Asthma Sucks. Hard.

May! Mother’s Day, my Dad’s birthday, Cinco de Mayo, Labour Day — and World Asthma Month. I didn’t even know about the latter until I searched on Twitter for #asthma related posts after having a shocking night. I have severe adult-onset asthmaI had childhood asthma until I was about 12, then re-developed it in NYC (pretty sure my then-fondness for flavoured cigs was a factor). Ah, asthma. So common, yet so tough to spell correctly.

Of those 300 asthmatics, about 32 mill are in Europe, and I’m one of 2 million in Australia (about 1 in 10 adults have it here). And whaddya know – asthma doesn’t descriminate! Taylor Walker, superstar key forward for the Adelaide Crows AFL team, has battled asthma all his life.

Other well-known asthmatics (apparently):

  • Creative types: Diane Keaton, Liza Minnelli, Bob Hope, Martin Scorsese, Sharon Stone, Liz Taylor, Orson Welles, Jason Alexander, Beethoven, Billy Joel, rapper DMX, rocker Alice Cooper, Charles Dickins
  • Former US presidents: JFK, Bill Clinton, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Theodore Roosevelt

Some of our major related organisations – the Asthma FoundationAsthma Australia (which does not have any nice infographics) and the National Asthma Council Australia – provide these stats:

  • Over 400 Australians die each year from asthma
  • In 2011, asthma caused the deaths of 378 Australians
  • Asthma prevalence in Australia is high by international standards
  • The majority of adults with asthma have mild or very mild asthma
  • Up to 90% of people who have asthma inhalers do not use them correctly

Day-to-day, I keep it under control using a combination of inhalers and Singular (given recent media attention re: medicating asthmatic kids with it – read Asthma Australia‘s statement here). When it gets really bad, I find smelling Eucalyptus oil (Bosisto’s from the big supermarkets – has clean/freshen properties, too – good to add to laundry loads like sheets FYI!) and setting up a vapourizer in my bedroom of a nighttime helps.  Plus, a hot coffee can help if I’m out and about — the caffeine and steam helps open the lungs.

An unfortunate trigger is pet hair – and we have four dogs. But that’s not all! Among the other things that’ll set asthma off…

(Strong emotions?! That doesn’t set mine off, as far as I know) Biggies for me are dust, pollen (FML), food allergies, exercise, changes in the weather, and smoke.

As I have the winning combo of severe asthma and salicylate allergy (with the super fun risk of anaphylaxis!), making me a pain in the ass during a medical emergency, I wear a MedicAlert bracelet ID 24/7. I ordered it hassle-free online – picked the one I wanted (talk about range: they do them in 24K gold now – phwoar! – plus dog tag style for the lads, sports bands, and ones with Swarovski crystals…I went for the still-classy-but-I-can-still-eat stainless steel), plugged in my info (condition specifics, GP contact details, emergency contacts) and now emergency services and healthcare people can look up my info immediately and give me the right treatment. I think MedicAlert IDs are particularly important if you’re often away from close friends and family (who know the right treatment etc.).

What’s the deal during an asthma attack? EverydayHealth has a great guide, including how to recognise an asthma attack (impaired breathing is the clearest sign, leading to wheezing, tightening of the chest, coughing spells, spluttering etc.) and what to do (stay calm, eliminate the trigger if possible, put the emergency plan into action if possible (inhalers etc), call an ambulance).

If you’re on Twitter, check out the #asthma and #worldasthmaday hashtags.

Library use in the digital age? Google It.

Sometimes I wonder: what did we do before Google?

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Obviously, we read (more hardcover) books. Visited libraries (more often). Speaking of which, how are libraries doing these (digital) days? I haven’t visited my local in ages, and I think I only visited my uni one once, and it was to meet someone – not even for research! I love hardback books (am I actually having to specify the type now – that’s I mean ‘traditional’ and not electronic?!) and have always considered myself an avid reader.

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But in the past few years, my hardcover book consumption has decreased, and my online book and information use has vastly increased. The last book I read was (I can’t believe I actually have to cast my mind back and think about this) A Six-Letter Word For Death, by Patricia Moyes (left).

I love murder-mysteries and whodunits, and Mum picked that one up at a secondhand bookshop (published in 1983, likely out of print), read it, enjoyed it, passed it on to me (for the record, it’s fantastic). Until my recent move back to my home state a few months ago, I always had a stack of books – either To Read or Reading – next to my bed. When I first moved back, I was reading a recent John Grisham, but for the life of me I can’t remember where I’ve put it – and why I haven’t realised that sooner.

I regularly buy books for my Mum, the original Bookworm . I will be eternally grateful to her for introducing me to the magic of reading and books; she’s responsible for the mini-libraries in our house…when I visited friends’ houses as a kid, I always thought their family was a bit weird if they didn’t have big overflowing bookcases. But lately, even she’s been buying up on Kindle (though sometimes, this is for the massive price reduction). And when I do buy hardcovers for her, they’re usually from op-shops, eBay or Etsy (out-of-print copies).

Kathryn ZickuhrLee Rainie and Kristen Purcell did some research on US library use and released their report, Library Services in the Digital Age in January of this year.

Among their findings:

  • Fully 91% of Americans ages 16 and older say public libraries are important to their communities; and 76% say libraries are important to them and their families.
  • In the past 12 months, 53% of Americans ages 16 and older visited a library or bookmobile
  • 52% of recent library users say their use of the library in the past five years has not changed to any great extent, and 22% say their use has decreased.
  • The main reason patrons say their library use decreased? ‘Can get books, do research online, and the Internet is more convenient.’ (40%)

As a journalist, I’m always impressed by those who’ve gone before me to report the news sans Google. William Prochnau, a former national reporter for the Washington Post, now a contributing editor of Vanity Fair, wrote this fascinating related piece for the American Journalism Review. For insight into the press biz 25 years ago, Prochnau spoke to Tom Fiedler, the editor of the Miami Herald. Fiedler remember when “We still had linoleum on the floors so we could stub out our cigarette butts.”

“You do pay a price for this…the ability to wander off, to think, to talk to people, may be getting squeezed out by all the technology. You find an extra hour when you used to talk to people and you go to your laptop and look for e-mails and surf the Web. Sometimes we lose ourselves in that stuff, and we never have that conversation where the thread of an idea just emerges, something that you would have never thought of.” – Tom Fiedler

The article also quotes Geneva Overholser (as Prochnau describes, “Overholser is one of those former everythings–editor of the Des Moines Register, Nieman fellow, editorial writer at the New York Times, ombudsman at the Washington Post. Now a faculty member for the Washington bureau of the University of Missouri School of Journalism”)…

She thinks we have created a modern journalistic world so driven by demographics and cost–target the readers, then give them what they think they want at the least possible expense–that it threatens our reason for being. “Newspapers are failing to give reporters time or even encouragement to do the things that we used to say made us ‘great’ or ‘good,’ ” Overholser says. “We almost have a different definition of good now. It’s not surprising that a handful of papers win all the Pulitzers. They are the only ones that are investing in journalism.”

That’s pretty damn melancholy.

Apparently, ‘B.C’ – Before Google – is a thing. Here’s a tribute website to it. One guy wrote about Searching the Internet B.G. (lengthy, but worth a skim to see how far technology has come). He explains how you couldn’t even search the Net until the 1980s. The mind boggles!

The whole point of this post, originally, was to share this recent discovery via StumbleUpon: The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. Then I got all distracted by how amazing the Internet is. BUT the page has a ton of da Vinci’s portrait studies, anatomy sketches, and drawings of inventions. Prepare to be inspired.

Happy reading?

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I Heart New York

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I lived in the Big Apple for a year, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it was one of the best times of my life. Some months were better than others – for me, the second half was a lot better, but I think I had to get through the first to know I could, which gave me the push to make the most of the rest!

It’s not like my second home, it just is. I always miss the city. Sometimes it’s something specific. For example, I’m currently staying at my folks place (I maintain it’s temporary – The Unemployed Grad does what they have to, but luckily I get along great with them, and they’re always backing me 100% – ANYWAY!) and if my dalmatian doesn’t wake me up, it’s the choir of birds from the trees around our house, and in the park nearby. That’s when I miss the New York City Lullabye – the sounds of the street in the city that never sleeps.  Manhattan was always louder than Brooklyn, but the same instruments: the traffic – sirens, honking, yelling, tires going through snow slush in the winter, and the constant the low hum of voices….for an idea, check out this video The Noise of New York’.  Takes me back!

I love coming across something NYC-related. Today, it’s ’23 Signs You’ve Lived In New York City Too Long’, via BuzzFeed, via an American friend I worked with at an Upper West Side gelato shop, who posted it on her Facebook timeline. Among the listed items was this one, which totally relates to my little story earlier:

17. When you visit the suburbs and try to sleep at night, the silence scares you.

Other ‘OH MY GOSH, YES’ moments for me:

3. Nothing fills you with more rage than getting on a crowded subway car and suddenly hearing, “It’s showtime!”

6. In the summer, you consider the wind from an approaching subway car to be “a nice breeze.”

13. You wear earbuds while grocery shopping.

14. You’ve become immune to the hot garbage smell.

15. You can swipe your Metrocard without breaking stride.

 

Monday Morning Inspiration and Indignation

Woke up early today to make sure I made a phone call when I needed to…forgetting about the time difference between Perth and Adelaide. So, with time to kill, I explored some new websites. Flavorwire (@Flavorwire on Twitter) is a collection of cool culture-related stuff. First page I visited was Musicians Hanging Out In Record Stores.

Including this pic (1/16)…

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Meanwhile, a friend of mine said he was writing an article for the website Your Friends House. Of course, I had to check it out.

Loved this post: Amazing Photos Of A Travelling Girlfriend

The post’s author, Sammy, says:

“In one of the coolest and most creative displays of affection, Russian photographer Murad Osmann has taken people on an intimate and eye-opening journey with his significant other. From Moscow to London to Venice and all over Russia, Mr Osmann maintains the anonymity of his girlfriend through a brilliant set of over-saturated shots, all the while never letting go of her hand.”

Also from Your Friends House (by the same poster, Sammy), this piece in response to this Geoffrey Barker article in The Age .  It caught my attention as I’d Retweeted a response to Barker’s article last week. I’ll be doing a separate post discussing this! To be continued…

Scientists have been busy…

Danish research found Training away muscle soreness is as good as a massage when it comes to pain relief – and you don’t need a trained therapist. Recommends light exercise to warm up the muscles to relieve pain.

A French study found Bra dependency ‘makes breasts’ sag; breasts gain no benefit from bras and women would be better off going braless. Bras are a ‘false necessity’ and women would be better to subject their breasts to the forces of gravity.

Via US research: The flavour of beer may provoke the urge to get shwasted, by activating a particular brain region. The effect might be stronger in people genetically predisposed to alcoholism. Beer flavour induced the release of dopamine (pleasure chemical).

English research found three glasses of Champas (or any sparkling) a day could improve memory and theoretically help fight brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.