Monthly Archives: January 2009

Bushwalking Down Under

Sydney Opera House on New Year's Eve 2008. Photo by Anita Doll.

Sydney Opera House on New Year's Eve 2008. Photo by Anita Doll.

Gone bushwalking Down Under.  See you again on February 8th!  Don’t miss the “Come to Australia!” in the video below.

If you want to check out any of my fascinating older posts, be sure to click on the headline to bring up the photographs.  When I return, I’ll be adding to the tens of millions of words already written about Abraham Lincoln, but to tide you over here’s a link to a post I wrote about Lincoln earlier.  In Search of Abraham Lincoln.   Lincoln was born two hundred years ago –February 12, 1809, the same day as Charles Darwin.

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Filed under Australia, Friendship, Life, New Zealand, Personal, Random, Travel

Forty-Four Presidents — From George Washington to Barack Obama

From George Washington To Barack Obama – A Long Way – Original Video

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, History, Life, Politics, Presidents, Thomas Jefferson

Come to Australia!

Come to Australia!

This is a very unofficial commercial to “promote” tourism to Australia.  The official tourist marketing slogan is  “Where the bloody hell are you?”  This video won’t help!  My friend Anita, who recently moved there, sent it to me,  now that we’ve already paid for our plane tickets…..Not to worry, she says, she hasn’t seen any of the really dangerous creatures yet.  The trouble is that you don’t see them first.

Sign on a Sydney beach.  I don't plan to get wet!  I'll be in the shade sipping a nice, cool drink.  (See story about The Sunshine Vitamin below.)

Sign on a Sydney beach. I don't plan to get wet! I'll be in the shade sipping a nice, cool drink. (See story about The Sunshine Vitamin below.)

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Filed under Animals, Australia, Biology, Birds, Entertainment, Entomology, Health, Humor, Natural History, Personal, Random, Travel, Uncategorized

Vitamin D — the Sunshine Vitamin

The Sun.  It fuels our world.  It's essential to life. The challenge is find the right balance of sun exposure and sun protection.

The Sun. It fuels our world. It's essential to life. We need sunlight to make Vitamin D in our bodies, but the sun's radiation can also cause skin cancer. The challenge is find the right balance of sun exposure and sun protection.

Avoid the sun.  Wear sunblock.  That’s my summer mantra.  Now that I’ve had some skin cancer removed, I’m even more paranoid about sun exposure. 

The darkest time of the year is here, so you’d think I could relax about sun exposure as I enter my annual winter hermit state, covered up and shivering by the hearth.  But no, I have a new worry:  I actually have to get outside to get some sunshine to make Vitamin D.  

Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine (ultraviolet B radiation) three times a week is supposed to be enough for most people, but this is tough in the winter when we’re swathed in fleece. I don’t even like to walk to the mailbox at the end of my driveway when it’s cold.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps the body absorb calcium to form strong bones and teeth and has many other important functions in keeping us healthy.   My dermatologist says that Vitamin D is the hot topic at dermatology conferences these days. Yes, I know, we’ve all heard and read about the wonders and miracles of this vitamin and that vitamin, only to find out later that taking extra this or that doesn’t help and can even hurt. I still have a huge jar of Vitamin E capsules that I thought was supposed to be good for me. Then studies reported Vitamin E as a supplement could be harmful.   Now I’m just hanging onto the almost-full bottle in case it comes back into favor. (By then, of course, if will be expired.)

 Researchers are continually finding out more about the importance of Vitamin D, including that we probably need more than previously thought and that it’s even more essential to maintaining good health than we’ve realized.

Vitamin D could play a role in the prevention of colon, prostate and breast cancers, for example.  The amounts in our bodies might affect our mood and our weight.  Vitamin D really could be essential to a sunny disposition and important in keeping us from piling on the pounds. 

Bottom line: Find out how much Vitamin D you need and get a little sunshine at least every other day.

The following information can get a little tedious, but it’s important, so pay attention.

You need sunshine, but not as much as the people in the posters are getting.  This woman is probably getting enough as she walks past posters on a tanning salon while walking from her home in the Seattle area to the grocery store on Dec. 22, 2008.  (AP Photo/Seattle Post-Intelligencer,  Andy Rogers)

You need sunshine, but not as much as the people in the posters are getting. This woman is probably getting enough as she walks past posters on a tanning salon while walking from her home in the Seattle area to the grocery store on Dec. 22, 2008. (AP Photo/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Andy Rogers)

A multi-vitamin with Vitamin D is probably enough for most people, but one size doesn’t fit all.  As you get older, your body isn’t as efficient at making Vitamin D, so you’ll need more Vitamin D in your diet, usually as an additive or a supplement.  My dermatologist told me to get 1,000 units of Vitamin D and a little sunlight (UV-B) every day, but you need to check with your own physician for the right amount for you. (See link below to article about children’s need for Vitamin D.)

Vitamin D isn’t naturally present in most foods, although it’s added to milk and cereal.  It’s in fish, such as salmon and tuna, in egg yolks and in cheese.  It’s also in cod liver oil, which is why we heard stories of a spoonful of it being forced on children in the past.

There’s also a danger of getting too much, which can cause increased kidney stones, nausea and mental confusion.  Vitamin D is stored in the fat, so if you take excessive amounts it’s difficult to get rid of.

We have to find a balance in protecting our skin from sun damage with the need for sunlight to synthesize Vitamin D.  The darker your skin, the more sunlight you need to make Vitamin D.  One of my biology professors suggested that Vitamin D is so important that it’s probably the main reason for differences in skin color.  The closer you to to the poles, the more difficult it is to get enough sunlight to make Vitamin D.  Conversely, darker skin protects against sun damage.

People with higher skin melanin (pigment) content require more time in sunlight to produce the same amount of vitamin D as do people with lower melanin content. As noted below, the amount of time a person requires to produce a given amount of Vitamin D may also depend upon the person’s distance from the equator and on the season of the year.

These people have the right idea.  Get outside in the winter, even if it's cloudy and snowy.  Just don't get frostbite or sunburned.

These people have the right idea. Get outside in the winter, even if it's cloudy and snowy. Just don't get frostbitten or sunburned. I need to take my own advice, because I don't even like to go to the mailbox when it's cold.

Latitude and altitude determine the intensity of UV light. UV-B is stronger at higher altitudes. Latitudes higher than 30° (both north and south) have insufficient UV-B sunlight two to six months of the year, even at midday, according to researchers.  Latitudes higher than 40° have insufficient sunlight to achieve optimum levels of D during six to eight months of the year. In much of the United States, which is between 30° and 45° latitude, six months or more during each year have insufficient UV-B sunlight to produce optimal D levels. In far northern or southern locations, latitudes 45° and higher, even summer sun is too weak to provide optimum levels of vitamin D.  A simple meter is available to determine UV-B levels where you live.

It’s a complicated, but important, subject.  To read more, here are some websites and articles:

NEW: What do you lack? Probably Vitamin D. (New York Times article)

Vitamin D Deficiency May Lurk in Babies

The Vitamin D Miracle.

What is Vitamin D?

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Filed under Biology, Diet, Family, Health, Life, Medicine, Nature, Personal

Orange Sulphur Butterfly on a Sunflower

Orange Sulfur Butterfly and a soldier beetle rival compete for space on a sunflower. A for sale sign on the lot means all of the insects may soon be out of a home.

Orange Sulfur butterfly and a Soldier beetle compete for space on a sunflower. A "for sale" sign on the lot means all of the insects may soon be out of a home.

Here’s a bright scene for a cold winter day.   An Orange Sulphur butterfly sips nectar from a sunflower in a field in September.  The field was mowed a few weeks later, and the remaining short stubble is brown and lifeless, showing no sign of the lively community of insects, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds that once lived there.   A “for sale” is planted in the center.

I emailed several photographs of yellow butterflies to Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.  Any yellow butterfly around here I’ve been calling a Cloudless Sulphur.  Dr. Taylor says this butterfly is an Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme.) 

“The butterfly looks like a female – males have solid and females spotted margins,” he wrote. 

Dr. Taylor identified the other insect as a Soldier beetle, which is highly prized by gardeners because it eats pest insects, such as aphids and grasshopper eggs.  It’s also a pollinator.  Pollinators are essential to our food supply, but there are fewer and fewer places for them to live.  Thousands of acres are lost daily to development.

Monarch Watch is dedicated to education about and the conservation and research of Monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

An Orange Sulphur butterfly visits a sunflower in a vacant lot near a big box store.

An Orange Sulphur butterfly visits a sunflower in a vacant lot near a big box store. You can see its proboscis.

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Filed under Biology, Butterflies, Conservation, Education, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Insects, Kansas, Life, Natural History, Nature, Personal, Photography, Random, Science, University of Kansas