World Oceans Day 2010

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According to The Ocean Project, the concept for “World Ocean Day” was first proposed in 1992 by Canada at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.  Listen to a very moving speech by 12-year old Severn Cullis-Suzuki given at this summit as she presented environmental issues from a youth perspective.

The Ocean Project, working with the World Ocean Network, has been promoting World Oceans Day since 2003.  World Oceans Day was officially declared by the United Nations as June 8th each year beginning in 2009.

The purpose of World Oceans Day is to raise awareness about the crucial role the ocean has in our lives, inform the public of the dangers threatening the ocean and of the impact of human activities, and to encourage everyone to take action to protect and preserve the ocean and its riches.

Wear Blue and Tell Two” is The Ocean Project’s slogan to encourage people to celebrate the worlds oceans by associating the color blue with the oceans and by taking personal action to help.

I was aware of this and of the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as we camped above the beach at South Carlsbad State Beach, so I curiously descended the wooden stairway to the beach below with a new perspective.  Even before I got down to the beach, I could see something that did not belong there, a tire.

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Why was this vintage B.F. Goodrich Silvertown tire there?

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I looked up the beach and noticed that it is losing sand, and Carlsbad’s sand is like gold for the city.

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Signs on the bluff warn that the cliffs are unstable.  Cliff erosion can be seen below our campsite.

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As I walked the beach, more questions came to mind, such as why was this snack package here?

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Would the person who carelessly discarded it be strolling here if everyone else did the same and the beach was covered with litter?  More questions arose.  What comes out of the two large drainage pipes sticking out of the cliff?

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What killed the plants nearby the pipes?  “Think Blue” is the City of San Diego’s campaign to prevent pollution from entering the storm drains, which drain untreated water into our creeks, bays, lagoons, and ultimately, the ocean.

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What caused the death of this seagull?

So I am motivated to “Wear Blue and Tell Two” ways one can take personal action to help:  1. Make smart choices when eating seafood (see list).   2. Reduce our reliance on plastics, use a reusable shopping bag (See “Dr. Dre  – World Ocean Day – Project Kaisei“)

This year World Oceans Day falls on a Tuesday, so many events are taking place on the weekend before, June 5th – 6th, such as beach walks and cleanups, tidal pool explorations, aquarium festivities, and readings of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,  by Dr. Seuss.  Find an event near you here.

The health of our oceans is in our hands. (See “The Ocean in the Drop“)

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Footnotes and beyond

I arrived early for my colonoscopy so I looked around the waiting area for something interesting to read and spotted the February 1, 2010 issue of Time magazine.  I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at a magazine that has a website that was featured in Steve Jobs’ Apple iPad keynote presentation.  What caught my attention while browsing this magazine was the image of what the author, Bryan Walsh, called foot gloves.1  Bryan’s article on page 45, “Toe Huggers”, tells how going barefoot (or close to it) might be better for your body.

I have enjoyed going barefoot in the Airstream (and in the house for many years) and was fascinated to learn of the benefits of going barefoot.  The human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than a hundred muscles, tendons, ligaments, and sensory receptors.

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According to Vibram (maker of FiveFingers), to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised.  Stimulating the muscles in our feet and lower legs makes us stronger and healthier, while improving our balance, agility and proprioception. The wearing of shoes can impede proper alignment and movement within the ankle and foot.  “Shoes are bad”, says Adam Sternbergh in his article, “You Walk Wrong”, in the New York magazine.  He discusses the benefits of barefoot walking and presents a three-part guide on how to walk better.  He mentions that there are groups, such as the Society for Barefoot Living, which help people learn about barefoot walking and the “barefoot lifestyle.”

See the You Tube video, “The Barefoot Professor: by Nature Video“.*  Harvard professor and runner, Daniel Lieberman, shows that barefoot runners tend to land on their fore-foot and generate less impact shock than runners in sports shoes who land heel first.  Barefoot running can be more comfortable and could minimize running-related injuries.  Interest in barefoot running jumped recently with Christopher McDougall’s 2009 best seller, Born to Run, which follows Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians, who run long distances wearing thin rubber sandals or no shoes at all.  See Tarahumara: Pillars of the World.*

But running and walking barefoot outside can lead to infections and injuries.  We routinely check every campsite for glass, nails, screws, and anything else that could puncture a tire before we back in the trailer.  So I became very interested in Vibram’s FiveFingers.  See Bryan Walsh demonstrate wearing and running in FiveFingers in the Time video, “Is Running Barefoot Better for You?“.  All of this made sense to me so I found Vibram FiveFingers KSO in my size locally.2  They can be ordered online, but, if this is your first time trying these, it is better to try them on in the store to insure a proper fit.

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See Wired Science article, “To Run Better…” by Dylan Tweeney, which includes sidebar tips on “How to Run Barefoot”.

NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz tried on and reported on FiveFingers in NPR’s story, “A Shoe for Barefoot Runners“.

Even poet, author, and artist Marshal South preferred to go barefoot at Yaquitepec during his experiment in primitive living from 1930 to 1947.  He wrote in is article, “Desert Diary 11″, “Ordinarily, bare feet are the rule at Yaquitepec.  Wood gathering however calls often for the navigation of savage sections of rock and thorn where barefoot caution would consume too much time.  So we dig out our Yaqui sandals for the job.  Probably the oldest and simplest human device for foot protection, the sandal is still the most comfortable and healthiest thing man has ever fashioned in the way of footwear… Generations of abuse in ‘thoroughly scientific’ shoes have spoiled civilized feet to such an extent that they have to be entirely re-educated.  But once the sandal technique is learned the foot enters upon a new and better life of freedom.”3

However, there are times when going barefoot or in foot gloves or sandals just won’t do.  So I recently bought what may be the most comfortable shoes that I have ever worn: Merrell’s Encore Groove.  Merrell began in the Green Hills in Vermont* and has been providing outdoor enthusiasts with quality performance footwear for over 26 years.4

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I am now looking forward to taking my FiveFingers and ten toes out on our next camping trip and enjoying what should be a spectacular wildflower blooming season due to our recent rains.5  In the meantime, Larry and I have begun taking our FiveFingers (and two corgis) on walk/runs around our local Chollas Lake three times a week and are already experiencing the fun and health benefits.  See Ultra Marathon Running Movie – Indulgence* and Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon in Born to Run.*

Footnotes to Footnotes:

1.  Also known as shoe gloves, foot socks and barefoot shoes.

2.  REI in San Diego was temporarily out of stock in this model, so I found mine at Adventure 16. Model KSO, “Keep Stuff Out”.

3.  All 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles: An Experiment in Primitive Living, 2005, Edited and with a Foreword by Diana Lindsay and Introduction by Rider and Lucile South, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA.

4.  “History of Merrell”, on their website

5.  See DesrtUSA’s Desert Wildflower Reports 2010 – Southern California

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Desert Holidays, Part 2

Borrego Springs, California, is located in Borrego Valley, in an area once named San Gregorio by Juan Bautista de Anza, who led an expedition through here from Tubac, Arizona, in 1774, to find an overland route to bring supplies and reinforcements to the newly established Spanish presidios and missions in CaliforniaBorrego Springs is a small community that prides itself in not having traffic lights. Instead, it has a park-like hub called the Christmas Circle, possibly named because Salvador Ygnacio Linares was born on Christmas Eve in nearby Coyote Canyon on Anza’s second expedition through here in 1775, according to Diana Lindsay in her book, Anza-Borrego A to Z: People, Places, and Things, 2001, Sunbelt Publications.

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(Seen in the background of the above photo is Fonts Point, named after Pedro Font, a Spanish priest and diarist on the second Anza expedition, according to Diana Lindsay.  This bluff offers a spectacular view of the Borrego Badlands.)

Within the Christmas Circle is a pleasant, grassy community park that presents the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce Farmers’ Market every Friday, 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., November to June.

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Farmers’ markets, sometimes called greenmarkets, provide locally grown produce harvested at its peak flavor and nutritional content and, since this produce does not travel far, farmers’ markets help conserve fossil fuels.  The farmers’ market experience has been likened to outdoor markets traditionally held in villages and town squares throughout the world and provides a less rushed opportunity to chat with vendors and shoppers, while one samples local foods and learns about local culture.

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California is the largest producer of food for the country.  How food makes its way to the dinner plate is the subject of an excellent KPBS San Diego Envision 30 minute documentary, “Food”, seen here.

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This KPBS program (along with this one) points out that San Diego produces 95,000 tons of oranges each year, and most of them are shipped to foreign countries willing to pay premium rates for some of the tastiest oranges in the world.  Ironically, most of the oranges San Diegans buy come from Australia, South Africa and Peru because we like our oranges to be seedless, pretty and easy to peel.  Larry and I now prefer to buy our oranges at farmers’ markets because they are sweeter and tastier.

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We are lucky in San Diego to have 42 farmers’ markets.  Find your local farmers’ market here.

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Seen on our holiday dinner table are sweet Medjool dates, shards of Gouda cheese, Garlic and Fine Herbs Boursin Gournay cheese on crackers, sun-dried tomato-cilantro hummus, and strips of Larry’s homemade and very delicious sourdough bread, made following the “No Knead Bread Baking Method“.

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And after dinner, visions of sugar-plums danced in our heads.

Our National Parks

A new film by Ken Burns, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea“, will be presented by PBS in six episodes starting Sunday, September 27, at 8 pm Eastern Time. Filmed over a course of more than six years, this series will show some of the most beautiful places in our country, at the best time of year, in the best light, along with the history of our national parks, people who made a difference, and park profiles.

“The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” is directed by Ken Burns and written and co-produced by Dayton Duncan.

See a behind the scenes tour of this new Ken Burns series, “The National Parks”, in this PBS Preview.

Ken Burns points out that the concept of a national park is an American idea and ideal, and that Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872, is arguably the world’s first truly national park.  Our national parks are living symbols of democracy, and are special places of discovery and inspiration, building human happiness, and should be preserved for all people to enjoy (not just for royalty or the rich).

Talking about national parks and monuments, President Theodore Roosevelt is quoted in the film as saying, “It is the preservation of the scenery, of the forests and the wilderness game for the people as a whole.  Instead of leaving the enjoyment thereof to be confined to the very rich, it is noteworthy in its essential democracy, one of the best bits of national achievement, which our people have to their credit.  And our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children, and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

On June 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Antiquities Act of 1906, giving the President of the United States authority to restrict use of particular land owned by the federal government by executive order, bypassing Congressional oversight, and avoiding partisan gridlock.  The Antiquities Act resulted from concerns arising about protecting mostly prehistoric Native American ruins and artifacts.  The intent is to allow the President to set aside and protect certain valuable public natural areas as park and conservation lands, which are given the title of “National Monuments“.

The first declared United States National Monument was Devils Tower, established on September 24, 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.  Devils Tower is a monolithic igneous intrusion or volcanic rock in the Black Hills of northeastern Wyoming.  Native American tribes including the Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lakota, and Shoshone had cultural and geographical ties to the monolith long before European and early American immigrants reached Wyoming.  More than 48% of land in Wyoming is now owned by the United States Government (as noted in Wikipedia’s article, “Wyoming“).

On January 11, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt (struggling against mining interests) proclaimed more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon as a National Monument (it was declared a National Park on February 26, 1919).  This is an example of an early success of the environmental conservation movement, which may have helped to thwart proposals to dam the Colorado River within its boundaries.

On October 14, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson created Cabrillo National Monument, which is located on the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula in San Diego, California, and commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542.

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At the highest point in the park stands the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which became operational in 1855.

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People come from all over the world to enjoy the views of the region’s mountains, San Diego harbor, Pacific Ocean, Mexico and the Coronado Islands.  Pacific gray whales can be seen migrating from late December to early February.  Cabrillo National Monument contains one of the finest (and protected) rocky intertidal areas (tide pools) on the southern California coast and is one of the last refuges of coastal sage scrub habitat.

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Ken Burns film, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea”, also highlights other heroes who have made a difference in preserving our natural resources and wilderness areas, such as Stephen Mather (first director of the National Park Service, which was established by the National Park Service Organic Act signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916),  John Muir (naturalist, author, early advocate of the preservation of the wilderness, and founder and first president of the Sierra Club), President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Civilian Conservation Corps, Marjory Stoneman Douglas (friend of the Everglades), William Gladstone Steel (“father of Crater Lake”), and George Melendez Wright (National Park Service naturalist).

George Melendez Wright was noted as saying, “Our national heritage is richer than just scenic features… perhaps our greatest national heritage is nature itself, with all of its complexity and its abundance of life”.  See this wonderful video clip on George Melendez Wright.

The most recent national monument was designated by President George W. Bush on January 6, 2009: The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.  The Marianas trench reefs and waters (95,216 square miles) are among the most biologically diverse in the Western Pacific and include the greatest diversity of seamount and hydrothermal vent life yet discovered.  The Mariana trench is the deepest point on Earth and five times longer than the Grand Canyon.

Our national parks and monuments are our national treasures that bring us happiness and a sense of well-being…  a sense of comfort, like going home… and like a home, they need to be protected, restored (including restoration of native species), maintained and kept functioning for all to enjoy for all time.

See one more video selection from this new, beautiful mini-series, along with a moving interview of documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns, shown in this clip from The Rachel Maddow Show of September 24, 2009.

Mohs surgery

“Nose surgery?” I asked as the secretary was scheduling me for Head & Neck surgery.  “No, Mohs surgery,” she said, and she had to spell it several times before I got it right.  I jotted down the check-in appointment time of 4:30 p.m. for surgery at 5:00 p.m. and without delay I proceeded to Google “Mohs surgery“.  Google presented 162,000 hits (links) and of course, my reliable friend, Wikipedia, was on top.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery (MMS) was developed by Dr. Frederic E. Mohs (1910-2002) in 1936 to precisely remove skin cancer lesions while sparing healthy tissue and is the procedure of choice used by physicians today for anatomically important areas (eyelids, nose, ears, lips, etc.) where tissue sparing and low recurrence is important.

In my case about a year ago I started to notice a small, pin-point tenderness on the left side of the upper bridge of my nose near where the pads of my reading glasses rest and I noticed this most when I slipped on my sunglasses.  I could feel a dry raised tiny spot there that I attributed to wearing reading glasses.  Last spring my dermatologist finally got to see it and he treated it like my other precancerous skin lesions, called solar or actinic keratoses, with cryotherapy.  This initially worked, but after a few weeks I felt the tenderness again and I scheduled a return visit to my dermatologist, which had to be rescheduled after the completion of my summer jury duty on a murder case.  When I finally saw the dermatologist, he offered to freeze it again… or just cut it out.  “Well,” I said, “freezing didn’t work last time… maybe it would be better to just cut it out.”  And he did and sent it to the lab and I got the report back the next week that it was indeed squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common cancer of the skin, with more than 250,000 new cases diagnosed every year in the United States.  (Basal cell carcinoma is the most common.)

The image below shows the healed biopsy spot just before surgery.  The spot is the light circular area on the anatomically left side of the bridge of my nose, horizontally across from my pupils.

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So last Thursday, Larry drove me to the hospital where I checked into the fourth floor Head and Neck Surgery Department for this outpatient procedure, which I was told usually takes one to three hours.  It is performed using local anesthesia and the patient guidebook said it would be okay to listen to an iPod during the procedure, and to bring a companion to drive me home afterward.

Being a “writer”, I thought I ought to avail all of my senses to savor the full experience, so I left my iPod at home.  I felt the smooth coolness of the rectangular cauterizing grounding pad applied by the friendly nurse to my upper left arm.  I was draped and felt the wet coolness of liquid and smelled the chemical odor of antiseptic solution as it was applied over my closed eyes, forehead, nose and upper cheeks.  I felt the sharp skin-prick and brief pain as the surgeon injected anesthetic into the bridge of my nose.  The surgeon and nurse then left me alone with my thoughts for about fifteen minutes while the anesthetic took hold.  I could barely hear questions and answers of the patient having a similar procedure in the next room, which helped me know what to expect.  I also heard the high pitched sound of what sounded like cauterizing equipment.

The surgeon returned and applied a drape with a small opening over my head.  We chatted and I told him that I was a retired RN.  I was pleasantly surprised when he informed me that his wife works as an administrative RN in the medical center where I had worked for 28 years.  As he mentioned names of people whom I had known and worked with, I drifted down memory lane while he scraped, cut, snipped, sliced and cauterized away.

The removed tissue was sent to the pathologist on duty and Larry was invited in to chat with me (he read to me an article in the latest Camping World magazine) while we waited for the surgeon to return with the pathologist’s report.  Meanwhile, the pathologist flattened, dyed, froze and cut thin horizontal sections (see You Tube frozen section technique) of the tissue using a microtome-cryostat.  The sections were placed on microscope slides, fixed, stained and examined to determine if the tissue margins were clear of tumor cells.  After about thirty minutes, the surgeon returned with good news (no more tissue needed to be removed) and closed the wound with ten small sutures and applied steri-strips.  I was given postoperative instructions, prophylactic antibiotic, narcotic pain reliever, a return date for suture removal and an instant cold pack to apply to prevent swelling during the return trip home.

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One year ago in my “Sun safety” post, I documented my actinic keratosis on my left cheek and how it was treated with the antimetabolite Fluoroucil.  Development of actinic keratoses are associated with exposure to the sun.  As noted in this AOCD article on Actinic keratosis, sun damage to the skin accumulates over time and up to 80% of skin damage is thought to occur before the age of 18.  Left untreated, actinic keratoses can progress to squamous cell carcinomas.  Properly treated, the cure rate is 95% to 97%.

Having one squamous cell carcinoma is an indication that others may arise over time and it is important to be watchful and have dermatological examinations at least once a year.  Fortunately, my health care is provided by one of the largest and most respected health maintenance organizations (HMOs) in the United States.  I have affordable health care insurance, but some people are not so fortunate, which is one reason some believe that health care reform is the most important issue of our times.  It is also currently one of the most hotly debated national issues, as evidenced in this New York Times article of Sepember 18, 2009, “The Baucus Plan: A Winner’s Curse for Insurance Companies“, by Uwe E. Reinhardt.

Every day is a gift…

The recent death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, whose passion in life was noted to be health care reform, has sharpened this debate, as evidenced in the August 26, 2009 New York Times article, “Kennedy Death Adds Volatile Element to Health Fight“, by Carl Hulse and Katharine Q. Seelye.  Mr. Kennedy wrote that health care was the great cause of his life and that he hoped that his words would inspire readers to take up the cause (page 506 of his recently released memoir, True Compass, Edward M. Kennedy, Twelve, Hachette Book Group, September, 2009, which is one of my fall reading books).  “Every day is a gift,” he was quoted as saying in the August 26, 2009 New York Times article, “After Diagnosis, Determined to Make a ‘Good Ending’“, by Mark Leibovich.

Although we are faced with increasing health concerns as we age, we are also determined to make each day count and enjoy celebrating life.  For example, last Friday Larry made (from scratch, his first, and so delicious) honey-raisin round challah and I learned how to blow the shofar to celebrate Rosh Hashanah (see the You Tube videos) , one of three annual new year celebrations that we observe.

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Also seen on our table above are chopped Chinese roast duck and plum sauce, stir-fried Chinese broccoli (Gai lan) with oyster sauce, one fig (freshly picked from our Brown Turkey Fig tree) on a plate with three apples and nearby honey, peanuts, butter and baklava.

We continue to celebrate life and look forward to our fall and winter camping outings to the nearby mountains and desert.  So for us, and the “Snow Birds” beginning their seasonal migration to warmer, sunnier climes, this is a good time to review Sun Safety Action Steps

And contemplate autumn sounds and sights.