Monday, October 27, 2014

Odds and ... odds!

My brain rarely slows so collecting ideas for future articles, hikes, vacations, garden or house projects is also a non-stop activity. Not having any one topic for today's blog's focus told me that I was ready to share several hints or other items of interest with you. Most are odds rather than ends, hence my blog title.

In "There's another use for that: some products do more than intended," I ran into a household hint that my Aunt Dealtry taught me 60 years ago--that a crumpled up sheet of newspaper was even better than paper towels for cleaning windows. It was news to me, however, that you can use WD-40 to prevent your terra cotta flower pots from oxidizing. (read more by Angela Hill, Bay Area News Group, 9/13/14 by clicking here).

Speaking of newspapers, we recently had our grandchildren (9 & 11) over for a few hours unexpectedly, so we were searching for something fun to do. I remembered that my students used to love one of our science activities: constructing buildings and other structures with rolled up newspapers. Basically, you take 2-3 sheets of newspaper, roll them diagonally into a cylinder, tape the roll, and then use several rolls to build whatever you want. (This ties into science because one quickly learns that certain designs are more structurally sound than others.) As you can see from the photos in this blog, our projects evolved. Some in our group decided to make animals--sort of pinata like--and the fun and creativity grew. (This is a great rainy day activity for a small group.) 

Here's an item that genuinely surprised me--and may save a life. According to the California Highway Patrol, drunken drivers are more likely to attempt to drive in the slow lane when they are under the influence. Problem is, if they enter the freeway on the wrong side, they will be in the fast lane facing oncoming traffic. Some advise, therefore, that you avoid the fast lane and drive in lanes to the right to avoid such drivers. (by Mr. Roadshow, Gary Richards, Bay Area News Group. 9/19/14.

I was also surprised to learn (also in the aforementioned article) that, unlike the doors of an elevator, the doors on our Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) do not open automatically when encountering an obstacle. The article points out that not only is this a potential hazard to the hapless rider, but also it can put the BART car out of commission for hours. 

And animal lovers, just in case you missed this item in AARP's newsletter, "A Final Resting Place--With Fido," informed us that many states and localities are changing laws that have not allowed people to be buried with their pets (or vice versa). The article mentions places in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia that have lifted bans and the movement appears to be spreading. (AARP Bulletin, Read Possibilities, Sept. 2014, pg. 6)

That's all for now, folks!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Adventure challenge, the Cotopaxi Questival, comes to San Francisco

photo provided by Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi Questival comes to San Francisco this Friday, Oct. 24 - Saturday, Oct. 25. The 24-hour outdoor adventure challenges individuals and teams to race to win international humanitarian trips and other prizes. Following the race is a free concert with local bands, food trucks, drinks, and more​ after 3 pm on Saturday. There's lots more information on the Cotopaxi website, click here.

The events will be held at San Francisco's Crissy Field. There are three steps to the contest: complete the challenge tasks that you want to do; document the tasks completed; win prizes according to your score. In April, over 5,000 people experienced Questival Utah. Now the S.F. Bay Area plays host to this new race.
Cotopaxi is a new brand of upscale outdoor gear and clothing. The company was launched in April 2014, and is a venture-backed benefit corporation. Cotopaxi donates 10% of all profits to non-profit partners who in turn support healthcare, education and clean water projects in the developing world. 
So if you are interested in races, adventures, concerts, and parties, why not check out the "Cotopaxi Questival San Francisco," this weekend?
Register here for the challenges:

Susan Alcorn notes: This is not an endorsement of any event, product, or company. The information is provided as a service to those who might be interested in these events and contests. Athletic events often involve some degree of risk, so carefully consider your own health and fitness before entering into any contest.I have not received any money, services, products, or any other payment for this post.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hikers: Have you heard of rolling pin therapy?

Susan's latest therapy may seem wacko, but seems to be helping
Rolling pin therapy? It sounds wacko, but I think it can work. Here's some background. Five months ago, I started having pain in both of my legs. It was shortly after we had returned from our trip to the Galapagos--where our walks had been much shorter than our usual hikes. In the Galapagos, we did more snorkeling than walking--and when we did have a walk it was at most a mile and without much elevation change. At home, we had been doing 8-10 mile hikes in the hills near us. As soon as we returned from our trip, we took one of our routine walks--and I have been in pain ever since.

In my ongoing, and often frustrating, attempt to have my legs return to normal, I have tried most of the traditional treatments. I was encouraged when the pain in my right leg disappeared about two months later, but since the pain in my left leg had been worse all along, I was still not a happy camper.

As I mentioned in previous posts (click here), my regular internist at first diagnosed "musculo-skeletal strain" and thought it had been caused by the longer walk. He had me get an MRI of my spine and that seemed to eliminate an even scarier consideration--that I had spinal stenosis.

I tried to patch together some cross-training exercise in the form of Pilates, time on the elliptical trainer, and swimming. I stopped hiking as advised, but I found that even performing the simplest of activities was difficult. I couldn't stand on one foot to put on my pants; I couldn't climb the half-dozen steps to our house without pain.

Recently,  some of the things I have tried seemed to have helped. I say this advisedly, however, because this healing process seems to be a two steps forward, one step backward sort of thing. Cortisone shots into two areas of my leg provided some relief--but the pain moved elsewhere.

Finally, I decided to try something new, for me anyway: trigger point therapy. It has involved the therapist (#1) applying pressure directly to the sore spots, and (#2) attaching some kind of kizmos to my leg and zapping me with light electrical impulses. These procedures may seem unorthodox, but interestingly, they have been helping.

Which leads me to a summary of my third visit to my new therapist: first some of the manipulation, then the zapping--and finally, a recommendation to pull out my rolling pin and use it to massage my sore muscles a couple of times each day.

Calf in Briones Regional Park (EBRPD)
I can definitely say that my condition has improved. We were able to walk 4.3 miles in the rolling hills of Briones Regional Park today. This is the first time in months that I have been able to consider going that distance. It remains to be seen how I will feel in the middle-of-the- night when pain often wakes me, but after hiking with only minor pain today, I am finally feeling optimistic that I may be on the road to recovery.

Friday, October 3, 2014

I can't walk, but I can dance!

One of the strange discoveries that I have made while dealing with my leg problemfour months nowis that even though it is painful to walk much, I can dance with no problem at allto Zydeco, that is.

Barbecue for hungry dancers
A couple of months ago, friends told us about a birthday party in the Oakland hills that was going to have Zydeco music as the entertainment. We went because even though I didn't think I could dance, at least we could enjoy the people, food, and music. Once we got there, I decided to give dancing a try, but warned Ralph, "no turns, please." All was going wellI wasn't feeling any pain (literally).

"Okay, let's try some turnscarefully," I suggested. That turned out out okay as did spinning. We stayed and danced for a couple of hours. When we left, I was still feeling fine, although I was still wondering if I would be sore that night or the next day. As it turned out, I had no reminders of our activity.

Zydeco makes you happy!
A week later, we heard about another Zydeco event being held, this time in the El Cerrito hills, and decided to check that out. The dance lesson was followed by the showing of an intriguing documentary about the rivalry of Beau Jocque (my all-time favorite Zydeco musician; now deceased) and Clifton Chenier, the pronounced King of Zydeco. The film had a lot of music interspersed with the dialog and that gave us more opportunities to dance. Once again, I was painfree throughout the evening.

Crescent City Connection over the Mississippi
Ralph and I have a long history with Cajun and Zydeco music. When we first met 27 years ago, he was taking Cajun dance lessons locally; he wanted me to learn. And so I didwe both took lessons and also started going to events both in the Bay Area and other places in Northern California. We made several trips to Louisiana. We loved New Orleans, but there's more jazz there than Zydeco so we also went into the Bayou country (Lafayette, Eunice, Slidell, etc.). We went on many Zydeco cruises that headed to the Caribbean.

In more recent years, our emphasis has been more in hiking and backpacking and the Zydeco has gone to the back burner. It seems strange that a leg problem is bringing us back to this exciting music, but that's not such a bad thing!

Listen to Beau Jocque here: and

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Trigger Point Therapy: will it solve my woes?

In a couple of earlier blogs, I talked about my current problem with my leg. In a fog, and Where does one find answers; the vagaries of life give more details, but briefly I've been having a fair amount of pain in my left leg from my hip to my
ankle. My regular doctor has diagnosed it as musculo-skeletal strain and advised me not to hike. It has been too painful to walk very far, so I've had little choice but to follow his advice--for the most part--even though at times I feel like I am going stir crazy.

Round 1 in my fight also included taking up Pilates, some swimming, some elliptical trainer, and more work in the garden. The pain when walking has continued, so I decided to go to Round 2 of trying to find some answers and resolution.

Step 1 of Round 2 involved following the recommendation given by our niece Karen and going to see a certified massage therapist in Marin County who practices Trigger Point Therapy. According to his website, "trigger points are highly irritable spots on a muscle, often contributing to pain and dysfunction." The site continues, "Through applying the correct pressure, muscles can be 'detrigged,' bringing relief...."

This technique is based on research by Dr. Janet Travell and Dr. David Simons. Dr. Travell was President John F. Kennedy's personal physician and I was interested to read that she is credited for enabling Kennedy to run for office. His back and leg pain was so disabling before she came on the scene that he did not believe that he was capable of continuing his political career.

So, last Saturday I made my first trip across the Richmond-San Rafael bridge to start this new therapy. I now know that "applying the correct pressure" can be really painful, but I did feel some relief from my pre-existing pains after the procedure. It's been five days now and some pain is still with me, but--as predicted--it has moved to new locations. This is supposed to be a good sign (the moving around) for some reason. I'm hoping we can chase the pain right out of my body.

Perhaps best of all, Ralph and I have been able to go for a couple of mile-long hikes this week--something I have been unable to do for many weeks. I'm giving this therapy a fair trial; I'll go in at least another couple of times.

I was raised to believe that alternative medicine is a flaky thing to do, but when the regular avenues seem to lack answers, some of these procedures seem reasonable to try.

Any opinions?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Tule Elk at Pt. Reyes, CA
In the Cal Shakes Theater's program that we received at the recent run of Pygmalion (outstanding performance!), there was an article entitled "From Mansplaining to Leaning in: Shaw's Feminism Today," by Kaya Oakes. It was an eye-opener, and I learned a new term: Mansplaining (Man explaining). It's not new to the world however, according to Wikipedia, "the term quickly gained wide recognition, and in 2010, The New York Times, named it as one of its 'Words of the Year.'"

In her article, Oakes refers to an earlier essay entitled "Men Explain Things to Me" written by Rebecca Solnit in 2008. Mansplaining as described is that propensity, exercised more often by men, Solnit and others believe, that leads them to pontificate to women. It's especially galling when this happens to a woman who knows more about the topic than the man. This "presumption...makes it hard, at time, for any women in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard...." (Solnit)

I try to avoid pigeonholing people, but some make it very difficult to not fall back on stereotypes: men do this/women do that....  Like I think most people do, I accept the fact that most people--whether men or women--have some irritating personality traits (I know I do, too). I try to ignore these petty annoyances and focus on the positive aspects of our friendships.

Having recently read about mansplaining, however, I am finding it increasingly galling when a man tries to "educate" or inform me about something I already know. I see it happening everywhere (like when you buy a new car and then realize how many other people around you are driving the same kind). I find myself wondering how often I have seen it happen in the past, but not put a name to it. Or am I seeing it where it doesn't exist? Am I now super-sensitive to it? Maybe. I have been told that this is "just making conversation," but I am tired of just letting it go. 

Couldn't people just ascertain if their "audience" already knows something before they begin to lecture? 

Feel free to register your opinion below. 

Website: Cal Shakes Theater (California Shakespeare Theater, Orinda, CA

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fall color is the best medicine

I've just posted an article on, click here to read, based on a media release from John Poimoroo, who maintains a blog called With the information that Poimiroo posts, you can find out quickly where fall color is in various locations around the state. 

If you go to his site today (Sept 11), for example, you'll read that the aspen at 8,500 ft on the east side of the Sierra--at such spots as Lake Sabrina and North Lake--is really beginning to present a beautiful yellow and gold show. This can be a spectacular time to be hiking and backpacking in the high country, but it can also be a time with rapidly changing weather. If I wasn't still dealing with a leg injury, I'd be chomping at the bit to get to Highway 395 to see the color firsthand. 

However, I know that it's only a matter of time before we in the Bay Area start enjoying our own color show. Although many of the deciduous trees growing here don't make the display that those in the mountains do, I've noticed that there are already a few pockets of trees here and there glowing red, and although the liquid-amber and ginkgo trees in our yard are still bright green, I am eagerly awaiting their autumnal changes. I am sensing that all of this color is healing on many levels.  

More about Poimiroo's fall color report: why and where fall color happens
Susan's previous fall blog: An abundance of acorns
Fall 2013 Foliage article: Last report of 2013