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Being in Chicago

Story location: Home / Blog / usa /

I'm in Chicago for a week, attending a conference. We got here on tuesday but our luggage didn't arrive until last night thanks to our 1st plane being late and the airline not having enough time to transfer the luggage over to the 2nd plane. Unfortunately my laptop charger was in the luggage so I had to restrict computer use because I didn't want the battery to run down and leave me unable to do any work.

I'll upload some photos eventually but I'll just waffle on slightly at random for a few minutes first.

There seem to be a lot of 'news' style programmes on in the mornings and I found myself watching a lot of 'Good Morning America' on ABC but I had to give up because they were spending so much time talking about the upcoming Royal Wedding. I'm sure I've seen more about it here than back home.

I really can't watch Fox News. It seems to be aimed at 10 year olds, or at least aimed at people who like inane comments and slightly stupid sounding presenters.

Why did CNN give Pierce Morgan the Larry King job? Surely they could have found someone better, or at least less annoying.

About half the adverts seem to be for pharmaceuticals of various types. A lot of these have a spoken warning at the end which seem to imply that one of the side effects might be death. I know they have to be careful and try to cover all eventualities but that would put me off wanting to take some. Also I mocked an advert for a product aimed at people who couldn't produce enough tears and so needed something to lubricate their eyes. I really wouldn't have thought there was a huge need for such a product and couldn't understand why it was being advertised so much. That was until I spent 2 days in an over-air-conditioned conference centre which seems to be sucking all moisture from my body. Now I understand. If most offices are as bad as that then there is definitely a need for the product, but surely a simpler solution would be just to turn the air conditioning down a little. Where I am right now, there is a bridge between the conference centre and the hotel and there is often a howling gale blowing though, probably caused by an imbalance in the air conditioning in the two buildings.

OK, I spent longer prattling about medicines and air conditioning than I really intended. One thing which has impressed me about Chicago is the public transport. The buses and trains are cheap at $2.25 for a journey or $23 for a pass which is valid for an entire week. This even includes a trip from the airport to the city centre. The buses also have a loudspeaker which gives the name of the next stop or road junction, which makes it really easy to find out where you are and when you need to get off. This is so much better than the buses in Coventry, which are expensive and not part of a properly 'integrated transport' system and half of the drivers don't seem to know their route very well so if you try to ask them if they go past a particular place they can't or won't answer you. The 'Travel West Midlands' company which runs most of the Coventry bus service can't even be arsed putting prices on its website so as an infrequent bus user it's a pain finding out the prices because all the buses are 'exact change only'. The Chicago buses are also exact change, but since all journeys are the same price and that price is well publicised, it's a much friendlier system.

Beer is quite expensive here with pints being between $5-8 depending on bar and type of beer, but a lot of bars seem to stock a good range of 'proper' beers and not just industrial factory-made tasteless lagers. I've been impressed with the beer selection in most of the places I've been to so far.

Food in bars is reasonably priced and of course the portions are enormous. We've not been disappointed by either size of quality. Food in shops is quite expensive, with fruit often costing $1 a piece and snack bars are at least that much too. I was terribly disappointed with the american Tropicana juice. Back home, Tropicana is a premium brand and is nearly all 'freshly squeezed' or at least not from concentrate. All the juices I've seen so far here have been made from concentrate and have other flavours added, usually listed as something like 'Naturally occurring flavours not from Orange' or something similar. The flavour is nowhere near as good as the UK Tropicana.

The effect of poor diet on psoriasis

Story location: Home / Blog /

My psoriasis is quite bad at the moment. I think this may be due to me eating a fairly poor diet recently. During the last month I have been away from home a lot, eating a lot of restaurant meals or take-aways. This means I have been eating more fried food than normal, and hardly any fresh fruit and veg.

Over the next few weeks I will try to cut out various unhealthy or processed foods. We have stocked up on fruit and veg and healthy snacks, including nuts and dried fruit. I will try to avoid soft drinks and coffee, and stick to drinking tea.

I will probably allow 1 processed meal or take-away, but otherwise all of my hot meals will be home-cooked. Breakfast will be the usual bowl of cereal - we normally have low fat and low sugar cereals so that won't pose a problem.

I have stocked up on tins of mackerel because oily fish is supposed to be good if you have psoriasis. Lunch will probably alternate between fish and cottage cheese.

Daytime snacks used to include fruit with the occasional bag of crisps, cereal bar or biscuit. I will have to cut out the crisps and biscuits but I have stocked up on apples, bananas, dried apricots and dried figs. Sometimes I have a craving for carbohydrate and used to satisfy it with a biscuit. I will need to choose a healthier alternative, such as nuts.

I will give this diet a few weeks to see if it makes a difference. There are other foods such as wheat or yeast which can trigger psoriasis in some people, so I may eventually try to cut down on these, but I won't do that straight away. If I change too many things at once then I won't know which ones had an effect.

Psoriasis Update

Story location: Home / Blog /

It's been almost a year since I wrote about starting on a psoriasis-friendly diet. It hasn't completely eradicated it but is seems to have helped a bit.

I did a bit more reading on-line and found various lists of suspect foods, which often included:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Aubergines
  • Potatoes
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

There were also some foods which were recommended, such as dried fruits or oily fish.

An awful lot of this information seems to have originally come from an American psychic called Edgar Cayce who, according to an article in Fortean Times magazine, would often go into a trance and diagnose illnesses or suggest cures. His suggestions have been repeated over the years and regularly features in advice on reducing the symptoms of psoriasis. Normally I'd be sceptical but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that it has some effect.

I initially stopped eating tomatoes and drinking red wine. I also started taking probiotic and omega-3/fish-oil supplements daily. As the psoriasis was mainly on my scalp I'd been keeping my hair short, but recently started having it cut even shorter (only no. 8 on the hair clippers but that's still shorter than I like it).

With all that going on it's hard to tell what has had the greatest effect but it has definitely got slightly better. It hasn't gone away but it isn't as thick on my scalp and areas of 'normal' skin have started to appear by my hairline. Cutting out the various prohibited foods helped but didn't stop it so I've returned to eating them but only in moderation. I've since started drinking squash drinks with red berries in, and having small amounts of tomatoes about every other week, and probably a bottle of red wine once per month. Other foods such as aubergines and potatoes are easier to avoid (I always have rice or pasta instead of chips).

I've been drinking green tea for a number of years, but increased my consumption because of anecdotal evidence of it being useful. This has since been confirmed by researchers. Sadly, I've not noticed any improvement through drinking it.

The psoriasis comes and goes in cycles - I'm not sure whether the waxing and waning is anything to do with diet. The weather may have some effect - ultra-violet light is known to help. I keep my hair short to let more light get to my scalp. As long as I don't let it get too thick, it doesn't cause many problems.

Bad news for the Bacon Sandwich

Story location: Home / Blog / news /

The tastiest foods always seem to be the worst for you. Now there's another reason why bacon and other cured meats are bad - nitrites used in the preserving process can lead to an increase in lung disease.

I really like the occasional bacon sandwich but my bacon, ham and salami consumption has dropped in the last few years. I think i'll stick to chicken from now on...

Grape Juice

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

There's a news story doing the rounds about how purple grape juice is much better for you than other juices. The report also repeated the recent discovery that cloudy apple juice is better than clear. Unfortunately the vast majority of apple juice available in the supermarkets is the clear filtered stuff and the cloudy unfiltered juice is much more expensive. It's all rather stupid that you've got to pay more for a product which has had less done to it.

I'm sure a few years ago it was possible to buy cloudy apple juice in cartons, from the shelf rather than the fridge. If supermarkets are really wanting to encourage healthy eating they should make it available again at a sensible price. They'll probably whine about how clear juice outsells cloudy but since they offer a greater choice of clear and sell it for less then of course it'll sell better.