Mar 31, 2012

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - Part I

Recently a friend told me that the nephew of a friend suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while playing lacrosse. It made me cringe a lot, not because of the sport being played, but because I've also suffered a TBI. Hence, a series of blog entries related to a traumatic brain injury (TBI), one of the most misunderstood injuries in North America.

As a technical writer, I will keep things factual but I would be remiss to not include some personal observations about my experience. Bear with me... One of the best websites that explains a TBI in a little more detail than I am going to do, is the Traumatic Brain Injury site.

So, the point of this entry is to explain "what" a TBI is. Future entries will cover causes, types, effects, and recovery/rehab. Rather than reinvent the wheel, this is what the above site & links below explain. I have highlighted some key points, and added my comments after the definition:
Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury

     Traumatic brain injury, often referred to as TBI, is most often an acute event similar to other injuries. That is where the similarity between traumatic brain injury and other injuries ends. One moment the person is normal and the next moment life has abruptly changed.
     In most other aspects, a traumatic brain injury is very different. Since our brain defines who we are, the consequences of a brain injury can affect all aspects of our lives, including our personality. A brain injury is different from a broken limb or punctured lung. An injury in these areas limit the use of a specific part of your body, but your personality and mental abilities remain unchanged. Most often, these body structures heal and regain their previous function.
     Brain injuries do not heal like other injuries. Recovery is a functional recovery, based on mechanisms that remain uncertain. No two brain injuries are alike and the consequence of two similar injuries may be very different. Symptoms may appear right away or may not be present for days or weeks after the injury.
     One of the consequences of brain injury is that the person often does not realize that a brain injury has occurred.
There are several ways to describe brain injuries.  The brain is enclosed in the bony vault of the skull.  The cerebrospinal fluid surrounds the brain and, most of the time, protects it from impact with the skull.  If there is a rapid force applied to the skull or rapid deceleration of the head, the brain may strike the inside of the bony vault.
Brain tissue may stretch or tear because of the rapid movement.  This can injure the nervous tissue of the brain directly.
Personal Observations:
Some things that aren't mentioned above that were my personal observations about TBIs:
You can't "SEE" a TBI when it occurs inside the head. There aren't any scars (other than how it was caused or hospital equipments used). For some TBI injuries (like mine), there are no visible scars related to it.
A TBI will not only affect the victim, but their family, friends, significant others, employers / employees. They have to adapt to the changes that you've gone through, and be supportive during your recovery/rehab. BUT, you need to ready to accept that the TBI has changed THEIR life too.
The victim of the TBI will not realize it happened when it did. In my occurrence, I didn't know I had a TBI until several weeks after it happened. Why so long? I had to come out of my coma and begin to recover enough to understand what all of those people standing around my hospital bed were even talking about.

Related Links:

Mar 30, 2012

500 Channels and Nothing Worth Watching

The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Dick Van Dyke Show 
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I'm old enough to remember when TV shows were mainly black and white (The Dick Van Dyke Show), I had to get up and manually turn the knob to go to the next channel, there was a difference between VHF and UHF, and tin foil made the picture better. Then we got cable and a "remote" to change the channel. Yeah, I remember the difference between Beta and VHS, now they call it "Blu-Ray." I keep up with the changes.

Mohu Leaf Indoor Antenna
Which is what leads me to the point of this entry. I've lived with cable TV for a LONG time so I could choose what I watched. But, as I look at my bank account and pay attention to the bills I pay every month, maybe it is time to discard my cable bill and pay attention to the "options" I have to watch what I want.  TV stations are now switching over from the old analog signal to the digital broadcast, and the top 20 shows on the tube are now available for free. I am considering switching to an HDTV antenna (like the Mohu Leaf) to receive the signals for my new 40" HD TV.

My neighbor got rid of his cable and has a similar antenna. He gets over 30 channels of the main networks. Click HERE to find what HDTV stations are available in your area. Combining that with Hulu and Netflix online, I can watch nearly everything that I already watch, but it won't drain my bank account as fast.  If I can't find anything to watch there, I can always go to the library and get DVDs (movies, TV shows, etc.) and keep them for 2 weeks at no charge.

Yeah, there are some changes in my future...maybe more gas in the car to travel more...

Mar 29, 2012

Smoke Detectors

Another tip I received online was to use a shower cap over the smoke detector when cooking something that will smoke (like when using cast iron). Don't simply "deactivate" the alarm, you'll forget to enable it later. Simply slip a shower cap around the smoke detector, cook your meal, enjoy it, and you'll remove the cap later.
The first couple of houses that I lived in didn't HAVE smoke detectors. It wasn't until I moved to Pittsburgh, PA in 1974 that I had ever seen them. I remember my dad dragging out the step ladder, drill, screws, screwdriver, smoke detector, and 9 volt batteries to install 2 in the house. One was outside my bedroom door and the other was in the living room (next to the kitchen). I also remember this was when my grandpa instructed ME to change the batteries in them. I'm not sure how it became MY responsibility to change them, but I am glad he did. I still change them twice per year, on the days that we change the clocks forward or back. Because of that, I still cringe on those days when I have to lug out the ladder and do that.

But, moving into a new built house in the late 90s and now living in an apartment has also taught me some things. Smoke detector technology has changed and we need to keep in touch with that if we are going to understand how they work and what they do.

When I moved into the new built house, the contractor explained to me that the smoke detectors had advanced to the point that they not only detected smoke, but also were carbon monoxide detectors. They were "hard wired" into the electric panel now, and the battery only served a purpose if the electricity ever shut off (they would still work). But, I was diligent and changed them twice a year.

Available at Sears
And now in changing the batteries in my apartment taught me something else that has really helped me in cooking (especially in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven). Newer smoke detectors actually have a button on them that you can press to shut them off for 7-20 minutes, should they go off for the wrong reason, like when you burn your home made home fries or hash browns. See my other blog entry about cooking oil smoking points in the kitchen for more info. And, it also vocally tells you whether it detected a fire or carbon monoxide. In the OLD days, you had to get the chair under the detector, rip the cover off, and rip the battery out. In my 90s house, you had to stand under it and fan it with a newspaper until it stopped. In my new apartment, I just have to reach up and press a button for 5 seconds (and then I have 7-20 minutes to clear the smoke out of the kitchen). WOW!!! Massively helpful things to know when I'm burning dinner.

Another new technology about the 4 smoke detectors in my apartment, is that they are all tied together by the wires in the walls. If ONE goes off, they ALL go off. So, if a fire starts down the hall in my son's room, the detector in MY room goes off. I'm more likely to hear it in my own room, than down the hall in his, with both doors closed. Yeah, that is another good development in smoke detectors.

Something else that I learned in doing some basic research, is that it is still recommended that you change your batteries twice per year, but it is also now recommended that you change your smoke detectors every 10 years. I'm fortunate that my apartment complex was only built 5 years ago, but I still listen to grandpa twice a year.

So, bottom line, some suggestions:
Change your smoke detector batteries on the days that you change your clocks, so twice per year.
Change your smoke detectors themselves, every 10 years to keep up on technology.
  Wire them all together so if one goes off, they all will go off and you are more likely to hear it.
Watch what cooking oils used in the kitchen to prevent burnt dinner smoke (see the blog for more info)
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Mar 28, 2012

Ties - A Dying Tradition

While they aren't as popular today as they used to be, I still feel that every man needs to know how to tie a tie. Face it, a man should wear a tie to a wedding, funeral, science fair, interview, and just because you should "dress for the job you want, not the one that you have." I was honored to learn it from my grandfather and recently had to pass that knowledge on to someone "in the next generation." LOL... yeah, that was an experience that I'll always have in my mind.

It wasn't until recently that I learned the "name" of the knot my grandfather taught me, as this website explains. It was the "Half Windsor Knot." Because of the Tie-a-Tie website, I've learned how many other ways that I can make my silk tie look good. But, I am now going to share with you a video that explains how to do it.

Yeah, I have to comment on my opinions about ties.  A key one is to AVOID the clip-on ones. Just take a little time to learn something in life, don't just take the path of least resistance.  This will serve you more later in life. I learned to tie a bow tie for my prom instead of just clipping it on. Some events in your life will always be in your mind if you PERSONALIZE them. Make them a memory, not just an action. I've also written a blog entry about How to Travel and Store A Tie.

Anyway... refer to the links above about ties, join me as a member, and check out the Art of Manliness link to the right as a reference about how to impress your date...

Mar 27, 2012

Sub / Hoagie / Grinder / Po' Boy Sandwiches

Shrimp po-boy sandwich, from Parkway Bakery, N...
Po'-boy, from Parkway Bakery, New Orleans.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The other day I pulled into a TA truck stop to get gas. It was lunch time and I had some time to kill, so I decided to go in to browse and have lunch at Popeye's (since I hadn't eaten there yet). I stared at the menu and immediately decided that it was time to have my first po' boy. I ordered a spicy dressed fried chicken po' boy, Cajun fries and biscuit.

I had heard about them before, but I grew up in the Northeastern U.S., so I was brought up on "subs," " grinders," "hoagies," "Philly cheese steaks," "heroes," "zeps," "blimpies." Reading the history of a "po' boy" on the back of the wrapper is what led me to do a little surfing to find out what the "differences" were since they seemed the same to me. I will say, that having been to a Popeye's for a po' boy, I WILL be going there as often as possible.

The best explanations I am sharing come from Wikipedia for a Po' Boy and Submarine. I'm not going to bore you with all of the details. For more information, click on the links for each.

They all began appearing on menus in the late 1800s and early 1900s across the U.S. The Italian culture brought them to the Northeastern U.S., and Louisiana brought the po' boy around 1920 (due to a street car strike). Regardless of the "reasons" they are so yummy, I'm just glad that they exist. I have a pizzeria and a Subway less than a mile away. The only real difference is what is put on or in them and the spices used...

It also brings to mind a sandwich that I ate a lot of in Pittsburgh, PA from Primanti Bros.  The original location was in the Strip District, which is where a lot of things happened. The Primanti Bothers started in the 1930s to provide a meal for the produce truck drivers that needed a complete meal, all in one. They make their sandwiches with the main entree (steak, eggs), french fries, cole slaw, and tomatoes all between 2 slices of Italian bread. A trucker could make his delivery to the Strip, grab a meal, and be back on the road in no time. All for a decent price. Sigh...the memories of finding a place to eat after a long evening of being out... but I digress...

A key point that I learned from doing this surfing, is that if you are going to make your own sub / hoagie / po' boy, putting a layer of cheese on the bottom, then the meat, and then another layer of cheese helps prevent the bread from getting soggy...good to know. Maybe that is why a true Philly Cheese steak has so much cheese folded into it. Happy eating...
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Mar 21, 2012

Portable Apps

A few years ago when I was traveling a LOT for work, I needed a way to easily check my personal emails, get my news/RSS feeds, update my personal calendar, and keep my contact list handy. I also wanted a way to do all of that (and more) by using an internet connected computer without having to lug my laptop around, boot it up, get connected. So, I started using portable applications on an USB drive.

What is a portable app? Well, rather than re-write the definition, I am going to quote the definition I got from Portable Apps:

Portable App Definition (permalink)

A portable app is a computer program that you can carry around with you on a portable device and use on any Windows computer. When your USB flash drive, portable hard drive, iPod or other portable device is plugged in, you have access to your software and personal data just as you would on your own PC. And when you unplug the device, none of your personal data is left behind.
  • No Special Hardware - Use any USB flash drive, portable hard drive, iPod/MP3 player, etc
  • No Additional Software - Just download, run the portable installer & go
  • No Kidding - It's that easy

This made life a TON better for me because I could use a computer in whatever office I was visiting, at a local library in the city I was in, in the hotel business center where I was staying, and then when I had a chance, my own laptop. This helped me keep in contact and check everything I needed to do, and instantly kept it all synchronized electronically. Another KEY point made above is that none of your personal data is left behind. When using a public one or borrowing one from a co-worker, this helps insure that none of your personal info is retained on the computer.

I got my PC apps from Portable Apps because they had all the items I wanted (Firefox browser, Thunderbird email, Sunbird organizer, etc.). PLUS they had a lot that I used to entertain myself (VLC video player, Sudoku game, XnView graphic viewer). Okay, that was then, this is now. I switched from a PC to a MacBook, and guess what? There are portable apps for the Mac too. I get them at FreeSMUG. Yeah, there aren't as many public Macs out there, but that is what I use for most of my work now, so I had to switch over to the Mac portable apps.

Fortunately for me, the Portable Apps website [link] explains how you can make an USB drive work on BOTH a PC and a I'll be doing it this week. I'll use the PC apps when I need to, the Mac ones at other times, but at least the info will all be on the same drive...happy computing...

St. Patrick's Day Poem

St. Patrick's Day 2012 is a few days past us, but I would be remiss to not share a poem I came across on another website about the myths about that holiday [link] related to my Corned Beef & St. Patrick's Day post. Below is a poem written by Frances Shilliday that summarizes my entry. Frances was kind enough to grant me permission to publish it on my blog (yeah, I asked permission because as a writer, I can't morally cut & paste to plagiarize someone).


I just want to put something straight
About what should be on your plate,
If it's corned beef you're makin'
You're sadly mistaken,
That isn't what Irishmen ate.

If you ever go over the pond
You'll find it's of bacon they're fond,
All crispy and fried,
With some cabbage beside,
And a big scoop of praties beyond.

Your average Pat was a peasant
Who could not afford beef or pheasant.
On the end of his fork
Was a bit of salt pork,
As a change from potatoes 'twas pleasant.
This custom the Yanks have invented,
Is an error they've never repented,
But bacon's the stuff
That all Irishmen scoff,
With fried cabbage it is supplemented.

So please get it right this St. Paddy's.
Don't feed this old beef to your daddies.
It may be much flasher,
But a simple old rasher,
Is what you should eat with your tatties.

Mar 16, 2012

Basic Egg Considerations

I'm a "breakfast" kind of person. I love breakfast foods. There is a local family restaurant that has a menu choice that requires a pizza pan to hold it all. Yeah, I've ordered it and cleaned the pan. But when I'm cooking eggs, I don't always use the dozen before the expiration date, so I have to throw some away. Is like flushing money down the toilet. I found a simple solution about freezing eggs to increase their shelf and shell life.

Below is a summary from Incredible Edible Egg and Frugal Living. But some explanation is needed. You can't simply put the whole egg in the shell in the freezer. Why? Just like making ice cubes from water, as it freezes, it expands. So, guess what would happen if you did put a whole egg in the freezer? would expand, so it would break the shell. Now you ask "Okay, so what do I do?"

Whole Eggs
Mix the yolks and egg whites together. Pour the egg mixture into a container, seal tightly, and freeze. Using an ice cube tray (sealed in a freezer bag) is an AWESOME idea. 2 cubes = 1 whole egg.


Egg Yolks
To prevent thickening, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or 1.5 tablespoons of sugar, if the eggs will be used for baking) for every one cup of yolks. Pour into a container, seal tightly, and freeze.
If you use the ice cube tray suggestion from above, 1 cube = 2 egg yolks.

Egg Whites

No special prep is required. Just pour the whites into a container, seal tightly, and freeze. 
If you use the ice cube tray suggestion from above, 1 cube = 1 egg white.

Using Frozen Eggs 

Thaw in the refrigerator for a day/overnight or in the microwave before using. Eggs will keep in the freezer for up to a year. 

  • Sunny side up eggs disappear because you've mixed & frozen the whole eggs, but scrambled eggs or omelettes are tasty too
  • Scrambled eggs (with bacon & cheese) or omelettes are delicious & simple when wrapped in a tortilla
  • Freezing hard boiled eggs isn't recommended since the whites become tough & watery when thawed
  • Labeling with a Sharpie & the date helps you keep the NEW expiration date in mind
  • Frozen eggs should not be used in a recipe unless they are completely cooked

Mar 14, 2012


One of the benefits of creating your own dinner recipe is that you get to name it whatever you want. In the honor of St. Patrick's day and the fact that I am 3/4 Irish, I've called it McChops. Yeah, it is more Italian in flavor for the herbs, and based on the ingredients that are more of a true Irish holiday meat, but sometimes it IS all about me...and I tend to blend flavors together so I can enjoy life on MY terms...

  • 3 slices thick bacon
  • 3 thick cut boneless pork chops
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • Italian herb & Old Bay Seasoning mix
  1. Preheat the toaster oven to 400 F
  2. Cook the bacon in a skillet until it is cooked but flexible
  3. Mix the Italian herb mix & Old Bay Seasoning with the tomato sauce
  4. Put a couple of tablespoons of the tomato mix into a small casserole dish and spread it around (to prevent sticking of the chops)
  5. Place the 3 chops in the casserole dish
  6. Fold the cooked bacon in half, and lay 1 on top of each of the chop
  7. Pour the tomato sauce over the chops
  8. Cook for 1 hour (or so, check with an instant thermometer to see if it is done)

Mar 13, 2012

Corned Beef & St. Patrick's Day

Corn beef hash including potatoes and carrot.
Corned Beef Hash breakfast via Wikipedia
Something that has been on my mind for a few decades, is why Irish-Americans gravitate to eating corned beef on St. Patrick's Day and drink a lot of green beer. Okay, I understand the green beer part, but I've always wondered about corned beef since I've never eaten it and have received a LOT of junk mail promoting it for breakfast and lunch on St. Patrick's Day. So, I am going to summarize based on these 3 key websites (and yes, this is my bibliography):

The name of corned beef most likely came about when meat was dry-cured with salt in Europe and the Middle East. The word "corn" derives from Old English which describes the meat being dry-cured in CORNS of salt. The pellets of salt were approximately the size of kernels of corn and were rubbed into the meat to keep it from spoiling.

Canned corned beef
Canned Corned Beef via Wikipedia
Irish corned beef was used and traded extensively from the 1600s to the mid 1800s for England and as provisions for the British naval fleets & North American armies due to its non-perishable nature. It was traded to the French for feeding the colonists and slaves in their Caribbean sugar plantations. Corned beef as a commodity started to die out in the mid 1800s when slavery was abolished but it did have a resurgence during World War II in the canned form. Makes me wonder about where Spam started.
During the Great Potato Famine, raising cattle to sustain the British Isle and Atlantic trade crowded out land in Ireland for other agricultural development and prevented the raising of crops to feed the local population. Which is why a ton of people from Ireland emigrated to the U.S. Because beef was less expensive than pork here, that is why the Irish immigrants substituted it in recipes on holidays.

Which leads me to my conclusion. According to all of the research & reading that I've been doing, corned beef on St. Patrick's Day is an Irish-American tradition, not a true Irish national tradition. That's why I haven't had it yet and why I'll be making a bacon joint instead...