Staring Into the Maw of Draco

My Orthopantomogram

My Orthopantomogram

The Weather Channel this winter got the cutesy idea of naming winter storms. This is in imitation of the National Weather Service’s habit of naming tropical storms. Hence, the name Draco, for today’s bad weather. Last night, we had thunderstorms. Today, we have high winds, falling temperatures, sleet and blowing snow, as the center of this massive storm passed over Saint Louis. So far, the ground is too warm for any of this oobleck* to stick.

Dan and Annie flew in from the left coast and were surprised by Draco’s less than warm welcome. Dave is driving down from Purdue tonight; I pray that he is careful driving. Tomorrow, Rey arrives; he is just passing through town on his way out to Colorado, but will spend the night. He should remain below Draco’s freeze line.

This is the last week of school, before Christmas break. Anne and here kids are anxiously awaiting Santa. I arranged for Santa to send a video message to Anne under the guise that she was one of her fourth grade students. Here is the link to the Portable North Pole video that I made for her. Unfortunately, Anne didn’t think sharing this with her students was such a good idea. Anyway, watch it, I hope that you enjoy it! I knew I should had marked her down as naughty and not just naughty and nice.

A orthopantomogram or dental panoramic radiograph is a panoramic scanning dental X-ray of the upper and lower jaw. The one pictured above shows a two-dimensional view of my mouth. It uses tomography to flatten the half-circle it circumscribed from one of my ears to the other. This particular device consisted of a horizontal rotating arm which held the X-ray source and another moving arm that held the digital X-ray sensor. They were arranged opposite each other. The patient’s skull, my head, sat between the generator and the sensor. I bit on a plastic spatula so that all my teeth, especially the crowns, can be viewed individually. The whole orthopantomogram process takes about one minute. My actual radiation exposure time ran about six seconds as the machine took its excursion around my skull.

Being the dedicated blogger that I am, I had to take a picture of the resultant photo. Other than this brief moment of technological gee-whiz-i-ness, the rest of my checkup was the usual fare. Trying to converse with someone who was holding sharp metal instruments in your mouth and who also thought that you should really devote more of your life experience to flossing. The white spots on my upper outside teeth are old fillings.

* Bartholomew and the Oobleck is a book by Dr. Seuss. It follows the adventures of a young boy named Bartholomew, who must rescue his kingdom from a sticky substance called ‘oobleck’.

UPDATE: Dave made it as far as Springfield and decided to lay over for the night. Anne couldn’t get into her car after school, because ice had frozen the door shut. A ‘nice’ man offered to help her and succeeded in breaking the door handle off instead. His excuse was, “That was always a possibility. Is there anything more that I can do to help?”

Herd Immunity

Thermonuclear Monterey Sunset

Thermonuclear Monterey Sunset

Saturday’s relatively balmy temperatures are now a thing of the past. In their place winter has installed itself, along with a bone freezing chill. This week’s chill is both external and weather derived, but just around the corner is the season of internal chills and pains, the season of the grippe, flu season. The CDC is forecasting an early start to this year’s flu season. Five southern states have already reported influenza outbreaks. It is also predicting a nasty flu season this year. The N3H2 strain of avian flu seems to be dominant. While flu vaccines are still plentiful, over 90% of the available supply has already been distributed. I got my vaccine last month and after a bit of badgering from yours truly, Anne got hers last weekend. So we are now protected, are you?

Thermonuclear war, pestilence and semis barreling down on unsuspecting baby ducklings, how more scary can this be?This world now seems a whole lot scarier place than it use to be when I was a child. Back then, Mom would read to me Robert McCloskey’s “Make Way For Ducklings”. Maybe if we stick together and look out for one another, we’ll make it through the day, through this winter and across the road.

Make Way For Ducklings, Robert McCloskey

Make Way For Ducklings, Robert McCloskey

Save the Giant Sequoia

Save the Giant Sequoia

Being dwarfed by Earth’s most massive tree, the giant sequoia, fills you with wonder. By massive they don’t mean tallest, that lofty title belongs to the sequoia’s haughty cousin, the redwood. It’s hard to believe that a living thing can be so enormous and old. Now the truth comes out, sequoia are not only old, but fat too. Also known as Sierra redwoods, these trees of California’s rugged Sierra Nevada mountains can grow more than 250 feet tall. OK, I get it, we’re not good enough to be real redwoods. Hey, we look down upon you snooty ‘coastal’ redwoods. From up here, in our lofty mountains, you redwoods look pretty small. Their trunks can grow as wide as 30 feet. Again with the waistline, really do we need to keep harping about this?

Maybe I’m being too sensitive about this whole sequoia thing. I’m sure that I’m just imprinting with what happened at work yesterday. Tuesday, I participated in my first on-site screening. The company held these screening last year, but they were strictly voluntary. This year, if you don’t report your numbers, then a hefty tax will be tacked unto your monthly health insurance premiums.

I should clarify here, the on-site screening was a series of medical tests designed to access my health. There were height and weight measurements. They took my blood pressure and they drew blood. From the blood work they measured my cholesterol and sugar. I have all this done annually by my regular physician and I could have just reported those numbers, but I decided to join in.

The bad news was that I’m old and fat, but other than those two insults I escaped unscathed. Enjoining the on-site screenings is another program called the health self assessment. It is simply an online questionnaire. It is a year more advanced then the screenings though, it was made mandatory last year. Anne is also required to participate in this exercise, under penalty of jacked-up premiums.

It is hard to say where these processes are headed. There are certainly plenty of conspiracy theories being voiced around the virtual water-cooler. We are all feeling as if we are being slow rolled here, but with healthcare costs rising, I predict even more company involvement rather than less. It does feel like some giant foot is hovering directly over my head.

Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. TED Talks are 15 to 20 minute standup slide show presentations, in front of a live audience. These genius talks once commanded a small, but highly influential audience. At $2K a seat, the 99% was not admitted. They still command the same live audience, but through the internet, the rest of us can hear these speeches too. Held live in Monterey, really Pacific Grove, just up the beach from Asilomar, TED has posted over a thousand online talks. Notables like Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Steve Jobs have all given TED Talks, but Jill Bolte Taylor’s is the one that I would like to share.

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroanatomist brain scientist who specializes in the postmortem investigation of the human brain. She is affiliated with Indiana University and is the spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center. Her own personal experience with a massive stroke, in 1996 at age 37, and her subsequent eight-year recovery, has informed her work as a scientist and speaker. Her experience and this episode is the subject of her TED Talk.

To say that her speech is moving is an understatement. It was once said that everyone has a book in them. Maybe the new rubric is that everyone has a Ted Talk in them. Andy Warhol once said that everyone had just 15 minutes of fame. Who knew it came with PowerPoint slides.

How Are You Feeling?

Saint Louis set a record high temperature today, 66 °F. This made for much more pleasant weather than we had experienced at the beginning of the week. Then there was no precipitation, just cold weather. I got a prescription filled today to help alleviate the skin irritation brought on by that cold spell. The cold dry air does that to me. Our new humidifier seemed to be working overtime during the cold snap. I could hear the excess water from it gurgling into the floor drain and in the morning, just opening the front door is enough to cause the glass storm door to fog up. However, I think that I am protesting a bit too much about this winter’s weather, because there were insects flying about this afternoon.

I’m not the only one with complaints though. Earlier this week, I came upon a friend of mine, who was seated, but was sitting self-consciously straight. It seemed that he was stretching, or at least working on his posture. I asked if he had some sort of back problem, or something. He said no, it was his knee that was the problem and not his back. He explained that his knee had begun to bother him and the pain was interfering with his running program. He has become quite the avid runner. He had visited a sports medicine physician, who examined him and afterwards pronounced the diagnosis that his ass was too tight. My friend’s pronouncement did not go unnoticed and quickly gathered an audience. Warming to the crowd, he began to hold forth, “Yes folks, I have been medically diagnosed a tight-ass.” My laymen’s interpretation of the actual diagnosis is that too tight muscles in his rear was causing him to run funny and consequently hurting his knee. “It gets better though, you see only my right cheek is tight, not my left.” “So, I’m righty-tighty and lefty-loosey.” Trust me folks, I can’t make this stuff up, my friend is an engineer.

I did obtain permission from the principal to blog the above story. I promised to be circumspect and I think that I have succeeded. I’ve asked this friend to supply a link to his doctor, so that I can pass it on to another friend who also has a knee ailment. I would never dare to describe this second friend as a tight-ass, but some of this friend’s customers would likely go with hard-ass. If I haven’t obfuscated these identities enough, to obscure them, then I better call in the Car Guys, Click and Clack, for help. I’ll close this post, with a thematic joke that is not entirely safe for work, not that anyone ever reads this blog during work hours. 😉

A groom was undressing before his bride, on their wedding night. When he took off his shoes and socks she gasped, “What’s the matter with your toes?” “Toelio”, he explained. Dropping his trousers, she asked about his knees. “Kneeasles”, he said. When he took off his underwear she asked, “I suppose you are going to tell me that you have dicktheria?” “No, smallcox”