Introduce Your Dentist to Oraqix

0 comments / May 2, 2016

I’ve had periodontal problems for more than 20 years now. I blame my own smoking habit and a really bad dentist I saw back in my 30’s. I had to have a series of painful root scalings and my gums continue to recede.

For almost a decade, I required full numbing every time I got my teeth cleaned–and I get my teeth cleaned four times a year. That meant careful scheduling of the cleaning because I was numb for hours afterward. In addition, I was increasingly reactive to the Novocaine, with racing heart followed by fatigue.

Then someone, somewhere, introduced me to Oraqix. It’s a topical gel in a little tube that the hygienist can put right along the gumline. It numbs only the immediate area, and only for about 15 minutes–which is just long enough for that area to be cleaned.

By the time my teeth are polished and flossed, the numbness is gone, and I’m ready to go about my day.

(And no, this is not a sponsored post.)

Two Words for You, Retiree: Real Estate

0 comments / April 14, 2016

I don’t know about the rest of the country, but Minneapolis turns out to have a red-hot housing market. I sold my home in just four days and got my asking price–which was several thousand above what I would have asked just a  year ago.

That means I’m going to have some cash to invest. And I’m thinking about investing in rental property. There are some serious advantages. Cash flow is one. One article said you should look for a 1% return. In other words, if I invest $100,000 I could make $10,000 a month. There is no other investment that could say that.

There are also some tax advantages–you can depreciate the building. That could be a plus if you live in one of the states where Social Security income is taxable and you want some offset.

There are downsides, of course. Stocks and bonds won’t call you at 4 a.m. with a clogged toilet. And the folks who say you can get 1% a month also say you should keep 6 months expenses in reserve in case there’s a pricey repair or a long vacant period.

I’m not going to sign a purchase agreement anytime soon–not until I have cash in hand. But I’m certainly going to do some more research. Stay tuned!

How Many Calories Does It Take to Change a Light bulb?

0 comments / April 7, 2016

xedocatIt sounds like a great set-up for a joke, doesn’t it? But no–here is a serious proposal out there to implement “activity equivalent calorie burning” information on food labels. The intent is good: If someone knows it takes 26 minutes of exercise to burn off a can of soda, they might drink water instead.

But there are problems with the theory. For starters, as one scientist notes, “It seems a daft idea as a significant proportion of caloric intake is used to support basal metabolism i.e. breathing snd staying alive, which is typically between 1200-1500 kcal/d.” I have learned that by looking at my Misfit Shine app: Even if my activity hasn’t synched for the day, the app will show that I have burned 1700 calories by early evening just by being alive.

By that standard, it might be better just to label each food item’s calories as a percentage of a 2000 calorie daily diet, the way we measure vitamins and salt.

But the bigger problem is that words of warning always seem most effective for the people who don’t need them. A stern admonition from the principal will terrify the good kids, while the bad kids always hear it as “that doesn’t mean me.”

So people with food issues are the ones who will be inclined to use the information the wrong way. And there are so many possibilities for that: Drink the soda and exercise for 16 minutes that seem like 26. Opt for the soda rather than something that has more calories total but also comes with some nutritional value. Or add the soda to the day’s calories and work yourself into exhaustion.

And of course for some of us, a calorie isn’t a calorie. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to work off 2000 calories if it’s mostly in the form of carbohydrates.

In short, nice try, labeling people, but the missing link in the food chain still awaits discovery.


Mr. Tidbit Joins the Blogosphere

0 comments / March 30, 2016

Al Sicherman is a very funny man. For years–32 of them, in fact–he wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. For some of those years, he had a weekly food column that was perhaps informed less by his cooking abilities than by his background as an electrical engineer. The meals were wildly experimental–a meal with chocolate in every course, for example. One column particularly stands out. He’d written a column about how easy it is to make popovers. He provided a foolproof recipe. He arrived at work the following morning (Monday) to find a paper bag filled with hockey pucks on his desk. The note inside said the pucks were the result of following, to the letter, Sicherman’s foolproof recipe.

Al Sicherman is, from what I understand, a very nice man. The hockey pucks–made to serve to guests–disturbed him. He contacted his reader to help determine what had gone wrong. Over the course of the next few weeks. Sicherman discovered that the reader had done almost nothing the recipe called for. Whole milk? No, he used skim. Butter? Nah, he used margarine. Fresh eggs? No, they were a few weeks old. Pre-heated over? Nope, he didn’t believe in it. Yet after every conversation, Sicherman would replicate the reader’s process and wind up with a batch of perfect popovers.

If you want to know how the story ends, you need to get your hands on Caramel Knowledge, where the column is reprinted.

Meanwhile, I learned from Sicherman’s nephew, who happens to be a former student of mine, that the Star Tribune cancelled the Mr. Tidbit column. So Mr. Tidbit has now taken to the blogosphere. For new product information and food tips, subscribe at


The Gift of Life–You’re Never Too Old to Give

0 comments / March 27, 2016

IMG_2255Last week I earned my seven gallon pin at Memorial Blood Centers. According to a chart on the wall of the mobile van, that means I’ve helped 168 people. I’m impressed at the way Memorial Blood Centers continues to improve processes. I started donating regularly when they replaced the nasty fingertip slicing device with a tool little punch-type device that doesn’t hurt at all. A few years later, they replaced the hard plastic rod for squeezing with a travel-size plastic bottle filled with warm water. It’s more pleasant to squeeze and, with the warm water plus a warm pillow on my shoulder, it takes about six minutes to give a pint of blood.

There was a time when blood donation had a maximum age. No more. You can keep giving as long as you are healthy. Of course, I know that the odds of staying healthy decrease with age, so I schedule my donations regularly. Just 8 more pints and I get my name on the wall of honor at Memorial Blood Center headquarters!

(Oh, and after you give you’re actually encouraged to eat Lorna Doones!)

Writing a Will the Community Ed Way

0 comments / March 18, 2016

Happy GoldenThe first time I wrote my will, I paid an attorney several hundred dollars. The second time I wrote my will, I paid an attorney less than $50. I don’t think there was a difference in the product. In fact, I learned some things the second time that I hadn’t known the first time around.

How did I do it? Through a community education course. This one-night session is led by a qualified attorney. The first hour or so is an overview of things to think about. Then you fill out a form that the attorney turns into a will. It’s printed out, signed and witnessed by classmates before you leave the room. The only downside is an hour or so with nothing to do while other participants’ wills are processed.

It’s perfect for me because I have a simple estate–my retirement savings already have designated heirs, my real property is minimal and relatively unencumbered. Obviously this approach wouldn’t work as well if you had a huge, complex fortune and needed trusts and what-not.

The courses are offered by Minneapolis community ed, and a Google search reveals that many other communities have similar courses.

This year, I’ve also signed up for a course to update my health care directive.

So if money was your excuse, or not trusting the accuracy of do-it-yourself technology, you need to come up with another excuse!

Working Past Retirement Is Better for You. Or maybe not.

0 comments / March 15, 2016

Back in September, researchers from the University of Miami reported that working past retirement age had lots of health benefits. Working seniors were less likely to report health problems. They were also healthier according to objective measures like rates of cancer, diabetes and heart trouble.

Now, of course, we have proof that the opposite is true.

A study led by the University of Sydney shows that retirees

  • Increased physical activity by 93 minutes a week
  • Decreased sedentary time by 67 minutes per day
  • Increased sleep by 11 minutes per day
  • 50 per cent of female smokers stopped smoking

In other words, if you’re looking for a definitive answer to the “work or retire” debate, you need to keep looking.

A Nice Place to Visit

0 comments / March 10, 2016

IMG_2232According to Forbes, Baby Boomers spend $157 billion (with a b) on travel every year (every year!) and rank travel as their #1 leisure activity. I have a friend who leaves today for Laos, undiscouraged at having had last year’s trip to Nepal cut short by the horrific earthquake, which left him camped out in a hotel courtyard for hours. I have another friend who takes month-long bike trips through the southern hemisphere every year.

So I feel like a Philistine when I say that travel isn’t a big deal for me, and my interest is diminishing as I get older. I just spent a week in the Phoenix area, and it was great. But I worried about my animals, and I was nervous about the time change, and the crowds and long distances got to me. Downtown Sedona was crazy, and I was there just long enough to get directions to a lovely hiking trail where I only encountered four other people in 90 minutes.

The best part of the vacation was a hidden gem, Basha’s museum, with a collection of western and Native art that took my breath away. And it was a mile from my cousin’s house.

I think my model for late-life travel will be my old friends Lu and Robert Smith, who knew every inch of the 100 miles around their hometown in Wisconsin. They knew where to shop, where to get great liver and onions, where the museums were. They learned through frequent short trips with lots of time to delve.

But I’d love to get back to Cuba. So, who knows?