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Hello My Friends,

authorphotoI know.  It’s been a long time since I posted, and for that I do apologize.  Many of you have been very vocal about that and I do appreciate the added incentive.  Keep those comments and emails coming!  In my defense, I’ve been in the process of enjoying life a little with my new bride and spending some time working on our new camper (now winterized for the season) and even doing a little camping.  As I always say, life is grand.

This week’s blog is a far cry from my usual topics; (I’ll get back on topic next week) but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a current events junkie.  I span the web frequently in search of interesting or poignant news from reliable sources.  Lately the topics of gun control and survival prepping have been foremost on my mind and I feel like babbling about a few of the things I have gnawing at my age addled mind.  Bear with my ramblings if you dare.

For those of you rolling your eyes, apparently you’ve never been the victim of gun violence.

I have.  So I speak from an enlightened pulpit.

For starters, lets face facts: gun control doesn’t work.  The very system itself is flawed from the ground up.  Those incapable of possessing a firearm legally can and will acquire one by any means necessary.  It’s no different than a lock on a door.  It keeps honest people honest.  While  I wouldn’t wish a home invasion on anyone, if Michael Bloomberg’s home were broken into, I believe his current, misguided tirade on gun control would end abruptly.  Of course, he doesn’t have to worry about that.  He has armed security around him wherever he goes.  Most of us “Joe the Plumber’s” don’t have that luxury.  At any rate, the man needs to take off his Ivory Tower, rose colored glasses and take a real look at what he’s proselytizing.

Look at the statistics!  The states/cities with the highest instances of gun related violence are those with the strictest gun control laws.  Washington DC and Chicago are two examples.  Why?  Because the law abiding citizens are ripe for the picking for criminals.  Those citizens can’t legally be armed and the criminals know it.  The criminals don’t seem to have any problem getting their hands on firearms.  Talk about lambs to the slaughter.

The Stand Your Ground laws are being revisited in states like Florida.  Why?  Because of a few unfortunate incidents where the shooter was exonerated by the legal system, through due process. for using necessary force, but the outcry from those uninformed soap boxers with bleeding hearts who took up their banner on a half cocked, loud crusade to right what they believe to be the wrongs done to individuals who were in the wrong place doing something they shouldn’t have been doing.  The loss of a young person is never a good thing, but when you play with fire you’re bound to get burned.

And don’t even get me started on these race baiting, nut job, banner wavers like Sharpton and Jackson whose only purpose in life is to stir the pot for their own nefarious purposes.  If only they’d use their limelight for the benefit of others instead of themselves.  These irreverent Reverends need to take a sabbatical from their rabble rousing and read the Bibles they claim to preach the teachings of.

None of us know all the details of what happened in the Michael Brown shooting, and I’d be an idiot if I were to claim that all law enforcement officers are straight up, capable, compassionate people, but I’d dare say that most of them are-and I sure wouldn’t want to have their thankless jobs for love or money.  My hat is off  to the 99% of them who put their life on the line every day to protect us.  Right or wrong, when a cop tells you to do something, just do it.  If he or she is wrong, deal with that later at the police station through proper channels, or with a lawyer. Getting into an altercation with a law enforcement officer is never a wise idea.  If you do, you’re bound to come out on the losing end.

Those of us who are legally registered to carry firearms are the least of your worries, but our government seems to be petrified of us.  In many cases, as I’m sure you’ve seen in those few unbiased news outlets who don’t hide stories for their political agenda, honest, law abiding, concealed carry gun owners have saved many situations by thwarting bad guys who were attempting to rob, loot and plunder and have aided police in many dire situations.  Click here to read  just a few of them.  We are, for the most part, gun enthusiasts who enjoy gun sports and appreciate and respect the beauty and power that firearms possess.  We also believe in our Second Amendment right to protect ourselves in times in eminent danger.

Those with violent or felony criminal records are forbidden by law to own firearms.  The fact that they’re criminals pretty much tells you that they don’t give a damn about the law.  They carry stolen guns or guns bought illegally (very easy to do) mainly so the gun can’t be traced to them after they’ve committed a crime.  The meth-head who broke into my house had a record as long as your arm and was even on parole at the time.  The .22 caliber pistol he carried was a stolen gun.  Had I not been in possession of my firearm that night, I wouldn’t be writing this blog today.  I have no doubt in my mind that had I not been armed, and had the presence of mind to use it, I’d have been a case for the CSI investigators.  I still have a lead souvenir in my right butt cheek as a memento of that night, and he has three in his hip, a scar across his forehead and the view from his new home includes razor wire and armed guards.  All I lost that night was a little blood, a pair of jeans and the sense of home and serenity I once had in the confines of my hovel.  That night and the subsequent PTSD led to my having to have an alarm system installed, a lot of lost sleep and an increase in my personal arsenal to insure that, heaven forbid, if it ever happens again, the odds of the perpetrator leaving in a zippered bag will be greatly increased.  While I suffered a pretty devastating loss, I’m still breathing, I still have all my possessions and time does heal all wounds.

I could sit here and quote gun statistics but that’s already been beaten to death in the news.  What bothers me most is that with those glaring statistics staring anyone with any common sense right in the face, these grand-standers like Bloomberg keep persisting in trying to make gun ownership more difficult for the average Joe who is only out to insure the safety of himself and his family.

While I don’t own any of what the media calls, “Assault Weapons,” I have fired many and, frankly, they’re a blast to shoot and a beauty to behold.  How many criminals do you think have an assault rifle stuffed down their pant leg?  It would be painfully obvious, wouldn’t it?  How many crimes do you think were committed with assault weapons?  Yes, they have been implicated in cases such as the devastating Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, but they are definitely not a weapon of choice for the common criminal and are very low on the scale when it comes to violent crime.

Clip capacities have come under fire of late.  Let’s be honest here:  anyone with any prowess with a firearm can change clips in the blink of an eye so how is limiting the size of a clip going to deter crime?  Large capacity clips are of more use for rapid fire, timed target shooting, a sport, than they are for the commission of a crime.  I believe all too many of these naysayers were raised on 1950’s Lone Ranger serials where a six shooter was capable of shooting unlimited rounds.

Hi Ho Silver!

And I’m really bothered by the media’s portrayal of so called “Survival Preppers.”  While I will admit that some do seem, at least to the uninformed, to go way overboard, there are all too many practical reasons for being prepared for whatever nature, or the evil powers of the world, decide to  throw our way.  Given the current unrest throughout the world: especially the latest threat-ISIS (or as our illustrious dictator calls them, ISIL) and the headline news today/gone tomorrow Ebola scares, it’s time to give some honest thought to where you want to be when disaster strikes.  Let’s face it, folks, the world has become an ugly place and there is a never ending supply of radical nutcases out there who’d think nothing of opening fire in a crowded shopping mall or blowing up a populated building.

Even with the evil “what if’s” aside, what about the guaranteed occurrences-like being prepared for Mother Nature’s wrath?  I live in South Carolina where the weather is usually bearable, but our infrastructure frankly sucks.  All our power wires are still strung from pole to pole.  Every time we have an ice storm here, (at least once a winter) and the overburdened tree branches begin to fall on those power lines, vast numbers of homes and businesses go days, and in some cases even weeks, without power.  When even a hint of an upcoming storm leaves the lips of the local rumor mill, the grocery stores get cleaned out…especially the milk and bread.   Call me a radical prepper if you will, but we have a generator and a good supply of non-perishables, medical supplies, waterless soap and water so we can at least keep the refrigerator cold, a heater running, the toilets flushing and have the means to prepare nutritional meals in relative comfort…and not suffer the wrath of four or five days without a shower.

I also believe that the evil in the world is going to come to a head one day soon, though I pray for the sake of my children and grandchildren that I’m wrong.  Being prepared for such situations may mean your family’s very survival.  One errant strike from an EMP on our aged power grid and the lights are going to be out for a very long time.  After a few days, things are going to start getting very ugly.  Those unprepared will be out scavenging and those lacking any moral fiber will be out looting.  Desperation and hunger will bring out the worst in even the nicest people.  Will you be prepared to protect your home and family when, not if, disaster strikes?  Do you think FEMA is going to be knocking at your door the next day with a nice steak and a baked potato?  If you do, I want some of what you’re on.  Just ask some of the folks in Louisiana how Johnny-On-The-Spot governmental response to a disaster is.

I’m not saying it’s time to go out and buy a surplus deuce and a half and convert it into a mobile fortress, (although that would be a lot of fun), with a ten year supply of MRE’s stashed in various secret hiding places.  What I am saying is that responsible gun ownership and common sense preparation can and will improve your chances for your longevity and that of your family.  Laugh if you will at the folks on shows like Doomsday Preppers and other like programs.  Don’t fool yourself.  They’re the ones who are going to have the last laugh.  And with all the time, money and effort they’ve put into insuring that they have the means to survive, they’ve also developed the skills to protect it.

Just the opinion of an average, semi-normal, non-radical taxpayer that I thought I’d share.  As for me and mine, we shall err on the side of common sense preparedness.

Man it felt good to get that out.  Every once in a while you just have to vent instead of cursing at the news commentators on the daily news programs.  They can’t hear you anyway and probably wouldn’t care about what you had to say.  If you haven’t realized that Fox News is strictly conservative, CNN is strictly liberal and MSNBC is downright dangerous, and all report their stories with those slants, you haven’t been paying attention.

OK, time for my meds and shock therapy treatment.  It keeps the voices in my head cordial.

Until next time, as always, I wish you peace, happiness and good health.

See you in the funny papers!

Brian

 

 

 

 

 

 

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authorphotoHello, my friends.  Welcome back.  I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you find this week’s blog interesting and helpful-albeit a little long due to the vastness of the subject.  Hang with me.  It’s worth the read.

We’re going to start this one off with a disclaimer because this is a very serious subject that needs to be studied, in-depth, before you decide to jump on the herbal relaxant/sleep aid bandwagon.

For starters, always remember that just because they’re natural and unregulated, that doesn’t automatically make them safe.  While side effects and overdose possibilities are generally far less with herbals, many do have them, including allergic reaction possibilities for those with sensitivities to certain compounds.  Always, always, always discuss any herbal regimen choices with your healthcare provider before starting one.

If you’re pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant or breast feeding, do not, under any circumstances, take anything without first consulting your healthcare provider.  Most, if not all of the herbal relaxants and sleep aids are contraindicated, (or should at least be carefully controlled and supervised by a medical doctor) during pregnancy or while breast feeding.

More to the point, while everyone occasionally has problems sleeping, or gets anxious or depressed from time to time, if you’ve ever felt like hurting yourself of others, become disoriented or lose memories or parts of the day, hear voices or anything beyond common life anxiety or transient insomnia, see your doctor immediately.  Herbal supplementation will not help you.  As strongly as I support and believe in herbal remedies, there are many times when professional medical intervention and prescription medications are the only option.  Only a trained medical professional can diagnose the difference.

I, for one, am always thinking.  My mind never stops plotting, scheming and fantasizing about the latest book I’m working on, life…especially about what we’re going to do when we win the lottery.  While I know that I’m probably not going to see my face on a Publisher’s Clearinghouse commercial, or have to dodge paparazzi as I sneak into lottery headquarters to collect my winnings, thinking about the possibilities of life without financial worries is my happy place.  Unfortunately, my happy place becomes less appealing as I lay there awake some nights trying unsuccessfully to shut down my thought processes and get some much needed sleep.  On those occasions which, thankfully are fairly rare, I reach for an herbal tea or a capsule.

And on those occasions when the annual house or truck tax bill comes, or it’s time for my annual review at work, or the dreaded annual trip to the doctor and I start biting my nails and cursing our state and local government, the establishment as a whole or my sawbones, a herbal remedy is usually the order of the day.

But which one you ask?  Ah, that’s the purpose of today’s blog because, believe it or not, the choices are many and many of the choices may be the wrong one for you.

Believe it or not, one of the first questions I ask those who inquire about herbal relaxants or sleep aids is what they know about them.  Almost everyone, and those are the ones who have even heard anything about them at all, say Valerian and Melatonin.  While both are good options in many situations, they are far from the only choice and, in some cases, the absolute worst choice.

Let’s take a look at a few pros and cons.

Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis):  Chamomile, especially chamomile tea,(derived from the plant’s flowers) has been used for centuries to bring on sleep, ease an upset stomach and even treat diaper rash.  It is a herb derived from a flowering plant in the daisy family and a close relative to ragweed.  While its’ natural calming effects are widely known, it has also been used to treat skin irritations, inflammations and even diaper rash.  There are scads of lotions and creams on the market to ease those conditions.  I can’t vouch for their efficacy because I’ve personally never tried them.

Lately, a lot of study has been done on the benefit of chamomile for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), migraine headaches, PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) and a whole host of other maladies including skin conditions.  However, we’re concentrating on sleep and relaxation this week so here goes.

Of all the available herbal sleep aids, for those with mild sleep issues, chamomile tea is probably what you’re looking for.  With few exceptions, it’s probably the most mild of all sleep inducers and probably has the least potential for side effects.  A cup of chamomile tea about an hour before bedtime will help all but those with the most serious sleep issues (or way too much on their minds) slip off into a natural, peaceful sleep.

However, for those with allergies to ragweed or pollen, chamomile is not recommended as some mixtures may contain pollen and/or ragweed.  It is derived from a flowering plant in the ragweed family, remember.

Chamomile is also contraindicated in those taking blood thinners because chamomile contains a natural substance called coumarin (which is synthesized and used in the prescription medication Coumadin), a blood thinner.

Pregnant women should not use chamomile as it is considered an abortifacient (a substance that induces abortion).

Many people drink a cup every night before bedtime and claim that there’s nothing like it for bringing on sleep.

If you have no allergies to pollen or ragweed, are on no blood thinners and aren’t pregnant, try brewing a cup before bedtime.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that something so simple could do so much good.

Valerian (valeriana officinalis):  Most of you, I’m sure, have heard of Valerian and have probably tried it or know someone who has.  I’ve even spoken with doctors who recommend it to their patients whose condition may be mild enough that they would benefit more from Valerian than from taking one of the prescription drugs with their associated side effects and, in many cases, chances for addiction.  Many use Valerian for different situations from insomnia to anxiety to menstrual cramps.  Many swear by it, some swear at it.

The sedative properties of Valerian are found in the root.  While it can be taken as a tea or a tincture, Valerian smells really, really bad.  Think of an un-air conditioned, long untended, boys locker room loaded up with basket after basket of dirty BVD’s and gym socks…at high noon…in the desert.  Multiply that by ten and you have the general idea.  Even the capsules, when purchased fresh, will cause you to pause, (and to hold your nose) before taking it.  However, this is one instance when, if Valerian is the right choice for you, the end justifies the means.  If you wanna play, you’ve got to pay, and for most, it’s a small price to pay for the benefits that can be had from its’ use.  Generally, taking the proper dosage about an hour before bedtime will, for most, insure a peaceful, restful night’s sleep.

However, it is not without its’ downside.  Many people who use Valerian wake up feeling drunk/hung over, or remain drowsy for a time after awakening.  Many have said that, along with the lethargy when awakening, they also get a headache.

For those with common, garden variety anxiety brought about by an abundance of life’s every day troubles, Valerian is known to relax, calm and render a feeling of overall peace and tranquility.  Some claim to get relief within an hour, for some it may need to build up over a few doses before the calming effects are realized.  However, Valerian is not a cure-all.  It is intended for temporary use.  If those anxieties persist, see your doctor immediately.

Valerian should not be used for extended periods.  When it is, you may may not be able to just stop taking it without revisiting the initial problem you were trying to solve in spades.  Anxiety, nervousness, shakiness and insomnia have been experienced by those going cold turkey after a long stint on Valerian.  Often you’ll have to taper your dose over two or three weeks when you feel you no longer need it.

Always insure that you buy the freshest capsules available and that there are no inert or inactive ingredients mixed in that you may be allergic to.  Valerian allergies are rare, but some are allergic to it.  More people, however, are allergic to some of the additives in cheap, bargain basement supplements.  I know, you’ve heard me say this time after time, but it bears repeating: always buy your supplements from reliable, American manufacturers and, whenever possible, buy those certified for vegetarians and vegans.  By doing this, you’ll insure you’re getting a consistent, pure and measured dosage with no harmful additives.

Some of the more rare side effects of Valerian are are persistent nausea and/or vomiting, stomach/abdominal pain, yellowing of the eyes or skin, dark urine and extreme lethargy to name a few.  These are generally reversible when the valerian is stopped.

Dosages vary from person to person.  Valerian is not a “one size fits all” supplement.  The recommended dose on the label may be too little or too much for you.  Caution must be used when determining your proper dosage.

For those taking prescription medications, especially statin medications, erectile dysfunction medications, other relaxants/tranquilizers or cough and cold remedies containing diphenhydramine, you should not use Valerian as it may lessen the efficacy of those medications or multiply the drowsiness already associated with them.

Before we move on to the next option, I just want to mention that none of the above is meant to scare you.  Valerian, for most, is a natural Godsend.  My only intention in mentioning all of the above is to insure that you’re well informed before you pop that first capsule.  Valerian is definitely not for everyone and the information above is certainly not the all inclusive definition.  Research all medications and supplements fully, and discuss them with your healthcare provider before you decide to take it.  It could save your life.

Melatonin:   Is actually a natural hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain.  Its main purpose is to  regulate sleep and waking cycles and contributes to maintaining the body’s circadian rhythms.  Unfortunately, as we age, our body’s ability to produce melatonin decreases.  This explains why grandma and grandpa were always up at the crack of dawn.

Supplements, of course, are synthesized in a laboratory because, well, who’s going to volunteer to have their pineal gland tapped?  If that were even possible, I’m sure it would not be a pleasant experience so, technically, melatonin can’t be considered a natural remedy-but for many, it’s a sanity saver.

I’m a child of the night.  I work nights, as does my fiance’, so our sleep cycle definitely conflicts with the natural circadian rhythm of our bodies.  Being over fifty with decreased natural melatonin production abilities is also a major contributor to my occasional insomnia.  Luckily, Brenda is a sleep-a-haulic so sleeping is rarely an issue for her.  I, on the other hand, often have problems going to sleep for the reasons mentioned earlier.  On those nights when my ten-hour shift hasn’t totally exhausted me, mentally and physically (rarely), I reach for a sleep aid.  Sleep is a must whether your body wishes to cooperate or not.  For those of you who can drop off without a second thought, (narcoleptics excluded, of course) my hat’s off to you.  For those of you who cant, melatonin supplements might be the answer.

Surprisingly, some studies indicate that melatonin is ineffective for what is called “shiftwork disorder.”  Either I have some other sleep issue or, at least in my case and those of many I work with and have suggested melatonin to, I beg to differ.  Melatonin is usually my first choice, after a chamomile tea, when I can’t sleep and, for myself and many others that I know of first hand, it works.

The effects of melatonin and generally mild in those who tolerate it well and will usually just help ease you into sleep without your even realizing the effects (unlike most prescription sleep medications).  Side effects are generally mild or non-existent, but can include dizziness, daytime lethargy and headaches.   Other rare but documented side effects can include abdominal discomfort, mild anxiety, irritability, confusion and transient depression-especially in the elderly.

Additionally, if you take birth control pills, blood thinners, diabetic medications or immunosupressants, do not take melatonin without first consulting your healthcare provider.  Melatonin is released into the bloodstream so it may adversely effect other medications in your system.

Kava (kava kava):  I mention kava here with caution. Kava is a root found on islands in the South Pacific. Islanders have used kava for its’ medicinal qualities and in ceremonies for centuries.While a great many people do use kava for everything from sleep disorders and anxiety relief to a treatment for gonorrhea and as an analgesic (pain reliever), the possible associated side effects are many.  It is also used to treat asthma, urinary tract infections, depression and menopausal symptoms.

Research has shown that kava’s calming effects do relieve anxiety, restlessness, sleeplessness, and stress-related symptoms like tense muscles and muscle spasms.  It is probably one of the strongest of the readily available herbal supplements.

But!  Of all the herbal supplements I’ve studied, kava ranks right up there when it comes to possible serious side effects.  While certainly not one of the worst, and not a reason to totally disqualify kava as a possible, temporary supplement for sleep and/or anxiety, extreme caution and heavy research, including a discussion with your doctor, need to be done before you take it.

If you are currently taking antidepressants or other mood stabilizing medications, you shouldn’t be taking any herbal anxiety/sleep supplements unless they were recommended by your doctor.  However, kava is definitely not for you.  Kava will multiply the sedating effects of mood altering ( psychotropic drugs), as will alcohol.  Do not drink alcohol while taking kava.

Kava has caused liver failure in people without any history of liver ailments.  Anyone with any liver ailments should steer clear of kava.  While liver failure is a rare side effect generally seen after long term, extensive use of kava,  it needs to be considered when contemplating a supplement.

Allergic reactions are not common with kava, but they are a possibility.

I have tried kava and had no issues with it, but after researching all the side effects, decided to opt for Valerian when the need strikes.  Again, that’s just my personal opinion relating to a personal experience.  Valerian works just as well for me, personally, so that is generally my choice.  Your choice, of course, is dependent on your individual needs and tolerances.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera-Winter Cherry): Originating in India, and used for centuries in ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogenic (promotes homeostasis), the root and berries of the plant are used for various remedies including everything from control of thyroid and adrenal gland disorders to mental agility to osteoarthritis  to an anti-inflammatory to claimed reports of tumor reducing capabilities and increased white cell production in cancer patients and, of course, for sleep disorders and nervous conditions.

In an animal-based study published in 2000, researchers found that ashwagandha root had an anti-anxiety effect similar to that of Ativan (Lorazepam-a drug used to treat anxiety disorders).

Surprisingly enough, and as a lessening of the pain from the constant thorn in my side regarding many allopathic doctors and their “pooh pooh” attitude regarding herbal remedies, ashwagandha has actually made print in none other than Psychology Today, a well respected magazine on mental health-Follow the link for the whole article.  Here’s an excerpt:

“One 2012 study of 64 volunteers randomized asked subjects to take either ashwaganda or a placebo twice a day for 60 days. The ashwaganda group’s capsule contained 300 mg of a concentrated extract made from the root. During the treatment period, regular telephone call check-ins assured volunteers were consistently taking the herbs or placebo, and were used to note any adverse reactions. The treatment group given the ashwaganda root extract exhibited a significant reduction in anxiety scores after two months relative to the placebo group, without side effects. Most notably, serum cortisol levels were substantially reduced in the herbal group (Chandrasekhar et al., 2012). Cortisol is the stress hormone that goes up when we are stressed out.  Cortisol also creates longer term fatigue and mental fogginess, and brain structures for emotion and memory are damaged when cortisol is too high.” 

Ashwagandha is another herb that I have personally tried.  I loved it.  While it’s effects are more cumulative than immediate, the resultant overall relaxant qualities after a couple of weeks were impressive.  I stopped taking it when things in my world balanced out enough and I was trying to reduce my daily supplement intake down to the bare essentials.

Of all the relaxants, ashwagandha is generally considered one of the safest when used short term.  However, there are some cautions:

As I stated earlier, if you are pregnant, considering becoming pregnant or breast feeding, do not take ashwagandha or any of the other supplements mentioned without consulting your healthcare provider.  Ashwagandha is considered to be an abortifacient (a substance that induces abortion).

If you have high or low blood pressure, ashwagandha is contraindicated as it may lower blood pressure in those with low blood pressure, or reduce the efficacy of hypertensive drugs in those with high blood pressure on hypertensive medications.

Those with stomach ulcers should not take ashwagandha as it may irritate the GI tract.

Diabetics should not use ashwagandha due to its’ potential to lower blood sugar and may cause blood sugar to go to low.

People with autoimmune disorders should not take ashwagandha due to its’ penchant for increasing the immune system’s activity.

People with thyroid disorders should not take ashwagandha as it is known to increase thyroid hormone levels.

Hops ( Humulus lupulus):  I know the eyes of a lot of beer drinkers just sprung open.  For those who doubt the medicinal qualities of beer, read on.

The female part of the hop plant is used for the supplement as well as for making beer and numerous other uses.  Hops in herbal medicine are used to treat conditions from anxiety, inability to sleep (insomnia) and other sleep disorders, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), nervousness, and irritability, to increase urine flow and even bring on breast milk.

Hops does work.  However, even more so than ashwagandha, the effects are cumulative and may take as long as a month for the benefits to be realized.  Generally, hops are taken in combination with valerian or lemon balm and is more often used for the treatment of anxiety over a longer term.  I have mentioned it here only because it is considered one of the safer herbs for sleep and anxiety and it does work when taken consistently for a month or more.

Pregnancy and breast feeding are about the only known concerns regarding side effects although in some, it has been reported to cause depression.  Those results are questionable regarding any direct correlation to the hops itself.

St. John’ s Wort (Hypericum perforatum):  The St. John’s wort plant has yellow flowers and is considered to be a weed throughout most of the United States. It has been used for medical purposes in other parts of the world for thousands of years.

St. John’s Wort got a really bad rap in the press a few years back.  I attribute that more to the fact that people were taking it willy-nilly without doing their research after a few careless ads were placed in the media regarding the numerous benefits of this herb-but those ads failed to list the side effects and contraindications associated with this now much maligned herb.

With that being said, and given the numerous side effects and contraindications associated with the use of St. John’s Wort, it is definitely not something that should be taken for the relief of transient insomnia or occasional anxiety which is the focus of this week’s blog.

St. John’s Wort has been researched extensively and is being used successfully to treat various anxiety and depression disorders, but it is my belief that diagnosis of those conditions and which ones will benefit from supplementation with this herb should be determined only by a trained medical professional.

St. John’s Wort is known to interact unfavorably with numerous prescription medications including, but not limited to, antidepressants, anti-rejection medications, blood thinners, anti-HIV medications and birth control pills.

Psychosis is a rare, but a possible side effect of taking St. John’s Wort, particularly in people who have, or are at risk for, mental health disorders-including bipolar disorder.

To summarize St. John’s Wort- while I do believe in its’ healing properties, I do not consider it a safe option for common use.  Should you decide to try this herb, speak with your doctor before starting and do your homework.

The herbs we’ve discussed today are far from a comprehensive list.  The number of herbs, minerals and supplements out there used for sleep and anxiety are legion.  I’ve just covered a few of the more common, heavily researched ones for this blog because when all the contraindications are considered and disqualified as not pertaining to you individually, all of these are believed to be safe and effective.

One further note on these and all other herbal supplements: Insure that your doctor is fully aware of all your entire  supplementation regimen so he or she  has a complete picture when prescribing.  Also, stop any and all supplements at least two weeks before scheduled surgical procedures, including dental surgery, to insure there are no interactions between the anesthetics and drugs used during surgery and your supplements.

If you’re still awake,  I guess that’s about all I have to say about sleep aids and relaxants…and in just over thirty-eight-hundred words!   Sorry!

In conclusion, work, your spouse,  finances?  At some point one of these and a whole host of other life challenges cause us to stress.  Stress causes problems with sleep and anxiety.  In those instances, one of the above will probably help you through it…short term.  If those feelings persist, see your doctor immediately.

The next time you’re in a crowd, look to your right and left.  One or both of the people you see are probably taking a prescription antidepressant or mood altering medication of some sort.  The stigma that was once attached to them has long since been forgotten.  What was once considered a life with a scarlet letter on your chest is now accepted as a serious medical condition and is treated accordingly with a myriad of new and safer drugs coming out constantly.  Never take depression or severe anxiety lightly.  There is help…and it’s just a phone call to your doctor away.

As always, if you have any comments regarding this blog or herbal remedies in general, good or bad, please feel free to leave them below.  If you have a comment or question that you’d rather not have seen on an open forum, please feel free to send me an email.  I always strive to answer all emails within twenty-four hours.

Until next week, I wish you peace, happiness and good health.  Be well, my friends.

Brian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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authorphotoHi and welcome back.

This week I have some information that may be shocking to a great many of you: and may even save your life.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,  and many other reputable publications, Vitamin D deficiency is now recognized as a worldwide pandemic.  It is estimated that the number of vitamin D deficient people in the world is over one-billion!  Why this hasn’t been splashed all over the mainstream media is beyond me.

Not surprisingly, I learned this first hand when, after some routine annual blood work, my doctor prescribed an expensive vitamin D tablet that, in my usual, anal fashion, I researched and found to be inferior to the vitamin D supplements I could get much cheaper and without a prescription from any reputable supplement supplier.

As early as 1950, German scientists realized that vitamin D2, (Ergocalciferol- which is synthetically made from radiating a mold that forms on cereal plants) used in most prescription vitamin D, was inferior and far less potent than vitamin D3, (Cholecalciferol-which is a cholesterol that is extracted from wool grease and wool wax alcohols obtained from the cleaning of wool after shearing. The cholesterol undergoes a four step process to make 7-dehydrocholesterol, the same compound that is stored in the skin of animals. The 7-dehydrocholesterol is then irradiated with ultra violet light.   Cholecalciferol is produced intrinsically in human and animal skin when exposed to UVB light, and Cholecalciferol is what’s contained in most quality vitamin D supplements.  German doctors changed their prescribing methods and started prescribing D3 as far back as the mid-nineteen-fifties. A great many American doctors, to this day, are still prescribing D2 in higher dosages to compensate for the deficiency between D2 and D3.

Vitamin D is a gift from the sun.  It is absorbed through the skin.  Given the current scare of skin cancer melanomas believed to be due in large part to the deteriorating solar UV filter, sunblocks, long sleeves and avoidance of the sun have become the norm.  That leaves oily fish, (which we discussed last week in our omega-3 discussion) fortified milk and a few bread and yogurt products as our only source of dietary vitamin D. Unfortunately, as we age, our skin becomes less able to absorb sufficient vitamin D from the sun.  So if you’re over forty, have milk allergies or just don’t drink milk, follow a vegan diet or have health issues such as Crohn’s Disease or other issues that prohibit or limit the intestines from absorbing vitamins into the system, chances are you may be a member of the vitamin D deficiency club.

In the words of the infamous Groucho Marx, “I refuse to belong to any club that would have me as a member!”

The list of possible diseases that a chronic vitamin D deficiency has been associated with is massive.  These are some of the known consequences of vitamin D deficiency.   Many others are still being studied:

  • Osteoporosis and Osteopenia
  • Weak Bone Syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Rickets in children
  • Metabolic Syndrome and Type-2 Diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • 17 varieties of Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Gout
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infertility
  • Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Pain Syndrome
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

And the studies continue into even more conditions and diseases linked to vitamin D deficiency.  If this hasn’t scared you into insuring that your next blood test includes a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test (25-OH-D test), you may want to go back and re-read the above list.  The normal range is 30.0 to 74.0 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Not that I’d recommend skipping routine annual blood work, but if you’re needle shy or insurance deficient (as many are these days) there are kits available where you just prick your finger with a lancet, smear the blood drip on a chemically treated blotter and send the sample off to the lab you bought the kit from.  There are also kits where the results can be seen immediately, but I don’t know enough about them to list their pros and cons.  Once again, never self diagnose.  See your doctor and request that the 25-OH-D analysis be added to your annual blood work-up if at all possible.  Chances are it will already be included anyway.  Some members of the medical community do keep up on the latest in vitamin and mineral deficiencies and ways to detect them early.

According to Medicinenet.com, the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for those between one-year-old and seventy-years-old is 600IU’s of vitamin D a day.  For those over seventy, the RDA rises to 800IU’s a day.  Unless you’re following a diet high in oily fish and vitamin D fortified milk and cereals, or if you have a condition that limits your absorption of vitamins and nutrients, it may be time to consider a vitamin D3 supplement.

As for the osteo (bone) issues linked to a vitamin D deficiency is impaired intestinal absorption of calcium, which results in decreased levels of serum total and ionized calcium levels. This hypocalcemia gives rise to secondary hyperparathyroidism, which is a homeostatic response aimed at maintaining, initially, serum calcium levels at the expense of the skeleton. Following this PTH-induced increase in bone turnover, alkaline phosphatase levels are often increased. PTH not only increases bone resorption, but it also leads to decreased urinary calcium excretion while promoting phosphaturia, (Phosphaturia is a urinary tract condition where there is too much phosphorus in urine and it causes the urine to appear cloudy or murky color.  This is just a symptom of possible underlying renal issues).  This results in hypophosphatemia, (an electrolyte disturbance in which there is an abnormally low level of phosphate in the blood which exacerbates the mineralization defect in the skeleton.[1}

Read and heed, my friends.  For a few dollars a month spent with a reputable vitamin/mineral/supplement supplier you can take one of the risk factors for all of the above out of the equation. Obviously there’s no such thing as a magic bullet guaranteed to cure any and all ailments, especially for those in the over forty club, but as our elders always said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Words to live by.

That’s about all I have to say about vitamin D, except to remind you to have your vitamin D levels tested during your annual check-up.

As always, if you have any comments, good or bad, please feel free to leave them below.  If you have questions or comments that you’d rather not post on an open forum, feel free to send me an email.

Until next week, I wish you peace, happiness and great health.

See you in the funny papers!

Brian

1. Dan L. Longo, Anthony Fauci, Dennis Kasper, Stephen Hauser, J.Jerry Jameson and Joseph Loscalzo, Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th edition, p.3094

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authorphotoHello and welcome.  I’m glad you’re here.  Thank you for stopping by.

This week we’re discussing omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

I consider these a must for myself because I hate seafood in any form or fashion.  I can’t even get it past my nose.  Being from Massachusetts originally, my family consider me the family embarrassment due to my loathing of all things seafood.  What’s worse, my girlfriend considers lobster to be a major food group so I frequently find myself having to order one of the two non-fish items on the menu at Red Lobster-and eat it while breathing through my mouth! Thankfully, they have Sam Adam’s Boston Lager on tap…in the 20 oz, mug! Considering that fatty fish such as salmon, trout and tuna, and shellfish like crab, mussels and oysters are the most common source of (EPA) Eicosapentaenoic Acid, and (DHA) Docosahexaenoic Acid, (two of the three omega-3 fatty acids) I definitely need to supplement.  Throw in the third ringer, that I rarely eat fried foods-canola and soybean oils being the main sources for the third of the three fatty acids, (ALA) Alpha-Linolenic Acid, and I’d be out of luck without a supplement.

Before even considering an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, (commonly known as fish oil) there’s a few things you need to know.

1) If you’re taking any medications that effect blood clotting such as blood thinners or NSAIDS,  do not start an omega-3 supplement without first speaking with your healthcare provider.  Omega-3 supplements are contraindicated for people taking any medications that affect blood clotting due to their penchant for extending bleeding times.

2) If you have a seafood allergy, omega-3 supplements can possibly cause you to have an allergic reaction.

3) If you are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with your healthcare provider before starting an omega-3 regimen (or any supplemental regimen for that matter).  Seafood is recommended only in small amounts during pregnancy, and supplementing may provide too much EPA and DHA.

4) If you’re a Vegetarian or Vegan, there are algae and krill oil supplements that can be taken in place of fish oils.

I’m a firm believer in the health benefits of omega-3 supplementation, but a lot of the studies I’ve read lately are inconclusive regarding the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation-my main reason for taking it.  There seems to be more positive results regarding the effect of omega-3’s for the relief of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and for lowering triglyceride levels.  It would seem to me that if it’s capable of lowering triglyceride levels and slowing down clotting times, it must have some cardiovascular benefit, but I’m no doctor. For me personally, I opt to believe (and I have done extensive research) there is cardiovascular benefit from omega-3 fatty acids and I’ll continue to supplement.  And I’m a little fish in the fish oil believer pond.  Read on.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends everyone eat fish (particularly fatty fish) at least twice a week. While foods are your best bet for getting omega-3’s in your diet, fish oil supplements are available for those who do not eat fish.  Further, the AHA states that taking up to 3 grams (3000 milligrams) of fish oil supplements daily is considered safe (most of the available supplements contain between 1000-1400 milligrams with a recommended dosage of between two to three capsules per day). They strongly recommend that you don’t take more than 3 grams daily unless you discuss it with your doctor first. If you have heart disease, you may need even higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids. Ask your doctor if you should take higher doses of fish oil supplements to get the omega-3’s you need. (source webmed.com)

Obviously the AHA believes there’s some cardiovascular benefits from omega-3 supplements-and their business is all about hearts!

Dr. Oz had this to say about omega-3 fatty acids: “Omega-3 fatty acids are the brain-boosting, cholesterol-clearing good fats.” Dr. Oz lists omega-3’s as 1 of the 5 critical supplements every woman should take (along with a multivitamin and additional vitamin D supplements), 1 of 5 daily nutrition needs and as one of the most important steps expecting mother’s can take to promote their baby’s healthy development. (source: Dr Oz.com)

Obviously Dr. Oz believes in the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 supplements.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  While I am in no way one of those conspiracy theorists who believe the AMA rejects any claims about the beneficial properties of vitamin and herbal supplementation due to their inability to control them, I do believe that anything that doesn’t have to be prescribed by a physician is poo-poo’ed by a great many mainstream practitioners and considered notions, potions and snake oil.  This certainly isn’t meant to include all mainstream doctors.  Mine seems to be very open to supplementation and the benefits they offer; but we haven’t discussed it any more in-depth than to weigh my own supplementation choices.  There just isn’t time.  “Take off your clothes, say ah, bend over, thank you, that’ll be $125.00,” is what most of us experience during an office visit.  Rarely do we have time for chit-chat in these times where the insurance companies have doctors offices turned into mass production assembly lines.  It just seems to me that many doctors prefer to be reactive instead of proactive and would prefer to deal with the end result rather than being more open to alternative means to prolong or prevent that end result.  Again, that’s just my opinion.

But I digress.  Let’s get back to omega-3’s.

Omega-3 fatty acids are are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are considered essential nutrients,  They can’t be synthesized by the body.  This means that it must be added either through diet or supplementation.  Studies are inconsistent for many of the beneficial claims of fish oils, but there haven’t really been enough controlled studies to state conclusive evidence pro or con. Unfortunately, that’s the case with most herbal supplements.

However, studies have proven that omega-3 fatty acids may lower triglyceride levels in the blood, lower blood pressure, increase circulation, increase the breakdown of clot and scar forming fibrin, (again, seems like cardiovascular benefit to me) reduce inflammation such as that seen in Rheumatiod Arthritis as well as NSAID’s do, and reduce the risk of the onset of dementia among other, yet unstudied, conditions.

Sound like it might be worth a few dollars a month?

Unfortunately, alternative medicine is woefully short on conclusive studies, mainly due to the fact that they are considered by all too many mainstream medicos to not be worth the effort.  I believe that’s due in large part to the fact that the vast majority of supplements aren’t controlled, aren’t ridiculously expensive and don’t require a prescription.  That’s incredibly evident now that it was found that millions of Americans are vitamin D deficient, a deficiency that can lead to weakened bones, cancer, asthma, cardiovascular disease, MS and other autoimmune diseases.  Once conclusive studies were out proving this, many doctors immediately started testing their patients for vitamin D deficiency and started writing scripts for prescription vitamin D which, believe it or not, has been proven to be inferior in quality to over the counter vitamin D supplements…and a whole lot more expensive. The prescription formulation vitamin D is generally a D2 (Ergocalciferol) compound which is the same D vitamin used to fortify milk and cereals.  Most of the better supplements contain D3 (Cholecalciferol) which has been proven to be at least 50% more effective than D2.  We’ll discuss vitamin D3 supplements next week.

Now the hard part: finding a good quality supplement.

There are literally thousands of them out there of varying degrees of quality.  It has been my experience that dollar store vitamins are definitely out.  I rarely go into the dollar stores, but had the “opportunity” to venture in to one a few weeks ago.  While I was in there, probably out of boredom while my girlfriend shopped, I wandered into their vitamin section and started reading labels.  When the fillers and additives consist of names you can’t pronounce, they’re definitely something you want to stay away from.

GMO’s are also something to avoid.  In my humble opinion, anything genetically modified scares me and I don’t care to knowingly ingest anything that has been genetically altered.  Many of the garden variety vitamins contain GMO’s.

As for content, I prefer to take a supplement that contains omega-3’s from different sources.  The one I’m currently taking contains Borage Seed Oil, Fish Oil and Flax Seed oil, all natural sources.  All the omega-3 bases are covered, no GMO’s and all contained in vegetable capsule.  Always read the label thoroughly.  All of the better supplement manufacturers show the full label on their website or in their catalog.  Last week we discussed some of the scary additives used in the bargain supplements and the lower quality sources they extract the actual vitamin, mineral or herb from.

Well, I believe that about sums up my soap box sermon on the benefits of Omega-3 supplements.  I hope this information has been useful and that this blog has been enlightening on some level.

Next week we’ll discuss vitamin D3.  I hope you’ll stop back by.

As always, feel free to leave comments below, (good or bad) or send an email if you have a comment or question you’d rather not post on a public forum.

Until next week, I wish you good health, much happiness and a whole lot of smiles.

Brian

Disclaimer:  This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is in no way meant to diagnose, treat or cure any medical conditions and should not be construed as such.  Always discuss any ailments or supplement regimen with your healthcare provider

 

 

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authorphotoHeidilly Ho-Ho-Ho, friends and neighbors!  Welcome back.  Thanks for stopping by.  I hope I didn’t pull you away from reading your copy of Cast Adrift.  You have ordered your copy, haven’t you?

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you’re well aware of my long-standing, festering, and oft bordering-on-violent love/hate relationship with our local cable company.  For the sixteen years I’ve lived in South Carolina, they have been like a fulminating case of jock itch every month when I had to pay that outrageous bill for the bizillion channel bundle package; the cheapest package I could get that had the Military channel and internet.  Ninety-five percent of those channels we’ve never watched or even cared to watch.  What’s worse is that these so-called bundle packages are always offered for a limited time only and, after Uncle Sam takes his cut, and a whole bunch of unidentifiable added charges, amounts to significantly more than the price you were quoted when you signed on with them in blood and the promise of your first born.  After six months or a year, the length of the agreement, we’d get a ji-normous bill that would cause our sphincters to pucker up because our “deal” had expired.  Then you have to go back through the hassle of renegotiation, threats to go with Dish Network or Direct TV, and on and on.

What’s a demented, evil genius to do?

In my ongoing quest to “Sock it to the Man!,” I spent hours upon hours scouring the dark, outer fringe of the internet and lurking in alleys and under bridges, talking to shady characters about alternative, and possibly even nefarious, means to elicit cable via some questionable back door method without doling out an arm and a leg each month.  The punch line here is that the answer was right there in the cobwebbed recesses of my warped mind all along.  It was tucked in the box with all the memories of my childhood home and almost every other house in the country right up through the nineteen-seventies.

Over-the-air antennas! *smacking my head*

Who among you, (the over fifty set, I mean) doesn’t remember the big old TV antenna mounted to a mast on the roof, or the rabbit ears on top of the old, Buick-sized tube set with tin foil on the retractable metal antennae to garner just a few more dB of signal?  I remember fondly Dad’s constant bellows to move the antenna “a little to the left” (and to get him another beer) while he was watching a ball game so he could see a less pixelated (we called it snow back then) view of one of Carl Yastrzemski’s unbelievable shags in left field.  Ah, good times.

Guess what?  OTA (Over-The-Air) antennas are baaaa-aacccckkkkk!!!  And they’re better than ever!

After a few trials and tribulations, mainly due to my never ending, dumb-assed penchant to believe a lot of what I read on the internet if the perpetrator of said bullshit sounds even vaguely authoritative, I now have an antenna mounted in an obscure area of my attic, out of the way, that pulls in 23 crisp, clear channels in vivid, vibrant HD!  The best part is, of those 23 channels, there are twenty that we’ll probably actually watch.  We now have all four networks, four PBS stations, (I love PBS.  I’m a documentary junkie) three retro channels, a couple of news channels and a few various and sundry others that really look promising.

The three I’ll probably never watch are:

  1. The Test Pattern Channel, (although I swear I saw Jimi Hendrix swapping bullshit stories with Mark Twain on that very same channel back in the seventies one Saturday night after a rather close call with the bong water).
  2. The Country Music Video Channel, (*shiver*).
  3. The Baptist Gospel Channel.  That same sweating fella jumping up and down, pounding his fists and spouting fire and brimstone has been trying to get me to send him a donation to save my soul for long enough, thank you very much.

And they’re all free and completely legal to view!!  There goes my gangster rep.  My bad boy persona is no more.

For the not-so paltry sum of $140 a month, I was getting my internet and over two-hundred channels from the evil cable company and, after brainstorming with the lovely Brenda, realized that we only watched three or four of those channels.  What’s more, with the exception of TCM, (which has gone down hill of late with more and more air time dedicated to silent movies and foreign films), the other three come in over the air.  Brenda is probably the easiest woman in the world to please (obviously; she’s with me).  Give her Judge Judy, Judge Ralph, Judge Hermoine, Judge Reinhold and all the other judges, with a few Jerry Springer-esque shows thrown in for a change of pace, and The Voice, and she’s happier than Sandra Bullock’s thong.

Now, before you go bending coat hangars into antenna’s, or running down to the local Radio Shack to pick up that behemoth antenna capable of picking up the Rover’s transmissions from Mars, let me share a little of what I’ve learned to hopefully start those of you who might be considering cutting the cable out on a good foot.  It isn’t exactly for the faint of heart.

For starters, I, unfortunately, couldn’t completely disassociate myself from the cable company.  Multinational conglomerates are like a mother-in-law: in as much as you ‘d like to drive a stake through her heart and bury her vampire-ass in the back yard, she’s always there, gnawing on your last nerve.  I still need internet: my lifeline to the world.  Hence the continued, albeit greatly reduced, umbilicus to the cable company.

There aren’t a whole lot of options for gaining internet access other than very expensive satellite internet or, Heaven forbid, the phone commie’s antiquated dial up or  DSL.  Dial up isn’t even an option and, from my experience, DSL is light years behind broadband in speed and quality.  Besides, I gave the phone company the big kiss-off on an earlier “Sock it to the Man” quest, so I don’t even have phone lines running to my house any more.  I know, I should be medicated; but that’s another blog.

I actually had an almost pleasant conversation with the cable company this morning.  This was round two.  I lost round one when I tried to renegotiate the contract that just expired and was told that there was nothing they could do.  That wasn’t such a pleasant conversation and was, in effect, the catalyst that got me on the OTA kick.

Today, when I asked them to discontinue my TV subscription, new offers were flying like dandruff at a redneck picnic.  The representative was as sweet as she could be as she dropped the bomb that the $29.99 per month deal they were advertising for internet-only wasn’t available to me because I was a current customer.  Taking into consideration that my contract with them expired last month, am I really a current customer?  Hmmm?  And why wasn’t New customers only listed on their advertisement? The bastards!

Anyway, I managed to get a free modem and guaranteed $39.99 a month internet service for one year.  After twelve months it’s going to go up to $54.99.  Ya, right!  We’ll just see about that in a year.  That date is marked in red on the calendar as Armageddon!  Verizon’s FiOS might just be in our neighborhood by then.  The only downfall with changing internet providers will be going through my creditors websites, places I buy from, etc. to change my email address. Oh, the trials and tribulations of the internet age.

Aside from uploading books to publishers, chronic research, bill paying and Facebooking, we also have a subscription for Netflix which, as most of you know, requires an internet connection.

Those dirty cable Nazi’s have you coming or going.

Now, even with the added cost of Netflix, our home entertainment bill has gone from the projected $160 per month that I was told my cable bill was going to increase to after the cable company completes their all-digital upgrade in January, to $47.98:  and we get to pick and choose what movies we want to watch whenever we want to watch them.  That’s roughly $112 a month savings which will be much better spent on beer and cigars!

Not too shabby!

But alas, there are a few more expenses that have to be considered when cutting the cable.  Some of them can be pretty steep depending on your existing TV situation.  Of course, as always, Bad Luck Schleprock here suffered the wrath.  I’d like to think I took one for the team to soften the blow for the rest of you.  That’s just the kind of guy I am.

The first stop for the prospective cable cutter is a website called TVfool.com.  This is actually a pretty amazing site.  You simply type in your address, choose a few options and it actually shows you on a satellite map/image (an actual satellite picture of your house in which, when I zoomed in completely, I saw myself in the shower!  Egad!!).  You’ll also get the following important information:

  1. All the transmitters (stations) you’ll be able to access, their distance from your house and their signal strength.
  2. What direction they’re in in proximity to your house with lines radiating from your house to the transmitters, (for properly mounting and pointing your antenna).
  3. How high to mount your antenna, and whether you can use a set top antenna, attic mount or whether you’ll actually need to mount your antenna on the roof with a mast.
  4. Which type of antenna (directional, multi-directional etc.) is best suited for your situation, and a whole host of other valuable information to help you do it right the first time.

Unfortunately, I also went to a third-rate forum for addicted, rabid, cable cutters (probably while I was enjoying a few malty beverages) and was sucked in by their never ending mantra that you have to mount your antenna outside to get the best reception.  Until that point, I was definitely decided on mounting it in the attic.  Outside probably is the better option, but it also comes with its’ own added problems that have to be taken into consideration such as grounding, weather, impediments, aesthetics, etc.

After mounting a bracket on my roof, (four new screw holes in a fairly new roof!) giving myself a near heart attack during the two hours it took me to drive an eight-foot long ground rod into the concrete-equivalent turf  we have in South Carolina with a rather weighty sledge hammer, running a solid #10 wire from the antenna bracket to the grounding rod and hooking everything up, I found that the dense wall of 30 foot Leland Cypress trees running the length of my property line posed too much of a force field for any earthly signal to penetrate.

Meanwhile, back in the attic!

So I mounted the antenna in the attic where I should have mounted it in the first place and ran all new RG6 coaxial cable throughout the house because, frankly, the cheap stuff I’d installed during a mad rush to get the cable piped through the house in a hurry when I moved in wasn’t exactly conducive to excellent signal transmission.  I wanted to clean up the old mess and start fresh and neat.  I also bought and installed a signal amplifier because I have four TV’s in the house, with the potential for five should both guest rooms ever be in use simultaneously, and I wanted to be certain that I got the best signal possible to all points.

Costs to this point:  Antenna=RCA ANT751-$39.99.  Signal amplifier=PCT 4-port=$21.99.  500 foot roll of RG6 coaxial cable and assorted ends and fittings=$50.

Not too bad, you say?  What’s $111.98, right?  I’ll save just that on the reduced cable company bill in one month, right?

Not so much!

Realizing that we’d need a means to access Netflix, and possibly other movie channels, I went online, yet again, searching for wireless streaming video boxes.  I don’t want my laptop or desk top connected to my TV, and I don’t like watching movies on my computer.  After some exhaustive research, and reading a great many reviews, I settled on Roku 3 boxes. They’re normally a little pricey at $99 each, but I stumbled on two of them, brand new in the box with free shipping, on eBay for $67 each.  Add to that my sister Kellie’s assurance that they were using Roku boxes and loved them, and I was sold.

The tab has now reached $245.98.  Still not too bad, right?  So it’ll take a little over two months of the reduced cable bill to make up the costs and start realizing some savings.  Pretty cool!

Not so fast!

One of the little known caveats with getting free HD, digital signals over the air is that all the TV’s you intend on actually getting a picture on must be digital HD TV’s.

Only two of my TV’s were digital HD and, as is always the case with my luck, the one digital HD TV in my office didn’t even have any HDMI ports on it!  This made the Roku 3 boxes I’d just bought useless with that TV. The Roku 3 is the latest and greatest Roku box, but it can only be connected to the TV via an HDMI port.  The Roku 2 and older versions have the option of connecting via RCA jacks.

I would have sworn in a court of law that that damn TV had an HDMI port?!  Yet another of my frequent Alzheimer’s moments.  Thankfully, the Blu Ray player in my office is Netflix capable via an Ethernet connection to my wireless router, so that TV was salvageable.

Online again, scouring the electronics stores for TV sales, I finally found the best prices for what I wanted at Sam’s Club.  Two digital HD TV’s (a 32″ for the living room and a 24″ for the bedroom) with HDMI inputs for right about $400 for the pair.

We’re rolling now!  We’re over $600 out of pocket, and I wasted a weekend installing the outdoor antenna that wasn’t, but believe it or not, everything is finally complete.  It’s going to take about six months to realize any savings from the conversion, but it was the shove I needed to get rid of the thousand pound behemoth TV we had in the living room and move into the 21st century.  I bought it over fifteen years ago, but it still has a beautiful, albeit non-HD, picture.  It’ll take a crane to get it in the truck.  I’ll be donating the two TV’s I replaced to a local charity thrift shop so I’ll at least get that charitable warm, fuzzy one gets when doing something nice to help ease the pain in my wallet.

But wait?  The math still doesn’t add up?  Four TV’s on the antenna, but only three streaming video boxes?

“Dear future guests: if you’re not fond of network TV or PBS, there are massive book cases in the living room overflowing with books on numerous subjects and interests.  Feel free to chose one and broaden your horizons!”

In other words, this cash ship has sailed.  Mission accomplished.  Should a great deal come along on another Roku box, I’ll get right on it.  Until then, dear guests, read a book!  It’s Christmas and daddy’s broke!

This is our first day un-tethered from the cable company teat, so I’ll reserve any hooping and hollering until we’ve had a chance to really kick the tires and take her for a full test drive.  So far, though, the picture I’m getting on all four TV’s is far superior to the picture I was getting with cable.

In summation, if you’re a died-in-the-wool, rabid sports fanatic, cutting the cable might not be the right move for you.  While there was nothing but football games on the networks while I was tuning in the channels earlier, there’s no ESPN.  I did notice some sports channels available via the Roku channels, but I believe they’re pay-for subscriptions and probably not as extensive in content as the numerous ESPN’s.

If you’ve got a Jones for any of the HBO series programming, (I’m sure going to miss Boardwalk Empire) cutting the cable might not be for you.  HBO series aren’t even available on Netflix or Hulu:  yet!  I’ll just wait til the older season box sets hit the bargain DVD bin at Walmart.

However, if you’re like we are and, with a few exceptions, use the TV for news and as background noise while Brenda does her Sudoku puzzles and I my writing and web surfing, cutting the cable may be a very good option for you.

And, if you’re still getting your TV through an older set, or if you took advantage of the coupons a few years back and got one of those free government digital-to-analog converter boxes, you might want to start replacing your TV’s now.  They’re probably on their last leg anyway and it’s much easier on the wallet to replace them one at a time.

Yesterday the phone company, today the cable company, tomorrow the power company and. a week from next Tuesday, the world!!  Bwahahahahahahah!!!!!!!  Think big.

In closing, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you the very merriest of Christmas’s and a bright, prosperous and happy 2014 filled with much love, good health and never ending smiles.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

Buono Fortuna!

Brian

Cast Adrift coverAnd don’t forget to order your copy of my latest book, Cast Adrift, the sequel to The Paramedic available here:  

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Hello all!  Welcome back!

Cast Adrift coverI know, I’ve been very naughty regarding blogs lately, but I do have an excuse.  I haven’t been just sitting back on my duff; contrary to popular belief.  I have been banging away at the keyboard, pulling forth the much anticipated sequel to The Paramedic: *trumpets blaring* Cast Adrift!

I’d like to thank all of you who have been sending those emails, asking about the book and encouraging me to get it done and out there for you to read.  It has gone way beyond its initial planned publication date, for which I humbly apologize, but I honestly feel that once you’ve read it, you’ll agree that it was worth the wait.

To be honest, there have been more deletes, rewrites, plot changes and start overs than I care to admit to, but I believe all of that scrutiny has given birth to a real winner.  To date, I’ve read it at least 500 times and I still find myself holding my breath at certain points, waiting for the next giggle, tear or finger nail to bite.

You’ll also find that Cast Adrift bypasses a great many of the steamier love scenes you read in The Paramedic, (although there are quite a few) but I really pressed to keep tight to the plot and worked harder on the twists and turns you’ll find throughout the book…OK, I didn’t take out all the naughty stuff.  Don’t get your panties in a twist.  And for you medical fetishists, here’s your sign!

Due to the fact that Cast Adrift picks up exactly where The Paramedic left the reader, (hanging by two fingers over a cliff was how one of my readers put it) I am working with the publisher to offer a special price coupon for the purchase of The Paramedic so anyone who hasn’t read it (shame on you!) can do so, then go right into Cast Adrift-not only with the satisfaction that reading a good book gives you, but with a full feel for all the characters and the events that lead up to where Cast Adrift starts.

Of all the books I’ve written, I consider this to be my best.  A lot of me, heart and soul, went into writing of this book over the last couple of years and the incentive and opening for the third book in the series has also appeared on my horizon.  I can promise you that it won’t be nearly as long between Cast Adrift and book three as it was between The Paramedic and Cast Adrift.  I’ll have more information within the next couple of weeks as we get nearer to Cast Adrift’s publication date that I’ll share here and on my website, so stay tuned.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special thank you to my muse, Brenda.  Her addiction to Sudoku puzzles and Face Book has allowed me untold Sundays, all day, to write in peace with her support and encouragement.  Thank you, Bella Donna.

And I do thank her in the book, but I’d also like to publically thank my sister, Michelle Greenleaf, for the cover photo for Cast Adrift.  I humbly admit to being the most talented among my siblings, but Michelle is a savant’ with a camera and does some beautiful work.  You can see more of her work here: Michelle Greenleaf.  Thanks, Shell!

It’s short and sweet this week because I’ve got to get back on the ball, insuring that our early October publication date comes to fruition.  I will post a few excerpts from the book in the coming weeks to whet your appetite.

In the meantime, check out the short stories and information on all my books on my website: bgreenleaf.com

All of my books are available through Barnes and NobleAmazon and many other fine paperback and ebook retailers.

Until next time, I wish you peace, love and happiness throughout all your days.

Ciao!

Brian

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Hello, my friends and any perspective campers who will soon be friends.  Welcome!

A little change of pace with this blog.  Now that I’ve “almost” finished the camper (known to most as Nosty’s Nook) and it’s camp-able, and the new standee camper is still on the drawing board, it’s time to get out there with it and start enjoying the fruits of my labor; as well as the stress relief that only a weekend in the woods can afford me.

What better way to enjoy the great outdoors than with friends, old and new?

I’m in the polling stages at present, looking to find out if there’s any interested adults who’d like to be part of an active camping, and, of course, dog friendly, group with one agenda:  Fun.

As for me, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Brian Greenleaf.  I have been an avid camper since my Cub Scout days back in the sixties.  I have slept under the stars, spent many years tent camping, have owned a pop-up and a full sized camper and now take great pride in the tiny travel trailer I spent a year building. I am a super hero by day and a Failure Analysis Technician by night.  I wrote my first camping book back in 1999 called The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping.  Over the years, I have been part of many camping groups, mostly family oriented groups, and have decided it would be a whole lot of fun to get together with a zany bunch of like minded middle-agers and make some memories.

Sour pusses and overly anal retentive people need not apply.  Those terminal diseases are contagious and would spread through the group.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a tent camper, pop-up or camper enthusiast, like to sleep under the stars, or whether you own a 30′ motor mansion, we’d love to have you.

As I mentioned, I’ve been part of various other camping groups over the years and, unfortunately, many of them failed miserably due to waning interest directly related to internal strife or disagreements, usually brought about due to the advent of the dreaded “cliques.”  Once a clique gets started, it’s like a festering pustule that almost always signals certain death for the group.  I’m hoping to start a group of like minded (translation: slightly crazy) folks who’d look forward to group trips to various and sundry places within reasonable range of the Upstate of SC/Georgia/NC;  places decided on by democratic vote, of course.

As those of us who live here well know, there are a plethora of beautiful places to camp in our area.  From the mountains to the sea, and everything in between, we have it all right here in our own back yard.  What better way to reduce stress, meet new people and just plain have fun, I ask you?

What I’m hoping to bring together are folks who’d like to get out in the woods once a month, (or twice a month or once a quarter depending on what everyone wants), see new and different places, relax, have fun and meet new people.

As I write this, I have a cast iron griddle, recently obtained in what most would consider pitiful condition from a closing antique mall for a song, seasoning in the oven.  I admit it.  I’m a camping addict. I eat, sleep and drink camping.  I’d rather have the Outdoor Channel than the Playboy Channel…….OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture.  I enjoy camping; fall, winter and spring, and plan on having my Thanksgiving turkey breast, (actually, probably a steak and baked potato), beside a roaring fire again this year.  While I realize that everyone doesn’t have a taste for winter camping, late winter and spring are the perfect time to get out in the woods for almost anyone so, if we get the ball rolling now, we should be able to plan the inaugural camping trip in early 2013 (if the Mayan calendar prediction doesn’t come true and we’re no longer inhabiting this world after December 21st).

In summation, I am  hoping to bring together an all-for-fun group who enjoy camping and having fun.  People who would get a kick out of participating in things like chili cook-offs, lively and jovial fireside cocktail parties, great conversation, probably some singing and story telling (and, of course, SMORE making) around a roaring camp fire; possibly visiting some of the local attractions wherever we camp………..you get the picture.  And all of this with fun people who appreciate and don’t mind going along with the democratic decision making process.  If all goes well, and we’ll do our best to insure that it does, everyone will get to go to the places they’d like to go and do the things that they’d like to do at some point during the camping season.  All for one and one for all.  No fuss, no muss, no infighting.  Personally, I can have a great weekend anywhere when I’m camping.  Rain or shine, there’s nothing like camping.

What we don’t want is a strictly regimented group where every minute of your weekend is planned out.  Camping as a group is a blast.  Being up everyone’s butt every minute of the day doing planned activities becomes tiresome.  The group, as a whole, will choose what they want to do and everyone will be free to either participate, or take a stroll down to the water with a rod and reel and scare the fish or crawl up in their preferred mode of camping with a good book.

Axe murders need not apply.  It’s nothing personal, but I get the heeby-jeebies being around someone crazier than I am.  Other than that, the only other requirement is that you have to love to camp and have fun.  Married or single, everyone is welcomed.

If you’re like minded, and would be interested in becoming part of the group, you can contact me via email:  doc@bgreenleaf.com , on Facebook,  or comment below.  If the interest is there, I’ll put up a web page dedicated to the group where we can share ideas, chat and keep abreast of what’s going on, all while secretly plotting global domination.

I look forward to hearing from and talking to you and, hopefully, sharing a campfire with you in the near future.

Until next time, I wish you peace, fair winds and happy trails,

Brian

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