Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Handy Household Hints No. 8 - Roll up and stack your towels and sheets to save space

I think this one was inspired by a shop display, but I now roll up my towels and secure them with a couple of sturdy rubber bands (thanks to Australia Post) and then can stack them neatly in a very space-efficient manner. It also allows you easily to see exactly what is there, and to take fresh ones from the bottom and put clean ones back at the top after they have been washed. This technique can also be used for summer sheets, as in the top photograph below.




Handy Household Hints No. 7 - Using recycled CD containers to tame your hair ties

These plastic spindles and covers from bulk packs of blank CDs have proved to be perfect for keeping hair ties and scrunchies organised, and also free from dust. They don't take much space, and can be kept out on top of a bureau or dresser.


Handy Household Hints No. 6 - Use an old sushi container to tame all your cords and chargers

A couple of years ago I went to a conference where I ended up with some of the leftover food, and as a result I had several sturdy plastic sushi containers. Rather than putting them into the recycling, I had one of those 'light bulb' moments when I realised that they would be perfect for storing the cords and chargers that I use frequently for electronic devices, mobile phones, etc. The compartments are large enough to take one or two chargers, and then I also wind up the cords so that they do not get tangled up, and are ready for use. Initially I was using hair ties and rubber bands to keep them neat but then hit upon the idea of using small bulldog clips instead, which works even better! Another cheap and environmentally friendly solution!




Handy Household Hints No. 5 - How to tame your small receipts ready for tax time!

It is always a challenge to tame all those small receipts from your purchases, but here is a really simple and cost-effective method to consider. First collect some of the return postage envelopes that you receive from banks and other organisations. Then using a marker pen write an envelope for each month in the year, and put your receipts in the envelope in chronological order. Then bundle them together in a (recycled or other) plastic bag either loose or with a rubber band around them. When it comes to tax time, everything is beautifully organised and hopefully nothing has been lost!


Handy Household Hints No. 4 - Make your own spice jars!

Having adopted the principle of avoiding plastics for the storage of food where possible (being an avid watcher of medical docos), instead of putting all my glass jars into the recycling I have been reusing them where practicable. This small fruit juice bottle is just the right size for a spice jar, with a DYI label cut from the packet!


Handy Household Hints No.3 - Store your leftover filter or brewed coffee in a glass jar

Often I will end up with left-over plunger coffee that is still perfectly good to use, so I store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator and reheat it as needed. This preserves the quality of the coffee and also has the added benefit of letting any sediment sink to the bottom so that you have a clearer brew to drink!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The venerable art of reading the coffee cup - interpreting coffee art

Probably most people have heard of reading tea leaves to predict the future, but it is also possible to get some pretty interesting designs when adding milk to a freshly made espresso coffee. Perhaps it is a little like the Rorschach inkblot test, but use your imagination to see what you can find in these images!










Handy Household Hints No. 2 - 1001 uses for old pantyhose (stockings)

If you are bothered by a draught around the top or side of your front door, here is a novel solution! An old or unwanted pair of pantyhose (stockings) can be employed to work in two directions at once and stretched to fit, with the panty section acting as thicker padding at the corner. This works effectively until a more permanent solution can be put in place, and is both cheap and environmentally friendly!



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Handy Household Hints No. 1 - Saving the world one coffee pod at a time ...

Attention all coffee lovers - if you use coffee pods, take the time to recycle them as far as possible. Nespresso pods are made from aluminium and can be returned for recycling. All you have to do is collect them and drop them off at your nearest Nespresso boutique (whilst enjoying a complimentary coffee) or other authorised collection point.

All other brands with a plastic pod and plastic or aluminium top can be opened up with a good pair of scissors and the coffee grounds extracted. The coffee makes a wonderful free (yes, free as you have already paid for and enjoyed the pod) organic fertiliser and your plants will love it. You can then choose whether to wash and recycle the plastic pod (if accepted by your local recycling program) or bin it if you are feeling lazy or the pods are not accepted for recycling. You will be surprised at how much free fertiliser you can collect! Even IKEA puts out its used coffee grounds for people to take home and use on their gardens.

If you use an espresso machine, it is even easier to collect the used coffee grounds for your plants (or someone else's). Help reduce waste, encourage plant growth (which helps the environment) and feel good about your actions!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Condolences for Gough Whitlam - Australian Labor Party

If you are a member of the generation who directly benefited from the educational and other reforms of the Whitlam Government, there is still an opportunity to pass on your condolences and thanks:

Condolences for Gough Whitlam - Australian Labor Party:

For many of us from poorer backgrounds, the advent of free tertiary education provided us with an opportunity to go to university and pursue professional careers. I for one will be always grateful for this.

'via Blog this'

SnowSafe: A guide to safety in the alpine areas

For those of you planning a trip to the alpine areas, either for snowsports or summer activities, this is an excellent web site developed by the Australian Ski Patrol Association with loads of useful information:

SnowSafe | A guide to safety in the alpine areas:
'via Blog this'

Snowsports on Pinterest

For keen skiers and boarders, there are a couple of interesting recent postings on Pinterest:

Snowsports on Pinterest:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Things to love and hate about Aldi

Probably like a lot of other people, I have mixed feelings about Aldi.

Firstly, things I don't like:

(a) the credit card surcharge (in general I regard these as being a tax-deductible cost of doing business which should not be passed on to consumers); and

(b) the checkout system. This requires you first to empty your entire trolley onto the conveyor belt. The cashier then passes the goods over a scanner at lightning speed onto a small area (the size of a postage stamp (well actually around the size of an A4 sheet of paper) on the other side of the scanner. There is not enough room to pack the goods into bags, and instead you are required to put the goods back in the trolley in a haphazard fashion as fast as you can in order to avoid the postage stamp becoming overwhelmed. You then need to wheel your trolley over to a packing shelf, take all the goods out of the trolley again and re-pack them into bags to take home. This is exhausting just thinking about it, let alone doing it!

The check-out system might work wiith minimum inconvenience for a few things, but it definitely does not work for a full-sized 'shop', where a full trolley can take up the whole conveyor belt and take a lot of time to re-pack. I tried this once, but never again!!

Moral of the story: if you want to do all your shopping at once and have it neatly packed in bags when you exit the cash register, do not go to Aldi. Go to one of the other supermarkets, which still have people who will help you pack as well as self-service checkout machines (which I also hate, but for different reasons, as their programming is inflexible and they 'chuck a hissy fit' if you put your own bags in the packing area if you have not pre-selected this option, and expect you to pack at superhuman speed, saying repetitively "please take your goods" when you are nowhere near ready to do so!).

Anway, the good things about Aldi are its goods and prices (and the weekly specials wilth all sorts of cool things).

I have previously sung the praises of the Aldi Expressi coffee range, but today I will just mention a couple of other things which are well priced and good quality.

The first is the Bakehouse premium bread range. It comes in a similar range and presentation to the much more expensive Helga's range, but tastes just as good.

The other is the Brooklea Joi creamy light probiotic yoghurt range (Strawberry, Mixed Berry and Peach Mango). For me the pick of the range is the Mixed Berry. It is flavoursome, creamy without being too sweet, and has that lovely slightly 'bitey' tartness familiar to berry lovers. It actually has stawberries, raspberries, bluberries and blackcurrant juice in it. At $3.59 for one litre, this sure beats the competition.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

An apple a day can have surprising health benefits!

The Australian CHOICE consumer magazine publishes a great deal of useful health information, both in the main magazine and in the separate Choice Health Reader.

This small article about the health benefits of an apple a day appeared in the February 2014 issue of CHOICE:

For further interesting health news and research articles, see the following board on Pinterest:
http://www.pinterest.com/rowenachristian/health-news/

Friday, August 8, 2014

St Francis' Choir, Melbourne sings at the Holy Trinity Festival on Saturday 16 August

Members of St Francis' Choir are looking forward to performing at the "Sounds of Joy" concert as part of the Holy Trinity Festival on Saturday 16 August 2014. For further details see: holytrinitymelbourne.org.au.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Opposing the Australian Federal Budget proposed $7 GP co-payment

My own view (and that of many others) is that the introduction of this proposed impost would be a public and preventative health disaster and an administrative nightmare for GPs and other direct service providers.

A website has been set up to collect signatures for a petition opposing the co-payment (which still has a chance of being defeated in the Senate) and to share people's stories as to why they disagree with this measure.

Sign and/or share your story at http://www.copaystories.com.au/sign/.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Australian Federal Budget: Medical co-payment belongs on the scrap heap

There is a terrific article on page 20 of "The Age" (Melbourne) today from Professor Brian Owler, President of the AMA which includes many of the reasons I had thought of as to why the medical co-payment proposed in the Federal Budget is a bad idea if we are advocating for our patients.

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/medical-copayment-belongs-on-scrap-heap-20140618-zsbb3.html

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bouquets and Brickbats: When is "travel insurance" not travel insurance?

Caveat emptor - beware of travel insurance which is underwritten by Allianz. This includes CHI and Aussietravelcover.

My iPod Touch was stolen during a trip on 'The Ghan'. Not only did Allianz first try to deny liability (alleging that the iPod had been "left behind" (no cover if you leave anything behind anywhere during your travels) but then after getting a supporting letter from the Terminal Manager they agreed to pay, but only wanted to pay a pittance for an iPod that was in 'as new' condition (applying a savage level of depreciation). As this would not come anywhere near the replacement cost for the iPod I argued with them, and they increased it a bit, but still nowhere near enough to buy a new one. At this point I was exhausted and gave up and had to settle for a second-hand one with a tiny bit of marginal screen damage (sourced through EB Games https://ebgames.com.au/).

As a result I would never ever insure anything with Allianz. Never, ever!

This is also a lesson for people purchasing travel insurance to read the terms and conditions carefully to make sure you are covered for accidental loss. To my mind, so-called travel insurance that does not cover you for accidental loss or leaving things behind is not travel insurance at all and does not deserve your business. Also, if you have an expensive piece of technology in good condition, you will want replacement value, not just their arbitrary depreciated value.

For terrific value and more generous terms and conditions try this one instead provided by ACE Insurance (and available in three levels of cover):
https://fairfax.aceinsurance.com.au/FairfaxAU/TA
(The medium level of cover is also available through www.seniors.com.au/age with a 10% discount for an online quote, but it is cheaper through the Fairfax website.)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Medical Book Review: Talley and O'Connor - Clinical Examination (Seventh Edition 2014)


Medical Book Review – Clinical Examination. A systematic  guide to physical diagnosis. Seventh Edition.Nicholas J Talley and Simon O’Connor
Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier
ISBN: 9780729541473 Publication Date: 2014 RRP: $125.96 (free delivery in Australia/NZ).
(Bonus online resources (videos, ECGs and images) are available to purchasers of this book through the Student Consult portal.)

The book is also available in two other formats: a standard eBook containing the content from the print edition plus four additional chapters covering the history and examination of gynaecology, obstetrics, neonatology and paediatrics, and an interactive enhanced eBook which contains the four additional chapters together with OSCE videos, ECG case studies, an imaging library and MCQs.

I purchased the fourth edition of this book (together with the pocket guide) when I was a medical student. This paperback edition comes in at around 600 pages, and is physically larger than its predecessor, and, unlike my earlier edition, contains an impressive number of colour photographs and other illustrations and tables. I was literally ‘blown away’ by the quality of the book (and its contents) as an educational resource, and it is a book in which even a highly experienced practitioner can find learn something from.

The Contents section follows straight on from the Foreword, and is well set out with bolded headings which make it easy to identify the topic of interest at a glance.

The book is divided into several key sections:
1.            The general principles of history taking and physical examination;
2.            The cardiovascular system;
3.            The respiratory system;
4.            The gastrointestinal system;
5.            The genitourinary system;
6.            The haematological system;
7.            The rheumatological system;
8.            The endocrine system;
9.            The nervous system; and
10.          Specialty examinations.

The ‘specialty examinations’ have been considerably expanded from my earlier edition, with seven topics covered as opposed to the earlier three. These now include:
Chapter 38: The eyes, ears, nose and throat;
Chapter 39: The breasts;
Chapter 40: The skin, nails and lumps;
Chapter 41: A system for infectious disease examination;
Chapter 42: Assessment of the geriatric patient;
Chapter 43: Assessment of the acutely ill patient; and
Chapter 44: Assessment of death.

There are three appendices which were also present in my earlier edition (‘Writing and presenting the history and physical examination’,’ A suggested method for a rapid screening physical examination’ and ‘The pre-anaesthetic medical evaluation (PAME)’. The book concludes with an extensive Index.

Most chapters conclude with two useful and practical components, ‘T&O’C essentials’ and ‘OSCE revision topics’, and a list of references.

The Preface (written by the two authors) summarises their approach to this new edition:
“… we cover the core clinical skills from the basics to an advanced level. We have taken an approach that is patient-centric and evidence-based; the patient must always come first. The edition has been brought right up to date with the latest clinical data, including new research specially commissioned for this edition. Learning should also be fun and the book is deliberately laced with humour and historical anecdotes that generations of students have told us enhance the learning experience.”

Further information concerning the evidence-based approach which has been taken in this edition appears in the Acknowledgments section, together with a list of the highly credentialed reviewers who have also contributed to the manuscript.

I particularly enjoyed the next two sections: ‘Clinical methods: an historical perspective’ and ‘The Hippocratic Oath’. In keeping with the evidence-based approach, these are followed by a section detailing ‘Credits: figures, boxes and tables’.

Section 1 (general principles of history taking and physical examination) provides a structured approach to both these elements together with abundant resources in terms of photographs, tables and practical advice (including about OSCEs). There is a specific section on evidence-based clinical examination.

In my work as a medical educator, the clinical history and examination topic that we have most recently covered with our students was the gastrointestinal system, so I have elected to look at this chapter in some more detail as an example of the system-based chapters.

As is customary, this chapter begins with a pertinent quotation, this time from Shakespeare. A short section on ‘examination anatomy’ follows, containing a detailed colour illustration and descriptions of the major areas in the abdomen of anatomical interest. The correct positioning for examination is then described, and a systematic approach to examination follows. This begins with jaundice and weight and wasting, and a very thorough section on skin follows, together with several photographs and a very detailed table setting out relevant diseases with skin and gut associations. The general introductory section concludes with ‘mental state’. The next section covers the examination of the upper limbs, beginning with the hands (nails and palms) and a discussion of the most common relevant findings, proceeding to an explanation of hepatic flap and then possible findings on the arms. Several illustrative photographs and a table for assessing malnutrition are included in this section.  The next topic looks at the face and head, and includes discussions around the eyes, salivary glands and mouth. Several photographs and tables are included. After a brief section on ‘Neck and chest’, the chapter moves on to examination of the abdomen. This section begins with detailed information on inspection and then a systematic approach to palpation of the abdomen, including assessment of the major abdominal organs and possible causes of other abdominal masses. Once again several helpful illustrations and tables are included. Sections follow on percussion, ascites and auscultation. These are also well supported by additional resources. A section follows on hernias (including how to examine for these) with useful illustrations. Next is a detailed section on rectal examination, including proctosigmoidoscopy. There is a brief section on other areas of the body which may be relevant to examine, and then the chapter concludes with a section on ‘Examination of the gastrointestinal contents’ (including faeces, vomitus and urine. There is a helpful illustration of the bilirubin pathway and a table listing the changes in urine and faeces with jaundice.  The final three elements are the ‘T&O’C essentials (nine key points from the chapter), ‘OSCE revision topics’ (five points) and the references.

There is also a complementary chapter immediately following on ‘Correlation of physical signs and gastrointestinal disease’. This covers examination of the acute abdomen, signs commonly associated with chronic liver disease and portal hypertension, hepatic encephalopathy and dysphagia, an approach to assessment and diagnosis of gastrointestinal bleeding, a discussion of inflammatory bowel disease and finally, malabsorption and nutritional status (signs, causes and classification).

Both these chapters are very thorough but well-organised and laid out and are as a result easy to follow. The plentiful illustrations and tables support the written text and enable the reader to gain a better understanding of the subject matter. These additional resources essentially make the book a ‘one stop shop’ so that in general it is not necessary to look elsewhere for supporting materials to aid comprehension.

This is a magnificent book, which is one of those references which will well and truly ‘stand the test of time’ and the authors are to be congratulated on their efforts. Whilst the amount of detail is probably in excess of that required for junior medical students, for those undertaking their clinical training, and indeed for junior clinicians in training it would provide an invaluable resource. It is also a well-loved resource for medical educators. This is a book which has ‘something for everyone’ and it is not hard to imagine that even highly experienced medical practitioners would find it useful to turn to from time to time.


Verdict: Highly recommended!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book review: 'Hypothermia' by Arnaldur Indridason

This is one of a series of crime novels concerning Icelandic detective Erlendur. At 314 pages I managed to read it during a two-hour 'plane flight. Published in 2009, it came into my hands from a colleague who thought that I might be interested to read it. Having been to Iceland in 2006, its haunting landscape was familiar to me, and had visited Thingvellir national park and seen the view over the lake Thingvallavatn, where much of the action takes place.

Like any detective story, there are a number of threads which initially appear to be unrelated, but are drawn together in the last few pages of the book. Erlendur fits the Scandinavian mould of the somewhat tortured middle-age male detective who is divorced and has a fractured relationship with his family. The story is almost a morality play about the negative consequences of infidelity and how both anger and the desire to be free can drive murderous intent and a fabric of lies and deception. It is also a story about an innocent love story that ends in tragedy, the impact of tragedy and loss over a lifetime, the ghosts that live on, the question of life after death and its intersection with medical madness. It is somewhat poignant that tragedy and loss also enveloped Erlendur's own family in his childhood.

The book is clever in terms of its twists and turns and the way in which the various clues are gradually revealed, and 'putting it all together' really does come down to the last few pages when our suspicions that an apparent suicide was really a murder are confirmed. There is of course a certain element of 'willing suspension of disbelief' as the elements of the plot are spun together, and we are left wondering whether the murderers will in fact 'get away with it'. I was left feeling very sorry that the victim, who was on the verge of getting her life back together again, was so cruelly robbed of this opportunity, and did wonder about things like why would the police not check the plastic rope in the noose for fingerprints, and why would someone who was so afraid of the dark and hated being left alone voluntarily go to stay in an isolated cottage on the edge of Thingvallavatn without the author making more of this inconsistency?

Since I love Iceland, and this is a reasonably good yarn that allowed me to have a few stabs at where it was all heading towards the end, which is always fun, I am going to recommend it! There are apparently several other novels in the series by the same author if you are interested in reading more.