Saturday, February 25, 2012

Allergies

I received the second communication in about a week from a grandmother whose grandchildren have peanut allergies. Each one wrote about the necessity of carrying two epipens, benadryl, cell phones for calling the ER's, and the constant worry and panic of both the parents (their children) and their own concerns.

Lita Cohen, retired member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and a friend of mine from Lower Merion High School, founded the Food Allergy Research Initiative to determine the cause of food allergies and allergens and develop effective treatments. This will undoubtedly be a very long process with multiple steps to induce allergies in animals, isolate the immune cells, change the immune cells in some way and then introduce the changed immune cells into allergic animals. Sounds like a very worthwhile, but very long-range project.

Meanwhile, what to do.

I am 72 years old and have had allergies my entire life. My poor mother had the pediatrician at our house every week (in the olden days, the doctors made house calls) because I had developed a different rash in a different place. I eventually outgrew the rashes, but I still had allergic reactions to food and airborne particles. I even had allergy shots for 5 years, never improved my tolerance to the allergens and had to have adrenaline twice because of my bad reactions to the allergy shots.

The worst offenders were tobacco smoke and the smell of nuts and buckwheat. Tobacco smoke was such a problem that we couldn't fly in an airplane until the US declared smoking was forbidden on flights, couldn't go to a theater because at intermission, when the patrons went outside to light up, the tobacco smoke drifted back into the theater and sent me into asthma. Most, unimaginable of all, we couldn't even go on the beach because, if someone lit up in Longport, and we were on the beach in Ventnor, the tobacco smoke made it right to my chair. Nowadays, second hand smoke is much less of a problem because smoking is either illegal, or greatly curtailed.

I have learned how to manage my many food allergies in a very simple way - if I don't make it, I don't eat it. At first, people were offended when I refused to even sample any delectable offered to me. I explained I was not being rude, just very careful. When we are invited out to eat, and there is no way to politely get out of the invitation, I insist on a dish of plain lettuce leaves - and I emphasize, no dressing, no salt, no lemon, no pepper, no seeds, no nuts, no tomatoes, no cucumbers, etc. I don't have to make the request more than two times at any given restaurant.

I'm certainly rooting for Lita Cohen and her Food Allergy Research Initiative (FARI).

Chocolate Has Miraculous Powers

Chocolate tastes good and is credited with being an antioxidant. All good. But, in addition, chocolate can turn bad moods to wonderful in just seconds.

We were in Honolulu, and the hotel asked me to please have a book signing in the lobby one day. I agreed. The hotel staff set up a table with chairs for us and put an arrangement of flowers on the table. One of the staff draped a beautiful lei around my neck with the appropriate kiss/kiss on each cheek. Edgar and I filled a woven container with chocolate kisses.

A couple arrived who had just gotten off the plane from the East Coast. We know that the 14 or so hour trip is grueling and tiring and this couple exhibited all the signs of exhaustion. He appeared patient and resigned. She just wanted "to go to our room and lie down." The room was not quite ready. The hotel staff suggested that the couple take a short stroll up and down the street, do a little shopping, and return in about an hour when the room would be ready. She was too worn out from the trip to even consider this and became slightly intolerant.

We recognized the symptoms immediately and called the couple over to our table with a friendly "why don't you sit down here?" They both reluctantly shuffled from the guest check in window to our table; he was quiet and resigned, she looked just awful. We held out our basket of foil wrapped kisses and said, "why don't you have a piece of chocolate or two?" She looked at us as if we each had two heads but took one, unwrapped it, put it in her mouth, let the chocolate slide down her throat, and asked if she could please take another. Of course. She performed the same actions with the second piece of chocolate; he ate one. Her mood changed instantly and she said, "let's go shopping for a while," and they left.

The hotel staff thanked us immediately. The couple thanked us when they came back. And since that day, the hotel now offers a piece of chocolate to every incoming guest.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

What could they have been thinking?

A photograph is supposed to be the permanent record of a decisive, specific moment in time. A photograph is not supposed to distort reality. The photos in the SI magazine are just slightly less distorted than the paintings of Picasso and Modigliani.

Anyone with eyes, or a brain, knows that women, even very beautiful women, do not look like those that have been photoshopped out of reality in the magazine. Women have attractive curves, not unrounded bodies. Even very skinny women, unhealthfully so, have curves.

Granted that artists see women's bodies differently from the nonartists. And everyone accepts that artists - using paints, pastels, charcoals, pencils, pens, and other materials - encompass their own vision into their works. And the great portrait artists from the past used to paint their subjects with lots of jewelry, to inflate their worth even more.

But not photographers. Their goal should be to present reality. Really great portrait photographers use light and shadow to enhance the beauty (or masculinity) of their subjects. Photoshopping out the imperfections is cheating. At least to me, if a photo does not acknowledge that it has been computer enhanced (in any way), then the photographer is not telling the truth.

Photos that have been altered through photoshop or other computer methods should be identified as being altered, as being fantasy, not reality.
I am definitely NOT a Republican. I do not believe in the heavy-handed, public be damned attitude of the so-called "conservatives." Here comes the but - - -

The public service unions, the professional athletic unions, even the private sector unions have held the governments, bosses, and public as hostage. Look at Medford, NJ as an example. I heard yesterday that soon, in Medford, there will be no publc pick up of trash and garbage. Medford is broke. What are the taxpayers to do? Part of the problem is with the Governor - this actually started when Christine Whitman was governor and lowered state taxes. That move resulted in a decrease in funding to the towns, townships, counties, and communities. So the smaller political entities had to raise taxes for police, fire, education and other public services until the residents cried "uncle" and either moved out or refused to pay.

Caterpillar closed the plants in Canada where the workers had been earning $35.00 an hour, with benefits. Then Caterpillar offered them back their jobs at $12.50 an hour with reduced benefits and if the workers refused this, then Caterpillar said that the company would move these jobs to Mexico. Both of the hourly wages seem ridiculous - both too high and too low.

Look at the NFL. Peyton Manning is scheduled to receive $28 million dollars this year, if he can play. This job is not eligible to be outsourced, but where is the money coming from? From TV? This amount is largely what the traffic will bear, but a community does not need Peyton Manning except if he is willing to collect the trash, or police the streets, etc. And remember the teams that threatened to leave the cities if new stadiums were not built for them. Another example of holding a city hostage and its citizens who are then stuck with the huge bill of paying for them.

School teachers go on strike. That deprives the children of their education, even though there are state mandated minimum days of service that the schools have to be open and teach. But how dedicated are the teachers if they are foced to be in the classroom against their will? And, maybe the teachers are right. After all, a well educated public is the necessary foundation for a democracy. However, there does not seem to be a correlation between teachers' pay and classroom achievement. The one factor that appears to correlate with education achievement is students' attendance at school.

The Air Traffic Controllers threatened to go on strike. Ronald Reagan, as President, told them that they couldn't. They thumbed their collective noses at him and went on strike. He fired them, all of them. And replaced them with trained military controllers until more civilians could be trained and agree to work at the previously agreed upon wages.

The baseball umpires decided to strike. And then, they decided to quit. So the league accepted their resignations and hired replacements. And the national pasttime continued.

Back in the days of the Great Depression, Campbells Soups advertised jobs at 50 cents an hour and were over-run with applicants. So then, a Campbells representative came out and asked, "How many will work for 40 cents an hour?" And some left, but most stayed. And then he asked, "How many will work for 30 cents an hour?" And some more left, but still some stayed. And finally, people were hired for less than 30 cents an hour and when the story became public, thanks to the free press and the newspapers, Campbells Soups was boytcotted. The management, on rethinking, agreed to pay the advertised 50 cents an hour to all that they had hired.

Both unions and management have to share in the responsibility of lost jobs, unemployment, egregious public relations, and poorly elected representatives.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My comments from nytimes.com

Selma Davis
Bala Cynwyd, PA

In 1961, I was notified that I won an NIMH fellowship for graduate school. I just had to let them know where I was going. I was still attending the University of Pennsylvania and had applied for admission to their graduate program in psychology. During my interview, the men had the nerve to say to me - you're a girl. You're just going to get married and have children. Why should we give the place to you when you're not going to use your degree?

My answer - because I am smarter than any of the BOYS who applied.

I got my MA in psychology in 1962 from Penn, and was married in December 1962. And we have been happily married for more than 49 years. We have 3 accomplished and successful children and 7 beautiful grandchildren.

Meanwhile, I have written and published 4 crime novels that take place in Hawaii; won an award for journalism (1st place for a feature article from the Pennsylvania newspaper association); and wrote the English language summaries for the "psychopharmacology and drug abuse" section of what started out as Medline in 1968 and the years that followed until the grant ran out.