Happy Winter!

We got hit with another winter storm last night. It dumped more snow, and now the temperature is plummeting and is supposed to get down to 10 degrees below zero. That’s serious bundle-up weather!

The sun figure on the door to our backyard seems to be enjoying it, at least.

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Gloveless

I last noticed my pair of black gloves when I removed them at the Denver airport and shoved them into a pocket of my raincoat without a second thought.  I’m pretty sure they were still in the pocket when I balled up the coat and crammed it into the overhead bin, on top of my suitcase, for the flight from Denver to Columbus.

discarded_gloves_2848793449129But at some point, perhaps when I hurriedly extricated my coat from the overhead bin, grabbed my suitcase, and rushed off the plane carrying my balled up coat so as not to unduly inconvenience my fellow passengers, or when I dumped the coat and my bags onto one of those lines of rental luggage carts so I could put my coat on, or when I grabbed my suitcase and over-the-shoulder bag and moved out onto the sidewalk to meet Kish who was giving a ride, the gloves fell out of the pocket.  I didn’t notice they were gone until I got to the office, hung up my coat, and then retrieved it to head out to lunch.  When I reached into my pocket to don they gloves, they were gone.  I hoped they had fallen out in the car, but Kish checked and — alas! — they were not to be found.

Somewhere, someone noticed a pair of orphaned black gloves, perhaps in the aisle of the plane, or next to the luggage cart rack.  Wherever they are, I hope they were found as a pair and either taken for use by the finder, or donated to some charitable entity like Goodwill where they can be sold and used again for their intended purpose.  They were unremarkable in appearance, fake leather black gloves with a cotton lining with a paint smudge on one finger, but they were good, business-like gloves that were ideal for wearing on the walk to work.  They had served me well for about 20 years, and I’m confident they would want to continue to shield human fingers and palms from the cold.

Now, I’m down to one pair of gloves — a pair of very poofy, ultra-warm brown nylon gloves with the Cleveland Browns logo on them.  Russell left them behind, and they are perfect for walks around Schiller Park on cold winter mornings, but they don’t exactly project a professional appearance.  So, I’m going to have to buy some new gloves — which means I need to confront a question I haven’t had to answer in decades:  where do you go to buy men’s gloves these days?

Big People On Planes

Modern air travel just isn’t made for big people — or for the people seated next to big people.

On one of the legs of my recent trip I was seated next to a guy who probably weighed about 350 pounds. He had the window seat, and I had the aisle seat. He wedged himself into his seat the best he could, but there was a clear spillover effect; he took up the entirety of our shared armrest and a chunk of my airspace, too. The only way I could accommodate his bulk was to sit twisted sideways. I was very glad I had the aisle space to one side and wondered about how cramped and uncomfortable it would have been if I’d had the window seat. Fortunately, it was a relatively short flight — but even so I was nursing a backache by the time the flight ended.

I’m not dissing big people here, but I think this is an increasing problem with modern air travel in America. Seat space on planes keeps shrinking, and Americans keep expanding. Obviously, that’s a problem, and it’s just going to get worse. Airlines want to pack as many passengers as possible into their planes — as the picture I took on the flight shows — and they aren’t going to reverse course on seat width and leg room, and Americans are, on average, heavier than ever.

What’s the solution? Make passengers disclose their size and, if they are above a certain point, make them buy two seats? Have a special heavyweight section with larger seats? I’m not sure, but something needs to be done. If you draw the short straw and are seated next to a big person on a flight, you just aren’t getting the same experience as passengers seated next to normal-sized folks. Why should somebody who has to endure an uncomfortable sitting position and has their personal space invaded by a stranger for the entire flight be charged the same as somebody who doesn’t? It really isn’t fair.

Scented Sleep

When I got to the hotel at the Denver airport late last night, I found a little container of lavender balm next to the bed. It promised to help me “sleep well,” which sounded good to me.

I’ve never used lavender balm before, so I read the instructions. They read: “Wind down naturally with our Sleep Well Aromatherapy Balm, infused with essential oils of lavender and chamomile to ease tension and soothe the senses. Roll onto temples or wrists before bedtime to foster sound sleep.” Because I was keenly interested in fostering sound sleep, I did both. My temples and wrists have never smelled so good!

And you know what? I did sleep pretty well, until I had to get up at 3:30 a.m. Mountain time to catch an early morning flight. Was my sound sleep the result of the balm, or just exhaustion at the end of a long day? Who knows? But because sound sleep in a hotel is a rarity for me, I’m taking no chances. The lavender balm is officially part of my travel kit from now on.

Saving Photos

My cellphone is old, and I regularly get messages telling me I’m up to storage capacity on things like phone messages and photos, and it’s time to start deleting.  The phone messages aren’t hard to get rid of — the fact that I haven’t deleted them already is just due to inattention, really — but the photos are a much harder call.

Sure, I could dump every photo that I’ve ever taken onto my home computer or store them in the cloud, but that’s not really a true solution — you just end up with a huge array of photos that are creating storage capacity issues somewhere else.  And if you’ve ever tried to find that one photo you are thinking of in an indiscriminate mass, you know it can be a frustrating and time-consuming task.  It’s similar to the problem that many of our parents and grandparents had — they’d have boxes  and boxes of unorganized Kodak and Polaroid photos from family trips, reunions, and other events, and one of their long-lasting resolutions was to actually identify who was in the curled up and browned-out photos from the past and put them into some kind of meaningful order in photo albums.  In many families, like mine, that just never got done successfully.

In my view, the key is to suck it up and engage in careful editing on the cellphone itself, respecting the device’s storage issues and limiting your library to those really worthwhile photos that you think you actually might look at in the future.  Where are you most likely to look at photos, anyway?  These days, it’s on your cellphone, when you are with friends or waiting at an airport gate for a plane and want to remember a good time from the past without going through some elaborate storage retrieval process.

So, how do you make the call on what to keep and what to delete?  It’s easy enough to delete the out-of-focus shots, of course, and there are always some photos that, when you look at them later, you wonder why you took them in the first place.  But once you’ve discarded the chaff, it’s a lot harder.  How many photos of beautiful sunrises or sunsets do you want?  Which photos of family and friends should you keep indefinitely?  When I look at the older photos on my cellphone, I see that there’s a pattern:  I have kept photos of special people, and places and times that I want to remember.  There’s a photo of Mom and the rest of the Webner clan at her last family birthday party, for example, and photos of me and Kish on vacation, and the photo with this post that was taken on Lake Louise in Canada on a perfect June day when the color of the water and the backdrop of mountains was just dazzling and we walked along the edge of the lake just reveling in the scenery.

My test is simple:  what do I want to remember, and what really makes me smile?

 

Traveler’s Triathlon

Today I am attempting the traveler’s triathlon — a three-leg trip with tight connections, heading into snow country, in winter. Add in a government shutdown and what that potentially means for TSA workers, air traffic controllers, and every other federal employee who works in the nation’s air traffic system, and the degree of difficulty ratchets up to just about Iron Man Triathlon levels.

So far, though, so good. No bad weather, no security delays, no de-icing issues, and no mechanical problems. I had to run through several terminals and concourses at O’Hare, but that just gave me some much-needed exercise.

If my last leg leaves and arrives on time, I may just need to buy a lottery ticket when I read my ultimate destination.

Let The Sun Shine In?

I recently returned from a beach vacation.  One of our daily rituals was slathering on SPF 50 sunscreen to try to protect ourselves against the blazing sunshine.  We wanted to be in the warm sun rather than the gray cold Midwest, obviously, but we’d accepted the healthcare cautions about sunshine and skin cancer, and so the sunblock went on.

But what if the healthcare cautions that led to our lubing up are wrong — as in, 180-degree wrong?  What if exposure to sunshine is not only not bad for you, but in fact it helps you to be healthier in countless ways, by effectively and efficiently producing vitamin D, lowering blood pressure, making you feel happier, and having other therapeutic benefits?

6a00e5520572bb8834017d41062de7970c-320wiThat’s the intriguing conclusion of recent research that started with a look at the value of vitamin D supplements — which many people who avoid the sun are taking to try to compensate for the lack of solar-produced vitamin D.  Low vitamin D levels are associated with lots of bad stuff — cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, heart attack, stroke, depression, cognitive impairment, autoimmune conditions — and vitamin D is required for calcium absorption and good bone health.  So vitamin D supplements should help, right?  But the research showed that vitamin D supplements weren’t having any discernible impact on cancer, heart disease, or stroke.

Scientists scratched their heads and looked into the unexpected result, and started to find evidence that it wasn’t high vitamin D levels that prevented the bad conditions.  Instead, the presence of vitamin D was just a marker, and the real cause for the positive health effects was that sunlight that was producing the vitamin D.  The people who had the high vitamin D and were avoiding the bad conditions were getting plenty of sunlight.  Exposure to sunshine also causes the skin to produce nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and reduces blood pressure — which, as the article linked above points out, helps to explain why “rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and overall mortality all rise the farther you get from the sunny equator, and they all rise in the darker months.”

And the vitamin D/blood pressure effects may just be the start.  The article continues:  “Sunlight triggers the release of a number of other important compounds in the body, not only nitric oxide but also serotonin and endorphins. It reduces the risk of prostate, breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. It improves circadian rhythms. It reduces inflammation and dampens autoimmune responses. It improves virtually every mental condition you can think of. And it’s free.”

But wait — won’t getting more sunshine cause skin cancer?  Yes, there is that risk — but the article points out that skin cancer is not nearly as lethal as the other diseases and conditions that exposure to sunlight helps prevent.  And, additionally, people who regularly get sunshine, avoid sunburns, and keep their tans going — like outdoor workers — are much less likely to experience melanoma, the less-common but potentially fatal kind of skin cancer.  In fact, the evidence indicates that long-term exposure to sun is associated with lower melanoma rates.

All of this will come as a surprise to people who are scared to death of skin cancer and buy sunblock by the carload, but it makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint.  Our half-naked distant ancestors didn’t have SPF50 to apply, and they were exposed to the sun on a much more prolonged basis than modern, largely indoor humans.  It makes sense that humans would evolve in ways that would favor those who were more efficient in using that abundant, constant sunshine in positive, healthy ways.

Think about that the next time you’re carefully applying that SPF50 sunblock and popping down vitamin D pills.