The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Food / Drink ... Personal Reflections ... Photo ...

For the past few years I’ve been trying to grow flowers on a little plot next to the parking lot in my landlord’s back yard. The soil is pretty bad back there, full of red clay and rocks. Morning glories and moonflowers have taken pretty well to it, but most other plants (other than weeds) don’t do well, or never get going in the first place.

This past spring I tried to start a number of different flower seeds back there, but only the nasturtiums took to it (I also had some sunflowers come up, but they hardly reached 3 feet and then keeled over after pushing out a few small flowers). During July and August, a handful of petite yellow and orange nasturtium blooms would sometimes greet me on my return home from work. But this summer was quite dry, and by early September only the green leaves and stems remained. And as it started to get colder over the past few weeks, even they made their resolution with the coming of winter. But a few plants decided to play die-hard, and yesterday one managed to rage against the dying of the warmth by popping out one last bloom.

So, enjoy this last little act of defiance against the inevitable from my backyard plot. If all goes well and I’m still here in the spring, I definitely plan to buy a variety of nasturtium seeds in different colors and shapes (and maybe I’ll give them a boost by laying down a bag of manure). For now, one last look, and then on with another winter. Oh, PS — I see that nasturtiums are actually edible, all but the seeds. They are related to watercress, and the flavor is supposed to be a cross between mustard and slight sweetness for the flower, and the leaves are peppery. Perhaps I’ll give that a try — next year.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:30 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, October 24, 2015
Religion ... Zen ...

I haven’t gotten around to posting anything here lately, this is my first post in almost 2 weeks. What have I been doing with myself lately? Oh, cooking, cleaning, going to work, paying bills, and thinking about life and death. I mentioned in a previous blog that I had a “direct-to-consumer” DNA evaluation done a few years ago on, and along with the genealogy information, 23 also gave you an assessment of your genetically-related health risks. (Since then, the US FDA has stopped them from providing health reports — 23andme still offers genealogy tests). My own results on 23 seemed fairly benign — one or two things that might eventually become an issue, but nothing all that terrible.

Recently, however, I learned that you can access your digital DNA results from 23andme and upload them onto a site called, and for $5 they will give you a very detailed list of how your “SNP pairings” stack up against the “wiki” database of health-related genetic studies. This seemed like a good idea to me, since my health reports from 23andme were based on a pool of gene studies that appears to have last been updated in 2011 (many months before I sent in my saliva, in mid-2013; incidentally, that was only about 6 months before the FDA shut 23’s health service down). A lot of new knowledge about genes and health must have come out since them. So, I got my results from Promethease (it takes only a few minutes, actually) and have spent a lot of time pouring over them in the past few weeks. Bottom line . . . in great detail, they paint a much darker picture of my susceptibility to a wide variety of diseases than 23andme did.

In comparing some of the Promethease / SNPedia results with the 23 reports, it turns out that 23andme wasn’t always considering the full range of DNA studies available up through 2011, and in some instances, it misinterpreted them!!! For one condition involving eyesight  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:26 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Monday, October 12, 2015
Food / Drink ... Photo ...

Finally, a new pic! This is a Sunday afternoon scene at Brix City, a small microbrew factory and visitors center (complete with a rudimentary bar offering a choice of 8 different brews at $4 a glass; I had the porter, and it was very nicely done, lots of vanilla notes with some coffee and cocoa, lightly hopped with a firm, malty body). There’s also a wall you can write on, right behind the woman in the pic. You can find Brix on an industrial backstreet in Little Ferry, NJ (just north of Route 46). Worth a visit, if you like microbrewed beer.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:34 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Monday, October 5, 2015
Health / Nutrition ... Medicine ...

Like many, many other people, I come from a family with a history of Type 2 diabetes. One study estimates that about 30% of Americans have a family history of diabetes. My grandfather was diabetic, my mother was diagnosed in her elderly years, and her brother (my uncle) developed diabetes at age 50. I’ve reached 62 and so far I’m still OK (my recent physical included both a fasting glucose test and a hemoglobin A1C test, and both came back in the normal range — thank goodness!). But diabetes is something that I’ve been aware of most of my life (when I was a kid, my mother would sometimes make me test my urine for blood sugar with some kind of yellow strips — not a very accurate way to test for diabetes, but perhaps the best that was available to the common person back in 1965). My recent tests inspired me to do some further research on the topic. I thought that I’d share some observations here from my readings. [WITH THE USUAL CAVEAT — I AM NOT A DOCTOR OR MEDICAL EXPERT, JUST AN INTERESTED LAYPERSON WHO HAS DONE SOME RESEARCH]

First off, type 2 diabetes is not one simple, easily defined condition. There are a variety of “flavors” to it. Each version, though, involves the process by which glucose enters the bloodstream from the stomach and intestines after food ingestion, and by which glucose exits, either through conversion into ATP to fuel the muscles and organs which do the body’s work (i.e., cellular respiration); or by being pushed into the fat cells as a storehouse for future ATP conversion if needed (e.g. if there is a famine — something that was once very common for many humans, up thru the 18th Century). Insulin from the pancreas helps to kick start and regulate that process, allowing glucose to enter the cells of muscles and organs in the right amounts. When there is more than enough glucose to cover the current cellular respiration needs, insulin does the dirty work of pushing the excess glucose into the fat cells (i.e., making you fatter, at least temporarily), and signalling the liver to cut back on production. If the glucose stays in the blood for too long and reaches high concentrations, it can start gumming up the works in sensitive places like the heart, eyes and kidneys, causing damage.

Diabetes type 2 occurs when insulin and its regulation mechanisms aren’t doing the job properly; either too much glucose builds up in the blood, or too much glucose is pushed aside by it and there isn’t enough to support the level of cellular respiration needed  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:07 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
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