Staying Healthy in Third-World America

This fine warning comes to us regarding fresh peaches purchased in Aldi stores.

We don’t yet have Aldi here in lovely Arizona, though the chain is planning four discount emporia in our garden state. Doesn’t matter though: the principle applies across the board: We’re not in Kansas anymore…

It’s unclear from this opaque article whether we’re talking about fresh whole peaches sold in bags, or sliced refrigerated or frozen peaches. However, it looks like probably they’re talking about fresh whole peaches. So, here’s a message from 1955, courtesy of US citizens living in lovely Saudi Arabia, where ALL fresh produce was assumed to be contaminated with this, that, or the ’tother fecal bacteria. It applies now as it did then, back before the US was a Third-World country:

Before bringing any fresh produce into the house, fill a kitchen sink (or, if you have it, MUCH better: a garage or workroom sink) with soapy water. Dawn is really good: a generous squirt of Dawn in a sinkful of cold water.  But any dish detergent or laundry detergent will do the job.

Gently submerge the produce in the soapy water. Let the produce sit there while you go on about your business for a few minutes; videlicet:

a) In another sink, wash your hands in soap and water

b) Bring in the rest of the groceries.

c) As needed, wash other (non-produce) groceries in the kitchen sink, using soap and water.

d) Drain the kitchen sink, rinse off groceries, and place them to drain dry or wipe them dry with towels. Toss towels in washer.

e) Put these groceries away.

f) Return to the sink where the produce is soaking. Wash each piece with soap and water (that is: your produce is sitting in detergent water — say, Dawn or Ivory + water — and now you take a bar of good strong soap and wash each piece with the soap under running water.

g) Rinse well, and set these aside to drain dry

h) After 15 or 20 minutes or so, to the extent the produce is still damp, wipe it dry with clean toweling.

i) Then, and only then, put it away in the refrigerator or in whatever cool place where you store it.

Got it? Wash produce in detergent, bar soap, and water; wash your hands in soap and water; rinse produce well; drain produce dry; refrigerate produce. Pray for the best.

Ideally, items that have tough skins — such as citrus and melons — should be doused briefly with dilute Clorox and rinsed well before storing.

If it is revealed to us moderns that we’re talkin’ about refrigerated or frozen processed peaches: cook the damn things before eating them. 

This was what we had to do with when my family and I lived in Saudi Arabia, where the produce we bought in the local commissary was likely to have been grown in fields fertilized with human waste. Very little that was brought into camp from nearby Middle Eastern countries was safe to eat, at least not by “Western” standards. By the 1950s, most produce and meat you bought stateside, in ordinary U.S. grocery stores and supermarkets, was safe enough to eat that consumers did not typically obsess about sanitizing every bite. But once you were outside the industrialized world…well…you took your life in by your hands if you chose to get careless about any detail of sanitation.

Who would think that half a century later, we here in the Good Ole USofA would find ourselves living in a Third-World Country?

These Tips will Help you to Get Your Finances Back on Track


If you feel as though your finances are in ruin, then you need to know that you are not alone. It’s not easy for you to know how you are going to find the money to pay for everything, but at the end of the day you have to make sure that you don’t panic. If you are collected in the way that you approach your debt and if you do everything you can to stay on top, then you shouldn’t have many problems to contend with.

Pay Less Interest on your Credit Card

Credit card debt is bad. It doesn’t matter whether you have debt that is left over from Christmas or whether you have booked a holiday on your card because it can easily take a long time for you to pay it down. This is especially the case if you are paying interest. If you can, you need to move it to a 0% interest card. If you want to get the biggest benefit from this, then you need to pay it down as much as you can earlier-on. If you don’t do this, then you may find that you end up struggling and that you end up in the same situation again when your payments go up again. If you want to really benefit but you are not able to take out a credit card then why not look into: When you do, you may find that you can pay off your debt and then just pay interest on your loan.

Pay More than the Bare Minimum

Another way for you to pay less interest on your credit card would be for you to try and pay off more than the basic amount every month. Minimum payments are normally set at very low levels so if you pay this off every month then you shouldn’t have a problem. That being said, if you can afford it, you have to pay more than this if you can. When you do, you will soon find that you can clear your balance with ease and that you can also come out on top with ease.

Shift your Store Card Balance

When you look at your store card, you may find that they charge a very high-interest rate. You may find that sometimes they are as high as 29%. This can really hurt your finances, so if you want to get around this then you need to try and swap your debt to a 0% card. When you do, you will be able to transfer your balance and you can also really take advantage of the savings. Again, it’s super important that you try and pay down your debt as much as possible during this time.

Pay Less for your Overdraft

Paying interest on your overdraft? If you can, you should try and switch to a current account. This won’t charge you and you may even find that you can save a considerable amount of money too. An alternative would be for you to try and use a 0% money card. This will give you the chance to move money from your credit card to your current account. If you need some help here, then it is more than possible for you to hire a financial advisor. When you do, you can trust in them to help you with anything you need, and they can also give you the advice you need with your overdraft in general. Some can even find you better deals with your credit card too, so keep that in mind if you can.


Magic Dragon to the Rescue

So it’s been about a month since I decided, at a young doctor’s urging, to climb back on the wagon…and since then have managed to cling to the haystack. She speculated that the disturbing tingling in the hands and feet is a peripheral neuropathy occasioned either by a vitamin B12 deficiency or by alcohol abuse.

I personally do not think one or two glasses of wine, once a day, taken with a large meal consisting of meat, two vegetables, or a vegetable & a salad represents alcohol abuse. On the other hand, neither do I feel my world will end if I substitute iced tea or iced coffee for the swiggles. The doc’s definition of “too much,” it develops, is driven by shifting standards of acceptably safe amounts of alcohol consumption — revised downward. These official pronouncements tell us that women should drink no more than 4 ounces of wine a day.  This is less than the standard presented as Received Truth when I was a young pup.

Well. Four ounces is one rather small glass — hardly more than a taste. It’s not worth opening the bottle and dirtying up a wine glass to pour less wine than will accompany a full meal. I’ve probably been drinking about 6 ounces a day. Apparently that is dire, DIRE, we tell you!

Okay, to the great joy, no doubt, of my Christian Scientist ancestors’ lurking ghosts, I heave myself onto the wagon and fasten the seat belt. Meanwhile, the young doc and her boss also suggested that I drop a vitamin B12 supplement every day, the B12 level being one aspect that turned up wanting in the vast complicated set of blood measurements they did. (Does it not strike you as odd that if you have a nutritional deficiency, only one of a wide array of factors would be lacking?). This stuff isn’t going to harm me. Whether it will help remained to be seen.

And, we might add, still remains to be seen!

Neither of these two changes seemed to have much effect, over the course of three or four weeks. Well: I feel a little more energetic — one symptom of B12 deficiency is fatigue. Was I fatigued in the long-ago time? Not exactly: I incline to call it lazy. But whatEVER. Yesterday I scrubbed 1868 square feet of tile without noticeable “fatigue.” 😀

As for the tingling feet and hands? Like an electric current flowing through them. All. The. Time.

Oh well.

I’d been applying a topical anesthetic in the form of lidocaine. Its effect, to the degree that it has one, was brief, at best. But then…oh, yes, THEN: a vague memory flitted across the fogged brain: that nightstand drawer held several vials of CBD cream and ointment given to me over the years by various friends & relatives. Hmmm….  What if?  D’you suppose…?

Dig these out and smear them on the paws, one at a time over a couple of days. Only one of them has much effect, but it does make a noticeable improvement. Hot dang.

This elixir goes away quickly, because it’s just a sample size. But…it is to be noted that Sprouts, which has a store within walking distance of the Funny Farm, sells CBD nostrums! So yesterday, girding myself with face mask and disinfectant, I trotted into that fine emporium, where I found the cannabis nostrums under lock and key. Tracked down the woman who runs the cosmetics and patent meds department, and found to my surprise that she was pretty knowledgeable on the subject of cannabis-laced skin balms.

Picked one that she recommended, hauled it into the house, and lo! It actually does work pretty well! Doesn’t make the electrical effect go completely away, not by any means, but it does dull it enough to make it tolerable.

Meanwhile, we have the perennial blood pressure neurosis.

Since I’m going to have to trek back out to the Mayo toward the end of this month to do battle with the docs over my various lifestyle manifestations, I figured I’d better resume making a record of average BP measurements, since every time I so much as drive into a hospital or doctor’s office parking lot, my blood pressure heads for high orbit. I feel I need to have a record to show how the figures run in a less crazy-making environment.

At 2:30 in the morning on August 3, when I was awakened by the sensation of my pulse pounding, the blood pressure was 161/93. Holy shit! By 3:30 it had gone up to 167/107, freaking terrifying. This, however, was not the first time I’d experienced a night-time episode of astronomical blood pressure. Last time, it had dropped into the elevated but not terrifying range by the time I got to the ER, and within 45 minutes or an hour had gone back down to what was then “normal” for me. Also by now had learned that a “blood pressure crisis” — hurry on down to your nearest ER — is upwards of 180/120. So this time I refrained from panicking and just tested it about every half-hour or so, and yes: watched it fall to 143/90. Still way too high, but not immediately in stroke territory.

As this night watch proceeded, it occurred to me that because of the neuropathy I was swimming in ibuprofen. I’d been taking 200 mg four times a day — the last spiked with Benadryl in the (vain) hope of sleeping past 2 a.m. That’s 800 milligrams a day of the stuff. Holy ess aitch ai!

Turns out ibuprofen can jack up your blood pressure. And…it’s dangerous to ingest it along with cinnamon, a little experiment I’d decided to try by way of addressing the alleged prediabetes that also showed up in the blood tests.

So I decide to go cold turkey with that stuff.

It was dulling the tingling a little…but not enough to matter. In fact, the CBD gunk makes one helluva lot greater improvement.

Okay. So…

Now I’m tippling nary a drop of wine (or anything else, either).

And not gulping down piles of ibuprofen.

Two days into the ibuprofen fast: BP is 120/78

Awww c’mon! Gimme a break. I write it down but regard it as a fluke.

Another two days later, it drops to 105/72.

Right. Sure. I figure the BP machine must be busted. Make a note to take it up to the Walgreen’s to get it checked.

Next day: 118/78. Hmmm..that at least is in the more or less normal range. But I’ll believe it if I see it again. More than once.

And today: 118/72.

Dayum! It must’ve been the wine, not the old age and not the various neuroses that was pushing the blood pressure into the alarming range.

Well. We shall see if this proves true. I’ll believe it when I see it…at least eight or ten times.

As for the tingling extremities? The electrical current is about gone in the feet.

What next, dear Lord?

Adventures in Medical Science: Blood Sugar Frolic

One of the reasons I haven’t been writing much at Funny about Money (or anywhere) is that I haven’t been feeling on the top shelf. Not sick. But not what you’d call creative. Just blah. This has been going on for awhile. I put it down to laziness. And to the heat: it’s in the 110s here now. Every day.

Well, three or four weeks ago my hands started tingling. Felt like an electric current was running through them. Then the feet started tingling. Not good.

So I call out to my doc’s office at the Mayo, and the nurse says “you need to come right on in.”

Ohhhh….shit! Just what I wanna do: go to a doctor’s office in the middle of a contagion of a potentially fatal disease. But this stuff is scary, so I traipse out there. They order up an elaborate series of blood tests. Traipse to the hospital at the crack of dawn to get blood drawn. Then traipse way to hell and gone back out to the far side of Scottsdale to meet with the doc’s resident.

Who IS….this really neat and smart and wonderful woman. I want her as my doctor! Don’t let her get away!!!!!

Anyway: She says I have a vitamin B12 deficiency and also am pre-diabetic. Peripheral neuropathy — the grown-up term for tingling hands and feet — is a symptom, and it can get a whole lot worse. She and mega-doc agree I should start taking vitamin B12 supplements and come back in a month. Okay.

At the risk of repeating myself: Well….

Finding this stuff is easier said than done. I decide to try the Sprouts near my house, partly because the last time I went to the Walgreen’s near there, I was waylaid by a pair of aggressive panhandlers in the parking lot — to the point where I had to lock my car door and drive away! — and partly I figured if anyone had a vast selection of woo-woo “supplements,” it would be Sprouts.

But meanwhile and by sheer coincidence, I open up a medical newsletter — a piece of journalism — that I happen to subscribe to and find, lo! An article going on about how a recent study showed that  ingesting 500 mg of cinnamon thrice daily reduced glucose levels among a decent-sized group of test subjects. This peer-reviewed paper came out through Oxford, so it’s presumably reasonably sane.

Hm. So I decide to buy a bottle of 500-mg cinnamon tablets, too.

Troll dollEasier said than done, indeed! No problem finding the B12 pills. But cinnamon is apparently High WooWoo. Not only are there a jillion variants, every one of them is ludicrously overpriced. Most of the B12 pills are rapaciously priced, too, but just as I’m about to walk away I find, down on a lower shelf, a brand selling the stuff for 7 bucks a bottle.

I figure ohhhhkayyy…I’ve got a big jar of cinnamon back at the Funny Farm: that can be sprinkled on apple slices, into spinach and chard, mixed with tea or coffee. A little math shows this should be easy: 500 mg is .1 teaspoon; three doses a day would be 1/3 of a teaspoon. But munching this stuff three times a day could get tiresome. I order a jar of 500 mg capsules from Amazon, which arrives within a day.

Problem is…well, there are two problems.

1. The study doesn’t say what type of cinnamon they used. There are two: Saigon cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. The stuff in my spice cabinet is Saigon cinnamon. The stuff in the pills is Ceylon cinnamon. The Korean authors of the laudatory research paper do not specify which variety they inflicted on their test subjects.

Turns out these are the products of two separate plant species. Saigon cinnamon is a cassia. Ceylon cinnamon is not. A little banging around reveals that the supposedly therapeutic variety is Saigon cinnamon, AND that it can have baleful side effects if you overdo it.

How baleful, you ask?

Liver damage.

Uh huh. Apparently you have to ingest somewhat more of it than our researchers inflicted on their subjects for that to happen. But still…

2. The horse pills that arrive from Amazon are as big as the end of my thumb! NO WAY can I swallow one of these without choking on it. To use the things, I’ll have to cut the capsule in two and sprinkle it over food or into a drink.

We have this fine DIY comparison of the two varieties:Hmmm…  Ohhkayy… It looks like it can’t do much harm to ingest Saigon cinnamon, the stuff that supposedly works against incipient diabetes, in moderation: the amount used by the researchers is within the supposedly safe limit. Just.

But of course this means I’ve wasted my money on Amazon’s horse pills. Ohhh well!

All pretty dubious, I’d say. But nothing ventured: I decide to add 1/4 teaspoon of the Saigon variety 3 times a day to what passes for my diet. If this isn’t toxic (it apparently could be), it may be redundant, since I routinely drink a fair amount of tea and coffee and eat a fistful of blueberries every day — all supposedly having a similar effect.

We’ll believe it when we see it.

What is more likely to have the “effect” is getting off the sauce. As it develops, prediabetes and diabetes are not the only potential causes of peripheral neuropathy. It can also be caused by alcohol abuse and by vitamin B12 deficiency. We know I’m low on B12. And, to my doctor’s horror I have a glass or two of wine every day, with dinner. I’m not exactly getting soused every day, though: two glasses of wine with a pile of food fit for the Queen of Sheba is not the same as getting shit-faced every day. Nor am I such a lush that it causes me great pain and suffering to substitute iced tea or water for the vino. So…losing the wine and  losing some weight (I’m 10 or 12 pounds overweight again: the result of spending day after day loafing with a computer on my lap) are evidently in order. Whether these strategies will help remains to be seen.

All of this therapeutic tee-totalling and dieting is complicated by the fact that it is too damned hot to get any exercise. It was supposed to be 118 here today — we missed the mark by two degrees And with these damned precancerous growths sprouting up all over my hands and legs and back, I’m not allowed to go into the pool during the daytime. Like Dracula, I must stay out of the sunlight! The dog and I walk about three miles before sunup every morning — about an hour’s jaunt — but evidently that is not enough!

And what really works on the tingling is ibuprofen. One tablet of ibuprofen tamps it down by about 80% and lasts about four hours.

The Dawning of the Light…

Well. Let’s hope it’s the light, not a will o’the wisp.

Ever have a moment of Insight when you realize holy sh!t of course that’s IT!???

So I’d made an appointment at the Mayo for 1:15 this afternoon, after calling one of their redoubtable RNs and describing this weird tingling in my hands and on the soles of my feet. It’s been going on for a while and…and…well…tingling hands can be a sign of multiple sclerosis. Years ago, after an episode that was almost certainly an ocular migraine (but has never been proven to be or not to be, one way or the other), an overenthusiastic ophthalmologist told me he thought it could be a symptom of impending MS.


This was the same quack who later announced that I had a melanoma inside my eye. This led to about a months’ worth of frantic worrying, rewriting my will, figuring out how my kid would be cared for and on and hysterically on. The ocular oncologist he sent me to took one look, snorted, and said “That’s not cancer! that’s a congenital thing and it’s harmless. Get outta my office!”

So I’m thinking how MUCH, how very much I do NOT want to make that hour-long trek out to the Mayo Clinic and once again explain myself to a skeptical doctor and what’m-i-gunna-do-if-this-is-MS-holy-shit when…yeah…a moth-like thought flutters past:

Hey, stupid…Yeah, you, that one! What have you had your hands in that might have irritated your dainty skin?

Uhm. Well.

Every time I drive around in the car — like, say, trudging out to the dermatologist’s office yesterday and over to the QT Monday buying gasoline — I pull a wet Lysol wipe out of the plastic canister that resides on the passenger seat and scrub down the steering wheel, the gear shift knob, the keys, the this, the that. Monday I wrapped the gas pump handle in wet Lysol wipes and then scrubbed my credit card with another one of them. If I go into a grocery store, I carry a couple of those wipes and wipe off the handle and kiddy seat on the grocery cart. And o’course, every time that happens I get this Lysol disinfectant stuff all over my hands and forearms. And…and…what’s IN that stuff? A fine product called alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride. And what is that, you ask? That is something that the EPA recommends you not use. It causes…yep…contact dermatitis.

Hello? Could it be?

As for the feet? I walk around barefoot on broiling hot pavement two or three times a day. Is there some reason, d’you suppose, that the calluses on the bottom of my paws hurt? Duh!

So I call the Mayo (i really don’t want to traipse out there!!!), reach a nurse and explain my theory. I suggest that even if it is MS or diabetes, I’m not gonna die from it very soon. How’s about we postpone today’s appointment for a week and see what happens?

Amazingly, she thought that made sense!  So, ô hallelujah, that little bit of misery is postponed.  

Learned from the Covid Plague…

So…what have you learned from your experience with the Covid Confinement and Overall Hysteria? Hereabouts, I have learned a lot these past couple of months, locked up in my house as though I were in Leavenworth’s solitary confinement row. Other than to walk the dog, I’ve been out of my house…what? twice? maybe three times since the first of April.

You wouldn’t think an inmate would gain much insight from just sitting around for day after day after day. But…to the contrary: a number of revelations have dawned, some small but a few large enough to make significant lifestyle changes.

For example…

  • Very possibly we gad around a lot more than we need to. I’ve bought a third of a tank of gas since the first of March. We’re eight days into June — more than three months later! — and my car does not need a refill.

Normally I buy gas about once every 10 days to two weeks.

  • The prepper strategy of storing up to a year’s worth of food and household supplies is not so crazy, after all.

As things get back to normal (if they ever do), I intend to store up at least three months’ worth and preferably more like six months’ to a year’s worth of nonperishable and frozen food, wine, and cleaning supplies.

Also, buy a case of your favorite wine, beer, soda pop, bottled water, or whatever. Keep it full: as you use one bottle, buy another to replace it.

  • Delivery services such as Instacart are awesomely wonderful, despite occasional lapses. If you plan your shopping carefully, these folks could help you to avoid boring trudges to grocery stores and Costco altogether once life returns to normal.

Their main drawback, for people who like to cook and to eat healthy foods, is that their runners apparently eat like most Americans do — out of boxes, cans, bags, and jars, or largely at restaurants — and so they have no clue how to select fresh produce.

A secondary drawback is that Instacart charges you more than in-store prices. Thus the privilege of having someone trudge through a store and then drive your purchases to your front door costs you a whole lot more than just the cost of Instacart’s chintzy tip to employees. There are times when this cost is richly worth it: if entering a grocery store entails risking your life, obviously a few extra bucks is not a barrier. And when you reach your dotage and are in no condition to traipse around a store that covers more than an acre — such as Costco — you would be well served by spending a bit more to get someone else to do the chore. It’s still a lot cheaper than selling everything you own to buy into a life-care community… But do be prepared to slip the runner an extra tip: they are not paid enough!

  • Use caution with Amazon.

Many of the vendors on Amazon gouge during a panicky period, even when the products they’re selling are plentiful and easy enough to buy in brick-and-mortar stores.

  • In a prolonged shopping panic, your pet’s favorite food is likely to be in short supply.

Especially if you have a picky cat, always have a substantial store of your pet’s food on hand.

  • So are basic products needed for at-home cooking, such as flour, yeast, salt, coffee, tea, chicken or beef broth, and the like.

Always have an ample supply of these on hand. Keep flour and yeast in the freezer. If you usually have one box, bag, or package of these, you should have two on hand.

  • Keep twice as much of any given staple as you would ordinarily buy.

For example, your pantry should have two boxes of salt, not one; two bags of flour, not one; two packages of pasta, not one…and so on to infinity. As soon as you run out of the first box and open the second box of, say, salt, buy a new second box next time you run to the store…so that you always have an extra supply of any staple product.

  • Same is true for household maintenance supplies.

Keep an ample supply of paper towels, toilet paper, dish detergent, laundry detergent, dishwasher tabs, window cleaner, toilet cleaner, and hand soap on hand at all times. Do not wait for these things to run out before restocking.

  • Keep your car’s gas tank topped up at all times, emergency or no emergency.

Never let it get below about 1/3 full.

  • If you cook on a propane grill, always have on hand at least three bottles of propane, and keep them full. Remember that if power fails, a backyard grill or hibachi may be the only way to cook food.

Don’t leave a bottle sitting around empty waiting to be refilled whenever you get around to it. Schlep it to the propane place as soon as it’s empty.

  • Keep fit with regular exercise, whether it’s walking, running, in-home workouts, or yoga.

If you’re allowed out of the house, bicycling and roller-skating are good strategies, too.

  • Be sure to keep adequate supplies of OTC meds on hand, as well as bandages, antiseptics, and antibiotic ointments. Same with medicaments for your pet.

You don’t want to run out of aspirin, Band-Aids, antacids, or allergy pills during a time of shortage.

  • You really should have a vegetable garden, no matter how minimal.

This does not have to be a big production. A few medium-sized pots on an apartment balcony will allow you to grow tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, and chard. If you have room, a two- or three-foot deep box will accommodate carrots, beets, turnips, even potatoes.

  • Have a hair style that doesn’t have to be trimmed frequently.

How can I count the ways that that I’m glad I let my hair grow long? When shoulder-length hair grows halfway down your back, what happens is…nothing. You just have long, spectacular hair.

There are going to be some serious changes in the way day-to-day business is done here at the Funny Farm. None of them, on its own, will be earth-changing. But taken together, they should add security and make life a lot simpler the next time a crisis lands on us.

What changes are you making, long-term, based on your covid-19 adventures?