Coping: With the Chemistry of Winter

imageThe first rain of the season hit at 3:21 A.M. this morning. 

I know because it was the muffled sound of a few drops on the roof.

It didn’t last very long – about five minutes.  And then it was passed.

But it reminded me that we are into the seasonal change in how humans operate and a short discussion of how your body chemistry works is definitely in order here.

The first thing that happens with the onset of cooler weather is the gray skies.  That means that your body will not make as much vitamin D3 as normal. 

“Sunshine vitamin D” needs what?

A shortage of this critical vitamin has been associated with many diseases, but the main focus for us is the subtle effect of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

From Wikipedia, SAD is…

“…also known as winter depression, winter blues, summer depression, summertime sadness, or seasonal depression, is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer.[1]

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV and DSM-5, its status was changed. It is no longer classified as a unique mood disorder but is now a specifier called with seasonal pattern for recurrent major depressive disorder that occurs at a specific time of the year and fully remits otherwise.[2] Although experts were initially skeptical, this condition is now recognized as a common disorder.[3] SAD’s prevalence in the U.S. ranges from 1.4% in Florida to 9.9% in Alaska.”

Being aware of it, a couple of personal choices can be made.  One is to make sure that your multivitamin of choice has D3 in it.  Or, you could drink a big glass of milk every day, but as you get older that can become a lactose tolerance issue.

Alternatively, you can move to a sunnier climate like Phoenix.

Another item you may wish to tinker with would be very low-level supplementation with lithium orotate.  This is the form of lithium that allows some of it to pass the brain/blood barrier.  But lithium is powerful stuff in any of its forms so a checkup and consult with a real doctor is definitely in order before tinkering with this one.  Overdosing on the stuff can lead to all kinds of mental problems.

A small amount, perhaps every other day or so, might improve your mood…but again, this is one of those decisions that should come after real blood work (12 panel and whatever else a good doc wants) before trying.

It won’t be the cheapest vitamin on your shelf, but at $25 the Lithium Orotate – 120 capsules at Amazon (shop brands) is something you may wish to consider –  after a consult.

In terms of D3, a friend of mine who is a doc takes 20,000 international units of D3 per day and bumps that to 40,000 per day.  But again, this is kind of augmentation should only come after you make sure liver function is spot-on, up front. 

I know it sounds like I am endorsing conventional medicine and yes, I suppose in a way I am.  The key difference is that I look at the doctor-patient relationship not a a minor god dictating to the mortal patient, but where the patient is a “co-creator” of MY optimal health.  Besides, there are many conditions that arise over time where a real doc will be able to spot and fix things that will miss casual or untrained interpretation. 

How this relationship works?  For example, I don’t go for the statins, lol.  I go to have the conversations with my doc about why statins are bad and how keeping my weight down lowers the .oils in the blood stream…keeps both of us happy.

I still can’t say enough good things about our multivitamins of choice  – Now Foods: Adam Superior Men’s Multiple Vitamin, 90 vcaps for men and Now Foods Eve, Women’s Multi Vitamin, Softgels, 180-Count.  Hold out for the softgel pills because the tablets are a mouthful.

Twice daily with food…

Ions Matter

The second point is one we have covered before:  It’s about the effect of ions in the air.

There are three major ion states of air:  The air that has lots of positive ions has all kinds of names, including Sirocco, Meltemi, and Santa Ana.  These winds over arid area strip off the negative ions and cause lots of mal-behaviors in humans.

The second kind of air is that loaded with negative ions.  If you find yourself drawn to the ozone left from lightning storms, some laser printers, and you feel 20- IQ points better after a shower, then you may be addicted to high ambient negative ion levels.  This is the kind of person who lives in the Pacific Northwest and would live nowhere else.  Rain leaves ‘em amped.  The kind of person who looks forward to rain because they feel so damn good when it rains.

No, they are not crazy:  Ion sensitive maybe.

To this sort, there is nothing better than a good book on a rainy day – with the phone turned off.  Hi negative ion counts are good for spiritual and intellectual deepening…but your body may vary.

By the way, there is a real serious health angle to too many positive ions:  It’s always good to make sure your workplace is healthy.  A couple of decades back it was discovered that one component of “Sick Building Syndrome” might be an HVAC system that sucked the negative (good) ions out of the air.  That’s why some people in office settings look forward to the air conditioning kicking on.  Not because of the cooling, so much as air conditioning can increase negative ions, or so I read somewhere.

More recent double-blind studies call that into question, however. 

A great “sick building” resource is and on their site, a PDF of Sick Building Syndrome and I’d point out that (Page 9, section ‘g’ ) that negative ions were shown in one study not to be effective…so I will leave sorting out that part to you. 

The third state of air is balanced where you have some positive and some negative ions.

The classic book on point is somewhat hard to find:  Fred Soyka’s The Ion Effect: How Air Electricity Rules Your Health.

We picked up a fairly good used ionizer on eBay several years back for $50 and it works great.  Shop around and see what’s out there.  Here’s an example site, but this is not an endorsement.  You can build your own, if you’re interested.

The Third Factor of Fall

About now every fall I get into cooking again.  Not that I ever stop eating, but this time of year is when I haul out my favorite recipes for soup and throw them on.

The basics of George Soup are pretty simple:

A bunch of meat – browned in the soup pot – maybe a pound or two.  This can be anything from hamburger to leftover (whatever) to perfectly trimmed and cubed rump roast or top sirloin.  Chuck roast is good, too, but it takes most of the morning to trim up the fat so it’s not overwhelming.

A can or two of organic diced or whole tomatoes.

Two or three cups each of sliced carrots (I like 1” cubed pieces) and the same for onions (toss them in while browning the meat is fine) celery, and cubed cabbage.

Chicken stock.  I usually go with 3-4 cans of Campbells, but if Elaine is around a quart of organic is fine, too.

No salt at this point.  Tablespoon of pepper ground coarsely and a quarter to third of a teaspoon of parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil or oregano.  You’ll have to tune the spicing to your pallet.  I live thyme, basil, and oregano alone.

If you happen to have mushrooms around, three cuts of them sliced up is good.  A teaspoon of Kitchen Bouquet if you want.  And half a cup, or a tad more, of whatever is laying around the house.  I have used everything from flat champagne to a pretty good red wine and as long as you don’t overdo it,…remember this is soup, not wine broth.

Cook until the meat is very tender – 3- 3 1/2 hours.

Now here’s the thing:  If you cook it on a low simmer, everything will be fine.  But if you don’t know how to hit low simmer just right, your veggies will be overcooked.  If you are one of those people, cook the meat, onions, cabbage and half the broth for an hour or two and toss in the remaining veggies when you remember.

Either way, a hearty beef and vegetable soup is damn near the perfect meal to talk in from outside work to sit down to. Especially when the temps are down into the low 50’s or lower.

Serve as much as you feel like.  What goes GREAT with this soup is a fried cheese sandwich.  Something like thick-sliced sourdough white French with a solid handful of Mozzarella or that Five-Cheese Mexican blend you can pick up in the cheese section.  Elaine prefers a white cheddar which is also great.  And you can tune forever with getting the cheese sandwich just exactly so.

Some people argue that soups “cook the vitamins out” but I’ve always wondered how far they are going to get?  Intro the broth?  Which is consumed with the sandwich?  This is working weather food that will remain in style around here until April, or so, of next year.

Not that we will give up on BBQ chicken on the grill for winter.  We still get heat waves down here which can press 80 even in January.  But as a good, nutritious cool-weather meal that doesn’t take a lot of prep time, one of these “George Soups” is about as good as it gets.  15-minutes of prep time for at least a couple of big, hearty meals.

Bring on the rain.  As long as there’s a pot of soup on, or some leftovers around, who cares?

Death of an Air Compressor

Wouldn’t you know it?  I order the new 21 gallon compressor ( and what happens?

What always happens?  Exactly the day after, too.

New issue of AOPA Pilot comes in and there is the Harbor Freight ad.  And there is a coupon for my formerly $179 compressor on sale for $149.

Of course… 

Maybe I’ve been around Panama Bates, too long.  He’s always telling me about the “Bates luck” but I figure two combat tours in ‘Nam and 21 years in SF & Rangers (yes, he did both) his luck can’t be all that bad

But admittedly his “luck” has been a mixed bag:  Like the good luck and bad of a helicopter coming in to med-evac him out in adventure.  Sure, the good luck was he made it and was rescued.  Bad news was the helicopter landed with a skid on his leg…that sort of thing.  It’s legendary around here. 

(Whenever we leave on a trip where there’s a casino stop-over involved, I will heartily shake his hand thinking I’m  “grounding out my bad luck” on him…hell of it is is seems to work….)

Still, I could use the $30 bucks I missed saving…. I should read everything in the house before ordering things.  But then, I’d never have any time left over to actually do things.  See the problem?

Speaking of Flying

Fall weather is when the fun starts.  Weather moving into an area gives us plenty of opportunity to brush up on severe cross-wind landings. 

Those are always enjoyable because they involve something called cross-controlling the aircraft.

You see, in a normal turn, you roll the airplane right or left, and apply enough pressure with the same foot on the rudder pedal to keep the ball on the panel centered.  Every pilot remembers their flight instructor yelling “step on the ball.  Step on the ball.  STEP ON THE GODDAM BALL!” 

The one other “forget-me-not”  in flight instruction  is “nose down.  Nose down.  PUT THE NOSE DOWN!.”  If you haven’t gotten the nose down on the third warning, the flight instructor will shove the yoke forward and the nose will go down hard enough that you’re weightless for several seconds and that odd “Hmmm…why does it feel like my genitals are in my ears” feeling that accompanies weightlessness reminds you next time to put the nose down.

With severe cross-winds, we get to do the exact opposite.  This is called cross-controlling the aircraft.

Done at altitude, this is how you slip an airplane. Normally, the airplane flies straight ahead.  But if you want to slow down quickly and/or drop a whole bunch of altitude quickly, there’s nothing like a hard slip.

It also happens to be exactly what you need to successfully land in a cross-wind.  I really enjoyed our cross-wind landing up in Hannibal, Missouri last month  (17 gusting 25, or so and exactly 90-degrees from the runway heading. 

I suppose we could have looked elsewhere for fuel, but that’s the fun part about flying.  NOT opening up the premier pilot rag and seeing you paid $30-bucks more than necessary. That I could do without.

One More Flying Note

Voice controlled stuff is showing up in the cockpit.  Garmin’s for a new audio panel that will set radio frequencies by voice.  Back cover of the airplane rag this month.

A kind of flying cross between the Amazon Echo and Siri in an iPhone.

Now, to End the Week Right

“Alexa, tell us a joke.”

“What do you call a snowman in the Sahara desert?”


(insert digital rimshot)

Write when you break, break-even, or get even…



Coping: With the Chemistry of Winter — 6 Comments

  1. Some people can deal with the rain, and some can’t. I don’t even want to walk to the car in it. Personally I prefer the dry air of the desert always. I can actually accomplish things. Wet weather and thunderstorms put me to sleep and every old wound hurts. I get weird dreams – nothing coherent or useful. Things smell more acutely and it’s not a good thing. Sweaty skin never felt good. I get really useless and can’t even study well. Perhaps it’s an ion effect, but I really don’t know.

  2. George,

    Looks like the Powers That Be are watching your site. Looks like that hurricane (formerly typhoon) has been souped up to cause the major catastrophe in Mexico that you speculated an earthquake would cause.

    Bet it doesn’t make much change in the rate of illegals coming into the country though.

    Stay safe!

  3. Don’t forget iherb for vitamins. Its US based and darn cheap, even with duty to get it up here. When the dark days hit here in Canada, the sun comes up after nine and down by four thirty. 5000 min of vit D, plus 2000 of niacin (no flush for the luv of God!) and a mix of other good ‘ol supplements to keep one functional.
    On the bright side, we have very few insect problems at this time of

  4. Harbor Freight has a 90 day return policy on almost everything, with restock fees on only a few items. You can always return it if it’s too expensive.

    Some coupons are valid 30 days retroactively. Check on it. It might save them a return with a new low profit sale. They are often cooperative, but not always.

    Search the web in advance for coupons. They are posted on a few sites. Sometimes only the code number is required.

  5. Checked out your vitamins. Amazon screw up. Pkg of 1 order of 1 bottle Men’s 90 caps $16.67 shipped. Pkg of 1 order of 2 bottles $33.34 shipped. OR you can order 1 order of 1 2bottle package for $36.90 shipped. Either way, you get 180 vitamins, but by saving 1 click, you spend $3.56 more. All plus tax

    PS: I’D call Harbor Freight and ask for the coupon money back. Nothing to lose.