How to treat nerve issues with vitamins

In church this morning, the woman sitting behind me told me she was having a nerve issue that was affecting her hearing. She was the second person this month to come to me with a nerve issue, so I wanted to relate how I treated my own nerve issues in the past (which saved me a surgery and saved my career).

First, a disclaimer: I am not a doctor. If any of this makes you nervous, talk this over with your doctor. At least in my town, there are a ton of people peddling snake-oil remedies at inflated prices and, essentially, practicing medicine without a license. Doctors go to school for seven years for a reason, so if you have an issue, talk to your doctor about it. Let the doctor know you want to try this out with vitamins too. Talk to your doctor and your pharmacist about any possible interactions between this and whatever other treatments you are doing. Interactions are unlikely, but they went to school for this stuff, so take their word for it over mine.

Are we good? Good. Let’s talk vitamins.

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Advice on scraping by

Here’s a good, timely Google search query: scraping by advice.

I looked, and I’ve never written anything that matched that query well. I know a lot of people are hurting right now. I’ve been in some tight spots and I’ve gotten out of some, so let’s talk about what I would do, on a really practical level, if I ran into another tight spot next week.

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Getting more screen real estate in Firefox

Web browsers take entirely too much room on the screen. I’ve seen tips for putting Firefox on a diet, but nothing that frees up as much space as my bag-o-tricks.

So let’s go.

First, go to View, Toolbars, and Customize. Drag the address bar and search bar up to the top, next to the File/Edit/View/History/Bookmarks menus. Drag the arrows up there too, if you want them. Click OK. Now to back to View, Toolbars, and uncheck the navigation and bookmarks toolbars.

Now do a Google search for "classic compact Firefox theme." Install it.

You’ll have significantly more screen real estate.

Fathers: Give your family a gift this Father’s Day weekend

I’m sitting here watching NBC’s tribute to Tim Russert tonight. Although he was famous for being the biggest political guru of his generation, he was also the author of two books, both about fatherhood.

He died today of a heart attack. He was only 58.

I would have liked to have asked my dad what to do to minimize the risk of heart attack. Being a doctor, he should know. But I can’t. He died of a heart attack in 1994, age 51.I think I know what Dad would say, although he would say it with a whole lot more authority, having four degrees and the title "D.O." to his name.

I’m sure Dad would point out that not all of the factors are within our control. The best we can do is control the factors that we can control. (Not that he did, sadly.)

I don’t know much about medicine (Dad didn’t want me to be a doctor, and honestly, I never had much interest), but I know plenty about controlling the factors we can, in hopes of minimizing the factors we can’t.

But diet is a big factor, and we can control it. We can (and should) eat foods lower in cholesterol. We can (and should) avoid hydrogenated oils as much as possible. And we can (and should) eat foods that seem to lower cholesterol, such as oatmeal. Soy is also rumored to lower cholesterol, but the question is whether it actually lowers cholesterol, or if it merely replaces lots of foods that are high in cholesterol.

So, here’s the gift I want fathers to give their families this week. Start eating oatmeal for breakfast at least a couple of times a week. And if you’re really ambitious, eat fake soy meat a couple of times a week instead of the real thing.

Trust me on this one. I’m a red-blooded, beef-eating Kansas City native. I grew up on the stuff. Eight years ago I gave up meat for Lent, mostly because it was something that seemed possible but extremely difficult to do. I wanted to see if I could do it. So I did it–barely. Then I went out for BBQ afterward.

Back then, I tried soy burgers. I wasn’t impressed. Trust me. They’re better now. If you don’t like one brand, try another, but my favorites are the Boca Flame Grilled. Soy bacon is good too. It doesn’t look a thing like the real stuff, but it tastes fine.

If there’s a relatively minor and tolerable adjustment that we can make to potentially increase the number of our years, and almost certainly increase the quality of those years, shouldn’t we do it?

Take some steps to improve your health today

So Michael Moore has a new movie out, this time taking on the touchy topic of health care. I was a very outspoken opponent of Hillary Clinton’s plan 15 years ago. I’m extremely disappointed that the alternative plans crafted by the Republicans dropped as soon as the Clinton plan died.

I won’t argue that the U.S. health care system is terrible now. I will argue that some of the fault belongs to the person in our mirrors though. (And I don’t want to be rude, but Michael Moore needs to take some personal responsibility too.)The best editorial I ever saw about the Clinton plan was written by Andy Rooney. What he said then is even more true today: We drag our lard butts to the doctor because we won’t eat right, and we complain when the doctors can’t cure our problems which are to at least a certain degree, self-inflicted. Then he twisted the knife a bit, pointing out that Clinton was fond of going to McDonald’s with camera crews in tow. He said something like, “Health care is in trouble. Now excuse me while I go have a triple-cheesy-greasy with double fries. Do as I day, not as I do.”

Now to be entirely fair, society encourages us to eat out a lot. It tells us that’s how to be good parents, it’s a good way to take a load off and relieve stress, and who knows how many messages–most of which aren’t true. Remember, the originator of the message is selling something. Always always remember that.

I remember John C. Dvorak once remarking on his blog, “Someone wants us fat.” Give the little man a big cigar! The food industry wants us fat because we’ll eat more. The drug industry wants us fat because we’ll take more drugs. And once both of them get us up on that treadmill, they stand to make billions. If not trillions.

I still believe, with everything I have, that the American diet (if it can be called that) is largely to blame. We eat a lot of empty food that does our bodies no good, but does plenty of harm. Dad was saying 30 years ago that biscuits and gravy cause cancer. Today, guess what? They’re saying that sausages and gravies and highly cooked fats cause cancer. Sausage gravy does all the wrong things about as well as anything, but hot dogs are another good example.

Fast-food hamburgers may not necessarily cause cancer, but they sure do a dandy job of giving you a heart attack.

Vegetarians say they have the answer, but I’m not entirely convinced vegetarianism is absolutely necessary, nor is it a panacea. I see plenty of vegetarian cookbooks that do nothing but douse the vegetables in butter and cheese. Eat like that, and you won’t be any thinner or healthier than anyone else.

I do believe the main reason healthy vegetarians are healthy is because they pay attention. They look at the ingredients to make sure there’s no meat in there, and if there’s anything in the ingredients that they can’t pronounce, they probably end up putting it back since they can’t prove it didn’t come from an animal. And as a result, they tend to end up eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, breads that don’t have a lot of ingredients in them, and other things that provide a lot of nutrition in their calories.

I’m also convinced this is why most fad diets work initially. If you hopped on the Atkins bandwagon in the early 1990s before it became hugely popular (it had actually been around since the early 1970s), it was entirely possible to lose weight, because you would be limited largely to unprocessed meats and vegetables. But I noticed around 2000 or 2001 that a lot of people were on Atkins and weren’t losing any weight at all on it. Atkins was still saying the same things, but it wasn’t working anymore. The difference? Everyone and his uncle was peddling Atkins-friendly junk foods. Instead of being limited to meats and vegetables you cooked yourself, you could microwave processed Atkins-friendly TV dinners and gorge yourself afterward on Atkins-friendly cookies and ice cream.

People stopped losing weight, their cholesterol soared, and lots of companies made lots of money. Then the gravy train ended, but that’s OK because there’s always another one.

This is a boom for drug companies too. When your cholesterol goes sky-high, the commercials say there’s no need to change your diet. You can just pop an anti-cholesterol pill. What they don’t tell you is that the pill not only lowers your cholesterol, it also wipes out your B vitamins. So now your cholesterol is lowered, but you’re depressed and have carpal tunnel syndrome (just two things a deficiency in B vitamins can cause). So now you need another pill. Funny, the same company that makes the most popular drug for cholesterol also makes one of the most popular drugs for depression.

And that popular drug has some side effects such as abdominal pain and/or headache, sexual disfunction, and other things. But there are pills for that too.

Is it any wonder we never really get better? We take a pill for one thing, and the pill fixes that, but then we get something else. The domino effect starts, and it’s possible to go from being on no drugs to being on five in a matter of months.

About a year ago, my wife was out talking to someone. She mentioned she was diabetic. The elderly gentleman she was conversing with said he was too. They talked some more, and it turned out he became diabetic as a teenager, just as she had. He seemed like he’d lived a long and healthy life to her, so she asked if he had any secrets to share. He did. “Stay away from junk food, and you’ll be fine.”

Good advice. Simple advice. Unfortunately it’s difficult to follow, seeing as every other commercial between the hours of 4 and 8 is for junk food. Most of the rest are for drugs, with the occasional car commercial thrown in.

Here are some starting points my wife and I have picked up from the books of Dr. Mark Hyman.

1. Avoid processed food. Buy your groceries from the outer ring of the grocery store, staying out of the aisles.

2. Avoid high-fructose corn syrup. This ultra-common sweetener is very cheap, but your body doesn’t know what to do with it. Eat lots of sugar and eventually you feel full, but if you eat the same amount of high fructose corn syrup, you’ll only crave more. Is it any wonder food companies love this stuff? It costs half as much, and you eat twice as much. What’s that mean? Profit!

And guess what? Just about anything that comes in a box or a package has lots of it. When I went in search of a loaf of bread that didn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it, I was only able to find one kind, and that included all of the premium brands that promote themselves as healthy. So what did we do? We bake our own bread in a breadmaker now instead.

3. Avoid trans-fats and hydrogenated oils. Partially hydrogenated is just as bad, it just sounds a little better. This process makes food last longer on the shelf, which decreases costs, but again, your body doesn’t know what to do with it. It raises cholesterol levels but gives no nutritional benefit.

Once again, most products that come in a package have lots of them. Fortunately the tide is turning against this trend. Hopefully it lasts.

4. Eat smaller portions of meat and larger portions of fruits and vegetables. Meats aren’t necessarily all bad, although there’s little question that the hormones and other things the animals are given aren’t exactly good for us. There’s also no reason you have to eat meat at every meal, other than status. I usually have meat at one meal.

Fresh fruits and vegetables give more nutrients than meat and fewer undesirable side effects like higher cholesterol.

5. Eat whole foods that are as fresh as possible. Bleached white flour loses its nutrients. Canned vegetables lose most of their nutrients. Cook fresh, in-season vegetables and you’ll be healthier.

6. Watch the salads. How is it that people can eat salads all the time and still not lose any weight? Look at a McDonald’s nutritional guide and you’ll see most of their salads have as many calories as one of their sandwiches. Or more. They put the same junk in their salads as their sandwiches. It just looks healthy.

And even if you have a simple, traditional salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and shredded carrots, watch the dressings. A tablespoon of any of the common, traditional dressings has anywhere from 50-75 calories, and odds are you’ll use at least three of them. Possibly more. You could waste 10 percent of a 1,500 calorie diet on a condiment.

I don’t disagree that there’s something wrong with our medical system. That much is obvious. But the health problems that we’re creating and perpetuating with our current lifestyle would bring any medical system to its knees.

Trust me. The doctors aren’t all happy. My dad was one. He told me that if I ever told him I wanted to be a doctor, he’d lock me in my room for 7 years. Dad didn’t mind being a doctor, but he hated dealing with insurance companies and the government.

One day one of my coworkers was arguing with an insurance adjustor about a medical procedure his wife needed. The doctor said she needed it. The insurance adjustor said she didn’t, and insurance wasn’t going to cover it.

I told him to ask the insurance adjustor where he went to medical school.

Doctors go to school for a minimum of six years. I searched for an insurance adjustor job to see what the qualifications were. A two-year degree was all that was necessary. It didn’t specify that two-year degree had to be in biology or anything else relevant.

The current system is great for the drug industry, the insurance industry, and the food industry. If the system changes, I don’t expect it will get any worse for them. They have lots of lobbyists, and lots of money at stake.

I don’t expect it will get all that much better for us. The best thing for us to do is to take steps to need to use it less.

And ironically, if we use the system less and reduce the burden on it, it should get better.

Random thoughts on the Va Tech massacre

When I read more about the perpetrator of the massacre at Virginia Tech, I thought the same things I remember thinking about Columbine. And I wasn’t the only one with those thoughts. After Columbine, I was corresponding with one of my best friends from college, and she said the descriptions of those two guys really reminded her of me.

So the question then, as now, is, why am I a reasonably productive member of society while other people like me kill dozens of people?Bullying.I certainly got bullied a lot growing up. In the sixth grade, I had no consistent friends, and by seventh grade, I had no friends at all. People would talk to me when I knew something they needed to know, but aside from that, they threw stuff at me, or tried to break my leg. We moved to St. Louis the year after that, and I counted down every single day.

I got bullied in St. Louis too, but at least I had some friends.

What happened? For one thing, by the time I was 18, I knew none of the people who gave me trouble, including the kid in Farmington who made my life pure hell, managed to finish high school. Now, I know some very intelligent people who didn’t finish high school either, and I mean no disrespect to them, but I did take a lot of satisfaction in accomplishing something they didn’t. Not having to work all that hard at it gave me even more satisfaction.

I guess the difference for me was that I had a number of adults tell me from a very young age that I could accomplish a lot. So I didn’t just believe I’d accomplish more than those (insert family-inappropriate noun, plural, here). I knew I would. And that was enough to satisfy me. There wasn’t any need to spill blood.

It’s been years since I heard anything about any of them. The last I heard, the crowning achievement for one of them was holding down a job at a sandwich shop. Astounding. Probably my tax dollars are helping to support the others, if they’re even still alive.

One thing I learned as an adult is that there’s no need to take vengeance on people like them. They’ll do far, far worse things to themselves than the worst thing you could do to them.

Depression and mood swings. In college, I’m not sure that I was known for much of anything else. I was never diagnosed with anything, and I’ve had my moments in the years since, but my struggles have never prevented me from doing the things I need to do in order to survive.

The difference? Mainly, I got help when I needed it. A counselor’s outside perspective is a wonderful thing. And at the end of a particularly nasty breakup right after college, I attended an experimental group therapy that really helped. In a nutshell, it used secret society tactics to break you down and get you to admit who you really are underneath all that stuff the world piles on you. The theory is that if you get rid of all those masks and be authentic, you’ll function better, and people in general will like you a lot better too.

Also, I really think proper nutrition helps. I think things are worse now than they were 20 years ago, which frightens me, but we eat a lot worse now than we did even 20 years ago. Hydrogenated oils and high-fructose corn syrup are evil, evil things, and it’s amazing what a difference eliminating those from your diet will do. There are lots of good books out there, and used copies are cheap. Familiarize yourself with the writings of Dr. Mark Hyman, for starters. Used copies of his books sell for less than $5 online now. They’d be a bargain at $100.

Trouble with women. I could so be a poster child for this one. If you’re reading this because you’re frustrated with the world partly because you have difficulty starting relationships with women, or all your relationships go south really fast, I have two bits of news for you. First, you’re not alone–I’ve never heard a story from anyone else that I couldn’t top. I was the worst of the worst. Second, it doesn’t last forever. I’m married now, and happily at that.

There’s a lot to say about women, but there are probably four things that matter.

1. Think long-term. It’s morbid, but the answer to this question is very important. If something happened to you in 10 years, do you trust this woman to raise your kids right, and does she have the ability to see to it that all their needs are met? I’ve only met one woman, ever, who wasn’t related to me who passed this test. I married her.

2. Stay grounded. Often I found myself imagining the things I didn’t know about a woman I was chasing. It was easy to get caught up in that and not realize that it was that image I was infatuated with, not the person. Don’t invest a thing emotionally in someone until you know an awful, awful lot about her. Otherwise, she’ll just disappoint you.

3. Be nice. Most guys aren’t nice to women. I don’t think I met any women who really valued that until I was pushing 30, but being nice to women will eventually pay off, so it pays to start this minute. You’ll need practice.

4. Mostly, women want to talk. I think this is the big secret that I didn’t learn until I was in my late 20s. Be pleasant to talk to, and let them do most of the talking. You’ll know when they want you to talk (they’ll tell you). Listen at least twice as much as you talk. Getting them to talk is the hard part, but there’s a book about that. Go to the library and at least thumb through How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a classic. It’s not specifically about women but it will help in that and every other relationship. I wish I’d known about that book when I was, say, 14.

Right and wrong. I’ve always had a very strong sense of right and wrong, and I get infuriated when I see people do wrong. That cost me my job a couple of years ago, but it could be worse. There could be blood on my hands.

I’m 32, which isn’t terribly old but it’s given me plenty of time to watch people ruin their lives. I’ve certainly wanted revenge plenty of times, but the people I’ve wanted revenge on always manage to do worse things to themselves than anything I could have ever done to them. Remember, stupidity is a talent, and I’m sure the stupid people in your life have lots of it, just like the stupid people in mine. Just stay away from them and let them ruin their lives. They don’t need your help.

Jealousy of wealth. I hate seeing people flash wealth too, especially when that wealth was either handed to them, or acquired dishonestly.

All I can say is that for all the rhetoric that’s out there, the United States does still have lots of opportunity for people. There’s a very simple formula for getting rich, if you want to know it. Go to the library and pick up The Millionaire Next Door. If you can hold down a job, you can get wealthy and stay wealthy in this country.

The tougher half of the equation is finding something that you enjoy doing. Find something that interests you and doesn’t seem like work, then find a career that fits that. Talk it over with your guidance counselors. That’s their job.

Planning. In both cases, the perpetrators have been very good, or at least meticulous, planners. Planners have a huge advantage over the rest of the population, because they can imagine something, and they can figure out how to make that happen. I dated a girl once who had one dream in life–to join the Air Force–and due to health problems she couldn’t get in. She had no direction and no idea what she wanted to do with her life after that. It’s pretty sad.

So if you can plan something and it sounds reasonable in your mind, you might as well make it something positive. It’s cliche, I know, but with enough patience and determination, it’s possible to turn almost anything you can envision into reality.

I published a book before my 25th birthday. It was something I’d wanted to do since I was in second grade. Of course when I was in second grade I had no idea what I wanted to write about. But as I got older I learned the things that I needed to do to make it happen. Along the way I wrote a few things that I thought might be it and turned out not to be, but I didn’t let myself get discouraged. When the right opportunity presented itself soon after I turned 24, I recognized it and I took it. About a year later, I walked into a large bookstore and saw a book with my name on the spine sitting on the shelf.

If that sounds like something you would like, you can do it too. Or maybe you’d rather do something else, like design a practical electric car. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you enjoy doing it and it helps someone.

This isn’t terribly organized or coherent, and it’s getting really late. But if this helps someone, then it was worth it.

A journalist\’s take on how to eliminate snoring during sermons

First things first: I am not a pastor. While I have nine years of Lutheran primary and secondary education, my degree came from the University of Missouri and I have exactly zero days of formal, master’s-level theological training.

But I am a published author, I spent four years and thousands of dollars (and thousands more of scholarship money) studying journalism. So hopefully what I lack in Bible knowledge, I make up for in writing knowledge. And if denominations are to grow, especially the more conservative ones, I think more of the latter is going to be a necessity.I am writing this because I heard a sermon today that was relatively good. It disappointed me mostly because it could have been one of those sermons that people remembered for the rest of their lives. So let’s get down to business.

Write on a sixth-grade reading level. Your morning paper is written on that reading level. Newspapers are publications for the masses, so they are unwilling to assume that the majority of people can digest anything more complex than that level. Jesus made a point of demonstrating that Christianity is simple enough that a child can understand it. Therefore, a child ought to be able to understand the pastor.

And I’ve got something else shocking for you. What about the more intellectual publications? They’re written on a 10th-grade level.

So how do you write on that kind of a level? I’ll give you some tools. Eventually it becomes automatic.

Lose the big words. Most Lutheran pastors are academics. When it takes four years to get your master’s degree, you have to be. And if you want anyone outside of your own congregation to listen to you, you almost have to go back and get your doctorate.

But the problem is that while pastors and their colleagues are academics, the overwhelming majority of the congregation is not. The people who most desperately need to be reached certainly are not. And while I firmly believe that the pastor can stand in front of the congregation and read recipes for 20 minutes and God will make sure the person who needs to hear Him will hear exactly what He wants, I also believe it’s better for God to work through the guy standing up front more than in spite of him.

If your English Composition teachers were anything like mine, they required you to use five words you’ve never used before in every piece. But your English Comp teacher isn’t in the audience. Good writers know the rules of writing. Great writers know when to break them. William F. Buckley Jr. isn’t the rule. He’s the one guy who can get away with breaking so many.

Lose the long sentences and paragraphs. Your English Comp teacher probably told you a paragraph is a minimum of three sentences. That should be the first rule you learn to break. Short, punchy paragraphs are fine, and so are short, simple sentences. There’s nothing wrong with an eight-word sentence.

Practice writing on a sixth-grade level. If you use Microsoft Word, you can easily turn it into a tool for checking your writing. Go to the Tools menu, select Options, click Spelling & Grammar tab 4, and tick the box next to “Show readability statistics.” Now run a spelling/grammar check, click ignore on anything it flags, and it’ll give you your reading scores.

Try shortening up on some words and simplifying some sentences to see how the changes affect your work.

Relevance. A single mother of two who has never had a healthy relationship with a male doesn’t care about the original Greek or Hebrew in any given Bible passage. That’s an extreme example, but virtually everyone who walks through the doors of a church comes in carrying some baggage. It’s usually the only way God can get them there. It’s when life becomes its least bearable that people are most willing to find out what the Creator of life has to say about it. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems like the place you’re least likely to hear what God has to say about life is church.

That’s unfortunate. When you read the four Gospels, it’s clear that part of the reason thousands of people followed Jesus instead of the Pharisees was because Jesus talked about the things that mattered to them, while the Pharisees did not. If that contemporary church down the street is growing and your conservative church is not, the reason might not necessarily be the guitars and drums. The reason might very well be that the pastor gives good advice every week on how to get through this life.

I know plenty of people who attend my church for exactly that reason. They have no great love for the electric guitars and distortion–but they put up with it so they can hear how to have a better life every week.

While you don’t want to single out anyone and talk about his or her problems to the whole congregation, speaking about issues in general terms is good. Does the Bible have anything to say about credit card debt? Diet? Spoiled children?

I’m no fan at all of daytime talk shows–I think they’re God’s curse on the unemployed and unemployable–but I do believe that this world would be a better place if pastors would tune in to them once in a while. It gives you an idea of what kinds of problems people think about and face–and may not be willing to talk to you about–and it gives you some idea of what the world is saying about them. Your job is to tell the congregation what God says about those problems.

Get out more. I used to know someone who was required by his congregation to spend some time hanging out in bars. Ostensibly his job was to win converts. But I think it accomplishes some other things too.

First, it gives you a good feel for how people talk. Since these are the people who most need to be reached, you need to sound like them (minus the four-letter words).

Second, it gives you an idea what these people care about. You’ll probably overhear more about women and money than anything else. Significance and security are two very basic needs; if you can manage to illustrate every Sunday how God is the ultimate source of these two things, the size of your church will probably double every five years.

Granted, you don’t have to hang around in bars to hear people talk, but bars are where the broken people are most likely to go, and if your goal is to do what Jesus did and reach broken people, I think it helps to know what one looks for and what a broken person looks like.

The end. Like I said before, I’m not a pastor. I’m just a writer of above-average intelligence. It’s rare that a sermon sails over my head, and that was nearly as true when I was in the 4th grade as it is now.

But I’m not everyone, and the college-level dissertations that are all too common in many denominations every Sunday don’t do much, in my experience, to strengthen the church. Yes, to a degree I am advocating the dumbing down of the Sunday sermon. Hebrews 5 is relevant. You can’t assume anymore, in this day and age, that the majority of the people in the congregation can handle spiritual solid food. The Sunday sermon is the place for milk. The place for solid food is in Bible study, whether it occurs on Sunday morning before or after the service, or on some weeknight. And even then, I believe a lot of studies need to be serving milk.

But if every church serves milk long enough, the general public’s knowledge of the things of God will progress to the point where it can handle solid food on a much more regular basis.

Working with idiots can kill you

My mom sent me a newspaper article today to make me feel better. Maybe I should say she sent what looks like a newspaper article. I don’t think it’s genuine, for a number of reasons: no byline, feature style in what’s presented as a hard news story, grammatical errors you wouldn’t expect to see in a newspaper, only one source, more than half the story is long quotes from the single source, and most convincingly, I couldn’t find any mention of it online.

Still, it at least makes an entertaining read. I present it verbatim.IDIOTS in the office are just as hazardous to your health as cigarettes, caffeine, or greasy food, an eye-opening new study reveals.

In fact, those dopes can kill you! Stress is one of the top causes of heart attacks–and working with stupid people on a daily basis is one of the deadliest forms of stress, according to researchers at Sweeden’s Lindbergh University MedicalCentre.

The author of the study, Dr Dagmar Andersson, says her team studied 500 heart attack patients, and were puzzled to find 62 percent had relatively few of the physical risk factors commonly blamed for heart attacks.

"Then we questioned them about lifestyle habits, and almost all of these low-risk patients told us they worked with people so stupid they can barely find their way from the parking lot to their office. And their heart attack came less than 12 hours after having a major confrontation with one of these oafs.

"One woman had to be rushed to the hospital after her assistant shredded important company tax documents instead of copying them. A man told us he collapsed right at his desk because the woman at the next cubicle kept asking him for correction fluid–for her computer monitor.

"You can cut back on smoking or improve your diet," Dr. Andersson says, "but most people have very poor coping skills when it comes to stupidity–they feel there’s nothing they can do about it, so they just internalise their frustration until they finally explode."

Stupid co-workers can also double or triple someone’s work load, she explains. "Many of our subjects feel sorry for the drooling idiots they work with, so they try to dover for them by fixing their mistakes. One poor woman spent a week rebuilding client records because a clerk put them all in the ‘recycle bin’ of her computer and then emptied it–she thought it means the records would be recycled and used again."

Umm, no, as a matter of fact everything isn\’t OK…

The site’s been down again. As far as I can tell it didn’t stay up for very long on Saturday, but by 8 PM last Saturday, my DSL connection was the least of my concerns.

I got the phone call nobody ever wants to get. My girlfriend’s father was in the hospital and wasn’t expected to live.

They patched him together long enough for his closest relatives to get there, but Jerry died at 12:45 Sunday morning.I’ve been there, done that before. Today just so happens to mark 10 years since my own father’s sudden death.

The rest of what I write may not make a lot of sense, but I hope it will be helpful.

If there is anything worse than losing the closest of your relatives, I don’t know what it is. By “closest of your relatives” I mean your mother, your father, a child, or a brother or sister, or your spouse.

As my girlfriend and I drove to the nearest polling place last night to cast provisional ballots, she observed that it was like the aftermath of a breakup: Everywhere she looked, she saw things that reminded her of her dad.

That’s true. In fact, when describing dealing with a death to others who’ve never lost someone that close, I’ve compared it to a breakup. But, as I compare a death with the last breakup I had–which messed me up pretty badly, and I’ve got the therapy bills to prove it–I see two differences. Maybe three.

Difference one: It’s a lot easier for something good to come of a breakup than from a death, from your selfish perspective. It takes some time and effort, but it is possible to convince yourself that with a world population of 12 billion, your chances of finding something better than that b-word who dumped you (or who you just dumped) are pretty good.

But with death, those things that annoy you about that person start to matter a lot less to you. There was only one Jerry. Just like there was only one Ralph (my dad). To her, Jerry will always be the best dad there ever was, faults and all. Just like to me, my dad will always be the best dad there ever was. The best doctor there ever was, too. I will go to my grave believing that my dad could have saved Jerry. The fact that my dad actually was very highly qualified to treat Jerry is a technicality. I would probably still believe Dad could have saved Jerry even if Dad had been a dermatologist.

Difference two: Usually there is some choice involved with breakups. A couple of days, or maybe a week before my last messy breakup, I told a number of people that I needed to break up with her. When the time for the breakup conversation came, I had a list of conditions I wanted to present in order for the relationship to continue. As it turned out, I didn’t present that list because she broke up with me first.

Death is different. When that person’s time comes, there is no room for bargaining. Jerry was a classic example of that. When Jerry died, he had nothing left. There were at least three things that were racing to kill him. What had worked against the North Vietnamese and what had worked against his wounds and physical handicap and what had worked against his cancer didn’t matter anymore. Jerry was fighting to the end though. As he died, I looked down at his hands. They were clenched into a fist.

Difference 3: Death is permanent. With a breakup, there’s always hope, however remote, that it can be worked out and things can be every bit as good as they ever were, or maybe better. Or, to again overuse the example of my last relationship, if it can’t be worked out, you can go find someone a whole lot better who’ll make you forget about that old b-word.

Death doesn’t offer that.

So, since one’s previous experience with the end of a romantic relationship only inadequately prepares one to deal with death, how does one deal with it?

I have some ideas.

Grieve. I can’t tell you how to grieve. I asked a lot of people once how. They said, “Grieve.” Thanks a bunch. I once paid $1,400 for that answer. Hopefully you’re paying a lot less than that for the ability to read this. I’ll see if I can do better than that answer. Don’t stuff your emotions. Let them out. If they don’t come out in tears and screams and other stuff like that, they’re going to come out in other harmful and self-defeating ways that will poison your relationships and the rest of your life. So whatever it is that your body wants to do when you think about that person, let it, and the sooner the better. If a week has passed and you haven’t cried once, or maybe only once, you’ve got a world of hurt ahead of you. I know because I’ve been there. This is no time to be macho.

Take care of unfinished business. One of the things the Methodist minister who performed Jerry’s ceremony stressed the most was to bury the things about him that weren’t all they could be with him. Carry the good with you everywhere, but bury that bad stuff. I know for me, one of the things that finally helped was to role-play, so I could finally say those things I wanted to say to my dad but never got the chance.

Remember. Talking about the person helps. Tell those stories, and you might even want to go so far as to write them down. One of the reasons I got into genealogy was to preserve the memory of my dad and what made him the way he was. I only know the basics about his grandparents, but it’s something.

Find the things you both enjoyed and continue to enjoy them. Probably my best childhood memory of my dad and me was setting up and playing with his Lionel electric trains. My dad wasn’t a railroad buff in the traditional sense and I’m not either, but those trains were something we enjoyed together in 1986, and that’s the main reason they’re something I enjoy now. You’ll find things like that too. You’ll find some of them right away. Others will take years. That’s OK.

Honor. This is the one place where I’ll get Biblical. In Genesis, God said (I’m paraphrasing), “Honor your father and mother, so that it may go well with you and you will live a long time on the earth.” We all have our own ways of honoring our loved ones, but one of the best ways is to take that person’s qualities and not only emulate them–that is, make them our qualities as well–but to pass them on.

Take care of yourself. In some cases, it will be clear that some of the person’s personal habits contributed to an early death. I don’t think I need to say that smoking provides zero benefit and does a lot of harm to your body. The same goes for drinking excessively. And it’s very clear that some aspects of diet cause things like heart attacks and cancer. Some families are very prone to these things anyway, but while we can’t control our genetics, we can control our diet. So eat healthier than your departed loved one did, and the next time you see your doctor, mention what you know of your family’s medical history so that your doctor has some clue what to be watching for.

Learn from your loved one’s mistakes. I’ve already mentioned things like diet, drinking and smoking, but most people made other mistakes in life too. If you think about it, you’ll see what that person’s other mistakes were. Don’t copy those mistakes. Make your own. (You’ll have to work at that first part. You won’t have to work at the second.)

The R. Collins Guide to Health

R. Collins Farquhar IV, aristocrat and scientist.
To the uneducated rabble.


I awoke this morning at my usual 11 a.m., and my manservants bathed me, as they usually do. As I had planned to visit my black-sheep brother, I had instructed my man-servant to have one of my modernized 1967 Rolls-Royces across the river in nearby Columbia, Illinois, which is the closest place I can land my Tu-144. The roads around David’s house are positively wretched, totally inadequate for an aristocrat, and one such as myself should minimize the amount of time he spends on them.

When I arrived, I instantly perceived something was wrong. The white Honda I have grown used to seeing in front of his house in addition to his silver Honda was absent. It seems my brother has been courting lately and probably not with much success. He has never asked my advice on courtship, which probably has much to do with his lack of success in that department. Of course, one never arose to the ranks of the aristocracy by sharing, which is why I personally do not recommend courtship or marriage.

I found David in his bed with two very old comforters pulled over his contumacious body. He never sleeps at this hour unless he is sick. I, of course, never get sick, owing my good health to my steady consumption of fine brandy and cigars. My pipe also helps. I understand that David has never smoked a pipe in his life, and only three cigars, and cheap ones at that, which might explain why he was laying there in his sotto voce state.

He never said a word. Typically he makes some comment about being really buff, and when he is in a particularly obstinate mood, he talks about being little and dainty and really buff. In reality, my brother’s body is as little and scrawny as his little-and-dainty mind, which is demonstrated by his obvious lack of knowledge of what “little and dainty” actually means. Just call my brother super-tryo.

Which reminds me: Thanks to my cigars and brandy and steady diet of imported caviar, my rotund being makes me the paragon of fine health. But I only drink decaffienated brandy, because caffeine dehydrates you.

Another clue was that he was not sleepwalking. That boy walks more in his sleep than I walk in a year. Of course, the upper crust should not have to walk. That is what manservants are for. Aristocrats should be carried. When I walked into his little-and-dainty bedroom in his little-and-dainty house and found him sleeping on his little-and-dainty queen-sized bed, he sort of sat up and growled something at me. One of my manservants said he said to go away. So I went into his little-and-dainty computer room and sat down at one of his little-and-dainty computers, and found it logged into his web site. He really needs to learn not to stay logged in. He could slow me down by 15 minutes if I had to hack my way in the way I did the first few times.

I will have to get Jacques Pierre Cousteau Bouilliabaise Nouveau Riche Ongle d’orteil le Raunche de la Stenche to take time from his busy schedule and accompany me when I next return to David’s house. We can cheer him up by insulting him, and he can watch two fine members of the upper crust enjoy cigars and aged brandy in our smoking jackets as we rebuild an antique radio.

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