Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Gift To Our Friends Who...

Happy New Year... Lynnda and I hope this new year, 2009, will be a great one for all of our friends. For some of those friends, and perhaps for someone you know, this article from the Associated Press may help to make a difference in your life.

I have been careful not to go over the line relative to smoking, but as I think of the best I can do for a gift this year, I have to say this comes close. I know it is hard to quit, so if you are a smoker, I hope you will at least try. There is also information here that may give non-smokers pause to consider who and where they spend their time... second hand smoking is very dangerous...

The second gift I give is one we all can is HOPE. I hope for all of us that we have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2009. I hope that we will positively impact the world in every situation we can. And I hope that we will have an OBAMA presidency that is successful, that we can all support... and that we will remember that we need to push for success in everything we try, because SUCCESS NOURISHES HOPE

Smoking ban leads to major drop in heart attacks

Smokers can sue over 'light cigarettes': US Supreme Court AFP/File – A man smokes a cigarette. In a ruling which could pave the way towards huge lawsuits against tobacco …

ATLANTA – A smoking ban in one Colorado city led to a dramatic drop in heart attack hospitalizations within three years, a sign of just how serious a health threat secondhand smoke is, government researchers said Wednesday. The study, the longest-running of its kind, showed the rate of hospitalized cases dropped 41 percent in the three years after the ban of workplace smoking in Pueblo, Colo., took effect. There was no such drop in two neighboring areas, and researchers believe it's a clear sign the ban was responsible.

The study suggests that secondhand smoke may be a terrible and under-recognized cause of heart attack deaths in this country, said one of its authors, Terry Pechacek of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least eight earlier studies have linked smoking bans to decreased heart attacks, but none ran as long as three years. The new study looked at heart attack hospitalizations for three years following the July 1, 2003 enactment of Pueblo's ban, and found declines as great or greater than those in earlier research.

"This study is very dramatic," said Dr. Michael Thun, a researcher with the American Cancer Society.

"This is now the ninth study, so it is clear that smoke-free laws are one of the most effective and cost-effective to reduce heart attacks," said Thun, who was not involved in the CDC study released Thursday.

Smoking bans are designed not only to cut smoking rates but also to reduce secondhand tobacco smoke. It is a widely recognized cause of lung cancer, but its effect on heart disease can be more immediate. It not only damages the lining of blood vessels, but also increases the kind of blood clotting that leads to heart attacks. Reducing exposure to smoke can quickly cut the risk of clotting, some experts said.

"You remove the final one or two links in the chain" of events leading to a heart attack, Thun said.

Secondhand smoke causes an estimated 46,000 heart disease deaths and about 3,000 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers each year, according to statistics cited by the CDC.

In the new study, researchers reviewed hospital admissions for heart attacks in Pueblo. Patients were classified by ZIP codes. They then looked at the same data for two nearby areas that did not have bans — the area of Pueblo County outside the city and for El Paso County.

In Pueblo, the rate of heart attacks dropped from 257 per 100,000 people before the ban to 152 per 100,000 in the three years afterward. There were no significant changes in the two other areas.

"The need for protection from secondhand smoke in all workplaces and public places has never been clearer," said Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a prepared statement. He is president of the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization.

But the study had limitations: It assumed declines in the amount of secondhand smoke in Pueblo buildings after the ban, but did not try to measure that. The researchers also did not sort out which heart attack patients were smokers and which were not, so it's unclear how much of the decline can be attributed to reduced secondhand smoke.

One academic argued there's not enough evidence to conclude the smoking ban was the cause of Pueblo's heart attack decline.

The decline could have had more to do with a general decline in smoking in Pueblo County, from about 26 percent in 2002-2003 to less than 21 percent in 2004-2005. If there were stepped-up efforts to treat or prevent heart disease in the Pueblo area, that too could have played a role, said Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health.

"I don't think it's as clear as they're making it out to be," Siegel said.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dog Gone Snow Crazy

Occasionally we all come across things that are really special on the internet. A friend of Lynnda's and mine in Colorado, Helen Lind sent us this peice about a dog in the snow. Before I give you the link, I want to tell you a story...

Several years ago, we were sitting around telling skiing yarns... one of the yahoos there told us about a bunch of telemark skiers who would get into the steep-and-deep champagne powder at Steamboat Springs in Colorado. The snow was sometimes so good, and deep that they used to ski with snorkels so they could breath when they were too deep in the snow for normal human function... I never saw them do it... but after seeing this dog, I know it is possible...

Take a look at this dog in the powder... just click here, and you are under the powder...

Learning Late In Life

When I was 16 years young, I started delivering flowers for a florist in Truro, Nova Scotia, my home town. Mrs. Chase had owned this shop, Suckling and Chase on Prince Street for about thirty years at the time, and she gave me the job to help Winston Embree, who was the driver and a few years older than me. In time, I would follow Winston and become a driver, especially for Christmas... a very busy part of the year.

One of the things I learned back then, was that in order to make Poinsettias bloom, you had to keep them in the dark for several months before Christmas... and you had to be really careful not to let them get cold, or break a stem. The stem thing was really bad... they would bleed a latex like substance... bleed to death!

Well, even though I learned a lot about flowers there, even some arranging, it took until Lynnda and I moved into our digs here in Florida that I learned that sometimes things you learn early, don't hold-up in real life... the poinsettia story for example.

When we arrived here in late October we started working on our gardens. We got to know our neighbors, Bill and Martin. They have beautiful gardens, and we watched as various things started blooming... looking for cool things to put into our gardens... one week, a series of red blooms began to appear in their front garden... and they continued to bloom, and bloom... and then we realized that they are an it... a very large Poinsettia!

Turns out, they had a plant for a Christmas decoration... and didn't want to throw it out. They stuck it in the ground a few years ago and now it is a WOW!

A few days later, mysteriously, a couple of blooms broke off our outside display of poinsettias mixed with white chrysanthemums. Lynnda just took the broken branches and stuck them in the ground, in similar light to that at Bill and Martin's. They wilted for a couple of days... then perked up... and now we have the start to what will be a Christmas regular... Poinsettia.

Sooooo, what did I learn... well, turns out that you get the poinsettia up there in cold country, but they keep them in the dark in order to keep them blooming through Christmas, not to make them bloom. Also, I learned that the "bleeding to death" isn't true... they seal off and thrive, if you can get them to Florida in time. Also, if you put them in a warm house, with light... they start to pass on, relatively quickly.

So, if you have one, keep it away from the heaters, and keep it moist... it will last a long time... but if you put it outside... up north, it won't!

Conspicuous Consumption and New Year's Resolutions

As I posted a week or so ago, I am interested in the concept of conspicuous consumption... some times it is very obvious... others, not so...

Our good friends Larry Kronick and Sonia Kulik took us out on their new boat on Sunday... the boat was someone else's, but is new to Larry... new it would have cost over $100K, he bought it for $7,000. The boat is beautiful, but because Larry waited for the market to come to him, it clearly is not conspicuous consumption (CC).

Soooo, we did the In-Land Waterway, first to the north from his home on the ILW, then out onto the ocean headed south and then back into the ILW and back north to Larry's place. On the way, I took some pictures that will show CC...

The first turn out of Larry's place we headed past the Island Marina... this sixty foot boat (above), with bow-thrusters, did a u-turn in front of us. It wasn't the first or the last big one we saw... but it was a lasting first impression.

As we continued toward the ILW, there were continuous homes like these (yes, and like Larry's) that had boat docks with lifts... check out this 35 foot out-board on the lift below... yes... that adds up to 900 horsepower... we saw several, but again, it was a lasting first impression. We chuckled a lot, knowing that these boats probably had the equivalent of a mortgage on them, and we were in Larry's 35 foot, $7000 boat... upon which we were having a great time... lots of great food, imported beers, all served with a smile, on board.

I thought that you would enjoy seeing what the beach strip has turned into between Hollywood and Miami Beach... with the exception of a few private home stretches where a lot sells for an average of $11million (although I understand that there are a lot of homes on the market these days), and a "very few" public beaches, there are continuous condos and hotels... and these are the first thing a hurricane sees when it is deciding where to hit! The condos often sell for several hundred thousand dollars... for 900 sq. feet!

It wasn't until the Madoff Ponzi game hit the press that I really began to understand CC. Several years ago, my rabbi, Maynard Garfield (no, I am not Jewish, but he is my Rabbi anyway) told me that you needed at least 10 times your salary in net worth in order to retire with the life style that you are in... and live another 20 years. I believed, like him, that any more was a waste. What I didn't realize was that many people make a lot more than that... and we found out last week what they do with their money... they have so much, they don't even have to be careful with it... instead, they can give it to guys like Madoff... good on them!

CC happens all the time, and I am a part of it, unfortunately. While we try to cut back, we see others doing the opposite. I look at the BMWs, Porsches and Mercedes... all cars I have owned and still value. The difference today between owning them as a good investment and CC is that today they are still being driven at 80 mph with <15mpg...>

Friday, December 19, 2008

Conspicuous Consumption

This post is about how we look at the same things, differently. As the title indicates, my thinking lately has been about conspicuous consumption. Several postings will come this next couple of weeks, through the Holiday Season about this... but let's look first at how we all seem to look at things differently... perhaps because we have different perspectives (from where we stand, we see altogether different things and even when we are standing together we will see the same thing differently.

The two blooms in the picture above are from Lynnda's collection of hybridized hibiscus... the gold(ish) flower is known simply as 'Path'. This was the first time we had seen Path, it is a nine inch wide bloom, and has been out for three days, as I write this. The purple(ish) bloom is 'Nightfire'. We have had this plant in Nova Scotia where we keep it inside eight months a year. Both these plants demonstrate how we view things differently... people in Nova Scotia might look at them as too much work, but they grow around the yard here in Florida. Lynnda likes to compare blooms, I like to look deep into the bloom near the stamen base to see the color, strength and character of the bloom.

The next two pictures demonstrate how you can look deeper and deeper into a bloom, and the third, Nightfire, how you can see in its depth, the strength and character of the bloom.

Of course, the plant is showing off for the insects, and has a completely different perspective... than what we have as we click on the pictures to enlarge them, to see more clearly the structure and color of the bloom. I am not certain I am getting anywhere with this analogy, so why don't I just hope you like Path and Nightfire... we have lots more different hibiscus and hope to display them, occasionally, here.

This past few weeks have had a dramatic impact on my thinking about what is important in our society... and how different people believe differently; and sometimes have disparaging beliefs about what is important to others. Like many, we have been looking at the gyrations of the economies of Canada and America in their schizophrenic relations with currencies, oil, trade, regulations, and even a Ponzi Master.

I sometimes wonder if the collective 'WE' learn anything from these cycles... anything enduring, that is.
Will we learn anything that endures long enough to help our legacy population survive, and perhaps with learning, thrive?

What I have learned is that conspicuous consumption and greed have a lot in common. These two phenomenons seem to often coexist. And they are not pretty. Think about it, I will come back to this.

Hope you like the blooms.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Great Website... Oldtime Winters

Recently, a friend, Murray Wilson, from Halifax Nova Scotia who recently retired from Saint Mary's University sent me a fantastic series of art from the following website. At least one of the paintings I suspect was a Christmas Card that I used several years ago... but all are worth visiting.
Hope you enjoy...

If I haven't said it to you already... Happy New Year

BRuce and Lynnda

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Winter Day To Remember

Lynnda and I had a visitor this week, so we spent a day showing him around. Mike Carson, from Corona, in southern California came to South Florida to do a presentation to an audience from Central and South America that work for one of the world's best companies to work for... Emerson. They are a global technology company with around $25 Billion in annual revenue, and Mike's company, Carson International is their corporate training partner.

Mike had the spare day, so Lynnda and I took him to the American Orchid Society home office and toured the green houses and spectacular gardens. Then we went to the Green Cay, a naturalized area just across the street from our development... it is basically like the Everglades, but in our neighborhood!

I took a few pictures with Lynnda's pocket camera, and these are keepers... the bird above is called a Green Heron. It isn't a true heron, but that's its name. This one appeared as we were watching an alligator, and I guess he was a little embarrassed that we could see him... so he decided to start a campaign of hide and seek.

While he kept his eye on me, he moved up the reed a little and blocked me out... peeking occasionally to see if I was still there... or so it seemed.

Then he poked his head behind his wing, above... when that didn't work... he pulled his wing completely over his head. Of course the truth of the matter was that he was completely bored with us, and started preening, allowing me to take the pics, and tell this little tale.

Next we came upon this Great White Egret. You might remember the pictures I took and posted here a few weeks ago, of the GWE in our yard hunting for Geckos. This guy was hunting, but what ever it was was below the surface. As he stared into the water, we need to realize that this is in the wild, and the alligators are there... Lynnda actually saw one catch a bird later on this nature walk. I decided to keep the lens on the bird, as he slowly stretched to his full neck length and got closer to his prey... like a pointing setter...

His concentration was amazing... this took place over a few minutes, and you can see his neck now coiled, like a rattle snake when about to strike... then he does!

It is at times like this that you would want a high speed drive on your camera, but I am thankful that Lynnda's little Canon was quick enough to at least capture the forward drive of this Egret. His head was fully submersed when he caught the minnow and up-in-the-air with it to swallow... the part when the camera was saving this image below to disc, so I didn't get it...

Apparently satiated and oblivious to me on the board walk above him, he started walking to a new hunting location. This is a fairly large bird, and while in these next three pictures, he may appear to be swimming, he was actually walking (Egrets are shore birds, and do not swim). There were a few clouds in the sky above us, and his reflection gave us some views that you might like... hope so.

There is a lot to see here in Florida... like at home in Nova Scotia. When seen through a lens we get to remember as our mind's eye fades. The story of Green Cay is even more interesting when we realize that just five years ago, this nature preserve was actually farm land that had been reclaimed from the Everglades! A farming family, the Winsbergs donated it to the county of Palm Beach... it is an amazing area and well described here

The county has a large water reclamation program that is also close by our home. There, they collect all the sewage and storm drain water, filter it and purify it... and then it is used to water lawns, flood and maintain the Green Cay, and other similar areas... and many other things. This is an amazing demonstration of how, if we are committed to saving the planet, we can recycle everything from water, to plastics, paper and so on.

Associated with the website listed above, there are several other examples of what is happening here in Palm Beach County. In a way, it reminds us of the efforts Nova Scotia is making with recycling household waste through computers...


My photo

Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!