Category Archives: Health

Because He’s a Fungi

We had a nice dinner over the weekend, trying out a recipe for wild mushroom goulash from Food and Wine. The author told of gathering wild mushrooms in the Hungarian countryside for the dish, but we just bought mushrooms from the supermarket. Why? Because wild mushrooms can f**king kill you, that’s why!

Sure. Go ahead and eat it. What’s the worst that could happen?

In 2012, NBC reported  “a scary surge in mushroom poisonings” in areas experiencing unusually rainy weather. Scary, indeed. The most common form of mushroom poisoning presents itself with extreme vomiting and explosive diarrhea. The good news is that it goes away. The bad news is the next thing you experience is liver failure. Just to clarify for you Phish fans, no, you don’t hallucinate to death with a big smile on your face.

The mushroom responsible for most poisonings worldwide is the aptly named death cap. Other dangerous shrooms have names like destroying angel; you can read about its excruciating effects in this first person account of mushroom poisoning.

The takeaway here is this: don’t eat wild mushrooms. Like cutting your own hair, picking mushrooms is something best left to an expert.

All Wet

After nearly 30 years living in the Capital Region, I’ve never taken a swim in the Hudson River. We’re not talking about the Upper Hudson, way the hell up around North Creek, no, I mean the Hudson River just a few miles from my house.

Growing up on Long Island, we were always at the beach — and easy access to the water and swimming is something I’ve always missed here. So a few years ago, I started looking at the river and thinking, “Why doesn’t anybody swim in there?”

I think I now know one reason after reading this headline, Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Widespread in Hudson River, Study Finds.

For years people have just assumed that the river is dirty, but the item in Infection Control Today sort of confirms the suspicions. While the study focused on the area between the Tappan Zee Bridge to lower Manhattan, I’m not sure that makes me feel better. Why so dirty you ask? This from the story:

“If you find antibiotic-resistant bacteria in an ecosystem, it’s hard to know where they’re coming from,” says study co-author Andrew Juhl, a microbiologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “In the Hudson, we have a strong case to make that it’s coming from untreated sewage.”

What? Sewage in the Hudson? There couldn’t be sewage in the river… except for sewage like this, I guess.

In light of all this, I’m leary of taking the plunge. Unless there’s going to be a giant container of hand sanitizer waiting for me when I get out.

Dream On

The doctor told me not to take my pills at night. “They’ll increase your urination, so I usually suggest people take them in the morning rather than be woken up to pee.” I suppose I’d rather wake up to pee than not wake up and pee, but whatever.

It turns out that there’s another side effect of taking this drug at night, one that’s more interesting: extremely vivid dreams. If you’re like me, you enjoy extremely vivid dreams — even at the expense of increased urination — so we’re off to the races.

Last night’s dream was both vivid and weird. It was another zombie episode, in which I am pursued by the undead, but this time, one of the zombies was a vending machine with arms and legs. Was it supposed to be someone who turned zombie while wearing a vending machine costume — or sort of a zombie/robot vending machine?

We’ll never know. More likely it was a subconscious reference to my constant struggle with resisting vending machine snacks, but that’s another blog post.

Chilling Out



Some people think it’s nutty to run in this cold weather we’ve been having — but the truth is, if you dress for it, the frigid temperatures aren’t so so bad.

As I’ve said before, I’m not much of a runner. These days I’ll only do three to four miles, but getting out there helps keep me sane. And early in the morning before the sun is up, when most people are still sleeping, is a wonderful time of day. One recent sub-zero morning, here’s what I wore:

-Thorlo socks
-Under Armour boxer briefs
-Two pairs of tights
-Long sleeve EMS tech-wick shirt (bottom layer)
-Heavier EMS pullover (middle layer)
-Nylon running jacket (top layer)
-Running Hat
-Reflective vest
-Armband radio

All the clothing is some combination of nylon, polyester, or lycra  — never any cotton. The headlamp, a Coast HL5 is not like the fancy ones you see — all it does is turn on or off — but it’s very bright. I only turn it on when there’s a car coming.

The radio is important, but I never listen to music when I run, instead tuning in to WAMC to get my first daily dose of news.

All told, I’m pretty comfortable. The cold is tolerable if it’s not too windy. The worst running weather? When there’s blowing snow because it hurts your eyes.

And don’t talk to me about treadmills. I don’t do treadmills; that’s too much like the rest of my day.

Yes, We Have No Bananas

Aside from assorted roadkill, the things I see most often along the road while running are banana peels.

banana peelThe banana is a great snack for drivers: a piece of fruit encased in a disposable wrapper with a built in handle. It’s not a great idea to let a banana peel fester in your car, even for a few hours, so many of them go out the car window.

I think motorists who throw garbage out their car window are dirtbags, but something biodegradable? That’s not so bad — but folks, can we please try and pitch them off the pavement?

There are two reasons for this: the first and most obvious is the hazard they present to pedestrians, because everyone knows that people slip on banana peels. The other is that I suspect things like apple cores and banana peels may be attractive to critters. Could this be related to the roadkill? Very possibly.

MythBusters explored the banana peel question with mixed results:

A Really Big Shoe

Tuesday was a blustery day, so much so that I was nearly knocked off my feet by a giant shoe.

big dutch clog

Killer klog.

An oversized Dutch clog, part of Albany’s Sculpture in the Street project, was swept up by the wind and tumbled across the sidewalk, coming just inches from taking out my legs. Imagine that conversation in the emergency room.

“So you were knocked down by a shoe?”

“A clog. A giant clog.”

“A giant clog?”

“Yes, a Dutch clog. A big one. Large enough to take a bath in.”

And this is when the doctor would discreetly ask for me to be moved to the mental health unit.

There is no shortage of interesting conversation in the emergency room.

When I lived in Albany we had no garage or storage shed, so the lawnmower needed to be carried up and down the rickety old basement steps to the yard. One day I slipped on the steps; I fell on my ass and the lawnmower fell on my knee.

In the ER, where I recieved five stitches, the doctor questioned me about the lawnmower incident.

“You were carrying the lawnmower down the stairs?”


“Was it running?”

OK, I’m not smart enough to be a doctor, but I am smart enough to know if someone’s carrying a lawnmower it is probably not running. But he was just doing his job. They keep track of all this stuff and my ridiculous mishap ended up in that year’s lawnmower accident statistics.

Half Empty

I ran a very slowwwwww marathon in 2005 — but but when you put my results through the Paul Ryan Time Calculator, my performance was actually a very respectable 3:40. Nothing shabby about that!

Ryan, you see, told a reporter that he ran a marathon in under three hours, when in fact his time was over four. But I am not here today to call vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan a liar, even if he is one. No, I’m here to complain about half marathons.

I see a lot of people with those 13.1 stickers on the back of their cars, indicating that they’ve run a half-marathon. Whenever I see one I think, “Oh, you ran a half marathon. What, you couldn’t handle a whole marathon?” For me, 13.1 was the easy half.

Look, a 13.1 mile race is not for lightweights, but is it bumper sticker-worthy like a full marathon? Not really. The marathon is an iconic distance that is pretty much regarded as the apex of distance races. To most runners, finishing your first marathon is like summiting Mount Everest. Do people go around bragging about making it half way up Mount Everest? No.

So my running friends, please give it a rest. Save the bumper sticker for when you do something truly epic, and that would be a marathon.

Me? I’ll never run another marathon, but I always a nice half 10k.

The Easter Bunion

It was a grand Easter day in Manhattan, where my brother and sister-in-law hosted us for a wonderful afternoon of eating and fun. The big surprise was walking in and seeing my Aunt Florie, who is just as vibrant and lively as I remember her being in my childhood, forty years ago.

Florie always took a lot of pictures, and she offered this advice: “You should write down on the back who’s in the picture… People will thank you for it someday.” Excellent point. This picture could certainly use some explanation:

Along with our Easter merrymaking, everyone peeled off their shoes to discuss bunions and foot health. After all, nothing says “festive holiday celebration” like examining each other’s feet. My right foot (not pictured) is a frightful sight, in case you’re interested.

Anyhow, to my not-yet-born descendants, this was not some sort of lost Easter tradition, but just what aging people do when they get together in a group.

How Planet Fitness Made Running Dangerous

I’ve been running for years — almost always before dawn and on the road. I’d never see many cars along my route, and when one did approach I turned on my headlamp so they would notice me. Some mornings, out along the road at 5am, you wouldn’t pass a single car.

Then everything changed.

Suddenly there was a steady stream of traffic between 5am ands 6am. I wondered where they all came from — but soon realized that it wasn’t where they came from, but where they were going: Planet Fitness.

The populist mega-gym moved from the other side of town to a grand new location — and brought with it a throng of early morning exercisers. Suddenly there was an influx of vehicles — not exactly like rush hour, but by 5am standards it felt like the Northway.

The interesting thing is that these people seem less mindful of a pedestrian on the side of the road. In the past almost every car would give me some leeway when they saw my light and reflective vest. Now? Not so much. These people on their way to exercise can’t be bothered with… someone exercising.

This is a great example of how a tiny change can alter traffic patterns. It’s just one more of a hundred things that have made where I live more crowded and hectic. I used to see deer and hear the turkeys off in the field before dawn. Now there are just more cars.