Mizar and Alcor

As a Boy Scout, I was on the Staff of Camp Napowan in Wild Rose, Wisconsin.  I worked in the Nature Area.  One of the merit badges I taught was astronomy since I could (and still almost can) identify every constellation in the Northern Hemisphere.  Twice a week, at around 10:00 pm – when the sun’s last wisps of light had dipped below the horizon and darkness ruled – I would gather those working on their Astronomy Merit Badge to gaze at the stars above.  Camp Napowan was in the middle of nowhere – blessed with no light pollution and a clear and amazing view of stars, planets and nebulae.   

To get the evening off on the right foot, it was often the middle star of the handle of the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) that I would first mention to the gathering.  “Look carefully” I would say.  “What do you see?”  After a few seconds, the Scouts would begin to say that there were actually two stars — not one. 

2,000 years ago, Arabs would use that middle star of Ursa Major as a test of sight.  Why?  Because there are actually two stars:  Mizar and its fainter companion Alcor.  “Horse” and “rider” in Arabic.  If you could see them, you were thought to have great vision.  In Japanese mythology, Alcor was the “lifespan” star.  If one could not see jimyouboshi, they might pass away by year’s end.  

If you have a chance to go to some place where when the sun goes down, the lights don’t shine, take a look and see if you can see Alcor.  Bring binoculars too.    

Uncle Walter

[A repeat from December 14, 2017]  I wonder if every family has an “Uncle Walter.”  My Uncle Walter was my father’s father’s brother. He was born in Denmark and moved to the United States just in time to be conscripted into the United States Army – and shipped off to France – in World War I. When Uncle Walter finally got home, he behaved strangely.  He only wore white clothes and he refused to sleep in a bed.  He always slept on the floor.  He was committed to a veterans’ hospital in Milwaukee. My father said Uncle Walter was “shell shocked” [PTSD] from the War. And that was that for Uncle Walter. My father’s family never talked about him and only once that I recall did anyone go to visit.

I’d heard about Uncle Walter but I’d never met him.  So when I was in my late 20’s – rebel that I was – I decided to go find him.  I called the Veteran’s Administration and learned that he was in a halfway house for veterans on South 27th Street in Milwaukee.  And I drove up to see him.   As I approached the address, there was an old man in white clothing walking slowly on the sidewalk.  I stopped the car.  Got out.  “Are you Walter Petersen?”  He looked at me.  I said “I am Willy’s [my father] son.”  And Uncle Walter began crying. . . . .

A few months later, I brought my father up to see Uncle Walter.  And just about every week from my first visit, I sent him a care package of Copenhagen snuff [he loved it], some candy and a couple of dollar bills.  When he died at the Veteran’s Home in King, Wisconsin, he left me “everything”:  his large print Bible, his veterans benefit (about $1,700), the cross on his coffin and a brand new stuffed bunny for my daughter.  The Bible remains on my shelf.  The cross is on the wall in my den.  The bunny is still in Lauren’s old room.  And the money purchased a tree that sits in our yard.   I’m glad I reached out to my Uncle Walter.   Though I’d bet there are more than a few Uncle Walters out there. . . . . . 

Civil War

On December 19th, on NBC’s Today show, Chuck Todd host of “Meet the Press” opined that America is now in a “cold civil war.” 

America had one real civil war with over 620,000 men killed (2% of America’s population).   Let’s hope we’re not on tap for another.  But according to a June 2018 Rasmussen poll, 31% of Americans are concerned about another civil war within the next five years (67.23% per the Intelligencer of October 2019).  Only 29% of Americans believe a civil war is “not at all likely.” 

We all know that Democrats threw down the gloves when Donald Trump was nominated.  Ongoing efforts to overturn the election.  A demand for impeachment even before he took office.  Once in the White House, they threw down the gloves on the 63 million folks who voted for him.   Formal “Resistance” was established.  Obstruction (“no” votes) to Presidential nominees became the norm.  Those on staff in the White House could not go out for dinner or a walk – without being heckled, demeaned and threatened.   

Trump is arrogant, narcissistic and undisciplined.  But has America deserved three years of resistance?  Obstruction?  Division?  Where are we headed?    America is seething with anger. Identity politics.  Tribes.  Everyone has a righteous mind (see 7/6/14).  That is closed.  With no room for facts.  Logic.  Or truth.  And a poisonous media fuels the fires.  

America.  The United States of . . . .  Wouldn’t it be nice if a Pledge of Allegiance to our nation came back into fashion?   Civil discourse?  Charity?  Compromise?   That seems way too much to ask of anyone in Washington.   But for the rest of us?  Should we take a knee?   Do we try to bring healing to our fractured nation?  Or do we want Republicans to throw down the gloves.  You tell me. . . . .   

Trouble Sleeping?

On March 19, 2012, I offered some counsel for those with trouble sleeping.  Like me.  There are three types of insomnia:  transient (occasional); acute (short duration); and chronic (long duration).   I fall asleep easily – and quickly – but there are times when I will wake up at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.  thinking, worrying, solving, praying, innovating. . . .  I’m familiar with the usual RX’s for getting to or back to sleep.  However in that post I shared three further remedies that work for me that I’ve never read about:   

1.  Clenching hands — When I wake up in the middle of the night, I sometimes find that my hands are clenched.  I simply unclench and lay them flat.  I suddenly feel relaxed;

2.  Deep breathing —   Just contemplating each – deep – breath; and

3.  A pad of paper — I often wake up thinking about what needs to be done.  So I have a pad of paper by the bed to jot things down.   

On January 3, 2016, I observed that watching phosphenes – the light show that we all “see” in darkness – can help us sleep.  Recently I note another phenomenon that keeps me awake.  When I am laying there – thinking of work, handyman projects, cooking, writing this blog, etc. – I sense that my eyes – while closed – are squinting.   It’s like my face is tightened as one is in deep contemplation.  So, I’ve been relaxing my shoulders and letting my jaw drop a bit to relax my face.  I think of it as adopting a “lazy face” (see March 13, 2014).  And then of course there’s the “bent ear” phenomenon when I find myself laying on my pillow with my ear doubled over. . . . . .   

And furthermore. . . .

On September 7, 2014, I posted on “Life after High School”   The post suggested a one year curriculum for high school students on balancing a check book; shopping; simple first aid; spending money wisely; relationships and respect; job interviews; nutrition; cooking simple meals; raising babies; investing; and so on. These are topics which a young person could put to good use after high school. Many kids will go to college. Many will not. But learning how to respect a spouse, show your best to a prospective employer, and deal intelligently with a screaming baby would be a plus for everyone in America.

But there are two additional courses that I would add for high school students.  History and economics.  Studies suggest that millenials are not taught the important events, participants or dates in American history.  And few learn the basics of economics.   The same might be said of a few of our political candidates. . . . 

Donating Blood

I received a number of comments on my post relating to blood type and health. Here’s one from my fraternity brother:   “I’m O-neg, I’m a carnivore, and I’ve given over 100 blood donations (over a dozen gallons), including to babies. I think it’s one of the reasons God keeps me around!”   Here’s another from one of my Boy Scout pals:  “I have given 26 gallons whole and done 250 platelet donations.”

Years ago – I began donating blood.  Mainly because I heard that there were health benefits (especially for men) in doing so.  And I’m on the bone marrow registry.  But maybe I’ve been stingy – judging by the generosity of my friends.   I probably went to Lifesource (the local donation venue) a dozen times.  Though I haven’t been for a few years.   

Only 37% of the American population is eligible to donate blood.  Yet according to the American Red Cross only 3% of those eligible donate.  Thus – there is nearly always a shortage for the 4.5 million Americans who need a blood transfusion each year.  The four blood types were first identified in 1901 by Dr. Karl Landsteiner (won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1930).  Of the four – O negative is the “universal donor” that can be given to all blood types. 

Every person has about 10 pints of blood in his/her body.  How about tithing?  Give a pint to your local donation center.  It’s not about the hour you’ll spend.  It’s about the life you may save. . . . .       

Blood Type and Health

Do you know your blood type?  You should.  Thousands of years of evolution have split human blood into four basic “types”: A, B, O and AB. Each has a postive (+) and negative (-) (called “RH”) component as well.   Roughly 43% of us are type O; 40% type A; 12% type B; and 5% type AB with interesting geographic, racial and ethnic differences in blood type and RH distribution. 

While there is speculation that blood type predicts broad personality traits (especially in Japanese studies), there is strong indication that different blood types have different vulnerabilities — and do better with certain diets.  A recent University of Pennsylvania study (April 2019) confirms that certain blood types are more prone to heart disease (see https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2019/april/blood-types ).   Where one blood type does well on a meat diet, others might suffer.   

Type O is the oldest blood type in the world with the most robust digestive system.  Type O needs animal protein for good health.  Has trouble with wheat and gluten.   Thrives on vigorous workouts.  Less prone to heart disease.  O negative is a universal donor.

Type A has a more fragile digestive system which has trouble tolerating 4 legged protein.  This blood type might do well as a vegetarian.  Can be lactose intolerant and anemic.  For this reason, iron and Vitamin B-12 supplements may be helpful. 

Type B has difficulty with wheat and gluten though dairy is usually just fine.  Chicken can cause health issues due to an agglutinating lectin which may adversely affect the circulatory system. 

Type AB is the new kid on the block having been around for perhaps 1,000 years.  Should avoid red meat especially smoked and cured meats as AB shares the low stomach acid of Type A and diminished stomach acid leaves one more prone to stomach cancer. 

An interesting study of the respective vulnerabilities by blood type is found at https://www.gaia.com/article/7-relations-between-different-blood-types-health  There are many articles on this topic.  Just Google blood type and health