still, I could catch up.  However, we made plans while at the hospital to work at the farm all weekend to help the family catch up on their work.

I’ve enjoyed even this half-assed attempt at Nanowrimo and see real value in it.  I hope that I can get it together and continue working on my novel even if I don’t reach 50,000 words.

If you think the idea of thousands of amateurs trying to write novels in November is crazy, you aren’t alone. Laura Miller, at Salon, feels the same way and salutes the reader.

Consider turning away from the self-aggrandizing frenzy of NaNoWriMo and embracing the quieter triumph of Kalen Landow and Melissa Klug’s “10/10/10” challenge: These two women read 10 book in 10 categories between Jan. 1 and Oct. 10, focusing on genres outside their habitual favorites. In her victory-lap blog post, Klug writes of discovering new favorite authors she might otherwise never have encountered, and of her sadness on being reminded that “most Americans don’t read ANY books in a given year, or just one or two.” Instead of locking herself up in a room to crank out 50,000 words of crap, she learned new things and “expanded my reading world.” So let me be the first to say it: Melissa and Kalen, you are the heroes.

Feral Cats

October 7, 2010

A co-worker recently posted a notice in the office of a baby cat near his apartment and asked whether anyone would be interested in taking it home.

I love animals and grew up with there always being a dog or a cat and often both in the home.  Yet, I didn’t even bother to bring the subject up with my wife.

If we opened our apartment to cute little furry critter, we would do it again for the next and the next…

I honestly – and sadly and despairingly – wonder if poison or traps or other lethal tools should be used to clean out the feral cat populations in Korea.  I guess that in Busan they are doing no harm – I am sure I could think of some way they might be- but the constant sight of them just fills me with pity.

Yonhap News has an article describing feral cats and a man who has been photographing them for years.  Much of the article describes Korea’s changing relationship with it’s cats, but there is also discussion on what to do with them:

Controversy over treatment of cats often makes headlines. In 2006, residents of a Seoul apartment culled scores of stray cats by driving them into the basement of their building and cementing over all exit holes.

Last year, the local government of Geomun Island off the southwestern coast moved to cull hundreds of feral cats overpopulating the fishing region, a controversial decision that was changed at the last minute to neutering them.

Park Yong-choon, an animal management official at the Seoul Municipal Government, said there is a sharp divide in animal treatment between young and old.

From 2008 the city government adopted a new policy to control the number of stray cats in the long term by having them trapped, neutered and released instead of being culled. Nevertheless, some elderly residents have complained of their unwanted presence.

“Young people have a strong idea that street cats should be protected, but the elderly don’t want the cats roaming the streets. They ask us why we bother saving them,” Park said.

Man!  Some Seoulites trapped cats in the basement of their own apartment building, then cemented the windows closed?  That’s monstrous!  Those bastards.  And crazy bastards at that: it wouldn’t be any better, but slightly more sane, if they chased the cats into a distant building.  The basement of their own building; that’s messed up.

The officials at Geomun Island might be in the right, though.  Although Korea has it’s own small mammalian predators, the idea of an island being overrun by cats makes me think of The Poor Knights Islands in New Zealand:

our land reserves are still threatened: apart from some islands where pests like rats have been removed, our land reserves are still threatened by rats, cats, stoats, goats, deer, pigs and possums. Add to that the pest from wasps and other insects, and our wildlife is still threatened. Constant culling, hunting and trapping of introduced species is necessary inside our land reserves.

Neutering the cats may remove the problem as well.

So, culling cats in Busan may not be necessary or compassionate, but culls elsewhere may well be.

If you want to save a feral cat or two, Brian in Jeollanamdo has investigated the problem and has at least three (possibly dated) posts: 1, 2, 3.

Sept 10: World Suicide Prevention Day

September 9, 2010

I am not sure what value having a ‘day’ is, but suicide is a big problem in Korea, with one suicide occurring every 34 minutes (as tweeted by James – did that link work?  I haven’t linked to a tweet before).

For more information on the day or warning signs or the like, visit Dr Deb.


Hmm, this post is nearly short enough to go on Twitter.

Vampires in Peru -they don’t sparkle

August 18, 2010

When I read in the Korea Herald that four Peruvian children had died from vampire bat attacks, I figured it was another example of bad reporting.  However, it appears the report is correct although the bats are not the ultimate cause of death:

Rabid vampire bats have attacked more than 500 indigenous people in Peru’s Amazon, according to foreign news reports.

At least four children are believed to have died in an outbreak of the disease, the Peruvian Health Ministry said Sunday.

Rabies.  Those poor bastards.

From CBS News:

The authorities are trying to battle an outbreak of rabies spread by the bat bites, and have given vaccines to more than 500 people attacked by the bloodsucking mammals.

I gotta say, I learned a lot in preparing this short post. Mostly, I learned, once again, not to jump to conclusions.  Much to my surprise, I might not, in fact, be smarter than everyone writing this story.

As my second example, I thought vaccines only work if given before infection.  In this case, if given before being bitten.  Apparently not (From the CDC):

Rabies vaccine is given to people at high risk of rabies to protect them if they are exposed. It can also prevent the disease if it is given to a person after they have been exposed.

I was also surprised that a vaccine actually existed for rabies.  I had thought treatment was entirely post-infection.

Koreans in South Africa aren’t taking their medicine?

July 9, 2010

There are two reports in the news about Korean dancers in South Africa dyeing of malaria.

Spellcheck suggested “dyeing” after I incorrectly

typed “dieing” – surely their word means adding

colour to clothes and such though.  What is the right word?

First, my condolences to the families of Koh Eun-joo and Kim Su-yeon.

Second, how could this happen?  The Korea Herald article (KH is no longer appearing on my browser as a malware site) on Miss Kim is short and merely reports her name and occupation.  The Joongang article on Miss Koh sheds more light.  I don’t like to use such long excerpts from a newspaper article, but malaria is serious business.

Kim Su-yeon, 27, was one of two performers in the 45-member troupe to contract the disease, and one of 11 members who had been given chloroquine, a malaria pill that is “not very effective in Africa,” said an official from the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention who asked to be identified only as Im.

“The pills were prescribed by a village doctor before they left. The other 34 were given drugs before their departure by the National Medical Center,” Im said. “It would have been better if they had been given better information before this happened, because that information is not hard to get. It’s on our Web site.”

Im said the 11 performers given chloroquine were all from Namwon, where the National Center for Korean Folk Performing Arts is located. He said mefloquine is usually prescribed as a preventive against malaria.

Kim started showing signs of malaria on June 3 but thought it was simply a cold. The day after she returned to Korea from Egypt on June 5, a hospital diagnosed her as suffering from the mosquito-borne parasitic disease, said Park Min-kwon from the Korean Culture and Information Service, which directed the Korean Culture Festival.

“Another member was also diagnosed with worse symptoms than Kim, but she’s doing better now,” Park said. “All 45 team members were given malaria pills before we left.”

Alright, more news on Malaria in Korea and elsewhere: Gangwon Notes*, the CDC and Wikipedia’s page on chloroquine.

Now, prevention is better than cure, as there are few good cures for malaria.  Part of prevention is done through drugs, but I wonder if the dancers were also preventing mosquito bites.  Nets or fans are important at night (preventing malaria is more important than fears of fandeath, after all) but these are for cheap accommodations.  Reputable hotels should have had properly sealed rooms with AC  if necessary – there should have been no need to open a window at night.

I wonder if the so very glamourous life of mid-level Korean entertainers is the problem.  Extra! Korea posted recently on a newspaper article about  entertainer’s incomes and living arrangements.  I also did so years ago at Gangwon Notes*.


* Yes, I linked to myself twice in this post.  I don’t know how many people read this and what percent of them also read Gangwon Notes, but I’ve discussed malaria on my blogs for four or five years and SurprisesAplenty.wordpress doesn’t show that background.  Also, I am a great writer and you should feel lucky to have a chance to read further of my work.

Air Conditioning and blackouts

July 7, 2010

The Joongnang Ilbo reports that blackouts are possible this summer due to air conditioner use or overuse.

If reserves fall below the 4 million kilowatt level, the government has the right to demand power cuts and control electricity usage.

Of course, the threat of power cuts has been raised in previous summers, and in some winters, but they’ve always been avoided.

One method was through conservation measures, and the ministry is planning to restrict the use of air-conditioning starting next month during the peak hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. for buildings that consume more than 2,000 ton-oil-equivalents (or TOEs) of energy.

The government will advise buildings to turn off the air-conditioners for 10 minutes every hour.

Regular readers (well, of Gangwon Notes, I guess I haven’t discussed it on this blog, yet.  Okay, look here, if you are interested) will know my solution:  close the freaking door to the rooms and buildings you are heating or cooling!  I admit this is only a partial solution, but it is an easy first step and one so unfathomably overlooked.  Do Korean moms not tell their kids they don’t want to heat (or cool) all of Muskoka (or, you know, wherever)?

Other solutions, also from the Jungang, include cooling to only 25 or 26 degrees, rather than the so-very-wonderful 20 degrees.

I do love cool air in the summer and recently started introducing the idea of air conditioning to the wife, hoping she would subliminally absorb it and even suggest it to me.  Then, I would be able to appear surprised and reluctantly agree.  I am getting by without AC but I shudder at what our water and water heating bill will look like.  Let’s see, a shower before bed, one in the morning, and one after some exercise.  Indeed, sometimes I exercise on my bike, finish at the pool -and have a shower- then ride home and feel sweaty enough to have another shower!

Anyway, let’s see what other problems AC is connected to.

From the American Lion:

Having spent the last few years in Central Maryland, the heat there is stifling and the air conditioning pervasive. The humidity was always a nightmare for me because I tend to sweat profusely whenever the temperature hits 80 degrees or more. We spent thousands of dollars each year keeping the house cool.

Compare that with Germany. The home where we live now has no air conditioning. No one has it. No one needs it. And we regularly hit 80 degrees in the summer. The weather and climate here are much cooler, granted, but even when there is warm weather, one opens up the house and uses a few fans to cool the house. We have skylights and large windows that can be tilted open or left open to let cool air in and hot air out through the roof.

This may not be scientific, but when we last lived in Maryland, our sinus issues, family-wide, were legendary. We were accused of being manufacturers of methamphetamine–that’s how much Sudafed we were using.

After a few months abroad, all of our issues are cleared up. Everyone feels better. Everyone sleeps better and there are no issues. We are inundated with fresh air and cool breezes and we spend a great deal more time outdoors. And don’t forget the walking. The walking keeps us fit and trim.

I don’t get the connection between AC and walking.  I think that is a Moving-to-Germany thing and not directly connected to the main point.  On the other hand, the connection to breathing problems also appears in this Salon article reviewing “Losing our Cool”, a book by Stan Cox:

In the last half century, air conditioning has joined fireworks, swimming pools and charred hamburgers as a ubiquitous ingredient of an American summer. It’s no exaggeration to say it has changed the way this country functions, shaping everything from where we’re willing to live (Las Vegas, anyone?) to the amount of sex we have (more: It’s never too hot to get it on when the A.C. is blasting). Nine out of 10 new homes in this country are built with central air conditioning, and Americans now use as much electricity to power our A.C. as the entire continent of Africa uses for, well, everything. It has so thoroughly scrambled our way of life that when the National Academy of Engineering chose its 20 greatest engineering accomplishments of the last century, A.C. not only made the list, it clocked in ahead of spacecraft, highways and even the Internet.

Yes, AC did make the list, but only as part of refrigeration technology.  Cooling ourselves is merely a luxury, cooling and freezing food is a little more then that.

…Air conditioning is one of those technologies that are very good at generating more demand for themselves. The most obvious way that it’s doing that now is in adding to greenhouse emissions, which will mean even hotter summers in the future and even greater demand for air conditioning….

…Plus, one thing that all commuters are familiar with is that it’s necessary now on city streets and freeways to run the air conditioning in even slightly warm weather to be able to keep the windows rolled up against the exhaust from other cars….

I think that would be true, with or without air conditioning.  Twenty years ago, many friends set their fans to re-circulate to avoid the products of incomplete combustion from still-cold engines.  I have to admit, I love the air conditioning in my car and that is at least partially because I can more easily hear the podcasts and music I listen to while driving.  Also, Busan can be a smelly place.

…If you look at how we use our air conditioning, it’s shocking. Take a 3,000-square-foot house on a summer day — only about 3 percent of the cooling power from the central air conditioning is going for people cooling. That is to say, 3 percent is being used to help remove heat from people’s bodies. The other 97 percent is going to cool the structure of the house, all the tens of thousands of cubic feet of air that aren’t even coming in contact with these people. …

On how to keep cool without air conditioning: …But they told me it’s actually pretty much just the old-fashioned advice that people used to follow. They will close windows to keep the cool air in and only open them when they need to. In the evening they have a house fan to draw the cooler air back in, but a lot of the time they don’t even use that. The day I visited them it was the second-hottest day of 2009. They go through a lot of ice water….

(Question from Salon) There have been some positive health consequences from air conditioning — making it safer for people during heat waves, for instance. How do you reconcile this with wanting to ratchet down our A.C. use?

Yeah, it does have a Jekyll-and-Hyde character in that respect. But I think we need to look at it is as a fail-safe mechanism and recognize that a lot of the health problems that we need A.C. to solve, it may have contributed to in the first place. We need to look at the conditions under which people die in heat waves, the harsh life conditions that they’re enduring more generally. That’s the real root of the problem.

Also, a lot of people run air conditioning because they’re concerned about their allergies or asthma, but we need to consider the hypotheses that say that the current epidemic of those conditions is partly caused by lack of outdoor exposure to soil and friendly organisms. Maybe if children were out in the yard making mud pies instead of in a cool, sterile environment all day long, they might have a lot more defense against those problems.

My mother felt the same way and she was also concerned that, in cooling the air, AC also dried it, irritating nose and throat linings and such.  I had always assumed she simply wanted to save money and was telling us stories.  Sorry, mom.

There is a lot more to the Salon article.  Oh, What the Book can order Losing Our Cool ( And is moving.  The new store looks to be on the main street in Itaewon; I guess they are doing well.  Congratulations to them).

Back to AC and Electricity consumption.  This is a big problem, especially since “[e]lectricity is a mystery…We cannot even say where electricity comes from.  Some scientists think that the sun may be the source of most electricity…”

comic from cartoonstock.

Blood Donor Day

June 14, 2010

Blood donation is one of the best things you can do for your fellows.  It’s easy, in Korea you get a little gift, and you save the life of someone anonymously.  I can think of few better things a person could do.

I have had challenges giving blood in Korea trying to translate the questions properly but people have always been willing to help.  I haven’t given blood this year yet because I haven’t seen a blood bus at my university.  maybe this is a good thing.  At my previous university, the city was relatively flat (well, relatively) while I now work atop a big, steep hill.  Even walking down this hill requires some balance and effort and you shouldn’t exert yourself after giving blood.

I hope the kids in this picture from the Chosun Ilbo are going to give blood, rather than have just given blood.


becoming or staying slim

May 12, 2010

When I visit my hometown, I see giant people climb out of giant cars (or SUVS, mostly).  Here, in Busan, but also in Korea generally, I see slim people and the younger they are – to young adulthood – the taller they are.

While I don’t have any news about how or why the generation entering the workforce is the tallest I’ve seen in Korea (I figure it is the increased amount of protein in their diets), I just read an interesting post about land-use in cities correlated to obesity.  The results aren’t startling, but until a test or two are done, it isn’t really known.

In “Walking and Obesity: the City Life and the Country Life“, Sci reports on a journal article that tracked 10,000 people in and around Atlanta, Georgia.

The people living in areas with maximally diverse land-use (residential, commercial and etc) were most likely to be slim, while those in single-use areas (think suburban residential) were more likely to be obese.

1) The more the land use is mixed where you are, the less of a probability you have of being obese. This is presumably related to walking more, but the correlation was only effective for African-American females.

2) The more you walk, the less probability you have of being obese.

3) The more time you spend in a car, the MORE probability you have of being obese.

Sounds pretty simple, don’t it? But this isn’t the easiest thing. Many people HAVE to drive to work, and often do not have enough leisure time outside of it to make up the car time with other physical activity. In addition, many people will walk more when they have somewhere to go, and suburban residential neighborhoods don’t really go in for that kind of thing. But it DOES provide some interesting data for people looking to plan new residential communities. If you make things more walkable (especially work and necessities), maybe people will walk more, and maybe that will translate to smaller probabilities of obesity and improvements in health. Maybe those people planning those overly picturesque walkable communities are on to something.

As I understand it, in suburban places where it is safe to walk, there is little nearby to walk to.  I don’t know if the neighborhood I grew up in on Muskoka Road 14 could be called suburban, but if we wanted to go to the convenience store, we had to drive.

And yet, we were fairly serious walkers.  Some studies show that families that eat together are closest, that sharing meal time means having good discussion time.  I don’t know, but walking to Finch’s gravelpit and to Sharp’s Creek was what I remember most about being together as a family (we also had nearly every dinner together).  Did I complain about how boring it was, I wonder?  Certainly, there was usually nothing on the TV, on the two channels we received.

Hmm, more stream-of-semi-consciousness.  Perhaps that’s what separates this blog from Gangwon Notes.

Anyway, everything is walking distance in Korea.  I now have a car and use it nearly everyday, but I really don’t need to.  A lot of the time, not driving is more convenient – no parking problems.

I guess it’s time to leave the car at home.  Well, tomorrow; it’s bedtime now.