Monday, April 30, 2007

To Sleep, Perchance to...Sleepwalk

I was a senior in high school and I had volunteered to be a camp counselor for 5th Grade Camp Pioneer. One night I was startled out of my slumber. One of my kids was standing over my bed. Afraid he was going to pee on me, I quickly shot up to my feet. The kid was asleep, yet there he was! I thought...if I wake him up, will he suddenly have a stroke or go into a coma? I had heard that waking someone in the middle of sleepwalking episode could be fatal. Luckily, I was able to guide him back to his bed where he stayed all night.

But people still wonder: will waking a sleepwalker make them go into shock?

"You can startle sleepwalkers, and they can be very disoriented when you wake them up and they can have violent, or confused reactions, but I have not heard of a documented case of someone dying from being woken up," reports Michael Salemi, manager of the California Center for Sleep Disorders.

Obviously, quickly guiding them back to bed is the fastest and easiest thing to do. But sometimes sleepwalkers do very complicated tasks like driving a car or unlocking doors. In those cases, it's best to wake them up before they hurt themselves or others.

The danger really is to the person doing the waking up. A sleepwalker may become disoriented or panicked if they're woken up, and they might flail their arms about or become violent. "If you wake a sleepwalker abruptly, you can startle him and may wind up with a black eye," says Gary Zammit, Ph.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Institute at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.

It's amazing some of the stuff that some people will do while sleepwalking. Here are just a few examples:

A woman in Australia was reported to leave her home and have sex with strangers...all while asleep. Her boyfriend once even found her in the act outside the house. They worked with a medical research facility in Sydney, and this case was confirmed a true case of sleepwalking.

Kenneth Parks drove 14 miles, murdered his mother-in-law and nearly killed his father-in-law while experiencing a sleepwalking epis0de. He had no motive in this case, and dearly loved his mother-in-law especially. Parks drove himself to a police station after waking up and finding blood all over himself. In 1988, a jury found him not guilty of murder since Parks was totally asleep during the act of killing.

Recently, there have been bizarre stories of people eating while asleep. Although this has been linked to the use of Ambien, sleep-eating is not a new phenomenon. The disorder is known as sleep-related eating disorder (SRED) and combines both sleeping and eating disorders. It's a horrible problem for the nearly 3 million Americans that suffer from this. Shelly Egemo of Iowa suffered from SRED almost all of her life. It got to the point where her husband nicknamed her side of the bed "Shelly's Snack Shop."

At night, she'd go to the kitchen and bring back all kinds of goodies including cookies, cakes, and chips. Shelly said, "In the morning, there would be frosting in my hair and M&M's stuck to my husband's back."

Finally, one guy writing on a message board on Digg admitted his sleep walking included spontaneous urination. He would get up, walk around, believe he was in the bathroom, and drop his pants and pee. His parents would find wet spots all around the house the next morning, and they were perplexed. They solved the mystery during one close-call. "I walked into my parents room one night and stood right next to my mom and pulled down my pants. Luckily for her she is a light sleeper and she woke up before I gave her a golden shower."

Maybe it was Mother's Day?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Fun Facts Five: (In)Famous Inventors

Thomas Edison: He invented a helicopter that ran on gunpowder. It blew up and damaged his factory. (He put the HELL in hel-icopter).

Leonardo DaVinci: This Renaissance Man invented the scissors. (All that genious and he still couldn't make Mona Lisa smile).

Joseph Gayetty: When he invented toilet paper in 1857, he had his name printed on every sheet. (How Gay...etty. Question: so what did they use to wipe prior to 1857???).

Dr. Albert Southwick: He is the one that came up with the idea of the electric chair...and the dude was a DENTIST! (As if we needed yet another reason to fear the dental chair).

Marcel Bich: This French inventor created the Bic pen. They dropped the "h" from his name because they feared Americans would pronounce it "bitch pen." (Bic also makes Bitch lighters and Bitch shavers).

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Sap Floweth Over

As many of you know, I was a high school English teacher several years ago. One of the great inevitibablities was a phenomenon known as...Spring Fever. As the winter wind gave way to warmer temperatures and more daylight, my students became very disinterested in Shakespeare and more interested in the opposite sex.

The attention spans got shorter, as did the girls' skirts.

We've all suffered from Spring Fever in one form or another. When temperatures hit the 70s for the first time, ever notice how much less traffic there is with the drive home? It's because a bunch of workers have left work early. They're playing hooky!

So is Spring Fever a real phenomenon, or is it just something we conjer up to excuse our strange behavior?

Matthew Keller, postdoctoral fellow at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics in Richmond, studied 500 people in the U.S. and Canada and found that the more time people spent outside on a sunny spring day the better their mood. He even found that there was an optimum temperature where people were most happy: 72 degrees F.

When Spring arrives, does our libido also increase?

There have been numerous studies showing that mammals definitely do breed according to seasons. Melatonin is known as the hormone that makes us sleep, and it has been thought that our increased energy in the spring months is related to the decreased duration of melatonin production, due to more daylight and shorter nights.

The idea that seasons affect moods is not a new one. For example, people that become depressed with the shortening of days is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. The "winter blues" is a very real disorder.

So the hypothesis that longer days and warmer temperatures bring us out of our funk and make us feel good isn't such a stretch. Perhaps we're seasonal animals. Or maybe it's a hormonal thing tied to sunlight and warmer weather.

Science doesn't have the definitive answer, but who cares. Get out and enjoy the weather. Cut out of work/school if you can and have some fun. The days will continue to get longer until mid-May. After the summer solstice on June 21st, daylight will begin to shorten.

And if you get caught goofing off or committing sexual harassment...just blame it on Spring Fever.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Fun Facts 4: Earth Day

Whatever side you sit on with the whole Global Warming Debate, you cannot argue that conservation and more efficient use of our natural resources is a GREAT thing. OK, I admit - I joined Ecology Club in high school because of a girl, but I do care about the environment.

With Earth Day being celebrated on Sunday, I only thought it fitting I share some interesting environmental facts with you this weekend:

Recycling: Recycling just ONE alumnium can saves enough energy to power a TV for about three hours. (So that means the average fraternity house has about 18,000 hours worth of TV power inside of it).

Power: The average air conditioner uses 98% more energy than ceiling fans. (And with the costs of energy going up, you're going to have to recycle aluminum cans to help pay for running that A/C).

Water: 1/3 of all household water usage comes from flushing the toilet. (So die-hard environmentalists like Leonardo DiCaprio refuse to flush, but keep their loot to themselves).

Garbage: Each person throws away approximately FOUR pounds of garbage a day. (I bet computer geeks are responsible for ten times that. You ever notice the amount of cardboard, plastic, and packing foam that's leftover when you unpack your new gadget?)

Plastics: It can take 300 years for plastic to break down in a landfill. (That means Michael Jackson will be preserved forever).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Boob Tube And Food

A family sitting down to dinner is quickly becomming a very rare thing in the typical American Household. Busy schedules for parents and children make it nearly impossible. Many families are trying their hardest to bring back the family dinner, but with one caveat - they watch TV at the same time. Nothing brings out the flavor of fried chicken like watching Deal or No Deal, right?

Multitasking is the only way to survive the 21st century, it seems. But eating dinner while watching TV is not a new thing. We even have specially packaged meals with all the sodium and preservatives you'd want that are meant to be eaten while watching TV called "TV Dinners."

A new study done by the New York's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for WIC (Women, Infant, and Children) studied the dining habits of over 1,300 families. Children and parents were surveyed on how often a family ate together, how often the TV was on at the time, and how often fruits and vegetables were offered during family meals.

There's a mountain of studies already showing strong correlations between the number of hours children watch TV and how fat they are, and it's been shown that families that eat together have better diets.

Overall, the more often a family ate together, the more often a child was offered fruits and vegetables. Those opportunities to eat healthy foods plummeted each night that the TV was on during dinner.

Why is that? Dr. Barbara Dennison, director of the Bureau of Health Risk Reduction for New York's Department of Health belives that when the "boob tube" is on, there's less focus on the food kids are stuffing their faces with. "In terms of the childhood obesity epidemic in this country, part of what contributes is not just how TV takes away from physical activity, but it's distracting, and you don't know how much you're eating. It's a double whammy."

This same study also found some other very interesting facts:

* Hispanic and black parents reported having the TV on more often that white parents

* Hispanic and white families tend to eat together more often than black families

* The television was on more often in a household where the head of household had less than a high school education

It's a very eye-opening study for sure, but one thing to note is that the study interviewed participants in the WIC program, which means they are receiving assistance getting their groceries. Eating healthy is NOT cheap. These households have to make their dollars and WIC assistance stretch as far as possible, so they choose cheaper but more refined foods to feed their kids. I mean, if you have mouths to feed at home, which would you have to choose: three-fourths of an apple or a 99-cent bag of 32 pizza rolls?

However, the study does make it clear that watching TV does negate the healthiness of a family eating together.

I have a theory too. Since watching TV turns kids' brains to mush, hence surpressing their attention to what they're eating and also subdues those biological sensations that tell them they're full...why not put a bunch of fruits and vegetables in front of them while the boob tube is on? There ya go - a win-win.

If your kid overdoses on grapes, what the worse that can happen? Massive diarrhea? Who cares. I've never heard of a kid getting fat from grapes.

OK, maybe you should wash those first. The pesticides will shrink your penis.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Loss For Words

Thoughts and prayers go out to those friends and families with loved ones hurt or killed yesterday.

This tragedy will never make any sense to me.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Fun Fact 3: I Got A Bigger Uvula Than You Do

So it's 4:30 AM and I am gagging, nearly throwing up. I woke up suddenly with a very dry mouth and the sensatioin of something golf-ball sized stuck in the back of my throat. At first, I thought it was phlegm. I coughed, trying to hack it out. But it wouldn't come up.

I got a small flashlight and looked in my throat...

And that's when I saw it.

That little ball-hanging thing in the back of my throat was as large as a thumb!

What the hell? That's when I started to gag. Was I dying? Did I have throat cancer? I wanted to call 9-1-1 or maybe rush myself to the ER. My head was spinning. What's wrong with me?

So what did I do? I got on my computer and did a Google search. Here's what I found:

That little ball-hanging thing in the back of your throat is called the Uvula. Doctors aren't completely sure what its function is, but they believe it helps prevent choking. Sometimes, it can get swollen from a bacterial or viral infection. But most often, dehydration is the culprit. If you've been out drinking the night before, your throat will get dry and you'll probably snore. The dryness and the uvula slamming around in your throat from the snoring is enough to make it swell up. Many times, sinus problems can also inflame your uvula.

It's a weird feeling. It's like like having a piece of food stuck back there. And when I think about it, it makes me want to barf.

What to do? Drink tons and tons of water. You might want to gurgle with salt water. I drank a bunch of ice water, and the coolness felt good against my throat. After drinking what seemed a thousand glasses of ice cold water, I've been going pee every 10 minutes now. My uvula is still swollen, but it doesn't feel as bad. Or maybe I'm just getting used to it.

So if you ever feel like something stuck in the back of your throat, and you find your uvula's so swollen that it's touching the back of your tongue - don't worry. You're probably not dying. Some people are born with an abnormally large uvula. One professional singer even said that it helped with his vibrato.

You think other singers have uvula envy?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Life After Death After Life: James 3 (Part Two)

If you missed Part One, check out the previous post below

Bruce did more research and found the Natoma Bay Association. From there, he got in contact with Leo Pratt, an Avenger fighter pilot veteran.

Leo Pratt was able to confirm that there was a pilot on The Natoma Bay named Jack Larson. Bruce attended a Natoma Bay reunion in September of 2002. Without telling the veterans his motivation for asking all these questions, he learned a lot about the VC-81 squadron and a pilot named James...James Huston Jr.

James Huston Jr. was a fighter pilot on the Natoma Bay. Huston had volunteered for a mission to disrupt a shipping line at Futami Ko Harbor near Chichi Jima, and this would have been Huston's 50th and final mission before returning home in April. Huston was the only one shot down during this mission.

Bruce tracked down Jack Larson as well. Corsairs were NOT housed on the Natoma Bay, he discovered. James Huston was shot down while flying a Wildcat fighter. Little Jack 3 had always talked about flying a Corsair, however. Maybe this inaccuracy was proof to Bruce that this whole reincarnation stuff was simply one big coincidence.

In 2003, Bruce got in contact with James Huston Jr's sister, Anne Huston Barron. Through lengthy conversations on the phone, Anne was genuinely interested in figuring out this great mystery. Was this little four year-old boy her own long-lost brother reincarnated? She sent Bruce and Andrea some personal things of her brother's - and it shook Bruce's beliefs.

One was a photo of a young James Huston standing in front of a Corsair fighter plane. Bruce and Andrea learned that although he had been shot down over Chichi Jima in a Wildcat, James Huston had been part of an elite figher group that flew Corsairs.

Bruce came to believe that his boy was indeed "James 3." James Huston Sr, then James Huston Jr. and now little James Leininger.

Here's a quick rundown of some very weird synchronicities between James Huston Jr. and James Leininger that might give you the willies:

1)While falling asleep, Bruce and Andrea would often ask James some questions regarding his nightmares. James had said that the Corsair planes had an interesting characterisitic: they had a problem with getting flat tires all the time. After contacting aviation historians, this was confirmed as being true.

2)Bruce learned that another air squadron had run parallel to the VC-81. Members of the VC-83 squadron vividly remember seeing James Huston being shot down. They said that they saw the plane get hit in the engine and then crash in the Futami Ko Harbor...the exact spot that James 3 had pointed to on the map of Bruce's book back in 2000.

3)When Andrea said that she was going to cook meatloaf for James for the first time, he said that he hadn't had meatloaf since he had been on the Natoma Bay. After speaking with the vets at the reunion, they learned that meatloaf was a regular meal for the crew.

4)James had named his three G.I. Joe dolls Leon, Walter, and Billie. According to U.S. Pacific records, there were three pilots part of the VC-81 Natoma Bay squadron that had also lost their lives in other battles: Lt. Leon Stevens Conner, Ensign Walter John Devlin, and Ensign Billie Rufus Peeler. When asked why he had named his G.I. Joes those names, James said, "Because they greeted me when I went to heaven."

OK, that one gave me the chills.

Is James 3 really James Huston reincarnated? Or is this some sort of hoax created by very creative parents?

Epilogue: James 3 is now a very bright 8 year old boy that loves Star Wars. His memories of his "past life" are fading quite quickly. Those that study these children say that this is quite typical. Very soon, he'll probably have no recollection of his life as James Huston Jr. - fighter pilot on the Natoma Bay and World War Two hero.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Life After Death After Life: James 3 (Part One)

The story of six-year old James Leininger...

James Leininger is a playful and very normal eight year old today. But two years ago, the boy made national news while being featured on Good Morning America, The Montell Williams Show, and ABC News. Little James was conveying knowledge and experiences no child would have recollection of. What many people believed was that six year-old James Leininger was a reincarnation of a World War II pilot, James Huston Jr.

When James Leininger was 20 months old, his parents brought him to an airplane exhibit. James had a fascination with airplanes, and Bruce and Andrea Leininger had always tried to create a hands-on learning environment for their young son. James kept going back to the World War II exhibit, and he refused to leave even after 3 hours.

For you parents out there, how many 20 month year-old boys do you know can be so focused on something for that long???

At age three at another plane exhibit, James got inside the cockpit of a vintage display and did something that caught his parents' attention. He started to maneuver the controls and go through the instrumentation as if he was doing a pre-flight check. He even went so far as to do a quick once-over on the outside of the plane. It was as if he knew what he was really doing. Bruce and Andrea were fortunate to get the whole thing on video.

Interesting, but easily dismissed as coincidence. Maybe the kid is just very bright.

Later, they bought James a toy plane. Andrea pointed out what looked to be a bomb on the underside of the plane. James corrected her and said, "No, that's the drop tank." His mother was a little surprised, as she had no idea what a drop tank was. She looked it up, and sure enough, her little son was correct.

They had never before talked about Corsairs, World War II, or aviation prior to all of this. James' parents were very protective about what was on TV. Nothing but educational programming like Sesame Street was on.

At this time, James was having horrible nightmares. Three, sometimes four nights a week, James would be screaming about being shot down and being engulfed in flames, screaming, "airplane on fire...little man can't get out!"

Bruce and Andrea would try to figure out exactly what James was dreaming about. What freaked them out was all the details James was able to provide. Words like "Corsair" and "Natoma" were simply words that weren't in a normal 3 year old's vocabulary. Bruce did some searching on the internet and found that there was indeed a ship called The Natoma Bay that housed fighter planes in the Pacific. But he chalked it up to coincidence, especially when he said the pilot's name in his nightmares was named James too.

The nightmares continued, and Andrea's mother first suggested that maybe little James was remembering past life memories. At this time, he was signing his name on every piece of artwork with "James 3." Maybe it was because he was 3 years old.

On October of 2000, James provided another very specific detail - a name. That name was Jack Larson. He said he was a guy that he had flown with. By this time, Andrea was beginning to believe what her mother believed. They continued to ask James questions, to talk about his "memories." The nightmares finally began to subside. Despite this, Bruce remained a skeptic.

Bruce had gotten a book, Battle for Iwo Jima, which had come in the mail as part of a history book club. While leafing threw it, James jumped on his father's lap to watch cartoons. The boy pointed to a map of Chichi Jima near Iwo Jima and said, "Daddy, that is where my plane was shot down."

James had pointed to a very specific spot on this large map - a harbor. And who was this Jack Larson James was talking about? Could Jack Larson have been a real person...a real fighter pilot that had flown with James in a past life? And why did his son keep referring to himself as James 3???

Very soon, Bruce would learn just how accurate his son's "memories" were.

To be continued...