Monday, May 30, 2016

A Science Guy’s Almanac: Catheters, Pus, and Buttermilk: Three terms you don’t want in the same sentence!

A Science Guy’s Almanac #25. Year 2. May 30, 2016
Catheters, Pus, and Buttermilk: Three terms you don’t want in the same sentence!

It's Memorial Day. 
Thank a veteran for her/his service.

I had to stay in the hospital after my spinal fusion for eight days. They would have discharged me earlier, but I developed a low-grade fever and wanted to make sure it didn’t spike before they turned me loose.

I got home. Things went well… for a short time.

Either the second or third day at home, I needed to tinkle. I carefully pushed off the arms of the chair in which I was seated and negotiated to the bathroom. What came out was not pure urine.

A stream of pus and urine cascaded into the toilet. It burned as it exited. I called my mom.

An Aside
I suspect that mothers would do whatever necessary for their children, even if they had to read the giant list of probable events they might experience before they delivered. But, this was one of those times that I was glad she hadn’t seen the list!

Mom came in, quickly diagnosed a urinary tract infection, probably the result of the catheterization early in my hospital stay. She called our family doctor. He gave her the name of the urologist he recommended. We went to the urologist the next morning after several more burning man experiences.

By the time we got to the urologist’s office, there was a steady burn in my bladder. Urinating spread the burn. It was uncomfortable sitting, standing, and lying down. Get the picture?

The urologist was a female.

I’m just gonna let that sentence hang there.

After a brief—thank goodness—examination, she prescribed an antibiotic. Before she left, she added a non-prescription compound to my treatment regimen.

“You should stop by the market on the way home and buy some yogurt or buttermilk. You should be eating or drinking that two or three times each day until the antibiotics are gone.”

Backstory #1. 
I had my first taste of yogurt at UCSD before my surgery. I was starving one day. All I had was a quarter. The only item at the satellite cafeteria I could afford was a container of yogurt. Plain yogurt. Vintage 1968 plain yogurt. There was no way I was going to eat yogurt two or three times every day.
Backstory #2. 
   On television at this time was a commercial for Knudsen Real Churned Buttermilk. In the commercial, a frontier couple was featured. The man was cutting firewood. It was a hot day. He was shirtless and sweating profusely. He mopped his brow periodically with a towel. It was obvious that he was suffering greatly.
   The woman was seated on the porch of the cabin in which they lived. She was churning butter. Not a drop of perspiration could be seen. See example below.

   Just when the viewer was certain that the woodcutter was about to black out from dehydration and exertion, the butter-churner left the porch. She carried a BIG class of buttermilk to the man. The man stopped working. He chugged the entire glass of buttermilk. Within seconds he was back splitting logs with renewed strength and a huge smile on his face.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

My mom and I left the office. As we neared home, I informed my mom of my choice for the non-prescription compound.

“Don’t forget we need to get buttermilk.”
“Are you sure?” Mom asked. She had a kind of grimace as she asked.
“You bet!” I related the backstories above to her.

Biology Aside.
The term antibiotic means “against life.” Antibiotics kill bacteria. Unfortunately, antibiotics kill all bacteria they come in contact with.
“Well, that’s good,” you might be thinking. If you are, you’re wrong.
I suspect you’ve heard of Escherichia coli. It’s usually referred to as E. coli in the media. E. coli is a species of bacteria. If all you know about E. coli is what you’ve read in the paper or seen online, there’s a good chance you think it’s a deadly killer. And, you’d be right.
But, you’d also be very, very wrong.
E. coli occur naturally in your large intestine. Their job is to help for your fecal material into a solid mass. Without E. coli, you’d have a continuous case of… diarrhea.
Before you panic, the inside of your intestine is outside your body. If it wasn’t, your own immune system would attack E. coli. And you’d have a continuous case of… diarrhea. Think of the situation as a tunnel through a mountain. Your intestine is the tunnel. Your body is the mountain.
Whether you know it or not, you know that E. coli are not inside your body. First, you don’t have a continuous case of… diarrhea. Second, if your appendix ruptures, the contents of your large intestine are released into your body cavity. The result of this dump of waste and bacteria into what was a sterile cavity is a serious infection.
I was unaware of the importance of E. coli at the time of the buttermilk purchase. When I started taking the antibiotics, my own E. coli were killed. Both yogurt and buttermilk have non-E. coli replacement bacteria in them. And, that’s why the urologist recommended the consumption of one or the other.

“Make sure it’s Knudsen buttermilk,” I called after my mom as she went into Valley Farm Market—see the penultimate Almanac post for a reference to it and the Wienermobile. She came out with a quart of what I was certain was the nectar of the gods. I don’t remember if was Knudsen, but I suspect it was.

We picked up the prescription at Valley Pharmacy—see the last Almanac post for more on that entity. Minutes later we pulled into our driveway.

I rushed into the kitchen and grabbed a big glass.
I pulled the carton of buttermilk open.
It smelled terrible!
“Whoa, Mom! You’ve got to take this back,” I said while fanning my nose. “It smells rotten!”
Mom came over and took a whiff.
“Smells just like buttermilk,” she said.
I wonder how that woodcutter in the commercial could stand this smell, I thought. But, he loved it. It must taste really good.
I began pouring the elixir into my glass.
Glorp. Glug. Plop!
Hunks of something cascaded into my glass along with the liquid.
“Mom! Hunks of crud are coming out of the carton. This batch has to be bad!”
Mom returned. She looked down into the glass.
“Looks just like buttermilk,” she reported.
You’ve got to be kidding me. The woodcutter must be blind in addition to having no sense of smell. Still, it did wonders for him.
I began to chug the buttermilk.
Ackk! Hack! Mom! This stuff tastes evil!” I managed to gag out as I let the small amount that hadn’t been swallowed drool out of my mouth. “Eh haa to be baa!”
Mom dipped one index finger into the now half-full glass. She put a very small amount on her tongue.
“Tastes just like buttermilk.”

For the next ten days, I drank—AKA gagged down—a pint of buttermilk daily.

But, I gargled with Pepsi Cola after each session. That’s the only way I could get the taste out of my mouth.

Next Almanac post: I haven’t decided yet. Y’all—or all y’all—come back and find out!

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Expressions of Faith: Stones

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
(1 Peter 2:4-6 NIV)


A living stone. Sounds like a faulty observation—unless you read on.

I get the rejected part: Crucifixion.

And I get the precious part: Resurrection and salvation.

Peter presents God’s plan for the Stone. Perhaps it’s because Christ called him Rock.

But, Peter makes it clear that there is more than one living Stone.

As Christians, we are to “get lively” and become part of the walls of a spiritual house where God’s Spirit can dwell.

Next Friday's Expression of Faith Series: Submit

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Timeless Truths: An Absent God? Part 1

#20. Timeless Truths: An Absent God? Part 1
May 26, 2016
5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.11 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42: 5, 11
5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 43: 5
15 Truly you are a God who has been hiding himself, the God and Savior of Israel. Isaiah 45:15
All Scripture quotations are from the NIV.

Opening Truth: God is NOT absent in our life, even if we FEEL that way.


1. What I tune in to determines what I turn out like.
  • The psalmist writes in 42:2 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. 
  • If we’re not thirsty for God, we’re probably tuned into the wrong thing.

What are some possible responses to God’s absence?
  1. Ignore Him. This is not a good option. It is the response typical of a petulant child.
  2. Suppress your feelings. This is not a good option. The feeling suppressed can lead to seeking God.
  3. Get angry. This may not be a bad option. Expressing anger to God can be a good thing. It provides a time to get rid of your anger by allowing God to absorb it.

Jesus said: 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matt 5:6. 
What are you thirsty for?

2. Where I put my hope determines where I get my help. 
  • The answer to all the following HOPE BUSTERS is to “put your hope in God.” Ps 42:5, 11 
  • The writer of this psalm was most like in exile when the psalm was written. 
  • Hope was the author's anchor to God.

  1. People. people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Ps 42:3
  2. Circumstances. I remember… how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Ps 42:4
  3. Me. Why so disturbed within me? Ps 42:5, 11
  4. Life. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? Romans 8:24

When we have nothing to give God, He always has something for us.

Thanks to Rev. Tom Gobel for the central teachings used in this blog.

Next Thursday's Timeless Truths Series: An Absent God? Part 2

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Lessons Learned from Young Writers – Part 2

Lessons Learned from Young Writers – Part 2

When last we left our student-authors, they were struggling with the concept of editing versus checking for errors. This is the conclusion of my blog on my experience with 8th-12th-grade authors.

As the school year draws to a close, Mrs. Ray and I have made a decision. There will be no book this school year. Our current plan/goal is to get the premier anthology, Sci-Fi High - First Days of School, out before Halloween. This requires more editing by this year’s authors, most of whom will be returning to the project. See below.

In a perfect world, we’ll have Volume 2 ready by April. But, we shall see. The book will not go to print until both Mrs. Ray and I are in agreement on the worthiness of the edited manuscript.

Only one of our authors is a Senior this year. She already knows her schedule for next year at college and will be able to come to some of our sessions as we finish editing go to press. So she will have her story included in Volume 1.

What follows is a series of observations, comments and suggestions gleaned from this experience. They are in no particular order. Feel free to rank them yourself.

The book’s cover. We were fortunate. Mrs. Ray was looking at art pieces at the school's Career Expo.  She thought one artist's work was amazing. When it was time for the book cover, she asked the artist and found out she was interested in our Sci-Fi High project. She created a cover with the promise of it just being an addition to her portfolio.  In the end, she earned 1 credit in the process. Here's what she came up with after a couple of meetings.

It’s not the final draft, but you get the drift. Pretty cool.

Things we will change. First, we are establishing non-negotiable deadlines early on in the process. We allowed too much discussion and verbal explanation of the stories to occur between the authors without requiring completion of specific pieces of writing. As a result, many of the stories ended up being hastily completed.

Transitions between plot points were problematic. Our authors were most proficient with essay writing. Many tried to morph that style into an iteration of science fiction writing. Those morphs were not successful. We will do directed study of short stories before writing begins anew in the Fall. We have plans for “hands-on” experiences with marking plot points and identifying necessary edits early on.

TeachersPayTeachers. Mrs. Ray and I are meeting this summer to produce a product for Teachers Pay Teachers, an online “warehouse” for teaching materials. I have 27 products up in my store there. But they are science-oriented, or at least non-English/Language Arts-oriented

Teachers look first within their discipline for ancillary materials. Mrs. Ray is an English teacher. She’ll be starting her own store with our Sci-Fi High writing/production process as her first major product. This will maximize our exposure to the target audience.

Grammarly & Hemingway. Students work best when they have exemplars at key points in whatever process they are engaged in. Grammarly is a free web-based program that goes a step beyond MSWord’s grammar check. It’s far from perfect, and it costs money to see the “advanced” errors it discovers. But, it directs any writer to what might be problem areas in their manuscript. We will require students to use this at each stage of the production process.

Hemingway is purchasable editing tool. It points out common issues in manuscripts of any sort. This makes it a great tool for fiction writers. I use it to limit the convolutions that easily arise in my writing. Short sentences with few adverbs and passive voice statements are the goal of the app. They are my goals, too. We will recommend, but not require, our authors to use this tool as well.

Life lessons as part of the story development. From the beginning of the project, our authors were instructed to include a life lesson—think moral—in their stories. This was one aspect of the project that was not misunderstood and was refreshingly clear in almost all the stories submitted. This will continue to be a requirement next year.

Think about volunteering your time to work on a project with young writers. You don’t have to find a school to volunteer at to help students with their writing. That might sound like the quickest way of involving yourself, but all schools have some vetting process for volunteers. Be prepared for what might be a plethora of hoops through which to jump if you don’t have a child enrolled at that school. Public libraries have volunteer programs that might qualify. The YMCA, Boy’s Clubs, Girl’s Clubs, and other such entities offer after-school programs for students.

Bottom Lines.
  • Every student-author exuded a missionary’s zeal when talking about the book/class/project and their part in it.
  • Mrs. Ray was most gracious in allowing me to work with her and her students in this project. Our maiden voyage was exhilarating. It was also frustrating. It was also incomplete.
  • We both agree to give it a second shot.
  • Word about the class/project spread throughout the school. Close to a score of students filled out applications to join our Author’s Guild—my euphemism for the Creative Writing elective course. Armed with what we know, now fine-tuned by what we learned, we’re forging ahead in September of this year.
  • I’ll post periodic updates on the Sci-Fi High Project as the year progresses. I’ll also post the link to Mrs. Ray’s Teacher’s Pay Teacher store sometime this summer.

Next blog: Pre-Readers and copy Edits

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